The Invisible Ray
by Arthur B. Reeve
"I won't deny that I had some expectation from the
old man myself."
Kennedy's client was speaking in a low,
full-chested vibrating voice, with some emotion, so low that
I had entered the room without being aware that any one was
there until it was too late to retreat.
"As his physician for over twelve
years," the man pursued, "I certainly had been led
to hope to be remembered in his will. But, Professor
Kennedy, I can't put it too strongly when I say that there
is no selfish motive in my coming to you about the case.
There is something wrong--depend on it."
Craig had glanced up at me and, as I
hesitated, I could see in an instant that the speaker was a
practitioner of a type that is rapidly passing away, an
old-fashioned family doctor.
Dr. Burnham, I should like to have you know
Mr. Jameson," introduced Craig. " You can talk
before him as you have to me alone. We always work
I shook hands with the visitor.
"The doctor has succeeded in interesting
me greatly in a case which has some unique features,"
Kennedy explained. "It has to do with Stephen Haswell,
the eccentric old millionaire of Brooklyn. Have you ever
heard of him?"
"Yes, indeed," I replied, recalling
an occasional article which had appeared in the newspapers
about a dirty old house in that part of the Heights in
Brooklyn whence all that is fashionable had not yet taken
flight, a house of mystery, yet not more mysterious than its
owner in his secretive comings and goings in the affairs of
men a generation beyond his time. Further than the facts he
was reputed to be very wealthy and led, in the heart of a
great city, what was nearly like the life of a hermit as
possible, I knew little or nothing. "What has he been
doing now?" I asked.
"About a week ago," repeated the
doctor, in answer to a nod of encouragement from Kennedy,
"I was summoned in the middle of the night to attend
Mr. Haswell who, as I have been telling Professor Kennedy,
was a patient of mine for over twelve years. He had been
suddenly stricken with total blindness. Since then he
appears to be failing fast, that is, he appeared to be the
last time I saw him a few days ago, after I had been
superseded by a younger man. It is a curious case and I have
thought about it a great deal. But I didn't like to speak to
the authorities; there wasn't enough to warrant that, and I
should have been laughed out of court for my pains. The more
I have thought about it, however, the more I have felt it my
duty to say something to somebody, and so, having heard of
Professor Kennedy, I decided to consult him. The fact of
the matter is, I very much fear that there are circumstances
which will bear sharp looking into, perhaps a scheme to get
control of the old man's fortune.
The doctor paused, and Craig inclined his
head, as much as to signify his approbation of the delicate
position in which Burnham stood in the case. Before the
doctor could proceed further, Kennedy handed me a letter
which had been lying before him on the table. It had
evidently been torn into small pieces and then carefully
The superscription gave a small town in Ohio
and a date about a fortnight previous.
Dear Father [it read]: I hope you will pardon
me for writing, but I cannot let the occasion of your
seventy-fifth birthday pass without a word of affection and
congratulation. I am alive and well--Time has dealt
leniently with me in that respect, if not in money matters.
I do not say this in the hope of reconciling you to me. I
know that is impossible after all these cruel years. But I
do wish that I could see you again. Remember that I am your
only child and even if you still think that I have been a
foolish one, please let me come to see you once before it is
too late. We are constantly travelling from place to place,
but shall be here for a few days.
Grace Haswell Martin
"Some fourteen or fifteen years
ago," explained the doctor as I looked up from reading
the note, "Mr. Haswell's only daughter eloped with a
man named Martin. He had been engaged to paint a portrait of
the late Mrs. Haswell from a photograph. It was the first
time that Grace Haswell had been able to find expression for
the artistic yearning which had always been repressed by the
cold, practical sense of her father. She remembered her
mother perfectly since the sad bereavement of her girlhood
and naturally she watched and helped the artist eagerly. The
result was a portrait which might well have been painted
from the subject herself rather than from a cold photograph.
"Haswell saw the growing intimacy of his
daughter and the artist. His bent of mind was solely toward
money and material things, and he at once conceived a bitter
and unreasoning hatred for Martin who, he believed, had
'schemed' to capture his daughter and an easy living. Art
was as foreign to his nature as possible. Nevertheless they
went ahead and married and, well, it resulted in the old man
disinheriting the girl. The young couple disappeared
bravely to make their way by their chosen profession and, as
far as I know, have never been heard from since until now.
Haswell made a new will and I have understood that
practically all of his fortune is to be devoted to founding
the technology department in a projected university of
"You have never seen this Miss Martin or
her husband?" asked Kennedy.
"No, never. But in some way she must
have learned that I had some influence with her father, for
she wrote to me not long ago, enclosing a note and asking me
to intercede for her. I did so. I took the letter to him as
diplomatically as I could. The old man flew into a rage,
refused even to look at the letter, tore it into bits, and
ordered me never to mention the subject again. That is her
note, which I saved. However, it is the sequel about which
I wish your help."
The physician folded up the patched letter
carefully before he continued. "Mr. Haswell, as you
perhaps know, has for many years been a prominent figure in
various curious speculations, or rather in loaning money to
many curious speculators. It is not necessary to go into the
different schemes which he has helped to finance. Even
though most of them have been unknown to the public they
have certainly given him such a reputation that he is much
sought after by inventors.
