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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1133

The staff at the Hudson Clinic is worried about the head of the hospital, Dr. Wayne Hudson. The doctor has suddenly become nervous and haggard, a bad condition for an eminent practicing surgeon, and his staff tries to advise the doctor to take six months away from his work. The...

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The staff at the Hudson Clinic is worried about the head of the hospital, Dr. Wayne Hudson. The doctor has suddenly become nervous and haggard, a bad condition for an eminent practicing surgeon, and his staff tries to advise the doctor to take six months away from his work. The doctor himself surprises his staff by announcing that he is about to marry his daughter’s school friend, Miss Helen Brent. The couple are married within a short time and live at the doctor’s lakeside cottage. Soon afterward, a shocking tragedy occurs at the lake. Dr. Hudson drowns because the inhalator that might have saved his life had been dispatched across the lake to resuscitate a wealthy young playboy, Robert Merrick.

While he is recuperating, young Merrick believes that the doctors and nurses at the Hudson Clinic resent him. He does not yet know that he is alive at the expense of the life of the hospital’s chief surgeon. He questions the superintendent of the clinic, Nancy Ashford, who had been in love with her chief, Dr. Hudson, but Ashford does not give him a satisfactory answer. Later, overhearing a conversation, Merrick discovers why the people at the hospital seem to despise him. He talks again to Ashford, who tells him the only way he can ever make amends would be to take Dr. Hudson’s place in life by becoming a great surgeon.

After weeks of pondering on the idea of going to medical school, Merrick decides that he will try to fill Dr. Hudson’s place. When he tells Ashford of his plans, she tells him the story of the doctor’s many philanthropies. She also gives him a book the doctor had written in code. After many days and nights of perseverance, the young man manages to break the cipher. When he has done so, it seems to him that the doctor, whom he has come to look upon as an ideal, had been a lunatic, for the book is a strange, mystic tract about doing good. From Ashford, he learns that the deceased doctor had been a great mystic, believing that his gift as a surgeon came to him from what he called the Major Personality. That power was earned by doing good unknown to others, philanthropy that would aid the recipient in leading a valuable life of service.

During the next few years, Merrick attends the state medical school. One night, as he sits studying, he suddenly feels a call to go to a nightclub where he knows Joyce Hudson, the doctor’s daughter, is to be. After rescuing her from a drunken scene, he takes her home. There he meets the doctor’s widow, Helen Hudson.

That semester, Merrick almost fails at medical school. Discouraged with his own efforts, he decides to experiment with the knowledge he gained from the dead surgeon’s manuscript. He aides a fellow student, Dawson, who is about to leave school because he lacks funds. Immediately, he feels renewed hope and plunges into his work with enthusiasm.

Helen Hudson leaves for Europe, where she remains for three years. Near the end of that time, she discovers that the cousin who is handling her affairs has been dishonest. Needing funds, she writes to Ashford to ask if her stock in the Hudson Clinic can be sold. Ashford tells Merrick, now a doctor at the clinic, about Helen’s letter. He sends Helen twenty-five thousand dollars and sells some of the stock for her.

Toward the end of her stay in Europe, Helen meets Mrs. Dawson, wife of the medical student whom Merrick had helped through medical school. Merrick had asked Mrs. Dawson to learn something of Helen’s financial losses so that he might put her affairs in order. After telling Mrs. Dawson her troubles, Helen discovers an envelope Mrs. Dawson addressed to Merrick. Helen promptly disappears.

Merrick visits the cousin who is managing Helen’s financial affairs. The man has stolen from Helen about $100,000. Merrick makes good the loss and sends the man out of the country, bringing no charges against him because he is related to Helen. Before the cousin leaves, he learns Merrick’s theory of personality projection and makes up his mind to lead an honest life.

Tired from overwork, Merrick vacations in the country for several weeks. Then he returns to his laboratory and begins a program of hard work. His meals are returned to the kitchen almost untouched. His labors are at last successful, for he perfected a scalpel that automatically cauterizes by means of electricity. The device opens a new field of brain surgery because it prevents hemorrhage as it cuts into the tissue.

About Christmastime, Helen returns to the United States. In Detroit, she goes to her trust company and asks to see the shares of stock that they hold in her name. As she suspects, they had been transferred from Merrick. When she leaves the bank, she does not know whether to feel thankful or insulted. Helen goes next to the Hudson Clinic, where she asks to see Merrick immediately. Her confusion is even greater when he tells her he cannot take back the money. He tries to explain the transfer of her stock, but she is in no mood for explanations. As he takes her to the door, they meet her stepdaughter. Joyce complicates the tense situation by proposing a theater party for the next day. To not create gossip, both Helen and Merrick agree to go to dinner and the theater afterward. As he helps Helen into the taxi, Merrick murmurs that he loves her.

The next evening at dinner, Merrick asks Helen not to tell about all that had been done for a needy Italian family at Assisi. He adds that the philanthropy would lose its value if the story were told.

The following summer, Merrick travels to Europe to visit eminent surgeons in Vienna and to demonstrate his cauterizing scalpel to them. While he is in Paris, he hears that Helen has been injured in a train wreck near Rome. Hurrying to Rome, he operates on the injured woman and saves her life. Then, in quixotic fashion, he leaves Rome before anyone can tell her who had performed the delicate operation. Helen guesses Merrick’s identity, however, from the few words he had mumbled in her presence. Weeks later, when she discovers that he was planning to visit her, Helen, ashamed of her previous attitude toward his interest in her affairs, arranges to leave for the United States. However, Merrick flies to Le Havre ahead of her, arranges for their marriage, and meets her on the dock. When she sees him waiting, she walks into his arms. She does not have to be told why he had come.

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