MASTER TALES of MYSTERY
COLLECTED AND ARRANGED BY FRANCIS J. REYNOLDS
ARTHUR B. REEVE THE POISONED PEN THE INVISIBLE RAT THE SILENT BULLET THE DEADLY TUBS THE BLACK HAND THE STEEL DOOR
PAUL L. FORD GREAT K. & A. TRAIN ROBBERY
MAX PEMBERTON THE RISEN DEAD
GEO.B. McCUTCHEON COWARDICE COURT
BURTON E. STEVENSON THE CASE OF MRS. MAGNUS
JOSEPH ERNEST THE EPISODE or THE BLACK CASQUETTE
MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL CHEAP
The Poisoned Pen
BY ARTHUR B. REEVE
Kennedy's suit-case was lying open on the bed, and he was literally throwing things into it from his chiffonier, as I entered after a hurried trip up-town from the Star office in response to an urgent message from him.
"Come, Walter," he cried, hastily stuffing in a package of clean laundry without taking off the wrapping-paper, "I've got your suit-case out. Pack up whatever you can in five minutes. We must take the six o'clock train for Danbridge."
I did not wait to hear any more. The mere mention of the name of the quaint and quiet little Connecticut town was sufficient. For Danbridge was on everybody's lips at that time. It was the scene of the now famous Danbridge poisoning case—a brutal case in which the pretty little actress, Vera Lytton, had been the victim.
"I've been retained by Senator Adrian Willard," he called from his room, as I was busy packing in mine. "The Willard family believe that that young Dr. Dixon is the victim of a conspiracy—or at least Alma Willard does, which comes to the same thing, and—well, the senator called me up on long-distance and offered me anything I would name in reason to take the case. Are you ready? Come on, then. We've simply got to make that train."
As we settled ourselves in the smoking-compartment of the Pullman, which for some reason or other we had to ourselves, Kennedy spoke again for the first time since our frantic dash across the city to catch the train.
"Now let us see, Walter," he began. "We've both read a good deal about this case in the papers. Let's try to get our knowledge in an orderly shape before we tackle the actual case itself."
"Ever been in Danbridge?" I asked.
"Never," he replied. "What sort of place is it?"
"Mighty interesting," I answered; "a combination of old New England and new, of ancestors and factories, of wealth and poverty, and above all it is interesting for its colony of New-Yorkers—what shall I call it?—a literary-artistic-musical combination, I guess."
"Yes," he resumed. "I thought as much. Vera Lytton belonged to the colony. A very talented girl, too—you remember her in 'The Taming of the New Woman' last season? Well, to get back to the facts as we know them at present.
"Here is a girl with a brilliant future on the stage discovered by her friend, Mrs. Boncour, in convulsions—practically insensible—with a bottle of headache-powder and a jar of ammonia on her dressing-table. Mrs. Boncour sends the maid for the nearest doctor, who happens to be a Dr. Waterworth. Meanwhile she tries to restore Miss Lytton, but with no result. She smells the ammonia and then just tastes the headache-powder, a very foolish thing to do, for by the time Dr. Waterworth arrives he has two patients."
"No," I corrected, "only one, for Miss Lytton was dead when he arrived, according to his latest statement."
"Very well, then—one. He arrives, Mrs. Boncour is ill, the maid knows nothing at all about it, and Vera Lytton is dead. He, too, smells the ammonia, tastes the headache-powder—just the merest trace—and then he has two patients, one of them himself. We must see him, for his experience must have been appalling. How he ever did it I can't imagine, but he saved both himself and Mrs. Boncour from poisoning—cyanide, the papers say, but of course we can't accept that until we see. It seems to me, Walter, that lately the papers have made the rule in murder cases: When in doubt, call it cyanide."
Not relishing Kennedy in the humor of expressing his real opinion of the newspapers, I hastily turned the conversation back again by asking, "How about the note from Dr. Dixon?"
"Ah, there is the crux of the whole case—that note from Dixon. Let us see. Dr. Dixon is, if I am informed correctly, of a fine and aristocratic family, though not wealthy. I believe it has been established that while he was an interne in a city hospital he became acquainted with Vera Lytton, after her divorce from that artist Thurston. Then comes his removal to Danbridge and his meeting and later his engagement with Miss Willard. On the whole, Walter, judging from the newspaper pictures, Alma Willard is quite the equal of Vera Lytton for looks, only of a different style of beauty. Oh, well, we shall see. Vera decided to spend the spring and summer at Danbridge in the bungalow of her friend, Mrs. Boncour, the novelist. That's when things began to happen."
"Yes," I put it, "when you come to know Danbridge as I did after that summer when you were abroad, you'll understand, too. Everybody knows everybody else's business. It is the main occupation of a certain set, and the per-capita output of gossip is a record that would stagger the census bureau. Still, you can't get away from the note, Craig. There it is, in Dixon's own handwriting, even if he does deny it: 'This will cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.' That's a damning piece of evidence."
"Quite right," he agreed hastily; "the note was queer, though, wasn't is? They found it crumpled up in the jar of ammonia. Oh, there are lots of problems the newspapers have failed to see the significance of, let alone trying to follow up."
Our first visit in Danbridge was to the prosecuting attorney, whose office was not far from the station on the main street. Craig had wired him, and he had kindly waited to see us, for it was evident that Danbridge respected Senator Willard and every one connected with him.
"Would it be too much to ask just to see that note that was found in the Boncour bungalow?" asked Craig.
The prosecutor, an energetic young man, pulled out of a document-case a crumpled note which had been pressed flat again. On it in clear, deep black letters were the words, just as reported:
This will cure your headache.
"How about the handwriting?" asked Kennedy.
The lawyer pulled out a number of letters. "I'm afraid they will have to admit it," he said with reluctance, as if down in his heart he hated to prosecute Dixon. "We have lots of these, and no handwriting expert could successfully deny the identity of the writing."
He stowed away the letters without letting Kennedy get a hint as to their contents. Kennedy was examining the note carefully.
"May I count on having this note for further examination, of course always at such times and under such conditions as you agree to?"
The attorney nodded. "I am perfectly willing to do anything not illegal to accommodate the senator," he said. "But, on the other hand, I am here to do my duty for the state, cost whom, it may."
The Willard house was in a virtual state of siege. News-paper reporters from Boston and New York were actually encamped at every gate, terrible as an army, with cameras. It was with some difficulty that we got in, even though we were expected, for some of the more enterprising had already fooled the family by posing as officers of the law and messengers from Dr. Dixon.
The house was a real, old colonial mansion with tall white pillars, a door with a glittering brass knocker, which gleamed out severely at you as you approached through a hedge of faultlessly trimmed boxwoods.
Senator, or rather former Senator, Willard met us in the library, and a moment later his daughter Alma joined him. She was tall, like her father, a girl of poise and self-control. Yet even the schooling of twenty-two years in rigorous New England self-restraint could not hide the very human pallor of her face after the sleepless nights and nervous days since this trouble had broken on her placid existence. Yet there was a mark of strength and determination on her face that was fascinating. The man who would trifle with this girl, I felt, was playing fast and loose with her very life. I thought then, and I said to Kennedy afterward: "If this Dr. Dixon is guilty, you have no right to hide it from that girl. Anything less than the truth will only blacken the hideousness of the crime that has already been committed."
The senator greeted us gravely, and I could not but take it as a good omen when, in his pride of wealth and family and tradition, he laid bare everything to us, for the sake of Alma Willard. It was clear that in this family there was one word that stood above all others, "Duty."
As we were about to leave after an interview barren of new facts, a young man was announced, Mr. Halsey Post. He bowed politely to us, but it was evident why he had called, as his eye followed Alma about the room.
"The son of the late Halsey Post, of Post & Vance, silver-smiths, who have the large factory in town, which you perhaps noticed," explained the senator. "My daughter has known him all her life. A very fine young man."
Later, we learned that the senator had bent every effort toward securing Halsey Post as a son-in-law, but his daughter had had views of her own on the subject.
Post waited until Alma had withdrawn before he disclosed the real object of his visit.
In almost a whisper, lest she should still be listening, he said, "There is a story about town that Vera Lytton's former husband—an artist named Thurston—was here just before her death."
Senator Willard leaned forward as if expecting to hear Dixon immediately acquitted. None of us was prepared for the next remark.
"And the story goes on to say that he threatened to make a scene over a wrong he says he has suffered from Dixon. I don't know anything more about it, and I tell you only because I think you ought to know what Danbridge is saying under its breath."
We shook off the last of the reporters who affixed themselves to us, and for a moment Kennedy dropped in at the little bungalow to see Mrs. Boncour. She was much better, though she had suffered much. She had taken only a pin-head of the poison, but it had proved very nearly fatal.
