With Terry Wickett gone, Martin returned to phage. He made a false start and did the worst work of his life. He had lost his fierce serenity. He was too conscious of the ordeal of a professional social life, and he could never understand that esoteric phenomenon, the dinner-party — the painful entertainment of people whom one neither likes nor finds interesting.
So long as he had had a refuge in talking to Terry, he had not been too irritated by well-dressed nonentities, and for a time he had enjoyed the dramatic game of making Nice People accept him. Now he was disturbed by reason.
Clif Clawson showed him how tangled his life had grown.
When he had first come to New York, Martin had looked for Clif, whose boisterousness had been his comfort among Angus Duers and Irving Watterses in medical school. Clif was not to be found, neither at the motor agency for which he had once worked nor elsewhere on Automobile Row. For fourteen years Martin had not seen him.
Then to his laboratory at McGurk was brought a black-and-red card:
CLIFFORD L. CLAWSON (Clif) TOP NOTCH GUARANTEED OIL INVESTMENTS
Higham Block Butte
“Clif! Good old Clif! The best friend a man ever had! That time he lent me the money to get to Leora! Old Clif! By golly I need somebody like him, with Terry out of it and all these tea-hounds around me!” exulted Martin.
He dashed out and stopped abruptly, staring at a man who was, not softly, remarking to the girl reception-clerk:
“Well, sister, you scientific birds certainly do lay on the agony! Never struck a sweller layout than you got here, except in crook investment-offices — and I’ve never seen a nicer cutie than you anywhere. How ‘bout lil dinner one of these beauteous evenings? I expect I’ll parley-vous with thou full often now — I’m a great friend of Doc Arrowsmith. Fact I’m a doc myself — honest — real sawbones — went to medic school and everything. Ah! HERE’S the boy!”
Martin had not allowed for the changes of fourteen years. He was dismayed.
Clif Clawson, at forty, was gross. His face was sweaty, and puffy with pale flesh; his voice was raw; he fancied checked Norfolk jackets, tight across his swollen shoulders and his beefy hips.
He bellowed, while he belabored Martin’s back:
“Well, well, well, well, well, well! Old Mart! Why, you old son of a gun! Why, you old son of a gun! Why, you damn’ old chicken-thief! Say you skinny little runt, I’m a son of a gun if you look one day older’n when I saw you last in Zenith!”
Martin was aware of the bright leering of the once humble reception-clerk. He said, “Well, gosh, it certainly is good to see you,” and hastened to get Clif into the privacy of his office.
“You look fine,” he lied, when they were safe. “What you been doing with yourself? Leora and I did our best to look you up, when we first came to New York. Uh — Do you know about, uh, about her?”
“Yuh, I read about her passing away. Fierce luck. And about your swell work in the West Indies — where was it? I guess you’re a great man now — famous plague-chaser and all that stuff, and world-renowned skee-entist. I don’t suppose you remember your old friends now.”
“Oh, don’t be a chump! It’s — it’s — it’s fine to see you.”
“Well, I’m glad to observe you haven’t got the capitus enlargatus, Mart. Golly, I says to meself says I, if I blew in and old Mart high-hatted me, I’d just about come nigh unto letting him hear the straight truth, after all the compliments he’s been getting from the sassiety dames. I’m glad you’ve kept your head. I thought about writing you from Butte — been selling some bum oil-stock there and kind of got out quick to save the inspectors the trouble of looking over my books. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just sit down and write the whey-faced runt a letter, and make him feel good by telling him how tickled I am over his nice work.’ But you know how it is — time kind of slips by. Well, this is excellentus! We’ll have a chance to see a whole lot of each other now. I’m going in with a fellow on an investment stunt here in New York. Great pickings, old kid! I’ll take you out and show you how to order a real feed, one of these days. Well, tell me what you been doing since you got back from the West Indies. I suppose you’re laying your plans to try and get in as the boss or president or whatever they call it of this gecelebrated Institute.”
“No — I, uh, well, I shouldn’t much care to be Director. I prefer sticking to my lab. I— Perhaps you’d like to hear about my work on phage.”
