Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.
THE Scottish-born author Robert Duncan Milne, who lived and worked in San Fransisco, may be considered as one of the founding-fathers of modern science-fiction. He wrote 60-odd stories in this genre before his untimely death in a street accident in 1899, publishing them, for the most part, in The Argonaut and San Francisco Examiner.
In its report on Milne's demise (he was struck by a cable-car while in a state of inebriation) The San Fransico Call of 17 December 1899 summarised his life as follows:
"Mr. Milne was the son of the late Rev. George Gordon Milne, M.A., F.R.S.A., for forty years incumbent of St. James Episcopal Church, Cupar-Fife. and nephew of Duncan James Kay, Esq., of Drumpark, J.P. and D.L. of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, through which side of the house, and by maternal ancestry (through the Breadalbane family), he was lineally descended from King Robert the Bruce.
"He received his primary education at Trinity College, Glenalmond, where he distinguished himself by gaining first the Skinner scholarship, which he held for a period of three years; second, the Knox prize for Latin verse, the competition for which is open to a number of public echools in England and Ireland, and thirdly, the Buccleuch gold medal as senior and captain of the school, of the eleven of which he was also captain.
"From Glenalmond Mr. Milne proceeded to Oxford, where he further distinguished himself by taking honors, also rowing in his college eight and playing in its eleven.
"After leaving the university he decided to visit California, a country then beginning to be more talked about than ever, and he afterward made the Pacific Coast his residence. In 1874 Mr. Milne invented and exhibited in the Mechanics' Fair at San Francisco a working model of a new type of rotary steam engine, which was pronounced to be the wonder of the fair.
"While in California Mr. Milne for a long time gained distinction as a writer of short stories and verse which appeared in current periodicals. The character of his work was well defined by Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, who said:
"'He has an extravagant imagination, but under it is a reassuring and scientific mind. He takes such a premise as a comet falling into the sun, and works out a terribly realistic series of results: or he will invent a drama for Saturn which might well have grown out of that planet's conditions. His style is so good and so convincing that one is apt to lay down such a story as the former, with an anticipation of nightmare, if comets are hanging about. His sense of humor and literary taste will always stop him the right side of the grotesque.'"
I HAPPENED to drop in the other day at the office of a friend of mine, a physician and surgeon of high reputation, with whom I am intimate, to indulge in a social chat of a quarter of an hour or so, as I often do, if he is not busy, during which he is accustomed to tell me of anything new there may happen to be at the time in therapeutical science. On the occasion in question I found my friend with something of a preoccupied air, and thinking it likely that he did not wish to be disturbed at the moment, I was about to walk out, remarking, "I see you are busy, and will look in some other time," when he called me back.
"No," he said, "I am glad you have come. I have just received a letter from an old friend, which recalls one of the strangest experiences of my life, and one of the strangest, if not the most so, in the annals of surgery. You are not in a hurry? Sit down there, and I will tell you about it, as I am sure it will interest you.
"I don't think I ever told you," went on the doctor, as I took a chair, "about a remarkable surgical operation I once performed in the matter of transfusion of blood. You are aware, possibly, of the pathology of the operation, and perhaps, in what cases and to what extent it is considered admissible in ordinary practice; as, for instance, cases of debility arising from hemorrhage or other causes. You perhaps also know that a good deal has been done in demonstrating the benefits accruing from this operation; experiment showing that the transfusion of the blood of some even of the lower animals, such as calves, into the veins of man has been attended with no ill effects, but, on the contrary, has been productive of marked benefit; the difference in quality of the corpuscles, and other molecular constituents of the blood, having seemingly thrown no obstacle in the way of assimilation."
I signified my assent, and the doctor proceeded.
IT is, of course, (he continued) very easy to understand why animals should be used in these experiments more frequently than man. They are much more easily obtainable, for one reason. It is not always possible to secure good human subjects who will be willing to part with a portion of their blood for a consideration. But it is not this point particularly that I wish to dwell upon, either, but rather upon the method in which transfusion is usually carried on—that is to say, by the use of artificial tubing to connect the vein of the person supplying the blood with that of the person receiving it; the fluid being forced through such connecting tube by a syringe or some other device. Such methods I have always considered clumsy and unsatisfactory, being liable to cause coagulation of the fluid in transitu through exposure to the air, and for other reasons which I need not go into. I had, furthermore, been always on the look-out for an opportunity to test the practicability and benefit of a method of applying this process, which I conceived would obviate every difficulty at present besetting it. That opportunity at last arrived, and though I have hitherto forborne speaking about it, the letter which I have just received, and will presently read to you, has recalled the matter forcibly to my mind. So, if you have half an hour to spare, I will tell you about it.
