Alice Brown.

The wind between the worlds online

. (page 5 of 17)
Online LibraryAlice BrownThe wind between the worlds → online text (page 5 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


had permitted himself one ; but indeed there was no slight-
est temptation. She was too deep in her bewildered
misery.

Why," she was saying now, in an impulsive conviction
impressive even to Dove, so that his eyes left Harvey and
turned searchingly on her, " if giving him every cent we've



62 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

got would bring such a discovery one minute nearer,
don't you see we're bound to give it? '

" She understands," broke in Dove, as if he felt his
triumph already in his hands. " Women don't reason;
they see. My daughter has seen from the first. She has
devoted herself to carrying it through."

Andrea gave him a grateful but also a wondering glance.
This was the first time she had known him to commend
the quality of her devotion. Harvey had stood thinking
while these last things were said, his wife's persuasions
and Dove's response. Now he turned to Dove with a
business man's succinctness when he comes to terms.

" I'll make you," he said, " a proposition."

Isabel Harvey, throwing Andrea a little smile, impul-
sively put out her hand. Andrea, grasping it, again
thought for a bewildering instant that shot into this pres-
ent interview like a ray of unexpected light, how strange
it was that this should be the mother of her lover who
had died. They clasped hands and stood there as if
allied in their impatience and their hope. But Dove, to
Andrea's amazement, expecting, as she had, to see him
give some sign of unequivocal joy, looked merely thought-
ful.

" I will bring," Harvey went on, " three scientific men
of the highest standing to this room to-morrow morning,
and you shall give them a demonstration."

" What do you mean by a demonstration? ' asked
Dove, frowning.

" Very little. I'm prepared to accept a minimum of
proof. If you get the message we have just read and
they agree that you get it legitimately '

" What do you mean by legitimately? ' put in Dove.

" I hardly know how to tell you," said Harvey frankly,
" without being offensive. For I'm not, as you see, a



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 63

scientific man. You could - - anybody could impose
almost any sort of ingenious trick on me

"Peter! " cried his wife. " Oh, you don't mean that!
No, Mr. Dove, he doesn't, not in the way it sounds."

She was begging Mr. Dove, it seemed, to show a leni-
ency of judgment her husband might not deserve but that
should benevolently be shown him on the score of his
ignorance of scientific values. But Dove took no notice
of her, only repeating thoughtfully to himself:

" A trick! " and then concluding: " What then? "

" If," continued Harvey, " they agree that, to the best
of their knowledge and belief, the flashes and accompany-
ing use of the code constitute a message, and that the
message cannot be accounted for by any data known to
them, I will stake you to the extent of five thousand
dollars."

The two women, with an according impulse, smiled at
each other, Mrs. Harvey tearful in her gratitude and
Andrea glowing. But Dove, looking deeply thoughtful,
repeated, as if to himself:

" Five thousand dollars."

He showed no sort of recognition of the offer in any per-
sonal sense, either gratitude or relief, and the two women,
surprised, each after the nature of her interest in the
question, turned to him with an identical desire of saving
the situation by prompting him to some sort of adequate
response. But Harvey had not looked for an impetuous
acceptance. He might not have been surprised at it, had
it come, but he was simply making a business proposition
and in the world where such things are commonplaces,
men hardly make an emotional matter of them. He con-
tinued:

' If within the next three months after receiving the
five thousand dollars you come upon any further result



64 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

that, by a consensus of scientific opinion to be determined
on later, is declared to be valid, I will form a company to
finance your work for the next ten years."

Again the two women mutely interrogated Dove who
still remained staring down at his shabby shoes and work-
ing his mouth, as if he had words but could not manage
them.

" Father! " Andrea said remindingly and left her place
at Mrs. Harvey's side to touch him on the arm.

Isabel, her face sweetly suffused, looked at her husband
gratefully.

" I knew you would," she said. " Phil knew it, or he
wouldn't have brought us here."

" Father! " Andrea prompted him. " You heard what
Mr. Harvey said."

" I heard Mm," said Dove, and though it was under his
breath it must have sounded ungracious to any hearers
less determined, for varying reasons, to show him
the tenderest consideration. Whatever his attitude might
be toward them and all the world beyond his laboratory,
his great need was apparent enough to ensure him special
privilege.

