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The Stark Munro Letters by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 4 out of 5

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But, my goodness, where have I got to? All this
comes from the Birchespool lamp-posts and curb-stones.
And I sat down to write such a practical letter too!
However, I give you leave to be as dogmatic and didactic
as you like in return. Cullingworth says my head is like
a bursting capsule, with all the seeds getting loose.
Poor seed, too, I fear, but some of it may lodge
somewhere--or not, as Fate pleases.

I wrote to you last on the night that I reached here.
Next morning I set to work upon my task. You would be
surprised (at least I was) to see how practical and
methodical I can be. First of all I walked down to the
post-office and I bought a large shilling map of the
town. Then back I came and pinned this out upon the
lodging-house table. This done, I set to work to study
it, and to arrange a series of walks by which I should
pass through every street of the place. You have no idea
what that means until you try to do it. I used to have
breakfast, get out about ten, walk till one, have a cheap
luncheon (I can do well on three-pence), walk till four,
get back and note results. On my map I put a cross for
every empty house and a circle for every doctor. So at
the end of that time I had a complete chart of the whole
place, and could see at a glance where there was a
possible opening, and what opposition there was at each

In the meantime I had enlisted a most unexpected
ally. On the second evening a card was solemnly brought
up by the landlady's daughter from the lodger who
occupied the room below. On it was inscribed "Captain
Whitehall"; and then underneath, in brackets, "Armed
Transport." On the back of the card was written,
"Captain Whitehall (Armed Transport) presents his
compliments to Dr. Munro, and would be glad of his
company to supper at 8.30." To this I answered, "Dr.
Munro presents his compliments to Captain Whitehall
(Armed Transport), and will be most happy to accept his
kind invitation." What "Armed Transport" might mean I
had not an idea, but I thought it well to include it, as
he seemed so particular about it himself.

On descending I found a curious-looking figure in a
gray dressing-gown with a purple cord. He was an elderly
man--his hair not quite white yet, but well past mouse
colour. His beard and moustache, however, were of a
yellowish brown, and his face all puckered and shot with
wrinkles, spare and yet puffy, with hanging bags under
his singular light blue eyes.

"By God, Dr. Munro, sir," said he, as he shook my
hand. "I take it as very kind of you that you should
accept an informal invitation. I do, sir, by God!"

This sentence was, as it proved, a very typical one,
for he nearly always began and ended each with an oath,
while the centre was, as a rule, remarkable for a
certain suave courtesy. So regular was his formula that
I may omit it and you suppose it, every time that he
opened his mouth. A dash here and there will remind you.

It's been my practice, Dr. Munro, sir, to make
friends with my neighbours through life; and some strange
neighbours I have had. By ----, sir, humble as you see
me, I have sat with a general on my right, and an admiral
on my left, and my toes up against a British ambassador.
That was when I commanded the armed transport Hegira
in the Black Sea in '55. Burst up in the great gale in
Balaclava Bay, sir, and not as much left as you could
pick your teeth with."

There was a strong smell of whisky in the room, and
an uncorked bottle upon the mantelpiece. The captain
himself spoke with a curious stutter, which I put down at
first to a natural defect; but his lurch as he, turned
back to his armchair showed me that he had had as much as
he could carry.

"Not much to offer you, Dr. Munro, sir. The hind leg
of a ---- duck, and a sailor's welcome. Not Royal
Navy, sir, though I have a ---- sight better manners than
many that are. No, sir, I fly no false colours, and put
no R. N. after my name; but I'm the Queen's servant, by
----! No mercantile marine about me! Have a wet, sir!
It's the right stuff, and I have drunk enough to know the

Well, as the supper progressed I warmed with the
liquor and the food, and I told my new acquaintance all
about my plans and intentions. I didn't realise how
lonely I had been until I found the pleasure of talking.
He listened to it all with much sympathy, and to my
horror tossed off a whole tumbler-full of neat whisky to
my success. So enthusiastic was he that it was all I
could do to prevent him from draining a second one.

"You'll do it, Dr. Munro, sir!" he cried. "I know a
man when I see one, and you'll do it. There's my hand,
sir! I'm with you! You needn't be ashamed to grasp it,
for by ----, though I say it myself, it's been open to
the poor and shut to a bully ever since I could suck
milk. Yes, sir, you'll make a good ship-mate, and
I'm ---- glad to have you on my poop.

For the remainder of the evening his fixed delusion
was that I had come to serve under him; and he read me
long rambling lectures about ship's discipline, still
always addressing me as "Dr. Munro. sir." At last,
however, his conversation became unbearable--a foul young
man is odious, but a foul old one is surely the most
sickening thing on earth. One feels that the white upon
the hair, like that upon the mountain, should signify a
height attained. I rose and bade him good-night, with a
last impression of him leaning back in his dressing-gown,
a sodden cigar-end in the corner of his mouth, his beard
all slopped with whisky, and his half-glazed eyes looking
sideways after me with the leer of a satyr. I had to go
into the street and walk up and down for half-an-hour
before I felt clean enough to go to bed.

Well, I wanted to see no more of my neighbour, but in
he came as I was sitting at breakfast, smelling like a
bar-parlour, with stale whisky oozing at every pore.

"Good morning, Dr. Munro, sir," said he, holding
out a twitching hand. "I compliment you, sir! You look
fresh, ---- fresh, and me with a head like a toy-shop.
We had a pleasant, quiet evening, and I took nothing to
hurt, but it is the ---- relaxing air of this place that
settles me. I can't bear up against it. Last year it
gave me the horrors, and I expect it will again. You're
off house-hunting, I suppose?"

"I start immediately after breakfast."

"I take a cursed interest in the whole thing. You
may think it a ---- impertinence, but that's the way I'm
made. As long as I can steam I'll throw a rope to
whoever wants a tow. I'll tell you what I'll do, Dr.
Munro, sir. I'll stand on one tack if you'll stand on
the other, and I'll let you know if I come across
anything that will do."

There seemed to be no alternative between taking him
with me, or letting him go alone; so I could only thank
him and let him have carte blanche. Every night he would
turn up, half-drunk as a rule, having, I believe, walked
his ten or fifteen miles as conscientiously as I had
done. He came with the most grotesque suggestions.

Once he had actually entered into negotiations with
the owner of a huge shop, a place that had been a
raper's, with a counter about sixty feet long. His
reason was that he knew an innkeeper who had done very
well a little further down on the other side. Poor old
"armed transport" worked so hard that I could not help
being touched and grateful; yet I longed from my heart
that he would stop for he was a most unsavoury agent, and
I never knew what extraordinary step he might take in my
name. He introduced me to two other men, one of them a
singular-looking creature named Turpey, who was
struggling along upon a wound-pension, having, when only
a senior midshipman, lost the sight of one eye and the
use of one arm through the injuries he received at some
unpronounceable Pah in the Maori war. The other was a
sad-faced poetical-looking man, of good birth as I
understood, who had been disowned by his family on the
occasion of his eloping with the cook. His name was
Carr, and his chief peculiarity, that he was so regular
in his irregularities that he could always tell the time
of day by the state of befuddlement that he was in. He
would cock his head, think over his own symptoms,
and then give you the hour fairly correctly. An unusual
drink would disarrange him, however; and if you forced
the pace in the morning, he would undress and go to bed
about tea-time, with a full conviction that all the
clocks had gone mad. These two strange waifs were among
the craft to whom old Whitehall had in his own words,
"thrown a rope"; and long after I had gone to bed I could
hear the clink of their glasses, and the tapping of their
pipes against the fender in the room below.

Well, when I had finished my empty-house-and-doctor
chart, I found that there was one villa to let, which
undoubtedly was far the most suitable for my purpose. In
the first place it was fairly cheap-forty pounds, or
fifty with taxes. The front looked well. It had no
garden. It stood with the well-to-do quarter upon the
one side, and the poorer upon the other. Finally, it was
almost at the intersection of four roads, one of which
was a main artery of the town. Altogether, if I had
ordered a house for my purpose I could hardly have got
anything better, and I was thrilled with apprehension
lest some one should get before me to the agent. I
hurried round and burst into the office with a
precipitancy which rather startled the demure clerk

His replies, however, were reassuring. The house was
still to let. It was not quite the quarter yet, but I
could enter into possession. I must sign an agreement to
take it for one year, and it was usual to pay a quarter's
rent in advance.

I don't know whether I turned colour a little.

"In advance!" I said, as carelessly as I could.

"It is usual."

"Or references?"

"Well, that depends, of couse{sic}, upon the

"Not that it matters much," said I. (Heaven forgive
me!) "Still, if it is the same to the firm, I may as
well pay by the quarter, as I shall do afterwards."

"What names did you propose to give?" he asked.

My heart gave a bound, for I knew that all was right.
My uncle, as you know, won his knighthood in the
Artillery, and though I have seen nothing of him, I knew
that he was the man to pull me out of this tight corner.

"There's my uncle, Sir Alexander Munro, Lismore
House, Dublin," said I. "He would be happy to answer any
inquiry, and so would my friend Dr. Cullingworth of

I brought him down with both barrels. I could see it
by his eyes and the curve of his back.

"I have no doubt that that will be quite
satisfactory," said he. "Perhaps you would kindly sign
the agreement."

I did so, and drew my hind foot across the Rubicon.
The die was cast. Come what might, 1 Oakley Villas was
on my hand for a twelve-month.

"Would you like the key now?"

