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DRUGS & MEDICINE & LITERATURE

· Barbara Zoeke: Die Stunde der Spezialisten · Barbara Zoeke: Die Stunde der Spezialisten · William Brewer: I Know Your Kind. Poems about the American opioid epidemic · Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Love · William WORDSWORTH: I wandered lonely as a cloud · Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Youth And Age a poem · William WORDSWORTH: London 1802 · Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Xanadu – Kubla Khan · Arthur CONAN DOYLE: The Surgeon talks (Round the Red Lamp #15 – Last Chapter) · Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: The Presence of Love · Arthur Conan DOYLE: The Doctors of Hoyland (Round the Red Lamp #14) · Arthur Conan DOYLE: The Los Amigos Fiasco (Round the Red Lamp #13)

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Barbara Zoeke: Die Stunde der Spezialisten

Deutschland 1940: Max Koenig ist Professor für Altertumsforschung. Ein vererbtes Nervenleiden reißt ihn aus seinem beruflichen Leben und fort von seiner Familie.

Er kommt in die Wittenauer Heilstätten und trifft dort auf Schwester Rosemarie, die versucht zu helfen, wo sie kann. Trotz seiner Hinfälligkeit wird Koenig zum Mittelpunkt einer kleinen Gruppe: dem Studienrat Dr. Carl Hohein, der eine Litanei auf die Farbe »Schwarz« komponiert, der jungen Pianistin Elfie, deren Hände zittern und die »Traumdeutsch« spricht, und schließlich Oscar, einem Jungen mit Trisomie 21.

Der Alltag auf der Station, die mangelhaften Essensrationen und die rassenhygienischen Kommentare der medizinischen »Spezialisten« werden nur durch die gegenseitige Unterstützung und kleine Freuden, wie die Besuche von Frau und Schwägerin, erträglich. Sie hoffen darauf, sich nach dem Krieg im Traumland Italien wiederzufinden. Doch Max Koenig und Oscar werden verlegt und ihren Angehörigen entzogen.

Töten wird sie Dr. Friedel Lerbe, ein Arzt, SS-Mann und fanatischer Verfechter der Rassenhygiene. Als Leiter einer Tötungsanstalt führt er das NS-»Euthanasie«-Programm mit bürokratischer Präzision aus – jedes Detail des Ablaufs wird von ihm kontrolliert. Ein ganzer Stab von »Pflegern«, Sekretärinnen, Technikern und Leichenbrennern steht diesem »Spezialisten« bei seinem Handwerk zur Seite.

Barbara Zoeke schildert das Geschehen aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven – empathisch und erschütternd klar. Es gelingt ihr, dieses Verbrechen der Nationalsozialisten zu vergegenwärtigen und den Opfern, Angehörigen und Tätern eine literarische Stimme zu geben.

Barbara Zoeke erhält für ihren Roman „Die Stunde der Spezialisten“ den Brüder-Grimm-Preis 2017 der Stadt Hanau!
Die Preisverleihung findet am 17. November in der Hanauer Stadtbibliothek/Kulturforum Hanau statt. Die Laudatio auf die Preisträgerin wird der Literatur-Chef der Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung Andreas Platthaus halten. Die Auszeichnung ist mit 10.000 Euro dotiert.

Die Jury mit Literaturkritikerin Dr. Insa Wilke, Literaturprofessor Professor Dr. Heiner Boehncke und dem ehemaligen Vorsitzenden des hessischen Bibliotheksverbandes Aloys Lenz MdL a.D. votierte nach eingehender Diskussion der eingereichten Veröffentlichungen einstimmig für das kürzlich im Verlag „Die Andere Bibliothek“ erschienene Buch. Der Magistrat der Stadt Hanau schloss sich einmütig dem Votum der Jury an.