" Well," said Andrea, hesitating, " oughtn't you to
I'm sure we're so grateful, aren't we father? we're so re-
lieved."

Dove made no direct answer. He only repeated to
himself:

" A consensus of opinion of scientific men."

"Can you think of anything better?" asked Harvey.
" Isn't that what you'd want yourself? '

But now, to Andrea's unspeakable alarm, her father's
face settled into the querulous lines she knew. In the re-
juvenation he had been able to compass, at the beginning
of the interview, those lines had disappeared and, with



it
u



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 65

the piteous proneness of the human heart to accept joy
as permanent, she had thought them gone for good. And
now he was speaking, not to Harvey but to her, in the
old complaining key:

" Shouldn't you think there'd be enough faith left in
this world to take a man's own word, a man that's worked
as I have, that's stripped himself of everything

" You don't accept my conditions? ' Harvey's voice
came in curtly.

" I don't say that," said Dove, still with the inexpli-
cable implication of being driven to the wall. " I don't
say I don't accept them."

" If you can suggest anything fairer ' Harvey began,
and Dove answered querulously:

Oh, they're fair enough from your point of view."
But, father," Andrea prompted him, " they're all we
could ask for, all anybody could ask. They're splen-
did."

" Well, then," he said, in an angry desperation, " they
are splendid. I suppose you know."

"And," she still prompted him shyly but with persis-
tence, she was so desperately afraid of losing what he had
his hand on, " you accept them, don't you? Father! '
" Yes," he responded grudgingly, " I accept."
Peter Harvey, little as he expected outspoken gratitude,
did look at him in a humorous questioning. Still he did
not allow himself to be surprised. These might be the
ways of scientific men, queer ducks like artists and fel-
lows of that ilk, specially endowed.

" Then," he said, " I'll scare up my three scientists and
fetch them here for the first demonstration. To-mor-
row? "

" No," cried Dove, in a shrill violence, " not to-morrow."
" Ah ! " said Harvey interrogatively, ag if delay bred



66 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

doubt. " When shall I bring them? if not to-morrow the
day after? "

" No, no," said Dove, as if he had a right to fretful-
ness, he was being tried so far.

" Very well then, in a week? '

But instead of answering Dove turned to Andrea and
asked piteously, in the tone of a child who may on the in-
stant break down and sob from sheer tiredness:

" Don't you see I'm all in? "

" Peter! " said Isabel remindingly, and he at once took
up his hat to go. He was often bewildered by the out-
come of what he considered his commonplace endeavors
to make the way plain before some stumbling fellow who
couldn't find it. Here he was smoothing the path for this
irascible old gentleman who, instead of electing to go on
in it, was sitting down by the roadside bewailing the hard-
ships he had undergone in getting thus far. Yet there
was something perversely devilish in being " all in." It
came when you could least afford it. He'd seen men,
knocked out in that way, lose all their chances, too, poor
chaps ! through not being strong enough to ride the wave
when it came. Though maybe the man wasn't so old,
after all, not older than Harvey himself. It was a brute
of a world, he reflected, when a finely strung creature
could be worn to such unserviceable shreds.

" He's been working too hard," Isabel was saying to
Andrea, who, bewildered between the necessity of sooth-
ing her father and at the same time pressing him to his
own advantage, was merely looking piteous and saying
nothing.

" Working? ' Dove cried in the strident voice of acute
self-pity. " Of course I've worked too hard. Did you
ever hear of a man's discovering anything and not work-
ing himself into his grave? " He swayed a little and



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 67

turned again to Andrea as if he were frightened at his own
unstable poise. " I'm lightheaded," he muttered.
" Things look strange to me."

Isabel was bent on getting away as soon as possible.
Nothing, she saw, would compose him but Andrea with
whatever arts of soothing her accustomed tasks had
taught her. But when they were at the door and Harvey,
holding it open for his wife, turned to bow a grave fare-
well, Dove started forward.
" Don't forget," he cried, " I've accepted."
" Very well," said Harvey. " The offer's open."
"But give me a week," said Dove, in an inexplicable
tone of beseeching, " only a week."

" Of course," said Harvey kindly, " you shall have a
week."