"Not long ago Haswell became interested
in the work of an obscure chemist over in Brooklyn named
Prescott. Prescott claims, as I understand, to be able to
transmute copper into gold. Whatever you think of it
offhand, you should visit his laboratory yourselves,
gentlemen. I am told it is wonderful, though I have never
seen it and can't explain it. I have met Prescott several
times while he was trying to persuade Mr. Haswell to back
him in his scheme, but he was never disposed to talk to me,
for I had no money to invest. So far as I know about it the
thing sounds scientific and plausible enough. I leave you to
judge of that. It is only an incident in my story and I will
pass over it quickly. Prescott, then, believes that the
elements are merely progressive variations of an original
substance or base called 'protyle,' from which everything is
derived. But this fellow Prescott goes much further than any
of the former theorists. He does not stop with matter. He
believes that he has the secret of life also, that he can
make the transition from the inorganic to the organic, from
inert manner to living protoplasm, and thence from living
protoplasm to mind and what we call soul, whatever that may
"And here is where the weird and uncanny
part of it comes in," commented Craig, turning from the
doctor to call my attention particularly to what was about
"Having arrived at the point where he
asserts that he can create and destroy matter, life, and
mind," continued the doctor, as if himself fascinated
by the idea, "Prescott very naturally does not have to
go far before he also claims a control over telepathy and
even a communication with the dead. He even calls the
messages which he receives by a word which he has coined
himself, 'telepagrams.' Thus he says he has unified the
physical, the physiological, and the psychical--a system of
absolute scientific monism."
The doctor paused again, then resumed.
"One afternoon, about a week ago, apparently, as far as
I am able to piece together the story, Prescott was
demonstrating his marvellous discovery of the unity of
nature. Suddenly he faced Mr. Haswell.
"'Shall I tell you a fact, sir, about
yourself?' he asked quickly. 'The truth as I see it by my
wonderful invention? If it is the truth, will you believe in
me? Will you put money into my invention? Will you share
in becoming fabulously rich?'
"Haswell made some noncommittal answer.
But Prescott seemed to look into the machine through a very
thick plate-glass, with Haswell placed directly before it.
He gave a cry. 'Mr. Haswell,' he exclaimed, 'I regret to
tell you what I see. You have disinherited your daughter;
she has passed out of your life and at the present moment
you do not know where she is.'
"'That's true,' replied the old man bitterly, 'and more
than that I don't care. That's nothing new.'
"'No, unfortunately, that is not all I
see. Can you bear something further? I think you ought to
know it. I have here a most mysterious telepagram.'
"'Yes. What is it? Is she dead?'
"'No, it is not about her. It is about
yourself. Tonight at midnight or perhaps a little later,'
repeated Prescott solemnly, 'you will lose your sight as a
punishment for your action.'
"'Pouf!' exclaimed the old man in a
dudgeon, 'if that is all your invention can tell me,
good-bye. You told me you were able to make gold. Instead,
you make foolish prophecies. I'll put no money into such
tomfoolery. I'm a practical man,' and with that he stamped
out of the laboratory.
"Well, that night, about one o'clock,
in the silence of the lonely old house, the aged caretaker,
Jane, whom he had hired after he banished his daughter from
his life, heard a wild shout of 'Help! Help!' Haswell,
alone in his room on the second floor, was groping about in
"'Jane,' he ordered, 'a light--a light.'
"'I have lighted the gas, Mr. Haswell,'
"A groan followed. He had himself found
a match, had struck it, had even burnt his fingers with it,
yet he saw nothing.
"The blow had fallen. At almost the very
hour which Prescott, by means of his weird telepagram had
predicted, old Haswell was stricken.
"'I'm blind,' he gasped. 'Send for Dr.
"I went to him immediately when the maid
roused me but there was nothing I could do except prescribe
perfect rest for his eyes and keeping in a dark room in the
hope that his sight might be restored as suddenly and as
miraculously as it had been taken away.
"The next morning, with his own hand,
trembling and scrawling in his blindness, he wrote the
following on a piece of paper:
"'Mrs. Grace Martin.--Information wanted
about the present whereabouts of Mrs. Grace Martin, formerly
Grace Haswell of Brooklyn.
"This advertisement he caused to be
placed in all the New York newspapers and to be wired to the
leading Western papers. Haswell himself was a changed man
after his experience. He spoke bitterly of Prescott, yet
his attitude toward his daughter was completely reversed.
Whether he admitted to himself a belief in the prediction of
the inventor, I do not know. Certainly he scouted such an
idea in telling me about it.
"A day or two after the advertisement
appeared a telegram came to the old man from Indiana. It
read simply: 'Dear Father: Am starting for Brooklyn to-day.
"The upshot was that Grace Haswell
Martin, or rather Grace Martin, appeared the next day,
forgave and was forgiven with much weeping, although the old
man still refused resolutely to be reconciled with and
receive her husband. Mrs. Martin started to clean up the old
house. A vacuum cleaner sucked a ton or two of dust from it.
Everything was changed. Jane grumbled a great deal, but
there was no doubt a great improvement. Meals were served
regularly. The old man was taken care of as never before.
Nothing was too good for him. Everywhere the touch of a
woman was evident in the house. The change was complete. It
even extended to me. Some friend had told her of an eye and
ear specialist, a Dr. Scott, who was engaged. Since then, I
understand, a new will has been made, much to the chagrin of
the trustees of the projected school. Of course I am cut out
of the new will, and that with the knowledge of the woman
who once appealed to me, but it does not influence me in
coming to you."
"But what has happened since to rouse
suspicion?" asked Kennedy, watching the doctor
"Why, the fact is that in spite of all
this added care, the old man is failing more rapidly than
ever. He never goes out except attended and not much even
then. The other day I happened to meet Jane on the street.
The faithful old soul poured forth a long story about his
growing dependence on others and ended by mentioning a
curious red discoloration that seems to have broken out his
face and hands. More from the way she said it than what she
said I gained the impression that something was going on
which should be looked into."
"Then you perhaps think that Prescott
and Mrs. Martin are in some way connected in this
case?" I hazarded.
