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4: The Room without a Telephone (part 4)

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Author Topic: 4: The Room without a Telephone (part 4)  (Read 3 times)
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« on: January 22, 2023, 07:08:44 am »

THE doctor gone, the humane girl continued her ministrations while the rest of the staff were rather (for them) mysteriously aloof. She lifted the veil, too, on the hours during which he had been unconscious. About six o'clock the Matron came in, spotless and unruffled. She began at once to point out how necessary it was to bleed, in order to enable the septic content of the gum to be carried away. What she seemed mainly concerned to do was to white-wash her little doctor. Eldred smiled at her: for while he had been worrying a little at what her reactions might be, she had been preoccupied with what she felt must be his reactions, at the excessive haemorrhage.

As she spoke of the necessity of much blood Dr. McLachlan appeared and on seeing his patient's benign expression, he grew very excited and jocular. His wit and gallantry was side-stepped by the Matron as if she were ducking to avoid missiles. She plunged her eyes from one corner of the room to the other, refusing to meet his gallant glance or to give him smile for smile. He attempted to intercept her plunging gaze, piqued at her unresponsiveness; but she flung her head bodily over in the opposite direction, and he quietened down after that. And soon they both departed.

Eldred found that he was unable to stand. The bed had to be made with him in it, by a couple of dwarfish hissing gnomes. The day's goings and comings were succeeded by Sister Bridget and relative peace. As he lay there and was able to look back upon what had occurred in the theatre without distraction, he perceived how far from the normal the proceedings had been. They partook unmistakably of the nature of a rite. A blood-sacrifice had been enacted: and it must always be in that spirit that the theatre was used, even if it was only an appendix that was involved. Their theatre was the obsessive emotional centre round which the existence of these secluded women revolved. The peculiar interest he seemed to awaken in the nuns on the morning of the operation, which at the time he was aware of but could not understand, was explained in the light of this analysis. It was his blood that was going to be shed that day, it was he that was about to have an agony.

Then there seemed to be a theory governing the actions of everybody in this institution that a patient invariably was in a state of the liveliest terror during the hours immediately preceding his operation, however insignificant that might be, and even that he was apt to become dangerous. Sister Giles's attitude was explained in some degree by these circumstances. The danger, as it was felt, inhering in the terrified victim accounted for the unnecessary potency of the drug administered as a quietener. Actually it had more the effect of knock-out drops. Lastly there was the mobilization of all the available man-power to hold down and if necessary to restrain the victim about to be sacrificed. Eldred enquired of the friendly girl (one of a family of converts from the Putney-Wimbledon district) whether patients were always held down in the theatre or whether he had impressed them as a singularly violent type of man. Her answer was that patients on the operating table often kicked and struck out. Once a Sister had been injured by a violent blow in the stomach.

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