The city in the clouds, p.1
The City in the Clouds, p.1Guy Thorne
About the Book
A wealthy Brazilian businessman has bought a large area of open ground in the south of London on which he erects three gigantic masts. Working secretly with a large gang of Chinese labourers he then constructs a fantastic city on top -- which he claims is a pleasure palace. But this is far from the truth. Is he running from some enemy, and is the city really for his own protection? Thomas Kirby, a journalist, sets out to discover the secret of the City in the Clouds. Novelist Guy Thorne wrote this book in 1921, and although he is looking forward a few years, this is not science fiction. It is a straightforward adventure romance based on a massive structure built in London with advanced engineering on an unlimited budget.
The City in the Clouds
Abridged and Updated
with author biography
First published 1921
This new abridged edition ©North View Publishing 2017
City in the Clouds is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner of this edition.
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About the Book
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This North View Publishing edition has been abridged and edited. Guy Thorne was writing in an era when political correctness was not thought of, and some of his descriptions of people of various races would today be considered offensive and even racist. So in addition to general editing for today's readers, words like Chinaman have been changed to Chinese man or Chinese worker. Other than changes of this nature, the story is faithful to its original.
Some people have called The City in the Clouds science fiction. Although the concept of a city standing on three towers more than 2,000 feet high might be slightly fanciful, it would not be impossible. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, although smaller at just over 1,000 feet (324 metres), was built solidly enough between 1887 and 1889 to be still standing today. This futuristic story was written 32 years later, in 1921, when engineering and metallurgy had advanced considerably, and the constructor had an endless supply of money to pour into the project.
Perhaps better known today as Guy Thorne, the writer of this book's real name was Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull. He was given this long series of names by his father, the Rev'd Joseph Edward Gull, curate of the parish church of St. John the Baptist, in Little Hulton, a village between Manchester and Bolton in the north of England. Ranger Gull was born on 18 November 1875, and grew up with an interest in the church and the Christian faith, identifying with the Anglo-Catholic (High Church) Protestant branch of the church as he got older.
Ranger Gull's education was at Denstone College in Utoxeter, Staffordshire, a Church of England school with the motto Lignum crucis arbor scientiae (The wood of the cross is the tree of knowledge). He was also at Manchester Grammar School, founded in the 16th century as a free grammar school.
After such a promising start in education at two of the top English schools, it was natural for Ranger Gull to go to either Oxford or Cambridge, and he chose Oxford. But not for long. Obsessed with publishing, he soon left, without a degree, to work for The Saturday Review, at the same time contributing to The Bookman and The Academy. In spite of having no university degree, Gull managed to be employed as a staff member at the Daily Mail, and later at the Daily Express.
Writing was in his blood. While working for London Life, Ranger Gull's first book was published anonymously in 1898 (now commanding a huge price on the used book market, and for serious collectors only). It was titled The Hypocrite, and was a fictional account of life in London and Oxford, using carefully veiled real events he had witnessed. This book unleashed a whole series of novels from 1900 onwards. Until his death in 1923, Gull wrote over 100 novels, using his own name of C Ranger Gull, that of Guy Thorne, and Leonard Cresswell Ingleby for his biography Oscar Wilde: Some Reminiscences.
Ranger Gull's most famous book was, and perhaps still is, When it was Dark, published in 1902, with sales of half a million copies. It concerns a fake inscription "discovered" in a tomb outside Jerusalem, supposedly by Joseph of Arimathea, claiming that he had taken the body of Jesus from the first tomb, and there was therefore no resurrection. The book was well received by the Christian church. Although there is some criticism that Guy Thorne (the name he used as the author for this book) had little time for non-Anglicans, he is very positive in the book about some chapel members, implying that a believing Christian was a Christian, no matter what their label.
In common with many writers of this period and earlier, Ranger Gull often used foreigners as suspicious characters, and people with physical or mental disabilities were often fair game for being the scary antagonists in popular fiction. Jews were particularly affected, from Dickens onwards. Looking back on European history, we can today see this as being part of an attitude going back centuries that culminated in the holocaust in the late thirties and early forties, and pogroms in Russia and other countries.
On a more positive note, Ranger Gull was keen on aviation, and in The Secret Seaplane published in 1915, early in the First World War, he imagines a huge British seaplane that can set down and take off from both land and water. On water it is also a boat, capable of approaching enemy coastal territory silently after a long flight. Four years later, Gull takes this concept further in The Air Pirate where huge seaplanes are crossing the Atlantic. This quote from the book:
Connie was to leave the sea-drome at eight-thirty in that fine flying-liner Atlantis. She was a Royal Mail ship, and about the fastest and finest flyer in the Transatlantic service, with a carrying capacity of three hundred and fifty passengers, and a thousand tons dead weight of cargo. Her crew numbered forty, and she was commanded by Captain Swainson, one of the most reliable pilot commanders in the air. He was a man I both knew and liked.
