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The Beauty Shop
by [?]

It was only after a few hours that Kennedy thought it wise to try to question the poor girl at the hospital. Her story was simple enough in itself, but it certainly complicated matters considerably without throwing much light on the case. She had been busy because her day was full, and she had yet to dress the hair of Miss Blaisdell for her play that night. Several times she had been interrupted by impatient messages from the actress in her little dressing-booth, and one of the girls had already demolished the previous hair-dressing in order to save time. Once Agnes had run down for a few seconds to reassure her that she would be through in time.

She had found the actress reading a newspaper, and when Kennedy questioned her she remembered seeing a note lying on the dresser. “Agnes,” Miss Blaisdell had said, “will you go into the writing- room and bring me some paper, a pen, and ink? I don’t want to go in there this way. There’s a dear good girl.” Agnes had gone, though it was decidedly no part of her duty as one of the highest paid employes of the Novella. But they all envied the popular actress, and were ready to do anything for her. The next thing she remembered was finishing the coiffure she was working on and going to Miss Blaisdell. There lay the beautiful actress. The light in the corridor had not been lighted yet, and it was dark. Her lips and mouth seemed literally to shine. Agnes called her, but she did not move; she touched her, but she was cold. Then she screamed and fled. That was the last she remembered.

“The little writing-room,” reasoned Kennedy as we left the poor little hair-dresser quite exhausted by her narrative, “was next to the sanctum of Millefleur, where they found that bottle of ether phosphore and the oil of turpentine. Some one who knew of that note or perhaps wrote it must have reasoned that an answer would be written immediately. That person figured that the note would be the next thing written and that the top envelope of the pile would be used. That person knew of the deadly qualities of too much phosphorised ether, and painted the gummed flap of the envelope with several grains of it. The reasoning held good, for Agnes took the top envelope with its poisoned flap to Miss Blaisdell. No, there was no chance about that. It was all clever, quick reasoning.”

“But,” I objected, “how about the oil of turpentine?”

“Simply to remove the traces of the poison. I think you will see why that was attempted before we get through.”

Kennedy would say no more, but I was content because I could see that he was now ready to put his theories, whatever they were, to the final test. He spent the rest of the day working at the hospital with Dr. Barron, adjusting a very delicate piece of apparatus down in a special room, in the basement. I saw it, but I had no idea what it was or what its use might be.

Close to the wall was a stereopticon which shot a beam of light through a tube to which I heard them refer as a galvanometer, about three feet distant. In front of this beam whirled a five- spindled wheel, governed by a chronometer which erred only a second a day. Between the poles of the galvanometer was stretched a slender thread of fused quartz plated with silver, only one one- thousandth of a millimetre in diameter, so tenuous that it could not be seen except in a bright light. It was a thread so slender that it might have been spun by a miscroscopic spider.

Three feet farther away was a camera with a moving film of sensitised material, the turning of which was regulated by a little flywheel. The beam of light focused on the thread in the galvanometer passed to the photographic film, intercepted only by the five spindles of the wheel, which turned once a second, thus marking the picture off into exact fifths of a second. The vibrations of the microscopic quartz thread were enormously magnified on the sensitive film by a lens and resulted in producing a long zig-zag, wavy line. The whole was shielded by a wooden hood which permitted no light, except the slender ray, to strike it. The film revolved slowly across the field, its speed regulated by the flywheel, and all moved by an electric motor.