Puslapio vaizdai

Before either Gemma or her mother ate without relish the bread and soup; could speak she was gone.

"It is a dream," Gemma whispered at last. "A dress of white silk! A jewel like this! I have fear, Mama mia. It is too much."

"Speak not foolishness, Daughter. Nothing is too much. Many years have I wasted with that thought in the head. No more, Gemma; never again. Ecco."

"But the dress, Mama mia-"

"Ask me nothing. No girl has the head clear on the day before the wedding. Afterward I will tell all. Now we make the dinner of bread and soup only, little one. The Signora Casey has given many ideas, and no more do I try to reach the heart of the father with artichokes and polenta. Come."

Dazed, Gemma obeyed. But it was with real concern that she watched the glowering face of her father as he

and when, the dishes done and the children disposed of, her mother ordered her to bring the brooch, her hand shook so that her mother took it from her.

"To-day the mother of Pepe brings this, Husband. A thing very beautiful, is it not?"

As the wonder in his face deepened, the eyes of Signora Tonelli narrowed, and a strange expression settled on her lips.

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As she watched her husband, Signora Tonelli's eyes narrowed still more, the odd expression deepened on her lips. Slowly she sighed.

"Ai, such always is the luck of the Tonellis. To have a thing of such beauty and value between the fingers and-to give it back."

"It is possible that the shop of Felipe on Grand Street is still open."

Signor Tonelli's free hand crept within his shirt. From hidden places he drew a small, dirty canvas sack. "And the price?"

"It is possible that for thirty-five dollars we can buy a dress that shames

"What?" Signor Tonelli's fingers not the jewel of Pepe's mother.” gripped the brooch.

"What else?" demanded his wife. "We are poor, but we have the pride. Dost think we can receive such a gift from the mother of Pepe for our daughter when we, her own parents, can give nothing? No, no, no. She waits to see her new daughter come down the church on the arm of Pepe, in fine white, with the jewel at the throat, and to hear all say, 'Look! Pepe marries with the most beautiful girl of the quarter.' Dost think she gives the brooch to make more ugly the old brown dress and to hear all say, 'Look! The poor fool! He could marry with any girl, and he takes one too poor to buy a white dress.' No, no, she is proud, the old one, with many hundreds of dollars in the bank of Giacomo; but she forgives never such an insult to her rich present. On the table of wood one does not eat with golden spoons. Ecco. To-night we return the gift. Come, Gemma."

Signora Tonelli turned toward the nail where hung her shawl. Blindly Gemma followed.

Signor Tonelli's fingers opened. The soft gold twined in delicate intricacy about the pale pink coral. His fingers closed. He glanced up at the clock.

"Is it possible at this hour to buy a dress of white silk and a veil?"

Signora Tonelli looked doubtful.

Signor Tonelli counted out the bills. "Go, then, to the shop of that swindler Felipe. Thirty-five dollars! It is food for a year in the village where I was born."

"Ecco, caro, thou speakest true as always. This, indeed, is a terrible country, but we are here. Go, Gemma, and kiss the father. It is not all fathers who would do this when there are eight others."

Safe in the street, Gemma, bewildered and a little frightened, turned to her mother. Signora Tonelli smiled.

"We go now, Figlia mia, to buy the two finest candles of pure wax; wax of the Abruzzi, none other. One I burn to the Virgin and the other to Signora Casey. She has taught me. Between the men of that race and ours there is little difference.”

"But thirty-five dollars! What wilt do with it?”

"Listen, Daughter. Thou lovest thy Pepe much, and it is right; but the fever passes soon and the head clears, and then it is not well to have to ask the husband every five cents."

As she spoke, she handed all but one five-dollar bill to Gemma.

"Come. We take now a little walk, for it is better that thy father sleeps before we return. Also the candles are cheaper at the shop of Biaggio on Elizabeth Street, and I wish a very large one for the Signora Casey."

Searching for the Elixir of Life"




HE medieval alchemists sought to concoct potable gold, and with a strange mixture of magic, mysticism, and science attempted to manufacture the liquid whose draft would stave off death-elixir vitæ. The echo of their efforts still sounds; elixir, that Arabian word, lingers on, but only in the hyperboles of the minor poet or the puffer of patent medicines. Now, however, in the twentieth century we receive it, fully accredited, from that unexceptionably businesslike spot, Chicago.

It has been found possible to prolong the life of an animal for many times its usual span; indeed, there is no reason to doubt that this prolongation could be made indefinite, and the same creature could be made to continue as long as life was possible upon this earth.

Elixir vitæ has, then, the alchemists' dream come true? Hardly in full, one is compelled to admit; for thus far it is applicable only to a particular branch of that somewhat lowly group of the animal kingdom known as the Platyhelminthes, or flatworms. None the less, the experiment is a notable feat on the part of its author, Professor Charles Manning Child of the University of Chicago, for it and kindred work have gone far to clarify our ideas on the process of aging.

It has been known for some time that these flatworms, creeping fresh-water

animals of half an inch or an inch in length, possess the remarkable power of living on themselves when starved. We ourselves have the same power, but in a very limited degree; a few weeks at most exhaust our reserves, and we succumb. But the flatworm can cut its coat according to its cloth. Like a man who, after a reverse of fortune, sells half his possessions and continues life on a more modest scale, the starved worm continually decreases in size, at the same time utilizing the material which it abstracts from its own living tissues as food for the diminished whole. Death comes only with months of starvation, and not until the creature has reached an almost microscopic size, or less than that which it possessed when it was hatched from its egg.

