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On the following day there was a wonderful appearance of energy and attention observable amongst the smiths and half-breeds. The Indians had vanished.

MacGregor was up and out before his guests were awake. During the day he had many consultations with Barnett and Sir George Sterling. The others idled about, smoking and talking. Rod and rifle were forgotten. The adventure of the preceding day—or night—-was the only topic. There was a spot in the middle of the grass square that no one passed near, nor even looked at intentionally.

As the day advanced a strange quiet fell on the works. Before noon most of the half-breeds had passed by the hut, every man with his bundle—on tramp for the coast. There was no other destination possible to them. Now that the idlers were reminded of it they recollected having heard the captain of the coasting steamer which brought them from Vancouver Island say that his orders were to remain for a gang of workmen who were employed inland.

All day long the scowling savages passed in twos and threes. Then the less important of the smiths joined the march, so that by nightfall only a few of the skilled hands remained. These were now busily employed.

That evening the company at table was dull. This was a novel experience, but not surprising after the excitement of the previous night and its terrible tragedy. Besides, the solid men had evidently something on their minds, and the frivolous ones felt its weight vicariously. The roaring furnaces were silent. Shafts of flame no longer shot up into the smoke-laden sky. Huge rollers no longer ground the groaning bars of steel. The ponderous blows of the steam-hammer were changed to a rattle as of small arms—the busy hammers of the rivetters. Altogether a change had come. There was mystery in the air.

Several days passed, and then one morning there was absolute silence at the works. The cessation of the incessant tapping caused some languid speculation as to its meaning. Gordon, the most energetic of the junior men—as was fitting in a special correspondent—proposed to visit the works and see what had happened.

“Go yourself, like a good fellow, and tell us all about it when you come back,” Blake said, lazily toying with a cigar.

The others added their excuses and petitions, so Gordon set out. In half an hour a messenger handed Blake a scrap of paper, on which was written:

“Come up, at once. It beats the Arabian Nights.’”


“Something new by that terrible Barnett,” Durand said with interest; “we had better go. Come on, Graves.” Blake was already hurrying up the pathway to the works.

“A curious sense of impending discovery possessed the three as they walked hastily up the pathway. Blake had started first and was still slightly ahead when they came to the large rock which shut out the view of the works. An exclamation of amazement escaped him which caused the others to break into a run.

“What is it, Blake, for Heaven’s sake?” Duraud and Graves shouted together.

“Barnett has manufactured a—a—little moon!” Blake cried, excitedly.

There it was.

A jet black globe of steel fifty feet in diameter lay in the middle of the valley. It was almost a perfect sphere, with only a certain flattening at the top and bottom—like the polar depressions of the Earth in miniature. Barnett’s work was over, his machine was made—outside and inside it was finished; the man’s masterpiece was complete.

The rivetters and skilled mechanics were packing up their belongings. Theirs had been the final task of putting together all those strange castings and binders and beams of steel, every one of which fitted to the thousandth part of an inch, though wrought by men who had never seen their fellow’s work.

Large as it was, it seemed a small result from all the time, and labour, and money that had been spent upon it. But Barnett had to mine for his metal; mine for his coal to smelt it; make his machinery before he made his machine ; manufacture his mighty hammers as well as his hammered steel, his fierce-toothed saws as well as the plates through which they tore. He had to teach most of his workmen and oversee them all. He was constantly delayed by, accidents caused by their inexperience and carelessness. His supplies were brought with enormous difficulty from the coast., or, when the ice had melted, by steamer on the great Yukon river to its nearest navigable approach to the camp, and thence overland through a mountainous country. Every imaginable obstacle had to be overcome before the work of building the steel globe could even be commenced. The Alaskan valley presented every possible disadvantage for such an enterprise, save two. These were important exceptions. One was the presence of coal and iron near the surface. The other was the absence of public opinion. The only people in that lonely valley were Barnett’s friends or workmen. The former would not betray him. The latter could not; not a man of them could ever make his way back to the coast unprovided with an order to the keepers of the various food depots which had been established at convenient intervals along the route. They would have starved before they got half-way, had they tried to desert before their work was finished. It was over now, and they might tell what they pleased when they got back to the places from which they had been drafted. Long before that could happen the Steel Globe would have disappeared. The Indians did not count. They never approached civilised haunts. Besides, they did not understand. Even if they did, no one would have believed their story. This was why Henry Barnett, after an earnest study of the map of the world, had selected Alaska as the scene of his strange experiment.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” MacGregor shouted in his ringing voice. He was standing close to the great black ball. Beside him Barnett meditated in his usual abstracted way, and hard by Sir George pencilled vigorously at those mammoth rows of figures in his pocket ledger, adding them, dividing them or multiplying them with perfect correctness while simultaneously directing an animated discourse at the solemn scientist. It is a habit easily acquired by those who deal much with figures, and Sir George was an adept in it.

