Dr Greatrex's Engagement

Everybody knows by name at least the celebrated Dr. Greatrex, the

discoverer of that abstruse molecular theory of the interrelations of

forces and energies. He is a comparatively young man still, as times go,

for a person of such scientific distinction, for he is now barely forty;

but to look at his tall, spare, earnest figure, and his clear-cut,

delicate, intellectual face, you would scarcely imagine that he had once

een the hero of a singularly strange and romantic story. Yet there have

been few lives more romantic than Arthur Greatrex's, and few histories

stranger in their way than this of his engagement. After all, why should

not a scientific light have a romance of his own as well as other


Fifteen years ago Arthur Greatrex, then a young Cambridge fellow, had

just come up to begin his medical studies at a London hospital. He was

tall in those days, of course, but not nearly so slender or so pale as

now; for he had rowed seven in his college boat, and was a fine,

athletic young man of the true English university pattern. Handsome,

too, then and always, but with a more human-looking and ordinary

handsomeness when he was young than in these latter times of his

scientific eminence. Indeed, any one who met Arthur Greatrex at that

time would merely have noticed him as a fine, intelligent young English

gentleman, with a marked taste for manly sports, and a decided opinion

of his own about most passing matters of public interest.

Already, even in those days, the young medical student was very deeply

engaged in recondite speculations on the question of energy. His active

mind, always dwelling upon wide points of cosmical significance, had hit

upon the germ of that great revolutionary idea which was afterwards to

change the whole course of modern physics. But, as often happens with

young men of twenty-five, there was another subject which divided his

attention with the grand theory of his life: and that subject was the

pretty daughter of his friend and instructor, Dr. Abury, the eminent

authority on the treatment of the insane. In all London you couldn't

have found a sweeter or prettier girl than Hetty Abury. Young Greatrex

thought her clever, too; and, though that is perhaps saying rather too

much, she was certainly a good deal above the average of ordinary London

girls in intellect and accomplishments.

"They say, Arthur," she said to him on the day after their formal

engagement, "that the course of true love never did run smooth; and yet

it seems somehow as if ours was wonderfully smoothed over for us by

everybody and everything. I am the happiest and proudest girl in all the

world to have won the love of such a man as you for my future husband."

Arthur Greatrex stroked the back of her white little hand with his, and

answered gently, "I hope nothing will ever arise to make the course of

our love run any the rougher; for certainly we do seem to have every

happiness laid out most temptingly before us. It almost feels to me as

if my paradise had been too easily won, and I ought to have something

harder to do before I enter it."

"Don't say that, Arthur," Hetty put in hastily. "It sounds too much like

an evil omen."

"You superstitious little woman!" the young doctor replied with a

smile. "Talking to a scientific man about signs and portents!" And he

kissed her wee hand tenderly, and went home to his bachelor lodging with

that strange exhilaration in heart and step which only the ecstasy of

first love can ever bring one.

"No," he thought to himself, as he sat down in his own easy-chair, and

lighted his cigar; "I don't believe any cloud can ever arise between me

and Hetty. We have everything in our favour--means to live upon, love

for one another, a mutual respect, kind relations, and hearts that were

meant by nature each for the other. Hetty is certainly the very sweetest

little girl that ever lived; and she's as good as she's sweet, and as

loving as she's beautiful. What a dreadful thing it is for a man in love

to have to read up medicine for his next examination!" and he took a

medical book down from the shelf with a sigh, and pretended to be deeply

interested in the diagnosis of scarlet fever till his cigar was

finished. But, if the truth must be told, the words really swam before

him, and all the letters on the page apparently conspired together to

make up but a single name a thousand times over--Hetty, Hetty, Hetty,

Hetty. At last he laid the volume down as hopeless, and turned dreamily

into his bedroom, only to lie awake half the night and think perpetually

on that one theme of Hetty.

Next day was Dr. Abury's weekly lecture on diseases of the brain and

nervous system; and Arthur Greatrex, convinced that he really must make

an effort, went to hear it. The subject was one that always interested

him; and partly by dint of mental attention, partly out of sheer desire

to master the matter, he managed to hear it through, and even take in

the greater part of its import. As he left the room to go down the

hospital stairs, he had his mind fairly distracted between the

premonitory symptoms of insanity and Hetty Abury. "Was there ever such

an unfortunate profession as medicine for a man in love?" he asked

himself, half angrily. "Why didn't I go and be a parson or a barrister,

or anything else that would have kept me from mixing up such incongruous

associations? And yet, when one comes to think of it, too, there's no

particular natural connection after all between 'Chitty on Contract' and

dearest Hetty."

