home | authors | books | about

Home -> Arthur Conan Doyle -> Round The Red Lamp -> A Physiologist's Wife

Round The Red Lamp - A Physiologist's Wife

1. Behind the Times

2. His First Operation

3. A Straggler of '15

4. The Third Generation

5. A False Start

6. The Curse of Eve

7. Sweethearts

8. A Physiologist's Wife

9. The Case of Lady Sannox

10. A Question of Diplomacy

11. A Medical Document

12. Lot No. 249

13. The Los Amigos Fiasco

14. The Doctors of Hoyland

15. The Surgeon Talks

Professor Ainslie Grey had not come down to
breakfast at the usual hour. The presentation
chiming-clock which stood between the terra-cotta
busts of Claude Bernard and of John Hunter upon the
dining-room mantelpiece had rung out the half-hour
and the three-quarters. Now its golden hand was
verging upon the nine, and yet there were no signs of
the master of the house.

It was an unprecedented occurrence. During the
twelve years that she had kept house for him, his
youngest sister had never known him a second behind
his time. She sat now in front of the high silver
coffee-pot, uncertain whether to order the gong to be
resounded or to wait on in silence. Either course
might be a mistake. Her brother was not a man who
permitted mistakes.

Miss Ainslie Grey was rather above the middle
height, thin, with peering, puckered eyes, and the
rounded shoulders which mark the bookish woman. Her
face was long and spare, flecked with
colour above the cheek-bones, with a reasonable,
thoughtful forehead, and a dash of absolute obstinacy
in her thin lips and prominent chin. Snow white
cuffs and collar, with a plain dark dress, cut with
almost Quaker-like simplicity, bespoke the primness
of her taste. An ebony cross hung over her flattened
chest. She sat very upright in her chair, listening
with raised eyebrows, and swinging her eye-glasses
backwards and forwards with a nervous gesture which
was peculiar to her.

Suddenly she gave a sharp, satisfied jerk of the
head, and began to pour out the coffee. From outside
there came the dull thudding sound of heavy feet upon
thick carpet. The door swung open, and the Professor
entered with a quick, nervous step. He nodded to his
sister, and seating himself at the other side of the
table, began to open the small pile of letters which
lay beside his plate.

Professor Ainslie Grey was at that time forty-
three years of age--nearly twelve years older than
his sister. His career had been a brilliant one. At
Edinburgh, at Cambridge, and at Vienna he had laid
the foundations of his great reputation, both in
physiology and in zoology.

His pamphlet, On the Mesoblastic Origin of
Excitomotor Nerve Roots, had won him his fellowship
of the Royal Society; and his researches, Upon
the Nature of Bathybius, with some Remarks upon
Lithococci, had been translated into at least three
European languages. He had been referred to by one
of the greatest living authorities as being the very
type and embodiment of all that was best in modern
science. No wonder, then, that when the commercial
city of Birchespool decided to create a medical
school, they were only too glad to confer the chair
of physiology upon Mr. Ainslie Grey. They valued him
the more from the conviction that their class was
only one step in his upward journey, and that the
first vacancy would remove him to some more
illustrious seat of learning.

In person he was not unlike his sister. The same
eyes, the same contour, the same intellectual
forehead. His lips, however, were firmer, and his
long, thin, lower jaw was sharper and more decided.
He ran his finger and thumb down it from time to
time, as he glanced over his letters.

"Those maids are very noisy," he remarked, as a
clack of tongues sounded in the distance.

"It is Sarah," said his sister; "I shall speak
about it."

She had handed over his coffee-cup, and was
sipping at her own, glancing furtively through her
narrowed lids at the austere face of her brother.

"The first great advance of the human race,"
said the Professor, "was when, by the
development of their left frontal convolutions, they
attained the power of speech. Their second advance
was when they learned to control that power. Woman
has not yet attained the second stage."

He half closed his eyes as he spoke, and thrust
his chin forward, but as he ceased he had a trick of
suddenly opening both eyes very wide and staring
sternly at his interlocutor.

"I am not garrulous, John," said his sister.

"No, Ada; in many respects you approach the
superior or male type."

The Professor bowed over his egg with the manner
of one who utters a courtly compliment; but the lady
pouted, and gave an impatient little shrug of her

"You were late this morning, John," she remarked,
after a pause.

