Rudolph stumbles on love
His penchant for bringing things homo— like Aunt Mildred’s pet duck and a strange girl’s baby—kept his master Martin in hot water. But it also brought romance, and a future Martin thought he’d lost
The brass plate on the highly polished door at the far end of the corridor announced, simply. Sir Rudolph Bessiniton-Waters, as if the addition of degrees, fellowships, honors, or for that matter any sort of description after the name, were superfluous—which it was. Sir Rudolph had reached that stage in his majestic career when he had only to scribble five words on a slip of paper, adding R. B-W. at the bottom, to send St. Asaph's Hospital, Hammersmith, London, into a state of the willies.
Walking tow'ard Sir Rudolph's door, in a white staff-doctor's coat, Martin Kennaway was telling himself that he was thirty-two years old, six years qualified, a member of the Royal College of Physicians and a Senior Registrar of St. Asaph's—and not, as he was feel••You haven't the brains, dear ¡ng, a fifteen-year-old schoolboy with a boy,” Sir Rudolph said. bad attack of acne about to be rebuked
Martin saw his career expiring. by his headmaster.
The fearsome door closed behind him —and Sir Rudolph smiled. The flow'er that had bloomed in Martin's stomach folded its leaden petals, but did not entirely disappear because it was well known that amiability in Sir Rudolph could be, sometimes, no more than a crafty, two-faced manoeuvre intended to weaken by inspiring false confidence.
“Ah, Martin!" Sir Rudolph's voice was effortlessly imperious. “That agranulocytosis in Sister Harkcr's ward dead yet? No! Stap me! Sit down, dear boy. Do you think you’re ever going to make a specialist?”
Martin muttered warily, “1 hope so, Sir Rudolph.” “Hmm ... Do you? . . . Pity ... I have reached the conclusion that you're not.”
The petals of Martin's abdominal flower opened again, with a nasty snap, as do those of certain species of fly-eating orchid. He clenched his teeth.
“I'm afraid you haven't the brains, dear boy,” Sir Rudolph was saying. “Furthermore you have too much heart, and a constitutional incapacity to bite the ankle of the man above you on the ladder. You belong in general practice, Martin; no doubt about it.
With his mind's eye Martin watched six years of hard work for small pay go gurgling down the drain ot futility. Thinking at the same time that continued on page 64
he was being suitably poker-faced about it in the manner of an English gentleman, he was outraged when Sir Rudolph chuckled throatily. "Don’t look as if you’d been given an emetic, lad! In spite of what all you young fellers think, general practice is not the equivalent of banishment to the salt mines.”
Martin said nothing; dignity insisted that he say nothing.
"And kindly stop glaring at me.” Sir Rudolph added as if he were talking to a belligerent patient. ”1 am a physician, not an axe murderer. Now' listen . . . ”
A QUARTER of an hour later Martin d\. walked away from the door, back down the long corridor, toward a more humdrum and far less expensively furnished part of St. Asaph’s Hospital— which, incidentally, had thirteen hundred and fifty beds and sal across several London back streets like a great architectural cow.
Martin’s thoughts and emotions were, literally, in a ¡laming muddle, and he was bitterly reflecting that an hour or two on the couch of one of his psychiatric colleagues was what he needed. However, he had not the time to spare. His head had been cut off. Unlike most executioners. Sir Rudolph had been gracious enough to pick it up off the lloor a ad to give him an instrument with which to sew the thing on again before life became extinct. But the instrument had to be used quickly.
Martin informed various people that he had been given the day off—mentioning casually that it had been R. B-W. himseif who had implored him to lake it. He went home to his fiat, a large draughty one consisting of the ground lloor of a house oil’ Kensington High Street that had once belonged to a Victorian tycoon who had made his pile in trouser buttons for the troops in the Zulu Wars. A smaller, less expensive place would have suited Martin better, but there was Rudolph.