I had scarcely framed the question before he
replied in an emphatic negative. "On the contrary, it
seems to me that if they know each other at all it is with
hostility. With the exception of the first stroke of
blindness"--here he lowered his voice
earnestly--"practically every misfortune that has
overtaken Mr. Haswell has been since the advent of Dr.
Scott. Mind, I do not wish even to breathe that Mrs. Martin
has done anything except what a daughter should do. I think
she has shown herself a model of forgiveness and devotion.
Nevertheless, the turn of events under the new treatment has
been so strange that almost it makes one believe that there
might be something occult about it--or wrong with the new
"Would it be possible, do you think, for
us to see Mr. Haswell?" asked Kennedy, when Dr. Burnham
had come to a full stop after pouring forth his suspicions.
"I should like to see this Dr. Scott. But first I
should like to get into the old house without exciting
The doctor was thoughtful. "You'll have
to arrange that yourself," he answered. "Can't you
think up a scheme? For instance, go to him with a proposal
like the old schemes he used to finance. He is very much
interested in electrical inventions. He made his money by
speculation in telegraphs and telephones in the early days
when they were more or less dreams. I should think a
wireless system of television might at least interest him
and furnish an excuse for getting in, although I am told his
all tangible investment in the schemes that used to interest
his active mind."
"An excellent idea," exclaimed
Kennedy. "It is worth trying anyway. It is still early.
Suppose we ride over to Brooklyn with you. You can direct us
to the house and we'll try to see him."
It was still light when we mounted the high
steps of the house of mystery across the bridge. Mrs.
Martin, who met us in the parlour, proved to be a stunning
looking woman with brown hair and beautiful dark eyes. As
far as we could see the old house plainly showed the change.
The furniture and ornaments were of a period long past, but
everything was scrupulously neat. Hanging over the old
mantel was a painting which quite evidently was that of the
long since deceased Mrs. Haswell, the mother of Grace. In
spite of the hideous style of dress of the period after the
war, she had evidently been a very beautiful woman with
large masses of light chestnut hair and blue eyes which the
painter had succeeded in catching with almost life-likeness
for a portrait.
It took only a few minutes for Kennedy, in
his most engaging and plausible manner, to state the
hypothetical reason of our call. Though it was perfectly
evident from the start that Mrs. Martin would throw cold
water on anything requiring an outlay of money Craig
accomplished his full purpose of securing an interview with
Mr. Haswell. The invalid lay propped up in bed, and as we
entered he heard us and turned his sightless eye in our
direction almost as if he saw.
Kennedy had hardly begun to repeat and
elaborate the story which he had already told regarding his
mythical friend who had at last a commercial wireless
"televue," as he called it on the spur of the
moment, when Jane, the aged caretaker, announced Dr. Scott.
The new doctor was a youthfully dressed young man,
clean-shaven, but with an undefinable air of being much
older than his smooth face led one to suppose. As he had a
large practice, he said, he would beg our pardon for
interrupting but would not take long.
It needed no great power of observation to
see that the old man placed great reliance on his new doctor
and that the visit partook of a social as well as a
professional nature. Although they talked low we could
catch now and then a word or phrase. Dr. Scott bent down and
examined the eyes of his patient casually. It was difficult
to believe that they saw nothing, so bright was the blue of
"Perfect rest for the present," the
doctor directed, talking more to Mrs. Martin than to the old
man. "Perfect rest, and then when his health is good,
we shall see what can be done with that cataract."
He was about to leave, when the old man
reached up and restrained him, taking hold of the doctor's
wrist tightly, as if to pull him nearer in order to whisper
to him without being overheard. Kennedy was sitting in a
chair near the head of the bed, some feet away, as the
doctor leaned down. Haswell, still holding his wrist, pulled
him closer. I could not hear what was said, though somehow I
had an impression that they were talking about Prescott, for
it would not have been at all strange if the old man had
been greatly impressed by the alchemist.
Kennedy, I noticed, had pulled an old
envelope from his pocket and was apparently engaged in
jotting down some notes, glancing now and then from his
writing to the doctor and to Mr. Haswell.
The doctor stood erect in a few moments and
rubbed his wrist thoughtfully with the other hand, as if it
hurt. At the same time he smiled on Mrs. Martin. "Your
father has a good deal of strength yet, Mrs. Martin,"
he remarked. "He has a wonderful constitution. I feel
sure that we can pull him out of this and that he has many,
many years to live."
Mr. Haswell, who caught the words eagerly,
brightened visibly, and the doctor passed out. Kennedy
resumed his description of the wireless picture apparatus
which was to revolutionize the newspaper, the theatre, and
daily life in general. The old man did not seem
enthusiastic and turned to his daughter with some remark.
"Just at present," commented the
daughter with an air of finality, "the only thing my
father is much interested in is a way in which to recover
his sight without an operation. He has just had a rather
unpleasant experience with one inventor. I think it will be
some time before he cares to embark in any other such
Kennedy and I excused ourselves with
appropriate remarks of disappointment. From his preoccupied
manner it was impossible for me to guess whether Craig had
accomplished his purpose or not.
"Let us drop in on Dr. Burnham since we
are over here," he said when we had reached the corner.
"I have some questions to ask him."
The former physician of Mr. Haswell lived not
very far from the house we had just left. He appeared a
little surprised to see us so soon, but interested in what
had taken place.
"Who is this Dr. Scott?" asked
Craig when we were seated in the comfortable leather chairs
of the old-fashioned consulting-room.
"Really, I know no more about him than
you do," replied Burnham. I thought I detected a little
professional jealousy in his tone, though he went on frankly
enough. "I have made inquiries and I can find out
nothing except that he is supposed to be a graduate of some
Western medical school and came to this city only a short
time ago. He has hired a small office in a new building
devoted entirely to doctors and they tell me that he is an
eye and ear specialist, though I cannot see that he has any
practice. Beyond that I know nothing about him."
