Part 1 out of 6
The Poisoned Pen by, Arthur B. Reeve
(transcriber's note: these stories were first published in 1911-13)
I THE POISONED PEN
II THE YEGGMAN
III THE GERM OF DEATH
IV THE FIREBUG
V THE CONFIDENCE KING
VI THE SAND-HOG
VII THE WHITE SLAVE
VIII THE FORGER
IX THE UNOFFICIAL SPY
X THE SMUGGLER
XI THE INVISIBLE RAY
XII THE CAMPAIGN GRAFTER
THE POISONED PEN
Kennedy's suit-case was lying open on the bed, and he was literally
throwing things into it from his chiffonier, as I entered after a
hurried trip up-town from the Star office in response to an urgent
message from him.
"Come, Walter," he cried, hastily stuffing in a package of clean
laundry without taking off the wrapping-paper, "I've got your
suit-case out. Pack up whatever you can in five minutes. We must
take the six o'clock train for Danbridge."
I did not wait to hear any more. The mere mention of the name of
the quaint and quiet little Connecticut town was sufficient. For
Danbridge was on everybody's lips at that time. It was the scene
of the now famous Danbridge poisoning case - a brutal case in which
the pretty little actress, Vera Lytton, had been the victim.
"I've been retained by Senator Adrian Willard," he called from his
room, as I was busy packing in mine. The Willard family believe
that that young Dr. Dixon is the victim of a conspiracy - or at
least Alma Willard does, which comes to the same thing, and - well,
the senator called me up on long-distance and offered me anything
I would name in reason to take the case. Are you ready? Come on,
then. We've simply got to make that train."
As we settled ourselves in the smoking-compartment of the Pullman,
which for some reason or other we had to ourselves, Kennedy spoke
again for the first time since our frantic dash across the city to
catch the train.
"Now let us see, Walter," he began. "We've both read a good deal
about this case in the papers. Let's try to get our knowledge in
an orderly shape before we tackle the actual case itself."
"Ever been in Danbridge?" I asked.
"Never," he replied. "What sort of place is it?"
"Mighty interesting," I answered; "a combination of old New England
and new, of ancestors and factories, of wealth and poverty, and
above all it is interesting for its colony of New-Yorkers - what
shall I call it? - a literary-artistic-musical combination, I guess."
"Yes," he resumed, "I thought as much. Vera Lytton belonged to the
colony. A very talented girl, too - you remember her in 'The Taming
of the New Woman' last season? Well, to get back to the facts as
we know them at present.
"Here is a girl with a brilliant future on the stage discovered by
her friend, Mrs. Boncour, in convulsions - practically insensible
- with a bottle of headache-powder and a jar of ammonia on her
dressing-table. Mrs. Boncour sends the maid for the nearest doctor,
who happens to be a Dr. Waterworth. Meanwhile she tries to restore
Miss Lytton, but with no result. She smells the ammonia and then
just tastes the headache-powder, a very foolish thing to do, for by
the time Dr. Waterworth arrives he has two patients."
"No," I corrected, "only one, for Miss Lytton was dead when he
arrived, according to his latest statement."
"Very well, then - one. He arrives, Mrs. Boncour is ill, the maid
knows nothing at all about it, and Vera Lytton is dead. He, too,
smells the ammonia, tastes the headache-powder - just the merest
trace - and then he has two patients, one of them himself. We must
see him, for his experience must have been appalling. How he ever
did it I can't imagine, but he saved both himself and Mrs. Boncour
from poisoning - cyanide, the papers say, but of course we can't
accept that until we see. It seems to me, Walter, that lately the
papers have made the rule in murder cases: When in doubt, call it
Not relishing Kennedy in the humour of expressing his real opinion
of the newspapers, I hastily turned the conversation back again by
asking, "How about the note from Dr. Dixon?"
"Ah, there is the crux of the whole case - that note from Dixon.
Let us see. Dr. Dixon is, if I am informed correctly, of a fine
and aristocratic family, though not wealthy. I believe it has
been established that while he was an interne in a city hospital
he became acquainted with Vera Lytton, after her divorce from that
artist Thurston. Then comes his removal to Danbridge and his
meeting and later his engagement with Miss Willard. On the whole,
Walter, judging from the newspaper pictures, Alma Willard is
quite the equal of Vera Lytton for looks, only of a different
style of beauty. Oh, well, we shall see. Vera decided to spend
the spring and summer at Danbridge in the bungalow of her friend,
Mrs. Boncour, the novelist. That's when things began to happen."
"Yes," I put in, "when you come to know Danbridge as I did after
that summer when you were abroad, you'll understand, too. Everybody
knows everybody else's business. It is the main occupation of a
certain set, and the per-capita output of gossip is a record that
would stagger the census bureau. Still, you can't get away from the
note, Craig. There it is, in Dixon's own handwriting, even if he
does deny it: 'This will cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.' That's a
damning piece of evidence."
"Quite right," he agreed hastily; "the note was queer, though,
wasn't it? They found it crumpled up in the jar of ammonia. Oh,
there are lots of problems the newspapers have failed to see the
significance of, let alone trying to follow up."
Our first visit in Danbridge was to the prosecuting attorney, whose
office was not far from the station on the main street. Craig had
wired him, and he had kindly waited to see us, for it was evident
that Danbridge respected Senator Willard and every one connected
"Would it be too much to ask just to see that note that was found
in the Boncour bungalow?" asked Craig.
The prosecutor, an energetic young man, pulled out of a document-case
a crumpled note which had been pressed flat again. On it in clear,
deep black letters were the words, just as reported:
This will cure your headache.
"How about the handwriting?" asked Kennedy.
The lawyer pulled out a number of letters. "I'm afraid they will
have to admit it," he said with reluctance, as if down in his heart
he hated to prosecute Dixon. "We have lots of these, and no
handwriting expert could successfully deny the identity of the
He stowed away the letters without letting Kennedy get a hint as to
their contents. Kennedy was examining the note carefully.
"May I count on having this note for further examination, of course
always at such times and under such conditions as you agree to?"
The attorney nodded. "I am perfectly willing to do anything not
illegal to accommodate the senator," he said. "But, on the other
hand, I am here to do my duty for the state, cost whom it may."
The Willard house was in a virtual state of siege. Newspaper
reporters from Boston and New York were actually encamped at every
gate, terrible as an army, with cameras. It was with some difficulty
that we got in, even though we were expected, for some of the more
enterprising had already fooled the family by posing as officers of
the law and messengers from Dr. Dixon.
The house was a real, old colonial mansion with tall white pillars,
a door with a glittering brass knocker, which gleamed out severely
at you as you approached through a hedge of faultlessly trimmed
Senator, or rather former Senator, Willard met us in the library,
and a moment later his daughter Alma joined him. She was tall, like
her father, a girl of poise and self-control. Yet even the schooling
of twenty-two years in rigorous New England self-restraint could not
hide the very human pallor of her face after the sleepless nights and
nervous days since this trouble had broken on her placid existence.
Yet there was a mark of strength and determination on her face that
was fascinating. The man who would trifle with this girl, I felt,
was playing fast and loose with her very life. I thought then, and
I said to Kennedy afterward: "If this Dr. Dixon is guilty, you have
no right to hide it from that girl. Anything less than the truth
will only blacken the hideousness of the crime that has already been
The senator greeted I us gravely, and I could not but take it as a
good omen when, in his pride of wealth and family and tradition, he
laid bare everything to us, for the sake of Alma Willard. It was
clear that in this family there was one word that stood above all
As we were about to leave after an interview barren of new facts,
a young man was announced, Mr. Halsey Post. He bowed politely to
us, but it was evident why he had called, as his eye followed Alma
about the room.
"The son of the late Halsey Post, of Post & Vance, silversmiths, who
have the large factory in town, which you perhaps noticed," explained
the senator. "My daughter has known him all her life. A very fine
Later, we learned that the senator had bent every effort toward
securing Halsey Post as a son-in-law, but his daughter had had views
of her own on the subject.
Post waited until Alma had withdrawn before he disclosed the real
object of his visit. In almost a whisper, lest she should still be
listening, he said, "There is a story about town that Vera Lytton's
former husband - an artist named Thurston - was here just before her
Senator Willard leaned forward as if expecting to hear Dixon
immediately acquitted. None of us was prepared for the next remark.
"And the story goes on to say that he threatened to make a scene over
a wrong he says he has suffered from Dixon. I don't know anything
more about it, and I tell you only because I think you ought to know
what Danbridge is saying under its breath."
We shook off the last of the reporters who affixed themselves to us,
and for a moment Kennedy dropped in at the little bungalow to see
Mrs. Boncour. She was much better, though she had suffered much.
She had taken only a pinhead of the poison, but it had proved very
"Had Miss Lytton any enemies whom you think of, people who were
jealous of her professionally or personally?" asked Craig.
"I should not even have said Dr. Dixon was an enemy," she replied
"But this Mr. Thurston," put in Kennedy quickly. "One is not usually
visited in perfect friendship by a husband who has been divorced."
She regarded him keenly for a moment. "Halsey Post told you that,"
she said. "No one else knew he was here. But Halsey Post was an
old friend of both Vera and Mr. Thurston before they separated. By
chance he happened to drop in the day Mr. Thurston was here, and
later in the day I gave him a letter to forward to Mr. Thurston,
which had come after the artist left. I'm sure no one else knew
the artist. He was here the morning of the day she died, and - and
- that's every bit I'm going to tell you about him, so there. I
don't know why he came or where he went."
"That's a thing we must follow up later," remarked Kennedy as we
made our adieus. "Just now I want to get the facts in hand. The
next thing on my programme is to see this Dr. Waterworth."
We found the doctor still in bed; in fact, a wreck as the result of
his adventure. He had little to correct in the facts of the story
which had been published so far. But there were many other details
of the poisoning he was quite willing to discuss frankly.
"It was true about the jar of ammonia?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes," he answered. "It was standing on her dressing-table with
the note crumpled up in it, just as the papers said."
"And you have no idea why it was there?"
"I didn't say that. I can guess. Fumes of ammonia are one of the
antidotes for poisoning of this kind."
"But Vera Lytton could hardly have known that," objected Kennedy.