"Yes, Ada; I slept badly. Some little cerebral
congestion, no doubt due to over-stimulation of the
centers of thought. I have been a little disturbed
in my mind."

His sister stared across at him in astonishment.
The Professor's mental processes had hitherto been as
regular as his habits. Twelve years' continual
intercourse had taught her that he lived in a serene
and rarefied atmosphere of scientific calm, high
above the petty emotions which affect humbler minds.

"You are surprised, Ada," he remarked. "Well, I
cannot wonder at it. I should have been surprised
myself if I had been told that I was so sensitive to
vascular influences. For, after all, all
disturbances are vascular if you probe them deep
enough. I am thinking of getting married."

"Not Mrs. O'James" cried Ada Grey, laying down her

"My dear, you have the feminine quality of
receptivity very remarkably developed. Mrs. O'James
is the lady in question."

"But you know so little of her. The Esdailes
themselves know so little. She is really only an
acquaintance, although she is staying at The Lindens.
Would it not be wise to speak to Mrs. Esdaile first,

"I do not think, Ada, that Mrs. Esdaile is at all
likely to say anything which would materially affect
my course of action. I have given the matter due
consideration. The scientific mind is slow at
arriving at conclusions, but having once formed them,
it is not prone to change. Matrimony is the natural
condition of the human race. I have, as you know,
been so engaged in academical and other work, that I
have had no time to devote to merely personal
questions. It is different now, and I see no valid
reason why I should forego this opportunity of
seeking a suitable helpmate."

"And you are engaged?"

"Hardly that, Ada. I ventured yesterday to
indicate to the lady that I was prepared to submit to
the common lot of humanity. I shall wait upon her
after my morning lecture, and learn how far my
proposals meet with her acquiescence. But you frown,

His sister started, and made an effort to conceal
her expression of annoyance. She even stammered out
some few words of congratulation, but a vacant look
had come into her brother's eyes, and he was
evidently not listening to her.

"I am sure, John, that I wish you the happiness
which you deserve. If I hesitated at all, it is
because I know how much is at stake, and because the
thing is so sudden, so unexpected." Her thin white
hand stole up to the black cross upon her bosom.
"These are moments when we need guidance, John. If I
could persuade you to turn to spiritual----"

The Professor waved the suggestion away with a
deprecating hand.

"It is useless to reopen that question," he said.
"We cannot argue upon it. You assume more than I can
grant. I am forced to dispute your premises. We
have no common basis."

His sister sighed.

"You have no faith," she said.

"I have faith in those great evolutionary forces
which are leading the human race to some unknown but
elevated goal."

"You believe in nothing."

"On the contrary, my dear Ada, I believe in the
differentiation of protoplasm."

She shook her head sadly. It was the one subject
upon which she ventured to dispute her brother's

"This is rather beside the question," remarked
the Professor, folding up his napkin. "If I am not
mistaken, there is some possibility of another
matrimonial event occurring in the family. Eh, Ada?

His small eyes glittered with sly facetiousness
as he shot a twinkle at his sister. She sat very
stiff, and traced patterns upon the cloth with the

"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien----" said the
Professor, sonorously.

"Don't, John, don't!" cried Miss Ainslie Grey.

"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien," continued her
brother inexorably, "is a man who has already made
his mark upon the science of the day. He is my first
and my most distinguished pupil. I assure you, Ada,
that his `Remarks upon the Bile-Pigments, with
special reference to Urobilin,' is likely to live as
a classic. It is not too much to say that he
has revolutionised our views about urobilin."

He paused, but his sister sat silent, with bent
head and flushed cheeks. The little ebony cross rose
and fell with her hurried breathings.

"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien has, as you know, the
offer of the physiological chair at Melbourne. He
has been in Australia five years, and has a brilliant
future before him. To-day he leaves us for
Edinburgh, and in two months' time, he goes out to
take over his new duties. You know his feeling
towards you. It, rests with you as to whether he
goes out alone. Speaking for myself, I cannot
imagine any higher mission for a woman of culture
than to go through life in the company of a man who
is capable of such a research as that which Dr. James
M`Murdo O'Brien has brought to a successful

"He has not spoken to me," murmured the lady.

"Ah, there are signs which are more subtle than
speech," said her brother, wagging his head. "But
you are pale. Your vasomotor system is excited.
Your arterioles have contracted. Let me entreat you
to compose yourself. I think I hear the carriage. I
fancy that you may have a visitor this morning, Ada.
You will excuse me now."

