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Title: The Problem of Cell 13
Author: Jacques Futrelle
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0603601.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2006
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The Problem of Cell 13
Jacques Futrelle

Practically all those letters remaining in the alphabet after
Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen was named were afterward acquired by that
gentleman in the course of a brilliant scientific career, and, being
honorably acquired, were tacked on to the other end. His name,
therefore, taken with all that belonged it, was a wonderfully imposing
structure. He was a Ph.D., an LL.D., an F.R.S., an M.D., and an M.D.S.
He was also some other things--just what he himself couldn't say--
through recognition of his ability by various foreign educational and
scientific institutions.

In appearance he was no less striking than in nomenclature. He was
slender with the droop of the student in his thin shoulders and the
pallor of a close, sedentary life on his clean-shaven face. His eyes
wore a perceptual, forbidding squint--the squint of a man who studies
little things--and when they could be seen at all through his thick
spectacles, were mere slits of watery blue. But above his eyes was his
most striking feature. This was a tall, broad brow, almost abnormal in
height and width, crowned by a heavy shock of bushy, yellow hair. All
these things conspired to give him a peculiar, almost grotesque,

Professor Van Dusen was remotely German. For generations his
ancestors had been noted in the sciences; he was the logical result,
the mastermind. First and above all he was a logician. At least
thirty-five years of the half century or so of his existence had been
devoted exclusively to providing that two and two always equal four,
except in unusual cases, where they equaled three or five, as the case
may be. He stood broadly on the general propositions that all things
that start must go somewhere, and was able to bring the concentrated
mental force of his forefathers to bear on a given problem.
Incidentally it may be remarked that Professor Van Dusen wore a No. 8

The world at large had heard vaguely of Professor Van Dusen as The
Thinking Machine. It was a newspaper catchphrase applied to him at the
time of a remarkable exhibition at chess; he had demonstrated then
that a stranger to the game might, by the force of inevitable logic,
defeat a champion who had devoted a lifetime to its study. The
Thinking Machine! Perhaps that more nearly described him than all his
honorary initials, for he had spent week after week, month after
month, in the seclusion of his small laboratory from which had gone
forth thoughts that staggered scientific associates and deeply stirred
the world at large.

It was only occasionally that The Thinking Machine had visitors, and
these were usually men who, themselves high in the sciences, dropped
in to argue a point and perhaps convince themselves. Two of these men,
Dr. Charles Ransome and Alfred Fielding, called one evening to discuss
some theory which is not of consequence here.

"Such a thing is impossible," declared Dr. Ransome emphatically, in
the course of the conversation.

"Nothing is impossible," declared The Thinking Machine with equal
emphasis. He always spoke petulantly. "The mind is master of all
things. When science fully recognizes that fact a great advance will
have been made."

"How about the airship?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"That's not impossible at all," asserted The Thinking Machine "it
will be invented some time. I'd do it myself, but I'm busy."

Dr. Ransome laughed tolerantly.

"I've heard you say such things before," he said. "But they mean
nothing. Mind may be master of matter, but it hasn't yet found a way to
apply itself. There are some things that can't be thought out of
existence, or rather which would not yield to any amount of thinking."

"What, for instance?" demanded The Thinking Machine.

Dr. Ransome was thoughtful for a moment as he smoked.

"Well, say prison walls," he replied. "No man can think himself out
of a cell. If he could, there would be no prisoners."

"A man can so apply his brain and ingenuity that he can leave a cell,
which is the same thing," snapped The Thinking Machine.

Dr. Ransome was slightly amused.

"Let's suppose a case," he said, after a moment. "Take a cell where
prisoners under sentence of death are confined--men who are desperate
and, maddened by fear, would take any chance to escape--suppose you
were locked in such a cell. Could you escape?"

"Certainly," declared The Thinking Machine.

"Of course," said Mr. Fielding, who entered the conversation for the
first time, "you might wreck the cell with an explosive--but inside, a
prisoner, you couldn't have that."

"There would be nothing of that kind," said The Thinking Machine.
"You might treat me precisely as you treated prisoners under sentence
of death, and I would leave the cell."

"Not unless you entered it with tools prepared to get out," said Dr.

The Thinking Machine was visibly annoyed and his blue eyes snapped.

"Lock me in any cell in any prison anywhere at any time, wearing only
what is necessary, and I'll escape in a week," he declared, sharply.
Dr. Ransome sat up straight in his chair, interested. Mr. Fielding
lighted a new cigar.

"You mean you could actually think yourself out?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"I would get out," was the response.

"Are you serious?"

"Certainly I am serious."

Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding were silent for a long time.

"Would you be willing to try it?" asked Mr. Fielding, finally.

"Certainly," said Professor Van Dusen, and there was a trace of irony
in his voice. "I have done more asinine things than that to convince
other men of less important truths."

The tone was offensive and there was an undercurrent strongly
resembling anger on both sides. Of course it was an absurd thing, but
Professor Van Dusen reiterated his willingness to undertake the escape
and it was decided on.

"To begin now," added Dr. Ransome.

"I'd prefer that it begin to-morrow," said The Thinking Machine,

"No, now," said Mr. Fielding, flatly. "You are arrested, figuratively
speaking, of course, without any warning locked in a cell with no
chance to communicate with friends, and left there with identically
the same care and attention that would be given to a man under
sentence of death. Are you willing?"

"All right, now, then," said The Thinking Machine, and he arose.

"Say, the death cell in Chisholm Prison."

"The death cell in Chisholm Prison."

"And what will you wear?"

"As little as possible," said The Thinking Machine. "Shoes,
stockings, trousers and a shirt."

"You will permit yourself to be searched, of course?"

"I am to be treated precisely as all prisoners are treated," said The
Thinking Machine. "No more attention and no less."

There were some preliminaries to be arranged in the matter of
obtaining permission for the test, but all these were influential men
and everything was done satisfactorily by telephone, albeit the prison
commissioners, to whom the experiment was explained on purely
scientific grounds, were sadly bewildered. Professor Van Dusen would
be the most distinguished prisoner they had ever entertained.

When The Thinking Machine had donned those things which he was to
wear during his incarceration, he called the little old woman who was
his housekeeper, cook and maidservant all in one.

"Martha," he said, "it is now twenty-seven minutes past nine o'clock.
I am going away. One week from to-night, at half past nine, these
gentlemen and one, possibly two, others will take supper with me here.
Remember Dr. Ransome is very fond of artichokes."

The three men were driven to Chisholm Prison, where the warden was
awaiting them, having been informed of the matter by telephone. He
understood merely that the eminent Professor Van Dusen was to be his
prisoner, if he could keep him, for one week; that he had committed no
crime, but that he was to be treated as all other prisoners were

"Search him," instructed Dr. Ransome.

The Thinking Machine was searched. Nothing was found on him; the
pockets of the trousers were empty; the white, stiff-bosomed shirt had
no pocket. The shoes and stockings were removed, examined, then
replaced. As he watched all these preliminaries, and noted the
pitiful, childlike physical weakness of the man--the colorless face,
and the thin, white hands--Dr. Ransome almost regretted his part in
the affair.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked

"Would you be convinced if I did not?" inquired The Thinking Machine
in turn.


"All right. I'll do it."

What sympathy Dr. Ransome had was dissipated by the tone. It nettled
him, and he resolved to see the experiment to the end; it would be a
stinging reproof to egotism.

"It will be impossible for him to communicate with anyone outside?"
he asked.

"Absolutely impossible," replied the warden. "He will not be
permitted writing materials of any sort."

"And your jailers, would they deliver a message from him?"

