The Laboratory in the Hills

I

DR. CARTHEW had founded his laboratory, including, with an air of afterthought, his house, in a way that illustrates the force of reaction. Privacy was his first need; but he seemed to have desired that, when his close-worked eyes were raised from the microscope, they should have the contrast of as wide a vision as they could command. He was both in the hills and for the most part above them. His workshop clung to a high, sun-beaten crest. with an alarmed appearance of holding on by both hands, and supporting itself on an unusual number of legs. The drop of the hill from under necessitated this propping of quite half the building upon timbers whose length increased with the slope. This made, beneath, a shadowy, pillared cave. Its floor was rocky and of various degrees of steepness, its ceiling was the underside of the house; it was the private den of his daughter Babette, and strewed with her belongings, — books showing marks of the same violence she bestowed upon her friends, mending of a large and hopeless description, and a few attempts at comfort in the form of battered rugs and cushions. Her brother had contributed certain woodsy collections barely distinguishable from rubbish-heaps; but she had the place mostly to herself. Young Carthew ranged the hills like a stray hound, and looked upon his home as a lodging for the night or occasional base of supplies.

Babette came around the corner of the blazing piazza and descended its steps humming under her breath:

Pars, mon ami, l’Alsace est prise !

She was a fierce-eyed maiden of fifteen, thin as a little wolf, with a weight of black hair about her shoulders. There was an air of mastery about that head of hair which suggested that at some rather remote period Babette had been worsted in an attempt to comb it.

She stopped her song suddenly, because, on looking over the railing into her cave, she saw that Patsy Chaloner was there. He was lying on every possible cushion, with an open book propped facedownward on his chest. He presented the very impersonation of laziness. He was also an intruder. Yet only that morning she had been defending his presence at the laboratory to his imperious cousin, Roma Chaloner, on the ground that he was studying chemistry with her father.

“So he told me,” Roma had said,— but with amusement.

“You don’t seem to believe it.”

“That he’s studying ! Patsy!

Babette had championed her father’s guest with her usual irrelevant detail.

“Patsy is very nice. He helps me with my pony. John never has time to clean her, and I can’t take her to town with burs in her mane, but Patsy helps me. When he brought his horse he wanted to bring his groom too; but of course there was no room for him. There really is n’t any room for Patsy.”

Which brought one back to the original fact, that among the Carthews, with their faces of deadly earnest, and their abstracted housekeeping, Patsy was an anomaly.

Babette descended upon him with a forbidding expression. She slipped among the rocks, declining his assistance, and fished up his book from a crevice where it had slid. “If you don’t like this book there are others in the laboratory,” she remarked.

“It’s cooler than the laboratory,” Patsy pleaded. He had gentle, brownamber eyes like a setter dog. It was difficult (though often essential) to be harsh with him. “Besides, I’m kicked out. Mrs. Bunce is scrubbing.”

This explanation seemed to be satisfactory, and even diverting, to Babette. She seated herself with a satiric smile. “Did you stay long enough to hear any of it?”

Patsy also smiled. “There seemed to be some disagreement between Mrs. Bunce and the doctor.”

“I should think there was! They have different ideas of cleanness.”

“ Chemical cleanness,” suggested Patsy.

“Yes. Against the ordinary soap and bucket kind. The crash is something awful.”

At this point Newton Carthew appeared on the steps of the piazza, and peered down at them.

“Hullo, Tony! Did no one call you ?” asked Babette. It was near noon, but Newton was not a person of fixed habits. He blinked in the sun, his hair was all rubbed one way, and his just having got up was needlessly confirmed by the bathrobe that was his outer garment.

Babette observed him. “You look as if Mrs. Bunce had been scrubbing you.”

“ She scrubbed me out of bed all right. She must have broken something in the lab, by the noise. I say, Patsy, will you go fishing with me after lunch?”

“ ’Fraid I can’t,” said Patsy.

“ Oh, why not! I grant you it’s a poor time to start; but we need n’t come back till we’re ready.”

“That’s the hitch. I have an appointment with the doctor. Nobody ever kept an appointment that went fishing with you.”

“Your appointments! I don’t believe they’re as important as you make them out. I can’t see what you do puttering around in the lab.”

“He does microscope work for father,” said Babette.

“What makes you think so?” inquired Patsy.

“Stains on your fingers,” said the daughter of the laboratory.

Patsy laughed. Developing kodak films was responsible for the stains. “You’re a great little detective, Babette, but you ’re off this time. The doctor would n’t trust me with his slides for a round sum.” Patsy got up and shook himself and went up the steps, making a grab at Tony’s frowzy head in passing. He stood on the high piazza and looked far out on the wide circle of the hills, dreamy with heat, fading, height beyond height, into mysterious union with the sky. To see so far was yet to be shut in. It was like gazing into the future. And, for a moment at least, Patsy Chaloner’s eyes looked as though they were following his thoughts into the invisible.

But by and by my soul returned to me.

Probably he was only taking in the remarks of Mrs. Bunce from within.

Mrs. Bunce was a person of considerable presence apart from her command of rhetoric. The breadth of her hips, more especially when she planted both hands upon them, seemed to throw a certain personal weight into her most abstract arguments. On the occasion of this morning’s cleaning she wore a jaunty sailor hat over a small amount of strained and knotted hair. Evidently she considered the laboratory an unsheltered spot. Those who encountered Dr. Carthew there occasionally found it so. Mrs. Bunce was cook and housekeeper, and ruled in her department with a tyranny not unlike the doctor’s in his. She was nothing daunted when the departments — and the tyrants — met. She was even now about to deprive the laboratory of her ministrations.

“ And the last time ever I was to town,” she wound up her ultimatum, “I says to my daughter Mrs. Bucket: ‘My Lord!’ I says, ‘I ain’t done all my own work besides working for the mayor’s wife, in a three-story house, and the best street in town, to come out to a rough place like here, and be told how to scrub floors.’ When I’ve done with a room it don’t need no going over again, — not with no such rank-smelling dose as that;” she pointed to her pail, the contents of which had evidently been tampered with. “ What’s more, — I say it looks bad when a place needs disinfecting and there ain’t nobody been sick. I say it’s a queer place that’s got to be cleaned that kind er way. An’ I ain’t so dull but what I know there’s things kept in these rooms and things goin’ on here that you won’t find in no respectable house.”

“I dare say you would n’t,” said the doctor. “ Take that pail away! Come in here, Chaloner.” As Patsy entered he shut the door on Mrs. Bunce’s indignant exit; but the mingled reek of brown soap and disinfectants being rather overpowering, he opened it again. It showed one corner of the queer little sittingroom, dark against the light of a window opposite, which framed in turn a burning glimpse of the hills. This little picture of immensity, set in the wall as in a telescope, held Patsy’s eyes this afternoon as those far, familiar hills had never done before. Perhaps it was the hypnotism of a square of brightness; perhaps it was that, as the old woman had said, strange things happened in the doctor’s house.

The doctor himself, in a well-dressed, gentlemanly way, was an alarming-looking person. His eyes were as full of youthful madness as Babette’s, yet they were intensely cold. He had the brows of a fanatic. The blackness of his closecropped head, the blueness of his shaven lips and chin, gave him the appearance of a man who, if once he gave in to his hair, would revert to the original jungle. He leaned across his desk and scrutinized Patsy, who remarked conversationally, —

“I suppose you ’re not afraid of the old woman’s talk ?”

“I am,” said Dr. Carthew. “I’m afraid of all fools. They’re extremely dangerous. The world being full of them, I don’t consider it a safe place for a busy man. However, I’ve been very mild with the old thing.” Patsy had only the doctor’s word for this unlikely statement. “I don’t want her to leave us in the lurch just now.”

“Then we’re all ready?”

“Ready!” muttered the doctor. “I’ve been ready these ten years!” He had a deep, sweet voice, and it touched with a tragic contrast the harshness of his words, seeming to hint that he might have been human if the world had not needed him for an implacable tool.

“You are prepared—physically,” he said to Chaloner. “I don’t know what you are thinking about. I don’t want to know. But I should think you would be a good deal interested. I was mad once to do it myself, — and held back by having two children. I never thought then I’d find a man who would offer to do it for me. Certainly not one in your circumstances.”

In spite of his alleged indifference, Dr. Carthew looked curiously at Patsy.

“I suppose I’m rather in luck,” said the young man dully. “It’s a neat way of closing things up if you don’t care to go on. Only I hope there won’t be a row till it’s over. Of course there will be one then.”

“There certainly will,” said the doctor. “If it fails there’ll be one that may send me to join you.”

“I should think the law would give you a big chance even if you can’t hush it up.”

“Oh, there’ll be plenty of chance. And I suppose I shall have to truckle to it for the sake of the kids. It will be the most I’ve done for them yet. Imagine the sweetness of daily life, when you’ve aspired to change the fate of present millions and unborn generations! You’ve heard of a fellow who was sent to St. Helena after trying to conquer the world!”

Patsy might have reflected that it was a fellow with somewhat of the doctor’s fatal genius. But he was merely looking at the little far-away hills and thinking childishly: “However it comes out, she will think of me a little different from the way she does now.” He found it difficult to attend to the doctor’s remarks, though he knew them to be freighted. Almost anything distracted him. He heard Babette going up to her little attic room, and mechanically counted her steps on the stairs, and then on the floor above his head.

Babette was a person of associations. There were so many cherished knickknacks pinned to the walls of her bedroom that it looked something like a scrapbook. A libellous assortment of snapshots taken by Patsy gave glimpses of Roma’s Chaloner striking face, seeming to submit with a humorous stoicism to all the forms of caricature; and beside Roma’s, another face, so fair that the sun could not distort it, — that of Ellen Fearing, her dearest friend.

Babette was turning things over in a drawer. She drew out a photograph of a different finish and date. It was of a round, thoughtless, girlish face, with a hurt look in the eyes which some one perhaps had put there, for it did not seem to belong to that face. Beneath it was delicately scrawled:

“Mes mains dans les vôtres —

HÉLÈNE.”

Babette took out a French book that was underneath the photograph, and then put it back again, reflecting that Patsy was not going fishing and would be at large in the house all day. She did not wish him to see her reading that book, and to question her about it. This was part of a curious fancy of Babette’s that no outsider should know how she clung to the speech of her French mother. She would not have admitted that she could speak French. Yet she had kept her hold upon it. She read it, thought in it; sometimes she spoke it with her father in certain moments of odd intellectual comradeship that arose between them. Yet it was he who was responsible for the suppression of this as of all other tokens of

her mother’s memory. He never spoke of his dead young wife nor permitted the mention of her name. He had loved her; she was not clever; he was a man of imperious intellect; and he had been cruel to her. But Babette did not know that. She only took his hardness for granted, and kept the dream of her lost childhood far from him and from all uncomprehending eyes.

The door opened suddenly and Newton extended a torn jacket into the room by the scruff of its neck,

“I say, Babette, I wish you’d —”

“I wish you’d knock at my door!” snapped Babette. “Leave it here. I’ll mend it right away.” Newton retreated and Babette took the coat downstairs with her. She went out upon the piazza first, but the afternoon shadow had not yet prolonged itself there, and she slipped back into the gloom of the little sittingroom. She could see Patsy through the laboratory door, evidently talking to her father, whose desk was out of range. He looked at her in a reflective way and his next remark was in French. Babette turned her head with a little thrill at the sound. The doctor answered, — in noticeably better French than Patsy’s. — and the conversation continued in that tongue. The doctor attributed it vaguely to some glimpse of Mrs. Bunce seen by Patsy through the door, or a general feeling of a wish to veil their discourse. Babette, listening mechanically as she wrestled with a patch, was gradually impressed with a meaning to their words.