With a quick glance at the clock he strode off
into the hall, and within a few minutes he was
rattling in his quiet, well-appointed brougham
through the brick-lined streets of Birchespool.

His lecture over, Professor Ainslie Grey paid a
visit to his laboratory, where he adjusted several
scientific instruments, made a note as to the
progress of three separate infusions of bacteria, cut
half-a-dozen sections with a microtome, and finally
resolved the difficulties of seven different
gentlemen, who were pursuing researches in as many
separate lines of inquiry. Having thus
conscientiously and methodically completed the
routine of his duties, he returned to his carriage
and ordered the coachman to drive him to The Lindens.
His face as he drove was cold and impassive, but he
drew his fingers from time to time down his prominent
chin with a jerky, twitchy movement.

The Lindens was an old-fashioned, ivy-clad house
which had once been in the country, but was now
caught in the long, red-brick feelers of the growing
city. It still stood back from the road in the
privacy of its own grounds. A winding path, lined
with laurel bushes, led to the arched and porticoed
entrance. To the right was a lawn, and at the far
side, under the shadow of a hawthorn, a lady sat in a
garden-chair with a book in her hands. At the click
of the gate she started, and the Professor, catching
sight of her, turned away from the door, and
strode in her direction.

"What! won't you go in and see Mrs. Esdaile?" she
asked, sweeping out from under the shadow of the

She was a small woman, strongly feminine, from
the rich coils of her light-coloured hair to the
dainty garden slipper which peeped from under her
cream-tinted dress. One tiny well-gloved hand was
outstretched in greeting, while the other pressed a
thick, green-covered volume against her side. Her
decision and quick, tactful manner bespoke the mature
woman of the world; but her upraised face had
preserved a girlish and even infantile expression of
innocence in its large, fearless, grey eyes, and
sensitive, humorous mouth. Mrs. O'James was a widow,
and she was two-and-thirty years of age; but neither
fact could have been deduced from her appearance.

"You will surely go in and see Mrs. Esdaile," she
repeated, glancing up at him with eyes which had in
them something between a challenge and a caress.

"I did not come to see Mrs. Esdaile," he
answered, with no relaxation of his cold and grave
manner; "I came to see you."

"I am sure I should be highly honoured," she
said, with just the slightest little touch of brogue
in her accent. "What are the students to do
without their Professor?"

"I have already completed my academic duties.
Take my arm, and we shall walk in the sunshine.
Surely we cannot wonder that Eastern people should
have made a deity of the sun. It is the great
beneficent force of Nature--man's ally against cold,
sterility, and all that is abhorrent to him. What
were you reading?"

"Hale's Matter and Life."

The Professor raised his thick eyebrows.

"Hale!" he said, and then again in a kind of
whisper, "Hale!"

"You differ from him?" she asked.

"It is not I who differ from him. I am only a
monad--a thing of no moment. The whole tendency of
the highest plane of modern thought differs from him.
He defends the indefensible. He is an excellent
observer, but a feeble reasoner. I should not
recommend you to found your conclusions upon Hale."

"I must read Nature's Chronicle to counteract his
pernicious influence," said Mrs. O'James, with a
soft, cooing laugh.

Nature's Chronicle was one of the many books in
which Professor Ainslie Grey had enforced the
negative doctrines of scientific agnosticism.

"It is a faulty work," said he; "I cannot
recommend it. I would rather refer you to the
standard writings of some of my older and more
eloquent colleagues."

There was a pause in their talk as they paced up
and down on the green, velvet-like lawn in the genial

"Have you thought at all," he asked at last, "of
the matter upon which I spoke to you last night?"

She said nothing, but walked by his side with her
eyes averted and her face aslant.

"I would not hurry you unduly," he continued. "I
know that it is a matter which can scarcely be
decided off-hand. In my own case, it cost me some
thought before I ventured to make the suggestion. I
am not an emotional man, but I am conscious in your
presence of the great evolutionary instinct which
makes either sex the complement of the other."

"You believe in love, then?" she asked, with a
twinkling, upward glance.

"I am forced to."

"And yet you can deny the soul?"

"How far these questions are psychic and how far
material is still sub judice," said the
Professor, with an air of toleration. "Protoplasm
may prove to be the physical basis of love as well as
of life."