"Your friend Prescott interests me,
too," remarked Kennedy, changing the subject quickly.
"Oh, he is no friend of mine,"
returned the doctor, fumbling in a drawer of his desk.
"But I think I have one of his cards here which he gave
me when we were introduced some time ago at Mr. Haswell's. I
should think it would be worthwhile to see him again.
Although he has no use for me because I have neither money
nor influence, still you might take this card. Tell him you
are from the university, that I have interested you in him,
that you know a trustee with money to invest-anything you
like that is plausible. When are you going to see him?"
"The first thing in the morning,"
replied Kennedy. "After I have seen him I shall drop in
for another chat with you. Will you be here?"
The doctor promised, and we took our
Prescott's laboratory, which we found the
next day from the address on the card, proved to be situated
in one of the streets near the waterfront under the bridge
approach, where the factories and warehouses clustered
thickly. It was with a great deal of anticipation of seeing
something happen that we threaded our way through the maze
of streets with the cobweb structure of the bridge carrying
its endless succession of cars arching high over our heads.
We had nearly reached the place when Kennedy paused and
pulled out two pairs of glasses, those huge round
"You needn't mind these, Walter,"
he explained. "They are only plain glass, that is, not
ground. You can see through them as well as through air.
We must be careful not to excite suspicion. Perhaps a
disguise might have been better, but I think this will do.
There--they add at least a decade to your age. If you could
see yourself you wouldn't speak to your reflection. You look
as scholarly as a Chinese mandarin. Remember, let me do the
talking and do just as I do."
We had now entered the shop, stumbled up the
dark stairs, and presented Dr. Burnham's card along the
lines which he had suggested. Prescott, surrounded by his
retorts, crucibles, burettes, and condensers, received us
much more graciously than I had had any reason to
anticipate. He was a man in the late forties, his face
covered with a thick beard, and his eyes, which seemed a
little weak, were helped out with glasses almost as
scholarly as ours.
I could not help thinking that we three
bespectacled figures lacked only the flowing robes to be
taken for a group of medieval alchemists set down a few
centuries out of our time in the murky light of Prescott's
sanctum. Yet, though he accepted us at face value, and
began to talk of his strange discoveries there was none of
the old familiar prating about matrix and flux, elixir,
magisterium, magnum opus, the mastery and the quintessence,
those alternate names for the philosopher's stone which
Paracelsus, Simon Forman, Jerome Cardan, and the other
mediaeval worthies indulged in. This experience was at least
as up-to-date as the Curies, Becquerel, Ramsay, and the
"Transmutation," remarked Prescott,
"was, as you know, finally declared to be a scientific
absurdity in the eighteenth century. But I may say that it
is no longer so regarded. I do not ask you to believe
anything until you have seen; all I ask is that you maintain
the same open mind which the most progressive scientists of
to-day exhibit in regard to the subject."
Kennedy had seated himself some distance from
a curious piece or rather collection of apparatus over which
Prescott was working. It consisted of numerous coils and
"It may seem strange to you,
gentlemen," Prescott proceeded, "that a man who is
able to produce gold from, say, copper should be seeking
capital from other people. My best answer to that old
objection is that I am not seeking capital, as such. The
situation with me is simply this. Twice I have applied to
the patent office for a patent on my invention. They not
only refuse to grant it, but they refuse to consider the
application or even to give me a chance to demonstrate my
process to them. On the other hand, suppose I try this thing
secretly. How can I prevent any one from learning my trade
secret, leaving me, and making gold on his own account? Men
will desert me as fast as I educate them. Think of the
economic result of that; it would turn the world
topsy-turvy. I am looking for someone who can be trusted to
the last limit to join with me, furnish the influence and
standing while I furnish the brains and the invention.
Either we must get the government interested and sell the
invention to it, or we must get government protection and
special legislation. I am not seeking capital; I am seeking
protection. First let me show you something."
He turned a switch, and a part of the
collection of apparatus began to vibrate.
"You are undoubtedly acquainted with the
modern theories of matter," he began, plunging into the
explanation of his process. "Starting with the atom, we
believe no longer that it is indivisible. Atoms are composed
of thousands of ions, as they are called--really little
electric charges. Again, you know that we have found that
all the elements fall into groups. Each group has certain
related atomic weights and properties which can be and have
been predicted in advance of the discovery of missing
elements in the group. I started with the reasonable
assumption that the atom of one element in a group could be
modified so as to become the atom of another element in the
group, that one group could perhaps be transformed into
another, and so on, if only I knew the force that would
change the number or modify the vibrations of these ions
composing the various atoms.
"Now for years I have been seeking that
force or combination of forces that would enable me to
produce this change in the elements--raising or lowering
them in the scale, so to speak. I have found it. I am not
going to tell you or any other man whom you may interest the
secret of how it is done until I find some one I can trust
as I trust myself. But I am none the less willing that you
should see the results. If they are not convincing, then
nothing can be."
He appeared to be debating whether to explain
further, and finally resumed: "Matter thus being in
reality a manifestation of force or ether in motion, it is
necessary to change and control that force and motion. This
assemblage of machines here is for that purpose. Now a few
words as to my theory."
He took a pencil and struck a sharp blow on
the table. "There you have a single blow," he
said, "just one isolated noise. Now if I strike a
tuning fork, you have a vibrating note. In other words, a
succession of blows or wave vibrations of a certain kind
affects the ear and we call it sound, just as a succession
of other wave vibrations affects the retina and we have
sight. If a moving picture moves slower than a certain
number of pictures a minute you see the separate pictures;
faster it is one moving picture.
