Part 5 out of 6
As Kennedy hung up the receiver he quietly took a pistol from a
drawer of his desk, broke it quickly, and looked thoughtfully at
the cartridges in the cylinder. Then he snapped it shut and stuck
it into his pocket.
"There's no telling what we may run up against before we get back
to the laboratory," he remarked and we rode down to meet McBride.
The description which the house man had sent out to the other hotel
detectives the night before had already produced a result. Within
the past two days a man answering the description of the younger man
whom McBride had seen in the caf=82 and a woman who might very
possibly have been Madame's maid had come to the St. Cenis as M. and
Mme. Duval. Their baggage was light, but they had been at pains to
impress upon the hotel that they were persons of some position and
that it was going direct from the railroad to the steamer, after
their tour of America. They had, as a matter of fact, done nothing
to excite suspicion until the general request for information had
The house man of the St. Cenis welcomed us cordially upon McBride's
introduction and agreed to take us up to the rooms of the strange
couple if they were not in. As it happened it was the lunch hour
and they were not in the room. Still, Kennedy dared not be too
particular in his search of their effects, for he did not wish to
arouse suspicion upon their return, at least not yet.
"It seems to me, Craig," I suggested after we had nosed about for
a few minutes, finding nothing, "that this is pre-eminently a case
in which to use the dictograph as you did in that Black Hand case."
He shook his head doubtfully, although I could see that the idea
appealed to him. "The dictograph has been getting too much
publicity lately," he said. "I'm afraid they would discover it,
that is, if they are at all the clever people I think them. Besides,
I would have to send up to the laboratory to get one and by the time
the messenger returned they might be back from lunch. No, we've got
to do something else, and do it quickly."
He was looking about the room in an apparently aimless manner. On
the side wall hung a cheap etching of a woodland scene. Kennedy
seemed engrossed in it while the rest of us fidgeted at the delay.
"Can you get me a couple of old telephone instruments?" he asked at
length, turning to us and addressing the St. Cenis detective.
The detective nodded and disappeared down the hall. A few minutes
later he deposited the instruments on a table. Where he got them
I do not know, but I suspect he simply lifted them from vacant rooms.
"Now some Number 30 copper wire and a couple of dry cells," ordered
Kennedy, falling to work immediately on the telephones. The
detective despatched a bellboy down to the basement to get the
wire from the house electrician.
Kennedy removed the transmitters of the telephones, and taking the
carbon capsules from them placed the capsules on the table carefully.
Then he lifted down the etching from the wall and laid it flat on
its face before us. Quickly he removed the back of the picture.
Pressing the transmitter fronts with the carbon capsules against
the paper and the glass on the picture he mounted them so that the
paper and glass acted as a large diaphragm to collect all the sounds
in the room.
"The size of this glass diaphragm," he explained as we gathered
around in intense interest at what he was doing, "will produce a
strikingly sensitive microphone action and the merest whisper will
be reproduced with startling distinctness."
The boy brought the wire up and also the news that the couple in
whose room we were had very nearly finished luncheon and might be
expected back in a few minutes.
Kennedy took the tiny wires, and after connecting them hung up the
picture again and ran them up alongside the picture wires leading
from the huge transmitter up to the picture moulding. Along the
top of the moulding and out through the transom it was easy enough
to run the wires and so down the hall to a vacant room, where Craig
attached them quickly to one of the old telephone receivers.
Then we sat down in this room to await developments from our hastily
improvised picture frame microphone detective.
At last we could hear the elevator door close on our floor. A
moment later it was evident from the expression of Kennedy's face
that some one had entered the room which we had just left. He had
finished not a moment too soon.
"It's a good thing that I didn't wait to put a dictograph there,"
he remarked to us. "I thought I wasn't reckoning without reason.
The couple, whoever they are, are talking in undertones and
looking about the room to see if anything has been disturbed in
Kennedy alone, of course, could follow over his end of the telephone
what they said. The rest of us could do nothing but wait, but from
notes which Craig jotted down as he listened to the conversation
I shall reproduce it as if we had all heard it. There were some
anxious moments until at last they had satisfied themselves that no
one was listening and that no dictograph or other mechanical
eavesdropper, such as they had heard of, was concealed in the
furniture or back of it.
"Why are you so particular, Henri?" a woman's voice was saying.
"Louise, I've been thinking for a long time that we are surrounded
by spies in these hotels. You remember I told you what happened at
the Vanderveer the night you and Madame arrived? I'm sure that
waiter overheard what Gonzales and I were talking about."
"Well, we are safe now anyhow. What was it that you would not tell
me just now at luncheon?" asked the woman, whom Kennedy recognised
as Madame de Nevers's maid.
"I have a cipher from Washington. Wait until I translate it."
There was a pause. "What does it say?" asked the woman impatiently.
"It says," repeated the man slowly, "that Miss Lovelace has gone to
Washington. She insists on knowing whether the death of Marie was
a suicide or not. Worse than that the Secret Service must have wind
of some part of our scheme, for they are acting suspiciously. I
must go down there or the whole affair may be exposed and fall
through. Things could hardly be worse, especially this sudden
move on her part."
"Who was that detective who forced his way to see her the night they
discovered Marie's body?" asked the woman. "I hope that that wasn't
the Secret Service also. Do you think they could have suspected
"I hardly think so," the man replied. "Beyond the death of Madame
they suspect nothing here in New York, I am convinced. You are sure
that all her letters were secured, that all clues to connect her
with the business in hand were destroyed, and particularly that the
package she was to deliver is safe?"
"The package? You mean the plans for the coaling station on the
Pacific near the Canal? You see, Henri, I know."
"Ha, ha, - yes," replied the man. "Louise, shall I tell you a
secret? Can you keep it?"
"You know I can, Henri."
"Well, Louise, the scheme is deeper than even you think. We are
playing one country against another, America against - you know the
government our friend Schmidt works for in Paris. Now, listen.
Those plans of the coaling station are a fake - a fake. It is just
a commercial venture. No nation would be foolish enough to attempt
such a thing, yet. We know that they are a fake. But we are going
to sell them through that friend of ours in the United States War
Department. But that is only part of the coup, the part that will
give us the money to turn the much larger coups we have in the
future. You can understand why it has all to be done so secretly
and how vexatious it is that as soon as one obstacle is overcome
a dozen new ones appear. Louise, here is the big secret. By using
those fake plans as a bait we are going to obtain something which
when we all return to Paris we can convert into thousands of francs.
There, I can say no more. But I have told you so much to impress
upon you the extreme need of caution."
"And how much does Miss Lovelace know?"
"Very little - I hope. That is why I must go to Washington myself.
She must know nothing of this coup nor of the real de Nevers, or
the whole scheme may fall through. It would have fallen through
before, Louise, if you had failed us and had let any of de Nevers's
letters slip through to Miss Lovelace. She richly deserved her fate
for that act of treachery. The affair would have been so simple,
otherwise. Luck was with us until her insane jealousy led her to
visit Miss Lovelace. It was fortunate the young lady was out when
Madame called on her or all would have been lost. Ah, we owe you
a great deal, Louise, and we shall not forget it, never. You will
be very careful while I am gone?"
"Absolutely. When will you return to me, Henri?"
"To-morrow morning at the latest. This afternoon the false coaling
station plans are to be turned over to our accomplice in the War
Department and in exchange he is to give us something else - the
secret of which I spoke. You see the trail leads up into high
circles. It is very much more important than you suppose and
discovery might lead to a dangerous international complication just
"Then you are to meet your friend in Washington to-night? When do
you start, Henri? Don't let the time slip by. There must be no
mistake this time as there was when we were working for Japan and
almost had the blue prints of Corregidor at Manila only to lose
them on the streets of Calcutta."
"Trust me. We are to meet about nine o'clock and therefore I leave
on the limited at three-thirty, in about an hour. From the station
I am going straight to the house on Z Street - let me see, the
cipher says the number is 101 - and ask for a man named Gonzales.
I shall use the name Montez. He is to appear, hand over the package
- that thing I have told you about - then I am to return here by
one of the midnight trains. At any cost we must allow nothing to
happen which will reach the ears of Miss Lovelace. I'll see you
early to-morrow morning, ma cherie, and remember, be ready, for the
Aquitania sails at ten. The division of the money is to be made in
Paris. Then we shall all go our separate ways."
Kennedy was telephoning frantically through the regular hotel
service to find out how the trains ran for Washington. The only one
that would get there before nine was the three-thirty; the next,
leaving an hour later, did not arrive until nearly eleven. He had
evidently had some idea of causing some delay that would result in
our friend down the hall missing the limited, but abandoned it. Any
such scheme would simply result in a message to the gang in
Washington putting them on their guard and defeating his purpose.
"At all costs we must beat this fellow to it," exclaimed Craig,
waiting to hear no more over his improvised dictograph. "Come,
Walter, we must catch the limited for Washington immediately.
McBride, I leave you and the regular house man to shadow this
woman. Don't let her get out of your sight for a moment."
As we rode across the city to the new railroad terminus Craig
hastily informed me of what he had overheard. We took up our post
so that we could see the outgoing travellers, and a few minutes
later Craig spotted our man from McBride's description, and
succeeded in securing chairs in the same car in which he was to ride.
Taken altogether it was an uneventful journey. For five mortal
hours we sat in the Pullman or toyed with food in the dining-car,
never letting the man escape our sight, yet never letting him know
that we were watching him. Nevertheless I could not help asking
myself what good it did. Why did not Kennedy hire a special if
the affair was so important as it appeared? How were we to get
ahead of him in Washington better than in New York? I knew that
some plan lurked behind the calm and inscrutable face of Kennedy
as I tried to read and could not.
The train had come to a stop in the Union Station. Our man was
walking rapidly up the platform in the direction of the cab stand.
Suddenly Kennedy darted ahead and for a moment we were walking
abreast of him.
"I beg your pardon," began Craig as we came to a turn in the shadow
of the arc lights, "but have you a match?"
The man halted and fumbled for his match-box. Instantly Kennedy's
pocket handkerchief was at his nose.
"Some of the medicine of your own gang of endormeurs," ground out
Kennedy, crushing several of the little glass globes under his
handkerchief to make doubly sure of their effect.
The man reeled and would have fallen if we had not caught him
between us. Up the platform we led him in a daze.
