The Fox Hunt by Arthur B Reeve

Story type: Literature

The next day was that of the hunt and we motored out to the North Shore Hunt Club. It was a splendid day and the ride was just enough to put an edge on the meet that was to follow.

We pulled up at last before the rambling colonial building which the Hunt Club boasted as its home. Mrs. Brackett was waiting for us already with horses from the Brackett stables.

“I’m so glad you came,” she greeted us aside. “Gloria is here–under protest. That young man over there, talking to her, is Ritter Smith. ‘Rhine’ Brown, as they call him, was about a moment ago–oh, yes, there he is, coming over on that chestnut mare to talk to them. I wanted you to see them here. After the hunt, if you care to, I think you might go over to the Cabaret Rouge out here. You might find out something.”

She was evidently quite proud of her handsome daughter and that anything should come up to smirch her name cut her deeply.

The Hunt Club was a swagger organization, even in these degenerate days when farmers will not tolerate broken fences and trampled crops, and when democratic ideas interfere sadly with the follies of the rich. In a cap with a big peak, a scarlet hunting coat and white breeches with top boots, Brackett himself made a striking figure of M. F. H.

There were thirty or forty in the field, the men in silk hats. For the most part one could not see that the men treated Gloria much differently. But it was evident that the women did. In fact the coldness even extended to her mother, who would literally have been frozen out if it had not been for her quasi-official position. I could see now that it was also a fight for Mrs. Brackett’s social life.

As we watched Gloria, we could see that Franconi was hovering around, unsuccessfully trying to get an opportunity to say a word to her alone. Just before we were off a telegram came to her, which she read and hastily stuffed into a pocket of her riding habit.

But that was all that happened and I fell to studying the various types of human nature, from the beginner who rode very hard and very badly and made himself generally odious to the M. F. H., to the old seasoned hunter who talked of the old days of real foxes and how he used to know all the short cuts to the coverts.

It was a keen, crisp day. Already a man had been over the field pulling along the ground a little bag of aniseed, and now the hunt was about to start.

Noses down, sterns feathering zigzag over the ground, sniffing earth and leaves and grass, the hounds were brought up. One seemed to get a good whiff of the trail and lifted his head with a half yelp, half whine, high pitched, frenzied, never-to-be-forgotten. Others joined in the music. “Gone away!” sounded a huntsman as if there were a real fox. We were off after them. Drag hounds, however, for the most part run mute and very fast, so that that picturesque feature was missing. But the light soil and rail fences of Long Island were ideal for drag hunting. Nor was it so easy as it seemed to follow. Also there was the spice of danger, risk to the hunters, the horses and the dogs.

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We went for four or five miles. Then there was a check for the stragglers to come up. Some had fresh mounts, and all of us were glad of the breathing space while the M. F. H. “held” the hounds.

While we waited we saw that Mrs. Brackett was riding about quickly, as if something were on her mind. A moment she stopped to speak to her husband, then galloped over to us.

Her face was almost white. “Gloria hasn’t come up with the rest!” she exclaimed breathlessly.

Already Brackett had told those about him and all was confusion. It was only a moment when the members of the hunt were scouring the country over which we had passed, with something really definite to find.

Kennedy did not pause. “Come on, Walter,” he shouted, striking out down the road, with me hard after him.

We pulled up before a road-house of remarkable quaintness and luxury of appointment, one of the hundreds about New York which the automobile has recreated. Before it swung the weathered sign: Cabaret Rouge.

To our hurried inquiries the manager admitted that Du Mond had been there, but alone, and had left, also alone. Gloria had not come there.

A moment later sounds of hoofs on the hard road interrupted us and Ritter Smith dashed up.

“Just overtook a farmer down the road,” he panted. “Says he saw an automobile waiting at the stone bridge and later it passed him with a girl and a man in it. He couldn’t recognize them. The top was up and they went so fast.”

Together we retraced the way to the stone bridge. Sure enough, there on the side of the road were marks where a car had pulled up. The grass about was trampled and as we searched Kennedy reached down and picked up something white. At least it had been white. But now it was spotted with fresh blood, as though someone had tried to stop a nose-bleed.

He looked at it more closely. In the corner was embroidered a little “G.”

Evidently there had been a struggle and a car had whizzed off. Gloria was gone. But with whom? Had the message which we had seen her read at the start been from Du Mond? Was the plan to elope and so avoid his wife? Then why the struggle?

Absolutely nothing more developed from the search. An alarm was at once sent out and the police all over the country notified. There was nothing to do now but wait. Mrs. Brackett was frantic. But it was not now the scandal that worried her. It was Gloria’s safety.

That night, in the laboratory, Kennedy took the handkerchief and with the blood on it made a most peculiar test before a strange-looking little instrument.

