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HOW HIS HAND
How his hand came into contact with her face--her sweet plump irritating
little burr of a wifely face that found a place beside his each night on the
connubial pillow--was as much a mystery to O'Kane as the scalloped shell
of the sky and the rain that fell as one angry inveterate thing over all this
weary part of the earth. It wasn't late--not ten o'clock yet. And he wasn't
angry. Not yet, anyway. On the contrary, he'd been celebrating--polluting
himself, as she would say, living it up, for he's a jolly good fellow and three
cheers for this one and that one and rah, rah, rah--celebrating with Nick
and Pat and Mart, and with Dr. Hamilton, yes, with him too. Celebrating the
rest of his life that had just been turned on like an electric switch, flooding
him with light, light that poured from his nostrils and ears and his mouth
and no doubt his rectum too, though he hadn't yet had occasion to look
down there; but he would, he would eventually. And then he had come
home, and there she was, stalking the sitting room like a bristling tireless
little rat-gnawing thing, all primed and ready to pounce.
He hadn't meant to hit her--and he'd hit her only once, or maybe
twice, before--and the thing was, he wasn't even angry, just ... irritated.
And tired. Drained to the core. The noise she made, and the baby squalling
in the back room, and the way she kept thrusting her face at him as if it was
a volleyball, tanned, stitched and puffed up to regulation pressure, and she
wouldn't let him have this, not even this, after all the gut-wrenching and
indecision it had cost him over the past two months, and when the inflated
ball of her face had come at him for maybe the fiftieth time he slammed it
right up and over the net, just as if he was still in school and diving for a
low one on the hard foot-compacted turf of the volleyball court. That
opened her up, all right, and there was no peace for him after that, she was
like an artesian well, a real gusher, tears and blood and rage exploding at
him, and all he could think of, dodging away from that streaming face till he
was so drained and exhausted he toppled into a blackness deeper than the
last dying wink of consciousness, was Mrs. McCormick--Katherine--and
what a lady she was, and Rosaleen stuck to him like flypaper and howling
till the windows went to pieces and the roof collapsed and the whole
drugged and dreaming town fell away into some deep fissure of the earth.
Earlier that day, in the morning, it had been different. He'd awakened at first
light and saw her there beside him, the soft petals of her eyelids and her
lashes and lips and the fragile composition of her face, and he thought
about kissing her, leaning over and brushing his lips against the down of
her cheek, but he didn't. He didn't want to wake her--or his son either. It
was too peaceful, the submarine light, the stealthy tick of the clock, the
rudiments of birdnoise, and he didn't want to have to talk to her about the
McCormicks and the meeting and what he feared and what he hoped--he
hardly knew himself. He stripped off his flannels at the side of the bed and
slipped naked into the sitting room with his good Donegal tweed over one
arm and a fresh suit of underwear over the other, and dressed like a thief of
clothes. Then he was out the door and into another life.
The year was 1908, and he'd just turned 25. He was a hair under six feet, with the pugilist's build he'd inherited from his father (who'd put the prototype to good use in a series of mostly victorious bare-knuckle fights in the nineties), and his mother's wistful sea-green eyes with the two hazel clock hands implanted in the right one, inflexibly pointing, for this lifetime at least, to three o'clock. His mother had always told him that chronometric eye would bring him luck--great luck and fortune--and when he questioned her, skeptical even at 10 and 11, she just pointed
to the proof and insisted that the hour was preordained. But what about
you? he would say, lifting his eyes to the colorless walls of the four rooms
they shared with his grandmother, his uncle Billy, his four sisters and three
cousins, where's your three o'clock luck? And she would frame his face
with her hands, the softest touch in the world, and whisper, "It's right here,
right here, between my hands."
The morning flew. He'd started off at the White Street house, where
they'd installed Mr. McCormick to get him away from the disturbing
influence of the other patients, and then he'd gone on to McLean and now
he was late, cutting across the lawn out front of the administrative building
on a day that was like a wet dishrag, though it was the last week of April
and he would have sacrificed to the gods to see a ray of sun--he was late
and hurrying and he didn't give a damn for the fact that he'd left his hat and
overcoat back in the nurses' common room and the cuffs of his good
Donegal tweed trousers were soaking up the damp like a pair of fat swollen
sponges tied to his ankles. He should have, because when the tailor came
over from Ballyshannon and settled into the rooming house down the
street from them and his mother said he should take advantage of the
opportunity and have one nice suit made because if he ever hoped to work
with his brains instead of his back he'd have to look like one of the quality,
he'd laid out $18 for it. Eighteen dollars in good hard Yankee
coin he'd earned at the Boston Lunatic Asylum scraping blood, vomit and
worse off the walls. And here it was, wet through in the shoulders and
crawling up his shins and sure as the devil it was going to shrink, but what
did he care? It was two minutes to eleven, the hair was hanging wet in his
eyes and Dr. Hamilton was waiting for him. If things worked out, he could
buy six suits.