Rejoicing to discover something of which he could talk, Martin sketched his experiments.
Clif spanked his forehead with a spongy hand and shouted:
“Wait! Say, I’ve got an idea — and you can come right in on it. As I apperceive it, the dear old Gen. Public is just beginning to hear about this bac — what is it? — bacteriophage junk. Look here! Remember that old scoundrel Benoni Carr, that I introduced as a great pharmacologist at the medical banquet? Had din-din with him last eventide. He’s running a sanitarium out on Long Island — slick idea, too — practically he’s a bootlegger; gets a lot of high-rollers out there and let’s ’em have all the hooch they want, on prescriptions, absolutely legal and water-tight! The parties they throw at that joint, dames and everything! Believe me, Uncle Clif is sore stricken with tootelus bootelus and is going to the Carr Sanitarium for what ails him! But now look: Suppose we got him or somebody to rig up a new kind of cure — call it phageotherapy — oh, it takes Uncle Clif to invent the names that claw in the bounteous dollars! Patients sit in a steam cabinet and eat tablets made of phage, with just a little strychnin to jazz up their hearts! Bran-new! Million in it! What-cha-think?”
Martin was almost feeble. “No. I’m afraid I’m against it.”
“Well, I— Honestly, Clif, if you don’t understand it, I don’t know how I can explain the scientific attitude to you. You know — that’s what Gottlieb used to call it — scientific attitude. And as I’m a scientist — least I hope I am — I couldn’t — Well, to be associated with a thing like that —”
“But, you poor louse, don’t you suppose I understand the scientific attitude? Gosh, I’ve seen a dissecting-room myself! Why, you poor crab, of course I wouldn’t expect you to have your name associated with it! You’d keep in the background and slip us all the dope, and get a lot of publicity for phage in general so the Dee-ah People would fall easier, and we’d pull all the strong-arm work.”
“But — I hope you’re joking, Clif. If you weren’t joking, I’d tell you that if anybody tried to pull a thing like that, I’d expose ’em and get ’em sent to jail, no matter who they were!”
“Well, gosh, if you feel that way about it —!”
Clif was peering over the fatty pads beneath his eyes. He sounded doubtful:
“I suppose you have the right to keep other guys from grabbing your own stuff. Well, all right, Mart. Got to be teloddeling. Tell you what you MIGHT do, though, if that don’t hurt your tender conscience, too: you might invite old Clif up t’ the house for dinner, to meet the new lil wifey that I read about in the sassiety journals. You might happen to remember, old bean, that there have been times when you were glad enough to let poor fat old Clif slip you a feed and a place to sleep!”
“Oh, I know. You bet there have! Nobody was ever decenter to me; nobody. Look. Where you staying? I’ll find out from my wife what dates we have ahead, and telephone you tomorrow morning.”
“So you let the Old Woman keep the work-sheet for you, huh? Well, I never butt into anybody’s business. I’m staying at the Berrington Hotel, room 617 —‘member that, 617 — and you might try and ‘phone me before ten tomorrow. Say, that’s one grand sweet song of a cutie you got on the door here. What cha think? How’s chances on dragging her out to feed and shake a hoof with Uncle Clif?”
As primly as the oldest, most staid scientist in the Institute, Martin protested, “Oh, she belongs to very nice family. I don’t think I should try it. Really, I’d rather you didn’t.”
Clif’s gaze was sharp, for all its fattiness.
With excessive cordiality, with excessive applause when Clif remarked, “You better go back to work and put some salt on a coupla bacteria’s tails,” Martin guided him to the reception-room, safely past the girl clerk, and to the elevator.
For a long time he sat in his office and was thoroughly wretched.
He had for years pictured Clif Clawson as another Terry Wickett. He saw that Clif was as different from Terry as from Rippleton Holabird. Terry was rough, he was surly, he was colloquial, he despised many fine and gracious things, he offended many fine and gracious people, but these acerbities made up the haircloth robe wherewith he defended a devotion to such holy work as no cowled monk ever knew. But Clif —
“I’d do the world a service by killing that man!” Martin fretted. “Phageotherapy at a yegg sanitarium! I stand him only because I’m too much of a coward to risk his going around saying that ‘in the days of my Success, I’ve gone back on my old friends.’ (Success! Puddling at work! Dinners! Talking to idiotic women! Being furious because you weren’t invited to the dinner to the Portuguese minister!) No. I’ll ‘phone Clif we can’t have him at the house.”
