“Walter,” he said, motioning to me, “look.”
I glanced into the eyepiece and saw a series of lines and curves, peculiar waves lapping together and making an appearance in some spots almost like tooth marks. Although I did not understand the details of the thing, I could readily see that by study one might learn as much about it as about loops, whorls, and arches on finger tips.
“The upper and lower lines,” he explained, “with long regular waves, on that highly magnified section of the record, are formed by the voice with no overtones. The three lines in the middle, with rhythmic ripples, show the overtones.”
He paused a moment and faced us. “Many a person,” he resumed, “is a biotype in whom a full complement of what are called inhibitions never develops. That is part of your eugenics. Throughout life, and in spite of the best of training, that person reacts now and then to a certain stimulus directly. A man stands high; once a year he falls with a lethal quantity of alcohol. A woman, brilliant, accomplished, slips away and spends a day with a lover as unlike herself as can be imagined.
“The voice that interests me most on these records,” he went on, emphasizing the words with one of the cylinders which he still held, “is that of a person who has been working on the family pride of another. That person has persuaded the other to administer to Eugenia an extract because ’it must be a boy and an Atherton.’ That person is a high-class defective, born with a criminal instinct, reacting to it in an artful way. Thank God, the love of a man whom theoretical eugenics condemned, roused us in—”
A cry at the door brought us all to our feet, with hearts thumping as if they were bursting.
It was Eugenia Atherton, wild-eyed, erect, staring.
I stood aghast at the vision. Was she really to be the Lady Madeline in this fall of the House of Atherton?
“Edith—I—I missed you. I heard voices. Is—is it true—what this man—says? Is my—my baby—”
Quincy Atherton leaped forward and caught her as she reeled. Quickly Craig threw open a window for air, and as he did so leaned far out and blew shrilly on a police whistle.
The young man looked up from Eugenia, over whom he was bending, scarcely heeding what else went on about him. Still, there was no trace of anger on his face, in spite of the great wrong that had been done him. There was room for only one great emotion—only anxiety for the poor girl who had suffered so cruelly merely for taking his name.
Kennedy saw the unspoken question in his eyes.
“Eugenia is a pure normal, as Dr. Crafts told you,” he said gently. “A few weeks, perhaps only days, of treatment—the thyroid will revert to its normal state—and Eugenia Gilman will be the mother of a new house of Atherton which may eclipse even the proud record of the founder of the old.”
“Who blew the whistle?” demanded a gruff voice at the door, as a tall bluecoat puffed past the scandalized butler.