ARTHUR B. REEVE
FRONTISPIECE BY WILL FOSTER
I. THE TREASURE-TRAIN
II. THE TRUTH-DETECTOR
III. THE SOUL-ANALYSIS
IV. THE MYSTIC POISONER
V. THE PHANTOM DESTROYER
VI. THE BEAUTY MASK
VII. THE LOVE METER
VIII. THE VITAL PRINCIPLE
IX. THE RUBBER DAGGER
X. THE SUBMARINE MINE
XI. THE GUN-RUNNER
XII. THE SUNKEN TREASURE
"I am not by nature a spy, Professor Kennedy, but—well, sometimes one is forced into something like that." Maude Euston, who had sought out Craig in his laboratory, was a striking girl, not merely because she was pretty or because her gown was modish. Perhaps it was her sincerity and artlessness that made her attractive.
She was the daughter of Barry Euston, president of the Continental Express Company, and one could readily see why, aside from the position her father held, she should be among the most-sought- after young women in the city.
Miss Euston looked straight into Kennedy's eyes as she added, without waiting for him to ask a question:
"Yesterday I heard something that has made me think a great deal. You know, we live at the St. Germaine when we are in town. I've noticed for several months past that the lobbies are full of strange, foreign-looking people.
"Well, yesterday afternoon I was sitting alone in the tea-room of the hotel, waiting for some friends. On the other side of a huge palm I heard a couple whispering. I have seen the woman about the hotel often, though I know that she doesn't live there. The man I don't remember ever having seen before. They mentioned the name of Granville Barnes, treasurer of father's company—"
"Is that so?" cut in Kennedy, quickly. "I read the story about him in the papers this morning."
As for myself, I was instantly alive with interest, too.
Granville Barnes had been suddenly stricken while riding in his car in the country, and the report had it that he was hovering between life and death in the General Hospital. The chauffeur had been stricken, too, by the same incomprehensible malady, though apparently not so badly.
How the chauffeur managed to save the car was a miracle, but he brought it to a stop beside the road, where the two were found gasping, a quarter of an hour later, by a passing motorist, who rushed them to a doctor, who had them transferred to the hospital in the city. Neither of them seemed able or willing to throw any light on what had happened.
"Just what was it you overheard?" encouraged Kennedy.
"I heard the man tell the woman," Miss Euston replied, slowly, "that now was the chance—when any of the great warring powers would welcome and wink at any blow that might cripple the other to the slightest degree. I heard him say something about the Continental Express Company, and that was enough to make me listen, for, you know, father's company is handling the big shipments of gold and securities that are coming here from abroad by way of Halifax. Then I heard her mention the names of Mr. Barnes and of Mr. Lane, too, the general manager." She paused, as though not relishing the idea of having the names bandied about. "Last night the—the attack on him—for that is all that I can think it was—occurred."
As she stopped again, I could not help thinking what a tale of strange plotting the casual conversation suggested. New York, I knew, was full of high-class international crooks and flimflammers who had flocked there because the great field of their operations in Europe was closed. The war had literally dumped them on us. Was some one using a band of these crooks for ulterior purposes? The idea opened up wide possibilities.
"Of course," Miss Euston continued, "that is all I know; but I think I am justified in thinking that the two things—the shipment of gold here and the attack—have some connection. Oh, can't you take up the case and look into it?"
She made her appeal so winsomely that it would have been difficult to resist even if it had not promised to prove important.
"I should be glad to take up the matter," replied Craig, quickly, adding, "if Mr. Barnes will let me."
"Oh, he must!" she cried. "I haven't spoken to father, but I know that he would approve of it. I know he thinks I haven't any head for business, just because I wasn't born a boy. I want to prove to him that I can protect the companies interests. And Mr. Barnes— why, of course he will approve."
She said it with an assurance that made me wonder. It was only then that I recollected that it had been one of the excuses for printing her picture in the society columns of the Star so often that the pretty daughter of the president of the Continental was being ardently wooed by two of the company's younger officials. Granville Barnes himself was one. The other was Rodman Lane, the young general manager. I wished now that I had paid more attention to the society news. Perhaps I should have been in a better position to judge which of them it was whom she really had chosen. As it was, two questions presented themselves to me. Was it Barnes? And had Barnes really been the victim of an attack—or of an accident?
Kennedy may have been thinking the problems over, but he gave no evidence of it. He threw on his hat and coat, and was ready in a moment to be driven in Miss Euston's car to the hospital.
There, after the usual cutting of red tape which only Miss Euston could have accomplished, we were led by a white-uniformed nurse through the silent halls to the private room occupied by Barnes.
"It's a most peculiar case," whispered the young doctor in charge, as we paused at the door. "I want you to notice his face and his cough. His pulse seems very weak, almost imperceptible at times. The stethoscope reveals subcrepitant sounds all over his lungs. It's like bronchitis or pneumonia—but it isn't either."
We entered. Barnes was lying there almost in a state of unconsciousness. As we stood watching him he opened his eyes. But he did not see us. His vision seemed to be riveted on Miss Euston. He murmured something that we could not catch, and, as his eyes closed again, his face seemed to relax into a peaceful expression, as though he were dreaming of something happy.
Suddenly, however, the old tense lines reappeared. Another idea seemed to have been suggested.
"Is—Lane—hiring the men—himself?" he murmured.
The sight of Maude Euston had prompted the thought of his rival, now with a clear field. What did it mean? Was he jealous of Lane, or did his words have a deeper meaning? What difference could it have made if Lane had a free hand in managing the shipment of treasure for the company?
Kennedy looked long and carefully at the face of the sick man. It was blue and cyanosed still, and his lips had a violet tinge. Barnes had been coughing a great deal. Now and then his mouth was flecked with foamy blood, which the nurse wiped gently away. Kennedy picked up a piece of the blood-soaked gauze.
A moment later we withdrew from the room as quietly as we had entered and tiptoed down the hall, Miss Euston and the young doctor following us more slowly. As we reached the door, I turned to see where she was. A distinguished-looking elderly gentleman, sitting in the waiting-room, had happened to glance up as she passed and had moved quickly to the hall.
"What—you here, Maude?" we heard him say.
"Yes, father. I thought I might be able to do something for Granville."
She accompanied the remark with a sidelong glance and nod at us, which Kennedy interpreted to mean that we might as well keep in the background. Euston himself, far from chiding her, seemed rather to be pleased than otherwise. We could not hear all they said, but one sentence was wafted over.
"It's most unfortunate, Maude, at just this time. It leaves the whole matter in the hands of Lane."
At the mention of Lane, which her father accompanied by a keen glance, she flushed a little and bit her lip. I wondered whether it meant more than that, of the two suitors, her father obviously preferred Barnes.
Euston had called to see Barnes, and, as the doctor led him up the hall again, Miss Euston rejoined us.
"You need not drive us back," thanked Kennedy. "Just drop us at the Subway. I'll let you know the moment I have arrived at any conclusion."
On the train we happened to run across a former classmate, Morehead, who had gone into the brokerage business.
"Queer about that Barnes case, isn't it?" suggested Kennedy, after the usual greetings were over. Then, without suggesting that we were more than casually interested, "What does the Street think of it?"
"It is queer," rejoined Morehead. "All the boys down-town are talking about it—wondering how it will affect the transit of the gold shipments. I don't know what would happen if there should be a hitch. But they ought to be able to run the thing through all right."
"It's a pretty ticklish piece of business, then?" I suggested.
"Well, you know the state of the market just now—a little push one way or the other means a lot. And I suppose you know that the insiders on the Street have boosted Continental Express up until it is practically one of the 'war stocks,' too. Well, good-by— here's my station."
We had scarcely returned to the laboratory, however, when a car drove up furiously and a young man bustled in to see us.
"You do not know me," he introduced, "but I am Rodman Lane, general manager of the Continental Express. You know our company has had charge of the big shipments of gold and securities to New York. I suppose you've read about what happened to Barnes, our treasurer. I don't know anything about it—haven't even time to find out. All I know is that it puts more work on me, and I'm nearly crazy already."
I watched him narrowly.
"We've had little trouble of any kind so far," he hurried on, "until just now I learned that all the roads over which we are likely to send the shipments have been finding many more broken rails than usual."
Kennedy had been following him keenly.
"I should like to see some samples of them," he observed.
"You would?" said Lane, eagerly. "I've a couple of sections sawed from rails down at my office, where I asked the officials to send them."
We made a hurried trip down to the express company's office. Kennedy examined the sections of rails minutely with a strong pocket-lens.
"No ordinary break," he commented. "You can see that it was an explosive that was used—an explosive well and properly tamped down with wet clay. Without tamping, the rails would have been bent, not broken."
"Done by wreckers, then?" Lane asked.
"Certainly not defective rails," replied Kennedy. "Still, I don't think you need worry so much about them for the next train. You know what to guard against. Having been discovered, whoever they are, they'll probably not try it again. It's some new wrinkle that must be guarded against."
It was small comfort, but Craig was accustomed to being brutally frank.
"Have you taken any other precautions now that you didn't take before?"
