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The Stark Munro Letters by Arthur Conan Doyle

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loathing. I suppose that my eyes were less under control
than my tongue, for she suddenly turned upon me with:

"I see that you don't agree with me, Dr. Munro."

I replied quietly that I did not, and tried to change
the conversation; but she was not to be shaken off.

"Why not, may I ask?"

I explained that in my opinion the tendency of the
age was to break down those ridiculous doctrinal points
which are so useless, and which have for so long set
people by the ears. I added that I hoped the time was
soon coming when good men of all creeds would throw this
lumber overboard and join hands together.

She half rose, almost speechless with indignation.

"I presume," said she, "that you are one of those
people who would separate the Church from the State?"

"Most certainly," I answered.

She stood erect in a kind of cold fury, and swept out
of the room. Jimmy began to chuckle, and his father
looked perplexed.

"I am sorry that my opinions are offensive to Lady
Saltire," I remarked.

"Yes, yes; it's a pity; a pity," said he "well, well,
we must say what we think; but it's a pity you think it--
a very great pity."

I quite expected to get my dismissal over this
business, and indeed, indirectly I may say that I did so.
From that day Lady Saltire was as rude to me as she could
be, and never lost an opportunity of making attacks upon
what she imagined to be my opinions. Of these I never
took the slightest notice; but at last on an evil day she
went for me point-blank, so that there was no getting
away from her. It was just at the end of lunch, when the
footman had left the room. She had been talking about
Lord Saltire's going up to London to vote upon some
question in the House of Lords.

"Perhaps, Dr. Munro," said she, turning acidly
upon me, "that is also an institution which has not been
fortunate enough to win your approval."

"It is a question, Lady Saltire, which I should much
prefer not to discuss," I answered.

"Oh, you might just as well have the courage of your
convictions," said she. "Since you desire to despoil the
National Church, it is natural enough that you should
wish also to break up the Constitution. I have heard
that an atheist is always a red republican."

Lord Saltire rose, wishing, I have no doubt, to put
an end to the conversation. Jimmy and I rose also; and
suddenly I saw that instead of moving towards the door he
was going to his mother. Knowing his little tricks, I
passed my hand under his arm, and tried to steer him
away. She noticed it, however, and interfered.

"Did you wish to speak to me, James?"

"I want to whisper in your ear, mother."

"Pray don't excite yourself, sir," said I, again
attempting to detain him. Lady Saltire arched her
aristocratic eyebrows.

"I think, Dr. Munro, that you push your authority
rather far when you venture to interfere between a mother
and her son," said she. What was it, my poor dear boy?"

Jimmy bent down and whispered something in her ear.
The blood rushed into her pale face, and she sprang from
him as if he had struck her. Jimmy began to snigger.

"This is your doing, Dr. Munro," she cried furiously.
"You have corrupted my son's mind, and encouraged him to
insult his mother."

"My dear! My dear!" said her husband soothingly, and
I quietly led the recalcitrant Jimmy upstairs. I asked
him what it was that he had said to his mother, but got
only chuckles in reply.

I had a presentiment that I should hear more of the
matter; and I was not wrong. Lord Saltire called me into
his study in the evening.

"The fact is, doctor," said he, "that Lady Saltire
has been extremely annoyed and grieved about what
occurred at lunch to-day. Of course, you can imagine
that such an expression coming from her own son, shocked
her more than I can tell."

"I assure you, Lord Saltire," said I, "that I have no
idea at all what passed between Lady Saltire and my

"Well," said he, "without going into details, I may
say that what he whispered was a blasphemous wish, most
coarsely expressed, as to the future of that Upper House
to which I have the honor to belong."

"I am very sorry," said I, "and I assure you that I
have never encouraged him in his extreme political views,
which seem to me to be symptoms of his disease."

"I am quite convinced that what you say is true," he
answered; "but Lady Saltire is unhappily of the opinion
that you have instilled these ideas into him. You know
that it is a little difficult sometimes to reason with a
lady. However, I have no doubt that all may be smoothed
over if you would see Lady Saltire and assure her that
she has misunderstood your views upon this point, and
that you are personally a supporter of a Hereditary

It put me in a tight corner, Bertie; but my mind was
instantly made up. From the first word I had read my
dismissal in every uneasy glance of his little eyes.

"I am afraid," said I, "that that is rather further
than I am prepared to go. I think that since there has
been for some weeks a certain friction between Lady
Saltire and myself, it would perhaps be as well that I
should resign the post which I hold in your household.
I shall be happy, however, to remain here until you have
found some one to take over my duties."

"Well, I am sorry it has come to this, and yet it may
be that you are right," said he, with an expression of
relief; "as to James, there need be no difficulty about
that, for Dr. Patterson could come in tomorrow morning."

"Then to-morrow morning let it be," I answered.

"Very good, Dr. Munro; I will see that you have your
cheque before you go."

So there was the end of all my fine dreams about
aristocratic practices and wonderful introductions! I
believe the only person in the whole house who regretted
me was Jimmy, who was quite downcast at the news. His
grief, however, did not prevent him from brushing my
new top-hat the wrong way on the morning that I left. I
did not notice it until I reached the station, and a most
undignified object I must have looked when I took my

So ends the history of a failure. I am, as you know,
inclined to fatalism, and do not believe that such a
thing as chance exists; so I am bound to think that this
experience was given to me for some end. It was a
preliminary canter for the big race, perhaps. My mother
was disappointed, but tried to show it as little as
possible. My father was a little sardonic over the
matter. I fear that the gap between us widens. By the
way, an extraordinary card arrived from Cullingworth
during my absence. "You are my man," said he; "mind that
I am to have you when I want you." There was no date and
no address, but the postmark was Bradfield in the north
of England. Does it mean nothing? Or may it mean
everything? We must wait and see.

Good-bye, old man. Let me hear equally fully about
your own affairs. How did the Rattray business go off?


MERTON ON THE MOORS, 5th March, 1882.

I was so delighted, my dear chap, to have your
assurance that nothing that I have said or could say upon
the subject of religion could offend you. It is
difficult to tell you how pleased and relieved I was at
your cordial letter. I have no one to whom I can talk
upon such matters. I am all driven inwards, and thought
turns sour when one lets it stagnate like that. It is a
grand thing to be able to tell it all to a sympathetic
listener--and the more so perhaps when he looks at it all
from another standpoint. It steadies and sobers one.

Those whom I love best are those who have least
sympathy with my struggles. They talk about having
faith, as if it could be done by an act of volition.
They might as well tell me to have black hair instead of
red. I might simulate it perhaps by refusing to use my
reason at all in religious matters. But I will
never be traitor to the highest thing that God has given
me. I WILL use it. It is more moral to use it and
go wrong, than to forego it and be right. It is only a
little foot-rule, and I have to measure Mount Everest
with it; but it's all I have, and I'll never give it up
while there's breath between my lips.

With all respect to you, Bertie, it is very easy to
be orthodox. A man who wanted mental peace and material
advancement in this world would certainly choose to be
so. As Smiles says--"A dead fish can float with the
stream, but it takes a man to swim against it." What
could be more noble than the start and the starter of
Christianity? How beautiful the upward struggle of an
idea, like some sweet flower blossoming out amongst
rubble and cinders! But, alas! to say that this idea was
a final idea! That this scheme of thought was above the
reason! That this gentle philosopher was that supreme
intelligence to which we cannot even imagine a
personality without irreverence!--all this will come to
rank with the strangest delusions of mankind. And then
how clouded has become that fine daybreak of
Christianity! Its representatives have risen from the
manger to the palace, from the fishing smack to the
House of Lords. Nor is that other old potentate in the
Vatican, with his art treasures, his guards, and his
cellars of wine in a more logical position. They are all
good and talented men, and in the market of brains are
worth perhaps as much as they get. But how can they
bring themselves to pose as the representatives of a
creed, which, as they themselves expound it, is based
upon humility, poverty, and self-denial? Not one of them
who would not quote with approval the parable of the
Wedding Guest. But try putting one of them out of their
due precedence at the next Court reception. It happened
some little time ago with a Cardinal, and England rang
with his protests. How blind not to see how they would
spring at one leap into the real first place if they
would but resolutely claim the last as the special badge
of their master!

What can we know? What are we all? Poor silly half-
brained things peering out at the infinite, with the
aspirations of angels and the instincts of beasts. But
surely all will be well with us. If not, then He who
made us is evil, which is not to be thought. Surely,
then, all must go very well with us!

