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- The Romance of Elaine - 5/62 -


. . . . . . .

It was just as Long Sin had raised his knife that the sound of her footsteps alarmed him.

He paused and leaped to his feet.

There was no time for either to retreat. He started toward Elaine, and seized her roughly.

Back and forth over the rocky floor they struggled. As they fought,--she with frantic strength, he craftily,--he backed her slowly up against the prop that upheld the roof.

He raised his keen knife.

She recoiled. The prop, none too strong, suddenly gave way under her weight.

The whole roof of the chamber fell with a crash, earth and stone overwhelming Elaine and her assailant.

. . . . . . .

By this time Joshua had left the house and had gone out into the garden to get something to pry open the fireplace door.

Of a sudden, to his utter amazement, a few feet from him, it seemed as if the very earth sank in his garden, leaving a yawning chasm.

He looked, unable to make it out.

Before his very eyes a strange figure, the figure of Long Sin in his oxygen helmet, appeared, struggling up, as if by magic from the very earth, shaking the debris off himself, as a dog would shake off the water after a plunge in a pond.

Long Sin was gone in a moment.

Then again the earth began to move. A paw appeared, then a sharp black nose, and a moment later, Rusty, too, dug himself out.

Joshua had run into the house to get a spade when Rusty, like a shot, bolted for the house, took the window at a leap and all covered with earth landed before Joshua and Aunt Tabby.

"See!--he went down there--now he's here!" cried Aunt Tabby, pointing at the fireplace, then looking at the window.

Rusty was running back and forth from Joshua to the window.

"Follow him!" cried Aunt Tabby.

Rusty led the way back again to the garden, to the cave-in.

"Elaine!" gasped Aunt Tabby.

By this time Joshua was digging furiously. Rusty, too, seemed to understand. He threw back the earth with his paws, helping with every ounce of strength in his little body.

At last the spade turned up a bit of cloth.

"Elaine!" Aunt Tabby cried out again.

She was in a sort of little pocket, protected by the fortunate formation of the earth as it fell, yet almost suffocated, weak but conscious.

Aunt Tabby rushed up as Joshua laid down the spade and lifted out Elaine.

They were about to carry her into the house, when she cried weakly, but with all her remaining strength.

"No--no--Dig! Craig--Walter!" she managed to gasp.

Rusty, too, was still at it. Joshua fell to again. Man and dog worked with a will.

"There they are!" cried Elaine, as all three pulled us out, unconscious but still alive.

Though we did not know it, they carried us into the house, while Elaine and Aunt Tabby bustled about to get something to revive us.

At last I opened my eyes and saw the motherly Aunt Tabby bending over me. Craig was already revived, weak but ready now to do anything Elaine ordered, as she held his hand and stroked his forehead softly.

. . . . . . .

Meanwhile Long Sin had made his way to the automobile where his master, Wu, waited impatiently.

"Did you get it?" asked Wu eagerly.

Long Sin showed him the box.

"Hurry, master!" he cried breathlessly, leaping into the car and struggling to take off the helmet as they drove away. "They may be here--at any moment."

The machine was off like a shot and even if we had been able to follow, we could not now have caught it.

Back in Wu's sumptuous apartment, later, Wu and his slave, Long Sin, after their hurried ride, dismissed all the servants and placed the little box on the table. Wu rose and locked the door.

Then, together, they took a sharp instrument and tried to pry off the lid of the box.

The lid flew off. They gazed in eagerly.

Inside was a smaller box, which Wu seized eagerly and opened.

There, on the plush cushion lay merely a round knobbed ring!

Was this the end of their great expectations? Were Bennett's millions merely mythical?

The two stared at each other in chagrin.

Wu was the first to speak.

"Where there should have been seven million dollars," he muttered to himself, "why is there only a mystic ring?"

CHAPTER II

THE CRYPTIC RING

Kennedy had been engaged for some time in the only work outside of the Dodge case which he had consented to take for weeks.

Our old friend, Dr. Leslie, the Coroner, had appealed to him to solve a very ticklish point in a Tong murder case which had set all Chinatown agog. It was, indeed, a very bewildering case. A Chinaman named Li Chang, leader of the Chang Wah Tong, had been poisoned, but so far no one had been able to determine what poison it was or even to prove that there had been a poison, except for the fact that the man was dead, and Kennedy had taken the thing up in a great measure because of the sudden turn in the Dodge case which had brought us into such close contact with the Chinese.

I had been watching Kennedy with interest, for the Tong wars always make picturesque newspaper stories, when a knock at the door announced the arrival of Dr. Leslie, anxious for some result.

"Have you been able to find out anything yet?" he greeted Kennedy eagerly as Craig looked up from his microscope.

Kennedy turned and nodded. "Your dead man was murdered by means of aconite, of which, you know, the active principle is the deadly alkaloid aconitine."

Craig pulled down from the shelf above him one of his well-thumbed standard works on toxicology. He turned the pages and read:

"Pure aconite is probably the most actively poisonous substance with which we are acquainted. It does not produce any decidedly characteristic post-mortem appearances, and, in fact, there is no reliable chemical test to prove its presence. The chances of its detection in the body after death are very slight."

Dr. Leslie looked up. "Then there is no test, none?" he asked.

"There is one that is brand new," replied Kennedy slowly. "It is the new starch-grain test just discovered by Professor Reichert, of the University of Pennsylvania. The peculiarities of the starch grains of various plants are quite as great as those of the blood crystals, which, you will recall, Walter, we used once.

"The starch grains of the poison have remained in the wound. I have recovered them from the dead man's blood and have studied them microscopically. They can be definitely recognized. This is plainly a case of aconite poisoning--probably suggested to the Oriental mind by the poison arrows of the Ainus of Northern Japan."

Dr. Leslie and I both looked through the microscope, comparing the starch grains which Kennedy had discovered with those of scores of micro-photographs which lay scattered over the table.

"There are several treatments for aconite poisoning," ruminated Kennedy. "I would say that one of the latest and best is digitalin given hypodermically." He took down a bottle of digitalin from a cabinet, adding, "only it was too late in this case."

. . . . . . .

Just what the relations were between Long Sin and the Chong Wah Tong I have never been able to determine exactly. But one thing


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