Wilder Graves Penfield

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The Torch

Penfield, Wilder Graves

Last Updated: Mar-08-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


Although he could be a court physician in Macedonia, Hippocrates has returned to the island of Cos, at least temporarily, to take over his dead father's practice. He is summoned to the villa of a wealthy citizen to consult on the fits of a daughter of the house. Using precise clinical observation, he diagnoses hysteria instead of epilepsy. Then, he relates the girl's psychological problems to the neglect of her selfish and adulterous mother, Olympias, who prefers her handsome, athletic, but rather dense (and as it turns out, illegitimate) son, Cleomedes.

A marriage is to be arranged with Cleomedes's obsession, Daphne, the exquisitely beautiful and intelligent daughter of a physician from Cnidus. But Daphne falls in love with Hippocrates, and he with her. In between solving clinical problems, including a real case of epilepsy, a botched abortion, and a broken hip in his own grandmother, Hippocrates is led along a tangled path of intrigue, seduction, and false accusations.

A fire destroys the medical library of Cnidus, killing Cleomedes, who, for once in his life had risen to heroism in attempting to save an invalid woman and her son. When the newly orphaned child reveals that Olympias and her old lover have committed arson, Olympias leaps from the highest wall to her death. Hippocrates is now free to marry Daphne. Adopting the child as their own, they return to the island of Cos.

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