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Chapter 11

  • As the horses started up, Dorothy refuted Tom's statement indignantly. " I_sn't a blind alley. It's a good clue. We've run down practically every othe_ine, and now we may as well try this. Everything points to the belief that '
  • the man ' is a scientist of no slight ability. Whether he or some one els_iscovered his high power radio-active force, he must be a good man, or h_ouldn't be able to use it. Now, it seems probable to me that he was workin_ith phosphorescent ink simply because it was the nearest at hand. A ma_ngaged in research like that would be likely to have at least one assistant.
  • I propose to find that assistant."
  • " I'd like to see you do it," said Tom doubtingly. " How would you go to work ? "
  • " I'd advertise," said Dorothy.
  • " Advertise," remarked Tom. " Here's the way to do it, — ' Wanted, th_ssistant of the man who is trying to stop all war.' "
  • " Of course not, stupid," said Dorothy impatiently. " We'll advertise for _an who has had some experience in making phosphorescent ink. That's the lin_o work on. Don't you see that since phosphorescent paint acts best with suc_nergy as is given by radio-active substances, that he's likely to have bee_sing it. There's such a close relation between phosphorescence an_adioactivity, that a man might be working with both."
  • " But where will you advertise ? " I said. " How can you tell where the ma_as worked ? How can you tell his nationality? I think he is an American, bu_o one can tell."
  • " If you mean Dick Regnier," exclaimed Dorothy, her eyes flashing, " you'r_rong. I've known him for years, and I know he is not the man. It takes just _ouch of insanity that Dick never had, to do what ' the man ' is doing. ' Th_an ' must be practically a monomaniac on the subject."
  • The bus stopped just as the Bank came in sight. Dorothy turned squarely in he_eat and faced me. The seats around us happened to be empty. She looked at m_omewhat guilty face and spoke emphatically.
  • " Jim Orrington, you don't believe me, but it isn't Dick Regnier."
  • " Now, Dorothy," I said, " look here. How did the letter get changed, unles_t was done by Regnier that night at your cousin's ? "
  • " I don't know," she answered.
  • " Oh, come now," said Tom. " Drop it. Here's where we get off."
  • We had drawn our money and had started away, when I suddenly thought of th_ail. I turned back to the little window and asked if there were any letter_or us which had not been forwarded. A few moments brought a big package, among them three or four bulky envelopes from the office. Hailing a cab, w_ead busily as we drove back to the Savoy. One long typewritten report I rea_ith especial care, and handed over to Dorothy when she had finished her mail.
  • She looked at me reproachfully, as she read the title. " And you neve_entioned this at all."
  • " I forgot all about it," I answered. " I started that inquiry the day I wa_n prison. The night I got out, the Denckel letter came, and we've been s_usy ever since that I completely forgot this."
  • " Let's hear it," said Tom.
  • " Just read the condensed paragraph at the top," I said. " That tells th_hole story. You can read the rest at your leisure." Dorothy began in he_lear voice.
  • " Report on Mr. Richard Regnier. Richard Regnier is the son of the lat_olonel Arthur Regnier of Savannah, Georgia. He was educated at privat_chools, and at Princeton. His residence is Savannah, but he has spent muc_ime in England. He specialized in chemistry when in college, and publishe_ne paper after graduation on some rare chemical compounds. He has no regula_ccupation, has an independent income, and spends most of his time in variou_hilanthropic works. Is a member of several organizations, such as the Peac_ociety, the Tuberculosis League, etc., and of four clubs. Complete detail_iven below. Every effort has been made to obtain his present address, but no_ven his bankers know it. The only fact concerning this which could b_btained was that he sailed for Europe on the Hamburg-American line, the las_f June, this present year. For details of this part of the investigation, se_elow."
  • : "Well, he didn't do it; he isn't doing it," said Dorothy emphatically.
  • " He's got the training for it," said Tom reflectively.
  • " I am sure," began Dorothy, but I broke in.
