The Professor swung himself round on the high stool on which he was
sitting, and blinked tired, watery eyes at his interlocutor.
"You were saying, milor'?" he asked in his shaky, high-pitched voice.
And the other resumed with exemplary patience:
"I was trying to explain to you, my friend, that no one is safe these
days, and that at any moment one of those devils on the Committee of
Public Safety might set your name down on the list of the suspects.
Now, I promised your daughter over in England that my friends and I
would look after you; but even without such a promise. . ."
He paused, for obviously the little man was not really listening. He
had begun by trying to be attentive, by trying to understand the
import of what his friend was saying; but his attention was already
wandering and his pale, tired eyes were turned longingly in the
direction of his test-tubes, his microscopes and other scientific
paraphernalia which littered his table. Now, when his friend ceased
speaking, he again tried to appear interested.
"Yes, yes, my daughter!" he murmured vaguely. "Pretty girl, she was.
Married that nice man Tessan; a prosperous farmer he was. They were on
their honeymoon in England when this awful revolution fell upon us
here. Lucky for them! They were never able to return to France."
He continued to ramble on in this vague, inconsequent way; his friend
listened to him with undivided attention. They were such a strange
contrast, these two: the powerfully-built Englishman, dressed simply
but with scrupulous care, a man with finely-moulded hands and lazy,
grey eyes that had at times marvellous flashes in them of enthusiasm
and command--a leader of men, obviously, a fearless sportsman and
daring adventurer--and his learned friend, a man with wizened body and
spine prematurely bent, with noble, thoughtful forehead and timid,
quivering mouth. A worse-assorted pair could not easily be found. But
they were friends, nevertheless. It was a friendship based on mutual
respect, even though there was on the one side a strong element of
protective affection and on the other a timid, almost childlike trust.
"I would like to go to England with you some day, milor'," the
professor went on with a yearning little sigh. "I believe I could do
great things in England. I could meet your famous Jenner and show him
some of my own experiments in the field of vaccine. These are not
altogether to be despised," he added, with a quaint chuckle of self-
satisfaction. "And, believe me, my friend, this Revolutionary
government is not made up of asses. They have a certain respect for
science, especially for the curative sciences; they know that sickness
stalks abroad in spite of all their decrees and their talk of a
millennium, and they are not likely to molest those of us who work for
the better health conditions of the people."
The Englishman said nothing for a moment or two. He regarded his
ingenuous little friend with a kindly, gently-mocking glance. At last
"You really believe that, do you, my good Rollin?"
"Yes, yes, I believe it. I had the assurance lately of no less a
personage than the great Couthon, Robespierre's bosom friend, that the
Committee of Public Safety will never touch me while I carry on such
"You could carry them on so much better in England, my friend. The
sense of safety would add zest to your work and you would spare your
daughter who loves you a cruel anxiety."