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Title: Tales of the Thinking Machine and Other stories
Author: Jacques Futrelle
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eBook No.: 1100831.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2011
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Tales of the Thinking Machine and Other stories
Author: Jacques Futrelle



"THE THINKING MACHINE"


It was absolutely impossible. Twenty-five chess masters from the world at
large, foregathered in Boston for the annual championships, unanimously
declared it impossible, and unanimity on any given point is an unusual
mental condition for chess masters. Not one would concede for an instant
that it was within the range of human achievement. Some grew red in the
face as they argued it, others smiled loftily and were silent; still
others dismissed the matter in a word as wholly absurd.

A casual remark by the distinguished scientist and logician, Professor
Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, provoked the discussion. He had, in the
past, aroused bitter disputes by some chance remark; in fact had been
once a sort of controversial centre of the sciences. It had been due to
his modest announcement of a startling and unorthodox hypothesis that he
had been invited to vacate the chair of Philosophy in a great university.
Later that university had felt honoured when he accepted its degree of
LL. D.

For a score of years, educational and scientific institutions of the
world had amused themselves by crowding degrees upon him. He had initials
that stood for things he couldn't pronounce; degrees from France,
England, Russia, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Spain. These were expressed
recognition of the fact that his was the foremost brain in the sciences.
The imprint of his crabbed personality lay heavily on half a dozen of its
branches. Finally there came a time when argument was respectfully silent
in the face of one of his conclusions.

The remark which had arrayed the chess masters of the world into so
formidable and unanimous a dissent was made by Professor Van Dusen in the
presence of three other gentlemen of note. One of these, Dr. Charles
Elbert, happened to be a chess enthusiast.

"Chess is a shameless perversion of the functions of the brain," was
Professor Van Dusen's declaration in his perpetually irritated voice. "It
is a sheer waste of effort, greater because it is possibly the most
difficult of all fixed abstract problems. Of course logic will solve it.
Logic will solve any problem--not most of them but any problem. A
thorough understanding of its rules would enable anyone to defeat your
greatest chess players. It would be inevitable, just as inevitable as
that two and two make four, not some times but all the time. I don't know
chess because I never do useless things, but I could take a few hours of
competent instruction and defeat a man who has devoted his life to it.
His mind is cramped; bound down to the logic of chess. Mine is not; mine
employs logic in its widest scope."

Dr. Elbert shook his head vigorously. "It is impossible," he asserted.

"Nothing is impossible," snapped the scientist. "The human mind can do
anything. It is all we have to lift us above the brute creation. For
Heaven's sake leave us that."

The aggressive tone, the uncompromising egotism brought a flush to Dr.
Elbert's face. Professor Van Dusen affected many persons that way,
particularly those fellow savants who, themselves men of distinction, had
ideas of their own.

"Do you know the purposes of chess? Its countless combinations?" asked
Dr. Elbert.

"No," was the crabbed reply. "I know nothing whatever of the game beyond
the general purpose which, I understand to be, to move certain pieces in
certain directions to stop an opponent from moving his King. Is that
correct?"

"Yes," said Dr. Elbert slowly, "but I never heard it stated just that way
before."

"Then, if that is correct, I maintain that the true logician can defeat
the chess expert by the pure mechanical rules of logic. I'll take a few
hours some time, acquaint myself with the moves of the pieces, and defeat
you to convince you."

Professor Van Dusen glared savagely into the eyes of Dr. Elbert.

"Not me," said Dr. Elbert. "You say anyone--you for instance, might
defeat the greatest chess player. Would you be willing to meet the
greatest chess player after you 'acquaint' yourself with the game?"

"Certainly," said the scientist. "I have frequently found it necessary to
make a fool of myself to convince people. I'll do it again."

This, then, was the acrimonious beginning of the discussion which aroused
chess masters and brought open dissent from eminent men who had not dared
for years to dispute any assertion by the distinguished Professor Van
Dusen. It was arranged that at the conclusion of the championships
Professor Van Dusen should meet the winner. This happened to be
Tschaikowsky, the Russian, who had been champion for half a dozen years.

After this expected result of the tournament Hillsbury, a noted American
master, spent a morning with Professor Van Dusen in the latter's modest
apartments on Beacon Hill. He left there with a sadly puzzled face; that
afternoon Professor Van Dusen met the Russian champion. The newspapers
had said a great deal about the affair and hundreds were present to
witness the game.

There was a little murmur of astonishment when Professor Van Dusen
appeared. He was slight, almost childlike in body, and his thin shoulders
seemed to droop beneath the weight of his enormous head. He wore a number
eight hat. His brow rose straight and domelike and a heavy shock of long,
yellow hair gave him almost a grotesque appearance. The eyes were narrow
slits of blue squinting eternally through thick spectacles; the face was
small, clean shaven, drawn and white with the pallor of the student. His
lips made a perfectly straight line. His hands were remarkable for their
whiteness, their flexibility, and for the length of the slender fingers.
One glance showed that physical development had never entered into the
schedule of the scientist's fifty years of life.

The Russian smiled as he sat down at the chess table. He felt that he was
humouring a crank. The other masters were grouped near by, curiously
expectant. Professor Van Dusen began the game, opening with a Queen's
gambit. At his fifth move, made without the slightest hesitation, the
smile left the Russian's face. At the tenth, the masters grew intensely
eager. The Russian champion was playing for honour now. Professor Van
Dusen's fourteenth move was King's castle to Queen's four.

"Check," he announced.

After a long study of the board the Russian protected his King with a
Knight. Professor Van Dusen noted the play then leaned back in his chair
with finger tips pressed together. His eyes left the board and dreamily
studied the ceiling. For at least ten minutes there was no sound, no
movement, then:

"Mate in fifteen moves," he said quietly.

There was a quick gasp of astonishment. It took the practised eyes of the
masters several minutes to verify the announcement. But the Russian
champion saw and leaned back in his chair a little white and dazed. He
was not astonished; he was helplessly floundering in a maze of
incomprehensible things. Suddenly he arose and grasped the slender hand
of his conqueror.

"You have never played chess before?" he asked.

"Never."

"Mon Dieu! You are not a man; you are a brain--a machine--a thinking
machine."

"It's a child's game," said the scientist abruptly. There was no note of
exultation in his voice; it was still the irritable, impersonal tone
which was habitual.

This, then, was Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph. D., LL. D., F.
R. S., M. D., etc., etc., etc. This is how he came to be known to the
world at large as The Thinking Machine. The Russian's phrase had been
applied to the scientist as a title by a newspaper reporter, Hutchinson
Hatch. It had stuck.



MY FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH THE GREAT LOGICIAN


It was once my good fortune to meet in person Professor Augustus S. F. X.
Van Dusen, Ph. D., LL. D., F. R. S., M. D., etc. The meeting came about
through a singular happening, which was as mystifying as it was dangerous
to me--he saved my life in fact; and in process of hauling me back from
eternity--the edge of that appalling mist which separates life and
death--I had full opportunity of witnessing the workings of that
marvelously keen, cold brain which has made him the most distinguished
scientist and logician of his day. It was sometime afterward, however,
that Professor Van Dusen was identified in my mind with The Thinking
Machine.

I had dined at the Hotel Teutonic, taken a cigar from my pocket, lighted
it, and started for a stroll across Boston Common. It was after eight
o'clock on one of those clear, nippy evenings of winter. I was near the
center of the Common on one of the many little by paths which lead toward
Beacon Hill when I became conscious of an acute pain in my chest, a
sudden fluttering of my heart, and a constriction in my throat. The
lights in the distance began to waver and grow dim, and perspiration
broke out all over me from an inward, gnawing agony which grew more
intense each moment. I felt myself reeling, my cigar dropped from my
fingers, and I clutched at a seat to steady myself. There was no one near
me. I tried to call, then everything grew dark, and I sank down on the
ground. My last recollection was of a figure approaching me; the last
words I heard were a petulant, irritable "Dear me!" then I was lost to
consciousness.

When I recovered consciousness I lay on a couch in a strange room. My
eyes wandered weakly about and lingered with a certain childish interest
on half a dozen spots which reflected glitteringly the light of an
electric bulb set high up on one side. These bright spots, I came to
realize after a moment, were metal parts of various instruments of a
laboratory. For a time I lay helpless, listless, with trembling pulse and
eardrums thumping, then I heard steps approaching, and some one bent over
and peered into my face.

It was a man, but such a man as I had never seen before. A great shock of
straw yellow hair tumbled about a broad, high forehead, a small,
wrinkled, querulous face--the face of an aged child--a pair of watery
blue eyes squinting aggressively through thick spectacles, and a thin
lipped mouth as straight as the mark of a surgeon's knife, save for the
drooping corners. My impression then was that it was some sort of
hallucination, the distorted vagary of a disordered brain, but gradually
my vision cleared and the grip of slender fingers on my pulse made me
realize the actuality of the--the apparition.

"How do you feel?" The thin lips had opened just enough to let out the
question, the tone was curt and belligerent, and the voice rasped
unpleasantly. At the same time the squint eyes were focused on mine with
a steady, piercing glare that made me uneasy. I tried to answer, but my
tongue refused to move. The gaze continued for an instant, then the
man--The Thinking Machine--turned away and prepared a particularly vile
smelling concoction, which he poured into me. Then I was lost again.

After a time--it might have been minutes or hours--I felt again the hand
on my pulse, and again The Thinking Machine favored me with a glare. An
hour later I was sitting up on the couch, with unclouded brain, and a
heartbeat which was nearly normal. It was then I learned why Professor
Van Dusen, an eminent man of the sciences, had been dubbed The Thinking
Machine; I understood first hand how material muddles were so unfailingly
dissipated by unadulterated, infallible logic.

Remember that I had gone into that room an inanimate thing, inert,
unconscious, mentally and physically dead to all practical
intents--beyond the point where I might have babbled any elucidating
fact. And remember, too, please, that I didn't know--had not the faintest
idea--what had happened to me, beyond the fact that I had fallen
unconscious. The Thinking Machine didn't ask questions, yet he supplied
all the missing details, together with a host of personal, intimate
things of which he could personally have had no knowledge. In other
words, I was an abstruse problem, and he solved me. With head tilted back
against the cushion of the chair--and such a head!--with eyes
unwaveringly turned upward, and finger tips pressed idly together, he sat
there, a strange, grotesque little figure in the midst of his laboratory
apparatus. Not for a moment did he display the slightest interest in me,
personally; it was all as if I had been written down on a slate, to be
wiped off when I was solved.

"Did this ever happen to you before?" he asked abruptly.

"No," I replied. "What was it?"

"You were poisoned," he said. "The poison was a deadly one--corrosive
sublimate, or bichlorid or mercury. The shock was very severe; but you
will be all right in--"

"Poisoned!" I exclaimed, aghast. "Who poisoned me? Why?"

"You poisoned yourself," he replied testily. "It was your own
carelessness. Nine out of ten persons handle poison as if it was candy,
and you are like all the rest."

"But I couldn't have poisoned myself," I protested. "Why, I have had no
occasion to handle poisons--not for--I don't know how long."

"I do know," he said. "It was nearly a year ago when you handled this;
but corrosive sublimate is always dangerous."

The tone irritated me, the impassive arrogance of the little man inflamed
my reeling brain, and I am not sure that I did not shake my finger in his
face. "If I was poisoned," I declared with some heat, "it was not my
fault. Somebody gave it to me; somebody tried to--"

"You poisoned yourself," said The Thinking Machine again impatiently.
"You talk like a child."

"How do you know I poisoned myself? How do you know I ever handled a
poison? And how do you know it was a year ago, if I did?"

The Thinking Machine regarded me coldly for an instant, and then those
strange eyes of his wandered upward again. "I know those things," he
said, "just as I know your name, address, and profession from cards I
found in your pockets; just as I know you smoke, from half a dozen cigars
on you; just as I know that you are wearing those clothes for the first
time this winter; just as I know you lost your wife within a few months;
that you kept house then; and that your house was infested with insects.
I know just as I know everything else--by the rules of inevitable logic."

My head was whirling. I stared at him in blank astonishment. "But how do
you know those things?" I insisted in bewilderment.

"The average person of to-day," replied the scientist, "knows nothing
unless it is written down and thrust under his nose. I happen to be a
physician. I saw you fall, and went to you, my first thought being of
heart trouble. Your pulse showed it was not that, and it was obviously
not apoplexy. Now, there was no visible reason why you should have
collapsed like that. There had been no shot; there was no wound;
therefore, poison. An examination confirmed this first hypothesis; your
symptoms showed that the poison was bichlorid of mercury. I put you in a
cab and brought you here. From the fact that you were not dead then I
knew that your system had absorbed only a minute quantity of poison--a
quantity so small that it demonstrated instantly that there had been no
suicidal intent, and indicated, too, that no one else had administered
it. If this was true, I knew--I didn't guess, I knew--that the poisoning
was accidental. How accidental?

"My first surmise, naturally, was that the poison had been absorbed
through the mouth. I searched your pockets. The only thing I found that
you would put into your mouth were the cigars. Were they poisoned? A test
showed they were, all of them. With intent to kill? No. Not enough poison
was used. Was the poison a part of the gum used to bind the cigar?
Possible, of course, but not probable. Then what?" He lowered his eyes
and squinted at me suddenly, aggressively. I shook my head, and, as an
afterthought, closed my gaping mouth.

"Perhaps you carried corrosive sublimate in your pocket. I didn't find
any; but perhaps you once carried it. I tore out the coat pocket in which
I found the cigars and subjected it to the test. At sometime there had
been corrosive sublimate, in the form of powder or crystals, in the
pocket, and in some manner, perhaps because of an imperfection in the
package, a minute quantity was loose in your pocket.

"Here was an answer to every question, and more; here was how the cigars
were poisoned, and, in combination with the tailor's tag inside your
pocket, a short history of your life. Briefly it was like this: Once you
had corrosive sublimate in your pocket. For what purpose? First
thought--to rid your home of insects. Second thought--if you were
boarding, married or unmarried, the task of getting rid of the insects
would have been left to the servant; and this would possibly have been
the case if you had been living at home. So I assumed for the instant
that you were keeping house, and if keeping house, you were married--you
bought the poison for use in your own house.

"Now, without an effort, naturally, I had you married, and keeping house.
Then what? The tailor's tag, with your name, and the date your clothing
was made--one year and three months ago. It is winter clothing. If you
had worn it since the poison was loose in your pocket the thing that
happened to you tonight would have happened to you before; but it never
happened before, therefore I assume that you had the poison early last
spring, when insects began to be troublesome, and immediately after that
you laid away the suit until this winter. I know you are wearing the suit
for the first time this winter, because, again, this thing has not
happened before, and because, too, of the faint odor of moth balls. A
band of crape on your hat, the picture of a young woman in your watch,
and the fact that you are now living at your club, as your bill for last
month shows, establish beyond doubt that you are a widower."

"It's perfectly miraculous!" I exclaimed.

"Logic, logic, logic," snapped the irritable little scientist. "You are a
lawyer, you ought to know the correlation of facts; you ought to know
that two and two make four, not sometimes but all the time."



A PIECE OF STRING


It was just midnight. Somewhere near the center of a cloud of tobacco
smoke, which hovered over one corner of the long editorial room,
Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, was writing. The rapid click-click of his
type writer went on and on, broken only when he laid aside one sheet to
put in another. The finished pages were seized upon one at a time by an
office boy and rushed off to the city editor. That astute person glanced
at them for information and sent them on to the copy desk, whence they
were shot down into that noisy, chaotic wilderness, the composing room.

The story was what the phlegmatic head of the copy desk, speaking in the
vernacular, would have called a "beaut." It was about the kidnapping that
afternoon of Walter Francis, the four-yearold son of a wealthy young
broker, Stanley Francis. An alternative to the abduction had been
proposed in the form of a gift to certain persons, identity unknown, of
fifty thousand dollars. Francis, not unnaturally, objected to the
bestowal of so vast a sum upon anyone. So he told the police, and while
they were making up their minds the child was stolen. It happened in the
usual way--closed carriage, and all that sort of thing.

Hatch was telling the story graphically, as he could tell a story when
there was one to be told. He glanced at the clock, jerked out another
sheet of copy, and the office boy scuttled away with it.

"How much more?" called the city editor.

"Just a paragraph," Hatch answered.

His type writer clicked on merrily for a couple of minutes and then
stopped. The last sheet of copy was taken away, and he rose and stretched
his legs.

"Some guy wants yer at the 'phone," an office boy told him.

"Who is it?" asked Hatch.

"Search me," replied the boy. "Talks like he'd been eatin' pickles."

Hatch went into the booth indicated. The man at the other end was
Professor Augustus S. F.

X. Van Dusen. The reporter instantly recognized the crabbed, perpetually
irritated voice of the noted scientist, The Thinking Machine.

"That you, Mr. Hatch?" came over the wire.

"Yes."

"Can you do something for me immediately?" he queried. "It is very
important."

"Certainly."

"Now listen closely," directed The Thinking Machine. "Take a car from
Park-sq., the one that goes toward Worcester through Brookline. About two
miles beyond Brookline is Randall's Crossing. Get off there and go to
your right until you come to a small white house. In front of this house,
a little to the left and across an open field, is a large tree. It stands
just in the edge of a dense wood. It might be better to approach it
through the wood, so as not to attract attention. Do you follow me?"

"Yes," Hatch replied. His imagination was leading him a chase. "Go to
this tree now, immediately, tonight," continued The Thinking Machine.
"You will find a small hole in it near the level of your eye. Feel in that
hole, and see what is there--no matter what it is--then return to
Brookline and telephone me. It is of the greatest importance."

The reporter was thoughtful for a moment; it sounded like a page from a
Dumas romance.

"What's it all about?" he asked curiously.

"Will you go?" came the counter question.

"Yes, certainly."

"Good-by."

Hatch heard a click as the receiver was hung up at the other end. He
shrugged his shoulders, said "Good-night" to the city editor, and went
out. An hour later he was at Randall's Crossing. The night was dark--so
dark that the road was barely visible. The car whirled on, and as its
lights were swallowed up Hatch set out to find the white house. He came
upon it at last, and, turning, faced across an open field toward the
wood. Far away over there outlined vaguely against the distant glow of
the city, was a tall tree.

Having fixed its location, the reporter moved along for a hundred yards
or more to where the wood ran down to the road. Here he climbed a fence
and stumbled on through the dark, doing sundry injuries to his shins.
After a disagreeable ten minutes he reached the tree.

With a small electric flash light he found the hole. It was only a little
larger than his hand, a place where decay had eaten its way into the tree
trunk. For just a moment he hesitated about putting his hand into it--he
didn't know what might be there. Then, with a grim smile, he obeyed
orders.

He felt nothing save crumblings of decayed wood, and finally dragged out
a handful, only to spill it on the ground. That couldn't be what was
meant. For the second time he thrust in his hand, and after a deal of
grabbing about produced--a piece of string. It was just a plain,
ordinary, common piece of string--white string. He stared at it and
smiled.

"I wonder what Van Dusen will make of that?" he asked himself.

Again his hand was thrust into the hole. But that was all--the piece of
string. Then came another thought, and with that due regard for detail
which made him a good reporter he went looking around the big tree for a
possible second opening of some sort. He found none.

About three quarters of an hour later he stepped into an all-night drug
store in Brookline and 'phoned to The Thinking Machine. There was an
instant response to his ring.

"Well, well, what did you find?" came the query.

"Nothing to interest you, I imagine," replied the reporter grimly. "Just
a piece of string."

"Good, good!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine. "What does it look like?"

"Well," replied the newspaper man judicially, "it's just a piece of white
string--cotton, I imagine--about six inches long."

"Any knots in it?"

"Wait till I see."

He was reaching into his pocket to take it out, when the startled voice
of The Thinking Machine came over the line.

"Didn't you leave it there?" it demanded.

"No; I have it in my pocket."

"Dear me!" exclaimed the scientist irritably. "That's bad. Well, has it
any knots in it?" he asked with marked resignation.

Hatch felt that he had committed the unpardonable sin. "Yes," he replied
after an examination. "It has two knots in it--just plain knots--about
two inches apart."

"Single or double knots?"

"Single knots."

"Excellent! Now, Mr. Hatch, listen. Untie one of those knots--it doesn't
matter which one--and carefully smooth out the string. Then take it and
put it back where you found it. 'Phone me as soon after that as you can."

"Now, tonight?"

"Now, immediately."

"But--but--" began the astonished reporter.

"It is a matter of the utmost consequence," the irritated voice assured
him. "You should not have taken the string. I told you merely to see what
was there. But as you have brought it away you must put it back as soon
as possible. Believe me, it is of the highest importance. And don't
forget to 'phone me."

The sharp, commanding tone stirred the reporter to new action and
interest. A car was just going past the door, outward bound. He raced for
it and got aboard. Once settled, he untied one of the knots, straightened
out the string, and fell to wondering what sort of fool's errand he was
on.

"Randall's Crossing!" called the conductor at last.

Hatch left the car and retraced his tortuous way along the road and
through the wood to the tall tree, found the hole, and had just thrust in
his hand to replace the string when he heard a woman's voice directly
behind him, almost in his ear. It was a calm, placid, convincing sort of
voice. It said:

"Hands up!"

Hatch was a rational human being with ambitions and hopes for the future;
therefore his hands went up without hesitation. "I knew something would
happen," he told himself.

He turned to see the woman. In the darkness he could only dimly trace a
tall, slender figure. Steadily poised just a couple of dozen inches from
his nose was a revolver. He could see that without any difficulty. It
glinted a little, even in the gloom, and made itself conspicuous.

"Well," asked the reporter at last, as he stood reaching upward, "it's
your move."

"Who are you?" asked the woman. Her voice was steady and rather pleasant.

The reporter considered the question in the light of all he didn't know.
He felt it wouldn't be a sensible thing to say just who he was. Somewhere
at the end of this thing The Thinking Machine was working on a problem;
he was presumably helping in a modest, unobtrusive sort of way; therefore
he would be cautious.

"My name is Williams," he said promptly. "Jim Williams," he added
circumstantially.

"What are you doing here?"

Another subject for thought. That was a question he couldn't answer; he
didn't know what he was doing there; he was wondering himself. He could
only hazard a guess, and he did that with trepidation.

"I came from him," he said with deep meaning.

"Who?" demanded the woman suspiciously.

"It would be useless to name him," replied the reporter.

"Yes, yes, of course," the woman mused. "I understand."

There was a little pause. Hatch was still watching the revolver. He had a
lively interest in it. It had not moved a hair's breath since he first
looked at it; hanging up there in the night it fairly stared him out of
countenance.

"And the string?" asked the woman at last.

Now the reporter felt that he was in the mire. The woman herself relieved
this new embarrassment.

"Is it in the tree?" she went on.

"Yes."

"How many knots are in it?"

"One."

"One?" she repeated eagerly. "Put your hand in there and hand me the
string. No tricks, now!"

Hatch complied with a certain deprecatory manner which he intended should
convey to her the impression that there would be no tricks. As she took
the string her fingers brushed against his. They were smooth and
delicate. He knew that even in the dark.

"And what did he say?" she went on.

Having gone this far without falling into anything, the reporter was
willing to plunge--felt that he had to, as a matter of fact.

"He said yes," he murmured without shifting his eyes from the revolver.

"Yes?" the woman repeated again eagerly. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," said the reporter again. The thought flashed through his mind that
he was tangling up somebody's affairs sadly--he didn't know whose.
Anyhow, it was a matter of no consequence to him, as long as that
revolver stared at him that way.

"Where is it?" asked the woman.

Then the earth slipped out from under him. "I don't know," he replied
weakly.

"Didn't he give it to you?"

"Oh, no. He--he wouldn't trust me with it."

"How can I get it, then?"

"Oh, he'll fix it all right," Hatch assured her soothingly. "I think he
said something about tomorrow night."

"Where?"

"Here."

"Thank God!" the woman gasped suddenly. Her tone betrayed deep emotion;
but it wasn't so deep that she lowered the revolver.

There was a long pause. Hatch was figuring possibilities. How to get
possession of the revolver seemed the imminent problem. His hands were
still in the air, and there was nothing to indicate that they were not to
remain there indefinitely. The woman finally broke the silence.

"Are you armed?"

"Oh, no."

"Truthfully?"

"Truthfully."

"You may lower your hands," she said, as if satisfied; "then go on ahead
of me straight across the field to the road. Turn to your left there.
Don't look back under any circumstances. I shall be behind you with this
revolver pointing at your head. If you attempt to escape or make any
outcry I shall shoot. Do you believe me?"

The reporter considered it for a moment. "I'm firmly convinced of it," he
said at last.

They stumbled on to the road, and there Hatch turned as directed. Walking
along in the shadows with the tread of small feet behind him he first
contemplated a dash for liberty; but that would mean giving up the
adventure, whatever it was. He had no fear for his personal safety as
long as he obeyed orders, and he intended to do that implicitly. And
besides, The Thinking Machine had his slender finger in the pie
somewhere. Hatch knew that, and knowing it was a source of deep
gratification.

Just now he was taking things at face value, hoping that with their
arrival at whatever place they were bound for he would be further
enlightened. Once he thought he heard the woman sobbing, and started to
look back. Then he remembered her warning, and thought better of it. Had
he looked back he would have seen her stumbling along, weeping, with the
revolver dangling limply at her side.

At last, a mile or more farther on, they began to arrive somewhere. A
house sat back some distance from the road.

"Go in there!" commanded his captor.

He turned in at the gate, and five minutes later stood in a comfortably
furnished room on the ground floor of a small house. A dim light was
burning. The woman turned it up. Then almost defiantly she threw aside
her veil and hat and stood before him. Hatch gasped. She was
pretty--bewilderingly pretty--and young and graceful and all that a young
woman should be. Her cheeks were flushed.

"You know me, I suppose?" she exclaimed.

"Oh yes, certainly," Hatch assured her.

And saying that, he knew he had never seen her before.

"I suppose you thought it perfectly horrid of me to keep you with your
hands up like that all the time; but I was dreadfully frightened," the
woman went on, and she smiled a little uncertainly. "But there wasn't
anything else to do."

"It was the only thing," Hatch agreed.

"Now I'm going to ask you to write and tell him just what happened," she
resumed. "And tell him, too, that the other matter must be arranged
immediately. I'll see that your letter is delivered. Sit here!"

She picked up the revolver from the table beside her and placed a chair
in position. Hatch walked to the table and sat down. Pen and ink lay
before him. He knew now he was trapped. He couldn't write a letter to
that vague "him" of whom he had talked so glibly, about that still more
vague "it"--whatever that might be. He sat dumbly staring at the paper.

"Well?" she demanded suspiciously.

"I--I can't write it," he confessed suddenly.

She stared at him coldly for a moment as if she had suspected just that,
and he in turn stared at the revolver with a new and vital interest. He
felt the tension, but saw no way to relieve it.

"You are an imposter!" she blurted out at last. "A detective?"

Hatch didn't deny it. She backed away toward a bell call near the door,
watching him closely, and rang vigorously several times. After a little
pause the door opened, and two men, evidently servants, entered.

"Take this gentleman to the rear room up stairs," she commanded without
giving them a glance, "and lock him up. Keep him under close guard. If he
attempts to escape, stop him! That's all."

Here was another page from a Dumas romance. The reporter started to
explain; but there was a merciless gleam, danger even, in the woman's
eyes, and he submitted to orders. So, he was led up stairs a captive, and
one of the men took a place on guard inside the room.

The dawn was creeping on when Hatch fell asleep. It was about ten o'clock
when he awoke, and the sun was high. His guard, wide eyed and alert,
still sat beside the door. For several minutes the reporter lay still,
seeking vainly some sort of explanation of what was happening. Then,
cheerfully:

"Good-morning."

The guard merely glared at him.

"May I inquire your name?" the reporter asked.

There was no answer.

"Or the lady's name?"

No answer.

"Or why I am where I am?"

Still no answer.

"What would you do," Hatch went on casually, "if I should try to get out
of here?"

The guard handled his revolver carelessly. The reporter was satisfied.
"He is not deaf, that's certain," he told himself.

He spent the remainder of the morning yawning and wondering what The
Thinking Machine was about; also he had a few casual reflections as to
the mental state of his city editor at his failure to appear and follow
up the kidnapping story. He finally dismissed all these ideas with a
shrug of his shoulders, and sat down to wait for whatever was coming.

It was in the early afternoon that he heard laughter in the next room.
First there was a woman's voice, then the shrill cackle of a child.
Finally he distinguished some words.

"You ticky!" exclaimed the child, and again there was the laugh.

The reporter understood "you ticky," coupled with the subsequent peal, to
be a sort of abbreviated English for "you tickle." After awhile the
merriment died away and he heard the child's insistent demand for
something else.

"You be hossie."

"No, no," the woman expostulated.

"Yes, you be hossie."

"No, let Morris be hossie."

"No, no. You be hossie."

That was all. Evidently some one was "hossie," because there was a sound
of romping; but finally even that died away. Hatch yawned away another
hour or so under the constant eye of his guard, and then began to grow
restless. He turned on the guard savagely.

"Isn't anything ever going to happen?" he demanded.

The guard didn't say.

"You'll never convict yourself on your own statement," Hatch burst out
again in disgust.

He stretched out on a couch, bored by the sameness which had
characterized the last few hours of his adventure. His attention was
attracted by some movement at the door, and he looked up. His guard
heard, too, and with revolver in hand went to the door, carefully
unlocking it. After a few hurriedly whispered words he left the room, and
Hatch was meditating an instant rush for a window, when the woman
entered. She had the revolver now. She was deathly white and gripped the
weapon menacingly. She did not lock the door--only closed it--but with
her own person and the attention compelling revolver she blocked the way.

"What is it now?" asked Hatch wearily.

"You must not speak or call, or make the slightest sound," she whispered
tensely. "If you do, I'll kill you. Do you understand?"

Hatch confessed by a nod that he understood. He also imagined that he
understood this sudden change in guard, and the warning. It was because
some one was about to enter or had entered the house. His conjecture was
partially confirmed instantly by a distant rapping on a door.

"Not a sound, now!" whispered the woman.

From somewhere below he heard the sound of steps as one of the servants
answered the knock. After a short wait he heard two voices mumbling.
Suddenly one was raised clearly.

"Why, Worcester can't be that far," it protested irritably.

Hatch knew. It was The Thinking Machine. The woman noted a change in his
manner and drew back the hammer of the revolver. The reporter saw the
idea. He didn't dare call. That would be suicide. Perhaps he could
attract attention, though; drop a key, for instance. The sound might
reach The Thinking Machine and be interpreted aright. One hand was in a
pocket, and slowly he was drawing out a key. He would risk it. Maybe--

Then came a new sound. It was the patter of small feet. The guarded door
was pushed open and a tousle-headed child, a boy, ran in.

"Mama, mama!" he called loudly. He ran to the woman and clutched at her
skirts.

"Oh, my baby! what have you done?" she asked piteously. "We are lost,
lost!"

"Me 'faid," the child went on.

With the door--his avenue of possible escape--open, Hatch did not drop
the key. Instead, he gazed at the woman, then down at the child. From
below he again heard The Thinking Machine.

"How far is the car track, then?"

The servant answered something. There was a sound of steps, and the front
door closed. Hatch knew that The Thinking Machine had come and gone; yet
he was strangely calm about it, quite himself, despite the fact that a
nervous finger still lay on the trigger of the pistol.

From his refuge behind his mother's skirts the boy peered around at Hatch
shyly. The reporter gazed, gazed, all eyes, and then was convinced. The
boy was Walter Francis, the kidnapped boy whose pictures were being
published in every newspaper of a dozen cities. Here was a story--the
story--the superlative story.

"Mrs. Francis, if you wouldn't mind letting down that hammer--" he
suggested modestly. "I assure you I contemplate no harm, and you--you are
very nervous."

"You know me, then?" she asked.

"Only because the child there, Walter, called you mama."

Mrs. Francis lowered the revolver hammer so recklessly that Hatch
involuntarily dodged. And then came a scene, a scene with tears in it,
and all those things which stir men, even reporters. Finally the woman
dropped the revolver on the floor and swept the boy up in her arms with a
gesture of infinite tenderness. He cuddled there, content. At that moment
Hatch could have walked out the door, but instead he sat down. He was
just beginning to get interested.

"They sha'n't take you!" sobbed the mother.

"There is no immediate danger," the reporter assured her. "The man who
came here for that purpose has gone. Meanwhile, if you will tell me the
facts, perhaps--perhaps I may be able to be of some assistance."

Mrs. Francis looked at him, startled. "Help me?"

"If you will explain, perhaps I can do something," said Hatch again.

Somewhere back in a remote recess of his brain he was remembering. And as
it became clearer he was surprised that he had not remembered sooner. It
was a story of marital infelicity, and its principals were Stanley
Francis and his wife--this bewilderingly pretty young woman before him.
It had been only eight or nine months back.

Technically she had deserted Stanley Francis. There had been some violent
scene and she left their home and little son. Soon afterward she went to
Europe. It had been rumored that divorce proceedings would follow, or at
least a legal separation, but nothing had ever come of the rumors. All
this Mrs. Francis told to Hatch in little incoherent bursts, punctuated
with sobs and tears.

"He struck me, he struck me!" she declared with a flush of anger and
shame, "and I went then on impulse. I was desperate. Later, even before I
went to Europe, I knew the legal status of the affair; but the thought of
my boy lingered, and I resolved to come back and get him--abduct him, if
necessary. I did that, and I will keep him if I have to kill the one who
opposes me."

Hatch saw the mother instinct here, that tigerish ferocity of love which
stops at nothing.

"I conceived the plan of demanding fifty thousand dollars of my husband
under threat of abduction," Mrs. Francis went on. "My purpose was to make
it appear that the plot was that of professional--what would you call
it?--kidnappers. But I did not send the letter demanding this until I had
perfected all my plans and knew I could get the boy. I wanted my husband
to think it was the work of others, at least until we were safe in
Europe, because even then I imagined there would be a long legal fight.

"After I stole the boy and he recognized me, I wanted him as my own,
absolutely safe from legal action by his father. Then I wrote to Mr.
Francis, telling him I had Walter, and asking that in pity to me he
legally give me the boy by a document of some sort. In that letter I told
how he might signify his willingness to do this; but of course I would
not give my address. I placed a string, the one you saw, in that tree
after having tied two knots in it. It was a silly, romantic means of
communication he and I used years ago in my girlhood when we both lived
near here. If he agreed that I should have the child, he was to come or
send some one last night and unties one of the two knots."

Then, to Hatch, the intricacies passed away. He understood clearly.
Instead of going to the police with the second letter from his wife,
Francis had gone to The Thinking Machine. The Thinking Machine sent the
reporter to untie the knot, which was an answer of "Yes" to Mrs.
Francis's request for the child. Then she would have written giving her
address, and there would have been a clue to the child's whereabouts. It
was all perfectly clear now.

"Did you specifically mention a string in your letter?" he asked.

"No. I merely stated that I would expect his answer in that place, and
would leave something there by which he could signify 'Yes' or 'No,' as
he did years ago. The string was one of the odd little ideas of my
girlhood. Two knots meant 'No'; one knot meant 'Yes'; and if the string
was found by anyone else it meant nothing."

This, then, was why The Thinking Machine did not tell him at first that
he would find a string and instruct him to untie one of the knots in it.
The scientist had seen that it might have been one of the other tokens of
the old romantic days.

"When I met you there," Mrs. Francis resumed. "I believed you were an
imposter--I don't know why, I just believed it--yet your answers were in
a way correct. For fear you were not what you seemed--that you were a
detective--I brought you here to keep you until I got the child's
release. You know the rest."

The reporter picked up the revolver and whirled it in his fingers. The
action, apparently, did not disturb Mrs. Francis.

"Why did you remain here so long after you got the child?" asked Hatch.

"I believed it was safer than in a city," she answered frankly. "The
steamer on which I planned to sail for Europe with my boy leaves
tomorrow. I had intended going to New York tonight to catch it; but
now--"

The reporter glanced down at the child. He had fallen asleep in his
mother's arms. His tiny hand clung to her. The picture was a pretty one.
Hatch made up his mind.

"Well, you'd better pack up," he said. "I'll go with you to New York and
do all I can."

It was on the New York-bound train several hours later that Hatch turned
to Mrs. Francis with an odd smile.

"Why didn't you load that revolver?" he asked.

"Because I was horribly afraid some one would get hurt with it," she
replied laughingly.

She was gay with that gentle happiness of possession which blesses woman
for the agonies of motherhood, and glanced from time to time at the berth
across the aisle where her baby was asleep. Looking upon it all, Hatch
was content. He didn't know his exact position in law; but that didn't
matter, after all.

Hutchinson Hatch's exclusive story of the escape to Europe of Mrs.
Francis and her boy was remarkably complete; but all the facts were not
in it. It was a week or so later that he detailed them to The Thinking
Machine.

"I knew it," said the scientist at the end. "Francis came to me, and I
interested myself in the case, practically knowing every fact from his
statement. When you heard me speak in the house where you were a prisoner
I was there merely to convince myself that the mother did have the baby.
I heard it call her and went away satisfied. I knew you were there, too,
because you had failed to 'phone me the second time as I expected, and I
knew intuitively what you would do when you got the real facts about Mrs.
Francis and her baby. I went away so that the field might be clear for
you to act. Francis himself is a detestable puppy. I told him so."

And that was all that was ever said about it.



PROBLEM OF THE PERFECT ALIBI


Skulking along through the dense gloom, impalpably a part of the murky
mist which pressed down between the tall board fences on each side, moved
the figure of a man. Occasionally he shot a glance behind him, but the
general direction of his gaze was to his left, where a fence cut off the
small back-yards of an imposing row of brown stone residences. At last he
stopped and tried a gate. It opened noiselessly and he disappeared
inside. A pause. A man came out of the gate, closed it carefully and
walked on through the alley toward an arc-light which spread a generous
glare at the intersection of a street.

Patrolman Gillis was standing idly on a corner, within the light-radius
of a street lamp debating some purely personal questions when he heard
the steady clack, clack, clack of footsteps a block or more away. He
glanced up and dimly he saw a man approaching. As he came nearer the
policeman noticed that the man's right hand was pressed to his face.

"Good evening, officer," said the stranger nervously. "Can you tell me
where I can find a dentist?"

"Toothache?" inquired the policeman.

"Yes, and it's nearly killing me," was the reply. "If I don't get it
pulled I'll--I'll go crazy."

The policeman grinned sympathetically.

"Had it myself--I know what it is," he said. "You passed one dentist down
in the other block, but there's another just across the street here," and
he indicated a row of brown-stone residences. "Dr. Paul Sitgreaves. He'll
charge you good and plenty."

"Thank you," said the other.

He crossed the street and the policeman gazed after him until he mounted
the steps and pulled the bell. After a few minutes the door opened, the
stranger entered the house and Patrolman Gillis walked on.

"Dr. Sitgreaves here?" inquired the stranger of a servant who answered
the bell.

"Yes."

"Please ask him if he can draw a tooth for me. I'm in a perfect agony,
and--"

"The doctor rarely gets up to attend to such cases," interrupted the
servant.

"Here," said the stranger and he pressed a bill in the servant's hand.
"Wake him for me, won't you? Tell him it's urgent."

The servant looked at the bill, then opened the door and led the patient
into the reception room.

Five minutes later, Dr. Sitgreaves, gaping ostentatiously, entered and
nodded to his caller.

"I hated to trouble you, doctor," explained the stranger, "but I haven't
slept a wink all night."

He glanced around the room until his eye fell upon a clock. Dr.
Sitgreaves glanced in that direction. The hands of the clock pointed to
1:53.

"Phew!" said Dr. Sitgreaves. "Nearly two o'clock. I must have slept hard.
I didn't think I'd been asleep more than an hour." He paused to gape
again and stretch himself. "Which tooth is it?" he asked.

"A molar, here," said the stranger, and he opened his mouth.

Dr. Sitgreaves gazed officially into his innermost depths and fingered
the hideous instruments of torture.

"That tooth's too good to lose," he said after an examination. "There's
only a small cavity in it."

"I don't know what's the matter with it," replied the other impatiently,
"except that it hurts. My nerves are fairly jumping."

Dr. Sitgreaves was professionally serious as he noted the drawn face, the
nervous twitching of hands and the unusual pallor of his client.

"They are," he said finally. "There's no doubt of that. But it isn't the
tooth. It's neuralgia."

"Well, pull it anyway," pleaded the stranger. "It always comes in that
tooth, and I've got to get rid of it some time."

"It wouldn't be wise," remonstrated the dentist. "A filling will save it.
Here," and he turned and stirred an effervescent powder in a glass. "Take
this and see if it doesn't straighten you out."

The stranger took the glass and gulped down the foaming liquid.

"Now sit right there for five minutes or so," instructed the dentist. "If
it doesn't quiet you and you insist on having the tooth pulled, of
course--"

He sat down and glanced again at the clock after which he looked at his
watch and replaced it in a pocket of his pajamas. His visitor was
sitting, too, controlling himself only with an obvious effort.

"This is real neuralgia weather," observed the dentist at last, idly.
"Misty and damp."

"I suppose so," was the reply. "This began to hurt about twelve o'clock,
just as I went to bed, and finally it got so bad that I couldn't stand
it. Then I got up and dressed and came out for a walk. I kept on,
thinking that it would get better but it didn't and a policeman sent me
here."

There was a pause of several minutes.

"Feel any better?" inquired the dentist, at last.

"No," was the reply. "I think you'd better take it out."

"Just as you say!"

The offending tooth was drawn, the stranger paid him with a sigh of
relief, and after a minute or so started out. At the door he turned back.

"What time is it now, please?" he asked.

"Seventeen minutes past two," replied the dentist.

"Thanks," said the stranger. "I'll just have time to catch a car back
home."

"Good night," said the dentist.

"Good night."

Skulking along through the dense gloom, impalpably a part of the murky
mist which pressed down between tall board fences on each side, moved the
figure of a man. Occasionally he shot a glance behind him, but the
general direction of his gaze was to his left, where a fence cut off the
small back-yards of an imposing row of brown-stone residences. At last he
stopped and tried a gate. It opened noiselessly and he disappeared
inside. A pause. A man came out of the gate, closed it carefully and
walked on through the alley toward an arc-light which spread a generous
glare at the intersection of a street.

Next morning at eight o'clock, Paul Randolph De Forrest, a young man of
some social prominence, was found murdered in the sitting room of his
suite in the big Avon apartment house. He had been dead for several
hours. He sat beside his desk, and death left him sprawled upon it face
downward. The weapon was one of several curious daggers which had been
used ornamentally on the walls of his apartments. The blade missed the
heart only a quarter of an inch or so; death must have come within a
couple of minutes.

Detective Mallory went to the apartments, accompanied by the Medical
Examiner. Together they lifted the dead man. Beneath his body, on the
desk, lay a sheet of paper on which were scrawled a few words; a pencil
was clutched tightly in his right hand. The detective glanced then stared
at the paper; it startled him. In the scrawly, trembling, incoherent
handwriting of the dying man were these disjointed sentences and words:

"Murdered **** Franklin Chase **** quarrel **** stabbed me **** am dying
**** God help me **** clock striking 2 **** good-bye."

The detective's jaws snapped as he read. Here was crime, motive and time.
After a sharp scrutiny of the apartments, he went down the single flight
of stairs to the office floor to make some inquiries. An elevator man,
Moran, was the first person questioned. He had been on duty the night
before. Did he know Mr. Franklin Chase? Yes. Had Mr. Franklin Chase
called to see Mr. De Forrest on the night before? Yes.

"What time was he here?"

"About half past eleven, I should say. He and Mr. De Forrest came in
together from the theatre."

"When did Mr. Chase go away?"

"I don't know, sir. I didn't see him."

"It might have been somewhere near two o'clock?"

"I don't know, sir," replied Moran again, "I'll--I'll tell you all I know
about it. I was on duty all night. Just before two o'clock a telegram was
'phoned for a Mr. Thomas on the third floor. I took it and wrote on it
the time that I received it. It was then just six minutes before two
o'clock. I walked up from this floor to the third--two flights--to give
the message to Mr. Thomas. As I passed Mr. De Forrest's door, I heard
loud voices, two people evidently quarrelling. I paid no attention then
but went on. I was at Mr. Thomas's door possibly five or six minutes.
When I came down I heard nothing further and thought no more of it."

"You fix the time of passing Mr. De Forrest's door first at, say, five
minutes of two?" asked the detective.

"Within a minute of that time, yes, sir."

"And again about two or a minute or so after?"

"Yes."

"Ah," exclaimed the detective. "That fits in exactly with the other and
establishes beyond question the moment of the murder." He was thinking of
the words "clock striking 2" written by the dying man. "Did you recognize
the voices?"

"No, sir, I could not. They were not very clear."

That was the substance of Moran's story. Detective Mallory then called at
the telegraph office and indisputable records there showed that they had
telephoned a message for Mr. Thomas at precisely six minutes of two.
Detective Mallory was satisfied.

Within an hour Franklin Chase was under arrest. Detective Mallory found
him sound asleep in his room in a boarding house less than a block away
from the Avon. He seemed somewhat astonished when informed of his arrest
for murder, but was quite calm.

"It's some sort of a mistake," he protested.

"I don't make mistakes," said the detective. He had a short memory.

Further police investigation piled up the evidence against the prisoner.
For instance, minute blood stains were found on his hands, and a drop or
so on the clothing he had worn the night before; and it was established
by three fellow lodgers--young men who had come in late and stopped at
his room--that he was not in his boarding house at two o'clock the night
before.

That afternoon Chase was arraigned for a preliminary hearing. Detective
Mallory stated the case and his statement was corroborated by necessary
witnesses. First he established the authenticity of the dying man's
writing. Then he proved that Chase had been with De Forrest at half past
eleven o'clock; that there had been a quarrel--or argument--in De
Forrest's room just before two o'clock; and finally, with a dramatic
flourish, he swore to the blood stains on the prisoner's hands and
clothing.

The august Court stared at the prisoner and took up his pen to sign the
necessary commitment.

"May I say something before we go any further?" asked Mr. Chase.

The Court mumbled some warning about anything the prisoner might say
being used against him.

"I understand," said the accused, and he nodded, "but I will show that
there has been a mistake--a serious mistake. I admit that the writing was
Mr. De Forrest's; that I was with him at half past eleven o'clock and
that the stains on my hands and clothing were blood stains."

The Court stared.

"I've known Mr. De Forrest for several years," the prisoner went on
quietly. "I met him at the theatre last night and walked home with him.
We reached the Avon about half past eleven o'clock and I went to his room
but I remained only ten or fifteen minutes. Then I went home. It was
about five minutes of twelve when I reached my room. I went to bed and
remained in bed until one o'clock, when for a reason which will appear, I
arose, dressed and went out, say about ten minutes past one. I returned
to my room a few minutes past three."

Detective Mallory smiled sardonically.

"When I was arrested this morning I sent notes to three persons," the
prisoner went on steadily. "Two of these happen to be city officials, one
the City Engineer. Will he please come forward?"

There was a little stir in the room and the Court scratched one ear
gravely. City Engineer Malcolm appeared inquiringly.

"This is Mr. Malcolm?" asked the prisoner. "Yes? Here is a map of the
city issued by your office. I would like to ask please the approximate
distance between this point--" and he indicated on the map the location
of the Avon--"and this." He touched another point far removed.

The City Engineer studied the map carefully.

"At least two and a half miles," he explained.

"You would make that statement on oath?"

"Yes, I've surveyed it myself."

"Thank you," said the prisoner, courteously, and he turned to face the
crowd in the rear. "Is Policeman No. 1122 in Court?--I don't know his
name?"

Again there was a stir, and Policeman Gillis came forward.

"Do you remember me?" inquired the prisoner.

"Sure," was the reply.

"Where did you see me last night?"

"At this corner," and Gillis put his finger down on the map at the second
point the prisoner had indicated.

The Court leaned forward eagerly to peer at the map; Detective Mallory
tugged violently at his moustache. Into the prisoner's manner there came
tense anxiety.

"Do you know what time you saw me there?" he asked.

Policeman Gillis was thoughtful a moment.

"No," he replied at last. "I heard a clock strike just after I saw you
but I didn't notice."

The prisoner's face went deathly white for an instant, then he recovered
himself with an effort.

"You didn't count the strokes?" he asked.

"No, I wasn't paying any attention to it."

The colour rushed back into Chase's face and he was silent a moment.
Then:

"It was two o'clock you heard strike?" It was hardly a question, rather a
statement.

"I don't know," said Gillis. "It might have been. Probably was."

"What did I say to you?"

"You asked me where you could find a dentist, and I directed you to Dr.
Sitgreaves across the street."

"You saw me enter Dr. Sitgreaves' house?"

"Yes."

The accused glanced up at the Court and that eminent jurist proceeded to
look solemn.

"Dr. Sitgreaves, please?" called the prisoner.

The dentist appeared, exchanging nods with the prisoner.

"You remember me, doctor?"

"Yes."

"May I ask you to tell the Court where you live? Show us on this map
please."

Dr. Sitgreaves put his finger down at the spot which had been pointed out
by the prisoner and by Policeman Gillis, two and a half miles from the
Avon.

"I live three doors from this corner," explained the dentist.

"You pulled a tooth for me last night?" went on the prisoner.

"Yes."

"Here?" and the prisoner opened his mouth.

The dentist gazed down him.

"Yes," he replied.

"You may remember, doctor," went on the prisoner, quietly, "that you had
occasion to notice the clock just after I called at your house. Do you
remember what time it was?"

"A few minutes before two--seven or eight minutes, I think."

Detective Mallory and the Court exchanged bewildered glances.

"You looked at your watch, too. Was that exactly with the clock?"

"Yes, within a minute."

"And what time did I leave your office?" the prisoner asked.

"Seventeen minutes past two--I happen to remember," was the reply.

The prisoner glanced dreamily around the room twice, his eyes met
Detective Mallory's. He stared straight into that official for an instant
then turned back to the dentist.

"When you drew the tooth there was blood of course. It is possible that I
got the stains on my fingers and clothing?"

"Yes, certainly."

The prisoner turned to the Court and surprised a puzzled expression on
that official countenance.

"Is anything else necessary?" he inquired courteously. "It has been
established that the moment of the crime was two o'clock; I have shown by
three witnesses--two of them city officials--that I was two and a half
miles away in less than half an hour; I couldn't have gone on a car in
less than fifteen minutes--hardly that."

There was a long silence as the Court considered the matter. Finally he
delivered himself, briefly.

"It resolves itself into a question of the accuracy of the clocks," he
said. "The accuracy of the clock at the Avon is attested by the known
accuracy of the clock in the telegraph office, while it seems established
that Dr. Sitgreaves' clock was also accurate, because it was with his
watch. Of course there is no question of veracity of witnesses--it is
merely a question of the clock in Dr. Sitgreaves' office. If that is
shown to be absolutely correct we must accept the alibi."

The prisoner turned to the elevator man from the Avon.

"What sort of a clock was that you mentioned?"

"An electric clock, regulated from Washington Observatory," was the
reply.

"And the clock at the telegraph office, Mr. Mallory?"

"An electric clock, regulated from Washington Observatory."

"And yours, Dr. Sitgreaves?"

"An electric clock, regulated from Washington Observatory."

The prisoner remained in his cell until seven o'clock that evening while
experts tested the three clocks. They were accurate to the second; and it
was explained that there could have been no variation of either without
this variation showing in the delicate testing apparatus. Therefore it
came to pass that Franklin Chase was released on his own recognizance,
while Detective Mallory wandered off into the sacred precincts of his
private office to hold his head in his hands and think.

Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, had followed the intricacies of the mystery
from the discovery of De Forrest's body, through the preliminary hearing,
up to and including the expert examination of the clocks, which
immediately preceded the release of Franklin Chase. When this point was
reached his mental condition was not unlike that of Detective Mallory--he
was groping hopelessly, blindly in the mazes of the problem.

It was then that he called to see Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van
Dusen--The Thinking Machine. That distinguished gentleman listened to a
recital of the known facts with petulant, drooping mouth and the
everlasting squint in his blue eyes. As the reporter talked on,
corrugations appeared in the logician's expansive brow, and these gave
way in turn to a net-work of wrinkles. At the end The Thinking Machine
sat twiddling his long fingers and staring upward.

"This is one of the most remarkable cases that has come to my attention,"
he said at last, "because it possesses the unusual quality of being
perfect in each way--that is the evidence against Mr. Chase is perfect
and the alibi he offers is perfect. But we know instantly that if Mr.
Chase killed Mr. De Forrest there was something the matter with the
clocks despite expert opinion.

"We know that as certainly as we know that two and two make four, not
some times but all the time, because our reason tells us that Mr. Chase
was not in two places at once at two o'clock. Therefore we must assume
either one of two things--that something was the matter with the
clocks--and if there was we must assume that Mr. Chase was responsible
for it--or that Mr. Chase had nothing whatever to do with Mr. De
Forrest's death, at least personally."

The last word aroused Hatch to a new and sudden interest. It suggested a
line of thought which had not yet occurred to him.

"Now," continued the scientist, "if we can find one flaw in Mr. Chase's
story we will have achieved the privilege of temporarily setting aside
his defence and starting over. If, on the contrary, he told the full and
exact truth and our investigation proves that he did, it instantly clears
him. Now just what have you done, please?"

"I talked to Dr. Sitgreaves," replied Hatch. "He did not know
Chase--never saw him until he pulled the tooth, and then didn't know his
name. But he told me really more than appeared in court, for instance,
that his watch had been regulated only a few days ago, that it had been
accurate since, and that he knew it was accurate next day because he kept
an important engagement. That being accurate the clock must be accurate,
because they were together almost to the second.

"I also talked to every other person whose name appears in the case. I
questioned them as to all sorts of possibilities, and the result was that
I was compelled to accept the alibi--not that I'm unwilling to of course,
but it seems peculiar that De Forrest should have written the name as he
was dying."

"You talked to the young men who went into Mr. Chase's room at two
o'clock?" inquired The Thinking Machine casually.

"Yes."

"Did you ask either of them the condition of Mr. Chase's bed when they
went in?"

"Yes," replied the reporter. "I see what you mean. They agreed that it
was tumbled as if someone had been in it."

The Thinking Machine raised his eyebrows slightly.

"Suppose, Mr. Hatch, that you had a violent toothache," he asked after a
moment, still casually, "and were looking for relief, would you stop to
notice the number of a policeman who told you where there was a dentist's
office?"

Hatch considered it calmly, as he stared into the inscrutable face of the
scientist.

"Oh, I see," he said at last. "No, I hardly think so, and yet I might."

Later Hatch and The Thinking Machine, by permission of Detective Mallory,
made an exhaustive search of De Forrest's apartments in the Avon, seeking
some clue. When the Thinking Machine went down the single flight of
stairs to the office he seemed deeply perplexed.

"Where is your clock?" he inquired of the elevator man.

"In the inside office, opposite the telephone booth," was the reply.

The scientist went in and taking a stool, clambered up and squinted
fiercely into the very face of the timepiece. He said "Ah!" once,
non-commitally, then clambered down.

"It would not be possible for anyone here to see a person pass through
the hall," he mused. "Now," and he picked up a telephone book, "just a
word with Dr. Sitgreaves."

He asked the dentist only two questions and their nature caused Hatch to
smile. The first was:

"You have a pocket in the shirt of your pajamas?"

"Yes," came the wondering reply.

"And when you are called at night you pick up your watch and put it in
that pocket?"

"Yes."

"Thanks. Good-bye."

Then The Thinking Machine turned to Hatch.

"We are safe in believing," he said, "that Mr. De Forrest was not killed
by a thief, because his valuables were undisturbed, therefore we must
believe that the person who killed him was an acquaintance. It would be
unfair to act hastily, so I shall ask you to devote three or four days to
getting this man's history in detail; see his friends and enemies, find
out all about him, his life, his circumstances, his love affairs--all
those things."

Hatch nodded; he was accustomed to receiving large orders from The
Thinking Machine.

"If you uncover nothing in that line to suggest another line of
investigation I will give you the name of the person who killed him and
an arrest will follow. The murderer will not run away. The solution of
the affair is quite clear, unless--" he emphasized the word--"unless some
unknown fact gives it another turn."

Hatch was forced to be content with that and for the specified four days
laboured arduously and vainly. Then he returned to The Thinking Machine
and summed up results briefly in one word: "Nothing."

The Thinking Machine went out and was gone two hours. When he returned he
went straight to the 'phone and called Detective Mallory. The detective
appeared after a few minutes.

"Have one of your men go at once and arrest Mr. Chase," The Thinking
Machine instructed. "You might explain to him that there is new
evidence--an eye witness if you like. But don't mention my name or this
place to him. Anyway bring him here and I'll show you the flaw in the
perfect alibi he set up!"

Detective Mallory started to ask questions.

"It comes down simply to this," interrupted The Thinking Machine
impatiently. "Somebody killed Mr. De Forrest and that being true it must
be that that somebody can be found. Please, when Mr. Chase comes here do
not interrupt me, and introduce me to him as an important new witness."

An hour later Franklin Chase entered with Detective Mallory. He was
somewhat pale and nervous and in his eyes lay a shadow of apprehension.
Over it all was the gloss of ostentatious nonchalance and self control.
There were introductions. Chase started visibly at actual reference to
the "important new witness."

"An eye witness," added The Thinking Machine.

Positive fright came into Chase's manner and he quailed under the steady
scrutiny of the narrow blue eyes. The Thinking Machine dropped back into
his chair and pressed his long, white fingers tip to tip.

"If you'll just follow me a moment, Mr. Chase," he suggested at last.
"You know Dr. Sitgreaves, of course? Yes. Well, it just happens that I
have a room a block or so away from his house around the corner. These
are Mr. Hatch's apartments." He stated it so convincingly that there was
no possibility of doubt. "Now my room faces straight up an alley which
runs directly back of Dr. Sitgreaves's house. There is an electric light
at the corner."

Chase started to say something, gulped, then was silent.

"I was in my room the night of Mr. De Forrest's murder," went on the
scientist, "and was up moving about because I, too, had a toothache. It
just happened that I glanced out my front window." His tone had been
courteous in the extreme; now it hardened perceptibly. "I saw you, Mr.
Chase, come along the street, stop at the alley, glance around and then
go into the alley. I saw your face clearly under the electric light, and
that was at twenty minutes to three o'clock. Detective Mallory has just
learned of this fact and I have signified my willingness to go on the
witness stand and swear to it."

The accused man was deathly white now; his face was working strangely,
but still he was silent. It was only by a supreme effort that he
restrained himself.

"I saw you open a gate and go into the back yard of Dr. Sitgreaves's
house," resumed The Thinking Machine. "Five minutes or so later you came
out and walked on to the cross street, where you disappeared. Naturally I
wondered what it meant. It was still in my mind about half past three
o'clock, possibly later, when I saw you enter the alley again, disappear
in the same yard, then come out and go away."

"I--I was not--not there," said Chase weakly. "You were--were mistaken."

"When we know," continued The Thinking Machine steadily, "that you
entered that house before you entered by the front door, we know that you
tampered with Dr. Sitgreaves's watch and clock, and when we know that you
tampered with those we know that you murdered Mr. De Forrest as his dying
note stated. Do you see it?"

Chase arose suddenly and paced feverishly back and forth across the room;
Detective Mallory discreetly moved his chair in front of the door.
Chase saw and understood.

"I know how you tampered with the clock so as not to interfere with its
action or cause any variation at the testing apparatus. You were too
superbly clever to stop it, or interfere with the circuit. Therefore I
see that you simply took out the pin which held on the hands and moved
them backward one hour. It was then actually a quarter of three--you made
it a quarter of two. You showed your daring by invading the dentist's
sleeping room. You found his watch on a table beside his bed, set that
with the clock, then went out, spoke to Policeman Gillis whose number you
noted and rang the front door bell. After you left by the front door you
allowed time for the household to get quiet again, then reentered from
the rear and reset the watch and clock. Thus your alibi was perfect. You
took desperate chances and you knew it, but it was necessary."

The Thinking Machine stopped and squinted up into the pallid face. Chase
made a hopeless gesture with his hands and sat down, burying his face.

"It was clever, Mr. Chase," said the scientist finally. "It is the only
murder case I know where the criminal made no mistake. You probably
killed Mr. De Forrest in a fit of anger, left there while the elevator
boy was upstairs, then saw the necessity of protecting yourself and
devised this alibi at the cost of one tooth. Your only real danger was
when you made Patrolman Gillis your witness, taking the desperate chance
that he did not know or would not remember just when you spoke to him."

Again there was silence. Finally Chase looked up with haggard face.

"How did you know all this?" he asked.

"Because under the exact circumstances, nothing else could have
happened," replied the scientist. "The simplest rules of logic proved
conclusively that this did happen." He straightened up in the chair. "By
the way," he asked, "what was the motive of the murder?"

"Don't you know?" asked Chase, quickly.

"No."

"Then you never will," declared Chase, grimly.

When Chase had gone with the detective, Hatch lingered with The Thinking
Machine.

"It's perfectly astonishing," he said. "How did you get at it anyway?"

"I visited the neighbourhood, saw how it could have been done, learned
through your investigation that no one else appeared in the case, then,
knowing that this must have happened, tricked Mr. Chase into believing I
was an eye witness to the incident in the alley. That was the only way to
make him confess. Of course there was no one else in it."

One of the singular points in the Chase murder trial was that while the
prisoner was convicted of murder on his own statement no inkling of a
motive ever appeared.



PROBLEM OF THE STOLEN BANK NOTES


There was no mystery whatever about the identity of the man who, alone
and unaided, robbed the Thirteenth National Bank of $109,437 in cash and
$1.29 in postage stamps. It was "Mort" Dolan, an expert safe-cracker
albeit a young one, and he had made a clean sweep. Nor yet was there any
mystery as to his whereabouts. He was safely in a cell at Police
Headquarters, having been captured within less than twelve hours after
the robbery was discovered.

Dolan had offered no resistance to the officers when he was cornered, and
had attempted no denial when questioned by Detective Mallory. He knew he
had been caught fairly and squarely and no argument was possible, so he
confessed, with a glow of pride at a job well done. It was four or five
days after his arrest that the matter came to the attention of The
Thinking Machine. Then the problem was--

But perhaps it were better to begin at the beginning.

Despite the fact that he was considerably less than thirty years old,
"Mort" Dolan was a man for whom the police had a wholesome respect. He
had a record, for he had started early. This robbery of the Thirteenth
National was his "big" job and was to have been his last. With the
proceeds he had intended to take his wife and quietly disappear beneath a
full beard and an alias in some place far removed from former haunts. But
the mutability of human events is a matter of proverb. While the robbery
as a robbery was a thoroughly artistic piece of work and in full
accordance with plans which had been worked out to the minutest details
months before, he had made one mistake. This was leaving behind him in
the bank the can in which the nitro-glycerine had been bought. Through
this carelessness he had been traced.

Dolan and his wife occupied three poor rooms in a poor tenement house.
From the moment the police got a description of the person who bought the
explosive they were confident for they knew their man. Therefore four
clever men were on watch about the poor tenement. Neither Dolan nor his
wife was there then, but from the condition of things in the rooms the
police believed that they intended to return so took up positions to
watch.

Unsuspecting enough, for his one mistake in the robbery had not recurred
to him, Dolan came along just about dusk and started up the five steps to
the front door of the tenement. It just happened that he glanced back and
saw a head drawn suddenly behind a projecting stoop. But the electric
light glared strongly there and Dolan recognized Detective Downey, one of
many men who revolved around Detective Mallory within a limited orbit.
Dolan paused on the stoop a moment and rolled a cigarette while he
thought it over. Perhaps instead of entering it would be best to stroll
on down the street, turn a corner and make a dash for it. But just at
that moment he spied another head in the direction of contemplated
flight. That was Detective Blanton.

Deeply thoughtful Dolan smoked half the cigarette and stared blankly in
front of him. He knew of a back door opening on an alley. Perhaps the
detectives had not thought to guard that! He tossed his cigarette away,
entered the house with affected unconcern and closed the door. Running
lightly through the long, unclean hall which extended the full length of
the building he flung open the back door. He turned back instantly--just
outside he had seen and recognized Detective Cunningham.

Then he had an inspiration! The roof! The building was four stories. He
ran up the four flights lightly but rapidly and was half way up the short
flight which led to the opening in the roof when he stopped. From above
he caught the whiff of a bad cigar, then the measured tread of heavy
boots. Another detective! With a sickening depression at his heart Dolan
came softly down the stairs again, opened the door of his flat with a
latch-key and entered.

Then and there he sat down to figure it all out. There seemed no escape
for him. Every way out was blocked, and it was only a question of time
before they would close in on him. He imagined now they were only waiting
for his wife's return. He could fight for his freedom of course--even
kill one, perhaps two, of the detectives who were waiting for him. But
that would only mean his own death. If he tried to run for it past either
of the detectives he would get a shot in the back. And besides, murder
was repugnant to Dolan's artistic soul. It didn't do any good. But could
he warn Isabel, his wife? He feared she would walk into the trap as he
had done, and she had had no connection of any sort with the affair.

Then, from a fear that his wife would return, there swiftly came a fear
that she would not. He suddenly remembered that it was necessary for him
to see her. The police could not connect her with the robbery in any way;
they could only hold her for a time and then would be compelled to free
her for her innocence of this particular crime was beyond question. And
if he were taken before she returned she would be left penniless; and
that was a thing which Dolan dreaded to contemplate. There was a spark of
human tenderness in his heart and in prison it would be comforting to
know that she was well cared for. If she would only come now he would
tell her where the money--!

For ten minutes Dolan considered the question in all possible lights. A
letter telling her where the money was? No. It would inevitably fall into
the hands of the police. A cipher? She would never get it. How? How? How?
Every moment he expected a clamour at the door which would mean that the
police had come for him. They knew he was cornered. Whatever he did must
be done quickly. Dolan took a long breath and started to roll another
cigarette. With the thin white paper held in his left hand and tobacco
bag raised in the other he had an inspiration.

For a little more than an hour after that he was left alone. Finally his
quick ear caught the shuffle of stealthy feet in the hall, then came an
imperative rap on the door. The police had evidently feared to wait
longer. Dolan was leaning over a sewing machine when the summons came.
Instinctively his hand closed on his revolver, then he tossed it aside
and walked to the door.

"Well?" he demanded.

"Let us in, Dolan," came the reply.

"That you, Downey?" Dolan inquired.

"Yes. Now don't make any mistakes, Mort. There are three of us here and
Cunningham is in the alley watching your windows. There's no way out."

For one instant--only an instant--Dolan hesitated. It was not that he was
repentant; it was not that he feared prison--it was regret at being
caught. He had planned it all so differently, and the little woman would
be heartbroken. Finally, with a quick backward glance at the sewing
machine, he opened the door. Three revolvers were thrust into his face
with a unanimity that spoke well for the police opinion of the man. Dolan
promptly raised his hands over his head.

"Oh, put down your guns," he expostulated. "I'm not crazy. My gun is over
on the couch there."

Detective Downey, by a personal search, corroborated this statement then
the revolvers were lowered.

"The chief wants you," he said. "It's about that Thirteenth National Bank
robbery."

"All right," said Dolan, calmly and he held out his hands for the steel
nippers.

"Now, Mort," said Downey, ingratiatingly, "you can save us a lot of
trouble by telling us where the money is."

"Doubtless I could," was the ambiguous response.

Detective Downey looked at him and understood. Cunningham was called in
from the alley. He and Downey remained in the apartment and the other two
men led Dolan away. In the natural course of events the prisoner appeared
before Detective Mallory at Police Headquarters. They were well
acquainted, professionally.

Dolan told everything frankly from the inception of the plan to the
actual completion of the crime. The detective sat with his feet on his
desk listening. At the end he leaned forward toward the prisoner.

"And where is the money?" he asked.

Dolan paused long enough to roll a cigarette.

"That's my business," he responded, pleasantly.

"You might just as well tell us," insisted Detective Mallory. "We will
find it, of course, and it will save us trouble."

"I'll just bet you a hat you don't find it," replied Dolan, and there was
a glitter of triumph in his eyes. "On the level, between man and man now
I will bet you a hat that you never find that money."

"You're on," replied Detective Mallory. He looked keenly at his prisoner
and his prisoner stared back without a quiver. "Did your wife get away
with it?"

From the question Dolan surmised that she had not been arrested.

"No," he answered.

"Is it in your flat?"

"Downey and Cunningham are searching now," was the rejoinder. "They will
report what they find."

There was silence for several minutes as the two men--officer and
prisoner--stared each at the other. When a thief takes refuge in a
refusal to answer questions he becomes a difficult subject to handle.
There was the "third degree" of course, but Dolan was the kind of man who
would only laugh at that; the kind of man from whom anything less than
physical torture could not bring a statement if he didn't choose to make
it. Detective Mallory was perfectly aware of this dogged trait in his
character.

"It's this way, chief," explained Dolan at last. "I robbed the bank, I
got the money, and it's now where you will never find it. I did it by
myself, and am willing to take my medicine. Nobody helped me. My wife--I
know your men waited for her before they took me--my wife knows nothing
on earth about it. She had no connection with the thing at all and she
can prove it. That's all I'm going to say. You might just as well make up
your mind to it."

Detective Mallory's eyes snapped.

"You will tell where that money is," he blustered, "or--or I'll see that
you get--"

"Twenty years is the absolute limit," interrupted Dolan quietly. "I
expect to get twenty years--that's the worst you can do for me."

The detective stared at him hard.

"And besides," Dolan went on, "I won't be lonesome when I get where
you're going to send me. I've got lots of friends there--been there
before. One of the jailers is the best pinochle player I ever met."

Like most men who find themselves balked at the outset Detective Mallory
sought to appease his indignation by heaping invective upon the prisoner,
by threats, by promises, by wheedling, by bluster. It was all the same,
Dolan remained silent. Finally he was led away and locked up.

A few minutes later Downey and Cunningham appeared. One glance told their
chief that they could not enlighten him as to the whereabouts of the
stolen money.

"Do you have any idea where it is?" he demanded.

"No, but I have a very definite idea where it isn't," replied Downey
grimly. "It isn't in that flat. There's not one square inch of it that we
didn't go over--not one object there that we didn't tear to pieces
looking. It simply isn't there. He hid it somewhere before we got him."

"Well take all the men you want and keep at it," instructed Detective
Mallory. "One of you, by the way, had better bring in Dolan's wife. I am
fairly certain that she had nothing to do with it but she might know
something and I can bluff a woman." Detective Mallory announced that
accomplishment as if it were a thing to be proud of. "There's nothing to
do now but get the money. Meanwhile I'll see that Dolan isn't permitted
to communicate with anybody."

"There is always the chance," suggested Downey, "that a man as clever as
Dolan could in a cipher letter, or by a chance remark, inform her where
the money is if we assume she doesn't know, and that should be guarded
against."

"It will be guarded against," declared Detective Mallory emphatically.
"Dolan will not be permitted to see or talk to anyone for the
present--not even an attorney. He may weaken later on."

But day succeeded day and Dolan showed no signs of weakening. His wife,
meanwhile, had been apprehended and subjected to the "third degree." When
this ordeal was over the net result was that Detective Mallory was
convinced that she had had nothing whatever to do with the robbery, and
had not the faintest idea where the money was. Half a dozen times Dolan
asked permission to see her or to write to her. Each time the request was
curtly refused.

Newspaper men, with and without inspiration, had sought the money vainly;
and the police were now seeking to trace the movements of "Mort" Dolan
from the moment of the robbery until the moment of his appearance on the
steps of the house where he lived. In this way they hoped to get an
inkling of where the money had been hidden, for the idea of the money
being in the flat had been abandoned. Dolan simply wouldn't say anything.
Finally, one day, Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, made an exhaustive search
of Dolan's flat, for the fourth time, then went over to Police
Headquarters to talk it over with Mallory. While there President Ashe and
two directors of the victimized bank appeared. They were worried.

"Is there any trace of the money?" asked Mr. Ashe.

"Not yet," responded Detective Mallory.

"Well, could we talk to Dolan a few minutes?"

"If we didn't get anything out of him you won't," said the detective.
"But it won't do any harm. Come along."

Dolan didn't seem particularly glad to see them. He came to the bars of
his cell and peered through. It was only when Mr. Ashe was introduced to
him as the President of the Thirteenth National that he seemed to take
any interest in his visitors. This interest took the form of a grin. Mr.
Ashe evidently had something of importance on his mind and was seeking
the happiest method of expression. Once or twice he spoke aside to his
companions, and Dolan watched them curiously. At last he turned to the
prisoner.

"You admit that you robbed the bank?" he asked.

"There's no need of denying it," replied Dolan.

"Well," and Mr. Ashe hesitated a moment, "the Board of Directors held a
meeting this morning, and speaking on their behalf I want to say
something. If you will inform us of the whereabouts of the money we will,
upon its recovery, exert every effort within our power to have your
sentence cut in half. In other words, as I understand it, you have given
the police no trouble, you have confessed the crime and this, with the
return of the money, would weigh for you when sentence is pronounced. Say
the maximum is twenty years, we might be able to get you off with ten if
we get the money."

Detective Mallory looked doubtful. He realized, perhaps, the futility of
such a promise yet he was silent. The proposition might draw out
something on which to proceed.

"Can't see it," said Dolan at last. "It's this way. I'm twenty-seven
years old. I'll get twenty years. About two of that'll come off for good
behaviour, so I'll really get eighteen years. At the end of that time
I'll come out with one hundred and nine thousand dollars odd--rich for
life and able to retire at forty-five years. In other words while in
prison I'll be working for a good, stiff salary--something really worth
while. Very few men are able to retire at forty-five."

Mr. Ashe readily realized the truth of this statement. It was the point
of view of a man to whom mere prison has few terrors--a man content to
remain immured for twenty years for a consideration. He turned and spoke
aside to the two directors again.

"But I'll tell you what I will do," said Dolan, after a pause. "If you'll
fix it so I get only two years, say, I'll give you half the money."

There was silence. Detective Mallory strolled along the corridor beyond
the view of the prisoner and summoned President Ashe to his side by a
jerk of his head.

"Agree to that," he said. "Perhaps he'll really give up."

"But it wouldn't be possible to arrange it, would it?" asked Mr. Ashe.

"Certainly not," said the detective, "but agree to it. Get your money if
you can and then we'll nail him anyhow."

Mr. Ashe stared at him a moment vaguely indignant at the treachery of the
thing, then greed triumphed. He walked back to the cell.

"We'll agree to that, Mr. Dolan," he said briskly. "Fix a two years'
sentence for you in return for half the money."

Dolan smiled a little.

"All right, go ahead," he said. "When sentence of two years is pronounced
and a first class lawyer arranges it for me so that the matter can never
be reopened I'll tell you where you can get your half."

"But of course you must tell us that now," said Mr. Ashe.

Dolan smiled cheerfully. It was a taunting, insinuating, accusing sort of
smile and it informed the bank president that the duplicity contemplated
was discovered. Mr. Ashe was silent for a moment, then blushed.

"Nothing doing," said Dolan, and he retired into a recess of his cell as
if his interest in the matter were at an end.

"But--but we need the money now," stammered Mr. Ashe. "It was a large sum
and the theft has crippled us considerably."

"All right," said Dolan carelessly. "The sooner I get two years the
sooner you get it."

"How could it be--be fixed?"

"I'll leave that to you."

That was all. The bank president and the two directors went out fuming
impotently. Mr. Ashe paused in Detective Mallory's office long enough for
a final word.

"Of course it was brilliant work on the part of the police to capture
Dolan," he said caustically, "but it isn't doing us a particle of good.
All I see now is that we lose a hundred and nine thousand dollars."

"It looks very much like it," assented the detective, "unless we find
it."

"Well, why don't you find it?"

Detective Mallory had to give it up.

"What did Dolan do with the money?" Hutchinson Hatch was asking of
Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine. The
distinguished scientist and logician was sitting with his head pillowed
on a cushion and with squint eyes turned upward. "It isn't in the flat.
Everything indicates that it was hidden somewhere else."

"And Dolan's wife?" inquired The Thinking Machine in his perpetually
irritated voice. "It seems conclusive that she had no idea where it is?"

"She has been put through the 'third degree,'" explained the reporter,
"and if she had known she would probably have told."

"Is she living in the flat now?"

"No. She is stopping with her sister. The flat is under lock and key.
Mallory has the key. He has shown the utmost care in everything he has
done. Dolan has not been permitted to write to or see his wife for fear
he would let her know some way where the money is; he has not been
permitted to communicate with anybody at all, not even a lawyer. He did
see President Ashe and two directors of the bank but naturally he
wouldn't give them a message for his wife."

The Thinking Machine was silent. For five, ten, twenty minutes he sat
with long, slender fingers pressed tip to tip, squinting unblinkingly at
the ceiling. Hatch waited patiently.

"Of course," said the scientist at last, "one hundred and nine thousand
dollars, even in large bills would make a considerable bundle and would
be extremely difficult to hide in a place that has been gone over so
often. We may suppose, therefore, that it isn't in the flat. What have
the detectives learned as to Dolan's whereabouts after the robbery and
before he was taken?"

"Nothing," replied Hatch, "nothing, absolutely. He seemed to disappear
off the earth for a time. That time, I suppose, was when he was disposing
of the money. His plans were evidently well laid."

"It would be possible of course, by the simple rules of logic, to sit
still here and ultimately locate the money," remarked The Thinking
Machine musingly, "but it would take a long time. We might begin, for
instance, with the idea that he contemplated flight? When? By rail or
steamer? The answers to those questions would, in a way, enlighten us as
to the probable location of the money, because, remember, it would have
to be placed where it was readily accessible in case of flight. But the
process would be a long one. Perhaps it would be best to make Dolan tell
us where he hid it."

"It would if he would tell," agreed the reporter, "but he is reticent to
a degree that is maddening when the money is mentioned."

"Naturally," remarked the scientist. "That really doesn't matter. I have
no doubt he will inform me."

So Hatch and The Thinking Machine called upon Detective Mallory. They
found him in deep abstraction. He glanced up at the intrusion with an
appearance, almost, of relief. He knew intuitively what it was.

"If you can find out where that money is, Professor" he declared
emphatically, "I'll--I'll--well you can't."

The Thinking Machine squinted into the official eyes thoughtfully and the
corners of his straight mouth were drawn down disapprovingly.

"I think perhaps there has been a little too much caution here, Mr.
Mallory," he said. "I have no doubt Dolan will inform me as to where the
money is. As I understand it his wife is practically without means?"

"Yes," was the reply. "She is living with her sister."

"And he has asked several times to be permitted to write to or see her?"

"Yes, dozens of times."

"Well, now suppose you do let him see her," suggested The Thinking
Machine.

"Lord, that's just what he wants," blurted the detective. "If he ever
sees her I know he will, in some way, by something he says, by a gesture,
or a look inform her where the money is. As it is now I know she doesn't
know where it is."

"Well, if he informs her won't he also inform us?" demanded The Thinking
Machine tartly. "If Dolan wants to convey knowledge of the whereabouts of
the money to his wife let him talk to her--let him give her the
information. I daresay if she is clever enough to interpret a word as a
clue to where the money is I am too."

The detective thought that over. He knew this crabbed little scientist
with the enormous head of old; and he knew, too, some of the amazing
results he had achieved by methods wholly unlike those of the police. But
in this case he was frankly in doubt.

"This way," The Thinking Machine continued. "Get the wife here, let her
pass Dolan's cell and speak to him so that he will know that it is her,
then let her carry on a conversation with him while she is beyond his
sight. Have a stenographer, without the knowledge of either, take down
just what is said, word for word. Give me a transcript of the
conversation, and hold the wife on some pretext until I can study it a
little. If he gives her a clue I'll get the money."

There was not the slightest trace of egotism in the irritable tone. It
seemed merely a statement of fact. Detective Mallory, looking at the
wizened face of the logician, was doubtfully hopeful and at last he
consented to the experiment. The wife was sent for and came eagerly, a
stenographer was placed in the cell adjoining Dolan, and the wife was led
along the corridor. As she paused in front of Dolan's cell he started
toward her with an exclamation. Then she was led on a little way out of
his sight.

With face pressed close against the bars Dolan glowered out upon
Detective Mallory and Hatch. An expression of awful ferocity leapt into
his eyes.

"What're you doing with her?" he demanded.

"Mort, Mort," she called.

"Belle, is it you?" he asked in turn.

"They told me you wanted to talk to me," explained the wife. She was
panting fiercely as she struggled to shake off the hands which held her
beyond his reach.

"What sort of a game is this, Mallory?" demanded the prisoner.

"You've wanted to talk to her," Mallory replied, "now go ahead. You may
talk, but you must not see her."

"Oh, that's it, eh?" snarled Dolan. "What did you bring her here for
then? Is she under arrest?"

"Mort, Mort," came his wife's voice again. "They won't let me come where
I can see you."

There was utter silence for a moment. Hatch was overpowered by a feeling
that he was intruding upon a family tragedy, and tiptoed beyond reach of
Dolan's roving eyes to where The Thinking Machine was sitting on a stool,
twiddling his fingers. After a moment the detective joined them.

"Belle?" called Dolan again. It was almost a whisper.

"Don't say anything, Mort," she panted. "Cunningham and Blanton are
holding me--the others are listening."

"I don't want to say anything," said Dolan easily. "I did want to see
you. I wanted to know if you are getting along all right. Are you still
at the flat?"

"No, at my sister's," was the reply. "I have no money--I can't stay at
the flat."

"You know they're going to send me away?"

"Yes," and there was almost a sob in the voice. "I--I know it."

"That I'll get the limit--twenty years?"

"Yes."

"Can you--get along?" asked Dolan solicitously. "Is there anything you
can do for yourself?"

"I will do something," was the reply. "Oh, Mort, Mort, why--"

"Oh never mind that," he interrupted impatiently. "It doesn't do any good
to regret things. It isn't what I planned for, little girl, but it's here
so--so I'll meet it. I'll get the good behaviour allowance--that'll save
two years, and then--"

There was a menace in the tone which was not lost upon the listeners.

"Eighteen years," he heard her moan.

For one instant Dolan's lips were pressed tightly together and in that
instant he had a regret--regret that he had not killed Blanton and
Cunningham rather than submit to capture. He shook off his anger with an
effort.

"I don't know if they'll permit me ever to see you," he said,
desperately, "as long as I refuse to tell where the money is hidden, and
I know they'll never permit me to write to you for fear I'll tell you
where it is. So I suppose the good-bye'll be like this. I'm sorry, little
girl."

He heard her weeping and hurled himself against the bars in a passion; it
passed after a moment. He must not forget that she was penniless, and the
money--that vast fortune--!

"There's one thing you must do for me, Belle," he said after a moment,
more calmly. "This sort of thing doesn't do any good. Brace up, little
girl, and wait--wait for me. Eighteen years is not forever, we're both
young, and--but never mind that. I wish you would please go up to the
flat and--do you remember my heavy, brown coat?"

"Yes, the old one?" she asked.

"That's it," he answered. "It's cold here in this cell. Will you please
go up to the flat when they let you loose and sew up that tear under the
right arm and send it to me here? It's probably the last favour I'll ask
of you for a long time so will you do it this afternoon?"

"Yes," she answered, tearfully.

"The rip is under the right arm, and be certain to sew it up," said Dolan
again. "Perhaps, when I am tried, I shall have a chance to see you and--"

The Thinking Machine arose and stretched himself a little.

"That's all that's necessary, Mr. Mallory," he said. "Have her held until
I tell you to release her."

Mallory made a motion to Cunningham and Blanton and the woman was led
away, screaming. Hatch shuddered a little, and Dolan, not understanding,
flung himself against the bars of his cell like a caged animal.

"Clever, aren't you?" he snarled as he caught sight of Detective Mallory.
"Thought I'd try to tell her where it was, but I didn't and you never
will know where it is--not in a thousand years."

Accompanied by The Thinking Machine and Hatch the detective went back to
his private office. All were silent but the detective glanced from time
to time into the eyes of the scientist.

"Now, Mr. Hatch, we have the whereabouts of the money settled," said
Thinking Machine, quietly. "Please go at once to the flat and bring the
brown coat Dolan mentioned. I daresay the secret of the hidden money is
somewhere in that coat."

"But two of my men have already searched that coat," protested the
detective.

"That doesn't make the least difference," snapped the scientist.

The reporter went out without a word. Half an hour later he returned with
the brown coat. It was a commonplace looking garment, badly worn and in
sad need of repair not only in the rip under the arm but in other places.
When he saw it The Thinking Machine nodded his head abruptly as if it
were just what he had expected.

"The money can't be in that and I'll bet my head on it," declared
Detective Mallory, flatly. "There isn't room for it."

The Thinking Machine gave him a glance in which there was a touch of
pity.

"We know," he said, "that the money isn't in this coat. But can't you see
that it is perfectly possible that a slip of paper on which Dolan has
written down the hiding place of the money can be hidden in it somewhere?
Can't you see that he asked for this coat--which is not as good a one as
the one he is wearing now--in order to attract his wife's attention to
it? Can't you see it is the one definite thing that he mentioned when he
knew that in all probability he would not be permitted to see his wife
again, at least for a long time?"

Then, seam by seam, the brown coat was ripped to pieces. Each piece in
turn was submitted to the sharpest scrutiny. Nothing resulted. Detective
Mallory frankly regarded it all as wasted effort and when there remained
nothing of the coat save strips of cloth and lining he was inclined to be
triumphant. The Thinking Machine was merely thoughtful.

"It went further back than that," the scientist mused, and tiny wrinkles
appeared in the domelike brow. "Ah! Mr. Hatch please go back to the flat,
look in the sewing machine drawers, or work basket and you will find a
spool of brown thread. Bring it to me."

"Spool of brown thread?" repeated the detective in amazement. "Have you
been through the place?"

"No."

"How do you know there's a spool of brown thread there, then?"

"I know it because Mr. Hatch will bring it back to me," snapped The
Thinking Machine. "I know it by the simplest, most rudimentary rules of
logic."

Hatch went out again. In half an hour he returned with a spool of brown
thread. The Thinking Machine's white fingers seized upon it eagerly, and
his watery, squint eyes examined it. A portion of it had been used--the
spool was only half gone. But he noted--and as he did his eyes reflected
a glitter of triumph--he noted that the paper cap on each end was still
in place.

"Now, Mr. Mallory," he said, "I'll demonstrate to you that in Dolan the
police are dealing with a man far beyond the ordinary bank thief. In his
way he is a genius. Look here!"

With a penknife he ripped off the paper caps and looked through the hole
of the spool. For an instant his face showed blank amazement. Then he put
the spool down on the table and squinted at it for a moment in absolute
silence.

"It must be here," he said at last. "It must be, else why did he--of
course!"

With quick fingers he began to unwind the thread. Yard after yard it
rolled off in his hand, and finally in the mass of brown on the spool
appeared a white strip. In another instant The Thinking Machine held in
his hand a tiny, thin sheet of paper--a cigarette paper. It had been
wound around the spool and the thread wound over it so smoothly that it
was impossible to see that it had ever been removed.

The detective and Hatch were leaning over his shoulder watching him
curiously. The tiny paper unfolded--something was written on it. Slowly
The Thinking Machine deciphered it.

"47 Causeway Street, basement, tenth flagstone from northeast corner."

And there the money was found--$109,000. The house was unoccupied and
within easy reach of a wharf from which a European bound steamer sailed.
Within half an hour of sailing time it would have been an easy matter for
Dolan to have recovered it all and that without in the least exciting the
suspicion of those who might be watching him; for a saloon next door
opened into an alley behind, and a broken window in the basement gave
quick access to the treasure.

"Dolan reasoned," The Thinking Machine explained, "that even if he was
never permitted to see his wife she would probably use that thread and in
time find the directions for recovering the money. Further he argued that
the police would never suspect that a spool contained the secret for
which they sought so long. His conversation with his wife, today, was
merely to draw her attention to something which would require her to use
the spool of brown thread. The brown coat was all that he could think of.
And that's all I think."

Dolan was a sadly surprised man when news of the recovery of the money
was broken to him. But a certain quaint philosophy didn't desert him. He
gazed at Detective Mallory incredulously as the story was told and at the
end went over and sat down on his cell cot.

"Well, chief," he said, "I didn't think it was in you. That makes me owe
you a hat."



PROBLEM OF CONVICT NO. 97


Martha opened the door. Her distinguished master, Professor Augustus S.
F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine--lay senseless on the floor. His
upturned face, always drawn and pale, was deathly white now, the thin
straight lips were colorless, the eyelids drooping, and the profuse
yellow hair was tumbled back from the enormous brow in disorder. His arms
were outstretched on either side helplessly, and the slender white hands
were still and inert. The fading light from the windows over the
laboratory table beat down upon the pitifully small figure, and so for
the moment Martha stood with distended eyes gazing in terror and
apprehension. She was not of the screaming kind, but a great lump rose in
her old throat. Then, with fear tearing at her heart, she swooped the
slender, childlike figure up in her strong arms and laid it on a couch.

"Glory be!" she exclaimed, and there was devotion in the tone--devotion
to this eminent man of science whom she had served so long. "What could
have happened to the poor, poor man?"

For another moment she stood looking upon the pallid face, then the
necessity of action impressed itself upon her. The heart was still
beating,--she convinced herself of that,--and he was breathing. Perhaps
he had only fainted. She grasped at the idea hopefully, and turned,
seeking water. There was a faucet over a sink at the end of the long
table, and innumerable graduated glasses; but even in her excited
condition Martha knew better than to use one of them. All sorts of
chemicals had been in them--poisons too. With another quick glance at the
little scientist she rushed out of the room, as she had entered, bent on
getting water.

When she appeared again at the open door with pitcher and drinking glass
she paused a second time in amazement. The distinguished scientist was
sitting cross legged on the couch, thoughtfully caressing the back of his
head.

"Martha, did anyone call?" he inquired.

"Lor', sir! what did happen to you?" she burst out amazedly.

"Oh, a little accident," he explained irritably. "Did anyone call?"

"No, sir. How do you feel now, sir?"

"Don't disturb yourself about me, my good woman; I'm all right," The
Thinking Machine assured her, and put his feet to the floor. "You are
sure no one was here?"

"Yes, sir. Lor'! you was that white when I picked you up from the floor
there--"

"Was I lying on my back or my face?"

"Flat of your back, sir, all sprawled out. I thought you was dead, sir."

Again The Thinking Machine thoughtfully caressed the back of his head,
and Martha rattled on verbosely, indicating just where and how he had
been lying when she opened the door.

"Are you sure that you didn't hear any sound?" again queried the
scientist.

"Nothing, sir."

"Any sudden jar?"

"Nothing, sir, nothing. I was just laying the tea things, sir, and opened
the door to tell you it was ready."

She poured a glass of water from the pitcher, and The Thinking Machine
moistened his lips, to which the color was slowly returning.

"Martha," he directed, "go see if the front door is closed, please."

Martha went out. "Yes, sir," she reported on her return.

"Locked?"

"Yes, sir."

The Thinking Machine arose and straightened up, almost himself again.
Then he went over to the laboratory table and peered squintingly into a
mirror which hung there, after which he wandered all over his apartments,
examining windows, trying doors, and stopping occasionally to stare
curiously about at objects which had been familiar for years. He turned;
Martha was just behind him, looking on wonderingly.

"Lost something, sir?" she asked solicitously.

"You are sure you didn't hear any sound of any sort?" he asked in turn.

"Not a thing, sir."

Then The Thinking Machine went to the telephone. In a minute or so he was
in conversation with Hutchinson Hatch, newspaper reporter.

"Heard of any jail delivery at Chisholm prison?" he inquired.

"No," replied the reporter. "Why?"

"There has been an escape," said the scientist positively.

"Who was it?" demanded the reporter eagerly. "How did it happen?"

"The prisoner's name is Philip Gilfoil. I don't know how he got out, but
he is out."

"Philip Gilfoil?" Hatch repeated. "He's the forger who--"

"Yes, the forger," said The Thinking Machine abruptly. "He's out. You
might go over and investigate, then come by and see me."

Hatch spoke to his city editor and rushed out. Half an hour later he was
at Chisholm prison, a vast spreading structure of granite in the suburbs,
and in conversation with the warden, an old acquaintance.

"Who was it that escaped?" Hatch began briskly.

"Escaped?" repeated the warden with a momentary start, and then he
laughed. "Nobody."

"You have been keeping Philip Gilfoil here, haven't you?"

"I am keeping Philip Gilfoil here," was the grim response. "He is No. 97,
and is now in Cell 9."

"How long since you have seen him?" the reporter insisted.

"Ten minutes," was the ready response.

The reporter was staring at him steadily; but the warden's eyes met his
frankly. There have been instances where denials of this sort have been
made offhand with the idea of preventing the public from knowing the
truth as long as possible. Hatch knew of several.

"May I see Gilfoil?" he inquired coldly.

"Sure," replied the warden cheerfully. "Come on and I'll show you."

He escorted the newspaper man along the corridor to Cell 9.
"Ninety-seven, are you there?" he called.

"Where'd you expect I'd be?" grumbled some one inside.

"Come to the door for a minute."

There was a movement inside the cell, and the figure of a man approached
the door out of the gloom. It had been several months since Hatch had
seen Philip Gilfoil; but there was not the slightest question in his mind
about the identity of this man. It was Gilfoil--the same sharp, hooked
nose, the same thin lipped mouth, everything the same save now that the
prison pallor was upon him. There was frank surprise in the reporter's
face.

"Do you know me, Gilfoil?" he inquired.

"I'll never forget you," replied the prisoner. There was anything but a
kindly expression in the voice. "You're the fellow who helped to send me
here--you and the old professor chap."

Hatch led the way back to the warden's office. "Look here, warden!" he
remarked pointedly, accusingly. "I want to know the real facts. Has that
man been out of his cell since he has been here?"

"No, except for exercise," was the reply. "All the prisoners are allowed
a certain time each day for that."

"I mean has he never been out of the prison?"

"Not on your life!" declared the warden. "He's in for eight years, and he
doesn't get out till that's up."

"I have reason to believe--the best reason in the world to believe--that
he has been out," insisted the reporter.

"You are talking through your hat, Hatch," said the warden, and he
laughed with the utmost good nature. "What's the matter, anyway?"

Hatch didn't choose to tell him. He went instead to a telephone and
called up The Thinking Machine.

"You are mistaken about Gilfoil having escaped," he told the scientist.
"He is still in Chisholm prison."

"Did you see him?" came the irritable demand.

"Saw him and talked to him," replied the reporter. "He was in Cell 9 not
five minutes ago."

There was a long silence. Hatch could imagine what it meant--The Thinking
Machine was turning this over and over in his mind.

"You are mistaken, Mr. Hatch," came the surprising statement at last in
the same irritable, querulous voice. "Gilfoil is not in his cell. I know
he is not. There is no need to argue about it. Good by."

It so happened that Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen was well
acquainted with the warden of Chisholm prison. Thus it was that when he
called at the prison half an hour or so after Hatch had gone he was
received with more courtesy and attention than would have been the case
if he had been a casual visitor. The warden shook hands with him and
there was a pleasant reminiscent grin on his face.

"I want to find out something about this man Gilfoil," the scientist
began abruptly.

"You too?" remarked the warden. "Hutchinson Hatch was here a little while
ago inquiring about him."

"Yes, I sent him," said the scientist. "He tells me that Gilfoil is still
here?"

"He is still here," said the warden emphatically. "He's been here for
nearly a year, and will remain here for another seven years. Hatch seemed
to have an impression that he had escaped. Do you happen to know where he
got that idea?"

The Thinking Machine squinted into his face for an instant inscrutably,
then glanced up at the clock. It was eighteen minutes past eight o'clock.

"Are you sure that Gilfoil is in his cell?" he demanded curtly.

"I know he is--in Cell 9." The warden tilted his cigar to an angle which
was only a little less than aggressive, and glared at his visitor
curiously. This constant questioning as to Convict 97, and the implied
doubt behind it, was anything but soothing. The Thinking Machine dropped
back into a chair, and the watery blue eyes were turned upward. The
warden knew the attitude.

"How long have you had Gilfoil?" queried The Thinking Machine after a
moment.

"A little more than ten months."

"Well behaved prisoner?"

"Well, yes, now he is. When he first came he was rather an unpleasant
customer, and was given to profanity, but lately he has realized the
uselessness of it all, and now, I may say, he is a model of decency.
That's the usual course with prisoners; they are bad at first, and then
in nine cases out of ten they settle down and behave themselves."

"Naturally," mused the scientist. "Just when did you first notice this
change for the better in his conduct?"

"Oh, a month or six weeks ago," was the reply.

"Was it a gradual change or a sudden change?"

"I couldn't say, really," responded the wondering warden. "I suppose it
might be called a sudden change. I noticed one day that he didn't swear
at me as I passed his cell, and that was unusual."

The Thinking Machine straightened up in his chair suddenly and squinted
belligerently at the official for an instant. Then he sank back again,
and his eyes wandered upward. "Do you happen to remember that first date
he didn't swear at you?"

The warden laughed. "It didn't make any particular impression on my mind.
It was a month or six weeks ago."

"Has he sworn at you since?" the scientist went on.

"No, I don't think anyone has heard him swear since. He's been remarkably
well behaved."

"Any callers?"

"Well, not for a long time. A physician came here to see him twice. There
was something the matter with his throat, I think."

"How did it happen that the prison physician didn't attend him?" demanded
The Thinking Machine curiously.

"He asked that an outside physician be called," was the response. "He had
twelve or fifteen dollars here in the office, and I paid the physician
out of that."

Some new line of thought had evidently been awakened in the scientist's
mind; for there came a subtle change in the drawn face, and for a long
time he was silent.

"Do you happen to remember," he asked slowly at last, "if the physician
was called in before or after he stopped swearing?"

"After, I think," the warden replied wearily. "What the deuce is all this
about, anyway?" he demanded flatly after a moment.

"Throat trouble, you said. How did it affect him?"

"Made him a little hoarse, that's all. The doctor told me it wasn't
anything particularly--probably the dampness in the cell or something."

"And did you know the doctor who was called--know him personally?"
demanded The Thinking Machine, and there was a strange, new gleam in the
narrow eyes.

"Yes, quite well. I've known him for years. I let him in and let him
out."

The crabbed little scientist seemed almost disappointed. He dropped back
again into the depths of the chair.

"Do you want to see Gilfoil?" asked the warden.

"Not yet," was the reply; "but I should like you to walk down the
corridor very, very softly and flash your light in Cell 9 and see if
Convict 97 is there?"

The warden came to his feet suddenly. There was something in the tone
which startled him; but the momentary shock was followed instantly by a
little nervous laugh. No man knew better than he that Convict 97 was
still there, yet to please this whimsical visitor he lighted his dark
lantern and went out. He was gone only a couple of minutes, and when he
returned there was a queer expression on his face--almost an awed
expression.

"Well?" queried the scientist. "Was he asleep."

"No," replied the warden, "he wasn't. He was down on his knees beside his
cot, praying."

The Thinking Machine arose and paced back and forth across the office two
or three times. At last he turned to the warden. "Really, I hate to put
you to so much trouble," he said; "but believe me it is in the interests
of justice. I should like personally to visit Cell 9 say in an hour from
now after Convict 97 is asleep. Meanwhile, don't let me disturb you. Go
on about your affairs; I'll wait."

And then and there The Thinking Machine gave the warden a lesson in
perfect repose. He glanced at the clock,--the hands indicated
eight-forty,--then sat down again, and for one hour he sat there without
the slightest movement to indicate even a casual interest in anybody or
anything. The warden, busy with some accounts, glanced around curiously
at the diminutive figure half a dozen times; once or twice he imagined
his visitor had fallen asleep, but the blue eyes behind the thick
spectacles, narrow as they were, belied this idea. It was precisely
twenty-one minutes of ten o'clock when The Thinking Machine arose.

"Now, please," he requested.

Without a word of protest the warden relighted the dark lantern, opened
the doors leading into the corridor of the prison, and they went on to
Cell 9. They paused at the door. There was utter silence in the huge
prison, broken only by the regular, rhythmic breathing of Convict 97. At
a motion from The Thinking Machine the warden softly unlocked the cell
door, and they entered.

"Silence, please," whispered the scientist.

He took the lantern from the warden's unresisting hand, and going softly
to the cot turned the light full into the face of the sleeping man. For a
second or so he gazed steadily at the features upturned thus to him, then
the brilliant light seemed to disturb the sleeper, for his eyelids
twitched, and finally opened with a start.

"Do you know me, Gilfoil?" demanded The Thinking Machine suddenly, and he
leaned forward so that the cutting rays of light should illumine has own
features.

"Yes," the prisoner replied shortly.

"What's my name?" insisted the scientist.

"Van Dusen," was the prompt reply. "I know you, all right." Convict 97
raised himself on an elbow and met the eyes of the other two men without
a quiver.

"What size shoe do you wear?" demanded the scientist.

"None of your business!" growled the convict.

The Thinking Machine turned the lantern to the floor and found the shoes
the prisoner had laid aside on retiring. He picked them up and examined
them carefully, after which he replaced them, nodded to the warden, and
they went out. The prisoner lay for a long time, resting on his elbow,
seeking to pierce the gloom of the cell and corridor beyond with wide
awake eyes, then, sighing, lay down again.

"Let me see Gilfoil's pedigree, and I shall not annoy you further," The
Thinking Machine requested, once they were in the warden's office again.
The record book was forthcoming. The scientist copied, accurately and at
length, everything written therein concerning Philip Gilfoil. "And last,"
he requested, "the name, please, of the physician who called to see
Convict 97?"

"Dr. Heindell," replied the Warden,--"Dr. Delmore L. Heindell."

The Thinking Machine replaced his notebook in his pocket, planted his hat
more firmly on the great shock of yellow hair, and slowly began to draw
on his gloves.

"What is all this thing about Gilfoil, anyhow?" demanded the warden
desperately. "Be good enough to inform me what the deuce you and Hatch
have been driving at?"

"You are, I believe, an able, careful, conscientious man," said The
Thinking Machine, "and I don't know that under the circumstances you can
be blamed for what has happened; but the man you have in Cell 9 is not
Philip Gilfoil. I don't know who your Convict 97 is; but Philip Gilfoil
hasn't been in Chisholm prison for weeks. Good night."

And the crabbed little scientist went on his way.

For the third time Hutchinson Hatch rapped upon the little door. The echo
reverberated through the house; but there came no answering sound. The
modest cottage in a quiet street of a fashionable suburb seemed wholly
deserted, yet as he stepped back to the edge of the veranda he could see
a faint light trickling through closely drawn shutters on the second
floor.

Surely there must be some one there, the reporter reasoned, or that light
would not be burning. And if some one was there, why wouldn't they
answer? As he looked the trickling light remained still, and then he went
to the door and tried it. It was unlocked. He merely ascertained that the
door yielded readily under his hand, then he rapped for the fourth time.
No answer yet.

He was just turning away from the door, when suddenly it opened before
him, a single arm shot out from the gloom of the hall, and before he
could retreat had closed on the collar of his coat.

He was hauled into the house despite an instinctive resistance, then the
door banged behind him. He could see nothing; the darkness was intense.
But still that powerful hand gripped his collar.

"I'll fix your clock, young fellow, right now!" said a man's voice.

Then, even as he struggled, he was conscious of a heavy blow on the point
of the chin, strange lights dancing fantastically before his eyes; he
felt himself sinking, sinking, and then he knew no more.

When he recovered consciousness he lay stretched full length upon a couch
on a strange room. His head seemed bursting, and the rosy light of dawn
through the window caused a tense pain in his eyes. For half a minute he
lay still, until he had remembered those singular events which had
preceded this, and then he started up. He was leaning on one elbow
surveying the room, when he became conscious of the rustling of skirts.
He turned; a woman was advancing toward him--a woman of apparently thirty
years, in whose sweet face lay some heavy, desperate grief.

Involuntarily Hatch struggled to his feet--perhaps it was a spirit of
defense, perhaps a natural gallantry. She paused and stood looking at
him.

"What happened?" he demanded flatly. "What am I doing here?"

The woman's eyes grew suddenly moist, and her lips trembled. "I'm glad it
was no worse," she said hopelessly.

"Who are you?" Hatch asked curiously.

"Please don't ask," she pleaded. "Please don't! If you are able to go,
please go now while you may."

The reporter wasn't at all certain that he wanted to go. He was himself
again now, confident, alert, with new strength rushing through his veins,
and a naturally inquisitive mind fully aroused. If it was only a poke in
the jaw he got, it didn't matter much. He had had those before, and
besides here was something which demanded an explanation.

"Who was the man who struck me last night?" he asked.

"Please go!" the woman pleaded. "Believe me, you must. I can't explain
anything--it's all horrible and unreal and hideous!" Tears were streaming
down the wan cheeks now, and the hands closed and unclosed spasmodically.

Hatch sat down. "I am not going yet," he said. "Tell me about it."

"There is nothing I can tell--nothing!" the woman sobbed.

She buried her face in her hands and wept softly. Then Hatch saw a great
bruised spot across her cheek and neck--it might have been the mark of a
lash. Whatever particular kind of trouble he was in, he told himself, he
was not alone, for she too was a victim.

"You must tell me about it," he insisted.

"I can't, I can't!" she wailed.

And then a cringing, awful fear came into her tear stained face, as she
lifted her head to listen. There was the sound of footsteps outside the
door.

"He'll kill you, he'll kill you!" whispered the woman.

Hatch set his lips grimly, motioned her to silence, and stepped toward
the door. A heavy chair stood there. He weighed it judicially in his
hands, and glanced toward the woman reassuringly. She had dropped down on
the couch and had buried her face in a pillow; her slender form was
shaking with sobs. Hatch raised the chair above his head and closed his
hands on it fiercely.

There was a slight rattle as some one turned the knob of the door. Then
it opened and a man entered. Hatch stared at the profile with amazed
eyes.

"By George!" he exclaimed.

Then he brought the chair down with all the strength of two well muscled
arms. The man sank to the floor without a sound; the woman straightened
up, screamed once, and fell forward in a dead faint.

It was about ten o'clock that morning when The Thinking Machine and
Hutchinson Hatch, together with a powerful cabman, dragged a man into the
warden's office at Chisholm prison.

"Here's your man, Philip Gilfoil," said The Thinking Machine tersely.

"Gilfoil!" the warden almost shouted. "Did he escape?"

And a moment later two guards came into the warden's office with Convict
97 between them. There were two Philip Gilfoils, if one might trust the
evidence of a sense of sight; the first with dissipated, brutally lined
face, and the other with the prison pallor upon him and with deep grief
written indelibly in his eyes.