Rudolph, in this ease, was, a dog. Rudolph's father had been a St. Bernard and his mother a retriever. Physically. Rudolph took after Dad and needed roo: i in quantity in which to express himse.f. In fact. Rudolph was both the bane and the love of Martin's life, and the first thing Martin did when he got home was to thump him in the ribs with his clenched fist—the only caress Rudolph appeared to notice—and open for him a tin of the cat food to which he was addicted.
Martin then changed into his best, most formal suit—a dark-grey worsted that had cost him a month's pay a year ago but which did things for his ego. He went back to his car. taking Rudolph with him. and drove off in the direction of Haslemere in Sussex, about forty miles from London. While he drove. Sir Rudolph's authoritarian voice echoed in his ears, competing with Dog Rudolph's snores from the back seat.
“Old friend of mine." Sir Rudolph had explained. "Practice in Haslemere. Looking for a junior partner to replace someone who kicked the bucket. On my sayso he'll probably take you. Better strike
while the iron is hot, Martin. Go down this morning. I’ll get Charley Porlock on the blower and tell him to expect you.” And then, a few' moments later, irritably. "Will you stop looking at me like an injured spaniel! I have just put before you as large and savory a dish of professional nourishment as ever a young doctor laid eyes on. Haslemere! Think, boy! Smack in the middle of the stockbroker belt . . . Rolls-Royces thicker on the ground than (leas on a Chinese conscript! You’ll make yourself a ton of boodle, and have plenty of proper doctoring to do. You’ll he able to marry before you're an octogenarian. You'll be able to live in the country and call your soul your own. Can't think why all you young fellers are so set on being specialists; nothing in it but ulcers and income tax ...”
It was all very well. Martin decided while he watched a filling-station attendant pour gallons of expensive gasoline into the digestive system of his elderly car. but ditching the cherished ambition of six long years in the space of an hour or two took some doing. To hell with the stockbroker belt. Rolls-Royces and tons of boodle; he wanted to be a consultant neurologist . . . Furthermore! Furthermore, what the devil did Sir Rudolph Bessington-Axe-M urderer-Watcrs mean by easting aspersions on his intellect? “I’m afraid you haven’t the brains, dear hoy”! The cold-blooded presumption. to say that of him. Martin Kennaway. brightest hope of St. Asaph's and holder of the J. Dugdale Purllect Medal for Clinical Diagnosis!
In his fury he scowled at the fillingstation attendant, who recoiled, looking injured, and gave him short change to teach him manners. He then drove on. inwardly boiling, to Haslemere. where he pulled up in front of a well-preserved house of the Queen Anne period whose front door was painted that gentle green color to be found on a pound note. Dog Rudolph was blotto in the back, so Martin left him in the car. got out and pressed the front doorbell button.
DR. CHARLES Arthur Porlock turned out to be an elongated elderly man with a wing collar and expensive oldfashioned clothes. Although a little thinlipped and sharp-eyed, he was. however, as smooth as a fluid llywheel and obviously had his bedside manner polished like an old brass plate. "How do you do. Dr. Kennaway.” he said in his comfortably furnished study. "Please sit down. How is Sir Rudolph? Will you take a glass of sherry before lunch?"
"Sir Rudolph." Martin replied gravely. "is well, and active, as usual. Thank you. sir, 1 should like a glass of sherry."
Half an hour later he knew everything. He was also full of sherry and feeling better every minute. There was no doubt that Sir Rudolph’s consolation prize looked better upon closer inspection. During a gap in the conversation he mentally recapitulated Dr. Porloek’s information . . . Practice: large, getting larger, with far more private (paying) patients than National Health (not-sopaying) patients. Partners: Dr. Porlock
and one other, both old, getting older. Salary during trial period: generous. Share of the profits, once taken into partnership: satisfactory, becoming down-
right toothful after a year or two. House: convenient, well-equipped, reputedly comfortable . . . And so on. Ah! Well!
Perhaps old R. B-W., bless him, had been right after all; perhaps his bent did lie in general practice.
“A glass of sherry, Dr. Kennaway?”
“Yes,” Martin said euphorically. “Since 1 have no livers to cut out this afternoon, ha ha, I think I will. Dr. Porlock. Thank you.”