"Yes," replied Lane, slowly; "the railroad has been experimenting with wireless on its trains. We have placed wireless on ours, too. They can't cut us off by cutting wires. Then, of course, as before, we shall use a pilot-train to run ahead and a strong guard on the train itself. But now I feel that there may be something else that we can do. So I have come to you."
"When does the next shipment start?" asked Kennedy.
"To-morrow, from Halifax."
Kennedy appeared to be considering something.
"The trouble," he said, at length, "is likely to be at this end. Perhaps before the train starts something may happen that will tell us just what additional measures to take as it approaches New York."
While Kennedy was at work with the blood-soaked gauze that he had taken from Barnes, I could do nothing but try to place the relative positions of the various actors in the little drama that was unfolding. Lane himself puzzled me. Sometimes I felt almost sure that he knew that Miss Euston had come to Kennedy, and that he was trying, in this way, to keep in touch with what was being done for Barnes.
Some things I knew already. Barnes was comparatively wealthy, and had evidently the stamp of approval of Maude Euston's father. As for Lane, he was far from wealthy, although ambitious.
The company was in a delicate situation where an act of omission would count for as much as an act of commission. Whoever could foresee what was going to happen might capitalize that information for much money. If there was a plot and Barnes had been a victim, what was its nature? I recalled Miss Euston's overheard conversation in the tea-room. Both names had been mentioned. In short, I soon found myself wondering whether some one might not have tempted Lane either to do or not to do something.
"I wish you'd go over to the St. Germaine, Walter," remarked Kennedy, at length, looking up from his work. "Don't tell Miss Euston of Lane's visit. But ask her if she will keep an eye out for that woman she heard talking—and the man, too. They may drop in again. And tell her that if she hears anything else, no matter how trivial, about Barnes, she must let me know."
I was glad of the commission. Not only had I been unable to arrive anywhere in my conjectures, but it was something even to have a chance to talk with a girl like Maude Euston.
Fortunately I found her at home and, though she was rather disappointed that I had nothing to report, she received me graciously, and we spent the rest of the evening watching the varied life of the fashionable hostelry in the hope of chancing on the holders of the strange conversation in the tea-room.
Once in a while an idea would occur to her of some one who was in a position to keep her informed if anything further happened to Barnes, and she would despatch a messenger with a little note. Finally, as it grew late and the adventuress of the tea-room episode seemed unlikely to favor the St. Germaine with her presence again that night, I made my excuses, having had the satisfaction only of having delivered Kennedy's message, without accomplishing anything more. In fact, I was still unable to determine whether there was any sentiment stronger than sympathy that prompted her to come to Kennedy about Barnes. As for Lane, his name was scarcely mentioned except when it was necessary.
It was early the next morning that I rejoined Craig at the laboratory. I found him studying the solution which he had extracted from the blood-soaked gauze after first removing the blood in a little distilled water.
Before him was his new spectroscope, and I could see that now he was satisfied with what the uncannily delicate light-detective had told him. He pricked his finger and let a drop of blood fall into a little fresh distilled water, some of which he placed in the spectroscope.
"Look through it," he said. "Blood diluted with water shows the well-known dark bands between D and E, known as the oxyhemoglobin absorption." I looked as he indicated and saw the dark bands. "Now," he went on, "I add some of this other liquid."
He picked up a bottle of something with a faint greenish tinge.
"See the bands gradually fade?"
I watched, and indeed they did diminish in intensity and finally disappear, leaving an uninterrupted and brilliant spectrum.
"My spectroscope," he said, simply, "shows that the blood-crystals of Barnes are colorless. Barnes was poisoned—by some gas, I think. I wish I had time to hunt along the road where the accident took place." As he said it, he walked over and drew from a cabinet several peculiar arrangements made of gauze.
He was about to say something more when there came a knock at the door. Kennedy shoved the gauze arrangements into his pocket and opened it. It was Maude Euston, breathless and agitated.
"Oh, Mr. Kennedy, have you heard?" she cried. "You asked me to keep a watch whether anything more happened to Mr. Barnes. So I asked some friends of his to let me know of anything. He has a yacht, the Sea Gull, which has been lying off City Island. Well, last night the captain received a message to go to the hospital, that Mr. Barnes wanted to see him. Of course it was a fake. Mr. Barnes was too sick to see anybody on business. But when the captain got back, he found that, on one pretext or another, the crew had been got ashore—and the Sea Gull is gone—stolen! Some men in a small boat must have overpowered the engineer. Anyhow, she has disappeared. I know that no one could expect to steal a yacht—at least for very long. She'd be recognized soon. But they must know that, too."
Kennedy looked at his watch.
"It is only a few hours since the train started from Halifax," he considered. "It will be due in New York early to-morrow morning— twenty million dollars in gold and thirty millions in securities— a seven-car steel train, with forty armed guards!"
"I know it," she said, anxiously, "and I am so afraid something is going to happen—ever since I had to play the spy. But what could any one want with a yacht?"
Kennedy shrugged his shoulders non-committally.
"It is one of the things that Mr. Lane must guard against," he remarked, simply. She looked up quickly.
"Mr. Lane?" she repeated.
"Yes," replied Kennedy; "the protection of the train has fallen on him. I shall meet the train myself when it gets to Worcester and come in on it. I don't think there can be any danger before it reaches that point."
"Will Mr. Lane go with you?"
"He must," decided Kennedy. "That train must be delivered safely here in this city."
Maude Euston gave Craig one of her penetrating, direct looks.
"You think there is danger, then?"
"I cannot say," he replied.
"Then I am going with you!" she exclaimed.
Kennedy paused and met her eyes. I do not know whether he read what was back of her sudden decision. At least I could not, unless there was something about Rodman Lane which she wished to have cleared up. Kennedy seemed to read her character and know that a girl like Maude Euston would be a help in any emergency.
"Very well," he agreed; "meet us at Mr. Lane's office in half an hour. Walter, see whether you can find Whiting."
Whiting was one of Kennedy's students with whom he had been lately conducting some experiments. I hurried out and managed to locate him.
"What is it you suspect?" I asked, when we returned. "A wreck— some spectacular stroke at the nations that are shipping the gold?"
"Perhaps," he replied, absently, as he and Whiting hurriedly assembled some parts of instruments that were on a table in an adjoining room.
"Perhaps?" I repeated. "What else might there be?"
"Robbery!" I exclaimed. "Of twenty million dollars? Why, man, just consider the mere weight of the metal!"
"That's all very well," he replied, warming up a bit as he saw that Whiting was getting things together quickly. "But it needs only a bit of twenty millions to make a snug fortune—" He paused and straightened up as the gathering of the peculiar electrical apparatus, whatever it was, was completed. "And," he went on quickly, "consider the effect on the stock-market of the news. That's the big thing."
I could only gasp.
"A modern train-robbery, planned in the heart of dense traffic!"
"Why not?" he queried. "Nothing is impossible if you can only take the other fellow unawares. Our job is not to be taken unawares. Are you ready, Whiting?"
"Yes, sir," replied the student, shouldering the apparatus, for which I was very thankful, for my arms had frequently ached carrying about some of Kennedy's weird but often weighty apparatus.
We piled into a taxicab and made a quick journey to the office of the Continental Express. Maude Euston had already preceded us, and we found her standing by Lane's desk as he paced the floor.
"Please, Miss Euston, don't go," he was saying as we entered.
"But I want to go," she persisted, more than ever determined, apparently.
"I have engaged Professor Kennedy just for the purpose of foreseeing what new attack can be made on us," he said.
"You have engaged Professor Kennedy?" she asked. "I think I have a prior claim there, haven't I?" she appealed.
Kennedy stood for a moment looking from one to the other. What was there in the motives that actuated them? Was it fear, hate, love, jealousy?
"I can serve my two clients only if they yield to me," Craig remarked, quietly. "Don't set that down, Whiting. Which is it—yes or no?"
Neither Lane nor Miss Euston looked at each other for a moment.
"Is it in my hands?" repeated Craig.
"Yes," bit off Lane, sourly.
"And you, Miss Euston?"
"Of course," she answered.
"Then we all go," decided Craig. "Lane, may I install this thing in your telegraph-room outside?"
"Anything you say," Lane returned, unmollified.
Whiting set to work immediately, while Kennedy gave him the final instructions.
Neither Lane nor Miss Euston spoke a word, even when I left the room for a moment, fearing that three was a crowd. I could not help wondering whether she might not have heard something more from the woman in the tea-room conversation than she had told us. If she had, she had been more frank with Lane than with us. She must have told him. Certainly she had not told us. It was the only way I could account for the armed truce that seemed to exist as, hour after hour, our train carried us nearer the point where we were to meet the treasure-train.
At Worcester we had still a long wait for the argosy that was causing so much anxiety and danger. It was long after the time scheduled that we left finally, on our return journey, late at night.
Ahead of us went a dummy pilot-train to be sacrificed if any bridges or trestles were blown up or if any new attempts were made at producing artificially broken rails. We four established ourselves as best we could in a car in the center of the treasure- train, with one of the armed guards as company. Mile after mile we reeled off, ever southward and westward.
We must have crossed the State of Connecticut and have been approaching Long Island Sound, when suddenly the train stopped with a jerk. Ordinarily there is nothing to grow alarmed about at the mere stopping of a train. But this was an unusual train under unusual circumstances.
