Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

The Debt


YOU remember--it's not so long ago--the talk there was about
Dredge's "Arrival of the Fittest"? The talk has subsided, but the
book of course remains: stands up, in fact, as the tallest thing of
its kind since--well, I'd almost said since "The Origin of Species."

I'm not wrong, at any rate, in calling it the most important
contribution yet made to the development of the Darwinian theory, or
rather to the solution of the awkward problem about which that
theory has had to make such a circuit. Dredge's hypothesis will be
contested, may one day be disproved; but at least it has swept out
of the way all previous conjectures, including of course Lanfear's
magnificent attempt; and for our generation of scientific
investigators it will serve as the first safe bridge across a
murderous black whirlpool.

It's all very interesting--there are few things more stirring to the
imagination than that sudden projection of the new hypothesis, light
as a cobweb and strong as steel, across the intellectual abyss; but,
for an idle observer of human motives, the other, the personal, side
of Dredge's case is even more interesting and arresting.

Personal side? You didn't know there was one? Pictured him simply as
a thinking machine, a highly specialized instrument of precision,
the result of a long series of "adaptations," as his own jargon
would put it? Well, I don't wonder--if you've met him. He does give
the impression of being something out of his own laboratory: a
delicate scientific instrument that reveals wonders to the
initiated, and is absolutely useless in an ordinary hand.

In his youth it was just the other way. I knew him twenty years ago,
as an awkward lout whom young Archie Lanfear had picked up at
college, and brought home for a visit. I happened to be staying at
the Lanfears' when the boys arrived, and I shall never forget
Dredge's first appearance on the scene. You know the Lanfears always
lived very simply. That summer they had gone to Buzzard's Bay, in
order that Professor Lanfear might be near the Biological Station at
Wood's Holl, and they were picnicking in a kind of sketchy bungalow
without any attempt at elegance. But Galen Dredge couldn't have been
more awe-struck if he'd been suddenly plunged into a Fifth Avenue
ball-room. He nearly knocked his shock head against the low doorway,
and in dodging this peril trod heavily on Mabel Lanfear's foot, and
became hopelessly entangled in her mother's draperies--though how he
managed it I never knew, for Mrs. Lanfear's dowdy muslins ran to no
excess of train.

When the Professor himself came in it was ten times worse, and I saw
then that Dredge's emotion was a tribute to the great man's
proximity. That made the boy interesting, and I began to watch.
Archie, always enthusiastic but vague, had said: "Oh, he's a
tremendous chap--you'll see--" but I hadn't expected to see quite so
clearly. Lanfear's vision, of course, was sharper than mine; and the
next morning he had carried Dredge off to the Biological Station.
And that was the way it began.

Dredge is the son of a Baptist minister. He comes from East Lethe,
New York State, and was working his way through college--waiting at
White Mountain hotels in summer--when Archie Lanfear ran across him.
There were eight children in the family, and the mother was an
invalid. Dredge never had a penny from his father after he was
fourteen; but his mother wanted him to be a scholar, and "kept at
him," as he put it, in the hope of his going back to "teach school"
at East Lethe. He developed slowly, as the scientific mind generally
does, and was still adrift about himself and his tendencies when
Archie took him down to Buzzard's Bay. But he had read Lanfear's
"Utility and Variation," and had always been a patient and curious
observer of nature. And his first meeting with Lanfear explained him
to himself. It didn't, however, enable him to explain himself to
others, and for a long time he remained, to all but Lanfear, an
object of incredulity and conjecture.

"_ Why_ my husband wants him about--" poor Mrs. Lanfear, the kindest
of women, privately lamented to her friends; for Dredge, at that
time--they kept him all summer at the bungalow--had one of the most
encumbering personalities you can imagine. He was as inexpressive as
he is to-day, and yet oddly obtrusive: one of those uncomfortable
presences whose silence is an interruption.

The poor Lanfears almost died of him that summer, and the pity of it
was that he never suspected it, but continued to lavish on them a
floundering devotion as uncomfortable as the endearments of a
dripping dog--all out of gratitude for the Professor's kindness! He
was full, in those days, of raw enthusiasms, which he forced on any
one who would listen when his first shyness had worn off. You can't
picture him spouting sentimental poetry, can you? Yet I've seen him
petrify a whole group of Mrs. Lanfear's callers by suddenly
discharging on them, in the strident drawl of Western New York,
"Barbara Frietchie" or "The Queen of the May." His taste in
literature was uniformly bad, but very definite, and far more
assertive than his views on biological questions. In his scientific
judgments he showed, even then, a remarkable temperance, a
precocious openness to the opposite view; but in literature he was a
furious propagandist, aggressive, disputatious, and extremely
sensitive to adverse opinion.

