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- The Doctor's Dilemma - 2/24 -
A middle-aged gentleman, well dressed, comes in with a friendly but propitiatory air, not quite sure of his reception. His combination of soft manners and responsive kindliness, with a certain unseizable reserve and a familiar yet foreign chiselling of feature, reveal the Jew: in this instance the handsome gentlemanly Jew, gone a little pigeon-breasted and stale after thirty, as handsome young Jews often do, but still decidedly good-looking.
THE GENTLEMAN. Do you remember me? Schutzmacher. University College school and Belsize Avenue. Loony Schutzmacher, you know.
RIDGEON. What! Loony! [He shakes hands cordially]. Why, man, I thought you were dead long ago. Sit down. [Schutzmacher sits on the couch: Ridgeon on the chair between it and the window]. Where have you been these thirty years?
SCHUTZMACHER. In general practice, until a few months ago. I've retired.
RIDGEON. Well done, Loony! I wish I could afford to retire. Was your practice in London?
RIDGEON. Fashionable coast practice, I suppose.
SCHUTZMACHER. How could I afford to buy a fashionable practice? I hadnt a rap. I set up in a manufacturing town in the midlands in a little surgery at ten shillings a week.
RIDGEON. And made your fortune?
SCHUTZMACHER. Well, I'm pretty comfortable. I have a place in Hertfordshire besides our flat in town. If you ever want a quiet Saturday to Monday, I'll take you down in my motor at an hours notice.
RIDGEON. Just rolling in money! I wish you rich g.p.'s would teach me how to make some. Whats the secret of it?
SCHUTZMACHER. Oh, in my case the secret was simple enough, though I suppose I should have got into trouble if it had attracted any notice. And I'm afraid you'll think it rather infra dig.
RIDGEON. Oh, I have an open mind. What was the secret?
SCHUTZMACHER. Well, the secret was just two words.
RIDGEON. Not Consultation Free, was it?
SCHUTZMACHER [shocked] No, no. Really!
RIDGEON [apologetic] Of course not. I was only joking.
SCHUTZMACHER. My two words were simply Cure Guaranteed.
RIDGEON [admiring] Cure Guaranteed!
SCHUTZMACHER. Guaranteed. After all, thats what everybody wants from a doctor, isnt it?
RIDGEON. My dear loony, it was an inspiration. Was it on the brass plate?
SCHUTZMACHER. There was no brass plate. It was a shop window: red, you know, with black lettering. Doctor Leo Schutzmacher, L.R.C.P.M.R.C.S. Advice and medicine sixpence. Cure Guaranteed.
RIDGEON. And the guarantee proved sound nine times out of ten, eh?
SCHUTZMACHER [rather hurt at so moderate an estimate] Oh, much oftener than that. You see, most people get well all right if they are careful and you give them a little sensible advice. And the medicine really did them good. Parrish's Chemical Food: phosphates, you know. One tablespoonful to a twelve-ounce bottle of water: nothing better, no matter what the case is.
RIDGEON. Redpenny: make a note of Parrish's Chemical Food.
SCHUTZMACHER. I take it myself, you know, when I feel run down. Good-bye. You dont mind my calling, do you? Just to congratulate you.
RIDGEON. Delighted, my dear Loony. Come to lunch on Saturday next week. Bring your motor and take me down to Hertford.
SCHUTZMACHER. I will. We shall be delighted. Thank you. Good-bye. [He goes out with Ridgeon, who returns immediately].
REDPENNY. Old Paddy Cullen was here before you were up, to be the first to congratulate you.
RIDGEON. Indeed. Who taught you to speak of Sir Patrick Cullen as old Paddy Cullen, you young ruffian?
REDPENNY. You never call him anything else.
RIDGEON. Not now that I am Sir Colenso. Next thing, you fellows will be calling me old Colly Ridgeon.
REDPENNY. We do, at St. Anne's.
RIDGEON. Yach! Thats what makes the medical student the most disgusting figure in modern civilization. No veneration, no manners--no--
EMMY [at the door, announcing]. Sir Patrick Cullen. [She retires].
Sir Patrick Cullen is more than twenty years older than Ridgeon, not yet quite at the end of his tether, but near it and resigned to it. His name, his plain, downright, sometimes rather arid common sense, his large build and stature, the absence of those odd moments of ceremonial servility by which an old English doctor sometimes shews you what the status of the profession was in England in his youth, and an occasional turn of speech, are Irish; but he has lived all his life in England and is thoroughly acclimatized. His manner to Ridgeon, whom he likes, is whimsical and fatherly: to others he is a little gruff and uninviting, apt to substitute more or less expressive grunts for articulate speech, and generally indisposed, at his age, to make much social effort. He shakes Ridgeon's hand and beams at him cordially and jocularly.
SIR PATRICK. Well, young chap. Is your hat too small for you, eh?
RIDGEON. Much too small. I owe it all to you.
SIR PATRICK. Blarney, my boy. Thank you all the same. [He sits in one of the arm-chairs near the fireplace. Ridgeon sits on the couch]. Ive come to talk to you a bit. [To Redpenny] Young man: get out.
REDPENNY. Certainly, Sir Patrick [He collects his papers and makes for the door].
SIR PATRICK. Thank you. Thats a good lad. [Redpenny vanishes]. They all put up with me, these young chaps, because I'm an old man, a real old man, not like you. Youre only beginning to give yourself the airs of age. Did you ever see a boy cultivating a moustache? Well, a middle-aged doctor cultivating a grey head is much the same sort of spectacle.
RIDGEON. Good Lord! yes: I suppose so. And I thought that the days of my vanity were past. Tell me at what age does a man leave off being a fool?
SIR PATRICK. Remember the Frenchman who asked his grandmother at what age we get free from the temptations of love. The old woman said she didn't know. [Ridgeon laughs]. Well, I make you the same answer. But the world's growing very interesting to me now, Colly.
RIDGEON. You keep up your interest in science, do you?
SIR PATRICK. Lord! yes. Modern science is a wonderful thing. Look at your great discovery! Look at all the great discoveries! Where are they leading to? Why, right back to my poor dear old father's ideas and discoveries. He's been dead now over forty years. Oh, it's very interesting.
RIDGEON. Well, theres nothing like progress, is there?
SIR PATRICK. Dont misunderstand me, my boy. I'm not belittling your discovery. Most discoveries are made regularly every fifteen years; and it's fully a hundred and fifty since yours was made last. Thats something to be proud of. But your discovery's not new. It's only inoculation. My father practised inoculation until it was made criminal in eighteen-forty. That broke the poor old man's heart, Colly: he died of it. And now it turns out that my father was right after all. Youve brought us back to inoculation.
RIDGEON. I know nothing about smallpox. My line is tuberculosis and typhoid and plague. But of course the principle of all vaccines is the same.
SIR PATRICK. Tuberculosis? M-m-m-m! Youve found out how to cure consumption, eh?
RIDGEON. I believe so.
SIR PATRICK. Ah yes. It's very interesting. What is it the old cardinal says in Browning's play? "I have known four and twenty leaders of revolt." Well, Ive known over thirty men that found out how to cure consumption. Why do people go on dying of it, Colly? Devilment, I suppose. There was my father's old friend George Boddington of Sutton Coldfield. He discovered the open-air cure in eighteen-forty. He was ruined and driven out of his practice for only opening the windows; and now we wont let a consumptive patient have as much as a roof over his head. Oh, it's very VERY interesting to an old man.
RIDGEON. You old cynic, you dont believe a bit in my discovery.
SIR PATRICK. No, no: I dont go quite so far as that, Colly. But still, you remember Jane Marsh?
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