“There’s where we differ. If I did it at all I had to do it in the best way, and with all the authority his backing gave me. If I owe your father anything, I owe him that. It would have made him sick to see the job badly done. And don’t you see that the way to honour him, and show what he’s done for science, was to spare no advantage in my attack on him—that I’m proving the strength of his position by the desperateness of my assault?” Dredge paused and squared his lounging shoulders. “After all,” he added, “he’s not down yet, and if I leave him standing I guess it’ll be some time before anybody else cares to tackle him.”
There was a silence between the two men; then Dredge continued in a lighter tone: “There’s one thing, though, that we’re both in danger of forgetting: and that is how little, in the long run, it all counts either way.” He smiled a little at Archie’s outraged gesture. “The most we can any of us do—even by such a magnificent effort as your father’s—is to turn the great marching army a hair’s breadth nearer what seems to us the right direction; if one of us drops out, here and there, the loss of headway’s hardly perceptible. And that’s what I’m coming to now.”
He rose from his seat, and walked across to the hearth; then, cautiously resting his shoulder-blades against the mantel-shelf jammed with miscellaneous specimens, he bent his musing spectacles on Archie.
“Your father would have understood why I’ve done, what I’m doing; but that’s no reason why the rest of you should. And I rather think it’s the rest of you who’ve suffered most from me. He always knew what I was there for, and that must have been some comfort even when I was most in the way; but I was just an ordinary nuisance to you and your mother and Mabel. You were all too kind to let me see it at the time, but I’ve seen it since, and it makes me feel that, after all, the settling of this matter lies with you. If it hurts you to have me go on with my examination of your father’s theory, I’m ready to drop the lectures to-morrow, and trust to the Lanfear Laboratory to breed up a young chap who’ll knock us both out in time. You’ve only got to say the word.”
There was a pause while Dredge turned and laid his extinguished pipe carefully between a jar of embryo sea-urchins and a colony of regenerating planarians.
Then Archie rose and held out his hand.
“No,” he said simply; “go on.”
GEOFFREY BETTON woke rather late—so late that the winter sunlight sliding across his warm red carpet struck his eyes as he turned on the pillow.
Strett, the valet, had been in, drawn the bath in the adjoining dressing-room, placed the crystal and silver cigarette-box at his side, put a match to the fire, and thrown open the windows to the bright morning air. It brought in, on the glitter of sun, all the shrill crisp morning noises—those piercing notes of the American thoroughfare that seem to take a sharper vibration from the clearness of the medium through which they pass.