Aus der Jury-Entscheidung:
„Barbara Zoekes Roman „Die Stunde der Spezialisten“ widmet sich einem in der deutschsprachigen Literatur immer noch auffällig selten erzählten Verbrechen der Nationalsozialisten: der Ermordung von Psychiatriepatienten und Behinderten, allgemein unter dem Euphemismus „Euthanasie“ bekannt. Autorinnen wie Olga Martynova und entfernt auch Angela Steidele haben sich zuletzt mit diesem Stoff auseinandergesetzt; Barbara Zoeke ist jedoch die erste Autorin, die wohl auch aufgrund ihrer psychiatrischen Praxis die besondere Sprache der Patienten in eine literarische verwandelt und ihnen so auf besondere Weise ein Denkmal setzt. Virtuos komponiert sie auf diese Weise aus den Stimmen der Opfer wie auch der Täter in je spezifischen Sprechweisen ein beklemmendes Kunstwerk in humanistischen Traditionen, das bei seinen Leserinnen und Lesern für einen inneren Aufruhr sorgt, wie ihn nur hervorragende literarische Werke hervorzubringen imstande sind. Die Jury sieht in der meisterlichen Sprache des Romans und dem sensiblen Umgang mit den unterschiedlichen Stimmen überdies eine Nähe zu dem Werk der Brüder Grimm, das sich auf der Grenze zwischen Archiv, Sprachforschung und Erzählen bewegt.“

Dr. Barbara Zoeke verbrachte ihre Kindheit im thüringischen Vogtland und studierte in Köln und Münster. Sie ist habilitierte Psychologin, forschte in den USA und war über mehrere Jahre im Vorstand der “International Society of Comparative Psychology”. Sie lehrte und forschte an den Universitäten von Münster, Frankfurt, Würzburg und München. Neben wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten zur Wahrnehmung und zum Gedächtnis veröffentlichte sie erzählende Prosa, Lyrik und Sachbuchtexte. Die Autorin lebt seit 2008 in Berlin.

Barbara Zoeke
Die Stunde der Spezialisten
Seitenanzahl: 300
Originalausgaben
Bandnummer: 393
Originalausgabe,
nummeriert und limitiert
Gestaltung: Lars Henkel.
Kunstvolle Collagen für Cover,
Bezug, Vor- und Nachsatzpapier.
Fadenheftung, Lesebändchen.
ISBN: 9783847703938
2017 – 42,00 EUR
Die Andere Bibliothek
10969 Berlin

#  website  die  andere  bibliothek     

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Barbara Zoeke: Die Stunde der Spezialisten

1940 ist Max Koenig Professor für Kunstgeschichte. Ein vererbtes Nervenleiden reißt ihn aus seinem be­ruflichen Leben und fort von seiner italienischen Frau und der kleinen Tochter. Er kommt in eine Heilanstalt nach Berlin ­Wittenau.

Trotz seiner Hinfälligkeit wird er zum Mittelpunkt einer kleinen Gruppe: einem Schizophrenen, der eine Litanei auf die Farbe »Schwarz« komponiert, einer jungen Pianistin, einer zierlichen Alzheimer frau und schließlich Oscar, einem Jungen mit Trisomie 21. Der Alltag auf der Station und die rassenhygienischen Kommentare der medizinischen »Spezialisten« werden nur durch kleine Freuden, wie die gelegentlichen Besu­che von Frau und Schwägerin, erträglich. Als die Patienten erfasst und klassifiziert werden, schließt sich die kleine Gruppe noch enger zusammen.

Alle hoffen darauf, sich nach dem Krieg im Traumland Italien wiederzufinden. Doch Max Koenig und Oscar werden verlegt und ihren Angehörigen entzogen. Töten wird sie Dr. Friedel Lerbe, Mediziner und SS­Mann. Als Leiter einer Tötungsanstalt führt er das NS ­»Euthanasie« ­Programm mit büro­kratischer Präzision aus – jedes Detail des Ablaufs wird von ihm kontrolliert.

Ein ganzer Stab von »Pflegern«, Se­kretärinnen, Technikern und Leichen brennern steht diesem »Spezialisten« bei seinem Handwerk zur Seite.

Barbara Zoeke wuchs im thüringischen Vogtland auf und studierte in Köln und Münster Psychologie. Sie ist habilitierte Psychologin und Schriftstellerin.
Barbara Zoeke lebt seit 2008 in Berlin.

Barbara Zoeke
Die Stunde der Spezialisten
Roman
Ca. 300 Seiten
Originalausgabe, nummeriert und limitiert
Gestaltung: Lars Henkel.
Kunstvolle Collage für Cover, Bezug, Vor- und Nachsatzpapier.
Fadenheftung, Lesebändchen.
September 2017
Band 393
€ 42
ISBN 978­3­8477­0393­8
DIE ANDERE BIBLIOTHEK 2017/18

Empathisch und erschütternd klar: In Barbara Zoekes Roman kommen Opfer und Täter eines der verdrängten Verbrechen der Nationalsozialisten zu Wort

fleursdumal.nl magazine

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William Brewer: I Know Your Kind. Poems about the American opioid epidemic

Selected for the National Poetry Series by Ada Limón, I Know Your Kind is a haunting, blistering debut collection about the American opioid epidemic and poverty in rural Appalachia.

