Under Sealed Orders by H. A. Cody
Chapter XXI. Harnessed Power
It was dark by the time they drew near to Creekdale, and as the car rounded a bend in the road David was astonished at the sight which met his eyes. The entire way was brilliantly illuminated by hundreds of electric lights strung along both sides of the road.
David started, sat bolt upright, and clutched his companion by the arm.
"What is this?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper. "Where are we, anyway? I thought you were bringing me home."
"So I am," Mr. Westcote laughingly replied. "We are at Creekdale now. This is the work of your beloved falls. Are you satisfied?"
"Oh!" It was all that the old man could say. He leaned back in his seat and a sigh of relief escaped his lips. It was quite evident that he was strongly moved by what he saw.
Slowly the car moved up the great white way, and at last turned into the gate leading to the Haven. Two large lights had been placed on the gate post, and these shed forth their bright light upon all sides. It was a marvellous transformation which had been made in such a short time. David could not utter a word, so overcome was he. Even when he saw the house ablaze with many lights and the verandah as bright as day, and observed the people there waiting to welcome him home, he seemed like one in a dream. It was only when Betty danced about him and caught both of his hands in hers, that he aroused from his stupefaction.
"What's the matter, Mr. David?" she cried. "Why don't you speak to me, and tell me how you like it all?"
"It is wonderful!" and the old man placed his hand to his forehead, as he always did when greatly affected or puzzled. "Who did all this?"
"It was done for you, Mr. David," the girl explained. "My, we have had a lively time here since you left!"
"And was that the reason why I was taken to the city yesterday?" David asked, while a new light of comprehension dawned upon his mind. "You knew all about this, did you?"
"Oh, no, I didn't know a thing," Betty protested. "But just as soon as you got away Mr. Jasper and a whole crowd of men began to work, and they have been just hustling ever since. Isn't it lovely! And to think that it was in your brain all the time!"
"This is very gratifying, sir," and David turned to Jasper, who was standing by listening with great interest to the conversation between the girl and the old man. "I can hardly believe what I see. I had no idea that you had made such progress at the falls. It will be necessary for me to go and see the works for myself."
"We have a great deal more to do yet, I assure you," Jasper replied. "We have merely begun. We planned this little surprise for your special benefit. We wished that you should be the first one to be honoured. But we have something more to show you, which, no doubt, will surprise you. If you will come with me I will show you what it is."
Leading the way, he conducted them through the kitchen and into an adjoining room used partly as a wood-house and also as a wash room. Each place was brilliantly lighted by means of several electric lamps. He stopped at last before a cream-separator which was new and recently installed. Touching a switch, there was a sudden whirring sound, and the machine began to revolve, slowly at first, but gaining rapidly in speed until it was fairly spinning. After it had been running for a few minutes Jasper turned off the current, and then stood watching the separator until its movements ceased.
He next moved across the room to where stood a churn. Again placing his finger upon another switch the churn began to revolve.
During all this time David's eyes were ablaze with joy as he watched all that was taking place.
"It is wonderful!" he remarked. "How have you managed to arrange everything in such a short time? It seems almost magical."
"Oh, we had everything all ready," Jasper laughingly replied. "And just as soon as we got you away we merely had to put the machinery into place. But here is something else," and he turned to the left. "This is a wood-cutting machine, and all you have to do is to turn on the current, so," and he touched a switch, "and behold, your saw is all ready for use. Watch this," he added, picking up a stick, which in an instant was severed in two. "That is the way the farmers will cut their wood. You have thus seen some of the things your falls will do. But there are others we cannot show here, which will revolutionise the entire country."
Scarcely had he ended when Lois entered and stood watching the revolving saw. Jasper was the first to see her, and he noticed that her face was paler than usual and that she seemed to be trembling.
"I am sorry that I am late," she apologised. "I was planning to be here to see these wonderful things, but I was delayed."
"But you can see them all now, Miss Sinclair," David eagerly replied. "Look at the lights along the road and in the house, and the way these machines run. Isn't it wonderful? My visions have come true at last, and my beautiful falls have done it."
