Excerpts: The Passions of Dr. Darcy
A random selection of excerpts from The Passions of Dr. Darcy. Chapter Five can be read on The Writers Block.
“Is this a deep interest of yours, Dr. Ullas? I could acquire letters and texts on the subject for you.”
Dr. Ullas shook his head. “It is not a prime area of interest, Dr. Darcy, although I appreciate the offer.” He shut the book and tucked it into the pocket of his flowing robe. “Divining the entity that causes a disease is important and perhaps someday there shall be names for all of these organisms and scientist shall know their function. When they do, I hope to hear of it. But I personally do not care to stare into a microscope all day long. My old back cannot handle that.”
“My young back likes it no better. I have a fascination for chemistry and have a laboratory in Bombay. Primarily it is to relieve my boredom, and I do enjoy it to a degree, but after too long, I want to throw the tubes against a wall.” George smiled sourly and the edge of bitterness was audible.
“It is a matter of only so much time in one’s life, I suppose. I treat illness and search for modalities to aid in the course of healing. After thirty years, I have accepted that this is a worthy endeavor to absorb my mind.”
George removed the dirty slides and wiped the microscope with a soft cloth. “Let others perform the research. Like you I prefer to be at the bedside with the patient. Of course, discerning the causes of all disease would make our job much easier.” George winked as he handed the microscope to Dr. Ullas, who laughed as he took the instrument and began carefully wrapping it with a thick wool cloth.
“Indeed. Although there would still be injuries from accidents, so somehow I doubt physicians shall ever be useless.”
Dr. Ullas slipped the fragile bundle into a sturdy box, concentrating on the task of securing it for safe travel, as George leaned against the table and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I envy you, Dr. Ullas. You have traveled widely and amassed a wealth of knowledge. In my short time here, I have seen how you apply skills that are amazing yet foreign to me. It must give you great happiness to have accomplished what you have.”
The Indian doctor turned his gaze to George, his brown eyes intense but unreadable. He said nothing for a full minute and George began to squirm under the scrutiny. Finally the silence was broken with a question.
“What would you say is your greatest fault, Dr. Darcy?”
George’s left brow rose at the unexpected query, and he hesitated half a second before answering truthfully, “Arrogance.”
But Dr. Ullas shook his head, his eyes locked on George’s face. “No. That is not your fault. Arrogance in your case is earned and a strength. Annoying to some, I am sure, but a strength. You are skilled, Dr. Darcy. More than you realize, I think, which having been told this, will increase your arrogance.” He did not smile, the words not meant as a jest. “No, your fault is impatience. And unbelief, I think.”
When George did not respond, Dr. Ullas again broke the silence with a question. “Are you a religious man, Dr. Darcy?”
“I was raised in the Church and my father is extremely devout—”
“No,” Dr. Ullas interrupted with a dismissive wave of his hand. “You English are all raised in the Church. Usually it means nothing to you.”
He stepped closer, his eyes intimate in an odd way that was both disturbing and exhilarating. “Your reasons for coming to India are your own, Dr. Darcy, and I am not invalidating them. Call it fate, God—yours or mine—or some other happenstance. It makes no difference to me. Just believe that you are meant to be here and that it may not be for the reasons you think brought you here. Believe that you are on the path of your destiny, including meeting me. Believe that fully, open your soul to the truth, and then you shall learn patience. Only then will you discover what happiness is.”
~ * ~ * ~
“No, Komali!” George leapt to his feet. “Stand in front of the wickets… the post things, yes… that’s a girl. Now get ready… no, don’t look at me! Watch the bowler… Yes!” He whooped when she hit the ball, clapping and shouting encouragement to run. “Ah, that girl is going to be the best player of them all, mark my words. She already has beaten Nimesh in sprinting speed, to his annoyance.”
“That must be why he was dashing up and down the hall yesterday. Raveena banished him to his room for making such a clatter. Humility will serve him well, especially after taunting Sahib Dutta’s daughters for not being able to read as well as he.”