It wasn't like him to be late--it was unprofessional, and Dr. Hamilton
was a stickler for the "three p's," as he called them: punctuality, propriety
and professionalism--and O'Kane, already wrought up, felt like a piece of
fat in the fryer as he charged across the wet lawn. He was sweating under
the arms and the hair was dangling like rope in his face. It wasn't like him,
but he was behind his time because he'd gotten distracted over at White
Street, and then in the back ward, and all because of the apes. Apes and monkeys, that is. They were all he could think about. And it was funny too because this was the kind of day that got the violents stirred up--it wasn't just the full moon, it was any change in the weather, even from perpetual gloom to a driving downpour--and as he hurried across the lawn he could hear Katzakis the Mad Greek and the one they called the Apron Man hooting at one another from the maximum ward, hooting just like apes. Violents he knew inside and out--he ought to after seven years in the profession--but his experience with hominoids, as Dr.
Hamilton called them, was limited. And why wouldn't it be? South Boston,
Danvers and Waverley weren't exactly tropical jungles.
In fact, aside from the usual boyhood encounters with the organ-grinder's monkey, the sideshow at the circus, the zoo and that sort of thing, he'd only come within spitting distance of an ape once, and that was in a barroom. He'd gone into Donnelly's one afternoon for a pint and a chat, and when he looked up from his beer there was a man sitting beside him at the counter with a one-eyed chimpanzee on a leash. For a shot of rye whiskey and a beer chaser the man got the chimp to pull out his organ and piss in a beer glass and then drink it down as if it was the finest 86-proof Irish--and smack his lips to boot. When the man had
chased his third shot he gave a look up and down the bar and said he
would challenge anybody in the place to arm-wrestle the thing for half a
dollar--this scrawny half-bald one-eyed little monkey that stank like all the
souls in hell boiled in their own juice and then left out in the sun for a week
after that--and there was a lot of elbowing and obscene commentary from
the patrons as they worked themselves up to it. Finally, Frank Leary, a big
squareheaded loudmouthed bull of a man who worked for the railroad, took
him up on it, and the thing pinned Leary's wrist to the bar in half a second
and wouldn't let go of his hand till there were tears in his eyes.
The experience didn't exactly qualify O'Kane as a hominoid expert, as
he would have been the first to admit, and he'd spent a painful hour in the
library after work yesterday squinting into an encyclopedia in the vain hope
of learning something--anything--that might impress Mrs. McCormick.
Or, if not impress her, at least keep the level of humiliation down to a
minimum if she suddenly took it into her head to grill him on the subject.
The library was an alien place to O'Kane, damper than a Chinese laundry
and three times as cold, the lighting hominoidally primitive and the illumination offered by the encyclopedia on the subject of apes nearly as dim. "Apes," he read, "are intelligent animals and are more closely related to man than any other living primates. They are popular zoo and circus animals. They also have figured widely in the legends and folktales of many countries." After a while he pushed himself up, replaced the book on the shelf and ambled over to Donnelly's to fix this vast
reservoir of knowledge in his brain with the aid of a mnemonic whiskey or
And now he was late and his one good suit was crawling up his shins
and he was wondering how he was going to break the staggering news to
Mrs. McCormick, the Ice Queen herself, that apes were popular zoo and
circus animals. But as he reached the verge of the lawn and vaulted the
retaining wall there, crossed the flagstone walkway and started up the
steps of the ad building, the multifarious marvel of his congested brain
surprised him--the apes flew right out of his head and he was thinking
about California. Or he wasn't thinking about it, not exactly--he had a
vision, a sudden vivid recollection of a place there, date palms shimmering
beneath the golden liquefaction of the sun and orange trees with fruit like
swollen buttocks and a little bungalow or whatever they called it snug in
the corner--and this was odd, more than odd, since he'd never in his life
been west of Springfield. It took him a minute to realize it must have been
one of those orange crate labels he was calling up, the ones that make you
want to throw down the snow shovel right that minute and catch the next
train west. But there it was, real or illusionary--California--hanging in his
head in all its exotic glory where the apes had been a moment before.