"Had Miss Lytton any enemies whom you think of, people who were jealous of her professionally or personally?" asked Craig.
"I should not even have said Dr. Dixon was an enemy," she replied evasively.
"But this Mr. Thurston," put in Kennedy quickly. "One is not usually visited in perfect friendship by a husband who has been divorced."
She regarded him keenly for a moment. "Halsey Post told you that," she said. "No one else knew he was here. But Halsey Post was an old friend of both Vera and Mr. Thurston before they separated. By chance he happened to drop in the day Mr. Thurston was here, and later in the day I gave him a letter to forward to Mr. Thurston, which had come after the artist left. I'm sure no one else knew the artist. He was there the morning of the day she died, and—and—that's every bit I'm going to tell you about him, so there. I don't know why he came or where he went."
"That's a thing we must follow up later," remarked Kennedy as we made our adieus. "Just now I want to get the facts in hand. The next thing on my programme is to see this Dr. Waterworth."
We found the doctor still in bed; in fact, a wreck as the result of his adventure. He had little to correct in the facts of the story which had been published so far. But there were many other details of the poisoning he was quite willing to discuss frankly.
"It was true about the jar of ammonia?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes," he answered. "It was standing on her dressing-table with the note crumpled up in it, just as the papers said."
"And you have no idea why it was there?"
"I didn't say that. I can guess. Fumes of ammonia are one of the antidotes for poisoning of that kind."
"But Vera Lytton could hardly have known that," objected Kennedy.
"No, of course not. But she probably did know that ammonia is good for just that sort of faintness which she must have experienced after taking the powder. Perhaps she thought of sal volatile, I don't know. But most people know that ammonia in some form is good for faintness of this sort, even if they don't know anything about cyanides and—"
"Then it was cyanide?" interrupted Craig.
"Yes," he replied slowly. It was evident that he was suffering great physical and nervous anguish as the result of his too intimate acquaintance with the poisons in question. "I will tell you precisely how is was, Professor Kennedy. When I was called in to see Miss Lytton I found her on the bed. I pried open her jaws and smelled the sweetish odor of the cyanogen gas. I knew then what she had taken, and at the moment she was dead. In the next room I heard some one moaning. The maid said that it was Mrs. Boncour, and that she was deathly sick. I ran into her room, and though she was beside herself with pain I managed to control her, though she struggled desperately against me. I was rushing her to the bathroom, passing through Miss Lytton's room. 'What's wrong?' I asked as I carried her along. 'I took some of that,' she replied, pointing to the bottle, on the dressing-table.
"I put a small quantity of its crystal contents on my tongue. Then I realized the most tragic truth of my life. I had taken one of the deadliest poisons in the world. The odor of the released gas of cyanogen was strong. But more than that, the metallic taste and the horrible burning sensation told of the presence of some form of mercury, too. In that terrible moment my brain worked with the incredible swiftness of light. In a flash I knew that if I added malic acid to the mercury—perchloride of mercury or corrosive sublimate—I would have calomel or subchloride of mercury, the only thing that would switch the poison out of my system and Mrs. Boncour's.
"Seizing her about the waist, I hurried into the dining-room. On a sideboard was a dish of fruit. I took two apples. I made her eat one, core and all. I ate the other. The fruit contained the malic acid I needed to manufacture the calomel, and I made it right there in nature's own laboratory. But there was no time to stop. I had to act just as quickly to neutralize that cyanide, too. Remembering the ammonia, I rushed back with Mrs. Boncour, and we inhaled the fumes. Then I found a bottle of peroxide of hydrogen. I washed out her stomach with it, and then my own. Then I injected some of the peroxide into various Parts of her body. The peroxide of hydrogen and hydrocyanic acid, you know, make oxamide, which is a harmless compound.
"The maid put Mrs. Boncour to bed, saved. I went to my house, a wreck. Since then I have not left this bed. With my legs paralyzed I lie here, expecting each hour to be my last."
"Would you taste an unknown drug again to discover the nature of a probable poison?" asked Craig.
"I don't know," he answered slowly, "but I suppose I would. In such a case a conscientious doctor has no thought of self. He is there to do things, and he does them, according to the best that is in him. In spite of the fact that I haven't had one hour of unbroken sleep since that fatal day, I suppose I would do it again."
When we were leaving, I remarked: "That is a martyr to science. Could anything be more dramatic than his willing penalty for his devotion to medicine?"
We walked along in silence. "Walter, did you notice he said not a word of condemnation of Dixon, though the note was before his eyes? Surely Dixon has some strong supporters in Danbridge, as well as enemies."
The next morning we continued our investigation. We found Dixon's lawyer, Leland, in consultation with his client in the bare cell of the county jail. Dixon proved to be a clear-eyed, clean-cut young man. The thing that impressed me most about him, aside from the prepossession in his favor due to the faith of Alma Willard, was the nerve he displayed, whether guilty or innocent. Even an innocent man might well have been staggered by the circumstantial evidence against him and the high tide of public feeling, in spite of the support that he was receiving. Leland, we learned, had been very active. By prompt work at the time of the young doctor's arrest he had managed to secure the greater part of Dr. Dixon's personal letters, though the prosecutor secured some, the contents of which had not been disclosed.
Kennedy spent most of the day in tracing out the movements of Thurston. Nothing that proved important was turned up and even visits to near-by towns failed to show any sales of cyanide or sublimate to any one not entitled to buy them. Meanwhile, in turning over the gossip of the town, one of the newspapermen ran across the fact that the Boncour bungalow was owned by the Posts, and that Halsey Post, as the executor of the estate, was a more frequent visitor than the mere collection of the rent would warrant. Mrs. Boncour maintained a stolid silence that covered a seething internal fury when the newspaperman in question hinted that the landlord and tenant were on exceptionally good terms.
It was after a fruitless day of such search that we were sitting in the reading-room of the Fairfield Hotel. Leland entered. His face was positively white. Without a word he took us by the arm and led us across Main Street and up a flight of stairs to his office. Then he locked the door.
"What's the matter?" asked Kennedy.
"When I took this case," he said, "I believed down in my heart that Dixon was innocent. I still believe it, but my faith has been rudely shaken. I feel that you should know about what I have just found. As I told you, we secured nearly all of Dr. Dixon's letters. I had not read them all then. But I have been going through them to-night. Here is a letter from Vera Lytton herself. You will notice it is dated the day of her death."
He laid the letter before us. It was written in a curious grayish-black ink in a woman's hand, and read:
* * * * *
Since we agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends, if no longer lovers. I am not writing in anger to reproach you with your new love, so soon after the old. I suppose Alma Willard is far better suited to be your wife than is a poor little actress—rather looked down on in this Puritan society here. But there is something I wish to warn you about, for it concerns us all intimately.
We are in danger of an awful mix-up if we don't look out. Mr. Thurston—I had almost said my husband, though I don't know whether that is the truth or not—who has just come over from New York, tells me that there is some doubt about the validity of our divorce. You recall he was in the South at the time I sued him, and the papers were served on him in Georgia. He now says the proof of service was fraudulent and that he can set aside the divorce. In that case you might figure in a suit for alienating my affections.
I do not write this with ill will, but simply to let you know how things stand. If we had married, I suppose I would be guilty of bigamy. At any rate, if he were disposed he could make a terrible scandal.
Oh, Harris, can't you settle with him if he asks anything? Don't forget so soon that we once thought we were going to be the happiest of mortals—at least I did. Don't desert me, or the very earth will cry out against you. I am frantic and hardly know what I am writing. My head aches, but it is my heart that is breaking. Harris, I am yours still, down in my heart, but not to be cast off like an old suit for a new one. You know the old saying about a woman scorned. I beg you not to go back on
Your poor little deserted
* * * * *
As we finished reading, Leland exclaimed, "That never must come before the jury."
Kennedy was examining the letter carefully. "Strange," he muttered. "See how it was folded. It was written on the wrong side of the sheet, or rather folded up with the writing outside. Where have these letters been?"
"Part of the time in my safe, part of the time this afternoon on my desk by the window."
"The office was locked, I suppose?" asked Kennedy. "There was no way to slip this letter in among the others since you obtained them?"
"None. The office has been locked, and there is no evidence of any one having entered or disturbed a thing."
He was hastily running over the pile of letters as if looking to see whether they were all there. Suddenly he stopped.
"Yes," he exclaimed excitedly, "one of them is gone." Nervously he fumbled through them again. "One is gone," he repeated, looking at us, startled.
"What was is about?" asked Craig.
