The Master of Mysteries

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The Master of Mysteries  (1912) 
by Frank Gelett Burgess

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1951, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.




with illustrations by

Karl Anderson and George Brehm




The Master of Mysteries (1912) - p.6.jpg

"I'd know then just what you were to me—alone in the dark."

Copyright 1912

The Bobbs-Merrill Company

press of
braunworth & co.
bookbinders and printers
brooklyn, n. y.


Astro put The Great Cryptogram back upon his book-shelf among the other attempts to solve the immortal Shakespeare-Bacon controversy.

"Valeska," he said, turning to his pretty assistant, "it's queer that there appears to be no other book containing a secret message except the Shakespeare folios, isn't it! It seems to me that I have heard it said that Chatterton had a cipher in one of his books, though; that's the only other one I know of. Strange more authors haven't done it!"

"Why?" Valeska asked, looking up from her catalogue. "Why should a writer put anything in that can't go plainly in the body of the book, or, at least, in an introduction?"

"For many reasons: He may be ashamed of the book, or have some other reason for not acknowledging its authorship. It may describe his friends too accurately. It may reveal important secrets. Even if his name does appear on the title page, I can imagine of a number of secret messages he might want to insert for the benefit of those able to understand it."

"Perhaps it has often been done," Valeska suggested. "One wouldn't know, unless one had a reason to suspect the existence of such a thing and then one would have to be clever enough to read the cipher."

Astro thought it over. "By Jove!" he exclaimed at last, "you're right! Now I think of it there's one particular book, published anonymously, that I've often been curious about. Clewfinder,—I think I'll take a look at it."

He went to his book-shelves again and took out the volume, opened it, and ran swiftly over the pages. "Let's see," he said; "if the author wanted his true name known, he would put it in an easy cipher, wouldn't he? But if he didn't want it found out easily, it would be something more complex. This book has had a great sale—it could hardly hurt the man to be suspected of writing it. Let's try the easiest possible method first."

He ran swiftly over the pages. "Well, what d'you think!" he said, looking up. "I knew the man was pretty clever, and fairly versatile, but I never thought of him as the author of such a novel as Clewfinder! Just look at it, Valeska."

"You say it's the easiest possible method he has taken?" Valeska said, as she looked over the pages.

"The very easiest."

Valeska studied on it a few minutes, then her face lighted. She hurriedly turned the pages, stopped here and there, and then smiled. "Well, that is a surprise, isn't it! But why didn't he put his name on the title page? I can't understand that!"

"Give me the book!" Astro said, eagerly. "I believe he would be likely to tell that, too!" He took the volume again, and again he ran hurriedly over the pages. "Yes; as I thought," he said, finally. "He has the best of reasons." He handed the book back to his assistant.

"The second cipher, surely, would be written in the second easiest way, shouldn't it?"

Astro nodded. "Naturally."

Valeska sat for a while at her table, her head resting in her hand. Then she slowly turned the leaves, thinking. In a moment she went faster, stopping as before, for a second, occasionally. She went back once, made sure, and recommenced. Finally she smiled. "Yes!" she said. "He's right, too!"

"It may have a third cipher message, too," she suggested, looking at the volume curiously.

Astro thought it over. "Possibly, but that would be for the few, not for the ordinary 'smarty-cats.' I'll see when I have leisure for it. It will probably take a little more time to read it."

"Well," said Valeska, "if other books have contained any such secret messages, it's strange that some one hasn't eventually discovered them."

"That's no doubt because they didn't have modern publishers, who understood the practical psychology of advertising," said Astro.

And he turned to play with his pet white lizard.