Round The Red Lamp
Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 5 out of 5
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
"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
"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
"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
"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 to-
"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
"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 second-
hand 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
"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?
THE LOS AMIGOS FIASCO.
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
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
"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
"There seems to be some hitch here, gentle-
men," 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
"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.
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
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
"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.
THE DOCTORS OF HOYLAND.
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 fire-
station. 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.
"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."
"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,"
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,"
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 to-
morrow, 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
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
"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
"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 arm-
chair with his leg upon another one; "I feel that I
have been quite in the wrong."
"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.
THE SURGEON TALKS.
"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
"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
"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
"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 death-
beds, 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 sea-
sickness, 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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