Thursday, November 8, 2007



[Being an extract from a long and animated
correspondence with a friend in America.]
I quite recognise the force of your objection
that an invalid or a woman in weak health would get
no good from stories which attempt to treat some
features of medical life with a certain amount of
realism. If you deal with this life at all, however,
and if you are anxious to make your doctors something
more than marionettes, it is quite essential that you
should paint the darker side, since it is that which
is principally presented to the surgeon or physician.
He sees many beautiful things, it is true, fortitude
and heroism, love and self-sacrifice; but they are
all called forth (as our nobler qualities are always
called forth) by bitter sorrow and trial. One cannot
write of medical life and be merry over it.
Then why write of it, you may ask? If a subject
is painful why treat it at all? I answer that it is
the province of fiction to treat painful things
as well as cheerful ones. The story which wiles
away a weary hour fulfils an obviously good
purpose, but not more so, I hold, than that which
helps to emphasise the graver side of life. A
tale which may startle the reader out of his usual
grooves of thought, and shocks him into seriousness,
plays the part of the alterative and tonic in
medicine, bitter to the taste but bracing in the
result. There are a few stories in this little
collection which might have such an effect, and I
have so far shared in your feeling that I have
reserved them from serial publication. In book-form
the reader can see that they are medical stories, and
can, if he or she be so minded, avoid them.
Yours very truly,
P. S.--You ask about the Red Lamp. It is the
usual sign of the general practitioner in England.
LOT NO. 249
My first interview with Dr. James Winter was
under dramatic circumstances. It occurred at two in
the morning in the bedroom of an old country house.
I kicked him twice on the white waistcoat and knocked
off his gold spectacles, while he with the aid of a
female accomplice stifled my angry cries in a flannel
petticoat and thrust me into a warm bath. I am told
that one of my parents, who happened to be present,
remarked in a whisper that there was nothing the
matter with my lungs. I cannot recall how Dr. Winter
looked at the time, for I had other things to think
of, but his description of my own appearance is far
from flattering. A fluffy head, a body like a
trussed goose, very bandy legs, and feet with the
soles turned inwards--those are the main items which
he can remember.
From this time onwards the epochs of my life were
the periodical assaults which Dr. Winter made upon
me. He vaccinated me; he cut me for an abscess; he
blistered me for mumps. It was a world of peace and
he the one dark cloud that threatened. But at last
there came a time of real illness--a time when I lay
for months together inside my wickerwork-basket bed,
and then it was that I learned that that hard face
could relax, that those country-made creaking boots
could steal very gently to a bedside, and that that
rough voice could thin into a whisper when it spoke
to a sick child.
And now the child is himself a medical man, and
yet Dr. Winter is the same as ever. I can see no
change since first I can remember him, save that
perhaps the brindled hair is a trifle whiter, and the
huge shoulders a little more bowed. He is a very
tall man, though he loses a couple of inches from his
stoop. That big back of his has curved itself over
sick beds until it has set in that shape. His face
is of a walnut brown, and tells of long winter drives
over bleak country roads, with the wind and the rain
in his teeth. It looks smooth at a little distance,
but as you approach him you see that it is shot with
innumerable fine wrinkles like a last year's apple.
They are hardly to be seen when he is in repose; but
when he laughs his face breaks like a starred glass,
and you realise then that though he looks old, he
must be older than he looks.
How old that is I could never discover. I have
often tried to find out, and have struck his stream
as high up as George IV and even the Regency, but
without ever getting quite to the source. His mind
must have been open to impressions very early, but it
must also have closed early, for the politics of the
day have little interest for him, while he is
fiercely excited about questions which are entirely
prehistoric. He shakes his head when he speaks of
the first Reform Bill and expresses grave doubts as
to its wisdom, and I have heard him, when he was
warmed by a glass of wine, say bitter things about
Robert Peel and his abandoning of the Corn Laws. The
death of that statesman brought the history of
England to a definite close, and Dr. Winter refers to
everything which had happened since then as to an
insignificant anticlimax.
But it was only when I had myself become a
medical man that I was able to appreciate how
entirely he is a survival of a past generation. He
had learned his medicine under that obsolete and
forgotten system by which a youth was apprenticed to
a surgeon, in the days when the study of anatomy was
often approached through a violated grave. His views
upon his own profession are even more reactionary
than in politics. Fifty years have brought him
little and deprived him of less. Vaccination was
well within the teaching of his youth, though I
think he has a secret preference for inoculation.
Bleeding he would practise freely but for public
opinion. Chloroform he regards as a dangerous
innovation, and he always clicks with his tongue when
it is mentioned. He has even been known to say vain
things about Laennec, and to refer to the stethoscope
as "a new-fangled French toy." He carries one in his
hat out of deference to the expectations of his
patients, but he is very hard of hearing, so that it
makes little difference whether he uses it or not.
He reads, as a duty, his weekly medical paper, so
that he has a general idea as to the advance of
modern science. He always persists in looking upon
it as a huge and rather ludicrous experiment. The
germ theory of disease set him chuckling for a long
time, and his favourite joke in the sick room was to
say, "Shut the door or the germs will be getting in."
As to the Darwinian theory, it struck him as being
the crowning joke of the century. "The children in
the nursery and the ancestors in the stable," he
would cry, and laugh the tears out of his eyes.
He is so very much behind the day that
occasionally, as things move round in their usual
circle, he finds himself, to his bewilderment, in the
front of the fashion. Dietetic treatment, for
example, had been much in vogue in his youth, and
he has more practical knowledge of it than any one
whom I have met. Massage, too, was familiar to him
when it was new to our generation. He had been
trained also at a time when instruments were in a
rudimentary state, and when men learned to trust more
to their own fingers. He has a model surgical hand,
muscular in the palm, tapering in the fingers, "with
an eye at the end of each." I shall not easily
forget how Dr. Patterson and I cut Sir John Sirwell,
the County Member, and were unable to find the stone.
It was a horrible moment. Both our careers were at
stake. And then it was that Dr. Winter, whom we had
asked out of courtesy to be present, introduced into
the wound a finger which seemed to our excited senses
to be about nine inches long, and hooked out the
stone at the end of it. "It's always well to bring
one in your waistcoat-pocket," said he with a
chuckle, "but I suppose you youngsters are above all
We made him president of our branch of the
British Medical Association, but he resigned after
the first meeting. "The young men are too much for
me," he said. "I don't understand what they are
talking about." Yet his patients do very well. He
has the healing touch--that magnetic thing which
defies explanation or analysis, but which is a very
evident fact none the less. His mere presence
leaves the patient with more hopefulness and
vitality. The sight of disease affects him as dust
does a careful housewife. It makes him angry and
impatient. "Tut, tut, this will never do!" he cries,
as he takes over a new case. He would shoo Death out
of the room as though he were an intrusive hen. But
when the intruder refuses to be dislodged, when the
blood moves more slowly and the eyes grow dimmer,
then it is that Dr. Winter is of more avail than all
the drugs in his surgery. Dying folk cling to his
hand as if the presence of his bulk and vigour gives
them more courage to face the change; and that
kindly, windbeaten face has been the last earthly
impression which many a sufferer has carried into the
When Dr. Patterson and I--both of us young,
energetic, and up-to-date--settled in the district,
we were most cordially received by the old doctor,
who would have been only too happy to be relieved of
some of his patients. The patients themselves,
however, followed their own inclinations--which is a
reprehensible way that patients have--so that we
remained neglected, with our modern instruments and
our latest alkaloids, while he was serving out senna
and calomel to all the countryside. We both of us
loved the old fellow, but at the same time, in the
privacy of our own intimate conversations, we could
not help commenting upon this deplorable lack of
judgment. "It's all very well for the poorer
people," said Patterson. "But after all the educated
classes have a right to expect that their medical man
will know the difference between a mitral murmur and
a bronchitic rale. It's the judicial frame of mind,
not the sympathetic, which is the essential one."
I thoroughly agreed with Patterson in what he
said. It happened, however, that very shortly
afterwards the epidemic of influenza broke out, and
we were all worked to death. One morning I met
Patterson on my round, and found him looking rather
pale and fagged out. He made the same remark about
me. I was, in fact, feeling far from well, and I lay
upon the sofa all the afternoon with a splitting
headache and pains in every joint. As evening closed
in, I could no longer disguise the fact that the
scourge was upon me, and I felt that I should have
medical advice without delay. It was of Patterson,
naturally, that I thought, but somehow the idea of
him had suddenly become repugnant to me. I thought
of his cold, critical attitude, of his endless
questions, of his tests and his tappings. I wanted
something more soothing--something more genial.
"Mrs. Hudson," said I to my housekeeper, would
you kindly run along to old Dr. Winter and tell
him that I should be obliged to him if he would step
She was back with an answer presently. "Dr.
Winter will come round in an hour or so, sir; but he
has just been called in to attend Dr. Patterson."
It was the first day of the winter session, and
the third year's man was walking with the first
year's man. Twelve o'clock was just booming out from
the Tron Church.
"Let me see," said the third year's man. "You
have never seen an operation?"
"Then this way, please. This is Rutherford's
historic bar. A glass of sherry, please, for this
gentleman. You are rather sensitive, are you not?"
"My nerves are not very strong, I am afraid."
"Hum! Another glass of sherry for this gentleman.
We are going to an operation now, you know."
The novice squared his shoulders and made a
gallant attempt to look unconcerned.
"Nothing very bad--eh?"
"Well, yes--pretty bad."
"An--an amputation?"
"No; it's a bigger affair than that."
"I think--I think they must be expecting me at home."
"There's no sense in funking. If you don't go
to-day, you must to-morrow. Better get it over at
once. Feel pretty fit?"
"Oh, yes; all right!" The smile was not a success.
"One more glass of sherry, then. Now come on or
we shall be late. I want you to be well in front."
"Surely that is not necessary."
"Oh, it is far better! What a drove of students!
There are plenty of new men among them. You can tell
them easily enough, can't you? If they were going
down to be operated upon themselves, they could not
look whiter."
"I don't think I should look as white."
"Well, I was just the same myself. But the
feeling soon wears off. You see a fellow with a face
like plaster, and before the week is out he is eating
his lunch in the dissecting rooms. I'll tell you all
about the case when we get to the theatre."
The students were pouring down the sloping street
which led to the infirmary--each with his little
sheaf of note-books in his hand. There were pale,
frightened lads, fresh from the high schools, and
callous old chronics, whose generation had passed on
and left them. They swept in an unbroken,
tumultuous stream from the university gate to the
hospital. The figures and gait of the men were
young, but there was little youth in most of their
faces. Some looked as if they ate too little--a few
as if they drank too much. Tall and short, tweedcoated
and black, round-shouldered, bespectacled, and
slim, they crowded with clatter of feet and rattle of
sticks through the hospital gate. Now and again they
thickened into two lines, as the carriage of a
surgeon of the staff rolled over the cobblestones
"There's going to be a crowd at Archer's,"
whispered the senior man with suppressed excitement.
"It is grand to see him at work. I've seen him jab
all round the aorta until it made me jumpy to watch
him. This way, and mind the whitewash."
They passed under an archway and down a long,
stone-flagged corridor, with drab-coloured doors on
either side, each marked with a number. Some of them
were ajar, and the novice glanced into them with
tingling nerves. He was reassured to catch a glimpse
of cheery fires, lines of white-counterpaned beds,
and a profusion of coloured texts upon the wall. The
corridor opened upon a small hall, with a fringe of
poorly clad people seated all round upon benches. A
young man, with a pair of scissors stuck like a
flower in his buttonhole and a note-book in his hand,
was passing from one to the other, whispering and
"Anything good?" asked the third year's man.
"You should have been here yesterday," said the
out-patient clerk, glancing up. "We had a regular
field day. A popliteal aneurism, a Colles' fracture,
a spina bifida, a tropical abscess, and an
elephantiasis. How's that for a single haul?"
"I'm sorry I missed it. But they'll come again,
I suppose. What's up with the old gentleman?"
A broken workman was sitting in the shadow,
rocking himself slowly to and fro, and groaning. A
woman beside him was trying to console him, patting
his shoulder with a hand which was spotted over with
curious little white blisters.
"It's a fine carbuncle," said the clerk, with the
air of a connoisseur who describes his orchids to one
who can appreciate them. "It's on his back and the
passage is draughty, so we must not look at it, must
we, daddy? Pemphigus," he added carelessly, pointing
to the woman's disfigured hands. "Would you care to
stop and take out a metacarpal?"
"No, thank you. We are due at Archer's. Come
on!" and they rejoined the throng which was hurrying
to the theatre of the famous surgeon.
The tiers of horseshoe benches rising from the
floor to the ceiling were already packed, and the
novice as he entered saw vague curving lines of
faces in front of him, and heard the deep buzz of a
hundred voices, and sounds of laughter from somewhere
up above him. His companion spied an opening on the
second bench, and they both squeezed into it.
"This is grand!" the senior man whispered.
"You'll have a rare view of it all."
Only a single row of heads intervened between
them and the operating table. It was of unpainted
deal, plain, strong, and scrupulously clean. A sheet
of brown water-proofing covered half of it, and
beneath stood a large tin tray full of sawdust. On
the further side, in front of the window, there was a
board which was strewed with glittering instruments--
forceps, tenacula, saws, canulas, and trocars. A
line of knives, with long, thin, delicate blades, lay
at one side. Two young men lounged in front of this,
one threading needles, the other doing something to a
brass coffee-pot-like thing which hissed out puffs of
"That's Peterson," whispered the senior, "the
big, bald man in the front row. He's the skingrafting
man, you know. And that's Anthony Browne,
who took a larynx out successfully last winter. And
there's Murphy, the pathologist, and Stoddart, the
eye-man. You'll come to know them all soon."
"Who are the two men at the table?"
"Nobody--dressers. One has charge of the
instruments and the other of the puffing Billy. It's
Lister's antiseptic spray, you know, and Archer's one
of the carbolic-acid men. Hayes is the leader of the
cleanliness-and-cold-water school, and they all hate
each other like poison."
A flutter of interest passed through the closely
packed benches as a woman in petticoat and bodice was
led in by two nurses. A red woolen shawl was draped
over her head and round her neck. The face which
looked out from it was that of a woman in the prime
of her years, but drawn with suffering, and of a
peculiar beeswax tint. Her head drooped as she
walked, and one of the nurses, with her arm round her
waist, was whispering consolation in her ear. She
gave a quick side-glance at the instrument table as
she passed, but the nurses turned her away from it.
"What ails her?" asked the novice.
"Cancer of the parotid. It's the devil of a
case; extends right away back behind the carotids.
There's hardly a man but Archer would dare to follow
it. Ah, here he is himself!"
As he spoke, a small, brisk, iron-grey man came
striding into the room, rubbing his hands together as
he walked. He had a clean-shaven face, of the naval
officer type, with large, bright eyes, and a firm,
straight mouth. Behind him came his big housesurgeon,
with his gleaming pince-nez, and a
trail of dressers, who grouped themselves into
the corners of the room.
"Gentlemen," cried the surgeon in a voice as hard
and brisk as his manner, "we have here an interesting
case of tumour of the parotid, originally
cartilaginous but now assuming malignant
characteristics, and therefore requiring excision.
On to the table, nurse! Thank you! Chloroform,
clerk! Thank you! You can take the shawl off,
The woman lay back upon the water-proofed pillow,
and her murderous tumour lay revealed. In itself it
was a pretty thing--ivory white, with a mesh of blue
veins, and curving gently from jaw to chest. But the
lean, yellow face and the stringy throat were in
horrible contrast with the plumpness and sleekness of
this monstrous growth. The surgeon placed a hand on
each side of it and pressed it slowly backwards and
"Adherent at one place, gentlemen," he cried.
"The growth involves the carotids and jugulars, and
passes behind the ramus of the jaw, whither we must
be prepared to follow it. It is impossible to say
how deep our dissection may carry us. Carbolic tray.
Thank you! Dressings of carbolic gauze, if you
please! Push the chloroform, Mr. Johnson. Have the
small saw ready in case it is necessary to remove the
The patient was moaning gently under the towel
which had been placed over her face. She tried
to raise her arms and to draw up her knees, but two
dressers restrained her. The heavy air was full of
the penetrating smells of carbolic acid and of
chloroform. A muffled cry came from under the towel,
and then a snatch of a song, sung in a high,
quavering, monotonous voice:
"He says, says he,
If you fly with me
You'll be mistress of the ice-cream van.
You'll be mistress of the----"
It mumbled off into a drone and stopped. The surgeon
came across, still rubbing his hands, and spoke to an
elderly man in front of the novice.
"Narrow squeak for the Government," he said.
"Oh, ten is enough."
"They won't have ten long. They'd do better to
resign before they are driven to it."
"Oh, I should fight it out."
"What's the use. They can't get past the
committee even if they got a vote in the House. I
was talking to----"
"Patient's ready, sir," said the dresser.
"Talking to McDonald--but I'll tell you about it
presently." He walked back to the patient, who was
breathing in long, heavy gasps. "I propose," said
he, passing his hand over the tumour in an almost
caressing fashion, "to make a free incision over the
posterior border, and to take another forward at
right angles to the lower end of it. Might I
trouble you for a medium knife, Mr. Johnson?"
The novice, with eyes which were dilating with
horror, saw the surgeon pick up the long, gleaming
knife, dip it into a tin basin, and balance it in his
fingers as an artist might his brush. Then he saw
him pinch up the skin above the tumour with his left
hand. At the sight his nerves, which had already
been tried once or twice that day, gave way utterly.
His head swain round, and he felt that in another
instant he might faint. He dared not look at the
patient. He dug his thumbs into his ears lest some
scream should come to haunt him, and he fixed his
eyes rigidly upon the wooden ledge in front of him.
One glance, one cry, would, he knew, break down the
shred of self-possession which he still retained. He
tried to think of cricket, of green fields and
rippling water, of his sisters at home--of anything
rather than of what was going on so near him.
And yet somehow, even with his ears stopped up,
sounds seemed to penetrate to him and to carry their
own tale. He heard, or thought that he heard, the
long hissing of the carbolic engine. Then he was
conscious of some movement among the dressers. Were
there groans, too, breaking in upon him, and some
other sound, some fluid sound, which was more
dreadfully suggestive still? His mind would keep
building up every step of the operation, and
fancy made it more ghastly than fact could have been.
His nerves tingled and quivered. Minute by minute
the giddiness grew more marked, the numb, sickly
feeling at his heart more distressing. And then
suddenly, with a groan, his head pitching forward,
and his brow cracking sharply upon the narrow wooden
shelf in front of him, he lay in a dead faint.
When he came to himself, he was lying in the
empty theatre, with his collar and shirt undone. The
third year's man was dabbing a wet sponge over his
face, and a couple of grinning dressers were looking
"All right," cried the novice, sitting up and
rubbing his eyes. "I'm sorry to have made an ass of
"Well, so I should think," said his companion.
"What on earth did you faint about?"
"I couldn't help it. It was that operation."
"What operation?"
"Why, that cancer."
There was a pause, and then the three students
burst out laughing. "Why, you juggins!" cried the
senior man, "there never was an operation at all!
They found the patient didn't stand the chloroform
well, and so the whole thing was off. Archer has
been giving us one of his racy lectures, and you
fainted just in the middle of his favourite story."
It was a dull October morning, and heavy, rolling
fog-wreaths lay low over the wet grey roofs of the
Woolwich houses. Down in the long, brick-lined
streets all was sodden and greasy and cheerless.
From the high dark buildings of the arsenal came the
whirr of many wheels, the thudding of weights, and
the buzz and babel of human toil. Beyond, the
dwellings of the workingmen, smoke-stained and
unlovely, radiated away in a lessening perspective of
narrowing road and dwindling wall.
There were few folk in the streets, for the
toilers had all been absorbed since break of day by
the huge smoke-spouting monster, which sucked in the
manhood of the town, to belch it forth weary and
work-stained every night. Little groups of children
straggled to school, or loitered to peep through the
single, front windows at the big, gilt-edged Bibles,
balanced upon small, three-legged tables, which were
their usual adornment. Stout women, with thick, red
arms and dirty aprons, stood upon the whitened
doorsteps, leaning upon their brooms, and shrieking
their morning greetings across the road. One
stouter, redder, and dirtier than the rest, had
gathered a small knot of cronies around her and was
talking energetically, with little shrill titters
from her audience to punctuate her remarks.
"Old enough to know better!" she cried, in answer
to an exclamation from one of the listeners. "If he
hain't no sense now, I 'specs he won't learn much on
this side o'Jordan. Why, 'ow old is he at all?
Blessed if I could ever make out."
"Well, it ain't so hard to reckon," said a sharpfeatured
pale-faced woman with watery blue eyes.
"He's been at the battle o' Waterloo, and has the
pension and medal to prove it."
"That were a ter'ble long time agone," remarked a
third. "It were afore I were born."
"It were fifteen year after the beginnin' of the
century," cried a younger woman, who had stood
leaning against the wall, with a smile of superior
knowledge upon her face. "My Bill was a-saying so
last Sabbath, when I spoke to him o' old Daddy
Brewster, here."
"And suppose he spoke truth, Missus Simpson, 'ow
long agone do that make it?"
"It's eighty-one now," said the original speaker,
checking off the years upon her coarse red
fingers, "and that were fifteen. Ten and ten, and
ten, and ten, and ten--why, it's only sixty-and-six
year, so he ain't so old after all."
"But he weren't a newborn babe at the battle,
silly!" cried the young woman with a chuckle.
"S'pose he were only twenty, then he couldn't be less
than six-and-eighty now, at the lowest."
"Aye, he's that--every day of it," cried several.
"I've had 'bout enough of it," remarked the large
woman gloomily. "Unless his young niece, or
grandniece, or whatever she is, come to-day, I'm off,
and he can find some one else to do his work. Your
own 'ome first, says I."
"Ain't he quiet, then, Missus Simpson?" asked the
youngest of the group.
"Listen to him now," she answered, with her hand
half raised and her head turned slantwise towards the
open door. From the upper floor there came a
shuffling, sliding sound with a sharp tapping of a
stick. "There he go back and forrards, doing what he
call his sentry go. 'Arf the night through he's at
that game, the silly old juggins. At six o'clock
this very mornin there he was beatin' with a stick at
my door. `Turn out, guard!' he cried, and a lot more
jargon that I could make nothing of. Then what with
his coughin' and 'awkin' and spittin', there ain't no
gettin' a wink o' sleep. Hark to him now!"
"Missus Simpson, Missus Simpson!" cried a cracked
and querulous voice from above.
"That's him!" she cried, nodding her head with an
air of triumph. "He do go on somethin' scandalous.
Yes, Mr. Brewster, sir."
"I want my morning ration, Missus Simpson."
"It's just ready, Mr. Brewster, sir."
"Blessed if he ain't like a baby cryin' for its
pap," said the young woman.
"I feel as if I could shake his old bones up
sometimes!" cried Mrs. Simpson viciously. "But who's
for a 'arf of fourpenny?"
The whole company were about to shuffle off to
the public house, when a young girl stepped across
the road and touched the housekeeper timidly upon the
arm. "I think that is No. 56 Arsenal View," she
said. "Can you tell me if Mr. Brewster lives here?"
The housekeeper looked critically at the
newcomer. She was a girl of about twenty, broadfaced
and comely, with a turned-up nose and large,
honest grey eyes. Her print dress, her straw hat,
with its bunch of glaring poppies, and the bundle she
carried, had all a smack of the country.
"You're Norah Brewster, I s'pose," said Mrs.
Simpson, eyeing her up and down with no friendly
"Yes, I've come to look after my Granduncle
"And a good job too," cried the housekeeper, with
a toss of her head. "It's about time that some of
his own folk took a turn at it, for I've had enough
of it. There you are, young woman! In you go and
make yourself at home. There's tea in the caddy and
bacon on the dresser, and the old man will be about
you if you don't fetch him his breakfast. I'll send
for my things in the evenin'." With a nod she
strolled off with her attendant gossips in the
direction of the public house.
Thus left to her own devices, the country girl
walked into the front room and took off her hat and
jacket. It was a low-roofed apartment with a
sputtering fire upon which a small brass kettle was
singing cheerily. A stained cloth lay over half the
table, with an empty brown teapot, a loaf of bread,
and some coarse crockery. Norah Brewster looked
rapidly about her, and in an instant took over her
new duties. Ere five minutes had passed the tea was
made, two slices of bacon were frizzling on the pan,
the table was rearranged, the antimacassars
straightened over the sombre brown furniture, and the
whole room had taken a new air of comfort and
neatness. This done she looked round curiously at
the prints upon the walls. Over the fireplace, in a
small, square case, a brown medal caught her eye,
hanging from a strip of purple ribbon. Beneath was a
slip of newspaper cutting. She stood on her
tiptoes, with her fingers on the edge of the
mantelpiece, and craned her neck up to see it,
glancing down from time to time at the bacon which
simmered and hissed beneath her. The cutting was
yellow with age, and ran in this way:
"On Tuesday an interesting ceremony was performed
at the barracks of the Third Regiment of Guards,
when, in the presence of the Prince Regent, Lord
Hill, Lord Saltoun, and an assemblage which comprised
beauty as well as valour, a special medal was
presented to Corporal Gregory Brewster, of Captain
Haldane's flank company, in recognition of his
gallantry in the recent great battle in the Lowlands.
It appears that on the ever-memorable 18th of June
four companies of the Third Guards and of the
Coldstreams, under the command of Colonels Maitland
and Byng, held the important farmhouse of Hougoumont
at the right of the British position. At a critical
point of the action these troops found themselves
short of powder. Seeing that Generals Foy and Jerome
Buonaparte were again massing their infantry for an
attack on the position, Colonel Byng dispatched
Corporal Brewster to the rear to hasten up the
reserve ammunition. Brewster came upon two powder
tumbrils of the Nassau division, and succeeded, after
menacing the drivers with his musket, in inducing
them to convey their powder to Hougoumont. In
his absence, however, the hedges surrounding the
position had been set on fire by a howitzer battery
of the French, and the passage of the carts full of
powder became a most hazardous matter. The first
tumbril exploded, blowing the driver to fragments.
Daunted by the fate of his comrade, the second driver
turned his horses, but Corporal Brewster, springing
upon his seat, hurled the man down, and urging the
powder cart through the flames, succeeded in forcing
his way to his companions. To this gallant deed may
be directly attributed the success of the British
arms, for without powder it would have been
impossible to have held Hougoumont, and the Duke of
Wellington had repeatedly declared that had
Hougoumont fallen, as well as La Haye Sainte, he
would have found it impossible to have held his
ground. Long may the heroic Brewster live to
treasure the medal which he has so bravely won, and
to look back with pride to the day when, in the
presence of his comrades, he received this tribute to
his valour from the august hands of the first
gentleman of the realm."
The reading of this old cutting increased in the
girl's mind the veneration which she had always had
for her warrior kinsman. From her infancy he had
been her hero, and she remembered how her father used
to speak of his courage and his strength, how he
could strike down a bullock with a blow of his fist
and carry a fat sheep under either arm. True, she
had never seen him, but a rude painting at home which
depicted a square-faced, clean shaven, stalwart man
with a great bearskin cap, rose ever before her
memory when she thought of him.
She was still gazing at the brown medal and
wondering what the "Dulce et decorum est" might
mean, which was inscribed upon the edge, when there
came a sudden tapping and shuffling upon the stair,
and there at the door was standing the very man who
had been so often in her thoughts.
But could this indeed be he? Where was the
martial air, the flashing eye, the warrior face which
she had pictured? There, framed in the doorway, was
a huge twisted old man, gaunt and puckered, with
twitching hands and shuffling, purposeless feet. A
cloud of fluffy white hair, a red-veined nose, two
thick tufts of eyebrow and a pair of dimly
questioning, watery blue eyes--these were what met
her gaze. He leaned forward upon a stick, while his
shoulders rose and fell with his crackling, rasping
"I want my morning rations," he crooned, as he
stumped forward to his chair. "The cold nips me
without 'em. See to my fingers!" He held out his
distorted hands, all blue at the tips, wrinkled
and gnarled, with huge, projecting knuckles.
"It's nigh ready," answered the girl, gazing at
him with wonder in her eyes. "Don't you know who I
am, granduncle? I am Norah Brewster from Witham."
"Rum is warm," mumbled the old man, rocking to
and fro in his chair, "and schnapps is warm, and
there's 'eat in soup, but it's a dish o' tea for me.
What did you say your name was?"
"Norah Brewster."
"You can speak out, lass. Seems to me folk's
voices isn't as loud as they used."
"I'm Norah Brewster, uncle. I'm your grandniece
come down from Essex way to live with you."
"You'll be brother Jarge's girl! Lor, to think
o' little Jarge having a girl!" He chuckled hoarsely
to himself, and the long, stringy sinews of his
throat jerked and quivered.
"I am the daughter of your brother George's son,"
said she, as she turned the bacon.
"Lor, but little Jarge was a rare un!" he
continued. "Eh, by Jimini, there was no chousing
Jarge. He's got a bull pup o' mine that I gave him
when I took the bounty. You've heard him speak of
it, likely?"
"Why, grandpa George has been dead this twenty
year," said she, pouring out the tea.
"Well, it was a bootiful pup--aye, a well-bred
un, by Jimini! I'm cold for lack o' my rations. Rum
is good, and so is schnapps, but I'd as lief have tea
as either."
He breathed heavily while he devoured his food.
"It's a middlin' goodish way you've come," said he at
last. "Likely the stage left yesternight."
"The what, uncle?"
"The coach that brought you."
"Nay, I came by the mornin' train."
"Lor, now, think o' that! You ain't afeard o'
those newfangled things! By Jimini, to think of you
comin' by railroad like that! What's the world acomin'
There was silence for some minutes while Norah
sat stirring her tea and glancing sideways at the
bluish lips and champing jaws of her companion.
"You must have seen a deal o' life, uncle," said
she. "It must seem a long, long time to you!"
"Not so very long neither. I'm ninety, come
Candlemas; but it don't seem long since I took the
bounty. And that battle, it might have been
yesterday. Eh, but I get a power o' good from my
rations!" He did indeed look less worn and
colourless than when she first saw him. His face was
flushed and his back more erect.
"Have you read that?" he asked, jerking his head
towards the cutting.
"Yes, uncle, and I'm sure you must be proud of
"Ah, it was a great day for me! A great day!
The Regent was there, and a fine body of a man too!
`The ridgment is proud of you,' says he. `And I'm
proud of the ridgment,' say I. `A damned good answer
too!' says he to Lord Hill, and they both bu'st out
a-laughin'. But what be you a-peepin' out o' the
window for?"
"Oh, uncle, here's a regiment of soldiers coming
down the street with the band playing in front of
"A ridgment, eh? Where be my glasses? Lor, but
I can hear the band, as plain as plain! Here's the
pioneers an' the drum-major! What be their number,
lass?" His eyes were shining and his bony yellow
fingers, like the claws of some fierce old bird, dug
into her shoulder.
"They don't seem to have no number, uncle.
They've something wrote on their shoulders.
Oxfordshire, I think it be."
"Ah, yes!" he growled. "I heard as they'd
dropped the numbers and given them newfangled names.
There they go, by Jimini! They're young mostly, but
they hain't forgot how to march. They have the
swing-aye, I'll say that for them. They've got the
swing." He gazed after them until the last files
had turned the corner and the measured tramp of their
marching had died away in the distance.
He had just regained his chair when the door
opened and a gentleman stepped in.
"Ah, Mr. Brewster! Better to-day?" he asked.
"Come in, doctor! Yes, I'm better. But there's
a deal o' bubbling in my chest. It's all them
toobes. If I could but cut the phlegm, I'd be right.
Can't you give me something to cut the phlegm?"
The doctor, a grave-faced young man, put his
fingers to the furrowed, blue-corded wrist.
"You must be careful," he said. "You must take
no liberties." The thin tide of life seemed to
thrill rather than to throb under his finger.
The old man chuckled.
"I've got brother Jarge's girl to look after me
now. She'll see I don't break barracks or do what I
hadn't ought to. Why, darn my skin, I knew something
was amiss!
"With what?"
"Why, with them soldiers. You saw them pass,
doctor--eh? They'd forgot their stocks. Not one on
'em had his stock on." He croaked and chuckled for a
long time over his discovery. "It wouldn't ha' done
for the Dook!" he muttered. "No, by Jimini! the Dook
would ha' had a word there."
The doctor smiled. "Well, you are doing very
well," said he. "I'll look in once a week or so, and
see how you are." As Norah followed him to the door,
he beckoned her outside.
"He is very weak," he whispered. "If you find
him failing you must send for me."
"What ails him, doctor?"
"Ninety years ails him. His arteries are pipes
of lime. His heart is shrunken and flabby. The man
is worn out."
Norah stood watching the brisk figure of the
young doctor, and pondering over these new
responsibilities which had come upon her. When she
turned a tall, brown-faced artilleryman, with the
three gold chevrons of sergeant upon his arm, was
standing, carbine in hand, at her elbow.
"Good-morning, miss," said he, raising one thick
finger to his jaunty, yellow-banded cap. "I b'lieve
there's an old gentleman lives here of the name of
Brewster, who was engaged in the battle o' Waterloo?"
"It's my granduncle, sir," said Norah, casting
down her eyes before the keen, critical gaze of the
young soldier. "He is in the front parlour."
"Could I have a word with him, miss? I'll call
again if it don't chance to be convenient."
"I am sure that he would be very glad to see you,
sir. He's in here, if you'll step in. Uncle, here's
a gentleman who wants to speak with you."
"Proud to see you, sir--proud and glad, sir," cried
the sergeant, taking three steps forward into the
room, and grounding his carbine while he raised his
hand, palm forwards, in a salute. Norah stood by the
door, with her mouth and eyes open, wondering if her
granduncle had ever, in his prime, looked like this
magnificent creature, and whether he, in his turn,
would ever come to resemble her granduncle.
The old man blinked up at his visitor, and shook
his head slowly. "Sit ye down, sergeant," said he,
pointing with his stick to a chair. "You're full
young for the stripes. Lordy, it's easier to get
three now than one in my day. Gunners were old
soldiers then and the grey hairs came quicker than
the three stripes."
"I am eight years' service, sir," cried the
sergeant. "Macdonald is my name--Sergeant Macdonald,
of H Battery, Southern Artillery Division. I have
called as the spokesman of my mates at the gunner's
barracks to say that we are proud to have you in the
town, sir."
Old Brewster chuckled and rubbed his bony hands.
"That were what the Regent said," he cried. "`The
ridgment is proud of ye,' says he. `And I am proud
of the ridgment,' says I. `And a damned good answer
too,' says he, and he and Lord Hill bu'st out alaughin'."
"The non-commissioned mess would be proud and
honoured to see you, sir," said Sergeant Macdonald;
"and if you could step as far you'll always find a
pipe o' baccy and a glass o' grog a-waitin' you."
The old man laughed until he coughed. "Like to
see me, would they? The dogs!" said he. "Well,
well, when the warm weather comes again I'll maybe
drop in. Too grand for a canteen, eh? Got your mess
just the same as the orficers. What's the world acomin'
to at all!"
"You was in the line, sir, was you not?" asked
the sergeant respectfully.
"The line?" cried the old man, with shrill scorn.
"Never wore a shako in my life. I am a guardsman, I
am. Served in the Third Guards--the same they call
now the Scots Guards. Lordy, but they have all
marched away--every man of them--from old Colonel
Byng down to the drummer boys, and here am I a
straggler--that's what I am, sergeant, a straggler!
I'm here when I ought to be there. But it ain't my
fault neither, for I'm ready to fall in when the word
"We've all got to muster there," answered the
sergeant. "Won't you try my baccy, sir?" handing
over a sealskin pouch.
Old Brewster drew a blackened clay pipe from his
pocket, and began to stuff the tobacco into the bowl.
In an instant it slipped through his fingers, and was
broken to pieces on the floor. His lip quivered,
his nose puckered up, and he began crying with the
long, helpless sobs of a child. "I've broke my
pipe," he cried.
"Don't, uncle; oh, don't!" cried Norah, bending
over him, and patting his white head as one soothes a
baby. "It don't matter. We can easy get another."
"Don't you fret yourself, sir," said the
sergeant. "'Ere's a wooden pipe with an amber mouth,
if you'll do me the honour to accept it from me. I'd
be real glad if you will take it."
"Jimini!" cried he, his smiles breaking in an
instant through his tears. "It's a fine pipe. See
to my new pipe, Norah. I lay that Jarge never had a
pipe like that. You've got your firelock there,
"Yes, sir. I was on my way back from the butts
when I looked in."
"Let me have the feel of it. Lordy, but it seems
like old times to have one's hand on a musket.
What's the manual, sergeant, eh? Cock your
firelock--look to your priming--present your
firelock--eh, sergeant? Oh, Jimini, I've broke your
musket in halves!"
"That's all right, sir," cried the gunner
laughing. "You pressed on the lever and opened the
breech-piece. That's where we load 'em, you know."
"Load 'em at the wrong end! Well, well, to
think o' that! And no ramrod neither! I've
heard tell of it, but I never believed it afore. Ah!
it won't come up to brown Bess. When there's work to
be done, you mark my word and see if they don't come
back to brown Bess."
"By the Lord, sir!" cried the sergeant hotly,
"they need some change out in South Africa now. I see
by this mornin's paper that the Government has
knuckled under to these Boers. They're hot about it
at the non-com. mess, I can tell you, sir."
"Eh--eh," croaked old Brewster. "By Jimini! it
wouldn't ha' done for the Dook; the Dook would ha'
had a word to say over that."
"Ah, that he would, sir!" cried the sergeant; and
God send us another like him. But I've wearied you
enough for one sitting. I'll look in again, and I'll
bring a comrade or two with me, if I may, for there
isn't one but would be proud to have speech with
So, with another salute to the veteran and a
gleam of white teeth at Norah, the big gunner
withdrew, leaving a memory of blue cloth and of gold
braid behind him. Many days had not passed, however,
before he was back again, and during all the long
winter he was a frequent visitor at Arsenal View.
There came a time, at last, when it might be doubted
to which of the two occupants his visits were
directed, nor was it hard to say by which he was most
anxiously awaited. He brought others with him;
and soon, through all the lines, a pilgrimage to
Daddy Brewster's came to be looked upon as the proper
thing to do. Gunners and sappers, linesmen and
dragoons, came bowing and bobbing into the little
parlour, with clatter of side arms and clink of
spurs, stretching their long legs across the
patchwork rug, and hunting in the front of their
tunics for the screw of tobacco or paper of snuff
which they had brought as a sign of their esteem.
It was a deadly cold winter, with six weeks on
end of snow on the ground, and Norah had a hard task
to keep the life in that time-worn body. There were
times when his mind would leave him, and when, save
an animal outcry when the hour of his meals came
round, no word would fall from him. He was a whitehaired
child, with all a child's troubles and
emotions. As the warm weather came once more,
however, and the green buds peeped forth again upon
the trees, the blood thawed in his veins, and he
would even drag himself as far as the door to bask in
the life-giving sunshine.
"It do hearten me up so," he said one morning, as
he glowed in the hot May sun. "It's a job to keep
back the flies, though. They get owdacious in this
weather, and they do plague me cruel."
