Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 12

When Greek Meets Greek, then Comes the Tug of War

The doctor, that is our doctor, had thought nothing more of the message which had been sent to that other doctor, Dr Fillgrave; nor in truth did the baronet. Lady Scatcherd had thought of it, but her husband during the rest of the day was not in a humour which allowed her to remind him that he would soon have a new physician on his hands; so she left the difficulty to arrange itself, waiting in some little trepidation till Dr Fillgrave should show himself.

It was well that Sir Roger was not dying for want of his assistance, for when the message reached Barchester, Dr Fillgrave was some five or six miles out of town, at Plumstead; and as he did not get back till late in the evening, he felt himself necessitated to put off his visit to Boxall Hill till next morning. Had he chanced to have been made acquainted with that little conversation about the pump, he would probably have postponed it even yet a while longer.

He was, however, by no means sorry to be summoned to the bedside of Sir Roger Scatcherd. It was well known at Barchester, and very well known to Dr Fillgrave, that Sir Roger and Dr Thorne were old friends. It was very well known to him also, that Sir Roger, in all his bodily ailments, had hitherto been contented to entrust his safety to the skill of his old friend. Sir Roger was in his way a great man, and much talked of in Barchester, and rumour had already reached the ears of the Barchester Galen, that the great railway contractor was ill. When, therefore, he received a peremptory summons to go over to Boxall Hill, he could not but think that some pure light had broken in upon Sir Roger’s darkness, and taught him at last where to look for true medical accomplishment.

And then, also, Sir Roger was the richest man in the county, and to county practitioners a new patient with large means is a godsend; how much greater a godsend when not only acquired, but taken also from some rival practitioner, need hardly be explained.

Dr Fillgrave, therefore, was somewhat elated when, after an early breakfast, he stepped into the post-chaise which was to carry him to Boxall Hill. Dr Fillgrave’s professional advancement had been sufficient to justify the establishment of a brougham, in which he paid his ordinary visits round Barchester; but this was a special occasion, requiring special speed, and about to produce no doubt a special guerdon, and therefore a pair of post-horses were put into request.

It was hardly yet nine when the post-boy somewhat loudly rang the bell at Sir Roger’s door; and then Dr Fillgrave, for the first time, found himself in the new grand hall of Boxall Hill house.

‘I’ll tell my lady,’ said the servant, showing him into the grand dining-room; and there for some fifteen minutes or twenty minutes Dr Fillgrave walked up and down the length of the Turkey carpet all alone.

Dr Fillgrave was not a tall man, and was perhaps rather more inclined to corpulence than became his height. In his stocking-feet, according to the usually received style of measurement, he was five feet five; and he had a little round abdominal protuberance, which an inch and a half added to the heels of his boots hardly enabled him to carry off as well as he himself would have wished. Of this he was apparently conscious, and it gave to him an air of not being entirely at his ease. There was, however, a personal dignity in his demeanour, a propriety in his gait, and an air of authority in his gestures which should prohibit one from stigmatizing those efforts at altitude as a failure. No doubt he did achieve much; but, nevertheless, the effort would occasionally betray itself, and the story of the frog and the ox would irresistibly force itself into one’s mind at those moments when it most behoved Dr Fillgrave to be magnificent.

But if the bulgy roundness of his person and the shortness of his legs in any way detracted from his personal importance, these trifling defects were, he was well aware, more than atoned for by the peculiar dignity of his countenance. If his legs were short, his face was not; if there was any undue preponderance below the waistcoat, all was in due symmetry above the necktie. His hair was grey, not grizzled, nor white, but properly grey; and stood up straight from his temples on each side, with an unbending determination of purpose. His whiskers, which were of an admirable shape, coming down and turning gracefully at the angle of his jaw, were grey also, but somewhat darker than his hair. His enemies in Barchester declared that their perfect shade was produced by a leaden comb. His eyes were not brilliant, but were very effective, and well under command. He was rather short-sighted, and a pair of eye-glasses was always on his nose, or in his hand. His nose was long, and well pronounced, and his chin, also, was sufficiently prominent; but the great feature of his face was his mouth. The amount of secret medical knowledge of which he could give assurance by the pressure of those lips was truly wonderful. By his lips, also, he could be most exquisitely courteous, or most sternly forbidding. And not only could he be either the one or the other; but he could at his will assume any shade of difference between the two, and produce any mixture of sentiment.

