With a quick spring, Dorothy was first on a chair, and then on the tabl_eside her brother. She bent to inspect the crystal hemisphere, looked at i_rom various points, and then both of them began examining the construction o_he lamp shade.
" It's hermetically sealed above?" said Tom finally, a note of inquiry in hi_oice.
" It seems to be," answered Dorothy briefly.
" Tom, jump down, will you, and let Mr. Hamerly come up here. Jim, will yo_nd Mr. Swenton see if you can find another lamp shade like this in th_toreroom."
We returned from our errand, bearing a duplicate of the shade which we ha_ound on a shelf. Dorothy, who by this time had come down from the table wher_amerly and Tom still stood, took the shade from my hands and held it to th_ight.
" This shade is nothing but ordinary glass,. There's nothing unusual abou_t," she exclaimed. " The effect of the shade up there must be due to a ga_nside."
As Tom and Hamerly leaped from the table to inspect the shade, I seized th_pportunity to ascend, and mounting, gazed through the hemispherical glass. _trange world met my eyes. Everything seen through the glass was bent aroun_t extraordinary angles. Tom's legs, seen below the shade, were perfectl_atural and upright, but his torso, seen through the shade, was bent like th_ody of a Japanese contortionist engaged in extremest posturing. The straigh_ine of the door casing beyond was broken short off where the line of th_hade intersected it, and the top of the casing appeared in a wholly differen_lace. As I gazed, I struggled to think what common everyday thing acted i_uch the same way. Eureka, I had it.
" Why, whatever is inside this globe bends everything seen through it, something as a spoon is bent in a glass of water or an oar in a pond," _ried.
Hamerly looked up. " That's about right, Orrington. Or better yet, you coul_ay it bends the things you see, as the hot gases rising from a chimney ben_verything behind them into wavy lines. Haven't you ever watched the quee_aviness that shows in a wintry atmosphere above chimneys, when you look ove_hem ? "
" Many a time," I replied.
"Well, that's just the same type of thing we have here. When you look across _himney, where hot gases from a fire are coming off, you are looking from ai_hrough lighter gases (for such hot gases are lighter than cold air) to col_ir again. That extreme bending of light rays that we call refraction is th_eason why we hope we have a new gas."
" If we can test the gas to find out what it is, it ought to be a big lift i_inding out what really happened," I said, as I descended from the table.
" That won't be hard at all," interrupted Dorothy. " We'll test it with th_pectroscope in the next room. Here comes Tom now, with the apparatus to catc_nd confine the gas."
With glass tubes and air pumps, with platinum and flame, they strove for hal_n hour, Tom, Hamerly, and Swenton together. Dorothy threw in a quiet word o_uggestion now and then, but the most of the time she stood back with me. Thi_as a matter for experts, and left nothing for me to do. As we waited, I aske_orothy two questions. " Where do you think the gas came from ? Has it bee_ere since Heidenmuller's death ? "
" I think it must have been," answered Dorothy. " If, as I imagine, we have a_nknown gas here, it is probably one of the products left behind from th_etal destroyed by the terrific force used by the man. When the substance tha_ave the force, energy, or whatever you call it, escaped through the broke_alve of the cigarette case, this gas was formed from the changed metal and, as it was lighter than the air, some of it rose and filled the shade, the res_loated upward and out through some crevice. When the man destroyed the Alask_r any of the other vessels, the same thing probably occurred — the metal o_he ship changed to a gas which floated up into the air with extreme rapidity.
The gas must be to air as oil is to water, that is, it can't diffuse or mi_ith it, any more than oil can mix with water Otherwise it wouldn't hav_tayed all these months in the lamp shade."
Just then Tom came towards us with a glass tube, a foot long and an inch o_wo wide, in his hand. In each end was sealed a bit of silvery metal.
" Platinum," I said, as I looked at them.
" Yes," said Tom laughing, " Mrs. Rosnosky taught you to know platinum whe_ou see it. Just look through this."
He held the tube before us, and the same magic bending of the lines showed a_e gazed. The tube was filled with the gas that I had seen in the shade above.
" That's as pretty a piece of work as I ever did," said Tom approvingly. "
Transferred it without allowing practically a particle of air to get in. No_e're ready to try the current on it, and then the spectroscope."
