Read The Master Key Page 1

_An Electrical Fairy Tale_










  _Chapter_ _Page_

  I Rob's Workshop 1

  II The Demon of Electricity 9

  III The Three Gifts 18

  IV Testing the Instruments 29

  V The Cannibal Island 43

  VI The Buccaneers 60

  VII The Demon Becomes Angry 78

  VIII Rob Acquires New Powers 86

  IX The Second Journey 97

  X How Rob Served a Mighty King 104

  XI The Man of Science 126

  XII How Rob Saved a Republic 136

  XIII Rob Loses His Treasures 146

  XIV Turk and Tatar 160

  XV A Battle With Monsters 182

  XVI Shipwrecked Mariners 192

  XVII The Coast of Oregon 206

  XVIII A Narrow Escape 214

  XIX Rob Makes a Resolution 225

  XX The Unhappy Fate of the Demon 230





  Rob was surrounded by a group of natives of hideous appearance--_Frontispiece_

  From his workshop ran a network of wires throughout the house--_Headpiece_ 1

  A quick flash of light almost blinded Rob 6

  A curious being looked upon him from a magnificent radiance--_Tailpiece_ 8

  Scientific men think the people of Mars have been trying to signal us--_Headpiece_ 9

  I am here to do your bidding, said the Demon--_Tailpiece_ 17

  Men have not yet discovered what the birds know--_Headpiece_ 18

  These three gifts may amuse you for the next week--_Tailpiece_ 28

  Rob's action surprised them all--_Headpiece_ 29

  "He'll break his neck!" cried the astounded father 36

  The red-whiskered policeman keeled over--_Tailpiece_ 42

  Rob's captors caught up the end of the rope and led him away--_Headpiece_ 43

  "If it's just the same to you, old chap, I won't be eaten to-day"--_Tailpiece_ 59

  Rob soared through the air with five Buccaneers dangling from his leg--_Headpiece_ 60

  It was a strange sight to see the pirates drop to the deck and lie motionless 66

  When night fell his slumber was broken and uneasy--_Tailpiece_ 77

  When Rob had been kissed by his mother, he gave an account of his adventures--_Headpiece_ 78

  Rob sat staring eagerly at the Demon--_Tailpiece_ 85

  The Being drew from an inner pocket something resembling a box--_Headpiece_ 86

  These spectacles will indicate the character of every one you meet--_Tailpiece_ 96

  Rob is in truth a typical American boy--_Headpiece_ 97

  Rob placed the indicator to a point north of east and began his journey--_Tailpiece_ 103

  A crowd assembled, all shouting and pointing toward him in wonder--_Headpiece_ 104

  A man rushed toward it, but the next moment he threw up his hands and fell unconscious 108

  Rob reached the entrance of the palace, only to face another group of guardsmen 114

  Rob only smiled in an amused way as he marched past them--_Tailpiece_ 125

  A tremendous din and clatter nearly deafened him--_Headpiece_ 126

  The eyes of the Frenchman were actually protruding from their sockets 128

  From an elevation of fifty feet or more Rob overlooked a pretty garden--_Headpiece_ 136

  Placing the record so that the President could see clearly, Rob watched the changing expressions upon the great man's face 140

  Rob experienced a decided sense of relief as he mixed with the gay populace--_Tailpiece_ 145

  Beneath him stretched a vast sandy plain, and speeding across this he came to a land abounding in vegetation--_Headpiece_ 146

  "Those fellows seem to be looking for trouble" 150

  Uttering cries of terror and dismay, the three Turks took to their heels 158

  Rob was miserable and unhappy, and remained brooding over his cruel fate--_Tailpiece_ 159

  The Tatars arrived swiftly and noiselessly--_Headpiece_ 160

  The Turk rose slowly into the air, with Rob clinging to him with desperate tenacity 176

  Without more ado Rob mounted into the air, leaving the Turk staring after him--_Tailpiece_ 181

  Coming toward him was an immense bird--_Headpiece_ 186

  With one last scream the creature tumbled downward to join its fellow--_Tailpiece_ 191

  During the next few hours Rob suffered from a severe attack of homesickness--_Headpiece_ 192

  The disappointment of the sailors was something awful to witness 196

  As they slowly mounted into the sky the sailor gave a squeal of terror--_Tailpiece_ 205

  Rob mounted skyward, to the unbounded amazement of the fishermen, who stared after him--_Headpiece_ 206

