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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » I Walked in Arden » Chapter Eight I PLAY A PART IN A MELODRAMA
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Regardless of all excitement of the day before, and of the change that had come into my life, I slept late Sunday morning. The reason was that, because of night duty at the factory, it was the first sleep for twenty-four hours. All the thinking and plans I had intended to do and make while in bed faded into a dreamless unconsciousness. I awoke without having decided on the best approach to Helen's family. Business was not yet in such shape that I could offer a strong financial argument to so keen a business man as Mr. Claybourne, nor had I any idea what my own family would think of me. Letters were not an ideal means of communication. Could I express in black and white how adorable Helen was—she who was all intangible charm and delight? These and many other disturbing thoughts came to me as I shaved. It was curious that every fresh step in life opened up such vistas of unforeseen problems! Nothing was as one had imagined it would be.

On my way out Myrtle Boulevard I passed a florist's—the florist shops kept open until church time in Deep Harbor—and bought Helen a bunch of Parma violets; they were her favourites, and to me violets symbolized her. She was sitting up, her foot on a rest and "Mother" hovering about, when I arrived. Helen reported the doctor's opinion as favourable—a bad wrench, but requiring merely rest and quiet. "Mother" was more pessimistic; with a knee one never knew what would happen; a friend of hers had a daughter no older than Helen who had been made lame for life by less; still, it was what she had always expected, only no one ever listened to her advice, least of all Helen; had she not warned her again and again that horseback riding at all hours of the day and night was dangerous, to say nothing of being highly improper? Helen buried her nose in the violets and said nothing; I, too, had learned a measure of discretion where "mother" was concerned, and sat on the edge of my chair throughout the tirade. Mr. Claybourne rescued us.

"Now, mother," he said in his brisk way, "these kids want to talk it all over by themselves. You come into the library with me and read the scandal in the Sunday supplement. The best regulated horses will fall down sometimes; thank Heaven your daughter didn't break any bones, and be happy." He dragged her protesting away. Helen and I looked at one another, uncertain where to begin.

"It was like you, Ted, to bring me the violets, but you mustn't waste money on me any more. We'll need it all," she smiled—womanlike, recovering first. "Have we any money, Ted?"

I was hardly prepared for so direct a poser; yet even Arthur's knights sometimes had difficulties financing their quests. It was distinctly her right to know the truth.

"My present salary isn't enough," I admitted, "but by next summer, if the business is well on its feet, we can go to England. I have an interest in the factory given me by my father. It's up to Knowlton to make that good."

"England!" she dreamed. "I'll love it, Ted! It'll be hard to leave my father, though. Dear old dad adores me."

"I'm not surprised," I said, taking her slender white hand to my lips.

"You mustn't tease, Ted. I'm serious today. Why didn't you bring me Leonidas?" It was, of course, useless to object to Helen's categories of "serious things."

"I thought best to try 'mother' with one thing at a time. Leonidas is chewing a slipper under my study table. In the bathroom he will find a bowl of bread and milk at his convenience."

Helen laughed: "I hope you'll take as good care of me, Ted." The maid announced dinner; Mr. Claybourne, with my assistance, carried Helen to the dining room, and we made great to-do of propping her up with cushions. Helen sent me back to the living room for her violets; they had to be at a certain spot on the table in front of her. I observed Mr. Claybourne pause for a second in the midst of his soup to watch Helen and her flowers; she kissed them when I put the bunch in front of her, which caused Mr. Claybourne to resume eating with some show of violence. "Mother" did not notice this by-play; she was scolding the maid because the soup was too hot and hadn't enough salt, and there was a draft somewhere that was bringing in all the kitchen smells, though for the life of me I couldn't detect any. The maid having been properly flustered and needlessly irritated, "Mother" turned with a sigh toward Helen.

"Ludwig hasn't sent you any flowers for a long time; I used to love those American beauties—where did he get them, Rosenstein's, wasn't it?"

I looked slyly at Helen, who blushed charmingly and became much interested in her plate. Mr. Claybourne gave a loud laugh.

