The Tree of Heaven

by Robert W. Chambers

"If I were you," said the elder man, "I should take three months' solid rest." 

"A month is enough," said the younger man. "Ozone will do it; the first brace of grouse I bag will do it—" He broke off abruptly, staring at the line of dimly lighted cars, where negro porters stood by the vestibuled sleepers, directing passengers to staterooms and berths. 

"Dog all right, doctor?" inquired the elder man pleasantly. 'All right, doctor," replied the younger; "I spoke to the baggage master, There was a silence; the elder man chewed an unlighted cigar reflectively, watching his companion with keen narrowing eyes. 

The younger physician stood full in the white electric light, lean head lowered, apparently preoccupied with a study of his own shadow swimming and quivering on the asphalt at his feet. 

"So you fear I may break down?" he observed, without raising his head. 

"I think you're tired out," said the other. 

"That's a more agreeable way of expressing it," said the young fellow. "I hear"—he hesitated, with a faint trace of irritation—I understand that Forbes Stanly thinks me mentally unsound." 

"He probably suspects what you're up to," said the elder man soberly. 

"Well, what will he do when I announce my germ theory? Put me in a strait-jacket?" 

"He'll say you're mad, until you prove it; every physician will agree with him—until your radium test shows us the microbe of insanity." 

"Doctor," said the young man abruptly, "I'm going to admit something—to you." 

"All right; go ahead and admit it." 

"Well, I am a bit worried about my own condition." 

"It's time you were," observed the other. 

"Yes—it's about time. Doctor, I am seriously affected." 

The elder man looked up sharply. 

"Yes, I'm—in love." 

"Ah!" muttered the elder physician, amused and a trifle disgusted; "so that's your malady, is it?" 

"A malady—yes; not explainable by our germ theory—not affected by radio-activity. Doctor, I'm speaking lightly enough, but there's no happiness in it." 

"Never is," commented the other, striking a match and lighting his ragged cigar. After a puff or two the cigar went out. "All I have to say," he added, "is, don't do it just now. Show me a scale of pure radium and I'll give you leave to marry every spinster in New York. In the mean time go and shoot a few dozen harmless, happy grouse; they can't shoot back. But let love alone. . . . By the way, who is she?" 

"I don't know." 

"You know her name, I suppose?" 

The young fellow shook his head. "I don't even know where she lives," he said finally. 

After a pause the elder man took him gently by the arm: "Are you subject to this sort of thing? Are you susceptible?" 

"No, not at all." 

"Ever before in love?" 


"When I was about ten years old. Her name was Rosamund—aged eight. I never had the courage to speak to her. She died recently, I believe." 

The reply was so quietly serious, so destitute of any suspicion of humor, that the elder man's smile faded; and again he cast one of his swift, keen glances at his companion. 

"Won't you stay away three months?" he asked patiently. 

But the other only shook his head, tracing with the point of his walking stick the outline of his own shadow on the asphalt. 

A moment later he glanced at his watch, closed it with a snap, silently shook hands with his equally silent friend, and stepped aboard the sleeping car. 

Neither had noticed the name of the sleeping car. 

It happened to be the Rosamund. 

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