"No, of course not. But she probably did know that ammonia is good
for just that sort of faintness which she must have experienced
after taking the powder. Perhaps she thought of sal volatile, I
don't know. But most people know that ammonia in some form is good
for faintness of this sort, even if they don't know anything about
cyanides and - "
"Then it was cyanide?" interrupted Craig.
"Yes," he replied slowly. It was evident that he was suffering
great physical and nervous anguish as the result of his too intimate
acquaintance with the poisons in question. " I will tell you
precisely how it was, Professor Kennedy. When I was called in to
see Miss Lytton I found her on the bed. I pried open her jaws and
smelled the sweetish odour of the cyanogen gas. I knew then what
she had taken, and at the moment she was dead. In the next room I
heard some one moaning. The maid said that it was Mrs. Boncour,
and that she was deathly sick. I ran into her room, and though she
was beside herself with pain I managed to control her, though she
struggled desperately against me. I was rushing her to the bathroom,
passing through Miss Lytton's room. 'What's wrong?' I asked as I
carried her along. 'I took some of that,' she replied, pointing to
the bottle on the dressing-table.
"I put a small quantity of its crystal contents on my tongue. Then
I realised the most tragic truth of my life. I had taken one of the
deadliest poisons in the world. The odour of the released gas of
cyanogen was strong. But more than that, the metallic taste and the
horrible burning sensation told of the presence of some form of
mercury, too. In that terrible moment my brain worked with the
incredible swiftness of light. In a flash I knew that if I added
malic acid to the mercury - per chloride of mercury or corrosive
sublimate - I would have calomel or subchloride of mercury, the
only thing that would switch the poison out of my system and Mrs.
"Seizing her about the waist, I hurried into the dining-room. On a
sideboard was a dish of fruit. I took two apples. I made her eat
one, core and all. I ate the other. The fruit contained the malic
acid I needed to manufacture the calomel, and I made it right there
in nature's own laboratory. But there was no time to stop. I had
to act just as quickly to neutralise that cyanide, too. Remembering
the ammonia, I rushed back with Mrs. Boncour, and we inhaled the
fumes. Then I found a bottle of peroxide of hydrogen. I washed out
her stomach with it, and then my own. Then I injected some of the
peroxide into various parts of her body. The peroxide of hydrogen
and hydrocyanic acid, you know, make oxamide, which is a harmless
"The maid put Mrs. Boncour to bed, saved. I went to my house, a
wreck. Since then I have not left this bed. With my legs paralysed
I lie here, expecting each hour to be my last."
"Would you taste an unknown drug again to discover the nature of a
probable poison?" asked Craig.
"I don't know," he answered slowly, "but I suppose I would. In such
a case a conscientious doctor has no thought of self. He is there
to do things, and he does them, according to the best that is in him.
In spite of the fact that I haven't had one hour of unbroken sleep
since that fatal day, I suppose I would do it again."
When we were leaving, I remarked: "That is a martyr to science.
Could anything be more dramatic than his willing penalty for his
devotion to medicine?"
We walked along in silence. "Walter, did you notice he said not a
word of condemnation of Dixon, though the note was before his eyes?
Surely Dixon has some strong supporters in Danbridge, as well as
The next morning we continued our investigation. We found Dixon's
lawyer, Leland, in consultation with his client in the bare cell of
the county jail. Dixon proved to be a clear-eyed, clean-cut young
man. The thing that impressed me most about him, aside from the
prepossession in his favour due to the faith of Alma Willard, was
the nerve he displayed, whether guilty or innocent. Even an innocent
man might well have been staggered by the circumstantial evidence
against him and the high tide of public feeling, in spite of the
support that he was receiving. Leland, we learned, had been very
active. By prompt work at the time of the young doctor's arrest he
had managed to secure the greater part of Dr. Dixon's personal
letters, though the prosecutor secured some, the contents of which
had not been disclosed.
Kennedy spent most of the day in tracing out the movements of
Thurston. Nothing that proved important was turned up, and even
visits to near-by towns failed to show any sales of cyanide or
sublimate to any one not entitled to buy them. Meanwhile, in
turning over the gossip of the town, one of the newspapermen ran
across the fact that the Boncour bungalow was owned by the Posts,
and that Halsey Post, as the executor of the estate, was a more
frequent visitor than the mere collection of the rent would warrant.
Mrs. Boncour maintained a stolid silence that covered a seething
internal fury when the newspaperman in question hinted that the
landlord and tenant were on exceptionally good terms.
It was after a fruitless day of such search that we were sitting
in the reading-room of the Fairfield Hotel. Leland entered. His
face was positively white. Without a word he took us by the arm
and led us across Main Street and up a flight of stairs to his
office. Then he locked the door.
"What's the matter?" asked Kennedy.
"When I took this case," he said, "I believed down in my heart that
Dixon was innocent. I still believe it, but my faith has been
rudely shaken. I feel that you should know about what I have just
found. As I told you, we secured nearly all of Dr. Dixon's letters.
I had not read them all then. But I have been going through them
to-night. Here is a letter from Vera Lytton herself. You will
notice it is dated the day of her death."
He laid the letter before us. It was written in a curious
greyish-black ink in a woman's hand, and read:
Since we agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends, if
no longer lovers. I am not writing in anger to reproach you with
your new love, so soon after the old. I suppose Alma Willard is
far better suited to be your wife than is a poor little actress
- rather looked down on in this Puritan society here. But there
is something I wish to warn you about, for it concerns us all
We are in danger of an awful mix-up if we don't look out. Mr.
Thurston - I had almost said my husband, though I don't know whether
that is the truth or not - who has just come over from New York,
tells me that there is some doubt about the validity of our divorce.
You recall he was in the South at the time I sued him, and the
papers were served on him in Georgia. He now says the proof of
service was fraudulent and that he can set aside the divorce. In
that case you might figure in a suit for alienating my affections.
I do not write this with ill will, but simply to let you know how
things stand. If we had married, I suppose I would be guilty of
bigamy. At any rate, if he were disposed he could make a terrible
Oh, Harris, can't you settle with him if he asks anything? Don't
forget so soon that we once thought we were going to be the happiest
of mortals - at least I did. Don't desert me, or the very earth
will cry out against you. I am frantic and hardly know what I am
writing. My head aches, but it is my heart that is breaking.
Harris, I am yours still, down in my heart, but not to be cast off
like an old suit for a new one. You know the old saying about a
woman scorned. I beg you not to go back on
Your poor little deserted
As we finished reading, Leland exclaimed, "That never must come
before the jury."
Kennedy was examining the letter carefully. "Strange," he muttered.
"See how it was folded. It was written on the wrong side of the
sheet, or rather folded up with the writing outside. Where have
these letters been?"
"Part of the time in my safe, part of the time this afternoon on my
desk by the window."
"The office was locked, I suppose?" asked Kennedy. "There was no
way to slip this letter in among the others since you obtained them?"
"None. The office has been locked, and there is no evidence of any
one having entered or disturbed a thing."
He was hastily running over the pile of letters as if looking to see
whether they were all there. Suddenly he stopped.
"Yes," he exclaimed excitedly, "one of them is gone." Nervously he
fumbled through them again. "One is gone," he repeated, looking at
"What was it about?" asked Craig.
"It was a note from an artist, Thurston, who gave the address of Mrs.
Boncour's bungalow - ah, I see you have heard of him. He asked
Dixon's recommendation of a certain patent headache medicine. I
thought it possibly evidential, and I asked Dixon about it. He
explained it by saying that he did not have a copy of his reply, but
as near as he could recall, he wrote that the compound would not
cure a headache except at the expense of reducing heart action
dangerously. He says he sent no prescription. Indeed, he thought
it a scheme to extract advice without incurring the charge for an
office call and answered it only because he thought Vera had become
reconciled to Thurston again. I can't find that letter of Thurston's.
It is gone."
We looked at each other in amazement.
"Why, if Dixon contemplated anything against Miss Lytton, should he
preserve this letter from her?" mused Kennedy. "Why didn't he
"That's what puzzles me," remarked Leland. "Do you suppose some
one has broken in and substituted this Lytton letter for the
Kennedy was scrutinising the letter, saying nothing. "I may keep
it?" he asked at length. Leland was quite willing and even undertook
to obtain some specimens of the writing of Vera Lytton. With these
and the letter Kennedy was working far into the night and long after
I had passed into a land troubled with many wild dreams of deadly
poisons and secret intrigues of artists.
The next morning a message from our old friend First Deputy O'Connor
in New York told briefly of locating the rooms of an artist named
Thurston in one of the co-operative studio apartments. Thurston
himself had not been there for several days and was reported to have
gone to Maine to sketch. He had had a number of debts, but before
he left they had all been paid - strange to say, by a notorious firm
of Shyster lawyers, Kerr & Kimmel. Kennedy wired back to find out
the facts from Kerr & Kimmel and to locate Thurston at any cost.
Even the discovery of the new letter did not shake the wonderful
self-possession of Dr. Dixon. He denied ever having received it
and repeated his story of a letter from Thurston to which he had
replied by sending an answer, care of Mrs. Boncour, as requested.
He insisted that the engagement between Miss Lytton and himself had
been broken before the announcement of his engagement with Miss
Willard. As for Thurston, he said the man was little more than a
name to him. He had known perfectly all the circumstances of the
divorce, but had had no dealings with Thurston and no fear of him.
Again and again he denied ever receiving the letter from Vera
Kennedy did not tell the Willards of the new letter. The strain
had begun to tell on Alma, and her father had had her quietly
taken to a farm of his up in the country. To escape the curious
eyes of reporters, Halsey Post had driven up one night in his
closed car. She had entered it quickly with her father, and the
journey had been made in the car, while Halsey Post had quietly
dropped off on the outskirts of the town, where another car was
waiting to take him back. It was evident that the Willard family
relied implicitly on Halsey, and his assistance to them was most
considerate. While he never forced himself forward, he kept in
close touch with the progress of the case, and now that Alma was
away his watchfulness increased proportionately, and twice a day
he wrote a long report which was sent to her.
Kennedy was now bending every effort to locate the missing artist.
When he left Danbridge, he seemed to have dropped out of sight
completely. However, with O'Connor's aid, the police of all
New England were on the lookout.
