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ANTECEDENTAL.

"Come in!" sounded a voice, as Dr. Cortlandt and Dick Ayrault tapped at the door of the President of the Terrestrial Axis Straightening Company's private office on the morning of the 21st of June, A. D. 2000. Col. Bearwarden sat at his capacious desk, the shadows passing over his face as April clouds flit across the sun. He was a handsome man, and young for the important post he filled--being scarcely forty--a graduate of West Point, with great executive ability, and a wonderful engineer. "Sit down, chappies," said he; "we have still a half hour before I begin to read the report I am to make to the stockholders and representatives of all the governments, which is now ready. I know YOU smoke," passing a box of Havanas to the professor.

Prof. Cortlandt, LL. D., United States Government expert, appointed to examine the company's calculations, was about fifty, with a high forehead, greyish hair, and quick, grey eyes, a geologist and astronomer, and altogether as able a man, in his own way, as Col. Bearwarden in his. Richard Ayrault, a large stockholder and one of the honorary vice-presidents in the company, was about thirty, a university man, by nature a scientist, and engaged to one of the prettiest society girls, who was then a student at Vassar, in the beautiful town of Poughkeepsie.

"Knowing the way you carry things in your mind, and the difficulty of rattling you," said Cortlandt, "we have dropped in on our way to hear the speech that I would not miss for a fortune. Let us know if we bother you."

"Impossible, dear boy," replied the president genially. "Since I survived your official investigations, I think I deserve some of your attention informally."

"Here are my final examinations," said Cortlandt, handing Bearwarden a roll of papers. "I have been over all your figures, and testify to their accuracy in the appendix I have added."

So they sat and chatted about the enterprise that interested Cortlandt and Ayrault almost as much as Bearwarden himself. As the clock struck eleven, the president of the company put on his hat, and, saying au revoir to his friends, crossed the street to the Opera House, in which he was to read a report that would be copied in all the great journals and heard over thousands of miles of wire in every part of the globe. When he arrived, the vast building was already filled with a distinguished company, representing the greatest intelligence, wealth, and powers of the world. Bearwarden went in by the stage entrance, exchanging greetings as he did so with officers of the company and directors who had come to hear him. Cortlandt and Ayrault entered by the regular door, the former going to the Government representatives' box, the latter to join his fiancee, Sylvia Preston, who was there with her mother. Bearwarden had a roll of manuscript at hand, but so well did he know his speech that he scarcely glanced at it. After being introduced by the chairman of the meeting, and seeing that his audience was all attention, he began, holding himself erect, his clear, powerful voice making every part of the building ring.