"It is really astonishing," continued the Apparition, "how little you people have learned about electricity. It is an Earth element that has existed since the Earth itself was formed, and if you but understood its proper use humanity would be marvelously benefited in many ways."
"We are, already," protested Rob; "our discoveries in electricity have enabled us to live much more conveniently."
"Then imagine your condition were you able fully to control this great element," replied the other, gravely. "The weaknesses and privations of mankind would be converted into power and luxury."
"That's true, Mr.--Mr.--Demon," said the boy. "Excuse me if I don't get your name right, but I understood you to say you are a demon."
"Certainly. The Demon of Electricity."
"But electricity is a good thing, you know, and--and--"
"I've always understood that demons were bad things," added Rob, boldly.
"Not necessarily," returned his visitor. "If you will take the trouble to consult your dictionary, you will find that demons may be either good or bad, like any other class of beings. Originally all demons were good, yet of late years people have come to consider all demons evil. I do not know why. Should you read Hesiod you will find he says:
'Soon was a world of holy demons made, Aerial spirits, by great Jove designed To be on earth the guardians of mankind.'"
"But Jove was himself a myth," objected Rob, who had been studying mythology.
The Demon shrugged his shoulders.
"Then take the words of Mr. Shakespeare, to whom you all defer," he replied. "Do you not remember that he says:
'Thy demon (that's thy spirit which keeps thee) is Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable.'"
"Oh, if Shakespeare says it, that's all right," answered the boy. "But it seems you're more like a genius, for you answer the summons of the Master Key of Electricity in the same way Aladdin's genius answered the rubbing of the lamp."
"To be sure. A demon is also a genius; and a genius is a demon," said the Being. "What matters a name? I am here to do your bidding."
3. The Three Gifts
Familiarity with any great thing removes our awe of it. The great general is only terrible to the enemy; the great poet is frequently scolded by his wife; the children of the great statesman clamber about his knees with perfect trust and impunity; the great actor who is called before the curtain by admiring audiences is often waylaid at the stage door by his creditors.
So Rob, having conversed for a time with the glorious Demon of Electricity, began to regard him with more composure and less awe, as his eyes grew more and more accustomed to the splendor that at first had well-nigh blinded them.
When the Demon announced himself ready to do the boy's bidding, he frankly replied:
"I am no skilled electrician, as you very well know. My calling you here was an accident. So I don't know how to command you, nor what to ask you to do."
"But I must not take advantage of your ignorance," answered the Demon. "Also, I am quite anxious to utilize this opportunity to show the world what a powerful element electricity really is. So permit me to inform you that, having struck the Master Key, you are at liberty to demand from me three gifts each week for three successive weeks. These gifts, provided they are within the scope of electricity, I will grant."
Rob shook his head regretfully.
"If I were a great electrician I should know what to ask," he said. "But I am too ignorant to take advantage of your kind offer."
"Then," replied the Demon, "I will myself suggest the gifts, and they will be of such a character that the Earth people will learn the possibilities that lie before them and be encouraged to work more intelligently and to persevere in mastering those natural and simple laws which control electricity. For one of the greatest errors they now labor under is that electricity is complicated and hard to understand. It is really the simplest Earth element, lying within easy reach of any one who stretches out his hand to grasp and control its powers."
Rob yawned, for he thought the Demon's speeches were growing rather tiresome.