I nearly snatched it out of his hands. Then away I
ran to take possession of my property. Never shall I
forget my feelings, my dear Bertie, when the key clicked
in the lock, and the door flew open. It was my own
house--all my very own! I shut the door again, the noise
of the street died down, and I had, in that empty, dust-
strewn hall, such a sense of soothing privacy as had
never come to me before. In all my life it was the first
time that I had ever stood upon boards which were not
paid for by another.

Then I proceeded to go from room to room with a
delicious sense of exploration. There were two upon the
ground floor, sixteen feet square each, and I saw with
satisfaction that the wall papers were in fair condition.
The front one would make a consulting room, the other a
waiting room, though I did not care to reflect who was
most likely to do the waiting. I was in the highest
spirits, and did a step dance in each room as an official

Then down a winding wooden stair to the basement,
where were kitchen and scullery, dimly lit, and asphalt-
floored. As I entered the latter I stood staring. In
every corner piles of human jaws were grinning at me.
The place was a Golgotha! In that half light the effect
was sepulchral. But as I approached and picked up one of
them the mystery vanished. They were of plaster-of-
Paris, and were the leavings evidently of the dentist,
who had been the last tenant. A more welcome sight was
a huge wooden dresser with drawers and a fine cupboard in
the corner. It only wanted a table and a chair to be a
furnished room.

Then I ascended again and went up the first flight of
stairs. There were two other good sized apartments
there. One should be my bedroom, and the other a spare
room. And then another flight with two more. One for
the servant, when I had one, and the other for a guest.

From the windows I had a view of the undulating gray
back of the city, with the bustle of green tree tops. It
was a windy day, and the clouds were drifting swiftly
across the heavens, with glimpses of blue between. I
don't know how it was, but as I stood looking through the
grimy panes in the empty rooms a sudden sense of my own
individuality and of my responsibility to some higher
power came upon me, with a vividness which was
overpowering. Here was a new chapter of my life about to
be opened. What was to be the end of it? I had
strength, I had gifts. What was I going to do with them?
All the world, the street, the cabs, the houses, seemed
to fall away, and the mite of a figure and the
unspeakable Guide of the Universe were for an instant
face to face. I was on my knees--hurled down all against
my own will, as it were. And even then I could find no
words to say. Only vague yearnings and emotions and a
heartfelt wish to put my shoulder to the great wheel of
good. What could I say? Every prayer seemed based
on the idea that God was a magnified man--that He needed
asking and praising and thanking. Should the cog of the
wheel creak praise to the Engineer? Let it rather cog
harder, and creak less. Yet I did, I confess, try to put
the agitation of my soul into words. I meant it for a
prayer; but when I considered afterwards the "supposing
thats" and "in case ofs" with which it was sprinkled, it
must have been more like a legal document. And yet I
felt soothed and happier as I went downstairs again.

I tell you this, Bertie, because if I put reason
above emotion I would not have you think that I am not
open to attacks of the latter also. I feel that what I
say about religion is too cold and academic. I feel that
there should be something warmer and sweeter and more
comforting. But if you ask me to buy this at the price
of making myself believe a thing to be true, which all
that is nearest the divine in me cries out against, then
you are selling your opiates too high. I'm a volunteer
for "God's own forlorn hope," and I'll clamber up the
breech as long as I think I can see the flag of
truth waving in front of me.

Well, my next two cares were to get drugs and
furniture. The former I was sure that I could obtain on
long credit; while the latter I was absolutely determined
not to get into debt over. I wrote to the Apothecaries'
Company, giving the names of Cullingworth and of my
father, and ordering twelve pounds' worth of tinctures,
infusions, pills, powders, ointments, and bottles.
Cullingworth must, I should think, have been one of their
very largest customers, so I knew very well that my order
would meet with prompt attention.

There remained the more serious matter of the
furniture. I calculated that when my lodgings were paid
for I might, without quite emptying my purse, expend four
pounds upon furniture--not a large allowance for a good
sized villa. That would leave me a few shillings to go
on with, and before they were exhausted Cullingworth's
pound would come in. Those pounds, however, would be
needed for the rent, so I could hardly reckon upon them
at all, as far as my immediate wants went. I found in
the columns of the Birchespool Post that there
was to be a sale of furniture that evening, and I went
down to the auctioneer's rooms, accompanied, much against
my will, by Captain Whitehall, who was very drunk and

"By God, Dr. Munro, sir, I'm the man that's going to
stick to you. I'm only an old sailor-man, sir, with
perhaps more liquor than sense; but I'm the Queen's
servant, and touch my pension every quarter day. I don't
claim to be R. N., but I'm not merchant service either.
Here I am, rotting in lodgings, but by ----, Dr. Munro,
sir, I carried seven thousand stinking Turks from Varna
to Balaclava Bay. I'm with you, Dr. Munro, and we put
this thing through together."

We came to the auction rooms and we stood on the
fringe of the crowd waiting for our chance. Presently up
went a very neat little table. I gave a nod and got it
for nine shillings. Then three rather striking looking
chairs, black wood and cane bottoms. Four shillings each
I gave for those. Then a metal umbrella-stand, four and
sixpence. That was a mere luxury, but I was warming to
the work. A job lot of curtains all tied together
in a bundle went up. Somebody bid five shillings. The
auctioneer's eye came round to me, and I nodded. Mine
again for five and sixpence. Then I bought a square of
red drugget for half-a-crown, a small iron bed for nine
shillings, three watercolour paintings, "Spring," "The
Banjo Player," and "Windsor Castle," for five shillings;
a tiny fender, half-a-crown; a toilet set, five
shillings; another very small square-topped table, three
and sixpence. Whenever I bid for anything, Whitehall
thrust his black-thorn up into the air, and presently I
found him doing so on my behalf when I had no intention
of buying. I narrowly escaped having to give fourteen
and sixpence for a stuffed macaw in a glass case.

"It would do to hang in your hall, Dr. Munro, sir,"
said he when I remonstrated with him.

"I should have to hang myself in my hall soon if I
spent my money like that," said I. "I've got as much as
I can afford now, and I must stop."

When the auction was over, I paid my bill and had my
goods hoisted on to a trolly, the porter undertaking
to deliver them for two shillings. I found that I had
over-estimated the cost of furnishing, for the total
expense was little more than three pounds. We walked
round to Oakley Villa, and I proudly deposited all my
goods in the hall. And here came another extraordinary
example of the kindness of the poorer classes. The
porter when I had paid him went out to his trolly and
returned with a huge mat of oakum, as ugly a thing as I
have ever set eyes upon. This he laid down inside my
door, and then without a word, brushing aside every
remonstrance or attempt at thanks, he vanished away with
his trolly into the night.

Next morning I came round to my house--MY house,
my boy!--for good and all, after paying off my landlady.
Her bill came to more than I expected, for I only had
breakfast and tea, always "dining out" as I majestically
expressed it. However, it was a relief to me to get it
settled, and to go round with my box to Oakley Villas.
An ironmonger had fixed my plate on to the railings for
half-a-crown the evening before, and there it was,
glittering in the sun, when I came round. It made
me quite shy to look at it, and I slunk into the house
with a feeling that every window in the street had a face
in it.

But once inside, there was so much to be done that
I did not know what I should turn to first. I bought a
one-and-ninepenny broom and set to work. You notice that
I am precise about small sums, because just there lies
the whole key of the situation. In the yard I found a
zinc pail with a hole in it, which was most useful, for
by its aid I managed to carry up all the jaws with which
my kitchen was heaped. Then with my new broom, my coat
hung on a gas-bracket and my shirt sleeves turned to the
elbow, I cleaned out the lower rooms and the hall,
brushing the refuse into the yard. After that I did as
much for the upper floor, with the result that I brought
several square yards of dust down into the hall again,
and undid my previous cleaning. This was disheartening,
but at least it taught me to begin at the furthest point
in future. When I had finished, I was as hot and dirty
as if it were half-time at a football match. I thought
of our tidy charwoman at home, and realised what
splendid training she must be in.

Then came the arranging of the furniture. The hall
was easily managed, for the planks were of a dark colour,
which looked well of themselves. My oakum mat and my
umbrella stand were the only things in it; but I bought
three pegs for sixpence, and fastened them up at the
side, completing the effect by hanging my two hats upon
them. Finally, as the expanse of bare floor was
depressing, I fixed one of my curtains about halfway down
it, draping it back, so that it had a kind of oriental
look, and excited a vague idea of suites of apartments
beyond. It was a fine effect, and I was exceedingly
proud of it.

From that I turned to the most important point of
all--the arrangement of my consulting room. My
experience with Cullingworth had taught me one thing at
least,--that patients care nothing about your house if
they only think that you can cure them. Once get that
idea into their heads, and you may live in a vacant stall
in a stable and write your prescriptions on the manger.
Still, as this was, for many a day to come, to be the
only furnished room in my house, it was worth a
little planning to get it set out to the best advantage.

My red drugget I laid out in the centre, and fastened
it down with brass-headed nails. It looked much smaller
than I had hoped,--a little red island on an ocean of
deal board, or a postage stamp in the middle of an
envelope. In the centre of it I placed my table, with
three medical works on one side of it, and my
stethoscope and dresser's case upon the other. One chair
went with the table, of course; and then I spent the next
ten minutes in trying to determine whether the other two
looked better together--a dense block of chairs, as it
were--or scattered so that the casual glance would get
the idea of numerous chairs. I placed them finally one
on the right, and one in front of the table. Then I put
down my fender, and nailed "Spring," "The Banjo Players,"
and "Windsor Castle" on to three of the walls, with the
mental promise that my first spare half-crown should buy
a picture for the fourth. In the window I placed my
little square table, and balanced upon it a photograph
with an ivory mounting and a nice plush frame which I had
brought in my trunk. Finally, I found a pair of
dark brown curtains among the job lot which I had bought
at the sale, and these I put up and drew pretty close
together, so that a subdued light came into the room,
which toned everything down, and made the dark corners
look furnished. When I had finished I really do not
believe that any one could have guessed that the total
contents of that room came to about thirty shillings.

