The Master of the World HTML version

Chapter 7. A Third Machine
I confess that at first this letter dumfounded me. "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" slipped from my open
mouth. The old servant stared at me, not knowing what to think.
"Oh, sir! is it bad news?"
I answered for I kept few secrets from this faithful soul by reading her the letter from end
to end. She listened with much anxiety.
"A joke, without doubt," said I, shrugging my shoulders.
"Well," returned my superstitious handmaid, "if it isn't from the devil, it's from the devil's
country, anyway."
Left alone, I again went over this unexpected letter. Reflection inclined me yet more
strongly to believe that it was the work of a practical joker. My adventure was well
known. The newspapers had given it in full detail. Some satirist, such as exists even in
America, must have written this threatening letter to mock me.
To assume, on the other hand, that the Eyrie really served as the refuge of a band of
criminals, seemed absurd. If they feared that the police would discover their retreat,
surely they would not have been so foolish as thus to force attention upon themselves.
Their chief security would lie in keeping their presence there unknown. They must have
realized that such a challenge from them would only arouse the police to renewed
activity. Dynamite or melinite would soon open an entrance to their fortress. Moreover,
how could these men have, themselves, gained entrance into the Eyrie unless there
existed a passage which we had failed to discover? Assuredly the letter came from a
jester or a madman; and I need not worry over it, nor even consider it.
Hence, though for an instant I had thought of showing this letter to Mr. Ward, I decided
not to do so. Surely he would attach no importance to it. However, I did not destroy it,
but locked it in my desk for safe keeping. If more letters came of the same kind, and with
the same initials, I would attach as little weight to them as to this.
Several days passed quietly. There was nothing to lead me to expect that I should soon
quit Washington; though in my line of duty one is never certain of the morrow. At any
moment I might be sent speeding from Oregon to Florida, from Maine to Texas. And this
unpleasant thought haunted me frequently if my next mission were no more successful
than that to the Great Eyrie, I might as well give up and hand in my resignation from the
force. Of the mysterious chauffeur or chauffeurs, nothing more was heard. I knew that
our own government agents, as well as foreign ones, were keeping keen watch over all
the roads and rivers, all the lakes and the coasts of America. Of course, the size of the
country made any close supervision impossible; but these twin inventors had not before
chosen secluded and unfrequented spots in which to appear. The main highway of