Back | Next

A TIME cover,
attributed to Artzybasheff,
with mosaic of dollar signs.



I did not again hear of Dr. Cooperstock for five weeks. Then I was telephoned to come and get him, for he was ready to return to the Pavilion to die. It was Wayne Donner himself who called me.

I agreed to come to one of Donner's New York offices to meet him, for in truth I was curious. I knew all about him, of course—rather, I knew as much as he wished anyone to know. I have seen enough of the world's household names in the Pavilion to know what their public-relations men can do. The facts that were on record about Wayne Donner were that he was very rich. He had gone from a lucky strike in oil and the twenty-seven and a half per cent depletion allowance to aluminum. And thence to electric power. He was almost the wealthiest man in the world, and I know his secret.

He could afford anything, anything at all, because he had schooled himself to purchase only bargains. For example, I knew that he was Nan Halloran's lover and, although I do not know her price, I know that it was what he was willing to pay. Otherwise he would have given her that thin, bright smile that meant the parley was over, there would be no contract signed that day, and gone on to another incredible beauty more modest in her bargaining. Donner allowed himself to want only what he could get. I think he was the only terrible man I have ever seen. And he had nearly been President of the United States! Except that Governor Hewlett of Ohio spoke so honestly and so truthfully about him in the primaries that not all of Donner's news-papers could get him the vote; what was terrible was not that he then destroyed Hewlett, but that Hewlett was not destroyed for revenge. Donner hated too deeply to be satisfied with revenge, I think; he was too contemptuous of his enemies to trouble to crush them. He would not give them that satisfaction. Hewlett was blotted out only incidentally. Because Donner's papers had built the campaign against him to such a pitch that it was actually selling papers, and thus it was profitable to go on to ruin the man. When I saw Donner he had Hewlett's picture framed in gilt in his waiting room. I wondered how many of his visitors understood the message. For that matter I wondered how many needed it.

When I was admitted, Dr. Cooperstock was on a relaxing couch. "Hello, Martin," he said over the little drone of its motor. "This is Wayne Donner. Dr. Finneman. Dr. Grace."

I shook hands with the doctors first, pettishly enough but I felt obliged to show where I stood, and then with Donner. He was very courteous. He had discovered what bargains could be bought with that coin too. He said, "Dr. Finneman here has a good deal of respect for you, Doctor. I'm sure you're well placed at the Pavilion. But if you ever consider leaving I'd like to talk to you."

I thanked him and refused. I was flattered, though. I thought of how his fusion-power nonsense might have killed Dr. Cooperstock before he was ready to die, and I thought of him with Nan Halloran, sweat on that perfect face. And I am not impressed by money.

Yet I was flattered that he would take the trouble and time, and God knows how much an hour of his time was worth, to himself offer me a job. I was flattered even though I knew that the courtesy was for his benefit, not mine. He wanted the best he chose to afford—in the way of a doctor, in my case, but the best of anything else too. If he hired a gardener he would want the man to be a very good gardener. Aware as he was of the dignities assumed by a professional man, he had budgeted the time to give me a personal invitation instead of letting his housekeeper or general manager attend to it. It was only another installment of expense he chose to afford and yet I was glad to get out of there. I was almost afraid I would reconsider and say yes, and I hated that man very much.


When we got Dr. Cooperstock back and bedded and checked over I examined the records Dr. Finneman had sent. He had furnished complete tests and a politely guarded prognosis, and of course he was right; Cooperstock was sinking, but not fast; he was good for another month or two with luck. I told him as much, snappishly. "Don't be angry with me, Martin," he said, "you'd have done the same thing for Nan if she asked you."

"Probably, but I'm not dying."

"Don't be vulgar, Martin."

"I'm not a nuclear physicist, either."

"It's only to make a few dollars for the man, Martin. Heavens. What difference can another billion or two make to Donner? Besides," he said strongly, "you know I've always opposed this fetish of security. Think of Oppenheimer, not allowed to read his own papers! Think of the waste, the same work done in a dozen different places, because in Irkutsk they aren't allowed to know what's going on in Denver and in Omaha somebody forgot to tell them."

"Think of Wayne Donner with all the power in the world," I said.

He said, "I guess Nan hit you harder than I thought, to make you so mad."

Although I watched the papers I did not see anything about converting Donner's power stations to fusion energy. In fact, I didn't see much of Donner's name at all, which caused me to wonder. Normally he would have been spotted in the Stork or cruising off Bimini or in some other way photographed and written about a couple of times a week. His publicity men must have been laboring extra hard.

Nan Halloran came to see Dr. Cooperstock but I did not join them. I spent my time with him when there was no one else, after my evening rounds. Sometimes we played cards but more often I listened to him talk. The physics of the atomic nucleus was poetry when he talked of it. He told me about Gamow's primordial atom from which all the stars and dust clouds had exploded. He explained Fred Hoyle to me, and Heisenberg. But he was tiring early now.

Behind the drawer of his night table, in a used cigarette package thumbtacked to the wood, his store of red-and-white capsules was growing again. They were still aspirin. But I think I would not have denied him the real thing if he had known the deception and asked. We took off two toes in March and it was only a miracle that we saved the leg.



Back | Next