"How inflexible you are!" she exclaimed; "you
would draw love down to the level of physics."

"Or draw physics up to the level of love."

"Come, that is much better," she cried, with her
sympathetic laugh. "That is really very pretty, and
puts science in quite a delightful light."

Her eyes sparkled, and she tossed her chin with
the pretty, wilful air of a woman who is mistress of
the situation.

"I have reason to believe," said the Professor,
"that my position here will prove to be only a
stepping-stone to some wider scene of scientific
activity. Yet, even here, my chair brings me in some
fifteen hundred pounds a year, which is supplemented
by a few hundreds from my books. I should therefore
be in a position to provide you with those comforts
to which you are accustomed. So much for my
pecuniary position. As to my constitution, it has
always been sound. I have never suffered from any
illness in my life, save fleeting attacks of
cephalalgia, the result of too prolonged a
stimulation of the centres of cerebration. My father
and mother had no sign of any morbid diathesis, but I
will not conceal from you that my grandfather was
afflicted with podagra."

Mrs. O'James looked startled.

"Is that very serious?" she asked.

"It is gout," said the Professor.

"Oh, is that all? It sounded much worse than

"It is a grave taint, but I trust that I shall
not be a victim to atavism. I have laid these facts
before you because they are factors which cannot be
overlooked in forming your decision. May I ask now
whether you see your way to accepting my proposal?"

He paused in his walk, and looked earnestly and
expectantly down at her.

A struggle was evidently going on in her mind.
Her eyes were cast down, her little slipper tapped
the lawn, and her fingers played nervously with her
chatelain. Suddenly, with a sharp, quick gesture
which had in it something of ABANDON and
recklessness, she held out her hand to her companion.

"I accept," she said.

They were standing under the shadow of the
hawthorn. He stooped gravely down, and kissed her
glove-covered fingers.

"I trust that you may never have cause to regret
your decision," he said.

"I trust that you never may," she cried, with a
heaving breast.

There were tears in her eyes, and her lips
twitched with some strong emotion.

"Come into the sunshine again," said he. "It is
the great restorative. Your nerves are shaken. Some
little congestion of the medulla and pons. It is
always instructive to reduce psychic or
emotional conditions to their physical
equivalents. You feel that your anchor is still firm
in a bottom of ascertained fact."

"But it is so dreadfully unromantic," said Mrs.
O'James, with her old twinkle.

"Romance is the offspring of imagination and of
ignorance. Where science throws her calm, clear
light there is happily no room for romance."

"But is not love romance?" she asked.

"Not at all. Love has been taken away from the
poets, and has been brought within the domain of true
science. It may prove to be one of the great cosmic
elementary forces. When the atom of hydrogen draws
the atom of chlorine towards it to form the perfected
molecule of hydrochloric acid, the force which it
exerts may be intrinsically similar to that which
draws me to you. Attraction and repulsion appear to
be the primary forces. This is attraction."

"And here is repulsion," said Mrs. O'James, as a
stout, florid lady came sweeping across the lawn in
their direction. "So glad you have come out, Mrs.
Esdaile! Here is Professor Grey."

"How do you do, Professor?" said the lady, with
some little pomposity of manner. "You were very wise
to stay out here on so lovely a day. Is it not

"It is certainly very fine weather," the
Professor answered.

"Listen to the wind sighing in the trees!" cried
Mrs. Esdaile, holding up one finger. "it is Nature's
lullaby. Could you not imagine it, Professor Grey,
to be the whisperings of angels?"

"The idea had not occurred to me, madam."

"Ah, Professor, I have always the same complaint
against you. A want of rapport with the deeper
meanings of nature. Shall I say a want of
imagination. You do not feel an emotional thrill at
the singing of that thrush?"

"I confess that I am not conscious of one, Mrs.

"Or at the delicate tint of that background of
leaves? See the rich greens!"

"Chlorophyll," murmured the Professor.

"Science is so hopelessly prosaic. It dissects
and labels, and loses sight of the great things in
its attention to the little ones. You have a poor
opinion of woman's intellect, Professor Grey. I
think that I have heard you say so."

"It is a question of avoirdupois," said the
Professor, closing his eyes and shrugging his
shoulders. "The female cerebrum averages two ounces
less in weight than the male. No doubt there are
exceptions. Nature is always elastic."

