Let sleeping vets lie, p.25
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       Let Sleeping Vets Lie, p.25

           James Herriot
 
"Nothing very exciting at the next place," I kept the triumph out of my

  voice as we drove away. "Just a bullock with a tumour on its jaw. But

  it's an interesting herd - all Galloways, and this group we're going to

  see have been wintered outside. They're the toughest animals in the

  district." Carmody nodded. Nothing I said seemed to rouse much

  enthusiasm in him. For myself this herd of untamed black cattle always

  held a certain fascination; contacts with them were always coloured by a

  degree of uncertainty - sometimes you could catch them to examine them,

  sometimes you couldn't.

  As we approached the farm I could see a bunch of about thirty bullocks

  streaming down the scrubby hillside on our right. The farm men were

  driving them down through the scattered gorse bushes and the sparse

  groups of trees to where the stone walls met in a rough V at the front.

  One of them waved to me. "We're going to try to get a rope on 'im down

  in the corner while he's among his mates. He's a wick bugger - you'd

  never get near him in t field."

  After a lot of shouting and waving and running about the bullocks were

  finally cornered and they stood in a tight, uneasy pack, their shaggy

  black polls bobbing among the steam rising from their bodies.

  "There he is! You can see the thing on his face." A man pointed to a big

  beast about the middle of the bunch and began to push his way towards

  him. My admiration for the Yorkshire farm worker rose another notch as I

  watched him squeezing between the plunging, kicking animals. "When I get

  the rope on his head you'll all have to get on t'other end - one man'll

  never hold 'im." He gasped as he fought his way forward.

  He was obviously an expert because as soon as he got within reach he

  dropped the halter on to the bullock's head with practised skill.

  "Right!" he shouted. "Give me a hand with him. We have 'im now."

  But as he spoke the beast gave a great bellow and began to charge from

  the pack. The man cried out despairingly and disappeared among the hairy

  bodies. The rope whipped free out of reach of everybody. Except Carmody.

  As the bullock shot past him he grabbed the trailing rope with a reflex

  action and hung on.

  I watched, fascinated, as man and beast careered across the field. They

  were travelling away from me towards the far slope, the animal head

  down, legs pistoning, going like a racehorse, the student also at full

  speed but very upright, both hands on the rope in front of him, a

  picture of resolution.

  The men and I were helpless spectators and we stood in a silent group as

  the beast turned left suddenly and disappeared behind a clump of low

  trees. It was gone for only a few moments but it seemed a long time and

  when it reappeared it was going faster than ever, hurtling over the turf

  like a black thunderbolt. Carmody" incredibly, was still there on the

  end of the rope and still very upright but his strides had increased to

  an impossible length till he seemed to be touching the ground only every

  twenty feet or so.

  I marvelled at his tenacity but obviously the end was near. He took a

  last few soaring, swooping steps then he was down on his face. But he

  didn't let go. The bullock, going better than ever, had turned towards

  us now, dragging the inert form apparently without effort, and I winced

  as I saw it was headed straight for a long row of cow pats.

  It was when Carmody was skidding face down through the third heap of

  muck that I suddenly began to~like him. And when he finally did have to

  release his hold and lay for a moment motionless on the grass I hurried

  over to help him up. He thanked me briefly then looked calmly across the

  field at a sight which is familiar to every veterinary surgeon - his

  patient thundering out of sight across the far horizon.

  The student was almost unrecognisable. His clothes and face were

  plastered with filth except where the saffron streaks of the Istin

  showed up like war paint, he smelt abominably, he had been bitten in the

  backside, nothing had really gone right for him all day yet he was

  curiously undefeated. I smiled to myself. It was no good judging this

  bloke by ordinary standards; I could recognise the seeds of greatness

  when I saw them.

  Carmody stayed with us for two weeks and after that first day I got on

  with him not so badly. Of course it wasn't the same relationship as with

  other students; there was always a barrier of reserve. He spent a lot of

  time squinting down the practice microscope at blood films, skin

  scrapings, milk smears, and by the end of each day he had collected a

  fresh supply of samples from the cases he had seen. He would come and

  drink a polite beer with me after an evening call but there was none of

  the giggling over the day's events as with the other young lads. I had

  the feeling always that he would rather have been writing up his case

  book and working out his findings.

  But I didn't mind. I found an interest in being in contact with a truly

  scientific mind. He was as far removed as he could be from the

  traditional studious swot - his was a cold, superior intellect and there

  was something rewarding in watching him at work.

