Part 3 out of 4
"You may laugh," cried the girl; "but I tell you that this is a serious
business. They say it only needed a second 'new milk' speech from the
Premier to have England answer most politely in words of honey, and next
instant the two countries would have been at each other's throats."
"Suppose we write to Lord Donal in St. Petersburg," suggested the
Princess, still laughing, "and ask him to come to Vienna and help us? He
understands all about diplomacy. By the way, Jennie, did Lord Donal ever
find out whom he met at the ball that night?" "No, he didn't," answered
Miss Baxter shortly.
"Don't you ever intend to let him know? Are you going to leave the
romance unfinished, like one of Henry James's novels?"
"It isn't a romance; it is simply a very distressing incident which I
have been trying to forget ever since. It is all very well for you to
laugh, but if you ever mention the subject again I'll leave you and go
to an hotel."
"Oh, no, you won't," chirruped the Princess brightly; "you daren't. You
know I hold all the trump cards; at any time I can send a letter to
Lord Donal and set the poor young man's mind at rest. So you see, Miss
Jennie, you will have to talk very sweetly and politely to me and not
make any threats, because I am like those dreadful persons in the
sensational plays who possess the guilty secrets of other people and
blackmail them. But you are a nice girl, and I won't say anything you
don't want to hear said. Now, what is it you wish to find out about this
"I want to discover why the Premier did not follow up his speech with
another. He must have known when he spoke how his words would be taken
in England; therefore it is thought that he had some plans which
unforeseen circumstances intervening have nullified. I want to know what
those unforeseen circumstances were, and what these plans were. For the
past fortnight the _Daily Bugle_ has had two men here in Vienna trying
to throw some light on the dark recesses of diplomacy. Up to date they
have failed, but at any moment they may succeed; it was because they
failed that I am sent here. Now, have you anything to suggest, Madame la
"I suggest, Jennie, that we put our heads together and learn all that
those diplomatists wish to hide. Have you no plans yourself?"
"I have no very definite plan, but I have a general scheme. These men
I spoke of are trying to discover what other men are endeavouring to
conceal. All the officials are on their guard; they are highly placed,
and are not likely to be got at by bribery. They are clever, alert men
of the world, so hoodwinking them is out of the question; therefore I
think my two fellow journalists have a difficult task before them."
"But it is the same task that you have before you; why is it not as
difficult for you, Jennie, as for them?"
"Because I propose to work with people who are not on their guard, and
there is where you can help me, if you are not shocked at my proposal.
Each official has a wife, or at least most of them have. Some of these
wives, in all probability, possess the information that we would like to
get. Women will talk more freely with women than men will with men. Now,
I propose to leave the officials severely one and to interview their
The Princess clapped her hands.
"Excellent!" she cried. "The women of Vienna are the greatest gossips
you ever heard chattering together. I have never taken any interest in
politics, otherwise I suppose I might have become possessed of some
important Government secrets. Now, Jennie, I'll tell you what I propose
doing. I shall give a formal tea next Thursday afternoon. I shall invite
to that tea a dozen, or two dozen, or three dozen wives of influential
officials about the Court. My husband will like that, because he is
always complaining that I do not pay enough attention to the ladies of
the political circle of Vienna. He takes a great interest in politics,
you know. If we discover nothing at the first tea-meeting, we will have
another, and another, and another, until we do. We are sure to invite
the right woman on one of those occasions, and when we find her I'll
warrant the secret will soon belong to us. Ah, here we are at home, and
we will postpone the discussion of our delightful conspiracy until you
have had something to eat and are rested a bit."
The carriage drew up at the magnificent palace, well known in Vienna,
which belongs to the Prince von Steinheimer; and shortly afterwards
Jennie Baxter found herself in possession of the finest suite of rooms
she had ever beheld in her life. Jennie laughed as she looked round her
apartment and noted its luxuriant appointments.
"These are not exactly what we should call 'diggings' in London, are
they?" she said to the Princess, who stood by her side, delighted at the
pleasure of her friend. "We often read of poor penny-a-liners in their
garrets; but I don't think any penny-a-liner ever had such a garret as
this placed at his disposal."
"I knew you would like the rooms," cried the Princess gaily. "I like
them myself, and I hope they will help to induce you to stay in Vienna
as long as you can. I have given you my own maid Gretlich, and I assure
you it isn't every friend I would lend her to; she is a model servant."
"Oh, but you mustn't do that," said Jennie. "I cannot rob you of your
maid and also be selfish enough to monopolize these rooms."
"You are not robbing me; in fact, I am, perhaps, a little artful in
giving you Gretlich, for she is down in the dumps this last week or two,
and I don't know what in the world is the matter with her. I suspect it
is some love affair; but she will say nothing, although I have asked
her time and again what is the trouble. Now, you are such a cheery,
consoling young woman that I thought if Gretlich were in your service
for a time she might brighten up and be her own self again. So you
see, instead of robbing me, I am really taking advantage of your good
"I am afraid you are just saying that to make it easier for me to be
selfish; still, you are so generous, Princess, that I am not going to
object to anything you do, but just give myself up to luxury while I
stay in Vienna."
"That is right. Ah, here is Gretlich. Now, Gretlich, I want you to help
make Miss Baxter's stay here so pleasant that she will never want to
"I shall do my best, your Highness," said the girl, with quiet
The Princess left the two alone together, and Jennie saw that Gretlich
was not the least ornamental appendage to the handsome suite of rooms.
Gretlich was an excellent example of that type of fair women for which
Vienna is noted; but she was, as the Princess had said, extremely
downcast, and Jennie, who had a deep sympathy for all who worked, spoke
kindly to the girl and endeavoured to cheer her. There was something of
unaccustomed tenderness in the compassionate tones of Jennie's voice
that touched the girl, for, after a brief and ineffectual effort at
self-control, she broke down and wept. To her pitying listener she
told her story. She had been betrothed to a soldier whose regiment was
stationed in the Burg. When last the girl saw her lover he was to be
that night on guard in the Treasury. Before morning a catastrophe of
some kind occurred. The girl did not know quite what had happened. Some
said there had been a dreadful explosion and her lover had lost his
life. Neither the soldier's relatives nor his betrothed were allowed to
see him after the disaster. He had been buried secretly, and it appeared
to be the intention of the authorities to avoid all publicity. The
relatives and the betrothed of the dead soldier had been warned to keep
silence and seek no further information. It was not till several days
after her lover's death that Gretlich, anxious because he did not keep
his appointment with her, and not hearing from him, fearing that he was
ill, began to make inquiries; then she received together the information
and the caution.
In the presence of death all consolers are futile, and Jennie realized
this as she endeavoured as well as she could to comfort the girl. Her
heart was so much enlisted in this that perhaps her intellect was the
less active; but here she stood on the very threshold of the secret she
had come to Vienna to discover, and yet had not the slightest suspicion
that the girl's tragedy and her own mission were interwoven. Jennie had
wondered at the stupidity of Cadbury Taylor, who failed to see what
seemed so plainly before him, yet here was Jennie herself come a
thousand miles, more or less, to obtain certain information, and here a
sobbing girl was narrating the very item of news that she had come so
far to learn--all of which would seem to show that none of us are so
bright and clever as we imagine ourselves to be.
In the afternoon the Princess entered Jennie's sitting-room carrying in
her hand a bunch of letters.
"There!" she cried, "while you have been resting I have been working,
and we are not going to allow any time to be lost. I have written
with my own hand invitations to about two dozen people to our tea on
Thursday; among others, the wife of the Premier, Countess Stron. I
expect you to devote yourself to that lady and tell me the result of
the conversation after it is over. Have you been talking consolation to
Gretlich? I came up here half an hour ago, and it seemed to me I heard
the sound of crying in this room."
"Oh, yes," said Jennie, "she has been telling me all her trouble. It
seems she had a lover in the army, and he has been killed in some
accident in the Treasury."
"What kind of an accident?"
"Gretlich said there had been an explosion there."
"Dear me! I never heard of it. It is a curious thing that one must come
from London to tell us our own news. An explosion in the Treasury! and
so serious that a soldier was killed! That arouses my curiosity, so I
shall just sit down and write another invitation to the wife of the
Master of the Treasury."
"I wish you would, because I should like to know something further about
this myself. Gretlich seems to have had but scant information regarding
the occurrence, and I should like to know more about it so that I might
"We shall learn all about it from madame, and I must write that note at
once for fear I forget it."
JENNIE INDULGES IN TEA AND GOSSIP.
On Thursday afternoon there was a brilliant assemblage in the spacious
salon of the Princess von Steinheimer. The rich attire of the ladies
formed a series of kinetographic pictures that were dazzling, for
Viennese women are adepts in the art of dress, as are their Parisian
sisters. Tea was served, not in cups and saucers, as Jennie had been
accustomed to seeing it handed round, but in goblets of clear, thin
Venetian glass, each set in a holder of encrusted filigree gold. There
were all manner of delicious cakes, for which the city is celebrated.
The tea itself had come overland through Russia from China and had not
suffered the deterioration which an ocean voyage produces. The decoction
was served clear, with sugar if desired, and a slice of lemon, and
Jennie thought it the most delicious brew she had ever tasted.
"I am so sorry," whispered the Princess to Jennie when an opportunity
occurred, "but the Countess Stron has sent a messenger to say that she
cannot be present this afternoon. It seems her husband, the Premier,
is ill, and she, like a good-wife, remains at home to nurse him. This
rather upsets our plans, doesn't it?"
"Oh, I don't know," replied Jennie. "It is more than likely that the
wife of the Premier would be exceedingly careful not to discuss any
political question in this company. I have counted more upon the wife of
a lesser official than upon the Countess Stron."
