Dr Audlin looked at the clock on his desk. It was twenty minutes to six. He was surprised that his patient was late, for Lord Mountdrago was always proud of his punctuality.
Dr Audlin was a psychotherapist. He could relieve certain pains by the touch of his cool, soft hand, and by talking to his patients often induce sleep in those who were suffering from sleeplessness.
And what had he not seen of human nature during the 15 years that patients had been coming to his dark room in Wimpole Street? The confessions that he heard during these years ceased to surprise him. Nothing could shock him any longer. He knew by now that men were liars, he knew how unlimited was their vanity; he knew worst things about them, but he knew that it was not for him to judge or to condemn.
It was a quarter to six. Of all the strange patients he had had, Dr Audlin could remember none stranger than Lord Mountdrago. It was an able and noble man who was appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs when he was still under forty. He was considered the ablest politician in the Conservative Party and for a long time directed the foreign policy of his country. Lord Mountdrago had many good qualities. He had intelligence and industry. He travelled in the world and spoke several languages. He had courage, insight and determination. He was a good speaker, clear, precise and often witty. He was a tall, handsome man, a little too stout, but this gave him respectability.
At 24 he had married a girt of 18 whose father was a duke and her mother a great American heiress, so that she had both position and wealth, and by her he had two sons. For several years they had lived privately apart, but in public united, and their behaviour did not give ground for gossip. Shortly speaking, he had a great deal to make him a popular and successful figure.
He had unfortunately great defects. He was a horrible snob. He had beautiful manners when he wanted to display them, but this he did only with people he regarded as his equals. He was coldly rude to those whom he looked upon as his social inferiors. He often insulted his servants and his secretaries. He knew that he was a great deal cleverer than most of the persons he had to deal with, and never hesitated to demonstrate it to them. He felt himself born to command and was irritated with people who expected him to listen to their arguments or wished to hear the reasons for his decisions. He was extraordinarily selfish. It never occurred to him that he could do something for others. He had many enemies: he despised them. He had no friends. He was unpopular with his party; and yet his merit was so great, his patriotism so evident, his intelligence so prominent and his management of affairs so brilliant, that they had to put up with him. And sometimes he could be enchanting; you were surprised at his wide knowledge and his excellent taste. You thought him the best company in the world, you forgot that he had insulted you the day before and was quite capable of killing you the next.
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Dr Audlin knew many bad things about his patients
- and their secrets did not allow him to sleep well.
- and sometimes he did benefit of his knowledge.
- and he condemned them.
- but he did not judge them.
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