"It was a note from an artist, Thurston, who gave the address of Mrs. Boncour's bungalow—ah, I see you have heard of him. He asked Dixon's recommendation of a certain patent headache medicine. I thought it possibly evidential, and I asked Dixon about it. He explained it by saying that he did not have a copy of his reply, but as near as he could recall, he wrote that the compound would not cure a headache except at the expense of reducing heart action dangerously. He says he sent no prescription. Indeed, he thought it a scheme to extract advice without incurring the charge for an office call and answered it only because he thought Vera had become reconciled to Thurston again. I can't find that letter of Thurston's. It is gone."
We looked at each other in amazement.
"Why, if Dixon contemplated anything against Miss Lytton, should he preserve this letter from her?" mused Kennedy. "Why didn't he destroy it?"
"That's what puzzles me," remarked Leland. "Do you suppose some one has broken in and substituted this Lytton letter for the Thurston letter?"
Kennedy was scrutinizing the letter, saying nothing. "I may keep it?" he asked at length. Leland was quite willing and even undertook to obtain some specimens of the writing of Vera Lytton. With these and the letter Kennedy was working far into the night and long after I had passed into a land troubled with many wild dreams of deadly poisons and secret intrigues of artists.
The next morning a message from our old friend First Deputy O'Connor in New York told briefly of locating the rooms of an artist named Thurston in one of the co-operative studio apartments. Thurston himself had not been there for several days and was reported to have gone to Maine to sketch. He had had a number of debts, but before he left they had all been paid—strange to say, by a notorious firm of shyster lawyers, Kerr & Kimmel. Kennedy wired back to find out the facts from Kerr & Kimmel and to locate Thurston at any cost.
Even the discovery of the new letter did not shake the wonderful self-possession of Dr. Dixon. He denied ever having received it and repeated his story of a letter from Thurston to which he had replied by sending an answer, care of Mrs. Boncour, as requested. He insisted that the engagement between Miss Lytton and himself had been broken before the announcement of his engagement with Miss Willard. As for Thurston, he said the man was little more than a name to him. He had known perfectly all the circumstances of the divorce, but had had no dealings with Thurston and no fear of him. Again and again he denied ever receiving the letter from Vera Lytton.
Kennedy did not tell the Willards of the new letter. The strain had begun to tell on Alma, and her father had had her quietly taken to a farm of his up in the country. To escape the curious eyes of reporters, Halsey Post had driven up one night in his closed car. She had entered it quickly with her father, and the journey had been made in the car, while Halsey Post had quietly dropped oft on the outskirts of the town, where another car was waiting to take him back. It was evident that the Willard family relied implicitly on Halsey, and his assistance to them was most considerate. While he never forced himself forward, he kept in close touch with the progress of the case, and now that Alma was away his watchfulness increased proportionately, and twice a day he wrote a long report which was sent to her.
Kennedy was now bending every effort to locate the missing artist. When he left Danbridge, he seemed to have dropped out of sight completely. However, with O'Connor's aid, the police of all New England were on the lookout.
The Thurstons had been friends of Halsey's before Vera Lytton had ever met Dr. Dixon, we discovered from the Danbridge gossips, and I, at least, jumped to the conclusion that Halsey was shielding the artist, perhaps through a sense of friendship when he found that Kennedy was interested in Thurston's movement. I must say I rather liked Halsey, for he seemed very thoughtful of the Willards, and was never too busy to give an hour or so to any commission they wished carried out without publicity.
Two days passed with not a word from Thurston. Kennedy was obviously getting impatient. One day a rumor was received that he was in Bar Harbor; the next it was a report from Nova Scotia. At last, however, came the welcome news that he had been located in New Hampshire, arrested, and might be expected the next day.
At once Kennedy became all energy. He arranged for a secret conference in Senator Willard's house, the moment the artist was to arrive. The senator and his daughter made a flying trip back to town. Nothing was said to any one about Thurston, but Kennedy quietly arranged with the district attorney to be present with the note and the jar of ammonia properly safeguarded. Leland of course came, although his client could not. Halsey Post seemed only too glad to be with Miss Willard, though he seemed to have lost interest in the case as soon as the Willards returned to look after it themselves. Mrs. Boncour was well enough to attend, and even Dr. Waterworth insisted on coming in a private ambulance which drove over from a near-by city especially for him. The time was fixed just before the arrival of the train that was to bring Thurston.
It was an anxious gathering of friends and foes of Dr. Dixon who sat impatiently waiting for Kennedy to begin this momentous exposition that was to establish the guilt or innocence of the calm young physician who sat impassively in the jail not half a mile from the room where his life and death were being debated.
"In many respects this is the most remarkable case that it has ever been my lot to handle," began Kennedy. "Never before have I felt so keenly my sense of responsibility. Therefore, though this is a somewhat irregular proceeding, let me begin by setting forth the facts as I see them.
"First, let us consider the dead woman. The question that arises here is, Was she murdered or did she commit suicide? I think you will discover the answer as I proceed. Miss Lytton, as you know, was, two years ago, Mrs. Burgess Thurston. The Thurstons had temperament, and temperament is quite often the highway to the divorce court. It was so in this case. Mrs. Thurston discovered that her husband was paying much attention to other women. She sued for divorce in New York, and he accepted service in the South, where he happened to be. At least it was so testified by Mrs. Thurston's lawyer.
"Now here comes the remarkable feature of the case. The law firm of Kerr & Kimmel, I find, not long ago began to investigate the legality of this divorce. Before a notary Thurston made an affidavit that he had never been served by the lawyer for Miss Lytton, as she was now known. Her lawyer is dead, but his representative in the South who served the papers is alive. He was brought to New York and asserted squarely that he had served the papers properly.
"Here is where the shrewdness of Mose Kimmel, the shyster lawyer, came in. He arranged to have the Southern attorney identify the man he had served the paper on. For this purpose he was engaged in conversation with one of his own clerks when the lawyer was due to appear. Kimmel appeared to act confused, as if he had been caught napping. The Southern lawyer, who had seen Thurston only once, fell squarely into the trap and identified the clerk as Thurston. There were plenty of witnesses to it, and it was point number two for the great Mose Kimmel. Papers were drawn up to set aside the divorce decree.
"In the meantime, Miss Lytton, or Mrs. Thurston, had become acquainted with a young doctor in a New York hospital, and had become engaged to him. It matters not that the engagement was later broken. The fact remains that if the divorce were set aside an action would lie against Dr. Dixon for alienating Mrs. Thurston's affections, and a grave scandal would result. I need not add that in this quiet little town of Danbridge the most could be made of such a suit."
Kennedy was unfolding a piece of paper. As he laid it down, Leland, who was sitting next to me, exclaimed under his breath:
"My God, he's going to let the prosecutor know about that letter. Can't you stop him?"
It was too late. Kennedy had already begun to read Vera's letter. It was damning to Dixon, added to the other note found in the ammonia-jar.
When he had finished reading, you could almost hear the throbbing in the room. A scowl overspread Senator Willard's features. Alma Willard was pale and staring wildly at Kennedy. Halsey Post, even solicitous for her, handed her a glass of water from the table. Dr. Waterworth had forgotten his pain in his intense attention, and Mrs. Boncour seemed stunned with astonishment. The prosecuting attorney was eagerly taking notes.
"In some way," pursued Kennedy in an even voice, "this letter was either overlooked in the original correspondence of Dr. Dixon or it was added to it later. I shall come back to that presently. My next point is that Dr. Dixon says he received a letter from Thurston on the day the artist visited the Boncour bungalow. It asked about a certain headache compound, and his reply was brief and, as nearly as I can find out, read, 'This compound will not cure your headache except at the expense of reducing heart action dangerously.'
"Next comes the tragedy. On the evening of the day that Thurston left, after presumably telling Miss Lytton about what Kerr & Kimmel had discovered, Miss Lytton is found dying with a bottle containing cyanide and sublimate beside her. You are all familiar with the circumstances and with the note discovered in the jar of ammonia. Now, if the prosecutor will be so kind as to let me see that note—thank you, sir. This is the identical note. You have all heard the various theories of the jar and have read the note. Here it is in plain, cold black and white—in Dr. Dixon's own handwriting, as you know, and read: 'This will cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.'"
Alma Willard seemed as one paralyzed. Was Kennedy, who had been engaged by her father to defend her fiance, about to convict him?
"Before we draw the final conclusion," continued Kennedy gravely, "there are one or two points I wish to elaborate. Walter, will you open that door into the main hall?"
I did so, and two policemen stepped in with a prisoner. It was Thurston, but changed almost beyond recognition. His clothes were worn, his beard shaved off, and he had a generally hunted appearance.