"You are right," said the Princess. "and now come with me. I want to
introduce you to the wife of the Master of the Treasury, and from her,
perhaps, you can learn something of the accident that befell the lover
of poor Gretlich."
The wife of the Master of the Treasury proved to be a garrulous old lady
who evidently prided herself on knowing everything that was taking place
about her. Jennie and she became quite confidential over their goblets
of tea, a beverage of which the old lady seemed inordinately fond. As
the conversation between them drifted on, Jennie saw that here was a
person who would take a delight in telling everything she knew, and
the only question which now arose was whether she knew anything Jennie
wished to learn. But before she tried her on high politics the girl
determined to find out more about the disaster that had made such an
abrupt ending to Gretlich's young dream.
"I have been very much interested," she said, "in one of the maids here
who lost her lover some weeks ago in an accident that occurred in the
Treasury. The maid doesn't seem to know very much about what happened,
and was merely told that her lover, a soldier who had been on guard
there that night, was dead."
"Oh, dear, yes!" whispered the old lady, lowering her voice, "what a
dreadful thing that was, four men killed and eight or nine now in the
hospital. My poor husband has had hardly a wink of sleep since the
event, and the Premier is ill in bed through the worry." "Because of the
loss of life?" asked Jennie innocently.
"Oh, no, no! the loss of life wouldn't matter; it is the loss of the
money that is the serious thing, and how they are going to replace it or
account for its disappearance I am sure I don't know. The deficiency is
something over two hundred million florins. Was it not awful?"
"Was the building shattered to such an extent?" inquired Jennie, who did
not stop to think that such a sum would replace any edifice in Vienna,
even if it had been wiped off the face of the earth.
"The Treasury was damaged, of course, but the cost of repairs will not
be great. No, my child, it is a much more disturbing affair than the
destruction of any state house in the Empire. What has made the Premier
ill, and what is worrying my poor husband into an untimely grave, is
nothing less than the loss of the war chest."
"The war chest!" echoed Jennie, "what is that?"
"My dear, every great nation has a war chest. England has one, so has
France, Germany, Russia--no matter how poor a nation may be, or how
difficult it is to collect the taxes, that nation must have a war
chest. If war were to break out suddenly, even with the most prosperous
country, there would be instant financial panic; ready money would be
difficult to obtain; a loan would be practically impossible; and what
war calls for the very instant it is declared is money--not promises
of money, not paper money, not silver money even, but gold; therefore,
every nation which is in danger of war has a store of gold coin. This
store is not composed mainly, or even largely, of the coins of the
nation which owns the store; it consists of the sovereigns of England,
the louis of France, the Willems d'or of Holland, the eight-florin
pieces of Austria, the double-crown of Germany, the half-imperials of
Russia, the double-Frederics of Denmark, and so on. All gold, gold,
gold! I believe that in the war chest of Austria there were deposited
coins of different nations to the value of something like two hundred
million florins. My husband never told me exactly how much was there,
but sometimes when things looked peaceable there was less money in the
war chest than when there was imminent danger of the European outbreak
which we all fear. The war chest of Austria was in a stone-vaulted room,
one of the strongest dungeons in the Treasury. The public are admitted
into several rooms of the Treasury, but no stranger is ever allowed into
that portion of the building which houses the war chest. This room is
kept under guard night and day. For what happened, my husband feels that
he is in no way to blame, and I don't think his superiors are inclined
to charge him with neglect of duty. It is a singular thing that the day
before the disaster took place he of his own accord doubled the guard
that watched over the room and also the approaches to it. The war chest
was at its fullest. Never, so he tells me, was there so much money in
the war chest as at that particular time. Something had occurred that in
his opinion called for extra watchfulness, and so he doubled the guard.
But about midnight there was a tremendous explosion. The strong door
communicating with the passage was wrenched from its hinges and flung
outwards into the hallway. It is said that dynamite must have been used,
and that in a very large quantity. Not a vestige of the chest remained
but a few splintered pieces of iron. The four soldiers in the room were
blown literally to pieces, and those in the passage-way were stunned by
the shock. The fact that they were unconscious for some minutes seems
to have given the criminal, whoever he was, his chance of escape. For,
although an instant alarm was sent out, and none but those who had a
right to be on the premises were allowed out of or in the Treasury, yet
no one was caught, nor has anyone been caught up to this day."
"But the gold, the gold?" cried Jennie eagerly.
"There was not a florin of it left. Every piece has disappeared. It is
at once the most clever and the most gigantic robbery of money that has
taken place within our knowledge."
"But such a quantity of gold," said Jennie, "must have been of enormous
weight. Two hundred million florins! Why, that is twenty million pounds,
isn't it? It would take a regiment of thieves to carry so much away. How
has that been done? And where is the gold concealed?"
"Ah, my child, if you can answer your own questions the Austrian
Government will pay you almost any sum you like to name. The police are
completely baffled. Of course, nothing has been said of this gigantic
robbery; but every exit from Vienna is watched, and not only that, but
each frontier is guarded. What the Government wants, of course, is to
get back its gold, the result of years of taxation, which cannot very
easily be re-levied."
"And when did this robbery take place?" asked Jennie.
"On the night of the 17th."
"On the night of the 17th," repeated the girl, more to herself than to
the voluble old woman; "and it was on the 16th that the Premier made his
"Exactly," said the old lady, who overheard the remark not intended
for her ears; "and don't you think there was something striking in the
"I don't quite understand. What coincidence?"
"Well, you know the speech of the Premier was against England. It was
not a speech made on the spur of the moment, but was doubtless the
result of many consultations, perhaps with Russia, perhaps with Germany,
or with France--who knows? We have been growing very friendly with
Russia of late; and as England has spies all over the world, doubtless
her Government knew before the speech was made that it was coming; so
the police appear to think that the whole resources of the British
Government were set at the task of crippling Austria at a critical
"Surely you don't mean, madame, that the Government of England would
descend to burglary, robbery--yes, and murder, even, for the poor
soldiers who guarded the treasure were as effectually murdered as if
they had been assassinated in the street? You don't imagine that the
British Government would stoop to such deeds as these?"
The old lady shook her head wisely.
"By the time you are my age, my dear, and have seen as much of politics
as I have, you will know that Governments stop at nothing to accomplish
their ends. No private association of thieves could have laid such plans
as would have done away with two hundred millions of florins in gold,
unless they had not only ample resources, but also a master brain to
direct them. Nations hesitate at nothing where their interests are
concerned. It was to the interest of no other Empire but England to
deplete Austria at this moment, and see how complete her machinations
are. No nation trusts another, and if Austria had proof that England is
at the bottom of this robbery, she dare not say anything, because her
war chest is empty. Then, again, she cannot allow either Germany or
Russia to know how effectually she has been robbed, for no one could
tell what either of these nations might do under the circumstances. The
Government fears to let even its own people know what has happened. It
is a stroke of vengeance marvellous in its finality. Austria is
crippled for years to come, unless she finds the stolen gold on her own
The old lady had worked herself up into such a state of excitement
during her recital that she did not notice that most of her companion
visitors had taken their leave, and when the Princess approached the
two, she arose with some trepidation.
"My dear Princess," she said, "your tea has been so good, and the
company of your young compatriot has been so charming, that I have done
nothing but chatter, chatter, chatter away about things which should
only be spoken of under one's breath, and now I must hurry away. May I
venture to hope that you will honour me with your presence at one of my
receptions if I send you a card?"
"I shall be delighted to do so," replied the Princess, with that
gracious condescension which became her so well.
The garrulous old lady was the last to take her leave, and when the
Princess was left alone with her guest, she cried,--
"Jennie, I have found out absolutely nothing, what have you discovered?"
"Everything!" replied the girl, walking up and down the floor in
excitement over the unearthing of such a bonanza of news.
"You don't tell me so! Now do sit down and let me know the full
particulars at once."
When Jennie's exciting story was finished she said,--
"You see, this robbery explains why the Premier did not follow up his
warlike speech. The police seem to think that England has had a hand in
this robbery, but of course that is absurd."
"I am not so sure of that," replied the Princess, taking as she spoke,
the Chicago point of view, and forgetting for the moment her position
among the aristocracy of Europe. "England takes most things it can get
its hands on, and she is not too slow to pick up a gold mine here and
there, so why should she hesitate when the gold is already minted for
"It is too absurd for argument," continued Jennie calmly, "so we won't
talk of that phase of the subject. I must get away to England instantly.
Let us find out when the first train leaves."
"Nonsense!" protested the Princess; "what do you need to go to England
for? You have seen nothing of Vienna."
"Oh, I can see Vienna another time; I must get to England with this
account of the robbery."
"Won't your paper pay for telegraphing such an important piece of news?
"Oh, yes; there would be no difficulty about that, but I dare not trust
either the post or the telegraph in a case like this. The police are on
"But couldn't you send it through by a code? My father always used to do
his cabling by code; it saved a lot of money and also kept other people
from knowing what his business was."
"I have a code, but I hesitate about trusting even to that."
"I'll tell you what we'll do," said the Princess. "I want you to stay in
"Oh, I shall return," said Jennie. "I've only just had a taste of this
delightful city. I'll come right back."
"I can't trust you to do anything of the kind. When you get to London
you will stay there. Now here is what I propose, and it will have the
additional advantage of saving your paper a day. We will run down
together into Italy--to Venice; then you can take along your code and
telegraph from there in perfect safety. When that is done you will
return here to Vienna with me. And another thing, you may be sure your
editor will want you to stay right here on the spot to let him know of
any outcome of this sensational _denouement_."
"That isn't a bad idea," murmured Jennie. "How long will it take us to
get to Venice?"
