She was sobbing in a combination of panic and some unknown emotion.
"Help me, please!" she gasped, then her voice broke despondently, but she never ceased to tug ineffectually at Chamberlain, trying to drag him out of the mass of wreckage.
Arthur moved a little, dazedly.
"Are you alive?" she called anxiously. "Are you alive? Hurry, oh, hurry and wriggle out. The building's falling to pieces!"
"I'm all right," Arthur said weakly. "You get out before it all comes down."
"I won't leave you," she declared "Where are you caught? Are you badly hurt? Hurry, please hurry!"
Arthur stirred, but could not loosen his feet. He half-rolled over, and the table moved as if it had been precariously balanced, and slid heavily to one side. With Estelle still tugging at him, he managed to get to his feet on the slanting floor and stared about him.
Arthur continued to stare about.
"No danger," he said weakly. "Just the floor of the one room gave way. The aftermath of the rock-flaw."
He made his way across the splintered flooring and piled-up chairs.
"We're on top of the safe-deposit vault," he said. "That's why we didn't fall all the way to the floor below. I wonder how we're going to get down?"
Estelle followed him, still frightened for fear of the building falling upon them. Some of the long floor-boards stretched over the edge of the vault and rested on a tall, bronze grating that protected the approach to the massive strong-box. Arthur tested them with his foot.
"They seem to be pretty solid," he said tentatively.
His strength was coming back to him every moment. He had been no more than stunned. He walked out on the planking to the bronze grating and turned.
"If you don't get dizzy, you might come on," he said. "We can swing down the grille here to the floor."
Estelle followed gingerly and in a moment they were safely below. The corridor was quite empty.
"When the crash came," Estelle explained, her voice shaking with the reaction from her fear of a moment ago, "every one thought the building was coming to pieces, and ran out. I'm afraid they've all run away."
"They'll be back in a little while," Arthur said quietly.
They went along the big marble corridor to the same western door, out of which they had first gone to see the Indian village. As they emerged into the sunlight they met a few of the people who had already recovered from their panic and were returning.
A crowd of respectable size gathered in a few moments, all still pale and shaken, but coming back to the building which was their refuge. Arthur leaned wearily against the cold stone. It seemed to vibrate under his touch. He turned quickly to Estelle.
"Feel this," he exclaimed.
She did so.
"I've been wondering what that rumble was," she said. "I've been hearing it ever since we landed here, but didn't understand where it came from."
"You hear a rumble?" Arthur asked, puzzled. "I can't hear anything."
"It isn't as loud as it was, but I hear it," Estelle insisted. "It's very deep, like the lowest possible bass note of an organ."
"You couldn't hear the shrill whistle when we were coming here," Arthur exclaimed suddenly, "and you can't hear the squeak of a bat. Of course your ears are pitched lower than usual, and you can hear sounds that are lower than I can hear. Listen carefully. Does it sound in the least like a liquid rushing through somewhere?"
"Y-yes," said Estelle hesitatingly. "Somehow, I don't quite understand how, it gives me the impression of a tidal flow or something of that sort."
Arthur rushed indoors. When Estelle followed him she found him excitedly examining the marble floor about the base of the vault.
"It's cracked," he said excitedly. "It's cracked! The vault rose all of an inch!"
Estelle looked and saw the cracks.
"What does that mean?"
"It means we're going to get back where we belong," Arthur cried jubilantly. "It means I'm on the track of the whole trouble. It means everything's going to be all right."
He prowled about the vault exultantly, noting exactly how the cracks in the flooring ran and seeing in each a corroboration of his theory.
"I'll have to make some inspections in the cellar," he went on happily, "but I'm nearly sure I'm on the right track and can figure out a corrective."
"How soon can we hope to start back?" asked Estelle eagerly.
Arthur hesitated, then a great deal of the excitement ebbed from his face, leaving it rather worried and stern.
"It may be a month, or two months, or a year," he answered gravely. "I don't know. If the first thing I try will work, it won't be long. If we have to experiment, I daren't guess how long we may be. But"--his chin set firmly--"we're going to get back."