In West Virginia, fatal overdoses on opioids have spiked to three times the national average. In these poems, William Brewer demonstrates an immersive, devastating empathy for both the lost and the bereaved, the enabled and the enabler, the addict who knocks late at night and the brother who closes the door.

He shows us the high, at once numbing and transcendent: “this warm moment when I forget which part of me / I blamed.”

He shows us the overdose, when “the poppies on my arms / bruised red petals.” And he shows us the mourner, attending his high school reunion: “I guess we were underdressed: / me in my surf shoes / you in an urn.”

Underneath and among this multiplicity of voices runs the Appalachian landscape—a location, like the experience of drug addiction itself, of stark contrasts: beauty and ruin, nature and industry, love and despair.

Uncanny, heartbreaking, and often surreal, I Know Your Kind is an unforgettable elegy for the people and places that have been lost to opioids.

William Brewer is the author of I Know Your Kind, a winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series, as well as the chapbook Oxyana, which was awarded the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship 30 and Under. He is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. He was born and raised in West Virginia.

Poetry
I Know Your Kind
By William Brewer
Paperback $16.00
ISBN: 978-1-57131-495-6
Publish Date: Sept. 2017
Pages: 96
Size:5.5 × 8.5 × 0.25 in
Milkweed Books

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More in: - Book News, - Bookstores, Archive A-B, Art & Literature News, EDITOR'S CHOICE, Opium-Eaters


Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Love

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Love

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.

The moonshine, stealing o’er the scene
Had blended with the lights of eve:
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!.

She leant against the arméd man,
The statue of the arméd knight:
She stood and listened to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.

Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope ! my joy ! my Genevieve !
She loves me best, whene’er I sing
The songs that make her grieve.

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story-
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace:
For well she know, I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.

I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand:
And that for ten long years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.

I told her how he pined : and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another’s love,
Interpreted my own.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes, and modest grace:
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!.

But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night:

That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,-

There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright:
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!.

And that unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land!.

And how she wept, and clasped his knees:
And how she tended him in vain-
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain ;-

And that she nursed him in a cave:
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest-leaves
A dying man he lay ;-

His dying words -but when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faultering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!.

All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve:
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve:

And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!.

She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love, and virgin-shame:
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.

Her bosom heaved -she stepped aside,
As conscious of my look she stepped-
The suddenly, with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.

She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace:
And bending back her head, looked up,
And gazed upon my face.

‘Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly ’twas a bashful art,
That I might rather feel, than see,
The swelling of her heart.

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride:
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)
Love
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William WORDSWORTH: I wandered lonely as a cloud

William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)
I wandered lonely as a cloud
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Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Youth And Age a poem

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Youth And Age a poem

Verse, a breeze ‘mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!
When I was young? Ah, woeful When!
Ah! for the change ‘twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands
How lightly then it flashed along,
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in’t together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O the joys! that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!
Ere I was old? Ah woeful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth’s no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet
‘Tis known that Thou and I were one,
I’ll think it but a fond conceit
It cannot be that Thou art gone!
Thy vesper-bell hath not yet tolled
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe that thou art gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Springtide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes:
Life is but Thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are housemates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life’s a warning
That only serves to make us grieve
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath out-stayed his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)
Poem: Youth And Age
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William WORDSWORTH: London 1802

William Wordsworth
London 1802

Milton! thou should’st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)
Poem: London 1802
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Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: Xanadu – Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Xanadu – Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)
Xanadu – Kubla Khan
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Arthur CONAN DOYLE: The Surgeon talks (Round the Red Lamp #15 – Last Chapter)

fdm-aconandoyle13The Surgeon Talks
by Arthur Conan Doyle

“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 cigarette.

“‘Just run over my reflexes, Smith,’ said he.

“There was hardly a trace of them left. I tapped away at his knee-tendon and might as well have tried to get a jerk out of that sofa-cushion. He stood with his eyes shut again, and he swayed like a bush in the wind.