Musing thus, he turned to walk down the great central staircase of the

hospital. As he did so, his attention was attracted for a moment by a

singular person who was descending the opposite stair towards the same

landing. This person was tall and not ill-looking; but, as he came down

the steps, he kept pursing up his mouth and cheeks into the most

extraordinary and hideous grimaces; in fact, he was obviously making

insulting faces at Arthur Greatrex. Arthur was so much preoccupied at

the moment, however, that he hardly had time to notice the eccentric

stranger; and, as he took him for one of the harmless lunatic patients

in the mental-diseases ward, he would have passed on without further

observing the man but for an odd circumstance which occurred as they

both reached the great central landing together. Arthur happened to drop

the book he was carrying from under his arm, and instinctively stooped

to pick it up. At the same moment the grimacing stranger dropped his own

book also, not in imitation, but by obvious coincidence, and stooped to

pick it up with the self-same gesture. Struck by the oddity of the

situation, Arthur turned to look at the curious patient. To his utter

horror and surprise, he discovered that the man he had been observing

was his own reflection.

In one second the real state of the case flashed like lightning across

his bewildered brain. There was no opposite staircase, as he knew very

well, for he had been down those steps a hundred times before: nothing

but a big mirror, which reflected and doubled the one-sided flight from

top to bottom. It was only his momentary preoccupation which had made

him for a minute fall into the obvious delusion. The man whom he saw

descending towards him was really himself, Arthur Greatrex.

Even so, he did not at once grasp the full strangeness of the scene he

had just witnessed. It was only as he turned to descend again that he

caught another glimpse of himself in the big mirror, and saw that he was

still making the most horrible and ghastliest grimaces--grimaces such as

he had never seen equalled save by the monkeys at the Zoo, and

(horridest thought of all!) by the worst patients in the mental-disease

ward. He pulled himself up in speechless horror, and looked once more

into the big mirror. Yes, there was positively no mistaking the fact: it

was he, Arthur Greatrex, fellow of Catherine's, who was making these

hideous and meaningless distortions of his own countenance.

With a terrible effort of will he pulled his face quite straight again,

and assumed his usual grave and quiet demeanour. For a full minute he

stood looking at himself in the glass; and then, fearful that some one

else would come and surprise him, he hurried down the remaining steps,

and rushed out into the streets of London. Which way he turned he did

not know or care; all he knew was that he was repressing by sheer force

of muscular strain a deadly impulse to pucker up his mouth and draw down

the corners of his lips into one-sided grimaces. As he passed down the

streets, he watched his own image faintly reflected in the panes of the

windows, and saw that he was maintaining outward decorum, but only with

a conscious and evident struggle. At one doorstep a little child was

playing with a kitten; Arthur Greatrex, who was a naturally kindly man,

looked down at her and smiled, in spite of his preoccupation: instead of

smiling back, the child uttered a scream of terror, and rushed back into

the house to hide her face in her mother's apron. He felt instinctively

that, in place of smiling, he had looked at the child with one of his

awful faces. It was horrible, unendurable, and he walked on through the

streets and across the bridges, pulling himself together all the time,

till at last, half-unconsciously, he found himself near Pimlico, where

the Aburys were then living.

Looking around him, he saw that he had come nearly to the corner where

Hetty's little drawing-room faced the road. The accustomed place seemed

to draw him off for a moment from thinking of himself, and he remembered

that he had promised Hetty to come in for luncheon. But dare he go in

such a state of mind and body as he then found himself in? Well, Hetty

would be expecting him; Hetty would be disappointed if he didn't come;

he certainly mustn't break his engagement with dear little Hetty. After

all, he began to say to himself, what was it but a mere twitching of his

face, probably a slight nervous affection? Young doctors are always

nervous about themselves, they say; they find all their own symptoms

accurately described in all the text-books. His face wasn't twitching

now, of that he was certain; the nearer he got to Hetty's, the calmer he

grew, and the more he was conscious he could relax his attention without

finding his muscles were playing tricks upon him. He would turn in and

have luncheon, and soon forgot all about it.

Hetty saw him coming, and ran lightly to open the door for him, and as

he took his seat beside her at the table, he forgot straightway his

whole trouble, and found himself at once in Paradise once more. All

through lunch they talked about other things--happy plans for the

future, and the small prettinesses that lovers find so perennially

delightful; and long before Arthur went away the twitching in his face

had altogether ceased to trouble him. Once or twice, indeed, in the

course of the afternoon he happened to glance casually at the

looking-glass above the drawing-room fireplace (those were the

pre-Morrisian days when overmantels as yet were not), and he saw to his

great comfort that his face was resting in its usual handsome repose and

peacefulness. A bright, earnest, strong face it was, with all the

promise of greatness already in it; and so Hetty thought as she looked

up at it from the low footstool where she sat by his side, and half

whispered into his ear the little timid confidences of early betrothal.

Five o'clock tea came all too soon, and then Arthur felt he must really

be going and must get home to do a little reading. On his way, he

fancied once he saw a street boy start in evident surprise as he

approached him, but it might be fancy; and when the street boy stuck his

tongue into the corner of his cheek and uttered derisive shouts from a

safe distance, Arthur concluded he was only doing after the manner of

his kind out of pure gratuitous insolence. He went home to his lodgings

and sat down to an hour's work; but after he had read up several pages

more of "Stuckey on Gout," he laid down the book in disgust, and took

out Helmholtz and Joule instead, indulging himself with a little

desultory reading in his favourite study of the higher physics.

