Now, I saw that one great fact of life must always remain. We might ride in hydroaeroplanes, delve into the very soul by psychanalysis, perhaps even run our machines by the internal forces of radium—even marry according to Galton or Mendel. But there would always be love, deep passionate love of the man for the woman, love which all the discoveries of science might perhaps direct a little less blindly, but the consuming flame of which not all the coldness of science could ever quench. No tampering with the roots of human nature could ever change the roots.
I must say that I rather liked young Atherton. He had a frank, open face, the most prominent feature of which was his somewhat aristocratic nose. Otherwise he impressed one as being the victim of heredity in faults, if at all serious, against which he was struggling heroically.
It was a most pathetic story which he told, a story of how his family had degenerated from the strong stock of his ancestors until he was the last of the line. He told of his education, how he had fallen, a rather wild youth bent in the footsteps of his father who had been a notoriously good clubfellow, under the influence of a college professor, Dr. Crafts, a classmate of his father’s, of how the professor had carefully and persistently fostered in him an idea that had completely changed him.
“Crafts always said it was a case of eugenics against euthenics,” remarked Atherton, “of birth against environment. He would tell me over and over that birth gave me the clay, and it wasn’t such bad clay after all, but that environment would shape the vessel.”
Then Atherton launched into a description of how he had striven to find a girl who had the strong qualities his family germ plasm seemed to have lost, mainly, I gathered, resistance to a taint much like manic depressive insanity. And as he talked, it was borne in on me that, after all, contrary to my first prejudice, there was nothing very romantic indeed about disregarding the plain teachings of science on the subject of marriage and one’s children.
In his search for a bride, Dr. Crafts, who had founded a sort of Eugenics Bureau, had come to advise him. Others may have looked up their brides in Bradstreet’s, or at least the Social Register. Atherton had gone higher, had been overjoyed to find that a girl he had met in the West, Eugenia Gilman, measured up to what his friend told him were the latest teachings of science. He had been overjoyed because, long before Crafts had told him, he had found out that he loved her deeply.
“And now,” he went on, half choking with emotion, “she is apparently suffering from just the same sort of depression as I myself might suffer from if the recessive trait became active.”
“What do you mean, for instance?” asked Craig.
“Well, for one thing, she has the delusion that my relatives are persecuting her.”
“Persecuting her?” repeated Craig, stifling the remark that that was not in itself a new thing in this or any other family. “How?”