“Underestimating the worth of a woman will not be a fault of his for long.” George resumed his place on the chair and stretched his bare legs across to a terra-cotta planter, casually crossing his ankles on the wide edge. “He sees you trounce me at chess often enough to know women have keen intellects.”
“Winning a game of chess with you is not all that difficult.”
“Oh ho ho! Methinks I detect an insult and challenge in those words, Mrs. Ullas! I believe a rematch is in order!”
“Are you sure your pride can take such a hit twice in one day, Dr. Darcy?”
“Probably not, so it is fortunate for my bruised ego that I will not be able to test myself until tomorrow. I am due to meet your husband in an hour,” he explained when she looked up from the plate she was painting, teasing eyes asking a silent question. “We are performing the surgery on Bai Dalmiya. That will take all afternoon and part of the evening, but tomorrow I should have time to redeem myself and prove my superiority. Be warned.”
“Noted. So that is why you feigned exhaustion and quit the cricket field?”
“Partly feigned. They do possess a stamina I wish I could bottle in some way.” Pausing for another deep drink of the sweet juice, George smilingly observed the playing youths for several minutes. “I have decided that my favorite sound in all the world is that of children laughing. Remember when we were discussing that and you suggested I discover it?”
“I do.” Jharna sat the paintbrush aside and turned her attention to her companion. “It was nearly three years ago. You said you had to think about it, which is wise. One’s favorite sound above all others is not to be hastily decided, although it may change as one grows older. Why children’s laughter?”
George shrugged. “Oh, I could name a hundred reasons, but the simple fact is that no other sound gives me such joy.” He met her thoughtful stare. “Now I have told you. What is your favorite sound in all the world, Jharna?”
Smiling smugly and cocking her head, she replied, “That is my secret.”
“Hey! Not fair! I told you!”
“I never asked you to tell me. I recommended the exercise as part of your life journey. Whether you share the revelation or not is your prerogative. I choose not to.”
“You are a damned infuriating woman, Jharna Ullas. Do you know that?”
“I am a woman,” she stated simply, smug smile intact.
George glowered for a few more seconds then chuckled and shook his head. Conversation with Kshitij’s wife was never boring
~ * ~ * ~
Father, I wish I had traveled through the Great Rann of Kutch before I visited so that I could have described the wildlife. I am convinced you would have begged for your whittling knives no matter how weak your hands and undoubtedly managing better than I, despite the fact that I am seeing them in vivid reality. My novice figurines of flamingo, caracal, nilgai, and Indian ass khur are not bad but nothing compared to what you would have created. I am practicing, and the demoiselle crane I finished yesterday was an improvement. I never thought myself all that intrigued by nature, but these past few years have exposed me to wonders of flora and fauna unimaginable. Hours slide by with me transfixed by the scenery and teeming wildlife.
Since I last wrote, after our visit to Kalo Dungar—I am yet in awe over the panoramic view from atop the Black Hill and the temple of Dattatreya—we have been on small boats, floating with the currents on the Rann and continuing our trek inland—when there are currents, that is. The marshland is at its highest water level now that the monsoons are past, but the mudflats and islets are numerous, impeding the forward momentum. We often move at a snail’s pace with the boatman propelling us along. When that fails, we walk or ride. We are not trying to stray far from the land and stop frequently as we encounter the villages that are our purpose for being here. Always we are welcomed with enthusiasm, our medical skills happily embraced and put to the test. I have not seen so many strange fevers and infected wounds in all my previous travels. The air is a breeding ground for bizarre illnesses! At the same time, it is a breeding ground for unique herbs and flora, many of which have medicinal qualities that the local healers use. It is dubious medicine at best but as I have learned gems of amazing treatments can be uncovered in the strangest of places. I won’t bore you with those facts here, since they are in my medical logs, but suffice to say I am endlessly fascinated and learning daily. When I am not miserable and wallowing in periods of gloominess, that is. If it is not raining, it is unbearably hot and humid. I have grown accustomed to the heat of India, but this is taking it to a whole new dimension. I know it would shock you, Father, but wearing anything more than a loincloth is intolerable. Being three-quarters naked does help, but the flip side is that my English skin reacts badly to the sun. And the biting insects adore me. The natives laugh at me as they kindly provide the salves that soothe and protect. Even Anoop is laughing at my grousing, not that he does so in an obvious way. Now that I have a constant tan underneath, the damage is lessening and I am adapting. McIntyre has it far worse than me. His Scottish skin refuses to acclimate in the slightest. Thank goodness it was his idea to accompany us, or I doubt he would ever forgive me! As it is, he has perfected a glower that would slay a lesser man, turning it upon me when I say the slightest word of complaint. Hell, at times I swear he knows I am thinking of complaining, piercing me with that murderous glower before a word passes my lips.