"Not one word, directly or indirectly," said the warden.
"You may rest assured of that. They will report anything he might say
or turn over to me, anything he might give them."

"That seems entirely satisfactory," said Mr. Fielding, who was
frankly interested in the problem.

"Of course, in the event he fails," said Dr. Ransome, "and asks for
his liberty, you understand you are to set him free?"

"I understand," replied the warden.

The Thinking Machine stood listening, but had nothing to say until
all this was ended, then:

"I should like to make three small requests. You may grant them or
not, as you wish."

"No special favors, now," warned Mr. Fielding.

"I am asking none," was the stiff response. "I should like to have
some tooth powder--buy it yourself to see that it is tooth powder--and
I should like to have one five-dollar and two ten-dollar bills."

Dr. Ransome, Mr. Fielding and the warden exchanged astonished glances.
They were not surprised at the request for tooth powder, but were at
the request for money.

"Is there any man with whom our friend would come in contact that he
could bribe with twenty-five dollars?"

"Not for twenty-five hundred dollars," was the positive reply.

"And what is the third request?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"I should like to have my shoes polished."

Again the astonished glances were exchanged. This last request was
the height of absurdity, so they agreed to it. These things all being
attended to, The Thinking Machine was led back into the prison from
which he had undertaken to escape.

"Here is Cell 13," said the warden, stopping three doors down the
steel corridor. "This is where we keep condemned murderers. No one can
leave it without my permission; and no one in it can communicate with
the outside. I'll stake my reputation on that. It's only three doors
back of my office and I can readily hear any unusual noise."

"Will this cell do, gentleman?" asked The Thinking Machine. There was
a touch of irony in his voice.

"Admirably," was the reply.

The heavy steel door was thrown open, there was a great scurrying and
scampering of tiny feet, and The Thinking Machine passed into the
gloom of the cell. Then the door was closed and double locked by the

"What is that noise in there?" asked Dr. Ransome, through the bars.

"Rats--dozens of them," replied The Thinking Machine, tersely.

The three men, with final good nights, were turning away when The
Thinking Machine called:

"What time is it exactly, Warden?"

"Eleven-seventeen," replied the warden.

"Thanks. I will join you gentlemen in your office at half past eight
o'clock one week from tonight," said The Thinking Machine.

"And if you do not?"

"There is no `if' about it."

Chisolm Prison was a great, spreading structure of granite, four
stories in all, which stood in the center of acres of open space. It
was surrounded by a wall of solid masonry eighteen feet high, and so
smoothly finished inside and out as to offer no foothold to a climber,
no matter how expert. Atop of this fence, as a further precaution, was
a five-foot fence of steel rods, each terminating in a keen point.
This fence in itself marked an absolute deadline between freedom and
imprisonment, for, even if a man escaped from his cell, it would seem
impossible for him to pass the wall.

The yard, which on all sides of the prison building was twenty-five
feet wide, that being the distance from the building to the wall, was
by day an exercises ground for those prisoners to whom was granted the
boon of occasional semi-liberty. But that was not for those in Cell
13. At all times of the day there were armed guards in the yard, four
of them, one patrolling each side of the prison building.

By night the yard was almost as brilliantly lighted as by day. On
each of the four sides was a great arc light which rose above the
prison wall and gave to the guards a clear sight. The lights, too,
brightly illuminated the spiked top of the wall. The wires which fed
the arc lights ran up the side of the prison building on insulators
and from the top story led out to the poles supporting the arc lights.
All these things were seen and comprehended by The Thinking Machine,
who was only enabled to see out his closely barred cell window by
standing on his bed. This was on the morning following his
incarceration. He gathered, too, that the river lay over there beyond
the wall somewhere, because he heard faintly the pulsation of a motor
boat and high up in the air he saw a river bird. From that same
direction came the shouts of boys at play and the occasional crack of
a batted ball. He knew then that between the prison wall and the river
was an open space, a playground.

Chisolm Prison was regarded as absolutely safe. No man had ever
escaped from it. The Thinking Machine, from his perch on the bed,
seeing what he saw, could readily understand why. The wall of the
cell, though built he judged twenty years before, were perfectly
solid, and the window bars of new iron had not a shadow of rust on
them. The window itself, even with the bars out, would be a difficult
mode of egress because it was small.

Yet, seeing these things, The Thinking Machine was not discouraged.
Instead, he thoughtfully squinted at the great arc light--there was
bright sunlight now--and traced with his eyes the wire which led from
it to the building. That electric wire, he reasoned, must come down
the side of the building not a great distance from his cell. That
might be worth knowing.

Cell 13 was on the same floor with the offices of the prison--that
is, not in the basement, nor yet upstairs. There were only four steps
up to the office floor, therefore the level of the floor must be only
three or four feet above the ground. He couldn't see the ground
directly beneath his window, but he could see it further out toward
the wall. It would be an easy drop from the window. Well and good.

Then The Thinking Machine fell to remembering how he had come to the
cell. First, there was the outside guards booth, a part of the wall.
There were two heavily barred gates there, both of steel. At this gate
was one man always on guard. He admitted persons to the prison after
much clanking of keys and locks, and let them out when ordered to do
so. The warden's office was in the prison building, and in order to
reach that official from the prison yard one had to pass a gate of
solid steel with only a peephole in it. Then coming from that inner
office to Cell 13, where he was now, one must pass a heavy wooden door
and two steel doors into the corridors of the prison; and always there
was the double-locked door of Cell 13 to reckon with.

There were then, The Thinking Machine recalled, seven doors to be
overcome before one could pass from Cell 13 into the outer world, a
free man. But against this was the fact that he was rarely
interrupted. A jailer appeared at his cell door at six in the morning
with a breakfast of prison fare; he would come again at noon, and
again at six in the afternoon. At nine o'clock at night would come the
inspection tour. That would be all.

"It's admirably arranged, this prison system," was the mental tribute
paid by The Thinking Machine. "I'll have to study it a little when I
get out. I had no idea there was such great care exercised in the

There was nothing, positively nothing, in his cell, except his iron
bed, so firmly put together that no man could tear it to pieces save
with sledges or a file. He had neither of these. There was not even a
chair, or a small table, or a bit of crockery. Nothing! The jailer
stood by when he ate, then took away the wooden spoon and bowl which
he had used.

One by one these things sank into the brain of The Thinking Machine.
When the last possibility had been considered he began an examination
of his cell. From the roof, down the walls on all sides, he examined
the stones and the cement between them. He stamped over the floor
carefully time after time, but it was cement, perfectly solid. After
the examination he sat on the edge of the iron bed and was lost in
thought for a long time. For Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen,
The Thinking Machine, had something to think about.

He was disturbed by a rat, which ran across his foot, then scampered
away into a dark corner of the cell, frightened at its own daring.
After a while The Thinking Machine, squinting steadily into the
darkness of the corner where the rat had gone, was able to make out in
the gloom many little beady eyes staring at him. He counted six pair,
and there were perhaps others; he didn't see very well.

Then The Thinking Machine, from his seat on the bed, noticed for the
first time the bottom of his cell door. There was an opening there of
two inches between the steel bar and the floor. Still looking steadily
at the opening, The Thinking Machine backed suddenly into the corner
where he had seen the beady eyes. There was a great scampering of tiny
feet, several squeaks of frightened rodents, and then silence.

None of the rats had gone out the door, yet there were none in the
cell. Therefore there must be another way out of the cell, however
small. The Thinking Machine, on hands and knees, started a search for
the spot, feeling in the darkness with his long, slender fingers.