Lanfear, of course, had been struck from the first by his gift of
accurate observation, and by the fact that his eagerness to learn
was offset by his reluctance to conclude. I remember Lanfear's
telling me that he had never known a lad of Dredge's age who gave
such promise of uniting an aptitude for general ideas with the
plodding patience of the accumulator of facts. Of course when
Lanfear talked like that of a young biologist his fate was sealed.
There could be no question of Dredge's going back to "teach school"
at East Lethe. He must take a course in biology at Columbia, spend
his vacations at the Wood's Holl laboratory, and then, if possible,
go to Germany for a year or two.

All this meant his virtual adoption by the Lanfears. Most of
Lanfear's fortune went in helping young students to a start, and he
devoted his heaviest subsidies to Dredge.

"Dredge will be my biggest dividend--you'll see!" he used to say, in
the chrysalis days when poor Galen was known to the world of science
only as a perpetual slouching presence in Mrs. Lanfear's
drawing-room. And Dredge, it must be said, took his obligations
simply, with that kind of personal dignity, and quiet sense of his
own worth, which in such cases saves the beneficiary from
abjectness. He seemed to trust himself as fully as Lanfear trusted

The comic part of it was that his only idea of making what is known
as "a return" was to devote himself to the Professor's family. When
I hear pretty women lamenting that they can't coax Professor Dredge
out of his laboratory I remember Mabel Lanfear's cry to me: "If
Galen would only keep away!" When Mabel fell on the ice and broke
her leg, Galen walked seven miles in a blizzard to get a surgeon;
but if he did her this service one day in the year, he bored her by
being in the way for the other three hundred and sixty-four. One
would have imagined at that time that he thought his perpetual
presence the greatest gift he could bestow; for, except on the
occasion of his fetching the surgeon, I don't remember his taking
any other way of expressing his gratitude.

In love with Mabel? Not a bit! But the queer thing was that he _did_
have a passion in those days--a blind, hopeless passion for Mrs.
Lanfear! Yes: I know what I'm saying. I mean Mrs. Lanfear, the
Professor's wife, poor Mrs. Lanfear, with her tight hair and her
loose figure, her blameless brow and earnest eye-glasses, and her
perpetual attitude of mild misapprehension. I can see Dredge
cowering, long and many-jointed, in a diminutive drawing-room chair,
one square-toed shoe coiled round an exposed ankle, his knees
clasped in a knot of red knuckles, and his spectacles perpetually
seeking Mrs. Lanfear's eye-glasses. I never knew if the poor lady
was aware of the sentiment she inspired, but her children observed
it, and it provoked them to irreverent mirth. Galen was the
predestined butt of Mabel and Archie; and secure in their mother's
virtuous obtuseness, and in her worshipper's timidity, they allowed
themselves a latitude of banter that sometimes turned their audience
cold. Dredge meanwhile was going on obstinately with his work. Now
and then he had queer fits of idleness, when he lapsed into a state
of sulky inertia from which even Lanfear's admonitions could not
rouse him. Once, just before an examination, he suddenly went off to
the Maine woods for two weeks, came back, and failed to pass. I
don't know if his benefactor ever lost hope; but at times his
confidence must have been sorely strained. The queer part of it was
that when Dredge emerged from these eclipses he seemed keener and
more active than ever. His slowly growing intelligence probably
needed its periodical pauses of assimilation; and Lanfear was
marvellously patient.