  Rob hovered over the great tower of the Lick Observatory until he attracted the excited gaze of its inhabitants--_Tailpiece_ 213

  Finding himself upon the lake front, Rob hunted up a vacant bench and sat down to rest--_Headpiece_ 214

  As he started downward he saw the old gentleman looking at him with a half-frightened, half-curious expression--_Tailpiece_ 224

  At precisely ten o'clock Rob reached the front door of his own house--_Headpiece_ 225

  Rob boldly ascended the stairs, entered the workshop and closed and locked the door--_Tailpiece_ 229

  The Demon sank into a chair nerveless and limp, but still staring fearfully at the boy--_Headpiece_ 230

  A flash of white light half-stunned and blinded Rob. When he recovered himself the Demon had disappeared--_Tailpiece_ 245



  These things are quite improbable, to be sure; but are they impossible?

  Our big world rolls over as smoothly as it did centuries ago, without asqueak to show it needs oiling after all these years of revolution. Buttimes change because men change, and because civilization, like JohnBrown's soul, goes ever marching on.

  The impossibilities of yesterday become the accepted facts of to-day.

  Here is a fairy tale founded upon the wonders of electricity andwritten for children of this generation. Yet when my readers shall havebecome men and women my story may not seem to their children like afairy tale at all.

  Perhaps one, perhaps two--perhaps several of the Demon's devices willbe, by that time, in popular use.

  Who knows?

  "_In wonder all philosophy began; in wonder it all ends; and admiration fills up the interspace. But the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance: the last is the parent of adoration._"





  When Rob became interested in electricity his clear-headed fatherconsidered the boy's fancy to be instructive as well as amusing; so heheartily encouraged his son, and Rob never lacked batteries, motors orsupplies of any sort that his experiments might require.

  He fitted up the little back room in the attic as his workshop, andfrom thence a net-work of wires soon ran throughout the house. Notonly had every outside door its electric bell, but every window wasfitted with a burglar alarm; moreover no one could cross the thresholdof any interior room without registering the fact in Rob's workshop.The gas was lighted by an electric fob; a chime, connected with anerratic clock in the boy's room, woke the servants at all hours of thenight and caused the cook to give warning; a bell rang whenever thepostman dropped a letter into the box; there were bells, bells, bellseverywhere, ringing at the right time, the wrong time and all the time.And there were telephones in the different rooms, too, through whichRob could call up the different members of the family just when theydid not wish to be disturbed.

  His mother and sisters soon came to vote the boy's scientific craze anuisance; but his father was delighted with these evidences of Rob'sskill as an electrician, and insisted that he be allowed perfectfreedom in carrying out his ideas.

  "Electricity," said the old gentleman, sagely, "is destined to becomethe motive power of the world. The future advance of civilization willbe along electrical lines. Our boy may become a great inventor andastonish the world with his wonderful creations."

  "And in the meantime," said the mother, despairingly, "we shall all beelectrocuted, or the house burned down by crossed wires, or we shall beblown into eternity by an explosion of chemicals!"

  "Nonsense!" ejaculated the proud father. "Rob's storage batteries arenot powerful enough to electrocute one or set the house on fire. Dogive the boy a chance, Belinda."

  "And his pranks are so humiliating," continued the lady. "When theminister called yesterday and rang the bell a big card appeared onthe front door on which was printed the words: 'Busy; Call Again.'Fortunately Helen saw him and let him in, but when I reproved Robertfor the act he said he was just trying the sign to see if it wouldwork."

  "Exactly! The boy is an inventor already. I shall have one of thosecards attached to the door of my private office at once. I tell you,Belinda, our son will be a great man one of these days," said Mr.Joslyn, walking up and down with pompous strides and almost burstingwith the pride he took in his young hopeful.

  Mrs. Joslyn sighed. She knew remonstrance was useless so long as herhusband encouraged the boy, and that she would be wise to bear hercross with fortitude.

  Rob also knew his mother's protests would be of no avail; so hecontinued to revel in electrical processes of all sorts, using thehouse as an experimental station to test the powers of his productions.