At last his search was rewarded. He came upon a small opening in the
floor, level with the cement. It was perfectly round and somewhat
larger than a silver dollar. This was the way the rats had gone. He
put his fingers deep into the opening; it seemed to be a disused
drainage pipe and was dry and dusty.

Having satisfied himself on this point, he sat on the bed again for
an hour, then made another inspection of his surroundings through the
small cell window. One of the outside guards stood directly opposite,
beside the wall, and happened to be looking at the window of Cell 13
when the head of The Thinking Machine appeared. But the scientist
didn't notice the guard.

Noon came and the jailer appeared with the prison dinner of
repulsively plain food. At home The Thinking Machine merely ate to
live; here he took what was offered without comment. Occasionally he
spoke to the jailer who stood outside the door watching him.

"Any improvements made here in the last few years?" he asked.

"Nothing particularly," replied the jailer. "New wall was built four
years ago."

"Anything done to the prison proper?"

"Painted the woodwork outside, and I believe about seven years ago a
new system of plumbing was put in."

"Ah!" said the prisoner. "How far is the river over there?"

"About three hundred feet. The boys have a baseball ground between
the wall and the river."

The Thinking Machine had nothing further to say just then, but when
the jailer was ready to go he asked for some water.

"I get very thirsty here," he explained. "Would it be possible for
you to leave a little water in a bowl for me?"

"I'll ask the warden," replied the jailer, and he went away.

Half an hour later he returned with water in a small earthen bowl.

"The warden says you may keep this bowl," he informed the prisoner.
"But you must show it to me when I ask for it. If it is broken, it
will be the last."

"Thank you," said The Thinking Machine. "I shan't break it."

The jailer went on about his duties. For just the fraction of a
second it seemed that The Thinking Machine wanted to ask a question,
but he didn't.

Two hours later this same jailer, in passing the door of Cell No. 13,
heard a noise inside and stopped. The Thinking Machine was down on his
hands and knees in a corner of the cell, and from that same corner
came several frightened squeaks. The jailer looked on interestedly.

"Ah, I've got you," he heard the prisoner say.

"Got what?" he asked, sharply.

"One of these rats," was the reply. "See?" And between the
scientist's long fingers the jailer saw a small gray rat struggling.
The prisoner brought it over to the light and looked at it closely.

"It's a water rat," he said.

"Ain't you got anything better to do than catch rats?" asked the

"It's disgraceful that they should be here at all," was the irritated
reply. "Take this one away and kill it. There are dozens more where it
came from."

The jailer took the wriggling, squirmy rodent and flung it down on
the floor violently. It gave one squeak and lay still. Later he
reported the incident to the warden, who only smiled.

Still later that afternoon the outside armed guard on the Cell 13
side of the prison looked up again at the window and saw the prisoner
looking out. He saw a hand raised to the barred window and then
something white fluttered to the ground, directly under the window of
Cell 13. It was a little roll of linen, evidently of white shirting
material, and tied around it was a five-dollar bill. The guard looked
up at the window again, but the face had disappeared.

With a grim smile he took the little linen roll and the five-dollar
bill to the warden’s office. There together they deciphered something
which was written on it in a queer sort of ink, frequently blurred. On
the outside was this:

"Finder of this please deliver to Dr. Charles Ransome."

"Ah," said the warden, with a chuckle, "plan of escape number one has
gone wrong." Then, as an afterthought: "But why did he address it to
Dr. Ransome?"

"And where did he get the pen and ink to write with?" asked the

The warden looked at the guard and the guard looked at the warden.
There was no apparent solution of that mystery. The warden studied the
writing carefully, then shook his head.

"Well, let's see what he was going to say to Dr. Ransome," he said at
length, still puzzled, and he unrolled the inner piece of linen.

"Well, if that--what--what do you think of that?" he asked dazed.

The guard took the bit of linen and read this:--

"Epa cseot d'net niiy awe htto n'si sih. T."

The warden spent an hour wondering what sort of cipher it was, and
half an hour wondering why his prisoner should attempt to communicate
with Dr. Ransome, who was the cause of his being there. After this the
warden devoted some thought to the question of where the prisoner got
writing materials, and what sort of writing materials he had. With the
idea of illuminating this point, he examined the linen again. It was a
torn part of a white shirt and had ragged edges.

Now it was possible to account for the linen, but what the prisoner
had used to write with was another matter. The warden knew it would
have been impossible for him to have either pen or pencil, and,
besides, neither pen nor pencil had been used in this writing. What
then? The warden decided to investigate personally. The Thinking
Machine was his prisoner; he had orders to hold his prisoners; if this
one sought to escape by sending cipher messages to persons outside, he
would stop it, as he would have stopped it in the case of any other

The warden went back to Cell 13 and found The Thinking Machine on his
hands and knees on the floor, engaged in nothing more alarming than
catching rats. The prisoner heard the warden's step and turned to him

"It's disgraceful," he snapped, "these rats. There are scores of

"Other men have been able to stand them," said the warden. "Here is
another shirt for you--let me have the one you have on."

"Why?" demanded The Thinking Machine, quickly. His tone was hardly
natural, his manner suggested actual perturbation.

"You have attempted to communicate with Dr. Ransome," said the warden
severely. "As my prisoner, it is my duty to put a stop to it."

The Thinking Machine was silent for a moment.

"All right," he said, finally. "Do your duty."

The warden smiled grimly. The prisoner arose from the floor and
removed the white shirt, putting on instead a striped convict shirt
the warden had bought. The warden took the white shirt eagerly, and
then and there compared the pieces of linen on which was written the
cipher with certain torn places in the shirt. The Thinking Machine
looked on curiously.

"The guard brought you those, then?" he asked.

"He certainly did," relied the warden triumphantly. "And that ends
your first attempt to escape."

The Thinking Machine watched the warden as he, by comparison,
established to his own satisfaction that only two pieces of linen had
been torn from the white shirt.

"What did you write this with?' demanded the warden.

"I should think it part of your duty to find out," said The Thinking
Machine, irritably.

The warden started to say some harsh things, then restrained himself
and made a minute search of the cell and of the prisoner instead. He
found absolutely nothing; not even a match or toothpick which might
have been used for a pen. The same mystery surrounded the fluid with
which the cipher had been written. Although the warden left Cell 13
visibly annoyed, he took the torn shirt in triumph.

"Well, writing notes on a shirt won't get him out, that's certain,"
he told himself with some complacency. He put the linen scraps into
his desk to await developments. "If that man escapes from that cell
I'll--hang it--I'll resign."

On the third day of his incarceration The Thinking Machine openly
attempted to bribe his way out. The jailer had brought his dinner and
was leaning against the barred door, waiting, when The Thinking
Machine began the conversation.

"The drainage pipes of the prison lead to the river, don't they?" he

"Yes," said the jailer.

"I suppose they are very small."

"Too small to crawl through, if that's what your thinking about," was
the grinning response.

There was a silence until The Thinking Machine finished his meal.

"You know I'm not a criminal, don't you?"


"And that I've a perfect right to be freed if I demand it?"


"Well, I came here believing I could make my escape," said the
prisoner, and his squint eyes studied the face of the jailer. "Would
you consider a financial reward for aiding me to escape?"

The jailer, who happened to be an honest man, looked at the slender,
weak figure of the prisoner, at the large head with its mass of yellow
hair, and was almost sorry.

"I guess prisons like these were not built for the likes of you to
get out of," he said at last.

"But would you consider a proposition to help me get out?" the
prisoner insisted, almost beseechingly.

"No," said the jailer, shortly.

"Five hundred dollars," urged The Thinking Machine. "I am not a

"No," said the jailer.

"A thousand?"