  I didn't see Carmody again for over twenty years. I picked out his name

  in the Record when he qualified with top marks then he disappeared into

  the great world of research for a while to emerge with a Ph.D. and over

  the years he added a string of further degrees and qualifications. Every

  now and then an unintelligible article would appear in the professional

  journals under his name and it became commonplace when reading

  scientific papers to see references to what Dr. Carmody had said on the

  subject.

  When I finally did see him he was the guest of honour at a professional

  banquet, an international celebrity heavy with honours. From where I was

  Sitting at the far end of one of the side tables I listened to his

  masterly speech with a feeling of inevitability, the wide grasp of his

  subject, the brilliant exposition - I had seen it all coming those many

  years ago.

  Afterwards when we had left the tables he moved among us and I gazed

  with Something like awe at the majestic figure approaching. Carmody had

  always been big, but with the tail coat tight across the massive

  shoulders and the vast L~

  expanse of gleaming shirt front stretched over the curving abdomen he

  was almost overpowering. As he passed he stopped and looked at me.

  "It's Herriot, isn't it?"the handsome, high-coloured face still had that

  look of calm power.

  "Yes, it is. It's good to see you again."

  We shook hands. "And how is the practice at Darrowby?"

  "Oh, as usual," I replied. "Bit too busy at times. We could do with some

  help if ever you felt like it."

  Carmody nodded gravely. "I'd like that very much. It would be good for

  me."

  He was about to move on when he paused. "Perhaps you'd let me know any

  time you want a pig bled." For a moment we looked into each other's eyes

  and I saw a small flame flicker briefly in the frosty blue. Then he was

  gone.


  As I looked at the retreating back a hand gripped my arm. It was Brian

  Miller, a happily obscure practitioner like myself.

  "Come on, Jim, I'll buy you a drink," he said.

  We went into the bar and ordered two beers.

  "That Carmody!" Brian said. "The man's got a tremendous brain, but by

  God he's a cold fish."

  I sipped at the beer and looked thoughtfully into my glass for a few

  seconds.

  "Oh I don't know," I said. "He certainly gives that impression, but

  Carmody's all right."

  Chapter Twenty-one.

  The big room at Skeldale House was full. It seemed to me that this room

  with its graceful alcoves, high, carved ceiling and french windows lay

  at the centre of our life in Darrowby. It was where Siegfried, Tristan

  and I gathered when the day's work was done, toasting our feet by the

  white wood fireplace with the glass-fronted cupboard on top, talking

  over the day's events. It was the heart of our bachelor existence,

  sitting there in a happy stupor, reading, listening to the radio,

  Tristan usually flipping effortlessly through the Daily Telegraph

  crossword.

  It was where Siegfried entertained his friends and there was a constant

  stream of them - old and young, male and female. But tonight it was

  Tristan's turn and the pack of young people with drinks in their hands

  were there at his invitation And they wouldn't need much persuasion.

  Though just about the opposite of his brother in many ways he had the

  same attractiveness which brought the friends running at the crook of a

  finger.

  The occasion was the Daffodil Ball at the Drovers" Arms and we were

  dressed in our best. This was a different kind of function from the

  usual village institute hop with the farm lads in their big boots and

  music from a scraping fiddle and piano. It was a proper dance with a

  popular local band - Lenny Butterfield and his Hot Shots - and was an

  annual affair to herald the arrival of spring.

  I watched Tristan dispensing the drinks. The bottles of whisky, gin and

  sherry which Siegfried kept in the fireplace cupboard had taken some

  severe punishment but Tristan himself had been abstemious. An occasional

  sip from a glass of light ale perhaps, but nothing more. Drinking, to

  him, meant the bulk intake of ;:

  l l draught bitter; all else was mere vanity and folly. Dainty little

  glasses were anathema and even now when I see him at a party where

  everybody is holding small drinks Tristan somehow contrives to have a

  pint in his hand.

  "Nice little gathering, Jim," he said, appearing at my elbow. "A few

  more blokes than girls but that won't matter much."

  I eyed him coldly. I knew why there were extra men. It was so that

  Tristan wouldn't have to take the floor too often. It fitted in with his

  general dislike of squandering energy that he was an unenthusiastic

  dancer; he didn't mind walking a girl round the floor now and again

  during the evening but he preferred to spend most of the time in the

  bar.

  So, in fact, did a lot of the Darrowby folk. When we arrived at the

  Drovers the bar was congested while only a dedicated few circled round

  the ballroom. But as time went on more and more couples ventured out and

  by ten o'clock the dance floor was truly packed. ~

  And I soon found I was enjoying myself. Tristan's friends were an

  effervescent bunch; likable young men and attractive girls; I just

  couldn't help having a good time.