"Here," shouted Craig to a cabman, "my friend is ill. Drive us
around a bit. It will sober him up. Come on, Walter, jump in,
the air will do us all good."
Those who were in Washington during that summer will remember the
suppressed activity in the State, War, and Navy Departments on a
certain very humid night. Nothing leaked out at the time as to
the cause, but it was understood later that a crisis was narrowly
averted at a very inopportune season, for the heads of the
departments were all away, the President was at his summer home in
the North, and even some of the under-secretaries were out of town.
Hasty messages had been sizzling over the wires in cipher and code
I recall that as we rode a little out of our way past the Army
Building, merely to see if there was any excitement, we found it
a blaze of lights. Something was plainly afoot even at this
usually dull period of the year. There=20was treachery of some
kind and some trusted employee was involved, I felt instinctively.
As for Craig he merely glanced at the insensible figure between
us and remarked sententiously that to his knowledge there was only
one nation that made a practice of carrying out its diplomatic and
other coups in the hot weather, a remark which I understood to
mean that our mission was more than commonly important.
The man had not recovered when we arrived within several blocks of
our destination, nor did he show signs of recovery from his
profound stupor. Kennedy stopped the cab in a side street, pressed
a bill into the cabman's hand, and bade him wait until we returned.
We had turned the corner of Z Street and were approaching the house
when a man walking in the opposite direction eyed us suspiciously,
turned, and followed us a step or two.
"Kennedy!" he exclaimed.
If a fourteen-inch gun had exploded behind us I could not have been
more startled. Here, in spite of all our haste and secrecy we were
followed, watched, and beaten.
Craig wheeled about suddenly. Then he took the man by the arm.
"Come," he said quickly, and we three dove into the shadow of an alley.
As we paused, Kennedy was the first to speak. "By Jove, Walter, it's
Burke of the Secret Service," he exclaimed.
"Good," repeated the man with some satisfaction. "I see that you
still have that memory for faces." He was evidently referring to
our experiences together some months before with the portrait parle
and identification in the counterfeiting case which Craig cleared
up for him.
For a moment or two Burke and Kennedy spoke in whispers. Under the
dim light from the street I could see Kennedy's face intent and
working with excitement.
"No wonder the War Department is a blaze of lights," he exclaimed
as we moved out of the shadow again, leaving the Secret Service man.
"Burke, I had no idea when I took up this case that I should be
doing my country a service also. We must succeed at any hazard.
The moment you hear a pistol shot, Burke, we shall need you. Force
the door if it is not already open. You were right as to the
street but not the number. It is that house over there. Come on,
We mounted the low steps of the house and a negress answered the
bell. "Is Mr. Gonzales in?" asked Kennedy.
The hallway into which we were admitted was dark but it opened into
a sitting-room, where a dim light was burning behind the thick
portieres. Without a word the negress ushered us into this room,
which was otherwise empty.
"Tell him Mr. Montez is here," added Craig as we sat down.
The negress disappeared upstairs, and in a few minutes returned
with the message that he would be down directly.
No sooner had the shuffle of her footsteps died away than Kennedy
was on his feet, listening intently at the door. There was no
sound. He took a chair and tiptoed out into the dark hall with it.
Turning it upside down he placed it at the foot of the stairs with
the four legs pointing obliquely up. Then he drew me into a corner
How long we waited I cannot say. The next I knew was a muffled step
on the landing above, then the tread on the stairs.
A crash and a deep volley of oaths in French followed as the man
pitched headlong over the chair on the dark steps.
Kennedy whipped out his revolver and fired point-blank at the
prostrate figure. I do not know what the ethics are of firing on
a man when he is down, nor did I have time to stop to think.
Craig grasped my arm and pulled me toward the door. A sickening
odour seemed to pervade the air. Upstairs there was shouting and
banging of doors.
"Closer, Walter," he muttered, "closer to the door, and open it a
little, or we shall both be suffocated. It was the Secret Service
gun I shot off - the pistol that shoots stupefying gas from its
vapour-filled cartridges and enables you to put a criminal out of
commission without killing him. A pull of the trigger, the cap
explodes, the gunpowder and the force of the explosion unite some
capsicum and lycopodium, producing the blinding, suffocating
vapour whose terrible effect you see. Here, you upstairs," he
shouted, "advance an inch or so much as show your heads over the
rail and I pump a shot at you, too. Walter, take the gun yourself.
Fire at a move from them. I think the gases have cleared away
enough now. I must get him before he recovers consciousness.
A tap at the door came, and without taking my eyes off the stairs
I opened it. Burke slid in and gulped at the nauseous atmosphere.
"What's up?" he gasped. "I heard a shot. Where's Kennedy?"
I motioned in the darkness. Kennedy's electric bull's-eye flashed
up at that instant and we saw him deftly slip a bright pair of
manacles on the wrists of the man on the floor, who was breathing
heavily, while blood flowed from a few slight cuts due to his fall.
Dexterously as a pickpocket Craig reached into the man's coat,
pulled out a packet of papers, and gazed eagerly at one after
another. From among them he unfolded one written in French to Madame
Marie de Nevers some weeks before. I translate:
DEAR MARIE: Herr Schmidt informs me that his agent in the War
Department at Washington, U.S.A., has secured some important
information which will interest the Government for which Herr
Schmidt is the agent - of course you know who that is.
It is necessary that you should carry the packet which will be
handed to you (if you agree to my proposal) to New York by the
steamer Tripolitania. Go to the Vandeveer Hotel and in a few
days, as soon as a certain exchange can be made, either our
friend in Washington or myself will call on you, using the name
Gonzales. In return for the package which you carry he will hand
you another. Lose no time in bringing the second package back
I have arranged that you will receive ten thousand francs and
your expenses for your services in this matter. Under no
conditions betray your connection with Herr Schmidt. I was to
have carried the packet to America myself and make the exchange
but knowing your need of money I have secured the work for you.
You had better take your maid, as it is much better to travel
with distinction in this case. If, however, you accept this
commission I shall consider you in honour bound to surrender
your claim upon my name for which I agree to pay you fifty
thousand francs upon my marriage with the American heiress of
whom you know. Please let me know immediately through our
mutual friend Henri Duval whether this proposal is satisfactory.
Henri will tell you that fifty thousand is my ultimatum.
"The scoundrel," ground out Kennedy. "He lured his wife from
Paris to New York, thinking the Paris police too acute for him,
I suppose. Then by means of the treachery of the maid Louise
and his friend Duval, a crook who would even descend to play the
part of valet for him and fall in love with the maid, he has
succeeded in removing the woman who stood between him and an
"Marie," rambled Chateaurouge as he came blinking, sneezing, and
choking out of his stupor, "Marie, you are clever, but not too
clever for me. This blackmailing must stop. Miss Lovelace knows
something, thanks to you, but she shall never know all - never -=20
never. You - you - ugh! - Stop. Do you think you can hold me
back now with those little white hands on my wrists? I wrench them
loose - so - and - ugh! - What's this? Where am I?"
The man gazed dazedly at the manacles that held his wrists instead
of the delicate hands he had been dreaming of as he lived over the
terrible scene of his struggle with the woman who was his wife in
"Chateaurouge," almost hissed Kennedy in his righteous wrath, "fake
nobleman, real swindler of five continents. Marie de Nevers alive
stood in the way of your marriage to the heiress Miss Lovelace.
Dead, she prevents it absolutely."
Craig continued to turn over the papers in his hand, as he spoke.
At last he came to a smaller packet in oiled silk. As he broke the
seal he glanced at it in surprise, then hurriedly exclaimed, "There,
Burke. Take these to the War Department and tell them they can turn
out their lights and stop their telegrams. This seems to be a copy
of our government's plans for the fortification of the Panama Canal,
heights of guns, location of searchlights, fire control stations,
everything from painstaking search of official and confidential
records. That is what this fellow obtained in exchange for his
false blue prints of the supposed coaling station on the Pacific.
"I leave the Secret Service to find the leak in the War Department.
What I am interested in is not the man who played spy for two nations
and betrayed one of them. To me this adventurer who calls himself
Chateaurouge is merely the murderer of Madame de Nevers."
It was a rather sultry afternoon in the late summer when people who
had calculated by the calendar rather than by the weather were
returning to the city from the seashore, the mountains, and abroad.
Except for the week-ends, Kennedy and I had been pretty busy, though
on this particular day there was a lull in the succession of cases
which had demanded our urgent attention during the summer.
We had met at the Public Library, where Craig was doing some special
research at odd moments in criminology. Fifth Avenue was still half
deserted, though the few pedestrians who had returned or remained in
town like ourselves were, as usual, to be found mostly on the west
side of the street. Nearly everybody, I have noticed, walks on the
one side of Fifth Avenue, winter or summer.
As we stood on the corner waiting for the traffic man's whistle to
halt the crush of automobiles, a man on the top of a 'bus waved to
I looked up and caught a glimpse of Jack Herndon, an old college
mate, who had had some political aspirations and had recently been
appointed to a position in the customs house of New York. Herndon,
I may add, represented the younger and clean-cut generation which
is entering official life with great advantage to both themselves
The 'bus pulled up to the curb, and Jack tore down the breakneck
"I was just thinking of you, Craig," he beamed as we all shook
hands, "and wondering whether you and Walter were in town. I think
I should have come up to see you to-night, anyhow."
"Why, what's the matter - more, sugar frauds?" laughed Kennedy.
"Or perhaps you have caught another art dealer red-handed?"
"No, not exactly," replied Herndon, growing graver for the moment.
"We're having a big shake-up down at the office, none of your 'new
broom' business, either. Real reform it is, this time."
"And you - are you going or coming?" inquired Craig with an
"Coming, Craig, coming," answered Jack enthusiastically. "They've
put me in charge of a sort of detective force as a special deputy
surveyor to rout out some smuggling that we know is going on. If
I make good it will go a long way for me - with all this talk of
efficiency and economy down in Washington these days."
"What's on your mind now?" asked Kennedy observantly. "Can I help
you in any way?" Herndon had taken each of us by an arm and walked
us over to a stone bench in the shade of the library building.
"You have read the accounts in the afternoon papers of the peculiar
death of Mademoiselle Violette, the little French modiste, up here
on Forty-sixth Street?" he inquired.
"Yes," answered Kennedy. "What has that to do with customs reform?"