And then finally, as he stepped through the big beveled-glass doors
and into the dim paste-wax-and-coal-dust-smelling hall, he thought of his
own Rosaleen, his sorrow and his joy, his sweet, randy, pugnacious,
clover-lipped bride of three months and mother of his green-eyed boy,
Edward Jr. What was she going to think when he told her they were
moving to California for the sake of Mr. Stanley McCormick, late of the
McCormick Reaper Works and the International Harvester Company, Mr.
McCormick and a troop of apes? And what was her mother going to think
and her cauliflower-eared brothers and her quibbling old stump of a father
who'd wanted to skin him alive for getting her in trouble in the first place?
As if it was all his fault, as if she hadn't seen her chance and taken it--and
hadn't he done the right thing by her, and
wasn't she at that very moment sitting snug in the walkup on Chestnut
Street with her baby and her new curtains and everything else a woman
He passed by Dr. Cowles' office at a stiff-legged trot, swiping at his
hair and wrestling with his tie and trying to contort his shoulders to fit the
sodden confines of the suit, and it was all he could do to flick a little wave
at Miss Ianucci, Dr. Cowles's typewriter. Miss Ianucci was a spaghetti
twister from Italy who couldn't seem to find a shirtwaist big enough to
accommodate her appurtenances and who never ceased touching her lips
and crossing and uncrossing her legs whenever O'Kane got a chance to
stop in and chat with her--which was every time he passed by unless he
was on his way to a fire. People were always grousing about the
immigrants--the I-talians this and the Polacks that, the Guineas and wops
and bohunks, and his father was one of the most vocal and vehement,
though he'd come over himself in an empty whiskey barrel aboard a
transatlantic steamer not thirty years ago--but for his money they could
let in all the Miss Ianuccis they wanted. And wouldn't that be a job,
standing there at the bottom of the gangplank, and passing judgment on
this one or that: Nah, send her back--she's flat as an ironing board. Her? Yeah,
we'll take her. Come on over here, miss, and step into the examining room a minute
won't you? A man could create an entire race, a whole new breed based on
tits alone--or hips or legs or turned-up noses and pinned-back ears. Look
what they'd done with dogs....
Anyway, he had to content himself with a wave this time because he
knew how much this meeting meant to Dr. Hamilton--and to himself,
himself and Rosaleen--and he hustled down the hall while Miss Ianucci
stuck a finger in the corner of her mouth and sucked on it and crossed and
uncrossed her legs and gave him the richest smile in all the world. Two
doors down, three, and it was all he could do to keep from breaking into a
run. He glanced up as he hurried past the portrait of John McLean, the
decidedly unsmiling and bewigged philanthropist who'd given a hundred
thousand dollars back in 1818 to open the doors of this fair institution, and
though he was late, though he looked like hell and the smells of fear and
hope were commingled in his sweat and his sweat was flowing as if it were
the middle of July and he was carrying the entire McCormick family up a hill
on his shoulders, apes and all, he couldn't help thinking, for just the
fleetingest instant, of what he could do with a hundred thousand
dollars--and it wouldn't be
to endow any charitable organization, that was for sure, unless it was the
Edward James O'Kane Benevolent and Fiduciary Fund. But enough of that.
Suddenly he was there, at the far end of the hallway, breathing hard, three
minutes past eleven, half-soaked, sweating and wild-eyed, tapping
respectfully at the smooth varnished plane of Dr. Hamilton's door.
He could detect the purl of conversation from within, and his heart
sank. This was what he'd been fearing since he'd slipped out of the house
and into the festering gray maw of the dawn, what he was afraid of as he
emptied bedpans and jerked rigid lunatics and simple morons down from
the barred windows and up from the beds: she was there already. Which
meant he was late. Officially. He cursed himself and tapped again, this time
with a little more vigor, and felt even worse when the murmur broke off
abruptly, as if he were interrupting something. There was an agonizing
silence during which the wild thought that they were conspiring to leave
him out of it altogether raced through his head, and then he heard Dr.
Hamilton murmur, "That must be him now," and any trace of composure he
might have been able to muster evaporated in that instant. "Come in," the
doctor called, and O'Kane felt his face flush as he pushed open the door
and entered the room.
