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   Chapter 17 “THE EYE”

Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye By Roy J. Snell Characters: 5961

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


As we have said, it was dark when Johnny Thompson finally returned to the "Street of Mystery," as he had come to call it. Felix's answer to his excited questioning at an earlier hour had been strange. Yes, he knew where the men were that Johnny had seen in that animated picture-at least, he knew where they had been when Johnny looked at them; they were in the house down the street where he and Johnny had planted wires and instruments. Had Johnny really seen the men?

"Seen them!" Johnny fairly raved. "I recognized one of them as surely as if he had been my brother!"

"That's fine!" Felix smiled blandly. "That proves the thing will work."

"But these men!" Johnny exploded. "We must get them!"

"Oh, must we?" Felix showed surprise.

"Sure we must. They are robbers, murderers. They have bonds in their possession that broke a bank."

"Oh!" Felix stared. "Well-that's not in our field. We are inventors, not detectives."

"I will get Drew Lane, Tom Howe and Captain Burns." Johnny was poised to rush away.

"As you like. Here's the key." Felix extended his hand. "Be sure to lock the door. We are responsible for that."

"Lock the door," Johnny grumbled to himself as he hurried away "Queerest fellow I ever saw, that Felix. Smart, though. Shouldn't wonder if his inventions would do a lot of good. Think of being able to look right in upon a pack of thieves and you half a block or half a mile away!

"Lock the door!" he repeated. "May be so riddled with bullets before we get through that it won't even shut."

In this last he was wrong. When the little band, Johnny, Drew, Tom and the hulking Spider, reached the place, they found it dark. There was no answer to the bell, nor to repeated rapping. When they unlocked the door and, flashlights in left hands, guns in right, made the rounds of the place, they found it deserted and still. The rooms were rented furnished. The furniture was there, but not a garment, not a scrap of paper, not a single article that told of occupation.

"They are gone for good," was Drew's pronouncement.

"And yet I saw them this very afternoon," Johnny said soberly. "Saw the bonds, too. To think I once had them and I lost them so easily!"

"We all make mistakes," Drew consoled. "We're getting hotter and hotter on their trail. We'll get them, you'll see, and that very soon."

They left the place in silence, locking the door behind them.

They made their way to the "House of Magic," where Felix joined them.

"Find anyone?" he asked.

"Gone!" was Johnny's reply.

"I was afraid they might be. But that thing worked-that's the best of it. A little more work on it and we'll be ready to turn it over to those who can make the best use of it."

"By the way, Johnny," Drew Lane put in, "you should have a phone in your room. You may have something to report any time."

Johnny had not told Felix of the Whisperer's message. Felix had many secrets, why not he?

"I'll put a phone in at once," F

elix assured him.

"Well, goodnight, then." Drew Lane and his companions disappeared into the dark, leaving Johnny and Felix standing on the steps of the "House of Magic."

"Easy to put a phone in," Felix said. "House is full of wires."

"And of eyes," Johnny added.

"Yes-'House of a Thousand Eyes,'" Felix chuckled. "Want to know about 'em?"

"Do I!"

"Well, watch." Felix rang the bell. The door opened itself. "An eye did that," he said quietly. "An electric eye. Step inside."

Johnny did so. As on that other occasion, the narrow space was filled with a strange light; then he saw skeletons, his own and Felix's, wavering before him.

"Eye does that," Felix explained again. "The electric eye and X-ray. Eye turns on the current that starts the X-ray going. Quite a convenience. If your would-be visitors carry hard things like guns or knives, you see them and need not admit them unless you want to.

"We are seeing ourselves now," he chuckled, "as we have never been, but as we shall be. Come inside." The skeletons vanished. The next door opened.

"In five minutes the 'eye' will have made us a cup of cocoa." Felix sat down.

"It's really very simple," he went on after a moment. "The electric eye, or photo-electric cell, is a vacuum tube treated chemically on the inside. A peep hole admits light. When light strikes the chemicals it starts a small electric discharge. This electric discharge, when stepped up, will start any piece of mechanism you may wish it to.

"It works as well when I cut off the light as when I turn it on. So, when I pass before a light in the wall that plays on one electric eye, it causes the door to open. Another closes the door, and so forth.

"Just now an 'eye' turned on the current under a pan of milk. When the milk is hot and rises in the pan, a second eye slides the pan aside and adds the cocoa and sugar. So we have steaming cocoa with no trouble at all.

"Impractical?" He threw back his head and laughed. "Yes, but it's lots of fun.

"But the eye is revolutionizing the world, for all that!" he added, handing Johnny his cocoa. "I told you we fixed up a rig for sorting a carload of beans a day. That is done by thousands of electric eyes. Pineapples are sorted the same way. In school rooms an eye watches the light. When it gets too dark the eye throws on the lighting switch. The eye umpires bowling matches and would umpire a baseball game, call a ball a ball, a strike a strike, and never be wrong. And that certainly would be something!

"Guess that's enough for tonight. I'll get that phone." He hurried away.

It was not enough, not half enough for Johnny. He wanted to ask if the eye had helped him see what he had seen that afternoon, if the eye could have anything to do with the whispers at dawn. He wanted to ask a hundred questions. But Felix was gone.

When Johnny mounted to his room, he found the telephone in its place on a stand by his bed, but Felix was nowhere to be seen.

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