  • " What's the use of discussing it now. We can't get hold of Regnier, anyway, and your phosphorescent ink scheme seems the next scheme to try. Here we ar_t the Temple. Let's go to one of my friends who is a solicitor here, and se_f we can use his office as headquarters to see the applicants." So th_iscussion ended.
  • A brief interview with my friend, and a short debate on the best method o_rocedure, brought us to certain conclusions. It was really just as possibl_hat the man had worked in London as anywhere else, and we decided t_dvertise in six of the morning papers for three days, asking for a man wh_ad had some experience with phosphorescent inks, and who was capable o_ssisting in a scientific examination with regard to them. Applicants were t_eet at the office of my friend in the Middle Temple at three o'clock on th_fternoon of the third day.
  • For two days and a half I spent my time watching the preparations for war, an_rging forward the search for Regnier. He had completely dropped out of sight.
  • No information of his whereabouts could be obtained, and when we met at th_emple on the afternoon of the third day, we were no further ahead.
  • At three o'clock the waiting room of the office was full, and a long line o_en extended down the stairs. The crowd bore striking witness to the horde o_nemployed seeking for even the slightest chance of employment. My friend'_lerks were in despair, but somehow they managed to evolve something lik_rder from the mass, and one by one the applicants were admitted. After th_irst half dozen, we saw that they could be divided into three classes, — th_en who knew nothing about science and nothing about any kind of ink, the me_ho knew something about ink but nothing about phosphorescent ink, and the me_ho had been laboratory assistants to various research followers. We divide_hem rapidly on this basis, and in an hour had dismissed all the members o_lasses one and two. There were left some ten others who had been assistant_n research laboratories. One by one we examined these. They had worked i_arious lines; the first five in chemical researches; the last five in variou_hysical and engineering lines. Try as we might, we could get no informatio_rom any of them with regard to phosphorescent ink, or with regard to an_nusual work with radio-active energy.
  • The last man had been dismissed and we had sat down to afternoon tea with m_riend, when we heard words in the outer office. The door opened and a cler_ntered. " There's one man more, sir," he said, " I told him he was too late, but he's quite insistent, sir. Will you care to see him ? "
  • " Surely," I said, and we all went out into the outer office. A tall, bent ma_ith drooping mustache stood by the window. His gaunt face and threadbar_lothes, neatly brushed though they were, showed an evident lack o_rosperity.
  • " I ventured to insist, sir," he said, addressing me, " as I have had quite _ittle experience in phosphorescent ink. It was only a year ago that I serve_n a laboratory where they were working with it, and while I was simpl_orking under the direction of other people, I think I could work well alon_hat line. I should try to do my best. I need a place."
  • This looked more like the real thing. I waved towards Tom. He could run thi_nd of the inquiry better than I.
  • " What's your name ? "
  • " George Swenton."
  • " Where did you have your experience ? " questioned Tom.
  • " With Doctor Heidenmuller, in his private research laboratory," answered th_an.
  • " What training have you had ? "
  • " Not much. Only a few courses at the University of London. I was only th_econd assistant. I worked with Doctor Heidenmuller for four years, until h_ied six months ago. I have had no place since, sir."
  • " Did your employer do anything with radioactive work ? "
  • " Yes, sir. He died that way. He was killed, paralysed, you might say, whil_orking with something in a locked room. He always did that work in a locke_oom."
  • " What were the circumstances of his death ? " asked Tom. The man hesitate_nd looked up somewhat fearfully.
  • " I don't see what that has to do with phosphorescent ink," he said. " Th_olice went all into the matter of his death, and they said it was just deat_y paralysis." He stopped and shut his mouth hard. Dorothy broke in.
  • " Mr. Swenton, here is the state of affairs. I don't think my brother has mad_t quite plain. We are more interested in Dr. Heidenmuller's radio-active wor_han in his phosphorescent paint. We have no question of you at all. We do no_ant to know anything which is not entirely right for us to know, but we d_ant to know all you feel you can rightly tell us of his work. I feel sur_hat my brother will be ready to employ you, if you can show that you hav_one this, and that you can do what he wants."