No one said a word as we peered out. Down the track the signals seemed to show a clear road. What was the matter?
"Look!" exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly.
Off a distance ahead I could see what looked like a long row of white fuses sticking up in the faint starlight. From them the fresh west wind seemed to blow a thick curtain of greenish-yellow smoke which swept across the track, enveloping the engine and the forward cars and now advancing toward us like the "yellow wind" of northern China. It seemed to spread thickly on the ground, rising scarcely more than sixteen or eighteen feet.
A moment and the cloud began to fill the air about us. There was a paralyzing odor. I looked about at the others, gasping and coughing. As the cloud rolled on, inexorably increasing in density, it seemed literally to grip the lungs.
It flashed over me that already the engineer and fireman had been overcome, though not before the engineer had been able to stop the train.
As the cloud advanced, the armed guards ran from it, shouting, one now and then falling, overcome. For the moment none of us knew what to do. Should we run and desert the train for which we had dared so much? To stay was death.
Quickly Kennedy pulled from his pocket the gauze arrangements he had had in his hand that morning just as Miss Euston's knock had interrupted his conversation with me. Hurriedly he shoved one into Miss Euston's hands, then to Lane, then to me, and to the guard who was with us.
"Wet them!" he cried, as he fitted his own over his nose and staggered to a water-cooler.
"What is it?" I gasped, hoarsely, as we all imitated his every action.
"Chlorin gas," he rasped back, "the same gas that overcame Granville Barnes. These masks are impregnated with a glycerin solution of sodium phosphate. It was chlorin that destroyed the red coloring matter in Barnes's blood. No wonder, when this action of just a whiff of it on us is so rapid. Even a short time longer and death would follow. It destroys without the possibility of reconstitution, and it leaves a dangerous deposit of albumin. How do you feel?"
"All right," I lied.
We looked out again. The things that looked like fuses were not bombs, as I had expected, but big reinforced bottles of gas compressed at high pressure, with the taps open. The supply was not inexhaustible. In fact, it was decidedly limited. But it seemed to have been calculated to a nicety to do the work. Only the panting of the locomotive now broke the stillness as Kennedy and I moved forward along the track.
Crack! rang out a shot.
"Get on the other side of the train—quick!" ordered Craig.
In the shadow, aside from the direction in which the wind was wafting the gas, we could now just barely discern a heavy but powerful motor-truck and figures moving about it. As I peered out from the shelter of the train, I realized what it all meant. The truck, which had probably conveyed the gas-tanks from the rendezvous where they had been collected, was there now to convey to some dark wharf what of the treasure could be seized. There the stolen yacht was waiting to carry it off.
"Don't move—don't fire," cautioned Kennedy. "Perhaps they will think it was only a shadow they saw. Let them act first. They must. They haven't any too much time. Let them get impatient."
For some minutes we waited.
Sure enough, separated widely, but converging toward the treasure- train at last, we could see several dark figures making their way from the road across a strip of field and over the rails. I made a move with my gun.
"Don't," whispered Kennedy. "Let them get together."
His ruse was clever. Evidently they thought that it had been indeed a wraith at which they had fired. Swiftly now they hurried to the nearest of the gold-laden cars. We could hear them, breaking in where the guards had either been rendered unconscious or had fled.
I looked around at Maude Euston. She was the calmest of us all as she whispered:
"They are in the car. Can't we DO something?"
"Lane," whispered Kennedy, "crawl through under the trucks with me. Walter, and you, Dugan," he added, to the guard, "go down the other side. We must rush them—in the car."
As Kennedy crawled under the train again I saw Maude Euston follow Lane closely.
How it happened I cannot describe, for the simple reason that I don't remember. I know that it was a short, sharp dash, that the fight was a fight of fists in which guns were discharged wildly in the air against the will of the gunner. But from the moment when Kennedy's voice rang out in the door, "Hands up!" to the time that I saw that we had the robbers lined up with their backs against the heavy cases of the precious metal for which they had planned and risked so much, it is a blank of grim death-struggle.
I remember my surprise at seeing one of them a woman, and I thought I must be mistaken. I looked about. No; there was Maude Euston standing just beside Lane.
I think it must have been that which recalled me and made me realize that it was a reality and not a dream. The two women stood glaring at each other.
"The woman in the tea-room!" exclaimed Miss Euston. "It was about this—robbery—then, that I heard you talking the other afternoon."
I looked at the face before me. It was, had been, a handsome face. But now it was cold and hard, with that heartless expression of the adventuress. The men seemed to take their plight hard. But, as she looked into the clear, gray eyes of the other woman, the adventuress seemed to gain rather than lose in defiance.
"Robbery?" she repeated, bitterly. "This is only a beginning."
"A beginning. What do you mean?"
It was Lane who spoke. Slowly she turned toward him.
"You know well enough what I mean."
The implication that she intended was clear. She had addressed the remark to him, but it was a stab at Maude Euston.
"I know only what you wanted me to do—and I refused. Is there more still?"
I wondered whether Lane could really have been involved.
"Quick—what DO you mean?" demanded Kennedy, authoritatively.
The woman turned to him:
"Suppose this news of the robbery is out? What will happen? Do you want me to tell you, young lady?" she added, turning again to Maude Euston. "I'll tell you. The stock of the Continental Express Company will fall like a house of cards. And then? Those who have sold it at the top price will buy it back again at the bottom. The company is sound. The depression will not last—perhaps will be over in a day, a week, a month. Then the operators can send it up again. Don't you see? It is the old method of manipulation in a new form. It is a war-stock gamble. Other stocks will be affected the same way. This is our reward—what we can get out of it by playing this game for which the materials are furnished free. We have played it—and lost. The manipulators will get their reward on the stock-market this morning. But they must still reckon with us—even if we have lost." She said it with a sort of grim humor.
"And you have put Granville Barnes out of the way, first?" I asked, remembering the chlorin. She laughed shrilly.
"That was an accident—his own carelessness. He was carrying a tank of it for us. Only his chauffeur's presence of mind in throwing it into the shrubbery by the road saved his life and reputation. No, young man; he was one of the manipulators, too. But the chief of them was—" She paused as if to enjoy one brief moment of triumph at least. "The president of the company," she added.
"No, no, no!" cried Maude Euston.
"Yes, yes, yes! He does not dare deny it. They were all in it."
"Mrs. Labret—you lie!" towered Lane, in a surging passion, as he stepped forward and shook his finger at her. "You lie and you know it. There is an old saying about the fury of a woman scorned." She paid no attention to him whatever.
"Maude Euston," she hissed, as though Lane had been as inarticulate as the boxes of gold about, "you have saved your lover's reputation—perhaps. At least the shipment is safe. But you have ruined your father. The deal will go through. Already that has been arranged. You may as well tell Kennedy to let us go and let the thing go through. It involves more than us."
Kennedy had been standing back a bit, carefully keeping them all covered. He glanced a moment out of the corner of his eye at Maude Euston, but said nothing.
It was a terrible situation. Had Lane really been in it? That question was overshadowed by the mention of her father. Impulsively she turned to Craig.
"Oh, save him!" she cried. "Can't anything be done to save my father in spite of himself?"
"It is too late," mocked Mrs. Labret. "People will read the account of the robbery in the papers, even if it didn't take place. They will see it before they see a denial. Orders will flood in to sell the stock. No; it can't be stopped."
Kennedy glanced momentarily at me.
"Is there still time to catch the last morning edition of the Star, Walter?" he asked, quietly. I glanced at my watch.
"We may try. It's possible."
"Write a despatch—an accident to the engine—train delayed—now proceeding—anything. Here, Dugan, you keep them covered. Shoot to kill if there's a move."
Kennedy had begun feverishly setting up the part of the apparatus which he had brought after Whiting had set up his.
"What can you do?" hissed Mrs. Labret. "You can't get word through. Orders have been issued that the telegraph operators are under no circumstances to give out news about this train. The wireless is out of commission, too—the operator overcome. The robbery story has been prepared and given out by this time. Already reporters are being assigned to follow it up."
I looked over at Kennedy. If orders had been given for such secrecy by Barry Euston, how could my despatch do any good? It would be held back by the operators.
Craig quickly slung a wire over those by the side of the track and seized what I had written, sending furiously.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "You heard what she said."
"One thing you can be certain of," he answered, "that despatch can never be stolen or tapped by spies."
"Why—what is this?" I asked, pointing to the instrument.
"The invention of Major Squier, of the army," he replied, "by which any number of messages may be sent at the same time over the same wire without the slightest conflict. Really it consists in making wireless electric waves travel along, instead of inside, the wire. In other words, he had discovered the means of concentrating the energy of a wireless wave on a given point instead of letting it riot all over the face of the earth.
"It is the principle of wireless. But in ordinary wireless less than one-millionth part of the original sending force reaches the point for which it is intended. The rest is scattered through space in all directions. If the vibrations of a current are of a certain number per second, the current will follow a wire to which it is, as it were, attached, instead of passing off into space.
"All the energy in wireless formerly wasted in radiation in every direction now devotes itself solely to driving the current through the ether about the wire. Thus it goes until it reaches the point where Whiting is—where the vibrations correspond to its own and are in tune. There it reproduces the sending impulse. It is wired wireless."
