Kill or Curare - a historical novel of crime and conspiracy, featuring Oscar Wilde and his decadent friends - by Nigel Woodhead
fin de siècle romp, a play within a play, performed in the round...
Available online in ebook formats,
|May 1897. Wit and homosexual playwright
Oscar Wilde, just released from two years in prison, arrives in Dieppe,
Normandy, under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth. Notorious,
disgraced, suicidal. Bent on vengeance against the society figures who
have ruined him, including the mad Marquis of Queensbury... On the same ferry
is Captain Drake Hastings, sent by Prime Minister Lord Salisbury,
ostensibly to “protect national interests”, and to investigate
conspiracies amongst the large British ex-pat community in Dieppe.
Hastings soon discovers there is far worse beneath the skin of the chic
resort than mere political intrigue: against a “Naughty Nineties”
backdrop of disease and drugs, of vice and violence, a serial killer
appears to be responsible for the abductions and murders of several
English prostitutes working in the town, as well as the bumbling detectives sent by
mysterious third parties. Both the English and French authorities are
strangely keen to cover up these crimes. Crimes which echo those of the
Jack the Ripper murders of 1888, and yet others Hastings recalls from his
tour of duty in India. Why was he chosen for this dangerous mission?
Why was he chosen for this dangerous mission?
The plot develops during the summer social Season, the period leading up
to Oscar Wilde’s departure for Paris. Hastings infiltrates Wilde’s
coterie of decadent, bohemian writers and artists, aided by the eccentric
Doctor Dinan, and by paranoid painter, Walter Sickert. He meets Lady
Middenware (a “Society hostess” and friend of Lord Salisbury, but also
madam of the town’s most exclusive "maison close" - English
brothel!) He has a torrid
affair with her adopted “niece”, Alice. A drug addict like her aunt,
Alice lives in a dream world of fictional vampire tales. She despises the
“Dirty Girls” who work in her aunt’s “Academy for Unfortunate
Young Ladies”, but is equally jealous of their freedom (especially the
sultry Faith, who also seduces Hastings). A network of white slavery
is revealed... masonic rivalries... and two illegitimate children of
the Prince of Wales.
A network of white slavery is revealed... masonic rivalries... and two illegitimate children of the Prince of Wales.
This dark, underground novel features a host of historical characters - decadent writers and artists including Audbrey Beardsley, Walter Sickert, Arthur Symons, Enoch Soames, Charles Conder and Leonard Smithers, plus HRH Edward the Prince of Wales. Within a handful of years most of them will be dead, though maybe not from natural causes...
With constant echoes of Wilde's obsession, the Salomé myth, and all of its black magic connotations... Not to mention Aleister Crowley's satanic Golden Dawn society, in which more and more of the players are incriminated. Shades of Dracula and eastern myths of the Arabian Nights, the goddess Isis and Alexander the Great...
All of the key characters have secrets, critical personality faults – addictions, amnesia, perversions, money problems, madness - making each of them credible, motivated suspects for blackmail and murder. Several casually use hard drugs, poisons even, for pleasure or as patent medicines. And the summer passes in an alcoholic haze...
Captain Hastings struggles to unravel a series of red herrings and perplexing, symbolic clues. Do the killers want to incriminate themselves with their trail of bloody corpses? Or someone else? It soon becomes clear that Hastings himself is a flawed hero with a murky mandate. A man with a secret past related to his service in the Hussars in India, and who doses himself daily with arsenic, against malaria. He realises he has been sent to play a part in a plot for which he is not prepared - but who are its authors? What are the political motives of those around him anarchists, Irish Republicans, French royalists.... A multi-layered plot to assassinate Queen Victoria and her Government, during the Jubilee celebrations, and to undermine the British Empire.
Hastings' sometimes clumsy attempts to use new forensic techniques result in several false leads, but finally the psychological profile of a killer emerges - a murderer with a macabre track record that goes back years - to Whitechapel in 1888. Many of the characters have motives to kill, but the novel ends by revealing a convincing portrait of the Ripper, a man perverted by a history of narcotic abuse and casual familiarity with death. A haunting study of desperate men, desire, and fear.