"But the heaviest thing is not always the
strongest," said Mrs. O'James, laughing. "Isn't
there a law of compensation in science? May we
not hope to make up in quality for what we lack
in quantity?"

"I think not," remarked the Professor, gravely.
"But there is your luncheon-gong. No, thank you, Mrs.
Esdaile, I cannot stay. My carriage is waiting.
Good-bye. Good-bye, Mrs. O'James."

He raised his hat and stalked slowly away among
the laurel bushes.

"He has no taste," said Mrs. Esdaile--" no eye
for beauty."

"On the contrary," Mrs. O'James answered, with a
saucy little jerk of the chin. "He has just asked me
to be his wife."

As Professor Ainslie Grey ascended the steps of
his house, the hall-door opened and a dapper
gentleman stepped briskly out. He was somewhat
sallow in the face, with dark, beady eyes, and a
short, black beard with an aggressive bristle.
Thought and work had left their traces upon his face,
but he moved with the brisk activity of a man who had
not yet bade good-bye to his youth.

"I'm in luck's way," he cried. "I wanted to see

"Then come back into the library," said the
Professor; "you must stay and have lunch with us."

The two men entered the hall, and the Professor
led the way into his private sanctum. He motioned
his companion into an arm-chair.

"I trust that you have been successful, O'Brien,"
said he. "I should be loath to exercise any undue
pressure upon my sister Ada; but I have given her to
understand that there is no one whom I should prefer
for a brother-in-law to my most brilliant scholar,
the author of Some Remarks upon the Bile-Pigments,
with special reference to Urobilin."

"You are very kind, Professor Grey--you have
always been very kind," said the other. "I
approached Miss Grey upon the subject; she did not
say No."

"She said Yes, then?"

"No; she proposed to leave the matter open until
my return from Edinburgh. I go to-day, as you know,
and I hope to commence my research to-morrow."

"On the comparative anatomy of the vermiform
appendix, by James M`Murdo O'Brien," said the
Professor, sonorously. "It is a glorious subject--a
subject which lies at the very root of evolutionary

"Ah! she is the dearest girl," cried O'Brien,
with a sudden little spurt of Celtic enthusiasm--"she
is the soul of truth and of honour."

"The vermiform appendix----" began the Professor.

"She is an angel from heaven," interrupted the
other. "I fear that it is my advocacy of scientific
freedom in religious thought which stands in my way
with her."

"You must not truckle upon that point. You must
be true to your convictions; let there be no
compromise there."

"My reason is true to agnosticism, and yet I am
conscious of a void--a vacuum. I had feelings at the
old church at home between the scent of the incense
and the roll of the organ, such as I have never
experienced in the laboratory or the lecture-room."

"Sensuous-purely sensuous," said the Professor,
rubbing his chin. "Vague hereditary tendencies
stirred into life by the stimulation of the nasal and
auditory nerves."

"Maybe so, maybe so," the younger man answered
thoughtfully. "But this was not what I wished to
speak to you about. Before I enter your family, your
sister and you have a claim to know all that I can
tell you about my career. Of my worldly prospects I
have already spoken to you. There is only one point
which I have omitted to mention. I am a widower."

The Professor raised his eyebrows.

"This is news indeed," said he.

"I married shortly after my arrival in Australia.
Miss Thurston was her name. I met her in society.
It was a most unhappy match."

Some painful emotion possessed him. His quick,
expressive features quivered, and his white hands
tightened upon the arms of the chair. The Professor
turned away towards the window.

"You are the best judge," he remarked "but I
should not think that it was necessary to go into

"You have a right to know everything--you and
Miss Grey. It is not a matter on which I can well
speak to her direct. Poor Jinny was the best of
women, but she was open to flattery, and liable to be
misled by designing persons. She was untrue to me,
Grey. It is a hard thing to say of the dead, but she
was untrue to me. She fled to Auckland with a man
whom she had known before her marriage. The brig
which carried them foundered, and not a soul was

"This is very painful, O'Brien," said the
Professor, with a deprecatory motion of his hand. "I
cannot see, however, how it affects your relation to
my sister."

"I have eased my conscience," said O'Brien,
rising from his chair; "I have told you all that
there is to tell. I should not like the story to
reach you through any lips but my own."

"You are right, O'Brien. Your action has
been most honourable and considerate. But you
are not to blame in the matter, save that perhaps you
showed a little precipitancy in choosing a life-
partner without due care and inquiry."