"Mother, I think you scored a bull's eye that time!" he roared, in great enjoyment of his own joke.

"What have I said now?" "Mother" asked in her plaintive way, looking from one to another of us. "I should think I might be allowed to make a remark once in a while. I don't expect any one to talk to me or pay any attention to me, but I do claim the privilege of an occasional word in my own house."

Helen's low "Mother dear" was cut short by hearty Mr. Claybourne.

"Now, Lucy, don't go up in the air. No one was laughing at you; on the contrary, Ted's face was solemn as a judge's"—and he winked elaborately at me. By way of retort Mrs. Claybourne burst into tears and left the table. Mr. Claybourne, with a distinctly muttered "Damn" followed her at a decent interval.

"I'm sorry, Ted," said Helen, in defiance of the maid, putting her hand on mine. "Never let me become so spoiled, will you, dear?"

"As if you could!" I said, leaning toward her.

"The worst of it is," Helen continued, "poor mother really believes that she is a much neglected and abused woman, whereas dad does everything on earth to please and humour her. If only he would try firmness once! And she would be so much happier, too, instead of imagining herself the victim of 'nerves,' as she calls it."

"I'm not sure dispositions are curable."

Mr. Claybourne returned: "Go on with dinner, children; mother will be down in a few minutes. I'm afraid she has a sick headache; the shock of last night," he explained.

"Dear dad," Helen smiled.

"What are you dear dadding me for?" her father inquired, as he sharpened the carving knife.

"I shan't tell you, if you can't guess."

"Not another hat—or more pocket money?" he said seriously.

"No, father, of course not!"

He shook his head and concentrated on carving a pair of ducks. In due time "Mother" returned, red-eyed and resigned. She sat at table and refused all food, although both Mr. Claybourne and I danced about the room urging this and that upon her.

"I know what you need to cheer you up, old girl," shouted Mr. Claybourne with hilarity that began to sound a little forced, "a bottle of champagne"!

Mother protested that her head felt bad enough now; it was absurd extravagance and set a bad example in the kitchen, to say nothing of champagne on Sunday being a sacrilege: her husband pooh-poohed it all, and went down cellar after a bottle.

"Here, Ted! you open it," handing me a flagon of the widow Clicquot's special brew upon his re-entry. "I'll get the glasses."

"We have a waitress, Martin," was "Mother's" final protest.

With much coaxing, Mrs. Claybourne was induced to sip a little. Afterwards I noticed that she sipped it quite often when the rest of us were talking, until she gradually returned to an almost cheerful frame of mind. Mr. Claybourne's anecdotes and humorous stories increased in numbers; he sandwiched many toasts in between them: to "mother"; to Helen; to "happy days"; to the "young people"; to "rum—down with it," and like persiflage of an obvious nature. At each toast "mother" raised a feeble objection, less and less prolonged as time went on. We had another bottle, for Mr. Claybourne said "A quart among four is only a teaser—an aggravation." Once Helen risked taking my hand: "Be careful, Ted, won't you?" she whispered. I nodded. Mr. Claybourne saw us. "Ted is old enough to take care of himself, Helen," he admonished, winking at me. When the second bottle was emptied, Mr. Claybourne brought forth a humidor filled with large, black Havanas.

"Now, mother, we'll carry Helen into the living room, and Ted and I are going to sit here and talk business over our cigars." I started, and Helen's free foot lightly touched mine under the table. Mr. Claybourne was delighted with the effect of his dramatic announcement. His eyes twinkled as he watched us.

"I guess you thought the old man was asleep," he chuckled, as we picked Helen up. "I wasn't born yesterday."

"Can I stay, dad?" Helen asked.

"No, we'll attend to you later, young lady," and with this cryptic threat Helen was carried off. Of course things were not working out as I had planned, but I was beginning to get used to Fate's perversity.

"Light up, Ted," commanded Mr. Claybourne upon our return to the dining room. I obeyed; my hand was not so steady as I should have wished.