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|Page count||245 A4 pages (Acrobat)|
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Free Sample Chapter from "Kill or Curare"
The former Hotel des Passagers lay on one of the town's quieter streets, at
the foot of the hill that led up to the chateau. Only a few minutes walk from
the Café des Tribunaux, where Hastings had already taken a hearty second
breakfast with Dinan. A discreet brass plaque beside the door announced the
hotel's more recently acquired identity, as Lady Middenware's Academy for
Unfortunate Young Gentlewomen.
"One should never arrive too early at such a house," commented the doctor, as they stood outside the hotel. Hastings pulled out his pocket watch, noting that it was almost midday, a quite respectable hour for visiting most addresses.
"Some say that this is one of the most luxurious hotels in all of France," Dinan continued. "In the French sense of the word, of course." He chuckled wickedly.
"The word hotel?" queried Hastings.
"No, the word luxury, which in French means sin," said Dinan. A couple of maids came along the side of the house, carrying linen baskets. "You see, the day's half gone, and they haven't made the beds yet," he added, as if vindicated. "They are supposed to change the laundry daily," he explained. "Something the mayor insists on. He is most proud of the town's brothels, especially those frequented by our distinguished colonists."
"Are there many local patrons?" asked Hastings.
Dinan laughed. "Each establishment here has its own preferred clientele. The locals tend to prefer the Hotel des Templiers, behind the pleasure port. The girls there are more rotund, and many are guests from our own colonies in the Maghreb. There is one called Odile, known to many as the Odalisque…" he sighed. "Ah yes, the parfum mauresque is definitely in vogue this season."
Dinan mounted the Academy's steps and knocked at the door. "You may be quite surprised, but here all the girls are from your own country," he confided. "As with food, tastes are not the same, it appears. Each tends to prefer familiar flavours. Even the artists and adventurers. Of course, the genius of Lady Middenware was to rename the hotel as the Academy, to which gentlemen may come under the guise of charitable benefactors wishing to make donations." He chuckled to himself, as if he had said something of great wit.
A heavily set man in dark clothes opened the door and greeted them impassively. "Visite Medicale, I suppose. Is it that time of the month already, doctor?"
"Mr Stake, our host," explained Dinan. "Le procureur public," as we say. He laughed at his own joke and turned to Stake. "Monsieur, I have brought you a new visitor, recently arrived from London for the cure."
"Ha, well, there's a fine choice of nursemaids upstairs, gentlemen, and a choice of cures. Do I take it you are here on an official visit today doctor? I see you have your bag."
Dinan nodded. "A correct assumption. I will entrust my young friend to you while I make my tour."
Stake showed Hastings into a large salon, one wall of which was taken up by a long bar. Behind which a series of shelves, stacked with bottles of great variety in size, shape, and colour. A small guillotine stood on the bar, presumably to trim cigars.
Stake noticed Hastings' interest in the liqueurs. "Ah yes, there is so much choice here, sir, one need never get bored. However long a stay in Dieppe your cure requires." He laughed unpleasantly and moved behind the bar, evidently his favoured domain. A glass with amber liquid stood half filled beside his chair. "May I offer you an introductory refreshment, on the house?" he asked. "Seeing as you have such important friends?" There was a rich seam of insincerity in his voice.
Hastings studied the alcohols slowly. "I rarely drink before midday."
"So very wise, sir. Nevertheless…"
"Do you have quinine water?"
"Indeed we do."
"I'm afraid it's hard to get hold of here. I have Byrrh, a French recipe."
"That will have to do then."
"Neat, Sir? Or with a little gin to take the bitterness away?"
"A dash of gin then, and some lime if you have it."
Stake prepared the drink, stirring it studiously with a long-handled silver spoon, an action that resulted in a fierce effervescence.
The room was bordered by high bookshelves, some of which were secured with cages and locks and appeared to contain large, leather-bound volumes.