"Now as we increase the rapidity of wave
vibration and decrease the wave length we pass from sound
waves to heat waves or what are known as infra-red waves,
those which lie below the red in the spectrum of light.
Next we come to light, which is composed of the seven
colours as you know from seeing them resolved in a prism.
After that are what are known as the ultra-violet rays,
which lie beyond the violet of white light. We also have
electric waves, the waves of the alternating current, and
shorter still we find the Hertzian waves, which are used in
wireless. We have only begun to know of X-rays and the
alpha, beta, and gamma rays from them, of radium,
radioactivity, and finally of this new force which I have
discovered and call 'protodyne,' the original force.
"In short, we find in the universe
Matter, Force, and Ether. Matter is simply ether in motion,
is composed of corpuscles, electrically charged ions, or
electrons, moving units of negative electricity about one
one-thousandth part of the hydrogen atom. Matter is made up
of electricity and nothing but electricity. Let us see what
that leads to. You are acquainted with Mendeleeff's periodic
He drew forth a huge chart on which all the
eighty or so elements were arranged in eight groups or
octaves and twelve series. Selecting one, he placed his
finger on the letters " Au," under which was
written the number, 197.2. I wondered what the mystic
letters and figures meant.
"That," he explained, "is the
scientific name for the element gold and the figure is its
atomic weight. You will see," he added, pointing down
the second vertical column on the chart, "that gold
belongs to the hydrogen group-hydrogen, lithium, sodium,
potassium, copper, rubidium, silver, caesium, then two blank
spaces for elements yet to be discovered to science, then
gold, and finally another unknown element."
Running his finger along the eleventh,
horizontal series, he continued: "The gold series--not
the group--reads gold, mercury, thallium, lead, bismuth, and
other elements known only to myself. For the known
elements, however, these groups and series are now perfectly
recognised by all scientists; they are determined by the
fixed weight of the atom, and there is a close approximation
"This twelfth series is interesting. So
far only radium, thorium, and uranium are generally known.
We know that the radioactive elements are constantly
breaking down, and one often hears uranium, for instance,
called the 'parent' of radium. Radium also gives off an
emanation, and among its products is helium, quite another
element. Thus the transmutation of matter is well known
within certain bounds to all scientists to-day like
yourself, Professor Kennedy. It has even been rumored but
never proved that copper has been transformed into
lithium--both members of the hydrogen-gold group, you will
observe. Copper to lithium is going backward, so to speak.
It has remained for me to devise this protodyne apparatus by
which I can reverse that process of decay and go forward in
the table, so to put it--can change lithium and copper into
gold. I can create and destroy matter by protodyne."
He had been fingering a switch as he spoke.
Now he turned it on triumphantly. A curious snapping and
crackling noise followed, becoming more rapid, and as it
mounted in intensity I could smell a pungent odor of ozone
which told of an electric discharge. On went the machine
until we could feel heat radiating from it. Then came a
piercing burst of greenish-blue light from a long tube which
looked like a curious mercury vapour lamp.
After a few minutes of this Prescott took a
small crucible of black lead. "Now we are ready to try
it," he cried in great excitement. "Here I have a
crucible containing some copper. Any substance in the group
would do, even hydrogen if there any way I could handle the
gas. I place it in the machine--so. Now if you could watch
inside you would see it change; it is now rubidium, now
silver, now caesium. Now it is it is a hitherto unknown
element which I have named after myself, presium, now a
second unknown element, cottium--ah!--there we have
He drew forth the crucible, and there glowed
in it a little bead or globule of molten gold.
"I could have taken lead or mercury and
by varying the process done the same thing with the gold
series as well as the gold group," he said, regarding
the globule with obvious pride. "And I can put this
gold back and bring it out copper or hydrogen, or better
yet, can advance it instead of cause it to decay, and can
get a radioactive element which I have named morganium--
after my first name, Morgan Prescott. Morganium is a
radio-active element next in the series to radium and much
more active. Come closer and examine the gold."
Kennedy shook his head as if perfectly
satisfied to accept the result. As for me I knew not what to
think. It was all so plausible and there was the bead of
gold, too, that I turned to Kennedy for enlightenment. Was
he convinced? His face was inscrutable.
But as I looked I could see that Kennedy had
been holding concealed in the palm of his hand a bit of what
might be a mineral. From my position, I could see the bit of
mineral glowing, but Prescott could not.
"Might I ask," interrupted Kennedy,
"what that curious greenish or bluish light from the
tube is composed of?"
Prescott eyed him keenly for an instant
through his thick glasses. Craig had shifted his gaze from
the bit of mineral in his own hand, but was not looking at
the light. He seemed to be indifferently contemplating
Prescott's hand as it rested on the switch.
"That, sir," replied Prescott
slowly, "is an emanation due to this new force,
protodyne, which I use. It is a manifestation of energy,
sir, that may run changes not only through the whole gamut
of elements, but is capable of transforming the ether itself
into matter, matter into life, and life into mind. It is the
outward sign of the unity of nature, the--"
"The means by which you secure the
curious telepagrams I have heard of?" inquired Kennedy
Prescott looked at him sharply, and for a
moment I thought his face seemed to change from a livid
white to an apoplectic red, although it may have been only
the play of the weird light. When he spoke it was with no
show of even suppressed surprise.
"Yes," he answered calmly. "I
see that you have heard something of them. I had a curious
case a few days ago. I had hoped to interest a certain
capitalist of high standing in this city. I had showed him
just what I have showed you, and I think he was impressed by
it. Then I thought to clinch the matter by a telepagram, but
for some reason or other I failed to consult the forces I
control as to the wisdom of doing so. Had I, I should have
known better. But I went ahead in self-confidence and
enthusiasm. I told him of a daughter with whom, in his
heart, he was really wishing to become reconciled but was
too proud to say the word. He resented it. He started to
stamp out of this room, but not before I had another
telepagram which told of a misfortune that was soon to
overtake the old man himself. If he had given me a chance I
might have saved him, at least have flashed a telepagram to
that daughter myself, but he gave me no chance. He was gone.