“‘So,’ said he, ‘it was not intercostal neuralgia after all.’

“Then I knew that he had had the lightning pains, and that the case was complete. There was nothing to say, so I sat looking at him while he puffed and puffed at his cigarette. Here he was, a man in the prime of life, one of the handsomest men in London, with money, fame, social success, everything at his feet, and now, without a moment’s warning, he was told that inevitable death lay before him, a death accompanied by more refined and lingering tortures than if he were bound upon a Red Indian stake. He sat in the middle of the blue cigarette cloud with his eyes cast down, and the slightest little tightening of his lips. Then he rose with a motion of his arms, as one who throws off old thoughts and enters upon a new course.

“‘Better put this thing straight at once,’ said he. ‘I must make some fresh arrangements. May I use your paper and envelopes?’

“He settled himself at my desk and he wrote half a dozen letters. It is not a breach of confidence to say that they were not addressed to his professional brothers. Walker was a single man, which means that he was not restricted to a single woman. When he had finished, he walked out of that little room of mine, leaving every hope and ambition of his life behind him. And he might have had another year of ignorance and peace if it had not been for the chance illustration in his lecture.

“It took five years to kill him, and he stood it well. If he had ever been a little irregular he atoned for it in that long martyrdom. He kept an admirable record of his own symptoms, and worked out the eye changes more fully than has ever been done. When the ptosis got very bad he would hold his eyelid up with one hand while he wrote. Then, when he could not co-ordinate his muscles to write, he dictated to his nurse. So died, in the odour of science, James Walker, aet. 45.

“Poor old Walker was very fond of experimental surgery, and he broke ground in several directions. Between ourselves, there may have been some more ground-breaking afterwards, but he did his best for his cases. You know M’Namara, don’t you? He always wears his hair long. He lets it be understood that it comes from his artistic strain, but it is really to conceal the loss of one of his ears. Walker cut the other one off, but you must not tell Mac I said so.

“It was like this. Walker had a fad about the portio dura—the motor to the face, you know—and he thought paralysis of it came from a disturbance of the blood supply. Something else which counterbalanced that disturbance might, he thought, set it right again. We had a very obstinate case of Bell’s paralysis in the wards, and had tried it with every conceivable thing, blistering, tonics, nerve-stretching, galvanism, needles, but all without result. Walker got it into his head that removal of the ear would increase the blood supply to the part, and he very soon gained the consent of the patient to the operation.

“Well, we did it at night. Walker, of course, felt that it was something of an experiment, and did not wish too much talk about it unless it proved successful. There were half-a-dozen of us there, M’Namara and I among the rest. The room was a small one, and in the centre was in the narrow table, with a macintosh over the pillow, and a blanket which extended almost to the floor on either side. Two candles, on a side-table near the pillow, supplied all the light. In came the patient, with one side of his face as smooth as a baby’s, and the other all in a quiver with fright. He lay down, and the chloroform towel was placed over his face, while Walker threaded his needles in the candle light. The chloroformist stood at the head of the table, and M’Namara was stationed at the side to control the patient. The rest of us stood by to assist.

“Well, the man was about half over when he fell into one of those convulsive flurries which come with the semi-unconscious stage. He kicked and plunged and struck out with both hands. Over with a crash went the little table which held the candles, and in an instant we were left in total darkness. You can think what a rush and a scurry there was, one to pick up the table, one to find the matches, and some to restrain the patient who was still dashing himself about. He was held down by two dressers, the chloroform was pushed, and by the time the candles were relit, his incoherent, half-smothered shoutings had changed to a stertorous snore. His head was turned on the pillow and the towel was still kept over his face while the operation was carried through. Then the towel was withdrawn, and you can conceive our amazement when we looked upon the face of M’Namara.

“How did it happen? Why, simply enough. As the candles went over, the chloroformist had stopped for an instant and had tried to catch them. The patient, just as the light went out, had rolled off and under the table. Poor M’Namara, clinging frantically to him, had been dragged across it, and the chloroformist, feeling him there, had naturally claped the towel across his mouth and nose. The others had secured him, and the more he roared and kicked the more they drenched him with chloroform. Walker was very nice about it, and made the most handsome apologies. He offered to do a plastic on the spot, and make as good an ear as he could, but M’Namara had had enough of it. As to the patient, we found him sleeping placidly under the table, with the ends of the blanket screening him on both sides. Walker sent M’Namara round his ear next day in a jar of methylated spirit, but Mac’s wife was very angry about it, and it led to a good deal of ill-feeling.