The first thing he noticed was the fire--a lavish crackling devil-may-care
blaze that played off the paneled walls and cast a soft glow on the doctor's
collection of wax impressions of the human brain, the first fire O'Kane had
ever seen in this particular fireplace, even in the dim frozen mists of January
or February. But there it was, a fire to take the dampness out of the air and
create a relaxed and cozy atmosphere, as Dr. Hamilton had no doubt
calculated. It was a surprise, a real surprise, as was the tray of finger
sandwiches, a teapot and the decanter of sherry set out on the low table in
front of the settee, and O'Kane's estimation of Hamilton, already high, shot
up another notch. "Oh, hello, Edward," the doctor purred, coming up off
the edge of his desk to take O'Kane's hand and give it a squeeze. "We were
just about to begin."
Anyone watching this performance would have seen nothing but good
nature and cordiality in that hand-squeeze, but O'Kane felt the black blood
of anxiety and irritation pulsing through the doctor's fleshless fingers and
the damp recess of his palm: O'Kane was in the wrong, he was late, he'd
violated the dictum of the three p's and put everything in jeopardy. Despite
all the doctor's warnings of the previous day, despite
skipping breakfast and leaving the house early and wearing his
tweeds and collar under the hospital whites to save time and keeping the
apes hurtling through the crowded jungle of his mind, limb by limb and
minute by minute, he was late. He'd gotten off on the wrong foot. Already.
Awkward, red-faced, too big for his shrinking suit and towering over
the room like some club-wielding troglodyte, O'Kane could only duck his
head and mumble an apology. He saw that Mrs. McCormick was already
there--the younger Mrs. McCormick, the wife, not the mother. She was
running the show now, and the older Mrs. McCormick, Mr. McCormick's
mother, was back in Chicago, sitting on her golden nest and laying her
golden eggs and counting up the dividends. As far as Stanley's--Mr.
McCormick's--care was concerned, she'd left the field to the younger
woman. For the moment, at least.
Since O'Kane wasn't wearing a hat or overcoat, it was just a matter of
giving his tie a quick twist and bending from the waist to greet Mrs.
McCormick and the woman who seemed at that instant to have sprung up
beside her on the settee. He was momentarily confused. It seemed he was
always confused in Mrs. McCormick's presence, whether he was holding
the door for her like a lackey as she stepped regally into the front hall at
White Street or trying his aphasic best to respond to one of her multitiered
questions about her husband's progress--or lack of it. She was a society
lady, that's what she was, cold as a walking corpse, all fur, feathers and
stone, and O'Kane wasn't part of society. Not by a long shot. He wasn't
even part of the society that aspired to be part of society. He was a working
man, son of a working man, grandson of a working man, and on and on all
the way back to the apes--or Adam and Eve, whichever you believed in.
Still, every time he saw her, locked in the cold hard glittering shell of her
Back Bay beauty, it made him ache to be something he wasn't, to impress
her or make her laugh or lean in close and whisper something filthy in her
ear, and it took a tremendous effort of will simply to bend forward and touch
his fingertips to her gloved hand and then turn to the older woman beside
her, a woman with a face like a squashed bird framed in the riot of feathers
that was her hat, a woman he knew as well as his own mother but
couldn't ... quite ... seem to--
But then he was seated--in the chair closest to the fire--an
inoffensive smile attached to his face, the sweat already starting up again
under his arms, and he had a moment to catch his breath and let
recollection come roaring back at him. This older lady, the one dressed
like a funeral director's wife, was Mrs. McCormick's mother, Mrs.
Dexter. Of course she was. Dr. Hamilton was saying something now, but
O'Kane wasn't listening. He worked his neck muscles and twitched his
shoulders till he caught Mrs. Dexter's attention and broadened his smile to
a kind of blissful grimace. "And a good morning to you, Mrs. Dexter," he
said, hearing his father's Killarney brogue creeping into his own booming,
baleful voice, though he tried to fight it down.
Dr. Hamilton paused in the middle of whatever he'd been saying to
give him an odd look. "And to you, Mr. O'Kane," the old lady returned
cheerily, and this seemed to reassure the doctor, so he went on.
"As I was saying, Mrs. McCormick, if the terms are acceptable to
you--and your mother, of course--I think we have a bargain. I've spoken
to Mrs. Hamilton and to the Thompson brothers, and they're all committed
to the move--and to Mr. McCormick's care and welfare, of course. Edward,
here, can speak for himself."