"I do not know precisely what happened
after that, but in some way this man found his daughter, and
to-day she is living with him. As for my hopes, I lost them
from the moment when I made my initial mistake of telling
him something distasteful. The daughter hates me and I hate
her. I have learned that she never ceases advising the old
man against all schemes for investment except those bearing
moderate interest and readily realized on. Dr. Burnham--I
see you know him--has been superseded by another doctor, I
believe. Well, well, I am through with that incident. I
must get assistance from other sources. The old man, I
think, would have tricked me out of fruits of my discovery
anyhow. Perhaps I am fortunate. Who knows?"
A knock at the door cut him short. Prescott
opened it, and a messenger boy stood there. "Is
Professor Kennedy here?" he inquired.
Craig motioned to the boy, signed for the
message and tore it open. "It is from Dr.
Burnham," he exclaimed, handing the message to me.
"Mr. Haswell is dead," I read.
"Looks to me like asphyxiation by gas or some other
poison. Come immediately to his house. Burnham."
"You will pardon me," broke in
Craig to Prescott, who was regarding us without the
slightest trace of emotion, "but Mr. Haswell, the old
man to whom I know you referred, is dead, and Dr. Burnham
wishes to see me immediately. It was only yesterday that I
saw Mr. Haswell in pretty good health and spirits. Prescott,
though there was no love lost between you, I would esteem it
a great favour if you would accompany me to the house. You
need not take any responsibility unless you desire."
His words were courteous enough, but Craig
spoke in a tone of quiet authority which Prescott found it
impossible to deny. Kennedy had already started to telephone
to his own laboratory, describing a certain suitcase to one
of his students and giving his directions. It was only a
moment later that we were panting up the sloping street
that led from the river front. In the excitement I scarcely
noticed where we were going until we hurried up the steps to
the Haswell house.
The aged caretaker met us at the door. She
was in tears. Upstairs in the front room where we had first
met the old man we found Dr. Burnham working frantically
over him. It took only a minute to learn what had happened.
The faithful Jane had noticed an odour of gas in the hall,
had traced it to Haswell's room, had found him unconscious,
and instinctively, forgetting the new Dr. Scott, had rushed
forth for Dr. Burnham. Near the bed stood Grace Martin, pale
but anxiously watching the efforts of the doctor to
resuscitate the blue-faced man who was stretched cold and
motionless on the bed.
Dr. Burnham paused in his efforts as we
entered. "He is dead all right," he whispered,
aside. "I have tried everything I know to bring him
back, but he is beyond help."
There was still a sickening odour of
illuminating gas in the room, although the windows were now
Kennedy, with provoking calmness in the
excitement, turned from and ignored Dr. Burnham,
"Have you summoned Dr. Scott?" he
asked Mrs. Martin.
"No," she replied, surprised.
"Should I have done so?"
"Yes. Send Jane immediately. Mr.
Prescott, will you kindly be seated for a few moments."
Taking off his coat, Kennedy advanced to the
bed where the emaciated figure lay, cold and motionless.
Craig knelt down at Mr. Haswell's head and took the inert
arms, raising them up until they were extended straight.
Then he brought them down, folded upward at the elbow at the
side. Again and again he tried this Sylvester method of
inducing respiration, but with no more result than Burnham
had secured. He turned the body over on its face and tried
the new Schaefer method. There seemed to be not a spark of
"Dr. Scott is out," reported the
maid breathlessly, "but they are trying to locate him
from his office, and if they do they will send him around
A ring at the doorbell caused us to think
that he had been found, but it proved to be the student to
whom Kennedy had telephoned at his own laboratory. He was
carrying a heavy suitcase and a small tank.
Kennedy opened the suitcase hastily and
disclosed a little motor, some long tubes of rubber fitting
into a small rubber cap, forceps, and other paraphernalia.
The student quickly attached one tube to the little tank,
while Kennedy grasped the tongue of the dead man with the
forceps, pulled it up off the soft palate and fitted the
rubber cap snugly over his mouth and nose.
"This is the Draeger pulmotor," he
explained as he worked, "devised to resuscitate persons
who have died of electric shock, but actually found to be of
more value in cases of asphyxiation. Start the motor."
The pulmotor began to pump. One could see the
dead man's chest rise as it was inflated with oxygen forced
by the accordion bellows from the tank through one of the
tubes into the lungs. Then it fell as the oxygen and the
poisonous gas were slowly sucked out through the other tube.
Again and again the process was repeated, about ten times a
Dr. Burnham looked on in undisguised
amazement. He had long since given up all hope. The man was
dead, medically dead, as dead as ever was any gas victim at
this stage on whom all the usual methods of resuscitation
had been tried and had failed.
Still, minute after minute, Kennedy worked
faithfully on, trying to discover some spark of life and to
fan it into flame. At last, after what seemed to be a
half-hour of unremitting effort, when the oxygen had long
since been exhausted and only fresh air was being pumped
into the lungs and out of them, there was a first faint
glimmer of life in the heart and a touch of colour in the
cheeks. Haswell was coming to. Another half-hour found him
muttering and rambling weakly.
"The letter--the letter," he
moaned, rolling his glazed eyes about. "Where is the
letter? Send for Grace."
The moan was so audible that it was
startling. It was like a voice from the grave. What did it
all mean? Mrs. Martin was at his side in a moment.
"Father, father,--here I am--Grace. What
do you want?"
