“One moment,” I managed to interrupt. “This is not Mr. Carton, although this is his office. No—he’s out. Yes, he’ll certainly be back in half an hour. Ring up then.”
I repeated the scrap of gossip that had filtered through to me, which Carton received in quite as much perplexity as I had.
“Seems as if everybody was getting knocked,” he commented.
“That may be a blind, though,” I suggested.
He nodded. I think we both realized how helpless we were when Kennedy was away. In fact we made even our guesses with a sort of lack of confidence.
It was therefore with a sense of relief that we welcomed him a few minutes later as he hurried into the office, almost breathless from his trip uptown and back.
“Has anyone called up?” he inquired unceremoniously, unwrapping a small parcel which he carried.
I told him as briefly as I could what had happened. He nodded, without making any audible comment, but in a manner that seemed to show no surprise.
“I want to get this thing installed before anyone else calls,” he explained, setting to work immediately.
“What is it?” I asked, regarding the affair, which included something that looked like a phonograph cylinder.
“An invention that has just been perfected,” he replied without delaying his preparations, “by which it is possible for messages to be sent over the telephone and automatically registered, even in the absence of anyone at the receiving end. Up to the present it has been practicable to take phonograph records only by the direct action of the human voice upon the diaphragm of the instrument. Not long ago there was submitted to the French Academy of Sciences an apparatus by which the receiver of the telephone can be put into communication with a phonograph and a perfect record obtained of the voice of the speaker at the other end of the wire, his message being reproduced at will by merely pressing a button.”
“Wouldn’t the telegraphone do?” I asked, remembering our use of that instrument in other cases.
“It would record,” he replied, “but I want a phonograph record. Nothing else will do in this case. You’ll see why, before I get through. Besides, this apparatus isn’t complicated. Between the diaphragm of the telephone receiver and that of the phonographic microphone is fitted an air chamber of adjustable size, open to the outer atmosphere by a small hole to prevent compression. I think,” he added with a smile, “it will afford a pretty good means of collecting souvenirs of friends by preserving the sound of their voices through the telephone.” For several minutes we waited.
“I don’t think I ever heard of such effrontery, such open, bare-faced chicanery,” fumed Carton impatiently.
“We’ll catch the fellow yet,” replied Kennedy confidently. “And I think we’ll find him a bad lot.”