"No," again said the jailer, and he started away hurriedly to escape
further temptation. Then he turned back. "If you should give me ten
thousand dollars I couldn't get you out. You'd have to pass through
seven doors, and I only have the keys to two."

Then he told the warden all about it.

"Plan number two fails," said the warden, smiling grimly. "First a
cipher, then bribery."

When the jailer was on his way to Cell 13 at six o'clock, again
bearing food to The Thinking Machine, he paused, startled by the
unmistakable scrape, scrape of steel versus steel. It stopped at the
sound of his steps, then craftily the jailer, who was beyond the
prisoners range of vision, resumed his trampling, the sound being
apparently that of a man going away from Cell 13. As a matter of fact
he was in the same spot.

After a moment there came again the steady scrape, scrape, and the
jailer crept cautiously on tiptoes to the door and peered between the
bars. The Thinking Machine was standing in the iron bed working at the
bars of the little window. He was using a file, judging from the
backward and forward swing of his arms.

Cautiously the jailer crept back to the office, summoned the warden
in person, and they returned to Cell 13 on tiptoes. The steady scrape
was still audible. The warden listened to satisfy himself and then
suddenly appeared at the door.

"Well?" he demanded, and there was a smile on his face.

The Thinking Machine glanced back from his perch on the bed and
leaped suddenly to the floor, making frantic efforts to hide
something. The warden went in, with hand extended.

"Give it up," he said.

"No," said the prisoner, sharply.

"Come, give it up," urged the warden. "I don't want to have to search
you again."

"No," repeated the prisoner.

"What was it--a file?" asked the warden.

The Thinking Machine was silent and stood squinting at the warden
with something very nearly approaching disappointment on his face--
nearly, but not quite. The warden was almost sympathetic.

"Plan number three fails, eh?" he asked, good-naturedly. "Too bad,
isn't it?"

The prisoner didn't say.

"Search him." instructed the warden.

The jailer searched the prisoner carefully. At last, artfully
concealed in the waistband of the trousers, he found a piece of steel
about two inches long, with one side curved like a half moon.

"Ah," said the warden, as he received it from the jailer. "From your
shoe heel," and he smiled pleasantly.

The jailer continued his search and on the other side of the trousers
waistband found another piece of steel identical with the first. The
edges showed where they had been worn against the bars of the window.

"You couldn't saw through those bars with these," said the warden.

"I could have," said The Thinking Machine firmly.

"In six months, perhaps," said the warden, good-naturedly.

The warden shook his head slowly as he gazed into the slightly
flushed face of his prisoner.

"Ready to give up?" he asked.

"I haven't started yet," was the prompt reply.

Then came another exhaustive search of the cell. Carefully the two
men went over it, finally turning out the bed and searching that.
Nothing. The warden in person climbed upon the bed and examined the
bars of the window where the prisoner had been sawing. When he looked
he was amused.

"Just made it a little bright by hard rubbing," he said to the
prisoner, who stood looking on with a somewhat crestfallen air. The
warden grasped the iron bars in his strong hands and tried to shake
them. They were immovable, set firmly in the solid granite. He
examined each in turn and found them all satisfactory. Finally he
climbed down from the bed.

"Give it up, Professor," he advised.

The Thinking Machine shook his head and the warden and jailer passed
on again. As they disappeared down the corridor The Thinking Machine
sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.

"He's crazy to try and get out of that cell," commented the jailer.

"Of course he can't get out," said the warden. "But he's clever. I
would like to know what he wrote that cipher with."

It was four o'clock next morning when an awful, heartracking shriek
of terror resounded through the great prison. It came from a cell,
somewhere about the center, and its tone told a tale of horror, agony,
terrible fear. The warden heard and with three of his men rushed into
the long corridor leading to Cell 13.

As they ran there came again that awful cry. It died away in a sort
of a wail. The white faces of prisoners appeared at cell doors
upstairs and down, staring out wonderingly, frightened.

"It's that fool in Cell 13," grumbled the warden.

He stopped and stared in as one of the jailers flashed a lantern.
"That fool in Cell 13" lay comfortably on his cot, flat on his back
with his mouth open, snoring. Even as they looked there came again the
piercing cry, from somewhere above. The wardens face blanched a little
as he started up the stairs. There on the top floor he found a man in
Cell 43, directly above Cell 13, but two floors higher, cowering in
the corner of his cell.

"What's the matter?" demanded the warden.

"Thank God you've come," exclaimed the prisoner, and he cast himself
against the bars of his cell.

"What is it?" demanded the warden again.

He threw open the door and went in. The prisoner dropped on his knees
and clasped the warden about the body. His face was white with terror,
his eyes were widely distended, and he was shuddering. His hands, icy
cold, clutched at the warden's.

"Take me out of this cell, please take me out," he pleaded.

"What's the matter with you, anyhow?" insisted the warden,

"I've heard something--something," said the prisoner, and his eyes
roved nervously around the cell.

"What did you hear?"

"I--I can't tell you," stammered the prisoner. Then in a sudden burst
of terror: "Take me out of this cell--put me anywhere--but take me out
of here."

The warden and the three jailers exchanged glances.

"Who is this fellow? What's he accused of?" asked the warden.

"Joseph Ballard," said one of the jailers. "He's accused of throwing
acid in a woman's face. She died from it."

"But they can't prove it," gasped the prisoner. "They can't prove it.
Please put me in some other cell."

He was still clinging to the warden, and that official threw his arms
off roughly. Then for a time he stood looking at the cowering wretch,
who seemed possessed of all the wild, unreasoning terror of a child.

"Look here, Ballard," said the warden, finally, "if you heard
anything, I want to know what it was. Now tell me."

"I can't, I can't," was the reply. He was sobbing.

"Where did it come from?"

"I don't know. Everywhere--nowhere. I just heard it."

"What was it--a voice?"

"Please don't make me answer," pleaded the prisoner.

"You must answer," said the warden, sharply.

"It was a voice--but--but it wasn't human," was the sobbing reply.

"Voice, but not human?" repeated the warden, puzzled.

"It sounded muffled and--and far away--and ghostly," explained the

"Did it come from inside or outside the prison?"

"It didn't seem to come from anywhere--it was just here, here,
everywhere. I heard it. I heard it."

For an hour the warden tried to get the story, but Ballard had become
suddenly obstinate and would say nothing--only pleaded to be placed in
another cell, or to have one of the jailers remain near him until
daylight. These requests were gruffly refused.

"And see here," said the warden, in conclusion, "if there's any more
of this screaming I'll put you in a padded cell."

Then the warden went his way, a sadly puzzled man. Ballard sat at his
cell door until daylight, his face, drawn and white with terror,
pressed against the bars, and looked out into the prison with wide,
staring eyes.

That day, the fourth since the incarceration of The Thinking Machine,
was enlivened considerably by the volunteer prisoner, who spent most
of his time at the little window of his cell. He began proceedings by
throwing another piece of linen down to the guard, who picked it up
dutifully and took it to the warden. On it was written:

"Only three days more."

The warden was in no way surprised at what he read; he understood
that The Thinking Machine meant only three days more of his
imprisonment, and he regarded the note as a boast. But how was the
thing written? Where had The Thinking Machine found the new piece of
linen? Where? How? He carefully examined the linen. It was white, of
fine texture, shirting material. He took the shirt which he had taken
and carefully fitted the two original pieces of the linen to the torn
places. The third pieces was entirely superfluous; it didn't fit
anywhere, and yet it was unmistakably the same goods.

"And where--where does he get anything to write with?" demanded the
warden of the world at large.

Still later on the fourth day The Thinking Machine, through the
window of his cell, spoke to the armed guard outside.