O'Brien drew his hand across his eyes.

"Poor girl!" he cried. "God help me, I love her
still! But I must go."

"You will lunch with us?"

"No, Professor; I have my packing still to do. I
have already bade Miss Grey adieu. In two months I
shall see you again."

"You will probably find me a married man."


"Yes, I have been thinking of it."

"My dear Professor, let me congratulate you with
all my heart. I had no idea. Who is the lady?"

"Mrs. O'James is her name--a widow of the same
nationality as yourself. But to return to matters of
importance, I should be very happy to see the proofs
of your paper upon the vermiform appendix. I may be
able to furnish you with material for a footnote or

"Your assistance will be invaluable to me," said
O'Brien, with enthusiasm, and the two men parted in
the hall. The Professor walked back into the dining-
room, where his sister was already seated at the

"I shall be married at the registrar's," he
remarked; "I should strongly recommend you to do
the same."

Professor Ainslie Grey was as good as his word.
A fortnight's cessation of his classes gave him an
opportunity which was too good to let pass. Mrs.
O'James was an orphan, without relations and almost
without friends in the country. There was no
obstacle in the way of a speedy wedding. They were
married, accordingly, in the quietest manner
possible, and went off to Cambridge together, where
the Professor and his charming wife were present at
several academic observances, and varied the routine
of their honeymoon by incursions into biological
laboratories and medical libraries. Scientific
friends were loud in their congratulations, not only
upon Mrs. Grey's beauty, but upon the unusual
quickness and intelligence which she displayed in
discussing physiological questions. The Professor
was himself astonished at the accuracy of her
information. "You have a remarkable range of
knowledge for a woman, Jeannette," he remarked upon
more than one occasion. He was even prepared to
admit that her cerebrum might be of the normal

One foggy, drizzling morning they returned to
Birchespool, for the next day would re-open the
session, and Professor Ainslie Grey prided himself
upon having never once in his life failed to
appear in his lecture-room at the very stroke of
the hour. Miss Ada Grey welcomed them with a
constrained cordiality, and handed over the keys of
office to the new mistress. Mrs. Grey pressed her
warmly to remain, but she explained that she had
already accepted an invitation which would engage her
for some months. The same evening she departed for
the south of England.

A couple of days later the maid carried a card
just after breakfast into the library where the
Professor sat revising his morning lecture. It
announced the re-arrival of Dr. James M`Murdo
O'Brien. Their meeting was effusively genial on the
part of the younger man, and coldly precise on that
of his former teacher.

"You see there have been changes," said the

"So I heard. Miss Grey told me in her letters,
and I read the notice in the British Medical Journal.
So it's really married you are. How quickly and
quietly you have managed it all!"

"I am constitutionally averse to anything in the
nature of show or ceremony. My wife is a sensible
woman--I may even go the length of saying that, for a
woman, she is abnormally sensible. She quite agreed
with me in the course which I have adopted."

"And your research on Vallisneria?"

"This matrimonial incident has interrupted it,
but I have resumed my classes, and we shall soon
be quite in harness again."

"I must see Miss Grey before I leave England. We
have corresponded, and I think that all will be well.
She must come out with me. I don't think I could go
without her."

The Professor shook his head.

"Your nature is not so weak as you pretend," he
said. "Questions of this sort are, after all, quite
subordinate to the great duties of life."

O'Brien smiled.

"You would have me take out my Celtic soul and
put in a Saxon one," he said. "Either my brain is
too small or my heart is too big. But when may I
call and pay my respects to Mrs. Grey? Will she be
at home this afternoon?"

"She is at home now. Come into the morning-room.
She will be glad to make your acquaintance."

They walked across the linoleum-paved hall. The
Professor opened the door of the room, and walked in,
followed by his friend. Mrs. Grey was sitting in a
basket-chair by the window, light and fairy-like in a
loose-flowing, pink morning-gown. Seeing a visitor,
she rose and swept towards them. The Professor heard
a dull thud behind him. O'Brien had fallen back into
a chair, with his hand pressed tight to his side.

"Jinny!" he gasped--"Jinny!"

Mrs. Grey stopped dead in her advance, and stared
at him with a face from which every expression had
been struck out, save one of astonishment and horror.
Then with a sharp intaking of the breath she reeled,
and would have fallen had the Professor not thrown
his long, nervous arm round her.