As he read and read the theory of correlation, the great idea as to the

real nature of energy, which had escaped all these learned physicists,

and which was then slowly forming itself in his own mind, grew gradually

clearer and clearer still before his mental vision. Helmholtz was wrong

here, because he had not thoroughly appreciated the disjunctive nature

of electric energy; Joule was wrong here, because he had failed to

understand the real antithesis between potential and kinetic. He laid

down the books, paced up and down the room thoughtfully, and beheld the

whole concrete theory of interrelation embodying itself visibly before

his very eyes. At last he grew fired with the stupendous grandeur of his

own conception, seized a quire of foolscap, and sat down eagerly at the

table to give written form to the splendid phantom that was floating

before him in so distinct a fashion. He would make a great name, for

Hetty's sake; and, when he had made it, his dearest reward would be to

know that Hetty was proud of him.

Hour after hour he sat and wrote, as if inspired, at his little table.

The landlady knocked at the door to tell him dinner was ready, but he

would have none of it, he said; let her bring him up a good cup of

strong tea and a few plain biscuits. So he wrote and wrote in feverish

haste, drinking cup after cup of tea, and turning off page after page of

foolscap, till long past midnight. The whole theory had come up so

distinctly before his mind's eye, under the exceptional exaltation of

first love, and the powerful stimulus of the day's excitement, that he

wrote it off as though he had it by heart; omitting only the

mathematical calculations, which he left blank, not because he had not

got them clearly in his head, but because he would not stop his flying

pen to copy them all out then and there at full length, for fear of

losing the main thread of his argument. When he had finished, about

forty sheets of foolscap lay huddled together on the table before him,

written in a hasty hand, and scarcely legible; but they contained the

first rough draft and central principle of that immortal work, the

"Transcendental Dynamics."

Arthur Greatrex rose from the table, where his grand discovery was first

formulated, well satisfied with himself and his theory, and fully

determined to submit it shortly to the critical judgment of the Royal

Society. As he took up his bedroom candle, however, he went over to the

mantelpiece to kiss Hetty's photograph, as he always did (for even men

of science are human) every evening before retiring. He lifted the

portrait reverently to his lips, and was just about to kiss it, when

suddenly in the mirror before him he saw the same horrible mocking face

which had greeted him so unexpectedly that morning on the hospital

staircase. It was a face of inhuman devilry; the face of a mediaeval

demon, a hideous, grinning, distorted ghoul, a very caricature and

insult upon the features of humanity. In his dismay he dropped the frame

and the photograph, shivering the glass that covered it into a thousand

atoms. Summoning up all his resolution, he looked again. Yes, there was

no mistaking it: a face was gibing and jeering at him from the mirror

with diabolical ingenuity of distorted hideousness; a disgusting face

which even the direct evidence of his senses would scarcely permit him

to believe was really the reflection of his own features. It was

overpowering, it was awful, it was wholly incredible; and, utterly

unmanned by the sight, he sank back into his easy-chair and buried his

face bitterly between the shelter of his trembling hands.

At that moment Arthur Greatrex felt sure he knew the real meaning of the

horror that surrounded him. He was going mad.

For ten minutes or more he sat there motionless, hot tears boiling up

from his eyes and falling silently between his fingers. Then at last he

rose nervously from his seat, and reached down a volume from the shelf

behind him. It was Prang's "Treatise on the Physiology of the Brain." He

turned it over hurriedly for a few pages, till he came to the passage he

was looking for.

"Ah, I thought so," he said to himself, half aloud: "'Premonitory

symptoms: facial distortions; infirmity of the will; inability to

distinguish muscular movements.' Let's see what Prang has to say about

it. 'A not uncommon concomitant of these early stages'--Great heavens,

how calmly the man talks about losing your reason!-'is an unconscious or

semi-conscious tendency to produce a series of extraordinary facial

distortions. At times, the sufferer is not aware of the movements thus

initiated; at other times they are quite voluntary, and are accompanied

by bodily gestures of contempt or derision for passing strangers.' Why,

that's what must have happened with that boy this morning! 'Symptoms of

this character usually result from excessive activity of the brain, and

are most frequent among mathematicians or scholars who have overworked

their intellectual faculties. They may be regarded as the immediate

precursors of acute dementia.' Acute dementia! Oh, Hetty! Oh, heavens!

What have I done to deserve such a blow as this?"

He laid his face between his hands once more, and sobbed like a

broken-hearted child for a few minutes. Then he turned accidentally

towards his tumbled manuscript. "No, no," he said to himself,

reassuringly; "I can't be going mad. My brain was never clearer in my

life. I couldn't have done a piece of good work like that, bristling

with equations and figures and formulas, if my head was really giving

way. I seemed to grasp the subject as I never grasped it in my life

before. I never worked so well at Cambridge; this is a discovery, a

genuine discovery. It's impossible that a man who was going mad could

ever see anything so visibly and distinctly as I see that universal

principle. Let's look again at what Prang has to say upon that subject."

He turned over the volume a few pages further, and glanced lightly at

the contents at the head of each chapter, till at last a few words in

the title struck his eye, and he hurried on to the paragraph they

indicated, with feverish eagerness. As he did so, these were the words

which met his bewildered gaze.