"They are brothers, gentlemen--twin brothers," explained The Thinking
Machine. He turned to the man in prison garb, the man from Cell 9. "This
is the Rev. Dr. Phineas Gilfoil, pastor of a fashionable little church in
a suburb, and," he turned upon the man whom they had brought there in the
cab, "this is Philip Gilfoil, forger--this is Convict 97."

The warden and the prison guards stood stupefied, gazing from one to the
other of the two men. The facial lines were identical; physically they
had been cast in the same mold.

"The only real difference between them, except a radical mental
difference, is the size of their feet," The Thinking Machine went on.
"Philip Gilfoil, the forger, the real Convict 97, who has been out of
this prison for five weeks and four days, wears a number eight and a half
shoe, according to your own records Mr. Warden; the Rev. Phineas Gilfoil,
who has been in his brothers place, Cell 9, for five weeks and four days,
wears a number seven shoe. See here!"

He stooped suddenly, lifted one of Dr. Gilfoil's feet and slipped one
shoe off without even untying it. It showed no impression of the foot at
all in the upper part, it was so large. Dr. Gilfoil dropped back weakly
into a chair without a word and buried his face in his hands; Philip
Gilfoil, the forger, his head still awhirl with the fumes of liquor, took
one step toward his brother, then sat down and glared from one to the
other defiantly.

"But how--what--when did they change places?" demanded the warden
stammeringly. The whole thing was a nightmare to him.

"Precisely five weeks and four days ago," replied The Thinking Machine.
"Your records show that. On your own books, in your own handwriting, is a
complete solution of the problem, although you didn't know it," he added
magnanimously. "Everything is there. Let me see the book a moment."

The squint eyes ran rapidly down a page, and stopped at a written entry
opposite the pedigree record.

"'Sept. 3.--Miss P. Gilfoil, sister, permitted half-hour's conversation
with 97 in afternoon. Brought permission from chairman of Prison
Commission.'

"That's the record of the escape," continued The Thinking Machine.
"Philip Gilfoil has no sister, therefore the person who called was the
Rev. Dr. Phineas Gilfoil, an only brother, and he wore woman's clothing.
He went to that cell willingly and for the specific purpose of changing
places with his brother,--the motive doesn't appear,--and was to remain
in the cell for a time agreed upon. The necessary changes of clothing
were made, instructions which were to enable the minister to impersonate
his brother were given,--and they were elaborate,--then Philip Gilfoil,
Convict 97, walked out as a woman. I dare say he invited a close
scrutiny; it was perfectly safe because of his remarkable resemblance to
the man he had left behind."

Amazement in the warden's eyes was giving way to anger at the trick of
which he had been the victim. He turned to the guards who had stood by
silently.

"Take this man back!" he directed, and indicated Philip Gilfoil. "Put him
where he belongs!" Then he turned toward the white faced minister. "I
shall deliver you over to the police."

Philip Gilfoil was led away; then the warden reached for the telephone
receiver.

"Now, just a moment, please," requested The Thinking Machine, and he sat
down. "You have your prisoner now, safely enough, and here you are about
to turn over to the police a man whose every act of life has been a good
one. Remember that for a moment, please."

"But why should he change places with my prisoner?" blazed the warden.
"That makes him liable too. The statutes are specific on--"

"The Rev. Dr. Gilfoil has done one of the most amazing, not to say
heroic, things that I ever heard of," interrupted the scientist. "Now,
wait a minute. He, a man of position, of reputation, of unquestioned
morals, a good man, deliberately incarcerates himself for the sake of a
criminal brother who, in this man's eyes, must be free for a short time
at any rate. The reason of this, the necessity, while urgent, still
doesn't appear. Dr. Gilfoil trusted his brother, criminal though he was,
to return to his cell in four weeks and finish his sentence. The exchange
of prisoners then was to be made in the same manner. That the criminal
brother did not return, as he agreed, but that Dr. Gilfoil was loyal to
him even then and lived up to the lie, can only reflect credit upon Dr.
Gilfoil for a self sacrifice which is almost beyond us prosaic people of
this day."

"I did it because--" Dr. Gilfoil began hoarsely, his voice quivering with
emotion. It was the first time he had spoken.

"It doesn't matter why you did it," interrupted The Thinking Machine.
"You did it for love of a brother, and he betrayed you--betrayed you to
the point of his taking possession of your house while maudlin from
drink, to the point of striking your wife like the coward he is, and of
making a temporary prisoner of Mr. Hatch here, who had gone to your home
to investigate. It is due to Mr. Hatch's personal courage that your wife
is freed from him,--she was practically a prisoner,--and that he is now
in his cell again."

Dr. Gilfoil's face went pallid for an instant, and he staggered to his
feet, with lips tightly pressed together, fighting back an emotion which
nearly overwhelmed him. After a moment came a strange softening of his
features, and he stood staring out the window into the prison yard with
upraised eyes.

"That's all of it," said the scientist, after a moment. "I don't think,
Mr. Warden, that justice would demand the imprisonment of this man. I
believe it would be far better to let the matter remain just between
ourselves. It will not happen again, and--"

"But it was a crime," interrupted the warden.

"Technically, yes," admitted The Thinking Machine; "but we can overlook
even a crime, if it does no harm, and if it is inspired by the motive
which prompted this one. Think of it for a moment in that light."

There was a long silence in the little office. The Thinking Machine sat
with upturned eyes and fingers pressed tip to tip; Dr. Gilfoil's eyes
roved from the drawn, inscrutable face of the scientist to the warden;
Hatch's brow was furrowed with wrinkles of perplexity.

"How did you find out about this escape first?" asked the reporter
curiously.

"I knew Philip Gilfoil had escaped, because I saw him," replied The
Thinking Machine tersely. "He came to my place, evidently to kill me. I
was in my laboratory. He came up behind me to strike me down. I glanced
into a mirror above my work table, saw him, and tried to avoid the blow.
It caught me in the back of the head, and I fell unconscious. Martha made
some noise outside which must have frightened Gilfoil, for he fled. The
front door locked behind him--it's a spring lock. But I had recognized
the escaped prisoner perfectly,--I never forget faces,--and I knew he had
the motive to kill me because I had been instrumental in sending him
here.

"I told you merely that Gilfoil had escaped and sent you here to inquire.
Afterward I came myself, because I knew Philip Gilfoil was not in that
cell. I found out many additional facts, among them a sudden change for
the better in the prisoner's behavior, which confirmed my knowledge that
it was Philip Gilfoil who had attacked me. I sought to surprise Dr.
Gilfoil here into a betrayal of identity by a visit to his cell at night.
But his loyalty to his brother and his perfect self possession enabled
him to play the role. He recognized me as he recognized you, Mr. Hatch,
because we can imagine that Philip Gilfoil had been careful in his plans
and had instructed him to look out for us.

"Everything else came from the record book. This gave me Philip Gilfoil's
pedigree, mentioned Phineas Gilfoil, without stating his vocation, and
gave a clue to his place of residence. You followed up that end, Mr.
Hatch, while I called on Dr. Heindell who had treated the prisoner for a
bad throat. He informed me that there was nothing at all the matter with
the prisoner's throat, so a plain problem in addition brought me a
definite knowledge of what had happened. In conclusion, I may say that
Dr. Gilfoil planned only a four weeks' stay here. I know that because you
told me he had gone on a four weeks' vacation."

The minister's eyes again settled on the face of the warden. That
official had been turning the matter over in his mind, evidently at
length, as he listened. Finally he spoke.

"You had better go back to the cell, Dr. Gilfoil," he said respectfully,
"and change clothing with your brother. You couldn't wear that prison
suit in the street safely."



THE FIRST PROBLEM


That strange, seemingly inexplicable chain of circumstances which had to
do with the mysterious disappearance of a famous actress, Irene Wallack,
from her dressing room in a Springfield theater in the course of a
performance, while the echo of tumultuous appreciation still rang in her
ears, was perhaps the first problem which was not purely scientific that
The Thinking Machine was ever asked to solve. The scientist's aid was
enlisted in this case by Hutchinson Hatch, reporter.

"But I am a scientist, a logician," The Thinking Machine had protested.
"I know nothing whatever of crime."

"No one knows that a crime has been committed," the reporter hastened to
say.

"There is something far beyond the ordinary in this affair. A woman has
disappeared, evaporated into thin air in the hearing, almost in sight, of
her friends. The police can make nothing of it. It is a problem for a
greater mind than theirs."

Professor Van Dusen waved the newspaper man to a seat and himself sank
back into a great cushioned chair in which his diminutive figure seemed
even more childlike than it really was.

"Tell me the story," he said petulantly, "All of it."

The enormous yellow head rested against the chair back, the blue eyes
squinted steadily upward, the slender fingers were pressed tip to tip.
The Thinking Machine was in a receptive mood. Hatch was triumphant; he
had had only a vague hope that he could interest this man in an affair
which was as bizarre as it was incomprehensible.

"Miss Wallack is thirty years old and beautiful," the reporter began. "As
an actress she has won high recognition not only in this country but in
England. You may have read something of her in the daily papers, and
if--"

"I never read the papers," the other interrupted curtly. "Go on."

"She is unmarried, and as far as anyone knows, had no immediate intention
of changing her condition," Hatch resumed, staring curiously at the thin
face of the scientist. "I presume she had admirers--most beautiful women
of the stage have--but she is one whose life has been perfectly clean,
whose record is an open book. I tell you this because it might have a
bearing on your conclusion as to a possible reason for her disappearance.

"Now the actual circumstances of that disappearance. Miss Wallack has
been playing in Shakespearean repertoire. Last week she was in
Springfield. On Saturday night, which concluded her engagement there, she
appeared as Rosalind in 'As You Like It.' The house was crowded. She
played the first two acts amid great enthusiasm, and this despite the
fact that she was suffering intensely from headache to which she was
subject at times. After the second act she returned to her dressing room
and just before the curtain went up for the third the stage manager
called her. She replied that she would be out immediately. There seems no
possible shadow of doubt that it was her voice.

"Rosalind does not appear in the third act until the curtain has been up
for six minutes. When Miss Wallack's cue came she did not answer it. The
stage manager rushed to her door and again called her. There was no
answer. Then, fearing that she might have fainted, he went in. She was
not there. A hurried search was made without result, and the stage
manager finally was compelled to announce to the audience that the sudden
illness of the star would make it impossible to finish the performance.

"The curtain was lowered and the search resumed. Every nook and corner
back of the footlights was gone over. The stage doorkeeper, William
Meegan, had seen no one go out. He and a policeman had been standing at
the stage door talking for at least twenty minutes. It is therefore
conclusive that Miss Wallack did not leave by that exit. The only other
way it was possible to leave the stage was over the footlights. Of course
she didn't go that way. Yet no trace of her has been found. Where is
she?"

"The windows?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"The stage is below the street level," explained Hatch. "The window of
her dressing room, Room A, is small and barred with iron. It opens into
an air shaft that goes straight up for ten feet, and that is covered with
an iron grating fixed in the granite. The other windows on the stage are
not only inaccessible but are also barred with iron. She could not have
approached either of these windows without being seen by other members of
the company or the stage hands."

"Under the stage?" suggested the scientist.

"Nothing," the reporter went on. "It is a large cemented basement which
was vacant. It was searched, because there was of course a chance that
Miss Wallack might have become temporarily unbalanced and wandered down
there. There was even a search made of the flies--that is the galleries
over the stage where the men who work the drop curtains are stationed."

There was silence for a long time. The Thinking Machine twiddled his
fingers and continued to stare upward. He had not looked at the reporter.
He broke the silence after a time. "How was Miss Wallack dressed at the
time of her disappearance?"

"In doublet and hose--that is, tights," the newspaper man responded. "She
wears that costume from the second act until practically the end of the
play."

"Was all her street clothing in her room?"

"Yes, everything, spread across an unopened trunk of costumes. It was all
as if she had left the room to answer her cue--all in order even to an
open box of chocolate-cream candy on her table."

"No sign of a struggle, nor any noise heard?"

"No."

"Nor trace of blood?"

"Nothing."

"Her maid? Did she have one?"

"Oh, yes. I neglected to tell you that the maid, Gertrude Manning, had
gone home immediately after the first act. She grew suddenly ill and was
excused."

The Thinking Machine turned his squint eyes on the reporter for the first
time.

"Ill?" he repeated. "What was the matter?"

"That I can't say," replied the reporter.

"Where is she now?"

"I don't know. Everyone forgot all about her in the excitement about Miss
Wallack."

"What kind of candy was it?"

"I'm afraid I don't know that either."

"Where was it bought?'"

The reporter shrugged his shoulders; that was something else he didn't
know.

The Thinking Machine shot out the questions aggressively, staring
meanwhile steadily at Hatch, who squirmed uncomfortably. "Where is the
candy now?" demanded the scientist.

Again Hatch shrugged his shoulders.

"How much did Miss Wallack weigh?"

The reporter was willing to guess at this. He had seen her half a dozen
times.

"Between a hundred and thirty and a hundred and forty," he ventured.

"Does there happen to be a hypnotist connected with the company?"

"I don't know," Hatch replied.

The Thinking Machine waved his slender hands impatiently; he was annoyed.
"It is perfectly absurd, Mr. Hatch," he expostulated, "to come to me with
only a few facts and ask advice. If you had all the facts I might be able
to do something; but this--"

The newspaper man was nettled. In his own profession he was accredited a
man of discernment and acumen. He resented the tone, the manner, even the
seemingly trivial questions, which the other asked. "I don't see," he
began, "that the candy even if it had been poisoned as I imagine you
think possible, or a hypnotist could have had anything to do with Miss
Wallack's disappearance. Certainly neither poison nor hypnotism would
have made her invisible."

"Of course you don't see!" blazed The Thinking Machine. "If you did, you
wouldn't have come to me. When did this thing happen?"

"Saturday night, as I said," the reporter informed him a little more
humbly. "It closed the engagement in Springfield. Miss Wallack was to
have appeared here in Boston tonight."

"When did she disappear--by the clock, I mean?"

"The stage manager's time slip shows that the curtain for the third act
went up at nine-fortyone--he spoke to her, say, one minute before, or at
nine-forty. The action of the play before she appears in the third act
takes six minutes; therefore--"

"In precisely seven minutes a woman, weighing more than 130 pounds,
certainly not dressed for the street, disappeared completely from her
dressing room. It is now five-eighteen Monday afternoon. I think we may
solve this crime within a few hours."

"Crime?" Hatch repeated eagerly. "Do you imagine there is a crime then?"

Professor Van Dusen didn't heed the question. Instead he rose and paced
back and forth across the reception room half a dozen times, his hands
behind his back and his eyes cast down. At last he stopped and faced the
reporter, who had also risen.

"Miss Wallack's company, I presume, with the baggage, is now in Boston,"
he said. "See every male member of the company, talk to them and
particularly study their eyes. Don't overlook anyone, however humble.
Also find out what became of the box of chocolate candy, and if possible
how many pieces are out of it. Then report here to me. Miss Wallack's
safety may depend upon your speed and accuracy."

Hatch was frankly startled. "How--" he began.

"Don't stop to talk--hurry!" commanded The Thinking Machine. "I will have
a cab waiting when you come back. We must get to Springfield."

The newspaper man rushed away to obey orders. He didn't understand them
at all. Studying men's eyes was not in his line; but he obeyed
nevertheless. An hour and a half later he returned, to be thrust
unceremoniously into a waiting cab by The Thinking Machine. The cab
rattled away toward South Station, where the two men caught a train, just
about to move out for Springfield. Once settled in their seats, the
scientist turned to Hatch, who was nearly suffocating with suppressed
information.

"Well?" he asked.

"I found out several things," the reporter burst out. "First, Miss
Wallack's leading man, Langdon Mason, who has been in love with her for
three years, bought the candy at Schuyler's in Springfield early Saturday
evening before he went to the theater. He told me so himself rather
reluctantly; but I--I made him say it."

"Ah!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine. It was a most unequivocal
ejaculation. "How many pieces of candy are out of the box?"

"Only three," explained Hatch. "Miss Wallack's things were packed into
the open trunk in her dressing room, the candy with them. I induced the
manager--"

"Yes, yes, yes!" interrupted The Thinking Machine impatiently. "What sort
of eyes has Mason? What colour?"

"Blue, frank in expression, nothing unusual at all," said the reporter.

"And the others?"

"I didn't quite know what you meant by studying their eyes, so I got a
set of photographs. I thought perhaps they might help."

"Excellent, Excellent!" commented The Thinking Machine. He shuffled the
pictures through his fingers, stopping now and then to study one, and to
read the name printed below. "Is that the leading man?" he asked at last,
and handed one to Hatch.

"Yes."

Professor Van Dusen did not speak again. The train pulled into
Springfield at nine-twenty. Hatch followed the scientist without a word
into a cab.

"Schuyler's candy store," quickly commanded The Thinking Machine.
"Hurry."

The cab rushed off through the night. Ten minutes later it stopped before
a brilliantly lighted candy store. The Thinking Machine led the way
inside and approached the girl behind the chocolate counter.

"Will you please tell me if you remember this man's face?" he asked as he
produced Mason's photograph.

"Oh, yes, I remember him," the girl replied. "He's an actor."

"Did he buy a small box of chocolates of you Saturday evening early?" was
the next question.

"Yes. I recall it because he seemed to be in a hurry; in fact, I believe
he said he was anxious to get to the theater to pack."

"And do you recall that this man ever bought chocolates here?" asked the
scientist. He produced another photograph and handed it to the girl. She
studied it a moment while Hatch craned his neck, vainly, to see.

"I don't recall that he ever did," the girl answered finally.

The Thinking Machine turned away abruptly and disappeared into a public
telephone booth. He remained there for five minutes, then rushed out to
the cab again, with Hatch following closely.

"City Hospital!" he commanded.

Again the cab dashed away. Hatch was dumb; there seemed to be nothing to
say. The Thinking Machine was plainly pursuing some definite line of
inquiry, yet the reporter didn't know what. The case was getting
kaleidoscopic. This impression was strengthened when he found himself
standing beside The Thinking Machine in City Hospital conversing with the
house surgeon, Dr. Carlton.

"Is there a Miss Gertrude Manning here?" was the scientist's first
question.

"Yes," replied the surgeon. "She was brought here Saturday night,
suffering from--"

"Strychnine poisoning, yes, I know," interrupted the other. "Picked up in
the street, probably. I am a physician. If she is well enough I should
like to ask her a couple of questions."

Dr. Carlton agreed, and Professor Van Dusen, still followed faithfully by
Hatch, was ushered into the ward where Miss Wallack's maid lay, pallid
and weak. The Thinking Machine picked up her hand and his slender finger
rested for a minute on her pulse. He nodded and seemed satisfied.

"Miss Manning, can you understand me?" he asked.

The girl nodded weakly.

"How many pieces of the candy did you eat?"

"Two," she replied. She stared into the face above her with dull eyes.

"Did Miss Wallack eat any of it up to the time you left the theatre?"

"No."

If the Thinking Machine had been in a hurry previously, he was racing
now. Hatch trailed on dutifully behind, down the stairs, and into the
cab, whence Professor Van Dusen shouted a word of thanks to Dr. Carlton.
This time their destination was the stage door of the theatre from which
Miss Wallack had disappeared.

The reporter was muddled. He didn't know anything very clearly except
that three pieces of candy were missing from the box. Of these the maid
had eaten only two. She had been poisoned. Therefore, it seemed
reasonable to suppose that if Miss Wallack had eaten the third piece she
also would be poisoned. But poison would not make her invisible. At this
point the reporter shook his head hopelessly.

William Meegan, the stage doorkeeper, was easily found.

"Can you inform me, please," began The Thinking Machine, "if Mr. Mason
left a box of candy with you last Saturday night for Miss Wallack?"

"Yes," Meegan replied goodnaturedly. He was amused at the little man.
"Miss Wallack hadn't arrived. Mason brought a box of candy for her nearly
every night and usually left it here. I put the one Saturday night on the
shelf here."

"Did Mr. Mason come to the theatre before or after the others on Saturday
night?"

"Before," replied Meegan. "He was unusually early, I suppose, to pack."

"And the other members of the company coming in stop here, I imagine, to
get their mail?" and the scientist squinted up at the mail box above the
shelf.

"Sure, always."

The Thinking Machine drew a long breath. Up to this time there had been
little perplexed wrinkles in his brow. Now they disappeared.

"Now, please," he went on, "was any package or box of any kind taken from
the stage on Saturday night between nine and eleven o'clock?"

"No," said Meegan positively. "Nothing at all until the company's baggage
was removed at midnight."

"Miss Wallack had two trunks in her dressing room?"

"Yes. Two whacking big ones too."

"How do you know?"

"Because I helped put 'em in and helped take 'em out," replied Meegan
sharply. "What's it to you?"

Suddenly The Thinking Machine turned and ran out to the cab, with Hatch,
his shadow, close behind.

"Drive, drive as fast as you know how to the nearest long-distance
telephone!" the scientist instructed the cabby. "A woman's life is at
stake."

Half an hour later Professor Van Dusen and Hutchinson Hatch were on a
train rushing back to Boston. The Thinking Machine had been in the
telephone booth for fifteen minutes. When he came out Hatch had asked
several questions, to which the scientist vouchsafed no answer. They were
perhaps thirty minutes out of Springfield before the scientist showed any
disposition to talk. Then he began, without preliminary, much as he was
resuming a former conversation.

"Of course if Miss Wallack didn't leave the stage of the theater she was
there," he said. "We will admit that she did not become invisible. The
problem therefore was to find her on the stage. The fact that no violence
was used against her was conclusively proved by half a dozen instances.
No one heard her scream; there was no struggle, no trace of blood. Ergo,
we assume in the beginning that she must have consented to the first
steps which led to her disappearance. Remember her attire was wholly
unsuited to the street.

"Now let us shape a hypothesis which will fit all the circumstances. Miss
Wallack had a severe headache. Hypnotic influence will cure headaches.
Was there a hypnotist to whom Miss Wallack would have submitted herself?
Assume there was. Then would that hypnotist take advantage of his control
to place her in a cataleptic condition? Assume a motive and he would.
Then, how would he dispose of her?

"From this point questions radiate in all directions. We will confine
ourselves to the probable, granting for the moment that this hypothesis,
the only one which fits all the circumstances, is correct. Obviously, a
hypnotist would not have attempted to get her out of the dressing room.
What remains? One of the two trunks in her room."

Hatch gasped. "You mean you think it possible that she was hypnotized and
placed in that second trunk, the one that was strapped and locked?" he
asked.

"It's the only thing that could have happened," said The Thinking Machine
emphatically; "therefore that was just what did happen."

"Why, it's horrible!" exclaimed Hatch. "A live woman in a trunk for
forty-eight hours? Even if she was alive then, she must be dead now."

The reporter shuddered a little and gazed curiously at the inscrutable
face of his companion. He saw no pity, no horror, there; there was merely
the reflection of the workings of a brain.

"It does not necessarily follow that she is dead," explained The Thinking
Machine. "If she ate that third piece of candy before she was hypnotized
she is probably dead. If it was placed in her mouth after she was in a
cataleptic condition the chances are that she is not dead. The candy
would not melt and her system could not absorb the poison."

"But she would be suffocated--her bones would be broken by the rough
handling of the trunk--there are a hundred possibilities," the reporter
suggested.

"A person in a cataleptic condition is singularly impervious to injury,"
replied the scientist. "There is of course a chance of suffocation, but a
great deal of air may enter a trunk."

"And the candy?" Hatch asked.

"Yes, the candy. We know that two pieces of candy nearly killed the maid.
Yet Mr. Mason admitted having bought it. This admission indicated that
this poisoned candy is not the candy he bought. Is Mr. Mason a hypnotist?
No. He hasn't the eyes. His picture tells me that. We know that Mr. Mason
did buy candy for Miss Wallack on several occasions. We know that
sometimes he left it with the stage doorkeeper. We know that members of
the company stopped there for mail. We instantly see that it is possible
for one to take away that box and substitute poisoned candy. All the
boxes are alike.

"Madness and the cunning of madness lie back of all this. It was a
deliberate attempt to murder Miss Wallack, long pondered and due,
perhaps, to unrequited or hopeless infatuation. It began with the
poisoned candy, and that failing, went to a point immediately following
the moment when the stage manager last spoke to the actress. The
hypnotist was probably in her room then. You must remember that it would
have been possible for him to ease the headache, and at the same time
leave Miss Wallack free to play. She might have known this from previous
experience."

"Is Miss Wallack still in the trunk?" asked Hatch after a silence.

"No," replied the Thinking Machine. "She is out now, dead or alive--I am
inclined to believe alive."

"And the man?"

"I will turn him over to the police in half an hour after we reach
Boston."

From South Station the scientist and Hatch were driven immediately to
Police Headquarters. Detective Mallory, whom Hatch knew well, received
them.

"We got your 'phone from Springfield--" he began.

"Was she dead?" interrupted the scientist.

"No," Mallory replied. "She was unconscious when we took her out of the
trunk, but no bones are broken. She is badly bruised. The doctor says
she's hypnotized."

"Was the piece of candy taken from her mouth?"

"Sure, a chocolate cream. It hadn't melted."

"I'll come back here in a few minutes and awake her," said The Thinking
Machine. "Come with us now, and get the man."

Wonderingly the detective entered the cab and the three were driven to a
big hotel a dozen blocks away. Before they entered the lobby The Thinking
Machine handed a photograph to Mallory, who studied it under an electric
light.

"That man is upstairs with several others," explained the scientist.
"Pick him out and get behind him when we enter the room. He may attempt
to shoot. Don't touch him until I say so."

In a large room on the fifth floor Manager Stanfeld of the Irene Wallack
Company had assembled the men of her support. This was done at the
'phoned request of The Thinking Machine. There were no preliminaries when
Professor Van Dusen entered. He squinted comprehensively about him, then
went straight to Langdon Mason.

"Were you on the stage in the third act of your play before Miss Wallack
was to appear--I mean the play last Saturday night?" he asked.

"I was," Mason replied, "for at least three minutes."

"Mr. Stanfeld, is that correct?"

"Yes," replied the manager.

There was a long tense silence broken only by the heavy footsteps of
Mallory as he walked toward a distant corner of the room. A faint flush
crept into Mason's face as he realized that the questions were almost an
accusation. He started to speak, but the steady, impassive voice of The
Thinking Machine stopped him.

"Mr. Mallory, take your prisoner," it said.

Instantly there was a fierce, frantic struggle, and those present turned
to see the detective with his great arms locked about Stanley Wightman,
the melancholy Jaques of "As You Like It." The actor's face was
distorted, madness blazed in the eyes, and he snarled like a beast at
bay. By a sudden movement Mallory threw Wightman and manacled him, then
looked up to find The Thinking Machine peering over his shoulder at the
prostrate man.

"Yes, he's a hypnotist," the scientist remarked in self-satisfied
conclusion. "It always tells in the pupils of the eyes."

This, then, was the beginning and end of the first problem. Miss Wallack
was aroused, and told a story almost identical with that of The Thinking
Machine. Stanley Wightman, whose brooding over a hopeless love for her
made a maniac of him, raves and shrieks the lines of Jaques in the
seclusion of a padded cell.



PROBLEM OF THE CRYSTAL GAZER


With hideous, goggling eyes the great god Budd sat cross-legged on a
pedestal and stared stolidly into the semi-darkness. He saw, by the
wavering light of a peacock lamp which swooped down from the ceiling with
wings outstretched, what might have been a nook in a palace of East
India. Draperies hung here, there, everywhere; richly embroidered divans
sprawled about; fierce tiger rugs glared up from the floor; grotesque
idols grinned mirthlessly in unexpected corners; strange arms were
grouped on the walls. Outside the trolley cars clanged blatantly.

The single human figure was a distinct contradiction of all else. It was
that of a man in evening dress, smoking. He was fifty, perhaps sixty,
years old with the ruddy colour of one who has lived a great deal out of
doors. There was only a touch of gray in his abundant hair and moustache.
His eyes were steady and clear, and indolent.

For a long time he sat, then the draperies to his right parted and a girl
entered. She was a part of the picture of which the man was a
contradiction. Her lustrous black hair flowed about her shoulders;
lambent mysteries lay in her eyes. Her dress was the dress of the East.
For a moment she stood looking at the man and then entered with light
tread.

"Varick Sahib," she said, timidly, as if it were a greeting. "Do I
intrude?" Her voice was softly guttural with the accent of her native
tongue.

"Oh no, Jadeh. Come in," said the man.

She smiled frankly and sat down on a hassock near him.

"My brother?" she asked.

"He is in the cabinet."

Varick had merely glanced at her and then continued his thoughtful gaze
into vacancy. From time to time she looked up at him shyly, with a touch
of eagerness, but there was no answering interest in his manner. His
thoughts were far away.

"May I ask what brings you this time, Sahib?" she inquired at last.

"A little deal in the market," responded Varick, carelessly. "It seems to
have puzzled Adhem as much as it did me. He has been in the cabinet for
half an hour."

He stared on musingly as he smoked, then dropped his eyes to the slender,
graceful figure of Jadeh. With knees clasped in her hands she leaned back
on the hassock deeply thoughtful. Her head was tilted upward and the
flickering light fell full on her face. It crossed Varick's mind that she
was pretty, and he was about to say so as he would have said it to any
other woman, when the curtains behind them were thrown apart and they
both glanced around.

Another man--an East Indian--entered. This man was Adhem Singh, the
crystal gazer, in the ostentatious robes of a seer. He, too, was a part
of the picture. There was an expression of apprehension, mingled with
some other impalpable quality on his strong face.

"Well, Adhem?" inquired Varick.

"I have seen strange things, Sahib," replied the seer, solemnly. "The
crystal tells me of danger."

"Danger?" repeated Varick with a slight lifting of his brows. "Oh well,
in that case I shall keep out of it."

"Not danger to your business, Sahib," the crystal gazer went on with
troubled face, "but danger in another way."

The girl, Jadeh, looked at him with quick, startled eyes and asked some
question in her native tongue. He answered in the same language, and she
rose suddenly with terror stricken face to fling herself at Varick's
feet, weeping. Varick seemed to understand too, and looked at the seer in
apprehension.

"Death?" he exclaimed. "What do you mean?"

Adhem was silent for a moment and bowed his head respectfully before the
steady, inquiring gaze of the white man.

"Pardon, Sahib," he said at last. "I did not remember that you understood
my language."

"What is it?" insisted Varick, abruptly. "Tell me."

"I cannot, Sahib."

"You must," declared the other. He had arisen commandingly. "You must."

The crystal gazer crossed to him and stood for an instant with his hand
on the white man's shoulder, and his eyes studying the fear he found in
the white man's face.

"The crystal, Sahib," he began. "It tells me that--that--"

"No, no, brother," pleaded the girl.

"Go on," Varick commanded.

"It grieves me to say that which will pain one whom I love as I do you,
Sahib," said the seer, slowly. "Perhaps you had rather see for yourself?"

"Well, let me see then," said Varick. "Is it in the crystal?"

"Yes, by the grace of the gods."

"But I can't see anything there," Varick remembered. "I've tried scores
of times."

"I believe this will he different, Sahib," said Adhem, quietly. "Can you
stand a shock?"

Varick shook himself a little impatiently.

"Of course," he replied. "Yes, yes."

"A very serious shock?"

Again there was an impatient twist of Varick's shoulders.

"Yes, I can stand anything," he exclaimed shortly. "What is it? Let me
see."

He strode toward that point in the draperies where Adhem had entered
while the girl on her knees, sought with entreating hands to stop him.

"No, no, no," she pleaded. "No."

"Don't do that," Varick expostulated in annoyance, but gently he stooped
and lifted her to her feet. "I am not a child--or a fool."

He threw aside the curtains. As they fell softly behind him he heard a
pitiful little cry of grief from Jadeh and set his teeth together hard.

He stood in the crystal cabinet. It was somewhat larger than an ordinary
closet and had been made impenetrable to the light by hangings of black
velvet. For awhile he stood still so that his eyes might become
accustomed to the utter blackness, and gradually the sinister fascinating
crystal ball appeared, faintly visible by its own mystic luminosity. It
rested on a pedestal of black velvet.

Varick was accustomed to his surroundings--he had been in the cabinet
many times. Now he dropped down on a stool in front of the table whereon
the crystal lay and leaning forward on his arms stared into its limpid
depths. Unblinkingly for one, two, three minutes he sat there with his
thoughts in a chaos.

After awhile there came a change in the ball. It seemed to glow with a
growing light other than its own. Suddenly it darkened completely, and
out of this utter darkness grew shadowy, vague forms to which he could
give no name. Finally a veil seemed lifted for the globe grew brighter
and he leaned forward, eagerly, fearfully. Another veil melted away and a
still brighter light illumined the ball.

Now Varick was able to make out objects. Here was a table littered with
books and papers, there a chair, yonder a shadowy mantel. Gradually the
light grew until his tensely fixed eyes pained him, but he stared
steadily on. Another quick brightness came and the objects all became
clear. He studied them incredulously for a few seconds, and then he
recognized what he saw. It was a room--his study--miles away in his
apartments.

A sudden numb chilliness seized him but he closed his teeth hard and
gazed on. The outlines of the crystal were disappearing, now they were
gone and he saw more. A door opened and a man entered the room into which
he was looking. Varick gave a little gasp as he recognized the man. It
was--himself. He watched the man--himself--as he moved about the study
aimlessly for a time as if deeply troubled, then as he dropped into a
chair at the desk. Varick read clearly on the vision-face those emotions
which he was suffering in person. As he looked the man made some hopeless
gesture with his hands--his hands--and leaned forward on the desk with
his head on his arms. Varick shuddered.

For a long time, it seemed, the man sat motionless, then Varick became
conscious of another figure--a man--in the room. This figure had come
into the vision from his own view point. His face was averted--Varick did
not recognize the figure, but he saw something else and started in
terror. A knife was in the hand of the unknown, and he was creeping
stealthily toward the unconscious figure in the chair--himself--with the
weapon raised.

An inarticulate cry burst from Varick's colourless lips--a cry of
warning--as he saw the unknown creep on, on, on toward--himself. He saw
the figure that was himself move a little and the unknown leaped. The
upraised knife swept down and was buried to the handle. Again a cry, an
unintelligible shriek, burst from Varick's lips; his heart fluttered and
perspiration poured from his face. With incoherent mutterings he sank
forward helplessly.

How long he remained there he didn't know, but at last he compelled
himself to look again. The crystal glittered coldly on its pedestal of
velvet but that hideous thing which had been there was gone. The thought
came to him to bring it back, to see more, but repulsive fear, terror
seized upon him. He rose and staggered out of the cabinet. His face was
pallid and his hands clasped and unclasped nervously.

Jadeh was lying on a divan sobbing. She leaped to her feet when he
entered, and looking into his face she knew. Again she buried her face in
her hands and wept afresh. Adhem stood with moody eyes fixed on the great
god Budd.

"I saw--I understand," said Varick between his teeth, "but--I don't
believe it."

"The crystal never lies, Sahib," said the seer, sorrowfully.

"But it can't be--that," Varick declared protestingly.

"Be careful, Sahib, oh, be careful," urged the girl.

"Of course I shall be careful," said Varick, shortly. Suddenly he turned
to the crystal gazer and there was a menace in his tone. "Did such a
thing ever appear to you before?"

"Only once, Sahib."

"And did it come true?"

Adhem inclined his head, slowly.

"I may see you tomorrow," exclaimed Varick suddenly. "This room is
stifling. I must go out."

With twitching hands he drew on a light coat over his evening dress,
picked up his hat and rushed out into the world of realities. The crystal
gazer stood for a moment while Jadeh clung to his arm, tremblingly.

"It is as the gods will," he said sadly, at last.

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine--received
Howard Varick in the small reception room and invited him to a seat.
Varick's face was ashen; there were dark lines under his eyes and in them
there was the glitter of an ungovernable terror. Every move showed the
nervousness which gripped him. The Thinking Machine squinted at him
curiously, then dropped back into his big chair.

For several minutes Varick said nothing; he seemed to be struggling to
control himself. Suddenly he burst out:

"I'm going to die some day next week. Is there any way to prevent it?"

The Thinking Machine turned his great yellow head and looked at him in a
manner which nearly indicated surprise.

"Of course if you've made up your mind to do it," he said irritably, "I
don't see what can be done." There was a trace of irony in his voice, a
coldness which brought Varick around a little. "Just how is it going to
happen?"

"I shall be murdered--stabbed in the back--by a man whom I don't know,"
Varick rushed on desperately.

"Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate," commented the scientist. "Tell me
something about it. But here--" He arose and went into his laboratory.
After a moment he returned and handed a glass of some effervescent liquid
to Varick, who gulped it down. "Take a minute to pull yourself together,"
instructed the scientist.

He resumed his seat and sat silent with his long, slender fingers pressed
tip to tip. Gradually Varick recovered. It was a fierce fight for the
mastery of emotion.

"Now," directed The Thinking Machine at last, "tell me about it."

Varick told just what happened lucidly enough, and The Thinking Machine
listened with polite interest. Once or twice he turned and looked at his
visitor.

"Do you believe in any psychic force?" Varick asked once.

"I don't disbelieve in anything until I have proven that it cannot be,"
was the answer. "The God who hung a sun up there has done other things
which we will never understand." There was a little pause, then: "How did
you meet this man, Adhem Singh?"

"I have been interested for years in the psychic, the occult, the things
we don't understand," Varick replied. "I have a comfortable fortune, no
occupation, no dependents and made this a sort of hobby. I have studied
it superficially all over the world. I met Adhem Singh in India ten years
ago, afterwards in England where he went through Oxford with some
financial assistance from me, and later here. Two years ago he convinced
me that there was something in crystal gazing--call it telepathy, self
hypnotism, sub-conscious mental action--what you will. Since then the
science, I can call it nothing else, has guided me in every important act
of my life."

"Through Adhem Singh?"

"Yes."

"And under a pledge of secrecy, I imagine--that is secrecy as to the
nature of his revelations?"

"Yes."

"Any taint of insanity in your family?"

Varick wondered whether the question was in the nature of insolent
reproof, or was a request for information. He construed it as the latter.

"No," he answered. "Never a touch of it."

"How often have you consulted Mr. Singh?"

"Many times. There have been occasions when he would tell me nothing
because, he explained, the crystal told him nothing. There have been
other times when he advised me correctly. He has never given me bad
advice even in intricate stock operations, therefore I have been
compelled to believe him in all things."

"You were never able to see anything yourself in the crystal until this
vision of death, last Tuesday night you say?"

"That was the first."

"How do you know the murder is to take place at any given time--that is
next week, as you say?"

"That is the information Adhem Singh gave me," was the reply. "He can
read the visions--they mean more to him than--"

"In other words, he makes it a profession?" interrupted the scientist.

"Yes."

"Go on."

"The horror of the thing impressed me so--both of us--that he has at my
request twice invoked the vision since that night. He, like you, wanted
to know when it would happen. There is a calendar by weeks in my study;
that is, only one week is shown on it at a time. The last time the vision
appeared he noted this calendar. The week was that beginning next Sunday,
the 21st of this month. The only conclusion we could reach was it would
happen during that week."

The Thinking Machine arose and paced back and forth across the room
deeply thoughtful. At last he stopped before his visitor.

"It's perfectly amazing," he commented emphatically. "It approaches
nearer to the unbelievable than anything I have ever heard of."

Varick's response was a look that was almost grateful.

"You believe it impossible then?" he asked, eagerly.

"Nothing is impossible," declared the other aggressively. "Now, Mr.
Varick, you are firmly convinced that what you saw was prophetic? That
you will die in that manner, in that place?"

"I can't believe anything else--I can't," was the response.

"And you have no idea of the identity of the murderer-to-be, if I may use
that phrase?"

"Not the slightest. The figure was wholly unfamiliar to me."

"And you know--you know--that the room you saw in the crystal was yours?"

"I know that absolutely. Rugs, furniture, mantel, books, everything was
mine."

The Thinking Machine was again silent for a time.

"In that event," he said at last, "the affair is perfectly simple. Will
you place yourself in my hands and obey my directions implicitly?"

"Yes." There was an eager, hopeful note in Varick's voice now.

"I am going to try to disarrange the affairs of Fate a little bit,"
explained the scientist gravely. "I don't know what will happen but it
will be interesting to try to throw the inevitable, the preordained I
might say, out of gear, won't it?"

With a quizzical, grim expression about his thin lips The Thinking
Machine went to the telephone in an adjoining room and called some one.
Varick heard neither the name nor what was said, merely the mumble of the
irritable voice. He glanced up as the scientist returned.

"Have you any servants--a valet for instance?" asked the scientist.

"Yes, I have an aged servant, a valet, but he is now in France, I gave
him a little vacation. I really don't need one now as I live in an
apartment house--almost a hotel."

"I don't suppose you happen to have three or four thousand dollars in
your pocket?"

"No, not so much as that," was the puzzled reply. "If it's your fee--"

"I never accept fees," interrupted the scientist. "I interest myself in
affairs like these because I like them. They are good mental exercise.
Please draw a cheque for, say four thousand dollars, to Hutchinson
Hatch."

"Who is he?" asked Varick. There was no reply. The cheque was drawn and
handed over without further comment.

It was fifteen or twenty minutes later that a cab pulled up in front of
the house. Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, and another man whom he introduced
as Philip Byrne were ushered in. As Hatch shook hands with Varick The
Thinking Machine compared them mentally. They were relatively of the same
size and he bobbed his head as if satisfied.

"Now, Mr. Hatch," he instructed, "take this cheque and get it cashed
immediately, then return here. Not a word to anybody."

Hatch went out and Byrne discussed politics with Varick until he returned
with the money. The Thinking Machine thrust the bills into Byrne's hand
and he counted it, afterward stowing it away in a pocket.

"Now, Mr. Varick, the keys to your apartment, please," asked the
scientist.

They were handed over and he placed them in his pocket. Then he turned to
Varick.

"From this time on," he said, "your name is John Smith. You are going on
a trip, beginning immediately, with Mr. Byrne here. You are not to send a
letter, a postal, a telegram or a package to anyone; you are to buy
nothing, you are to write no checks, you are not to speak to or recognize
anyone, you are not to telephone or attempt in any manner to communicate
with anyone, not even me. You are to obey Mr. Byrne in everything he
says."

Varick's eyes had grown wider and wider as he listened.

"But my affairs--my business?" he protested.

"It is a matter of your life or death," said The Thinking Machine
shortly.

For a moment Varick wavered a little. He felt that he was being treated
like a child.

"As you say," he said finally.

"Now, Mr. Byrne," continued the scientist, "you heard those instructions.
It is your duty to enforce them. You must lose this man and yourself.
Take him away somewhere to another place. There is enough money there for
ordinary purposes. When you learn that there has been an arrest in
connection with a certain threat against Mr. Varick, come back to
Boston--to me--and bring him. That's all."

Mr. Byrne arose with a business like air.

"Come on, Mr. Smith," he commanded.

Varick followed him out of the room.

Here was a table littered with books and papers, there a chair, yonder a
shadowy mantel.

A door opened and a man entered the room moved about the study aimlessly
for a time as if deeply troubled, then dropped into a chair at the desk
made some hopeless gesture with his hands and leaned forward on the desk
with his head on his arms another figure in the room knife in his hand
creeping stealthily toward the unconscious figure in the chair with the
knife raised the unknown crept on, on, on.

There was a blinding flash, a gush of flame and smoke, a sharp click and
through the fog came the unexcited voice of Hutchinson Hatch, reporter.

"Stay right where you are, please."

"That ought to be a good picture," said The Thinking Machine.

The smoke cleared and he saw Adhem Singh standing watching with deep
concern a revolver in the hand of Hatch, who had suddenly arisen from the
desk in Varick's room. The Thinking Machine rubbed his hands briskly.

"Ah, I thought it was you," he said to the crystal gazer. "Put down the
knife, please. That's right. It seems a little bold to have interfered
with what was to be like this, but you wanted too much detail, Mr. Singh.
You might have murdered your friend if you hadn't gone into so much
trivial theatrics."

"I suppose I am a prisoner?" asked the crystal gazer.

"You are," The Thinking Machine assured him cheerfully. "You are charged
with the attempted murder of Mr. Varick. Your wife will be a prisoner in
another half hour with all those who were with you in the conspiracy."

He turned to Hatch, who was smiling broadly. The reporter was thinking of
that wonderful flashlight photograph in the camera that The Thinking
Machine held,--the only photograph in the world, so far as he knew, of a
man in the act of attempting an assassination.

"Now, Mr. Hatch," the scientist went on, "I will 'phone to Detective
Mallory to come here and get this gentleman, and also to send men and
arrest every person to be found in Mr. Singh's home. If this man tries to
run--shoot."

The scientist went out and Hatch devoted his attention to his sullen
prisoner. He asked half a dozen questions and receiving no answers he
gave it up as hopeless. After awhile Detective Mallory appeared in his
usual state of restrained astonishment and the crystal grazer was led
away.

Then Hatch and The Thinking Machine went to the Adhem Singh house. The
police had preceded them and gone away with four prisoners, among them
the girl Jadeh. They obtained an entrance through the courtesy of a
policeman left in charge and sought out the crystal cabinet. Together
they bowed over the glittering globe as Hatch held a match.

"But I still don't see how it was done," said the reporter after they had
looked at the crystal.

The Thinking Machine lifted the ball and replaced it on its pedestal half
a dozen times apparently trying to locate a slight click. Then he fumbled
all around the table, above and below. At his suggestion Hatch lifted the
ball very slowly, while the scientist slid his slender fingers beneath
it.

"Ah," he exclaimed at last. "I thought so. It's clever, Mr. Hatch,
clever. Just stand here a few minutes in the dark and I'll see if I can
operate it for you."

He disappeared and Hatch stood staring at the crystal until he was
developing a severe case of the creeps himself. Just then a light flashed
in the crystal, which had been only dimly visible, and he found himself
looking into--the room in Howard Varick's apartments, miles away. As he
looked, startled, he saw The Thinking Machine appear in the crystal and
wave his arms. The creepiness passed instantly in the face of this
obvious attempt to attract his attention.

It was later that afternoon that The Thinking Machine turned the light of
his analytical genius on the problem for the benefit of Hatch and
Detective Mallory.

"Charlatanism is a luxury which costs the peoples of the world incredible
sums," he began. "It had its beginning, of course, in the dark ages when
man's mind grasped at some tangible evidence of an Infinite Power, and
through its very eagerness was easily satisfied. Then quacks began to
prey upon man, and do to this day under many guises and under many names.
This condition will continue until enlightenment has become so general
that man will realize the absurdity of such a thing as Nature, or the
other world's forces, going out of its way to tell him whether a certain
stock will go up or down. A sense of humour ought to convince him that
disembodied spirits do not come back and rap on tables in answer to
asinine questions. These things are merely prostitutions of the Divine
Revelations."

Hatch smiled a little at the lecture platform tone, and Detective Mallory
chewed his cigar uncomfortably. He was there to find out something about
crime; this thing was over his head.

"This is merely preliminary," The Thinking Machine went on after a
moment. "Now as to this crystal gazing affair--a little reason, a little
logic. When Mr. Varick came to me I saw he was an intelligent man who had
devoted years to a study of the so-called occult. Being intelligent he
was not easily hoodwinked, yet he had been hoodwinked for years,
therefore I could see that the man who did it must be far beyond the
blundering fool usually found in these affairs.

"Now Mr. Varick, personally, had never seen anything in any
crystal--remember that--until this 'vision' of death. When I knew this I
knew that 'vision' was stamped as quackery; the mere fact of him seeing
it proved that, but the quackery was so circumstantial that he was
convinced. Thus we have quackery. Why? For a fee? I can imagine
successful guesses on the stock market bringing fees to Adhem Singh, but
the 'vision' of a man's death is not the way to his pocketbook. If not
for a fee--then what?

"A deeper motive was instantly apparent. Mr. Varick was wealthy, he had
known Singh and had been friendly with him for years, had supplied him
with funds to go through Oxford, and he had no family or dependents.
Therefore it seemed probable that a will, or perhaps in another way,
Singh would benefit by Mr. Varick's death. There was a motive for the
'vision,' which might have been at first an effort to scare him to death,
because he had a bad heart. I saw all these things when Mr. Varick talked
to me first, several days after he saw the 'vision' but did not suggest
them to him. Had I done so he would not have believed so sordid a thing,
for he believed in Singh, and would probably have gone his way to be
murdered or to die of fright as Singh intended.

"Knowing these things there was only the labour of trapping a clever man.
Now the Hindu mind works in strange channels. It loves the mystic, the
theatric, and I imagined that having gone so far Singh would attempt to
bring the 'vision' to a reality. He presumed, of course, that Mr. Varick
would keep the matter to himself.

"The question of saving Varick's life was trifling. If he was to die at a
given time in a given room the thing to do was to place him beyond
possible reach of that room at that time. I 'phoned to you, Mr. Hatch,
and asked you to bring me a private detective who would obey orders, and
you brought Mr. Byrne. You heard my instructions to him. It was necessary
to hide Mr. Varick's identity and my elaborate directions were to prevent
anyone getting the slightest clue as to him having gone, or as to where
he was. I don't know where he is now.

"Immediately Mr. Varick was off my hands, I had Martha, my housekeeper,
write a note to Singh explaining that Mr. Varick was ill, and confined to
his room, and for the present was unable to see anyone. In this note a
date was specified when he would call on Singh. Martha wrote, of course,
as a trained nurse who was in attendance merely in day time. All these
points were made perfectly clear to Singh.

"That done, it was only a matter of patience. Mr. Hatch and I went to Mr.
Varick's apartments each night--I had Martha there in day time to answer
questions--and waited, in hiding. Mr. Hatch is about Varick's size and a
wig helped us along. What happened then you know. I may add that when Mr.
Varick told me the story I commented on it as being almost unbelievable.
He understood, as I meant he should, that I referred to the 'vision.' I
really meant that the elaborate scheme which Singh had evolved was
unbelievable. He might have killed him just as well with a drop of poison
or something equally pleasant."

The Thinking Machine stopped as if that were all.

"But the crystal?" asked Hatch. "How did that work? How was it I saw
you?"

"That was a little ingenious and rather expensive," said The Thinking
Machine, "so expensive that Singh must have expected to get a large sum
from success. I can best describe the manufacture of the 'vision' as a
variation of the principle of the camera obscura. It was done with lenses
of various sorts and a multitude of mirrors, and required the assistance
of two other men--those who were taken from Singh's house with Jadeh.

"First, the room in Mr. Varick's apartments was duplicated in the
basement of Singh's house, even to rugs, books and wall decorations.
There two men rehearsed the murder scene that Mr. Varick saw. They were
disguised of course. You have looked through the wrong end of a telescope
of course? Well, the original reduction of the murder scene to a size
where all of it would appear in a small mirror was accomplished that way.
From this small mirror there ran pipes with a series of mirrors and
lenses, through the house, carrying the reflection of what was happening
below, so vaguely though that features were barely distinguishable. This
pipe ran up inside one of the legs of the table on which the crystal
rested, and then, by reflection to the pedestal.

"You, Mr. Hatch, saw me lift that crystal several times and each time you
might have noticed the click. I was trying to find then, how the
reflection reached it. When you lifted it slowly and I put my fingers
under it I knew. There was a small trap in the pedestal, covered with
velvet. This closed automatically and presented a solid surface when the
crystal was lifted, and opened when the crystal was replaced. Thus the
reflection reached the crystal which reversed it the last time and made
it appear right side up to the watcher. The apparent growth of the light
in the crystal was caused below. Some one simply removed several sheets
of gauze, one at a time, from in front of the first lens."

"Well!" exclaimed Detective Mallory. "That's the most elaborate affair I
ever heard of."

"Quite right," commented the scientist, "but we don't know how many
victims Singh had. Of course any 'vision' was possible with a change of
scene in the basement. I imagine it was a profitable investment because
there are many fools in this world."

"What did the girl have to do with it?" asked Hatch.

"That I don't know," replied the scientist. "She was pretty. Perhaps she
was used as a sort of bait to attract a certain class of men. She was
really Singh's wife I imagine, not his sister. She was a prominent figure
in the mummery with Varick of course. With her aid Singh was able to lend
great effectiveness to the general scheme."

A couple of days later Howard Varick returned to the city in tow of
Philip Byrne. The Thinking Machine asked Mr. Varick only one question of
consequence.

"How much money did you intend to leave Singh?"

"About two hundred and fifty thousand dollars," was the reply. "It was to
be used under his direction in furthering an investigation into the
psychic. He and I had planned just how it was to be spent."

Personally Mr. Varick is no longer interested in the occult.



FIVE MILLIONS BY WIRELESS


Within the great room, dim, shadowy, mysterious as the laboratory of some
alchemist of old, and foul with the pungent odors of strange chemical
messes, there blazed a single light, a powerful electrical contrivance
fitted with reflector, and so shaded that its concentrated rays beat down
fiercely upon a table littered with scientific apparatus; and bending
over the table was a man, an odd, almost pathetic little figure, slight
to childishness, small of stature, attenuated. His hair was a
straw-colored thatch thrown back impatiently from a domelike brow,
increasing in effect the abnormal size of his head. His eyes were narrow
slits of pale blue, squinting petulantly through thick spectacles; his
wizened, clean-shaven face was white with the pallor of the student; his
mouth was a straight, bloodless line. His hands, busy now at some
microscopic labor, were slender and almost transparent under the blinding
glare from above; his fingers long, sensitive, delicate.

The door opened, and an elderly woman appeared with a tray.

"Some coffee and rolls, sir," she explained. "Really you ought to have
something, sir."

"Put them down." The little man didn't lift his eyes from his work; he
spoke curtly.

"And if you should ask me, sir," the woman continued, "I'd say you ought
to stop whatever you're a-doing of, and take some rest, sir."

"Tut, tut, Martha!" the little man objected. "I've only just begun."

"You've been a-standing right there, sir," Martha denied, in righteous
indignation, "ever since Sunday afternoon at four o'clock."

"What time is it now?"

"It's ten o'clock Tuesday morning, sir."

"Dear me, dear me!"

"You haven't slept a wink, sir," Martha complained, "and you haven't eat
enough--"

"Martha, you annoy me," the little man interrupted peevishly. "Run along
and attend to your duties."

"But, sir, you can't keep a-going like--"

"Very well, then," and there was a childish tone of resignation in the
master's voice. "It's Tuesday, you say? Tell me when it's noon
Wednesday."

Martha went out with a helpless shrug of her shoulders, leaving him
alone.

Hours passed. The coffee, untasted, grew cold. Motionless, the little man
continued at his labors with tense eagerness in his narrow eyes,
oblivious alike of the things about him, and of exhausted nature. The
will beneath the straw-colored thatch knew not weariness.

And this was "The Thinking Machine"--Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van
Dusen, Ph. D., F. R. S., M. D., LL. D., et cetera, et cetera--logician,
analyst, worker of miracles in the exact sciences, intellectual wizard of
his time; this the master mind, exalted by the cumulative genius of
generations gone before, which had isolated itself on a pinnacle of
achievement through sheer force of applied reason. Once he had been the
controversial center of his profession, riding down pet theories and
tentative surmises and cherished opinions, and setting up instead precise
facts, a few rescued from the chaos he had himself created, more of his
own uncovering. Now he was the court of last appeal in the sciences.

The Thinking Machine! No one of the honorary degrees thrust upon him
willy-nilly by the universities of the world described him half so
accurately as did this title--a chance paradox applied by a newspaper
man. Seemingly tireless, calm, unemotional--unless one counted as an
emotion the constant note of irritation in his voice--terse of speech,
crabbed of manner, and possessed of an uncanny faculty of separating all
things into their primal units, he lived in a circumscribed sphere which
he had stripped of all illusion. The mental precision which distinguished
his laboratory work characterized all else he did. If any man ever
reduced human frailties, human virtues, and human motives to mathematics
that man was The Thinking Machine.

It has been my pleasure to set down at another time and place some
results of The Thinking Machine's investigations along lines
disassociated with abstruse problems of his profession, these being
chiefly instances in which he had turned the light of cold logic upon
perplexing criminal mysteries with well-nigh mathematical precision.

Also, it has been my pleasure to relate at length some of those curious
adventures which led to The Thinking Machine's incongruous friendship for
Hutchinson Hatch.

Hatch was a newspaper reporter, a young man of vitality and enthusiasm
and keen wordliness; he was a breath of the outside to this odd little
man, who never read papers, who rarely came into contact with things as
they are, who had not even the small vices which bring individuals
together. It had been Hatch who first applied the title of The Thinking
Machine to the eminent scientist, and the phrase had stuck.

Perhaps not the least interesting of the adventures of these two together
was that which culminated in the bestowal upon The Thinking Machine of
the Order of the Iron Eagle, second class, by Emperor Gustavus, of
Germania-Austria. It so happened in that case that the fate of an empire
and the future of its royal house lay for a time in The Thinking
Machine's slender hands. Failure on his part certainly would have changed
the history of Europe, and probably the map. This problem was purely
intellectual, and came to his attention at a time when physical vitality
was at its lowest, after forty-eight hours' unceasing work in his
laboratory.

The door opened, and Martha entered.

"Martha," the eminent scientist stormed, "if you've brought me more
coffee I shall discharge you!"

"It isn't coffee, sir," she replied. "It's a--"

"And don't tell me it's already twelve o'clock Wednesday."

"It's a card, sir. Two gentlemen who--"

"Can't see them."

Not for an instant had the squinting eyes been raised from the work which
engrossed The Thinking Machine. Martha laid the card on the table; he
glanced at it impatiently. Herr Von Hartzfeldt!

"He says, sir, it's a matter of the utmost importance," Martha explained.

"Ask him who he is and what he wants."

The unexpectedness of the answer Martha brought back straightened The
Thinking Machine where he stood.

"He says, sir," she reported, "that he's the ambassador to the United
States from Germania-Austria."

"Show him in at once."

Two gentlemen entered, one Baron Von Hartzfeldt, polished, courtly,
distinguished in appearance, a famous figure in the diplomatic world; the
other of a more rugged type, shorter, heavier, with bristly hair and
beard, and deeply bronzed face. For an instant they stared into the
wizened countenance of the little scientist with something like
astonishment.

"We have come to you, Mr. Van Dusen, in an extremity the gravity of which
cannot be exaggerated," Baron Von Hartzfeldt began suavely. "We know, as
all the world knows, your splendid achievements in science. We know, too,
that you have occasionally consented to investigate more material
problems--that is, mysteries of crimes, and--"

"Please come to the point," The Thinking Machine interrupted tartly. "If
you hadn't known who I was, and hadn't needed me, you wouldn't have come.
Now, what is it? This gentleman--"

"Pardon me," the ambassador begged, in polite confusion at the curt
directness of his host. "Admiral Hausen-Aubier, of the royal navy,
commanding the Mediterranean Fleet, now visiting your city on his
flagship, the Friedrich der Grosse, which lies in the outer harbor."

The admiral bowed ceremoniously, and, accepting a slight movement of The
Thinking Machine's hand as an invitation to seats, the two gentlemen sat
down. Not until that moment had the scientist realized his own weariness.
The big chair offered grateful relaxation to tired limbs, and, with his
enormous head tilted back, narrowed eyes turned upward, and slender
fingers precisely tip to tip, he waited.

"One of my officers has disappeared from the flagship--rather, has
utterly vanished," said Admiral Hausen-Aubier. He spoke excellent
English, but there was a guttural undercurrent of excitement in his tone.
"He went to his stateroom at midnight; next morning at seven o'clock he
was gone. The guard at his door had been drugged with chloroform, and can
tell nothing."

"Guard at the door?" questioned The Thinking Machine. "Why?"

Admiral Hausen-Aubier seemed oddly disturbed by the question. He shot a
hasty glance at Baron Von Hartzfeldt.

"Ship discipline," explained the diplomat vaguely.

"Was he under arrest?"

"Oh, no!" This from the admiral.

"Do you sleep with a guard at your door?"

"No."

"Any of the other officers?"

"No."

"Go on, please."

"There isn't much to tell." There was bewilderment, deep concern, grief
even, in the bronzed face. "The officer's bed had been occupied, but
there was no sign of a struggle. It was as if he had arisen, dressed, and
gone out. There was no note, no shred or fragment of a clew--nothing. No
one saw him from the moment he entered his stateroom and closed his
door--not even the guard. There were half a dozen sentries, watchmen, on
deck; neither saw nor heard anything out of the ordinary. He isn't aboard
ship; we have searched from keel to signal yard; and he didn't go
overside in a ship's boat; they are all accounted for. He is not a
particularly strong swimmer, and could not have reached shore in that
way."

"You say the guard had been chloroformed," The Thinking Machine went
back. "Just what happened to him? How do you know he was chloroformed?"

"By the odor," replied the admiral, answering the last question first.
"In order to enter the officer's suite it was necessary--"

"Suite, did you say?"

"Yes; that is, he occupied more than one stateroom--"

"I understand. Go on."

"It was necessary to pass through an antechamber. The guard slept there.
He says it must have been after one o'clock when he went to sleep. Next
morning he was found unconscious, and the officer was gone." He paused.
"There can be no question whatever of the guard's integrity. He has been
attached to the--the officer for many years."

With eyes all but closed, The Thinking Machine sat motionless for minute
after minute, the while thin, spidery lines of though ruffled the
domelike brow. At last:

"The matter hasn't been reported to the police?"

"No." Admiral Hausen-Aubier looked startled.

"Why not?"

"Because," Baron Von Hartzfeldt answered, "when it was brought to my
attention in Washington by wire, we decided against that. The affair is
extremely delicate. It is inadvisable that the police even should so much
as suspect--"

The Thinking Machine nodded.

"How about the secret service?"

"That bureau has been at work on the case from the first," the
diplomatist replied; "also half a dozen secret agents attached to the
embassy. You must understand, Mr. Van Dusen, that it is absolutely
essential that no word of the disappearance--not even a hint of it--be
allowed to become public. The result would be a--a disaster. I can't say
more."

"Perhaps," suggested The Thinking Machine irrelevantly, "perhaps the
officer deserted?"

"I would vouch for his loyalty with my life," declared the admiral, with
deep feeling.

"Or perhaps it was suicide?"

Again there was a swift interchange of glances between the admiral and
the ambassador. Obviously that was a possibility that had occurred to
each of them, and yet one that neither dared admit.

"Impossible!" the diplomat shook his head.

"Nothing is impossible," snapped The Thinking Machine curtly. "Don't say
that. It annoys me exceedingly." Fell a short silence. Finally: "Just
when did your officer disappear?"

"Last Tuesday--almost a week ago," Admiral Hausen-Aubier told him.

"And nothing--nothing--has been heard of him? Or from him? Or from any
one else concerning him?"

"Nothing--not a word," Admiral Hausen-Aubier said. "If we could only
hear! If we could only know whether he is living or dead!"

"What's his name?"

"Lieutenant Leopold Von Zinckl."

For the first time, The Thinking Machine lowered his eyes and swept the
countenances of the two men before him--both grave, troubled, lined with
worry. Under his curious scrutiny, the diplomatist retained his
self-possession by sheer force of will; but a vital, consuming
nervousness seemed to seize upon the man of the sea.

"I mean," and again the scientist was squinting into the gloom above, "I
mean his real name."

Admiral Hausen-Aubier's broad face flushed suddenly as if from a blow,
and he started to his feet. Some subtle warning form the ambassador
caused him to drop back into his seat.

"That is his real name," he said distinctly; "Lieutenant Leopold Von
Zinckl."

"May I ask," The Thinking Machine was speaking very slowly, "if his
majesty the emperor has been informed of Lieutenant Von Zinckl's
disappearance?"

Perhaps The Thinking Machine anticipated the effect of the question;
perhaps he did not. Anyway, he didn't look around when Admiral
Hausen-Aubier came to his feet with a mighty Teutonic exclamation, and
strode the length of the big room, his face dead white beneath the coat
of bronze. Baron Von Hartzfeldt remained seated, apparently fascinated by
some strange, newly discovered quality in the scientist.

"We have not informed the emperor of the affair as yet," he said, at
last, steadily. "We thought it inadvisable to go so far until every
effort had been made to--"

The Thinking Machine interrupted him with an impatient gesture of one
slender hand.

"As a matter of fact, the situation is like this, isn't it?" he queried
abruptly. "Prince Otto Ludwig, heir apparent to the throne of
Germania-Austria, has been abducted from the royal suite of the
battleship Friedrich der Grosse, in the harbor of a friendly nation?"

There was an instant's amazed silence. Suddenly Admiral Hausen-Aubier
covered his face with his hands, and stood, his great shoulders shaking.
Straining nerves had broken at last. Baron Von Hartzfeldt, ripe in
diplomatic experience, seemed merely astonished, if one might judge by
the face of him.

"How do you know that?" he inquired quietly, after a moment. "Outside of
the secret service and my own agents, there are not six persons in the
world who are aware--"

"How do I know it?" interrupted The Thinking Machine. "You have just told
me. Logic, logic, logic!"

"I have told you?" There was blank bewilderment on the diplomatist's
face.

"You and Admiral Hausen-Aubier together," The Thinking Machine declared
petulantly.

"But how, man, how?" demanded Baron Von Hartzfeldt. "Of course, you knew
from the newspapers that his highness, Crown Prince Otto Ludwig, was
visiting America; but--"

"I never read newspapers," snapped The Thinking Machine. "I didn't know
he was here any more than I knew the battleship Friedrich der Grosse was
in the harbor. It's logic, logic--the adding together of the separate
units--a simple demonstration of the fact that two and two make four, not
sometimes, but all the time."

Admiral Hausen-Aubier, having mastered the emotion which had shaken him,
resumed his seat, staring curiously into the wizened face before him.

"Still I don't understand," Baron Von Hartzfeldt insisted. "Logic, you
say. How?"

"I'll see if I can make it clear." And there was that in the manner of
the eminent man of science which was no compliment to their perspicacity.
"You tell me an officer has disappeared, that his guard was chloroformed.
The officer was not under arrest, and no other officer aboard ship had a
guard. I assume, therefore, for the moment that the officer was a man of
consequence, else he was mentally irresponsible. An instant later you
tell me how to enter the officer's suite--not stateroom, but suite. Ergo,
a man of so much consequence that he occupies a suite; a man of so much
consequence that you didn't dare report his disappearance to the police;
a man of so much consequence that public knowledge of the affair would
precipitate disaster. Do you follow the thread?"

Fascinated, the two listeners nodded.

"Very well," The Thinking Machine resumed, in that odd little tone of
irritation. "There are only a few persons in the world of so much
consequence as all that--that is, of so much consequence aboard a ship of
war. Those are members of the royal household. I am of German descent;
hence I am well acquainted with the histories of the German countries. I
know that Emperor Gustavus has only one son, Otto Ludwig, the crown
prince. I know that no reigning king has ever visited America; therefore
logic, inexorable, indisputable logic, tells me that Prince Otto Ludwig
is the officer who occupied the royal suite aboard your ship."

He paused, and readjusted himself in the great chair. When he spoke
again, it was in the tone of one who is thoughtfully checking off and
verifying the units of a problem he has solved. His two visitors were
staring at him breathlessly.

"Of course, no royal person save a son of the house of Germania-Austria
would be occupying the royal suite on a Germania-Austrian battleship," he
said slowly. "Proper adjustment of the actual facts leading straight to
the crown prince removed instantly as a possibility a vague suggestion
that the officer with the guard at his door, while not a prisoner, was
mentally irresponsible. I've made myself clear, I hope?"

"It's marvelous!" ejaculated the diplomatist. "If any man can lead us to
the end of this mystery, you are that man!"

"Thanks," returned The Thinking Machine dryly.

"You said," Admiral Hausen-Aubier questioned tensely, "that his highness
had been abducted?"

"Certainly."

"Why abducted instead of--of--murdered--" He shuddered a little. "Instead
of suicide?"

"That man who is clever enough and bold enough to board your ship and
chloroform a guard is not fool enough to murder a man and then drag him
out over the guard and throw him into the sea," was the reply, "or to
drag him out and then murder him. In either event, such an act would have
been useless; and as a rule murderers don't do useless things. As for
suicide, it would not have been necessary for the prince to chloroform
his guard, or even to leave his stateroom. Remains, therefore, only
abduction."

"But who abducted him?" the admiral insisted. "Why? How was he taken away
from the ship?"

The Thinking Machine shrugged his narrow shoulders.

"I don't know," he said. "Either one of a dozen ways--aeroplane, rowboat,
submarine--" He stopped.

"But--but no one heard anything," the admiral pointed out.

"That doesn't signify."

There seemed nothing to cling to, no tangible fact upon which to base
even understanding. Aeroplane--submarine--'twas fantasy, preposterous,
unheard of. Hopelessly enough, Admiral Hausen-Aubier turned back to the
one vital question:

"At any rate, the prince is alive?"

"I don't know. He was abducted a week ago. You've heard nothing since. He
may have been murdered after he was taken away. He may have been. I doubt
it."

Admiral Hausen-Aubier arose tragically, with haggard face, a light of
desperation in his eyes, his powerful, sun-dyed hands pressed to his
temples.

"If he is dead, do you know what it means?" he demanded vehemently. "It
means the fall of the royal house of Germania-Austria with the passing of
our emperor, who is now nearly eighty; it means the end of our country as
a monarchy; it means war, revolution, a--a republic!"

"That wouldn't be so bad," commented The Thinking Machine oddly.
"There'll be nothing but republics in a few years; witness France,
Portugal, China--"

"You can't realize the acute political situation in my country," Admiral
Hausen-Aubier rushed on, heedless of the other's remark. "Already there
are dissensions; the emperor holds his kingdom together with a rod of
iron, and his people only submit because they expect so much of Prince
Otto Ludwig when he ascends the throne. He is popular with his
subjects--the crown prince, I mean--and they would welcome him as
emperor--welcome him, but no one else. It is absolutely necessary that he
be found! The future of my country--our country," and he turned to Baron
Von Hartzfeldt, "depends upon finding him."

Seemingly some new thought was born in The Thinking Machine's mind. His
eyes opened slightly, and he turned upon Baron Von Hartzfeldt
inquiringly. Apparently the ambassador understood, for he nodded.

"He is revealing diplomatic secrets," he said, with a slight movement of
his shoulders; "but what he says is true."

"In that case--" The Thinking Machine began; and then he lapsed into
silence. For minute after minute he sat, heedless of the nervous pacing
of Admiral Hausen-Aubier, heedless of the constant interrogation of the
ambassador's eyes.

"In that case--" the ambassador prompted.

"Is Crown Prince Otto Ludwig here incognito, or is it generally known
that he is in this country?" the scientist questioned suddenly.

"He is here officially," was the response; "that is, publicly. The
government of the United States has received him and entertained him, and
you know all that that means."

"Then how do you--have you--accounted for his disappearance?"

"Lies!" Admiral Hausen-Aubier broke in bitterly. "He is supposed to be
dangerously ill, confined to his stateroom aboard the Friedrich der
Grosse; and no one except the ship's surgeon is permitted to see him. We
have lied even to our emperor! He believes the prince is ill; if he
understood that his son, the heir apparent, was missing, dead,
perhaps--ach, Gott! Every moment I am expecting sailing orders--orders to
return home. I can't go back to my king and tell him that the son he
intrusted to my care, the hope and salvation of my country, is--is--I
can't even say dead--I could only say that I don't know."

There was something magnificent in the bronzed old sailorman--something
at once rugged and tender and fierce in his loyalty. The Thinking Machine
studied the grief-stricken face curiously. Unashamed, Admiral
Hausen-Aubier permitted the tears to gather in his eyes and roll down his
furrowed cheeks.

"I don't care for myself," he explained huskily. "I do care for my
country, for my prince. In any event, there remains for me only dishonor
and death."

"Suicide?" questioned the scientist coldly.

"What else is there?"

"That," The Thinking Machine murmured acridly, "would improve the
situation a lot! If I had committed suicide every time I had a problem to
solve I should have been very dead by this time." His manner changed. "We
know the prince was abducted; he is probably not dead, but we have no
word of him or from him; therefore, there remains only--"

"Only what?" The question came from his two visitors simultaneously.

"Only a question of the most effective way of establishing communication
with him."

"If we knew how to communicate with him, we'd go get him instead!"
declared Admiral Hausen-Aubier grimly. "There are eight hundred men on
the battleship who--"

The Thinking Machine arose, stood staring blankly at the two, much as if
he had never seen them before; then walked over to his worktable, and
shut off the great electric light.

"It's easy enough to communicate with Prince Otto Ludwig," he said, as he
returned to them. "There are half a dozen ways."

"Then why, if it is so easy," demanded the diplomatist, "why hasn't he
communicated with his ship?"

"There's always a chance that he doesn't want to, you know," was the
enigmatic response. "How many persons know of his disappearance?"

"Only five outside of the secret service and the embassy agents," Admiral
Hausen-Aubier answered. "They are Baron Von Hartzfeldt here, the guard,
the ship's commander, the ship's surgeon, and myself."

"Too many!" The Thinking Machine shook his head slowly. "However, let's
go aboard the Friedrich der Grosse. I don't recall that I've ever been on
a modern battleship."

Night had fallen as the three men, each eminent in his own profession,
boarded a small power boat off Atlantic Avenue, and were hurried away
through slashing waters to the giant battleship in the outer harbor.
There for an hour or more the little scientist pottered about the
magnificent suite which had been occupied by Prince Otto Ludwig. He asked
one or two casual questions of the guard; that was all, after which he
retired to the admiral's cabin to write a short note.

"If," he remarked, as he addressed an envelope to Hutchinson Hatch, "if
the prince is alive we shall hear from him. If he is dead we will not."
His eye chanced upon a glaring headline in a newspaper on the desk:

PRINCE OTTO LUDWIG DANGEROUSLY ILL. Heir to Throne of Germania-Austria
Confined to Suite Aboard the Battle-Ship "Friedrich der Grosse." No One
Permitted to See Him.

The Thinking Machine glanced at Admiral Hausen-Aubier.

"Lies!" declared the rugged old sailor. "Every day for a week it has been
the same. We are compelled to issue bulletins. Ach, Gott! He must be
found!"

"Please have this note sent ashore and delivered immediately," the
scientist requested. "Meanwhile, I haven't been in bed for three nights.
If you'll give me a berth, I'll get some sleep. Wake me if necessary."

"You expect something to happen, then?"

"Certainly. I expect a wireless, but not for several hours--probably not
until tomorrow afternoon."

"A wireless?" There was a flicker of hope in the admiral's eyes.
"May--may I ask from whom?"

"From Crown Prince Otto Ludwig," said The Thinking Machine placidly. "I'm
going to sleep. Good night."

Three hours later Admiral Hausen-Aubier in person aroused The Thinking
Machine from the lethargy of oblivion which followed upon utter physical
and mental exhaustion, and thrust a wireless message under his nose. It
said simply:

O.K. HATCH.

The Thinking Machine blinked at it, grunted, then turned over as if to go
back to sleep. Struck with some new idea, however, he opened his eyes for
an instant.

"Issue a special bulletin to the press," he directed drowsily, "to the
effect that Prince Otto Ludwig's condition has taken a sudden turn for
the better. He is expected to be up and around again in a few days."

The sentence ended in a light snore.

All that night Admiral Hausen-Aubier, haggard, vigilant, sat beside the
wireless operator in his cabinet on the upper deck, waiting, waiting, he
knew not for what. Darkness passed, the stars died, and pallid dawn found
him there.

At nine o'clock he ordered coffee; at noon more coffee.

At four in the afternoon the thing he had been waiting for came--only
three words:

Followed suggestion. Communicate.

"Very indistinct, sir," the operator reported. "An amateur sending."

The Thinking Machine, wide awake now, and below deck discussing high
explosives with a gunner's mate, was summoned. Into the wireless cabinet
with him came Baron Von Hartzfeldt. For an instant the three men studied
in silence this portentous message from the void.

"Keep in touch with him," The Thinking Machine instructed the operator.
"What's his range?"

"Hundred miles, sir."

"Strong or weak?"

"Weak, sir."

"Reduce the range."

"I did, sir, and lost him."

"Increase it."

With the receiver clamped to his ears, the operator thrust his range key
forward, and listened.

"I lose him, sir," he reported.

"Very well. Set at one hundred." The scientist turned to Baron Von
Hartzfeldt and Admiral Hausen-Aubier. "He is alive, and less than a
hundred miles away," he explained hurriedly. Then to the operator: "Send
as I dictate:

"Is--O--L--there?"

The instrument hissed as the message spanned the abyss of space; in the
glass drum above, great crackling electric sparks leaped and roared
fitfully, lighting the tense faces of the men in the cabinet. Came dead
silence--painful silence--then the operator read the answer aloud:

"Yes."

"Mein Gott ich lobe!" One great exclamation of thanks, and Admiral
Hausen-Aubier buried his face in his hands.

To Baron Von Hartzfeldt the whole thing was wizardry pure and simple. The
Thinking Machine had summoned the lost out of the void. While a hundred
trained men, keen-eyes, indefatigable, wary as ferrets, were searching
for the crown prince, along comes this withered, white-faced little man
of science, with his monstrous head and his feeble hands, and works a
miracle under his very eyes! He listened, fascinated, as The Thinking
Machine continued:

"Must--prove--identity--Hausen--Aubier--here--ask--O--L--give--word--or
phrase--identify--him."

Suddenly The Thinking Machine whirled about to face the admiral. The
answer should prove once for all whether the prince was alive or dead.
Minutes passed. Finally--

"It's coming, sir, in German," the operator explained:

"Neujarstag--eine--cigarre."

"New Year's Day--a cigar!" Admiral Hausen-Aubier translated, in obvious
bewilderment. Swiftly his face cleared. "I understand. He refers to an
incident that he and I alone know. When a lad of twelve he tried to smoke
a cigar, and it made him deathly ill. I saved him from--"

"Send," interrupted The Thinking Machine:

"Satisfied--give--terms."

And the operator read:

"Five--million--dollars!"

"Five million dollars!" exclaimed the admiral and the diplomatist, in a
breath. "Does he mean ransom?" Baron Von Hartzfeldt asked, aghast. "Five
million dollars!"

"Five million dollars, yes," the scientist replied irritably. "We're not
dealing with children. We're dealing with shrewd, daring, intelligent men
who have played a big game for a big stake; and if you love your country
and your king you'd better thank God it's only money they want. Suppose
they had demanded a constitution, or even the abdication of your emperor?
That might have meant revolution, war--anything." He stared at them an
instant, then swung around to the operator. "Send," he commanded:

"We--accept--terms--"

"Why, man, you are mad!" interposed the diplomatist sharply. "It's
preposterous!"

But The Thinking Machine said again evenly:

"We--accept--terms--specify--by--mail--place--time--manner--of--settlemen
t."

The crashing of the mighty current in the glass drum ceased as the
message was finished, and with strained attention the three men waited.
Again a tense pause. At last the operator read:

"Also--assurance--no--prosecution."

And The Thinking Machine dictated:

"Accept."

"Wait a minute!" commanded Admiral Hausen-Aubier hotly. "Do you mean we
are promising immunity to the men who abducted--"

"Certainly," replied the scientist. "They're not fools. If we don't
promise it, all they have to do is break off communication and wait until
such time as you will promise it." He shrugged his shoulders. "Or else
stick a knife into your prince, and end the affair. Besides, prosecution
means publicity."

With clenched hands, the admiral turned away; no answer seemed possible.
Heedless of the things about him, Baron Von Hartzfeldt sat dumbly
meditating upon the staggering ransom. It would take days to raise so
vast a sum, if he could do it at all; and his private resources, together
with those of Admiral Hausen-Aubier, would be drained to the last dollar.
Even then it might be necessary to call upon the royal treasury. That
would be a confession; out of it would come only dishonor and--death.

The Thinking Machine dictated:

"Accept--we--pledge--Hausen--Aubier's--word--of honor."

And the answer came:

"Satisfied--mailing--details--tonight--will--communicate--tomorrow--noon."

The attenuated thread which had linked them with the unknown was broken.
Somewhere off through space they had talked with a man whom human
ingenuity had failed to find--'twas another of the many miracles of
modern science.

The morrow brought a typewritten letter incapable of misconstruction. It
was the usual thing--an open field, some thirty miles out of the city, a
lone tree in the center of the field, a suit case containing the money to
be left there. The letter concluded with a paragraph after this fashion:

Your prince's life depends upon rigid adherence to these instructions. If
there is any attempt to watch, or to identify us, or molest us, a pistol
shot will end the affair; if the bag is there, and the money is in the
bag, he will be aboard ship within five hours. Remember, we hold your
pledge!

"Crude," commented The Thinking Machine. "I was led to expect better
things of them."

"But the money, man, the money?" exclaimed Baron Von Hartzfeldt. "It will
be absolutely impossible to get it unless--unless we call upon the royal
treasury."

His face was haggard, his eyes inflamed by lack of sleep, and deep
furrows lined his usually placid brow. He leaned forward, and stared
tensely into the pallid, wizened face of the scientist, who sat with head
tilted back, his gaze turned steadily upward, his slender fingers
precisely tip to tip.

"Five million dollars in gold," The Thinking Machine observed
ambiguously, "would weight tons. It would take five hundred
ten-thousand-dollar notes to make five million dollars, and I doubt if
there are that many in existence. It would take five thousand
thousand-dollar notes. Absurd! There will have to be two, perhaps three,
of the bags."

"But don't you understand," Baron Von Hartzfeldt burst out violently,
"that it's impossible to raise that sum? That there will be none of the
bags? That some other scheme--"

"Oh, yes, there will be three of the bags," The Thinking Machine asserted
mildly. "But, of course, there will be no money in them!"

Admiral Hasuen-Aubier and the diplomatist digested the statement in
silence.

"But you have pledged my word of honor--" the old sailorman objected.

"Not to prosecute," the scientist pointed out.

"Absurd!" The ambassador came to his feet. "You have said we are not
dealing with children. Why put the empty bags there? If they find they
are empty, the prince's life will pay forfeit; if we attempt to surround
them and capture them, the result will be the same; and, besides, we will
have broken our pledge."

"I've never seen any one so fussy about their pledges as you gentlemen
are," observed The Thinking Machine acridly. "Don't worry. I shall not
break a pledge; I shall not attempt to surround them and capture them; I
shall not, nor shall any one representing me, or any of us, for that
matter, be within miles of that particular field after the bags are
placed. They shall reach the field unmolested and unwatched."

"You are talking in riddles," declared the diplomatist impatiently. "What
do you mean?"

"I mean merely that the men who go to get the bags of money will wait
right there until I come, even if it should happen to take two weeks,"
was the enigmatic response. "Also, I'll say they'll be glad to see me
when I get there, and glad to restore Prince Otto Ludwig to his ship
without one penny being paid. There will be no prosecution."

"But--but I don't understand," stammered the ambassador.

"I don't expect you to," said The Thinking Machine ungraciously. "Nor do
I expect you to understand this."

Impatiently he spread a newspaper before the two men, and indicated an
advertisement in black-faced type. It was on the first page, directly
beneath a bulletin announcing a sudden change for the better in Prince
Otto Ludwig's condition. The admiral read it aloud blankly:

"Wireless is only means communication can not be traced. Use it. Safe for
all. Communicate with ship immediately. Would advise you erect private
station."

That was all of it. It was addressed to no one, and signed by no one; if
it had any meaning at all, it was merely as a curious method of
advertising wireless telegraphy. Inquiringly at last the baron and the
admiral raised their eyes to those of The Thinking Machine.

"The abductors of Prince Otto Ludwig had not communicated with the ship,"
he explained tersely, "because they could devise no way they considered
absolutely safe. They knew the secret service would be at work. They
didn't dare to telegraph in the usual way, nor send a messenger, nor even
a letter. Our secret service is an able organization; they understood it
was not to be trifled with. All these things considered, I didn't believe
the abductors could hit upon a plan of communication which they
considered safe. I inserted that advertisement in all the newspapers. It
was a suggestion. They understood, and followed it. You will remember
their first communication."

Baron Von Hartzfeldt came to his feet suddenly, then sat down again. The
miracle hadn't been a miracle, after all. It was merely common sense.

"Jeder verruckte konnte davon denken!" exclaimed the admiral bluntly.

"Quite right," assented The Thinking Machine. "Any fool could have
thought of that--but no other fool did!"

Promptly at noon the wireless operator plucked this from the void:

"Is--letter--satisfactory?"

And the scientist dictated an answer:

"Yes--except--we--require--another--day--to--raise--money."

"Granted--"

"Impossible--put--all--money--one--bag--will--use--three."

"Satisfactory--remember--our--warning."

"You--have--our--pledge."

As the last word of the message went hurtling off into space, The
Thinking Machine scrambled down the sea ladder and was rowed ashore. From
his own home, half an hour later, he called Hutchinson Hatch on the
telephone.

"I want," he said, "three large suit cases, one pair of extra-heavy
rubber gloves, ten miles of electric wire well insulated, three Edison
transformers, one fast automobile, permission to tap the Abington trolley
wire, and two dozen ham sandwiches."

Hatch laughed. He was accustomed to the eccentricities of this little man
of science.

"You shall have them," he promised.

"Bring everything to my house at midnight."

"Right!"

Looking back upon it later, Hatch decided he had never worked so hard in
his life as he did that night; in addition to which he had the
satisfaction of not knowing just what he was doing. There were telephone
poles to be climbed, and shallow trenches to be dug and immediately
filled in so no trace of their existence remained, and miles of electric
wire to be hauled through thickly weeded fields. Dawn was breaking when
everything seemed to be done.

"This," remarked The Thinking Machine, "is where the ham sandwiches are
useful."

They breakfasted upon them, after which The Thinking Machine went away,
leaving Hatch to watch the small dial of some sort of an indicator
attached to a wire. At noon the scientist returned, and, without a word,
took the reporter's place at the dial. At thirty-three minutes past four
the hand of the indicator suddenly shot around to one side, and the
scientist arose.

"We have caught a fish," he said. "Come on!"

They were in the automobile, speeding along the highway, before Hatch
spoke.

"What sort of fish?" he asked curiously.

"I don't know," was the reply. "A person, or persons, have picked up one
or more of those suit cases to the bottom of which our electric wire is
connected. He is unable to let go--he, or they, as the case may be. He
will be unconscious when we reach him."

"Dead, you mean," said Hatch grimly. "The current from that trolley
wire--"

"Unconscious," The Thinking Machine corrected. "The current is reduced.
There is a transformer in each of the suit cases. The wiring extends up
through the handles where the insulation is stripped off."

Three, four, nearly five, miles they went like the wind; then the motor
car stopped with a jerk, and Hatch, taking advantage of his longer legs,
galloped off through the open field toward the lone tree in the center.
The thing he saw caused him to stop suddenly and raise his hands in
horror. Upon the ground in front of him was the convulsed figure of a
young man, foreign-looking, distinguished even. His distorted face, livid
now, was turned upward, and his hands were gripped to the suit case by
the powerful electric current.

"Who is it?" queried the scientist.

"Crown Prince Otto Ludwig, of Germania-Austria!"

"What?" The question came violently, a single burst of amazement. And
again: "What?" There was an expression on The Thinking Machine's face the
like of which Hatch had never seen there before. "It's a possibility I
had never considered. So he wanted the five million--" Suddenly his whole
manner changed. "Let's get him to the motor."

With rubber-gloved hands, he cut the wire which held the crown prince
prisoner, and the unconscious man fell back limply, as if dead. Five
minutes later they had lifted him into the tonneau, and The Thinking
Machine bent over him anxiously, with his hand on his wrist.

"Where to?" asked Hatch.

"Anywhere, and fast!" was the reply. "I must think."

Oblivious of the swaying and clatter of the huge car, The Thinking
Machine sat silent for minute after minute as it sped on over the smooth
road. Finally he seemed satisfied. He leaned forward, and touched Hatch
on the shoulder.

"It's all right," he said. "We'll go aboard ship now."

Late that night the crown prince, himself again, but with badly burned
hands, explained. He had been stupefied by chloroform, kidnaped, and
lowered over the battleship rail in utter darkness. His impression was
that he had been taken away in a small boat which had muffled oars. When
he recovered, he found himself a prisoner in a deserted country house,
with two men on guard. He didn't know the name of either.

Calmly enough, the three of them discussed the affair in all its aspects.
They could devise no safe means of communicating with the ship until he
suggested the wireless. He even aided in the erection of a station
between two tall trees on a remote hill somewhere. One of his guards,
meanwhile, had to master the code. He had become fairly proficient when
they saw the advertisement in the newspapers.

"But how is it you went to get the money?" the scientist questioned
curiously.

"The men feared treachery," was the explanation. "They were willing to
take my word of honor that I would get it and return with it, after which
I was to be free. A prince of the royal house of Germania-Austria may not
break his word of honor."

Tiny corrugations in the domelike brow of the scientist caused Hatch to
stare at him expectantly; even as he looked they passed.

"Mr. Hatch," he said abruptly, "I have heard you refer to certain
newspaper stories as 'peaches' and 'corkers' and what not. How would you
class this?"

"This," said the reporter enthusiastically, "this is a bird!"

"It has only one defect," remarked The Thinking Machine. "It cannot be
printed."

One eminent scientist who had achieved the seemingly impossible, and one
disgusted newspaper reporter were rowed ashore at midnight.

"What do you think of it all, anyhow?" demanded Hatch suddenly.

"I have no opinion to express," declared The Thinking Machine crabbedly.
"The prince has come to his own again; that is sufficient."

Some weeks later Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen was decorated with
the Order of the Iron Eagle by Emperor Gustavus, of Germania-Austria.
Reflectively he twisted the elaborate jeweled bauble in his slender
fingers; then returned to his worktable under the great electric light.
For a minute or more tiny corrugations appeared in his forehead; finally
they passed as that strange mind of his became absorbed in the thing he
was doing.



PROBLEM OF THE GREEN EYED MONSTER


With coffee cup daintily poised in one hand, Mrs. Lingard van Safford
lifted wistful, bewitching eyes towards her husband, who sat across the
breakfast table partially immersed in the morning papers.

"Are you going out this morning?" she inquired.

Mr. van Safford grunted inarticulately.

"May I inquire," she went on placidly, and a dimple snuggled at a corner
of her mouth, "if that particular grunt means that you are or are not?"

Mr. van Safford lowered his newspaper and glanced at his wife's pretty
face. She smiled charmingly.

"Really, I beg your pardon," he apologized, "I hardly think I will go
out. I feel rather listless, and I must write some letters. Why?"

"Oh, nothing particularly," she responded.

She took a last sip of her coffee, brushed two or three tiny crumbs from
her lap, laid her napkin aside, and arose. Once she turned and glanced
back; Mr. van Safford was reading again.

After a while he finished the papers and stood looking out a window,
yawning prodigiously at the prospect of letters to be written. His wife
entered and picked up a handkerchief which had fallen beside her chair.
He merely glanced around. She was dressed for the street--immaculately,
stunningly gowned as only a young and beautiful and wealthy woman can
gown herself.

"Where are you going, my dear?" he inquired, languidly.

"Out," she responded archly.

She passed through the door. He heard her step and the rustle of her
skirts in the hall, then he heard the front door open and close. For some
reason, not quite clear even to himself, it surprised him; she had never
done a thing like that before. He walked to the front window and looked
out. His wife went straight down the street, and turned the first corner.
After a time he wandered away to the library to nurse an emotion he had
never felt before. It was curiosity.

Mrs. van Safford did not return home for luncheon, so he sat down alone.
Afterwards he mouched about the house restlessly for an hour or so, then
he went down town. He appeared at home again just in time to dress for
dinner.

"Has Mrs. van Safford returned?" was his first question of Baxter, who
opened the door.

"Yes, sir, half an hour ago," responded Baxter. "She's dressing."

Mr. van Safford ran up the steps to his own apartments. At dinner his
wife was radiant, rosily radiant. The flush of perfect health was in her
checks and her eyes sparkled beneath their long lashes. She smiled
brilliantly upon her husband. To him it was all as if some great thing
had been taken out of his life, leaving it desolate, then as suddenly
returned. Unnamed emotions struggled within him prompted by that
curiosity of the morning, and a dozen questions hammered insistently for
answers, But he repressed them gallantly, and for this he was duly
rewarded.

"I had such a delightful time to-day!" his wife exclaimed, after the
soup. "I called for Mrs. Blacklock immediately after I left here, and we
were together all day shopping. We had luncheon down town."

Oh! That was it! Mr. van Safford laughed outright from a vague sense of
relief which he could not have called by name, and toasted his wife
silently by lifting his glass. Her eyes sparkled at the compliment. He
drained the glass, snapped the slender stem in his fingers, laughed again
and laid it aside. Mrs. van Safford dimpled with sheer delight.

"Oh, Van, you silly boy!" she reproved softly, and she stroked the hand
which was prosaically reaching for the salt.

It was only a little while after dinner that Mr. van Safford excused
himself and started for the club, as usual. His wife followed him
demurely to the door and there, under the goggling eyes of Baxter, he
caught her in his arms and kissed her impetuously, fiercely even. It was
the sudden outbreak of an impulsive nature--the sort of thing that makes
a woman know she is loved. She thrilled at his touch and reached two
white hands forward pleadingly. Then the door closed, and she stood
staring down at the tip of her tiny boot with lowered lids and a little,
melancholy droop at the corners of her mouth.

It was after ten o'clock when Mr. van Safford awoke on the following
morning. He had been at his club late--until after two--and now drowsily
permitted himself to be overcome again by the languid listlessness which
is the heritage of late hours. At ten minutes past eleven he appeared in
the breakfast room.

"Mrs. van Safford has been down I suppose?" he inquired of a maid.

"Oh yes, sir," she replied. "She's gone out."

Mr. van Safford lifted his brows inquiringly.

"She was down a few minutes after eight o'clock, sir," the maid
explained, "and hurried through her breakfast."

"Did she leave any word?"

"No, sir."

"Be back to luncheon?"

"She didn't say, sir."

Mr. van Safford finished his breakfast silently and thoughtfully. About
noon he, too, went out. One of the first persons he met down town was
Mrs. Blacklock, and she rushed toward him with outstretched hand.

"I'm so glad to see you," she bubbled, for Mrs. Blacklock was of that
rare type which can bubble becomingly. "But where, in the name of
goodness, is your wife? I haven't seen her for weeks and weeks?"

"Haven't seen her for--" Mr. van Safford repeated, slowly.

"No," Mrs. Blacklock assured him. "I can't imagine where she is keeping
herself."

Mr. van Safford gazed at her in dumb bewilderment for a moment, and the
lines about his mouth hardened a little despite his efforts to control
himself.

"I had an impression," he said deliberately, "that you saw her
yesterday--that you went shopping together?"

"Goodness, no. It must be three weeks since I saw her."

Mr. van Safford's fingers closed slowly, fiercely, but his face relaxed a
little, masking with a slight smile, a turbulent rush of mingled
emotions.

"She mentioned your name," he said at last, calmly. "Perhaps she said she
was going to call on you. I misunderstood her."

He didn't remember the remainder of the conversation, but it was of no
consequence at the moment. He had not misunderstood her, and he knew he
had not. At last he found himself at his club, and there idle guesses and
conjectures flowed through his brain in an unending stream. Finally he
arose, grimly.

"I suppose I'm an ass," he mused. "It doesn't amount to anything, of
course, but--"

And he sought to rid himself of distracting thoughts over a game of
billiards; instead he only subjected himself to open derision for
glaringly inaccurate play. Finally he flung down the cue in disgust,
strode away to the 'phone and called up his home.

"Is Mrs. van Safford there?" he inquired of Baxter.

"No, sir. She hasn't returned yet."

Mr. van Safford banged the telephone viciously as he hung up the
receiver. At six o'clock he returned home. His wife was still out. At
half past eight he sat down to dinner, alone. He didn't enjoy it; indeed
hardly tasted it. Then, just as he finished, she came in with a rush of
skirts and a lilt of laughter. He drew a long breath, and set his teeth.

"You poor, deserted dear!" she sympathized, laughingly.

He started to say something, but two soft, clinging arms were about his
neck, and a velvety cheek rested against his own, so--so he kissed her
instead. And really he wasn't at all to be blamed. She sighed happily,
and laid aside her hat and gloves.

"I simply couldn't get here any sooner," she explained poutingly as she
glanced into his accusing eyes. "I was out with Nell Blakesley in her
big, new touring car, and it broke down and we had to send for a man to
repair it, so--"

He didn't hear the rest; he was staring into her eyes, steadily,
inquiringly. Truth shone triumphant there; he could only believe her.
Yet--yet--that other thing! She hadn't told him the truth! In her face,
at last, he read uneasiness as he continued to stare, and for a moment
there was silence.

"What's the matter, Van?" she inquired solicitously. "Don't you feel
well?"

He pulled himself together with a start and for a time they chatted of
inconsequential things as she ate. He watched her until she pushed her
dessert plate aside, then casually, quite casually:

"I believe you said you were going to call on Mrs. Blacklock tomorrow?"

She looked up quickly.

"Oh no," she replied. "I was with her all day yesterday, shopping. I said
I had called on her."

Mr. van Safford arose suddenly, stood glaring down at her for an instant,
then turning abruptly left the house. Involuntarily she had started up,
then she sat down again and wept softly over her coffee. Mr. van Safford
seemed to have a very definite purpose for when he reached the club he
went straight to a telephone booth, and called Miss Blakesley over the
wire.

"My wife said something about--something about--" he stammered lamely,
"something about calling on you tomorrow. Will you be in?"

"Yes, and I'll be so glad to see her," came the reply. "I'm dreadfully
tired of staying cooped up here in the house, and really I was beginning
to think all my friends had deserted me."

"Cooped up in the house?" Mr. van Safford repeated. "Are you ill?"

"I have been," replied Miss Blakesley. "I'm better now, but I haven't
been out of the house for more than a week."

"Indeed!" remarked Mr. van Safford, sympathetically. "I'm awfully sorry,
I assure you. Then you haven't had a chance to try your--your--'big new
touring car'?"

"Why, I haven't any new touring car," said Miss Blakesley. "I haven't any
sort of a car. Where did you get that idea?"

Mr. van Safford didn't answer her; rudely enough he hung up the telephone
and left the club with a face like marble. When finally he stopped
walking he was opposite his own house. For a minute he stood looking at
it much as if he had never seen it before, then he turned and went back
to the club. There was something of fright, of horror even, in his white
face when he entered.

As Mr. van Safford did not go to bed that night it was not surprising
that his wife should find him in the breakfast room when she came down
about eight o'clock. She smiled. He stared at her with a curt: "Good
morning!" Then came an ominous silence. She finished her breakfast, arose
and left the house without a word. He watched her from a window until she
disappeared around the corner, just four doors below, then overcome by
fears, suspicions, hideous possibilities, he ran out of the house after
her.

She had not been out of his sight more than half a minute when he reached
the corner, yet now--now she was gone. He looked on both sides of the
street, up and down, but there was no sign of her--not a woman in sight.
He knew that she would not have had time to reach the next street below,
then he readily saw the two obvious possibilities. One was that she had
stepped into a waiting cab and been driven away at full speed; another
that she had entered one of the nearby houses. If so, which house? Who
did she know in this street? He turned the problem over in his mind
several times, and then he was convinced that she had hurried away in
waiting cab. That emotion which had begun as curiosity was now a raging,
turbulent torrent.

 On the following morning Mrs. van Safford came down to breakfast at
 fifteen minutes of eight. She seemed a little tired, and there was a
 trace of tears about her eyes. Baxter looked at her curiously.

"Has Mr. van Safford been down yet?" she asked.

"No, Madam," he replied.

"Did he come in at all last night?"

"Yes, Madam. About half past two, I let him in. He had forgotten his
key."

Now as a matter of fact at that particular moment Mr. van Safford was
standing just around the corner, four doors down, waiting for his wife.
Just what he intended to do when she appeared was not quite clear in his
mind, but the affair had gone to a point where he felt that he must do
something. So he waited impatiently, and smoked innumerable cigars. Two
hours passed. He glanced around the corner. No one in sight. He strolled
back to the house, and met Baxter in the hall.

"Has Mrs. van Safford come down?" he asked of the servant.

"Yes, sir," was the reply. "She went out more than an hour ago."

Martha opened the door.

"Please, sir," she said, "there's a young gentleman having a fit in the
reception room."

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine--turned away
from his laboratory table and squinted at her aggressively. Her eyes were
distended with nervous excitement, and her wrinkled hands twisted the
apron she wore.

"Having a fit?" snapped the scientist.

"Yes, sir," she gasped.

"Dear me! Dear me! How annoying!" expostulated the man of achievement,
petulantly. "Just what sort of a fit is it--epileptic, apoplectic, or
merely a fit of laughter?"

"Lord, sir, I don't know," Martha confessed helplessly. "He's just
a-walking and a-talking and a-pulling his hair, sir."

"What name?"

"I--I forgot to ask, sir," apologized the aged servant, "it surprised me
so to see a gentleman a-wiggling like that. He said, though he'd been to
Police Headquarters and Detective Mallory sent him."

The eminent logician dried his hands and started for the reception room.
At the door he paused and peered in. With no knowledge of just what style
of fit his visitor had chosen to have he felt the necessity of this
caution. What he saw was not alarming--merely a good-looking young man
pacing back and forth across the room with quick, savage stride. His eyes
were blazing, and his face was flushed with anger. It was Mr. van
Safford.

At sight of the diminutive figure of The Thinking Machine, topped by the
enormous yellow head, the young man paused and his anger-distorted
features relaxed into something closely approaching surprise.

"Well?" demanded The Thinking Machine, querulously.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. van Safford with a slight start. "I--I had
expected to find a--a--rather a different sort of person."

"Yes, I know," said The Thinking Machine grumpily. "A man with a black
moustache and big feet. Sit down."

Mr. van Safford sat down rather suddenly. It never occurred to anyone to
do other than obey when the crabbed little scientist spoke. Then, with an
incoherence which was thoroughly convincing, Mr. van Safford laid before
The Thinking Machine in detail those singular happenings which had so
disturbed him. The Thinking Machine leaned back in his chair, with finger
tips pressed together, and listened to the end.

"My mental condition--my suffering--was such," explained Mr. van Safford
in conclusion, "that when I proved to my own satisfaction that she had
twice misrepresented the facts to me, wilfully, I--I could have strangled
her."

"That would have been a nice thing to do," remarked the scientist
crustily. "You believe, then, that there may be another--"

"Don't say it," burst out the young man passionately. He arose. His face
was dead white. "Don't say it," he repeated, menacingly.

The Thinking Machine was silent a moment, then glanced up in the blazing
eyes and cleared his throat.

"She never did such a thing before?" he asked.

"No, never."

"Does she--did she--ever speculate?"

Mr. van Safford sat down again.

"Never," he responded, positively. "She wouldn't know one stock from
another."

"Has her own bank account?"

"Yes--nearly four hundred thousand dollars. This was her father's gift at
our wedding. It was deposited in her name, and has remained so. My own
income is more than enough for our uses."

"You are rich, then?"

"My father left me nearly two million dollars," was the reply. "But this
all doesn't matter. What I want--"

"Wait a minute," interrupted The Thinking Machine testily. There was a
long pause. "You have never quarrelled seriously?"

"Never one cross word," was the reply.

"Remarkable," commented The Thinking Machine ambiguously. "How long have
you been married?"

"Two years--last June."

"Most remarkable," supplemented the scientist. Mr. van Safford stared.
"How old are you?"

"Thirty."

"How long have you been thirty?"

"Six months--since last May."

There was a long pause. Mr. van Safford plainly did not see the trend of
the questioning.

"How old is your wife?" demanded the scientist.

"Twenty-two, in January."

"She has never had any mental trouble of any sort?"

"No, no."

"Have you any brothers or sisters?"

"No."

"Has she?"

"No."

The Thinking Machine shot out the questions crustily and Mr. van Safford
answered briefly. There was another pause, and the young man arose and
paced back and forth with nervous energy. From time to time he glanced
inquiringly at the pale, wizened face of the scientist. Several thin
lines had appeared in the domelike brow, and he was apparently oblivious
of the other's presence.

"It's a most intangible, elusive affair," he commented at last, and the
wrinkles deepened. "It is, I may say, a problem without a given quantity.
Perfectly extraordinary."

Mr. van Safford seemed a little relieved to find some one express his own
thoughts so accurately.

"You don't believe, of course," continued the scientist, "that there is
anything criminal in--"

"Certainly not!" the young man exploded, violently.

"Yet, the moment we pursue this to a logical conclusion," pursued the
other, "we are more than likely to uncover something which is, to put it
mildly, not pleasant."

Mr. van Safford's face was perfectly white; his hands were clenched
desperately. Then the loyalty to the woman he loved flooded his heart.

"It's nothing of that kind," he exclaimed, and yet his own heart misgave
him. "My wife is the dearest, noblest, sweetest woman in the world. And
yet--"

"Yet you are jealous of her," interrupted The Thinking Machine. "If you
are so sure of her, why annoy me with your troubles?"

The young man read, perhaps, a deeper meaning than The Thinking Machine
had intended for he started forward impulsively. The Thinking Machine
continued to squint at him impersonally, but did not change his position.

"All young men are fools," he went on, blandly, "and I may add that most
of the old ones are, too. But now the question is: What purpose can your
wife have in acting as she has, and in misrepresenting those acts to you?
Of course we must spy upon her to find out, and the answer may be one
that will wreck your future happiness. It may be, I say. I don't know. Do
you still want the answer?"

"I want to know--I want to know," burst out Mr. van Safford, harshly. "I
shall go mad unless I know."

The Thinking Machine continued to squint at him with almost a gleam of
pity in his eyes--almost but not quite. And the habitually irritated
voice was in no way softened when he gave some explicit and definite
instructions.

"Go on about your affairs," he commanded. "Let things go as they are.
Don't quarrel with your wife; continue to ask your questions because if
you don't she'll suspect that you suspect; report to me any change in her
conduct. It's a very singular problem. Certainly I have never had another
like it."

The Thinking Machine accompanied him to the door and closed it behind
him.

"I have never seen a man in love," he mused, "who wasn't in trouble."

And with this broad, philosophical conclusion he went to the 'phone. Half
an hour later Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, entered the laboratory where
the scientist sat in deep thought.

"Ah, Mr. Hatch," he began, without preliminary, "did you ever happen to
hear of Mr. and Mrs. van Safford?"

"Well, rather," responded the reporter with quick interest. "He's a well
known club-man, worth millions, high in society and all that; and she's
one of the most beautiful women I ever saw. She was a Miss Potter before
marriage."

"It's wonderful the memories you newspaper men have," observed the
scientist. "You know her personally?"

Hatch shook his head.