Hastings noticed that they were not alone in the salon. In one corner of the room, protruding from behind a copious, high-backed chair he could see a pair of legs, wearing striped trousers.
"That'll be our Mister Smithers," nodded Stake. "The Ambassador of Bohemia, as he's known. One of our most generous benefactors." He gave a low throaty laugh. "Spends the night here sometimes, if he's had one or two too many - drinks that is." He winked suggestively at Hastings. "Knows the tragic histories of all our poor girls here. Intimately."
Hastings took his drink and moved slowly across the room towards the bookshelves and the armchairs. Smithers opened his eyes and blinked in surprise at the daylight. A plump, rather boyish face, though he had the stout figure of a country squire in his forties. In another context he could have passed for a priest perhaps - though at present he was wearing a bright red turban, and a vivid yellow smoking jacket. A bottle of emerald liquid stood on the table beside him, together with a silver bowl of lump sugar, and an ashtray in urgent need of emptying. Copies of several London magazines - The Strand, Punch, The Tatler - lay scattered on the table and nearby chairs. A monocle swung loosely from a thread attached to Smithers' buttonhole. The colours of his clothing swarmed angrily together.
Smithers cleared his throat. "How do you do, Sir?" he said. He held out a chubby hand, but did not rise. "Leonard Smithers, sometime solicitor, and more recently publisher of esoterica and erotica."
Hastings grasped Smithers' hand, which he found was unpleasantly damp. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir."
"Are you a writer or an artist?" asked Smithers, twisting the monocle into place over his left eye. "If you don't mind me presuming, that is."
"Neither, sir. I am a soldier on sick leave, here for the cure."
Smithers raised an eyebrow and cocked his head. "A soldier, eh. Well, there are plenty of those as well, though mostly put out to pension. Forgive me, most of the fellows we meet here have some pretensions to the science of Aesthetics."
"These premises must be quite inspiring, for scientists," ventured Hastings. "Or for philanthropists."
Smithers roared with laughter at the last remark. "Ha! There are plenty of would-be Muses, here, that's for sure. And not a few Femmes Fatales, to boot." He leaned forward, gripping the arms of the chair. "In fact I am here with a mind to commission one of those new photographer types, to produce a collection of tableaux plastiques, as the French would have it. There is a ready market for bacchanalian landscapes in certain circles, you know. French prints, if you know what I mean."
"Indeed! It sounds a most intriguing and original project. I wish you luck."
Smithers raised his glass, not quite empty from the previous night it seemed. "Anyway, the day is well advanced already, by the look of things. Here's to 'absinthe friends'! Actually, do you have the time?"
Hastings told him that it was midday, at which he seemed mildly surprised.
"Ah, if only for a single day in the sea of time we could cast our anchors, as the poet says, eh? Never mind, the others should be here soon." Smithers clicked his fingers to attract Stake's attention, and ordered some fresh coffee and brandy.
He turned back to Hastings, and eyed him appraisingly. "I won't ask you how you found this establishment, but you've come to the right place," he said. "It is by far the best club in town, for our sort. Discreet, a good choice of jolly girls. I know Stake's a bit sour at times, but he knows how to prepare the apparatus, and he keeps a decent cellar. Far better than the municipal bordello in any case. I don't know where they dredge their trollops up from, but frankly they reek as if they're yesterday's catch. And speaking of catching things, well, need I elaborate? As Melmoth says, abhorrent whores and worse wines. Avoid it like the plague. If you will..." He belched effusively.
Stake brought Smithers' refreshments, lingered for a tip that was not forthcoming, and retired moodily to his bar.
"Stake's a solid fellow," Smithers went on. "Never mind his funereal dress sense. They say he used to be a butcher. Knows a things or two about meat I'll grant him that. How to get hold of fresh young fillies, if you follow me. Did you know the French eat horsemeat, by the way?"
"No, how is it?" asked Hastings, his cavalry officer's sensibilities more than a little challenged by the last remark.
