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- Doctor Therne - 6/25 -
them even desired to see my instruments and when, fearing to give offence, I complied and produced them, she remarked that they were not nearly so nice as dear Sir John's, which had ivory handles. Cheerfully would I have shown her that if the handles were inferior the steel was quite serviceable, but I swallowed my wrath and solemnly explained that it was not medical etiquette for a young doctor to use ivory.
Beginning to despair, I applied for one or two minor appointments in answer to advertisements inserted by the Board of Guardians and other public bodies. In each case was I not only unsuccessful, but men equally unknown, though with a greatly inferior college and hospital record, were chosen over my head. At length, suspecting that I was not being fairly dealt by, I made inquiries to discover that at the bottom of all this ill success was none other than Sir John Bell. It appeared that in several instances, by the shrugs of his thick shoulders and shakes of his ponderous head, he had prevented my being employed. Indeed, in the case of the public bodies, with all of which he had authority either as an official or as an honorary adviser, he had directly vetoed my appointment by the oracular announcement that, after ample inquiry among medical friends in London, he had satisfied himself that I was not a suitable person for the post.
When I had heard this and convinced myself that it was substantially true--for I was always too cautious to accept the loose and unsifted gossip of a provincial town--I think that for the first time in my life I experienced the passion of hate towards a human being. Why should this man who was so rich and powerful thus devote his energies to the destruction of a brother practitioner who was struggling and poor? At the time I set it down to pure malice, into which without doubt it blossomed at last, not understanding that in the first place on Sir John's part it was in truth terror born of his own conscious mediocrity. Like most inferior men, he was quick to recognise his master, and, either in the course of our conversations or through inquiries that he made concerning me, he had come to the conclusion that so far as professional ability was concerned I /was/ his master. Therefore, being a creature of petty and dishonest mind, he determined to crush me before I could assert myself.
Now, having ascertained all this beyond reasonable doubt, there were three courses open to me: to make a public attack upon Sir John, to go away and try my fortune elsewhere, or to sit still and await events. A more impetuous man would have adopted the first of these alternatives, but my experience of life, confirmed as it was by the advice of Emma, who was a shrewd and far-seeing woman, soon convinced me that if I did so I should have no more chance of success than would an egg which undertook a crusade against a brick wall. Doubtless the egg might stain the wall and gather the flies of gossip about its stain, but the end of it must be that the wall would still stand, whereas the egg would no longer be an egg. The second plan had more attractions, but my resources were now too low to allow me to put it into practice. Therefore, having no other choice, I was forced to adopt the third, and, exercising that divine patience which characterises the Eastern nations but is so lacking in our own, to attend humbly upon fate until it should please it to deal to me a card that I could play.
In time fate dealt to me that card and my long suffering was rewarded, for it proved a very ace of trumps. It happened thus.
About a year after I arrived in Dunchester I was elected a member of the City Club. It is a pleasant place, where ladies are admitted to lunch, and I used it a good deal in the hope of making acquaintances who might be useful to me. Among the /habitues/ of this club was a certain Major Selby, who, having retired from the army and being without occupation, was generally to be found in the smoking or billiard room with a large cigar between his teeth and a whisky and soda at his side. In face, the Major was florid and what people call healthy-looking, an appearance that to a doctor's eye very often conveys no assurance of physical well-being. Being a genial-mannered man, he would fall into conversation with whoever might be near to him, and thus I came to be slightly acquainted with him. In the course of our chats he frequently mentioned his ailments, which, as might be expected in the case of such a luxurious liver, were gouty in their origin.
One afternoon when I was sitting alone in the smoking-room, Major Selby came in and limped to an armchair.
"Hullo, Major, have you got the gout again?" I asked jocosely.
"No, doctor; at least that pompous old beggar, Bell, says I haven't. My leg has been so confoundedly painful and stiff for the last few days that I went to see him this morning, but he told me that it was only a touch of rheumatism, and gave me some stuff to rub it with."
"Oh, and did he look at your leg?"
"Not he. He says that he can tell what my ailments are with the width of the street between us."