Some months ago I was introduced to an English gentleman of wealth and family, who was then making San Francisco his headquarters, as I afterwards learned, with the expectation of meeting his son, who had set out about a year before to make the tour of the world by the Eastern route. The father being, as I said, a man of ample means, conceived the idea, several months ago, of meeting his son at this point, whence they could travel homeward in company. The young man, it seems, being of an inquiring turn of mind, had been making many detours and spending more time upon the trip than was originally intended, and thus it came about that the elder Mr. Wycherly, his father, was making a correspondingly longer stay in San Francisco than he had proposed. Community of tastes in one or two particulars threw us much together, and one day it was arranged that we should make a duck-shooting expedition to some convenient quarter; Mr. Wycherly being, like most Englishmen of means, passionately fond of sport, and I, as you know, rather a devoted follower of Nimrod myself. Tomales Bay was the locality selected in which to exhibit our prowess, and thither accordingly one fine morning we went with the intention of taking a three days' holiday, as I could just then leave my practice comfortably in the hands of my assistant.
We carried with us the usual sporting outfit in charge of one man, and taking the North Coast road, made our headquarters at Tomales, where we were within easy distance of the water. Tomales Bay is, as perhaps you know, the paradise of duck-hunters in its season. I do not mean, however, to become enthusiastic over it at present, as that is not what I have to talk about. Suffice it to say that our first day's sport was good, Wycherly proving himself a crack shot and a wary one, while I was surprised to find myself in as good trim as I was, considering the innocuous desuetude, as regards game, into which I had fallen of late.
Things, however, were not destined to go on with their primary smoothness, as our second day's venture proved. Just as we were in the act of pushing off shore—I was already in the boat and had hold of the bow oar, while Wycherly made a spring, and as luck would have it, either forgetting where the guns were or miscalculating his leap, landed just where his left foot caught somewhere about the locks of one of them, thus letting it off and pouring the whole charge of shot into his right leg. He instantly fell backward upon the stern seat, while the man, who was just then on the point of springing after him, seeing what was the matter, turned his energies to dragging the boat back to land instead.
In a moment I was at the wounded man's side, and, with the help of our attendant, at length got him safely laid upon the beach. Unluckily, I had left my pocket case of instruments at the hotel when I changed my coat that morning, and so was handicapped from the start, so to speak, but I very soon had my friend's right trouser-leg, from the bottom of which, blood was welling copiously, ripped with my pocket knife and then I saw what damage had been done. From the position of the wound and the spouting of the blood it was easy to see that the posterior tibial artery had been severed, and that if prompt measures were not taken, my friend would very soon bleed to death; so, as a temporary measure, and indeed the only thing that could be done in the case, I made the ordinary tourniquet from my handkerchief and a bit of stick, and succeeded in partially stopping the hemorrhage.
The next thing to be done was to convey the wounded man where he could be attended to. We were more than a mile from our quarters, and I scoured the country in every direction with my eyes, in the hope of seeing some wagon or other conveyance by which he could be safely and expeditiously carried. There was nothing in sight on the land side—not so much as a house, even—and only one or two boats upon the bay, which were too far off to be of any service. Something had to be done at once, as there was no telling how long such a tourniquet as I had made would hold, so I conceived the idea of making some sort of a stretcher from the oars, which we did by binding the four of them together with braces cut from the boat's painter—a rough contrivance, you will say, but it served the occasion, for Wycherly had fainted away, and we could not have carried him at all without some appliance of the sort.
Well, in a few minutes we had our stretcher ready, and setting him on it as comfortably as we could, we each took our end, and began our march homeward. Our progress, as you can imagine, was slow, as Wycherly, though not a heavy man, weighed somewhere about a hundred and sixty pounds, while the oars were something; and the man who had hold of the blade ends of the outer pair, having very considerately left the handles to his employer, was much worried by the sharp edges, as I could very well see, though he bore it with stoical fortitude. It is to be hoped that the extra douceur he got for the day's work, accompanied by a valuable prescription of my own, proved an indemnifying salve for sore hands.
We struck across the rolling pasture land to the east of the bay, trudging along with our unconscious burden, the man ahead and myself in the rear, so as to keep a watchful eye upon my friend, and had gone perhaps a quarter of a mile or so when I observed, with anxiety, that the uneasy locomotion to which the body was subjected was beginning to tell upon the bandages of the wounded leg, though I had bolstered it up as well as I could with what spare coats we had.
Just as I was considering the advisability of setting the stretcher down, to examine the matter more closely, we suddenly came in sight of a farm-house, some fifty yards off, now for the first time seen from the top of the rising ground we were then crossing. It was one of those dairy ranches common in Marin and other pasturing counties, being simply a collection of corrals, with some frame buildings devoted to dairying purposes and the accommodation of the dairyman and his help. The main building, however, which I had no difficulty in assigning to the family mansion, was spacious, trim, and substantial; and the neat, well kept air of the corrals and outbuildings, with their simple background of undulating, green pastures, stretching far as the eye could reach, formed a pleasing picture of Arcadian calm, very delightful at any time, but more particularly so at that moment to a man in my position with a dead weight of two hundred pounds upon his hands, and the distressing feeling that the weight might become dead in more senses than one, unless a haven of rest was speedily reached. At the same time my fellow-martyr in front cast an inquiring glance over his left shoulder, with a nod at the house, which I answered with its correlative of assent, and so we directed our steps to the front door.