The old man moved restlessly, feverishly, and
pressed his trembling hand to his forehead as if trying to
collect his thoughts. He was weak, but it was evident that
he had been saved.
The pulmotor had been stopped. Craig threw
the cap to his student to be packed up, and as he did so he
remarked quietly, "I could wish that Dr. Scott had been
found. There are some matters here that might interest
He paused and looked slowly from the rescued
man lying dazed on the bed toward Mrs. Martin. It was quite
apparent even to me that she did not share the desire to see
Dr. Scott, at least not yet. She was flushed and trembling
with emotion. Crossing the room hurriedly she flung open the
door into the hall.
"I am sure," she cried, controlling
herself with difficulty, and catching at a straw, as it
were, "that you gentlemen, even if you have saved my
father, are no friends of either his or mine. You have
merely come here in response to Dr. Burnham, and he came
because Jane lost her head in the excitement and forgot that
Dr. Scott is now our physician."
"But Dr. Scott could not have been found
in time, madame," interrupted Dr. Burnham with evident
She ignored the remark and continued to hold
the door open.
"Now leave us," she implored,
"you, Dr. Burnham, you, Mr. Prescott, you, Professor
Kennedy, and your friend Mr. Jameson, whoever you may
She was now cold and calm. In the bewildering
change of events we had forgotten the wan figure on the bed
still gasping for the breath of life. I could not help
wondering at the woman's apparent lack of gratitude, and a
thought flashed over my mind. Had the affair come to a
contest between various parties fighting by fair means or
foul for the old man's money--Scott and Mrs. Martin perhaps
against Prescott and Dr. Burnham? No one moved. We seemed to
be waiting on Kennedy. Prescott and Mrs. Martin were now
glaring at each implacably.
The old man moved restlessly on the bed, and
over my shoulder, I could hear him gasp faintly,
"'Where's Grace? Send for Grace."
Mrs. Martin paid no attention, seemed not to
hear, but stood facing us imperiously as if waiting for us
to obey her orders and leave the house. Burnham moved toward
the door, but Prescott stood his ground with a peculiar air
of dalliance. Then he took my arm and started rather
precipitately, I thought, to leave.
"Come, come," said somebody behind
us, "enough of the dramatics."
It was Kennedy, who had been bending down,
listening to the muttering of the old man.
"Look at those eyes of Mr.
Haswell," he said. "What colour are they?"
We looked. They were blue.
"Down in the parlour," continued
Kennedy, "you will find a portrait of the long deceased
Mrs. Haswell. If you will examine that painting, you will
see that her eyes are also a peculiar limpid blue. No couple
with blue eyes ever had a black-eyed child. At least, if
this is such a case, the Carnegie Institution investigators
would be glad to hear of it, for it is contrary to all that
they have discovered on the subject after years of the study
of eugenics. Dark-eyed couples may have light-eyed
children, but the reverse, never. What do you say to that,
"You lie," screamed the woman,
rushing frantically past us. "I am his daughter. No
interlopers shall separate us. Father!"
The old man moved feebly away from her.
"Send for Dr. Scott again," she
demanded. "See if he cannot be found. He must be found.
You are all enemies, villains."
She addressed Kennedy, but included the whole
room in her denunciation.
"Not all," broke in Kennedy
remorselessly. "Yes, madame, send for Dr. Scott. Why
is he not here?"
Prescott, with one hand on my arm and the
other on Burnham's, was moving toward the door.
"One moment, Prescott," interrupted
Kennedy, detaining him with a look. "There was
something I was about to say when Dr. Burnham's urgent
message prevented it. I did not take the trouble even to
find out how you obtained that little globule of gold from
the crucible of alleged copper. There are so many tricks by
which the gold could have been 'salted' and brought forth at
the right moment
that it was hardly worth while. Besides, I had satisfied
myself that my first suspicions were correct. See
He held out the little piece of mineral I had
already seen in his hand in the alchemist's laboratory.
"That is a piece of willemite. It has
the property of glowing or fluorescing under a certain kind
of rays which are themselves invisible to the human eye.
Prescott, your story of the transmutation of the elements is
very clever, but not more clever than your real story. Let
us piece it together. I had already learned from Dr.
Burnham how Mr. Haswell was induced by his desire for gain
to visit you and how you had most mysteriously predicted his
blindness. Now, there is no such thing as telepathy, at
least in this case. How then was I to explain it? What
would cause such a catastrophe naturally. Why, only those
rays invisible to the human eye, but which make this piece
of willemite glow--the ultraviolet rays."
Kennedy was speaking rapidly and was careful
not to pause long enough to give Prescott an opportunity to
"These ultra-violet rays," he
continued, "are always present in an electric arc light
though not to a great degree unless the carbons have metal
cores. They extend for two octaves above the violet of the
spectrum and are too short to affect the eye as light,
although they affect photographic plates. They are the
friend of man when he uses them in moderation as Finsen did
in the famous blue light treatment. But they tolerate no
familiarity. To let them--particularly the shorter of the
rays--enter the eye is to invite trouble. There is no
warning sense of discomfort, but from six to eighteen hours
after exposure to them the victim experiences violent pains
in the eyes and headache. Sight may be seriously impaired,
and it may take years to recover. Often prolonged exposure
results in blindness,
though a moderate exposure acts like a tonic. The rays may
be compared in this double effect to drugs such as
strychnine. Too much of them may be destructive even to life
Prescott had now paused and was regarding
Kennedy contemptuously. Kennedy paid no attention, but
continued: "Perhaps these mysterious rays may shed some
light on our minds, however. For one thing, ultra-violet
light passes readily through quartz, but is cut off by
ordinary glass if it is coated with chromium. Old Mr.
