THE SEX CONTROL
I did not see Kennedy again that day until late in the afternoon, when he came into the laboratory carrying a small package.
“Theory is one thing, practice is another,” he remarked, as he threw his hat and coat into a chair.
“Which means—in this case?” I prompted.
“Why, I have just seen Atherton. Of course I didn’t repeat our conversation of this morning, and I’m glad I didn’t. He almost makes me think you are right, Walter. He’s obsessed by the fear of Burroughs. Why, he even told me that Burroughs had gone so far as to take a leaf out of his book, so to speak, get in touch with the Eugenics Bureau as if to follow his footsteps, but really to pump them about Atherton himself. Atherton says it’s all Burroughs’ plan to break his will and that the fellow has even gone so far as to cultivate the acquaintance of Maude Schofield, knowing that he will get no sympathy from Crafts.”
“First it was Edith Atherton, now it is Maude Schofield that he hitches up with Burroughs,” I commented. “Seems to me that I have heard that one of the first signs of insanity is belief that everyone about the victim is conspiring against him. I haven’t any love for any of them—but I must be fair.”
“Well,” said Kennedy, unwrapping the package, “there is this much to it. Atherton says Burroughs and Maude Schofield have been seen together more than once—and not at intellectual gatherings either. Burroughs is a fascinating fellow to a woman, if he wants to be, and the Schofields are at least the social equals of the Burroughs. Besides,” he added, “in spite of eugenics, feminism, and all the rest—sex, like murder, will out. There’s no use having any false ideas about that. Atherton may see red—but, then, he was quite excited.”
“Over what?” I asked, perplexed more than ever at the turn of events.
“He called me up in the first place. ‘Can’t you do something?’ he implored. ‘Eugenia is getting worse all the time.’ She is, too. I saw her for a moment, and she was even more vacant than yesterday.”
The thought of the poor girl in the big house somehow brought over me again my first impression of Poe’s story.
Kennedy had unwrapped the package which proved to be the instrument he had left in the closet at Atherton’s. It was, as I had observed, like an ordinary wax cylinder phonograph record.
“You see,” explained Kennedy, “it is nothing more than a successful application at last of, say, one of those phonographs you have seen in offices for taking dictation, placed so that the feebler vibrations of the telephone affect it. Let us see what we have here.”
He had attached the cylinder to an ordinary phonograph, and after a number of routine calls had been run off, he came to this, in voices which we could only guess at but not recognize, for no names were used.