Before getting there, I had mentally resolved to take no denial on the part of the inmates should they seem disposed to refuse shelter to the wounded man; for my experience had made me aware that the dictates of humanity are frequently overborne by those of interest, or expedience, or fear of trouble, or what not; and I determined to use all my diplomacy and knowledge of human nature to meet any opposition by the arguments best calculated to overcome it—in short, if avarice could be touched where humanity was obdurate, there should be no lack of golden persuasives.
My fears, however, turned out to be groundless, as our reception was all that could be desired. The two girls who came to the door at our knock, started back with a cry of alarm, as was natural, at seeing us, which quickly brought a stout, motherly-looking female, who was at first similarly affected; but this speedily turned to sympathy when they learned the true state of the case and what was required of them. Before we had done talking, an open-faced, middle-aged man—whom I readily divined to be the master of the place—joined the group, and the necessary permission was granted to take the wounded man, who was just beginning to regain consciousness, inside, where a comfortable apartment was placed at our disposal.
Nor was it a bit too soon, for the system of compression I had been obliged to use proved too weak for the great iliac artery, to which the tourniquet had been applied, and just as we laid Wycherly on a couch, the torrent of which I had been apprehensive burst forth again, to the consternation of the good people of the house. I was now, however, in a much better position to act than on the beach by the boat, and was able to establish compression at the severed point, as well as higher up the leg, and by the time the man—whom I had dispatched on horseback for my instruments immediately on our arrival—returned, I had the case well under control. Suffice it to say, that in a very short time afterward the wounded man was doing as well as could be expected, the only cause of alarm now being the extreme weakness incident to the great loss of blood he had experienced and the risk of secondary hemorrhage.
It was while watching by Wycherly's bedside—it was early morning when the accident occurred—that I evolved the plot which forms the gist of my story, and before noon I had my scheme matured. The sick man had so far recovered consciousness that I was able to administer stimulants, but I felt convinced that unless drastic measures were taken, the chances were against his eventually rallying from so great a drain upon the life-fountains of his system; for when a man gets to be five and forty, as I knew Wycherly to be, no matter how robust his constitution, he does not possess the recuperative powers of a man fifteen years his junior.
I therefore determined to try transfusion, and transfusion it should be. To tell the truth, I rather congratulated myself, from a professional point of view, that chance had thrown in my way such a splendid opportunity for demonstrating the superiority of my pet theory. I also determined that no transfusion of the blood of any vulgar animal would suffice in this case, but that, by hook or by crook, I would secure the youngest and richest human blood procurable, to flow in the place of what my friend Wycherly had lost. My intuition told me that on fat pasture lands like these, breathing the pure air of an exhilarating climate, living upon the most substantial of fare, perfectly assimilated by healthful out door exercise, there must be vigorous specimens of manhood among the numerous henchmen whom our dairyman employed.
It was then with feelings akin to those of a hunter who stalks down the stateliest buck of a herd after he has marked him for his own, that I eagerly watched for the advent of the help at the time of the noon-day meal, and critically scrutinized the physical points of each, as singly, or in groups, they passed beneath the window where I stood.
Nor was I disappointed. Among the dozen or two of heads that passed by, I saw two whom I instinctively singled out as those who must serve my turn, and minister to my friend's welfare by supplying from the stream of their lives to supplement and replenish his. Fine, strong, clear-skinned, strapping lads of some twenty summers they were, evidently of Teutonic origin, perhaps a trifle slow and heavy in their movements, but upon one point there was no doubt; it did not require a second glance at their ruddy cheeks to assure one less knowing than a surgeon, on such matters, that they possessed a practically unlimited store, so far as my purpose was concerned, of the pure life-fluid of which I was in quest But as I revolved the matter in my mind, I soon saw that there would be immense difficulties in the way of getting either of these lads—for one was enough—to lend himself to my scheme. Innocent as the operation really was, and if anything, rather beneficial than otherwise to persons of a plethoric habit and redundancy of blood, like these Teutonic youths, I was fain to admit to myself that dairymen are not usually adepts in surgery, and that I should encounter a probable barrier or prejudice and opposition at the bare mention of such a thing as having their veins opened and blood taken from their bodies.
Then I weighed the possibilities of securing their acquiescence by a concealment of the true nature of the operation, and again by tempting their cupidity by what would certainly seem to them an extraordinary recompense for their services; and again, by bringing the authority of their employer to bear—a most potent argument with the German race.