Craig had long since finished sending his wired wireless message. We waited impatiently. The seconds seemed to drag like hours.
Far off, now, we could hear a whistle as a train finally approached slowly into our block, creeping up to see what was wrong. But that made no difference now. It was not any help they could give us that we wanted. A greater problem, the saving of one man's name and the re-establishment of another, confronted us.
Unexpectedly the little wired wireless instrument before us began to buzz. Quickly Kennedy seized a pencil and wrote as the message that no hand of man could interfere with was flashed back to us.
"It is for you, Walter, from the Star," he said, simply handing me what he had written on the back of an old envelope.
I read, almost afraid to read:
Robbery story killed. Black type across page-head last edition, "Treasure-train safe!" McGRATH.
"Show it to Miss Euston," Craig added, simply, gathering up his wired wireless set, just as the crew from the train behind us ran up. "She may like to know that she has saved her father from himself through misunderstanding her lover."
I thought Maude Euston would faint as she clutched the message. Lane caught her as she reeled backward.
"Rodman—can you—forgive me?" she murmured, simply, yielding to him and looking up into his face.
THE TRUTH DETECTOR
"You haven't heard—no one outside has heard—of the strange illness and the robbery of my employer, Mr. Mansfield—'Diamond Jack' Mansfield, you know."
Our visitor was a slight, very pretty, but extremely nervous girl, who had given us a card bearing the name Miss Helen Grey.
"Illness—robbery?" repeated Kennedy, at once interested and turning a quick glance at me.
I shrugged my shoulders in the negative. Neither the Star nor any of the other papers had had a word about it.
"Why, what's the trouble?" he continued to Miss Grey.
"You see," she explained, hurrying on, "I'm Mr. Mansfield's private secretary, and—oh, Professor Kennedy, I don't know, but I'm afraid it is a case for a detective rather than a doctor." She paused a moment and leaned forward nearer to us. "I think he has been poisoned!"
The words themselves were startling enough without the evident perturbation of the girl. Whatever one might think, there was no doubt that she firmly believed what she professed to fear. More than that, I fancied I detected a deeper feeling in her tone than merely loyalty to her employer.
"Diamond Jack" Mansfield was known in Wall Street as a successful promoter, on the White Way as an assiduous first-nighter, in the sporting fraternity as a keen plunger. But of all his hobbies, none had gained him more notoriety than his veritable passion for collecting diamonds.
He came by his sobriquet honestly. I remembered once having seen him, and he was, in fact, a walking De Beers mine. For his personal adornment, more than a million dollars' worth of gems did relay duty. He had scores of sets, every one of them fit for a king of diamonds. It was a curious hobby for a great, strong man, yet he was not alone in his love of and sheer affection for things beautiful. Not love of display or desire to attract notice to himself had prompted him to collect diamonds, but the mere pleasure of owning them, of associating with them. It was a hobby.
It was not strange, therefore, to suspect that Mansfield might, after all, have been the victim of some kind of attack. He went about with perfect freedom, in spite of the knowledge that crooks must have possessed about his hoard.
"What makes you think he has been poisoned?" asked Kennedy, betraying no show of doubt that Miss Grey might be right.
"Oh, it's so strange, so sudden!" she murmured.
"But how do you think it could have happened?" he persisted.
"It must have been at the little supper-party he gave at his apartment last night," she answered, thoughtfully, then added, more slowly, "and yet, it was not until this morning, eight or ten hours after the party, that he became ill." She shuddered. "Paroxysms of nausea, followed by stupor and such terrible prostration. His valet discovered him and sent for Doctor Murray— and then for me."
"How about the robbery?" prompted Kennedy, as it became evident that it was Mansfield's physical condition more than anything else that was on Miss Grey's mind.
"Oh yes"—she recalled herself—"I suppose you know something of his gems? Most people do." Kennedy nodded. "He usually keeps them in a safe-deposit vault downtown, from which he will get whatever set he feels like wearing. Last night it was the one he calls his sporting-set that he wore, by far the finest. It cost over a hundred thousand dollars, and is one of the most curious of all the studies in personal adornment that he owns. All the stones are of the purest blue-white and the set is entirely based on platinum.
"But what makes it most remarkable is that it contains the famous M-1273, as he calls it. The M stands for Mansfield, and the figures represent the number of stones he had purchased up to the time that he acquired this huge one."
"How could they have been taken, do you think?" ventured Kennedy. Miss Grey shook her head doubtfully.
"I think the wall safe must have been opened somehow," she returned.
Kennedy mechanically wrote the number, M-1273, on a piece of paper.
"It has a weird history," she went on, observing what he had written, "and this mammoth blue-white diamond in the ring is as blue as the famous Hope diamond that has brought misfortune through half the world. This stone, they say, was pried from the mouth of a dying negro in South Africa. He had tried to smuggle it from the mine, and when he was caught cursed the gem and every one who ever should own it. One owner in Amsterdam failed; another in Antwerp committed suicide; a Russian nobleman was banished to Siberia, and another went bankrupt and lost his home and family. Now here it is in Mr. Mansfield's life. I—I hate it!" I could not tell whether it was the superstition or the recent events themselves which weighed most in her mind, but, at any rate, she resumed, somewhat bitterly, a moment later: "M-1273! M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, and 1, 2, 7, 3 add up to thirteen. The first and last numbers make thirteen, and John Mansfield has thirteen letters in his name. I wish he had never worn the thing—never bought it!"
The more I listened to her the more impressed I was with the fact that there was something more here than the feeling of a private secretary.
"Who were in the supper-party?" asked Kennedy.
"He gave it for Madeline Hargrave—the pretty little actress, you know, who took New York by storm last season in 'The Sport' and is booked, next week, to appear in the new show, 'The Astor Cup.'"
Miss Grey said it, I thought, with a sort of wistful envy. Mansfield's gay little bohemian gatherings were well known. Though he was not young, he was still somewhat of a Lothario.
"Who else was there?" asked Kennedy.
"Then there was Mina Leitch, a member of Miss Hargrave's new company," she went on. "Another was Fleming Lewis, the Wall Street broker. Doctor Murray and myself completed the party."
"Doctor Murray is his personal physician?" ventured Craig.
"Yes. You know when Mr. Mansfield's stomach went back on him last year it was Doctor Murray who really cured him."
"Might this present trouble be a recurrence of the old trouble?"
She shook her head. "No; this is entirely different. Oh, I wish that you could go with me and see him!" she pleaded.
"I will," agreed Kennedy.
A moment later we were speeding in a taxicab over to the apartment.
"Really," she remarked, nervously, "I feel lost with Mr. Mansfield so ill. He has so many interests downtown that require constant attention that just the loss of time means a great deal. Of course, I understand many of them—but, you know, a private secretary can't conduct a man's business. And just now, when I came up from the office, I couldn't believe that he was too ill to care about things until I actually saw him."
We entered the apartment. A mere glance about showed that; even though Mansfield's hobby was diamonds, he was no mean collector of other articles of beauty. In the big living-room, which was almost like a studio, we met a tall, spare, polished-mannered man, whom I quickly recognized as Doctor Murray.
"Is he any better?" blurted out Miss Grey, even before our introductions were over. Doctor Murray shook his head gravely.
"About the same," he answered, though one could find little reassurance in his tone.
"I should like to see him," hinted Kennedy, "unless there is some real reason why I should not."
"No," replied the doctor, absently; "on the contrary, it might perhaps rouse him."
He led the way down the hall, and Kennedy and I followed, while Miss Grey attempted to busy herself over some affairs at a huge mahogany table in the library just off the living-room.
Mansfield had shown the same love of luxury and the bizarre even in the furnishing of his bedroom, which was a black-and-white room with furniture of Chinese lacquer and teakwood.
Kennedy looked at the veteran plunger long and thoughtfully as he lay stretched out, listless, on the handsome bed. Mansfield seemed completely indifferent to our presence. There was something uncanny about him. Already his face was shrunken, his skin dark, and his eyes were hollow.
"What do you suppose it is?" asked Kennedy, bending over him, and then rising and averting his head so that Mansfield could not hear, even if his vagrant faculties should be attracted. "His pulse is terribly weak and his heart scarcely makes a sound."
Doctor Murray's face knit in deep lines.
"I'm afraid," he said, in a low tone, "that I will have to admit not having been able to diagnose the trouble, I was just considering whom I might call in."
"What have you done?" asked Kennedy, as the two moved a little farther out of ear-shot of the patient.
"Well," replied the doctor, slowly, "when his valet called me in, I must admit that my first impression was that I had to deal with a case of diphtheria. I was so impressed that I even took a blood smear and examined it. It showed the presence of a tox albumin. But it isn't diphtheria. The antitoxin has had no effect. No; it isn't diphtheria. But the poison is there. I might have thought it was cholera, only that seems so impossible here in New York." Doctor Murray looked at Kennedy with no effort to conceal his perplexity. "Over and over I have asked myself what it could be," he went on. "It seems to me that I have thought over about everything that is possible. Always I get back to the fact that there is that tox albumin present. In some respects, it seems like the bite of a poisonous animal. There are no marks, of course, and it seems altogether impossible, yet it acts precisely as I have seen snake bites affect people. I am that desperate that I would try the Noguchi antivenene, but it would have no more effect than the antitoxin. No; I can only conclude that there is some narcotic irritant which especially affects the lungs and heart."