"A good deal, I fear," Herndon continued. "It's part of a case that
has been bothering us all summer. It's the first really big thing
I've been up against and it's as ticklish a bit of business as even
a veteran treasury agent could wish."
Herndon looked thoughtfully at the passing crowd on the other side
of the balustrade and continued. "It started, like many of our
cases, with the anonymous letter writer. Early in the summer the
letters began to come in to the deputy surveyor's office, all
unsigned, though quite evidently written in a woman's hand,
disguised of course, and on rather dainty notepaper. They warned
us of a big plot to smuggle gowns and jewellery from Paris.
Smuggling jewellery is pretty common because jewels take up little
space and are very valuable. Perhaps it doesn't sound to you like
a big thing to smuggle dresses, but when you realise that one of
those filmy lacy creations may often be worth several hundred, if
not thousand, dollars, and that it needs only a few of them on
each ship that comes in to run up into the thousands, perhaps
hundreds of thousands in a season, you will see how essential it is
to break up that sort of thing. We've been getting after the
individual private smugglers pretty sharply this summer and we've
had lots of criticism. If we could land a big fellow and make an
object-lesson of the extent of the thing I believe it would leave
our critics of the press without a leg to stand on.
"At least that was why I was interested in the letters. But it was
not until a few days ago that we got a tip that gave us a real
working clue, for the anonymous letters had been very vague as to
names, dates, and places, though bold enough as to general charges,
as if the writer were fearful of incriminating herself - or himself.
Strange to say, this new clue came from the wife of one of the
customs men. She happened to be in a Broadway manicure shop one
day when she heard a woman talking with the manicurist about fall
styles, and she was all attention when she heard the customer say,
'You remember Mademoiselle Violette's - that place that had the
exquisite things straight from Paris, and so cheaply, too? Well,
Violette says she'll have to raise her prices so that they will be
nearly as high as the regular stores. She says the tariff has gone
up, or something, but it hasn't, has it?"
"The manicurist laughed knowingly, and the next remark caught the
woman's attention. 'No, indeed. But then, I guess she meant that
she had to pay the duty now. You know they are getting much
stricter. To tell the truth, I imagine most of Violette's goods
were - well - '
"'Smuggled?' supplied the customer in an undertone.
"The manicurist gave a slight shrug of the shoulders and a bright
little yes of a laugh.
"That was all. But it was enough. I set a special customs officer
to watch Mademoiselle, a clever fellow. He didn't have time to
find out much, but on the other hand I am sure he didn't do anything
to alarm Mademoiselle. That would have been a bad game. His case
was progressing favourably and he had become acquainted with one of
the girls who worked in the shop. We might have got some evidence,
but suddenly this morning he walked up to my desk and handed me an
early edition of an afternoon paper. Mademoiselle Violette had been
discovered dead in her shop by the girls when they came to work
this morning. Apparently she had been there all night, but the
report was quite indefinite and I am on my way up there now to meet
the coroner, who has agreed to wait for me."
"You think there is some connection between her death and the
letters?" put in Craig.
"Of course I can't say, yet," answered Herndon dubiously. "The
papers seem to think it was a suicide. But then why should she
commit suicide? My man found out that among the girls it was common
gossip that she was to marry Jean Pierre, the Fifth Avenue jeweller,
of the firm of Lang & Pierre down on the next block. Pierre is due
in New York on La Montaigne to-night or to-morrow morning.
"Why, if my suspicions are correct, it is this Pierre who is the
brains of the whole affair. And here's another thing. You know we
have a sort of secret service in Paris and other European cities
which is constantly keeping an eye on purchases of goods by Americans
abroad. Well, the chief of our men in Paris cables me that Pierre
is known to have made extraordinarily heavy purchases of made-up
jewellery this season. For one thing, we believe he has acquired
from a syndicate a rather famous diamond necklace which it has
taken years to assemble and match up, worth about three hundred
thousand. You know the duty on made-up jewellery is sixty per cent.,
and even if he brought the stones in loose it would be ten per cent.,
which on a valuation of, say, two hundred thousand, means twenty
thousand dollars duty alone. Then he has a splendid 'dog collar' of
pearls, and, oh, a lot of other stuff. I know because we get our
tips from all sorts of sources and they are usually pretty straight.
Some come from dealers who are sore about not making sales
themselves. So you see there is a good deal at stake in this case
and it may be that in following it out we shall kill more than one
bird. I wish you'd come along with me up to Mademoiselle Violette's
and give me an opinion."
Craig had already risen from the bench and we were walking up the
The establishment of Mademoiselle Violette consisted of a three-story
and basement brownstone house in which the basement and first floor
had been remodelled for business purposes. Mademoiselle's place,
which was on the first floor, was announced to the world by a neat
little oval gilt sign on the hand railing of the steps.
We ascended and rang the bell. As we waited I noticed that there
were several other modistes on the same street, while almost directly
across was a sign which proclaimed that on September 15 Mademoiselle
Gabrielle would open with a high class exhibition of imported gowns
We entered. The coroner and an undertaker were already there, and
the former was expecting Herndon. Kennedy and I had already met him
and he shook hands cordially.
Mademoiselle Violette, it seemed, had rented the entire house and
then had sublet the basement to a milliner, using the first floor
herself, the second as a workroom for the girls whom she employed,
while she lived on the top floor, which had been fitted for light
housekeeping with a kitchenette. It was in the back room of the
shop itself on the first floor that her body had been discovered,
lying on a davenport.
"The newspaper reports were very indefinite," began Herndon,
endeavouring to take in the situation. "I suppose they told nearly
all the story, but what caused her death? Have you found that out
yet? Was it poison or violence?
The coroner said nothing, but with a significant glance at Kennedy
he drew a peculiar contrivance from his pocket. It had four round
holes in it and through each hole he slipped a finger, then closed
his hand, and exhibited his clenched fist. It looked as if he wore
a series of four metal rings on his fingers.
"Brass knuckles?" suggested Herndon, looking hastily at the body,
which showed not a sign of violence on the stony face.
The coroner shook his head knowingly. Suddenly he raised his fist.
I saw him press hard with his thumb on the upper end of the metal
contrivance. From the other end, just concealed under his little
linger, there shot out as if released by a magic spring a thin keen
little blade of the brightest and toughest steel. He was holding,
instead of a meaningless contrivance of four rings, a most dangerous
kind of stiletto or dagger upraised. He lifted his thumb and the
blade sprang back into its sheath like an extinguished spark of light.
"An Apache dagger, such as is used in the underworld of Paris," broke
out Kennedy, his eyes gleaming with interest.
The coroner nodded. "We found it," he said, "clasped loosely in her
hand. But it is only by expert medical testimony that we can
determine whether it was placed on her fingers before or after this
happened. We have photographed it, and the prints are being
He had now uncovered the slight figure of the little French modiste.
On the dress, instead of the profuse flow of blood which we had
expected to see, there was a single round spot. And in the white
marble skin of her breast was a little, nearly microscopic puncture,
directly over the heart.
"She must have died almost instantly," commented Kennedy, glancing
from the Apache weapon to the dead woman and back again. "Internal
hemorrhage. I suppose you have searched her effects. Have you
found anything that gives a hint among them?"
"No," replied the coroner doubtfully, "I can't say we have - unless
it is the bundle of letters from Pierre, the jeweller. They seem
to have been engaged, and yet the letters stopped abruptly, and,
well, from the tone of the last one from him I should say there was
a quarrel brewing."
An exclamation from Herndon followed. "The same notepaper and the
same handwriting as the anonymous letters," he cried.
But that was all. Go over the ground as Kennedy might he could find
nothing further than the coroner and Herndon had already revealed.
"About these people, Lang & Pierre," asked Craig thoughtfully when
we had left Mademoiselle's and were riding downtown to the customs
house with Herndon. "What do you know about them? I presume that
Lang is in America, if his partner is abroad."
"Yes, he is here in New York. I believe the firm has a rather
unsavoury reputation; they have to be watched, I am told. Then,
too, one or the other of the partners makes frequent trips abroad,
mostly Pierre. Pierre, as you see, was very intimate with
Mademoiselle, and the letters simply confirm what the girls told
my detective. He was believed to be engaged to her and I see no
reason now to doubt that. The fact is, Kennedy, it wouldn't
surprise me in the least to learn that it was he who engineered
the smuggling for her as well as himself."
"What about the partner? What role does he play in your suspicions?"
"That's another curious feature. Lang doesn't seem to bother much
with the business. He is a sort of silent partner, although
nominally the head of the firm. Still, they both seem always to be
plentifully supplied with money and to have a good trade. Lang
lives most of the time up on the west shore of the Hudson, and seems
to be more interested in his position as commodore of the Riverledge
Yacht Club than in his business down here. He is quite a sport, a
great motor-boat enthusiast, and has lately taken to hydroplanes."
"I meant," repeated Kennedy, "what about Lang and Mademoiselle
Violette. Were they - ah - friendly?"
"Oh," replied Herndon, seeming to catch the idea. "I see. Of course
- Pierre abroad and Lang here. I see what you mean. Why, the girl
told my man that Mademoiselle Violette used to go motor-boating with
Lang, but only when her fianc=82, Pierre, was along. No, I don't think
she ever had anything to do with Lang, if that's what you are driving
at. He may have paid attentions to her, but Pierre was her lover, and
I haven't a doubt but that if Lang made any advances she repelled them.
She seems to have thought everything of Pierre."
We had reached Herndon's office by this time. Leaving word with his
stenographer to get the very latest reports from La Montaigne, he
continued talking to us about his work.
Dressmakers, milliners, and jewellers are our worst offenders now,"
he remarked as we stood gazing out of the window at the panorama of
the bay off the sea-wall of the Battery. "Why, time and again we
unearth what looks for all the world like a 'dressmakers' syndicate,'
though this case is the first I've had that involved a death.
Really, I've come to look on smuggling as one of the fine arts among
crimes. Once the smuggler, like the pirate and the highwayman, was
a sort of gentleman-rogue. But now it has become a very ladylike
art. The extent of it is almost beyond belief, too. It begins with
the steerage and runs right up to the absolute unblushing cynicism
of the first cabin. I suppose you know that women, particularly a
certain brand of society women, are the worst and most persistent
offenders. Why, they even boast of it. Smuggling isn't merely
popular, it's aristocratic. But we're going to take some of the
flavour out of it before we finish."