"I'll keep them off you, uncle," said Norah.
"Eh, but it's fine! This sunshine makes me think
o' the glory to come. You might read me a bit o' the
Bible, lass. I find it wonderful soothing."
"What part would you like, uncle?"
"Oh, them wars."
"The wars?"
"Aye, keep to the wars! Give me the Old
Testament for choice. There's more taste to it, to
my mind. When parson comes he wants to get off to
something else; but it's Joshua or nothing with me.
Them Israelites was good soldiers--good growed
soldiers, all of 'em."
"But, uncle," pleaded Norah, "it's all peace in
the next world."
"No, it ain't, gal."
"Oh, yes, uncle, surely!"
The old corporal knocked his stick irritably upon
the ground. "I tell ye it ain't, gal. I asked
"Well, what did he say?"
"He said there was to be a last fight. He even
gave it a name, he did. The battle of Arm--Arm----"
"Aye, that's the name parson said. I 'specs the
Third Guards'll be there. And the Dook--the Dook'll
have a word to say."
An elderly, grey-whiskered gentleman had been
walking down the street, glancing up at the
numbers of the houses. Now as his eyes fell upon the
old man, he came straight for him.
"Hullo!" said he; "perhaps you are Gregory
"My name, sir," answered the veteran.
"You are the same Brewster, as I understand, who
is on the roll of the Scots Guards as having been
present at the battle of Waterloo?"
"I am that man, sir, though we called it the
Third Guards in those days. It was a fine ridgment,
and they only need me to make up a full muster."
"Tut, tut! they'll have to wait years for that,"
said the gentleman heartily. "But I am the colonel
of the Scots Guards, and I thought I would like to
have a word with you."
Old Gregory Brewster was up in an instant, with
his hand to his rabbit-skin cap. "God bless me!" he
cried, "to think of it! to think of it!"
"Hadn't the gentleman better come in?" suggested
the practical Norah from behind the door.
"Surely, sir, surely; walk in, sir, if I may be
so bold." In his excitement he had forgotten his
stick, and as he led the way into the parlour his
knees tottered, and he threw out his hands. In an
instant the colonel had caught him on one side and
Norah on the other.
"Easy and steady," said the colonel, as he led
him to his armchair.
"Thank ye, sir; I was near gone that time. But,
Lordy I why, I can scarce believe it. To think of me
the corporal of the flank company and you the colonel
of the battalion! How things come round, to be
"Why, we are very proud of you in London," said
the colonel. "And so you are actually one of the men
who held Hougoumont." He looked at the bony,
trembling hands, with their huge, knotted knuckles,
the stringy throat, and the heaving, rounded
shoulders. Could this, indeed, be the last of that
band of heroes? Then he glanced at the half-filled
phials, the blue liniment bottles, the long-spouted
kettle, and the sordid details of the sick room.
"Better, surely, had he died under the blazing
rafters of the Belgian farmhouse," thought the
"I hope that you are pretty comfortable and
happy," he remarked after a pause.
"Thank ye, sir. I have a good deal o' trouble
with my toobes--a deal o' trouble. You wouldn't
think the job it is to cut the phlegm. And I need my
rations. I gets cold without 'em. And the flies! I
ain't strong enough to fight against them."
"How's the memory?" asked the colonel.
"Oh, there ain't nothing amiss there. Why,
sir, I could give you the name of every man in
Captain Haldane's flank company."
"And the battle--you remember it?"
"Why, I sees it all afore me every time I shuts
my eyes. Lordy, sir, you wouldn't hardly believe how
clear it is to me. There's our line from the
paregoric bottle right along to the snuff box. D'ye
see? Well, then, the pill box is for Hougoumont on
the right--where we was--and Norah's thimble for La
Haye Sainte. There it is, all right, sir; and here
were our guns, and here behind the reserves and the
Belgians. Ach, them Belgians!" He spat furiously
into the fire. "Then here's the French, where my
pipe lies; and over here, where I put my baccy pouch,
was the Proosians a-comin' up on our left flank.
Jimini, but it was a glad sight to see the smoke of
their guns!"
"And what was it that struck you most now in
connection with the whole affair?" asked the colonel.
"I lost three half-crowns over it, I did,"
crooned old Brewster. "I shouldn't wonder if I was
never to get that money now. I lent 'em to Jabez
Smith, my rear rank man, in Brussels. `Only till
pay-day, Grig,' says he. By Gosh! he was stuck by a
lancer at Quatre Bras, and me with not so much as a
slip o' paper to prove the debt! Them three halfcrowns
is as good as lost to me."
The colonel rose from his chair laughing. "The
officers of the Guards want you to buy yourself some
little trifle which may add to your comfort," he
said. "It is not from me, so you need not thank me."
He took up the old man's tobacco pouch and slipped a
crisp banknote inside it.
"Thank ye kindly, sir. But there's one favour
that I would like to ask you, colonel."
"Yes, my man."
"If I'm called, colonel, you won't grudge me a
flag and a firing party? I'm not a civilian; I'm a
guardsman--I'm the last of the old Third Guards."
"All right, my man, I'll see to it," said the
colonel. "Good-bye; I hope to have nothing but good
news from you."
"A kind gentleman, Norah," croaked old Brewster,
as they saw him walk past the window; "but, Lordy, he
ain't fit to hold the stirrup o' my Colonel Byng!"
It was on the very next day that the old corporal
took a sudden change for the worse. Even the golden
sunlight streaming through the window seemed unable
to warm that withered frame. The doctor came and
shook his head in silence. All day the man lay with
only his puffing blue lips and the twitching of his
scraggy neck to show that he still held the breath of
life. Norah and Sergeant Macdonald had sat by
him in the afternoon, but he had shown no
consciousness of their presence. He lay peacefully,
his eyes half closed, his hands under his cheek, as
one who is very weary.
They had left him for an instant and were sitting
in the front room, where Norah was preparing tea,
when of a sudden they heard a shout that rang through
the house. Loud and clear and swelling, it pealed in
their ears--a voice full of strength and energy and
fiery passion. "The Guards need powder!" it cried;
and yet again, "The Guards need powder!"
The sergeant sprang from his chair and rushed in,
followed by the trembling Norah. There was the old
man standing up, his blue eyes sparkling, his white
hair bristling, his whole figure towering and
expanding, with eagle head and glance of fire. "The
Guards need powder!" he thundered once again, "and,
by God, they shall have it!" He threw up his long
arms, and sank back with a groan into his chair. The
sergeant stooped over him, and his face darkened.
"Oh, Archie, Archie," sobbed the frightened girl,
"what do you think of him?"
The sergeant turned away. "I think," said he,
"that the Third Guards have a full muster now."
Scudamore Lane, sloping down riverwards from just
behind the Monument, lies at night in the shadow of
two black and monstrous walls which loom high above
the glimmer of the scattered gas lamps. The
footpaths are narrow, and the causeway is paved with
rounded cobblestones, so that the endless drays roar
along it like breaking waves. A few old-fashioned
houses lie scattered among the business premises, and
in one of these, half-way down on the left-hand side,
Dr. Horace Selby conducts his large practice. It is
a singular street for so big a man; but a specialist
who has an European reputation can afford to live
where he likes. In his particular branch, too,
patients do not always regard seclusion as a
It was only ten o'clock. The dull roar of the
traffic which converged all day upon London Bridge
had died away now to a mere confused murmur. It was
raining heavily, and the gas shone dimly through the
streaked and dripping glass, throwing little
circles upon the glistening cobblestones. The air
was full of the sounds of the rain, the thin swish of
its fall, the heavier drip from the eaves, and the
swirl and gurgle down the two steep gutters and
through the sewer grating. There was only one figure
in the whole length of Scudamore Lane. It was that
of a man, and it stood outside the door of Dr. Horace
He had just rung and was waiting for an answer.
The fanlight beat full upon the gleaming shoulders of
his waterproof and upon his upturned features. It
was a wan, sensitive, clear-cut face, with some
subtle, nameless peculiarity in its expression,
something of the startled horse in the white-rimmed
eye, something too of the helpless child in the drawn
cheek and the weakening of the lower lip. The manservant
knew the stranger as a patient at a bare
glance at those frightened eyes. Such a look had
been seen at that door many times before.
"Is the doctor in?"
The man hesitated.
"He has had a few friends to dinner, sir. He
does not like to be disturbed outside his usual
hours, sir."
"Tell him that I MUST see him. Tell him that
it is of the very first importance. Here is my
card." He fumbled with his trembling fingers in
trying to draw one from his case. "Sir Francis
Norton is the name. Tell him that Sir Francis
Norton, of Deane Park, must see him without delay."
"Yes, sir." The butler closed his fingers upon
the card and the half-sovereign which accompanied it.
"Better hang your coat up here in the hall. It is
very wet. Now if you will wait here in the
consulting-room, I have no doubt that I shall be able
to send the doctor in to you."
It was a large and lofty room in which the young
baronet found himself. The carpet was so soft and
thick that his feet made no sound as he walked across
it. The two gas jets were turned only half-way up,
and the dim light with the faint aromatic smell which
filled the air had a vaguely religious suggestion.
He sat down in a shining leather armchair by the
smouldering fire and looked gloomily about him. Two
sides of the room were taken up with books, fat and
sombre, with broad gold lettering upon their backs.
Beside him was the high, old-fashioned mantelpiece of
white marble--the top of it strewed with cotton
wadding and bandages, graduated measures, and little
bottles. There was one with a broad neck just above
him containing bluestone, and another narrower one
with what looked like the ruins of a broken pipestem
and "Caustic" outside upon a red label.
Thermometers, hypodermic syringes bistouries and
spatulas were scattered about both on the mantelpiece
and on the central table on either side of the
sloping desk. On the same table, to the right, stood
copies of the five books which Dr. Horace Selby had
written upon the subject with which his name is
peculiarly associated, while on the left, on the top
of a red medical directory, lay a huge glass model of
a human eye the size of a turnip, which opened down
the centre to expose the lens and double chamber
Sir Francis Norton had never been remarkable for
his powers of observation, and yet he found himself
watching these trifles with the keenest attention.
Even the corrosion of the cork of an acid bottle
caught his eye, and he wondered that the doctor did
not use glass stoppers. Tiny scratches where the
light glinted off from the table, little stains upon
the leather of the desk, chemical formulae scribbled
upon the labels of the phials--nothing was too slight
to arrest his attention. And his sense of hearing
was equally alert. The heavy ticking of the solemn
black clock above the mantelpiece struck quite
painfully upon his ears. Yet in spite of it, and in
spite also of the thick, old-fashioned wooden
partition, he could hear voices of men talking in the
next room, and could even catch scraps of their
conversation. "Second hand was bound to take it."
"Why, you drew the last of them yourself!"
"How could I play the queen when I knew that the
ace was against me?" The phrases came in little
spurts falling back into the dull murmur of
conversation. And then suddenly he heard the
creaking of a door and a step in the hall, and knew
with a tingling mixture of impatience and horror that
the crisis of his life was at hand.
Dr. Horace Selby was a large, portly man with an
imposing presence. His nose and chin were bold and
pronounced, yet his features were puffy, a
combination which would blend more freely with the
wig and cravat of the early Georges than with the
close-cropped hair and black frock-coat of the end of
the nineteenth century. He was clean shaven, for his
mouth was too good to cover--large, flexible, and
sensitive, with a kindly human softening at either
corner which with his brown sympathetic eyes had
drawn out many a shame-struck sinner's secret. Two
masterful little bushy side-whiskers bristled out
from under his ears spindling away upwards to merge
in the thick curves of his brindled hair. To his
patients there was something reassuring in the mere
bulk and dignity of the man. A high and easy bearing
in medicine as in war bears with it a hint of
victories in the past, and a promise of others to
come. Dr. Horace Selby's face was a consolation, and
so too were the large, white, soothing hands, one of
which he held out to his visitor.
"I am sorry to have kept you waiting. It is a
conflict of duties, you perceive--a host's to his
guests and an adviser's to his patient. But now I am
entirely at your disposal, Sir Francis. But dear me,
you are very cold."
"Yes, I am cold."
"And you are trembling all over. Tut, tut, this
will never do! This miserable night has chilled you.
Perhaps some little stimulant----"
"No, thank you. I would really rather not. And
it is not the night which has chilled me. I am
frightened, doctor."
The doctor half-turned in his chair, and he
patted the arch of the young man's knee, as he might
the neck of a restless horse.
"What then?" he asked, looking over his shoulder
at the pale face with the startled eyes.
Twice the young man parted his lips. Then he
stooped with a sudden gesture, and turning up the
right leg of his trousers he pulled down his sock and
thrust forward his shin. The doctor made a clicking
noise with his tongue as he glanced at it.
"Both legs?"
"No, only one."
"This morning."
The doctor pouted his lips, and drew his finger
and thumb down the line of his chin. "Can you
account for it?" he asked briskly.
A trace of sternness came into the large brown
"I need not point out to you that unless the most
absolute frankness----"
The patient sprang from his chair. "So help me
God!" he cried, "I have nothing in my life with which
to reproach myself. Do you think that I would be
such a fool as to come here and tell you lies. Once
for all, I have nothing to regret." He was a
pitiful, half-tragic and half-grotesque figure, as he
stood with one trouser leg rolled to the knee, and
that ever present horror still lurking in his eyes.
A burst of merriment came from the card-players in
the next room, and the two looked at each other in
"Sit down," said the doctor abruptly, "your
assurance is quite sufficient." He stooped and ran
his finger down the line of the young man's shin,
raising it at one point. "Hum, serpiginous," he
murmured, shaking his head. "Any other symptoms?"
"My eyes have been a little weak."
"Let me see your teeth." He glanced at them, and
again made the gentle, clicking sound of sympathy and
"Now your eye." He lit a lamp at the
patient's elbow, and holding a small crystal lens
to concentrate the light, he threw it obliquely upon
the patient's eye. As he did so a glow of pleasure
came over his large expressive face, a flush of such
enthusiasm as the botanist feels when he packs the
rare plant into his tin knapsack, or the astronomer
when the long-sought comet first swims into the field
of his telescope.
"This is very typical--very typical indeed," he
murmured, turning to his desk and jotting down a few
memoranda upon a sheet of paper. "Curiously enough,
I am writing a monograph upon the subject. It is
singular that you should have been able to furnish so
well-marked a case." He had so forgotten the patient
in his symptom, that he had assumed an almost
congratulatory air towards its possessor. He
reverted to human sympathy again, as his patient
asked for particulars.
"My dear sir, there is no occasion for us to go
into strictly professional details together," said he
soothingly. "If, for example, I were to say that you
have interstitial keratitis, how would you be the
wiser? There are indications of a strumous
diathesis. In broad terms, I may say that you have a
constitutional and hereditary taint."
The young baronet sank back in his chair, and his
chin fell forwards upon his chest. The doctor sprang
to a side-table and poured out half a glass of
liqueur brandy which he held to his patient's lips.
A little fleck of colour came into his cheeks as he
drank it down.
"Perhaps I spoke a little abruptly," said the
doctor, "but you must have known the nature of your
complaint. Why, otherwise, should you have come to
"God help me, I suspected it; but only today when
my leg grew bad. My father had a leg like this."
"It was from him, then----?"
"No, from my grandfather. You have heard of Sir
Rupert Norton, the great Corinthian?"
The doctor was a man of wide reading with a
retentive, memory. The name brought back instantly
to him the remembrance of the sinister reputation of
its owner--a notorious buck of the thirties--who had
gambled and duelled and steeped himself in drink and
debauchery, until even the vile set with whom he
consorted had shrunk away from him in horror, and
left him to a sinister old age with the barmaid wife
whom he had married in some drunken frolic. As he
looked at the young man still leaning back in the
leather chair, there seemed for the instant to
flicker up behind him some vague presentiment of that
foul old dandy with his dangling seals, many-wreathed
scarf, and dark satyric face. What was he now? An
armful of bones in a mouldy box. But his deeds--
they were living and rotting the blood in the veins
of an innocent man.
"I see that you have heard of him," said the
young baronet. "He died horribly, I have been told;
but not more horribly than he had lived. My father
was his only son. He was a studious man, fond of
books and canaries and the country; but his innocent
life did not save him."
"His symptoms were cutaneous, I understand."
"He wore gloves in the house. That was the first
thing I can remember. And then it was his throat.
And then his legs. He used to ask me so often about
my own health, and I thought him so fussy, for how
could I tell what the meaning of it was. He was
always watching me--always with a sidelong eye fixed
upon me. Now, at last, I know what he was watching
"Had you brothers or sisters?"
"None, thank God."
"Well, well, it is a sad case, and very typical
of many which come in my way. You are no lonely
sufferer, Sir Francis. There are many thousands who
bear the same cross as you do."
"But where is the justice of it, doctor?" cried
the young man, springing from his chair and pacing up
and down the consulting-room. "If I were heir to my
grandfather's sins as well as to their results, I
could understand it, but I am of my father's
type. I love all that is gentle and beautiful--music
and poetry and art. The coarse and animal is
abhorrent to me. Ask any of my friends and they
would tell you that. And now that this vile,
loathsome thing--ach, I am polluted to the marrow,
soaked in abomination! And why? Haven't I a right
to ask why? Did I do it? Was it my fault? Could I
help being born? And look at me now, blighted and
blasted, just as life was at its sweetest. Talk
about the sins of the father--how about the sins of
the Creator?" He shook his two clinched hands in the
air--the poor impotent atom with his pin-point of
brain caught in the whirl of the infinite.
The doctor rose and placing his hands upon his
shoulders he pressed him back into his chair once
more. "There, there, my dear lad," said he; "you
must not excite yourself. You are trembling all
over. Your nerves cannot stand it. We must take
these great questions upon trust. What are we, after
all? Half-evolved creatures in a transition stage,
nearer perhaps to the Medusa on the one side than to
perfected humanity on the other. With half a
complete brain we can't expect to understand the
whole of a complete fact, can we, now? It is all
very dim and dark, no doubt; but I think that Pope's
famous couplet sums up the whole matter, and from my
heart, after fifty years of varied experience, I can
But the young baronet gave a cry of impatience
and disgust. "Words, words, words! You can sit
comfortably there in your chair and say them--and
think them too, no doubt. You've had your life, but
I've never had mine. You've healthy blood in your
veins; mine is putrid. And yet I am as innocent as
you. What would words do for you if you were in this
chair and I in that? Ah, it's such a mockery and a
make-believe! Don't think me rude, though, doctor.
I don't mean to be that. I only say that it is
impossible for you or any other man to realise it.
But I've a question to ask you, doctor. It's one on
which my whole life must depend." He writhed his
fingers together in an agony of apprehension.
"Speak out, my dear sir. I have every sympathy
with you."
"Do you think--do you think the poison has spent
itself on me? Do you think that if I had children
they would suffer?"
"I can only give one answer to that. `The third
and fourth generation,' says the trite old text. You
may in time eliminate it from your system, but many
years must pass before you can think of marriage."
"I am to be married on Tuesday," whispered the
It was the doctor's turn to be thrilled with
horror. There were not many situations which
would yield such a sensation to his seasoned
nerves. He sat in silence while the babble of the
card-table broke in upon them again. "We had a
double ruff if you had returned a heart." "I was
bound to clear the trumps." They were hot and angry
about it.
"How could you?" cried the doctor severely. "It
was criminal."
"You forget that I have only learned how I stand
to-day." He put his two hands to his temples and
pressed them convulsively. "You are a man of the
world, Dr. Selby. You have seen or heard of such
things before. Give me some advice. I'm in your
hands. It is all very sudden and horrible, and I
don't think I am strong enough to bear it."
The doctor's heavy brows thickened into two
straight lines, and he bit his nails in perplexity.
"The marriage must not take place."
"Then what am I to do?"
"At all costs it must not take place."
"And I must give her up?"
"There can be no question about that."
The young man took out a pocketbook and drew from
it a small photograph, holding it out towards the
doctor. The firm face softened as he looked at it.
"It is very hard on you, no doubt. I can
appreciate it more now that I have seen that. But
there is no alternative at all. You must give up
all thought of it."
"But this is madness, doctor--madness, I tell
you. No, I won't raise my voice. I forgot myself.
But realise it, man. I am to be married on Tuesday.
This coming Tuesday, you understand. And all the
world knows it. How can I put such a public affront
upon her. It would be monstrous."
"None the less it must be done. My dear lad,
there is no way out of it."
"You would have me simply write brutally and
break the engagement at the last moment without a
reason. I tell you I couldn't do it."
"I had a patient once who found himself in a
somewhat similar situation some years ago," said the
doctor thoughtfully. "His device was a singular one.
He deliberately committed a penal offence, and so
compelled the young lady's people to withdraw their
consent to the marriage."
The young baronet shook his head. "My personal
honour is as yet unstained," said he. "I have little
else left, but that, at least, I will preserve."
"Well, well, it is a nice dilemma, and the choice
lies with you."
"Have you no other suggestion?"
"You don't happen to have property in Australia?"
"But you have capital?"
"Then you could buy some. To-morrow morning
would do. A thousand mining shares would be enough.
Then you might write to say that urgent business
affairs have compelled you to start at an hour's
notice to inspect your property. That would give you
six months, at any rate."
"Well, that would be possible. Yes, certainly,
it would be possible. But think of her position.
The house full of wedding presents--guests coming
from a distance. It is awful. And you say that
there is no alternative."
The doctor shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, then, I might write it now, and start tomorrow--
eh? Perhaps you would let me use your desk.
Thank you. I am so sorry to keep you from your
guests so long. But I won't be a moment now."
He wrote an abrupt note of a few lines. Then
with a sudden impulse he tore it to shreds and flung
it into the fireplace.
"No, I can't sit down and tell her a lie,
doctor," he said rising. "We must find some other
way out of this. I will think it over and let you
know my decision. You must allow me to double your
fee as I have taken such an unconscionable time. Now
good-bye, and thank you a thousand times for your
sympathy and advice."
"Why, dear me, you haven't even got your
prescription yet. This is the mixture, and I should
recommend one of these powders every morning, and the
chemist will put all directions upon the ointment
box. You are placed in a cruel situation, but I
trust that these may be but passing clouds. When may
I hope to hear from you again?"
"To-morrow morning."
"Very good. How the rain is splashing in the
street! You have your waterproof there. You will
need it. Good-bye, then, until to-morrow."
He opened the door. A gust of cold, damp air
swept into the hall. And yet the doctor stood for a
minute or more watching the lonely figure which
passed slowly through the yellow splotches of the gas
lamps, and into the broad bars of darkness between.
It was but his own shadow which trailed up the wall
as he passed the lights, and yet it looked to the
doctor's eye as though some huge and sombre figure
walked by a manikin's side and led him silently up
the lonely street.
Dr. Horace Selby heard again of his patient next
morning, and rather earlier than he had expected. A
paragraph in the Daily News caused him to push away
his breakfast untasted, and turned him sick and faint
while he read it. "A Deplorable Accident," it
was headed, and it ran in this way:
"A fatal accident of a peculiarly painful
character is reported from King William Street.
About eleven o'clock last night a young man was
observed while endeavouring to get out of the way of
a hansom to slip and fall under the wheels of a
heavy, two-horse dray. On being picked up his
injuries were found to be of the most shocking
character, and he expired while being conveyed to the
hospital. An examination of his pocketbook and
cardcase shows beyond any question that the deceased
is none other than Sir Francis Norton, of Deane Park,
who has only within the last year come into the
baronetcy. The accident is made the more deplorable
as the deceased, who was only just of age, was on the
eve of being married to a young lady belonging to one
of the oldest families in the South. With his wealth
and his talents the ball of fortune was at his feet,
and his many friends will be deeply grieved to know
that his promising career has been cut short in so
sudden and tragic a fashion."
"Is Dr. Horace Wilkinson at home?"
"I am he. Pray step in."
The visitor looked somewhat astonished at having
the door opened to him by the master of the house.
"I wanted to have a few words."
The doctor, a pale, nervous young man, dressed in
an ultra-professional, long black frock-coat, with a
high, white collar cutting off his dapper sidewhiskers
in the centre, rubbed his hands together and
smiled. In the thick, burly man in front of him he
scented a patient, and it would be his first. His
scanty resources had begun to run somewhat low, and,
although he had his first quarter's rent safely
locked away in the right-hand drawer of his desk, it
was becoming a question with him how he should meet
the current expenses of his very simple housekeeping.
He bowed, therefore, waved his visitor in, closed the
hall door in a careless fashion, as though his own
presence thereat had been a purely accidental
circumstance, and finally led the burly stranger
into his scantily furnished front room, where he
motioned him to a seat. Dr. Wilkinson planted
himself behind his desk, and, placing his finger-tips
together, he gazed with some apprehension at his
companion. What was the matter with the man? He
seemed very red in the face. Some of his old
professors would have diagnosed his case by now, and
would have electrified the patient by describing his
own symptoms before he had said a word about them.
Dr. Horace Wilkinson racked his brains for some clue,
but Nature had fashioned him as a plodder--a very
reliable plodder and nothing more. He could think of
nothing save that the visitor's watch-chain had a
very brassy appearance, with a corollary to the
effect that he would be lucky if he got half-a-crown
out of him. Still, even half-a-crown was something
in those early days of struggle.
Whilst the doctor had been running his eyes over
the stranger, the latter had been plunging his hands
into pocket after pocket of his heavy coat. The heat
of the weather, his dress, and this exercise of
pocket-rummaging had all combined to still further
redden his face, which had changed from brick to
beet, with a gloss of moisture on his brow. This
extreme ruddiness brought a clue at last to the
observant doctor. Surely it was not to be attained
without alcohol. In alcohol lay the secret of
this man's trouble. Some little delicacy was needed,
however, in showing him that he had read his case
aright--that at a glance he had penetrated to the
inmost sources of his ailments.
"It's very hot," observed the stranger, mopping
his forehead.
"Yes, it is weather which tempts one to drink
rather more beer than is good for one," answered Dr.
Horace Wilkinson, looking very knowingly at his
companion from over his finger-tips.
"Dear, dear, you shouldn't do that."
"I! I never touch beer."
"Neither do I. I've been an abstainer for twenty
This was depressing. Dr. Wilkinson blushed until
he was nearly as red as the other. "May I ask what
I can do for you?" he asked, picking up his
stethoscope and tapping it gently against his thumbnail.
"Yes, I was just going to tell you. I heard of
your coming, but I couldn't get round before----" He
broke into a nervous little cough.
"Yes?" said the doctor encouragingly.
"I should have been here three weeks ago, but you
know how these things get put off." He coughed again
behind his large red hand.
"I do not think that you need say anything more,"
said the doctor, taking over the case with an
easy air of command. "Your cough is quite
sufficient. It is entirely bronchial by the sound.
No doubt the mischief is circumscribed at present,
but there is always the danger that it may spread, so
you have done wisely to come to me. A little
judicious treatment will soon set you right. Your
waistcoat, please, but not your shirt. Puff out your
chest and say ninety-nine in a deep voice."
The red-faced man began to laugh. "It's all
right, doctor," said he. "That cough comes from
chewing tobacco, and I know it's a very bad habit.
Nine-and-ninepence is what I have to say to you, for
I'm the officer of the gas company, and they have a
claim against you for that on the metre."
Dr. Horace Wilkinson collapsed into his chair.
"Then you're not a patient?" he gasped.
"Never needed a doctor in my life, sir."
"Oh, that's all right." The doctor concealed his
disappointment under an affectation of facetiousness.
"You don't look as if you troubled them much. I
don't know what we should do if every one were as
robust. I shall call at the company's offices and
pay this small amount."
"If you could make it convenient, sir, now that I
am here, it would save trouble----"
"Oh, certainly!" These eternal little sordid
money troubles were more trying to the doctor than
plain living or scanty food. He took out his
purse and slid the contents on to the table.
There were two half-crowns and some pennies. In his
drawer he had ten golden sovereigns. But those were
his rent. If he once broke in upon them he was lost.
He would starve first.
"Dear me! " said he, with a smile, as at some
strange, unheard-of incident. "I have run short of
small change. I am afraid I shall have to call upon
the company, after all."
"Very well, sir." The inspector rose, and with a
practised glance around, which valued every article
in the room, from the two-guinea carpet to the eightshilling
muslin curtains, he took his departure.
When he had gone Dr. Wilkinson rearranged his
room, as was his habit a dozen times in the day. He
laid out his large Quain's Dictionary of Medicine in
the forefront of the table so as to impress the
casual patient that he had ever the best authorities
at his elbow. Then he cleared all the little
instruments out of his pocket-case--the scissors, the
forceps, the bistouries, the lancets--and he laid
them all out beside the stethoscope, to make as good
a show as possible. His ledger, day-book, and
visiting-book were spread in front of him. There was
no entry in any of them yet, but it would not look
well to have the covers too glossy and new, so he
rubbed them together and daubed ink over them.
Neither would it be well that any patient should
observe that his name was the first in the book, so
he filled up the first page of each with notes of
imaginary visits paid to nameless patients during the
last three weeks. Having done all this, he rested
his head upon his hands and relapsed into the
terrible occupation of waiting.
Terrible enough at any time to the young
professional man, but most of all to one who knows
that the weeks, and even the days during which he can
hold out are numbered. Economise as he would, the
money would still slip away in the countless little
claims which a man never understands until he lives
under a rooftree of his own. Dr. Wilkinson could not
deny, as he sat at his desk and looked at the little
heap of silver and coppers, that his chances of being
a successful practitioner in Sutton were rapidly
vanishing away.
And yet it was a bustling, prosperous town, with
so much money in it that it seemed strange that a man
with a trained brain and dexterous fingers should be
starved out of it for want of employment. At his
desk, Dr. Horace Wilkinson could see the never-ending
double current of people which ebbed and flowed in
front of his window. It was a busy street, and the
air was forever filled with the dull roar of life,
the grinding of the wheels, and the patter of
countless feet. Men, women, and children,
thousands and thousands of them passed in the day,
and yet each was hurrying on upon his own business,
scarce glancing at the small brass plate, or wasting
a thought upon the man who waited in the front room.
And yet how many of them would obviously, glaringly
have been the better for his professional assistance.
Dyspeptic men, anemic women, blotched faces, bilious
complexions--they flowed past him, they needing him,
he needing them, and yet the remorseless bar of
professional etiquette kept them forever apart. What
could he do? Could he stand at his own front door,
pluck the casual stranger by the sleeve, and whisper
in his ear, "Sir, you will forgive me for remarking
that you are suffering from a severe attack of acne
rosacea, which makes you a peculiarly unpleasant
object. Allow me to suggest that a small
prescription containing arsenic, which will not cost
you more than you often spend upon a single meal,
will be very much to your advantage." Such an
address would be a degradation to the high and lofty
profession of Medicine, and there are no such
sticklers for the ethics of that profession as some
to whom she has been but a bitter and a grudging
Dr. Horace Wilkinson was still looking moodily
out of the window, when there came a sharp clang at
the bell. Often it had rung, and with every ring
his hopes had sprung up, only to dwindle away again,
and change to leaden disappointment, as he faced some
beggar or touting tradesman. But the doctor's spirit
was young and elastic, and again, in spite of all
experience, it responded to that exhilarating
summons. He sprang to his feet, cast his eyes over
the table, thrust out his medical books a little more
prominently, and hurried to the door. A groan
escaped him as he entered the hall. He could see
through the half-glazed upper panels that a gypsy
van, hung round with wicker tables and chairs, had
halted before his door, and that a couple of the
vagrants, with a baby, were waiting outside. He had
learned by experience that it was better not even to
parley with such people.
"I have nothing for you," said he, loosing the
latch by an inch. "Go away!"
He closed the door, but the bell clanged once
more. "Get away! Get away!" he cried impatiently,
and walked back into his consulting-room. He had
hardly seated himself when the bell went for the
third time. In a towering passion he rushed back,
flung open the door.
"What the----?"
"If you please, sir, we need a doctor."
In an instant he was rubbing his hands again with
his blandest professional smile. These were
patients, then, whom he had tried to hunt from
his doorstep--the very first patients, whom he
had waited for so impatiently. They did not look
very promising. The man, a tall, lank-haired gypsy,
had gone back to the horse's head. There remained a
small, hard-faced woman with a great bruise all round
her eye. She wore a yellow silk handkerchief round
her head, and a baby, tucked in a red shawl, was
pressed to her bosom.
"Pray step in, madam," said Dr. Horace Wilkinson,
with his very best sympathetic manner. In this case,
at least, there could be no mistake as to diagnosis.
"If you will sit on this sofa, I shall very soon make
you feel much more comfortable."
He poured a little water from his carafe into a
saucer, made a compress of lint, fastened it over the
injured eye, and secured the whole with a spica
bandage, secundum artem.
"Thank ye kindly, sir," said the woman, when his
work was finished; "that's nice and warm, and may God
bless your honour. But it wasn't about my eye at all
that I came to see a doctor."
"Not your eye?" Dr. Horace Wilkinson was
beginning to be a little doubtful as to the
advantages of quick diagnosis. It is an excellent
thing to be able to surprise a patient, but hitherto
it was always the patient who had surprised him.
"The baby's got the measles."
The mother parted the red shawl, and exhibited a
little dark, black-eyed gypsy baby, whose swarthy
face was all flushed and mottled with a dark-red
rash. The child breathed with a rattling sound, and
it looked up at the doctor with eyes which were heavy
with want of sleep and crusted together at the lids.
"Hum! Yes. Measles, sure enough--and a smart
"I just wanted you to see her, sir, so that you
could signify."
"Could what?"
"Signify, if anything happened."
"Oh, I see--certify."
"And now that you've seen it, sir, I'll go on,
for Reuben--that's my man--is in a hurry."
"But don't you want any medicine?"
"Oh, now you've seen it, it's all right. I'll let
you know if anything happens."
"But you must have some medicine. The child is
very ill." He descended into the little room which
he had fitted as a surgery, and he made up a twoounce
bottle of cooling medicine. In such cities as
Sutton there are few patients who can afford to pay a
fee to both doctor and chemist, so that unless the
physician is prepared to play the part of both he
will have little chance of making a living at either.
"There is your medicine, madam. You will
find the directions upon the bottle. Keep the
child warm and give it a light diet."
"Thank you kindly, sir." She shouldered her baby
and marched for the door.
"Excuse me, madam," said the doctor nervously.
"Don't you think it too small a matter to make a bill
of? Perhaps it would be better if we had a
settlement at once."
The gypsy woman looked at him reproachfully out
of her one uncovered eye.
"Are you going to charge me for that?" she asked.
"How much, then?"
"Well, say half-a-crown." He mentioned the sum
in a half-jesting way, as though it were too small to
take serious notice of, but the gypsy woman raised
quite a scream at the mention of it.
"'Arf-a-crown! for that?"
"Well, my good woman, why not go to the poor
doctor if you cannot afford a fee?"
She fumbled in her pocket, craning awkwardly to
keep her grip upon the baby.
"Here's sevenpence," she said at last, holding
out a little pile of copper coins. "I'll give you
that and a wicker footstool."
"But my fee is half-a-crown." The doctor's views
of the glory of his profession cried out against this
wretched haggling, and yet what was he to do?
"Where am I to get 'arf-a-crown? It is well for
gentlefolk like you who sit in your grand houses, and
can eat and drink what you like, an' charge 'arf-acrown
for just saying as much as, `'Ow d'ye do?' We
can't pick up' arf-crowns like that. What we gets we
earns 'ard. This sevenpence is just all I've got.
You told me to feed the child light. She must feed
light, for what she's to have is more than I know."
Whilst the woman had been speaking, Dr. Horace
Wilkinson's eyes had wandered to the tiny heap of
money upon the table, which represented all that
separated him from absolute starvation, and he
chuckled to himself at the grim joke that he should
appear to this poor woman to be a being living in the
lap of luxury. Then he picked up the odd coppers,
leaving only the two half-crowns upon the table.
"Here you are," he said brusquely. "Never mind
the fee, and take these coppers. They may be of some
use to you. Good-bye!" He bowed her out, and closed
the door behind her. After all she was the thin edge
of the wedge. These wandering people have great
powers of recommendation. All large practices have
been built up from such foundations. The hangers-on
to the kitchen recommend to the kitchen, they to the
drawing-room, and so it spreads. At least he could
say now that he had had a patient.
He went into the back room and lit the spiritkettle
to boil the water for his tea, laughing
the while at the recollection of his recent
interview. If all patients were like this one it
could easily be reckoned how many it would take to
ruin him completely. Putting aside the dirt upon his
carpet and the loss of time, there were twopence gone
upon the bandage, fourpence or more upon the
medicine, to say nothing of phial, cork, label, and
paper. Then he had given her fivepence, so that his
first patient had absorbed altogether not less than
one sixth of his available capital. If five more
were to come he would be a broken man. He sat down
upon the portmanteau and shook with laughter at the
thought, while he measured out his one spoonful and a
half of tea at one shilling eightpence into the brown
earthenware teapot. Suddenly, however, the laugh
faded from his face, and he cocked his ear towards
the door, standing listening with a slanting head and
a sidelong eye. There had been a rasping of wheels
against the curb, the sound of steps outside, and
then a loud peal at the bell. With his teaspoon in
his hand he peeped round the corner and saw with
amazement that a carriage and pair were waiting
outside, and that a powdered footman was standing at
the door. The spoon tinkled down upon the floor, and
he stood gazing in bewilderment. Then, pulling
himself together, he threw open the door.
"Young man," said the flunky, "tell your master,
Dr. Wilkinson, that he is wanted just as quick as
ever he can come to Lady Millbank, at the Towers. He
is to come this very instant. We'd take him with us,
but we have to go back to see if Dr. Mason is home
yet. Just you stir your stumps and give him the
The footman nodded and was off in an instant,
while the coachman lashed his horses and the carriage
flew down the street.
Here was a new development. Dr. Horace Wilkinson
stood at his door and tried to think it all out.
Lady Millbank, of the Towers! People of wealth and
position, no doubt. And a serious case, or why this
haste and summoning of two doctors? But, then, why
in the name of all that is wonderful should he be
sent for?
He was obscure, unknown, without influence.
There must be some mistake. Yes, that must be the
true explanation; or was it possible that some one
was attempting a cruel hoax upon him? At any rate,
it was too positive a message to be disregarded. He
must set off at once and settle the matter one way or
the other.
But he had one source of information. At the
corner of the street was a small shop where one of
the oldest inhabitants dispensed newspapers and
gossip. He could get information there if anywhere.
He put on his well-brushed top hat, secreted
instruments and bandages in all his pockets, and
without waiting for his tea closed up his
establishment and started off upon his adventure.
The stationer at the corner was a human directory
to every one and everything in Sutton, so that he
soon had all the information which he wanted. Sir
John Millbank was very well known in the town, it
seemed. He was a merchant prince, an exporter of
pens, three times mayor, and reported to be fully
worth two millions sterling.
The Towers was his palatial seat, just outside
the city. His wife had been an invalid for some
years, and was growing worse. So far the whole thing
seemed to be genuine enough. By some amazing chance
these people really had sent for him.
And then another doubt assailed him, and he
turned back into the shop.
"I am your neighbour, Dr. Horace Wilkinson," said
he. "Is there any other medical man of that name in
the town?"
