Both passed out of the laboratory with rather unsteady steps. Together they retraced their way to the administration building; and there, safe at last in the private inner office, with the door locked, they sat down and stared at each other with expressions of amazement.
A FREAK OF FATE.
Waldron was the first to speak. With a sudden laugh, boisterous and wild, he cried:
“Flint, you old scoundrel, you’re drunk!”
“Drunk yourself!” retorted the Billionaire, half starting from his chair, his fist clenched in sudden passion. “How dare you—?”
“Dare? I dare anything!” exclaimed Waldron. “Yes, I admit it—I am half seas over. That ozone—God! what a stimulant! Must be some wonderfully powerful form. If we—could market it—”
Flint sank back in his chair, waving an extravagant hand.
“Market it?” he answered. “Of course we can market it, and will! Drunk or sober, Wally, I know what I’m talking about. The power now in our grasp has never yet been equalled on earth. On the one side, we can half-stifle every non-subscriber to our service, or wholly stifle every rebel against us. On the other, we can simply saturate every subscriber with health and energy, or even—if they want it—waft them to paradise on the wings of ozone. The old Roman idea of ‘bread and circus’ to rule the mob, was child’s play compared to this! Science has delivered the whole world into our hands. Power, man, power! Absolute, infinite power over every living, breathing thing!”
He fell silent, pondering the vast future; and Waldron, gazing at him with sparkling eyes, nodded with keen satisfaction. Thus for a few moments they sat, looking at each other and letting imagination ran riot; and as they sat, the sudden, stimulating effect of the condensed oxygen died in their blood, and calmer feelings ensued.
Presently Waldron spoke again.
“Let’s get down to brass tacks,” said he, drawing his chair up to the table. “I’m almost myself again. The subtle stuff has got out of my brain, at last. Generalities and day-dreams are all very well, Flint, but we’ve got to lay out some definite line of campaign. And the sooner we get to it the better.”
“Hm!” sneered Flint. “If it’s not more practical than your action in giving Herzog that blank check, it won’t be worth much. As an extravagant action, Wally, I’ve never seen it equalled. I’m astonished, indeed I am!”
Waldron laughed easily.
“Don’t worry,” he answered his partner. “That temporary aberration of judgment, due to oxygen-stimulus, will have no results. Herzog won’t dare fill out the check, anyhow, because he knows he’d get into trouble if he did; and even though he should, he can collect nothing. I’ll have payment stopped, at once, on that number. No danger, Flint!”
“I don’t know,” mused the Billionaire. “It may be that this man has us just a little under his thumb. He, and he alone, understands the process. We’ve got to treat him with due consideration, or he may leave us and carry his secret to others—to Masterson, for instance, or the Amalgamated people, or—”