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The Secret Agents
by [?]

A moment later I saw Kennedy bow and, following the direction of his eyes, looked up to a sort of mezzanine gallery. There were Haynes and a most attractive woman, talking earnestly.

“Madame Dupres,” Craig whispered to me, aside.

She was tall, slender, gowned in the most modish manner, and had a foreign way about her that would have fascinated one even more cosmopolitan than a Texas veterinary.

Now and then someone would stop and chat with them and it seemed that they were on very good terms, at least with a certain group at the St. Quentin.

Kennedy moved out further into the lobby where he was more noticeable; then, with a sudden resolution, mounted the steps to the mezzanine floor and approached Haynes.

“Let me introduce Professor Kennedy, Madame Dupres,” presented Haynes.

Kennedy bowed.

Whatever one’s opinion of madame, he was forced to admit that she was clever. It was evident, also, that she and Haynes were on very intimate terms, also.

“I hope that you will be able to clear up the mystery that the newspapers have found in Mr. Delaney’s death,” she remarked. “Mr. Haynes has told me that he met you tonight with Dr. Leslie. By the way, has he told you his own theory?” she asked.

“We shall do our best,” replied Kennedy, meeting her eye in as impersonal a manner as it was possible, for it is always difficult to dissociate a beautiful woman from a case like this and judge her not as a beautiful woman but on the merits of the case. “No, Mr. Haynes has not told me his theory–yet.”

“I’m very glad to have met you,” she added, extending her daintily gloved hand to Kennedy, “and you may be sure that if there is any way in which I can be of service I shall expect you to call on me. Just now I hope you will excuse me. I have some letters to get off–and I will leave you men to discuss Mr. Haynes’ theory without being hampered by a mere woman. Never mind, Harris,” she added as Haynes made as if to escort her to the ladies’ writing room.

As Madame Dupres passed down the steps there was no denying that she made a splendid impression. Haynes watched her with a glance that was almost ravenous. There could be no doubt of her influence over him.

As she passed through the lobby she paused at the telegraph desk a moment, then went into the writing room.

“Yes, I think I have an explanation,” began Haynes, when she was out of sight. “I’ve been trying to figure out what could have killed Delaney. Of course I can only guess, but I don’t think it is such a bad guess.”

“What is it?” asked Craig.

“You remember the mercury vapor light?”

Kennedy nodded.

“Mercury vapor lights of that sort are a pretty good source of ultra-violet rays sometimes,” went on Haynes. “Well, doubtless you know that various plants belonging to different families produce free prussic acid. They are really cyanogenetic plants. Light and the assimilation processes depending on light exert a favorable influence on cyanogenesis. For instance, a mixture of citric acid with a much smaller amount of potassium nitrite and a trace of bicarbonate of iron, if exposed to light, will generate hydrocyanic acid. That, I believe, is what actually happens in some plant tissues. Animals rarely touch such plants. I believe that such a process might be aided rather than retarded by ultra-violet rays. What do you think of it?”

Craig was following Dr. Haynes keenly. As for me, I was astounded by his frankness. I recalled what Kennedy had already said up in Delaney’s apartment, and watched his face covertly.

“Your explanation is plausible,” was all that Craig said. “By the way, have you found out anything about the Baroness?”

“Not a word, yet,” replied Haynes unhesitatingly. “She seems to be out of town.”

“And madame–has she any idea where she is?”

Haynes shook his head. “You may rest assured,” replied Haynes in a tone that was meant to carry conviction, “that if we can find out we shall be only too happy to do so–ourselves.”