Then I pulled my iron bed upstairs and fixed it in
the room which I had from the first determined upon as my
bedchamber. I found an old packing case in the yard--a
relic of my predecessor's removal--and this made a very
good wash-hand stand for my basin and jug. When it was
all fixed up I walked, swelling with pride, through my
own chambers, giving a touch here and a touch there until
I had it perfect. I wish my mother could see it--or, on
second thoughts, I don't; for I know that her first act
would be to prepare gallons of hot water, and to
holystone the whole place down, from garret to cellar--
and I know by my own small experience what that means.

Well, that's as far as I've got as yet. What
trivial, trivial stuff, interesting to hardly a soul
under heaven, save only about three! Yet it pleases me
to write as long as I have your assurance that it pleases
you to read. Pray, give my kindest remembrances to your
wife, and to Camelford also, if he should happen to come
your way. He was on the Mississippi when last I heard.



When I had made all those dispositions which I
described with such painful prolixity in my last letter,
my dear Bertie, I sat down on my study chair, and I laid
out the whole of my worldly wealth upon the table in
front of me. I was startled when I looked at it,--three
half-crowns, a florin, and four sixpences, or eleven and
sixpence in all. I had expected to hear from
Cullingworth before this; but at least he was always
there, a trusty friend, at my back. Immediately upon
engaging the house I had written him a very full letter,
telling him that I had committed myself to keeping it for
one year, but assuring him that I was quite convinced
that with the help which he had promised me I should be
able to hold my own easily. I described the favourable
position of the house, and gave him every detail of the
rent and neighbourhood. That letter would, I
was sure, bring a reply from him which would contain my
weekly remittance. One thing I had, above all,
determined upon. That was that, whatever hardships might
lie before me, I would fight through them without help
from home. I knew, of course, that my mother would have
sold everything down to her gold eye-glasses to help me,
and that no thought of our recent disagreement would have
weighed with her for an instant; but still a man has his
feelings, you know, and I did not propose to act against
her judgment and then run howling for help.

I sat in my house all day, with that ever-present
sense of privacy and novelty which had thrilled me when
I first shut the street door behind me. At evening I
sallied out and bought a loaf of bread, half a pound of
tea ("sweepings," they call it, and it cost eightpence),
a tin kettle (fivepence), a pound of sugar, a tin of
Swiss milk, and a tin of American potted meat. I had
often heard my mother groan over the expenses of
housekeeping, and now I began to understand what she
meant. Two and ninepence went like a flash, but at least
I had enough to keep myself going for some days.

There was a convenient gas bracket in the back room.
I hammered a splinter of wood into the wall above it, and
so made an arm upon which I could hang my little kettle
and boil it over the flame. The attraction of the idea
was that there was no immediate expense, and many things
would have happened before I was called upon to pay the
gas bill. The back room was converted then into both
kitchen and dining room. The sole furniture consisted of
my box, which served both as cupboard, as table, and as
chair. My eatables were all kept inside, and when I
wished for a meal I had only to pick them out and lay
them on the lid, leaving room for myself to sit beside

It was only when I went to my bedroom that I realised
the oversights which I had made in my furnishing. There
was no mattress and no pillow or bed-clothes. My mind
had been so centred upon the essentials for the practice,
that I had never given a thought to my own private wants.
I slept that night upon the irons of my bed, and rose up
like St. Lawrence from the gridiron. My second suit of
clothes with Bristowe's "Principles of Medicine" made an
excellent pillow, while on a warm June night a man
can do well wrapped in his overcoat. I had no fancy for
second-hand bed-clothes, and determined until I could buy
some new ones, to make myself a straw pillow, and to put
on both my suits of clothes on the colder nights. Two
days later, however, the problem was solved in more
luxurious style by the arrival of a big brown tin box
from my mother, which was as welcome to me, and as much
of a windfall, as the Spanish wreck to Robinson Crusoe.
There were too pairs of thick blankets, two sheets, a
counterpane, a pillow, a camp-stool, two stuffed bears'
paws (of all things in this world!), two terra-cotta
vases, a tea-cosy, two pictures in frames, several books,
an ornamental ink-pot, and a number of antimacassars and
coloured tablecloths. It is not until you own a table
with a deal top and mahogany legs, that you understand
what the true inner meaning of an ornamental cloth is.
Right on the top of this treasure came a huge hamper from
the Apothecaries' Society with the drugs which I had
ordered. When they were laid out in line, the bottles
extended right down one side of the dining-room and
half down the other. As I walked through my house and
viewed my varied possessions, I felt less radical in my
views, and begun to think that there might be something
in the rights of property after all.

And I added to my effects in a marvellous way. I
made myself an excellent mattress out of some sacking and
the straw in which the medicine bottles had been packed.

Again, out of three shutters which belonged to the
room, I rigged up a very effective side-table for my own
den, which when covered with a red cloth, and ornamented
with the bears' paws, might have cost twenty guineas for
all that the patient could say to the contrary. I had
done all this with a light heart and a good spirit before
the paralysing blow which I shall have to tell you about,
came upon me.

Of course it was obvious from the first that a
servant was out of the question. I could not feed one,
far less pay one, and I had no kitchen furniture. I must
open my door to my own patients--let them think what they
would of it. I must clean my own plate and brush down my
own front; and these duties must be thoroughly done,
come what might, for I must show a presentable outside to
the public. Well, there was no great hardship in that,
for I could do it under the cover of night. But I had
had a suggestion from my mother which simplified matters
immensely. She had written to say that if I wished she
would send my little brother Paul to keep me company. I
wrote back eagerly to agree. He was a hardy cheery
little fellow of nine, who would, I knew, gladly share
hard times with me; while, if they became unduly so, I
could always have him taken home again. Some weeks must
pass before he could come, but it cheered me to think of
him. Apart from his company, there were a thousand ways
in which he might be useful.

Who should come in on the second day but old Captain
Whitehall? I was in the back room, trying how many
slices I could make out of a pound of potted beef, when
he rang my bell, and I only just shut my mouth in time to
prevent my heart jumping out.

How that bell clanged through the empty house! I saw
who it was, however, when I went into the hall; for the
middle panels of my door are of glazed glass, so
that I can always study a silhouette of my visitors
before coming to closer quarters.

I was not quite sure yet whether I loathed the man or
liked him. He was the most extraordinary mixture of
charity and drunkenness, lechery and self-sacrifice that
I had ever come across. But he brought into the house
with him a whiff of cheeriness and hope for which I could
not but be grateful. He had a large brown paper parcel
under his arm, which he unwrapped upon my table,
displaying a great brown jar. This he carried over and
deposited on the centre of my mantel-piece.

"You will permit me, Dr. Munro, sir, to place this
trifle in your room. It's lava, sir; lava from Vesuvius,
and made in Naples. By ----, you may think its empty,
Dr. Munro, sir, but it is full of my best wishes; and
when you've got the best practice in this town you may
point to that vase and tell how it came from a skipper of
an armed transport, who backed you from the start."

I tell you, Bertie, the tears started to my eyes, and
I could hardly gulp out a word or two of thanks.
What a crisscross of qualities in one human soul! It was
not the deed or the words; but it was the almost womanly
look in the eyes of this broken, drink-sodden old
Bohemian--the sympathy and the craving for sympathy which
I read there. Only for an instant though, for he
hardened again into his usual reckless and half defiant

"There's another thing, sir. I've been thinking for
some time back of having a medical opinion on myself.
I'd be glad to put myself under your hands, if you would
take a survey of me."

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Dr. Munro, sir," said he, "I am a walking museum.
You could fit what ISN'T the matter with me on to the
back of a ---- visiting card. If there's any complaint
you want to make a special study of, just you come to me,
sir, and see what I can do for you. It's not every one
that can say that he has had cholera three times, and
cured himself by living on red pepper and brandy. If you
can only set the ---- little germs sneezing they'll soon
leave you alone. That's my theory about cholera, and you
should make a note of it, Dr. Munro, sir, for I was
shipmates with fifty dead men when I was commanding the
armed transport Hegira in the Black Sea, and I know
---- well what I am talking about."

I fill in Whitehall's oaths with blanks because I
feel how hopeless it is to reproduce their energy and
variety. I was amazed when he stripped, for his whole
body was covered with a perfect panorama of tattooings,
with a big blue Venus right over his heart.

"You may knock," said he, when I began to percuss his
chest, "but I am ---- sure there's no one at home.
They've all gone visiting one another. Sir John Hutton
had a try some years ago. `Why, dammy, man, where's your
liver?' said he. `Seems to me that some one has stirred
you up with a porridge stick,' said he. `Nothing is in
its right place.' `Except my heart, Sir John,' said I.
`Aye, by ----, that will never lose its moorings while it
has a flap left.'"

Well, I examined him, and I found his own account not
very far from the truth. I went over him carefully from
head to foot, and there was not much left as Nature made
it. He had mitral regurgitation, cirrhosis of the
liver, Bright's disease, an enlarged spleen, and
incipient dropsy. I gave him a lecture about the
necessity of temperance, if not of total abstinence; but
I fear that my words made no impression. He chuckled,
and made a kind of clucking noise in his throat all the
time that I was speaking, but whether in assent or
remonstrance I cannot say.