At last Dredge finished his course and went to Germany; and when he
came back he was a new man--was, in fact, the Dredge we all know. He
seemed to have shed his blundering, encumbering personality, and
come to life as a disembodied intelligence. His fidelity to the
Lanfears was unchanged; but he showed it negatively, by his
discretions and abstentions. I have an idea that Mabel was less
disposed to deride him, might even have been induced to softer
sentiments; but I doubt if Dredge even noticed the change. As for
his ex-goddess, he seemed to regard her as a motherly household
divinity, the guardian genius of the darning needle; but on
Professor Lanfear he looked with a deepening reverence. If the rest
of the family had diminished in his eyes, its head had grown even


FROM that day Dredge's progress continued steadily. If not always
perceptible to the untrained eye, in Lanfear's sight it never
deviated, and the great man began to associate Dredge with his work,
and to lean on him more and more. Lanfear's health was already
failing, and in my confidential talks with him I saw how he counted
on Galen Dredge to continue and amplify his doctrine. If he did not
describe the young man as his predestined Huxley, it was because any
such comparison between himself and his great predecessors would
have been repugnant to his taste; but he evidently felt that it
would be Dredge's role to reveal him to posterity. And the young man
seemed at that time to take the same view of his calling. When he
was not busy about Lanfear's work he was recording their
conversations with the diligence of a biographer and the accuracy of
a naturalist. Any attempt to question or minimize Lanfear's theories
roused in his disciple the only flashes of wrath I have ever seen a
scientific discussion provoke in him. In defending his master he
became almost as intemperate as in the early period of his literary

Such filial dedication must have been all the more precious to
Lanfear because, about that time, it became evident that Archie
would never carry on his father's work. He had begun brilliantly,
you may remember, by a little paper on _Limulus Polyphemus_ that
attracted a good deal of notice when it appeared in the _Central
Blatt_; but gradually his zoological ardour yielded to an absorbing
passion for the violin, which was followed by a sudden plunge into
physics. At present, after a side-glance at the drama, I understand
he's devoting what is left of his father's money to archaeological
explorations in Asia Minor.

"Archie's got a delightful little mind," Lanfear used to say to me,
rather wistfully, "but it's just a highly polished surface held up
to the show as it passes. Dredge's mind takes in only a bit at a
time, but the bit stays, and other bits are joined to it, in a hard
mosaic of fact, of which imagination weaves the pattern. I saw just
how it would be years ago, when my boy used to take my meaning in a
flash, and answer me with clever objections, while Galen disappeared
into one of his fathomless silences, and then came to the surface
like a dripping retriever, a long way beyond Archie's objections,
and with an answer to them in his mouth."

It was about this time that the crowning satisfaction of Lanfear's
career came to him: I mean, of course, John Weyman's gift to
Columbia of the Lanfear Laboratory, and the founding, in connection
with it, of a chair of Experimental Evolution. Weyman had always
taken an interest in Lanfear's work, but no one had supposed that
his interest would express itself so magnificently. The honour came
to Lanfear at a time when he was fighting an accumulation of
troubles: failing health, the money difficulties resulting from his
irrepressible generosity, his disappointment about Archie's career,
and perhaps also the persistent attacks of the new school of German

"If I hadn't Galen I should feel the game was up," he said to me
once, in a fit of half-real, half-mocking despondency. "But he'll do
what I haven't time to do myself, and what my boy can't do for me."

That meant that he would answer the critics, and triumphantly affirm
Lanfear's theory, which had been rudely shaken, but not displaced.

"A scientific hypothesis lasts till there's something else to put in
its place. People who want to get across a river will use the old
bridge till the new one's built. And I don't see any one who's
particularly anxious, in this case, to take a contract for the new
one," Lanfear ended; and I remember answering with a laugh: "Not
while Horatius Dredge holds the other."

It was generally known that Lanfear had not long to live, and the
Laboratory was hardly opened before the question of his successor in
the chair of Experimental Evolution began to be a matter of public
discussion. It was conceded that whoever followed him ought to be a
man of achieved reputation, some one carrying, as the French say, a
considerable "baggage." At the same time, even Lanfear's critics
felt that he should be succeeded by a man who held his views and
would continue his teaching. This was not in itself a difficulty,
for German criticism had so far been mainly negative, and there were
plenty of good men who, while they questioned the permanent validity
of Lanfear's conclusions, were yet ready to accept them for their
provisional usefulness. And then there was the added inducement of
the Laboratory! The Columbia Professor of Experimental Evolution has
at his disposal the most complete instrument of biological research
that modern ingenuity has yet produced; and it's not only in
theology or politics _que Paris vaut bien une messe!_ There was no
trouble about finding a candidate; but the whole thing turned on
Lanfear's decision, since it was tacitly understood that, by
Weyman's wish, he was to select his successor. And what a cry there
was when he selected Galen Dredge!

