Part 3 out of 5
likely that we have none here with a hereditary or acquired love of
"Scarcely possible," replied Dr. Angier.
"How large do you think the percentage?"
"I have no means of knowing; but if we are to judge by the large
army of drunkards in the land, it must be fearfully great."
"Then we cannot invite to our houses fifty or a hundred guests, and
give them as much wine and spirits as they care to drink, without
seriously hurting some of them. I say nothing of the effect upon
unvitiated tastes; I refer only to those with diseased appetites who
made happen to be present."
"It will be bad for them, certainly. Such people should stay at
And saying this, Dr. Angier turned from the two gentlemen to speak
with a professional friend who came toward him at the moment.
"THE doctor likes his glass of wine," remarked one of the gentlemen
as Dr. Angier left them.
"Is that so?"
"Didn't you observe his heightened color and the gleam in his eyes?"
"I noticed something unusual in his manner, but did not think it the
effect of wine."
"He is a reticent man, with considerable of what may be called
professional dignity, and doesn't often let himself down to laymen
as he did just now."
"There wasn't much letting down, that I could see."
"Perhaps not; but professional pride is reserved and sensitive in
some persons. It hasn't much respect for the opinions of
non-experts, and is chary of discussion with laymen. Dr. Angier is
weak, or peculiar if you please, in this direction. I saw that he
was annoyed at your reply to his remark that you do not cure a
thirsty man by withholding water. It was a little thing, but it
showed his animus. The argument was against him, and it hurt his
pride. As I said, he likes his glass of wine, and if he does not
take care will come to like it too well. A doctor has no more
immunity from dypso-mania than his patient. The former may inherit
or acquire the disease as well as the latter."
"How does the doctor know that he has not from some ancestor this
fatal diathesis? Children rarely if ever betray to their children a
knowledge of the vices or crimes of their parents. The death by
consumption, cancer or fever is a part of oral family history, but
not so the death from intemperance. Over that is drawn a veil of
silence and secresy, and the children and grandchildren rarely if
ever know anything about it. There may be in their blood the taint
of a disease far more terrible than cancer or consumption, and none
to give them warning of the conditions under which its development
"Is it not strange," was replied, "that, knowing as Dr. Angier
certainly does, from what he said just now, that in all classes of
society there is a large number who have in their physical
constitutions the seeds of this dreadful disease--that, as I have
said, knowing this, he should so frequently prescribe wine and
whisky to his patients?"
"It is a little surprising. I have noticed, now that you speak of
it, his habit in this respect."
"He might as well, on his own theory, prescribe thin clothing and
damp air to one whose father or mother had died of consumption as
alcoholic stimulants to one, who has the taint of dypso-mania in his
blood. In one case as in the other the disease will almost surely be
developed. This is common sense, and something that can be
understood by all men."
"And yet, strange to say, the very men who have in charge the public
health, the very men whose business it is to study the relations
between cause and effect in diseases, are the men who in far too
many instances are making the worst possible prescriptions for
patients in whom even the slightest tendency to inebriety may exist
hereditarily. We have, to speak plainly, too many whisky doctors,
and the harm they are doing is beyond calculation. A physician takes
upon himself a great responsibility when, without any knowledge of
the antecedents of a patient or the stock from which he may have
come, he prescribes whisky or wine or brandy as a stimulant. I
believe thousands of drunkards have been made by these unwise
prescriptions, against which I am glad to know some of the most
eminent men in the profession, both in this country and Europe, have
entered a solemn protest."
"There is one thing in connection with the disease of intemperance,"
replied the other, "that is very remarkable. It is the only one from
which society does not protect itself by quarantine and sanitary
restrictions. In cholera, yellow fever and small-pox every effort is
made to guard healthy districts from their invasion, and the man who
for gain or any other consideration should be detected in the work
of introducing infecting agents would be execrated and punished. But
society has another way of dealing with the men who are engaged in
spreading the disease of intemperance among the people. It enacts
laws for their protection, and gives them the largest liberty to get
gain in their work of disseminating disease and death, and, what is
still more remarkable, actually sells for money the right to do
"You put the case sharply."
"Perhaps not. No good ever comes of calling evil things by dainty
names or veiling hard truth under mild and conservative phrases. In
granting men a license to dispense alcohol in every variety of
enticing forms and in a community where a large percentage of the
people have a predisposition to intemperance, consequent as well on
hereditary taint as unhealthy social conditions, society commits
itself to a disastrous error the fruit of which is bitterer to the
taste than the ashen core of Dead Sea apples."
"What about Dead Sea apples?" asked Mr. Elliott, who came up at the
moment and heard the last remark. The two gentlemen were pew-holders
in his church. Mr. Elliott's countenance was radiant. All his fine
social feelings were active, and he was enjoying a "flow of soul,"
if not "a feast of reason." Wine was making glad his heart--not
excess of wine, in the ordinary sense, for Mr. Elliott had no morbid
desire for stimulants. He was of the number who could take a social
glass and not feel a craving for more. He believed in wine as a good
thing, only condemning its abuse.
"What were you saying about Dead Sea apples?" Mr. Elliott repeated
"We were speaking of intemperance," replied one of the gentlemen.
"O--h!" in a prolonged and slightly indifferent tone. Mr. Elliott's
countenance lost some of its radiance. "And what were you saying
Common politeness required as much as this, even though the subject
was felt to be out of place.
"We were talking with Dr. Angier just now about hereditary
drunkenness, or rather the inherited predisposition to that
vice--disease, as the doctor calls it. This predisposition he says
exists in a large number of persons, and is as well defined
pathologically, and as certain to become active, under favoring
causes, as any other disease. Alcoholic stimulants are its exciting
causes. Let, said the doctor, a man so predisposed indulge in the
use of intoxicating liquors, and he will surely become a drunkard.
There is no more immunity for him, he added, than for the man who
with tubercles in his lungs exposes himself to cold, bad air and
enervating bodily conditions. Now, is not this a very serious view
to take of the matter?"
"Certainly it is," replied Mr. Elliott. "Intemperance is a sad
thing, and a most fearful curse."
He did not look comfortable. It was to him an untimely intrusion of
an unpleasant theme. "But what in the world set the doctor off on
this subject?" he asked, trying to make a diversion.
"Occasions are apt to suggest subjects for conversation," answered
the gentleman. "One cannot be present at a large social
entertainment like this without seeing some things that awaken
doubts and questionings. If it be true, as Dr. Angier says, that the
disease of intemperance is as surely transmitted, potentially, as
the disease of consumption, and will become active under favoring
circumstances, then a drinking festival cannot be given without
fearful risk to some of the invited guests."
"There is always danger of exciting disease where a predisposition
exists," replied Mr. Elliott. "A man can hardly be expected to make
himself acquainted with the pathology of his guests before inviting
them to a feast. If that is to be the rule, the delicate young lady
with the seeds of consumption in her system must be left at home for
fear she may come with bare arms and a low-necked dress, and expose
herself after being heated with dancing to the draught of an open
window. The bilious and dyspeptic must be omitted also, lest by
imprudent eating and drinking they make themselves sick. We cannot
regulate these things. The best we can do is to warn and admonish.
Every individual is responsible for his own moral character, habits
and life. Because some may become the slaves of appetite, shall
restraint and limitation be placed on those who make no abuse of
liberty? We must teach men self-control and self-mastery, if we
would truly help and save them. There is some exaggeration, in my
opinion, about this disease-theory of intemperance. The deductions
of one-idea men are not always to be trusted. They are apt to draw
large conclusions from small facts. Man is born a free agent, and
all men have power, if they will, to hold their appetites in check.
This truth should be strongly impressed upon every one. Your
disease-theory takes away moral responsibility. It assumes that a
man is no more accountable for getting drunk than for getting the
consumption. His diathesis excuses him as much in one case as in the
other. Now, I don't believe a word of this. I do not class
appetites, however inordinate, with physical diseases over which the
will has no control. A man must control his appetite. Reason and
conscience require this, and God gives to every one the mastery of
himself if he will but use his high prerogative."
Mr. Elliott spoke a little loftily, and in a voice that expressed a
settlement of the argument. But one at least of his listeners was
feeling too strongly on the subject to let the argument close.
"What," he asked, "if a young man who did not, because he could not,
know that he had dypso-mania in his blood were enticed to drink
often at parties where wine is freely dispensed? Would he not be
taken, so to speak, unawares? Would he be any more responsible for
acts that quickened into life an over-mastering appetite than the
young girl who, not knowing that she had in her lungs the seeds of a
fatal disease, should expose herself to atmospheric changes that
were regarded by her companions as harmless, but which, to her were
fraught with peril?"
"In both cases," replied Mr. Elliott, "the responsibility to care
for the health would come the moment it was found to be in danger."
"The discovery of danger may come, alas! too late for responsible
action. We know that it does in most cases with the consumptive, and
quite as often, I fear, with the dypso-maniac."
As the gentleman was closing the last sentence he observed a change
pass over the face of Mr. Elliott, who was looking across the room.
Following the direction of his eyes, he saw General Abercrombie in
the act of offering his arm to Mrs. Abercrombie. It was evident,
from the expression of his countenance and that of the countenances
of all who were near him that something had gone wrong. The
general's face was angry and excited. His eyes had a fierce
restlessness in them, and glanced from his wife to a gentleman who
stood confronting him and then back to her in a strange and menacing
Mrs. Abercrombie's face was deadly pale. She said a few words
hurriedly to her husband, and then drew him from the parlor.
