20. The Unhappy Fate of the Demon
Again the atmosphere quickened and pulsed with accumulating vibrations. Again the boy found himself aroused to eager expectancy. There was a whirl in the air; a crackling like distant musketry; a flash of dazzling light--and the Demon stood before him for the third time.
"I give you greetings!" said he, in a voice not unkindly.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Demon," answered the boy, bowing gravely.
"I see you have returned safely from your trip," continued the Apparition, cheerfully, "although at one time I thought you would be unable to escape. Indeed, unless I had knocked that tube from the rascally Turk's hand as he clambered to the top of the wall, I believe you would have been at the Yarkand oasis yet--either dead or alive, as chance might determine."
"Were you there?" asked Rob.
"To be sure. And I recovered the tube for you, without which you would have been helpless. But that is the only time I saw fit to interfere in any way."
"I'm afraid I did not get a chance to give many hints to inventors or scientists," said Rob.
"True, and I have deeply regretted it," replied the Demon. "But your unusual powers caused more astonishment and consternation than you, perhaps, imagined; for many saw you whom you were too busy to notice. As a result several able electricians are now thinking new thoughts along new lines, and some of them may soon give these or similar inventions to the world."
"You are satisfied, then?" asked Rob.
"As to that," returned the Demon, composedly, "I am not. But I have hopes that with the addition of the three marvelous devices I shall present you with to-day you will succeed in arousing so much popular interest in electrical inventions as to render me wholly satisfied with the result of this experiment."
Rob regarded the brilliant apparition with a solemn face, but made no answer.
"No living person," continued the Demon, "has ever before been favored with such comforting devices for the preservation and extension of human life as yourself. You seem quite unappreciative, it is true; but since our connection I have come to realize that you are but an ordinary boy, with many boyish limitations; so I do not condemn your foolish actions too harshly."
"That is kind of you," said Rob.
"To prove my friendliness," pursued the Demon, "I have brought, as the first of to-day's offerings this Electro-Magnetic Restorer. You see it is shaped like a thin metal band, and is to be worn upon the brow, clasping at the back of the head. Its virtues surpass those of either the fabulous 'Fountain of Youth,' or the 'Elixir of Life,' so vainly sought for in past ages. For its wearer will instantly become free from any bodily disease or pain and will enjoy perfect health and vigor. In truth, so great are its powers that even the dead may be restored to life, provided the blood has not yet chilled. In presenting you with this appliance, I feel I am bestowing upon you the greatest blessing and most longed-for boon ever bequeathed of suffering humanity."
Here he held the slender, dull-colored metallic band toward the boy.
"Keep it," said Rob.
The Demon started, and gave him an odd look.
"What did you say?" he asked.
"I told you to keep it," answered Rob. "I don't want it."
The Demon staggered back as if he had been struck.
"Don't want it!" he gasped.
"No; I've had enough of your infernal inventions!" cried the boy, with sudden anger.
He unclasped the traveling machine from his wrist and laid it on the table beside the Demon.
"There's the thing that's responsible for most of my troubles," said he, bitterly. "What right has one person to fly through the air while all his fellow-creatures crawl over the earth's surface? And why should I be cut off from all the rest of the world because you have given me this confounded traveling machine? I didn't ask for it, and I won't keep it a moment longer. Give it to some one you hate more than you do me!"
The Demon stared aghast and turned his glittering eyes wonderingly from Rob to the traveling machine and back again, as if to be sure he had heard and seen aright.