When Dr Fillgrave was first shown into Sir Roger’s dining-room, he walked up and down the room for a while with easy, jaunty step, with his hands joined together behind his back, calculating the price of the furniture, and counting the heads which might be adequately entertained in a room of such noble proportions; but in seven or eight minutes an air of impatience might have been seen to suffuse his face. Why could he not be shown into the sick man’s room? What necessity could there be for keeping him there, as though he were some apothecary with a box of leeches in his pocket? He then rang the bell, perhaps a little violently. ‘Does Sir Roger know that I am here?’ he said to the servant. ‘I’ll tell my lady,’ said the man, again vanishing.

For five minutes more he walked up and down, calculating no longer the value of the furniture, but rather that of his own importance. He was not wont to be kept waiting in this way; and though Sir Roger Scatcherd was at present a great and rich man, Dr Fillgrave had remembered him a very small and a very poor man. He now began to think of Sir Roger as the stone-mason, and to chafe somewhat more violently at being so kept by such a man.

When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. At the end of twenty minutes the step of Dr Fillgrave up and down the room had become very quick, and he had just made up his mind that he would not stay there all day to the serious detriment, perhaps fatal injury, of his other expectant patients. His hand was again on the bell, and was about to be used with vigour, when the door opened and Lady Scatcherd entered.

‘Oh, laws!’ Such had been her first exclamation on hearing that the doctor was in the dining-room. She was standing at the time with her housekeeper in a small room in which she kept her linen and jam, and in which, in company with the same housekeeper, she spent the happiest moments of her life.

‘Oh laws! now, Hannah, what shall we do?’

‘Send ’un up at once to master, my lady! let John take ’un up.’

‘There’ll be such a row in the house, Hannah; I know there will.’

‘But surely didn’t he send for ’un? Let the master have the row himself, then; that’s what I’d do, my lady,’ added Hannah, seeing that her ladyship still stood trembling in doubt, biting her thumb-nail.

‘You couldn’t go up to the master yourself, could now, Hannah?’ said Lady Scatcherd in her most persuasive tone.

‘Why no,’ said Hannah, after a little deliberation; ‘no, I’m afeard I couldn’t.’

‘Then I must just face it myself.’ And up went the wife to tell her lord that the physician for whom he had sent had come to attend his bidding.

In the interview which then took place the baronet had not indeed been violent, but he had been very determined. Nothing on earth, he said, should induce him to see Dr Fillgrave and offend his dear old friend Dr Thorne.

‘But Roger,’ said her ladyship, half crying, or rather pretending to cry in vexation, ‘what shall I do with the man? How shall I get him out of the house?’

‘Put him under the pump,’ said the baronet; and he laughed his peculiar low guttural laugh, which told so plainly of the havoc which brandy had made in his throat.

‘That’s nonsense, Roger; you know I can’t put him under the pump. Now you are ill, and you’d better see him just for five minutes. I’ll make it right with Dr Thorne.’

‘I’ll be d—— if I do, my lady.’ All the people about Boxall Hill called poor Lady Scatcherd ‘my lady’ as if there was some excellent joke in it; and, so, indeed, there was.

‘You know you needn’t mind nothing he says, nor yet take nothing he sends: and I’ll tell him not to come no more. Now do ‘ee see him, Roger.’

But there was not coaxing Roger over now, indeed ever: he was a wilful, headstrong, masterful man; a tyrant always though never a cruel one; and accustomed to rule his wife and household as despotically as he did his gangs of workmen. Such men it is not easy to coax over.

‘You go down and tell him I don’t want him, and won’t see him, and that’s an end of it. If he chose to earn his money, why didn’t he come yesterday when he was sent for? I’m well now, and don’t want him; and what’s more, I won’t have him. Winterbones, lock the door.’

So Winterbones, who during this interview had been at work at his little table, got up to lock the door, and Lady Scatcherd had no alternative but to pass through it before the last edict was obeyed.

Lady Scatcherd, with slow step, went downstairs and again sought counsel with Hannah, and the two, putting their heads together, agreed that the only cure for the present evil was to found in a good fee. So Lady Scatcherd, with a five-pound note in her hand, and trembling in every limb, went forth to encounter the august presence of Dr Fillgrave.

As the door opened, Dr Fillgrave dropped the bell-rope which was in his hand, and bowed low to the lady. Those who knew the doctor well, would have known from his bow that he was not well pleased; it was as much as though he said, ‘Lady Scatcherd, I am your most obedient servant; at any rate it appears that it is your pleasure to treat me as such.’

Lady Scatcherd did not understand all this; but she perceived at once that he was angry.