"Not bad with fried eggs, actually. Beats bacon, not that you can get it here. Wouldn't mind a spot of breakfast, now I think of it." He looked around for Stake, who seemed otherwise distracted by the sound of new arrivals at the door.
A few moments later the sound of raised voices from the hallway. A group of men entered the salon. Hastings recognised most of them as the companions of the bohemian gentleman, Melmoth, who had shared the same crossing on the packboat. Indeed, the man himself was at their midst.
"Morning chaps, this is Mister Hastings, a new boy." said Smithers as they drew close. "Sent down for the summer vacation, for bad behaviour," he added.
The men exchanged handshakes and bland pleasantries.
"Nice of you to come and 'Brighton' up our club, Hastings," quipped one of the companions, a man with brooding eyes and a bushy moustache.
"This is Arthur Symons," indicated Smithers, gesturing rather wildly in his direction. "The Gentleman of Verlainia."
"A pleasure," acknowledged Hastings. Symons bowed theatrically.
Smithers pointed to the next man, tall, with angular features on a long, rather lop-sided face, topped off with a foppish, rather overgrown pudding-bowl haircut. Striking, surely, but far from handsome.
"And our former colleague in publishing, the acclaimed illustrator, Mister Aubrey Beardsley," continued Smithers.
"Former? You make it sound as though I am deceased," complained Beardsley. He nodded at Hastings and held out a strangely hairy hand.
"Then, like Mister Twain, the rumours are unfounded, it seems," said Smithers. "I heard you had been unwell though?"
Beardsley scowled. "Never felt better," he grunted, and began to cough almost at once.
Another man had just entered the salon, looking flustered. Smithers held out an arm in introduction. "And not forgetting the diabolical Ernest Dowson here, poet and, well, you'll find out for yourself soon enough." Smithers was now indicating a serious looking man, less in stature, with a close-cropped blonde moustache."
"Ernest by name, and earnest by nature," added Beardsley, gasping. "And we mustn't underestimate the importance of being…"
"Yes, alright, we've heard it before, save your breath," interrupted Dowson, grinning thinly through a line of cracked yellow teeth. "How tiresome you become, Aubrey, dear. Decease at once, I pray you."
"Yes, be deceased at once," hissed Smithers, smiling wickedly.
Hastings noticed that one member of the group had taken a seat away from the others. He was flicking through the pages of a copy of Punch, his mouth down-turned in an expression of obvious distaste.
"And this is our charming Canadian chum, Robbie Ross," continued Smithers, pointing at the man in question, and ignoring the bickering that had broken out between the others.
Ross looked up from the magazine and grinned sheepishly. A young, round face, lips rather too full.
"And finally, our most illustrious acquaintance, only recently arrived like yourself, Mister Sebastian Melmoth."
"I see you are not familiar with the name," said Melmoth, who today was wearing a dark green frock coat, a bow tie that did not quite match, and a wide brimmed fedora in navy blue -with a matching silk bow tied around it. Hastings recognised the particular shade of tartan from which his trousers were cut as that normally reserved for the Black Watch. His briefing had not mentioned Melmoth having a military background, however.
"I must admit…"
"It is a nom de plume, of course," explained Beardsley.
"For England's foremost man of belles lettres," added Symons.
"Gentlemen, please," Melmoth waved a hand dismissively in the air. "Vanity is all in vain. Former might be a better adjective than foremost, I fear." He sidled up to Hastings. "Lord Hastings appears in Richard III, if I am not mistaken," he observed. "Tried to protect the princes in the Tower. Came to a sticky end. Once knew a man of that name myself. No relation I suppose."
"None that I know of, sir," replied Hastings. But Melmoth appeared to have lost interest in the conversation already and had begun to browse through the scattered magazines, muttering distractedly to himself.
Symons rubbed his hands together, and moved a little closer. Hastings found himself disliking the man at once. "Welcome to our Penal Colony," said Symons. He gestured to his friends. "Libertines and libertarians, to a man. I emphasise the word penal, of course." He chuckled. "Rhymes with venal."
