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ARTIFICIAL HELL

By HARVEY EMERSON

Unwittingly the preacher revealed the terrible secret oi the catalyst gas, and the menace of an artificial hell faced the world

CHAPTER I
The Strange Gas

PROBABLY nothing ever would have been known of the remarkable discovery made by Adam Arden and his fellow scientist, old Dr. Adolph Krantz, until some commercial nitrogen fertilizer company announced its wares, had not fate stepped in and given the matter a far more serious aspect than either had intended. For that discovery was a powerful catalyst—a composite acid gas—which caused the oxygen of the air to unite explosively with the nitrogen content to form a non-volatile oxide of nitrogen.1

1: A catalyst is a substance which is seemingly inert and yet by mere presence dictates what actions shall take place in a chemical solution. The peculiar feature is that the catalyst itself is unchanged in the process and may be used over and over again. Elements and chemicals used as catalysts are platinum, manganese, acetanilide, sulphuric acid, etc.—Ed.

The part fate played in the machine gun circumstances which ended disasterously for five of those involved, originated with old Dr. Krantz baiting a hell fire preacher who had been preaching in Cloverdale the previous summer.

Dr. Krantz, a confirmed atheist, badgered the man relentlessly. "Why," he declared with heat, "your hell might break loose any time now. Already am I perfecting a formula for making the air catch fire. What if it won't stop? Don't you see, you will burn up—all of us will burn up—without your flaunted day of judgment."

Then when the next day the old doctor had sought for the preacher to beg him to hold sacred the information given, the man had already gone to New York to preach. Hoping that no harm would come of it, he dismissed it from his mind.

Over in New York two men were at a secluded table in the rear of Joe's Place. Before them lay a gaudy handbill. While the two were talking in low tones, the smaller amused himself by poking a pin through the paper. Suddenly he fixed his gaze on the paper and stopped in the midst of a sentence.

"Herr Bock," he said, picking up the punctured paper, "look what this man says: '?Already artificial hell has been made. The air burns with terrific heat actually melting the ground. If man can do it, why doubt God': power to do the some thing. Come hear about it and believe.'"

The larger man—a middle aged fellow who might easily have been mistaken for a successful banker—frowned. "Well, what of it?" he asked uninterestedly.

"What of it? Himmel, man! Don't you see? What are we paid for? Is it not to save for the fatherland those things which will make us the only nation in the world?"

Bock studied a moment, frowning reflectively. Suddenly he put down his beer mug. "We will go," he announced.

Half an hour later the two sat in the rear of the hall. Up on the platform Vincent Stephen, evangelist extraordinary, was reading from his Bible the words of Peter:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

The preacher closed the book and stepped forward.

"Now all of you are interested in this artificial hell I told you about," he began. "I will tell you briefly. It was first called to my attention last summer while I was preaching in Cloverdale. A very fine old gentleman, even if he is an atheist, told me of it. Then recently I chanced to go back there. Thinking I would call on this old gentleman, I made inquiry and found he stayed in a lonely old house in the very center of the wildest natural park I ever saw. Indeed, the people there seemed to think that something was queer about not only him but the owner of the property—Adam Arden—a man not much more than half as old as the old atheist, but who formerly had been considered of excepti...

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