Authors: Taylor Caldwell
Tags: #Historical, #Classic
Testimony of Two Men
Someday the town of Hambledon might forget the lies they told about their brilliant young doctor. But they could never forgive the truths he told about them.
From this compelling story of a doctor at war with the world he has been taught to heal, Taylor Caldwell has fashioned a novel of an unforgettable, angry idealist — a novel in which the drama of new medical frontiers becomes part of a sweeping chronicle of love, death, desire, and redemption.
She wore nothing but a long cotton nightgown. Her hair tumbled down her back and her blue eyes were wide with fright.
“I thought you had gone!”
“Jenny!” he said, and took a step toward her.
She retreated, crossing her arms across her breasts. She had never seemed so beautiful to him, nor so desirable, as in her present disheveled state.
He took another step toward her. She fell back, but he caught her wrists and pulled her to him. She tried to resist. He bent over her and tried to kiss her, but she swung her face away from him and her soft black hair swept over his face. Then she was very still, no longer struggling.
Suddenly, wildly, she came to life. Both her hands were on his shoulders, pushing him away. Her eyes were a furious blue blaze of hatred and her teeth were clenched.
“Murderer!” she shouted. “Murderer!”
TESTIMONY OF TWO MEN
A Fawcett Crest Book reprinted by arrangement with Doubleday and Company, Inc.
Copyright © 1968 by Reback & Reback
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
Dedicated with respect and admiration to the memories of those men, who, like Jonathan Terrier, suffered so much and fought so hard to bring us modern medicine’s blessings.
I first heard this story of “Jonathan Ferrier” when I was a little girl, and I heard it from our family physician.
The history of medicine has its martyrs as well as the history of religion. Though many know the Saints who died for them, by name, few know the names of the physicians who lived and fought for them, and who were as dedicated to humanity as the Saints themselves.
Few know the names of the men who brought asepsis to modern hospitals, and immunology, yet millions of us now living would not be alive now except for those men. Millions of diabetics are following healthy and productive lives because of insulin—but how many know the name of the man who saved them? Children are now in school who would have died except for the men who formulated vaccines for diphtheria and smallpox and poliomyelitis, but how many remember them?
Scores of these heroes suffered ignominy, exile, ridicule and dishonor to save us. Some were driven mad and to suicide. Yet, they persisted.
Among them was the man, always unknown to me, but whom I have named “Jonathan Ferrier” in this book. If he seems somewhat excessive and bellicose, he was fighting for the lives of all of us who were born, as I was born, in the twentieth century. He was one of thousands, unwept, unhonored and unsung, and remembered, perhaps, only by God.
It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.
When young Robert Sylvester Morgan had occasion to write his mother, he always made what he wryly called “a first draft.” This was done on foolscap paper (he had been taught thrift) and then recopied on a better grade, where he could use his elegant Spencerian—which he loathed—in a way to please his mother, and in words and phrases which would not startle her.
“June 8th, 1901
Hambledon, Pennsylvania Quaker Hotel
(He paused. Why in hell wouldn’t she let him call her Mother? “Mama,” at his age, for God’s sake!)
“You will be happy to know that matters have culminated successfully since I arrived here a week ago. Hambledon is a beautiful town of about twenty-five thousand people, not to be compared with Philadelphia, of course, but adequate and lively.” (After a moment’s thought he crossed out the last word and substituted “up-to-date.”) “It is situated on the river, quite broad near at hand, almost a bay, and studded, here and there, with pretty islands. Very picturesque.
“The people are pleasant and friendly and very civil.” (His mother’s pet word.) “There is considerable industry, but it is located near the fringes of the town, so that the air is clear and fresh, an excellent thing for your arthritis and asthma.
Though on the water, the atmosphere seems dry. There appears to be little poverty and the working class is energetic.” (His mother would approve of that!) “The better sections of the town are charming, with broad streets, fine old lawns, magnificent trees—elms, birches, oaks, pine, spruces—and houses which would be considered impressive even in Philadelphia. I have already selected four for your choice and approval, and will take you about to them when you arrive next week. Any of them would delight you.” (Would they? Nothing delighted his mother very much. Perhaps he was being uncharitable, or even irritable. He had never felt this way toward his mother before. He paused to wonder, then shook his head, baffled.)
“Behind the town rises a whole ridge of mountains, inspiring at dawn.” (He had seen the dawn only once this week and then inadvertently, but his mother liked the mention of dawns.) “The very best people live on the lower reaches of the mountains in splendid residences. As for hospitals, the most important things to me at this time, there is one great one, called the Friends’, though it is not exactly Quakerish.” (His mother detested Quakers.) “It is partly town-supported. The other hospital is private and select and very expensive. To be on the staff is something to be coveted.”
Now came the difficult part of the letter, and he gnawed the end of his pen and contemplated the mountains he so admired through the polished window of his neat little room. He finally continued:
“Hambledon’s hospitals serve not only the town but the villages and the farms outside, of course, and have the best of reputations. In fact, the hospitals here would be admired even in Philadelphia or Boston or New York. Very modern.” (He frowned at the last word; his mother could not bear anything “modern.” But he let it remain.) “I confess I was agreeably surprised. I have met a number of physicians and surgeons here, all enlightened men except for a few, and all gentlemen with distinguished reputations. Three are regularly called into consultation in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and even New York, for they are specialists in their field. One of them” (he winced) “is Dr. Jonathan Ferrier, though you may find that hard to believe. But I have read his lectures and his articles in the organ of the American Medical Association, and I can assure you that he is greatly esteemed.”
