« PreviousContinue »
being thus interrupted. “Oh, for heaven's sake, Doctor, cried
, Harry, come and see a drownded man down on the dock here ! Oh, he's very bad, I know he can't live, but only just come and look at him. As there could be no harm in looking at a man, even if he was very drowned indeed, and as there might be a chance of rendering him some assistance, (that is, of bleeding him,) if he was not, I accordingly put my lancet into my pock
I et, and forthwith accompanied Harry. On the way, I learnt that the man had not been very long in the water, which induced me to conclude that his case might not be as desperate as was reported. When we reached the wharf, I there indeed found a poor fellow, lying, like a half-drowned rat, against a cellar door. He was surrounded by a group of idle cartmen, and dock-lounging vagabonds, to which latter fraternity, the subject of speculation seemed to claim fellowship. Having pulled the unfortunate out of the water, and rolled him vigorously on a barrel, without effect, they sagely concluded it was beyond the power of art to resuscitate him ; so depositing him against the cellar door, they quietly resigned him to his fate. How long he had remained in this situation, I did not learn, but from the appearance of the body, and the countenances of the spectators, which expressed a degree of listlessness and apathy inconsistent with the excitement of a novel object, I conjectured he had lain there some time. On turning the head over, which lay with the face downwards, as if rooting in the dirt, I found that the breath of life had not yet departed; and from the spirituous exhalations which proceeded from his nostrils, it seemed to me to be a question, whether rum or water had most contributed to his distressed condition. His pulse being small, and his extremities cold, as indeed was the whole of his body, I soon found that this was no case for phlebotomy ; and as no charitable Samaritan seemed disposed to take him in, I recommend. ed to those present the propriety of conveying him to the hospital. I farther stated, that if any well-disposed cartmen would carry him thither, I would accompany him, and get him admitted. At this proposal the cartmen began to sneak off in different directions. One fellow, who had been kicking his heels at the tail of his cart for a half hour, got up and drove off in a great hurry, saying he had urgent business at the Coffee House. Another said that he could'nt go, as his horse was weakly, having just recovered from a fit of the botts. And a third brute of a fellow wanted to know what he would get by the job, and said he could'nt go under two shillings. At last a more benevolent cartman was found, who offered to carry him for the love ol
charity, provided somebody would go along, on the cart, to keep the poor fellow from rolling off. After much ado, for there was as great a lack of assistance, as there was abundance of curiosity, and after much sage counsel, touching his position, had been expended by divers well disposed persons, who, nevertheless, would not stir a finger to help him, we finally succeeded in getting him on the vehicle. Some recommended him to be laid upon his side, others upon his back, but the greater number insisted that he should be put upon his stomach, with his head down, that the water might run out. Disregarding these advices, I had him placed in a recumbent posture, with his head resting on the breast of a little red-faced fellow, in a straw hat and corduroy trowsers, who had volunteered to go along, and who seemed to have more bowels of compassion than any of the other spectators.
Men usually admire what they have not the soul to imitate ; and straw hat and corduroy trowsers received much applause. And notwithstanding a tall, gaunt fellow, who had refused to do this service, under pretence of being nervous, predicted with a sardonic grin, that they would both tumble off the tail of the cart before they reached the corner, of which disaster I myself had some strong suspicions, he performed his part to admiration. Clasping his hands round the waist, and digging his knees into the flanks of his protégé, he stuck to him like wax, or to use a more appropriate, though rather vulgar simile,“ like death to a dead negro."
Not being particularly desirous of riding with this select company, I walked on before the cart. In this manner we proceeded toward the Hospital, where we soon arrived, as the driver, though a benevolent man in the main, seemed to value his own time more than the comfort of his burden, and rattled the poor
devil over the pavement with such celerity, that I was in continual fear of the premature separation of his drunken soul from his half-drowned body.
Thanks to the tutelary genius of the patient, and the tenacious gripe of his protector, we reached the place of our destination in safety, where I resigned the object of our cares to the attentions of the Physician of the Institution. The ride seemed to have been of service to him, and as they lugged him off the cart, he exhibited signs of returning animation, and muttered some indistinct words of complaint. He was conveyed to a ward, and his dripping vestments being torn from him, placed in a warm bed between two blankets; and before I left the house I had the pleasure of hearing epispastics and warm fomentations ordered for him.
On my return to the office, I resumed my seat, and my volume; but whether the scene in which I had just been engaged had dissipated my mind, or whether the heat of the weather, and a glass of ale I had taken at the Hospital, had rendered me drowsy, I know not ;--certain it was, I could not confine my attention to the subject, and it was with the greatest effort I could retain the meaning of a single passage. I found that my labour was in vain ; so closing the book, and tilting my back, in the yankee fashion, against the wainscoat, I settled myself in an easy posture, and unconsciously lapsed into a delicious, dreamy state of reverie ; and things past, present, and future-things of the earth, and things unearthly—things that have being, and things that have no being, came fitting before my mind, in wild and fantastic confusion. But perfect peace is not to be found here below. I was doomed to have
solitude again broken upon, and, like poor Imogen, I found “ I was sprighted with a sprite." I heard a noise at the window, and presently saw the head and shoulders of some individual in the street, come poking again through the casement. With not more aversion did the ancient son of Gaul behold the hated face of Monsieur Tonson, than did I recognize for the second time, the swart, scrawny, ill-omened visage of Harry Slender. I was about inquiring the meaning of his presence, when Harry, who like the raven, never came but with bad news, croaked forth in notes of ten-fold trepidation, “Oh Doctor! Doctor!
