|A long time ago,
there lived a skillful scientist who had experienced a spiritual
reaction more striking than any chemical one.
He had left his laboratory in the care of his assistant, washed the
chemicals from his hands and asked a beautiful woman to become his wife.
In those days new scientific discoveries such as electricity seemed to
open paths into the area of miracles. It was not unusual for the love of
science to compete with the love of a woman.
The scientist's name was Aylmer. He had so totally given himself to
scientific studies that he could not be weakened by a second love. His
love for his young wife could only be the stronger of the two if it
could link itself with his love of science.
Such a union did take place with truly remarkable results. But one day,
very soon after their marriage, Aylmer looked at his wife with a
"Georgiana," he said, "have you ever considered that the mark upon your
cheek might be removed"?
"No," she said smiling. But seeing the seriousness of his question, she
said, "The mark has so often been called a charm that I was simple
enough to imagine it might be so."
"On another face it might," answered her husband, "but not on yours. No
dear, Nature made you so perfectly that this small defect shocks me as
being a sign of earthly imperfection."
"Shocks you!" cried Georgiana, deeply hurt. Her face reddened and she
burst into tears. "Then why did you marry me? You cannot love what
We must explain that in the center of Georgiana's left cheek there was a
mark, deep in her skin. The mark was usually a deep red color. When
Georgiana blushed, the mark became less visible. But when she turned
pale, there was the mark, like a red stain upon snow. The birthmark
would come and go with the emotions in her heart.
The mark was shaped like a very small human hand. Georgiana's past
lovers used to say that the hand of a magical fairy had touched her face
when she was born. Many a gentleman would have risked his life for the
honor of kissing that mysterious hand.
But other people had different opinions. Some women said the red hand
quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana's beauty.
Male observers who did not praise the mark simply wished it away so that
they did not see it. After his marriage, Aylmer discovered that this was
the case with himself.
Had Georgiana been less beautiful, he might have felt his love increased
by the prettiness of that little hand. But because she was otherwise so
perfect, he found the mark had become unbearable.
Aylmer saw the mark as a sign of his wife's eventual sadness, sickness
and death. Soon, the birthmark caused him more pain than Georgiana's
beauty had ever given him pleasure.
During a period that should have been their happiest, Aylmer could only
think of this disastrous subject. With the morning light, Aylmer opened
his eyes upon his wife's face and recognized the sign of imperfection.
When they sat together in the evening near the fire, he would look at
Georgiana soon began to fear his look. His expression would make her
face go pale. And the birthmark would stand out like a red jewel on
"Do you remember, dear Aylmer, about the dream you had last night about
this hateful mark?" she asked with a weak smile.
"None! None whatever!" answered Aylmer, surprised.
The mind is in a sad state when sleep cannot control its ghosts and
allows them to break free with their secrets. Aylmer now remembered his
dream. He had imagined himself with his assistant Aminadab trying to
remove the birthmark with an operation. But the deeper his knife went,
the deeper the small hand sank until it had caught hold of Georgiana's
Aylmer felt guilty remembering the dream.
"Aylmer," said Georgiana, "I do not know what the cost would be to both
of us to remove this birthmark. Removing it could deform my face or
damage my health."
"Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought on the subject," said
Aylmer. "I am sure it can be removed."
"Then let the attempt be made at any risk," said Georgiana. "Life is not
worth living while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror.
You have deep science and have made great discoveries. Remove this
little mark for the sake of your peace and my own."
"Dearest wife," cried Aylmer. "Do not doubt my power. I am ready to make
this cheek as perfect as its pair."
Her husband gently kissed her right cheek, the one without the red hand.
The next day the couple went to Aylmer's laboratory where he had made
all his famous discoveries. Georgiana would live in a beautiful room he
had prepared nearby, while he worked tirelessly in his lab. One by one,
Aylmer tried a series of powerful experiments on his wife. But the mark
Georgiana waited in her room. She read through his notebooks of
scientific observations. She could not help see that many of his
experiments had ended in failure. She decided to see for herself the
scientist at work.
The first thing that struck Georgiana when entering the laboratory was
the hot furnace. From the amount of soot above it, it seemed to have
been burning for ages. She saw machines, tubes, cylinders and other
containers for chemical experiments. What most drew her attention was
Aylmer himself. He was nervous and pale as death as he worked on
preparing a liquid.
Georgiana realized that her husband had been hiding his tension and fear.
"Think not so little of me that you cannot be honest about the risks we
are taking," she said. "I will drink whatever you make for me, even if
it is a poison."
"My dear, nothing shall be hidden," Aylmer said. "I have already given
you chemicals powerful enough to change your entire physical system.
Only one thing remains to be tried and if that fails, we are ruined!"
He led her back to her room where she waited once more, alone with her
thoughts. She hoped that for just one moment she could satisfy her
husband's highest ideals. But she realized then that his mind would
forever be on the march, always requiring something newer, better and
Hours later, Aylmer returned carrying a crystal glass with a colorless
"The chemical process went perfectly," he said. "Unless all my science
has tricked me, it cannot fail."
To test the liquid, he placed a drop in the soil of a dying flower
growing in a pot in the room. In a few moments, the plant became healthy
and green once more.
"I do not need proof," Georgiana said quietly. "Give me the glass. I am
happy to put my life in your hands." She drank the liquid and
immediately fell asleep.
Aylmer sat next to his wife, observing her and taking notes. He noted
everything -- her breathing, the movement of an eyelid. He stared at the
birthmark. And slowly, with every breath that came and went, it lost
some of its brightness.
"By Heaven! It is nearly gone," said Aylmer. "Success! Success!"
He opened the window coverings to see her face in daylight. She was so
pale. Georgiana opened her eyes and looked into the mirror her husband
held. She tried to smile as she saw the barely visible mark.
"My poor Aylmer," she said gently. "You have aimed so high. With so high
and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the Earth could offer. I
am dying, dearest."
It was true. The hand on her face had been her link to life. As the last
trace of color disappeared from her cheek, she gave her last breath.
Blinded by a meaningless imperfection and an impossible goal, Aylmer had
thrown away her life and with it his chance for happiness. In trying to
improve his lovely wife, he had failed to realize she had been perfect