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Round The Red Lamp - The Case of Lady Sannox

1. Behind the Times

2. His First Operation

3. A Straggler of '15

4. The Third Generation

5. A False Start

6. The Curse of Eve

7. Sweethearts

8. A Physiologist's Wife

9. The Case of Lady Sannox

10. A Question of Diplomacy

11. A Medical Document

12. Lot No. 249

13. The Los Amigos Fiasco

14. The Doctors of Hoyland

15. The Surgeon Talks

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
judgment, 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 this 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 shown that he possessed. He was happier
with a spud and a watering-can among his orchids and

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 eves. 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 bold, 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,

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

"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

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

"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?"


"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. To-day 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."


"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

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 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

"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

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 oilcloth,
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 woman 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

The husband wrung his hands in incontrollable

"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

"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

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
would 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 forwards 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

"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

"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

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