I feel ashamed when I read this over. My mind fills
in all the trains of thought of which you have the rude
ends peeping out from this tangle. Make what you can of
it, dear Bertie, and believe that it all comes from my
innermost heart. Above all may I be kept from becoming
a partisan, and tempering with truth in order to sustain
a case. Let me but get a hand on her skirt, and she may
drag me where she will, if she will but turn her face
from time to time that I may know her.

You'll see from the address of this letter, Bertie,
that I have left Scotland and am in Yorkshire. I have
been here three months, and am now on the eve of leaving
under the strangest circumstances and with the queerest
prospects. Good old Cullingworth has turned out a trump,
as I always knew he would. But, as usual, I am beginning
at the wrong end, so here goes to give you an idea of
what has been happening.

I told you in my last about my lunacy adventure and
my ignominious return from Lochtully Castle. When I had
settled for the flannel vests which my mother had ordered
so lavishly I had only five pounds left out of my pay.
With this, as it was the first money that I had ever
earned im{sic} my life, I bought her a gold bangle, so
behold me reduced at once to my usual empty pocketed
condition. Well, it was something just to feel that I
HAD earned money. It gave me an assurance that I
might again.

I had not been at home more than a few days when my
father called me into the study after breakfast one
morning and spoke very seriously as to our financial
position. He began the interview by unbuttoning his
waistcoat and asking me to listen at his fifth
intercostal space, two inches from the left sternal line.
I did so, and was shocked to hear a well-marked mitral
regurgitant murmur.

"It is of old standing," said he, "but of late I have
had a puffiness about the ankles and some renal symptoms
which show me that it is beginning to tell."

I tried to express my grief and sympathy, but he cut
me short with some asperity.

"The point is," said he, "that no insurance office
would accept my life, and that I have been unable, owing
to competition and increased expenses, to lay anything
by. If I die soon (which, between ourselves, is by
no means improbable), I must leave to your care your
mother and the children. My practice is so entirely a
personal one that I cannot hope to be able to hand over
to you enough to afford a living."

I thought of Cullingworth's advice about going where
you are least known. "I think," said I, "that, my
chances would be better away from here."

"Then you must lose no time in establishing
yourself," said he. "Your position would be one of great
responsibility if anything were to happen to me just now.
I had hoped that you had found an excellent opening with
the Saltires; but I fear that you can hardly expect to
get on in the world, my boy, if you insult your
employer's religious and political view at his own

It wasn't a time to argue, so I said nothing. My
father took a copy of the Lancet out of his desk, and
turned up an advertisement which he had marked with a
blue pencil. "Read this!" said he.

I've got it before me as I write. It runs thus:
Qualified Assistant. Wanted at once in a large country
and colliery practice. Thorough knowledge of
obstetrics and dispensing indispensable. Ride and drive.
L70 a year. Apply Dr, Horton Merton on the Moors,

"There might be an opening there," said he. "I know
Horton, and I am convinced that I can get you the
appointment. It would at least give you the opportunity
of looking round and seeing whether there was any vacancy
there. How do you think it would suit you?"

Of course I could only answer that I was willing to
turn my hand to anything. But that interview has left a
mark upon me--a heavy ever-present gloom away at the
back of my soul, which I am conscious of even when the
cause of it has for a moment gone out of my thoughts.

I had enough to make a man serious before, when I had
to face the world without money or interest. But now to
think of the mother and my sisters and little Paul all
leaning upon me when I cannot stand myself--it is a
nightmare. Could there be anything more dreadful in life
than to have those whom you love looking to you for help
and to be unable to give it? But perhaps it won't come
to that. Perhaps my father may hold his own for years.
Come what may, I am bound to think that all things
are ordered for the best; though when the good is a
furlong off, and we with our beetle eyes can only see
three inches, it takes some confidence in general
principles to pull us through.

Well, it was all fixed up; and down I came to
Yorkshire. I wasn't in the best of spirits when I
started, Bertie, but they went down and down as I neared
my destination. How people can dwell in such places
passes my comprehension. What can life offer them to
make up for these mutilations of the face of Nature? No
woods, little grass, spouting chimneys, slate-coloured
streams, sloping mounds of coke and slag, topped by the
great wheels and pumps of the mines. Cinder-strewn
paths, black as though stained by the weary miners who
toil along them, lead through the tarnished fields to the
rows of smoke-stained cottages. How can any young
unmarried man accept such a lot while there's an empty
hammock in the navy, or a berth in a merchant forecastle?
How many shillings a week is the breath of the ocean
worth? It seems to me that if I were a poor man--well,
upon my word, that "if" is rather funny when I think
that many of the dwellers in those smoky cottages have
twice my salary with half my expenses.

Well, as I said, my spirits sank lower and lower
until they got down into the bulb, when on looking
through the gathering gloom I saw "Merton" printed on the
lamps of a dreary dismal station. I got out, and was
standing beside my trunk and my hat-box, waiting for a
porter, when up came a cheery-looking fellow and asked me
whether I was Dr. Stark Munro. "I'm Horton," said he;
and shook hands cordially.

In that melancholy place the sight of him was like a
fire on a frosty night. He was gaily dressed in the
first place, check trousers, white waistcoat, a flower in
his button hole. But the look of the man was very much
to my heart. He was ruddy checked and black eyed, with
a jolly stout figure and an honest genial smile. I felt
as we clinched hands in the foggy grimy station that I
had met a man and a friend.

His carriage was waiting, and we drove out to his
residence, The Myrtles, where I was speedily introduced
both to his family and his practice. The former is
small, and the latter enormous. The wife is dead; but
her mother, Mrs. White, keeps house for him; and there
are two dear little girls, about five and seven. Then
there is an unqualified assistant, a young Irish student,
who, with the three maids, the coachman, and the stable
boy, make up the whole establishment. When I tell you
that we give four horses quite as much as they can do,
you will have an idea of the ground we cover.

The house, a large square brick one, standing in its
own grounds, is built on a small hill in an oasis of
green fields. Beyond this, however, on every side the
veil of smoke hangs over the country, with the mine pumps
and the chimneys bristling out of it. It would be a
dreadful place for an idle man: but we are all so busy
that we have hardly time to think whether there's a view
or not.

Day and night we are at work; and yet the three
months have been very pleasant ones to look back upon.

I'll give you an idea of what a day's work is like.
We breakfast about nine o'clock, and immediately
afterwards the morning patients begin to drop in. Many
of them are very poor people, belonging to the colliery
clubs, the principle of which is, that the members pay a
little over a halfpenny a week all the year round, well
or ill, in return for which they get medicine and
attendance free. "Not much of a catch for the doctors,"
you would say, but it is astonishing what competition
there is among them to get the appointment. You see it
is a certainty for one thing, and it leads indirectly to
other little extras. Besides, it amounts up
surprisingly. I have no doubt that Horton has five or
six hundred a year from his clubs alone. On the other
hand, you can imagine that club patients, since they pay
the same in any case, don't let their ailments go very
far before they are round in the consulting room.

Well, then, by half-past nine we are in full blast.
Horton is seeing the better patients in the consulting
room, I am interviewing the poorer ones in the waiting
room, and McCarthy, the Irishman, making up prescriptions
as hard as he can tear. By the club rules, patients are
bound to find their own bottles and corks.

They generally remember the bottle, but always
forget the cork. "Ye must pay a pinny or ilse put your
forefinger in," says McCarthy. They have an idea that
all the strength of the medicine goes if the bottle is
open, so they trot off with their fingers stuck in the
necks. They have the most singular notions about
medicines. "It's that strong that a spoon will stand oop
in't!" is one man's description. Above all, they love to
have two bottles, one with a solution of citric acid, and
the other with carbonate of soda. When the mixture
begins to fizz, they realise that there is indeed a
science of medicine.

This sort of work, with vaccinations, bandagings, and
minor surgery, takes us to nearly eleven o'clock, when we
assemble in Horton's room to make out the list. All the
names of patients under treatment are pinned upon a big
board. We sit round with note books open, and distribute
those who must be seen between us. By the time this is
done and the horses in, it is half-past eleven. Then
away we all FLY upon our several tasks: Horton in
a carriage and pair to see the employers; I in a dog cart
to see the employed; and McCarthy on his good Irish
legs to see those chronic cases to which a qualified man
can do no good, and an unqualified no harm.

