By slow degrees, he had allowed himself to be drawn from his academic hermitry into contact with the visible life around him. And everywhere that he had touched life, it had turned about and smitten him. He had meant to be a great editor of the Post some day, and the Post had turned him out with a brand of dishonor upon his forehead. He had tried to befriend a friendless old man, and he had acquired a father whose bequest was a rogue’s debt, and his name a byword and a hissing. He had let himself be befriended by a slim little girl with a passion for Truth and enough blue eyes for two, and the price of that contact was this pain in his heart which would not be still ... which would not be still.
Yet he would not have had anything different, would not have changed anything if he could. He was no longer the pure scientist in the observatory, but a bigger and better thing, a man ... A man down in the thick of the hurly-burly which we call This Life, and which, when all is said, is all that we certainly know. Not by pen alone, but also by body and mind and heart and spirit, he had taken his man’s place in Society. And as for this unimagined pain that strung his whole being upon the thumb-screw, it was nothing but the measure of the life he had now, and had it more abundantly. Oh, all was for the best, all as it should be. He knew the truth about living at last, and it is the truth that makes men free.
Death of the Old Professor, and how Queed finds that his List of Friends has grown; a Last Will and Testament; Exchange of Letters among Prominent Attorneys, which unhappily proves futile.
On the merriest, maddest day in March, Henry G. Surface, who had bitterly complained of earthly justice, slipped away to join the invisible procession which somewhere winds into the presence of the Incorruptible Judge. He went with his lips locked. At the last moment there had been faint signs of recurring consciousness; the doctor had said that there was one chance in a hundred that the dying man might have a normal moment at the end. On this chance his son had said to the nurse, alone with him in the room:—
“Will you kindly leave me with him a moment? If he should be conscious there is a private question of importance that I must ask him.”
She left him. The young man knelt down by the bedside, and put his lips close to the old man’s ear. Vainly he tried to drive his voice into that stilled consciousness, and drag from his father the secret of the hiding-place of his loot.
“Father!” he said, over and over. “Father! Where is the money?”
There was no doubt that the old man stirred a little. In the dim light of the room it seemed to his son that his right eye half opened, leaving the other closed in a ghastly parody of a wink, while the upper lip drew away from the strong teeth like an evil imitation of the old bland sneer. But that was all.