Thurston was visibly nervous. Apparently he had heard all that Kennedy had said and intended he should hear, for as he entered he almost broke away from the police officers in his eagerness to speak.
"Before God," he cried dramatically, "I am as innocent as you are of this crime, Professor Kennedy."
"Are you prepared to swear before me." almost shouted Kennedy, his eyes blazing, "that you were never served properly by your wife's lawyers in that suit?"
The man cringed back as if a stinging blow had been delivered between his eyes. As he met Craig's fixed glare he knew there was no hope. Slowly, as if the words were being wrung from him syllable by syllable, he said in a muffled voice:
"No, I perjured myself. I was served in that suit. But—"
"And you swore falsely before Kimmel that you were not?" persisted Kennedy.
"Yes," he murmured. "But—"
"And you are prepared now to make another affidavit to that effect?"
"Yes," he replied. "If—"
"No buts or ifs, Thurston," cried Kennedy sarcastically. 'What did you make that affidavit for? What is your story?"
"Kimmel sent for me. I did not go to him. He offered to pay my debts if I would swear to such a statement. I did not ask why or for whom. I swore to it and gave him a list of my creditors. I waited until they were paid. Then my conscience"—I could not help revolting at the thought of conscience in such a wretch, and the word itself seemed to stick in his throat as he went on and saw how feeble an impression he was making on us—"my conscience began to trouble me. I determined to see Vera, tell her all, and find out whether it was she who wanted this statement. I saw her. When at last I told her, she scorned me. I can confirm that, for as I left a man entered. I now knew how grossly I had sinned, in listening to Mose Kimmel. I fled. I disappeared in Maine. I travelled. Every day my money grew less. At last I was overtaken, captured, and brought back here."
He stopped and sank wretchedly down in a chair and covered his face with his hands.
"A likely story," muttered Leland in my ear.
Kennedy was working quickly. Motioning the officers to be seated by Thurston, he uncovered a jar which he had placed on the table. The color had now appeared in Alma's cheeks, as if hope had again sprung in her heart, and I fancied that Halsey Post saw his claim on her favor declining correspondingly.
"I want you to examine the letters in this case with me," continued Kennedy. "Take the letter which I read from Miss Lytton, which was found following the strange disappearance of the note from Thurston."
He dipped a pen into a little bottle, and wrote on a piece of paper:
* * * * *
What is your opinion about Cross's Headache Cure? Would you recommend it for a nervous headache?
c/o Mrs. S. Boncour.
* * * * *
Craig held up the writing so that we could all see that he had written what Dixon declared Thurston wrote in the note that had disappeared. Then he dipped another pen into a second bottle, and for some time he scrawled on another sheet of paper. He held it up, but it was still perfectly blank.
"Now," he added, "I am going to give a little demonstration which I expect to be successful only in a measure. Here in the open sunshine by this window I am going to place these two sheets of paper side by side. It will take longer than I care to wait to make my demonstration complete, but I can do enough to convince you."
For a quarter of an hour we sat in silence, wondering what he would do next. At last he beckoned us over to the window. As we approached he said, "On sheet number one I have written with quinoline; on sheet number two I wrote with a solution of nitrate of silver."
We bent over. The writing signed "Thurston" on sheet number one was faint, almost imperceptible, but on paper number two, in black letters, appeared what Kennedy had written: "Dear Harris: Since we agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends."
"It is like the start of the substituted letter, and the other is like the missing note," gasped Leland in a daze.
"Yes," said Kennedy quickly. "Leland, no one entered your office. No one stole the Thurston note. No one substituted the Lytton letter. According to your own story, you took them out of the safe and left them in the sunlight all day. The process that had been started earlier in ordinary light, slowly, was now quickly completed. In other words, there was writing which would soon fade away on one side of the paper and writing which was invisible but would soon appear on the other.
"For instance, quinoline rapidly disappears in sunlight. Starch with a slight trace of iodine writes a light blue, which disappears in air. It was something like that used in the Thurston letter. Then, too, silver nitrate dissolved in ammonia gradually turns black as it is acted on by light and air. Or magenta treated with a bleaching-agent in just sufficient quantity to decolorise it is invisible when used for writing. But the original color reappears as the oxygen of the air acts upon the pigment. I haven't a doubt but that my analyses of the inks are correct and on one side quinoline was used and on the other nitrate of silver. This explains the inexplicable disappearance of evidence incriminating one person, Thurston, and the sudden appearance of evidence incriminating another, Dr. Dixon. Sympathetic ink also accounts for the curious circumstance that the Lytton letter was folded up with the writing apparently outside. It was outside and unseen until the sunlight brought it out and destroyed the other, inside, writing—a chance, I suspect, that was intended for the police to see after it was completed, not for the defence to witness as it was taking place."
We looked at each other aghast. Thurston was nervously opening and shutting his lips and moistening them as if he wanted to say something but could not find the words.
"Lastly," went on Craig, utterly regardless of Thurston's frantic efforts to speak, "we come to the note that was discovered so queerly crumpled up in the jar of ammonia on Vera Lytton's dressing-table. I have here a cylindrical glass jar in which I place some sal-ammoniac and quicklime. I will wet it and heat it a little. That produces the pungent gas of ammonia.
"On one side of this third piece of paper I myself write with this mercurous nitrate solution. You see, I leave no mark on the paper as I write. I fold it up and drop it into the jar—and in a few seconds withdraw it. Here is a very quick way of producing something like the slow result of sunlight with silver nitrate. The fumes of ammonia have formed the precipitate of black, mercurous nitrate, a very distinct black writing which is almost indelible. That is what is technically called invisible rather than sympathetic ink."
We leaned over to read what he had written. It was the same as the note incriminating Dixon:
* * * * *
This will cure your headache.
* * * * *
A servant entered with a telegram from New York. Scarcely stopping in his exposure, Kennedy tore it open, read it hastily, stuffed it into his pocket, and went on.
"Here in this fourth bottle I have an acid solution of iron chloride, diluted until the writing is invisible when dry," he hurried on. "I will just make a few scratches on this fourth sheet of paper—so. It leaves no mark. But it has the remarkable property of becoming red in vapor of sulpho-cyanide. Here is a long-necked flask of the gas, made by sulphuric acid acting on potassium sulpho-cyanide. Keep back, Dr. Waterworth, for it would be very dangerous for you to get even a whiff of this in your condition. Ah! See—the scratches I made on the paper are red."
Then hardly giving us more than a moment to let the fact impress itself on our minds, he seized the piece of paper and dashed it into the jar of ammonia. When he withdrew it, it was just a plain sheet of white paper again. The red marks which the gas in the flask had brought out of nothingness had been effaced by the ammonia. They had gone and left no trace.
"In this way I can alternately make the marks appear and disappear by using the sulpho-cyanide and the ammonia. Whoever wrote this note with Dr. Dixon's name on it must have had the doctor's reply to the Thurston letter containing the words, 'This will not cure your headache.' He carefully traced the words, holding the genuine note up to the light with a piece of paper over it, leaving out the word 'not' and using only such words as he needed. This note was then destroyed.
"But he forgot that after he had brought out the red writing by the use of the sulpho-cyanide, and though he could count on Vera Lytton's placing the note in the jar of ammonia and hence obliterating the writing, while at the same time the invisible writing in the mercurous nitrate involving Dr. Dixon's name would he brought out by the ammonia indelibly on the other side of the note—he forgot"—Kennedy was now speaking eagerly and loudly—"that the sulpho-cyanide vapors could always be made to bring back to accuse him the words that the ammonia had blotted out."
Before the prosecutor could interfere, Kennedy had picked up the note found in the ammonia-jar beside the dying girl and had jammed the state's evidence into the long-necked flask of sulpho-cyanide vapor.
"Don't fear," he said, trying to pacify the now furious prosecutor, "it will do nothing to the Dixon writing. That is permanent now, even if it is only a tracing."
When he withdrew the note, there was writing on both sides, the black of the original note and something in red on the other side.
We crowded around, and Craig read it with as much interest as any of us:
"Before taking the headache-powder, be sure to place the contents of this paper in a jar with a little warm water."
"Hum," commented Craig, "this was apparently written on the outside wrapper of a paper folded about some sal-ammoniac and quicklime. It goes on:
* * * * *
"'Just drop the whole thing in, paper and all. Then if you feel a faintness from the medicine the ammonia will quickly restore you. One spoonful of the headache-powder swallowed quickly is enough.'"
* * * * *
No name was signed to the directions, but they were plainly written, and "paper and all" was underscored heavily.