Not in the scientific world, though. The specialists were beginning
to know about Dredge. His remarkable paper on Sexual Dimorphism had
been translated into several languages, and a furious polemic had
broken out over it. When a young fellow can get the big men fighting
over him his future is pretty well assured. But Dredge was only
thirty-four, and some people seemed to feel that there was a kind of
deflected nepotism in Lanfear's choice.

"If he could choose Dredge he might as well have chosen his own
son," I've heard it said; and the irony was that Archie--will you
believe it?--actually thought so himself! But Lanfear had Weyman
behind him, and when the end came the Faculty at once appointed
Galen Dredge to the chair of Experimental Evolution.

For the first two years things went quietly, along accustomed lines.
Dredge simply continued the course which Lanfear's death had
interrupted. He lectured well even then, with a persuasive
simplicity surprising in the slow, inarticulate creature one knew
him for. But haven't you noticed that certain personalities reveal
themselves only in the more impersonal relations of life? It's as if
they woke only to collective contacts, and the single consciousness
were an unmeaning fragment to them.

If there was anything to criticize in that first part of the course,
it was the avoidance of general ideas, of those brilliant rockets of
conjecture that Lanfear's students were used to seeing him fling
across the darkness. I remember once saying this to Archie, who,
having recovered from his absurd disappointment, had returned to his
old allegiance to Dredge.

"Oh, that's Galen all over. He doesn't want to jump into the ring
till he has a big swishing knock-down argument in his fist. He'll
wait twenty years if he has to. That's his strength: he's never
afraid to wait."

I thought this shrewd of Archie, as well as generous; and I saw the
wisdom of Dredge's course. As Lanfear himself had said, his theory
was safe enough till somebody found a more attractive one; and
before that day Dredge would probably have accumulated sufficient
proof to crystallize the fluid hypothesis.


THE third winter I was off collecting in Central America, and didn't
get back till Dredge's course had been going for a couple of months.
The very day I turned up in town Archie Lanfear descended on me with
a summons from his mother. I was wanted at once at a family council.

I found the Lanfear ladies in a state of incoherent distress, which
Archie's own indignation hardly made more intelligible. But
gradually I put together their fragmentary charges, and learned that
Dredge's lectures were turning into an organized assault on his
master's doctrine.

"It amounts to just this," Archie said, controlling his women with
the masterful gesture of the weak man. "Galen has simply turned
round and betrayed my father."

"Just for a handful of silver he left us," Mabel sobbed in
parenthesis, while Mrs. Lanfear tearfully cited Hamlet.

Archie silenced them again. "The ugly part of it is that he must
have had this up his sleeve for years. He must have known when he
was asked to succeed my father what use he meant to make of his
opportunity. What he's doing isn't the result of a hasty conclusion:
it means years of work and preparation."

Archie broke off to explain himself. He had returned from Europe the
week before, and had learned on arriving that Dredge's lectures were
stirring the world of science as nothing had stirred it since
Lanfear's "Utility and Variation." And the incredible outrage was
that they owed their sensational effect to the fact of being an
attempted refutation of Lanfear's great work.

I own that I was staggered: the case looked ugly, as Archie said.
And there was a veil of reticence, of secrecy, about Dredge, that
always kept his conduct in a half-light of uncertainty. Of some men
one would have said off-hand: "It's impossible!" But one couldn't
affirm it of him.

Archie hadn't seen him as yet; and Mrs. Lanfear had sent for me
because she wished me to be present at the interview between the two
men. The Lanfear ladies had a touching belief in Archie's violence:
they thought him as terrible as a natural force. My own idea was
that if there were any broken bones they wouldn't be Dredge's; but I
was too curious as to the outcome not to be glad to offer my
services as moderator.

First, however, I wanted to hear one of the lectures; and I went the
next afternoon. The hall was jammed, and I saw, as soon as Dredge
appeared, what increased security and ease the interest of his
public had given him. He had been clear the year before, now he was
also eloquent. The lecture was a remarkable effort: you'll find the
gist of it in Chapter VII of "The Arrival of the Fittest." Archie
sat at my side in a white rage; he was too clever not to measure the
extent of the disaster. And I was almost as indignant as he when we
went to see Dredge the next day.

I saw at a glance that the latter suspected nothing; and it was
characteristic of him that he began by questioning me about my
finds, and only afterward turned to reproach Archie for having been
back a week without notifying him.

"You know I'm up to my neck in this job. Why in the world didn't you
hunt me up before this?"

The question was exasperating, and I could understand Archie's
stammer of wrath.