"You must find some one who knows her well," commanded The Thinking
Machine, "a girl friend, for instance--one who might be in her
confidence. Learn from her why Mrs. van Safford leaves her house every
morning at eight o'clock, then tells her husband she has been with some
one that we know she hasn't seen. She has done this every day for four
days. Your assiduity in this may prevent a divorce."

Hatch pricked up his ears.

"Also find out just what sort of an illness Miss Nell Blakesley has--or
is--suffering. That's all."

An hour later Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, called on Miss Gladys Beekman,
a young society woman who was an intimate of Mrs. van Safford's before
the latter's marriage. Without feeling that he was dallying with the
truth Hatch informed her that he called on behalf of Mr. van Safford. She
began to smile. He laid the case before her emphatically, seriously and
with great detail. The more he explained the more pleasantly she smiled.
It made him uncomfortable but he struggled on to the end.

"I'm glad she did it," exclaimed Miss Beekman. "But I--I couldn't believe
she would."

Then came a sudden gust of laughter which left Hutchinson Hatch,
reporter, with the feeling that he was being imposed upon. It continued
for a full minute--a hearty, rippling, musical laugh. Hatch grinned
sheepishly. Then, without an excuse, Miss Beekman arose and left the
room. In the hall there came a fresh burst, and Hatch heard it dying away
in the distance.

"Well," he muttered grimly. "I'm glad I was able to amuse her."

Then he called upon a Mrs. Francis, a young matron whom he had cause to
believe was also favoured with Mrs. van Safford's friendship. He laid the
case before her, and she laughed! Then Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, began
to get mule-headed about it. He visited eight other women who were known
to be on friendly terms with Mrs. van Safford. Six of them intimated that
he was an impertinent, prying, inquisitive person, and--the other two
laughed! Hatch paused a moment and rubbed his fevered brow.

"Here's a corking good joke on somebody," he told himself, "and I'm
beginning to think it's me."

Whereupon he took his troubles to The Thinking Machine. That
distinguished gentleman listened in pained surprise to the simple recital
of what Hatch had not been able to learn, and spidery wrinkles on his
forehead assumed the relative importance of the canals on Mars.

"It's astonishing!" he declared, raspily.

"Yes, it so struck me," agreed the reporter.

The Thinking Machine was silent for a long time; the watery blue eyes
were turned upward and the slender white fingers pressed tip to tip.
Finally he made up his mind as to the next step.

"There seems only one thing to do," he said. "And I won't ask you to do
that."

"What is it?" demanded the reporter.

"To watch Mrs. van Safford and see where she goes."

"I wouldn't have done it before, but I will now." Hatch responded
promptly. The bull-dog in him was aroused. "I want to see what the joke
is."

It was ten o'clock next evening when Hatch called to make a report. He
seemed a little weary and tremendously disgusted.

"I've been right behind her all day," he explained, "from eight o'clock
this morning until twenty minutes past nine tonight when she reached
home. And if the Lord'll forgive me--"

"What did she do?" interrupted The Thinking Machine, impatiently.

"Well," and Hatch grinned as he drew out a notebook, "she walked eastward
from her house to the first corner, turned, walked another block, took a
down town car, and went straight to the Public Library. There she read a
Henry James book until fifteen minutes of one, and then she went to
luncheon in a restaurant. I also had luncheon. Then she went to the North
End on a car. After she got there she wandered around aimlessly all
afternoon, nearly. At ten minutes of four she gave a quarter to a
crippled boy. He bit it to see if it was good, found it was, then bought
cigarettes with it. At half past four she left the North End and went
into a big department store. If there's anything there she didn't price I
can't remember it. She bought a pair of shoe-laces. The store closed at
six, so she went to dinner in another restaurant. I also had dinner. We
left there at half past seven o'clock and went back to the Public
Library. She read until nine o'clock, and then went home. Phew!" he
concluded.

The Thinking Machine had listened with growing and obvious disappointment
on his face. He seemed so cast down by the recital that Hatch tried to
cheer him.

"I couldn't help it you know," he said by way of apology. "That's what
she did."

"She didn't speak to anyone?"

"Not a soul but clerks, waiters and library attendants."

"She didn't give a note to anyone or receive a note?"

"No."

"Did she seem to have any purpose at all in anything she did?"

"No. The impression she gave me was that she was killing time."

The Thinking Machine was silent for several minutes. "I think perhaps--"
he began.

But what he thought Hatch didn't learn for he was sent away with
additional instructions. Next morning found him watching the front of the
van Safford house again. Mrs. van Safford came out at seven minutes past
eight o'clock, and walked rapidly eastward. She turned the first corner
and went on, still rapidly, to the corner of an alley. There she paused,
cast a quick look behind her, and went in. Hatch was some distance back
and ran forward just in time to see her skirts trailing into a door.

"Ah, here's something anyhow," he told himself, with grim satisfaction.

He walked along the alley to the door. It was like the other doors along
in that it led into the back hall of a house, and was intended for the
use of tradesmen. When he examined the door he scratched his chin
thoughtfully; then came utter bewilderment, an amazing sense of hopeless
insanity. For there, staring at him from a door-plate, was the name: "van
Safford." She had merely come out the front door and gone into the back!

Hatch started to rap and ask some questions, then changed his mind and
walked around to the front again, and up the steps.

"Is Mrs. van Safford in?" he inquired of Baxter, who opened the door.

"No, sir," was the reply. "She went out a few minutes ago."

Hatch stared at him coldly a minute, then walked away.

"Now this is a particularly savoury kettle of fish," he soliloquized.
"She has either gone back into the house without his knowledge, or else
he has been bribed, and then--"

And then, he took the story to The Thinking Machine. That imperturbable
man of science listened to the end, then arose and said "Oh!" three
times. Which was interesting to Hatch in that it showed the end was in
sight, but it was not illuminating. He was still floundering.

The Thinking Machine started into an adjoining room, then turned back.

"By the way, Mr. Hatch," he asked, "did you happen to find out what was
the matter with Miss Blakesley?"

"By George, I forgot it," returned the reporter, ruefully.

"Never mind, I'll find out."

At eleven o'clock Hutchinson Hatch and The Thinking Machine called at the
van Safford home. Mr. van Safford in person received them; there was a
gleam of hope in his face at sight of the diminutive scientist. Hatch was
introduced, then:

"You don't know of any other van Safford family in this block?" began the
scientist.

"There's not another family in the city," was the reply. "Why?"

"Is your wife in now?"

"No. She went out this morning, as usual."

"Now, Mr. van Safford, I'll tell you how you may bring this matter to an
end, and understand it all at once. Go upstairs to your wife's
apartments--they are probably locked--and call her. She won't answer but
she'll hear you. Then tell her you understand it all, and that you're
sorry. She'll hear that, as that alone is what she has been waiting to
hear for some time. When she comes out bring her down stairs. Believe me
I should be delighted to meet so clever a woman."

Mr. van Safford was looking at him as if he doubted his sanity.

"Really," he said coldly, "what sort of child's play is this?"

"It's the only way you'll ever coax her out of that room," snapped The
Thinking Machine belligerently, "and you'd better do it gracefully."

"Are you serious?" demanded the other.

"Perfectly serious," was the crabbed rejoinder. "She has taught you a
lesson that you'll remember for sometime. She has been merely going out
the front door every day, and coming in the back, with the full knowledge
of the cook and her maid."

Mr. van Safford listened in amazement.

"Why did she do it?" he asked.

"Why?" retorted The Thinking Machine. "That's for you to answer. A little
less of your time at the club of evenings, and a little less of selfish
amusement, so that you can pay attention to a beautiful woman who has,
previous to her marriage at least, been accustomed to constant attention,
would solve this little problem. You've spent every evening at your club
for months, and she was here alone probably a great part of that time. In
your own selfishness you had never a thought of her, so she gave you a
reason to think of her."

Suddenly Mr. van Safford turned and ran out of the room. They heard him
as he took the stairs, two at a time.

"By George!" remarked Hatch. "That's a silly ending to a cracking good
mystery, isn't it?"

Ten minutes later Mr. and Mrs. van Safford entered the room. Her pretty
face was suffused with colour: he was frankly, outrageously happy. There
were mutual introductions.

"It was perfectly dreadful of Mr. van Safford to call you gentlemen into
this affair," Mrs. van Safford apologized, charmingly. "Really I feel
very much ashamed of myself for--"

"It's of no consequence, madam," The Thinking Machine assured her. "It's
the first opportunity I have ever had of studying a woman's mind. It was
not at all logical, but it was very--very instructive. I may add that it
was effective, too."

He bowed low, and turning picked up his hat.

"But your fee?" suggested Mr. van Safford.

The Thinking Machine squinted at him sourly. "Oh, yes, my fee," he mused.
"It will be just five thousand dollars."

"Five thousand dollars?" exclaimed Mr. van Safford.

"Five thousand dollars," repeated the scientist.

"Why, man, it's perfectly absurd to talk--"

Mrs. van Safford laid one white hand on her husband's arm. He glanced at
her and she smiled radiantly.

"Don't you think I'm worth it, Van?" she asked, archly.

He wrote the cheque. The Thinking Machine scribbled his name across the
back in a crabbed little hand, and passed it on to Hatch.

"Please hand that to some charitable organization," he directed. "It was
an excellent lesson, Mrs. van Safford. Good day."

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, scientist, and Hutchinson Hatch,
reporter, walked along side by side for two blocks, without speaking. The
reporter broke the silence.

"Why did you want to know what was the matter with Miss Blakesley?" he
asked.

"I wanted to know if she really had been ill or was merely attempting to
mislead Mr. van Safford," was the reply. "She was ill with a touch of
grippe. I got that by 'phone. I also learned of Mr. van Safford's club
habits by 'phone from his club."

"And those women who laughed--what was the joke about?"

"The fact that they laughed made me see that the affair was not a serious
one. They were intimate friends with whom the wife had evidently
discussed doing just what she did do," explained the scientist. "All
things considered in this case the facts could only have been as logic
developed them. I imagined the true state of affairs from your report of
Mrs. van Safford's day of wandering; when I knew she went in the back
door of her own house, I saw the solution. Because, Mr. Hatch," and the
scientist paused and shook a long finger in the reporter's face, "because
two and two always make four--not some times, but all the time."



PROBLEM OF THE HIDDEN MILLION


The gray hand of Death had already left its ashen mark upon the wrinkled,
venomous face of the old man, who lay huddled up in bed. Save for the
feverishly brilliant eyes--cunning, vindictive, hateful--there seemed to
be no spark of life in the aged form. The withered lips were mute, and
the thin, yellow, claw-like hands lay helplessly outstretched on the
white sheets. All physical power was gone; only the brain remained
doggedly alive. Two men and two women stood beside the death bed. Upon
each in turn the glittering eyes rested with the merciless, unreasoning
hatred of age. Crouched on the floor was a huge St. Bernard dog; and on a
perch across the room was a parrot which screeched abominably.

The gloom of the wretched little room was suddenly relieved by a ruddy
sunbeam which shot athwart the bed and lighted the scene fantastically.
The old man noted it, and his lips curled into a hideous smile.

"That's the last sun I'll ever see," he piped feebly. "I'm dying--dying!
Do you hear? And you're all glad of it, every one of you. Yes, you are!
You are glad of it because you want my money. You came here to make me
believe you were paying a last tribute of respect to your old
grandfather. But that isn't it. It's the money you want--the money! But
I've got a surprise for you. You'll never get the money. It's hidden
safely--you'll never get it. You all hate me, you have hated me for
years, and after that sun dies you'll all hate me worse. But not more
than I hate you. You'll all hate me worse then, because I'll be gone and
you'll never know where the money is hidden. It will lie there safely
where I put it, rotting and crumbling away; but you shall never warm your
fingers with it! It's hidden--hidden--hidden!"

There was rasping in the shrunken throat, a deeply drawn breath, then the
figure stiffened and a distorted soul passed out upon the Eternal Way.

Martha held a card within the blinding light of the reflector, and
Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, with his hands immersed to the
elbows in some chemical mess, squinted at it.

"Dr. Walter Ballard," he read. "Show him in."

After a moment Dr. Ballard entered. The scientist was still absorbed in
his labors, but paused long enough to jerk his head toward a chair. Dr.
Ballard accepted this as an invitation and sat down, staring curiously at
the singular, childlike figure of this eminent man of science, at the mop
of tangled, straw yellow hair, the enormous brow, and the peering blue
eyes.

"Well?" demanded the scientist abruptly.

"I beg your pardon," began Dr. Ballard with a little start. "Your name
was mentioned to me sometime ago by a newspaper reporter, Hutchinson
Hatch, whom I chanced to meet in his professional capacity. He suggested
then that I come and see you, but I thought it useless. Now the affair in
which we were both interested at that time seems hopelessly beyond
solution, so I come to you for aid.

"We want to find one million dollars in gold and United States bonds,
which were hidden by my grandfather, John Walter Ballard, sometime before
his death just a month ago. The circumstances are altogether out of the
ordinary."

The Thinking Machine abandoned his labors, and dried his hands carefully,
after which he took a seat facing Dr. Ballard. "Tell me about it," he
commanded.

"Well," began Dr. Ballard reminiscently, as he settled back in his chair,
"the old man--my grandfather--died, as I said, a month ago. He was nearly
eighty-six, and the last five or six years of his life he spent as a
recluse in a little hut twenty miles from the city, a place some distance
from any other house. He had a spot of ground there, half an acre or so,
and lived like a pauper, despite the fact that he was worth at least a
million dollars. Previous to the time he went there to live, there had
been an estrangement with my family, his sole heirs. My family consists
of myself, wife, son, and daughter.

"My grandfather lived in the house with me for ten years before he went
out to this hut; and why he left us then is not clear to any member of my
family, unless," and he shrugged his shoulders, "he was mentally
unbalanced. Anyway, he went. He would neither come to see us, nor would
he permit us to go to see him. As far as we know, he owned no real
property of any sort, except this miserable little place, worth
altogether--furnishing and all--not more than a thousand or twelve
hundred dollars.

"Well, about a month ago some one stopped at the hut for something and
found he was ill. I was notified, and with my wife, son and daughter went
to see what we could do. He took occasion on his death bed to heap
vituperation upon us, and incidentally to state that something like a
million dollars was left behind, but hidden.

"For the sake of my son and daughter, I undertook to recover this money.
I consulted attorneys, private detectives, and in fact exhausted every
possible method. I ascertained beyond question that the money was not in
a bank anywhere; and hardly think he would have left it there, because of
course, if he had, even with a will disinheriting us, the law would have
turned it over to us. He had no safe deposit vault as far as one month's
close search revealed, and the money was not hidden in the house or
grounds. He stated on his death bed that it was in bonds and gold, and
that we should never find it. He was just vindictive enough not to
destroy it, but to leave it somewhere, believing we should never find it.
Where did he hide it?"

The Thinking Machine sat silent for several minutes, with his enormous
yellow head tilted back, and slender fingers pressed together. "The house
and grounds were searched?" he asked.

"The house was searched from cellar to garret," was the reply. "Workmen,
under my directions, practically wrecked the building. Floors, ceilings,
walls, chimney, stairs,--everything,--little cubby holes in the roof, the
foundation of the chimney, the pillars, even the flag stones leading from
the gate to the door,--everything was examined. The joists were sounded
to see if they were solid, and a dozen of them were cut through; the
posts on the veranda were cut to pieces; and every stick of furniture was
dissected--mattresses, beds, chairs, tables, bureaus--all of it. Outside
in the grounds the search was just as thorough. Not one square inch but
what was overturned. We dug it all up to a depth of ten feet. Still
nothing."

"Of course," said the scientist at last, "the search of the house and
grounds was useless. The old man was shrewd enough to know that they
would be searched. Also it would appear that the search of banks and
safety deposit vaults was equally useless. He was shrewd enough to
foresee that too. We shall, for the present, assume that he did not
destroy the money or give it away; so it is hidden. If the brain of man
is clever enough to conceal a thing, the brain of man is clever enough to
find it. It's a little problem in subtraction, Dr. Ballard." He was
silent for a moment. "Who was your grandfather's attending physician?"

"I was. I was present at his death. Nothing could be done. It was merely
the collapse consequent upon old age. I issued the burial certificate."

"Were any special directions left as to the place or manner of burial?"

"No."

"Have all his papers been examined for a clue as to the possible hiding
place?"

"Everything. There were no papers to amount to anything."

"Have you those papers now?"

Dr. Ballard silently produced a packet and handed it to the scientist.

"I shall examine these at my leisure," said The Thinking Machine. "It may
be a day or so before I communicate with you."

Dr. Ballard went his way. For a dozen hours The Thinking Machine sat with
the papers spread out before him, and the keen, squinting, blue eyes
dissected them, every paragraph, every sentence, every word. At the end
he arose and bundled up the papers impatiently.

"Dear me! Dear me!" he exclaimed irritably. "There's no cipher--that's
certain. Then what?"

Devastating hands had wrought the wreck of the little hut where the old
man died. Standing in the midst of its litter, The Thinking Machine
regarded it closely and dispassionately for a long time. The work of
destruction had been well done.

"Can you suggest anything?" asked Dr. Ballard impatiently.

"One mind may read another mind," said The Thinking Machine, "when there
is some external thing upon which there can come concentration as a unit.
In other words, when we have a given number the logical brain can
construct either backward or forward. There are so many thousands of ways
in which your grandfather could have disposed of this money, that the
task becomes tremendous in view of the fact that we have no starting
point. It is a case for patience, rather than any other quality;
therefore, for greater speed, we must proceed psychologically. The
question then becomes, not one of where the money is hidden, but one of
where that sort of man would hide it.

"Now what sort of man was your grandfather?" the scientist continued. "He
was crabbed, eccentric, and possibly not mentally sound. The cunning of a
diseased brain is greater than the cunning of a normal one. He boasted to
you that the money was in existence, and his last words were intended to
arouse your curiosity; to hang over you all the rest of your life and
torment you. You can imagine the vindictive, petty brain like that
putting a thing safely beyond your reach--but just beyond it--near enough
to tantalize, and yet far enough to remain undiscovered. This seems to me
to be the mental attitude in this case. Your grandfather knew that you
would do just what you have done here; that is, search the house and lot.
He knew too that you would search banks and safety deposit vaults, and
with a million at stake he knew it would be done thoroughly. Knowing
this, naturally he would not put the money in any of those places.

"Then what? He doesn't own any other property, as far as we know, and we
shall assume that he did not buy property in the name of some other
person; therefore, what have we left? Obviously, if the money is still in
existence, it is hidden on somebody's else property. And the minute we
say that, we have the whole wide world to search. But again, doesn't the
deviltry and maliciousness of the old man narrow that down? Wouldn't he
have liked to remember as a dying thought that the money was always just
within your reach, and yet safely beyond it? Wouldn't it have been a
keener revenge to have you dig over the whole place, while the money was
hidden just six feet outside in a spot where you would never dig? It
might be sixty, or six hundred, or six thousand. But then we have the law
of probability to narrow those limits; so--"

Professor Van Dusen turned suddenly and strolled across the uneven ground
to the property line. Walking slowly and scrutinizing the ground as he
went, he circled the lot, returning to the starting point. Dr. Ballard
had followed along behind him.

"Are all your grandfather's belongings still in the house?" asked the
scientist.

"Yes, everything just as he left it; that is, except his dog and a
parrot. They are temporarily in charge of a widow down the road here."

The scientist looked at Dr. Ballard quickly. "What sort of dog is it?" he
inquired.

"A St. Bernard, I think," replied Dr. Ballard wonderingly.

"Do you happen to have a glove or something that you know your
grandfather wore?"

"I have a glove, yes."

From the debris which littered the floor of the house, a well worn glove
was recovered.

"Now, the dog, please," commanded the scientist.

A short walk along the country road brought them to a house, and here
they stopped. The St. Bernard, a shaggy, handsome, boisterous old chap,
with wise eyes, was led out in leash. The Thinking Machine thrust the
glove forward, and the dog sniffed at it. After a moment he sank down on
his haunches, and with head thrust forward and upward, whined softly. It
was the call of the brute soul to its master.

The Thinking Machine patted the heavy-coated head, and with the glove
still in his hand made as if to go away. Again came the whine, but the
dog sank down on the floor, with his head between his forepaws, regarding
him intently. For ten minutes the scientist sought to coax the animal to
follow him, but still he lay motionless.

"I don't mind keepin' that dog here; but that parrot is powerful noisy,"
said the woman after a moment. She had been standing by watching the
scientist curiously. "There ain't no peace in the house."

"Noisy--how?" asked Dr. Ballard.

"He swears, and sings and whistles, and does 'rithmetic all day long,"
the woman explained. "It nearly drives me distracted."

"Does arithmetic?" inquired The Thinking Machine.

"Yes," replied the woman, "and he swears just terrible. It's almost like
havin' a man about the house. There he goes now."

From another room came a sudden, squawking burst of profanity, followed
instantly by a whistle, which caused the dog on the floor to prick up his
ears.

"Does the parrot talk well?" asked the scientist.

"Just like a human bein'," replied the woman, "an' just about as sensible
as some I've seen. I don't mind his whistling, if only he wouldn't swear
so, and do all his figgerin' out loud."

For a minute or more the scientist stood staring down at the dog in deep
thought. Gradually there came some subtle change in his expression. Dr.
Ballard was watching him closely.

"I think perhaps it would be a good idea for me to keep the parrot for a
few days," suggested the scientist finally. He turned to the woman. "Just
what sort of arithmetic does the bird do?"

"All kinds," she answered promptly. "He does all the multiplication
table. But he ain't very good in subtraction."

"I shouldn't be surprised," commented The Thinking Machine. "I'll take
the bird for a few days, doctor, if you don't mind."

And so it came to pass that when The Thinking Machine returned to his
apartments he was accompanied by as noisy and vociferous a companion as
one would care to have.

Martha, the aged servant, viewed him with horror as he entered. "The
perfessor do be gettin' old," she muttered. "I suppose there'll be a cat
next."

Two days later Dr. Ballard was called to the telephone. The Thinking
Machine was at the other end of the wire.

"Take two men whom you can trust and go down to your grandfather's
place," instructed the scientist curtly. "Take picks, shovels, a compass,
and a long tape line. Stand on the front steps facing east. To your right
will be an apple tree some distance off that lot on the adjoining
property. Go to that apple tree. A boulder is at its foot. Measure from
the edge of that stone twenty-six feet due north by the compass, and from
that point fourteen feet due west. You will find your money there. Then
please have some one come and take this bird away. If you don't, I'll
wring its neck. It's the most blasphemous creature I ever heard. Good
bye."

Dr. Ballard slipped the catch on the suit case and turned it upside down
on the laboratory table. It was packed--literally packed--with United
States bonds. The Thinking Machine fingered them idly.

"And there is this too," said Dr. Ballard.

He lifted a stout sack from the floor, cut the string, and spilled out
its contents beside the bonds. It was gold--thousands and thousands of
dollars. Dr. Ballard was frankly excited about it; The Thinking Machine
accepted it as he accepted all material things.

"How much is there of it?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know," replied Dr. Ballard.

"And how did you find it?"

"As you directed--twenty-six feet north from the boulder, and fourteen
feet west from that point."

"I knew that, of course," snapped The Thinking Machine; "but how was it
hidden?"

"It's rather peculiar," explained Dr. Ballard. "Fourteen feet brought the
man who had measured it to the edge of an old, dried up well, twelve or
fifteen feet deep. Not expecting any such thing, he tumbled into it. In
his efforts to get out he stepped upon a stone which protruded from one
side. That fell out, and revealed the wooden box, which contained all
this."

"In other words," said the scientist, "the money was hidden in such a
manner that it would in time have come to be buried twelve or fifteen
feet below the surface, because the well, being dry, would ultimately, of
course, have been filled in."

Dr. Ballard had been listening only hazily. His hands had been plowing in
and out of the heap of gold. The Thinking Machine regarded him with
something like contempt about his thin-lipped mouth.

"How--how did you ever do it?" asked Dr. Ballard at last.

"I am surprised that you want to know," remarked The Thinking Machine
cuttingly. "You know how I reached the conclusion that the money was not
hidden either in the house or lot. The plain logic of the thing told me
that, even before the search you had made demonstrated it. You saw how
logic narrowed down the search, and you saw my experiment with the dog.
That was purely an experiment. I wanted to see the instinct of the
animal. Would it lead him anywhere?--perhaps to the spot where the money
had been hidden? It did not.

"But the parrot? That was another matter. It just happens that once
before I had an interesting experience with a bird--a cockatoo which
figured in a sleep walking case--and naturally was interested in this
bird. Now, what were the circumstances in this case? Here was a bird that
talked exceptionally well, yet that bird had been living for five years
alone with an old man. It is a fact that, no matter how well a parrot may
talk, it will forget in the course of time, unless there is some one
around it who talks. This old man was the only person near this bird;
therefore, from the fact that the bird talks, we know that the old man
talked; from the fact that the bird repeated the multiplication table, we
know that the old man repeated it; from the fact that the bird whistles,
we know that the old man whistled, perhaps to the dog. And in the course
of five years under these circumstances, a bird would have come to that
point where it would repeat only the words or sounds that the old man
used.

"All this shows too that the old man talked to himself. Most people who
live alone a great deal do that. Then came a question as to whether at
any time the old man had ever repeated the secret of the hiding place
within the hearing of the bird--not once but many times, because it takes
a parrot a long time to learn phrases. When we know the vindictiveness
which lay behind the old man's actions in hiding the money, when we know
how the thing preyed on his mind, coupled with the fact that he talked to
himself, and was not wholly sound mentally, we can imagine him doddering
about the place alone, repeating the very thing of which he had made so
great a secret. Thus, the bird learned it, but learned it disjointedly,
not connectedly; so when I brought the parrot here, my idea was to know
by personal observation what the bird said that didn't connect--that is,
that had no obvious meaning, I hoped to get a clue which would result,
just as the clue I did get did result.

"The bird's trick of repeating the multiplication table means nothing
except it shows the strange workings of an unbalanced mind. And yet,
there is one exception to this. In a disjointed sort of way, the bird
knows all the multiplication tables to ten, except one. For
instance--listen!"

The Thinking Machine crept stealthily to a door and opened it softly a
few inches. From somewhere out there came the screeching of the parrot.
For several minutes they listened in silence. There was a flood of
profanity, a shrill whistle or two, then the squawking voice ran off into
a monotone.

"Six times one are six, six time two are twelve, six times three are
eighteen, six times four are twenty-four--and add two."

"That's it," explained the scientist, as he closed the door. "'Six times
four are twenty-four--and add two.' That's the one table the bird doesn't
know. The thing is incoherent, except as applied to a peculiar method of
remembering a number. That number is twenty-six. On one occasion I heard
the bird repeat a dozen times, 'Twenty-six feet to the polar star.' That
could mean nothing except the direction of the twenty-six feet--due
north. One of the first things I noticed the bird saying was something
about fourteen feet to the setting sun--or due west. When set down with
the twenty-six, I could readily see that I had something to go on.

"But where was the starting point? Again, logic. There was no tree or
stone inside the lot, except the apple tree which your workmen cut down,
and that was more than twenty-six feet from the boundary of the lot in
all directions. There was one tree in the adjoining lot, an apple tree
with a boulder at its foot. I knew that by observation. And there was no
other tree, I knew also, within several hundred feet; therefore, that
tree, or boulder rather, as a starting point--not the tree so much as the
boulder, because the tree might be cut down, or would in time decay. The
chances are the stone would have been allowed to remain there
indefinitely. Naturally your grandfather would measure from a prominent
point--the boulder. That is all. I gave you the figures. You know the
rest."

For a minute or more, Dr. Ballard stared at him blankly. "How was it you
knew," he asked, "that the directions should have been first twenty-six
feet north, then fourteen feet west, instead of first fourteen west, and
then twenty-six feet north?"

"I didn't know," replied The Thinking Machine. "If you had failed to find
the money by those directions, I should merely have reversed the order."

Half an hour later Dr. Ballard went away, carrying the money and the
parrot in its cage. The bird cursed The Thinking Machine roundly, as Dr.
Ballard went down the steps.

Kidnapped Baby Blake, Millionaire











I





Douglas Blake, millionaire, sat flat on the floor and gazed with
delighted eyes at the unutterable beauties of a highly colored picture
book. He was only fourteen months old, and the picture book was quite the
most beautiful thing he had ever beheld. Evelyn Barton, a lovely girl of
twenty-two or three years, sat on the floor opposite and listened with a
slightly amused smile as Baby Blake in his infinite wisdom discoursed
learnedly on the astonishing things he found in the book.

The floor whereon Baby Blake sat was that of the library of the Blake
home, in the outskirts of Lynn. This home, handsomely but modestly
furnished, had been built by Baby Blake's father, Langdon Blake, who had
died four months previously, leaving Baby Blake's beautiful mother,
Elizabeth Blake, heartbroken and crushed by the blow, and removing her
from the social world of which she had been leader.

Here, quietly, with but three servants and Miss Barton, the nurse, who
could hardly be classed as a servant--rather a companion--Mrs. Blake had
lived on for the present.

The great house was gloomy, but it had been the scene of all her
happiness, and she had clung to it. The building occupied relatively a
central position in a plot of land facing the street for 200 feet or so,
and stretching back about 300 feet. A stone wall inclosed it.

In Summer this plot was a great velvety lawn; now the first snow of the
Winter had left an inch deep blanket over all, unbroken save the
cement-paved walk which extended windingly from the gate in the street
wall to the main entrance of the home. This path had been cleaned of snow
and was now a black streak through the whiteness.

Near the front stoop this path branched off and led on around the
building toward the back. This, too, had been cleared of snow, but beyond
the back door entrance the white blanket covered everything back to the
rear wall of the property. There against the rear wall, to the right as
one stood behind the house, was a roomy barn and stable; in the extreme
left hand corner of the property was a cluster of tall trees, with limbs
outstretched fantastically.

The driveway from the front was covered with snow. It had been several
weeks since Mrs. Blake had had occasion to use either of her vehicles or
horses, so she had closed the barn and stabled the horses outside. Now
the barn was wholly deserted. From one of the great trees a swing, which
had been placed there for the delight of Baby Blake, swung idly.

In the Summer Baby Blake had been wont to toddle the hundred or more feet
from the house to the swing; but now that pleasure was forbidden. He was
confined to the house by the extreme cold.

When the snow began to fall that day about two o'clock Baby Blake had
shown enthusiasm. It was the first snow he remembered. He stood at a
window of the warm library and, pointing out with a chubby finger, told
Miss Barton:

"Me want doe."

Miss Barton interpreted this as a request to be taken out or permitted to
go out in the snow.

"No, no," she said, firmly. "Cold. Baby must not go. Cold. Cold."

Baby Blake raised his voice in lusty protestation at this unkindness of
his nurse, and finally Mrs. Blake had to pacify him. Since then a hundred
things had been used to divert Baby Blake's mind from the outside.

This snow had fallen for an hour, then stopped, and the clouds passed.
Now, at fifteen minutes of six o'clock in the evening, the moon glittered
coldly and clearly over the unbroken surface of the snow. Star points
spangled the sky; the wind had gone, and extreme quiet lay over the
place. Even the sound from the street, where an occasional vehicle
passed, was muffled by the snow. Baby Blake heard a jingling sleigh bell
somewhere in the distance and raised his head inquiringly.

"Pretty horse," said Miss Balton, quickly indicating a splash of color in
the open book.

"Pitty horsie," said Baby Blake.

"Horse," said Miss Barton. "Four legs. One, two, three, four," she
counted.

"Pitty horsie," said Baby Blake again.

He turned another page with a ruthless disregard of what might happen to
it.

"Pitty kitty," he went on, wisely.

"Yes, pretty kitty," the nurse agreed.

"Pitty doggie, 'n' pitty ev'fing, ooo-o-oh," Baby Blake was gravely
enthusiastic. "Ef'nit," he added, as his eye caught a full page picture.

"Elephant, yes," said Miss Barton. "Almost bedtime," she added.

"No, no," insisted Baby Blake, vigorously. "Pity ef'nit."

Then Baby Blake arose from his seat on the floor and toddled over to
where Miss Barton sat, plumping down heavily, directly in front of her.
Here, with the picture book in his hands he lay back with his head
resting against her knee. Mrs. Blake appeared at the door.

"Miss Barton, a moment please," she said. Her face was white and there
was a strange note in her voice.

A little anxiously, the girl arose and went into the adjoining room with
Mrs. Blake, leaving Baby Blake with the picture book outspread on the
floor. Mrs. Blake handed her an open letter, written on a piece of
wrapping paper in a scrawly, almost indecipherable hand.

"This came in the late afternoon mail," said the mother. "Read it."

"'We hav maid plans to kiddnap your baby,'" Miss Barton read slowly.
"'Nothig cann bee dun to keep us from it so it wont do no good to tel the
polece. If you will git me ten thousan dolers we will not, and will go
away. Advertis YES or NOA ann sin your name in a Boston Amurikan. Then we
will tell you wat to do. (sined) Three. (3)'"

Miss Barton was silent a moment as she realized what she had read and
there was a quick-caught breath.

"A threat to kidnap," said the mother. "Evelyn, Evelyn, can you believe
it?"

"Oh, Mrs. Blake," and tears leaped to the girl's eyes quickly. "Oh, the
monsters."

"I don't know what to do," said the mother, uncertainly.

"The police, I would suggest," replied the girl, quickly. "I should turn
it over to the police immediately."

"Then the newspaper notoriety," said the mother, "and after all it may
mean nothing. I think perhaps it would be better for us to leave here
tomorrow, and go into Boston for the Winter. I could never live here with
this horrible fear hanging over me--if I should lose my baby, too, it
would kill me."

"As you say, but I would suggest the police, nevertheless," the girl
insisted gently.

"Of course the money is nothing," she went on. "I would give every penny
for the boy if I had to, but there's the fear and uncertainty of it. I
think perhaps it would be better for you to pack up Douglas's little
clothes tonight and tomorrow we will go to Boston to a hotel until we can
make other arrangements for the Winter. You need not mention the matter
to the others in the house."

"I think perhaps that would be best," said Miss Barton, "but I still
think the police should be notified."

The two women left the room together and returned to the library after
about ten minutes, where Baby Blake had been looking at the picture book.
The baby was not there, and Miss Barton turned and glanced quickly at
Mrs. Blake. The mother apparently paid no attention, and the nurse passed
into another room, thinking Douglas had gone there.

Within ten minutes the household was in an uproar--Baby Blake had
disappeared. Miss Barton, the servants and the distracted mother raced
through the roomy building, searching every nook and corner, calling for
Douglas. No answer. At last Miss Barton and Mrs. Blake met face to face
in the library over the picture book the baby had been admiring.

"I'm afraid it's happened," said the nurse.

"Kidnapped!" exclaimed the mother. "Oh," and with waxen white face she
sank back on a couch in a dead faint.

Regardless of the mother, Evelyn ran to the telephone and notified the
police. They responded promptly, three detectives and two uniformed
officers. The threatening letter was placed in their hands, and one of
them laid its contents before his chief by 'phone, a general alarm was
sent out.

While the uniformed men searched the house again from attic to cellar the
two other plain clothes men searched outside. Together they went over the
ground, but the surface of the snow was unbroken save for their own
footprints and the paved path. From the front wall, which faced the
street, the detectives walked slowly back, one on each side of the house,
searching in the snow for some trace of a footprint.

There was nothing to reward this vigilance, and they met behind the
house. Each shook his head. Then one stopped suddenly and pointed to the
snow which lay at their feet and spreading away over the immense back
yard. The other detective looked intently then stopped and stared.

What he saw was the footprint of a child--a baby. The tracks led straight
away through the snow toward the back wall, and without a word the two
men followed them, one by one; the regular toddling steps of a baby who
is only fairly certain of his feet. Ten, twenty, thirty feet they went on
in a straight line and already the detectives saw a possible solution. It
was that Baby Blake had wandered away of his own free will.

Then, as they were following the tracks, they stopped suddenly astounded.
Each dropped on his knees in the snow and sought vainly for something
sought over a space of many feet, then turned back to the tracks again.

"Well, if that--" one began.

The footprints, going steadily forward across the yard, had stopped.
There was the last, made as if Baby Blake had intended to go forward, but
there were no more tracks--no more traces of tracks--nothing. Baby Blake
had walked to this point, and then--

"Why he must have gone straight up in the air," gasped one of the
detectives. He sank down on a small wooden box three or four feet from
where the tracks ended, and wiped the perspiration from his face.


II


"All problems may be reduced to an arithmetical basis by a simple mental
process," declared Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, emphatically.
"Once a problem is so reduced, no matter what it is, it may be solved. If
you play chess, Mr. Hatch, you will readily grasp what I mean. Our great
chess masters are really our greatest logicians and mathematicians, yet
their efforts are directed in a way which can be of no use save to
demonstrate, theatrically, I may say, the unlimited possibilities of the
human mind."

Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, leaned back in his chair and watched the
great scientist and logician as he pottered around the long workbench
beside the big window of his tiny laboratory. It was here that Professor
Van Dusen had achieved some of those marvels which had attracted the
attention of the world at large and had won for him a long list of
honorary initials.

Hatch doubted if the Professor himself could recall these--that is beyond
the more common ones of Ph. D., LL. D., M. D., and M. A. There were
strange combinations of letters bestowed by French, Italian, German and
English educational and scientific institutions, which were delighted to
honor so eminent a scientist as Professor Van Dusen, so-called The
Thinking Machine.

The slender body of the scientist, bowed from close study and minute
microscopic observation, gave the impression of physical weakness--an
impression which was wholly correct--and made the enormous head which
topped the figure seem abnormal. Added to this was the long yellow hair
of the scientist, which sometimes as he worked fell over his face and
almost obscured the keen blue eyes perpetually squinting through
unusually thick glasses.

"By the reduction of a problem to an arithmetical basis," The Thinking
Machine went on, "I mean the finding of the cause of an effect. For
instance, a man is dead. We know only that. Reason tells us that he died
naturally or was killed.

"If killed, it may have been an accident, design or suicide. There are no
alternatives. The average mind grasps those possibilities instantly as
facts because the average mind has to do with death and understands. We
may call this primary reasoning instinct.

"In the higher reasoning which can only come from long study and
experiment, imagination is necessary to supply temporarily gaps caused by
absence of facts. Imagination is the backbone of the scientific mind.
Marconi had to imagine wireless telegraphy before he accomplished it. It
is the same with the telephone, the telegraph, the steam engine and those
scores of commonplace marvels which are a part of our everyday life.

"The higher scientific mind is, perforce, the mind of a logician. It must
possess imagination to a remarkable extent. For instance, science proved
that all matter is composed of atoms--the molecular theory. Having proven
this, scientific imagination saw that it was possible that atoms were
themselves composed of more minute atoms, and sought to prove this. It
did so.

"Therefore we know atoms make atoms, and that more minute atoms make
those atoms, and so on down to the point of absolute indivisibility. This
is logic.

"Applied in the other direction this imagination--really logic--leads to
amazing possibilities. It would grade upward something like this: Man is
made of atoms; man and his works as other atoms make cities; cities and
nature as atoms make countries; countries and oceans as atoms make
worlds.

"Then comes the supreme imaginative leap which would make worlds merely
atoms, pin point parts of a vast solar system; the vast solar system
itself merely an atom in some greater scheme of creation which the
imagination refuses to grasp, which staggers the mind. It is all logic,
logic, logic."

The irritated voice stopped as the scientist lifted a graded measuring
glass to the light and squinted for an instant at its contents, which,
under the amazed eyes of Hutchinson Hatch, swiftly changed from a
brilliant scarlet to a pure white.

"You have heard me say frequently, Mr. Hatch," The Thinking Machine
resumed, "that two and two make four, not sometimes, but all the
time--atoms make atoms, therefore atoms make creations." He paused. "That
change of color in this chemical is merely a change of atoms; it has in
no way affected the consistency or weight of the liquid. Yet the red
atoms have disappeared, eliminated by the white."

"The logic being that the white atoms are the stronger?" asked Hatch,
almost timidly.

"Precisely," said The Thinking Machine, "and also constant and victorious
enemies of the red atoms. In other words that was a war between red and
white atoms you just witnessed. Who shall say that a war on this earth is
not as puny to the observer of this earth as an atom in the greater
creation, as was that little war to us?"

Hatch blinked a little at the question. It opened up something bigger
than his mind had ever struggled with before, and he was a newspaper
reporter, too. Professor Van Dusen turned away and stirred up more
chemicals in another glass, then poured the contents of one glass into
another.

Hatch heard the telephone bell ring in the next room, and after a moment
Martha, the aged woman who was the household staff of the scientist's
modest home, appeared at the door.

"Some one to speak to Mr. Hatch at the 'phone," she said.

Hatch went to the 'phone. At the other end was his city editor bursting
with impatience.

"A big kidnapping story," the city editor said. "A wonder. I've been
looking for you everywhere. Happened tonight about 6 o'clock--It's now
8:30. Jump up to Lynn quick and get it."

Then the city editor went on to detail the known points of the mystery,
as the police of Lynn had learned them; the child left alone for only two
or three minutes, the letter threatening kidnapping, the demand for
$10,000 and the footsteps in the snow which led to--nothing.

Thoroughly alive with the instinct of the reporter Hatch returned to the
laboratory where The Thinking Machine was at work.

"Another mystery," he said, persuasively.

"What is it?" asked The Thinking Machine, without turning.

Hatch repeated what information he had and The Thinking Machine listened
without comment, down to the discovery of the tracks in the snow, and the
abrupt ending of these.

"Babies don't have wings, Mr. Hatch," said The Thinking Machine,
severely.

"I know," said Hatch. "Would--would you like to go out with me and look
it over?"

"It's silly to say the tracks end there," declared The Thinking Machine
aggressively. "They must go somewhere. If they don't, they are not the
boy's tracks."

"If you'd like to go," said Hatch, coaxingly, "we could get there by
halfpast nine. It's halfpast eight now."

"I'll go," said the other suddenly.

An hour later, they were at the front gate of the Blake home in Lynn. The
Thinking Machine saw the kidnappers' letter. He looked at it closely and
dismissed it apparently with a wave of his hand. He talked for a long
time to the mother, to the nurse, Evelyn Barton, to the servants, then
went out into the back yard where the tiny tracks were found.

Here, seeing perfectly by the brilliant light of the moon, The Thinking
Machine remained for in hour. He saw the last of the tiny footprints
which led nowhere, and he sat on the box where the detective had sat.
Then he arose suddenly and examined the box. It was, he found, of wood,
approximately two feet square, raised only four or five inches above the
ground. It was built to cover and protect the main water connection with
the house. The Thinking Machine satisfied himself on this point by
looking inside.

From this box he sought in every direction for footprints--tracks which
were not obviously those of the detectives or his own or Hatch's. No one
else had been permitted to go over the ground, the detectives objecting
to this until they had completed their investigations.

No other tracks or footprints appeared; there was nothing to indicate
that there had been tracks which had been skillfully covered up by
whoever made them.

Again The Thinking Machine sat down on the box and studied his
surroundings. Hatch watched him curiously. First he looked away toward
the stone wall, nearly a hundred feet in front of him. There was
positively no indentation in the snow of any kind so far as Hatch could
see. Then the scientist looked back toward the house--one of the
detectives had told him it was just forty-eight feet from the box--but
there were no tracks there save those the detectives and Hatch and
himself had made.

Then The Thinking Machine looked toward the back of the lot. Here in the
bright moonlight he could see the barn and the clump of trees, several
inside the enclosure made by the stone wall and others outside, extending
away indefinitely, snow laden and grotesque in the moonlight. From the
view in this direction The Thinking Machine turned to the other stone
wall, a hundred feet or so. Here, too, he vainly sought footprints in the
snow.

Finally he arose and walked in this direction with an expression of as
near bewilderment on his face as Hatch had ever seen. A small dark spot
in the snow had attracted his attention. It was eight or ten feet from
the box. He stopped and looked at it; it was a stone of flat surface,
perhaps a foot square and devoid of snow.

"Why hasn't this any snow on it?" he asked Hatch.

Hatch started and shook his head. The Thinking Machine, bowed almost to
the ground, continued to stare at the stone for a moment, then
straightened up and continued walking toward the wall. A few feet further
on a rope, evidently a clothes line, barred his way. Without stopping, he
ducked his head beneath it and walked on toward the wall, still staring
at the ground.

From the wall he retraced his steps to the clothes line, then walked
along under that, still staring at the snow, to its end, sixty or seventy
feet toward the back of the enclosure. Two or three supports placed at
regular intervals beneath the line were closely examined.

"Find anything?" asked Hatch, finally.

The Thinking Machine shook his head impatiently.

"It's amazing," he exclaimed petulantly, like a disappointed child.

"It is," Hatch agreed, cheerfully.

The Thinking Machine turned and walked back toward the house as he had
come, Hatch following.

"I think we'd better go back to Boston," he said tartly.

Hatch silently acquiesced. Neither spoke until they were in the train,
and The Thinking Machine turned suddenly to the wondering reporter.

"Did it seem possible to you that those are not the footprints of Baby
Blake at all, only the prints of his shoes?" he demanded suddenly.

"How did they get there?" asked Hatch, in turn.

The Thinking Machine shook his head.

On the afternoon of the next day, when the newspapers were full of the
mystery, Mrs. Blake received this letter, signed "Three" as before:

"We hav the baby and will bring him bak for twenny fiv thousan dolers.
Will you give it. Advertis as befour dereckted, YES or NOA."


III


When Hutchinson Hatch went to inform The Thinking Machine of the
appearance of this second letter late in the afternoon, he found the
scientist sitting in his little laboratory, finger tips pressed together,
squinting steadily at the ceiling. There was a little puzzled line on the
high brow, a line Hatch never saw there before, and frank perplexity was
in the blue eyes.

The Thinking Machine listened without changing his position as Hatch told
him of the letter and its contents.

"What do you make of it all, professor?" asked the reporter.

"I don't know," was the reply--one which was a little startling to Hatch.
"It's most perplexing."

"The only known facts seem to be that Baby Blake was kidnapped, and is
now in the possession of the kidnappers," said Hatch.

"Those tracks--the footprints in the snow, I mean--furnish the real
problem in this case," said the other after a moment. "Presumably they
were made by the baby--yet they might not have been. They might have been
put there merely to mislead anyone who began a search. If the baby made
them--how and why do they stop as they do? If they were made merely with
the baby's shoes, to mislead investigation, the same question
remains--how?

"Let's see a moment. We will dismiss the seeming fact that the baby
walked on off into the air and disappeared, granting that those tracks
were made by the baby. We will also dismiss the possibility that the
baby was with anyone when it made the tracks, if it did make them. There
were certainly no other footprints but those. There were no footprints
leading from or to that point where the baby tracks stopped.

"What are the possibilities? What remains? A balloon? If we accept the
balloon as a possibility we must at the same time relinquish the theory
of a preconceived plan of abduction. Why? Because no successful plan
could have been arranged so that that baby, of its own will, would have
been in that particular spot at that particular moment. Therefore a
balloon might have been floated over the place a thousand times without
success, and balloons are large--they attract attention, therefore are to
be avoided.

"There is a possibility--a bare one--that a balloon with a trailing
anchor or hook did pass over the place, and that this hook caught up the
baby by its clothing, lifting it clear of the ground. But in that event
it was not kidnapping--it was accident. But here against the theory of
accident we have the kidnappers' letters.

"If not a balloon, then an eagle? Hardly possible. It would take a bird
of exceptional strength to have lifted a fourteenmonth child, and besides
there are a thousand things against such a possibility. Certainly the
winged man is not known to science, yet there is every evidence of his
handiwork here. Briefly, the problem is--granting that the baby itself
made the tracks--how was a baby lifted out of the relative centre of a
large yard?

"Consider for a moment that the baby did not make the tracks--that they
were placed there by some one else. Then we are confronted by the same
question--how? A person might have fastened shoes to a long pole and
rigged up some arrangement of the sort, and made the tracks for a
distance say of twenty feet out into the snow, but remember the tracks
run out forty-eight feet to the box you say.

"If it would have been possible for a person to stand on that box without
leaving a track to it or from it, he might have finished the tracks with
the shoes on a pole, but nobody went to that box."

The Thinking Machine was silent for several minutes. Hatch had nothing to
say. The Thinking Machine seemed to have covered the possibilities
thoroughly.

"Of course, it might have been possible for a person in a balloon to have
put the tracks there, but it would have been a senseless proceeding," the
scientist went on. "Certainly there could have been no motive for it
strong enough to make a person invite discovery by sailing about the
house in a balloon even at night. We face a stone wall, Mr. Hatch--a
stone wall. It is possible for the mind to follow it only to a certain
point as it now stands."

He arose and disappeared into an adjoining room, returning in a few
minutes with his hat and overcoat.

"Of course," he said to Hatch, "if the baby is alive and in the
possession of the kidnappers, it is possible to recover it, and we'll do
that, but the real problem remains."

"If it is alive?" Hatch repeated.

"Yes, if," said the other shortly. "There are in my mind grave doubts on
that point."

"But the kidnappers' letters?" said Hatch

"Let's go find out who wrote them," said the other, enigmatically.

Together the two men went to Lynn, and there for half an hour The
Thinking Machine talked to Mrs. Blake. He came out finally with a package
in his hand.

Miss Barton, with eyes red, apparently from weeping, and evident sorrow
imprinted on her pretty face, entered the room almost at the same moment.

"Miss Barton," the scientist asked, "could you tell me how much the baby
Douglas weighed--relatively, I mean?"

The girl gazed at him a moment as if startled. "About thirty pounds, I
should say," she answered.

"Thanks," said The Thinking Machine, and turned to Hatch. "I have
twenty-five thousand dollars in this package," he said.

Miss Barton turned and glanced quickly toward him, then passed out of the
room.

"What are you going to do with it?" asked Hatch.

"It's for the kidnappers," was the reply. "The police advised Mrs. Blake
not to try to make terms--I advised her the other way and she gave me
this."

"What's the next step?" Hatch asked.

"To put the advertisement 'Yes' signed by Mrs. Blake in the newspaper,"
said The Thinking Machine. "That's in accordance with the stipulations of
the letters."

An hour later the two men were in Boston. The advertisement was inserted
in the Boston American as directed. The next day Mrs. Blake received a
third letter.

"Rapp the munny in a ole nuspaipr ann thow it onn the trash heape at the
addge of the vakant lott one blok down the street frum wear you liv," it
directed. "Putt it on topp. We wil gett it ann yore baby wil be in yore
armms two ours latter. Three (3)."

This letter was immediately placed in the hands of The Thinking Machine.
Mrs. Blake's face flushed with hope, and believing that the child would
be restored to her, she waited in a fever of impatience.

"Now, Mr. Hatch," instructed The Thinking Machine. "Do with this package
as directed. A man will come for it some time. I shall leave the task of
finding out who he is, where he goes and all about him to you. He is
probably a man of low mentality, though not so low as the misspelled
words of his letter would have you believe. He should be easily trapped.
Don't interfere with him--merely report to me when you find out these
things."

Alone The Thinking Machine returned to Boston. Thirty-six hours later, in
the early morning, a telegram came for him. It was as follows:

"Have man located in Lynn and trace of baby. Come quick, if possible,
to--Hotel. HATCH."


IV


The Thinking Machine answered the telegraphic summons immediately, but
instead of elation on his face there was another expression--possibly
surprise. On the train he read and re-read the telegram.

"Have trace of baby," he mused. "Why, it's perfectly astonishing."

White-faced from exhaustion, and with eyes drooping from lack of sleep,
Hutchinson Hatch met The Thinking Machine in the hotel lobby and they
immediately went to a room, which the reporter had engaged on the third
floor.

The Thinking Machine listened without comment as Hatch told the story of
what he had done. He had placed the bundle, then hired a room overlooking
the vacant lot and had remained there at the window for hours. At last
night came, but there were clouds which effectively hid the moon. Then
Hatch had gone out and secreted himself near the trash pile.

Here from six o'clock in the evening until four in the morning he had
remained, numbed with cold and not daring to move. At last his long vigil
was rewarded. A man suddenly appeared near the trash heap, glanced around
furtively, and then picked up the newspaper package, felt of it to assure
himself that it contained something, and then started away quickly.

The work of following him Hatch had not found difficult. He had gone
straight to a tenement in the eastern end of Lynn and disappeared inside.
Later in the morning, after the occupants of the house were about, Hatch
made inquiries which established the identity of the man without
question.

His name was Charles Gates and he lived with his wife on the fourth floor
of the tenement. His reputation was not wholly savory, and he drank a
great deal. He was a man of some education, but not of such ignorance as
the letters he had written would indicate.

"After learning all these facts," Hatch went on, "my idea was to see the
man and talk to him or to his wife. I went there this morning about nine
o'clock, as a book agent." The reporter smiled a little. "His wife, Mrs.
Gates, didn't want any books, but I nearly sold her a sewing machine.

"Anyway, I got into the apartments and remained there for fifteen or
twenty minutes. There was only one room which I didn't enter, of the four
there. In that room, the woman explained, her husband was asleep. He had
been out late the night before, she said. Of course I knew that.

"I asked if she had any babies and received a negative. From other people
in the house I learned that this was true so far as they knew. There was
not and has not been a baby in the apartments so far as anyone could tell
me. And in spite of that fact I found this."

Hatch drew something from his pocket and spread it on his open hand. It
was a baby stocking of fine texture. The Thinking Machine took it and
looked at it closely.

"Baby Blake's?" he asked.

"Yes," replied the reporter. "Both Mrs. Blake and the nurse, Miss Barton,
identify it."

"Dear me! Dear me!" exclaimed the scientist, thoughtfully. Again the
puzzled expression came into his face.

"Of course, the baby hasn't been returned?" went on the scientist.

"Of course not!" said Hatch.

"Did Mrs. Gates behave like a woman who had suddenly received a share of
twenty-five thousand dollars?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"No," Hatch replied. "She looked as if she had attended a mixed ale
party. Her lip was cut and bruised and one eye was black."

"That's what her husband did when he found out what was in the
newspaper," commented The Thinking Machine, grimly.

"It wasn't money, at all, then?" asked Hatch.

"Certainly not."

Neither said anything for several minutes. The Thinking Machine sat idly
twisting the tiny stocking between his long, slender fingers with the
little puzzled line in his brow.

"How do you account for that stocking in Gates's possession?" asked the
reporter at last.

"Let's go talk to Mrs. Blake," was the reply. "You didn't tell her
anything about this man Gates getting the package?"

"No," said the reporter.

"It would only worry her," explained the scientist. "Better let her hope,
because--"

Hatch looked at The Thinking Machine quickly, startled.

"Because, what?" he asked.

"There seems to be a very strong probability that Baby Blake is dead,"
the other responded.

Pondering that, yet conceiving no motive which would cause the baby's
death, Hatch was silent as he and the scientist together went to the
house of Mrs. Blake. Miss Barton, the nurse, answered the door.

"Miss Barton," said The Thinking Machine, testily as they entered, "just
when did you give this stocking,"--and he produced it--"to Charles
Gates?"

The girl flushed quickly, and she stammered a little.

"I--I don't know what you mean," she said. "Who is Charles Gates?"

"May we see Mrs. Blake?" asked the scientist. He squinted steadily into
the girl's eyes.

"Yes--of course--that is, I suppose so," she stammered.

She disappeared, and in a few minutes Mrs. Blake appeared. There was an
eager, expectant look in her face. It was hope. It faded when she saw the
solemn face of The Thinking Machine.

"What recommendations did Miss Barton have when you engaged her?" he
began pointedly.

"The best I could ask," was the reply. "She was formerly a governess in
the family of the Governor-General of Canada. She is well educated, and
came to me from that position."

"Is she well acquainted in Lynn?" asked the scientist.

"That I couldn't say," replied Mrs. Blake. "If you are thinking that she
might have some connection with this affair--"

"Ever go out much?" interrupted her questioner.

"Rarely, and then usually with me. She is more of a companion than
servant."

"How long have you had her?"

"Since a week or so after my baby"--and the mother's lips trembled a
little--"was born. She has been devoted to me since the death of my
husband. I would trust her with my life."

"This is your baby's stocking?"

"Beyond any doubt," she replied as she again examined it.

"I suppose he had several pairs like this?"

"I really don't know. I should think so."

"Will you please have Miss Barton, or someone else, find those stockings
and see if all the pairs like this are complete," instructed The Thinking
Machine.

Wonderingly, Mrs. Blake gave the order to Miss Barton, who as wonderingly
received it and went out of the room with a quick, resentful look at the
bowed figure of the scientist.

"Did you ever happen to notice, Mrs. Blake, whether or not your baby
could open a door? For instance, the front door?"

"I believe he could," she replied. "He could reach them because the
handles are low, as you see," and she indicated the knob on the front
door, which was visible through the reception hall room where they stood.

The Thinking Machine turned suddenly and strode to the window of the
library, looking out on the back yard. He was debating something in his
own mind. It was whether or not he should tell this mother his fear of
her son's death, or should hide it from her until such time as it would
appear itself. For some reason known only to himself he considered the
child's death not only a possibility, but a probability.

Whatever might have resulted from this mental debate was not to be known
then, for suddenly, as he stood staring out the rear window overlooking
the spot where the baby's tracks had been seen in the snow--now
melted--he started a little and peered eagerly out. It was the first
sight he had had of the yard since the night he had examined it by
moonlight.

"Dear me, dear me," he exclaimed suddenly.

Turning abruptly he left the room, and a moment later Hatch saw him in
the back yard. Mrs. Blake at the window watched curiously. Outside The
Thinking Machine walked straight out to the spot where the baby's tracks
had been, and from there Hatch saw him stop and stare at the slightly
raised box which covered the water connections.

From this box the scientist took five steps toward a flat-topped
stone--the one he had noticed previously--and Hatch saw that it was about
ten feet. Then from this he saw The Thinking Machine take four steps to
where the sagging clothes-line hung. It was probably eight feet. Then the
bowed figure of The Thinking Machine walked on out toward the rear wall
of the enclosure, under the clothes-line.

When he stopped at the end of the line he was within fifteen feet of the
dangling swing which had been Baby Blake's. This swing was attached to a
limb twenty feet above--a stout limb which jutted straight out from the
tree trunk for fifteen feet. The Thinking Machine studied this for a
moment, then passed on beyond the tree, still looking up, until he
disappeared.

Fifteen minutes later he returned to the library where Mrs. Blake awaited
him. There was a question in Hatch's eyes.

"I've got it," snapped The Thinking Machine, much as if there had been a
denial. "I've got it."


V


On the following day, by direction of The Thinking Machine, Mrs. Blake
ordered the following advertisement inserted in all Boston and Lynn
newspapers, to occupy one quarter of a page.

TO THE PERSONS WHO NOW HOLD DOUGLAS BLAKE:

"Your names, residence and place of concealment of Douglas Blake,
fourteen months old, and the manner in which he came into your possession
are now known. Mrs. Blake, the mother, does not desire to prosecute for
reasons you know, and will give you twenty-four hours in which to return
the baby safely to its home in Lynn. Any attempt to escape of either
person concerned will be followed instantly by arrest. Meanwhile you are
closely watched, and will be for twenty four hours, at which time arrest
and prosecution will follow. No questions will he asked when the child is
returned and your names will be fully protected. There will also be a
reward of $1,000 for the person who returns the baby."

Hutchinson Hatch read this when The Thinking Machine had completed it and
had stared at the scientist in wonderment.

"Is it true?" he asked.

"I am afraid the child is dead," repeated The Thinking Machine evasively.
"I am very much afraid of it."

"What gives you that impression?" Hatch asked.

"I know now how the child was taken from that back yard, if we grant that
the child itself made the tracks," was the rejoinder. "And knowing how it
was taken away makes me more fearful than I have been that it is not
alive; in fact, that it may never be seen again."

"How did the child leave the yard?"

"If the child does not appear within twenty-four hours," was the reply,
"I shall tell you. It is a hideous story."

Hatch had to be content with that statement of the case for the moment.
None knew better than he how useless it would be to question The Thinking
Machine.

"Did you happen to know, Mr. Hatch," The Thinking Machine asked, "that in
the event of the death of Douglas Blake, his fortune of nearly three
million dollars left in trust by his father would be divided among four
relatives of Mrs. Blake?"

"What?" asked Hatch, a little startled.

"Suppose for instance, Baby Blake was never found, as seems possible,"
went on the other. "After a certain number of years, I believe, in a case
of that kind there is an assumption of death and property passes to
heirs. You see then, there was a motive, and a strong one, underlying
this entire affair."

"But, surely there wouldn't be murder?"

"Not murder," responded The Thinking Machine tartly. "I haven't even
suggested murder. I said I believe the child is dead. If it is not dead
who would benefit by his disappearance? The four whom I named. Well,
suppose Baby Blake fell into the hands of those people. It would be
comparatively an easy matter for them to lose it in some way--not
necessarily kill it--have it adopted in some orphan asylum, place it
anywhere to hide its identity. That's the main thing."

Hatch began to see light faintly, he thought.

"Then this advertisement is to the people who may be holding the child
now?" he asked.

"It is so addressed," was the other's reply.

"But, but--" Hatch began.

"Once upon a time a noted wit, who was of necessity a student of human
nature," The Thinking Machine began, "declared there was one thing
carefully hidden in every man's life which would ruin him should it be
known, or land him in prison. He volunteered to prove this, taking any
man whose name was suggested. An eminent minister of the gospel was named
as the victim. The wit sent a telegram to the minister, who was attending
a banquet: 'All is discovered. Flee while there is opportunity,' signed
'Friend.' The minister read it, arose and left the room, and from that
day to this he has never been seen again."

Hatch laughed, and The Thinking Machine glanced at him with an annoyed
expression on his face.

"I had no intention of arousing your laughter," he said sharply. "I
merely intended to illustrate the possible effect of a guilty
conscience."

When the flaming advertisement in the newspapers was called to the
attention of the police, they were first surprised, then amused. Then
they grew serious. After a while an officer went to Mrs. Blake and asked
what it meant. She informed him that she had acted at the suggestion of
Professor Van Dusen. Then the police were amused again; they are wont to
feign an amusement which they never feel in the presence of a superior
mind.

That afternoon, Hatch, who by direction of The Thinking Machine, was on
watch again near the Blake home, received a strange request from the
scientist by telephone. It was:

"Go to the Blake home immediately, see the picture book which Baby Blake
was looking at just before his disappearance, and report to me by 'phone
just what's in it."

"The picture book?" Hatch repeated.

"Certainly, the picture book," said the scientist, irritably. "Also find
out for me from the nurse and Mrs. Blake if the baby cried easily, that
is from a slight hurt or anything of that kind."

With these things in his mind Hatch went to the Blake house, had a look
at the picture book, asked the questions as to Baby Blake's propensity to
weep on slight provocation, and returned to the 'phone. Feeling
singularly foolish, he enumerated to The Thinking Machine the things he
had seen in the picture book.

"There's a horse, and a cat with three kittens," he explained. "Also a
pale purple rhinoceros, and a dog, an elephant, a deer, an alligator, a
monkey, three chicks, and a whole lot of birds."

"Any eagle?" queried the other.

"Yes, an eagle among them, with a rabbit in its claws."

"And the monkey. What is it doing?"

"Hanging by its tail to a blue tree with a coconut in its hands," replied
the reporter. The humor of the situation was beginning to appeal to him.

"And about the baby crying?" the scientist asked.

"He does not cry easily, both the mother and nurse say," replied Hatch.
"They both describe him as a brave little chap, who cries sometimes when
he can't have his own way, but never from fright or a minor hurt."

"Good," he heard The Thinking Machine say. "Watch in front of the Blake
house tonight until half past eight. If the child returns it will
probably be earlier than that. Speak to the person who brings him, as he
leaves the house, and he will tell you his story I think, if you can make
him understand that he is in no danger. Immediately after that come to my
home in Boston."

Hatch was treading on air; when The Thinking Machine gave positive
directions of that sort it usually meant that the final curtain was to be
drawn aside. He so construed this.

Thus it came to pass that Hutchinson Hatch planted himself, carefully
hidden so he might command a view of the front of the Blake home, and
waited there for many hours.

Mrs. Blake, the mother of the millionaire baby, had just finished her
dinner and had retired to a small parlor off the library, where she
reclined on a couch. It was ten minutes of seven o'clock in the evening.
After a moment Miss Barton entered the room.

The girl heard a sob from the couch and impulsively ran to Mrs. Blake,
who was weeping softly--she was always weeping now. A few comforting
words, a little consolation such as one woman is able to give to another,
and the girl arose from her knees and started into the library, where a
dim light burned.

As she was entering that room again, she paused, screamed and without a
word sank down on the floor, fainting. Mrs. Blake rose from the couch and
rushed toward the door. She screamed too, but that scream was of a
different tone from that of the girl--it was a fierce scream of
mother-love satisfied.

For there on the floor of the library sat Baby Blake, millionaire, gazing
with enraptured eyes at his brilliantly colored picture book.

"Pitty hossie," he said to his mother. "See! See!"


VI


It was an affecting scene Hutchinson Hatch witnessed in the Blake home
about halfpast seven o'clock. It was that of a mother clasping a baby to
her breast while tears of joy and hysteria streamed from her eyes. Baby
Blake struggled manfully to free himself, but the mother clung to him.

"My boy, my boy," she sobbed again and again.

Miss Barton sat on the floor beside the mother and wept too. Hatch saw
it, and received some thanks, heartfelt, but broken with a little sobbing
laughter. Then he had to dry his eyes, too, and Hutchinson Hatch was not
a sentimental man.

"There will be no prosecution, Mrs. Blake, I suppose?" he asked.

"No, no, no," was the half laughing, half tearful reply. "I am content."

"I would like to ask a favor, if you don't mind?" he suggested.

"Anything--anything for you and Professor Van Dusen," was the reply.

"Will you lend me the baby's picture book until tomorrow?" he asked.

"Certainly," and in her happiness the mother forgot to note the
strangeness of the request.

Hatch's purpose in borrowing the book was not clear even to himself; in
his mind had grown the idea that in some way The Thinking Machine
connected this book with the disappearance of the child, and he was
burning with curiosity to get the book and return to Boston, where The
Thinking Machine might throw some light on the mystery. For it was still
a mystery--a perplexing, baffling mystery that he could in no way grasp,
even now that the baby was safe at home again.

In Boston the reporter went straight to the home of The Thinking Machine.
The scientist was pottering about the little laboratory and only turned
to look at Hatch when he entered.

"Baby back home?" he asked, shortly.

"Yes," said the reporter.

"Good," said the other, and he rubbed his slender hands together briskly.
"Sit down, Mr. Hatch. It was a little better after all than I hoped for.
Now your story first. What happened when the baby was brought back home?"

"I waited as you directed from afternoon until a few minutes to seven,"
Hatch explained. "I could plainly see anyone who approached the front
gate of the Blake place, although I could not be seen well, remaining in
the shadow of the building opposite.

"I saw two or three people go up to the gate and enter the yard, but they
were tradespeople. I spoke to them as they came out and ascertained this
for myself. At last I saw a man approaching carrying something closely
wrapped in his arms. He stopped at the gate, stared up the path a moment,
glanced around several times and entered the yard. He was carrying Baby
Blake. I knew it instinctively.

"He went to the front door of the house and there I lost him in the
shadow for a moment. Subsequent developments showed that he opened this
front door, which was not locked, put the baby down and closed the door
softly. Then he came rapidly down the path toward the gate. An instant
later I heard two screams from the house. I knew then that the baby was
there, dead or alive--probably alive.

"The man who had brought it also heard the screams and accelerated his
pace somewhat, so that I had to run. He heard me coming and he ran, too.
It was a two-block chase before I caught him, and when I did he turned on
me. I thought it was to fight.

"'There was a promise of no arrest or prosecution,' he said.

"I assured him hurriedly, and then walked on down the street beside him.
He told me a queer story--it might be true or it might not, but I believe
it. This was that the baby had been in his and his wife's care from about
halfpast six o'clock of the evening it disappeared until a few minutes
before when he had returned it to its home.

"The man's name is Sheldon--Michael Sheldon--and he is an ex-convict. He
served four years for burglary, and at one time had a pretty nasty
record. He told me of it in explanation of his reasons for not turning
the baby over to the police. Now he has reformed and is leading a new
life. He is a clerk in a store here in Lynn, and despite his previous
record is, I ascertained, a trusted and reliable man.

"Now here comes the queer part of the story. It seems that Sheldon and
his wife live on the third floor of a tenement in northern Lynn. Their
dining room has one window, which leads to a fire escape. He and his wife
were at supper about halfpast six--in other words, a little more than
half an hour from the time the baby disappeared from the Blake home.

"After awhile they heard a noise--they didn't know what--on the fire
escape. They paid no attention. Finally they heard another noise from the
fire escape--that of a baby crying. Then Sheldon went to the window and
opened it. There on the fire escape was Baby Blake. How he got there no
human being knows."

"I know now," said The Thinking Machine. "Go on."

"Puzzled and bewildered they took the child off the iron structure, where
only the barest chance had prevented it from falling and being killed on
the pavement below. The baby was apparently uninjured save for a few
bruises, but his clothing was soiled and rumpled, and he was terribly
cold. The wife, mother-like, set out to warm the little fellow and make
him comfortable with hot milk and a steaming bath. The husband, Sheldon,
says he went out to find how it was possible for the baby to have reached
the fire escape. He knew no baby lived in the building.

"He looked long and carefully. There was no possible way by which a man
could have climbed the fire escape to the third floor, and therefore
certainly no way by which a fourteenmonth-old baby could climb there.
There is a fence there which is pretty tall, say six feet, but even
standing on this a man would have had to leap straight up in the air for
five feet, and nobody I know could do it with a baby in his arms,
particularly when the snow was there and everything was so slippery a
person could hardly hold on.

"It seems that then Sheldon made inquiries of some of his neighbors,
occupants of the house, but no one could throw any light on the subject.
He did not tell them then of the baby, indeed, never told them. First,
from the fine quality of the clothing, there had been an idea in his mind
that the baby was one of a well-to-do family, and he remained quiet that
night hoping that next day he might be able to learn something and
possibly get a reward for the return of the child. He had given up the
problem of how it got where he found it."

Hatch paused a moment and lighted a cigar.

"Well, next day," he went on, "Sheldon and his wife both saw the
newspaper account of the mysterious disappearance of Baby Blake. The
photographs of the missing child convinced them that Baby Blake was the
child they had--the child they had really saved from death. Then came the
question of returning the child to its home or turning it over to the
police.

"Instantly the fact that a threat had been made to kidnap the child and a
demand for ten thousand dollars made was borne in on Sheldon he became
frightened. Remember he had a bad record. He was afraid of the police. He
did not believe that he--however innocent he might be--could go to the
police, turn over the baby and make them believe the strange story. I
readily see how some wooden-headed department officials would have made
his life a burden. I know the police. It is ninety-nine dollars to a cent
they would have made him a prisoner and perhaps railroaded him for the
kidnapping."

"Yes, I see," interrupted The Thinking Machine.

"So then he and his wife tried to devise a method of getting the baby
back home. They thought of all sorts of things, but none satisfied them
entirely. And they were still debating this point and considering it when
your advertisement promised immunity. As a matter of fact it scared
Sheldon. He imagined that you knew, and knew if he were even remotely
connected with the matter it would get him in trouble. Then he resolved
to take the baby back home on the promise of immunity."

There was a little pause. The Thinking Machine sat staring steadily at
the ceiling.

"Is that all?" he asked at last.

"I think so," replied Hatch. "And now how--how in the name of all that's
good or evil did that baby disappear from the middle of its own back yard
and then suddenly appear on a fire escape three blocks away, to be taken
in by strangers?"

"It's quite the most remarkable thing I have ever come across," The
Thinking Machine said. "A balloon anchor, which picked up the child by
its clothing, through accident, and then dropped it safely on the fire
escape might answer the question in a way. But it does not fully answer
it. The baby was carried there.

"Frankly I will say that I could see no possible explanation of the
affair until the day you and I were talking to Mrs. Blake and I stood
looking out of the library window. Then it all flashed on me instantly. I
went out and satisfied myself. When I returned to the library I was
satisfied in all reason that Baby Blake was dead; I had had such an idea
before. I was firmly convinced the child was dead when I put those
advertisements in the newspapers. But there was still a chance that he
was not.

"Several seemingly unanswerable questions faced me when I found the end
of the baby's footprints in the snow. I instantly saw that if the baby
had made those tracks it had been lifted suddenly from the ground, but by
what? From where? How had it been taken away? The balloon I could not
consider seriously, although as I say it offered a possible solution. An
eagle? I could not consider that seriously. Eagles are rare; eagles
powerful enough to lift a baby weighing thirty pounds are extremely rare,
practically unknown save in the far West; certainly I never heard of one
doing such a thing as this. Therefore I passed the eagle by as an
improbability.

"I satisfied myself that there were no other footsteps save the baby's in
the yard. Then--what? It occurred to me that someone standing on the
little box might have reached over and lifted the child out of its
tracks. But it was too far away, I thought, and if someone did stand
there and lift the child that someone could not have leaped from that box
over the stone wall, which was approximately a hundred feet away in all
directions.

"I saw the stone ten feet away. Could a man stand on the box and leap to
the stone? Generally, no. And from the stone, where could he have gone?
Obviously nowhere. I considered this matter not minutes, but hours and
days, and no light came to me. I was convinced, though, that the box was
the starting point if the baby had made the tracks. I was now fairly
certain that the baby did make the tracks. He wanted to get out in the
snow, was left alone, opened the front door and wandered out.

"Then it all occurred to me in a new light. What living animal could have
stood on the box and lifted the child clear four feet away, then leaped
from there to the stone, and from the stone where? The clothes line is
eight feet or so from the stone. It is a pretty sturdy rope and capable
of bearing a considerable weight, supported as it is."

He stopped and turned his eyes toward Hatch, who listened eagerly.

"Do you see it now?" he asked.

The reporter shook his head, bewildered.

"The thing that lifted Baby Blake from the snow stood on the box, leaped
from there to the stone, from there to the clothes line, along which it
climbed to the end. From the wooden support at the end it is a clear
distance of fifteen feet to the nearest thing--the swing. This thing made
that leap, climbed the swing rope, disappeared into the trees, moving
through the branches freely from one tree to another, and dropped to the
ground nearly a block away."

"A monkey?" suggested Hatch.

"An orang-outang," nodded The Thinking Machine.

"An orang-outang?" gasped Hatch, and he shuddered a little. "I see now
why you were positive the child was dead."

"An orang-outang is the only living thing within the knowledge of man
which could have done all these things--therefore an orang-outang did
them," said the other emphatically. "Remember a full-sized orang-outang
is nearly as tall as a man, has a reach relatively a third longer than a
very tall man would have, and a strength which is enormous. It could have
made the leaps and probably would have made them rather than step in the
snow. They despise snow, being from the tropics themselves, and will not
step in it unless they are compelled to. The leap of fifteen feet to the
swing rope from the clothes line would have been comparatively easy, even
with a child in its arms.

"Where could it have come from? I don't know. Possibly escaped from a
ship, because sailors have strange pets; might have gotten away from a
menagerie somewhere, or a circus. I only knew that an orang-outang was
the actual abductor. The difficulties of a man climbing the fire escape
where the baby was found were nothing to an orang-outang. There it would
have merely been a leap up of five feet."

The Thinking Machine stopped as if he had finished. Hatch respected this
silence for a moment, but he had questions yet to be answered.

"Who wrote the kidnapping letters demanding money?" was the first.

"You found him--Charles Gates," was the reply.

"And the letter written after the abduction demanding twenty-five
thousand dollars?"

"Was written by him, of course--but this was a bluff. This poor deluded
fool imagined that someone would actually go out and toss $25,000 on a
trash-heap where he could find it, and then he could escape. That was his
purpose. He knew nothing of the whereabouts of the baby. He beat his wife
when he found, instead of money, I had put some good advice in the
newspaper bundle for him."

"But the stocking in his room, and your question to Miss Barton?"

"This man did write a letter threatening kidnapping before the baby
disappeared. It was perfectly possible that after the kidnapping he stole
the little stocking and two or three other things from the laundry, for
Miss Barton noticed they were missing, or got someone to do so for him.
And, the baby being gone, he was intending to send these to the mother,
one at a time, I imagine, to make her believe he had the child. That is
transparent. I asked Miss Barton the question about giving them to Gates
to see if she did--her manner would have told me. I instantly saw she did
not--had never even heard of him, as a matter of fact. I also dropped
that remark about there being $25,000 in the package to see what effect
it would have on her."

"And the facts you had about the baby's fortune going to relatives of
Mrs. Blake in the event of the baby's death?"

"I got from her, by a casual question as to the succession of the estate.
There was still a possibility that the baby was in their hands despite
the manner of its disappearance. As it transpired they had nothing
whatever to do with it. The advertisement I put in the paper was a
palpable trick--but it had the desired effect. It touched a guilty
conscience. The guilty conscience feared it was trapped and acted
accordingly."

"It seems perfectly incomprehensible that the baby should have come out
of it alive," mused Hatch. "I had always imagined orang-outangs to be
extremely ferocious."

"Read up on them a bit, Mr. Hatch," said The Thinking Machine. "You will
find they are of strangely contradictory and mischievous natures. Where
this child was permitted to escape safely others might have been torn
limb from limb."

There was silence for a time. Hatch considered the matter all explained,
until suddenly the picture book occurred to him.

"You 'phoned to me to see the picture book and tell you what's in it," he
said. "Why?"

"Suppose there was a picture of a monkey in it," rejoined the other. "I
merely wanted to know if the baby would know a monkey, in other words an
orang-outang, if it saw one. Why? Because if the baby knew one it would
not necessarily be afraid of one in the flesh, and would not of necessity
cry out when the orang-outang picked it up. As a matter of fact no one
heard it scream when taken away."

"Oh, I see," said Hatch. "There was a picture of a monkey in the book. I
told you." He took out the book and looked at it. "Here," and he extended
it to the scientist who glanced at it casually, and nodded.

"If you want to prove this just as I have told it," said The Thinking
Machine, "go to the Blake home tomorrow, put your finger on that picture
and show it to Baby Blake. He will prove it."

It came to pass that Hatch did this very thing.

"Pitty monkey," said Baby Blake. "Doe, doe."

"He means he wants to go," Miss Barton exclaimed to Hatch.

Hatch was satisfied.

Two days later the Boston American carried a dispatch from a village near
Lynn stating that a semi-tame orang-outang had been killed by a
policeman. It had belonged to a sailor, from whose vessel it had escaped
more than two weeks before.



PROBLEM OF THE MISSING NECKLACE


Mr. Bradlee Cunnyngham Leighton was clever. His most ardent enemies
admitted that. Scotland Yard, for instance, not only admitted it but
insisted on it. It wasn't any half hearted insistence, either, for in the
words of Herbert Conway, one of the Yard's chief operators, he was
smooth--"so smooth that he made ice feel like sandpaper." Whether or not
Mr. Leighton was aware of this delicate compliment does not appear. It
was perfectly possible that he was, although he had never mentioned it.
He was a well bred gentleman and was aware of many things that he never
mentioned.

In his person Mr. Leighton had the distinguished honour of closely
resembling the immaculate villain of melodrama. In his mental
attainments, however, Scotland Yard gave him credit for being a
genius--far beyond the cigarette smoking mummer of crime who is always
transparent and is inevitably caught. Mr. Leighton had never been caught.
Perhaps that was why Scotland Yard insisted on his cleverness and was
prepared to argue the point.

Mr. Leighton went everywhere. At those functions where the highest in the
social world met, there was Mr. Leighton. He was on every matron's
selected list of guests, a charming addition to any gathering. Scotland
Yard knew this. Of course it may have been only the merest chance that he
was always present at those functions where valuable jewels had been
"lost" or "mislaid." Yet Scotland Yard did not regard it as chance. That
it did not was another compliment to Mr. Leighton.

From deep down in its innermost conscience Scotland Yard looked up to Mr.
Leighton as the master mind, if not the actual vital instrument, in a
long series of baffling jewel robberies. There was a finesse and
delicacy--not to mention regularity--about these robberies that annoyed
Scotland Yard. Yet believing all this Scotland Yard had never been so
indiscreet as to mention the matter to Mr. Leighton. As a matter of fact
Scotland Yard had never seen its way clear to mentioning it to anyone.

Conway had some ideas of his own about Mr. Leighton whom he exalted to a
position that would have surprised if not flattered him. Conway perhaps,
more nearly expressed the opinion of Scotland Yard in a few brief remarks
than I could at greater length.

"He's a crook and the cleverest in the world," he said of Mr. Leighton,
almost enthusiastically. "He got the Hemingway jewels, the Cheltenham
bracelet and the Quez shiners all right. I know he got them. But that
doesn't do any good--merely knowing it. I can't put a finger on him
because he's too blooming smooth. I think I've got him and then--I
haven't."

This was before the Varron necklace affair. When that remarkable episode
came to be known to Scotland Yard Conway's admiration for Mr. Leighton
increased immeasurably. He knew that Leighton was the responsible one--he
knew it in his own head and heart--but that was all. He gnawed his
scrubby moustache fiercely and set to work to prove it, feeling
beforehand that it was a vain task.

The absolute simplicity of the thing--and in this it was like the
others--was its most puzzling feature. Lady Varron had tendered a
reception to the United States Ambassador at her London house. She had
gathered about her a most distinguished company. There were
representatives of England, France and Russia; there were some of the
most beautiful women of the continent; there were two American Duchesses;
there were a chosen few of the American colony--and Mr. Leighton. It may
be well to repeat that he went everywhere.

Lady Varron on this occasion wore the famous Varron necklace. Its
intrinsic value was said to be PS40,000; associations made it priceless.
She was dancing with the American Ambassador when she slipped on the
smooth floor and fell, dragging him down with her. It was an undignified,
unromantic thing, but it happened. Mr. Leighton chanced to be one of
those nearest and rushed to her assistance. In an instant Lady Varron and
the Ambassador were the centre of a little group. It was Mr. Leighton who
lifted Lady Varron to her feet.

"It's nothing," she assured him, smiling uncertainly. "I was a little
awkward, that's all."

Mr. Leighton turned to assist the Ambassador but found him standing again
and puffing inordinately, then turned back to Lady Varron.

"You dropped your necklace," he remarked blandly.

"My necklace?"

Lady Varron's white hand flew to her bare throat, and she paled a little
as Mr. Leighton and others of the group stood back to look for the jewel.
It was not to be seen. Lady Varron controlled herself admirably.

"It must have fallen somewhere," she said finally.

"Are you sure you had it on?" asked another guest solicitously.

"Oh, yes," she replied positively, "but I may have dropped it somewhere
else."

"I noticed it just before you--we--fell," said the Ambassador. "It must
be here."

But it wasn't. In that respect--that is visible non-existence--it
resembled the Cheltenham bracelet. Mr. Leighton had, on that occasion,
strolled out on the lawn at night with the Honourable Miss Cheltenham and
she had dropped the bracelet. That was all. It was never found.

In this Varron affair it would be useless to go into details of what
immediately followed the loss of the necklace. It is sufficient to say
that it was not found; that men and women stared at each other in
bewildered embarrassment and mutual suspicion, and that finally Mr.
Leighton, who still stood beside Lady Varron, intimated courteously,
tactfully, that a personal search of her guests would not be amiss. He
did not say it in so many words but the others understood.

Mr. Leighton was seconded heartily by the American Ambassador, a
Democratic individual with honest ideas which were foremost when a
question of personal integrity was involved. But the search was not made
and the reception proceeded. Lady Varron bore her loss marvellously well.

"She's a brick," was the audible compliment of one of the American
Duchesses whose father owned $20,000,000 worth of soap somewhere in vague
America. "I'd have had a fit if I'd lost a necklace like that."

It was not until next day that Scotland Yard was notified of Lady
Varron's loss.

"Leighton there?" was Conway's question.

"Yes."

"Then he got it," Conway asserted positively. "I'll get him this time or
know why."

Yet at the end of a month he neither had him, nor did he know why. He had
intercepted messengers, he had opened letters, telegrams, cable
dispatches; he had questioned servants; he had taken advantage of the
absence of both Mr. Leighton and his valet to search his exquisite
apartments. He had done all these things and more--all that a severely
conscientious man of his profession could do, and had gnawed his scrubby
moustache down to a disreputable ragged line. But of the necklace there
was no clue, no trace, nothing.

Then Conway heard that Mr. Leighton was going to the United States for a
few months.

"To take the necklace and dispose of it," he declared out of the vexation
of his own heart. "If he ever gets aboard ship with it I've got
him--either I've got him or the United States customs officials will have
him."

Conway could not bring himself to believe that Mr. Leighton, with all his
cleverness, would dare try to dispose of the pearls in England and he
flattered himself that Leighton could not have sent them elsewhere--too
close a watch had been kept.

It transpired naturally that when the Boston bound liner Romanic sailed
from Liverpool four days later not only was Mr. Leighton aboard but
Conway was there. He knew Leighton, but was secure in the thought that
Leighton did not know him.

On the second day out he was disabused on this point. He was beginning to
think that it might not be a bad idea to know Leighton casually so when
he noticed that immaculate gentleman alone, leaning on the rail, smoking,
he sauntered up and joined him in contemplation of the infinite ocean.

"Beautiful weather," Conway remarked after a long time.

"Yes," replied Leighton as he glanced around and smiled. "I should think
you Scotland Yard men would enjoy a junket like this?"

Conway didn't do any such foolish thing as start or show astonishment,
whatever he might have felt. Instead he smiled pleasantly.

"I've been working pretty hard on that Varron affair," he said frankly.
"And now I'm taking a little vacation."

"Oh, that thing at Lady Varron's?" inquired Leighton lazily. "Indeed? I
happened to be the one to notice that the necklace was gone."

"Yes, I know it," responded Conway, grimly.

The conversation drifted to other things. Conway found Leighton an
agreeable companion, and a democratic one. They smoked together, walked
together and played shuffle-board together. That evening Leighton took a
hand at "bridge" in the smoking room. For hours Conway stared at the
phosphorescent points in the sinister green waters, and smoked.

"If he did it," he remarked at last, "he's the cleverest scoundrel on
earth, and if he did not I'm the biggest fool."

Six bells--eleven o'clock struck. The deck was deserted. Conway stumbled
along through the dark toward the smoking room. Inside he saw Leighton
still at play. As he paused at the open door he heard Leighton's voice.

"I'll play until two o'clock, not later," it said.

Conway made up his mind instantly. He turned, retraced his steps along
the deck to Leighton's room where he stopped. He knew Leighton had not
burdened himself with a valet and thought he knew why, so without
hesitation he drew out several keys and fumbled at the lock. It yielded
at last and he stepped inside the state room, closing the door. His
purpose was instantly apparent. It was to search.

Now Conway had his own ideas of just how a search should be conducted.
First he took Leighton's wearing apparel and patted and pinched it inch
by inch; he squeezed up neckties, unrolled handkerchiefs, examined shirts
and crumpled up silken hosiery. Then he took the shoes--half a dozen
pairs. He had been suspicious of shoes since he once found a dozen
diamonds concealed in false heels. But these heels weren't false.

Next, still without haste or apparent disappointment, he turned his
attention to the handbag, the suit case and the steamer trunk all of
which he had emptied. Such things had been known to have false bottoms
and secret compartments. These had none. He satisfied himself absolutely
on this point by every method known to his art.

In due time his examination came down to the room itself. He unmade the
bed and closely felt of and scrutinized the mattress, sheets, blankets,
pillows, and coverlid. He took the three drawers from the dressing
cabinet and looked behind them. He turned over several English newspapers
and shook them one by one. He peered into the water pitcher and fumbled
around the plumbing in the tiny bath room adjoining. He examined the
carpet to see if anything had been hidden beneath it. Finally he climbed
on a chair and from this elevated position looked for a crack or crevice
where a necklace or unset pearls could be hidden.

"There are still three possibilities," he told himself at the end as he
carefully restored the room to its previous condition. "He might have
left them in a package in the ship's safe but that's improbable--too
risky; he might have left them in a trunk in the hold, which is still
more improbable; or he might have them on his person. That is more than
likely."

So Conway went out, extinguishing the light and locking the door behind
him. He stepped into his own state room a moment and took a mouthful of
whiskey which he spat out again. But it must have had some deep, potent
effect for a few minutes later when he appeared in the smoking room he
was in a lamentable state of intoxication and exhaled whiskey noticeably.
His was a maudlin, thick-tongued condition. Leighton glanced up at him
with well bred reproach.

It may have been only accident that Conway stumbled over Leighton's feet
and noted that he wore flat-soled, loose slippers without heels, and also
accident that he embraced him with exaggerated affection as he struggled
to recover his equilibrium.

Be those things as they may Leighton excused himself goodnaturedly from
the bridge party and urged Conway to bed. Conway would only agree on
condition that Leighton would assist him. Leighton consented cheerfully
and they left the smoking room together, Conway clinging to him as the
vine to the oak.

Half way down the deck Conway stumbled and fell despite the friendly
supporting arm, and in his effort to save himself his hands slid all the
way down Leighton's shapely legs. Then he was deposited in his state room
and Leighton returned to his cards smiling.

"And he hasn't got them on him," declared Conway enigmatically to the
bare walls. He was not intoxicated now.

It was an easy matter next day for him to learn that Leighton had left
nothing in the ship's safe and that his four trunks in the hold were
inaccessible, being buried under hundreds of others. Whereupon Conway sat
down to wait and learn what new and original ideas of searching Uncle
Sam's Customs officers had invented.

At last came a morning when the wireless telegraph operator aboard picked
up a signal from shore and announced that the Romanic was less than a
hundred miles from Boston light. Later Conway found Leighton leaning on
the rail, smoking and gazing shoreward.

It was three hours or so after that that several passengers noticed a
motor boat coming toward them. Leighton watched it with idle interest.
Finally it circled widely and it became apparent that it was coming
alongside the now slow moving liner. When it was only a hundred feet off
and the liner was barely creeping along, Leighton grew suddenly
interested.

"By Jove," he exclaimed, then shouted: "Hello, Harry!"

"Hello, Leighton," came an answering shout. "Heard you were aboard and
came out to meet you."

There was a rapid fire of uninteresting pleasantries as the motor boat
slid in under the Romanic's lee and bobbed up and down in her wash. The
man aboard stood up with a package of newspapers in his hand.

"Here are some American papers for you," he called.

He flung the bundle and Leighton caught it, left the rail and passed into
his state room. He returned after a moment with a bundle of European
papers--those Conway had previously seen.

"Catch," he called. "There's something in these that will interest you."

The man in the small boat caught the package and dropped it carelessly on
a seat.

Then, suddenly, Conway awoke.

"There goes the necklace," he told himself with a start. A quick grasping
movement of his hands attracted Leighton's attention and he smiled
inscrutably, daringly into the blazing eyes of the Scotland Yard man. The
motor boat with a parting shot of "I'll meet you on the wharf" sped away.

Thoughts began to flow rapidly through Conway's fertile brain. Five
minutes later he burst in on the wireless operator and sent a long
dispatch to officials ashore. Then from the bow rail he watched the motor
boat speeding away in the direction of Boston. It drew off about two
miles and remained relatively in that position for nearly all the forty
miles into Boston Harbour. It spoke no other craft, passed near none in
fact while in Conway's sight, which was until it disappeared in Boston
Harbour.

An hour later the Romanic was warped in and tied up. Conway was the first
man off. He went straight to a man who seemed to be waiting for him.

"Did you search the motor boat?" he demanded.

"Yes," was the reply. "We nearly tore it to pieces, even took it out of
the water. We also searched the man on her, Harry Cheshire. You must have
been mistaken."

"Are you sure she spoke no one or got rid of the jewels to another
vessel?"

"She didn't go near another vessel," was the reply. "I met her at the
Harbour mouth and came in with her."

For an instant Conway's face showed disappointment, then came animation
again. He was just beginning to get really interested in the affair.

"Do you know the Customs officer in charge?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Introduce me."

There was an introduction and the three men spoke aside for several
minutes. The result of it was that when Leighton sauntered down the gang
plank he was invited into a private office. He went smilingly and
submitted to a search of his person without anger or the slightest trace
of uneasiness. As he came out Conway was standing at the door.

"Are you satisfied?" Leighton asked.

"No," blazed Conway, savagely.

"What? Not after searching me twice and my state room once?"

Conway didn't answer. He didn't dare to at the moment, but he stood by
when Leighton's four trunks were taken from the hold, and he saw that
they were searched with the same minute care that he had given to the
state room. At the fruitless end of it he sat down on one of the trunks
and stared at Leighton in a sort of admiration.

Leighton stared back for a moment, smiled, nodded pleasantly and strolled
up the dock chatting carelessly with Harry Cheshire. Conway made no
attempt to follow them. It wasn't worth while--nothing was worth while
any more.

"But he did get them and he's got them now," he told himself savagely,
"or he has disposed of them in some way that I can't find."

The Thinking Machine did not seem to regard the problem as at all
difficult when it came to his attention a couple of days later.
Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, brought it to him. Hatch had some good
friends in the Customs Office where Conway had told his story. He learned
from them that that office had refused to have anything to do with the
case insisting that the Scotland Yard man must be mistaken.

Crushed in spirit, mangled in reputation and taunted by Leighton's final
words Conway took a desolate view of life. Momentarily he lost even that
bull-dog tenacity which had never before faltered--lost it all except in
so far as he still believed that Leighton was the man. It was about this
time Hatch met him. Would he talk? He was burning to talk; caution was a
senseless thing anyway. Then Hatch took him gently by the hand and led
him to The Thinking Machine.

Conway unburdened himself at length and with vitriolic emphasis. For an
hour he went on while the scientist leaned back in his chair with his
great yellow head pillowed on a cushion and squinted aggressively at the
ceiling. At the end of the hour The Thinking Machine knew as much of the
Varron problem as Conway knew and knew as much of Leighton as any man
knew, except Leighton.

"How many stones were in the necklace," the scientist asked.

"One hundred and seventy-two," replied Conway.

"Was the man in the motor boat--Harry Cheshire you call him--an
Englishman?"

"Yes, in speech, manner and appearance."

For a long time The Thinking Machine twiddled his fingers while Conway
and the reporter sat staring at him impatiently. Hatch knew, from the
past, that something tangible, something that led somewhere, would come
from that wonderful analytical brain; Conway not knowing, was only
hopefully curious. But like most men of his profession he wanted action;
sitting down and thinking didn't seem to get anywhere.

"You see, Mr. Conway," said the scientist at last, "you haven't proven
anything. Your investigations, as a matter of fact, indicate that
Leighton did not take the pearls, therefore did not bring them with him.
There is only one thing that indicates that he might have. That is the
throwing of the newspapers into the motor boat. That one act seems to
have been a senseless one, unless--"

"Unless the pearls were concealed in the bundle," interrupted the
Scotland Yard man.

"Or unless he was amusing himself at your expense and is perfectly
innocent," added The Thinking Machine. "It is perfectly possible that if
he were an innocent man and discovered that you were on his track that he
has merely made a fool of you. If we take any other view of it we must
base it on an assumption which has no established fact to support it. We
will have to dispose of every other person who might have stolen the
necklace and pin it down to Leighton. Further, we will have to assume out
of hand that he brought the jewels to this country."

The Scotland Yard man was getting interested.

"That is not good logic, yet when we assume all this for our present
purposes the problem is a simple one. And by assuming it we prove that
your search of the state room was not thorough. Did you, for instance,
happen to look on the under side of the slats in the berth? Do you know
that the necklace, or its unset pearls, did not hang down in the drain
pipe from the water bowl?"

Conway snapped his fingers in annoyance. These were two things he had not
done.

"There are other possibilities of course," resumed The Thinking Machine,
"therefore the search for the necklace was useless. Now we must take for
granted that, if they came to this country at all, they came in one of
those places and you overlooked them. Obviously Mr. Leighton would not
have left them in the trunks in the hold. Therefore we assume further
that he hid them in his state room and threw them into the motor boat.

"In that event they were in the motor boat when it left the Romanic and
we must believe they were not in it when it docked. Yet the motor boat
neither spoke nor approached any other vessel. The jewels were not thrown
into the water. The man Cheshire could not have swallowed one hundred and
seventy-two pearls--or any great part of them--therefore, what have we?"

"Nothing," responded Conway promptly. "That's what's the matter. I've had
to give it all up."

"Instead of nothing we have the answer," replied The Thinking Machine
tartly. "Let's see. Perhaps I can give you the name and address of the
man who has the jewels now, assuming of course that Leighton brought
them."

He arose suddenly and passed into the adjoining room. Conway turned and
stared at Hatch inquiringly with a queer expression on his face.

"Is he anything of a joker?" he asked.

"No, but he's a good deal of a wonder," replied Hatch.

"Do you mean to say that I have been working on this thing for months and
months without learning anything about it and all he's got to do is to go
in there and get the name and address of the man who has the necklace?"
demanded Conway in bewilderment.

"If he went into that room and said he'd bring back the Pacific Ocean in
a tea cup I'd believe him," said the reporter. "I know him."

They were interrupted by the tinkling of the telephone bell in the next
room, then for a long time the subdued hum of the scientist's irritable
voice as he talked over the 'phone. It was twenty-five or thirty minutes
before he appeared in the door again. He paused there and scribbled
something on a card which he handed to Hatch. The reporter read this:
"Henry C. H. Manderling, Scituate, Mass."

"There is the name and address of the man who probably has the jewels
now," said The Thinking Machine quite as a matter of fact. "Mr. Hatch,
you accompany Mr. Conway, let him see the surroundings and act as his
judgment dictates. You must search this man's house. I don't think you'll
have much trouble finding them because they cannot foresee their danger.
The pearls will be unset and you will find them possibly in small
oil-silk bags, no larger than your little finger. When you find them take
steps to apprehend both this man and Leighton. Call Detective Mallory
when you get them and bring them here."

"But--but--" stammered Conway.

"Come on," commanded Hatch.

And Conway went.

The sleepy little old town of Scituate sprawls along two or three miles
of Massachusetts coast, facing the sea boldly in a series of cliffs which
rise up and sink away with the utmost suddenness. The town was settled
two or three hundred years ago and nothing has ever happened there since.
It was here, atop one of the cliffs, that Henry C. H. Manderling had
lived alone for two or three months. He had gone there in the Spring with
other city folks who dreamed their Summers away, and occupied a queer
little shack through which the salt breezes wandered at will. A tiny barn
was attached to the house.

Hutchinson Hatch and the Scotland Yard man found the house without
difficulty and entered it without hesitation. There was no one at hand to
stop them, or to interfere with the search they made. The simple lock on
the door was no obstacle. In less than half an hour the skilful hands of
the Scotland Yard man had turned out a score or more small oil-silk bags,
no larger than his little finger. He ripped one open and six pearls
dropped into his hand.

"They're the Varron pearls all right," he exclaimed triumphantly after an
examination. He dropped them all into his pocket.

"Sh-h-h-h!" warned Hatch suddenly.

He had heard a step at the door, then two voices as some one inserted a
key in the lock. After a moment the door opened and crouching back in the
shadow they heard two men enter. It was just at that psychological moment
that Conway stepped out and faced them.

"I want you, Leighton," he said calmly.

Hatch could not see beyond the Scotland Yard man but he heard a shot and
a bullet whistled uncomfortably close to his head. Conway leaped forward;
Hatch saw his arm swing and one of the men fell. Then came another shot.
Conway staggered a little, took another step forward and again swung his
great right arm. There was a scurrying of feet, the clatter of a revolver
on the floor and the front door slammed.

"Tie up that chap there," commanded Conway.

He opened the door and Hatch heard him run along the veranda and leap
off. He turned his attention to the senseless man on the floor. It was
Harry Cheshire. Hatch bound him hand and foot where he lay and ran out.

Conway was racing down the cliff to where a motor boat lay. Hatch saw a
man climb into the boat and an instant later it shot out into the water.
Conway ran on to where it had been; it was now fifty yards out.

"Not this time, Mr. Conway," came Leighton's voice as the boat sped on.

The Scotland Yard man stared after it a minute or more then returned to
Hatch. The reporter saw that he was pale, very pale.

"Did you bind him?" Conway asked.

"Yes," Hatch responded. "Are you wounded?"

"Sure," replied the Scotland Yard man. "He got me in the left arm. I
never knew him to carry a revolver before. It's lucky those two shots
were all he had."

The Thinking Machine put the finishing touches on the binding of Conway's
wound--it was trivial--then turned to his other visitors. These were
Harry Cheshire, or Manderling, and Detective Mallory to whom he had been
delivered a prisoner on the arrival of Hatch and Conway in Boston. A
general alarm had been sent out for Leighton.

Conway apparently didn't care anything about the wound but he had a frank
curiosity as to just what The Thinking Machine had done and how those
things which had happened had been brought to pass.

"It was all ridiculously simple," began the scientist at last in
explanation. "It came down to this: How could one hundred and seventy-two
pearls be transferred from a boat forty miles at sea to a safe place
ashore? The motor boat did not speak or approach any other vessel;
obviously one could not throw them ashore and I have never heard of such
a thing as a trained fish which might have brought them in. Now what are
the only other ways they could have reached shore with comparative
safety?"

He looked from one to another inquiringly. Each in turn shook his head.
Manderling, or Cheshire, was silent.

"There are only two possible answers," said the scientist at last. "One,
a submarine boat, which is improbable, and the other birds--homing
pigeons."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Conway as he stared at Manderling. "And I did notice
dozens of pigeons about the place at Scituate."

"The jewels were on the ship as you suspected," resumed the scientist,
"unset and probably suspended in a long oil-silk bag in the drain pipe I
mentioned. They were thrown into the motor boat, wrapped in the
newspapers. Two miles away from the Romanic they were fastened to homing
pigeons and one by one the pigeons were released. You, Mr. Conway, could
see the boat clearly at that distance but you could not possibly see a
bird rise from it. The birds went to their home, Mr. Manderling's place
at Scituate. Homing pigeons are generally kept in automatically closing
compartments and each pigeon was locked in as it arrived. Mr. Manderling
here and Mr. Leighton removed the pearls at their leisure.

"Of course with homing pigeons as a clue we could get somewhere," The
Thinking Machine went on after a moment. "There are numerous homing
pigeon associations and fanciers and it was possible that one of these
would know an Englishman who had, say, twenty-five or fifty birds, and
presumably lived somewhere near Boston. One did know. He gave me the name
of Henry C. H. Manderling. Harry is a corruption of Henry; and Henry C?
Henry Cheshire, or Harry Cheshire--the name Mr. Manderling gave when he
was searched at the wharf."

"Can you explain how Leighton was able to get the necklace in the first
place?" asked Conway curiously.

"Just as he got the other things," replied The Thinking Machine, "by
boldness and cleverness. Suppose, when Lady Varron fell, Leighton had had
a stout elastic fastened high up at the shoulder, say, inside his coat
sleeve and the end of this elastic had a clamp of some sort, and was
drawn down until the elastic was taut, and fastened to his cuff? Remember
that this man was always waiting for an opportunity, and was always
prepared to take advantage of it. Of course he did not plan the thing as
it happened.

"Say that the necklace dropped off as he leaned over to help Lady Varron.
In the momentary excitement he could, under their very noses, have
fastened the clamp to the necklace. Instantly the jewels would have
disappeared up his sleeve and he could have submitted to any sort of
perfunctory search of his pockets as he suggested."

"That's a trick professional gamblers have to get rid of cards," remarked
Detective Mallory.

"Oh, it isn't new then?" asked The Thinking Machine. "Immediately he left
the ballroom he hid this necklace as he had hidden other jewels, and
before you knew of the theft, wrote and mailed full directions to Mr.
Manderling here what to do. You did not intercept any letters, of course,
until after you knew of this theft. Leighton had perhaps had other
dealings with Mr. Manderling in other parts of the world, when he was not
so closely watched as in this particular instance. I daresay, however, he
had them all planned carefully for fear the very thing that did happen in
this case would happen."

Half an hour later Conway shook hands with The Thinking Machine, thanked
him heartily and the little party dispersed.

"I had given it up," Conway confessed as he was going out.

"You see," remarked The Thinking Machine, "gentlemen of your profession
use too little common sense. Remember that two and two always make
four--not some times but all the time."

Leighton has not yet been caught. Manderling made a model prisoner.



PROBLEM OF THE MOTOR BOAT


Captain Hank Barber, master mariner, gripped the bow-rail of the Liddy
Ann and peered off through the semi-fog of the early morning at a dark
streak slashing along through the gray-green waters. It was a motor boat
of long, graceful lines; and a single figure, that of a man, sat upright
at her helm staring uncompromisingly ahead. She nosed through a roller,
staggered a little, righted herself and sped on as a sheet of spray swept
over her. The helmsman sat motionless, heedless of the stinging splash of
wind driven water in his face.

"She sure is a-goin' some," remarked Captain Hank, reflectively. "By
Ginger! If she keeps it up into Boston Harbour she won't stop this side
o' the Public Gardens."

Captain Hank watched the boat curiously until she was swallowed up, lost
in the mist, then turned to his own affairs. He was a couple of miles out
of Boston Harbour, going in; it was six o'clock of a gray morning. A few
minutes after the disappearance of the motor boat Captain Hank's
attention was attracted by the hoarse shriek of a whistle two hundred
yards away. He dimly traced through the mist the gigantic lines of a
great vessel--it seemed to be a ship of war.

It was only a few minutes after Captain Hank lost sight of the motor boat
that she was again sighted, this time as she flashed into Boston Harbour
at full speed. She fled past, almost under the prow of a pilot boat,
going out, and was hailed. At the mess table later the pilot's man on
watch made a remark about her.

"Goin'! Well, wasn't she though! Never saw one thing pass so close to
another in my life without scrubbin' the paint offen it. She was so close
up I could spit in her, and when I spoke the feller didn't even look
up--just kept a-goin'. I told him a few things that was good for his
soul."

Inside Boston Harbour the motor boat performed a miracle. Pursuing a
course which was singularly erratic and at a speed more than dangerous
she reeled on through the surge of the sea regardless alike of fog, the
proximity of other vessels and the heavy wash from larger craft. Here she
narrowly missed a tug; there she skimmed by a slow moving tramp and a
warning shout was raised; a fisherman swore at her as only a fisherman
can. And finally when she passed into a clear space, seemingly headed for
a dock at top speed, she was the most unanimously damned craft that ever
came into Boston Harbour.

"Guess that's a through boat," remarked an aged salt, facetiously as he
gazed at her from a dock. "If that durned fool don't take some o' the
speed offen her she'll go through all right--wharf an' all."