VII

ANDREA stood at the door watching them while they got
into the car and looked back to wave a last good-bye. It
was, she gratefully felt, to assure her of their wordless
sympathy, to offer a renewed promise that whatever her
father would allow them to do, in the only way they
could do it, on that she might count. She closed the door
and came back to him where he stood clenching his hands
and ejaculating a word or two she could not catch. She
went up to him and gently touched one of the tense hands.

" Come, dear," she said, " lie down and let me cover
you. It's all settled. Don't you know it is? '

" Settled? " he threw at her. " They drive me into a
corner and you call it settled."

She had recovered her composure. It was necessary,
as necessary as that the nurse's calmness should keep pace
with the patient's mounting delirium.

" Never mind," she said. " Let's not argue it now."

" No," he said bitterly, " accept it. Accept anything
they offer, and say ' Thank you ' to them. But don't tell
me to lie down and sleep. What time have I for sleep
when I've got to be ready for them in a week from to-
day? "

"You were wise," she cajoled him, "to say a week.
That gives you time to get a little rested and me to ar-
range the rooms. We'll carry it off with a high hand.
You must have some clothes, dad. I see you, new trous-
ers, not those old shiny legs, new cravat '

68



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 69

He was not looking at her.

" God in heaven! ' he exclaimed, not wildly but con-
versationally and looking up as if quite sure the God in
heaven heard, " what shall I do? '

" You dread it, don't you? ' she asked tenderly. " I
wish you didn't. It doesn't seem as if you need."

" Who will they be? ' Again, though without looking
up, this time, he seemed to be interrogating the God in
heaven Who alone could sound his mortal misery.
" Scientists. Three scientists of standing."

She laughed a little, as if amusedly, but really coaxing
him to that plane of hope where the sanity of Harvey's
plan had led her, leaving her there secure with that last
reassuring wave from the car.

" Yes," she said, " who do you suppose they'll be?
Some of those young professors you used to have down
at Long Cliff when you talked about iodides and I had to
go to bed, you got so dull? Dad, I almost think you
made a mistake shutting yourself up years ago and not
seeing them any more. Perhaps this will start you off
and you'll begin again."

" Begin again! " he repeated, staring at her. " Take a
lot of sceptics on board, just when I'm setting out on my
big adventure? '

" That's a pretty way to put it," said she, still coaxing
him along as you might coax a child into a flowery mea-
dow out of the dusty road where the trials of the way
have been too much for him. " Sailing an adventure,
that's what it is. And you're Columbus and Mr. Harvey
is Queen Isabella and he's going to sell his jewels to fit
you out and presently you'll be calling * Land ho ! '
You're the captain, dad. You're the lookout, too; you're
the whole show."

" This next week," he said, " don't speak to me, don't



70 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

look at me, don't ask me to leave the house. I've got
the most damnable problem to work out that ever a man
had, and in one week."

" But dearest," said she, wondering, " you're ready for
them now. You've only to say ' how d'ye do ' to his pro-
fessors, or whatever they are, and take them in there and
let them see the thing work. They'll get the flashes, at
least, just as the Harvey s did, and hear it click out * In-
crease your power.' I trust it to do that. It wouldn't
fail us the one day when it could earn all that money
for you to go on with. It never'd be so mean as that."

Her father turned to her and regarded her steadily, a
look that reassured her as his manner of receiving the
Harveys had done, showing him so capable of the self-
control he lacked in his desultory intercourse with her
that she could believe him to be still a man of strength
and power.

" Andrea," said he, as if he were bent on impressing her
with the extreme importance of what he had to say,
" I've got nothing to show them; nothing, that is, a trained
mind would accept."

" But," she said, bewildered, " it said, ' Increase your
power.'

" It said it," he repeated bitterly. " Yes. And who
prompted it? who made it rap out the Morse code? I
did."

" You did? Then that means you've more control over
it than I thought. You can summon them, whoever they
are, and make them answer, and because they can't an-
swer fully they say, ' Increase your power.'

He stood looking at her a full minute, considering.
Perhaps he was wondering whether it was not wasteful,
one of those terrible traffics where we barter gold for
dross, to run the risk of losing her untouched belief in
him. But she was only an atom, as he was himself com-



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 71

pared with the colossal good he meant to bring about.
And at this stage she could help him more by acting with
him, her eyes open, than by following blindly on, armed
only with her unsupported confidence. That he might
lose her, he never for a moment guessed.