Finally, I decided to try all three, and as there was no time to lose, I at once sought out Mr. Gudehus, the owner of the ranch, and set my plans and wishes plainly and unreservedly before him. He at first seemed puzzled and averse to the proposition. They were brothers, he said, relatives of his own, and two of the best hands he had. He did not like the idea of letting them do anything by which they might come to harm, and besides, he must look at the loss to his business as well as their own. I plied him with arguments about Wycherly's financial position, as well as my own reputation; I staked my honor as a physician that no harm should befall the young men, and finally put the coup de grace to his scruples, by bringing out two hundred dollars, all the money Wycherly and I had with us, which I placed in his hands to be given to the young men if they would consent to undergo a short and almost painless operation for the relief of the sick man above; an operation, I urged, which while it might keep them a day or two from work afterwards, would bring them as much as two months' wages. Mr. Gudehus at last consented to speak to the lads about it, and presently came back to say that they agreed to the terms, provided it did not entail much pain.
Luckily I had some cocaine with me and succeeded in so anaesthetizing the surface portion of the arm about the region of the median vein, that they did not even feel the incision when I opened it, which I did first of one and then of the other; accomplishing a satisfactory transfusion into Wycherly's arm at the same spot, despite the fact that I had to improvise an apparatus out of a syringe and some tubing which I found in my case. My point, however, was gained. I had succeeded in saving my friend's life for the moment, at least; I had also sent the two youths away in high spirits at having earned two months' wages in a couple of hours and with the admonition not to do any more work till I saw them again.
My patient slept fairly, and woke in the morning past any temporary danger, though still exceedingly weak. I had telegraphed down to San Francisco the preceding afternoon, and received, by the first train, such instruments and appliances as I had ordered to be sent me. Consequently, when I again called upon my German youths, during the course of the afternoon, I was enabled to conduct the operation of transfusion to my complete satisfaction. Healthy reparatory inflammation had also set in about the divided artery, and everything was progressing as nicely as possible. Such of the shot as had lodged in the tissues of the limb I did not think it advisable to disturb for the present.
By the third morning things looked still better. The transfusion system was working admirably, and I was beginning to look forward to a speedy recovery, when the very thing I most dreaded happened. I had left the room for a few minutes with my patient resting comfortably, but the attendant whom I summoned to take my place had failed to respond, and, on my return, what was my horror to see that the ligature had burst, the bed-clothes were drenched with blood, and the deadly pallor on my friend's unconscious face, with the weak and intermittent jets of blood from the re-opened artery, told me but too plainly that he was already almost past human aid. Hastily applying a styptic and compress, I again tied up the blood-vessel, meantime shouting lustily for Fritz and Wilhelm, who happened to be near by, and came running in with some other members of the family. I knew that not only speedy measures must be taken, but that these measures must also be such as to insure their effectiveness.
It was highly questionable whether there was sufficient blood left in the sick man to preserve the valvular action of the heart and the circulatory system, even with what was added by the ordinary slow and clumsy process of transfusion; in which, as you know, there are drawbacks in the matter of the coagulation of the fluid in its passage through the tubing connecting the veins of supply and receipt, and other matters which I need not here go into.
In great emergencies ideas are vivid and thought quick. Before Fritz and Wilhelm had bared their arms my plan was laid. I recollected having seen that morning the carcass of a newly- killed calf hanging up in the slaughter shed. I bade some one run and fetch me that part of the offal of the animal which contains the heart and neighboring organs. When these arrived, finding them still warm, I selected a blood-vessel somewhat larger than those I was about to cut, and speedily had four pieces of about an inch in length ready for use. I then led Fritz to the left- hand side of the bed, and at once severed the cephalic branch of the median vein of his right arm at the elbow. Raising the left arm of the unconscious and dying man from the bed, I made Fritz sit down so as to bring them nearly to a level, and cut the same vein at the same place.
Though, as you know, this vein lies close beneath the surface of the skin, and is, therefore, easily handled, it required some delicate manipulation to effect my purpose, which was to connect the lower extremity of Fritz's vein with the upper of Wycherly's, and vice versa. To do this I slipped the cut pieces of the calf's blood-vessel over the cut extremities of Wycherly's vein, and then worked away until I got the corresponding ends of Fritz's vein inserted into the other ends of the calf's vein, which, as you will see, served precisely the same purpose as the joint used in connecting two pieces of metal pipe, having, as before, anaesthetized the parts with cocaine so as to prevent him from wincing and spoiling the operation. After completing the connection, with very little loss of blood on the part of Fritz—Wycherly had none to lose—I brought the arms of both men close together, locking them at the elbows, and bandaging them tightly in that position, so as to obviate any risk of breaking the connection by either voluntary or involuntary movement. Then I took Wilhelm around to the right side of the bed, and connected his left arm in the same manner with Wycherly's right.
You will, of course, see what would be the result of this. A complete and perfect connection had now been formed with the circulatory organs of the men—they formed, in fact, one circulatory system. At every pulse-beat of the two youths at Wycherly's side, blood was injected into his veins, finding its way to his heart, thence through the brachial arteries back to the extremities of his arms, and on its return passage through his ulnar veins, being transfused in turn into the vessels of Fritz and Wilhelm.