Still the man in the boat made no motion; the whiz of her motor, plainly
heard in a sudden silence, was undiminished. Suddenly the tumult of
warning was renewed. Only a chance would prevent a smash. Then Big John
Dawson appeared on the string piece of the dock. Big John had a voice
that was noted from Newfoundland to Norfolk for its depth and width, and
possessed objurgatory powers which were at once the awe and admiration of
the fishing fleet.

"You ijit!" he bellowed at the impassive helmsman. "Shut off that power
an' throw yer hellum."

There was no response; the boat came on directly toward the dock where
Big John and his fellows were gathered. The fishermen and loungers saw
that a crash was coming and scattered from the string piece.

"The durned fool," said Big John, resignedly.

Then came the crash, the rending of timbers, and silence save for the
grinding whir of the motor. Big John ran to the end of the wharf and
peered down. The speed of the motor had driven the boat half way upon a
float which careened perilously. The man had been thrown forward and lay
huddled up face downward and motionless on the float. The dirty water
lapped at him greedily.

Big John was the first man on the float. He crept cautiously to the
huddled figure and turned it face upward. He gazed for an instant into
wide staring eyes then turned to the curious ones peering down from the
dock.

"No wonder he didn't stop," he said in an awed tone. "The durned fool is
dead."

Willing hands gave aid and after a minute the lifeless figure lay on the
dock. It was that of a man in uniform--the uniform of a foreign navy. He
was apparently forty-five years old, large and powerful of frame with the
sun-browned face of a seaman. The jet black of moustache and goatee was
startling against the dead colour of the face. The hair was tinged with
gray; and on the back of the left hand was a single letter--"D"--tattooed
in blue.

"He's French," said Big John authoritatively, "an' that's the uniform of
a Cap'n in the French Navy." He looked puzzled a moment as he stared at
the figure. "An' they ain't been a French man-o'-war in Boston Harbour
for six months."

After awhile the police came and with them Detective Mallory, the big man
of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation; and finally Dr. Clough, Medical
Examiner. While the detective questioned the fishermen and those who had
witnessed the crash Dr. Clough examined the body.

"An autopsy will be necessary," he announced as he arose.

"How long has he been dead?" asked the detective.

"Eight or ten hours, I should say. The cause of death doesn't appear.
There is no shot or knife wound so far as I can see."

Detective Mallory closely examined the dead man's clothing. There was no
name or tailor mark; the linen was new; the name of the maker of the
shoes had been ripped out with a knife. There was nothing in the pockets,
not a piece of paper or even a vagrant coin.

Then Detective Mallory turned his attention to the boat. Both hull and
motor were of French manufacture. Long, deep scratches on each side
showed how the name had been removed. Inside the boat the detective saw
something white and picked it up. It was a handkerchief--a woman's
handkerchief, with the initials "E. M. B." in a corner.

"Ah, a woman's in it!" he soliloquised.

 Then the body was removed and carefully secluded from the prying eyes of
 the press. Thus no picture of the dead man appeared. Hutchinson Hatch,
 reporter, and others asked many questions.

Detective Mallory hinted vaguely at international questions--the dead man
was a French officer, he said, and there might be something back of it.

"I can't tell you all of it," he said wisely, "but my theory is complete.
It is murder. The victim was captain of a French man-of-war. His body was
placed in a motor boat, possibly a part of the fittings of the war ship
and the boat set adrift. I can say no more."

"Your theory is complete then," Hatch remarked casually, "except the name
of the man, the manner of death, the motive, the name of his ship, the
presence of the handkerchief and the precise reason why the body should
be disposed of in this fashion instead of being cast into the sea?"

The detective snorted. Hatch went away to make some inquiries on his own
account. Within half a dozen hours he had satisfied himself by telegraph
that no French war craft had been within five hundred miles of Boston for
six months. Thus the mystery grew deeper; a thousand questions to which
there seemed no answer arose.

At this point, the day following the events related, the problem of the
motor boat came to the attention of Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van
Dusen, The Thinking Machine. The scientist listened closely but
petulantly to the story Hatch told.

"Has there been an autopsy yet?" he asked at last.

"It is set for eleven o'clock today," replied the reporter. "It is now
after ten."

"I shall attend it," said the scientist.

Medical Examiner Clough welcomed the eminent Professor Van Dusen's
proffer of assistance in his capacity of M. D., while Hatch and other
reporters impatiently cooled their toes on the curb. In two hours the
autopsy had been completed. The Thinking Machine amused himself by
studying the insignia on the dead man's uniform, leaving it to Dr. Clough
to make a startling statement to the press. The man had not been
murdered; he had died of heart failure. There was no poison in the
stomach, nor was there a knife or pistol wound.

Then the inquisitive press poured in a flood of questions. Who had
scratched off the name of the boat? Dr. Clough didn't know. Why had it
been scratched off? Still he didn't know. How did it happen that the name
of the maker of the shoes had been ripped out? He shrugged his shoulders.
What did the handkerchief have to do with it? Really he couldn't
conjecture. Was there any inkling of the dead man's identity? Not so far
as he knew. Any scar on the body which might lead to identification? No.

Hatch made a few mental comments on officials in general and skilfully
steered The Thinking Machine away from the other reporters.

"Did that man die of heart failure?" he asked, flatly.

"He did not," was the curt reply. "It was poison."

"But the Medical Examiner specifically stated that there was no poison in
the stomach," persisted the reporter.

The scientist did not reply. Hatch struggled with and suppressed a desire
to ask more questions. On reaching home the scientist's first act was to
consult an encyclopaedia. After several minutes he turned to the reporter
with an inscrutable face.

"Of course the idea of a natural death in this case is absurd," he said,
shortly. "Every fact is against it. Now, Mr. Hatch, please get for me all
the local and New York newspapers of the day the body was found--not the
day after. Send or bring them to me, then come again at five this
afternoon."

"But--but--" Hatch blurted.

"I can say nothing until I know all the facts," interrupted The Thinking
Machine.

Hatch personally delivered the specified newspapers into the hands of The
Thinking Machine--this man who never read newspapers--and went away. It
was an afternoon of agony; an agony of impatience. Promptly at five
o'clock he was ushered into Professor Van Dusen's laboratory. He sat half
smothered in newspapers, and popped up out of the heap aggressively.

"It was murder, Mr. Hatch," he exclaimed, suddenly. "Murder by an
extraordinary method."

"Who--who is the man? How was he killed?" asked Hatch.

"His name is--" the scientist began, then paused. "I presume your office
has the book 'Who's Who In America?' Please 'phone and ask them to give
you the record of Langham Dudley."

"Is he the dead man?" Hatch demanded quickly.

"I don't know," was the reply.

Hatch went to the telephone. Ten minutes later he returned to find The
Thinking Machine dressed to go out.

"Langham Dudley is a ship owner, fifty-one years old," the reporter read
from notes he had taken. "He was once a sailor before the mast and later
became a ship owner in a small way. He was successful in his small
undertakings and for fifteen years has been a millionaire. He has a
certain social position, partly through his wife whom he married a year
and a half ago. She was Edith Marston Belding, a daughter of the famous
Belding family. He has an estate on the North Shore."

"Very good," commented the scientist. "Now we will find out something
about how this man was killed."

At North Station they took train for a small place on the North Shore,
thirty five miles from Boston. There The Thinking Machine made some
inquiries and finally they entered a lumbersome carry-all. After a drive
of half an hour through the dark they saw the lights of what seemed to be
a pretentious country place. Somewhere off to the right Hatch heard the
roar of the restless ocean.

"Wait for us," commanded The Thinking Machine as the carry-all stopped.

The Thinking Machine ascended the steps, followed by Hatch, and rang.
After a minute or so the door was opened and a light flooded out.
Standing before them was a Japanese--a man of indeterminate age with the
graven face of his race.

"Is Mr. Dudley in?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"He has not that pleasure," replied the Japanese, and Hatch smiled at the
queerly turned phrase.

"Mrs. Dudley?" asked the scientist.

"Mrs. Dudley is attiring herself in clothing," replied the Japanese. "If
you will be pleased to enter."

The Thinking Machine handed him a card and was shown into a reception
room. The Japanese placed chairs for them with courteous precision and
disappeared. After a short pause there was a rustle of silken skirts on
the stairs, and a woman--Mrs. Dudley--entered. She was not pretty; she
was stunning rather, tall, of superb figure and crowned with a glory of
black hair.

"Mr. Van Dusen?" she asked as she glanced at the card.

The Thinking Machine bowed low, albeit awkwardly. Mrs. Dudley sank down
on a couch and the two men resumed their seats. There was a little pause;
Mrs. Dudley broke the silence at last.

"Well, Mr. Van Dusen, if you--" she began.

"You have not seen a newspaper for several days?" asked The Thinking
Machine, abruptly.

"No," she replied, wonderingly, almost smiling. "Why?"

"Can you tell me just where your husband is?"

The Thinking Machine squinted at her in that aggressive way which was
habitual. A quick flush crept into her face; and grew deeper at the sharp
scrutiny. Inquiry lay in her eyes.

"I don't know," she replied at last. "In Boston, I presume."

"You haven't seen him since the night of the ball?"

"No. I think it was half past one o'clock that night."

"Is his motor boat here?"

"Really, I don't know. I presume it is. May I ask the purpose of this
questioning?"

The Thinking Machine squinted hard at her for half a minute. Hatch was
uncomfortable, half resentful even, at the agitation of the woman and the
sharp, cold tone of his companion.

"On the night of the ball," the scientist went on, passing the question,
"Mr. Dudley cut his left arm just above the wrist. It was only a slight
wound. A piece of court plaster was put on it. Do you know if he put it
on himself? If not, who did?"

"I put it on," replied Mrs. Dudley, unhesitatingly, wonderingly.

"And whose court plaster was it?"

"Mine--some I had in my dressing room. Why?"

The scientist arose and paced across the floor, glancing once out the
hall door. Mrs. Dudley looked at Hatch inquiringly and was about to speak
when The Thinking Machine stopped beside her and placed his slim fingers
on her wrist. She did not resent the action; was only curious if one
might judge from her eyes.

"Are you prepared for a shock?" the scientist asked.

"What is it?" she demanded in sudden terror. "This suspense--"

"Your husband is dead--murdered--poisoned!" said the scientist with
sudden brutality. His fingers still lay on her pulse. "The court plaster
which you put on his arm and which came from your room was covered with a
virulent poison which was instantly transfused into his blood."

Mrs. Dudley did not start or scream. Instead she stared up at The
Thinking Machine a moment, her face became pallid, a little shiver passed
over her. Then she fell back on the couch in a dead faint.

"Good!" remarked The Thinking Machine complacently. And then as Hatch
started up suddenly: "Shut that door," he commanded.

The reporter did so. When he turned back his companion was leaning over
the unconscious woman. After a moment he left her and went to a window
where he stood looking out. As Hatch watched he saw the colour coming
back into Mrs. Dudley's face. At last she opened her eyes.

"Don't get hysterical," The Thinking Machine directed calmly. "I know you
had nothing whatever to do with your husband's death. I want only a
little assistance to find out who killed him."

"Oh, my God!" exclaimed Mrs. Dudley. "Dead! Dead!"

Suddenly tears leapt from her eyes and for several minutes the two men
respected her grief. When at last she raised her face her eyes were red,
but there was a rigid expression about the mouth.

"If I can be of any service--" she began.

"Is this the boat house I see from this window?" asked The Thinking
Machine. "That long, low building with the light over the door?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Dudley.

"You say you don't know if the motor boat is there now?"

"No, I don't."

"Will you ask your Japanese servant, and if he doesn't know, let him go
see, please?"

Mrs. Dudley arose and touched an electric button. After a moment the
Japanese appeared at the door.

"Osaka, do you know if Mr. Dudley's motor boat is in the boat house?" she
asked.

"No, honourable lady."

"Will you go yourself and see?"

Osaka bowed low and left the room, closing the door gently behind him.
The Thinking Machine again crossed to the window and sat down staring out
into the night. Mrs. Dudley asked questions, scores of them, and he
answered them in order until she knew the details of the finding of her
husband's body--that is, the details the public knew. She was interrupted
by the reappearance of Osaka.

"I do not find the motor boat in the house, honourable lady."

"That is all," said the scientist.

Again Osaka bowed and retired.

"Now, Mrs. Dudley," resumed The Thinking Machine almost gently, "we know
your husband wore a French naval costume at the masked ball. May I ask
what you wore?"

"It was a Queen Elizabeth costume," replied Mrs. Dudley, "very heavy with
a long train."

"And if you could give me a photograph of Mr. Dudley?"

Mrs. Dudley left the room an instant and returned with a cabinet
photograph. Hatch and the scientist looked at it together; it was
unmistakably the man in the motor boat.

"You can do nothing yourself," said The Thinking Machine at last, and he
moved as if to go. "Within a few hours we will have the guilty person.
You may rest assured that your name will be in no way brought into the
matter unpleasantly."

Hatch glanced at his companion; he thought he detected a sinister note in
the soothing voice, but the face expressed nothing. Mrs. Dudley ushered
them into the hall; Osaka stood at the front door. They passed out and
the door closed behind them.

Hatch started down the steps but The Thinking Machine stopped at the door
and tramped up and down. The reporter turned back in astonishment. In the
dim reflected light he saw the scientist's finger raised, enjoining
silence, then saw him lean forward suddenly with his ear pressed to the
door. After a little he rapped gently. The door was opened by Osaka who
obeyed a beckoning motion of the scientist's hand and came out. Silently
he was led off the veranda into the yard; he appeared in no way
surprised.

"Your master, Mr. Dudley, has been murdered," declared The Thinking
Machine quietly, to Osaka. "We know that Mrs. Dudley killed him," he went
on as Hatch stared, "but I have told her she is not suspected. We are not
officers and cannot arrest her. Can you go with us to Boston, without the
knowledge of anyone here and tell what you know of the quarrel between
husband and wife to the police?"

Osaka looked placidly into the eager face.

"I had the honour to believe that the circumstances would not be
recognized," he said finally. "Since you know, I will go."

"We will drive down a little way and wait for you."

The Japanese disappeared into the house again. Hatch was too astounded to
speak, but followed The Thinking Machine into the carry-all. It drove
away a hundred yards and stopped. After a few minutes an impalpable
shadow came toward them through the night. The scientist peered out as it
came up.

"Osaka?" he asked softly.

"Yes."

An hour later the three men were on a train, Boston bound. Once
comfortably settled the scientist turned to the Japanese.

"Now if you will please tell me just what happened the night of the
ball?" he asked, "and the incidents leading up to the disagreement
between Mr. and Mrs. Dudley?"

"He drank elaborately," Osaka explained reluctantly, in his quaint
English, "and when drinking he was brutal to the honourable lady. Twice
with my own eyes I saw him strike her--once in Japan where I entered his
service while they were on a wedding journey, and once here. On the night
of the ball he was immeasurably intoxicated, and when he danced he fell
down to the floor. The honourable lady was chagrined and angry--she had
been angry before. There was some quarrel which I am not comprehensive
of. They had been widely divergent for several months. It was, of course,
not prominent in the presence of others."

"And the cut on his arm where the court plaster was applied?" asked the
scientist. "Just how did he get that?"

"It was when he fell down," continued the Japanese. "He reached to
embrace a carved chair and the carved wood cut his arm. I assisted him to
his feet and the honourable lady sent me to her room to get court
plaster. I acquired it from her dressing table and she placed it on the
cut."

"That makes the evidence against her absolutely conclusive," remarked The
Thinking Machine, as if finally. There was a little pause, and then: "Do
you happen to know just how Mrs. Dudley placed the body in the boat?"

"I have not that honour," said Osaka. "Indeed I am not comprehensive of
anything that happened after the court plaster was put on except that Mr.
Dudley was affected some way and went out of the house. Mrs. Dudley, too,
was not in the ball room for ten minutes or so afterwards."

Hutchinson Hatch stared frankly into the face of The Thinking Machine;
there was nothing to be read there. Still deeply thoughtful Hatch heard
the brakeman bawl "Boston" and mechanically followed the scientist and
Osaka out of the station into a cab. They were driven immediately to
Police Headquarters. Detective Mallory was just about to go home when
they entered his office.

"It may enlighten you, Mr. Mallory," announced the scientist coldly, "to
know that the man in the motor boat was not a French naval officer who
died of natural causes--he was Langham Dudley, a millionaire ship owner.
He was murdered. It just happens that I know the person who did it."

The detective arose in astonishment and stared at the slight figure
before him inquiringly; he knew the man too well to dispute any assertion
he might make.

"Who is the murderer?" he asked.

The Thinking Machine closed the door and the spring lock clicked.

"That man there," he remarked calmly, turning on Osaka.

For one brief instant there was a pause and silence; then the detective
advanced upon the Japanese with hand outstretched. The agile Osaka leapt
suddenly, as a snake strikes; there was a quick, fierce struggle and
Detective Mallory sprawled on the floor. There had been just a twist of
the wrist--a trick of jiu jitsu--and Osaka had flung himself at the
locked door. As he fumbled there Hatch, deliberately and without
compunction, raised a chair and brought it down on his head. Osaka sank
down without a sound.

It was an hour before they brought him around again. Meanwhile the
detective had patted and petted half a dozen suddenly acquired bruises,
and had then searched Osaka. He found nothing to interest him save a
small bottle. He uncorked it and started to smell it when The Thinking
Machine snatched it away.

"You fool, that'll kill you!" he exclaimed.

Osaka sat, lashed hand and foot to a chair, in Detective Mallory's
office--so placed by the detective for safe keeping. His face was no
longer expressionless; there were fear and treachery and cunning there.
So he listened, perforce, to the statement of the case by The Thinking
Machine who leaned back in his chair, squinting steadily upward and with
his long, slender fingers pressed together.

"Two and two make four, not some times but all the time," he began at
last as if disputing some previous assertion. "As the figure two, wholly
disconnected from any other, gives small indication of a result, so is an
isolated fact of little consequence. Yet that fact added to another, and
the resulting fact added to a third, and so on, will give a final result.
That result, if every fact is considered, must be correct. Thus any
problem may be solved by logic; logic is inevitable.

"In this case the facts, considered singly, might have been compatible
with either a natural death, suicide, or murder--considered together they
proved murder. The climax of this proof was the removal of the maker's
name from the dead man's shoes, and a fact strongly contributory was the
attempt to destroy the identity of the boat. A subtle mind lay back of it
all."

"I so regarded it," said Detective Mallory. "I was confident of murder
until the Medical Examiner--"

"We prove a murder," The Thinking Machine went on serenely. "The method?
I was with Dr. Clough at the autopsy. There was no shot, or knife wound,
no poison in the stomach. Knowing there was murder I sought further. Then
I found the method in a slight, jagged wound on the left arm. It had been
covered with court plaster. The heart showed constriction without
apparent cause, and while Dr. Clough examined it I took off this court
plaster. Its odour, an unusual one, told me that poison had been
transfused into the blood through the wound. So two and two had made
four.

"Then--what poison? A knowledge of botany aided me. I recognized faintly
the trace of an odour of an herb which is not only indigenous to, but
grows exclusively in Japan. Thus a Japanese poison. Analysis later in my
laboratory proved it was a Japanese poison, virulent, and necessarily
slow to act unless it is placed directly in an artery. The poison on the
court plaster and that you took from Osaka are identical."

The scientist uncorked the bottle and permitted a single drop of a green
liquid to fall on his handkerchief. He allowed a minute or more for
evaporation then handed it to Detective Mallory who sniffed at it from a
respectful distance. Then The Thinking Machine produced the bit of court
plaster he had taken from the dead man's arm, and again the detective
sniffed.

"The same," the scientist resumed as he touched a lighted match to the
handkerchief and watched it crumble to ashes, "and so powerful that in
its pure state mere inhalation is fatal. I permitted Dr. Clough to make
public his opinion--heart failure--after the autopsy for obvious reasons.
It would reassure the murderer for instance if he saw it printed, and
besides Dudley did die from heart failure; the poison caused it.

"Next came identification. Mr. Hatch learned that no French war ship had
been within hundreds of miles of Boston for months. The one seen by
Captain Barber might have been one of our own. This man was supposed to
be a French naval officer, and had been dead less than eight hours.
Obviously he did not come from a ship of his own country. Then from
where?

"I know nothing of uniforms, yet I examined the insignia on the arms and
shoulders closely after which I consulted my encyclopaedia. I learned
that while the uniform was more French than anything else it was really
the uniform of no country, because it was not correct. The insignia were
mixed.

"Then what? There were several possibilities, among them a fancy dress
ball was probable. Absolute accuracy would not be essential there. Where
had there been a fancy dress ball? I trusted to the newspapers to tell me
that. They did. A short dispatch from a place on the North Shore stated
that on the night before the man was found dead there had been a fancy
dress ball at the Langham Dudley estate.

"Now it is as necessary to remember every fact in solving a problem as it
is to consider every figure in arithmetic. Dudley! Here was the 'D'
tattooed on the dead man's hand. 'Who's Who' showed that Langham Dudley
married Edith Marston Belding. Here was the 'E. M. B.' on the
handkerchief in the boat. Langham Dudley was a ship owner, had been a
sailor, was a millionaire. Possibly this was his own boat built in
France."

Detective Mallory was staring into the eyes of The Thinking Machine in
frank admiration; Osaka to whom the narrative had thus far been
impersonal, gazed, gazed as if fascinated. Hutchinson Hatch, reporter,
was drinking in every word greedily.

"We went to the Dudley place," the scientist resumed after a moment.
"This Japanese opened the door. Japanese poison! Two and two were still
making four. But I was first interested in Mrs. Dudley. She showed no
agitation and told me frankly that she placed the court plaster on her
husband's arm, and that it came from her room. There was instantly a
doubt as to her connection with the murder; her immediate frankness
aroused it.

"Finally, with my hand on her pulse--which was normal--I told her as
brutally as I could that her husband had been murdered. Her pulse jumped
frightfully and as I told her the cause of death it wavered, weakened and
she fainted. Now if she had known her husband were dead--even if she had
killed him--a mere statement of his death would not have caused that
pulse. Further I doubt if she could have disposed of her husband's body
in the motor boat. He was a large man and the manner of her dress even,
was against this. Therefore she was innocent.

"And then? The Japanese, Osaka, here. I could see the door of the boat
house from the room where we were. Mrs. Dudley asked Osaka if Mr.
Dudley's boat wase in the house. He said he didn't know. Then she sent
him to see. He returned and said the boat was not there, yet he had not
gone to the boat house at all. Ergo, he knew the boat was not there. He
may have learned it from another servant, still it was a point against
him."

Again the scientist paused and squinted at the Japanese. For a moment
Osaka withstood the gaze, then his beady eyes shifted and he moved
uncomfortably.

"I tricked Osaka into coming here by a ludicrously simple expedient," The
Thinking Machine went on steadily. "On the train I asked if he knew just
how Mrs. Dudley got the body of her husband into the boat. Remember at
this point he was not supposed to know that the body had been in a boat
at all. He said he didn't know and by that very answer admitted that he
knew the body had been placed in the boat. He knew because he put it
there himself. He didn't merely throw it in the water because he had
sense enough to know if the tide didn't take it out it would rise, and
possibly be found.

"After the slight injury Mr. Dudley evidently wandered out toward the
boat house. The poison was working, and perhaps he fell. Then this man
removed all identifying marks, even to the name in the shoes, put the
body in the boat and turned on full power. He had a right to assume that
the boat would be lost, or that the dead man would be thrown out. Wind
and tide and a loose rudder brought it into Boston Harbour. I do not
attempt to account for the presence of Mrs. Dudley's handkerchief in the
boat. It might have gotten there in one of a hundred ways."

"How did you know husband and wife had quarrelled?" asked Hatch.

"Surmise to account for her not knowing where he was," replied The
Thinking Machine. "If they had had a violent disagreement it was possible
that he would have gone away without telling her, and she would not have
been particularly worried, at least up to the time we saw her. As it was
she presumed he was in Boston; perhaps Osaka here gave her that
impression?"

The Thinking Machine turned and stared at the Japanese curiously.

"Is that correct?" he asked.

Osaka did not answer.

"And the motive?" asked Detective Mallory, at last.

"Will you tell us just why you killed Mr. Dudley?" asked The Thinking
Machine of the Japanese.

"I will not," exclaimed Osaka, suddenly. It was the first time he had
spoken.

"It probably had to do with a girl in Japan," explained The Thinking
Machine, easily. "The murder had been a long cherished project, such a
one as revenge through love would have inspired."

It was a day or so later that Hutchinson Hatch called to inform The
Thinking Machine that Osaka had confessed and had given the motive for
the murder. It was not a nice story.

"One of the most astonishing things to me," Hatch added, "is the complete
case of circumstantial evidence against Mrs. Dudley, beginning with the
quarrel and leading to the application of the poison with her own hands.
I believe she would have been convicted on the actual circumstantial
evidence had you not shown conclusively that Osaka did it."

"Circumstantial fiddlesticks!" snapped The Thinking Machine. "I wouldn't
convict a yellow dog of stealing jam on circumstantial evidence alone,
even if he had jam all over his nose." He squinted truculently at Hatch
for a moment. "In the first place well behaved dogs don't eat jam," he
added more mildly.

Mystery of the Ralston Bank Burglary


I


With expert fingers Phillip Dunston, receiving teller, verified the last
package of one hundred dollar bills he had made up--ten thousand dollars
in all--and tossed it over on the pile beside him, while he checked off a
memorandum. It was correct; there were eighteen packages of bills,
containing $107,231. Then he took the bundles, one by one, and on each
placed his initials, "P. D." This was a system of checking in the Ralston
National Bank.

It was care in such trivial details, perhaps, that had a great deal to do
with the fact that the Ralston National had advanced from a small
beginning to the first rank of those banks which were financial powers.
President Quinton Fraser had inaugurated the system under which the
Ralston National had so prospered, and now, despite his seventy-four
years, he was still its active head. For fifty years he had been in its
employ; for thirtyfive years of that time he had been its president.

Publicly the aged banker was credited with the possession of a vast
fortune, this public estimate being based on large sums he had given to
charity. But as a matter of fact the private fortune of the old man, who
had no one to share it save his wife, was not large; it was merely a
comfortable living sum for an aged couple of simple tastes.

Dunston gathered up the packages of money and took them into the
cashier's private office, where he dumped them on the great flat-top desk
at which that official, Randolph West, sat figuring. The cashier thrust
the sheet of paper on which he had been working into his pocket and took
the memorandum which Dunston offered.

"All right?" he asked.

"It tallies perfectly," Dunston replied.

"Thanks. You may go now."

It was an hour after closing time. Dunston was just pulling on his coat
when he saw West come out of his private office with the money to put it
away in the big steel safe which stood between depositors and thieves.
The cashier paused a moment to allow the janitor, Harris, to sweep the
space in front of the safe. It was the late afternoon scrubbing and
sweeping.

"Hurry up," the cashier complained, impatiently.

Harris hurried, and West placed the money in the safe. There were
eighteen packages.

"All right, sir?" Dunston inquired.

"Yes."

West was disposing of the last bundle when Miss Clarke--Louise
Clarke--private secretary to President Fraser, came out of his office
with a long envelope in her hand. Dunston glanced at her and she smiled
at him.

"Please, Mr. West," she said to the cashier, "Mr. Fraser told me before
he went to put these papers in the safe. I had almost forgotten."

She glanced into the open safe and her pretty blue eyes opened wide. Mr.
West took the envelope, stowed it away with the money without a word, the
girl looking on interestedly, and then swung the heavy door closed. She
turned away with a quick, reassuring smile at Dunston, and disappeared
inside the private office.

West had shot the bolts of the safe into place and had taken hold of the
combination dial to throw it on, when the street door opened and
President Fraser entered hurriedly.

"Just a moment, West," he called. "Did Miss Clarke give you an envelope
to go in there?"

"Yes. I just put it in."

"One moment," and the aged president came through a gate which Dunston
held open and went to the safe. The cashier pulled the steel door open,
unlocked the money compartment where the envelope had been placed, and
the president took it out.

West turned and spoke to Dunston, leaving the president looking over the
contents of the envelope. When the cashier turned back to the safe the
president was just taking his hand away from his inside coat pocket.

"It's all right, West," he instructed. "Lock it up."

Again the heavy door closed, the bolts were shot and the combination dial
turned. President Fraser stood looking on curiously; it just happened
that he had never witnessed this operation before.

"How much have you got in there tonight?" he asked.

"One hundred and twenty-nine thousand," replied the cashier. "And all the
securities, of course."

"Hum," mused the president. "That would be a good haul for some one--if
they could get it, eh, West?" and he chuckled dryly.

"Excellent," returned West, smilingly. "But they can't."

Miss Clarke, dressed for the street, her handsome face almost concealed
by a veil which was intended to protect her pink cheeks from boisterous
winds, was standing in the door of the president's office.

"Oh, Miss Clarke, before you go, would you write just a short note for
me?" asked the president.

"Certainly," she responded, and she returned to the private office. Mr.
Fraser followed her.

West and Dunston stood outside the bank railing, Dunston waiting for Miss
Clarke. Every evening he walked over to the subway with her. His opinion
of her was an open secret. West was waiting for the janitor to finish
sweeping.

"Hurry up, Harris," he said again.

"Yes, sir," came the reply, and the janitor applied the broom more
vigorously. "Just a little bit more. I've finished inside."

Dunston glanced through the railing. The floor was spick and span and the
hardwood glistened cleanly. Various bits of paper came down the corridor
before Harris's broom. The janitor swept it all up into a dustpan just as
Miss Clarke came out of the president's room. With Dunston she walked up
the street. As they were going they saw Cashier West come out the front
door, with his handkerchief in his hand, and then walk away rapidly.

"Mr. Fraser is doing some figuring," Miss Clarke explained to Dunston.
"He said he might be there for another hour."

"You are beautiful," replied Dunston, irrelevantly.

These, then, were the happenings in detail in the Ralston National Bank
from 4:15 o'clock on the afternoon of November 11. That night the bank
was robbed. The great steel safe which was considered impregnable was
blown and $129,000 was missing.

The night watchman of the bank, William Haney, was found senseless, bound
and gagged, inside the bank. His revolver lay beside him with all the
cartridges out. He had been beaten into insensibility; at the hospital it
was stated that there was only a bare chance of his recovery.

The locks, hinges and bolts of the steel safe had been smashed by some
powerful explosive, possibly nitro-glycerine. The tiny dial of the
time-lock showed that the explosion came at 2:39; the remainder of the
lock was blown to pieces.

Thus was fixed definitely the moment at which the robbery occurred. It
was shown that the policeman on the beat had been four blocks away. It
was perfectly possible that no one heard the explosion, because the bank
was situated in a part of the city wholly given over to business and
deserted at night.

The burglars had entered the building through a window of the cashier's
private office, in the full glare of an electric light. The window sash
here had been found unfastened and the protecting steel bars, outside
from top to bottom, seemed to have been dragged from their sockets in the
solid granite. The granite crumbled away, as if it had been chalk.

Only one possible clew was found. This was a white linen handkerchief,
picked up in front of the blown safe. It must have been dropped there at
the time of the burglary, because Dunston distinctly recalled it was not
there before he left the bank. He would have noticed it while the janitor
was sweeping.

This handkerchief was the property of Cashier West. The cashier did not
deny it, but could offer no explanation of how it came there. Miss Clarke
and Dunston both said that they had seen him leave the bank with a
handkerchief in his hand.


II


President Fraser reached the bank at ten o'clock and was informed of the
robbery. He retired to his office, and there he sat, apparently stunned
into inactivity by the blow, his head bowed on his arms. Miss Clarke, at
her typewriter, frequently glanced at the aged figure with an expression
of pity on her face. Her eyes seemed weary, too. Outside, through the
closed door, they could hear the detectives.

From time to time employees of the bank and detectives entered the office
to ask questions. The banker answered as if dazed; then the board of
directors met and voted to personally make good the loss sustained. There
was no uneasiness among depositors, because they knew the resources of
the bank were practically unlimited.

Cashier West was not arrested. The directors wouldn't listen to such a
thing; he had been cashier for eighteen years, and they trusted him
implicitly. Yet he could offer no possible explanation of how his
handkerchief had come there. He asserted stoutly that he had not been in
the bank from the moment Miss Clarke and Dunston saw him leave it.

After investigation the police placed the burglary to the credit of
certain expert cracksmen, identity unknown. A general alarm, which meant
a rounding up of all suspicious persons, was sent out, and this drag-net
was expected to bring important facts to light. Detective Mallory said
so, and the bank officials placed great reliance on his word.

Thus the situation at the luncheon hour. Then Miss Clarke, who, wholly
unnoticed, had been waiting all morning at her typewriter, arose and went
over to Fraser.

"If you don't need me now," she said, "I'll run out to luncheon."

"Certainly, certainly," he responded, with a slight start. He had
apparently forgotten her existence.

She stood silently looking at him for a moment.

"I'm awfully sorry," she said, at last, and her lips trembled slightly.

"Thanks," said the banker, and he smiled faintly. "It's a shock, the
worst I ever had."

Miss Clarke passed out with quiet tread, pausing for a moment in the
outer office to stare curiously at the shattered steel safe. The banker
arose with sudden determination and called to West, who entered
immediately.

"I know a man who can throw some light on this thing," said Fraser,
positively. "I think I'll ask him to come over and take a look. It might
aid the police, anyway. You may know him? Professor Van Dusen."

"Never heard of him," said West, tersely, "but I'll welcome anybody who
can solve it. My position is uncomfortable."

President Fraser called Professor Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine--and
talked for a moment through the 'phone. Then he turned back to West.

"He'll come," he said, with an air of relief. "I was able to do him a
favor once by putting an invention on the market."

Within an hour The Thinking Machine, accompanied by Hutchinson Hatch,
reporter, appeared. President Fraser knew the scientist well, but on West
the strange figure made a startling, almost uncanny, impression. Every
known fact was placed before The Thinking Machine. He listened without
comment, then arose and wandered aimlessly about the offices. The
employees were amused by his manner; Hatch was a silent looker-on.

"Where was the handkerchief found?" demanded The Thinking Machine, at
last.

"Here," replied West, and he indicated the exact spot.

"Any draught through the office--ever?"

"None. We have a patent ventilating system which prevents that."

The Thinking Machine squinted for several minutes at the window which had
been unfastened--the window in the cashier's private room--with the steel
bars guarding it, now torn out of their sockets, and at the chalklike
softness of the granite about the sockets. After awhile he turned to the
president and cashier.

"Where is the handkerchief?"

"In my desk," Fraser replied. "The police thought it of no consequence,
save, perhaps--perhaps--," and he looked at West.

"Except that it might implicate me," said West, hotly.

"Tut, tut, tut," said Fraser, reprovingly. "No one thinks for a--"

"Well, well, the handkerchief?" interrupted The Thinking Machine, in
annoyance.

"Come into my office," suggested the president.

The Thinking Machine started in, saw a woman--Miss Clarke, who had
returned from luncheon--and stopped. There was one thing on earth he was
afraid of--a woman.

"Bring it out here," he requested.

President Fraser brought it and placed it in the slender hands of the
scientist, who examined it closely by a window, turning it over and over.
At last he sniffed at it. There was the faint, clinging odor of violet
perfume. Then abruptly, irrelevantly, he turned to Fraser.

"How many women employed in the bank?" he asked.

"Three," was the reply; "Miss Clarke, who is my secretary, and two
general stenographers in the outer office."

"How many men?"

"Fourteen, including myself."

If the president and Cashier West had been surprised at the actions of
The Thinking Machine up to this point, now they were amazed. He thrust
the handkerchief at Hatch, took his own handkerchief, briskly scrubbed
his hands with it, and also passed that to Hatch.

"Keep those," he commanded.

He sniffed at his hands, then walked into the outer office, straight
toward the desk of one of the young women stenographers. He leaned over
her, and asked one question:

"What system of shorthand do you write?"

"Pitman," was the astonished reply.

The scientist sniffed. Yes, it was unmistakably a sniff. He left her
suddenly and went to the other stenographer. Precisely the same thing
happened; standing close to her he asked one question, and at her answer
sniffed. Miss Clarke passed through the outer office to mail a letter.
She, too, had to answer the question as the scientist squinted into her
eyes, and sniffed.

"Ah," he said, at her answer.

Then from one to another of the employees of the bank he went, asking
each a few questions. By this time a murmur of amusement was running
through the office. Finally The Thinking Machine approached the cage in
which sat Dunston, the receiving teller. The young man was bent over his
work, absorbed.

"How long have e you been employed here?" asked the scientist, suddenly.

Dunston started and glanced around quickly.

"Five years," he responded.

"It must be hot work," said The Thinking Machine. "You're perspiring."

"Am I?" inquired the young man, smilingly.

He drew a crumpled handkerchief from his hip pocket, shook it out, and
wiped his forehead.

"Ah!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine, suddenly.

He had caught the faint, subtle perfume of violets--an odor identical
with that on the handkerchief found in front of the safe.


III


The Thinking Machine led the way back to the private office of the
cashier, with President Fraser, Cashier West and Hatch following.

"Is it possible for anyone to overhear us here?" he asked.

"No," replied the president. "The directors meet here."

"Could anyone outside hear that, for instance?" and with a sudden sweep
of his hand he upset a heavy chair.

"I don't know," was the astonished reply. "Why?"

The Thinking Machine went quickly to the door, opened it softly and
peered out. Then he closed the door again.

"I suppose I may speak with absolute frankness?" he inquired.

"Certainly," responded the old banker, almost startled. "Certainly."

"You have presented an abstract problem," The Thinking Machine went on,
"and I presume you want a solution of it, no matter where it hits?"

"Certainly," the president again assured him, but his tone expressed a
grave, haunting fear.

"In that case," and The Thinking Machine turned to the reporter, "Mr.
Hatch, I want you to ascertain several things for me. First, I want to
know if Miss Clarke uses or has ever used violet perfume--if so, when she
ceased using it."

"Yes," said the reporter. The bank officials exchanged wondering looks.

"Also, Mr. Hatch," and the scientist squinted with his strange eyes
straight into the face of the cashier, "go to the home of Mr. West, here,
see for yourself his laundry mark, and ascertain beyond any question if
he has ever, or any member of his family has ever, used violet perfume."

The cashier flushed suddenly.

"I can answer that," he said, hotly. "No."

"I knew you would say that," said The Thinking Machine, curtly. "Please
don't interrupt. Do as I say, Mr. Hatch."

Accustomed as he was to the peculiar methods of this man, Hatch saw
faintly the purpose of the inquiries.

"And the receiving teller?" he asked.

"I know about him," was the reply.

Hatch left the room, closing the door behind him. He heard the bolt shot
in the lock as he started away.

"I think it only fair to say here, Professor Van Dusen," explained the
president, "that we understand thoroughly that it would have been
impossible for Mr. West to have had anything to do with or know--"

"Nothing is impossible," interrupted The Thinking Machine.

"But I won't--" began West, angrily.

"Just a moment, please," said The Thinking Machine. "No one has accused
you of anything. What I am doing may explain to your satisfaction just
how your handkerchief came here and bring about the very thing I suppose
you want--exoneration."

The cashier sank back into a chair; President Fraser looked from one to
the other. Where there had been worry on his face there was now only
wonderment.

"Your handkerchief was found in this office, apparently having been
dropped by the persons who blew the safe," and the long, slender fingers
of The Thinking Machine were placed tip to tip as he talked. "It was not
there the night before. The janitor who swept says so; Dunston, who
happened to look, says so; Miss Clarke and Dunston both say they saw you
with a handkerchief as you left the bank. Therefore, that handkerchief
reached that spot after you left and before the robbery was discovered."

The cashier nodded.

"You say you don't use perfume; that no one in your family uses it. If
Mr. Hatch verifies this, it will help to exonerate you. But some person
who handled that handkerchief after it left your possession and before it
appeared here did use perfume. Now who was that person? Who would have
had an opportunity?

"We may safely dismiss the possibility that you lost the handkerchief,
that it fell into the hands of burglars, that those burglars used
perfume, that they brought it to your bank--your own bank, mind you!--and
left it. The series of coincidences necessary to bring that about would
not have occurred once in a million times."

The Thinking Machine sat silent for several minutes, squinting steadily
at the ceiling.

"If it had been lost anywhere, in the laundry, say, the same rule of
coincidence I have just applied would almost eliminate it. Therefore,
because of an opportunity to get that handkerchief, we will assume--there
is--there must be--some one employed in this bank who had some connection
with or actually participated in the burglary."

The Thinking Machine spoke with perfect quiet, but the effect was
electrical. The aged president staggered to his feet and stood staring at
him dully; again the flush of crimson came into the face of the cashier.

"Some one," The Thinking Machine went on, evenly, "who either found the
handkerchief and unwittingly lost it at the time of the burglary, or else
stole it and deliberately left it. As I said, Mr. West seems eliminated.
Had he been one of the robbers, he would not wittingly have left his
handkerchief; we will still assume that he does not use perfume,
therefore personally did not drop the handkerchief where it was found."

"Impossible! I can't believe it, and of my employees--" began Mr. Fraser.

"Please don't keep saying things are impossible," snapped The Thinking
Machine. "It irritates me exceedingly. It all comes to the one vital
question: Who in the bank uses perfume?"

"I don't know," said the two officials.

"I do," said The Thinking Machine. "There are two--only two, Dunston,
your receiving teller, and Miss Clarke."

"But they--"

"Dunston uses a violet perfume not like that on the handkerchief, but
identical with it," The Thinking Machine went on. "Miss Clarke uses
a strong rose perfume."

"But those two persons, above all others in the bank, I trust
implicitly," said Mr. Fraser, earnestly. "And, besides, they wouldn't
know how to blow a safe. The police tell me this was the work of
experts."

"Have you, Mr. Fraser, attempted to raise, or have you raised lately, any
large sum of money?" asked the scientist, suddenly.

"Well, yes," said the banker, "I have. For a week past I have tried to
raise ninety thousand dollars on my personal account."

"And you, Mr. West?"

The face of the cashier flushed slightly--it might have been at the tone
of the question--and there was the least pause.

"No," he answered finally.

"Very well," and the scientist arose, rubbing his hands; "now we'll
search your employees."

"What?" exclaimed both men. Then Mr. Fraser added: "That would be the
height of absurdity; it would never do. Besides, any person who robbed
the bank would not carry proofs of the robbery, or even any of the money
about with them--to the bank, above all places."

"The bank would be the safest place for it," retorted The Thinking
Machine. "It is perfectly possible that a thief in your employ would
carry some of the money; indeed, it is doubtful if he would dare do
anything else with it. He could see you would have no possible reason for
suspecting anyone here--unless it is Mr. West."

There was a pause. "I'll do the searching, except the three ladies, of
course," he added, blushingly. "With them each combination of two can
search the other one."

Mr. Fraser and Mr. West conversed in low tones for several minutes.

"If the employees will consent I am willing," Mr. Fraser explained, at
last; "although I see no use of it."

"They will agree," said The Thinking Machine. "Please call them all into
this office."

Among some confusion and wonderment the three women and fourteen men of
the bank were gathered in the cashier's office, the outer doors being
locked. The Thinking Machine addressed them with characteristic
terseness.

"In the investigation of the burglary of last night," he explained, "it
has been deemed necessary to search all employees of this bank." A murmur
of surprise ran around the room. "Those who are innocent will agree
readily, of course; will all agree?"

There were whispered consultations on all sides. Dunston flushed angrily;
Miss Clarke, standing near Mr. Fraser, paled slightly. Dunston looked at
her and then spoke.

"And the ladies?" he asked.

"They, too," explained the scientist. "They may searched one another--in
the other room, of course."

"I for one will not submit to such a proceeding," Dunston declared,
bluntly, "not because I fear it, but because it is an insult."

Simultaneously it impressed itself on the bank officials and The Thinking
Machine that the one person in the bank who used a perfume identical with
that on the handkerchief was the first to object to a search. The cashier
and president exchanged startled glances.

"Nor will I," came in the voice of a woman.

The Thinking Machine turned and glanced at her. It was Miss Willis, one
of the outside stenographers; Miss Clarke and the other woman were pale,
but neither had spoken.

"And the others?" asked The Thinking Machine.

Generally there was acquiescence, and as the men came forward the
scientist searched them, perfunctorily, it seemed. Nothing! At last there
remained three men, Dunston, West and Fraser. Dunston came forward,
compelled to do so by the attitude of his fellows. The three women stood
together. The Thinking Machine spoke to them as he searched Dunston.

"If the ladies will retire to the next room they may proceed with their
search," he suggested. "If any money is found, bring it to me--nothing
else."

"I will not, I will not, I will not," screamed Miss Willis, suddenly.
"It's an outrage."

Miss Clarke, deathly white and half fainting, threw up her hands and sank
without a sound into the arms of President Fraser. There she burst into
tears.

"It is an outrage," she sobbed. She clung to President Fraser, her arms
flung upward and her face buried on his bosom. He was soothing her with
fatherly words, and stroked her hair awkwardly. The Thinking Machine
finished the search of Dunston. Nothing! Then Miss Clarke roused herself
and dried her eyes.

"Of course I will have to agree," she said, with a flash of anger in her
eyes.

Miss Willis was weeping, but, like Dunston, she was compelled to yield,
and the three women went into an adjoining room. There was a tense
silence until they reappeared. Each shook her head. The Thinking Machine
nearly looked disappointed.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "Now, Mr. Fraser." He started toward the
president, then paused to pick up a scarf pin.

"This is yours," he said. "I saw it fall," and he made as if to search
the aged man.

"Well, do you really think it necessary in my case?" asked the president,
in consternation, as he drew back, nervously. "I--I am the president, you
know."

"The others were searched in your presence, I will search you in their
presence," said The Thinking Machine, tartly.

"But--but--" the president stammered.

"Are you afraid?" the scientist demanded.

"Why, of course not," was the hurried answer; "but it seems so--so
unusual."

"I think it best," said The Thinking Machine, and before the banker could
draw away his slender fingers were in the inside breast pocket, whence
they instantly drew out a bundle of money--one hundred $100 bills--ten
thousand dollars--with the initials of the receiving teller, "P. D."--"o.
k.--R. W."

"Great God!" exclaimed Mr. Fraser, ashen white.

"Dear me, dear me!" said The Thinking Machine again. He sniffed curiously
at the bundle of bank notes, as a hound might sniff at a trail.


IV


President Fraser was removed to his home in a dangerous condition. His
advanced age did not withstand the shock. Now alternately he raved and
muttered incoherently, and the old eyes were wide, staring fearfully
always. There was a consultation between The Thinking Machine and West
after the removal of President Fraser, and the result was another hurried
meeting of the board of directors. At that meeting West was placed,
temporarily, in command. The police, of course, had been informed of the
matter, but no arrest was probable.

Immediately after The Thinking Machine left the bank Hatch appeared and
inquired for him. From the bank he went to the home of the scientist.
There Professor Van Dusen was bending over a retort, busy with some
problem.

"Well?" he demanded, as he glanced up.

"West told the truth," began Hatch. "Neither he nor any member of his
family uses perfume; he has few outside acquaintances, is regular in his
habits, but is a man of considerable wealth, it appears."

"What is his salary at the bank?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Fifteen thousand a year," said the reporter. "But he must have a large
fortune. He lives like a millionaire."

"He couldn't do that on fifteen thousand dollars a year," mused the
scientist. "Did he inherit any money?"

"No," was the reply. "He started as a clerk in the bank and has made
himself what he is."

"That means speculation," said The Thinking Machine. "You can't save a
fortune from a salary, even fifteen thousand dollars a year. Now, Mr.
Hatch, find out for me all about his business connections. His source of
income particularly I would like to know. Also whether or not he has
recently sought to borrow or has received a large sum of money; if he got
it and what he did with it. He says he has not sought such a sum. Perhaps
he told the truth."

"Yes, and about Miss Clarke--"

"Yes; what about her?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"She occupies a little room in a boardinghouse for women in an excellent
district," the reporter explained. "She has no friends who call there, at
any rate. Occasionally, however, she goes out at night and remains late."

"The perfume?" asked the scientist.

"She uses a perfume, the housekeeper tells me, but she doesn't recall
just what kind it is--so many of the young women in the house use it. So
I went to her room and looked. There was no perfume there. Her room was
considerably disarranged, which seemed to astonish the housekeeper, who
declared that she had carefully arranged it about nine o'clock. It was
two when I was there."

"How was it disarranged?" asked the scientist.

"The couch cover was jerked awry and the pillows tumbled down, for one
thing," said the reporter. "I didn't notice any further."

The Thinking Machine relapsed into silence.

"What happened at the bank?" inquired Hatch.

Briefly the scientist related the facts leading up to the search, the
search itself and its startling result. The reporter whistled.

"Do you think Fraser had anything to do with it?"

"Run out and find out those other things about West," said The Thinking
Machine, evasively. "Come back here tonight. It doesn't matter what
time."

"But who do you think committed the crime?" insisted the newspaper man.

"I may be able to tell you when you return."

For the time being The Thinking Machine seemed to forget the bank
robbery, being busy in his tiny laboratory. He was aroused from his
labors by the ringing of the telephone bell.

"Hello," he called. "Yes, Van Dusen. No, I can't come down to the bank
now. What is it? Oh, it has disappeared? When? Too bad! How's Mr. Fraser?
Still unconscious? Too bad! I'll see you tomorrow."

The scientist was still engrossed in some delicate chemical work just
after eight o'clock that evening when Martha, his housekeeper and maid of
all work, entered.

"Professor," she said, "there's a lady to see you."

"Name?" he asked, without turning.

"She didn't give it, sir."

"There in a moment."

He finished the test he had under way, then left the little laboratory
and went into the hall leading to the sitting-room, where unprivileged
callers awaited his pleasure. He sniffed a little as he stepped into the
hall. At the door of the sitting-room he paused and peered inside. A
woman arose and came toward him. It was Miss Clarke.

"Good-evening," he said. "I knew you'd come."

Miss Clarke looked a little surprised, but made no comment.

"I came to give you some information," she said, and her voice was
subdued. "I am heartbroken at the awful things which have come out
concerning--concerning Mr. Fraser. I have been closely associated with
him for several months, and I won't believe that he could have had
anything to do with this affair, although I know positively that he was
as in need of a large sum of money--ninety thousand dollars--because his
personal fortune was in danger. Some error in titles to an estate, he
told me."

"Yes, yes," said The Thinking Machine.

"Whether he was able to raise this money I don't know," she went on. "I
only hope he did without having to--to do that--to have any--"

"To rob his bank," said the scientist, tartly. "Miss Clarke, is young
Dunston in love with you?"

The girl's face changed color at the sudden question.

"I don't see--" she began.

"You may not see," said The Thinking Machine, "but I can have him
arrested for robbery and convict him."

The girl gazed at him with wide, terror-stricken eyes, and gasped.

"No, no, no," she said, hurriedly. "He could have had nothing to do with
that at all."

"Is he in love with you?" again came the question.

There was a pause.

"I've had reason to believe so," she said, finally, "though--"

"And you?"

"The girl's face was flaming now, and, squinting into her eyes, the
scientist read the answer.

"I understand," he commented, tersely. "Are you going to be married?"

"I could--could never marry him," she gasped suddenly. "No, no,"
emphatically. "We are not, ever."

She slowly recovered from her confusion, while the scientist continued to
squint at her curiously.

"I believe you said you had some information for me?" he asked.

"Y--yes," she faltered. Then more calmly: "Yes. I came to tell you that
the package of ten thousand dollars which you took from Mr. Fraser's
pocket has again disappeared."

"Yes," said the other, without astonishment.

"It was presumed at the bank that he had taken it home with him, having
regained possession of it in some way, but a careful search has failed to
reveal it."

"Yes, and what else?"

The girl took a long breath and gazed steadily into the eyes of the
scientist, with determination in her own.

"I have come, too, to tell you," she said, "the name of the man who
robbed the bank."


V


If Miss Clarke had expected that The Thinking Machine would show either
astonishment or enthusiasm, she must have been disappointed, for he
neither altered his position nor looked at her. Instead, he was gazing
thoughtfully away with lackluster eyes.

"Well?" he asked. "I suppose it's a story. Begin at the beginning."

With a certain well-bred air of timidity, the girl began the story; and
occasionally as she talked there was a little tremor of the lips.

"I have been a stenographer and typewriter for seven years," she said,
"and in that time I have held only four positions. The first was in a law
office in New York, where I was left an orphan to earn my own living; the
second was with a manufacturing concern, also in New York. I left there
three years ago to accept the position of private secretary to William T.
Rankin, president of the--National Bank, at Hartford, Connecticut. I came
from there to Boston and later went to work at the Ralston Bank, as
private secretary to Mr. Fraser. I left the bank in Hartford because of
the failure of that concern, following a bank robbery."

The Thinking Machine glanced at her suddenly.

"You may remember from the newspapers--" she began again.

"I never read the newspapers," he said.

"Well, anyway," and there was a shade of impatience at the interruption,
"there was a bank burglary there similar to this. Only seventy thousand
dollars was stolen, but it was a small institution and the theft
precipitated a run which caused a collapse after I had been in that
position for only six months."

"How long have you been with the Ralston National?"

"Nine months," was the reply.

"Had you saved any money while working in your other positions?"

"Well, the salary was small--I couldn't have saved much."

"How did you live those two years from the time you left the Hartford
Bank until you accepted this position?"

The girl stammered a little.

"I received assistance from friends," she said, finally.

"Go on."

"That bank in Hartford," she continued, with a little gleam of resentment
in her eyes, "had a safe similar to the one at the Ralston National,
though not so large. It was blown in identically the same way as this one
was blown."

"Oh, I see," said the scientist. "Some one was arrested for this, and you
want to give me the name of that man?"

"Yes," said the girl. "A professional burglar, William Dineen, was
arrested for that robbery and confessed. Later he escaped. After his
arrest he boasted of his ability to blow any style of safe. He used an
invention of his own for the borings to place the charges. I noticed that
safe and I noticed this one. There is a striking similarity in the two."

The Thinking Machine stared at her.

"Why do you tell me?" he asked.

"Because I understood you were making the investigation for the bank,"
she responded, unhesitatingly, "and I dreaded the notoriety of telling
the police."

"If this William Dineen is at large you believe he did this?"

"I am almost positive."

"Thank you," said The Thinking Machine.

Miss Clarke went away, and late that night Hatch appeared. He looked
weary and sank into a chair gratefully, but there was satisfaction in his
eye. For an hour or more he talked. At last The Thinking Machine was
satisfied, nearly.

"One thing more," he said, in conclusion. "Notify the police to look out
for William Dineen, professional bank burglar, and his pals, whose names
you can get from the newspapers in connection with a bank robbery in
Hartford. They are wanted in connection with this case."

The reporter nodded.

"When Mr. Fraser recovers I intend to hold a little party here," the
scientist continued. "It will be a surprise party."

It was two days later, and the police were apparently seeking some
tangible point from which they could proceed, when The Thinking Machine
received word that there had been a change for the better in Mr. Fraser's
condition. Immediately he sent for Detective Mallory, with whom he held a
long conversation. The detective went away tugging at his heavy mustache
and smiling. With three other men he disappeared from police haunts that
afternoon on a special mission.

That night the little "party" was held in the apartments of The Thinking
Machine. President Fraser was first to arrive. He was pale and weak, but
there was a fever of impatience in his manner. Then came West, Dunston,
Miss Clarke, Miss Willis and Charles Burton, a clerk whose engagement to
the pretty Miss Willis had been recently announced.

The party gathered, each staring at the other curiously, with questions
in their eyes, until The Thinking Machine entered, rubbing his fingers
together briskly. Behind him came Hatch, bearing a shabby gripsack. The
reporter's face showed excitement despite his rigid efforts to repress
it. There were some preliminaries, and then the scientist began.

"To come to the matter quickly," he said, in preface, "we will take it
for granted that no employee of the Ralston Bank is a professional
burglar. But the person who was responsible for that burglary, who shared
the money stolen, who planned it and actually assisted in its execution
is in this room--now."

Instantly there was consternation, but it found no expression in words,
only in the faces of those present.

"Further, I may inform you," went on the scientist, "that no one will be
permitted to leave this room until I finish."

"Permitted?" demanded Dunston. "We are not prisoners."

"You will be if I give the word," was the response, and Dunston sat back,
dazed. He glanced uneasily at the faces of the others; they glanced
uneasily at him.

"The actual facts in the robbery you know," went on The Thinking Machine.
"You know that the safe was blown, that a large sum of money was stolen,
that Mr. West's handkerchief was found near the safe. Now, I'll tell you
what I have learned. We will begin with President Fraser.

"Against Mr. Fraser is more direct evidence than against anyone else,
because in his pocket was found one of the stolen bundles of money,
containing ten thousand dollars. Mr. Fraser needed ninety thousand
dollars previous to the robbery."

"But--" began the old man, with deathlike face.

"Never mind," said the scientist. "Next, Miss Willis." Curious eyes were
turned on her, and she, too, grew suddenly white. "Against her is less
direct evidence than against anyone else. Miss Willis positively declined
to permit a search of her person until she was as compelled to do so by
the fact that the other two permitted it. The fact that nothing was found
has no bearing on the subject. She did refuse.

"Then Charles Burton," the inexorable voice went on, calmly, as if in
mere discussion of a problem of mathematics. "Burton is engaged to Miss
Willis. He is ambitious. He recently lost twenty thousand dollars in
stock speculation--all he had. He needed more money in order to give this
girl, who refused to be searched, a comfortable home.

"Next Miss Clarke, secretary to Mr. Fraser. Originally she came under
consideration through the fact that she used perfume, and that Mr. West's
handkerchief carried a faint odor of perfume. Now it is a fact that for
years Miss Clarke used violet perfume, then on the day following the
robbery suddenly began to use strong rose perfume, which smothers a
violet odor. Miss Clarke, you will remember, fainted at the time of the
search. I may add that a short while ago she was employed in a bank which
was robbed in the identical manner of this one."

Miss Clarke sat apparently calm, and even faintly smiling, but her face
was white. The Thinking Machine squinted at her a moment, then turned
suddenly to Cashier West.

"Here is the man," he said, "whose handkerchief was found, but he does
not use perfume, has never used it. He is the man who would have had best
opportunity to leave unfastened the window in his private office by which
the thieves entered the bank; he is the man who would have had the best
opportunity to apply a certain chemical solution to the granite sockets
of the steel bars, weakening the granite so they could be pulled out; he
is the man who misrepresented facts to me. He told me he did not have and
had not tried to raise any especially large sum of money. Yet on the day
following the robbery he deposited one hundred and twenty-five thousand
dollars in cash in a bank in Chicago. The stolen sum was one hundred and
twenty nine thousand dollars. That man, there."

All eyes were now turned on the cashier. He seemed choking, started to
speak, then dropped back into his chair.

"And last, Dunston," resumed The Thinking Machine, and he pointed
dramatically at the receiving teller. "He had equal opportunity with Mr.
West to know of the amount of money in the bank; he refused first to be
searched, and you witnessed his act a moment ago. To this man now there
clings the identical odor of violet perfume which was on the
handkerchief--not a perfume like it, but the identical odor."

There was silence, dumfounded silence, for a long time. No one dared to
look at his neighbor now; the reporter felt the tension. At last The
Thinking Machine spoke again.

"As I have said, the person who planned and participated in the burglary
is now in this room. If that person will stand forth and confess it will
mean a vast difference in the length of the term in prison."

Again silence. At last there came a knock at the door, and Martha thrust
her head in.

"Two gentlemen and four cops are here," she announced.

"There are the accomplices of the guilty person, the men who actually
blew that safe," declared the scientist, dramatically. "Again, will the
guilty person confess?"

No one stirred.


VI


There was tense silence for a moment. Dunston was the first to speak.

"This is all a bluff," he said. "I think, Mr. Fraser, there are some
explanations and apologies due to all of us, particularly to Miss Clarke
and Miss Willis," he added, as an afterthought. "It is humiliating, and
no good has been done. I had intended asking Miss Clarke to be my wife,
and now I assert my right to speak for her. I demand an apology."

Carried away by his own anger and by the pleading face of Miss Clarke and
the pain there, the young man turned fiercely on The Thinking Machine.
Bewilderment was on the faces of the two banking officials.

"You feel that an explanation is due?" asked The Thinking Machine,
meekly.

"Yes," thundered the young man.

"You shall have it," was the quiet answer, and the stooped figure of the
scientist moved across the room to the door. He said something to some
one outside and returned.

"Again I'll give you a chance for a confession," he said. "It will
shorten your prison term." He was speaking to no one in particular; yet
to them all. "The two men who blew the safe are now about to enter this
room. After they appear it will be too late."

Startled glances were exchanged, but no one stirred. Then came a knock at
the door. Silently The Thinking Machine looked about with a question in
his eyes. Still silence, and he threw open the door. Three policemen in
uniform and Detective Mallory entered, bringing two prisoners.

"These are the men who blew the safe," The Thinking Machine explained,
indicating the prisoners. "Does anyone here recognize them?"

Apparently no one did, for none spoke.

"Do you recognize any person in this room?" he asked of the prisoners.

One of them laughed shortly and said something aside to the other, who
smiled. The Thinking Machine was nettled and when he spoke again there
was a touch of sarcasm in his voice.

"It may enlighten at least one of you in this room," he said, "to tell
you that these two men are Frank Seranno and Gustave Meyer, Mr. Meyer
being a pupil and former associate of the notorious bank burglar, William
Dineen. You may lock them up now," he said to Detective Mallory. "They
will confess later."

"Confess!" exclaimed one of them. Both laughed.

The prisoners were led out and Detective Mallory returned to lave in the
font of analytical wisdom, although he would not have expressed it in
those words. Then The Thinking Machine began at the beginning and told
his story.

"I undertook to throw some light on this affair a few hours after its
occurrence, at the request of President Fraser, who had once been able to
do me a very great favor," he explained. "I went to the bank--you all saw
me there--looked over the premises, saw how the thieves had entered the
building, looked at the safe and at the spot where the handkerchief was
found. To my mind it was demonstrated clearly that the handkerchief
appeared there at the time of the burglary. I inquired if there was any
draught through the office, seeking in that way to find if the
handkerchief might have been lost at some other place in the bank,
overlooked by the sweeper and blown to the spot where it was found. There
was no draught.

"Next I asked for the handkerchief. Mr. Fraser asked me into his office
to look at it. I saw a woman--Miss Clarke it was--in there and declined
to go. Instead, I examined the handkerchief outside. I don't know that my
purpose there can be made clear to you. It was a possibility that there
would be perfume on the handkerchief, and the woman in the office might
use perfume. I didn't want to confuse the odors. Miss Clarke was not in
the bank when I arrived; she had gone to luncheon.

"Instantly I got the handkerchief I noticed the odor of perfume--violet
perfume. Perfume is used by a great many women, by very few men. I asked
how many women were employed in the bank. There were three. I handed the
scented handkerchief to Mr. Hatch, removed all odor of the clinging
perfume from my hands with my own handkerchief and also handed that to
Mr. Hatch, so as to completely rid myself of the odor.

"Then I started through the bank and spoke to every person in it,
standing close to them so that I might catch the odor if they used it.
Miss Clarke was the first person who I found used it--but the perfume she
used was a strong rose odor. Then I went on until I came to Mr. Dunston.
The identical odor of the handkerchief he revealed to me by drawing out
his own handkerchief while I talked to him."

Dunston looked a little startled, but said nothing; instead he glanced at
Miss Clarke, who sat listening, interestedly. He could not read the
expression on her face.

"This much done," continued The Thinking Machine, "we retired to Cashier
West's office. There I knew the burglars had entered; there I saw a
powerful chemical solution had been applied to the granite around the
sockets of the protecting steel bars to soften the stone. Its direct
effect is to make it of chalklike consistency. I was also curious to know
if any noise made in that room would attract attention in the outer
office, so I upset a heavy chair, then looked outside. No one moved or
looked back; therefore no one heard.

"Here I explained to President Fraser and to Mr. West why I connected
some one in the bank with the burglary. It was because of the scent on
the handkerchief. It would be tedious to repeat the detailed explanation
I had to give them. I sent Mr. Hatch to find out, first, if Miss Clarke
here had ever used violet perfume instead of rose; also to find out if
any members of Mr. West's family used any perfume, particularly violet. I
knew that Mr. Dunston used it.

"Then I asked Mr. Fraser if he had sought to raise any large sum of
money. He told me the truth. But Mr. West did not tell me the truth in
answer to a question along the same lines. Now I know why. It was because
as cashier of the bank he was not supposed to operate in stocks, yet he
has made a fortune at it. He didn't want Fraser to know this, and
willfully misrepresented the facts.

"Then came the search. I expected to find just what was found, money, but
considerably more of it. Miss Willis objected, Mr. Dunston objected and
Miss Clarke fainted in the arms of Mr. Fraser. I read the motives of each
aright. Dunston objected because he is an egotistical young man and,
being young, is foolish. He considered it an insult. Miss Willis objected
also through a feeling of pride."

The Thinking Machine paused for a moment, locked his fingers behind his
head and leaned far back in his chair.

"Shall I tell what happened next?" he asked, "or will you tell it?"

Everyone in the room knew it was a question to the guilty person. Which?
Whom? There came no answer, and after a moment The Thinking Machine
resumed, quietly, very quietly.

"Miss Clarke fainted in Mr. Fraser's arms. While leaning against him, and
while he stroked her hair and tried to soothe her, she took from the
bosom of her loose shirtwaist a bundle of money, ten thousand dollars,
and slipped it into the inside pocket of Mr. Fraser's coat."

There was deathlike silence.

"It's a lie!" screamed the girl, and she rose to her feet with
anger-distorted face. "It's a lie!"

Dunston arose suddenly and went to her. With his arm about her he turned
defiantly to The Thinking Machine, who had not moved or altered his
position in the slightest. Dunston said nothing, because there seemed to
be nothing to say.

"Into the inside pocket of Mr. Fraser's coat," The Thinking Machine
repeated. "When she removed her arms his scarf pin clung to the lace on
one of her sleeves. That I saw. That pin could not have caught on her
sleeve where it did if her hand had not been to the coat pocket. Having
passed this sum of money--her pitiful share of the theft--she agreed to
the search."

"It's a lie!" shrieked the girl again. And her every tone and every
gesture said it was the truth. Dunston gazed into her eyes with horror in
his own and his arm fell limply. Still he said nothing.

"Of course nothing was found," the quiet voice went on. "When I
discovered the bank notes in Mr. Fraser's pocket I smelled of
them--seeking the odor, this time not of violet perfume, but of
rose perfume. I found it."

Suddenly the girl whose face had shown only anger and defiance leaned
over with her head in her hands and wept bitterly. It was a confession.
Dunston stood beside her, helplessly; finally his hand was slowly
extended and he stroked her hair.

"Go on, please," he said to Professor Van Dusen, meekly. His suffering
was no less than hers.

"These facts were important, but not conclusive," said The Thinking
Machine, "so next, with Mr. Hatch's aid here, I ascertained other things
about Miss Clarke. I found out that when she went out to luncheon that
day she purchased some powerful rose perfume; that, contrary to custom,
she went home; that she used it liberally in her room; and that she
destroyed a large bottle of violet perfume which you, Mr. Dunston, had
given her. I ascertained also that her room was disarranged, particularly
the couch. I assume from this that when she went to the office in the
morning she did not have the money about her; that she left it hidden in
the couch; that through fear of its discovery she rushed back home to get
it; that she put it inside her shirtwaist, and there she had it when the
search was made. Am I right, Miss Clarke?"

The girl nodded her head and looked up with piteous, tear-stained face.

"That night Miss Clarke called on me. She came ostensibly to tell me that
the package of money, ten thousand dollars, had disappeared again. I knew
that previously by telephone, and I knew, too, that she had that money
then about her. She has it now. Will you give it up?"

Without a word the girl drew out the bundle of money, ten thousand
dollars. Detective Mallory took it, held it, amazed for an instant, then
passed it to The Thinking Machine, who sniffed at it.

"An odor of strong rose perfume," he said. Then: "Miss Clarke also told
me that she had worked in a bank which had been robbed under
circumstances identical with this by one William Dineen, and expressed
the belief that he had something to do with this. Mr. Hatch ascertained
that two of Dineen's pals were living in Cambridge. He found their rooms
and searched them, later giving the address to the police.

"Now, why did Miss Clarke tell me that? I considered it in all points.
She told me either to aid honestly in the effort to catch the thief, or
to divert suspicion in another direction. Knowing as much as I did then,
I reasoned it was to divert suspicion from you, Mr. Dunston, and from
herself possibly. Dineen is in prison, and was there three months before
this robbery; I believed she knew that. His pals are the two men in the
other room; they are the men who aided Dineen in the robbery of the
Hartford bank, with Miss Clarke's assistance; they are the men who robbed
the Ralston National with her assistance. She herself indicated her
profit from the Hartford robbery to me by a remark she made indicating
that she had not found it necessary to work for two years from the time
she left the Hartford bank until she became Mr. Fraser's secretary."

There was a pause. Miss Clarke sat sobbing, while Dunston stood near her
studying the toe of his shoe. After awhile the girl became more calm.

"Miss Clarke, would you like to explain anything?" asked The Thinking
Machine. His voice was gentle, even deferential.

"Nothing," she said, "except admit it all--all. I have nothing to
conceal. I went to the bank, as I went to the bank in Hartford, for the
purpose of robbery, with the assistance of those men in the next room. We
have worked together for years. I planned this robbery; I had the
opportunity, and availed myself of it, to put a solution on the sockets
of the steel bars of the window in Mr. West's room, which would gradually
destroy the granite and make it possible to pull out the bars. This took
weeks, but I could reach that room safely from Mr. Fraser's.

"I had the opportunity to leave the window unfastened and did so. I
dressed in men's clothing and accompanied those two men to the bank. We
crept in the window, after pulling the bars out. The men attacked the
night watchman and bound him. The handkerchief of Mr. West's I happened
to pick up in the office one afternoon a month ago and took it home.
There it got the odor of perfume from being in a bureau with my things.
On the night we went to the bank I needed something to put about my neck
and used it. In the bank I dropped it. We had arranged all details at
night, when I met them."

She stopped and looked at Dunston, a long, lingering look, that sent the
blood to his face. It was not an appeal; it was nothing save the woman
love in her, mingled with desperation.

"I intended to leave the bank in a little while," she went on. "Not
immediately, because I was afraid that would attract attention, but after
a few weeks. And then, too, I wanted to get forever out of sight of this
man," and she indicated Dunston.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because I loved you as no woman ever loved a man before," she said, "and
I was not worthy. There was another reason, too--I am married already.
This man, Gustave Meyer, is my husband."

She paused and fumbled nervously at the veil fastening at her throat.
Silence lay over the room; The Thinking Machine reached behind him and
picked up the shabby-looking gripsack which had passed unnoticed.

"Are there any more questions?" the girl asked, at last.

"I think not," said The Thinking Machine.

"And, Mr. Dunston, you will give me credit for some good, won't you--some
good in that I loved you?" she pleaded.

"My God!" he exclaimed in a sudden burst of feeling.

"Look out!" shouted The Thinking Machine.

He had seen the girl's hand fly to her hat, saw it drawn suddenly away,
saw something slender flash at her breast. But it was too late. She had
driven a heavy hat pin straight through her breast, piercing the heart.
She died in the arms of the man she loved, with his tears on her face.

Detective Mallory appeared before the two prisoners in an adjoining room.

"Miss Clarke has confessed," he said.

"Well, the little devil!" exclaimed Meyer. "I knew some day she would
throw us. I'll kill her!"

"It isn't necessary," remarked Mallory.

In the room where the girl lay The Thinking Machine pushed with his foot
the shabby-looking grip toward President Fraser and West.

"There's the money," he said.

"Where--how did you get it?"

"Ask Mr. Hatch."

"Professor Van Dusen told me to search the rooms of those men in there,
find the shabbiest looking bag or receptacle that was securely locked,
and bring it to him. I--I did so. I found it under the bed, but I didn't
know what was in it until he opened it."



PROBLEM OF THE OPERA BOX


Gradually the lights dimmed and the great audience became an impalpable,
shadowy mass broken here and there by the vagrant glint of a jewel or the
gleam of white shoulders. There was a preliminary blare of horns, then
the crashing anvil chorus of "Il Trovatore" began. Sparks spattered and
flashed as the sledges rose and fell in exquisite rhythm while the
clangorous music roared through the big theatre.

Eleanor Oliver arose, and moving from the front of the box into the gloom
at the rear, leaned her head wearily against the latticed partition. Her
mother, beside whom she had been sitting, glanced up inquiringly as did
her father and their guest Sylvester Knight.

"What's the matter, my dear?" asked Mrs. Oliver.

"Those sparks and that noise give me a headache," she explained. "Father,
sit in front there if you wish. I'll stay here in the dark until I feel
better."

Mr. Oliver took the seat near his wife and Knight immediately lost
interest in the stage, turning his chair to face Eleanor. She seemed a
little pale and mingled eagerness and anxiety in his face showed his
concern. They chatted together for a minute or so and under cover of
darkness his hand caught hers and held it a fluttering prisoner.

As they talked the drone of their voices interfered with Mrs. Oliver's
enjoyment of the music and she glanced back warningly. Neither noticed it
for Knight was gazing deeply into the girl's eyes with adoration in his
own. She made some remark to him and he protested quickly.

"Please don't," Mrs. Oliver heard him say pleadingly as his voice was
raised. "It won't be long."

"I'm afraid I'll have to," the girl replied.

"You mustn't," Knight commanded earnestly. "If you insist on it I shall
have to do something desperate."

Mrs. Oliver turned and looked back at them reprovingly.

"You children chatter too much," she said good naturedly. "You make more
noise than the anvils."

She turned again to the stage and Knight was silent for a moment. Finally
the girl said something else that the mother didn't catch.

"Certainly," he replied.

He arose quietly and left the box. The swish and fall of the curtain
behind him were smothered in the heavy volume of music. The girl sat
white and inert. Knight found her in just that position when he returned
with a glass of water. He had been out only a minute or so, and the
encore to the chorus was just ending.

He offered the glass to Eleanor but she made no move to take it and he
touched her lightly on the arm. Still she did not move and he leaned over
and looked at her closely. Then he turned quickly to Mrs. Oliver.

"Eleanor has fainted, I think," he whispered uneasily.

"Fainted?" exclaimed Mrs. Oliver as she arose. "Fainted?"

She pushed her chair back and in a moment was beside her daughter chafing
her hands. Mr. Oliver turned and glanced at them with languid interest.

"What's the matter now?" he inquired.

"We'll have to go," replied Mrs. Oliver. "Eleanor has fainted."

"Again?" he asked impatiently.

Knight hovered about anxiously, helplessly as the father and mother
worked with the girl. Finally in some way he never understood Eleanor was
lifted out, still unconscious and white as death, and removed in a
waiting carriage to her home. Two physicians were summoned and
disappeared into her boudoir while Knight paced back and forth restlessly
between the smoking room and the hall. Mrs. Oliver was with her daughter;
Mr. Oliver sat quietly smoking.

"I wouldn't worry," he advised the young man after a few minutes. "She
has a trick of fainting like that. You will know more about her after
awhile--when she is Mrs. Knight."

From somewhere upstairs came a scream and Knight started nervously. It
was a shrill, penetrating cry that tore straight through him. Mr. Oliver
took it phlegmatically, even smiled at his nervousness.

"That's my wife fainting," he explained. "She always does it that way.
You know," he added confidentially, "my wife and two daughters are so
exhausted with this everlasting social game that they go off like that at
any minute. I've talked to them about it but they won't listen."

Heedless of the idle, even heartless, comments of the father Knight
stopped in the hall and stood at the foot of the stairs looking up. After
a minute a man came down; it was Dr. Brander, one of the two physicians
who had been called. On his face was an expression of troubled
perplexity.

"How is she?" demanded Knight abruptly.

"Where is Mr. Oliver?" asked Dr. Brander.

"In the smoking room," replied the young man. "What's the matter?"

Without answering the physician went on to the father. Mr. Oliver looked
up.

"Bring her around all right?" he asked.

"She's dead," replied the physician.

"Dead?" gasped Knight.

Mr. Oliver rose suddenly and gripped the physician fiercely by a
shoulder. For an instant he gazed and then his face grew deathly pale.
With a distinct effort he recovered himself.

"Her heart?' he asked at last.

"No. She was stabbed."

Dr. Brander looked from one to the other of the two white faces with
troubled lines about his eyes.

"Why it can't be," burst out Knight suddenly. "Where is she? I'll go to
her."

Dr. Brander laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.

"You can do no good," he said quietly.

For a time Mr. Oliver was dumb and the physician curiously watched the
struggle in his face. The hand that clung to his shoulder was trembling
horribly. At last the father found voice.

"What happened?" he asked.

"She was stabbed," said Dr. Brander again. "When we examined her we found
the knife--a long, keen, short-handled stiletto. It was driven in with
great force directly under her left arm and penetrated the heart. She
must have been dead when she was lifted from the box at the opera. The
stiletto remained in the wound and prevented any flow of blood while its
position and the short handle caused it to be overlooked when she was
lifted into the carriage. We did not find the knife for several minutes
after we arrived. It was covered by her arm."

"Did you tell my wife?" asked Mr. Oliver quickly.

"She was present," the physician went on. "She screamed and fainted. Dr.
Seaver is attending her. Her condition is--is not very good. Where is
your 'phone? I must notify the police."

Mr. Oliver started to ask something else, paused and dropped back in his
chair only to rise instantly and rush up the stairs. Knight into whose
face there had come a deadly calm stood stone-like while Dr. Brander used
the telephone. At last the physician finished.

"The calling of the police means that Eleanor did not kill herself?"
asked the young man.

"It was murder," was the positive reply. "She could not have stabbed
herself. The knife went straight in, entering here," and he indicated a
spot about four inches below his left arm. "You see," he explained, "it
took a very long blade to penetrate the heart."

There was dull despair in Knight's eyes. He dropped down at a table with
his head on his arms and sat motionless for a long time. He looked up
once and asked a question.

"Where is the knife?"

"I have it," replied Dr. Brander. "I shall turn it over to the
authorities."

"Now," began The Thinking Machine in his small, irritated voice as
Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, stopped talking and leaned back to listen,
"all problems are merely sums in addition, when reduced to their primary
parts. Therefore this one is simply a matter of putting facts together in
order to prove that two and two do not sometimes but always make four."

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, scientist and logician, paused to
adjust his head comfortably on the cushion in the big chair, then
resumed:

"Your statement of the case, Mr. Hatch, gives me these absolute facts:
Eleanor Oliver is dead; she died of a stab wound; a stiletto made this
wound; it was in such a position that she could hardly have inflicted it
herself; and Sylvester Knight, her fiance, is under arrest. That's all we
know isn't it?"

"You forget that she was stabbed while in a box at the opera," the
reporter put in, "in the hearing of three or four thousand persons."

"I forget nothing," snapped the scientist. "It does not appear at all
that she was stabbed while in that box. It appears merely that she was
ill and might have fainted. She might have been stabbed while in the
carriage, or even after she was in her room."

Hatch's eyes opened wide at the bare mention of these possibilities.

"The presumption is of course," The Thinking Machine went on a little
less aggressively, "that she was stabbed while in the box, but we can't
put that down as an absolute fact to work on until we know it. Remember
the stiletto was not found until she was in her room."

This gave the reporter something new to think about and he was silent as
he considered it. He saw that either of the possibilities suggested by
the scientist was tenable, but on the other hand--on the other hand, and
there his mind refused to work.

"You have told me that Knight was arrested at the suggestion of Mr.
Oliver last night shortly after the police learned of the affair," The
Thinking Machine went on, musingly. "Now just what have you or the police
learned as to him? How do they connect him with the affair?"

"First the police acted on the general ground of exclusive opportunity,"
the reporter explained. "Then Knight was arrested. The stiletto used was
not an ordinary one. It had a blade of about seven inches and was very
slender, but instead of a guard on it there was only a gold band. The
handle is a straight, highly polished piece of wood. Around it, below the
gold band where the guard should have been, there were threads as if it
had been screwed into something."

"Yes, yes, I see," the other interrupted impatiently. "It was intended to
be carried hidden in a walking cane, perhaps, and was screwed down with
the blade in the stick. Go on."

"Detective Mallory surmised that when he saw the stiletto," the reporter
continued, "so after Knight was locked up he searched his rooms for the
other part--the lower end--of the cane."

"And he found it, without the stiletto?"

"Yes, that's the chain against. Knight. First, exclusive opportunity,
then the stiletto and the finding of the lower end of the cane in his
possession."

"Exclusive fiddlesticks!" exclaimed the scientist irritably. "I presume
Knight denies that he killed Miss Oliver?"

"Naturally."

"And where is the stiletto that belongs to his cane? Does he attempt to
account for it?"

"He doesn't seem to know where it is--in fact he doesn't deny that the
stiletto might be his. He merely says he doesn't know."

The Thinking Machine was silent for several minutes.

"Looks bad for him," he remarked at last.

"Thank you," remarked Hatch dryly. It was one of those rare occasions
when the scientist saw a problem exactly as he saw it.

"Miss Oliver and Mr. Knight were to be married--when?"

"Three weeks from next Wednesday."

"I suppose Detective Mallory has the stiletto and cane?"

"Yes."

The Thinking Machine arose and found his hat.

"Let's run over to police headquarters," he suggested.

They found Detective Mallory snugly ensconced behind a fat cigar with
beatific satisfaction on his face.

"Ah, gentlemen," he remarked graciously--the graciousness of conscious
superiority. "We've nailed it to our friend Knight all right."

"How?" inquired The Thinking Machine.

The detective gloated a little--twisted his tongue around the dainty
morsel--before he answered.

"I suppose Hatch has told you the grounds of the arrest?" he asked.
"Exclusive opportunity and all that? Then you know, too, how I searched
Knight's rooms and found the other part of the stiletto cane. Of course
that was enough to convict, but early this evening the last link in the
chain against him was supplied when Mrs. Oliver made a statement to me."

The detective paused in enjoyment of the curiosity he had aroused.

"Well?" asked The Thinking Machine, at last.

"Mrs. Oliver heard--understand me--heard Knight threaten her daughter
only a few minutes before she was found dead."

"Threaten her?" exclaimed Hatch, as he glanced at The Thinking Machine.
"By George!"

Detective Mallory tugged at his moustache complacently.

"Mrs. Oliver heard Knight first say something like, 'Please don't. It
won't be very long.' Her daughter answered something she couldn't catch
after which she heard Knight say positively, 'You mustn't. If you do I
shall do something desperate' or something like that. Now as she
remembers it the tone was threatening--it must have been raised in anger
to be heard above the anvils. Thus the case is complete."

The Thinking Machine and Hatch silently considered this new point.

"Remember this was only three or four minutes before she was found
stabbed," the detective went on with conviction. "It all connects up
straight from exclusive opportunity to the ownership of the stiletto;
from that to the threat and there you are."

"No motive of course?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Well, the question of motive isn't exactly clear but our further
investigations will bring it out all right," the detective admitted. "I
should imagine the motive to be jealousy. Of course the story of Knight
not knowing where his stiletto is has no weight."

Detective Mallory was so charmed with himself that he offered cigars to
his visitors--an unusual burst of generosity--and Hatch was so deeply
thoughtful that he accepted. The Thinking Machine never smoked.

"May I see the stiletto and cane?" he asked instead.

The detective was delighted to oblige. He watched the scientist with keen
satisfaction as that astute gentleman squinted at the slender blade,
still stained with blood, and then as he examined the lower part of the
cane. Finally the scientist thrust the long blade into the hollow stick
and screwed the handle in. It fitted perfectly. Detective Mallory smiled.

"I don't suppose you'll try to put a crimp in me this time?" he asked
jovially.

"Very clever, Mr. Mallory, very clever," replied The Thinking Machine,
and with Hatch trailing he left headquarters.

"Mallory will swell like a balloon after that," Hatch commented grimly.

"Well, he might save himself that trouble," replied the scientist
crustily. "He has the wrong man."

The reporter glanced quickly into the inscrutable face of his companion.

"Didn't Knight do it?" he asked.

"Certainly not," was the impatient answer.

"Who did?"

"I don't know."

Together they went on to the theatre from which Miss Oliver had been
removed the night before. There a few words with the manager gained
permission to look at the Oliver box--a box which the Olivers held only
on alternate nights during the opera season. It was on the first balcony
level, to the left as they entered the house.

The first three rows of seats in the balcony ran around to and stopped at
the box, one of four on that level and the furthest from the stage. The
Thinking Machine pottered around aimlessly for ten minutes while Hatch
looked on. He entered the box two or three times, examined the curtains,
the partitions, the floor and the chairs after which he led the way into
the lobby.

There he excused himself to Hatch and stopped in the manager's office. He
remained only a few minutes, afterwards climbing into a cab in which he
and Hatch were driven back to police headquarters.

After some wire pulling and a good deal of red tape The Thinking Machine
and his companion were permitted to see Knight. They found him standing
at the barred cell door, staring out with weary eyes and pallid face.

The Thinking Machine was introduced to the prisoner by Hatch who had
previously tried vainly to induce the young man to talk.

"I have nothing to say," Knight declared belligerently. "See my
attorney."

"I would like to ask three or four questions to which you can have no
possible objection," said The Thinking Machine. "If you do object of
course don't answer."

"Well?" demanded the prisoner.

"Have you ever travelled in Europe?"

"I was there for nearly a year. I only returned to this country three
months ago."

"Have you ever been interested in any other woman? Or has any other woman
ever been interested in you?"

The prisoner stared at his questioner coldly.

"No," he responded, emphatically.

"Your answer to that question may mean your freedom within a few hours,"
said The Thinking Machine quite calmly. "Tell me the truth."

"That is the truth--on my honour."

The answer came frankly, and there came a quick gleam of hope in the
prisoner's face.

"Just where in Italy did you buy that stiletto cane?" was the next
question.

"In Rome."

"Rather expensive?"

"Five hundred lira--that is about one hundred dollars."

"I suppose they are very common in Italy?"

"Yes, rather."

Knight pressed eagerly against the bars of his cell and gazed deeply but
uncomprehendingly into the quiet squinting blue eyes.

"There has never been any sort of a quarrel--serious or otherwise between
you and Miss Oliver?"

"Never," was the quick response.

"Now, only one more question," said The Thinking Machine. "I shall not
ask it to hurt you." There was a little pause and Hatch waited
expectantly. "Does it happen that you know whether or not Miss Oliver
ever had any other love affair?"

"Certainly not," exclaimed the young man, hotly. "She was just a
girl--only twenty, out of Vassar just a few months ago and--and--"

"You needn't say any more," interrupted The Thinking Machine. "It isn't
necessary. Make your plans to leave here tonight, not later than
midnight. It is now four o'clock. Tomorrow the newspapers will exonerate
you."

The prisoner seemed almost overcome by his emotions. He started to speak,
but only extended an open hand through the bars. The Thinking Machine
laid his slender fingers in it with a slight look of annoyance, said
"Good day" mechanically and he and Hatch went out.

The reporter was in a sort of a trance, not an unusual condition in him
when in the company of his scientific friend. They climbed into the cab
again and were driven away. Hatch was thinking too deeply to note the
destination when the scientist gave it to the cabby.

"Do you actually anticipate that you will be able to get Knight out of
this thing so easily?" he asked incredulously.

"Certainly," was the response. "The problem is solved except for one or
two minor points. Now I am proving it."

"But--but--"

"I will make it all clear to you in due time," interrupted the other.

They were both silent until the cab stopped. Hatch glanced out and
recognized the Oliver home. He followed The Thinking Machine up the steps
and into the reception hall. There the scientist handed a card to the
servant.

"Tell Mr. Oliver, please, that I will only take a moment," he explained.

The servant bowed and left them. A short wait and Mr. Oliver entered.

"I am sorry to disturb you at such a time, Mr. Oliver," said the
scientist, "but if you can give me just a little information I think
perhaps we may get a full light on this unfortunate affair."

Mr. Oliver bowed.

"First, let me ask you to confirm what I may say is my knowledge that
your daughter, Eleanor, knew this man. I will ask, too, that you do not
mention his name now."

He scribbled hastily on a piece of paper and handed it to Mr. Oliver. An
expression of deep surprise came into the latter's face and he shook his
head.

"I can answer that question positively," he said. "She does not know him.
She had never been abroad and he has never been in this country until
now."

The Thinking Machine arose with something nearly akin to agitation in his
face, and his slender fingers worked nervously.

"What?" he demand abruptly. "What?" Then, after a pause: "I beg your
pardon, sir. It startled me a little. But are you sure?"

"Perfectly sure," replied Mr. Oliver firmly. "They could not have met in
any way."

For a long time The Thinking Machine stood squinting aggressively at his
host with bewilderment plainly apparent in his manner. Hatch looked on
with absorbed interest. Something had gone wrong; a cog had slipped; the
wheels of logic had been thrown out of gear.

"I have made a mistake, Mr. Oliver," said The Thinking Machine at last.
"I am sorry to have disturbed you."

Mr. Oliver bowed courteously and they were ushered out.

"What is it?" asked Hatch anxiously as they once more took their seats in
the cab.

The Thinking Machine shook his head in frank annoyance.

"What happened?" Hatch insisted.

"I've made a mistake," was the petulant response. "I'm going home and
start all over again. It may be that I shall send for you later."

Hatch accepted that as a dismissal and went his way wonderingly. That
evening The Thinking Machine called him to the 'phone.

"Mr. Hatch?"

"Yes."

"Did Miss Oliver have any sisters?"

"Yes, one. Her name is Florence. There's something about her in the
afternoon papers in connection with the murder story."

"How old is she?"

"I don't know--twenty-two or three."

"Ah!" came a long, aspirated sigh of relief over the wire. "Run by and
bring Detective Mallory up to my place."

"All right. But what was the matter?"

"I was a fool, that's all. Good bye."

Detective Mallory was still delighted with himself when Hatch entered his
office.

"What particular line is your friend Van Dusen working?" he asked a
little curiously.

The reporter shrugged his shoulders.

"He asked me to come by and bring you up," he replied. "He has evidently
reached some conclusion."

"If it's anything that doesn't count Knight in it's all wind," he said
loftily. For once in his life he was confident that he could deliver a
blow which would obliterate any theory but his own. In this mood,
therefore, he went with Hatch. They found The Thinking Machine pacing
back and forth across his small laboratory with his slender hands clasped
behind his back. Hatch noted that the perplexed wrinkles had gone.

"In adding up a column of figures," began the scientist abruptly as he
sat down, "the oversight of even so trivial a unit as one will make a
glaring error in the result. You, Mr. Mallory, have overlooked a figure
one, therefore your conclusion is wrong. In my first consideration of
this affair I also overlooked a figure one and my conclusion toppled over
just at the moment when it seemed to be corroborated. So I had to start
over; I found the one."

"But this thing against Knight is conclusive," said the detective
explosively.

"Except for the figure one," added the scientist.

Detective Mallory snorted politely.

"Now here is the logic of the thing," resumed The Thinking Machine. "It
will show how I overlooked the figure one--that is a vital fact--and how
I found it."

He dropped back into the reflective attitude which was so familiar to his
hearers, squint eyes turned upward and with his fingers pressed tip to
tip. For several minutes he was silent while Detective Mallory vented his
impatience by chewing his moustache.

"In the beginning," began The Thinking Machine at last, "we have a girl,
pretty, young and wealthy in a box at the opera with her parents and her
fiance. It would seem, at first glance, to be as safe a place as her home
would be, yet she is murdered mysteriously. A stiletto is thrust into her
heart. We will assume that her death occurred in the box; that the knife
thrust came while she was in a dead faint. This temporary unconsciousness
would account for the fact that she did not scream, as the heart would
have been pierced by a sudden thrust before consciousness of pain was
awakened.

"Now the three persons who were with her. There seemed no reason to
suspect either the father or mother, so we come to Sylvester Knight, her
intended husband. There is always to be found a motive, either real or
imaginary, for a man to kill his sweetheart. In this case Knight had the
opportunity, but not the exclusive opportunity. Therefore, an unlimited
field of speculation was opened up."

Detective Mallory raised his hand impressively and started to say
something, then thought better of it.

"After Mr. Knight's arrest," The Thinking Machine continued, "your
investigation, Mr. Mallory, drew a net about him. That's what you wanted
to say, I believe. There was the stiletto, the other end of the cane and
the alleged threats. I admit all these things. On this statement of the
case it looked black for Mr. Knight."

"That's what," remarked the detective.

"Now a stiletto naturally suggests Italy. The blade with which Miss
Oliver was killed bore an Italian manufacturer's mark. I presume you
noticed it?"

"Oh, that!" exclaimed the detective.

"Means nothing conclusively," added The Thinking Machine. "I agree with
you. Still it was a suggestion. Then I saw the thing that did mean
something. This was the fact that the handle of the stiletto was not of
the same wood as the part of the cane you found in Mr. Knight's room.
This difference is so slight that you would hardly notice it even now,
but it was there and showed a possible clue leading away from Mr.
Knight."

Detective Mallory could not readily place his tongue on words to
fittingly express his disgust, so he remained silent.

"When I considered what manner of man Mr. Knight is and the singular
nature of the crime," resumed the scientist, "I had no hesitancy in
assuring Mr. Hatch that you had the wrong man. After we first saw you we
examined the opera box. It was on the left of the theatre and separated
from the next box by a latticed partition. It was against this partition
that Miss Oliver was leaning.

"Remember, I saw the box after I examined the stiletto and while I was
seeking a method by which another person might have stabbed her without
entering the box. I found it. By using a stiletto without a guard it
would have been perfectly possible for a person in the next box to have
killed her by thrusting the blade through the lattice partition. That is
exactly what happened."

Detective Mallory arose with a mouth full of words. They tumbled out in
incoherent surprise and protest, then he sat down again. The Thinking
Machine was still staring upward.

"I then took steps to learn who was in the adjoining box at the time of
her death," he continued quietly. "The manager of the theatre told me it
was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Dupree, and their guest an Italian
nobleman. Italian nobleman! Italian stiletto! You see the connection?

"Then we saw Mr. Knight. He assured me, and I believed him, that he had
never had any other love affair, therefore no woman would have had a
motive in killing Miss Oliver because of him. He was positive, too, that
Miss Oliver had never had any other love affair, yet I saw the
possibility of some connecting link between her and the nobleman. It was
perfectly possible, indeed probable, that he would not know of it. At the
moment I was convinced that there had been such an affair.

"Mr. Knight also told me that he bought his stiletto cane in Rome; and he
paid a price that would seem to guarantee that it would be a perfect one,
with the same wood in the handle and lower part, and that he and Miss
Oliver had never had any sort of a quarrel."

There was a little pause and The Thinking Machine shifted his position
slightly.

"Here I had a motive--jealousy of one man who was thrown over for
another; the method of death, through the lattice; a clue to the murderer
in the stiletto, and the name of the man. It seemed conclusive but I had
overlooked a figure one. I saw that when Mr. Oliver assured me that Miss
Eleanor Oliver did not know the nobleman whose name I wrote for him; that
she could not have known him. The entire structure tumbled. I was
nonplussed and a little rude, I fear, in my surprise. Then I had to
reconsider the matter from the beginning. The most important of all the
connecting links was missing, yet the logic was right. It is always
right.

"There are times when imagination has to bridge gaps caused by the
absence of demonstrable facts. I considered the matter carefully, then
saw where I had dropped the figure one. I 'phoned to Mr. Hatch to know if
Miss Oliver had a sister. She had. The newspapers to which Mr. Hatch
referred me told me the rest of it. It was Eleanor Oliver's sister who
had the affair with the nobleman. That cleared it. There is the name of
the murderer."

He laid down a card on which was scribbled this name and address: "Count
Leo Tortino, Hotel Teutonic." Hatch and the detective read it
simultaneously, then looked at The Thinking Machine inquiringly.

"But I don't see it yet," expostulated the detective. "This man Knight--"

"Briefly it is this," declared the other impatiently. "The newspapers
carried a story of Florence Oliver's love affair with Count Tortino at
the time she was travelling in Europe with her mother. According to what
I read she jilted him and returned to this country where her engagement
to another man was rumoured. That was several months ago. Now it doesn't
follow that because the Count knew Florence Oliver that he knew or even
knew of Eleanor Oliver.

"Suppose he came here maddened by disappointment and seeking revenge,
suppose further he reached the theatre, as he did, while the anvil chorus
was on, the party started into the wrong box and the usher mentioned
casually that the Olivers were in there. We presume he knew Mrs. Oliver
by sight, and saw her. He might reasonably have surmised, perhaps he was
told, that the other woman was Miss Oliver--and Miss Oliver meant to him
the woman who had jilted him. The lattice work offered a way, the din of
the music covered the act--and that's all. It doesn't really appear--it
isn't necessary to know--how he carried the stiletto about him, or why."

The detective was gnawing his moustache. He was silent for several
minutes trying to see the tragedy in this new light.

"But the threats Knight made?" he inquired finally.

"Has he explained them?"

"Oh, he said something about the girl being ill and wanting to go home,
and he urged her not to. He told her, he says, that she mustn't go,
because he would have to do something desperate. Silly explanation I call
it."

"But I dare say it's perfectly correct," commented The Thinking Machine.
"Men of your profession, Mr. Mallory, never believe the simple things. If
you would take the word of an accused man at face value occasionally you
would have less trouble." There was a pause, then: "I promised Mr. Knight
that he would be free by midnight. It is now ten. Suppose you run down to
the Teutonic and see Count Tortino. He will hardly deny anything."

Detective Mallory and Hatch found the Count in his room. He was lying
face down across a bed with a bullet hole in his temple. A note of
explanation confessed the singular error which had led to the murder of
Eleanor Oliver.

It was three minutes of midnight when Sylvester Knight walked out of his
cell a heartbroken man, but free.



PROBLEM OF THE CROSS MARK


It was an unsolved mystery, apparently a riddle without an answer, in
which Watson Richards, the distinguished character actor, happened to
play a principal part. The story was told at the Mummers Club one dull
afternoon. Richards' listeners were three other actors, a celebrated
poet, and a newspaper reporter named Hutchinson Hatch.

"You know there are few men in the profession to-day who really amount to
anything who haven't had their hard knocks. Well, my hard times came
early, and lasted a long time. So it was just about three years ago to a
day that a real crisis came in my affairs. It seemed the end. I had gone
one day without food, had bunked in the park that night, and here it was
two o'clock in the afternoon of another day. It was dismal enough.

"I was standing on a corner, gazing moodily across the street at the
display window of a restaurant, rapidly approaching the don't care stage.
Some one came up behind and touched me on the shoulder. I turned
listlessly enough, and found myself facing a stranger--a clean cut, well
groomed man of some forty years.

"'Is this Mr. Watson Richards, the character actor?' he asked.

"'Yes,' I replied.

"'I have been looking for you everywhere,' he explained briefly. 'I want
to engage you to do a part for one performance. Are you at liberty?'

"You chaps know what that meant to me just at that moment. Certainly the
words dispelled some unpleasant possibilities I had been considering.

"'I am at liberty--yes,' I replied. 'Be glad to do it. What sort of part
is it?'

"'An old man,' he informed me. 'Just one performance, you know. Perhaps
you'd better come up town with me and see Mr. Hallman right now.'

"I agreed with a readiness which approached eagerness, and he called a
passing cab. Hallman was perhaps the manager, or stage manager, I
thought. We had driven on for a block in the general direction of up
town, my companion chatting pleasantly. Finally he offered me a cigar. I
accepted it. I know now that cigar was drugged, because I had hardly
taken more than two or three puffs from it when I lost myself completely.

"The next thing I remember distinctly was of stepping out of the cab--I
think the stranger assisted me--and going into a house. I don't know
where it was--I didn't know then--didn't know even the street. I was
dizzy, giddy. And suddenly I stood before a tall, keen faced, clean
shaven man. He was Hallman. The stranger introduced me and then left the
room. Hallman regarded me keenly for several minutes, and somehow under
that scrutiny my dormant faculties were aroused. I had thrown away
the cigar at the door.

"'You play character parts?' Hallman began.

"'Yes, all the usual things,' I told him. 'I'm rather obscure, but--'

"'I know,' he interrupted; 'but I have seen your work, and like it. I
have been told too that you are remarkably clever at make-up.'

"I think I blushed,--I hope I did, anyway,--I know I nodded. He paused to
stare at me for a long time.

"'For instance,' he went on finally, 'you would have no difficulty at
all in making up as a man of seventy-five years?'

"'Not the slightest,' I answered. 'I have played such parts.'

"'Yes, yes, I know,' and he seemed a little impatient. 'Well, your
make-up is the matter which is most important here. I want you for only
one performance; but the make-up must be perfect, you understand.' Again
he stopped and stared at me. 'The pay will be one hundred dollars for the
one performance.'

"He drew out a drawer of a desk and produced a photograph. He looked at
it, then at me, several times, and finally placed it in my hands.

"'Can you make up to look precisely like that?' he asked quietly.

"I studied the photograph closely. It was that of a man about
seventy-five years old, of rather a long cast of features, not unlike the
general shape of my own face. He had white hair, and was clean shaven. It
was simple enough, with the proper wig, a make-up box, and a mirror.

"'I can,' I told Hallman.

"'Would you mind putting on the make-up here now for my inspection?' he
inquired.

"'Certainly not,' I replied. It did not strike me at the moment as
unusual. 'But I'll need the wig and paints.'

"'Here they are,' said Hallman abruptly, and produced them. 'There's a
mirror in front of you. Go ahead.'

"I examined the wig and compared it with the photograph. It was as near
perfect as I had ever seen. The make-up box was new and the most complete
I ever saw. It didn't occur to me until a long time afterward that it had
never been used before. So I went to work. Hallman paced up and down
nervously behind me. At the end of twenty minutes I turned upon him a
face which was so much like the photograph that I might have posed for
it. He stared at me in amazement.

"'By George!' he exclaimed. 'That's it! It's marvelous!' Then he turned
and opened the door. 'Come in, Frank,' he called, and the man who had
conducted me there entered. Hallman indicated me with a wave of his hand.
'How is it?' he asked.

"Frank, whoever he was, also seemed astonished. Then that passed and a
queer expression appeared on his face. You may imagine that I awaited
their verdict anxiously.

"'Perfect--absolutely perfect,' said Frank at last.

"'Perhaps the only thing,' Hallman mused critically, 'is that it isn't
quite pale enough.'

"'Easily remedied,' I replied, and turned again to the make-up box. A
moment later I turned back to the two men. Simple enough, you know--it
was one of those pallid, pasty faced make-ups--the old man on the verge
of the grave, and all that sort of thing--good deal of pearl powder.

"'That's it!' the two men exclaimed.

"The man Frank looked at Hallman inquiringly.

 "'Go ahead,' said Hallman, and Frank left the room.

"Hallman went over, closed and locked the door, after which he came back
and sat down in front of me, staring at me for a long time in silence. At
length he opened an upper drawer of the desk and glanced in. A revolver
lay there, right under his hand. I know now he intended that I should see
it.

"'Now, Mr. Richards,' he said at last very slowly, 'what we want you to
do is very simple, and as I said there's a hundred dollars in it. I know
your circumstances perfectly--you need the hundred dollars.' He offered
me a cigar, and foolishly enough I accepted it. 'The part you are to play
is that of an old man, who is ill in bed, speechless, utterly helpless.
You are dying, and you are to play the part. Use your eyes all you want;
but don't speak!'

"Gradually the dizziness I had felt before was coming upon me again. As I
said, I know now it was the cigar; but I kept on smoking.

"'There will be no rehearsal,' Hallman went on, and now I knew he was
fingering the revolver I had seen in the desk; but it made no particular
impression on me. 'If I ask you questions, you may nod an affirmative,
but don't speak! Do only what I say, and nothing else!'

"Full realization was upon me now; but everything was growing hazy again.
I remember I fought the feeling for a moment; then it seemed to overwhelm
me, and I was utterly helpless under the dominating power of that man.

"'When am I to play the part?' I remember asking.

"'Now!' said Hallman suddenly, and he rose. 'I'm afraid you don't fully
understand me yet, Mr. Richards. If you play the part properly, you get
the hundred dollars; if you don't, this!'

"He meant the revolver. I stared at it dumbly, overcome by a helpless
terror, and tried to stand up. Then there came a blank, for how long I
don't know. The next thing I remember I was lying in bed, propped up
against several pillows. I opened my eyes feebly enough, and there wasn't
any acting about it either, because whoever drugged those cigars knew his
business.

"There in front of me was Hallman, with a grief stricken expression on
his face which made all my art seem amateurish. There was another man
there too (not Frank), and a woman who seemed to be about forty years
old. I couldn't see their faces--I wouldn't even be able to suggest a
description of them, because the room was almost dark. Just the faintest
flicker of light came through the drawn curtains; but I could see
Hallman's devilish face all right. These three conversed together in low
tones--sick room voices--but I couldn't hear, and doubt if I could have
followed their conversation if I had heard.

"Finally the door opened and a girl entered. I have seen many women,
but--well, she was peculiarly fascinating. She gave one little cry,
rushed toward the bed impulsively, dropped on her knees beside it, and
buried her face in the sheets. She was shaking with sobs.

"Then I knew--intuitively, perhaps, but I knew--that in some way I was
being used to injure that girl. A sudden feeling of fearful anger seized
upon me, but I couldn't move to save my soul. Hallman must have caught
the blaze in my eyes, for he came forward on the other side of the bed,
and, under cover of a handkerchief which he had been using rather
ostentatiously, pressed the revolver against my side.

"But I wouldn't be made a tool of. In my dazed condition I know I was
seized with a desperate desire to fight it out--to make him kill me if he
had to, but I would not deceive the girl. I knew if I could jerk my head
down on the pillow it would disarrange the wig, and perhaps she would
see. I couldn't. I might pass my hands across my make-up and smear it.
But I couldn't lift my hands. I was struggling to speak, and couldn't.

"Then somehow I lost myself again. Hazily I remember that somebody placed
a paper in front of me on a book--a legal-looking document--and guided my
hand across it; but that isn't clear. I was helpless, inert, so much clay
in the hands of this man Hallman. Then everything faded--slowly, slowly.
My impression was that I was actually dying; my eyelids closed of
themselves; and the last thing I saw was the shining gold of that girl's
hair as she sobbed there beside me.

"That's all of it. When I became fully conscious again a policeman was
shaking me. I was sitting on a bench in the park. He swore at me volubly,
and I got up and moved slowly along the path with my hands in my pockets.
Something was clenched in one hand. I drew it out and looked at it. It
was a hundred-dollar bill. I remember I got something to eat; and I woke
up in a hospital.