"Hunt you up? Hunt you up? What the deuce are you made of, to ask me
such a question instead of wondering why I'm here now?"

Dredge bent his slow calm scrutiny on his friend's quivering face;
then he turned to me.

"What's the matter?" he said simply.

"The matter?" shrieked Archie, his clenched fist hovering excitedly
above the desk by which he stood; but Dredge, with unwonted
quickness, caught the fist as it descended.

"Careful--I've got a _Kallima_ in that jar there." He pushed a chair
forward, and added quietly: "Sit down."

Archie, ignoring the gesture, towered pale and avenging in his
place; and Dredge, after a moment, took the chair himself.

"The matter?" Archie reiterated with rising passion. "Are you so
lost to all sense of decency and honour that you can put that
question in good faith? Don't you really _know_ what's the matter?"

Dredge smiled slowly. "There are so few things one _really knows_."

"Oh, damn your scientific hair-splitting! Don't you know you're
insulting my father's memory?"

Dredge stared again, turning his spectacles thoughtfully from one of
us to the other.

"Oh, that's it, is it? Then you'd better sit down. If you don't see
at once it'll take some time to make you."

Archie burst into an ironic laugh.

"I rather think it will!" he conceded.

"Sit down, Archie," I said, setting the example; and he obeyed, with
a gesture that made his consent a protest.

Dredge seemed to notice nothing beyond the fact that his visitors
were seated. He reached for his pipe, and filled it with the care
which the habit of delicate manipulations gave to all the motions of
his long, knotty hands.

"It's about the lectures?" he said.

Archie's answer was a deep scornful breath.

"You've only been back a week, so you've only heard one, I suppose?"

"It was not necessary to hear even that one. You must know the talk
they're making. If notoriety is what you're after--"

"Well, I'm not sorry to make a noise," said Dredge, putting a match
to his pipe.

Archie bounded in his chair. "There's no easier way of doing it than
to attack a man who can't answer you!"

Dredge raised a sobering hand. "Hold on. Perhaps you and I don't
mean the same thing. Tell me first what's in your mind."

The request steadied Archie, who turned on Dredge a countenance
really eloquent with filial indignation.

"It's an odd question for you to ask; it makes me wonder what's in
yours. Not much thought of my father, at any rate, or you couldn't
stand in his place and use the chance he's given you to push
yourself at his expense."

Dredge received this in silence, puffing slowly at his pipe.

"Is that the way it strikes you?" he asked at length.

"God! It's the way it would strike most men."

He turned to me. "You too?"

"I can see how Archie feels," I said.

"That I'm attacking his father's memory to glorify myself?"

"Well, not precisely: I think what he really feels is that, if your
convictions didn't permit you to continue his father's teaching, you
might perhaps have done better to sever your connection with the
Lanfear lectureship."

"Then you and he regard the Lanfear lectureship as having been
founded to perpetuate a dogma, not to try and get at the truth?"

"Certainly not," Archie broke in. "But there's a question of taste,
of delicacy, involved in the case that can't be decided on abstract
principles. We know as well as you that my father meant the
laboratory and the lectureship to serve the ends of science, at
whatever cost to his own special convictions; what we feel--and you
don't seem to--is that you're the last man to put them to that use;
and I don't want to remind you why."

A slight redness rose through Dredge's sallow skin. "You needn't,"
he said. "It's because he pulled me out of my hole, woke me up, made
me, shoved me off from the shore. Because he saved me ten or twenty
years of muddled effort, and put me where I am at an age when my
best working years are still ahead of me. Every one knows that's
what your father did for me, but I'm the only person who knows the
time and trouble that it took."

It was well said, and I glanced quickly at Archie, who was never
closed to generous emotions.

"Well, then--?" he said, flushing also.

"Well, then," Dredge continued, his voice deepening and losing its
nasal edge, "I had to pay him back, didn't I?"

The sudden drop flung Archie back on his prepared attitude of irony.
"It would be the natural inference--with most men."

"Just so. And I'm not so very different. I knew your father wanted a
successor--some one who'd try and tie up the loose ends. And I took
the lectureship with that object."

"And you're using it to tear the whole fabric to pieces!"

Dredge paused to re-light his pipe. "Looks that way," he conceded.
"This year anyhow."

"_ This year_--?" Archie gasped at him.