The Thurstons had been friends of Halsey's before Vera Lytton had
ever met Dr. Dixon, we discovered from the Danbridge gossips, and I,
at least, jumped to the conclusion that Halsey was shielding the
artist, perhaps through a sense of friendship when he found that
Kennedy was interested in Thurston's movement. I must say I rather
liked Halsey, for he seemed very thoughtful of the Willards, and
was never too busy to give an hour or so to any commission they
wished carried out without publicity..
Two days passed with not a word from Thurston. Kennedy was obviously
getting impatient. One day a rumour was received that he was in Bar
Harbour; the next it was a report from Nova Scotia. At last, however,
came the welcome news that he had been located in New Hampshire,
arrested, and might be expected the next day.
At once Kennedy became all energy. He arranged for a secret
conference in Senator Willard's house, the moment the artist was to
arrive. The senator and his daughter made a flying trip back to
town. Nothing was said to any one about Thurston, but Kennedy
quietly arranged with the district attorney to be present with the
note and the jar of ammonia properly safeguarded. Leland of course
came, although his client could not. Halsey Post seemed only too
glad to be with Miss Willard, though he seemed to have lost interest
in the case as soon as the Willards returned to look after it
themselves. Mrs. Boncour was well enough to attend, and even Dr.
Waterworth insisted on coming in a private ambulance which drove
over from a near-by city especially for him. The time was fixed
just before the arrival of the train that was to bring Thurston.
It was an anxious gathering of friends and foes of Dr. Dixon who
sat impatiently waiting for Kennedy to begin this momentous
exposition that was to establish the guilt or innocence of the calm
young physician who sat impassively in the jail not half a mile
from the room where his life and death were being debated.
"In many respects this is the most remarkable case that it has ever
been my lot to handle," began Kennedy. "Never before have I felt
so keenly my sense of responsibility. Therefore, though this is a
somewhat irregular proceeding, let me begin by setting forth the
facts as I see them.
"First, let us consider the dead woman. The question that arises
here is, Was she murdered or did she commit suicide? I think you
will discover the answer as I proceed. Miss Lytton, as you know,
was, two years ago, Mrs. Burgess Thurston. The Thurstons had
temperament, and temperament is quite often the highway to the
divorce court. It was so in this case. Mrs. Thurston discovered
that her husband was paying much attention to other women. She
sued for divorce in New York, and he accepted service in the South,
where he happened to be. At least it was so testified by Mrs.
"Now here comes the remarkable feature of the case. The law firm
of Kerr & Kimmel, I find, not long ago began to investigate the=20
legality of this divorce. Before a notary Thurston made an affidavit
that he had never been served by the lawyer for Miss Lytton, as she
was now known. Her lawyer is dead, but his representative in the
South who served the papers is alive. He was brought to New York
and asserted squarely that he had served the papers properly.
"Here is where the shrewdness of Mose Kimmel, the shyster lawyer,
came in. He arranged to have the Southern attorney identify the
man he had served the papers on. For this purpose he was engaged
in conversation with one of his own clerks when the lawyer was due
to appear. Kimmel appeared to act confused, as if he had been
caught napping. The Southern lawyer, who had seen Thurston only
once, fell squarely into the trap and identified the clerk as
Thurston. There were plenty of witnesses to it, and it was point
number two for the great Mose Kimmel. Papers were drawn up to set
aside the divorce decree.
"In the meantime, Miss Lytton, or Mrs. Thurston, had become
acquainted with a young doctor in a New York hospital, and had
become engaged to him. It matters not that the engagement was
later broken. The fact remains that if the divorce were set aside
an action would lie against Dr. Dixon for alienating Mrs. Thurston's
affections, and a grave scandal would result. I need not add that
in this quiet little town of Danbridge the most could be made of
such a suit."
Kennedy was unfolding a piece=20of paper. As he laid it down, Leland,
who was sitting next to me, exclaimed under his breath:
"My God, he's going to let the prosecutor know about that letter.
Can't you stop him?"
It was too late. Kennedy had already begun to read Vera's letter.
It was damning to Dixon, added to the other note found in the
When he had finished reading, you could almost hear the hearts
throbbing in the room. A scowl overspread Senator Willard's features.
Alma Willard was pale and staring wildly at Kennedy. Halsey Post,
ever solicitous for her, handed her a glass of water from the table.
Dr. Waterworth had forgotten his pain in his intense attention, and
Mrs. Boncour seemed stunned with astonishment. The prosecuting
attorney was eagerly taking notes.
"In some way," pursued Kennedy in an even voice, "this letter was
either overlooked in the original correspondence of Dr. Dixon or it
was added to it later. I shall come back to that presently. My
next point is that Dr. Dixon says he received a letter from Thurston
on the day the artist visited the Boncour bungalow. It asked about
a certain headache compound, and his reply was brief and, as nearly
as I can find out, read, 'This compound will not cure your headache
except at the expense of reducing heart action dangerously.'
"Next comes the tragedy. On the evening of the day that Thurston=20
eft, after presumably telling Miss Lytton about what Kerr & Kimmel
had discovered, Miss Lytton is found dying with a bottle containing
cyanide and sublimate beside her. You are all familiar with the
circumstances and with the note discovered in the jar of ammonia.
Now, if the prosecutor will be so kind as to let me see that note
- thank you, sir. This is the identical note. You have all heard
the various theories of the jar and have read the note. Here it is
in plain, cold black and white - in Dr. Dixon's own handwriting,
as you know, and reads: 'This will cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.'"
Alma Willard seemed as one paralysed. Was Kennedy, who had been
engaged by her father to defend her fianc=82, about to convict him?
Before we draw the final conclusion," continued Kennedy gravely,
"there are one or two points I wish to elaborate. Walter, will you
open that door into the main hall?"
I did so, and two policemen stepped in with a prisoner. It was
Thurston, but changed almost beyond recognition. His clothes were
worn, his beard shaved off, and he had a generally hunted appearance.
Thurston was visibly nervous. Apparently he had heard all that
Kennedy had said and intended he should hear, for as he entered he
almost broke away from the police officers in his eagerness to speak.
"Before God," he cried dramatically, "I am as innocent as you are of
this crime, Professor Kennedy."
"Are you prepared to swear before me," almost shouted Kennedy, his
eyes blazing, "that you were never served properly by your wife's
lawyers in that suit?"
The man cringed back as if a stinging blow had been delivered
between his eyes. As he met Craig's fixed glare he knew there was
no hope. Slowly, as if the words were being wrung from him syllable
by syllable, he said in a muffled voice:
"No, I perjured myself. I was served in that suit. But - "
"And you swore falsely before Kimmel that you were not?" persisted
"Yes," he murmured. "But - "
"And you are prepared now to make another affidavit to that effect?"
"Yes," he replied. "If - "
"No buts or ifs, Thurston," cried Kennedy sarcastically. "What did
you make that affidavit for? What is your story?"
"Kimmel sent for me. I did not go to him. He offered to pay my
debts if I would swear to such a statement. I did not ask why or
for whom. I swore to it and gave him a list of my creditors. I
waited until they were paid. Then my conscience - " I could not
help revolting at the thought of conscience in such a wretch, and
the word itself seemed to stick in his throat as he went on and
saw how feeble an impression he was making on us - " my conscience
began to trouble me. I determined to see Vera, tell her all, and
find out whether it was she who wanted this statement. I saw her.
When at last I told her, she scorned me. I can confirm that, for
as I left a man entered. I now knew how grossly I had sinned, in
listening to Mose Kimmel. I fled. I disappeared in Maine. I
travelled. Every day my money grew less. At last I was overtaken,
captured, and brought back here."
He stopped and sank wretchedly down in a chair and covered his face
with his hands.
"A likely story," muttered Leland in my ear.
Kennedy was working quickly. Motioning the officers to be seated
by Thurston, he uncovered a jar which he had placed on the table.
The colour had now appeared in Alma's cheeks, as if hope had again
sprung in her heart, and I fancied that Halsey Post saw his claim
on her favour declining correspondingly.
"I want you to examine the letters in this case with me," continued
Kennedy. "Take the letter which I read from Miss Lytton, which was
found following the strange disappearance of the note from Thurston."
He dipped a pen into a little bottle, and wrote on a piece of paper:
What is your opinion about Cross's Headache Cure? Would you
recommend it for a nervous headache?
c/o Mrs. S. BONCOUR.
Craig held up the writing so that we could all see that he had
written what Dixon declared Thurston wrote in the note that had
disappeared. Then he dipped another pen into a second bottle, and
for some time he scrawled on another sheet of paper. He held it up,
but it was still perfectly blank.
"Now," he added, "I am going to give a little demonstration which
I expect to be successful only in a measure. Here in the open
sunshine by this window I am going to place these two sheets of
paper side by side. It will take longer than I care to wait to make
my demonstration complete, but I can do enough to convince you."
For a quarter of an hour we sat in silence, wondering what he would
do next. At last he beckoned us over to the window. As we
approached he said, "On sheet number one I have written with
quinoline; on sheet number two I wrote with a solution of nitrate of
We bent over. The writing signed "Thurston" on sheet number one
was faint, almost imperceptible, but on paper number two, in black
letters, appeared what Kennedy had written: " Dear Harris: Since
we agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends."
"It is like the start of the substituted letter, and the other is
like the missing note," gasped Leland in a daze.
"Yes," said Kennedy quickly. "Leland, no one entered your office.
No one stole the Thurston note. No one substituted the Lytton
letter. According to your own story, you took them out of the
safe and left them in the sunlight all day. The process that had
been started earlier in ordinary light, slowly, was now quickly
completed. In other words, there was writing which would soon fade
away on one side of the paper and writing which was invisible but
would soon appear on the other.
"For instance, quinoline rapidly disappears in sunlight. Starch
with a slight trace of iodine writes a light blue, which disappears
in air. It was something like that used in the Thurston letter.
Then, too, silver nitrate dissolved in ammonia gradually turns black
as it is acted on by light and air. Or magenta treated with a
bleaching-agent in just sufficient quantity to decolourise it is
invisible when used for writing. But the original colour reappears
as the oxygen of the air acts upon the pigment. I haven't a doubt
but that my analyses of the inks are correct and on one side
quinoline was used and on the other nitrate of silver. This explains
the inexplicable disappearance of evidence incriminating one person,
Thurston, and the sudden appearance of evidence incriminating
another, Dr. Dixon. Sympathetic ink also accounts for the curious
circumstance that the Lytton letter was folded up with the writing
apparently outside. It was outside and unseen until the sunlight
brought it out and destroyed the other, inside, writing - a change,
I suspect, that was intended for the police to see after it was
completed, not for the defence to witness as it was taking place."
