1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 27
“Coming,” Phillip called out as he hastily dressed for the outdoors and grabbed his medical bag. A quick glance round the room confirmed there were no candles burning, and he hurried over to the door. The messenger was pounding on it again as he opened it.
“I said I was coming,” Phillip said as he opened the door. “Well, are you going to lead the way?” he asked after he’d locked the door.
The boy took off, only to stop and wait when he realized he was leaving Phillip behind. The boy took a side street, and Phillip followed as quickly as he could with his heavy doctor’s bag banging against his legs. They hurried past houses and then market gardens as they came within sight of the gate tower. They made it to the gate a couple of minutes later, the boy was hardly breathing heavily while Phillip was huffing and puffing.
“Good job, Peter,” Heinrich said as he paid the boy. Then he turned to Phillip. “This way, Dr. Gribbleflotz, Private Stohler managed to tear open his thigh on a passing cart.”
Phillip stumbled to a halt and turned to stare at Heinrich. “Again? I patched him up barely a month ago.”
“It’s the left leg this time,” Heinrich said as he led the way upstairs to the gatehouse guard quarters.
Ulrich Schmidlin was sitting beside Leonard Stohler feeding him cheap pear brandy. He turned as Phillip stepped into the room and his eyes lit up. “Dr. Gribbleflotz am I please to see you. Leonard seemed to think you were attending some dissection demonstration this week. ”
“I was supposed to be attending Dr. Laurent’s demonstration,” Phillip said as he laid his medical bag down beside Leonard and started to examine the injury. “Fortunately for Leonard here, I was invited to leave, and so I was at home when Sergeant Schweitzer’s messenger arrived.”
“What did you say to upset Dr. Laurent?” Heinrich asked. He and the others grinned.
Phillip matched theirs smiles. He’d become the unofficial physician to the city guard soon after he arrived and he’d got to know quite a few of the guardsmen, and they’d got to know him. “The silly fool had no idea about the realities of performing an amputation.”
“And you called him out on it,” Heinrich said.
“Naturally,” Phillip said, happy that Leonard was being distracted by the banter while he cleaned his wound. “Then he challenged me to show everyone how I thought it should be done.”
“You took Dr. Laurent up on it, I hope,” Ulrich said.
“Of course,” Phillip said. That set all three guardsmen off, and Phillip joined in. “You should have seen his face,” he said as he struggled to control his laughter. He pulled out a scalpel to trim off some of the more damaged flesh.
“Are you going to take Leonard’s leg off?” Ulrich asked.
Leonard jerked his leg out of Phillip’s hand, wincing at the pain. “You’re not going to cut it off, are you?” he asked.
“No,” Phillip said. “But I do need to trim off the worst of the damaged skin before I pack the wound and bandage it tightly.” He looked questioningly at Leonard. “Unless of course you’d rather I sewed it closed?”
“No, no,” Leonard said, waving his hands. “If you think it doesn’t need stitches, then I’m happy.”
“It will leave a bigger scar if I don’t stitch it,” Philip warned.
“But last time you said not stitching the wound closed would speed up healing,” Leonard said. “So, what are you doing now you’re not attending Dr. Laurent’s course?”
Phillip gestured for Ulrich to feed Leonard some more of the brandy before he set to trimming the worst of the damaged skin and flesh from the wound. While he worked he talked, mostly to distract Leonard. “A group of students attending the course have asked me to give my own course.”
“What does that involve?” Heinrich asked, getting into the spirit of distracting Leonard.
“I need to confirm with the owner of the warehouse where Dr. Laurent’s has set up a theater that I can use it, and then I have to see about obtaining some suitable cadavers.”
“How do you get suitable cadavers?” Ulrich asked. “I thought they used condemned prisoners for the public anatomy course?”
Phillip nodded as he finished trimming the damaged flesh from Leonard’s wound. “That’s one source, but back in Padua we used to look for poor families who might be willing to let us dissect the bodies of their family members in return for a proper burial. Unfortunately, I don’t have the contacts in Basel that I had in Padua.”