“Come this way, please,” MacGregor said, leading them up a sloping gangway. He was followed by his bewildered friends. Through a spacious door in the side of the globe of steel they all passed into its interior.

“You can inspect everything you wish,” the guide declared, “ only don’t ask me any questions as to the names and uses of all these devices, for I’m hanged if I could answer you. Barnett will tell you all about them, but he has such a learned way of describing them I doubt very much if you will be anything the wiser.”

A spiral staircase wound round the interior circumference of the globe. This staircase, or rather sloping path, had one very curious feature. The handrail was duplicated, so that if by any superhuman means the enormous bulk could be turned upside-down one could walk on the underside of the spiral as conveniently as on its upper surface. In fact, so far as appearance went, there was neither upper nor underside, the one being a perfect duplicate of the other. Again, the roof and the floor of the globe were identically fitted. Below, there were comfortable armchairs, luxurious couches, writing-tables and bookcases. Exact duplicates of these hung from above, head downwards, so to speak.

Across the centre of the Steel Globe a commodious platform swung like a ship’s lamp. On this a very large telescope was fixed, and, by peering over from the spiral path, the men could see that the platform was literally packed with astronomical instruments. Strange registers, the graduated lines on which were so fine as to be almost invisible without the aid of a magnifying glass, were set into the woodwork of a solid table in the middle of the swinging deck. Strongly made iron tanks filled a considerable portion of the interior space. Each of these tanks had a register showing the state of its contents. In addition to these there was a general register which showed the state of the contents of all the tanks. These tanks contained compressed air.

Innumerable windows pierced the whole circumference of the globe. The triple plates of glass which filled everyone of these apertures were very transparent, but of great thickness and strength. It was evident therefore that the ventilation of the fabric must be accomplished by some novel arrangement. This arrangement was certainly novel in the extreme as will be seen later.

“Now you understand all about it, Blake,” MacGregor said, with a laugh.

“Pretty nearly,” Blake answered with pretended gravity. “There are one or two trifling details about which I am not as clear as I should like to be.”

“Very probably. Still I feel sure you know as much about it as you did of the subject of your last great speech in the House.”

“I am afraid I know as little about it as you do yourself, MacGregor.”

“You have it exactly—all except one detail, as you would call it.”

“What detail?”

“I know where it is going. Yon don’t.”

“It? Where it is going? Have you sold it?”

“Sold it! Not to be made Grand Lama of Tibet.”

“MacGregor, I think it is time we heard something about your intentions,” Blake then said more seriously. “ Here we have all been idling about for weeks in a primeval forest, which is distinctly more like Bedlam than Arcadia. You, Barnett, and Sterling have some huge joke amongst you which you seem anxious to keep to yourselves. Your nods, glances, and half sentences are very edifying, but too mysterious for ordinary life. And now the whole thing culminates in a—curiosity”—he waved his hand towards the roof of the fabric—“that certainly beats the Eiffel Tower.”

“It does,” MacGregor emphatically interrupted.