  • The man's face cleared. Dorothy's words were more convincing than evidence. H_eached into his pockets and drew forth a bunch of papers, which he gave t_om, who rapidly ran through them.
  • " They're all right," he said, handing them back. " Now, if I give you twent_ounds a month for two months, will that be all right ? "
  • A dull red rose in the man's face as his eyes lighted. " It will mea_verything to me, sir," he said. " I've got a wife and a boy."
  • Tom drew out his purse. " Here's ten pounds to clinch the bargain," and h_anded him two five pound notes.
  • " I appreciate that more than I can say," said the man, the tears welling u_nto his eyes with emotion. " Now, what did you want to know ? "
  • " First about Dr. Heidenmuller's apparatus, and then about his death."
  • " I'm afraid I can't tell you much of the apparatus. I never even saw it. I_as in an inner room to which the doctor had the only key. I never was in th_oom till the day we broke down the door and took him out dead. There was n_pparatus there then. It must have been removed."
  • " How did the room look ? " asked Dorothy.
  • " It was all bare. Nothing in it at all, except the wooden chair where he sa_nd a wooden table."
  • " How about the walls and ceiling ? "
  • " They were all of wood."
  • " How about the locks on the door and windows ?"
  • " That was a funny thing. They were of wood, too, though he had an iron key."
  • " What did the doctor have in his pockets ? "
  • " Four five-pound notes, no change, and his watch was gone. There was nothin_n his watch pocket except a watch crystal. His keys were gone, too, and onl_he ribbon of his watch was left lying on the floor."
  • " What did the doctors say about his death ? "
  • " Straight paralysis, they said. I had been away for three days. He was aroun_he laboratory for one day after I left, and the day after that he must hav_ied. They said death was instantaneous."
  • " Did the doctor leave any family ? "
  • " None."
  • " What became of his papers ? "
  • " Nobody knows. He had scarcely any friends. His property went to a niece i_ermany, and she came over to hunt for papers, but she found none."
  • " What became of the other assistant ? "
  • " He went back to Germany. He knew nothing more than I did, however."
  • " Did the doctor have any friends who came to see him ? "
  • " Very few. There was one American who came to see him now and then. I neve_new his name or where he came from, nor did I know the name of the two o_hree German friends he had."
  • " Anything else you think of ? " asked Tom.
  • " Nothing else, I'm afraid," answered Swenton.
  • Tom rose from his chair and paced up and down the room, his hands in hi_rousers pockets, his coat flung back. As he walked, Swenton, watching him, uttered an exclamation.
  • " I can tell you one thing about the American," he said. " He wore a peculia_haped pin on his waistcoat, such as you wear on your fob."
  • Tom pulled up his fob with its Theta Sigma Rho pin. " There's a good clue, anyway," he said. " He must be a Theta Sigma Rho man."
  • We could get nothing more from Swenton and, after directing him to call at th_avoy the next morning, we sent him away happy. As we came down the narro_tairs and out of the old arched passages of the Temple, Dorothy said, " Let'_alk up the embankment to the hotel. We can think better that way."
  • We had gone half the distance, when she stopped. " Suppose we talk it ove_ere," and we stopped beside the parapet to discuss the matter.
  • " As I make it out," said Tom, " Heidenmuller was the man who discovered th_ecret power which has been destroying the battleships, but he can't be ' th_an,' because he died before the first ship went down. Therefore he must hav_assed it on to some one else who is using it, possibly the American who wa_is friend, or one of the Germans. It strikes me that the next thing to do i_o find an American in London who wears a Theta Sigma Rho pin."
  • Instantly I startled the peaceful calm of the embankment, and made myself a_bject of suspicion to the neighboring bobby, by leaping in the air an_lapping my hands together.
  • " Hamerly, by all that's holy ! " I cried. "You remember that fellow I too_ome that night you arrived, Dorothy? "
  • She nodded, her eyes gleaming with interest.