‘I hope Sir Roger does not find himself worse,’ said the doctor. ‘The morning is getting on; shall I step up and see him?’

‘Hem! ha! oh! Why, you see, Dr Fillgrave, Sir Roger finds hisself vastly better this morning, vastly so.’

‘I’m very glad to hear it; but as the morning is getting on, shall I step up to see Sir Roger?’

‘Why, Dr Fillgrave, sir, you see, he finds hisself so much hisself this morning, that he a’most thinks it would be a shame to trouble you.’

‘A shame to trouble me!’ This was the sort of shame which Dr Fillgrave did not at all comprehend. ‘A shame to trouble me! Why Lady Scatcherd —’

Lady Scatcherd saw that she had nothing for it but to make the whole matter intelligible. Moreover, seeing that she appreciated more thoroughly the smallness of Dr Fillgrave’s person more thoroughly than she did the peculiar greatness of his demeanour, she began to be a shade less afraid of him than she had thought she should have been.

‘Yes, Dr Fillgrave; you see, when a man like he gets well, he can’t abide the idea of doctors: now, yesterday, he was all for sending for you; but today he comes to hisself, and don’t seem to want no doctor at all.’

Then did Dr Fillgrave seem to grow out of his boots, so suddenly did he take upon himself sundry modes of expansive attitude;—to grow out of his boots and to swell upwards, till his angry eyes almost looked down on Lady Scatcherd, and each erect hair bristled up towards the heavens.

‘This is very singular, very singular, Lady Scatcherd; very singular indeed; very singular; quite unusual. I have come here from Barchester, at some considerable inconvenience, at some very considerable inconvenience, I may say, to my regular patients; and—and—and—I don’t know that anything so very singular ever occurred to me before.’ And then Dr Fillgrave, with a compression of his lips which almost made the poor woman sink into the ground, moved towards the door.

Then Lady Scatcherd bethought of her great panacea. ‘It isn’t about the money, you know, doctor,’ said she; ‘of course Sir Roger don’t expect you to come here with post-horses for nothing.’ In this, by the by, Lady Scatcherd did not stick quite close to veracity, for Sir Roger, had he known it, would by no means have assented to any payment; and the note which her ladyship held in her hand was taken from her own private purse. ‘It ain’t about the money, doctor;’ and then she tendered the bank-note, which she thought would immediately make all things smooth.

Now Dr Fillgrave dearly loved a five-pound fee. What physician is so unnatural as not to love it? He dearly loved a five-pound fee; but he loved his dignity better. He was angry also; and like all angry men, he loved his grievance. He felt that he had been badly treated; but if he took the money he would throw away his right to indulge in any such feeling. At that moment his outraged dignity and cherished anger were worth more than a five-pound note. He looked at it with wishful but still averted eyes, and then sternly refused the tender.

‘No, madam,’ said he; ‘no, no;’ and with his right hand raised with his eye-glasses in it, he motioned away the tempting paper. ‘No; I should have been happy to have given Sir Roger the benefit of any medical skill I may have, seeing that I was specially called in-’

‘But, doctor; if the man’s well, you know —’

‘Oh, of course; if he’s well, and does not choose to see me, there’s an end of it. Should he have any relapse, as my time is valuable, he will perhaps oblige me by sending elsewhere. Madam, good morning. I will, if you will allow me, ring for my carriage—that is, post-chaise.’

‘But, doctor, you’ll take the money; you must take the money; indeed you’ll take the money,’ said Lady Scatcherd, who had now become really unhappy at the idea of her husband’s unpardonable whim had brought this man with post-horses all the way from Barchester, and that he was to be paid nothing for his time or costs.

‘No, madam, no. I could not think of it. Sir Roger, I have no doubt, will know better another time. It is not a question of money; not at all.’

‘But it is a question of money, doctor; and you really shall, you must.’ And poor Lady Scatcherd, in her anxiety to acquit herself at any rate of any pecuniary debt to the doctor, came to personal close quarters with him, with a view of forcing the note into his hands.

‘Quite impossible, quite impossible,’ said the doctor, still cherishing his grievance, and valiantly rejecting the root of all evil. ‘I shall not do anything of the kind, Lady Scatcherd.’

‘Now doctor, do ‘ee; to oblige me.’

‘Quite out of the question.’ And so, with his hands and hat behind his back, in token of his utter refusal to accept any pecuniary accommodation of his injury, he made his way backwards to the door, her ladyship perseveringly pressing him in front. So eager had been the attack on him, that he had not waited to give his order about the post-chaise, but made his way at once towards the hall.