"What day of the month is it?" he asked.

"The fifteenth," was the answer.

The Thinking Machine made a mental astronomical calculation and
satisfied himself that the moon would not rise until after nine
o'clock that night. Then he asked another question:

"Who attends to those arc lights?"

"Man from the company."

"You have no electricians in the building?"


"I should think you could save money if you had your own man."

"None of my business," relied the guard.

The guard noticed The Thinking Machine at the cell window frequently
during that day, but always the face seemed listless and there was a
certain wistfulness in the squint eyes behind the glasses. After a
while he accepted the presence of the leonine head as a matter of
course. He had seen other prisoners do the same thing; it was the
longing for the outside world.

That afternoon, just before the day guard was relieved, the head
appeared at the window again, and The Thinking Machine's hand held
something out between the bars. It fluttered to the ground and the
guard picked it up. It was five-dollar bill.

"That's for you," called the prisoner.

As usual, the guard took it to the warden. The gentleman looked at it
suspiciously; he looked at everything that came from Cell 13 with

"He said it was for me," explained the guard.

"It's a sort of tip, I suppose," said the warden. "I see no
particular reason why you shouldn't accept--"

Suddenly he stopped. He had remembered that The Thinking Machine had
gone into Cell 13 with one five-dollar bill and two ten-dollar bills;
twenty-five dollars in all. Now a five-dollar bill had been tied
around the first pieces of linen that came from the cell. The warden
still had it, and to convince himself he took it out and looked at it.
It was five dollars; yet here was another five dollars, and The
Thinking Machine had only had ten-dollar bills.

"Perhaps somebody changed one of the bills for him," he thought at
last, with a sigh of relief.

But then and there he made up his mind. He would search Cell 13 as a
cell was never searched in this world. When a man could write at will,
and change money, and do other wholly inexplicable things, there was
something radically wrong with his prison. He planned to enter the
cell at night--three o'clock would be an excellent time. The Thinking
Machine must do all the weird things he did sometime. Night seemed the
most reasonable.

Thus it happened that the warden stealthily descended upon Cell 13
that night at three o'clock. He paused at the door and listened. There
was no sound save the steady, regular breathing of the prisoner. The
keys unfastened the double locks with scarcely a clank, and the warden
entered, locking the door behind him. Suddenly he flashed his dark
lantern in the face of the recumbent figure.

If the warden had planned to startle The Thinking Machine he was
mistaken, for that individual merely opened his eyes quietly, reached
for his glasses and inquired, in a most matter-of-fact tone: "Who is

It would be useless to describe the search that the warden made. It
was minute. Not one inch of the cell or the bed was overlooked. He
found the round hole in the floor, and with a flash of inspiration
thrust his fingers into it. After a moment of fumbling there he drew
up something and looked at it in the light of his lantern.

"Ugh!" he exclaimed.

The thing he had taken out was a rat--a dead rat. His inspiration
fled as a mist before the sun. But he continued the search. The
Thinking Machine, without a word, arose and kicked the rat out of the
cell into the corridor.

The warden climbed on the bed and tried the steel bars in the tiny
window. They were perfectly rigid; every bar of the door was the same.

Then the warden searched the prisoners clothing, beginning at the
shoes. Nothing hidden in them! Then the trousers waistband. Still
nothing! Then the pockets of the trousers. From one side he drew out
some paper money and examined it.

"Five one-dollar bills," he gasped.

"That's right," said the prisoner.

"But the--you had two tens and a five--what the--how do you do it?"

"That's my business," said The Thinking Machine.

"Did any of my men change this money for you--on your word of honor?"

The Thinking Machine paused just a fraction of a second.

"No," he said.

"Well, do you make it?" asked the warden. He was prepared to believe

"That's my business," again said the prisoner.

The warden glared at the eminent scientist fiercely. He felt--he
knew--that this man was making a fool out of him, yet he didn't know
how. If he were a real prisoner he would get the truth--but, then,
perhaps, these inexplicable things which had happened would nit have
been brought before him so sharply. Neither of the men spoke for a
long time, then suddenly the warden turned fiercely and left the cell,
slamming the door behind him. He didn't dare speak then.

He glanced at the clock. It was ten minutes to four. He had hardly
settled himself in bed when again came the heart-breaking shriek
through the prison. With a few muttered words, which, while not
elegant, were highly expressive, he relighted his lantern and rushed
through the prison again to the cell on the upper floor.

Again Ballard was crushing himself against the steel door, shrieking,
shrieking at the top of his voice. He stopped only when the warden
flashed his lamp in the cell.

"Take me out, take me out," he screamed. "I did it, I did it, I
killed her. Take it away."

"Take what away?" asked the warden.

"I threw the acid in her face--I did it--I confess. Take me out of

Ballard's condition was pitiable; it was only an act of mercy to let
him out into the corridor. There he crouched in a corner, like an
animal at bay, and clasped his hands to his ears. It took half an hour
to calm him sufficiently to speak. Then he told incoherently what had
happened. On the night before at four o'clock he had heard a voice--a
sepulchral voice, muffled and wailing in tone.

"What did it say?" asked the warden, curiously.

"Acid--acid--acid!" gasped the prisoner. "It accused me. Acid! I
threw the acid, and the woman died. Oh!" It was a long, shuddering
wail of terror.

"Acid?" echoed the warden, puzzled. The case was beyond him.

"Acid. That's all I heard--that one word, repeated several times.
There were other things too, but I didn't hear them."

"That was last night, eh?" asked the warden. "What happened tonight--
what frightened you just now?"

"It was the same thing," gasped the prisoner. "Acid--acid--acid!" He
covered his face with his hands and sat shivering. "It was acid I used
on her, but I didn't mean to kill her. I just heard the words. It was
something accusing me--accusing me." He mumbled, and was silent.

"Did you hear anything else?"

"Yes--but I could understand--only a little bit--just a word or two."

"Well, what was it?"

"I heard 'acid' three times, then I heard a long, moaning sound,
then--then--I heard 'No. 8 hat.' I heard that twice."

"No. 8 hat," repeated the warden. "What the devil--No. 8 hat?
Accusing voices of conscience have never talked about No. 8 hats, so
far as I ever heard."

"He's insane," said one of the jailers, with an air of finality.

"I believe you," said the warden. "He must be. He probably heard
something and got frightened. He's trembling now. No. 8 hat! What

When the fifth day of The Thinking Machine's imprisonment rolled
around the warden was wearing a hunted look. He was anxious for the
end of the thing. He could not help but feel that his distinguished
prisoner had been amusing himself. And if this were so, The Thinking
Machine had lost none of his sense of humor. For on this fifth day he
flung down another linen note to the outside guard, bearing the words:
"Only two days more." Also he flung down half a dollar.

Now the warden knew--he knew--that the man in Cell 13 didn't have any
half dollars--he couldn't have any half dollars, no more than he could
have pen and ink and linen, and yet he did have them. It was a
condition, not a theory; that is one reason why the warden was wearing
a hunted look.

That ghastly, uncanny thing, too, about "Acid" and "No. 8 hat" clung
to him tenaciously. They didn't mean anything, of course, merely the
ravings of an insane murderer who had been driven by fear to confess
his crime, still there were so many things that "didn't mean anything"
happening in the prison now since The Thinking Machine was there.

On the sixth day the warden received a card stating that Dr. Ransome
and Mr. Fielding would be at Chisholm Prison on the following evening,
Thursday, and in the event of Professor Van Dusen had not yet
escaped--and they presumed he had not because they had not heard from
him--they would meet him there.

"In the event he had not yet escaped!" The warden smiled grimly.