He tore open a cable message which a boy had brought in. "Now,
take this, for instance," he continued. "You remember the sign
across the street from Mademoiselle Violette's, announcing that a
Mademoiselle Gabrielle was going to open a salon or whatever they
call it? Well, here's another cable from our Paris Secret Service
with a belated tip. They tell us to look out for a Mademoiselle
Gabrielle on La Montaigne, too. That's another interesting thing.
You know the various lines are all ranked, at least in our estimation,
according to the likelihood of such offences being perpetrated by
their passengers. We watch ships from London, Liverpool, and Paris
most carefully. Scandinavian ships are the least likely to need
watching. Well, Miss Roberts?"
"We have just had a wireless about La Montaigne," reported his
stenographer, who had entered while he was speaking, " and she is
three hundred miles east of Sandy Hook. She won't dock until
"Thank you. Well, fellows, it is getting late and that means nothing
more doing to-night. Can you be here early in the morning? We'll go
down the bay and 'bring in the ship,' as our men call it when the
deputy surveyor and his acting deputies go down to meet it at
Quarantine. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your kindness in
helping me. If my men get anything connecting Lang with Mademoiselle
Violette's case I'll let you know immediately."
It was a bright clear snappy morning, in contrast with the heat of
the day before, when we boarded the revenue tug at the Barge Office.
The waters of the harbour never looked more blue as they danced in
the early sunlight, flecked here and there by a foaming whitecap as
the conflicting tides eddied about. The shores of Staten Island
were almost as green as in the spring, and even the haze over the
Brooklyn factories had lifted. It looked almost like a stage scene,
clear and sharp, new and brightly coloured.
Perhaps the least known and certainly one of the least recognised
of the government services is that which includes the vigilant
ships of the revenue service. It was not a revenue cutter, however,
on which we were ploughing down the bay. The cutter lay, white
and gleaming in the morning sun, at anchor off Stapleton, like a
miniature warship, saluting as we passed. The revenue boats which
steam down to Quarantine and make fast to the incoming ocean
greyhounds are revenue tugs.
Down the bay we puffed and buffeted for about forty minutes before
we arrived at the little speck of an island that is Quarantine.
Long before we were there we sighted the great La Montaigne
near the group of buildings on the island, where she had been
waiting since early morning for the tide and the customs officials.
The tug steamed alongside, and quickly up the high ladders swarmed
the boarding officer and the deputy collectors. We followed
Herndon straight to the main saloon, where the collectors began to
receive the declarations which had been made out on blanks furnished
to the passengers on the voyage over. They had had several days to
write them out - the less excuse for omissions.
Glancing at each hastily the collector detached from it the slip
with the number at the bottom and handed the number back, to be
presented at the inspector's desk at the pier, where customs
inspectors were assigned in turn.
"Number 140 is the one we want to watch," I heard Herndon whisper
to Kennedy. "That tall dark fellow over there."
I followed his direction cautiously and saw a sparely built, striking
looking man who had just filed his declaration and was chatting
vivaciously with a lady who was just about to file hers. She was a
clinging looking little thing with that sort of doll-like innocence
that deceives nobody.
"No, you don't have to swear to it," he said. "You used to do that,
but now you simply sign your name and take a chance," he added,
smiling and showing a row of perfect teeth.
"Number 156," Herndon noted as the collector detached the stub and
handed it to her. "That was Mademoiselle Gabrielle."
The couple passed out to the deck, still chatting gaily.
"In the old days, before they got to be so beastly particular," I
heard him say, "I always used to get the courtesy of the port, an
official expedite. But that is over now."
The ship was now under way, her flags snapping in the brisk coolish
breeze that told of approaching autumn. We had passed up the lower
bay and the Narrows, and the passengers were crowded forward to
catch the first glimpse of the skyscrapers of New York.
On up the bay we ploughed, throwing the spray proudly as we went.
Herndon employed the time in keeping a sharp watch on the tall,
thin man. Incidentally he sought out the wireless operator and
from him learned that a code wireless message had been received for
Pierre, apparently from his partner, Lang.
"There is no mention of anything dutiable in this declaration by
140 which corresponds with any of the goods mentioned in the first
cable from Paris," a collector remarked unobtrusively to Herndon,
"nor in 156 corresponding to the second cable."
"I didn't suppose there would be," was his laconic reply. "That's
our job - to=20find the stuff."
At last La Montaigne was warped into the dock. The piles of
first-class baggage on the ship were raucously deposited on the
wharf and slowly the passengers filed down the plank to meet the
line of white-capped uniformed inspectors and plain-clothes
appraisers. The comedy and tragedy of the customs inspection had
We were among the first to land. Herndon took up a position from
which he could see without being seen. In the semi-light of the
little windows in the enclosed sides of the pier, under the steel
girders of the arched roof like a vast hall, there was a panorama
of a huge mass of open luggage.
At last Number 140 came down, alone, to the roped-off dock. He
walked nonchalantly over to the little deputy surveyor's desk, and
an inspector was quickly assigned to him. It was all done neatly
in the regular course of business apparently. He did not know that
in the orderly rush the sharpest of Herndon's men had been picked
out, much as a trick card player will force a card on his victim.
Already the customs inspection was well along. One inspector had
been assigned to about each five passengers, and big piles of finery
were being remorselessly tumbled out in shapeless heaps and exposed
to the gaze of that part of the public which was not too much
concerned over the same thing as to its own goods and chattels.
Reticules and purses were being inspected. Every trunk was presumed
to have a false bottom, and things wrapped up in paper were viewed
suspiciously and unrolled. Clothes were being shaken and pawed.
There did not seem to be much opportunity for concealment.
Herndon now had donned the regulation straw hat of the appraiser,
and accompanied by us, posing as visitors, was sauntering about.
At last we came within earshot of the spot where the inspector was
going through the effects of 140.
Out of the corner of my eyes I could see that a dispute was in
progress over some trifling matter. The man was cool and calm.
"Call the appraiser, he said at last, with the air of a man standing
on his rights. "I object to this frisking of passengers. Uncle Sam
is little better than a pickpocket. Besides, I cans I wait here all
day. My partner is waiting for me uptown."
Herndon immediately took notice. But it was quite evidently, after
all, only an altercation for the benefit of those who were watching.
I am sure he knew he was being watched, but as the dispute proceeded
he assumed the look of a man keenly amused. The matter, involving
only a few dollars, was finally adjusted by his yielding gracefully
and with an air of resignation. Still Herndon did not go and I am
sure it annoyed him.
Suddenly he turned and faced Herndon. I could not help thinking,
in spite of all that he must be so expert, that, if he really were
a smuggler, he had all the poise and skill at evasion that would
entitle him to be called a past master of the art.
"You see that woman over there? "he whispered. "She says she is
just coming home after studying music in Paris."
We looked. It was the guileless ingenue, Mademoiselle Gabrielle.
"She has dutiable goods, all right. I saw her declaration. She
is trying to bring in as personal effects of a foreign resident
gowns which, I believe, she intends to wear on the stage. She's an
There was nothing for Herndon to do but to act on the tip. The man
had got rid of us temporarily, but we knew the inspector would be,
if anything, more vigilant. I think he took even longer than usual.
Mademoiselle Gabrielle and her maid pouted and fussed over the
renewed examination which Herndon ordered. According to the inspector
everything was new and expensive; according to her, old, shabby, and
cheap. She denied everything, raged and threatened. But when,
instead of ordering the stamp "Passed" to be placed on her half dozen
trunks and bags which contained in reality only a few dutiable
articles, Herndon threatened to order them to the appraiser's stores
and herself to go to the Law Division if she did not admit the points
in dispute, there was a real scene.
"Generally, madame," he remonstrated, though I could see he was
baffled at finding nothing of the goods he had really expected to
find, "generally even for a first offence the goods are confiscated
and the court or district attorney is content to let the person off
with a fine. If this happens again we'll be more severe. So you
had better pay the duty on these few little matters, without that."
If he had been expecting to "throw a scare "into her, it did not
succeed. "Well, I suppose if I must, I must," she said, and the
only result of the diversion was that she paid a few dollars more
than had been expected and went off in a high state of mind.
Herndon had disappeared for a moment, after a whisper from Kennedy,
to instruct two of his men to shadow Mademoiselle Gabrielle and,
later, Pierre. He soon rejoined us and we casually returned to
the vicinity of our tall friend, Number 140, for whom I felt even
less respect than ever after his apparently ungallant action toward
the lady he had been talking with. He seemed to notice my attitude
and he remarked defensively for my benefit, "Only a patriotic act."
His inspector by this time had finished a most minute examination.
There was nothing that could be discovered, not a false book with
a secret spring that might disclose instead of reading matter a
heap of almost priceless jewels, not a suspicious bulging of any
garment or of the lining of a trunk or grip. Some of the goods
might have been on his person, but not much, and certainly there
was no excuse for ordering a personal examination, for he could not
have hidden a tenth part of what we knew he had, even under the
proverbial porous plaster. He was impeccable. Accordingly there
was nothing for the inspector to do but to declare a polite
"So you didn't find 'Mona Lisa' in a false bottom, and my trunks
were not lined with smuggled cigars after all," he rasped savagely
as the stamp "Passed" was at last affixed and he paid in cash at
the little window with its sign, "Pay Duty Here: U.S. Custom House,"
some hundred dollars instead of the thousands Herndon had been
hoping to collect, if not to seize.
All through the inspection, an extra close scrutiny had been kept
on the other passengers as well, to prevent any of them from being
in league with the smugglers, though there was no direct or indirect
evidence to show that any of the others were.
We were about to leave the wharf, also, when Craig's attention was
called to a stack of trunks still remaining.
"Whose are those?" he asked as he lifted one. It felt suspiciously
"Some of them belong to a Mr. Pierre and the rest to a Miss
Gabrielle," answered an inspector. "Bonded for Troy and waiting to
be transferred by the express company."
Here, perhaps, at last was an explanation, and Craig took advantage
of it. Could it be that the real seat of trouble was not here but
at some other place, that some exchange was to be made en route or
perhaps an attempt at bribery?
Herndon, too, was willing to run a risk. He ordered the trunks
opened immediately. But to our disappointment they were almost
empty. There was scarcely a thing of value in them. Most of
the contents consisted of clothes that had plainly been made in
America and were being brought back here. It was another false
scent. We had been played with and baffled at every turn. Perhaps
this had been the method originally agreed on. At any rate it had
"Could they have left the goods in Paris, after all?" I queried.
