[November 22, 1879.]
Perhaps you would hardly guess from his appearance and ways that he was a surgeon and a medicine-man. He certainly does not smell of lavender or peppermint, or display fine and curious linen, or tread softly like a cat. Contrariwise.
He smells of tobacco, and wears flannel underclothing. His step is heavy. He is a gross, big cow-buffalo sort of man, with a tangled growth of beard. His ranting voice and loud familiar manner amount to an outrage. He laughs like a camel, with deep bubbling noises. Thick corduroy breeches and gaiters swaddle his shapeless legs, and he rides a coarse-bred Waler mare.
I pray the gods that he may never be required to operate upon my eyes, or intestines, or any other delicate organ—that he may never be required to trephine my skull, or remove the roof of my mouth.
Of course he is a very good fellow. He walks straight into your drawing-room with a pipe in his mouth, bellowing out your name. No servant announces his arrival. He tramples in and crushes himself into a chair, without removing his hat, or performing any other high ceremonial. He has been riding in the sun, and is in a state of profuse perspiration; you will have to bring him round with the national beverage of Anglo-India, a brandy-and-soda.
Now he will enter upon your case. “Well, you’re looking very blooming; what the devil is the matter with you? Eh? Eh? Want a trip to the hills? Eh? Eh? How is the bay pony? Eh? Have you seen Smith’s new filly? Eh?”
This is very cheerful and reassuring if you are a healthy man with some large conspicuous disease—a broken rib, cholera, or toothache; but if you are a fine, delicately-made man, pregnant with poetry as the egg of the nightingale is pregnant with music, and throbbing with an exquisite nervous sensibility, perhaps languishing under some vague and occult disease, of which you are only conscious in moments of intense introspection, this mode of approaching the diagnosis is apt to give your system a shock.
Otherwise it may be bracing, like the inclement north wind. But, speaking for myself, it has proved most ruinous and disastrous. Since I have known the Doctor my constitution has broken up. I am a wreck. There is hardly a single drug in the whole pharmacopoeia that I can take with any pleasure, and I have entirely lost sight of a most interesting and curious complaint.
You see, dear Vanity, that I don’t mince matters. I take our Doctor as I find him, rough and allopathic; but I am sure he might be improved in the course of two or three generations. We may leave this, however, to Nature and the Army Medical Department. Reform is not my business. I have no proposals to offer that will accelerate the progress of the Doctor towards a higher type.