Dr. Porlock did not laugh. He merely poured sherry into Martin’s glass with one hand while he pulled the trigger with the other. “Ahem! By the way . . . just a sordid detail . . . er . . . the price we have set upon the house is twelve thousand pounds.”
Martin inhaled too deeply on his cigarette and coughed. He rose from his chair and raised his glass of wine to the light. He paced thoughtfully up and down the room twice, and then sat down again as if his legs had been chopped off at the knees.
Dr. Porlock was looking concerned. “A little more than you were expecting?”
“Yes,” Martin admitted. “A little more.”
OUTSIDE, an hour later, having failed to do justice to the lunch Dr. Pollock’s housekeeper had provided, Martin morosely opened a tin of Dog Rudolph’s iron rations which he kept in the car for emergencies. Since Rudolph’s appetite was awe-inspifing, the emergencies were frequent.
After Rudolph had eaten, Martin climbed into his car and started the engine. Fury was still white-hot in his innards. Two encounters with the guillotine in one day, he felt, were more than a man should be asked to sustain. Hopes down, hopes up, visions of wealth, hopes up higher, hopes shattered! Aloud, quietly, but with bitter intensity, he said, “Damn Sir Rudolph Bessington-Waters!” A pulse beat in his temple. He thought of Dr. Porlock and gritted his teeth. Twelve — TWELVE — thousand pounds! For a house worth at the outside six! Malpractice! Chicanery! Daylight robbery! Plunder, pillage, sack and spoliation! The sale of practices had been illegal for ten years, since the passing of the National Health Act. But old Charley Porlock had found a way around—oh yes trust old Charley Porlock, the emaciated Crippen. He should have known; one glance at the man should have told him! Arrh!
At the end of the street a sign said LONDON in one direction and PETWORTH in the other. Martin caught sight of it and frowned, fury subsiding as something more availing entered his mind. Petworth . . . Luggamere House . . . Aunt Mildred. Aunt Mildred lived graciously not five miles from Petworth in one of England’s smaller palaces which she had inherited from her defunct husband who had had boodle enough to make a Texas oilman suck his teeth. Hmm. Twelve thousand. Fifteen hundred a year salary for the first year, Porlock had said, then a guaranteed two thousand, rising to four in three years time; arithmetic was painful to Martin but he could do it, if pushed. He put his car gently into gear.
Luggamere House was protected by wrought-iron gates so intricately expensive that they resembled crochet work. They stood open. Martin drove bravely through, around the great sweep of the drive, and pulled up gently by the front door, taking the greatest care not to mar the glory of Aunt Mildred’s gravel
which appeared to have been laid, pebble by pebble, by a legion of undergardeners. He got out of the car. Rudolph stuck his huge snout through the open window. Martin hesitated. He looked his dog in the eye. “Rudolph,” he said, “I know you have been cooped up for an hour or two. I sympathize with your desire to sniff around. However, this is Aunt Mildred’s house, Rudolph. Remember? I’ll let you out, pal, but if you put one wrong foot you’re for the sausage factory.” He opened the door. Rudolph leaped to the ground as lightly as a side of beef falling. “There, there,” Martin said, thumping Rudolph in the ribs and consequently making a noise like a war drum, “Good dog, I shan’t be long.”
SO YOU want to borrow four thousand pounds?” Aunt Mildred queried, striding over the floor of one of her drawing rooms in a way that had always got on Martin’s nerves. She was a very stout, short, energetic woman with the manner of a bigoted lay preacher and a face like an earthenware jug.
“I take it you intend to try to borrow the remainder on a mortgage. That’ll cost you . . . Hmmm ...” She scribbled briefly on a pad by the telephone. “That’ll cost you six hundred a year, at least.” Martin nodded—the thought was agonizing but inevitable. “Paying me back,” Aunt Mildred continued, “over ten years, say, and if I am generous enough to forego my interest, will add another four hundred. That makes a clear thousand a year outgoings before you start to live. Can you bear it?”
“I think so,” Martin said painfully. “Not the first year, Aunt, but from the second onward, if you’d be prepared to wait. Anyway, I’d like to try.”