So that was why Patsy Chaloner was staying at the laboratory! Well, he might not be useful himself, but he was certainly allowing others to make use of him! The extent to which he was being used did not dawn upon her. It would hardly have occurred to any one who should have beheld Patsy through the half-open door, his hands in the pockets of his sporting breeches, tilting back his chair and bumping his brown head softly against a tall box behind him where the doctor kept a skeleton. Lengthening shadows lured Babette to a seat on the piazza, and Patsy subsided with relief into English.

“D’ you mean to say you can tell it within a day ? Sort of like tracking up a comet, is n’t it ?”

Dr. Carthew kicked his desk with one of the sudden, irritable movements peculiar to him. “You’ll be of a good deal more importance to this world than a comet if you live to be tracked up! ”

II

In the afternoon Patsy descended from the double-edged atmosphere of the laboratory in the hills to the little, provincial town at their feet. He tied his skittish saddle-horse, put into harness for the nonce and extremely unresigned to it, and ran up the steps of the Fearings’ house. He searched unsuccessfully for the bell. Through the screen door he could dimly see within that a lesson in gymnastics was going forward. Ellen Fearing’s two little sisters, holding themselves breathlessly erect, stood opposite Ellen and followed her movements stiffly with serious eyes. Ellen was counting in tones of encouragement: “One, two, one, two — straight up, Polly! — Come, you’ll do better with the music!” She sat down to the battered little piano and began an enticing march. The little girls interrupted her: “Mr. Chaloner’s at the door!”

They assisted Ellen (all with rosy faces) in receiving her guest. “ We ’re doing physical culture!” they hastened to inform him.

“Bully!” said Patsy, while Ellen laughed deliciously. “ Going to be mughunters, are you ?”

“We’re going to be as straight as Miss Roma Chaloner,” Polly, the eldest, explained.

“You don’t say! Are you going to be as tall as Miss Roma Chaloner ?”

The little Fearings were not sure as to that. Patsy reported himself as on the way to the Chaloners’. Roma had said she expected Ellen there that afternoon. Would she not go with him ?

“I’m afraid I can’t go now,” Ellen considered.

“I know. Roma said you could n’t. But she said I was to tag around till you could.”

Ellen rolled down her sleeves, and replaced the stock which hid the perfection of her throat. “A sweet disorder in the dress,” did not alter her reserved and delicate beauty.

“I have to take flowers to the church, and arrange them — ”

“All right,” agreed Patsy. “I’ll carry the flowers.”

The little girls brought baskets with green boughs and summer roses, and Patsy picked up a basket and a little girl with an air of imperfectly distinguishing them and led the way. The small wooden church was dim and close, its atmosphere reminiscent of past congregations. Under Ellen’s directions he opened the long windows; leaves from the poplars outside drifted in. He fastened boughs in an arch over the chancel, the little girls taking care to “hold the ladder” lest he should fall. He narrowly escaped treading on their fingers, and they were sent to gather hymn-books in the pews.

“ Do you want some of the roses stuck up there ?” inquired the philistine Patsy.

“ Oh no, I want them all for the altar.”

He watched her as she spread white linen cloths over the green baize ones, and placed a slender vase of roses on either side of the bright brass cross.

He found it a pleasant sight. But Ellen was thinking of another church; of a high altar in whose shadow she had stood, as in the shadow of a great rock, with the heavy-headed roses of the city in her hands. She thought of the light from dark and glowing windows, of the long vista of the aisles, the climb of great organ pipes, — mute repositories of enormous sound. She recalled these things like the daughter of a deposed sovereign remembering her father’s halls of state, and scorned herself because the memory had power to make her deplore the tawdry little shrine she was adorning, even to make her blush for it under the eyes of the young worldling beside her. How little it should matter since the kingdom of her father’s teaching was within. She banished these regrets of her starved young senses, but one wistful thought she permitted.

“How beautiful it would be if we could only take it all out of doors and have tall, dark trees for walls, and the sky between, and a little stone for an altar.”

“Why do you need an altar?” asked Patsy.

“ For the sacrifices,” she said obscurely.

Patsy looked mystified, but turned to the roses for help. “Do you sacrifice these ? ”

“Yes,” Ellen smiled. “But of course it means something else.”

“What does it mean?”

She flushed under this probing, but bravely took on her lips the words that were a little difficult to speak before him.

“ Have you ever heard of — ‘ presenting your body, a living sacrifice’?”

“Yes, I’ve heard of that,” said Patsy with conviction.

He was so like a big, serious child that Ellen turned with frank amusement, and smiled at him.

“Where did you hear of it?”

“Oh, from Dr. Carthew.”

This was not a source that Ellen had thought of. It made her wonder what the relations could be between such an odd pair as Patsy and the doctor.

“Is he your ghostly counselor?”

He appeared to find something descriptive in the title.

“Ghostly’s the word,” said he. “If you mean, does he give me advice, he does n’t. But I must say he makes you think what you never thought of before. Between him and you I’ve had things knocked from under a good deal lately.”

Indeed, by devious paths, swayed by two widely dissimilar guides, Patsy was touching a plane of life whose existence he once had not dreamed of. It was not a long-practiced regard for its obligations that made him remark further: “Of course you have to pay for everything.”

Ellen thought of her father’s work in the little dead, complacent town. “Yes. You have to lose your life to find it.”

“What!” said Patsy.

“Has n’t the doctor told you that too ? ” she smiled.

“I suppose he has.” At all events Dr. Carthew had put him in the way of finding out for himself. The stern saying held him for a moment. Could it be that it really was true?

Ellen wondered if a certain fruit of her own maiden experience would be of any use to this child of the world. “I think one difficulty is not recognizing your life when you find it. You think it will make you satisfied and happy, and it does n’t, — not in the way you expect.”

“No,” agreed Patsy.