"Well, that's the story. Make what you like of it. It can never be
solved, of course. It was three years ago. You fellows know what I have
done in that time. Well, I'd give it all, every bit of it, to meet that
girl again (I should know her), tell her what I know, and make her
believe that it was no fault of mine."

Hutchinson Hatch related the circumstances casually one afternoon a day
or so later to Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking
Machine.

That eminent man of science listened petulantly, as he listened to all
things. "It happened in this city?" he inquired at the end.

"Yes."

"But Richards has no idea what part of the city?"

"Not the slightest. I imagine that the drugged cigar and a naturally
weakened condition made him lose his bearings while in the cab."

"I dare say," commented the scientist. "And of course he has never seen
Hallman again?"

"No--he would have mentioned it if he had."

"Does Richards remember the exact date of the affair?"

"I dare say he does, though he didn't mention it," replied the reporter.

"Suppose you see Richards and get the date--exactly, if possible,"
remarked The Thinking Machine. "You might telephone it to me. Perhaps--"
and he shrugged his slender shoulders.

"You think there is a possibility of solving the riddle?" demanded the
reporter eagerly.

"Certainly," snapped The Thinking Machine. "It requires no solution. It
is ridiculously simple,--obvious, I might say,--and yet I dare say the
girl Richards referred to has been the victim of some huge plot. It's
worth looking into for her sake."

"Remember, it happened three years ago," Hatch suggested tentatively.

"It wouldn't matter particularly if it happened three hundred years ago,"
declared the scientist. "Logic, Mr. Hatch, remains the same through all
the ages--from Adam and Eve to us. Two and two made four in the Garden of
Eden just as they do now in a counting house. Therefore, the solution, I
say, is absurdly simple. The only problem is to discover the identity of
the principals in the affair--and a child could do that."

Later that afternoon Hatch telephoned to The Thinking Machine from the
Mummers Club.

"That date you asked for was May 19, three years ago," said the reporter.

"Very well," commented The Thinking Machine. "Drop by tomorrow afternoon.
Perhaps we can solve the riddle for Richards."

Hatch called late the following afternoon, as directed, but The Thinking
Machine was not in.

"He went out about nine o'clock, and hasn't returned yet," the
scientist's aged servant, Martha, informed him.

That night about ten o'clock Hatch used the telephone in a second attempt
to reach The Thinking Machine.

"He hasn't come in yet," Martha told him over the wire. "He said he would
be back for luncheon; but he isn't here yet."

Hatch replaced the receiver thoughtfully on the hook. Early the following
morning he again used the telephone, and there was a note of anxiety in
Martha's voice when she answered.

"He hasn't come yet, sir," she explained. "Please, what ought I to do?
I'm afraid something has happened to him."

"Don't do anything yet," replied Hatch. "I dare say he'll return to-day."

Again at noon, at six o'clock, and at eleven that night Hatch called
Martha on the telephone. Still the scientist had not appeared. Hatch too
was worried now; yet how should he proceed? He didn't know, and he
hesitated to think of the possibilities. On the morrow, however,
something must be done--he would take the matter to Detective Mallory at
police headquarters if necessary.

But this was made unnecessary unexpectedly by the arrival next morning of
a letter from The Thinking Machine. As he read, an expression of utter
bewilderment spread over Hatch's face. Tersely the letter was like this:


Employ an expert burglar, a careful, clever man. At two o'clock of the
night following the receipt of this letter go with him to the alley which
runs behind No. 810 Blank Street. Enter this house with him from the
rear, go up two flights of stairs, and let him pick the lock of the third
door on the left from the head of the stairs. Silence above everything.
Don't shoot if possible to avoid it.

VAN DUSEN.

P.S. Put some ham sandwiches in your pocket.


Hatch stared at the note in blank bewilderment for a long time; but he
obeyed orders. Thus it came to pass that at ten minutes of two o'clock
that night he boosted the notorious Blindy Bates--a man of rare
accomplishments in his profession, who at the moment happened to be out
of prison--to the top of the rear fence of No. 810 Blank Street. Bates
hauled up the reporter, and they leaped down lightly inside the yard.

The back door was simplicity itself to the gifted Bates, and yielded in
less than sixty seconds from the moment he laid his hand upon it. Then
came a sneaking, noiseless advance along the lower hall, to the
accompaniment of innumerable thrills up and down Hatch's spinal column;
up the first flight safely, with Blindy Bates leading the way; then along
the hall and up the second flight. There was absolutely not a sound in
the house--they moved like ghosts.

At the top of the second flight Bates shot a gleam of light from his dark
lantern along the hall. The third door it was. And a moment later he was
concentrating every faculty on the three locks of this door. Still there
had been not the slightest sound. The one spot in the darkness was the
bull's eye of the lantern as it illuminated the lock. The first lock was
unfastened, then the second, and finally the third. Bates didn't open the
door--he merely stepped back--and the door opened as of its own volition.
Involuntarily Hatch's hand closed fiercely on his revolver, and Bates's
ready weapon glittered a little in the darkness.

"Thanks," came after a moment, in the quiet, querulous voice of The
Thinking Machine. "Mr. Hatch, did you bring those sandwiches?"

Half an hour later The Thinking Machine and Hatch appeared at police
headquarters. Being naturally of a retiring, unostentatious disposition,
Bates did not accompany them; instead, he went his way fingering a bill
of moderately large denomination.

Detective Mallory was at home in bed; but Detective Cunningham, another
shining light, received his distinguished visitor and Hatch.

"There's a man named Howard Guerin now asleep in his state room aboard
the steamer Austriana, which sails at five o'clock this morning--just an
hour and a half from now--for Hamburg," began The Thinking Machine
without any preface. "Please have him arrested immediately."

"What charge?" asked the detective.

"Really, it's of no consequence," replied The Thinking Machine.
"Attempted murder, conspiracy, embezzlement, fraud--whatever you like. I
can prove any or all of them."

"I'll go after him myself," said the detective.

"And there is also a young woman aboard," continued The Thinking
Machine,--"a Miss Hilda Fanshawe. Please have her detained, not arrested,
and keep a close guard on her--not to prevent escape, but to protect
her."

"Tell us some of the particulars of it," asked the detective.

"I haven't slept in more than forty-eight hours," replied The Thinking
Machine. "I'll explain it all this afternoon, after I've rested a while."

The Thinking Machine, for the benefit of Detective Mallory and his
satellites, recited briefly the salient points of the story told by the
actor, Watson Richards. His listeners were Howard Guerin, tall, keen
faced, and clean shaven; Miss Hilda Fanshawe, whose pretty face reflected
her every thought; Hutchinson Hatch, and three or four headquarters men.
Every eye was upon the drawn face of the diminutive scientist, as he sat
far back in his chair, with squint eyes turned upward, and fingertips
pressed together.

"From the facts as he stated them, we know beyond all question, in the
very beginning, that Mr. Richards was used as a tool to further some
conspiracy or fraud," explained The Thinking Machine. "That was obvious.
So the first thing to do was to learn the identity of those persons who
played the principal parts in it. From Mr. Richards' story we apparently
had nothing, yet it gave us practically the names and addresses of the
persons at the bottom of the thing.

"How? To find how, we'll have to consider the purpose of the conspiracy.
An actor--an artist in facial impersonation, we might say--is picked up
in the street and compelled to go through the mummery of a death bed
scene while stupefied with drugs. Obviously this was arranged for the
benefit of some person who must be convinced that he or she had witnessed
a dissolution and the signature of a will, perhaps,--and a will signed
under the eyes of that person for whose benefit the farce was acted.

"So we assume a will was signed. We know, within reason, that the mummery
was arranged for the benefit of a young woman--Miss Fanshawe here. From
the intricacy and daring of the plot, it was pretty safe to assume that a
large sum of money was involved. As a matter of fact, there was--more
than a million. Now, here is where we take an abstract problem and
establish the identity of the actors in it. That will was signed by
compulsory forgery, if I may use the phrase, by an utter stranger--a man
who could not have known the handwriting of the man whose name he signed,
and who was in a condition that makes it preposterous to imagine that he
even attempted to sign that name. Yet the will was signed, and the
conspirators had to have a signature that would bear inspection. Now,
what have we left?

"When a person is incapable of signing his or her name, physically or by
reason of no education, the law accepts a cross mark as a signature, when
properly witnessed. We know Mr. Richards couldn't have known or imitated
the signature of the old man he impersonated; but he did sign--therefore
a cross mark, which could have been established beyond question in a
court of law. Now, you see how I established the identity of the persons
in this fraud. I got the date of the incident from Mr. Richards, then a
trip to the surrogate's office told me all I wanted to know. What will
had been filed for probate about that date which bore the cross mark as a
signature? The records answered the question instantly--John Wallace
Lawrence.

"I glanced over the will. It specifically allowed Miss Hilda Fanshawe a
trivial thousand dollars a year, and yet she was Lawrence's adopted
daughter. See how the joints began to fit together? Further, the will
left the bulk of the property to Howard Guerin, a Mrs. Francis,--since
deceased, by the way,--and one Frank Hughes. The men were his nephews,
the woman his niece. The joints continued to fit nicely, therefore the
problem was solved. It was an easy matter to find these people, once I
knew their names. I found Guerin--Mr. Richards knew him as Hallman--and
asked him about the matter. From the fact that he locked me up in a room
of his house and kept me prisoner for two days I was convinced that he
was the principal conspirator, and so it proves."

Again there was silence. Detective Mallory took three long breaths, and
asked a question. "But where was John Wallace Lawrence when this thing
happened?"

"Miss Fanshawe had been in Europe, and was rushing home, knowing that her
adopted father was dying," The Thinking Machine explained. "As a matter
of fact, when she returned Mr. Lawrence was dead--he died the day before
the farce which had been arranged for her benefit, and at the moment his
body lay in an up stairs room. He was buried two days later--a day after
the farce had been played--and she attended his funeral. You see there
was no reason why she should have suspected anything. I don't happen to
know the provisions of Lawrence's real will, but I dare say it left
practically everything to her. The thousand-dollar allowance by the
conspirators was a sop to stop possible legal action."

The door of the room opened, and a uniformed man thrust his head in. "Mr.
Richards wants to see Professor Van Dusen," he announced.

Immediately behind him came the actor. He stopped in the door and stared
at Guerin for a moment.

"Why, hello, Hallman!" he remarked pleasantly. Then his eyes fell upon
the girl, and a flash of recognition lighted them.

"Miss Fanshawe, permit me, Mr. Richards," said The Thinking Machine. "You
have met before. This is the gentleman you saw die."

"And where is Frank Hughes?" asked Detective Mallory.

"In South Africa," replied the scientist. "I learned a great deal while I
was a prisoner."

A deeply troubled expression suddenly appeared on Hutchinson Hatch's face
that night when he was writing the story for his newspaper, and he went
to the telephone and called The Thinking Machine.

"If you were guarded so closely as a prisoner in that room, how on earth
did you mail that letter to me?" he inquired.

"Guerin came in to say some unpleasant things," came the reply, "and
placed several letters he intended to post on the table for a moment. The
letter for you was already written and stamped, and I was seeking a way
to mail it, so I put it with his letters and he mailed it for me."

Hatch burst out laughing.



PROBLEM OF THE BROKEN BRACELET


The girl in the green mask leaned against the foot of the bed and idly
fingered a revolver which lay in the palm of her daintily gloved hand.
The dim glow of the night lamp enveloped her softly, and added a sinister
glint to the bright steel of the weapon. Cowering in the bed was another
figure--the figure of a woman. Sheets and blankets were drawn up tightly
to her chin, and startled eyes peered anxiously, as if fascinated, at the
revolver.

"Now please don't scream!" warned the masked girl. Her voice was quite
casual, the tone in which one might have discussed an affair of far
removed personal interest. "It would be perfectly useless, and besides
dangerous."

"Who are you?" gasped the woman in the bed, staring horror stricken at
the inscrutable mask of her visitor. "What do you want?"

A faint flicker of amusement lay in the shadowy eyes of the masked girl,
and her red lips twitched slightly. "I don't think I can be mistaken,"
she said inquiringly. "This is Miss Isabel Leigh Harding?"

"Y-yes," was the chattering reply.

"Originally of Virginia?"

"Yes."

"Great-granddaughter of William Tremaine Harding, an officer in the
Continental Army about 1775?"

The inflection of the questioning voice had risen almost imperceptibly;
but the tone remained coldly, exquisitely courteous. At the last question
the masked girl leaned forward a little expectantly.

"Yes," faltered Miss Harding faintly.

"Good, very good," commented the masked girl, and there was a note of
repressed triumph in her voice. "I congratulate you, Miss Harding, upon
your self possession. Under the same circumstances most women would have
begun by screaming. I should have myself."

"But who are you?" demanded Miss Harding again. "How did you get in here?
What do you want?"

She sat bolt upright in bed, with less of fear now than curiosity in her
manner, and her luxuriant hair tumbled about her semibare shoulders in
profuse dishevelment.

At the sudden movement the masked girl took a firmer grip on the
revolver, and moved it forward a little threateningly. "Now please don't
make any mistake!" she advised Miss Harding pleasantly. "You will notice
that I have drawn the bell rope up beyond your reach and knotted it.
The servants are on the floor above in the extreme rear, and I doubt if
they would hear a scream. Your companion is away for the night, and
besides there is this." She tapped her weapon significantly. "Furthermore,
you may notice that the lamp is beyond your reach; so that you cannot
extinguish it as long as you remain in bed."

Miss Harding saw all these things, and was convinced.

"Now as to your question," continued the masked girl quietly. "My
identity is of absolutely no concern or importance to you. You would not
even recognize my name if I gave it to you. How did I get here? By
opening an unfastened window in the drawing room on the first floor and
walking in. I shall leave it unlatched when I go; so perhaps you had
better have some one fasten it, otherwise thieves may enter." She smiled
a little at the astonishment in Miss Harding's face. "Now as to why I am
here and what I want."

She sat down on the foot of the bed, drew her cloak more closely about
her, and folded her hands in her lap. Miss Harding placed a pillow and
lounged against it comfortably, watching her visitor in astonishment.
Except for the mask and the revolver, it might have been a cozy chat in
any woman's boudoir.

"I came here to borrow from you--borrow, understand," the masked girl
went on, "the least valuable article in your jewel box."

"My jewel box!" gasped Miss Harding suddenly. She had just thought of it,
and glanced around at the table where it lay open.

"Don't alarm yourself," the masked girl remarked reassuringly; "I have
removed nothing from it."

The light of the lamp fell full upon the open casket whence radiated
multicolored flashes of gems. Miss Harding craned her neck a little to
see, and seeing sank back against her pillow with a sigh of relief.

"As I said, I came to borrow one thing," the masked girl continued
evenly. "If I cannot borrow it, I shall take it."

Miss Harding sat for a moment in mute contemplation of her visitor. She
was searching her mind for some tangible explanation of this nightmarish
thing. After awhile she shook her head, meaning thereby that even
conjecture was futile. "What particular article do you want?" she asked
finally.

"Specifically by letter, from the prison in which he was executed by
order of the British commander, your great-grandfather, William Tremaine
Harding, left a gold bracelet, a plain band, to your grandfather," the
masked girl explained; "Your grandfather, at that time a child, received
the bracelet, when twenty-one years old, from the persons who held it in
trust for him, and on his death, March 25, 1853, left it to your father.
Your father died intestate in April, 1898, and the bracelet passed into
your mother's keeping, there being no son. Your mother died within the
last year. Therefore, the bracelet is now, or should be, in your
possession. You see," she concluded, "I have taken pains to acquaint
myself with your family history."

"You have," Miss Harding assented. "And may I ask why you want this
bracelet?"

"I should answer that it was no concern of yours."

"You said borrow it, I believe?"

"Either I will borrow it or take it."

"Is there any certainty that it will ever be returned? And if so, when?"

"You will have to take my word for that, of course," replied the masked
girl. "I shall return it within a few days."

Miss Harding glanced at her jewel box. "Have you looked there?" she
inquired.

"Yes," replied the masked girl. "It isn't there."

"Not there?" repeated Miss Harding.

"If it had been there I should have taken it and gone away without
disturbing you," the masked girl went on. "Its absence is what caused me
to wake you."

"Not there!" said Miss Harding again wonderingly, and she moved as if to
get up.

"Don't do that, please!" warned the masked girl quickly. "I shall hand
you the box if you like."

She arose and passed the casket to Miss Harding, who spilled out the
contents in her lap.

"Why, it is gone!" she exclaimed.

"Yes, from there," said the other a little grimly. "Now please tell me
immediately where it is. It will save trouble."

"I don't know," replied Miss Harding hopelessly.

The masked girl stared at her coldly for a moment, then drew back the
hammer of the revolver until it clicked.

Miss Harding stared in sudden terror.

"All this is merely time wasted," said the masked girl sternly, coldly.
"Either the bracelet or this!" Again she tapped the revolver.

"If it is not here, I don't know where it is," Miss Harding rushed on
desperately. "I placed it here at ten o'clock tonight--here in this
box--when I undressed. I don't know--I can't imagine--"

The masked girl tapped the revolver again several times with one gloved
finger. "The bracelet!" she demanded impatiently.

Fear was in Miss Harding's eyes now, and she made a helpless, pleading
gesture with both white hands. "You wouldn't kill me--murder me!" she
gasped. "I don't know. I--Here, take the other jewels. I can't tell you."

"The other jewels are of absolutely no use to me," said the girl coldly.
"I want only the bracelet."

"On my honor," faltered Miss Harding, "I don't know where it is. I can't
imagine what has happened to it. I--I--" she stopped helplessly.

The masked girl raised the weapon threateningly, and Miss Harding stared
in cringing horror.

"Please, please, I don't know!" she pleaded hysterically.

For a little while the masked girl was thoughtfully silent. One shoe
tapped the floor rhythmically; the eyes were contracted. "I believe you,"
she said slowly at last. She arose suddenly and drew her coat closely
about her. "Good night," she added as she started toward the door. There
she turned back. "It would not be wise for you to give an alarm for at
least half an hour. Then you had better have some one latch the window in
the drawing room. I shall leave it unfastened. Good night."

And she was gone.

Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, had just finished relating the story to The
Thinking Machine, incident by incident, as it had been reported to Chief
of Detectives Mallory, when the eminent scientist's aged servant, Martha,
tapped on the door of the reception room and entered with a card.

"A lady to see you, sir," she announced.

The scientist extended one slender white hand, took the card, and glanced
at it.

"Your story is merely what Miss Harding told the police?" he inquired of
the reporter. "You didn't get it from Miss Harding herself?"

"No, I didn't see her."

"Show the lady in, Martha," directed The Thinking Machine. She turned and
went out, and he passed the card to the reporter.

"By George! it's Miss Harding herself!" Hatch exclaimed. "Now we can get
it all straight."

There was a little pause, and Martha ushered a young woman into the room.
She was girlish, slender, daintily yet immaculately attired, with deep
brown eyes, firmly molded chin and mouth, and wavy hair. Hatch's
expression of curiosity gave way to one of frank admiration as he
regarded her. There was only the most impersonal sort of interest in the
watery blue eyes of The Thinking Machine. She stood for a moment with
gaze alternating between the distinguished man of science and the
reporter.

"I am Mr. Van Dusen," explained The Thinking Machine. "Allow me, Miss
Harding--Mr. Hatch."

The girl smiled and offered a gloved hand cordially to each of the two
men. The Thinking Machine merely touched it respectfully; Hatch shook it
warmly. The eyes were veiled demurely for an instant, then the lids were
lifted suddenly, and she favored the newspaper man with a gaze that sent
the blood to his cheeks.

"Be seated, Miss Harding," the scientist invited.

"I hardly know just what I came to say, and just how to say it," she
began uncertainly, and smiled a little. "And anyway I had hoped that you
were alone; so--"

"You may speak with perfect freedom before Mr. Hatch," interrupted The
Thinking Machine. "Perhaps I shall be able to aid you; but first will you
repeat the history of the bracelet as nearly as you can in the words of
the masked woman who called upon you so--so unconventionally."

The girl's brows were lifted inquiringly, with a sort of start.

"We were discussing the case when your card was brought in," continued
The Thinking Machine tersely. "We shall continue from that point, if you
will be so good."

The young woman recited the history of the bracelet, slowly and
carefully.

"And that statement of the case is correct?" queried the scientist.

"Absolutely, so far as I know," was the reply.

"And as I understand it, you were in the house alone; that is, alone
except for the servants?"

"Yes; I live there alone, except for a companion and two servants. The
servants were not within the sound of my voice, even if I had screamed,
and Miss Talbott, my companion, it happened, was out for the night."

The Thinking Machine had dropped back into his chair, with squint eyes
turned upward, and long white fingers pressed tip to tip. He sat thus
silently for a long time. The girl at last broke the silence.

"Naturally I was a little surprised," she remarked falteringly, "that I
should have appeared just in time to interrupt a discussion of the
singular happenings in my home last night; but really--"

"This bracelet," interrupted the little scientist again. "It was of oval
form, perhaps, with no stones set in it, or anything of that sort--merely
a band that fastened with an invisible hinge. That's right, I believe?"

"Quite right, yes," replied the girl readily.

It occurred to Hatch suddenly that he himself did not know--in fact, had
not inquired--the shape of the bracelet. He knew only that it was gold,
and of no great value. Knowing nothing about what it looked like, he had
not described it to The Thinking Machine; therefore he raised his eyes
inquiringly now. The drawn face of the scientist was inscrutable.

"As I started to say," the girl went on, "the bracelet and the events of
last night have no direct connection with the purpose of my visit here."

"Indeed?" commented the scientist.

"No; I came to see if you could assist me in another way. For instance,"
and she fumbled in her pocket book, "I happened to know, Professor Van
Dusen, of some of the remarkable things you have accomplished, and I
should like to ask if you can throw any light on this for me."

She drew from the pocketbook a crumpled, yellow sheet of paper--a strip
perhaps an inch wide, thin as tissue, glazed, and extraordinarily
wrinkled. The Thinking Machine squinted at its manifold irregularities
for an instant curiously, nodded, sniffed at it, then slowly began to
unfold it, smoothing it out carefully as he went. Hatch leaned forward
eagerly and stared. He was a little more than astonished at the end to
find that the sheet was blank. The Thinking Machine examined both sides
of the paper thoughtfully.

"And where did you find the bracelet at last?" he inquired casually.

"I have reason to believe," the girl rushed on suddenly, regardless of
the question, "that this strip of paper has been substituted for one of
real value,--I may say one of great value,--and I don't know how to
proceed, unless--"

"Where did you find the bracelet?" demanded The Thinking Machine again
impatiently.

Hatch would have hesitated a long time before he would have said the girl
was disconcerted at the question, or that there had been any real change
in the expression of her pretty face. And yet--

"After the masked woman had gone," she went on calmly, "I summoned the
servants and we made a search. We found the bracelet at last. I thought I
had tossed it into my jewel box when I removed it last night; but it
seems I was careless enough to let it fall down behind my dressing table,
and it was there all the time the--the masked woman was in my room."

"And when did you make this discovery?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Within a few minutes after she went out."

"In making your search, you were guided, perhaps, by a belief that in the
natural course of events the bracelet could not have disappeared from
your jewel box unless some one had entered the room before the masked
woman entered; and further that if anyone had entered you would have been
awakened?"

"Precisely." There was another pause. "And now please," she went on,
"what does this blank strip of paper mean?"

"You had expected something with writing on it, of course?"

"That's just what I had expected," and she laughed nervously. "You may
rest assured I was considerably surprised at finding that."

"I can imagine you were," remarked the scientist dryly.

The conversation had reached a point where Hatch was hopelessly lost. The
young woman and the scientist were talking with mutual understanding of
things that seemed to have no connection with anything that had gone
before. What was the paper anyway? Where did it come from? What
connection did it have with the affairs of the previous night? How did--

"Mr. Hatch, a match, please," requested The Thinking Machine.

Wonderingly the reporter produced one and handed it over. The
imperturbable man of science lighted it and thrust the mysterious paper
into the blaze. The girl arose with a sudden, startled cry, and snatched
at the paper desperately, extinguishing the match as she did so. The
Thinking Machine turned disapproving eyes on her.

"I thought you were going to burn it!" she gasped.

"There is not the slightest danger of that, Miss Harding," declared The
Thinking Machine coldly. He examined the blank sheet again. "This way,
please."

He arose and led the way into his tiny laboratory across the narrow hall,
with the girl following. Hatch trailed behind, wondering vaguely what it
was all about. A small brazier flashed into flame as The Thinking Machine
applied a match, and curious eyes peered over his shoulders as he held
the blank strip, now smoothed out, so that the rising heat would strike
it.

For a long time three pairs of eyes were fastened on the mysterious
paper, all with understanding now, but nothing appeared. Hatch glanced
round at the young woman. Her face wore an expression of tense
excitement. The red lips were slightly parted in anticipation, the eyes
sparkling, and the cheeks flushed deeply. In staring at her the reporter
forgot for the instant everything else, until suddenly:

"There! There! Do you see?"

The exclamation burst from her triumphantly, as faint, scrawly lines grew
on the strip suspended over the brazier. Totally oblivious of their
presence apparently, The Thinking Machine was squinting steadily at the
paper, which was slowly crinkling up into wavy lines under the influence
of the heat. Gradually the edges were charring, and the odor of scorched
paper filled the room. Still the scientist held the paper over the fire.
Just as it seemed inevitable that it would burst into flame, he withdrew
it and turned to the girl.

"There was no substitution," he remarked tersely. "It is sympathetic
ink."

"What does it say?" demanded the young woman abruptly. "What does it
mean?"

The Thinking Machine spread the scorched strip of paper on the table
before them carefully, and for a long time studied it minutely.

"Really, my dear young woman, I don't know," he said crabbedly at last.
"It may take days to find out what it means."

"But something's written there! Read it!" the girl insisted.

"Read it for yourself," said the scientist impatiently. "I am frank to
say it's beyond me as it is now. No, don't touch it. It will crumble to
pieces."

Faintly, yet decipherable under a magnifying glass, the three were able
to make out this on the paper:

Stonehedge--idim-serpa'l ed serueh siort tnaeG ed eteT al rap eetej
erbmo'l ed tniop ud zerit sruO'd rehcoR ud eueuq ud dron ua sdeip tnec.
W.F.H.

"What does it mean? What does it mean?" demanded the young woman
impatiently. "What does it mean?"

The sudden hardening of her tone caused both Hatch and The Thinking
Machine to turn and stare at her. Some strange change had come over her
face. There was chagrin, perhaps, and there was more than that,--a
merciless glitter in the brown eyes, a grim expression about the chin and
mouth, a greedy closing and unclosing of the small, well shaped hands.

"I presume it's a cipher of some sort," remarked The Thinking Machine
curtly. "It may take time to read it and to learn definitely just where
the treasure is hidden, and you may have to wait for--"

"Treasure!" exclaimed the girl. "Did you say treasure? There is treasure,
then?"

The Thinking Machine shrugged his shoulders. "What else?" he asked. "Now,
please, let me see the bracelet."

"The bracelet!" the girl repeated, and again Hatch noted that quick
change of expression on the pretty face. "I--er--must you see it?
I--er--" And she stopped.

"It is absolutely necessary, if I make anything of this," and the
scientist indicated the charred paper. "You have it in your pocketbook,
of course."

The girl stepped forward suddenly and leaned over the laboratory table,
intently studying the mysterious strip of paper. At last she raised her
head as if she had reached a decision.

"I have only a--a part of the bracelet," she announced, "only half. It
was unavoidably broken, and--"

"Only half?" interrupted The Thinking Machine, and he squinted coldly
into the young woman's eyes.

"Here it is," she said at last, desperately almost. "I don't know where
the other half is; it would be useless to ask me."

She drew an aged, badly scratched half circlet of gold from her
pocketbook, handed it to the scientist, then went and looked out the
window. He examined it--the delicate decorative tracings, then the
invisible hinge where the bracelet had been rudely torn apart. Twice he
raised his squint eyes and stared at the girl as she stood silhouetted
against the light of the window. When he spoke again there was a deeper
note in his voice--a singular softening, an unusual deference.

"I shall read the cipher of course, Miss Harding," he said slowly. "It
may take an hour, or it may take a week, I don't know." Again he
scrutinized the charred paper. "Do you speak French?" he inquired
suddenly.

"Enough to understand and to make myself understood," replied the girl.
"Why?"

The Thinking Machine scribbled off a copy of the cipher and handed it to
her.

"I'll communicate with you when I reach a conclusion," he remarked.
"Please leave your address on your card here," and he handed her the card
and pencil.

"You know my home address," she said. "Perhaps it would be better for me
to call this afternoon late or tomorrow."

"I'd prefer to have your address," said the scientist. "As I say, I don't
know when I shall be able to speak definitely."

The girl paused for a moment and tapped the blunt end of the pencil
against her white teeth thoughtfully with her left hand. "As a matter of
fact," she said at last, "I am not returning home now. The events of last
night have shaken me considerably, and I am now on my way to Blank Rock,
a little sea shore town where I shall remain for a few days. My address
there will be the High Tower."

"Write it down, please!" directed The Thinking Machine tersely. The girl
stared at him strangely, with a challenge in her eyes, then leaned over
the table to write. Before the pencil had touched the card, however, she
changed her mind and handed both to Hatch, with a smile.

"Please write it for me," she requested. "I write a wretched hand anyway,
and besides I have on my gloves." She turned again to the little
scientist, who stood squinting over her head. "Thank you so much for your
trouble," she said in conclusion. "You can reach me at this address
either by wire or letter for the next fortnight."

And a few minutes later she was gone. For awhile The Thinking Machine was
silent as he again studied the faint writing on the strip of paper.

"The cipher," he remarked to Hatch at last, "is no cipher at all; it's so
simple. But there are some other things I shall have to find out first,
and--suppose you drop by early tomorrow to see me."

Half an hour later The Thinking Machine went to the telephone, and after
running through the book called a number.

"Is Miss Harding home yet?" he demanded, when an answer came.

"No, sir," was the reply, in a woman's voice.

"Would you mind telling me, please, if she is left handed?"

"Why, no, sir. She's right handed. Who is this?"

"I knew it, of course. Good by."

The Thinking Machine was squinting into the inquiring eyes of Hutchinson
Hatch.

"The reason why the police are so frequently unsuccessful in explaining
the mysteries of crime," he remarked, "is not through lack of natural
intelligence, or through lack of a birthgiven aptitude for the work, but
through the lack of an absolutely accurate knowledge which is wide enough
to enable them to proceed. Now here is a case in point. It starts with a
cipher, goes into an intricate astronomical calculation, and from that
into simple geometry. The difficulty with the detectives is not that they
could not work out each of these as it was presented, perhaps with the
aid of some outsider, but that they would not recognize the existence of
the three phases of the problem in the first place.

"You have heard me say frequently, Mr. Hatch, that logic is
inevitable--as inevitable as that two and two make four not sometimes,
but all the time. That is true; but it must have an indisputable starting
point,--the one unit which is unassailable. In this case unit produces
unit in order, and the proper array of these units gives a coherent
answer. Let me demonstrate briefly just what I mean.

"A masked woman, employing the method at least of a thief, demands a
certain bracelet of this Miss--Miss Harding. (Is that her name?) She
doesn't want jewels; she wants that bracelet. Whatever other conjectures
may be advanced, the one dominant fact is that that bracelet, itself of
little comparative value, is worth more than all the rest to her,--the
masked woman, I mean,--and she has endangered liberty and perhaps life to
get it. Why? The history of the bracelet as she herself stated it to Miss
Harding gives the answer. A man in prison, under sentence of death, had
that bracelet at one time. We can conjecture immediately, therefore, that
the masked woman knew that the fact of its having been in this man's
possession gave him an opportunity at least of so marking the
bracelet,--or of confiding in it, I may say, a valuable secret. One's
first thought, therefore, is of treasure--hidden treasure. We shall go
further and say treasure hidden by a Continental officer to prevent its
falling into other hands as loot. This officer under sentence of death,
and therefore cut off from all communication with the outside, took a
desperate means of communicating the location of the treasure to his
heirs. That is clear, isn't it?"

The reporter nodded.

"I described the bracelet,--you heard me,--and yet I had never seen it,
nor had I a description of it. That description was merely a forward
step, a preliminary test of the truth of the first assumptions. I
reasoned that the bracelet must be of a type which could be employed to
carry a message safely past prying eyes; and there is really only one
sort which is feasible, and that is the one I described. These bracelets
are always hollow, the invisible hinges hold them together on one side,
and they lock on the other. It would be perfectly possible, therefore, to
write the message the prisoner wanted to send out on a strip of tissue
paper, or any thin paper, and cram it into the bracelet at the lock end.
In that event it would certainly pass minute inspection; the only
difficulty would be for the outside person to find it. That was a chance;
but it was all a chance anyway.

"When the young woman came here and produced a strip of thin paper,
apparently blank, with the multitude of wrinkles in it, I immediately saw
that that paper had been recovered from the bracelet. It was old, yellow,
and worn. Therefore, blank or not, that was the message which the
prisoner had sent out. You saw me hold it over the brazier, and saw the
characters appear. It was sympathetic ink, of course.

"Hard to make in prison, you say? Not at all. Writing either with lemon
juice or milk, once dry, is perfectly invisible on paper; but when
exposed to heat at any time afterward, it will appear. That is a chemical
truth.

"Now the thing that appeared was a cipher--an absurd one, still a cipher.
Extraordinary precaution of the prisoner who was about to die! This
cipher--let me see exactly," and the scientist spelled it out:

"'Stonehedge--idim-serpa'l ed serueh siort tnaeG ed eteT al rap eetej
erbmo'l ed tniop ud zerit sruO'd rehcoR ud eueuq ud dron ua sdeip tnec.'

"If you know anything of languages, Mr. Hatch," he continued, "you know
that French is the only language where the apostrophe and the accent
marks play a very important part. A moment's study of this particular
cipher therefore convinced me that it was in French. I tried the simple
expedient of reading it backward, with this result:

"'Stonehedge. Cent pieds au nord du queue du Rocher d'Ours tirez du
point de l'ombre jetee par La Tete de Geant trois heures de
l'apres-midi.'

"Here, therefore, was a sensible statement in French, which translated
freely into English is simply:

"'Stonehedge. Hundred feet due north from tail Bear Rock through apex
(or point) of shadow cast by Giant's Head, three P.M.'

"I had read the cipher and knew its English before I gave a copy of it to
the young woman who was here. I specifically asked her if she knew
French, to give her a clue by which she might interpret the cipher
herself. And thus I blazed the way within a few minutes to the point
where astronomical and geometrical calculations were next. Please bear in
mind that this message from the dead was not dated.

"Now, about the young woman herself," continued the scientist after a
moment. "The statement of how she came to find the bracelet was obviously
untrue; particularly are we convinced of this when she cannot, or will
not, explain how it was broken. Therefore, another field is open for
scrutiny. The bracelet was broken. If we assume that it is the bracelet,
and there is no reason to doubt it, and we know it is in her possession,
we know also that more than one person had been searching for it. We know
positively that that other person--not the masked girl, but the one who
had preceded her to Miss Harding's room on the same night--got the
bracelet from Miss Harding, and we are safe in assuming that it passed
out of that other person's hand by force. The bracelet had been literally
torn apart at the hinge. In other words, there had been a physical
contest, and one piece of the circlet--the piece with the message--passed
out of the hands of the person who had preceded the masked woman and
stolen the bracelet.

"But this is by the way. Stonehedge is the name of the old Tremaine
Harding estate, about twenty miles out, and there the Tremaine Harding
family valuables were hidden by William Tremaine Harding, who died by
bullet, a martyr to the cause of freedom. We shall get the treasure this
afternoon, after I have settled one or two dates and made the
astronomical and geometrical calculations which are necessary."

There was silence for a minute or more, broken at last by the impatient
"Honk, honk!" of an automobile outside.

"We'll go now," announced The Thinking Machine as he arose. "There is a
car for us."

He led the way out, Hatch following. A heavy touring car, with three
seats, driven by a young woman, was waiting at the door. The woman was a
stranger to the reporter; but there was no introduction.

"Did you get the date of Captain Harding's imprisonment?" asked The
Thinking Machine.

"Yes," was the reply,--"June 3, 1776."

The Thinking Machine clambered in, Hatch following silently, and the car
rushed away. It paused in a suburb long enough to pick up two workmen
with picks and shovels, who took their places in the back seat, and then
the automobile with its strange company--a pretty woman, a newspaper
reporter, a distinguished scientist, and two laborers--proceeded on its
way. Hatch, alone in the second seat, heard only one remark by the
scientist, and this was:

"Of course she was clever enough to read the cipher, after I gave her the
hint that it was in French; so we shall find that the place has been dug
over; but there is only one chance in three hundred and sixty-five that
the treasure was found. I give her credit for extraordinary cleverness;
but not enough to make the necessary astronomical calculations."

A run of an hour and a half brought them to Stonehedge, a huge old estate
with ramshackle dwelling and acres of rock ridden ground. Away off in the
northwest corner were two large stones--Bear Rock and Giants Head--rising
fifteen or twenty feet above the ground. The car was driven over a rough
road and stopped near them.

"You see, she did read the cipher," remarked the scientist placidly.
"Workmen have already been here."

Straight ahead of them was an excavation ten feet or more square. Hatch
peered into it, while The Thinking Machine busied himself by planting a
stake at the so-called tail of Bear Rock. Then he glanced at his
watch,--it was half past two o'clock,--and sat down with the young woman
in the shadow of Giants Head. Hatch lounged on the ground near them, and
the workmen made themselves comfortable in their own way.

"We can't do anything till three o'clock," remarked The Thinking Machine.

"And just what shall we do then?" inquired the young woman expectantly.
It was the first time she had spoken since they started.

"It is rather difficult to explain," said The Thinking Machine. "The hole
there proves that the young woman read the cipher, of course. Now here
briefly is why the treasure was not found. Today is September 17. A
measurement was made, according to instructions, from the tail of Bear
Rock through the apex of the shadow of Giants Head precisely at three
o'clock yesterday, one hundred feet due north, or as near north as
possible. The hole shows the end of the hundred-foot line. Now, we know
that Captain Harding was imprisoned on June 3, 1776; we know he buried
the treasure before that date; we have a right to assume that it was only
shortly before. On June 3 of any year the apex of the shadow will be in a
totally different place from September 17, because of the movement of the
earth about the sun and the relative changes in the sun's position. What
we must do now is to find precisely where the shadow falls at three
o'clock today, then make our calculations to show where it will fall say
one week before June 3. Do you follow me? In other words, a difference of
half a foot in the location of the apex of the shadow will make a
difference of many feet at the end of one hundred feet when we follow the
cipher."

At precisely three o'clock The Thinking Machine noted the position of the
shadow, and then began a calculation which covered two sheets of blank
paper which Hatch had in his pocket.

"This is correct," said The Thinking Machine at last as he arose and
planted another stake in the ground. "There is a chance of course that we
miss fire the first time because of possible seismic disturbances at
sometime past or of a change in the surface of the ground; but this is
mathematically correct."

Then, with the assistance of the newspaper man and the young woman, he
drew his hundred-foot line, and planted a third stake.

"Dig here!" he told the workmen.

One hour later the long lost family plate and jewels of the ancient
Harding family had been unearthed. The Thinking Machine and the others
stooped over the rotting box which had been brought to the surface and
noted the contents. Roughly the value was above two hundred thousand
dollars.

"And I think that is all, Miss Harding," said the scientist at last. "It
is yours. Load it into your car there and drive home."

"Miss Harding!" Hatch repeated quickly, with a glance at the young woman.
"Miss Harding?"

The Thinking Machine turned and squinted at the reporter for a moment.
"Didn't you know that the young woman who called on me was not Miss
Harding?" he demanded. "It was evident in her every act,--in her failing
to explain the broken bracelet; and in the fact that she was left handed.
You must have noticed that. Well, this is Miss Harding, and she is right
handed."

The girl smiled at Hatch's astonishment.

"Then the other young woman merely impersonated Miss Harding?" he asked
at last.

"That is all, and cleverly," replied The Thinking Machine. "She merely
wanted me to read the cipher for her. I put her on the track of reading
it herself purposely, and she and the persons associated with her are
responsible for the excavation over there."

"But who is the other young woman?"

"She is the one who visited Miss Harding, wearing a mask."

"But what is her name?"

"I'm sure I haven't the faintest idea, Mr. Hatch," responded the little
scientist shortly. "We have her to thank, however, for placing a solution
of the affair into our hands. Who she is and what she is, is of no real
consequence, particularly as Miss Harding has this."

The scientist indicated the box with one small foot, then turned and
clambered into the waiting automobile.



PROBLEM OF THE LOST RADIUM


One ounce of radium! Within his open palm Professor Dexter held
practically the world's entire supply of that singular and seemingly
inexhaustible force which was, and is, one of the greatest of all
scientific riddles. So far as known there were only a few more grains in
existence--four in the Curie laboratory in Paris, two in Berlin, two in
St. Petersburg, one at Leland Stanford University and one in London. All
the remainder was here--here in the Yarvard laboratory, a tiny mass
lumped on a small piece of steel.

Gazing at this vast concentrated power Professor Dexter was a little awed
and a little appalled at the responsibility which had suddenly devolved
upon him, naturally enough with this culmination of a project which he
had cherished for months. Briefly this had been to gather into one
cohesive whole the many particles of the precious substance scattered
over the world for the purpose of elaborate experiments as to its motive
power practicability. Now here it was.

Its value, based on scarcity of supply, was incalculable. Millions of
dollars would not replace it. Minute portions had come from the four
quarters of the globe, in each case by special messenger, and each
separate grain had been heavily insured by Lloyd's at a staggering
premium. It was only after months of labour, backed by the influence of
the great university of Yarvard in which he held the chair of physics,
that Professor Dexter had been able to accomplish his purpose.

At least one famous name had been loaned to the proposed experiments,
that of the distinguished scientist and logician, Professor Augustus S.
F. X. Van Dusen--so called The Thinking Machine. The interest of this
master mind in the work was a triumph for Professor Dexter, who was young
and comparatively unknown. The elder scientist--The Thinking Machine--was
a court of last appeal in the sciences and from the moment his connection
with Professor Dexter's plans was announced his fellows all over the
world had been anxiously awaiting a first word.

Naturally the task of gathering so great a quantity of radium had not
been accomplished without extensive, and sometimes sensational, newspaper
comment all over the United States and Europe. It was not astonishing,
therefore that news of the receipt of the final portion of the radium at
Yarvard had been known in the daily press and with it a statement that
Professors Van Dusen and Dexter would immediately begin their
experiments.

The work was to be done in the immense laboratory at Yarvard a
high-ceilinged room with roof partially of glass, and with windows set
high in the walls far above the reach of curious eyes. Full preparations
had been made;--the two men were to work together, and a guard was to be
stationed at the single door. This door led into a smaller room, a sort
of reception hall, which in turn connected with the main hallway of
the building.

Now Professor Dexter was alone in the laboratory, waiting impatiently for
The Thinking Machine and turning over in his mind the preliminary steps
in the labour he had undertaken. Every instrument was in place, all else
was put aside for these experiments, which were either to revolutionize
the motive power of the world or else demonstrate the utter uselessness
of radium as a practical force.

Professor Dexter's line of thought was interrupted by the appearance of
Mr. Bowen, one of the instructors of the University.

"A lady to see you, Professor," he said as he handed him a card. "She
said it was a matter of great importance to you."

Professor Dexter glanced at the card as Mr. Bowen turned and went out
through the small room into the main hallway. The name, Mme. Therese du
Chastaigny, was wholly unfamiliar. Puzzled a little and perhaps impatient
too, he carefully laid the steel with its burden of radium on the long
table, and started out into the reception room. Almost in the door he
stumbled against something, recovered his equilibrium with an effort and
brought up with an undignified jerk.

The colour mounted to his modest ears as he heard a woman laugh--a
pleasant, musical, throaty sort of ripple that under other circumstances
would have been agreeable. Now, being directed at his own discomfiture,
it was irritating, and the Professor's face tingled a little as a tall
woman arose and came towards him.

"Please pardon me," she said contritely, but there was still a flicker of
a smile upon her red lips. "It was my carelessness. I should not have
placed my suit case in the door." She lifted it easily and replaced it in
that identical position. "Or perhaps," she suggested, inquiringly,
"someone else coming out might stumble as you did?"

"No," replied the Professor, and he smiled a little through his blushes.
"There is no one else in there."

As Mme. du Chastaigny straightened up, with a rustle of skirts, to greet
him Professor Dexter was somewhat surprised at her height and at the
splendid lines of her figure. She was apparently of thirty years and
seemed from a casual glance, to be five feet nine or ten inches tall. In
addition to a certain striking indefinable beauty she was of remarkable
physical power if one might judge from her poise and manner. Professor
Dexter glanced at her and then at the card inquiringly.

"I have a letter of introduction to you from Mme. Curie of France," she
explained as she produced it from a tiny chatelaine bag. "Shall we go
over here where the light is better?"

She handed the letter to him and together they seated themselves under
one of the windows near the door into the outer hallway. Professor Dexter
pulled up a light chair facing her and opened the letter. He glanced
through it and then looked up with a newly kindled interest in his eyes.

"I should not have disturbed you," Mme. du Chastaigny explained
pleasantly, "had I not known it was a matter of the greatest possible
interest to you."

"Yes?" Professor Dexter nodded. "It's radium," she continued. "It just
happens that I have in my possession practically an ounce of radium of
which the world of science has never heard."

"An ounce of radium!" repeated Professor Dexter, incredulously.
"Why, Madame, you astonish, amaze me. An ounce of radium?"

He leaned further forward in his chair and waited expectantly while Mme.
du Chastaigny coughed violently. The paroxysm passed after a moment.

"That is my punishment for laughing," she explained, smilingly. "I trust
you will pardon me. I have a bad throat--and it was quick retribution."

"Yes, yes," said the other courteously, "but this other--it's most
interesting. Please tell me about it."

Mme. du Chastaigny made herself comfortable in the chair, cleared her
throat, and began.

"It's rather an unusual story," she said apologetically, "but the radium
came into my possession in quite a natural manner. I am English, so I
speak the language, but my husband was French as my name indicates, and,
he, like you, was a scientist. He was little known to the world at large,
however, as he was not connected with any institution. His experiments
were undertaken for amusement and gradually led to a complete absorption
of his interest. We were not wealthy as Americans count it, but we were
comfortably well off.

"That much for my affairs. The letter I gave you from Mme. Curie will
tell you the rest as to who I am. Now when the discovery of radium was
made by M. and Mme. Curie my husband began some investigations along the
same line and they proved to be remarkably successful. His efforts were
first directed towards producing radium, with what object, I was not
aware at that time. In the course of months he made grain after grain by
some process unlike that of the Curies', and incidentally he spent
practically all our little fortune. Finally he had nearly an ounce."

"Most interesting!" commented Professor Dexter. "Please go on."

"It happened that during the production of the last quarter of an ounce,
my husband contracted an illness which later proved fatal," Mme. du
Chastaigny resumed after a slight pause, and her voice dropped. "I did
not know the purpose of his experiments; I only knew what they had been
and their comparative cost. On his death bed he revealed this purpose to
me. Strangely enough it was identical with yours as the newspapers have
announced it--that is, the practicability of radium as a motive power. He
was at work on plans looking to the utilization of its power when he died
but these plans were not perfected and unfortunately were in such shape
as to be unintelligible to another."

She paused and sat silent for a moment. Professor Dexter watching her
face, traced a shadow of grief and sorrow there and his own big heart
prompted a ready sympathy.

"And what," he asked, "was your purpose in coming to me now?"

"I know of the efforts you have made and the difficulties you have
encountered in gathering enough radium for the experiments you have in
mind," Mme. du Chastaigny continued, "and it occurred to me that what I
have, which is of no possible use to me, might be sold to you or to the
university. As I said, there is nearly an ounce of it. It is where I can
put my hands on it, and you of course are to make the tests to prove it
is what it should be."

"Sell it?" gasped Professor Dexter. "Why, Madame, it's impossible. The
funds of the college are not so plentiful that the vast fortune necessary
to purchase such a quantity would be forthcoming."

A certain hopeful light in the face of the young woman passed and there
was a quick gesture of her hands which indicated disappointment.

"You speak of a vast fortune," she said at last. "I could not hope, of
course, to realize anything like the actual value of the substance--a
million perhaps? Only a few hundred thousands? Something to convert into
available funds for me the fortune which has been sunk."

There was almost an appeal in her limpid voice and Professor Dexter
considered the matter deeply for several minutes as he stared out the
window.

"Or perhaps," the woman hurried on after a moment, "it might be that you
need more radium for the experiments you have in hand now, and there
might be some sum paid me for the use of what I have? A sort of royalty?
I am willing to do anything within reason."

Again there was a long pause. Ahead of him, with this hitherto unheard of
quantity of radium available, Professor Dexter saw rosy possibilities in
his chosen work. The thought gripped him more firmly as he considered it.
He could see little chance of a purchase--but the use of the substance
during his experiments! That might be arranged.

"Madame," he said at last, "I want to thank you deeply for coming to me.
While I can promise nothing definite I can promise that I will take up
the matter with certain persons who may be able to do something for you.
It's perfectly astounding. Yes, I may say that I will do something, but I
shall perhaps, require several days to bring it about. Will you grant me
that time?"

Mme. du Chastaigny smiled.

"I must of course," she said, and again she went off into a paroxysm of
coughing, a distressing, hacking outburst which seemed to shake her whole
body. "Of course," she added, when the spasm passed, "I can only hope
that you can do something either in purchasing or using it."

"Could you fix a definite price for the quantity you have--that is a sale
price--and another price merely for its use?" asked Professor Dexter.

"I can't do that offhand of course, but here is my address on this
card--Hotel Teutonic. I expect to remain there for a few days and you may
reach me any time. Please, now please," and again there was a pleading
note in her voice, and she laid one hand on his arm, "don't hesitate to
make any offer to me. I shall be only too glad to accept it if I can."

She arose and Professor Dexter stood beside her.

"For your information," she went on, "I will explain that I only arrived
in this country yesterday by steamer from Liverpool and my need is such
that within another six months I shall be absolutely dependent upon what
I may realize from the radium."

She crossed the room, picked up the suit case and again she smiled,
evidently at the recollection of Professor Dexter's awkward stumble. Then
with her burden she turned to go.

"Permit me, Madame," suggested Professor Dexter, quickly as he reached
for the bag.

"Oh no, it is quite light," she responded easily.

There were a few commonplaces and then she went out. Gazing through the
window after her Professor Dexter noted, with certain admiration in his
eyes the graceful strong lines of her figure as she entered a carriage
and was driven away. He stood deeply thoughtful for a minute considering
the possibilities arising from her casual announcement of the existence
of this unknown radium.

"If I only had that too," he muttered as he turned and reentered his work
room.

An instant later, a cry--a wild amazed shriek--came from the laboratory
and Professor Dexter, with pallid face, rushed out through the reception
room and flung open the door into the main hallway. Half a dozen students
gathered about him and from across the hall Mr. Bowen, the instructor,
appeared with startled eyes.

"The radium is gone--stolen!" gasped Professor Dexter.

The members of the little group stared at one another blankly while
Professor Dexter raved impotently and ran his fingers through his hair.
There were questions and conjectures; a babble was raging about him when
a new figure loomed up in the picture. It was that of a small man with an
enormous yellow head and an eternal petulant droop to the corners of his
mouth. He had just turned a corner in the hall.

"Ah, Professor Van Dusen," exclaimed Professor Dexter, and he seized the
long, slender hand of The Thinking Machine in a frenzied grip.

"Dear me! Dear me!" complained The Thinking Machine as he sought to
extract his fingers from the vice. "Don't do that. What's the matter?"

"The radium is gone--stolen!" Professor Dexter explained.

The Thinking Machine drew back a little and squinted aggressively into
the distended eyes of his fellow scientist.

"Why that's perfectly silly," he said at last. "Come in, please, and tell
me what happened."

With perspiration dripping from his brow and hands atremble, Professor
Dexter followed him into the reception room, whereupon The Thinking
Machine turned, closed the door into the hallway and snapped the lock.
Outside Mr. Bowen and the students heard the click and turned away to
send the astonishing news hurtling through the great university. Inside
Professor Dexter sank down on a chair with staring eyes and nervously
twitching lips.

"Dear me, Dexter, are you crazy?" demanded The Thinking Machine
irritably. "Compose yourself. What happened? What were the circumstances
of the disappearance?"

"Come--come in here--the laboratory and see," suggested Professor Dexter.

"Oh, never mind that now," said the other impatiently. "Tell me what
happened?"

Professor Dexter paced the length of the small room twice then sat down
again, controlling himself with a perceptible effort. Then, ramblingly
but completely, he told the story of Mme. du Chastaigny's call, covering
every circumstance from the time he placed the radium on the table in the
laboratory until he saw her drive away in the carriage. The Thinking
Machine leaned back in his chair with squint eyes upturned and slender
white fingers pressed tip to tip.

"How long was she here?" he asked at the end.

"Ten minutes, I should say," was the reply.

"Where did she sit?"

"Right where you are, facing the laboratory door."

The Thinking Machine glanced back at the window behind him.

"And you?" he asked.

"I sat here facing her."

"You know that she did not enter the laboratory?"

"I know it, yes," replied Professor Dexter promptly. "No one save me has
entered that laboratory today. I have taken particular pains to see that
no one did. When Mr. Bowen spoke to me I had the radium in my hand. He
merely opened the door, handed me her card and went right out. Of course
it's impossible that--"

"Nothing is impossible, Mr. Dexter," blazed The Thinking Machine
suddenly. "Did you at any time leave Mme. du Chastaigny in this
room alone?"

"No, no," declared Dexter emphatically. "I was looking at her every
moment she was here; I did not put the radium out of my hand until Mr.
Bowen was out of this room and in the hallway there. I then came into
this room and met her."

For several minutes The Thinking Machine sat perfectly silent, squinting
upward while Professor Dexter gazed into the inscrutable face anxiously.

"I hope," ventured the Professor at last, "that you do not believe it was
any fault of mine?"

The Thinking Machine did not say.

"What sort of a voice has Mme. du Chastaigny?" he asked instead.

The Professor blinked a little in bewilderment.

"An ordinary voice--the low voice of a woman of education and
refinement," he replied.

"Did she raise it at any time while talking?"

"No."

"Perhaps she sneezed or coughed while talking to you?"

Unadulterated astonishment was written on Professor Dexter's face.

"She coughed, yes, violently," he replied.

"Ah!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine and there was a flash of
comprehension in the narrow blue eyes. "Twice, I suppose?"

Professor Dexter was staring at the scientist blankly.

"Yes, twice," he responded.

"Anything else?"

"Well, she laughed I think."

"What was the occasion of her laughter?"

"I stumbled over a suit case she had set down by the laboratory door
there."

The Thinking Machine absorbed that without evidence of emotion, then
reached for the letter of introduction which Mme. du Chastaigny had given
to Professor Dexter and which he still carried crumpled up in his hand.
It was a short note, just a few lines in French, explaining that Mme. du
Chastaigny desired to see Professor Dexter on a matter of importance.

"Do you happen to know Mme. Curie's handwriting?" asked The Thinking
Machine after a cursory examination. "Of course you had some
correspondence with her about this work?"

"I know her writing, yes," was the reply. "I think that is genuine, if
that's what you mean."

"We'll see after a while," commented The Thinking Machine.

He arose and led the way into the laboratory. There Professor Dexter
indicated to him the exact spot on the work table where the radium had
been placed. Standing beside it he made some mental calculation as he
squinted about the room, at the highly placed windows, the glass roof
above, the single door. Then wrinkles grew in his tall brow.

"I presume all the wall windows are kept fastened?"

"Yes, always."

"And those in the glass roof?"

"Yes."

"Then bring me a tall step-ladder please!"

It was produced after a few minutes. Professor Dexter looked on curiously
and with a glimmer of understanding as The Thinking Machine examined each
catch on every window, and tapped the panes over with a penknife. When he
had examined the last and found all locked he came down the ladder.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed petulantly. "It's perfectly extraordinary--most
extraordinary. If the radium was not stolen through the reception room,
then--then--" He glanced around the room again.

Professor Dexter shook his head. He had recovered his self-possession
somewhat, but his bewilderment left him helpless.

"Are you sure, Professor Dexter," asked The Thinking Machine at last
coldly, "are you sure you placed the radium where you have indicated?"

There was almost an accusation in the tone and Professor Dexter flushed
hotly.

"I am positive, yes," he replied.

"And you are absolutely certain that neither Mr. Bowen nor Mme. du
Chastaigny entered this room?"

"I am absolutely positive."

The Thinking Machine wandered up and down the long table apparently
without any interest, handling the familiar instruments and glittering
appliances as a master.

"Did Mme. du Chastaigny happen to mention any children?" he at last
asked, irrelevantly.

Professor Dexter blinked again.

"No," he replied.

"Adopted or otherwise?"

"No."

"Just what sort of a suit case was that she carried?"

"Oh, I don't know," replied Professor Dexter. "I didn't particularly
notice. It seemed to be about the usual kind of a suit case--sole leather
I imagine."

"She arrived in this country yesterday you said?"

"Yes."

"It's perfectly extraordinary," The Thinking Machine grunted. Then he
scribbled a line or two on a scrap of paper and handed it to Professor
Dexter.

"Please have this sent by cable at once."

Professor Dexter glanced at it. It was:

"Mme. Curie, Paris:

"Did you give Mme. du Chastaigny letter of introduction for Professor
Dexter? Answer quick.

"Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen."

As Professor Dexter glanced at the dispatch his eyes opened a little.

"You don't believe that Mme. du Chastaigny could have--" he began.

"I daresay I know what Mme. Curie's answer will be," interrupted the
other abruptly.

"What?"

"It will be no," was the positive reply. "And then--" He paused.

"Then--?"

"Your veracity may be brought into question."

With flaming face and tightly clenched teeth but without a word,
Professor Dexter saw The Thinking Machine unlock the door and pass out.
Then he dropped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. There Mr.
Bowen found him a few minutes later.

"Ah, Mr. Bowen," he said, as he glanced up, "please have this cable sent
immediately."

Once in his apartments The Thinking Machine telephoned to Hutchinson
Hatch, reporter, at the office of his newspaper. That long, lean, hungry
looking young man was fairly bubbling with suppressed emotion when he
rushed into the booth to answer and the exhilaration of pure enthusiasm
made his voice vibrant when he spoke. The Thinking Machine readily
understood.

"It's about the radium theft at Yarvard that I wanted to speak to you,"
he said.

"Yes," Hatch replied, "just heard of it this minute--a bulletin from
Police Headquarters. I was about to go out on it."

"Please do something for me first," requested The Thinking Machine. "Go
at once to the Hotel Teutonic and ascertain indisputably for me whether
or not Mme. du Chastaigny, who is stopping there, is accompanied by a
child."

"Certainly, of course," said Hatch, "but the story--"

"This is the story," interrupted The Thinking Machine, tartly. "If you
can learn nothing of any child at the hotel go to the steamer on which
she arrived yesterday from Liverpool and inquire there. I must have
definite, absolute, indisputable evidence."

"I'm off," Hatch responded.

He hung up the receiver and rushed out. He happened to be professionally
acquainted with the chief clerk of the Teutonic, a monosyllabic, rotund
gentleman who was an occasional source of private information and who
spent his life adding up a column of figures.

"Hello, Charlie," Hatch greeted him. "Mme. du Chastaigny stopping here?"

"Yep," said Charlie.

"Husband with her?"

"Nope."

"By herself when she came?"

"Yep."

"Hasn't a child with her?"

"Nope."

"What does she look like?"

"A corker!" said Charlie.

This last loquacious outburst seemed to appease the reporter's burning
thirst for information and he rushed away to the dock where the
steamship, Granada from Liverpool, still lay. Aboard he sought out the
purser and questioned him along the same lines with the same result.
There was no trace of a child. Then Hatch made his way to the home of The
Thinking Machine.

"Well?" demanded the scientist.

The reporter shook his head.

"She hasn't seen or spoken to a child since she left Liverpool so far as
I can ascertain," he declared.

It was not quite surprise, it was rather perturbation in the manner of
The Thinking Machine now. It showed in a quick gesture of one hand, in
the wrinkles on his brow, in the narrowing down of his eyes. He dropped
back into a chair and remained there silent, thoughtful for a long time.

"It couldn't have been, it couldn't have been, it couldn't have been,"
the scientist broke out finally.

Having no personal knowledge on the subject, whatever it was, Hatch
discreetly remained silent. After a while The Thinking Machine aroused
himself with a jerk and related to the reporter the story of the lost
radium so far as it was known.

"The letter of introduction from Mme. Curie opened the way for Mme. du
Chastaigny," he explained. "Frankly I believe that letter to be a
forgery. I cabled asking Mme. Curie. A 'No' from her will mean that my
conjecture is correct; a 'Yes' will mean--but that is hardly worth
considering. The question now is: What method was employed to cause the
disappearance of the radium from that room?"

The door opened and Martha appeared. She handed a cablegram to The
Thinking Machine and he ripped it open with hurried fingers. He glanced
at the sheet once, then arose suddenly after which he sat down again,
just as suddenly.

"What is it?" ventured Hatch.

"It's 'Yes,'" was the reply.

In the seclusion of his own small laboratory The Thinking Machine was
making some sort of chemical experiment about eight o'clock that night.
He was just hoisting a graduated glass, containing a purplish, hazy
fluid, to get the lamp light through it, when an idea flashed into his
mind. He permitted the glass to fall and smash on the floor.

"Perfectly stupid of me," he grumbled and turning he walked into an
adjoining room without so much as a glance at the wrecked glass. A minute
later he had Hutchinson Hatch on the telephone.

"Come right up," he instructed.

There was that in his voice which caused Hatch to jump. He seized his hat
and rushed out of his office. When he reached The Thinking Machine's
apartments that gentleman was just emerging from the room where the
telephone was.

"I have it," the scientist told the reporter, forestalling a question.
"It's ridiculously simple. I can't imagine how I missed it except through
stupidity."

Hatch smiled behind his hand. Certainly stupidity was not to be charged
against The Thinking Machine.

"Come in a cab?" asked the scientist.

"Yes, it's waiting."

"Come on then."

They went out together. The scientist gave some instruction to the cabby
and they clattered off.

"You're going to meet a very remarkable person," The Thinking Machine
explained. "He may cause trouble and he may not--any way look out for
him. He's tricky."

That was all. The cab drew up in front of a large building, evidently a
boarding house of the middle class. The Thinking Machine jumped out,
Hatch following, and together they ascended the steps. A maid answered
the bell.

"Is Mr.--Mr.--oh, what's his name?" and The Thinking Machine snapped his
fingers as if trying to remember. "Mr--, the small gentleman who arrived
from Liverpool yesterday--"

"Oh," and the maid smiled broadly, "you mean Mr. Berkerstrom?"

"Yes, that's the name," exclaimed the scientist. "Is he in, please?"

"I think so, sir," said the maid, still smiling. "Shall I take your
card?"

"No, it isn't necessary," replied The Thinking Machine. "We are from the
theatre. He is expecting us."

"Second floor, rear," said the maid.

They ascended the stairs and paused in front of a door. The Thinking
Machine tried it softly. It was unlocked and he pushed it open. A bright
light blazed from a gas jet but no person was in sight. As they stood
silent, they heard a newspaper rattle and both looked in the direction
whence came the sound.

Still no one appeared. The Thinking Machine raised a finger and tiptoed
to a large upholstered chair which faced the other way. One slender hand
disappeared on the other side to be lifted immediately. Wriggling in his
grasp was a man--a toyman--a midget miniature in smoking jacket and
slippers who swore fluently in German. Hatch burst out laughing, an
uncontrollable fit which left him breathless.

"Mr. Berkerstrom, Mr. Hatch," said The Thinking Machine gravely. "This is
the gentleman, Mr. Hatch, who stole the radium. Before you begin to talk,
Mr. Berkerstrom, I will say that Mme. du Chastaigny has been arrested and
has confessed."

"Ach, Gott!" raged the little German. "Let me down, der chair in, ef you
blease."

The Thinking Machine lowered the tiny wriggling figure into the chair
while Hatch closed and locked the door. When the reporter came back and
looked, laughter was gone. The drawn wrinkled face of the midget, the
babyish body, the toy clothing, added to the pitiful helplessness of the
little figure. His age might have been fifteen or fifty, his weight was
certainly not more than twenty five pounds, his height barely thirty
inches.

"It iss as we did him in der theatre, und--" Mr. Berkerstrom started to
explain limpingly.

"Oh, that was it?" inquired The Thinking Machine curiously as if some
question in his own mind had been settled. "What is Mme. du Chastaigny's
correct name?"

"She iss der famous Mlle. Fanchon, und I am der marvellous midget, Count
von Fritz," proclaimed Mr. Berkerstrom proudly in play-bill fashion.

Then a glimmer of what had actually happened flashed through Hatch's
mind; he was staggered by the sublime audacity which made it possible.
The Thinking Machine arose and opened a closet door at which he had been
staring. From a dark recess he dragged out a suit case and from this in
turn a small steel box.

"Ah, here is the radium," he remarked as he opened the box. "Think of it,
Mr. Hatch. An actual value of millions in that small box."

Hatch was thinking of it, thinking all sorts of things, as he mentally
framed an opening paragraph for this whooping big yarn. He was still
thinking of it as he and The Thinking Machine accompanied willingly
enough by the midget, entered the cab and were driven back to the
scientist's house.

An hour later Mme. du Chastaigny called by request. She imagined her
visit had something to do with the purchase of an ounce of radium;
Detective Mallory, watching her out a corner of his official eye,
imagined she imagined that. The next caller was Professor Dexter. Dumb
anger gnawed at his heart, but he had heeded a telephone request. The
Thinking Machine and Hatch completed the party.

"Now, Mme. du Chastaigny, please," The Thinking Machine began quietly,
"will you please inform me if you have another ounce of radium in
addition to that you stole from the Yarvard laboratory?"

Mme. du Chastaigny leaped to her feet. The Thinking Machine was staring
upward with squint eyes and finger tips pressed together. He didn't alter
his position in the slightest at her sudden move--but Detective Mallory
did.

"Stole?" exclaimed Mme. du Chastaigny. "Stole?"

"That's the word I used," said The Thinking Machine almost pleasantly.

Into the woman's eyes there leapt a blaze of tigerish ferocity. Her face
flushed, then the colour fled and she sat down again, perfectly pallid.

"Count von Fritz has recounted his part in the affair to me," went on The
Thinking Machine. He leaned forward and took a package from the table.
"Here is the radium. Now have you any radium in addition to this?"

"The radium!" gasped the Professor incredulously.

"If there is no denial Count von Fritz might as well come in, Mr. Hatch,"
remarked The Thinking Machine.

Hatch opened the door. The midget bounded into the room in true theatric
style.

"Is it enough, Mlle. Fanchon?" inquired the scientist. There was an
ironic touch in his voice.

Mme. du Chastaigny nodded, dumbly.

"It would interest you, of course, to know how it came out," went on The
Thinking Machine. "I daresay your inspiration for the theft came from a
newspaper article, therefore you probably know that I was directly
interested in the experiments planned. I visited the laboratory
immediately after you left with the radium. Professor Dexter told me your
story. It was clever, clever, but there was too much radium, therefore
unbelievable. If not true, then why had you been there? The answer is
obvious.

"Neither you or anyone else save Mr. Dexter entered that laboratory. Yet
the radium was gone. How? My first impression was that your part in the
theft had been to detain Mr. Dexter while someone entered the laboratory
or else fished out the radium through a window in the glass roof by some
ingenious contrivance. I questioned Mr. Dexter as to your precise acts,
and ventured the opinion that you had either sneezed or coughed. You had
coughed twice--obviously a signal--thus that view was strengthened.

"Next, I examined window and roof fastenings--all were locked. I tapped
over the glass to see if they had been tampered with. They had not.
Apparently the radium had not gone through the reception room; certainly
it had not gone any other way--yet it was gone. It was a nice problem
until I recalled that Mr. Dexter had mentioned a suit case. Why did a
woman, on business, go out carrying a suit case? Or why, granting that
she had a good reason for it, should she take the trouble to drag it into
the reception room instead of leaving it in the carriage?

"Now, I didn't believe you had any radium; I knew you had signalled to
the real thief by coughing. Therefore I was prepared to believe that the
suit case was the solution of the theft. How? Obviously, something
concealed in it. What? A monkey? I dismissed that because the thief must
have had the reasoning instinct. If not a monkey then what? A child? That
seemed more probable, yet it was improbable. I proceeded, however, on the
hypothesis that a child carefully instructed had been the actual thief."

Open eyes were opened wider. Mme. du Chastaigny, being chiefly concerned,
followed the plain, cold reasoning as if fascinated. Count von Fritz
straightened his necktie and smiled.

"I sent a cable to Mme. Curie asking if the letter of introduction was
genuine, and sent Mr. Hatch to get a trace of a child. He informed me
that there was no child just about the time I heard from Mme. Curie that
the letter was genuine. The problem immediately went back to the starting
point. Time after time I reasoned it out, always the same way--finally
the solution came. If not a monkey or a child then what? A midget. Of
course it was stupid of me not to have seen that possibility at first.

"Then there remained only the task of finding him. He probably came on
the same boat with the woman, and I saw a plan to find him. It was
through the driver of the carriage which Mme. du Chastaigny used. I got
his number by 'phone at the Hotel Teutonic. Where had Mme. du Chastaigny
left a suit case? He gave me an address. I went there.

"I won't attempt to explain how this woman obtained the letter from Mme.
Curie. I will only say that a woman who undertakes to sell an ounce of
radium to a man from whom she intends to steal it is clever enough to do
anything. I may add that she and the midget are theatrical people, and
that the idea of a person in a suit case came from some part of their
stage performance. Of course the suit case is so built that the midget
could open and close it from inside."

"Und it always gets der laugh," interposed the midget, complacently.

After awhile the prisoners were led away. Count von Fritz escaped three
times the first day by the simple method of wriggling between the bars of
his cell.

PROBLEM OF THE STOLEN RUBENS

Matthew Kale made fifty million dollars out of axle grease, after which
he began to patronize the high arts. It was simple enough: he had the
money, and Europe had the old masters. His method of buying was
simplicity itself. There were five thousand square yards, more or less,
in the huge gallery of his marble mansion which were to be covered, so he
bought five thousand square yards, more or less, of art. Some of it was
good, some of it fair, and much of it bad. The chief picture of the
collection was a Rubens, which he had picked up in Rome for fifty
thousand dollars.

Soon after acquiring his collection, Kale decided to make certain
alterations in the vast room where the pictures hung. They were all taken
down and stored in the ball room, equally vast, with their faces toward
the wall. Meanwhile Kale and his family took refuge in a nearby hotel.

It was at this hotel that Kale met Jules de Lesseps. De Lesseps was
distinctly French, the sort of Frenchman whose conversation resembles
calisthenics. He was nervous, quick, and agile, and he told Kale in
confidence that he was not only a painter himself, but was a connoisseur
in the high arts. Pompous in the pride of possession, Kale went to a good
deal of trouble to exhibit his private collection for de Lesseps'
delectation. It happened in the ball room, and the true artist's delight
shone in the Frenchman's eyes as he handled the pieces which were good.
Some of the others made him smile, but it was an inoffensive sort of
smile.

With his own hands Kale lifted the precious Rubens and held it before the
Frenchman's eyes. It was a "Madonna and Child," one of those wonderful
creations which have endured through the years with all the sparkle and
color beauty of their pristine days. Kale seemed disappointed because de
Lesseps was not particularly enthusiastic about this picture.

"Why, it's a Rubens!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, I see," replied de Lesseps.

"It cost me fifty thousand dollars."

"It is perhaps worth more than that," and the Frenchman shrugged his
shoulders as he turned away.

Kale looked at him in chagrin. Could it be that de Lesseps did not
understand that it was a Rubens, and that Rubens was a painter? Or was it
that he had failed to hear him say that it cost him fifty thousand
dollars. Kale was accustomed to seeing people bob their heads and open
their eyes when he said fifty thousand dollars; therefore, "Don't you
like it?" he asked.

"Very much indeed," replied de Lesseps; "but I have seen it before. I saw
it in Rome just a week or so before you purchased it."

They rummaged on through the pictures, and at last a Whistler was turned
up for their inspection. It was one of the famous Thames series, a water
color. De Lesseps' face radiated excitement, and several times he glanced
from the water color to the Rubens as if mentally comparing the
exquisitely penciled and colored modern work with the bold, masterly
technic of the old.

Kale misunderstood the silence. "I don't think much of this one myself,"
he explained apologetically. "It's a Whistler, and all that, and it cost
me five thousand dollars, and I sort of had to have it, but still it
isn't just the kind of thing that I like. What do you think of it?"

"I think it is perfectly wonderful!" replied the Frenchman
enthusiastically. "It is the essence, the superlative, of modern work. I
wonder if it would be possible," and he turned to face Kale, "for me to
make a copy of that? I have some slight skill in painting myself, and
dare say I could make a fairly creditable copy of it."

Kale was flattered. He was more and more impressed each moment with the
picture. "Why, certainly," he replied. "I will have it sent up to the
hotel, and you can--"

"No, no, no!" interrupted de Lesseps quickly. "I wouldn't care to accept
the responsibility of having the picture in my charge. There is always a
danger of fire. But if you would give me permission to come here--this
room is large and airy and light, and besides it is quiet--"

"Just as you like," said Kale magnanimously. "I merely thought the other
way would be most convenient for you."

De Lesseps drew near, and laid one hand on the millionaire's arm. "My
dear friend," he said earnestly, "if these pictures were my pictures, I
shouldn't try to accommodate anybody where they were concerned. I dare
say the collection as it stands cost you--"

"Six hundred and eighty-seven thousand dollars," volunteered Kale
proudly.

"And surely they must be well protected here in your house during your
absence?"

"There are about twenty servants in the house while the workmen are
making the alterations," said Kale, "and three of them don't do anything
but watch this room. No one can go in or out except by the door we
entered--the others are locked and barred--and then only with my
permission, or a written order from me. No, sir, nobody can get away with
anything in this room."

"Excellent--excellent!" said de Lesseps admiringly. He smiled a little
bit. "I am afraid I did not give you credit for being the far-sighted
business man that you are." He turned and glanced over the collection of
pictures abstractedly. "A clever thief, though," he ventured, "might cut
a valuable painting, for instance the Rubens, out of the frame, roll it
up, conceal it under his coat, and escape."

Kale laughed pleasantly and shook his head.

It was a couple of days later at the hotel that de Lesseps brought up the
subject of copying the Whistler. He was profuse in his thanks when Kale
volunteered to accompany him to the mansion and witness the preliminary
stages of the work. They paused at the ball room door.

"Jennings," said Kale to the liveried servant there, "this is Mr. de
Lesseps. He is to come and go as he likes. He is going to do some work in
the ball room here. See that he isn't disturbed."

De Lesseps noticed the Rubens leaning carelessly against some other
pictures, with the holy face of the Madonna toward them. "Really, Mr.
Kale," he protested, "that picture is too valuable to be left about like
that. If you will let your servants bring me some canvas, I shall wrap it
and place it up on the table here off the floor. Suppose there were
mice here!"

Kale thanked him. The necessary orders were given, and finally the
picture was carefully wrapped and placed beyond harm's reach, whereupon
de Lesseps adjusted himself, paper, easel, stool, and all, and began his
work of copying. There Kale left him.

Three days later Kale just happened to drop in, and found the artist
still at his labor.

"I just dropped by," he explained, "to see how the work in the gallery
was getting along. It will be finished in another week. I hope I am not
disturbing you?"

"Not at all," said de Lesseps; "I have nearly finished. See how I am
getting along?" He turned the easel toward Kale.

The millionaire gazed from that toward the original which stood on a
chair near by, and frank admiration for the artist's efforts was in his
eyes. "Why, it's fine!" he exclaimed. "It's just as good as the other
one, and I bet you don't want any five thousand dollars for it--eh?"

That was all that was said about it at the time. Kale wandered about the
house for an hour or so, then dropped into the ball room where the artist
was just getting his paraphernalia together, and they walked back to the
hotel. The artist carried under one arm his copy of the Whistler, loosely
rolled up.

Another week passed, and the workmen who had been engaged in refinishing
and decorating the gallery had gone. De Lesseps volunteered to assist in
the work of rehanging the pictures, and Kale gladly turned the matter
over to him. It was in the afternoon of the day this work began that de
Lesseps, chatting pleasantly with Kale, ripped loose the canvas which
enshrouded the precious Rubens. Then he paused with an exclamation of
dismay. The picture was gone; the frame which had held it was empty. A
thin strip of canvas around the inside edge showed that a sharp penknife
had been used to cut out the painting.

All of these facts came to the attention of Professor Augustus S. F. X.
Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine. This was a day or so after Kale had
rushed into Detective Mallory's office at police headquarters, with the
statement that his Rubens had been stolen. He banged his fist down on the
detective's desk and roared at him.

"It cost me fifty thousand dollars!" he declared violently. "Why don't
you do something? What are you sitting there staring at me for?"

"Don't excite yourself, Mr. Kale," the detective advised. "I will put my
men at work right now to recover the--the--What is a Rubens, anyway?"

"It's a picture!" bellowed Mr. Kale. "A piece of canvas with some paint
on it, and it cost me fifty thousand dollars--don't you forget that!"

So the police machinery was set in motion to recover the painting. And in
time the matter fell under the watchful eye of Hutchinson Hatch,
reporter. He learned the facts preceding the disappearance of the
picture, and then called on de Lesseps. He found the artist in a state of
excitement bordering on hysteria; an intimation from the reporter of the
object of his visit caused de Lesseps to burst into words.

"Mon Dieu! it is outrageous!" he exclaimed. "What can I do? I was the
only one in the room for several days. I was the one who took such pains
to protect the picture. And now it is gone! The loss is irreparable. What
can I do?"

Hatch didn't have any very definite idea as to just what he could do, so
he let him go on. "As I understand it, Mr. de Lesseps," he interrupted at
last, "no one else was in the room, except you and Mr. Kale, all the time
you were there?"

"No one else."

"And I think Mr. Kale said that you were making a copy of some famous
water color; weren't you?"

"Yes, a Thames scene, by Whistler," was the reply. "That is it, hanging
over the mantel."

Hatch glanced at the picture admiringly. It was an exquisite copy, and
showed the deft touch of a man who was himself an artist of great
ability.

De Lesseps read the admiration in his face. "It is not bad," he said
modestly. "I studied with Carolus Duran."

With all else that was known, and this little additional information,
which seemed of no particular value to the reporter, the entire matter
was laid before The Thinking Machine. That distinguished man listened
from beginning to end without comment.

"Who had access to the room?" he asked finally.

"That is what the police are working on now," was the reply. "There are a
couple of dozen servants in the house, and I suppose, in spite of Kale's
rigid orders, there was a certain laxity in their enforcement."

"Of course that makes it more difficult," said The Thinking Machine in
the perpetually irritated voice which was so distinctly a part of
himself. "Perhaps it would be best for us to go to Mr. Kale's home and
personally investigate."

Kale received them with the reserve which all rich men show in the
presence of representatives of the press. He stared frankly and somewhat
curiously at the diminutive figure of the scientist, who explained the
object of their visit.

"I guess you fellows can't do anything with this," the millionaire
assured them. "I've got some regular detectives on it."

"Is Mr. Mallory here now?" asked The Thinking Machine curtly.

"Yes, he is up stairs in the servants' quarters."

"May we see the room from which the picture was taken?" inquired the
scientist, with a suave intonation which Hatch knew well.

Kale granted the permission with a wave of the hand, and ushered them
into the ball room, where the pictures had been stored. From the relative
center of this room The Thinking Machine surveyed it all. The windows
were high. Half a dozen doors leading out into the hallways, to the
conservatory, and quiet nooks of the mansion offered innumerable
possibilities of access. After this one long comprehensive squint, The
Thinking Machine went over and picked up the frame from which the Rubens
had been cut. For a long time he examined it. Kale's impatience was
painfully evident. Finally the scientist turned to him.

"How well do you know M. de Lesseps?" he asked.

"I've known him for only a month or so. Why?"

"Did he bring you letters of introduction, or did you meet him merely
casually?"

Kale regarded him with evident displeasure. "My own personal affairs have
nothing whatever to do with this matter," he said pointedly. "Mr. de
Lesseps is a gentleman of integrity, and certainly he is the last whom I
would suspect of any connection with the disappearance of the picture."

"That is usually the case," remarked The Thinking Machine tartly. He
turned to Hatch. "Just how good a copy was that he made of the Whistler
picture?" he asked.

"I have never seen the original," Hatch replied; "but the workmanship was
superb. Perhaps Mr. Kale wouldn't object to us seeing--"

"Oh, of course not," said Kale resignedly. "Come in; it's in the
gallery."

Hatch submitted the picture to a careful scrutiny. "I should say that the
copy is well nigh perfect," was his verdict. "Of course, in its absence,
I couldn't say exactly; but it is certainly a superb work."

The curtains of a wide door almost in front of them were thrown aside
suddenly, and Detective Mallory entered. He carried something in his
hand, but at the sight of them concealed it behind him. Unrepressed
triumph was in his face.

"Ah, professor, we meet often; don't we?" he said.

"This reporter here and his friend seem to be trying to drag de Lesseps
into this affair somehow," Kale complained to the detective. "I don't
want anything like that to happen. He is liable to go out and print
anything. They always do."

The Thinking Machine glared at him unwaveringly, straight in the eye for
an instant, then extended his hand toward Mallory. "Where did you find
it?" he asked.

"Sorry to disappoint you, professor," said the detective sarcastically,
"but this is the time when you were a little late," and he produced the
object which he held behind him. "Here is your picture, Mr. Kale."

Kale gasped a little in relief and astonishment, and held up the canvas
with both hands to examine it. "Fine!" he told the detective. "I'll see
that you don't lose anything by this. Why, that thing cost me fifty
thousand dollars!" Kale didn't seem able to get over that.

The Thinking Machine leaned forward to squint at the upper right hand
corner of the canvas. "Where did you find it?" he asked again.

"Rolled up tight, and concealed in the bottom of a trunk in the room of
one of the servants," explained Mallory. "The servant's name is Jennings.
He is now under arrest."

"Jennings!" exclaimed Kale. "Why, he has been with me for years."

"Did he confess?" asked the scientist imperturbably.

"Of course not," said Mallory. "He says some of the other servants must
have hidden it there."

The Thinking Machine nodded at Hatch. "I think perhaps that is all," he
remarked. "I congratulate you, Mr. Mallory, upon bringing the matter to
such a quick and satisfactory conclusion."

Ten minutes later they left the house and caught a car for the
scientist's home. Hatch was a little chagrined at the unexpected
termination of the affair, and was thoughtfully silent for a time.

"Mallory does show an occasional gleam of human intelligence; doesn't
he?" he said at last quizzically.

"Not that I ever noticed," remarked The Thinking Machine crustily.

"But he found the picture," Hatch insisted.

"Of course he found it. It was put there for him to find."

"Put there for him to find!" repeated the reporter. "Didn't Jennings
steal it?"

"If he did, he's a fool."

"Well, if he didn't steal it, who put it there?"

"De Lesseps."

"De Lesseps!" echoed Hatch. "Why the deuce did he steal a fifty
thousand-dollar picture and put it in a servant's trunk to be found?"

The Thinking Machine twisted around in his seat and squinted at him
coldly for a moment. "At times, Mr. Hatch, I am absolutely amazed at your
stupidity," he said frankly. "I can understand it in a man like Mallory,
but I have always given you credit for being an astute, quick-witted
man."

Hatch smiled at the reproach. It was not the first time he had heard of
it. But nothing bearing on the problem in hand was said until they
reached The Thinking Machine's apartments.

"The only real question in my mind, Mr. Hatch," said the scientist then,
"is whether or not I should take the trouble to restore Mr. Kale's
picture at all. He is perfectly satisfied, and will probably never know
the difference. So--"

Suddenly Hatch saw something. "Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "Do you mean
that the picture that Mallory found was--"

"A copy of the original," supplemented the scientist. "Personally I know
nothing whatever about art; therefore, I could not say from observation
that it is a copy, but I know it from the logic of the thing. When the
original was cut from the frame, the knife swerved a little at the upper
right hand corner. The canvas remaining in the frame told me that. The
picture that Mr. Mallory found did not correspond in this detail with the
canvas in the frame. The conclusion is obvious."

"And de Lesseps has the original?"

"De Lesseps has the original. How did he get it? In any one of a dozen
ways. He might have rolled it up and stuck it under his coat. He might
have had a confederate. But I don't think that any ordinary method of
theft would have appealed to him. I am giving him credit for being
clever, as I must when we review the whole case.

"For instance, he asked for permission to copy the Whistler, which you
saw was the same size as the Rubens. It was granted. He copied it
practically under guard, always with the chance that Mr. Kale himself
would drop in. It took him three days to copy it, so he says. He was
alone in the room all that time. He knew that Mr. Kale had not the
faintest idea of art. Taking advantage of that, what would have been
simpler than to have copied the Rubens in oil? He could have removed it
from the frame immediately after he canvased it over, and kept it in a
position near him where it could be quickly concealed if he was
interrupted. Remember, the picture is worth fifty thousand dollars;
therefore, was worth the trouble.

"De Lesseps is an artist--we know that--and dealing with a man who knew
nothing whatever of art, he had no fears. We may suppose his idea all
along was to use the copy of the Rubens as a sort of decoy after he got
away with the original. You saw that Mallory didn't know the difference,
and it was safe for him to suppose that Mr. Kale wouldn't. His only
danger until he could get away gracefully was of some critic or
connoisseur, perhaps, seeing the copy. His boldness we see readily in the
fact that he permitted himself to discover the theft; that he discovered
it after he had volunteered to assist Mr. Kale in the general work of
rehanging the pictures in the gallery. Just how he put the picture in
Jenning's trunk I don't happen to know. We can imagine many ways." He lay
back in his chair for a minute without speaking, eyes steadily turned
upward, fingers placed precisely tip to tip.

"The only thing remaining is to go get the picture. It is in de Lesseps'
room now--you told me that--and so we know it is safe. I dare say he
knows that if he tried to run away it would inevitably put him under
suspicion."

"But how did he take the picture from the Kale home?" asked Hatch.

"He took it with him probably under his arm the day he left the house
with Mr. Kale," was the astonishing reply.

Hatch was staring at him in amazement. After a moment the scientist arose
and passed into the adjoining room, and the telephone bell there jingled.
When he joined Hatch again he picked up his hat and they went out
together.

De Lesseps was in when their cards went up, and received them. They
conversed of the case generally for ten minutes, while the scientist's
eyes were turned inquiringly here and there about the room. At last there
came a knock on the door.

"It is Detective Mallory, Mr. Hatch," remarked The Thinking Machine.
"Open the door for him."

De Lesseps seemed startled for just one instant, then quickly recovered.
Mallory's eyes were full of questions when he entered.

"I should like, Mr. Mallory," began The Thinking Machine quietly, "to
call your attention to this copy of Mr. Kale's picture by Whistler--over
the mantel here. Isn't it excellent? You have seen the original?"

Mallory grunted. De Lesseps' face, instead of expressing appreciation of
the compliment, blanched suddenly, and his hands closed tightly. Again he
recovered himself and smiled.

"The beauty of this picture lies not only in its faithfulness to the
original," the scientist went on, "but also in the fact that it was
painted under extraordinary circumstances. For instance, I don't know if
you know, Mr. Mallory, that it is possible so to combine glue and putty
and a few other commonplace things into a paste which would effectually
blot out an oil painting, and offer at the same time an excellent surface
for water color work."

There was a moment's pause, during which the three men stared at him
silently--with singularly conflicting emotions depicted on their faces.

"This water color--this copy of Whistler," continued the scientist
evenly--"is painted on such a paste as I have described. That paste in
turn covers the original Rubens picture. It can be removed with water
without damage to the picture, which is in oil, so that instead of a copy
of the Whistler painting, we have an original by Rubens, worth fifty
thousand dollars. That is true; isn't it, M. de Lesseps?"

There was no reply to the question--none was needed. It was an hour
later, after de Lesseps was safely in his cell, that Hatch called up The
Thinking Machine on the telephone and asked one question.

"How did you know that the water color was painted over the Rubens?"

"Because it was the only absolutely safe way in which the Rubens could be
hopelessly lost to those who were looking for it, and at the same time
perfectly preserved," was the answer. "I told you de Lesseps was a clever
man, and a little logic did the rest. Two and two always make four,
Mr. Hatch, not sometimes, but all the time."



PROBLEM OF THE SOUVENIR CARDS


There were three of the post cards. The first one was a vividly colored
picture of the Capitol at Washington. It was postmarked, "Philadelphia,
November 12, 2:30 P.M." Below the picture, in a small copperplate hand,
were these figures and symbols: "I-28-38-4 x 47-30-2 x 2119-8 x 65-5-3 x
29-32-11 x 40-2-9x."

The second post card was a picture of Park Square, Boston, with the
majestic figures of Lincoln and the slave in the foreground. This, too,
was postmarked Philadelphia, but the date was November 13. The symbols
and figures were unquestionably written by the same hand as those on the
first: "II-155-19-9 x 205-2-8 x agree x 228-31-2 x present tense x
235-13-4."

The third card was a colored reproduction of an idyllic bayou near New
Orleans. Again the postmark was Philadelphia, but the date was November
14. This card contained only: "III-41-1-9 x 181-15-10 x press."

Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine--turned and
twisted the post cards in his slender fingers while he studied them
through squinting, watery, blue eyes. At last he laid them on a table
beside him, and sank back into his chair, with long white fingers pressed
tip to tip. He was in a receptive mood.

"Well?" he demanded abruptly.

The bearded stranger who had offered the cards for his scrutiny was
gazing at the diminutive figure and the drawn, petulant face of the
scientist, seemingly in mingled wonder and amusement. It was difficult
for him to associate this crabbed little man with those achievements
which had placed his name so high in the sciences. After a moment the
visitor's gaze wavered a little and dropped.

"My name is William C. Colgate," he began. "Sometime since--four weeks
and three days, to be exact--a diamond was stolen from my house in this
city, and no trace of it has ever been found. It was one I bought uncut
in South Africa five years ago, and its weight is about thirty carats.
When cut I imagine it will be eighteen to twenty carats, and it is, as it
stands now, worth about forty thousand dollars. You may have read
something of the theft in the newspapers?"

"I never read the newspapers," remarked The Thinking Machine.

"Well, in that event," and Colgate smiled, "I can briefly state the
facts in the case. I have for several years had in my employment a
secretary, Charles Travers. He is about twenty-five years old. Within
the last four or five months I have noticed a change in his manner.
Where formerly he had been quiet and unassuming, he has, through evil
associations I dare say, grown to be a little wild, and, I believe, has
lived beyond his income. I took occasion twice to remonstrate with him.
The first time he seemed contrite and repentant; the second time he grew
angry, and the following day disappeared. The diamond went with him."

"Do you know that?" demanded The Thinking Machine.

"I know it as well as one may know anything," replied Colgate positively.
"I doubt if anyone except Travers knew where I kept the jewel. Certainly
my servants did not, and certainly my wife and two daughters did not.
Besides my wife and daughters have been in Europe for two months. The
police seem to be unable to learn anything, so I came to you."

"Just where did you keep the jewel?"

"In a drawer of my desk," was the reply. "Ultimately I had intended to
have it cut and present it to my oldest daughter, possibly on the
occasion of her marriage. Now--" Colgate waved his hand.

The Thinking Machine sat silent for several minutes. His squint eyes were
turned steadily upward and several tiny lines appeared in the domelike
brow. "The problem then seems to be merely one of finding your
secretary," he stated at last. "The diamond is of course so large that it
would be absurd to attempt to dispose of it in its present shape. Travers
is an intelligent man; we shall give him credit for realizing this. And
yet if it should be cut up into smaller stones its value would dwindle to
a tenth part of what it is now. Under those circumstances, would he have
it cut up?"

"That is one of the questions which I should like to have answered."

For the second time The Thinking Machine picked up and examined the three
post cards. "And what have these to do with it?" he demanded.

"That's another question I should like to have answered," said Colgate.
"I can only believe that they in someway bear on the mystery surrounding
the disappearance of the gem. Perhaps they give a clue to where it is
now."

"This is Travers's handwriting?"

"Yes."

"The cards obviously constitute a cipher of some sort," explained the
scientist. "Were you and Travers accustomed to communicating in cipher?"

"Not at all."

"Then why is this in cipher?" demanded The Thinking Machine
belligerently. He glared at Colgate much as if he held him to blame.

Colgate shrugged his shoulders.

"Of course," continued the scientist, "I can find out what it means. It
is elementary in character, and yet I doubt if, after we know what is in
it, it will be particularly illuminating. Still, giving Travers credit
for intelligence, I should imagine this to be an offer to return the
diamond, probably for a consideration. But why in cipher?"

Colgate did not seem to be able to add to what he had already said, and
after a few minutes took his leave, with instructions from The Thinking
Machine to return on the following day, after the scientist had had an
opportunity to study the post cards. He called at the appointed hour.

"Have you three-volume book of any sort that you read or refer to
frequently?"

For some reason Colgate seemed a little startled. It was only momentary,
however. "I suppose I have several books of three volumes," he replied.

"No particular one that your secretary would know that you read
frequently?" insisted the scientist.

Again some strange impalpable expression flitted across Colgate's face.
"No," he said after a moment.

The Thinking Machine arose. "It will be necessary then," he said, "for me
to go over your library and see if I can't find the book to which this
cipher refers."

"Book?" asked Colgate curiously. "If the cipher has no relation to the
diamond, I don't see that--"

"Of course you don't see!" snapped The Thinking Machine. "Come along and
let me see."

Colgate seemed a little perturbed by the suggestion. He folded his
immaculate gloves over and over as he stared at the inscrutable face
before him. "It would be impossible," he said at last, "to find anything
in my library just now. As I said, my wife and daughters are abroad, and
during their absence I have taken occasion to have my library and one or
two other rooms redecorated and refinished. All my books meanwhile are
packed away, helter skelter."

The Thinking Machine sat down again and stared at him inquiringly. "Then
when your library is in order again you may call," he said tersely. "I
can do nothing until I see the books."

"But--but--" stammered Colgate.

"Good day," said The Thinking Machine curtly.

Colgate went away. It was not till three days later that he reappeared.
If one might have judged by his manner, he had achieved something in his
absence; yet when he spoke it was in the same exquisitely modulated tone
of the first visit.

"The work of redecorating has been completed," he told The Thinking
Machine. "My library is again in order, and you may examine it at your
leisure. If you care to go now, my carriage is at the door."

The Thinking Machine stared at him for a moment, then picked up his hat.
At the door of the Colgate mansion Colgate and the scientist were met by
a graven-faced footman, who received their hats and coats in silence.
Colgate conducted his guest straight into the library. It was a
magnificently appointed place, reflecting in its every detail the
splendid purchasing power of money. To this sheer luxury, however, The
Thinking Machine was oblivious. His undivided attention was on the book
shelves.

From one end of the long room to the other he walked time after time,
reading the titles of the books as he passed. There were Dickens, Balzac,
Kipling, Stevenson, Thackeray, Zola--all of them. Three or four times he
paused to draw out a volume and examine it. Each time he replaced it
without a word and continued his search. Colgate stood by, watching him
curiously.

The Thinking Machine had just paused to draw out one of the Dumas books
when the stolid-faced footman appeared in the door with a telegram.

"Is this for you, sir?" he asked of Colgate.

"Yes," replied Colgate.

He drew out the yellow sheet and permitted the envelope to fall to the
floor. The Thinking Machine picked it up with something like eagerness in
his manner. It was directed to "William C. Colgate." The scientist looked
almost astonished as he turned again to the book shelves.

It was ten minutes later that The Thinking Machine took out three volumes
together. These comprised the famous old English novel, "Ten Thousand a
Year," a rare and valuable first edition. The leaves of volume 1
fluttered through his fingers until he came to page 28. After a moment he
said "Ah!" Then he went on to page 47. He studied that for a moment or
more, after which he said "Ah!" once again.

"What is it?" inquired Colgate quickly.

The Thinking Machine turned his cold, squint eyes up into the eager face
above him. "It is the key to the cipher," he said.

"What is it? Read it!" commanded Colgate. His clear, alert eyes were
fastened on the, to him, meaningless page. He sought vainly there
something to account for the scientist's exclamation. But he saw only
words--a page of words with no apparent meaning beyond the text of the
story. "What is it?" he demanded again, and there was a little glitter in
his eye. "Does it say where the diamond is?"

"Considering the fact that I have seen only two words of a possible
twenty or thirty, I don't know what it says," declared The Thinking
Machine aggressively. "The best I can say now is that with the aid of
these books I shall find the diamond."

For half an hour or more the scientist was busy running through the books
in an aimless sort of way. Finally he closed the third volume with a snap
and stood up.

"Travers says that he will return the gem for ten thousand dollars," he
announced.

"Oh, he does, does he?" Colgate's tone was a sneer. Again in his face The
Thinking Machine read some subtle quality which brought a slight wrinkle
of perplexity to his brow.

"You don't have to pay it, you know," he explained tartly. "I can get it
without the ten thousand dollars, of course."

"Well, get it, then!" said Colgate a little impatiently. "I want the
diamond, and it is absurd to suppose that I shall pay ten thousand
dollars for my own property. Come on! Let's do what is to be done
immediately."

"I'll do what is to be done immediately; but I will do it without your
assistance," remarked The Thinking Machine. "I shall send for you
tomorrow. When you come the diamond will be in my possession. Good day."

Colgate stared after him blankly as he went out.

The Thinking Machine was talking over the telephone with Hutchinson
Hatch, reporter.

"Do you know William C. Colgate by sight?" he demanded.

"Very well," Hatch replied.

"Is he redheaded?"

"No."

"Good by."

On the following morning a short advertisement appeared in all the city
newspapers. It was simply:

Will give ten thousand dollars. Matter is not in hands of the police. To
insure your safety, telephone 1103 Bay and arrange details.

It was only a few minutes past nine o'clock that morning when The
Thinking Machine was called to the telephone. For some reason he had
difficulty in understanding, possibly due to the spluttering of the
receiver. Then he did understand, and sat down for some time, apparently
to consider what he had heard. Later he telephoned to Hutchinson Hatch.

"It's about this theft of the Colgate diamond," he explained. "The
secretary, Travers, who is wanted for the theft, is now somewhere in the
North End, either drunk or drugged, and possibly disguised. I imagine his
photograph has been in all the newspapers. I have been talking to him
over the telephone, and he is to call me again about eleven o'clock. Go
down to the North End near the corner of Hanover and Blank Streets, hire
a telephone for the morning, and call me. Remain at the phone from
halfpast ten until I call you. You are to get Travers. When you get him
bring him here. Don't notify the police."

"But will I get him?" asked the reporter.

"If you don't you are stupid," retorted The Thinking Machine.

At five minutes of eleven o'clock the scientist's telephone rang. He was
sitting staring at it at the moment, but instead of answering stepped to
the door and called Martha, his aged servant.

"Answer the telephone," he directed, "and tell whoever is there that I am
not here. Tell them I shall return in ten minutes, and to be sure to call
me again."

Martha followed the instructions and hung up the receiver. Instantly The
Thinking Machine went to the telephone.

"Can you tell me, please, the number of the telephone which just called
me?" he asked quickly. "No, I don't want a connection. Number 34710
North, in a cafe at Hanover and Blank Streets? Thanks."

A minute later he had Hatch on the wire again. "Travers will call me in
five minutes from 34710 North, in a cafe at Hanover and Blank Streets,"
he said. "Get him and bring him here as quickly as you can. Good by."

So it came about that within less than an hour a cab rushed up to the
door, and Hutchinson Hatch, accompanied by a young man, entered. The man
was Travers. A week's scrubby beard was on his chin, his face was
perfectly pallid; the fever of drink and fear glittered in his eyes.
Hatch had to support him to a chair, in which he dropped back limply. The
Thinking Machine scowled down into the young man's face, and was met by a
fishy, imbecilic stare in return.

"Are you Mr. Travers?" inquired The Thinking Machine.

"That's all right--that's all right," murmured the young man, and
overcome by the exertion of speech his head dropped back and in a moment
he was sound asleep.

Without apparent compunction The Thinking Machine searched his pockets.
After a moment he found what seemed to be a rough rock crystal. He
squinted at it closely as he turned and twisted it back and forth in his
hand, then passed it to Hatch for inspection.

"That's worth forty thousand dollars," he remarked casually.

"Is this the--"

"It's the Colgate diamond," interrupted The Thinking Machine. "I surmised
that he would have it somewhere about him, because he would have no place
to hide it. And now for the second man--the brains of the theft. First I
shall telephone for Colgate. Look at him when he enters; for I think you
will be greatly surprised. And above all, remember to be careful."

Looking deeply into the quiet, squint eyes of the scientist, Hatch read a
warning. He understood and nodded. Travers, stupefied, was removed to an
adjoining room.

A few minutes later there was a rattle of carriage wheels, the door bell
rang, and Colgate entered. Hatch glanced at him, then turned quickly to
look out of a window.

"You have the diamond?" burst out Colgate suddenly.

"I said I would have it when you came," retorted The Thinking Machine.
"Now for these post cards," and the scientist produced the three cards
that had been handed to him at first. "Perhaps you would be interested to
know what was really on them?"

"I haven't the slightest curiosity," said Colgate impatiently. "All I
want is the diamond. If you will give me that, I think perhaps that will
terminate this affair, and there will be no necessity of taking up more
of your time."

"Of course you have no desire to prosecute Travers?" asked The Thinking
Machine. There was a velvety note in the crabbed voice. Hatch glanced at
him.

"I don't think I care to prosecute him," said Colgate steadily.

"I thought perhaps you would not," rejoined The Thinking Machine
enigmatically. "But as to these post cards. They constitute what is known
as the book cipher. For your information I may state that it is always
possible to know a book cipher by the fact that a small number, rarely
above twelve or fourteen, always precedes the X; the X merely divides the
words. For instance, on the first card we have I-28-38-4; in other words,
volume one, page 28, line 38, and the fourth word of that line. Unless
one knows or can learn the name of the book which is the basis of the
cipher, it is perhaps the most difficult of all. Any ordinary cipher may
be solved precisely as Poe solved his great cipher in 'The Gold Bug.'"

"But I am not at all interested--" protested Colgate.

"So really all that was necessary for me to do was to find out what book
was the basis of this particular cipher," continued The Thinking Machine
to Hatch, without heeding his visitor's remark. "I knew of course it was
some book in Mr. Colgate's home. The clue to what book was given, either
wittingly or unwittingly, by the single I, the two I's and the three I's
on the first, second, and third cards. Did these represent volumes? I
found a dozen three volume books in Mr. Colgate's library, but in each
instance there was no connection in the first three or four words which I
found in accordance with the numbers given; that is, until I came to 'Ten
Thousand a Year.' The first word I found in that was 'will'; the second,
page 47, line 30, second word, was 'return'; the third was 'diamond.' So
I knew that was the book I wanted. Here is the full meaning of the cipher
as it appears on the three cards, as I have transcribed it."

He handed Colgate a slip of paper, on which was written:

Will return diamond for ten thousand. If you agree informed [present
tense--i.e., inform] me in daily press.

"This all seems very clever and very curious indeed," commented Colgate;
"but really I do not think--"

"The book of Mr. Colgate's is a first edition--there is also a first
edition in the public library," the scientist went on placidly; "so
Travers had no difficulty on that score. We shall admit that the cards
were mailed in Philadelphia; perhaps he went there and later returned to
this city. The manner in which I got possession of the diamond--by first
discovering Travers through an advertisement and then keeping him at the
telephone until he was inveigled here by my assistant--is possibly of no
interest; it was all very easily done by a prearranged plan with the
telephone exchange; so now, Mr.--Mr.--"

"Colgate," his visitor supplied, as if surprised at the hesitancy.

"I mean your real name," said the scientist quietly.

There was a sudden tense silence; Hatch had come a little closer, and was
staring at the stranger with keen, inquiring eyes.

"This is not the Mr. William C. Colgate you know, Mr. Hatch?"

"No."

"Do you happen to have an idea who he is?"

"If I am not mistaken," Hatch replied calmly, "this is a gentleman I have
met before on an exceedingly interesting occasion--Mr. Bradlee Cunnyngham
Leighton."

At the name the erstwhile Colgate turned upon the reporter with a snarl.
There was a quick movement of his right hand, and Hatch found himself
blinking down the barrel of a revolver, as Leighton slowly moved backward
toward the door.

The Thinking Machine moved around behind the aggressor. "Now, Mr.
Leighton," he said almost pleasantly, "if you don't lower that revolver
I'll blow your brains out."

For one instant Leighton hesitated, then glanced back quickly toward the
scientist. That diminutive man stood calmly, with his hands in his
pockets. Instantly Hatch leaped. There was a quick, sharp struggle, a few
muttered curses, and then the discomfited Leighton, in his turn, was
gazing down the revolver barrel.

"Won't you gentlemen sit down?" suggested The Thinking Machine.

They were all sitting down when Detective Mallory rushed up from police
headquarters. Leighton was farthest from the door. The Thinking Machine
sat staring at him with the revolver held in position for quick use.

"Ah, Mr. Mallory," he said, without turning his head or glancing back.
"This is Mr. Bradlee Cunnyngham Leighton. You may have heard of him
before?"

"Do you mean the Englishman who brought the Varron necklace to this
country?" blurted out the detective.

"The same man of the carrier pigeon case," said Hatch grimly.

"I should like particularly to call your attention to Mr. Leighton,"
continued The Thinking Machine. "He is a man of accomplishments. We know
how he distinguished himself by the simple expedient of using carrier
pigeons in the Varron necklace affair. In this case, he has risen to
greater heights. First--I am assuming some things--he plotted with young
Travers to steal the Colgate diamond. In some manner, which is not
essential here, Travers got the diamond and sought to profit by the theft
alone by negotiating its return for ten thousand dollars. Travers wrote a
cipher to Mr. Colgate making the proposition--it was possible he knew Mr.
Colgate would understand his cipher. I shall give Leighton credit for
anticipating just this possibility and intercepting the post cards. They
meant nothing to him; so--please note this--he came to me as Mr. Colgate,
knowing that Mr. Colgate was in Europe with his family, and sought my
assistance in recovering the jewel from his fellow conspirator. The
sublime audacity of all these conceptions marks Mr. Leighton as little
short of a genius in his particular profession.