Well, we all work back again by two o'clock, when we
find dinner waiting for us. We may or may not have
finished our rounds. If not away we go again. If we
have, Horton dictates his prescriptions, and strides off
to bed with his black clay pipe in his mouth. He is the
most abandoned smoker I have ever met with, collecting
the dottles of his pipes in the evening, and smoking them
the next morning before breakfast in the stable yard.
When he has departed for his nap, McCarthy and I get to
work on the medicine. There are, perhaps, fifty bottles
to put up, with pills, ointment, etc. It is quite half-
past four before we have them all laid out on the shelf
addressed to the respective invalids. Then we have an
hour or so of quiet, when we smoke or read, or box with
the coachman in the harness room. After tea the
evening's work commences. From six to nine people are
coming in for their medicine, or fresh patients wishing
advice. When these are settled we have to see again any
very grave cases which may be on the list; and so,
about ten o'clock, we may hope to have another smoke, and
perhaps a game of cards. Then it is a rare thing for a
night to pass without one or other of us having to trudge
off to a case which may take us two hours, or may take us
ten. Hard work, as you see; but Horton is such a good
chap, and works so hard himself, that one does not mind
what one does. And then we are all like brothers in the
house; our talk is just a rattle of chaff, and the
patients are as homely as ourselves, so that the work
becomes quite a pleasure to all of us.

Yes, Horton is a real right-down good fellow. His
heart is broad and kind and generous. There is nothing
petty in the man. He loves to see those around him
happy; and the sight of his sturdy figure and jolly red
face goes far to make them so. Nature meant him to be a
healer; for he brightens up a sick room as he did the
Merton station when first I set eyes upon him. Don't
imagine from my description that he is in any way soft,
however. There is no one on whom one could be less
likely to impose. He has a temper which is easily aflame
and as easily appeased. A mistake in the dispensing
may wake it up and then he bursts into the surgery like
a whiff of cast wind, his checks red, his whiskers
bristling, and his eyes malignant. The daybook is
banged, the bottles rattled, the counter thumped, and
then he is off again with five doors slamming behind him.
We can trace his progress when the black mood is on him
by those dwindling slams. Perhaps it is that McCarthy
has labelled the cough mixture as the eye-wash, or sent
an empty pillbox with an exhortation to take one every
four hours. In any case the cyclone comes and goes, and
by the next meal all is peace once more.

I said that the patients were very homely. Any one
who is over-starched might well come here to be
unstiffened. I confess that I did not quite fall in with
it at once. When on one of my first mornings a club
patient with his bottle under his arm came up to me and
asked me if I were the doctor's man, I sent him on to see
the groom in the stable. But soon one falls into the
humour of it. There is no offence meant; and why should
any be taken? They are kindly, generous folk; and if
they pay no respect to your profession in the
abstract, and so rather hurt your dignity, they will be
as leal and true as possible to yourself if you can win
their respect. I like the grip of their greasy and
blackened hands.

Another peculiarity of the district is that many of
the manufacturers and colliery owners have risen from the
workmen, and have (in some cases at least) retained their
old manners and even their old dress. The other day Mrs.
White, Horton's mother-in-law, had a violent sick
headache, and, as we are all very fond of the kind old
lady, we were trying to keep things as quiet as possible
down-stairs. Suddenly there came a bang! bang! bang! at
the knocker; and then in an instant another rattling
series of knocks, as if a tethered donkey were trying to
kick in the panel. After all our efforts for silence it
was exasperating. I rushed to the door to find a seedy
looking person just raising his hand to commence a fresh
bombardment. "What on earth's the matter?" I asked,
only I may have been a little more emphatic. "Pain in
the jaw," said he. "You needn't make such a noise," said
I; "other people are ill besides you." "If I pay my
money, young man, I'll make such noise as I like." And
actually in cold blood he commenced a fresh assault
upon the door. He would have gone on with his devil's
tattoo all morning if I had not led him down the path and
seen him off the premises. An hour afterwards Horton
whirled into the surgery, with a trail of banged doors
behind him. "What's this about Mr. Usher, Munro?" he
asked. "He says that you were violent towards him."
"There was a club patient here who kept on banging the
knocker," said I; "I was afraid that he would disturb
Mrs. White, and so I made him stop." Horton's eyes began
to twinkle. "My boy," said he, "that club patient, as
you call him, is the richest man in Merton, and worth a
hundred a year to me." I have no doubt that he appeased
him by some tale of my disgrace and degradation; but I
have not heard anything of the matter since.

It has been good for me to be here, Bertie. It has
brought me in close contact with the working classes, and
made me realise what fine people they are. Because one
drunkard goes home howling on a Saturday night, we are
too apt to overlook the ninety-nine decent folk by their
own firesides. I shall not make that mistake any more.
The kindliness of the poor to the poor makes a man
sick of himself. And their sweet patience! Depend upon
it, if ever there is a popular rising, the wrongs which
lead to it must be monstrous and indefensible. I think
the excesses of the French Revolution are dreadful enough
in themselves, but much more so as an index to the slow
centuries of misery against which they were a mad
protest. And then the wisdom of the poor! It is amusing
to read the glib newspaper man writing about the
ignorance of the masses. They don't know the date of
Magna Charta, or whom John of Gaunt married; but put a
practical up-to-date problem before them, and see how
unerringly they take the right side. Didn't they put the
Reform Bill through in the teeth of the opposition of the
majority of the so-called educated classes? Didn't they
back the North against the South when nearly all our
leaders went wrong? When universal arbitration and the
suppression of the liquor traffic comes, is it not sure
to be from the pressure of these humble folks? They look
at life with clearer and more unselfish eyes. It's an
axiom, I think, that to heighten a nation's wisdom you
must lower its franchise.

I often have my doubts, Bertie, if there is such a
thing as the existence of evil? If we could honestly
convince ourselves that there was not, it would help us
so much in formulating a rational religion. But don't
let us strain truth even for such an object as that. I
must confess that there are some forms of vice, cruelty
for example, for which it is hard to find any
explanation, save indeed that it is a degenerate survival
of that war-like ferocity which may once have been of
service in helping to protect the community. No; let me
be frank, and say that I can't make cruelty fit into my
scheme. But when you find that other evils, which seem
at first sight black enough, really tend in the long run
to the good of mankind, it may be hoped that those which
continue to puzzle us may at last be found to serve the
same end in some fashion which is now inexplicable.

It seems to me that the study of life by the
physician vindicates the moral principles of right and
wrong. But when you look closely it is a question
whether that which is a wrong to the present community
may not prove to have been a right to the interests of
posterity. That sounds a little foggy; but I will make
my meaning more clear when I say that I think right
and wrong are both tools which are being wielded by those
great hands which are shaping the destinies of the
universe, that both are making for improvement; but that
the action of the one is immediate, and that of the other
more slow, but none the less certain. Our own
distinction of right and wrong is founded too much upon
the immediate convenience of the community, and does not
inquire sufficiently deeply into the ultimate effect.

I have my own views about Nature's methods, though I
feel that it is rather like a beetle giving his opinions
upon the milky way. However, they have the merit of
being consoling; for if we could conscientiously see that
sin served a purpose, and a good one, it would take some
of the blackness out of life. It seems to me, then, that
Nature, still working on the lines of evolution,
strengthens the race in two ways. The one is by
improving those who are morally strong, which is done by
increased knowledge and broadening religious views; the
other, and hardly less important, is by the killing off
and extinction of those who are morally weak. This
is accomplished by drink and immorality. These are
really two of the most important forces which work for
the ultimate perfection of the race. I picture them as
two great invisible hands hovering over the garden of
life and plucking up the weeds. Looked at in one's own
day, one can only see that they produce degradation and
misery. But at the end of a third generation from then,
what has happened? The line of the drunkard and of the
debauchee, physically as well as morally weakened, is
either extinct or on the way towards it. Struma,
tubercle, nervous disease, have all lent a hand towards
the pruning off of that rotten branch, and the average of
the race is thereby improved. I believe from the little
that I have seen of life, that it is a law which acts
with startling swiftness, that a majority of drunkards
never perpetuate their species at all, and that when the
curse is hereditary, the second generation generally sees
the end of it.

Don't misunderstand me, and quote me as saying that
it is a good thing for a nation that it should have many
drunkards. Nothing of the kind. What I say is, that if
a nation has many morally weak people, then it is
good that there should be a means for checking those
weaker strains. Nature has her devices, and drink is
among them. When there are no more drunkards and
reprobates, it means that the race is so advanced that it
no longer needs such rough treatment. Then the all-wise
Engineer will speed us along in some other fashion.

I've been thinking a good deal lately about this
question of the uses of evil, and of how powerful a tool
it is in the hands of the Creator. Last night the whole
thing crystallised out quite suddenly into a small set of
verses. Please jump them if they bore you.



God's own best will bide the test,
And God's own worst will fall;
But, best or worst or last or first,
He ordereth it all.


For ALL is good, if understood,
(Ah, could we understand!)
And right and ill are tools of skill
Held in His either hand.


