“Well, and so I did,” Miss Oliver admitted defiantly. “But I didn’t ask you to make yourself conspicuous.”
POLSUE V. PENHALIGON, NANJIVELL INTERVENING.
At breakfast, two days later, Dr Mant received a summons to visit Polpier and pronounce upon the symptoms of Boatbuilder Jago’s five-year-old son Josey (Josiah), who had been feverish ever since Tuesday evening. The Doctor’s practice ranged over a wide district, and as a rule (good easy man) he let the ailments of Polpier accumulate for a while before dealing with them. Then he would descend on the town and work through it from door to door—as Un’ Benny Rowett put it, “like a cross between a ferret an’ a Passover Angel.” Thus the child and his temperature might have waited for thirty-six hours—the mothers of Polpier being skilled in febrifuges, from quinine to rum-and-honey, treacle posset, elder tea—to be dealt with as preliminaries to the ambulance lecture, had it not been that (1) the Doctor had recently replaced his old trap with a two-seater car, which lifted him above old economies of time, and (2) he wished to ascertain if the valley schoolhouse, in which he was to lecture, possessed a wall-chart or diagram of the human frame; for it is a useful rule to start an ambulance class with some brief information on the body and its organs, their position and functions. Also he remembered casually an official letter received from Troy, a couple of days ago, concerning one Nicholas Nanjivell, a reservist. The man, if he remembered rightly, had an epithelioma somewhere in his leg, and was quite unfit for service. Nevertheless he must be visited: for the letter was official.
First of all, then, the Doctor hied him to Boatbuilder Jago’s: and it was lucky he did so, for the child had developed measles—a notifiable complaint. “Any other cases about?” he asked. Mrs Jago did not know of another child sick or sorry in the whole of Polpier. “Which,” she went on to argue in an aggrieved tone, “it therefore passes my understandin’ why our Josey should be took, poor mite! ’Tisn’t as if he was a naughty child, either.”
“Everything must have a beginning, Mrs Jago,” said the doctor in his cheerful matter-of-fact way.
“You reckon as it will spread, then?”
“I don’t know. I hope not. . . . It’s a mercy that the schools are closed for the holidays. When did they close, by the way?”
“Just a week ago.”
“H’m. . . . I must step up and ask the Schoolmaster a few questions.”
“I called you in to cure my Josey, not to talk about other folk’s children.” (Mrs Jago was a resentful woman.)
“And I am doing my best for him. . . . Tut! in a week or so he’ll be running about as well as ever. But I’m the Medical Officer of Health, ma’am.”
“Well I know it; seein’ that, four months back, as you happened to be passin’, I called you in an’ asked you to look at the poor dear’s eyes an’ give me a certificate that he was sufferin’ from something chronic. An’ you flatly declined.”