"Old man Tyler let slip something last night that has set me thinking, Ted," he continued, locking his hands behind his head and studying my face attentively. "So that was how the milk was spilt," I thought. "Of course, I must say a blind man could have told which way the wind blew," he added, with a reckless mixture of proverbs. There was a pause, during which I was trying to compose a suitable speech.

"Well, Ted, so you two kids imagine you're in love with each other?"

"We are," I said with a decision that surprised me. Again this wasn't the speech I had been composing.

"Suppose for the sake of argument we concede this point for the moment: was it playing square not to tell me?" and Mr. Claybourne blew a cloud of smoke rings toward the ceiling.

"We only found it out last night," I answered eagerly desirous to put myself in the right. "I came here today to tell you."

He looked sharply at me, chewing his cigar. I did not flinch this time.

"Some one was pretty slow," he said, breaking into a laugh. "I found it out two weeks ago." I moistened my lips and tried a smile on my own account.

"To come down to brass tacks, Ted, can you support a wife?"

"No, sir—at least, not yet."

"Then what right have you to go putting ideas in my little girl's head?"

"Because, sir, I love her, and there is good reason to believe that I shall be able to support her by next summer."

"I know more about your business, through my connection with the bank, than you do yourself," he commented. "Maybe what you say will be all right, and maybe it won't. Business is a funny game, Ted; with all your eggs in one basket you can't count your chickens before they're hatched." Proverbs always are annoying, if quoted against me.

"Well," I retorted, "my prospects are as good as the average young man's at my age, if not better." I was surprised at my own self-assurance.

"All right—we'll concede that, too," he said with a wave of his cigar. "Now, Ted, you know Helen's very young—only just out of school. Her tastes may change—probably will. She thinks she loves you, but she's only in love with love. Neither you nor she knows what love is."

"We have to take our chances with it, just as all young people do. By the time we learn what love is we can preach it to our grandchildren." It seemed, when I spoke, as if I were listening to a third person. I really wanted to be conciliatory, but the words came to suit themselves.

"You are sentencing yourselves to each other for life; it's a long penalty to pay if you make a mistake. As for love, that doesn't help much—not the kind of thing you imagine it to be, doesn't. Marriage means a lot of plain, everyday facts—a few pleasant, more unpleasant. I married for love," he concluded reflectively.

"Yes—and it brought you Helen." This time I knew I had scored. He laid his cigar down and looked out the window. Then he turned to me: "Ted, I'll put my cards on the table; if Helen wants you she shall have you. I've never gone against her will in anything important, and I don't intend to. I wish she was older, but there's no use wishing that now." I half rose to my feet in sheer joy. "Sit down, Ted; I'm not through. I make two conditions: first, I don't want you to say anything about this to any one but Helen's mother until Christmas. Let's see how you get on when you get to know each other better. Next, if Helen takes you, she must take you as you are. Because I have been fairly successful in business won't count at all. I'll not give her a cent before I go. Helen has to make her own choice and put up with it, whether it is riches or poverty."

"As far as I am concerned, I agree to both conditions." "You would," he assented drily. "Let's hear what Helen has to say about it."

We went into the next room, to find Helen hugging her violets to her bosom. "Mother" had gone upstairs for her afternoon rest. I boldly walked over to Helen and kissed her.

"Ted, I wish you'd stop all that until Christmas," Mr. Claybourne said grimly. We sat down, but Helen left her hand in mine.

"Well, little girl, Ted tells me you love him."

"Yes, dad dear." The look on Helen's face as she said this brought the tears to my eyes, and even Mr. Claybourne, with all his assumption of practicality, was none too comfortable.

He got up and paced the floor and gazed out at Myrtle Boulevard; then he came back to us.

"You've thought it all over—and made up your mind?" He stooped over her, turned her face up to his, and gently pushed the hair back on her forehead. Helen's grey eyes looked fearlessly into his.

"Yes, dad, I'm sure."

"What if I say 'no'?"