"Only once was Mr. Leighton embarrassed. That was when I told him I
should have to visit his library. But he even rose to this necessity
brilliantly. He delayed my visit for a day or so, and in some manner,
possibly by forgery, secured an entrance to Mr. Colgate's home, perhaps
as a cousin of the same name. There he received me. Two or three things
had happened to arouse a doubt in my mind as to whether he was the real
Mr. Colgate.

"First was his hesitancy in connection with my visit to the library; then
while I was in the house a telegram came for Mr. William C. Colgate. A
servant asked Mr. Leighton in my presence if the telegram was for him.
That question would never have been asked if he had been the real William
C. Colgate. Then finally I asked Mr. Hatch over the phone if William C.
Colgate was redheaded. William C. Colgate is not redheaded. This
gentleman is, therefore he is not William C. Colgate. I only knew this
much. Mr. Hatch recognized him as Leighton. He saw him at the time you
were all interested in his escape from a Scotland Yard man--Conway, who
wanted him for stealing a necklace. That is all, I think."

"But the diamond and Travers?" asked the detective.

"Here is the diamond," said The Thinking Machine, and he produced it from
one of his pockets. "Travers is lying on a bed in the next room in a
drunken stupor."



PROBLEM OF THE SUPERFLUOUS FINGER


She drew off her left glove, a delicate, crinkled suede affair, and
offered her bare hand to the surgeon. An artist would have called it
beautiful, perfect, even; the surgeon, professionally enough, set it down
as an excellent structural specimen. From the polished pink nails of the
tapering fingers to the firm, well moulded wrist, it was distinctly the
hand of a woman of ease--one that had never known labour, a pampered hand
Dr. Prescott told himself.

"The forefinger," she explained calmly. "I should like to have it
amputated at the first joint, please."

"Amputated?" gasped Dr. Prescott. He stared into the pretty face of his
caller. It was flushed softly, and the red lips were parted in a slight
smile. It seemed quite an ordinary affair to her. The surgeon bent over
the hand with quick interest. "Amputated!" he repeated.

"I came to you," she went on with a nod, "because I have been informed
that you are one of the most skilful men of your profession, and the cost
of the operation is quite immaterial."

Dr. Prescott pressed the pink nail of the forefinger then permitted the
blood to rush back into it. Several times he did this, then he turned the
hand over and scrutinized it closely inside from the delicately lined
palm to the tips of the fingers. When he looked up at last there was an
expression of frank bewilderment on his face.

"What's the matter with it?" he asked.

"Nothing," the woman replied pleasantly. "I merely want it off from the
first joint."

The surgeon leaned back in his chair with a frown of perplexity on his
brow, and his visitor was subjected to a sharp, professional stare. She
bore it unflinchingly and even smiled a little at his obvious
perturbation.

"Why do you want it off?" he demanded.

The woman shrugged her shoulders a little impatiently.

"I can't tell you that," she replied. "It really is not necessary that
you should know. You are a surgeon, I want an operation performed. That
is all."

There was a long pause; the mutual stare didn't waver.

"You must understand, Miss--Miss--er--" began Dr. Prescott at last. "By
the way, you have not introduced yourself?" She was silent. "May I ask
your name?"

"My name is of no consequence," she replied calmly. "I might, of course,
give you a name, but it would not be mine, therefore any name would be
superfluous."

Again the surgeon stared.

 "When do you want the operation performed?" he inquired.

"Now," she replied. "I am ready."

"You must understand," he said severely, "that surgery is a profession
for the relief of human suffering, not for mutilation--wilful mutilation
I might say."

"I understand that perfectly," she said. "But where a person submits of
her own desire to--to mutilation as you call it I can see no valid
objection on your part."

"It would be criminal to remove a finger where there is no necessity for
it," continued the surgeon bluntly. "No good end could be served."

A trace of disappointment showed in the young woman's face, and again she
shrugged her shoulders.

"The question after all," she said finally, "is not one of ethics but is
simply whether or not you will perform the operation. Would you do it
for, say, a thousand dollars?"

"Not for five thousand dollars," blurted the surgeon,

"Well, for ten thousand then?" she asked, quiet casually.

All sorts of questions were pounding in Dr. Prescott's mind. Why did a
young and beautiful woman desire--why was she anxious even--to sacrifice
a perfectly healthy finger? What possible purpose would it serve to mar a
hand which was as nearly perfect as any he had ever seen? Was it some
insane caprice? Staring deeply into her steady, quiet eyes he could only
be convinced of her sanity. Then what?

"No, madam," he said at last, vehemently, "I would not perform the
operation for any sum you might mention, unless I was first convinced
that the removal of that finger was absolutely necessary. That, I think,
is all."

He arose as if to end the consultation. The woman remained seated and
continued thoughtful for a minute.

"As I understand it," she said, "you would perform the operation if I
could convince you that it was absolutely necessary?"

"Certainly," he replied promptly, almost eagerly. His curiosity was
aroused. "Then it would come well within the range of my professional
duties."

"Won't you take my word that it is necessary, and that it is impossible
for me to explain why?"

"No. I must know why."

The woman arose and stood facing him. The disappointment had gone from
her face now.

"Very well," she remarked steadily. "You will perform the operation if it
is necessary, therefore if I should shoot the finger off, perhaps--?"

"Shoot it off?" exclaimed Dr. Prescott in amazement. "Shoot it off?"

"That is what I said," she replied calmly. "If I should shoot the finger
off you would consent to dress the wound? You would make any necessary
amputation?"

She held up the finger under discussion and looked at it curiously. Dr.
Prescott himself stared at it with a sudden new interest.

"Shoot it off?" he repeated. "Why you must be mad to contemplate such a
thing," he exploded, and his face flushed in sheer anger. "I--I will have
nothing whatever to do with the affair, madam. Good day."

"I should have to be very careful of course," she mused, "but I think
perhaps one shot would be sufficient, then I should come to you and
demand that you dress it?"

There was a question in the tone. Dr. Prescott stared at her for a full
minute then walked over and opened the door.

"In my profession, madam," he said coldly, "there is too much possibility
of doing good and relieving actual suffering for me to consider this
matter or discuss it further with you. There are three persons now
waiting in the ante-room who need my services. I shall be compelled to
ask you to excuse me."

"But you will dress the wound?" the woman insisted, undaunted by his
forbidding tone and manner.

"I shall have nothing whatever to do with it," declared the surgeon,
positively, finally. "If you need the services of any medical man permit
me to suggest that it is an alienist and not a surgeon."

The woman didn't appear to take offence.

"Someone would have to dress it," she continued insistently. "I should
much prefer that it be a man of undisputed skill--you I mean, therefore I
shall call again. Good day."

There was a rustle of silken skirts and she was gone. Dr. Prescott stood
for an instant gazing after her with frank wonder and annoyance in his
eyes, his attitude, then he went back and sat down at the desk. The
crinkled suede glove still lay where she had left it. He examined it
gingerly then with a final shake of his head dismissed the affair and
turned to other things.

Early next afternoon Dr. Prescott was sitting in his office writing when
the door from the ante-room where patients awaited his leisure was thrown
open and the young man in attendance rushed in.

"A lady has fainted, sir," he said hurriedly. "She seems to be hurt."

Dr. Prescott arose quickly and strode out. There, lying helplessly back
in her chair with white face and closed eyes, was his visitor of the day
before. He stepped toward her quickly then hesitated as he recalled their
conversation. Finally, however, professional instinct, the desire to
relieve suffering, and perhaps curiosity too, caused him to go to her.
The left hand was wrapped in an improvised bandage through which there
was a trickle of blood. He glared at it with incredulous eyes.

"Hanged if she didn't do it," he blurted angrily.

The fainting spell, Dr. Prescott saw, was due only to loss of blood and
physical pain, and he busied himself trying to restore her to
consciousness. Meanwhile he gave some hurried instructions to the young
man who was in attendance in the ante-room.

"Call up Professor Van Dusen on the 'phone," he directed his assistant,
"and ask him if he can assist me in a minor operation. Tell him it's
rather a curious case and I am sure it will interest him."

It was in this manner that the problem of the superfluous finger first
came to the attention of The Thinking Machine. He arrived just as the
mysterious woman was opening her eyes to consciousness from the fainting
spell. She stared at him glassily, unrecognizingly; then her glance
wandered to Dr. Prescott. She smiled.

"I knew you'd have to do it," she murmured weakly.

After the ether had been administered for the operation, a simple and an
easy one, Dr.

Prescott stated the circumstances of the case to The Thinking Machine.
The scientist stood with his long, slender fingers resting lightly on
the young woman's pulse, listening in silence.

"What do you make of it?" demanded the surgeon.

The Thinking Machine didn't say. At the moment he was leaning over the
unconscious woman squinting at her forehead. With his disengaged hand he
stroked the delicately pencilled eyebrows several times the wrong way,
and again at close range squinted at them. Dr. Prescott saw and seeing,
understood.

"No, it isn't that," he said and he shuddered a little. "I thought of it
myself. Her bodily condition is excellent, splendid."

It was some time later when the young woman was sleeping lightly,
placidly under the influence of a soothing potion, that The Thinking
Machine spoke of the peculiar events which had preceded the operation.
Then he was sitting in Dr. Prescott's private office. He had picked up a
woman's glove from the desk.

"This is the glove she left when she first called, isn't it?" he
inquired.

"Yes."

"Did you happen to see her remove it?"

"Yes."

The Thinking Machine curiously examined the dainty, perfumed trifle,
then, arising suddenly, went into the adjoining room where the woman lay
asleep. He stood for an instant gazing down admiringly at the exquisite,
slender figure; then, bending over, he looked closely at her left hand.
When at last he straightened up it seemed that some unspoken question in
his mind had been answered. He rejoined Dr. Prescott.

"It's difficult to say what motive is back of her desire to have the
finger amputated," he said musingly. "I could perhaps venture a
conjecture but if the matter is of no importance to you beyond mere
curiosity I should not like to do so. Within a few months from now, I
daresay, important developments will result and I should like to find out
something more about her. That I can do when she returns to wherever she
is stopping in the city. I'll 'phone to Mr. Hatch and have him ascertain
for me where she goes, her name and other things which may throw a light
on the matter."

"He will follow her?"

"Yes, precisely. Now we only seem to know two facts in connection with
her. First, she is English."

"Yes," Dr. Prescott agreed. "Her accent, her appearance, everything about
her suggests that."

"And the second fact is of no consequence at the moment," resumed The
Thinking Machine. "Let me use your 'phone please."

Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, was talking.

"When the young woman left Dr. Prescott's she took the cab which had been
ordered for her and told the driver to go ahead until she stopped him. I
got a good look at her, by the way. I managed to pass just as she entered
the cab and walking on down got into another cab which was waiting for
me. Her cab drove for three or four blocks aimlessly, and finally
stopped. The driver stooped down as if to listen to someone inside, and
my cab passed. Then the other cab turned across a side street and after
going eight or ten blocks pulled up in front of an apartment house. The
young woman got out and went inside. Her cab went away. Inside I found
out that she was Mrs. Frederick Chevedon Morey. She came there last
Tuesday--this is Friday--with her husband, and they engaged--"

"Yes, I knew she had a husband," interrupted The Thinking Machine.

"--engaged apartments for three months. When I had learned this much I
remembered your instructions as to steamers from Europe landing on the
day they took apartments or possibly a day or so before. I was just going
out when Mrs. Morey stepped out of the elevator and preceded me to the
door. She had changed her clothing and wore a different hat.

"It didn't seem to be necessary then to find out where she was going for
I knew I could find her when I wanted to, so I went down and made
inquiries at the steamship offices. I found, after a great deal of work,
that no one of the three steamers which arrived the day they took
apartments brought a Mr. and Mrs. Morey, but one steamer on the day
before brought a Mr. and Mrs. David Girardeau from Liverpool. Mrs.
Girardeau answered Mrs. Morey's description to the minutest detail even
to the gown she wore when she left the steamer--that is the same she wore
when she left Dr. Prescott's after the operation."

That was all. The Thinking Machine sat with his enormous yellow head
pillowed against a high-backed chair and his long slender fingers pressed
tip to tip. He asked no questions and made no comment for a long time,
then:

"About how many minutes was it from the time she entered the house until
she came out again?"

"Not more than ten or fifteen," was the reply. "I was still talking
casually to the people down stairs trying to find out something about
them."

"What do they pay for their apartment?" asked the scientist,
irrelevantly.

"Three hundred dollars a month."

The Thinking Machine's squint eyes were fixed immovably on a small
discoloured spot on the ceiling of his laboratory.

"Whatever else may develop in this matter, Mr. Hatch," he said after a
time, "we must admit that we have met a woman with extraordinary
courage--nerve, I daresay you'd call it. When Mrs. Morey left Dr.
Prescott's operating room she was so ill and weak from the shock that she
could hardly stand, and now you tell me she changed her dress and went
out immediately after she returned home."

"Well, of course--" Hatch said, apologetically.

"In that event," resumed the scientist, "we must assume also that the
matter is one of the utmost importance to her, and yet the nature of the
case had led me to believe that it might be months, perhaps, before there
would be any particular development in it."

"What? How?" asked the reporter.

"The final development doesn't seem, from what I know, to belong on this
side of the ocean at all," explained The Thinking Machine. "I imagine it
is a case for Scotland Yard. The problem of course is: What made it
necessary for her to get rid of that finger? If we admit her sanity we
can count the possible answers to this question on one hand, and at least
three of these answers take the case back to England." He paused. "By the
way, was Mrs. Morey's hand bound up in the same way when you saw her the
second time?"

"Her left hand was in a muff," explained the reporter. "I couldn't see
but it seems to me that she wouldn't have had time to change the manner
of its dressing."

"It's extraordinary," commented the scientist. He arose and paced back
and forth across the room. "Extraordinary," he repeated. "One can't help
but admire the fortitude of women under certain circumstances, Mr. Hatch.
I think perhaps this particular case had better be called to the
attention of Scotland Yard, but first I think it would be best for you to
call on the Moreys tomorrow--you can find some pretext--and see what you
can learn about them. You are an ingenious young man--I'll leave it all
to you."

Hatch did call at the Morey apartments on the morrow but under
circumstances which were not at all what he expected. He went there with
Detective Mallory, and Detective Mallory went there in a cab at full
speed because the manager of the apartment house had 'phoned that Mrs.
Frederick Chevedon Morey had been found murdered in her apartments. The
detective ran up two flights of stairs and blundered, heavy-footed into
the rooms, and there he paused in the presence of death.

The body of the woman lay on the floor and some one had mercifully
covered it with a cloth from the bed. Detective Mallory drew the covering
down from over the face and Hatch stared with a feeling of awe at the
beautiful countenance which had, on the day before, been so radiant with
life. Now it was distorted into an expression of awful agony and the
limbs were drawn up convulsively. The mark of the murderer was at the
white, exquisitely rounded throat--great black bruises where powerful,
merciless fingers had sunk deeply into the soft flesh.

A physician in the house had preceded the police. After one glance at the
woman and a swift, comprehensive look about the room Detective Mallory
turned to him inquiringly.

"She has been dead for several hours," the doctor volunteered, "possibly
since early last night. It appears that some virulent, burning poison was
administered and then she was choked. I gather this from an examination
of her mouth."

These things were readily to be seen; also it was plainly evident for
many reasons that the finger marks at the throat were those of a man, but
each step beyond these obvious facts only served to further bewilder the
investigators. First was the statement of the night elevator boy.

"Mr. and Mrs. Morey left here last night about eleven o'clock," he said.
"I know because I telephoned for a cab, and later brought them down from
the third floor. They went into the manager's office leaving two suit
cases in the hall. When they came out I took the suit cases to a cab that
was waiting. They got in it and drove away."

"When did they return?" inquired the detective.

"They didn't return, sir," responded the boy. "I was on duty until six
o'clock this morning. It just happened that no one came in after they
went out until I was off duty at six."

The detective turned to the physician again.

"Then she couldn't have been dead since early last night," he said.

"She has been dead for several hours--at least twelve, possibly longer,"
said the physician firmly. "There's no possible argument about that."

The detective stared at him scornfully for an instant, then looked at the
manager of the house.

"What was said when Mr. and Mrs. Morey entered your office last night?"
he asked. "Were you there?"

"I was there, yes," was the reply. "Mr. Morey explained that they had
been called away for a few days unexpectedly, and left the keys of the
apartment with me. That was all that was said; I saw the elevator boy
take the suit cases out for them as they went to the cab."

"How did it come, then, if you knew they were away that some one entered
here this morning, and so found the body?"

"I discovered the body myself," replied the manager. "There was some
electric wiring to be done in here and I thought their absence would be a
good time for it. I came up to see about it and saw--that."

He glanced at the covered body with a little shiver and a grimace.
Detective Mallory was deeply thoughtful for several minutes.

"The woman is here and she's dead," he said finally. "If she is here she
came back here, dead or alive last night between the time she went out
with her husband and the time her body was found this morning. Now that's
an absolute fact. But how did she come here?"

Of the three employees of the apartment house only the elevator boy on
duty had not spoken. Now he spoke because the detective glared at him
fiercely.

"I didn't see either Mr. or Mrs. Morey come in this morning," he
explained hastily. "Nobody had come in at all except the postman and some
delivery wagon drivers up to the time the body was found."

Again Detective Mallory turned on the manager.

"Does any window of this apartment open on a fire escape?" he demanded.

"Yes--this way."

They passed through the short hallway to the back. Both the windows were
locked on the inside, so instantly it appeared that even if the woman had
been brought into the room that way the windows would not have been
fastened unless her murderer went out of the house the front way. When
Detective Mallory reached this stage of the investigation he sat down and
stared from one to the other of the silent little party as if he
considered the entire matter some affair which they had perpetrated to
annoy him.

Hutchinson Hatch started to say something, then thought better of it, and
turning, went to the telephone below. Within a few minutes The Thinking
Machine stepped out of a cab in front and paused in the lower hall long
enough to listen to the facts developed. There was a perfect net-work of
wrinkles in the domelike brow when the reporter concluded.

"It's merely a transfer of the final development in the affair from
England to this country," he said enigmatically. "Please 'phone for Dr.
Prescott to come here immediately."

He went on to the Morey apartments. With only a curt nod for Detective
Mallory, the only one of the small party who knew him, he proceeded to
the body of the dead woman and squinted down without a trace of emotion
into the white, pallid face. After a moment he dropped on his knees
beside the inert body and examined the mouth and the finger marks about
the white throat.

"Carbolic acid and strangulation," he remarked tersely to Detective
Mallory who was leaning over watching him with something of hopeful
eagerness in his stolid face. The Thinking Machine glanced past him to
the manager of the house. "Mr. Morey is a powerful, athletic man in
appearance?" he asked.

"Oh no," was the reply. "He's short and slight, only a little larger than
you are."

The scientist squinted aggressively at the manager as if the description
were not quite what he expected. Then the slightly puzzled expression
passed.

"Oh, I see," he remarked. "Played the piano." This was not a question; it
was a statement.

"Yes, a great deal," was the reply, "so much so in fact that twice we had
complaints from other persons in the house despite the fact that they had
been here only a few days."

"Of course," mused the scientist abstractedly. "Of course. Perhaps Mrs.
Morey did not play at all?"

"I believe she told me she did not."

The Thinking Machine drew down the thin cloth which had been thrown over
the body and glanced at the left hand.

"Dear me! Dear me!" he exclaimed suddenly, and he arose. "Dear me!" he
repeated. "That's the--" He turned to the manager and the two elevator
boys. "This is Mrs. Morey beyond any question?"

The answer was a chorus of affirmation accompanied by some startling
facial expressions.

"Did Mr. and Mrs. Morey employ any servants?"

"No," was the reply. "They had their meals in the cafe below most of the
time. There is no housekeeping in these apartments at all."

"How many persons live in the building?"

"A hundred I should say."

"There is a great deal of passing to and fro, then?"

"Certainly. It was rather unusual that so few persons passed in and out
last night and this morning, and certainly Mrs. Morey and her husband
were not among them if that's what you're trying to find out."

The Thinking Machine glanced at the physician who was standing by
silently.

"How long do you make it that she's been dead?" he asked.

"At least twelve hours," replied the physician. "Possibly longer."

"Yes, nearer fourteen, I imagine."

Abruptly he left the group and walked through the apartment and back
again slowly. As he reentered the room where the body lay, the door from
the hall opened and Dr. Prescott entered, followed by Hutchinson Hatch.
The Thinking Machine led the surgeon straight to the body and drew the
cloth down from the face. Dr. Prescott started back with an exclamation
of astonishment, recognition.

"There's no doubt about it at all in your mind?" inquired the scientist.

"Not the slightest," replied Dr. Prescott positively. "It's the same
woman."

"Yet, look here!"

With a quick movement The Thinking Machine drew down the cloth still
more. Dr. Prescott, together with those who had no idea of what to
expect, peered down at the body. After one glance the surgeon dropped on
his knees and examined closely the dead left hand. The forefinger was off
at the first joint. Dr. Prescott stared, stared incredulously. After a
moment his eyes left the maimed hand and settled again on her face.

"I have never seen--never dreamed--of such a startling--" he began.

"That settles it all, of course," interrupted The Thinking Machine. "It
solves and proves the problem at once. Now, Mr. Mallory, if we can go to
your office or some place where we will be undisturbed I will--"

"But who killed her?" demanded the detective abruptly.

"I have the photograph of her murderer in my pocket," returned The
Thinking Machine. "Also a photograph of an accomplice."

Detective Mallory, Dr. Prescott, The Thinking Machine, Hutchinson Hatch,
and the apartment house physician were seated in the front room of the
Morey apartments with all doors closed against prying, inquisitive eyes.
At the scientist's request Dr. Prescott repeated the circumstances
leading up to the removal of a woman's left forefinger, and there The
Thinking Machine took up the story.

"Suppose, Mr. Mallory," and the scientist turned to the detective, "a
woman should walk into your office and say she must have a finger cut
off, what would you think?"

"I'd think she was crazy," was the prompt reply.

"Naturally, in your position," The Thinking Machine went on, "you are
acquainted with many strange happenings. Wouldn't this one instantly
suggest something to you. Something that was to happen months off."

Detective Mallory considered it wisely, but was silent.

"Well here," declared The Thinking Machine. "A woman whom we now know to
be Mrs. Morey wanted her finger cut off. It instantly suggested three,
four, five, a dozen possibilities. Of course only one, or possibly two in
combination, could be true. Therefore which one? A little logic now to
prove that two and two always make four--not some times but all the time.

"Naturally the first supposition was insanity. We pass that as absurd on
its face. Then disease--a taint of leprosy perhaps which had been visible
on the left forefinger. I tested for that, and that was eliminated. Three
strong reasons for desiring the finger off, either of which is strongly
probable, remained. The fact that the woman was English unmistakably was
obvious. From the mark of a wedding ring on her glove and a corresponding
mark on her finger--she wore no such ring--we could safely surmise that
she was married. These were the two first facts I learned. Substantiative
evidence that she was married and not a widow came partly from her
extreme youth and the lack of mourning in her attire.

"Then Mr. Hatch followed her, learned her name, where she lived, and
later the fact that she had arrived with her husband on a steamer a day
or so before they took apartments here. This was proof that she was
English, and proof that she had a husband. They came over on the steamer
as Mr. and Mrs. David Girardeau--here they were Mr. and Mrs. Frederick
Chevedon Morey. Why this difference in name? The circumstance in itself
pointed to irregularity--crime committed or contemplated. Other things
made me think it was merely contemplated and that it could be prevented;
for then the absence of every fact gave me no intimation that there would
be murder. Then came the murder presumably of--Mrs. Morey?"

"Isn't it Mrs. Morey?" demanded the detective.

"Mr. Hatch recognized the woman as the one he had followed, I recognized
her as the one on whom there had been an operation, Dr. Prescott also
recognized her," continued the Thinking Machine. "To convince myself,
after I had found the manner of death, that it was the woman, I looked at
her left hand. I found that the forefinger was gone--it had been removed
by a skilled surgeon at the first joint. And this fact instantly showed
me that the dead woman was not Mrs. Morey at all, but somebody else; and
incidentally cleared up the entire affair."

"How?" demanded the detective. "I thought you just said that you had
helped cut off her forefinger."

"Dr. Prescott and I cut off that finger yesterday," replied The Thinking
Machine calmly. "The finger of the dead woman had been cut off months,
perhaps years, ago."

There was blank amazement on Detective Mallory's face, and Hatch was
staring straight into the squint eyes of the scientist. Vaguely, as
through a mist, he was beginning to account for many things which had
been hitherto inexplicable.

"The perfectly healed wound on the hand eliminated every possibility but
one," The Thinking Machine resumed. "Previously I had been informed that
Mrs. Morey did not--or said she did not--play the piano. I had seen the
bare possibility of an immense insurance on her hands, and some trick to
defraud an insurance company by marring one. Of course against this was
the fact that she had offered to pay a large sum for the operation; that
their expenses here must have been enormous, so I was beginning to doubt
the tenability of this supposition. The fact that the dead woman's finger
was off removed that possibility completely, as it also removed the
possibility of a crime of some sort in which there might have been left
behind a tell-tale print of that forefinger. If there had been a serious
crime with the trace of the finger as evidence, its removal would have
been necessary to her.

"Then the one thing remained--that is that Mrs. Morey or whatever her
name is--was in a conspiracy with her husband to get possession of
certain properties, perhaps a title--remember she is English--by
sacrificing that finger so that identification might be in accordance
with the description of an heir whom she was to impersonate. We may well
believe that she was provided with the necessary documentary evidence,
and we know conclusively--we don't conjecture but we know--that the dead
woman in there is the woman whose rights were to have been stolen by the
so-called Mrs. Morey."

"But that is Mrs. Morey, isn't it?" demanded the detective again.

"No," was the sharp retort. "The perfect resemblance to Mrs. Morey and
the finger removed long ago makes that clear. There is, I imagine, a
relationship between them--perhaps they are cousins. I can hardly believe
they are twins because the necessity, then of one impersonating the other
to obtain either money or a title, would not have existed so palpably
although it is possible that Mrs. Morey, if disinherited or disowned,
would have resorted to such a course. This dead woman is Miss--Miss--"
and he glanced at the back of a photograph, "Miss Evelyn Rossmore, and
she has evidently been living in this city for some time. This is her
picture, and it was made at least a year ago by Harkinson here. Perhaps
he can give you her address as well."

There was silence for several minutes. Each member of the little group
was turning over the stated facts mentally, and Detective Mallory was
staring at the photograph, studying the handwriting on the back.

"But how did she come here--like this?" Hatch inquired.

"You remember, Mr. Hatch, when you followed Mrs. Morey here you told me
she dressed again and went out?" asked the scientist in turn. "It was not
Mrs. Morey you saw then--she was ill and I knew it from the operation--it
was Miss Rossmore. The manager says a hundred persons live in this
house--that there is a great deal of passing in and out. Can't you see
that when there is such a startling resemblance Miss Rossmore could pass
in and out at will and always be mistaken for Mrs. Morey? That no one
would ever notice the difference?"

"But who killed her?" asked Detective Mallory, curiously. "How? Why?"

"Morey killed her," said The Thinking Machine flatly and he produced two
other photographs from his pocket. "There's his picture and his wife's
picture for identification purposes. How did he kill her? We can fairly
presume that first he tricked her into drinking the acid, then perhaps
she was screaming with the pain of it, and he choked her to death. I
imagined first he was a large, powerful man because his grip on her
throat was so powerful that he ruptured the jugular inside; but instead
of that he plays the piano a great deal, which would give him the
hand-power to choke her. And why? We can suppose only that it was because
she had in some way learned of their purpose. That would have established
the motive. The crowning delicacy of the affair was Morey's act in
leaving his keys with the manager here. He did not anticipate that the
apartments would be entered for several days--after they were safely
away--while there was a chance that if neither of them had been seen here
and their disappearance was unexplained the rooms would have been opened
to ascertain why. That is all, I think."

"Except to catch Morey and his wife," said the detective grimly.

"Easily done with those photographs," said The Thinking Machine. "I
imagine, if this murder is kept out of the newspapers for a couple of
hours you can find them about to sail for Europe. Suppose you try the
line they came over on?"

It was just three hours later that the accused man and wife were taken
prisoner. They had just engaged passage on the steamer which sailed at
halfpast four o'clock. Their trial was a famous one and resulted in
conviction after an astonishing story of an attempt to seize an estate
and title belonging rightfully to Miss Evelyn Rossmore who had
mysteriously disappeared years before.



THE CASE OF THE SCIENTIFIC MURDERER


Certainly no problem that ever came to the attention of The Thinking
Machine required in a greater degree subtlety of mind, exquisite
analytical sense, and precise knowledge of the marvels of science than
did that singular series of events which began with the death of the
Honorable Violet Danbury, only daughter and sole heir of the late Sir
Duval Danbury, of Leamington, England. In this case The Thinking
Machine--more properly, Professor Augustus S.

F. X. Van Dusen, Ph. D., M. D., F. R. S., et cetera, et cetera--brought
to bear upon an extraordinary mystery of crime that intangible genius of
logic which had made him the court of last appeal in his profession.
"Logic is inexorable," he has said; and no greater proof of his assertion
was possible than in this instance where literally he seemed to pluck a
solution of the riddle from the void.

Shortly after eleven o'clock on the morning of Thursday, May 4, Miss
Danbury was found dead, sitting in the drawing-room of apartments she was
temporarily occupying in a big family hotel on Beacon Street. She was
richly gowned, just as she had come from the opera the night before; her
marble-white bosom and arms aglitter with jewels. On her face, dark in
death as are the faces of those who die of strangulation, was an
expression of unspeakable terror. Her parted lips were slightly bruised,
as if from a light blow; in her left cheek was an insignificant,
bloodless wound. On the floor at her feet was a shattered goblet. There
was nothing else unusual, no disorder, no sign of a struggle. Obviously
she had been dead for several hours.

All these things considered, the snap judgement of the
police--specifically, the snap judgement of Detective Mallory, of the
bureau of criminal investigation--was suicide by poison. Miss Danbury had
poured some deadly drug into a goblet, sat down, drained it off, and
died. Simple and obvious enough. But the darkness in her face? Oh, that!
Probably some effect of a poison he didn't happen to be acquainted with.
But it looked as if she might have been strangled! Pooh! Pooh! There were
no marks on her neck, of fingers or anything else. Suicide, that's what
it was--the autopsy would disclose the nature of the poison.

Cursory questions of the usual nature were asked and answered. Had Miss
Danbury lived alone? No; she had a companion upon whom, too, devolved the
duties of chaperon--a Mrs. Cecelia Montgomery. Where was she? She'd left
the city the day before to visit friends in Concord; the manager of the
hotel had telegraphed the facts to her. No servants? No. She had availed
herself of the service in the hotel. Who had last seem Miss Danbury
alive? The elevator attendant the night before, when she had returned
form the opera, about half past eleven o'clock. Had she gone alone? No.
She had been accompanied by Professor Charles Meredith, of the
university. He had returned with her, and left her at the elevator.

"How did she come to know Professor Meredith?" Mallory inquired. "Friend,
relative--"

"I don't know," said the hotel manager. "She knew a great
many people here. She'd only been in the city two months this time, but
once, three years ago, she spent six months here."

"Any particular reason for her coming over? Business, for instance,
or merely a visit?"

"Merely a visit, I imagine."

The front door swung open, and there entered at the moment a middle-aged
man, sharp-featured, rather spare, brisk in his movements, and distinctly
well groomed. He went straight to the inquiry desk.

"Will you please phone to Miss Danbury, and ask her if she will join Mr.
Herbert Willing for luncheon at the country club?" he requested. "Tell
her I am below with my motor."

At mention of Miss Danbury's name both Mallory and the house manager
turned. The boy behind the inquiry desk glanced at the detective blankly.
Mr. Willing rapped upon the desk sharply.

"Well, well?" he demanded impatiently. "Are you asleep?"

"Good morning, Mr. Willing," Mallory greeted him.

"Hello, Mallory," and Mr. Willing turned to face him. "What are you doing
here?"

"You don't know that Miss Danbury is"--the detective paused a little--"is
dead?"

"Dead!" Mr. Willing gasped. "Dead!" he repeated incredulously. "What are
you talking about?" He seized Mallory by the arm, and shook him. "Miss
Danbury is--"

"Dead," the detective assured him again. "She probably committed suicide.
She was found in her apartments two hours ago."

For half a minute Mr. Willing continued to stare at him as if without
comprehension, then he dropped weakly into a chair, with his head in his
hands. When he glanced up again there was deep grief in his keen face.

"It's my fault," he said simply. "I feel like a murderer. I gave her some
bad news yesterday, but I didn't dream she would--" He stopped.

"Bad news?" Mallory urged.

"I've been doing some legal work for her," Mr. Willing explained. "She's
been trying to sell a huge estate in England, and just at the moment the
deal seemed assured it fell through. I--I suppose it was a mistake to
tell her. This morning I received another offer from an unexpected
quarter, and I came by to inform her of it." He stared tensely into
Mallory's face for a moment without speaking. "I feel like her murderer!"
he said again.

"But I don't understand why the failure of the deal--" the detective
began; then: "She was rich, wasn't she? What did it matter particularly
if the deal did fail?"

"Rich, yes; but land poor," the lawyer elucidated. "The estates to which
she held title were frightfully involved. She had jewels and all those
things, but see how simply she lived. She was actually in need of money.
It would take me an hour to make you understand. How did she die? When?
What was the manner of her death?"

Detective Mallory placed before him those facts he had, and finally went
away with him in his motor car to see Professor Meredith at the
university. Nothing bearing on the case developed as the result of that
interview. Mr. Meredith seemed greatly shocked, and explained that his
acquaintance with Miss Danbury dated some weeks back, and friendship had
grown out of it through a mutual love of music. He had accompanied her to
the opera half a dozen times.

"Suicide!" the detective declared, as he came away. "Obviously suicide by
poison."

On the following day he discovered for the first time that the obvious is
not necessarily true. The autopsy revealed absolutely no trace of poison,
either in the body or clinging to the shattered goblet, carefully
gathered up and examined. The heart was normal, showing neither
constriction nor dilation, as would have been the case had poison been
swallowed, or even inhaled.

"It's the small wound in her cheek, then," Mallory asserted. "Maybe she
didn't swallow or inhale poison--she injected it directly into her blood
through that wound."

"No," one of the examining physicians pointed out. "Even that way the
heart would have shown constriction or dilation."

"Oh, maybe not," Mallory argued hopefully.

"Besides," the physician went on, "that wound was made after death. That
is proven by the fact that it did not bleed." His brow clouded in
perplexity. "There doesn't seem to be the slightest reason for that
wound, anyway. It's really a hole, you know. It goes straight through her
cheek. It looks as if it might have been made with a large hatpin."

The detective was staring at him. If that wound had been made after
death, certainly Miss Danbury didn't make it--she had been murdered! And
not murdered for robbery, since her jewels had been undisturbed.

"Straight through her cheek!" he repeated blankly. "By George! Say, if it
wasn't poison, what killed her?"

The three examining physicians exchanged glances.

"I don't know that I can make you understand," said one. "She died of
absence of air in her lungs, if you follow me."

"Absence of air--well, that's illuminating!" the detective sneered
heavily. "You mean she was strangled, or choked to death?"

"I mean precisely what I say," was the reply. "She was not
strangled--there is no mark on her throat; or choked--there is no
obstruction in her throat. Literally she died of absence of air in her
lungs."

Mallory stood silently glowering at them. A fine lot of physicians,
these!

"Let's understand one another," he said at last. "Miss Danbury did not
die a natural death?"

"No!" emphatically.

"She wasn't poisoned? Or strangled? Or shot? Or stabbed? Or run over by a
truck? Or blown up by dynamite? Or kicked by a mule? Nor," he concluded,
"did she fall from an aeroplane?"

"No."

"In other words, she just quit living?"

"Something like that," the physician admitted. He seemed to be seeking a
means of making himself more explicit. "You know the old nursery theory
that a cat will suck a sleeping baby's breath?" he asked. "Well, the
death of Miss Danbury was like that, if you understand. It is as if some
great animal or--or thing had--" He stopped.

Detective Mallory was an able man, the ablest, perhaps, in the bureau of
criminal investigation, but a yellow primrose by the river's brim was to
him a yellow primrose, nothing more. He lacked imagination, a common
fault of that type of sleuth who combines, more or less happily, a number
eleven shoe and a number six hat. The only vital thing he had to go on
was the fact that Miss Danbury was dead--murdered, in some mysterious,
uncanny way. Vampires were something like that, weren't they? He
shuddered a little.

"Regular vampire sort of thing," the youngest of the three physicians
remarked, echoing the thought in the detective's mind. "They're supposed
to make a slight wound, and--"

Detective Mallory didn't hear the remainder of it. He turned abruptly,
and left the room.

On the following Monday morning, one Henry Sumner, a longshoreman in
Atlantic Avenue, was found dead sitting in his squalid room. On his face,
dark in death, as are the faces of those who die of strangulation, was an
expression of unspeakable terror. His parted lips were slightly bruised,
as if from a light blow; in his left cheek was an insignificant,
bloodless wound. On the floor at his feet was a shattered drinking glass!

'Twas Hutchinson Hatch, newspaper reporter, long, lean, and rather
prepossessing in appearance, who brought this double mystery to the
attention of The Thinking Machine. Martha, the eminent scientist's one
servant, admitted the newspaper man, and he went straight to the
laboratory. As he opened the door The Thinking Machine turned testily
from his worktable.

"Oh, it's you, Mr. Hatch. Glad to see you. Sit down. What is it?" That
was his idea of extreme cordiality.

"If you can spare me five minutes?" the reporter began apologetically.

"What is it?" repeated The Thinking Machine, without raising his eyes.

"I wish I knew," the reporter said ruefully. "Two persons are dead--two
persons as widely apart as the poles, at least in social position, have
been murdered in precisely the same manner, and it seems impossible
that--"

"Nothing is impossible," The Thinking Machine interrupted, in the tone of
perpetual irritation which seemed to be a part of him. "You annoy me when
you say it."

"It seems highly improbable," Hatch corrected himself, "that there can be
the remotest connection between the crimes, yet--"

"You're wasting words," the crabbed little scientist declared
impatiently. "Begin at the beginning. Who was murdered? When? How? Why?
What was the manner of death?"

"Taking the last question first," the reporter explained, "we have the
most singular part of the problem. No one can say the manner of death,
not even the physicians."

"Oh!" For the first time The Thinking Machine lifted his petulant,
squinting, narrowed eyes, and stared into the face of the newspaper man.
"Oh!" he said again. "Go on."

As Hatch talked, the lure of a material problem laid hold of the master
mind, and after a little The Thinking Machine dropped into a chair. With
his great, grotesque head tilted back, his eyes turned steadily upward,
and slender fingers placed precisely tip to tip, he listened in silence
to the end.

"We come now," said the newspaper man, "to the inexplicable after
developments. We have proven that Mrs. Cecelia Montgomery, Miss Danbury's
companion, did not go to Concord to visit friends; as a matter of fact,
she is missing. The police have been able to find no trace of her, and
today are sending out a general alarm. Naturally, her absence at this
particular moment is suspicious. It is possible to conjecture her
connection with the death of Miss Danbury, but what about--"

"Never mind conjecture," the scientist broke in curtly. "Facts, facts!"

"Further," and Hatch's bewilderment was evident on his face, "mysterious
things have been happening in the rooms where Miss Danbury and this man
Henry Sumner were found dead. Miss Danbury was found dead last Thursday.
Immediately after the body was removed, Detective Mallory ordered her
room locked, his idea being that nothing should be disturbed at least for
the present, because of the strange circumstances surrounding her death.
When the nature of the Henry Sumner affair became known, and the
similarity of the cases recognized, he gave the same order regarding
Sumner's room."

Hatch stopped, and stared vainly into the pallid, wizened face of the
scientist. A curious little chill ran down his spinal column.

"Some time Tuesday night," he continued, after a moment, "Miss Danbury's
room was entered and ransacked; and some time that same night Henry
Sumner's room was entered and ransacked. This morning, Wednesday, a
clearly defined hand print in blood was found in Miss Danbury's room. It
was on the wooden top of a dressing table. It seemed to be a woman's
hand. Also, an indistinguishable smudge of blood, which may have been a
hand print, was found in Sumner's room!" He paused; The Thinking
Machine's countenance was inscrutable. "What possible connection can
there be between this young woman of the aristocracy, and this--this
longshoreman? Why should--"

"What chair," questioned The Thinking Machine, "does Professor Meredith
hold in the university?"

"Greek," was the reply.

"Who is Mr. Willing?"

"One of the leading lawyers of the city."

"Did you see Miss Danbury's body?"

"Yes."

"Did she have a large mouth, or a small mouth?"

The irrelevancy of the questions, to say nothing of their disjointedness,
brought a look of astonishment to Hatch's face; and he was a young man
who was rarely astonished by the curious methods of The Thinking Machine.
Always he had found that the scientist approached a problem from a new
angle.

"I should say a small mouth," he ventured. "Her lips were bruised as
if--as if something round, say the size of a twenty-five-cent piece, had
been crushed against them. There was a queer, drawn, caved-in look to her
mouth and cheeks."

"Naturally," commented The Thinking Machine enigmatically. "And Sumner's
was the same?"

"Precisely. You say 'naturally.' Do you mean--" There was eagerness in
the reporter's question.

It passed unanswered. For half a minute The Thinking Machine continued to
stare into nothingness. Finally:

"I dare say Sumner was of the English type? His name is English?"

"Yes; a splendid physical man, a hard drinker, I hear, as well as a hard
worker."

Again a pause.

"You don't happen to know if Professor Meredith is now or ever has been
particularly interested in physics--that is, in natural philosophy?"

"I do not."

"Please find out immediately," the scientist directed tersely. "Willing
has handled some legal business for Miss Danbury. Learn what you can from
him to the general end of establishing some connection, a relationship
possibly, between Henry Sumner and the Honorable Violet Danbury.
That, at the moment, is the most important thing to do. Neither of them
may have been aware of the relationship, if relationship it was, yet it
may have existed. If it doesn't exist, there's only one answer to the
problem."

"And that is?" Hatch asked.

"The murders are the work of a madman," was the tart rejoinder. "There's
no mystery, of course, in the manner of the deaths of these two."

"No mystery?" the reporter echoed blankly. "Do you mean you know how
they--"

"Certainly I know, and you know. The examining physicians know, only they
don't know that they know." Suddenly his tone became didactic. "Knowledge
that can't be applied is utterly useless," he said. "The real difference
between a great mind and a mediocre mind is only that the great mind
applies its knowledge." He was silent a moment. "The only problem
remaining here is to find the person who was aware of the many advantages
of this method of murder."

"Advantages?" Hatch was puzzled.

"From the viewpoint of the murderer there is always a good way and a bad
way to kill a person," the scientist told him. "This particular murderer
chose a way that was swift, silent, simple, and sure as the march of
time. There was no scream, no struggle, no pistol shot, no poison to be
traced, nothing to be seen except--"

"The hole in the left cheek, perhaps?"

"Quite right, and that leaves no clew. As a matter of fact, the only clew
we have at all is the certainty that the murderer, man or woman, is well
acquainted with physics, or natural philosophy."

"Then you think," the newspaper man's eyes were about to start from his
head, "that Professor Meredith--"

"I think nothing," The Thinking Machine declared briefly. "I want to know
what he knows of physics, as I said; also I want to know if there is any
connection between Miss Danbury and the longshoreman. If you'll attend
to--"

Abruptly the laboratory door opened and Martha entered, pallid,
frightened, her hands shaking.

"Something most peculiar, sir," she stammered in her excitement.

"Well?" the little scientist questioned.

"I do believe," said Martha, "that I'm a-going to faint!"

And as an evidence of good faith she did, crumpling up in a little heap
before their astonished eyes.

"Dear me! Dear me!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine petulantly. "Of all
the inconsiderate things! Why couldn't she have told us before she did
that?"

It was a labor of fifteen minutes to bring Martha around, and then weakly
she explained what had happened. She had answered a ring of the
telephone, and some one had asked for Professor Van Dusen. She inquired
the name of the person talking.

"Never mind that," came the reply. "Is he there? Can I see him?"

"You'll have to explain what you want, sir," Martha had told him. "He
always has to know."

"Tell him I know who murdered Miss Danbury and Henry Sumner," came over
the wire. "If he'll receive me I'll be right up."

"And then, sir," Martha explained to The Thinking Machine, "something
must have happened at the other end, sir. I heard another man's voice,
then a sort of a choking sound, sir, and then they cursed me, sir. I
didn't hear any more. They hung up the receiver or something, sir." She
paused indignantly. "Think of him, sir, a-swearing at me!"

For a moment the eyes of the two men met; the same thought had come to
them both. The Thinking Machine voiced it.

"Another one!" he said. "The third!"

With no other word he turned and went out; Martha followed him
grumblingly. Hatch shuddered a little. The hand of the clock went on to
half past seven, to eight. At twenty minutes past eight the scientist
reentered the laboratory.

"That fifteen minutes Martha was unconscious probably cost a man's life,
and certainly lost to us an immediate solution of the riddle," he
declared peevishly. "If she had told us before she fainted there is a
chance that the operator would have remembered the number. As it is,
there have been fifty calls since, and there's no record." He spread his
slender hands helplessly. "The manager is trying to find the calling
number. Anyway, we'll know tomorrow. Meanwhile, try to see Mr. Willing
tonight, and find out about what relationship, if any, exists between
Miss Danbury and Sumner; also, see Professor Meredith."

The newspaper man telephoned to Mr. Willing's home in Melrose to see if
he was in; he was not. On a chance he telephoned to his office. He hardly
expected an answer, and he got none. So it was not until four o'clock in
the morning that the third tragedy in the series came to light.

The scrubwomen employed in the great building where Mr. Willing had his
law offices entered the suite to clean up. They found Mr. Willing there,
gagged, bound hand and foot, and securely lashed to a chair. He was
alive, but apparently unconscious from exhaustion. Directly facing him
his secretary, Maxwell Pittman, sat dead in his chair. On his face, dark
in death, as are the faces of those who die of strangulation, was an
expression of unspeakable terror. His parted lips were slightly bruised,
as if from a light blow; in his left cheek was an insignificant,
bloodless wound!

Within an hour Detective Mallory was on the scene. By that time Mr.
Willing, under the influence of stimulants, was able to talk.

"I have no idea what happened," he explained. "It was after six o'clock,
and my secretary and I were alone in the offices, finishing up some work.
He had stepped into another room for a moment, and I was at my desk. Some
one crept up behind me, and held a drugged cloth to my nostrils. I tried
to shout, and struggled, but everything grew black, and that's all I
know. When I came to myself poor Pittman was there, just as you see him."

Snooping about the offices, Mallory came upon a small lace handkerchief.
He seized upon it tensely, and as he raised it to examine it he became
conscious of a strong odor of drugs. In one corner of the handkerchief
there was a monogram.

"'C. M.,'" he read; his eyes blazed. "Cecelia Montgomery!"

In the grip of an uncontrollable excitement Hutchinson Hatch bulged in
upon The Thinking Machine in his laboratory.

"There was another," he announced.

"I know it," said The Thinking Machine, still bent over his worktable.
"Who was it?"

"Maxwell Pittman," and Hatch related the story.

"There may be two more," the scientist remarked. "Be good enough to call
a cab."

"Two more?" Hatch gasped in horror. "Already dead?"

"There may be, I said. One, Cecelia Montgomery, the other the unknown who
called on the telephone last night." He started away, then returned to
his worktable. "Here's rather an interesting experiment," he said. "See
this tube," and he held aloft a heavy glass vessel, closed at one end,
and with a stopcock at the other. "Observe. I'll place this heavy piece
of rubber over the mouth of the tube, and then turn the stopcock." He
suited the action to the word. "Now take it off."

The reporter tugged at it until the blood rushed to his face, but was
unable to move it. He glanced up at the scientist in perplexity.

"What hold it there?"

"Vacuum," was the reply. "You may tear it to pieces, but no human power
can pull it away whole." He picked up a steel bodkin, and thrust it
through the rubber into the mouth of the tube. As he withdrew it, came a
sharp, prolonged, hissing sound. Half a minute later the rubber fell off.
"The vacuum is practically perfect--something like one-millionth of an
atmosphere. The pin hole permits the air to fill the tube, the tremendous
pressure against the rubber is removed, and--" He waved his slender
hands.

In that instant a germ of comprehension was born in Hatch's brain; he was
remembering some college experiments.

"If I should place that tube to your lips," The Thinking Machine resumed,
"and turn the stopcock, you would never speak again, never scream, never
struggle. It would jerk every particle of air out of your body, paralyze
you; within two minutes you would be dead. To remove the tube I should
thrust the bodkin through your cheek, say your left, and withdraw it--"

Hatch gasped as the full horror of the thing burst upon him. "Absence of
air in the lungs," the examining physicians had said.

"You see, there was no mystery in the manner of the deaths of these
three," The Thinking Machine pointed out. "You knew what I have shown
you, the physicians knew it, but neither of you knew you knew it. Genius
is the ability to apply the knowledge you may have, not the ability to
acquire it." His manner changed abruptly. "Please call a cab," he said
again.

Together they were driven straight to the university, and shown into
Professor Meredith's study. Professor Meredith showed his astonishment
plainly at the visit, and astonishment became indignant amazement at the
first question.

"Mr. Meredith, can you account for every moment of your time from
mid-afternoon yesterday until four o'clock this morning?" The Thinking
Machine queried flatly. "Don't misunderstand me--I mean every moment
covering the time in which it is possible that Maxwell Pittman was
murdered?"

"Why, it's a most outrageous--" Professor Meredith exploded.

"I'm trying to save you from arrest," the scientist explained curtly. "If
you can account for all that time, and prove your statement, believe me,
you had better prepare to do so. Now, if you could give me any
information as to--"

"Who the devil are you?" demanded Professor Meredith belligerently. "What
do you mean by daring to suggest--"

"My name is Van Dusen," said The Thinking Machine, "Augustus S. F. X. Van
Dusen. Long before your time I held the chair of philosophy in this
university. I vacated it by request. Later the university honored me with
a degree of LL. D."

The result of the self-introduction was astonishing. Professor Meredith,
in the presence of the master mind in the sciences, was a different man.

"I beg you pardon," he began.

"I'm curious to know if you are at all acquainted with Miss Danbury's
family history," the scientist went on. "Meanwhile, Mr. Hatch, take the
cab, and go straight and measure the precise width of the bruise on
Pittman's lips; also, see Mr. Willing, if he is able to receive you, and
ask him what he can give you as to Miss Danbury's history--I mean her
family, her property, her connections, all about everything. Meet me at
my house in a couple of hours."

Hatch went out, leaving them together. When he reached the scientist's
home The Thinking Machine was just coming out.

"I'm on my way to see Mr. George Parsons, the so-called copper king," he
volunteered. "Come along."

From that moment came several developments so curious, and bizarre, and
so widely disassociated that Hatch could make nothing of them at all.
Nothing seemed to fit into anything else. For instance, The Thinking
Machine's visit to Mr. Parsons' office.

"Please ask Mr. Parsons if he will see Mr. Van Dusen?" he requested of an
attendant.

"What about?" the query came from Mr. Parsons.

"It is a matter of life and death," the answer went back.

"Whose?" Mr. Parsons wanted to know.

"His!" The scientist's answer was equally short.

Immediately afterward The Thinking Machine disappeared inside. Ten
minutes later he came out, and he and Hatch went off together, stopping
at a toy shop to buy a small, high-grade, hard-rubber ball; and later at
a department store to purchase a vicious-looking hatpin.

"You failed to inform me, Mr. Hatch, of the measurement of the bruise?"

"Precisely one and a quarter inches."

"Thanks! And what did Mr. Willing say?"

"I didn't see him as yet. I have an appointment to see him in an hour
from now."

"Very well," and The Thinking Machine nodded his satisfaction. "When you
see him, will you be good enough to tell him, please, that I know--I
know, do you understand?--who killed Miss Danbury, and Sumner, and
Pittman. You can't make it too strong. I know--do you understand?"

"Do you know?" Hatch demanded quickly.

"No," frankly. "But convince him that I do, and add that tomorrow at noon
I shall place the extraordinary facts I have gathered in possession of
the police. At noon, understand; and I know!" He was thoughtful a moment.
"You might add that I have informed you that the guilty person is a
person of high position, whose name has been in no way connected with the
crimes--that is, unpleasantly. You don't know that name; no one knows it
except myself. I shall give it to the police at noon tomorrow."

"Anything else?"

"Drop in on me early tomorrow morning, and bring Mr. Mallory."

Events were cyclonic on that last morning. Mallory and Hatch had hardly
arrived when there came a telephone message for the detective from police
headquarters. Mrs. Cecelia Montgomery was there. She had come in
voluntarily, and asked for Mr. Mallory.

"Don't rush off now," requested The Thinking Machine, who was pottering
around among the retorts, and microscopes and what not on his worktable.
"Ask them to detain her until you get there. Also, ask her just what
relationship existed between Miss Danbury and Henry Sumner." The
detective went out; the scientist turned to Hatch. "Here is a hatpin," he
said. "Some time this morning we shall have another caller. If, during
the presence of that person in this room, I voluntarily put anything to
my lips, a bottle, say, or anything is forced upon me, and I do not
remove it in just thirty seconds, you will thrust this hatpin through my
cheek. Don't hesitate."

"Thrust it through?" the reporter repeated. An uncanny chill ran over him
as he realized the scientist's meaning. "Is it absolutely necessary to
take such a chance to--"

"I say if I don't remove it!" The Thinking Machine interrupted shortly.
"You and Mallory will be watching from another room; I shall demonstrate
the exact manner of the murders." There was a troubled look in the
reporter's face. "I shall be in no danger," the scientist said simply.
"The hatpin is merely a precaution if anything should go wrong."

After a little Mallory entered, with clouded countenance.

"She denies the murders," he announced, "but admits that the hand prints
in blood are hers. According to her yarn, she searched Miss Danbury's
room and Sumner's room after the murders to find some family papers which
were necessary to establish claims to some estate--I don't quite
understand. She hurt her hand in Miss Danbury's room, and it bled a lot,
hence the hand print. From there she went straight to Sumner's room, and
presumably left the smudge there. It seems that Sumner was a distant
cousin of Miss Danbury's--the only son of a younger brother who ran away
years ago after some wild escapade, and came to this country. George
Parsons, the copper king, is the only other relative in this country. She
advises us to warn him to be on his guard--seems to think he will be the
next victim."

"He's already warned," said The Thinking Machine, "and he has gone West
on important business."

Mallory stared.

"You seem to know more about this case than I do," he sneered.

"I do," asserted the scientist, "quite a lot more."

"I think the third degree will change Mrs. Montgomery's story some," the
detective declared. "Perhaps she will remember better--"

"She is telling the truth."

"Then why did she run away? How was it we found her handkerchief in Mr.
Willing's office after the Pittman affair? How was it--"

The Thinking Machine shrugged his shoulders, and was silent. A moment
later the door opened, and Martha appeared, her eyes blazing with
indignation.

"That man who swore at me over the telephone," she announced distinctly,
"wants to see you, sir."

Mallory's keen eyes swept the faces of the scientist and the reporter,
trying to fathom the strange change that came over them.

"You are sure, Martha?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Indeed I am, sir." She was positive about it. "I'd never forget his
voice, sir."

For an instant her master merely stared at her, then dismissed her with a
curt, "Show him in," after which he turned to the detective and Hatch.

"You will wait in the next room," he said tersely. "If anything happens,
Mr. Hatch, remember."

The Thinking Machine was sitting when the visitor entered--a middle-aged
man, sharp-featured, rather spare, brisk in his movements, and distinctly
well groomed. It was Herbert Willing, attorney. In one hand he carried a
small bag. He paused an instant, and gazed at the diminutive scientist
curiously.

"Come in, Mr. Willing," The Thinking Machine greeted. "You want to see me
about--" He paused questioningly.

"I understand," said the lawyer suavely, "that you have interested
yourself in these recent--er--remarkable murders, and there are some
points I should like to discuss with you. I have some papers in my bag
here, which"--he opened it--"may be of interest. Some er--newspaper man
informed me that you have certain information indicating the person--"

"I know the name of the murderer," said The Thinking Machine.

"Indeed! May I ask who it is?"

"You may. His name is Herbert Willing."

Watching tensely Hatch saw The Thinking Machine pass his hand slowly
across his mouth as if to stifle a yawn; saw Willing leap forward
suddenly with what seemed to be a bottle in his hand; saw him force the
scientist back into his chair, and thrust the bottle against his lips.
Instantly came a sharp click, and some hideous change came over the
scientist's wizened face. His eyes opened wide in terror, his cheeks
seemed to collapse. Instinctively he grasped the bottle with both hands.

For a scant second Willing stared at him, his countenance grown
demoniacal; then he swiftly took something else from the small bag, and
smashed it on the floor. It was a drinking glass!

After which the scientist calmly removed the bottle from his lips.

"The broken drinking glass," he said quietly, "completes the evidence."

Hutchinson Hatch was lean and wiry, and hard as nails; Detective
Mallory's bulk concealed muscles of steel, but it took both of them to
overpower the attorney. Heedless of the struggling trio The Thinking
Machine was curiously scrutinizing the black bottle. The mouth was
blocked by a small rubber ball, which he had thrust against it with his
tongue a fraction of an instant before the dreaded power the bottle held
had been released by pressure upon a cunningly concealed spring. When he
raised his squinting eyes at last, Willing, manacled, was glaring at him
in impotent rage. Fifteen minute later the four were at police
headquarters; Mrs. Montgomery was awaiting them.

"Mrs. Montgomery, why,"--and the petulant pale-blue eyes of The Thinking
Machine were fixed upon her face--"why didn't you go to Concord, as you
had said?"

"I did go there," she replied. "It was simply that when news came of Miss
Danbury's terrible death I was frightened, I lost my head; I pleaded with
my friends not to let it be known that I was there, and they agreed. If
any one had searched their house I would have been found; no one did. At
last I could stand it no longer. I came to the city, and straight here to
explain everything I knew in connection with the affair."

"And the search you made of Miss Danbury's room? And of Sumner's room?"

"I've explained that," she said. "I knew of the relationship between poor
Harry Sumner and Violet Danbury, and I knew each of them had certain
papers which were of value as establishing their claims to a great estate
in England now in litigation. I was sure those papers would be valuable
to the only other claimant, who was--"

"Mr. George Parsons, the copper king," interposed the scientist. "You
didn't find the papers you sought because Willing had taken them. That
estate was the thing he wanted, and I dare say by some legal jugglery he
would have gotten it." Again he turned to face Mrs. Montgomery. "Living
with Miss Danbury, as you did, you probably held a key to her apartment?
Yes. You had only the difficulty then, of entering the hotel late at
night, unseen, and that seemed to be simple. Willing did it the night he
killed Miss Danbury, and left it unseen, as you did. Now, how did you
enter Sumner's room?"

"It was a terrible place," and she shuddered slightly. "I went in alone,
and entered his room through a window from a fire escape. The newspapers,
you will remember, described its location precisely, and--"

"I see," The Thinking Machine interrupted. He was silent a moment.
"You're a shrewd man, Willing, and your knowledge of natural philosophy
is exact if not extensive. Of course, I knew if you thought I knew too
much about the murders you would come to me. You did. It was a trap, if
that's any consolation to you. You fell into it. And, curiously enough, I
wasn't afraid of a knife or a shot; I knew the instrument of death you
had been using was too satisfactory and silent for you to change.
However, I was prepared for it, and--I think that's all." He arose.

"All?" Hatch and Mallory echoed the word. "We don't understand--"

"Oh!" and The Thinking Machine sat down again. "It's logic. Miss Danbury
was dead--neither shot, stabbed, poisoned, nor choked; 'absence of air in
her lungs,' the physicians said. Instantly the vacuum bottle suggested
itself. That murder, as was the murder of Sumner, was planned to
counterfeit suicide, hence the broken goblet on the floor. Incidentally
the murder of Sumner informed me that the crimes were the work of a
madman, else there was an underlying purpose which might have arisen
through a relationship. Ultimately I established that relationship
through Professor Meredith, in whom Miss Danbury had confided to a
certain extent; at the same time he convinced me of his innocence in the
affair.

"Now," he continued, after a moment, "we come to the murder of Pittman.
Pittman learned, and tried to phone me, who the murderer was. Willing
heard that message. He killed Pittman, then bound and gagged himself, and
waited. It was a clever ruse. His story of being overpowered and drugged
is absurd on the face of it, yet he asked us to believe that by leaving a
handkerchief of Mrs. Montgomery's on the floor. That was reeking with
drugs. Mr. Hatch can give you more of these details." He glanced at his
watch. "I'm due at a luncheon, where I am to make an address to the
Society of Psychical Research. If you'll excuse me--"

He went out; the others sat staring after him.



PROBLEM OF THE DESERTED HOUSE


The telephone bell rang sharply, twice. Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van
Dusen--The Thinking Machine--opened his eyes from a sound sleep, rose
from the bed, turned on an electric light, and squinted at the clock on
the table. It was just halfpast one; he had been asleep for only a little
more than an hour. He slid his small feet into a pair of soft slippers
and went to the telephone.

"Hello!" he called irritably.

"Is that Professor Van Dusen?" came the answer in a man's voice--a voice
tense with nervous excitement, and so quick in enunciation that the words
tumbled over one another.

"Yes," replied the scientist. "What is it?"

"It's a matter of life and death!" came the hurried response in the same
hasty tone. "Can you come at once and--" The instrument buzzed and
sputtered incoherently, and the remainder of the question was lost.

For an instant The Thinking Machine listened intently, seeking to
interpret the interruption; then the sputtering ceased and the wire was
silent. "Who is this talking?" he demanded.

The answer was almost a shout; it was as if the speaker was strangling,
and the words came explosively, with a distinct effort. "My name is--"

And that was all. The voice was swallowed up suddenly in the deafening
crack of an explosion of some sort--a pistol shot! Involuntarily The
Thinking Machine dodged. The receiver sang shrilly in his ear, and the
transmitter vibrated audibly; then the instrument was mute again--the
connection was broken.

"Hello, hello!" the scientist called again and again; but there was no
answer. He moved the hook up and down several times to attract Central's
attention. But that brought no response. Whatever had happened had at
least temporarily rendered his own line lifeless. "Dear me! Dear me!" he
grumbled petulantly. "Most extraordinary!"

For a time he stood thoughtfully staring at the instrument; then went
over and sat down on the edge of the bed. Sleep was banished now. Here
was a problem, and a strange one! Every faculty of his wonderful brain
was concentrated upon it. The minutes sped on as he sat there turning it
all over in his mind, analyzing it, regarding it from every possible
viewpoint, while tiny wrinkles were growing in the enormous brow. Finally
he concluded to try the telephone again. Perhaps it had only been
momentarily deadened by the shock. He returned to the instrument and
picked up the receiver. The rhythmic buzz of the wire told him instantly
that the line was working. Central answered promptly.

"Can you tell me the number which was just connected with this?" he
inquired. "We were interrupted."

"I'll see if I can get it," was the reply.

"It's of the utmost importance," he went on to explain tersely; "a matter
of life and death, even."

"I'll do what I can," Central assured him; "but there is no record of the
calls, you know, and there may have been fifty in the last ten or fifteen
minutes, and of course the operators don't remember them." She obligingly
gave him a quarter of an hour as she sought some clue to the number.

The Thinking Machine waited patiently for the report, staring dumbly at
the transmitter meanwhile, and at last it came. No one remembered the
number; there was no record of it. Central was sorry. With a curt word of
thanks the scientist called for one of the big newspaper offices and
asked for Hutchinson Hatch, reporter.

"Mr. Hatch isn't in," came the response.

"Do you know where he is?" queried the scientist, and there was a shadow
of anxiety in the perpetually irritated voice.

"No; home, I suppose."

The man of science drew long, quick breath--it might have been one of
uneasiness--and called the newspaper man's home number. Of course the
mysterious message over the telephone had not been from Hatch. It was not
the reporter's voice, he was positive of that, and yet there was the bare
chance that--

"Hello!" Hatch growled amiably but sleepily over the wire.

The Thinking Machine's drawn face showed a vague relief as he recognized
the tone. "That you, Mr. Hatch?" he asked.

"Yes."

"In any trouble?"

"Trouble?" repeated the reporter in evident surprise. "No. Who is this?"

"Van Dusen," was the response. "Good night."

Mechanically, unconsciously almost, The Thinking Machine began dressing.
The ever active, resourceful brain, plunged so suddenly into this maze of
mystery, was fully awake now and was groping through the fog of
possibilities and conjecture, feeling for some starting point in this
singular problem which had been thrust upon it so strangely. And
evidently at last there came some inspiration; for the eminent scientist
started hurriedly out the front door into the night, pausing on the steps
to remember that in his haste he had forgotten to exchange his slippers
for shoes, and that he was bare headed.

Fifteen minutes later the night operator in chief at the branch telephone
exchange was favored with a personal call from Professor Augustus S. F.
X. Van Dusen. There was a conference of five minutes or so, after which
the scientist was led back through the operating room and ushered into a
long high ceilinged apartment where thousands of telephone wires were
centered--a web woven of thin strands, each of which led ultimately to
the long table where a dozen or more girls were on watch. He went into
that room at five minutes of two o'clock; he came out at seventeen
minutes after four and appeared before the night operator in the outer
office.

"I found it," he announced shortly. "Please, now, let me speak to police
headquarters--either Detective Mallory or Detective Cunningham."

Detective Cunningham answered.

"This is Van Dusen," the scientist told him. "I should like to know if
any murder or attempted murder has been reported to the police tonight?"

"No," replied the detective. "Why?"

"I was afraid not," mused The Thinking Machine enigmatically. "Has there
been any call for police assistance anywhere?"

"No."

"Between one and two o'clock?" insisted the scientist.

"There hasn't been a call tonight," was the reply. "What's it all about?"

"I don't know--yet," said the scientist. "Good night."

The Thinking Machine went out after a few minutes, pausing on the curb in
the brilliant glare of a street lamp to jot down a number on his cuff.
When he looked up a cab was just passing. He hailed it, gave an address
to the driver, and a moment later the vehicle went clattering down the
street. When it stopped at last before a dark, four-story house, the
cabman sat still for a moment expecting his passenger to alight. But
nothing happened; so he jumped down and peered into the gloom of the
vehicle. Dimly he was able to make out the small figure of the scientist
huddled up in a corner of the cab with his huge yellow head thrown back,
and slender white fingers pressed tip to tip.

"Here we are, sir," announced the driver.

"Yes, yes, to be sure!" exclaimed the scientist hurriedly. "I quite
forgot. You needn't wait."

The vehicle was driven off as The Thinking Machine ascended the brown
stone steps of the house and pulled the bell. There was no answer, no
sound inside, and he pulled it the second time, then the third. Finally,
leaning forward with his ear pressed against the door, he pulled the bell
the fourth time. This evidently convinced him that the cord inside was
disconnected, and he tried the door. It was locked.

Without an instant's hesitation he ran down the steps to the basement
entrance in an areaway. There was no bell there, and he tried the knob
tentatively. It turned, and he stepped into a damp, smelly hallway,
unrelieved by one glint of light. He closed the door noiselessly behind
him, and stood for a little while listening. Then he did peculiar thing.
He produced a small electric pocket lamp, and holding it as far to the
left as he could reach, with the lens pointing ahead of him, pressed the
button. A single white ray cleft the darkness, revealing a bare, littered
floor, moldy walls, a couple of doors, and stairs leading up.

He spent five cautious minutes perhaps in the basement. There was no sign
of recent human habitation, nothing but accumulated litter, and dust and
dirt. Then he went up the stairs to the floor above. Here he spent
another five minutes, with only an occasional flash of light, always at
arm's length to extreme right or left, to tell him there was yet no sign
of occupancy. Then another flight of stairs to the second floor. Still
there was no sound, no trace of anyone, no indication of a living thing.

His first glimpse of the third floor confirmed at first glance all those
impressions of desertion he had gathered below. The front room was
identical with the one below, the front hall room was identical; but
there was a difference in the large rear room. The dust and litter of the
floor seemed worn into a sort of path from the top of the stairs, and
following this path toward the back he came upon--a telephone!

"Fortyone-seventeen," he read, as the instrument stood revealed, bathed
in the light from the electric bulb. Then he glanced down at his cuff and
repeated, "Fortyone-seventeen."

With every sense alert for one disturbing sound, he spent two full
minutes examining the instrument. He seemed to be seeking some mark upon
it,--the scar of a bullet, perhaps,--and as the scrutiny continued
fruitless, the tiny wrinkles, which had momentarily disappeared from his
face, appeared there again, and deepened perceptibly. The receiver was on
the hook, the transmitter seemed to be in perfect condition, and the
walls round the box were smooth. Finally he allowed the light to fade,
then picked up the receiver and held it to his ear. His sensitive fingers
instantly became aware of tiny particles of dust on the smooth black
surface; and the line was dead. Central did not answer. Yet this was the
telephone from which he had been called!

Again he examined the instrument under the light, with something akin to
perplexity on his drawn face; then allowed his eyes to follow the silken
wire as it led up, across the room, and out the window. Did it go up or
down? Probably up, possibly down. He had just taken two steps toward that
window, with the purpose of answering this question definitely, when he
heard a sound somewhere off in the house and stopped.

The light faded, and utter gloom swooped down upon him as he listened.
What he heard apparently was the tread of feet at a distance, somewhere
below. They seemed to be approaching. Now they were in the lower hall,
and grew clatteringly distinct in the emptiness of the house; then the
tread sounded on the stairs, the certain, quick step of one who knew his
way perfectly. Now the sound was at the door--now finally in the room.
Yet there was not one ray of light.

For a little time The Thinking Machine stood motionless, invisible in the
enshrouding darkness, until the footsteps seemed almost upon him. Then
suddenly his right arm was extended full length from his body, the
electric bulb blazed in his hand, and slashed around the room. By every
evidence of the sense of sound the flash should have revealed
something--perhaps the figure of a man. But there was nothing! The room
was vacant, save for himself. And even while the light flared he heard
the steps again. The light went out, he took four quick, noiseless steps
to his left, and stood there for a moment puzzled.

Then he understood. The mysterious tread was stilled now, as if the
person had stopped, and it remained still for several minutes. The
Thinking Machine crept silently, cautiously, toward the door and stepped
out into the hall. Leaning over the stair rail, he listened. And after
awhile the tread sounded again. He drew back into the shadow of a linen
closet as the sound grew nearer--stood stockstill staring into blank
nothingness as it was almost upon him; then the footsteps receded
gradually along the hall, down the stairs, growing fainter, until the
receding echo was lost in the silence of the night.

Whereupon The Thinking Machine went boldly up the stairs to the fourth
floor, the top. He mounted confidently, as if expecting something to
reward his scrutiny; but his eyes rested only upon the bleak desolation
of unoccupied apartments. He went straight to the rear room, above the
one he had just left, and directly across to one of the windows. Faint,
rosy streaks of dawn slashed the east--just enough natural light to show
dimly a silken wire hanging down from the middle of the window outside.
He opened the window, drew in the wire, and examined it carefully under
the electric light, and nodded as if he understood.

Finally he turned abruptly and retraced his steps to the first floor.
There he paused to examine the knob of the front door; then went on down
into the basement. Instead of examining the door there, however, he
turned back under the stairs. There he found another door--a door to the
subcellar, standing open a scant few inches. A damp, moldy smell came up.
After a moment he pushed the door open slowly and ventured one foot
forward in the darkness. It found a step, and he began to descend. The
fourth step down creaked suddenly, and he paused to listen intently.
Utter silence!

Then on down, ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen, steps, and his foot struck
soft, yielding earth. Safely on the ground again, in the protecting
gloom, he stood still for a long time, peering blindly around him. At
last a blaze of light leaped from the electric bulb, which was extended
far from the body to the right, and The Thinking Machine drew a quick
breath. It might have been surprise; for within the glow of the light lay
the figure of a young man, a boy almost, flat of his back on the muddy
earth, with eyes blinking in the glare. His feet were bound tight
together with a rope, and his hands were evidently fastened behind him.

"Are you the gentleman who telephoned for me?" inquired The Thinking
Machine calmly.

There was no answer, and yet the prostrate man was fully conscious, as
proved by the moving eyes and a twitching of his limbs.

"Well?" demanded the scientist impatiently. "Can't you talk?"

His answer was a flash of flame, the crash of a revolver at short range,
and the light dropped, automatically extinguished as the pressure on the
button was removed. Upon this came the sound of a body falling. There was
a long drawn gasp, and again silence.

"For God's sake, Cranston!" came the explosive voice of a man after a
moment. "You've killed him!"

"Well, I'm not in this game to spend the rest of my life in jail," was
the answer, almost a snarl. "I didn't want to kill anybody; but if I had
to, all right. If it hadn't been for this kid here, we'd have been all
right anyway. I've got a good mind to give him one too, while I'm at it!"

"Well, why don't you?" came a third voice. It was taunting, cold,
unafraid.

"Oh, shut up!"

Feet moved uncertainly, feelingly, over the soft earth and stumbled upon
the inert, limp figure of The Thinking Machine, lying face down on the
ground, almost at the feet of the bound man. One of the men who had
spoken stooped, and his fingers touched the still, slim body. He withdrew
his hands quickly.

"Is he dead?" some one asked.

"My God, man! Why did you do it?" exclaimed the man who had spoken first,
and there was a passionate undertone in his voice. "I never dreamed that
this thing would lead to--to murder!"

"It hardly seems to be a time to debate why I did it," was the brutal
response; "so much as it is to decide what we'll do now that it is done.
We might drop this body in the coal bin in the basement until we finish
up here; but what shall we do with the boy? We are both guilty--he saw
it. He wanted to tell the other. What will he do now?"

"He'll tell it just so surely as he lives," the bound man answered for
himself.

"In that case there's only one thing to do," declared Cranston flatly.
"We'd better make a double job of this, leave them both here, and get
away."

"Don't kill me--don't kill me!" whined the young man suddenly. "I won't
ever tell--I promise! Don't kill me!"

"Oh, shut up!" snarled Cranston. "We'll attend to you later. Got a
match?"

"Don't strike a light," commanded the other man sharply, fearfully. "No,
don't! Why, man, suppose--suppose your shot had struck him in--in the
face. God!"

"Well, help me lift it," asked Cranston shortly.

And between them they carried the childlike body of the eminent man of
science through the darkness to the stairs, up the stairs and through the
basement to the back. The dawn was growing now, and the pallid, drawn
face of The Thinking Machine was dimly visible by a light from the
window. The eyes were wide open, glassy; the mouth agape slightly.
Overcome by a newborn terror,--hideous fear,--the two men flung the body
brutally into an open coal bin, slammed down the cover, and went
stumbling, clattering, out of the room.

It was something less than half an hour later that the lid of the coal
bin was raised from inside, and The Thinking Machine clambered out. He
paused for a moment, to rub his knees and elbows ruefully and stretch his
cramped limbs.

"Dear me! Dear me!" he grumbled to himself. "I really must be more
careful."

And then straight back to the entrance of the subcellar he went. It was
lighter outside now, and he walked with the assurance of one who saw
where he went, yet noiselessly. But the door of the stairs leading down
still revealed only a yawning, black hole. He went on without the
slightest hesitation, remembering to step over the fourth step, which had
squeaked once before. In the gloom below, standing on the earth again, he
listened for many minutes.

Assured at last that he was alone, he groped about the floor for his
electric light, and finally found it. Without fear or apparent caution he
examined the huge, dark, damp room. On each side were thrown up banks of
dirt that seemed to have been dug recently, and here before him was where
the bound man had lain. And over there--he started forward eagerly when
he saw it--was a telephone! The transmitter box had been wrecked by what
seemed to be a bullet. As he saw it he nodded his head comprehendingly.

From there he went on around some masonry. Here was a passage of some
sort. He flashed the light into it. It had been dug out of the solid
earth, and its existence evidently accounted for the heaps of dirt in the
subcellar. Still he didn't hesitate. Straight along the passage he went,
wary of step, and stooping occasionally to avoid striking his head
against the earth above him. Ten, fifteen, twenty, feet he went, and
still the gloomy, foul smelling hole lay ahead of him, leading to--what?
At about thirtyfive feet from the subcellar there was a sharp turn,--he
thought at first it was the end of the tunnel,--then the passage
straightened out again, and there was another fifteen or twenty feet,
growing smaller and smaller as he went forward.

Suddenly the tunnel stopped. The Thinking Machine found himself
flattening his nose against a door of some sort. He allowed his light to
fade, then dimly, through a cranny, he saw a faint glow outside. This
seemed to be his destination, wherever it was,--and he paused
thoughtfully. Obviously the light outside was electric, and if electric
light might not some one be in there? A subterranean chamber of some
sort, perhaps? His fingers ran around the edge of the door, loosened a
fastening, and he peered out. Then, assured again, he opened the door
wide, and stepped out into a brilliant glare.

He was in the subway. He stood blinking incredulously. Here to his right
the shining rails went winding off round a curve in the far distance; and
to the left was a quicker turn in the line of the excavation. In neither
direction was there anything that looked like a station.

"Really, this is most extraordinary!" he exclaimed.

Then and there the eminent man of science paused to consider this weird
thing from all possible viewpoints. It was unbelievable, positively
nightmarish; yet true enough, for here he stood in the subway. There was
no question about that; for in the distance was the roar of a train, and
he discreetly withdrew into the little door, closing it carefully behind
him until it had passed.

Finally he popped out again, closed the door behind him, paused only to
admire the skill with which a portion of the tiling in the tunnel had
been utilized as a door, then went on across the tracks. It was still
early morning; the trains were as yet few and far between; so he had a
little leisure for the minute examination he made of the tiled walls
opposite the closed door. It was perhaps ten minutes before he found a
tile that was loose. He hauled at it until it came out in his hand,
revealing a dark aperture beyond.

Within fifteen minutes, therefore, from the time he undertook the search
for the second door he was standing in another narrow, earthy tunnel
which beckoned him on. With the ever ready light to guide him, and still
proceeding with caution, he advanced for possibly thirty feet; then came
a turn. Round the turn he found himself in a sort of room--another
cellar, perhaps. He permitted his light to go out, and stood listening,
straining his squint eyes. After a time he was satisfied and flashed his
light again.

Directly before him were half a dozen rough steps, leading up to what
seemed to be a trap door. He had barely time to notice this and to see
that the trap door was hanging open, when there came a cyclonic rush
toward him out of the darkness, from the direction of his right,
something whizzed past his head, causing him to drop the precious light,
and instinctively he ran up the steps. The gloom above was no more
dangerous, he thought, than the gloom below, and he went on, finally
passing through the trap and standing on a hard floor above.

There was the sound of a fierce, desperate struggle down there somewhere,
cursing, blasphemy, then the noise of feet on the steps coming toward
him, and the trap door closed with the heavy, resonant clang of iron. He
was alone, his light lost. A sudden strange, awful silence closed down
around him, a silence alive with suggestion of unseen, unknown dangers.
He stood for a moment, then sank down upon the floor wearily.

Cashier Randall stood beside the ponderous door of the vault, watch in
hand. It was two minutes of ten o'clock. At precisely ten the time lock
on the massive steel structure, built into the solid masonry of the bank,
would bring the mechanism into position for the combination to work.
Already the various clerks and tellers were at their posts; books and
money were in the vault. At length there came a whir and a sharp click in
the heavy door, and the cashier whirled the combination. A few minutes
later he pulled open the outer door with a perceptible effort, then
turned his attention to the combination lock on the second door. This
yielded more readily; but there was still another door, the third to be
unlocked. Altogether the task of opening the huge vault required
something like six minutes.

Finally Cashier Randall threw open the light third door, then touched an
electric button to his right. Instantly the gloom of the structure was
dispelled by a flood of light, and he started back in amazement. Almost
at his feet, on the floor of the vault, was the huddled figure of a man.
Dead? Or unconscious? Certainly there was no movement to indicate life,
and the cashier stepped backward into the office with blanched face.

Others came crowding round and saw, and startled glances were exchanged.

"You, Carroll and Young, lift him out, please," requested the cashier
quietly. "Don't make any noise about it. Take him to my office."

The order was obeyed in silence. Then Cashier Randall in person went into
the vault and ran hurriedly through the piles of money which lay there.
He came out at last and spoke to one of the paying tellers.

"The money is all right," he said, with a relieved expression in his
face. "Have it all counted carefully, please, and report to me."

He retired into his private office and closed the door behind him.
Carroll and Young stood staring down curiously at the man who now lay
stretched full length on the couch. They looked at the cashier
inquiringly.

"I think it's a matter for the police," continued the cashier after a
moment and he picked up the receiver of the telephone.

"But how--how did he get in the vault?" stammered Carroll.

"I don't know. Hello! Police headquarters, please."

"Anything missing, sir?" inquired Young.

"Not so far as we know," was the reply. "Don't make any excitement about
it, please. He is breathing yet, isn't he?"

"Yes," answered Carroll. "He doesn't seem to be hurt--just unconscious."

"Lack of air," said the cashier. "He must have been in there all night.
It's enough to kill him. Hello! I want to speak to the chief of
detectives. Mr. Mallory, yes. This is the Grandison National Bank, Mr.
Mallory. Can you come down at once, please, and investigate a matter of
great importance?"

Fifteen minutes later Detective Mallory walked into the cashier's private
office. Instantly his eyes fell upon the recumbent figure on the couch,
and there came with the glimpse a strange, startled expression.

"Well, for--" he blurted. "Where did you get hold of him?"

"I found him in the vault just now when I opened it," was the reply. "Do
you know him?"

"Know him?" bellowed Detective Mallory. "Know him? Why it's Professor Van
Dusen, a distinguished scientist. He's the fellow they call The Thinking
Machine sometimes." He paused incredulously. "Have you sent for a doctor?
Well, send for one quick!"

With the tender care of a mother for her child the detective hovered
about the couch whereon The Thinking Machine lay, having first opened the
window, and pausing now and then to swear roundly at the physician's
delay in arriving. And at last the doctor came. Quick restoratives
brought the scientist to consciousness within a few minutes.

"Ah, Mr. Mallory!" he remarked weakly. "Please have the doors locked, and
put somebody you can trust on guard. Don't let anyone out. I'll explain
in a minute or so."

The detective rushed out of the room, returning a moment later. He found
The Thinking Machine talking to the cashier.

"Have you a man named Cranston employed here in the bank?"

"Yes," replied the cashier.

"Arrest him, Mr. Mallory," directed The Thinking Machine. "Doctor, just
the least bit of nitroglycerin, please, in my left arm, here. And, also,
Mr. Mallory, arrest any particular chum of this man Cranston; also a
young man, almost a boy, possibly employed here--probably a relative or
closely connected with Cranston's chum. That will do, doctor. Thanks!
Anything stolen?"

The detective glanced inquiringly at the cashier.

"No," replied that official.

The Thinking Machine dropped back on the couch, closed his eyes, and lay
silent for a moment.

"Pretty bad pulse, doctor," he remarked at last. "Charge your hypodermic
again. What bank is this, Mr. Mallory?"

"Grandison National," the detective informed him. "What happened to you?
How did it come you were in the vault?"

"It was awful, Mr. Mallory--awful, believe me!" was the reply. "I'll tell
you about it after awhile. Meanwhile be sure to get Cranston and--"

And he fainted.

Twenty-four hours' rest in his own home, under the watchful eye of a
physician, restored The Thinking Machine to a physical condition almost
normal. But the whys and wherefors of his mysterious presence in the
vault of the bank were still matters of eager speculation, but
speculation only, to both the police and the bank officials. His last
words, before being removed to his own apartments, had been a warning
against the further use of the vault; but no explanation accompanied it.

Meanwhile Detective Mallory and his men rounded up three prisoners--Harry
Cranston, a middle aged and long trusted employee of the bank; David
Ellis Burge, a young mechanical engineer with whom Cranston had been upon
terms of great intimacy for many months; and Richard Folsom, a stalwart
young nephew of Burge's, himself a student of mechanical engineering.
They were held upon charges born in the fertile mind of Detective
Mallory, carefully isolated from one another and from the outside.

The Thinking Machine told his story in detail, incident by incident, from
the moment of the telephone call until the trap door closed behind him
and he found himself in the vault of a bank. His listeners, Detective
Mallory, President Hall and Cashier Randall of the Grandison National,
and Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, absorbed it in utter amazement.

"Certainly it was the most elusive problem that has ever come under my
observation," declared the diminutive man of science. "It was so elusive,
so compelling, that I indiscreetly placed my life in danger twice, and I
didn't know definitely what it all meant until I knew I was in the vault.
No man may know that slow suffocation, that hideous gasping for breath as
minute after minute went by, unless he has felt it. And, gentlemen, if I
had been killed one of the most valuable minds in the sciences would have
been lost. It would have been nothing less than a catastrophe." He paused
and settled back into that position which was so familiar to at least two
of his hearers.

"When I got the telephone call," he resumed after a moment, "it told me
several things beyond the obvious. The logic of it all--and logic,
gentlemen, is incontrovertible--was that some man was in danger, in
danger even as he talked to me, that he had tried to reach me, seeking
help, that the first interruption on the wire came because perhaps he was
being choked, and that the second came--the shot which wrecked the
instrument--as a desperate expedient to prevent further conversation. The
scene was quite clear in my mind.

"The wire was dead then. Central didn't know the number. There was no way
to get that number save by the tedious process of testing the wires in
the exchange, and that might have taken days. It took only two hours or
so, fortunately; but I got the number at last from which I was called;
that is, I got a wire which was inexplicably dead, and assumed the rest.
The number of that wire was fortyone-seventeen. The records showed the
street and number of the house where it came from. Therefore I went
there. Before I went I took the precaution of calling up police
headquarters to see if any report of a murder or attempted murder or
anything unusual had come in. Nothing had come in. This fact in itself
was elucidating, because vaguely it indicated that I had been called,
rather than the police, because--well, perhaps because it was not
desirable for the police to know.

"Well, as I explained, I searched the house; and by the way, Mr. Mallory,
I don't know if you know the advantages of always holding your dark
lantern as far away from your body as possible when going into dangerous
places; because if there is danger, a shot, say, the natural impulse of
the person who shoots is to aim at the light. Incidentally this
precaution saved my life in the cellar, when I feigned death. But I'm
going a little ahead of myself.

"I found telephone number fortyone-seventeen, and there was a heavy coat
of dust on the receiver. Obviously it had not been recently used. The
line was dead, it is true, but the instrument was in perfect condition.
There was no sign of a bullet mark anywhere round or near it. If the
bullet that was fired had killed the man who had been using the line, it
would not have deadened the wire; therefore instantly I saw that the line
had been tapped somewhere; that this instrument had been cut off from it,
and the instrument which was demolished was the one on the branch wire.

"I knew this, and was going to the window to see if the wire led up or
down, when I heard some one approaching. I first supposed that the
person, whoever it was, was in the room with me, the steps were so
distinct; but when I flashed the light, intending at least to see him, I
knew he was above me. One loses the sense of direction of sound,
particularly in the dark; and it is an incontestable fact that footsteps,
or any sound above, can be heard more clearly than the same sound below.
Therefore I knew that some one was in the room above me. For what
purpose? Possibly to disconnect the branch wire on the telephone line.

"I waited until the person, whoever it was, came down and went his way;
then I found the wire, and saw where the connection had been made on it.
Then I went straight down to the subcellar. There I saw this Folsom lying
on the ground, bound. He was not gagged; yet he didn't answer my
questions; obviously because he knew if he did he would place himself in
danger. The shot was fired at me, or rather at my light, and I went
through the farce which ultimately placed me in a coal bin. Then I began
to get a definite idea of things from the conversation, when Cranston's
name was mentioned several times.

"Folsom persisted in an outspoken declaration to reveal everything he
knew, including the story of my murder. He insisted until he placed
himself in grave danger, and then, under cover of utter darkness, I
extended one hand and pinched him twice on the ankle. He knew then that I
was not dead, that I had heard, and did the very thing I wanted him to
do--begged for his life. It was a bit of justifiable duplicity. I knew if
he was the man his every act so far had indicated that he would humbug
Cranston and the other man into letting him go, or at least not
committing another murder. Subsequent developments showed that this
conjecture was correct.

"From the coal bin I went back to the subcellar, knowing positively now
that there would be no one there. Those men were frightened when they
left me, and men run from fright. What they would do with young Folsom I
didn't know. There, with my electric light, I found the branch telephone.
The transmitter box had been ruined by a shot, as I imagined. So, thus
far at least, the logic of the affair was taking me some place.

"And then I followed that tunnel through the subway into another tunnel.
I should not have ventured into that second tunnel had I not been fairly
confident that no one else was there. In that I was mistaken. I don't
know now, but I imagine that young Folsom was temporarily being held
prisoner there, and that possibly Cranston was on guard. Anyway, there
was a fight, and the trap door was open--the trap door into the vault.
And I don't know yet whether Folsom and Cranston, if they were there,
even knew I was at hand. Certainly the trap door, once closed behind me,
was not opened again. And you know the rest of it." Again there was a
pause, and the scientist twiddled his fingers idly.

"Now it all comes down to this," he concluded at last. "Cranston dragged
Burge in to the affair,--Burge is a mechanical engineer, and a good one
was needed to do this work,--they rented the house, and went to work. It
took weeks, perhaps months, to do it all. Folsom in some way learned of
it, and he is an honest man. He took a desperate means of getting the
information into my hands, instead of the hands of the police. Why the
telephone was in the house I don't know--perhaps it was already there,
perhaps they had it put in. Anyway, of your prisoners, Mr. Mallory, this
young Folsom is guilty only of an attempt to shield his uncle, Burge,
while Cranston is the ringleader, and Burge the man who achieved the
immense task of getting under the vault of the bank.

"This vault has a floor of cement, cut into small squares. The trap door
is in that floor, and so perfectly concealed in the lines of the squares
that it is invisible unless submitted to a close scrutiny, just as the
doors in the tiled walls of the subway were invisible to a casual
observer. They overcame tremendous difficulties, these two men, in
cutting through the immense foundation of the vault, even the steel
itself, but remember that they worked at night for weeks and weeks, and
were making no mistakes. They did not actually rob the bank because, I
imagine, they were awaiting the deposit there of some immense sum. Is
that correct, Mr. Hall?"

President Hall started suddenly. "Yes, in a week or so we were expecting
a shipment of gold from Europe--nearly three million dollars," he
explained. "Think of it!"

Detective Mallory whistled. "Phew! What a haul it would have been!"

"Now, Mr. Mallory, either of these three men, if properly approached,
will confess the whole thing substantially as I have told it," remarked
The Thinking Machine. "But I would advise that Folsom be allowed to go.
He is really a very decent sort of young man."

When they had all gone except Hatch, the eminent man of science went over
and laid one hand upon the report's shoulder and squinted straight into
his eyes for a moment. "You know, Mr. Hatch," he said, and there was a
strange note in the irritable voice, "my first fear, when the telephone
call came, was that it was you. You must be careful--very careful,
always."



MYSTERY OF THE FATAL CIPHER


For the third time Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--so-called The
Thinking Machine--read the letter. It was spread out in front of him on
the table, and his blue eyes were narrowed to mere slits as he studied it
through his heavy eyeglasses. The young woman who had placed the letter
in his hands, Miss Elizabeth Devan, sat waiting patiently on the sofa in
the little reception room of The Thinking Machine's house. Her blue eyes
were opened wide and she stared as if fascinated at this man who had
become so potent a factor in the solution of intangible mysteries.

Here is the letter:


To those Concerned:

Tired of it all I seek the end, and am content. Ambition now is dead; the
grave yawns greedily at my feet, and with the labor of my own hands lost
I greet death of my own will, by my own act. To my son I leave all, and
you who maligned me, you who discouraged me, you may read this and know I
punish you thus. It's for him, my son, to forgive. I dared in life and
dare dead your everlasting anger, not alone that you didn't speak but
that you cherished secret, and my ears are locked forever against you. My
vault is my resting place. On the brightest and dearest page of life I
wrote (7) my love for him. Family ties, binding as the Bible itself, bade
me give all to my son.

Good-bye. I die.

POMEROY STOCKTON


"Under just what circumstances did this letter come into your possession,
Miss Devan?" The Thinking Machine asked. "Tell me the full story; omit
nothing."

The scientist sank back into his chair with his enormous yellow head
pillowed comfortably against the cushion and his long, steady fingers
pressed tip to tip. He didn't even look at his pretty visitor. She had
come to ask for information; he was willing to give it, because it
offered another of those abstract problems which he always found
interesting. In his own field--the sciences--his fame was worldwide. This
concentration of a brain which had achieved so much on more material
things was perhaps a sort of relaxation.

Miss Devan had a soft, soothing voice, and as she talked it was broken at
times by what seemed to be a sob. Her face was flushed a little, and she
emphasized her points by a quick clasping and unclasping of her daintily
gloved hands.

"My father, or rather my adopted father, Pomeroy Stockton, was an
inventor," she began. "We lived in a great, old-fashioned house in
Dorchester. We have lived there since I was a child. When I was only five
or six years old, I was left an orphan and was adopted by Mr. Stockton,
then a man of forty years. I am now twenty-three. I was raised and cared
for by Mr. Stockton, who always treated me as a daughter. His death,
therefore, was a great blow to me.

"Mr. Stockton was a widower with only one child of his own, a son, John
Stockton, who is now about thirty one years old. He is a man of
irreproachable character, and has always, since I first knew him, been
religiously inclined. He is the junior partner in a great commercial
company, Dutton & Stockton, leather men. I suppose he has an immense
fortune, for he gives largely to charity, and is, too, the active head of
a large Sunday school.

"Pomeroy Stockton, my adopted father, almost idolized this son, although
there was in his manner toward him something akin to fear. Close work had
made my father querulous and irritable. Yet I don't believe a better
hearted man ever lived. He worked most of the time in a little shop,
which he had installed in a large back room on the ground floor of the
house. He always worked with the door locked. There were furnaces,
moulds, and many things that I didn't know the use of."

"I know who he was," said The Thinking Machine. "He was working to
rediscover the secret of hardened copper--a secret which was lost in
Egypt. I knew Mr. Stockton very well by reputation. Go on."

"Whatever it was he worked on," Miss Devan resumed, "he guarded it very
carefully. He would permit no one at all to enter the room. I have never
seen more than a glimpse of what was in it. His son particularly I have
seen barred out of the shop a dozen times and every time there was a
quarrel to follow.

"Those were the conditions at the time Mr. Stockton first became ill, six
or seven months ago. At that time he double locked the doors of his shop,
retired to his rooms on the second floor, and remained there in practical
seclusion for two weeks or more. These rooms adjoined mine, and twice
during that time I heard the son and the father talking loudly, as if
quarreling. At the end of the two weeks, Mr. Stockton returned to work in
the shop and shortly afterward the son, who had also lived in the house,
took apartments in Beacon Street and removed his belongings from the
house.

"From that time up to last Monday--this is Thursday--I never saw the son
in the house. On Monday the father was at work as usual in the shop. He
had previously told me that the work he was engaged in was practically
ended and he expected a great fortune to result from it. About 5 o'clock
in the afternoon on Monday the son came to the house. No one knows when
he went out. It is a fact, however, that Father did not have dinner at
the usual time, 6:30. I presumed he was at work, and did not take time
for his dinner. I have known him to do this many times."

For a moment the girl was silent and seemed to be struggling with some
deep grief which she could not control.

"And next morning?" asked The Thinking Machine gently.

"Next morning," the girl went on, "Father was found dead in the workshop.
There were no marks on his body, nothing to indicate at first the manner
of death. It was as if he had sat in his chair beside one of the furnaces
and had taken poison and died at once. A small bottle of what I presume
to be prussic acid was smashed on the floor, almost beside his chair. We
discovered him dead after we had rapped on the door several times and got
no answer. Then Montgomery, our butler, smashed in the door, at my
request. There we found Father.

"I immediately telephoned to the son, John Stockton, and he came to the
house. The letter you now have was found in my father's pocket. It was
just as you see it. Mr. Stockton seemed greatly agitated and started to
destroy the letter. I induced him to give it to me, because instantly it
occurred to me that there was something wrong about all of it. My father
had talked too often to me about the future, what he intended to do and
his plans for me. There may not be anything wrong. The letter may be just
what it purports to be. I hope it is--oh--I hope it is. Yet everything
considered--"

"Was there an autopsy?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"No. John Stockton's actions seemed to be directed against any
investigation. He told me he thought he could do certain things which
would prevent the matter coming to the attention of the police. My father
was buried on a death certificate issued by a Dr. Benton, who has been a
friend of John Stockton since their college days. In that way the
appearance of suicide or anything else was covered up completely.

"Both before and after the funeral John Stockton made me promise to keep
this letter hidden or else destroy it. In order to put an end to this I
told him I had destroyed the letter. This attitude on his part, the more
I thought of it, seemed to confirm my original idea that it had not been
suicide. Night after night I thought of this, and finally decided to come
to you rather than to the police. I feel that there is some dark mystery
behind it all. If you can help me now--"

"Yes, yes," broke in The Thinking Machine. "Where was the key to the
workshop? In Pomeroy's pocket? In his room? In the door?"

"Really, I don't know," said Miss Devan. "It hadn't occurred to me."

"Did Mr. Stockton leave a will?"

"Yes, it is with his lawyer, a Mr. Sloane."

"Has it been read? Do you know what is in it?"

"It is to be read in a day or so. Judging from the second paragraph of
the letter, I presume he left everything to his son."

For the fourth time The Thinking Machine read the letter. At its end he
again looked up at Miss Devan.

"Just what is your interpretation of this letter from one end to the
other?" he asked.

"Speaking from my knowledge of Mr. Stockton and the circumstances
surrounding him," the girl explained, "I should say the letter means just
what it says. I should imagine from the first paragraph that something he
invented had been taken away from him, stolen perhaps. The second
paragraph and the third, I should say, were intended as a rebuke to
certain relatives--a brother and two distant cousins--who had always
regarded him as a crank and took frequent occasion to tell him so. I
don't know a great deal of the history of that other branch of the
family. The last two paragraphs explain themselves except--"

"Except the figure seven," interrupted the scientist. "Do you have any
idea whatever as to the meaning of that?"

The girl took the letter and studied it closely for a moment.

"Not the slightest," she said. "It does not seem to be connected with
anything else in the letter."

"Do you think it possible, Miss Devan, that this letter was written under
coercion?"

"I do," said the girl quickly, and her face flamed. "That's just what I
do think. From the first I have imagined some ghastly, horrible mystery
back of it all."

"Or, perhaps Pomeroy Stockton never saw this letter at all," mused The
Thinking Machine. "It may be a forgery?"

"Forgery!" gasped the girl. "Then John Stockton--"

"Whatever it is, forged or genuine," The Thinking Machine went on
quietly, "it is a most extraordinary document. It might have been written
by a poet. It states things in such a roundabout way. It is not directly
to the point, as a practical man would have written."

There was silence for several minutes and the girl sat leaning forward on
the table, staring into the inscrutable eyes of the scientist.

"Perhaps, perhaps," she said, "there is a cipher of some sort in it?"

"That is precisely correct," said The Thinking Machine emphatically.
"There is a cipher in it, and a very ingenious one."


II


It was twenty-four hours later that The Thinking Machine sent for
Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, and talked over the matter with him. He had
always found Hatch a discreet, resourceful individual, who was willing to
aid in any way in his power.

Hatch read the letter, which The Thinking Machine had said contained a
cipher, and then the circumstances as related by Miss Devan were retold
to the reporter.

"Do you think it is a cipher?" asked Hatch in conclusion.

"It is a cipher," replied The Thinking Machine. "If what Miss Devan has
said is correct, John Stockton cannot have said anything about the
affair. I want you to go and talk to him, find out all about him and what
division of the property is made by the will. Does this will give
everything to the son?

"Also find out what personal enmity there is between John Stockton and
Miss Devan, and what was the cause of it. Was there a man in it? If so,
who? When you have done all this, go to the house in Dorchester and bring
me the family Bible, if there is one there. It's probably a big book. If
it is not there, let me know immediately by 'phone. Miss Devan will, I
suppose, give it to you, if she has it."

With these instructions Hatch went away. Half an hour later he was in the
private office of John Stockton at the latter's place of business. Mr.
Stockton was a man of long visage, rather angular and clerical in
appearance. There was a smug satisfaction about the man that Hatch didn't
quite approve of, and yet it was a trait which found expression only in a
soft voice and small acts of needless courtesy.

A deprecatory look passed over Stockton's face when Hatch asked the first
question, which bore on his relationship with Pomeroy Stockton.

"I had hoped that this matter would not come to the attention of the
press," said Stockton in an oily, gentle tone. "It is something which can
only bring disgrace upon my poor father's memory, and his has been a name
associated with distinct achievements in the progress of the world.
However, if necessary, I will state my knowledge of the affair, and
invite the investigation which, frankly, I will say, I tried to stop."

"How much was your father's estate?" asked Hatch.

"Something more than a million," was the reply. "He made most of it
through a device for coupling cars. This is now in use on practically all
the railroads."

"And the division of this property by will?" asked Hatch.

"I haven't seen the will, but I understand that he left practically
everything to me, settling an annuity and the home in Dorchester on Miss
Devan, whom he had always regarded as a daughter."

"That would give you then, say, two-thirds or three-quarters of the
estate."

"Something like that, possibly $800,000."

"Where is this will now?"

"I understand in the hands of my father's attorney, Mr. Sloane."

"When is it to be read?"

"It was to have been read today, but there has been some delay about it.
The attorney postponed it for a few days."

"What, Mr. Stockton, was the purpose in making it appear that your father
died naturally, when obviously he committed suicide and there is even a
suggestion of something else?" demanded Hatch.

John Stockton sat up straight in his chair with a startled expression in
his eyes. He had been rubbing his hands together complacently; now he
stopped and stared at the reporter.

"Something else?" he asked. "Pray what else?"

Hatch shrugged his shoulders, but in his eyes there lay almost an
accusation.

"Did any motive ever appear for your father's suicide?"

"I know of none," Stockton replied. "Yet, admitting that this is suicide,
without a motive, it seems that the only fault I have committed is that I
had a friend report it otherwise and avoided a police inquiry."

"It's just that. Why did you do it?"

"Naturally to save the family name from disgrace. But this something else
you spoke of? Do you mean that anyone else thinks that anything other
than suicide or natural death is possible?"

As he asked the question there came some subtle change over his face. He
leaned forward toward the reporter. All trace of the sanctimonious smirk
about the thin-lipped mouth had gone now.

"Miss Devan has produced the letter found on your father at death and has
said--" began the reporter.

"Elizabeth! Miss Devan!" exclaimed John Stockton. He arose suddenly,
paced several times across the room, then stopped in front of the
reporter. "She gave me her word of honor that she would not make the
existence of that letter known."

"But she has made it public," said Hatch. "And further she intimates that
your father's death was not even what it appeared to be, suicide."

"She's crazy, man, crazy," said Stockton in deep agitation. "Who could
have killed my father? What motive could there have been?"

There was a grim twitching of Hatch's lips.

"Was Miss Devan legally adopted by your father?" he asked, irrelevantly.

"Yes."

"In that event, disregarding other relatives, doesn't it seem strange
even to you that he gives three quarters of the estate to you--you have a
fortune already--and only a small part to Miss Devan, who has nothing?"

"That's my father's business."

There was a pause. Stockton was still pacing back and forth.

Finally he sank down in his chair at the desk, and sat for a moment
looking at the reporter.

"Is that all?" he asked.

"I should like to know, if you don't mind telling me, what direct cause
there is for ill feeling between Miss Devan and you?"

"There is no ill feeling. We merely never got along well together. My
father and I have had several arguments about her for reasons which it is
not necessary to go into."

"Did you have such an argument on the night before your father was found
dead?"

"I believe there was something said about her."

"What time did you leave the shop that night?"

"About 10 o'clock."

"And you had been in the room with your father since afternoon, had you
not?"

"Yes."

"No dinner?"

"No."

"How did you come to neglect that?"

"My father was explaining a recent invention he had perfected, which I
was to put on the market."

"I suppose the possibility of suicide or his death in any way had not
occurred to you?"

"No, not at all. We were making elaborate plans for the future."

Possibly it was some prejudice against the man's appearance which made
Hatch so dissatisfied with the result of the interview. He felt that he
had gained nothing, yet Stockton had been absolutely frank, as it seemed.
There was one last question.

"Have you any recollection of a large family Bible in your father's
house?" he asked.

"I have seen it several times," Stockton said.

"Is it still there?"

"So far as I know, yes."

That was the end of the interview, and Hatch went straight to the house
in Dorchester to see Miss Devan. There, in accordance with instructions
from The Thinking Machine, he asked for the family Bible.

"There was one here the other day," said Miss Devan, "but it has
disappeared."

"Since your father's death?" asked Hatch.

"Yes, the next day."

"Have you any idea who took it?"

"Not unless--unless--"

"John Stockton! Why did he take it?" blurted Hatch.

There was a little resigned movement of the girl's hands, a movement
which said, "I don't know."

"He told me, too," said Hatch indignantly, "that he thought the Bible was
still here."

The girl drew close to the reporter and laid one white hand on his
sleeve. She looked up into his eyes and tears stood in her own. Her lips
trembled.

"John Stockton has that book," she said. "He took it away from here the
day after my father died, and he did it for a purpose. What, I don't
know."

"Are you absolutely positive he has it?" asked Hatch

"I saw it in his room, where he had hidden it," replied the girl.


III


Hatch laid the results of the interviews before the scientist at the
Beacon Hill home. The Thinking Machine listened without comment up to
that point where Miss Devan had said she knew the family Bible to be in
the son's possession.

"If Miss Devan and Stockton do not get along well together, why should
she visit Stockton's place at all?" demanded The Thinking Machine.

"I don't know," Hatch replied, "except that she thinks he must have had
some connection with her father's death, and is investigating on her own
account. What has this Bible to do with it anyway?"

"It may have a great deal to do with it," said The Thinking Machine
enigmatically. "Now, the thing to do is to find out if the girl told the
truth and if the Bible is in Stockton's apartment. Now, Mr. Hatch, I
leave that to you. I would like to see that Bible. If you can bring it to
me, well and good. If you can't bring it, look at and study the seventh
page for any pencil marks in the text, anything whatever. It might be
even advisable, if you have the opportunity, to tear out that page and
bring it to me. No harm will be done, and it can be returned in proper
time."