"I don't know, but I am sure it will save you hours compared with going
to London. I shall get the exact time for you in a moment."
Jennie followed the suggestion of the Princess, and together the two
went to the ever-entrancing city of Venice. By the time they reached
there, Jennie had her account written and coded. The long message was
handed in at the telegraph office as soon as the two arrived in Venice.
Jennie also sent the editor a private despatch giving her address in
Venice, and also telling him the reason for sending the telegram from
Italy rather than from Austria or Germany. In the evening she received
a reply from Mr. Hardwick. "This is magnificent," the telegram said. "I
doubt if anything like it has ever been done before. We will startle
the world to-morrow morning. Please return to Vienna, for, as you have
discovered this much, I am perfectly certain that you will be able to
capture the robbers. Of course all the police and all the papers of
Europe will be on the same scent, but I am sure that you will prove a
match for the whole combination."
"Oh, dear!" cried Jennie, as she handed the message to her friend. "What
a bothersome world this is; there is no finality about anything. One
piece of work simply leads to another. Here I thought I had earned at
least a good month's rest, but, instead of that, a further demand is
made upon me. I am like the genii in fairy tales: no sooner is one
apparently impossible task accomplished than another is set."
"But what a magnificent thing it would be if you could discover the
robber or robbers."
"Magnificent enough, yes; but that isn't to be done by inviting a lot of
old women to tea, is it?"
"True, so we shall have to set our wits together in another direction.
I tell you, Jennie, I know I have influence enough to have you made a
member of the special police. Shall I introduce you as from America, and
say that you have made a speciality of solving mysteries? An appointment
to the special police would allow you to have unrestricted entrance to
the secret portion of the Treasury building. You would see the rooms
damaged by the explosion, and you would learn what the police have
discovered. With that knowledge to begin with, we might then do
something towards solving the problem."
"Madame la Princesse," cried Jennie enthusiastically, "you are inspired!
The very thing. Let us get back to Vienna." And accordingly the two
conspirators left Italy by the night train for Austria.
JENNIE BECOMES A SPECIAL POLICE OFFICES.
When Jennie returned to Vienna, and was once more installed in her
luxurious rooms at the Palace Steinheimer, she received in due time
a copy of the _Daily Bugle_, sent to her under cover as a registered
letter. The girl could not complain that the editor had failed to make
the most of the news she had sent him. As she opened out the paper she
saw the great black headlines that extended across two columns, and the
news itself dated not from Venice, but from Vienna, was in type much
larger than that ordinarily used in the paper, and was double-leaded.
The headings were startling enough:--
THE MOST GIGANTIC ROBBERY OF MODERN TIMES.
THE AUSTRIAN WAR CHEST DYNAMITED.
TWENTY MILLION POUNDS IN COIN LOOTED.
APPALLING DISASTER AT THE TREASURY IN VIENNA.
FOUR MEN KILLED, AND SIXTEEN OTHERS MORE OR LESS SERIOUSLY
"Dear me!" the Princess cried, peering over Jennie's shoulder at these
amazing headings, "how like home that looks. The _Bugle_ doesn't at all
resemble a London journal; it reminds me of a Chicago paper's account of
a baseball match; a baseball match when Chicago was winning, of course,
and when Anson had lined out the ball from the plate to the lake front,
and brought three men in on a home run at a critical point in the game."
"Good gracious!" cried Jennie, "what language are you speaking? Is it
slang, or some foreign tongue?"
"It is pure Chicagoese, Jennie, into which I occasionally lapse even
here in prim Vienna. I would like to see a good baseball match, with the
Chicago nine going strong. Let us abandon this effete monarchy, Jennie,
and pay a visit to America."
"I'll go with pleasure if you will tell me first who robbed the war
chest. If you can place your dainty forefinger on the spot that conceals
two hundred million florins in gold, I'll go anywhere with you."
"Oh, yes, that reminds me. I spoke to my husband this morning, and asked
him if he could get you enrolled as a special detective, and he said
there would be some difficulty in obtaining such an appointment for a
woman. Would you have any objection to dressing up as a nice young man,
"I would very much rather not; I hope you didn't suggest that to the
The Princess laughed merrily and shook her head.
"No, I told him that I believed that you would solve the mystery if
anyone could, and, remembering what you had done in that affair of
my diamonds, my husband has the greatest faith in your powers as an
investigator; but he fears the authorities here will be reluctant
to allow a woman to have any part in the search. They have very
old-fashioned ideas about women in Austria, and think her proper place
is presiding over a tea-table."
"Well, if they only knew it," said Jennie archly, "some things have been
discovered over a teacup within our own memories."
"That is quite true," replied the Princess, "but we can hardly give the
incident as a recommendation to the Austrian authorities. By the way,
have you noticed that no paper in Vienna has said a single word about
the robbery of the war chest?"
"It must have been telegraphed here very promptly from London, and yet
they do not even deny it, which is the usual way of meeting the truth."
While they were talking, a message came from his Highness, asking if
he might take the liberty of breaking in upon their conference. A few
moments after, the Prince himself entered the apartment and bowed with
courtly deference to the two ladies.
"I have succeeded," he said, "beyond my expectations. It seems that a
newspaper in London has published an account of the whole affair, and
the police, who were at their wits end before, are even more flustered
now that the account of the robbery has been made public. By the way,
how did you learn anything about this robbery? It did not strike me at
the time you spoke about Miss Baxter's commission this morning, but I
have been wondering ever since."
"Jennie received a paper from London," said the Princess hurriedly,
"which said the war chest of Austria had been robbed of two hundred
million florins, but there is nothing about it in the Vienna Press."
"No," replied the Prince; "nor is there likely to be. The robbery is now
known to all the world except Austria, and I imagine nothing will be
said about it here."
"Is there, then, any truth in the report?" asked the Princess
"Truth! It's all truth; that is just where the trouble is. There is
little use of our denying it, because this London paper is evidently
well informed, and to deny it we should have to publish something about
the robbery itself, which we are not inclined to do. It is known,
however, who the two correspondents of this London paper are, and I
believe the police are going to make it so interesting for those two
gentlemen that they will be glad to leave Vienna, for a time at least.
Of course, nothing can be done openly, because Englishmen make such a
fuss when their liberties are encroached upon. One of the young men has
been lured across the frontier by a bogus telegram, and I think the
authorities will see that he does not get back in a hurry; the other we
expect to be rid of before long. Of course, we could expel him, but if
we did, it would be thought that we had done so because he had found out
the truth about the explosion."
"How did you learn of the explosion?" asked the Princess.
"Oh, I have known all about the affair ever since it happened."
The Princess gave Jennie a quick look, which said as plainly as words,
"Here was the news that we wanted in our household, and we never
suspected it." "Why didn't you tell me?" cried the Princess indignantly.
"Well, you see, my dear, you never took much interest in politics, and I
did not think the news would have any attraction for you; besides," he
added, with a smile, "we were all cautioned to keep the matter as secret
"And wonderfully well you have managed it!" exclaimed the Princess.
"That shows what comes of trusting a secret to a lot of men; here it is,
published to all the world."
"Not quite all the world my dear. As I have said, Austria will know
nothing regarding it."
"The Princess tells me," said Jennie, "that you were kind enough to
endeavour to get me permission to make some investigation into this
mystery. Have you succeeded?"
"Yes, Miss Baxter, as I said, I have succeeded quite beyond my
expectations, for the lady detective is comparatively an innovation in
Vienna. However, the truth is, the police are completely in a fog, and
they are ready to welcome help from whatever quarter it comes. Here is a
written permit from the very highest authority, which you do not need to
use except in a case of emergency. Here is also an order from the Chief
of Police, which will open for you every door in Vienna; and finally,
here is a badge which you can pin on some not too conspicuous portion
of your clothing. This badge, I understand, is rarely given out. It is
partly civil and partly military. You can show it to any guard, who
will, on seeing it, give you the right-of-way. In case he does not,
appeal to his superior officer, and allow him to read your police
permit. Should that fail, then play your trump card, which is this
highly important document. The Director of the Police, who is a very
shrewd man, seemed anxious to make your acquaintance before you began
your investigation. He asked me if you would call upon him, but seemed
taken aback when I told him you were my wife's friend and a guest at our
house, so he suggested that you would in all probability wish first to
see the scene of the explosion, and proposed that he should call here
with his carriage and accompany you to the Treasury. He wished to know
if four o'clock in the afternoon would suit your convenience!"
"Oh, yes!" replied Jennie. "I am eager to begin at once, and, of course,
I shall be much obliged to him if he will act as my guide in the vaults
of the Treasury, and tell me how much they have already discovered."
"You must not expect much information from the police--in fact, I doubt
if they have discovered anything. Still, if they have, they are more
than likely to keep it to themselves; and I imagine they will hold
a pretty close watch on you, being more anxious to learn what you
discover, and thus take the credit if they can, than to furnish you with
any knowledge of the affair they may happen to possess."
"That is quite natural, and only what one has a right to expect. I don't
wish to rob the police of whatever repute there is to be gained from
this investigation, and I am quite willing to turn over to them any
clues I may happen to chance upon."
"Well, if you can convince the Director of that, you will have all the
assistance he can give you. It wouldn't be bad tactics to let him know
that you are acting merely in an amateur way, and that you have no
desire to rob the police of their glory when it comes to the solving of
the problem." Promptly at four o'clock the Director of the Police put
in an appearance at the Palace Steinheimer. He appeared to be a most
obsequious, highly decorated old gentleman, in a very resplendent,
uniform, and he could hardly conceal his surprise at learning that the
lady detective was a woman so young and so pretty. Charmed as he was
to find himself in the company of one so engaging, it was nevertheless
evident to Jennie that he placed no very high estimate on the assistance
she might be able to give in solving the mystery of the Treasury. This
trend of mind, she thought, had its advantages, for the Director would
be less loth to give her full particulars of what had already been
accomplished by the police.