The harlot and the anchorite,
The martyr and the rake,
Deftly He fashions each aright,
Its vital part to take.


Wisdom He makes to guide the sap
Where the high blossoms be;
And Lust to kill the weaker branch,
And Drink to trim the tree.


And Holiness that so the bole
Be solid at the core;
And Plague and Fever, that the whole
Be changing evermore.


He strews the microbes in the lung,
The blood-clot in the brain;
With test and test He picks the best,
Then tests them once again.


He tests the body and the mind,
He rings them o'er and o'er;
And if they crack, He throws them back,
And fashions them once more.


He chokes the infant throat with slime,
He sets the ferment free;
He builds the tiny tube of lime
That blocks the artery.


He lets the youthful dreamer store
Great projects in his brain,
Until he drops the fungus spore
That smears them out again.


He stores the milk that feeds the babe,
He dulls the tortured nerve;
He gives a hundred joys of sense
Where few or none might serve.


And still he trains the branch of good
Where the high blossoms be,
And wieldeth still the shears of ill
To prune and prune His tree.


So read I this--and as I try
To write it clear again,
I feel a second finger lie
Above mine on the pen.


Dim are these peering eyes of mine,
And dark what I have seen.
But be I wrong, the wrong is Thine,
Else had it never been.

I am quite ashamed of having been so didactic. But
it is fine to think that sin may have an object and work
towards good. My father says that I seem to look upon
the universe as if it were my property, and can't be
happy until I know that all is right with it. Well, it
does send a glow through me when I seem to catch a
glimpse of the light behind the clouds.

And now for my big bit of news which is going to
change my whole life. Whom do you think I had a letter
from last Tuesday week? From Cullingworth, no less. It
had no beginning, no end, was addressed all wrong, and
written with a very thick quill pen upon the back of a
prescription. How it ever reached me is a wonder. This
is what he had to say:--

"Started here in Bradfield last June. Colossal
success. My example must revolutionise medical practice.
Rapidly making fortune. Have invention which is
worth millions. Unless our Admiralty take it up shall
make Brazil the leading naval power. Come down by next
train on receiving this. Have plenty for you to do."

That was the whole of this extraordinary letter; it
had no name to it, which was certainly reasonable enough,
since no one else could have written it. Knowing
Cullingworth as well as I did, I took it with
reservations and deductions. How could he have made so
rapid and complete a success in a town in which he must
have been a complete stranger? It was incredible. And
yet there must be some truth in it, or he would not
invite me to come down and test it. On the whole, I
thought that I had better move very cautiously in the
matter; for I was happy and snug where I was, and kept on
putting a little by, which I hoped would form a nucleus
to start me in practice. It is only a few pounds up to
date, but in a year or so it might mount to something.
I wrote to Cullingworth, therefore, thanking him for
having remembered me, and explaining how matters stood.

I had had great difficulty in finding an opening,
I said, and now that I had one I was loth to give it
up save for a permanency.

Ten days passed, during which Cullingworth was
silent. Then came a huge telegram.

"Your letter to hand. Why not call me a liar at
once? I tell you that I have seen thirty thousand
patients in the last year. My actual takings have been
over four thousand pounds. All patients come to me.
Would not cross the street to see Queen Victoria. You
can have all visiting, all surgery, all midwifery. Make
what you like of it. Will guarantee three hundred pounds
the first year."

Well, this began to look more like business--
especially that last sentence. I took it to Horton, and
asked his advice. His opinion was that I had nothing to
lose and everything to gain. So it ended by my wiring
back accepting the partnership--if it is a partnership--
and to-morrow morning I am off to Bradfield with great
hopes and a small portmanteau. I know how interested you
are in the personality of Cullingworth--as every one is
who comes, even at second hand, within range of his
influence; and so you may rely upon it that I shall give
you a very full and particular account of all that
passes between us. I am looking forward immensely to
seeing him again, and I trust we won't have any rows.

Goodbye, old chap. My foot is upon the threshold of
fortune. Congratulate me.


1 THE PARADE, BRADFIELD, 7th March, 1882.

It is only two days since I wrote to you, my dear old
chap, and yet I find myself loaded to the muzzle and at
full cock again. I have come to Bradfield. I have seen
old Cullingworth once more, and I have found that all he
has told me is true. Yes; incredible as it sounded, this
wonderful fellow seems to have actually built up a great
practice in little more than a year. He really is, with
all his eccentricities, a very remarkable man, Bertie.
He doesn't seem to have a chance of showing his true
powers in this matured civilisation. The law and custom
hamper him. He is the sort of fellow who would come
right to the front in a French Revolution. Or if you put
him as Emperor over some of these little South American
States, I believe that in ten years he would either be in
his grave, or would have the Continent. Yes;
Cullingworth is fit to fight for a higher stake
than a medical practice, and on a bigger stage than an
English provincial town. When I read of Aaron Burr in
your history I always picture him as a man like C.

I had the kindest of leave takings from Horton. If
he had been my brother he could not have been more
affectionate. I could not have thought that I should
grow so fond of a man in so short a time. He takes the
keenest interest in my venture, and I am to write him a
full account. He gave me as we parted a black old
meerschaum which he had coloured himself--the last
possible pledge of affection from a smoker. It was
pleasant for me to feel that if all went wrong at
Bradfield, I had a little harbour at Merton for which I
could make. Still, of course, pleasant and instructive
as the life there was, I could not shut my eyes to the
fact that it would take a terribly long time before I
could save enough to buy a share in a practice--a longer
time probably than my poor father's strength would last.
That telegram of Cullingworth's in which, as you may
remember, he guaranteed me three hundred pounds in the
first year, gave me hopes of a much more rapid career.
You will agree with me, I am sure, that I did wisely
to go to him.

I had an adventure upon the way to Bradfield. The
carriage in which I was travelling contained a party of
three, at whom I took the most casual of glances before
settling down to the daily paper. There was an elderly
lady, with a bright rosy face, gold spectacles, and a
dash of red velvet in her bonnet. With her were two
younger people, who I took to be her son and her
daughter--the one a quiet, gentle-looking girl of twenty
or so, dressed in black, and the other a short, thick-set
young fellow, a year or two older. The two ladies sat by
each other in the far corner, and the son (as I presume
him to be) sat opposite me. We may have travelled an
hour or more without my paying any attention to this
little family party, save that I could not help hearing
some talk between the two ladies. The younger, who was
addressed as Winnie, had, as I noticed, a very sweet and
soothing voice. She called the elder "mother," which
showed that I was right as to the relationship.

I was sitting, then, still reading my paper, when I
was surprised to get a kick on the shins from the young
fellow opposite. I moved my legs, thinking that it
was an accident, but an instant afterwards I received
another and a harder one. I dropped my paper with a
growl, but the moment that I glanced at him I saw how the
matter stood. His foot was jerking spasmodically, his
two hands clenched, and drumming against his breast,
while his eyes were rolling upwards until only the rim of
his iris was to be seen. I sprang upon him, tore open
his collar, unbuttoned his waistcoat, and pulled his head
down upon the seat. Crash went one of his heels through
the carriage window, but I contrived to sit upon his
knees while I kept hold of his two wrists.

"Don't be alarmed!" I cried it's epilepsy, and will
soon pass!"

Glancing up, I saw that the little girl was sitting
very pale and quiet in the corner. The mother had pulled
a bottle out of her bag and was quite cool and helpful.

"He often has them," said she this is bromide."

"He is coming out," I answered; "you look after

I blurted it out because her head seemed to rock as
if she were going off; but the absurdity of the
thing struck us all next moment, and the mother burst
into a laugh in which the daughter and I joined. The son
had opened his eyes and had ceased to struggle.

"I must really beg your pardon," said I, as I helped
him up again. "I had not the advantage of knowing your
other name, and I was in such a hurry that I had no time
to think what I was saying."

They laughed again in the most good-humoured way,
and, as soon as the young fellow had recovered, we all
joined in quite a confidential conversation. It is
wonderful how the intrusion of any of the realities of
life brushes away the cobwebs of etiquette. In half an
hour we knew all about each other, or at any rate I knew
all about them. Mrs. La Force was the mother's name, a
widow with these two children. They had given up
housekeeping, and found it more pleasant to live in
apartments, travelling from one watering place to
another. Their one trouble was the nervous weakness of
the son Fred. They were now on their way to Birchespool,
where they hoped that he might get some good from the
bracing air. I was able to recommend vegetarianism,
which I have found to act like a charm in
such cases. We had quite a spirited conversation, and I
think that we were sorry on both sides when we came to
the junction where they had to change. Mrs. La Force
gave me her card, and I promised to call if ever I should
be in Birchespool.