The Thinking Machine enlivened this day for the warden with three
notes. They were on the usual linen and bore generally on the
appointment at half past eight o'clock Thursday night, which
appointment the scientist had made at the time of his imprisonment.

On the afternoon of the seventh day the warden passed Cell 13 and
glanced in. The Thinking Machine was lying on the iron bed, apparently
sleeping lightly. The cell appeared precisely as it always did from a
casual glance. The warden would swear that no man was going to leave
it between that hour--it was then four o'clock--and half past eight
o'clock that evening.

On his way back past the cell the warden heard the steady breathing
again, and coming close to the door looked in. He wouldn't have done
so if The Thinking Machine had been looking, but now--well, it was

A ray of light came through the high window and fell on the face of
the sleeping man. It occurred to the warden for the first time that
his prisoner appeared haggard and weary. Just then The Thinking
Machine stirred slightly and the warden hurried on up the corridor
guiltily. That evening after six o'clock he saw the jailer.

"Everything all right in Cell 13?" he asked.

"Yes sir," replied the jailer. "He didn't eat much, though."

It was with a feeling of having done his duty that the warden
received Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding shortly after seven o'clock. He
intended to show them the linen notes and lay before them the full
story of his woes, which was a long one. But before this came to pass
the guard from the river side of the prison yard entered the office.

"The arc light in my side of the yard won't light," he informed the

"Confound it, that man's a hoodoo," thundered the official.
"everything has happened since he's been here."

The guard went back to his post in the darkness, and the warden
phoned to the electric light company.

"This is Chisholm Prison," he said through the phone. "Send three or
four men down here quick, to fix an arc light."

The reply was evidently satisfactory, for the warden hung up the
receiver and passed out into the yard. While Dr. Ransome and Mr.
Fielding sat waiting, the guard at the outer gate came in with a
special-delivery letter. Dr. Ransome happened to notice the address,
and, when the guard went out, looked at the letter more closely.

"By George!" he exclaimed.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Fielding.

Silently the doctor offered the letter. Mr. Fielding examined it

"Coincidence," he said. "It must be."

It was nearly eight o'clock when the warden returned to his office.
The electricians had arrived in a wagon, and were now at work. The
warden pressed the buzz-button communicating with the man at the outer
gate in the wall.

"How many electricians came in?" he asked, over the short phone.
"Four? Three workmen in jumpers and overalls and the manager? Frock
coat and silk hat? All right. Be certain that only four go out. That's

He turned to Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding.

"We have to be careful here--particularly," and there was broad
sarcasm in his tone, "since we have scientists locked up."

The warden picked up the special delivery letter carelessly, and then
began to open it.

"When I read this I want to tell you gentlemen something about how--
Great Caesar!" he ended, suddenly, as he glanced at the letter. He sat
with mouth open, motionless, from astonishment.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Fielding.

"A special delivery letter from Cell 13," gasped the warden. "An
invitation to supper."

"What?" and the two others arose, unanimously.

The warden sat dazed, staring at the letter for a moment, then called
sharply to a guard outside the corridor.

"Run down to Cell 13 and see if that man's in there."

The guard went as directed, while Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding
examined the letter.

"It's Van Dusen's handwriting; there's no question of that," said Dr.
Ransome. "I've seen too much of it."

Just then the buzz on the telephone from the outer gate sounded, and
the warden, in a semi-trance, picked up the receiver.

"Hello! Two reporters, eh? Let 'em come in." He turned suddenly to
the doctor and Mr. Fielding. "Why; the man can't be out. He must be in
his cell."

Just at that moment the guard returned.

"He's still in his cell, sir," he reported, "I saw him. He's lying

"There, I told you so," said the warden, and he breathed freely
again. "But how did he mail that letter?"

There was a rap on the steel door which led from the jail yard into
the warden's office.

"It's the reporters," said the warden. "Let them in," he instructed
the guard; then to the other two gentlemen: "Don't say anything about
this before them, because I'd never hear the last of it."

The door opened, and the two men from the front gate entered.

"Good-evening, gentlemen," said one. That was Hutchinson Hatch; the
warden knew him well.

"Well?" demanded the other, irritably. "I'm here."

That was The Thinking Machine.

He squinted belligerently at the warden, who sat with mouth agape.
For the moment that official had nothing to say. Dr. Ransome and Mr.
Fielding were amazed, but they didn't know what the warden knew. They
were only amazed; he was paralyzed. Hutchinson Hatch, the reporter,
took in the scene with greedy eyes.

"How--how--how did you do it?" gasped the warden, finally.

"Come back to the cell," said The Thinking Machine, in the irritated
voice which his scientific associates knew so well.

The warden, still in a condition bordering on trance, led the way.

"Flash your light in there," directed The Thinking Machine.

The warden did so. There was nothing unusual in the appearance of the
cell, and there--there on the bed lay the figure of The Thinking
Machine. Certainly! There was the yellow hair! Again the warden looked
at the man beside him and wondered at the strangeness of his own

With trembling hands he unlocked the cell door and The Thinking
Machine passed inside.

"See here," he said.

He kicked at the steel bars in the bottom of the cell door and three
of them were pushed out of place. A fourth broke off and rolled away
in the corridor.

"And here, too," directed the erstwhile prisoner as he stood on the
bed to reach the small window. He swept his hand across the opening
and every bar came out.

"What's this in bed?" demanded the warden, who was slowly recovering.

"A wig," was the reply. "Turn down the cover."

The warden did so. Beneath it lay a large coil of strong rope, thirty
feet or more, a dagger, three files, ten feet of electric wire, a
thin, powerful pair of steel pliers, a small track hammer with its
handle, and--a derringer pistol.

"How did you do it?" demanded the warden.

"You gentlemen have an engagement to supper with me at half past nine
o'clock," said The Thinking Machine. "Come on, or we shall be late."

"But how did you do it?" insisted the warden.

"Don't ever think you can hold any man who can use his brain," said
The Thinking Machine. "Come on; we shall be late."

It was an impatient supper party in the rooms of Professor Van Dusen
and a somewhat silent one. The guests were Dr. Ransome, Alfred
Fielding, the warden, and Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, The meal was
served to the minute, in accordance with Professor Van Dusen's
instructions of one week before; Dr. Ransome found the artichokes
delicious. At last supper was finished and The Thinking Machine turned
on Dr. Ransome and squinted at him fiercely.

"Do you believe it now?" he demanded.

"I do," replied Dr. Ransome.

"Do you admit that it was a fair test?"

"I do."

With the others, particularly the warden, he was waiting anxiously
for the explanation.

"Suppose you tell us how--" began Mr. Fielding.

"Yes, tell us how," said the warden.

The Thinking Machine readjusted his glasses, took a couple of
preparatory squints at his audience, and began his story. He told it
from the beginning logically; and no man ever talked to more
interested listeners.

"My agreement was," he began, "to go into a cell, carrying nothing
except what was necessary to wear, and to leave that cell within a
week. I had never seen Chisholm Prison. When I went into the cell I
asked for tooth powder, two ten--and one five-dollar bills, and also
to have my shoes blacked. Even if these requests had been refused it
would not have mattered seriously. But you agreed to them.

"I knew there would be nothing in the cell which you thought I might
use to advantage. So when the warden locked the door on me I was
apparently helpless, unless I could turn three seemingly innocent
things to use. They were things which would have been permitted any
prisoner under sentence of death, were they not, warden?"

"Tooth powder and polished shoes, yes, but not money," replied the

"Anything is dangerous in the hands of a man who knows how to use
it," went on The Thinking Machine. "I did nothing that first night but
sleep and chase rats." he glared at the warden. "When the subject was
broached I knew I could do nothing that night, so suggested the next
day. You gentleman thought I wanted time to arrange an escape with
outside assistance, but this was not true. I knew I could communicate
with whom I pleased, when I pleased."