He pulled out his purse when I had finished, but I
begged him to look on my small service as a mere little
act of friendship. This would not do at all, however,
and he seemed so determined about it that I was forced to
give way.

"My fee is five shillings, then, since you insist
upon making it a business matter."

"Dr. Munro, sir," he broke out, "I have been
examined by men whom I wouldn't throw a bucket of water
over if they were burning, and I never paid them less
than a guinea. Now that I have come to a gentleman and
a friend, stiffen me purple if I pay one farthing less."

So, after much argument, it ended in the kind fellow
going off and leaving a sovereign and a shilling on the
edge of my table. The money burned my fingers, for I
knew that his pension was not a very large one; and
yet, since I could not avoid taking it, there was no
denying that it was exceedingly useful. Out I sallied
and spent sixteen shillings of it upon a new palliasse
which should go under the straw mattress upon my bed.
Already, you see, I was getting to a state of enervating
luxury in my household arrangements, and I could only
lull my conscience by reminding myself that little Paul
would have to sleep with me when he came.

However, I had not quite got to the end of
Whitehall's visit yet. When I went back I took down the
beautiful lava jug, and inside I found his card. On the
back was written, "You have gone into action, sir. It
may be your fate to sink or to swim, but it can never be
your degradation to strike. Die on the last plank and be
damned to you, or come into port with your ensign flying

Was it not fine? It stirred my blood, and the words
rang like a bugle call in my head. It braced me, and the
time was coming when all the bracing I could get would
not be too much. I copied it out, and pinned it on one
side of my mantel-piece. On the other I stuck up a chip
from Carlyle, which I daresay is as familiar to you
as to me. "One way or another all the light, energy, and
available virtue which we have does come out of us, and
goes very infallibly into God's treasury, living and
working through eternities there. We are not lost--not
a single atom of us--of one of us." Now, there is a
religious sentence which is intellectually satisfying,
and therefore morally sound.

This last quotation leads to my second visitor. Such
a row we had! I make a mistake in telling you about it,
for I know your sympathies will be against me; but at
least it will have the good effect of making you boil
over into a letter of remonstrance and argument than
which nothing could please me better.

Well, the second person whom I admitted through my
door was the High Church curate of the parish--at least,
I deduced High Church from his collar and the cross which
dangled from his watch chain. He seemed to be a fine
upstanding manly fellow--in fact, I am bound in honesty
to admit that I have never met the washy tea-party curate
outside the pages of Punch. As a body, I think they
would compare very well in manliness (I do not say
in brains) with as many young lawyers or doctors. Still,
I have no love for the cloth. Just as cotton, which is
in itself the most harmless substance in the world,
becomes dangerous on being dipped into nitric acid, so
the mildest of mortals is to be feared if he is once
soaked in sectarian religion. If he has any rancour or
hardness in him it will bring it out. I was therefore by
no means overjoyed to see my visitor, though I trust that
I received him with fitting courtesy. The quick little
glance of surprise which he shot round him as he entered
my consulting-room, told me that it was not quite what he
had expected.

"You see, the Vicar has been away for two years," he
explained, "and we have to look after things in his
absence. His chest is weak, and he can't stand
Birchespool. I live just opposite, and, seeing your
plate go up, I thought I would call and welcome you into
our parish."

I told him that I was very much obliged for the
attention. If he had stopped there all would have been
well, and we should have had a pleasant little chat. But
I suppose it was his sense of duty which would not permit

"I trust," said he, "that we shall see you at St.

I was compelled to explain that it was not probable.

"A Roman Catholic?" he asked, in a not unfriendly

I shook my head, but nothing would discourage him.

"Not a dissenter!" he exclaimed, with a sudden
hardening of his genial face.

I shook my head again.

"Ah, a little lax--a little remiss!" he said
playfully, and with an expression of relief.
"Professional men get into these ways. They have much to
distract them. At least, you cling fast, no doubt, to
the fundamental truths of Christianity?"

"I believe from the bottom of my heart," said I,
"that the Founder of it was the best and sweetest
character of whom we have any record in the history of
this planet."

But instead of soothing him, my conciliatory answer
seemed to be taken as a challenge. "I trust," said he
severely, "that your belief goes further than that. You,
are surely prepared to admit that He was an
incarnation of the God-head."

I began to feel like the old badger in his hole who
longs to have a scratch at the black muzzle which is so
eager to draw him.

"Does it not strike you," I said, "that if He were
but a frail mortal like ourselves, His life assumes a
much deeper significance? It then becomes a standard
towards which we might work. If, on the other hand, He
was intrinsically of a different nature to ourselves,
then His existence loses its point, since we and He start
upon a different basis. To my mind it is obvious that
such a supposition takes away the beauty and the moral of
His life. If He was divine then He COULD not sin,
and there was an end of the matter. We who are not
divine and can sin, have little to learn from a life like

"He triumphed over sin," said my visitor, as if a
text or a phrase were an argument.

"A cheap triumph!" I said. "You remember that Roman
emperor who used to descend into the arena fully armed,
and pit himself against some poor wretch who had only a
leaden foil which would double up at a thrust.
According to your theory of your Master's life, you would
have it that He faced the temptations of this world at
such an advantage that they were only harmless leaden
things, and not the sharp assailants which we find them.
I confess, in my own case, that my sympathy is as strong
when I think of His weaknesses as of His wisdom and His
virtue. They come more home to me, I suppose, since I am
weak myself."

"Perhaps you would be good enough to tell me what has
impressed you as weak in His conduct?" asked my visitor

"Well, the more human traits--`weak' is hardly the
word I should have used. His rebuke of the Sabbatarians,
His personal violence to the hucksters, His outbursts
against the Pharisees, His rather unreasoning petulance
against the fig-tree because it bore no fruit at the
wrong season of the year, His very human feeling towards
the housewife who bustled about when He was talking, his
gratification that the ointment should have been used for
Him instead of being devoted to the poor, His self-
distrust before the crisis--these make me realise
and love the man."

"You are a Unitarian, then, or rather, perhaps, a
mere Deist?" said the curate, with a combative flush.

"You may label me as you like," I answered (and by
this time I fear that I had got my preaching stop fairly
out); "I don't pretend to know what truth is, for it is
infinite, and I finite; but I know particularly well what
it is NOT. It is not true that religion reached its
acme nineteen hundred years ago, and that we are for
ever to refer back to what was written and said in those
days. No, sir; religion is a vital living thing, still
growing and working, capable of endless extension and
development, like all other fields of thought. There
were many eternal truths spoken of old and handed down to
us in a book, some parts of which may indeed be called
holy. But there are others yet to be revealed; and if we
are to reject them because they are not in those pages,
we should act as wisely as the scientist who would take
no notice of Kirschoff's spectral analysis because there
is no mention of it in Albertus Magnus. A modern
prophet may wear a broadcloth coat and write to the
magazines; but none the less he may be the little pipe
which conveys a tiny squirt from the reservoirs of truth.
Look at this!" I cried, rising and reading my Carlyle
text. "That comes from no Hebrew prophet, but from a
ratepayer in Chelsea. He and Emerson are also among the
prophets. The Almighty has not said His last say to the
human race, and He can speak through a Scotchman or a New
Englander as easily as through a Jew. The Bible, sir, is
a book which comes out in instalments, and `To be
continued,' not `Finis,' is written at the end of it."

My visitor had been showing every sign of acute
uneasiness during this long speech of mine. Finally, he
sprang to his feet, and took his hat from the table.

"Your opinions are highly dangerous, sir," said he.
"It is my duty to tell you so. You believe in nothing."

"Nothing which limits the power or the goodness of
the Almighty," I answered.

"You have evolved all this from your own
spiritual pride and self-sufficiency," said he,
hotly. "Why do you not turn to that Deity whose name you
use. Why do you not humble yourself before Him?"

"How do you know I don't?"

"You said yourself that you never went to church."

"I carry my own church about under my own hat," said
I. "Bricks and mortar won't make a staircase to heaven.
I believe with your Master that the human heart is the
best temple. I am sorry to see that you differ from Him
upon the point."

Perhaps it was too bad of me to say that. I might
have guarded without countering. Anyhow; it had the
effect of ending an interview which was becoming
oppressive. My visitor was too indignant to answer, and
swept out of the room without a word. From my window I
could see him hurry down the street, a little black angry
thing, very hot and troubled because he cannot measure
the whole universe with his pocket square and compasses.

Think of it, and think of what he is, an atom among
atoms, standing at the meeting point of two
eternities! But what am I, a brother atom, that I
should judge him?

After all, I own to you, that it might have been
better had I listened to what he had to say, and refused
to give my own views. On the other hand, truth MUST
be as broad as the universe which it is to explain, and
therefore far broader than anything which the mind of man
can conceive. A protest against sectarian thought must
always be an aspiration towards truth. Who shall dare to
claim a monopoly of the Almighty? It would be an
insolence on the part of a solar system, and yet it is
done every day by a hundred little cliques of mystery
mongers. There lies the real impiety.

Well, the upshot of it all is, my dear Bertie, that
I have begun my practice by making an enemy of the man
who, of the whole parish, has the most power to injure
me. I know what my father would think about it, if he

And now I come to the great event of this morning,
from which I am still gasping. That villain Cullingworth
has cut the painter, and left me to drift as best I may.