"Will you let me have one of the blood smears?" asked Kennedy.
"Certainly," replied the doctor, reaching over and taking a glass slide from several lying on a table.
For some time after we left the sick-room Craig appeared to be considering what Doctor Murray had said.
Seeking to find Miss Grey in the library, we found ourselves in the handsome, all-wood-paneled dining-room. It still showed evidences of the late banquet of the night before.
Craig paused a moment in doubt which way to go, then picked up from the table a beautifully decorated menu-card. As he ran his eye down it mechanically, he paused.
"Champignons," he remarked, thoughtfully. "H-m!—mushrooms."
Instead of going on toward the library, he turned and passed through a swinging door into the kitchen. There was no one there, but it was in a much more upset condition than the dining-room.
"Pardon, monsieur," sounded a voice behind us.
It was the French chef who had entered from the direction of the servants' quarters, and was now all apologies for the untidy appearance of the realm over which he presided. The strain of the dinner had been too much for his assistants, he hastened to explain.
"I see that you had mushrooms—creamed," remarked Kennedy.
"Oui, monsieur," he replied; "some that Miss Hargrave herself sent in from her mushroom-cellar out in the country."
As he said it his eye traveled involuntarily toward a pile of ramekins on a table. Kennedy noticed it and deliberately walked over to the table. Before I knew what he was about he had scooped from them each a bit of the contents and placed it in some waxed paper that was lying near by. The chef watched him curiously.
"You would not find my kitchen like this ordinarily," he remarked. "I would not like to have Doctor Murray see it, for since last year, when monsieur had the bad stomach, I have been very careful."
The chef seemed to be nervous.
"You prepared the mushrooms yourself?" asked Kennedy, suddenly.
"I directed my assistant," came back the wary reply.
"But you know good mushrooms when you see them?"
"Certainly," he replied, quickly.
"There was no one else in the kitchen while you prepared them?"
"Yes," he answered, hurriedly; "Mr. Mansfield came in, and Miss Hargrave. Oh, they are very particular! And Doctor Murray, he has given me special orders ever since last year, when monsieur had the bad stomach," he repeated.
"Was any one else here?"
"Yes—I think so. You see, I am so excited—a big dinner—such epicures—everything must be just so—I cannot say."
There seemed to be little satisfaction in quizzing the chef, and Kennedy turned again into the dining-room, making his way back to the library, where Miss Grey was waiting anxiously for us.
"What do you think?" she asked, eagerly.
"I don't know what to think," replied Kennedy. "No one else has felt any ill effects from the supper, I suppose?"
"No," she replied; "at least, I'm sure I would have heard by this time if they had."
"Do you recall anything peculiar about the mushrooms?" shot out Kennedy.
"We talked about them some time, I remember," she said, slowly. "Growing mushrooms is one of Miss Hargrave's hobbies out at her place on Long Island."
"Yes," persisted Kennedy; "but I mean anything peculiar about the preparation of them."
"Why, yes," she said, suddenly; "I believe that Miss Hargrave was to have superintended them herself. We all went out into the kitchen. But it was too late. They had been prepared already."
"You were all in the kitchen?"
"Yes; I remember. It was before the supper and just after we came in from the theater-party which Mr. Mansfield gave. You know Mr. Mansfield is always doing unconventional things like that. If he took a notion, he would go into the kitchen of the Ritz."
"That is what I was trying to get out of the chef—Francois," remarked Kennedy. "He didn't seem to have a very clear idea of what happened. I think I'll see him again—right away."
We found the chef busily at work, now, cleaning up. As Kennedy asked him a few inconsequential questions, his eye caught a row of books on a shelf. It was a most complete library of the culinary arts. Craig selected one and turned the pages over rapidly. Then he came back to the frontispiece, which showed a model dinner- table set for a number of guests. He placed the picture before Francois, then withdrew it in, I should say, about ten seconds. It was a strange and incomprehensible action, but I was more surprised when Kennedy added:
"Now tell me what you saw."
Francois was quite overwhelming in his desire to please. Just what was going on in his mind I could not guess, nor did he betray it, but quickly he enumerated the objects on the table, gradually slowing up as the number which he recollected became exhausted.
"Were there candles?" prompted Craig, as the flow of Francois's description ceased.
"Oh yes, candles," he agreed, eagerly.
"Favors at each place?"
I could see no sense in the proceeding, yet knew Kennedy too well to suppose, for an instant, that he had not some purpose.
The questioning over, Kennedy withdrew, leaving poor Francois more mystified than ever.
"Well," I exclaimed, as we passed through the dining-room, "what was all that?"
"That," he explained, "is what is known to criminologists as the 'Aussage test.' Just try it some time when you get a chance. If there are, say, fifty objects in a picture, normally a person may recall perhaps twenty of them."
"I see," I interrupted; "a test of memory."
"More than that," he replied. "You remember that, at the end, I suggested several things likely to be on the table. They were not there, as you might have seen if you had had the picture before you. That was a test of the susceptibility to suggestion of the chef. Francois may not mean to lie, but I'm afraid we'll have to get along without him in getting to the bottom of the case. You see, before we go any further we know that he is unreliable—to say the least. It may be that nothing at all happened in the kitchen to the mushrooms. We'll never discover it from him. We must get it elsewhere."
Miss Grey had been trying to straighten out some of the snarls which Mansfield's business affairs had got into as a result of his illness; but it was evident that she had difficulty in keeping her mind on her work.
"The next thing I'd like to see," asked Kennedy, when we rejoined her, "is that wall safe." She led the way down the hall and into an ante-room to Mansfield's part of the suite. The safe itself was a comparatively simple affair inside a closet. Indeed, I doubt whether it had been seriously designed to be burglar-proof. Rather it was merely a protection against fire.
"Have you any suspicion about when the robbery took place?" asked Kennedy, as we peered into the empty compartment. "I wish I had been called in the first thing when it was discovered. There might have been some chance to discover fingerprints. But now, I suppose, every clue of that sort has been obliterated."
"No," she replied; "I don't know whether it happened before or after Mr. Mansfield was discovered so ill by his valet."
"But at least you can give me some idea of when the jewels were placed in the safe."
"It must have been before the supper, right after our return from the theater."
"So?" considered Kennedy. "Then that would mean that they might have been taken by any one, don't you see? Why did he place them in the safe so soon, instead of wearing them the rest of the evening?"
"I hadn't thought of that way of looking at it," she admitted. "Why, when we came home from the theater I remember it had been so warm that Mr. Mansfield's collar was wilted and his dress shirt rumpled. He excused himself, and when he returned he was not wearing the diamonds. We noticed it, and Miss Hargrave expressed a wish that she might wear the big diamond at the opening night of 'The Astor Cup.' Mr. Mansfield promised that she might and nothing more was said about it."
"Did you notice anything else at the dinner—no matter how trivial?" asked Kennedy.
Helen Grey seemed to hesitate, then said, in a low voice, as though the words were wrung from her:
"Of course, the party and the supper were given ostensibly to Miss Hargrave. But—lately—I have thought he was paying quite as much attention to Mina Leitch."
It was quite in keeping with what we knew of "Diamond Jack." Perhaps it was this seeming fickleness which had saved him from many entangling alliances. Miss Grey said it in such a way that it seemed like an apology for a fault in his character which she would rather have hidden. I could not but fancy that it mitigated somewhat the wistful envy I had noticed before when she spoke of Madeline Hargrave.
While he had been questioning her Kennedy had been examining the wall safe, particularly with reference to its accessibility from the rest of the apartment. There appeared to be no reason why one could not have got at it from the hallway as well as from Mansfield's room.
The safe itself seemed to yield no clue, and Kennedy was about to turn away when he happened to glance down at the dark interior of the closet floor. He stooped down. When he rose he had something in his hand. It was just a little thin piece of something that glittered iridescently.
"A spangle from a sequin dress," he muttered to himself; then, turning to Miss Grey, "Did any one wear such a dress last night?"
Helen Grey looked positively frightened. "Miss Hargrave!" she murmured, simply. "Oh, it cannot be—there must be some mistake!"
Just then we heard voices in the hall.
"But, Murray, I don't see why I can't see him," said one.
"What good will it do, Lewis?" returned the other, which I recognized as that of Doctor Murray.
"Fleming Lewis," whispered Miss Grey, taking a step out into the hallway.
A moment later Doctor Murray and Lewis had joined us.
I could see that there was some feeling between the two men, though what it was about I could not say. As Miss Grey introduced us, I glanced hastily out of the corner of my eye at Kennedy. Involuntarily his hand which held the telltale sequin had sought his waistcoat pocket, as though to hide it. Then I saw him check the action and deliberately examine the piece of tinsel between his thumb and forefinger.
Doctor Murray saw it, too, and his eyes were riveted on it, as though instantly he saw its significance.