Aunt Mildred shook her head abruptly. “No.”
“No, Martin, it’s not worth it. It would be selling yourself for a mess of pottage, whatever that may mean. You don’t belong in a fashionable practice. You are going to be one of our leading specialists. I insist. I am expecting to see you knighted before I die.”
“Yes,” Martin said sadly. “That’s kind of you, Aunt. But the trouble is that Sir Rudolph doesn’t think 1 have the qualities to make a consultant. He could be wrong, but he’s the man who matters. I’m in his team, you see. To get into another one I should have to elbow out some other poor devil and spend years climbing up the ladder again. I don’t believe you realize how fierce the competition is. Everybody wants to specialize, and without being some bigwig’s blue-eyed boy you don’t stand a cat’s chance. I could go on trying until my beard tickled my knees and never get there.”
Aunt Mildred made a peculiar noise with her nose, indicating impatience and disbelief. “Poppycock!”
“Don’t shrug at me, Martin!”
Martin started to say something terse, if not rude. He was prevented, because at that moment Rudolph padded into the room, spreading mud and moisture over the Aubusson carpet. He was carrying one of Aunt Mildred’s thoroughbred Mandarin ducks in his monstrous chops. The ducks lived on an ornamental lake behind the house and were tame. This one had evidently imagined that Rudolph was about to give it a bun.
Rudolph laid the duck at Martin’s feet —a love gift. It was tongue-tied and apprehensive, to say the least, but did not appear to be damaged. In dead silence it made for the open door. Martin seized Rudolph by the collar before he could re-
was out. there remained only general practice by arrangement with the National Health authorities. They would have plenty of practices vacant, but not one of them would be in Haslemere—not in the stockbroker belt, oh dear no. In Lancashire. perhaps: in a grey city where it rained continuously and where the inhabitants' idea of a good meal was cold cow's udder and vinegar. Or in Durham, say. in a mining village where the wind howled through the soot-stained streets like a banshee with an advertising contract from a refrigerator company . . .
Have another drink. Kennaway. Thank you, Martin said to himself. I think I will.
Rudolph, on whom he had eased his bad temper during the drive home, was out. He had slunk away while Martin was garaging the car. Now Martin heard him scratching for admittance at the front door. "You can wait, you great oaf." he bellowed. "And don’t forget I haven't paid your license!"
Rudolph continued to scratch and. presently. Martin became aware of another, less familiar noise. He got morosely to his feet and walked out into the hall.
This time Rudolph had brought him a baby.
LIKE the duck, it was apprehensive.
Unlike the duck, its vocal chords were not paralyzed by shock. It lay on the mat where Rudolph had deposited it, and bawled.
Martin stared at it. He closed his eyes. He put his hands over his ears and for some time stood very, very still. In the end the citadel of deafness he had created for himself was breached by a loud female voice, high-pitched with indignation. It came from a granite-faced old doll with a large shopping basket who was standing at the bottom of the steps. "Whyn't you pick it up. you big coward? Poor little thing! Don’t just stand there with yer fingers in ycr ears!"
Martin picked up the baby. It was very young and its blue, tear-filled eyes gazed at him with the most profound and melancholy wisdom. Martin could stand their pitiful accusation for no more than a few seconds. He looked away at the woman on the pavement. "Is it yours?"
"Mine! At my age! Why. you saucy monkey! What do you think I am?"
“Noisy." Martin said, going down the steps and away from the venom of her outrage. Rudolph followed, tail wagging, grinning from ear to car. smugly convinced that this time he had hit the jackpot. Not a duck, a baby! Simple—once you thought of it . . .
Martin had barely covered thirty yards when he heard the sound of heavily applied brakes and a car door opening. There came a feminine squeal and the patter of feet. He turned to see a deliciously good-looking fair girl in her twenties rushing at him, arms outstretched. At the curb there was a police car. and a fat policeman getting out of it with ponderous self-importance.
The girl snatched the baby from him. pressed its dirty little wet face to her cheek and started crooning to it in German. Martin spoke a little German and he gathered that the baby's name was Johannes.