Perplexed wrinkles were gathering on Hatch's forehead as he listened.
What had page 7 of a Bible to do with what seemed to be a murder mystery?
Who had said anything about a Bible, anyway? The letter left by Stockton
mentioned a Bible, but that didn't seem to mean anything. Then Hatch
remembered that same letter carried a figure seven in parentheses which
had apparently nothing to do and no connection with any other part of the
letter. Hatch's introspective study of the affair was interrupted by The
Thinking Machine.

"I shall await your report here, Mr. Hatch. If it is what I expect, we
shall go out late tonight on a little voyage of discovery. Meanwhile see
that Bible and tell me what you find."

Hatch found the apartments of John Stockton on Beacon Street without any
difficulty. In a manner best known to himself he entered and searched the
place. When he came out there was a look of chagrin on his face as he
hurried to the house of The Thinking Machine nearby.

"Well?" asked the scientist.

"I saw the Bible," said Hatch.

"And page 7?"

"Was torn out, missing, gone," replied the reporter.

"Ah," exclaimed the scientist. "I thought so. Tonight we will make the
little trip I spoke of. By the way, did you happen to notice if John
Stockton had or used a fountain pen?"

"I didn't see one," said Hatch.

"Well, please see for me if any of his employees have ever noticed one.
Then meet me here tonight at 10 o'clock."

Thus Hatch was dismissed. A little later he called casually on Stockton
again. There, by inquiries, he established to his own satisfaction that
Stockton did not own a fountain pen. Then with Stockton himself he took
up the matter of the Bible again.

"I understand you to say, Mr. Stockton," he began in his smoothest tone,
"that you knew of the existence of a family Bible, but you did not know
if it was still at the Dorchester place."

"That's correct," said Stockton.

"How is it then," Hatch resumed, "that that identical Bible is now at
your apartments, carefully hidden in a box under a sofa?"

Mr. Stockton seemed to be amazed. He arose suddenly and leaned over
toward the reporter with hands clenched. There was a glitter of what
might have been anger in his eyes.

"What do you know about this? What are you talking about?" he demanded.

"I mean that you had said you did not know where this book was, and
meanwhile have it hidden. Why?"

"Have you seen the Bible in my rooms?" asked Stockton.

"I have," said the reporter coolly.

Now a new determination came into the face of the merchant. The oiliness
of his manner was gone, the sanctimonious smirk had been obliterated, the
thin lips closed into a straight, rigid line.

"I shall have nothing further to say," he declared almost fiercely.

"Will you tell me why you tore out the seventh page of the Bible?" asked
Hatch.

Stockton stared at him dully, as if dazed for a moment. All the color
left his face. There came a startling pallor instead. When next he spoke,
his voice was tense and strained.

"Is--is--the seventh page missing?"

"Yes," Hatch replied. "Where is it?"

"I'll have nothing further to say under any circumstances. That's all."

With not the slightest idea of what it might mean or what bearing it had
on the matter, Hatch had brought out statements which were wholly at
variance with facts. Why was Stockton so affected by the statement that
page seven was gone? Why had the Bible been taken from the Dorchester
home? Why had it been so carefully hidden? How did Miss Devan know it was
there?

These were only a few of the questions that were racing through the
reporter's mind. He did not seem to be able to grasp anything tangible.
If there were a cipher hidden in the letter, what was it? What bearing
did it have on the case?

Seeking a possible answer to some of these questions, Hatch took a cab
and was soon back at the Dorchester house. He was somewhat surprised to
see The Thinking Machine standing on the stoop waiting to be admitted.
The scientist took his presence as a matter of course.

"What did you find out about Stockton's fountain pen?" he asked.

"I satisfied myself that he had not owned a fountain pen, at least
recently enough for the pen to have been used in writing that letter. I
presume that's what inquiries in that direction mean."

The two men were admitted to the house and after a few minutes Miss Devan
entered. She understood when The Thinking Machine explained that they
merely wished to see the shop in which Mr. Stockton had been found dead.

"And also if you have a sample of Mr. Stockton's handwriting," asked the
scientist.

"It's rather peculiar," Miss Devan explained, "but I doubt if there is an
authentic sample in existence large enough, that is, to be compared with
that letter. He had a certain amount of correspondence, but this I did
for him on the typewriter. Occasionally he would prepare an article for a
scientific paper, but these were also dictated to me. He has been in the
habit of doing so for years."

"This letter seems to be all there is?"

"Of course his signature appears to checks and in other places. I can
produce some of those for you. I don't think, however, that there is the
slightest doubt that he wrote this letter. It is his handwriting."

"I suppose he never used a fountain pen?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Not that I know of," the girl replied. "I have one," and she took it out
of a little gold fascinator she wore at her bosom.

The scientist pressed the point of the pen against his thumb nail, and a
tiny drop of blue ink appeared. The letter was written in black. The
Thinking Machine seemed satisfied.

"And now the shop," he suggested.

Miss Devan led the way through the long wide hall to the back of the
building. There she opened a door, which showed signs of having been
battered in, and admitted them. Then, at the request of The Thinking
Machine, she rehearsed the story in full, showed him where Stockton had
been found, where the prussic acid had been broken, and how the servant,
Montgomery, had broken in the door at her request.

"Did you ever find the key to the door?"

"No. I can't imagine what became of it."

"Is this room precisely as it was when the body was found? That is, has
anything been removed from it?"

"Nothing," replied the girl.

"Have the servants taken anything out? Did they have access to this
room?"

"They have not been permitted to enter it at all. The body was removed
and the fragments of the acid bottle were taken away, but nothing else."

"Have you ever known of pen and ink being in this room?"

"I hadn't thought of it."

"You haven't taken them out since the body was found, have you?"

"I--I--er--have not," the girl stammered.

Miss Devan left the room, and for an hour Hatch and The Thinking Machine
conducted the search.

"Find a pen and ink," The Thinking Machine instructed.

They were not found.

At midnight, which was six hours later, The Thinking Machine and
Hutchinson Hatch were groping through the cellar of the Dorchester house
by the light of a small electric lamp which shot a straight beam
aggressively through the murky, damp air. Finally the ray fell on a tiny
door set in the solid wall of the cellar.

There was a slight exclamation from The Thinking Machine, and this was
followed immediately by the sharp, unmistakable click of a revolver
somewhere behind them in the dark.

"Down, quick," gasped Hatch, and with a sudden blow he dashed aside the
electric light, extinguishing it. Simultaneously with this there came a
revolver shot, and a bullet was buried in the wall behind Hatch's head.


IV


The reverberation of the pistol shot was still ringing in Hatch's ears
when he felt the hand of The Thinking Machine on his arm, and then
through the utter blackness of the cellar came the irritable voice of the
scientist:

"To your right, to your right," it said sharply.

Then, contrary to this advice Hatch felt the scientist drawing him to the
left. In another moment there came a second shot, and by the flash Hatch
could see that it was aimed at a point a dozen feet to the right of the
point where they had been when the first shot was fired. The person with
the revolver had heard the scientist and had been duped.

Firmly the scientist drew Hatch on until they were almost to the cellar
steps. There, outlined against a dim light which came down the stairs,
they could see a tall figure peering through the darkness toward a spot
opposite where they stood. Hatch saw only one thing to do and did it. He
leaped forward and landed on the back of the figure, bearing the man to
the ground. An instant later his hand closed on the revolver and he
wrested it away.

"All right," he sang out. "I've got it."

The electric light which he had dashed from the hand of The Thinking
Machine gleamed again through the cellar and fell upon the face of John
Stockton, helpless and gasping in the hands of the reporter.

"Well?" asked Stockton calmly. "Are you burglars or what?"

"Let's go upstairs to the light," suggested The Thinking Machine.

It was under these peculiar circumstances that the scientist came face to
face for the first time with John Stockton. Hatch introduced the two men
in a most matter-of-fact tone and restored to Stockton the revolver. This
was suggested by a nod of the scientist's head. Stockton laid the
revolver on a table.

"Why did you try to kill us?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"I presumed you were burglars," was the reply. "I heard the noise down
stairs and came down to investigate."

"I thought you lived on Beacon Street," said the scientist.

"I do, but I came here tonight on a little business, which is all my own,
and happened to hear you. What were you doing in the cellar?"

"How long have you been here?"

"Five or ten minutes."

"Have you a key to this house?"

"I have had one for many years. What is all this, anyway? How did you get
in this house? What right had you here?"

"Is Miss Devan in the house tonight?" asked The Thinking Machine,
entirely disregarding the other's questions.

"I don't know. I suppose so."

"You haven't seen her, of course?"

"Certainly not."

"And you came here secretly without her knowledge?"

Stockton shrugged his shoulders and was silent. The Thinking Machine
raised himself on the chair on which he had been sitting and squinted
steadily into Stockton's eyes. When he spoke it was to Hatch, but his
gaze did not waver.

"Arouse the servants, find where Miss Devan's room is, and see if
anything has happened to her," he directed.

"I think that will be unwise," broke in Stockton quickly.

"Why?"

"If I may put it on personal grounds," said Stockton, "I would ask as a
favor that you do not make known my visit here, or your own for that
matter, to Miss Devan."

There was a certain uneasiness in the man's attitude, a certain eagerness
to keep things away from Miss Devan that spurred Hatch to instant action.
He went out of the room hurriedly and ten minutes later Miss Devan, who
had dressed quickly, came into the room with him. The servants stood
outside in the hall, all curiosity. The closed door barred them from
knowledge of what was happening.

There was a little dramatic pause as Miss Devan entered and Stockton
arose from his seat. The Thinking Machine glanced from one to the other.
He noted the pallor of the girl's face and the frank embarrassment of
Stockton.

"What is it?" asked Miss Devan, and her voice trembled a little. "Why are
you all here? What has happened?"

"Mr. Stockton came here tonight," The Thinking Machine began quietly, "to
remove the contents from the locked vault in the cellar. He came without
your knowledge and found us ahead of him. Mr. Hatch and myself are here
in the course of our inquiry into the matter which you placed in my
hands. We also came without your knowledge. I considered this best. Mr.
Stockton was very anxious that his visit should be kept from you. Have
you anything to say now?"

The girl turned on Stockton with magnificent scorn. Accusation was in her
very attitude. Her small hand was pointed directly at Stockton and into
his face there came a strange emotion, which he struggled to repress.

"Murderer! Thief!" the girl almost hissed.

"Do you know why he came?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"He came to rob the vault, as you said," said the girl, fiercely. "It was
because my father would not give him the secret of his last invention
that this man killed him. How he compelled him to write that letter I
don't know."

"Elizabeth, for God's sake what are you saying?" asked Stockton with
ashen face.

"His greed is so great that he wanted all of my father's estate," the
girl went on impetuously. "He was not content that I should get even a
small part of it."

"Elizabeth, Elizabeth!" said Stockton, as he leaned forward with his head
in his hands.

"What do you know about this secret vault?" asked the scientist.

"I--I--have always thought there was a secret vault in the cellar," the
girl explained. "I may say I know there was one because those things my
father took the greatest care of were always disposed of by him somewhere
in the house. I can imagine no other place than the cellar."

There was a long pause. The girl stood rigid, staring down at the bowed
figure of Stockton with not a gleam of pity in her face. Hatch caught the
expression and it occurred to him for the first time that Miss Devan was
vindictive. He was more convinced than ever that there had been some long
standing feud between these two. The Thinking Machine broke the long
silence.

"Do you happen to know, Miss Devan, that page seven of the Bible which
you found hidden in Mr. Stockton's place is missing?"

"I didn't notice," said the girl.

Stockton had arisen with the words and now stood with white face and
listening intently.

"Did you ever happen to see a page seven in that Bible?" the scientist
asked.

"I don't recall."

"What were you doing in my rooms?" demanded Stockton of the girl.

"Why did you tear out page seven?" asked The Thinking Machine.

Stockton thought the question was addressed to him and turned to answer.
Then he saw it was unmistakably a question to Miss Devan and turned again
to her.

"I didn't tear it out," exclaimed Miss Devan. "I never saw it. I don't
know what you mean."

The Thinking Machine made an impatient gesture with his hands; his next
question was to Stockton.

"Have you a sample of your father's handwriting?'"

"Several," said Stockton. "Here are three or four letters from him."

Miss Devan gasped a little as if startled and Stockton produced the
letters and handed them to The Thinking Machine. The latter glanced over
two of them.

"I thought, Miss Devan, you said your father always dictated his letters
to you?"

"I did say so," said the girl. "I didn't know of the existence of these."

"May I have these?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Yes. They are of no consequence."

"Now let's see what is in the secret vault," the scientist went on.

He arose and led the way again into the cellar, lighting his path with
the electric bulb. Stockton followed immediately behind, then came Miss
Devan, her white dressing gown trailing mystically in the dim light, and
last came Hatch. The Thinking Machine went straight to that spot where he
and Hatch had been when Stockton had fired at them. Again the rays of the
light revealed the tiny door set into the wall of the cellar. The door
opened readily at his touch; the small vault was empty.

Intent on his examination of this, The Thinking Machine was oblivious for
a moment to what was happening. Suddenly there came again a pistol shot,
followed instantly by a woman's scream.

"My God, he's killed himself. He's killed himself."

It was Miss Devan's voice.


V


When The Thinking Machine flashed his light back into the gloom of the
cellar, he saw Miss Devan and Hatch leaning over the prostrate figure of
John Stockton. The latter's face was perfectly white save just at the
edge of the hair, where there was a trickle of red. In his right hand he
clasped a revolver.

"Dear me! Dear me!" exclaimed the scientist. "What is it?'"

"Stockton shot himself," said Hatch, and there was excitement in his
tone.

On his knees the scientist made a hurried examination of the wounded man,
then suddenly--it may have been inadvertently--he flashed the light in
the face of Miss Devan.

"Where were you?" he demanded quickly.

"Just behind him," said the girl. "Will he die? Is it fatal?"

"Hopeless," said the scientist. "Let's get him upstairs."

The unconscious man was lifted and with Hatch leading was again taken to
the room which they had left only a few minutes before. Hatch stood by
helplessly while The Thinking Machine, in his capacity of physician, made
a more minute examination of the wound. The bullet mark just above the
right temple was almost bloodless; around it there were the unmistakeable
marks of burned powder.

"Help me just a moment, Miss Devan," requested The Thinking Machine, as
he bound an improvised handkerchief bandage about the head. Miss Devan
tied the final knots of the bandage and The Thinking Machine studied her
hands closely as she did so. When the work was completed he turned to her
in a most matter of fact way.

"Why did you shoot him?" he asked.

"I--I--" stammered the girl, "I didn't shoot him, he shot himself."

"How come those powder marks on your right hand?"

Miss Devan glanced down at her right hand, and the color which had been
in her face faded as if by magic. There was fear, now, in her manner.

"I--I don't know," she stammered. "Surely you don't think that I--"

"Mr. Hatch, 'phone at once for an ambulance and then see if it is
possible to get Detective Mallory here immediately. I shall give Miss
Devan into custody on the charge of shooting this man."

The girl stared at him dully for a moment and then dropped back into a
chair with dead white face and fear-distended eyes. Hatch went out,
seeking a telephone, and for a time Miss Devan sat silent, as if dazed.
Finally, with an effort, she aroused herself and facing The Thinking
Machine defiantly, burst out:

"I didn't shoot him. I didn't, I didn't. He did it himself."

The long, slender fingers of The Thinking Machine closed on the revolver
and gently removed it from the hand of the wounded man.

"Ah, I was mistaken," he said suddenly, "he was not as badly wounded as I
thought. See! He is reviving."

"Reviving," exclaimed Miss Devan. "Won't he die, then?'"

"Why?" asked The Thinking Machine sharply.

"It seems so pitiful, almost a confession of guilt," she hurriedly
exclaimed. "Won't he die?"

Gradually the color was coming back into Stockton's face. The Thinking
Machine bending over him, with one hand on the heart, saw the eyelids
quiver and then slowly the eyes opened. Almost immediately the strength
of the heart beat grew perceptibly stronger. Stockton stared at him a
moment, then wearily his eyelids drooped again.

"Why did Miss Devan shoot you?" The Thinking Machine demanded.

There was a pause and the eyes opened for the second time. Miss Devan
stood within range of the glance, her hands outstretched entreatingly
toward Stockton.

"Why did she shoot you?" repeated The Thinking Machine.

"She--did--not," said Stockton slowly. "I--did--it--myself."

For an instant there was a little wrinkle of perplexity on the brow of
The Thinking Machine and then it passed.

"Purposely?" he asked.

"I did it myself."

Again the eyes closed and Stockton seemed to be passing into
unconsciousness. The Thinking Machine glanced up to find an infinite
expression of relief on Miss Devan's face. His own manner changed; became
almost abject, in fact, as he turned to her again.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I made a mistake."

"Will he die?"

"No, that was another mistake. He will recover."

Within a few moments a City Hospital ambulance rattled up to the door and
John Stockton was removed. It was with a feeling of pity that Hatch
assisted Miss Devan, now almost in a fainting condition, to her room. The
Thinking Machine had previously given her a slight stimulant. Detective
Mallory had not answered the call by 'phone.

The Thinking Machine and Hatch returned to Boston. At the Park Street
subway they separated, after The Thinking Machine had given certain
instructions. Hatch spent most of the following day carrying out these
instructions. First he went to see Dr. Benton, the physician who issued
the death certificate on which Pomeroy Stockton was buried. Dr. Benton
was considerably alarmed when the reporter broached the subject of his
visit. After a time he talked freely of the case.

"I have known John Stockton since we were in college together," he said,
"and I believe him to be one of the few really good men I know. I can't
believe otherwise. Singularly enough, he is also one of the few good men
who has made his own fortune. There is nothing hypocritical about him.

"Immediately after his father was found dead, he 'phoned to me and I went
out to the house in Dorchester. He explained then that it was apparent
Pomeroy Stockton had committed suicide. He dreaded the disgrace that
public knowledge would bring on an honored name, and asked me what could
be done. I suggested the only thing I knew--that was the issuance of a
death certificate specifying natural causes--heart disease, I said. This
act was due entirely to my friendship for him.

"I examined the body and found a trace of prussic acid on Pomeroy's
tongue. Beside the chair on which he sat a bottle of prussic acid had
been broken. I made no autopsy, of course. Ethically I may have sinned,
but I feel that no real harm has been done. Of course, now that you know
the real facts my entire career is at stake."

"There is no question in your mind but what it was suicide?" asked Hatch.

"Not the slightest. Then, too, there was the letter, which was found in
Pomeroy Stockton's pocket. I saw that and if there had been any doubt
then it was removed. This letter, I think, was then in Miss Devan's
possession. I presume it is still."

"Do you know anything about Miss Devan?"

"Nothing, except that she is an adopted daughter, who for some reason
retained her own family name. Three or four years ago she had a little
love affair, to which John Stockton objected. I believe he was the cause
of it being broken off. As a matter of fact, I think at one time he was
himself in love with her and she refused to accept him as a suitor. Since
that time there has been some slight friction, but I know nothing of this
except in a general way from what he has said to me."

Then Hatch proceeded to carry out the other part of The Thinking
Machine's instructions. This was to see the attorney in whose possession
Pomeroy Stockton's will was supposed to be and to ask him why there had
been a delay in the reading of the will.

Hatch found the attorney, Frederick Sloane, without difficulty. Without
reservation Hatch laid all the circumstances as he knew them before Mr.
Sloane. Then came the question of why the will had not been read. Mr.
Sloane, too, was frank.

"It's because the will is not now in my possession," he said. "It has
either been mislaid, lost, or possibly stolen. I did not care for the
family to know this just now, and delayed the reading of the will while I
made a search for it. Thus far I have found not a trace. I haven't even
the remotest idea where it is."

"What does the will provide?" asked Hatch.

"It leaves the bulk of the estate to John Stockton, settles an annuity of
$5,000 a year on Miss Devan, gives her the Dorchester house, and
specifically cuts off other relatives whom Pomeroy Stockton once accused
of stealing an invention he made. The letter, found after Mr. Stockton's
death--"

"You knew of that letter, too?" Hatch interrupted.

"Oh, yes, this letter confirms the will, except, in general terms, it
also cuts off Miss Devan."

"Would it not be to the interest of the other immediate relatives of
Stockton, those who were specifically cut off, to get possession of that
will and destroy it?"

"Of course it might be, but there has been no communication between the
two branches of the family for several years. That branch lives in the
far West and I have taken particular pains to ascertain that they could
not have had anything to do with the disappearance of the will."

With these new facts in his possession, Hatch started to report to The
Thinking Machine. He had to wait half an hour or so. At last the
scientist came in.

"I've been attending an autopsy," he said.

"An autopsy? Whose?"

"On the body of Pomeroy Stockton."

"Why, I had thought he had been buried."

"No, only placed in a receiving vault. I had to call the attention of the
Medical Examiner to the case in order to get permission to make an
autopsy. We did it together."

"What did you find?" asked Hatch.

"What did you find?" asked The Thinking Machine, in turn.

Briefly Hatch told him of the interview with Dr. Benton and Mr. Sloane.
The scientist listened without comment and at the end sat back in his big
chair squinting at the ceiling.

"That seems to finish it," he said. "These are the questions which were
presented: First, In what manner did Pomeroy Stockton die? Second, If not
suicide, as appeared, what motive was there for anything else? Third, If
there was a motive, to whom does it lead? Fourth, What was in the cipher
letter? Now, Mr. Hatch, I think I may make all of it clear. There was a
cipher in the letter--what may be described as a cipher in five, the
figure five being the key to it."


VI


"First, Mr. Hatch," The Thinking Machine resumed, as he drew out and
spread on a table the letter which had been originally placed in his
hands by Miss Devan, "the question of whether there was a cipher in this
letter was to be definitely decided.

"There are a thousand different kinds of ciphers. One of them, which we
will call the arbitrary cipher, is excellently illustrated in Poe's
story, 'The Gold Bug'. In that cipher, a figure or symbol is made to
represent each letter of the alphabet.

"Then, there are book ciphers, which are, perhaps, the safest of all
ciphers, because without a clue to the book from which words may be
chosen and designated by numbers, no one can solve it.

"It would be useless for me to go into this matter at any length, so let
us consider this particular letter as a cipher possibility. A careful
study of the letter develops three possible starting points. The first of
these is the general tone of the letter. It is not a direct,
straight-away statement such as a man about to commit suicide would write
unless he had a purpose--that is, a purpose beyond the mere apparent
meaning of the letter itself. Therefore we will suppose there was another
purpose hidden behind a cipher.

"The second starting point is that offered by the absence of one word.
You will see that the word 'in' should appear between the word
'cherished' and 'secret'. This, of course, may have been an oversight in
writing, the sort of thing anyone might do. But further down we find the
third starting point.

"This is the figure seven in parentheses. It apparently has no connection
whatever with what precedes or follows. It could not have been an
accident. Therefore what did it mean? Was it a crude outward indication
of a hurriedly constructed cipher?

"I took the figure seven at first to be a sort of key to the entire
letter, always presuming there was a cipher. I counted seven words down
from that figure and found the word 'binding'. Seven words from that down
made the next word 'give'. Together the two words seemed to mean
something.

"I stopped there and started back. The seventh word up is 'and'. The
seventh word from 'and', still counting backward, seemed meaningless. I
pursued that theory of seven all the way through the letter and found
only a jumble of words. It was the same way counting seven letters. These
letters meant nothing unless each letter was arbitrarily taken to
represent another letter. This immediately led to intricacies. I believe
always in exhausting simple possibilities first, so I started over again.

"Now what word nearest to the seven meant anything when taken together
with it? Not 'family', not 'Bible', not 'son', as the vital words appear
from the seven down. Going up from the seven, I did find a word which
applied to it and meant something. That was the word 'page'. I had
immediately 'page seven'. 'Page' was the fifth word up from the seven.

"What was the next fifth word, still going up? This was 'on'. Then I had
'on page seven'--connected words appearing in order, each being the fifth
from the other. The fifth word down from seven I found was 'family'; the
next fifth word was 'Bible'; thus, 'on page seven family Bible'.

"It is unnecessary to go further into the study I made of the cipher. I
worked upward from the seven, taking each fifth word until I had all the
cipher words. I have underscored them here. Read the words underscored
and you have the cipher."

Hatch took the letter marked as follows:


To those Concerned:

Tired of it all I seek the end, and am content. Ambition is dead; the
grave yawns greedily at my feet, and with the labor of my own hands lost
I greet death of my own will, by my own act. To my son I leave all, and
you who maligned me, you who discouraged me, you may read this and know I
punish you thus. It's for him, my son, to forgive. I dared in life and
dare dead your everlasting anger, not alone that you didn't speak, but
that you cherished secret, and my ears are locked forever against you. My
vault is my resting place. On the brightest and dearest page of life I
wrote (7) my love for him. Family ties, binding as the Bible itself, bade
me give all to my son.

Good-bye. I die.

POMEROY STOCKTON


Slowly Hatch read this:

"I am dead at the hands of my son. You who read punish him. I dare not
speak. Secret locked vault on page 7 family Bible."

"Well, by George!" exclaimed the reporter. It was a tribute to The
Thinking Machine, as well as an expression of amazement at what he read.

"You see," explained The Thinking Machine, "if the word 'in' had appeared
between 'cherished' and 'secret', as it would naturally have done, it
would have lost the order of the cipher, therefore it was purposely left
out."

"It's enough to send Stockton to the electric chair," said Hatch.

"It would be if it were not a forgery," said the scientist testily.

"A forgery," gasped Hatch. "Didn't Pomeroy Stockton write it?"

"No."

"Surely not John Stockton?"

"No."

"Well, who then?"

"Miss Devan."

"Miss Devan!" Hatch repeated in amazement. "Then, Miss Devan killed
Pomeroy Stockton?"

"No, he died a natural death."

Hatch's head was whirling. A thousand questions demanded an immediate
answer. He stared mouth agape at The Thinking Machine. All his ideas of
the case were tumbling about him. Nothing remained.

"Briefly, here is what happened," said The Thinking Machine. "Pomeroy
Stockton died a natural death of heart disease. Miss Devan found him
dead, wrote this letter, put it in his pocket, put a drop of prussic acid
on his tongue, smashed the bottle of acid, left the room, locked the
door, and next day had it broken down.

"It was she who shot John Stockton. It was she who tore out page seven of
that family Bible, and then hid the book in Stockton's room. It was she
who in some way got hold of the will. She either has it or destroyed it.
It was she who took advantage of her aged benefactor's sudden death to
further as weird and inhuman a plot against another as a woman can
devise. There is nothing on God's earth as bad as a bad woman, and
nothing as good as a good one. I think that has been said before."

"But as to this case," Hatch interrupted. "How? what? why?"

"I read the cipher within a few hours after I got the letter," replied
The Thinking Machine. "Naturally I wanted to find out then who and what
this son was.

"I had Miss Devan's story, of course--a story of disagreement between
father and son, quarreling and all that. It was also a story which showed
a certain underlying animosity despite Miss Devan's cleverness. She had
so mingled fact with fiction that it was not altogether easy to weed out
the truth, therefore I believed what I chose.

"Miss Devan's idea, as expressed to me, was that the letter was written
under coercion. Men who are being murdered don't write cipher letters as
intricate as that; and men who are committing suicide have no obvious
reasons for writing such letters. The line 'I dare not speak' was silly.
Pomeroy Stockton was not a prisoner. If he had feared a conspiracy to
kill him why shouldn't he speak?

"All these things were in my mind when I asked you to see Stockton. I was
particularly anxious to hear what he had to say as to the family Bible.
And yet I may say I knew that page seven had been torn out of the book
and was then in Miss Devan's possession.

"I may say, too, that I knew that the secret vault was empty. Whatever
these two things contained, supposing she wrote the cipher, had been
removed or she would not have called attention to them in this cipher. I
had an idea that she might have written it from the mere fact that it was
she who first called my attention to the possibility of a cipher.

"Assuming then that the cipher was a forgery, that she wrote it, that it
directly accused John Stockton, that she brought it to me, I had fairly
conclusive proof that if Pomery Stockton had been murdered she had had a
hand in it. John Stockton's motive in trying to suppress the fact of a
suicide, as he thought it, was perfectly clear. It was, as he said, to
avoid disgrace. Such things are done frequently.

"From the moment you told him of the possibility of murder, he suspected
Miss Devan. Why? Because, above all, she had the opportunity, because she
wanted the bulk of the estate, because there was some animosity against
John Stockton.

"This now proves to have been a broken-off love affair. John Stockton
broke it off. He himself had loved Miss Devan. She had refused him.
Later, when he broke off the love affair, she hated him.

"Her plan for revenge was almost diabolical. It was intended to give her
full revenge and the estate at the same time. She hoped, she knew, that I
would read that cipher. She planned that it would send John Stockton to
the electric chair."

"Horrible!" commented Hatch with a little shudder.

"It was a fear that this plan might go wrong that induced her to try to
kill Stockton by shooting him. The cellar was dark, but she forgot that
ninety-nine revolvers out of a hundred leave slight powder stains on the
hand of the person who fires them. Stockton said that she did not shoot
him, because of that inexplicable loyalty which some men show to a woman
they love or have loved.

"Stockton made his secret visit to the house that night to get what was
in that vault without her knowledge. He knew of its existence. His father
had probably told him. The thing that appeared on page seven of the
family Bible was in all probability the copper hardening process he was
perfecting. I should think it had been written there in invisible ink.
John Stockton knew this was there. His father told him. If his father
told it, Miss Devan probably overheard it. She knew it, too.

"Now the actual circumstances of the death. The girl must have had and
used a key to the work room. After John Stockton left the house that
Monday night she entered that room. She found his father dead of heart
disease. The autopsy proved this.

"Then the whole scheme was clear to her. She forged that cipher
letter--as Pomeroy Stockton's secretary she probably knew the handwriting
better than anyone else in the world--placed it in his pocket, and the
rest of it you know."

"But the Bible in John Stockton's room?" asked Hatch.

"Was placed there by Miss Devan," replied The Thinking Machine. "It was a
part of the general scheme to hopelessly implicate Stockton. She is a
clever woman. She showed that when she produced the fountain pen, having
carefully filled it with blue instead of black ink."

"What was in the locked vault?"

"That I can only conjecture. It is not impossible that the inventor had
only part of the formula he so closely guarded written on the Bible leaf
and the other part of it in that vault, together with other valuable
documents.

"I may add that the letters which John Stockton had were not forged. They
were written without Miss Devan's knowledge. There was a vast difference
in the handwriting of the cipher letter which she wrote and those others
which the father wrote.

"Of course it is obvious that the missing will is now, or was, in Miss
Devan's possession. How she got it, I don't know. With that out of the
way and this cipher unravelled apparently proving the son's guilt, at
least half, possibly all, of the estate would have gone to her."

Hatch lighted a cigarette thoughtfully and was silent for a moment.

"What will be the end of it all?" he asked. "Of course, I understand that
John Stockton will recover."

"The result will be that the world will lose a great scientific
achievement--the secret of hardening copper, which Pomeroy Stockton had
rediscovered. I think it safe to say that Miss Devan has burned every
scrap of this."

"But what will become of her?"

"She knows nothing of this. I believe she will disappear before Stockton
recovers. He wouldn't prosecute anyway. Remember he loved her once."

John Stockton was convalescent two weeks later, when a nurse in the City
Hospital placed an envelope in his hands. He opened it and a little cloud
of ashes filtered through his fingers onto the bed clothing. He sank back
on his pillow, weeping.



MYSTERY OF THE FLAMING PHANTOM


I


Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, stood beside the City Editor's desk, smoking
and waiting patiently for that energetic gentleman to dispose of several
matters in hand. City Editors always have several matters in hand, for
the profession of keeping count of the pulse-beat of the world is a busy
one. Finally this City Editor emerged from a mass of other things and
picked up a sheet of paper on which he had scribbled some strange
hieroglyphics, these representing his interpretation of the art of
writing.

"Afraid of ghosts?" he asked.

"Don't know," Hatch replied, smiling a little. "I never happened to meet
one."

"Well, this looks like a good story," the City Editor explained. "It's a
haunted house. Nobody can live in it; all sorts of strange happenings,
demoniacal laughter, groans and things. House is owned by Ernest Weston,
a broker. Better jump down and take a look at it. If it is promising, you
might spend a night in it for a Sunday story. Not afraid, are you?"

"I never heard of a ghost hurting anyone," Hatch replied, still smiling a
little. "If this one hurts me it will make the story better."

Thus attention was attracted to the latest creepy mystery of a small town
by the sea which in the past had not been wholly lacking in creepy
mysteries.

Within two hours Hatch was there. He readily found the old Weston house,
as it was known, a two-story, solidly built frame structure, which had
stood for sixty or seventy years high upon a cliff overlooking the sea,
in the center of a land plot of ten or twelve acres. From a distance it
was imposing, but close inspection showed that, outwardly, at least, it
was a ramshackle affair.

Without having questioned anyone in the village, Hatch climbed the steep
cliff road to the old house, expecting to find some one who might grant
him permission to inspect it. But no one appeared; a settled melancholy
and gloom seemed to overspread it; all the shutters were closed
forbiddingly.

There was no answer to his vigorous knock on the front door, and he shook
the shutters on a window without result. Then he passed around the house
to the back. Here he found a door and dutifully hammered on it. Still no
answer. He tried it, and passed in. He stood in the kitchen, damp, chilly
and darkened by the closed shutters.

One glance about this room and he went on through a back hall to the
dining-room, now deserted, but at one time a comfortable and handsomely
furnished place. Its hardwood floor was covered with dust; the chill of
disuse was all-pervading. There was no furniture, only the litter which
accumulates of its own accord.

From this point, just inside the dining-room door, Hatch began a sort of
study of the inside architecture of the place. To his left was a door,
the butler's pantry. There was a passage through, down three steps into
the kitchen he had just left.

Straight before him, set in the wall, between two windows, was a large
mirror, seven, possibly eight, feet tall and proportionately wide. A
mirror of the same size was set in the wall at the end of the room to his
left. From the dining-room he passed through a wide archway into the next
room. This archway made the two rooms almost as one. This second, he
presumed, had been a sort of living-room, but here, too, was nothing save
accumulated litter, an old-fashioned fireplace and two long mirrors. As
he entered, the fireplace was to his immediate left, one of the large
mirrors was straight ahead of him and the other was to his right.

Next to the mirror in the end was a passageway of a little more than
usual size which had once been closed with a sliding door. Hatch went
through this into the reception-hall of the old house. Here, to his
right, was the main hall, connected with the reception-hall by an
archway, and through this archway he could see a wide, old fashioned
stairway leading up. To his left was a door, of ordinary size, closed. He
tried it and it opened. He peered into a big room beyond. This room had
been the library. It smelled of books and damp wood. There was nothing
here--not even mirrors.

Beyond the main hall lay only two rooms, one a drawing-room of the
generous proportions our old folks loved, with its gilt all tarnished and
its fancy decorations covered with dust. Behind this, toward the back of
the house, was a small parlor. There was nothing here to attract his
attention, and he went upstairs. As he went he could see through the
archway into the reception-hall as far as the library door, which he had
left closed.

Upstairs were four or five roomy suites. Here, too, in small rooms
designed for dressing, he saw the owner's passion for mirrors again. As
he passed through room after room he fixed the general arrangement of it
all in his mind, and later on paper, to study it, so that, if necessary,
he could leave any part of the house in the dark. He didn't know but what
this might be necessary, hence his care--the same care he had evidenced
downstairs.

After another casual examination of the lower floor, Hatch went out the
back way to the barn. This stood a couple of hundred feet back of the
house and was of more recent construction. Above, reached by outside
stairs, were apartments intended for the servants. Hatch looked over
these rooms, but they, too, had the appearance of not having been
occupied for several years. The lower part of the barn, he found, was
arranged to house half a dozen horses and three or four traps.

"Nothing here to frighten anybody," was his mental comment as he left the
old place and started back toward the village. It was three o'clock in
the afternoon. His purpose was to learn then all he could of the "ghost,"
and return that night for developments.

He sought out the usual village bureau of information, the town
constable, a grizzled old chap of sixty years, who realized his
importance as the whole police department, and who had the gossip and
information, more or less distorted, of several generations at his
tongue's end.

The old man talked for two hours--he was glad to talk--seemed to have
been longing for just such a glorious opportunity as the reporter
offered. Hatch sifted out what he wanted, those things which might be
valuable in his story.

It seemed, according to the constable, that the Weston house had not been
occupied for five years, since the death of the father of Ernest Weston,
present owner. Two weeks before the reporter's appearance there Ernest
Weston had come down with a contractor and looked over the old place.

"We understand here," said the constable, judicially, "that Mr. Weston is
going to be married soon, and we kind of thought he was having the house
made ready for his Summer home again."

"Whom do you understand he is to marry?" asked Hatch, for this was news.

"Miss Katherine Everard, daughter of Curtis Everard, a banker up in
Boston," was the reply. "I know he used to go around with her before the
old man died, and they say since she came out in Newport he has spent a
lot of time with her."

"Oh, I see," said Hatch. "They were to marry and come here?"

"That's right," said the constable. "But I don't know when, since this
ghost story has come up."

"Oh, yes, the ghost," remarked Hatch. "Well, hasn't the work of repairing
begun?"

"No, not inside," was the reply. "There's been some work done on the
grounds--in the daytime--but not much of that, and I kind of think it
will be a long time before it's all done."

"What is the spook story, anyway?"

"Well," and the old constable rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "It seems
sort of funny. A few days after Mr. Weston was down here a gang of
laborers, mostly Italians, came down to work and decided to sleep in the
house--sort of camp out--until they could repair a leak in the barn and
move in there. They got here late in the afternoon and didn't do much
that day but move into the house, all upstairs, and sort of settle down
for the night. About one o'clock they heard some sort of noise
downstairs, and finally all sorts of a racket and groans and yells, and
they just naturally came down to see what it was.

"Then they saw the ghost. It was in the reception-hall, some of 'em said,
others said it was in the library, but anyhow it was there, and the whole
gang left just as fast as they knew how. They slept on the ground that
night. Next day they took out their things and went back to Boston. Since
then nobody here has heard from 'em."

"What sort of a ghost was it?"

"Oh, it was a man ghost, about nine feet high, and he was blazing from
head to foot as if he was burning up," said the constable. "He had a long
knife in his hand and waved it at 'em. They didn't stop to argue. They
ran, and as they ran they heard the ghost a-laughing at them."

"I should think he would have been amused," was Hatch's somewhat
sarcastic comment. "Has anybody who lives in the village seen the ghost?"

"No; we're willing to take their word for it, I suppose," was the
grinning reply, "because there never was a ghost there before. I go up
and look over the place every afternoon, but everything seems to be all
right, and I haven't gone there at night. It's quite a way off my beat,"
he hastened to explain.

"A man ghost with a long knife," mused Hatch "Blazing, seems to be
burning up, eh? That sounds exciting. Now, a ghost who knows his business
never appears except where there has been a murder. Was there ever a
murder in that house?"

"When I was a little chap I heard there was a murder or something there,
but I suppose if I don't remember it nobody else here does," was the old
man's reply. "It happened one Winter when the Westons weren't there.
There was something, too, about jewelry and diamonds, but I don't
remember just what it was."

"Indeed?" asked the reporter.

"Yes, something about somebody trying to steal a lot of jewelry--a
hundred thousand dollars' worth. I know nobody ever paid much attention
to it. I just heard about it when I was a boy, and that was at least
fifty years ago."

"I see," said the reporter.

That night at nine o'clock, under cover of perfect blackness, Hatch
climbed the cliff toward the Weston house. At one o'clock he came racing
down the hill, with frequent glances over his shoulder. His face was
pallid with a fear which he had never known before and his lips were
ashen. Once in his room in the village hotel Hutchinson Hatch, the
nerveless young man, lighted a lamp with trembling hands and sat with
wide, staring eyes until the dawn broke through the east.

He had seen the flaming phantom.


II


It was ten o'clock that morning when Hutchinson Hatch called on Professor
Augustus S. F.

X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine. The reporter's face was still white,
showing that he had slept little, if at all. The Thinking Machine
squinted at him a moment through his thick glasses, then dropped into a
chair.

"Well?" he queried.

"I'm almost ashamed to come to you, Professor," Hatch confessed, after a
minute, and there was a little embarrassed hesitation in his speech.
"It's another mystery."

"Sit down and tell me about it."

Hatch took a seat opposite the scientist.

"I've been frightened," he said at last, with a sheepish grin; "horribly,
awfully frightened. I came to you to know what frightened me."

"Dear me! Dear me!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine. "What is it?"

Then Hatch told him from the beginning the story of the haunted house as
he knew it; how he had examined the house by daylight, just what he had
found, the story of the old murder and the jewels, the fact that Ernest
Weston was to be married. The scientist listened attentively.

"It was nine o'clock that night when I went to the house the second
time," said Hatch. "I went prepared for something, but not for what I
saw."

"Well, go on," said the other, irritably.

"I went in while it was perfectly dark. I took a position on the stairs
because I had been told--the--the THING--had been seen from the stairs,
and I thought that where it had been seen once it would be seen again. I
had presumed it was some trick of a shadow, or moonlight, or something of
the kind. So I sat waiting calmly. I am not a nervous man--that is, I
never have been until now.

"I took no light of any kind with me. It seemed an interminable time that
I waited, staring into the reception-room in the general direction of the
library. At last, as I gazed into the darkness, I heard a noise. It
startled me a bit, but it didn't frighten me, for I put it down to a rat
running across the floor.

"But after awhile I heard the most awful cry a human being ever listened
to. It was neither a moan nor a shriek--merely a--a cry. Then, as I
steadied my nerves a little, a figure--a blazing, burning white
figure--grew out of nothingness before my very eyes, in the reception
room. It actually grew and assembled as I looked at it."

He paused, and The Thinking Machine changed his position slightly.

"The figure was that of a man, apparently, I should say, eight feet high.
Don't think I'm a fool--I'm not exaggerating. It was all in white and
seemed to radiate a light, a ghostly, unearthly light, which, as I
looked, grew brighter. I saw no face to the THING, but it had a head.
Then I saw an arm raised and in the hand was a dagger, blazing as was the
figure.

"By this time I was a coward, a cringing, frightened coward--frightened
not at what I saw, but at the weirdness of it. And then, still as I
looked, the--the THING--raised the other hand, and there, in the air
before my eyes, wrote with his own finger--on the very face of the air,
mind you--one word: 'Beware!'"

"Was it a man's or woman's writing?" asked The Thinking Machine.

The matter-of-fact tone recalled Hatch, who was again being carried away
by fear, and he laughed vacantly.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't know."

"Go on."

"I have never considered myself a coward, and certainly I am not a child
to be frightened at a thing which my reason tells me is not possible,
and, despite my fright, I compelled myself to action. If the THING were a
man I was not afraid of it, dagger and all; if it were not, it could do
me no injury.

"I leaped down the three steps to the bottom of the stairs, and while the
THING stood there with upraised dagger, with one hand pointing at me, I
rushed for it. I think I must have shouted, because I have a dim idea
that I heard my own voice. But whether or not I did I--"

Again he paused. It was a distinct effort to pull himself together. He
felt like a child; the cold, squint eyes of The Thinking Machine were
turned on him disapprovingly.

"Then--the THING disappeared just as it seemed I had my hands on it. I
was expecting a dagger thrust. Before my eyes, while I was staring at it,
I suddenly saw only half of it. Again I heard the cry, and the other half
disappeared--my hands grasped empty air.

"Where the THING had been there was nothing. The impetus of my rush was
such that I went right on past the spot where the THING had been, and
found myself groping in the dark in a room which I didn't place for an
instant. Now I know it was the library.

"By this time I was mad with terror. I smashed one of the windows and
went through it. Then from there, until I reached my room, I didn't stop
running. I couldn't. I wouldn't have gone back to the reception-room for
all the millions in the world."

The Thinking Machine twiddled his fingers idly; Hatch sat gazing at him
with anxious, eager inquiry in his eyes.

"So when you ran and the--the THING moved away or disappeared you found
yourself in the library?" The Thinking Machine asked at last.

"Yes."

"Therefore you must have run from the reception-room through the door
into the library?"

"Yes."

"You left that door closed that day?"

"Yes."

Again there was a pause.

"Smell anything?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"No."

"You figure that the THING, as you call it, must have been just about in
the door?"

"Yes."

"Too bad you didn't notice the handwriting--that is, whether it seemed to
be a man's or a woman's."

"I think, under the circumstances, I would be excused for omitting that,"
was the reply.

"You said you heard something that you thought must be a rat," went on
The Thinking Machine. "What was this?"

"I don't know."

"Any squeak about it?"

"No, not that I noticed."

"Five years since the house was occupied," mused the scientist. "How far
away is the water?"

"The place overlooks the water, but it's a steep climb of three hundred
yards from the water to the house."

That seemed to satisfy The Thinking Machine as to what actually happened.

"When you went over the house in daylight, did you notice if any of the
mirrors were dusty?" he asked.

"I should presume that all were," was the reply. "There's no reason why
they should have been otherwise."

"But you didn't notice particularly that some were not dusty?" the
scientist insisted.

"No. I merely noticed that they were there."

The Thinking Machine sat for a long time squinting at the ceiling, then
asked, abruptly:

"Have you seen Mr. Weston, the owner?"

"No."

"See him and find out what he has to say about the place, the murder, the
jewels, and all that. It would be rather a queer state of affairs if,
say, a fortune in jewels should be concealed somewhere about the place,
wouldn't it?"

"It would," said Hatch. "It would."

"Who is Miss Katherine Everard?"

"Daughter of a banker here, Curtis Everard. Was a reigning belle at
Newport for two seasons. She is now in Europe, I think, buying a
trousseau, possibly."

"Find out all about her, and what Weston has to say, then come back
here," said The Thinking Machine, as if in conclusion. "Oh, by the way,"
he added, "look up something of the family history of the Westons. How
many heirs were there? Who are they? How much did each one get? All those
things. That's all."

Hatch went out, far more composed and quiet than when he entered, and
began the work of finding out those things The Thinking Machine had asked
for, confident now that there would be a solution of the mystery.

That night the flaming phantom played new pranks. The town constable,
backed by half a dozen villagers, descended upon the place at midnight,
to be met in the yard by the apparition in person. Again the dagger was
seen; again the ghostly laughter and the awful cry were heard.

"Surrender or I'll shoot," shouted the constable, nervously.

A laugh was the answer, and the constable felt something warm spatter in
his face. Others in the party felt it, too, and wiped their faces and
hands. By the light of the feeble lanterns they carried they examined
their handkerchiefs and hands. Then the party fled in awful disorder.

The warmth they had felt was the warmth of blood--red blood, freshly
drawn.


III


Hatch found Ernest Weston at luncheon with another gentleman at one
o'clock that day. This other gentleman was introduced to Hatch as George
Weston, a cousin. Hatch instantly remembered George Weston for certain
eccentric exploits at Newport a season or so before; and also as one of
the heirs of the original Weston estate.

Hatch thought he remembered, too, that at the time Miss Everard had been
so prominent socially at Newport George Weston had been her most ardent
suitor. It was rumored that there would have been an engagement between
them, but her father objected. Hatch looked at him curiously; his face
was clearly a dissipated one, yet there was about him the unmistakable
polish and gentility of the well-bred man of society.

Hatch knew Ernest Weston as Weston knew Hatch; they had met frequently in
the ten years Hatch had been a newspaper reporter, and Weston had been
courteous to him always. The reporter was in doubt as to whether to bring
up the subject on which he had sought out Ernest Weston, but the broker
brought it up himself, smilingly.

"Well, what is it this time?" he asked, genially. "The ghost down on the
South Shore, or my forthcoming marriage?"

"Both," replied Hatch.

Weston talked freely of his engagement to Miss Everard, which he said was
to have been announced in another week, at which time she was due to
return to America from Europe. The marriage was to be three or four
months later, the exact date had not been set.

"And I suppose the country place was being put in order as a Summer
residence?" the reporter asked.

"Yes. I had intended to make some repairs and changes there, and furnish
it, but now I understand that a ghost has taken a hand in the matter and
has delayed it. Have you heard much about this ghost story?" he asked,
and there was a slight smile on his face.

"I have seen the ghost," Hatch answered.

"You have?" demanded the broker.

George Weston echoed the words and leaned forward, with a new interest in
his eyes, to listen. Hatch told them what had happened in the haunted
house--all of it. They listened with the keenest interest, one as eager
as the other.

"By George!" exclaimed the broker, when Hatch had finished. "How do you
account for it?"

"I don't," said Hatch, flatly. "I can offer no possible solution. I am
not a child to be tricked by the ordinary illusion, nor am I of the
temperament which imagines things, but I can offer no explanation of
this."

"It must be a trick of some sort," said George Weston.

"I was positive of that," said Hatch, "but if it is a trick, it is the
cleverest I ever saw."

The conversation drifted on to the old story of missing jewels and a
tragedy in the house fifty years before. Now Hatch was asking questions
by direction of The Thinking Machine; he himself hardly saw their
purport, but he asked them.

"Well, the full story of that affair, the tragedy there, would open up an
old chapter in our family which is nothing to be ashamed of, of course,"
said the broker, frankly; "still it is something we have not paid much
attention to for many years. Perhaps George here knows it better than I
do. His mother, then a bride, heard the recital of the story from my
grandmother."

Ernest Weston and Hatch looked inquiringly at George Weston, who lighted
a fresh cigarette and leaned over the table toward them. He was an
excellent talker.

"I've heard my mother tell of it, but it was a long time ago," he began.
"It seems, though, as I remember it, that my great-grandfather, who built
the house, was a wealthy man, as fortunes went in those days, worth
probably a million dollars.

"A part of this fortune, say about one hundred thousand dollars, was in
jewels, which had come with the family from England. Many of those pieces
would be of far greater value now than they were then, because of their
antiquity. It was only on state occasions, I might say, when these were
worn, say, once a year.

"Between times the problem of keeping them safely was a difficult one, it
appeared. This was before the time of safety deposit vaults. My
grandfather conceived the idea of hiding the jewels in the old place down
on the South Shore, instead of keeping them in the house he had in
Boston. He took them there accordingly.

"At this time one was compelled to travel down the South Shore, below
Cohasset anyway, by stagecoach. My grandfather's family was then in the
city, as it was Winter, so he made the trip alone. He planned to reach
there at night, so as not to attract attention to himself, to hide the
jewels about the house, and leave that same night for Boston again by a
relay of horses he had arranged for. Just what happened after he left the
stagecoach, below Cohasset, no one ever knew except by surmise."

The speaker paused a moment and relighted his cigarette.

"Next morning my great-grandfather was found unconscious and badly
injured on the veranda of the house. His skull had been fractured. In the
house a man was found dead. No one knew who he was; no one within a
radius of many miles of the place had ever seen him.

"This led to all sorts of surmises, the most reasonable of which, and the
one which the family has always accepted, being that my grandfather had
gone to the house in the dark, had there met some one who was stopping
there that night as a shelter from the intense cold, that this man
learned of the jewels, that he had tried robbery and there was a fight.

"In this fight the stranger was killed inside the house, and my
great-grandfather, injured, had tried to leave the house for aid. He
collapsed on the veranda where he was found and died without having
regained consciousness. That's all we know or can surmise reasonably
about the matter."

"Were the jewels ever found?" asked the reporter.

"No. They were not on the dead man, nor were they in the possession of my
grandfather."

"It is reasonable to suppose, then, that there was a third man and that
he got away with the jewels?" asked Ernest Weston.

"It seemed so, and for a long time this theory was accepted. I suppose it
is now, but some doubt was cast on it by the fact that only two trails of
footsteps led to the house and none out. There was a heavy snow on the
ground. If none led out it was obviously impossible that anyone came
out."

Again there was silence. Ernest Weston sipped his coffee slowly.

"It would seem from that," said Ernest Weston, at last, "that the jewels
were hidden before the tragedy, and have never been found."

George Weston smiled.

"Off and on for twenty years the place was searched, according to my
mother's story," he said. "Every inch of the cellar was dug up; every
possible nook and corner was searched. Finally the entire matter passed
out of the minds of those who knew of it, and I doubt if it has ever been
referred to again until now."

"A search even now would be almost worth while, wouldn't it?" asked the
broker.

George Weston laughed aloud.

"It might be," he said, "but I have some doubt. A thing that was searched
for twenty years would not be easily found."

So it seemed to strike the others after awhile and the matter was
dropped.

"But this ghost thing," said the broker, at last. "I'm interested in
that. Suppose we make up a ghost party and go down tonight. My contractor
declares he can't get men to work there."

"I would be glad to go," said George Weston, "but I'm running over to the
Vandergrift ball in Providence tonight."

"How about you, Hatch?" asked the broker.

"I'll go, yes," said Hatch, "as one of several," he added with a smile.

"Well, then, suppose we say the constable and you and I?" asked the
broker; "tonight?"

"All right."

After making arrangements to meet the broker later that afternoon he
rushed away--away to The Thinking Machine. The scientist listened, then
resumed some chemical test he was making.

"Can't you go down with us tonight?" Hatch asked.

"No," said the other. "I'm going to read a paper before a scientific
society and prove that a chemist in Chicago is a fool. That will take me
all evening."

"Tomorrow night?" Hatch insisted.

"No--the next night."

This would be on Friday night--just in time for the feature which had
been planned for Sunday. Hatch was compelled to rest content with this,
but he foresaw that he would have it all, with a solution. It never
occurred to him that this problem, or, indeed, that any problem, was
beyond the mental capacity of Professor Van Dusen.

Hatch and Ernest Weston took a night train that evening, and on their
arrival in the village stirred up the town constable.

"Will you go with us?" was the question.

"Both of you going?" was the counter-question.

"Yes."

"I'll go," said the constable promptly. "Ghost!" and he laughed
scornfully. "I'll have him in the lockup by morning."

"No shooting, now," warned Weston. "There must be somebody back of this
somewhere; we understand that, but there is no crime that we know of. The
worst is possibly trespassing."

"I'll get him all right," responded the constable, who still remembered
the experience where blood--warm blood--had been thrown in his face. "And
I'm not so sure there isn't a crime."

That night about ten the three men went into the dark, forbidding house
and took a station on the stairs where Hatch had sat when he saw the
THING--whatever it was. There they waited. The constable moved nervously
from time to time, but neither of the others paid any attention to him.

At last the--the THING appeared. There had been a preliminary sound as of
something running across the floor, then suddenly a flaming figure of
white seemed to grow into being in the reception-room. It was exactly as
Hatch had described it to The Thinking Machine.

Dazed, stupefied, the three men looked, looked as the figure raised a
hand, pointing toward them, and wrote a word in the air--positively in
the air. The finger merely waved, and there, floating before them, were
letters, flaming letters, in the utter darkness. This time the word was:
"Death."

Faintly, Hatch, fighting with a fear which again seized him, remembered
that The Thinking Machine had asked him if the handwriting was that of a
man or woman; now he tried to see. It was as if drawn on a blackboard,
and there was a queer twist to the loop at the bottom. He sniffed to see
if there was an odor of any sort. There was not.

Suddenly he felt some quick, vigorous action from the constable behind
him. There was a roar and a flash in his ear; he knew the constable had
fired at the THING. Then came the cry and laugh--almost a laugh of
derision--he had heard them before. For one instant the figure lingered
and then, before their eyes, faded again into utter blackness. Where it
had been was nothing--nothing.

The constable's shot had had no effect.


IV


Three deeply mystified men passed down the hill to the village from the
old house. Ernest Weston, the owner, had not spoken since before the--the
THING appeared there in the reception-room, or was it in the library? He
was not certain--he couldn't have told. Suddenly he turned to the
constable.

"I told you not to shoot."

"That's all right," said the constable. "I was there in my official
capacity, and I shoot when I want to."

"But the shot did no harm," Hatch put in.

"I would swear it went right through it, too," said the constable,
boastfully. "I can shoot."

Weston was arguing with himself. He was a cold-blooded man of business;
his mind was not one to play him tricks. Yet now he felt benumbed; he
could conceive no explanation of what he had seen. Again in his room in
the little hotel, where they spent the remainder of the night, he stared
blankly at the reporter.

"Can you imagine any way it could be done?"

Hatch shook his head.

"It isn't a spook, of course," the broker went on, with a nervous smile;
"but--but I'm sorry I went. I don't think probably I shall have the work
done there as I thought."

They slept only fitfully and took an early train back to Boston. As they
were almost to separate at the South Station, the broker had a last word.

"I'm going to solve that thing," he declared, determinedly. "I know one
man at least who isn't afraid of it--or of anything else. I'm going to
send him down to keep a lookout and take care of the place. His name is
O'Heagan, and he's a fighting Irishman. If he and that--that--THING ever
get mixed up together--"

Like a schoolboy with a hopeless problem, Hatch went straight to The
Thinking Machine with the latest developments. The scientist paused just
long enough in his work to hear it.

"Did you notice the handwriting?" he demanded.

"Yes," was the reply; "so far as I could notice the style of a
handwriting that floated in air."

"Man's or woman's?"

Hatch was puzzled.

"I couldn't judge," he said. "It seemed to be a bold style, whatever it
was. I remember the capital D clearly."

"Was it anything like the handwriting of the
broker--what's-his-name?--Ernest Weston?"

"I never saw his handwriting."

"Look at some of it, then, particularly the capital D's," instructed The
Thinking Machine. Then, after a pause: "You say the figure is white and
seems to be flaming?"

"Yes."

"Does it give out any light? That is, does it light up a room, for
instance?"

"I don't quite know what you mean."

"When you go into a room with a lamp," explained The Thinking Machine,
"it lights the room. Does this thing do it? Can you see the floor or
walls or anything by the light of the figure itself?"

"No," replied Hatch, positively.

"I'll go down with you tomorrow night," said the scientist, as if that
were all.

"Thanks," replied Hatch, and he went away.

Next day about noon he called at Ernest Weston's office. The broker was
in.

"Did you send down your man O'Heagan?" he asked.

"Yes," said the broker, and he was almost smiling.

"What happened?"

"He's outside. I'll let him tell you."

The broker went to the door and spoke to some one and O'Heagan entered.
He was a big, blue-eyed Irishman, frankly freckled and redheaded--one of
those men who look trouble in the face and are glad of it if the trouble
can be reduced to a fighting basis. An everlasting smile was about his
lips, only now it was a bit faded.

"Tell Mr. Hatch what happened last night," requested the broker.

O'Heagan told it. He, too, had sought to get hold of the flaming figure.
As he ran for it, it disappeared, was obliterated, wiped out, gone, and
he found himself groping in the darkness of the room beyond, the library.
Like Hatch, he took the nearest way out, which happened to be through a
window already smashed.

"Outside," he went on, "I began to think about it, and I saw there was
nothing to be afraid of, but you couldn't have convinced me of that when
I was inside. I took a lantern in one hand and a revolver in the other
and went all over that house. There was nothing; if there had been we
would have had it out right there. But there was nothing. So I started
out to the barn, where I had put a cot in a room.

"I went upstairs to this room--it was then about two o'clock--and went to
sleep. It seemed to be an hour or so later when I awoke suddenly--I knew
something was happening. And the Lord forgive me if I'm a liar, but there
was a cat--a ghost cat in my room, racing around like mad. I just
naturally got up to see what was the matter and rushed for the door. The
cat beat me to it, and cut a flaming streak through the night.

"The cat looked just like the thing inside the house--that is, it was a
sort of shadowy, waving white light like it might be afire. I went back
to bed in disgust, to sleep it off. You see, sir," he apologized to
Weston, "that there hadn't been anything yet I could put my hands on."

"Was that all?" asked Hatch, smilingly.

"Just the beginning. Next morning when I awoke I was bound to my cot,
hard and fast. My hands were tied and my feet were tied, and all I could
do was lie there and yell. After awhile, it seemed years, I heard some
one outside and shouted louder than ever. Then the constable come up and
let me loose. I told him all about it--and then I came to Boston. And
with your permission, Mr. Weston, I resign right now. I'm not afraid of
anything I can fight, but when I can't get hold of it--well--"

Later Hatch joined The Thinking Machine. They caught a train for the
little village by the sea. On the way The Thinking Machine asked a few
questions, but most of the time he was silent, squinting out the window.
Hatch respected his silence, and only answered questions.

"Did you see Ernest Weston's handwriting?" was the first of these.

"Yes."

"The capital D's?"

"They are not unlike the one the--the THING wrote, but they are not
wholly like it," was the reply.

"Do you know anyone in Providence who can get some information for you?"
was the next query.

"Yes."

"Get him by long distance 'phone when we get to this place and let me
talk to him a moment."

Half an hour later The Thinking Machine was talking over the
long-distance 'phone to the Providence correspondent of Hatch's paper.
What he said or what he learned there was not revealed to the wondering
reporter, but he came out after several minutes, only to reenter the
booth and remain for another half an hour.

"Now," he said.

Together they went to the haunted house. At the entrance to the grounds
something else occurred to The Thinking Machine.

"Run over to the 'phone and call Weston," he directed. "Ask him if he has
a motor-boat or if his cousin has one. We might need one. Also find out
what kind of a boat it is--electric or gasoline."

Hatch returned to the village and left the scientist alone, sitting on
the veranda gazing out over the sea. When Hatch returned he was still in
the same position.

"Well?" he asked.

"Ernest Weston has no motor-boat," the reporter informed him. "George
Weston has an electric, but we can't get it because it is away. Maybe I
can get one somewhere else if you particularly want it."

"Never mind," said The Thinking Machine. He spoke as if he had entirely
lost interest in the matter.

Together they started around the house to the kitchen door.

"What's the next move?" asked Hatch.

"I'm going to find the jewels," was the startling reply.

"Find them?" Hatch repeated.

"Certainly."

They entered the house through the kitchen and the scientist squinted
this way and that, through the reception-room, the library, and finally
the back hallway. Here a closed door in the flooring led to a cellar.

In the cellar they found heaps of litter. It was damp and chilly and
dark. The Thinking Machine stood in the center, or as near the center as
he could stand, because the base of the chimney occupied this precise
spot, and apparently did some mental calculation.

From that point he started around the walls, solidly built of stone,
stooping and running his fingers along the stones as he walked. He made
the entire circuit as Hatch looked on. Then he made it again, but this
time with his hands raised above his head, feeling the walls carefully as
he went. He repeated this at the chimney, going carefully around the
masonry, high and low.

"Dear me, dear me!" he exclaimed, petulantly. "You are taller than I am,
Mr. Hatch. Please feel carefully around the top of this chimney base and
see if the rocks are all solidly set."

Hatch then began a tour. At last one of the great stones which made this
base trembled under his hand.

"It's loose," he said.

"Take it out."

It came out after a deal of tugging.

"Put your hand in there and pull out what you find," was the next order.
Hatch obeyed. He found a wooden box, about eight inches square, and
handed it to The Thinking Machine.

"Ah!" exclaimed that gentleman.

A quick wrench caused the decaying wood to crumble. Tumbling out of the
box were the jewels which had been lost for fifty years.



V


Excitement, long restrained, burst from Hatch in a laugh--almost
hysterical. He stooped and gathered up the fallen jewelry and handed it
to The Thinking Machine, who stared at him in mild surprise.

"What's the matter?" inquired the scientist.

"Nothing," Hatch assured him, but again he laughed.

The heavy stone which had been pulled out of place was lifted up and
forced back into position, and together they returned to the village,
with the long-lost jewelry loose in their pockets.

"How did you do it?' asked Hatch.

"Two and two always make four," was the enigmatic reply. "It was merely a
sum in addition." There was a pause as they walked on, then: "Don't say
anything about finding this, or even hint at it in any way, until you
have my permission to do so."

Hatch had no intention of doing so. In his mind's eye he saw a story, a
great, vivid, startling story spread all over his newspaper about flaming
phantoms and treasure trove--$100,000 in jewels. It staggered him. Of
course he would say nothing about it--even hint at it, yet. But when he
did say something about it--!

In the village The Thinking Machine found the constable.

"I understand some blood was thrown on you at the Weston place the other
night?"

"Yes. Blood--warm blood."

"You wiped it off with your handkerchief?"

"Yes."

"Have you the handkerchief?"

"I suppose I might get it," was the doubtful reply. "It might have gone
into the wash."

"Astute person," remarked The Thinking Machine. "There might have been a
crime and you throw away the one thing which would indicate it--the blood
stains."

The constable suddenly took notice.

"By ginger!" he said. "Wait here and I'll go see if I can find it."

He disappeared and returned shortly with the handkerchief. There were
half a dozen blood stains on it, now dark brown.

The Thinking Machine dropped into the village drug store and had a short
conversation with the owner, after which he disappeared into the
compounding room at the back and remained for an hour or more--until
darkness set in. Then he came out and joined Hatch, who, with the
constable, had been waiting.

The reporter did not ask any questions, and The Thinking Machine
volunteered no information.

"Is it too late for anyone to get down from Boston tonight?" he asked the
constable.

"No. He could take the eight o'clock train and be here about halfpast
nine."

"Mr. Hatch, will you wire to Mr. Weston--Ernest Weston--and ask him to
come tonight, sure. Impress on him the fact that it is a matter of the
greatest importance."

Instead of telegraphing, Hatch went to the telephone and spoke to Weston
at his club. The trip would interfere with some other plans, the broker
explained, but he would come. The Thinking Machine had meanwhile been
conversing with the constable and had given some sort of instructions
which evidently amazed that official exceedingly, for he kept repeating
"By ginger!" with considerable fervor.

"And not one word or hint of it to anyone," said The Thinking Machine.
"Least of all to the members of your family."

"By ginger!" was the response, and the constable went to supper.

The Thinking Machine and Hatch had their supper thoughtfully that evening
in the little village "hotel." Only once did Hatch break this silence.

"You told me to see Weston's handwriting," he said. "Of course you knew
he was with the constable and myself when we saw the THING, therefore it
would have been impossible--"

"Nothing is impossible," broke in The Thinking Machine. "Don't say that,
please."

"I mean that, as he was with us--"

"We'll end the ghost story tonight," interrupted the scientist.

Ernest Weston arrived on the nine-thirty train and had a long, earnest
conversation with The Thinking Machine, while Hatch was permitted to cool
his toes in solitude. At last they joined the reporter.

"Take a revolver by all means," instructed The Thinking Machine.

"Do you think that necessary?" asked Weston.

"It is--absolutely," was the emphatic response.

Weston left them after awhile. Hatch wondered where he had gone, but no
information was forthcoming. In a general sort of way he knew that The
Thinking Machine was to go to the haunted house, but he didn't know when;
he didn't even know if he was to accompany him.

At last they started, The Thinking Machine swinging a hammer he had
borrowed from his landlord. The night was perfectly black, even the road
at their feet was invisible. They stumbled frequently as they walked on
up the cliff toward the house, dimly standing out against the sky. They
entered by way of the kitchen, passed through to the stairs in the main
hall, and there Hatch indicated in the darkness the spot from which he
had twice seen the flaming phantom.

"You go in the drawing-room behind here," The Thinking Machine
instructed. "Don't make any noise whatever."

For hours they waited, neither seeing the other. Hatch heard his heart
thumping heavily; if only he could see the other man; with an effort he
recovered from a rapidly growing nervousness and waited, waited. The
Thinking Machine sat perfectly rigid on the stair, the hammer in his
right hand, squinting steadily through the darkness.

At last he heard a noise, a slight nothing; it might almost have been his
imagination. It was as if something had glided across the floor, and he
was more alert than ever. Then came the dread misty light in the
reception-hall, or was it in the library? He could not say. But he
looked, looked, with every sense alert.

Gradually the light grew and spread, a misty whiteness which was
unmistakably light, but which did not illuminate anything around it. The
Thinking Machine saw it without the tremor of a nerve; saw the mistiness
grow more marked in certain places, saw these lines gradually grow into
the figure of a person, a person who was the center of a white light.

Then the mistiness fell away and The Thinking Machine saw the outline in
bold relief. It was that of a tall figure, clothed in a robe, with head
covered by a sort of hood, also luminous. As The Thinking Machine looked
he saw an arm raised, and in the hand he saw a dagger. The attitude of
the figure was distinctly a threat. And yet The Thinking Machine had not
begun to grow nervous; he was only interested.

As he looked, the other hand of the apparition was raised and seemed to
point directly at him. It moved through the air in bold sweeps, and The
Thinking Machine saw the word "Death," written in air luminously,
swimming before his eyes. Then he blinked incredulously. There came a
wild, demoniacal shriek of laughter from somewhere. Slowly, slowly the
scientist crept down the steps in his stocking feet, silent as the
apparition itself, with the hammer still in his hand. He crept on, on
toward the figure. Hatch, not knowing the movements of The Thinking
Machine, stood waiting for something, he didn't know what. Then the
thing, he had been waiting for happened. There was a sudden loud clatter
as of broken glass, the phantom and writing faded, crumbled up,
disappeared, and somewhere in the old house there was the hurried sound
of steps. At last the reporter heard his name called quietly. It was The
Thinking Machine.

"Mr. Hatch, come here."

The reporter started, blundering through the darkness toward the point
whence the voice had come. Some irresistible thing swept down upon him; a
crashing blow descended on his head, vivid lights flashed before his
eyes; he fell. After awhile, from a great distance, it seemed, he heard
faintly a pistol shot.


VI


When Hatch, fully recovered consciousness it was with the flickering
light of a match in his eyes--a match in the hand of The Thinking
Machine, who squinted anxiously at him as he grasped his left wrist.
Hatch, instantly himself again, sat up suddenly.

"What's the matter?" he demanded.

"How's your head?" came the answering question.

"Oh," and Hatch suddenly recalled those incidents which had immediately
preceded the crash on his head. "Oh, it's all right, my head, I mean.
What happened?"

"Get up and come along," requested The Thinking Machine, tartly. "There's
a man shot down here."

Hatch arose and followed the slight figure of the scientist through the
front door, and toward the water. A light glimmered down near the water
and was dimly reflected; above, the clouds had cleared somewhat and the
moon was struggling through.

"What hit me, anyhow?" Hatch demanded, as they went. He rubbed his head
ruefully.

"The ghost," said the scientist. "I think probably he has a bullet in him
now--the ghost."

Then the figure of the town constable separated itself from the night and
approached.

"Who's that?"

"Professor Van Dusen and Mr. Hatch."

"Mr. Weston got him all right," said the constable, and there was
satisfaction in his tone. "He tried to come out the back way, but I had
that fastened, as you told me, and he came through the front way. Mr.
Weston tried to stop him, and he raised the knife to stick him; then Mr.
Weston shot. It broke his arm, I think. Mr. Weston is down there with him
now."

The Thinking Machine turned to the reporter.

"Wait here for me, with the constable," he directed. "If the man is hurt
he needs attention. I happen to be a doctor; I can aid him. Don't come
unless I call."

For a long while the constable and the reporter waited. The constable
talked, talked with all the bottled-up vigor of days. Hatch listened
impatiently; he was eager to go down there where The Thinking Machine and
Weston and the phantom were.

After half an hour the light disappeared, then he heard the swift, quick
churning of waters, a sound as of a powerful motor-boat maneuvering, and
a long body shot out on the waters.

"All right down there?" Hatch called.

"All right," came the response.

There was again silence, then Ernest Weston and The Thinking Machine came
up.

"Where is the other man?" asked Hatch.

"The ghost--where is he?" echoed the constable.

"He escaped in the motor-boat," replied Mr. Weston, easily.

"Escaped?" exclaimed Hatch and the constable together.

"Yes, escaped," repeated The Thinking Machine, irritably. "Mr. Hatch,
let's go to the hotel."

Struggling with a sense of keen disappointment, Hatch followed the other
two men silently. The constable walked beside him, also silent. At last
they reached the hotel and bade the constable, a sadly puzzled,
bewildered and crestfallen man, good-night.

"By ginger!" he remarked, as he walked away into the dark.

Upstairs the three men sat, Hatch impatiently waiting to hear the story.
Weston lighted a cigarette and lounged back; The Thinking Machine sat
with finger tips pressed together, studying the ceiling.

"Mr. Weston, you understand, of course, that I came into this thing to
aid Mr. Hatch?" he asked.

"Certainly," was the response. "I will only ask a favor of him when you
conclude."

The Thinking Machine changed his position slightly, readjusted his thick
glasses for a long, comfortable squint, and told the story, from the
beginning, as he always told a story. Here it is:

"Mr. Hatch came to me in a state of abject, cringing fear and told me of
the mystery. It would be needless to go over his examination of the
house, and all that. It is enough to say that he noted and told me of
four large mirrors in the dining room and living room of the house; that
he heard and brought to me the stories in detail of a tragedy in the old
house and missing jewels, valued at a hundred thousand dollars, or more.

"He told me of his trip to the house that night, and of actually seeing
the phantom. I have found in the past that Mr. Hatch is a cool,
level-headed young man, not given to imagining things which are not
there, and controls himself well. Therefore I knew that anything of
charlatanism must be clever, exceedingly clever, to bring about such a
condition of mind in him.

"Mr. Hatch saw, as others had seen, the figure of a phantom in the
reception-room near the door of the library, or in the library near the
door of the reception-room, he couldn't tell exactly. He knew it was near
the door. Preceding the appearance of the figure he heard a slight noise
which he attributed to a rat running across the floor. Yet the house had
not been occupied for five years. Rodents rarely remain in a house--I may
say never--for that long if it is uninhabited. Therefore what was this
noise? A noise made by the apparition itself? How?

"Now, there is only one white light of the kind Mr. Hatch described known
to science. It seems almost superfluous to name it. It is phosphorus,
compounded with Fuller's earth and glycerine and one or two other
chemicals, so it will not instantly flame as it does in the pure state
when exposed to air. Phosphorus has a very pronounced odor if one is
within, say, twenty feet of it. Did Mr. Hatch smell anything? No.

"Now, here we have several facts, these being that the apparition in
appearing made a slight noise; that phosphorus was the luminous quality;
that Mr. Hatch did not smell phosphorus even when he ran through the spot
where the phantom had appeared. Two and two make four; Mr. Hatch saw
phosphorus, passed through the spot where he had seen it, but did not
smell it, therefore it was not there. It was a reflection he saw--a
reflection of phosphorus. So far, so good.

"Mr. Hatch saw a finger lifted and write a luminous word in the air.
Again he did not actually see this; he saw a reflection of it. This first
impression of mine was substantiated by the fact that when he rushed for
the phantom a part of it disappeared, first half of it, he said--then the
other half. So his extended hands grasped only air.

"Obviously those reflections had been made on something, probably a
mirror as the most perfect ordinary reflecting surface. Yet he actually
passed through the spot where he had seen the apparition and had not
struck a mirror. He found himself in another room, the library, having
gone through a door which, that afternoon, he had himself closed. He did
not open it then.

"Instantly a sliding mirror suggested itself to me to fit all these
conditions. He saw the apparition in the door, then saw only half of it,
then all of it disappeared. He passed through the spot where it had been.
All of this would have happened easily if a large mirror, working as a
sliding door, and hidden in the wall, were there. Is it clear?"

"Perfectly," said Mr. Weston.

"Yes," said Hatch, eagerly. "Go on."

"This sliding mirror, too, might have made the noise which Mr. Hatch
imagined was a rat. Mr. Hatch had previously told me of four large
mirrors in the living-and dining-rooms. With these, from the position in
which he said they were, I readily saw how the reflection could have been
made.

"In a general sort of way, in my own mind, I had accounted for the
phantom. Why was it there? This seemed a more difficult problem. It was
possible that it had been put there for amusement, but I did not wholly
accept this. Why? Partly because no one had ever heard of it until the
Italian workmen went there. Why did it appear just at the moment they
went to begin the work Mr. Weston had ordered? Was it the purpose to keep
the workmen away?

"These questions arose in my mind in order. Then, as Mr. Hatch had told
me of a tragedy in the house and hidden jewels, I asked him to learn more
of these. I called his attention to the fact that it would be a queer
circumstance if these jewels were still somewhere in the old house.
Suppose some one who knew of their existence were searching for them,
believed he could find them, and wanted something which would effectually
drive away any inquiring persons, tramps or villagers, who might appear
there at night. A ghost? Perhaps.

"Suppose some one wanted to give the old house such a reputation that Mr.
Weston would not care to undertake the work of repair and refurnishing. A
ghost? Again perhaps. In a shallow mind this ghost might have been
interpreted even as an effort to prevent the marriage of Miss Everard and
Mr. Weston. Therefore Mr. Hatch was instructed to get all the facts
possible about you, Mr. Weston, and members of your family. I reasoned
that members of your own family would be more likely to know of the lost
jewels than anyone else after a lapse of fifty years.

"Well, what Mr. Hatch learned from you and your cousin, George Weston,
instantly, in my mind, established a motive for the ghost. It was, as I
had supposed possible, an effort to drive workmen away, perhaps only for
a time, while a search was made for the jewels. The old tragedy in the
house was a good pretext to hang a ghost on. A clever mind conceived it
and a clever mind put it into operation.

"Now, what one person knew most about the jewels? Your cousin George, Mr.
Weston. Had he recently acquired any new information as to these jewels?
I didn't know. I thought it possible. Why? On his own statement that his
mother, then a bride, got the story of the entire affair direct from his
grandmother, who remembered more of it than anybody else--who might even
have heard his grandfather say where he intended hiding the jewels."

The Thinking Machine paused for a little while, shifted his position,
then went on:

"George Weston refused to go with you, Mr. Weston, and Mr. Hatch, to the
ghost party, as you called it, because he said he was going to a ball in
Providence that night. He did not go to Providence; I learned that from
your correspondent there, Mr. Hatch; so George Weston might, possibly,
have gone to the ghost party after all.

"After I looked over the situation down there it occurred to me that the
most feasible way for a person, who wished to avoid being seen in the
village, as the perpetrator of the ghost did, was to go to and from the
place at night in a motor-boat. He could easily run in the dark and land
at the foot of the cliff, and no soul in the village would be any the
wiser. Did George Weston have a motor-boat? Yes, an electric, which runs
almost silently.

"From this point the entire matter was comparatively simple. I knew--the
pure logic of it told me--how the ghost was made to appear and disappear;
one look at the house inside convinced me beyond all doubt. I knew the
motive for the ghost--a search for the jewels. I knew, or thought I knew,
the name of the man who was seeking the jewels; the man who had fullest
knowledge and fullest opportunity, the man whose brain was clever enough
to devise the scheme. Then, the next step to prove what I knew. The first
thing to do was to find the jewels."

"Find the jewels?" Weston repeated, with a slight smile.

"Here they are," said The Thinking Machine, quietly.

And there, before the astonished eyes of the broker, he drew out the gems
which had been lost for fifty years. Mr. Weston was not amazed; he was
petrified with astonishment and sat staring at the glittering heap in
silence. Finally he recovered his voice.

"How did you do it?" he demanded. "Where?"

"I used my brain, that's all," was the reply. "I went into the old house
seeking them where the owner, under all conditions, would have been most
likely to hide them, and there I found them."

"But--but--" stammered the broker.

"The man who hid these jewels hid them only temporarily, or at least that
was his purpose," said The Thinking Machine, irritably. "Naturally he
would not hide them in the woodwork of the house, because that might
burn; he did not bury them in the cellar, because that has been carefully
searched. Now, in that house there is nothing except woodwork and
chimneys above the cellar. Yet he hid them in the house, proven by the
fact that the man he killed was killed in the house, and that the outside
ground, covered with snow, showed two sets of tracks into the house and
none out. Therefore he did hide them in the cellar. Where? In the
stonework. There was no other place.

"Naturally he would not hide them on a level with the eye, because the
spot where he took out and replaced a stone would be apparent if a close
search were made. He would, therefore, place them either above or below
the eye level. He placed them above. A large loose stone in the chimney
was taken out and there was the box with these things."

Mr. Weston stared at The Thinking Machine with a new wonder and
admiration in his eyes.

"With the jewels found and disposed of, there remained only to prove the
ghost theory by an actual test. I sent for you, Mr. Weston, because I
thought possibly, as no actual crime had been committed, it would be
better to leave the guilty man to you. When you came I went into the
haunted house with a hammer--an ordinary hammer--and waited on the steps.

"At last the ghost laughed and appeared. I crept down the steps where I
was sitting in my stocking feet. I knew what it was. Just when I reached
the luminous phantom I disposed of it for all time by smashing it with a
hammer. It shattered a large sliding mirror which ran in the door inside
the frame, as I had thought. The crash startled the man who operated the
ghost from the top of a box, giving it the appearance of extreme height,
and he started out through the kitchen, as he had entered. The constable
had barred that door after the man entered; therefore the ghost turned
and came toward the front door of the house. There he ran into and struck
down Mr. Hatch, and ran out through the front door, which I afterwards
found was not securely fastened. You know the rest of it; how you found
the motor-boat and waited there for him; how he came there, and--"

"Tried to stab me," Weston supplied. "I had to shoot to save myself."

"Well, the wound is trivial," said The Thinking Machine. "His arm will
heal up in a little while. I think then, perhaps, a little trip of four
or five years in Europe, at your expense, in return for the jewels, might
restore him to health."

"I was thinking of that myself," said the broker, quietly. "Of course, I
couldn't prosecute."

"The ghost, then, was--?" Hatch began.

"George Weston, my cousin," said the broker. "There are some things in
this story which I hope you may see fit to leave unsaid, if you can do so
with justice to yourself."

Hatch considered it.

"I think there are," he said, finally, and he turned to The Thinking
Machine. "Just where was the man who operated the phantom?"

"In the dining-room, beside the butler's pantry," was the reply. "With
that pantry door closed he put on the robe already covered with
phosphorus, and merely stepped out. The figure was reflected in the tall
mirror directly in front, as you enter the dining-room from the back,
from there reflected to the mirror on the opposite wall in the
living-room, and thence reflected to the sliding mirror in the door which
led from the reception-hall to the library. This is the one I smashed."

"And how was the writing done?"

"Oh, that? Of course that was done by reversed writing on a piece of
clear glass held before the apparition as he posed. This made it read
straight to anyone who might see the last reflection in the
reception-hall."

"And the blood thrown on the constable and the others when the ghost was
in the yard?" Hatch went on.

"Was from a dog. A test I made in the drug store showed that. It was a
desperate effort to drive the villagers away and keep them away. The
ghost cat and the tying of the watchman to his bed were easily done."

All sat silent for a time. At length Mr. Weston arose, thanked the
scientist for the recovery of the jewels, bade them all good-night and
was about to go out. Mechanically Hatch was following. At the door he
turned back for the last question.

"How was it that the shot the constable fired didn't break the mirror?"

"Because he was nervous and the bullet struck the door beside the
mirror," was the reply. "I dug it out with a knife. Good-night."



PROBLEM OF THE GHOST WOMAN


Ruby Reagan, expert cracksman, was busily, albeit quietly, engaged in the
practice of his profession. His rubber soles fell silently upon the deep
carpet as he stepped into the utter gloom of the study and closed the
door noiselessly behind him. For a long time he stood perfectly still,
listening, feeling with that vague single sense for the presence of some
one else; then he flashed his electric light. A flat topped library table
was directly in front of him, littered over with books, and to his left
were the bulky outlines of a roll top desk. There were some chairs, a
cabinet or so, and rows of bookcases.

His scrutiny, brief but comprehensive, seemed to satisfy Reagan; for the
light went out suddenly, and, turning in his tracks, he slid the bolt of
the door into its socket slowly, to avoid even a click. Next he released
the grips on one of the windows, for it might be necessary to leave the
room that way in the event of some one entering by the single door. Then
he settled down to work. First was the desk, and after a long, minute
inspection of the lock he dropped on his knees before it and began trying
his skeleton keys. The electric flash, with the light fixed, was on the
left leaf of the desk, brightly illuminating the lock and lending a
deeper glow of ruby red to his hair. On the right leaf of the desk,
within instant reach, was his revolver.

It was nearly half an hour before the lock yielded, and then, with a sigh
of relief, Reagan carefully pushed up the roll top. Inside he found a
metal box. From a score of pigeonholes he dragged forth papers of all
descriptions, ruthlessly scattering them about him after a quick
examination of each in turn. Then he went through drawer after drawer,
carefully scrutinizing each article before he laid it down.

"Guess it's in the box," he mused at length.

Sitting flat upon the floor, with the box between his knees, he lavished
his talents upon it. After a few minutes the lock clicked, and the metal
lid lifted. Again Reagan smiled, for here were packages and packages of
banknotes. But after a moment they too were spilled out on the floor. It
was something else he sought.

"Now, that's funny," he told himself finally. "It isn't here." He paused
thoughtfully, while his eyes rested lovingly upon the packages of money.
"Of course, if I can't get what I want I'll take what I can get," he went
on at last. And he proceeded to stuff the money away in his pockets.

Several times he ran his fingers slowly through his red hair. It was
plain that he was deeply puzzled. He was on the point of rising to
continue his investigations in other directions, when he heard something.
It was a voice--a quiet, soothing, pleasant voice--about fourteen inches
behind his right ear.

"Don't try to get your revolver, please!" the voice advised. "If you do,
I'll shoot!"

Involuntarily Reagan's hand darted out toward the weapon on the leaf of
the desk; but it was drawn back as suddenly when he heard a sharp click
behind him. Nonplussed for the moment, he sat down again on the floor,
half expecting a shot. It didn't come, and he screwed his head around to
see why.

What he saw astounded him. It was a diaphanous, floating, lacy, white
something--the figure of a girl. Or was it a girl? The head was sheathed
in white, the features covered by a misty, hazy, veily thing, and in the
dim reflected light the whole figure seemed ridiculously unsubstantial.
It was a girl's voice, though.

"Sit perfectly still, please, and don't make any noise!" the voice
advised again. Yes, it was a girl's voice.

Reagan noted the small, gold mounted revolver in her right hand, with the
barrel, at just that moment, on a direct line with his head and only a
foot or so away; and he noted that it remained steadily where it was
without one tremor or quiver.

"Yes'm," he said at last.

The white figure walked around him--or did it float?--and picked up his
revolver from the desk.

"This is Mr. Reagan, isn't it?" she inquired.

"Yes'm," responded Reagan. The admission was surprised out of him.

"Did you find it?"

"No'm."

Was this thing real? Reagan rubbed his eyes doubtfully. He was dreaming,
of course. He would wake up in a minute. He opened his eyes again. Yes,
there she was. But she wasn't real,--she couldn't be real,--she was a
ghost. She was certainly not in the room when he entered, and she could
not have come in since, because he had bolted the door on the inside.

"I shall trouble you now, Mr. Reagan," the ghost woman went on, "to take
all that money from your pocket and put it back in the box."

Reagan stared at the end of the revolver a moment, and the ghost woman
wriggled it. That was real enough, anyway. Promptly and without a word he
began to disgorge packages of banknotes. Then at last looked up again.

"You put back only eight packages," said the ghost woman calmly. "You
took out nine."

"Yes'm," said Reagan.

He fished through his pockets again, in a semi-hypnotic condition,
produced more money, and deposited it with the other. He closed the metal
lid and snapped the lock.

"That will do very nicely," she said approvingly. "Now I shall trouble
you, please, to go on about your business."

Reagan started to rise, awkwardly enough, on hands and knees. The ghost
woman stepped back a little; but still she was not far enough away, for
when Reagan suddenly came to his feet his outstretched arms struck her
violently beneath the wrists and sent the two revolvers flying upward.
With another quick movement he swept the electric light from the desk,
extinguishing it. There was a sound of scuffling feet in the darkness, as
of persons struggling, a little despairing cry, then finally a pistol
shot.

Reagan stumbled blindly about the room, seeking the door. He found it at
last, still bolted on the inside, and tugged at it frantically. Then came
the sound of heavy feet running along the hall outside toward the study,
and Reagan stopped. The window! It was the only way now! The shot had
aroused the household. He rushed toward the window; but it refused to
move.

The clamor was at the door. Desperately Reagan sought for the side grips
on the window; but they seemed to have disappeared. The door trembled as
some heavy body was hurled against it. The bolt would yield--it was
yielding--Reagan heard the woodwork crack. Then deliberately he drove his
clenched fist through the glass, took one step on a chair and hurled
himself straight through. The door crashed under the onslaught and swung
inward.

On the following morning Chester Mills, a wealthy merchant, called on
Detective Mallory, chief of the bureau of criminal investigation.

"I own a large country estate forty miles out of town," Mills began
abruptly. "Yesterday was the last day of the month. I went to the bank
and drew nine hundred dollars, and placed it in a metal box in my desk at
home and locked both the box and desk.

"I went to bed at eleven o'clock. About two o'clock this morning I heard
a pistol shot in the study. I jumped out of bed and rushed into the hall
toward the study, meeting on the way one of my servants, O'Brien. We
found the study locked, and started to smash the door in. As we did so we
heard a great crash of glass inside.

"Then we did smash the door, and O'Brien turned on the electric lights.
One of the two windows was smashed out as if somebody had jumped or been
thrown through it; my desk had been ransacked, and my papers scattered
all over the floor. The desk was standing open, and I picked up the box.
It had a bullet hole in it. The ball went in the top and came out the
side. I found it sticking in the desk. It was thirty-two caliber. Here it
is."

Mills tossed the misshapen leaden missile on the table, and Detective
Mallory examined it.

"Then I found the first real puzzle," Mills went on. "I opened the box
and counted the money. Instead of any of it being missing, there was more
there than there was when I put the box in the desk. Where there had been
only nine hundred dollars, verified by the paying teller and myself,
there was now nine hundred and ten dollars--an extra ten-dollar bill."

Detective Mallory chewed his cigar frantically.

"O'Brien found a soft black hat in the room, near the door," continued
Mills, "a revolver, thirty-eight caliber, with every chamber loaded, an
overcoat, an electric flashlight which had been thrown to the floor and
broken, and a very complete kit of burglar's tools. I straightened the
women folk all out, had the house searched, and went back to bed. So far
as I have been able to find out, nothing was stolen--nothing is missing."

"Well, in that case--" began the detective.

"I haven't started yet," interrupted Mills tersely. "The window was out,
as I said; so when we went to bed again we left O'Brien in the study on
watch. About halfpast three o'clock I was awakened again by a scream--a
woman. Again I jumped out and ran along toward the study. The lights were
going, but there was no sign of O'Brien. I presumed then that his
attention had been attracted by the scream and he had gone to
investigate. But--Well, O'Brien has disappeared. No one has seen or heard
of him since--there's not a trace."

Detective Mallory sat for a long time silently smoking, and staring into
the eyes of his caller.

At this point the problem came under the observation of that eminent
logician, Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen--The Thinking Machine. As
Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, related the known facts, the distinguished
man of science permitted his eyes to narrow down to mere slits of watery
blue, and the tall, domelike forehead was deeply furrowed.

"Why was any shot fired?" Hatch demanded of the scientist in perplexity.
"And who fired it? Were there two burglars? Did they fight? Was one
wounded? There were bloodstains on the ground outside the window; but we
can see that whoever jumped out might have cut himself on the glass. And
why was the hole shot in the tin box? Not to break the lock, obviously;
for it could have been taken along. Where does the odd ten-dollar bill in
the box figure? Where is O'Brien? Who was the woman who screamed that
second time? Why did she scream? Why wasn't something stolen?"

Having relieved himself of this torrent of questions, Hatch dropped back
into his chair expectantly and lighted a cigarette. The Thinking Machine
permitted two disapproving eyes to settle on the young man for a moment.

"And still you haven't asked the one vital question," he remarked tartly.
"That is, What particular object in that study, or supposed to be in that
study, is of such great importance to some one unknown that two bold,
daring I might say, attempts were made to get it in the same night?"

"It seems to me it would be impossible to learn that, until--"

"Nothing is impossible, Mr. Hatch. It is merely a little sum in
arithmetic. Two and two make four; not sometimes but all the time. This
problem, at the moment, seems remarkably disjointed, particularly when we
consider the disappearance of O'Brien. First, then, is Mr. Mills positive
nothing was stolen?"

"Absolutely so," replied Hatch. "He has checked off every paper, and
accounted for every article."

The furrows in the tall brow deepened perceptibly, and for a long time
the crabbed little scientist sat silent. "How much blood was found
outside?" he asked suddenly.

"Quite a good deal of it," Hatch responded. "It looks as if some one,
whoever jumped or was thrown out, received some nasty cuts. The edges of
the glass are stained."

The Thinking Machine nodded. "It is established beyond all question that
the woman who screamed that second time was not one of those in the
house?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," returned Hatch confidently. "They had all retired after the
first fright, and the second didn't even arouse them. They didn't know of
O'Brien's disappearance until morning."

"The police have found nothing yet?"

"Not yet. The articles left in the room, of course,--the hat and coat and
burglar's tools,--are clues that they are working on. They might
establish identity by their aid."

"Well, we'll have to find the man who jumped," remarked the scientist
placidly. "When we do that, we can go somewhere with this affair."

"Yes, when we do that," Hatch agreed, with a grin.

"Of course we can do it!" snapped The Thinking Machine. "Here we seek a
man with neither hat nor overcoat, who is cut up with glass, possibly
badly wounded."

"But he's the sort of man who would scuttle to cover like a scared
rabbit," Hatch protested.

"Wouldn't matter how badly hurt he was, if he could walk he would hide."

"You seem to think, Mr. Hatch, that leaping through a window, taking all
the glass with you, and falling twenty feet to a hard pavement, is a
trivial affair," declared the scientist crabbedly. "If this man wasn't
badly hurt, it's a miracle; therefore--" He stopped abruptly and squinted
at the newspaper man. "I'm going to state a case and ask you a question,"
he went on suddenly. "Before I do it I'll write the answer you will give
on this bit of paper. You are an intelligent man; so I'll demonstrate to
you how intelligent minds run in the same channel."

He scribbled a few words hurriedly, folded the paper twice, and handed it
to the reporter.

"Now you are the burglar," he resumed, "a man perhaps well known to the
police. You jumped from that window and hurt yourself seriously. You need
medical attention; yet you can't afford to run the slightest risk of
capture. You have no hat or coat. You go to physician, not too near the
scene of the affair, and you tell a story to account for your condition.
What could you say to do away with all suspicion, and make yourself
perfectly safe, at least for the moment?"

Hatch smiled whimsically as he turned and twisted the scrap of paper in
his fingers, then lighted a cigarette and got down to the matter in hand
seriously.

"I think," he said at last slowly, and feeling unaccountably sheepish
about it, "that the safest story to tell the physician would be that I
had been thrown from an automobile, lost my hat, say, cut myself going
head foremost through the glass front when the car ran away, badly
bruised by the violence with which I hit the ground; and all that sort of
thing."

The Thinking Machine glared at him aggressively for an instant, then
arose and left the room. Hatch drew a long breath, then opened the folded
paper reluctantly. He found only these words:

"Runaway automobile--cut by diving through glass front--hat lost--bruises
and other lacerations by fall to ground."

When the scientist returned, he wore his hat and overcoat.

"Mr. Hatch, go at once to Mr. Mills, and inquire if he has yet learned of
anything being missing from the study--a paper of some sort, in all
probability," he instructed. "Then, without mentioning the matter to him,
take other steps to learn the nature of any litigation which might be
pending in which he is concerned--I imagine something is either now going
on or will be going on in a few days. Run by this evening to see me."

"Are you going with me?" inquired the reporter.

"No, no," responded the scientist impatiently. "I'm going to see the man
who jumped out of the window."

When Ruby Reagan, expert cracksman, awoke to consciousness he found
himself gazing straight into two squinting blue eyes, magnified beyond
all proportion by the thick spectacles through which he saw them. The
eyes were set far back in a thin, drawn face, and above them was a shock
of straw yellow hair.

"Be perfectly quiet," said The Thinking Machine. "You are safe enough,
and in a day or so you will be all right."

"Who are you?" demanded Reagan suspiciously.

"I am acting for the gentleman who employed you to get that--that
document from Mr. Mills's study," replied the scientist glibly. "You are
in my home. The doctor fixed you up, and I brought you here as soon as I
found you. He doesn't suspect anything. He thinks you were injured in an
automobile accident, as you said."

The cracksman closed his eyes to think about it. Weakly, for he had lost
much blood, he gradually pieced together a shattered recollection of
events of the last few hours,--the jump, his hurts, that staggering run
through deserted streets to get away from that place, the final collapse
at the very door of a physician, the muttered story he told to account
for his wounds. Then he looked again into the inscrutable face of The
Thinking Machine. It all seemed regular enough.

"The cops don't know?" he demanded suddenly.

"No," replied The Thinking Machine emphatically. "Who fired the shot?"

"The ghost lady," replied the cracksman promptly. "Guess she didn't mean
to, though, cause she seemed as anxious to be quiet as I was."

"And of course you jumped when you heard some one at the door?"

"Betcher neck!" replied Reagan grimly. "The cops ain't never had me yet,
an' I don't intend to break no record."

"And the ghost lady," resumed the scientist. "Tell me about her."

And then the story of the strange happenings in the study that night as
Reagan recalled them was told. "And I didn't get the paper at that," he
concluded.

"You say the ghost lady was all in white?"

"Sure," was the reply. "I don't know really whether she was a ghost or
not; but she started the mix-up." He was silent for a moment. "But le'me
tell you she must have been a ghost. She couldn't have got in that room
any other way. She slid in through the keyhole or something."

"And she called you by name, you say?"

"Yes. That's another thing that makes me think she's a ghost. How did she
know my name. And why did she ask me if I got it?"

Hutchinson Hatch called an hour later. There was something of elation,
excitement nearly, in his manner. He found The Thinking Machine stretched
out in a huge chair in the laboratory, with unruffled brow, and idly
twiddling fingers.

"The litigation, Mr. Hatch," said the latter without turning.

"Well, there are a dozen cases in which he is interested one way or
another," Hatch informed him; "but there is one particularly--"

"Something about property rights, I imagine?" interrupted the scientist.

"Yes," said the reporter. "There's a fortune involved, and a vast deal of
real estate. A business partner of Mills, Martin Pendexter by name, died
three or four years ago and his grandson, now about twenty-two years old,
is suing to recover certain money and property from Mills, alleging that
Mills assumed it as his own when Pendexter died. Mills has steadfastly
refused to go into the matter, or even discuss it, and finally the boy
brought the suit. It has been postponed several times; but it's to come
up for hearing soon."

"Mr. Mills, then, holds title to this property?" inquired The Thinking
Machine.

"I presume if he hadn't felt safe in his position he would not have
permitted the matter to go into court," replied Hatch. "I figure that
Mills does hold a release from Pendexter of the property, and intends to
produce it in court. He has advised the boy several times not to sue; but
would never give a reason."

"Oh!" and for a long time the scientist sat silent. "Of course--of
course," he mused, half aloud. "Then the ghost woman was one of the--"

"And there's another thing," Hatch rushed on impatiently. "Detective
Downey told me a little while ago the police have established the
identity of at least one person who was in the study that night, by the
kit of tools left behind. His name is Ruby Reagan."

"Ruby Reagan," repeated the scientist thoughtfully. "Oh, yes. He's asleep
in the next room there."

The Thinking Machine was talking; Mills, Detective Mallory, and
Hutchinson Hatch were listening.

"There is no puzzle about it at all," declared the scientist. "Briefly
what happened was this: A burglar was employed by a man who is suing you,
Mr. Mills, to go into your study and find, if indeed such a thing is in
existence, the document upon which you must depend to prove your title to
the Pendexter property now in dispute.

"Well, this burglar went to that study and looked for that
document--vainly, I may say here. While looking for that he found the
money in the box. He was tempted then, contrary to orders, perhaps, and
put this money in his pocket. Later he was compelled at the point of a
revolver to put the money back in the box, and in his hurry to obey
orders he put in a ten-dollar bill of his own. The person who compelled
him to replace the money was--was--"

He paused, wrote something on a slip of paper, and passed it to Mills.

"What!" exclaimed Mills incredulously.

"No names, please--yet, anyway," broke in the scientist. "Anyway, it was
a woman, I may say a woman of great courage, even audacity. She had
gained possession of the burglar's revolver, and with two weapons ordered
him to go. The burglar precipitated a struggle, a shot was fired by
accident, perhaps, and that is the shot which went through the tin box.
The burglar jumped through the window and escaped. The woman, who was in
the room, perhaps behind the curtain of the door when the burglar
entered, had come there to get that particular document he was seeking.
At the time he jumped we can imagine how she managed to get out into the
hall when the door flew open, and you and your man O'Brien entered.

"The next we know of that woman she was with the others screaming. A
little logic shows us that after that first fright, when the house was
perfectly still again, the woman, not knowing O'Brien was on watch,
returned to that study again to seek that document. He was sitting in the
dark, heard her, and flashed on the electric lights. She was surprised,
she screamed, was recognized by O'Brien, and then for some consideration
that does not appear--probably a bribe--induced O'Brien to disappear.
Again she avoided discovery, and if an investigation had been made she
would have been found in bed, I dare say.

"Being totally ignorant now, of the incidents leading up to the pistol
shot and the burglar's escape, the first point that the logical mind can
seize upon is the finding of more money in the tin box than was known to
be there. Therefore, we know that that box had been opened, and we know
that the burglar was either an honest man or was compelled to be honest.
We know too from the fact that a thirty-eight caliber revolver was found,
that there was a second revolver--the one from which the shot was fired.
Burglars are not honest. Was this one compelled to be honest? What honest
person could be in that room-lone with that burglar, remember? You see
instantly a thousand possibilities.

"Without pursuing those possibilities at the moment, it came down to a
question of finding the burglar--the dishonest one, I may say. That was
not difficult, only tedious work on the telephone, seeking a doctor who
had treated a man who was probably--probably, you note--injured in an
automobile accident. I found your Ruby Reagan, Mr. Mallory, and from him
I learned just what happened at first--a woman in white, a ghost woman,
obviously some woman in the house. White lacy gowns are not popular for
street wear at two o'clock in the morning."

"I wonder if this is absolutely necessary, Mr. Van Dusen?" interrupted
Mills. His face was white. "I think I understand, and I assure you the
matter has taken a personal turn which may mean a great deal to me and my
family."

The Thinking Machine waved his hand as if the matter was dismissed.

"For your benefit, Mr. Mills," continued the scientist, "I will state
that the motive for the girl's act was one which reflected her great
courage, and her loyalty to you--perhaps at the same time her regard for
another man. Do you follow me? In some way--perhaps the man told her--she
learned of the plan to engage Reagan for the work, and she could have
learned of that only from the man by a relationship which partook of love
for him. Her loyalty to you and a natural desire to save this man's name
in your eyes, led her to seek in person to recover the document. It
merely happened that they both visited the study the same night."

The Thinking Machine stopped as if that was all.

"But here, go on," Detective Mallory insisted. "I want to know the rest."

"Suppose, Mr. Mallory, that you find Reagan for yourself?" suggested The
Thinking Machine after a long pause. "I did it. Surely you can."

"Where is he? Where did you see him?"

"I saw him at my house," responded the scientist calmly. "I left him
there to come here; but a man who confesses what he confessed to me
doesn't stay at a place like that if he can help it. The matter is as I
have stated it, Mr. Mills. Your reason for refusing to give the young man
any explanation of your holding the property is a good one, I dare say,
so I'll not question it."

"I'll tell you," flamed Mills suddenly. "He is not really the grandson of
Pendexter. I will be compelled to show that if he sues me--that is why I
have advised him not to sue."

"I imagined as much," said The Thinking Machine.

Ruby Reagan left the home of The Thinking Machine in a cab late that
night. And a few days later the Pendexter suit was withdrawn by the
plaintiff.



MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN DAGGER


I


"All animals have the same appetites and the same passions. The reasoning
faculty is the one thing which lifts man above what we are pleased to
call the lower animals. Logic is the essence of the reasoning faculty.
Therefore logic is that power which enables the mind of man to
reconstruct from one fact a series of incidents leading to a given
result. One result may be as surely traced back to its causes as the
specialist may reconstruct a skeleton from a fraction of bone."

Thus clearly, pointedly Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen had once
explained to Hutchinson Hatch, reporter, the analytical power by which he
had solved some of the most perplexing mysteries that had ever come to
the attention of either the police or the press. It was a text from which
sermons might be preached. No one knew this better than Hatch.

Professor Van Dusen is the foremost logician of his time. His name has
been honored at home and abroad until now it embraces as honorary
initials nearly all those letters which had not been included in it in
the first place. The Thinking Machine! This phrase applied once in a
newspaper to the scientist had clung tenaciously. It was the name by
which he was known to the world at large.

In a dozen ways he had proved his right to it. Hatch remembered vividly
the scientist's mysterious disappearance from a prison cell once; then
there had been the famous automobile mystery, and more lately the strange
chain of circumstances whose history has been written as "The Scarlet
Thread." This little text, as given above, was one afternoon, when Hatch
had casually called on The Thinking Machine. It transpired that a few
hours later he had returned to lay before the logician still another
mystery.

On his return to his office Hatch had been dispatched in a rush on a
murder story. In following up the threads of this he had learned every
fact the police had, had written his story, and then presented himself at
the Beacon Hill home of The Thinking Machine. It was then 11 o'clock at
night. The Thinking Machine had received him, and the facts, in
substance, were laid before him as follows:

A man who had given the name of Charles Wilkes called at the real estate
office of Henry Holmes & Co., on Washington Street on October 14, just
thirty-two days prior to the beginning of the story, as Hatch recited it.
He was a man of possibly thirty years, stalwart, good-looking and
clean-cut in appearance. There had been nothing about him to attract
particular attention. He had said that he was eastern agent for a big
manufacturing concern, and travelled a great deal.

"I want a six or seven room house in Cambridge," he had explained.
"Something quiet, where I won't have too many neighbors. My wife is
extremely nervous, and I want to get a couple of blocks from the street
cars. If you have a house, say in the middle of a big lot somewhere in
the outskirts of Cambridge, I think that will do."

"What price?" a clerk had asked.

"Anywhere from $45 to $60," he replied.

It just happened that Henry Holmes & Co. had such a house. An office man
went with Mr. Wilkes to see it. Mr. Wilkes was pleased and paid the first
month's rent of $60 to the man who had accompanied him.

"I won't go back to the office with you," he said. "Everything is all
right. I'll have my stuff moved out in a couple of days and let your
collector come for next month's rent when it is due."

Mr. Wilkes was a very pleasant man; the clerk had found him so and was
gratified at the transaction, which gave his firm such a desirable
tenant. He did not ask for Mr. Wilkes' address, nor did he think to ask
any questions as to where the household goods were at the moment. In the
light of subsequent events this lack of caution temporarily hid, at least
for a time, it seemed, the key which would have solved a mystery.

The month passed and in the office of Holmes & Co. the matter had been
forgotten until the rent came due. Then a collector, Willard Clements,
the regular Cambridge collector for the firm went to the Cambridge house.
He found the front door locked. The shutters were still over the windows.
There was no indication that anyone at all had either occupied the house
or used it. That was an impression to be gathered by a casual outside
inspection. Clements had gone around the house; the back door stood wide
open.