"Try this sofa," said he.

She sank back among the cushions with the same
white, cold, dead look upon her face. The Professor
stood with his back to the empty fireplace and
glanced from the one to the other.

"So, O'Brien," he said at last, "you have already
made the acquaintance of my wife!"

"Your wife, " cried his friend hoarsely. "She is
no wife of yours. God help me, she is MY wife."

The Professor stood rigidly upon the hearthrug.
His long, thin fingers were intertwined, and his head
sunk a little forward. His two companions had eyes
only for each other.

"Jinny!" said he.


"How could you leave me so, Jinny? How could you
have the heart to do it? I thought you were dead. I
mourned for your death--ay, and you have made me
mourn for you living. You have withered my life."

She made no answer, but lay back among her
cushions with her eyes still fixed upon him.

"Why do you not speak?"

"Because you are right, James. I HAVE treated
you cruelly--shamefully. But it is not as bad as you

"You fled with De Horta."

"No, I did not. At the last moment my better
nature prevailed. He went alone. But I was ashamed
to come back after what I had written to you. I
could not face you. I took passage alone to England
under a new name, and here I have lived ever since.
It seemed to me that I was beginning life again. I
knew that you thought I was drowned. Who could have
dreamed that fate would throw us together again!
When the Professor asked me----"

She stopped and gave a gasp for breath.

"You are faint," said the Professor--"keep the
head low; it aids the cerebral circulation." He
flattened down the cushion. "I am sorry to leave
you, O'Brien; but I have my class duties to look to.
Possibly I may find you here when I return."

With a grim and rigid face he strode out of the
room. Not one of the three hundred students who
listened to his lecture saw any change in his manner
and appearance, or could have guessed that the
austere gentleman in front of them had found out
at last how hard it is to rise above one's humanity.
The lecture over, he performed his routine duties in
the laboratory, and then drove back to his own house.
He did not enter by the front door, but passed
through the garden to the folding glass casement
which led out of the morning-room. As he approached
he heard his wife's voice and O'Brien's in loud and
animated talk. He paused among the rose-bushes,
uncertain whether to interrupt them or no. Nothing
was further from his nature than play the
eavesdropper; but as he stood, still hesitating,
words fell upon his ear which struck him rigid and

"You are still my wife, Jinny," said O'Brien; "I
forgive you from the bottom of my heart. I love you,
and I have never ceased to love you, though you had
forgotten me."

"No, James, my heart was always in Melbourne. I
have always been yours. I thought that it was better
for you that I should seem to be dead."

"You must choose between us now, Jinny. If you
determine to remain here, I shall not open my lips.
There shall be no scandal. If, on the other hand,
you come with me, it's little I care about the
world's opinion. Perhaps I am as much to blame as
you. I thought too much of my work and too little of
my wife."

The Professor heard the cooing, caressing laugh
which he knew so well.

"I shall go with you, James," she said.

"And the Professor----?"

"The poor Professor! But he will not mind much,
James; he has no heart."

"We must tell him our resolution."

"There is no need," said Professor Ainslie Grey,
stepping in through the open casement. "I have
overheard the latter part of your conversation. I
hesitated to interrupt you before you came to a

O'Brien stretched out his hand and took that of
the woman. They stood together with the sunshine on
their faces. The Professor paused at the casement
with his hands behind his back, and his long black
shadow fell between them.

"You have come to a wise decision," said he. "Go
back to Australia together, and let what has passed
be blotted out of your lives."

"But you--you----" stammered O'Brien.

The Professor waved his hand.

"Never trouble about me," he said.

The woman gave a gasping cry.

"What can I do or say?" she wailed. "How could I
have foreseen this? I thought my old life was dead.
But it has come back again, with all its hopes and
its desires. What can I say to you, Ainslie? I
have brought shame and disgrace upon a worthy man. I
have blasted your life. How you must hate and loathe
me! I wish to God that I had never been born!"

"I neither hate nor loathe you, Jeannette," said
the Professor, quietly. "You are wrong in regretting
your birth, for you have a worthy mission before you
in aiding the life-work of a man who has shown
himself capable of the highest order of scientific
research. I cannot with justice blame you personally
for what has occurred. How far the individual monad
is to be held responsible for hereditary and
engrained tendencies, is a question upon which
science has not yet said her last word."