“ I’m always going back on it myself,” said Ellen; she looked at him with a comrade’s humility. “I’m the greatest backslider you ever knew! ” she declared. “ But all the same I know it is worth — everything else.”

He had reached a point when, for the moment at least, he could believe her. It was better! Better than a lifetime with an Ellen lured to be his through the less perfect side of her. He had raised himself to her instead. And she had acknowledged the change. He dared not tempt the thought that at the last his price might not be required of him. He took his reward as it came, sweet with hope and wild with frustration. He could not ask for more than was offered; but Ellen was good to him that day. Unconsciously she wounded him with her new, confiding sweetness, thrust after thrust; but they were glorious wounds. Patsy set his teeth, and thanked his bewildering fate.

There were times when the meaning of that morning at the laboratory seemed incredible. He could perfectly recall its culminating moment, — the touch of the doctor’s hands, the bite of the little instrument. It was only the last of a familiar and unimportant series. How could its consequences be so irrevocable! Then he tried to imagine how it would be if that moment had not existed. There was a flatness in the thought. All his previous life seemed without color. Dread — and hope — were better.

The roses of sacrifice were all on the altar and they left the church. But after all, Ellen did not go with him. Some extension of her household duties claimed her. Like him she was bound by half realized and inconsiderable things, he did not yet know how many. She watched him undo the windings of hitching-strap in which his horse had involved itself in the course of experiments toward eliminating the trap.

“Don’t you generally ride him?”

“Ah, yes,” said Patsy, “but I’m moving, you see.” He pointed to some objects of a photographic nature which protruded from under the seat. “ The doctor objects to my amusements. At least he objects to them in his lab. He says I use his things. I don’t. But it makes him nervous to see me look at them. And it makes him still more nervous to look at my things when they ’re strewed all over the place. So I’m clearing them out.”

“I should think you’d clear yourself out,” smiled Ellen.

“Not at all,” said Patsy. “The doctor and I don’t seriously disagree. If you stay with a man like him you expect things to blow up once in so often, — no harm done. He does n’t object so awfully to my photo-truck, you know; but the time’s come round when we had to have a row about something.”

“You’re going to keep your things at the Chaloners’,” she surmised.

“Sure! I always keep things there. I’ve got a suit-case full there now and a horse. But the beauty of it is, Roma’s all fixed for it. There’s nothing unusual about borrowing stable-room of your cousins; but you don’t often find a girl with a dark-room to lend.”

The Chaloners’ was a summer place, but strongly built as befitted the hills. The genius of hospitality might have spread its sloping lawns and wandering brick terrace. But Roma, standing at the steps, was not the type of the warm and tolerant welcomer. She had the considering eyes of a judge, the mocking eyes that laugh at their own judgments. Patsy’s reception at her hands was superficially abusive. She dismissed him to the dark-room. She was extremely fond of him, professing to have sought in his character some quality to explain the fact, but to have been signally unsuccessful. The fact remained, and with one visible foundation,— a great and mistaken enthusiasm for photography, which they shared in common.

Having provided for another place at the lunch table, she mounted to the darkroom door and knocked.

“May I come in, Patsy?”

Patsy rescued an exposed pile of velox, and opened the door.

“If you’re printing, let me help you,” said Roma.

He murmured an abstracted thanks, and she groped skillfully among his materials. She filled a printing-frame, and then stood aside looking at the little illumined circle under the drop-light where Patsy’s head appeared; bright gleams fell on his wet fingers and floated on the dark surface of the fixing-bath. He was developing a print. With her thoughts far otherwhere Roma watched the little blank square of paper with the clear fluid sliding across it. A faint stain invaded its whiteness, and, softly as the coming of a dream, Ellen’s exquisite face emerged upon it. For once in the reckless career of Patsy’s camera it had stumbled upon an inspired likeness. He put down the tray of developer in a way that amounted to dropping it, and stared at the little vision that floated in its contents. He transferred it with reverent fingers to the fixing-bath and turned the drop-light full upon it. The maiden face looked up at him with serene eyes. Patsy drew a long, broken sigh like a child that has been crying. The light was on him too; he felt Roma’s gaze and turned, blushing heavily. It was not the first time she had seen that exalted shame in a man’s face, and she knew her cousin’s secret as though he had told it to her.

She looked away from him, and down at the beautiful little print. “ She does n’t appear to all of us like that, Patsy. Is she your guardian spirit?”

Patsy was miserably silent; his clouded eyes asked for mercy.

“I beg your pardon,” said Roma. “I won’t talk about her if you’d rather not.”

Finding himself irrevocably understood, Patsy appeared to reconsider his cousin in the light of a confessor. “ Has she ever spoken of it — of me — to you ?”

“She does n’t speak of you much.”

“She has refused me,” said Patsy, with a kind of piteous dignity.

“You might be sure she would n’t speak of that.”

“No, you ’re right, she would n’t. Not that I’d care especially. I’m only glad I knew her long enough to get refused.”

Roma suppressed a smile, but she was touched.

“I don’t think it has hurt you, Patsy.”

Patsy seldom rose to double meanings. “Oh, you bet it hurts!” he murmured.

“I mean that I’ve liked you better ever since. I could almost tell you when it happened.” Roma pondered. “You’re such an improvable old chap, Patsy. I don’t believe she’ll always refuse you.”

“She certainly will. What could she have to do with a fellow like me ? I knew pretty well I was n’t in it when I asked her; but I saw it a whole lot better afterwards. I would n’t even hang around now very much. She was awfully lovely about it; but she let me see pretty well where I stood. I have n’t been always very nice, you know, and things like that show right up when she looks at you.”

“You poor youngster! I know how she looks at you. Well, you see now why a man has to be nice. But she’s not looking for spots on your silly past, Patsy. She would n’t recognize the absurd things if she saw them. And anyhow, she would n’t drop you, as long as you’ve dropped them. I’m sure she likes you personally, — it’s an unexplained fact, you know, that everybody does. I think it’s your general setting she objects to.”

