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Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye By Roy J. Snell Characters: 5048

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Say!" Felix exclaimed as they boarded a car bound for home. "Wonder how it happened that searchlight fellow was looking for us."

"Somebody told him," Johnny suggested.

"Yes, and I know who!" The young inventor's face fairly shone. "It was Beth; couldn't have been anyone else. Fellow without a sister is just square out of luck, that's all. The way she gets me out of things! Say, man! It's great!"

A half hour later, over cups of steaming chocolate produced, as before, by the mysterious "Eye," Beth told her story.

"Gunderson Shotts," Felix murmured, examining the card Beth handed him. "'Everybody's Business.' Suppose that means he tends to everybody's business?"

"Got quite a job on his hands," Johnny laughed.

"He's big enough to take a huge load of it on his shoulders." Beth was staring into space.

"Have to look him up and thank him," Felix drawled. Already the events of the day were fading from his memory. He was dreaming of some strange new contraption that might startle the world.

"You'll stay with us tonight." Roused from his revery, he turned to Johnny.

"Why I-"

"Sure, sure you will. Show you the room right away. It's on the third floor; a little strange, you may find it, but comfortable, extra fine, I'd say." Felix favored him with a smile.

The room they entered a few moments later was strange in two particulars. It was extremely tall. Johnny thought it must be fully twenty feet to the ceiling. "Queer way to build a room," was his mental comment. Like other rooms in the house, it was illuminated to the deepest corners; yet there were no lamps anywhere. "Odd place, this," he thought. Yet Felix had warned him. He had been given ample opportunity to say, "I don't like the looks of it." Now he shrugged his shoulders and asked no questions; that was Johnny's way.

"Light begins to fade in twenty minutes," was Felix's only comment as he left the room.

"Light begins to fade," Johnny grinned when the door had been closed. "Sure is a queer way to put it."

Twenty minutes later he began to realize that the strange boy had spoken the exact truth. The light did begin to fade. At first the change was almost imperceptible, a mere deepening of shadows in remote corners. Then, little by little, the pictures that hung low on those tall walls began to fade. The windows too, short, low windows, too short, Johnny thought, for so tall a room, began letting in light about the shades, a very little light, but light all the same.

Breaking the spell that had

settled upon his drowsy senses, Johnny sprang to his feet, threw off his clothes, dragged on his sleeping garments, then crept beneath the covers of a most comfortable bed.

"Light is fading," he murmured. He recalled the lights on the stage of the opera house. They had not blinked on and off. They faded like the coming of darkness on the broad prairies. "Sort of nice, I think," he murmured sleepily. "More natural. Like-like-"

Well, after all, what did it matter what it was like. He had fallen asleep.

How long we have slept we are seldom able to tell. At times an hour seems a whole night, at others four hours is but a dozen ticks of the clock. Johnny slept. He awoke. And at once his senses were conscious of some change going on in his room. He was seized with a foreboding of impending catastrophe.

At first he was at a complete loss to know what this change was. There was the room. The low windows still admitted streaks of light. The chairs, his bed, the very low chest of drawers were in their accustomed places.

"And yet-" He ran a hand across his eyes as if to clear his vision. And then like a flash it came to him. That exceedingly tall room was not so tall now-or was it?

"Impossible! How absurd!" He sat up, determined to waken himself from a bad dream.

But the thing was no dream. The ceiling was lower, fully five feet lower. And-horror of horrors!-it was still moving downward, lower, lower, still lower.

There was not the slightest sound, yet the boy seemed to feel the breath of moving air on his face.

Too astonished and frightened to move, he sat there while that ceiling marched down over the pattern of a quite futuristic wall-paper.

When at last questions formed themselves in his fear-frozen brain they were, "How far will it come? Will the posts of my bed arrest it? If the bed crashes under the weight, what then?"

While he was revolving these questions in his mind and wondering in a vague sort of way what chance he had of escaping from one of those third story windows, he noted with a start that the ceiling had ceased moving. It was as if its desire to hide great stretches of wall paper had, for the time at least, been satisfied.

The ceiling having settled nine feet or more, Johnny found himself in quite a normal bed chamber. Windows were the proper height, pictures correctly hung and furniture matching it all very well.

He settled back on his bed. It had been a long day. He would just lie there and keep a wary eye on that playful ceiling.

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