"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Elliott, crossing over and speaking
to the gentleman against whom the anger of General Abercrombie had
seemed to be directed.
"Heaven knows," was answered, "unless he's jealous of his wife."
"Very strange conduct," said one.
"Been drinking too much," remarked another.
"What did he do?" inquired a third.
"Didn't you see it? Mr. Ertsen was promenading with Mrs.
Abercrombie, when the general swept down upon them as fierce as a
lion and took the lady from his arm."
This was exaggeration. The thing was done more quietly, but still
with enough of anger and menace to create something more than a
ripple on the surface.
A little while afterward the general and Mrs. Abercrombie were seen
coming down stairs and going along the hall. His face was rigid and
stern. He looked neither to the right nor the left, but with eyes
set forward made his way toward the street door. Those who got a
glimpse of Mrs. Abercrombie as she glided past saw a face that
haunted them a long time afterward.
AS General and Mrs. Abercrombie reached the vestibule, and the door
shut behind them, the latter, seeing, that her husband was going out
into the storm, which was now at its height, drew back, asking at
the same time if their carriage had been called.
The only answer made by General Abercrombie was a fiercely-uttered
imprecation. Seizing at the same time the arm she had dropped from
his, he drew her out of the vestibule and down the snow-covered step
with a sudden violence that threw her to the ground. As he dragged
her up he cursed her again in a cruel undertone, and then, grasping
her arm, moved off in the very teeth of the blinding tempest, going
so swiftly that she could not keep pace with him. Before they had
gone a dozen steps she fell again.
Struggling to her feet, helped up by the strong grasp of the madman
whose hand was upon her arm, Mrs. Abercrombie tried to rally her
bewildered thoughts. She knew that her life was in danger, but she
knew also that much, if not everything, depended on her own conduct.
The very extremity of her peril calmed her thoughts and gave them
clearness and decision. Plunging forward as soon as his wife could
recover herself again, General Abercrombie strode away with a speed
that made it almost impossible for her to move on without falling,
especially as the snow was lying deep and unbroken on the pavement,
and her long dress, which she had not taken time to loop up before
starting, dragged about her feet and impeded her steps. They had not
gone half a block before she fell again. A wild beast could hardly
have growled more savagely than did this insane man as he caught her
up from the bed of snow into which she had fallen and shook her with
fierce passion. A large, strong man, with an influx of demoniac,
strength in every muscle, his wife was little more than a child in
his hands. He could have crushed the life out of her at a single
Not a word or sound came from Mrs. Abercrombie. The snow that
covered the earth was scarcely whiter than her rigid face. Her eyes,
as the light of a flickering gas-lamp shone into them, hardly
reflected back its gleam, so leaden was their despair.
He shook her fiercely, the tightening grasp on her arms bruising the
tender flesh, cursed her, and then, in a blind fury, cast her from
him almost into the middle of the street, where she lay motionless,
half buried in the snow. For some moments he stood looking at the
prostrate form of his wife, on which the snow sifted rapidly down,
making the dark garments white in so short a space of time that she
seemed to fade from his view. It was this, perhaps, that wrought a
sudden change in his feelings, for he sprang toward her, and taking
her up in his arms, called her name anxiously. She did not reply by
word or sign, He carried her back to the pavement and turned her
face to the lamp; it was white and still, the eyes closed, the mouth
But Mrs. Abercrombie was not unconscious. Every sense was awake.
"Edith! Edith!" her husband cried. His tones, anxious at first, now
betrayed alarm. A carriage went by at the moment. He called to the
driver, but was unheard or unheeded. Up and down the street, the air
of which was so filled with snow that he could see only a short
distance, he looked in vain for the form of a policeman or citizen.
He was alone in the street at midnight, blocks away from his
residence, a fierce storm raging in the air, the cold intense, and
his wife apparently insensible in his arms. If anything could free
his brain from its illusions, cause enough was here. He shouted
aloud for help, but there came no answer on the wild careering
winds. Another carriage went by, moving in ghostly silence, but his
call to the driver was unheeded, as before.
Feeling the chill of the intensely cold air going deeper and deeper,
and conscious of the helplessness of their situation unless she used
the strength that yet remained, Mrs. Abercrombie showed symptoms of
returning life and power of action. Perceiving this, the general
drew an arm around her for support and made a motion to go on again,
to which she responded by moving forward, but with slow and not very
steady steps. Soon, however, she walked more firmly, and began
pressing on with a haste that ill accorded with the apparent
condition out of which she had come only a few moments before.
The insane are often singularly quick in perception, and General
Abercrombie was for the time being as much insane as any patient of
an asylum. It flashed into his mind that his wife had been deceiving
him, had been pretending a faint, when she was as strong of limb and
clear of intellect as when they left Mr. Birtwell's. At this thought
the half-expelled devil that had been controlling him leaped back
into his heart, filling it again with evil passions. But the wind
was driving the fine, sand-like, sharp-cutting snow into his face
with such force and volume as to half suffocate and bewilder him.
Turning at this moment a corner of the street that brought him into
the clear sweep of the storm, the wind struck him with a force that
seemed given by a human hand, and threw him staggering against his
wife, both falling.
Struggling to his feet, General Abercrombie cursed his wife as he
jerked her from the ground with a sudden force that came near
dislocating her arm. She gave no word of remonstrance nor cry of
pain or fear, but did all in her power to keep up with her husband
as he drove on again with mad precipitation.
How they got home Mrs. Abercrombie hardly knew, but home they were
at last and in their own room, the door closed and locked and the
key withdrawn by her husband, out of whose manner all the wild
passion had gone. His movements were quiet and his voice when he
spoke low, but his wife knew by the gleam of his restless eyes that
thought and purpose were active.
Their room was in the third story of a large boarding-house in a
fashionable part of the city. The outlook was upon the street. The
house was double, a wide hall running through the centre. There were
four or five large rooms on this floor, all occupied. In the one
adjoining theirs were a lady and gentleman who had been at Mr. and
Mrs. Birtwell's party, and who drove up in a carriage just as the
general and Mrs. Abercrombie, white with snow, came to the door.
They entered together, the lady expressing surprise at their
appearance, at which the general growled some incoherent sentences
and strode away from them and up the stairs, Mrs. Abercrombie
following close after him.
"There's something wrong, I'm afraid," said the gentleman, whose
name was Craig, as he and his wife gained their own room. They went
in a carriage, I know. What can it mean?"
"I hope the general has not been drinking too much," remarked the
"I'm afraid he has. He used to be very intemperate, I've heard, but
reformed a year or two ago, A man with any weakness in this
direction would be in danger at an entertainment such as Mr. and
Mrs. Birtwell gave to-night."
"I saw the general taking wine with a lady," said Mrs. Craig.
If he took one glass, he would hardly set that as a limit. It were
much easier to abstain altogether; and we know that if a man over
whom drink has once gained the mastery ventures upon the smallest
indulgence of his appetite he is almost sure to give way and to fall
again. It's a strange thing, and sad as strange."
Mr. Craig turned quickly toward the door which when opened made a
communication between their apartment and that of General and Mrs.
Abercrombie. It was shut, and fastened on both sides, so that it
could not be opened by the occupants, of either room.
A low but quickly-stifled cry had struck on the ears of Mr. and Mrs.
Craig. They looked at each other with questioning glances for
several moments, listening intently, but the cry was not repeated.
"I don't like that," said Mr. Craig. He spoke with concern.
"What can it mean?" asked his wife.
"Heaven knows!" he replied.
They sat silent and listening. A sharp click, which the ear of Mr.
Craig detected as the sound made by the cocking of a pistol, struck
upon the still air. He sprang to his feet and took a step or two
toward the door leading into the hall, but his wife caught his arm
and clung to it tightly.
"No, no! Wait! wait!" she cried, in a deep whisper, while her face
grew-ashen pale. For some moments they stood with repressed
breathing, every instant expecting to hear the loud report of a
pistol. But the deep silence remained unbroken for nearly a minute;
then a dull movement of feet was heard in the room, and the opening
and shutting of a drawer.
"No, general, you will not do that," they heard Mrs. Abercrombie
say, in a low, steady tone in which fear struggled with tenderness.
"Why will I not do it?" was sternly demanded.
They were standing near the door, so that their voices could be
heard distinctly in the next room.
"Because you love me too well," was the sweet, quiet answer. The
voice of Mrs. Abercrombie did not betray a single tremor.
All was hushed again. Then came another movement in the room, and
the sound of a closing drawer. Mr. and Mrs. Craig were beginning to
breathe more freely, when the noise as of some one springing
suddenly upon another was heard, followed by a struggle and a
choking cry. It continued so long that Mr. Craig ran out into the
hall and knocked at the door of General Abercrombie's room. As he
did so the noise of struggling ceased, and all grew still. The door
was not opened to his summons, and after waiting for a little while
he went back to his own room.
"This is dreadful," he said. "What can it mean? The general must be
insane from drink. Something will have to be done. He may be
strangling his poor wife at this very moment. I cannot bear it. I
must break open the door."
Mr. Craig started toward the hall, but his wife seized hold of him
and held him back.
"No, no, no!" she cried, in a low voice. "Let them alone. It may be
her only chance of safety. Hark!"