The policeman was with them. "All right now, ma’am?”
"I don’t know!” the girl wailed in English. "How can I know? He may be hurt. He may have internal injuries! Oh. Johannes, my darling, my pet, are you all right?”
Martin said, "I ... er ... I think he’s all right. I'm a doctor. There’s no sign of injury. Besides, Rudolph has a very soft mouth.”
trieve the bird and gave him a sweeping backhander over the ear, hurting his hand severely.
Aunt Mildred started to scream. "Take that monstrous dog out of my house! Do you hear me. Martin!” She picked up a porcelain ash tray made in Dresden in the shape of a cabbage leaf, threw it at Rudolph. missed, and watched ten pounds' worth of art shatter in the fireplace. "Get out! Both of you! Don't ever bring that abominable animal into my house again. Do you hear me. Martin?"
"Yes. Aunt. We re going. I . . .”
"And let's have no more nonsense about private practice,” Aunt Mildred interrupted. raising her voice even higher. "You can tell Sir Rudolph that his judgment is faulty. Do you hear me, Martin? I he man’s mad. and I don't mind if you tell him I said so. lake that creature AWAY!”
MARTIN reached London in time for tea. Instead of going to a teashop he went to the back door of his local pub and bought a bottle of Scotch out-ofhours. He took the whisky home and
settled down to drink it, and think.
About his future there seemed to remain no doubt. Consultant in neurology? Having looked Sir Rudolph’s expensive gift horse in the face? Ha! His laugh was bitter. Explaining to Sir Rudolph Bessington-Waters that one did not possess twelve thousand pounds would be both embarrassing and futile: the old ape’s attitude to money, like that of many who could never remember having had none, was frothy. In Sir Rudolph's mind, he would have HAD HIS CHANCE.
And since partnership with Porlock
The girl's attention turned abruptly to Rudolph, who was still wagging his tail, but now a little less exuberantly. "That dog!" she shrieked. "That awful man-eating, vicious beast! Shoot it! Shoot it. officer before it eats some more babies.” "Look.” Martin said uncomfortably, "I'm sorry, of course, but Rudolph didn't cat your baby. He retrieved him. His mother was a retriever. He is constantly retrieving things. You can’t shoot the poor animal just for obeying an instinct.” The policeman decided that it was his turn. "That.” he said, "will probably be a matter for the magistrate to decide, sir. In the meanwhile 1 strongly urge you to keep the animal under better control.” "Yes.” Martin said. "I will. 1 promise.” At that moment the radio in the police car fnuttered urgently. The man in the back seat jerked off his headphones and wound down a window. “George! Quick! Smash-and-grab in Kensington High! Get a move on!”
Two seconds later the policeman—and the police car—had gone.
Martin looked at the girl with the baby. He had Rudolph safely by the collar and a little of the high emotion of the occasion had had time to drain away. A detached. man-of-the-world part of him, having had a good look, muttered internally. "Goodness me, what a dish!" A less detached and very contrite part of him said aloud. "Rudolph is a great fool. I can’t apologize enough. However he didn’t mean to hurt Johannes. I promise. He's the gentlest and stupidest dog in London, besides being the biggest." "Yes,” the girl said. She was crying. "Please don't cry. It's all over now. Look, my fiat’s only ten houses away. Bring Johannes and I’ll look him over to make quite sure he isn't hurt. I'll give you a cup of tea, too—or some whisky, if it would help.” He took her by the arm. She allowed herself to be led in the direction of his fiat.
Martin locked Rudolph, upon whom by this time it had dawned that he had not won the jackpot, into the bathroom where the only thing he could retrieve was the soap. He then sat the girl down in an armchair by the fire and gave her a stiff Scotch, taking Johannes from her in exchange. He examined Johannes carefully, finding no sign of injury whatsoever, and then laid the baby on the divan, tucking a rug round him. Johannes started to suck his thumb with great contentment. "Coochy. cooehy, coochy," Martin said dutifully, and turned. The girl was still crying. "Please, will you stop crying,” he said in a more authoritative tone than he had used before. "Johannes is as right as rain. I’ve locked Rudolph in the bathroom and there is absolutely nothing to worry about.”