"With the fall and winter trade just coming on?" Kennedy replied,
with an air of finality that set at rest any doubts about his
opinion on that score. "I thought perhaps we had a case of what do
you call it, Herndon, when they leave trunks that are to be secretly
removed by dishonest expressmen from the wharf at night?
"Sleepers. Oh, we've broken that up, too. No expressman would
dare try it now. I must confess this thing is beyond me, Craig."
Kennedy made no answer. Evidently there was nothing to do but to
await developments and see what Herndon's men reported. We had
been beaten at every turn in the game. Herndon seemed to feel that
there was a bitter sting in the defeat, particularly because the
smuggler or smugglers had actually been in our grasp so long to do
with as we pleased, and had so cleverly slipped out again, leaving
us holding the bag.
Kennedy was especially thoughtful as he told over the facts of the
case in his mind. "Of course," he remarked, " Mademoiselle
Gabrielle wasn't an actress. But we can't deny that she had very
little that would justify Herndon in holding her, unless he simply
wants a newspaper row."
"But I thought Pierre was quite intimate with her at first," I
ventured. "That was a dirty trick of his."
Craig laughed. "You mean an old one. That was simply a blind, to
divert attention from himself. I suspect they talked that over
between themselves for days before."
It was plainly more perplexing than ever. What had happened? Had
Pierre been a prestidigitator and had he merely said presto when
our backs were turned and whisked the goods invisibly into the
country? I could find no explanation for the little drama on the
pier. If Herndon's men had any genius in detecting smuggling,
their professional opponent certainly had greater genius in
We did not see Herndon again until after a hasty luncheon. He was
in his office and inclined to take a pessimistic view of the whole
affair. He brightened up when a telephone message came in from one
of his shadows. The men trailing Pierre and Mademoiselle Gabrielle
had crossed trails and run together at a little French restaurant
on the lower West Side, where Pierre, Lang, and Mademoiselle
Gabrielle had met and were dining in a most friendly spirit.
Kennedy was right. She had been merely a cog in the machinery of
The man reported that even when a newsboy had been sent in by him
with the afternoon papers displaying in big headlines the mystery
of the death of Mademoiselle Violette, they had paid no attention.
It seemed evident that whatever the fate of the little modiste,
Mademoiselle Gabrielle had quite replaced her in the affections of
Pierre. There was nothing for us to do but to separate and await
It was late in the afternoon when Craig and I received a hurried
message from Herndon. One of his men had just called him up over
long distance from Riverledge. The party had left the restaurant
hurriedly, and though they had taken the only taxicab in sight he
had been able to follow them in time to find out that they were
going up to Riverledge. They were now preparing to go out for a
sail in one of Lang's motor-boats and he would be unable, of course,
to follow them further.
For the remainder of the afternoon Kennedy remained pondering the
case. At last an idea seemed to dawn on him. He found Herndon
still at his office and made an appointment to meet on the
waterfront near La Montaigne's pier, after dinner. The change in
Kennedy's spirits was obvious, though it did not in the least
enlighten my curiosity. Even after a dinner which was lengthened
out considerably, I thought, I did not get appreciably nearer a
solution, for we strolled over to the laboratory, where Craig
loaded me down with a huge package which was wrapped up in heavy
We arrived on the corner opposite the wharf just as it was growing
dusk. The neighbourhood did not appeal to me at night, and even
though there were two of us I was rather glad when we met Herndon,
who was waiting in the shadow of a fruit stall.
But instead of proceeding across to the pier by the side of which
La Montaigne was moored, we cut across the wide street and turned
down the next pier, where a couple of freighters were lying. The
odour of salt water, sewage, rotting wood, and the night air was
not inspiring. Nevertheless I was now carried away with the
strangeness of our adventure.
Halfway down the pier Kennedy paused before one of the gangways that
was shrouded in darkness. The door was opened and we followed
gingerly across the dirty deck of the freight ship. Below we could
hear the water lapping the piles of the pier. Across a dark abyss
lay the grim monster La Montaigne with here and there a light
gleaming on one of her decks. The sounds of the city seemed
"What a fine place for a murder," laughed Kennedy coolly. He was
unwrapping the package which he had taken from me. It proved to
be a huge reflector in front of which was placed a little arrangement
which, under the light of a shaded lantern carried by Herndon, looked
like a coil of wire of some kind.
To the back of the reflector Craig attached two other flexible wires
which led to a couple of dry cells and a cylinder with a broadened
end, made of vulcanised rubber. It might have been a telephone
receiver, for all I could tell in the darkness.
While I was still speculating on the possible use of the enormous
parabolic reflector, a slight commotion on the opposite side of the
pier distracted my attention. A ship was coming in and was being
carefully and quietly berthed alongside the other big iron freighter
on that side. Herndon had left us.
"The Mohican is here," he remarked as he rejoined us. To my look
of inquiry he added, "The revenue cutter."
Kennedy had now finished and had pointed the reflector full at La
Montaigne. With a whispered hasty word of caution and advice to
Herndon, he drew me along with him down the wharf again.
At the little door which was cut in the barrier guarding the shore
end of La Montaigne's wharf Kennedy stopped. The customs service
night watchman - there is always a watchman of some kind aboard
every ship, passenger or freighter, all the time she is in port -
seemed to understand, for he admitted us after a word with Kennedy.
Threading our way carefully among the boxes, and bales, and crates
which were piled high, we proceeded down the wharf. Under the
electric lights the longshoremen were working feverishly, for the
unloading and loading of a giant transAtlantic vessel in the rush
season is a long and tedious process at best, requiring night work
and overtime, for every moment, like every cubic foot of space,
Once within the door, however, no one paid much attention to us.
They seemed to take it for granted that we had some right there.
We boarded the ship by one of the many entrances and then proceeded
down to a deck where apparently no one was working. It was more
like a great house than a ship, I felt, and I wondered whether
Kennedy's search was not more of a hunt for a needle in a haystack
than anything else. Yet he seemed to know what he was after.
We had descended to what I imagined must be the quarters of the
steward. About us were many large cases and chests, stacked up
and marked as belonging to the ship. Kennedy's attention was
attracted to them immediately. All at once it flashed on me what
his purpose was. In some of those cases were the smuggled goods!
Before I could say a word and before Kennedy had a chance even to
try to verify his suspicions, a sudden approach of footsteps
startled us. He drew me into a cabin or room full of shelves with
"Why didn't you bring Herndon over and break into the boxes, if you
think the stuff is hidden in one of them?" I whispered.
"And let those higher up escape while their tools take all the
blame?" he answered. "Sh-h."
The men who had come into the compartment looked about as if
expecting to see some one.
"Two of them came down," a gruff voice said. "Where are they?"
>From the noise I inferred that there must be four or five men, and
from the ease with which they shifted the cases about some of them
must have been pretty husky stevedores.
"I don't know," a more polished but unfamiliar voice answered.
The door to our hiding-place was opened roughly and then banged
shut before we realised it. With a taunting laugh, some one turned
a key in the lock and before we could move a quick shift of packing
cases against the door made escape impossible.
Here we were marooned, shanghaied, as it were, within sight if not
call of Herndon and our friends. We had run up against professional
smugglers, of whom I had vaguely read, disguised as stewards,
deckhands, stokers, and other workers.
The only other opening to the cabin was a sort of porthole, more
for ventilation than anything else. Kennedy stuck his head through
it, but it was impossible for a man to squeeze out. There was one
of the lower decks directly before us while a bright arc light
gleamed tantalisingly over it, throwing a round circle of light
into our prison. I reflected bitterly on our shipwreck within
sight of port.
Kennedy remained silent, and I did not know what was working in his
mind. Together we made out the outline of the freighter at the next
wharf and speculated as to the location where we had left Herndon
with the huge reflector. There was no moon and it was as black as
ink in that direction, but if we could have got out I would have
trusted to luck to reach it by swimming.
Below us, from the restless water lapping on the sides of the hulk
of La Montaigne, we could now hear muffled sounds. It was a
motor-boat which had come crawling up the river front, with lights
extinguished, and had pushed a cautious nose into the slip where
our ship lay at the quay. None of your romantic low-lying, rakish
craft of the old smuggling yarns was this, ready for deeds of
desperation in the dark hours of midnight. It was just a modern
little motor-boat, up-to-date, and swift.
"Perhaps we'll get out of this finally," I grumbled as I understood
now what was afoot, "but not in time to be of any use."
A smothered sound as of something going over the vessel's side
followed. It was one of the boxes which we had seen outside in
the storeroom. Another followed, and a third and a fourth.
Then came a subdued parley. "We have two customs detectives locked
in a cabin here. We can't stay now. You'll have to take us and
our things off, too."
"Can't do it," called up another muffled voice. "Make your things
into a little bundle. We'll take that, but you'll have to get past
the night-watchman yourselves and meet us at Riverledge."
A moment later something else went over the side, and from the
sound we could infer that the engine of the motor-boat was being
A Voice sounded mockingly outside our door. "Bon soir, you fellows
in there. We're going up the dock. Sorry to leave you here till
morning, but they'll let you out then. Au revoir."
Below I could hear just the faintest well-muffled chug-chug. Kennedy
in the meantime had been coolly craning his neck out of our porthole
under the rays of the arc light overhead. He was holding something
in his hand. It seemed like a little silver-backed piece of thin
glass with a flaring funnel-like thing back of it, which he held most
particularly. Though he heard the parting taunt outside he paid no
"You go to the deuce, whoever you are," I cried, beating on the door,
to which only a coarse laugh echoed back down the passageway.
"Be quiet, Walter," ordered Kennedy. "We have located the smuggled
goods in the storeroom of the steward, four wooden cases of them.
I think the stuff must have been brought on the ship in the trunks
and then transferred to the cases, perhaps after the code wireless
message was received. But we have been overpowered and locked in
a cabin with a port too small to crawl through. The cases have
been lowered over the side of the ship to a motor-boat that was
waiting below. The lights on the boat are out, but if you hurry
you can get it. The accomplices who locked us in are going to
disappear up the wharf. If you could only get the night watchman
quickly enough you could catch them, too, before they reach the
I had turned, half expecting to see Kennedy talking to a ship's
officer who might have chanced on the deck outside. There was no
one. The only thing of life was the still sputtering arc light.