Some physiologists assert that it takes but four minutes for the blood to pulsate through a complete circuit of the system, from the heart to the extremities and back again to the heart. Be this as it may, no perceptible effect was noticeable upon Wycherly for half an hour. It is true he was being supplied with the life-giving fluid from two sources, but they were by no means abundant ones, and besides out of thirty odd pounds of blood which a healthy man possesses, I am afraid to say how much he had lost. In the case of the youths, however, it was different. A critical observer would have detected a very appreciable diminution in the rosy color of their faces, and in order that they might not themselves become alarmed at any feeling of weakness, which, robust and full-blooded as they were, I knew that they could not help experiencing from the sudden and unusual drain upon their systems, I ordered some bottles of the best wine the establishment afforded to be brought, and administered it to them freely, at the same time diverting their thought as much as possible from the solemn complexion of the matter in hand. This, of course, had the equally desirable effect of increasing the rapidity of the circulation, and promoting the desired end. Meantime I busied myself again with my patient's artery, taking every precaution against a recurrence of the disastrous and well nigh fatal hemorrhage of the morning.
By the time I had got through, I noticed with intense pleasure that the color was returning to Wycherly's cheeks; his face, at least, was losing that deadly pallor which characterized it half an hour before, and presently he opened his eyes and looked inquiringly around. It was evident that his life was saved, and that the measures I had employed had been the means of doing it. About half an hour afterwards Fritz and Wilhelm became restive, said that it was nearly dinner time, and asked when they might go. I explained to them that to move from the position they were in, much less to have the bandages taken from their arms would entail the death of the sick man; that their meals would be brought to them there, and that they would even have to sleep just where they were; also that I could not tell exactly how long this condition of things would last, but that while it did they would get twenty dollars a day apiece for their services after that day, for which they would get a hundred dollars apiece. The sight of the gold which I counted to each of them—having received a supply that morning from Wycherly's bankers—and which he pocketed with his available hand, removed the last trace of discontent. The youths had evidently made up their minds that the profitable nature of their present occupation counterbalanced its inconveniences.
From that day on Wycherly's recovery was steady and rapid. Within a week his appetite returned, his wounded leg was out of danger of the recurrence of hemorrhage, and had it not been that I did not judge it safe for him to use the limb yet, he was strong enough to have been up and about. Meantime though, Fritz and Wilhelm chafed at the restraint which bound them to a most uncomfortable position, the golden twenty which I paid them promptly each day, kept them in fairly good humor. Besides, a sort of mutual rapprochement had been established between Wycherly and his fellow-prisoners. He was a capital story-teller and kept them in good humor during the day, while at night he insisted that it was much more comfortable for all concerned to enjoy a comfortable repose together, to which end two additional wings were added to the bed. Several more days elapsed, until one morning I considered it safe for the invalid to rise from his bed and take out-door exercise.
You no doubt wonder why, if my friend was so far recovered as to admit of this, I did not at once sever the connection which bound him to the two young Germans. It was partly because, upon removing the bandages from the arms on the day previous, I had discovered that not only had the veins grown together at the severed points, but that the edges of the skin round the incisions through which the veins protruded had also met and adhered with a healthy granulation; and I was loth to spoil an experiment at a most interesting stage, more especially as none of the parties thereto objected. It was partly, too, from some observations I had made which suggested a peculiar train of thought.
Was it fancy, I asked myself, or was it fact that Wycherly was becoming structurally and organically affected by the new blood which was now circulating through his system? Could the mere transfusion of ordinary blood into his veins have given the freshness of look, the elasticity and buoyancy of spirits which were now his, to a man who, scarcely two weeks before, had been upon the bed of death? And could it be possible, on the other hand, that I detected a somewhat older look in the German lads who formed part and parcel of this curious physical trinity? It was with a view to observe more closely and thoroughly both the surgical and physical aspects of the case that I decided to preserve the status quo for a time at any rate; a course I had no difficulty in pursuing, as Wycherly confided implicitly in my judgment, and the German youths were plastic and complaisant.
Up to this time, at my friend's request, I forbore to send any intimation to his friends at home regarding the serious accident that had befallen him, as he feared to cause them unnecessary alarm. Now, however, he requested me to write them a full account of the matter, and also of his rapid convalescence. There were, he told me, only three members of his household proper, now that himself and son were absent, and all of these were ladies, namely, his aged mother, his sister, and a young lady, a distant relative, who was betrothed to his son.
Before this letter was dispatched the China mail brought news from his son, who it seemed had by that time got to Japan, and who wrote to say that he found that country so interesting that he did not propose to leave it for a month to come, so that his father need not expect him before that time. Wycherly said, laughing, that, as matters stood, the delay in this instance was perhaps just as well; but told me to put a postscript to that effect in the letter I was writing to his folks, for the benefit of the young man's sweetheart, Miss Tremaine; adding that though she would no doubt feel disappointed at the news, as the wedding had been fixed for his return from his tour, it was only right that she should be kept informed of her lover's movements.
From this time on, a most remarkable physiological change began to take place in the three beings who were so curiously linked together by their circulatory system. There was no doubt in my mind that my first surmise was correct. The trio were evidently fast becoming assimilated in physical features and conditions. Wycherly was indeed growing younger while his companions were growing proportionately older.