The Air Pirate, published in 1919, looks forward to the early thirties, ten years or so after Ranger Gull's death in January 1923. He sometimes refers to these aircraft as airships, which term we now apply to dirigibles and similar craft. In The Air Pirate, a Japanese bodyguard is actually (and unusually) a protagonist!
This edition of The City in the Clouds is another example of Ranger Gull's forward thinking, where a wealthy Brazilian builds a city on top of high steel towers in south London. Here it is the Chinese who get some racist references. It would be wrong to pick out Ranger Gull's offensive terms for criticism, as though he alone was guilty. Even if, as some th
Cornwall features in several stories, and it is obvious Ranger Gull was writing from firsthand experience of its people and scenery. His address at one time was Lelant, in the far west of Cornwall. What seems to be Gull's final book, The Dark Dominion, was published in 1923. When the World Reels, believed by some to be his final book, published in 1924, a year after his death, was serialized at least three years earlier. It can be seen in the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1921, showing just how much international interest there was in Ranger Gull's work.
Two warnings. In common with most writers of popular fiction of the period, political correctness was not an issue. So if you are reading Ranger Gull's books in their original unabridged format, there will be some shocks. Secondly, the name of Guy Thorne as the author is often applied to all Ranger Gull's books. This is important to be bear in mind when searching for his used books on the internet. You will need to use both Gull and Thorne as the author of any particular title.
For readers wanting to know more about C Ranger Gull, aka Guy Thorne, a biography, Guy Thorne: C Ranger Gull: Edwardian Tabloid Novelist and his Unseemly Brotherhood, by David Wilkinson was published in 2012 by Rivendale Press, High Wycombe, and at the time of writing is available directly from the publisher.
Under a bright awning of red and white which covered a portion of the famous roof-garden of the Palacete Mendoza at Rio, reclined Gideon Mendoza Morse, the richest man in Brazil, and -- it was said -- the third richest man in the world.
He lay in a silken hammock, smoking those little Brazilian cigarettes which are made of fragrant black tobacco and wrapped in maize leaf.
It was afternoon, the hour of the siesta. From where he lay, the millionaire could look down on his marvellous gardens, which surrounded the white palace he had built for himself, unequalled in the whole of South America.
Beyond the gardens was the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, the most beautiful bay in the world, dominated by the great sugar-loaf mountain, the Pão de Azucar, and studded with green islands.
Gideon Morse took a pair of high-powered field-glasses from a table by his side and focused them on the harbour.
A large white yacht, lying off Governador, swam into the circle, a five thousand ton boat driven by turbines and oil fuel, the fastest and largest private yacht in existence.
Gideon Morse gave a little quiet, patient sigh, as if of relief.
He was a man of sixty odd, with a thick thatch of white hair which came down on his wrinkled forehead in a peak. His face was tanned to the colour of an old saddle, his nose beaked like a hawk, and his mouth was a mere lipless cut which might have been made by a knife. A strong jaw completed an impression of abnormal quiet, and long enduring strength. Indeed the whole face was a mask of immobility.
Beneath heavy black brows were eyes as dark as night, clear, but without expression. No one looking at them could ever tell what were the thoughts behind. For the rest, he was a man of medium height, thick-set, wiry, and agile.
A brief sketch of Gideon Mendoza Morse's career must be given here. His mother was a Spanish lady of good family, resident in Brazil. His father an American gentleman of Old Virginia, who had settled there after the war between North and South. Morse was born a native of Brazil. His parents left him a moderate fortune which he proceeded to expand with extraordinary rapidity and success. When the last Emperor, Dom Pedro II., was deposed in 1889, Gideon Mendoza Morse was indeed a rich man, and a prominent politician.
He took a great part in establishing the Republic, though in his earlier years he had leaned towards the Monarchy, and he shared in the immense prosperity which followed the change.
His was not a paper fortune. The fluctuations of stocks and shares could hardly influence it. He owned immense coffee plantations in Para, and was practically the monopolist of the sugar regions of Maranhao. But his greatest revenues came from his immense holdings in gold, manganese, and diamond mines. He had married a Spanish lady early in his career and was now a widower with one daughter.
She came up on the roof-garden now, a tall slip of a girl with an immense quantity of lustrous, dead-black hair, and a voice as clear as an evening bell.
"Father," she said in English -- she had been at school at Eastbourne, and had no trace of a Spanish accent----"what is the exact hour that we sail?"
Morse slipped out of the hammock and took her arm in his. "At ten tonight, Juanita," he replied, patting her hand. "Are you glad, then?"