Had the man gone crazy?
"What of it?" I growled. "Don't you suppose I know all that?
What's the use of repeating it now? The thing to do is to get
out of this hole. Come, help me at this door. Maybe we can
batter it down."
Kennedy paid no attention to me, however, but kept his eyes
glued on the Cimmerian blackness outside the porthole.
He had done nothing apparently, yet a long finger of light seemed
to shoot out into the sky from the pier across from us and begin
waving back and forth as it was lowered to the dark waters of the
river. It was a searchlight. At once I thought of the huge
reflector which I had seen set up. But that had been on our side
of the next pier and this light came from the far side where the
"What is it?" I asked eagerly. "What has happened?"
It was as if a prayer had been answered from our dungeon on La
"I knew we should need some means to communicate with Herndon,"
he explained simply, "and the wireless telephone wasn't practicable.
So I have used Dr. Alexander Graham Bell's photophone. Any of the
lights on this side of La Montaigne, I knew, would serve. What I
did, Walter, was merely to talk into the mouthpiece back of this
little silvered mirror which reflects light. The vibrations of the
voice caused a diaphragm in it to vibrate and thus the beam of
reflected light was made to pulsate. In other words, this little
thing is just a simple apparatus to transform the air vibrations
of the voice into light vibrations.
"The parabolic reflector over there catches these light vibrations
and focuses them on the cell of selenium which you perhaps noticed
in the centre of the reflector. You remember doubtless that the
element selenium varies its electrical resistance under light?
Thus there are reproduced similar variations in the cell to those
vibrations here in this transmitter. The cell is connected with
a telephone receiver and batteries over there and there you are.
It is very simple. In the ordinary carbon telephone transmitter
a variable electrical resistance is produced by pressure, since
carbon is not so good a conductor under pressure. Then these
variations are transmitted along two wires. This photophone is
wireless. Selenium even emits notes under a vibratory beam of
light, the pitch depending on the frequency. Changes in the
intensity of the light focused by the reflector on the cell alter
its electrical resistance and vary the current from the dry
batteries. Hence the telephone receiver over there is affected.
Bell used the photophone or radiophone over several hundred feet,
Ruhmer over several miles. When you thought I was talking to
myself I was really telling Herndon what had happened and what
to do - talking to him literally over a beam of light."
I could scarcely believe it, but an exclamation from Kennedy as
he drew his head in quickly recalled my attention. "Look out
on the river, Walter," he cried. "The Mohican has her searchlight
sweeping up and down. What do you see?"
The long finger of light had now come to rest. In its pathway I
saw a lightless motor-boat bobbing up and down, crowding on all
speed, yet followed relentlessly by the accusing finger. The
river front was now alive with shouting.
Suddenly the Mohican shot out from behind the pier where she
had been hidden. In spite of Lang's expertness it was an unequal
race. Nor would it have made much difference if it had been
otherwise, for a shot rang out from the Mohican which commanded
instant respect. The powerful revenue cutter rapidly overhauled
the little craft.
A hurried tread down the passageway followed. Cases were being
shoved aside and a key in the door of our compartment turned
quickly. I waited with clenched fists, prepared for an attack.
"You're all right?" Herndon's voice inquired anxiously. "We've
got that steward and the other fellows all right."
"Yes, come on," shouted Craig. "The cutter has made a capture."
We had reached the stern of the ship, and far out in the river
the Mohican was now headed toward us. She came alongside, and
Herndon quickly seized a rope, fastened it to the rail, and let
himself down to the deck of the cutter. Kennedy and I followed.
"This is a high-handed proceeding," I heard a voice that must
have been Lang's protesting. "By what right do you stop me? You
shall suffer for this."
"The Mohican," broke in Herndon, "has the right to appear anywhere
from Southshoal Lightship off Nantucket to the capes of the
Delaware, demand an inspection of any vessel's manifest and papers,
board anything from La Montaigne to your little motor-boat, inspect
it, seize it, if necessary put a crew on it." He slapped the little
cannon. "That commands respect. Besides, you were violating the
regulations - no lights."
On the deck of the cutter now lay four cases. A man broke one of
them open, then another. Inside he disclosed thousands of dollars'
worth of finery, while from a tray he drew several large chamois
bags of glittering diamonds and pearls.
Pierre looked on, crushed, all his jauntiness gone.
"So," exclaimed Kennedy, facing him, "you have your jilted fiancee,
Mademoiselle Violette, to thank for this - her letters and her
suicide. It wasn't as easy as you thought to throw her over for a
new soul mate, this Mademoiselle Gabrielle whom you were going to
set up as a rival in business to Violette. Violette has her revenge
for making a plaything of her heart, and if the dead can take any
With a quick movement Kennedy anticipated a motion of Pierre's.
The ruined smuggler had contemplated either an attack on himself
or his captor, but Craig had seized him by the wrist and ground
his knuckles into the back of Pierre's clenched fist until he
winced with pain. An Apache dagger similar to that which the
little modiste had used to end her life tragedy clattered to the
deck of the ship, a mute testimonial to the high class of society
Pierre and his associates must have cultivated.
"None of that, Pierre," Craig muttered, releasing him. "You can't
cheat the government out of its just dues even in the matter of
THE INVISIBLE RAY
"I won't deny that I had some expectations from the old man
Kennedy's client was speaking in a low, full chested, vibrating
voice, with some emotion, so low that I had entered the room without
being aware that any one was there until it was too late to retreat.
"As his physician for over twelve years," the man pursued, "I
certainly had been led to hope to be remembered in his will. But,
Professor Kennedy, I can't put it too strongly when I say that there
is no selfish motive in my coming to you about the case. There is
something wrong - depend on
Craig had glanced up at me and, as I hesitated, I could see in an
instant that the speaker was a practitioner of a type that is
rapidly passing away, the old-fashioned family doctor.
"Dr. Burnham, I should like to have you know Mr. Jameson," introduced
Craig. "You can talk as freely before him as you have to me alone.
We always work together."
I shook hands with the visitor.
"The doctor has succeeded in interesting me greatly in a case which
has some unique features," Kennedy explained. "It has to do with
Stephen Haswell, the eccentric old millionaire of Brooklyn. Have
you ever heard of him?"
"Yes, indeed," I replied, recalling an occasional article which had
appeared in the newspapers regarding a dusty and dirty old house in
that part of the Heights in Brooklyn whence all that is fashionable
had not yet taken flight, a house of mystery, yet not more mysterious
than its owner in his secretive comings and goings in the affairs
of men of a generation beyond his time. Further than the facts that
he was reputed to be very wealthy and led, in the heart of a great
city, what was as nearly like the life of a hermit as possible, I
knew little or nothing. "What has he been doing now?" I asked.
"About a week ago," repeated the doctor, in answer to a nod of
encouragement from Kennedy, "I was summoned in the middle of the
night to attend Mr. Haswell, who, as I have been telling Professor
Kennedy, had been a patient of mine for over twelve years. He had
been suddenly stricken with total blindness. Since then he appears
to be failing fast, that is, he appeared so the last time I saw him,
a few days ago, after I had been superseded by a younger man. It
is a curious case and I have thought about it a great deal. But I
didn't like to speak to the authorities; there wasn't enough to
warrant that, and I should have been laughed out of court for my
pains. The more I have thought about it, however, the more I have
felt it my duty to say something to somebody, and so, having heard
of Professor Kennedy, I decided to consult him. The fact of the
matter is, I very much fear that there are circumstances which will
bear sharp looking into, perhaps a scheme to get control of the old
The doctor paused, and Craig inclined his head, as much as to
signify his appreciation of the delicate position in which Burnham
stood in the case. Before the doctor could proceed further, Kennedy
handed me a letter which had been lying before him on the table.
It had evidently been torn into small pieces and then carefully
The superscription gave a small town in Ohio and a date about a
Dear Father [it read]: I hope you will pardon me for writing,=20
but I cannot let the occasion of your seventy-fifth birthday=20
pass without a word of affection and congratulation. I am alive=20
and well. Time has dealt leniently with me in that respect, if=20
not in money matters. I do not say this in the hope of
reconciling you to me. I know that is impossible after all these
cruel years. But I do wish that I could see you again. Remember,
I am your only child and even if you still think I have been a
foolish one, please let me come to see you once before it is too
late. We are constantly travelling from place to place, but shall
be here for a few days.
Your loving daughter,
GRACE HASWELL MARTIN.
"Some fourteen or fifteen years ago," explained the doctor as I
looked up from reading the note, "Mr. Haswell's only daughter eloped
with an artist named Martin. He had been engaged to paint a portrait
of the late Mrs. Haswell from a photograph. It was the first time
that Grace Haswell had ever been able to find expression for the
artistic yearning which had always been repressed by the cold,
practical sense of her father. She remembered her mother perfectly
since the sad bereavement of her girlhood and naturally she watched
and helped the artist eagerly. The result was a portrait which might
well have been painted from the subject herself rather than from a
"Haswell saw the growing intimacy of his daughter and the artist.
His bent of mind was solely toward money and material things, and
he at once conceived a bitter and unreasoning hatred for Martin,
who, he believed, had 'schemed' to capture his daughter and an
easy living. Art was as foreign to his nature as possible.=20
Nevertheless they went ahead and married, and, well, it resulted
in the old man disinheriting the girl. The young couple disappeared
bravely to make their way by their chosen profession and, as far as
I know, have never been heard from since until now. Haswell made a
new will, and I have always understood that practically all of his
fortune is to be devoted to founding the technology department in
a projected university of Brooklyn."
"You have never seen this Mrs. Martin or her husband?" asked Kennedy.
"No, never. But in some way she must have learned that I had some
influence with her father, for she wrote to me not long ago,
enclosing a note for him and asking me to intercede for her. I did
so. I took the letter to him as diplomatically as I could. The old
man flew into a towering rage, refused even to look at the letter,
tore it up into bits, and ordered me never to mention the subject
to him again. That is her note, which I saved. However, it is the
sequel about which I wish your help."
The physician folded up the patched letter carefully before he
continued. "Mr. Haswell, as you perhaps know, has for many years
been a prominent figure in various curious speculations, or rather
in loaning money to many curious speculators. It is not necessary
to go into the different schemes which he has helped to finance.