Over him came remembrance of Clif’s loyalty in the old barren days, and Clif’s joy to share with him every pathetic gain.
“Why SHOULD he understand my feeling about phage? Was his scheme any worse than plenty of reputable drug-firms? How much was I righteously offended, and how much was I sore because he didn’t recognize the high social position of the rich Dr. Arrowsmith?”
He gave up the question, went home, explained almost frankly to Joyce what her probable opinion of Clif would be, and contrived that Clif should be invited to dinner with only the two of them.
“My dear Mart,” said Joyce, “why do you insult me by hinting that I’m such a snob that I’ll be offended by racy slang and by business ethics very much like those of dear Roger’s grandpapa? Do you think I’ve never ventured out of the drawing-room? I thought you’d seen me outside it! I shall probably like your Clawson person very much indeed.”
The day after Martin had invited him to dinner, Clif telephoned to Joyce:
“This Mrs. Arrowsmith? Well, say, this is old Clif.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch it.”
“Clif! Old Clif!”
“I’m frightfully sorry but — Perhaps there’s a bad connection.”
“Why, it’s Mr. CLAWSON, that’s going to feed with you on —”
“Oh, of course. I AM so sorry.”
“Well, look: What I wanted to know is: Is this going to be just a homey grub-grabbing or a real soiree? In other words, honey, shall I dress natural or do I put on the soup-and-fish? Oh, I got ’em — swallowtail and the whole darn’ outfit!”
“I— Do you mean — Oh. Shall you dress for dinner? I think perhaps I would.”
“Attaboy! I’ll be there, dolled up like a new saloon. I’ll show you folks the cutest lil line of jeweled studs you ever laid eyes on. Well, it’s been a great pleezhure to meet Mart’s Missus, and we will now close with singing ‘Till We Meet Again’ or ‘Au Reservoir.’”
When Martin came home, Joyce faced him with, “Sweet, I can’t do it! The man must be mad. Really, dear, you just take care of him and let me go to bed. Besides: you two won’t want me — you’ll want to talk over old times, and I’d only interfere. And with baby coming in two months now, I ought to go to bed early.”
“Oh, Joy, Clif’d be awfully offended, and he’s always been so decent to me and — And you’ve often asked me about my cub days. Don’t you WANT,” plaintively, “to hear about ’em?”
“Very well, dear. I’ll try to be a little sunbeam to him, but I warn you I sha’n’t be a success.”
They worked themselves up to a belief that Clif would be raucous, would drink too much, and slap Joyce on the back. But when he appeared for dinner he was agonizingly polite and flowery — till he became slightly drunk. When Martin said “damn,” Clif reproved him with, “Of course I’m only a hick, but I don’t think a lady like the Princess here would like you to cuss.”
And, “Well, I never expected a rube like young Mart to marry the real bon-ton article.”
And, “Oh, maybe it didn’t cost something to furnish this dining-room, oh, not a-tall!”
And, “Champagne, heh? Well, you’re certainly doing poor old Clif proud. Your Majesty, just tell your High Dingbat to tell his valay to tell my secretary the address of your bootlegger, will you?”
In his cups, though he severely retained his moral and elegant vocabulary, Clif chronicled the jest of selling oil-wells unprovided with oil and of escaping before the law closed in; the cleverness of joining churches for the purpose of selling stock to the members; and the edifying experience of assisting Dr. Benoni Carr to capture a rich and senile widow for his sanitarium by promising to provide medical consultation from the spirit-world.
Joyce was silent through it all, and so superbly polite that everyone was wretched.
Martin struggled to make a liaison between them, and he had no elevating remarks about the strangeness of a man’s boasting of his own crookedness, but he was coldly furious when Clif blundered:
“You said old Gottlieb was sort of down on his luck now.”
