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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Chase of the Golden Plate By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 6206

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

"But Mr. Herbert won't see anyone, sir," protested Blair.

"Tell Mr. Herbert, please, that unless I can see him immediately his bail-bond will be withdrawn," directed The Thinking Machine.

He stood waiting in the hall while Blair went up the stairs. Dick Herbert took the card impatiently and glanced at it.

"Van Dusen," he mused. "Who the deuce is Van Dusen?"

Blair repeated the message he had received below.

"What does he look like?" inquired Dick.

"He's a shrivelled little man with a big yellow head, sir," replied Blair.

"Let him come up," instructed Dick.

Thus, within an hour after he had talked to Mr. Meredith, The Thinking Machine met Dick Herbert.

"What's this about the bail-bond?" Dick inquired.

"I wanted to talk to you," was the scientist's calm reply. "That seemed to be the easiest way to make you believe it was important, so--"

Dick's face flushed crimson at the trick.

"Well, you see me!" he broke out angrily. "I ought to throw you down the stairs, but-what is it?"

Not having been invited to a seat, The Thinking Machine took one anyway and settled himself comfortably.

"If you will listen to me for a moment without interruption," he began testily, "I think the subject of my remarks will be of deep personal concern to you. I am interested in solving this Randolph plate affair and have perhaps gone further in my investigation than anyone else. At least, I know more about it. There are some things I don't happen to know, however, that are of the greatest importance."

"I tell you--" stormed Dick.

"For instance," calmly resumed the scientist, "it is very important for me to know whether or not Harry Meredith was masked when he came into this room last Thursday night."

"Suddenly he stopped and turned upon The Thinking Machine"

Dick gazed at him in surprise which approached awe. His eyes were widely distended, the lower part of his face lax, for the instant; then his white teeth closed with a snap and he sat down opposite The Thinking Machine. Anger had gone from his manner; instead there was a pallor of apprehension in the clean-cut face.

"Who are you, Mr. Van Dusen?" he asked at last. His tone was mild, even deferential.

"Was he masked?" insisted the scientist.

For a long while Dick was silent. Finally he arose and paced nervously back and forth across the room, glancing at the diminutive figure of The Thinking Machine each time as he turned.

"I won't say anything," he decided.

"Will you name the cause of the trouble you and Meredith had in Harvard?" asked the scientist.

Again there was a long pause.

"No," Dick said finally.

"Did it have anything to do with theft?"

"I don't know who you are or why you are prying into an affair that, at least on its face, does not concern you," replied Dick. "I'll say nothing at all-unless-unless you produce the one man who can and shall explain this affair. Produce him here in this room where I can get my hands on him!"

The Thinking Machine squinted at the sturdy shoulders with admiration in his face.

"Did it ever happen to occ

ur to you, Mr. Herbert, that Harry Meredith and his father are precisely of the same build?"

Some nameless, impalpable expression crept into Dick's face despite an apparent fight to restrain it, and again he stared at the small man in the chair.

"And that you and Mr. Meredith are practically of the same build?"

Tormented by unasked questions and by those emotions which had compelled him to silence all along, Dick still paced back and forth. His head was whirling. The structure which he had so carefully guarded was tumbling about his ears. Suddenly he stopped and turned upon The Thinking Machine.

"Just what do you know of this affair?" he asked.

"I know for one thing," replied the scientist positively, "that you were not the man in the automobile."

"How do you know that?"

"That's beside the question just now."

"Do you know who was in the automobile?" Dick insisted.

"I can only answer that question when you have answered mine," the scientist went on. "Was Harry Meredith masked when he entered this room last Thursday night?"

Dick sat staring down at his hands, which were working nervously. Finally he nodded.

The Thinking Machine understood.

"You recognised him, then, by something he said or wore?"

Again Dick nodded reluctantly.

"Both," he added.

The Thinking Machine leaned back in his chair and sat there for a long time. At last he arose as if the interview were at an end. There seemed to be no other questions that he desired to ask at the moment.

"You need not be unnecessarily alarmed, Mr. Herbert," he assured Dick as he picked up his hat. "I shall act with discretion in this matter. I am not representing anyone who would care to make it unpleasant for you. I may tell you that you made two serious mistakes: the first when you saw or communicated with Mr. Randolph immediately after the plate was stolen the second time, and again when you undertook something which properly belonged within the province of the police."

Herbert still sat with his head in his hands as The Thinking Machine went out.

It was very late that night-after twelve, in fact-when Hutchinson Hatch called on The Thinking Machine with excitement evident in tone, manner, and act. He was accustomed to calling at any hour; now he found the scientist at work as if it were midday.

"The worst has happened," the reporter told him.

The Thinking Machine didn't look around.

"Detective Mallory and two of his men saw Miss Meredith this evening about nine o'clock," Hatch hurried on, "and bully-ragged her into a confession."

"What sort of a confession?"

"She admitted that she was in the automobile on the night of the ball and that--"

"Mr. Herbert was with her," the scientist supplied.


"And-what else?"

"That her own jewels, valued at twenty thousand dollars, were among those found in Herbert's possession when he was arrested."

The Thinking Machine turned and looked at the reporter, just casually, and raised his hand to his mouth to cover a yawn.

"Well, she couldn't do anything else," he said calmly.

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