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- The Dream Doctor - 4/59 -
avoiding the question for the time.
"Yes, I have been back in this country only a few weeks," Masterson replied, awaiting the answer to the first question.
"I called," proceeded Kennedy, "in the hope that you, Mr. Masterson, might be able to shed some light on the rather peculiar case of Mr. Maitland, of whose death, I suppose, you have already heard."
"You have known Mrs. Maitland a long time?" ignored Kennedy.
"We went to school together."
"And were engaged, were you not?"
Masterson looked at Kennedy in ill-concealed surprise.
"Yes. But how did you know that? It was a secret--only between us two--I thought. She broke it off--not I."
"She broke off the engagement?" prompted Kennedy.
"Yes--a story about an escapade of mine and all that sort of thing, you know--but, by Jove! I like your nerve, sir." Masterson frowned, then added: "I prefer not to talk of that. There are some incidents in a man's life, particularly where a woman is concerned, that are forbidden."
"Oh, I beg pardon," hastened Kennedy, "but, by the way, you would have no objection to making a statement regarding your trip abroad and your recent return to this country--subsequent to--ah--the incident which we will not refer to?"
"None whatever. I left New York in 1908, disgusted with everything in general, and life here in particular--"
"Would you object to jotting it down so that I can get it straight?" asked Kennedy. "Just a brief resume, you know."
"No. Have you a pen or a pencil?"
"I think you might as well dictate it; it will take only a minute to run it off on the typewriter."
Masterson rang the bell. A young man appeared noiselessly.
"Wix," he said, "take this: 'I left New York in 1908, travelling on the Continent, mostly in Paris, Vienna, and Rome. Latterly I have lived in London, until six weeks ago, when I returned to New York.' Will that serve?"
"Yes, perfectly," said Kennedy, as he folded up the sheet of paper which the young secretary handed to him. "Thank you. I trust you won't consider it an impertinence if I ask you whether you were aware that Dr. Ross was Mrs. Maitland's physician?"
"Of course I knew it," Masterson replied frankly. "I have given him up for that reason, although he does not know it yet. I most strenuously object to being the subject of--what shall I call it?- -his mental vivisection."
"Do you think he oversteps his position in trying to learn of the mental life of his patients?" queried Craig.
"I would rather say nothing further on that, either," replied Masterson. "I was talking over the wire to Mrs. Maitland a few moments ago, giving her my condolences and asking if there was anything I could do for her immediately, just as I would have done in the old days--only then, of course, I should have gone to her directly. The reason I did not go, but telephoned, was because this Ross seems to have put some ridiculous notions into her head about me. Now, look here; I don't want to discuss this. I've told you more than I intended, anyway."
Masterson had risen. His suavity masked a final determination to say no more.
The Soul Analysis
The day was far advanced after this series of very unsatisfactory interviews. I looked at Kennedy blankly. We seemed to have uncovered so little that was tangible that I was much surprised to find that apparently he was well contented with what had happened in the case so far.
"I shall be busy for a few hours in the laboratory, Walter," he remarked, as we parted at the subway. "I think, if you have nothing better to do, that you might employ the time in looking up some of the gossip about Mrs. Maitland and Masterson, to say nothing of Dr. Ross," he emphasised. "Drop in after dinner."
There was not much that I could find. Of Mrs. Maitland there was practically nothing that I already did not know from having seen her name in the papers. She was a leader in a certain set which was devoting its activities to various social and moral propaganda. Masterson's early escapades were notorious even in the younger smart set in which he had moved, but his years abroad had mellowed the recollection of them. He had not distinguished himself in any way since his return to set gossip afloat, nor had any tales of his doings abroad filtered through to New York clubland. Dr. Ross, I found to my surprise, was rather better known than I had supposed, both as a specialist and as a man about town. He seemed to have risen rapidly in his profession as physician to the ills of society's nerves.
I was amazed after dinner to find Kennedy doing nothing at all.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Have you struck a snag?"
"No," he replied slowly, "I was only waiting. I told them to be here between half-past eight and nine."
"Who?" I queried.
"Dr. Leslie," he answered. "He has the authority to compel the attendance of Mrs. Maitland, Dr. Ross, and Masterson."
The quickness with which he had worked out a case which was, to me, one of the most inexplicable he had had for a long time, left me standing speechless.
One by one they dropped in during the next half-hour, and, as usual, it fell to me to receive them and smooth over the rough edges which always obtruded at these little enforced parties in the laboratory.
Dr. Leslie and Dr. Ross were the first to arrive. They had not come together, but had met at the door. I fancied I saw a touch of professional jealousy in their manner, at least on the part of Dr. Ross. Masterson came, as usual ignoring the seriousness of the matter and accusing us all of conspiring to keep him from the first night of a light opera which was opening. Mrs. Maitland followed, the unaccustomed pallor of her face heightened by the plain black dress. I felt most uncomfortable, as indeed I think the rest did. She merely inclined her head to Masterson, seemed almost to avoid the eye of Dr. Ross, glared at Dr. Leslie, and absolutely ignored me.
Craig had been standing aloof at his laboratory table, beyond a nod of recognition paying little attention to anything. He seemed to be in no hurry to begin.
"Great as science is," he commenced, at length, "it is yet far removed from perfection. There are, for instance, substances so mysterious, subtle, and dangerous as to set the most delicate tests and powerful lenses at naught, while they carry death most horrible in their train."
He could scarcely have chosen his opening words with more effect.
"Chief among them," he proceeded, "are those from nature's own laboratory. There are some sixty species of serpents, for example, with deadly venom. Among these, as you doubtless have all heard, none has brought greater terror to mankind than the cobra-di- capello, the Naja tripudians of India. It is unnecessary for me to describe the cobra or to say anything about the countless thousands who have yielded up their lives to it. I have here a small quantity of the venom"--he indicated it in a glass beaker. "It was obtained in New York, and I have tested it on guinea-pigs. It has lost none of its potency."
I fancied that there was a feeling of relief when Kennedy by his actions indicated that he was not going to repeat the test.
"This venom," he continued, "dries in the air into a substance like small scales, soluble in water but not in alcohol. It has only a slightly acrid taste and odour, and, strange to say, is inoffensive on the tongue or mucous surfaces, even in considerable quantities. All we know about it is that in an open wound it is deadly swift in action."
It was difficult to sit unmoved at the thought that before us, in only a few grains of the stuff, was enough to kill us all if it were introduced into a scratch of our skin.
"Until recently chemistry was powerless to solve the enigma, the microscope to detect its presence, or pathology to explain the reason for its deadly effect. And even now, about all we know is that autopsical research reveals absolutely nothing but the general disorganisation of the blood corpuscles. In fact, such poisoning is best known by the peculiar symptoms--the vertigo, weak legs, and falling jaw. The victim is unable to speak or swallow, but is fully sensible. He has nausea, paralysis, an accelerated pulse at first followed rapidly by a weakening, with breath slow and laboured. The pupils are contracted, but react to the last, and he dies in convulsions like asphyxia. It is both a blood and a nerve poison."
As Kennedy proceeded, Mrs. Maitland never took her large eyes from his face.
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