“Yes, he’s not very well.”
“Poor old coot. But I guess you’ve realized by now how foolish you were when you used to fall for him like seven and a half brick. Honestly, Lady Arrowsmith, this kid used to think Pa Gottlieb was the cat’s pajamas — begging your pardon for the slanguageness.”
“What do you mean?” said Martin.
“Oh, I’m onto Gottlieb! Of course you know as well as I do that he always was a self-advertiser, getting himself talked about by confidin’ to the whole ops terrara what a strict scientist he was, and putting on a lot of dog and emitting these wise cracks about philosophy and what fierce guys the regular docs were. But what’s worse than — Out in San Diego I ran onto a fellow that used to be an instructor in botany in Winnemac, and he told me that with all this antibody stuff of his, Gottlieb never gave any credit to — well, he was some Russian that did most of it before and Pa Gottlieb stole all his stuff.”
That in this charge against Gottlieb there was a hint of truth, that he knew the great god to have been at times ungenerous, merely increased the rage which was clenching Martin’s fist in his lap.
Three years before, he would have thrown something, but he was an adaptable person. He had yielded to Joyce’s training in being quietly instead of noisily disagreeable; and his only comment was “No, I think you’re wrong, Clif. Gottlieb has carried the antibody work ‘way beyond all the others.”
Before the coffee and liqueurs had come into the drawing-room, Joyce begged, at her prettiest, “Mr. Clawson, do you mind awfully if I slip up to bed? I’m so frightfully glad to have had the opportunity of meeting one of my husband’s oldest friends, but I’m not feeling very well, and I do think I’d be wise to have some rest.”
“Madam the Princess, I noticed you were looking peeked.”
“Oh! Well — Good-night!”
Martin and Clif settled in large chairs in the drawing-room, and tried to play at being old friends happy in meeting. They did not look at each other.
After Clif had cursed a little and told three sound smutty stories, to show that he had not been spoiled and that he had been elegant only to delight Joyce, he flung:
“Huh! So that is that, as the Englishers remark. Well, I could see your Old Lady didn’t cotton to me. She was just as chummy as an iceberg. But gosh, I don’t mind. She’s going to have a kid, and of course women, all of ’em, get cranky when they’re that way. But —”
He hiccuped, looked sage, and bolted his fifth cognac.
“But what I never could figure out — Mind you, I’m not criticizing the Old Lady. She’s as swell as they make ’em. But what I can’t understand is how after living with Leora, who was the real thing, you can stand a hoity-toity skirt like Joycey!”
Then Martin broke.
The misery of not being able to work, these months since Terry had gone, had gnawed at him.
“Look here, Clif. I won’t have you discuss my wife. I’m sorry she doesn’t please you, but I’m afraid that in this particular matter —”
Clif had risen, not too steadily, though his voice and his eyes were resolute.
“All right. I figured out you were going to high-hat me. Of course I haven’t got a rich wife to slip me money. I’m just a plain old hobo. I don’t belong in a place like this. Not smooth enough to be a butler. You are. All right. I wish you luck. And meanwhile you can go plumb to hell, my young friend!”
Martin did not pursue him into the hall.
As he sat alone he groaned, “Thank Heaven, that operation’s over!”
He told himself that Clif was a crook, a fool, and a fat waster; he told himself that Clif was a cynic without wisdom, a drunkard without charm, and a philanthropist who was generous only because it larded his vanity. But these admirable truths did not keep the operation from hurting any more than it would have eased the removal of an appendix to be told that it was a bad appendix, an appendix without delicacy or value.
He had loved Clif — did love him and always would. But he would never see him again. Never!
The impertinence of that flabby blackguard to sneer at Gottlieb! His boorishness! Life was too short for —
“But hang it — yes, Clif is a tough, but so am I. He’s a crook, but wasn’t I a crook to fake my plague figures in St. Hubert — and the worse crook because I got praise for it?”
He bobbed up to Joyce’s room. She was lying in her immense four-poster, reading “Peter Whiffle.”
