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- The Treasure-Train - 6/54 -
"Might this present trouble be a recurrence of the old trouble?"
She shook her head. "No; this is entirely different. Oh, I wish that you could go with me and see him!" she pleaded.
"I will," agreed Kennedy.
A moment later we were speeding in a taxicab over to the apartment.
"Really," she remarked, nervously, "I feel lost with Mr. Mansfield so ill. He has so many interests downtown that require constant attention that just the loss of time means a great deal. Of course, I understand many of them--but, you know, a private secretary can't conduct a man's business. And just now, when I came up from the office, I couldn't believe that he was too ill to care about things until I actually saw him."
We entered the apartment. A mere glance about showed that; even though Mansfield's hobby was diamonds, he was no mean collector of other articles of beauty. In the big living-room, which was almost like a studio, we met a tall, spare, polished-mannered man, whom I quickly recognized as Doctor Murray.
"Is he any better?" blurted out Miss Grey, even before our introductions were over. Doctor Murray shook his head gravely.
"About the same," he answered, though one could find little reassurance in his tone.
"I should like to see him," hinted Kennedy, "unless there is some real reason why I should not."
"No," replied the doctor, absently; "on the contrary, it might perhaps rouse him."
He led the way down the hall, and Kennedy and I followed, while Miss Grey attempted to busy herself over some affairs at a huge mahogany table in the library just off the living-room.
Mansfield had shown the same love of luxury and the bizarre even in the furnishing of his bedroom, which was a black-and-white room with furniture of Chinese lacquer and teakwood.
Kennedy looked at the veteran plunger long and thoughtfully as he lay stretched out, listless, on the handsome bed. Mansfield seemed completely indifferent to our presence. There was something uncanny about him. Already his face was shrunken, his skin dark, and his eyes were hollow.
"What do you suppose it is?" asked Kennedy, bending over him, and then rising and averting his head so that Mansfield could not hear, even if his vagrant faculties should be attracted. "His pulse is terribly weak and his heart scarcely makes a sound."
Doctor Murray's face knit in deep lines.
"I'm afraid," he said, in a low tone, "that I will have to admit not having been able to diagnose the trouble, I was just considering whom I might call in."
"What have you done?" asked Kennedy, as the two moved a little farther out of ear-shot of the patient.
"Well," replied the doctor, slowly, "when his valet called me in, I must admit that my first impression was that I had to deal with a case of diphtheria. I was so impressed that I even took a blood smear and examined it. It showed the presence of a tox albumin. But it isn't diphtheria. The antitoxin has had no effect. No; it isn't diphtheria. But the poison is there. I might have thought it was cholera, only that seems so impossible here in New York." Doctor Murray looked at Kennedy with no effort to conceal his perplexity. "Over and over I have asked myself what it could be," he went on. "It seems to me that I have thought over about everything that is possible. Always I get back to the fact that there is that tox albumin present. In some respects, it seems like the bite of a poisonous animal. There are no marks, of course, and it seems altogether impossible, yet it acts precisely as I have seen snake bites affect people. I am that desperate that I would try the Noguchi antivenene, but it would have no more effect than the antitoxin. No; I can only conclude that there is some narcotic irritant which especially affects the lungs and heart."
"Will you let me have one of the blood smears?" asked Kennedy.
"Certainly," replied the doctor, reaching over and taking a glass slide from several lying on a table.
For some time after we left the sick-room Craig appeared to be considering what Doctor Murray had said.
Seeking to find Miss Grey in the library, we found ourselves in the handsome, all-wood-paneled dining-room. It still showed evidences of the late banquet of the night before.
Craig paused a moment in doubt which way to go, then picked up from the table a beautifully decorated menu-card. As he ran his eye down it mechanically, he paused.
"Champignons," he remarked, thoughtfully. "H-m!--mushrooms."
Instead of going on toward the library, he turned and passed through a swinging door into the kitchen. There was no one there, but it was in a much more upset condition than the dining-room.
"Pardon, monsieur," sounded a voice behind us.
It was the French chef who had entered from the direction of the servants' quarters, and was now all apologies for the untidy appearance of the realm over which he presided. The strain of the dinner had been too much for his assistants, he hastened to explain.
"I see that you had mushrooms--creamed," remarked Kennedy.
"Oui, monsieur," he replied; "some that Miss Hargrave herself sent in from her mushroom-cellar out in the country."
As he said it his eye traveled involuntarily toward a pile of ramekins on a table. Kennedy noticed it and deliberately walked over to the table. Before I knew what he was about he had scooped from them each a bit of the contents and placed it in some waxed paper that was lying near by. The chef watched him curiously.
"You would not find my kitchen like this ordinarily," he remarked. "I would not like to have Doctor Murray see it, for since last year, when monsieur had the bad stomach, I have been very careful."
The chef seemed to be nervous.
"You prepared the mushrooms yourself?" asked Kennedy, suddenly.
"I directed my assistant," came back the wary reply.
"But you know good mushrooms when you see them?"
"Certainly," he replied, quickly.
"There was no one else in the kitchen while you prepared them?"
"Yes," he answered, hurriedly; "Mr. Mansfield came in, and Miss Hargrave. Oh, they are very particular! And Doctor Murray, he has given me special orders ever since last year, when monsieur had the bad stomach," he repeated.
"Was any one else here?"
"Yes--I think so. You see, I am so excited--a big dinner--such epicures--everything must be just so--I cannot say."
There seemed to be little satisfaction in quizzing the chef, and Kennedy turned again into the dining-room, making his way back to the library, where Miss Grey was waiting anxiously for us.
"What do you think?" she asked, eagerly.
"I don't know what to think," replied Kennedy. "No one else has felt any ill effects from the supper, I suppose?"
"No," she replied; "at least, I'm sure I would have heard by this time if they had."
"Do you recall anything peculiar about the mushrooms?" shot out Kennedy.
"We talked about them some time, I remember," she said, slowly. "Growing mushrooms is one of Miss Hargrave's hobbies out at her place on Long Island."
"Yes," persisted Kennedy; "but I mean anything peculiar about the preparation of them."
"Why, yes," she said, suddenly; "I believe that Miss Hargrave was to have superintended them herself. We all went out into the kitchen. But it was too late. They had been prepared already."
"You were all in the kitchen?"
"Yes; I remember. It was before the supper and just after we came in from the theater-party which Mr. Mansfield gave. You know Mr. Mansfield is always doing unconventional things like that. If he took a notion, he would go into the kitchen of the Ritz."
"That is what I was trying to get out of the chef--Francois," remarked Kennedy. "He didn't seem to have a very clear idea of what happened. I think I'll see him again--right away."
We found the chef busily at work, now, cleaning up. As Kennedy asked him a few inconsequential questions, his eye caught a row of books on a shelf. It was a most complete library of the culinary arts. Craig selected one and turned the pages over rapidly. Then he came back to the frontispiece, which showed a model dinner- table set for a number of guests. He placed the picture before Francois, then withdrew it in, I should say, about ten seconds. It was a strange and incomprehensible action, but I was more surprised when Kennedy added:
"Now tell me what you saw."
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