Estelle looked at him speculatively. Her own expression grew a little worried, too.
"But in a month," she said dubiously, "we--there is hardly any hope of our finding food for two thousand people for a month, is there?"
"We've got to," Arthur declared. "We can't hope to get that much food from the Indians. It will be days before they'll dare to come back to their village, if they ever come. It will be weeks before we can hope to have them earnestly at work to feed us, and that's leaving aside the question of how we'll communicate with them, and how we'll manage to trade with them. Frankly, I think everybody is going to have to draw his belt tight before we get through--if we do. Some of us will get along, anyway."
Estelle's eyes opened wide as the meaning of his last sentence penetrated her mind.
"You mean--that all of us won't--"
"I'm going to take care of you," Arthur said gravely, "but there are liable to be lively doings around here when people begin to realize they're really in a tight fix for food. I'm going to get Van Deventer to help me organize a police band to enforce martial law. We mustn't have any disorder, that's certain, and I don't trust a city-bred man in a pinch unless I know him."
He stooped and picked up a revolver from the floor, left there by one of the bank watchmen when he fled, in the belief that the building was falling.
Arthur stood at the window of his office and stared out toward the west. The sun was setting, but upon what a scene!
Where, from this same window Arthur had seen the sun setting behind the Jersey hills, all edged with the angular roofs of factories, with their chimneys emitting columns of smoke, he now saw the same sun sinking redly behind a mass of luxuriant foliage. And where he was accustomed to look upon the tops of high buildings--each entitled to the name of "skyscraper"--he now saw miles and miles of waving green branches.
The wide Hudson flowed on placidly, all unruffled by the arrival of this strange monument upon its shores--the same Hudson Arthur knew as a busy thoroughfare of puffing steamers and chugging launches. Two or three small streams wandered unconcernedly across the land that Arthur had known as the most closely built-up territory on earth. And far, far below him--Arthur had to lean well out of his window to see it--stood a collection of tiny wigwams. Those small bark structures represented the original metropolis of New York.
His telephone rang. Van Deventer was on the wire. The exchange in the building was still working. Van Deventer wanted Arthur to come down to his private office. There were still a great many things to be settled--the arrangements for commandeering offices for sleeping quarters for the women, and numberless other details. The men who seemed to have best kept their heads were gathering there to settle upon a course of action.
Arthur glanced out of the window again before going to the elevator. He saw a curiously compact dark cloud moving swiftly across the sky to the west.
"Miss Woodward," he said sharply, "What is that?"
Estelle came to the window and looked.
"They are birds," she told him. "Birds flying in a group. I've often seen them in the country, though never as many as that."
"How do you catch birds?" Arthur asked her. "I know about shooting them, and so on, but we haven't guns enough to count. Could we catch them in traps, do you think?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Estelle thoughtfully. "But it would be hard to catch many."
"Come down-stairs," directed Arthur. "You know as much as any of the men here, and more than most, apparently. We're going to make you show us how to catch things."
Estelle smiled, a trifle wanly. Arthur led the way to the elevator. In the car he noticed that she looked distressed.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "You aren't really frightened, are you?"
"No," she answered shakily, "but--I'm rather upset about this thing. It's so--so terrible, somehow, to be back here, thousands of miles, or years, away from all one's friends and everybody."
"Please"--Arthur smiled encouragingly at her--"please count me your friend, won't you?"
She nodded, but blinked back some tears. Arthur would have tried to hearten her further, but the elevator stopped at their floor. They walked into the room where the meeting of cool heads was to take place.
No more than a dozen men were in there talking earnestly but dispiritedly. When Arthur and Estelle entered Van Deventer came over to greet them.
"We've got to do something," he said in a low voice. "A wave of homesickness has swept over the whole place. Look at those men. Every one is thinking about his family and contrasting his cozy fireside with all that wilderness outside."
"You don't seem to be worried," Arthur observed with a smile.
Van Deventer's eyes twinkled.
"I'm a bachelor," he said cheerfully, "and I live in a hotel. I've been longing for a chance to see some real excitement for thirty years. Business has kept me from it up to now, but I'm enjoying myself hugely."