The warden stared at him a moment, then went on smoking solemnly.

"I was aroused next morning at six o'clock by the jailer with my
breakfast," continued the scientist. "He told me dinner was at twelve
and supper at six. Between these times, I gathered, I would be pretty
much to myself. So immediately after breakfast I examined my outside
surroundings from my cell window. One look told me it would be useless
to try to scale the wall, even should I decide to leave my cell by the
window, for my purpose was to leave not only the cell, but the prison.
Of course, I could have gone over the wall, but it would have taken me
longer to lay my plans that way. Therefore, for the moment, I
dismissed all idea of that.

"From this first observation I knew the river was on that side of the
prison, and that there was also a playground there. Subsequently these
surmises were verified by a keeper. I knew then one important thing--
that anyone might approach the prison wall from that side if necessary
without attracting any particular attention. That was well to
remember. I remembered it.

"But the outside thing which most attracted my attention was the feed
wire to the arc light which ran within a few feet--probably three or
four--of my cell window. I knew that would be valuable in the event I
found it necessary to cut off that arc light."

"Oh, you shut it off to-night, then?" asked the warden.

"Having learned all I could from the window," resumes The Thinking
Machine, without heeding the interruption, "I considered the idea of
escaping through the prison proper. I recalled just how I had come
into the cell, which I knew would be the only way. Seven doors lay
between me and the outside. So, also for the time being, I gave up the
idea of escaping that way. And I couldn't go through the solid granite
walls of the cell."

The Thinking Machine paused for a moment and Dr. Ransome lighted a
new cigar. For several minutes there was silence, then the scientific
jailbreaker went on:

"While I was thinking about these things a rat ran across my foot. It
suggested a new line of thought. There were at least half a dozen rats
in the cell--I could see their beady eyes. Yet I had noticed none come
under the cell door. I frightened them purposely and watched the cell
door to see if they went out that way. They did not, but they were
gone. Obviously they went another way. Another way meant another

"I searched for this opening and found it. It was an old drain pipe,
long unused and partly choked with dirt and dust. But this was the way
the rats had come. They came from somewhere. Where? Drain pipes
usually lead outside prison grounds. This one probably led to the
river, or near it. The rats must therefore come from that direction.
If they came a part of the way, I reasoned they came all the way,
because it was extremely unlikely that a solid iron or lead pipe would
have any hole in it except at the exit.

"When the jailer came with my luncheon he told me two important
things, although he didn't know it. One was that a new system of
plumbing had been put in the prison seven years before; another that
the river was only three hundred feet away. Then I knew positively
that the pipe was a part of the old system; I knew, too, that it
slanted generally toward the river. But did the pipe end on the water
or on land?

"This was the next question to be decided. I decided it by catching
several of the rats in the cell. My jailer was surprised to see me
engaged in this work. I examined at least a dozen of them. They were
perfectly dry; they had come through the pipe, and, most important of
all, they were not house rats, but field rats. The other end of the
pipe was on land, then, outside the prison walls. So far, so good.

"Then, I knew that if I worked freely from this point I must attract
the warden's attention in another direction. You see, by telling the
warden that I had come to escape you made the test more severe,
because I had to trick him by false scents."

The warden looked up with a sad expression in his eyes.

"The first thing was to make him think I was trying to communicate
with you, Dr. Ransome. So I wrote a note on a piece of linen I tore
from my shirt, addressed it to Dr. Ransome, tied a five-dollar bill
around it and threw it out the window. I knew the guard would take it
to the warden, but I rather hoped the warden would send it as
addressed. Have you the first linen note, warden?"

The warden produced the cipher.

"What does it mean, anyhow?" he asked.

"Read it backward, beginning with the 'T' signature and disregard the
division into words," instructed The Thinking Machine.

The warden did so. "T-h-i-s, this," he spelled, studied it for a
moment, then read it off, grinning:

"This is not the way I intend to escape.

"Well, now what do you think o' that? he demanded, still grinning.

"I knew that would attract your attention, just as it did," said The
Thinking Machine, "and if you really found out what it was it would be
a sort of gentle rebuke."

"What did you write it with?" asked Dr. Ransome, after he had
examined the linen and passed it to Mr. Fielding.

"This," said the erstwhile prisoner, and he extended his foot. On it
was the shoe he had worn in prison, though the polish was gone--
scraped off clean. "The shoe blacking, moistened with water, was my
ink; the metal tip of the shoe lace made a fairly good pen."

The warden looked up and suddenly burst into a laugh, half of relief,
half of amusement.

"You're a wonder," he said, admiringly. "Go on."

"That precipitated a search of my cell by the warden, as I had
intended," continued The Thinking Machine. "I was anxious to get the
warden in the habit of searching my cell, so that finally, constantly
finding nothing, he would get disgusted and quit. This at last
happened, practically."

The warden blushed.

"He then took my white shirt away and gave me a prison shirt. He was
satisfied that those two pieces of the shirt were all that was
missing. But while he was searching my cell I had another pieces of
that same shirt, about nine inches square, rolled up into a small ball
in my mouth."

"Nine inches of that shirt?" demanded the warden. "Where did it come

"The bosoms of all stiff white shirts are of triple thickness," was
the explanation. "I tore out the inside thickness, leaving the bosom
only two thicknesses. I knew you wouldn't see it. So much for that."

There was a little pause, and the warden looked from one to another
of the men with a sheepish grin.

"Having disposed of the warden for the time being by giving him
something else to think about, I took my first serious step toward
freedom," said Professor Van Dusen. "I knew, within reason, that the
pipe led somewhere to the playground outside; I knew a great many boys
played there; I knew the rats came into my cell from out there. Could
I communicate with some one outside with these things at hand?

"First was necessary, I saw, a long and fairly reliable thread, so--
but here," he pulled up his trousers legs and showed that the tops of
both stockings, of fine, strong lisle, were gone. "I unraveled those--
after I got them started it wasn't difficult--and I had easily a
quarter of a mile of thread that I could depend on.

"Then on half of my remaining linen I wrote, laboriously enough I
assure you, a letter explaining my situation to this gentleman here,"
and he indicated Hutchinson Hatch. "I knew he would assist me--for the
value of the newspaper story. I tied firmly to this linen letter a
ten-dollar bill--there is no surer way of attracting the eye of
anyone--and wrote on the linen: 'finder of this deliver to Hutchinson
Hatch, Daily American, who will give another ten dollars for the

The next thing was to get this note outside on that playground where
a boy might find it. There were two ways, but I chose the best. I took
one of the rats--I became adept at catching them--tied the linen and
money firmly to one leg, fastened my lisle thread to another, and
turned him loose in the drain pipe. I reasoned that the natural fright
of the rodent would make him run until he was outside the pipe and
then out on earth he would probably stop to gnaw off the linen and

"From the moment the rat disappeared into that dusty pipe I became
anxious. I was taking so many chances. The rat might gnaw the string,
of which I held one end; other rats might gnaw at it; the rat might
run out of the pipe and leave the linen and money where they would
never be found; a thousand other things might have happened. So began
some nervous hours, but the fact that the rat ran on until only a few
feet of the string remained in my cell made me think he was outside
the pipe. I had carefully instructed Mr. Hatch what to do in case the
note reached him. The question was: Would it reach him?

