The Case Of Lady Sannox





The relations between Douglas Stone and the notorious Lady Sannox

were very well known both among the fashionable circles of which

she was a brilliant member, and the scientific bodies which

numbered him among their most illustrious confreres. There

was naturally, therefore, a very widespread interest when it was

announced one morning that the lady had absolutely and for ever

taken the veil, and that the world would see her no more. When,

at the very tail of this rumour, there came the assurance that

the celebrated operating surgeon, the man of steel nerves, had

been found in the morning by his valet, seated on one side of his

bed, smiling pleasantly upon the universe, with both legs jammed

into one side of his breeches and his great brain about as

valuable as a cap full of porridge, the matter was strong enough

to give quite a little thrill of interest to folk who had never

hoped that their jaded nerves were capable of such a sensation.



Douglas Stone in his prime was one of the most remarkable men

in England. Indeed, he could hardly be said to have ever reached

his prime, for he was but nine-and-thirty at the time of this

little incident. Those who knew him best were aware that famous as

he was as a surgeon, he might have succeeded with even greater

rapidity in any of a dozen lines of life. He could have cut his

way to fame as a soldier, struggled to it as an explorer, bullied

for it in the courts, or built it out of stone and iron as an

engineer. He was born to be great, for he could plan what another

man dare not do, and he could do what another man dare not plan.

In surgery none could follow him. His nerve, his judgement, his

intuition, were things apart. Again and again his knife cut away

death, but grazed the very springs of life in doing it, until his

assistants were as white as the patient. His energy, his

audacity, his full-blooded self-confidence--does not the memory

of them still linger to the south of Marylebone Road and the north

of Oxford Street?



His vices were as magnificent as his virtues, and infinitely

more picturesque. Large as was his income, and it was the third

largest of all professional men in London, it was far beneath the

luxury of his living. Deep in his complex nature lay a rich vein

of sensualism, at the sport of which he placed all the prizes of

his life. The eye, the ear, the touch, the palate, all were his

masters. The bouquet of old vintages, the scent of rare exotics,

the curves and tints of the daintiest potteries of Europe, it was

to these that the quick-running stream of gold was transformed.

And then there came his sudden mad passion for Lady Sannox, when a

single interview with two challenging glances and a whispered word

set him ablaze. She was the loveliest woman in London and the only

one to him. He was one of the handsomest men in London, but not

the only one to her. She had a liking for new experiences, and was

gracious to most men who wooed her. It may have been cause or it

may have been effect that Lord Sannox looked fifty, though he was

but six-and-thirty.



He was a quiet, silent, neutral-tinted man, this lord, with

thin lips and heavy eyelids, much given to gardening, and full of

home-like habits. He had at one time been fond of acting, had even

rented a theatre in London, and on its boards had first seen Miss

Marion Dawson, to whom he had offered his hand, his title, and the

third of a county. Since his marriage his early hobby had become

distasteful to him. Even in private theatricals it was no longer

possible to persuade him to exercise the talent which he had often

showed that he possessed. He was happier with a spud and a

watering-can among his orchids and chrysanthemums.



It was quite an interesting problem whether he was absolutely

devoid of sense, or miserably wanting in spirit. Did he know his

lady's ways and condone them, or was he a mere blind, doting fool?

It was a point to be discussed over the teacups in snug little

drawing-rooms, or with the aid of a cigar in the bow windows of

clubs. Bitter and plain were the comments among men upon his

conduct. There was but one who had a good word to say for him, and

he was the most silent member in the smoking-room. He had seen

him break in a horse at the University, and it seemed to have left

an impression upon his mind.



But when Douglas Stone became the favourite all doubts as to

Lord Sannox's knowledge or ignorance were set for ever at rest.

There was no subterfuge about Stone. In his high-handed, impetuous

fashion, he set all caution and discretion at defiance. The

scandal became notorious. A learned body intimated that his name

had been struck from the list of its vice-presidents. Two friends

implored him to consider his professional credit. He cursed them

all three, and spent forty guineas on a bangle to take with him to

the lady. He was at her house every evening, and she drove in his

carriage in the afternoons. There was not an attempt on either

side to conceal their relations; but there came at last a little

incident to interrupt them.