Jennie accompanied the Director to that extensive mass of buildings of
which the Treasury forms a part. The carriage drew up at a doorway, and
here the Director and his companion got out. He led the way into the
edifice, then, descending a stair, entered an arched corridor, at the
door of which two soldiers stood on guard, who saluted as the Chief
"Does this lead to the room where the explosion took place?" asked
Jennie. "Yes." "And is this the only entrance?" "The only entrance,
madame." "Were the men on guard in this doorway injured by the
explosion?" "Yes. They were not seriously injured, but were rendered
incapable for a time of attending to their duties." "Then a person could
have escaped without their seeing him?" "A whole regiment of persons
might have escaped. You will understand the situation exactly if I
compare this corridor to a long cannon, the room at the end being the
breech-loading chamber. Two guards were inside the room, and two others
stood outside the door that communicated with this corridor. These four
men were killed instantly. Of the guards inside the room not a vestige
has been found. The door, one of the strongest that can be made,
somewhat similar to the door of a safe, was flung outward and crushed to
the floor the two guards who stood outside it in the corridor. Between
the chamber in which the chest lay and the outside entrance were sixteen
men on guard. Every one of these was flung down, for the blast, if I may
call it so, travelled through this straight corridor like the charge
along the inside of the muzzle of a gun. The guards nearest the treasure
chamber were, of course, the more seriously injured, but those further
out did not escape the shock, and the door by which we entered this
corridor, while not blown from its hinges, was nevertheless forced
open, its strong bolts snapping like matches. So when you see the great
distance that intervened between the chamber and that door, you will
have some idea of the force of the explosion."
"There is no exit, then, from the treasure chamber except along this
"No, madame. The walls at the outside of the chamber are of enormous
strength, because, of course, it was expected that if an attempt at
robbery were ever made, it would be made from the outside, and it is
scarcely possible that even the most expert of thieves could succeed in
passing two guards at the door, sixteen officers and soldiers along the
corridor, two outside the Treasury door, and two in the chamber itself.
Such a large number of soldiers were kept here so that any attempt at
bribery would be impossible. Among such a number one or two were sure
to be incorruptible, and the guards were constantly changed. Seldom was
either officer or man twice on duty here during the month. With such a
large amount at stake every precaution was taken."
"Are there any rooms at the right or left of this corridor in which the
thieves could have concealed themselves while they fired the mine?"
"No, the corridor leads to the treasure chamber alone."
"Then," said Jennie, "I can't see how it was possible for a number of
men to have made away with the treasure in such circumstances as exist
"Nevertheless, my dear young lady, the treasure is gone. We think that
the mine was laid with the connivance of one or more officers on duty
here. You see the amount at stake was so large that a share of it would
tempt any nine human beings out of any ten. Our theory is that the train
was laid, possibly electric wires being used, which would be unnoticed
along the edge of the corridor, and that the bribed officer exploded the
dynamite by bringing the ends of the wires into contact. We think the
explosion was a great deal more severe than was anticipated. Probably,
it was expected that the shock would break a hole from the treasure
chamber to the street, but so strong were the walls that no impression
was made upon them, and a cabman who was driving past at the time heard
nothing of the sound of the explosion, though he felt a trembling of the
ground, and thought for a moment there had been a shock of earthquake."
"You think, then, that the thieves were outside?"
"That seems the only possible opinion to hold."
"The outside doors were locked and bolted, of course?"
"Oh, certainly; but if they had a confederate or two in the large
hallway upstairs, these traitors would see to it that there was no
trouble about getting in. Once inside the large hallway, with guards
stunned by the shock, the way to the treasure chamber was absolutely
"There were sentries outside the building, I suppose?"
"Did they see any vehicle driving near the Treasury?"
"No, except the cab I spoke of, and the driver has accounted
satisfactorily for his time that night. The absence of any conveyance
is the strange part of it; and, moreover, the sentries, although pacing
outside the walls of this building, heard nothing of the concussion
beyond a low rumble, and those who thought of the matter at all imagined
an explosion had occurred in some distant part of the city."
"Then the outside doors in the large hall above were not blown open?"
"No; the officer reports that they were locked and bolted when he
examined them, which was some minutes, of course, after the disaster had
taken place; for he, the officer in charge, had been thrown down and
stunned, seemingly by the concussion of air which took place."
As Jennie walked down the corridor, she saw more and more of the
evidences of the convulsion. The thick iron-bound door lay where it had
fallen, and it had not been moved since it was lifted to get the two men
from under it. Its ponderous hinges were twisted as if they had been
made of glue, and its massive bolts were snapped across like bits of
glass. All along the corridor on the floor was a thick coating of dust
and _debris_, finely powdered, growing deeper and deeper until they came
to the entrance of the room. There was no window either in corridor or
chamber, and the way was lit by candles held by soldiers who accompanied
them. The scoria crunched under foot as they walked, and in the chamber
itself great heaps of dust, sand and plaster, all pulverized into minute
particles, lay in the corners of the room, piled up on one side higher
than a man's head. There seemed to be tons of this _debris_, and, as
Jennie looked up at the arched ceiling, resembling the roof of a vaulted
dungeon, she saw that the stone itself had been ground to fine dust with
the tremendous force of the blast.
"Where are the remnants of the treasure chest?" she asked.
The Director shook his head. "There are no remnants; not a vestige of it
is to be found."
"Of what was it made?"
"We used to have an old treasure chest here made of oak, bound with
iron; but some years ago, a new receptacle being needed, one was
especially built of hardened steel, constructed on the modern principles
of those burglar-proof and fire-proof safes."
"And do you mean to say that there is nothing left of this?"
"Nothing that we have been able to discover."
"Well, I have seen places where dynamite explosions have occurred, but
I know of nothing to compare with this. I am sure that if dynamite has
been used, or any explosive now generally obtainable, there would have
been left, at least, some remnant of the safe. Hasn't this pile of
rubbish been disturbed since the explosion?"
"Yes, it has been turned over; we made a search for the two men, but we
found no trace of them."
"And you found no particles of iron or steel?"
"The heap throughout is just as you see it on the surface--a fine,
almost impalpable dust. We had to exercise the greatest care in
searching through it, for the moment it was disturbed with a shovel
it filled the air with suffocating clouds. Of course we shall have it
removed by-and-by, and carted away, but I considered it better to allow
it to remain here until we had penetrated somewhat further into the
mystery than we have already done."
Jennie stooped and picked up a handful from the heap, her action caused
a mist to rise in the air that made them both choke and cough, and
yet she was instantly struck by the fact that her handful seemed
inordinately heavy for its bulk.
"May I take some of this with me?" she asked.
"Of course," replied the Director. "I will have a packet of it put up
"I would like to take it with me now," said Jennie. "I have curiosity to
know exactly of what it is composed. Who is the Government analyst? or
have you such an official?"
"Herr Feltz, in the Graubenstrasse, is a famous analytical chemist; you
cannot do better than go to him."
"Do you think he knows anything about explosives?"
"I should suppose so, but if not, he will certainly be able to tell you
who the best man is in that line."
The Director ordered one of the soldiers who accompanied him to find a
small paper bag, and fill it with some dust from the treasure chamber.
When this was done, he handed the package to Jennie, who said, "I
shall go at once and see Herr Feltz."
"My carriage is at your disposal, madame."
"Oh, no, thank you, I do not wish to trouble you further. I am very much
obliged to you for devoting so much time to me already. I shall take a
"My carriage is at the door," persisted the Director, "and I will
instruct the driver to take you directly to the shop of Herr Feltz; then
no time will be lost, and I think if I am with you, you will be more
sure of attention from the chemist, who is a very busy man."
Jennie saw the Director did not wish to let her out of his sight, and
although she smiled at his suspicion, she answered politely,--
"It is very kind of you to take so much trouble and devote so much
of your time to me. I shall be glad of your company if you are quite
certain I am not keeping you from something more important."
"There is nothing more important than the investigation we have on
hand," replied the Chief grimly.
JENNIE BESTOWS INFORMATION UPON THE CHIEF OF POLICE.
A few minutes after leaving the Treasury building the carriage of
the Chief stopped in front of the shop of Herr Feltz in the wide
Graubenstrasse. The great chemist himself waited upon them and conducted
them to an inner and private room.
"I should be obliged to you if you would tell me the component parts
of the mixture in this package," said Jennie, as she handed the filled
paper bag to the chemist.
"How soon do you wish to know the result?" asked the man of chemicals.
"As soon as possible," replied Jennie.
"Could you give me until this hour to-morrow?"
"That will do very nicely," replied Jennie, looking up at the Director
of Police, who nodded his head.
With that the two took their leave, and once more the Director of Police
politely handed the girl into his carriage, and they drove to the Palace
Steinheimer. Here she again thanked him cordially for his attentions
during the day. The Director answered, with equal suavity, that his duty
had on this occasion been a pleasure, and asked her permission to call
at the same hour the next afternoon and take her to the chemist. To this
Jennie assented, and cheerily bade him good-evening. The Princess was
waiting for her, wild with curiosity to know what had happened.
"Oh, Jennie!" she cried, "who fired the mine, and who robbed the
Jennie laughed merrily as she replied,--
"Dear Princess, what a compliment you are paying me! Do you think that
in one afternoon I am able to solve a mystery that has defied the
combined talents of all the best detectives in Austria? I wish the
Director of Police had such faith in me as you have."
"And hasn't he, Jennie?"