No, the stationer was quite positive that there
was not.
That was final, then. A great good fortune had
come in his way, and he must take prompt advantage of
it. He called a cab and drove furiously to the
Towers, with his brain in a whirl, giddy with hope
and delight at one moment, and sickened with fears
and doubts at the next lest the case should in
some way be beyond his powers, or lest he should find
at some critical moment that he was without the
instrument or appliance that was needed. Every
strange and outre case of which he had ever heard
or read came back into his mind, and long before he
reached the Towers he had worked himself into a
positive conviction that he would be instantly
required to do a trephining at the least.
The Towers was a very large house, standing back
amid trees, at the head of a winding drive. As he
drove up the doctor sprang out, paid away half his
worldly assets as a fare, and followed a stately
footman who, having taken his name, led him through
the oak-panelled, stained-glass hall, gorgeous with
deers' heads and ancient armour, and ushered him into
a large sitting-room beyond. A very irritablelooking,
acid-faced man was seated in an armchair by
the fireplace, while two young ladies in white were
standing together in the bow window at the further
"Hullo! hullo! hullo! What's this--heh?" cried
the irritable man. "Are you Dr. Wilkinson? Eh?"
"Yes, sir, I am Dr. Wilkinson."
"Really, now. You seem very young--much younger
than I expected. Well, well, well, Mason's old, and
yet he don't seem to know much about it. I suppose
we must try the other end now. You're the
Wilkinson who wrote something about the lungs? Heh?"
Here was a light! The only two letters which the
doctor had ever written to The Lancet--modest little
letters thrust away in a back column among the
wrangles about medical ethics and the inquiries as to
how much it took to keep a horse in the country--had
been upon pulmonary disease. They had not been
wasted, then. Some eye had picked them out and
marked the name of the writer. Who could say that
work was ever wasted, or that merit did not promptly
meet with its reward?
"Yes, I have written on the subject."
"Ha! Well, then, where's Mason?"
"I have not the pleasure of his acquaintance."
"No?--that's queer too. He knows you and thinks
a lot of your opinion. You're a stranger in the
town, are you not?"
"Yes, I have only been here a very short time."
"That was what Mason said. He didn't give me the
address. Said he would call on you and bring you,
but when the wife got worse of course I inquired for
you and sent for you direct. I sent for Mason, too,
but he was out. However, we can't wait for him, so
just run away upstairs and do what you can."
"Well, I am placed in a rather delicate
position," said Dr. Horace Wilkinson, with some
hesitation. "I am here, as I understand, to meet my
colleague, Dr. Mason, in consultation. It would,
perhaps, hardly be correct for me to see the patient
in his absence. I think that I would rather wait."
"Would you, by Jove! Do you think I'll let my
wife get worse while the doctor is coolly kicking his
heels in the room below? No, sir, I am a plain man,
and I tell you that you will either go up or go out."
The style of speech jarred upon the doctor's
sense of the fitness of things, but still when a
man's wife is ill much may be overlooked. He
contented himself by bowing somewhat stiffly. "I
shall go up, if you insist upon it," said he.
"I do insist upon it. And another thing, I won't
have her thumped about all over the chest, or any
hocus-pocus of the sort. She has bronchitis and
asthma, and that's all. If you can cure it well and
good. But it only weakens her to have you tapping
and listening, and it does no good either."
Personal disrespect was a thing that the doctor
could stand; but the profession was to him a holy
thing, and a flippant word about it cut him to the
"Thank you," said he, picking up his hat. "I
have the honour to wish you a very good day. I
do not care to undertake the responsibility of this
"Hullo! what's the matter now?"
"It is not my habit to give opinions without
examining my patient. I wonder that you should
suggest such a course to a medical man. I wish you
good day."
But Sir John Millbank was a commercial man, and
believed in the commercial principle that the more
difficult a thing is to attain the more valuable it
is. A doctor's opinion had been to him a mere matter
of guineas. But here was a young man who seemed to
care nothing either for his wealth or title. His
respect for his judgment increased amazingly.
"Tut! tut!" said he; "Mason is not so thinskinned.
There! there! Have your way! Do what you
like and I won't say another word. I'll just run
upstairs and tell Lady Millbank that you are coming."
The door had hardly closed behind him when the
two demure young ladies darted out of their corner,
and fluttered with joy in front of the astonished
"Oh, well done! well done!" cried the taller,
clapping her hands.
"Don't let him bully you, doctor," said the
other. "Oh, it was so nice to hear you stand up
to him. That's the way he does with poor Dr.
Mason. Dr. Mason has never examined mamma yet. He
always takes papa's word for everything. Hush,
Maude; here he comes again." They subsided in an
instant into their corner as silent and demure as
Dr. Horace Wilkinson followed Sir John up the
broad, thick-carpeted staircase, and into the
darkened sick room. In a quarter of an hour he had
sounded and sifted the case to the uttermost, and
descended with the husband once more to the drawingroom.
In front of the fireplace were standing two
gentlemen, the one a very typical, clean-shaven,
general practitioner, the other a striking-looking
man of middle age, with pale blue eyes and a long red
"Hullo, Mason, you've come at last!"
"Yes, Sir John, and I have brought, as I
promised, Dr. Wilkinson with me."
"Dr. Wilkinson! Why, this is he."
Dr. Mason stared in astonishment. "I have never
seen the gentleman before!" he cried.
"Nevertheless I am Dr. Wilkinson--Dr. Horace
Wilkinson, of 114 Canal View."
"Good gracious, Sir John!" cried Dr. Mason.
"Did you think that in a case of such importance I
should call in a junior local practitioner! This is
Dr. Adam Wilkinson, lecturer on pulmonary diseases at
Regent's College, London, physician upon the
staff of the St. Swithin's Hospital, and author of a
dozen works upon the subject. He happened to be in
Sutton upon a visit, and I thought I would utilise
his presence to have a first-rate opinion upon Lady
"Thank you," said Sir John, dryly. "But I fear
my wife is rather tired now, for she has just been
very thoroughly examined by this young gentleman. I
think we will let it stop at that for the present;
though, of course, as you have had the trouble of
coming here, I should be glad to have a note of your
When Dr. Mason had departed, looking very
disgusted, and his friend, the specialist, very
amused, Sir John listened to all the young physician
had to say about the case.
"Now, I'll tell you what," said he, when he had
finished. "I'm a man of my word, d'ye see? When I
like a man I freeze to him. I'm a good friend and a
bad enemy. I believe in you, and I don't believe in
Mason. From now on you are my doctor, and that of my
family. Come and see my wife every day. How does
that suit your book?"
"I am extremely grateful to you for your kind
intentions toward me, but I am afraid there is no
possible way in which I can avail myself of them."
"Heh! what d'ye mean?"
"I could not possibly take Dr. Mason's place in
the middle of a case like this. It would be a most
unprofessional act."
"Oh, well, go your own way!" cried Sir John, in
despair. "Never was such a man for making
difficulties. You've had a fair offer and you've
refused it, and now you can just go your own way."
The millionaire stumped out of the room in a
huff, and Dr. Horace Wilkinson made his way homeward
to his spirit-lamp and his one-and-eightpenny tea,
with his first guinea in his pocket, and with a
feeling that he had upheld the best traditions of his
And yet this false start of his was a true start
also, for it soon came to Dr. Mason's ears that his
junior had had it in his power to carry off his best
patient and had forborne to do so. To the honour of
the profession be it said that such forbearance is
the rule rather than the exception, and yet in this
case, with so very junior a practitioner and so very
wealthy a patient, the temptation was greater than is
usual. There was a grateful note, a visit, a
friendship, and now the well-known firm of Mason and
Wilkinson is doing the largest family practice in
Robert Johnson was an essentially commonplace
man, with no feature to distinguish him from a
million others. He was pale of face, ordinary in
looks, neutral in opinions, thirty years of age, and
a married man. By trade he was a gentleman's
outfitter in the New North Road, and the competition
of business squeezed out of him the little character
that was left. In his hope of conciliating customers
he had become cringing and pliable, until working
ever in the same routine from day to day he seemed to
have sunk into a soulless machine rather than a man.
No great question had ever stirred him. At the end
of this snug century, self-contained in his own
narrow circle, it seemed impossible that any of the
mighty, primitive passions of mankind could ever
reach him. Yet birth, and lust, and illness, and
death are changeless things, and when one of these
harsh facts springs out upon a man at some sudden
turn of the path of life, it dashes off for the
moment his mask of civilisation and gives a glimpse
of the stranger and stronger face below.
Johnson's wife was a quiet little woman, with
brown hair and gentle ways. His affection for her
was the one positive trait in his character.
Together they would lay out the shop window every
Monday morning, the spotless shirts in their green
cardboard boxes below, the neckties above hung in
rows over the brass rails, the cheap studs glistening
from the white cards at either side, while in the
background were the rows of cloth caps and the bank
of boxes in which the more valuable hats were
screened from the sunlight. She kept the books and
sent out the bills. No one but she knew the joys and
sorrows which crept into his small life. She had
shared his exultations when the gentleman who was
going to India had bought ten dozen shirts and an
incredible number of collars, and she had been as
stricken as he when, after the goods had gone, the
bill was returned from the hotel address with the
intimation that no such person had lodged there. For
five years they had worked, building up the business,
thrown together all the more closely because their
marriage had been a childless one. Now, however,
there were signs that a change was at hand, and that
speedily. She was unable to come downstairs, and her
mother, Mrs. Peyton, came over from Camberwell to
nurse her and to welcome her grandchild.
Little qualms of anxiety came over Johnson as
his wife's time approached. However, after all,
it was a natural process. Other men's wives went
through it unharmed, and why should not his? He was
himself one of a family of fourteen, and yet his
mother was alive and hearty. It was quite the
exception for anything to go wrong. And yet in spite
of his reasonings the remembrance of his wife's
condition was always like a sombre background to all
his other thoughts.
Dr. Miles of Bridport Place, the best man in the
neighbourhood, was retained five months in advance,
and, as time stole on, many little packets of
absurdly small white garments with frill work and
ribbons began to arrive among the big consignments of
male necessities. And then one evening, as Johnson
was ticketing the scarfs in the shop, he heard a
bustle upstairs, and Mrs. Peyton came running down to
say that Lucy was bad and that she thought the doctor
ought to be there without delay.
It was not Robert Johnson's nature to hurry. He
was prim and staid and liked to do things in an
orderly fashion. It was a quarter of a mile from the
corner of the New North Road where his shop stood to
the doctor's house in Bridport Place. There were no
cabs in sight so he set off upon foot, leaving the
lad to mind the shop. At Bridport Place he was told
that the doctor had just gone to Harman Street to
attend a man in a fit. Johnson started off for
Harman Street, losing a little of his primness as he
became more anxious. Two full cabs but no empty ones
passed him on the way. At Harman Street he learned
that the doctor had gone on to a case of measles,
fortunately he had left the address--69 Dunstan Road,
at the other side of the Regent's Canal. Robert's
primness had vanished now as he thought of the women
waiting at home, and he began to run as hard as he
could down the Kingsland Road. Some way along he
sprang into a cab which stood by the curb and drove
to Dunstan Road. The doctor had just left, and
Robert Johnson felt inclined to sit down upon the
steps in despair.
Fortunately he had not sent the cab away, and he
was soon back at Bridport Place. Dr. Miles had not
returned yet, but they were expecting him every
instant. Johnson waited, drumming his fingers on his
knees, in a high, dim lit room, the air of which was
charged with a faint, sickly smell of ether. The
furniture was massive, and the books in the shelves
were sombre, and a squat black clock ticked
mournfully on the mantelpiece. It told him that it
was half-past seven, and that he had been gone an
hour and a quarter. Whatever would the women think
of him! Every time that a distant door slammed he
sprang from his chair in a quiver of eagerness.
His ears strained to catch the deep notes of the
doctor's voice. And then, suddenly, with a gush of
joy he heard a quick step outside, and the sharp
click of the key in the lock. In an instant he was
out in the hall, before the doctor's foot was over
the threshold.
"If you please, doctor, I've come for you," he
cried; "the wife was taken bad at six o'clock."
He hardly knew what he expected the doctor to do.
Something very energetic, certainly--to seize some
drugs, perhaps, and rush excitedly with him through
the gaslit streets. Instead of that Dr. Miles threw
his umbrella into the rack, jerked off his hat with a
somewhat peevish gesture, and pushed Johnson back
into the room.
"Let's see! You DID engage me, didn't you?"
he asked in no very cordial voice.
"Oh, yes, doctor, last November. Johnson the
outfitter, you know, in the New North Road."
"Yes, yes. It's a bit overdue," said the doctor,
glancing at a list of names in a note-book with a
very shiny cover. "Well, how is she?"
"I don't----"
"Ah, of course, it's your first. You'll know
more about it next time."
"Mrs. Peyton said it was time you were there,
"My dear sir, there can be no very pressing hurry
in a first case. We shall have an all-night
affair, I fancy. You can't get an engine to go
without coals, Mr. Johnson, and I have had nothing
but a light lunch."
"We could have something cooked for you--
something hot and a cup of tea."
"Thank you, but I fancy my dinner is actually on
the table. I can do no good in the earlier stages.
Go home and say that I am coming, and I will be round
immediately afterwards."
A sort of horror filled Robert Johnson as he
gazed at this man who could think about his dinner at
such a moment. He had not imagination enough to
realise that the experience which seemed so
appallingly important to him, was the merest everyday
matter of business to the medical man who could not
have lived for a year had he not, amid the rush of
work, remembered what was due to his own health. To
Johnson he seemed little better than a monster. His
thoughts were bitter as he sped back to his shop.
"You've taken your time," said his mother-in-law
reproachfully, looking down the stairs as he entered.
"I couldn't help it!" he gasped. "Is it over?"
"Over! She's got to be worse, poor dear, before
she can be better. Where's Dr. Miles!"
"He's coming after he's had dinner." The old
woman was about to make some reply, when, from
the half-opened door behind a high whinnying voice
cried out for her. She ran back and closed the door,
while Johnson, sick at heart, turned into the shop.
There he sent the lad home and busied himself
frantically in putting up shutters and turning out
boxes. When all was closed and finished he seated
himself in the parlour behind the shop. But he could
not sit still. He rose incessantly to walk a few
paces and then fell back into a chair once more.
Suddenly the clatter of china fell upon his ear, and
he saw the maid pass the door with a cup on a tray
and a smoking teapot.
"Who is that for, Jane?" he asked.
"For the mistress, Mr. Johnson. She says she
would fancy it."
There was immeasurable consolation to him in that
homely cup of tea. It wasn't so very bad after all
if his wife could think of such things. So lighthearted
was he that he asked for a cup also. He had
just finished it when the doctor arrived, with a
small black leather bag in his hand.
"Well, how is she?" he asked genially.
"Oh, she's very much better," said Johnson, with
"Dear me, that's bad!" said the doctor. "Perhaps
it will do if I look in on my morning round?"
"No, no," cried Johnson, clutching at his thick
frieze overcoat. "We are so glad that you have come.
And, doctor, please come down soon and let me know
what you think about it."
The doctor passed upstairs, his firm, heavy steps
resounding through the house. Johnson could hear his
boots creaking as he walked about the floor above
him, and the sound was a consolation to him. It was
crisp and decided, the tread of a man who had plenty
of self-confidence. Presently, still straining his
ears to catch what was going on, he heard the
scraping of a chair as it was drawn along the floor,
and a moment later he heard the door fly open and
someone come rushing downstairs. Johnson sprang up
with his hair bristling, thinking that some dreadful
thing had occurred, but it was only his mother-inlaw,
incoherent with excitement and searching for
scissors and some tape. She vanished again and Jane
passed up the stairs with a pile of newly aired
linen. Then, after an interval of silence, Johnson
heard the heavy, creaking tread and the doctor came
down into the parlour.
"That's better," said he, pausing with his hand
upon the door. "You look pale, Mr. Johnson."
"Oh no, sir, not at all," he answered
deprecatingly, mopping his brow with his
"There is no immediate cause for alarm," said
Dr. Miles. "The case is not all that we could
wish it. Still we will hope for the best."
"Is there danger, sir?" gasped Johnson.
"Well, there is always danger, of course. It is
not altogether a favourable case, but still it might
be much worse. I have given her a draught. I saw as
I passed that they have been doing a little building
opposite to you. It's an improving quarter. The
rents go higher and higher. You have a lease of your
own little place, eh?"
"Yes, sir, yes!" cried Johnson, whose ears were
straining for every sound from above, and who felt
none the less that it was very soothing that the
doctor should be able to chat so easily at such a
time. "That's to say no, sir, I am a yearly tenant."
"Ah, I should get a lease if I were you. There's
Marshall, the watchmaker, down the street. I
attended his wife twice and saw him through the
typhoid when they took up the drains in Prince
Street. I assure you his landlord sprung his rent
nearly forty a year and he had to pay or clear out."
"Did his wife get through it, doctor?"
"Oh yes, she did very well. Hullo! hullo!"
He slanted his ear to the ceiling with a
questioning face, and then darted swiftly from the
It was March and the evenings were chill, so
Jane had lit the fire, but the wind drove the smoke
downwards and the air was full of its acrid taint.
Johnson felt chilled to the bone, though rather by
his apprehensions than by the weather. He crouched
over the fire with his thin white hands held out to
the blaze. At ten o'clock Jane brought in the joint
of cold meat and laid his place for supper, but he
could not bring himself to touch it. He drank a
glass of the beer, however, and felt the better for
it. The tension of his nerves seemed to have reacted
upon his hearing, and he was able to follow the most
trivial things in the room above. Once, when the
beer was still heartening him, he nerved himself to
creep on tiptoe up the stair and to listen to what
was going on. The bedroom door was half an inch
open, and through the slit he could catch a glimpse
of the clean-shaven face of the doctor, looking
wearier and more anxious than before. Then he rushed
downstairs like a lunatic, and running to the door he
tried to distract his thoughts by watching what; was
going on in the street. The shops were all shut, and
some rollicking boon companions came shouting along
from the public-house. He stayed at the door until
the stragglers had thinned down, and then came back
to his seat by the fire. In his dim brain he was
asking himself questions which had never intruded
themselves before. Where was the justice of it?
What had his sweet, innocent little wife done that
she should be used so? Why was nature so cruel? He
was frightened at his own thoughts, and yet wondered
that they had never occurred to him before.
As the early morning drew in, Johnson, sick at
heart and shivering in every limb, sat with his great
coat huddled round him, staring at the grey ashes and
waiting hopelessly for some relief. His face was
white and clammy, and his nerves had been numbed into
a half conscious state by the long monotony of
misery. But suddenly all his feelings leapt into
keen life again as he heard the bedroom door open and
the doctor's steps upon the stair. Robert Johnson
was precise and unemotional in everyday life, but he
almost shrieked now as he rushed forward to know if
it were over.
One glance at the stern, drawn face which met him
showed that it was no pleasant news which had sent
the doctor downstairs. His appearance had altered as
much as Johnson's during the last few hours. His
hair was on end, his face flushed, his forehead
dotted with beads of perspiration. There was a
peculiar fierceness in his eye, and about the lines
of his mouth, a fighting look as befitted a man who
for hours on end had been striving with the hungriest
of foes for the most precious of prizes. But there
was a sadness too, as though his grim opponent
had been overmastering him. He sat down and leaned
his head upon his hand like a man who is fagged out.
"I thought it my duty to see you, Mr. Johnson,
and to tell you that it is a very nasty case. Your
wife's heart is not strong, and she has some symptoms
which I do not like. What I wanted to say is that if
you would like to have a second opinion I shall be
very glad to meet anyone whom you might suggest."
Johnson was so dazed by his want of sleep and the
evil news that he could hardly grasp the doctor's
meaning. The other, seeing him hesitate, thought
that he was considering the expense.
"Smith or Hawley would come for two guineas,"
said he. "But I think Pritchard of the City Road is
the best man."
"Oh, yes, bring the best man," cried Johnson.
"Pritchard would want three guineas. He is a
senior man, you see."
"I'd give him all I have if he would pull her
through. Shall I run for him?"
"Yes. Go to my house first and ask for the green
baize bag. The assistant will give it to you. Tell
him I want the A. C. E. mixture. Her heart is too
weak for chloroform. Then go for Pritchard and bring
him back with you."
It was heavenly for Johnson to have something
to do and to feel that he was of some use to his
wife. He ran swiftly to Bridport Place, his
footfalls clattering through the silent streets and
the big dark policemen turning their yellow funnels
of light on him as he passed. Two tugs at the nightbell
brought down a sleepy, half-clad assistant, who
handed him a stoppered glass bottle and a cloth bag
which contained something which clinked when you
moved it. Johnson thrust the bottle into his pocket,
seized the green bag, and pressing his hat firmly
down ran as hard as he could set foot to ground until
he was in the City Road and saw the name of Pritchard
engraved in white upon a red ground. He bounded in
triumph up the three steps which led to the door, and
as he did so there was a crash behind him. His
precious bottle was in fragments upon the pavement.
For a moment he felt as if it were his wife's
body that was lying there. But the run had freshened
his wits and he saw that the mischief might be
repaired. He pulled vigorously at the night-bell.
"Well, what's the matter?" asked a gruff voice at
his elbow. He started back and looked up at the
windows, but there was no sign of life. He was
approaching the bell again with the intention of
pulling it, when a perfect roar burst from the wall.
"I can't stand shivering here all night," cried
the voice. "Say who you are and what you want or I
shut the tube."
Then for the first time Johnson saw that the end
of a speaking-tube hung out of the wall just above
the bell. He shouted up it,--
"I want you to come with me to meet Dr. Miles at a
confinement at once."
"How far?" shrieked the irascible voice.
"The New North Road, Hoxton."
"My consultation fee is three guineas, payable at
the time."
"All right," shouted Johnson. "You are to bring
a bottle of A. C. E. mixture with you."
"All right! Wait a bit!"
Five minutes later an elderly, hard-faced man,
with grizzled hair, flung open the door. As he
emerged a voice from somewhere in the shadows
"Mind you take your cravat, John," and he
impatiently growled something over his shoulder in
The consultant was a man who had been hardened by
a life of ceaseless labour, and who had been driven,
as so many others have been, by the needs of his own
increasing family to set the commercial before the
philanthropic side of his profession. Yet beneath
his rough crust he was a man with a kindly heart.
"We don't want to break a record," said he,
pulling up and panting after attempting to keep up
with Johnson for five minutes. "I would go quicker
if I could, my dear sir, and I quite sympathise with
your anxiety, but really I can't manage it."
So Johnson, on fire with impatience, had to slow
down until they reached the New North Road, when he
ran ahead and had the door open for the doctor when
he came. He heard the two meet outside the bed-room,
and caught scraps of their conversation. "Sorry to
knock you up--nasty case--decent people." Then it
sank into a mumble and the door closed behind them.
Johnson sat up in his chair now, listening
keenly, for he knew that a crisis must be at hand.
He heard the two doctors moving about, and was able
to distinguish the step of Pritchard, which had a
drag in it, from the clean, crisp sound of the
other's footfall. There was silence for a few
minutes and then a curious drunken, mumbling singsong
voice came quavering up, very unlike anything
which be had heard hitherto. At the same time a
sweetish, insidious scent, imperceptible perhaps to
any nerves less strained than his, crept down the
stairs and penetrated into the room. The voice
dwindled into a mere drone and finally sank away into
silence, and Johnson gave a long sigh of relief, for
he knew that the drug had done its work and that,
come what might, there should be no more pain for the
But soon the silence became even more trying to
him than the cries had been. He had no clue now as
to what was going on, and his mind swarmed with
horrible possibilities. He rose and went to the
bottom of the stairs again. He heard the clink of
metal against metal, and the subdued murmur of the
doctors' voices. Then he heard Mrs. Peyton say
something, in a tone as of fear or expostulation, and
again the doctors murmured together. For twenty
minutes he stood there leaning against the wall,
listening to the occasional rumbles of talk without
being able to catch a word of it. And then of a
sudden there rose out of the silence the strangest
little piping cry, and Mrs. Peyton screamed out in
her delight and the man ran into the parlour and
flung himself down upon the horse-hair sofa, drumming
his heels on it in his ecstasy.
But often the great cat Fate lets us go only to
clutch us again in a fiercer grip. As minute after
minute passed and still no sound came from above save
those thin, glutinous cries, Johnson cooled from his
frenzy of joy, and lay breathless with his ears
straining. They were moving slowly about. They were
talking in subdued tones. Still minute after minute
passing, and no word from the voice for which he
listened. His nerves were dulled by his night of
trouble, and he waited in limp wretchedness upon his
sofa. There he still sat when the doctors came down
to him--a bedraggled, miserable figure with his face
grimy and his hair unkempt from his long vigil. He
rose as they entered, bracing himself against the
"Is she dead?" he asked.
"Doing well," answered the doctor.
And at the words that little conventional spirit
which had never known until that night the capacity
for fierce agony which lay within it, learned for the
second time that there were springs of joy also which
it had never tapped before. His impulse was to fall
upon his knees, but he was shy before the doctors.
"Can I go up?"
"In a few minutes."
"I'm sure, doctor, I'm very--I'm very----" he
grew inarticulate. "Here are your three guineas, Dr.
Pritchard. I wish they were three hundred."
"So do I," said the senior man, and they laughed
as they shook hands.
Johnson opened the shop door for them and heard
their talk as they stood for an instant outside.
"Looked nasty at one time."
"Very glad to have your help."
"Delighted, I'm sure. Won't you step round and
have a cup of coffee?"
"No, thanks. I'm expecting another case."
The firm step and the dragging one passed away to
the right and the left. Johnson turned from the door
still with that turmoil of joy in his heart. He
seemed to be making a new start in life. He felt
that he was a stronger and a deeper man. Perhaps all
this suffering had an object then. It might prove to
be a blessing both to his wife and to him. The very
thought was one which he would have been incapable of
conceiving twelve hours before. He was full of new
emotions. If there had been a harrowing there had
been a planting too.
"Can I come up?" he cried, and then, without
waiting for an answer, he took the steps three at a
Mrs. Peyton was standing by a soapy bath with a
bundle in her hands. From under the curve of a brown
shawl there looked out at him the strangest little
red face with crumpled features, moist, loose lips,
and eyelids which quivered like a rabbit's nostrils.
The weak neck had let the head topple over, and it
rested upon the shoulder.
"Kiss it, Robert!" cried the grandmother. "Kiss
your son!"
But he felt a resentment to the little, red,
blinking creature. He could not forgive it yet
for that long night of misery. He caught sight of a
white face in the bed and he ran towards it with such
love and pity as his speech could find no words for.
"Thank God it is over! Lucy, dear, it was
"But I'm so happy now. I never was so happy in
my life."
Her eyes were fixed upon the brown bundle.
"You mustn't talk," said Mrs. Peyton.
"But don't leave me," whispered his wife.
So he sat in silence with his hand in hers. The
lamp was burning dim and the first cold light of dawn
was breaking through the window. The night had been
long and dark but the day was the sweeter and the
purer in consequence. London was waking up. The
roar began to rise from the street. Lives had come
and lives had gone, but the great machine was still
working out its dim and tragic destiny.
It is hard for the general practitioner who sits
among his patients both morning and evening, and sees
them in their homes between, to steal time for one
little daily breath of cleanly air. To win it he
must slip early from his bed and walk out between
shuttered shops when it is chill but very clear, and
all things are sharply outlined, as in a frost. It
is an hour that has a charm of its own, when, but for
a postman or a milkman, one has the pavement to
oneself, and even the most common thing takes an
ever-recurring freshness, as though causeway, and
lamp, and signboard had all wakened to the new day.
Then even an inland city may seem beautiful, and bear
virtue in its smoke-tainted air.
But it was by the sea that I lived, in a town
that was unlovely enough were it not for its glorious
neighbour. And who cares for the town when one can
sit on the bench at the headland, and look out over
the huge, blue bay, and the yellow scimitar that
curves before it. I loved it when its
great face was freckled with the fishing boats, and I
loved it when the big ships went past, far out, a
little hillock of white and no hull, with topsails
curved like a bodice, so stately and demure. But
most of all I loved it when no trace of man marred
the majesty of Nature, and when the sun-bursts
slanted down on it from between the drifting
rainclouds. Then I have seen the further edge draped
in the gauze of the driving rain, with its thin grey
shading under the slow clouds, while my headland was
golden, and the sun gleamed upon the breakers and
struck deep through the green waves beyond, showing
up the purple patches where the beds of seaweed are
lying. Such a morning as that, with the wind in his
hair, and the spray on his lips, and the cry of the
eddying gulls in his ear, may send a man back braced
afresh to the reek of a sick-room, and the dead, drab
weariness of practice.
It was on such another day that I first saw my
old man. He came to my bench just as I was leaving
it. My eye must have picked him out even in a
crowded street, for he was a man of large frame and
fine presence, with something of distinction in the
set of his lip and the poise of his head. He limped
up the winding path leaning heavily upon his stick,
as though those great shoulders had become too much
at last for the failing limbs that bore them. As he
approached, my eyes caught Nature's danger
signal, that faint bluish tinge in nose and lip which
tells of a labouring heart.
"The brae is a little trying, sir," said I.
"Speaking as a physician, I should say that you
would do well to rest here before you go further."
He inclined his head in a stately, old-world
fashion, and seated himself upon the bench. Seeing
that he had no wish to speak I was silent also, but I
could not help watching him out of the corners of my
eyes, for he was such a wonderful survival of the
early half of the century, with his low-crowned,
curly-brimmed hat, his black satin tie which fastened
with a buckle at the back, and, above all, his large,
fleshy, clean-shaven face shot with its mesh of
wrinkles. Those eyes, ere they had grown dim, had
looked out from the box-seat of mail coaches, and had
seen the knots of navvies as they toiled on the
brown embankments. Those lips had smiled over the
first numbers of "Pickwick," and had gossiped of the
promising young man who wrote them. The face itself
was a seventy-year almanack, and every seam an entry
upon it where public as well as private sorrow left
its trace. That pucker on the forehead stood for the
Mutiny, perhaps; that line of care for the Crimean
winter, it may be; and that last little sheaf of
wrinkles, as my fancy hoped, for the death of
Gordon. And so, as I dreamed in my foolish way, the
old gentleman with the shining stock was gone, and it
was seventy years of a great nation's life that took
shape before me on the headland in the morning.
But he soon brought me back to earth again. As
he recovered his breath he took a letter out of his
pocket, and, putting on a pair of horn-rimmed eyeglasses,
he read it through very carefully. Without
any design of playing the spy I could not help
observing that it was in a woman's hand. When he had
finished it he read it again, and then sat with the
corners of his mouth drawn down and his eyes staring
vacantly out over the bay, the most forlorn-looking
old gentleman that ever I have seen. All that is
kindly within me was set stirring by that wistful
face, but I knew that he was in no humour for talk,
and so, at last, with my breakfast and my patients
calling me, I left him on the bench and started for
I never gave him another thought until the next
morning, when, at the same hour, he turned up upon
the headland, and shared the bench which I had been
accustomed to look upon as my own. He bowed again
before sitting down, but was no more inclined than
formerly to enter into conversation. There had been
a change in him during the last twenty-four hours,
and all for the worse. The face seemed more
heavy and more wrinkled, while that ominous venous
tinge was more pronounced as he panted up the hill.
The clean lines of his cheek and chin were marred by
a day's growth of grey stubble, and his large,
shapely head had lost something of the brave carriage
which had struck me when first I glanced at him. He
had a letter there, the same, or another, but still
in a woman's hand, and over this he was moping and
mumbling in his senile fashion, with his brow
puckered, and the corners of his mouth drawn down
like those of a fretting child. So I left him, with
a vague wonder as to who he might be, and why a
single spring day should have wrought such a change
upon him.
So interested was I that next morning I was on
the look out for him. Sure enough, at the same hour,
I saw him coming up the hill; but very slowly, with a
bent back and a heavy head. It was shocking to me to
see the change in him as he approached.
"I am afraid that our air does not agree with
you, sir," I ventured to remark.
But it was as though he had no heart for talk.
He tried, as I thought, to make some fitting reply,
but it slurred off into a mumble and silence. How
bent and weak and old he seemed--ten years older at
the least than when first I had seen him! It went to
my heart to see this fine old fellow wasting
away before my eyes. There was the eternal letter
which he unfolded with his shaking fingers. Who was
this woman whose words moved him so? Some daughter,
perhaps, or granddaughter, who should have been the
light of his home instead of---- I smiled to find
how bitter I was growing, and how swiftly I was
weaving a romance round an unshaven old man and his
correspondence. Yet all day he lingered in my mind,
and I had fitful glimpses of those two trembling,
blue-veined, knuckly hands with the paper rustling
between them.
I had hardly hoped to see him again. Another
day's decline must, I thought, hold him to his room,
if not to his bed. Great, then, was my surprise
when, as I approached my bench, I saw that he was
already there. But as I came up to him I could
scarce be sure that it was indeed the same man.
There were the curly-brimmed hat, and the shining
stock, and the horn glasses, but where were the stoop
and the grey-stubbled, pitiable face? He was cleanshaven
and firm lipped, with a bright eye and a head
that poised itself upon his great shoulders like an
eagle on a rock. His back was as straight and square
as a grenadier's, and he switched at the pebbles with
his stick in his exuberant vitality. In the buttonhole
of his well-brushed black coat there glinted a
golden blossom, and the corner of a dainty red
silk handkerchief lapped over from his breast pocket.
He might have been the eldest son of the weary
creature who had sat there the morning before.
"Good morning, Sir, good morning!" he cried with
a merry waggle of his cane.
"Good morning!" I answered how beautiful the bay
is looking."
"Yes, Sir, but you should have seen it just
before the sun rose."
"What, have you been here since then?"
"I was here when there was scarce light to see
the path."
"You are a very early riser."
"On occasion, sir; on occasion!" He cocked his
eye at me as if to gauge whether I were worthy of his
confidence. "The fact is, sir, that my wife is
coming back to me to day."
I suppose that my face showed that I did not
quite see the force of the explanation. My eyes,
too, may have given him assurance of sympathy, for he
moved quite close to me and began speaking in a low,
confidential voice, as if the matter were of such
weight that even the sea-gulls must be kept out of
our councils.
"Are you a married man, Sir?"
"No, I am not."
"Ah, then you cannot quite understand it. My
wife and I have been married for nearly fifty
years, and we have never been parted, never at
all, until now."
"Was it for long?" I asked.
"Yes, sir. This is the fourth day. She had to
go to Scotland. A matter of duty, you understand,
and the doctors would not let me go. Not that I
would have allowed them to stop me, but she was on
their side. Now, thank God! it is over, and she may
be here at any moment."
"Yes, here. This headland and bench were old
friends of ours thirty years ago. The people with
whom we stay are not, to tell the truth, very
congenial, and we have, little privacy among them.
That is why we prefer to meet here. I could not be
sure which train would bring her, but if she had come
by the very earliest she would have found me
"In that case----" said I, rising.
"No, sir, no," he entreated, "I beg that you will
stay. It does not weary you, this domestic talk of
"On the contrary."
"I have been so driven inwards during these few
last days! Ah, what a nightmare it has been! Perhaps
it may seem strange to you that an old fellow like me
should feel like this."
"It is charming."
"No credit to me, sir! There's not a man on
this planet but would feel the same if he had
the good fortune to be married to such a woman.
Perhaps, because you see me like this, and hear me
speak of our long life together, you conceive that
she is old, too."
He laughed heartily, and his eyes twinkled at the
humour of the idea.
"She's one of those women, you know, who have
youth in their hearts, and so it can never be very
far from their faces. To me she's just as she was
when she first took my hand in hers in '45. A wee
little bit stouter, perhaps, but then, if she had a
fault as a girl, it was that she was a shade too
slender. She was above me in station, you know--I a
clerk, and she the daughter of my employer. Oh! it
was quite a romance, I give you my word, and I won
her; and, somehow, I have never got over the
freshness and the wonder of it. To think that that
sweet, lovely girl has walked by my side all through
life, and that I have been able----"
He stopped suddenly, and I glanced round at him
in surprise. He was shaking all over, in every fibre
of his great body. His hands were clawing at the
woodwork, and his feet shuffling on the gravel. I
saw what it was. He was trying to rise, but was so
excited that he could not. I half extended my hand,
but a higher courtesy constrained me to draw it back
again and turn my face to the sea. An instant
afterwards he was up and hurrying down the path.
A woman was coming towards us. She was quite
close before he had seen her--thirty yards at the
utmost. I know not if she had ever been as he
described her, or whether it was but some ideal which
he carried in his brain. The person upon whom I
looked was tall, it is true, but she was thick and
shapeless, with a ruddy, full-blown face, and a
skirt grotesquely gathered up. There was a green
ribbon in her hat, which jarred upon my eyes, and her
blouse-like bodice was full and clumsy. And this was
the lovely girl, the ever youthful! My heart sank as
I thought how little such a woman might appreciate
him, how unworthy she might be of his love.
She came up the path in her solid way, while he
staggered along to meet her. Then, as they came
together, looking discreetly out of the furthest
corner of my eye, I saw that he put out both his
hands, while she, shrinking from a public caress,
took one of them in hers and shook it. As she did so
I saw her face, and I was easy in my mind for my old
man. God grant that when this hand is shaking, and
when this back is bowed, a woman's eyes may look so
into mine.
Professor Ainslie Grey had not come down to
breakfast at the usual hour. The presentation
chiming-clock which stood between the terra-cotta
busts of Claude Bernard and of John Hunter upon the
dining-room mantelpiece had rung out the half-hour
and the three-quarters. Now its golden hand was
verging upon the nine, and yet there were no signs of
the master of the house.
It was an unprecedented occurrence. During the
twelve years that she had kept house for him, his
youngest sister had never known him a second behind
his time. She sat now in front of the high silver
coffee-pot, uncertain whether to order the gong to be
resounded or to wait on in silence. Either course
might be a mistake. Her brother was not a man who
permitted mistakes.
Miss Ainslie Grey was rather above the middle
height, thin, with peering, puckered eyes, and the
rounded shoulders which mark the bookish woman. Her
face was long and spare, flecked with
colour above the cheek-bones, with a reasonable,
thoughtful forehead, and a dash of absolute obstinacy
in her thin lips and prominent chin. Snow white
cuffs and collar, with a plain dark dress, cut with
almost Quaker-like simplicity, bespoke the primness
of her taste. An ebony cross hung over her flattened
chest. She sat very upright in her chair, listening
with raised eyebrows, and swinging her eye-glasses
backwards and forwards with a nervous gesture which
was peculiar to her.
Suddenly she gave a sharp, satisfied jerk of the
head, and began to pour out the coffee. From outside
there came the dull thudding sound of heavy feet upon
thick carpet. The door swung open, and the Professor
entered with a quick, nervous step. He nodded to his
sister, and seating himself at the other side of the
table, began to open the small pile of letters which
lay beside his plate.
Professor Ainslie Grey was at that time fortythree
years of age--nearly twelve years older than
his sister. His career had been a brilliant one. At
Edinburgh, at Cambridge, and at Vienna he had laid
the foundations of his great reputation, both in
physiology and in zoology.