However, all this must be stupid enough to you. You
know my little ways by this time, and you don't expect me
to keep on the main line of my story. However, I am back
on the rails now, and I shall try to remain there.

Well, it was nearly six o'clock, and evening was just
creeping in when we drew up in Bradfield Station. The
first thing I saw when I looked out of the window was
Cullingworth, exactly the same as ever, striding in his
jerky way down the platform, his coat flying open, his
chin thrust forward (he is the most under-hung man I have
ever seen), and his great teeth all gleaming, like a
good-natured blood-hound. He roared with delight when he
saw me, wrung my hand, and slapped me enthusiastically
upon the shoulder.

"My dear chap!" said he. "We'll clear this town
out. I tell you, Munro, we won't leave a doctor in it.
It's all they can do now to get butter to their bread;
and when we get to work together they'll have to eat it
dry. Listen to me, my boy! There are a hundred and
twenty thousand folk in this town, all shrieking for
advice, and there isn't a doctor who knows a rhubarb pill
from a calculus. Man, we only have to gather them in.
I stand and take the money until my arm aches."

"But how is it?" I asked, as we pushed our way
through the crowd. Are there so few other doctors?"

"Few!" he roared. "By Crums, the streets are blocked
with them. You couldn't fall out of a window in this
town without killing a doctor. But of all the----well,
there, you'll see them for yourself. You walked to my
house at Avonmouth, Munro. I don't let my friends walk
to my house at Bradfield--eh, what?"

A well-appointed carriage with two fine black horses
was drawn up at the station entrance. The smart coachman
touched his hat as Cullingworth opened the door.

"Which of the houses, sir?" he asked.

Cullingworth's eyes shot round to me to see what I
thought of such a query. Between ourselves I have not
the slightest doubt that he had instructed the man to ask
it. He always had a fine eye for effect, but he usually
erred by underrating the intelligence of those around

"Ah!" said he, rubbing his chin like a man in doubt.
"Well, I daresay dinner will be nearly ready. Drive to
the town residential."

"Good gracious, Cullingworth!" said I as we started.
"How many houses do you inhabit? It sounds as if you had
bought the town."

"Well, well," said he, laughing, "we are driving to
the house where I usually live. It suits us very well,
though I have not been able to get all the rooms
furnished yet. Then I have a little farm of a few
hundred acres just outside the city. It is a pleasant
place for the week ends, and we send the nurse and the

"My dear chap, I did not know that you had started a

"Yes, it's an infernal nuisance; but still the
fact remains. We get our butter and things from the
farm. Then, of course, I have my house of business in
the heart of the city."

"Consulting and waiting room, I suppose?"

He looked at me with a sort of half vexed, half
amused expression. "You cannot rise to a situation,
Munro," said he. "I never met a fellow with such a
stodgy imagination. I'd trust you to describe a thing
when you have seen it, but never to build up an idea of
it beforehand."

"What's the trouble now?" I asked.

"Well, I have written to you about my practice, and
I've wired to you about it, and here you sit asking me if
I work it in two rooms. I'll have to hire the market
square before I've finished, and then I won't have space
to wag my elbows. Can your imagination rise to a great
house with people waiting in every room, jammed in as
tight as they'll fit, and two layers of them squatting in
the cellar? Well, that's my house of business on an
average day. The folk come in from the county fifty
miles off, and eat bread and treacle on the doorstep, so
as to be first in when the housekeeper comes down.
The medical officer of health made an official
complaint of the over-crowding of my waiting-rooms. They
wait in the stables, and sit along the racks and under
the horses' bellies. I'll turn some of 'em on to you, my
boy, and then you'll know a little more about it."

Well, all this puzzled me a good deal, as you can
imagine, Bertie; for, making every allowance for
Cullingworth's inflated way of talking, there must be
something at the back of it. I was thinking to myself
that I must keep my head cool, and have a look at
everything with my own eyes, when the carriage pulled up
and we got out.

"This is my little place," said Cullingworth.

It was the corner house of a line of fine buildings,
and looked to me much more like a good-sized hotel than
a private mansion. It had a broad sweep of steps leading
to the door, and towered away up to five or six stories,
with pinnacles and a flagstaff on the top. As a matter
of fact, I learned that before Cullingworth took it, it
had been one of the chief clubs in the town, but the
committee had abandoned it on account of the heavy rent.
A smart maid opened the door; and a moment later I
was shaking hands with Mrs. Cullingworth, who was all
kindliness and cordiality. She has, I think, forgotten
the little Avonmouth business, when her husband and I
fell out.

The inside of the house was even huger than I had
thought from the look of the exterior. There were over
thirty bedrooms, Cullingworth informed me, as he helped
me to carry my portmanteau upstairs. The hall and first
stair were most excellently furnished and carpetted, but
it all run to nothing at the landing. My own bedroom had
a little iron bed, and a small basin standing on a
packing case. Cullingworth took a hammer from the
mantelpiece, and began to knock in nails behind the door.

"These will do to hang your clothes on," said he;
"you don't mind roughing it a little until we get things
in order?"

"Not in the least."

"You see," he explained, "there's no good my putting
a forty pound suite into a bed-room, and then having to
chuck it all out of the window in order to make room for
a hundred-pound one. No sense in that, Munro! Eh,
what! I'm going to furnish this house as no house
has ever been furnished. By Crums! I'll bring the folk
from a hundred miles round just to have leave to look at
it. But I must do it room by room. Come down with me
and look at the dining-room. You must be hungry after
your journey."

It really was furnished in a marvellous way--nothing
flash, and everything magnificent. The carpet was so
rich that my feet seemed to sink into it as into deep
moss. The soup was on the table, and Mrs. Cullingworth
sitting down, but he kept hauling me round to look at
something else.

"Go on, Hetty," he cried over his shoulder. "I just
want to show Munro this. Now, these plain dining-room
chairs, what d'you think they cost each? Eh, what?"

"Five pounds," said I at a venture.

"Exactly!" he cried, in great delight; "thirty pounds
for the six. You hear, Hetty! Munro guessed the price
first shot. Now, my boy, what for the pair of curtains?"

They were a magnificent pair of stamped crimson
velvet, with a two-foot gilt cornice above them. I
thought that I had better not imperil my newly gained
reputation by guessing.

"Eighty pounds!" he roared, slapping them with the
back of his hand. "Eighty pounds, Munro! What d'ye
think of that? Everything that I have in this house is
going to be of the best. Why, look at this waiting-maid!
Did you ever see a neater one?"

He swung the girl, towards me by the arm.

Don't be silly, Jimmy," said Mrs. Cullingworth
mildly, while he roared with laughter, with all his fangs
flashing under his bristling moustache. The girl edged
closer to her mistress, looking half-frightened and half-

"All right, Mary, no harm!" he cried. "Sit down,
Munro, old chap. Get a bottle of champagne, Mary, and
we'll drink to more luck."

Well, we had a very pleasant little dinner. It is
never slow if Cullingworth is about. He is one of those
men who make a kind of magnetic atmosphere, so that you
feel exhilarated and stimulated in their presence. His
mind is so nimble and his thoughts so extravagant, that
your own break away from their usual grooves, and
surprise you by their activity. You feel pleased at
your own inventiveness and originality, when you are
really like the wren when it took a lift on the eagle's
shoulder. Old Peterson, you remember, used to have a
similar effect upon you in the Linlithgow days.

In the middle of dinner he plunged off, and came back
with a round bag about the size of a pomegranate in his

"What d'ye think this is, Munro? Eh?"

"I have no idea."

"Our day's take. Eh, Hetty?" He undid a string, and
in an instant a pile of gold and silver rattled down upon
the cloth, the coins whirling and clinking among the
dishes. One rolled off the table and was retrieved by
the maid from some distant corner.

"What is it, Mary? A half sovereign? Put it in your
pocket. What did the lot come to, Hetty?"

"Thirty-one pound eight."

"You see, Munro! One day's work." He plunged his
hand into his trouser pocket and brought out a pile of
sovereigns, which he balanced in his palm. "Look at
that, laddie. Rather different from my Avonmouth
form, eh? What?"

"It will be good news for them," I suggested.

He was scowling at me in an instant with all his old
ferocity. You cannot imagine a more savage-looking
creature than Cullingworth is when his temper goes wrong.
He gets a perfectly fiendish expression in his light blue
eyes, and all his hair bristles up like a striking cobra.
He isn't a beauty at his best, but at his worst he's
really phenomenal. At the first danger signal his wife
had ordered the maid from the room.

"What rot you do talk, Munro!" he cried. "Do you
suppose I am going to cripple myself for years by letting
those debts hang on to me?"