This is remarkable enough, but perhaps more so is the fact that as it smaller, the adult shape and proportions give place to those characteristic of a young worm. This had been investigated twenty years ago by another Chicago man, Professor Frank Rattray Lillie. Professor Child took up the problem and showed that in physiology and behavior, too, the worms made small by starvation resembled normal young ones. From this it was natural to conclude that starvation made the creatures young again in the full sense of the word.

This is the second of a series of scientific papers prepared for The Century Magazine under the direction of Science Service and its editor, Dr. Edwin E. Slosson.

Accordingly, a family of worms was divided into two lots; one lot was well supplied with food, the other was alternately starved and fed, and thus kept within definite limits of size.

The experiment was continued for a time that permitted the first lot to pass through nineteen generations, a time which in human terms would take us back into the Middle Ages, a century or two before Christopher Columbus and his voyage. During the whole of this period the worms of the other lot remained within the same narrow limits of size, and, what is more, showed no signs of senescence. They had been kept within the same limits of age for nineteen generations of time, and if any one were willing to take the trouble, there is no doubt whatever that they could be so kept for ninety generations or for nine thousand.

So was achieved the experimental proof that, although age in ourselves and other animals is, as a matter of fact, bound up with the passage of time, yet this is secondary, not inherent in the nature of things. To grow old To grow old means to change internally in a particular way, not to have lived so many months or years. It is life, and not time, that brings age.

There are other ways in which life may be reversed. Some organisms can become simpler in structure instead of younger or smaller. Clavellina, for instance, a member of the group known as ascidians, is a complicated creature, possessing most elaborate apparatus for drawing water in at one tube, filtering it, extracting the food particles from it, passing them down to the stomach, and expelling the water at another tube. It has, further, a heart, blood-vessels, and a simple nervous system. If small

specimens of this animal are placed in water to which small quantities of poisonous substances are added, it proceeds to close the apertures for the current, to shrink, and to become opaque. Finally, it loses all the beautiful transparency which it at first possessed, and is converted into a shapeless, white little lump. Examination shows further that of its elaborate internal organs nothing is left but a few irregular vesicles.

If it is now replaced in clean water, it retraces its steps, and within a week or so has again blossomed out into the perfection of structure typical of its kind. Here, too, the reversal of development can be performed over and over again, and if a satisfactory method of feeding the animal in captivity could be found, there is no doubt that it could be indefinitely repeated, and age kept permanently at bay.

There is a difference between our two examples. If the life cycle of human beings could be reversed, returning gradually to early childhood, the action would parallel the flatworms' behavior, while to regress with comparative suddenness to an early embryonic state would be more nearly what happens in Clavellina.

§ 2

If the life cycle of human beings could be reversed-but why can it not be reversed? That is the obvious question that will rise to the lips of the average man. "Why," he will say, "do you biologists fob me off with unpleasant organisms like worms and ascidians? I want to know whether your work has any bearing upon human life and destiny."

It is a natural and reasonable question, but before we attempt to discuss

it, we shall glance at one more phenomenon to be found in lower organisms. Our friend the planarian flatworm may be cut into pieces, and each piece will grow into a new whole creature. A great many of the simpler forms of life possess this startling power of regeneration; indeed, regeneration is a fundamental and original property of living matter that is restricted or lost in the higher groups of animals.

When small pieces of a planarian regenerate, they exhibit what we may call polarity; for, with a few special exceptions, the new head is formed from that region of the piece which was nearest to the old head, the new tail from that region which was nearest to the old tail.

This polarity, so called by analogy with the polarity of a magnet, was for a long time mysterious. At last, however, we are in a fair way to understand its nature. It has been found possible (and this again we owe to Professor Child) to substitute a new polarity for the old. Any one who has been through a college course in biology will remember the hydroid polyps, primitive, but beautiful, creatures with a mouth in the midst of a circlet of tentacles, and a "body" consisting of a two-layered tube surrounding a space which combines the functions of digestion and circulation. If a portion of this body region is cut out, it will regenerate, and the new mouth and tentacles will be produced at the end nearest the old mouth. In one hydroid, known as Corymorpha, if such a piece of stem is placed in water to which poisons or narcotics are added, it will undergo the same sort of changes that we saw take place in Clavellina in similar circumstances. It will become

simpler, lose its differentiation, and be finally converted into a sausage-shaped, opaque mass of tissue adhering to the bottom of the vessel. If clean seawater is now substituted for the narcotic solution, regeneration will take place in a few days, and a complete polyp appear; the mouth, however, will not appear at one pole of the piece, but at the top, where the tissues are farthest removed from the glass and most exposed to oxygen. The old polarity has been wiped out, and a new polarity substituted.

§ 3

From this and a number of other experiments on many animal forms Professor Child has framed a widereaching generalization styled by him the theory of “axial gradients," which enables us to see more clearly into the processes of development. Development has always something mysterious about it; the complicated form and function of the full-grown organism rise out of the almost nothingness of the original egg or bud, the oak from the germ in the acorn, the brilliantfeathered singing bird from the egg, man and the mind of man from the human ovum. It has always been clear that this eliciting of something from nothing, or, rather, of more from less, needed the coöperation of two things-the outer world and the constitution of the species, the outer world acting as the fairy prince to rouse the slumbering constitution, locked invisibly within its prison, to unfold itself. The establishment of some sort of axial gradient in the undifferentiated egg or bud is the first essential step in the process. Many eggs, for instance, are so attached in the parent's ovary that one side is

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