"In certain cases, especially among men of unusual intelligence and high

attainments, the exaltation of incipient madness takes rather the guise

of a scientific or philosophic enthusiasm. Instead of imagining himself

the possessor of untold wealth, or the absolute despot of a servile

people, the patient deludes himself with the belief that he has made a

great discovery or lighted upon a splendid generalization of the deepest

and most universal importance. He sees new truths crowding upon him

with the most startling and vivid objectivity. He perceives intimate

relations of things which he never before suspected. He destroys at one

blow the Newtonian theory of gravitation; he discovers obvious flaws in

the nebular hypothesis of Laplace; he gives a scholar's-mate to Kant in

the very fundamental points of the 'Critique of Pure Reason.' The more

serious the attack, the more utterly convinced is the patient of the

exceptional clearness of his own intelligence at that particular moment.

He writes pamphlets whose scientific value he ridiculously

over-estimates; and he is sure to be very angry with any one who tries

rationally to combat his newly found authority. Mathematical reasoners

are specially liable to this form of incipient mental disease, which,

when combined with the facial distortions already alluded to in a

previous section, is peculiarly apt to terminate in acute dementia."

"Acute dementia again!" Arthur Greatrex cried with a gesture of horror,

flinging the book from him as if it were a poisonous serpent. "Acute

dementia, acute dementia, acute dementia; nothing but acute dementia

ahead of me, whichever way I happen to turn. Oh, this is too horrible! I

shall never be able to marry Hetty! And yet I shall never be able to

break it to Hetty! Great heavens, that such a phantom as this should

have risen between me and paradise only since this very morning!"

In his agony he caught up the papers on which he had written the rough

draft of his grand discovery, and crumpled them up fiercely in his

fingers. "The cursed things!" he groaned between his teeth, tossing them

with a gesture of impatient disgust into the waste-paper basket; "how

could I ever have deluded myself into thinking I had hit off-hand upon a

grand truth which had escaped such men as Helmholtz, and Mayer, and

Joule, and Thomson! The thing's preposterous upon the very face of it; I

must be going mad, indeed, ever to have dreamt of it!"

He took up his candle once more, kissed the portrait in the broken frame

with intense fervour a dozen times over, and then went up gloomily into

his own bedroom. There he did not attempt to undress, but merely pulled

off his boots, lay down in his clothes upon the bed, and hastily blew

out the candle. For a long time he lay tossing and turning in

unspeakable terror; but at last, after perhaps two hours or so, he fell

into a troubled sleep, and dreamed a hideous nightmare, in which

somebody or other in shadowy outlines was trying perpetually to tear him

away by main force from poor pale and weeping Hetty.

It was daylight when Arthur woke again, and he lay for some time upon

his bed, thinking over his last night's scare, which seemed much less

serious, as such things always do, now that the sun had risen upon it.

After a while his mind got round to the energy question; and, as he

thought it over once more, the conviction forced itself afresh upon him

that he was right upon the matter after all, and that if he was going

mad there was at least method in his madness. So firmly was he convinced

upon this point now (though he recognized that that very certainty might

be merely a symptom of his coming malady) that he got up hurriedly,

before the lodging-house servant came to clean up his little

sitting-room, so as to rescue his crumpled foolscap from the waste-paper

basket. After that, a bath and breakfast almost made him laugh at his

evening terrors.

All the morning Arthur Greatrex sat down at his table again, working in

the algebraical calculations which he had omitted from his paper

overnight, and finishing it in full form as if for presentation to a

learned society. But he did not mean now to offer it to any society: he

had a far deeper and more personal interest in the matter at present

than that. He wanted to settle first of all the question whether he was

going mad or not. Afterwards, there would be plenty of time to settle

such minor theoretical problems as the general physical constitution of

the universe.

As soon as he had finished his calculations he took the paper in his

hands, and went out with it to make two calls on scientific

acquaintances. The first man he called upon was that distinguished

specialist, Professor Linklight, one of the greatest authorities of his

own day on all questions of molecular physics. Poor man! he is almost

forgotten now, for he died ten years ago; and his scientific reputation

was, after all, of that flashy sort which bases itself chiefly upon

giving good dinners to leading fellows of the Royal Society. But fifteen

years ago Professor Linklight, with his cut-and-dried dogmatic notions,

and his narrow technical accuracy, was universally considered the

principal physical philosopher in all England. To him, then, Arthur

Greatrex--a far deeper and clearer thinker--took in all humility the

first manuscript of his marvellous discovery; not to ask him whether it

was true or not, but to find out whether it was physical science at all

or pure insanity. The professor received him kindly; and when Arthur,

who had of course his own reasons for attempting a little modest

concealment, asked him to look over a friend's paper for him, with a

view to its presentation to the Royal Society, he cheerfully promised to

do his best. "Though you will admit, my dear Mr. Greatrex," he said with

his blandest smile, "that your friend's manuscript certainly does not

err on the side of excessive brevity." From Linklight's, Arthur walked

on tremulously to the house of another great scientific magnate, Dr.