The silence in General Abercrombie's room was again broken. A man's
firm tread was on the floor and it could be heard passing clear
across the apartment, then returning and then going from side to
side. At length the sound of moving furniture was heard. It was as
if a person were lifting a heavy wardrobe or bureau, and getting it
with some difficulty from one part of the room to the other.
"What can he be doing?" questioned Mrs. Craig, with great alarm.
"He is going to barricade the door, most likely," replied her
"Barricade the door? What for? Good heavens, Mr. Craig! He may have
killed his wife. She may be lying in there dead at this very moment.
Oh, it is fearful! Can nothing be done?"
"Nothing, that I know of, except to break into the room."
"Hadn't you better rouse some of the boarders, or call a waiter and
send for the police?"
The voice of Mrs. Abercrombie was heard at this moment. It was calm
"Let me help you, general," she said.
The noise of moving furniture became instantly still. It seemed as
if the madman had turned in surprise from his work and stood
confronting his wife, but whether in wrath, or not it was impossible
to conjecture. They might hear her fall to the floor, stricken down
by her husband, or cry out in mortal agony at any moment. The
suspense was dreadful.
"Do it! I am ready."
It was Mrs. Abercrombie speaking again, and in a calm, even voice.
They heard once more and with curdling blood, the sharp click of a
pistol-lock as the hammer was drawn back. They held their breaths in
horror and suspense, not moving lest even the slightest sound they
made should precipitate the impending tragedy.
"I have been a good and true wife to you always, and I shall remain
so even unto death."
The deep pathos of her quiet voice brought tears to the eyes of Mr.
and Mrs. Craig.
"If you are tired of me, I am ready to go. Look into my eyes. You
see that I am not afraid."
It was still as death again. The clear, tender eyes that looked so
steadily into those of General Abercrombie held him like a spell,
and made his fingers so nerveless that they could not respond to the
passion of the murderous fiend that possessed him. That was why the
scared listeners did not hear the deadly report of the pistol he was
holding within a few inches of his wife's head.
"Let me put it away. It isn't a nice thing to have in a lady's
chamber. You know I can't bear the sight of a pistol, and you love
me too well to give me the smallest pain or uneasiness. That's a
dear, good husband."
They could almost see Mrs. Abercrombie take the deadly weapon from
the general's hand. They heard her dress trailing across the room,
and heard her open and shut and then lock a drawer. For some time
afterward they could hear the low sound of voices, then all became
"Give me that pistol!" startled them not long afterward in a sudden
wild outbreak of frenzied passion.
"What do you want with it?" they heard Mrs. Abercrombie ask. There
was no sign of alarm in her tones.
"Give me that pistol, I say!" The general's voice was angry and
imperious. "How dared you take, it out of my hand!"
"Oh, I thought you wished it put away because the sight of a pistol
is unpleasant to me."
And they heard the dress trailing across the room again.
"Stop!" cried the general, in a commanding tone.
"Just as you please, general. You can have the pistol, if you want
it," answered Mrs. Abercrombie, without the smallest tremor in her
voice. Shall I get it for you?"
"No!" He flung the word out angrily, giving it emphasis by an
imprecation. Then followed a growl as if from an ill-natured beast,
and they could hear his heavy tread across the floor.
"Oh, general!" came suddenly from the lips of Mrs. Abercrombie, in a
surprised, frightened tone. Then followed the sound of a repressed
struggle, of an effort to get free without making a noise or outcry,
which continued for a considerable time, accompanied by a low
muttering and panting as of a man in some desperate effort.
Mr. and Mrs. Craig stood with pale faces, irresolute and powerless
to help, whatever might be the extremity of their neighbor. To
attempt a forcible entry into the room was a doubtful expedient, and
might be attended with instant fatal consequences. The muttering and
panting ceased at length, and so did all signs of struggling and
resistance. The madman had wrought his will, whatever that might be.
Breathlessly they listened, but not a sound broke the deep silence.
Minutes passed, but the stillness reigned.
"He may have killed her," whispered Mrs. Craig, with white lips. Her
husband pressed his ear closely to the door.
"Do you hear anything?"
They spoke in a low whisper.
"Put your ear against the door."
Mrs. Craig did so, and after a moment or two could hear a faint
movement, as of something being pulled across the carpet. The sound
was intermittent, now being very distinct and now ceasing
altogether. The direction of the movement was toward that part of
the room occupied by the bed. The listeners' strained sense of
hearing was so acute that it was able to interpret the meaning of
each varying sound. A body had been slowly dragged across the floor,
and now, hushed and almost noiselessly as the work went on, they
knew that the body was being lifted from the floor and placed upon
the bed. For a little while all was quiet, but the movements soon
began again, and were confined to the bed. Something was being done
with the dead or unconscious body. What, it was impossible to make
out or even guess. Mrs. Abercrombie might be lifeless, in a swoon or
only feigning unconsciousness.
"It won't do to let this go on any longer," said Mr. Craig as he
came back from the door at which he had been listening. "I must call
some of the boarders and have a consultation."
He was turning to go out, when a sound as of a falling chair came
from General Abercrombie's room, and caused him to stop and turn
back, This was followed by the quick tread of heavy feet going up
and down the chamber floor, and continuing without intermission for
as much as five minutes. It stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and
all was silent again. They knew that the general was standing close
by the bed.
"My God!" in a tone full, of anguish and fear dropped from his lips.
"Edith! Edith! oh, Edith!" he called in a low wail of distress.
"Speak to me, Edith! Why don't you speak to me?"
They listened, but heard no answer. General Abercrombie called the
name of his wife over and over again, and in terms of endearment,
but for all Mr. and Mrs. Craig could tell she gave back no sign.
"O my God! what have I done?" they heard him say, the words followed
by a deep groan.
"It is my time now;" and Mr. Craig ran out into the hall as he said
this and knocked at the general's door. But no answer came. He
knocked again, and louder than at first. After waiting for a short
time he heard the key turn in the lock. The door was opened a few
inches, and he saw through the aperture the haggard and almost
ghastly face of General Abercrombie. His eyes were wild and
"What do you want?" he demanded, impatiently.
"Is Mrs. Abercrombie sick? Can we do anything for you, general?"
said Mr. Craig, uttering the sentences that came first to his
"No!" in angry rejection of the offered service. The door shut with
a jar, and the key turned in the lock. Mr. Craig stood for a moment
irresolute, and then went back to his wife. Nothing more was heard
in the adjoining room. Though they listened for a long time, no
voice nor sound of any kind came to their ears. The general had, to
all appearance, thrown himself upon the bed and fallen asleep.
It was late on the next morning when Mr. and Mrs. Craig awoke. Their
first thought was of their neighbors, General and Mrs. Abercrombie.
The profoundest silence reigned in their apartments--a silence
death-like and ominous.
"If he has murdered her!" said Mrs. Craig, shivering at the thought
as she spoke.
"I hope not, but I shouldn't like to be the first one who goes into
that room," replied her husband. Then, after a moment's reflection,
"If anything has gone wrong in there, we must be on our guard and
make no admissions. It won't do for us to let it be known that we
heard the dreadful things going on there that we did, and yet gave
no alarm. I'm not satisfied with myself, and can hardly expect
others to excuse where I condemn."
WHEN Mr. and Mrs. Craig entered the breakfast-room, they saw, to
their surprise, General Abercrombie and his wife sitting in their
usual places. They bowed to each other, as was their custom on
meeting at the table.
The face of Mrs. Abercrombie was pale and her features pinched. She
had the appearance of one who had been ill and was just recovering,
or of one who had endured exhausting pain of mind or body. She arose
from the table soon after Mr. and, Mrs. Craig made their appearance,
and retired with her husband from the room.
"The general is all out of sorts this morning," remarked a lady as
soon as they were gone.
"And so is Mrs. Abercrombie," said another. "Dissipation does not
agree with them. They were at the grand party given last night by
Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell. You were among the guests, Mrs. Craig?"
The lady addressed bowed her affirmative.
"A perfect jam, I suppose?"
"Who were there? But I needn't ask. All the world and his wife, of
course, little bugs and big bugs. How was the entertainment?"
"Splendid! I never saw such a profusion of everything."
"Fools make feasts for wise men to eat," snapped out the sharp voice
of a lady whose vinegar face gave little promise of enjoyment of any
kind. Nobody thinks any more of them for it. Better have given the
money to some charity. There's want and suffering enough about,
"I don't imagine that the charity fund has suffered anything in
consequence of Mr. Birtwell's costly entertainment," replied Mr.
Craig. "If the money spent for last night's feast had not gone to
the wine-merchant and the caterer, it would have remained as it
The lady with the vinegar face said something about the Dives who
have their good things here, adding, with a zest in her voice, that
"Riches, thank God! can't be taken over to the other side, and your
nabobs will be no better off after they die than the commonest
"That will depend on something more than the money-aspect of the
case," said Mr. Craig. "And as to the cost of giving a feast, what
would be extravagance in one might only be a liberal hospitality in
another. Cake and ice cream for my friends might be as lavish an
expenditure for me as Mr. Birtwell's banquet last night was for him,
and as likely to set me among the beggars when I get over to the
"Then you don't believe that God holds rich men to a strict account
for the manner in which they spend the money he has placed in their
hands? Are they not his almoners?"
"No more than poor men, and not to be held to any stricter
accountability," was replied. "Mr. Birtwell does not sin against the
poor when he lavishes his hundreds, or it may be thousands, of
dollars in the preparation of a feast for his friends any more than
you do when you buy a box of French candies to eat alone in your
room or share with your visitors, maybe not so much."