"What do you think—Jack as sick as a dog, and robbed, too, and yet Murray says I oughtn't to see him!" complained Lewis, for the moment oblivious to the fact that all our eyes were riveted on the spangle between Kennedy's fingers. And then, slowly it seemed to dawn on him what it was. "Madeline's!" he exclaimed, quickly. "So Mina did tear it, after all, when she stepped on the train."
Kennedy watched the faces before us keenly. No one said anything. It was evident that some such incident had happened. But had Lewis, with a quick flash of genius, sought to cover up something, protect somebody?
Miss Grey was evidently anxious to transfer the scene at least to the living-room, away from the sick-room, and Kennedy, seeing it, fell in with the idea.
"Looks to me as though this robbery was an inside affair," remarked Lewis, as we all stood for a moment in the living-room. "Do you suppose one of the servants could have been 'planted' for the purpose of pulling it off?"
The idea was plausible enough. Yet, plausible as the suggestion might seem, it took no account of the other circumstances of the case. I could not believe that the illness of Mansfield was merely an unfortunate coincidence.
Fleming Lewis's unguarded and blunt tendency to blurt out whatever seemed uppermost in his mind soon became a study to me as we talked together in the living-room. I could not quite make out whether it was studied and astute or whether it was merely the natural exuberance of youth. There was certainly some sort of enmity between him and the doctor, which the remark about the spangle seemed to fan into a flame.
Miss Grey manoeuvered tactfully, however, to prevent a scene. And, after an interchange of remarks that threw more heat than light on the matter, Kennedy and I followed Lewis out to the elevator, with a parting promise to keep in touch with Miss Grey.
"What do you think of the spangle?" I queried of Craig as Lewis bade us a hasty good-by and climbed into his car at the street- entrance. "Is it a clue or a stall?"
"That remains to be seen," he replied, noncommittally. "Just now the thing that interests me most is what I can accomplish at the laboratory in the way of finding out what is the matter with Mansfield."
While Kennedy was busy with the various solutions which he made of the contents of the ramekins that had held the mushrooms, I wandered over to the university library and waded through several volumes on fungi without learning anything of value. Finally, knowing that Kennedy would probably be busy for some time, and that all I should get for my pains by questioning him would be monosyllabic grunts until he was quite convinced that he was on the trail of something, I determined to run into the up-town office of the Star and talk over the affair as well as I could without violating what I felt had been given us in confidence.
I could not, it turned out, have done anything better, for it seemed to be the gossip of the Broadway cafes and cabarets that Mansfield had been plunging rather deeply lately and had talked many of his acquaintances into joining him in a pool, either outright or on margins. It seemed to be a safe bet that not only Lewis and Doctor Murray had joined him, but that Madeline Hargrave and Mina Leitch, who had had a successful season and some spare thousands to invest, might have gone in, too. So far the fortunes of the stock-market had not smiled on Mansfield's schemes, and, I reflected, it was not impossible that what might be merely an incident to a man like Mansfield could be very serious to the rest of them.
It was the middle of the afternoon when I returned to the laboratory with my slender budget of news. Craig was quite interested in what I had to say, even pausing for a few moments in his work to listen.
In several cages I saw that he had a number of little guinea-pigs. One of them was plainly in distress, and Kennedy had been watching him intently.
"It's strange," he remarked. "I had samples of material from six ramekins. Five of them seem to have had no effect whatever. But if the bit that I gave this fellow causes such distress, what would a larger quantity do?"
"Then one of the ramekins was poisoned?" I questioned.
"I have discovered in it, as well as in the blood smear, the tox albumin that Doctor Murray mentioned," he said, simply, pulling out his watch. "It isn't late. I think I shall have to take a trip out to Miss Hargrave's. We ought to do it in an hour and a half in a car."
Kennedy said very little as we sped out over the Long Island roads that led to the little colony of actors and actresses at Cedar Grove. He seemed rather to be enjoying the chance to get away from the city and turn over in his mind the various problems which the case presented.
As for myself, I had by this time convinced myself that, somehow, the mushrooms were involved. What Kennedy expected to find I could not guess. But from what I had read I surmised that it must be that one of the poisonous varieties had somehow got mixed with the others, one of the Amanitas, just as deadly as the venom of the rattler or the copperhead. I knew that, in some cases, Amanitas had been used to commit crimes. Was this such a case?
We had no trouble in finding the estate of Miss Hargrave, and she was at home.
Kennedy lost no time introducing himself and coming to the point of his visit. Madeline Hargrave was a slender, willowy type of girl, pronouncedly blond, striking, precisely the type I should have imagined that Mansfield would have been proud to be seen with.
"I've just heard of Mr. Mansfield's illness," she said, anxiously. "Mr. Lewis called me up and told me. I don't see why Miss Grey or Doctor Murray didn't let me know sooner."
She said it with an air of vexation, as though she felt slighted. In spite of her evident anxiety to know about the tragedy, however, I did not detect the depth of feeling that Helen Grey had shown. In fact, the thoughtfulness of Fleming Lewis almost led me to believe that it was he, rather than Mansfield, for whom she really cared.
We chatted a few minutes, as Kennedy told what little we had discovered. He said nothing about the spangle.
"By the way," remarked Craig, at length, "I would very much like to have a look at that famous mushroom-cellar of yours."
For the first time she seemed momentarily to lose her poise.
"I've always had a great interest in mushrooms," she explained, hastily. "You—you do not think it could be the mushrooms—that have caused Mr. Mansfield's illness, do you?"
Kennedy passed off the remark as best he could under the circumstances. Though she was not satisfied with his answer, she could not very well refuse his request, and a few minutes later we were down in the dark dampness of the cellar back of the house, where Kennedy set to work on a most exhaustive search.
I could see by the expression on his face, as his search progressed, that he was not finding what he had expected. Clearly, the fungi before us were the common edible mushrooms. The upper side of each, as he examined it, was white, with brownish fibrils, or scales. Underneath, some were a beautiful salmon-pink, changing gradually to almost black in the older specimens. The stem was colored like the top. But search as he might for what I knew he was after, in none did he find anything but a small or more often no swelling at the base, and no "cup," as it is called.
As he rose after his thorough search, I saw that he was completely baffled.
"I hardly thought you'd find anything," Miss Hargrave remarked, noticing the look on his face. "I've always been very careful of my mushrooms."
"You have certainly succeeded admirably," he complimented.
"I hope you will let me know how Mr. Mansfield is," she said, as we started back toward our car on the road. "I can't tell you how I feel. To think that, after a party which he gave for me, he should be taken ill, and not only that but be robbed at the same time! Really, you must let me know—or I shall have to come up to the city."
It seemed gratuitous for Kennedy to promise, for I knew that he was by no means through with her yet; but she thanked him, and we turned back toward town.
"Well," I remarked, as we reeled off the miles quickly, "I must say that that puts me all at sea again. I had convinced myself that it was a case of mushroom poisoning. What can you do now?"
"Do?" he echoed. "Why, go on. This puts us a step nearer the truth, that's all."
Far from being discouraged at what had seemed to me to be a fatal blow to the theory, he now seemed to be actually encouraged. Back in the city, he lost no time in getting to the laboratory again.
A package from the botanical department of the university was waiting there for Kennedy, but before he could open it the telephone buzzed furiously.
I could gather from Kennedy's words that it was Helen Grey.
"I shall be over immediately," he promised, as he hung up the receiver and turned to me. "Mansfield is much worse. While I get together some material I must take over there, Walter, I want you to call up Miss Hargrave and tell her to start for the city right away—meet us at Mansfield's. Then get Mina Leitch and Lewis. You'll find their numbers in the book—or else you'll have to get them from Miss Grey."
While I was delivering the messages as diplomatically as possible Kennedy had taken a vial from a medicine-chest, and then from a cabinet a machine which seemed to consist of a number of collars and belts fastened to black cylinders from which ran tubes. An upright roll of ruled paper supported by a clockwork arrangement for revolving it, and a standard bearing a recording pen, completed the outfit.
"I should much have preferred not being hurried," he confessed, as we dashed over in the car to Mansfield's again, bearing the several packages. "I wanted to have a chance to interview Mina Leitch alone. However, it has now become a matter of life or death."
Miss Grey was pale and worn as she met us in the living-room.
"He's had a sinking-spell," she said, tremulously. "Doctor Murray managed to bring him around, but he seems so much weaker after it. Another might—" She broke off, unable to finish.
A glance at Mansfield was enough to convince any one that unless something was done soon the end was not far.
"Another convulsion and sinking-spell is about all he can stand," remarked Doctor Murray.
"May I try something?" asked Kennedy, hardly waiting for the doctor to agree before he had pulled out the little vial which I had seen him place in his pocket.
Deftly Kennedy injected some of the contents into Mansfield's side, then stood anxiously watching the effect. The minutes lengthened. At least he seemed to be growing no worse.
In the next room, on a table, Kennedy was now busy setting out the scroll of ruled paper and its clockwork arrangement, and connecting the various tubes from the black cylinders in such a way that the recording pen just barely touched on the scroll.
He had come back to note the still unchanged condition of the patient when the door opened and a handsome woman in the early thirties entered, followed by Helen Grey. It was Mina Leitch.