Rembrandt might well have painted the picture that I beheld, to hang besid_he "Lesson in Anatomy" that dominates the old Museum at the Hague. A strikin_roup of four bent above the shining tubes and polished mountings of th_pectroscope. Tom, eager, with his fine lean face showing the highest power o_eceptivity to new ideas, mouth mobile but firm, with an ever present tendenc_owards an upward lift of the corners; Hamerly, careful thoughtful scholar, i_ur college slang " a little on the grind type," extremely bald, his glasse_erched judicially on his rather prominent nose, his face showing the lines o_eep and strong thought; Swenton, faithful and efficient follower, a man wh_ould always be led, would never spring by any conceivable chance from th_arrow channels where his lot had chained him; Dorothy, Maxima et Optima, no_ommanding by reason of her swift flying intellect, now yielding to her dream_s she had an hour or two ago in the hansom cab, and, when yielding, mos_omanly, most thoroughly feminine of her sex. Faceted like a diamond, sh_hone upon the world through every facet, and every line, plane and angl_howed a new beauty, a new grace.
The four stood eagerly intent upon the little tube before them, as the_onnected it with a huge coil which stood near. That done, everything wa_eady to throw the switch which would send the electric current leaping fro_ne platinum pole to another, penetrating the gas in the tube, heating it, changing its action, forcing it to submit to the current's tremendous force.
" All ready ? " asked Tom, as he straightened up from the last adjustment. "
Swenton, you turn off the lights and I'll put on the current here."
As the lights went out, and we heard the sound of the throwing of the switch, Dorothy stepped back by me. A low buzz grew swiftly in intensity, and then _imultaneous cry broke from us all. Within the tube a soft blue came slowl_rom out the dark, the blue of early dawn on quiet waters, as we gazed i_urned darker, more brilliant; now it was the deep, steel blue of the bitin_utumn day, now the deep, blue black of velvet tropic night. Every change, every hue was lighted by the rarest and most exquisite effulgence man coul_onceive. No glory bound to earth it seemed, rather an unearthly brilliancy, perhaps such radiance as led the three kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, to the manger where the young child lay. It awed us all.
" That is beyond anything I ever saw," said Hamerly at length, breaking th_ilence. " I have observed every known gas under the influence of current, bu_ever anything like this."
" Nor I," said Tom. " But there may be no time to spare. Let's try it with th_pectroscope."
As Tom and Dorothy bent over the instrument, I asked Hamerly, " What do yo_xpect to find from the spectroscope ? What does it do ? "
" It breaks down light," answered Hamcrly, " by means of a prism, as _rismatic chandelier or a prismatic glass thermometer throws the spectrum of _unbeam on the floor, breaking the white light of the sun into a shifting mas_f color that changes from red, through orange and green to violet. Ever_ifferent glowing gas gives off a slightly different light. We can tell by th_pectroscope whether the light from this gas is the same as any we have know_efore, or whether it is different. If the light waves sent out are unlike an_ecognized before, we can be sure we have a new gas."
Tom was turning a screw, with his eye glued to a small telescope. " Chang_hat tube a bit to the right, Hamerly," he said, and it was changed. " Now _it higher. No, not so high, a bit lower now. There you are."
He gazed long and intently, then rose, motioning Hamerly in silence to tak_is place. Dorothy followed Hamerly, and Swenton followed her. I ended, but _ould distinguish nothing save some lines crossing a scale placed within th_ube. As I rose from the stool, Tom reached up to throw on the lights. As h_aced around, Hamerly met him with outstretched hand.
" It is only given to a handful of scientists in a century," he said, " t_ind a new element, to discover one of those units from which the world i_ade. I believe you have done it this afternoon."
" It is a new, elementary gas," said Dorothy. " You found it, Tom, when yo_limbed that table."
" Much good it will do me, so far as that goes," remarked Tom. " So far as w_now, all there is of it in the world is in this tube. I don't know how t_roduce any more, and I can't publish anything about it, for it woul_nterfere with our search for the man."
" You have no right to say that it's no use," said Dorothy. " Again and agai_s we have gone on, the slightest unexpected things have come to mean th_ost. I believe this tube of unknown gas may be a most important link in th_hain."
" All right," said Tom. " Just as you say. You can be sure I wasn't going t_hrow it into the waste basket."
While Swenton cleared away, the rest of us went into the wooden room. Hamerl_assed across and opened one of the wooden shutters. " The fog is lifting," h_aid.
We looked out and saw that the other side of the street was gradually becomin_isible. Dorothy seated herself by the window, and we joined her.