His pamphlet, On the Mesoblastic Origin of
Excitomotor Nerve Roots, had won him his fellowship
of the Royal Society; and his researches, Upon
the Nature of Bathybius, with some Remarks upon
Lithococci, had been translated into at least three
European languages. He had been referred to by one
of the greatest living authorities as being the very
type and embodiment of all that was best in modern
science. No wonder, then, that when the commercial
city of Birchespool decided to create a medical
school, they were only too glad to confer the chair
of physiology upon Mr. Ainslie Grey. They valued him
the more from the conviction that their class was
only one step in his upward journey, and that the
first vacancy would remove him to some more
illustrious seat of learning.
In person he was not unlike his sister. The same
eyes, the same contour, the same intellectual
forehead. His lips, however, were firmer, and his
long, thin, lower jaw was sharper and more decided.
He ran his finger and thumb down it from time to
time, as he glanced over his letters.
"Those maids are very noisy," he remarked, as a
clack of tongues sounded in the distance.
"It is Sarah," said his sister; "I shall speak
about it."
She had handed over his coffee-cup, and was
sipping at her own, glancing furtively through her
narrowed lids at the austere face of her brother.
"The first great advance of the human race,"
said the Professor, "was when, by the
development of their left frontal convolutions, they
attained the power of speech. Their second advance
was when they learned to control that power. Woman
has not yet attained the second stage."
He half closed his eyes as he spoke, and thrust
his chin forward, but as he ceased he had a trick of
suddenly opening both eyes very wide and staring
sternly at his interlocutor.
"I am not garrulous, John," said his sister.
"No, Ada; in many respects you approach the
superior or male type."
The Professor bowed over his egg with the manner
of one who utters a courtly compliment; but the lady
pouted, and gave an impatient little shrug of her
"You were late this morning, John," she remarked,
after a pause.
"Yes, Ada; I slept badly. Some little cerebral
congestion, no doubt due to over-stimulation of the
centers of thought. I have been a little disturbed
in my mind."
His sister stared across at him in astonishment.
The Professor's mental processes had hitherto been as
regular as his habits. Twelve years' continual
intercourse had taught her that he lived in a serene
and rarefied atmosphere of scientific calm, high
above the petty emotions which affect humbler minds.
"You are surprised, Ada," he remarked. "Well, I
cannot wonder at it. I should have been surprised
myself if I had been told that I was so sensitive to
vascular influences. For, after all, all
disturbances are vascular if you probe them deep
enough. I am thinking of getting married."
"Not Mrs. O'James" cried Ada Grey, laying down her
"My dear, you have the feminine quality of
receptivity very remarkably developed. Mrs. O'James
is the lady in question."
"But you know so little of her. The Esdailes
themselves know so little. She is really only an
acquaintance, although she is staying at The Lindens.
Would it not be wise to speak to Mrs. Esdaile first,
"I do not think, Ada, that Mrs. Esdaile is at all
likely to say anything which would materially affect
my course of action. I have given the matter due
consideration. The scientific mind is slow at
arriving at conclusions, but having once formed them,
it is not prone to change. Matrimony is the natural
condition of the human race. I have, as you know,
been so engaged in academical and other work, that I
have had no time to devote to merely personal
questions. It is different now, and I see no valid
reason why I should forego this opportunity of
seeking a suitable helpmate."
"And you are engaged?"
"Hardly that, Ada. I ventured yesterday to
indicate to the lady that I was prepared to submit to
the common lot of humanity. I shall wait upon her
after my morning lecture, and learn how far my
proposals meet with her acquiescence. But you frown,
His sister started, and made an effort to conceal
her expression of annoyance. She even stammered out
some few words of congratulation, but a vacant look
had come into her brother's eyes, and he was
evidently not listening to her.
"I am sure, John, that I wish you the happiness
which you deserve. If I hesitated at all, it is
because I know how much is at stake, and because the
thing is so sudden, so unexpected." Her thin white
hand stole up to the black cross upon her bosom.
"These are moments when we need guidance, John. If I
could persuade you to turn to spiritual----"
The Professor waved the suggestion away with a
deprecating hand.
"It is useless to reopen that question," he said.
"We cannot argue upon it. You assume more than I can
grant. I am forced to dispute your premises. We
have no common basis."
His sister sighed.
"You have no faith," she said.
"I have faith in those great evolutionary forces
which are leading the human race to some unknown but
elevated goal."
"You believe in nothing."
"On the contrary, my dear Ada, I believe in the
differentiation of protoplasm."
She shook her head sadly. It was the one subject
upon which she ventured to dispute her brother's
"This is rather beside the question," remarked
the Professor, folding up his napkin. "If I am not
mistaken, there is some possibility of another
matrimonial event occurring in the family. Eh, Ada?
His small eyes glittered with sly facetiousness
as he shot a twinkle at his sister. She sat very
stiff, and traced patterns upon the cloth with the
"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien----" said the
Professor, sonorously.
"Don't, John, don't!" cried Miss Ainslie Grey.
"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien," continued her
brother inexorably, "is a man who has already made
his mark upon the science of the day. He is my first
and my most distinguished pupil. I assure you, Ada,
that his `Remarks upon the Bile-Pigments, with
special reference to Urobilin,' is likely to live as
a classic. It is not too much to say that he
has revolutionised our views about urobilin."
He paused, but his sister sat silent, with bent
head and flushed cheeks. The little ebony cross rose
and fell with her hurried breathings.
"Dr. James M`Murdo O'Brien has, as you know, the
offer of the physiological chair at Melbourne. He
has been in Australia five years, and has a brilliant
future before him. To-day he leaves us for
Edinburgh, and in two months' time, he goes out to
take over his new duties. You know his feeling
towards you. It, rests with you as to whether he
goes out alone. Speaking for myself, I cannot
imagine any higher mission for a woman of culture
than to go through life in the company of a man who
is capable of such a research as that which Dr. James
M`Murdo O'Brien has brought to a successful
"He has not spoken to me," murmured the lady.
"Ah, there are signs which are more subtle than
speech," said her brother, wagging his head. "But
you are pale. Your vasomotor system is excited.
Your arterioles have contracted. Let me entreat you
to compose yourself. I think I hear the carriage. I
fancy that you may have a visitor this morning, Ada.
You will excuse me now."
With a quick glance at the clock he strode off
into the hall, and within a few minutes he was
rattling in his quiet, well-appointed brougham
through the brick-lined streets of Birchespool.
His lecture over, Professor Ainslie Grey paid a
visit to his laboratory, where he adjusted several
scientific instruments, made a note as to the
progress of three separate infusions of bacteria, cut
half-a-dozen sections with a microtome, and finally
resolved the difficulties of seven different
gentlemen, who were pursuing researches in as many
separate lines of inquiry. Having thus
conscientiously and methodically completed the
routine of his duties, he returned to his carriage
and ordered the coachman to drive him to The Lindens.
His face as he drove was cold and impassive, but he
drew his fingers from time to time down his prominent
chin with a jerky, twitchy movement.
The Lindens was an old-fashioned, ivy-clad house
which had once been in the country, but was now
caught in the long, red-brick feelers of the growing
city. It still stood back from the road in the
privacy of its own grounds. A winding path, lined
with laurel bushes, led to the arched and porticoed
entrance. To the right was a lawn, and at the far
side, under the shadow of a hawthorn, a lady sat in a
garden-chair with a book in her hands. At the click
of the gate she started, and the Professor, catching
sight of her, turned away from the door, and
strode in her direction.
"What! won't you go in and see Mrs. Esdaile?" she
asked, sweeping out from under the shadow of the
She was a small woman, strongly feminine, from
the rich coils of her light-coloured hair to the
dainty garden slipper which peeped from under her
cream-tinted dress. One tiny well-gloved hand was
outstretched in greeting, while the other pressed a
thick, green-covered volume against her side. Her
decision and quick, tactful manner bespoke the mature
woman of the world; but her upraised face had
preserved a girlish and even infantile expression of
innocence in its large, fearless, grey eyes, and
sensitive, humorous mouth. Mrs. O'James was a widow,
and she was two-and-thirty years of age; but neither
fact could have been deduced from her appearance.
"You will surely go in and see Mrs. Esdaile," she
repeated, glancing up at him with eyes which had in
them something between a challenge and a caress.
"I did not come to see Mrs. Esdaile," he
answered, with no relaxation of his cold and grave
manner; "I came to see you."
"I am sure I should be highly honoured," she
said, with just the slightest little touch of brogue
in her accent. "What are the students to do
without their Professor?"
"I have already completed my academic duties.
Take my arm, and we shall walk in the sunshine.
Surely we cannot wonder that Eastern people should
have made a deity of the sun. It is the great
beneficent force of Nature--man's ally against cold,
sterility, and all that is abhorrent to him. What
were you reading?"
"Hale's Matter and Life."
The Professor raised his thick eyebrows.
"Hale!" he said, and then again in a kind of
whisper, "Hale!"
"You differ from him?" she asked.
"It is not I who differ from him. I am only a
monad--a thing of no moment. The whole tendency of
the highest plane of modern thought differs from him.
He defends the indefensible. He is an excellent
observer, but a feeble reasoner. I should not
recommend you to found your conclusions upon Hale."
"I must read Nature's Chronicle to counteract his
pernicious influence," said Mrs. O'James, with a
soft, cooing laugh.
Nature's Chronicle was one of the many books in
which Professor Ainslie Grey had enforced the
negative doctrines of scientific agnosticism.
"It is a faulty work," said he; "I cannot
recommend it. I would rather refer you to the
standard writings of some of my older and more
eloquent colleagues."
There was a pause in their talk as they paced up
and down on the green, velvet-like lawn in the genial
"Have you thought at all," he asked at last, "of
the matter upon which I spoke to you last night?"
She said nothing, but walked by his side with her
eyes averted and her face aslant.
"I would not hurry you unduly," he continued. "I
know that it is a matter which can scarcely be
decided off-hand. In my own case, it cost me some
thought before I ventured to make the suggestion. I
am not an emotional man, but I am conscious in your
presence of the great evolutionary instinct which
makes either sex the complement of the other."
"You believe in love, then?" she asked, with a
twinkling, upward glance.
"I am forced to."
"And yet you can deny the soul?"
"How far these questions are psychic and how far
material is still sub judice," said the
Professor, with an air of toleration. "Protoplasm
may prove to be the physical basis of love as well as
of life."
"How inflexible you are!" she exclaimed; "you
would draw love down to the level of physics."
"Or draw physics up to the level of love."
"Come, that is much better," she cried, with her
sympathetic laugh. "That is really very pretty, and
puts science in quite a delightful light."
Her eyes sparkled, and she tossed her chin with
the pretty, wilful air of a woman who is mistress of
the situation.
"I have reason to believe," said the Professor,
"that my position here will prove to be only a
stepping-stone to some wider scene of scientific
activity. Yet, even here, my chair brings me in some
fifteen hundred pounds a year, which is supplemented
by a few hundreds from my books. I should therefore
be in a position to provide you with those comforts
to which you are accustomed. So much for my
pecuniary position. As to my constitution, it has
always been sound. I have never suffered from any
illness in my life, save fleeting attacks of
cephalalgia, the result of too prolonged a
stimulation of the centres of cerebration. My father
and mother had no sign of any morbid diathesis, but I
will not conceal from you that my grandfather was
afflicted with podagra."
Mrs. O'James looked startled.
"Is that very serious?" she asked.
"It is gout," said the Professor.
"Oh, is that all? It sounded much worse than
"It is a grave taint, but I trust that I shall
not be a victim to atavism. I have laid these facts
before you because they are factors which cannot be
overlooked in forming your decision. May I ask now
whether you see your way to accepting my proposal?"
He paused in his walk, and looked earnestly and
expectantly down at her.
A struggle was evidently going on in her mind.
Her eyes were cast down, her little slipper tapped
the lawn, and her fingers played nervously with her
chatelain. Suddenly, with a sharp, quick gesture
which had in it something of ABANDON and
recklessness, she held out her hand to her companion.
"I accept," she said.
They were standing under the shadow of the
hawthorn. He stooped gravely down, and kissed her
glove-covered fingers.
"I trust that you may never have cause to regret
your decision," he said.
"I trust that you never may," she cried, with a
heaving breast.
There were tears in her eyes, and her lips
twitched with some strong emotion.
"Come into the sunshine again," said he. "It is
the great restorative. Your nerves are shaken. Some
little congestion of the medulla and pons. It is
always instructive to reduce psychic or
emotional conditions to their physical
equivalents. You feel that your anchor is still firm
in a bottom of ascertained fact."
"But it is so dreadfully unromantic," said Mrs.
O'James, with her old twinkle.
"Romance is the offspring of imagination and of
ignorance. Where science throws her calm, clear
light there is happily no room for romance."
"But is not love romance?" she asked.
"Not at all. Love has been taken away from the
poets, and has been brought within the domain of true
science. It may prove to be one of the great cosmic
elementary forces. When the atom of hydrogen draws
the atom of chlorine towards it to form the perfected
molecule of hydrochloric acid, the force which it
exerts may be intrinsically similar to that which
draws me to you. Attraction and repulsion appear to
be the primary forces. This is attraction."
"And here is repulsion," said Mrs. O'James, as a
stout, florid lady came sweeping across the lawn in
their direction. "So glad you have come out, Mrs.
Esdaile! Here is Professor Grey."
"How do you do, Professor?" said the lady, with
some little pomposity of manner. "You were very wise
to stay out here on so lovely a day. Is it not
"It is certainly very fine weather," the
Professor answered.
"Listen to the wind sighing in the trees!" cried
Mrs. Esdaile, holding up one finger. "it is Nature's
lullaby. Could you not imagine it, Professor Grey,
to be the whisperings of angels?"
"The idea had not occurred to me, madam."
"Ah, Professor, I have always the same complaint
against you. A want of rapport with the deeper
meanings of nature. Shall I say a want of
imagination. You do not feel an emotional thrill at
the singing of that thrush?"
"I confess that I am not conscious of one, Mrs.
"Or at the delicate tint of that background of
leaves? See the rich greens!"
"Chlorophyll," murmured the Professor.
"Science is so hopelessly prosaic. It dissects
and labels, and loses sight of the great things in
its attention to the little ones. You have a poor
opinion of woman's intellect, Professor Grey. I
think that I have heard you say so."
"It is a question of avoirdupois," said the
Professor, closing his eyes and shrugging his
shoulders. "The female cerebrum averages two ounces
less in weight than the male. No doubt there are
exceptions. Nature is always elastic."
"But the heaviest thing is not always the
strongest," said Mrs. O'James, laughing. "Isn't
there a law of compensation in science? May we
not hope to make up in quality for what we lack
in quantity?"
"I think not," remarked the Professor, gravely.
"But there is your luncheon-gong. No, thank you, Mrs.
Esdaile, I cannot stay. My carriage is waiting.
Good-bye. Good-bye, Mrs. O'James."
He raised his hat and stalked slowly away among
the laurel bushes.
"He has no taste," said Mrs. Esdaile--" no eye
for beauty."
"On the contrary," Mrs. O'James answered, with a
saucy little jerk of the chin. "He has just asked me
to be his wife."
As Professor Ainslie Grey ascended the steps of
his house, the hall-door opened and a dapper
gentleman stepped briskly out. He was somewhat
sallow in the face, with dark, beady eyes, and a
short, black beard with an aggressive bristle.
Thought and work had left their traces upon his face,
but he moved with the brisk activity of a man who had
not yet bade good-bye to his youth.
"I'm in luck's way," he cried. "I wanted to see
"Then come back into the library," said the
Professor; "you must stay and have lunch with us."
The two men entered the hall, and the Professor
led the way into his private sanctum. He motioned
his companion into an arm-chair.
"I trust that you have been successful, O'Brien,"
said he. "I should be loath to exercise any undue
pressure upon my sister Ada; but I have given her to
understand that there is no one whom I should prefer
for a brother-in-law to my most brilliant scholar,
the author of Some Remarks upon the Bile-Pigments,
with special reference to Urobilin."
"You are very kind, Professor Grey--you have
always been very kind," said the other. "I
approached Miss Grey upon the subject; she did not
say No."
"She said Yes, then?"
"No; she proposed to leave the matter open until
my return from Edinburgh. I go to-day, as you know,
and I hope to commence my research to-morrow."
"On the comparative anatomy of the vermiform
appendix, by James M`Murdo O'Brien," said the
Professor, sonorously. "It is a glorious subject--a
subject which lies at the very root of evolutionary
"Ah! she is the dearest girl," cried O'Brien,
with a sudden little spurt of Celtic enthusiasm--"she
is the soul of truth and of honour."
"The vermiform appendix----" began the Professor.
"She is an angel from heaven," interrupted the
other. "I fear that it is my advocacy of scientific
freedom in religious thought which stands in my way
with her."
"You must not truckle upon that point. You must
be true to your convictions; let there be no
compromise there."
"My reason is true to agnosticism, and yet I am
conscious of a void--a vacuum. I had feelings at the
old church at home between the scent of the incense
and the roll of the organ, such as I have never
experienced in the laboratory or the lecture-room."
"Sensuous-purely sensuous," said the Professor,
rubbing his chin. "Vague hereditary tendencies
stirred into life by the stimulation of the nasal and
auditory nerves."
"Maybe so, maybe so," the younger man answered
thoughtfully. "But this was not what I wished to
speak to you about. Before I enter your family, your
sister and you have a claim to know all that I can
tell you about my career. Of my worldly prospects I
have already spoken to you. There is only one point
which I have omitted to mention. I am a widower."
The Professor raised his eyebrows.
"This is news indeed," said he.
"I married shortly after my arrival in Australia.
Miss Thurston was her name. I met her in society.
It was a most unhappy match."
Some painful emotion possessed him. His quick,
expressive features quivered, and his white hands
tightened upon the arms of the chair. The Professor
turned away towards the window.
"You are the best judge," he remarked "but I
should not think that it was necessary to go into
"You have a right to know everything--you and
Miss Grey. It is not a matter on which I can well
speak to her direct. Poor Jinny was the best of
women, but she was open to flattery, and liable to be
misled by designing persons. She was untrue to me,
Grey. It is a hard thing to say of the dead, but she
was untrue to me. She fled to Auckland with a man
whom she had known before her marriage. The brig
which carried them foundered, and not a soul was
"This is very painful, O'Brien," said the
Professor, with a deprecatory motion of his hand. "I
cannot see, however, how it affects your relation to
my sister."
"I have eased my conscience," said O'Brien,
rising from his chair; "I have told you all that
there is to tell. I should not like the story to
reach you through any lips but my own."
"You are right, O'Brien. Your action has
been most honourable and considerate. But you
are not to blame in the matter, save that perhaps you
showed a little precipitancy in choosing a lifepartner
without due care and inquiry."
O'Brien drew his hand across his eyes.
"Poor girl!" he cried. "God help me, I love her
still! But I must go."
"You will lunch with us?"
"No, Professor; I have my packing still to do. I
have already bade Miss Grey adieu. In two months I
shall see you again."
"You will probably find me a married man."
"Yes, I have been thinking of it."
"My dear Professor, let me congratulate you with
all my heart. I had no idea. Who is the lady?"
"Mrs. O'James is her name--a widow of the same
nationality as yourself. But to return to matters of
importance, I should be very happy to see the proofs
of your paper upon the vermiform appendix. I may be
able to furnish you with material for a footnote or
"Your assistance will be invaluable to me," said
O'Brien, with enthusiasm, and the two men parted in
the hall. The Professor walked back into the diningroom,
where his sister was already seated at the
"I shall be married at the registrar's," he
remarked; "I should strongly recommend you to do
the same."
Professor Ainslie Grey was as good as his word.
A fortnight's cessation of his classes gave him an
opportunity which was too good to let pass. Mrs.
O'James was an orphan, without relations and almost
without friends in the country. There was no
obstacle in the way of a speedy wedding. They were
married, accordingly, in the quietest manner
possible, and went off to Cambridge together, where
the Professor and his charming wife were present at
several academic observances, and varied the routine
of their honeymoon by incursions into biological
laboratories and medical libraries. Scientific
friends were loud in their congratulations, not only
upon Mrs. Grey's beauty, but upon the unusual
quickness and intelligence which she displayed in
discussing physiological questions. The Professor
was himself astonished at the accuracy of her
information. "You have a remarkable range of
knowledge for a woman, Jeannette," he remarked upon
more than one occasion. He was even prepared to
admit that her cerebrum might be of the normal
One foggy, drizzling morning they returned to
Birchespool, for the next day would re-open the
session, and Professor Ainslie Grey prided himself
upon having never once in his life failed to
appear in his lecture-room at the very stroke of
the hour. Miss Ada Grey welcomed them with a
constrained cordiality, and handed over the keys of
office to the new mistress. Mrs. Grey pressed her
warmly to remain, but she explained that she had
already accepted an invitation which would engage her
for some months. The same evening she departed for
the south of England.
A couple of days later the maid carried a card
just after breakfast into the library where the
Professor sat revising his morning lecture. It
announced the re-arrival of Dr. James M`Murdo
O'Brien. Their meeting was effusively genial on the
part of the younger man, and coldly precise on that
of his former teacher.
"You see there have been changes," said the
"So I heard. Miss Grey told me in her letters,
and I read the notice in the British Medical Journal.
So it's really married you are. How quickly and
quietly you have managed it all!"
"I am constitutionally averse to anything in the
nature of show or ceremony. My wife is a sensible
woman--I may even go the length of saying that, for a
woman, she is abnormally sensible. She quite agreed
with me in the course which I have adopted."
"And your research on Vallisneria?"
"This matrimonial incident has interrupted it,
but I have resumed my classes, and we shall soon
be quite in harness again."
"I must see Miss Grey before I leave England. We
have corresponded, and I think that all will be well.
She must come out with me. I don't think I could go
without her."
The Professor shook his head.
"Your nature is not so weak as you pretend," he
said. "Questions of this sort are, after all, quite
subordinate to the great duties of life."
O'Brien smiled.
"You would have me take out my Celtic soul and
put in a Saxon one," he said. "Either my brain is
too small or my heart is too big. But when may I
call and pay my respects to Mrs. Grey? Will she be
at home this afternoon?"
"She is at home now. Come into the morning-room.
She will be glad to make your acquaintance."
They walked across the linoleum-paved hall. The
Professor opened the door of the room, and walked in,
followed by his friend. Mrs. Grey was sitting in a
basket-chair by the window, light and fairy-like in a
loose-flowing, pink morning-gown. Seeing a visitor,
she rose and swept towards them. The Professor heard
a dull thud behind him. O'Brien had fallen back into
a chair, with his hand pressed tight to his side.
"Jinny!" he gasped--"Jinny!"
Mrs. Grey stopped dead in her advance, and stared
at him with a face from which every expression had
been struck out, save one of astonishment and horror.
Then with a sharp intaking of the breath she reeled,
and would have fallen had the Professor not thrown
his long, nervous arm round her.
"Try this sofa," said he.
She sank back among the cushions with the same
white, cold, dead look upon her face. The Professor
stood with his back to the empty fireplace and
glanced from the one to the other.
"So, O'Brien," he said at last, "you have already
made the acquaintance of my wife!"
"Your wife, " cried his friend hoarsely. "She is
no wife of yours. God help me, she is MY wife."
The Professor stood rigidly upon the hearthrug.
His long, thin fingers were intertwined, and his head
sunk a little forward. His two companions had eyes
only for each other.
"Jinny!" said he.
"How could you leave me so, Jinny? How could you
have the heart to do it? I thought you were dead. I
mourned for your death--ay, and you have made me
mourn for you living. You have withered my life."
She made no answer, but lay back among her
cushions with her eyes still fixed upon him.
"Why do you not speak?"
"Because you are right, James. I HAVE treated
you cruelly--shamefully. But it is not as bad as you
"You fled with De Horta."
"No, I did not. At the last moment my better
nature prevailed. He went alone. But I was ashamed
to come back after what I had written to you. I
could not face you. I took passage alone to England
under a new name, and here I have lived ever since.
It seemed to me that I was beginning life again. I
knew that you thought I was drowned. Who could have
dreamed that fate would throw us together again!
When the Professor asked me----"
She stopped and gave a gasp for breath.
"You are faint," said the Professor--"keep the
head low; it aids the cerebral circulation." He
flattened down the cushion. "I am sorry to leave
you, O'Brien; but I have my class duties to look to.
Possibly I may find you here when I return."
With a grim and rigid face he strode out of the
room. Not one of the three hundred students who
listened to his lecture saw any change in his manner
and appearance, or could have guessed that the
austere gentleman in front of them had found out
at last how hard it is to rise above one's humanity.
The lecture over, he performed his routine duties in
the laboratory, and then drove back to his own house.
He did not enter by the front door, but passed
through the garden to the folding glass casement
which led out of the morning-room. As he approached
he heard his wife's voice and O'Brien's in loud and
animated talk. He paused among the rose-bushes,
uncertain whether to interrupt them or no. Nothing
was further from his nature than play the
eavesdropper; but as he stood, still hesitating,
words fell upon his ear which struck him rigid and
"You are still my wife, Jinny," said O'Brien; "I
forgive you from the bottom of my heart. I love you,
and I have never ceased to love you, though you had
forgotten me."
"No, James, my heart was always in Melbourne. I
have always been yours. I thought that it was better
for you that I should seem to be dead."
"You must choose between us now, Jinny. If you
determine to remain here, I shall not open my lips.
There shall be no scandal. If, on the other hand,
you come with me, it's little I care about the
world's opinion. Perhaps I am as much to blame as
you. I thought too much of my work and too little of
my wife."
The Professor heard the cooing, caressing laugh
which he knew so well.
"I shall go with you, James," she said.
"And the Professor----?"
"The poor Professor! But he will not mind much,
James; he has no heart."
"We must tell him our resolution."
"There is no need," said Professor Ainslie Grey,
stepping in through the open casement. "I have
overheard the latter part of your conversation. I
hesitated to interrupt you before you came to a
O'Brien stretched out his hand and took that of
the woman. They stood together with the sunshine on
their faces. The Professor paused at the casement
with his hands behind his back, and his long black
shadow fell between them.
"You have come to a wise decision," said he. "Go
back to Australia together, and let what has passed
be blotted out of your lives."
"But you--you----" stammered O'Brien.
The Professor waved his hand.
"Never trouble about me," he said.
The woman gave a gasping cry.
"What can I do or say?" she wailed. "How could I
have foreseen this? I thought my old life was dead.
But it has come back again, with all its hopes and
its desires. What can I say to you, Ainslie? I
have brought shame and disgrace upon a worthy man. I
have blasted your life. How you must hate and loathe
me! I wish to God that I had never been born!"
"I neither hate nor loathe you, Jeannette," said
the Professor, quietly. "You are wrong in regretting
your birth, for you have a worthy mission before you
in aiding the life-work of a man who has shown
himself capable of the highest order of scientific
research. I cannot with justice blame you personally
for what has occurred. How far the individual monad
is to be held responsible for hereditary and
engrained tendencies, is a question upon which
science has not yet said her last word."
He stood with his finger-tips touching, and his
body inclined as one who is gravely expounding a
difficult and impersonal subject. O'Brien had
stepped forward to say something, but the other's
attitude and manner froze the words upon his lips.
Condolence or sympathy would be an impertinence to
one who could so easily merge his private griefs in
broad questions of abstract philosophy.
"It is needless to prolong the situation," the
Professor continued, in the same measured tones. "My
brougham stands at the door. I beg that you will use
it as your own. Perhaps it would be as well that you
should leave the town without unnecessary delay.
Your things, Jeannette, shall be forwarded."
O'Brien hesitated with a hanging head.
"I hardly dare offer you my hand," he said.
"On the contrary. I think that of the three of
us you come best out of the affair. You have nothing
to be ashamed of."
"Your sister----"
"I shall see that the matter is put to her in its
true light. Good-bye! Let me have a copy of your
recent research. Good-bye, Jeannette!"
Their hands met, and for one short moment their
eyes also. It was only a glance, but for the first
and last time the woman's intuition cast a light for
itself into the dark places of a strong man's soul.
She gave a little gasp, and her other hand rested for
an instant, as white and as light as thistle-down,
upon his shoulder.
"James, James!" she cried. "Don't you see that he
is stricken to the heart?"
He turned her quietly away from him.
"I am not an emotional man," he said. "I have my
duties--my research on Vallisneria. The brougham is
there. Your cloak is in the hall. Tell John where
you wish to be driven. He will bring you anything
you need. Now go."
His last two words were so sudden, so volcanic,
in such contrast to his measured voice and masklike
face, that they swept the two away from
him. He closed the door behind them and paced slowly
up and down the room. Then he passed into the
library and looked out over the wire blind. The
carriage was rolling away. He caught a last glimpse
of the woman who had been his wife. He saw the
feminine droop of her head, and the curve of her
beautiful throat.
Under some foolish, aimless impulse, he took a
few quick steps towards the door. Then he turned,
and throwing himself into his study-chair he plunged
back into his work.
There was little scandal about this singular
domestic incident. The Professor had few personal
friends, and seldom went into society. His marriage
had been so quiet that most of his colleagues had
never ceased to regard him as a bachelor. Mrs.
Esdaile and a few others might talk, but their field
for gossip was limited, for they could only guess
vaguely at the cause of this sudden separation.
The Professor was as punctual as ever at his
classes, and as zealous in directing the laboratory
work of those who studied under him. His own private
researches were pushed on with feverish energy. It
was no uncommon thing for his servants, when they
came down of a morning, to hear the shrill
scratchings of his tireless pen, or to meet him on
the staircase as he ascended, grey and silent, to his
room. In vain his friends assured him that such a
life must undermine his health. He lengthened his
hours until day and night were one long, ceaseless
Gradually under this discipline a change came
over his appearance. His features, always inclined
to gauntness, became even sharper and more
pronounced. There were deep lines about his temples
and across his brow. His cheek was sunken and his
complexion bloodless. His knees gave under him when
he walked; and once when passing out of his lectureroom
he fell and had to be assisted to his carriage.
This was just before the end of the session and
soon after the holidays commenced the professors who
still remained in Birchespool were shocked to hear
that their brother of the chair of physiology had
sunk so low that no hopes could be entertained of his
recovery. Two eminent physicians had consulted over
his case without being able to give a name to the
affection from which he suffered. A steadily
decreasing vitality appeared to be the only symptom--
a bodily weakness which left the mind unclouded. He
was much interested himself in his own case, and made
notes of his subjective sensations as an aid to
diagnosis. Of his approaching end he spoke in
his usual unemotional and somewhat pedantic fashion.
"It is the assertion," he said, "of the liberty of the
individual cell as opposed to the cell-commune. It
is the dissolution of a co-operative society. The
process is one of great interest."
And so one grey morning his co-operative society
dissolved. Very quietly and softly he sank into his
eternal sleep. His two physicians felt some slight
embarrassment when called upon to fill in his
"It is difficult to give it a name," said one.
"Very," said the other.
"If he were not such an unemotional man, I should
have said that he had died from some sudden nervous
shock--from, in fact, what the vulgar would call a
broken heart."
"I don't think poor Grey was that sort of a man
at all."
"Let us call it cardiac, anyhow," said the older
So they did so.
The relations between Douglas Stone and the
notorious Lady Sannox were very well known both among
the fashionable circles of which she was a brilliant
member, and the scientific bodies which numbered him
among their most illustrious confreres. There
was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest
when it was announced one morning that the lady had
absolutely and for ever taken the veil, and that the
world would see her no more. When, at the very tail
of this rumour, there came the assurance that the
celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel
nerves, had been found in the morning by his valet,
seated on one side of his bed, smiling pleasantly
upon the universe, with both legs jammed into one
side of his breeches and his great brain about as
valuable as a cap full of porridge, the matter was
strong enough to give quite a little thrill of
interest to folk who had never hoped that their jaded
nerves were capable of such a sensation.
Douglas Stone in his prime was one of the
most remarkable men in England. Indeed, he
could hardly be said to have ever reached his prime,
for he was but nine-and-thirty at the time of this
little incident. Those who knew him best were aware
that, famous as he was as a surgeon, he might have
succeeded with even greater rapidity in any of a
dozen lines of life. He could have cut his way to
fame as a soldier, struggled to it as an explorer,
bullied for it in the courts, or built it out of
stone and iron as an engineer. He was born to be
great, for he could plan what another man dare not
do, and he could do what another man dare not plan.
In surgery none could follow him. His nerve, his
judgment, his intuition, were things apart. Again
and again his knife cut away death, but grazed the
very springs of life in doing it, until his
assistants were as white as the patient. His energy,
his audacity, his full-blooded self-confidence--does
not the memory of them still linger to the south of
Marylebone Road and the north of Oxford Street?
His vices were as magnificent as his virtues, and
infinitely more picturesque. Large as was his
income, and it was the third largest of all
professional men in London, it was far beneath the
luxury of his living. Deep in his complex nature lay
a rich vein of sensualism, at the sport of which he
placed all the prizes of his life. The eye, the
ear, the touch, the palate--all were his masters.
The bouquet of old vintages, the scent of rare
exotics, the curves and tints of the daintiest
potteries of Europe--it was to these that the quickrunning
stream of gold was transformed. And then
there came his sudden mad passion for Lady Sannox,
when a single interview with two challenging glances
and a whispered word set him ablaze. She was the
loveliest woman in London, and the only one to him.
He was one of the handsomest men in London, but not
the only one to her. She had a liking for new
experiences, and was gracious to most men who wooed
her. It may have been cause or it may have been
effect that Lord Sannox looked fifty, though he was
but six-and-thirty.
He was a quiet, silent, neutral-tinted man, this
lord, with thin lips and heavy eyelids, much given to
gardening, and full of home-like habits. He had at
one time been fond of acting, had even rented a
theatre in London, and on its boards had first seen
Miss Marion Dawson, to whom he had offered his hand,
his title, and the third of a county. Since his
marriage this early hobby had become distasteful to
him. Even in private theatricals it was no longer
possible to persuade him to exercise the talent which
he had often shown that he possessed. He was happier
with a spud and a watering-can among his orchids and
It was quite an interesting problem whether he
was absolutely devoid of sense, or miserably wanting
in spirit. Did he know his lady's ways and condone
them, or was he a mere blind, doting fool? It was a
point to be discussed over the teacups in snug little
drawing-rooms, or with the aid of a cigar in the bow
windows of clubs. Bitter and plain were the comments
among men upon his conduct. There was but one who
had a good word to say for him, and he was the most
silent member in the smoking-room. He had seen him
break in a horse at the university, and it seemed to
have left an impression upon his mind.
But when Douglas Stone became the favourite, all
doubts as to Lord Sannox's knowledge or ignorance
were set for ever at rest. There, was no subterfuge
about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous fashion,
he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The
scandal became notorious. A learned body intimated
that his name had been struck from the list of its
vice-presidents. Two friends implored him to
consider his professional credit. He cursed them all
three, and spent forty guineas on a bangle to take
with him to the lady. He was at her house every
evening, and she drove in his carriage in the
afternoons. There was not an attempt on either side
to conceal their relations; but there came at last a
little incident to interrupt them.
It was a dismal winter's night, very cold and
gusty, with the wind whooping in the chimneys and
blustering against the window-panes. A thin spatter
of rain tinkled on the glass with each fresh sough of
the gale, drowning for the instant the dull gurgle
and drip from the eves. Douglas Stone had finished
his dinner, and sat by his fire in the study, a glass
of rich port upon the malachite table at his elbow.
As he raised it to his lips, he held it up against
the lamplight, and watched with the eye of a
connoisseur the tiny scales of beeswing which floated
in its rich ruby depths. The fire, as it spurted up,
threw fitful lights upon his bold, clear-cut face,
with its widely-opened grey eyes, its thick and yet
firm lips, and the deep, square jaw, which had
something Roman in its strength and its animalism.
He smiled from time to time as he nestled back in his
luxurious chair. Indeed, he had a right to feel well
pleased, for, against the advice of six colleagues,
he had performed an operation that day of which only
two cases were on record, and the result had been
brilliant beyond all expectation. No other man in
London would have had the daring to plan, or the
skill to execute, such a heroic measure.
But he had promised Lady Sannox to see her that
evening and it was already half-past eight. His hand
was outstretched to the bell to order the
carriage when he heard the dull thud of the knocker.
An instant later there was the shuffling of feet in
the hall, and the sharp closing of a door.
"A patient to see you, sir, in the consultingroom,
said the butler.
"About himself?"
"No, sir; I think he wants you to go out."
"It is too late, cried Douglas Stone peevishly.
"I won't go."
"This is his card, sir."
The butler presented it upon the gold salver
which had been given to his master by the wife of a
Prime Minister.
"`Hamil Ali, Smyrna.' Hum! The fellow is a
Turk, I suppose."
"Yes, sir. He seems as if he came from abroad,
sir. And he's in a terrible way."
"Tut, tut! I have an engagement. I must go
somewhere else. But I'll see him. Show him in here,
A few moments later the butler swung open the
door and ushered in a small and decrepit man, who
walked with a bent back and with the forward push of
the face and blink of the eyes which goes with
extreme short sight. His face was swarthy, and his
hair and beard of the deepest black. In one hand he
held a turban of white muslin striped with red, in
the other a small chamois leather bag.
"Good-evening," said Douglas Stone, when the
butler had closed the door. "You speak English, I
"Yes, sir. I am from Asia Minor, but I speak
English when I speak slow."
"You wanted me to go out, I understand?"
"Yes, sir. I wanted very much that you should
see my wife."
"I could come in the morning, but I have an
engagement which prevents me from seeing your wife
The Turk's answer was a singular one. He pulled
the string which closed the mouth of the chamois
leather bag, and poured a flood of gold on to the
"There are one hundred pounds there," said he,
"and I promise you that it will not take you an hour.
I have a cab ready at the door."
Douglas Stone glanced at his watch. An hour
would not make it too late to visit Lady Sannox. He
had been there later. And the fee was an
extraordinarily high one. He had been pressed by his
creditors lately, and he could not afford to let such
a chance pass. He would go.
"What is the case?" he asked.
"Oh, it is so sad a one! So sad a one! You have
not, perhaps, heard of the daggers of the Almohades?"
"Ah, they are Eastern daggers of a great age and
of a singular shape, with the hilt like what you call
a stirrup. I am a curiosity dealer, you understand,
and that is why I have come to England from Smyrna,
but next week I go back once more. Many things I
brought with me, and I have a few things left, but
among them, to my sorrow, is one of these daggers."
"You will remember that I have an appointment,
sir," said the surgeon, with some irritation. "Pray
confine yourself to the necessary details."
"You will see that it is necessary. To-day my
wife fell down in a faint in the room in which I keep
my wares, and she cut her lower lip upon this cursed
dagger of Almohades."
"I see," said Douglas Stone, rising. "And you
wish me to dress the wound? "
"No, no, it is worse than that."
"What then?"
"These daggers are poisoned."
"Yes, and there is no man, East or West, who can
tell now what is the poison or what the cure. But
all that is known I know, for my father was in this
trade before me, and we have had much to do with
these poisoned weapons."
"What are the symptoms?"
"Deep sleep, and death in thirty hours."
"And you say there is no cure. Why then should
you pay me this considerable fee?"