Craig pulled out some letters. "I have here specimens of writing of many persons connected with this case, but I can see at a glance which one corresponds to the writing on this red death-warrant by an almost inhuman fiend. I shall, however, leave that part of it to the handwriting experts to determine at the trial. Thurston, who was the man whom you saw enter the Boncour bungalow as you left—the constant visitor?"
Thurston had not yet regained his self-control, but with trembling forefinger he turned and pointed to Halsey Post.
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen," cried Kennedy as he slapped the telegram that had just come from New York down on the table decisively, "yes, the real client of Kerr & Kimmel, who bent Thurston to his purposes, was Halsey Post, once secret lover of Vera Lytton till threatened by scandal in Danbridge—Halsey Post, graduate in technology, student of sympathetic inks, forger of the Vera Lytton letter and the other notes, and dealer in cyanides in the silver-smithing business, fortune-hunter for the Willard millions with which to recoup the Post & Vance losses, and hence rival of Dr. Dixon for the love of Alma Willard. That is the man who wielded the poisoned pen. Dr. Dixon is innocent."
THE INVISIBLE RAY
BY ARTHUR B. REEVE
"I won't deny that I had some expectations from the old man myself."
Kennedy's client was speaking in a low, full-chested, vibrating voice, with some emotion, so low that I had entered the room without being aware that any one was there until it was too late to retreat.
"As his physician for over twelve years," the man pursued, "I certainly had been led to hope to be remembered in his will. But, Professor Kennedy, I can't put it too strongly when I say that there is no selfish motive in my coming to you about the case. There is something wrong—depend on that."
Craig had glanced up at me and, as I hesitated, I could see in an instant that the speaker was a practitioner of a type that is rapidly passing away, the old-fashioned family doctor.
"Dr. Burnham, I should like to have you know Mr. Jameson," introduced Craig. "You can talk as freely before him as you have to me alone. We always work together."
I shook hands with the visitor.
"The doctor has succeeded in interesting me greatly in a case which has some unique features," Kennedy explained. "It has to do with Stephen Haswell, the eccentric old millionaire of Brooklyn. Have you ever heard of him?"
"Yes, indeed," I replied, recalling an occasional article which had appeared in the newspapers regarding a dusty and dirty old house in that part of the Heights in Brooklyn whence all that is fashionable had not yet taken flight, a house of mystery, yet not more mysterious than its owner in his secretive comings and goings in the affairs of men of a generation beyond his time. Further than the facts that he was reputed to be very wealthy and led, in the heart of a great city, what was as nearly like the life of a hermit as possible, I knew little or nothing, "What has he been doing now?" I asked.
"About a week ago," repeated the doctor, in answer to a nod of encouragement from Kennedy, "I was summoned in the middle of the night to attend Mr. Haswell, who, as I have been telling Professor Kennedy, had been a patient of mine for over twelve years. He had been suddenly stricken with total blindness. Since then he appears to be failing fast, that is, he appeared so the last time I saw him, a few days ago, after I had been superseded by a younger man. It is a curious case and I have thought about it a great deal. But I didn't like to speak to the authorities; there wasn't enough to warrant that, and I should have been laughed out of court for my pains. The more I have thought about it, however, the more I have felt it my duty to say something to somebody, and so, having heard of Professor Kennedy, I decided to consult him. The fact of the matter is, I very much fear that there are circumstances which will bear sharp looking into, perhaps a scheme to get control of the old man's fortune."
The doctor paused, and Craig inclined his head, as much as to signify his appreciation of the delicate position in which Burnham stood in the case. Before the doctor could proceed further, Kennedy handed me a letter which had been lying before him on the table. It had evidently been torn into small pieces and then carefully pasted together.
The superscription gave a small town in Ohio and a date about a fortnight previous.
* * * * *
Dear Father [it read]: I hope you will pardon me for writing, but I cannot let the occasion of your seventy-fifth birthday pass without a word of affection and congratulation. I am alive and well—Time has dealt leniently with me in that respect, if not in money matters. I do not say this in the hope of reconciling you to me. I know that is impossible after all these cruel years. But I do wish that I could see you again. Remember, I am your only child and even if you still think I have been a foolish one, please let me come to see you once before it is too late. We are constantly traveling from place to place, but shall be here for a few days.
Your loving daughter,
GRACE HASWELL MARTIN.
* * * * *
"Some fourteen or fifteen years ago," explained the doctor as I looked up from reading the note, "Mr. Haswell's only daughter eloped with an artist named Martin. He had been engaged to paint a portrait of the late Mrs. Haswell from a photograph. It was the first time that Grace Haswell had ever been able to find expression for the artistic yearning which had always been repressed by the cold, practical sense of her father. She remembered her mother perfectly since the sad bereavement of her girlhood and naturally she watched and helped the artist eagerly. The result was a portrait which might well have been painted from the subject herself rather than from a cold photograph.
"Haswell saw the growing intimacy of his daughter and the artist. His bent of mind was solely toward money and material things, and he at once conceived a bitter and unreasoning hatred for Martin, who, he believed, had 'schemed' to capture his daughter and an easy living. Art was as foreign to his nature as possible. Nevertheless they went ahead and married, and, well, it resulted in the old man disinheriting the girl. The young couple disappeared bravely to make their way by their chosen profession and, as far as I know, have never been heard from since until now. Haswell made a new will and I have always understood that practically all of his fortune is to be devoted to founding the technology department in a projected university of Brooklyn."
"You have never seen this Mrs. Martin or her husband?" asked Kennedy.
"No, never. But in some way she must have learned that I had some influence with her father, for she wrote to me not long ago, enclosing a note for him and asking me to intercede for her. I did so. I took the letter to him as diplomatically as I could. The old man flew into a towering rage, refused even to look at the letter, tore it up into bits, and ordered me never to mention the subject to him again. That is her note, which I saved. However, it is the sequel about which I wish your help."
The physician folded up the patched letter carefully before he continued. "Mr. Haswell, as you perhaps know, has for many years been a prominent figure in various curious speculations or rather in loaning money to many curious speculators. It is not necessary to go into the different schemes which he has helped to finance. Even though most of them have been unknown to the public they have certainly given him such a reputation that he is much sought after by inventors.
"Not long ago Haswell became interested in the work of an obscure chemist over in Brooklyn, Morgan Prescott. Prescott claims, as I understand, to be able to transmute copper into gold. Whatever you think of it offhand, you should visit his laboratory yourselves, gentlemen. I am told it is wonderful, though I have never seen it and can't explain it. I have met Prescott several times while he was trying to persuade Mr. Haswell to back him in his scheme, but he was never disposed to talk to me, for I had no money to invest. So far as I know about it the thing sounds scientific and plausible enough. I leave you to judge of that. It is only an incident in my story and I will pass over it quickly. Prescott, then, believes that the elements are merely progressive variations of an original substance or base called 'protyle,' from which everything is derived. But this fellow Prescott goes much further than any of the former theorists. He does not stop with matter. He believes that he has the secret of life also, that he can make the transition from the inorganic to the organic, from inert matter to living protoplasm, and thence from living protoplasm to mind and what we call soul, whatever that may be."
"And here is where the weird and uncanny part of it comes in," commented Craig, turning from the doctor to me to call my attention particularly to what was about to follow.
"Having arrived at the point where he asserts that he can create and destroy matter, life, and mind," continued the doctor, as if himself fascinated by the idea, "Prescott very naturally does not have to go far before he also claims a control over telepathy and even a communication with the dead. He even calls the messages which he receives by a word which he has coined himself, 'telepagrams.' Thus he says he has unified the physical, the physiological, and the psychical—a system of absolute scientific monism."
The doctor paused again, then resumed. "One afternoon, about a week ago, apparently, as far as I am able to piece together the story, Prescott was demonstrating his marvellous discovery of the unity of nature. Suddenly he faced Mr. Haswell.
"'Shall I tell you a fact, sir, about yourself?' he asked quickly. 'The truth as I see it by means of my wonderful invention? If it is the truth, will you believe in me? Will you put money into my invention? Will you share in becoming fabulously rich?"
"Haswell made some noncommittal answer. But Prescott seemed to look into the machine through a very thick plate-glass window, with Haswell placed directly before it. He gave a cry. 'Mr. Haswell,' he exclaimed, 'I regret to tell you what I see. You have disinherited your daughter; she has passed out of your life and at the present moment you do not know where she is.'
"'That's true,' replied the old man bitterly, 'and more than that I don't care. Is that all you see? That's nothing new.'
"'No, unfortunately, that is not all I see. Can you bear something further? I think you ought to know it. I have here a most mysterious telepagram.'
"'Yes. What is it? Is she dead?'