"Indeed," I said, and some other men coming in the matter dropped.
Four days later I was in the club at the same hour, and again Major Selby entered. This time he walked with considerable difficulty, and I noticed an expression of pain and /malaise/ upon his rubicund countenance. He ordered a whisky and soda from the servant, and then sat down near me.
"Rheumatism no better, Major?" I asked.
"No, I went to see old Bell about it again yesterday, but he pooh- poohs it and tells me to go on rubbing in the liniment and get the footman to help when I am tired. Well, I obeyed orders, but it hasn't done me much good, and how the deuce rheumatism can give a fellow a bruise on the leg, I don't know."
"A bruise on the leg?" I said astonished.
"Yes, a bruise on the leg, and, if you don't believe me, look here," and, dragging up his trouser, he showed me below the knee a large inflamed patch of a dusky hue, in the centre of which one of the veins could be felt to be hard and swollen.
"Has Sir John Bell seen that?" I asked.
"Not he. I wanted him to look at it, but he was in a hurry, and said I was just like an old woman with a sore on show, so I gave it up."
"Well, if I were you, I'd go home and insist upon his coming to look at it."
"What do you mean, doctor?" he asked growing alarmed at my manner.
"Oh, it is a nasty place, that is all; and I think that when Sir John has seen it, he will tell you to keep quiet for a few days."
Major Selby muttered something uncomplimentary about Sir John, and then asked me if I would come home with him.
"I can't do that as a matter of medical etiquette, but I'll see you into a cab. No, I don't think I should drink that whisky if I were you, you want to keep yourself cool and quiet."
So Major Selby departed in his cab and I went home, and, having nothing better to do, turned up my notes on various cases of venous thrombosis, or blood-clot in the veins, which I had treated at one time or another.
While I was still reading them there came a violent ring at the bell, followed by the appearance of a very agitated footman, who gasped out:--
"Please, sir, come to my master, Major Selby, he has been taken ill."
"I can't, my good man," I answered, "Sir John Bell is his doctor."
"I have been to Sir John's, sir, but he has gone away for two days to attend a patient in the country, and the Major told me to come for you."
Then I hesitated no longer. As we hurried to the house, which was close at hand, the footman told me that the Major on reaching home took a cup of tea and sent for a cab to take him to Sir John Bell. As he was in the act of getting into the cab, suddenly he fell backwards and was picked up panting for breath, and carried into the dining- room. By this time we had reached the house, of which the door was opened as we approached it by Mrs. Selby herself, who seemed in great distress.
"Don't talk now, but take me to your husband," I said, and was led into the dining-room, where the unfortunate man lay groaning on the sofa.
"Glad you've come," he gasped. "I believe that fool, Bell, has done for me."
Asking those present in the room, a brother and a grown-up son of the patient, to stand back, I made a rapid examination; then I wrote a prescription and sent it round to the chemist--it contained ammonia, I remember--and ordered hot fomentations to be placed upon the leg. While these matters were being attended to I went with the relations into another room.
"What is the matter with him, doctor?" asked Mrs. Selby.
"It is, I think, a case of what is called blood-clot, which has formed in the veins of the leg," I answered. "Part of this clot has been detached by exertion, or possibly by rubbing, and, travelling upwards, has become impacted in one of the pulmonary arteries."
"Is it serious?" asked the poor wife.
"Of course we must hope for the best," I said; "but it is my duty to tell you that I do not myself think Major Selby will recover; how long he will last depends upon the size of the clot which has got into the artery."
"Oh, this is ridiculous," broke in Mr. Selby. "My brother has been under the care of Sir John Bell, the ablest doctor in Dunchester, who told him several times that he was suffering from nothing but rheumatism, and now this gentleman starts a totally different theory, which, if it were true, would prove Sir John to be a most careless and incompetent person."
"I am very sorry," I answered; "I can only hope that Sir John is right and I am wrong. So that there may be no subsequent doubt as to what I have said, with your leave I will write down my diagnosis and give it to you."
When this was done I returned to the patient, and Mr. Selby, taking my diagnosis, telegraphed the substance of it to Sir John Bell for his
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