Kshitij has promised to forward any correspondence from home that has accumulated while we have been in the wilds. It is tortuous not to know what is transpiring with those I love so far away! Hearing that my advice had proven positive with Anne conceiving was wonderful. I still choke up with emotion when I think of my newest niece, named in honor of me. How remarkable is that? Georgiana Darcy. Beautiful! James says she is perfect with golden hair like her mother and the clear blue eyes that appear from time to time, as in me and Alex and young William. I was thrilled to hear of her safe birth and vitality, whooping aloud with joy in fact, which scared Jharna’s saintly grandmother, bless her ancient heart. I was not at all happy to read how difficult Anne’s pregnancy had been though. James’s vivid recounting of her symptoms and continuing weakness is troublesome. I cling to his assurance that she was recovering, albeit slowly, and hope that my letter of further medical advice and package of herbs reached him safely and was beneficial. So I look forward to news and will be sure to jot it down here, Father, not that you probably don’t already know what is happening. Unless you are too busy debating with the saints to pay attention to us mere mortals! Selfishly I hope you are, since I would rather you not see me right now since I am “dressed” in a short dhoti and nothing else.
~ * ~ * ~
“Here is to 1802. May it be a year of excitin’ prospects and stoat health!”
McIntyre lifted his mug of ale, George mimicking the gesture but pausing before clinking together to add, “And to the new Physician General of Bombay Headquarters, Dr. McIntyre!”
“Thank ye,” McIntyre said after they drank deeply of the frothing liquid, “although I was hoping to make that another toast to drink to.”
“I am sure we will find much to drink to before we are too inebriated to care any longer.”
“Such as drinking to yer birthday. Oh, dinna look so shocked. Of course I forgot. But my wife remembered it was this month. She remembered the date too, although I have already forgotten that, so your low opinion of my sentimental nature is correct. All I am sure of is that it hasn’t passed, since Lileas is planning to bake a cake for ye.”
George’s eyes gleamed. “A cake? With very sweet icing? Ah! Delicious! I shall be there on the twelfth, you can count on it. Supper too, dare I hope?”
“God, ye are a greedy bugger, aren’t ye? All right. Dinner too. Just don bring any sweets for me wee lasses. Cake is enough.”
“That I cannot promise,” George declared firmly. “Your daughters are too adorable not to treat with candies and ribbons. And how ridiculous is it to say that cake is enough? Absurd! To cake never being enough!”
George lifted his mug, and after a moment, McIntyre knocked his mug against the side, joining in the nonsensical toast and laughing as he drank. “Repeat this and I will kill ye, Darcy, but I have missed ye company. It is good to have ye here and I am sorry it’s taken so long to share a drink wi’ ye.”
“That isn’t your fault. I expected the Christmas celebrations to be enjoyable but not the grand affair we have had. Lord and Lady Burgley’s invitation mentioned that Governor Duncan was attending the soiree, but not that General Wellesley was a guest of honor. I’ve never seen such pomp in Bombay.”
“And ye loved every second of it.”
“Well, of course! Gave me a reason to wear my newest clothes. I was quite the spectacle.”
