Now I breathe my first breath of real freedom; and how fresh and breezy and inspiring it is! At last I am a man! a man on equal terms with my neighbor; and by my manhood; and by it alone, I shall rise and be seen of the world, or I shall sink from sight and deserve it. This is the gladdest day, and the proudest, that ever poured it's sun upon my head!"
"GOD bless my soul, Hawkins!"
The morning paper dropped from the Colonel's nerveless-grasp.
"What is it?"
"He's gone!--the bright, the young, the gifted, the noblest of his illustrious race--gone! gone up in flames and unimaginable glory!"
"My precious, precious young kinsman--Kirkcudbright Llanover Marjoribanks Sellers Viscount Berkeley, son and heir of usurping Rossmore."
"It's true--too true."
"Right here in Washington; where he arrived from England last night, the papers say."
"You don't say!"
"Hotel burned down."
"The New Gadsby!"
"Oh, my goodness! And have we lost both of them?"
"Oh, great guns, I forgot all about him. Oh, I hope not."
"Hope! Well, I should say! Oh, we can't spare him! We can better afford to lose a million viscounts than our only support and stay."
They searched the paper diligently, and were appalled to find that a one- armed man had been seen flying along one of the halls of the hotel in his underclothing and apparently out of his head with fright, and as he would listen to no one and persisted in making for a stairway which would carry him to certain death, his case was given over as a hopeless one.
"Poor fellow," sighed Hawkins; "and he had friends so near. I wish we hadn't come away from there-maybe we could have saved him."
The earl looked up and said calmly:
"His being dead doesn't matter. He was uncertain before. We've got him sure, this time."
"Got him? How?"
"I will materialize him."
"Rossmore, don't--don't trifle with me. Do you mean that? Can you do it?"
"I can do it, just as sure as you are sitting there. And I will."
"Give me your hand, and let me have the comfort of shaking it. I was perishing, and you have put new life into me. Get at it, oh, get at it right away."
"It will take a little time, Hawkins, but there's no hurry, none in the world--in the circumstances. And of course certain duties have devolved upon me now, which necessarily claim my first attention. This poor young nobleman--"
"Why, yes, I am sorry for my heartlessness, and you smitten with this new family affliction. Of course you must materialize him first--I quite understand that."
"I--I--well, I wasn't meaning just that, but,--why, what am I thinking of! Of course I must materialize him. Oh, Hawkins, selfishness is the bottom trait in human nature; I was only thinking that now, with the usurper's heir out of the way But you'll forgive that momentary weakness, and forget it. Don't ever remember it against me that Mulberry Sellers was once mean enough to think the thought that I was thinking. I'll materialise him--I will, on my honor--and I'd do it were he a thousand heirs jammed into one and stretching in a solid rank from here to the stolen estates of Rossmore, and barring the road forever to the rightful earl!
"There spoke the real Sellers--the other had a false ring, old friend."
"Hawkins, my boy, it just occurs to me--a thing I keep forgetting to mention-a matter that we've got to be mighty careful about."
"What is that?"
"We must keep absolutely still about these materializations. Mind, not a hint of them must escape--not a hint. To say nothing of how my wife and daughter--high-strung, sensitive organizations--might feel about them, the negroes wouldn't stay on the place a minute."
"That's true, they wouldn't. It's well you spoke, for I'm not naturally discreet with my tongue when I'm not warned."
Sellers reached out and touched a bell-button in the wall; set his eye upon the rear door and waited; touched it again and waited; and just as Hawkins was remarking admiringly that the Colonel was the most progressive and most alert man he had ever seen, in the matter of impressing into his service every modern convenience the moment it was invented, and always keeping breast to breast with the drum major in the great work of material civilization, he forsook the button (which hadn't any wire attached to it,) rang a vast dinner bell which stood on the table, and remarked that he had tried that new-fangled dry battery, now, to his entire satisfaction, and had got enough of it; and added:
"Nothing would do Graham Bell but I must try it; said the mere fact of my trying it would secure public confidence, and get it a chance to show what it could do.