"You won't, dad—not when you know Ted. But if you do—why, dad, you believe I love you, don't you?—even if you said 'no' I should love Ted just the same."

Mr. Claybourne turned away and twisted one end of his moustache. There were no tears in Helen's eyes, only a quiet conviction in her voice which indicated a strength of character much like her father's. I knew that he too recognized it.

"I won't give you a penny, Helen; you've got to take him as he is, fight your own fight, and make your own way. I did it, and your grandfather did it; you'll have to do it, too."

"Then I shall do it," she answered, "as you did. I'm your daughter, and I'm not afraid—whatever the future brings, as long as I have Teddy—and he has me." She said it simply, unemotionally, like some one stating a fact.

"There's not much more to discuss, is there, Ted?" and he took my hand in a grip that hurt. "But mind you," he exclaimed, "you'll regard yourselves as both on probation. No announcement can be made before Christmas—and not then unless I say the word."

"If you don't say the word then, we'll simply run away," Helen came back at him with her dangerous calm. Then she smiled again: "Dear old dad."

He looked at me: "I warn you, Ted! You see what you are letting yourself in for. As far as I can judge, you haven't been consulted any more than I have."

"Father!" Helen interrupted.

"I hope you are prepared never to have your own way again, Edward, from this time forth."

"You can't frighten Ted that way," laughed Helen; "we both want the same things."

Mr. Claybourne snorted: "You hear that, Ted?"

I took Helen's hand, and she held it tight against her violets, crushing them and staining my palm with their fragrant juice. I didn't dare trust myself to speak.

"And now that it is all settled, let's break it to mother," Mr. Claybourne exploded with a grim attempt at his usual humour. He left the room without giving us a chance to object. I looked at Helen's face, more beautiful now than I had ever dreamed a woman's could be. A large tear rolled down her cheek, and I fell on my knees beside her, burying my face in her lap. She stroked my head.

"I'm not crying, Ted dear—I'm not the crying kind. I am just so happy I guess a—a little of it—overflowed." I kissed her wet cheek, and we sat in silence, waiting. Sounds of sobbing came from the stairs, and of patient, consolatory remarks. Helen smiled: "Poor mother—it sounds horrid to say it, but she always acts her part perfectly."

"Mother" entered, with smelling salts and dainty lace handkerchief, collapsed on her husband's shoulder, striving wonderfully for hysterics.

"Ted," said Mr. Claybourne, leading his wife to an easy chair, "I don't believe you are a very popular young man with part of the family—Lucy, I want you to shake hands with your future son-in-law."

I timidly advanced, an action which brought about a relapse. When she was a girl, daughters had the common decency to confide in their mothers; they didn't announce engagements to practically total strangers; they didn't get half-killed riding horseback with Tom, Dick, and Harry; they showed some consideration—some sense of the fitness of things; they went regularly to Church and were obedient. At this point Mr. Claybourne admitted a damaging piece of evidence.

"We ran away to be married, Lucy, when you were seventeen and we had just one hundred and twenty-seven dollars between us. What's more, I've never regretted it," he finished, with unexpected tenderness in his voice.

"Mother!" Helen pleaded, and she stretched out her arms. Mrs. Claybourne staggered across the room and melodramatically hurled herself upon her daughter. At the end of another outpouring of sobs and tears, she consented reluctantly to shake hands, and submitted to a formal kiss from me, at Helen's command. I am afraid I did not linger very long over it. With a few more remarks about no one having any regard for her wishes, or taking into consideration her nervous state, she began to cheer up remarkably.

Upon noting these favorable symptoms, Mr. Claybourne announced that he was off for the club, at the same time inviting me to stay and "amuse Helen" until after supper.

"I hope, Martin, you are not going to play cards on Sunday—at the least, not for money." Mr. Claybourne showed long practice in the skill with which he evaded a direct reply, and left hurriedly.

"I don't know what we shall do, Helen, when we announce your engagement. Neither of us have any clothes fit to wear."

I was staggered by this transition to the practical, but at least the implication was that the period of resistance was over.

