A New Microbe, by O.Henry

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Friday, 16th December 2011

There is a Houston man who is a great lover of science and an ardent student of her mysteries. He has a small laboratory fitted up at home and spends a great deal of his time in experimenting his chemicals and analyzing different substances.

Of late he has been much interested in various germ theories, and has somewhat neglected his business to read Pasteur's and Koch's writings, and everything he could procure relating to sundry kinds of bacilli.

He had bought a new 900-power magnifying instrument, and hopes before long to add his quota to the number of valuable discoveries concerning germ life.

Last Tuesday night there was a sociable and supper given at one of the churches. The man's wife wanted him to go, but he begged off, saying that he would much rather stay at home and have a good quiet time with his microscope, while she went and took the children.

He had been reading ex-State geologist Dumber's report of his analysis of Houston bayou water, and he was anxious to verify that gentleman's statements by an examination of his own.

So, immediately after supper he went through the kitchen and found a tin bucket full of water sitting on a bench by the hydrant and carried it at once to his laboratory and, fastening himself, in went to work.

After a time he heard his wife and children leave the house on their way to the supper at the church, which was only a block or two away, and he congratulated himself on the nice quiet time he was going to have.

He worked away for nearly three hours, repeatedly examining through the powerful microscope samples of the bayou water from the bucket.

* * *

At last he slapped his hand on his knee in triumph.

"Dumble's wrong!" he exclaimed. "He says it's the hybadid cystallis, and I'm certain he's mistaken. The inhabitants of this water and schizomycetic bacteria, but they are neither macrocci of roseopersicina, nor have they iso-diametric cells.

"Can it be that I have discovered a new germ? Is scientific fame within my grasp?"

He seized his pen and began to write. In a little while his family came home and his wife came up to the laboratory. He generally refused to let her come in, but on that occasion he opened the door and welcomed her enthusiastically.

"Ellen," he cried, "since you have been gone I have won fame and perhaps fortune. I have discovered a new bacterium in the bayou water. Science describes nothing like it. I shall call it after you and your name will pass into eternal fame. Just take a look through the microscope."

His wife shut one eye and looked into the cylinder.

Funny little round things, ain't they?" she said. "Are they injurious to the system?"

"Sure death. Get one of 'em into your alimentary canal and you're a goner. I am going to write to the London Lancet and the New York Academy of Science tonight. What shall we call 'em, Ellen? Let's see -- Ellenobes, or Ellenites, or what?"

"Oh, John, you wretch!" shrieked the wife, as she caught sight of the tin bucket on the table. "You've got my bucket of Galveston oysters that I bought to take to the church supper! Microbes, indeed!"