“I am not crying about Johannes." the girl said. "I am crying now about me, because I have nowhere to go."
JOHANNES had been bathed and fed and put to bed in a crib improvised from a drawer in the spare room. Martin and the girl, who was called Lilli, were eating scrambled eggs and bread and butter out of soup plates in front of the sitting-room fire.
1 hen Hugh was killed in a car crash,” Lilli was saying. "It did not help that I had no money and was expecting a baby,
I can tell you.” Martin patted her hand.
I got a job as a sort of housemother in a school for little boys in Hampstead,” she went on. "It was nice, but soon I got too fat with Johannes and had to leave.
I had Johannes in St. Asaph’s Hospital . . .”
"My hospital,” Martin said with his mouth full.
How so ... I never saw you?”
"I am not an obstetrician. St. Asaph’s
is a monstrous great warren anyway: you could lose yourself in it for a week."
“Oh, I see . . . Well, after I left the hospital I could not work because of Johannes. so I started to write songs—1 wanted only to save money enough to go back to Austria—but nobody would buy them. They said they were like Strauss and that he was corny. Soon 1 had no money for the rent. Mrs. Eggar. my landlady. let me stay for a month but then, this afternoon, she locked the door of my room and said she would not let me in again until 1 had a paper from the Aus-
trian legation to say I would be repatrialed. I unis so stupid, you know; I had not even known that you could be repatriated without money. 1 started to walk to the legation but Johannes became very heavy, and we sat on the grass in the park for a rest. It was then that Rudolph came and took him away."
"Poor Lilli." Martin said. “There, there. It's all right now. Rudolph! God give me strength! Do you know what he did only this afternoon . . .”
But Lilli had her story to finish. “Of course. I was again so foolish. 1 just stood
and screamed. I am sure if I had asked Rudolph to give Johannes back to me he would, but 1 was quite paralyzed, you see, and by the time I was able to move he had gone among the bushes.”
“He is accustomed to give his victims a thorough licking to make sure they’re sanitary before presenting them to me,” Martin explained.
“Ah. so . . . He is very big."
"He is." said Martin’. "He is a great deal too much dog! He costs me thirty bob a week in cat food, believe it or not. I ought to cut his throat."
“Cat food! Such a dog?” she said. “Fie ought to be psychoanalyzed— with a cleaver.”
“Don’t be angry with him, please. I have forgiven him.”
“Hmm,” Martin muttered. “Do you know what he did this afternoon? . . . Well, I have an Aunt Mildred; she’s a tiresome woman, but she has enough scratch to buy an atom bomb . . .”
THE following day was Saturday and, for Martin, a holiday. After breakfast Lilli set off to go to the Austrian legation. Martin bathed, shaved, dressed, with care and slowly because his head had a considerable post-alcoholic fragility, and then settled down in the sitting room with The Times crossword on his knees. At half past ten he remembered a bottle of Bass’s ale which he had buried in the shoe-cleaning box for just such an occasion as this and went to fetch it, peeping in at Johannes on the w'ay. Johannes was asleep.
The beer laved his throat with cool deliciousness. He leaned back in his chair, ignoring the crossword puzzle, and realized that he was no longer feeling battered by brute fate. On the contrary, deep down, vaguely in the same place that the lead-petaled flower had bloomed during his interview with Sir Rudolph, he thought he could identify the stirrings of an embryo contentment. He wondered why.
At half past eleven the doorbell rang. It was Aunt Mildred. Martin smiled at her with a sickly hypocritical enthusiasm.
“Good morning, Martin. I’m glad to have caught you. I had meant to leave a note if you had been at the hospital.” “Did you, Aunt?” Martin said warily. “I have the day off—every second Saturday. Won’t you come in?”
Aunt Mildred had lent him the furniture with which Jo furnish the flat, and in the sitting room she glanced round proprietorialiy in a way that Martin resented. “Did you want to see me about something, Aunt?” His voice was cool.