"We can go to New York before Christmas," Helen said.

"Your father is always complaining I spend too much money," mother sighed, "although he seems to forget, Edward, that I have a grown-up daughter to manage. Of course, now I won't be able to go to Palm Beach for the winter, as I had planned, and this climate is simply killing my nerves. But I don't suppose that ever entered either of your heads."

Helen's eyes danced as we stole a look at one another, but Mrs. Claybourne continued, unconscious of anything but herself: "There isn't a single dressmaker in this city who can turn out a decent evening dress, and all Helen's clothes will have to be made to order—she can't wear jeune fille things any more. Oh, dear, and I don't suppose I'll have any help planning your trousseau—you and Edward will be off riding horseback day and night—it will all be left for me to settle, and I declare I haven't the health or the strength."

There was no use trying to assure her that we probably should take some interest in the course of subsequent events. Our engagement settled itself down as a conspiracy to prevent her from going to Palm Beach; moreover, it was a deliberately chosen scheme to add to her cares and responsibilities at a time when her nerves were on the edge of a general breakdown. By some mysterious tactful process Helen persuaded her mother to take another rest, and we were left alone.

I drew my chair up beside her. "Poor Ted," she smiled; "you've had quite a trying day."

"Did I put my foot in it anywhere?" I asked.

She laughed: "Not once, unless you consider an engagement to me, now you know the family, putting your foot in it."

"Why did Ludwig von Oberhausen send you flowers?"

"Ah, I knew you'd ask that at the first opportunity. Why do you suppose he did?" she teased.

"Because you are the most beautiful girl in the world."

"Stuff, Ted, that wasn't the reason; besides, only you could believe that. It was because he thought I had money; I was number three on his list. Oh, he was methodical about it, Ted, beginning with a formal call on mother on her day at home. Every Saturday night at six a dozen American beauties arrived, until you galloped over the horizon that day on Satan."

This was comforting. "Did you care for him?"

"No, you jealous pig."

"Helen," I said, with masculine solemnity and inappropriateness, "is this really the first time—for you?"

Afterwards I was thankful she had a sense of humour; in a normal frame of mind I should not have propounded such a banal absurdity. It was excess of good fortune which destroyed my sense of proportion. She flushed slightly for a moment, more because it was a shock to find me so stupid than because the question hurt her.

"Ted, it isn't like us," she said gently, using the phrase that so many times, in the days to come, kept me steady on my feet and my face in the clouds—"it isn't like us to—to doubt each other even in tiny things. Of course, I've had boy friends who have sat on the beach with me and watched the moon rise or begged me for an extra allowance of dances." She smiled, and there was a pause, during which I felt humble and guilty. The back of my neck was uncomfortably hot. "I've met only one Ted—my Sir Edward of Overseas," and she laid her hand on mine. There followed a long silence.

"Teddy dear," she said at last. "Tell me more about England."

Until after the room grew dark I told her all I could—of my family; of country life in Hertfordshire, with its packs of hounds, straggly villages, and grey parish churches on the summits of windy hills; of London, with its mystery and romance and its age-old stories. It sounds as if I lectured poor Helen like a school teacher. In reality it was a true lover's conversation—she questioning and curious about her home-to-be, I trying to make her see it through my eyes. I was young and sentimental; I had not then learned that patriotism and love of home are suburban and unintellectual emotions.

Suddenly I cried out: "Good Heavens, dearest, it's half past five, and I forgot I have to go on duty at six! I can't stay to supper—I must run now."

"Won't they let you off this once, if you telephone?"

I hesitated, for the temptation was strong, but it wouldn't be fair to Knowlton. It would mean a twenty-four hour stretch for him if I stayed away, I explained.

"Of course you must go, Ted. Let's try not to be selfish in our happiness—ever." I kissed her and left with these words repeating themselves over and over in my ears.

When I reached the factory I found Knowlton pacing the floor.

"I've been wanting to get you all day, Ted. I didn't like to call you up at the Claybournes', as I knew you'd be here at six. There's the devil to pay."