Even though most of them have been unknown to the public they have
certainly given him such a reputation that he is much sought after
"Not long ago Haswell became interested in the work of an obscure
chemist over in Brooklyn, Morgan Prescott. Prescott claims, as I
understand, to be able to transmute copper into gold. Whatever you
think of it offhand, you should visit his laboratory yourselves,
gentlemen. I am told it is wonderful, though I have never seen it
and can't explain it. I have met Prescott several times while he
was trying to persuade Mr. Haswell to back him in his scheme, but
he was never disposed to talk to me, for I had no money to invest.
So far as I know about it the thing sounds scientific and plausible
enough. I leave you to judge of that. It is only an incident in
my story and I will pass over it quickly. Prescott, then, believes
that the elements are merely progressive variations of an original
substance or base called 'protyle,' from which everything is derived.
But this fellow Prescott goes much further than any of the former
theorists. He does not stop with matter. He believes that he has
the secret of life also, that he can make the transition from the
inorganic to the organic, from inert matter to living protoplasm,
and thence from living protoplasm to mind and what we call soul,
whatever that may be."
"And here is where the weird and uncanny part of it comes in,"
commented Craig, turning from the doctor to me to call my attention
particularly to what was about to follow.
"Having arrived at the point where he asserts that he can create and
destroy matter, life, and mind," continued the doctor, as if himself
fascinated by the idea," Prescott very naturally does not have to go
far before he also claims a control over telepathy and even a
communication with the dead. He even calls the messages which he
receives by a word which he has coined himself, 'telepagrams.' Thus
he says he has unified the physical, the physiological, and the
psychical - a system of absolute scientific monism."
The doctor paused again, then resumed. "One afternoon, about a week
ago, apparently, as far as I am able to piece together the story,
Prescott was demonstrating his marvellous discovery of the unity
of nature. Suddenly he faced Mr. Haswell.
"'Shall I tell you a fact, sir, about yourself?' he asked quickly.
'The truth as I see it by means of my wonderful invention? If it
is the truth, will you believe in me? Will you put money into my
invention? Will you share in becoming fabulously rich?'
"Haswell made some noncommittal answer. But Prescott seemed to
look into the machine through a very thick plate-glass window, with
Haswell placed directly before it. He gave a cry. 'Mr. Haswell,'
he exclaimed, 'I regret to tell you what I see. You have
disinherited your daughter; she has passed out of your life and at
the present moment you do not know where she is.'
"'That's true,' replied the old man bitterly, 'and more than that
I don't care. Is that all you see? That's nothing new.'
"'No, unfortunately, that is not all I see. Can you bear something
further? I think you ought to know it. I have here a most
"'Yes. What is it? Is she dead?'
"'No, it is not about her. It is about yourself. To-night at
midnight or perhaps a little later,' repeated Prescott solemnly,
'you will lose your sight as a punishment for your action.'
"'Pouf!' exclaimed the old man in a dudgeon, 'if that is all your
invention can tell me, good-bye. You told me you were able to make
gold. Instead, you make foolish prophecies. I'll put no money into
such tomfoolery. I'm a practical man,' and with that he stamped out
of the laboratory.
"Well, that night, about one o'clock, in the silence of the lonely
old house, the aged caretaker, Jane, whom he had hired after he
banished his daughter from his life, heard a wild shout of 'Help!
Help!' Haswell, alone in his room on the second floor, was
groping about in the dark.
"'Jane,' he ordered, 'a light - a light.'
"'I have lighted the gas, Mr. Haswell,' she cried.
"A groan followed. He had himself found a match, had struck it,
had even burnt his fingers with it, yet he saw nothing.
"The blow had fallen. At almost the very hour which Prescott, by
means of his weird telepagram had predicted, old Haswell was stricken.
I'm blind,' he gasped. 'Send for Dr. Burnham.'
"I went to him immediately when the maid roused me, but there was
nothing I could do except prescribe perfect rest for his eyes and
keeping in a dark room in the hope that his sight might be restored
as suddenly and miraculously as it had been taken away.
"The next morning, with his own hand, trembling and scrawling in his
blindness, he wrote the following on a piece of paper:
"'Mrs. GRACE MARTIN. - Information wanted about the present
whereabouts of Mrs. Grace Martin, formerly Grace Haswell of
Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.
"This advertisement he caused to be placed in all the New York
papers and to be wired to the leading Western papers. Haswell
himself was a changed man after his experience. He spoke bitterly
of Prescott, yet his attitude toward his daughter was completely
reversed. Whether he admitted to himself a belief in the prediction
of the inventor, I do not know. Certainly he scouted such an idea
in telling me about it.
"A day or two after the advertisements appeared a telegram came to
the old man from a little town in Indiana. It read simply: 'Dear
Father: Am starting for Brooklyn to-day. Grace.'
"The upshot was that Grace Haswell, or rather Grace Martin, appeared
the next day, forgave and was forgiven with much weeping, although
the old man still refused resolutely to be reconciled with and
receive her husband. Mrs. Martin started in to clean up the old
house. A vacuum cleaner sucked a ton or two of dust from it.
Everything was changed. Jane grumbled a great deal, but there was
no doubt a great improvement. Meals were served regularly. The
old man was taken care of as never before. Nothing was too good
for him. Everywhere the touch of a woman was evident in the house.
The change was complete. It even extended to me. Some friend had
told her of an eye and ear specialist, a Dr. Scott, who was engaged.
Since then, I understand, a new will has been made, much to the
chagrin of the trustees of the projected school. Of course I am
cut out of the new will, and that with the knowledge at least of
the woman who once appealed to me, but it does not influence me in
coming to you."
"But what has happened since to arouse suspicion?" asked Kennedy,
watching the doctor furtively.
"Why, the fact is that, in spite of all this added care, the old man
is failing more rapidly than ever. He never goes out except attended
and not much even then. The other day I happened to meet Jane on the
street. The faithful old soul poured forth a long story about his
growing dependence on others and ended by mentioning a curious red
discoloration that seems to have broken out over his face and hands.
More from the way she said it than from what she said I gained the
impression that something was going on which should be looked into.
"Then you perhaps think that Prescott and Mrs. Martin are in some
way connected in this case?" I hazarded.
I had scarcely framed the question before he replied in an emphatic
negative. "On the contrary, it seems to me that if they know each
other at all it is with hostility. With the exception of the first
stroke of blindness" here he lowered his voice earnestly "practically
every misfortune that has overtaken Mr. Haswell has been since the
advent of this new Dr. Scott. Mind, I do not wish even to breathe
that Mrs. Martin has done anything except what a daughter should do.
I think she has shown herself a model of forgiveness and devotion.
Nevertheless the turn of events under the new treatment has been so
strange that almost it makes one believe that there might be
something occult about it - or wrong with the new doctor."
"Would it be possible, do you think, for us to see Mr. Haswell?"
asked Kennedy, when Dr. Burnham had come to a full stop after
pouring forth his suspicions. "I should like to see this Dr. Scott.
But first I should like to get into the old house without exciting
The doctor was thoughtful. "You'll have to arrange that yourself,"
he answered. "Can't you think up a scheme? For instance, go to him
with a proposal like the old schemes he used to finance. He is very
much interested in electrical inventions. He made his money by
speculation in telegraphs and telephones in the early days when they
were more or less dreams. I should think a wireless system of
television might at least interest him and furnish an excuse for
getting in, although I am told his daughter discourages all tangible
investment in the schemes that used to interest his active mind."
"An excellent idea," exclaimed Kennedy. "It is worth trying anyway.
It is still early. Suppose we ride over to Brooklyn with you. You
can direct us to the house and we'll try to see him."
It was still light when we mounted the high steps of the house of
mystery across the bridge. Mrs. Martin, who met us in the parlour,
proved to be a stunning looking woman with brown hair and beautiful
dark eyes. As far as we could see the old house plainly showed the
change. The furniture and ornaments were of a period long past, but
everything was scrupulously neat. Hanging over the old marble mantel
was a painting which quite evidently was that of the long since
deceased Mrs. Haswell, the mother of Grace. In spite of the hideous
style of dress of the period after the war, she had evidently been a
very beautiful woman with large masses of light chestnut hair and
blue eyes which the painter had succeeded in catching with almost
life-likeness for a portrait.
It took only a few minutes for Kennedy, in his most engaging and
plausible manner, to state the hypothetical reason of our call.
Though it was perfectly self-evident from the start that Mrs. Martin
would throw cold water on anything requiring an outlay of money
Craig accomplished his full purpose of securing an interview with
Mr. Haswell. The invalid lay propped up in bed, and as we entered
he heard us and turned his sightless eyes in our direction almost
as if he saw.
Kennedy had hardly begun to repeat and elaborate the story which he
had already told regarding his mythical friend who had at last a
commercial wireless "televue," as he called it on the spur of the
moment, when Jane, the aged caretaker, announced Dr. Scott. The new
doctor was a youthfully dressed man, clean-shaven, but with an
undefinable air of being much older than his smooth face led one to
suppose. As he had a large practice, he said, he would beg our
pardon for interrupting but would not take long.
It needed no great powers of observation to see that the old man
placed great reliance on his new doctor and that the visit partook
of a social as well as a professional nature. Although they talked
low we could catch now and then a word or phrase. Dr. Scott bent
down and examined the eyes of his patient casually. It was difficult
to believe that they saw nothing, so bright was the blue of the
"Perfect rest for the present," the doctor directed, talking more
to Mrs. Martin than to the old man. "Perfect rest, and then when
his health is good, we shall see what can be done with that
He was about to leave, when the old man reached up and restrained
him, taking hold of the doctor's wrist tightly, as if to pull him
nearer in order to whisper to him without being overheard. Kennedy
was sitting in a chair near the head of the bed, some feet away, as
the doctor leaned down. Haswell, still holding his wrist, pulled
him closer. I could not hear what was said, though somehow I had
an impression that they were talking about Prescott, for it would
not have been at all strange if the old man had been greatly
impressed by the alchemist.
Kennedy, I noticed, had pulled an old envelope from his pocket and
was apparently engaged in jotting down some notes, glancing now and
then from his writing to the doctor and then to Mr. Haswell.
The doctor stood erect in a few moments and rubbed his wrist
thoughtfully with the other hand, as if it hurt. At the same time
he smiled on Mrs. Martin. "Your father has a good deal of strength
yet, Mrs. Martin," he remarked. "He has a wonderful constitution.
