BOOK VIII. SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
73. CHAPTER LXXIII.
But then came the question whether he should have acted in precisely
the same way if he had not taken the money? Certainly, if Raffles had
continued alive and susceptible of further treatment when he arrived,
and he had then imagined any disobedience to his orders on the part
of Bulstrode, he would have made a strict inquiry, and if his conjecture
had been verified he would have thrown up the case, in spite of his
recent heavy obligation. But if he had not received any money--
if Bulstrode had never revoked his cold recommendation of bankruptcy--
would he, Lydgate, have abstained from all inquiry even on finding
the man dead?--would the shrinking from an insult to Bulstrode--
would the dubiousness of all medical treatment and the argument
that his own treatment would pass for the wrong with most members
of his profession--have had just the same force or significance
That was the uneasy corner of Lydgate's consciousness while he
was reviewing the facts and resisting all reproach. If he
had been independent, this matter of a patient's treatment
and the distinct rule that he must do or see done that which he
believed best for the life committed to him, would have been
the point on which he would have been the sturdiest. As it was,
he had rested in the consideration that disobedience to his orders,
however it might have arisen, could not be considered a crime,
that in the dominant opinion obedience to his orders was just as
likely to be fatal, and that the affair was simply one of etiquette.
Whereas, again and again, in his time of freedom, he had denounced
the perversion of pathological doubt into moral doubt and had said--
"the purest experiment in treatment may still be conscientious:
my business is to take care of life, and to do the best I can
think of for it. Science is properly more scrupulous than dogma.
Dogma gives a charter to mistake, but the very breath of science
is a contest with mistake, and must keep the conscience alive."
Alas! the scientific conscience had got into the debasing company of
money obligation and selfish respects.
"Is there a medical man of them all in Middlemarch who would question
himself as I do?" said poor Lydgate, with a renewed outburst of
rebellion against the oppression of his lot. "And yet they will all
feel warranted in making a wide space between me and them, as if I
were a leper! My practice and my reputation are utterly damned--
I can see that. Even if I could be cleared by valid evidence,
it would make little difference to the blessed world here.
I have been set down as tainted and should be cheapened to them
all the same."