  Butterfield's famed band in their short red jackets added greatly to the

  general merriment. Lenny himself looked about fifty-five and indeed all

  four of the Hot Shots ensemble were rather elderly, but they made up for

  their grey hairs by sheer vivacity. Not that Lenny's hair was grey; it

  was dyed a determined black and he thumped the piano with dynamic

  energy, beaming out at the company through his horn-rimmed glasses,

  occasionally bawling a chorus into the microphone by his side,

  announcing the dances, making throaty wisecracks. He gave value for

  money.

  There was no pairing off in our party and I danced with all the girls in

  turn. At the peak of the evening I was jockeying my way around the floor

  with Daphne and the way she was constructed made it a rewarding

  experience. I never have been one for skinny women but I suppose you

  could say that Daphne's development had strayed a little too far in the

  other direction. She wasn't fat, just lavishly endowed.

  Battling through the crush, colliding with exuberant neighbours,

  bouncing deliciously off Daphne, with everybody singing as they danced

  and the Hot Shots pouring out an insistent boom-boom beat, I felt I

  hadn't a care in the world. And then I saw Helen.

  She was dancing with the inevitable Richard Edmundson, his shining gold

  head floating above the company like an emblem of doom. And it was

  uncanny how in an instant my cosy little world disintegrated leaving a

  chill gnawing emptiness.

  When the music stopped I returned Daphne to her friends and went to find

  Tristan. The comfortable little bar in the Drovers was overflowing and

  the temperature like an oven. Through an almost impenetrable fog of

  cigarette smoke I discerned my colleague on a high stool holding court

  with a group of perspiring revellers. Tristan himself looked cool and,

  as always, profoundly content He drained his glass, smacked his lips

  gently as though it had been the best pint of beer he'd ever tasted,

  then, as he reached across the counter and Courteously requested a

  refill he spotted me struggling towards him.

  When I reached his stool he laid an affable hand on my shoulder, "Ah,

  Jim, nice to see you. Splendid dance, this, don't you think."

  I didn't bring up the fact that I hadn't seen him on the floor yet, but

  making my voice casual I mentioned that Helen was there.

  Tristan nodded benignly. "Yes, saw her come in. Why don't you go and

  dance "I can't do that. She's with a partner - young Edmundson."

  "Not at all." Tristan surveyed his fresh pint with a critical eye and

  took an exploratory sip. "She's with a party, like us. No partner."

  "How do you know that?"

  "I watched all the fellows hang their coats out there while the girls

  went upstairs. No reason at all why you shouldn't have a dance with

  her."

  "I see." I hesitated for a few moments then made my way back to the

  ballroom But it wasn't as easy as that. I had to keep doing my duty with

  the girls in our group and whenever I headed for Helen she was whisked

  away by one of her men friends before I got near her. At times I fancied

  she was looking over at me but I couldn't be sure; the only thing I knew

  for certain was that I wasn't enjoying myself any more; the magic and

  gaiety had gone and I felt a rising misery at the thought that this was

  going to be another of my frustrating contacts with Helen when all I

  could do was look at her hopelessly. Only this time was worse - I hadn't

  even spoken to her.

  I was almost relieved when the manager came up and told me there was a

  call for me. I went to the phone a
nd spoke to Mrs. Hall. There was a

  bitch in trouble whelping and I had to go. I looked at my watch - after

  midnight, so that was the end of the dance for me.

  I stood for a moment listening to the muffled thudding from the dance

  floor then slowly pulled on my coat before going in to say goodbye to

  Tristan's friends. I exchanged a few words with them, waved, then turned

  back and pushed the swing door open.

  Helen was standing there, about a foot away from me. Her hand was on the

  door, too. I didn't wonder whether she was going in or out but stared

  dumbly into her smiling blue eyes.

  "Leaving already, Jim?" she said.

  "Yes, I've got a call, I'm afraid."

  "Oh what a shame. I hope it's nothing very serious."

  I opened my mouth to speak, but her dark beauty and the very nearness of

  her suddenly filled my world and a wave of hopeless longing swept over

  and submerged me. I slid my hand a few inches down the door and gripped

  hers as a drowning man might, and wonderingly I felt her fingers come

  round and entwine themselves tightly in mine.

  And in an instant there was no band, no noise, no people, just the two

  of us standing very close in the doorway.

  "Come with me," I said.

  Helen's eyes were very large as she smiled that smile I knew so well.

  "I'll get my coat," she murmured.

  This wasn't really me, I thought, standing on the hall carpet watching

  Helen ,< trotting quickly up the stairs, but I had to believe it as she

  reappeared on the landing pulling on her coat. Outside, on the cobbles

 
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