“I am learning new things about this process every day,” continued Dr. Kreener, placing the little figure upon a table. “For instance, while it seems to operate uniformly upon vegetable matter, there are curious modifications when one applies it to animal and mineral substances. I have now definitely decided that the result of this particular inquiry must never be published. You, Colquhoun, I believe, possess an example of the process, a tiger lily, I think? I must ask you to return it to me. Our late friend, Tcheriapin, wears a pink rose in his coat which I have treated in the same way. I am going to take the liberty of removing it.”
He spoke in the hard, incisive manner which I had heard him use in the lecture theatre, and it was evident enough that his design was to prepare Andrews for something which he contemplated. Facing the Scotsman where he sat hunched up in the big armchair, dully watching the speaker:
“There is one experiment,” said Dr. Kreener, speaking very deliberately, “which I have never before had a suitable opportunity of attempting. Of its result I am personally confident, but science always demands proof.”
His voice rang now with a note of repressed excitement. He paused for a moment, and then:
“If you were to examine this little specimen very closely,” he said, and rested his finger upon the tiny figure of the guinea-pig, “you would find that in one particular it is imperfect. Although a diamond drill would have to be employed to demonstrate the fact, the animal’s organs, despite their having undergone a chemical change quite new to science, are intact, perfect down to the smallest detail. One part of the creature’s structure alone defied my process. In short, dental enamel is impervious to it. This little animal, otherwise as complete as when it lived and breathed, has no teeth. I found it necessary to extract them before submitting the body to the reductionary process.”
“Shall I go on?” he asked.
Andrews, to whose mind, I think, no conception of the doctor’s project had yet penetrated, shuddered, but slowly nodded his head.
Dr. Kreener glanced across the laboratory at the crouching figure of Tcheriapin, then, resting his hands upon Andrews’s shoulders, he pushed him back in the chair and stared into his dull eyes.
“Brace yourself, Colquhoun,” he said tersely.
Turning, he crossed to a small mahogany cabinet at the farther end of the room. Pulling out a glass tray he judicially selected a pair of dental forceps.
“The black mass”
Thus far the stranger’s appalling story had progressed when that singular cloak in which hypnotically he had enwrapped me seemed to drop, and I found myself clutching the edge of the table and staring into the gray face of the speaker.