Jasper was anxious to know what was troubling Lois. Although she talked and laughed and seemed to be the gayest one there, it was quite evident to him that she was merely acting the part. When she had stayed for about half an hour she spoke to Jasper privately and asked him to accompany her home.
"I wish to speak to you about something," she told him.
Jasper was delighted, and after they had said good-night to the rest they walked slowly down the lighted lane toward the main road.
"This is like fairyland," Lois remarked. "I never expected to see anything like this."
"It was done for David's sake," Jasper replied. "And wasn't he surprised and delighted? I think I was as much excited as he was."
"Have you any idea why the company should do all this for his sake?" Lois enquired. "Who is he, anyway?"
"I have not the slightest idea," was the reply. "Everything has been a profound mystery to me from the beginning. There is something most interesting back of it all, mark my word. Mr. Westcote evidently knows, but he has never enlightened me. Perhaps his daughter knows something."
"If she does she has never told me. Sometimes I think she knows, but is not at liberty to speak. Oh, what's that?" and Lois gave a sudden start. "I thought I heard something among the trees. But I guess it was nothing, only my nerves," and she gave a slight laugh.
"Perhaps it was merely some animal," Jasper suggested. "It may have been a dog or a rabbit. Any slight noise sounds large at night."
"Let us hurry on," Lois urged. "I am afraid that I am somewhat upset to-night. I had such a start on my way to the Haven that I have not got over it yet."
"I saw that there was something wrong with you when you came into the house," Jasper replied.
"Did you? I was hoping that no one noticed it."
"What was the matter?"
"It was a man."
"Oh, was that all? I thought that perhaps it was a bear."
"But a man can be far worse than a bear, Mr. Randall. I would not mind meeting a bear half as much as a brute in the form of a man."
"What, did he frighten you, or try to harm you in any way?" Jasper stopped short in his tracks and waited for an answer. He was beginning to understand now that Lois' fright was something not to be treated lightly.
"Oh, no," Lois hastened to explain. "He didn't even speak to me. But I saw him cross the brightly-lighted lane leading to the Haven. He plunged among the trees and disappeared."
"Did you know him?" Jasper asked, now much interested.
"Yes. I met him once in the city at Mrs. Dingle's party. He is an English artist, Sydney Bramshaw by name, and he affected me then like a terrible night-mare. I could not get him out of my mind for weeks. I have never been able to explain it, and never experienced anything like it before."
"Do you know anything about the man?" Jasper asked.
"No, and that is the strange thing about it. I had a slight conversation with him then and his words disgusted me. Apart from that I know nothing."
"It is strange," Jasper mused as if to himself. "We sometimes do get queer impressions about people, do we not?"
"But I never had anything like this before. It seemed to me when I first saw that man that he was Satan in disguise. A queer idea, was it not? I felt that in some unaccountable way he had crossed my path for evil, and I have that same feeling now."
They had reached the house by this time and were standing near the verandah steps. It was a chilly night, and the sky was overcast with not a star to be seen. A tremor shook Lois' form as she stood there.
"You are cold," Jasper remarked, "and you should go in the house at once."
"Will you come in?" Lois asked. "It is not late and father will be pleased to see you."
"Not to-night, thank you," Jasper replied. "I was working nearly all last night at the Haven, and so must get some rest. I am living in my little old cabin now, and it is really good to be there again. It seems more like home to me than up the brook. But, there, I must not keep you any longer or you will catch cold. Do not worry too much about that man. If he begins to trouble you, he will have to reckon with me."
Jasper walked slowly away from the house along a path leading to the main road. He was thinking seriously of what Lois had told him about Bramshaw. He could not understand her strange aversion for the man, and he wondered if there were really anything in such a presentiment. He made up his mind that he would be on the lookout and if the fellow became the least objectionable he would deal with him then in no gentle manner.
As Jasper drew near to the main road a feeling suddenly possessed him that he was being followed. He looked back but could see nothing. Laughing at himself for what he considered his foolishness, he continued on his way. But it was not so easy to banish the impression he had received, and every once in a while he glanced around as if expecting to see some one not far off. Once he thought he heard the sound of foot-steps in the distance, and he stopped to listen but heard nothing more.