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It seemed to consist of a little cylinder of glass immersed in water kept at the temperature of the body. Between two minute wire pincers or serres, in the cylinder, was a very small piece of some tissue. To the lower serre was attached a thread. The upper one was attached to a sort of lever ending in a pen that moved over a ruled card.

“Every emotion,” remarked Kennedy as he watched the movement of the pen in fine zigzag lines over the card, “produces its physiological effect. Fear, rage, pain, hunger are primitive experiences, the most powerful that determine the actions of man. I suppose you have heard of the recent studies of Dr. Walter Cannon of Harvard of the group of remarkable alterations in bodily economy under emotion?”

I nodded and Kennedy resumed. “On the surface one may see the effect of blood vessels contracting, in pallor; one may see cold sweat, or the saliva stop when the tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth, or one may see the pupils dilate, hairs raise, respiration become quick, or the beating of the heart, or trembling of the muscles, notably the lips. But one cannot see such evidences of emotion if he is not present at the time. How can we reconstruct them?”

He paused a moment, then resumed. “There are organs hidden deep in the body which do not reveal so easily the emotions. But the effect often outlasts the actual emotion. There are special methods by which one can study the feelings. That is what I have been doing here.”

“But how can you?” I queried.

“There is what is called the sympathetic nervous system,” he explained. “Above the kidney there are also glands called the suprarenal which excrete a substance known as adrenin. In extraordinarily small amounts adrenin affects this sympathetic system. In emotions of various kinds a reflex action is sent to the suprarenal glands which causes a pouring into the blood of adrenin.

“On the handkerchief of Gloria Brackett I obtained plenty of comparatively fresh blood. Here in this machine I have between these two pincers a minute segment of rabbit intestine.”

He withdrew the solution from the cylinder with a pipette, then introduced some more of the dissolved blood from the handkerchief. The first effect was a strong contraction of the rabbit intestine, then in a minute or so the contractions became fairly even with the base line on the card.

“Such tissue,” he remarked, “is noticeably affected by even one part in over a million of adrenin. See. Here, by the writing lever, the rhythmical contractions are recorded. Such a strip of tissue will live for hours, will contract and relax beautifully with a regular rhythm which, as you see, can be graphically recorded. This is my adrenin test.”

Carefully he withdrew the ruled paper with its tracings.

“It’s a very simple test after all,” he said, laying beside this tracing another which he had made previously. “There you see the difference between what I may call ‘quiet blood’ and ‘excited blood.’”

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I looked at the two sets of tracings. Though they were markedly different, I did not, of course, understand what they meant. “What do they show to an expert?” I asked, perplexed.

“Fear,” he answered laconically. “Gloria Brackett did not go voluntarily. She did not elope. She was forced to go!”

“Attacked and carried off?” I queried.

“I did not say that,” he replied. “Perhaps our original theory that her nose was bleeding may be correct. It might have started in the excitement, the anger and fear at what happened, whatever it was. Certainly the amount of adrenin in her blood shows that she was laboring under strong enough emotion.”

Our telephone rang insistently and Kennedy answered it. As he talked, although I could hear only one side of the conversation, I knew that the message was from Chase and that he had found something important about the missing necklace.

“What was it?” I asked eagerly as he hung up the receiver.

“Chase has traced the necklace,” he reported; “that is, he has discovered the separate stones, unset, pawned in several shops. The tickets were issued to a girl whose description exactly fits Gloria Brackett.”

I could only stare at him. What we had all feared had actually taken place. Gloria must have taken the necklace herself. Though we had feared it and tried to discount it, nevertheless the certainty came as a shock.

“Why should she have taken it?” I considered.

“For many possible reasons,” returned Kennedy. “You saw the life she was leading. Her own income probably went to keeping those harpies going. Besides, her mother had cut her allowance. She may have needed money very badly.”

“Perhaps they had run her into debt,” I agreed, though the thought was disagreeable.

“How about that other little woman we saw?” suggested Kennedy. “You remember how Gloria seemed to stand in fear of Du Mond? Who knows but that he made her get it to save her reputation? A girl in Gloria’s position might do many foolish things. But to be named as co-respondent, that would be fatal.”

There was not much comfort to be had by either alternative, and we sat for a moment regarding each other in silence.

Suddenly the door opened. Mrs. Brackett entered. Never have I seen a greater contrast in so short a time than that between the striking society matron who first called on us and the broken woman now before us. She was a pathetic figure as Kennedy placed an easy chair for her.

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Kennedy. “Have you heard anything new?”

She did not answer directly, but silently handed him a yellow slip of paper. On a telegraph blank were written simply the words, “Don’t try to follow me. I’ve gone to be a war nurse. When I make good I will let you know. Gloria.”

We looked at each other in blank amazement. That was hardly an easy way to trace her. How could one ever find out now where she was, in the present state of affairs abroad, even supposing it were not a ruse to cover up something?