“Some people say that the more one has to do with human nature, and the closer one is brought in contact with it, the less one thinks of it. I don’t believe that those who know most would uphold that view. My own experience is dead against it. I was brought up in the miserable-mortal-clay school of theology, and yet here I am, after thirty years of intimate acquaintance with humanity, filled with respect for it. The evil lies commonly upon the surface. The deeper strata are good. A hundred times I have seen folk condemned to death as suddenly as poor Walker was. Sometimes it was to blindness or to mutilations which are worse than death. Men and women, they almost all took it beautifully, and some with such lovely unselfishness, and with such complete absorption in the thought of how their fate would affect others, that the man about town, or the frivolously-dressed woman has seemed to change into an angel before my eyes. I have seen 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.

fdm-aconandoyle23“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.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930)
Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life
The Surgeon Talks (#15) – Last Chapter

Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
– Table of Contents
– The Preface
Behind the Times. (#01)
His First Operation. (#02)
A Straggler of ‘15. (#03)
The Third Generation. (#04)
A False Start. (#05)
The Curse of Eve. (#06)
Sweethearts. (#07)
A Physiologist’s Wife. (#08)
The Case of Lady Sannox. (#09)
A Question of Diplomacy. (#10)
A Medical Document. (#11)
Lot No. 249. (#12)
The Los Amigos Fiasco. (#13)
The Doctors of Hoyland. (#14)
The Surgeon Talks. (#15)

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Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE: The Presence of Love

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Presence of Love

And in Life’s noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart’s Self-solace and soliloquy.

You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro’ all my Being, thro’ my pulse’s beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.

And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834)
Poem: The Presence of Love
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Arthur Conan DOYLE: The Doctors of Hoyland (Round the Red Lamp #14)

doyleconanarthr-fdmThe Doctors of Hoyland
by Arthur Conan Doyle

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 earned.

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 exceedingly.

And this joy it was which led him to take a step which was quite at variance with his usual habits. It is the custom for a new-comer among medical men to call first upon the older, and the etiquette upon the subject is strict. Dr. Ripley was pedantically exact on such points, and yet he deliberately drove over next day and called upon Dr. Verrinder Smith. Such a waiving of ceremony was, he felt, a gracious act upon his part, and a fit prelude to the intimate relations which he hoped to establish with his neighbour.

The house was neat and well appointed, and Dr. Ripley was shown by a smart maid into a dapper little consulting room. As he passed in he noticed two or three parasols and a lady’s sun bonnet hanging in the hall. It was a pity that his colleague should be a married man. It would put them upon a different footing, and interfere with those long evenings of high scientific talk which he had pictured to himself. On the other hand, there was much in the consulting room to please him. Elaborate instruments, seen more often in hospitals than in the houses of private practitioners, were scattered about. A sphygmograph stood upon the table and a gasometer-like engine, which was new to Dr. Ripley, in the corner. A book-case full of ponderous volumes in French and German, paper-covered for the most part, and varying in tint from the shell to the yoke of a duck’s egg, caught his wandering eyes, and he was deeply absorbed in their titles when the door opened suddenly behind him. Turning round, he found himself facing a little woman, whose plain, palish face was remarkable only for a pair of shrewd, humorous eyes of a blue which had two shades too much green in it. She held a pince-nez in her left hand, and the doctor’s card in her right.

“How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.

“How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps out?”

“I am not married,” said she simply.

“Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor—Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

“I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up again.

“What!” he grasped, “the Lee Hopkins prizeman! You!”

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 drily.

“You certainly have surprised me,” he answered, picking up his hat.

“You are not among our champions, then?”

“I cannot say that the movement has my approval.”

“And why?”

“I should much prefer not to discuss it.”

“But I am sure you will answer a lady’s question.”

“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 brains?”

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 deterioration.”

It was a neat little counter, and Dr. Ripley, like a pinked fencer, bowed his acknowledgment.

“I must go,” said he.

“I am sorry that we cannot come to some more friendly conclusion since we are to be neighbours,” she remarked.

He bowed again, and took a step towards the door.

“It was a singular coincidence,” she continued, “that at the instant that you called I was reading your paper on ‘Locomotor Ataxia,’ in the Lancet.”

