Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 4

The Final Day
by [?]

“Indeed, ptomaines are present probably to a greater or less extent in every organ which is submitted to the toxicologist for examination. If he is ignorant of the nature of these substances, he may easily mistake them for vegetable alkaloids. He may report a given poison present when it is not present. It is even yet a new line of inquiry which has only recently been followed, and the information is still comparatively small and inadequate.

“It is very difficult, perhaps impossible, for the chemist to state absolutely that he has detected true conine. Before he can do it, the symptoms and the post-mortem appearance must agree; analysis must be made before, not after, decomposition sets in, and the amount of the poison found must be sufficient to experiment with, not merely to react to a few usual tests.

“What the experts asserted so positively, I would not dare to assert. Was he killed by ordinary ptomaine poisoning, and had conine, or rather its double, developed first in his food along with other ptomaines that were not inert? Or did the cadaveric conine develop only in the body after death? Chemistry alone can not decide the question so glibly as the experts did. Further proof must be sought Other sciences must come to our aid.”

I was sitting next to Mrs. Godwin. As Kennedy’s words rang out, her hand, trembling with emotion, pressed my arm. I turned quickly to see if she needed assistance. Her face was radiant. All the fees for big cases in the world could never have compensated Kennedy for the mute, unrestrained gratitude which the little woman shot at him.

Kennedy saw it, and in the quick shifting of his eyes to my face, I read that he relied on me to take care of Mrs. Godwin while he plunged again into the clearing up of the mystery.

“I have here the will–the second one,” he snapped out, turning and facing the others in the room.

Craig turned a switch in an apparatus which his students had brought from New York. From a tube on the table came a peculiar bluish light.

“This,” he explained, “is a source of ultraviolet rays. They are not the bluish light which you see, but rays contained in it which you can not see.

“Ultraviolet rays have recently been found very valuable in the examination of questioned documents. By the use of a lens made of quartz covered with a thin film of metallic silver, there has been developed a practical means of making photographs by the invisible rays of light above the spectrum–these ultraviolet rays. The quartz lens is necessary, because these rays will not pass through ordinary glass, while the silver film acts as a screen to cut off the ordinary light rays and those below the spectrum. By this means, most white objects are photographed black and even transparent objects like glass are black.

“I obtained the copy of this will, but under the condition from the surrogate that absolutely nothing must be done to it to change a fibre of the paper or a line of a letter. It was a difficult condition. While there are chemicals which are frequently resorted to for testing the authenticity of disputed documents such as wills and deeds, their use frequently injures or destroys the paper under test. So far as I could determine, the document also defied the microscope.

“But ultraviolet photography does not affect the document tested in any way, and it has lately been used practically in detecting forgeries. I have photographed the last page of the will with its signatures, and here it is. What the eye itself can not see, the invisible light reveals.”

He was holding the document and the copy, just an instant, as if considering how to announce with best effect what he had discovered.

“In order to unravel this mystery,” he resumed, looking up and facing the Elmores, Kilgore, and Hollins squarely, “I decided to find out whether any one had had access to that closet where the will was hidden. It was long ago, and there seemed to be little that I could do. I knew it was useless to look for fingerprints.