We looked at each other aghast. Thurston was nervously opening
and shutting his lips and moistening them as if he wanted to say
something but could not find the words.
"Lastly," went on Craig, utterly regardless of Thurston's frantic
efforts to speak, "we come to the note that was discovered so
queerly crumpled up in the jar of ammonia on Vera Lytton's
dressing-table. I have here a cylindrical glass jar in which
I place some sal-ammoniac and quicklime. I will wet it and heat
it a little. That produces the pungent gas of ammonia.
"On one side of this third piece of paper I myself write with this
mercurous nitrate solution. You see, I leave no mark on the paper
as I write. I fold it up and drop it into the jar - and in a few
seconds withdraw it. Here is a very quick way of producing something
like the slow result of sunlight with silver nitrate. The fumes of
ammonia have formed the precipitate of black mercurous nitrate, a
very distinct black writing which is almost indelible. That is what
is technically called invisible rather than sympathetic ink."
We leaned over to read what he had written. It was the same as the
note incriminating Dixon:
This will cure your headache.
A servant entered with a telegram from New York. Scarcely stopping
in his exposure, Kennedy tore it open, read it hastily, stuffed it
into his pocket, and went on.
"Here in this fourth bottle I have an acid solution of iron chloride,
diluted until the writing is invisible when dry," he hurried on. "I
will just make a few scratches on this fourth sheet of paper - so.
It leaves no mark. But it has the remarkable property of becoming
red in vapour of sulpho-cyanide. Here is a long-necked flask of the
gas, made by sulphuric acid acting on potassium sulphocyanide. Keep
back, Dr. Waterworth, for it would be very dangerous for you to get
even a whiff of this in your condition. Ah! See - the scratches
I made on the paper are red."
Then hardly giving us more than a moment to let the fact impress
itself on our minds, he seized the piece of paper and dashed it
into the jar of ammonia. When he withdrew it, it was just a plain
sheet of white paper again. The red marks which the gas in the
flask had brought out of nothingness had been effaced by the ammonia.
They had gone and left no trace.
"In this way I can alternately make the marks appear and disappear
by using the sulpho-cyanide and the ammonia. Whoever wrote this
note with Dr. Dixon's name on it must have had the doctor's reply
to the Thurston letter containing the words, 'This will not cure
your headache.' He carefully traced the words, holding the genuine
note up to the light with a piece of paper over it, leaving out the
word 'not' and using only such words as he needed. This note was
"But he forgot that after he had brought out the red writing by the
use of the sulpho-cyanide, and though he could count on Vera Lytton's
placing the note in the jar of ammonia and hence obliterating the
writing, while at the same time the invisible writing in the mercurous
nitrate involving Dr. Dixon's name would be brought out by the ammonia
indelibly on the other side of the note - he forgot" - Kennedy was
now speaking eagerly and loudly - "that the sulpho-cyanide vapours
could always be made to bring back to accuse him the words that the
ammonia had blotted out."
Before the prosecutor could interfere, Kennedy had picked up the
note found in the ammonia-jar beside the dying girl and had jammed
the state's evidence into the long-necked flask of sulpho-cyanide
"Don't fear," he said, trying to pacify the now furious prosecutor,
"it will do nothing to the Dixon writing. That is permanent now,
even if it is only a tracing."
When he withdrew the note, there was writing on both sides, the
black of the original note and something in red on the other side.
We crowded around, and Craig read it with as much interest as any
"Before taking the headache-powder, be sure to place the contents
of this paper in a jar with a little warm water."
"Hum," commented Craig, "this was apparently on the outside wrapper
of a paper folded about some sal-ammoniac and quicklime. It goes on:
"'Just drop the whole thing in, paper and all. Then if you feel a
faintness from the medicine the ammonia will quickly restore you.
One spoonful of the headache-powder swallowed quickly is enough.'"
No name was signed to the directions, but they were plainly written,
and "paper and all" was underscored heavily.
Craig pulled out some letters. "I have here specimens of writing
of many persons connected with this case, but I can see at a glance
which one corresponds to the writing on this red death-warrant by
an almost inhuman fiend. I shall, however, leave that part of it
to the handwriting experts to determine at the trial. Thurston, who
was the man whom you saw enter the Boncour bungalow as you left
- the constant visitor?"
Thurston had not yet regained his self-control, but with trembling
forefinger he turned and pointed to Halsey Post.
"Yes, ladies and gentlemen," cried Kennedy as he slapped the telegram
that had just come from New York down on the table decisively, "yes,
the real client of Kerr & Kimmel, who bent Thurston to his purposes,
was Halsey Post, once secret lover of Vera Lytton till threatened by
scandal in Danbridge - Halsey Post, graduate in technology, student
of sympathetic inks, forger of the Vera Lytton letter and the other
notes, and dealer in cyanides in the silver-smithing business,
fortune-hunter for the Willard millions with which to recoup the Post
& Vance losses, and hence rival of Dr. Dixon for the love of Alma
Willard. That is the man who wielded the poisoned pen. Dr. Dixon
"Hello! Yes, this is Professor Kennedy. I didn't catch the name
- oh, yes - President Blake of the Standard Burglary Insurance
Company. What - really? The Branford pearls - stolen? Maid
chloroformed? Yes, I'll take the case. You'll be up in half an
hour? All right, I'll be here. Goodbye."
It was through this brief and businesslike conversation over the
telephone that Kennedy became involved in what proved to be one of
the most dangerous cases he had ever handled.
At the mention of the Branford pearls I involuntarily stopped
reading, and listened, not because I wanted to pry into Craig's
affairs, but because I simply couldn't help it. This was news that
had not yet been given out to the papers, and my instinct told me
that there must be something more to it than the bare statement of
"Some one has made a rich haul," I commented. "It was reported, I
remember, when the Branford pearls were bought in Paris last year
that Mrs. Branford paid upward of a million francs for the
"Blake is bringing up his shrewdest detective to co-operate with me
in the case," added Kennedy. "Blake, I understand, is the head of
the Burglary Insurance Underwriters' Association, too. This will
be a big thing, Walter, if we can carry it through."
It was the longest half-hour that I ever put in, waiting for Blake
to arrive. When he did come, it was quite evident that my surmise
had been correct.
Blake was one of those young old men who are increasingly common in
business to-day. There was an air of dignity and keenness about his
manner that showed clearly how important he regarded the case. So
anxious was he to get down to business that he barely introduced
himself and his companion, Special Officer Maloney, a typical private
"Of course you haven't heard anything except what I have told you
over the wire," he began, going right to the point. "We were
notified of it only this noon ourselves, and we haven't given it
out to the papers yet, though the local police in Jersey are now
on the scene. The New York police must be notified to-night, so
that whatever we do must be done before they muss things up. We've
got a clue that we want to follow up secretly. These are the facts.
In the terse, straightforward language of the up-to-date man of
efficiency, he sketched the situation for us.
"The Branford estate, you know, consists of several acres on the
mountain back of Montclair, overlooking the valley, and surrounded
by even larger estates. Branford, I understand, is in the West with
a party of capitalists, inspecting a reported find of potash salts.
Mrs. Branford closed up the house a few days ago and left for a
short stay at Palm Beach. Of course they ought to have put their
valuables in a safe deposit vault. But they didn't. They relied
on a safe that was really one of the best in the market - a splendid
safe, I may say. Well, it seems that while the master and mistress
were both away the servants decided on having a good time in New
York. They locked up the house securely - there's no doubt of that
- and just went. That is, they all went except Mrs. Branford's
maid, who refused to go for some reason or other. We've got all
the servants, but there's not a clue to be had from any of them.
They just went off on a bust, that's clear. They admit it.
"Now, when they got back early this morning they found the maid in
bed - dead. There was still a strong odour of chloroform about the
room. The bed was disarranged as if there had been a struggle. A
towel had been wrapped up in a sort: of cone, saturated with
chloroform, and forcibly held over the girl's nose. The next thing
they discovered was the safe - blown open in a most peculiar manner.
I won't dwell on that. We're going to take you out there and show
it to you after I've told you the whole story.
"Here's the real point. It looks all right, so far. The local
police say that the thief or thieves, whoever they were, apparently
gained access by breaking a back window. That's mistake number one.
Tell Mr. Kennedy about the window, Maloney."
"It's just simply this," responded the detective. "When I came to
look at the broken window I found that the glass had fallen outside
in such a way as it could not have fallen if the window had been
broken from the outside. The thing was a blind. Whoever did it
got into the house in some other way and then broke the glass later
to give a false clue.
"And," concluded Blake, taking his cigar between his thumb and
forefinger and shaking it to give all possible emphasis to his words,
"we have had our agent at Palm Beach on long-distance 'phone twice
this afternoon. Mrs. Branford did no: go to Palm Beach. She did
not engage rooms in any hotel there. And furthermore she never had
any intention of going there. By a fortunate circumstance Maloney
picked up a hint from one of the servants, and he has located her
at the Grattan Inn in this city. In other words, Mrs. Branford has
stolen her own jewels from herself in order to collect the burglary
insurance - a common-enough thing in itself, but never to my
knowledge done on such a large scale before."
The insurance man sank back in his chair and surveyed us sharply.
"But," interrupted Kennedy slowly, "how about -"
"I know - the maid," continued Blake. "I do not mean that Mrs.
Branford did the actual stealing. Oh, no. That was done by a
yeggman of experience. He must have been above the average,
but everything points to the work of a yeggman. She hired him.
But he overstepped the mark when he chloroformed the maid."
For a moment Kennedy said nothing. Then he remarked: "Let us go
out and see the safe. There must be some clue. After that I want
to have a talk with Mrs. Branford. By the way," he added, as we
all rose to go down to Blake's car, "I once handled a life insurance
case for the Great Eastern. I made the condition that I was to
handle it in my own way, whether it went for or against the company.