There was a laugh at the expense of the vinegar-faced lady, who did
not fail in a sharp retort which was more acid than convincing. The
conversation then went back to General Abercrombie and his wife.
"Didn't she look dreadful?" remarked one of the company.
"And her manner toward the general was so singular."
"In what respect?" asked Mrs. Craig.
"She looked at him so strangely, so anxious and scared-like. I never
knew him to be so silent. He's social and talkative, you know--such
good company. But he hadn't a word to say this morning. Something
has gone wrong between him and his wife. I wonder what it can be?"
But Mr. and Mrs. Craig, who were not of the gossiping kind, were
disposed to keep their own counsel.
"I thought I heard some unusual noises in their room last night
after they came home from the party," said a lady whose chamber was
opposite theirs across the hall. "They seemed to be moving furniture
about, and twice I thought I heard a scream. But then the storm was
so high that one might easily have mistaken a wail of the wind for a
cry of distress."
"A cry of distress! You didn't imagine that the general was
maltreating his wife?"
"I intimated nothing of the kind," returned the lady.
"But what made you think about a cry of distress?"
"I merely said that I thought I heard a scream; and if you had been
awake from twelve to one or two o'clock this morning, you would have
thought the air full of wailing voices. The storm chafed about the
roof and chimneys in a dreadful way. I never knew a wilder night."
"You saw the general at the party?" said one, addressing Mr. Craig.
"Yes, a few times. But there was a crowd in all the rooms, and the
same people were not often thrown together."
"Nothing unusual about him? Hadn't been drinking too much?"
"Not when I observed him. But--" Mr. Craig hesitated a moment, and
then went on: "But there's one thing has a strange look. They went
in a carriage, I know, but walked home in all that dreadful storm."
"Walked home!" Several pairs of eyes and hands were upraised.
"Yes; they came to the door, white with snow, just as we got home."
"How strange! What could it have meant?"
"It meant," said one, "that their carriage disappointed
them--nothing else, of course."
"That will hardly explain it. Such disappointments rarely, if ever,
occur," was replied to this.
"Did you say anything to them, Mr. Craig?"
"My wife did, but received only a gruff response from the general.
Mrs. Abercrombie made no reply, but, went hastily after her husband.
There was something unusual in the manner of both."
While this conversation was going on General Abercrombie and his
wife stood in the hall, she trying, but in vain, to persuade him not
to go out. He said but little, answering her kindly, but with a
marked decision of manner. Mrs. Abercrombie went up slowly to their
room after he left her, walking as one who carried a heavy load. She
looked ten years older than on the day previous.
No one saw her during the morning. At dinner-time their places were
vacant at the table.
"Where are the general and his wife?" was asked as time passed and
they did not make their appearance.
No one had seen either of them since breakfast.
Mrs. Craig knew that Mrs. Abercrombie had not been out of her room
all the morning, but she did not feel inclined to take part in the
conversation, and so said nothing.
"I saw the general going into the Clarendon about two o'clock," said
a gentleman. "He's dining with some friend, most probably."
"I hear," remarked another, "that he acted rather strangely at Mr.
Birtwell's last night."
Every ear pricked up at this.
"How?" "In what way?" "Tell us about it," came in quick response to
the speaker's words.
"I didn't get anything like a clear story. But there was some
trouble about his wife."
"About his wife?" Faces looked eagerly down and across the table.
"What about his wife?" came from half a dozen lips.
"He thought some one too intimate with her, I believe. A brother
officer, if I am not mistaken. Some old flame, perhaps. But I
couldn't learn any of the particulars."
"Ah! That accounts for their singular conduct this morning. Was
there much of a row?" This came from a thin-visaged young man with
eye-glasses and a sparse, whitish moustache.
"I didn't say anything about a row," was the rather sharp reply. "I
only said that I heard that the general had acted strangely, and
that there had been some trouble about his wife."
"What was the trouble?" asked two or three anxious voices--anxious
for some racy scandal.
"Couldn't learn any of the particulars, only that he took his wife
from a gentleman's arm in a rude kind of way, and left the party."
"Oh! that accounts for their not coming home in a carriage," broke
in one of the listeners.
"Perhaps so. But who said they didn't ride home?"
"Mr. Craig. He and Mrs. Craig saw them as they came to the door,
covered with snow. They were walking."
"Oh, you were at the party, Mr. Craig? Did you see or hear anything
about this affair?"
"Nothing," replied Mr. Craig. "If there had been any trouble, I
should most likely have heard something of it."
"I had my information from a gentleman who was there," said the
"I don't question that," replied Mr. Craig. "A trifling incident but
half understood will often give rise to exaggerated reports--so
exaggerated that but little of the original truth remains in them.
The general may have done something under the excitement of wine
that gave color to the story now in circulation. I think that very
possible. But I don't believe the affair to be half so bad as
While this conversation was going on Mrs. Abercrombie sat alone in
her room. She had walked the floor restlessly as the time drew near
for the general's return, but after the hour went by, and there was
no sign of his coming, all the life seemed to go out of her. She was
sitting now, or rather crouching down, in a large cushioned chair,
her face white and still and her eyes fixed in a kind of frightened
Time passed, but she remained so motionless that but for her
wide-open eyes you would have thought her asleep or dead.
No one intruded upon her during the brief afternoon; and when
darkness shut in, she was still sitting where she had dropped down
nerveless from mental pain. After it grew dark Mrs. Abercrombie
arose, lighted the gas and drew the window curtains. She then moved
about the room putting things in order. Next she changed her dress
and gave some careful attention to her personal appearance. The cold
pallor which had been on her face all the afternoon gave way to a
faint tinge of color, her eyes lost their stony fixedness and became
restless and alert. But the trouble did not go out of her face or
eyes; it was only more active in expression, more eager and
After all the changes in her toilette had been made, Mrs.
Abercrombie sat down again, waiting and listening. It was the
general's usual time to come home from headquarters. How would he
come? or would he come at all? These were the questions that
agitated her soul. The sad, troubled humiliating, suffering past,
how its records of sorrow and shame and fear kept unrolling
themselves before her eyes! There was little if anything in these
records to give hope or comfort. Ah! how many times had he fallen
from his high estate of manhood, each time sinking lower and lower,
and each time recovering himself from the fall with greater
difficulty than before! He might never rise again. The chances were
largely against him.
How the wretched woman longed for yet dreaded the return of her
husband! If he had been drinking again, as she feared, there, was
before her a night of anguish and terror--a night which might have
for her no awaking in the world. But she had learned to dread some
things more than death.
Time wore on until it was past the hour for General Abercrombie's
return, and yet there was no sign of his coming. At last the loud
clang of the supper-bell ringing through the halls gave her a sudden
start. She clasped her hands across her forehead, while a look of
anguish convulsed her face, then held them tightly against her heart
and groaned aloud.
"God pity us both!" she cried, in a low, wailing voice, striking her
hands together and lifting upward her eyes, that were full of the
For a few moments her eyes were upraised. Then her head sunk forward
upon her bosom, and she sat an image of helpless despair.
A knock at the door roused her. She started to her feet and opened
it with nervous haste.
"A letter for you," said a servant.
She took it from his hand and shut and locked the door before
examining the handwriting on the envelope. It was that of her
husband. She tore it open with trembling hand and read:
"DEAR EDITH: An order requiring my presence in Washington to-morrow
morning has just reached me, and I have only time to make the train.
I shall be gone two or three days."
The deep flush which excitement had spread over the face of Mrs.
Abercrombie faded off, and the deadly pallor returned. Her hands
shook so that the letter dropped out of them and fell to the floor.
Another groan as of a breaking heart sobbed through her lips as she
threw herself in despairing abandonment across the bed and buried
her face deep among the pillows.
She needed no interpreter to unfold the true meaning of that letter.
Its unsteady and blotted words and its scrawled, uncertain signature
told her too well of her husband's sad condition. His old enemy had
stricken him down, his old strong, implacable enemy, always armed,
always lying in wait for him, and always ready for the unguarded
DOCTOR HILLHOUSE was in his office one morning when a gentleman
named Carlton, in whose family he had practiced for two or three
years, came in. This was a few weeks before the party at Mr.
"Doctor"--there was a troubled look on his visitor's face--"I wish
you would call in to-day and examine a lump on Mrs. Carlton's neck.
It's been coming for two or three months. We thought it only the
swelling of a gland at first, and expected it to go away in a little
while. But in the last few weeks it has grown perceptibly."
"How large is it?" inquired the doctor.
"About the size of a pigeon's egg."
"Indeed! So large?"
"Yes; and I am beginning to feel very much concerned about it."
"Is there any discoloration?"
"Any soreness or tenderness to the touch?"
"No; but Mrs. Carlton is beginning to feel a sense of tightness and
oppression, as though the lump, whatever it may be, were beginning
to press upon some of the blood-vessels."
"Nothing serious, I imagine," replied Dr. Hillhouse, speaking with a
lightness of manner he did not feel. "I will call about twelve
o'clock. Tell Mrs. Carlton to expect me at that time."
Mr. Carlton made a movement to go, but came back from the door, and
betraying more anxiety of manner than at first, said:
"This may seem a light thing in your eyes, doctor, but I cannot help
feeling troubled. I am afraid of a tumor."
"What is the exact location?" asked Dr. Hillhouse.