"Indeed he has not. He watched me every moment he was with me, as if he
feared I would disappear into thin air, as the treasure had done."
"The horrid man. I shall have my husband speak to him, and rid you of
"Oh, no, Princess, you mustn't do anything of the kind. I don't mind it
in the least; in fact, it rather amuses me. One would think he had some
suspicion that I stole the money myself."
"A single word from the Prince will stop all that, you know."
"Yes, I know. But I really want to help the Director; he is so utterly
"Now, Jennie, take off your hat and sit down here, and tell me every
incident of the afternoon. Don't you see I am just consumed with
curiosity? I know you have discovered something. What is it?"
"I will not take off my hat, because I am going out again directly; but,
if you love me, get me a cup of that delicious tea of yours."
"I shall order it at once, but dinner will be served shortly. You are
surely not going out alone to-night?"
"I really must. Do not forget that I have been used to taking care of
myself in a bigger city than Vienna is, and I shall be quite safe. You
will please excuse my absence from the dinner-table to-night."
"Nonsense, Jennie! You cannot be allowed to roam round Vienna in that
"Then, Princess, I must go to an hotel, for this roaming round is
strictly necessary, and I don't want to bring the Palace Steinheimer
"Jennie, I'll tell you what we will do; we'll both bring it into
disrepute. The Prince is dining at his club to-night with some friends,
so I shall order the carriage, and you and I will roam round together.
You will let me come, won't you? Where are you going?"
"I am going to the Graubenstrasse to see Herr Feltz."
"Oh, I know Herr Feltz, and a dear old man he is; he will do anything
for me. If you want a favour from Herr Feltz, you had better take me
"I shall be delighted. Ah, here comes the tea! But what is the use of
ordering the carriage? we can walk there in a very few minutes."
"I think we had better have the carriage. The Prince would be wild if he
heard that we two went walking about the streets of Vienna at night. So,
Jennie, we must pay some respect to conventionality, and we will take
the carriage. Now, tell me where you have been, and what you have seen,
and all about it." Over their belated decoction of tea Jennie related
everything that had happened.
"And what do you expect to learn from the analysis at the chemist's,
"I expect to learn something that will startle the Director of Police."
"And what is that? Jennie, don't keep me on tenterhooks in this
provoking way. How can you act so? I shall write to Lord Donal and tell
him that you are here in Vienna, if you don't mind."
"Well, under such a terrible threat as that, I suppose I must divulge
all my suspicions. But I really don't know anything yet; I merely
suspect. The weight of that dust, when I picked up a handful of it,
seemed to indicate that the gold is still there in the rubbish heap."
"You don't mean to say so! Then there has been no robbery at all?"
"There may have been a robbery planned, but I do not think any thief got
a portion of the gold. The chances are that they entirely underestimated
the force of the explosive they were using, for, unless I am very much
mistaken, they were dealing with something a hundred times more powerful
"And will the chemical analysis show what explosive was used?"
"No; it will only show of what the _debris_ is composed. It will settle
the question whether or not the gold is in that dust-heap. If it is,
then I think the Government will owe me some thanks, because the
Director of Police talked of carting the rubbish away and dumping it out
of sight somewhere. If the Government gets back its gold, I suppose the
question of who fired the mine is merely of academic interest."
"The carriage is waiting, your Highness," was the announcement made to
the Princess, who at once jumped up, and said,--
"I'll be ready in five minutes. I'm as anxious now as you are to hear
what the chemist has to say; but I thought you told me he wouldn't have
the analysis ready until four o'clock to-morrow. What is the use of
going there to-night?".
"Because I am reasonably certain that the Director of Police will see
him early to-morrow morning, and I want to get the first copy of the
With that the Princess ran away and presently reappeared with her wraps
on. The two drove to the shop of Herr Feltz in the Graubenstrasse, and
were told that the chemist could not be seen in any circumstances. He
had left orders that he was not to be disturbed.
"Disobey those orders and take in my card," said the Princess.
A glance at the card dissolved the man's doubts, and he departed to seek
"He is working at the analysis now, I'll warrant," whispered the
Princess to her companion. In a short time Herr Feltz himself appeared.
He greeted the Princess with most deferential respect, but seemed
astonished to find in her company the young woman who had called on him
a few hours previously with the Director of the Police.
"I wanted to ask you," said Jennie, "to finish your analysis somewhat
earlier than four o'clock to-morrow. I suppose it can be done?"
The man of science smiled and looked at her for a moment, but did not
reply. "You will oblige my friend, I hope," said the Princess.
"I should be delighted to oblige any friend of your Highness," answered
the chemist slowly, "but, unfortunately, in this instance I have orders
from an authority not to be disputed."
"What orders?" demanded the Princess.
"I promised the analysis at four o'clock to-morrow, and at that hour it
will be ready for the young lady. I am ordered not to show the analysis
to anyone before that time."
"Those orders came from the Director of Police, I suppose?" The chemist
bowed low, but did not speak.
"I understand how it is, Jennie; he came here immediately after seeing
you home. I suppose he visited you again within the hour after he left
with this young lady--is that the case, Herr Feltz?"
"Your Highness distresses me by asking questions that I am under pledge
not to answer."
"Is the analysis completed?"
"That is another question which I sincerely hope your Highness will not
"Very well, Herr Feltz, I shall ask you a question or two of which you
will not be so frightened. I have told my friend here that you would do
anything for me, but I see I have been mistaken."
The chemist made a deprecatory motion of his hands, spreading them out
and bowing. It was plainly apparent that his seeming discourtesy
caused him deep regret. He was about to speak, but the Princess went
"Is the Director of Police a friend of yours, Herr Feltz? I don't mean
merely an official friend, but a personal friend?"
"I am under many obligations to him, your Highness, and besides that,
like any other citizen of Vienna, I am compelled to obey him when he
"What I want to learn," continued the Princess, her anger visibly rising
at this unexpected opposition, "is whether you wish the man well or
"I certainly wish him well, your Highness."
"In that case know that if my friend leaves this shop without seeing the
analysis of the material she brought to you, the Director of Police will
be dismissed from his office to-morrow. If you doubt my influence with
my husband to have that done, just try the experiment of sending us away
The old man bowed his white head.
"Your Highness," he said, "I shall take the responsibility of refusing to
obey the orders of the Director of Police. Excuse me for a moment."
He retired into his den, and presently emerged with a sheet of paper in
"It must be understood," he said, addressing Jennie, "that the analysis
is but roughly made. I intended to devote the night to a more minute
"All I want at the, present moment," said Jennie, "is a rough analysis."
"There it is," said the chemist, handing her the paper. She read,----
Feldspar ] 27
Traces of other substances 3-1/2
Jennie's eyes sparkled as she looked at the figures before her. She
handed the paper to the Princess saying,--
"You see, I was right in my surmise. More than one-third of that heap is
"I should explain," said the chemist, "that I have grouped the quartz,
feldspar, and mica together, without giving the respective portions of
each, because it is evident that the combination represents granite."
"I understand," said Jennie; "the walls and the roof are of granite."
"I would further add," continued the chemist, "that I have never met
gold so finely divided as this is."
"Have you the gold and other ingredients separated?"
"I shall take them with me, if you please."
The chemist shortly after brought her the components, in little glass
"Have you any idea, Herr Feltz, what explosive would reduce gold to such
fine powder as this?"
"I have only a theoretical knowledge of explosives, and I know of
nothing that would produce such results as we have here. Perhaps
Professor Carl Seigfried could give you some information on that point.
The science of detonation has been his life study, and he stands head
and shoulders above his fellows in that department."
"Can you give me his address?"
The chemist wrote the address on a sheet of paper and handed it to the
"Do you happen to know whether Professor Seigfried or his assistants
have been called in during this investigation?"
"What investigation, madame?"
"The investigation of the recent terrible explosion."
"I have heard of no explosion," replied the chemist, evidently
Then Jennie remembered that, while the particulars of the disaster in
the Treasury were known to the world at large outside of Austria, no
knowledge of the catastrophe had got abroad in Vienna.
"The Professor," continued the chemist, noticing Jennie's hesitation,
"is not a very practical man. He is deeply learned, and has made some
great discoveries in pure science, but he has done little towards
applying his knowledge to any everyday useful purpose. If you meet him,
you will find him a dreamer and a theorist. But if you once succeed in
interesting him in any matter, he will prosecute it to the very end,
quite regardless of the time he spends or the calls of duty elsewhere."
"Then he is just the man I wish to see," said Jennie decisively, and
with that they took leave of the chemist and once more entered the
"I want to drive to another place," said Jennie, "before it gets too
"Good gracious!" cried the Princess, "you surely do not intend to call
on Professor Seigfried to-night?"
"No; but I want to drive to the office of the Director of Police."
"Oh, that won't take us long," said the Princess, giving the necessary
order. The coachman took them to the night entrance of the central
police station by the Hohenstaufengasse, and, leaving the Princess in
the carriage, Jennie went in alone to speak with the officer in charge.
"I wish to see the Director of Police," she said.
"He will not be here until to-morrow morning. He is at home. Is it
"Yes. Where is his residence?"
"If you will have the kindness to inform me what your business is,
madame, we will have pleasure in attending to it without disturbing Herr
"I must communicate with the Director in person. The Princess von
Steinheimer is in her carriage outside, and I do not wish to keep her
waiting." At mention of the Princess the officer bestirred himself and
became tremendously polite.
"I shall call the Director at once, and he will be only too happy to
wait upon you."
"Oh, have you a telephone here? and can I speak with him myself without
"Certainly, madame. If you will step into this room with me, I will call
him up and leave you to speak with him."
This was done, and when the Chief had answered, Jennie introduced
herself to him.