That's understood, is it, before I undertake the case?"
"Yes, yes," agreed Blake. "Get at the truth. We're not seeking to
squirm out of meeting an honest liability. Only we want to make a
signal example if it is as we have every reason to believe. There
has been altogether too much of this sort of fake burglary to collect
insurance, and as president of the underwriters it is my duty and
intention to put a stop to it. Come on."
Maloney nodded his head vigorously in assent with his chief. "Never
fear," he murmured. "The truth is what will benefit the company,
all right. She did it."
The Branford estate lay some distance back from the railroad station,
so that, although it took longer to go by automobile than by train,
the car made us independent of the rather fitful night train service
and the local cabmen.
We found the house not deserted by the servants, but subdued. The
body of the maid had been removed to a local morgue, and a police
officer was patrolling the grounds, though of what use that could be
I was at a loss to understand.
Kennedy was chiefly interested in the safe. It was of the so-called
"burglar-proof" variety, spherical in shape, and looking for all
the world like a miniature piece of electrical machinery.
"I doubt if anything could have withstood such savage treatment as
has been given to this safe," remarked Craig as he concluded a
cursory examination of it. "It shows great resistance to high
explosives, chiefly, I believe, as a result of its rounded shape.
But nothing could stand up against such continued assaults."
He continued to examine the safe while we stood idly by. "I like
to reconstruct my cases in my own mind," explained Kennedy, as he
took his time in the examination. "Now, this fellow must have
stripped the safe of all the outer trimmings. His next move was
to make a dent in the manganese surface across the joint where the
door fits the body. That must have taken a good many minutes
of husky work. In fact, I don't see how he could have done it
without a sledge-hammer and a hot chisel. Still, he did it and
"But the maid," interposed Maloney. "She was in the house. She
would have heard and given an alarm."
For answer, Craig simply went to a bay-window and raised the curtain.
Pointing to the lights of the next house, far down the road, he said,
"I'll buy the best cigars in the state if you can make them hear you
on a blustery night like last night. No, she probably did scream.
Either at this point, or at the very start, the burglar must have
chloroformed her. I don't see any other way to explain it. I doubt
if he expected such a tough proposition as he found in this safe, but
he was evidently prepared to carry it through, now that he was here
and had such an unexpectedly clear field, except for the maid. He
simply got her out of the way, or his confederates did - in the
easiest possible way, poor girl."
Returning to the safe, he continued: "Well, anyhow, he made a furrow
perhaps an inch and a half long and a quarter of an inch wide and, I
should say, not over an eighth of an inch deep. Then he commenced
to burgle in earnest. Under the dent he made a sort of little cup
of red clay and poured in the 'soup' - the nitroglycerin - so that
it would run into the depression. Then he exploded it in the regular
way with a battery and a fulminate cap. I doubt if it did much more
than discolour the metal at first. Still, with the true persistency
of his kind, he probably repeated the dose, using more and more of
the 'soup' until the joint was stretched a little, and more of an
opening made so that the 'soup' could run in.
"Again and again he must have repeated and increased the charges.
Perhaps he used two or three cups at a time. By this time the
outer door must have been stretched so as to make it easy to
introduce the explosive. No doubt he was able to use ten or twelve
ounces of the stuff at a charge. It must have been more like
target-practice than safe-blowing. But the chance doesn't often
come - an empty house and plenty of time. Finally the door must
have bulged a fraction of an inch or so, and then a good big charge
and the outer portion was ripped off and the safe turned over.
There was still two or three inches of manganese steel protecting
the contents, wedged in so tight that it must have seemed that
nothing could budge it. But he must have kept at it until we have
the wreck that we see here," and Kennedy kicked the safe with his
foot as he finished.
Blake was all attention by this time, while Maloney gasped, "If I
was in the safe-cracking business, I'd make you the head of the
"And now," said Craig, "let us go back to New York and see if we
can find Mrs. Branford."
"Of course you understand," explained Blake as we were speeding
back, "that most of these cases of fake robberies are among small
people, many of them on the East Side among little jewellers or
other tradesmen. Still, they are not limited to any one class.
Indeed, it is easier to foil the insurance companies when you sit
in the midst of finery and wealth, protected by a self-assuring
halo of moral rectitude, than under less fortunate circumstances.
Too often, I'm afraid, we have good-naturedly admitted the unsolved
burglary and paid the insurance claim. That has got to stop. Here's
a case where we considered the moral hazard a safe one, and we are
mistaken. It's the last straw."
Our interview with Mrs. Branford was about as awkward an undertaking
as I have ever been concerned with. Imagine yourself forced to
question a perfectly stunning woman, who was suspected of plotting
so daring a deed and knew that you suspected her. Resentment was no
name for her feelings. She scorned us, loathed us. It was only by
what must have been the utmost exercise of her remarkable will-power
that she restrained herself from calling the hotel porters and having
us thrown out bodily. That would have put a bad face on it, so she
tolerated our presence. Then, of course, the insurance company had
reserved the right to examine everybody in the household, under oath
if necessary, before passing on the claim.
"This is an outrage," she exclaimed, her eyes flashing and her
breast rising and falling with suppressed emotion, "an outrage.
When my husband returns I intend to have him place the whole matter
in the hands of the best attorney in the city. Not only will I
have the full amount of the insurance, but I will have damages and
costs and everything the law allows. Spying on my every movement
in this way - it is an outrage! One would think we were in St.
Petersburg instead of New York."
"One moment, Mrs. Branford," put in Kennedy, as politely as he could.
"Suppose - "
"Suppose nothing," she cried angrily. "I shall explain nothing,
say nothing. What if I do choose to close up that lonely big house
in the suburbs and come to the city to live for a few days - is it
anybody's business except mine?"
"And your husband's?" added Kennedy, nettled at her treatment of him.
She shot him a scornful glance. "I suppose Mr. Branford went out to
Arizona for the express purpose of collecting insurance on my jewels,"
she added sarcastically with eyes that snapped fire.
"I was about to say," remarked Kennedy as imperturbably as if he
were an automaton, "that supposing some one took advantage of your
absence to rob your safe, don't you think the wisest course would be
to be perfectly frank about it?"
"And give just one plausible reason why you wished so much to have
it known that you were going to Palm Beach when in reality you were
in New York?" pursued Maloney, while Kennedy frowned at his tactless
attempt at a third degree.
If she had resented Kennedy, she positively flew up in the air and
commenced to aviate at Maloney's questioning. Tossing her head, she
said icily: "I do not know that you have been appointed my guardian,
sir. Let us consider this interview at an end. Good-night," and
with that she swept out of the room, ignoring Maloney and bestowing
one biting glance on Blake, who actually winced, so little relish
did he have for this ticklish part of the proceedings.
I think we all felt like schoolboys who had been detected robbing a
melon-patch or in some other heinous offence, as we slowly filed
down the hall to the elevator. A woman of Mrs. Branford's stamp so
readily and successfully puts one in the wrong that I could easily
comprehend why Blake wanted to call on Kennedy for help in what
otherwise seemed a plain case.
Blake and Maloney were some distance ahead of us, as Craig leaned
over to me and whispered: "That Maloney is impossible. I'll have
to shake him loose in some way. Either we handle this case alone
or we quit."
Right-o," I agreed emphatically. "He's put his foot in it badly at
the very start. Only, be decent about it, Craig. The case is too
big for you to let it slip by."
"Trust me, Walter. I'll do it tactfully," he whispered, then to
Blake he added as we overtook them: "Maloney is right. The case is
simple enough, after all. But we must find out some way to fasten
the thing more closely on Mrs. Branford. Let me think out a scheme
to-night. I'll see you to-morrow."
As Blake and Maloney disappeared down the street in the car, Kennedy
wheeled about and walked deliberately back into the Grattan Inn again.
It was quite late. People were coming in from the theatres, laughing
and chatting gaily. Kennedy selected a table that commanded a view
of the parlour as well as of the dining-room itself.
"She was dressed to receive some one - did you notice?" he remarked
as we sat down and cast our eyes over the dizzy array of inedibles
on the card before us. "I think it is worth waiting a while to see
who it is."
Having ordered what I did not want, I glanced about until my eye
rested on a large pier-glass at the other end of the dining-room.
"Craig," I whispered excitedly, "Mrs. B. is in the writing-room - I
can see her in that glass at the end of the room, behind you."
"Get up and change places with me as quietly as you can, Walter,"
he said quickly. "I want to see her when she can't see me."
Kennedy was staring in rapt attention at the mirror. "There's a
man with her, Walter," he said under his breath. "He came in while
we were changing places - a fine-looking chap. By Jove, I've seen
him before somewhere. His face and his manner are familiar to me.
But I simply can't place him. Did you see her wraps in the chair?
No? Well, he's helping her on with them. They're going out. Garcon,
l'addition - vite."
We were too late, however, for just as we reached the door we caught
a fleeting glimpse of a huge new limousine.
"Who was that man who just went out with the lady?" asked Craig of
the negro who turned the revolving-door at the carriage entrance.
"Jack Delarue, sah - in 'The Grass Widower,' sah," replied the
doorman. "Yes, sah, he stays here once in a while. Thank you, sah,"
as Kennedy dropped a quarter into the man's hand.
"That complicates things considerably," he mused as we walked slowly
down to the subway station. "Jack Delarue - I wonder if he is mixed
up in this thing also."
"I've heard that 'The Grass Widower' isn't such a howling success
as a money-maker," I volunteered. "Delarue has a host of creditors,
no doubt. By the way, Craig," I exclaimed, "don't you think it
would be a good plan to drop down and see O'Connor? The police will
have to be informed in a few hours now, anyhow. Maybe Delarue has
a criminal record."
"A good idea, Walter," agreed Craig, turning into a drug-store which
had a telephone booth. "I'll just call O'Connor up, and we'll see
if he does know anything about it.
O'Connor was not at headquarters, but we finally found him at his
home, and it was well into the small hours when we arrived there.
Trusting to the first deputy's honour, which had stood many a test,
Craig began to unfold the story. He had scarcely got as far as
describing the work of the suspected hired yeggman, when O'Connor
raised both hands and brought them down hard on the arms of his
"Say," he ejaculated, "that explains it!"
"What?" we asked in chorus.
