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- The Great Stone of Sardis - 3/33 -
into the woods. I thought, as you were comin' home so soon, I wouldn't do nothin' more. You had better attend to him yourself."
"Very good," said Clewe. "I'll do that."
The home of Roland Clewe, a small house plainly furnished, but good enough for a bachelor's quarters, stood not half a mile from the station, and near it were the extensive buildings which he called his Works. Here were laboratories, large machine-shops in which many men were busy at all sorts of strange contrivances in metal and other materials; and besides other small edifices there was a great round tower-like structure, with smooth iron walls thirty feet high and without windows, and which was lighted and ventilated from the top. This was Clewe's special workshop; and besides old Samuel Block and such workmen as were absolutely necessary and could be trusted, few people ever entered it but himself. The industries in the various buildings were diverse, some of them having no apparent relation to the others. Each of them was expected to turn out something which would revolutionize something or other in this world, but it was to his lens-house that Roland Clewe gave, in these days, his special attention. Here a great enterprise was soon to begin, more important in his eyes than anything else which had engaged human endeavor.
When sometimes in his moments of reflection he felt obliged to consider the wonders of applied electricity, and give them their due place in comparison with the great problem he expected to solve, he had his moments of doubt. But these moments did not come frequently. The day would arrive when from his lens-house there would be promulgated a great discovery which would astonish the world.
During Roland Clewe's absence in Germany his works had been left under the general charge of Samuel Block. This old man was not a scientific person; he was not a skilled mechanic; in fact, he had been in early life a shoemaker. But when Roland Clewe, some five years before, had put up his works near the little village of Sardis, he had sent for Block, whom he had known all his life and who was at that time the tenant of a small farm, built a cottage for him and his wife, and told him to take care of the place. From planning the grounds and superintending fences, old Sammy had begun to keep an eye upon builders and mechanics; and, being a very shrewd man, he had gradually widened the sphere of his caretaking, until, at this time, he exercised a nominal supervision over all the buildings. He knew what was going on in each; he had a good idea, sometimes, of the scientific basis of this or that bit of machinery, and had gradually become acquainted with the workings and management of many of the instruments; and now and then he gave to his employer very good hints in regard to the means of attaining an end, more especially in the line of doing something by instrumentalities not intended for that purpose. If Sammy could take any machine which had been constructed to bore holes, and with it plug up orifices, he would consider that he had been of advantage to his kind.
Block was a thoroughly loyal man. The interests of his employer were always held by him first and above everything. But although the old man understood, sometimes very well, and always in a fair degree, what the inventor was trying to accomplish, and appreciated the magnitude and often the amazing nature of his operations, he never believed in any of them.
Sammy was a thoroughly old-fashioned man. He had been born and had grown up in the days when a steam-locomotive was good enough and fast enough for any sensible traveller, and he greatly preferred a good pair of horses to any vehicle which one steered with a handle and regulated the speed thereof with a knob. Roland Clew e might devise all the wonderful contrivances he pleased, and he might do all sorts of astonishing things with them, but Sammy would still be of the opinion that, even if the machines did all that they were expected to do, the things they did generally would not be worth the doing.
Still, the old man would not interfere by word or deed with any of the plans or actions of his employer. On the contrary, he would help him in every possible way--by fidelity, by suggestion, by constant devotion and industry; but, in spite of all that, it was one of the most firmly founded principles of his life that Roland Clewe had no right to ask him to believe in the value of the wild and amazing schemes he had on hand.
Before Roland Clewe slept that night he had visited all his workshops, factories, and laboratories. His men had been busily occupied during his absence under the directions of their various special managers, and those in charge were of the opinion that everything had progressed as favorably and as rapidly as should have been expected; but Roland Clewe was not satisfied, even though many of his inventions and machines were much nearer completion than he had expected to find them. The work necessary to be done in his lens-house before he could go on with the great work of his life was not yet finished.
As well as he could judge, it would be a month or two before he could devote himself to those labors in his lens-house the thought of which had so long filled his mind by day, and even during his sleep.
After breakfast the-following morning Roland Clewe mounted his horse and rode over to a handsome house which stood upon a hill about a mile and a half from Sardis. Horses, which had almost gone out of use during the first third of the century, were now getting to be somewhat in fashion again. Many people now appreciated the pleasure which these animals had given to the world since the beginning of history, and whose place, in an aesthetic sense, no inanimate machine could supply. As Roland Clewe swung himself from the saddle at the foot of a broad flight of steps, the house door was opened and a lady appeared.
"I saw you coming!" she exclaimed, running down the steps to meet him.
She was a handsome woman, inclined to be tall, and some five years younger than Clewe. This was Mrs. Margaret Raleigh, partner with Roland Clewe in the works at Sardis, and, in fact, the principal owner of that great estate. She was a widow, and her husband had been not only a man of science, but a very rich man; and when he died, at the outset of his career, his widow believed it her duty to devote his fortune to the prosecution and development of scientific works. She knew Roland Clewe as a hard student and worker, as a man of brilliant and original ideas, and as the originator of schemes which, if carried out successfully, would place him among the great inventors of the world.
She was not a scientific woman in the strict sense of the word, but she had a most thorough and appreciative sympathy with all forms of physical research, and there was a distinctiveness and grandeur in the aims towards which Roland Clewe had directed his life work which determined her to unite, with all the power of her money and her personal encouragement, in the labors he had set for himself.
Therefore it was that the main part of the fortune left by Herbert Raleigh had been invested in the shops and foundries at Sardis, and that Roland Clewe and Margaret Raleigh were partners and co-owners in the business and the plant of the establishment.
"I am glad to welcome you back," said she, her hand in his. "But it strikes me as odd to see you come upon a horse; I should have supposed that by this time you would arrive sliding over the tree-tops on a pair of aerial skates."
"No," said he. "I may invent that sort of thing, but I prefer to use a horse. Don't you remember my mare? I rode her before I went away. I left her in old Sammy's charge, and he has been riding her every day."
"And glad enough to do it, I am sure," said she, "for I have heard him say that the things he hates most in this world are dead legs. 'When I can't use mine,' he said, 'let me have some others that are alive.' This is such a pretty creature," she added, as Clewe was looking about for some place to which he might tie his animal, "that I have a great mind to learn to ride myself!"
"A woman on a horse would be a queer sight," said he; and with this they went into the house.
The conference that morning in Mrs. Raleigh's library was a long and somewhat anxious one. For several years the money of the Raleigh estate had been freely and generously expended upon the enterprises in hand at the Sardis Works, but so far nothing of important profit had resulted from the operations. Many things had been carried on satisfactorily and successfully to various stages, but nothing had been finished; and now the two partners had to admit that the work which Clewe had expected to begin immediately upon his return from Europe must be postponed.
Still, there was no sign of discouragement in the voices or the faces--it may be said, in the souls--of the man and woman who sat there talking across a table. He was as full of hope as ever he was, and she as full of faith.
They were an interesting couple to look upon. He, dark, a little hollow in the cheeks, a slight line or two of anxiety in the forehead, a handsome, well-cut mouth, without beard, and a frame somewhat spare but strong; a man of graceful but unaffected action, dressed in a riding-coat, breeches, and leather leggings. She, her cheeks colored with earnest purpose, her gray eyes rather larger than usual as she looked up from the paper where she had been calculating, was dressed in the simple artistic fashion of the day. The falling folds of the semi-clinging fabrics accommodated themselves well to a figure which even at that moment of rest suggested latent energy and activity.
"If we have to wait for the Artesian ray," she said, "we must try to carry out something else. People are watching us, talking of us, expecting something of us; we must give them something. Now the question is, what shall that be?"
"The way I look at it is this," said her companion. "For a long time you have been watching and waiting and expecting something, and it is time that I should give you something; now the question
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