"Don't you mean penile, rhymes with vile?" suggested Dowson.
"Call yourselves poets," sneered Beardsley. "Leper colony more like." He scratched feverishly at some kind of boil on his neck. "What were you sent down for anyway, don't mind me asking, do you?"
"I'm here for the cure," said Hastings.
This was met with general laughter, bordering on derision.
"Kill or cure," quipped Beardsley. "Doctor's orders."
"Oh yes, I couldn't agree more," said Symons. "We are all lepers here, in the social sense that is."
At that moment an older gentleman entered the salon, adjusting his coat. He glared in the direction of the other men, his frown accentuated by a scar, the kind one acquires on the duelling field, that ran from the corner of his mouth across his left cheek. He had a hooked nose, swollen and red at the tip. In the way only years of whisky-drinking could do, thought Hastings. As if to confirm this, the man turned his back and made straight for the bar.
"I trust everything was satisfactory, Colonel Roche?" asked Stake.
The colonel ignored him, helped himself from a bottle, and walked over to the window as if to admire the gardens. No sooner there, he turned abruptly towards Hastings, quite ignoring Smithers, Melmoth and their friends. "New face in town, eh?" he enquired. "Just off the boat? Certainly found your way here fast enough. Sportsman are you?"
"I played polo for my regiment, sir, in India."
"Been meaning to get a team up against the French. The gendarmerie have a few fellows who know how to ride, after a fashion. Know anything about golf? There's a new club up on the clifftops. Splendid views of passing shipping."
"If polo is the sport of kings, golf is the sport of cads," proclaimed Melmoth from across the room.
"Don't you mean caddies?" retorted Smithers.
Roche glared at them. "Mind what company you fall into," he confided to Hastings, wagging a finger as he retreated towards the bar.
"Dieppe is full of pensionnaires," said Smithers. "Half the retired officers of the Army and Navy Club come here in summer. You can stay in one of the seafront hotels if you like to open the satin curtains and look out over the Channel. Otherwise half-board in a bawdy house, if you'll excuse the pun, will cost you about the same. Sharper air than London or Paris, and rather more discreet. Breakfast and a pretty French maid in a starched pinafore thrown in."
"And we all know how much you like to tip the maid, Lennie" added Symons. "Over the back of the sofa." He mimed the vulgar scene.
"Some call it Versailles-en-mer", the seaside palace," Smithers went on. "Of course they are referring to the social life and the public architecture. But it could apply equally to the scandalous way the beau monde carries on behind the curtains."
"And no one minds at all if you ask for a shot of brandy in your morning coffee," added Dowson. "Speaking of which…" he turned towards the bar.
Smithers rose to his feet and straightened his crumpled clothing. "So here we all are, just like old times," he mused. Our summer quarters, away from the Great Stink."
A couple of the girls drifted past the door to the salon, giggling alluringly. Smithers stared after them. "At any rate," he concluded, "It makes a change from Holywell Street and Bedford Square. Cheaper rents and a better view." He grinned, lasciviously. "I say, anyone else fancy swinging their anchors upstairs?"
"My, my, boys! What a hot day it is already," exclaimed a sultry, female voice. All eyes turned towards the doorway. "I may have to go and lie down," she continued, wiping her forehead with the back of a hand.
Hastings recognised the same girl who he had seen reclining on the couch in Sickert's studio. She was dressed, if indeed that was the right word, in a diaphanous toga, from which one breast protruded proudly. She wore a gilt coronet which curved up into a cobra's hood at the front. She caught Hastings' gaze, and held it. "Fancy seeing you here, mister. Thought you was one of those bleeding art critics. We could make a pretty portrait together, too, if you have the inclination." The apparent Queen of Sheba drew heavily on her cigarette and blew the smoke into the centre of the room, assisting it with the aid of an ornate ivory fan which she flapped languidly with her other hand.
A number of ribald encouragements flew in Hastings' general direction.
"She's quite a connoisseur of the certain arts herself," remarked Smithers.