"Yes. When I took up the job I saw it just as your father left it.
Or rather, I didn't see any other way of going on with it. The
change came gradually, as I worked."

"Gradually? So that you had time to look round you, to know where
you were, to see you were fatally committed to undoing the work he
had done?"

"Oh, yes--I had time," Dredge conceded.

"And yet you kept the chair and went on with the course?"

Dredge refilled his pipe, and then turned in his seat so that he
looked squarely at Archie.

"What would your father have done in my place?" he asked.

"In your place--?"

"Yes: supposing he'd found out the things I've found out in the last
year or two. You'll see what they are, and how much they count, if
you'll run over the report of the lectures. If your father'd been
alive he might have come across the same facts just as easily."

There was a silence which Archie at last broke by saying: "But he
didn't, and you did. There's the difference."

"The difference? What difference? Would your father have suppressed
the facts if he'd found them? It's _you_ who insult his memory by
implying it! And if I'd brought them to him, would he have used his
hold over me to get me to suppress them?"

"Certainly not. But can't you see it's his death that makes the
difference? He's not here to defend his case."

Dredge laughed, but not unkindly. "My dear Archie, your father
wasn't one of the kind who bother to defend their case. Men like him
are the masters, not the servants, of their theories. They respect
an idea only as long as it's of use to them; when it's usefulness
ends they chuck it out. And that's what your father would have

Archie reddened. "Don't you assume a good deal in taking it for
granted that he would have had to in this particular case?"

Dredge reflected. Yes: I was going too far. Each of us can only
answer for himself. But to my mind your father's theory is refuted."

"And you don't hesitate to be the man to do it?"

"Should I have been of any use if I had? And did your father ever
ask anything of me but to be of as much use as I could?"

It was Archie's turn to reflect. "No. That was what he always
wanted, of course."

"That's the way I've always felt. The first day he took me away from
East Lethe I knew the debt I was piling up against him, and I never
had any doubt as to how I'd pay it, or how he'd want it paid. He
didn't pick me out and train me for any object but to carry on the
light. Do you suppose he'd have wanted me to snuff it out because it
happened to light up a fact he didn't fancy? I'm using _his_ oil to
feed my torch with: yes, but it isn't really his torch or mine, or
his oil or mine: they belong to each of us till we drop and hand
them on."

Archie turned a sobered glance on him. "I see your point. But if the
job had to be done I don't see that you need have done it from his

"There's where we differ. If I did it at all I had to do it in the
best way, and with all the authority his backing gave me. If I owe
your father anything, I owe him that. It would have made him sick to
see the job badly done. And don't you see that the way to honour
him, and show what he's done for science, was to spare no advantage
in my attack on him--that I'm proving the strength of his position
by the desperateness of my assault?" Dredge paused and squared his
lounging shoulders. "After all," he added, "he's not down yet, and
if I leave him standing I guess it'll be some time before anybody
else cares to tackle him."

There was a silence between the two men; then Dredge continued in a
lighter tone: "There's one thing, though, that we're both in danger
of forgetting: and that is how little, in the long run, it all
counts either way." He smiled a little at Archie's outraged gesture.
"The most we can any of us do--even by such a magnificent effort as
your father's--is to turn the great marching army a hair's breadth
nearer what seems to us the right direction; if one of us drops out,
here and there, the loss of headway's hardly perceptible. And that's
what I'm coming to now."

He rose from his seat, and walked across to the hearth; then,
cautiously resting his shoulder-blades against the mantel-shelf
jammed with miscellaneous specimens, he bent his musing spectacles
on Archie.

"Your father would have understood why I've done, what I'm doing;
but that's no reason why the rest of you should. And I rather think
it's the rest of you who've suffered most from me. He always knew
what I was _there for_, and that must have been some comfort even
when I was most in the way; but I was just an ordinary nuisance to
you and your mother and Mabel. You were all too kind to let me see
it at the time, but I've seen it since, and it makes me feel that,
after all, the settling of this matter lies with you. If it hurts
you to have me go on with my examination of your father's theory,
I'm ready to drop the lectures to-morrow, and trust to the Lanfear
Laboratory to breed up a young chap who'll knock us both out in
time. You've only got to say the word."

There was a pause while Dredge turned and laid his extinguished pipe
carefully between a jar of embryo sea-urchins and a colony of
regenerating planarians.

Then Archie rose and held out his hand.

"No," he said simply; "go on."

Edith Wharton