Stories of the Sanctuary Club
I AM a man of day-dreams, and a doctor by profession. It was my lot when about forty years of age to inherit a large fortune, and I immediately set to work putting a design which had long occupied my mind into execution. I resolved to leave the thorny and struggling path, where I had often felt myself in my brother practitioners' way, and, buying a large site of ground in the vicinity of Hampstead, proceeded to build upon it a goodly mansion.
When the house was completed and the grounds laid out to the best advantage I took possession, and now unfolded my scheme to a brother doctor whom I had long respected and loved. He and I agreed to go into partnership, and, with the aid of some of our younger brothers of the medical profession, to open what we were pleased to call the Sanctuary Club. This was in the spring of 1890.
The rules of the club were as follows: It was to be opened to men and women of all ages and classes who chose to fulfil the necessary conditions. These were an entrance fee of £50, a yearly subscription of £10, and the still more important fact that the person, man or woman, who intended to become a member, was the victim of disease in one of its many forms. The primary object of the club was to cure maladies that were in any way curable without sending the patients from England.
This great institution, of which I had dreamed so long, was for the treatment of all sorts of disease on a hitherto unattempted scale. Here my friend Chetwynd and I could put into execution the boldest and most recent theories that other medical men, either from lack of means or courage, could not carry out. One of the chief features of the place was to be a special department where the latest and most up-to-date scientific theories could be realized, one in especial being an attempt at the production of artificial climates.
I had often been struck by the pertinacity with which my brother doctors had ordered patients to seek health resorts, either at home or abroad, when they were far too weak to travel. Thus some patients were sent to the sea, others to the neighbourhood of pine forests, others to high altitudes in order to enjoy the benefits of mountain air; others again to warm, others to cold or dry, climates. At the Sanctuary Club we had, by virtue of our modern scientific knowledge, the means of producing such conditions artificially. Heat, cold, humidity, dryness, even barometric pressure, or any other required constituent of the air, were mere matters of mechanical or chemical detail. Mineral waters of the exact composition of those at the springs of home or Continental spas could be reproduced in our laboratory. Every appliance that science or art could suggest for the alleviation of suffering humanity would be worked by an efficient and well-qualified staff.
This had been my dream for years, and now, with the aid of my friend Henry Chetwynd, it was about to be realized. From the first our scheme proved attractive to those unfortunate members of the community who, suffering as they were, were only too keen to try a new thing. Our club opened with a hundred members, and before a year had expired we had nearly three hundred resident patients in the house.
Those members of the Sanctuary Club who only suffered from slight maladies could come occasionally for consultation, and at any time enjoy the benefit of our large reading and refreshment rooms, and our carefully- laid-out and luxurious grounds. But it was the indoor members, those who lived under our roof, who excited my keenest, strongest, and most life-long interest.
Strange cases came to my knowledge, stories of the most thrilling and absorbing interest fell to my lot to listen to and sympathize with. There were cases, and not a few, when it was my privilege and also my bounden duty to act not only as doctor but as personal friend. From time to time my brother doctor and I had to face adventures the most thrilling and dangers of so hair-breadth a character, that even now my pulse quickens when I think of them.
The following stories relate some of our most vivid experiences:—