O'Kane shifted in his seat. He hadn't understood till that moment just
how much this whole thing meant to him--it was a new start, a new life, in a
part of the country as foreign to him as the dark side of the moon. But that
was just it--it wasn't dark in California, and it didn't snow, and there was no
slush and drizzle and there were no frozen clods of horse manure in the
streets and life there didn't grind you down till you barely knew you were
alive. A single acre of oranges could make a man comfortable--oranges that
practically grew by themselves, without even the rumor of work, once they
were in the ground--and ten acres could make a man rich. There was gold.
There was oil. There was the Pacific. There was sun. "Oh, I'm committed, all
right,ø he said, trying to avoid the wife's eyes.
How old was she, anyway? She couldn't have been much more than
30, and here he was, a lusty strong big-shouldered 190-pound Irishman from the North End who routinely stared down the craziest of the crazy, and he was afraid to look her in the eye? He made an effort and raised his head to take in the general vicinity of her. "Even if it means forever."
"And your wife--Mrs. O'Kane?" At first he thought the voice had come out of the ceiling, as voices tended to do for so many of the unfortunates on the ward, but then he realized that the old lady was moving her lips. He tried to look alert as the birdy face closed on him. "How does she feel about it?"
"Rose?" The question took him by surprise. He saw his wife in the kitchen of the walkup, stirring a pot of broth and potatoes, ignorant as a shoe, contentious and coarse and loud--but goodhearted, as goodhearted as any girl you'd find, and the mother of his son. "I--I guess I haven't told her yet, but she'll be thrilled, I know she will."
"It'll mean leaving behind everything she knows--her parents, her relations, her former schoolmates, the streets where she grew up," Mrs. Dexter persisted, and what did she want from him anyway? They were both watching him, mother and daughter, and they were two birds--both of them--beaky and watchful, waiting for the faintest stirring in the grass. "And where did you say she was from?"
He hadn't said. He was tempted to say Beacon Hill, to give an address
on Commonwealth Avenue, but he didn't. "Charlestown," he mumbled,
staring down at his wet and glistening shoes. He could feel the eyes of the
younger one boring into him.
"And for you too," the old woman said. "Are you prepared to say good-bye to your own mother and father--and for as long as it takes for Mr. McCormick to be well again?"
There was a silence. The fire snapped, and he felt the heat of it chasing
the steam from his cuffs and flanks and the shrinking shoulders of his
jacket. "Yes, ma'am," he said, darting a glance at the younger woman. "I
think so. I really do."
And then, thankfully, Hamilton took over. "The important thing," he
said, or rather, whispered in the narcotic tones he used on his charges, "is
Mr. McCormick. The sooner we're able to move the patient and establish
him in the proper way in California, the better it will be for all concerned.
Especially the patient. What he needs, above all, is a tranquil environment,
with all the stresses that led to his blocking removed. Only then can we
hope to--" He faltered. Mrs. McCormick had cleared her throat--that was
all: cleared her throat--and that stopped him cold.
Dr. Hamilton--Dr. Gilbert Van Tassel Hamilton, future author of Sex in
Marriage, as well as "A Study of Sexual Tendencies in Monkeys and
Baboons"--was a young man then, just thirty-one, but he cultivated a
Vandyke and swept his dun-colored hair straight back from his brow in an
attempt to add something to his years. He wore a pair of
steel-rimmed pince nez identical to the president's, and he always dressed
carefully in ash-colored suits and waistcoats and a tie that was such an
unfathomable shade of blue it might as well have been black, as if any
show of color would undermine his sense of duty and high purpose.
("Avoid bright clothing," he'd admonished O'Kane on the day he hired
him; "it tends to excite the catatonics and alarm the paranoics.") Young as
he was, he was a rock of solidity, but for one disconcerting little tic that he
himself might not have been aware of: every thirty seconds or so his eyes
would flick back behind his upper lids in a spasm so instantaneous it was
like watching a slot machine on its final revolution. Needless to say, when
he was nervous or wrought up the tic became more pronounced. Now, as
he looked expectantly at Mrs. McCormick, his pupils began a quavering
preliminary little dance.
O'Kane was looking at her too. He couldn't help but look at her, as long
as it didn't involve eye contact. She was fascinating to him, a real specimen,
the kind of woman you saw only in glimpses--a silhouette behind the
windowscreen of the long thrusting miracle of a Packard motorcar, a brisk
commanding figure in a cluster of doormen and porters, the face of a
photograph in a book--and how could he help contrasting her with his
own Rosaleen? Sitting there perched on the very fractional edge of the
settee with her finishing-school posture and her cleft chin stuck up in the
air like a weathervane, wearing a dress of some satiny blue material that
probably cost more than he would make in six months, she was like an alien,
like the shining representative of some new and superior species, but for
one thing: her husband was mad, as mad as the Apron Man or Katzakis the
Greek or any of them, and all the manners and all the money in the world
couldn't change that.
