A DOCTOR RETURNS FROM INDIA
Among the hundreds of people who were awaiting the arrival of the big Cunarder there were two groups, the second of which seemed determined that the first should not get far away. The young men of which this second group was composed represented the various newspapers of New York City, and while a “beat” was evidently impossible, each of them was determined to get a line for his own journal from the returning hero, Dr. John Earl, which he would not share with the others of the fraternity, and several of them held anxious consultations with their photographers who, by special permit, had been allowed upon the pier.
The other group had moved a number of times to escape the cameras, and a red-haired youth was expatiating upon the glories of American scientific achievement, concluding with a peroration that called forth an exclamation from one of the older men:
“Oh, shut up, Bedford; you sound like a Fourth of July oration. Who are the people you are trying to snapshot for your lurid sheet?” he said wearily, as becomes a Chicago newspaper man when in New York.
The red-headed one looked at him with cheerful surprise. “Don’t you know anybody?” he asked. “The tall, handsome blonde is Mrs. Ramsey, wife of George Ramsey, at whose frown the great gods sit tight and the little ones scuttle to cover. Luckily, he is a kindly disposed arbiter and the Street basks under his smile.”
The Chicagoan turned and looked at the lady curiously, and the reporter went on: “The fair-haired lady with the wild-rose face is old Gordon Kimball’s daughter; born with a diamond teething ring in her mouth, but has never succeeded in getting anything else of value inside her pretty head.”
“Well, she doesn’t have to,” said the Westerner.
Young Bedford grinned. “That’s what Dr. Earl thinks; he can furnish brains for the family. Their engagement was reported two months ago. The man with them is Earl’s brother, Frank Earl, corporation lawyer, amateur actor, one of those guys that does everything well, and never gives away his own hand. Go after him for a story about some combination his road has gone into and you come away with a great spiel about bumper crops; always gives you the glad hand, but nothing in it. You’d never take him for Mrs. Ramsey’s brother, would you? She’s a looker, all right. So is Dr. Earl, one of these big, handsome, powerful-looking men that makes folks ask who he is.”
“What’s all the hullabaloo about, anyhow?” asked the Chicago man.
“Where have you been that you don’t know about Earl?” answered Bedford. “Why, I thought everybody in the country had heard of him. He’s the chap that raises the dead, you know; just takes ’em by the hand, makes a few passes, and says, ‘Say, it’s time to wake up, old fellow,’ and the dead one sits up and asks for beefsteak. He’s the man that saved Hall, the copper mines king, over in Paris. Hall was finished, all done but putting him in a box, when in comes Dr. Earl. ‘Let him alone,’ he says. ‘He’s tired out. When he finishes this nap he’ll be just as good as new.’ But you know how impetuous the French are, and they were going to have poor old Hall done for, sure enough, when this Earl man stands them off, and promises to bring Hall ’round in six hours. And he does it after the whole bunch of them have parleyed over him and waved looking-glasses across his mouth, and found him as dead as Rameses.”
There was a general buzz among the newspaper men, and one of them, older and more dignified in manner than the others, said quietly, “Bedford, you ought not to hand out that kind of fiction, even in your unreliable journal.”
“If you don’t like my story you can give us the straight steer yourself, Tourney,” he said, and, nothing loath, the older man told how Hall had been suddenly stricken with appendicitis in such severe form that an operation was necessary at once. Upon this the French surgeons agreed, but his heart action was so bad that they dared not administer an anæsthetic, and one of them, who was a noted hypnotist, expressed a doubt whether he would be able to rouse the patient from a hypnosis sufficiently profound to enable them to perform the operation.
“This Frenchman,” Tourney went on, warming to his subject, “had seen Earl do some wonderful things and he knew he was in Paris and where he was stopping. He put the case to Hall, and seeing that it was all day with him unless something was done, he told them to send for Earl and they got him there on the double-quick. I was waiting in the hall when he went into the operating room and I stayed there until he came out, and as I had done him one or two good turns he told me about it before he realized that I was a newspaper man. When he saw me last I was coaching Harvard students with more money than brains. That has nothing to do with it, except to show that he isn’t one of these ‘for publication only’ wonder workers.”
“Hurry up,” said the Chicagoan, “he’ll be here in a few minutes, and if he’s one of these human clams you are the hope of the press. What did he tell you?”
“He agreed with the others in the main points, but he said if Hall was willing to take the chance, he believed he could pull him through by a system he had seen used in India. Then he cleared them all out, and when they came back Hall was comatose. The appendix was removed in record time, and the wound cleansed. Just before Earl finished, one of the Frenchmen noticed that the patient was not breathing, apparently, and exclaimed that he was dead. Dr. Earl pointed out the fact that the blood showed no signs of other than a normal condition, such as would be found in a patient under hypnosis. His idea, as I got it, was that the patient must be kept unconscious long enough for the body to regain its functions and get over the strain of the operation. He told them if he were more familiar with Hall’s constitution, he would be inclined to prolong his condition of suspended animation, but under the circumstances he would restore him to consciousness in three hours.
“One or two of them got excited and swore the man was dead, and according to a lot of tests he was, but the rest, knowing he would have died anyhow, were willing to wait, and at the end of the time Earl brought him back to consciousness in such good condition that the other doctors were wild over it. In their enthusiastic French way they heralded the story everywhere. I thought he’d never be allowed to leave Paris. They wanted to keep him right there and string medals around his neck and pin ribbons all over his coat, but he wouldn’t stand for it. He’s an awfully modest fellow, and he went over to London with Hall, who swears by him; says he believes he put a new heart in him, and all that sort of thing. There comes the boat now. Better have your photographers ready, for all you’ll get will be a picture of him keeping his mouth shut.”