"'No, it is not about her. It is about yourself. To-night at midnight or perhaps a little later,' repeated Prescott solemnly, 'you will lose your sight as a punishment for your action.'
"'Pouf!' exclaimed the old man in a dudgeon, 'if that is all your invention can tell me, good-bye. You told me you were able to make gold. Instead, you make foolish prophecies. I'll put no money into such tomfoolery. I'm a practical man,' and with that he stamped out of the laboratory.
"Well, that night, about one o'clock, in the silence of the lonely old house, the aged caretaker, Jane, whom he had hired after he banished his daughter from his life, heard a wild shout of 'Help! Help!' Haswell, alone in his room on the second floor, was groping about in the dark.
"'Jane,' he ordered, 'a light—a light.'
"'I have lighted the gas, Mr. Haswell,' she cried.
"A groan followed. He had himself found a match, had struck it, had even burnt his fingers with it, yet he saw nothing.
"The blow had fallen. At almost the very hour which Prescott, by means of his weird telepagram, had predicted, old Haswell was stricken.
"'I'm blind,' he gasped. 'Send for Dr. Burnham.'"
"I went to him immediately when the maid roused me, but there was nothing I could do except prescribe perfect rest for his eyes and keeping in a dark room in the hope that his sight might be restored as suddenly and miraculously as it had been taken away.
"The next morning, with his own hand, trembling and scrawling in his blindness, he wrote the following on a piece of paper:
* * * * *
"MRS. GRACE MARTIN—Information wanted about the present whereabouts of Mrs. Grace Martin, formerly Grace Haswell of Brooklyn.
—Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.
* * * * *
"This advertisement he caused to be placed in all the New York papers and to be wired to the leading Western papers. Haswell himself was a changed man after his experience. He spoke bitterly of Prescott, yet his attitude toward his daughter was completely reversed. Whether he admitted to himself a belief in the prediction of the inventor, I do not know. Certainly he scouted such an idea in telling me about it.
"A day or two after the advertisements appeared a telegram came to the old man from a little town in Indiana. It read simply: 'Dear Father: Am starting for Brooklyn to-day. Grace."
"The upshot was that Grace Haswell, or rather Grace Martin, appeared the next day, forgave and was forgiven with much weeping, although the old man still refused resolutely to be reconciled with and receive her husband. Mrs. Martin started in to clean up the old house. A vacuum cleaner sucked a ton or two of dust from it. Everything was changed. Jane grumbled a great deal, but there was no doubt a great improvement. Meals were served regularly. The old man was taken care of as never before. Nothing was too good for him. Everywhere the touch of a woman was evident in the house. The change was complete. It even extended to me. Some friend had told her of an eye and ear specialist, a Dr. Scott, who was engaged. Since then, I understand, a new will has been made, much to the chagrin of the trustees of the projected school. Of course I am cut out of the new will, and that with the knowledge at least of the woman who once appealed to me, but it does not influence me in coming to you."
"But what has happened since to arouse suspicion?" asked Kennedy, watching the doctor furtively.
"Why, the fact is that, in spite of all this added care, the old man is failing more rapidly than ever. He never goes out except attended and not much even then. The other day I happened to meet Jane on the street. The faithful old soul poured forth a long story about his growing dependence on others and ended by mentioning a curious red discoloration that seems to have broken out over his face and hands. More from the way she said it than from what she said I gained the impression that something was going on which should be looked into."
"Then you perhaps think that Prescott and Mrs. Martin are in some way connected in this case?" I hazarded.
I had scarcely framed the question before he replied in an emphatic negative. "On the contrary, it seems to me that if they know each other at all it is with hostility. With the exception of the first stroke of blindness"—here he lowered his voice earnestly—"practically every misfortune that has overtaken Mr. Haswell has been since the advent of this new Dr. Scott. Mind, I do not wish even to breathe that Mrs. Martin has done anything except what a daughter should do. I think she has shown herself a model of forgiveness and devotion. Nevertheless the turn of events under the new treatment has been so strange that almost it makes one believe that there might be something occult about it—or wrong with the new doctor."
"Would it be possible, do you think, for us to see Mr. Haswell?" asked Kennedy, when Dr. Burnham had come to a full stop after pouring forth his suspicions. "I should like to see this Dr. Scott. But first I should like to get into the old house without exciting hostility."
The doctor was thoughtful. "You'll have to arrange that yourself," he answered. "Can't you think up a scheme? For instance, go to him with a proposal like the old schemes he used to finance. He is very much interested in electrical inventions. He made his money by speculation in telegraphs and telephones in the early days when they were more or less dreams. I should think a wireless system of television might at least interest him and furnish an excuse for getting in, although I am told his daughter discourages all tangible investment in the schemes that used to interest his active mind."
"An excellent idea," exclaimed Kennedy. "It is worth trying anyway. It is still early. Suppose we ride over to Brooklyn with you. You can direct us to the house and we'll try to see him."
It was still light when we mounted the high steps of the house of mystery across the bridge. Mrs. Martin, who met us in the parlor, proved to be a stunning looking woman with brown hair and beautiful dark eyes. As far as we could see the old house plainly showed the change. The furniture and ornaments were of a period long past, but everything was scrupulously neat. Hanging over the old marble mantel was a painting which quite evidently was that of the long since deceased Mrs. Haswell, the mother of Grace. In spite of the hideous style of dress of the period after the war, she had evidently been a very beautiful woman with large masses of light chestnut hair and blue eyes which the painter had succeeded in catching with almost life-likeness for a portrait.
It took only a few minutes for Kennedy, in his most engaging and plausible manner, to state the hypothetical reason of our call. Though it was perfectly self-evident from the start that Mrs. Martin would throw cold water on anything requiring an outlay of money Craig accomplished his full purpose of securing an interview with Mr. Haswell. The invalid lay propped up in bed, and as we entered he heard us and turned his sightless eyes in our direction almost as if he saw.
Kennedy had hardly begun to repeat and elaborate the story which he had already told regarding his mythical friend who had at last a commercial wireless "televue," as he called it on the spur of the moment, when Jane, the aged caretaker, announced Dr. Scott. The new doctor was a youthfully dressed man, clean-shaven, but with an undefinable air of being much older than his smooth face led one to suppose. As he had a large practice, he said, he would beg our pardon for interrupting but would not take long.
It needed no great, powers of observation to see that the old man placed great reliance on his new doctor and that the visit partook of a social as well as a professional nature. Although they talked low we could catch now and then a word or phrase. Dr. Scott bent down and examined the eyes of his patient casually. It was difficult to believe that they saw nothing, so bright was the blue of the iris.
"Perfect rest for the present," the doctor directed, talking more to Mrs. Martin than to the old man. "Perfect rest, and then when his health is good, we shall see what can be done with that cataract."
He was about to leave, when the old man reached up and restrained him, taking hold of the doctor's wrist tightly, as if to pull him nearer in order to whisper to him without being overheard. Kennedy was sitting in a chair near the head of the bed, some feet away, as the doctor leaned down. Haswell, still holding his wrist, pulled him closer. I could not hear what was said, though somehow I had an impression that they were talking about Prescott, for it would not have been at all strange if the old man had been greatly impressed by the alchemist.
Kennedy, I noticed, had pulled an old envelope from his pocket and was apparently engaged in jotting down some notes, glancing now and then from his writing to the doctor and then to Mr. Haswell.
The doctor stood erect in a few moments and rubbed his wrist thoughtfully with the other hand, as if it hurt. At the same time he smiled on Mrs. Martin. "Your father has a good deal of strength yet, Mrs. Martin," he remarked. "He has a wonderful constitution. I feel sure that we can pull him out of this and that he has many, many years to live."
Mr. Haswell, who caught the words eagerly, brightened visibly, and the doctor passed out. Kennedy resumed his description of the supposed wireless picture apparatus which was to revolutionize the newspaper, the theatre, and daily life in general. The old man did not seem enthusiastic and turned to his daughter with some remark.
"Just at present," commented the daughter, with an air of finality, "the only thing my father is much interested in is a way in which to recover his sight without an operation. He has just had a rather unpleasant experience with one inventor. I think it will be some time before he cares to embark in any other such schemes."
Kennedy and I excused ourselves with appropriate remarks of disappointment. From his preoccupied manner it was impossible for me to guess whether Craig had accomplished his purpose or not.
"Let us drop in on Dr. Burnham since we are over here," he said when we had reached the street. "I have some questions to ask him."
The former physician of Mr. Haswell lived not very far from the house we had just left. He appeared a little surprised to see us so soon, but very interested in what had taken place.
"Who is this Dr. Scott?" asked Craig when we were seated in the comfortable leather chairs of the old-fashioned consulting-room.
