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Sir Penniston Crisp was a man of some sixty active years, whose ruddy cheeks, twinkling blue eyes, and convincingly innocent smile suggested forty. At thirty he had been accounted the most promising young surgeon in London; at forty he had become one of the three leading members of his profession; at fifty he had amassed a fortune and had begun to accept only those cases which involved complications of true scientific interest, or which came to him on the personal application of other distinguished physicians. Like many another in the medical world whose material wants are guaranteed, he found solace and amusement only in experimentation along new lines of his peculiar hobbies. His days were spent between his book-lined study with its cheery sea-coal fire and his adjacent laboratory, where three assistants, all trained Bachelors of Science, conducted experiments under his personal direction. His daily life was as well ordered as his career had been. Rising at seven, Sir Penniston partook of a meager breakfast, attended to his trifling personal affairs, read his newspaper, dictated his letters, and by nine was ready to don his uniform and receive his sterilized instruments from his young associate, Scalscope Jermyn, a capable and cheerful soul after Crisp's own heart. An operating theater adjoined the laboratory, and here the baronet made it a point to perform once each week, in the presence of various surgeons who attended by invitation, a few difficult and dangerous operations upon patients sent to him from the City Hospital. When Jermyn was with his familiars he was wont to refer to his master as the "howlingist cheese in surgery." This was putting it mildly, for, although Sir Penniston was indubitably, if you choose, quite the "howlingist cheese" in surgery, he was also a pathfinder, an explorer into the mysteries of the body and the essence of vitality in bone and tissue. He could do more things to a cat in twenty minutes than would naturally occur in the combined history of a thousand felines. He could handle the hidden arteries and vessels of the body as confidently and accurately as you or I would tie a shoe string. He had housed a tramp for thirteen months and inserted a plate-glass window in that gentleman's exterior in order that he might with the greater certainty study the complicated processes of a digestion stimulated after a chronic lack of food. He experimented on men, women, children, elephants, apes, ostriches, guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and goldfish. He could alter the shape of a nose, or perfect an irregular ear in the twinkling of an instrument; remove a human heart and insert it still beating without inconvenience to its owner; and was as much at home among the vessels of Thebesius as he was on Piccadilly Circus.

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  • Print Length: 305 Pages
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