Warminster, of being the first living authority on the treatment of the

insane in the United Kingdom. Before Dr. Warminster, Arthur made no

attempt to conceal his apprehensions. He told out all his symptoms and

fears without reserve, even exaggerating them a little, as a man is

prone to do through over-anxiety not to put too favourable a face upon

his own ailments. Dr. Warminster listened attentively and with a

gathering interest to all that Arthur told him, and at the end of his

account he shook his head gloomily, and answered in a very grave and

sympathetic tone.

"My dear Greatrex," he said gently, holding his arm with a kindly

pressure, "I should be dealing wrongly with you if I did not candidly

tell you that your case gives ground for very serious apprehensions. You

are a young man, and with steady attention to curative means and

surroundings, it is possible that you may ward off this threatened

danger. Society, amusement, relaxation, complete cessation of scientific

work, absence, as far as possible, of mental anxiety in any form, may

enable you to tide over the turning point. But that there is danger

threatened, it would be unkind and untrue not to warn you. It is very

unusual for a patient to consult us in person about these matters. More

often it is the friends who notice the coming change; but, as you ask me

directly for an opinion, I can't help telling you that I regard your

case as not without real cause for the strictest care and for a

preventive regimen."

Arthur thanked him for the numerous directions he gave as to things

which should be done or things which should be avoided, and hurried out

into the street with his brain swimming and reeling. "Absence of mental

anxiety!" he said to himself bitterly. "How calmly they talk about

mental anxiety! How can I possibly be free from anxiety when I know I

may go mad at any moment, and that the blow would kill Hetty outright?

For myself, I should not care a farthing; but for Hetty! It is too


He had not the heart to call at the Aburys' that afternoon, though he

had promised to do so; and he tortured himself with the thought that

Hetty would think him neglectful. He could not call again while the

present suspense lasted; and if his worst fears were confirmed he could

never call again, except once, to take leave of Hetty for ever. For,

deeply as Arthur Greatrex loved her, he loved her too well ever to dream

of marrying her if the possible shadow of madness was to cloud her

future life with its perpetual presence. Better she should bear the

shock, even if it killed her at once, than that both should live in

ceaseless apprehension of that horrible possibility, and should become

the parents of children upon whom that hereditary curse might rest for a

lifetime, reflecting itself back with the added sting of conscientious

remorse on the father who had brought them into the world against his

own clear judgment of right and justice.

Next morning Arthur went round once more to Professor Linklight's. The

professor had promised to read through the paper immediately, and give

his opinion of its chances for presentation to the Royal Society. He was

sitting at his breakfast-table, in his flowered dressing-gown and

slippers, when Arthur called upon him, and, with a cup of coffee in one

hand, was actually skimming the last few pages through his critical

eyeglass as his visitor entered.

"Good-morning, Mr. Greatrex!" he said, with one of his most gracious

smiles, indicative of the warm welcome attended by acknowledged wisdom

towards rising talent. "You see I have been reading your friend's paper,

as I promised. Well, my dear sir, not to put too fine a point upon it,

it won't hold water. In fact, it's a mere rigmarole. Excuse my asking

you, Greatrex, but have you any idea, my dear fellow, whether your

friend is inclined to be a little cracky?"

Arthur swallowed a groan with the greatest difficulty, and answered in

as unconcerned a tone as possible, "Well, to tell you the truth, Mr.

Linklight, some doubts have been cast upon his perfect sanity."

"Ah, I should have thought so," the professor went on in his airiest

manner; "I should have thought so. The fact is, this paper is fitter for

the Transactions of the Colney Hatch Academy than for those of the

Royal Society. It has a delusive outer appearance of physical thinking,

but there's no real meaning in it of any sort. It's gassy,

unsubstantial, purely imaginative." And the professor waved his hand in

the air to indicate its utter gaseousness. "If you were to ask my own

opinion about it, I should say it's the sort of thing that might be

produced by a young man of some mathematical training with a very

superficial knowledge of modern physics, just as he was on the point of

lapsing into complete insanity. It's the maddest bit of writing that has

ever yet fallen under my critical notice."

"Your opinion is of course conclusive," Arthur answered with unfeigned

humility, his eyes almost bursting with the tears he would not let come

to the surface. "It will be a great disappointment to my friend, but I

have no doubt he will accept your verdict."

"Not a bit of it, my dear sir," the professor put in quickly. "Not a bit

of it. These crazy fellows always stick to their own opinions, and think

you a perfect fool for disagreeing with them. Mark my words, Mr.

Greatrex, your friend will still go on believing, in spite of

everything, that his roundabout reasoning upon that preposterous

square-root-of-Pi theorem is sound mathematics."

And Arthur, looking within, felt with a glow of horror that the theorem

in question seemed to him at that moment more obviously true and certain

in all its deductions than it had ever done before since the first day

that he conceived it. How very mad he must be after all.

He thanked Professor Linklight as well as he was able for his kindness

in looking over the paper, and groped his way blindly through the

passage to the front door and out into the square. Thence he staggered

home wearily, convinced that it was all over between him and Hetty, and

that he must make up his mind forthwith to his horrible destiny.