“But we want to know what it means. If you cannot tell us plainly, I’m off. I don’t want to wait for another attack from the Indians. Nor to see another copper-skin pulverised. Faugh!”

“Don’t be impatient, Blake, just when the mystery is about to be explained. After dinner to-night you shall know as much as I do.”

“And how much is that?”

“I have told you already. You shall know where it is going, and who is going inside it.”

“When does it start, may I ask?” Blake said, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“To-night,” was the brief reply.

“Then it is time we were preparing to evacuate the camp,” Sir George said. “You, MacGregor, and Gordon, as great travellers, have only the regulation flannel shirt and pair of stockings to pack. But the rest of us like to take things more comfortably.”

“What do you make of it, Durand? “Blake asked as they walked back to the hut.

“That we are leaving this interesting region to-night, and that I am not at all sorry at the prospect. I have got some good lines on these trackless forests and great glaciers. There is very little in them. It is a waste of time to remain.”

“And I,” said Graves, “ I have got some good lights’ amongst these pine-woods. There is nothing else to be done. I want to get back to London.”

Gordon was less eager to be off. Wherever the mighty MacGregor was, on land or sea, there should the specials be gathered together, and he was thankful to have the job to himself.

But while Durand had got at least some lines, and Graves some lights, and Gordon some copy, poor Blake had got nothing. Alaska is not a fruitful field for politicians. And politicians are really sometimes—if very rarely—actuated by selfish motives.

So Blake was downcast. “Of all the monstrous absurdities I ever saw, that tremendous steel ball is facile princeps,” he said sulkily.

“Wait till we hear what MacGregor says,” Gordon remonstrated.

“Nonsense,” Blake interrupted. “ He is to tell us who is going inside it. Does he think we are demented? And he is to tell us where it is going. Why didn’t they plant it farther up the hill, and then there would at least have been the possibility of giving it a decent roll down. It’s too bad, it really is—What’s this?”

A line of men carrying hampers, boxes, cases, and packages of every description came into view. These goods were at once recognised as part of Sir George Sterling’s well-ordered commissariat.

“Where are you going, men? “ Blake asked when they met the foremost of the train.

“To the works, sir.”

“What are you to do with these cases?”

“They are for the big ball, sir.”

“He is—he is—actually provisioning the ship,” Blake stammered in amazement.

They walked on in silence. There was really nothing to be said. Every hour brought some new absurdity, as they thought, to light. And yet MacGregor was so practical, and so determined, and so successful in every venture of his life they could not quite bring themselves to laugh at any enterprise of his, or Barnett’s.

The evening meal had never been more impatiently waited for, nor more quickly despatched. Every man was too eager for MacGregor's ultimatum to find time for an appetite. At last the time came. The explorer passed round one of Sir George's square bottles and arose. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I give you as a toast—a pleasant journey and safe return to us all.”

“A pleasant journey and safe return to as all,” echoed pleasantly round the table, and MacGregor went on again, speaking very seriously.

“You remember that I promised you all a marvellous mission. I have to thank you for your prompt response and steadfast reliance on my sincerity. The time has come when I am able to justify the unquestioning confidence you have placed in me, and tell you whither we are bound—that is, if you are still of the same mind to trust yourselves to my venture.”

“Yes, we are!” enthusiastically.

“Thank you. I expected it. Then you are bound for the longest voyage ever men made.”

“But how are we going to make it?”

“In the Steel Globe.”

A burst of angry disappointment swept round the table.

“Your humour may be very excellent, Mr. MacGregor, but you must pardon us if we consider it ill-timed,” Durand said, severely.

Sir George Sterling seemed quite unmoved. He was evidently in MacGregor's confidence.

“I assure you that I consider this to be the most serious moment of my life,” MacGregor answered, with a gravity that caused Blake to interject: “Sit down man, you have been drinking.”

“And where on earth are we going?” they asked,


“Nowhere on earth.”

“Then where, for Heaven's sake?”

There was a pause, and MacGregor said quietly:

“To the planet Mars!”

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