“Darling, it was all rather dreadful, wasn’t it!” she said. “He’s gone?”
“Yes. . . . He’s gone. . . . I’ve driven out the best friend I ever had — practically. I let him go, let him go off feeling that he was a rotter and a failure. It would have been decenter to have killed him. Oh, why couldn’t you have been simple and jolly with him? You were so confoundedly polite! He was uneasy and unnatural, and showed up worse than he really is. He’s no tougher than — he’s a lot better than the financiers who cover up their stuff by being suave. . . . Poor devil! I’ll bet right now Clif’s tramping in the rain, saying, ‘The one man I ever loved and tried to do things for has turned against me, now he’s — now he has a lovely wife. What’s the use of ever being decent?’ he’s saying. . . . Why couldn’t you be simple and chuck your high-falutin’ manners for once?”
“See here! You disliked him quite as much as I did, and I will not have you blame it on me! You’ve grown beyond him. You that are always blaring about Facts — can’t you face the fact? For once, at least, it’s not my fault. You may perhaps remember, my king of men, that I had the good sense to suggest that I shouldn’t appear tonight; not meet him at all.”
“Oh — well — yes — gosh — but — Oh, I suppose so. Well, anyway — It’s over, and that’s all there is to it.”
“Darling, I do understand how you feel. But isn’t it good it is over! Kiss me good-night.”
“BUT”— Martin said to himself, as he sat feeling naked and lost and homeless, in the dressing-gown of gold dragon-flies on black silk which she had bought for him in Paris —“but if it’d been Leora instead of Joyce — Leora would’ve known Clif was a crook, and she’d’ve accepted it as a fact. (Talk about your facing facts!) She wouldn’t’ve insisted on sitting as a judge. She wouldn’t’ve said, ‘This is different from me, so it’s wrong.’ She’d’ve said, ‘This is different from me, so it’s interesting.’ Leora —”
He had a sharp, terrifying vision of her, lying there coffinless, below the mold in a garden on the Penrith Hills.
He came out of it to growl, “What was it Clif said? ‘You’re not her husband — you’re her butler — you’re too smooth.’ He was right! The whole point is: I’m not allowed to see who I want to. I’ve been so clever that I’ve made myself the slave of Joyce and Holy Holabird.”
He was always going to, but he never did see Clif Clawson again.
It happened that both Joyce’s and Martin’s paternal grandfathers had been named John, and John Arrowsmith they called their son. They did not know it, but a certain John Arrowsmith, mariner of Bideford, had died in the matter of the Spanish Armada, taking with him five valorous Dons.
Joyce suffered horribly, and renewed all of Martin’s love for her (he did love pitifully this slim, brilliant girl).
“Death’s a better game than bridge — you have no partner to help you!” she said, when she was grotesquely stretched on a chair of torture and indignity; when before they would give her the anesthetic, her face was green with agony.
John Arrowsmith was straight of back and straight of limb — ten good pounds he weighed at birth — and he was gay of eye when he had ceased to be a raw wrinkled grub and become a man-child. Joyce worshiped him, and Martin was afraid of him, because he saw that this minuscule aristocrat, this child born to the self-approval of riches, would some day condescend to him.
Three months after child-bearing, Joyce was more brisk than ever about putting and back-hand service and hats and Russian emigres.
For science Joyce had great respect and no understanding. Often she asked Martin to explain his work, but when he was glowing, making diagrams with his thumb-nail on the tablecloth, she would interrupt him with a gracious “Darling — do you mind — just a second — Plinder, isn’t there any more of the sherry?”
When she turned back to him, though her eyes were kind his enthusiasm was gone.
She came to his laboratory, asked to see his flasks and tubes, and begged him to bully her into understanding, but she never sat back watching for silent hours.
Suddenly, in his bogged floundering in the laboratory, he touched solid earth. He blundered into the effect of phage on the mutation of bacterial species — very beautiful, very delicate — and after plodding months when he had been a sane citizen, an almost good husband, an excellent bridge-player, and a rotten workman, he knew again the happiness of high taut insanity.