“My general what?”

“Well, your plan of life. You’re not altogether responsible for it. Your friends, for instance.”

“ Oh, if you mean that crowd down at the stock-ranch!” groaned Patsy. “And I don’t care a bad cent for them! which nobody knows better than themselves.”

“Some of your friends,” continued Roma judicially, “and all of your money.”

“What has my money got to do with it ?”

“I should think your knowledge of the family past would suggest — well, a certain unsuitability in laying that fortune at the feet of Ellen Fearing.”

“I did n’t make any of it,” said Patsy serenely. “I would n’t have had the brains to.”

“The trouble is, it has more or less made you. And of course you have got used to the idea of it. Still, you must know what people mean by tainted money. I can speak of it to you because we have a good deal the same background. If my father kept out of that particular deal, I’m afraid it was partly by chance. Do you know anything about Ellen’s father ? Do you know why they are stranded in that little town?”

He shook his head.

“ I believe Dr. Fearing had one of the richest parishes in the country. He certainly had big congregations. Gracious! you should hear him in that little pulpit of his in town. Even here he’s not wasted; though of course all the scholarly side of him is, and you can imagine how he’s paid. That rich church took (for churchly purposes) a donation of notorious money. Dr. Fearing left; and mentioned the reason of his leaving in a way that did n’t improve his prospects. Ellen says their relatives blame him very much because of the children. Ellen herself is so proud of him that I believe she positively glories in the shabbiness of that blessed little house, and the straits they’re put to to educate the younger ones. And mind you, Patsy, the man who offered that money to the church was not the man who made it, but his son! Do you see now what your lady’s traditions are?”

“Ah! Then it’s not altogether me she minds. And you think I might stay around a little, — not for long perhaps ? It won’t seem long,” mused Patsy, — a remark which appeared to have no meaning whatever; this was occasionally the case with Patsy’s remarks. He had been carefully printing some duplicates of Ellen’s picture. He examined these and assured himself of their stability. Then he took his negative from its frame, drew some hot water, and deliberately washed off the film. Roma gave a horrified exclamation.

“I have printed one for you,” said Patsy, “and one for her and two for myself. I don’t propose to have any one you please printing from this negative.”

“ No one here would touch your negatives ! ”

“I know that. But you never can tell what may become of things later on.”

This seemed, for Patsy, an unwonted consideration. Roma did not know how he had tampered with his future one morning at the laboratory in the hills.

III

Whatever fate they held for Patsy, the sweet, dead quiet of the hills was a yearly refuge to Roma, for which she thirsted in her city life. With a similar relief Ellen escaped from the small activities of the little town, for afternoons with Roma on the bright terrace or in the luxurious dimness of the Chaloners’ library. They brought to their girlish discussions an oppositeness of experience which Roma played on with amusement. It covered a touch of scorn for her own more obviously fortunate lot.

“Your troubles are always so superficial, Ellen,” she pronounced at one of their counsels. “It’s not every one whose life is so founded on the things that really matter that she can afford to talk about trifles as though they were tragedies.”

“You’ll realize that it’s tragedy,” groaned Ellen, “when you hear my little Polly after all my care saying” — she gave a shrinking imitation of the village accent.

“Ellen, can’t you think of something at least skin-deep!”

“It means immeasurable things,” said Ellen.

“It never means for an instant that you regret the stand your father took, the choice he made for you, whatever comes of it. That’s what I call happiness.”

The reluctant pride in Ellen’s smile acquiesced. She could trifle with vain longings, however. “ It would n’t be safe to say what I could n’t renounce for one year of your dear, well-bred society people. Are they so bad ? ”

“Not at all. I said they were stupid. The same thing you complain of in your country neighbors, you know.”

“ I’ve heard you describe some of them as brilliant.”

“Then they use their brains for stupid purposes. They play for mean stakes. Imagine your father troubling his head about — money for instance — for himself or for those he cares for.”

“He troubles his head about it a great deal and wants it very badly.”

“ Oh, he happens to need it. Not one thing of what he considers real importance would he renounce for it. Not even his leisure if he had any.”

“But they are not all like that. Patsy cares nothing for money and you say he is a type.”

“ Oh, yes, he is a type. Have you ever heard me describe him as brilliant!”

Ellen smiled and stretched back in her chair. There was a lazy silence, interrupted by the voice of Babette Carthew on the terrace outside exchanging warlike civilities with Roma’s bull-terrier.

“Now, that’s enough! Lob, get down! You don’t know how hard you bi-i-te!”

Her voice went off into joyful squeals. She and Lob, overbearing presences both, were ushered into the library and their exuberance disposed of silences. Lob, having been suppressed, lay down with a thud, panting, and watched the company with riotous eyes in case there should be an opening for further scuffles. Babette composed herself in a chair and shook her dryad hair from her brown cheeks.

“I’ve come to say good-by. Tony and I are going away. We leave on the afternoon train to-day.” It took somewhat from the importance of this announcement when it appeared they were only to be gone two weeks. Babette was excessively gloomy on the subject.

“ I thought you liked to visit your Aunt Janet!” said Ellen.

“I do. But Tony hates it always, and there are particular reasons why I don’t want to go just now. For one thing I’ve started some ferns at the edge of the cave and they’ll certainly die. But the great reason is that Aunt Janet said in her letter to father that she is very busy, and though she can have us now she would prefer to have us next month instead. You can imagine,” Babette smote her knee impressively, “how pleasant it will be to visit in a place when you know a thing like that!”

“And you can’t postpone the visit?”

“No. Father’s going to be still busier than Aunt Janet, and he says he can’t have us in the house.”

“You poor chickens! ” laughed Roma. “You’d better come down here and stay with us.” This was a generous suggestion, for though the young Carthews were diverting for a time, they were not permanently restful.

“ I asked father if we could do that — I mean if you asked us of course — but he says we’d forget things and come back for them if we were any place where we could come back.”

