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In The Same Boat
by [?]


‘A throbbing vein,’ said Dr. Gilbert soothingly, ‘is the mother of delusion.’

‘Then how do you account for my knowing when the thing is due?’ Conroy’s voice rose almost to a break.

‘Of course, but you should have consulted a doctor before using–palliatives.’

‘It was driving me mad. And now I can’t give them up.’

”Not so bad as that! One doesn’t form fatal habits at twenty-five. Think again. Were you ever frightened as a child?’

‘I don’t remember. It began when I was a boy.’

‘With or without the spasm? By the way, do you mind describing the spasm again?’

‘Well,’ said Conroy, twisting in the chair, ‘I’m no musician, but suppose you were a violin-string–vibrating–and some one put his finger on you? As if a finger were put on the naked soul! Awful!’

‘So’s indigestion–so’s nightmare–while it lasts.’

‘But the horror afterwards knocks me out for days. And the waiting for it … and then this drug habit! It can’t go on!’ He shook as he spoke, and the chair creaked.

‘My dear fellow,’ said the doctor, ‘when you’re older you’ll know what burdens the best of us carry. A fox to every Spartan.’

‘That doesn’t help me. I can’t! I can’t!’ cried Conroy, and burst into tears.

‘Don’t apologise,’ said Gilbert, when the paroxysm ended. ‘I’m used to people coming a little–unstuck in this room.’

‘It’s those tabloids!’ Conroy stamped his foot feebly as he blew his nose. ‘They’ve knocked me out. I used to be fit once. Oh, I’ve tried exercise and everything. But–if one sits down for a minute when it’s due–even at four in the morning–it runs up behind one.’

‘Ye-es. Many things come in the quiet of the morning. You always know when the visitation is due?’

‘What would I give not to be sure!’ he sobbed.

‘We’ll put that aside for the moment. I’m thinking of a case where what we’ll call anaemia of the brain was masked (I don’t say cured) by vibration. He couldn’t sleep, or thought he couldn’t, but a steamer voyage and the thump of the screw–‘

‘A steamer? After what I’ve told you!’ Conroy almost shrieked. ‘I’d sooner …’

‘Of course not a steamer in your case, but a long railway journey the next time you think it will trouble you. It sounds absurd, but–‘

‘I’d try anything. I nearly have,’ Conroy sighed.

‘Nonsense! I’ve given you a tonic that will clear that notion from your head. Give the train a chance, and don’t begin the journey by bucking yourself up with tabloids. Take them along, but hold them in reserve–in reserve.’

‘D’you think I’ve self-control enough, after what you’ve heard?’ said Conroy.

Dr. Gilbert smiled. ‘Yes. After what I’ve seen,’ he glanced round the room, ‘I have no hesitation in saying you have quite as much self-control as many other people. I’ll write you later about your journey. Meantime, the tonic,’ and he gave some general directions before Conroy left.

An hour later Dr. Gilbert hurried to the links, where the others of his regular week-end game awaited him. It was a rigid round, played as usual at the trot, for the tension of the week lay as heavy on the two King’s Counsels and Sir John Chartres as on Gilbert. The lawyers were old enemies of the Admiralty Court, and Sir John of the frosty eyebrows and Abernethy manner was bracketed with, but before, Rutherford Gilbert among nerve-specialists.

At the Club-house afterwards the lawyers renewed their squabble over a tangled collision case, and the doctors as naturally compared professional matters.

‘Lies–all lies,’ said Sir John, when Gilbert had told him Conroy’s trouble. ‘Post hoc, propter hoc. The man or woman who drugs is ipso facto a liar. You’ve no imagination.’

”Pity you haven’t a little–occasionally.’

‘I have believed a certain type of patient in my time. It’s always the same. For reasons not given in the consulting-room they take to the drug. Certain symptoms follow. They will swear to you, and believe it, that they took the drug to mask the symptoms. What does your man use? Najdolene? I thought so. I had practically the duplicate of your case last Thursday. Same old Najdolene–same old lie.’