WITH REFERENCE TO DICK VAUGHAN
One might search the English villages through without finding another such medical practitioner as Dr. Vaughan, the man who dressed Betty Murdoch’s sprained ankle. For example, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the records of his original-research work won respectful attention in at least four languages. When he inherited Upcroft (the estate which flanks Nuthill to the eastward) and decided to establish himself there, it certainly was not with any idea of playing the general practitioner. But, as the event proved, he was given small choice. For Sussex this district is curiously remote. It contains a few scattered large houses, and outside these the population is made up of small farmers and shepherds, very good fellows, most of them, but not at all typical of home-county residents, and having more than a little in common with the dalesmen of the north country. Their nearest resident medical practitioner, before Dr. Vaughan came, was eight miles away, in Lewes.
Dr. Vaughan used to say that his only son, Dick, should relieve him by forming a practice in the district. But that was before Dick was sent down from Oxford for ducking his tutor in the basin of a fountain and then trying to revive that unfortunate gentleman by plastering his head and face in chocolate meringues. It was prior also to Dick’s unfortunate expulsion from Guy’s as the result of a stand-up fight with a house-surgeon, and to his final withdrawal from the study of medicine as a profession he was adjudged unworthy to adorn. The judgment was emphatically indorsed by the young man himself, and so could not be called over-severe.
When it became apparent that Dick was never to be a G.P., Dr. Vaughan obtained the services of Edward Hatherley, a young doctor in search of a practice, and specially altered and enlarged for his occupancy one of the Upcroft cottages. This enabled Dr. Vaughan to decline the work of a general practitioner without hurt to his naturally sensitive conscience. But there still were people in the district whom he visited upon occasion as a doctor, and his friends at Nuthill were among the favored few. Such visits, however, did not in any way affect his income, which, as the result of an unexpected legacy some twelve or fourteen years before this time, was a substantial one, even apart from professional earnings or the rents of Upcroft.
Riding, shooting, fishing, coursing, breaking in young horses and dogs, and playing polo when opportunity offered—these, with occasional rather wild doings in London and Brighton, made up the sum of Dick Vaughan’s contribution to the world’s work so far, since the period of what he euphemistically called his retirement from the practice of pill-making. And it must be confessed that, until some time after the establishment of the Nuthill household in that locality, Dick Vaughan had shown no symptom of dissatisfaction with his lot, or of desire to tackle any more serious sort of occupation.