He stood with his finger-tips touching, and his
body inclined as one who is gravely expounding a
difficult and impersonal subject. O'Brien had
stepped forward to say something, but the other's
attitude and manner froze the words upon his lips.
Condolence or sympathy would be an impertinence to
one who could so easily merge his private griefs in
broad questions of abstract philosophy.

"It is needless to prolong the situation," the
Professor continued, in the same measured tones. "My
brougham stands at the door. I beg that you will use
it as your own. Perhaps it would be as well that you
should leave the town without unnecessary delay.
Your things, Jeannette, shall be forwarded."

O'Brien hesitated with a hanging head.

"I hardly dare offer you my hand," he said.

"On the contrary. I think that of the three of
us you come best out of the affair. You have nothing
to be ashamed of."

"Your sister----"

"I shall see that the matter is put to her in its
true light. Good-bye! Let me have a copy of your
recent research. Good-bye, Jeannette!"


Their hands met, and for one short moment their
eyes also. It was only a glance, but for the first
and last time the woman's intuition cast a light for
itself into the dark places of a strong man's soul.
She gave a little gasp, and her other hand rested for
an instant, as white and as light as thistle-down,
upon his shoulder.

"James, James!" she cried. "Don't you see that he
is stricken to the heart?"

He turned her quietly away from him.

"I am not an emotional man," he said. "I have my
duties--my research on Vallisneria. The brougham is
there. Your cloak is in the hall. Tell John where
you wish to be driven. He will bring you anything
you need. Now go."

His last two words were so sudden, so volcanic,
in such contrast to his measured voice and mask-
like face, that they swept the two away from
him. He closed the door behind them and paced slowly
up and down the room. Then he passed into the
library and looked out over the wire blind. The
carriage was rolling away. He caught a last glimpse
of the woman who had been his wife. He saw the
feminine droop of her head, and the curve of her
beautiful throat.

Under some foolish, aimless impulse, he took a
few quick steps towards the door. Then he turned,
and throwing himself into his study-chair he plunged
back into his work.

There was little scandal about this singular
domestic incident. The Professor had few personal
friends, and seldom went into society. His marriage
had been so quiet that most of his colleagues had
never ceased to regard him as a bachelor. Mrs.
Esdaile and a few others might talk, but their field
for gossip was limited, for they could only guess
vaguely at the cause of this sudden separation.

The Professor was as punctual as ever at his
classes, and as zealous in directing the laboratory
work of those who studied under him. His own private
researches were pushed on with feverish energy. It
was no uncommon thing for his servants, when they
came down of a morning, to hear the shrill
scratchings of his tireless pen, or to meet him on
the staircase as he ascended, grey and silent, to his
room. In vain his friends assured him that such a
life must undermine his health. He lengthened his
hours until day and night were one long, ceaseless

Gradually under this discipline a change came
over his appearance. His features, always inclined
to gauntness, became even sharper and more
pronounced. There were deep lines about his temples
and across his brow. His cheek was sunken and his
complexion bloodless. His knees gave under him when
he walked; and once when passing out of his lecture-
room he fell and had to be assisted to his carriage.

This was just before the end of the session and
soon after the holidays commenced the professors who
still remained in Birchespool were shocked to hear
that their brother of the chair of physiology had
sunk so low that no hopes could be entertained of his
recovery. Two eminent physicians had consulted over
his case without being able to give a name to the
affection from which he suffered. A steadily
decreasing vitality appeared to be the only symptom--
a bodily weakness which left the mind unclouded. He
was much interested himself in his own case, and made
notes of his subjective sensations as an aid to
diagnosis. Of his approaching end he spoke in
his usual unemotional and somewhat pedantic fashion.
"It is the assertion," he said, "of the liberty of the
individual cell as opposed to the cell-commune. It
is the dissolution of a co-operative society. The
process is one of great interest."

And so one grey morning his co-operative society
dissolved. Very quietly and softly he sank into his
eternal sleep. His two physicians felt some slight
embarrassment when called upon to fill in his

"It is difficult to give it a name," said one.

"Very," said the other.

"If he were not such an unemotional man, I should
have said that he had died from some sudden nervous
shock--from, in fact, what the vulgar would call a
broken heart."

"I don't think poor Grey was that sort of a man
at all."

"Let us call it cardiac, anyhow," said the older

So they did so.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary