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The Doctor
by [?]

His slippered feet stretched out luxuriously to the fire, Dr. Venables, of Mudford, lay back in his arm-chair and gave himself up to the delights of his Flor di Cabajo, No. 2, a box of which had been presented to him by an apparently grateful patient. It had been a busy day. He had prescribed more than half a dozen hot milk-puddings and a dozen changes of air; he had promised a score of times to look in again to-morrow; and the Widow Nixey had told him yet again, but at greater length than before, her private opinion of doctors.

Sometimes Gordon Venables wondered whether it was only for this that he had been the most notable student of his year at St. Bartholomew’s. His brilliance, indeed, had caused something of a sensation in medical circles, and a remarkable career had been prophesied for him. It was Venables who had broken up one Suffrage meeting after another by throwing white mice at the women on the platform; who day after day had paraded London dressed in the costume of a brown dog, until arrested for biting an anti-vivisector in the leg. No wonder that all the prizes of the profession were announced to be within his grasp, and that when he buried himself in the little country town of Mudford he was thought to have thrown away recklessly opportunities such as were granted to few.

He had been in Mudford for five years now. An occasional paper in The Lancet on “The Recurrence of Anthro-philomelitis in Earth-worms” kept him in touch with modern medical thought, but he could not help feeling that to some extent his powers were rusting in Mudford. As the years went on his chance of Harley Street dwindled.

“Come in,” he said in answer to a knock at the door.

The housekeeper’s head appeared.

“There’s been an accident, sir,” she gasped. “Gentleman run over!”

He snatched up his stethoscope and, without even waiting to inquire where the accident was, hurried into the night. Something whispered to him that his chance had come.

After a quarter of an hour he stopped a small boy.

“Hallo, Johnny,” he said breathlessly, “where’s the accident?”

The boy looked at him with open mouth for some moments. Then he had an idea.

“Why, it’s Doctor!” he said.

Dr. Venables pushed him over and ran on….

It was in the High Street that the accident had happened. Lord Lair, an eccentric old gentleman who sometimes walked when he might have driven, had, while dodging a motor-car, been run into by a child’s hoop. He lay now on the pavement surrounded by a large and interested crowd.

“Look out,” shouted somebody from the outskirts; “here comes Doctor.”

Dr. Venables pushed his way through to his patient. His long search for the scene of the accident had exhausted him bodily, but his mind was as clear as ever.

“Stand back there,” he said in an authoritative voice. Then, taking out his stethoscope, he made a rapid examination of his patient.

“Incised wound in the tibia,” he murmured to himself. “Slight abrasion of the patella and contusion of the left ankle. The injuries are serious but not necessarily mortal. Who is he?”

The butcher, who had been sitting on the head of the fallen man, got up and disclosed the features of Lord Lair. Dr. Venables staggered back.

“His lordship!” he cried. “He is a patient of Dr. Scott’s! I have attended the client of another practitioner! Professionally I am ruined!”

Lord Lair, who was now breathing more easily, opened his eyes.

“Take me home,” he groaned.

Dr. Venables’ situation was a terrible one. Medical etiquette demanded his immediate retirement from the case, but the promptings of humanity and the thought of his client’s important position in the world were too strong for him. Throwing his scruples to the winds, he assisted the aged peer on to a hastily improvised stretcher and accompanied him to the Hall.