"On the side of the neck, a little back from the lower edge of the
The doctor did not reply. After a brief silence Mr. Carlton said:
"Do you think it a regular tumor, doctor?"
"It is difficult to say. I can speak with more certainty after I
have made an examination," replied Doctor Hillhouse, his manner
showing some reserve.
"If it should prove to be a tumor, cannot its growth be stopped? Is
there no relief except through an operation--no curative agents that
will restore a healthy action to the parts and cause the tumor to be
"There is a class of tumors," replied the doctor, "that may be
absorbed, but the treatment is prejudicial to the general health,
and no wise physician will, I think, resort to it instead of a
surgical operation, which is usually simple and safe."
"Much depends on the location of a tumor," said Mr. Carlton. "The
extirpation may be safe and easy if the operation be in one place,
and difficult and dangerous if in another."
"It is the surgeon's business to do his work so well that danger
shall not exist in any case," replied Doctor Hillhouse.
"I shall trust her in your hands," said Mr. Carlton, trying to
assume a cheerful air. "But I cannot help feeling nervous and
"You are, of course, over-sensitive about everything that touches
one so dear as your wife," replied the doctor. "But do not give
yourself needless anxiety. Tumors in the neck are generally of the
kind known as 'benignant,' and are easily removed."
Dr. Angier came into the office while they were talking, and heard a
part of the conversation. As soon as Mr. Carlton had retired he
asked if the tumor were deep-seated or only a wen-like protuberance.
"Deep-seated, I infer, from what Mr. Carlton said," replied Dr.
"What is her constitution?"
"Not as free from a scrofulous tendency as I should like."
"Then this tumor, if it should really prove to be one, may be of a
"That is possible. But I trust to find only a simple cyst, or, at
the worst, an adipose or fibrous tumor easy of removal, though I am
sorry it is in the neck. I never like to cut in among the large
blood-vessels and tendons of that region."
At twelve o'clock Doctor Hillhouse made the promised visit. He found
Mrs. Carlton to all appearance quiet and cheerful.
"My husband is apt to worry himself when anything ails me," she
said, with a faint smile.
The doctor took her hand and felt a low tremor of the nerves that
betrayed the nervous anxiety she was trying hard to conceal. His
first diagnosis was not satisfactory, and he was not able wholly to
conceal his doubts from the keen observation of Mr. Carlton, whose
eyes never turned for a moment from the doctor's face. The swelling
was clearly outlined, but neither sharp nor protuberant. From the
manner of its presentation, and also from the fact that Mrs. Carlton
complained of a feeling of pressure on the vessels of the neck, the
doctor feared the tumor was larger and more deeply seated than the
lady's friends had suspected. But he was most concerned as to its
true character. Being hard and nodulated, he feared that it might
prove to be of a malignant type, and his apprehensions were
increased by the fact that his patient had in her constitution a
taint of scrofula. There was no apparent congestion of the veins nor
discoloration of the skin around the hard protuberance, no
pulsation, elasticity, fluctuation or soreness, only a solid lump
which the doctor's sensitive touch recognized as the small section
or lobule of a deeply-seated tumor already beginning to press upon
and obstruct the blood vessels in its immediate vicinity. Whether it
were fibrous or albuminous, "benignant" or "malignant," he was not
able in his first diagnosis to determine.
Dr. Hillhouse could not so veil his face as to hide from Mr. Carlton
the doubt and concern that were in his mind.
"Deal with me plainly," said the latter as he stood alone with the
doctor after the examination was over. "I want the exact truth.
Don't conceal anything."
Mr. Carlton's lips trembled.
"Is it a--a tumor?" He got the words out in a low, shaky voice.
"I think so," replied Doctor Hillhouse. He saw the face of Mr.
Carlton blanch instantly.
"It presents," added the doctor, "all the indications of what we
call a fibrous tumor."
"Is it of a malignant type?" asked Mr. Carlton, with suspended
"No; these tumors are harmless in themselves, but their mechanical
pressure on surrounding blood-vessels and tissues renders their
Mr. Carlton caught his breath with a sigh of relief.
"Is their removal attended with danger?" he asked.
"None," replied Dr. Hillhouse.
"Have you ever taken a tumor from the neck?"
"Yes. I have operated in cases of this kind often."
"Were you always successful?"
"Yes; in every instance."
Mr. Carlton breathed more freely. After a pause, he said, his lips
growing white as he spoke:
"There will have to be an operation in this case?"
"It cannot, I fear, be avoided," replied the doctor.
"There is one comfort," said Mr. Carlton, rallying and speaking in a
more cheerful voice. "The tumor is small and superficial in
character. The knife will not have to go very deep among the veins
Doctor Hillhouse did not correct his error.
"How long will it take?" queried the anxious husband, to whom the
thought of cutting down into the tender flesh of his wife was so
painful that it completely unmanned him.
"Not very long," answered the doctor.
"Yes, or maybe a little longer."
"She will feel no pain?"
"Nor be conscious of what you are doing?"
"She will be as much in oblivion as a sleeping infant," replied the
Mr. Carlton turned from Dr. Hillhouse and walked the whole length of
the parlor twice, then stood still, and said, with painful
"Doctor, I place her in your hands. She is ready for anything we may
decide upon as best."
He stopped and turned partly away to hide his feelings. But
recovering himself, and forcing a smile to his lips, he said:
"To your professional eyes I show unmanly weakness. But you must
bear in mind how very dear she is to me. It makes me shiver in every
nerve to think of the knife going down into her tender flesh. You
might cut me to pieces, doctor, if that would save her."
"Your fears exaggerate everything," returned Doctor Hillhouse, in an
assuring voice. "She will go into a tranquil sleep, and while
dreaming pleasant dreams we will quickly dissect out the tumor, and
leave the freed organs to continue their healthy action under the
old laws of unobstructed life."
"When ought it to be done?" asked Mr. Carlton the tremor coming back
into his voice.
"The sooner, the better, after an operation is decided upon,"
answered the doctor. "I will make another examination in about two
weeks. The changes that take place in that time will help me to a
clearer decision than it is possible to arrive at now."
After a lapse of two weeks Doctor Hillhouse, in company with another
surgeon, made a second examination. What his conclusions were will
appear in the following conversation held with Dr. Angier.
"The tumor is not of a malignant character," Doctor Hillhouse
replied, in answer to his assistant's inquiry. "But it is larger
than I at first suspected and is growing very rapidly. From a slight
suffusion of Mrs. Carlton's face which I did not observe at any
previous visit, it is evident that the tumor is beginning to press
upon the carotids. Serious displacements of blood-vessels, nerves,
glands and muscles must soon occur if this growth goes on."
"Then her life is in danger?" said Dr. Angier.
"It is assuredly, and nothing but a successful operation can save
"What does Doctor Kline think of the case?"
"He agrees with me as to the character of the tumor, but thinks it
larger than an orange, deeply cast among the great blood-vessels,
and probably so attached to their sheaths as to make its extirpation
not only difficult, but dangerous."
"Will he assist you in the operation?"
Dr. Hillhouse became thoughtful and silent. His countenance wore a
serious, almost troubled aspect.
"Never before," he said, after a long pause, "have I looked forward
to an operation with such a feeling of concern as I look forward to
this. Three or four months ago, when there was only a little sack
there, it could have been removed without risk. But I greatly fear
that in its rapid growth it has become largely attached to the
blood-vessels and the sheaths of nerves, and you know how difficult
this will make the operation, and that the risk will be largely
increased. The fact is, doctor, I am free to say that it would be
more agreeable to me if some other surgeon had the responsibility of
"Dr. Kline would, no doubt, be very ready to take it off of your
"If the family were satisfied, I would cheerfully delegate the work
to him," said Doctor Hillhouse.
"He's a younger man, and his recent brilliant operations have
brought him quite prominently before, the public."
As he spoke Doctor Hillhouse, who was past sixty-five and beginning
to feel the effects of over forty years of earnest professional
labor, lifted his small hand, the texture of which, was as fine as
that of a woman's, and holding it up, looked at it steadily for some
moments. It trembled just a little.
"Not quite so firm as it was twenty years ago," he remarked, with a
slight depression in his voice.
"But the sight is clearer and the skill greater," said Doctor
"I don't know about the sight." returned Doctor Hillhouse. "I'm
afraid that is no truer than the hand."
"The inner sight, I mean, the perception that comes from
long-applied skill," said Doctor Angier. "That is something in which
you have the advantage of younger men."
Doctor Hillhouse made no reply to this, but sat like one in deep
and, perplexed thought for a considerable time.
"I must see Doctor Kline and go over the case with him more
carefully," he remarked at length. "I shall then be able to see with
more clearness what is best. The fact that I feel so averse to
operating myself comes almost as a warning; and if no change should
occur in my feelings, I shall, with the consent of the family,
transfer the knife to Doctor Kline."
MRS. CARLTON was a favorite in the circle where she moved; and when
it became known that she would have to submit to a serious operation
in order to save her life, she became an object of painful interest
to her many friends. Among the most intimate of these was Mrs.
Birtwell, who, as the time approached for the great trial, saw her
almost every day.
It was generally understood that Doctor Hillhouse, who was the
family physician, would perform the operation. For a long series of
years he had held the first rank as a surgeon. But younger men were
coming forward in the city, and other reputations were being made
that promised to be even more notable than his.