"I understood that you had promised," said I.
"Still, of course, it is no business of mine."

"I should hope not," he cried. "A tradesman stands
to win or to lose. He allows a margin for bad debts. I
would have paid it if I could. I couldn't, and so I
wiped the slate clean. No one in his senses would dream
of spending all the money that I make in Bradfield
upon the tradesmen of Avonmouth."

"Suppose they come down upon you?"

"Well, we'll see about that when they do. Meanwhile
I am paying ready money for every mortal thing that comes
up the door steps. They think so well of me here that I
could have had the whole place furnished like a palace
from the drain pipes to the flagstaff, only I determined
to take each room in turn when I was ready for it.
There's nearly four hundred pounds under this one

There came a tap at the door, and in walked a boy in

"If you please, sir, Mr. Duncan wishes to see you."

"Give my compliments to Mr. Duncan, and tell him he
may go to the devil!"

"My dear Jimmy!" cried Mrs. Cullingworth.

"Tell him I am at dinner; and if all the kings in
Europe were waiting in the hall with their crowns in
their hands I wouldn't cross that door mat to see them."

The boy vanished, but was back in an instant.

"Please, sir, he won't go."

"Won't go! What d'you mean?" Cullingworth sat with
his mouth open and his knife and fork sticking up. "What
d'you mean, you brat? What are you boggling about?"

"It's his bill, sir," said the frightened boy.

Cullingworth's face grew dusky, and the veins began
to swell on his forehead.

"His bill, eh! Look here!" He took his watch out
and laid it on the table. "It's two minutes to eight.
At eight I'm coming out, and if I find him there I'll
strew the street with him. Tell him I'll shred him over
the parish. He has two minutes to save his life in, and
one of them is nearly gone."

The boy bolted from the room, and in an instant
afterwards we heard the bang of the front door, with a
clatter of steps down the stairs. Cullingworth lay back
in his chair and roared until the tears shone on his
eyelashes, while his wife quivered all over with
sympathetic merriment.

"I'll drive him mad," Cullingworth sobbed at last.
"He's a nervous, chicken-livered kind of man; and when I
look at him he turns the colour of putty. If I pass
his shop I usually just drop in and stand and look at
him. I never speak, but just look. It paralyses him.
Sometimes the shop is full of people; but it is just the

"Who is he, then?" I asked.

"He's my corn merchant. I was saying that I paid my
tradesmen as I go, but he is the only exception. He has
done me once or twice, you see; and so I try to take it
out of him. By the way, you might send him down twenty
pounds to-morrow, Hetty. It's time for an instalment."

What a gossip you will think me, Bertie? But when I
begin, my memory brings everything back so clearly, and
I write on and on almost unconsciously. Besides, this
fellow is such a mixture of qualities, that I could never
give you any idea of him by myself; and so I just try to
repeat to you what he says, and what he does, so that you
may build up your own picture of the man. I know that he
has always interested you, and that he does so more now
than ever since our fates have drawn us together again.

After dinner, we went into the back room, which was
the most extraordinary contrast to the front one, having
only a plain deal table, and half-a-dozen kitchen chairs
scattered about on a linoleum floor. At one end was an
electric battery and a big magnet. At the other, a
packing case with several pistols and a litter of
cartridges upon it. A rook rifle was leaning tip against
it, and looking round I saw that the walls were all
pocked with bullet marks.

"What's this, then?" I asked, rolling my eyes round.

"Hetty, what's this?" he asked, with his pipe in his
hand and his head cocked sideways.

"Naval supremacy and the command of the seas," said
she, like a child repeating a lesson.

"That's it he shouted, stabbing at me with the amber.
"Naval supremacy and command of the seas. It's all here
right under your nose. I tell you, Munro, I could go to
Switzerland to-morrow, and I could say to them--`Look
here, you haven't got a seaboard and you haven't got a
port; but just find me a ship, and hoist your flag on it,
and I'll give you every ocean under heaven.' I'd sweep
the seas until there wasn't a match-box floating on
them. Or I could make them over to a limited company,
and join the board after allotment. I hold the salt
water in the cup of this hand, every drop of it."

His wife put her hands on his shoulder with
admiration in her eyes. I turned to knock out my pipe,
and grinned over the grate.

"Oh, you may grin," said he. (He was wonderfully
quick at spotting what you were doing.) "You'll grin a
little wider when you see the dividends coming in.
What's the value of that magnet?"

"A pound?"

"A million pounds. Not a penny under. And dirt
cheap to the nation that buys it. I shall let it go at
that, though I could make ten times as much if I held on.
I shall take it up to the Secretary of the Navy in a week
or two; and if he seems to be a civil deserving sort of
person I shall do business with him. It's not every day,
Munro, that a man comes into his office with the Atlantic
under one arm and the Pacific under the other. Eh,

I knew it would make him savage, but I lay back
in my chair and laughed until I was tired. His wife
looked at me reproachfully; but he, after a moment of
blackness, burst out laughing also, stamping up and down
the room and waving his arms.

"Of course it seems absurd to you," he cried. "Well,
I daresay it would to me if any other fellow had worked
it out. But you may take my word for it that it's all
right. Hetty here will answer for it. Won't you,

"It's splendid, my dear."

"Now I'll show you, Munro; what an unbelieving Jew
you are, trying to look interested, and giggling at the
back of your throat! In the first place, I have
discovered a method--which I won't tell you--of
increasing the attractive power of a magnet a hundred-
fold. Have you grasped that?"


"Very good. You are also aware, I presume, that
modern projectiles are either made of or tipped with
steel. It may possibly have come to your ears that
magnets attract steel. Permit me now to show you a small
experiment." He bent over his apparatus, and I suddenly
heard the snapping of electricity. "This," he
continued going across to the packing case, "is a saloon
pistol, and will be exhibited in the museums of the next
century as being the weapon with which the new era was
inaugurated. Into the breech I place a Boxer cartridge,
specialty provided for experimental purposes with a steel
bullet. I aim point blank at the dab of red sealing wax
upon the wall, which is four inches above the magnet. I
am an absolutely dead shot. I fire. You will now
advance, and satisfy yourself that the bullet is
flattened upon the end of the magnet, after which you
will apologise to me for that grin."

I looked, and it certainly was as he had said.

"I'll tell you what I would do," he cried. "I am
prepared to put that magnet in Hetty's bonnet, and to let
you fire six shots straight at her face. How's that for
a test? You wouldn't mind, Hetty? Eh, what!"

"I don't think she would have objected, but I
hastened to disclaim any share in such an experiment.

"Of course, you see that the whole thing is to
scale. My warship of the future carries at her prow and
stern a magnet which shall be as much larger than that as
the big shell will be larger than this tiny bullet. Or
I might have a separate raft, possibly, to carry my
apparatus. My ship goes into action. What happens then,
Munro? Eh, what! Every shot fired at her goes smack on
to the magnet. There's a reservoir below into which they
drop when the electric circuit is broken. After every
action they are sold by auction for old metal, and the
result divided as prize money among the crew. But think
of it, man! I tell you it is an absolute impossibility
for a shot to strike any ship which is provided with my
apparatus. And then look at the cheapness. You don't
want armour. You want nothing. Any ship that floats
becomes invulnerable with one of these. The war ship of
the future will cost anything from seven pound ten.
You're grinning again; but if you give me a magnet and a
Brixton trawler with a seven-pounder gun I'll show sport
to the finest battle-ship afloat."

"Well, there must be some flaw about this," I
suggested. "If your magnet is so strong as all
that, you would have your own broadside boomeranging
back upon you."

"Not a bit of it! There's a big difference between
a shot flying away from you with all its muzzle velocity,
and another one which is coming towards you and only
needs a slight deflection to strike the magnet. Besides,
by breaking the circuit I can take off the influence when
I am firing my own broadside. Then I connect, and
instantly become invulnerable."

"And your nails and screws?"

"The warship of the future will be bolted together by

Well, he would talk of nothing else the whole evening
but of this wonderful invention of his. Perhaps there is
nothing in it--probably there is not; and yet it
illustrates the many-sided nature of the man, that he
should not say one word about his phenominal success
here--of which I am naturally most anxious to hear--not
a word either upon the important subject of our
partnership, but will think and talk of nothing but this
extraordinary naval idea. In a week he will have tossed
it aside in all probability, and be immersed in some plan
for reuniting the Jews and settling them in
Madagascar. Yet from all he has said, and all I
have seen, there can be no doubt that he has in some
inexplicable way made a tremendous hit, and to-morrow I
shall let you know all about it. Come what may, I am
delighted that I came, for things promise to be
interesting. Regard this not as the end of a letter, but
of a paragraph. You shall have the conclusion to-morrow,
or on Thursday at the latest. Goodbye, and my
remembrance to Lawrence if you see him. How's your
friend from Yale?