"What do you mean?"

"Prospero's companion, the circus woman, has gone. All your chemistry notes of our experiments have disappeared too. Prospero is in his room raving drunk. He swears you have tricked him and stolen the secret of his great discovery. He threatens law, murder, anything he can think of."

"That part is all right," I said. "The notes are serious."

"Can you reconstruct them?"

"Not all," I answered "without repeating part of the experiments."

"How long will that take?"

"A minimum of six weeks."

"I was a triple damn fool, Ted, not to keep a copy of your work in the office safe. There's the Texas contract which we must begin work on tomorrow. Do you know the formula?"

"No, that was Prospero's discovery—but I know how he went at it."

"Go to the laboratory, Ted, and stick at it as long as you can, night and day. If you can work out that formula, you can have two weeks at Christmas. If you can't, we are done for. The bank is carrying us now on the strength of our Texas contract—if we can't make good on it, you and I have finished with Deep Harbor. Can I telephone for a chemist to help you?"

"Yes—get me a young, trained research man—and see if the Owen people will lend us one of their best laboratory men. Of course, you'll have to pay like the deuce—"

"That doesn't matter—you'll get your man. And, Ted?"


"I'd rather you wouldn't tell Miss Claybourne about this—her father is a director in the bank—"

"Miss Claybourne does not repeat—" I began.

"Nevertheless—why worry her with your troubles, Ted, until necessary?"

"Then you know about—us?" I asked na?vely.

"I'm not a damned fool in everything, Ted."

"All right—I shan't tell her unless I have to."

With this I went into the laboratory. During my absence, Prospero or his companion, or both together, had searched the place from top to bottom. Every bottle with a paper label had been carefully washed and the labels removed. Galvanometers, ammeters, voltmeters, all our delicate instruments, including the chemical balanced, had been rendered inaccurate, hence useless until re-calibrated. They had worked with skill, for nothing had been taken. My notes had been burned one by one in a Bunsen flame, and the ashes powdered. A careful inventory revealed a situation difficult to explain to a court of law and still more difficult to prove. It was true the documents weren't there and their ashes were. It was another matter to establish these facts on a witness stand.

I sent for Joe, the day watchman, who had been detained by Knowlton until my examination of the laboratory was complete.

"Who used the laboratory today, Joe?" I asked the burly Pole who looked after the plant on Sundays.

"Mr. Fougeer—an' Mrs. Fougeer—they worked here all day—mos' important job, he tells me—I let 'em in building—he have key to this room."

"What time did they leave?"

"'Bout tree 'clock. I fin' door unlock' near six—Mr. Fougeer, he forgot lock him—I lock door—everything he look O. K. inside."

"All right, Joe. You did your duty," Knowlton said, dismissing him. Naturally we had given orders that Prospero was to have access to the laboratory at any time, not suspecting this form of danger.

"There are three hours unaccounted for with the door unlocked. I suppose that was done with some idea of using it as an alibi," I said.

"It does beat hell, the cussed things that can happen in this world, Ted," Knowlton generalized. "Still, I want to go very easy on any legal proceedings, for two good reasons: it's possible I can talk to Prospero when he's sober, and second, any publicity will put the bank wise that we're in a double extra deep bottomless hole."

"You know we have to get all our chemicals from New York—so the first thing to do is to make out a list, for I can't risk using these unlabelled bottles, even those that are easily recognized. The contents may have been tampered with."

"Can you test that?" Knowlton asked.

"Yes." I took at random two or three bottles and poured some of their contents into test-tubes. I then tried a few simple reactions. In each case, the chemical purity of the materials proved to have been destroyed. Our hands were completely tied.

"That old devil would never have thought of that all by himself," Knowlton said, after a string of complicated introductory epithets. "The circus woman did that—I recognize the feminine touch."

"I can't help admiring the skill with which it was done. Not a bottle betrays by sight or smell, except for the missing label, that the contents aren't all right."

Knowlton grinned, in spite of himself.