He wrote faster now: “It is my belief, based on constant association with Dr. Ferrier, that he has been a much-maligned man, and that he was truly innocent of his wife’s death. I need not recall to you that he was forced to demand a change of venue from Hambledon to Philadelphia in order to get a fair trial. But the Philadelphia newspapers were hardly more just than the newspapers in Hambledon. However, as you know, he was acquitted. He has had his license to practice restored, and his place on the staffs of both hospitals. But he is very embittered. He has talked little with me on the matter but quite enough to arouse my own indignation, for have you not always taught me to weigh all things in a proper measure, and objectively?” (A nice touch, there. Please the old girl. I’m becoming a diplomat, he thought.) “I can’t blame him for his resolute decision not to practice in Hambledon any longer. He was once the most popular surgeon in the town, and his family is well-bred, established, wealthy and highly respected. Old settlers.” (His mother loved “old settlers.”) “But you will remember all this was aired in the newspapers. I have met his mother, a great lady though somewhat of an invalid. Mrs. Ferrier is very anxious to meet you and make you welcome.” (A rich lie, but certain to elate his mother.)
“Dr. Ferrier is not certain of his future plans at this time, though he mentioned going abroad for some time. I imagine he will finally settle in New York. He had helped to build up both the hospitals, using his own money lavishly, and was very devoted to The Poor.” (His mother approved of “the poor,” provided they never crossed her path except to furnish her with competent servants.) “He feels that never again can he feel any friendliness for the people of the community, considering their hostility toward him after his young wife’s death, their conviction of his guilt prior to his trial in Philadelphia and during it, and what he calls their ‘disappointment’ when he was acquitted. He was shabbily treated.” (Robert underlined this. His mother, herself, though never having met Dr. Ferrier, had detested him upon reading the newspaper accounts and had been “disappointed,” herself, upon the acquittal. She was still certain he was guilty.)
“Now the town feels very righteous when it accuses him of ‘deserting’ his own people. Some are beginning to remember his devotion to them, the free wards he built, and the excellent nursing schools he insisted on establishing in the hospitals. They cannot understand, they claim, why he wishes to leave them! Is that not a commentary on human nature? I sometimes thought, when I was a child, that you were slightly rigorous concerning human nature, but now I know you were correct.” (That ought to soften her!)
“There are still currents here.” (He stared at these words, pursing up his lips. Then he crossed them out. His mother couldn’t endure “currents” of any kind. She considered them impertinent and ill-bred and not to be countenanced at all. Gentlefolk never had “currents” in their lives. All was serenity —if they were gentlefolk.) He substituted: “Dr. Ferrier’s colleagues have tried to persuade him not to leave, but he is adamant. His mother is neutral on the subject. But his decision is very fortunate for me. We have come to an agreeably mutual decision on the price of his practice, etc. His offices, very large, very handsome, are near his house, where he lives with his mother, and are marvelously well-appointed. He had a telephone extension from his offices to his residence so that he could be called in an emergency and respond without delay. He now refuses all petitions except from old patients who stood by him during his unfortunate trouble.
“One of the houses I have in mind for us is near those offices, so it will be most convenient for me when I set up practice here. Dr. Ferrier has already introduced me to the most influential doctors and other citizens, and at the cost of modesty I must admit that they appeared to approve of me and my credentials, though this will be my first practice. They were impressed that I interned at Johns Hopkins. They had many searching talks with me! I feel certain that I said and did nothing to arouse doubt in them.
“The rent Dr. Ferrier has asked of me for the offices is most reasonable. I am sure you will be pleased. All in all, I feel extraordinarily lucky in obtaining this practice, though you would have preferred that I practice in Philadelphia. But when you see Hambledon, and breathe its delightful fresh air, and meet the ladies of the town, and understand my good fortune, you will feel reconciled. A young doctor in Philadelphia, in his first practice, has a miserable time-—as I have discovered. Jealousy on the part of established doctors is not unknown in Philadelphia; they are very proud of their prerogatives. I did not meet with this attitude in Hambledon. They welcomed me, though they remain stiff with Dr. Ferrier because of his decision to leave them. Their position seems to be, ‘We have forgiven you. Why can’t you forgive us?’ I find that very unreasonable. Do you not think so?” (Of course, she wouldn’t think so. She would consider it very magnanimous on the part of the other physicians and surgeons to “forgive” Dr. Ferrier for a crime he had not committed, and she would also consider his rejection of them as “unpardonable.” What’s wrong with me lately? young Dr. Morgan asked of himself. I never had these thoughts of my mother before I came here; I was always the dutiful son, saying, “Yes, Mama, you are quite right, Mama,” when I knew damn well, in my heart, that the old girl was not only a prig but somewhat stupid, too, and pretentious.)
“I have already rented a fine rig with two spirited black horses.” (He crossed out the “spirited” and replaced it with a less disturbing word.) “Dr. Ferrier rarely uses any vehicles around the town since his acquittal. He rides horseback and has a wonderful stable of his own.”