" I don't know that there could be a better time," I began, " than right her_nd now, to find out just where we are. For my part, I want to understand th_elation between the new gas and all that has gone before. If we bring all ou_nformation together, won't there be a better chance to get a line on our nex_ove ? "
" We have two things in our hands," said Tom thoughtfully. " This tube of ga_ere and the cigarette case. We know that the ships really disappeared, because Jim has been to the bottom of Portsmouth Harbor and seen the men tha_ie there. We know by the same token that this force kills, by a sort o_aralysis, every man whom it attacks. Oh, that reminds me," he exclaimed, checking himself. " Let me see that cigarette case again, if you will, Hamerly ? " The case once in his hand, he looked it over with minute care. " Insulate_ithin the paraffin by caema, don't you think ? " he asked Dorothy.
After a brief inspection she also nodded. " That's caema, all right."
" Never mind caema, now, whatever it is," I said. " Let's go on with th_usiness. What else do we know ? "
Hamerly took up the tale. " We know to a reasonable certainty that Dr.
Heidenmuller was the first man who found the source of this power, and that h_ied when it accidentally was let loose. We know that some of this substance, probably in powder form like radium, was kept in the leather cigarette case, insulated by paraffin and caema." He paused.
" We know," went on Dorothy, " that when the man who is trying to stop all wa_ses this force, a tremendous amount of radio-active energy is generated, enough to affect reflectoscopes half around the world."
" We know there is something which is even more than all those things," _roke in. " We know there is a man who is slaughtering men by the hundreds, i_ursuit of his ideal, and that it is our business, in more ways than one, t_un him down. How will the data we have on hand enable us to do that ? "
As I spoke, Dorothy was sitting looking meditatively out of the window. Th_og had lifted a little more. Hamerly straightened in his chair.
" Miss Haldane," he said, " if you will look straight across the street fro_here you are sitting, you can see the spot from which the sign fell on th_ay that Dr. Heidenmuller died."
Dorothy turned in her chair, and we all crowded about her. Hamerly pointe_cross the road. There, against the brick wall of an old house, blackened b_he smoke of many sooty years, two small rectangles showed in light relie_gainst the surrounding darkness. The sight of those spots, where the support_o the sign had once stood, brought the whole horror of it home to me mor_orcibly than anything else. The very smallness, the homeliness of the thin_rove it in. The accumulated effects of the charged electroscopes, of th_ave-measuring machine, of the bodies on the ocean's floor, of Dr.
Heidenmuller's death, and of the gas we had just found, rose to their ver_rest in those small, light gray spots, less sullied than the rest of th_all.
" And there is where the wooden sign fell down, and its iron support_isappeared," said Tom reflectively. " Jove, I'd like to have seen it happen.
If anybody had seen it, though, he wouldn't have believed his eyes."
We were still standing, peering out through the rising mist, when Doroth_poke out excitedly. " That's the next clue, there's nothing else that will d_o well, — the hunt for disappearing iron."
" What good will that do ? " said Tom. " We know where iron has disappeared, and we've run everything down as far as we could. It isn't likely tha_eidenmuller or the man went around shooting off signs for fun."
"Of course not," answered Dorothy impatiently. " But don't you see the ma_ust have had a laboratory, or lodgings, anyway, somewhere in London, if h_ot his data and his power from Dr. Heidenmuller here. When Dr. Heidenmulle_et his discovery get away from him, it killed him, and caused all the meta_hich it reached to disappear. Now, the man hasn't been killed by his weapon, unless it happened very recently, but it's perfectly possible that he migh_ave allowed some of his magic substance to escape without injury to himself.
If that happened, it would destroy any metal at hand. If we could find som_lace where iron disappeared, we might get a direct clue to the whereabouts o_he man. It's worth trying, anyway."
" I'm sure it is," I cried. " Tom, you old doubter, speak up and admit Doroth_nows twice as much about it as you and I put together."
" I guess not," said Tom firmly. " There may be something in this, if we coul_et track of everything that bore on disappearing iron, London over; but," h_ent on, " talk about a needle in a hay stack. You went up against a har_nough proposition in running down Heidenmuller's laboratory here, but thi_ew deal is far worse. You can't advertise."
" No, I don't see how you can," remarked Dorothy, a trifle discouraged.
" Oh, this thing's easy enough," I broke in. " I wish everything was a_imple. Inside of two days, I'll have all the information that London hold_ith regard to disappearing iron."