  It was in his own room, however,--his "workshop"--that he especiallydelighted. For not only was it the center of all his numerous "lines"throughout the house, but he had rigged up therein a wonderful arrayof devices for his own amusement. A trolley-car moved around a circulartrack and stopped regularly at all stations; an engine and train ofcars moved jerkily up and down a steep grade and through a tunnel; awindmill was busily pumping water from the dishpan into the copperskillet; a sawmill was in full operation and a host of mechanicalblacksmiths, scissors-grinders, carpenters, wood-choppers and millerswere connected with a motor which kept them working away at theirtrades in awkward but persevering fashion.

  The room was crossed and recrossed with wires. They crept up the walls,lined the floor, made a grille of the ceiling and would catch an unwaryvisitor under the chin or above the ankle just when he least expectedit. Yet visitors were forbidden in so crowded a room, and even hisfather declined to go farther than the doorway. As for Rob, he thoughthe knew all about the wires, and what each one was for; but theypuzzled even him, at times, and he was often perplexed to know how toutilize them all.

  One day when he had locked himself in to avoid interruption whilehe planned the electrical illumination of a gorgeous pasteboardpalace, he really became confused over the network of wires. He had a"switch-board," to be sure, where he could make and break connectionsas he chose; but the wires had somehow become mixed, and he could nottell what combinations to use to throw the power on to his miniatureelectric lights.

  So he experimented in a rather haphazard fashion, connecting this andthat wire blindly and by guesswork, in the hope that he would strikethe right combination. Then he thought the combination might be rightand there was a lack of power; so he added other lines of wire to hisconnections, and still others, until he had employed almost every wirein the room.

  A quick flash of light almost blinded Rob]

  Yet it would not work; and after pausing a moment to try to thinkwhat was wrong he went at it again, putting this and that line intoconnection, adding another here and another there, until suddenly,as he made a last change, a quick flash of light almost blinded him,and the switch-board crackled ominously, as if struggling to carry apowerful current.

  Rob covered his face at the flash, but finding himself unhurt he tookaway his hands and with blinking eyes attempted to look at a wonderfulradiance which seemed to fill the room, making it many times brighterthan the brightest day.

  Although at first completely dazzled, he peered before him until hediscovered that the light was concentrated near one spot, from whichall the glorious rays seemed to scintillate.

  He closed his eyes a moment to rest them; then re-opening them andshading them somewhat with his hands, he made out the form of acurious Being standing with majesty and composure in the center of themagnificent radiance and looking down upon him!



  Rob was a courageous boy, but a thrill of fear passed over him in spiteof his bravest endeavor as he gazed upon the wondrous apparition thatconfronted him. For several moments he sat as if turned to stone, somotionless was he; but his eyes were nevertheless fastened upon theBeing and devouring every detail of his appearance.

  And how strange an appearance he presented!

  His jacket was a wavering mass of white light, edged with braid ofred flames that shot little tongues in all directions. The buttonsblazed in golden fire. His trousers had a bluish, incandescent color,with glowing stripes of crimson braid. His vest was gorgeous withall the colors of the rainbow blended into a flashing, resplendentmass. In feature he was most majestic, and his eyes held the soft butpenetrating brilliance of electric lights.

  It was hard to meet the gaze of those searching eyes, but Rob did it,and at once the splendid apparition bowed and said in a low, clearvoice:

  "I am here."

  "I know that," answered the bo
y, trembling, "but _why_ are you here?"

  "Because you have touched the Master Key of Electricity, and I mustobey the laws of nature that compel me to respond to your summons."

  "I--I didn't know I touched the Master Key," faltered the boy.

  "I understand that. You did it unconsciously. No one in the worldhas ever done it before, for Nature has hitherto kept the secret safelocked within her bosom."

  Rob took time to wonder at this statement.

  "Then who are you?" he inquired, at length.

  "The Demon of Electricity," was the solemn answer.

  "Good gracious!" exclaimed Rob, "a demon!"

  "Certainly. I am, in truth, the Slave of the Master Key, and am forcedto obey the commands of any one who is wise and brave enough--or, as inyour own case, fortunate and fool-hardy enough--to touch it."

  "I--I've never guessed there was such a thing as a Master Key, or--or aDemon of Electricity, and--and I'm awfully sorry I--I called you up!"stammered the boy, abashed by the imposing appearance of his companion.

  The Demon actually smiled at this speech,--a smile that was almostreassuring.

  "I am not sorry," he said, in kindlier tone, "for it is not muchpleasure waiting century after century for some one to command myservices. I have often thought my existence uncalled for, since youEarth people are so stupid and ignorant that you seem unlikely ever tomaster the secret of electrical power."