“I could help you,” Peter Hebenstreit said.
Phillip had completely forgotten about the teenage boy who had brought him Heinrich’s message. The boy had the look of the urban poor, which meant he might have the contacts. “The funeral expenses are paid directly to the priest or pastor,” he warned, knowing that a child of the streets like Peter would be looking for every opportunity to make money.
“But you’ll pay a fee for someone to find the bodies and talk the family into letting you cut them up, right?”
Phillip nodded and mentioned a sum.
Peter’s eyes lit up. “I’ll do it for you,” he said. “I’ll find you some dead people.”
Phillip smeared some of his special formula ointment into the wound before bandaging it closed. He looked up at Heinrich. “Is he reliable?”
“He hasn’t let me down yet,” Heinrich said.
Phillip turned back to Peter. “Okay, here’s the situation. I’m waiting on confirmation that there will be enough interest to warrant running a course. When I get confirmation, I’ll need to confirm a location, and a supply of ice to preserve the bodies until they can be used. If you report to my laboratory in three days’ time, I should know whether or not I will need you to find me some bodies.”
Peter ran his tongue over his lips. “It’s a deal. He spat on his hand and held it out.
Phillip, who’d met this method of closing an agreement before, spat on his own hand and shook hands with Peter. Then he turned to Leonard. “Don’t use that leg more than you have to for the next three days. I’ll drop by then to check on how it’s healing, and if necessary, put in some stitches.”
Heinrich escorted Phillip out of the gate tower. “Thank you for coming, Dr. Gribbleflotz. The men really appreciate your willingness to help,” he said as he placed a couple of coins into Phillip’s hand.
“Don’t mention it,” Phillip said as he dropped the coins into his purse. The payment would barely cover his costs, but his willingness to help wasn’t born from a pursuit of wealth. It was born of his experience in the service of the counts of Nassau-Siegen. Too often he’d seen common soldiers suffering unnecessarily because their leaders didn’t care enough about them to provide proper medical care. Soon after he’d settled in Basel he’d made a point of cultivating the sergeants of the guard and offered them his professional services for a fraction of what a doctor might charge. There had been some skepticism at his apparent altruism, but once he’d explained his motivation, they’d been much more receptive. The fact that his professional services were superior to what the local doctors provided had sold them on the idea.
“Oh, and Dr. Gribbleflotz,” Heinrich said. “Basel isn’t Padua. The local Religious authorities might not look so favorably on dissections on human bodies.”
“But if the families agree,” Phillip protested. He hadn’t thought of this problem, because it hadn’t been a problem in Padua.
“Even if the families agree, and it is a private demonstration.” Heinrich smiled and clapped a hand on Phillip’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. If you let me know where and when you intend holding your demonstration, the guard will do what it can to see that you aren’t bothered.”
Phillip was almost at a loss for words. He muttered a disjointed thanks before heading back to his laboratory.
That evening, the home of Professor Gaspard Bauhin
“It was absolutely hilarious, Papa,” sixteen year-old Jean Gaspard said as he dashed into his father’s study.
Gaspard Bauhin, professor of the practice of medicine and professor of anatomy and botany at Basel, was ensconced in a comfortable armchair with a drink in one hand and a book in the other. He raised his eyes from his book at the interruption. His eyes lit up he recognized his son. “Hilarious? Are you sure you went to Ambrosius’ lecture?”
Jean sniggered at the sally. “It was as boring as you warned me it would be, until one of the audience made a comment about Dr. Laurent’s surgical technique.” He giggled at the memory, his eyes sparkling. “You’ll never guess what happened.”
Gaspard lowered his book to his lap and laid his drink on the table beside his chair. “Ambrosius told your man that if he thought he could do better, that he could come down and show everyone how it should be done,” he suggested.
Jean pouted his lips. “Someone’s already told you.”
Gaspard shook his head. “No, but I do know Ambrosius. Who was it and was he any good?”