"Here's to her bleeding 'eart," proposed Dowson, raising his glass with practised vigour.
"Here in this house it is easy to have Faith, but there is no Hope whatsoever of Charity," exclaimed Symons.
"Well said, philosopher," said Melmoth. Turning to Faith, he continued. "If we manage, as I hope, to mount a production of my latest play in the theatre, you my dear shall play the leading role, as Salomé."
"Charmed, I am sure," replied Faith. "Will I get to do some dancing?"
"Oh absolutely." Melmoth turned back to his friends. "Do you not think she has some resemblance to the delightful Miss Bernhardt, Our Lady of the Camelias?" asked Melmoth of his friends. Beardsley sighed deeply at this allusion, and held his hands over his heart.
"Her hair's all wrong, and she's got a bit more on the haunches, but I see what you mean," said Smithers, squinting lecherously at Faith through his monocle.
"She reminds me of a statue I once saw in the Ashmolean," continued Melmoth, as if Faith were not present. "If only all women, all wives could be like that."
"The Ideal Wife, eh?" interrupted Dowson. "Do you think the soul of a sculpture comes from the eye of the sculptor, or from the quality of the marble he uses?"
Melmoth considered his response. "An issue I once touched upon in discussion with the great philosopher and fellow dramatist George Bernard Shaw. What do you think would happen if you took a woman, he asked me, and educated her on say, Greats, or popular novels, for a month or two. Could you make her into an ideal consort? Fit for a king, say?"
"Could you, d'you suppose?" asked Symons, eagerly.
"It is an experiment they have been trying at Oxford and Cambridge for some years now," replied Melmoth. "Though lamentably they seem to have omitted all the traditional arts and sciences of the hearth goddess from their curriculum. Cooking, embroidery, and so on." He paused for his audience to make appreciative laughter.
"What if we tried the same experiment on Faith here?" speculated Smithers, running his tongue over his lips. "I'd venture that a diet of my own publications would be far more suitable material for encouraging nuptial qualities. We could make a proper courtesan out of her, at the very least."
"Perhaps we should make a wager out of it," suggested Dowson.
"To be truly scientific we would need to take two twins, as Emperor Frederick Barbarossa often did," said Symons. "Though he had the unfortunate habit of cutting them apart at the end of the experiment so that he could poke around in their entrails."
"Sounds rather fun," simpered Beardsley, before the others glared him into silence.
Faith continued to blow smoke into the room, as if unaware of the conversation. Evidently she was used to being talked about like merchandise, thought Hastings.
"My material would be more pictorial, of course, and thus easier to understand, if you follow me," said Smithers.
"I can read, you know," interjected Faith.
Smithers seemed somewhat taken aback. The others laughed. "What would you say if we could find you a wealthy husband, my dear?" he asked.
"As long as he's young and handsome enough, or old and in poor health, and rich in either case, I don't suppose I'd turn down his proposal," said Faith.
"Then I will tutor this young lady," announced Smithers. "You must find another for your curriculum," he said to Melmoth. And Arthur here will be the referee."
"You have until the end of the Season to find a match for your protégées," declared Symons. May the best match win."
"And the loser shall buy a case of champagne for all," suggested Dowson.
"Do I have carte blanche to choose the girl in question?" asked Melmoth.
"So long as she is one of Lady Middenware's protégées," declared Smithers.
"So be it," said Melmoth, chuckling. "But must a marriage actually occur?"
"Let's say a union in the widest possible sense," suggested Symons. "The gentleman's rank to determine the winner. Union with a prince or reigning monarch to result in an immediate victory, I think."
"Agreed. Let's drink to it."
Hastings glanced around the room, and noticed that the colonel had taken advantage of the diversion to beat a rapid retreat towards safe ground - elsewhere.
At that point Doctor Dinan entered the room, looking even more flustered than usual.
"May I enquire if everything was in order, Doctor," enquired Stake.
"Effectively I must have a word with you in private, monsieur," muttered Dinan, ushering Stake out into the hallway with him.