"I am Miss Baxter, whom you were kind enough to escort through the
Treasury building this afternoon."
"Oh, yes," replied the Chief. "I thought we were to postpone further
inquiry until to-morrow."
"Yes, that was the arrangement; but I wanted to say that if my plans are
interfered with; if I am kept under surveillance, I shall be compelled
to withdraw from the search."
A few moments elapsed before the Chief replied, and then it was with
"I should be distressed to have you withdraw; but, if you wish to do so,
that must be a matter entirely for your own consideration. I have my
own duty to perform, and I must carry it out to the best of my poor
"Quite so. I am obliged to you for speaking so plainly. I rather
surmised this afternoon that you looked upon my help in the light of an
"I should not have used the word interference," continued the Chief;
"but I must confess that I never knew good results to follow amateur
efforts, which could not have been obtained much more speedily and
effectually by the regular force under my command."
"Well, the regular force under your command has been at work several
weeks and has apparently not accomplished very much. I have devoted part
of an afternoon and evening to the matter, so before I withdraw I should
like to give you some interesting information which you may impart to
the Government, and I am quite willing that you should take all the
credit for the discovery, as I have no wish to appear in any way as your
competitor. Can you hear me distinctly?"
"Perfectly, madame," replied the Chief.
"Then, in the first place, inform the Government that there has been no
"No robbery? What an absurd statement, if you will excuse me speaking so
abruptly! Where is the gold if there was no robbery?"
"I am coming to that. Next inform the Government that their loss will
be but trifling. That heap of _debris_ which you propose to cart away
contains practically the whole of the missing two hundred million
florins. More than one-third of the heap is pure gold. If you want to
do a favour to a good friend of yours, and at the same time confer a
benefit upon the Government itself, you will advise the Government to
secure the services of Herr Feltz, so that the gold may be extracted
from the rubbish completely and effectually. I put in a word for Herr
Feltz, because I am convinced that he is a most competent man. To-night
his action saved you from dismissal to-morrow, therefore you should be
grateful to him. And now I have the honour to wish you good-night."
"Wait--wait a moment!" came in beseeching tones through the telephone.
"My dear young lady, pray pardon any fault you have to find with me, and
remain for a moment or two longer. Who, then, caused the explosion, and
why was it accomplished?"
"That I must leave for you to find out, Herr Director. You see, I am
giving you the results of merely a few hours' inquiry, and you cannot
expect me to discover everything in that time. I don't know how the
explosion was caused, neither do I know who the criminals are or were.
It would probably take me all day to-morrow to find that out; but as I
am leaving the discovery in such competent hands as yours, I must curb
my impatience until you send me full particulars. So, once again,
good-night, Herr Director."
"No, no, don't go yet. I shall come at once to the station, if you will
be kind enough to stop there until I arrive."
"The Princess von Steinheimer is waiting for me in her carriage outside,
and I do not wish to delay her any longer."
"Then let me implore you not to give up your researches."
"Why? Amateur efforts are so futile, you know, when compared with the
labours of the regular force."
"Oh, my dear young lady, you must pardon an old man for what he said in
a thoughtless moment. If you knew how many useless amateurs meddle in
our very difficult business you would excuse me. Are you quite convinced
of what you have told me, that the gold is in the rubbish heap?"
"Perfectly. I will leave for you at the office here the analysis made by
Herr Feltz, and if I can assist you further, it must be on the distinct
understanding that you are not to interfere again with whatever I may
do. Your conduct in going to Herr Feltz to-night after you had left me,
and commanding him not to give me any information, I should hesitate
to characterize by its right name. When I have anything further to
communicate, I will send for you."
"Thank you; I shall hold myself always at your command." This telephonic
interview being happily concluded, Jennie hurried to the Princess,
stopping on her way to give the paper containing the analysis to the
official in charge, and telling him to hand it to the Director when he
returned to his desk. This done, she passed out into the night, with the
comfortable consciousness that the worries of a busy day had not been
without their compensation.
JENNIE VISITS A MODERN WIZARD IN HIS MAGIC ATTIC.
When Jennie entered the carriage in which her friend was waiting, the
other cried, "Well, have you seen him?" apparently meaning the Director
"No, I did not see him, but I talked with him over the telephone. I wish
you could have heard our conversation; it was the funniest interview I
ever took part in. Two or three times I had to shut off the instrument,
fearing the Director would, hear me laugh. I am afraid that before this
business is ended you will be very sorry I am a guest at your house. I
know I shall end by getting myself into an Austrian prison. Just think
of it! Here have I been 'holding up' the Chief of Police in this
Imperial city as if I were a wild western brigand. I have been
terrorizing the man, brow-beating him, threatening him, and he the
person who has the liberty of all Vienna in his hands; who can have me
dragged off to a dungeon-cell any time he likes to give the order."
"Not from the Palace Steinheimer," said the Princess, with decision.
"Well, he might hesitate about that; yet, nevertheless, it is too funny
to think that a mere newspaper woman, coming into a city which contains
only one or two of her friends, should dare to talk to the Chief of
Police as I have done to-night, and force him actually to beg that I
shall remain in the city and continue to assist him."
"Tell me what you said," asked the Princess eagerly; and Jennie related
all that had passed between them over the telephone.
"And do you mean to say calmly that you are going to give that man the
right to use the astounding information you have acquired, and allow him
to accept complacently all the _kudos_ that such a discovery entitles
"Why, certainly," replied Jennie. "What good is the _kudos_ to me? All
the credit I desire I get in the office of the _Daily Bugle_ in London."
"But, you silly girl, holding such a secret as you held, you could have
made your fortune," insisted the practical Princess, for the principles
which had been instilled into her during a youth spent in Chicago had
not been entirely eradicated by residence in Vienna. "If you had gone to
the Government and said, 'How much will you give me if I restore to you
the missing gold?' just imagine what their answer would be."
"Yes, I suppose there was money in the scheme if it had really been a
secret. But you forget that to-morrow morning the Chief of Police would
have known as much as he knows to-night. Of course, if I had gone alone
to the Treasury vault and kept my discovery to myself, I might, perhaps,
have 'held, up' the Government of Austria-Hungary as successfully as I
'held up' the Chief of Police to-night. But with the Director watching
everything I did, and going with me to the chemist, there was no
possibility of keeping the matter a secret."
"Well, Jennie, all I can say is that you are a very foolish girl. Here
you are, working hard, as you said in one of your letters, merely to
make a living, and now, with the greatest nonchalance, you allow a
fortune to slip through your fingers. I am simply not going to allow
this. I shall tell my husband all that has happened, and he will make
the Government treat you honestly; if not generously. I assure you,
Jennie, that Lord Donal--no, I won't mention his name, since you protest
so strenuously--but the future young man, whoever he is, will not think
the less of you because you come to him with a handsome dowry. But here
we are at home; and I won't say another word on the subject if it annoys
When Jennie reached her delightful apartments--which looked even more
luxuriantly comfortable bathed in the soft radiance that now flooded
them from quiet-toned shaded lamps than they did in the more garish
light of day--she walked up and down her sitting-room in deep
meditation. She was in a quandary--whether or not to risk sending a
coded telegram to her paper was the question that presented itself to
her. If she were sure that no one else would learn the news, she would
prefer to wait until she had further particulars of the Treasury
catastrophe. A good deal would depend on whether or not the Director of
Police took anyone into his confidence that night. If he did not, he
would be aware that only he and the girl possessed this important
piece of news. If a full account of the discovery appeared in the next
morning's _Daily Bugle_, then, when that paper arrived in Vienna, or
even before, if a synopsis were telegraphed to the Government, as it was
morally certain to be, the Director would know at once that she was the
correspondent of the newspaper whom he was so anxious to frighten out
of Vienna. On the other hand, her friendship with the Princess von
Steinheimer gave her such influence with the Chief's superiors, that,
after the lesson she had taught him, he might hesitate to make any move
against her. Then, again, the news that to-night belonged to two persons
might on the morrow come to the knowledge of all the correspondents in
Vienna, and her efforts, so far as the _Bugle_ was concerned, would have
been in vain. This consideration decided the girl, and, casting off all
sign of hesitation, she sat down at her writing table and began the
first chapter of the solution of the Vienna mystery. Her opening
sentence was exceedingly diplomatic: "The Chief of Police of Vienna has
made a most startling discovery." Beginning thus, she went on to details
of the discovery she had that day made. When her account was finished
and codified, she went down to her hostess and said,--
"Princess, I want a trustworthy man, who will take a long telegram to
the central telegraph office, pay for it, and come away quickly before
anyone can ask him inconvenient questions."
"Would it not be better to call a Dienstmanner?"
"A Dienstmanner? That is your commissionaire, or telegraph messenger?
No, I think not. They are all numbered and can be traced."
"Oh, I know!" cried the Princess; "I will send our coachman. He will be
out of his livery now, and he is a most reliable man; he will not answer
inconvenient questions, or any others, even if they are asked."
To her telegram for publication Jennie had added a private despatch to
the editor, stating that it would be rather inconvenient for her if he
published the account next morning, but she left the decision entirely
with him. Here was the news, and if he thought it worth the risk,
he might hold it over; if not, he was to print it regardless of
As a matter of fact, the editor, with fear and trembling, held the news
for a day, so that he might not embarrass his fair representative, but
so anxious was he, that he sat up all night until the other papers were
out, and he heaved a sigh of relief when, on glancing over them, he
found that not one of them contained an inkling of the information
locked up in his desk. And so he dropped off to sleep when the day was
breaking. Next night he had nearly as much anxiety, for although the
_Bugle_ would contain the news, other papers might have it as well, and
thus for the second time he waited in his office until the other sheets,
wet from the press, were brought to him. Again fortune favoured him, and
the triumph belonged to the _Bugle_ alone.