As the big English boat swung slowly into its dock, with the help of half a dozen tugs that puffed and pounded at its side, the newspaper men and Dr. Earl’s family caught sight of him simultaneously, as he waved his hand and called across the intervening space with all the abandon of a returning traveler.
He could make them hear now. “Leonora, dear, how are you!” as a remarkably sweet-faced girl threw a shower of kisses in his direction, which passed on their way an equal number of his own. “And Hilda! And for the life of me, there’s Frank! Love to all of you!” A few minutes more and he was with them. He caught the girl in his arms and gave her a long and tender embrace. Then he turned to the others and greeted them with all the fraternal warmth natural after eighteen months’ separation.
“How splendid it is to see you all again! What brought you to New York, Frank?”
“Oh, just to see if I could cross Broadway without being bumped into by a trolley car or a taxi-cab or an airship. Incidentally, to keep you from losing your breath and hearing in the new tunnels through which you will be shot under these New York rivers.”
“Tubes, you mean, brother dear, tubes. I’ve been doing nothing else but shoot the London tubes for the last fortnight.”
“Where I live, in the wild and woolly Rockies, we call them tunnels,” answered his brother. “Wouldn’t the railroad builder howl at the idea of ‘tubing the mountains,’ and the miner would have a war-dance of delight at the suggestion that he must ‘tube his claim.’ These English airs are all right, Dr. John Earl, but you may as well learn to talk real American if you expect to chop bones and exploit microbes in this country,” and the young man glowed his admiration while plying him with badinage.
The first greetings were scarcely over when the newspaper men made known their mission, Tourney acting as spokesman for them all. Earl shook his hand warmly.
“I’m awfully glad to see you,” he said, “but you know I never give interviews. I don’t know how, to begin with, and I couldn’t say anything that would interest your readers. I have come back to practice my profession in New York City; that is all I can tell you.”
“But that Paris case,” pleaded Bedford. “Do tell us about that.”
“Did you use the Hindoo method of respiration that the Swami Bramachunenda gave an exposition of here two or three years ago?” asked another of the fraternity, and the others followed with different interrogatives, but Earl laughed and waved them all away.
“I don’t know what the Swami did,” he said, “but if he is like some of his brothers I’m ready to believe anything. All that I did, and a great deal that I never thought of doing myself, or heard of anybody else doing on this planet, was told in your papers at the time. Really, if I had anything worth your while as a news story I would be glad to give it to you—one of these days I may have, but you must excuse me now.”
His manner was courteous but unmistakable, and turning away from them he was soon absorbed in conversation with the pretty girl and his brother and sister. He hardly took his eyes off the former as he recounted his adventures abroad.
Three months previously he and Leonora Kimball had been betrothed in Vienna, and it was agreed that they were to be married soon after his arrival home. In a social way, the match met the approval of New York’s select set, for they belonged to equally wealthy and prominent families. The Earls had come to New York from New England, two generations ago, and the foundation of the family fortune had been laid in a small block of New York, New Haven and Hartford stock, which had grown into a huge block of both stocks and bonds from the various expansions of stock and consolidations of property that had meanwhile taken place. The Kimballs had come from the Pacific coast, where the same alchemist’s result had been wrought with a block of Southern Pacific Railway stock. The family tree of the Earls had rooted itself into the subsoil of real culture, while that of the Kimballs was mostly displayed above ground with only here and there a stray fibre that had sunk to any depth.
Leonora Kimball, who at this time was slightly over twenty-three years of age, possessed a most winning and gracious manner—a face that might have served as a better model for a madonna than many of those apparently used by the old masters; a lithe and graceful figure and an abundance of vivacity when doing the things that pleased her. She had so captivated John Earl from their first meeting that he had never tried nor cared to analyze her. Indeed, had he so wished, he would havefound it a difficult undertaking, for he was too content with the pleasure he felt in her presence to care to question it.
Dr. Earl had taken infinite pains to search the world for the sources of disease and its prevention and cure. He had delved deeply into the mysteries of mental and spiritual therapeutics, and had closely studied the influences surrounding the origin of individual human beings. But while he had harnessed many more or less occult forces into scientific service in treating invalids, strangely enough, it never occurred to him that similar elements might have an important mission in determining the natural affinity of those attracted by the tenderest passion in the world, and might do much, if properly regarded, to render stable that one-time sacred bond of the sexes known as the marriage relation, which at this time, everywhere, was resting upon such shifting quicksands of mismating as to menace its existence.
“Love is of man’s life a thing apart,” applied with full force to Dr. Earl, and he accepted his relations with Leonora Kimball with the same confidence and light heart that might characterize the least thoughtful man on Manhattan Island. While he had traveled many thousands of miles and burned many a midnight lamp to ascertain if improvement could not be made in the prevailing orthodox method of treating disease, he blindly accepted, as millions of strong men before him had done, the prevailing orthodox method of selecting a wife.
In any event, after the brother and sister had been left at the Ramsey mansion on upper Fifth Avenue, he and Leonora proceeded to spend the time from eleven to three o’clock very much as other lovers similarly situated would have consumed those four hours. They motored until one o’clock, when they went to her house, not far from his sister’s residence, where he had luncheon with her and her widowed mother, and at three o’clock he arrived at the Hotel Gotham, where he had engaged apartments.
When he stepped into his new sitting-room a large photograph of Leonora confronted him on the dressing-case, his valet being a man of rare sense and tact.
As he looked into the counterfeit impression of the large blue eyes and reflected back her smile he declared to himself for the twentieth time that day that she was the most fascinating creature in the world.
Categories: English Literature