"Really, I know no more about him than you do," replied Burnham. I thought I detected a little of professional jealousy in his tone, though he went on frankly enough, "I have made inquiries and I can find out nothing except that he is supposed to be a graduate of some Western medical school and came to this city only a short time ago. He has hired a small office in a new building devoted entirely to doctors and they tell me that he is an eye and ear specialist, though I cannot see that he has any practice. Beyond that I know nothing about him."
"Your friend Prescott interests me, too," remarked Kennedy, changing the subject quickly.
"Oh, he is no friend of mine," returned the doctor, fumbling in a drawer of his desk. "But I think I have one of his cards here which he gave me when we were introduced some time ago at Mr. Haswell's. I should think it would be worth while to see him. Although he has no use for me because I have neither money nor influence, still you might take this card. Tell him you are from the university, that I have interested you in him, that you know a trustee with money to invest—anything you like that is plausible. When are you going to see him?"
"The first thing in the morning," replied Kennedy. "After I have seen him I shall drop in for another chat with you. Will you be here?"
The doctor promised, and we took our departure.
Prescott's laboratory, which we found the next day from the address on the card, proved to be situated in one of the streets near the waterfront under the bridge approach, where the factories and warehouses clustered thickly. It was with a great deal of anticipation of seeing something happen that we threaded our way through the maze of streets with the cobweb structure of the bridge, carrying its endless succession of cars arching high over our heads. We had nearly reached the place when Kennedy paused and pulled out two pairs of glasses, those huge round tortoiseshell affairs.
"You needn't mind these, Walter," he explained. "They are only plain glass, that is, not ground. You can see through them as well as through air. We must be careful not to excite suspicion. Perhaps a disguise might have been better, but I think this will do. There—they add at least a decade to your age. If you could see yourself you wouldn't speak to your reflection. You look as scholarly as a Chinese mandarin. Remember, let me do the talking and do just as I do."
We had now entered the shop, stumbled up the dark stairs, and presented Dr. Burnham's card with a word of explanation along the lines which he had suggested. Prescott, surrounded by his retorts, crucibles, burettes, and condensers, received us much more graciously than I had had any reason to anticipate. He was a man in the late forties, his face covered with a thick beard, and his eyes, which seemed a little weak, were helped out with glasses almost as scholarly as ours.
I could not help thinking that we three bespectacled figures lacked only the flowing robes to be taken for a group of mediaeval alchemists set down a few centuries out of our time in the murky light of Prescott's sanctum. Yet, though he accepted us at our face value, and began to talk of his strange discoveries there was none of the old familiar prating about matrix and flux, elixir, magisterium, magnum opus, the mastery and the quintessence, those alternate names for the philosopher's stone which Paracelsus, Simon Forman, Jerome Cardan, and the other mediaeval worthies indulged in. This experience at least was as up-to-date as the Curies, Becquerel, Ramsay, and the rest.
"Transmutation," remarked Prescott, "was, as you know, finally declared to be a scientific absurdity in the eighteenth century. But I may say that it is no longer so regarded. I do not ask you to believe anything until you have seen; all I ask is that you maintain the same open mind which the most progressive scientists of to-day exhibit in regard to the subject."
Kennedy had seated himself some distance from a curious piece or rather collection of apparatus over which Prescott was working. It consisted of numerous coils and tubes.
"It may seem strange to you, gentlemen," Prescott proceeded, "that a man who is able to produce gold from, say, copper should be seeking capital from other people. My best answer to that old objection is that I am not seeking capital, as such. The situation with me is simply this. Twice I have applied to the patent office for a patent on my invention. They not only refuse to grant it, but they refuse to consider the application or even to give me a chance to demonstrate my process to them. On the other hand, suppose I try this thing secretly. How can I prevent any one from learning my trade secret, leaving me, and making gold on his own account? Men will desert as fast as I educate them. Think of the economic result of that; it would turn the world topsy-turvy. I am looking for some one who can be trusted to the last limit to join with me, furnish the influence and standing while I furnish the brains and the invention. Either we must get the government interested and sell the invention to it or we must get government protection and special legislation. I am not seeking capital; I am seeking protection. First let me show you something."
He turned a switch, and a part of the collection of apparatus began to vibrate.
"You are undoubtedly acquainted with the modern theories of matter," he began, plunging into the explanation of his process. "Starting with the atom, we believe no longer that it is indivisible. Atoms are composed of thousands of ions, as they are called—really little electric charges. Again, you know that we have found that all the elements fall into groups. Each group has certain related atomic weights and properties which can be and have been predicted in advance of the discovery of missing elements in the group. I started with the reasonable assumption that the atom of one element in a group could be modified so as to become the atom of another element in the group, that one group could perhaps be transformed into another, and so on, if only I knew the force that would change the number or modify the vibrations of these ions composing the various atoms.
"Now for years I have been seeking that force or combination of forces that would enable me to produce this change in the elements—raising or lowering them in the scale, so to speak. I have found it. I am not going to tell you or any other man whom you may interest the secret of how it is done until I find some one I can trust as I trust myself. But I am none the less willing that you should see the results. If they are not convincing, then nothing can be."
He appeared to be debating whether to explain further, and finally resumed: "Matter thus being in reality a manifestation of force or ether in motion, it is necessary to change and control that force and motion. This assemblage of machines here is for that purpose. Now a few words as to my theory."
He took a pencil and struck a sharp blow on the table. "There you have a single blow," he said, "just one isolated noise. Now if I strike this tuning fork you have a vibrating note. In other words, a succession of blows or wave vibrations of a certain kind affects the ear and we call it sound, just as a succession of other wave vibrations affects the retina and we have sight. If a moving picture moves slower than a certain number of pictures a minute you see the separate pictures; faster it is one moving picture.
"Now as we increase the rapidity of wave vibration and decrease the wave length we pass from, sound waves to heat waves or what are known as the infra-red waves, those which lie below the red in the spectrum of light. Next we come to light, which is composed of the seven colors as you know from seeing them resolved in a prism. After that are what are known as the ultra-violet rays, which lie beyond the violet of white light. We also have electric waves, the waves of the alternating current, and shorter still we find the Hertzian waves, which are used in wireless. We have only begun to know of X-rays and the alpha, beta, and gamma rays from them, of radium, radioactivity, and finally of this new force which I have discovered and call 'protodyne,' the original force.
"In short, we find in the universe Matter, Force, and Ether. Matter is simply ether in motion, is composed of corpuscles, electrically charged ions, or electrons, moving units of negative electricity about one one-thousandth part of the hydrogen atom. Matter is made up of electricity and nothing but electricity. Let us see what that leads to. You are acquainted with Mendeleeff's periodic table?"
He drew forth a huge chart on which all the eighty or so elements were arranged in eight groups or octaves and twelve series. Selecting one, he placed his finger on the letters "Au," Under which was written the number, 197.2. I wondered what the mystic letters and figures meant.
"That," he explained, "is the scientific name for the element gold and the figure is its atomic weight. You will see," he added, pointing down the second vertical column on the chart, "that gold belongs to the hydrogen group—hydrogen, lithium, sodium, potassium, copper, rubidium, silver, caesium, then two blank spaces for elements yet to be discovered to science, then gold, and finally another unknown element."
Running his finger along the eleventh, horizontal series, he continued: "The gold series—not the group—reads gold, mercury, thallium, lead, bismuth, and other elements known only to myself. For the known elements, however, these groups and series are now perfectly recognized by all scientists; they are determined by the fixed weight of the atom, and there is a close approximation to regularity.
"This twelfth series is interesting. So far only radium, thorium, and uranium are generally known. We know that the radioactive elements are constantly breaking down, and one often hears uranium, for instance, called the 'parent' of radium. Radium also gives off an emanation, and among its products is helium, quite another element. Thus the transmutation of matter is well known within certain bounds to all scientists to-day like yourself, Professor Kennedy. It has even been rumored but never proved that copper has been transformed into lithium—both members of the hydrogen-gold group, you will observe. Copper to lithium is going backward, so to speak. It has remained for me to devise this protodyne apparatus by which I can reverse that process of decay and go forward in the table, so to put it—can change lithium into copper and copper into gold. I can create and destroy matter by protodyne."
He had been fingering a switch as he spoke. Now he turned it on triumphantly. A curious snapping and crackling noise followed, becoming more rapid, and as it mounted in intensity I could smell a pungent odor of ozone which told of an electric discharge. On went the machine until we could feel heat radiating from it. Then came a piercing burst of greenish-blue light from a long tube which looked like a curious mercury vapor lamp.