" Andrea," he said, "when I tell you I did it, I mean I
did it by a trick, a trick a mere student of the a b c's of
physics would detect at once."

" A trick? ' she repeated, only puzzled, as yet. It
must be, she thought, some eccentricity of what he was
pleased to call his mechanical toy.

" A trick," he said. " Nobody has called me from any
mysterious source. Nobody has asked me to increase
my power. But ' ' and now his gravity of composure
disappeared. The light she knew and dreaded had come
back into his eyes " but it remains just as much a fact
that that's what I've got to do. I've got to increase my
power. And what difference does it make whether I tell
a literal, hard-headed fellow like Harvey that I know
it's so, or whether I convince him by a harmless demon-
stration? '

" But, father," said Andrea, struggling with her dismay
and a growing terror of his mental processes, " you
wouldn't deceive those two."

" Wouldn't I? " said he grimly. " There isn't the man
or woman living I wouldn't deceive to bring me an inch
nearer my result. I don't know whether there's a man
or woman I wouldn't kill."

And, blankly thrown back upon her unprepared self,
all that occurred to her to say, was:

" Daddy, won't you lie down? "

Then ensued one of the strangest interviews she had
ever had with him. Up to this time she had known him
as children know their elders, without analysing, without
question. It had been the inherited partnership of love.



72 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

But now, of fixed purpose, he set out to translate himself
to her, to impress on her mind his real image because the
moment had come when only so, he believed, could she
serve his tremendous project. He sat down and pointed
to her chair and she was glad to take it.

" Andrea," said he, with that unchanged air of holding
her to an intent consideration of the fact before them,
" did you ever think what it is to be a scientist? !

" A scientist? " she repeated wearily.

She was disinclined to enter upon abstract explications.
It seemed to her he might give her a few sane facts to
feed on and prevent her life from being so unpalatably
queer as it was, so unlike the lives of other daughters who
had not incurred the fate of genius in a father. This was
the first time she had retreated from him far enough to
conceive their interests as separate and perhaps conflict-
ing. Up to this time she had not allowed herself to rec-
ognise any just desires of her own; but the moment of
facing Philip Harvey's picture had awakened in her a
bitterness of revolt that she, so young, had been called
upon to suffer such unformulated griefs. If she had
known the Harveys before their son died, known them as
his father and mother, so that she could have had some
friendly intercourse with them, a staff for her grief to
lean upon, then there would have been something natural
and bearable in it all. But he had come to her from the
skies, he had been withdrawn into the skies again, and the
familiar places that had known him on earth were closed
to her. And all this had stung her into a madness of re-
volt. For the first time she felt her youth had had its
rights and chance denied them to her. But she repeated
her father's word and, scarcely waiting for it, he went
on in his argument, desperately calculated, she saw, from
point to point, to move her.



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 73

" Yes, a scientist. Being a scientist is fighting your
way through every difficulty to the closed door."

" The closed door," she repeated, again wearily.

" That's what science does. She lets you open one door
after another; but you have to reach the door with such
struggling, and you're so weakened by the long way, by
hunger, by thirst! Andrea, think of the men that have
opened doors, and how they suffered, most of them, and
nobody believed and nobody cared. But they never
stopped for an instant trying to reach the one door they
were making for, to drag it open, so that others could
go through even over the dead body of the one that
opened it out into the light."

Still he was not moving her from her trance of self-
pity and he saw it and called on himself the more mightily,
with a louder voice. She did speak, but faintly and with
only a sad interest in what he said:

" Poor little father ! "

" You don't see it yet," he insisted, " that picture of
the door that'll stay closed till somebody offers up him-
self to open it. That's where I've got, Andrea, don't you
see? Right up to the door, and now, when my strength
is gone from fighting my way along, comes the hardest
task of all. I've got to fling myself at the door. I've got
to batter it down."

: Well, dear," she answered, " that's what I say.
You've made the long journey. We've made it together.
I've been there, too. I haven't left you for a minute." Her
mouth quivered, as if she wished he might remember this
again without her prompting. " And now," she said, call-
ing on her old cheerfulness, " Mr. Harvey is going to help
you batter down the door."