Clements went inside the house and must have remained there for half an
hour. When he came out his face was white, his lips quivered, and the
madness of terror was in his eyes. He ran staggeringly around the house
and down the walk to the street. A few minutes later he rushed into a
police station and there poured out a babbling, incoherent story. The
usually placid face of the officer in charge was overspread with surprise
as he listened.

Three men were detailed to visit the house and investigate Clements'
story. Two of these men went with Clements through the back door, which
still stood open, and the third, Detective Fahey, began an examination of
the premises. Entering through the back door, the kitchen lay to his
left. There was nothing to show that it had been occupied for many
months. A hurried glance satisfied him, and he passed into the main body
of the house. This consisted of a parlor, a dining room and a bedroom.
Here, too, he found nothing. The dust lay thick over floors, mantels and
window sills.

From the hall, stairs led to three sleeping rooms above. Under these
stairs a short flight lead to the cellar. The door stood open, and a
damp, chilly breath came up. Utter darkness lay below. The detective
shrugged his shoulders and turned to go upstairs where the other men
were.

He found them in the smallest of the three rooms, bending over a bed.
Clements stood at the door, which had been broken in, still with the
pallor of death on his face and his hands working nervously.

"Find anything?" asked the detective briskly.

"My God, no," gasped Clements. "I wouldn't go back in that room for a
million dollars."

The detective laughed and passed in.

"What is it?" he asked.

"A girl," was the reply.

"What happened to her?"

"Stabbed," was the laconic answer.

The other two men stood aside and the detective looked down at the body.
It was that of a girl possibly twenty or twenty-two years old. She had
been pretty, but the hand of death had obliterated many traces of it now.
Her hair, of a rich, ruddy gold, mercifully veiled somewhat the ravages
of death; her hands lay outstretched on the white of the bed.

She was dressed for the street. Her hat still clung to her hair, fastened
by a long, black-headed pin. Her clothing, of dark brown, was good but
not rich. A muff lay beside her and her coat was open.

It was not necessary for Detective Fahey to ask the immediate cause of
death. A stab wound in the breast showed that.

"Where's the knife?" he asked.

"Didn't find any."

"Any other wounds?"

"Can't tell until the medical examiner arrives. She's just as we found
her."

"Here, O'Brien," instructed the detective, "run out and 'phone to Dr.
Loyd and tell him to come up as fast as he can get here. It's probably
only suicide."

One of the men went out, and the detective picked up and examined the
muff. From it he drew out a small purse. He opened this to find a
withered rose--nothing else. There was no money, no card, no key--nothing
which might immediately throw light on the girl's identity.

After a while Dr. Loyd came. He remained in the room alone for ten
minutes or so, while the policemen went carefully over the upper rooms of
the house. When the doctor opened the door and stepped out he carried
something in his hand.

"It's murder," he told the detective.

"How do you know?"

"There are two wounds in the back, where she could not possibly have
inflicted them herself. And I found this beneath the body."

In his open hand lay a dagger--a dagger of gold. The handle was strangely
and intricately fashioned and might, from its appearance, have been cut
from a solid bar of gold. In the end blazed a single splendid gem--a
diamond. It was probably of three or four karats and pure white. The
steel blade was bright at the hilt but stained red.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed the detective as he examined it. "With a clue
like that, the end is already in sight."

This was the story that Hutchinson Hatch told to The Thinking Machine.
The scientist listened carefully, as he lay stretched out in a chair with
his enormous yellow head resting easily against a cushion. He asked only
three questions.

"How long had the girl been dead?"

"The medical examiner says it is impossible to tell within more than a
few days," Hatch replied. "He gave it as his opinion that it was a week
or ten days."

"What was in the cellar?"

"I don't know. No one looked."

"Who broke in the door? Clements?"

"Yes."

"I shall go with you tomorrow," said The Thinking Machine. "I want to
look at the dagger and also the cellar."


II


It was 10 o'clock next day when Hutchinson Hatch and The Thinking Machine
called on Dr. Loyd. The medical examiner willingly displayed the golden
dagger, and in technical terms explained just what had caused the girl's
death. Minus the medical phraseology his opinion was that the wound in
the breast had been the first inflicted and that the dagger point had
punctured the heart. One of the wounds in the back had also reached the
same vital spot; the other wound was superficial.

The Thinking Machine viewed the body and agreed with the medical
examiner. He had, meanwhile, carefully examined the dagger, handle and
blade, and had a photograph of it made. Then, with Hatch, he proceeded to
the Cambridge house.

"It isn't suicide, is it?" asked Hatch on the way.

"No," was the quick response. "The only question thus far in my mind, is
whether or not the girl was killed in that house."

"Why was a man such a fool as to leave a dagger of that value where it
would be found--or any dagger for that matter?" Hatch asked.

"A dozen reasons," replied the scientist. "A possible one is, that
whoever killed her may have been frightened away before he could regain
possession of the weapon. Remember it was found underneath her body.
Presumably she fell backwards and covered the dagger. A slight noise--any
one of a dozen things--might have caused the person who killed her to run
away rather than try to get the weapon again. Against that of course is
the value of the dagger. I know little about jewels, but knowing as
little as I do, I should say the value was in the thousands."

"The very reason why it wouldn't be left," said Hatch.

"Quite true," said the other. "Yet the value of the dagger may have been
the very reason it was left."

Hatch turned quickly and stared at The Thinking Machine with a question
in his eyes.

"I mean," The Thinking Machine explained, "that the dagger is nearly as
good as the name and the address of its owner, because it can be traced
immediately. Its owner would never have left it under any circumstances."

Hatch was puzzled. He did not follow, as yet, the intricate reasoning of
the scientist. It seemed that the one solid, substantial clue, as he
regarded it, was to be eliminated without a hearing. The Thinking Machine
went on:

"Suppose it had been someone's purpose to kill this girl and, on the face
of it, immediately direct attention to some other person as the criminal?
In that event, what would have done it more effectively than to kill her
with a stolen dagger belonging to some other man and leave it?"

"Oh," exclaimed Hatch. "I think I see what you mean. The fact that a
person owns this knife is not, then, to be taken against him?"

"On the contrary," said The Thinking Machine sharply. "It's almost a
vindication, unless the person who killed her is mad."

A few minutes later, they arrived at the house. It was a two-story frame
structure, back thirty or forty feet from the street, in the centre of a
small plot of ground. The nearest house was three or four hundred feet
away. Hatch was somewhat surprised at the care with which The Thinking
Machine examined the premises before he entered the house. Scarcely a
foot of ground had not been critically gone over.

Then they entered through the back door. Here, in the kitchen, The
Thinking Machine showed the same care in his examination. He squinted
aggressively at the sink and casually turned the water on. Then he
examined the rusty range. Thence he went to the dining room, where there
was the same minute examination. The parlor, hall, and the lower bedroom
were examined, after which the two men went up stairs.

"In which room was the girl found?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"The back room," Hatch replied.

"Well, let's examine the other two first," and the scientist led the way
to the front of the house. His examination seemed to be confined largely
to the water arrangements. He examined each faucet in turn and turned the
water on. He went through the same program in the bathroom.

This done, there remained only the room of death. It was precisely as the
Medical Examiner had left it, except that the girl's body was gone. The
sheets whereon she lay and the pillows were closely scrutinized. Then The
Thinking Machine straightened up.

"Any running water in here?" he asked.

"I don't see any," Hatch replied.

"All right, now for the cellar."

The reporter could not even conjecture what The Thinking Machine expected
to find in the cellar. It was low ceiling, damp and chilly. By the light
of the electric bulb, which the scientist produced, they could see only
the furnace, which stood rustily at about the centre. The Thinking
Machine examined this for ashes, but found none. Then he wandered
aimlessly about the place, taking it all in seemingly in one long,
comprehensive squint. Finally he turned to Hatch.

"Let's go," he suggested.

Three-quarters of an hour later, the two men were again in the apartments
on Beacon Hill. The scientist dropped into his accustomed place in the
big chair and sat silent for a long time. Hatch waited impatiently.

"Has a picture of this dagger been printed yet?" asked The Thinking
Machine at last.

"In every newspaper in Boston, to-day."

"Dear me, dear me," exclaimed the scientist. "It would have been
perfectly easy to find the owner of the dagger if pictures of it hadn't
been printed."

"Do you think it probable that its owner is the criminal?"

"No, unless, as I said, he was insane, but it would have been interesting
to know how the knife passed out of his possession. Was it given away? If
so, to whom? A thing of that value would never be given to anyone who was
not near and dear to the one who gave it. It is not the kind of gift a
man would make to a woman, but is rather a kind of gift a King might make
to a loyal subject. It is Oriental in appearance and naturally suggests
the Orient. But as I said, the person who owned it did not use it to kill
the girl."

"Then what did happen to it?" asked Hatch, curiously.

"Probably it was stolen. Here is the problem: A girl whose name we don't
know was murdered by a person we don't know. We do know that this dagger
was used to kill her. Therefore find the man who owned the dagger
originally and learn how it passed out of his hands. That may lead us
directly to the man who rented the house. When we find the man who rented
the house, we find possibly the man who stole the dagger and the man who
may have killed or may know who killed the girl."

"That seems perfectly clear," Hatch remarked smilingly. "That is, the
nature of the problem itself is clear, but the solution is as far away as
ever."

The Thinking Machine arose abruptly and passed into the adjoining room.
After a while Hatch heard the telephone bell. It was half an hour or so
before The Thinking Machine returned.

"The person who owns the knife will call to see me this afternoon at 3
o'clock," he announced.

Hatch half rose in his astonishment, then sank down again.

"Whoever it is will be arrested the moment the police learn of it," he
said after a pause.

"On what charge?"

"Murder. It's a plain circumstantial case."

"If he is arrested," said the scientist, "there will be some
international complications."

"Who is he?" asked Hatch.

"His name will appear in due time. Meanwhile find out for me if there has
ever been a report to the police of any robbery, in which a dagger is
mentioned in any way."

Wonderingly, Hatch went away to obey instructions. He found no trace of
any such robbery for half a dozen years back. There were several entries
on the police books, and of these he made a record.

At 1 o'clock that afternoon he was again in Cambridge working with the
police and half a dozen reporters in an effort to get some light on the
question of the girl's identity. Later he went to the real estate office
of Henry Holmes & Co. seeking further light there. It was not
forthcoming.

"Did this man, Wilkes, sign anything?" he asked; "a lease, or anything of
that sort? A sample of his handwriting might be useful now."

"No," was the reply. "We did not consider a lease necessary."

Meanwhile the police had apparently exhausted every means of finding out
who and what Charles Wilkes was. It was clear from the beginning, to them
at least, that the name Wilkes was a fictitious one. There was no reason
to suppose that if Wilkes rented the house with the deliberate intention
of murder that he would give his real name. By the wildest stretch of the
imagination they could find no motive for the murder. It was not any of
the ordinary things. Yet it was deliberate. They regarded the golden
dagger as the key to the entire mystery. There they stopped.

At 3 o'clock Hatch returned to the home of The Thinking Machine. He had
hardly been ushered into the little reception room when the doorbell rang
and the scientist in person appeared. Accompanying him was a stranger;
dark, swarthy and with the coal black beard of the Orient.

Hatch was introduced to him as Ali Hassan. Then The Thinking Machine
produced the photograph of the dagger.

"Is this the correct picture?" he asked.

The stranger examined it closely.

"It seems to be," he said at last.

"Is there another dagger like that in existence?"

"No."

"How did it come into your possession?"

"It was a gift to me from the Sultan of Turkey," was the reply.


III


Gravely Mr. Hassan sat down while The Thinking Machine resumed his seat
in the big chair opposite. Hatch was leaning forward eagerly to catch
every word. The story of the man who owned the wonderful golden dagger
was one which the great public would naturally want to know.

"Now," began The Thinking Machine, "would you mind telling us a little of
the history of the dagger?"

"It is not a story to be told to infidels," was the reply. "I mean, of
course, unbelievers. I will answer any question that you see fit to ask
if I can do so."

A little expression of perplexity crept into the squinting eyes of The
Thinking Machine; then it passed as suddenly as it came.

"You are a Mohammedan?" he asked.

"Yes."

 "Is there any religious significance attached to the dagger?"

"Yes, it is sacred. A gift from the Sultan--my imperial master--and
blessed by the royal hand is always sacred to a subject. It may not be
even seen by the eyes of an unbeliever."

Hatch straightened up a little, and The Thinking Machine readjusted
himself in the big chair.

"You were educated at Oxford?" he asked irrelevantly.

"Yes. I left there in 1887."

"You did not embrace the Christian religion?"

"No. I am a Mohammedan, loyal to my master."

"Would you mind saying for what service the Sultan so honored you?"

"I cannot say that. It was a service to the crown at a time when I was
secretary of the Turkish Embassy in England."

"Under what circumstances did this dagger leave your possession?" asked
The Thinking Machine quietly.

"It has not left my possession," was the equally quiet reply. "It would
be sacrilege if it did. Therefore I still have it--closely guarded."

Frankly, Hutchinson Hatch was amazed. His manner showed it clearly. The
Thinking Machine was still leaning back in the chair staring upward.

"I understand then," he said after a little pause, "that the dagger, of
which this is a photograph, is in your possession now?"

"It has not been out of my possession at any time since it was given to
me," was the startling reply.

"Then how do you account for this photograph?"

"I don't account for it."

"But Dr. Loyd--the dagger--I had it in my hands," Hatch interposed in
bewilderment.

"You are mistaken," replied the Turk quietly. "It is still in my
possession."

"Will you produce it?" asked The Thinking Machine calmly.

"I will not," was the firm response. "I have explained that it is not to
be seen by the eyes of unbelievers."

"If a charge of murder should be laid against you, would you produce it?"
insisted The Thinking Machine.

"I would not."

"To avoid an arrest?"

"There is no danger of an arrest," was the still calm response. "I am
connected with the Turkish delegation in Washington and I am responsible
there. I am entitled to the protection of my own government. If there is
any charge against me it must come that way."

There was a long silence. Hatch was bursting with questions, which were
silenced by a slight gesture from The Thinking Machine. Under the
peculiar circumstances the scientist realized that what Mr. Hassan had
said was true. It is one of the idiosyncrasies of international law.

"You know, of course, that a woman has been murdered with that dagger,
don't you?" asked the scientist.

"I have heard that a woman has been murdered."

"Do you attribute any magical properties to the weapon?"

"Oh, no."

"Just where is it at present? Would you produce it if your government
ordered you to do so?"

"My government will not order me to do so."

Hatch was annoyed. All this was tommyrot. If Mr. Hassan had his dagger,
then there were more than one of them in existence. Dr. Loyd had one; the
reporter knew that. Whether it was a clever counterfeit he did not know;
but the dagger used to kill the girl was certainly in possession of the
medical examiner.

"If that dagger should ever by an chance pass out of your possession, Mr.
Hassan, what would happen?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"I am sworn to protect it with my life. If it should pass out of my
possession I should kill myself. It is customary and so understood in my
country."

"Oh," exclaimed the scientist, suddenly. "How long will you be in
Boston?"

"For several days, probably," was the reply. "Meanwhile, if I can be of
any further service to you, I should do so gladly."

"How long have you been here?"

"About a week."

"Were you ever in Boston before?"

"Once, a couple of years ago, when I first came to this country."

Mr. Hassan arose and took up his hat. He had formally told Hatch and The
Thinking Machine good day and was at the door when he turned back.

"I understand," he said, "that this dagger is supposed now to be in the
possession of Dr. Loyd, the Medical Examiner?"

"Yes," said the scientist.

Mr. Hassan went away. Hatch sat nursing his wrath a moment, and then came
the explosion. It was inevitable; a righteous protest against an insult
to his intelligence and that of the eminent scientist who had become
interested in the case.

"Mr. Hassan is a liar, else there are two daggers," he burst out.

"Mr. Hassan is a gentleman of the Turkish legation, Mr. Hatch," said The
Thinking Machine reprovingly. "Do you know Mr. Loyd very well?"

"Yes."

"'Phone him immediately and ask him to have that dagger secretly removed
to a safety deposit vault," instructed the scientist. "Then you had
better go out and work with the police to see if they yet have any clue
to the girl's identity. Mr. Hassan will produce the dagger if he has it."

The remainder of that day and a part of the next Hatch spent running down
the small possibilities, trying to settle some of the minor questions,
which were naturally aroused in his mind. There was a result--a very
definite result--and when he again appeared before The Thinking Machine,
he felt that he had accomplished something.

"It occurred to me," he explained, "that there was a possibility that
this man Wilkes had communicated with or advertised for this girl that
was dead. I searched the want columns of three newspapers. At last I
found this."

He extended a small clipping to The Thinking Machine, who took it and
studied it a moment. This clipping was an advertisement for an
intelligent young woman as companion and gave the street and number of
the house in Cambridge where the girl had been found.

"Very good," said The Thinking Machine, and he rubbed his hands briskly
together. "It looks, Mr. Hatch, as if it might be a long tedious work to
establish the name of this girl. It may take weeks. I should meanwhile
take that clipping and turn it over to the police, and let them make the
search. I see it is dated October 19, which is four days form the time
Wilkes rented the house. Yet the girl had been dead for not more than ten
days. There is a lapse of time in there to be accounted for. Find out if
this advertisement appeared more than once, and also get the original
copy of it from the newspaper. It might be in Wilkes's handwriting. In
that case it would be a substantial clue."

"Have you heard anything more about Hassan's dagger?" inquired the
reporter.

"No, but he will produce it. Did you phone Dr. Loyd in reference to it?"

"I 'phoned yesterday, as you suggested, and was then informed that Dr.
Loyd had left the city. I 'phoned twice this morning, but got no answer
from the house. I presume he has not returned."

"No answer?" asked The Thinking Machine quickly. "No answer? Dear me,
dear me!" He arose and paced back and forth across the room twice, then
paused before the reporter. "That's bad, bad, bad!" he said.

"Why?" asked Hatch.

The Thinking Machine turned suddenly and entered the adjoining room. When
he came out there was a new expression on his face--an expression which
Hatch could not read.

"Dr. Loyd was found at 1 o'clock to-day in his home, bound and gagged,"
he explained shortly. "The only servant there was insensible from some
drug. It was burglars. They ransacked the house from top to bottom."

"What--what does that mean?" asked Hatch, wonderingly.

Just then the door from the hall opened and Martha, the aged servant of
The Thinking Machine, appeared.

"Mr. Hassan, sir," she said.

The Turk appeared in the door behind her, gravely courteous, suave, and
dignified as ever.

"Ah," explained The Thinking Machine. "You have brought the dagger?"

"I talked with the Turkish Minister in Washington by telephone and he
explained the necessity of my producing it," said Mr. Hassan. "I have it
here to convince you."

"I thought it was in Washington?" Hatch blurted out.

"Here it is," was the Turk's response. He produced a richly jeweled box.
In it lay the golden dagger. The Thinking Machine lifted it. The blade
was bright and without a trace of a stain. With a quick movement The
Thinking Machine twisted the handle and part of it came off. A few drops
of a pungent liquid ran out on the floor.


IV


Mr. Hassan left Boston that night for Washington. He took the dagger with
him. The Thinking Machine made no objection, and the very existence of
the man was as yet unknown to the police.

"When it is necessary to produce that dagger," he explained to Hatch, "it
can be done through regular channels, if Hassan is still alive. It seems
very probable now that international law may have to take a hand in the
case."

"Do you consider it possible that Hassan in person had any connection
with the affair?" Hatch asked.

"Anything is possible," was the short reply. "By the way, Mr. Hatch, it
might be interesting to know a little more about this real estate
collector, Clements, who discovered the girl's body. He might have known
about the house being unoccupied. There are still possibilities in every
direction, but the real problem hangs on the golden dagger."

"In that event, it seems to come back to Hassan," said the reporter
doggedly.

"I would advise you, Mr. Hatch, to settle the points I asked about the
advertisement. Then see Dr. Loyd; ask him if he still has the dagger. If
you get the original copy of the advertisement, turn it over to the
police. You need not mention Hassan to them as yet."

It was early that evening when Hatch saw Dr. Loyd.

"Did the burglars get the dagger?" he asked.

"I have nothing to say," was the reply.

"Have you the dagger now?"

"I have nothing to say."

"Did you turn it over to the District Attorney?"

"I have nothing to say."

The result of this was that Hatch went away firmly convinced that Dr.
Loyd did not have the dagger; that the burglars, whoever they were, had
taken it away; that they were probably in the employ of Hassan and robbed
Loyd's house for the specific purpose of regaining possession of the
dagger.

Later Hatch made an investigation of the circumstances attending the
publication of the advertisement. It had appeared four times on alternate
days. The original copy of it was found and given to him. It was the bold
handwriting of a man. This he turned over to the police, with all
information as to the advertisement.

Then began a long, minute search, which ultimately resulted in the
discovery of the whereabouts of half a dozen girls reported missing. But
the fact that they were found immediately removed them as possibilities.
From the first, the search for Wilkes had been unceasing. It was
generally assumed that the name Wilkes was fictitious.

On the morning of the second day Hatch appeared at his office weary,
discouraged and disgusted. But weariness fled when the city editor
excitedly approached him.

"They have Wilkes," he said. "They got him late last night in Worcester.
The real estate clerk has positively identified him. He will be at police
headquarters within an hour or so. Get the story."

"Who is he?" asked Hatch.

"I don't know. He doesn't deny his identity, and insists that his name is
Wilkes. He was found at a hotel registered as Charles Wingate."

The first editions of the afternoon papers flamed with the announcement
of the capture of the supposed murderer. Meanwhile Hatch and the other
reporters had heard Wilkes's story at secondhand. The police saw fit to
put as much mystery about it as they could. Having heard this story Hatch
immediately went with it to see The Thinking Machine.

"They've caught Wilkes," he explained. "His name is Wilkes, so far as
anybody knows. He registered as Wingate because he was frightened. He
knows the police of the entire country were looking for him."

"What about the house?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"He tells what appears to be a straight story. He says he rented the
house for himself and wife intending to remain there for several months.
He did not take a lease. On the day he was to move in his wife grew very
ill--a more than usually serious attack of the nervous trouble with which
she is afflicted. Then on the advice of physicians he took her away to
Cuba rather than to start up housekeeping.

"He inserted the advertisement in the newspaper before he knew how
serious this illness was. They remained in Cuba together for two or three
weeks, and she is still there, he says. On the day after his return this
murder affair came up and he considered it advisable, until it was all
cleared up, to stay out of sight."

"What is his business?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"He is Eastern agent for a big cutlery concern in Cleveland. His
headquarters are in Boston. He has only recently been appointed and is
not known in Boston. Almost from the time of his appointment, he had been
travelling. It was an oversight, he says, that he did not notify the real
estate people of his determination not to occupy the house. He had rented
it by the month anyway."

The Thinking Machine was silent. The blue eyes were turned upward and the
long, slender fingers pressed tip to tip. Hatch, eagerly watching his
face, saw perplexed wrinkles at times, which immediately disappeared. It
was the working of the man's brain.

"Does he know the girl?"

"He is confident that he does not. He never saw, so he says, anyone who
answered the advertisement."

"Of course he would say that," snapped The Thinking Machine. "Has he seen
the body?"

"He is to see it this afternoon."

"Have the police any idea of the identity of the girl?"

"I think not," said Hatch. "There are the usual boasts about being able
to clear it up within a few hours, but it means nothing."

Again there was silence as the scientist sat thoughtfully squinting at
the ceiling.

"Doe she know Hassan?" he asked, finally.

"I don't know," Hatch replied. "Remember that no one knows Hassan but you
and I, and I haven't seen this man Wilkes yet."

"Will you be able to see him?"

"I don't know. It depends upon the gracious goodness of the police."

"We will go and see him now," declared The Thinking Machine emphatically.

A few minutes later, they were ushered into the office of the chief of
the State Police. There were mutual introductions, Hatch officiating. The
chief had at various times heard of his distinguished visitor, but had
never before met him. Instead he had regarded him as an amusing myth.

"Would it be possible for me to see Mr. Wilkes?" asked The Thinking
Machine.

"No, not now," was the reply.

"I thought the purpose of this office was to aid justice," snapped the
scientist.

"It is," said the chief, and a flush came to his face.

"Well, I know the man who owns the dagger with which the girl was
killed," said the scientist emphatically. "I want to see if this is the
man."

The chief arose from his desk in astonishment and stood leaning over it
toward his visitors.

"You know--you know--" he began. "Who is it?"

"May I see Wilkes?" insisted the other.

"Well, under the circumstances, I suppose, perhaps--"

"Now," said The Thinking Machine.

The chief pressed a button. After a moment one of his men came in.

"Bring Wilkes in here," directed the police official.

The man went out and after a time returned with Wilkes, who had been
undergoing the third degree in another room. The prisoner's face was
white and every move indicated his tense nervous condition.

"Mr. Wilkes, when did the dagger pass out of your possession?" asked The
Thinking Machine, suddenly, as he extended the photograph of the golden
dagger.

"I have never seen such a dagger," was the reply, after a long,
deliberate study of the picture.

"Did you not receive an order for a blade for it?" asked The Thinking
Machine.

"No."

"Mr. Wilkes, I know possibly more of this affair than the police do as
yet. You can supply those facts that I haven't. Now who--who--is the girl
who was murdered with this dagger?"

What little color that had been in the prisoner's face was gone now, and
he trembled violently. Suddenly he sank down in the chair, burying his
face on his arms.

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know," he sobbed.

Yet that afternoon, when Wilkes stood beside the body of the murdered
girl he looked at her long and earnestly then with a wailing cry he
lunged forward, half fainting.

"Alice, Alice!" he gasped.


V

Wilkes, or Wingate, as he had been last known, told a story as to his
knowledge of the dead girl, which was on its face straightforward and to
the point. In a little room adjoining that in which the body lay he had
been revived with a stimulant, and, once himself again, he talked freely.
The thing which impressed the police most was the detail which he gave;
The Thinking Machine had nothing to say as to what he thought of this
recital. He merely observed it without comment.

Briefly here is the story, denuded of extraneous verbiage:

The girl was Alice Gorham. There was no shadow of doubt about the
identification. She was the daughter of a man who had been for a long
time connected with the Steel Trust offices in Cleveland. Misfortune had
finally come to her father and then in her last year at Vassar she had
been compelled to return home. Shortly after that her father had died
suddenly, leaving her nothing; her mother had died several years
previously. She was an only child.

According to his story, Wilkes had been acquainted with her since her
childhood. His father, too, had been in the Steel Trust at one time and
had left it to take a partnership in the cutlery concern which he now
represented. The girl's age, so far as Wilkes's story went, was about
twenty-one years.

Since the death of her father, when she had been thrown upon her own
resources, she had been employed as companion to an aged woman in
Cleveland. There had been some disagreement between them, and the girl
decided to come East. She had been in Boston only a few weeks at the time
she was found dead.

"That's all I know about it," said Wilkes in conclusion. "Naturally, the
shock was very great when I saw her in there dead. I knew that she had
come to Boston. I knew, too, that she had disappeared from where she
lived, for both my wife and myself, before we went to Cuba, had called
and inquired for her."

"You have no idea where she was from the time she disappeared until the
time she was found dead, which was at the most not more than fourteen
days ago?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"None," replied Wilkes.

"Do you know of any love affair--any man in the case?" insisted The
Thinking Machine.

"No, I never heard of one."

"Of course, you read the newspaper accounts of this affair. Did you,
then, from the detailed description of the girl printed, associate her in
any way with the girl who was dead?"

"I did, yes, but not directly. The thing which impressed me most in the
newspaper accounts was the reiterated statement that the man who rented
the house must have been the murderer. This placed it directly to me.
Then frankly I got frightened and tried to hide my identity for the
moment under another name. It was very foolish, of course, but the
circumstances seemed to point so conclusively to me that--that I did what
I did."

"When did you last see Miss Gorham?"

"In Cleveland seven months ago."

"That's all," said The Thinking Machine, and he arose as if to go.

"Now what do you know of this?" asked the State police chief.

"I shall call on you tomorrow and explain just what I know and how I
learned it," was the reply.

"Who is the man who owned that dagger?" the chief continued.

"You mean the dagger that was stolen from Dr. Loyd?" asked The Thinking
Machine. There was a touch of irony in his tone.

"Who--how--what do you know about that?"

"Let's go, Mr. Hatch," said The Thinking Machine suddenly. "I'll see you
tomorrow, chief."

Once outside, The Thinking Machine led the way toward the Scollay Square
subway.

"Where to now?" asked Hatch.

"To the house in Cambridge," explained The Thinking Machine. "I want to
look it over again. I have an idea I overlooked a few things."

"Do you think Wilkes killed Miss Gorham?" asked Hatch.

"I don't know."

"Do you think now that Hassan did it?"

"I don't know."

Further questioning seemed useless, and both men were silent until they
stood inside the Cambridge house. Then again, The Thinking Machine went
over the structure from cellar to attic, but more carefully, with more
detail than even before. Particularly this was true as to the cellar. Not
one square inch of the floor surface escaped his eyes. Once he picked up
a small scrap of cloth--black cloth, and examined it. Later, on hands and
knees, he studied the soft ground flooring in a remote corner. Hatch
stood looking on curiously.

"See this?" The Thinking Machine asked.

Hatch looked by the light of the electric bulb and saw only a few
indentations in the soft soil. It was as if something heavy and
elaborately carved had been pressed down in the dirt.

"What is it?" he asked.

Without answering The Thinking Machine arose and together they went
straight to the room of death upstairs. Here the scientist ruthlessly cut
into the smooth wood of the bed. He handed the small chip he removed to
the reporter.

"What does that look like?" he asked.

"Mahogany," Hatch replied.

"Good, very good. Now, Mr. Hatch, you go to Boston, see this young man,
Willard Clements, the real estate collector. Don't be afraid to ask him
questions. Ask him pointedly if he happens to be acquainted with a
burglar. It will be an interesting experiment. Find out all you can about
him and meet me at my apartments at 8 o'clock tonight. I have a little
further work to do here."

"Lord, did he do it?" asked Hatch.

"I don't know," was the reply. "It would be interesting to know what he
knows."

Had Hatch not known the peculiar methods of The Thinking Machine, he
would have been bewildered by these instructions. As it was, he was
merely seeking in his own mind a possible connecting thread between
Clements and the mystery. Disregarding Clements for the moment, he could
only see Wilkes, who knew the girl, or Hassan, who owned the dagger, in
the affair.

Once alone, The Thinking Machine did several things which would have
sadly puzzled an outsider. From the back door he examined the ground and
even stooped and stared at the grass. Slowly he walked along, half
stooping, toward the back of the plot of ground. There he shook the
picket fence, which barred his way. It was apparently a new fence, yet a
whole panel of it fell. Outside was an alley.

From this point he went to the house of the nearest neighbor and asked
many questions about strangers who might have been in the other yard.
None had been seen. Finally, he asked the way and was directed to the
nearest police station.

"Have many burglaries been reported in this neighborhood lately?" he
asked, after he had introduced himself.

"Three of four. Why?"

"Have you heard of any furnished house, at present unoccupied, which has
been robbed?"

"Yes, the old Essex estate--about four blocks from here."

"What was stolen, exactly?"

"We don't know. The owners of the house are in Europe now, and we have no
means of learning just what is missing. We have caught the men who robbed
it."

"What are their name, please?"

"One is called 'Reddy' Blake, the other gave the name of Johnson."

"Where were they caught?"

"In the house. They had a wagon and were trying to move out a heavy
mahogany sideboard."

"When was this?"

"Oh, a week or so ago. They got three years each."

"No other similar cases?"

"No."

"Thank you," and The Thinking Machine went away. That night Hutchinson
Hatch called on the scientist and found him with a telegram in his hands.

"Did you see Clements?" asked The Thinking Machine, "and did you ask him
if he knew a burglar?"

"I did," said Hatch, smiling slightly. "He wanted to fight."

The Thinking Machine unfolded the telegram and handed it to the reporter.

"This might interest you," he said.

Hatch took the yellow slip and read the following:

"Ali Hassan committee suicide this morning."

"Why that's a confession," said the reporter.


VI


There was a gathering of a half a dozen persons in the office of the
Chief of Police on the morning of the following day. They were the chief,
The Thinking Machine, Charles Wilkes, Detective Fahey, Willard Clements
and Hutchinson Hatch. The summons to Clements had been in the nature of a
great surprise to that young man. First he had been indignant, but
gradually this passed, and there came instead a cowering attitude.

Every one, even the chief, was waiting the pleasure of The Thinking
Machine. Hatch, still firmly convinced that Hassan, the Turk, was the
criminal, was almost as much surprised as Clements by his presence.

Detective Fahey sat silently by, chewing his cigar and with a slightly
amused smile on his face; the chief didn't smile. He had felt the vital
power of this diminutive man with the enormous yellow head.

"Now, Mr. Clements," The Thinking Machine began, and the young man
started slightly, "I don't believe that you killed Miss Gorham. Perhaps
the worst charge that can be laid to you is burglary, or, rather, illicit
knowledge of burglary. Your friends, 'Reddy' Blake and this man Johnson
have already partially confessed. Now, will you tell the rest of it?"

"Confessed what? What are you talking about?" demanded the young man.

"Never mind, then," said The Thinking Machine, impatiently. He turned to
the chief. "Fortune has favored us a good deal in this case," he said.
"Particularly is this true in the arrest of Mr. Wilkes. I may compliment
you chief on the ability your men displayed in getting Mr. Wilkes."

The chief bowed gravely.

"But he is not the murderer."

The scientist went on:

"By telegraph and cable I have verified his story in full. You may have
done so yourself. Here are the answers I received to the wires I sent. I
think, perhaps, they will convince you. Meanwhile, you have the real
murderer in Charlestown prison now. It is 'Reddy' Blake, or Johnson."

At the second mention of these two names every eye was again turned on
Clements. A sudden change had come over his face. He was now frightened;
the color was surging back into Wilkes's countenance.

"Proofs, proofs," said the chief, shortly.

"It will be useless," continued The Thinking Machine, "to rehearse Mr.
Wilkes's story. It is proven. Therefore, what remains? Let's begin with
the dagger and see what it leads to.

"I saw this dagger. It is an extraordinary weapon. Its value must be in
the thousands. On it I saw, cut into the handle, the crescent of Turkey,
together with half a dozen symbols, religious and otherwise, of that
empire. It was a simple matter, comparatively, to call up on the 'phone
some one who knew of these things, preferably a Turk. There is a Turk in
one of the oriental stores on Boylston Street.

"I talked to him and described the dagger in detail. He is an educated
man, knows his country and its customs and was able to say that such a
dagger could only have been what I had previously supposed it to have
been--a gift from a prince or ruler to a loyal subject for duty well
done. I asked if he knew of such a weapon being in this country. He said
he did not, but that a certain Turkish gentleman, then in Boston, had
once signally served his master, and there was a possibility that he had
been rewarded by such a gift. What was his name? Ali Hassan.

"Mr. Hassan was stopping at the Hotel Teutonic. I wrote a note to him. He
called and readily identified a photograph of the golden dagger as his
property. Remember that this was a photograph of the dagger with which
the girl was slain.

"He amazed me a little by stating that the dagger was then in his
possession. At the same time he explained that it was a sacred object and
not for the eyes of infidels. For a time this was puzzling. Then I asked
what would be the result if, by any chance, the dagger should pass out of
his possession. He replied that he would kill himself. That was an
illuminating point. He had lied; he did not have the dagger. If any one
else had known that he did not have it, it would have been his death. He
saved his life thus far by lying. It has been done before. I may say,
too, that the idea of a duplicate dagger was not tenable."

"If this man owns the dagger and admits it," interrupted the chief, "I
will have him immediately arrested."

"There are two reasons why you can't do that," said The Thinking Machine,
quietly. "The first is that Mr. Hassan was a secretary of the Turkish
legation in Washington; the second, he is dead."

There was a pause while the chief and the remainder of the party absorbed
this.

"Dead," exclaimed the chief. "How?"

"Suicide by poison," was the brief response. "Anyway, I had established
the ownership of the dagger. I also learned that Hassan had been in
Boston only five days at the time the body was found. The girl had been
dead for a week or ten days--possibly ten days. Therefore, Hassan did not
kill Miss Gorham. That was conclusive.

"Then came the question of how the dagger passed out of his possession.
Obviously it was not a gift. Stolen? Probably. When? Mr. Hassan showed in
a way that he had not been in Boston for two years. But burglars operate
all over the country. Therefore, burglars. It is perfectly possible that
the dagger was stolen some time in Washington by 'Reddy' Blake and his
gang, and for some reason they kept it instead of selling it. No man, not
even a 'fence,' would have tried to dispose of a four-carat diamond. In
the second place, Mr. Hassan would not have dared to report the loss of
the dagger to the police. Blake, of course, could not know this. He kept
the weapon. The safest place for it was on his person."

The Thinking Machine lay back in his chair, squinting at the ceiling,
while his listeners leaned forward eagerly. The chief was fascinated,
amazed by the strange story. The scientist resumed:

"It was stated in the hearing of Mr. Hassan and also published that the
dagger was in the possession of Medical Examiner Loyd. It is easy to see
how employees of this man burglarized Loyd's home and recovered the
weapon. Its possession meant life to Hassan. Immediately after this
burglary he returned to Washington. There he committed suicide, probably
by order of his superiors. I had wired the facts, not intending to cause
his death, of course, but to have the dagger produced here when
necessary. That disposes, I think, of the ownership of the weapon, and
places it in the hands of 'Reddy' Blake or his pals."

The Thinking Machine turned suddenly on Clements.

"As collector for Henry Holmes & Co. you know Cambridge well, I should
imagine. You have opportunities, which fall to few men--legitimately--to
know where rich hauls may be made. You were also in a position to know
practically every vacant house in Cambridge. Knowing this you might know,
too, the best vacant house for a rendezvous for thieves. In passing, you
might have learned that the house rented by Mr. Wilkes had not been
occupied. It is perfectly possible that you did not even know the house
had been rented until the bill for rent was placed in your hands. These
are possibilities; now here are facts.

"You went to that house to collect rent. The front door was locked and
the shutters up. In the natural course of events you would have satisfied
yourself that it was unoccupied. You might have shouted to attract
someone's attention, but in the ordinary course of events you would not
have gone upstairs to look further, unless you had asked something. You
found something in a back room and probably behind a door that was
closed. You broke open that door. Why did you go to that room? Why did
you break down that door?

"Let's see. Suppose for a moment that you were one of the most valued
members of a gang of burglars--valued because you appear the gentleman
and can go places and learn things without attracting attention. Suppose
this house was a hiding place for stolen goods. Suppose the girl,
answering Mr. Wilkes's advertisement for a companion, should have gone to
that house and found it locked. It is not improbable that she should have
gone around the house, believing it to be occupied, to find someone.

"Suppose she had come upon a party of thieves. It would have been a
natural consequence for them to fear a spy and attempt to get rid of her.

"What more possible than that they should have locked her up? She was at
least four hundred feet from the nearest house, and forty, fifty or sixty
feet from the street and behind thick walls. Her screams would not have
been heard.

"There we have the girl a prisoner in the hands of the men who had the
golden dagger. The murder may have followed at any time. It happened but
a few days ago. Meanwhile the burglars had taken from their loot a bed
and its furnishings, providing a place for the girl to sleep. You, Mr.
Clements, knew that the girl had been a prisoner upstairs. That is why
you went to that room. I will not say that you knew of the murder at that
time. You discovered that. You were frightened at this hideous ending of
an affair in which you had been interested. Perhaps you were a little
angry, too. It may have been that the burglars had taken away the stolen
stuff, sold it and left you out in the division. Is that right?"

Clements stared at him with glassy eyes, then suddenly leaned forward
with his head in his hands, and sobbed bitterly. It was practically a
confession.

"How did it come that you considered burglars in the first place?" asked
the chief.

"I made two examinations of the house. The first was not thorough. I
examined the faucets to see if the water was on, and if there was a
possible trace of blood on them anywhere. It was not impossible that the
murderer of Miss Gorham got blood on his hands and left a thumb or finger
print when he washed it off. I found none. He was careful.

"On the second examination I looked particularly for a trace of burglars
in the cellar. There I found, freshly pressed down in the soft soil, the
imprint of what must have been a carved piano leg and beside it a large
imprint indicating that a grand piano had been leaned against the wall.
People don't keep pianos in the cellar. Therefore, if one were there, it
was hidden. Naturally burglars. The bed was not handsome, but was of
mahogany. Nobody moving out would leave a mahogany bed. Still burglars.
There is no path leading from the back of the house to the back fence.
Yet there is a straight line across the grass to a certain panel in that
fence where people have walked frequently. That panel of the fence fell
out when I shook it; there is no gate. Burglars, even at night, would not
move their loot in at the front; it would be comparatively easy to bring
in large objects, such as a piano, through the alley, tearing down a
fence panel and then to the house. Therefore burglars.

"Now, burglars do not steal pianos and mahogany beds in a wagon from a
house that is occupied. The police informed me that burglars--'Reddy'
Blake, among them--had been robbing an unoccupied furnished house. They
could have stolen a piano or anything else. Therefore the chain is
complete."

"Admitting that is all true," interrupted the chief, "how did you explain
the fact that the man who killed Miss Gorham left the dagger? If he had
been a burglar, as you say, wouldn't he have been the last man to leave a
thing of that value?"

"All men are fools when they kill people," said The Thinking Machine.
"They are frightened, half-witted, and do all kinds of inexplicable
things. Suppose there had been a sudden violent noise in the house, made
by one of his pals just at the moment the girl fell backward, covering
the knife with her body. The murderer might have run, leaving it where it
was. I don't state this as a fact, but as a strong probability. He might
have intended to return for the knife, but if he had meanwhile been
arrested, as Blake and Johnson were, this would have been impossible. I
think that is all."

"Why is it that Mr. Wilkes did not see the stolen goods when he went to
look at the house?" asked the chief.

"Because they were in the cellar. You didn't go into the cellar, did you,
Mr. Wilkes?"

"No; oh, no," Wilkes replied.

"And remember, the girl wasn't in the house then," The Thinking Machine
added. "She went to answer the advertisement which appeared after Mr.
Wilkes had rented the house."

Then Hutchinson Hatch, who had been an interested listener, had a
question.

"Why did you ask Mr. Wilkes if he had ever seen the knife or had given an
order for a blade for it?"

"The blade in the dagger was of American make," replied the scientist.
"The original had been broken. Peculiarly enough the new blade was made
by the cutlery company which Mr. Wilkes represents. It was not
impossible, therefore, that this dagger had been in his possession."

There was a long silence. The chief and Detective Fahey removed their
half-chewed cigars and looked inquiringly at each other. Fahey shook his
head--he had no questions. At last the chief turned to The Thinking
Machine:

"If, as you say, Blake or Johnson killed Miss Gorham, how can we prove
it? This is not proof--it is theory."

"Simply enough. Do the men occupy the same cell in Charlestown?"

"I hardly think so. Members of a gang that way are rarely kept in the
same cell."

"In that case," said The Thinking Machine, "let the warden go to each man
and tell him that the other has turned state's evidence, accusing his pal
of the murder."

Johnson confessed.

The Great Auto Mystery


I


With a little laugh of sheer light heartedness on her lips and a twinkle
in her blue eyes, Marguerite Melrose bound on a grotesque automobile
mask, and stuffed the last strand of her recalcitrant hair beneath her
veil. The pretty face was hidden from mouth to brow; and her curls were
ruthlessly imprisoned under a cap held in place by the tightly tied veil.

"It's perfectly hideous, isn't it?" she demanded of her companions.

Jack Curtis laughed.

"Well," he remarked, quizzically, "it's just as well that we know you are
pretty."

"We could never discover it as you are now," added Charles Reid. "Can't
see enough of your face to tell whether you are white or black."

The girl's red lips were pursed into a pout, which ungraciously hid her
white teeth, as she considered the matter seriously.

"I think I'll take it off," she said at last.

"Don't," Curtis warned her. "On a good road The Green Dragon only hits
the tall places."

"Tear your hair off," supplemented Reid. "When Jack lets her loose it's
just a pszzzzt!--and wherever you're going you're there."

"Not on a night as dark as this?" protested the girl, quickly.

"I've got lights like twin locomotives," Curtis assured her, smilingly.
"It's perfectly safe. Don't get nervous."

He tied on his own mask with its bleary goggles, while Reid did the same.
The Green Dragon, a low, gasoline car of racing build, stood panting
impatiently, awaiting them at a side door of the hotel. Curtis assisted
Miss Melrose into the front seat and climbed in beside her, while Reid
sat behind in the tonneau. There was a preparatory quiver, the car jerked
a little and then began to move.

The three persons in it were Marguerite Melrose, an actress who had
attracted attention in the West five years before by her great beauty and
had afterwards, by her art, achieved a distinct place; Jack Curtis, a
friend since childhood, when both lived in San Francisco and attended the
same school, and Charles Reid, his chum, son of a mine owner at Denver.

The unexpected meeting of the three in Boston had been a source of mutual
pleasure. It had been two years since they had seen one another in
Denver, where Miss Melrose was playing. Now she was in Boston, pursuing
certain vocal studies before returning West for her next season.

Reid was in Boston to lay siege to the heart of a young woman of society,
Miss Elizabeth Dow, whom he first met in San Francisco. She was only
nineteen years old, but despite this he had begun a siege and his ardor
had never cooled, even after Miss Dow returned East. In Boston, he had
heard, she looked with favor upon another man, Morgan Mason, poor but of
excellent family, and frantically Reid had rushed, like Lochinvar out of
the West, to find the rumor true.

Curtis was one who never had anything to do save seek excitement in a new
and novel way. He had come East with Reid. They had been together
constantly since their arrival in Boston. He was of a different type from
Reid in that his wealth was distinctly a burden, a thing which left him
with nothing to do, and opened illimitable possibilities of dissipation.
The pace he led was one which caused other young men to pause and think.

Warm-hearted and perfectly at home with both Curtis and Reid, Miss
Melrose, the actress, frequently took occasion to scold them. It was
charming to be scolded by Miss Melrose, so much so in fact that it was
worth while sinning again. Since she had appeared on the horizon Curtis
had devoted a great deal of time to her; Reid had his own difficulties
trying to make Miss Dow change her mind.

The Green Dragon with its three passengers ran slowly down from the Hotel
Yarmouth, where Miss Melrose was stopping, toward the Common, twisting
and winding tortuously through the crowd of vehicles. It was halfpast six
o'clock in the evening.

"Cut across here to Commonwealth Avenue," Miss Melrose suggested. She
remembered something and her bright blue eyes sparkled beneath the
disfiguring mask. "I know a delightful old-fashioned inn out this way. It
would be an ideal place to stop for supper. I was there once five years
ago when I was in Boston."

"How far?" asked Reid.

"Fifteen or twenty miles," was the reply.

"Right," said Curtis. "Here we go."

Soon after they were skimming along Commonwealth Avenue, which at that
time of day is practically given over to automobilists, past the Vendome,
the Somerset and on over the flat, smooth road. It was perfectly light
now, because the electric lights were about them; but there was no moon
above, and once in the country it would be dark going.

Curtis was intent on his machine; Reid was thoughtful for a time, but
after awhile leaned over and talked to Miss Melrose.

"I heard something to-day that might interest you," he remarked.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Don MacLean is in Boston."

"I heard that," she replied, casually.

"Who is he?" asked Curtis.

"A man who is frantically in love with Marguerite," said Reid, with a
smile.

"Charlie," the girl reproved, and a flush crept into her face. "It was
never anything very serious."

Curtis looked at her curiously for a moment, then his eyes turned again
to the road ahead.

"I don't suppose it's very serious if a man proposes to a girl seven
times, is it?" Reid asked, banteringly.

"Did he do that?" asked Curtis, quickly.

"He merely made a fool of himself and me," replied the actress, with
spirit, speaking to Curtis. "He was--in love with me, I suppose, but his
family objected because I was on the stage and threatened to disinherit
him, and all that sort of thing. So--it ended it. Not that I ever
considered the matter seriously anyway," she added.

There was silence again as The Green Dragon plunged into the darkness of
the country, the two brilliant lights ahead showing every dip and rise in
the road. After awhile Curtis spoke again.

"He's now in Boston?"

"Yes," said the girl. "At least, I've heard so," she added, quickly.

Then the conversation ran into other channels, and Curtis, busy with the
great machine and the innumerable levers which made it do this or do that
or do the other, dropped out of it. Reid and Miss Melrose talked on, but
the whirr of the car as it gained speed made talking unsatisfactory and
finally the girl gave herself up to the pure delight of high speed; a
dangerous pleasure which sets the nerves atingle and makes one greedy for
more.

"Do you smell gasoline?" Curtis asked suddenly, turning to the others.

"Believe I do," said Reid.

"Confound it! If I've sprung a leak in my tank it will be the deuce,"
Curtis growled amiably.

"Do you think you've got enough to get to the inn?" asked Miss Melrose.
"It can't be more than five or six miles now."

"I'll run on until we stop," said Curtis. "We might be able to stir up
some along here somewhere. I suppose they are prepared for autos."

At last lights showed ahead, many lights glimmering through the trees.

"I suppose that's the inn now," said Curtis. "Is it?" he asked of the
girl.

"Really, I don't know, but I have an impression that it isn't. The one I
mean seems farther out than this and it seems to me we passed one on the
way. However, I don't remember very well."

"We'll stop and get some gasoline, anyhow," said Curtis.

Puffing and snorting odorously The Green Dragon came to a standstill in
front of an old house which stood back twenty feet or more from the road.
It was lighted up, and from inside they could hear the cheery rattle of
dishes and see white-aproned waiters moving about. Above the door was a
sign, "Monarch Inn."

"Is this the place?" asked Reid.

"Oh, no," replied Miss Melrose. "The inn I spoke of was back from the
road three or four hundred feet through a grove."

Curtis leaped out, and evidently dropped something from his pocket as he
did so, for he stopped and felt around for a moment. Then he examined his
tank.

"It's a leak," he said, in irritation. "I haven't more than half a gallon
left. These people must have some gasoline. Wait a few minutes."

Miss Melrose and Reid still sat in the car as he started away toward the
house. Almost at the veranda he turned and called back:

"Charlie, I dropped something there when I jumped out. Get down and
strike a match and see if you can find it. Don't go near that gasoline
tank with the match."

He disappeared inside the house. Reid climbed out and struck several
matches. Finally he found what was lost and thrust it into an outside
pocket. Miss Melrose was gazing away down the road at two brilliant
lights coming toward them rapidly.

"Rather chilly," Reid said, as he straightened up. "Want a cup of coffee
or something?"

"Thanks, no," the girl replied.

"I think I'll run in and scare up some sort of a hot drink, if you'll
excuse me?"

"Now, Charlie, don't," the girl asked, suddenly. "I don't like it."

"Oh, one won't hurt," he replied, lightly.

"I shan't speak to you when you come out," she insisted, half
banteringly.

"Oh, yes, you will." He laughed, and passed into the house.

Miss Melrose tossed her pretty head impatiently and turned to watch the
approaching lights. They were blinding as they drew nearer, clearly
revealing her figure, in its tan auto coat, to the occupant of the other
car. The newcomer stopped and then she heard whoever was in it--she
couldn't see--speaking to her.

"Would you mind turning your car a little so I can run in off the road?"

"I don't know how," she replied, helplessly.

There was a little pause. The occupant of the other car was leaning
forward, looking at her closely.

"Is that you, Marguerite?" he asked finally.

"Yes," she replied. "Who is that? Don?"

"Yes."

A man's figure leaped out of the other machine and came toward her.

Curtis appeared beside the Green Dragon with a huge can of gasoline
twenty minutes later. The two occupants of the car were clearly
silhouetted against the sky, and Reid, leaning back in the tonneau, was
smoking.

"Find it?" he asked.

"Yes," growled Curtis. And he began the work of repairing the leak and
refilling his tank. It took only five minutes or so, and then he climbed
up into the car.

"Cold, Marguerite?" he asked.

"She won't speak," said Reid, leaning forward a little. "She's angry
because I went inside to get a hot Scotch."

"Wish I had one myself," said Curtis.

"Let's wait till we get to the next place," Reid interposed. "A little
supper and trimmings will put all of us in a better humor."

Without answering, Curtis threw a lever, and the car pulled out. Two
automobiles which had been standing when they arrived were still waiting
for their owners. Annoyed at the delay, Curtis put on full speed. Finally
Reid leaned forward and spoke to the girl.

"In a good humor?" he asked.

She gave no sign of having heard, and Reid placed his hand on her
shoulder as he repeated the question. Still there was no answer.

"Make her talk to you, Jack," he suggested to Curtis.

"What's the matter, Marguerite?" asked Curtis, as he glanced around.

Still there was no answer, and he slowed up the car a little. Then he
took her arm and shook it gently. There was no response.

"What is the matter with her?" he demanded. "Has she fainted?"

Again he shook her, this time more vigorously than before.

"Marguerite," he called.

Then his hand sought her face; it was deathly cold, clammy even about the
chin. The upper part was still covered by the mask. For the third time he
shook her, then, really frightened, apparently, he caught at her gloved
wrist and brought the car to a standstill. There was no trace of a pulse;
the wrist was cold as death.

"She must be ill--very ill," he said in some agitation. "Is there a
doctor near here?"

Reid was leaning over the senseless body now, having raised up in the
tonneau, and when he spoke there seemed to be fear in his tone.

"Better run on as fast as you can to the inn ahead," he instructed
Curtis. "It's nearer than the one we just left. There may be a doctor
there."

Curtis grabbed frantically at the lever and the car shot ahead suddenly
through the dark. In three minutes the lights of the second inn were in
sight. The two men leaped from the car simultaneously and raced for the
house.

"A doctor, quick," Curtis breathlessly demanded of a waiter.

"Next door."

Without waiting for further instructions, Curtis and Reid ran to the
auto, lifted the girl in their arms and took her to a house which stood
just a few feet away. There, after much clamoring, they aroused some one.
Was the doctor in? Yes. Would he hurry? Yes.

The door opened and the men laid the girl's body on a couch in the hall.
Dr. Leonard appeared. He was an old fellow, grizzled, with keen, kindly
eyes and rigid mouth.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Think she's dead," replied Curtis.

The doctor adjusted his glasses rather hurriedly.

"Who is she?" he asked, as he bent over the still figure and fumbled
about the throat and breast.

"Miss Marguerite Melrose, an actress," explained Curtis, hurriedly.

"What's the matter with her?" demanded Reid, fiercely.

The doctor still bent over the figure. In the dim lamplight Curtis and
Reid stood waiting anxiously, impatiently, with white faces. At last the
doctor straightened up.

"What is it?" demanded Curtis.

"She's dead," was the reply.

"Great God!" exclaimed Reid. "How?" Curtis seemed speechless.

"This," said the doctor, and he exhibited a long knife, damp with blood.
"Stabbed through the heart."

Curtis stared at him, at the knife, then at the inert figure, and lastly
at the dead white of her face where it showed beneath the mask.

"Look, Jack!" exclaimed Reid, suddenly. "The knife!"

Curtis looked again, then sank down on the couch beside the body.

"Oh, my God! It's horrible!" he said.


II


To Hutchinson Hatch and half a dozen other reporters, Dr. Leonard, at his
home late that night, told the story of the arrival of Jack Curtis and
Charles Reid with the body of the girl, and the succeeding events so far
as he knew them. The police and Medical Examiner Francis had preceded the
newspaper men, and the body had been removed to a nearby village.

"They came here in great excitement," Dr. Leonard explained. "They
brought the body in with them, the man Curtis lifting her by the
shoulders and the man Reid at the feet. They placed the body on this
couch. I asked them who she was, and they told me she was Marguerite
Melrose, an actress. That's all that was said of her identity.

"Then I made an examination of the body, seeking a trace of life. There
was none, although the body was not then entirely cold. In examining her
heart my hand struck the knife which had killed her--a heavy weapon,
evidently used for rough work, with a blade of six or seven inches. I
drew the knife out. Of course, knowing that it had pierced her heart, any
idea of doing anything to save her was beyond question.

"One of the men, Curtis, seemed greatly excited about this knife after
Reid called his attention to it. Curtis took the knife out of my hand and
examined it closely, then asked if he might keep it. I told him it would
have to be turned over to the medical examiner. He argued about it, and
finally, to settle the argument, I took it out of his hand. Reid
explained to Curtis that it was necessary for me to keep the knife, and
finally Curtis seemed to agree to it.

"Then I suggested that the police be notified. I did this myself by
telephone, the men remaining with me all the time. I asked if they could
throw any light on the tragedy, but neither could. Curtis said he had
been out searching for a man who had the keys to a shed where some
gasoline was locked up, and it took fifteen or twenty minutes to find
him. As soon as he got the gasoline he returned to the auto.

"Reid and Miss Melrose were at this time in the auto, he said. What had
happened while he had been away Curtis didn't know. Reid said he, too,
had stepped out of the automobile, and after exchanging a few words with
Miss Melrose went into the inn. There he remained fifteen minutes or so,
because inside he saw a woman he knew and spoke to her. He declared that
any one of three waiters could verify his statement that he was in the
Monarch Inn.

"After I had notified the police Curtis grew very uneasy in his
actions--it didn't occur to me at the moment, but now I recall that it
was so--and suggested to Reid that they go on to Boston and send out
detectives--special Pinkerton men. I tried to dissuade them, but they
went away. I couldn't stop them. They gave me their cards, however. They
are at the Hotel Teutonic, and told me they could be seen there at any
time. The medical examiner and the police came afterwards. I told them,
and one of the detectives started immediately for Boston. They have
probably told their story to him by this time."

"What did the young woman look like?" asked Hatch.

"Really, I couldn't say," said the doctor. "She wore an automobile mask
which covered all her face except the chin, and there was a veil tied
over her cap, concealing her hair. I didn't remove these; I left the body
just as it was for the medical examiner."

"How was she dressed?" Hatch went on.

"She wore a long tan automobile dust coat of what seemed to be rich
material, and beneath this a handsome--not a fancy--gown. I believe it
was tailor-made. She was a woman of superb figure."

That was all that could be learned from Dr. Leonard, and Hatch and the
other men raced back to Boston. The next day the newspapers flamed with
the mystery of the murder of Miss Melrose, a beautiful Western actress
who was visiting Boston. Each newspaper watched the other greedily to see
if there was a picture of Miss Melrose; neither had one.

The newspapers also carried the stories of Jack Curtis and Charles Reid
in connection with the murder. The stories were in substance just what
Dr. Leonard had said, but were given in more detail. It was the general
presumption, almost a foregone conclusion, that some one had killed Miss
Melrose while the two men were away from the auto.

Who was this some one? Man or woman? No one could answer. Reid's story of
being inside the Monarch Inn, where he spoke to a lady he knew--but whose
name he refused to give--was verified by Hatch's paper. Three waiters had
seen him.

The medical examiner had made only a brief statement, in which he had
said, in answer to a question, that the person who killed Miss Melrose
might have been either at her right, in the position Curtis would have
occupied while driving the car, or might have leaned forward from behind
and stabbed her. Thus it was not impossible that one of the men in the
car with her had killed her, yet against this possibility was the fact
that each of the men was one whom one could not readily associate with
such a crime.

The fact that the fatal blow was delivered from the right was proven,
said the astute medical examiner, by the fact that the knife slanted as a
knife could not have been slanted conveniently by a person on her other
side--her left. There were many dark, underlying intimations behind what
the medical man said; but he refused to say any more. Meanwhile the body
remained in the village where it had been taken. Efforts to get a
photograph were unavailing; pleas of newspaper artists for permission to
sketch her fell upon deaf ears.

Curtis and Reid, after their first statements, remained in seclusion at
the Teutonic. They were not arrested because this did not seem necessary.
Both had offered to do anything in their power to solve the riddle, had
even employed Pinkerton men who were now on the case; but they would say
nothing nor see anyone except the police. The police encouraged them in
this attitude, and hinted darkly and mysteriously at clews which "would
lead to an arrest within twenty four hours."

Hatch read these intimations and smiled grimly. Then he went out to try
what a little patience and perseverance and human intelligence would do.
He learned something of Reid's little romance in Boston. Yet not all of
it. It was a fact, however, that Reid had called at the home of Miss
Elizabeth Dow on Beacon Hill just after noon and inquired for her.

"She is not in," the maid had replied.

"I'll leave my card for her," said Reid.

"I don't think she'll he back," the girl answered.

"Not be back?" Reid repeated "Why?"

"Haven't you seen the afternoon papers?" asked the girl. "They will
explain. Mrs. Dow, her mother, told me not to tell to anyone."

Reid left the house with a wrinkle in his brow and walked on toward the
Common. There he halted a newsboy and bought an afternoon paper--many
afternoon papers. The first pages were loaded with details of the murder
of Miss Melrose, theories, conjectures, a thousand little things, with
long dispatches of her history and her stage career from San Francisco.

Reid passed these over impatiently with a slight shiver and looked inside
the paper. There he found the thing to which the maid had referred.

"By George!" he exclaimed.

It was a story of the elopement of Elizabeth Dow with Morgan Mason,
Reid's rival. It seemed that Miss Dow and Mason met by appointment at the
Monarch Inn and went from there in an automobile. The bride had written
to her parents before she started, saying she preferred Mason despite his
poverty. The family refused to talk of the matter. But there in facsimile
was the marriage license.

Reid's face was a study as he walked back to the hotel. In a private room
off the cafe he found Curtis, who had been drinking heavily, yet who,
with the strange mood of some men, was not visibly intoxicated. Reid
threw the paper down, open at the elopement announcement.

"See that," he said shortly.

Curtis read it--or glanced at it--but did not make a remark until he came
to the name, the Monarch Inn. Then he looked up.

"That's where the other thing happened, isn't it?" he asked, rather
thickly.

"Yes."

Curtis rambled off into something else; studiously he avoided any
reference to the tragedy, yet that was the one thing which was in his
mind. It was in a futile effort to forget it that he was drinking now. He
talked on as a drunken man will for a time, then turned suddenly to Reid.

"I loved her," he declared suddenly, passionately. "My God!"

"Try not to think of it," Reid advised.

"You'll never say anything about that other thing--the knife--will you?"
pleaded Curtis.

"Of course not," said Reid, impatiently. "They couldn't drag it out of
me. But you're drinking too much--you want to quit it. First thing you
know you'll be saying more than--get up and go out and take a walk."

Curtis stared at Reid vacantly for a moment, as if not understanding,
then arose. He had regained possession of himself to a certain extent,
but his face was pale.

"I think I will go out," he said.

After a time he passed through the cafe door into a side street and,
refreshed a little by the cool air, started to walk along Tremont Street
toward the shopping district. It was two o'clock in the afternoon and the
streets were thronged.

Half a dozen reporters were idling in the lobby of the hotel, waiting
vainly for either Reid or Curtis. The newspapers were shouting for
another story from the only two men who could know a great deal of the
circumstances attending the tragedy. Reid, on his return, had marched
boldly through the crowd of reporters, paying no attention to their
questions. They had not seen Curtis.

As Curtis, now free of the reporters, crossed a side street on Tremont on
his way toward the shopping district he met Hutchinson Hatch, who was
bound for the hotel to see his man there. Hatch instantly recognized him
and fell in behind, curious to see where he would go. At a favorable
opportunity, safe beyond reach of the other men, he intended to ask a few
questions.

Curtis turned into Winter Street and strolled along through the crowd of
women. Half way down Winter Street Hatch followed, and then for a moment
he lost sight of him. He had gone into a store, he imagined. As he stood
at a door waiting, Curtis came out, rushed through the crowd of women,
slinging his arms like a madman, with frenzy in his face. He ran twenty
steps, then stumbled and fell.

Hatch immediately ran to his assistance, lifted him up and gazed into the
staring, terror stricken eyes and an ashen face.

"What is it?" asked Hatch, quickly.

"I--I'm very ill. I--I think I need a doctor," gasped Curtis. "Take me
somewhere, please."

He fell back limply, half fainting, into Hatch's arms. A cab came worming
through the crowd; Hatch climbed into it, assisting Curtis, and gave some
directions to the cabby.

"And hurry," he added. "This gentleman is ill."

The cabby applied the whip and drove out into Tremont, then over toward
Park Street. Curtis aroused a little.

"Where're we going?" he demanded.

"To a doctor," replied Hatch.

Curtis sank back with eyes closed and his face white--so white that Hatch
felt of the pulse to assure himself that the heart was still beating.
After a few minutes the cab stopped and, still assisting Curtis, Hatch
went to the door. An aged woman answered the bell.

"Professor Van Dusen here?" asked the reporter.

"Yes."

"Please tell him that Mr. Hatch is here with a gentleman who needs
immediate attention," Hatch directed, hurriedly.

He knew his way here and, still supporting Curtis, walked in. The woman
disappeared. Curtis sank down on a couch in the little reception room,
looked at Hatch glassily for a moment, then without a sound dropped back
on the couch unconscious.

After a moment the door opened and there came in Professor Augustus S. F.
X. Van Dusen, The Thinking Machine. He squinted inquiringly at Hatch, and
Hatch waved his head toward Curtis.

"Dear me, dear me," exclaimed The Thinking Machine.

He leaned over the prostrate figure a moment, then disappeared into
another room, returning with a hypodermic. After a few anxious minutes
Curtis sat up straight. He stared at the two men with unseeing eyes, and
in them was unutterable terror.

"I saw her! I saw her!" he screamed. "There was a dagger in her heart.
Marguerite!"

Again he fell back unconscious. The Thinking Machine squinted at Hatch.

"The man's got delirium tremens," he snapped impatiently.


III


For fifteen minutes Hatch silently looked on as The Thinking Machine
worked over the unconscious man. Once or twice Curtis moved uneasily and
moaned slightly. Hatch had started to explain the situation to The
Thinking Machine, but the irascible scientist glared at him and the
reporter became silent. After ten or fifteen minutes The Thinking Machine
turned to Hatch more genially.

"He'll be all right in a little while now," he said. "What is it?"

"Well, it's a murder," Hatch began. "Marguerite Melrose, an actress, was
stabbed through the heart last night, and--"

"Murder?" interrupted The Thinking Machine. "Might it not have been
suicide?"

"Might have been; yes," said the reporter, after a moment's pause. "But
it appears to be murder."

"When you say it is murder," said The Thinking Machine, "you immediately
give the impression that you were there and saw it. Go on."

From the beginning, then, Hatch told the story as he knew it; of the
stopping of The Green Dragon at the Monarch Inn, of the events there, of
the whereabouts of Curtis and Reid at the time the girl received the
knife thrust and of the confirmation of Reid's story. Then he detailed
those incidents of the arrival of the men with the girl at Dr. Leonard's
house, of what had transpired there, of the effort Curtis had made to get
possession of the knife.

With finger tips pressed together and squinting steadily upward, The
Thinking Machine listened. At its end, which bore on the actions of
Curtis just preceding his appearance in the room with them, The Thinking
Machine arose and walked over to the couch where Curtis lay. He ran his
slender fingers idly through the unconscious man's thick hair several
times.

"Doesn't it strike you as perfectly possible, Mr. Hatch," he asked
finally, "that Miss Melrose did kill herself?"

"It may be perfectly possible, but it doesn't appear so," said Hatch.
"There was no motive."

"And certainly you've shown no motive for anything else," said the other,
crustily. "Still," he mused, "I really can't say anything until I talk to
him."

He again turned to his patient, and as he looked saw the red blood surge
back into the face.

"Ah, now we're all right," he announced.

Thus it happened, for after another ten minutes the patient sat up
suddenly on the couch and looked at the two men before him, bewildered.

"What's the matter?" he asked. The thickness was gone from his speech; he
was himself again, although a little shaky.

Briefly, Hatch explained to him what had happened, and he listened
silently. Finally he turned to The Thinking Machine.

"And this gentleman?" he asked. He noted the queer appearance of the
scientist, and stared into the squint eyes frankly.

"Professor Van Dusen, a distinguished scientist and physician," Hatch
introduced. "I brought you here. He has been working with you for an
hour."

"And now, Mr. Curtis," said The Thinking Machine, "if you will tell us
all you know about the murder of Miss Melrose--"

Curtis paled suddenly.

"Why do you ask me?" he demanded.

"You said a great deal while you were unconscious," remarked The Thinking
Machine, as he dreamily stared at the ceiling. "I know that worry over
that and too much alcohol have put you in a condition bordering on
nervous collapse. I think it would be better if you told it all."

Hatch instantly saw the trend of the scientist's remarks, and remained
discreetly silent. Curtis stared at both for a moment, then paced
nervously across the room. He did not know what he might have said, what
chance word might have been dropped. Then, apparently, he made up his
mind, for he stopped suddenly in front of The Thinking Machine.

"Do I look like a man who would commit murder?" he asked.

"No, you do not," was the prompt response.

His recital of the story was similar to that of Hatch, but the scientist
listened carefully.

"Details! details!" he interrupted once.

The story was complete from the moment Curtis jumped out of the car until
the return to the hotel of Curtis and Reid. There the narrator stopped.

"Mr. Curtis, why did you try to induce Dr. Leonard to give up the knife
to you?" asked The Thinking Machine, finally.

"Because--well, because--" He faltered, flushed and stopped.

"Because you were afraid it would bring the crime home to you?" asked the
scientist.

"I didn't know what might happen," was the response.

"Is it your knife?"

Again the tell-tale flush overspread Curtis's face.

"No," he said, flatly.

"Is it Reid's knife?"

"Oh, no," he said, quickly.

"You were in love with Miss Melrose?"

"Yes," was the steady reply.

"Had she ever refused to marry you?"

"I had never asked her."

"Why?"

"Is this a third degree?" demanded Curtis, angrily, and he arose. "Am I a
prisoner?"

"Not at all," said The Thinking Machine, quietly. "You may be made a
prisoner, though, on what you said while unconscious. I am merely trying
to help you."

Curtis sank down in a chair with his head in his hands and remained
motionless for several minutes. At last he looked up.

"I'll answer your questions," he said.

"Why did you never ask Miss Melrose to marry you?"

"Because--well, because I understood another man, Donald MacLean, was as
in love with her, and she might have loved him. I understood she would
have married him had it not been that by doing so she would have caused
his disinheritance. MacLean is now in Boston."

"Ah!" exclaimed The Thinking Machine.

"Your friend Reid didn't happen to be in love with her, too, did he?"

"Oh, no," was the reply. "Reid came here hoping to win the love of Miss
Dow, a society girl. I came with him."

"Miss Dow?" asked Hatch, quickly. "The girl who eloped last night with
Morgan Mason?"

"Yes," replied Curtis. "That elopement and this--crime have put Reid
almost in as bad a condition as I am."

"What elopement?" asked The Thinking Machine.

Hatch explained how Mason had procured a marriage license, how Miss Dow
and Mason had met at the Monarch Inn--where Miss Melrose must have been
killed according to all stories--how Miss Dow had written to her parents
from there of the elopement and then of their disappearance. The Thinking
Machine listened, but without apparent interest.

"Have you such a knife as was used to kill Miss Melrose?" he asked at the
end.

"No."

"Did you ever have such a knife?"

"Well, once."

"Where did you carry it when it was not in your auto kit?"

"In my lower coat pocket."

"By the way, what kind of looking woman was Miss Melrose?"

"One of the most beautiful women I ever met," said Curtis with a certain
enthusiasm. "Of ordinary height, superb figure--a woman who would attract
attention anywhere."

"I believe she wore a veil and an automobile mask at the time she was
killed?"

"Yes. They covered all her face except her chin."

"Could she, wearing an automobile mask, see either side of herself
without turning?" asked The Thinking Machine, pointedly. "Had you
intended to stab her, say while the car was in motion and had the knife
in your hand, even in daylight, could she have seen it without turning
her head? Or, if she had had the knife, could you have seen it?"

Curtis shuddered a little.

"No, I don't believe so."

"Was she blonde or brunette?"

"Blonde, with great clouds of golden hair," said Curtis, and again there
was admiration in his tone.

"Golden hair?" Hatch repeated. "I understood Medical Examiner Francis to
say she had dark hair?"

"No, golden hair," was the positive reply.

"Did you see the body, Mr. Hatch?" asked the scientist.

"No. None of us saw it. Dr. Francis makes that a rule."

The Thinking Machine arose, excused himself and passed into another room.
They heard the telephone bell ring and then some one closed the door
connecting the two rooms. When the scientist returned he went straight to
a point which Hatch had impatiently awaited.

"What happened to you this afternoon in Winter Street?"

Curtis had retained his composure well up to this point; now he became
uneasy again. Quick pallor on his face was succeeded by a flush which
crept up to the roots of his hair.

"I've been drinking too much," he said at last. "That and this thing have
completely unnerved me. I am afraid I was not myself."

"What did you think you saw?" insisted The Thinking Machine.

"I went into a store for something. I've forgotten what now. I know there
was a great crowd of women--they were all about me. There I saw--" He
stopped and was silent for a moment. "There I saw," he went on with an
effort, "a woman--just a glimpse of her, over the heads of the others in
the store--and--"

"And what?" insisted The Thinking Machine.

"At the moment I would have sworn it was Marguerite Melrose," was the
reply.

"Of course you know you were mistaken?"

"I know it now," said Curtis. "It was a chance resemblance, but the
effect on me was awful. I ran out of there shrieking--it seemed to me.
Then I found myself here."

"And you don't know what you said or did from that time until the
present?" asked the scientist, curiously.

"No, except in a hazy sort of way."

After awhile Martha, the scientist's aged servant, appeared in the
doorway.

"Mr. Mallory and a gentleman, sir."

"Let them come in," said The Thinking Machine. "Mr. Curtis," and he
turned to him gravely, "Mr. Reid is here. I sent for him as if at your
request to ask him two questions. If he answers those questions, as I
believe he will, I can demonstrate that you are not guilty of and have no
connection with the murder of Miss Melrose. Let me ask these questions,
without any hint or remark from you as to what the answer must be. Are
you willing?"

"I am," replied Curtis. His face was white, but his voice was firm.

Detective Mallory, whom Curtis didn't know, and Charles Reid entered the
room. Both looked about curiously. Mallory nodded brusquely at Hatch.
Reid looked at Curtis and Curtis looked away.

"Mr. Reid," said The Thinking Machine without any preliminary, "Mr.
Curtis tells me that the knife used to kill Miss Melrose was your
property. Is that so?" he demanded quickly, as Curtis faced about
wonderingly.

"No," thundered Reid fiercely.

"Is it Mr. Curtis's knife?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Yes," flashed Reid. "It's a part of his auto."

Curtis started to speak; The Thinking Machine waved his hand toward him.
Detective Mallory caught the gesture and understood that Jack Curtis was
his prisoner for murder.


IV


Curtis was led away and locked up. He raved and bitterly denounced Reid
for the information he had given, but he did not deny it. Indeed, after
the first burst of fury he said nothing.

Once he was under lock and key the police, led by Detective Mallory,
searched his rooms at the Hotel Teutonic and there they found a
handkerchief stained with blood. It was slight, still it was a stain.
This was immediately placed in the hands of an expert, who pronounced it
human blood. Then the case against Curtis seemed complete; it was his
knife, he had been in love with Miss Melrose, therefore probably jealous
of her, and here was the tell-tale bloodstain.

Meanwhile Reid was permitted to go his way. He seemed crushed by the
rapid sequence of events, and read eagerly every line he could find in
the public prints concerning both the murder and the elopement of Miss
Dow. This latter affair, indeed, seemed to have greater sway over his
mind than the murder, or that a lifetime friend was now held as the
murderer.

Meanwhile The Thinking Machine had signified to Hatch his desire to visit
the scene of the crime and see what might be done there. Late in the
afternoon, therefore, they started, taking a train for a village nearest
the Monarch Inn.

"It's a most extraordinary ease," The Thinking Machine said, "much more
extraordinary than you can imagine."

"In what respect?" asked the reporter.

"In motive, in the actual manner of the girl meeting her death and in a
dozen other details which I can't state now because I haven't all the
facts."

"You don't doubt but what it was murder?"

"It doesn't necessarily follow," said The Thinking Machine, evasively.
"Suppose we were seeking a motive for Miss Melrose's suicide, what would
we have? We would have her love affair with this man MacLean whom she
refused to marry because she knew he would be disinherited. Suppose she
had not seen him for a couple of years--suppose she had made up her mind
to give him up--that he had suddenly appeared when she sat alone in the
automobile in front of the Monarch Inn--suppose, then, finding all her
love reawakened, she had decided to end it all?"

"But Curtis's knife and the blood on his handkerchief?"

"Suppose, having made up her mind to kill herself, she had sought a
weapon?" went on The Thinking Machine, as if there had been no
interruption. "What is more natural than she should have sought
something--the knife, say--in the tool bag or kit, which must have been
near her? Suppose she stabbed herself while the men were away from the
automobile, or even after they had started on again in the darkness?"

Hatch looked a little crestfallen.

"You believe, then, that she did kill herself?" he asked.

"Certainly not," was the prompt response. "I don't believe Miss Melrose
killed herself--but as yet I know nothing to the contrary. As for the
blood on Curtis's handkerchief, remember he helped carry the body to Dr.
Leonard; it might have come from that--it might have come from a slight
spattering of blood."

"But circumstances certainly implicate Curtis."

"I wouldn't convict any man of any crime on any circumstantial evidence,"
was the response. "It's worthless unless a man is forced to confess."

The reporter was puzzled, bewildered, and his face showed it. There were
many things he did not understand, but the principal question in his mind
took form:

"Why did you turn Curtis over to the police, then?"

"Because he is the man who owned the knife," was the reply. "I knew he
was lying to me from the first about the knife. Men have been executed on
less evidence than that."

The train stopped and they proceeded to the office of the medical
examiner, where the body of the woman lay. Professor Van Dusen was
readily permitted to see the body, even to offer his expert assistance in
an autopsy which was then being performed; but the reporter was stopped
at the door. After an hour The Thinking Machine came out.

"She was stabbed from the right," he said answer to Hatch's inquiring
look, "either by some one sitting at her right, by some one leaning over
her right shoulder, or she might have done it herself."

Then they went on to Monarch Inn, five miles way. Here, after a
comprehensive squint at the landscape, The Thinking Machine entered and
for an hour questioned three waiters there.

Did these waiters see Mr. Reid? Yes. They identified his published
picture as a gentleman who had come in and taken a hot Scotch at the bar.
Any one with him? No. Speak to anyone in the inn? Yes, a lady.

"What did she look like?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Couldn't say, sir," the waiter replied. "She came in an automobile and
wore a mask, with a veil tied about her head and a long tan automobile
coat."

"With the mask on you couldn't see her face?"

"Only her chin, sir."

"No glimpse of her hair?"

"No, sir. It was covered by the veil."

Then The Thinking Machine turned loose a flood of questions. He learned
that the woman had been waiting at the inn for nearly an hour when Reid
entered; that she had come there alone and at her request had been shown
into a private parlor--"to wait for a gentleman," she had told the
waiter.

She had opened the door when she heard Reid enter and had glanced out,
but he had disappeared into the bar before she saw him. When he started
away she looked out again. Then she saw him and he saw her. She seemed
surprised and started to close the door, when he spoke to her. No one
heard what was said, but he went in and the door was closed.

No one knew just when either Reid or the woman left the inn. Some half an
hour or so after Reid entered the room a waiter rapped on the door. There
was no answer. He opened the door and went in, but there was no one
there. It was presumed then that the gentleman she had been waiting for
had appeared and they had gone out together. It was a fact that an
automobile had come up meanwhile--in addition to that in which Curtis,
Miss Melrose and Reid had come--and had gone away again.

When all this questioning had come to an end and these facts were in
possession of The Thinking Machine, the reporter advanced a theory.

"That woman was unquestionably Miss Dow, who knew Reid and who eloped
that night with Morgan Mason."

The Thinking Machine looked at him a moment without speaking, then led
the way into the private room where the lady had been waiting. Hatch
followed. They remained there five or ten minutes, then The Thinking
Machine came out and started toward the front door, only eight or ten
feet from this room. The road was twenty feet away.

"Let's go," he said, finally.

"Where?" asked Hatch.

"Don't you see?" asked The Thinking Machine, irrelevantly, "that it would
have been perfectly possible for Miss Melrose herself to have left the
automobile and gone inside the inn for a few minutes?"

Following previously received directions The Thinking Machine now set out
to find the man who had charge of the gasoline tank. They went away
together and remained half an hour.

On the scientist's return to where Hatch had been waiting impatiently
they climbed into the car which had brought them to the inn.

"Two miles down this road, then the first road to your right until I tell
you to stop," was the order to the chauffeur.

"Where are you going?" asked Hatch, curiously.

"Don't know yet," was the enigmatic reply.

The car ran on through the night, with great, unblinking lights staring
straight out ahead on a road as smooth as asphalt. The turn was made,
then more slowly the car proceeded along the cross road. At the second
house, dimly discernible through the night, The Thinking Machine gave the
signal to stop.

Hatch leaped out, and The Thinking Machine followed. Together they
approached the house, a small cottage some distance back from the road.
As they went up the path they came upon another automobile, but it had no
lights and the engine was still. Even in the darkness they could see that
one of the forward wheels was gone, and the front of the car was
demolished.

"That fellow had a bad accident," Hatch remarked.

An old woman and a boy appeared at the door in answer to their rap.

"I am looking for a gentleman who was injured last night in an automobile
accident," said The Thinking Machine. "Is he still here?"

"Yes. Come in."

They stepped inside as a man's voice called from another room:

"Who is it?"

"Two gentlemen to see the man who was hurt," the woman called.

"Do you know his name?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"No, sir," the woman replied. Then the man who had spoken appeared.

"Would it be possible for us to see the gentleman who was hurt?" asked
The Thinking Machine.

"Well, the doctor said we would have to keep folks away from him," was
the reply. "Is there anything I could tell you?"

"We would like to know who he is," said The Thinking Machine. "It may be
that we can take him off your hands."

"I don't know his name," the man explained; "but here are the things we
took off him. He was hurt on the head, and hasn't been able to speak
since he was brought here."

The Thinking Machine took a gold watch, a small notebook, two or three
cards of various business concerns, two railroad tickets to New York and
one thousand dollars in large bills. He merely glanced at the papers. No
name appeared anywhere on them; the same with the railroad tickets. The
business cards meant nothing at the moment. It was the gold watch on
which the scientist concentrated his attention. He looked on both sides,
then inside, carefully. Finally he handed it back.

"What time did this gentleman come here?" he asked.

"We brought him in from the road about nine o'clock," was the reply. "We
heard his automobile smash into something and found him there beside it a
moment later. He was unconscious. His car had struck a stone on the curve
and he was thrown out head first."

"And where is his wife?"

"His wife?" The man looked from The Thinking Machine to the woman. "His
wife? We didn't see anybody else."

"Nobody ran away from the machine as you went out?" insisted the
scientist.

"No, sir," was the positive reply.

"And no woman has been here to inquire for him?"

"No, sir."

"Has anybody?"

"No, sir."

"What direction was the car going when it struck?"

"I couldn't tell you, sir. It had turned entirely over and was in the
middle of the road when we found it."

"What's the number of the car?"

"It didn't have any."

"This gentleman has good medical attention, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir. Dr. Leonard is attending him. He says his condition isn't
dangerous, and meanwhile we're letting him stay here, because we suppose
he'll make it all right with us when he gets well."

"Thank you--that's all," said The Thinking Machine. "Good-night."

With Hatch he turned and left the house.

"What is all this?" asked Hatch, bewildered.

"That man is Morgan Mason," said The Thinking Machine.

"The man who eloped with Miss Dow?" asked Hatch, breathlessly.

"Now, where is Miss Dow?" asked The Thinking Machine, in turn.

"You mean--"

The Thinking Machine waved his hand off into the vague night; it was a
gesture which Hatch understood perfectly.


V


Hutchinson Hatch was deeply thoughtful on the swift run back to the
village. There he and The Thinking Machine took train to Boston. Hatch
was turning over possibilities. Had Miss Dow eloped with some one besides
Mason? There had been no other name mentioned. Was it possible that she
killed Miss Melrose? Vaguely his mind clutched for a motive for this, yet
none appeared, and he dismissed the idea with a laugh at its absurdity.
Then, What? Where? How? Why?

"I suppose the story of an actress having been murdered in an automobile
under mysterious circumstances would have been telegraphed all over the
country, Mr. Hatch?" asked The Thinking Machine.

"Yes," said Hatch. "If you mean this story, there's not a city in the
country that doesn't know of it by this time."

"It's perfectly wonderful, the resources of the press," the scientist
mused.

Hatch nodded his acquiescence. He had hoped for a moment that The
Thinking Machine had asked the question as a preliminary to something
else, but that was apparently all. After awhile the train jerked a little
and The Thinking Machine spoke again.

"I think, Mr. Hatch I wouldn't yet print anything about the disappearance
of Miss Dow," he said. "It might be unwise at present. No one else will
find it out, so--"

"I understand," said Hatch. It was a command.

"By the way," the other went on, "do you happen to remember the name of
that Winter Street store that Curtis went in?"

"Yes," and he named it.

It was nearly midnight when The Thinking Machine and Hatch reached
Boston. The reporter was dismissed with a curt:

"Come up at noon tomorrow."

Hatch went his way. Next day at noon promptly he was waiting in the
reception room of The Thinking Machine's home. The scientist was
out--down in Winter Street, Martha explained--and Hatch waited
impatiently for his return. He came in finally.

"Well?" inquired the reporter.

"Impossible to say anything until day after tomorrow," said The Thinking
Machine.

"And then?" asked Hatch.

"The solution," replied the scientist positively. "Now I'm waiting for
some one."

"Miss Dow?"

"Meanwhile you might see Reid and find out in some way if he ever
happened to make a gift of any little thing, a thing that a woman would
wear on the outside of her coat, for instance, to Miss Dow."

"Lord, I don't think he'll say anything."

"Find out, too, when he intends to go back West."

It took Hatch three hours, and required a vast deal of patience and
skill, to find out that on a recent birthday Miss Dow had received a
present of a monogram belt buckle from Reid. That was all; and that was
not what The Thinking Machine meant. Hatch had the word of Miss Dow's
maid for it that while Miss Dow wore this belt at the time of her
elopement, it was underneath the automobile coat.

"Have you heard anything more from Miss Dow?" asked Hatch.

"Yes," responded the maid. "Her father received a letter from her this
morning. It was from Chicago, and said that she and her husband were on
their way to San Francisco and that the family might not hear from them
again until after the honeymoon."

"How? What?" gasped Hatch. His brain was in a muddle. "She in Chicago,
with--her husband?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is there any question about the letter being in her handwriting?"

"Not at all," replied the maid, positively. "It's perfectly natural," she
concluded.

"But--" Hatch began, then he stopped.

For one fleeting instant he was tempted to tell the maid that the man
whom the family had supposed was Miss Dow's husband was lying unconscious
at a farmhouse not a great way from the Monarch Inn, and that there was
no trace of Miss Dow. Now this letter! His head whirled when he thought
of it.

"Is there any question but that Miss Dow did elope with Mr. Mason and not
some other man?" he asked.

"It was Mr. Mason all right," the girl responded. "I knew there was to be
an elopement and helped arrange for Miss Dow to go," she added,
confidently. "It was Mr. Mason, I know."

Then Hatch rushed away and telephoned to The Thinking Machine. He simply
couldn't hold this latest development until he saw him again.

"We've made a mistake," he bellowed through the 'phone.

"What's that?" demanded The Thinking Machine, aggressively.

"Miss Dow is in Chicago with her husband--family has received a letter
from her--that man out there with the smashed head can't be Mason." The
reporter explained hurriedly.

"Dear me, dear me!" said The Thinking Machine over the wire. And again:
"Dear me!"

"Her maid told me all about it," Hatch rushed on, "that is, all about her
aiding Miss Dow to elope, and all that. Must be some mistake."

"Dear me!" again came in the voice of The Thinking Machine. Then: "Is
Miss Dow a blonde or brunette?"

The irrelevancy of the question caused Hatch to smile in spite of
himself.

"A brunette," he answered. "A pronounced brunette."

"Then," said The Thinking Machine, as if this were merely dependent upon
or a part of the blonde or brunette proposition, "get immediately a
picture of Mason somewhere--I suppose you can--go out and see that man
with the smashed head and see if it is Mason. Let me know by 'phone."

"All right," said Hatch, rather hopelessly. "But it is impossible--"

"Don't say that," snapped The Thinking Machine. "Don't say that," he
repeated, angrily. "It annoys me exceedingly."

It was nearly ten o'clock that night when Hatch again 'phoned to The
Thinking Machine. He had found a photograph, he had seen the man with the
smashed head. They were the same. He so informed The Thinking Machine.

"Ah," said that individual, quietly. "Did you find out about any gift
that Reid might have made to Miss Dow?" he asked.

"Yes, a monogram belt buckle of gold," was the reply.

Hatch was over his head and knew it. He was finding out things and
answering questions which, by the wildest stretch of his imagination, he
could not bring to bear on the matter in hand--the mystery surrounding
the murder of Marguerite Melrose, an actress.

"Meet me at my place here at one o'clock day after tomorrow," instructed
The Thinking Machine. "Publish as little as you can of this matter until
you see me. It's extraordinary--perfectly extraordinary. Good-by."

That was all. Hatch groped hopelessly through the tangle, seeking one
fact that he could grasp. Then it occurred to him that he had never
ascertained when Reid intended to return West, and he went to the Hotel
Teutonic for this purpose. The clerk informed him that Reid was to start
in a couple of days. Reid had hardly left his room since Curtis was
locked up.

Precisely at one o'clock on the second day following, as directed by The
Thinking Machine, Hatch appeared and was ushered in. The Thinking Machine
was bowed over a retort in his laboratory, and he looked up at the
reporter with a question in his eyes.

"Oh, yes," he said, as if recollecting for the first time the purpose of
the visit. "Oh, yes."

He led the way to the reception room and gave instructions to Martha to
admit whoever inquired for him; then he sat down and leaned back in his
chair. After awhile the bell rang and two men were shown in. One was
Charles Reid; the other a detective whom Hatch knew.

"Ah! Mr. Reid," said The Thinking Machine. "I'm sorry to have troubled
you, but there were some questions I wanted to ask before you went away.
If you'll wait just a moment."

Reid bowed and took a seat.

"Is he under arrest?" Hatch inquired of the detective, aside.

"Oh, no," was the reply. "Oh, no. Detective Mallory told me to ask him to
come up. I don't know what for."

After awhile the bell rang again. Then Hatch heard Detective Mallory's
voice in the hall and the rustle of skirts; then the voice of another
man. Mallory appeared at the door after a moment; behind him came two
veiled women and a man who was a stranger to Hatch.

"I'm going to make a request, Mr. Mallory," said The Thinking Machine. "I
know it will be a cause of pleasure to Mr. Reid. It is that you release
Mr. Curtis, who is charged with the murder of Miss Melrose."

"Why?" demanded Mallory, quickly. Hatch and Reid stared at the scientist
curiously.

"This," said The Thinking Machine.

The two women simultaneously removed their veils.

One was Miss Marguerite Melrose.


VI


"Miss Melrose that was," explained The Thinking Machine, "now Mrs. Donald
MacLean. This, gentlemen, is her husband. This other young woman is Miss
Dow's maid. Together I believe we will be able to throw some light on the
death of the young woman who was found in Mr. Curtis's automobile."

Stupefied with amazement, Hatch stared at the woman whose reported murder
had startled and puzzled the entire country. Reid had shown only slight
emotion--an emotion of a kind hard to read. Finally he advanced to Miss
Melrose, or Mrs. MacLean, with outstretched hand.

"Marguerite," he said.

The girl looked deeply into his eyes, then took the proffered hand.

"And Jack Curtis?" she asked.

"If Detective Mallory will have him brought here we can immediately end
his connection with this case so far as your murder is concerned," said
The Thinking Machine.

"Who--who was murdered then?" asked Hatch.

"A little circumstantial development is necessary to show," replied The
Thinking Machine.

Detective Mallory retired into another room and 'phoned to have Curtis
brought up. On his assurance that there had been a mistake which he would
explain later, Curtis set out from his cell with a detective and within a
few minutes appeared in the room, wonderingly.

One look at Marguerite and he was beside her, gripping her hand. For a
time he didn't speak; it was not necessary. Then the actress, with
flushed face, indicated MacLean, who had stood quietly by, an interested
but silent spectator.

"My husband, Jack," she said.

Quick comprehension swept over Curtis and he looked from one to another.
Then he approached MacLean with outstretched hand.

"I congratulate you," he said, with deep feeling. "Make her happy."

Reid had stood unobserved meanwhile. Hatch's glance traveled from one to
another of the persons in the room. He was seeking to explain that
expression on Reid's face, vainly thus far. There was a little pause as
Reid and Curtis came face to face, but neither spoke.

"Now, please, what does it all mean?" asked MacLean, who up to this time
had been silent.

"It's a strange study of the human brain," said The Thinking Machine,
"and incidentally a little proof that circumstantial evidence is
absolutely worthless. For instance, here it was proven that Miss Melrose
was dead, that Mr. Curtis was jealous of her, that while drinking he had
threatened her--this I learned at the Hotel Yarmouth, but now it is
unimportant--that his knife killed her, and finally that there was blood
on one of his handkerchiefs. This is the complete circumstantial chain;
and Miss Melrose appears, alive.

"Suppose we take the case from the point where I entered it. It will be
interesting as showing the methods of a brain which reduces all things to
tangible strands which may be woven into a whole, then fitting them
together. My knowledge of the affair began when Mr. Curtis was brought to
these apartments by Mr. Hatch. Mr. Curtis was ill. I gave him a
stimulant; he aroused suddenly and shrieked: 'I saw her. There was a
dagger in her heart. Marguerite!'

"My first impression was that he was insane; my next that he had delirium
tremens, because I saw he had been drinking heavily. Later I saw it was
temporary mental collapse due to excessive drinking and a tremendous
strain. Instantly I associated Marguerite with this--'a dagger in her
heart.' Therefore, Marguerite dead or wounded. 'I saw her.' Dead or
alive? These, then, were my first impressions.

"I asked Mr. Hatch what had happened. He told me Miss Melrose, an
actress, had been murdered the night before. I suggested suicide, because
suicide is always the first possibility in considering a case of violent
death which is not obviously accidental. He insisted that he believed it
was murder, and told me why. It was all he knew of the story.

"There was the stopping of The Green Dragon at the Monarch Inn for
gasoline; the disappearance of Mr. Curtis, as he told the police, to hunt
for gasoline--partly proven by the fact that he brought it back; the
statement of Mr. Reid to the police that he had gone into the inn for a
hot Scotch, and confirmation of this. Above all, here was the opportunity
for the crime--if it were committed by any person other than Curtis or
Reid.

"Then Mr. Hatch repeated to me the statement made to him by Dr. Leonard.
The first thing that impressed me here was the fact that Curtis had, in
taking the girl into the house, carried her by the shoulders. Instantly I
saw, knowing that the girl had been stabbed through the heart, how it
would be possible for blood to get on Mr. Curtis's hands, thence on his
handkerchief or clothing. This was before I knew or considered his
connection with the death at all.

"Curtis told Dr. Leonard that the girl was Miss Melrose. The body wasn't
yet cold, therefore death must have come just before it reached the
doctor. Then the knife was discovered. Here was the first tangible
working clew--a rough knife, with a blade six or seven inches long.
Obviously not the sort of knife a woman would carry about with her.
Therefore, where did it come from?

"Curtis tried to induce the doctor to let him have the knife; probably
Curtis's knife, possibly Reid's. Why Curtis's? The nature of the knife, a
blade six or seven inches long, indicated a knife used for heavy work,
not for a penknife. Under ordinary circumstances such a knife would not
have been carried by Reid; therefore it may have belonged to Curtis's
auto kit. He might have carried it in his pocket.

"Thus, considering that it was Miss Melrose who was dead, we had these
facts: Dead only a few minutes, possibly stabbed while the two men were
away from the car; Curtis's knife used--not a knife from any other auto
kit, mind you, because Curtis recognized this knife. Two and two make
four, not sometimes, but all the time."

Every person in the room was leaning forward, eagerly listening; Reid's
face was perfectly white. The Thinking Machine finally arose, walked over
and ran his fingers through Reid's hair, then sat again squinting at the
ceiling. He spoke as if to himself.

"Then Mr. Hatch told me another important thing," he went on. "At the
moment it appeared a coincidence, later it assumed its complete
importance. This was that Dr. Leonard did not actually see the face of
the girl--only the chin; that the hair was covered by a veil and the mask
covered the remainder of the face. Here for the first time I saw that it
was wholly possible that the woman was not Miss Melrose at all. I saw it
as a possibility; not that I believed it. I had no reason to, then.

"The dress of the young woman meant nothing; it was that of thousands of
other young women who go automobiling--handsome tailor-made gown, tan
dust coat. Then I tricked Mr. Curtis--I suppose it is only fair to use
the proper word--into telling me his story by making him believe he made
compromising admissions while unconscious. I had, I may say, too,
examined his head minutely. I have always maintained that the head of a
murderer will show a certain indentation. Mr. Curtis's head did not show
this indentation, neither does Mr. Reid's.

"Mr. Curtis told me the first thing to show that the knife which killed
the girl--I still believed her Miss Melrose then--could have passed out
of his hands. He said when he leaped from the automobile he thought he
dropped something, searched for it a moment, failed to find it, then,
being in a hurry, went on. He called back to Mr. Reid to search for what
he had lost. That is when Mr. Curtis lost the knife; that is when it
passed into the possession of Mr. Reid. He found it."

Every eye was turned on Reid. He sat as if fascinated, staring into the
upward turned face of the scientist.

"There we had a girl--presumably Miss Melrose--dead, by a knife owned by
Mr. Curtis, last in the possession of Mr. Reid. Mr. Hatch had previously
told me that the medical examiner said the wound which killed the girl
came from her right, in a general direction. Therefore here was a
possibility that Mr. Reid did it in the automobile--a possibility, I say.

"I asked Mr. Curtis why he tried to recover the knife from Dr. Leonard.
He stammered and faltered, but really it was because, having recognized
the knife, he was afraid the crime would come home to him. Mr. Curtis
denied flatly that the knife was his, and in denying told me that it was.
It was not Mr. Reid's I was assured. Mr. Curtis also told me of his love
for Miss Melrose, but there was nothing there, as it appeared, strong
enough to suggest a motive for murder. He mentioned you, Mr. MacLean,
then.

"Then Mr. Curtis named Miss Dow as one whose hand had been sought by Mr.
Reid. Mr. Hatch told me this girl--Miss Dow--had eloped the night before
with Morgan Mason from Monarch Inn--or, to be exact, that her family had
received a letter from her stating that she was eloping; that Mason had
taken out a marriage license. Remember this was the girl that Reid was in
love with; it was singular that there should have been a Monarch Inn end
to that elopement as well as to this tragedy.

"This meant nothing as bearing on the abstract problem before me until
Mr. Curtis described Miss Melrose as having golden hair. With another
minor scrap of information Mr. Hatch again opened up vast possibilities
by stating that the medical examiner, a careful man, had said Miss
Melrose had dark hair. I asked him if he had seen the body; he had not.
But the medical examiner told him that. Instantly in my mind the question
was aroused: Was it Miss Melrose who was killed? This was merely a
possibility; it still had no great weight with me.

"I asked Mr. Curtis as to the circumstances which caused his collapse in
Winter Street. He explained it was because he had seen a woman whom he
would have sworn was Miss Melrose if he had not known that she was dead.
This, following the dark hair and blonde hair puzzle, instantly caused
this point to stand forth sharply in my mind. Was Miss Melrose dead at
all? I had good reason then to believe that she was not.

"Previously, with the idea of fixing for all time the ownership of the
knife--yet knowing in my own mind it was Mr. Curtis's--I had sent for Mr.
Reid. I told him Mr. Curtis had said it was his knife. Mr. Reid fell into
the trap and did the very thing I expected. He declared angrily the knife
was Mr. Curtis's, thinking Curtis had tried to saddle the crime on him.
Then I turned Mr. Curtis over to the police. When he was locked up I was
reasonably certain that he did not commit any crime, because I had traced
the knife from him to Mr. Reid."

There was a glitter in Reid's eyes now. It was not fear, only a nervous
battle to restrain himself. The Thinking Machine went on:

"I saw the body of the dead woman--indeed, assisted at her autopsy. She
was a pronounced brunette--Miss Melrose was a blonde. The mistake in
identity was not an impossible one in view of the fact that each wore a
mask and had her hair tied up under a veil. That woman was stabbed from
the right--still a possibility of suicide."

"Who was the woman?" demanded Curtis. He seemed utterly unable to control
himself longer.

"Miss Elizabeth Dow, who was supposed to have eloped with Morgan Mason,"
was the quiet reply.

Instant amazement was reflected on every face save Reid's, and again
every eye was turned to him. Miss Dow's maid burst into tears.

"Mr. Reid knew who the woman was all the time," said The Thinking
Machine. "Knowing then that Miss Dow was the dead woman--this belief
being confirmed by a monogram gold belt buckle, 'E. D.,' on the body--I
proceeded to find out all I could in this direction. The waiters had seen
Mr. Reid in the inn; had seen him talking to a masked and veiled lady who
had been waiting for nearly an hour; had seen him go into a room with
her, but had not seen them leave the inn. Mr. Reid had recognized the
lady--not she him. How? By a glimpse of the monogram belt buckle which he
knew because he probably gave it to her."

"He did," interposed Hatch.

"I did," said Reid, calmly. It was the first time he had spoken.

"Now, Mr. Reid went into the room and closed the door, carrying with him
Mr. Curtis's knife," went on The Thinking Machine. "I can't tell you from
personal observation what happened in that room, but I know. Mr. Reid
learned in some way that Miss Dow was going to elope; he learned that she
had been waiting long past the time when Mason was due there; that she
believed he had humiliated her by giving up the idea at the last minute.
Being in a highly nervous condition, she lost faith in Mason and in
herself, and perhaps mentioned suicide?"

"She did," said Reid, calmly.

"Go on, Mr. Reid," suggested The Thinking Machine.

"I believed, too, that Mason had changed his mind," the young man
continued, with steady voice. "I pleaded with Miss Dow to give up the
idea of eloping, because, remember, I loved her, too. She finally
consented to go on with our party, as her automobile had gone. We came
out of the inn together. When we reached the automobile--The Green
Dragon, I mean--I saw Miss Melrose getting into Mr. MacLean's automobile,
which had come up meanwhile. Instantly I saw, or imagined, the
circumstances, and said nothing to Miss Dow about it, particularly as Mr.
MacLean's car dashed away at full speed.

"Now, in taking Miss Dow to The Green Dragon it had been my purpose to
introduce her to Miss Melrose. She knew Mr. Curtis. When I saw Miss
Melrose was gone I knew Curtis would wonder why. I couldn't explain,
because every moment I was afraid Mason would appear to claim Miss Dow
and I was anxious to get her as far away as possible. Therefore I
requested her not to speak until we reached the next inn, and there I
would explain to Curtis.

"Somewhere between the Monarch Inn and the inn we had started for Miss
Dow changed her mind; probably was overcome by the humiliation of her
position, and she used the knife. She had seen me take the knife from my
pocket and throw it into the tool kit on the floor beside her. It was
comparatively a trifling matter for her to stoop and pick it up, almost
from under her feet, and--"

"Under all these circumstances, as stated by Mr. Reid," interrupted The
Thinking Machine, "we understand why, after he found the girl dead, he
didn't tell all the truth, even to Curtis. Any jury on earth would have
convicted him of murder on circumstantial evidence. Then, when he saw
Miss Dow dead, mistaken for Miss Melrose, he could not correct the
impression without giving himself away. He was forced to silence.

"I realized these things--not in exact detail as Mr. Reid has told them,
but in a general way--after my talk with the waiters. Then I set out to
find out why Mason had not appeared. It was possibly due to accident. On
a chance entirely I asked the man in charge of the gasoline tank at the
Monarch if he had heard of an accident nearby on the night of the
tragedy. He had.

"With Mr. Hatch I found the injured man. A monogram, 'M.M.,' on his
watch, told me it was Morgan Mason. Mr. Mason had a serious accident and
still lies unconscious. He was going to meet Miss Dow when this happened.
He had two railroad tickets to New York--for himself and bride--in his
pocket."

Reid still sat staring at The Thinking Machine, waiting. The others were
awed into silence by the story of the tragedy.

"Having located both Mason and Miss Dow to my satisfaction, I then sought
to find what had become of Miss Melrose. Mr. Reid could have told me
this, but he wouldn't have, because it would have turned the light on the
very thing which he was trying to keep hidden. With Miss Melrose alive,
it was perfectly possible that Curtis had seen her in the Winter Street
store.

"I asked Mr. Hatch if he remembered what store it was. He did. I also
asked Mr. Hatch if such a story as the murder of Miss Melrose would be
telegraphed all over the country. He said it would. It did not stand to
reason that if Miss Melrose were in any city, or even on a train, she
could have failed to hear of her own murder, which would instantly have
called forth a denial.

"Therefore, where was she? On the water, out of reach of newspapers? I
went to the store in Winter Street and asked if any purchases had been
sent from there to any steamer about to sail on the day following the
tragedy. There had been several purchases made by a woman who answered
Miss Melrose's description as I had it, and these had been sent to a
steamer which sailed for Halifax.

"Miss Melrose and Mr. MacLean, married then, were on that steamer. I
wired to Halifax to ascertain if they were coming back immediately. They
were. I waited for them. Otherwise, Mr. Hatch, I should have given you
the solution of the mystery two days ago. As it was, I waited until Miss
Melrose, or Mrs. MacLean, returned. I think that's all."

"The letter from Miss Dow in Chicago?" Hatch reminded him.

"Oh, yes," said The Thinking Machine. "That was sent to a friend in her
confidence, and mailed on a specified date. As a matter of fact, she and
Mason were going to New York and thence to Europe. Of course, as matters
happened, the two letters--the other being the one mailed from the
Monarch Inn--were sent and could not be recalled."

This strange story was one of the most astonishing news features the
American newspapers ever handled. Charles Reid was arrested, established
his story beyond question, and was released. His principal witnesses were
Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, Jack Curtis and Mrs. Donald
MacLean.



THE GRINNING GOD


This story is the result of an unusual method of collaboration between
Mrs. Jacques Futrelle, and Jacques Futrelle, creator of The Thinking
Machine,--unusual in that the first installment, "Wraiths of the Storm,"
which presents a remarkable, even an intangible, problem, is entirely the
work of Mrs. Futrelle, and the second installment, "The House That Wa