A MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA
The Whitechapel Road, though redeemed by scattered relics of a more picturesque past from the utter desolation of its neighbour the Commercial Road, is hardly a gay thoroughfare. Especially at its eastern end, where its sordid modernity seems to reflect the colourless lives of its inhabitants, does its grey and dreary length depress the spirits of the wayfarer. But the longest and dullest road can be made delightful by sprightly discourse seasoned with wit and wisdom, and so it was that, as I walked westward by the side of my friend John Thorndyke, the long, monotonous road seemed all too short.
We had been to the London Hospital to see a remarkable case of acromegaly, and, as we returned, we discussed this curious affection, and the allied condition of gigantism, in all their bearings, from the origin of the “Gibson chin” to the physique of Og, King of Bashan.
“It would have been interesting,” Thorndyke remarked as we passed up Aldgate High Street, “to have put one’s finger into His Majesty’s pituitary fossa—after his decease, of course. By the way, here is Harrow Alley; you remember Defoe’s description of the dead-cart waiting out here, and the ghastly procession coming down the alley.” He took my arm and led me up the narrow thoroughfare as far as the sharp turn by the “Star and Still” public-house, where we turned to look back.
“I never pass this place,” he said musingly, “but I seem to hear the clang of the bell and the dismal cry of the carter—”
He broke off abruptly. Two figures had suddenly appeared framed in the archway, and now advanced at headlong speed. One, who led, was a stout, middle-aged Jewess, very breathless and dishevelled; the other was a well-dressed young man, hardly less agitated than his companion. As they approached, the young man suddenly recognized my colleague, and accosted him in agitated tones.
“I’ve just been sent for to a case of murder or suicide. Would you mind looking at it for me, sir? It’s my first case, and I feel rather nervous.”
Here the woman darted back, and plucked the young doctor by the arm.
“Hurry! hurry!” she exclaimed, “don’t stop to talk.” Her face was as white as lard, and shiny with sweat; her lips twitched, her hands shook, and she stared with the eyes of a frightened child.
“Of course I will come, Hart,” said Thorndyke; and, turning back, we followed the woman as she elbowed her way frantically among the foot-passengers.
“Have you started in practice here?” Thorndyke asked as we hurried along.
“No, sir,” replied Dr. Hart; “I am an assistant. My principal is the police-surgeon, but he is out just now. It’s very good of you to come with me, sir.”
“Tut, tut,” rejoined Thorndyke. “I am just coming to see that you do credit to my teaching. That looks like the house.”