“Indeed,” said he drily.

“I thought it was a very able monograph.”

“You are very good.”

“But the views which you attribute to Professor Pitres, of Bordeaux, have been repudiated by him.”

“I have his pamphlet of 1890,” said Dr. Ripley angrily.

“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 woman.

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.

fdm-aconandoyle24Occasionally, 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 sick.

The doctor raised himself a little on his elbow in the glint of the match. He caught a glimpse of something white and sharp bristling through his trouser leg half way down the shin.

“Compound!” he groaned. “A three months’ job,” and fainted.

When he came to himself the groom was gone, for he had scudded off to the Squire’s house for help, but a small page was holding a gig-lamp in front of his injured leg, and a woman, with an open case of polished instruments gleaming in the yellow light, was deftly slitting up his trouser with a crooked pair of scissors.

“It’s all right, doctor,” said she soothingly. “I am so sorry about it. You can have Dr. Horton 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 sufferer.

“When it comes we can move you into the gig. A little more light, John! So! Ah, dear, dear, we shall have laceration unless we reduce this before we move you. Allow me to give you a whiff of chloroform, and I have no doubt that I can secure it sufficiently to——”

Dr. Ripley never heard the end of that sentence. He tried to raise a hand and to murmur something in protest, but a sweet smell was in his nostrils, and a sense of rich peace and lethargy stole over his jangled nerves. Down he sank, through clear, cool water, ever down and down into the green shadows beneath, gently, without effort, while the pleasant chiming of a great belfry rose and fell in his ears. Then he rose again, up and up, and ever up, with a terrible tightness about his temples, until at last he shot out of those green shadows and was in the light once more. Two bright, shining, golden spots gleamed before his dazed eyes. He blinked and blinked before he could give a name to them. They were only the two brass balls at the end posts of his bed, and he was lying in his own little room, with a head like a cannon ball, and a leg like an iron bar. Turning his eyes, he saw the calm face of Dr. Verrinder Smith looking down at him.

“Ah, at last!” said she. “I kept you under all the way home, for I knew how painful the jolting would be. It is in good position now with a strong side splint. I have ordered a morphia draught for you. Shall I tell your groom to ride for Dr. Horton in the morning?”

“I should prefer that you should continue the case,” said Dr. Ripley feebly, and then, with a half hysterical laugh,—“You have all the rest of the parish as patients, you know, so you may as well make the thing complete by having me also.”

It was not a very gracious speech, but it was a look of pity and not of anger which shone in her eyes as she turned away from his bedside.

Dr. Ripley had a brother, William, who was assistant surgeon at a London hospital, and who was down in Hampshire within a few hours of his hearing of the accident. He raised his brows when he heard the details.

“What! You are pestered with one of those!” he cried.

“I don’t know what I should have done without her.”

“I’ve no doubt she’s an excellent nurse.”

“She knows her work as well as you or I.”

“Speak for yourself, James,” said the London man with a sniff. “But apart from that, you know that the principle of the thing is all wrong.”

“You think there is nothing to be said on the other side?”

“Good heavens! do you?”

“Well, I don’t know. It struck me during the night that we may have been a little narrow in our views.”

“Nonsense, James. It’s all very fine for women to win prizes in the lecture room, but you know as well as I do that they are no use in an emergency. Now I warrant that this woman was all nerves when she was setting your leg. That reminds me that I had better just take a look at it and see that it is all right.”

“I would rather that you did not undo it,” said the patient. “I have her assurance that it is all right.”

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.”

“Why, then?”

“Over this woman question. I used to think that a woman must inevitably lose something of her charm if she took up such studies.”

“Oh, you don’t think they are necessarily unsexed, then?” she cried, with a mischievous smile.

“Please don’t recall my idiotic expression.”

“I feel so pleased that I should have helped in changing your views. I think that it is the most sincere compliment that I have ever had paid me.”

“At any rate, it is the truth,” said he, and was happy all night at the remembrance of the flush of pleasure which made her pale face look quite comely for the instant.

For, indeed, he was already far past the stage when he would acknowledge her as the equal of any other woman. Already he could not disguise from himself that she had become the one woman. Her dainty skill, her gentle touch, her sweet presence, the community of their tastes, had all united to hopelessly upset his previous opinions. It was a dark day for him now when his convalescence allowed her to miss a visit, and darker still that other one which he saw approaching when all occasion for her visits would be at an end. It came round at last, however, and he felt that his whole life’s fortune would hang upon the issue of that final interview. He was a direct man by nature, so he laid his hand upon hers as it felt for his pulse, and he asked her if she would be his wife.