Roma bethought herself. “I suppose Patsy will come to us. I’m sure he won’t have anything to go back for, — his belongings are so very much here already.”

“Patsy will stay,” said Babette.

“We’re always glad to have him, you know. I really need him. I’m buying a horse and I want his advice.”

“Father needs him too.”

“Do you mean he needs his advice ?”

Babette giggled. She disapproved, none the less, of jokes at Patsy’s expense. She resolved to set him right in the eyes of his unappreciative cousin.

“Patsy is doing father a very great favor. He’s allowing himself to be experimented with. Very few people would do that.”

“What do you mean ?” both the girls questioned.

“If you’re discovering a cure,” Babette explained, “you have to try it on somebody before you begin using it on everybody.”

Her hearers appeared to see the force of this.

“And it’s very unusual, father says, to have an intelligent subject to experiment on.”

“How does he experiment?” Roma asked.

Babette considered. “I’m not quite sure, but I think it’s the same as when he does it to little animals. He gives them the sickness weakened, like a little vaccination, and does that a good many times till they ought to be immune. Then he gives them the real sickness. And of course if the experiment fails, they take it awfully. If it’s a bad sickness, I think,” said Babette with knitted brows, “they die. Of course he would n’t give anything like that to Patsy.”

“ Of course not. And when is Patsy to take his ‘real sickness’?”

“ Oh, he took it some time ago. I think it’s to-morrow that they’ll know if it succeeds. But they seem to think he’ll quite probably be sick. One reason why I think it’s so nice of him is because you described once how impatient Patsy is when he’s sick; and you made me laugh so! But it shows that he hates it very much.”

Roma smiled at the recollection. “ My dear, if I knew Patsy was going to be sick on Wednesday I’d go to my Aunt Janet’s and think myself lucky. What is his affliction to be?”

Babette hesitated on the curt syllables of a Latin word. “But that must be only its particular name, —it probably has another quite common one, — I think some child’s sickness. I’ve heard father talking to Dr. Madison about a cure for one of those.”

“Mumps, perhaps,” said Roma. The comical side of the affair in connection with Patsy appealed to her.

Ellen’s expression was more serious. She asked for the Latin name again. “You ’re a regular little doctor’s daughter to be able to remember it, Babette.”

This remark appeared to trouble the doctor’s daughter. “I’m not sure that I should have talked about it so much. Father never told me not to; but he never talks himself, and he despises people who do. He says they’re all like Mrs. Bunce. I don’t suppose he would mind your knowing; but please don’t tell any other people. Patsy would n’t like it either,” added Babette remorsefully. “ He seems rather ashamed about doing it at all.”

“It is certainly mumps,” murmured Roma.

“They’re sometimes quite dangerous for grown people,” said Ellen.

“I’m sure it’s nothing dangerous,” said Babette. “Patsy would n’t laugh and fool around the way he does if it were. And of course father would never do such a thing, — especially to Patsy; he cares for him more than for most people. He’s not gentle with him as he would be to a patient; he really cares.”

This was reassuring to Ellen. It would not have been had she known Dr. Carthew; he would have given his own life as readily in this cause had he been childless, and had there been a man to take the part he was taking now. Neither was it strange he should love the boy who had offered his — lightly, as something he had played with and, being sick of play, would gladly give to some one who could use it. The allusion to Patsy’s manner was no guide. She had seen him happy in her presence of late with a happiness that seemed beyond past rebuffs. He had said curious things; he had surprised her into confessions of interest, of feeling; and then he had asked for nothing, as the dead ask nothing, but remembrance. She sat very still, trying to bring back elusive memories of his looks and words.

Roma took Babette away to choose a book for the train, and watched her ride off with flapping hair. She strolled back slowly across the room and perched on the arm of the Morris chair in which Ellen was lying back with a noticeably white face.

“It’s a queer world, is n’t it? Ellen, you must n’t take Polly’s inflections too hard. She is probably only the beginning of your troubles. You’ll excuse my mentioning it, but I think that cousin of mine is going to make your little heart ache before you are through with him.”

Ellen looked at her with no evidence of hearing what she said. She dragged herself out of the deep chair. On the desk a dictionary lay open. She pointed to a Latin word, — the word which had drifted to them from the laboratory in the hills.

Its English equivalent could be read at a glance. Roma stood staring at it with astounded eyes; she read the smaller print below: “An incurable form . . .”

It was not a childish ailment. She went back to the fearful word. Then she stood still and thought.

“It’s impossible,” said Ellen. “Dr. Carthew is not a murderer.”

But Roma’s mind was rushing through a strange mass of considerations. “He is a great and extraordinary man,” she said. “ He is too important to have shut himself up here for years and let his practice and his — Don’t you see he might have had some — some staggering reason ?

“Listen, Ellen!” she flung her hand down on the dictionary. “It’s the cure for this — this above all things — that they are working for — the men of research. Think of the horror, the unspeakable suffering it would take out of the world. And the risk of one life to pay for it all!”

“ And — Patsy ? ”

“ Patsy — our Patsy — has offered his!”

Ellen was not given the respite of fainting. She lay sick in her chair, and the study turned dark red and then black around her, but soon came clear again, the quiet comfort of its aspect unchanged.

“You poor child!” said Roma; but in the same breath: “Oh, I’m proud of him! He has gone wild over something; but I’m glad he did it that way.”

“Why did he do it?”

She looked at Ellen’s anguished little face, and gave reasons as she would have brought her water.

“It can’t have been only your refusal. There were things that went before; and Dr. Carthew has had a strange fascination for him, — the contrast of that life made him see the childishness of his own. You made him see it too; but it was n’t what you did, it was the way he felt, — not worthy.” She flung herself into thought again.

“What can we do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing! Roma, think! I cannot think.”

“I am thinking. But the thing has been done.”

“ If it — goes wrong, it must be known, — he must have help! ”

“He’s in the hands of the only man who can help him.”