It was a dismal winter's night, very cold and gusty, with the

wind whooping in the chimneys and blustering against the window-

panes. A thin spatter of rain tinkled on the glass with each fresh

sough of the gale, drowning for the instant the dull gurgle and

drip from the eaves. Douglas Stone had finished his dinner, and

sat by his fire in the study, a glass of rich port upon the

malachite table at his elbow. As he raised it to his lips, he held

it up against the lamplight, and watched with the eye of a

connoisseur the tiny scales of beeswing which floated in its rich

ruby depths. The fire, as it spurted up, threw fitful lights upon

his bald, clear-cut face, with its widely-opened grey eyes, its

thick and yet firm lips, and the deep, square jaw, which had

something Roman in its strength and its animalism. He smiled from

time to time as he nestled back in his luxurious chair. Indeed, he

had a right to feel well pleased, for, against the advice of six

colleagues, he had performed an operation that day of which only

two cases were on record, and the result had been brilliant beyond

all expectation. No other man in London would have had the daring

to plan, or the skill to execute, such a heroic measure.



But he had promised Lady Sannox to see her that evening and it

was already half-past eight. His hand was outstretched to the bell

to order the carriage when he heard the dull thud of the knocker.

An instant later there was the shuffling of feet in the hall, and

the sharp closing of a door.



"A patient to see you, sir, in the consulting room," said the

butler.



"About himself?"



"No, sir; I think he wants you to go out."



"It is too late," cried Douglas Stone peevishly. "I won't go."



"This is his card, sir."



The butler presented it upon the gold salver which had been

given to his master by the wife of a Prime Minister.



"`Hamil Ali, Smyrna.' Hum! The fellow is a Turk, I suppose."



"Yes, sir. He seems as if he came from abroad, sir. And he's

in a terrible way."



"Tut, tut! I have an engagement. I must go somewhere else.

But I'll see him. Show him in here, Pim."



A few moments later the butler swung open the door and ushered

in a small and decrepit man, who walked with a bent back and with

the forward push of the face and blink of the eyes which goes with

extreme short sight. His face was swarthy, and his hair and beard

of the deepest black. In one hand he held a turban of white muslin

striped with red, in the other a small chamois-leather bag.



"Good evening," said Douglas Stone, when the butler had closed

the door. "You speak English, I presume?"



"Yes, sir. I am from Asia Minor, but I speak English when I

speak slow."



"You wanted me to go out, I understand?"



"Yes, sir. I wanted very much that you should see my wife."



"I could come in the morning, but I have an engagement which

prevents me from seeing your wife tonight."



The Turk's answer was a singular one. He pulled the string

which closed the mouth of the chamois-leather bag, and poured a

flood of gold on to the table.



"There are one hundred pounds there," said he, "and I promise

you that it will not take you an hour. I have a cab ready at the

door."



Douglas Stone glanced at his watch. An hour would not make it

too late to visit Lady Sannox. He had been there later. And the

fee was an extraordinarily high one. He had been pressed by his

creditors lately, and he could not afford to let such a chance

pass. He would go.



"What is the case?" he asked.



"Oh, it is so sad a one! So sad a one! You have not, perhaps

heard of the daggers of the Almohades?"



"Never."



"Ah, they are Eastern daggers of a great age and of a singular

shape, with the hilt like what you call a stirrup. I am a

curiosity dealer, you understand, and that is why I have come to

England from Smyrna, but next week I go back once more. Many

things I brought with me, and I have a few things left, but among

them, to my sorrow, is one of these daggers."



"You will remember that I have an appointment, sir," said the

surgeon, with some irritation; "pray confine yourself to the

necessary details."



"You will see that it is necessary. Today my wife fell down in

a faint in the room in which I keep my wares, and she cut her lower

lip upon this cursed dagger of Almohades."



"I see," said Douglas Stone, rising. "And you wish me to dress

the wound?"



"No, no, it is worse than that."



"What then?"



"These daggers are poisoned."



"Poisoned!"



"Yes, and there is no man, East or West, who can tell now what

is the poison or what the cure. But all that is known I know, for

my father was in this trade before me, and we have had much to do

with these poisoned weapons."



"What are the symptoms?"



"Deep sleep, and death in thirty hours."



"And you say there is no cure. Why then should you pay me this

considerable fee?"



"No drug can cure, but the knife may."



"And how?"



"The poison is slow of absorption. It remains for hours in the

wound."



"Washing, then, might cleanse it?"



"No more than in a snake bite. It is too subtle and too

deadly."



"Excision of the wound, then?"



"That is it. If it be on the finger, take the finger off. So

said my father always. But think of where this wound is, and that

it is my wife. It is dreadful!"