“I lost control of myself yesterday,” she said harshly. “I apologize.”
“Oh, that’s all right.” Martin smiled at her. “I hope the duck has recovered.”
“It doesn’t appear to have taken any harm ... I take it you still wish to go into partnership with this man in Haslemere?”
“Ye-es,” Martin said.
“I’ve made enquiries. The practice is lucrative. If there is no hope of your specializing, you had better have it. I shall not lend you the money; I shall give it to you. Save death duties. Ha-ha.”
“Aunt!” Martin strove for words. “I . . . I . . .”
“Don’t thank me, Martin. Blood ties are blood ties, after all. Now I must be off. I am presiding at the annual general meeting of The Defense of the Unmarried Mother League at twelve o’clock.” Aunt Mildred frowned. “I could swear I hear a baby crying.”
Martin closed his eyes. It seemed to him that there was a smell in the air. a sort of soggy, metallic scent like the promise of a thunderstorm. He knew what it was—approaching catastrophe. It was becoming familiar.
It was futile to think of lying to Aunt Mildred.
“You do.” he said sorrowfully. “I had better go and stun it, or something.”
She followed him into the spare room. So did Rudolph, who sat looking at Johannes as if he had made the baby himself with a construction kit. Martin lifted Johannes from his improvised cradle and gave him a finger to suck. Silence crept back to the room on tiptoe.
Aunt Mildred’s frown had not gone. “That,” she barked, “is a very unhygienic thing to do. As a doctor you should be aware of the danger of microbes.”
Martin took his finger out. Johannes howled. “Whose is it?” Aunt Mildred wanted to know, shrieking above the tumult of Johannes’ indignation.
From the doorway behind them Lilli said, “It is mine. Please excuse me, he is being fed on demand. It is more modern.” Aunt Mildred went into the sitting room. Martin gave Johannes to Lilli. His mind was clear—as if he were in a fever. “She won’t believe us, Lilli,” he said. “She’ll insist that Johannes has my chin and that will be that. I think it’s hardly worth trying to explain. Anyway, give me a quarter of an hour, and when you come in take your cue from what I am saying.” “Oh, Martin, it is not your Aunt Mildred! Oh, I cun sorry! What can I do. Tell me, please, what I can do!”
“Nothing,” Martin said. “It is my doom. I am becoming inured. Compared with yesterday this is like being tapped on the head with a teaspoon. Hadn’t you better give Johannes his lunch before he goes pop?” He went into the sitting room.
Aunt Mildred was staring out of the window. “Well?” she said sorrowfully.
Martin took the plunge. “The baby belongs to Lilli. It has nothing to do with me.”
“Then why are you living in sin with
You do not have to look so grim Because you hear me say: “It’s him.” Let me assure you. as I live,
I know IS takes the nominative.
I know the grammar, know the cases; But I can’t bear the smirking faces Of multitudes who glare at me When 1 correctly say: “It’s he.”
LEONARD K. SCHIFF
the girl? Or have you married behind my back?”
“We are not living in sin!” Martin said thickly. “Rudolph retrieved Johannes. He pinched the baby ffom Lilli while she was sitting in the park and brought him to me. After I had given him back to her I discovered that she was homeless. She’s staying with me until she can be repatriated to Austria.”
“If you must lie, Martin, you should do so in a less complicated manner.”
“I’m not lying! You know perfectly well that Rudolph would try to retrieve a tiger shark if he got the chance. What about your duck?”
“I have no doubt that that was what gave you the idea for this astonishing web of fabrication,” Aunt Mildred said calmly. She turned. “Now I have to go to my meeting. With this knowledge in my mind I don’t know how I shall be able to face the committee of The Defense of the Unmarried Mother League. I shall not speak to you again, Martin, unless and until you have married the poor creature. And the matter of the money for the Haslemere partnership will also have to remain in abeyance until then. I’m sorry. Howvery much you take after your father. Good-by.”
Lilli came to the door of the sitting room when she heard the front door elose behind Aunt Mildred. “What happened?”
Martin stopped counting under his breath. He smiled. “She did not believe me.”
