An old Southern doctor had his office over a drugstore. In front of the drugstore was a sign reading, "Dr. Riley is upstairs." When the old doctor died, after a long life of day-and-night service for mankind, he left no money even for his burial; and across account after account on his books they found the entry, "Paid off." When he was buried, his friends wanted to put up some memorial or stone on his grave. They had no money for an expensive stone or marker, so they set up over his grave the sign that was in front of the drugstore; and that was his beautiful epitaph: "Dr. Riley is upstairs."
In the Tate Gallery in London you may see the original of the familiar painting which adorns the offices of so many doctors and the walls of so many homes—"The Doctor," by L. Fields. The doctor, an earnest, thoughtful man, sits by the pallet of a little sufferer in a cottage room, his head resting on his hand, his eyes observing his patient. A shaded lamp burns on a stand where spoons and medicine glasses are ready for use. In another part of the room the mother has fallen forward on the table, with her face buried in her arms, the arrow anguish and anxiety piercing her soul. At her side stands the peasant husband, his great hand resting lightly on the shoulder of his sobbing companion and his face turned in expectation toward the doctor.
That picture shows the doctor at best—the friend of the meek and lowly, giving his time and his strength and his wisdom to save the poor man's child. What monetary reward could compare for a moment with the pleasure of seeing the light of hope come back into that broken-hearted mother's face?
Physicians are a happy race, because they, more than any other class of men, receive the tokens of human gratitude and thanks. Their worldly reward may not always be forthcoming, but from the eyes and lips and hearts of patient whose pains they have relieved and whose anguish they have soothed they receive those tokens of love and gratitude which mean so much more than fees and dollars and decorations. There are times in life when only the physician can be with us. He brings us into the world and his is the last face we see as we push off the shores of time into the sea of eternity. When we are distressed with the hard rowing of life, when the storm of pain has broken upon us, then down from the mountains of science comes the beloved physician, walking over the sea of our trouble, clothed with the wonderful arts and secrets of his profession, a says to the winds and the waves, "Peace be still" (Mark 4:39).
Right in the middle of the highway at Midlothian, Virginia, there is a singular monument to an old-time country doctor. He had done such service to the community that the people wanted to erect a memorial to him in the village while he was yet alive. But the doctor was too modest for that and said, "When I die, you all just bury me wherever I be."
Shortly afterward, as he was driving his buggy on his way to a sick patient, he died there in the middle of the road; and there today, right in the middle of the road, so that you have to drive your automobile round it as you pass through the village, stands that singular monument.
Drumtochty's parish doctor was William Maclure. In the dark and in the light, in the snow and in the heat, without rest and without holiday, he did his best for man, woman, and child for forty years. Seated on his old mare Jess, with instruments and medicines strapped before and behind, the old doctor was a familiar figure in every part of the glen. When, as a last resort, the London specialist was to be summoned to save the life of Annie Mitchell, at a cost of one hundred pounds, he asked the laird to let him pay half of it, saying, "A' haena mony pleesures, an' a' wud like tae hae ma ain share in savin' Annie's life."
After he had saved the life of Saunders and, riding home by the kirk on the Sabbath, was cheered by the village folk and the minister himself, the doctor, talking with his horse, said, "Yon was oor reward. No mony men in this warld will ever get a better, for it cam frae the hert of honest foulk."
That is the physician's best reward— the unfeigned thanks and gratitude of those whom he has helped and healed. His favorite text ought to be, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Matt. 20:28).
A victim of chronic bronchitis called on a well-known physician to be examined. The doctor, after careful questioning, assured the patient that the ailment would respond readily to treatment.
"You're so sure," the sufferer inquired, "I suppose you must have had a great deal of experience with this disease."
The physician smiled wisely, and answered in a most confidential manner:
"Why, my dear sir, I've had bronchitis myself for more than fifteen years."
A well-to-do colored man suffered a serious illness, and showed no signs of improvement under treatment by a physician of his own race. So, presently, he dismissed this doctor and summoned a white man. The new physician made a careful examination of the patient, and then asked:
"Did that other doctor take your temperature?"
The sick man shook his head doubtfully.
"I dunno, suh," he declared, "I sartinly dunno. All I've missed so far is my watch."
A member of the faculty in a London medical college was appointed an honorary physician to the king. He proudly wrote a notice, on the blackboard in his class-room:
"Professor Jennings informs his students that he has been appointed honorary physician to His Majesty, King George."
When he returned to the class-room in the afternoon he found written below his notice this line:
"God save the King."
The Chinaman expressed his gratitude to that mighty physician Sing Lee, as follows:
"Me velly sick man. Me get Doctor Yuan Sin. Takee him medicine. Velly more sick. Me get Doctor Hang Shi. Takee him medicine. Velly bad—think me go die. Me callee Doctor Kai Kon. Him busy—no can come. Me get well."
The instructor in the Medical College exhibited a diagram.
"The subject here limps," he explained, "because one leg is shorter than the other." He addressed one of the students:
"Now, Mr. Snead, what would you do in such a case?"
Young Snead pondered earnestly and replied with conviction:
"I fancy, sir, that I should limp, too."