Haswell did not wear glasses. Therefore he was subject to
the rays--the more so as he is a blond, and I think it has
been demonstrated by investigators that blonds are more
affected by them than are brunettes.
"You have, as a part of your machine, a
peculiarly shaped mercury vapour lamp of a design such as
that I saw has been invented for the especial purpose of
producing ultra-violet rays in large quantity. There are
also in your machine induction coils for the purpose of
making an impressive noise, and a small electric furnace to
heat the salted gold. I don't know what other ingenious
fakes you have added. The visible bluish light from the tube
is designed, I suppose, to hoodwink the credulous, but the
dangerous thing about it is the invisible ray that
accompanies that light. Mr. Haswell sat under those
invisible rays, Prescott, never knowing how deadly they
might be to him, an old man.
"You knew that they would not take
effect for hours, and hence you ventured the prediction that
he would be stricken at about midnight. Even if it was
partial or temporary, still you would be safe in your
prophecy. You succeeded better than you hoped in that part
of your scheme. You had already prepared the way by means of
a letter sent to Haswell through Dr. Burnham. But Haswell's
credulity and fear worked the wrong way. Instead of
appealing to you he hated you. In his predicament he thought
only of his banished daughter and turned instinctively to
her for help. That made necessary a quick change of plans.
Prescott, far from losing his nerve, turned
on us bitterly. "I knew you two were spies the moment I
saw you," he shouted. "It seemed as if in some way
I knew you for what you were, as if I knew you had seen Mr.
Haswell before you came to me. You, too, would have robbed
an inventor as I am sure he would. But have a care, both of
you. You may be punished also by blindness for your
duplicity. Who knows?"
A shudder passed over me at the horrible
thought contained in his mocking laugh. Were we doomed to
blindness, too? I looked at the sightless man in on the bed
"I knew that you would know us,"
retorted Kennedy. "Therefore we came provided with
spectacles of Euphos glass, precisely like those you wear.
No, Prescott, we are safe, though perhaps we may have some
burns like those red blotches on Mr. Haswell, light
Prescott had fallen back a step and Mrs.
Martin was making an effort to appear stately and end the
"No," continued Craig, suddenly
wheeling, and startling us by the abruptness of his next
exposure, "it is you and your wife here--Mrs. Prescott,
not Mrs. Martin--who must have a care. Stop glaring at each
other. It is no use playing at enemies longer and trying to
get rid of us. You overdo it. The game is up."
Prescott made a rush at Kennedy, who seized
him by the wrist and held him tightly in a grasp of steel
that caused the veins on the back of his hands to stand out
"This a deep-laid plot," he went on
calmly, still holding Prescott, while I backed up against
the door and cut off his wife; "but it is not so
difficult to see it after all. Your part was to destroy the
eyesight of the old man, to make it necessary for him to
call on his daughter. Your wife's part was to play the role
of Mrs. Martin, whom he had not seen for years and could not
see now. She was to persuade him, with her filial
affection, to make her the beneficiary of his will, to see
that his money was kept readily convertible into cash.
"Then, when the old man was at last out
of the way, you two could decamp with what you could realise
before the real daughter, cut off somewhere across the
continent, could hear of the death of her father. It was an
excellent scheme. But Haswell's plain, material newspaper
advertisement was not so effective for your purposes,
Prescott, as the more artistic 'telepagram,' as you call it.
Although you two got in first in answering the
advertisement, it finally reached the right person after
all. You didn't get away quickly enough.
"You were not expecting that the real
daughter would see it and turn up so soon. But she had. She
lives in California. Mr. Haswell in his delirium has just
told of receiving a telegram which I suppose you, Mrs.
Prescott, read, destroyed, and acted upon. It hurried your
plans, but you were equal to the emergency. Besides,
possession is nine points in the law. You tried the gas,
making it look like a suicide. Jane, in her excitement,
spoiled that, and Dr. Burnham, knowing where I was, as it
happened, was able to summon me immediately. Circumstances
have been against you from the first, Prescott."
Craig was slowly twisting up the hand of the
inventor, which he still held. With his other hand he
pulled a paper from his pocket. It was an old envelope on
which he had written upon the occasion of our first visit to
Mr. Haswell when we had been so unceremoniously interrupted
by the visit of Dr. Scott.
"I sat here yesterday by this bed,"
continued Craig, motioning toward the chair he had occupied,
as I remembered. "Mr. Haswell was telling Dr. Scott
something in an undertone. I could not hear it. But the old
man grasped the doctor by the wrist to pull him closer to
whisper to him. The doctor's hand was toward me and I
noticed the peculiar markings of the veins.
"You perhaps are not acquainted with the
fact, but the markings of the veins in the back of the hand
are peculiar to each individual--as infallible, as
indestructible, and ineffaceable as finger prints or the
shape of the ear. It is a system invented by Professor
Tamassia of the University of Padua, Italy. A superficial
observer would say that the vein patterns were essentially
similar, and many have said so, but Tamassia has found each
to be characteristic and all subject to almost incredible
diversities. There are six general classes--in this case
before us, two large veins crossed by a few secondary veins
forming a V with its base near the wrist.
"Already my suspicions had been aroused.
I sketched the arrangement of the veins standing out on that
hand. I noted the same thing just now on the same hand that
manipulated the fake apparatus in the laboratory. Despite
the difference in make-up Scott and Prescott are the same.
"The invisible rays of the ultra-violet
light may have blinded Mr. Haswell, even to the recognition
of his daughter, but you can rest assured, Prescott, the
very cleverness of your scheme will penetrate the eyes of
the blindfolded goddess of justice. Burnham, if you will
have the kindness to summon the police, I will take all the
responsibility for the arrest of these people."