“What, and unite the practices?” said she.

He started in pain and anger.

“Surely you do not attribute any such base motive to me!” he cried. “I love you as unselfishly as ever a woman was loved.”

“No, I was wrong. It was a foolish speech,” said she, moving her chair a little back, and tapping her stethoscope upon her knee. “Forget that I ever said it. I am so sorry to cause you any disappointment, and I appreciate most highly the honour which you do me, but what you ask is quite impossible.”

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 man.

“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.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930)
Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life
The Doctors of Hoyland (#14)
fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Doyle, Arthur Conan, Doyle, Arthur Conan, DRUGS & MEDICINE & LITERATURE, Round the Red Lamp


Arthur Conan DOYLE: The Los Amigos Fiasco (Round the Red Lamp #13)

fdm-aconandoyle12The Los Amigos Fiasco
by Arthur Conan Doyle

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 dynamos.

I was there at the committee meeting when the matter was discussed. The town council had chosen four experts to look after the arrangements. Three of them were admirable. There was Joseph M’Conner, the very man who had designed the dynamos, and there was Joshua Westmacott, the chairman of the Los Amigos Electrical Supply Company, Limited. Then there was myself as the chief medical man, and lastly an old German of the name of Peter Stulpnagel. The Germans were a strong body at Los Amigos, and they all voted for their man. That was how he got on the committee. It was said that he had been a wonderful electrician at home, and he was eternally working with wires and insulators and Leyden jars; but, as he never seemed to get any further, or to have any results worth publishing he came at last to be regarded as a harmless crank, who had made science his hobby. We three practical men smiled when we heard that he had been elected as our colleague, and at the meeting we fixed it all up very nicely among ourselves without much thought of the old fellow who sat with his ears scooped forward in his hands, for he was a trifle hard of hearing, taking no more part in the proceedings than the gentlemen of the press who scribbled their notes on the back benches.

We did not take long to settle it all. In New York a strength of some two thousand volts had been used, and death had not been instantaneous. Evidently their shock had been too weak. Los Amigos should not fall into that error. The charge should be six times greater, and therefore, of course, it would be six times more effective. Nothing could possibly be more logical. The whole concentrated force of the great dynamos should be employed on Duncan Warner.

So we three settled it, and had already risen to break up the meeting, when our silent companion opened his month for the first time.

“Gentlemen,” said he, “you appear to me to show an extraordinary ignorance upon the subject of electricity. You have not mastered the first principles of its actions upon a human being.”

The committee was about to break into an angry reply to this brusque comment, but the chairman of the Electrical Company tapped his forehead to claim its indulgence for the crankiness of the speaker.

“Pray tell us, sir,” said he, with an ironical smile, “what is there in our conclusions with which you find fault?”

“With your assumption that a large dose of electricity will merely increase the effect of a small dose. Do you not think it possible that it might have an entirely different result? Do you know anything, by actual experiment, of the effect of such powerful shocks?”

“We know it by analogy,” said the chairman, pompously. “All drugs increase their effect when they increase their dose; for example—for example——”

“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 deadly?”

“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 death?”

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 choose.”

This flippant reply was about to draw another and a sterner reproof from the chaplain, when the door was swung open and two warders entered leading Duncan Warner between them. He glanced round him with a set face, stepped resolutely forward, and seated himself upon the chair.

“Touch her off!” said he.

It was barbarous to keep him in suspense. The chaplain murmured a few words in his ear, the attendant placed the cap upon his head, and then, while we all held our breath, the wire and the metal were brought in contact.

“Great Scott!” shouted Duncan Warner.

He had bounded in his chair as the frightful shock crashed through his system. But he was not dead. On the contrary, his eyes gleamed far more brightly than they had done before. There was only one change, but it was a singular one. The black had passed from his hair and beard as the shadow passes from a landscape. They were both as white as snow. And yet there was no other sign of decay. His skin was smooth and plump and lustrous as a child’s.

The Marshal looked at the committee with a reproachful eye.

“There seems to be some hitch here, gentlemen,” said he.

We three practical men looked at each other.

Peter Stulpnagel smiled pensively.