If he had only known at that moment that forty years earlier Professor

Linklight had used almost the same words about Young's theory of

undulations, and had since used them about every new discovery from that

day to the one on which he then saw him, he might have attached less

importance than he actually did to this supposed final proof of his own


As Arthur entered his lodgings he hung his hat up on the stand in the

passage. There was a little strip of mirror in the middle of the stand,

and glancing at it casually he saw once more that awful face--his

own--distorted and almost diabolical, which he had learnt so soon to

hate instinctively as if it were a felon's and a murderer's. He rushed

away wildly into his little sitting-room, and flung his manuscript on

the table, almost without observing that his friend Freeling, the rising

physiologist, was quietly seated on the sofa opposite.

"What's this, Arthur?" Freeling asked, taking it up carelessly and

glancing at the title. "You don't mean to say that you've finally

written out that splendid idea of yours about the interrelations of


"Yes, I have, Harry: I have, and I wish to heaven I hadn't, for it's all

mad and silly and foolish and meaningless!"

"If it is, then I'm mad too, my dear fellow, for I think it's the most

convincing thing in physics I ever listened to. Let me have the

manuscript to look over, and see how you've worked out those beautiful

calculations about the square root of Pi, will you?"

"Take the thing, for heaven's sake, and leave me, Harry, for if I'm not

left alone I shall break down and cry before you." And as he spoke he

buried his head in his arm and sobbed like a woman.

Dr. Freeling knew Arthur was in love, and was aware that people

sometimes act very unaccountably under such circumstances; so he did the

wisest thing to be done then and there: he grasped his friend's arm

gently with his hand, spoke never a word, and, taking up his hat and

the manuscript, walked quietly out into the passage. Then he told the

landlady to make Mr. Greatrex a strong cup of tea, with a dash of brandy

in it, and turned away, leaving Arthur to solitude and his own


That evening's post brought Arthur Greatrex two letters, which finally

completed his utter prostration. The first he opened was from Dr. Abury.

He broke the envelope with a terrible misgiving, and read the letter

through with a deepening and sickening feeling of horror. It was not he

alone, then, who had distorted the secret of his own incipient insanity.

Dr. Abury's practised eye had also detected the rising symptoms. The

doctor wrote kindly and with evident grief; but there was no mistaking

the firm purport of his intentions. Conferring this morning with his

professional friend Warminster, a case had been mentioned to him,

without a name, which he at once recognized as Arthur's. He recalled

certain symptoms he had himself observed, and his suspicions were thus

vividly aroused. Happening accidentally to follow Arthur in the street

he was convinced that his surmise was correct, and he thought it his

duty both to inform Arthur of the danger that encompassed him, and to

assure him that, deeply as it grieved him to withdraw the consent he had

so gladly given, he could not allow his only daughter to marry a man

bearing on his face the evident marks of an insane tendency. The letter

contained much more of regret and condolence; but that was the pith that

Arthur Greatrex picked out of it all through the blinding tears, that

dimmed his vision.

The second letter was from Hetty. Half guessing its contents, he had

left it purposely till the last, and he tore it open now with a fearful

sinking feeling in his bosom. It was indeed a heart-broken,

heart-breaking letter. What could be the secret which papa would not

tell her? Why had not Arthur come yesterday? Why could she never marry

him? Why was papa so cruel as not to tell her the reason? He couldn't

have done anything in the slightest degree dishonourable, far less

anything wicked: of that she felt sure; but, if not, what could be this

horrible, mysterious, unknown barrier that was so suddenly raised

between them? "Do write, dearest Arthur, and relieve me from this

terrible, incomprehensible suspense; do let me know what has happened to

make papa so determined against you. I could bear to lose you--at least

I could bear it as other women have done--but I can't bear this awful

uncertainty, this awful doubt as to your love or your constancy. For

heaven's sake, darling, send me a note somehow! send me a line to tell

me you love me. Your heart-broken


Arthur took his hat, and, unable to endure this agony, set out at once

for the Aburys'. When he reached the door, the servant who answered his

ring at the bell told him he could not see the doctor; he was engaged

with two other doctors in a consultation about Miss Hetty. What was the

matter with Miss Hetty, then? What, didn't he know that? Oh, Miss Hetty

had had a fit, and Dr. Freeling and Dr. MacKinlay had been called in to

see her. Arthur did not wait for a moment, but walked upstairs

unannounced, and into the consulting room.

Was it a very serious matter? Yes, Freeling answered, very serious. It

seemed Miss Abury had had a great shock--a great shock to her

affections--which, he added in a lower voice, "you yourself can perhaps

best explain to me. She will certainly have a long illness. Perhaps she

may never recover."

"Come out into the conservatory, Harry," said Arthur to his friend. "I

can tell you there what it is all about."

