An ashen pallor seemed to spread over the face of Miss Pearcy, as Kennedy shot out the words.
“That person,” he emphasized, “had planned to put out of the way one who had brought disgrace on the Pearcy family. It was an act of private justice.”
Mrs. Pearcy could stand the strain no longer. She had broken down and was weeping incoherently. I strained my ears to catch what she was murmuring. It was Minturn’s name, not Gunther’s, that was on her lips.
“But,” cried Kennedy, raising an accusatory finger from the kinograph tracing and pointing it like the finger of Fate itself, “but the self-appointed avenger forgot that the leaden water pipe was common to the two houses. Old Mr. Pearcy, the wronged, died first. Isabel has guessed the family skeleton—has tried hard to shield you, but, Warner Pearcy, you are the murderer!”
THE EUGENIC BRIDE
Scandal, such as that which Kennedy unearthed in this Pearcy case, was never much to his liking, yet he seemed destined, about this period of his career, to have a good deal of it.
We had scarcely finished with the indictment that followed the arrest of young Pearcy, when we were confronted by a situation which was as unique as it was intensely modern.
“There’s absolutely no insanity in Eugenia’s family,” I heard a young man remark to Kennedy, as my key turned in the lock of the laboratory door.
For a moment I hesitated about breaking in on a confidential conference, then reflected that, as they had probably already heard me at the lock, I had better go in and excuse myself.
As I swung the door open, I saw a young man pacing up and down the laboratory nervously, too preoccupied even to notice the slight noise I had made.
He paused in his nervous walk and faced Kennedy, his back to me.
“Kennedy,” he said huskily, “I wouldn’t care if there was insanity in her family—for, my God!—the tragedy of it all now—I love her!”
He turned, following Kennedy’s eyes in my direction, and I saw on his face the most haggard, haunting look of anxiety that I had ever seen on a young person.
Instantly I recognized from the pictures I had seen in the newspapers young Quincy Atherton, the last of this famous line of the family, who had attracted a great deal of attention several months previously by what the newspapers had called his search through society for a “eugenics bride,” to infuse new blood into the Atherton stock.
“You need have no fear that Mr. Jameson will be like the other newspaper men,” reassured Craig, as he introduced us, mindful of the prejudice which the unpleasant notoriety of Atherton’s marriage had already engendered in his mind.
I recalled that when I had first heard of Atherton’s “eugenic marriage,” I had instinctively felt a prejudice against the very idea of such cold, calculating, materialistic, scientific mating, as if one of the last fixed points were disappearing in the chaos of the social and sex upheaval.