My post comes at eight o'clock in the morning, and I
usually get my letters and take them into bed to read
them. There was only one this morning, addressed in his
strange, unmistakable hand. I made sure, of course, that
it was my promised remittance, and I opened it with a
pleasurable feeling of expectation. This is a copy of
what I read:--

"When the maid was arranging your room after your
departure, she cleared some pieces of torn paper from
under the grate. Seeing my name upon them, she brought
them, as in duty bound, to her mistress, who pasted them
together and found that they formed a letter from your
mother to you, in which I am referred to in the vilest
terms, such as `a bankrupt swindler' and `the
unscrupulous Cullingworth.' I can only say that we are
astonished that you could have been a party to such a
correspondence while you were a guest under our roof, and
we refuse to have anything more to do with you in any
shape or form."

That was a nice little morning greeting was it not,
after I had, on the strength of his promise,
started in practice, and engaged a house for a year with
a few shillings in my pocket? I have given up smoking
for reasons of economy; but I felt that the situation was
worthy of a pipe, so I climbed out of bed, gathered a
little heap of tobacco-dust from the linings of my
pocket, and smoked the whole thing over. That life-belt
of which I had spoken so confidingly had burst, and left
me to kick as best I might in very deep water. I read
the note over and over again; and for all my dilemma, I
could not help laughing at the mingled meanness and
stupidity of the thing. The picture of the host and
hostess busying themselves in gumming together the torn
letters of their departed guest struck me as one of the
funniest things I could remember. And there was the
stupidity of it, because surely a child could have seen
that my mother's attack was in answer to my defence. Why
should we write a duet each saying the same thing? Well,
I'm still very confused about it all, and I don't in the
least know what I am going to do--more likely to die on
the last plank, than to get into port with my ensign
mast-high. I must think it out and let you know the
result. Come what may, one thing only is sure, and that
is that, in weal or woe, I remain, ever, your
affectionate and garrulous friend.



When I wrote my last letter, my dear Bertie, I was
still gasping, like a cod on a sand-bank, after my final
dismissal by Cullingworth. The mere setting of it all
down in black and white seemed to clear the matter up,
and I felt much more cheery by the time I had finished my
letter. I was just addressing the envelope (observe what
a continuous narrative you get of my proceedings!) when
I was set jumping out of my carpet slippers by a ring at
the bell. Through the glass panel I observed that it was
a respectable-looking bearded individual with a top-hat.
It was a patient. It MUST be a patient! Then first
I realised what an entirely different thing it is to
treat the patient of another man (as I had done with
Horton) or to work a branch of another man's practice (as
I had done with Cullingworth), and to have to do
with a complete stranger on your own account. I had been
thrilling to have one. Now that he had come I felt for
an instant as if I would not open the door. But of
course that was only a momentary weakness. I answered
his ring with, I fear, rather a hypocritical air of
insouciance, as though I had happened to find myself in
the hall, and did not care to trouble the maid to ascend
the stairs.

"Dr. Stark Munro?" he asked.

"Pray step in," I answered, and waved him into the
consulting-room. He was a pompous, heavy-stepping,
thick-voiced sort of person, but to me he was an angel
from on high. I was nervous, and at the same time so
afraid that he should detect my nervousness and lose
confidence in me, that I found myself drifting into an
extravagant geniality. He seated himself at my
invitation and gave a husky cough.

"Ah," said I--I always prided myself on being quick
at diagnosis--"bronchial, I perceive. These summer colds
are a little trying."

"Yes," said he. "I've had it some time."

With a little care and treatment----"I suggested.

He did not seem sanguine, but groaned and shook his
head. "It's not about that I've come," said he.

"No?" My heart turned to lead.

"No, doctor." He took out a bulging notebook. "It's
about a small sum that's due on the meter."

You'll laugh, Bertie, but it was no laughing matter
to me. He wanted eight and sixpence on account of
something that the last tenant either had or had not
done. Otherwise the company would remove the gas-meter.
How little he could have guessed that the alternative he
was presenting to me was either to pay away more than
half my capital, or to give up cooking my food! I at
last appeased him by a promise that I should look into
the matter, and so escaped for the moment, badly shaken
but still solvent. He gave me a good deal of information
about the state of his tubes (his own, not the gas
company's) before he departed; but I had rather lost
interest in the subject since I had learned that he was
being treated by his club doctor.

That was the first of my morning incidents. My
second followed hard upon the heels of it. Another ring
came, and from my post of observation I saw that a
gipsy's van, hung with baskets and wickerwork chairs, had
drawn up at the door. Two or three people appeared to be
standing outside. I understood that they wished me to
purchase some of their wares, so I merely opened the door
about three inches, said "No, thank you," and closed it.
They seemed not to have heard me for they rang again,
upon which I opened the door wider and spoke more
decidedly. Imagine my surprise when they rang again. I
flung the door open, and was about to ask them what they
meant by their impudence, when one of the little group
upon my doorstep said, "If you please, sir, it's the
baby." Never was there such a change--from the outraged
householder to the professional man. "Pray step in,
madam," said I, in quite my most courtly style; and in
they all came--the husband, the brother, the wife and the
baby. The latter was in the early stage of measles.
They were poor outcast sort of people, and seemed not to
have sixpence among them; so my demands for a fee at the
end of the consultation ended first in my giving the
medicine for nothing, and finally adding fivepence in
coppers, which was all the small change I had. A few
more such patients and I am a broken man.

However, the two incidents together had the effect of
taking up my attention and breaking the blow which I had
had in the Cullingworth letter. It made me laugh to
think that the apparent outsider should prove to be a
patient, and the apparent patient an outsider. So back
I went, in a much more judicial frame of mind, to read
that precious document over again, and to make up my mind
what it was that I should do.

And now I came to my first real insight into the
depths which lie in the character of Cullingworth. I
began by trying to recall how I could have torn up my
mother's letters, for it is not usual for me to destroy
papers in this manner. I have often been chaffed about
the way in which I allow them to accumulate until my
pockets become unbearable. The more I thought about it
the more convinced I was that I could not have done
anything of the sort; so finally I got out the little
house jacket which I had usually worn at Bradfield, and
I examined the sheaves of letters which it
contained. It was there, Bertie! Almost the very first
one that I opened was the identical one from which
Cullingworth was quoting in which my mother had described
him in those rather forcible terms.

Well, this made me sit down and gasp. I am, I think,
one of the most unsuspicious men upon earth, and through
a certain easy-going indolence of disposition I never
even think of the possibility of those with whom I am
brought in contact trying to deceive me. It does not
occur to me. But let me once get on that line of
thought--let me have proof that there is reason for
suspicion--and then all faith slips completely away from
me. Now I could see an explanation for much which had
puzzled me at Bradfield. Those sudden fits of ill
temper, the occasional ill-concealed animosity of
Cullingworth--did they not mark the arrival of each of my
mother's letters? I was convinced that they did. He had
read them then--read them from the pockets of the little
house coat which I used to leave carelessly in the hall
when I put on my professional one to go out. I could
remember, for example, how at the end of his illness his
manner had suddenly changed on the very day when
that final letter of my mother's had arrived. Yes, it
was certain that he had read them from the beginning.

But a blacker depth of treachery lay beyond. If he
had read them, and if he had been insane enough to think
that I was acting disloyally towards him, why had he not
said so at the time? Why had he contented himself with
sidelong scowls and quarrelling over trivialities--
breaking, too, into forced smiles when I had asked him
point blank what was the matter? One obvious reason was
that he could not tell his grievance without telling also
how he had acquired his information. But I knew
enough of Cullingworth's resource to feel that he could
easily have got over such a difficulty as that. In fact,
in this last letter he HAD got over it by his tale
about the grate and the maid. He must have had some
stronger reason for restraint. As I thought over the
course of our relations I was convinced that his scheme
was to lure me on by promises until I had committed
myself, and then to abandon me, so that I should myself
have no resource but to compound with my creditors-
to be, in fact, that which my mother had called him.

But in that case he must have been planning it out
almost from the beginning of my stay with him, for my
mother's letters stigmatising his conduct had begun very
early. For some time he had been uncertain how to
proceed. Then he had invented the excuse (which seemed
to me at the time, if you remember, to be quite
inadequate) about the slight weekly decline in the
practice in order to get me out of it. His next move was
to persuade me to start for myself; and as this would be
impossible without money, he had encouraged me to it by
the promise of a small weekly loan. I remembered how he
had told me not to be afraid about ordering furniture and
other things, because tradesmen gave long credit to
beginners, and I could always fall back upon him if
necessary. He knew too from his own experience that the
landlord would require at least a year's tenancy. Then
he waited to spring his mine until I had written to say
that I had finally committed myself, on which by return
of post came his letter breaking the connection. It was
so long and so elaborate a course of deceit, that I
for the first time felt something like fear as I thought
of Cullingworth. It was as though in the guise and dress
of a man I had caught a sudden glimpse of something sub-
human--of something so outside my own range of thought
that I was powerless against it.

