Three Quotations

(Apr 14th to 20th)


1. He saw perspectives of heads - gunshot wounds - seen from above and a little behind, as they'd lie on the tables; with the pad over their mouths, but they still all accused him of murder. On off-nights he had orderlies whispering to him to wake up and give some poor beggar a chance to live. Then they'd waggle his foot, and he'd wake up grateful for the pain, and change the dressings. His foot was in a filthy state… This is from "The Tender Achilles" in Limits and Renewals. Wilkie, a brilliant surgeon and research scientist, has had a breakdown as a result of his experiences of operating under pressure on badly wounded soldiers from the trenches. He is later shocked back into sanity by his colleagues, who make a deliberate error in diagnosing an injury of his, so as to reawaken his overweening professional pride.


2. . He coughed, and as he drew breath, his pain broke through all the drugs, and the outcry filled the room …a full, high, affected voice, unheard for a generation, accompanied, as it seemed, the clamour of a beast in agony, saying: 'I wish to God someone would stop that old swine howling down there ! I can't …' This is from "Dayspring Mishandled" in Limits and Renewals. Castorley, a vain and obsessive expert on mediaeval literature, and not a nice man, believes he has discovered a previously unknown Chaucer manuscript. It is, in fact, an elaborate forgery, set up by Manallace, an old enemy of his, who plans to hold him up to ridicule when the time is ripe. But he is dying of cancer, and this poses a nice moral problem for Manallace …


3. She was choking with her throat; had rushed to the window for air; had near pitched out, and in catching at the window bars had cut her hand. Over and over she made this clear to the intent Baxter. Then she turned on her sister, and tongue-lashed her savagely. This is from "The House Surgeon" in Actions and Reactions. A house, outwardly gracious and luxurious, is haunted by an atmosphere of black depression. It turns out that years before a woman had fallen from a high window and died. Ever since, her two sisters had believed that she had deliberately killed herself, and their horror and grief had dominated the house ever after. Then, when one of them nearly falls from the same window, they realise that after all it must have been an accident. Their sorrow is healed, and the blackness is lifted.