Once I was able to grasp and recognize this dominant fact, I found myself wondering not so much at the fact per se, as at the rapidity with which the change was being accomplished. I could only account for this last feature of the strange metamorphosis by remembering that the blood now coursing in the veins of this strange partnership was, in the first instance almost wholly that of the young Germans, as Wycherly's vessels were well nigh drained at the commencement of the trial. He, therefore, took a fresh start, so to speak, in life with a large capital of new blood, and since then he had only been contributing one-third of the supply to the common stock or partnership circulation. Accordingly only one-third of the common blood was being assimilated by old organs, while two-thirds were being assimilated by young and robust ones. In addition to this, Wycherly's assimilative organs were being fed, and their waste carried off, by blood which was day by day becoming younger as the process went on. It was, therefore, impossible to escape the mathematical conclusion that Wycherly would grow younger with a rapidity in inverse ratio to the time during which the process was carried on; while at the same time Fritz and Wilhelm would grow older, till a stable equilibrium in the physical condition of the trio was reached.
In other words Wycherly would grow young twice as fast as Fritz and Wilhelm would grow old; and the rate of this rejuvenescence would be just twice as great before the point of equilibrium was reached as it had been when the process began. It required, therefore, merely the simplest computation to perceive that if Wycherly's age was forty-five at the commencement of the process, while Fritz's and Wilhelm's were twenty respectively, the formula would stand thus: 45 + 20 + 20 3 = 28 1/3; and as Wycherly had certainly grown more than five years younger, while the German youths already looked at least four-and-twenty apiece, I confidently looked forward to the time, and that at no distant date, when I should have the satisfaction of seeing before me three robust young men of twenty-eight; at which time there would no longer be any occasion to maintain their enforced union, and I should again have to subject the trio to another surgical operation. I further calculated that the state of equilibrium in age would be reached in about a month from then, so that by the time my friend's son arrived from Japan, there would be but the slight disparity between twenty-three and twenty-eight in their respective ages.
It must not be supposed, however, that my operations were allowed to progress without notice or remark on the part of outsiders. It already began to be whispered about the ranch that Fritz and Wilhelm were beginning to look old, though they themselves stoutly denied it, declaring that they never felt better or stronger in their lives; and why should they not, considering that they were living comfortably upon the best of diet, and gradually advancing to the strongest and hardiest period of a young man's life?
With Wycherly, however, it was different. He had not yet begun to grasp the true scope of what was going on, and feeling in such perfect health and spirits as he did, he could not help asking me why I continued an apparently needless operation for such a length of time. I dared not explain the true state of the case to him in so many words, as that would have simply been to expose the whole matter to Fritz and Wilhelm, who understood English well, and were not devoid of a certain kind of intelligence. So I hit upon the expedient of putting my answer in writing, and handing it to him in the form of a letter, stating just what was then taking place in his system, and expressing the hope that he would see the experiment through, both upon the broad plane of scientific research and the personal one of the physical benefit to himself. I did not, however, go into particulars as to the extent of the change I anticipated; for that, after all, was merely theory as yet, and I did not care to peril my chances by referring to what, to some men, might have seemed objectionable from a moral or religious standpoint. I therefore merely stipulated that he would consent to continue the experiment for three weeks from date, or the day before the arrival of the China steamer bringing his son was due. This he finally agreed to, and there being no demur on the part of the young dairymen, the thing was settled.
I was not disappointed in my expectations. The process of equalization went on just as I had laid it out. Day by day Wycherly got brighter looking, more vigorous, and more buoyant, while Fritz and Wilhelm walked with perhaps a slight loss of elasticity, and gained a trifle in facial gravity. The ranch people had now begun to look with indifference upon the, at first, curious spectacle of three men walking inseparably, arm- in-arm, with odd-looking coats upon them—for the women folks had been called upon to extemporize something in the shape of capotes to cover the shoulders, and some sort of comforters for the pinioned arms of the trio—but now, as I say, owing to long use, and the assurance that the eccentricity of the wealthy Englishman and his San Francisco doctor would not last beyond a certain day, as I had purposely caused to be given forth, little fresh interest was taken in the matter.
Two days before the Japanese steamer was due I decided that the limit of equalization had been reached, and prepared to cut my long-linked trio of patriots loose from each other and give them their freedom once more. I carefully separated the skin of the arms, which had grown together, till the veins were once more exposed. I do not say that I was surprised to find that the coats of the joined veins had so completely grown to the joint of vascular membrane I had used to connect them that I was obliged to sever this latter in every case, after which the operation of reconnecting the vessels in their pristine positions was one of very ordinary surgery. In a very few moments the arms of all were bandaged up, and each member of the trio once more an independent circulating medium for his own blood. The altered appearance of Wycherly, though in the highest degree striking to me who had known him as he was prior to the accident, excited no surprise among the dairy people who had first seen him in a death-like swoon, and who attributed his altered looks solely to returning health.
