“Look for yourself,” I said, and, taking off the child’s coat, I showed him both her arms. Then I kissed her and sent her back to the nurse.
“That’s good enough, doctor, but, mind you, she mustn’t be vaccinated now.”
As he spoke the words my heart sank in me, for I understood what I had done and the risk that I was taking. But the die was cast, or so I thought, in my folly. It was too late to go back.
“Don’t be afraid,” I said, “no cow poison shall be mixed with her blood.”
“Now I believe you, doctor,” he answered, “for a man won’t play tricks with his only child just to help himself. I’ll take your answer to the council, and they will send you the formal letter of invitation to stand with the conditions attached. Before you answer it the money will be lodged, and you shall have my bond for it. And now I must be going, for I am wasting your time and those patients of yours will be getting tired. If you will come to supper to-night I’ll have some of the leaders to meet you and we can talk things over. Good-bye, we shall win the seat; so sure as my name is Stephen Strong we shall win on the A.V. ticket.”
He went, and I saw those of my patients who had sat out the wait. When they had gone, I considered the position, summing it up in my own mind. The prospect was exhilarating, and yet I was depressed, for I had bound myself to the chariot wheels of a false doctrine. Also, by implication, I had told Strong a lie. It was true that Jane had not been vaccinated, but of this I had neglected to give him the reason. It was that I had postponed vaccinating her for a while owing to a certain infantile delicacy, being better acquainted than most men with the risks consequent on that operation, slight though it is, in certain conditions of a child’s health, and knowing that there was no danger of her taking smallpox in a town which was free from it. I proposed, however, to perform the operation within the next few days; indeed, for this very purpose I had already written to London to secure some glycerinated calf lymph, which would now be wasted.
The local papers next morning appeared with an announcement that at the forthcoming bye-election Dunchester would be contested in the Radical interest by James Therne, Esq., M.D. They added that, in addition to other articles of the Radical faith, Dr. Therne professed the doctrine of anti-vaccination, of which he was so ardent an upholder that, although on several occasions he had been threatened with prosecution, he declined to allow his only child to be vaccinated.
In the same issues it was announced that the Conservative candidate would be Sir Thomas Colford.
So the die was cast. I had crossed the Rubicon.
BRAVO THE A.V.’S