"No drug can cure, but the knife may."
"And how?"
"The poison is slow of absorption. It remains
for hours in the wound."
"Washing, then, might cleanse it?"
"No more than in a snake-bite. It is too subtle
and too deadly."
"Excision of the wound, then?"
"That is it. If it be on the finger, take the
finger off. So said my father always. But think of
where this wound is, and that it is my wife. It is
But familiarity with such grim matters may take
the finer edge from a man's sympathy. To Douglas
Stone this was already an interesting case, and he
brushed aside as irrelevant the feeble objections of
the husband.
"It appears to be that or nothing," said he
brusquely. It is better to lose a lip than a life."
"Ah, yes, I know that you are right. Well, well,
it is kismet, and must be faced. I have the cab, and
you will come with me and do this thing."
Douglas Stone took his case of bistouries from a
drawer, and placed it with a roll of bandage and a
compress of lint in his pocket. He must waste
no more time if he were to see Lady Sannox.
"I am ready," said he, pulling on his overcoat.
Will you take a glass of wine before you go out into
this cold air?"
His visitor shrank away, with a protesting hand
"You forget that I am a Mussulman, and a true
follower of the Prophet," said he. "But tell me what
is the bottle of green glass which you have placed in
your pocket?"
"It is chloroform."
"Ah, that also is forbidden to us. It is a
spirit, and we make no use of such things."
"What! You would allow your wife to go through
an operation without an anaesthetic?"
"Ah! she will feel nothing, poor soul. The deep
sleep has already come on, which is the first working
of the poison. And then I have given her of our
Smyrna opium. Come, sir, for already an hour has
As they stepped out into the darkness, a sheet of
rain was driven in upon their faces, and the hall
lamp, which dangled from the arm of a marble
caryatid, went out with a fluff. Pim, the butler,
pushed the heavy door to, straining hard with his
shoulder against the wind, while the two men groped
their way towards the yellow glare which showed where
the cab was waiting. An instant later they were
rattling upon their journey.
"Is it far?" asked Douglas Stone.
"Oh, no. We have a very little quiet place off
the Euston Road."
The surgeon pressed the spring of his repeater
and listened to the little tings which told him the
hour. It was a quarter past nine. He calculated the
distances, and the short time which it would take him
to perform so trivial an operation. He ought to
reach Lady Sannox by ten o'clock. Through the fogged
windows he saw the blurred gas-lamps dancing past,
with occasionally the broader glare of a shop front.
The rain was pelting and rattling upon the leathern
top of the carriage and the wheels swashed as they
rolled through puddle and mud. Opposite to him the
white headgear of his companion gleamed faintly
through the obscurity. The surgeon felt in his
pockets and arranged his needles, his ligatures and
his safety-pins, that no time might be wasted when
they arrived. He chafed with impatience and drummed
his foot upon the floor.
But the cab slowed down at last and pulled up.
In an instant Douglas Stone was out, and the Smyrna
merchant's toe was at his very heel.
"You can wait," said he to the driver.
It was a mean-looking house in a narrow and
sordid street. The surgeon, who knew his London
well, cast a swift glance into the shadows, but
there was nothing distinctive--no shop, no movement,
nothing but a double line of dull, flat-faced houses,
a double stretch of wet flagstones which gleamed in
the lamplight, and a double rush of water in the
gutters which swirled and gurgled towards the sewer
gratings. The door which faced them was blotched and
discoloured, and a faint light in the fan pane above
it served to show the dust and the grime which
covered it. Above, in one of the bedroom windows,
there was a dull yellow glimmer. The merchant
knocked loudly, and, as he turned his dark face
towards the light, Douglas Stone could see that it
was contracted with anxiety. A bolt was drawn, and
an elderly woman with a taper stood in the doorway,
shielding the thin flame with her gnarled hand.
"Is all well?" gasped the merchant.
"She is as you left her, sir."
"She has not spoken?"
"No; she is in a deep sleep."
The merchant closed the door, and Douglas Stone
walked down the narrow passage, glancing about him in
some surprise as he did so. There was no oilcloth,
no mat, no hat-rack. Deep grey dust and heavy
festoons of cobwebs met his eyes everywhere.
Following the old woman up the winding stair, his
firm footfall echoed harshly through the silent
house. There was no carpet.
The bedroom was on the second landing. Douglas
Stone followed the old nurse into it, with the
merchant at his heels. Here, at least, there was
furniture and to spare. The floor was littered and
the corners piled with Turkish cabinets, inlaid
tables, coats of chain mail, strange pipes, and
grotesque weapons. A single small lamp stood upon a
bracket on the wall. Douglas Stone took it down, and
picking his way among the lumber, walked over to a
couch in the corner, on which lay a woman dressed in
the Turkish fashion, with yashmak and veil. The
lower part of the face was exposed, and the surgeon
saw a jagged cut which zigzagged along the border of
the under lip.
"You will forgive the yashmak," said the Turk.
"You know our views about woman in the East."
But the surgeon was not thinking about the
yashmak. This was no longer a woman to him. It was
a case. He stooped and examined the wound carefully.
"There are no signs of irritation," said he. "We
might delay the operation until local symptoms
The husband wrung his hands in incontrollable
"Oh! sir, sir!" he cried. "Do not trifle. You do
not know. It is deadly. I know, and I give you
my assurance that an operation is absolutely
necessary. Only the knife can save her."
"And yet I am inclined to wait," said Douglas
"That is enough!" the Turk cried, angrily.
"Every minute is of importance, and I cannot stand
here and see my wife allowed to sink. It only
remains for me to give you my thanks for having come,
and to call in some other surgeon before it is too
Douglas Stone hesitated. To refund that hundred
pounds was no pleasant matter. But of course if he
left the case he must return the money. And if the
Turk were right and the woman died, his position
before a coroner might be an embarrassing one.
"You have had personal experience of this
poison?" he asked.
"I have."
"And you assure me that an operation is needful."
"I swear it by all that I hold sacred."
"The disfigurement will be frightful."
"I can understand that the mouth will not be a
pretty one to kiss."
Douglas Stone turned fiercely upon the man. The
speech was a brutal one. But the Turk has his own
fashion of talk and of thought, and there was no time
for wrangling. Douglas Stone drew a bistoury
from his case, opened it and felt the keen straight
edge with his forefinger. Then he held the lamp
closer to the bed. Two dark eyes were gazing up at
him through the slit in the yashmak. They were all
iris, and the pupil was hardly to be seen.
"You have given her a very heavy dose of opium."
"Yes, she has had a good dose."
He glanced again at the dark eyes which looked
straight at his own. They were dull and lustreless,
but, even as he gazed, a little shifting sparkle came
into them, and the lips quivered.
"She is not absolutely unconscious," said he.
"Would it not be well to use the knife while it
would be painless?"
The same thought had crossed the surgeon's mind.
He grasped the wounded lip with his forceps, and with
two swift cuts he took out a broad V-shaped piece.
The woman sprang up on the couch with a dreadful
gurgling scream. Her covering was torn from her
face. It was a face that he knew. In spite of that
protruding upper lip and that slobber of blood, it
was a face that he knew. She kept on putting her
hand up to the gap and screaming. Douglas Stone sat
down at the foot of the couch with his knife and his
forceps. The room was whirling round, and he had
felt something go like a ripping seam behind his
ear. A bystander would have said that his face
was the more ghastly of the two. As in a dream, or
as if he had been looking at something at the play,
he was conscious that the Turk's hair and beard lay
upon the table, and that Lord Sannox was leaning
against the wall with his hand to his side, laughing
silently. The screams had died away now, and the
dreadful head had dropped back again upon the pillow,
but Douglas Stone still sat motionless, and Lord
Sannox still chuckled quietly to himself.
"It was really very necessary for Marion, this
operation," said he, "not physically, but morally,
you know, morally."
Douglas Stone stooped forwards and began to play
with the fringe of the coverlet. His knife tinkled
down upon the ground, but he still held the forceps
and something more.
"I had long intended to make a little example,"
said Lord Sannox, suavely. "Your note of Wednesday
miscarried, and I have it here in my pocket-book. I
took some pains in carrying out my idea. The wound,
by the way, was from nothing more dangerous than my
signet ring."
He glanced keenly at his silent companion, and
cocked the small revolver which he held in his coat
pocket. But Douglas Stone was still picking at the
"You see you have kept your appointment after
all," said Lord Sannox.
And at that Douglas Stone began to laugh. He
laughed long and loudly. But Lord Sannox did
not laugh now. Something like fear sharpened and
hardened his features. He walked from the room, and
he walked on tiptoe. The old woman was waiting
"Attend to your mistress when she awakes," said
Lord Sannox.
Then he went down to the street. The cab was at
the door, and the driver raised his hand to his hat.
"John," said Lord Sannox, "you will take the
doctor home first. He will want leading downstairs,
I think. Tell his butler that he has been taken ill
at a case."
"Very good, sir."
"Then you can take Lady Sannox home."
"And how about yourself, sir?"
"Oh, my address for the next few months will be
Hotel di Roma, Venice. Just see that the letters are
sent on. And tell Stevens to exhibit all the purple
chrysanthemums next Monday and to wire me the
The Foreign Minister was down with the gout. For
a week he had been confined to the house, and he had
missed two Cabinet Councils at a time when the
pressure upon his department was severe. It is true
that he had an excellent undersecretary and an
admirable staff, but the Minister was a man of such
ripe experience and of such proven sagacity that
things halted in his absence. When his firm hand was
at the wheel the great ship of State rode easily and
smoothly upon her way; when it was removed she yawed
and staggered until twelve British editors rose up in
their omniscience and traced out twelve several
courses, each of which was the sole and only path to
safety. Then it was that the Opposition said vain
things, and that the harassed Prime Minister prayed
for his absent colleague.
The Foreign Minister sat in his dressing-room in
the great house in Cavendish Square. It was May, and
the square garden shot up like a veil of green in
front of his window, but, in spite of the
sunshine, a fire crackled and sputtered in the grate
of the sick-room. In a deep-red plush armchair sat
the great statesman, his head leaning back upon a
silken pillow, one foot stretched forward and
supported upon a padded rest. His deeply-lined,
finely-chiselled face and slow-moving, heavilypouched
eyes were turned upwards towards the carved
and painted ceiling, with that inscrutable expression
which had been the despair and the admiration of his
Continental colleagues upon the occasion of the
famous Congress when he had made his first appearance
in the arena of European diplomacy. Yet at the
present moment his capacity for hiding his emotions
had for the instant failed him, for about the lines
of his strong, straight mouth and the puckers of his
broad, overhanging forehead, there were sufficient
indications of the restlessness and impatience which
consumed him.
And indeed there was enough to make a man chafe,
for he had much to think of and yet was bereft of the
power of thought. There was, for example, that
question of the Dobrutscha and the navigation of the
mouths of the Danube which was ripe for settlement.
The Russian Chancellor had sent a masterly statement
upon the subject, and it was the pet ambition of our
Minister to answer it in a worthy fashion. Then
there was the blockade of Crete, and the British
fleet lying off Cape Matapan, waiting for
instructions which might change the course of
European history. And there were those three
unfortunate Macedonian tourists, whose friends were
momentarily expecting to receive their ears or their
fingers in default of the exorbitant ransom which had
been demanded. They must be plucked out of those
mountains, by force or by diplomacy, or an outraged
public would vent its wrath upon Downing Street. All
these questions pressed for a solution, and yet here
was the Foreign Minister of England, planted in an
arm-chair, with his whole thoughts and attention
riveted upon the ball of his right toe! It was
humiliating--horribly humiliating! His reason
revolted at it. He had been a respecter of himself,
a respecter of his own will; but what sort of a
machine was it which could be utterly thrown out of
gear by a little piece of inflamed gristle? He
groaned and writhed among his cushions.
But, after all, was it quite impossible that he
should go down to the House? Perhaps the doctor was
exaggerating the situation. There was a Cabinet
Council that day. He glanced at his watch. It must
be nearly over by now. But at least he might perhaps
venture to drive down as far as Westminster. He
pushed back the little round table with its bristle
of medicine-bottles, and levering himself up with a
hand upon either arm of the chair, he clutched a
thick oak stick and hobbled slowly across the room.
For a moment as he moved, his energy of mind and body
seemed to return to him. The British fleet should
sail from Matapan. Pressure should be brought to
bear upon the Turks. The Greeks should be shown--Ow!
In an instant the Mediterranean was blotted out, and
nothing remained but that huge, undeniable,
intrusive, red-hot toe. He staggered to the window
and rested his left hand upon the ledge, while he
propped himself upon his stick with his right.
Outside lay the bright, cool, square garden, a few
well-dressed passers-by, and a single, neatlyappointed
carriage, which was driving away from his
own door. His quick eye caught the coat-of-arms on
the panel, and his lips set for a moment and his
bushy eyebrows gathered ominously with a deep furrow
between them. He hobbled back to his seat and struck
the gong which stood upon the table.
"Your mistress!" said he as the serving-man
It was clear that it was impossible to think of
going to the House. The shooting up his leg warned
him that his doctor had not overestimated the
situation. But he had a little mental worry now
which had for the moment eclipsed his physical
ailments. He tapped the ground impatiently with his
stick until the door of the dressing-room swung
open, and a tall, elegant lady of rather more than
middle age swept into the chamber. Her hair was
touched with grey, but her calm, sweet face had all
the freshness of youth, and her gown of green shot
plush, with a sparkle of gold passementerie at her
bosom and shoulders, showed off the lines of her fine
figure to their best advantage.
"You sent for me, Charles?"
"Whose carriage was that which drove away just
"Oh, you've been up!" she cried, shaking an
admonitory forefinger. "What an old dear it is! How
can you be so rash? What am I to say to Sir William
when he comes? You know that he gives up his cases
when they are insubordinate."
"In this instance the case may give him up," said
the Minister, peevishly; "but I must beg, Clara, that
you will answer my question."
"Oh! the carriage! It must have been Lord Arthur
"I saw the three chevrons upon the panel,"
muttered the invalid.
His lady had pulled herself a little straighter
and opened her large blue eyes.
"Then why ask?" she said. "One might almost
think, Charles, that you were laying a trap! Did you
expect that I should deceive you? You have not had
your lithia powder."
"For Heaven's sake, leave it alone! I asked
because I was surprised that Lord Arthur should call
here. I should have fancied, Clara, that I had made
myself sufficiently clear on that point. Who
received him?"
"I did. That is, I and Ida."
"I will not have him brought into contact with
Ida. I do not approve of it. The matter has gone
too far already."
Lady Clara seated herself on a velvet-topped
footstool, and bent her stately figure over the
Minister's hand, which she patted softly between her
"Now you have said it, Charles," said she. "It
has gone too far--I give you my word, dear, that I
never suspected it until it was past all mending. I
may be to blame--no doubt I am; but it was all so
sudden. The tail end of the season and a week at
Lord Donnythorne's. That was all. But oh! Charlie,
she loves him so, and she is our only one! How can
we make her miserable?"
"Tut, tut!" cried the Minister impatiently,
slapping on the plush arm of his chair. "This is too
much. I tell you, Clara, I give you my word, that
all my official duties, all the affairs of this great
empire, do not give me the trouble that Ida does."
"But she is our only one, Charles."
"The more reason that she should not make a
"Mesalliance, Charles! Lord Arthur
Sibthorpe, son of the Duke of Tavistock, with a
pedigree from the Heptarchy. Debrett takes them
right back to Morcar, Earl of Northumberland."
The Minister shrugged his shoulders.
"Lord Arthur is the fourth son of the poorest
duke in England," said he. "He has neither prospects
nor profession."
"But, oh! Charlie, you could find him both."
"I do not like him. I do not care for the
"But consider Ida! You know how frail her health
is. Her whole soul is set upon him. You would not
have the heart, Charles, to separate them?"
There was a tap at the door. Lady Clara swept
towards it and threw it open.
"Yes, Thomas?"
"If you please, my lady, the Prime Minister is
"Show him up, Thomas."
"Now, Charlie, you must not excite yourself over
public matters. Be very good and cool and
reasonable, like a darling. I am sure that I may
trust you."
She threw her light shawl round the invalid's
shoulders, and slipped away into the bed-room as
the great man was ushered in at the door of the
"My dear Charles," said he cordially, stepping
into the room with all the boyish briskness for which
he was famous, "I trust that you find yourself a
little better. Almost ready for harness, eh? We
miss you sadly, both in the House and in the Council.
Quite a storm brewing over this Grecian business.
The Times took a nasty line this morning."
"So I saw," said the invalid, smiling up at his
chief. "Well, well, we must let them see that the
country is not entirely ruled from Printing House
Square yet. We must keep our own course without
"Certainly, Charles, most undoubtedly," assented
the Prime Minister, with his hands in his pockets.
"It was so kind of you to call. I am all
impatience to know what was done in the Council."
"Pure formalities, nothing more. By-the-way, the
Macedonian prisoners are all right."
"Thank Goodness for that! "
"We adjourned all other business until we should
have you with us next week. The question of a
dissolution begins to press. The reports from the
provinces are excellent."
The Foreign Minister moved impatiently and
"We must really straighten up our foreign
business a little," said he. "I must get Novikoff's
Note answered. It is clever, but the fallacies are
obvious. I wish, too, we could clear up the Afghan
frontier. This illness is most exasperating. There
is so much to be done, but my brain is clouded.
Sometimes I think it is the gout, and sometimes I put
it down to the colchicum."
"What will our medical autocrat say?" laughed the
Prime Minister. "You are so irreverent, Charles.
With a bishop one may feel at one's ease. They are
not beyond the reach of argument. But a doctor with
his stethoscope and thermometer is a thing apart.
Your reading does not impinge upon him. He is
serenely above you. And then, of course, he takes
you at a disadvantage. With health and strength one
might cope with him. Have you read Hahnemann? What
are your views upon Hahnemann?"
The invalid knew his illustrious colleague too
well to follow him down any of those by-paths of
knowledge in which he delighted to wander. To his
intensely shrewd and practical mind there was
something repellent in the waste of energy involved
in a discussion upon the Early Church or the twentyseven
principles of Mesmer. It was his custom to
slip past such conversational openings with a quick
step and an averted face.
"I have hardly glanced at his writings," said he.
"By-the-way, I suppose that there was no special
departmental news?"
"Ah! I had almost forgotten. Yes, it was one of
the things which I had called to tell you. Sir
Algernon Jones has resigned at Tangier. There is a
vacancy there."
"It had better be filled at once. The longer
delay the more applicants."
"Ah, patronage, patronage!" sighed the Prime
Minister. "Every vacancy makes one doubtful friend
and a dozen very positive enemies. Who so bitter as
the disappointed place-seeker? But you are right,
Charles. Better fill it at once, especially as there
is some little trouble in Morocco. I understand that
the Duke of Tavistock would like the place for his
fourth son, Lord Arthur Sibthorpe. We are under some
obligation to the Duke."
The Foreign Minister sat up eagerly.
"My dear friend," he said, "it is the very
appointment which I should have suggested. Lord
Arthur would be very much better in Tangier at
present than in--in----"
"Cavendish Square?" hazarded his chief, with a
little arch query of his eyebrows.
"Well, let us say London. He has manner and
tact. He was at Constantinople in Norton's time."
"Then he talks Arabic?"
"A smattering. But his French is good."
"Speaking of Arabic, Charles, have you dipped
into Averroes?"
"No, I have not. But the appointment would be an
excellent one in every way. Would you have the great
goodness to arrange the matter in my absence?"
"Certainly, Charles, certainly. Is there
anything else that I can do?"
"No. I hope to be in the House by Monday."
"I trust so. We miss you at every turn. The
Times will try to make mischief over that Grecian
business. A leader-writer is a terribly
irresponsible thing, Charles. There is no method by
which he may be confuted, however preposterous his
assertions. Good-bye! Read Porson! Goodbye!"
He shook the invalid's hand, gave a jaunty wave
of his broad-brimmed hat, and darted out of the room
with the same elasticity and energy with which he had
entered it.
The footman had already opened the great folding
door to usher the illustrious visitor to his
carriage, when a lady stepped from the drawing-room
and touched him on the sleeve. From behind the halfclosed
portiere of stamped velvet a little pale face
peeped out, half-curious, half-frightened.
"May I have one word?"
"Surely, Lady Clara."
"I hope it is not intrusive. I would not for the
world overstep the limits----"
"My dear Lady Clara!" interrupted the Prime
Minister, with a youthful bow and wave.
"Pray do not answer me if I go too far. But I
know that Lord Arthur Sibthorpe has applied for
Tangier. Would it be a liberty if I asked you what
chance he has?"
"The post is filled up."
In the foreground and background there was a
disappointed face.
"And Lord Arthur has it."
The Prime Minister chuckled over his little piece
of roguery.
"We have just decided it," he continued.
"Lord Arthur must go in a week. I am delighted
to perceive, Lady Clara, that the appointment has
your approval. Tangier is a place of extraordinary
interest. Catherine of Braganza and Colonel Kirke
will occur to your memory. Burton has written well
upon Northern Africa. I dine at Windsor, so I am
sure that you will excuse my leaving you. I trust
that Lord Charles will be better. He can hardly fail
to be so with such a nurse."
He bowed, waved, and was off down the steps
to his brougham. As he drove away, Lady Clara
could see that he was already deeply absorbed in a
paper-covered novel.
She pushed back the velvet curtains, and returned
into the drawing-room. Her daughter stood in the
sunlight by the window, tall, fragile, and exquisite,
her features and outline not unlike her mother's, but
frailer, softer, more delicate. The golden light
struck one half of her high-bred, sensitive face, and
glimmered upon her thickly-coiled flaxen hair,
striking a pinkish tint from her closely-cut costume
of fawn-coloured cloth with its dainty cinnamon
ruchings. One little soft frill of chiffon nestled
round her throat, from which the white, graceful neck
and well-poised head shot up like a lily amid moss.
Her thin white hands were pressed together, and her
blue eyes turned beseechingly upon her mother.
"Silly girl! Silly girl!" said the matron,
answering that imploring look. She put her hands
upon her daughter's sloping shoulders and drew her
towards her. "It is a very nice place for a short
time. It will be a stepping stone."
"But oh! mamma, in a week! Poor Arthur!"
"He will be happy."
"What! happy to part?"
"He need not part. You shall go with him."
"Oh! mamma!"
"Yes, I say it."
"Oh! mamma, in a week?"
"Yes indeed. A great deal may be done in a week.
I shall order your trousseau to-day."
"Oh! you dear, sweet angel! But I am so
frightened! And papa? Oh! dear, I am so
"Your papa is a diplomatist, dear."
"Yes, ma."
"But, between ourselves, he married a diplomatist
too. If he can manage the British Empire, I think
that I can manage him, Ida. How long have you been
engaged, child?"
"Ten weeks, mamma."
"Then it is quite time it came to a head. Lord
Arthur cannot leave England without you. You must go
to Tangier as the Minister's wife. Now, you will sit
there on the settee, dear, and let me manage
entirely. There is Sir William's carriage! I do
think that I know how to manage Sir William. James,
just ask the doctor to step in this way!"
A heavy, two-horsed carriage had drawn up at the
door, and there came a single stately thud upon the
knocker. An instant afterwards the drawing-room door
flew open and the footman ushered in the famous
physician. He was a small man, clean-shaven, with
the old-fashioned black dress and white cravat with
high-standing collar. He swung his golden pincenez
in his right hand as he walked, and bent
forward with a peering, blinking expression, which
was somehow suggestive of the dark and complex cases
through which he had seen.
"Ah" said he, as he entered. "My young patient!
I am glad of the opportunity."
"Yes, I wish to speak to you about her, Sir
William. Pray take this arm-chair."
"Thank you, I will sit beside her," said he,
taking his place upon the settee. "She is looking
better, less anaemic unquestionably, and a fuller
pulse. Quite a little tinge of colour, and yet not
"I feel stronger, Sir William."
"But she still has the pain in the side."
"Ah, that pain!" He tapped lightly under the
collar-bones, and then bent forward with his biaural
stethoscope in either ear. "Still a trace of
dulness--still a slight crepitation," he murmured.
"You spoke of a change, doctor."
"Yes, certainly a judicious change might be
"You said a dry climate. I wish to do to the
letter what you recommend."
"You have always been model patients."
"We wish to be. You said a dry climate."
"Did I? I rather forget the particulars of our
conversation. But a dry climate is certainly
"Which one?"
"Well, I think really that a patient should be
allowed some latitude. I must not exact too rigid
discipline. There is room for individual choice--the
Engadine, Central Europe, Egypt, Algiers, which you
"I hear that Tangier is also recommended."
"Oh, yes, certainly; it is very dry."
"You hear, Ida? Sir William says that you are to
go to Tangier."
"Or any----"
"No, no, Sir William! We feel safest when we are
most obedient. You have said Tangier, and we shall
certainly try Tangier."
"Really, Lady Clara, your implicit faith is most
flattering. It is not everyone who would sacrifice
their own plans and inclinations so readily."
"We know your skill and your experience, Sir
William. Ida shall try Tangier. I am convinced that
she will be benefited."
"I have no doubt of it."
"But you know Lord Charles. He is just a little
inclined to decide medical matters as he would an
affair of State. I hope that you will be firm with
"As long as Lord Charles honours me so far as to
ask my advice I am sure that he would not place me in
the false position of having that advice
The medical baronet whirled round the cord of his
pince-nez and pushed out a protesting hand.
"No, no, but you must be firm on the point of
"Having deliberately formed the opinion that
Tangier is the best place for our young patient, I do
not think that I shall readily change my conviction."
"Of course not."
"I shall speak to Lord Charles upon the subject
now when I go upstairs."
"Pray do."
"And meanwhile she will continue her present
course of treatment. I trust that the warm African
air may send her back in a few months with all her
energy restored."
He bowed in the courteous, sweeping, old-world
fashion which had done so much to build up his ten
thousand a year, and, with the stealthy gait of a man
whose life is spent in sick-rooms, he followed the
footman upstairs.
As the red velvet curtains swept back into
position, the Lady Ida threw her arms round her
mother's neck and sank her face on to her bosom.
"Oh! mamma, you ARE a diplomatist!" she
But her mother's expression was rather that
of the general who looked upon the first smoke
of the guns than of one who had won the victory.
"All will be right, dear," said she, glancing
down at the fluffy yellow curls and tiny ear. "There
is still much to be done, but I think we may venture
to order the trousseau."
"Oh I how brave you are!"
"Of course, it will in any case be a very quiet
affair. Arthur must get the license. I do not
approve of hole-and-corner marriages, but where the
gentleman has to take up an official position some
allowance must be made. We can have Lady Hilda
Edgecombe, and the Trevors, and the Grevilles, and I
am sure that the Prime Minister would run down if he
"And papa?"
"Oh, yes; he will come too, if he is well enough.
We must wait until Sir William goes, and, meanwhile,
I shall write to Lord Arthur."
Half an hour had passed, and quite a number of
notes had been dashed off in the fine, bold, parkpaling
handwriting of the Lady Clara, when the door
clashed, and the wheels of the doctor's carriage were
heard grating outside against the kerb. The Lady
Clara laid down her pen, kissed her daughter, and
started off for the sick-room. The Foreign Minister
was lying back in his chair, with a red silk
handkerchief over his forehead, and his bulbous,
cotton-wadded foot still protruding upon its rest.
"I think it is almost liniment time," said Lady
Clara, shaking a blue crinkled bottle. "Shall I put
on a little?"
"Oh! this pestilent toe!" groaned the sufferer.
"Sir William won't hear of my moving yet. I do
think he is the most completely obstinate and pigheaded
man that I have ever met. I tell him that he
has mistaken his profession, and that I could find
him a post at Constantinople. We need a mule out
"Poor Sir William!" laughed Lady Clara. But how
has he roused your wrath?"
"He is so persistent-so dogmatic."
"Upon what point? "
"Well, he has been laying down the law about Ida.
He has decreed, it seems, that she is to go to
"He said something to that effect before he went
up to you."
"Oh, he did, did he?"
The slow-moving, inscrutable eye came sliding
round to her.
Lady Clara's face had assumed an expression of
transparent obvious innocence, an intrusive candour
which is never seen in nature save when a woman is
bent upon deception.
"He examined her lungs, Charles. He did not
say much, but his expression was very grave."
"Not to say owlish," interrupted the Minister.
"No, no, Charles; it is no laughing matter. He
said that she must have a change. I am sure that he
thought more than he said. He spoke of dulness and
crepitation. and the effects of the African air.
Then the talk turned upon dry, bracing health
resorts, and he agreed that Tangier was the place.
He said that even a few months there would work a
"And that was all?"
"Yes, that was all."
Lord Charles shrugged his shoulders with the air
of a man who is but half convinced.
"But of course," said Lady Clara, serenely, if
you think it better that Ida should not go she shall
not. The only thing is that if she should get worse
we might feel a little uncomfortable afterwards. In
a weakness of that sort a very short time may make a
difference. Sir William evidently thought the matter
critical. Still, there is no reason why he should
influence you. It is a little responsibility,
however. If you take it all upon yourself and free
me from any of it, so that afterwards----"
"My dear Clara, how you do croak!"
"Oh! I don't wish to do that, Charles. But
you remember what happened to Lord Bellamy's
child. She was just Ida's age. That was another
case in which Sir William's advice was disregarded."
Lord Charles groaned impatiently.
"I have not disregarded it," said he.
"No, no, of course not. I know your strong
sense, and your good heart too well, dear. You were
very wisely looking at both sides of the question.
That is what we poor women cannot do. It is emotion
against reason, as I have often heard you say. We
are swayed this way and that, but you men are
persistent, and so you gain your way with us. But I
am so pleased that you have decided for Tangier."
"Have I?"
"Well, dear, you said that you would not
disregard Sir William."
"Well, Clara, admitting that Ida is to go to
Tangier, you will allow that it is impossible for me
to escort her?
"And for you?
"While you are ill my place is by your side."
"There is your sister?"
"She is going to Florida."
"Lady Dumbarton, then?"
"She is nursing her father. It is out of the
"Well, then, whom can we possibly ask?
Especially just as the season is commencing. You
see, Clara, the fates fight against Sir William."
His wife rested her elbows against the back of
the great red chair, and passed her fingers through
the statesman's grizzled curls, stooping down as she
did so until her lips were close to his ear.
"There is Lord Arthur Sibthorpe," said she
Lord Charles bounded in his chair, and muttered a
word or two such as were more frequently heard from
Cabinet Ministers in Lord Melbourne's time than now.
"Are you mad, Clara!" he cried. "What can have
put such a thought into your head?"
"The Prime Minister."
"Who? The Prime Minister?"
"Yes, dear. Now do, do be good! Or perhaps I
had better not speak to you about it any more."
"Well, I really think that you have gone rather
too far to retreat."
"It was the Prime Minister, then, who told me
that Lord Arthur was going to Tangier."
"It is a fact, though it had escaped my memory
for the instant."
"And then came Sir William with his advice
about Ida. Oh! Charlie, it is surely more than
a coincidence!"
"I am convinced," said Lord Charles, with his
shrewd, questioning gaze, "that it is very much more
than a coincidence, Lady Clara. You are a very
clever woman, my dear. A born manager and
Lady Clara brushed past the compliment.
"Think of our own young days, Charlie," she
whispered, with her fingers still toying with his
hair. "What were you then? A poor man, not even
Ambassador at Tangier. But I loved you, and believed
in you, and have I ever regretted it? Ida loves and
believes in Lord Arthur, and why should she ever
regret it either?"
Lord Charles was silent. His eyes were fixed
upon the green branches which waved outside the
window; but his mind had flashed back to a Devonshire
country-house of thirty years ago, and to the one
fateful evening when, between old yew hedges, he
paced along beside a slender girl, and poured out to
her his hopes, his fears, and his ambitious. He took
the white, thin hand and pressed it to his lips.
"You, have been a good wife to me, Clara," said
She said nothing. She did not attempt to improve
upon her advantage. A less consummate general might
have tried to do so, and ruined all. She stood
silent and submissive, noting the quick play of
thought which peeped from his eyes and lip. There
was a sparkle in the one and a twitch of amusement in
the other, as he at last glanced up at her.
"Clara," said he, "deny it if you can! You have
ordered the trousseau."
She gave his ear a little pinch.
"Subject to your approval," said she.
"You have written to the Archbishop."
"It is not posted yet."
"You have sent a note to Lord Arthur."
"How could you tell that?"
"He is downstairs now."
"No; but I think that is his brougham."
Lord Charles sank back with a look of halfcomical
"Who is to fight against such a woman?" he cried.
"Oh! if I could send you to Novikoff! He is too much
for any of my men. But, Clara, I cannot have them up
"Not for your blessing?"
"No, no!"
"It would make them so happy."
"I cannot stand scenes."
"Then I shall convey it to them."
"And pray say no more about it--to-day, at any
rate. I have been weak over the matter."
"Oh! Charlie, you who are so strong!"
"You have outflanked me, Clara. It was very well
done. I must congratulate you."
"Well," she murmured, as she kissed him, "you
know I have been studying a very clever diplomatist
for thirty years."
Medical men are, as a class, very much too busy
to take stock of singular situations or dramatic
events. Thus it happens that the ablest chronicler
of their experiences in our literature was a lawyer.
A life spent in watching over death-beds--or over
birth-beds which are infinitely more trying--takes
something from a man's sense of proportion, as
constant strong waters might corrupt his palate. The
overstimulated nerve ceases to respond. Ask the
surgeon for his best experiences and he may reply
that he has seen little that is remarkable, or break
away into the technical. But catch him some night
when the fire has spurted up and his pipe is reeking,
with a few of his brother practitioners for company
and an artful question or allusion to set him going.
Then you will get some raw, green facts new plucked
from the tree of life.
It is after one of the quarterly dinners of the
Midland Branch of the British Medical Association.
Twenty coffee cups, a dozer liqueur
glasses, and a solid bank of blue smoke which
swirls slowly along the high, gilded ceiling gives a
hint of a successful gathering. But the members have
shredded off to their homes. The line of heavy,
bulge-pocketed overcoats and of stethoscope-bearing
top hats is gone from the hotel corridor. Round the
fire in the sitting-room three medicos are still
lingering, however, all smoking and arguing, while a
fourth, who is a mere layman and young at that, sits
back at the table. Under cover of an open journal he
is writing furiously with a stylographic pen, asking
a question in an innocent voice from time to time and
so flickering up the conversation whenever it shows a
tendency to wane.
The three men are all of that staid middle age
which begins early and lasts late in the profession.
They are none of them famous, yet each is of good
repute, and a fair type of his particular branch.
The portly man with the authoritative manner and the
white, vitriol splash upon his cheek is Charley
Manson, chief of the Wormley Asylum, and author of
the brilliant monograph--Obscure Nervous Lesions in
the Unmarried. He always wears his collar high like
that, since the half-successful attempt of a student
of Revelations to cut his throat with a splinter of
glass. The second, with the ruddy face and the merry
brown eyes, is a general practitioner, a man of
vast experience, who, with his three assistants
and his five horses, takes twenty-five hundred a year
in half-crown visits and shilling consultations out
of the poorest quarter of a great city. That cheery
face of Theodore Foster is seen at the side of a
hundred sick-beds a day, and if he has one-third more
names on his visiting list than in his cash book he
always promises himself that he will get level some
day when a millionaire with a chronic complaint--the
ideal combination--shall seek his services. The
third, sitting on the right with his dress shoes
shining on the top of the fender, is Hargrave, the
rising surgeon. His face has none of the broad
humanity of Theodore Foster's, the eye is stern and
critical, the mouth straight and severe, but there is
strength and decision in every line of it, and it is
nerve rather than sympathy which the patient demands
when he is bad enough to come to Hargrave's door. He
calls himself a jawman "a mere jawman" as he modestly
puts it, but in point of fact he is too young and too
poor to confine himself to a specialty, and there is
nothing surgical which Hargrave has not the skill and
the audacity to do.
"Before, after, and during," murmurs the general
practitioner in answer to some interpolation of the
outsider's. "I assure you, Manson, one sees all
sorts of evanescent forms of madness."
"Ah, puerperal!" throws in the other,
knocking the curved grey ash from his cigar.
"But you had some case in your mind, Foster."
"Well, there was only one last week which was new
to me. I had been engaged by some people of the name
of Silcoe. When the trouble came round I went
myself, for they would not hear of an assistant. The
husband who was a policeman, was sitting at the head
of the bed on the further side. `This won't do,'
said I. `Oh yes, doctor, it must do,' said she.
`It's quite irregular and he must go,' said I. `It's
that or nothing,' said she. `I won't open my mouth
or stir a finger the whole night,' said he. So it
ended by my allowing him to remain, and there he sat
for eight hours on end. She was very good over the
matter, but every now and again HE would fetch a
hollow groan, and I noticed that he held his right
hand just under the sheet all the time, where I had
no doubt that it was clasped by her left. When it
was all happily over, I looked at him and his face
was the colour of this cigar ash, and his head had
dropped on to the edge of the pillow. Of course I
thought he had fainted with emotion, and I was just
telling myself what I thought of myself for having
been such a fool as to let him stay there, when
suddenly I saw that the sheet over his hand was all
soaked with blood; I whisked it down, and there was
the fellow's wrist half cut through. The woman
had one bracelet of a policeman's handcuff over her
left wrist and the other round his right one. When
she had been in pain she had twisted with all her
strength and the iron had fairly eaten into the bone
of the man's arm. `Aye, doctor,' said she, when she
saw I had noticed it. `He's got to take his share as
well as me. Turn and turn,' said she."
"Don't you find it a very wearing branch of the
profession?" asks Foster after a pause.
"My dear fellow, it was the fear of it that drove
me into lunacy work."
"Aye, and it has driven men into asylums who
never found their way on to the medical staff. I was
a very shy fellow myself as a student, and I know
what it means."
"No joke that in general practice," says the
"Well, you hear men talk about it as though it
were, but I tell you it's much nearer tragedy. Take
some poor, raw, young fellow who has just put up his
plate in a strange town. He has found it a trial all
his life, perhaps, to talk to a woman about lawn
tennis and church services. When a young man IS
shy he is shyer than any girl. Then down comes an
anxious mother and consults him upon the most
intimate family matters. `I shall never go to that
doctor again,' says she afterwards. `His manner is
so stiff and unsympathetic.' Unsympathetic!
Why, the poor lad was struck dumb and paralysed. I
have known general practitioners who were so shy that
they could not bring themselves to ask the way in the
street. Fancy what sensitive men like that must
endure before they get broken in to medical practice.
And then they know that nothing is so catching as
shyness, and that if they do not keep a face of
stone, their patient will be covered with confusion.
And so they keep their face of stone, and earn the
reputation perhaps of having a heart to correspond.
I suppose nothing would shake YOUR nerve, Manson."
"Well, when a man lives year in year out among a
thousand lunatics, with a fair sprinkling of
homicidals among them, one's nerves either get set or
shattered. Mine are all right so far."
"I was frightened once," says the surgeon. "It
was when I was doing dispensary work. One night I
had a call from some very poor people, and gathered
from the few words they said that their child was
ill. When I entered the room I saw a small cradle in
the corner. Raising the lamp I walked over and
putting back the curtains I looked down at the baby.