As for the young men who had become prematurely matured through keeping company with an invalid, no one thought anything of it and no one pitied them, as they had been paid liberally for their loss of vitality. Wycherly, however, upon his return to the city, sent each of them a check for an amount which amply represented the earnings of the eight years of life which they had lost—for I supposed, and suppose yet, that they actually did so. We then returned in company to the city—where, by the way, you must remember I had been a daily visitor for the last six weeks, merely spending an occasional night with my patient—we, that is I and the young English gentleman in the ill-fitting clothes, in whom not even his most intimate friend would longer recognize the somewhat sedate, middle-aged country squire who had accompanied me to Tomales Bay on a duck-shooting expedition some two months before, and who had suddenly been called home on important business. A fashionable tailor was next called in, who soon fitted out young Mr. Wycherly in the most approved fashion, at twenty-four hours' notice, after which he engaged quarters at one of our best hotels. It was arranged that we should meet next morning, and go together to the China steamer; which we accordingly did, getting to the wharf just as she tied up.
"Do you think he will recognize you?" I asked, jokingly, as my friend stepped eagerly aboard.
"Never fear," he replied. "If there is any doubt about the matter I can easily refresh his memory," and together we walked to the cabin.
"Is Mr. Wycherly on board—Mr. Stephen Wycherly?" asked my friend of one of the stewards whom we met at the entrance. "If so, please conduct me to his stateroom, or tell me where I am likely to find him."
"Mr. Wycherly?" replied the man, starting; "why—oh, yes, I remember. Please to wait, sir, till I call one of the officers, or the purser," and he darted off.
Presently we observed one of the officers coming forward, conversing with the steward who had just left us. As he came up to us he bowed gravely, and said:
"I grieve to tell you, gentlemen, that Mr. Wycherly died on the passage here, and was buried at sea. If you will accompany me to the surgeon's cabin he will supply you with all the particulars," and he led the way aft.
Sorrowfully I followed the grief-stricken parent, whose bowed head and unsteady step showed the violence of the blow.
"I am speaking to Mr. Wycherly's brother, I presume," said the surgeon, after the officer had explained the motive of our coming, turning to my companion. "The resemblance is so striking that I do not think that I can be mistaken, though I should say you were slightly his senior."
"His father," returned my friend simply.
"His father!" repeated the surgeon in a tone of surprise; then, immediately making amends for his breach of politeness, "Excuse me; if you will come inside, I will show you my books."
It turned out that poor Stephen, my friend's son—his own name, also—had been taken down with dysentery on the sixth day out from Yokohama, and had never rallied from the attack. His effects were handed over to the father, and in a very different and sadder spirit than we had entered half an hour before, did we leave the ship.
"Did you remark," I said to my friend next day, as he sat in my office—just where you are sitting now—he had recovered somewhat, and was more disposed to accept the inevitable, "did you remark the surgeon's expression of incredulity when you said you were the father of the Mr. Wycherly who died on the passage? It may turn out yet that you will have trouble in establishing your identity. I can, of course, vouch for it, but it has just struck me that my testimony would stand alone—it would be unsupported by any third party, as no third party has been witness to what has transpired since your departure from this city, a middle-aged man, till your return to it, a young one. And then is it likely that my story would gain undisputed credence, seeing that it is as yet altogether unparalleled in the annals of science? I have serious misgivings about it should it ever be put to the test in a court of law."
"Make yourself easy on that point," returned Wycherly, with something of heat in his tone. "As for the people here, it does not matter to me what they think, and, as to my friends at home, is it reasonable to suppose that they would fail to recognize one who is thoroughly conversant with each detail of our family affairs? You need have no apprehension on that score."
"I hope it may turn out as you say," I remarked dubiously, and not without a qualm of conscience regarding the part I had played in bringing about a consummation which looked as unfavorable from one standpoint as it did favorable from another.
Just then my servant entered with a card. I started on reading it, and handed it to Wycherly.
"Miss Gertrude Tremaine!" he ejaculated, in surprise. "But how—how—"
"The lady has come to inquire regarding Mr. Wycherly—Mr. Stephen Wycherly," said the boy, "and wants to know where he can be seen. She is outside in the anteroom."
"Show her in," said I, and immediately a tall, handsome brunette, with delicate features and graceful figure, appeared in the doorway.
She looked first at one and then at the other, as if undecided how to act, then advanced to where Wycherly was sitting too bewildered to speak, and took him by the hand.
"Why, Stephen," she said, "don't you know me? But I didn't expect to find you here. I thought I should find papa here. They told me I should get news of him here at the place I used to direct all my letters to."
"Why, Gertie," returned Wycherly, regarding her with embarrassment, "don't you know me? Don't you know Stephen's father?"
"What does this mean, sir?" she said drawing herself up with offended dignity and withdrawing her hands from his. "Do you think it is seemly to joke in the presence of strangers, and with one who has come six thousand miles to meet you? But do not flatter yourself it was to see you, sir, that I came. I came at the express desire of your grandmother and aunt to see that your father was being properly taken care of after the late terrible accident. Oh, Stephen," she continued, in a somewhat softened tone, "please tell me where he is so that I can go to him at once. They are so very anxious about him at home."