‘Now, do ‘ee take it, do ‘ee,’ pressed Lady Scatcherd.

‘Utterly out of the question,’ said Dr Fillgrave, with great deliberation, as he backed his way into the hall. As he did so, of course he turned round—and he found himself almost in the arms of Dr Thorne.

As Burley might have glared at Bothwell when they rushed together in the dread encounter on the mountain side; as Achilles may have glared at Hector when at last they met, each resolved to test in fatal conflict the prowess of the other, so did Dr Fillgrave glare at his foe from Greshamsbury, when, on turning round on his exalted heel, he found his nose on a level with the top button of Dr Thorne’s waistcoat.

And here, if it be not too tedious, let us pause a while to recapitulate and add up the undoubted grievances of the Barchester practitioner. He had made no effort to ingratiate himself into the sheepfold of that other shepherd-dog; it was not by his seeking that he was not at Boxall Hill; much as he hated Dr Thorne, full sure as he felt of that man’s utter ignorance, of his incapacity to administer properly even a black dose, of his murdering propensities and his low, mean, unprofessional style of practice; nevertheless, he had done nothing to undermine him with these Scatcherds. Dr Thorne might have sent every mother’s son at Boxall Hill to his long account, and Dr Fillgrave would not have interfered;—would not have interfered unless specially and duly called upon to do so.

But he had been and duly called on. Before such a step was taken some words must undoubtedly have passed on the subject between Thorne and Scatcherds. Thorne must have known what was to be done. Having been so called, Dr Fillgrave had come—had come all the way in a post-chaise—had been refused admittance to the sick man’s room, on the plea that the sick man was no longer sick; and just as he was about to retire fee-less—for the want of the fee was not the less a grievance from the fact of its having been tendered and refused—feeless, dishonoured, and in dudgeon, he encountered this other doctor—this very rival whom he had been sent to supplant; he encountered him in the very act of going to the sick man’s room.

What mad fanatic Burley, what god-succoured insolent Achilles, ever had such cause to swell with wrath as at that moment had Dr Fillgrave? Had I the pen of Moliere, I could fitly tell of such medical anger, but with no other pen can it be fitly told. He did swell, and when the huge bulk of his wrath was added to his natural proportions, he loomed gigantic before the eyes of the surrounding followers of Sir Roger.

Dr Thorne stepped back three steps and took his hat from his head, having, in the passage from the hall-door to the dining-room, hitherto omitted to do so. It must be borne in mind that he had no conception whatever that Sir Roger had declined to see the physician for whom he had sent; none whatever that the physician was now about to return, feeless, to Barchester.

Dr Thorne and Dr Fillgrave were doubtless well-known enemies. All the world of Barchester, and all that portion of the world of London which is concerned with the lancet and the scalping-knife, were well aware of this: they were continually writing against each other; continually speaking against each other; but yet they had never hitherto come to that positive personal collision which is held to justify a cut direct. They very rarely saw each other; and when they did meet, it was in some casual way in the streets of Barchester or elsewhere, and on such occasions their habit had been to bow with very cold propriety.

On the present occasion, Dr Thorne of course felt that Dr Fillgrave had the whip-hand of him; and, with a sort of manly feeling on such a point, he conceived it to be most compatible with his own dignity to show, under such circumstances, more than his usual courtesy—something, perhaps, amounting almost to cordiality. He had been supplanted, quoad doctor, in the house of this rich, eccentric, railway baronet, and he would show that he bore no malice on that account.

So he smiled blandly as he took off his hat, and in a civil speech he expressed a hope that Dr Fillgrave had not found his patient to be in any very unfavourable state.

Here was an aggravation to the already lacerated feelings of the injured man. He had been brought thither to be scoffed at and scorned at, that he might be a laughing-stock to his enemies, and food for mirth to the vile-minded. He swelled with noble anger till he would have burst, had it not been for the opportune padding of his frock-coat.

‘Sir,’ said he; ‘sir:’ and he could hardly get his lips open to give vent to the tumult of his heart. Perhaps he was not wrong; for it may be that his lips were more eloquent than would have been his words.

‘What’s the matter?’ said Dr Thorne, opening his eyes wide, and addressing Lady Scatcherd over his head and across the hairs of the irritated man below him. ‘What on earth is the matter? Is anything wrong with Sir Roger?’