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Somehow I felt that the message did not tell the story. Where was Du Mond? Had he fled, too,–perhaps forced her to go with him when Mrs. Du Mond appeared? The message did not explain the struggle and the fear.

“Oh, Mr. Kennedy,” pleaded Mrs. Brackett, all thought of her former pride gone, as she actually held out her hands imploringly and almost fell on her knees, “can’t you find her–can’t you do something?”

“Have you a photograph of Gloria?” he asked hurriedly.

“Yes,” she cried eagerly, reaching into her mesh bag and drawing one out. “I carry it with me always. Why?”

“Come,” exclaimed Kennedy, seizing it. “It occurs to me that it is now or never that this device of Franconi’s must prove that it is some good. If she really went, she wasted no time. There’s just a bare chance that the telephote has been placed on some of these vessels that are carrying munitions abroad. Franconi says that he has developed it for its war value.”

As fast as Mrs. Brackett’s chauffeur could drive us, we motored down to South Side Beach and sought out the little workshop directly on the ocean where Franconi had told us that we should always be welcome.

He was not there, but an assistant was. Kennedy showed him the card that Franconi had given us.

“Show me how the machine works,” he asked, while Mrs. Brackett and I waited aside, scarcely able to curb our impatience.

“Well,” began the assistant, “this is a screen of very minute and sensitive selenium cells. I don’t know how to describe the process better than to say that the tones of sound, the human voice, have hundreds of gradations which are transmitted, as you know, by wireless, now. Gradations of light, which are all that are necessary to produce the illusion of a picture, are far simpler than those of sound. Here, in this projector–“

“That is the transmitting part of the apparatus?” interrupted Kennedy brusquely. “That holder?”

“Yes. You see there are hundreds of alternating conductors and insulators, all synchronized with hundreds of similar receivers at the–“

“Let me see you try this photograph,” interrupted Kennedy again, handing over the picture of Gloria which Mrs. Brackett had given him. “Signor Franconi told me he had the telephote on several outgoing liners. Let me see if you can transmit it. Is there any way of sending a wireless message from this place?”

The assistant had shoved the photograph into the holder from which each section was projected on the selenium cell screen.

“I have a fairly powerful plant here,” he replied.

Quickly Kennedy wrote out a message, briefly describing the reason why the picture was transmitted and asking that any station on shipboard that received it would have a careful search made of the passengers for any young woman, no matter what name was assumed, who might resemble the photograph.

Though nothing could be expected immediately at best, it was at least some satisfaction to know that through the invisible air waves, wirelessly, the only means now of identifying Gloria was being flashed far and wide to all the big ships within a day’s distance or less on which Franconi had established his system as a test.

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The telephote had finished its work. Now there was nothing to do but wait. It was a slender thread on which hung the hope of success.

While we waited, Mrs. Brackett was eating her heart out with anxiety. Kennedy took the occasion to call up the New York police on long distance. They had no clew to Gloria. Nor had they been able to find a trace of Du Mond. Mrs. Du Mond also had disappeared. At the Cabaret Rouge, Bernice Bentley had been held and put through a third degree, without disclosing a thing, if indeed she knew anything. I wondered whether, at such a crisis, Du Mond, too, might not have taken the opportunity to flee the country.

We had almost given up hope, when suddenly a little buzzer on the telephote warned the operator that something was coming over it.

“The Monfalcone,” he remarked, interpreting the source of the impulses.

“We gathered breathlessly about the complicated instrument as, on a receiving screen composed of innumerable pencils of light polarized and acting on a set of mirrors, each corresponding to the cells of the selenium screen and tuned to them, as it were, a thin film or veil seemed gradually to clear up, as the telephote slowly got itself into equilibrium at both ends of the air line. Gradually the face of a girl appeared.

“Gloria!” gasped Mrs. Brackett in a tone that sounded as if ten years had been added to her life.

“Wait,” cautioned the operator. “There is a written message to follow.”

On the same screen now came in letters that Mrs. Brackett in her joy recognized the message: “I couldn’t help it. I was blackmailed into taking the necklace. Even at the hunt I received another demand. I did not mean to go, but I was carried off by force before I could pay the second demand. Now I’m glad of it. Forgive us. Gloria.”

“Us?” repeated Mrs. Brackett, not comprehending.

“Look–another picture,” pointed Kennedy.

We bent over as the face of a man seemed to dissolve more clearly in place of the writing.

“Thank God!” exclaimed Mrs. Brackett fervently, reading the face by a sort of intuition before it cleared enough for us to recognize. “He has saved her from herself!”

It was Franconi!

Slowly it faded and in its place appeared another written message.

“Recalled to Italy for war service. I took her with me by force. It was the only way. Civil ceremony in New York yesterday. Religious will follow at Rome.”

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