The morning after her interview with the Director of Police, Jennie,
taking a small hand-satchel, in which she placed the various bottles
containing the different dusts which the chemist had separated, went
abroad alone, and hailing a fiacre, gave the driver the address of
Professor Carl Seigfried. The carriage of the Princess was always at
the disposal of the girl, but on this occasion she did not wish to be
embarrassed with so pretentious an equipage. The cab took her into a
street lined with tall edifices and left her at the number she had
given the driver. The building seemed to be one let out in flats and
tenements; she mounted stair after stair, and only at the very top did
she see the Professor's name painted on a door. Here she rapped several
times without any attention being paid to her summons, but at last the
door was opened partially by a man whom she took, quite accurately,
to be the Professor himself. His head was white; and his face deeply
wrinkled. He glared at her through his glasses, and said sharply, "Young
lady, you have made a mistake; these are the rooms of Professor Carl
"It is Professor Carl Seigfried that I wish to see," replied the girl
hurriedly, as the old man was preparing to shut the door.
"What do you want with him?"
"I want some information from him about explosives. I have been told
that he knows more about explosives than any other man living."
"Quite right--he does. What then?"
"An explosion has taken place producing the most remarkable results.
They say that neither dynamite nor any other known force could have had
such an effect on metals and minerals as this power has had."
"Ah, dynamite is a toy for children!" cried the old man, opening the
door a little further and exhibiting an interest which had, up to that
moment, been absent from his manner. "Well, where did this explosion
take place? Do you wish me to go and see it?"
"Perhaps so, later on. At present I wish to show you some of its
effects, but I don't propose to do this standing here in the
"Quite right--quite right," hastily ejaculated the old scientist,
throwing the door wide open. "Of course, I am not accustomed to visits
from fashionable young ladies, and I thought at first there had been
a mistake; but if you have any real scientific problem, I shall be
delighted to give my attention to it. What may appear very extraordinary
to the lay mind will doubtless prove fully explainable by scientists.
Come in, come in."
The old man shut the door behind her, and led her along a dark passage,
into a large apartment, whose ceiling was the roof of the building.
At first sight it seemed in amazing disorder. Huge as it was, it was
cluttered with curious shaped machines and instruments. A twisted
conglomeration of glass tubing, bent into fantastic tangles, stood on
a central table, and had evidently been occupying the Professor's
attention at the time he was interrupted. The place was lined with
shelving, where the walls were not occupied by cupboards, and every
shelf was burdened with bottles and apparatus of different kinds.
Whatever care Professor Seigfried took of his apparatus, he seemed to
have little for his furniture. There was hardly a decent chair in the
room, except one deep arm-chair, covered with a tiger's skin, in which
the Professor evidently took his ease while meditating or watching the
progress of an experiment. This chair he did not offer to the young
lady; in fact, he did not offer her a seat at all, but sank down on
the tiger's skin himself, placed the tips of his fingers together, and
glared at her through his glittering glasses.
"Now, young woman," he said abruptly, "what have you brought for me?
Don't begin to chatter, for my time is valuable. Show me what you have
brought, and I will tell you all about it; and most likely a very simple
thing it is."
Jennie, interested in so rude a man, smiled, drew up the least decrepit
bench she could find, and sat down, in spite of the angry mutterings
of her irritated host. Then she opened her satchel, took out the small
bottle of gold, and handed it to him without a word. The old man
received it somewhat contemptuously, shook it backward and forward
without extracting the cork, adjusted his glasses, then suddenly seemed
to take a nervous interest in the material presented to him. He rose and
went nearer the light. Drawing out the cork with trembling hands, he
poured some of the contents into his open palm. The result was startling
enough. The old man flung up his hands, letting the vial crash into a
thousand pieces on the floor. He staggered forward, shrieking, "Ah, mein
Then, to the consternation of Jennie, who had already risen in terror
from her chair, the scientist plunged forward on his face. The girl had
difficulty in repressing a shriek. She looked round hurriedly for a bell
to ring, but apparently there was none. She tried to open the door and
cry for help, but in her excitement could neither find handle nor latch.
It seemed to be locked, and the key, doubtless, was in the Professor's
pocket. She thought at first that he had dropped dead, but the continued
moaning as he lay on the floor convinced her of her error. She bent over
him anxiously and cried, "What can I do to help you?"
With a struggle he muttered, "The bottle, the bottle, in the cupboard
She hurriedly flung open the doors of the cupboard indicated, and found
a bottle of brandy, and a glass, which she partly filled. The old man
had with an effort struggled into a sitting posture, and she held the
glass of fiery liquid to his pallid lips. He gulped down the brandy, and
gasped, "I feel better now. Help me to my chair."
Assisting him to his feet, she supported him to his arm-chair, when he
shook himself free, crying angrily, "Let me alone! Don't you see I am
all right again?"
The girl stood aside, and the Professor dropped into his chair, his
nervous hands vibrating on his knees. For a long interval nothing was
said by either, and the girl at last seated herself on the bench she had
formerly occupied. The next words the old man spoke were, "Who sent you
"No one, I came of my own accord. I wished to meet someone who had a
large knowledge of explosives, and Herr Feltz, the chemist, gave me your
"Herr Feltz! Herr Feltz!" he repeated. "So he sent you here?"
"No one sent me here," insisted the girl. "It is as I tell you. Herr
Feltz merely gave me your address."
"Where did you get that powdered gold?"
"It came from the _debris_ of an explosion."
"I know, you said that before. Where was the explosion? Who caused it?"
"That I don't know."
"Don't you know where the explosion was?"
"Yes, I know where the explosion was, but I don't know who caused it."
"Who sent you here?"
"I tell you no one sent me here."
"That is not true, the man who caused the explosion sent you here. You
are his minion. What do you expect to find out from me?"
"I expect to learn what explosive was used to produce the result that
seemed to have such a remarkable effect on you."
"Why do you say that? It had no effect on me. My heart is weak. I am
subject to such attacks, and I ward them off with brandy. Some day they
will kill me. Then you won't learn any secrets from a dead man, will
"I hope, Professor Seigfried, that you have many years yet to live, and
I must further add that I did not expect such a reception as I have
received from a man of science, as I was told you were. If you have no
information to give to me, very well, that ends it; all you have to do
is to say so."
"Who sent you here?"
"No one, as I have repeated once or twice. If anyone had, I would give
him my opinion of the errand when I got back. You refuse, then, to tell
me anything about the explosive that powdered the gold?" "Refuse? Of
course I refuse! What did you expect? I suppose the man who sent you
here thought, because you were an engaging young woman and I an old
dotard, I would gabble to you the results of a life's work. Oh, no, no,
no; but I am not an old dotard. I have many years to live yet."
"I hope so. Well, I must bid you good morning. I shall go to someone
The old man showed his teeth in a forbidding grin.
"It is useless. Your bottle is broken, and the material it contained is
dissipated. Not a trace of it is left."
He waved his thin, emaciated hand in the air as he spoke.
"Oh, that doesn't matter in the least," said Jennie. "I have several
other bottles here in my satchel."
The Professor placed his hands on the arms of his chair, and slowly
raised himself to his feet.
"You have others," he cried, "other bottles? Let me see them--let me see
"No," replied Jennie, "I won't."
With a speed which, after his recent collapse, Jennie had not expected,
the Professor ambled round to the door and placed his back against
it. The glasses over his eyes seemed to sparkle as if with fire. His
talon-like fingers crooked rigidly. He breathed rapidly, and was
evidently labouring under intense excitement.
"Who knows you came up to see me?" he whispered hoarsely, glaring at
Jennie, having arisen, stood there, smoothing down her perfectly fitting
glove, and answered with a calmness she was far from feeling,--
"Who knows I am here? No one but the Director of Police."
"Oh, the Director of Police!" echoed the Professor, quite palpably
abashed by the unexpected answer. The rigidity of his attitude relaxed,
and he became once more the old man he had appeared as he sat in a heap
in his chair. "You will excuse me," he muttered, edging round towards
the chair again; "I was excited."
"I noticed that you were, Professor. But before you sit down again,
please unlock that door."
"Why?" he asked, pausing on his way to the chair.
"Because I wish it open."
"And I," he said in a higher tone, "wish it to remain locked until we
have come to some understanding. I can't let you go out now; but I shall
permit you to go unmolested as soon as you have made some explanation to
"If you do not unlock the door immediately I shall take this machine and
fling it through the front window out on the street. The crashing glass
on the pavement will soon bring someone to my rescue, Professor, and, as
I have a voice of my own and small hesitation about shouting, I shall
have little difficulty in directing the strangers where to come."
As Jennie spoke she moved swiftly towards the table on which stood the
strange aggregation of reflectors and bent glass tubing.
"No, no, no!" screamed the Professor, springing between her and the
table. "Touch anything but that--anything but that. Do not disturb it an
inch--there is danger--death not only to you and me, but perhaps to the
whole city. Keep away from it!" "Very well, then," said Jennie, stepping
back in spite of her endeavour to maintain her self-control; "open the
door. Open both doors and leave them so. After that, if you remain
seated in your chair, I shall not touch the machine, nor shall I leave
until I make the explanations you require, and you have answered some
questions that I shall ask. But I must have a clear way to the stair, in
case you should become excited again."
"I'll unlock the doors; I'll unlock both doors," replied the old man
tremulously, fumbling about in his pockets for his keys. "But keep away
from that machine, unless you want to bring swift destruction on us
With an eagerness that retarded his speed, the Professor, constantly
looking over his shoulder at his visitor, unlocked the first door, then
hastily he flung open the second, and tottered back to his chair, where
he collapsed on the tiger skin, trembling and exhausted.