Well, I wrote him a little note--only a short one,
but with, I hope, a bit of a barb to it. I said that his
letter had been a source of gratification to me, as it
removed the only cause for disagreement between my mother
and myself. She had always thought him a blackguard, and
I had always defended him; but I was forced now to
confess that she had been right from the beginning. I
said enough to show him that I saw through his whole
plot; and I wound up by assuring him that if he thought
he had done me any harm he had made a great mistake; for
I had every reason to believe that he had unintentionally
forced me into the very opening which I had most desired

After this bit of bravado I felt better, and I
thought over the situation. I was alone in a strange
town, without connections, without introductions,
with less than a pound in my pocket, and with no
possibility of freeing myself from my responsibilities.
I had no one at all to look to for help, for all my
recent letters from home had given a dreary account of
the state of things there. My poor father's health and
his income were dwindling together. On the other hand,
I reflected that there were some points in my favour. I
was young. I was energetic. I had been brought up hard,
and was quite prepared to rough it. I was well up in my
work, and believed I could get on with patients. My
house was an excellent one for my purpose, and I had
already put the essentials of furniture into it. The
game was not played out yet. I jumped to my feet and
clenched my hand, and swore to the chandelier that it
never should be played out until I had to beckon for help
from the window.

For the next three days I had not a single ring at
the bell of any sort whatever. A man could not be more
isolated from his kind. It used to amuse me to sit
upstairs and count how many of the passers-by stopped to
look at my plate. Once (on a Sunday morning) there were
over a hundred in an hour, and often I could see
from their glancing over their shoulders as they walked
on, that they were thinking or talking of the new doctor.

This used to cheer me up, and make me feel that
something was going on.

Every night between nine and ten I slip out and do my
modest shopping, having already made my MENU for the
coming day. I come back usually with a loaf of bread, a
paper of fried fish, or a bundle of saveloys. Then when
I think things are sufficiently quiet, I go out and brush
down the front with my broom, leaning it against the wall
and looking up meditatively at the stars whenever anyone
passes. Then, later still, I bring out my polishing
paste, my rag, and my chamois leather; and I assure you
that if practice went by the brilliancy of one's plate,
I should sweep the town.

Who do you think was the first person who broke this
spell of silence? The ruffian whom I had fought under
the lamp-post. He is a scissors-grinder it seems, and
rang to know if I had a job for him. I could not help
grinning at him when I opened the door and saw who it
was. He showed no sign of recognising me, however,
which is hardly to be wondered at.

The next comer was a real bona fide patient, albeit
a very modest one. She was a little anaemic old maid, a
chronic hypochondriac I should judge, who had probably
worked her way round every doctor in the town, and was
anxious to sample this novelty. I don't know whether I
gave her satisfaction. She said that she would come
again on Wednesday, but her eyes shifted as she said it.
One and sixpence was as much as she could pay, but it was
very welcome. I can live three days on one and sixpence.

I think that I have brought economy down to its
finest point. No doubt, for a short spell I could manage
to live on a couple of pence a day; but what I am doing
now is not to be a mere spurt, but my regular mode of
life for many a month to come. My tea and sugar and milk
(Swiss) come collectively to one penny a day. The loaf
is at twopence three-farthings, and I consume one a day.
My dinner consists in rotation of one third of a pound of
bacon, cooked over the gas (twopence halfpenny), or
two saveloys (twopence), or two pieces of fried fish
(twopence), or a quarter of an eightpenny tin of Chicago
beef (twopence). Any one of these, with a due allowance
of bread and water, makes a most substantial meal.
Butter I have discarded for the present. My actual board
therefore comes well under sixpence a day, but I am a
patron of literature to the extent of a halfpenny a day,
which I expend upon an evening paper; for with events
hurrying on like this in Alexandria, I cannot bear to be
without the news. Still I often reproach myself with
that halfpenny, for if I went out in the evening and
looked at the placards I might save it, and yet have a
general idea of what is going on. Of course, a halfpenny
a night sounds nothing, but think of a shilling a month!
Perhaps you picture me as bloodless and pulled down on
this diet! I am thin, it is true, but I never felt more
fit in my life. So full of energy am I that I start off
sometimes at ten at night and walk hard until two or
three in the morning. I dare not go out during the day,
you see, for fear that I should miss a patient. I have
asked my mother not to send little Paul down yet
until I see my way more clearly.

Old Whitehall came in to see me the other day. The
object of his visit was to invite me to dinner, and the
object of the dinner to inaugurate my starting in
practice. If I were the kind old fellow's son he could
not take a deeper interest in me and my prospects.

"By ----, Dr. Munro, sir," said he, "I've asked every
---- man in Birchespool that's got anything the matter
with him. You'll have the lot as patients within a week.
There's Fraser, who's got a touch of Martell's three
star. He's coming. And there's Saunders, who talks
about nothing but his spleen. I'm sick of his ----
spleen! But I asked him. And there's Turpey's wound!
This wet weather sets it tingling, and his own surgeon
can do nothing but dab it with vaseline. He'll be there.
And there's Carr, who is drinking himself to death. He
has not much for the doctors, but what there is you may
as well have."

All next day he kept popping in to ask me questions
about the dinner. Should we have clear soup or ox-tail?
Didn't I think that burgundy was better than port
and sherry? The day after was the celebration itself,
and he was in with a bulletin immediately after
breakfast. The cooking was to be done at a neighbouring
confectioner's. The landlady's son was coming in to
wait. I was sorry to see that Whitehall was already
slurring his words together, and had evidently been
priming himself heavily. He looked in again in the
afternoon to tell me what a good time we should have.
So-and-so could talk well, and the other man could sing
a song. He was so far gone by now, that I ventured (in
the capacity of medical adviser) to speak to him about

It's not the liquor, Dr. Munro, sir," said he
earnestly. It's the ---- relaxing air of this town. But
I'll go home and lie I'll down, and be as fresh as paint
to welcome my guests."

But the excitement of the impending event must have
been too much for him. When I arrived at five minutes to
seven, Turpey, the wounded lieutenant, met me in the hall
with a face of ill omen.

"It's all up with Whitehall," said he.

"What's the matter?"

"Blind, speechless and paralytic. Come and look."

The table in his room was nicely laid for dinner, and
several decanters with a large cold tart lay upon the
sideboard. On the sofa was stretched our unfortunate
host, his head back, his forked beard pointing to the
cornice, and a half finished tumbler of whisky upon the
chair beside him. All our shakes and shouts could not
break in upon that serene drunkenness.

"What are we to do?" gasped Turpey.

"We must not let him make an exhibition of himself.
We had better get him away before any one else arrives."

So we bore him off, all in coils and curves like a
dead python, and deposited him upon his bed. When we
returned three other guests had arrived.

"You'll be sorry to hear that Whitehall is not very
well," said Turpey. Dr. Munro thought it would be better
that he should not come down."

"In fact, I have ordered him to bed," said I.

"Then I move that Mr. Turpey be called upon to
act as host," said one of the new comers; and so it was
at once agreed.

Presently the other men arrived; but there was no
sign of the dinner. We waited for a quarter of an hour,
but nothing appeared. The landlady was summoned, but
could give no information.

"Captain Whitehall ordered it from a confectioner's,
sir," said she, in reply to the lieutenant's cross-
examination. "He did not tell me which confectioner's.
It might have been any one of four or five. He only said
that it would all come right, and that I should bake an
apple tart."

Another quarter of an hour passed, and we were all
ravenous. It was evident that Whitehall had made some
mistake. We began to roll our eyes towards the apple
pie, as the boat's crew does towards the boy in the
stories of shipwreck. A large hairy man, with an anchor
tattooed upon his hand, rose and set the pie in front of

"What d'you say, gentlemen,--shall I serve it out?"

We all drew up at the table with a decision
which made words superfluous. In five minutes the
pie dish was as clean as when the cook first saw it. And
our ill-luck vanished with the pie. A minute later the
landlady's son entered with the soup; and cod's head,
roast beef, game and ice pudding followed in due
succession. It all came from some misunderstanding
about time. But we did them justice, in spite of the
curious hors d'oeuvre with which we had started; and
a pleasanter dinner or a more enjoyable evening I have
seldom had.

"Sorry I was so bowled over, Dr. Munro, sir," said
Whitehall next morning. "I need hilly country and a
bracing air, not a ---- croquet lawn like this. Well,
I'm ---- glad to hear that you gentlemen enjoyed
yourselves, and I hope you found everything to your

I assured him that we did; but I had not the heart to
tell him about the apple pie.

I tell you these trivial matters, my dear Bertie,
just to show you that I am not down on my luck, and that
my life is not pitched in the minor key altogether, in
spite of my queer situation. But, to turn to graver
things: I was right glad to get your letter, and to
read all your denunciations about dogmatic science.
Don't imagine that my withers are wrung by what you say,
for I agree with almost every word of it.

The man who claims that we can know nothing is, to my
mind, as unreasonable as he who insists that everything
has been divinely revealed to us. I know nothing more
unbearable than the complacent type of scientist who
knows very exactly all that he does know, but has not
imagination enough to understand what a speck his little
accumulation of doubtful erudition is when compared with
the immensity of our ignorance. He is the person who
thinks that the universe can be explained by laws, as if
a law did not require construction as well as a world!
The motion of the engine can be explained by the laws of
physics, but that has not made the foregoing presence of
an engineer less obvious. In this world, however, part
of the beautiful poise of things depends upon the fact
that whenever you have an exaggerated fanatic of any
sort, his exact opposite at once springs up to neutralise
him. You have a Mameluke: up jumps a Crusader. You
have a Fenian: up jumps an Orangeman. Every force has
its recoil. And so these more hide-bound scientists must
be set against those gentlemen who still believe that the
world was created in the year 4004 B. C.