( Is he? " said Dove ironically. " Yes, I suppose he is.
He's going to work by these modern methods on a gi-



74 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

gantic scale everything in terms of horsepower and
fetch an armored tank and ram at the door and burst it
through. But I've got to stand with an electric torch in
front of it, to show the way. And the tank is going to
be full of his damned professors, and if I don't hold the
torch to suit 'em they'll run me down."

" Father," said Andrea, " I don't understand you."

" You'll understand me soon enough," he said drily.
" Harvey wants proof. Well, I've given him proof up to
his capacity for understanding it."

" You mean you showed him something you expected
him to take for truth."

"In a way, yes. An illustration it was, an illustra-
tion. If I could satisfy him to the point where he'd fi-
nance me, I could keep on in the line where I'm work-
ing and that would take me, not to any illustration, mind
you, but since we've talked of the door, to the open
door."

" It's a long way, little father," she said, with a wistful
tenderness. He had won her. She was not thinking of
herself now but altogether of him. " It's full of briers."

" I did trick him," he said, in a bitterness of retrospect.
" I turned out of my path for a minute, only a minute, and
took a short cut to satisfy a fool. Do you blame me for
taking a short cut when it was going to set me a million
miles further on? And now I'm back in the same old
path again, where the briers are, you said; and I'm far-
ther back than I was before, and the briers have grown.
My God! they've grown."

" You mean," said Andrea, puzzling him out, with diffi-
culty dragging after his wild lead, " that you deceived him
to persuade him into giving you the money and that now
he wants to put you to the proof and you can't " she
stopped.



THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS 75

If she said it, she was childishly afraid she might make
it so.

" Precisely," said he. " I can't make good."

" Father," said she, in a passion of revolt, " I can't be-
lieve it. I can't believe -

There she stopped, but his mind went on, supplying
the suppressed conclusion.

" You couldn't," he translated, " have believed I'd sell
myself to the devil. Well, I would for a ticket to par-
adise."

He was morally indifferent to the values they both had
in mind, tossing them lightly off as negligible, reckless
as youth, and she loved him suddenly with a heart beat-
ing in new understanding of his arrogance. He was not
pathetic to her; he was picturesque.

"But," she ventured to object, "that's not science."

" What's not science? "

" What you've done, taking your short cut. Science
you've said it yourself is truth, the only truth there is."

" There's more than one road to truth." And then, his
mind, in the intensity of its working, waking to imagery:
" When you've got to truth herself, you can shine up your
shield till she sees her face in it ; but while you're fighting
your way to her it gets as battered as an old moon."

Andrea's head was strained and dazed by these verbal
complexities, and she took refuge in fact.

" Well," she said, " we can't see them again."

" See whom? "

" The Harveys."

" Why not? "

" If we've cheated them " It was impossible to re-
gard herself except as part of him.

1 Good God! " he cried exasperated, " I'm not going to
keep on cheating them. What good would that do me,



76 THE WIND BETWEEN THE WORLDS

with his scientists coming to paw me over? He's as
sharp as lightning -

" You said he was a fool," she put in irrepressibly.

Already she loved the Harveys.

" Then/' said he, " I lied. He's a fool in a laboratory,
but that's only because he's had no training. I tell you
the man's bright as lightning. I've got to make good,
and I've got to do it in this one week. I've shown him the
flashes. I've faked a message. I've got to get that mes-
sage by some legitimate means that will satisfy his
three spies."

" How can you? " she wondered.

" How can I? If you're drowning, you swim. You
don't say, ' How can I? ' If a man hits out at you, you
strike first. You can because you must. I've got to sat-
isfy his conditions and, by God! I will."

" Father," said she, entirely bewildered now in her
search for the tortuous line between what she might and
might not believe, " isn't any of it true? '

" Any of it? " he repeated, staring at her.

" Yes. Haven't you really discovered olympium? '

He gave a cry, an inarticulate sound, stronger than
she could have imagined coming from his shrunk throat.

" Of course I have discovered olympium," he panted.
" It is a fact, as much a fact as radium. And it has
mysterious reactions, mysterious, I tell you. There's no
way to account for them, no way but one. They come
from outside our atmosphere. They are the work of
other intelligences trying to make themselves known.
I'd stake my life on it."

Heretofore she had accepted every statement he made


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAlice BrownThe wind between the worlds → online text (page 5 of 17)