"Good boy, Ted. I'm glad to see you aren't panic-stricken, any way. Well, I might as well go home and get some sleep. You make out your list and telegraph tonight."

I began my list of needed materials, wondering the while what Helen would say if she knew how the day was ending for us both. The thought of her put a desperate eagerness into me—I was not going to be beaten, black as things looked. Then a new idea came to me. Prospero would probably appear in the morning to see the results; if he found me simply getting ready to begin again, he might try a new scheme to injure us. On the other hand, if he saw me working away with the damaged chemicals, as if ignorant of what had happened to them, he would conclude his devilish plan was succeeding and keep quiet. I left my desk, lit the Bunsen burners under the sand baths, and set out several dishes of compounds to stew and evaporate. I spent an hour or more in carefully setting my stage; under the safety hood there was a fuming beaker; there were filtrates in various stages of progress, in addition to the dishes over the flames. It was a normal-looking night's work—a continuation of Friday's experiments to all outward appearances. Then I returned to my real work.

About four in the morning I heard a familiar step, and my heart leaped to think I had so well prepared for just this contingency. Prospero entered, bleary, dishevelled, his flowing black tie loose and streaming, his brass-buttoned waistcoat buttoned awry, his yellow gloves dirty and stained. On his face was the leering, crafty expression of the drunkard or the insane.

"You're early," I remarked drily, barely glancing at him.

"Got a big idea, Teddy—biggest idea I ever had—you know that?"

"Glad to hear it," and I scratched away at my list.

"Makin' notes, Ted? That's right—always keep your notes," and he roared a drunken laugh. He walked over to one of the experiments and smelt the beaker cautiously. He was evidently satisfied his plan was working, for he laughed long and loudly again. "That's good stuff, Ted. Bril-brilliant idea—if it works. You must keep careful notes on that ex—experiment."

I looked at him. "You are a great chemist, Mr. de Fougère, but even I know enough to know you can't always tell what's in a beaker by the smell." The sarcasm missed him.

"That's right, Ted—that's right. Best ex-experiments look all right—good theory, but won't work."

He lit a cigarette and hummed a wabbly tune, sitting astride a chair and watching me with his empty leer.

"Why did you wash all the labels off the bottles?" I asked quietly.

"Secrecy, Teddy—secrecy. Important work here—worth millions. Any one could walk in and find out all about it. We know all the bottles, now, Teddy—don't need labels, do we?"

The telephone stood on my desk in front of me, and I meditated calling up Knowlton. Finally I thought better of it, for my play was not to let Prospero know we had any inkling of the truth.

"That's a good idea," I said, "taking off the labels. I never thought of it just that way before."

"Of course you didn't, Ted. You don't know the world. It's a rough place, my boy—a rough place."

"It has delayed me some, because you didn't tell me first," I went on casually. "For instance, I want the bottle with the mixture made up according to the formula you worked out for the Texas contract. We have to start work on that job at seven." I paused and pretended to look through my papers.

"The Texas contract, eh? You know the formula—go ahead and make it." He hugged one knee and his eyes narrowed at me.

"No," I said, "that was your work."

"It's in your notes, Ted. Look it up."

"I took a copy of them away with me Saturday morning—I'll have to go down after them, if you don't tell me."

He sprang to his feet: "You lie, Ted, God damn you, you lie!" My hand reached for the telephone, then paused. I was puzzled about what my next move ought to be.

"Are you goin' to sit there and let me call you a liar?" he challenged. I turned around in my chair and looked him over. Excitement was working him up to a frenzy; his lips drooled. He wasn't a pleasant sight, but, curiously, I felt no physical fear; it was the critical business situation that alarmed me.

"I haven't time for a personal quarrel, Fougère," I said. "At present our business is to make good on the Texas contract. It's true that I have no copy of the notes you destroyed."

"Ah!" he exulted.

"Cut out the melodrama," I said with a pretence of boredom, "and come back when you are sober. This is too important a matter to play with."