  • " He's one of our men, and he had an acid stain on his coat. I'll wager yo_e's the American. I know where he lives and I've been up to see him once, bu_e was out. I'll go up there right after dinner."
  • " Do you think he's ' the man ' ? " asked Tom in excitement.
  • " I don't see how he could be," I said slowly. " ' The man ' was working i_he Channel, when he was in the British Museum. But he's surely the next ma_o interview."
  • By eight I was in a hansom speeding towards Half-Moon Street. "Was Mr. Hamerl_n?" He was, and met me half way down the stairs. " This is very good of you, Orrington," he said. " I was very sorry to miss your last call."
  • For some time we talked of various things, of college days, and of affairs a_ome. He had come over as a Rhodes scholar and, having a little money left hi_hile at Oxford, had gone on in London after graduation, leading a life o_uiet study. As we talked, I sized my companion up. " A trifle grave but, after all, a sane, sterling fellow," I decided, and I put my errand directl_o him.
  • " You knew Dr. Heidenmuller," I said abruptly.
  • " Yes, poor old chap," he said calmly. " How did you happen to run across him ? "
  • " I didn't know him personally," I said, " but I knew a man who did know him.
  • One of our own men, Tom Haldane of Columbia, who is very greatly interested i_he radio-active work which Dr. Heidenmuller was carrying on before his death, is here with me."
  • Hamerly's face filled with eagerness. His whole attitude changed. " Di_aldane know what he was doing ? " he asked breathlessly.
  • " Not exactly," I said.
  • " Well if he knows anything about it, I believe he knows one of the greates_hings in modern science. The Doctor never told me anything about it, but _ent into that room the day he was taken out dead, and ever since that tim_'ve felt that he had found a force greater than anything yet obtained, an_hat that force killed him." He paused. " I've never said that to anybod_lse, but Haldane is the man of all others to know it, and you might tell hi_hat from me. He may be able to use it somehow. I can't. I tried my best t_et hold of some clue concerning it after Heidenmuller's death, but it wa_bsolutely useless. Do you think that Haldane has enough data to work it out?"
  • " Frankly, I don't know," I said.
  • " Except for two things, I should have said the secret died with him," sai_amerly slowly.
  • I bent forward hanging on every word.
  • " I've never spoken of either, but," — he paused, " you know this man who i_rying to stop all war ?"
  • I nodded.
  • " Well, from the way Heidenmuller's room looked, and the way the things in hi_ockets were left, I've wondered if the man had not his secrets. Do you know,"
  • he said, leaning forward, " there were no eyelets in his shoes when he wa_ound. The crimps were in the leather of the strings, but the metal ends wer_one. The lenses of his spectacles, without any mounting, were lying on th_loor. The very filling of his teeth had gone. Why couldn't a battleshi_isappear into its elemental parts the same way, all its living content_aralyzed by the shock, dying instantly and sinking below the waves. I'v_ondered more than once if the government sent down divers in Portsmout_arbor and if they did, what they found."
  • There was just one thing to do. He held as much as we did of the secret.
  • Perhaps he knew more. From beginning to end, I told the whole story of ou_earch. As I went on, he grew more and more excited. As I paused towards th_nd, he broke in.
  • " The second thing fits in here, the reason why I believe the secret might no_e lost. One day as I went into the laboratory, the Doctor's assistant told m_hat he was in the inner room, but had left word for me to wait. I wa_xtremely curious for no one had ever entered that inner room to my knowledge.
  • The door opened at last, and a tall, dark man, an American I should say, cam_ut of that closed room with the doctor. I never saw him before or since. Now, is he the man who got the secret, and with it is trying to stop all war ? "
  • I was out of my seat with excitement. " I believe he is. Would you know him i_ou saw his photograph ? "
  • " Surely," said Hamerly.
  • I rose to go.
  • " Hold on," exclaimed Hamerly, " I haven't told you half yet."
  • " Go on," I said eagerly, seating myself once more.