But familiarity with such grim matters may take the finer edge

from a man's sympathy. To Douglas Stone this was already an

interesting case, and he brushed aside as irrelevant the feeble

objections of the husband.



"It appears to be that or nothing," said he brusquely. "It is

better to lose a lip than a life."



"Ah, yes, I know that you are right. Well, well, it is kismet,

and it must be faced. I have the cab, and you will come with me

and do this thing."



Douglas Stone took his case of bistouries from a drawer, and

placed it with a roll of bandage and a compress of lint in his

pocket. He must waste no more time if he were to see Lady Sannox.



"I am ready," said he, pulling on his overcoat. "Will you take

a glass of wine before you go out into this cold air?"



His visitor shrank away, with a protesting hand upraised.



"You forget that I am a Mussulman, and a true follower of the

Prophet," said he. "But tell me what is the bottle of green glass

which you have placed in your pocket?"



"It is chloroform."



"Ah, that also is forbidden to us. It is a spirit, and we make

no use of such things."



"What! You would allow your wife to go through an operation

without an anaesthetic?"



"Ah! she will feel nothing, poor soul. The deep sleep has

already come on, which is the first working of the poison. And

then I have given her of our Smyrna opium. Come, sir, for already

an hour has passed."



As they stepped out into the darkness, a sheet of rain was

driven in upon their faces, and the hall lamp, which dangled from

the arm of a marble Caryatid, went out with a fluff. Pim, the

butler, pushed the heavy door to, straining hard with his shoulder

against the wind, while the two men groped their way towards the

yellow glare which showed where the cab was waiting. An instant

later they were rattling upon their journey.



"Is it far?" asked Douglas Stone.



"Oh, no. We have a very little quiet place off the Euston

Road."



The surgeon pressed the spring of his repeater and listened to

the little tings which told him the hour. It was a quarter past

nine. He calculated the distances, and the short time which it

would take him to perform so trivial an operation. He ought to

reach Lady Sannox by ten o'clock. Through the fogged windows he

saw the blurred gas lamps dancing past, with occasionally the

broader glare of a shop front. The rain was pelting and rattling

upon the leathern top of the carriage, and the wheels swashed as

they rolled through puddle and mud. Opposite to him the white

headgear of his companion gleamed faintly through the obscurity.

The surgeon felt in his pockets and arranged his needles, his

ligatures and his safety-pins, that no time might be wasted when

they arrived. He chafed with impatience and drummed his foot upon

the floor.



But the cab slowed down at last and pulled up. In an instant

Douglas Stone was out, and the Smyrna merchant's toe was at his

very heel.



"You can wait," said he to the driver.



It was a mean-looking house in a narrow and sordid street. The

surgeon, who knew his London well, cast a swift glance into the

shadows, but there was nothing distinctive--no shop, no movement,

nothing but a double line of dull, flat-faced houses, a double

stretch of wet flagstones which gleamed in the lamplight, and a

double rush of water in the gutters which swirled and gurgled

towards the sewer gratings. The door which faced them was blotched

and discoloured, and a faint light in the fan pane above, it served

to show the dust and the grime which covered it. Above in one of

the bedroom windows, there was a dull yellow glimmer. The merchant

knocked loudly, and, as he turned his dark face towards the light,

Douglas Stone could see that it was contracted with anxiety. A

bolt was drawn, and an elderly woman with a taper stood in the

doorway, shielding the thin flame with her gnarled hand.



"Is all well?" gasped the merchant.



"She is as you left her, sir."



"She has not spoken?"



"No, she is in a deep sleep."



The merchant closed the door, and Douglas Stone walked down the

narrow passage, glancing about him in some surprise as he did so.

There was no oil-cloth, no mat, no hat-rack. Deep grey dust and

heavy festoons of cobwebs met his eyes everywhere. Following

the old woman up the winding stair, his firm footfall echoed

harshly through the silent house. There was no carpet.



The bedroom was on the second landing. Douglas Stone followed

the old nurse into it, with the merchant at his heels. Here, at

least, there was furniture and to spare. The floor was littered

and the corners piled with Turkish cabinets, inlaid tables, coats

of chain mail, strange pipes, and grotesque weapons. A single

small lamp stood upon a bracket on the wall. Douglas Stone took it

down, and picking his way among the lumber, walked over to a couch

in the corner, on which lay a woman dressed in the Turkish fashion,

with yashmak and veil. The lower part of the face was exposed, and

the surgeon saw a jagged cut which zigzagged along the border of

the under lip.



