The Master of the World
Chapter 8. At Any Cost
The suggestion of the Star came like a revelation. It was accepted everywhere. Not only
were these three vehicles the work of the same inventor; they were the same machine!
It was not easy to see how the remarkable transformation could be practically
accomplished from one means of locomotion to the other. How could an automobile
become a boat, and yet more, a submarine? All the machine seemed to lack was the
power of flying through the air. Nevertheless, everything that was known of the three
different machines, as to their size, their shape, their lack of odor or of steam, and above
all their remarkable speed, seemed to imply their identity. The public, grown blase with
so many excitements, found in this new marvel a stimulus to reawaken their curiosity.
The newspapers dwelt now chiefly on the importance of the invention. This new engine,
whether in one vehicle or three, had given proofs of its power. What amazing proofs! The
invention must be bought at any price. The United States government must purchase it at
once for the use of the nation. Assuredly, the great European powers would stop at
nothing to be beforehand with America, and gain possession of an engine so invaluable
for military and naval use. What incalculable advantages would it give to any nation, both
on land and sea! Its destructive powers could not even be estimated, until its qualities and
limitations were better known. No amount of money would be too great to pay for the
secret; America could not put her millions to better use.
But to buy the machine, it was necessary to find the inventor; and there seemed the chief
difficulty. In vain was Lake Kirdall searched from end to end. Even its depths were
explored with a sounding-line without result. Must it be concluded that the submarine no
longer lurked beneath its waters? But in that case, how had the boat gotten away? For that
matter, how had it come? An insoluble problem!
The submarine was heard from no more, neither in Lake Kirdall nor elsewhere. It had
disappeared like the automobile from the roads, and like the boat from the shores of
America. Several times in my interviews with Mr. Ward, we discussed this matter, which
still filled his mind. Our men continued everywhere on the lookout, but as unsuccessfully
as other agents.
On the morning of the twenty-seventh of June, I was summoned into the presence of Mr.
"Well, Strock," said he, "here is a splendid chance for you to get your revenge."
"Revenge for the Great Eyrie disappointment?"
"What chance?" asked I, not knowing if he spoke seriously, or in jest.