"Why, one of my best stool-pigeons told me to-day that there was
something doing at a house in the Chatham Square district that we
have been watching for a long time. It's full of crooks, and to-day
they've all been as drunk as lords, a sure sign some one has made a
haul and been generous with the rest. And one or two of the
professional 'fences' have been acting suspiciously, too. Oh, that
explains it all right."
I looked at Craig as much as to say, "I told you so," but he was
engrossed in what O'Connor was saying.
"You know," continued the police officer, "there is one particular
'fence' who runs his business under the guise of a loan-shark's
office. He probably has a wider acquaintance among the big criminals
than any other man in the city. From him crooks can obtain anything
from a jimmy to a safe-cracking outfit. I know that this man has
been trying to dispose of some unmounted pearls to-day among
jewellers in Maiden Lane. I'll bet he has been disposing of some
of the Branford pearls, one by one. I'll follow that up. I'll
arrest this 'fence' and hold him till he tells me what yeggman came
to him with the pearls."
"And if you find out, will you go with me to that house near Chatham
Square, providing it was some one in that gang?" asked Craig eagerly.
O'Connor shook his head. "I'd better keep out of it. They know me
too well. Go alone. I'll get that stool-pigeon - the Gay Cat is
his name - to go with you. I'll help you in any way. I'll have
any number of plain-clothes men you want ready to raid the place the
moment you get the evidence. But you'll never get any evidence if
they know I'm in the neighbourhood."
The next morning Craig scarcely ate any breakfast himself and made
me bolt my food most unceremoniously. We were out in Montclair
again before the commuters had started to go to New York, and that
in spite of the fact that we had stopped at his laboratory on the
way and had got a package which he carried carefully.
Kennedy instituted a most thorough search of the house from cellar
to attic in daylight. What he expected to find, I did not know,
but I am quite sure nothing escaped him.
"Now, Walter," he said after he had ransacked the house, "there
remains just one place. Here is this little wall safe in Mrs.
Branford's room. We must open it."
For an hour if not longer he worked over the combination, listening
to the fall of the tumblers in the lock. It was a simple little
thing and one of the old-timers in the industry would no doubt have
opened it in short order. The perspiration stood out on his
forehead, so intent was he in working the thing. At last it yielded.
Except for some of the family silver, the safe was empty.
Carefully noting how the light shone on the wall safe, Craig
unwrapped the package he had brought and disclosed a camera. He
placed it on a writing-desk opposite the safe, in such a way that it
was not at all conspicuous, and focused it on the safe.
"This is a camera with a newly-invented between-lens shutter of
great illumination and efficiency," he explained. "It has always
been practically impossible to get such pictures, but this new
shutter has so much greater speed than anything ever invented before
that it is possible to use it in detective work. I'll just run
these fine wires like a burglar alarm, only instead of having an
alarm I'll attach them to the camera so that we can get a picture.
I've proved its speed up to one two-thousandth of a second. It
may or it may not work. If it does we'll catch somebody, right in
About noon we went down to Liberty Street, home of burglary
insurance. I don't think Blake liked it very much because Kennedy
insisted on playing the lone hand, but he said nothing, for it was
part of the agreement. Maloney seemed rather glad than otherwise.
He had been combing out some tangled clues of his own about Mrs.
Branford. Still, Kennedy smoothed things over by complimenting the
detective on his activity, and indeed he had shown remarkable
ability in the first place in locating Mrs. Branford.
"I started out with the assumption that the Branfords must have
needed money for some reason or other," said Maloney. " So I went
to the commercial agencies to-day and looked up Branford. I can't
say he has been prosperous; nobody has been in Wall Street these
days, and that's just the thing that causes an increase in fake
burglaries. Then there is another possibility," he continued
triumphantly. "I had a man up at the Grattan Inn, and he reports
to me that Mrs. Branford was seen with the actor Jack Delarue last
night. I imagine they quarrelled, for she returned alone, much
agitated, in a taxi-cab. Any way you look at it, the clues are
promising - whether she needed money for Branford's speculations or
for the financing of that rake Delarue."
Maloney regarded Craig with the air of an expert who could afford
to patronise a good amateur - but after all an amateur. Kennedy
said nothing, and of course I took the cue.
"Yes," agreed Blake, "you see, our original hypothesis was a pretty
good one. Meanwhile, of course, the police are floundering around
in a bog of false scents."
"It would make our case a good deal stronger," remarked Kennedy
quietly, "if we could discover some of the stolen jewellery hidden
somewhere by Mrs. Branford herself." He said nothing of his own
unsuccessful search through the house, but continued: "What do you
suppose she has done with the jewels? She must have put them
somewhere before she got the yeggman to break the safe. She'd
hardly trust them in his hands. But she might have been foolish
enough for that. Of course it's another possibility that he really
got away with them. I doubt if she has them at Grattan Inn, or
even if she would personally put them in a safe deposit vault.
Perhaps Delarue figures in that end of it. We must let no stone
"That's right," meditated Maloney, apparently turning something
over in his mind as if it were a new idea. "If we only had some
evidence, even part of the jewels that she had hidden, it would
clinch the case. That's a good idea, Kennedy."
Craig said nothing, but I could see, or fancied I saw, that he was
gratified at the thought that he had started Maloney off on another
trail, leaving us to follow ours unhampered. The interview with
Blake was soon over, and as we left I looked inquiringly at Craig.
"I want to see Mrs. Branford again," he said. "I think we can do
better alone to-day than we did last night."
I must say I half expected that she would refuse to see us and was
quite surprised when the page returned with the request that we go
up to her suite. It was evident that her attitude toward us was
very different from that of the first interview. Whether she was
ruffled by the official presence of Blake or the officious presence
of Maloney, she was at least politely tolerant of us. Or was it
that she at last began to realise that the toils were closing about
her and that things began to look unmistakably black?
Kennedy was quick to see his advantage. "Mrs. Branford," he began,
"since last night I have come into the possession of some facts
that are very important. I have heard that several loose pearls
which may or may not be yours have been offered for sale by a man
on the Bowery who is what the yeggmen call a 'fence.'"
"Yeggmen - 'fence'?" she repeated. "Mr. Kennedy, really I do not
care to discuss the pearls any longer. It is immaterial to me what
becomes of them. My first desire is to collect the insurance. If
anything is recovered I am quite willing to deduct that amount from
the total. But I must insist on the full insurance or the return
of the pearls. As soon as Mr. Branford arrives I shall take other
steps to secure redress."
A boy rapped at the door and brought in a telegram which she tore
open nervously. "He will be here in four days," she said, tearing
the telegram petulantly, and not at all as if she were glad to
receive it. "Is there anything else that you wish to say?"
She was tapping her foot on the rug as if anxious to conclude the
interview. Kennedy leaned forward earnestly and played his trump
"Do you remember that scene in 'The Grass Widower,'" he said slowly,
"where Jack Delarue meets his runaway wife at the masquerade ball?"
She coloured slightly, but instantly regained her composure.
"Vaguely," she murmured, toying with the flowers in her dress.
"In real life," said Kennedy, his voice purposely betraying that he
meant it to have a personal application, "husbands do not forgive
even rumours of - ah - shall we say affinities? - much less the fact."
"In real life," she replied, "wives do not have affinities as often
as some newspapers and plays would have us believe."
"I saw Delarue after the performance last night," went on Kennedy
inexorably. "I was not seen, but I saw, and he was with - "
She was pacing the room now in unsuppressed excitement. "Will you
never stop spying on me?" she cried. "Must my every act be watched
and misrepresented? I suppose a distorted version of the facts
will be given to my husband. Have you no chivalry, or justice, or
- or mercy?" she pleaded, stopping in front of Kennedy.
"Mrs. Branford," he replied coldly, "I cannot promise what I shall
do. My duty is simply to get at the truth about the pearls. If it
involves some other person, it is still my duty to get at the truth.
Why not tell me all that you really know about the pearls and trust
me to bring it out all right?"
She faced him, pale and haggard. "I have told," she repeated
steadily. "I cannot tell any more - I know nothing more."
Was she lying? I was not expert enough in feminine psychology to
judge, but down in my heart I knew that the woman was hiding
something behind that forced steadiness. What was it she was
battling for? We had reached an impasse.
It was after dinner when I met Craig at the laboratory. He had made
a trip to Montclair again, where his stay had been protracted because
Maloney was there and he wished to avoid him. He had brought back
the camera, and had had another talk with O'Connor, at which he had
mapped out a plan of battle.
"We are to meet the Gay Cat at the City Hall at nine o'clock,"
explained Craig laconically. "We are going to visit a haunt of
yeggmen, Walter, that few outsiders have ever seen. Are you game?
O'Connor and his men will be close by - hiding, of course."
"I suppose so, I replied slowly. But what excuse are you going to
have for getting into this yegg-resort?"
"Simply that we are two newspaper men looking for an article,
without names, dates, or places - just a good story of yeggmen and
tramps. I've got a little - well, we'll call it a little camera
outfit that I'm going to sling over my shoulder. You are the
reporter, remember, and I'm the newspaper photographer. They won't
pose for us, of course, but that will be all right. Speaking about
photographs, I got one out at Montclair that is interesting. I'll
show it to you later in the evening - and in case anything should
happen to me, Walter, you'll find the original plate locked here
in the top drawer of my desk. I guess we'd better be getting
The house to which we were guided by the Gay Cat was on a cross
street within a block or two of Chatham Square. If we had passed
it casually in the daytime there would have been nothing to
distinguish it above the other ramshackle buildings on the street,
except that the other houses were cluttered with children and
baby-carriages, while this one was vacant, the front door closed,
and the blinds tightly drawn. As we approached, a furtive figure
shambled from the basement areaway and slunk off into the crowd
for the night's business of pocket-picking or second-story work.
I had had misgivings as to whether we would be admitted at all - I
might almost say hopes - but the Gay Cat succeeded in getting a
ready response at the basement door. The house itself was the
dilapidated ruin of what had once been a fashionable residence in
the days when society lived in the then suburban Bowery. The iron
handrail on the steps was still graceful, though rusted and
insecure. The stones of the steps were decayed and eaten away by
time, and the front door was never opened.
As we entered the low basement door, I felt that those who entered
here did indeed abandon hope. Inside, the evidences of the past
grandeur were still more striking. What had once been a
drawing-room was now the general assembly room of the resort.
