The Master Key

Page 26

"I must be home again by Saturday, to meet the Demon, so I'll have to make every day count."

Without waiting for breakfast, since he had eaten a tablet the evening before, he crept through the window and mounted into the fresh morning air until the great city with its broad waterway lay spread out beneath him. Then he sped away to the southeast and, crossing the channel, passed between Amiens and Rouen and reached Paris before ten o'clock.

Near the outskirts of the city appeared a high tower, upon the flat roof of which a man was engaged in adjusting a telescope. Upon seeing Rob, who was passing at no great distance from this tower, the man cried out:

"APPROCHEZ!--VENEZ ICI!"

Then he waved his hands frantically in the air, and fairly danced with excitement. So the boy laughed and dropped down to the roof where, standing beside the Frenchman, whose eyes were actually protruding from their sockets, he asked, coolly:

"Well, what do you want?"

The other was for a moment speechless. He was a tall, lean man, having a bald head but a thick, iron-gray beard, and his black eyes sparkled brightly from behind a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. After attentively regarding the boy for a time he said, in broken English:

"But, M'sieur, how can you fly wizout ze--ze machine? I have experiment myself wiz some air-ship; but you--zere is nossing to make go!"

Rob guessed that here was his opportunity to do the Demon a favor by explaining his electrical devices to this new acquaintance, who was evidently a man of science.

"Here is the secret, Professor," he said, and holding out his wrist displayed the traveling machine and explained, as well as he could, the forces that operated it.

The Frenchman, as you may suppose, was greatly astonished, and to show how perfectly the machine worked Rob turned the indicator and rose a short distance above the tower, circling around it before he rejoined the professor on the roof. Then he showed his food tablets, explaining how each was stored with sufficient nourishment for an entire day.

The scientist positively gasped for breath, so powerful was the excitement he experienced at witnessing these marvels.

"Eet is wonderful--grand--magnifique!" he exclaimed.

"But here is something of still greater interest," continued Rob, and taking the Automatic Record of Events from his pocket he allowed the professor to view the remarkable scenes that were being enacted throughout the civilized world.

The Frenchman was now trembling violently, and he implored Rob to tell him where he might obtain similar electrical machines.

"I can't do that," replied the boy, decidedly; "but, having seen these, you may be able to discover their construction for yourself. Now that you know such things to be possible and practical, the hint should be sufficient to enable a shrewd electrician to prepare duplicates of them."

The scientist glared at him with evident disappointment, and Rob continued:

"These are not all the wonders I can exhibit. Here is another electrical device that is, perhaps, the most remarkable of any I possess."

He took the Character Marking spectacles from his pocket and fitted them to his eyes. Then he gave a whistle of surprise and turned his back upon his new friend. He had seen upon the Frenchman's forehead the letters "E" and "C."

"Guess I've struck the wrong sort of scientist, after all!" he muttered, in a disgusted tone.

His companion was quick to prove the accuracy of the Character Marker. Seeing the boy's back turned, he seized a long iron bar that was used to operate the telescope, and struck at Rob so fiercely that had he not worn the Garment of Protection his skull would have been crushed by the blow. At it was, the bar rebounded with a force that sent the murderous Frenchman sprawling upon the roof, and Rob turned around and laughed at him.

"It won't work, Professor," he said. "I'm proof against assassins. Perhaps you had an idea that when you had killed me you could rob me of my valuable possessions; but they wouldn't be a particle of use to a scoundrel like you, I assure you! Good morning."

Before the surprised and baffled scientist could collect himself sufficiently to reply, the boy was soaring far above his head and searching for a convenient place to alight, that he might investigate the charms of this famed city of Paris.

The Master Key Page 27

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