McIntyre lifted his mug. “Here’s to Dr. Darcy being a spectacle. Again.”
“Cheers!” George grinned unrepentantly as he met McIntyre’s mug with a spirited thunk. “Somebody had to liven up the party. Thank goodness I was there and unafraid to make a bloody fool of myself, or it may have ended before the stroke of midnight Christmas morn. I still think you should have danced a Scottish reel and answered the age-old question of what a man does, or doesn’t, wear under his kilt.”
“Someone needed to maintain their dignity,” McIntyre grunted. Then his eyes narrowed and he pointed a finger at George. “Is that why we are here? So ye can get a start on intoxicating me so I’ll dance at the ball tonight?”
George leaned forward, his expression and tone deadly serious. “It is Twelfth Night and the Lord of Misrule calls for folly. It is the law.”
McIntyre shoved him back, both men laughing. “God help Bombay if ye had accepted the position of Physician General from Governor Duncan.”
“What?” George’s mug slapped onto the tabletop, the sound taken as a hint to the barmaid to refill their mugs. She hastened over but neither man noticed.
“Ach, no need to be in a dither, Darcy. I know they asked ye first and I dinna mind. With yer experience it makes sense, aside from the fact that ye have no wish to stay on the island. I ken that and am glad ye said no ’cause ye would be no good at the job.”
“That’s exactly what I told them! Searc, they never would have thought of me if I hadn’t shown up when I did. You were their first choice.”
“I said dinna fash yerself. The best man got the job—me!” He grinned and winked. “But they thought of ye first, no mistake. Yer fame has spread, my friend, and well earned to boot. The name of Darcy is whispered with the same hallowed awe as Ullas once was, more so on account of ye being English. ’Course I make sure they know ye don’t walk on water and piss like the rest of us mere mortals.”
George heard the tease in McIntyre’s voice and knew that any jealousy felt was minimal. Aside from a handful of close-to-home missions, like to Kutch, Dr. McIntyre was content to practice his craft in Bombay. Not only were his wife and children there, but he also did not possess the same drive that George always had. No, George knew nothing had changed in their relationship as a result of Dr. Darcy being asked first.
What caused him to stare into his mug with contemplative amazement were the claims of his fame. He had no idea that anyone outside of those he knew intimately ever talked about him at all! Sure, he was recognized and welcomed in every English enclave he traveled to, but he chalked that up to either his family’s fame in England, the letters of introduction he carried, or to people simply being thrilled to see a physician. Humbleness was not a trait George counted among his positive attributes and proudly listed arrogance right on top, yet for some bizarre reason he had never extended that arrogance into the broader scope of far-reaching fame. It was disconcerting because fame was never something he craved. Some accused him of being ostentatious and a seeker of attention with his flamboyant ways, but the better term was audacious, because while bold and uninhibited, George cared not a whit what anyone thought of him. His only desire was to please his patients, and himself, in a ceaseless quest for healing knowledge. That truth was why McIntyre’s words were also exhilarating. George was a firm believer in one’s education ending only when laid in the ground, but it was nice to know that his skills had reached a level where others noticed because it was a sign he was doing something right!
“So what other positions did they offer ye?”
George started out of his reverie, it taking a couple of seconds to register what McIntyre had asked. Attempting to be casual, he blew on the fresh froth of his refilled mug of ale before answering. “What makes you think they offered me anything? I am the rebel who refused their shackling request as PG.”
McIntyre released a rude noise. “I’m no an idiot, Darcy! And I have ears to the ground and eyes everywhere. Yes,” he affirmed when George arched a brow, “I do. While ye was out traipsing about the country, I have been here firmly entrenched—”
“Which is why you are a far better choice for the PG job.”
“Damn right I am! Unlike ye, I have an interest in politics and that adds to my qualifications. Ye, on the other hand, have something more valuable than that.”
Dr. McIntyre paused, but George did not take the bait. He wanted to hear what McIntyre thought and what rumors he might have heard, so he sipped at his ale and stared silently.