"This done, I could only wait and make other plans in case this one
failed. I openly attempted to bribe my jailer, and I learned from him
that he held the keys to only two of seven doors between me and
freedom. Then I did something else to make the warden nervous. I took
the steel supports out of the heels of my shoes and made a pretense of
sawing the bars of my cell window. The warden raised a pretty row
about that. He developed, too, the habit of shaking the bars of my
cell window to see if they were solid. They were--then"

Again the warden grinned. He had ceased being astonished.

"With this one plan I had done all I could and could only wait to see
what happened," the scientist went on. "I couldn't know whether my
note had been delivered or even found, or whether the mouse had gnawed
it up. And I didn't dare to draw back through the pipe the one slender
thread which connected me with the outside.

"When I went to bed that night I didn't sleep, for fear there would
come the slight signal twitch at the thread which was to tell me that
Mr. Hatch had received the note. At half past three o'clock, I judge,
I felt this twitch, and no prisoner actually under sentence of death
ever welcomed a thing more heartily."

The Thinking Machine stopped and turned to the reporter.

"You'd better explain just what you did," he said.

"The linen note was brought to me by a small boy who had been playing
baseball," said Mr. Hatch. "I immediately saw a big story in it, so I
gave the boy another ten dollars, and got several spools of silk, some
twine, and a roll of light, pliable wire. The Professor's note
suggested that I have the finder of the note show me just where it was
picked up, and told me to make my search from there, beginning at two
o'clock in the morning. If I found the other end of the thread, I was
to twitch it gently three times, then a fourth.

"I began the search with a small-bulb electric light. It was an hour
and twenty minutes before I found the end of the drain pipe, half
hidden in the weeds. The pipe was very large there, say twelve inches
across. Then I found the end of the lisle thread, twitched it as
directed and immediately I got an answering twitch.

"Then I fastened the silk to this and Professor Van Dusen began to
pull it into his cell. I nearly had heart disease for fear the string
would break. To the end of the silk I fastened the twine, and when
that had been pulled in I tied on the wire. Then that was drawn into
the pipe and we had a substantial line, which rats couldn't gnaw, from
the mouth of the drain into the cell."

The Thinking Machine raised his hand and Hatch stopped.

"All this was done in absolute silence," said the scientist, "but
when the wire reached my hand I could have shouted. Then we tried
another experiment, which Mr. Hatch was prepared for. I tested the
pipe as a speaking tube. Neither of us could hear very clearly, but I
dared not speak loud for fear of attracting attention in the prison.
At last I made him understand what I wanted immediately. He seemed to
have great difficulty in understanding when I asked for nitric acid,
and I repeated the word 'acid' several times.

"Then I heard a shriek from a cell above me. I knew instantly that
someone had overheard, and when I heard you coming, Mr. Warden, I
feigned sleep. If you had entered my cell at that moment the whole
plan of escape would have ended there. But you passed on. That was the
nearest I ever came to being caught.

"Having established this improvised trolley it is easy to see how I
got things into the cell and made them disappear at will. I merely
dropped them back into the pipe. You, Mr. Warden, could not have
reached the connecting wire with your fingers; they are too large. My
fingers, you see, are longer and more slender. In addition I guarded
the top of that pipe with a rat--you remember how."

"I remember," said the warden, with a grimace.

"I thought that if anyone were tempted to investigate that hole the
rat would dampen his ardor. Mr. Hatch could not send me anything
useful through the pipe until next night, although he did send me
change for ten dollars as a test, so I proceeded with other parts of
my plan. Then I evolved the method of escape I finally employed.

"In order to carry this out successfully it was necessary for the
guard in the yard to get accustomed to seeing me at the cell window. I
arranged this by dropping linen notes to him, boastful in tone, to
make the warden believe, if possible, one of his assistants was
communicating with the outside for me. I would stand at my window for
hours gazing out, so the guard could see me, and occasionally I spoke
to him. In that way I learned the prison had no electricians of its
own, but was dependent upon the lighting company should anything go

"That cleared the way to freedom perfectly. Early in the evening of
the last day of my imprisonment, when it was dark, I planned to cut
the feed wire which was only a few feet from my window, reaching it
with an acid tipped wire I had. That would make that side of the
prison perfectly dark while the electricians were searching for the
break. That would also bring Mr. Hatch into the prison yard."

"There was only one more thing to do before I actually began the work
of setting myself free. This was to arrange final details with Mr.
Hatch through our speaking tube. I did this within half an hour after
the warden left my cell on the fourth night of my imprisonment. Mr.
Hatch again had serious difficulty in understanding me, and I repeated
the word 'acid' to him several time, and later on the words: 'No. 8
hat'--that's my size--and these were the things which made the
prisoner upstairs confess to murder, so one of the jailers told me the
next day. The prisoner had heard our voices, confused of course,
through the pipe, which also went to his cell. The cell directly over
me was not occupied, hence no one else heard.

"Of course the actual work of cutting the steel bars out of the
window and door was comparatively easy with nitric acid, which I got
through the pipe in tin bottles, but it took time. Hour after hour on
the fifth and sixth and seventh days the guard below was looking at me
as I worked on the bars of the window with the acid on a piece of
wire. I used the tooth powder to prevent the acid spreading. I looked
away abstractly as I worked and each minute the acid cut deeper into
the metal. I noticed that the jailers always tried the door by shaking
the upper part, never the lower bars, therefore I cut the lower bars,
leaving them hanging in place by thin strips of metal. But that was a
bit of daredeviltry. I could not have gone away so easily."

The Thinking Machine sat silent for several minutes.

"I think that makes everything clear," he went on. "Whatever points I
have not explained were merely to confuse the warden and jailers.
These things in my bed I brought in to please Mr. Hatch, who wanted to
improve the story. Of course, the wig was necessary in my plan. The
special delivery letter I wrote and directed in my cell with Mr.
Hatch's fountain pen, then sent it out to him and he mailed it. That's
all, I think."

"But your actually leaving the prison grounds and then coming in
through the outer gate to my office?" asked the warden.

"Perfectly simple," said the scientist. "I cut the electric light
wire with acid, as I said, when the current was off. Therefore when
the current was turned on the arc didn't light. I knew it would take
some time to find out what was the matter and make repairs. When the
guard went to report to you the yard was dark, I crept out the
window--it was a tight fit, too--replaced the bars by standing on a
narrow ledge and remained in shadow until the force of electricians
arrived. Mr. Hatch was one of them.

"When I saw him I spoke and he handed me a cap, a jumper and
overalls, which I put on within ten feet of you, Mr. Warden, while you
were in the yard. Later Mr. Hatch called me, presumably as a workman,
and together we went out the gate to get something out of the wagon.
The gate guard let us pass out readily as two workmen who had just
passed in. We changed our clothing and reappeared, asking to see you.
We saw you. That's all."

There was a silence for several minutes. Dr. Ransome was first to

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Perfectly amazing."

"How did Mr. Hatch happen to come in with the electricians?" asked
Mr. Fielding.

"His father is manager of the company," relied The Thinking Machine.

"But what if there had been no Mr. Hatch outside to help?"

"Every prisoner has one friend outside who would help him escape if
he could."

"Suppose--just suppose--there had been no old plumbing system there?"
asked the warden, curiously.

"There were two other ways out," said The Thinking Machine,

Ten minutes later the telephone bell rang, it was a request for the

"Light all right, eh?" the warden asked, through the phone. "Good.
Wire cut beside Cell 13? Yes, I know. One electrician too many? What's
that? Two came out?"

The warden turned to the others with a puzzled expression.

"He only let in four electricians, he has let out two and says there
are three left."

"I was the odd one," said The Thinking Machine.

"Oh," said the warden. "I see." Then through the phone: "Let the
fifth man go. He's all right."


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