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- The Doctor's Dilemma - 6/24 -
WALPOLE [interested] What! youre never ill?
B. B. Never.
WALPOLE. Thats interesting. I believe you have no nuciform sac. If you ever do feel at all queer, I should very much like to have a look.
B. B. Thank you, my dear fellow; but I'm too busy just now.
RIDGEON. I was just telling them when you came in, Blenkinsop, that I have worked myself out of sorts.
BLENKINSOP. Well, it seems presumptuous of me to offer a prescription to a great man like you; but still I have great experience; and if I might recommend a pound of ripe greengages every day half an hour before lunch, I'm sure youd find a benefit. Theyre very cheap.
RIDGEON. What do you say to that B. B.?
B. B. [encouragingly] Very sensible, Blenkinsop: very sensible indeed. I'm delighted to see that you disapprove of drugs.
SIR PATRICK [grunts]!
B. B. [archly] Aha! Haha! Did I hear from the fireside armchair the bow-wow of the old school defending its drugs? Ah, believe me, Paddy, the world would be healthier if every chemist's shop in England were demolished. Look at the papers! full of scandalous advertisements of patent medicines! a huge commercial system of quackery and poison. Well, whose fault is it? Ours. I say, ours. We set the example. We spread the superstition. We taught the people to believe in bottles of doctor's stuff; and now they buy it at the stores instead of consulting a medical man.
WALPOLE. Quite true. Ive not prescribed a drug for the last fifteen years.
B. B. Drugs can only repress symptoms: they cannot eradicate disease. The true remedy for all diseases is Nature's remedy. Nature and Science are at one, Sir Patrick, believe me; though you were taught differently. Nature has provided, in the white corpuscles as you call them--in the phagocytes as we call them--a natural means of devouring and destroying all disease germs. There is at bottom only one genuinely scientific treatment for all diseases, and that is to stimulate the phagocytes. Stimulate the phagocytes. Drugs are a delusion. Find the germ of the disease; prepare from it a suitable anti-toxin; inject it three times a day quarter of an hour before meals; and what is the result? The phagocytes are stimulated; they devour the disease; and the patient recovers--unless, of course, he's too far gone. That, I take it, is the essence of Ridgeon's discovery.
SIR PATRICK [dreamily] As I sit here, I seem to hear my poor old father talking again.
B. B. [rising in incredulous amazement] Your father! But, Lord bless my soul, Paddy, your father must have been an older man than you.
SIR PATRICK. Word for word almost, he said what you say. No more drugs. Nothing but inoculation.
B. B. [almost contemptuously] Inoculation! Do you mean smallpox inoculation?
SIR PATRICK. Yes. In the privacy of our family circle, sir, my father used to declare his belief that smallpox inoculation was good, not only for smallpox, but for all fevers.
B. B. [suddenly rising to the new idea with immense interest and excitement] What! Ridgeon: did you hear that? Sir Patrick: I am more struck by what you have just told me than I can well express. Your father, sir, anticipated a discovery of my own. Listen, Walpole. Blenkinsop: attend one moment. You will all be intensely interested in this. I was put on the track by accident. I had a typhoid case and a tetanus case side by side in the hospital: a beadle and a city missionary. Think of what that meant for them, poor fellows! Can a beadle be dignified with typhoid? Can a missionary be eloquent with lockjaw? No. NO. Well, I got some typhoid anti-toxin from Ridgeon and a tube of Muldooley's anti-tetanus serum. But the missionary jerked all my things off the table in one of his paroxysms; and in replacing them I put Ridgeon's tube where Muldooley's ought to have been. The consequence was that I inoculated the typhoid case for tetanus and the tetanus case for typhoid. [The doctors look greatly concerned. B. B., undamped, smiles triumphantly]. Well, they recovered. THEY RECOVERED. Except for a touch of St Vitus's dance the missionary's as well to-day as ever; and the beadle's ten times the man he was.
BLENKINSOP. Ive known things like that happen. They cant be explained.