After all, true science must be synonymous with
religion, since science is the acquirement of fact; and
facts are all that we have from which to deduce what we
are and why we are here. But surely the more we pry into
the methods by which results are brougt{sic} about, the
more stupendous and wonderful becomes the great unseen
power which lies behind, the power which drifts the solar
system in safety through space, and yet adjusts the
length of the insects proboscis to the depth of the
honey-bearing flower. What is that central intelligence?
You may fit up your dogmatic scientist with a 300-
diameter microscope, and with a telescope with a six-foot
speculum, but neither near nor far can he get a trace of
that great driving power.

What should we say of a man who has a great and
beautiful picture submitted to him, and who, having
satisfied himself that the account given of the painting
of the picture is incorrect, at once concludes that
no one ever painted it, or at least asserts that he has
no possible means of knowing whether an artist has
produced it or not? That is, as it seems to me, a fair
statement of the position of some of the more extreme
agnostics. "Is not the mere existence of the picture in
itself a proof that a skilful artist has been busied upon
it? one might ask. "Why, no," says the objector. It is
possible that the picture produced itself by the aid of
certain rules. Besides, when the picture was first
submitted to me I was assured that it had all been
produced within a week, but by examining it I am able to
say with certainty that it has taken a considerable time
to put together. I am therefore of opinion that it is
questionable whether any one ever painted it at all."

Leaving this exaggerated scientific caution on the
one side, and faith on the other, as being equally
indefensible, there remains the clear line of reasoning
that a universe implies the existence of a universe
maker, and that we may deduce from it some of His
attributes, His power, His wisdom, His forethought for
small wants, His providing of luxuries for His creatures.
On the other hand, do not let us be disingenuous enough
to shirk the mystery which lies in pain, in cruelty,
in all which seems to be a slur upon His work. The best
that we can say for them is to hope that they are not as
bad as they seem, and possibly lead to some higher end.
The voices of the ill-used child and of the tortured
animal are the hardest of all for the philosopher to

Good-bye, old chap! It is quite delightful to think
that on one point at least we are in agreement.


1 OAKLEY VILLAS, BIRCHESPOOL, 15th January, 1883.

You write reproachfully, my dear Bertie, and you say
that absence must have weakened our close friendship,
since I have not sent you a line during this long seven
months. The real truth of the matter is that I had not
the heart to write to you until I could tell you
something cheery; and something cheery has been terribly
long in coming. At present I can only claim that the
cloud has perhaps thinned a little at the edges.

You see by the address of this letter that I still
hold my ground, but between ourselves it has been a
terrible fight, and there have been times when that last
plank of which old Whitehall wrote seemed to be slipping
out of my clutch. I have ebbed and flowed, sometimes
with a little money, sometimes without. At my best I was
living hard, at my worst I was very close upon
starvation. I have lived for a whole day upon the crust
of a loaf, when I had ten pounds in silver in
the drawer of my table. But those ten pounds had been
most painfully scraped together for my quarter's rent,
and I would have tried twenty-four hours with a tight
leather belt before I would have broken in upon it. For
two days I could not raise a stamp to send a letter. I
have smiled when I have read in my evening paper of the
privations of our fellows in Egypt. Their broken
victuals would have been a banquet to me. However, what
odds how you take your carbon and nitrogen and oxygen, as
long as you DO get it? The garrison of Oakley Villa
has passed the worst, and there is no talk of surrender.

It was not that I have had no patients. They have
come in as well as could be expected. Some, like the
little old maid, who was the first, never returned. I
fancy that a doctor who opened his own door forfeited
their confidence. Others have become warm partisans.
But they have nearly all been very poor people; and when
you consider how many one and sixpences are necessary in
order to make up the fifteen pounds which I must find
every quarter for rent, taxes, gas and water, you will
understand that even with some success, I have still
found it a hard matter to keep anything in the
portmanteau which serves me as larder. However, my boy,
two quarters are paid up, and I enter upon a third one
with my courage unabated. I have lost about a stone, but
not my heart.

I have rather a vague recollection of when it was
exactly that my last was written. I fancy that it must
have been a fortnight after my start, immediately after
my breach with Cullingworth. It's rather hard to know
where to begin when one has so many events to narrate,
disconnected from each other, and trivial in themselves,
yet which have each loomed large as I came upon them,
though they look small enough now that they are so far
astern. As I have mentioned Cullingworth, I may as well
say first the little that is to be said about him. I
answered his letter in the way which I have, I think,
already described. I hardly expected to hear from him
again; but my note had evidently stung him, and I had a
brusque message in which he said that if I wished him to
believe in my "bona-fides" (whatever he may have meant by
that), I would return the money which I had had during
the time that I was with him at Bradfield. To this
I replied that the sum was about twelve pounds; that I
still retained the message in which he had guaranteed me
three hundred pounds if I came to Bradfield, that the
balance in my favour was two hundred and eighty-eight
pounds; and that unless I had a cheque by return, I
should put the matter into the hands of my solicitor.
This put a final end to our correspondence.

There was one other incident, however. One day after
I had been in practice about two months, I observed a
bearded commonplace-looking person lounging about on the
other side of the road. In the afternoon he was again
visible from my consulting-room window. When I saw him
there once more next morning, my suspicions were aroused,
and they became certainties when, a day or so afterwards,
I came out of a patient's house in a poor street, and saw
the same fellow looking into a greengrocer's shop upon
the other side. I walked to the end of the street,
waited round the corner, and met him as he came hurrying

"You can go back to Dr. Cullingworth, and tell him
that I have as much to do as I care for," said I. "If
you spy upon me after this it will be at your own risk."

He shuffled and coloured, but I walked on and saw him
no more. There was no one on earth who could have had a
motive for wanting to know exactly what I was doing
except Cullingworth; and the man's silence was enough in
itself to prove that I was right. I have heard nothing
of Cullingworth since.

I had a letter from my uncle in the Artillery, Sir
Alexander Munro, shortly after my start, telling me that
he had heard of my proceedings from my mother, and that
he hoped to learn of my success. He is, as I think you
know, an ardent Wesleyan, like all my father's people,
and he told me that the chief Wesleyan minister in the
town was an old friend of his own, that he had learned
from him that there was no Wesleyan doctor, and that,
being of a Wesleyan stock myself, if I would present the
enclosed letter of introduction to the minister, I should
certainly find it very much to my advantage. I thought
it over, Bertie, and it seemed to me that it would be
playing it rather low down to use a religious
organisation to my own advantage, when I condemned them
in the abstract. It was a sore temptation, but I
destroyed the letter.

I had one or two pieces of luck in the way of
accidental cases. One (which was of immense importance
to me) was that of a grocer named Haywood, who fell down
in a fit outside the floor of his shop. I was passing on
my way to see a poor labourer with typhoid. You may
believe that I saw my chance, bustled in, treated the
man, conciliated the wife, tickled the child, and gained
over the whole household. He had these attacks
periodically, and made an arrangement with me by which I
was to deal with him, and we were to balance bills
against each other. It was a ghoulish compact, by which
a fit to him meant butter and bacon to me, while a spell
of health for Haywood sent me back to dry bread and
saveloys. However, it enabled me to put by for the rent
many a shilling which must otherwise have gone in food.
At last, however, the poor fellow died, and there was our
final settlement.

Two small accidents occurred near my door (it was a
busy crossing), and though I got little enough from
either of them, I ran down to the newspaper office on
each occasion, and had the gratification of seeing in the
evening edition that "the driver, though much shaken, is
pronounced by Dr. Stark Munro, of Oakley Villa, to
have suffered no serious injury." As Cullingworth used
to say, it is hard enough for the young doctor to push
his name into any publicity, and he must take what little
chances he has. Perhaps the fathers of the profession
would shake their heads over such a proceeding in a
little provincial journal; but I was never able to see
that any of them were very averse from seeing their own
names appended to the bulletin of some sick statesman in
The Times.

And then there came another and a more serious
accident. This would be about two months after the
beginning, though already I find it hard to put things in
their due order. A lawyer in the town named Dickson was
riding past my windows when the horse reared up and fell
upon him. I was eating saveloys in the back room at the
time, but I heard the noise and rushed to the door in
time to meet the crowd who were carrying him in. They
flooded into my house, thronged my hall, dirtied my
consulting room, and even pushed their way into my back
room, which they found elegantly furnished with a
portmanteau, a lump of bread, and a cold sausage.

However, I had no thought for any one but my
patient, who was groaning most dreadfully. I saw
that his ribs were right, tested his joints, ran my hand
down his limbs, and concluded that there was no break or
dislocation. He had strained himself in such a way,
however, that it was very painful to him to sit or to
walk. I sent for an open carriage, therefore, and
conveyed him to his home, I sitting with my most
professional air, and he standing straight up between my
hands. The carriage went at a walk, and the crowd
trailed behind, with all the folk looking out of the
windows, so that a more glorious advertisement could not
be conceived. It looked like the advance guard of a
circus. Once at his house, however, professional
etiquette demanded that I should hand the case over to
the family attendant, which I did with as good a grace as
possible--not without some lingering hope that the old
established practitioner might say, "You have taken such
very good care of my patient, Dr. Munro, that I should
not dream of removing him from your hands." On the
contrary, he snatched it away from me with avidity, and
I retired with some credit, an excellent advertisement,
and a guinea.

