Tales of
The Thinking Machine


Jacques Futrelle

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Table of Contents

  1. My first Experience with the great Logician
  2. A Piece of String
  3. The Problem of the Perfect Alibi
  4. The Problem of the Stolen Bank Notes
  5. The Problem of Convict no. 97
  6. The first problem
  7. The Problem of the Crystal Gazer
  8. Five Millions by Wireless
  9. The Problem of the Green Eyed Monster
  10. The Problem of the Hidden Million
  11. Kidnapped Baby Blake, Millionaire
  12. The Problem of the Missing Necklace
  13. The Problem of the Motor Boat
  14. The Mystery of the Ralston Bank Burglary
  15. The Problem of the Opera Box
  16. The Problem of the Cross Mark
  17. The Problem of the Broken Bracelet
  18. The Problem of the Lost Radium
  19. The Problem of the Stolen Rubens
  20. The Problem of the Souvenir Cards
  21. The Problem of the Superfluous Finger
  22. The case of the Scientific Murderer
  23. The Problem of the Deserted House
  24. The Mystery of the Fatal Cipher
  25. The Mystery of the Flaming Phantom
  26. The Problem of the Ghost Woman
  27. The Mystery of the Golden Dagger
  28. The Great Auto Mystery
  29. The Grinning God
  30. The Mystery of the Grip of Death
  31. The Haunted Bell
  32. The Jackdaw
  33. The Problem of the Knotted Cord
  34. The Mystery of the Man Who Was Lost
  35. The Mystery of a Studio
  36. The Problem of the Organ Grinder
  37. The Phantom Motor
  38. The Problem of the Private Compartment
  39. The Problem of the Auto Cab
  40. The Problem of the Red Rose
  41. The Roswell Tiara
  42. The Mystery of the Scarlet Thread
  43. The Silver Box
  44. The three Overcoats
  45. The Tragedy of the Life Raft
  46. The Problem of Cell 13
  47. The Problem of the Vanishing man
  48. The Problem of the Interrupted Wireless

“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 today,” 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.

The 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.

The 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.”

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 today!” 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.”

The 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

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.

2

“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.”

3

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.”

4

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 reread 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.”

5

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 be 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!”

6

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 exconvict. 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The Mystery of the Ralston Bank Burglary

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.”

5

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.

6

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.”

The 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.

The 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 today 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 today.”

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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.”

The 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.”

The 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.

The 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.”

The 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.”

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.”

6

“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.

The Mystery of the Flaming Phantom

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.”

The 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.

The Mystery of the Golden Dagger

“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.”

2

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, today.”

“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.

3

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 today 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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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

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 today 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.

2

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 tha