Broken-down chairs lined the walls, and the floor was generously
sprinkled with sawdust. A huge pot-bellied stove occupied the
centre of the room, and by it stood a box of sawdust plentifully
discoloured with tobacco-juice.
Three or four of the "guests " - there was no "register" in this
yeggman's hotel - were seated about the stove discussing something
in a language that was English, to be sure, but of a variation
that only a yegg could understand. I noted the once handsome white
marble mantel, now stained by age, standing above the unused grate.
Double folding-doors led to what, I imagine, was once a library.
Dirt and grime indescribable were everywhere. There was the smell
of old clothes and old cooking, the race odours of every nationality
known to the metropolis. I recalled a night I once spent in a
Bowery lodging-house for "local colour." Only this was infinitely
worse. No law regulated this house. There was an atmosphere of
cheerlessness that a half-thickened Welsbach mantle turned into
Our guide introduced us. There was a dead silence as eight eyes
were craftily fixed on us, sizing us up. What should I say? Craig
came to the rescue. To him the adventure was a lark. It was novel,
and that was merit enough.
"Ask about the slang," he suggested. "That makes a picturesque
It seemed to me innocuous enough, so I engaged in conversation with
a man whom the Gay Cat had introduced as the proprietor. Much of
the slang I already knew by hearsay, such as "bulls" for policemen,
a "mouthpiece" for a lawyer to defend one when he is "ditched" or
arrested; in fact, as I busily scribbled away I must have collected
a lexicon of a hundred words or so for future reference.
"And names?" I queried. "You have some queer nicknames."
"Oh, yes," replied the man. "Now here's the Gay Cat - that's what
we call a fellow who is the finder, who enters a town ahead of the
gang. Then there's Chi Fat - that means he's from Chicago and fat.
And Pitts Slim - he's from Pittsburgh and - "
"Aw, cut it," broke in one of the others. "Pitts Slim'll be here
to-night. He'll give you the devil if he hears you talking to
reporters about him."
The proprietor began to talk of less dangerous subjects. Craig
succeeded in drawing out from him the yegg recipe for making "soup."
"It's here in this cipher," said the man, drawing out a dirty piece
of paper. "It's well known, and you can have this. Here's the key.
It was written by 'Deafy' Smith, and the police pinched it."
Craig busily translated the curious document:
Take ten or a dozen sticks of dynamite, crumble it up fine,
and put it in a pan or washbowl, then pour over it enough
alcohol, wood or pure, to cover it well. Stir it up well with
your hands, being careful to break all the lumps. Leave it
set for a few minutes. Then get a few yards of cheesecloth
and tear it up in pieces and strain the mixture through the
cloth into another Vessel. Wring the sawdust dry and throw
it away. The remains will be the soup and alcohol mixed.
Next take the same amount of water as you used of alcohol
and pour it in. Leave the whole set for a few minutes.
"Very interesting," commented Craig. "Safe-blowing in one lesson
by correspondence school. The rest of this tells how to attack
various makes, doesn't it?"
Just then a thin man in a huge, worn ulster came stamping upstairs
from the basement, his collar up and his hat down over his eyes.
There was something indefinably familiar about him, but as his face
and figure were so well concealed, I could not tell just why I
Catching a glimpse of us, he beat a retreat across the opposite end
of the room, beckoning to the proprietor, who joined him outside the
door. I thought I heard him ask: "Who are those men? Who let them
in?" but I could not catch the reply.
One by one the other occupants of the room rose and sidled out,
leaving us alone with the Gay Cat. Kennedy reached over to get a
cigarette from my case and light it from one that I was smoking.
"That's=20our man, I think," he whispered - "Pitts Slim."
I said nothing, but I would have been willing to part with a large
section of my bank-account to be up on the Chatham Square station
of the Elevated just then.
There was a rush from the half-open door behind us. Suddenly
everything turned black before me; my eyes swam; I felt a stinging
sensation on my head and a weak feeling about the stomach; I sank
half-conscious to the floor. All was blank, but, dimly, I seemed
to be dragged and dropped down hard.
How long I lay there I don't know. Kennedy says it was not over
five minutes. It may have been so, but to me it seemed an age.
When I opened my eyes I was lying on my back on a very dirty sofa
in another room. Kennedy was bending over me with blood streaming
from a long deep gash on his head. Another figure was groaning in
the semi-darkness opposite; it was the Gay Cat.
"They blackjacked us," whispered Kennedy to me as I staggered to my
feet. "Then they dragged us through a secret passage into another
house. How do you feel?"
"All right," I answered, bracing myself against a chair, for I was
weak from the loss of blood, and dizzy. I was sore in every joint
and muscle. I looked about, only half comprehending. Then my
recollection flooded back with a rush. We had been locked in another
room after the attack, and left to be dealt with later. I felt in
my pocket. I had left my watch at the laboratory, but even the
dollar watch I had taken and the small sum of money in my pocketbook
Kennedy still had his camera slung over his shoulder, where he had
fastened it securely.
Here we were, imprisoned, while Pitts Slim, the man we had come
after, whoever he was, was making his escape. Somewhere across the
street was O'Connor, waiting in a room as we had agreed. There was
only one window in our room, and it opened on a miserable little
dumbwaiter air-shaft. It would be hours yet before his suspicions
would be aroused and he would discover which of the houses we were
held in. Meanwhile what might not happen to us?
Kennedy calmly set up his tripod. One leg had been broken in the
rough-house, but he tied it together with his handkerchief, now wet
with blood. I wondered how he could think of taking a picture. His
very deliberation set me fretting and fuming, and I swore at him
under my breath. Still, he worked calmly ahead. I saw him take the
black box and set it on the tripod. It was indistinct in the
darkness. It looked like a camera, and yet it had some attachment
at the side that was queer, including a little lamp. Craig bent and
attached some wires about the box.
At last he seemed ready. "Walter," he whispered, "roll that sofa
quietly over against the door. There, now the table and that bureau,
and wedge the chairs in. Keep that door shut at any cost. It's now
or never - here goes."
He stopped a moment and tinkered with the box on the tripod. "Hello!
Hello! Hello! Is that you, O'Connor?" he shouted.
I watched him in amazement. Was the man crazy? Had the blow
affected his brain? Here he was, trying to talk into a camera. A
little signalling-bell in the box commenced to ring, as if by spirit
"Shut up in that room," growled a voice from outside the door. "By
God, they've barricaded the door. Come on, pals, we'll kill the
A smile of triumph lighted up Kennedy's pale face. "It works, it
works," he cried as the little bell continued to buzz. " This is
a wireless telephone you perhaps have seen announced recently -=20
good for several hundred feet - through walls and everything. The
inventor placed it in a box easily carried by a man, including a
battery, and mounted on an ordinary camera tripod so that the user
might well be taken for a travelling photographer. It is good in
one direction only, but I have a signalling-bell here that can be
rung from the other end by Hertzian waves. Thank Heaven, it's
compact and simple.
"O'Connor," he went on, "it is as I told you. It was Pitts Slim.
He left here ten or fifteen minutes ago - I don't know by what exit,
but I heard them say they would meet at the Central freightyards at
midnight. Start your plain-clothes men out and send some one here,
quick, to release us. We are locked in a room in the fourth or fifth
house from the corner. There's a secret passage to the yegg-house.
The Gay Cat is still unconscious, Jameson is groggy, and I have a
bad scalp wound. They are trying to beat in our barricade. Hurry."
I think I shall never get straight in my mind the fearful five
minutes that followed, the battering at the door, the oaths, the
scuffle outside, the crash as the sofa, bureau, table, and chairs
all yielded at once - and my relief when I saw the square-set,
honest face of O'Connor and half a dozen plain-clothes men holding
the yeggs who would certainly have murdered us this time to protect
their pal in his getaway. The fact is I didn't think straight until
we were halfway uptown, speeding toward the railroad freight-yards
in O'Connor's car. The fresh air at last revived me, and I began
to forget my cuts and bruises in the renewed excitement.
We entered the yards carefully, accompanied by several of the
railroad's detectives, who met us with a couple of police dogs.
Skulking in the shadow under the high embankment that separated the
yards with their interminable lines of full and empty cars on one
side and the San Juan Hill district of New York up on the bluff on
the other side, we came upon a party of three men who were waiting
to catch the midnight" side-door Pullman " - the fast freight out
of New York.
The fight was brief, for we outnumbered them more than three to one.
O'Connor himself snapped a pair of steel bracelets on the thin man,
who seemed to be leader of the party.
"It's all up, Pitts Slim," he ground out from his set teeth.
One of our men flashed his bull's-eye on the three prisoners. I
caught myself as in a dream.
Pitts Slim was Maloney, the detective.
An hour later, at headquarters, after the pedigrees had been taken,
the "mugging" done, and the jewels found on the three yeggs checked
off from the list of the Branford pearls, leaving a few thousand
dollars' worth unaccounted for, O'Connor led the way into his private
office. There were Mrs. Branford and Blake, waiting.
Maloney sullenly refused to look at his former employer, as Blake
rushed over and grasped Kennedy's hand, asking eagerly: "How did you
do it, Kennedy? This is the last thing I expected."
Craig said nothing, but slowly opened a now crumpled envelope, which
contained an untoned print of a photograph. He laid it on the desk.
"There is your yeggman - at work," he said.
We bent over to look. It was a photograph of Maloney in the act of
putting something in the little wall safe in Mrs. Branford's room.
In a flash it dawned on me - the quick-shutter camera, the wire
connected with the wall safe, Craig's hint to Maloney that if some
of the jewels were found hidden in a likely place in the house, it
would furnish the last link in the chain against her, Maloney's
eager acceptance of the suggestion, and his visit to Montclair
during which Craig had had hard work to avoid him.
"Pitts Slim, alias Maloney," added Kennedy, turning to Blake, "your
shrewdest private detective, was posing in two characters at once
very successfully. He was your trusted agent in possession of the
most valuable secrets of your clients, at the same time engineering
all the robberies that you thought were fakes, and then working up
the evidence incriminating the victims themselves. He got into
the Branford house with a skeleton key, and killed the maid. The
picture shows him putting this shield-shaped brooch in the safe this
afternoon - here's the brooch. And all this time he was the leader
of the most dangerous band of yeggmen in the country."