1 THE PARADE, BRADFIELD, 9th March, 1882.

Well, you see I am as good as my word, Bertie; and
here is a full account of this queer little sample gouged
out of real life, never to be seen, I should fancy, by
any eye save your own. I have written to Horton also,
and of course to my mother; but I don't go into detail
with them, as I have got into the way of doing with you.
You keep on assuring me that you like it; so on your own
head be it if you find my experiences gradually
developing into a weariness.

When I woke in the morning, and looked round at the
bare walls and the basin on the packing case, I hardly
knew where I was. Cullingworth came charging into the
room in his dressing gown, however, and roused me
effectually by putting his hands on the rail at the end
of the bed, and throwing a somersault over it which
brought his heels on to my pillow with a thud. He was in
great spirits, and, squatting on the bed, he
held forth about his plans while I dressed.

"I tell you one of the first things I mean to do,
Munro," said he. "I mean to have a paper of my own.
We'll start a weekly paper here, you and I, and we'll
make them sit up all round. We'll have an organ of our
own, just like every French politician. If any one
crosses us, we'll make them wish they had never been
born. Eh, what, laddie? what d'you think? So clever,
Munro, that everybody's bound to read it, and so scathing
that it will just fetch out blisters every time. Don't
you think we could?"

"What politics?" I asked.

"Oh, curse the politics! Red pepper well rubbed in,
that's my idea of a paper. Call it the Scorpion.
Chaff the Mayor and the Council until they call a
meeting and hang themselves. I'd do the snappy
paragraphs, and you would do the fiction and poetry. I
thought about it during the night, and Hetty has written
to Murdoch's to get an estimate for the printing. We
might get our first number out this day week."

"My dear chap!" I gasped.

"I want you to start a novel this morning. You
won't get many patients at first, and you'll have lots of

"But I never wrote a line in my life."

"A properly balanced man can do anything he sets his
hand to. He's got every possible quality inside him, and
all he wants is the will to develop it."

"Could you write a novel yourself?" I asked.

"Of course I could. Such a novel, Munro, that when
they'd read the first chapter the folk would just sit
groaning until the second came out. They'd wait in rows
outside my door in the hope of hearing what was coming
next. By Crums, I'll go and begin it now! "And, with
another somersault over the end of the bed, he rushed
from the room, with the tassels of his dressing gown
flying behind him.

I daresay you've quite come to the conclusion by this
time that Cullingworth is simply an interesting
pathological study--a man in the first stage of lunacy or
general paralysis. You might not be so sure about it if
you were in close contact with him. He justifies his
wildest flights by what he does. It sounds grotesque
when put down in black and white; but then it would have
sounded equally grotesque a year ago if he had said
that he would build up a huge practice in a twelvemonth.
Now we see that he has done it. His possibilities are
immense. He has such huge energy at the back of his
fertility of invention. I am afraid, on thinking over
all that I have written to you, that I may have given you
a false impression of the man by dwelling too much on
those incidents in which he has shown the strange and
violent side of his character, and omitting the stretches
between where his wisdom and judgment have had a chance.
His conversation when he does not fly off at a tangent is
full of pith and idea. "The greatest monument ever
erected to Napoleon Buonaparte was the British National
debt," said he yesterday. Again, "We must never forget
that the principal export of Great Britain to the United
States IS the United States." Again, speaking of
Christianity, "What is intellectually unsound cannot be
morally sound." He shoots off a whole column of
aphorisms in a single evening. I should like to have a
man with a note book always beside him to gather up his
waste. No; you must not let me give you a false
impression of the man's capacity. On the other hand, it
would be dishonest to deny that I think him
thoroughly unscrupulous, and full of very sinister
traits. I am much mistaken, however, if he has not fine
strata in his nature. He is capable of rising to heights
as well as of sinking to depths.

Well, when we had breakfasted we got into the
carriage and drove off to the place of business.

"I suppose you are surprised at Hetty coming with us,
said Cullingworth, slapping me on the knee. Hetty, Munro
is wondering what the devil you are here for, only he is
too polite to ask."

In fact, it HAD struck me as rather strange that
she should, as a matter of course, accompany us to

"You'll see when we get there," he cried chuckling.
"We run this affair on lines of our own."

It was not very far, and we soon found ourselves
outside a square whitewashed building, which had a huge
"Dr. Cullingworth" on a great brass plate at the side of
the door. Underneath was printed "May be consulted
gratis from ten to four." The door was open, and I
caught a glimpse of a crowd of people waiting in the

"How many here?" asked Cullingworth of the page boy.

"A hundred and forty, sir."

"All the waiting rooms full?"

"Yes, sir."

"Courtyard full?

"Yes, sir."

"Stable full?"

"Yes, sir."

"Coach-house full?"

"There's still room in the coach-house, sir."

"Ah, I'm sorry we haven't got a crowded day for you,
Munro," said he. "Of course, we can't command these
things, and must take them as they come. Now then, now
then, make a gangway, can't you?"--this to his patients.
"Come here and see the waiting-room. Pooh! what an
atmosphere! Why on earth can't you open the windows for
yourselves? I never saw such folk! There are thirty
people in this room, Munro, and not one with sense enough
to open a window to save himself from suffocation."

"I tried, sir, but there's a screw through the sash,"
cried one fellow.

"Ah, my boy, you'll never get on in the world if you
can't open a window without raising a sash," said
Cullingworth, slapping him on the shoulder. He took the
man's umbrella and stuck it through two of the panes of

"That's the way!" he said. "Boy, see that the screw
is taken out. Now then, Munro, come along, and we'll get
to work."

We went up a wooden stair, uncarpeted, leaving every
room beneath us, as far as I could see, crowded with
patients. At the top was a bare passage, which had two
rooms opposite to each other at one end, and a single one
at the other.

"This is my consulting room," said he, leading the
way into one of these. It was a good-sized square
chamber, perfectly empty save for two plain wooden
chairs and an unpainted table with two books and a
stethoscope upon it. "It doesn't look like four or five
thousand a year, does it? Now, there is an exactly
similar one opposite which you can have for yourself.
I'll send across any surgical cases which may turn
up. To-day, however, I think you had better stay
with me, and see how I work things."

"I should very much like to," said I.

"There are one or two elementary rules to be observed
in the way of handling patients," he remarked, seating
himself on the table and swinging his legs. "The most
obvious is that you must never let them see that you want
them. It should be pure condescension on your part
seeing them at all; and the more difficulties you throw
in the way of it, the more they think of it. Break your
patients in early, and keep them well to heel. Never
make the fatal mistake of being polite to them. Many
foolish young men fall into this habit, and are ruined in
consequence. Now, this is my form"--he sprang to the
door, and putting his two hands to his mouth he bellowed:
"Stop your confounded jabbering down there! I might as
well be living above a poultry show! There, you see," he
added to me, "they will think ever so much more of me for

"But don't they get offended?" I asked.

"I'm afraid not. I have a name for this sort of
thing now, and they have come to expect it.
But an offended patient--I mean a thoroughly
insulted one--is the finest advertisement in the world.
If it is a woman, she runs clacking about among her
friends until your name becomes a household word, and
they all pretend to sympathise with her, and agree among
themselves that you must be a remarkably discerning man.
I quarrelled with one man about the state of his gall
duct, and it ended by my throwing him down the stairs.
What was the result? He talked so much about it that the
whole village from which he came, sick and well, trooped
to see me. The little country practitioner who had been
buttering them up for a quarter of a century found that
he might as well put up his shutters. It's human nature,
my boy, and you can't alter it. Eh, what? You make
yourself cheap and you become cheap. You put a high
price on yourself and they rate you at that price.
Suppose I set up in Harley Street to-morrow, and made it
all nice and easy, with hours from ten to three, do you
think I should get a patient? I might starve first. How
would I work it? I should let it be known that I only
saw patients from midnight until two in the morning,
and that bald-headed people must pay double. That would
set people talking, their curiosity would be stimulated,
and in four months the street would be blocked all night.
Eh, what? laddie, you'd go yourself. That's my principle
here. I often come in of a morning and send them all
about their business, tell them I'm going off to the
country for a day. I turn away forty pounds, and it's
worth four hundred as an advertisement!"

"But I understood from the plate that the
consultations were gratis."

