We Buried the Doctor
“We buried the doctor today. The old man nearly made his century, which would not have surprised anyone who knew him. He was always his own best patient.”
Sir James Hawkins, FRS, MD, laid down his pen, full of thought. The lamp flame cast a circle of light around his study. Across the desk, the window was dark. Beyond it he could hear the sea. Raindrops on the glass reflected back the yellow light.
Footsteps moved on the boards behind him. Another lamp was set down on the desk and a pair of slender arms wrapped gently around his neck. He leaned a little to one side so that she could read what he had written. Then she kissed the top of his head.
“He was very proud of you.” He didn’t answer. “Who are you writing to?”
He hesitated. “I don’t know. Now he’s gone there’s so much inside me that I feel I could …” A sigh. “Yes, he was proud of me. Perhaps he would have been less proud if he knew everything.”
“It would not have made the slightest difference,” she scolded. “One little lie back when you were a boy- …”
“… and many larger ones when I was a man,” he said wryly.
“So, what will you do when you’ve written down the truth? Publish it for all to see?”
“Perhaps I should. It will be interesting to see how many readers remember the first part.”
Many years ago he had written an account of how he, the son of an innkeeper, came to know Dr David Livesey, and acquired a fortune, and made the acquaintance of many other colourful characters. He and the doctor had been involved in a grand expedition to retrieve the buried treasure of a pirate – Captain Flint, ‘the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that sailed’, as Squire Trelawney had described him. He had set out on the voyage as a young boy looking forward to adventure. By the time he came back he had witnessed murder and betrayal, and had learnt the hard way that sometimes good men must deal with the devil.
He also returned with the ‘one small lie’ on his conscience and it had shaped his life ever since. He had not put the lie into his account, which for want of anything better he had called Treasure Island.
He took up the pen again and held it over the paper. Then he looked pointedly at her until the hint was taken and with a muffled “hmph” she left the room.
And then he began to write.
“Readers of my earlier account might recall a man named Israel Hands. They might have believed that when he died on Treasure Island, that would be the last they heard of him. That was certainly my assumption. I was wrong …”