"Mrs. Branford," exclaimed Blake, advancing and bowing most
profoundly, "I trust that you understand my awkward position? My
apologies cannot be too humble. It will give me great pleasure to
hand you a certified check for the missing gems the first thing in
Mrs. Branford bit her lip nervously. The return of the pearls did
not seem to interest her in the least.
"And I, too, must apologise for the false suspicion I had of you
and - and - depend on me, it is already forgotten," said Kennedy,
emphasising the "false" and looking her straight in the eyes.
She read his meaning and a look of relief crossed her face. "Thank
you," she murmured simply, then dropping her eyes she added in a
lower tone which no one heard except Craig: "Mr. Kennedy, how can I
ever thank you? Another night, and it would have been too late to
save me from myself."
THE GERM OF DEATH
By this time I was becoming used to Kennedy's strange visitors and,
in fact, had begun to enjoy keenly the uncertainty of not knowing
just what to expect from them next. Still, I was hardly prepared
one evening to see a tall, nervous foreigner stalk noiselessly and
unannounced into our apartment and hand his card to Kennedy without
saying a word.
"Dr. Nicholas Kharkoff - hum - er, Jameson, you must have forgotten
to latch the door. Well, Dr. Kharkoff, what can I do for you? It
is evident something has upset you."
The tall Russian put his forefinger to his lips and, taking one of
our good chairs, placed it by the door. Then he stood on it and
peered cautiously through the transom into the hallway. "I think I
eluded him this time," he exclaimed, as he nervously took a seat.
"Professor Kennedy, I am being followed. Every step that I take
somebody shadows me, from the moment I leave my office until I
return. It is enough to drive me mad. But that is only one reason
why I have come here to-night. I believe that I can trust you as
a friend of justice - a friend of Russian freedom?"
He had included me in his earnest but somewhat vague query, so that
I did not withdraw. Somehow, apparently, he had heard of Kennedy's
rather liberal political views.
"It is about Vassili Saratovsky, the father of the Russian
revolution, as we call him, that I have come to consult you," he
continued quickly. "Just two weeks ago he was taken ill. It came
on suddenly, a violent fever which continued for a week. Then
he seemed to grow better, after the crisis had passed, and even
attended a meeting of our central committee the other night. But
in the meantime Olga Samarova, the little Russian dancer, whom you
have perhaps seen, fell ill in the same way. Samarova is an ardent
revolutionist, you know. This morning the servant at my own home
on East Broadway was also stricken, and - who knows? - perhaps it
will be my turn next. For to-night Saratovsky had an even more
violent return of the fever, with intense shivering, excruciating
pains in the limbs, and delirious headache. It is not like anything
I ever saw before. Can you look into the case before it grows any
Again the Russian got on the chair and looked over the transom to
be sure that he was not being overheard.
"I shall be only too glad to help you in any way I can," returned
Kennedy, his manner expressing the genuine interest that he never
feigned over a particularly knotty problem in science and crime.
"I had the pleasure of meeting Saratovsky once in London. I shall
try to see him the first thing in the morning."
Dr. Kharkoff's face fell. "I had hoped you would see him to-night.
If anything should happen -"
"Is it as urgent as that?"
"I believe it is," whispered Kharkoff, leaning forward earnestly.
"We can call a taxicab - it will not take long, sir. Consider,
there are many lives possibly at stake," he pleaded.
"Very well, I will go," consented Kennedy.
At the street door Kharkoff stopped short and drew Kennedy back.
"Look - across the street in the shadow. There is the man. If I
start toward him he will disappear; he is very clever. He followed
me from Saratovsky's here, and has been waiting for me to come out."
"There are two taxicabs waiting at the stand," suggested Kennedy.
"Doctor, you jump in the first, and Jameson and I will take the
second. Then he can't follow us."
It was done in a moment, and we were whisked away, to the chagrin
of the figure, which glided impotently out of the shadow in vain
pursuit, too late even to catch the number of the cab.
"A promising adventure," commented Kennedy, as we bumped along over
New York's uneven asphalt. "Have you ever met Saratovsky?"
"No," I replied dubiously. "Will you guarantee that he will not
blow us up with a bomb?"
"Grandmother!" replied Craig. "Why, Walter, he is the most gentle,
engaging old philosopher - "
"That ever cut a throat or scuttled a ship?" I interrupted.
"On the contrary," insisted Kennedy, somewhat nettled, "he is a
patriarch, respected by every faction of the revolutionists, from
the fighting organisation to the believers in non-resistance and
Tolstoy. I tell you, Walter, the nation that can produce a man
such as Saratovsky deserves and some day will win political freedom.
I have heard of this Dr. Kharkoff before, too. His life would be
a short one if he were in Russia. A remarkable man, who fled after
those unfortunate uprisings in 1905. Ah, we are on Fifth Avenue.
I suspect that he is taking us to a club on the lower part of the
avenue, where a number of the Russian reformers live, patiently
waiting and planning for the great 'awakening' in their native land."
Kharkoff's cab had stopped. Our quest had indeed brought us almost
to Washington Square. Here we entered an old house of the past
generation. As we passed through the wide hall, I noted the high
ceilings, the old-fashioned marble mantels stained by time, the
long, narrow rooms and dirty-white woodwork, and the threadbare
furniture of black walnut and horsehair.
Upstairs in a small back room we found the venerable Saratovsky,
tossing, half-delirious with the fever, on a disordered bed. His
was a striking figure in this sordid setting, with a high
intellectual forehead and deep-set, glowing coals of eyes which
gave a hint at the things which had made his life one of the
strangest among all the revolutionists of Russia and the works he
had done among the most daring. The brown dye was scarcely yet
out of his flowing white beard - a relic of his last trip back to
his fatherland, where he had eluded the secret police in the
disguise of a German gymnasium professor.
Saratovsky extended a thin, hot, emaciated hand to us, and we
remained standing. Kennedy said nothing for the moment. The sick
man motioned feebly to us to come closer.
"Professor Kennedy," he whispered, "there is some deviltry afoot.
The Russian autocracy would stop at nothing. Kharkoff has probably
told you of it. I am so weak - "
He groaned and sank back, overcome by a chill that seemed to rack
his poor gaunt form.
"Kazanovitch can tell Professor Kennedy something, Doctor. I am
too weak to talk, even at this critical time. Take him to see
Boris and Ekaterina."
Almost reverently we withdrew, and Kharkoff led us down the hall
to another room. The door was ajar, and a light disclosed a man
in a Russian peasant's blouse, bending laboriously over a
writing-desk. So absorbed was he that not until Kharkoff spoke
did he look up. His figure was somewhat slight and his face pointed
and of an ascetic mould.
"Ah!" he exclaimed. "You have recalled me from a dream. I fancied
I was on the old mir with Ivan, one of my characters. Welcome,
It flashed over me at once that this was the famous Russian novelist,
Boris Kazanovitch. I had not at first connected the name with that
of the author of those gloomy tales of peasant life. Kazanovitch
stood with his hands tucked under his blouse.
"Night is my favourite time for writing," he explained. "It is then
that the imagination works at its best."
I gazed curiously about the room. There seemed to be a marked touch
of a woman's hand here and there; it was unmistakable. At last my
eye rested on a careless heap of dainty wearing apparel on a chair
in the corner.
"Where is Nevsky?" asked Dr. Kharkoff, apparently missing the person
who owned the garments.
"Ekaterina has gone to a rehearsal of the little play of Gershuni's
escape from Siberia and betrayal by Rosenberg. She will stay with
friends on East Broadway to-night. She has deserted me, and here
I am all alone, finishing a story for one of the American magazines."
"Ah, Professor Kennedy, that is unfortunate," commented Kharkoff.
"A brilliant woman is Mademoiselle Nevsky - devoted to the cause. I
know only one who equals her, and that is my patient downstairs, the
little dancer, Samarova."
"Samarova is faithful - Nevsky is a genius," put in Kazanovitch.
Kharkoff said nothing for a time, though it was easy to see he
regarded the actress highly.
"Samarova," he said at length to us, "was arrested for her part in
the assassination of Grand Duke Sergius and thrown into solitary
confinement in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. They
tortured her, the beasts - burned her body with their cigarettes.
It was unspeakable. But she would not confess, and finally they
had to let her go. Nevsky, who was a student of biology at the
University of St. Petersburg when Von Plehve was assassinated, was
arrested, but her relatives had sufficient influence to secure her
release. They met in Paris, and Nevsky persuaded Olga to go on
the stage and come to New York."
"Next to Ekaterina's devotion to the cause is her devotion to
science," said Kazanovitch, opening a door to a little room. Then
he added: "If she were not a woman, or if your universities were
less prejudiced, she would be welcome anywhere as a professor. See,
here is her laboratory. It is the best we - she can afford. Organic
chemistry, as you call it in English, interests me too, but of course
I am not a trained scientist - I am a novelist."
The laboratory was simple, almost bare. Photographs of Koch,
Ehrlich, Metchnikoff, and a number of other scientists adorned the
walls. The deeply stained deal table was littered with beakers and
"How is Saratovsky?" asked the writer of the doctor, aside, as we
gazed curiously about.
Kharkoff shook his head gravely. "We have just come from his room.
He was too weak to talk, but he asked that you tell Mr. Kennedy
anything that it is necessary he should know about our suspicions."
"It is that we are living with the sword of Damocles constantly
dangling over our heads, gentlemen," cried Kazanovitch passionately,
turning toward us. "You will excuse me if I get some cigarettes
downstairs? Over them I will tell you what we fear."
A call from Saratovsky took the doctor away also at the same moment,
and we were left alone.
"A queer situation, Craig," I remarked, glancing involuntarily at
the heap of feminine finery on the chair, as I sat down before
"Queer for New York; not for St. Petersburg, was his laconic reply,
as he looked around for another chair. Everything was littered
with books and papers, and at last he leaned over and lifted the
dress from the chair to place it on the bed, as the easiest way of
securing a seat in the scantily furnished room.
A pocketbook and a letter fell to the floor from the folds of the
dress. He stooped to pick them up, and I saw a strange look of
surprise on his face. Without a moment's hesitation he shoved the