Page:Marietta, or the Two Students.djvu/12

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MARIETTA, OR

can make it so; and I presume you will not hesitate to affirm that I have a right to dispose of it as I shall think proper."

Eugene threw down his scalpel, and looked at his friend as though he were doubting the question of his sanity.

"Am I to understand you to say that I am not to proceed with the dissection, as we intended in the first instance?"

"Exactly, Eugene; nothing more nor less than this. Do you question my right to do so?"

"Certainly not; but permit me to assure you that I think your conduct most singular, not to say absurd."

"Undoubtedly you do, but you have heard my determination."

Eugene turned and looked inquiringly at the doctor, as if entreating him to determine if he could, the questionable point of his friend's rationality. But he appeared equally at a loss to solve the doubt.

"Levator" said the latter, "I can form an idea of the probable cause of your curious resolution. But—no offence—I believe you carry your sensibility too far. What possible harm can it do that body—fair and delicate it is I allow—to dissect it? Will it feel the keen edge of the knife? Will the tender limbs shrink from it, and give intimations of torture? Do you fear that those closed eyes there, will start open, and that clod-like hand will raise itself, and that still tongue will throw off the spell of death, at the first incision, and entreat you to desist? Fie! where is your manhood?"

"Doctor," said Levator, "I will not say that you are unkind in your remarks, for it would be unlike you to be so: but you can scarcely mean what you have last uttered. Have you not seen me, without anything like fear or hesitation, look upon death in all its awful phases—in the form of wrinkled old age—smiling infancy—and at every point between these extremes? Have I not seen it in every stage of decomposition, and in all its loathsome details? Have you not seen me sever joint from joint, and muscles from muscle a score of times, without the least symtoms of emotion?—Speak?"

"I have; and no one can do it with more address and coolness, and it is this fact, contrasted with your present conduct that astonishes me, I have often thought that I never knew a student so indifferent to the "disagreeables" of a dissecting room as yourself; but to-night you are a woman."

"Hold, doctor," said Eugene gaily, "you are wrong this time. If he were a woman you would hardly disagree with him. Confess it, doctor."

"You are not far from the truth, in this instance, Eugene," replied the doctor, good humoredly. "And it is not impossible that you might be on better terms with him, if he were in good faith what I have said."

"Wrong again, Doctor, I have not advanced so far in the "profession" as that; but under your tuition, I hope to make wonderful progress."

"No doubt of it," retorted the doctor, drily, with a twinkle of the eye, which I believe is peculiar to no other man, and wincing slightly, as though he had experienced a sudden pain somewhere about the mouth.

He then stepped to the table, upon which lay the subject, and seemed examining it attentively, as though determining internally where he should commence operations.

He took the scalpel, carried the back of it longitudinally across the chest, apparently for the purpose of giving accuracy to the stroke he should make with the edge.

"Doctor," said Levator calmly, "you have heard what I have said; I need scarcely repeat it."