"Oh, isn't it terrible! I can hardly believe it!" she cried, paying no attention to us as she moved over to Doctor Murray.
I recalled what Miss Grey had said about Mansfield's attentions. It was evident that, as far as Mina was concerned, her own attentions were monopolized by the polished physician. His manner in greeting her told me that Doctor Murray appreciated it. Just then Fleming Lewis bustled in.
"I thought Miss Hargrave was here," he said, abruptly, looking about. "They told me over the wire she would be."
"She should be here any moment," returned Kennedy, looking at his watch and finding that considerably over an hour had elapsed since I had telephoned.
What it was I could not say, but there was a coldness toward Lewis that amounted to more than latent hostility. He tried to appear at ease, but it was a decided effort. There was no mistaking his relief when the tension was broken by the arrival of Madeline Hargrave.
The circumstances were so strange that none of them seemed to object while Kennedy began to explain, briefly, that, as nearly as he could determine, the illness of Mansfield might be due to something eaten at the supper. As he attached the bands about the necks and waists of one after another of the guests, bringing the little black cylinders thus close to the middle of their chests, he contrived to convey the impression that he would like to determine whether any one else had been affected in a lesser degree.
I watched most intently the two women who had just come in. One would certainly not have detected from their greeting and outward manner anything more than that they were well acquainted. But they were an interesting study, two quite opposite types. Madeline, with her baby-blue eyes, was of the type that craved admiration. Mina's black eyes flashed now and then imperiously, as though she sought to compel what the other sought to win.
As for Fleming Lewis, I could not fail to notice that he was most attentive to Madeline, though he watched, furtively, but none the less keenly, every movement and word of Mina.
His preparations completed, Kennedy opened the package which had been left at the laboratory just before the hasty call from Miss Grey. As he did so he disclosed several specimens of a mushroom of pale-lemon color, with a center of deep orange, the top flecked with white bits. Underneath, the gills were white and the stem had a sort of veil about it. But what interested me most, and what I was looking for, was the remains of a sort of dirty, chocolate- colored cup at the base of the stem.
"I suppose there is scarcely any need of saying," began Kennedy, "that the food which I suspect in this case is the mushrooms. Here I have some which I have fortunately been able to obtain merely to illustrate what I am going to say. This is the deadly Amanita muscaria, the fly-agaric."
Madeline Hargrave seemed to be following him with a peculiar fascination.
"This Amanita," resumed Kennedy, "has a long history, and I may say that few species are quite so interesting. Macerated in milk, it has been employed for centuries as a fly-poison, hence its name. Its deadly properties were known to the ancients, and it is justly celebrated because of its long and distinguished list of victims. Agrippina used it to poison the Emperor Claudius. Among others, the Czar Alexis of Russia died of eating it.
"I have heard that some people find it only a narcotic, and it is said that in Siberia there are actually Amanita debauchees who go on prolonged tears by eating the thing. It may be that it does not affect some people as it does others, but in most cases that beautiful gossamer veil which you see about the stem is really a shroud.
"The worst of it is," he continued, "that this Amanita somewhat resembles the royal agaric, the Amanita caesarea. It is, as you see, strikingly beautiful, and therefore all the more dangerous."
He ceased a moment, while we looked in a sort of awe at the fatally beautiful thing.
"It is not with the fungus that I am so much interested just now, however," Kennedy began again, "but with the poison. Many years ago scientists analyzed its poisonous alkaloids and found what they called bulbosine. Later it was named muscarin, and now is sometimes known as amanitin, since it is confined to the mushrooms of the Amanita genus.
"Amanitin is a wonderful and dangerous alkaloid, which is absorbed in the intestinal canal. It is extremely violent. Three to five one-thousandths of a gram, or six one-hundredths of a grain, are very dangerous. More than that, the poisoning differs from most poisons in the long time that elapses between the taking of it and the first evidences of its effects.
"Muscarin," Kennedy concluded, "has been chemically investigated more often than any other mushroom poison and a perfect antidote has been discovered. Atropin, or belladonna, is such a drug."
For a moment I looked about at the others in the room. Had it been an accident, after all? Perhaps, if any of the others had been attacked, one might have suspected that it was. But they had not been affected at all, at least apparently. Yet there could be no doubt that it was the poisonous muscarin that had affected Mansfield.
"Did you ever see anything like that?" asked Kennedy, suddenly, holding up the gilt spangle which he had found on the closet floor near the wall safe.
Though no one said a word, it was evident that they all recognized it. Lewis was watching Madeline closely. But she betrayed nothing except mild surprise at seeing the spangle from her dress. Had it been deliberately placed there, it flashed over me, in order to compromise Madeline Hargrave and divert suspicion from some one else?
I turned to Mina. Behind the defiance of her dark eyes I felt that there was something working. Kennedy must have sensed it even before I did, for he suddenly bent down over the recording needle and the ruled paper on the table.
"This," he shot out, "is a pneumograph which shows the actual intensity of the emotions by recording their effects on the heart and lungs together. The truth can literally be tapped, even where no confession can be extracted. A moment's glance at this line, traced here by each of you, can tell the expert more than words."
"Then it was a mushroom that poisoned Jack!" interrupted Lewis, suddenly. "Some poisonous Amanita got mixed with the edible mushrooms?"
Kennedy answered, quickly, without taking his eyes off the line the needle was tracing:
"No; this was a case of the deliberate use of the active principle itself, muscarin—with the expectation that the death, if the cause was ever discovered, could easily be blamed on such a mushroom. Somehow—there were many chances—the poison was slipped into the ramekin Francois was carefully preparing for Mansfield. The method does not interest me so much as the fact—"
There was a slight noise from the other room where Mansfield lay. Instantly we were all on our feet. Before any of us could reach the door Helen Grey had slipped through it.
"Just a second," commanded Kennedy, extending the sequin toward us to emphasize what he was about to say. "The poisoning and the robbery were the work of one hand. That sequin is the key that has unlocked the secret which my pneumograph has recorded. Some one saw that robbery committed—knew nothing of the contemplated poisoning to cover it. To save the reputation of the robber—at any cost—on the spur of the moment the ruse of placing the sequin in the closet occurred."
Madeline Hargrave turned to Mina, while I recalled Lewis's remark about Mina's stepping on the train and tearing it. The defiance in her black eyes flashed from Madeline to Kennedy.
"Yes," she cried; "I did it! I—"
As quickly the defiance had faded. Mina Leitch had fainted.
"Some water—quick!" cried Kennedy.
I sprang through the door into Mansfield's room. As I passed I caught sight of Helen Grey supporting the head of Mansfield—both oblivious to actresses, diamonds, everything that had so nearly caused a tragedy.
"No," I heard Kennedy say to Lewis as I returned; "it was not Mina. The person she shielded was wildly in love with her, insanely jealous of Mansfield for even looking at her, and in debt so hopelessly in Mansfield's ventures that only the big diamond could save him—Doctor Murray himself!"
"Here's the most remarkable appeal," observed Kennedy, one morning, as he tossed over to me a letter. "What do you make of that?" It read:
MY DEAR PROFESSOR KENNEDY:
You do not know me, but I have heard a great deal about you. Please, I beg of you, do not disregard this letter. At least try to verify the appeal I am making.
I am here at the Belleclaire Sanatorium, run by Dr. Bolton Burr, in Montrose. But it is not a real sanatorium. It is really a private asylum.
Let me tell my story briefly. After my baby was born I devoted myself to it. But, in spite of everything, it died. Meanwhile my husband neglected me terribly. After the baby's death I was a nervous wreck, and I came up here to rest.
Now I find I am being held here as an insane patient. I cannot get out. I do not even know whether this letter will reach you. But the chambermaid here has told me she will post it for me.
I am ill and nervous—a wreck, but not insane, although they will tell you that the twilight-sleep treatment affected my mind. But what is happening here will eventually drive me insane if some one does not come to my rescue.
Cannot you get in to see me as a doctor or friend? I will leave all to you after that.
JANET (MRS. ROGER) CRANSTON.
"What do you make of it yourself?" I returned, handing back the letter. "Are you going to take it up?" He slowly looked over the letter again.
"Judging by the handwriting," he remarked, thoughtfully, "I should say that the writer is laboring under keen excitement—though there is no evidence of insanity on the face of it. Yes; I think I'll take up the case."
"But how are you going to get in?" I asked. "They'll never admit you willingly."
Kennedy pondered a minute. "I'll get in, all right," he said, at length; "come on—I'm going to call on Roger Cranston first."
"Roger Cranston?" I repeated, dumfounded. "Why, he'll never help you! Ten to one he's in on it."
"We'll have to take a chance," returned Kennedy, hurrying me out of the laboratory.
Roger Cranston was a well-known lawyer and man about town. We found him in his office on lower Broadway. He was young and distinguished-looking, which probably accounted for the fact that his office had become a sort of fashionable court of domestic relations.
"I'm a friend of Dr. Bolton Burr, of Montrose," introduced Kennedy. Cranston looked at him keenly, but Kennedy was a good actor. "I have been studying some of the patients at the sanatorium, and I have seen Mrs. Cranston there."
"Indeed!" responded Cranston. "I'm all broken up by it myself."