"About the apes ... ," she said, and O'Kane realized it was the first
time she'd opened her mouth since he'd entered the room.
Hamilton's voice fell away to nothing, the whisper of a whisper. "Yes?"
he breathed, lounging back against the corner of the desk and resting his
weight casually on his left ham, the doctor in his office, nothing the matter,
nothing at all. "What about them? If there's anything that you--"
"They are necessary, aren't they--in your estimation, Dr. Hamilton? I
understand that in order to lure such a promising young psychologist as
yourself all the way out to the West Coast and uproot your
family and your practice here at McLean, there has to be a quid pro
quo"--and here she held up a finger to silence him, because he was up off
the desk again and his mouth was already working in the nest of his
beard--"and that your hominoid laboratory is a major part of it, in addition
to your salary considerations, relocation expenses and the like, but is there
really any hope of these apes figuring in Stanley's cure?"
This was Hamilton's cue, and with barely a flick of his eyes, he
launched into a speech that would have done a drummer proud. He made no
promises--her husband's case was more complex than anyone had
originally believed, far more complex--but he'd personally supervised
dozens of cases just as severe and he'd seen those patients make huge
steps toward recovery, even complete recovery, with the proper care. New
advances were being made not only in the treatment of dementia
praecox--or schizophrenia, as it was now more commonly called--but
across the whole spectrum of human behavior and psychology, and new
figures like Freud, Jung and Adler had begun to emerge to build on the work
of Charcot, Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld. O'Kane
had heard it all before, and he found himself drifting, the heat making him
drowsy, the heavy material of his trousers adhering to his flanks like a
second skin--and itching, itching like the very devil. Hamilton's voice
droned on, hypnotic, soporific, the gloom beyond the windows like the
backdrop of a waking dream. He came back to himself when the doctor
finally got round to the question of the apes.
"--and while the behavioral sciences are in their infancy," Hamilton
was saying, "and ours will be among the first hominoid laboratories in the
world, Katherine" (Katherine, he was calling her Katherine now), "I really and
truly do expect that my intensive study of the lower primates will lead to
any number of breakthroughs in human behavior, particularly with regard
to sexual tendencies."
Ah, and now it was out of the bag, O'Kane thought, the crux of the
matter, the subject you don't discuss in mixed company, the thing men and
women discover together in the dark. He watched the wife's perfectly
composed face, with its stingy lips and little turned-up nose and sculpted
ears, for a reaction. There was nothing. Not a flicker. She was a scientist
herself--the first female baccalaureate in the sciences from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology--and no quirk of the human
organism could ruffle her. She was made of ice. Layers of it,
mountains--she was a glacier in human form, an Ice Queen, that's what
"Yes, I understand," she said, pursing her lips and shooting a look at
O'Kane that wilted him on the spot, as if he were the one who'd brought up
the subject, "but apes are one thing and human beings quite another. I
really don't see how any discovery you make as to the"--and here she
paused, for just a beat--"sexual proclivities of apes and monkeys can be
applied to my husband's case. I just fail to see it."
This was a critical juncture, and O'Kane, impelled by the heat of the
fire, the closeness of the room and the sudden fear that the whole
thing--orange trees, bungalow and all--was about to collapse like a
house of cards, suddenly plunged in with a speech of his own. "But we'll
take the best care of him, ma'am, I and the Thompson brothers and Dr.
Hamilton and Dr. Meyer too. He asks for us specially, you know, and we
feel a real ... a real compassion for him that we don't always feel with the
other patients ... he's such a gentleman, I mean, and bound to improve.
And I admit I don't know the first thing about apes--hominoids, that
is--but I'm young and willing and I can learn, I can. You'll see."
There was a silence. Mrs. McCormick--Katherine--looked startled, as
if the chair or the hat rack had suddenly begun to speak, but the old lady
seemed satisfied--she had a sort of fixed benevolent old lady's smile
pasted to her lips--and Dr. Hamilton, his eyes jumping, paused only to
stroke his beard for effect before coming in with the heavy artillery. 'That's
right, Edward: it will be a learning process for all of us, and for the sciences
in general, and beyond the good we'll do for Mr. McCormick, we have an
excellent chance of doing somet