“And now I must really be running away, and so must you; but I would advise you all to get copies of the paper and file them when you have read the remarkably full details. It is a most curious case, and it is highly probable that we shall hear of it again. Good afternoon, gentlemen.”
Dr. Thorndyke’s advice appealed to all who heard it, for medical jurisprudence was a live subject at St. Margaret’s and all of us were keenly interested in it. As a result, we sallied forth in a body to the nearest newsvendor’s, and, having each provided himself with a copy of the Daily Telegraph, adjourned together to the Common Room to devour the report and thereafter to discuss the bearings of the case, unhampered by those considerations of delicacy that afflicted our more squeamish and scrupulous teacher.
It is one of the canons of correct conduct, scrupulously adhered to (when convenient) by all well-bred persons, that an acquaintance should be initiated by a proper introduction. To this salutary rule, which I have disregarded to the extent of an entire chapter, I now hasten to conform; and the more so inasmuch as nearly two years have passed since my first informal appearance.
Permit me, then, to introduce Paul Berkeley, M.B., etc., recently—very recently—qualified, faultlessly attired in the professional frock-coat and tall hat, and, at the moment of introduction, navigating with anxious care a perilous strait between a row of well-filled coal-sacks and a colossal tray piled high with kidney potatoes.
The passage of this strait landed me on the terra firma of Fleur-de-Lys Court, where I halted for a moment to consult my visiting list. There was only one more patient for me to see this morning, and he lived at 49 Nevill’s Court, wherever that might be. I turned for information to the presiding deity of the coal shop.
“Can you direct me, Mrs. Jablett, to Nevill’s Court?”
She could and she did, grasping me confidentially by the arm (the mark remained on my sleeve for weeks) and pointing a shaking forefinger at the dead wall ahead. “Nevill’s Court,” said Mrs. Jablett, “is a alley, and you goes into it through a archway. It turns out of Fetter Lane on the right ’and as you goes up, oppersight Bream’s Buildings.”
I thanked Mrs. Jablett and went on my way, glad that the morning round was nearly finished, and vaguely conscious of a growing appetite and of a desire to wash in hot water.
The practice which I was conducting was not my own. It belonged to poor Dick Barnard, an old St. Margaret’s man of irrepressible spirits and indifferent physique, who had started only the day before for a trip down the Mediterranean on board a tramp engaged in the currant trade; and this, my second morning’s round, was in some sort a voyage of geographical discovery.