These are one or two of the points of interest
which show above the dead monotony of my life--small
enough, as you see, but even a sandhill looms large in
Holland. In the main, it is a dreary sordid record of
shillings gained and shillings spent--of scraping for
this and scraping for that, with ever some fresh slip of
blue paper fluttering down upon me, left so jauntily by
the tax-collector, and meaning such a dead-weight pull to
me. The irony of my paying a poor-rate used to amuse me.
I should have been collecting it. Thrice at a crisis I
pawned my watch, and thrice I rallied and rescued it.
But how am I to interest you in the details of such a
career? Now, if a fair countess had been so good as to
slip on a piece of orange peel before my door, or if the
chief merchant in the town had been saved by some
tour-de-force upon my part, or if I had been summoned
out at midnight to attend some nameless person in a
lonely house with a princely fee for silence--then I
should have something worthy of your attention. But the
long months and months during which I listened to the
throb of the charwoman's heart and the rustle of the
greengrocer's lungs, present little which is not dull and
dreary. No good angels came my way.

Wait a bit, though! One did. I was awakened at six
in the morning one day by a ringing at my bell, and
creeping to the angle of the stair I saw through the
glass a stout gentleman in a top-hat outside. Much
excited, with a thousand guesses capping one another in
my head, I ran back, pulled on some clothes, rushed down,
opened the door, and found myself in the grey morning
light face to face with Horton. The good fellow had come
down from Merton in an excursion train, and had been
travelling all night. He had an umbrella under his arm,
and two great straw baskets in each hand, which
contained, when unpacked, a cold leg of mutton, half-a-
dozen of beer, a bottle of port, and all sorts of pasties
and luxuries. We had a great day together, and when he
rejoined his excursion in the evening he left a very much
cheerier man than he had found.

Talking of cheeriness, you misunderstand me, Bertie,
if you think (as you seem to imply) that I take a dark
view of things. It is true that I discard some
consolations which you possess, because I cannot convince
myself that they are genuine; but in this world, at
least, I see immense reason for hope, and as to the next
I am confident that all will be for the best. From
annihilation to beatification I am ready to adapt myself
to whatever the great Designer's secret plan my be.

But there is much in the prospects of this world to
set a man's heart singing. Good is rising and evil
sinking like oil and water in a bottle. The race is
improving. There are far fewer criminal convictions.
There is far more education. People sin less and think
more. When I meet a brutal looking fellow I often think
that he and his type may soon be as extinct as the great
auk. I am not sure that in the interest of the 'ologies
we ought not to pickle a few specimens of Bill Sykes, to
show our children's children what sort of a person he

And then the more we progress the more we tend to
progress. We advance not in arithmetical but in
geometrical progression. We draw compound interest on
the whole capital of knowledge and virtue which has been
accumulated since the dawning of time. Some eighty
thousand years are supposed to have existed between
paleolithic and neolithic man. Yet in all that time he
only learned to grind his flint stones instead of
chipping them. But within our father's lives what
changes have there not been? The railway and the
telegraph, chloroform and applied electricity. Ten years
now go further than a thousand then, not so much on
account of our finer intellects as because the light we
have shows us the way to more. Primeval man stumbled
along with peering eyes, and slow, uncertain footsteps.
Now we walk briskly towards our unknown goal.

And I wonder what that goal is to be! I mean, of
course, as far as this world is concerned. Ever since
man first scratched hieroglyphics upon an ostracon, or
scribbled with sepia upon papyrus, he must have wondered,
as we wonder to-day. I suppose that we DO know a
little more than they. We have an arc of about three
thousand years given us, from which to calculate out the
course to be described by our descendants; but that arc
is so tiny when compared to the vast ages which
Providence uses in working out its designs that our
deductions from it must, I think, be uncertain. Will
civilisation be swamped by barbarism? It happened once
before, because the civilised were tiny specks of light
in the midst of darkness. But what, for example, could
break down the great country in which you dwell? No, our
civilisation will endure and grow more complex. Man
will live in the air and below the water. Preventive
medicine will develop until old age shall become the sole
cause of death. Education and a more socialistic scheme
of society will do away with crime. The English-speaking
races will unite, with their centre in the United States.
Gradually the European States will follow their example.
War will become rare, but more terrible. The forms of
religion will be abandoned, but the essence will be
maintained; so that one universal creed will embrace the
whole civilised earth, which will preach trust in that
central power, which will be as unknown then as now.
That's my horoscope, and after that the solar system may
be ripe for picking. But Bertie Swanborough and Stark
Munro will be blowing about on the west wind, and
dirtying the panes of careful housewives long before the
half of it has come to pass.

And then man himself will change, of course. The
teeth are going rapidly. You've only to count the
dentists' brass plates in Birchespool to be sure of that.
And the hair also. And the sight. Instinctively, when
we think of the more advanced type of young man, we
picture him as bald, and with double eye-glasses.
I am an absolute animal myself, and my only sign of
advance is that two of my back teeth are going. On the
other hand, there is some evidence in favour of the
development of a sixth sense-that of perception. If I
had it now I should know that you are heartily weary of
all my generalisations and dogmatism.

And certainly there must be a spice of dogmatism in
it when we begin laying down laws about the future; for
how do we know that there are not phases of nature coming
upon us of which we have formed no conception? After
all, a few seconds are a longer fraction of a day than an
average life is of the period during which we know that
the world has been in existence. But if a man lived only
for a few seconds of daylight, his son the same, and his
son the same, what would their united experiences after
a hundred generations tell them of the phenomenon which
we call night? So all our history and knowledge is no
guarantee that our earth is not destined for experiences
of which we can form no conception.

But to drop down from the universe to my own gnat's
buzz of an existence, I think I have told you everything
that might interest you of the first six months of
my venture. Towards the end of that time my little
brother Paul came down--and the best of companions he
is! He shares the discomforts of my little menage in
the cheeriest spirit, takes me out of my blacker humours,
goes long walks with me, is interested in all that
interests me (I always talk to him exactly as if he were
of my own age), and is quite ready to turn his hand to
anything, from boot-blacking to medicine-carrying. His
one dissipation is cutting out of paper, or buying in
lead (on the rare occasion when we find a surplus), an
army of little soldiers. I have brought a patient into
the consulting room, and found a torrent of cavalry,
infantry, and artillery pouring across the table. I have
been myself attacked as I sat silently writing, and have
looked up to find fringes of sharp-shooters pushing up
towards me, columns of infantry in reserve, a troop of
cavalry on my flank, while a battery of pea muzzle-
loaders on the ridge of my medical dictionary has raked
my whole position--with the round, smiling face of the
general behind it all. I don't know how many regiments
he has on a peace footing; but if serious trouble were
to break out, I am convinced that every sheet of
paper in the house would spring to arms.

One morning I had a great idea which has had the
effect of revolutionising our domestic economy. It was
at the time when the worst pinch was over, and when we
had got back as far as butter and occasional tobacco,
with a milkman calling daily; which gives you a great
sense of swagger when you have not been used to it.

"Paul, my boy," said I, "I see my way to fitting up
this house with a whole staff of servants for nothing."

He looked pleased, but not surprised. He had a
wholly unwarranted confidence in my powers; so that if I
had suddenly declared that I saw my way to tilting Queen
Victoria from her throne and seating myself upon it, he
would have come without a question to aid and abet.

I took a piece of paper and wrote, "To Let. A
basement floor, in exchange for services. Apply 1 Oakley

"There, Paul," said I, "run down to the
Evening News office, and pay a shilling for
three insertions."

There was no need of three insertions. One would
have been ample. Within half an hour of the appearance
of the first edition, I had an applicant at the end of my
bell-wire, and for the remainder of the evening Paul was
ushering them in and I interviewing them with hardly a
break. I should have been prepared at the outset to take
anything in a petticoat; but as we saw the demand
increase, our conditions went up and up; white aprons,
proper dress for answering door, doing beds and boots,
cooking,--we became more and more exacting. So at last
we made our selection; a Miss Wotton, who asked leave to
bring her sister with her. She was a hard-faced brusque-
mannered person, whose appearance in a bachelor's
household was not likely to cause a scandal. Her nose
was in itself a certificate of virtue. She was to bring
her furniture into the basement, and I was to give her
and her sister one of the two upper rooms for a bedroom.

They moved in a few days later. I was out at the
time, and the first intimation I had was finding
three little dogs in my hall when I returned. I had her
up, and explained that this was a breach of contract, and
that I had no thoughts of running a menagerie. She
pleaded very hard for her little dogs, which it seems are
a mother and two daughters of some rare breed; so I at
last gave in on the point. The other sister appeared to
lead a subterranean troglodytic sort of existence; for,
though I caught a glimpse of her whisking round the
corner at times, it was a good month before I could have
sworn to her in a police court.

For a time the arrangement worked well, and then
there came complications. One morning, coming down
earlier than usual, I saw a small bearded man undoing the
inside chain of my door. I captured him before he could
get it open. "Well," said I, "what's this?"

"If you please, sir," said he, "I'm Miss Wotton's

Dreadful doubts of my housekeeper flashed across my
mind, but I thought of her nose and was reassured. An
examination revealed everything. She was a married
woman. The lines were solemnly produced. Her husband
was a seaman. She had passed as a miss, because she
thought I was more likely to take a housekeeper without
encumbrances. Her husband had come home unexpectedly
from a long voyage, and had returned last night. And
then--plot within plot--the other woman was not her
sister, but a friend, whose name was Miss Williams.
She thought I was more likely to take two sisters than
two friends. So we all came to know who the other was;
and I, having given Jack permission to remain, assigned
the other top room to Miss Williams. From absolute
solitude I seemed to be rapidly developing into the
keeper of a casual ward.

It was a never-failing source of joy to us to see the
procession pass on the way to their rooms at night.
First came a dog; then Miss Williams, with a candle; then
Jack; then another dog; and finally, Mrs. Wotton, with

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