I tell you it was sheer Providence that I didn't drop
that lamp and set the whole place alight. The head
on the pillow turned and I saw a face looking up at
me which seemed to me to have more malignancy and
wickedness than ever I had dreamed of in a
nightmare. It was the flush of red over the
cheekbones, and the brooding eyes full of loathing of
me, and of everything else, that impressed me. I'll
never forget my start as, instead of the chubby face
of an infant, my eyes fell upon this creature. I
took the mother into the next room. `What is it?' I
asked. `A girl of sixteen,' said she, and then
throwing up her arms, `Oh, pray God she may be
taken!' The poor thing, though she spent her life in
this little cradle, had great, long, thin limbs which
she curled up under her. I lost sight of the case
and don't know what became of it, but I'll never
forget the look in her eyes."
"That's creepy," says Dr. Foster. "But I think
one of my experiences would run it close. Shortly
after I put up my plate I had a visit from a little
hunch-backed woman who wished me to come and attend
to her sister in her trouble. When I reached the
house, which was a very poor one, I found two other
little hunched-backed women, exactly like the first,
waiting for me in the sitting-room. Not one of them
said a word, but my companion took the lamp and
walked upstairs with her two sisters behind her, and
me bringing up the rear. I can see those three queer
shadows cast by the lamp upon the wall as clearly as
I can see that tobacco pouch. In the room above
was the fourth sister, a remarkably beautiful girl in
evident need of my assistance. There was no wedding
ring upon her finger. The three deformed sisters
seated themselves round the room, like so many graven
images, and all night not one of them opened her
mouth. I'm not romancing, Hargrave; this is absolute
fact. In the early morning a fearful thunderstorm
broke out, one of the most violent I have ever known.
The little garret burned blue with the lightning, and
thunder roared and rattled as if it were on the very
roof of the house. It wasn't much of a lamp I had,
and it was a queer thing when a spurt of lightning
came to see those three twisted figures sitting round
the walls, or to have the voice of my patient drowned
by the booming of the thunder. By Jove! I don't
mind telling you that there was a time when I nearly
bolted from the room. All came right in the end, but
I never heard the true story of the unfortunate
beauty and her three crippled sisters."
"That's the worst of these medical stories,"
sighs the outsider. "They never seem to have an
"When a man is up to his neck in practice, my
boy, he has no time to gratify his private curiosity.
Things shoot across him and he gets a glimpse of
them, only to recall them, perhaps, at some quiet
moment like this. But I've always felt, Manson,
that your line had as much of the terrible in it as
any other."
"More," groans the alienist. "A disease of the
body is bad enough, but this seems to be a disease of
the soul. Is it not a shocking thing--a thing to
drive a reasoning man into absolute Materialism--to
think that you may have a fine, noble fellow with
every divine instinct and that some little vascular
change, the dropping, we will say, of a minute
spicule of bone from the inner table of his skull on
to the surface of his brain may have the effect of
changing him to a filthy and pitiable creature with
every low and debasing tendency? What a satire an
asylum is upon the majesty of man, and no less upon
the ethereal nature of the soul."
"Faith and hope," murmurs the general
"I have no faith, not much hope, and all the
charity I can afford," says the surgeon. "When
theology squares itself with the facts of life I'll
read it up."
"You were talking about cases," says the
outsider, jerking the ink down into his stylographic
"Well, take a common complaint which kills many
thousands every year, like G. P. for instance."
"What's G. P.?"
"General practitioner," suggests the surgeon with
a grin.
"The British public will have to know what G. P.
is," says the alienist gravely. "It's increasing by
leaps and bounds, and it has the distinction of being
absolutely incurable. General paralysis is its full
title, and I tell you it promises to be a perfect
scourge. Here's a fairly typical case now which I
saw last Monday week. A young farmer, a splendid
fellow, surprised his fellows by taking a very rosy
view of things at a time when the whole country-side
was grumbling. He was going to give up wheat, give
up arable land, too, if it didn't pay, plant two
thousand acres of rhododendrons and get a monopoly of
the supply for Covent Garden--there was no end to his
schemes, all sane enough but just a bit inflated. I
called at the farm, not to see him, but on an
altogether different matter. Something about the
man's way of talking struck me and I watched him
narrowly. His lip had a trick of quivering, his
words slurred themselves together, and so did his
handwriting when he had occasion to draw up a small
agreement. A closer inspection showed me that one of
his pupils was ever so little larger than the other.
As I left the house his wife came after me. `Isn't it
splendid to see Job looking so well, doctor,' said
she; `he's that full of energy he can hardly keep
himself quiet.' I did not say anything, for I
had not the heart, but I knew that the fellow was as
much condemned to death as though he were lying in
the cell at Newgate. It was a characteristic case of
incipient G. P."
"Good heavens!" cries the outsider. "My own lips
tremble. I often slur my words. I believe I've got
it myself."
Three little chuckles come from the front of the
"There's the danger of a little medical knowledge
to the layman."
"A great authority has said that every first
year's student is suffering in silent agony from four
diseases," remarks the surgeon. " One is heart
disease, of course; another is cancer of the parotid.
I forget the two other."
"Where does the parotid come in?"
"Oh, it's the last wisdom tooth coming through!"
"And what would be the end of that young farmer?"
asks the outsider.
"Paresis of all the muscles, ending in fits,
coma, and death. It may be a few months, it may be a
year or two. He was a very strong young man and
would take some killing."
"By-the-way," says the alienist, "did I ever tell
you about the first certificate I signed? I came as
near ruin then as a man could go."
"What was it, then?"
"I was in practice at the time. One morning a
Mrs. Cooper called upon me and informed me that her
husband had shown signs of delusions lately. They
took the form of imagining that he had been in the
army and had distinguished himself very much. As a
matter of fact he was a lawyer and had never been out
of England. Mrs. Cooper was of opinion that if I
were to call it might alarm him, so it was agreed
between us that she should send him up in the evening
on some pretext to my consulting-room, which would
give me the opportunity of having a chat with him
and, if I were convinced of his insanity, of signing
his certificate. Another doctor had already signed,
so that it only needed my concurrence to have him
placed under treatment. Well, Mr. Cooper arrived in
the evening about half an hour before I had expected
him, and consulted me as to some malarious symptoms
from which he said that he suffered. According to
his account he had just returned from the Abyssinian
Campaign, and had been one of the first of the
British forces to enter Magdala. No delusion could
possibly be more marked, for he would talk of little
else, so I filled in the papers without the slightest
hesitation. When his wife arrived, after he had
left, I put some questions to her to complete the
form. `What is his age?' I asked. `Fifty,' said
she. `Fifty!' I cried. `Why, the man I
examined could not have been more than thirty!
And so it came out that the real Mr. Cooper had never
called upon me at all, but that by one of those
coincidences which take a man's breath away another
Cooper, who really was a very distinguished young
officer of artillery, had come in to consult me. My
pen was wet to sign the paper when I discovered it,"
says Dr. Manson, mopping his forehead.
"We were talking about nerve just now," observes
the surgeon. "Just after my qualifying I served in
the Navy for a time, as I think you know. I was on
the flag-ship on the West African Station, and I
remember a singular example of nerve which came to my
notice at that time. One of our small gunboats had
gone up the Calabar river, and while there the
surgeon died of coast fever. On the same day a man's
leg was broken by a spar falling upon it, and it
became quite obvious that it must be taken off above
the knee if his life was to be saved. The young
lieutenant who was in charge of the craft searched
among the dead doctor's effects and laid his hands
upon some chloroform, a hip-joint knife, and a volume
of Grey's Anatomy. He had the man laid by the
steward upon the cabin table, and with a picture of a
cross section of the thigh in front of him he began
to take off the limb. Every now and then, referring
to the diagram, he would say: `Stand by with
the lashings, steward. There's blood on the chart
about here.' Then he would jab with his knife until
he cut the artery, and he and his assistant would tie
it up before they went any further. In this way they
gradually whittled the leg off, and upon my word they
made a very excellent job of it. The man is hopping
about the Portsmouth Hard at this day.
"It's no joke when the doctor of one of these
isolated gunboats himself falls ill," continues the
surgeon after a pause. "You might think it easy for
him to prescribe for himself, but this fever knocks
you down like a club, and you haven't strength left
to brush a mosquito off your face. I had a touch of
it at Lagos, and I know what I am telling you. But
there was a chum of mine who really had a curious
experience. The whole crew gave him up, and, as they
had never had a funeral aboard the ship, they began
rehearsing the forms so as to be ready. They thought
that he was unconscious, but he swears he could hear
every word that passed. `Corpse comin' up the
latchway!' cried the Cockney sergeant of Marines.
`Present harms!' He was so amused, and so indignant
too, that he just made up his mind that he wouldn't
be carried through that hatchway, and he wasn't,
"There's no need for fiction in medicine,"
remarks Foster, "for the facts will always beat
anything you can fancy. But it has seemed to me
sometimes that a curious paper might be read at some
of these meetings about the uses of medicine in
popular fiction."
"Well, of what the folk die of, and what diseases
are made most use of in novels. Some are worn to
pieces, and others, which are equally common in real
life, are never mentioned. Typhoid is fairly
frequent, but scarlet fever is unknown. Heart
disease is common, but then heart disease, as we know
it, is usually the sequel of some foregoing disease,
of which we never hear anything in the romance. Then
there is the mysterious malady called brain fever,
which always attacks the heroine after a crisis, but
which is unknown under that name to the text books.
People when they are over-excited in novels fall down
in a fit. In a fairly large experience I have never
known anyone do so in real life. The small
complaints simply don't exist. Nobody ever gets
shingles or quinsy, or mumps in a novel. All the
diseases, too, belong to the upper part of the body.
The novelist never strikes below the belt."
"I'll tell you what, Foster," says the alienist,
there is a side of life which is too medical for the
general public and too romantic for the professional
journals, but which contains some of the richest
human materials that a man could study. It's
not a pleasant side, I am afraid, but if it is good
enough for Providence to create, it is good enough
for us to try and understand. It would deal with
strange outbursts of savagery and vice in the lives
of the best men, curious momentary weaknesses in the
record of the sweetest women, known but to one or
two, and inconceivable to the world around. It would
deal, too, with the singular phenomena of waxing and
of waning manhood, and would throw a light upon those
actions which have cut short many an honoured career
and sent a man to a prison when he should have been
hurried to a consulting-room. Of all evils that may
come upon the sons of men, God shield us principally
from that one!"
"I had a case some little time ago which was out
of the ordinary," says the surgeon. "There's a
famous beauty in London society--I mention no names--
who used to be remarkable a few seasons ago for the
very low dresses which she would wear. She had the
whitest of skins and most beautiful of shoulders, so
it was no wonder. Then gradually the frilling at her
neck lapped upwards and upwards, until last year she
astonished everyone by wearing quite a high collar at
a time when it was completely out of fashion. Well,
one day this very woman was shown into my consultingroom.
When the footman was gone she suddenly tore
off the upper part of her dress. `For Gods sake
do something for me!' she cried. Then I saw what the
trouble was. A rodent ulcer was eating its way
upwards, coiling on in its serpiginous fashion until
the end of it was flush with her collar. The red
streak of its trail was lost below the line of her
bust. Year by year it had ascended and she had
heightened her dress to hide it, until now it was
about to invade her face. She had been too proud to
confess her trouble, even to a medical man."
"And did you stop it?"
"Well, with zinc chloride I did what I could.
But it may break out again. She was one of those
beautiful white-and-pink creatures who are rotten
with struma. You may patch but you can't mend."
"Dear! dear! dear!" cries the general
practitioner, with that kindly softening of the eyes
which had endeared him to so many thousands. "I
suppose we mustn't think ourselves wiser than
Providence, but there are times when one feels that
something is wrong in the scheme of things. I've
seen some sad things in my life. Did I ever tell you
that case where Nature divorced a most loving couple?
He was a fine young fellow, an athlete and a
gentleman, but he overdid athletics. You know how
the force that controls us gives us a little tweak to
remind us when we get off the beaten track. It may
be a pinch on the great toe if we drink too much
and work too little. Or it may be a tug on our
nerves if we dissipate energy too much. With the
athlete, of course, it's the heart or the lungs. He
had bad phthisis and was sent to Davos. Well, as
luck would have it, she developed rheumatic fever,
which left her heart very much affected. Now, do you
see the dreadful dilemma in which those poor people
found themselves? When he came below four thousand
feet or so, his symptoms became terrible. She could
come up about twenty-five hundred and then her heart
reached its limit. They had several interviews half
way down the valley, which left them nearly dead, and
at last, the doctors had to absolutely forbid it.
And so for four years they lived within three miles
of each other and never met. Every morning he would
go to a place which overlooked the chalet in which
she lived and would wave a great white cloth and she
answer from below. They could see each other quite
plainly with their field glasses, and they might have
been in different planets for all their chance of
"And one at last died," says the outsider.
"No, sir. I'm sorry not to be able to clinch the
story, but the man recovered and is now a successful
stockbroker in Drapers Gardens. The woman, too, is
the mother of a considerable family. But what are
you doing there?"
"Only taking a note or two of your talk."
The three medical men laugh as they walk towards
their overcoats.
"Why, we've done nothing but talk shop," says the
general practitioner. "What possible interest can
the public take in that?"
LOT NO. 249.
Of the dealings of Edward Bellingham with William
Monkhouse Lee, and of the cause of the great terror
of Abercrombie Smith, it may be that no absolute and
final judgment will ever be delivered. It is true
that we have the full and clear narrative of Smith
himself, and such corroboration as he could look for
from Thomas Styles the servant, from the Reverend
Plumptree Peterson, Fellow of Old's, and from such
other people as chanced to gain some passing glance
at this or that incident in a singular chain of
events. Yet, in the main, the story must rest upon
Smith alone, and the most will think that it is more
likely that one brain, however outwardly sane, has
some subtle warp in its texture, some strange flaw in
its workings, than that the path of Nature has been
overstepped in open day in so famed a centre of
learning and light as the University of Oxford. Yet
when we think how narrow and how devious this path of
Nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our
lamps of science, and how from the darkness
which girds it round great and terrible possibilities
loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and
confident man who will put a limit to the strange bypaths
into which the human spirit may wander.
In a certain wing of what we will call Old
College in Oxford there is a corner turret of an
exceeding great age. The heavy arch which spans the
open door has bent downwards in the centre under the
weight of its years, and the grey, lichen-blotched
blocks of stone are, bound and knitted together with
withes and strands of ivy, as though the old mother
had set herself to brace them up against wind and
weather. From the door a stone stair curves upward
spirally, passing two landings, and terminating in a
third one, its steps all shapeless and hollowed by
the tread of so many generations of the seekers after
knowledge. Life has flowed like water down this
winding stair, and, waterlike, has left these smoothworn
grooves behind it. From the long-gowned,
pedantic scholars of Plantagenet days down to the
young bloods of a later age, how full and strong had
been that tide of young English life. And what was
left now of all those hopes, those strivings, those
fiery energies, save here and there in some old-world
churchyard a few scratches upon a stone, and
perchance a handful of dust in a mouldering coffin?
Yet here were the silent stair and the grey old
wall, with bend and saltire and many another heraldic
device still to be read upon its surface, like
grotesque shadows thrown back from the days that had
In the month of May, in the year 1884, three
young men occupied the sets of rooms which opened on
to the separate landings of the old stair. Each set
consisted simply of a sitting-room and of a bedroom,
while the two corresponding rooms upon the groundfloor
were used, the one as a coal-cellar, and the
other as the living-room of the servant, or gyp,
Thomas Styles, whose duty it was to wait upon the
three men above him. To right and to left was a line
of lecture-rooms and of offices, so that the dwellers
in the old turret enjoyed a certain seclusion, which
made the chambers popular among the more studious
undergraduates. Such were the three who occupied
them now--Abercrombie Smith above, Edward Bellingham
beneath him, and William Monkhouse Lee upon the
lowest storey.
It was ten o'clock on a bright spring night, and
Abercrombie Smith lay back in his arm-chair, his feet
upon the fender, and his briar-root pipe between his
lips. In a similar chair, and equally at his ease,
there lounged on the other side of the fireplace his
old school friend Jephro Hastie. Both men were in
flannels, for they had spent their evening upon the
river, but apart from their dress no one could
look at their hard-cut, alert faces without seeing
that they were open-air men--men whose minds and
tastes turned naturally to all that was manly and
robust. Hastie, indeed, was stroke of his college
boat, and Smith was an even better oar, but a coming
examination had already cast its shadow over him and
held him to his work, save for the few hours a week
which health demanded. A litter of medical books
upon the table, with scattered bones, models and
anatomical plates, pointed to the extent as well as
the nature of his studies, while a couple of singlesticks
and a set of boxing-gloves above the
mantelpiece hinted at the means by which, with
Hastie's help, he might take his exercise in its most
compressed and least distant form. They knew each
other very well--so well that they could sit now in
that soothing silence which is the very highest
development of companionship.
"Have some whisky," said Abercrombie Smith at
last between two cloudbursts. "Scotch in the jug and
Irish in the bottle."
"No, thanks. I'm in for the sculls. I don't
liquor when I'm training. How about you?"
"I'm reading hard. I think it best to leave it
Hastie nodded, and they relapsed into a contented
"By-the-way, Smith," asked Hastie, presently,
have you made the acquaintance of either of the
fellows on your stair yet?"
"Just a nod when we pass. Nothing more."
"Hum! I should be inclined to let it stand at
that. I know something of them both. Not much, but
as much as I want. I don't think I should take them
to my bosom if I were you. Not that there's much
amiss with Monkhouse Lee."
"Meaning the thin one?"
"Precisely. He is a gentlemanly little fellow.
I don't think there is any vice in him. But then you
can't know him without knowing Bellingham."
"Meaning the fat one?"
"Yes, the fat one. And he's a man whom I, for
one, would rather not know."
Abercrombie Smith raised his eyebrows and glanced
across at his companion.
"What's up, then?" he asked. "Drink? Cards?
Cad? You used not to be censorious."
"Ah! you evidently don't know the man, or you
wouldn't ask. There's something damnable about him--
something reptilian. My gorge always rises at him.
I should put him down as a man with secret vices--an
evil liver. He's no fool, though. They say that he
is one of the best men in his line that they have
ever had in the college."
"Medicine or classics?"
"Eastern languages. He's a demon at them.
Chillingworth met him somewhere above the second
cataract last long, and he told me that he just
prattled to the Arabs as if he had been born and
nursed and weaned among them. He talked Coptic to
the Copts, and Hebrew to the Jews, and Arabic to the
Bedouins, and they were all ready to kiss the hem of
his frock-coat. There are some old hermit Johnnies
up in those parts who sit on rocks and scowl and spit
at the casual stranger. Well, when they saw this
chap Bellingham, before he had said five words they
just lay down on their bellies and wriggled.
Chillingworth said that he never saw anything like
it. Bellingham seemed to take it as his right, too,
and strutted about among them and talked down to them
like a Dutch uncle. Pretty good for an undergrad. of
Old's, wasn't it?"
"Why do you say you can't know Lee without
knowing Bellingham? "
"Because Bellingham is engaged to his sister
Eveline. Such a bright little girl, Smith! I know
the whole family well. It's disgusting to see that
brute with her. A toad and a dove, that's what they
always remind me of."
Abercrombie Smith grinned and knocked his ashes
out against the side of the grate.
"You show every card in your hand, old
chap," said he. "What a prejudiced, green-eyed,
evil-thinking old man it is! You have really nothing
against the fellow except that."
"Well, I've known her ever since she was as long
as that cherry-wood pipe, and I don't like to see her
taking risks. And it is a risk. He looks beastly.
And he has a beastly temper, a venomous temper. You
remember his row with Long Norton?"
"No; you always forget that I am a freshman."
"Ah, it was last winter. Of course. Well, you
know the towpath along by the river. There were
several fellows going along it, Bellingham in front,
when they came on an old market-woman coming the
other way. It had been raining--you know what those
fields are like when it has rained--and the path ran
between the river and a great puddle that was nearly
as broad. Well, what does this swine do but keep the
path, and push the old girl into the mud, where she
and her marketings came to terrible grief. It was a
blackguard thing to do, and Long Norton, who is as
gentle a fellow as ever stepped, told him what he
thought of it. One word led to another, and it ended
in Norton laying his stick across the fellow's
shoulders. There was the deuce of a fuss about it,
and it's a treat to see the way in which Bellingham
looks at Norton when they meet now. By Jove,
Smith, it's nearly eleven o'clock!"
"No hurry. Light your pipe again."
"Not I. I'm supposed to be in training. Here
I've been sitting gossiping when I ought to have been
safely tucked up. I'll borrow your skull, if you can
share it. Williams has had mine for a month. I'll
take the little bones of your ear, too, if you are
sure you won't need them. Thanks very much. Never
mind a bag, I can carry them very well under my arm.
Good-night, my son, and take my tip as to your
When Hastie, bearing his anatomical plunder, had
clattered off down the winding stair, Abercrombie
Smith hurled his pipe into the wastepaper basket, and
drawing his chair nearer to the lamp, plunged into a
formidable green-covered volume, adorned with great
colored maps of that strange internal kingdom of
which we are the hapless and helpless monarchs.
Though a freshman at Oxford, the student was not so
in medicine, for he had worked for four years at
Glasgow and at Berlin, and this coming examination
would place him finally as a member of his
profession. With his firm mouth, broad forehead, and
clear-cut, somewhat hard-featured face, he was a man
who, if he had no brilliant talent, was yet so
dogged, so patient, and so strong that he might in
the end overtop a more showy genius. A man who
can hold his own among Scotchmen and North Germans is
not a man to be easily set back. Smith had left a
name at Glasgow and at Berlin, and he was bent now
upon doing as much at Oxford, if hard work and
devotion could accomplish it.
He had sat reading for about an hour, and the
hands of the noisy carriage clock upon the side table
were rapidly closing together upon the twelve, when a
sudden sound fell upon the student's ear--a sharp,
rather shrill sound, like the hissing intake of a
man's breath who gasps under some strong emotion.
Smith laid down his book and slanted his ear to
listen. There was no one on either side or above
him, so that the interruption came certainly from the
neighbour beneath--the same neighbour of whom Hastie
had given so unsavoury an account. Smith knew him
only as a flabby, pale-faced man of silent and
studious habits, a man, whose lamp threw a golden bar
from the old turret even after he had extinguished
his own. This community in lateness had formed a
certain silent bond between them. It was soothing to
Smith when the hours stole on towards dawning to feel
that there was another so close who set as small a
value upon his sleep as he did. Even now, as his
thoughts turned towards him, Smith's feelings were
kindly. Hastie was a good fellow, but he was
rough, strong-fibred, with no imagination or
sympathy. He could not tolerate departures from what
he looked upon as the model type of manliness. If a
man could not be measured by a public-school
standard, then he was beyond the pale with Hastie.
Like so many who are themselves robust, he was apt to
confuse the constitution with the character, to
ascribe to want of principle what was really a want
of circulation. Smith, with his stronger mind, knew
his friend's habit, and made allowance for it now as
his thoughts turned towards the man beneath him.
There was no return of the singular sound, and
Smith was about to turn to his work once more, when
suddenly there broke out in the silence of the night
a hoarse cry, a positive scream--the call of a man
who is moved and shaken beyond all control. Smith
sprang out of his chair and dropped his book. He was
a man of fairly firm fibre, but there was something
in this sudden, uncontrollable shriek of horror which
chilled his blood and pringled in his skin. Coming
in such a place and at such an hour, it brought a
thousand fantastic possibilities into his head.
Should he rush down, or was it better to wait? He
had all the national hatred of making a scene, and he
knew so little of his neighbour that he would not
lightly intrude upon his affairs. For a moment
he stood in doubt and even as he balanced the
matter there was a quick rattle of footsteps upon the
stairs, and young Monkhouse Lee, half dressed and as
white as ashes, burst into his room.
"Come down!" he gasped. "Bellingham's ill."
Abercrombie Smith followed him closely down
stairs into the sitting-room which was beneath his
own, and intent as he was upon the matter in hand, he
could not but take an amazed glance around him as he
crossed the threshold. It was such a chamber as he
had never seen before--a museum rather than a study.
Walls and ceiling were thickly covered with a
thousand strange relics from Egypt and the East.
Tall, angular figures bearing burdens or weapons
stalked in an uncouth frieze round the apartments.
Above were bull-headed, stork-headed, cat-headed,
owl-headed statues, with viper-crowned, almond-eyed
monarchs, and strange, beetle-like deities cut out of
the blue Egyptian lapis lazuli. Horus and Isis and
Osiris peeped down from every niche and shelf, while
across the ceiling a true son of Old Nile, a great,
hanging-jawed crocodile, was slung in a double noose.
In the centre of this singular chamber was a
large, square table, littered with papers, bottles,
and the dried leaves of some graceful, palm-like
plant. These varied objects had all been heaped
together in order to make room for a mummy case,
which had been conveyed from the wall, as was evident
from the gap there, and laid across the front of the
table. The mummy itself, a horrid, black, withered
thing, like a charred head on a gnarled bush, was
lying half out of the case, with its clawlike hand
and bony forearm resting upon the table. Propped up
against the sarcophagus was an old yellow scroll of
papyrus, and in front of it, in a wooden armchair,
sat the owner of the room, his head thrown back, his
widely-opened eyes directed in a horrified stare to
the crocodile above him, and his blue, thick lips
puffing loudly with every expiration.
"My God! he's dying!" cried Monkhouse Lee
He was a slim, handsome young fellow, oliveskinned
and dark-eyed, of a Spanish rather than of an
English type, with a Celtic intensity of manner which
contrasted with the Saxon phlegm of Abercombie Smith.
"Only a faint, I think," said the medical
student. "Just give me a hand with him. You take
his feet. Now on to the sofa. Can you kick all
those little wooden devils off? What a litter it is!
Now he will be all right if we undo his collar and
give him some water. What has he been up to at all?"
"I don't know. I heard him cry out. I ran up.
I know him pretty well, you know. It is very good of
you to come down."
"His heart is going like a pair of castanets,"
said Smith, laying his hand on the breast of the
unconscious man. "He seems to me to be frightened
all to pieces. Chuck the water over him! What a
face he has got on him!"
It was indeed a strange and most repellent face,
for colour and outline were equally unnatural. It
was white, not with the ordinary pallor of fear but
with an absolutely bloodless white, like the under
side of a sole. He was very fat, but gave the
impression of having at some time been considerably
fatter, for his skin hung loosely in creases and
folds, and was shot with a meshwork of wrinkles.
Short, stubbly brown hair bristled up from his scalp,
with a pair of thick, wrinkled ears protruding on
either side. His light grey eyes were still open,
the pupils dilated and the balls projecting in a
fixed and horrid stare. It seemed to Smith as he
looked down upon him that he had never seen nature's
danger signals flying so plainly upon a man's
countenance, and his thoughts turned more seriously
to the warning which Hastie had given him an hour
"What the deuce can have frightened him so?" he
"It's the mummy."
"The mummy? How, then?"
"I don't know. It's beastly and morbid. I wish
he would drop it. It's the second fright he has
given me. It was the same last winter. I found him
just like this, with that horrid thing in front of
"What does he want with the mummy, then?"
"Oh, he's a crank, you know. It's his hobby. He
knows more about these things than any man in
England. But I wish he wouldn't! Ah, he's beginning
to come to."
A faint tinge of colour had begun to steal back
into Bellingham's ghastly cheeks, and his eyelids
shivered like a sail after a calm. He clasped and
unclasped his hands, drew a long, thin breath between
his teeth, and suddenly jerking up his head, threw a
glance of recognition around him. As his eyes fell
upon the mummy, he sprang off the sofa, seized the
roll of papyrus, thrust it into a drawer, turned the
key, and then staggered back on to the sofa.
"What's up?" he asked. "What do you chaps want?"
"You've been shrieking out and making no end of a
fuss," said Monkhouse Lee. "If our neighbour here
from above hadn't come down, I'm sure I don't know
what I should have done with you."
"Ah, it's Abercrombie Smith," said Bellingham,
glancing up at him. "How very good of you to come
in! What a fool I am! Oh, my God, what a fool I
He sunk his head on to his hands, and burst into
peal after peal of hysterical laughter.
"Look here! Drop it!" cried Smith, shaking him
roughly by the shoulder.
"Your nerves are all in a jangle. You must drop
these little midnight games with mummies, or you'll
be going off your chump. You're all on wires now."
"I wonder," said Bellingham, "whether you would
be as cool as I am if you had seen----"
"What then?"
"Oh, nothing. I meant that I wonder if you could
sit up at night with a mummy without trying your
nerves. I have no doubt that you are quite right. I
dare say that I have been taking it out of myself too
much lately. But I am all right now. Please don't
go, though. Just wait for a few minutes until I am
quite myself."
"The room is very close," remarked Lee, throwing
open the window and letting in the cool night air.
"It's balsamic resin," said Bellingham. He
lifted up one of the dried palmate leaves from the
table and frizzled it over the chimney of the lamp.
It broke away into heavy smoke wreaths, and a
pungent, biting odour filled the chamber. "It's
the sacred plant--the plant of the priests," he
remarked. "Do you know anything of Eastern
languages, Smith?"
"Nothing at all. Not a word."
The answer seemed to lift a weight from the
Egyptologist's mind.
"By-the-way," he continued, "how long was it from
the time that you ran down, until I came to my
"Not long. Some four or five minutes."
"I thought it could not be very long," said he,
drawing a long breath. "But what a strange thing
unconsciousness is! There is no measurement to it.
I could not tell from my own sensations if it were
seconds or weeks. Now that gentleman on the table
was packed up in the days of the eleventh dynasty,
some forty centuries ago, and yet if he could find
his tongue he would tell us that this lapse of time
has been but a closing of the eyes and a reopening of
them. He is a singularly fine mummy, Smith."
Smith stepped over to the table and looked down
with a professional eye at the black and twisted form
in front of him. The features, though horribly
discoloured, were perfect, and two little nut-like
eyes still lurked in the depths of the black, hollow
sockets. The blotched skin was drawn tightly from
bone to bone, and a tangled wrap of black coarse
hair fell over the ears. Two thin teeth, like those
of a rat, overlay the shrivelled lower lip. In its
crouching position, with bent joints and craned head,
there was a suggestion of energy about the horrid
thing which made Smith's gorge rise. The gaunt ribs,
with their parchment-like covering, were exposed, and
the sunken, leaden-hued abdomen, with the long slit
where the embalmer had left his mark; but the lower
limbs were wrapt round with coarse yellow bandages.
A number of little clove-like pieces of myrrh and of
cassia were sprinkled over the body, and lay
scattered on the inside of the case.
"I don't know his name," said Bellingham, passing
his hand over the shrivelled head. "You see the
outer sarcophagus with the inscriptions is missing.
Lot 249 is all the title he has now. You see it
printed on his case. That was his number in the
auction at which I picked him up."
"He has been a very pretty sort of fellow in his
day," remarked Abercrombie Smith.
"He has been a giant. His mummy is six feet
seven in length, and that would be a giant over
there, for they were never a very robust race. Feel
these great knotted bones, too. He would be a nasty
fellow to tackle."
"Perhaps these very hands helped to build the
stones into the pyramids," suggested Monkhouse
Lee, looking down with disgust in his eyes at the
crooked, unclean talons.
"No fear. This fellow has been pickled in
natron, and looked after in the most approved style.
They did not serve hodsmen in that fashion. Salt or
bitumen was enough for them. It has been calculated
that this sort of thing cost about seven hundred and
thirty pounds in our money. Our friend was a noble
at the least. What do you make of that small
inscription near his feet, Smith?"
"I told you that I know no Eastern tongue."
"Ah, so you did. It is the name of the embalmer,
I take it. A very conscientious worker he must have
been. I wonder how many modern works will survive
four thousand years?"
He kept on speaking lightly and rapidly, but it
was evident to Abercrombie Smith that he was still
palpitating with fear. His hands shook, his lower
lip trembled, and look where he would, his eye always
came sliding round to his gruesome companion.
Through all his fear, however, there was a suspicion
of triumph in his tone and manner. His eye shone,
and his footstep, as he paced the room, was brisk and
jaunty. He gave the impression of a man who has gone
through an ordeal, the marks of which he still bears
upon him, but which has helped him to his end.
"You're not going yet?" he cried, as Smith rose
from the sofa.
At the prospect of solitude, his fears seemed to
crowd back upon him, and he stretched out a hand to
detain him.
"Yes, I must go. I have my work to do. You are
all right now. I think that with your nervous system
you should take up some less morbid study."
"Oh, I am not nervous as a rule; and I have
unwrapped mummies before."
"You fainted last time," observed Monkhouse Lee.
"Ah, yes, so I did. Well, I must have a nerve
tonic or a course of electricity. You are not going,
"I'll do whatever you wish, Ned."
"Then I'll come down with you and have a shakedown
on your sofa. Good-night, Smith. I am so sorry
to have disturbed you with my foolishness."
They shook hands, and as the medical student
stumbled up the spiral and irregular stair he heard a
key turn in a door, and the steps of his two new
acquaintances as they descended to the lower floor.
In this strange way began the acquaintance
between Edward Bellingham and Abercrombie Smith,
an acquaintance which the latter, at least, had no
desire to push further. Bellingham, however,
appeared to have taken a fancy to his rough-spoken
neighbour, and made his advances in such a way that
he could hardly be repulsed without absolute
brutality. Twice he called to thank Smith for his
assistance, and many times afterwards he looked in
with books, papers, and such other civilities as two
bachelor neighbours can offer each other. He was, as
Smith soon found, a man of wide reading, with
catholic tastes and an extraordinary memory. His
manner, too, was so pleasing and suave that one came,
after a time, to overlook his repellent appearance.
For a jaded and wearied man he was no unpleasant
companion, and Smith found himself, after a time,
looking forward to his visits, and even returning
Clever as he undoubtedly was, however, the
medical student seemed to detect a dash of insanity
in the man. He broke out at times into a high,
inflated style of talk which was in contrast with the
simplicity of his life.
"It is a wonderful thing," he cried, "to feel
that one can command powers of good and of evil--a
ministering angel or a demon of vengeance." And
again, of Monkhouse Lee, he said,--"Lee is a good
fellow, an honest fellow, but he is without strength
or ambition. He would not make a fit partner
for a man with a great enterprise. He would not make
a fit partner for me."
At such hints and innuendoes stolid Smith,
puffing solemnly at his pipe, would simply raise his
eyebrows and shake his head, with little
interjections of medical wisdom as to earlier hours
and fresher air.
One habit Bellingham had developed of late which
Smith knew to be a frequent herald of a weakening
mind. He appeared to be forever talking to himself.
At late hours of the night, when there could be no
visitor with him, Smith could still hear his voice
beneath him in a low, muffled monologue, sunk almost
to a whisper, and yet very audible in the silence.
This solitary babbling annoyed and distracted the
student, so that he spoke more than once to his
neighbour about it. Bellingham, however, flushed up
at the charge, and denied curtly that he had uttered
a sound; indeed, he showed more annoyance over the
matter than the occasion seemed to demand.
Had Abercrombie Smith had any doubt as to his own
ears he had not to go far to find corroboration. Tom
Styles, the little wrinkled man-servant who had
attended to the wants of the lodgers in the turret
for a longer time than any man's memory could carry
him, was sorely put to it over the same matter.
"If you please, sir," said he, as he tidied down
the top chamber one morning, "do you think Mr.
Bellingham is all right, sir?"
"All right, Styles?"
"Yes sir. Right in his head, sir."
"Why should he not be, then?"
"Well, I don't know, sir. His habits has changed
of late. He's not the same man he used to be, though
I make free to say that he was never quite one of my
gentlemen, like Mr. Hastie or yourself, sir. He's
took to talkin' to himself something awful. I wonder
it don't disturb you. I don't know what to make of
him, sir."
"I don't know what business it is of yours,
"Well, I takes an interest, Mr. Smith. It may be
forward of me, but I can't help it. I feel sometimes
as if I was mother and father to my young gentlemen.
It all falls on me when things go wrong and the
relations come. But Mr. Bellingham, sir. I want to
know what it is that walks about his room sometimes
when he's out and when the door's locked on the
"Eh! you're talking nonsense, Styles."
"Maybe so, sir; but I heard it more'n once with
my own ears."
"Rubbish, Styles."
"Very good, sir. You'll ring the bell if you
want me."
Abercrombie Smith gave little heed to the gossip
of the old man-servant, but a small incident occurred
a few days later which left an unpleasant effect upon
his mind, and brought the words of Styles forcibly to
his memory.
Bellingham had come up to see him late one night,
and was entertaining him with an interesting account
of the rock tombs of Beni Hassan in Upper Egypt, when
Smith, whose hearing was remarkably acute, distinctly
heard the sound of a door opening on the landing
"There's some fellow gone in or out of your
room," he remarked.
Bellingham sprang up and stood helpless for a
moment, with the expression of a man who is half
incredulous and half afraid.
"I surely locked it. I am almost positive that I
locked it," he stammered. "No one could have opened
"Why, I hear someone coming up the steps now,"
said Smith.
Bellingham rushed out through the door, slammed
it loudly behind him, and hurried down the stairs.
About half-way down Smith heard him stop, and thought
he caught the sound of whispering. A moment later
the door beneath him shut, a key creaked in a lock,
and Bellingham, with beads of moisture upon his pale
face, ascended the stairs once more, and re-entered
the room.
"It's all right," he said, throwing himself down
in a chair. "It was that fool of a dog. He had
pushed the door open. I don't know how I came to
forget to lock it."
"I didn't know you kept a dog," said Smith,
looking very thoughtfully at the disturbed face of
his companion.
"Yes, I haven't had him long. I must get rid of
him. He's a great nuisance."
"He must be, if you find it so hard to shut him
up. I should have thought that shutting the door
would have been enough, without locking it."
"I want to prevent old Styles from letting him
out. He's of some value, you know, and it would be
awkward to lose him."
"I am a bit of a dog-fancier myself," said Smith,
still gazing hard at his companion from the corner of
his eyes. "Perhaps you'll let me have a look at it."
"Certainly. But I am afraid it cannot be tonight;
I have an appointment. Is that clock right?
Then I am a quarter of an hour late already. You'll
excuse me, I am sure."
He picked up his cap and hurried from the room.
In spite of his appointment, Smith heard him re-enter
his own chamber and lock his door upon the inside.
This interview left a disagreeable impression
upon the medical student's mind. Bellingham had
lied to him, and lied so clumsily that it looked as
if he had desperate reasons for concealing the truth.
Smith knew that his neighbour had no dog. He knew,
also, that the step which he had heard upon the
stairs was not the step of an animal. But if it were
not, then what could it be? There was old Styles's
statement about the something which used to pace the
room at times when the owner was absent. Could it be
a woman? Smith rather inclined to the view. If so,
it would mean disgrace and expulsion to Bellingham if
it were discovered by the authorities, so that his
anxiety and falsehoods might be accounted for. And
yet it was inconceivable that an undergraduate could
keep a woman in his rooms without being instantly
detected. Be the explanation what it might, there
was something ugly about it, and Smith determined, as
he turned to his books, to discourage all further
attempts at intimacy on the part of his soft-spoken
and ill-favoured neighbour.