After a few minutes of this Prescott took a small crucible of black lead. "Now we are ready to try it," he cried in great excitement. "Here I have a crucible containing some copper. Any substance in the group would do, even hydrogen if there was any way I could handle the gas. I place it in the machine—so. Now, if you could watch inside you would see it change; it is now rubidium, now silver, now caesium. Now it is a hitherto unknown element which I have named after myself, presium, now a second unknown element, cottium—ah! there we have gold."
He drew forth the crucible, and there glowed in it a little bead or globule of molten gold.
"I could have taken lead or mercury and by varying the process done the same thing with the gold series as well as the gold group," he said, regarding the globule with obvious pride. "And I can put this gold back and bring it out copper or hydrogen, or better yet, can advance it instead of cause it to decay, and can get a radioactive element which I have named morganium—after my first name, Morgan Prescott. Morganium is a radioactive element next in the series to radium and much more active. Come closer and examine the gold."
Kennedy shook his head as if perfectly satisfied to accept the result. As for me I knew not what to think. It was all so plausible and there was the bead of gold, too, that I turned to Craig for enlightenment. Was he convinced? His face was inscrutable.
But as I looked I could see that Kennedy had been holding concealed in the palm of his hand a bit of what might be a mineral. From my position I could see the bit of mineral glowing, but Prescott could not.
"Might I ask," interrupted Kennedy, "what that curious greenish or bluish light from the tube is composed of?"
Prescott eyed him keenly for an instant through his thick glasses. Craig had shifted his gaze from the bit of mineral in his own hand, but was not looking at the light. He seemed to be indifferently contemplating Prescott's hand as it rested on the switch.
"That, sir," replied Prescott slowly, "is an emanation due to this new force, protodyne, which I use. It is a manifestation of energy, sir, that may run changes not only through the whole gamut of the elements, but is capable of transforming the ether itself into matter, matter into life, and life into mind. It is the outward sign of the unity of nature, the—"
"The means by which you secure the curious telepagrams I have heard of?" inquired Kennedy eagerly.
Prescott looked at him sharply, and for a moment I thought his face seemed to change from a livid white to an apoplectic red, although it may have been only the play of the weird light. When he spoke it was with no show of even suppressed surprise.
"Yes," he answered calmly. "I see that you have heard something of them. I had a curious case a few days ago. I had hoped to interest a certain capitalist of high standing in this city. I had showed him just what I have showed you, and I think he was impressed by it. Then I thought to clinch the matter by a telepagram, but for some reason or other I failed to consult the forces I control as to the wisdom of doing so. Had I, I should have known better. But I went ahead in self-confidence and enthusiasm. I told him of a long banished daughter with whom, in his heart, he was really wishing to become reconciled but was too proud to say the word. He resented it. He started to stamp out of this room, but not before I had another telepagram which told of a misfortune that was soon to overtake the old man himself. If he had given me a chance I might have saved him, at least have flashed a telepagram to that daughter myself, but he gave me no chance. He was gone.
"I do not know precisely what happened after that, but in some way this man found his daughter, and to-day she is living with him. As for my hopes of getting assistance from him, I lost them from the moment when I made my initial mistake of telling him something distasteful. The daughter hates me and I hate her. I have learned that she never ceases advising the old man against all schemes for investment except those bearing moderate interest and readily realized on. Dr. Burnham—I see you know him—has been superseded by another doctor, I believe. Well, well, I am through with that incident. I must get assistance from other sources. The old man, I think, would have tricked me out of the fruits of my discovery anyhow. Perhaps I am fortunate. Who knows?"
A knock at the door cut him short. Prescott opened it, and a messenger boy stood there. "Is Professor Kennedy here?" he inquired.
Craig motioned to the boy, signed for the message, and tore it open. "It is from Dr. Burnham," he exclaimed, handing the message to me.
"Mr. Haswell is dead," I read. "Looks to me like asphyxiation by gas or some other poison. Come immediately to his house. Burnham."
"You will pardon me," broke in Craig to Prescott, who was regarding us without the slightest trace of emotion, "but Mr. Haswell, the old man to whom I know you referred, is dead, and Dr. Burnham wishes to see me immediately. It was only yesterday that I saw Mr. Haswell and he seemed in pretty good health and spirits. Prescott, though there was no love lost between you and the old man, I would esteem it a great favor if you would accompany me to the house. You need not take any responsibility unless you desire."
His words were courteous enough, but Craig spoke in a tone of quiet authority which Prescott found it impossible to deny, Kennedy had already started to telephone to his own laboratory, describing a certain suitcase to one of his students and giving his directions. It was only a moment later that we were panting up the sloping street that led from the river front. In the excitement I scarcely noticed where we were going until we hurried up the steps to the Haswell house.
The aged caretaker met us at the door. She was in tears. Upstairs in the front room where we had first met the old man we found Dr. Burnham working frantically over him. It took only a minute to learn what had happened. The faithful Jane had noticed an odor of gas in the hall, had traced it to Mr. Haswell's room, had found him unconscious, and instinctively, forgetting the new Dr. Scott, had rushed forth for Dr. Burnham. Near the bed stood Grace Martin, pale but anxiously watching the efforts of the doctor to resuscitate the blue-faced man who was stretched cold and motionless on the bed.
Dr. Burnham paused in his efforts as we entered. "He is dead, all right," he whispered, aside. "I have tried everything I know to bring him back, but he is beyond help."
There was still a sickening odor of illuminating gas in the room, although the windows were now all open.
Kennedy, with provoking calmness in the excitement, turned from and ignored Dr. Burnham. "Have you summoned Dr. Scott?" he asked Mrs. Martin.
"No," she replied, surprised. "Should I have done so?"
"Yes. Send Jane immediately. Mr. Prescott, will you kindly be seated for a few moments."
Taking off his coat, Kennedy advanced to the bed where the emaciated figure lay, cold and motionless. Craig knelt down at Mr. Haswell's head and took the inert arms, raising them up until they were extended straight. Then be brought them down, folded upward at the elbow at the side. Again and again he tried this Sylvester method of inducing respiration, but with no more result than Dr. Burnham had secured. He turned the body over on its face and tried the new Schaefer method. There seemed to be not a spark of life left.
"Dr. Scott is out," reported the maid breathlessly, "but they are trying to locate him from his office, and if they do they will send him around immediately."
A ring at the doorbell caused us to think that he had been found, but it proved to be the student to whom Kennedy had telephoned at his own laboratory. He was carrying a heavy suitcase and a small tank.
Kennedy opened the suitcase hastily and disclosed a little motor, some long tubes of rubber fitting into a small rubber cap, forceps, and other paraphernalia. The student quickly attached one tube to the little tank, while Kennedy grasped the tongue of the dead man with the forceps, pulled it up off the soft palate, and fitted the rubber cap snugly over his mouth and nose.
"This is the Draeger pulmotor," he explained as he worked, "devised to resuscitate persons who have died of electric shock, but actually found to be of more value in cases of asphyxiation. Start the motor."
The pulmotor began to pump. One could see the dead man's chest rise as it was inflated with oxygen forced by the accordion bellows from the tank through one of the tubes into the lungs. Then it fell as the oxygen and the poisonous gas were slowly sucked out through the other tube. Again and again the process was repeated, about ten times a minute.
Dr. Burnham looked on in undisguised amazement. He had long since given up all hope. The man was dead, Medically dead, as dead as ever was any gas victim at this stage on whom all the usual methods of resuscitation had been tried and had failed.
Still, minute after minute, Kennedy worked faithfully on, trying to discover some spark of life and to fan it into flame. At last, after what seemed to be a half-hour of unremitting effort, when the oxygen had long since been exhausted and only fresh air was being pumped into the lungs and out of them, there was a first faint glimmer of life in the heart and a touch of color in the cheeks. Haswell was coming to. Another half-hour found him muttering and rambling weakly.
"The letter—the letter," he moaned, rolling his glazed eyes about. "Where is the letter? Send for Grace."
The moan was so audible that it was startling. It was like a voice from the grave. What did it all mean? Mrs. Martin was at his side in a moment.
"Father, father,—here I am—Grace. What do you want?"
The old man moved restlessly, feverishly, and pressed his trembling hand to his forehead as if trying to collect his thoughts. He was weak, but it was evident that he had been saved.
The pulmotor had been stopped. Craig threw the cap to his student to be packed up, and as he did so he remarked quietly, "I could wish that Dr. Scott had been found. There are some matters here that might interest him."
He paused and looked slowly from the rescued man lying dazed on the bed toward Mrs. Martin. It was quite apparent even to me that she did not share the desire to see Dr. Scott, at least not just then. She was flushed and trembling with emotion. Crossing the room hurriedly she flung open the door into the hall.