“I think that another one should do it,” said I.

fdm-aconandoyle22Again 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 German.

“Never better in my life,” said Duncan Warner cheerily.

The situation was a painful one. The Marshal glared at the committee. Peter Stulpnagel grinned and rubbed his hands. The engineers scratched their heads. The bald-headed prisoner revolved his arm and looked pleased.

“I think that one more shock——” began the chairman.

“No, sir,” said the Marshal “we’ve had foolery enough for one morning. We are here for an execution, and a execution we’ll have.”

“What do you propose?”

“There’s a hook handy upon the ceiling. Fetch in a rope, and we’ll soon set this matter straight.”

There was another awkward delay while the warders departed for the cord. Peter Stulpnagel bent over Duncan Warner, and whispered something in his ear. The desperado started in surprise.

“You don’t say?” he asked.

The German nodded.

“What! Noways?”

Peter shook his head, and the two began to laugh as though they shared some huge joke between them.

The rope was brought, and the Marshal himself slipped the noose over the criminal’s neck. Then the two warders, the assistant and he swung their victim into the air. For half an hour he hung—a dreadful sight—from the ceiling. Then in solemn silence they lowered him down, and one of the warders went out to order the shell to be brought round. But as he touched ground again what was our amazement when Duncan Warner put his hands up to his neck, loosened the noose, and took a long, deep breath.

“Paul Jefferson’s sale is goin’ well,” he remarked, “I could see the crowd from up yonder,” and he nodded at the hook in the ceiling.

“Up with him again!” shouted the Marshal, “we’ll get the life out of him somehow.”

In an instant the victim was up at the hook once more.

They kept him there for an hour, but when he came down he was perfectly garrulous.

“Old man Plunket goes too much to the Arcady Saloon,” said he. “Three times he’s been there in an hour; and him with a family. Old man Plunket would do well to swear off.”

It was monstrous and incredible, but there it was. There was no getting round it. The man was there talking when he ought to have been dead. We all sat staring in amazement, but United States Marshal Carpenter was not a man to be euchred so easily. He motioned the others to one side, so that the prisoner was left standing alone.

“Duncan Warner,” said he, slowly, “you are here to play your part, and I am here to play mine. Your game is to live if you can, and my game is to carry out the sentence of the law. You’ve beat us on electricity. I’ll give you one there. And you’ve beat us on hanging, for you seem to thrive on it. But it’s my turn to beat you now, for my duty has to be done.”

He pulled a six-shooter from his coat as he spoke, and fired all the shots through the body of the prisoner. The room was so filled with smoke that we could see nothing, but when it cleared the prisoner was still standing there, looking down in disgust at the front of his coat.

“Coats must be cheap where you come from,” said he. “Thirty dollars it cost me, and look at it now. The six holes in front are bad enough, but four of the balls have passed out, and a pretty state the back must be in.”

The Marshal’s revolver fell from his hand, and he dropped his arms to his sides, a beaten man.

“Maybe some of you gentlemen can tell me what this means,” said he, looking helplessly at the committee.

Peter Stulpnagel took a step forward.

“I’ll tell you all about it,” said he.

“You seem to be the only person who knows anything.”

“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.”

“Centuries!”

“Yes, it will take the wear of hundreds of years to exhaust the enormous nervous energy with which you have drenched him. Electricity is life, and you have charged him with it to the utmost. Perhaps in fifty years you might execute him, but I am not sanguine about it.”

“Great Scott! What shall I do with him?” cried the unhappy Marshal.

Peter Stulpnagel shrugged his shoulders.

“It seems to me that it does not much matter what you do with him now,” said he.

“Maybe we could drain the electricity out of him again. Suppose we hang him up by the heels?”

“No, no, it’s out of the question.”

“Well, well, he shall do no more mischief in Los Amigos, anyhow,” said the Marshal, with decision. “He shall go into the new gaol. The prison will wear him out.”

“On the contrary,” said Peter Stulpnagel, “I think that it is much more probable that he will wear out the prison.”

It was rather a fiasco and for years we didn’t talk more about it than we could help, but it’s no secret now and I thought you might like to jot down the facts in your case-book.

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930)
Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life
The Los Amigos Fiasco (#13)
fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Doyle, Arthur Conan, Doyle, Arthur Conan, DRUGS & MEDICINE & LITERATURE, Round the Red Lamp


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