But his work was destined to interruption that
night. He had hardly caught tip the broken threads
when a firm, heavy footfall came three steps at a
time from below, and Hastie, in blazer and flannels,
burst into the room.
"Still at it!" said he, plumping down into his
wonted arm-chair. "What a chap you are to stew!
I believe an earthquake might come and knock Oxford
into a cocked hat, and you would sit perfectly placid
with your books among the rains. However, I won't
bore you long. Three whiffs of baccy, and I am off."
"What's the news, then?" asked Smith, cramming a
plug of bird's-eye into his briar with his
"Nothing very much. Wilson made 70 for the
freshmen against the eleven. They say that they will
play him instead of Buddicomb, for Buddicomb is clean
off colour. He used to be able to bowl a little, but
it's nothing but half-vollies and long hops now."
"Medium right," suggested Smith, with the intense
gravity which comes upon a 'varsity man when he
speaks of athletics.
"Inclining to fast, with a work from leg. Comes
with the arm about three inches or so. He used to be
nasty on a wet wicket. Oh, by-the-way, have you
heard about Long Norton?"
"What's that?"
"He's been attacked."
"Yes, just as he was turning out of the High
Street, and within a hundred yards of the gate of
"But who----"
"Ah, that's the rub! If you said `what,'
you would be more grammatical. Norton swears
that it was not human, and, indeed, from the
scratches on his throat, I should be inclined to
agree with him."
"What, then? Have we come down to spooks?"
Abercrombie Smith puffed his scientific contempt.
"Well, no; I don't think that is quite the idea,
either. I am inclined to think that if any showman
has lost a great ape lately, and the brute is in
these parts, a jury would find a true bill against
it. Norton passes that way every night, you know,
about the same hour. There's a tree that hangs low
over the path--the big elm from Rainy's garden.
Norton thinks the thing dropped on him out of the
tree. Anyhow, he was nearly strangled by two arms,
which, he says, were as strong and as thin as steel
bands. He saw nothing; only those beastly arms that
tightened and tightened on him. He yelled his head
nearly off, and a couple of chaps came running, and
the thing went over the wall like a cat. He never
got a fair sight of it the whole time. It gave
Norton a shake up, I can tell you. I tell him it has
been as good as a change at the sea-side for him."
"A garrotter, most likely," said Smith.
"Very possibly. Norton says not; but we
don't mind what he says. The garrotter had long
nails, and was pretty smart at swinging himself over
walls. By-the-way, your beautiful neighbour would be
pleased if he heard about it. He had a grudge
against Norton, and he's not a man, from what I know
of him, to forget his little debts. But hallo, old
chap, what have you got in your noddle?"
"Nothing," Smith answered curtly.
He had started in his chair, and the look had
flashed over his face which comes upon a man who is
struck suddenly by some unpleasant idea.
"You looked as if something I had said had taken
you on the raw. By-the-way, you have made the
acquaintance of Master B. since I looked in last,
have you not? Young Monkhouse Lee told me something
to that effect."
"Yes; I know him slightly. He has been up here
once or twice."
"Well, you're big enough and ugly enough to take
care of yourself. He's not what I should call
exactly a healthy sort of Johnny, though, no doubt,
he's very clever, and all that. But you'll soon find
out for yourself. Lee is all right; he's a very
decent little fellow. Well, so long, old chap! I
row Mullins for the Vice-Chancellor's pot on
Wednesday week, so mind you come down, in case I
don't see you before."
Bovine Smith laid down his pipe and turned
stolidly to his books once more. But with all
the will in the world, he found it very hard to keep
his mind upon his work. It would slip away to brood
upon the man beneath him, and upon the little mystery
which hung round his chambers. Then his thoughts
turned to this singular attack of which Hastie had
spoken, and to the grudge which Bellingham was said
to owe the object of it. The two ideas would persist
in rising together in his mind, as though there were
some close and intimate connection between them. And
yet the suspicion was so dim and vague that it could
not be put down in words.
"Confound the chap!" cried Smith, as he shied his
book on pathology across the room. "He has spoiled
my night's reading, and that's reason enough, if
there were no other, why I should steer clear of him
in the future."
For ten days the medical student confined himself
so closely to his studies that he neither saw nor
heard anything of either of the men beneath him. At
the hours when Bellingham had been accustomed to
visit him, he took care to sport his oak, and though
he more than once heard a knocking at his outer door,
he resolutely refused to answer it. One afternoon,
however, he was descending the stairs when, just as
he was passing it, Bellingham's door flew open, and
young Monkhouse Lee came out with his eyes sparkling
and a dark flush of anger upon his olive cheeks.
Close at his heels followed Bellingham, his fat,
unhealthy face all quivering with malignant passion.
"You fool!" he hissed. "You'll be sorry."
"Very likely," cried the other. "Mind what I
say. It's off! I won't hear of it!"
"You've promised, anyhow."
"Oh, I'll keep that! I won't speak. But I'd
rather little Eva was in her grave. Once for all,
it's off. She'll do what I say. We don't want to
see you again."
So much Smith could not avoid hearing, but he
hurried on, for he had no wish to be involved in
their dispute. There had been a serious breach
between them, that was clear enough, and Lee was
going to cause the engagement with his sister to be
broken off. Smith thought of Hastie's comparison of
the toad and the dove, and was glad to think that the
matter was at an end. Bellingham's face when he was
in a passion was not pleasant to look upon. He was
not a man to whom an innocent girl could be trusted
for life. As he walked, Smith wondered languidly
what could have caused the quarrel, and what the
promise might be which Bellingham had been so anxious
that Monkhouse Lee should keep.
It was the day of the sculling match between
Hastie and Mullins, and a stream of men were
making their way down to the banks of the Isis.
A May sun was shining brightly, and the yellow path
was barred with the black shadows of the tall elmtrees.
On either side the grey colleges lay back
from the road, the hoary old mothers of minds looking
out from their high, mullioned windows at the tide of
young life which swept so merrily past them. Blackclad
tutors, prim officials, pale reading men, brownfaced,
straw-hatted young athletes in white sweaters
or many-coloured blazers, all were hurrying towards
the blue winding river which curves through the
Oxford meadows.
Abercrombie Smith, with the intuition of an old
oarsman, chose his position at the point where he
knew that the struggle, if there were a struggle,
would come. Far off he heard the hum which announced
the start, the gathering roar of the approach, the
thunder of running feet, and the shouts of the men in
the boats beneath him. A spray of half-clad, deepbreathing
runners shot past him, and craning over
their shoulders, he saw Hastie pulling a steady
thirty-six, while his opponent, with a jerky forty,
was a good boat's length behind him. Smith gave a
cheer for his friend, and pulling out his watch, was
starting off again for his chambers, when he felt a
touch upon his shoulder, and found that young
Monkhouse Lee was beside him.
"I saw you there," he said, in a timid,
deprecating way. "I wanted to speak to you, if you
could spare me a half-hour. This cottage is mine. I
share it with Harrington of King's. Come in and have
a cup of tea."
"I must be back presently," said Smith. "I am
hard on the grind at present. But I'll come in for a
few minutes with pleasure. I wouldn't have come out
only Hastie is a friend of mine."
"So he is of mine. Hasn't he a beautiful style?
Mullins wasn't in it. But come into the cottage.
It's a little den of a place, but it is pleasant to
work in during the summer months."
It was a small, square, white building, with
green doors and shutters, and a rustic trellis-work
porch, standing back some fifty yards from the
river's bank. Inside, the main room was roughly
fitted up as a study--deal table, unpainted shelves
with books, and a few cheap oleographs upon the wall.
A kettle sang upon a spirit-stove, and there were tea
things upon a tray on the table.
"Try that chair and have a cigarette," said Lee.
"Let me pour you out a cup of tea. It's so good of
you to come in, for I know that your time is a good
deal taken up. I wanted to say to you that, if I
were you, I should change my rooms at once."
Smith sat staring with a lighted match in one
hand and his unlit cigarette in the other.
"Yes; it must seem very extraordinary, and the
worst of it is that I cannot give my reasons, for I
am under a solemn promise--a very solemn promise.
But I may go so far as to say that I don't think
Bellingham is a very safe man to live near. I intend
to camp out here as much as I can for a time."
"Not safe! What do you mean?"
"Ah, that's what I mustn't say. But do take my
advice, and move your rooms. We had a grand row today.
You must have heard us, for you came down the
"I saw that you had fallen out."
"He's a horrible chap, Smith. That is the only
word for him. I have had doubts about him ever since
that night when he fainted--you remember, when you
came down. I taxed him to-day, and he told me things
that made my hair rise, and wanted me to stand in
with him. I'm not strait-laced, but I am a
clergyman's son, you know, and I think there are some
things which are quite beyond the pale. I only thank
God that I found him out before it was too late, for
he was to have married into my family."
"This is all very fine, Lee," said Abercrombie
Smith curtly. "But either you are saying a great
deal too much or a great deal too little."
"I give you a warning."
"If there is real reason for warning, no promise
can bind you. If I see a rascal about to blow a
place up with dynamite no pledge will stand in my way
of preventing him."
"Ah, but I cannot prevent him, and I can do
nothing but warn you."
"Without saying what you warn me against."
"Against Bellingham."
"But that is childish. Why should I fear him, or
any man?"
"I can't tell you. I can only entreat you to
change your rooms. You are in danger where you are.
I don't even say that Bellingham would wish to injure
you. But it might happen, for he is a dangerous
neighbour just now."
"Perhaps I know more than you think," said Smith,
looking keenly at the young man's boyish, earnest
face. "Suppose I tell you that some one else shares
Bellingham's rooms."
Monkhouse Lee sprang from his chair in
uncontrollable excitement.
"You know, then?" he gasped.
"A woman."
Lee dropped back again with a groan.
"My lips are sealed," he said. "I must not
"Well, anyhow," said Smith, rising, "it is not
likely that I should allow myself to be frightened
out of rooms which suit me very nicely. It
would be a little too feeble for me to move out all
my goods and chattels because you say that Bellingham
might in some unexplained way do me an injury. I
think that I'll just take my chance, and stay where I
am, and as I see that it's nearly five o'clock, I
must ask you to excuse me."
He bade the young student adieu in a few curt
words, and made his way homeward through the sweet
spring evening feeling half-ruffled, half-amused, as
any other strong, unimaginative man might who has
been menaced by a vague and shadowy danger.
There was one little indulgence which Abercrombie
Smith always allowed himself, however closely his
work might press upon him. Twice a week, on the
Tuesday and the Friday, it was his invariable custom
to walk over to Farlingford, the residence of Dr.
Plumptree Peterson, situated about a mile and a half
out of Oxford. Peterson had been a close friend of
Smith's elder brother Francis, and as he was a
bachelor, fairly well-to-do, with a good cellar and a
better library, his house was a pleasant goal for a
man who was in need of a brisk walk. Twice a week,
then, the medical student would swing out there along
the dark country roads, and spend a pleasant hour in
Peterson's comfortable study, discussing, over a
glass of old port, the gossip of the 'varsity or
the latest developments of medicine or of surgery.
On the day which followed his interview with
Monkhouse Lee, Smith shut up his books at a quarter
past eight, the hour when he usually started for his
friend's house. As he was leaving his room, however,
his eyes chanced to fall upon one of the books which
Bellingham had lent him, and his conscience pricked
him for not having returned it. However repellent
the man might be, he should not be treated with
discourtesy. Taking the book, he walked downstairs
and knocked at his neighbour's door. There was no
answer; but on turning the handle he found that it
was unlocked. Pleased at the thought of avoiding an
interview, he stepped inside, and placed the book
with his card upon the table.
The lamp was turned half down, but Smith could
see the details of the room plainly enough. It was
all much as he had seen it before--the frieze, the
animal-headed gods, the banging crocodile, and the
table littered over with papers and dried leaves.
The mummy case stood upright against the wall, but
the mummy itself was missing. There was no sign of
any second occupant of the room, and he felt as he
withdrew that he had probably done Bellingham an
injustice. Had he a guilty secret to preserve, he
would hardly leave his door open so that all the
world might enter.
The spiral stair was as black as pitch, and Smith
was slowly making his way down its irregular steps,
when he was suddenly conscious that something had
passed him in the darkness. There was a faint sound,
a whiff of air, a light brushing past his elbow, but
so slight that he could scarcely be certain of it.
He stopped and listened, but the wind was rustling
among the ivy outside, and he could hear nothing
"Is that you, Styles?" he shouted.
There was no answer, and all was still behind
him. It must have been a sudden gust of air, for
there were crannies and cracks in the old turret.
And yet he could almost have sworn that be heard a
footfall by his very side. He had emerged into the
quadrangle, still turning the matter over in his
head, when a man came running swiftly across the
smooth-cropped lawn.
"Is that you, Smith?"
"Hullo, Hastie!"
"For God's sake come at once! Young Lee is
drowned! Here's Harrington of King's with the news.
The doctor is out. You'll do, but come along at
once. There may be life in him."
"Have you brandy?"
"No. "
"I'll bring some. There's a flask on my table."
Smith bounded up the stairs, taking three at a
time, seized the flask, and was rushing down with it,
when, as he passed Bellingham's room, his eyes fell
upon something which left him gasping and staring
upon the landing.
The door, which he had closed behind him, was now
open, and right in front of him, with the lamp-light
shining upon it, was the mummy case. Three minutes
ago it had been empty. He could swear to that. Now
it framed the lank body of its horrible occupant, who
stood, grim and stark, with his black shrivelled face
towards the door. The form was lifeless and inert,
but it seemed to Smith as he gazed that there still
lingered a lurid spark of vitality, some faint sign
of consciousness in the little eyes which lurked in
the depths of the hollow sockets. So astounded and
shaken was he that he had forgotten his errand, and
was still staring at the lean, sunken figure when the
voice of his friend below recalled him to himself.
"Come on, Smith!" he shouted. "It's life and
death, you know. Hurry up! Now, then," he added, as
the medical student reappeared, "let us do a sprint.
It is well under a mile, and we should do it in five
minutes. A human life is better worth running for
than a pot."
Neck and neck they dashed through the darkness,
and did not pull up until, panting and spent,
they had reached the little cottage by the river.
Young Lee, limp and dripping like a broken waterplant,
was stretched upon the sofa, the green scum of
the river upon his black hair, and a fringe of white
foam upon his leaden-hued lips. Beside him knelt his
fellow-student Harrington, endeavouring to chafe some
warmth back into his rigid limbs.
"I think there's life in him," said Smith, with
his hand to the lad's side. "Put your watch glass to
his lips. Yes, there's dimming on it. You take one
arm, Hastie. Now work it as I do, and we'll soon
pull him round."
For ten minutes they worked in silence, inflating
and depressing the chest of the unconscious man. At
the end of that time a shiver ran through his body,
his lips trembled, and he opened his eyes. The three
students burst out into an irrepressible cheer.
"Wake up, old chap. You've frightened us quite
"Have some brandy. Take a sip from the flask."
"He's all right now," said his companion
Harrington. "Heavens, what a fright I got! I was
reading here, and he had gone for a stroll as far as
the river, when I heard a scream and a splash. Out I
ran, and by the time that I could find him and fish
him out, all life seemed to have gone. Then
Simpson couldn't get a doctor, for he has a game-leg,
and I had to run, and I don't know what I'd have done
without you fellows. That's right, old chap. Sit
Monkhouse Lee had raised himself on his hands,
and looked wildly about him.
"What's up?" he asked. "I've been in the water.
Ah, yes; I remember."
A look of fear came into his eyes, and he sank
his face into his hands.
"How did you fall in?"
"I didn't fall in."
"How, then?"
"I was thrown in. I was standing by the bank,
and something from behind picked me up like a feather
and hurled me in. I heard nothing, and I saw
nothing. But I know what it was, for all that."
"And so do I, " whispered Smith.
Lee looked up with a quick glance of surprise.
"You've learned, then!" he said. "You remember the
advice I gave you?"
"Yes, and I begin to think that I shall take it."
"I don't know what the deuce you fellows are
talking about," said Hastie, "but I think, if I were
you, Harrington, I should get Lee to bed at once. It
will be time enough to discuss the why and the
wherefore when he is a little stronger. I
think, Smith, you and I can leave him alone now.
I am walking back to college; if you are coming in
that direction, we can have a chat."
But it was little chat that they had upon their
homeward path. Smith's mind was too full of the
incidents of the evening, the absence of the mummy
from his neighbour's rooms, the step that passed him
on the stair, the reappearance--the extraordinary,
inexplicable reappearance of the grisly thing--and
then this attack upon Lee, corresponding so closely
to the previous outrage upon another man against whom
Bellingham bore a grudge. All this settled in his
thoughts, together with the many little incidents
which had previously turned him against his
neighbour, and the singular circumstances under which
he was first called in to him. What had been a dim
suspicion, a vague, fantastic conjecture, had
suddenly taken form, and stood out in his mind as a
grim fact, a thing not to be denied. And yet, how
monstrous it was! how unheard of! how entirely beyond
all bounds of human experience. An impartial judge,
or even the friend who walked by his side, would
simply tell him that his eyes had deceived him, that
the mummy had been there all the time, that young Lee
had tumbled into the river as any other man tumbles
into a river, and that a blue pill was the best thing
for a disordered liver. He felt that he would have
said as much if the positions had been reversed.
And yet he could swear that Bellingham was a murderer
at heart, and that he wielded a weapon such as no man
had ever used in all the grim history of crime.
Hastie had branched off to his rooms with a few
crisp and emphatic comments upon his friend's
unsociability, and Abercrombie Smith crossed the
quadrangle to his corner turret with a strong feeling
of repulsion for his chambers and their associations.
He would take Lee's advice, and move his quarters as
soon as possible, for how could a man study when his
ear was ever straining for every murmur or footstep
in the room below? He observed, as he crossed over
the lawn, that the light was still shining in
Bellingham's window, and as he passed up the
staircase the door opened, and the man himself looked
out at him. With his fat, evil face he was like some
bloated spider fresh from the weaving of his
poisonous web.
"Good-evening," said he. "Won't you come in?"
"No," cried Smith, fiercely.
"No? You are busy as ever? I wanted to ask you
about Lee. I was sorry to hear that there was a
rumour that something was amiss with him."
His features were grave, but there was the gleam
of a hidden laugh in his eyes as he spoke.
Smith saw it, and he could have knocked him down
for it.
"You'll be sorrier still to hear that Monkhouse
Lee is doing very well, and is out of all danger," he
answered. "Your hellish tricks have not come off
this time. Oh, you needn't try to brazen it out. I
know all about it."
Bellingham took a step back from the angry
student, and half-closed the door as if to protect
"You are mad," he said. "What do you mean? Do
you assert that I had anything to do with Lee's
"Yes," thundered Smith. "You and that bag of
bones behind you; you worked it between you. I tell
you what it is, Master B., they have given up burning
folk like you, but we still keep a hangman, and, by
George! if any man in this college meets his death
while you are here, I'll have you up, and if you
don't swing for it, it won't be my fault. You'll
find that your filthy Egyptian tricks won't answer in
"You're a raving lunatic," said Bellingham.
"All right. You just remember what I say, for
you'll find that I'll be better than my word."
The door slammed, and Smith went fuming up to his
chamber, where he locked the door upon the inside,
and spent half the night in smoking his old
briar and brooding over the strange events of the
Next morning Abercrombie Smith heard nothing of
his neighbour, but Harrington called upon him in the
afternoon to say that Lee was almost himself again.
All day Smith stuck fast to his work, but in the
evening he determined to pay the visit to his friend
Dr. Peterson upon which he had started upon the night
before. A good walk and a friendly chat would be
welcome to his jangled nerves.
Bellingham's door was shut as he passed, but
glancing back when he was some distance from the
turret, he saw his neighbour's head at the window
outlined against the lamp-light, his face pressed
apparently against the glass as he gazed out into the
darkness. It was a blessing to be away from all
contact with him, but if for a few hours, and Smith
stepped out briskly, and breathed the soft spring air
into his lungs. The half-moon lay in the west
between two Gothic pinnacles, and threw upon the
silvered street a dark tracery from the stone-work
above. There was a brisk breeze, and light, fleecy
clouds drifted swiftly across the sky. Old's was on
the very border of the town, and in five minutes
Smith found himself beyond the houses and between the
hedges of a May-scented Oxfordshire lane.
It was a lonely and little frequented road
which led to his friend's house. Early as it
was, Smith did not meet a single soul upon his way.
He walked briskly along until he came to the avenue
gate, which opened into the long gravel drive leading
up to Farlingford. In front of him he could see the
cosy red light of the windows glimmering through the
foliage. He stood with his hand upon the iron latch
of the swinging gate, and he glanced back at the road
along which he had come. Something was coming
swiftly down it.
It moved in the shadow of the hedge, silently and
furtively, a dark, crouching figure, dimly visible
against the black background. Even as he gazed back
at it, it had lessened its distance by twenty paces,
and was fast closing upon him. Out of the darkness
he had a glimpse of a scraggy neck, and of two eyes
that will ever haunt him in his dreams. He turned,
and with a cry of terror he ran for his life up the
avenue. There were the red lights, the signals of
safety, almost within a stone's throw of him. He was
a famous runner, but never had he run as he ran that
The heavy gate had swung into place behind him,
but he heard it dash open again before his pursuer.
As he rushed madly and wildly through the night, he
could hear a swift, dry patter behind him, and could
see, as he threw back a glance, that this horror was
bounding like a tiger at his heels, with blazing eyes
and one stringy arm outthrown. Thank God, the
door was ajar. He could see the thin bar of light
which shot from the lamp in the hall. Nearer yet
sounded the clatter from behind. He heard a hoarse
gurgling at his very shoulder. With a shriek he
flung himself against the door, slammed and bolted it
behind him, and sank half-fainting on to the hall
"My goodness, Smith, what's the matter?" asked
Peterson, appearing at the door of his study.
"Give me some brandy!"
Peterson disappeared, and came rushing out again
with a glass and a decanter.
"You need it," he said, as his visitor drank off
what he poured out for him. "Why, man, you are as
white as a cheese."
Smith laid down his glass, rose up, and took a
deep breath.
"I am my own man again now," said he. "I was
never so unmanned before. But, with your leave,
Peterson, I will sleep here to-night, for I don't
think I could face that road again except by
daylight. It's weak, I know, but I can't help it."
Peterson looked at his visitor with a very
questioning eye.
"Of course you shall sleep here if you wish.
I'll tell Mrs. Burney to make up the spare bed.
Where are you off to now?"
"Come up with me to the window that overlooks the
door. I want you to see what I have seen."
They went up to the window of the upper hall
whence they could look down upon the approach to the
house. The drive and the fields on either side lay
quiet and still, bathed in the peaceful moonlight.
"Well, really, Smith," remarked Peterson, "it is
well that I know you to be an abstemious man. What
in the world can have frightened you?"
"I'll tell you presently. But where can it have
gone? Ah, now look, look! See the curve of the road
just beyond your gate."
"Yes, I see; you needn't pinch my arm off. I saw
someone pass. I should say a man, rather thin,
apparently, and tall, very tall. But what of him?
And what of yourself? You are still shaking like an
aspen leaf."
"I have been within hand-grip of the devil,
that's all. But come down to your study, and I shall
tell you the whole story."
He did so. Under the cheery lamplight, with a
glass of wine on the table beside him, and the portly
form and florid face of his friend in front, he
narrated, in their order, all the events, great and
small, which had formed so singular a chain, from the
night on which he had found Bellingham fainting
in front of the mummy case until his horrid
experience of an hour ago.
"There now," he said as he concluded, "that's the
whole black business. It is monstrous and
incredible, but it is true."
Dr. Plumptree Peterson sat for some time in
silence with a very puzzled expression upon his face.
"I never heard of such a thing in my life,
never!" he said at last. "You have told me the
facts. Now tell me your inferences."
"You can draw your own."
"But I should like to hear yours. You have
thought over the matter, and I have not."
"Well, it must be a little vague in detail, but
the main points seem to me to be clear enough. This
fellow Bellingham, in his Eastern studies, has got
hold of some infernal secret by which a mummy--or
possibly only this particular mummy--can be
temporarily brought to life. He was trying this
disgusting business on the night when he fainted. No
doubt the sight of the creature moving had shaken his
nerve, even though he had expected it. You remember
that almost the first words he said were to call out
upon himself as a fool. Well, he got more hardened
afterwards, and carried the matter through without
fainting. The vitality which he could put into it
was evidently only a passing thing, for I have
seen it continually in its case as dead as this
table. He has some elaborate process, I fancy, by
which he brings the thing to pass. Having done it,
he naturally bethought him that he might use the
creature as an agent. It has intelligence and it has
strength. For some purpose he took Lee into his
confidence; but Lee, like a decent Christian, would
have nothing to do with such a business. Then they
had a row, and Lee vowed that he would tell his
sister of Bellingham's true character. Bellingham's
game was to prevent him, and he nearly managed it, by
setting this creature of his on his track. He had
already tried its powers upon another man--Norton--
towards whom he had a grudge. It is the merest
chance that he has not two murders upon his soul.
Then, when I taxed him with the matter, he had the
strongest reasons for wishing to get me out of the
way before I could convey my knowledge to anyone
else. He got his chance when I went out, for he knew
my habits, and where I was bound for. I have had a
narrow shave, Peterson, and it is mere luck you
didn't find me on your doorstep in the morning. I'm
not a nervous man as a rule, and I never thought to
have the fear of death put upon me as it was tonight."
"My dear boy, you take the matter too seriously,"
said his companion. "Your nerves are out of order
with your work, and you make too much of it.
How could such a thing as this stride about the
streets of Oxford, even at night, without being
"It has been seen. There is quite a scare in the
town about an escaped ape, as they imagine the
creature to be. It is the talk of the place."
"Well, it's a striking chain of events. And yet,
my dear fellow, you must allow that each incident in
itself is capable of a more natural explanation."
"What! even my adventure of to-night?"
"Certainly. You come out with your nerves all
unstrung, and your head full of this theory of yours.
Some gaunt, half-famished tramp steals after you, and
seeing you run, is emboldened to pursue you. Your
fears and imagination do the rest."
"It won't do, Peterson; it won't do."
"And again, in the instance of your finding the
mummy case empty, and then a few moments later with
an occupant, you know that it was lamplight, that the
lamp was half turned down, and that you had no
special reason to look hard at the case. It is quite
possible that you may have overlooked the creature in
the first instance."
"No, no; it is out of the question."
"And then Lee may have fallen into the river, and
Norton been garrotted. It is certainly a formidable
indictment that you have against Bellingham;
but if you were to place it before a police
magistrate, he would simply laugh in your face."
"I know he would. That is why I mean to take the
matter into my own hands."
"Yes; I feel that a public duty rests upon me,
and, besides, I must do it for my own safety, unless
I choose to allow myself to be hunted by this beast
out of the college, and that would be a little too
feeble. I have quite made up my mind what I shall
do. And first of all, may I use your paper and pens
for an hour?"
"Most certainly. You will find all that you want
upon that side table."
Abercrombie Smith sat down before a sheet of
foolscap, and for an hour, and then for a second hour
his pen travelled swiftly over it. Page after page
was finished and tossed aside while his friend leaned
back in his arm-chair, looking across at him with
patient curiosity. At last, with an exclamation of
satisfaction, Smith sprang to his feet, gathered his
papers up into order, and laid the last one upon
Peterson's desk.
"Kindly sign this as a witness," he said.
"A witness? Of what?"
"Of my signature, and of the date. The date is
the most important. Why, Peterson, my life might
hang upon it."
"My dear Smith, you are talking wildly. Let me
beg you to go to bed."
"On the contrary, I never spoke so deliberately
in my life. And I will promise to go to bed the
moment you have signed it."
"But what is it?"
"It is a statement of all that I have been
telling you to-night. I wish you to witness it."
"Certainly," said Peterson, signing his name
under that of his companion. "There you are! But
what is the idea?"
"You will kindly retain it, and produce it in
case I am arrested."
"Arrested? For what?"
"For murder. It is quite on the cards. I wish
to be ready for every event. There is only one
course open to me, and I am determined to take it."
"For Heaven's sake, don't do anything rash!"
"Believe me, it would be far more rash to adopt
any other course. I hope that we won't need to
bother you, but it will ease my mind to know that you
have this statement of my motives. And now I am
ready to take your advice and to go to roost, for I
want to be at my best in the morning."
Abercrombie Smith was not an entirely pleasant
man to have as an enemy. Slow and easytempered,
he was formidable when driven to action. He brought
to every purpose in life the same deliberate
resoluteness which had distinguished him as a
scientific student. He had laid his studies aside
for a day, but he intended that the day should not be
wasted. Not a word did he say to his host as to his
plans, but by nine o'clock he was well on his way to
In the High Street he stopped at Clifford's, the
gun-maker's, and bought a heavy revolver, with a box
of central-fire cartridges. Six of them he slipped
into the chambers, and half-cocking the weapon,
placed it in the pocket of his coat. He then made
his way to Hastie's rooms, where the big oarsman was
lounging over his breakfast, with the Sporting
Times propped up against the coffeepot.
"Hullo! What's up?" he asked. "Have some
"No, thank you. I want you to come with me,
Hastie, and do what I ask you."
"Certainly, my boy."
"And bring a heavy stick with you."
"Hullo!" Hastie stared. "Here's a hunting-crop
that would fell an ox."
"One other thing. You have a box of amputating
knives. Give me the longest of them."
"There you are. You seem to be fairly on the war
trail. Anything else?"
"No; that will do." Smith placed the knife inside
his coat, and led the way to the quadrangle. "We are
neither of us chickens, Hastie," said he. "I think I
can do this job alone, but I take you as a
precaution. I am going to have a little talk with
Bellingham. If I have only him to deal with, I
won't, of course, need you. If I shout, however, up
you come, and lam out with your whip as hard as you
can lick. Do you understand?"
"All right. I'll come if I hear you bellow."
"Stay here, then. It may be a little time, but
don't budge until I come down."
"I'm a fixture."
Smith ascended the stairs, opened Bellingham's
door and stepped in. Bellingham was seated behind
his table, writing. Beside him, among his litter of
strange possessions, towered the mummy case, with its
sale number 249 still stuck upon its front, and its
hideous occupant stiff and stark within it. Smith
looked very deliberately round him, closed the door,
locked it, took the key from the inside, and then
stepping across to the fireplace, struck a match and
set the fire alight. Bellingham sat staring, with
amazement and rage upon his bloated face.
"Well, really now, you make yourself at home," he
Smith sat himself deliberately down, placing
his watch upon the table, drew out his pistol,
cocked it, and laid it in his lap. Then he took the
long amputating knife from his bosom, and threw it
down in front of Bellingham.
"Now, then," said he, "just get to work and cut
up that mummy."
"Oh, is that it?" said Bellingham with a sneer.
"Yes, that is it. They tell me that the law
can't touch you. But I have a law that will set
matters straight. If in five minutes you have not
set to work, I swear by the God who made me that I
will put a bullet through your brain!"
"You would murder me?"
Bellingham had half risen, and his face was the
colour of putty.
"And for what?"
"To stop your mischief. One minute has gone."
"But what have I done?"
"I know and you know."
"This is mere bullying."
"Two minutes are gone."
"But you must give reasons. You are a madman--a
dangerous madman. Why should I destroy my own
property? It is a valuable mummy."
"You must cut it up, and you must burn it."
"I will do no such thing."
"Four minutes are gone."
Smith took up the pistol and he looked towards
Bellingham with an inexorable face. As the secondhand
stole round, he raised his hand, and the finger
twitched upon the trigger.
"There! there! I'll do it!" screamed Bellingham.
In frantic haste he caught up the knife and
hacked at the figure of the mummy, ever glancing
round to see the eye and the weapon of his terrible
visitor bent upon him. The creature crackled and
snapped under every stab of the keen blade. A thick
yellow dust rose up from it. Spices and dried
essences rained down upon the floor. Suddenly, with
a rending crack, its backbone snapped asunder, and it
fell, a brown heap of sprawling limbs, upon the
"Now into the fire!" said Smith.
The flames leaped and roared as the dried and
tinderlike debris was piled upon it. The little room
was like the stoke-hole of a steamer and the sweat
ran down the faces of the two men; but still the one
stooped and worked, while the other sat watching him
with a set face. A thick, fat smoke oozed out from
the fire, and a heavy smell of burned rosin and
singed hair filled the air. In a quarter of an hour
a few charred and brittle sticks were all that was
left of Lot No. 249.
"Perhaps that will satisfy you," snarled
Bellingham, with hate and fear in his little grey
eyes as he glanced back at his tormenter.
"No; I must make a clean sweep of all your
materials. We must have no more devil's tricks. In
with all these leaves! They may have something to do
with it."
"And what now?" asked Bellingham, when the leaves
also had been added to the blaze.
"Now the roll of papyrus which you had on the
table that night. It is in that drawer, I think."
"No, no," shouted Bellingham. "Don't burn that!
Why, man, you don't know what you do. It is unique;
it contains wisdom which is nowhere else to be
"Out with it!"
"But look here, Smith, you can't really mean it.
I'll share the knowledge with you. I'll teach you
all that is in it. Or, stay, let me only copy it
before you burn it!"
Smith stepped forward and turned the key in the
drawer. Taking out the yellow, curled roll of paper,
he threw it into the fire, and pressed it down with
his heel. Bellingham screamed, and grabbed at it;
but Smith pushed him back, and stood over it until it
was reduced to a formless grey ash.
"Now, Master B.," said he, "I think I have
pretty well drawn your teeth. You'll hear from
me again, if you return to your old tricks. And now
good-morning, for I must go back to my studies."
And such is the narrative of Abercrombie Smith as
to the singular events which occurred in Old College,
Oxford, in the spring of '84. As Bellingham left the
university immediately afterwards, and was last heard
of in the Soudan, there is no one who can contradict
his statement. But the wisdom of men is small, and
the ways of nature are strange, and who shall put a
bound to the dark things which may be found by those
who seek for them?
I used to be the leading practitioner of Los
Amigos. Of course, everyone has heard of the great
electrical generating gear there. The town is wide
spread, and there are dozens of little townlets and
villages all round, which receive their supply from
the same centre, so that the works are on a very
large scale. The Los Amigos folk say that they are
the largest upon earth, but then we claim that for
everything in Los Amigos except the gaol and the
death-rate. Those are said to be the smallest.
Now, with so fine an electrical supply, it seemed
to be a sinful waste of hemp that the Los Amigos
criminals should perish in the old-fashioned manner.
And then came the news of the eleotrocutions in the
East, and how the results had not after all been so
instantaneous as had been hoped. The Western
Engineers raised their eyebrows when they read of the
puny shocks by which these men had perished, and they
vowed in Los Amigos that when an irreclaimable came
their way he should be dealt handsomely by,
and have the run of all the big dynamos. There
should be no reserve, said the engineers, but he
should have all that they had got. And what the
result of that would be none could predict, save that
it must be absolutely blasting and deadly. Never
before had a man been so charged with electricity as
they would charge him. He was to be smitten by the
essence of ten thunderbolts. Some prophesied
combustion, and some disintegration and
disappearance. They were waiting eagerly to settle
the question by actual demonstration, and it was just
at that moment that Duncan Warner came that way.
Warner had been wanted by the law, and by nobody
else, for many years. Desperado, murderer, train
robber and road agent, he was a man beyond the pale
of human pity. He had deserved a dozen deaths, and
the Los Amigos folk grudged him so gaudy a one as
that. He seemed to feel himself to be unworthy of
it, for he made two frenzied attempts at escape. He
was a powerful, muscular man, with a lion head,
tangled black locks, and a sweeping beard which
covered his broad chest. When he was tried, there
was no finer head in all the crowded court. It's no
new thing to find the best face looking from the
dock. But his good looks could not balance his bad
deeds. His advocate did all he knew, but the
cards lay against him, and Duncan Warner was
handed over to the mercy of the big Los Amigos
I was there at the committee meeting when the
matter was discussed. The town council had chosen
four experts to look after the arrangements. Three
of them were admirable. There was Joseph M`Conner,
the very man who had designed the dynamos, and there
was Joshua Westmacott, the chairman of the Los Amigos
Electrical Supply Company, Limited. Then there was
myself as the chief medical man, and lastly an old
German of the name of Peter Stulpnagel. The Germans
were a strong body at Los Amigos, and they all voted
for their man. That was how he got on the committee.
It was said that he had been a wonderful electrician
at home, and he was eternally working with wires and
insulators and Leyden jars; but, as he never seemed
to get any further, or to have any results worth
publishing he came at last to be regarded as a
harmless crank, who had made science his hobby. We
three practical men smiled when we heard that he had
been elected as our colleague, and at the meeting we
fixed it all up very nicely among ourselves without
much thought of the old fellow who sat with his ears
scooped forward in his hands, for he was a trifle
hard of hearing, taking no more part in the
proceedings than the gentlemen of the press who
scribbled their notes on the back benches.
We did not take long to settle it all. In New
York a strength of some two thousand volts had been
used, and death had not been instantaneous.
Evidently their shock had been too weak. Los Amigos
should not fall into that error. The charge should
be six times greater, and therefore, of course, it
would be six times more effective. Nothing could
possibly be more logical. The whole concentrated
force of the great dynamos should be employed on
Duncan Warner.
So we three settled it, and had already risen to
break up the meeting, when our silent companion
opened his month for the first time.
"Gentlemen," said he, "you appear to me to show
an extraordinary ignorance upon the subject of
electricity. You have not mastered the first
principles of its actions upon a human being."
The committee was about to break into an angry
reply to this brusque comment, but the chairman of
the Electrical Company tapped his forehead to claim
its indulgence for the crankiness of the speaker.
"Pray tell us, sir," said he, with an ironical
smile, "what is there in our conclusions with which
you find fault?"
"With your assumption that a large dose of
electricity will merely increase the effect of a
small dose. Do you not think it possible that it
might have an entirely different result? Do you know
anything, by actual experiment, of the effect of such
powerful shocks?"
"We know it by analogy," said the chairman,
pompously. "All drugs increase their effect when
they increase their dose; for example--for
"Whisky," said Joseph M`Connor.
"Quite so. Whisky. You see it there."
Peter Stulpnagel smiled and shook his head.
"Your argument is not very good," said he. "When
I used to take whisky, I used to find that one glass
would excite me, but that six would send me to sleep,
which is just the opposite. Now, suppose that
electricity were to act in just the opposite way
also, what then?"
We three practical men burst out laughing. We
had known that our colleague was queer, but we never
had thought that he would be as queer as this.
"What then?" repeated Philip Stulpnagel.
"We'll take our chances," said the chairman.
"Pray consider," said Peter, "that workmen who
have touched the wires, and who have received shocks
of only a few hundred volts, have died instantly.
The fact is well known. And yet when a much greater
force was used upon a criminal at New York, the
man struggled for some little time. Do you not
clearly see that the smaller dose is the more
"I think, gentlemen, that this discussion has
been carried on quite long enough," said the
chairman, rising again. "The point, I take it, has
already been decided by the majority of the
committee, and Duncan Warner shall be electrocuted on
Tuesday by the full strength of the Los Amigos
dynamos. Is it not so?"
