Round the Red Lamp
The Doctors Of Hoyland
Dr. James Ripley was always looked upon as an exceedingly lucky dog by all of the
profession who knew him. His father had preceded him in a practice in the village of
Hoyland, in the north of Hampshire, and all was ready for him on the very first day that
the law allowed him to put his name at the foot of a prescription. In a few years the old
gentleman retired, and settled on the South Coast, leaving his son in undisputed
possession of the whole country side. Save for Dr. Horton, near Basingstoke, the young
surgeon had a clear run of six miles in every direction, and took his fifteen hundred
pounds a year, though, as is usual in country practices, the stable swallowed up most of
what the consulting-room earned.
Dr. James Ripley was two-and-thirty years of age, reserved, learned, unmarried, with set,
rather stern features, and a thinning of the dark hair upon the top of his head, which was
worth quite a hundred a year to him. He was particularly happy in his management of
ladies. He had caught the tone of bland sternness and decisive suavity which dominates
without offending. Ladies, however, were not equally happy in their management of him.
Professionally, he was always at their service. Socially, he was a drop of quicksilver. In
vain the country mammas spread out their simple lures in front of him. Dances and
picnics were not to his taste, and he preferred during his scanty leisure to shut himself up
in his study, and to bury himself in Virchow's Archives and the professional journals.
Study was a passion with him, and he would have none of the rust which often gathers
round a country practitioner. It was his ambition to keep his knowledge as fresh and
bright as at the moment when he had stepped out of the examination hall. He prided
himself on being able at a moment's notice to rattle off the seven ramifications of some
obscure artery, or to give the exact percentage of any physiological compound. After a
long day's work he would sit up half the night performing iridectomies and extractions
upon the sheep's eyes sent in by the village butcher, to the horror of his housekeeper, who
had to remove the debris next morning. His love for his work was the one fanaticism
which found a place in his dry, precise nature.
It was the more to his credit that he should keep up to date in his knowledge, since he had
no competition to force him to exertion. In the seven years during which he had practised
in Hoyland three rivals had pitted themselves against him, two in the village itself and
one in the neighbouring hamlet of Lower Hoyland. Of these one had sickened and
wasted, being, as it was said, himself the only patient whom he had treated during his
eighteen months of ruralising. A second had bought a fourth share of a Basingstoke
practice, and had departed honourably, while a third had vanished one September night,
leaving a gutted house and an unpaid drug bill behind him. Since then the district had
become a monopoly, and no one had dared to measure himself against the established
fame of the Hoyland doctor.
It was, then, with a feeling of some surprise and considerable curiosity that on driving
through Lower Hoyland one morning he perceived that the new house at the end of the