Estelle looked at the group of dispirited men.
"We'll simply have to do something," she said with a shaky smile. "I feel just as they do. This morning I hated the thought of having to go back to my boarding-house to-night, but right now I feel as if the odor of cabbage in the hallway would seem like heaven."
Arthur led the way to the flat-topped desk in the middle of the room.
"Let's settle a few of the more important matters," he said in a businesslike tone. "None of us has any authority to act for the rest of the people in the tower, but so many of us are in a state of blue funk that those who are here must have charge for a while. Anybody any suggestions?"
"Housing," answered Van Deventer promptly. "I suggest that we draft a gang of men to haul all the upholstered settees and rugs that are to be found to one floor, for the women to sleep on."
"M--m. Yes. That's a good idea. Anybody a better plan?"
No one spoke. They all still looked much too homesick to take any great interest in anything, but they began to listen more or less half-heartedly.
"I've been thinking about coal," said Arthur. "There's undoubtedly a supply in the basement, but I wonder if it wouldn't be well to cut the lights off most of the floors, only lighting up the ones we're using."
"That might be a good idea later," Estelle said quietly, "but light is cheering, somehow, and every one feels so blue that I wouldn't do it to-night. To-morrow they'll begin to get up their resolution again, and you can ask them to do things."
"If we're going to starve to death," one of the other men said gloomily, "we might as well have plenty of light to do it by."
"We aren't going to starve to death," retorted Arthur sharply. "Just before I came down I saw a great cloud of birds, greater than I had ever seen before. When we get at those birds--"
"When," echoed the gloomy one.
"They were pigeons," Estelle explained. "They shouldn't be hard to snare or trap."
"I usually have my dinner before now," the gloomy one protested, "and I'm told I won't get anything to-night."
The other men began to straighten their shoulders. The peevishness of one of their number seemed to bring out their latent courage.
"Well, we've got to stand it for the present," one of them said almost philosophically. "What I'm most anxious about is getting back. Have we any chance?"
Arthur nodded emphatically.
"I think so. I have a sort of idea as to the cause of our sinking into the Fourth Dimension, and when that is verified, a corrective can be looked for and applied."
"How long will that take?"
"Can't say," Arthur replied frankly. "I don't know what tools, what materials, or what workmen we have, and what's rather more to the point, I don't even know what work will have to be done. The pressing problem is food."
"Oh, bother the food," some one protested impatiently. "I don't care about myself. I can go hungry to-night. I want to get back to my family."
"That's all that really matters," a chorus of voices echoed.
"We'd better not bother about anything else unless we find we can't get back. Concentrate on getting back," one man stated more explicitly.
"Look here," said Arthur incisively. "You've a family, and so have a great many of the others in the tower, but your family and everybody else's family has got to wait. As an inside limit, we can hope to begin to work on the problem of getting back when we're sure there's nothing else going to happen. I tell you quite honestly that I think I know what is the direct cause of this catastrophe. And I'll tell you even more honestly that I think I'm the only man among us who can put this tower back where it started from. And I'll tell you most honestly of all that any attempt to meddle at this present time with the forces that let us down here will result in a catastrophe considerably greater than the one that happened to-day."
"Well, if you're sure--" some one began reluctantly.
"I am so sure that I'm going to keep to myself the knowledge of what will start those forces to work again," Arthur said quietly. "I don't want any impatient meddling. If we start them too soon God only knows what will happen."
Van Deventer was eying Arthur Chamberlain keenly.
"It isn't a question of your wanting pay in exchange for your services in putting us back, is it?" he asked coolly.
Arthur turned and faced him. His face began to flush slowly. Van Deventer put up one hand.
"I beg your pardon. I see."
"We aren't settling the things we came here for," Estelle interrupted.
She had noted the threat of friction and hastened to put in a diversion. Arthur relaxed.
"I think that as a beginning," he suggested, "we'd better get sleeping arrangements completed. We can get everybody together somewhere, I dare say, and then secure volunteers for the work."