Among those who were steadly achieving success in the walks of
surgery was Doctor Kline, now over thirty-five years of age. He
held a chair in one of the medical schools, and his name was growing
more and more familiar to the public and the profession every year.
The friends of Mrs. Carlton were divided on the question as to who
could best perform the operation, some favoring Doctor Kline and
some Doctor Hillhouse.
The only objection urged by any one against the latter was on
account of his age.
Mr. and Mrs. Carlton had no doubt or hesitation on the subject.
Their confidence in the skill of Doctor Hillhouse was complete. As
for Doctor Kline, Mr. Carlton, who met him now and then at public
dinners or at private social entertainments, had not failed to
observe that he was rather free in his use of liquor, drinking so
frequently on these occasions as to produce a noticeable
exhilaration. He had even remarked upon the fact to gentlemen of his
acquaintance, and found that others had noticed this weakness of
Doctor Kline as well as himself.
As time wore on Doctor Hillhouse grew more and more undecided. No
matter how grave or difficult an operation might be, he had always,
when satisfied of its necessity, gone forward, looking neither to
the right nor to the left. But so troubled and uncertain did he
become as the necessity for fixing an early day for the removal of
this tumor became more and more apparent that he at last referred
the whole matter to Mr. Carlton, and proposed that Doctor Kline,
whose high reputation for surgical skill he knew, should be
entrusted with the operation. To this he received an emphatic "No!"
"All the profession award him the highest skill in our city, if not
the whole country," said Doctor Hillhouse.
"I have no doubt of his skill," replied Mr. Carlton. "But--"
"What?" asked the doctor, as Mr. Carlton hesitated. "Are you not
aware that he uses wine too freely?"
Doctor Hillhouse was taken by surprise at this intimation.
"No, I am not aware of anything of the kind," he replied, almost
indignantly. "He is not a teetotaller, of course, any more than you
or I. Socially and at dinner he takes his glass of wine, as we do.
But to say that he uses liquor too freely. is, I am sure, a
"Some men, as you know, doctor, cannot use wine without a steady
increase of the appetite until it finally gets the mastery, and I am
afraid Doctor Kline is one of them."
"I am greatly astonished to hear you say this," replied Dr.
Hillhouse, "and I cannot but hold you mistaken."
"Have you ever met him at a public dinner, at the club or at a
private entertainment where there was plenty of wine?"
"And observed no unusual exhilaration?"
Dr. Hillhouse became reflective. Now that his attention was called
to the matter, some doubts began to intrude themselves.
"We cannot always judge the common life by what we see on convivial
occasions," he made answer. "One may take wine freely with his
friends and be as abstemious as an anchorite during business-or
"Not at all probable," replied Mr. Carlton, "and not good in my
observation. The appetite that leads a man into drinking more when
among friends than his brain will carry steadily is not likely to
sleep when he is alone. Any over-stimulation, as you know, doctor,
leaves in the depressed state that follows a craving for renewed
exhilaration. I am very sure that on the morning after one of the
occasions to which I have referred Doctor Kline finds himself in no
condition for the work of a delicate surgical operation until he has
steadied his relaxed nerves with more than a single glass."
He paused for a moment, and then said, with strong emphasis:
"The hand, Doctor Hillhouse, that cuts down into her dear flesh must
be steadied by healthy nerves, and not by wine or brandy. No, sir; I
will not hear to it. I will not have Doctor Kline. In your hands,
and yours alone, I trust my wife in this great extremity."
"That is for you to decide," returned Dr. Hillhouse. "I felt it to
be only right to give you an opportunity to avail of Doctor Kline's
acknowledged skill. I am sure you can do so safely."
But Mr. Carlton was very emphatic in his rejection of Dr. Kline.
"I may be a little peculiar," he said, "but do you know I never
trust any important interest with a man who drinks habitually?--one
of your temperate drinkers, I mean, who can take his three or four
glasses of wine at dinner, or twice that number, during an evening
while playing at whist, but who never debases himself by so low a
thing as intoxication."
"Are not you a little peculiar, or, I might say, over-nice, in
this?" remarked Doctor Hillhouse.
"No, I am only prudent. Let me give you a fact in my own experience.
I had a law-suit several years ago involving many thousands of
dollars. My case was good, but some nice points of law were
involved, and I needed for success the best talent the bar afforded.
A Mr. B----, I will call him, stood very high in the profession, and
I chose him for my counsel. He was a man of fine social qualities,
and admirable for his after-dinner speeches. You always met him on
public occasions. He was one of your good temperate drinkers and not
afraid of a glass of wine, or even brandy, and rarely, if ever,
refused a friend who asked him to drink.
"He was not an intemperate man, of course. No one dreamed of setting
him over among that banned and rejected class of men whom few trust,
and against whom all are on guard. He held his place of honor and
confidence side by side with the most trusted men in his profession.
As a lawyer, interests of vast magnitude were often in his hands,
and largely depended on his legal sagacity, clearness of thought and
sleepless vigilance. He was usually successful in his cases.
"I felt my cause safe in his hands--that is, as safe as human care
and foresight could make it. But to my surprise and disappointment,
his management of the case on the day of trial was faulty and blind.
I had gone over all the points with him carefully, and he had seemed
to hold them with a masterly hand. He was entirely confident of
success, and so was I. But now he seemed to lose his grasp on the
best points in the case, and to bring forward his evidence in a way
that, in my view, damaged instead of making our side strong. Still,
I forced myself to think that he knew best what to do, and that the
meaning of his peculiar tactics should soon become apparent. I
noticed, as the trial went on, a bearing of the opposing counsel
toward Mr. B----that appeared unusual. He seemed bent on annoying
him with little side issues and captious objections, not so much
showing a disposition to meet him squarely, upon the simple and
clearly defined elements of the case, as to draw him away from them
and keep them as far out of sight as possible.
"In this he was successful. Mr. B----seemed in his hands more like a
bewildered child than a strong, clear-seeing man. When, after all
the evidence was in, the arguments on both sides were submitted to
the jury, I saw with alarm that Mr. B----had failed signally. His
summing up was weak and disjointed, and he did not urge with force
and clearness the vital points in the case on which all our hopes
depended. The contrast of his closing argument with that of the
other side was very great, and I knew when the jury retired from the
court-room that all was lost, and so it proved.
"It was clear to me that I had mistaken my man--that Mr. B----'s
reputation was higher than his ability. He was greatly chagrined at
the result, and urged me to take an appeal, saying he was confident
we could get a reversal of the decision.
"While yet undecided as to whether I would appeal or not, a friend
who had been almost as much surprised and disappointed at the result
of the trial as I was came to me in considerable excitement of
manner, and said:
"'I heard something this morning that will surprise you, I think, as
much as it has surprised me. Has it never occurred to you that there
was something strange about Mr. B----on the day your case was
"'Yes,' I replied, 'it has often occurred to me; and the more I
think about it, the more dissatisfied am with his management of my
case. He is urging me to appeal; but should I do so, I have pretty
well made up my mind to have other counsel.'
"'That I should advise by all means,' returned my friend.
"'The thought has come once or twice,' said I, 'that there might
have been false play in the case.'
"'There has been,' returned my friend.
"What!' I exclaimed. 'False play? No, no, I will not believe so base
a thing of Mr. B----.'
"'I do not mean false play on his part,' replied my friend. 'Far be
it from me to suggest a thought against his integrity of character.
No, no! I believe him to be a man of honor. The false play, if there
has been any, has been against him.'
"'Against him?' I could but respond, with increasing surprise. Then
a suspicion of the truth flashed into my mind.
"'He had been drinking too much that morning,' said my friend. 'That
was the meaning of his strange and defective management of the case,
and of his confusion of ideas when he made his closing argument to
"It was clear to me now, and I wondered that I had not thought of it
before. 'But,' I asked, 'what has this to do with foul play? You
don't mean to intimate that his liquor was drugged?'
"'No. The liquor was all right, so far as that goes,' he replied.
'The story I heard was this. It came to me in rather a curious way.
I was in the reading-room at the League this morning looking over a
city paper, when I happened to hear your name spoken by one of two
gentlemen who sat a little behind me talking in a confidential way,
but in a louder key than they imagined. I could not help hearing
what they said. After the mention of your name I listened with close
attention, and found that they were talking about the law-suit, and
about Mr. B----in connection therewith. "It was a sharp game," one
of them said. "How was it done?" inquired the other.
"'I partially held my breath,' continued my friend, 'so as not to
lose a word. "Neatly enough," was the reply. "You see our friend the
lawyer can't refuse a drink. He's got a strong head, and can take
twice as much as the next man without showing it. A single glass
makes no impression on him, unless it be to sharpen him up. So a
plan was laid to get half a dozen glasses aboard, more or less,
before court opened on the morning the case of Walker vs. Carlton
was to be called. But not willing to trust to this, we had a
wine-supper for his special benefit on the night before, so as to
break his nerves a little and make him thirsty next morning. Well,
you see, the thing worked, and B----drank his bottle or two, and
went to bed pretty mellow. Of course he must tone up in the morning
before leaving home, and so come out all right. He would tone up a
little more on his way to his office, and then be all ready for
business and bright as a new dollar. This would spoil all. So five
of us arranged to meet him at as many different points on his way
down town and ask him to drink. The thing worked like a charm. We
got six glasses into him before he reached his office. I saw as soon
as he came into court that it was a gone case for Carlton. B----had
lost his head. And so it proved. We had an easy victory."'