"But, Gertie, I am old Stephen Wycherly, you came to see," said my friend looking her sheepishly in the face.
"You!" she cried with a ripple of silvery laughter, as if now entering into and enjoying the joke, "you! I suppose you think that having made the tour of the world gives you the right to assume age. And now I come to think of it perhaps it does, for you certainly do look five years older than when you left us a year ago, if that is anything in your favor."
I had been studying all this time how to extricate my friend from his dilemma. I now came to his rescue. I scarcely yet see how I could descend, or lend myself, to such duplicity, but really, since matters had gone so far, and my friend's original identity was so far lost that an intelligent lady should mistake him for his own son to whom she was engaged, and scouted the idea of his being himself as preposterous, I felt that the only course to pursue was to accept, like diplomatic governments of the present day, the existing condition of affairs in their neighbors' territories. So rising and looking at my watch, I said in a fatherly sort of way:
"You young people can get along very well without me, I think. I have an engagement to attend to which will take me at least half an hour; so I am sure you will excuse me." And, taking my hat, I walked out.
When I returned, half an hour later, they were gone, and merely a note from Wycherly remained on the table, saying that he would communicate with me shortly. From that day to this I heard nothing of him till I received this letter, which I shall now read you. It runs thus:
WYCHWOOD HALL, Norfolk, Christmas, 1886.
My Dear Doctor:
Forgive my abrupt departure from San Francisco on the occasion you well remember, as also my continued silence. You are no doubt wondering how matters have turned out with me, and as I think it is only due to one who, whatever difficulties he may have been the means of subsequently getting me into, I can never forget saved my life, I now propose to give a full account of all the happenings since I saw you last. First of all, Gertie—the lady who sent her card into your office that morning as "Miss Gertrude Tremaine," and now my wife—made a terrible noise, after you so considerately and, I will add, pusillanimously left (she is looking over my shoulder now and has made me put in that last adjective), because I persisted in telling her I was old instead of young Mr. Wycherly. Even when I took her down to the China steamer and got the corroboration of the surgeon, together with the certificate of poor Stephen's death, she declared it was all a base plot on my part, and that the surgeon was in collusion with me, and that all I wanted was to get rid of her, and that it was a shame to act so to a poor girl in a strange land. At last I got her somewhat quieted down, and so that she would listen to reasonable talk. By little and little, and by dint of exhibiting several trinkets and personal articles which she knew me constantly to wear, as well as by explaining, as well as I could, that the treatment I had received, after the accident she read about in your letter, had produced the extraordinary change in my appearance, she subsided into an apparent acquiescence with what I told her. Then arming myself with captain's, and surgeon's, and ship company's certificates of my son's death, sworn to before notary publics and all that—for I was now beginning to have my eyes opened as to the necessity of having documents to establish my own identity, and prove that I was not my own son—we took passage for Europe. Now, you may call it what you please, you may attribute it to the transfusion, or to the arts and wiles of Gertie, but certain it is that before we were half over the Atlantic I was head over heels in love. Nor was it a one-sided affair either, and by the time we reached home we were engaged.
You may think this somewhat sharp practice, but then you must remember an old codger like you of five-and-forty doesn't act in such a lively way as we young bucks of eight-and- twenty. How I dreaded going home! When we got into the carriage which was waiting for us at the railway station, the footman while touching his hat, "hoped that I had left my father well, and that he had quite recovered from his accident." The same thing was repeated at the Hall. My mother wept over the return of her grandson, and my sister fell upon the neck of her nephew. Even with all the documents I had brought with me, with all the protestations I could make, with all the incontestable proofs afforded by a knowledge of circumstances which it was impossible in the nature of things that my son could have known; even after all this, I doubt if conviction is a settled matter in their minds yet. As for the servants, and the people on the estate, there never was the least doubt upon their part. The young master had come home, and the old master had met with an accident while shooting in America, of which he had died. It was as clear as crystal to their simple minds, and any one who hinted otherwise would have been pitied as a fool or a madman. When two months afterward Gertie and I were married at the village church, I am satisfied that nine-tenths of the people present believed that the Stephen Wycherly who signed the register was son to the man who stood before them. And what is the use of setting people, who have no interest in the matter, right upon the question? It would only be befogging their intellects, and darkening their ideas with a subject which they could neither grasp nor comprehend. So I have determined to remain Stephen Wycherly, junior, since they will have it so. Gertie joins me in kind wishes, and asks me to refer again to the skulking and cowardly manner in which you left me in the lurch that morning in your office. I shall see you in California shortly, but no more gunshot accidents for at least twenty years yet.
P.S.—I enclose two checks for £100 each for Fritz and Wilhelm.
"There!" said the doctor, as he finished reading; "what do you think of that for a dénouement to my transfusion operation?"
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.