The Legacy of Cain HTML version
6. The Doctor Doubts
The Minister looked at me in an absent manner; his attention seemed to have been
wandering. "What was it Miss Chance said?" he asked.
Before I could speak, a friend's voice at the door interrupted us. The Doctor, returning to
me as he had promised, answered the Minister's question in these words:
"I must have passed the person you mean, sir, as I was coming in here; and I heard her
say: 'You will find the tigress-cub take after its mother.' If she had known how to put her
meaning into good English, Miss Chance--that is the name you mentioned, I think--might
have told you that the vices of the parents are inherited by the children. And the one
particular parent she had in her mind," the Doctor continued, gently patting the child's
cheek, "was no doubt the mother of this unfortunate little creature--who may, or may not,
live to show you that she comes of a bad stock and inherits a wicked nature."
I was on the point of protesting against my friend's interpretation, when the Minister
"Let me thank you, sir, for your explanation," he said to the Doctor. "As soon as my mind
is free, I will reflect on what you have said. Forgive me, Mr. Governor," he went on, "if I
leave you, now that I have placed the Prisoner's confession in your hands. It has been an
effort to me to say the little I have said, since I first entered this room. I can think of
nothing but that unhappy criminal, and the death that she must die to-morrow."
"Does she wish you to be present?" I asked.
"She positively forbids it. 'After what you have done for me,' she said, 'the least I can do
in return is to prevent your being needlessly distressed.' She took leave of me; she kissed
the little girl for the last time--oh, don't ask me to tell you about it! I shall break down if I
try. Come, my darling!" He kissed the child tenderly, and took her away with him.
"That man is a strange compound of strength and weakness," the Doctor remarked. "Did
you notice his face, just now? Nine men out of ten, suffering as he suffered, would have
failed to control themselves. Such resolution as his may conquer the difficulties that are
in store for him yet."
It was a trial of my temper to hear my clever colleague justifying, in this way, the
ignorant prediction of an insolent woman.
"There are exceptions to all rules," I insisted. "And why are the virtues of the parents not
just as likely to descend to the children as the vices? There was a fund of good, I can tell
you, in that poor baby's father--though I don't deny that he was a profligate man. And
even the horrible mother--as you heard just now--has virtue enough left in her to feel