He wanted to work nights, every night. During his uninspired fumbling, there had been nothing to hold him at the Institute after five, and Joyce had become used to having him flee to her. Now he showed an inconvenient ability to ignore engagements, to snap at delightful guests who asked him to explain all about science, to forget even her and the baby.
“I’ve GOT to work evenings!” he said. “I can’t be regular and easy about it when I’m caught by a big experiment, any more than you could be regular and easy and polite when you were gestating the baby.”
“I know but — Darling, you get so nervous when you’re working like this. Heavens, I don’t care how much you offend people by missing engagements — well, after all, I wish you wouldn’t, but I do know it may be unavoidable. But when you make yourself so drawn and trembly, are you gaining time in the long run? It’s just for your own sake. Oh, I have it! Wait! You’ll see what a scientist I am! No, I won’t explain — not yet!”
Joyce had wealth and energy. A week later, flushed, slim, gallant, joyous, she said to him after dinner, “I’ve got a surprise for you!”
She led him to the unoccupied rooms over the garage, behind their house. In that week, using a score of workmen from the most immaculate and elaborate scientific supply-house in the country, she had created for him the best bacteriological laboratory he had ever seen — white-tile floor and enameled brick walls, ice-box and incubator, glassware and stains and microscope, a perfect constant-temperature bath — and a technician, trained in Lister and Rockefeller, who had his bedroom behind the laboratory and who announced his readiness to serve Dr. Arrowsmith day or night.
“There!” sang Joyce. “Now when you simply must work evenings, you won’t have to go clear down to Liberty Street. You can duplicate your cultures or whatever you call ’em. If you’re bored at dinner — all right! You can slip out here afterward and work as late as ever you want. Is — Sweet, is it all right? Have I done it right? I tried so hard — I got the best men I could —”
While his lips were against hers he brooded, “To have done this for me! And to be so humble! . . . And now, curse it, I’ll NEVER be able to get away by myself!”
She so joyfully demanded his finding some fault that, to give her the novel pleasure of being meek, he suggested that the centrifuge was inadequate.
“You wait, my man!” she crowed.
Two evenings after, when they had returned from the opera, she led him to the cement-floored garage beneath his new laboratory, and in a corner, ready to be set up, was a secondhand but adequate centrifuge, a most adequate centrifuge, the masterpiece of the great firm of Berkeley–Saunders — in fact none other than Gladys, whose dismissal from McGurk for her sluttish ways had stirred Martin and Terry to go out and get bountifully drunk.
It was less easy for him, this time, to be grateful, but he worked at it.
Through both the economico-literary and the Rolls–Royce section of Joyce’s set the rumor panted that there was a new diversion in an exhausted world — going out to Martin’s laboratory and watching him work, and being ever so silent and reverent, except perhaps when Joyce murmured, “Isn’t he adorable the way he teaches his darling bacteria to say ‘Pretty Polly’!” or when Latham Ireland convulsed them by arguing that scientists had no sense of humor, or Sammy de Lembre burst out in his marvelous burlesque of jazz:
Oh, Mistah Back-sil-lil-us, don’t you gri-in at me; You mi-cro-bi-o-log-ic cuss, I’m o-on-to thee. When Mr. Dr. Arrowsmith’s done looked at de clues, You’ll sit in jail a-singin’ dem Bac-ter-i-uh Blues.
Joyce’s cousin from Georgia sparkled, “Mart is so cute with all those lil vases of his. But Ah can always get him so mad by tellin’ him the trouble with HIM is, he don’t go to church often enough!”
While Martin sought to concentrate.
They flocked from the house to his laboratory only once a week, which was certainly not enough to disturb a resolute man — merely enough to keep him constantly waiting for them.
When he sedately tried to explain this and that to Joyce, she said, “Did we bother you this evening? But they do admire you so.”
He remarked, “Well,” and went to bed.
R. A. Hopburn, the eminent patent-lawyer, as he drove away from the Arrowsmith–Lanyon mansion grunted at his wife:
“I don’t mind a host throwing the port at you, if he thinks you’re a chump, but I do mind his being bored at your daring to express any opinion whatever. . . . Didn’t he look silly, out in his idiotic laboratory! . . . How the deuce do you suppose Joyce ever came to marry him?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“I can only think of one reason. Of course she may —”
“Now please don’t be filthy!”
