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The Mechanical Connoisseur
by [?]

Dr. Leslie, the Coroner, was an old friend of ours with whom we had co-operated in several cases. When we reached his office we found Dr. Blythe there already, waiting for us.

“Have you found anything yet?” asked Dr. Blythe with what I felt was just a trace of professional pique at the fact that neither physician had been able to shed any light on the case so far.

“I can’t say–yet,” responded Craig, not noticing Blythe’s manner, as from the piece of tissue paper in which he had wrapped them he produced the broken bits of bottle.

Carefully he washed off the jagged pieces, as though perhaps some of the liquid the bottle had contained might have adhered to the glass.

“I suppose you have animals here for experiment?” he asked of Leslie.

The Coroner nodded.

“Chickens?” asked Craig with a broad smile at the double meaning.

“A Leghorn rooster,” returned Dr. Leslie with a laugh.

“Good–bring him on,” replied Craig briskly.

Quickly Kennedy shot a small quantity of the liquid he had obtained by washing the bits of glass into the veins of the white Leghorn. Then he released the rooster, flapping about.

In a corner chanticleer stood, preening his feathers and restoring his ruffled dignity, while we compared opinions.

“Look!” exclaimed Kennedy a few minutes later, when we had almost forgotten the rooster.

His bright red comb was now whitish. As we watched, a moment later it turned dark blue. Otherwise, however, he seemed unaffected.

“What is it?” I asked in amazement, turning to Craig.

“Ergot, I think,” he replied tersely. “At least that is one test for its presence.”

“Ergot!” repeated Dr. Leslie, reaching for a book on a shelf above him. Turning the pages hurriedly, he read, “There has been no experience in the separation of the constituents of ergot from the organs of the body. An attempt might be made by the Dragendorff process, but success is doubtful.”

“Dragendorff found it so, at any rate,” put in Dr. Blythe positively.

Running his fingers over the backs of the other books, Dr. Leslie selected another. “It is practically impossible,” he read, “to separate ergot from the tissues so as to identify it.”

“Absolutely,” asserted Dr. Blythe quickly.

I looked from one physician to the other. Was this the “safe” poison at last?

Kennedy said nothing and I fell to wondering why, too, Dr. Blythe was so positive. Was it merely to vindicate his professional pride at the failure he and the Coroner had had so far with the case?

“I suppose you have no objection to my taking some of this sample of the contents of the organs of her body, have you?” asked Craig at length of Dr. Leslie.

“None in the world,” replied the Coroner.

Kennedy poured out some of the liquid into a bottle, corked it carefully, and we stood for a few moments longer chatting over the developments, or rather lack of developments of the case.

It was late when we returned to our apartment, but the following morning Kennedy was up long before I was. I knew enough of him, however, to know that I would find him at his laboratory breakfastless, and my deduction was correct.

It was not until the forenoon that Craig had completed the work he had set himself to do as he puzzled over something in the interminable litter of tubes and jars, bottles and beakers, reagents, solutions, and precipitates.

“I’m going to drop in at Jacot’s,” he announced finally, laying off his threadbare and acid-stained coat and pulling on the clothes more fitted for civilization.

Having no objection, but quite the contrary, I hastened to accompany him. Jacot’s was a well-known shop. It opened on Fifth Avenue, just a few feet below the sidewalk, and Jacot himself was a slim Frenchman, well preserved, faultlessly dressed.

“I am the agent of Mr. Morehouse, the Western mine-owner and connoisseur,” introduced Kennedy, as we entered the shop. “May I look around?”

“Certainement,–avec plaisir, M’sieur,” welcomed the suave dealer, with both hands interlocked. “In what is Mr. Morehouse most interested? In pictures? In furniture? In–“