-, here's another man down here got a fit-he's very bad indeed; his face is as red as a gooseberry, and he froths at the mouth like a cat with the colic-Some say it's a convulsion fit, but I think it must be an after-plaxy."
Although I wished Harry far enough for his officious zeal, common humanity, as well as professional obligation urged me to accompany him. Something also whispered me that probably I would here have an opportunity of performing my longwished-for operation. So, a second time behold me, under the auspices of a half-witted vagabond, repairing to witness, and not indifferently, a sad specimen of suffering humanity. To my surprise, I found that the distressed person, on the present occasion, was no other than the little straw-hatted, corduroybreeched fellow with the red face, who had so humanely assisted the drunken and drowned man to the Hospital. Whether the inebrious fumes which steamed from the saturated
system of his charge had affected him—whether the intense beams of the sun had pierced his skull, spite of its paleous covering or whether a stiff glass of grog, which a kind grocer had given him on his return, as a reward for his philanthropy, had produced the mischief, I could not tell ;' but there lay the poor fellow on the floor of the grog shop, with every symptom of a huge apoplexy. His eyes seemed starting from their sockets ; his breathing was laborious ; the fluids from his whole system seemed condensed into his head; he foamed and sputtered from the mouth, and exhibited altogether an awful and terrific spectacle. I saw at once that his case peremptorily demanded bleeding; so drawing forth my lancet, with a trembling hand and beating heart, I prepared for the operation. Imitating the manner of Dr. Langlancet, I called, in a pompous tone, for a basin and bandage, and having tied up the man's arm, and selected a prominent vein, boldly plunged in. As I made the incision, the patient, in a convulsive movement, jerked his arm upwards, and the lancet penetrated about half an inch deeper than I intended. The spectators gave a murmur of satisfaction, at seeing the blood follow the lance in a stream ; but to my dismay and consternation, I soon became sensible, from its florid colour, and salient flow, that it was arterial blood, and that I had pierced the brachial artery, instead of the vein. At this discovery, I. became completely stupified, a cold sweat stood upon my forehead, my heart beat wildly, and my knees shook under me.
The loss of blood, however, whether arterial or venous, seemed to have a happy effect upon the patient. His face became less turgid, and he evinced symptoms of returning sense. At this, the greasy mob lauded my skill to the echo; but their plaudits fell like lead upon my breast. The blood bad now nearly filled the basin; the countenance of the sufferer had changed from its gooseberry hue; and the pressure being removed from the brain, the apoplectic symptoms began to mitigate. I had, hitherto, stood gazing in mute amazement at the gushing fluid, but I now saw it was high time to check it, if possible.
There is nothing which casts such an utter damp upon the heart, as to find our worst apprehensions of evil realized to the full. So, until now, though the presumptive proofs of my blunder were positive and damning, I had still entertained a vague and feverish hope that I might have been mistaken. But when, on loosening the bandage, the vital current, instead of being checked, spouted forth in an increased torrent, I then realized the magnitude of my job. My first concern was for my patient
I have, perhaps, put the life of a fellow being in jeopardy." My next concern was for myself." I have ruined my own
as ever :
reputation—How shall I ever be able to show my face after this unlucky accident ?" If it had happened to Dr. Langlancet, it would have been passed over as a trifle. The man would have had an aneurism,-perhaps, have lost his arm; but that would have been his loss, not my master's, who would have gone on prescribing and phlebotomizing with as much eclat
-Or if the accident had chanced in some obscure place, where there were few witnesses, and I had not been known, if I could not have saved the patient, I might at least, have taken to my heels and preserved myself. But here I felt hedged in; every body knew me, as Harry, in his officious zeal, had been careful to communicate my name and residence to the bystanders, and I had not even the chance of escaping unknown.
Such thoughts, and a thousand others glanced over my mind, as I tried to stanch the blood with my handkerchief. But my efforts were unavailing, and I now, for the first, began to fear lest the man should bleed to death under my hands. I grew feverish, and impatient; cursed Harry in my heart, and wished the grocer, who had given the man the brandy, to the Old Harry.
Hitherto, I had kept my countenance with Spartan firmness; and the spectators were divided between admiration, wonder, and doubt. But when they saw that I could not, with all my efforts, stop the blood, they began to express their feelings, in grumbling tones, to each other.
Some one, in the first panic, had run for another doctor; and who should now enter, to cap the climax of my misfortunes, but my master's hated foe, Doctor Polypus. When he beheld the exanguined countenance of the before ruby-faced mortal, and saw the blood still oozing from his arm (for the man's fainting bad somewhat abated its rapidity,) he turned to me, and exclaimed with a sneering tone and aspect--"A pretty piece of
A business forsooth-Here's a nice kettle of fish.—Gentlemen, I give you all to notice that here has been murder committed."
These terrible words came upon me like a thunder clap. I became frantic, and dizzy. I began to grow “a weary of the world,” and in a sudden fit of desperation, started up, overturned Polypus by a box on the side of his head, and running furiously to the river, plunged headlong in.
Like Clarence in the play, I heard the dreadful roar of waters in my ears, and like him too, I awoke from
horrid dream. In my extacy, I had fallen from my chair, and soused into a large tub of water, standing hard by, where Langlancet