Meantime Hawkins had long ago returned and slipped up into the laboratory. He was rather disconcerted to find his late invention, Snodgra.s.s, there. The news was told him that the English Rossmore was come, --"and I'm his son, Viscount Berkeley, not Howard Tracy any more."
Hawkins was aghast. He said: "Good gracious, then you're dead!"
"Yes you are--we've got your ashes."
"Hang those ashes, I'm tired of them; I'll give them to my father."
Slowly and painfully the statesman worked the truth into his head that this was really a flesh and blood young man, and not the insubstantial resurrection he and Sellers had so long supposed him to be. Then he said with feeling-- "I'm so glad; so glad on Sally's account, poor thing. We took you for a departed materialized bank thief from Tahlequah. This will be a heavy blow to Sellers." Then he explained the whole matter to Berkeley, who said: "Well, the Claimant must manage to stand the blow, severe as it is. But he'll get over the disappointment."
"Who--the colonel? He'll get over it the minute he invents a new miracle to take its place. And he's already at it by this time. But look here-- what do you suppose became of the man you've been representing all this time?"
"I don't know. I saved his clothes--it was all I could do. I am afraid he lost his life."
"Well, you must have found twenty or thirty thousand dollars in those clothes, in money or certificates of deposit."
"No, I found only five hundred and a trifle. I borrowed the trifle and banked the five hundred."
"What'll we do about it?"
"Return it to the owner."
"It's easy said, but not easy to manage. Let's leave it alone till we get Sellers's advice. And that reminds me. I've got to run and meet Sellers and explain who you are not and who you are, or he'll come thundering in here to stop his daughter from marrying a phantom. But-- suppose your father came over here to break off the match?"
"Well, isn't he down stairs getting acquainted with Sally? That's all safe."
So Hawkins departed to meet and prepare the Sellerses.
Rossmore Towers saw great times and late hours during the succeeding week. The two earls were such opposites in nature that they fraternized at once. Sellers said privately that Rossmore was the most extraordinary character he had ever met--a man just made out of the condensed milk of human kindness, yet with the ability to totally hide the fact from any but the most practised character-reader; a man whose whole being was sweetness, patience and charity, yet with a cunning so profound, an ability so marvelous in the acting of a double part, that many a person of considerable intelligence might live with him for centuries and never suspect the presence in him of these characteristics.
Finally there was a quiet wedding at the Towers, instead of a big one at the British emba.s.sy, with the militia and the fire brigades and the temperance organizations on hand in torchlight procession, as at first proposed by one of the earls. The art-firm and Barrow were present at the wedding, and the tinner and Puss had been invited, but the tinner was ill and Puss was nursing him--for they were engaged.
The Sellerses were to go to England with their new allies for a brief visit, but when it was time to take the train from Washington, the colonel was missing.
Hawkins was going as far as New York with the party, and said he would explain the matter on the road.
The explanation was in a letter left by the colonel in Hawkins's hands. In it he promised to join Mrs. Sellers later, in England, and then went on to say: The truth is, my dear Hawkins, a mighty idea has been born to me within the hour, and I must not even stop to say goodbye to my dear ones. A man's highest duty takes precedence of all minor ones, and must be attended to with his best promptness and energy, at whatsoever cost to his affections or his convenience. And first of all a man's duties is his duty to his own honor--he must keep that spotless. Mine is threatened. When I was feeling sure of my imminent future solidity, I forwarded to the Czar of Russia--perhaps prematurely--an offer for the purchase of Siberia, naming a vast sum. Since then an episode has warned me that the method by which I was expecting to acquire this money-- materialization upon a scale of limitless magnitude--is marred by a taint of temporary uncertainty. His imperial majesty may accept my offer at any moment. If this should occur now, I should find myself painfully embarra.s.sed, in fact financially inadequate. I could not take Siberia. This would become known, and my credit would suffer.
Recently my private hours have been dark indeed, but the sun shines main, now; I see my way; I shall be able to meet my obligation, and without having to ask an extension of the stipulated time, I think. This grand new idea of mine--the sublimest I have ever conceived, will save me whole, I am sure. I am leaving for San Francisco this moment, to test it, by the help of the great Lick telescope. Like all of my more notable discoveries and inventions, it is based upon hard, practical scientific laws; all other bases are unsound and hence untrustworthy. In brief, then, I have conceived the stupendous idea of reorganizing the climates of the earth according to the desire of the populations interested. That is to say, I will furnish climates to order, for cash or negotiable paper, taking the old climates in part payment, of course, at a fair discount, where they are in condition to be repaired at small cost and let out for hire to poor and remote communities not able to afford a good climate and not caring for an expensive one for mere display. My studies have convinced me that the regulation of climates and the breeding of new varieties at will from the old stock is a feasible thing. Indeed I am convinced that it has been done before; done in prehistoric times by now forgotten and unrecorded civilizations. Everywhere I find h.o.a.ry evidences of artificial manipulation of climates in bygone times. Take the glacial period. Was that produced by accident? Not at all; it was done for money. I have a thousand proofs of it, and will some day reveal them.
I will confide to you an outline of my idea. It is to utilize the spots on the sun--get control of them, you understand, and apply the stupendous energies which they wield to beneficent purposes in the reorganizing of our climates. At present they merely make trouble and do harm in the evoking of cyclones and other kinds of electric storms; but once under humane and intelligent control this will cease and they will become a boon to man.
I have my plan all mapped out, whereby I hope and expect to acquire complete and perfect control of the sun-spots, also details of the method whereby I shall employ the same commercially; but I will not venture to go into particulars before the patents shall have been issued. I shall hope and expect to sell shop-rights to the minor countries at a reasonable figure and supply a good business article of climate to the great empires at special rates, together with fancy brands for coronations, battles and other great and particular occasions. There are billions of money in this enterprise, no expensive plant is required, and I shall begin to realize in a few days--in a few weeks at furthest. I shall stand ready to pay cash for Siberia the moment it is delivered, and thus save my honor and my credit. I am confident of this.
I would like you to provide a proper outfit and start north as soon as I telegraph you, be it night or be it day. I wish you to take up all the country stretching away from the north pole on all sides for many degrees south, and buy Greenland and Iceland at the best figure you can get now while they are cheap. It is my intention to move one of the tropics up there and transfer the frigid zone to the equator. I will have the entire Arctic Circle in the market as a summer resort next year, and will use the surplusage of the old climate, over and above what can be utilized on the equator, to reduce the temperature of opposition resorts. But I have said enough to give you an idea of the prodigious nature of my scheme and the feasible and enormously profitable character of it. I shall join all you happy people in England as soon as I shall have sold out some of my princ.i.p.al climates and arranged with the Czar about Siberia.
Meantime, watch for a sign from me. Eight days from now, we shall be wide asunder; for I shall be on the border of the Pacific, and you far out on the Atlantic, approaching England. That day, if I am alive and my sublime discovery is proved and established, I will send you greeting, and my messenger shall deliver it where you are, in the solitudes of the sea; for I will waft a vast sun-spot across the disk like drifting smoke, and you will know it for my love-sign, and will say "Mulberry Sellers throws us a kiss across the universe."
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