Chapter VI: A Rectorial Election

The Firm of Girdlestone

It took some little time before his son, who was half-choked with laughter, could explain to the energetic doctor that the gentleman upon whom he was perched was not a dangerous lunatic, but, on the contrary, a very harmless and innocent member of society. When at last it was made clear to him, the doctor released his prisoner and was profuse in his apologies.

“This is my father, Garraway,” said Dimsdale. “I hardly expected him so early.”

“I must offer you a thousand apologies, sir. The fact is that I am rather short-sighted, and had no time to put my glasses on. It seemed to me to be a most dangerous scuffle.”

“Don’t mention it, sir,” said Garraway, with great good humour.

“And you, Tom, you rogue, is this the way you spend your mornings? I expected to find you deep in your books. I told your landlady that I hardly liked to come up for fear of disturbing you at your work. You go up for your first professional in a few weeks, I understand?”

“That will be all right, dad,” said his son demurely. “Garraway and I usually take a little exercise of this sort as a preliminary to the labours of the day. Try this armchair and have a cigarette.”

The doctor’s eye fell upon the medical works and the disarticulated skull, and his ill-humour departed.

“You have your tools close at hand, I see,” he remarked.

“Yes, dad, all ready.”

“Those bones bring back old memories to me. I am rusty in my anatomy, but I dare say I could stump you yet. Let me see now. What are the different foramina of the sphenoid bone, and what structures pass through them? Eh?”

“Coming!” yelled his son. “Coming!” and dashed out of the room.

“I didn’t hear any one call,” observed the doctor.

“Didn’t you, sir?” said Garraway, pulling on his coat. “I thought I heard a noise.”

“You read with my son, I believe?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then perhaps you can tell me what the structures are which pass through the foramina of the sphenoid?”

“Oh yes, sir. There is the—All right, Tom, all right! Excuse me, sir! He is calling me;” and Garraway vanished as precipitately as his friend had done. The doctor sat alone, puffing at his cigarette, and brooding over his own dullness of hearing.

Presently the two students returned, looking just a little shame-faced, and plunged instantly into wild talk about the weather, the town, and the University—anything and everything except the sphenoid bone.

“You have come in good time to see something of University life,” said young Dimsdale. “To-day we elect our new Lord Rector. Garraway and I will take you down and show you the sights.”

“I have often wished to see something of it,” his father answered. “I was apprenticed to my profession, Mr. Garraway, in the old-fashioned way, and had few opportunities of attending college.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“But I can imagine it all. What can be more charming than the sight of a community of young men all striving after knowledge, and emulating each other in the ardour of their studies? Not that I would grudge them recreation. I can fancy them strolling in bands round the classic precincts of their venerable University, and amusing themselves by discussing the rival theories of physiologists or the latest additions to the pharmacopoeia.”

Garraway had listened with becoming gravity to the commencement of this speech, but at the last sentence he choked and vanished for the second time out of the room.

“Your friend seems amused,” remarked Dr. Dimsdale mildly.

“Yes. He gets taken like that sometimes,” said his son. “His brothers are just the same. I have hardly had a chance yet to say how glad I am to see you, dad.”

“And I to see you, my dear boy. Your mother and Kate come up by the night train. I have private rooms at the hotel.”

“Kate Harston! I can only remember her as a little quiet girl with long brown hair. That was six years ago. She promised to be pretty.”

“Then she has fulfilled her promise. But you shall judge that for yourself. She is the ward of John Girdlestone, the African merchant, but we are the only relations she has upon earth. Her father was my second cousin. She spends a good deal of her time now with us at Phillimore Gardens—as much as her guardian will allow. He prefers to have her under his own roof, and I don’t blame him, for she is like a ray of sunshine in the house. It was like drawing his teeth to get him to consent to this little holiday, but I stuck at it until I wearied him out—fairly wearied him out.” The little doctor chuckled at the thought of his victory, and stretched out his thick legs towards the fire.

“This examination will prevent me from being with you as much as I wish.”

“That’s right, my boy; let nothing interfere with your work.”

“Still, I think I am pretty safe. I am glad they have come now, for next Wednesday is the international football match. Garraway and I are the two Scotch half-backs. You must all come down and see it.”

“I’ll tell you what, Dimsdale,” said Garraway, reappearing in the doorway, “if we don’t hurry up we shall see nothing of the election. It is close on twelve.”

“I am all ready,” cried Dr. Dimsdale, jumping to his feet and buttoning his coat.

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