"You admit it!" he shouted. "I've beaten you at your own filthy game!" He turned and crashed two of my stewing beakers to the floor and trampled on the mess. "Not one of your experiments will work—I've ruined them all! You tried to trick me, but by God, you couldn't do it!"

"I know that you are a drunkard and a thief—and one or two other things—that you break your word and have neither honour nor loyalty." I was getting as eloquent as Prospero himself. "Still, you'll tell me that formula or you'll land in gaol."

"You can't prove anything against me—but I can prove you tried to steal my great discovery—it was there, in your notes, and I have a witness." He raved in his excitement, pacing the floor like a wild animal.

"What discovery?" I asked, as he bore down on me.

"The making of electricity direct from coal."

"Oh, hell!" I exclaimed. "I haven't had time to waste on moonshine. At your own request I recorded all your experiments, even when I didn't know what nonsense they were all about."

"I—I make nonsense—you ignorant—"

"Shut up! I want the Texas formula."

"You'll pay me my terms for it."

"No, I won't. I'll pay mine, which is the salary you were hired for. You have one wife in Cripple Creek"—he started, and grasped the back of a chair—"it was foolish of you to marry the circus woman too. Bigamy is still a crime," and I felt quite satisfied with myself as I noted the effect of this. "Well," I thought, "when it comes to playing melodrama with a drug fiend, you are not bad, Ted!" His hands shook, but he managed to light another cigarette.

"Ted, I've been drinking," he mumbled, with an ugly grin that ought to have warned me he wasn't through. "I don't know what I've been saying"—he staggered to his feet and offered his lean scraggy hand—"I'm a good friend of yours, Ted. I always have been. You forget the wife in Cripple Creek—and we'll mix up the Texas formula."

I took his hand, feeling quite triumphant. "Knowlton will be proud of me," I thought.

"I'll forget either wife you say—or both," I said. "Let's get to work."

"That's it. Work. You're a good fellow, Teddy," and he lurched toward the shelves of bottles. "You thought I'd thrown it away?" he turned with his leer again. "You're wrong, Ted. I'm too old a fox for that, eh? Here it is," and he handed me a blue glass bottle with a rubber cork. "Right under your nose all the time, and you didn't know it."

I snatched it eagerly from him, and he chuckled. I was so certain that I was carrying all before me no suspicion crossed my mind.

"Analyze it, Ted, if you don't trust me," he urged.

"It's only business if I do," I replied.

"That's right—get it down in black and white. I never remember formulas."

I poured a little into a test tube; in colour and appearance it was as I remembered it to be. He took the tube from me and lightly passed it back and forth through a Bunsen flame. The liquid bubbled and began to give off fumes whose odour was queer—unlike what I expected. I felt dizzy for a moment, but recovered.

"It doesn't smell like the other when you evaporate it," I said, with returning suspicion.

"It's all right, Ted. I added an aromatic oil to it to throw curious people off the track—we haven't got our patent yet, and the world's a rough place, Ted."

"I hope you haven't ruined it," I exclaimed, much angered. One of the curses of his work was the fact that he never allowed a formula to be finished, but was always adding, adding to it.

"Perfectly harmless, Ted. Just a pleasant smell—that's all."

He poured some more into a shallow Meissen dish and placed it over the sand-bath flame.

"Watch it, Ted. The crystals are long and needlelike when it evaporates down. It's easy to analyse then."

I sat over it in my excitement, with the pleasant smelling fumes now and then blowing in my face. The hawk-like countenance of Prospero peered over my shoulder.

Why was he wearing a magician's robe, I wondered, with stars of gold and signs of the Zodiac upon it? Was it drink that made his eyes shine with blue fire? Opposite me Helen was standing, dressed in mediaeval costume, her hair flowing, violets trailing everywhere about her. I tried to speak to her, and to take her hand, and could not, even when she smiled. I wanted to tell her that Milton's epithet about the violet was true—"the glowing violet"—there they were glowing like the liquid in a test tube, or like the philosopher's stone, which was it?

Then I knew no more.


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