"I took the case out of B----'s hands," said Mr. Carlton, "and
gained it in a higher court, the costs of both trials falling upon
the other side. Since that time, Dr. Hillhouse, I have had some new
views on the subject of moderate drinking, as it is called."
"What are they" asked the doctor.
"An experience like this set me to thinking. If, I said to myself, a
man uses wine, beer or spirits habitually, is there no danger that
at some time when great interests, or even life itself, may be at
stake, a glass too much may obscure his clear intellect and make him
the instrument of loss or disaster? I pursued the subject, and as I
did so was led to this conclusion--that society really suffers more,
from what is called moderate drinking than it does from out-and-out
"Few will agree with you in that conclusion," returned Doctor
"On the contrary," replied Mr. Carlton, "I think that most people,
after looking at the subject from the right standpoint, will see it
as I do."
"Men who take a glass of wine at dinner and drink with a friend
occasionally," remarked Doctor Hillhouse are not given to idleness,
waste of property and abuse and neglect of their families, as we
find to be the case with common drunkards. They don't fill our
prisons and almshouses. Their wives and children do not go to swell
the great army of beggars, paupers and criminals. I fear, my friend,
that you are looking through the wrong end of your glass."
"No; my glass is all right. The number of drunken men and women in
the land is small compared to the number who drink moderately, and
very few of them are to be found in places of trust or
responsibility. As soon as a man is known to be a drunkard society
puts a mark on him and sets him aside. If he is a physician, health
and life are no longer entrusted to his care; if a lawyer, no man
will give an important case into his hands. A ship-owner will not
trust him with his vessel, though a more skilled navigator cannot be
found; and he may be the best engineer in the land, yet will no
railroad or steamship company trust him with life and property. So
everywhere the drunkard is ignored. Society will not trust him, and
he is limited in his power to do harm.
"Not so with your moderate drinkers. They fill our highest places
and we commit to their care our best and dearest interests. We put
the drunkard aside because we know he cannot be trusted, and give to
moderate drinkers, a sad percentage of whom are on the way to
drunkenness, our unwavering confidence. They sail our ships, they
drive our engines, they make and execute our laws, they take our
lives in their hands as doctors and surgeons; we trust them to
defend or maintain our legal rights, we confide to them our
interests in hundreds of different ways that we would never dream of
confiding to men who were regarded as intemperate. Is it not fair to
conclude, knowing as we do how a glass of wine too much will confuse
the brain and obscure the judgment, that society in trusting its
great army of moderate drinkers is suffering loss far beyond
anything we imagine? A doctor loses his patient, a lawyer his case,
an engineer wrecks his ship or train, an agent hurts his principal
by a loose or bad bargain, and all because the head had lost for a
brief space its normal clearness.
"Men hurt themselves through moderate drinking in thousands of
ways," continued Mr. Carlton. "We have but to think for a moment to
see this. Many a fatal document has been signed, many a disastrous
contract made, many a ruinous bargain consummated, which but for the
glass of wine taken at the wrong moment would have been rejected.
Men under the excitement of drink often enter into the unwise
schemes of designing men only to lose heavily, and sometimes to
encounter ruin. The gambler entices his victim to drink, while he
keeps his own head clear. He knows the confusing quality of wine."
"You make out rather a strong case," said Doctor Hillhouse.
"Too strong, do you think?"
"Perhaps not. Looking at the thing through your eyes, Mr. Carlton,
moderate drinking is an evil of great magnitude."
"It is assuredly, and far greater, as I have said, than is generally
supposed. The children of this world are very wise, and some of
them, I am sorry to add, very unscrupulous in gaining their ends.
They know the power of all the agencies that are around them, and do
not scruple to make use of whatever comes to their hand. Three or
four capitalists are invited to meet at a gentleman's house to
consider some proposition he has to lay before them. They are
liberally supplied with wine, and drink without a lurking suspicion
of what the service of good wine means. They see in it only the
common hospitality of the day, and fail to notice that one or two of
the company never empty their glasses. On the next day these men
will most likely feel some doubt as to the prudence of certain large
subscriptions made on the previous afternoon or evening, and wonder
how they could have been so infatuated as to put money into a scheme
that promised little beyond a permanent investment.
"If," added Mr. Carlton, "we could come at any proximate estimate of
the loss which falls upon society in consequence of the moderate use
of intoxicating drinks, we would find that it exceeded a
hundred--nay, a thousand--fold that of the losses sustained through
drunkenness. Against the latter society is all the while seeking to
guard itself, against the former it has little or no
protection--does not, in fact, comprehend the magnitude of its power
for evil. But I have wearied you with my talk, and forgotten for the
time being the anxiety that lies so near my heart. No, doctor, I
will not trust the hand of Doctor Kline, skillful as it may be, to
do this work; for I cannot be sure that a glass too much may not
have been taken to steady the nerves a night's excess of wine may
have left unstrung."
Doctor Hillhouse sat with closely knit brows for some time after Mr.
Carlton ceased speaking.
"There is matter for grave consideration in what you have said," he
remarked, at length, "though I apprehend your fears in regard to
Doctor Kline are more conjectural than real."
"I hope so," returned Mr. Carlton, "but as a prudent man I will not
take needless risk in the face of danger. If an operation cannot be
avoided, I will trust that precious life to none but you."
WE have seen how it was with Doctor Hillhouse on the morning of the
day fixed for the operation. The very danger that Mr. Carlton sought
to avert in his rejection of Doctor Kline was at his door. Not
having attended the party at Mr. and Mrs. Birtwell's, he did not
know that Doctor Hillhouse had, with most of the company, indulged
freely in wine. If a suspicion of the truth had come to him, he
would have refused to let the operation proceed. But like a
passenger in some swiftly-moving car who has faith in the clear head
and steady hand of the engineer, his confidence in Doctor Hillhouse
gave him a feeling of security.
But far from this condition of faith in himself was the eminent
surgeon in whom he was reposing his confidence. He had, alas!
tarried too long at the feast of wine and fat things dispensed by
Mr. Birtwell, and in his effort to restore the relaxed tension of
his nerves by stimulation had sent too sudden an impulse to his
brain, and roused it to morbid action. His coffee failed to soothe
the unquiet nerves, his stomach turned from the food on which he had
depended for a restoration of the equipoise which the night's
excesses had destroyed. The dangerous condition of Mrs. Ridley and
his forced visit to that lady in the early morning, when he should
have been free from all unusual effort and excitement, but added to
Doctor Hillhouse knew all about the previous habits of Mr. Ridley,
and was much interested in his case. He had seen with hope and
pleasure the steadiness with which he was leading his new life, and
was beginning to have strong faith in his future. But when he met
him on that morning, he knew by unerring signs that the evening at
Mr. Birtwell's had been to him one of debauch instead of restrained
conviviality. The extremity of his wife's condition, and his almost
insane appeals that he would hold her back from death, shocked still
further the doctor's already quivering nerves.
The imminent peril in which Doctor Hillhouse found Mrs. Ridley
determined him to call in another physician for consultation. As
twelve o'clock on that day had been fixed for the operation on Mrs.
Carlton, it was absolutely necessary to get his mind as free as
possible from all causes of anxiety or excitement, and the best
thing in this extremity was to get his patient into the hands of a
brother in the profession who could relieve him temporarily from
_all_ responsibility, and watch the case with all needed care in its
swiftly approaching crisis. So he sent Doctor Angier, immediately on
his return from his visit to Mrs. Ridley, with a request to Doctor
Ainsworth, a physician of standing and experience, to meet him in
consultation at ten o'clock.
Precisely at ten the physicians arrived at the house of Mr. Ridley,
and were admitted by that gentleman, whose pale, haggard, frightened
face told of his anguish and alarm. They asked him no questions, and
he preceded them in silence to the chamber of his sick wife. It
needed no second glance at their patient to tell the two doctors
that she was in great extremity. Her pinched face was ashen in color
and damp with a cold sweat, and her eyes, no longer wild and
restless, looked piteous and anxious, as of one in dreadful
suffering who pleaded mutely for help. An examination of her pulse
showed the beat to be frequent and feeble, and on the slightest
movement she gave signs of pain. Her respiration was short and very
rapid. Mr. Ridley was present, and standing in a position that
enabled him to observe the faces of the two doctors as they
proceeded with their examination. Hope died as he saw the
significant changes that passed over them. When they left the
sick-chamber, he left also, and walked the floor anxiously while
they sat in consultation, talking together in low tones. Now and
then he caught words, such as "peritoneum," "lesion," "perforation,"
etc., the fatal meaning of which he more than half guessed.
They were still in consultation when a sudden cry broke from the
lips of Mrs. Ridley; and rising hastily, they went back to her
chamber. Her face was distorted and her body writhing with pain.
Doctor Hillhouse wrote a prescription hastily, saying to Mr. Ridley
as he gave it to him: "Opium, and get it as quickly as you can."
The sick woman had scarcely a moment's freedom from pain of a most
excruciating character during the ten minutes that elapsed before
her husband's return. The quantity of opium administered was large,
and its effects soon apparent in a gradual breaking down of the
pains, which had been almost spasmodic in their character.
When Doctor Hillhouse went away, leaving Doctor Ainsworth in charge
of his patient, she was sinking: into a quiet sleep. On arriving at
his office he found Mr. Wilmer Voss impatiently awaiting his return.
"Doctor," said this gentleman, starting up on seeing him and showing
considerable agitation, "you must come to my wife immediately."