"Glad! I cannot tell you how much."
"To leave all this" -- he waved his hand at what was probably the most perfect prospect earth has to offer----"to leave all this for the fogs and gloom of London?"
"I don't mind the fogs, which, by the way, are tremendously exaggerated. Of course I love Rio, Father, but I long to be in London, the heart of the world, where all the nicest people are and where a girl has freedom such as she never has here."
"Freedom!" he said. "Ah!" -- and was about to continue, when a native Indian servant in a uniform of white linen with gold shoulder knots advanced towards them with a salver on which were two calling cards.
Morse took the cards. A slight gleam came into his eyes and passed, leaving his face as impassive as before.
"You must run away, darling," he said to Juanita. "I have to see some gentlemen. Are all your preparations made?"
"Everything. All the luggage has gone down to the harbour, except just a couple of hand-bags which my maid will take there shortly."
"Very well then, we will have an early meal and leave at dusk."
The girl flitted away. Morse gave some directions to the servant, and, shortly after, the rattle of a lift was heard from a little cupola in one corner of the roof.
Two men stepped out and came among the palms and flowers to the millionaire.
One was a thin, dried-up, elderly man with a white moustache -- the Marquis da Silva; his companion, powerful, black-bearded and yellow-faced, obviously with a touch of mixed race in him -- Don Zorilla y Toro.
"Pray be seated," said Morse, with a low bow, though he did not offer to shake hands with either of them. "May I ask to what I owe the pleasure of this visit?"
"It is very simple, señor," said the marquis. "You must have expected a visit sooner or later." The old man, speaking in the pure Spanish of Castille, trembled a little as he sat at a round table of red lima wood encrusted with mother of pearl.
"We are, in short," said the burly Zorilla, "ambassadors."
They were now all seated round the table, under the shade of a palm whose great fans clicked against each other in the evening breeze which began to blow from the cool heights of the sugar-loaf mountain.
The face of Gideon Morse stayed inscrutable as ever. It might have been a mask of leather; but the old Spanish nobleman was obviously ill at ease, and the bulging eyes of Don Zorilla y Toro, with his diamond cuff links and ring, spoke of suppressed and furious passion.
In a moment tragedy had come into this paradise.
"Yes, we are ambassadors," echoed the marquis with a certain eagerness.
"A grand and full-sounding word," said Gideon Morse. "I may be permitted to ask -- ambassadors from whom?"
Quick as lightning Don Zorilla held out his hand over the table, opened it, and closed it again. There was a little glint of light from his palm as he did so.
Morse leant back in his chair and smiled. Then he lit one of his pungent cigarettes.
"So! Are you playing with those toys still, gentlemen?"
The marquis flushed. "Mendoza," he said, "this is idle trifling. You must know very well----"
"I know nothing. I want to know nothing."
The marquis said two words in a low voice, and then the heads of the three men drew very close together. For two or three minutes there was a whispering like the
"Enough!" he said. "You are madmen. Dreamers! You come to me after all these years, to ask me to be a party in destroying the peace and prosperity our great country enjoys and has enjoyed for more than thirty years. You ask me, twice President of the Republic which I helped to make----"
Zorilla lifted his hand, and the great Brazilian diamonds in his rings shot out baleful fires.
"Enough, señor," he said in a thick voice. "Is that your unalterable decision?"
Morse laughed contemptuously. "While Azucar stands," he said, "I stand where I am, and nothing will change me."
"You stand where you are, Mendoza," said the marquis with a new gravity and dignity in his voice, "but I assure you it will not be for long. You have two years to run, that is true. But at the end of them be sure, oh, be very sure, that the end will come, and swiftly."
Morse rose. "I will endeavour to put the remaining two years to good use," he said, with grim and almost contemptuous mockery.
"Do so, señor," said Zorilla, "but remember that in our forests the traveller may press onward for days and weeks, and all the time in the treetops, the silent jaguar is following, following, waiting----"
"I have travelled a good deal in our forests in my youth, Don Zorilla. I have even slain many jaguars."
The three men looked at each other steadily and long, then the two visitors bowed and turned to go. But, just as they were moving off towards the lift dome, Zorilla turned back and held out a card to Don Mendoza. It was an ordinary visiting card with a name engraved on it.
Morse took it, looked at the name, and then stood still and frozen in his tracks.
He did not move until the whirr of the bell and the clang of the gate told him the roof garden was his own again.
Then he staggered to the table like a drunken man, sank into a chair and bowed his head on the gleaming pearl and crimson.
The City in the Clouds by Guy Thorne / Actions & Adventure / Thrillers & Crime have rating 2.6 out of 5 / Based on37 votes