In a few words Arthur told him the nature of the shock, but without

describing the particular symptoms on which the opinion of his supposed

approaching insanity was based. Freeling listened with an incredulous

smile, and at the end he said to his friend gently, "My dear Arthur, I

wish you had told me all this before. If you had done so, we might have

saved Miss Abury a shock which may perhaps be fatal. You are no more

going mad than I am; on the contrary, you're about the sanest and most

clear-headed fellow of my acquaintance. But these mad-doctors are always

finding madness everywhere. If you had come to me and told me the

symptoms that troubled you, I should soon have set you right again in

your own opinion. To have gone to Warminster was most unfortunate, but

it can't be helped now. What we have to do at present is to take care of

Miss Abury."

Arthur shook his head sadly. "Ah," he said, "you don't know the real

gravity of the symptoms I am suffering from. I shall tell you all about

them some other time. However, as you say, what we have to think about

now is Hetty. Can you let me see her? I am sure if I could see her it

would reassure her and do her good."

Dr. Abury was at first very unwilling to let Arthur visit Hetty, who was

now lying unconscious on the sofa in her own boudoir; but Freeling's

opinion that it might possibly do her good at last prevailed with him,

and he gave his permission grudgingly.

Arthur went into the room silently and took his seat beside the low

couch where the motherless girl was lying. Her face was very white, and

her hands pale and bloodless. He took one hand in his: the pulse was

hardly perceptible. He laid it down upon her breast, and leaned back to

watch for any sign of returning life in her pallid cheek and closed


For hours and hours he sat there watching, and no sign came. Dr. Abury

sat at the bottom of the couch, watching with him; and as they watched,

Arthur felt from time to time that his face was again twitching

horribly. However, he had only thoughts for one thing now: would Hetty

die or would she recover? The servants brought them a little cake and

wine. They sat and drank in silence, looking at one another, but each

absorbed in his own thoughts, and speaking never a word for good or


At last Hetty's eyes opened. Arthur noticed the change first, and took

her hand in his gently. Her staring gaze fell upon him for a moment, and

she asked feebly, "Arthur, Arthur, do you still love me?"

"Love you, Hetty? With all my heart and soul, as I have always loved


She smiled, and said nothing. Dr. Abury gave her a little wine in a

teaspoon, and she drank it quietly. Then she shut her eyes again, but

this time she was sleeping.

All night Arthur watched still by the bedside where they put her a

little later, and Dr. Abury and a nurse watched with him. In the morning

she woke slightly better, and when she saw Arthur still there, she

smiled again, and said that if he was with her, she was happy. When

Freeling came to inquire after the patient, he found her so much

stronger, and Arthur so worn with fear and sleeplessness, that he

insisted upon carrying off his friend in his brougham to his own house,

and giving him a slight restorative. He might come back at once, he

said; but only after he had had a dose of mixture, a glass of brandy and

seltzer, and at least a mouthful of something for breakfast.

As Freeling was drawing the cork of the seltzer, Arthur's eye happened

to light on a monkey, which was chained to a post in the little area

plot outside the consulting-room. Arthur was accustomed to see monkeys

there, for Freeling often had invalids from the Zoo to observe side by

side with human patients; but this particular monkey fascinated him even

in his present shattered state of nerves, because there was a something

in its face which seemed strangely and horribly familiar to him. As he

looked, he recognized with a feeling of unspeakable aversion what it was

of which the monkey reminded him. It was making a series of hideous and

apparently mocking grimaces--the very self-same grimaces which he had

seen on his own features in the mirror during the last day or two!

Horrible idea! He was descending to the level of the very monkeys!

The more he watched, the more absolutely identical the two sets of

grimaces appeared to him to be. Could it be fancy or was it reality? Or

might it be one more delusion, showing that his brain was now giving way

entirely? He rubbed his eyes, steadied his attention, and looked again

with the deepest interest. No, he could not be mistaken. The monkey was

acting in every respect precisely as he himself had acted.

"Harry," he said, in a low and frightened tone, "look at this monkey. Is

he mad? Tell me."

"My dear Arthur," replied his friend, with just a shade of expostulation

in his voice, "you have really got madness on the brain at present. No,

he isn't mad at all. He's as sane as you are, and that's saying a good

deal, I can assure you."

"But, Harry, you can't have seen what he's doing. He's grimacing and

contorting himself in the most extraordinary fashion."

"Well, monkeys often do grimace, don't they?" Harry Freeling answered

coolly. "Take this brandy and you'll soon feel better."

"But they don't grimace like this one," Arthur persisted.

"No, not like this one, certainly. That's why I've got him here. I'm

going to operate upon him for it under chloroform, and cure him


Arthur leaped from his seat like one demented. "Operate upon him, cure

him!" he cried hastily. "What on earth do you mean, Harry?"

"My dear boy, don't be so excited," said Freeling. "This suspense and

sleeplessness have been too much for you. This is antivivisection

carried ad absurdum. You don't mean to say you object to operations

upon a monkey for his own benefit, do you? If I don't cut a nerve,

tetanus will finally set in, and he'll die of it in great agony. Drink

off your brandy, and you'll feel better after it."

