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PROFESSOR MIRZARBEAU'S laboratory was only a little distance away, and we walked thither. The streets were full of newspaper boys rushing about with the latest reports of the currency fight: the battle on the Esdraelon Stock Exchange was over. I bought a paper to see the result; bimetallism had won.
None of us were specially concerned with the Battle of Esdraelon, as some of the newspapers picturesquely called it. Dornton, indeed, seemed to find some subtle pleasure in the word Esdraelon; but Miss Baker and I were more interested in speculating as to what share the professor would claim in the result. I had told her of his assertion that war should cease: like me, she considered it ridiculous. So far back as the beginning of the year 1896, any one with a little perception might have noted the beginnings of the rule of money. Wall Street had a powerful voice during those days in January 1896, when England and the States stood on the verge of war. Miss Baker remarked as much now: it was, when one came to think of it, obvious enough.
The professor's laboratory, which I forgot to describe before, was rather like the professor; I had never seen a room so thoroughly uncared for. The floor was littered with rubbish of all sorts, through which the dirty boards peeped here and there. Scientific apparatus was jumbled into every odd corner, and over them hung numerous dusty proof-sheets of some book upon which he was engaged. Dust was everywhere; even the great telescope in one corner was thickly coated with it.
"I go not for show," apologized the professor. "It is a place of work is this — no drawing-room for young ladies with pretty dresses. You hear, mademoiselle?"
"Come to think of it, professor," retaliated Miss Baker, "I didn't guess 'twould be. I wouldn't call tidiness your vice, anyhow. So do the honours, and don't fuss about me."
"Ah," he returned, looking pleased, "you have sense. I will at once begin. But you have come too soon, for nothing is yet complete save this one little machine. Voila! I fix this to my brain, and I learn what the earth thinks."
He pointed to a dusty contrivance that occupied the centre of the place. So far as I am able to describe it, it looked a cross between a phonograph and a microscope, at least it had features in common with both these instruments. There were also many wires radiating from it down into a hole in the floor, and these wires passed here and there through what looked to be screens of coloured glass.
"Would you like to listen, mademoiselle, to hear the planet thinking?" he asked.
"Would I? I just guess I would," she returned. "Only p'raps you'll first flick off some of the dust; this gown I'm wearing cost a mint of dollars."
He shook his head. "I cannot do that even for you, mademoiselle. The dust is part of the machine; it is the conductor— everything. It plays a thousand parts. See. Voilà!"
He touched a button in the concern, and, watching, we saw that the dust upon a sheet of glass was vibrating, forming into geometrical patterns. There was no question about these patterns; they were distinct as could be.
"Oh, I know that dodge," broke in the irrepressible Miss Baker. "Notes of music do that if you fix the thing up properly."
"So?" said the professor with a little smile. " I believe it may be so. You are a clever young lady. But here, where is the music?"
We listened. There was certainly no sound audible.
"Say," cried Miss Baker impetuously, "fix me in the machine. This is smart!"
Regardless of her finery, she flopped down into a dusty chair just in front of the instrument; and the professor, pulling it over towards her, begged her to remove her hat. She took it off, and gave it me to hold.
Then he fitted some of the wires through her hair, and fixed a bell-shaped thing over her forehead, covering her with dust as he did so.
She laughed. "I call this being a martyr to Science with a vengeance. So far, professor, you've done about four hundred dollars' worth of damage."
"N'importe," he returned blandly. "What you will hear shall be worth it. Now silence, and listen to the Earth thinking." She was quiet for about a minute, then she grew restless.
"I don't hear anything," she said. "Not a blessed sound. . . . What are you burning that purple-coloured light for? .. . There'll be trouble with the Chinese by and by; they'll spread over Europe. . . . Unfix this show, professor; it don't work. It's a fraud; I've heard nothing."
"Pardon me, mademoiselle," he said, "pardon me, but you have."
"I've not," she retorted. "Why, I believe you're trying the old hypnotic game on me? But it won't work on Landry Baker by a long chalk."
"As you will, mademoiselle. But I assure you I have burned no purple light, nor any one else. That was the Earth's thought that you saw— and you said what " . . .
"Snakes!" she interrupted. "Switch off this old trumpet, it makes my head ache."
He obeyed her with a pained kind of look that was almost comical.
"One moment, Mirzarbeau," said Dornton. "May I have a listen at your miraculous invention?"
The professor acquiesced, and our companion seated himself at the machine, while Miss Baker busied herself with replacing her hat, using the reflecting mirror of the great telescope as a looking-glass.
Dornton got up. He said nothing as to his experiences. Then I took a turn for a minute or so; but nothing happened. I looked to see an appearance of violet flame as Miss Baker had evidently done, but I failed either to do so or to hear the slightest sound. Indeed my thoughts quickly wandered, and I began speculating over the girl's remark about trouble with the Chinese. It struck me that the western adoption of a standard silver currency would hit them rather hard in the very thing that had been so advantageous to them hitherto. Some day, perhaps, they would break loose and flood Europe as the hosts of Attila the Hun had flooded it in the distant past.
Then the professor unfastened me. Miss Baker was trying to mollify him, but without much success. He was very angry with her scepticism and the way in which she had expressed it. It struck me as curious that I had not noticed this dispute while I sat under the machine.
Dornton came up to me. "You have also views about China?" he laughed.
I admitted that he was right, though I would not agree with him as to its being curious that 1 should have thought of it when under the machine.
"Coincidence again," he sneered. "Well, as you will. But I fancy our friend here has hit on something, none the less. Nous verrons."
Just then Miss Baker abandoned her attempt at smoothing the professor; and a moment later, very ruffled and angry, he was bowing us out.
The newsboys were still crying "the Battle of Esdraelon." The title had "caught on" everywhere.
"You seem mighty interested in stocks and shares to-day, Mr. Dornton," said our fair companion. " Did you have anything on the show?"
"No, nothing. I am interested for quite another reason in the Battle of Esdraelon."
"Well, what is it, any way?"
"I happen," he returned in the dry sort of way that he sometimes assumed— "I happen to have a little general knowledge— enough, at least, to know the other name of Esdraelon in the Hebrew tongue. It would have been worth money to some of our editors. Esdraelon is the same as Armageddon."
"I must refer you for further particulars to the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation. All I would remark is that 'tis an interesting thing that the battle of Armageddon should have been fought out on a Stock Exchange, and no one know what was being fought."
"It is remarkable," I conceded with something very like a shiver. "Very. And what is to happen next? Not" . . .
"Don't ask me," he interrupted. "Ask Professor Mirzarbeau."
"Telegraphic address: 'Bedlam,'" added Miss Baker.
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