"You will forgive the yashmak," said the Turk. "You know our

views about women in the East."



But the surgeon was not thinking about the yashmak. This was

no longer a woman to him. It was a case. He stooped and examined

the wound carefully.



"There are no signs of irritation," said he. "We might delay

the operation until local symptoms develop."



The husband wrung his hands in uncontrollable agitation.



"Oh! sir, sir," he cried. "Do not trifle. You do not know.

It is deadly. I know, and I give you my assurance that an

operation is absolutely necessary. Only the knife can save her."



"And yet I am inclined to wait," said Douglas Stone.



"That is enough," the Turk cried, angrily. "Every minute is of

importance, and I cannot stand here and see my wife allowed to

sink. It only remains for me to give you my thanks for having

come, and to call in some other surgeon before it is too late."



Douglas Stone hesitated. To refund that hundred pounds was no

pleasant matter. But of course if he left the case he must return

the money. And if the Turk were right and the woman died, his

position before a coroner might be an embarrassing one.



"You have had personal experience of this poison?" he asked.



"I have."



"And you assure me that an operation is needful."





"I swear it by all that I hold sacred."



"The disfigurement will be frightful."



"I can understand that the mouth will not be a pretty one to

kiss."



Douglas Stone turned fiercely upon the man. The speech was a

brutal one. But the Turk has his own fashion of talk and of

thought, and there was no time for wrangling. Douglas Stone drew

a bistoury from his case, opened it and felt the keen straight edge

with his forefinger. Then he held the lamp closer to the bed. Two

dark eyes were gazing up at him through the slit in the yashmak.

They were all iris, and the pupil was hardly to be seen.



"You have given her a very heavy dose of opium."



"Yes, she has had a good dose."



He glanced again at the dark eyes which looked straight at his

own. They were dull and lustreless, but, even as he gazed, a

little shifting sparkle came into them, and the lips quivered.



"She is not absolutely unconscious," said he.



"Would it not be well to use the knife while it will be

painless?"



The same thought had crossed the surgeon's mind. He grasped

the wounded lip with his forceps, and with two swift cuts he took

out a broad V-shaped piece. The woman sprang up on the couch with

a dreadful gurgling scream. Her covering was torn from her face.

It was a face that he knew. In spite of that protruding upper lip

and that slobber of blood, it was a face that he knew, She kept on

putting her hand up to the gap and screaming. Douglas Stone sat

down at the foot of the couch with his knife and his forceps. The

room was whirling round, and he had felt something go like a

ripping seam behind his ear. A bystander would have said that his

face was the more ghastly of the two. As in a dream, or as if he

had been looking at something at the play, he was conscious that

the Turk's hair and beard lay upon the table, and that Lord Sannox

was leaning against the wall with his hand to his side, laughing

silently. The screams had died away now, and the dreadful head had

dropped back again upon the pillow, but Douglas Stone still sat

motionless, and Lord Sannox still chuckled quietly to himself.



"It was really very necessary for Marion, this operation," said

he, "not physically, but morally, you know, morally."



Douglas Stone stooped for yards and began to play with the

fringe of the coverlet. His knife tinkled down upon the ground,

but he still held the forceps and something more.



"I had long intended to make a little example," said Lord

Sannox, suavely. "Your note of Wednesday miscarried, and I have it

here in my pocket-book. I took some pains in carrying out my idea.

The wound, by the way, was from nothing more dangerous than my

signet ring."



He glanced keenly at his silent companion, and cocked the small

revolver which he held in his coat pocket. But Douglas Stone was

still picking at the coverlet.



"You see you have kept your appointment after all," said Lord

Sannox.



And at that Douglas Stone began to laugh. He laughed long and

loudly. But Lord Sannox did not laugh now. Something like fear

sharpened and hardened his features. He walked from the room, and

he walked on tiptoe. The old woman was waiting outside.



"Attend to your mistress when she awakes," said Lord Sannox.



Then he went down to the street. The cab was at the door, and

the driver raised his hand to his hat.



"John," said Lord Sannox, "you will take the doctor home first.

He will want leading downstairs, I think. Tell his butler that he

has been taken ill at a case."



"Very good, sir."



"Then you can take Lady Sannox home."



"And how about yourself, sir?"



"Oh, my address for the next few months will be Hotel di Roma,

Venice. Just see that the letters are sent on. And tell Stevens

to exhibit all the purple chrysanthemums next Monday, and to wire

me the result."





The Case Of He Golden Bullet The Case Of Mr Foggatt facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback