What Can I Do For You

what style


Having turned off down the side road, I was soon brought up short by a barred gate. A man in a pale brown uniform emerged from a hut and eyed me closely. He had a carbine slung over his shoulder.

“What can I do for you?” he demanded in an English whose accent identified him as a Boer.
I stated my name and expressed a wish to call on my colleague Dr. Lubbers. The Boer summoned a black, exchanged a few words with him in Afrikaans, and sent him off.

I could already see the main building of the doctor’s handsome property. If the whole place belonged to him, he had to be a wealthy man.
The sentry with the carbine disappeared into the shade of his hut and left me waiting.

After about a quarter of an hour, the black returned and muttered something to the sentry, who nodded curtly and opened the gate.
“The doctor’s expecting you,” he said. “The boy will take you to him.”

The black man climbed on the running board of the car, unwilling to get in despite my cordial invitation.
I pulled up outside the main house. To my surprise, it was a classic Victorian pile with a wide veranda, carved ornamentation, gables, and turrets.
My escort trotted back to the gate, without a word. His rapid footsteps were now the only sound.
On my left, I saw several flat-roofed, white-walled huts. Just then, I heard a baby crying. The sound seemed to come from there.

“Mijnheer Doyle!” I hadn’t heard Lubbers coming. He was wearing a broad-brimmed white hat, and the rest of his attire-shirt, trousers, and waistcoat plus watch chain-was also dazzlingly white. His eyes, which were flanked by deeply incised crow’s-feet, were clear today.
“What brings you here?” Lubbers made a relaxed and amiable impression. Perhaps he had been overworked the day before. I knew from personal experience that a country doctor’s life could be very tiring.

“I wanted to tell you that my visit to the Bongers family really was occasioned by Mr. Woolf’s breakdown, nothing more.” I slapped the Wolseley’s mudguard. “Nothing could be further from my thoughts than to level the slightest criticism at your treatment of little Hendrika.”
Lubbers nodded thoughtfully. “You owe me no apology, Dr. Doyle. It’s for me to apologize for my irascible manner. You’re living proof that there are estimable individuals, even among our former foes.” He made a gesture of invitation toward the veranda.

“Permit me to offer you some refreshment. Would you care for some well-chilled white wine from the Woolf farm?”
“Yes indeed,” I said. “It’s delicious.”

We had scarcely seated ourselves in two comfortable chairs on the shady veranda when a young Asian woman brought the wine.
I surveyed the grounds. “A splendid place to live.”

“And to work,” said Lubbers. “I’ve installed a clinic and a laboratory in those huts over there. I managed to acquire this house from one of your compatriots just after the war. I thoroughly appreciate the elegance of British architecture.”

He smiled and poured us some wine from a cut-glass decanter. “I’m training the Bongers girl to develop fine and gross motor skills and master everyday activities such as the use of a spoon. What’s your opinion, Dr. Doyle?”
“I think it’s one way of achieving results.”

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