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Round the Red Lamp

The Third Generation
Scudamore Lane, sloping down riverwards from just behind the Monument, lies at night
in the shadow of two black and monstrous walls which loom high above the glimmer of
the scattered gas lamps. The footpaths are narrow, and the causeway is paved with
rounded cobblestones, so that the endless drays roar along it like breaking waves. A few
old-fashioned houses lie scattered among the business premises, and in one of these, half-
way down on the left-hand side, Dr. Horace Selby conducts his large practice. It is a
singular street for so big a man; but a specialist who has an European reputation can
afford to live where he likes. In his particular branch, too, patients do not always regard
seclusion as a disadvantage.
It was only ten o'clock. The dull roar of the traffic which converged all day upon London
Bridge had died away now to a mere confused murmur. It was raining heavily, and the
gas shone dimly through the streaked and dripping glass, throwing little circles upon the
glistening cobblestones. The air was full of the sounds of the rain, the thin swish of its
fall, the heavier drip from the eaves, and the swirl and gurgle down the two steep gutters
and through the sewer grating. There was only one figure in the whole length of
Scudamore Lane. It was that of a man, and it stood outside the door of Dr. Horace Selby.
He had just rung and was waiting for an answer. The fanlight beat full upon the gleaming
shoulders of his waterproof and upon his upturned features. It was a wan, sensitive, clear-
cut face, with some subtle, nameless peculiarity in its expression, something of the
startled horse in the white-rimmed eye, something too of the helpless child in the drawn
cheek and the weakening of the lower lip. The man- servant knew the stranger as a
patient at a bare glance at those frightened eyes. Such a look had been seen at that door
many times before.
"Is the doctor in?"
The man hesitated.
"He has had a few friends to dinner, sir. He does not like to be disturbed outside his usual
hours, sir."
"Tell him that I MUST see him. Tell him that it is of the very first importance. Here is my
card." He fumbled with his trembling fingers in trying to draw one from his case. "Sir
Francis Norton is the name. Tell him that Sir Francis Norton, of Deane Park, must see
him without delay."
"Yes, sir." The butler closed his fingers upon the card and the half-sovereign which
accompanied it. "Better hang your coat up here in the hall. It is very wet. Now if you will
wait here in the consulting-room, I have no doubt that I shall be able to send the doctor in
to you."