"So they are, but they have to pay for the medicine.
And if a patient wishes to come out of turn he has to pay
half-a-guinea for the privilege. There are generally
about twenty every day who would rather pay that than
wait several hours. But, mind you, Munro, don't you make
any mistake about this! All this would go for nothing if
you had not something, slid behind--I cure them. That's
the point. I take cases that others have despaired of,
and I cure them right off. All the rest is only to bring
them here. But once here I keep them on my merits. It
would all be a flash in the pan but for that. Now,
come along and see Hetty's department."

We walked down the passage to the other room. It was
elaborately fitted up as a dispensary, and there with a
chic little apron Mrs. Cullingworth was busy making up
pills. With her sleeves turned up and a litter of
glasses and bottles all round her, she was laughing away
like a little child among its toys.

"The best dispenser in the world!" cried
Cullingworth, patting her on the shoulder. "You see how
I do it, Munro. I write on a label what the prescription
is, and make a sign which shows how much is to be
charged. The man comes along the passage and passes the
label through the pigeon hole. Hetty makes it up, passes
out the bottle, and takes the money. Now, come on and
clear some of these folk out of the house."

It is impossible for me to give you any idea of that
long line of patients, filing hour after hour through the
unfurnished room, and departing, some amused, and some
frightened, with their labels in their hands.
Cullingworth's antics are beyond belief. I laughed until
I thought the wooden chair under me would have come to
pieces. He roared, he raved, he swore, he pushed
them about, slapped them on the back, shoved them against
the wall, and occasionally rushed out to the head of the
stair to address them en masse. At the same time,
behind all this tomfoolery, I, watching his
prescriptions, could see a quickness of diagnosis, a
scientific insight, and a daring and unconventional use
of drugs, which satisfied me that he was right in saying
that, under all this charlatanism, there lay solid
reasons for his success. Indeed, "charlatanism" is a
misapplied word in this connection; for it would describe
the doctor who puts on an artificial and conventional
manner with his patients, rather than one who is
absolutely frank and true to his own extraordinary

To some of his patients he neither said one word nor
did he allow them to say one. With a loud "hush" he
would rush at them, thump them on the chests, listen to
their hearts, write their labels, and then run them out
of the room by their shoulders. One poor old lady he
greeted with a perfect scream. "You've been drinking too
much tea!" he cried. "You are suffering from tea
poisoning!" Then, without allowing her to get a word in,
he clutched her by her crackling black mantle,
dragged her up to the table, and held out a copy of
"Taylor's Medical Jurisprudence" which was lying there.
"Put your hand on the book," he thundered, "and swear
that for fourteen days you will drink nothing but cocoa."
She swore with upturned eyes, and was instantly whirled
off with her label in her hand, to the dispensary. I
could imagine that to the last day of her life, the old
lady would talk of her interview with Cullingworth; and
I could well understand how the village from which she
came would send fresh recruits to block up his waiting

Another portly person was seized by the two armholes
of his waistcoat, just as he was opening his mouth to
explain his symptoms, and was rushed backward down the
passage, down the stairs, and finally into the street, to
the immense delight of the assembled patients, "You eat
too much, drink too much, and sleep too much,"
Cullingworth roared after him. "Knock down a policeman,
and come again when they let you out." Another patient
complained of a "sinking feeling." "My dear," said he,
"take your medicine; and if that does no good, swallow
the cork, for there is nothing better when you are

As far as I could judge, the bulk of the patients
looked upon a morning at Cullingworth's as a most
enthralling public entertainment, tempered only by a
thrill lest it should be their turn next to be made an
exhibition of.

Well, with half-an-hour for lunch, this extraordinary
business went on till a quarter to four in the afternoon.
When the last patient had departed, Cullingworth led the
way into the dispensary, where all the fees had been
arranged upon the counter in the order of their value.
There were seventeen half-sovereigns, seventy-three
shillings, and forty-six florins; or thirty-two pounds
eight and sixpence in all. Cullingworth counted it up,
and then mixing the gold and silver into one heap, he sat
running his fingers through it and playing with it.
Finally, he raked it into the canvas bag which I had seen
the night before, and lashed the neck up with a boot-

We walked home, and that walk struck me as the most
extraordinary part of all that extraordinary day.
Cullingworth paraded slowly through the principal streets
with his canvas bag, full of money, outstretched at the
full length of his arm. His wife and I walked on either
side, like two acolytes supporting a priest, and so
we made our way solemnly homewards the people stopping to
see us pass.

"I always make a point of walking through the
doctor's quarter," said Cullingworth. "We are passing
through it now. They all come to their windows and gnash
their teeth and dance until I am out of sight."

"Why should you quarrel with them? What is the
matter with them?" I asked.

"Pooh! what's the use of being mealy-mouthed about
it?" said he. "We are all trying to cut each other's
throats, and why should we be hypocritical over it? They
haven't got a good word for me, any one of them; so I
like to take a rise out of them."

"I must say that I can see no sense in that. They
are your brothers in the profession, with the same
education and the same knowledge. Why should you take an
offensive attitude towards them?"

"That's what I say, Dr. Munro," cried his wife. "It
is so very unpleasant to feel that one is surrounded by
enemies on every side."

"Hetty's riled because their wives wouldn't call
upon her," he cried. "Look at that, my dear," jingling
his bag. "That is better than having a lot of brainless
women drinking tea and cackling in our drawing-room.
I've had a big card printed, Munro, saying that we don't
desire to increase the circle of our acquaintance. The
maid has orders to show it to every suspicious person who

"Why should you not make money at your practice, and
yet remain on good terms with your professional
brethren?" said I. "You speak as if the two things were

"So they are. What's the good of beating about the
bush, laddie? My methods are all unprofessional, and I
break every law of medical etiquette as often as I can
think of it. You know very well that the British Medical
Association would hold up their hands in horror if it
could see what you have seen to-day."

"But why not conform to professional etiquette?"

"Because I know better. My boy, I'm a doctor's son,
and I've seen too much of it. I was born inside the
machine, and I've seen all the wires. All this etiquette
is a dodge for keeping the business in the hands of
the older men. It's to hold the young men back, and to
stop the holes by which they might slip through to the
front. I've heard my father say so a score of times. He
had the largest practice in Scotland, and yet he was
absolutely devoid of brains. He slipped into it through
seniority and decorum. No pushing, but take your turn.
Very well, laddie, when you're at the top of the line,
but how about it when you've just taken your place at the
tail? When I'm on the top rung I shall look down and
say, `Now, you youngsters, we are going to have very
strict etiquette, and I beg that you will come up very
quietly and not disarrange me from my comfortable
position.' At the same time, if they do what I tell
them, I shall look upon them as a lot of infernal
blockheads. Eh, Munro, what?"

I could only say again that I thought he took a very
low view of the profession, and that I disagreed with
every word he said.

"Well, my boy, you may disagree as much as you like,
but if you are going to work with me you must throw
etiquette to the devil!"

"I can't do that."

"Well, if you are too clean handed for the job you
can clear out. We can't keep you here against your

I said nothing; but when we got back, I went upstairs
and packed up my trunk, with every intention of going
back to Yorkshire by the night train. He came up to my
room, and finding what I was at, he burst into apologies
which would have satisfied a more exacting man than I am.

"You shall do just exactly what you like, my dear
chap. If you don't like my way, you may try some way of
your own."

"That's fair enough," said I. "But it's a little
trying to a man's self-respect if he is told to clear out
every time there is a difference of opinion."

"Well, well, there was no harm meant, and it shan't
occur again. I can't possibly say more than that; so
come along down and have a cup of tea."

And so the matter blew over; but I very much fear,
Bertie, that this is the first row of a series. I have
a presentiment that sooner or later my position here will
become untenable. Still, I shall give it a fair
trial as long as he will let me. Cullingworth is a
fellow who likes to have nothing but inferiors and
dependants round him. Now, I like to stand on my own
legs, and think with my own mind. If he'll let me do
this we'll get along very well; but if I know the man he
will claim submission, which is more than I am inclined
to give. He has a right to my gratitude, which I freely
admit. He has found an opening for me when I badly
needed one and had no immediate prospects. But still,
one may pay too high a price even for that, and I should
feel that I was doing so if I had to give up my
individuality and my manhood.

We had an incident that evening which was so
characteristic that I must tell you of it. Cullingworth
has an air gun which fires little steel darts. With this
he makes excellent practice at about twenty feet, the
length of the back room. We were shooting at a mark
after dinner, when he asked me whether I would hold a
halfpenny between my finger and thumb, and allow him to
shoot it out. A halfpenny not being forthcoming, he took
a bronze medal out of his waistcoat pocket, and I
held that tip as a mark. Kling!" went the air gun, and
the medal rolled upon the floor.

"Plumb in the centre," said he.

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