"I agree," said Joseph M`Connor.
"I agree," said I.
"And I protest," said Peter Stulpnagel.
"Then the motion is carried, and your protest
will be duly entered in the minutes," said the
chairman, and so the sitting was dissolved.
The attendance at the electrocution was a very
small one. We four members of the committee were, of
course, present with the executioner, who was to act
under their orders. The others were the United
States Marshal, the governor of the gaol, the
chaplain, and three members of the press. The room
was a small brick chamber, forming an outhouse to the
Central Electrical station. It had been used as a
laundry, and had an oven and copper at one side, but
no other furniture save a single chair for the
condemned man. A metal plate for his feet was placed
in front of it, to which ran a thick, insulated wire.
Above, another wire depended from the ceiling,
which could be connected with a small metallic rod
projecting from a cap which was to be placed upon his
head. When this connection was established Duncan
Warner's hour was come.
There was a solemn hush as we waited for the
coming of the prisoner. The practical engineers
looked a little pale, and fidgeted nervously with the
wires. Even the hardened Marshal was ill at ease,
for a mere hanging was one thing, and this blasting
of flesh and blood a very different one. As to the
pressmen, their faces were whiter than the sheets
which lay before them. The only man who appeared to
feel none of the influence of these preparations was
the little German crank, who strolled from one to the
other with a smile on his lips and mischief in his
eyes. More than once he even went so far as to burst
into a shout of laughter, until the chaplain sternly
rebuked him for his ill-timed levity.
"How can you so far forget yourself, Mr.
Stulpnagel," said he, "as to jest in the presence of
But the German was quite unabashed.
"If I were in the presence of death I should not
jest," said he, "but since I am not I may do what I
This flippant reply was about to draw another and
a sterner reproof from the chaplain, when the
door was swung open and two warders entered
leading Duncan Warner between them. He glanced round
him with a set face, stepped resolutely forward, and
seated himself upon the chair.
"Touch her off!" said he.
It was barbarous to keep him in suspense. The
chaplain murmured a few words in his ear, the
attendant placed the cap upon his head, and then,
while we all held our breath, the wire and the metal
were brought in contact.
"Great Scott!" shouted Duncan Warner.
He had bounded in his chair as the frightful
shock crashed through his system. But he was not
dead. On the contrary, his eyes gleamed far more
brightly than they had done before. There was only
one change, but it was a singular one. The black had
passed from his hair and beard as the shadow passes
from a landscape. They were both as white as snow.
And yet there was no other sign of decay. His skin
was smooth and plump and lustrous as a child's.
The Marshal looked at the committee with a
reproachful eye.
"There seems to be some hitch here, gentlemen,"
said he.
We three practical men looked at each other.
Peter Stulpnagel smiled pensively.
"I think that another one should do it," said I.
Again the connection was made, and again Duncan
Warner sprang in his chair and shouted, but, indeed,
were it not that he still remained in the chair none
of us would have recognised him. His hair and his
beard had shredded off in an instant, and the room
looked like a barber's shop on a Saturday night.
There he sat, his eyes still shining, his skin
radiant with the glow of perfect health, but with a
scalp as bald as a Dutch cheese, and a chin without
so much as a trace of down. He began to revolve one
of his arms, slowly and doubtfully at first, but with
more confidence as he went on.
"That jint," said he, "has puzzled half the
doctors on the Pacific Slope. It's as good as new,
and as limber as a hickory twig."
"You are feeling pretty well?" asked the old
"Never better in my life," said Duncan Warner
The situation was a painful one. The Marshal
glared at the committee. Peter Stulpnagel grinned
and rubbed his hands. The engineers scratched their
heads. The bald-headed prisoner revolved his arm and
looked pleased.
"I think that one more shock----" began the
"No, sir," said the Marshal "we've had foolery
enough for one morning. We are here for an
execution, and a execution we'll have."
"What do you propose?"
"There's a hook handy upon the ceiling. Fetch in
a rope, and we'll soon set this matter straight."
There was another awkward delay while the warders
departed for the cord. Peter Stulpnagel bent over
Duncan Warner, and whispered something in his ear.
The desperado started in surprise.
"You don't say?" he asked.
The German nodded.
"What! Noways?"
Peter shook his head, and the two began to laugh
as though they shared some huge joke between them.
The rope was brought, and the Marshal himself
slipped the noose over the criminal's neck. Then the
two warders, the assistant and he swung their victim
into the air. For half an hour he hung--a dreadful
sight--from the ceiling. Then in solemn silence they
lowered him down, and one of the warders went out to
order the shell to be brought round. But as he
touched ground again what was our amazement when
Duncan Warner put his hands up to his neck, loosened
the noose, and took a long, deep breath.
"Paul Jefferson's sale is goin' well," he
remarked, "I could see the crowd from up
yonder," and he nodded at the hook in the ceiling.
"Up with him again!" shouted the Marshal, "we'll
get the life out of him somehow."
In an instant the victim was up at the hook once
They kept him there for an hour, but when he came
down he was perfectly garrulous.
"Old man Plunket goes too much to the Arcady
Saloon," said he. "Three times he's been there in an
hour; and him with a family. Old man Plunket would
do well to swear off."
It was monstrous and incredible, but there it
was. There was no getting round it. The man was
there talking when he ought to have been dead. We
all sat staring in amazement, but United States
Marshal Carpenter was not a man to be euchred so
easily. He motioned the others to one side, so that
the prisoner was left standing alone.
"Duncan Warner," said he, slowly, "you are here
to play your part, and I am here to play mine. Your
game is to live if you can, and my game is to carry
out the sentence of the law. You've beat us on
electricity. I'll give you one there. And you've
beat us on hanging, for you seem to thrive on it.
But it's my turn to beat you now, for my duty has to
be done."
He pulled a six-shooter from his coat as he
spoke, and fired all the shots through the body
of the prisoner. The room was so filled with smoke
that we could see nothing, but when it cleared the
prisoner was still standing there, looking down in
disgust at the front of his coat.
"Coats must be cheap where you come from," said
he. "Thirty dollars it cost me, and look at it now.
The six holes in front are bad enough, but four of
the balls have passed out, and a pretty state the
back must be in."
The Marshal's revolver fell from his hand, and he
dropped his arms to his sides, a beaten man.
"Maybe some of you gentlemen can tell me what
this means," said he, looking helplessly at the
Peter Stulpnagel took a step forward.
"I'll tell you all about it," said he.
"You seem to be the only person who knows
"I AM the only person who knows anything. I
should have warned these gentlemen; but, as they
would not listen to me, I have allowed them to learn
by experience. What you have done with your
electricity is that you have increased this man's
vitality until he can defy death for centuries."
"Yes, it will take the wear of hundreds of years
to exhaust the enormous nervous energy with
which you have drenched him. Electricity is life,
and you have charged him with it to the utmost.
Perhaps in fifty years you might execute him, but I
am not sanguine about it."
"Great Scott! What shall I do with him?" cried
the unhappy Marshal.
Peter Stulpnagel shrugged his shoulders.
"It seems to me that it does not much matter what
you do with him now," said he.
"Maybe we could drain the electricity out of him
again. Suppose we hang him up by the heels?"
"No, no, it's out of the question."
"Well, well, he shall do no more mischief in Los
Amigos, anyhow," said the Marshal, with decision.
"He shall go into the new gaol. The prison will wear
him out."
"On the contrary," said Peter Stulpnagel, "I
think that it is much more probable that he will wear
out the prison."
It was rather a fiasco and for years we didn't
talk more about it than we could help, but it's no
secret now and I thought you might like to jot down
the facts in your case-book.
Dr. James Ripley was always looked upon as an
exceedingly lucky dog by all of the profession who
knew him. His father had preceded him in a practice
in the village of Hoyland, in the north of Hampshire,
and all was ready for him on the very first day that
the law allowed him to put his name at the foot of a
prescription. In a few years the old gentleman
retired, and settled on the South Coast, leaving his
son in undisputed possession of the whole country
side. Save for Dr. Horton, near Basingstoke, the
young surgeon had a clear run of six miles in every
direction, and took his fifteen hundred pounds a
year, though, as is usual in country practices, the
stable swallowed up most of what the consulting-room
Dr. James Ripley was two-and-thirty years of age,
reserved, learned, unmarried, with set, rather stern
features, and a thinning of the dark hair upon the
top of his head, which was worth quite a hundred a
year to him. He was particularly happy in
his management of ladies. He had caught the tone of
bland sternness and decisive suavity which dominates
without offending. Ladies, however, were not equally
happy in their management of him. Professionally, he
was always at their service. Socially, he was a drop
of quicksilver. In vain the country mammas spread
out their simple lures in front of him. Dances and
picnics were not to his taste, and he preferred
during his scanty leisure to shut himself up in his
study, and to bury himself in Virchow's Archives and
the professional journals.
Study was a passion with him, and he would have
none of the rust which often gathers round a country
practitioner. It was his ambition to keep his
knowledge as fresh and bright as at the moment when
he had stepped out of the examination hall. He
prided himself on being able at a moment's notice to
rattle off the seven ramifications of some obscure
artery, or to give the exact percentage of any
physiological compound. After a long day's work he
would sit up half the night performing iridectomies
and extractions upon the sheep's eyes sent in by the
village butcher, to the horror of his housekeeper,
who had to remove the debris next morning. His
love for his work was the one fanaticism which found
a place in his dry, precise nature.
It was the more to his credit that he should
keep up to date in his knowledge, since he had
no competition to force him to exertion. In the
seven years during which he had practised in Hoyland
three rivals had pitted themselves against him, two
in the village itself and one in the neighbouring
hamlet of Lower Hoyland. Of these one had sickened
and wasted, being, as it was said, himself the only
patient whom he had treated during his eighteen
months of ruralising. A second had bought a fourth
share of a Basingstoke practice, and had departed
honourably, while a third had vanished one September
night, leaving a gutted house and an unpaid drug bill
behind him. Since then the district had become a
monopoly, and no one had dared to measure himself
against the established fame of the Hoyland doctor.
It was, then, with a feeling of some surprise and
considerable curiosity that on driving through Lower
Hoyland one morning he perceived that the new house
at the end of the village was occupied, and that a
virgin brass plate glistened upon the swinging gate
which faced the high road. He pulled up his fifty
guinea chestnut mare and took a good look at it.
"Verrinder Smith, M. D.," was printed across it in
very neat, small lettering. The last man had had
letters half a foot long, with a lamp like a firestation.
Dr. James Ripley noted the difference, and
deduced from it that the new-comer might
possibly prove a more formidable opponent. He was
convinced of it that evening when he came to consult
the current medical directory. By it he learned that
Dr. Verrinder Smith was the holder of superb degrees,
that he had studied with distinction at Edinburgh,
Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and finally that he had
been awarded a gold medal and the Lee Hopkins
scholarship for original research, in recognition of
an exhaustive inquiry into the functions of the
anterior spinal nerve roots. Dr. Ripley passed his
fingers through his thin hair in bewilderment as he
read his rival's record. What on earth could so
brilliant a man mean by putting up his plate in a
little Hampshire hamlet.
But Dr. Ripley furnished himself with an
explanation to the riddle. No doubt Dr. Verrinder
Smith had simply come down there in order to pursue
some scientific research in peace and quiet. The
plate was up as an address rather than as an
invitation to patients. Of course, that must be the
true explanation. In that case the presence of this
brilliant neighbour would be a splendid thing for his
own studies. He had often longed for some kindred
mind, some steel on which he might strike his flint.
Chance had brought it to him, and he rejoiced
And this joy it was which led him to take a step
which was quite at variance with his usual
habits. It is the custom for a new-comer among
medical men to call first upon the older, and the
etiquette upon the subject is strict. Dr. Ripley was
pedantically exact on such points, and yet he
deliberately drove over next day and called upon Dr.
Verrinder Smith. Such a waiving of ceremony was, he
felt, a gracious act upon his part, and a fit prelude
to the intimate relations which he hoped to establish
with his neighbour.
The house was neat and well appointed, and Dr.
Ripley was shown by a smart maid into a dapper little
consulting room. As he passed in he noticed two or
three parasols and a lady's sun bonnet hanging in the
hall. It was a pity that his colleague should be a
married man. It would put them upon a different
footing, and interfere with those long evenings of
high scientific talk which he had pictured to
himself. On the other hand, there was much in the
consulting room to please him. Elaborate
instruments, seen more often in hospitals than in the
houses of private practitioners, were scattered
about. A sphygmograph stood upon the table and a
gasometer-like engine, which was new to Dr. Ripley,
in the corner. A book-case full of ponderous volumes
in French and German, paper-covered for the most
part, and varying in tint from the shell to the yoke
of a duck's egg, caught his wandering eyes, and he
was deeply absorbed in their titles when the
door opened suddenly behind him. Turning round, he
found himself facing a little woman, whose plain,
palish face was remarkable only for a pair of shrewd,
humorous eyes of a blue which had two shades too much
green in it. She held a pince-nez in her left
hand, and the doctor's card in her right.
"How do you do, Dr. Ripley? " said she.
"How do you do, madam?" returned the visitor.
"Your husband is perhaps out?"
"I am not married," said she simply.
"Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor--Dr.
Verrinder Smith."
"I am Dr. Verrinder Smith."
Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his
hat and forgot to pick it up again.
"What!" he grasped, "the Lee Hopkins prizeman!
He had never seen a woman doctor before, and his
whole conservative soul rose up in revolt at the
idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction
that the man should remain ever the doctor and the
woman the nurse, and yet he felt as if a blasphemy
had been committed. His face betrayed his feelings
only too clearly.
"I am sorry to disappoint you," said the lady
"You certainly have surprised me," he answered,
picking up his hat.
"You are not among our champions, then?"
"I cannot say that the movement has my approval."
"And why?"
"I should much prefer not to discuss it."
"But I am sure you will answer a lady's
"Ladies are in danger of losing their privileges
when they usurp the place of the other sex. They
cannot claim both."
"Why should a woman not earn her bread by her
Dr. Ripley felt irritated by the quiet manner in
which the lady cross-questioned him.
"I should much prefer not to be led into a
discussion, Miss Smith."
"Dr. Smith," she interrupted.
"Well, Dr. Smith! But if you insist upon an
answer, I must say that I do not think medicine a
suitable profession for women and that I have a
personal objection to masculine ladies."
It was an exceedingly rude speech, and he was
ashamed of it the instant after he had made it. The
lady, however, simply raised her eyebrows and smiled.
"It seems to me that you are begging the
question," said she. "Of course, if it makes women
masculine that WOULD be a considerable
It was a neat little counter, and Dr. Ripley,
like a pinked fencer, bowed his acknowledgment.
"I must go," said he.
"I am sorry that we cannot come to some more
friendly conclusion since we are to be neighbours,"
she remarked.
He bowed again, and took a step towards the door.
"It was a singular coincidence," she continued,
"that at the instant that you called I was reading
your paper on `Locomotor Ataxia,' in the Lancet."
"Indeed," said he drily.
"I thought it was a very able monograph."
"You are very good."
"But the views which you attribute to Professor
Pitres, of Bordeaux, have been repudiated by him."
"I have his pamphlet of 1890," said Dr. Ripley
"Here is his pamphlet of 1891." She picked it
from among a litter of periodicals. "If you have
time to glance your eye down this passage----"
Dr. Ripley took it from her and shot rapidly
through the paragraph which she indicated. There was
no denying that it completely knocked the bottom out
of his own article. He threw it down, and with
another frigid bow he made for the door. As he took
the reins from the groom he glanced round and
saw that the lady was standing at her window, and it
seemed to him that she was laughing heartily.
All day the memory of this interview haunted him.
He felt that he had come very badly out of it. She
had showed herself to be his superior on his own pet
subject. She had been courteous while he had been
rude, self-possessed when he had been angry. And
then, above all, there was her presence, her
monstrous intrusion to rankle in his mind. A woman
doctor had been an abstract thing before, repugnant
but distant. Now she was there in actual practice,
with a brass plate up just like his own, competing
for the same patients. Not that he feared
competition, but he objected to this lowering of his
ideal of womanhood. She could not be more than
thirty, and had a bright, mobile face, too. He
thought of her humorous eyes, and of her strong,
well-turned chin. It revolted him the more to recall
the details of her education. A man, of course.
could come through such an ordeal with all his
purity, but it was nothing short of shameless in a
But it was not long before he learned that even
her competition was a thing to be feared. The
novelty of her presence had brought a few curious
invalids into her consulting rooms, and, once there,
they had been so impressed by the firmness of her
manner and by the singular, new-fashioned
instruments with which she tapped, and peered,
and sounded, that it formed the core of their
conversation for weeks afterwards. And soon there
were tangible proofs of her powers upon the country
side. Farmer Eyton, whose callous ulcer had been
quietly spreading over his shin for years back under
a gentle regime of zinc ointment, was painted
round with blistering fluid, and found, after three
blasphemous nights, that his sore was stimulated into
healing. Mrs. Crowder, who had always regarded the
birthmark upon her second daughter Eliza as a sign of
the indignation of the Creator at a third helping of
raspberry tart which she had partaken of during a
critical period, learned that, with the help of two
galvanic needles, the mischief was not irreparable.
In a month Dr. Verrinder Smith was known, and in two
she was famous.
Occasionally, Dr. Ripley met her as he drove upon
his rounds. She had started a high dogcart, taking
the reins herself, with a little tiger behind. When
they met he invariably raised his hat with
punctilious politeness, but the grim severity of his
face showed how formal was the courtesy. In fact,
his dislike was rapidly deepening into absolute
detestation. "The unsexed woman," was the
description of her which he permitted himself to give
to those of his patients who still remained staunch.
But, indeed, they were a rapidly-decreasing
body, and every day his pride was galled by the news
of some fresh defection. The lady had somehow
impressed the country folk with almost superstitious
belief in her power, and from far and near they
flocked to her consulting room.
But what galled him most of all was, when she did
something which he had pronounced to be
impracticable. For all his knowledge he lacked nerve
as an operator, and usually sent his worst cases up
to London. The lady, however, had no weakness of the
sort, and took everything that came in her way. It
was agony to him to hear that she was about to
straighten little Alec Turner's club foot, and right
at the fringe of the rumour came a note from his
mother, the rector's wife, asking him if he would be
so good as to act as chloroformist. It would be
inhumanity to refuse, as there was no other who could
take the place, but it was gall and wormwood to his
sensitive nature. Yet, in spite of his vexation, he
could not but admire the dexterity with which the
thing was done. She handled the little wax-like foot
so gently, and held the tiny tenotomy knife as an
artist holds his pencil. One straight insertion, one
snick of a tendon, and it was all over without a
stain upon the white towel which lay beneath. He had
never seen anything more masterly, and he had the
honesty to say so, though her skill increased his
dislike of her. The operation spread her fame
still further at his expense, and self-preservation
was added to his other grounds for detesting her.
And this very detestation it was which brought
matters to a curious climax.
One winter's night, just as he was rising from
his lonely dinner, a groom came riding down from
Squire Faircastle's, the richest man in the district,
to say that his daughter had scalded her hand, and
that medical help was needed on the instant. The
coachman had ridden for the lady doctor, for it
mattered nothing to the Squire who came as long as it
were speedily. Dr. Ripley rushed from his surgery
with the determination that she should not effect an
entrance into this stronghold of his if hard driving
on his part could prevent it. He did not even wait
to light his lamps, but sprang into his gig and flew
off as fast as hoof could rattle. He lived rather
nearer to the Squire's than she did, and was
convinced that he could get there well before her.
And so he would but for that whimsical element of
chance, which will for ever muddle up the affairs of
this world and dumbfound the prophets. Whether it
came from the want of his lights, or from his mind
being full of the thoughts of his rival, he allowed
too little by half a foot in taking the sharp turn
upon the Basingstoke road. The empty trap and the
frightened horse clattered away into the
darkness, while the Squire's groom crawled out of the
ditch into which he had been shot. He struck a
match, looked down at his groaning companion, and
then, after the fashion of rough, strong men when
they see what they have not seen before, he was very
The doctor raised himself a little on his elbow
in the glint of the match. He caught a glimpse of
something white and sharp bristling through his
trouser leg half way down the shin.
"Compound!" he groaned. "A three months' job,"
and fainted.
When he came to himself the groom was gone, for
he had scudded off to the Squire's house for help,
but a small page was holding a gig-lamp in front of
his injured leg, and a woman, with an open case of
polished instruments gleaming in the yellow light,
was deftly slitting up his trouser with a crooked
pair of scissors.
"It's all right, doctor," said she soothingly.
"I am so sorry about it. You can have Dr. Horton tomorrow,
but I am sure you will allow me to help you
to-night. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw
you by the roadside."
"The groom has gone for help," groaned the
"When it comes we can move you into the gig. A
little more light, John! So! Ah, dear, dear, we
shall have laceration unless we reduce this
before we move you. Allow me to give you a whiff of
chloroform, and I have no doubt that I can secure it
sufficiently to----"
Dr. Ripley never heard the end of that sentence.
He tried to raise a hand and to murmur something in
protest, but a sweet smell was in his nostrils, and a
sense of rich peace and lethargy stole over his
jangled nerves. Down he sank, through clear, cool
water, ever down and down into the green shadows
beneath, gently, without effort, while the pleasant
chiming of a great belfry rose and fell in his ears.
Then he rose again, up and up, and ever up, with a
terrible tightness about his temples, until at last
he shot out of those green shadows and was in the
light once more. Two bright, shining, golden spots
gleamed before his dazed eyes. He blinked and
blinked before he could give a name to them. They
were only the two brass balls at the end posts of his
bed, and he was lying in his own little room, with a
head like a cannon ball, and a leg like an iron bar.
Turning his eyes, he saw the calm face of Dr.
Verrinder Smith looking down at him.
"Ah, at last!" said she. "I kept you under all
the way home, for I knew how painful the jolting
would be. It is in good position now with a strong
side splint. I have ordered a morphia draught for
you. Shall I tell your groom to ride for Dr. Horton
in the morning?"
"I should prefer that you should continue the
case," said Dr. Ripley feebly, and then, with a half
hysterical laugh,--"You have all the rest of the
parish as patients, you know, so you may as well make
the thing complete by having me also."
It was not a very gracious speech, but it was a
look of pity and not of anger which shone in her eyes
as she turned away from his bedside.
Dr. Ripley had a brother, William, who was
assistant surgeon at a London hospital, and who was
down in Hampshire within a few hours of his hearing
of the accident. He raised his brows when he heard
the details.
"What! You are pestered with one of those!" he
"I don't know what I should have done without
I've no doubt she's an excellent nurse."
"She knows her work as well as you or I."
"Speak for yourself, James," said the London man
with a sniff. "But apart from that, you know that
the principle of the thing is all wrong."
"You think there is nothing to be said on the
other side?"
"Good heavens! do you?"
"Well, I don't know. It struck me during
the night that we may have been a little narrow
in our views."
"Nonsense, James. It's all very fine for women
to win prizes in the lecture room, but you know as
well as I do that they are no use in an emergency.
Now I warrant that this woman was all nerves when she
was setting your leg. That reminds me that I had
better just take a look at it and see that it is all
"I would rather that you did not undo it," said
the patient. "I have her assurance that it is all
Brother William was deeply shocked.
"Of course, if a woman's assurance is of more
value than the opinion of the assistant surgeon of a
London hospital, there is nothing more to be said," he remarked.
"I should prefer that you did not touch it," said
the patient firmly, and Dr. William went back to
London that evening in a huff.
The lady, who had heard of his coming, was much
surprised on learning his departure.
"We had a difference upon a point of professional
etiquette," said Dr. James, and it was all the
explanation he would vouchsafe.
For two long months Dr. Ripley was brought in
contact with his rival every day, and he learned many
things which he had not known before. She was a
charming companion, as well as a most assiduous
doctor. Her short presence during the long, weary
day was like a flower in a sand waste. What
interested him was precisely what interested her, and
she could meet him at every point upon equal terms.
And yet under all her learning and her firmness ran a
sweet, womanly nature, peeping out in her talk,
shining in her greenish eyes, showing itself in a
thousand subtle ways which the dullest of men could
read. And he, though a bit of a prig and a pedant,
was by no means dull, and had honesty enough to
confess when he was in the wrong.
"I don't know how to apologise to you," he said
in his shame-faced fashion one day, when he had
progressed so far as to be able to sit in an armchair
with his leg upon another one; "I feel that I
have been quite in the wrong."
"Why, then?"
"Over this woman question. I used to think that
a woman must inevitably lose something of her charm
if she took up such studies."
"Oh, you don't think they are necessarily
unsexed, then?" she cried, with a mischievous smile.
"Please don't recall my idiotic expression."
"I feel so pleased that I should have helped in
changing your views. I think that it is the most
sincere compliment that I have ever had paid me."
"At any rate, it is the truth," said he, and was
happy all night at the remembrance of the flush of
pleasure which made her pale face look quite comely
for the instant.
For, indeed, he was already far past the stage
when he would acknowledge her as the equal of any
other woman. Already he could not disguise from
himself that she had become the one woman. Her
dainty skill, her gentle touch, her sweet presence,
the community of their tastes, had all united to
hopelessly upset his previous opinions. It was a
dark day for him now when his convalescence allowed
her to miss a visit, and darker still that other one
which he saw approaching when all occasion for her
visits would be at an end. It came round at last,
however, and he felt that his whole life's fortune
would hang upon the issue of that final interview.
He was a direct man by nature, so he laid his hand
upon hers as it felt for his pulse, and he asked her
if she would be his wife.
"What, and unite the practices?" said she.
He started in pain and anger.
"Surely you do not attribute any such base motive
to me!" he cried. "I love you as unselfishly as ever
a woman was loved."
"No, I was wrong. It was a foolish speech," said
she, moving her chair a little back, and tapping her
stethoscope upon her knee. "Forget that I ever
said it. I am so sorry to cause you any
disappointment, and I appreciate most highly the
honour which you do me, but what you ask is quite
With another woman he might have urged the point,
but his instincts told him that it was quite useless
with this one. Her tone of voice was conclusive. He
said nothing, but leaned back in his chair a stricken
"I am so sorry," she said again. "If I had known
what was passing in your mind I should have told you
earlier that I intended to devote my life entirely to
science. There are many women with a capacity for
marriage, but few with a taste for biology. I will
remain true to my own line, then. I came down here
while waiting for an opening in the Paris
Physiological Laboratory. I have just heard that
there is a vacancy for me there, and so you will be
troubled no more by my intrusion upon your practice.
I have done you an injustice just as you did me one.
I thought you narrow and pedantic, with no good
quality. I have learned during your illness to
appreciate you better, and the recollection of our
friendship will always be a very pleasant one to me."
And so it came about that in a very few weeks
there was only one doctor in Hoyland. But folks
noticed that the one had aged many years in a few
months, that a weary sadness lurked always in
the depths of his blue eyes, and that he was less
concerned than ever with the eligible young ladies
whom chance, or their careful country mammas, placed
in his way.
"Men die of the diseases which they have studied
most," remarked the surgeon, snipping off the end of
a cigar with all his professional neatness and
finish. "It's as if the morbid condition was an evil
creature which, when it found itself closely hunted,
flew at the throat of its pursuer. If you worry the
microbes too much they may worry you. I've seen
cases of it, and not necessarily in microbic diseases
either. There was, of course, the well-known
instance of Liston and the aneurism; and a dozen
others that I could mention. You couldn't have a
clearer case than that of poor old Walker of St.
Christopher's. Not heard of it? Well, of course, it
was a little before your time, but I wonder that it
should have been forgotten. You youngsters are so
busy in keeping up to the day that you lose a good
deal that is interesting of yesterday.
"Walker was one of the best men in Europe on
nervous disease. You must have read his little book
on sclerosis of the posterior columns.
It's as interesting as a novel, and epoch-making
in its way. He worked like a horse, did Walker--huge
consulting practice--hours a day in the clinical
wards--constant original investigations. And then he
enjoyed himself also. `De mortuis,' of course,
but still it's an open secret among all who knew him.
If he died at forty-five, he crammed eighty years
into it. The marvel was that he could have held on
so long at the pace at which he was going. But he
took it beautifully when it came.
"I was his clinical assistant at the time.
Walker was lecturing on locomotor ataxia to a wardful
of youngsters. He was explaining that one of the
early signs of the complaint was that the patient
could not put his heels together with his eyes shut
without staggering. As he spoke, he suited the
action to the word. I don't suppose the boys noticed
anything. I did, and so did he, though he finished
his lecture without a sign.
"When it was over he came into my room and lit a
"`Just run over my reflexes, Smith,' said he.
"There was hardly a trace of them left. I tapped
away at his knee-tendon and might as well have tried
to get a jerk out of that sofa-cushion. He stood
with his eyes shut again, and he swayed like a bush
in the wind.
"`So,' said he, `it was not intercostal neuralgia
after all.'
"Then I knew that he had had the lightning pains,
and that the case was complete. There was nothing to
say, so I sat looking at him while he puffed and
puffed at his cigarette. Here he was, a man in the
prime of life, one of the handsomest men in London,
with money, fame, social success, everything at his
feet, and now, without a moment's warning, he was
told that inevitable death lay before him, a death
accompanied by more refined and lingering tortures
than if he were bound upon a Red Indian stake. He
sat in the middle of the blue cigarette cloud with
his eyes cast down, and the slightest little
tightening of his lips. Then he rose with a motion
of his arms, as one who throws off old thoughts and
enters upon a new course.
"`Better put this thing straight at once,' said
he. `I must make some fresh arrangements. May I use
your paper and envelopes?'
"He settled himself at my desk and he wrote half
a dozen letters. It is not a breach of confidence to
say that they were not addressed to his professional
brothers. Walker was a single man, which means that
he was not restricted to a single woman. When he had
finished, he walked out of that little room of mine,
leaving every hope and ambition of his life behind
him. And he might have had another year of
ignorance and peace if it had not been for the chance
illustration in his lecture.
"It took five years to kill him, and he stood it
well. If he had ever been a little irregular he
atoned for it in that long martyrdom. He kept an
admirable record of his own symptoms, and worked out
the eye changes more fully than has ever been done.
When the ptosis got very bad he would hold his eyelid
up with one hand while he wrote. Then, when he could
not co-ordinate his muscles to write, he dictated to
his nurse. So died, in the odour of science, James
Walker, aet. 45.
"Poor old Walker was very fond of experimental
surgery, and he broke ground in several directions.
Between ourselves, there may have been some more
ground-breaking afterwards, but he did his best for
his cases. You know M`Namara, don't you? He always
wears his hair long. He lets it be understood that
it comes from his artistic strain, but it is really
to conceal the loss of one of his ears. Walker cut
the other one off, but you must not tell Mac I said
"It was like this. Walker had a fad about the
portio dura--the motor to the face, you know--and he
thought paralysis of it came from a disturbance of
the blood supply. Something else which
counterbalanced that disturbance might, he
thought, set it right again. We had a very obstinate
case of Bell's paralysis in the wards, and had tried
it with every conceivable thing, blistering, tonics,
nerve-stretching, galvanism, needles, but all without
result. Walker got it into his head that removal of
the ear would increase the blood supply to the part,
and he very soon gained the consent of the patient to
the operation.
"Well, we did it at night. Walker, of course,
felt that it was something of an experiment, and did
not wish too much talk about it unless it proved
successful. There were half-a-dozen of us there,
M`Namara and I among the rest. The room was a small
one, and in the centre was in the narrow table, with
a macintosh over the pillow, and a blanket which
extended almost to the floor on either side. Two
candles, on a side-table near the pillow, supplied
all the light. In came the patient, with one side of
his face as smooth as a baby's, and the other all in
a quiver with fright. He lay down, and the
chloroform towel was placed over his face, while
Walker threaded his needles in the candle light. The
chloroformist stood at the head of the table, and
M`Namara was stationed at the side to control the
patient. The rest of us stood by to assist.
"Well, the man was about half over when he fell
into one of those convulsive flurries which come
with the semi-unconscious stage. He kicked and
plunged and struck out with both hands. Over with a
crash went the little table which held the candles,
and in an instant we were left in total darkness.
You can think what a rush and a scurry there was, one
to pick up the table, one to find the matches, and
some to restrain the patient who was still dashing
himself about. He was held down by two dressers, the
chloroform was pushed, and by the time the candles
were relit, his incoherent, half-smothered shoutings
had changed to a stertorous snore. His head was
turned on the pillow and the towel was still kept
over his face while the operation was carried
through. Then the towel was withdrawn, and you can
conceive our amazement when we looked upon the face
of M`Namara.
"How did it happen? Why, simply enough. As the
candles went over, the chloroformist had stopped for
an instant and had tried to catch them. The patient,
just as the light went out, had rolled off and under
the table. Poor M`Namara, clinging frantically to
him, had been dragged across it, and the
chloroformist, feeling him there, had naturally
claped the towel across his mouth and nose. The
others had secured him, and the more he roared and
kicked the more they drenched him with chloroform.
Walker was very nice about it, and made the most
handsome apologies. He offered to do a plastic
on the spot, and make as good an ear as he could, but
M`Namara had had enough of it. As to the patient, we
found him sleeping placidly under the table, with the
ends of the blanket screening him on both sides.
Walker sent M`Namara round his ear next day in a jar
of methylated spirit, but Mac's wife was very angry
about it, and it led to a good deal of ill-feeling.
"Some people say that the more one has to do with
human nature, and the closer one is brought in
contact with it, the less one thinks of it. I don't
believe that those who know most would uphold that
view. My own experience is dead against it. I was
brought up in the miserable-mortal-clay school of
theology, and yet here I am, after thirty years of
intimate acquaintance with humanity, filled with
respect for it. The, evil lies commonly upon the
surface. The deeper strata are good. A hundred
times I have seen folk condemned to death as suddenly
as poor Walker was. Sometimes it was to blindness or
to mutilations which are worse than death. Men and
women, they almost all took it beautifully, and some
with such lovely unselfishness, and with such
complete absorption in the thought of how their fate
would affect others, that the man about town, or the
frivolously-dressed woman has seemed to change into
an angel before my eyes. I have seen deathbeds,
too, of all ages and of all creeds and want of
creeds. I never saw any of them shrink, save only
one poor, imaginative young fellow, who had spent his
blameless life in the strictest of sects. Of course,
an exhausted frame is incapable of fear, as anyone
can vouch who is told, in the midst of his seasickness,
that the ship is going to the bottom. That
is why I rate courage in the face of mutilation to be
higher than courage when a wasting illness is fining
away into death.
"Now, I'll take a case which I had in my own
practice last Wednesday. A lady came in to consult
me--the wife of a well-known sporting baronet. The
husband had come with her, but remained, at her
request, in the waiting-room. I need not go into
details, but it proved to be a peculiarly malignant
case of cancer. `I knew it,' said she. `How long
have I to live?' `I fear that it may exhaust your
strength in a few months,' I answered. `Poor old
Jack!' said she. `I'll tell him that it is not
dangerous.' `Why should you deceive him?' I asked.
`Well, he's very uneasy about it, and he is quaking
now in the waiting-room. He has two old friends to
dinner to-night, and I haven't the heart to spoil his
evening. To-morrow will be time enough for him to
learn the truth.' Out she walked, the brave little
woman, and a moment later her husband, with his
big, red face shining with joy came plunging into my
room to shake me by the hand. No, I respected her
wish and I did not undeceive him. I dare bet that
evening was one of the brightest, and the next
morning the darkest, of his life.
"It's wonderful how bravely and cheerily a woman
can face a crushing blow. It is different with men.
A man can stand it without complaining, but it knocks
him dazed and silly all the same. But the woman does
not lose her wits any more than she does her courage.
Now, I had a case only a few weeks ago which would
show you what I mean. A gentleman consulted me about
his wife, a very beautiful woman. She had a small
tubercular nodule upon her upper arm, according to
him. He was sure that it was of no importance, but
he wanted to know whether Devonshire or the Riviera
would be the better for her. I examined her and found
a frightful sarcoma of the bone, hardly showing upon
the surface, but involving the shoulder-blade and
clavicle as well as the humerus. A more malignant
case I have never seen. I sent her out of the room
and I told him the truth. What did he do? Why, he
walked slowly round that room with his hands behind
his back, looking with the greatest interest at the
pictures. I can see him now, putting up his gold
pince-nez and staring at them with perfectly
vacant eyes, which told me that he saw neither them
nor the wall behind them. `Amputation of the arm?'
he asked at last. `And of the collar-bone and
shoulder-blade,' said I. `Quite so. The collar-bone
and shoulder-blade,' he repeated, still staring about
him with those lifeless eyes. It settled him. I
don't believe he'll ever be the same man again. But
the woman took it as bravely and brightly as could
be, and she has done very well since. The mischief
was so great that the arm snapped as we drew it from
the night-dress. No, I don't think that there will
be any return, and I have every hope of her recovery.
"The first patient is a thing which one remembers
all one's life. Mine was commonplace, and the
details are of no interest. I had a curious visitor,
however, during the first few months after my plate
went up. It was an elderly woman, richly dressed,
with a wickerwork picnic basket in her hand. This
she opened with the tears streaming down her face,
and out there waddled the fattest, ugliest, and
mangiest little pug dog that I have ever seen. `I
wish you to put him painlessly out of the world,
doctor,' she cried. `Quick, quick, or my resolution
may give way.' She flung herself down, with
hysterical sobs, upon the sofa. The less experienced
a doctor is, the higher are his notions of
professional dignity, as I need not remind you, my
young friend, so I was about to refuse the
commission with indignation, when I bethought me
that, quite apart from medicine, we were gentleman
and lady, and that she had asked me to do something
for her which was evidently of the greatest possible
importance in her eyes. I led off the poor little
doggie, therefore, and with the help of a saucerful
of milk and a few drops of prussic acid his exit was
as speedy and painless as could be desired. `Is it
over?' she cried as I entered. It was really tragic
to see how all the love which should have gone to
husband and children had, in default of them, been
centred upon this uncouth little animal. She left,
quite broken down, in her carriage, and it was only
after her departure that I saw an envelope sealed
with a large red seal, and lying upon the blotting
pad of my desk. Outside, in pencil, was written: `I
have no doubt that you would willingly have done this
without a fee, but I insist upon your acceptance of
the enclosed.' I opened it with some vague notions
of an eccentric millionaire and a fifty-pound note,
but all I found was a postal order for four and
sixpence. The whole incident struck me as so
whimsical that I laughed until I was tired. You'll
find there's so much tragedy in a doctor's life, my
boy, that he would not be able to stand it if it were
not for the strain of comedy which comes every now
and then to leaven it.
"And a doctor has very much to be thankful for
also. Don't you ever forget it. It is such a
pleasure to do a little good that a man should pay
for the privilege instead of being paid for it.
Still, of course, he has his home to keep up and his
wife and children to support. But his patients are
his friends--or they should be so. He goes from
house to house, and his step and his voice are loved
and welcomed in each. What could a man ask for more
than that? And besides, he is forced to be a good
man. It is impossible for him to be anything else.
How can a man spend his whole life in seeing
suffering bravely borne and yet remain a hard or a
vicious man? It is a noble, generous, kindly
profession, and you youngsters have got to see that
it remains so."

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