  • "That first day, after I had made a rough examination, I started to go ove_he inner room inch by inch. At first I thought it was perfectly insulated b_ood. There wasn't a piece of metal nor even a piece of glass in it. Where th_ncandescent light came down, hung a bit of twisted cord, without a scrap o_etal remaining. There was a length of insulating cloth, minus the wire i_overed, lying on the floor. I went round and round, hunting for metal, but _ould find none. There was a wooden shutter over the window, and no glass. _losed the door and walked over every inch of the room, trying to find an_reak whatsoever in the insulation. The only thing I could find was a fain_limmer, where the wooden window shutter did not quite join. I went outsid_nd studied the place from the street. There was no appearance of anythin_nusual on the wall of the laboratory, excepting that the boarded window o_he wooden room looked out like a rectangular unseeing eye. I crossed to th_idewalk just before the laboratory, and looked up and down the opposite wall.
  • There was nothing unusual on that side, save two square places, side by sid_n the painted wall, which looked fresher than the wall around. I examine_hem more carefully, crossed and recrossed. The two spots were almost exactl_pposite the lower end of the shuttered window where I had seen a slight chin_f light, the only place where the insulation of wood was broken. I went u_he stairs of the house opposite. It was a little tea shop. A wooden sig_eaned against the wall beside the door. I picked it up. The screw holes an_he whiter paint where the hinges had lain showed clear, but there was n_etal about it. The proprietress bustled up to take my order and, as she sa_e looking at the sign, broke into voluble explanation. ' I should have pu_he sign back in its place, sir, but fairly didn't dare to. It was a week com_uesday when it fell. It's God's own mercy there wasn't somebody killed, sir.
  • And the strangest thing, too. I couldn't find sight nor smell of the hinge_nd the rod where it hung. It must have pulled out of the wall, and somebod_ave picked up the iron, before I could get down, sir. Now isn't that strange, sir?'
  • " It had fallen the day that Heidenmuller died.
  • " I went back into the laboratory and hunted over every square inch of it, bu_ found nothing.
  • I stood there puzzling. If there had been some power that had kille_eidenmuller, there must have been some material substance in which it wa_ept. I had made the most careful inquiries about the things on his person an_n the room. No one could tell me anything. Swenton and Griegen, the tw_ssistants, were neither of them there, but the first one who had entered th_oom when the doctor's body was found was a sharp-faced lad who acted a_anitor. I had questioned him thoroughly, as I thought, but I resolved to se_f he did not know more. I went to him again, and a lucky inspiration came t_e. Holding a sovereign in my hand I remarked casually, ' If there is an_ittle personal memento of the doctor left, I should like very much to hav_t.' The narrow eyes of the lad gleamed. He thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew out what was apparently a leather cigarette case, snatched th_overeign, and handed me the case. ' Found h'it h'on the floor, h'after w_ook 'im h'out,' he mumbled. ' H'it's the h'only think was there.' "
  • Hamerly rose as he spoke and walked to his desk. I followed, my hear_ulsating with great leaps. He took from a drawer what seemed to be a pigski_igarette case, cut in half. Hamerly held the two sections out on his hand. A_he top was a queerly constructed valve, — the case was lined with a blac_ubstance that looked like rubber.
  • " I believe," said Hamerly gravely, " that in this case there was som_errifically powerful substance, which killed Heidenmuller and destroyed al_he metal in the wooden room, by escaping through the accidentally opene_alve. I believe the man who is trying to stop all war uses the same drea_gent. I believe, once the substance escapes and does its work, that it turn_o a harmless gas, as hydrogen, once it has been exploded with oxygen, form_armless water, or as the carbon of coal, which has blazed when united wit_he oxygen of the air becomes, after that union, inert carbon dioxide. Yo_now, now, all I know. I've done all I could with it," he ended, "Take it t_aldane."
  • Dazed with the story, I could only thank him and take the case. We parted wit_ word of good will, and assurance of secrecy on his side.