“Well, anyway — She who might have picked any number of well-bred, agreeable, intelligent chaps — and I MEAN intelligent, because this Arrowsmith person may know all about germs, but he doesn’t know a symphony from a savory. . . . I don’t think I’m too fussy, but I don’t quite see why we should go to a house where the host apparently enjoys flatly contradicting you. . . . Poor devil, I’m really sorry for him; probably he doesn’t even know when he’s being rude.”
“No. Perhaps. What hurts is to think of old Roger — so gay, so strong, real Skull and Bones — and to have this abrupt Outsider from the tall grass sitting in his chair, failing to appreciate his Pol Roger — What Joyce ever saw in him! Though he does have nice eyes and such funny strong hands —”
Joyce’s busyness was on his nerves. Why she was so busy it was hard to ascertain; she had an excellent housekeeper, a noble butler, and two nurses for the baby. But she often said that she was never allowed to attain her one ambition: to sit and read.
Terry had once caller her The Arranger, and though Martin resented it, when he heard the telephone bell he groaned, “Oh, Lord, there’s The Arranger — wants me to come to tea with some high-minded hen.”
When he sought to explain that he must be free from entanglements, she suggested, “Are you such a weak, irresolute, LITTLE man that the only way you can keep concentrated is by running away? Are you afraid of the big men who can do big work, and still stop and play?”
He was likely to turn abusive, particularly as to her definition of Big Men, and when he became hot and vulgar, she turned grande dame, so that he felt like an impertinent servant and was the more vulgar.
He was afraid of her then. He imagined fleeing to Leora, and the two of them, frightened little people, comforting each other and hiding from her in snug corners.
But often enough Joyce was his companion, seeking new amusements as surprises for him, and in their son they had a binding pride. He sat watching little John, rejoicing in his strength.
It was in early winter, after she had royally taken the baby South for a fortnight, that Martin escaped for a week with Terry at Birdies’ Rest.
He found Terry tired and a little surly, after months of working absolutely alone. He had constructed beside the home cabin a shanty for laboratory, and a rough stable for the horses which he used in the preparation of his sera. Terry did not, as once he would have, flare into the details of his research, and not till evening, when they smoked before the rough fireplace of the cabin, loafing in chairs made of barrels cushioned with elk skin, could Martin coax him into confidences.
He had been compelled to give up much of his time to mere housework and the production of the sera which paid his expenses. “If you’d only been with me, I could have accomplished something.” But his quinine derivative research had gone on solidly, and he did not regret leaving McGurk. He had found it impossible to work with monkeys; they were too expensive and too fragile to stand the Vermont winter; but he had contrived a method of using mice infected with pneumococcus and —
“Oh, what’s the use of my telling you this, Slim? You’re not interested, or you’d have been up here at work with me, months ago. You’ve chosen between Joyce and me. All right, but you can’t have both.”
Martin snarled, “I’m very sorry I intruded on you, Wickett,” and slammed out of the cabin. Stumbling through the snow, blundering in darkness against stumps, he knew the agony of his last hour, the hour of failure.
“I’ve lost Terry, now (though I won’t stand his impertinence!). I’ve lost everybody, and I’ve never really had Joyce. I’m completely alone. And I can only half work! I’m through! They’ll never let me get to work again!”
Suddenly, without arguing it out, he knew that he was not going to give up.
He floundered back to the cabin and burst in, crying, “You old grouch, we got to stick together!”
Terry was as much moved as he; neither of them was far from tears; and as they roughly patted each other’s shoulders they growled, “Fine pair of fools, scrapping just because we’re tired!”
“I will come and work with you, somehow!” Martin swore. “I’ll get a six months’ leave from the Institute, and have Joyce stay at some hotel near here, or do SOMEthing. Gee! Back to real work. . . . WORK! . . . Now tell me: When I come up here, what d’you say we —”
They talked till dawn.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57