I could not resist thinking that he took it very calmly, however.
"I should like very much to make what we call a psychanalysis of Mrs. Cranston's mental condition," Kennedy explained.
"A psychanalysis?" repeated Cranston.
"Yes; you know it is a new system. In the field of abnormal psychology, the soul-analysis is of first importance. To-day, this study is of the greatest help in neurology and psychiatry. Only, I can't make it without the consent of the natural guardian of the patient. Doctor Burr tells me that you will have no objection."
Cranston thoughtfully studied the wall opposite.
"Well," he returned, slowly, "they tell me that without treatment she will soon be hopelessly insane—perhaps dangerously so. That is all I know. I am not a specialist. If Doctor Burr—" He paused.
"If you can give me just a card," urged Kennedy, "that is all Doctor Burr wishes."
Cranston wrote hastily on the back of one of his cards what Kennedy dictated.
Please allow Doctor Kennedy to make a psychanalysis of my wife's mental condition.
"You will let me know—if there is—any hope?" he asked.
"As soon as I can," replied Kennedy, "I'll let you have a copy of my report."
Cranston thanked us and bowed us to the door suavely.
"Well," I remarked, as we rode down in the elevator, "that was clever. He fell for it, too. You're an artist. Do you think he was posing?"
Kennedy shrugged his shoulders.
We lost no time in getting the first train for Montrose, before Cranston had time to reconsider and call up Doctor Burr.
The Belleclaire Sanatorium was on the outskirts of the town. It was an old stone house, rather dingy, and surrounded by a high stone wall surmounted by sharp pickets.
Dr. Bolton Burr, who was at the head of the institution, met us in the plainly furnished reception-room which also served as his office. Through a window we could see some of the patients walking or sitting about on a small stretch of scraggly grass between the house and the wall.
Doctor Burr was a tall and commanding-looking man with a Vandyke beard, and one would instinctively have picked him out anywhere as a physician.
"I believe you have a patient here—Mrs. Roger Cranston," began Kennedy, after the usual formalities. Doctor Burr eyed us askance. "I've been asked by Mr. Cranston to make an examination of his wife," pursued Craig, presenting the card which he had obtained from Roger Cranston.
"H'm!" mused Doctor Burr, looking quickly from the card to Kennedy with a searching glance.
"I wish you would tell me something of the case before I see her," went on Kennedy, with absolute assurance.
"Well," temporized Doctor Burr, twirling the card, "Mrs. Cranston came to me after the death of her child. She was in a terrible state. But we are slowly building up her shattered nerves by plain, simple living and a tonic."
"Was she committed by her husband?" queried Kennedy, unexpectedly.
Whether or not Doctor Burr felt suspicious of us I could not tell. But he seemed eager to justify himself.
"I have the papers committing her to my care," he said, rising and opening a safe in the corner.
He laid before us a document in which appeared the names of Roger Cranston and Julia Giles.
"Who is this Julia Giles?" asked Kennedy, after he had read the document.
"One of our nurses," returned the doctor. "She has had Mrs. Cranston under observation ever since she arrived."
"I should like to see both Miss Giles and Mrs. Cranston," insisted Kennedy. "It is not that Mr. Cranston is in any way dissatisfied with your treatment, but he thought that perhaps I might be of some assistance to you."
Kennedy's manner was ingratiating but firm, and he hurried on, lest it should occur to Doctor Burr to call up Cranston. The doctor, still twirling the card, finally led us through the wide central hall and up an old-fashioned winding staircase to a large room on the second floor.
He tapped at the door, which was opened, disclosing an interior tastefully furnished.
Doctor Burr introduced us to Miss Giles, conveying the impression, which Kennedy had already given, that he was a specialist, and I his assistant.
Janet Cranston was a young and also remarkably beautiful girl. One could see traces of sorrow in her face, which was exceedingly, though not unpleasingly, pale. The restless brilliancy of her eyes spoke of some physical, if not psychical, disorder. She was dressed in deep mourning, which heightened her pallor and excited a feeling of mingled respect and interest. Thick brown coils of chestnut hair were arranged in such a manner as to give an extremely youthful appearance to her delicate face. Her emotions were expressed by the constant motion of her slender fingers.
Miss Giles was a striking woman of an entirely different type. She seemed to be exuberant with health, as though nursing had taught her not merely how to take care of others, but had given her the secret of caring, first of all, for herself.
I could see, as Doctor Burr introduced us to his patient, that Mrs. Cranston instantly recognized Kennedy's interest in her case. She received us with a graceful courtesy, but she betrayed no undue interest that might excite suspicion, nor was there any hint given of the note of appeal. I wondered whether that might not be an instance of the cunning for which I had heard that the insane are noted. She showed no sign of insanity, however.
I looked about curiously to see if there were evidences of the treatment which she was receiving. On a table stood a bottle and a glass, as well as a teaspoon, and I recalled the doctor's remark about the tonic.
"You look tired, Mrs. Cranston," remarked Kennedy, thoughtfully. "Why not rest while we are here, and then I will be sure my visit has had no ill effects."
"Thank you," she murmured, and I was much impressed by the sweetness of her voice.
As he spoke, Kennedy arranged the pillows on a chaise lounge and placed her on it with her head slightly elevated. Having discussed the subject of psychanalysis with Kennedy before, I knew that this was so that nothing might distract her from the free association of ideas.
He placed himself near her head, and motioned to us to stand farther back of him, where she could not see us.
"Avoid all muscular exertion and distraction," he continued. "I want you to concentrate your attention thoroughly. Tell me anything that comes into your mind. Tell all you know of your symptoms. Concentrate, and repeat all you think of. Frankly express all the thoughts that you have, even though they may be painful and embarrassing."
He said this soothingly, and she seemed to understand that much depended upon her answers and the fact of not forcing her ideas.
"I am thinking of my husband," Mrs. Cranston began, finally, in a dreamy tone.
"What of him?" suggested Kennedy.
"Of how the baby—separated us—and—" She paused, almost in tears.
From what I knew of the method of psychanalysis, I recalled it was the gaps and hesitations which were most important in arriving at the truth regarding the cause of her trouble.
"Perhaps it was my fault; perhaps I was a better mother than wife. I thought I was doing what he would want me to do. Too late I see my mistake."
It was easy to read into her story that there had been other women in his life. It had wounded her deeply. Yet it was equally plain that she still loved him.
"Go on," urged Kennedy, gently.
"Oh yes," she resumed, dreamily; "I am thinking about once, when I left him, I wandered through the country. I remember little except that it was the country through which we had passed on an automobile trip on our honeymoon. Once I thought I saw him, and I tried to get to him. I longed for him, but each time, when I almost reached him, he would disappear. I seemed to be so deserted and alone. I tried to call him, but my tongue refused to say his name. It must have been hours that I wandered about, for I recall nothing after that until I was found, disheveled and exhausted."
She paused and closed her eyes, while I could see that Kennedy considered this gap very important.
"Don't stop," persisted Kennedy. "Once we quarreled over one of his clients who was suing for a divorce. I thought he was devoting too much time and attention to her. While there might not have been anything wrong, still I was afraid. In my anger and anxiety I accused him. He retorted by slamming the door, and I did not see him for two or three days. I realized my nervous condition, and one day a mutual friend of ours introduced me to Doctor Burr and advised me to take a rest-cure at his sanatorium. By this time Roger and I were on speaking-terms again. But the death of the baby and the quarrel left me still as nervous as before. He seemed anxious to have me do something, and so I came here."
"Do you remember anything that happened after that?" asked Craig, for the first time asking a mildly leading question.
"Yes; I recall everything that happened when I came here," she went on. "Roger came up with me to complete the necessary arrangements. We were met at the station by Doctor Burr and this woman who has since been my nurse and companion. On the way up from the station to the sanatorium Doctor Burr was very considerate of me, and I noticed that my husband seemed interested in Miss Giles and the care she was to take of me."
Kennedy flashed a glance at me from a note-book in which he was apparently busily engaged in jotting down her answers. I did not know just what interpretation to put on it, but surmised that it meant that he had struck what the new psychologists call a "complex," in the entrance of Miss Giles into the case.
Before we realized it there came a sudden outburst of feeling.
"And now—they are keeping me here by force!" she cried.
Doctor Burr looked at us significantly, as much as to say, "Just what might be expected, you see." Kennedy nodded, but made no effort to stop Mrs. Cranston.
"They have told Roger that I am insane, and I know he must believe it or he would not leave me here. But their real motive, I can guess, is mercenary. I can't complain about my treatment here—it costs enough."
By this time she was sitting bolt upright, staring straight ahead as though amazed at her own boldness in speaking so frankly before them.
"I feel all right at times—then—it is as though I had a paralysis of the body, but not of the mind—not of the mind," she repeated, tensely. There was a frightened look on her face, and her voice was now wildly appealing.
What would have followed I cannot guess, for at that instant there came a noise outside from another of the rooms as though pandemonium had broken loose. By the shouting and confusion, one might easily have wondered whether keepers and lunatics might not have exchanged places.
"It is just one of the patients who has escaped from his room," explained Doctor Burr; "nothing to be alarmed about. We'll soon have him quieted."