Doctor Hillhouse felt stunned for an instant. He drew his hand
tightly against his forehead, that was heavy with its dull,
half-stupefying pain which, spite of what he could do, still held
on. All his nerves were unstrung.
"How is she?" he asked, with the manner of one who had received an
unwelcome message. His hand was still held against his forehead.
"She broke all down a little while ago, and now lies moaning and
shivering. Oh, doctor, come right away! You know how weak she is.
This dreadful suspense will kill her, I'm afraid."
Have you no word of Archie yet?" asked Doctor Hillhouse as he
dropped the hand he had been holding against his forehead and
"None! So far, we are without a sign."
"What are you doing?"
"Everything that can be thought of. More than twenty of our friends,
in concert with the police, are at work in all conceivable ways to
get trace of him, but from the moment he left Mr. Birtwell's he
dropped out of sight as completely as if the sea had gone over him.
Up to this time not the smallest clue to this dreadful mystery has
been found. But come, doctor. Every moment is precious."
Doctor Hillhouse drew out his watch. It was now nearly half-past ten
o'clock. His manner was nervous, verging on to excitement. In almost
any other case he would have said that it was not possible for him
to go. But the exigency and the peculiarly distressing circumstances
attending upon this made it next to impossible for him to refuse.
"At twelve o'clock, Mr. Voss, I have a delicate and difficult
operation to perform, and I have too short a time now for the
preparation I need. I am sure you can rely fully on my assistant,
"No, no!" replied Mr. Voss, waving his hand almost impatiently. "I do
not want Doctor Angier. You must see Mrs. Voss yourself."
He was imperative, almost angry. What was the delicate and difficult
operation to him? What was anything or anybody that stood in the way
of succor for his imperiled wife? He could not pause to think of
others' needs or danger.
Doctor Hillhouse had to decide quickly, and his decision was on the
side where pressure was strongest. He could not deny Mr. Voss.
He found the poor distressed mother in a condition of utter
prostration. For a little while after coming out of the swoon into
which her first wild fears had thrown her, she had been able to
maintain a tolerably calm exterior. But the very effort to do this
was a draught on her strength, and in a few hours, under the
continued suspense of waiting and hearing nothing from her boy, the
overstrained nerves broke down again, and she sunk into a condition
of half-conscious suffering that was painful to see.
For such conditions medicine can do but little. All that Doctor
Hillhouse ventured to prescribe was a quieting draught. It was after
eleven o'clock when he got back to his office, where he found Mr.
Ridley waiting for him with a note from Doctor Ainsworth.
"Come for just a single moment," the note said. "There are marked
changes in her condition."
"I cannot! It is impossible!" exclaimed Doctor Hillhouse, with an
excitement of manner he could not repress. Doctor Ainsworth can do
all that it is in the power of medical skill to accomplish. It will
not help her for me to go again now, and another life is in my
hands. I am sorry, Mr. Ridley, but I cannot see your wife again
until this afternoon.
"Oh, doctor, doctor, don't say that!" cried the poor, distressed
husband, clasping his hands and looking at Doctor Hillhouse with a
pale, imploring face. "Just for single moment, doctor. Postpone your
operation. Ten minutes, or even an hour, can be of no consequence.
But life or death may depend on your seeing my wife at once. Come,
doctor! Come, for God's sake!"
Doctor Hillhouse looked at his watch again, stood in a bewildered,
uncertain way for a few moments, and then turned quickly toward the
door and went out, Mr. Ridley following.
"Get in," he said, waving his hand in the direction of his carriage,
which still remained in front of his office. Mr. Ridley obeyed.
Doctor Hillhouse gave the driver a hurried direction, and sprang in
after him. They rode in silence for the whole distance to Mr.
One glance at the face of the sick woman was enough to show Doctor
Hillhouse that she was beyond the reach of professional skill. Her
disease, as he had before seen, had taken on its worst form, and was
running its fatal course with a malignant impetuosity it was
impossible to arrest. The wild fever of anxiety occasioned by her
husband's absence during that dreadful night, the cold to which, in
her delirium of fear, she had exposed herself, the great shock her
delicate organism had sustained at a time when even the slightest
disturbance might lead to serious consequences,--all these causes
combined had so broken down her vitality and poisoned her blood that
nature had no force strong enough to rally against the enemies of
A groan that sounded like a wail of desperation broke from Mr.
Ridley's lips as he came in with the doctor and looked at the
death-stricken countenance of his wife. The two physicians gazed at
each other with ominous faces, and stood silent and helpless at the
When Doctor Hillhouse hurried away ten minutes afterward he knew
that he had looked for the last time upon his patient. Mr. Ridley
did not attempt to detain him. Hope had expired, and he sat bowed
and crushed, wishing that he could die.
The large quantity of opium which had been taken by Mrs. Ridley held
all her outward senses locked, and she passed away, soon after
Doctor Hillhouse retired, without giving her husband a parting word
or even a sign of recognition.
WHEN Doctor Hillhouse arrived at his office, it lacked only a
quarter of an hour to twelve, the time fixed for the operation on
Mrs. Carlton. He found Doctor Kline and Doctor Angier, who were to
assist him, both awaiting his return.
"I thought twelve o'clock the hour?" said Doctor Kline as he came in
"So it is. But everything has seemed to work adversely this morning.
Mr. Ridley's wife is extremely ill--dying, in fact--and I have had
to see her too or three times. Other calls have been imperative, and
here I am within a quarter of an hour of the time fixed for a most
delicate operation, and my preparations not half completed."
Doctor Kline regarded him for a few moments, and then said:
"This is unfortunate, doctor, and I would advise a postponement
until to-morrow. You should have had a morning free from anything
but unimportant calls."
"Oh no. I cannot think of a postponement," Doctor Hillhouse replied.
"All the arrangements have been made at Mr. Carlton's, and my
patient is ready. To put it off for a single day might cause a
reaction in her feelings and produce an unfavorable condition. It
will have to be done to-day."
"You must not think of keeping your appointment to the hour," said
Doctor Kline, glancing at his watch. "Indeed, that would now be
impossible. Doctor Angier had better go and say that we will be
there within half an hour. Don't hurry yourself in the slightest
degree. Take all the time you need to make yourself ready. I will
remain and assist you as best I can."
A clear-seeing and controlling mind was just what Doctor Hillhouse
needed at that moment. He saw the value of Doctor Kline's
suggestion, and promptly accepted it. Doctor Angier was despatched
to the residence of Mr. Carlton to advise that gentleman of the
brief delay and to make needed preparations for the work that was to
The very necessity felt by Doctor Hillhouse for a speedy repression
of the excitement from which he was suffering helped to increase the
disturbance, and it was only after he had used a stimulant stronger
than he wished to take that he found his nerves becoming quiet and
the hand on whose steadiness so much depended growing firm.
At half-past twelve Doctor Hillhouse, in company with Doctor Kline,
arrived at Mr. Carlton's. The white face and scared look of the
female servant who admitted them showed how strongly fear and
sympathy were at work in the house. She directed them to the room
which had been set apart for their use. In the hall above Mr.
Carlton met them, and returned with a trembling hand and silent
pressure the salutation of the two physicians, who passed into a
chamber next to the one occupied by their patient and quickly began
the work of making everything ready. Acting from previous concert,
they drew the table which had been provided into the best light
afforded by the room, and then arranged instruments, bandages and
all things needed for the work to be done.
When all these preparations were completed, notice was given to Mrs.
Carlton, who immediately entered from the adjoining room. She was a
beautiful woman, in the very prime of life, and never had she
appeared more beautiful than now. Her strong will had mastered fear,
strength, courage and resignation looked out from her clear eyes and
rested on her firm lips. She smiled, but did not speak. Doctor
Hillhouse took her by the hand and led her to the table on which she
was to lie during the operation, saying, as he did so, "It will be
over in a few minutes, and you will not feel it as much as the
scratch of a pin."
She laid herself down without a moment's hesitation, and as she did
so Doctor Angier, according to previous arrangement, presented a
sponge saturated with ether to her nostrils, and in two minutes
complete anaesthesis was produced. On the instant this took place
Doctor Hillhouse made an incision and cut down quickly to the tumor.
His hand was steady, and he seemed to be in perfect command of
himself. The stimulants he had taken as a last resort were still
active on brain and nerves. On reaching the tumor he found it, as he
had feared, much larger than its surface presentation indicated. It
was a hard, fibrous substance, and deeply seated among the veins,
arteries and muscles of the neck. The surgeon's hand retained its
firmness; there was a concentration of thought and purpose that gave
science and skill their best results. It took over twenty minutes to
dissect the tumor away from all the delicate organs upon which it
had laid its grasp, and nearly half as long a time to stanch the
flow of blood from the many small arteries which had been severed
during the operation. One of these, larger than the rest, eluded for
a time the efforts of Doctor Hillhouse at ligation, and he felt
uncertain about it even after he had stopped the effusion of blood.
In fact, his hand had become unsteady and his brain slightly
confused. The active stimulant taken half an hour before was losing
its effect and his nerves beginning to give way. He was no longer
master of the situation, and the last and, as it proved, the most
vital thing in the whole operation was done imperfectly.
At the end of thirty-five minutes the patient, still under the
influence of ether was carried back to her chamber and laid back
upon her bed, quiet as a sleeping infant.
"It is all over," said Doctor Hillhouse as the eyes of Mrs. Carlton