I feel sure that we can pull him out of this and that he has many,
many years to live."
Mr. Haswell, who caught the words eagerly, brightened visibly, and
the doctor passed out. Kennedy resumed his description of the
supposed wireless picture apparatus which was to revolutionise the
newspaper, the theatre, and daily life in general. The old man did
not seem enthusiastic and turned to his daughter with some remark.
"Just at present," commented the daughter, with an air of finality,
"the only thing my father is much interested in is a way in which
to recover his sight without an operation. He has just had a rather
unpleasant experience with one inventor. I think it will be some
time before he cares to embark in any other such schemes.
Kennedy and I excused ourselves with appropriate remarks of
disappointment. From his preoccupied manner it was impossible for
me to guess whether Craig had accomplished his purpose or not.
"Let us drop in on Dr. Burnham since we are over here," he said
when we had reached the street. "I have some questions to ask him."
The former physician of Mr. Haswell lived not very far from the
house we had just left. He appeared a little surprised to see us
so soon, but very interested in what had taken place.
"Who is this Dr. Scott?" asked Craig when we were seated in the
comfortable leather chairs of the old-fashioned consulting-room.
"Really, I know no more about him than you do," replied Burnham.
I thought I detected a little of professional jealousy in his tone,
though he went on frankly enough, "I have made inquiries and I can
find out nothing except that he is supposed to be a graduate of
some Western medical school and came to this city only a short time
ago. He has hired a small office in a new building devoted entirely
to doctors and they tell me that he is an eye and ear specialist,
though I cannot see that he has any practice. Beyond that I know
nothing about him."
"Your friend Prescott interests me, too," remarked Kennedy, changing
the subject quickly.
"Oh, he is no friend of mine," returned the doctor, fumbling in a
drawer of his desk. "But I think I have one of his cards here
which he gave me when we were introduced some time ago at Mr.
Haswell's. I should think it would be worth while to see him.
Although he has no use for me because I have neither money nor
influence, still you might take this card. Tell him you are from
the university, that I have interested you in him, that you know
a trustee with money to invest - anything you like that is plausible.
When are you going to see him?"
"The first thing in the morning," replied Kennedy. "After I have
seen him I shall drop in for another chat with you. Will you be
The doctor promised, and we took our departure.
Prescott's laboratory, which we found the next day from the address
on the card, proved to be situated in one of the streets near the
waterfront under the bridge approach, where the factories and
warehouses clustered thickly. It was with a great deal of
anticipation of seeing something happen that we threaded our way
through the maze of streets with the cobweb structure of the
bridge carrying its endless succession of cars arching high over
our heads. We had nearly reached the place when Kennedy paused
and pulled out two pairs of glasses, those huge round tortoiseshell
"You needn't mind these, Walter," he explained. "They are only
plain glass, that is, not ground. You can see through them as well
as through air. We must be careful not to excite suspicion. Perhaps
a disguise might have been better, but I think this will=20do. There
they add at least a decade to your age. If you could see yourself
you wouldn't speak to your reflection. You look as scholarly as
a Chinese mandarin. Remember, let me do the talking and do just as
We had now entered the shop, stumbled up the dark stairs, and
presented Dr. Burnham's card with a word of explanation along the
lines which he had suggested. Prescott, surrounded by his retorts,
crucibles, burettes, and condensers, received us much more graciously
than I had had any reason to anticipate. He was a man in the late
forties, his face covered with a thick beard, and his eyes, which
seemed a little weak, were helped out with glasses almost as
scholarly as ours.
I could not help thinking that we three bespectacled figures lacked
only the flowing robes to be taken for a group of medieval alchemists
set down a few centuries out of our time in the murky light of
Prescott's sanctum. Yet, though he accepted us at our face value,
and began to talk of his strange discoveries there was none of the
old familiar prating about matrix and flux, elixir, magisterium,
magnum opus, the mastery and the quintessence, those alternate names
for the philosopher's stone which Paracelsus, Simon Forman, Jerome
Cardan, and the other medieval worthies indulged in. This experience
at least was as up-to-date as the Curies, Becquerel, Ramsay, and
"Transmutation," remarked Prescott, "was, as you know, finally
declared to be a scientific absurdity in the eighteenth century.
But I may say that it is no longer so regarded. I do not ask you
to believe anything until you have seen; all I ask is that you
maintain the same open mind which the most progressive scientists
of to-day exhibit in regard to the subject."
Kennedy had seated himself some distance from a curious piece or
rather collection of apparatus over which Prescott was working. It
consisted of numerous coils and tubes.
"It may seem strange to you, gentlemen," Prescott proceeded, "that
a man who is able to produce gold from, say, copper should be seeking
capital from other people. My best answer to that old objection is
that I am not seeking capital, as such. The situation with me is
simply this. Twice I have applied to the patent office for a patent
on my invention. They not only refuse to grant it, but they refuse
to consider the application or even to give me a chance to demonstrate
my process to them. On the other hand, suppose I try this thing
secretly. How can I prevent any one from learning my trade secret,
leaving me, and making gold on his own account? Men will desert as
fast as I educate them. Think of the economic result of that; it
would turn the world topsy-turvy. I am looking for some one who can
be trusted to the last limit to join with me, furnish the influence
and standing while I furnish the brains and the invention. Either
we must get the government interested and sell the invention to it,
or we must get government protection and special legislation. I am
not seeking capital; I am seeking protection. First let me show
He turned a switch, and a part of the collection of apparatus began
"You are undoubtedly acquainted with the modern theories of matter,"
he began, plunging into the explanation of his process. "Starting
with the atom, we believe no longer that it is indivisible. Atoms
are composed of thousands of ions, as they are called, - really
little electric charges. Again, you know that we have found that
all the elements fall into groups. Each group has certain related
atomic weights and properties which can be and have been predicted
in advance of the discovery of missing elements in the group. I
started with the reasonable assumption that the atom of one element
in a group could be modified so as to become the atom of another
element in the group, that one group could perhaps be transformed
into another, and so on, if only I knew the force that would change
the number or modify the vibrations of these ions composing the
"Now for years I have been seeking that force or combination of
forces that would enable me to produce this change in the elements
- raising or lowering them in the scale, so to speak. I have
found it. I am not going to tell you or any other man whom you may
interest the secret of how it is done until I find some one I can
trust as I trust myself. But I am none the less willing that you
should see the results. If they are not convincing, then nothing
He appeared to be debating whether to explain further, and finally
resumed: "Matter thus being in reality a manifestation of force or
ether in motion, it is necessary to change and control that force
and motion. This assemblage of machines here is for that purpose.
Now a few words as to my theory."
He took a pencil and struck a sharp blow on the table. "There you
have a single blow," he said, "just one isolated noise. Now if I
strike this tuning fork you have a vibrating note. In other words,
a succession of blows or wave vibrations of a certain kind affects
the ear and we call it sound, just as a succession of other wave
vibrations affects the retina and we have sight. If a moving
picture moves slower than a certain number of pictures a minute you
see the separate pictures; faster it is one moving picture.
"Now as we increase the rapidity of wave vibration and decrease the
wave length we pass from sound waves to heat waves or what are known
as the infra-red waves, those which lie below the red in the spectrum
of light. Next we come to light, which is composed of the seven
colours as you know from seeing them resolved in a prism. After that
are what are known as the ultra-violet rays, which lie beyond the
violet of white light. We also have electric waves, the waves of
the alternating current, and shorter still we find the Hertzian
waves, which are used in wireless. We have only begun to know of
X-rays and the alpha, beta, and gamma rays from them, of radium,
radioactivity, and finally of this new force which I have discovered
and call 'protodyne,' the original force.
"In short, we find in the universe Matter, Force, and Ether. Matter
is simply ether in motion, is composed of corpuscles, electrically
charged ions, or electrons, moving units of negative electricity
about one one-thousandth part of the hydrogen atom. Matter is made
up of electricity and nothing but electricity. Let us see what that
leads to. You are acquainted with Mendeleeff's periodic table?"
He drew forth a huge chart on which all the eighty or so elements
were arranged in eight groups or octaves and twelve series.
Selecting one, he placed his finger on the letters "Au," under which
was written the number, 197.2. I wondered what the mystic letters
and figures meant.
"That," he explained, "is the scientific name for the element gold
and the figure is its atomic weight. You will see," he added,
pointing down the second vertical column on the chart, "that gold
belongs to the hydrogen group - hydrogen, lithium, sodium, potassium,
copper, rubidium, silver, caesium, then two blank spaces for elements
yet to be discovered to science, then gold, and finally another
Running his finger along the eleventh, horizontal series, he
continued: "The gold series - not the group - reads gold, mercury,
thallium, lead, bismuth, and other elements known only to myself.
For the known elements, however, these groups and series are now
perfectly recognised by all scientists; they are determined by the
fixed weight of the atom, and there is a close approximation to
"This twelfth series is interesting. So far only radium, thorium,
and uranium are generally known. We know that the radioactive
elements are constantly breaking down, and one often hears uranium,
for instance, called the 'parent' of radium. Radium also gives off
an emanation, and among its products is helium, quite another
element. Thus the transmutation of matter is well known within
certain bounds to all scientists to-day like yourself, Professor
Kennedy. It has even been rumoured but never proved that copper has
been transformed into lithium - both members of the hydrogen-gold
group, you will observe. Copper to lithium is going backward, so to
speak. It has remained for me to devise this protodyne apparatus
by which I can reverse that process of decay and go forward in the
table, so to put it - can change lithium into copper and copper into
gold. I can create and destroy matter by protodyne."
He had been fingering a switch as he spoke. Now he turned it on
triumphantly. A curious snapping and crackling noise followed,
becoming more rapid, and as it mounted in intensity I could smell
a pungent odour of ozone which told of an electric discharge. On
went the machine until we could feel heat radiating from it. Then
came a piercing burst of greenish-blue light from a long tube which
looked like a curious mercury vapour lamp.
After a few minutes of this Prescott took a small crucible of black
lead. "Now we are ready to try it," he cried in great excitement.
"Here I have a crucible containing some copper. Any substance in
the group would do, even hydrogen if there was any way I could
handle the gas. I place it in the machine - so. Now if you could
watch inside you would see it change; it is now rubidium, now silver,