A frenzy of whispering, punctuated by giggles and gasps overwhelmed Melmoth's coterie.
"The winged god Mercury will be paying house calls with dolorous tidings, I fear," said Beardsley.
"Time for Stake to clean out the stables again," added Smithers.
"You should be worried, Smithers," jibed Symons. "I hear you've been taking riding lessons with more than one of the young fillies."
"Giving them actually," retorted Smithers, reddening. "And as my rides have rarely been saddled before, no, I see no reason for disquiet. You however…" He raised an eyebrow and sneered down at the other man.
"I think that under the circumstances Mister Stake might prepare us all a round of something medicinal, say strychnine and lemonades, on the house," suggested Dowson.
Stake had just returned to the bar from his conversation with Dinan. He looked worried. "If you'll just give a few moments I'll see what I can do. Did anyone see the colonel leave?"
"Just a minute ago," confirmed Hastings.
"Damn!" cursed Stake. He and Dinan exchanged glances.
"I think he may have gone for a round of golf," added Hastings.
"How many holes can he fill in one day, I wonder," sniggered Dowson. A comment that was met with general contempt as being just a little too below the belt, as sportsmen of the Queensbury persuasion might have put it. "And now he's left in his horse and trap," he added.
"With a damn good dose of the clap," declared Smithers, as if any further explanation were needed.
Dinan nodded to Hastings that it was time to go. Hastings bid farewell to his new acquaintances, who were already engrossed in ambitious plans for an afternoon of memorable depravity.
As Hastings left the room he was conscious of Faith following him with her eyes. He turned back briefly and she mouthed something to him. Outside Dinan was rather more forthcoming. "One of the girls is showing signs of infection, of the worst kind. She is suffering from paralysie générale des aliénés or dementia paralytica," he confided.
"And I understand that a client has been seeing her quite regularly. Colonel Roche?"
"That would be him. I see you have wasted no time in making the acquaintance of fellow warriors."
"Indeed, though I did not have time to ask him with which regiment he served, or where. So he may have caught this disease?"
"You assume that the girl is the one at fault, monsieur. An all too common attitude, I am afraid, and symptomatic of a general arrogance which is at the root of the problem."
Hastings blinked. "Of course, you are right, doctor."
Dinan smiled. "Regrettably we cannot cure them all, however. Neither of their sins nor of their diseases. I can treat them, if they consent, but it is far from agréable. Mercury. It poisons the blood, and maddens the brain, almost as bad as the infection itself. Sometimes a course of treatment is as unpleasant as it is effective."
Hastings shuddered. The side effects of his arsenic pills were quite unpalatable enough.
"But medicine and science are advancing so rapidement," Dinan went on, "that I am quite optimistic that the new century will offer new medicines, and perhaps even cures, to scourge us of our ancient curses."
"Then the new century cannot dawn too quickly," said Hastings.
"Let us hope God gives us all grace to see it," said Dinan, sanctimoniously. "In the mean time, I have some ladies to visit at the other end of town. Good day, Hastings. Do try to stay out of trouble's way yourself."
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Conspiracy Theories - selected printed books, delivered direct
Amazing Vintage Medical Devices, Ads & Illustrations - PDF Ebook / Slideshow Album
A digital collection of well over 100 bizarre antique surgical devices, adverts for eye-raising patent medicines and quack tonics, antique anatomical and surgical engravings, macabre old drawings, Victorian pathology photo plates, diseases, complaints, infections, freaks, medical procedures, etc. "Kill or Cure..." Great historical, academic (and morbid humor) interest! B&W and early color-tint images from original old US and European sources - textbooks, journals, etc. Infectious and congenital illnesses of yesteryear (now largely treatable or preventable) include scurvy, gout, syphilis, goitre... This ebook anthology is supplied as a PDF file for Acrobat Reader, with autoroll "slideshow" functionality and random transition effects between the images. Also includes tasters from some of our other recent titles! (Most of these images can also be supplied individually at high resolution quality, suitable for print reproduction or other professional presentations. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
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