They faced each other over the incredible thought of those two men who had risked inhuman stakes, shut up together now with the human tie between them.

“It must be known,” said Ellen.

“We’re not even sure that we know. What could we tell ? And to whom should we tell it?”

“There must be some one powerful enough to do ” —

“There is nothing to do! The most powerful being I know is Dr. Carthew. You can’t meddle with a man like that. You can’t meddle with the things he does, — they’re too awful.”

“And we are to stand aside?”

“And wait. We ’re a couple of ignorant, helpless girls. We can’t interfere with those men. They are as much beyond our reach as if they were both dead already.”

“We can’t keep such a secret as that.”

“We must keep it.”

Roma’s mind went clear and at once to the final issue. Short of that she saw one could only think in a circle.

“Listen, Ellen. There is nothing can stop this now. To tell of it would only bring unspeakable confusion, talk, and publicity. If it succeeds, the whole world will ring with it. If it fails, we must let our boy die as he meant to, in silence and dignity, alone with that great, terrible man.”

Ellen’s sobs made a hushed sound in the book-lined room. But Roma’s whole being thrilled to a strange, exultant thankfulness. Then one might still rejoice in them, these hard young modern men! They were not dead — “the knights of the unshielded heart!”

Ellen at the desk had closed the dictionary and drawn out a sheet of notepaper. She raised a wan, thoughtful face. “I shall write to him and I shall give him — what he asked for a very long time ago. But never since; he was even careful not to.”

“I’m afraid we know why.”

“We don’t know. And if it’s not true I shall have done a most unwomanly thing.”

“If we can’t be manly,” Roma observed, “we can at least be unwomanly.” After a pause: “I see you must do it and do it entirely, — because of what might happen.”

“Yes. You said at first we could do nothing; and you are very clever, but — ”

“But your heavenly foolishness knew better. Write your note. I will see that he gets it.”

Ellen wrote: “ Dear Patsy,” — she had never called him so. The name, like the boy himself, seemed touchingly out of keeping with all dark experience. “ Something I have heard about you, that may be happening to you now, has made me realize how much I care for you. What we have heard may not be true, but it is true that I love you. I want you to know it even if you do not feel as you did before. There were outside things to separate us, I suppose there still are, but you yourself have always had my love. If something else has come to you now — perhaps death — then you will take it with you. Yours always,

ELLEN FEARING.”

IV

At the laboratory next morning there seemed to be strangely little space indoors, and that of the hill-rimmed sky was shut out, — because of the heat; but in any case those within did not need to be reminded of infinity. They were quite alone. Mrs. Bunce and the doctor had had their final disagreement, — premeditated this time on the doctor’s part. Patsy was reading. Books never held him at any time. He took refuge in one now, with the air of having thrown up a fortification but without being at all sure that it would stand. His long legs were stretched in front of him, and one of them twitched continually. Dr. Carthew watched him with controlled concern.

He was seldom mistaken in a personal diagnosis. His inspection of his fellowmen would have been intolerable from less dispassionate eyes; yet it was perhaps for its very overpower that men submitted, even bared themselves to it. Instinctively we know there is less to fear from the eyes which see too much than from those which see too little, and misinterpret that. Patsy was always placidly aware that the doctor could, as he expressed it, “read him upside down” whenever he wanted to. He had not pressed the advantage of their intimacy; save for his immediate purpose, Patsy had not particularly interested him. But he had watched him through the phases of his inoculation, in his dealings with a treacherous horse on the steep ledge outside the laboratory window, and so on, and had noted that excitement seemed rather to increase the almost stolid serenity of his nerves. He had calculated that it would be so on the crucial day of his test, and certainly, to all ordinary eyes, Patsy’s appearance was calm enough. Dr. Carthew saw that he was wild with nervousness.

It might be purely a mental state. Generally speaking, there was cause enough for that. There was also a baffling similarity to the first symptoms of disorder of another kind. The doctor spoke suddenly to make his companion look at him. The boy’s eyes were bloodshot from an uneasy night. Was there not another look to them as well ? He dropped them, and the doctor rose and paced the room.

“I wish you’d sit down!”

Carthew sat down and focused his black eyes in a book as you might sheathe a blade. He could handle distress of mind as delicately as shrinking flesh if he thought it worth while to do so.

Outside, the feet of a horse among the rocks sent an echo up to them from lower windings of the road. Patsy stretched back and pushed the shutter ajar.

“Has Tony broken loose and come home?” inquired the doctor without looking up.

“ It’s one of the Chaloners’ men. What on earth!”

The doctor went out as the groom dismounted. He relinquished a letter unwillingly. “ Mr. Chaloner is here, is he ? ”

“Inside. Do you want to see him ?”

“Miss Roma said I must see that he gets this now.”

“I will see that he gets it — now. Is that all?”

Patsy took his letter, looking moodily at the doctor.

“It’s a wonder you don’t open it first to see if it’s proper reading for your delicate patient.”

“Do I ever meddle with my delicate patient’s affairs ? ”

“I suppose not, — you don’t have to, to know all about them.”

The doctor took up his book. Once or twice he looked at Patsy, and seven times confounded the little letter that had dropped in upon them. Evidently it had hit him somewhere in a way that was going to make symptom-reading more complicated than ever.

Patsy read Ellen’s note again and yet again, drinking its overwhelming sweetness and pain for himself. He was suddenly struck by another thought.

“I say, Dr. Carthew!”

“Well?”

“I think you ought to know they’ve found out something about this.”

“Good Lord! Did you suppose they would n’t!” The doctor was not disturbed.

“Well, but won’t it rather dish things for you if it fails ?”

“I expect to be dished if it fails, but not till to-morrow. Don’t tell me they ’re going to bother us to-day! Who is it knows ?”

“Miss Fearing. She won’t make any fuss; But of course I don’t know where she got it.”

“How much does she know ?”

“Oh, I guess she knows it all.”