‘Oh, laws, doctor!’ said her ladyship. ‘Oh, laws; I’m sure it ain’t my fault. Here’s Dr Fillgrave, in a taking, and I’m quite ready to pay him—quite. If a man gets paid, what more can he want?’ And she again held out the five-pound note over Dr Fillgrave’s head.

What more, indeed, Lady Scatcherd, can any of us want, if only we could keep our tempers and feelings a little in abeyance? Dr Fillgrave, however, could not so keep his; and, therefore, he did want something more, though at the present moment he could hardly have said what.

Lady Scatcherd’s courage was somewhat resuscitated by the presence of her ancient trusty ally; and, moreover, she began to conceive that the little man before her was unreasonable beyond all conscience with his anger, seeing that that for which he was ready to work had been offered him without any work at all.

‘Madam,’ said he, again turning round at Lady Scatcherd, ‘I was never before treated in such a way in any house in Barchester—never—never.’

‘Good heavens, Dr Fillgrave!’ said he of Greshamsbury, ‘what is the matter?’

‘I’ll let you know what is the matter, sir,’ said he, turning round again as quickly as before. ‘I’ll let you know what is the matter. I’ll publish this, sir, to the medical world;’ and as he shrieked out the words of the threat, he stood on tiptoes and brandished his eye-glasses up almost into his enemy’s face.

‘Don’t be angry with Dr Thorne,’ said Lady Scatcherd. ‘Any ways, you needn’t be angry with him. If you must be angry with anybody —’

‘I shall be angry with him, madam,’ ejaculated Dr Fillgrave, making another sudden demi-pirouette. ‘I am angry with him—or, rather, I despise him;’ and completing the circle, Dr Fillgrave again brought himself round in full front of his foe.

Dr Thorne raised his eyebrows and looked inquiringly at Lady Scatcherd; but there was a quiet sarcastic motion round his mouth which by no means had the effect of throwing oil on the troubled waters.

‘I’ll publish the whole of this transaction to the medical world, Dr Thorne—the whole of it; and if that has not the effect of rescuing the people of Greshamsbury out of your hands, then—then—then, I don’t know what will. Is my carriage—that is, the post-chaise there?’ and Dr Fillgrave, speaking very loudly, turned majestically to one of the servants.

‘What have I done to you, Dr Fillgrave,’ said Dr Thorne, now absolutely laughing, ‘that you should determined to take the bread out of my mouth? I am not interfering with your patient. I have come here simply with reference to money matters appertaining to Sir Roger.’

‘Money matters! Very well—very well; money matters. That is your idea of medical practice. Very well—very well. Is my post-chaise at the door? I’ll publish it all to the medical world—every word—every word of it, every word of it.’

‘Publish what, you unreasonable man?’

‘Man! sir; whom do you call a man? I’ll let you know whether I’m a man—post-chaise there!’

‘Don’t ‘ee call him names now, doctor; don’t ‘ee pray don’t ‘ee,’ said Lady Scatcherd.

By this time they had all got somewhere nearer the hall-door; but the Scatcherd retainers were too fond of the row to absent themselves willingly at Dr Fillgrave’s bidding, and it did not appear that any one went in search of the post-chaise.

‘Man! sir; I’ll let you know what it is to speak to me in that style. I think, sir, you hardly know who I am.’

‘All that I know of you at present is, that you are my friend Sir Roger’s physician, and I cannot conceive what has occurred to make you so angry.’ And as he spoke, Dr Thorne looked carefully at him to see whether that pump-discipline had in truth been applied. There were no signs whatever that cold water had been thrown upon Dr Fillgrave.

‘My post-chaise—is my post-chaise there? The medical world shall know all; you may be sure, sir, the medical world shall know it all;’ and thus, ordering his post-chaise and threatening Dr Thorne with the medical world, Dr Fillgrave made his way to the door.

But the moment he put on his hat he returned. ‘No, madam,’ said he. ‘No; quite out of the question: such an affair is not to be arranged by such means. I’ll publish it all to the medical world—post-chaise there!’ and then, using all his force, he flung as far as he could into the hall a light bit of paper. It fell at Dr Thorne’s feet, who, raising it, found that it was a five-pound note.

‘I put it into his hat just while he was in his tantrum,’ said Lady Scatcherd. ‘And I thought that perhaps he would not find it till he got to Barchester. Well I wish he’d been paid, certainly, although Sir Roger wouldn’t see him;’ and in this manner Dr Thorne got some glimpse of understanding into the cause of the great offence.

‘I wonder whether Sir Roger will see me,’ said he, laughing.

Last updated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 20:41