Page 105

The Magician 'I should be very much obliged if you would tell me as exactly as possible how Mrs Haddo died.' 'It was a very simple case of endocarditis.' 'May I ask how long before death you were called in?' The doctor hesitated. He reddened a little. 'I'm not inclined to be cross−examined,' he burst out, suddenly making up his mind to be angry. 'As a surgeon I daresay your knowledge of cardiac diseases is neither extensive nor peculiar. But this was a very simple case, and everything was done that was possible. I don't think there's anything I can tell you.' Arthur took no notice of the outburst. 'How many times did you see her?' 'Really, sir, I don't understand your attitude. I can't see that you have any right to question me.' 'Did you have a post−mortem?' 'Certainly not. In the first place there was no need, as the cause of death was perfectly clear, and secondly you must know as well as I do that the relatives are very averse to anything of the sort. You gentlemen in Harley Street don't understand the conditions of private practice. We haven't the time to do post−mortems to gratify a needless curiosity.' Arthur was silent for a moment. The little man was evidently convinced that there was nothing odd about Margaret's death, but his foolishness was as great as his obstinacy. It was clear that several motives would induce him to put every obstacle in Arthur's way, and chief of these was the harm it would do him if it were discovered that he had given a certificate of death carelessly. He would naturally do anything to avoid social scandal. Still Arthur was obliged to speak. 'I think I'd better tell you frankly that I'm not satisfied, Dr Richardson. I can't persuade myself that this lady's death was due to natural causes.' 'Stuff and nonsense!' cried the other angrily. 'I've been in practice for hard upon thirty−five years, and I'm willing to stake my professional reputation on it.' 'I have reason to think you are mistaken.' 'And to what do you ascribe death, pray?' asked the doctor. 'I don't know yet.' 'Upon my soul, I think you must be out of your senses. Really, sir, your behaviour is childish. You tell me that you are a surgeon of some eminence ...' 'I surely told you nothing of the sort.' 'Anyhow, you read papers before learned bodies and have them printed. And you come with as silly a story as a Staffordshire peasant who thinks someone has been trying to poison him because he's got a stomach−ache. You may be a very admirable surgeon, but I venture to think I am more capable than you of judging in a case 14

103

The Magician  
The Magician  

W. Somerset Maugham

Advertisement