Reaching at last the path which led to his cabin, he was about to enter upon this when an idea came into his mind. It was suggested by a thick clump of hazel bushes by the side of the road. As quick as thought he darted behind these and crouched low upon the ground. From this position it was possible for him to watch the road without being observed. He wished to find out whether any one was really following him, or if it was merely imagination on his part.
He had not been there long ere he heard faint footfalls upon the road, which grew more distinct as he listened. He was now sure that his surmises had been true, and it made him angry. He knew that it was not an ordinary pedestrian, for why had he come after him along the path leading from the Sinclair house? It must be some one stalking him, for what purpose he could not imagine.
Peering forth from his concealed position Jasper was ere long able to see the dim form of a man slouching cautiously along, keeping well to the side of the road where the trees and bushes were the thickest. He even brushed the hazel bushes in passing and Jasper held his breath lest he should be detected by his breathing. He was sure now that the man had been following him with no good intentions, and his first inclination was to rush forward and find out what was his business. He resisted, however, thinking it better to remain where he was and see what the night prowler would do next.
Not long did he have to wait for the man, coming to the path leading across the fields, stopped and looked carefully around. The dim form of the little cabin could be seen in the distance, and for this he at once started. There were no trees now to hide him, and he started on a run across the open space. Jasper, seeing this, sprang from his hiding place and hurried forward. By the time he reached the path the man was nowhere to be seen. He had evidently reached the cabin, and was no doubt at the door or listening at the window. Jasper knew that it was now time for him to act and he at once bounded across the field straight for his cabin. He had scarcely reached it when the prowler came suddenly around the corner, and the two met. In an instant Jasper reached out his hand and caught the man by the shoulder and demanded what he was doing around his cabin at that time of the night. With an angry oath, the other tried to free himself from the tightening grip, and when he failed to do so he struck Jasper a blow right in the face with the clenched fist of his right hand.
"Take that, you damned fool," he growled, "and mind your own business."
Jasper did not wait to argue. In a twinkling he threw himself full upon the man. His blood surged madly through his veins, for the blow stung him to fury. His opponent, though he tried to put up a fight, was as a child in Jasper's hands, and soon he was sprawling upon the ground with Jasper sitting upon his body.
"Now, then," the victor calmly remarked, "as you would not answer my question in a civil manner while standing on your feet, perhaps you will do it here on the ground. And you will do it before you get up, remember that, so you might as well speak first as last. Who are you, and why were you following me up the road and prowling so suspiciously around my cabin?"
"I'm a stranger here," was the low reply, "and I was looking for a place to spend the night. Will that satisfy you?"
"No, it will not," Jasper emphatically replied. "I believe that you are lying. What is your name?"
"Jim Dobbins," was the somewhat hesitating answer. "I am seeking for work with the Light and Power Company and got astray."
"Now, look here," and Jasper rose to his feet, "it's no use for you to string off such lies to me. Your name is Sydney Bramshaw, the artist. I know who you are, but why you are acting this way I do not know. So get up now, and clear out of this. If I catch you at any more such pranks I'll break every bone in your body. You had better mind what you do while in this place, and keep out of my sight after this."
Without a word the prostrate man rose to his feet and stood for an instant as if he would speak. He was trembling with rage, though in the darkness Jasper could not see the ugly expression upon his face. Presently he turned and glided away swiftly from the cabin, and was soon lost to sight.
Jasper stood for a while and peered through the night. He was almost tempted to follow the man to be sure that he really departed and was not hiding among the bushes but a short distance away. He called himself a fool for letting him off so easily. He should have kept him until morning to be sure that he would do no mischief under cover of darkness. At length, however, he entered the cabin and threw himself upon his cot. He wished to think it all over and keep awake lest the man should return and wreak vengeance upon him in some under-handed way. He felt sure now that Lois' opinion of the man was correct, and that for some unaccountable reason he had a contemptible enemy to deal with, who would stoop to almost anything to carry out his evil designs, whatever they might be.