The Green Flag and Other Tales HTML version

The Croxley Master
Mr. Robert Montgomery was seated at his desk, his head upon his hands, in a state of the
blackest despondency. Before him was the open ledger with the long columns of Dr.
Oldacre's prescriptions. At his elbow lay the wooden tray with the labels in various
partitions, the cork box, the lumps of twisted sealing-wax, while in front a rank of bottles
waited to be filled. But his spirits were too low for work. He sat in silence with his fine
shoulders bowed and his head upon his hands.
Outside, through the grimy surgery window over a foreground of blackened brick and
slate, a line of enormous chimneys like Cyclopean pillars upheld the lowering, dun-
coloured cloud-bank. For six days in the week they spouted smoke, but to-day the furnace
fires were banked, for it was Sunday. Sordid and polluting gloom hung over a district
blighted and blasted by the greed of man. There was nothing in the surroundings to cheer
a desponding soul, but it was more than his dismal environment which weighed upon the
medical assistant. His trouble was deeper and more personal. The winter session was
approaching. He should be back again at the University completing the last year which
would give him his medical degree; but, alas! he had not the money with which to pay his
class fees, nor could he imagine how he could procure it. Sixty pounds were wanted to
make his career, and it might have been as many thousand for any chance there seemed to
be of his obtaining it. He was roused from his black meditation by the entrance of Dr.
Oldacre himself, a large, clean-shaven, respectable man, with a prim manner and an
austere face. He had prospered exceedingly by the support of the local Church interest,
and the rule of his life was never by word or action to run a risk of offending the
sentiment which had made him. His standard of respectability and of dignity was
exceedingly high, and he expected the same from his assistants. His appearance and
words were always vaguely benevolent. A sudden impulse came over the despondent
student. He would test the reality of this philanthropy.
"I beg your pardon, Dr. Oldacre," said he, rising from his chair; "I have a great favour to
ask of you."
The doctor's appearance was not encouraging. His mouth suddenly tightened, and his
eyes fell.
"Yes, Mr. Montgomery?"
"You are aware, sir, that I need only one more session to complete my course."
"So you have told me."
"It is very important to me, sir."