"We may be overheard," he whined. "One can never tell who may sneak
quietly up the stair. I am surrounded by spies trying to find out what I
"Wait a moment," said Jennie.
She went quickly to the outer door, found that it closed with a spring
latch, opened and shut it two or three times until she was perfectly
familiar with its workings, then she closed it, drew the inner door
nearly shut, and sat down.
"There," she said, "we are quite safe from interruption, Professor
Seigfried; but I must request you not to move from your chair."
"I have no intention of doing so," murmured the old man. "Who sent you?
You said you would tell me. I think you owe me an explanation."
"I think you owe me one," replied the girl. "As I told you before,
no one sent me. I came here entirely of my own accord, and I shall
endeavour to make clear to you exactly why I came. Some time ago there
occurred in this city a terrific explosion--"
"Where? When?" exclaimed the old man, placing his hands on the arms of
his chair, as if he would rise to his feet.
"Sit where you are," commanded Jennie firmly, "and I shall tell you all
I can about it. The Government, for reasons of its own, desires to keep
the fact of this explosion a secret, and thus very few people outside
of official circles know anything about it. I am trying to discover the
cause of that disaster."
"Are you--are you working on behalf of the Government?" asked the old
man eagerly, a tremor of fear in his quavering voice.
"No. I am conducting my investigations quite independently of the
"But why? But why? That is what I don't understand."
"I would very much rather not answer that question."
"But that question--everything is involved in that question. I must know
why you are here. If you are not in the employ of the Government, in
whose employ are you?"
"If I tell you," said Jennie with some hesitation, "will you keep what I
say a secret?"
"Yes, yes, yes!" cried the scientist impatiently.
"Well, I am in the service of a London daily newspaper."
"I see, I see; and they have sent you here to publish broadcast over
the world all you can find out of my doings. I knew you were a spy the
moment I saw you. I should never have let you in."
"My dear sir, the London paper is not even aware of your existence. They
have not sent me to you at all. They have sent me to learn, if possible,
the cause of the explosion I spoke of. I took some of the _debris_ to
Herr Feltz to analyze it, and he said he had never seen gold, iron,
feldspar, and all that, reduced to such fine, impalpable grains as was
the case with the sample I left with him. I then asked him who in Vienna
knew most about explosives, and he gave me your address. That is why I
"But the explosion--you have not told me when and where it occurred!"
"That, as I have said, is a Government secret."
"But you stated you are not in the Government employ, therefore it can
be no breach of confidence if you let me have full particulars."
"I suppose not. Very well, then, the explosion occurred after midnight
on the seventeenth in the vault of the Treasury."
The old man, in spite of the prohibition, rose uncertainly to his feet.
Jennie sprang up and said menacingly, "Stay where you are!"
"I am not going to touch you. If you are so suspicious of every move
I make, then go yourself and bring me what I want. There is a map of
Vienna pinned against the wall yonder. Bring it to me."
Jennie proceeded in the direction indicated. It was an ordinary map of
the city of Vienna, and as Jennie took it down she noticed that across
the southern part of the city a semi-circular line in pencil had been
drawn. Examining it more closely, she saw that the stationary part of
the compass had been placed on the spot where stood the building which
contained the Professor's studio. She paid closer attention to the
pencil mark and observed that it passed through the Treasury building.
"Don't look at that map!" shrieked the Professor, beating the air with
his hands. "I asked you to bring it to me. Can't you do a simple action
like that without spying about?"
Jennie rapidly unfastened the paper from the wall and brought it to him.
The scientist scrutinized it closely, adjusting his glasses the better
to see, then deliberately tore the map into fragments, numerous and
minute. He rose--and this time Jennie made no protest--went to the
window, opened it, and flung the fluttering bits of paper out into the
air, the strong wind carrying them far over the roofs of Vienna. Closing
the casement, he came back to his chair.
"Was--was anyone hurt at this explosion?" he asked presently.
"Yes, four men were killed instantly, a dozen were seriously injured and
are now in hospital."
"Oh, my God--my God!" cried the old man, covering his face with his
hands, swaying from side to side in his chair like a man tortured with
agony and remorse. At last he lifted a face that had grown more pinched
and yellow within the last few minutes.
"I can tell you nothing," he said, moistening his parched lips.
"You mean that you _will_ tell me nothing, for I see plainly that you
"I knew nothing of any explosion until you spoke of it. What have I to
do with the Treasury or the Government?" "That is just what I want to
"It is absurd. I am no conspirator, but a man of learning."
"Then you have nothing to fear, Herr Seigfried. If you are innocent, why
are you so loth to give me any assistance in this matter?"
"It has nothing to do with me. I am a scientist--I am a scientist. All
I wish is to be left alone with my studies. I have nothing to do with
governments or newspapers, or anything belonging to them."
Jennie sat tracing a pattern on the dusty floor with the point of her
parasol. She spoke very quietly:--
"The pencilled line which you drew on the map of Vienna passed through
the Treasury building; the centre of the circle was this garret. Why did
you draw that pencilled semi-circle? Why were you anxious that I should
not see you had done so? Why did you destroy the map?"
Professor Seigfried sat there looking at her with dropped jaw, but he
made no reply.
"If you will excuse my saying so," the girl went on, "you are acting
very childishly. It is evident to me that you are no criminal, yet if
the Director of Police had been in my place he would have arrested you
long ago, and that merely because of your own foolish actions."
"The map proved nothing," ne said at last, haltingly, "and besides, both
you and the Director will now have some difficulty in finding it."
"That is further proof of your folly. The Director doesn't need to find
it. I am here to testify that I saw the map, saw the curved line passing
through the Treasury, and saw you destroy what you thought was an
incriminating piece of evidence. It would be much better if you would
deal as frankly with me as I have done with you. Then I shall give you
the best advice I can--if my advice will be of any assistance to you."
"Yes, and publish it to all the world."
"It will have to be published to all the world in any case, for, if I
leave here without full knowledge, I will simply go to the police office
and there tell what I have learned in this room."
"And if I do speak, you will still go to the Director of the Police and
tell him what you have discovered."
"No, I give you my word that I will not."
"What guarantee have I of that?" asked the old man suspiciously.
"No guarantee at all except my word!"
"Will you promise not to print in your paper what I tell you?"
"No, I cannot promise that!"
"Still, the newspaper doesn't matter," continued the scientist. "The
story would be valueless to you, because no one would believe it. There
is little use in printing a story in a newspaper that will be laughed
at, is there? However, I think you are honest, otherwise you would have
promised not to print a line of what I tell you, and then I should have
known you were lying. It was as easy to promise that as to say you would
not tell the Director of Police. I thought at first some scientific
rival had sent you here to play the spy on me, and learn what I was
doing. I assure you I heard nothing about the explosion you speak of,
yet I was certain it had occurred somewhere along that line which I drew
on the map. I had hoped it was not serious, and begun to believe it was
not. The anxiety of the last month has nearly driven me insane, and, as
you say quite truly, my actions have been childish." The old man in his
excitement had risen from his chair and was now pacing up and down the
room, running his fingers distractedly through his long white hair, and
talking more to himself than to his auditor.
Jennie had edged her chair nearer to the door, and had made no protest
against his rising, fearing to interrupt his flow of talk and again
arouse his suspicions.
"I have no wish to protect my inventions. I have never taken out a
patent in my life. What I discover I give freely to the world, but I
will not be robbed of my reputation as a scientist. I want my name to go
down to posterity among those of the great discoverers. You talked just
now of going to the police and telling them what you knew. Foolish
creature! You could no more have gone to the central police office
without my permission, or against my will, than you could go to the
window and whistle back those bits of paper I scattered to the winds.
Before you reached the bottom of the stairs I could have laid Vienna
in a mass of ruins. Yes, I could in all probability have blown up the
entire Empire of Austria. The truth is, that I do not know the limit of
my power, nor dare I test it."
"Oh, this is a madman!" thought Jennie, as she edged still nearer to the
door. The old man paused in his walk and turned fiercely upon her.
"You don't believe me?" he said.
"No, I do not," she answered, the colour leaving her cheeks.
The aged wizard gave utterance to a hideous chuckle. He took from one of
his numerous shelves a hammer-head without the handle, and for a moment
Jennie thought he was going to attack her; but he merely handed the
metal to her and said,--
"Break that in two. Place it between your palms and grind it to powder."
"You know that is absurd; I cannot do it."
"Why can't you do it?"
"Because it is of steel."
"That is no reason. Why can't you do it?"
He glared at her fiercely over his glasses, and she saw in his wild eye
all the enthusiasm of an instructor enlightening a pupil.
"I'll tell you why you can't do it; because every minute particle of
it is held together by an enormous force. It may be heated red-hot
and beaten into this shape and that, but still the force hangs on as
tenaciously as the grip of a giant. Now suppose I had some substance,
a drop of which, placed on that piece of iron, would release the force
which holds the particles together--what would happen?"
"I don't know," replied Jennie.
"Oh, yes you do!" cried the Professor impatiently; "but you are like
every other woman--you won't take the trouble to think. What would
happen is this. The force that held the particles together would be
released, and the hammer would fall to powder like that gold you showed
me. The explosion that followed, caused by the sudden release of the
power, would probably wreck this room and extinguish both our lives. You
understand that, do you not?"
"Yes, I think I do."
"Well, here is something you won't understand, and probably won't
believe when you hear it. There is but one force in this world and but
one particle of matter. There is only one element, which is the basis of
everything. All the different shapes and conditions of things that we
see are caused by a mere variation of that force in conjunction with
numbers of that particle. Am I getting beyond your depth?"