B. B. [severely] Blenkinsop: there is nothing that cannot be explained by science. What did I do? Did I fold my hands helplessly and say that the case could not be explained? By no means. I sat down and used my brains. I thought the case out on scientific principles. I asked myself why didnt the missionary die of typhoid on top of tetanus, and the beadle of tetanus on top of typhoid? Theres a problem for you, Ridgeon. Think, Sir Patrick. Reflect, Blenkinsop. Look at it without prejudice, Walpole. What is the real work of the anti-toxin? Simply to stimulate the phagocytes. Very well. But so long as you stimulate the phagocytes, what does it matter which particular sort of serum you use for the purpose? Haha! Eh? Do you see? Do you grasp it? Ever since that Ive used all sorts of anti-toxins absolutely indiscriminately, with perfectly satisfactory results. I inoculated the little prince with your stuff, Ridgeon, because I wanted to give you a lift; but two years ago I tried the experiment of treating a scarlet fever case with a sample of hydrophobia serum from the Pasteur Institute, and it answered capitally. It stimulated the phagocytes; and the phagocytes did the rest. That is why Sir Patrick's father found that inoculation cured all fevers. It stimulated the phagocytes. [He throws himself into his chair, exhausted with the triumph of his demonstration, and beams magnificently on them].
EMMY [looking in] Mr Walpole: your motor's come for you; and it's frightening Sir Patrick's horses; so come along quick.
WALPOLE [rising] Good-bye, Ridgeon.
RIDGEON. Good-bye; and many thanks.
B. B. You see my point, Walpole?
EMMY. He cant wait, Sir Ralph. The carriage will be into the area if he dont come.
WALPOLE. I'm coming. [To B. B.] Theres nothing in your point: phagocytosis is pure rot: the cases are all blood-poisoning; and the knife is the real remedy. Bye-bye, Sir Paddy. Happy to have met you, Mr. Blenkinsop. Now, Emmy. [He goes out, followed by Emmy].
B. B. [sadly] Walpole has no intellect. A mere surgeon. Wonderful operator; but, after all, what is operating? Only manual labor. Brain--BRAIN remains master of the situation. The nuciform sac is utter nonsense: theres no such organ. It's a mere accidental kink in the membrane, occurring in perhaps two-and-a-half per cent of the population. Of course I'm glad for Walpole's sake that the operation is fashionable; for he's a dear good fellow; and after all, as I always tell people, the operation will do them no harm: indeed, Ive known the nervous shake-up and the fortnight in bed do people a lot of good after a hard London season; but still it's a shocking fraud. [Rising] Well, I must be toddling. Good- bye, Paddy [Sir Patrick grunts] good-bye, goodbye. Good-bye, my dear Blenkinsop, good-bye! Goodbye, Ridgeon. Dont fret about your health: you know what to do: if your liver is sluggish, a little mercury never does any harm. If you feel restless, try bromide, If that doesnt answer, a stimulant, you know: a little phosphorus and strychnine. If you cant sleep, trional, trional, trion--
SIR PATRICK [drily] But no drugs, Colly, remember that.
B. B. [firmly] Certainly not. Quite right, Sir Patrick. As temporary expedients, of course; but as treatment, no, No. Keep away from the chemist's shop, my dear Ridgeon, whatever you do.
RIDGEON [going to the door with him] I will. And thank you for the knighthood. Good-bye.
B. B. [stopping at the door, with the beam in his eye twinkling a little] By the way, who's your patient?
B. B. Downstairs. Charming woman. Tuberculous husband.
RIDGEON. Is she there still?
Emmy [looking in] Come on, Sir Ralph: your wife's waiting in the carriage.
B. B. [suddenly sobered] Oh! Good-bye. [He goes out almost precipitately].
RIDGEON. Emmy: is that woman there still? If so, tell her once for all that I cant and wont see her. Do you hear?
EMMY. Oh, she aint in a hurry: she doesnt mind how long she waits. [She goes out].
BLENKINSOP. I must be off, too: every half-hour I spend away from my work costs me eighteenpence. Good-bye, Sir Patrick.
SIR PATRICK. Good-bye. Good-bye.
RIDGEON. Come to lunch with me some day this week.
BLENKINSOP. I cant afford it, dear boy; and it would put me off my own food for a week. Thank you all the same.
RIDGEON [uneasy at Blenkinsop's poverty] Can I do nothing for you?
BLENKINSOP. Well, if you have an old frock-coat to spare? you see
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