“Does she say so?”

“No.”

“What does she say about it?”

“Nothing directly.”

“Then why are you so sure that she knows ?”

“Because — she never would have said — this — to me unless she had known.”

Patsy was fingering his letter. He looked up and met Dr. Carthew’s eyes searching his face, with no attempt now to veil their intense inquisition.

“Chaloner,” he said, “I wish you would tell me what I want to know.”

Patsy stood up and backed furiously against the wall: “You don’t wait to be told! Leave me alone, will you! Take your eyes off me!” In the midst of the wrathful imprecation with which he wound up he wondered what the older man would do.

He was seated opposite. He bent his head and looked down at his clasped hands. With his great, leashed energy he was capable of tigerish fits of irritation; but this was not the way to rouse them. Moreover, as Patsy saw, he had learned enough. In a deep, stirred voice he said,

“So that is what I have done to you!”

“Never mind what’s been done. You can’t help that. But I do wish you’d respect a man’s — privacy.”

“It’s not much to ask, when you’ve taken his life.”

“ Well, I suppose I need n’t get so mad. But it’s poor work waiting around like this, — you feel all kinds of ways. You can look at me as much as you like afterwards.”

“Do you mean after you are dead ?”

“I’ve got an even chance, have n’t I ? And I thought you had a kind of faith in the thing checking up all right. You’re not a fellow that makes mistakes, you know.”

“I’ve made a sickening mistake! I took a boy at his fool word. When I know what life can hold for a man! My God, Chaloner!” His great, sweet voice broke in the futile moan, “I wish I could get you out of it.”

Patsy gravely drew up his chair to comfort him.

“You don’t begin to know what you have done to me, Carthew. I grant you we’re having a most annoying time, but I could n’t have got this ” — his letter — “ without it. She did n’t want me the way I was before, you know.”

The doctor muttered something about it’s being like a woman to plague a man into some madness like this and then —

“Oh, I say, shut up!” smiled Patsy “she’s not like that at all. She cuts out the whole thing except to say it makes her see how much she cares. She gives me all the credit to myself; but I know she never would have cared enough to let it out if I had n’t done some tall changing. That’s where you come in. You do stir a fellow up, Carthew ! I don’t mean necessarily,” he grinned a little, “by killing him off. But you do get down to things in a way that s positively superb. I had n’t begun to have any life, not so you’d notice it, the time I was so cheerful about offering it up. You laid the course for me right there, and it’s been a terror for the last six weeks, I can tell you.”

“Patsy, if we find it’s all up, do you want me to send for her ? She can stand it if I can, I guess.”

“Not on your life! You told me what it was like, you know, before you let me go into it. You might tell her I died game, though. I intend to, of course. I don’t expect you to drug me with things. You said your notes would be valuable, on an intelligent subject, so of course you’ll have to — keep him intelligent.”

The doctor made no promises on this score, but remarked that he should stay behind long enough to see Miss Fearing. Then he lifted a face so white that the shadowed line of his brows was like a scar across it, and smiled at his companion; and Patsy began to be “game” by suddenly breaking down with his head against the doctor’s arm, swallowing his sobs and saying, “Oh, damn you, Carthew, I could stand it if you’d only treat me as you did before!”

In general, however, he did his part towards keeping up the tone of the occasion. He stalked about, jingling the change in his pockets, and remarking, “There’s nothing really sensational about this, when you think of the auto-smashups, and the horses a fellow’s liable to ride. I’ve always been booked for something of the sort, you know.”

He had, moreover,an employment fitly consecrated to the hours of a great suspense. He answered Ellen’s note, — believing that such a one had never been written to any man. That he, of all men, should have received it! The look in his face was of happiness supreme, — “with darkness and the death-hour rounding it.”

Dr. Carthew turned as by habit to those written notes which would record in cool keen phraseology the story of that day. It was exquisite condensation, — an exhaustive statement of the work of years brought down to a few stripped and crowded sentences. One page was needed to finish it. . . .

The afternoon drew to a solemn close. The fittings of the laboratory became dark and unexplained shapes. Shutters were opened. The sun laid its cheek against the hills, and the dim workrooms woke to a low, fantastic light on fragile glass and polished surfaces.

The men went out, and the great twilight died around them. The circle of the hills seemed to contract. It became a strange black rim of heaped and broken forms. They walked through hours of weary restlessness. The stones under their feet started, and rolled with sharp sounds like musketry in the stillness. But their voices were low, as if the stillness listened. The moon appeared in a notch of the wild horizon fine and rose gloriously, laying black shadows at the feet of the rocks, melting the farther hills into wraiths of mist. It caught a white sparkle from the little crystal of the doctor’s watch when he opened it to count the climbing hours. They were signing a release.

Speech grew less and less between the two men. When finally Carthew put the fact of his deliverance into words, Patsy only said, —

“Don’t! I can’t believe it.”

“No. You can’t. It’s no use. We can struggle for wider thought, but it’s unthinkable. And men are strangely bound. Your life was more to me tonight than all the uncounted millions this will reach.”

“You ’re a man all right!” said Patsy. His eyes followed the sinking curves of the road, moon-traced, till the pine tops hid them. “I suppose I can’t go down there till morning.”

And still they walked the hill. When at last Patsy dropped down among the rocks and crowded himself into their hard embrace, the weariness of cumulative sensation came over him, and he fell asleep. The velvet shadow of a boulder was flung across him like a coverlet, but the setting moon fell clear on his face and turned it to a fair death-whiteness. For the older man there was no need nor possibility of rest. In his strong prime he was shaken and jarred as rocks are jarred. The glory of his consummate achievement was nothing to him. All that allied him with the pitiful human was aroused, as though the race he had served with the single strength of a man were claiming him now through the weakness of all men.

He sat in absolute stillness and watched the sleeping face beside him. Patsy had said he might look at him — afterwards. Even in the sleep of his young relief he stirred as though he felt those eyes.