“Oh. Martin, how terrible! Was she very angry?”
“She pretended to be shocked and heartbroken,” Martin said. “I suspect that in fact she was enjoying every minute of it. I am not to be spoken to again unless
and until I have married you. Furthermore, just before you came in, she had announced that she was going to give me enough money to put a down payment on the house in the Haslemere practice, but now that’s conditional on our getting married, too.”
Lilli said slowly, "We must get married. You can divorce me as soon as you are settled in Haslemere. We ... we need not live together, need we. if ... 1 mean . . . you know ... It is enough for her that we should be married, not so?”
Martin sat down on the sofa. He leaned back with a cigarette between his lips, unlit, and played with a box of matches. Presently he said, “You know, Lilli. I’m glad this has happened.”
"You are! Í don’t understand.”
He sat up and looked at her. "If I had ever laid hands on that money of Aunt Mildred’s I should have gone into partnership with Charley Porlock. It would have resembled marriage to a hunting leopard, and I should have spent the rest of my life telling fat ladies that their commonplace symptoms were startlingly significant. Now I can’t be tempted. Now it’s specialize or bust. You have turned out to be a beautiful blessing in disguise, Lilli darling, and you don’t have to marry me if you don’t want to.”
There was a silence. Lilli took a cigarette, struck a match, lit Martin’s cigarette and then her own. She sat down. "If only," she said, “we were in Vienna!” "Why?”
“Because my father was Ernst Wildermith. Before the war he was the greatest living neurologist. He is dead, but his associate. Johannes Gerdler. is a very close family friend. In Vienna you could work with him. I know he would be delighted. He is like a father to me. you know, and . . .”
SIR RUDOLPH’S brass plate shone as brightly as ever. Martin walked toward it, wearing his grey suit, his face expressionless. He knocked.
"Ah, Martin! That agranulocytosis in Harker’s ward all right? What, dead! Stap me! Poor fellow! Sit down.”
"I have had to turn down Dr. Pol lock’s offer. Sir Rudolph.” Martin said.
"Have you now?"
"I am going to get married.”
"She’s an Austrian, the daughter of Ernst . . .”
“I don’t care if she’s a headhunting Papuan, boy!” Sir Rudolph snorted. "What the devil do you mean by coming in here and telling me in one breath that you’ve turned Charley Porlock down and in the next that you mean to commit the folly of marrying before you have two halfpence to rub together?”
Martin swallowed. "She is the daughter of Ernst Wildermith.” he continued grimly. "Professor Wildermith is dead, hut I have arranged to go to Vienna to work with his associate, Johannes Gerdler. My aunt is prepared to support us for two years in Vienna. The point is, when I come back, do you think, sir, that there’s a chance of a consultant appointment— or at least another registrarship at one of your hospitals?”
Sir Rudolph had screwed his monocle into his eye. He used the thing rarely in order that its full effect should not be spoiled by familiarity on the part of the victim. Martin clenched his teeth. Sir Rudolph slowly turned his head until he was facing the superb mahogany bookcase in which he kept his standard works. There they were—Wildermith and Gerdler on The Central Nervous System, Wildermith and Gerdler on Neurology, Gerdler on Diseases of the Nervous System, Gerdler on Reflexology. “Hmm,” said Sir Rudolph Bessington-Waters. "Hmm. Yes. i see. Well, I don’t know.
I am never wrong, but 1 suppose there must be a first time. Perhaps you have got the brain after all.”
"Give my respects to Professor Gerdler.”
"Write to me from time to time, and come and see me when you come hack. We’ll see what can he done.”
"I should like to meet Miss Wildermith before you go. Could you both dine with me on Thursday, say. at Claridge’s at eight o'clock?”
Martin squared his shoulders. "Yes. sir,” he said. "We should be delighted.”
The monocle came out of Sir Rudolph's eye. He looked at Martin for several seconds, not unkindly, hut with grave deliberation. Then he said. "Do you play golf?”
"Yes. Sir Rudolph.” Martin said, and he smiled, because he knew now that he would indeed he knighted before he d ied. ir