"But, Harry, what's the matter with the monkey? For heaven's sake, tell


Harry Freeling looked at his friend for the first time a little

suspiciously. Could Warminster be right after all, and could Arthur

really be going mad? It was so ridiculous of him to get into such a

state of flurry about the ailments of a tame monkey, and at such a

moment, too! "Well," he answered slowly, "the monkey has got facial

distortions due to a slight local paralysis of the inhibitory nerves

supplied to the buccal and pharyngeal muscles, with a tendency to end in

tetanus. If I cut a small ganglion behind the ear, and exhibit santonin,

the muscles will be relaxed; and though they won't act so freely as

before, they won't jerk and grimace any longer."

"Does it ever occur in human beings?" Arthur asked eagerly.

"Occur in human beings? Bless my soul, yes! I've seen dozens of cases.

Why, goodness gracious, Arthur, it's positively occurring in your own

face at this very moment!"

"I know it is," Arthur answered in an agony of suspense. "Do you think

this twitching of mine is due to a local paralysis of the inhibitories,

such as you speak of?"

"Excuse my laughing, my dear fellow; you really do look so absurdly

comical. No, I don't think anything about it. I know it is."

"Then you believe Warminster was wrong in taking it for a symptom of

incipient insanity?"

It was Freeling's turn now to jump up in surprise. "You don't mean to

tell me, Arthur, that that was the sole ground on which that old fool,

Warminster, thought you were going crazy?"

"He didn't see it himself," answered Arthur, with a sigh of unspeakable

relief. "I only described it to him, and he drew his inference from what

I told him. But the real question is this, Harry: Do you feel quite sure

that there's nothing more than that the matter with me?"

"Absolutely certain, my dear fellow. I can cure you in half an hour.

I've done it dozens of times before, and know the thing as well as you

know an ordinary case of scarlet fever."

Arthur sighed again. "And perhaps," he said bitterly, "this terrible

mistake may cost dear Hetty her life!"

He drank off the brandy, ate a few mouthfuls of food as best he might,

and hastened back to the Aburys'. When he got there he learned from the

servant that Hetty was at least no worse; and with that negative comfort

he had for the moment to content himself.

Hetty's illness was long and serious; but before it was over Freeling

was able to convince Dr. Abury of his own and his colleague's error, and

to prove by a simple piece of surgery that Arthur's hideous grimaces

were due to nothing worse than a purely physical impediment. The

operation was quite a successful one; but though Greatrex's face has

never since been liable to these curious contortions, the consequent

relaxation of the muscles has given his features that peculiarly calm

and almost impassive expression which everybody must have noticed upon

them at the present day, even in moments of the greatest animation. The

difficulty was how to break the cause of the temporary mistake to Hetty,

and this they were unable to do until she was to a great extent

convalescent. When once the needful explanation was over, and Arthur

was able once more to kiss her with perfect freedom from any tinge of

suspicion on her part, he felt that his paradise was at last attained.

A few days before the deferred date fixed for their wedding, Freeling

came into the doctor's drawing-room, where Hetty and Arthur were sitting

together, and threw a letter with a French official stamp on its face

down upon the table. "There," he said, "I find all the members of the

Academie des Sciences at Paris are madmen also!"

Hetty smiled faintly, and said with a little earnestness in her tone,

"Ah, Dr. Freeling, that subject has been far too serious a one for both

of us to make it pleasant jesting."

"Oh, but look here, Miss Abury," said Freeling; "I have to apologise to

Arthur for a great liberty I have ventured to take, and I think it best

to begin by explaining to you wherein it consisted. The fact is, before

you were ill, Arthur had just written a paper on the interrelations of

energy, which he showed to that pompous old nincompoop, Professor

Linklight. Well, Linklight being one of those men who can never see an

inch beyond his own nose, had the incomprehensible stupidity to tell him

there was nothing in it. Thereupon your future husband, who is a modest

and self-depreciating sort of fellow, was minded to throw it

incontinently into the waste-paper basket. But a friend of his, Harry

Freeling, who flatters himself that he can see an inch or two beyond his

own nose, read it over, and recognized that it was a brilliant

discovery. So what does he go and do--here comes in the apologetic

matter--but get this memoir quietly translated into French, affix a

motto to it, put it in an envelope, and send it in for the gold medal

competition of the Academie. Strange to say, the members of the Academie

turned out to be every bit as mad as the author and his friend; for I

have just received this letter, addressed to Arthur at my house (which I

have taken the further liberty of opening), and it informs me that the

Academie decrees its gold medal for physical discovery to M. Arthur

Greatrex, of London, which is a subject of congratulation for us three,

and a regular slap in the face for pompous old Linklight."

Hetty seized Freeling's two hands in hers. "You have been our good

genius, Dr. Freeling," she said with brimming eyes. "I owe Arthur to

you; and Arthur owes me to you; and now we both owe you this. What can

we ever do to thank you sufficiently?"

Since those days Hetty and Arthur have long been married, and Dr.

Greatrex's famous work (in its enlarged form) has been translated into

all the civilized languages of the world, as well as into German; but to

this moment, happy as they both are, you can read in their faces the

lasting marks of that one terrible anxiety. To many of their friends it

seemed afterwards a mere laughing matter; but to those two, who went

through it, and especially to Arthur Greatrex, it is a memory too

painful to be looked back upon even now without a thrill of terrible