In 1930s London, a doctor is visited by his wealthy and powerful patient Beatrice Glendenning, who demands an abortion. Although the doctor is an occasional guest of this woman and her husband at their country estate, the law requires that he refuse her request, and he advises her to have the child--and most certainly not to get a backstairs abortion. She tells him that it is not her husband's child, that bearing it would never do, and storms out of the office.

Ten days later her husband calls the doctor to ask if he could drop by the Glendenning townhouse and look in on Beatrice, who, he says, has the flu. The doctor goes, and discovers that she has gotten an infection from an undercover abortion. He feels trapped, but he treats Beatrice anyway, resenting her the whole time. The husband maintains his story that Beatrice has the flu, and the doctor leaves thinking that the husband never suspected. In the fall, as usual, he is invited to a pheasant shoot on the Glendenning estate.


This intriguing little story is chapter 26 of this slightly fictionalized autobiography, which contains a wealth of stories presumably drawn from Cronin's medical practice in Scotland, rural Wales, and London. The story very economically raises the question of how to handle oneself, both behaviorally and emotionally, in relation to an overbearing patient.

It also gives us a dramatic image of the sometimes unsuspected domestic and social role of the healer. In the story's wonderfully ambiguous resolution, we cannot tell exactly who had been taken in by whom, but clearly Beatrice has won. Whatever her husband knows, she has forced the doctor to be her accomplice in maintaining a socially-approved image of the Glendenning family.

Of note is that, forced to take time off from medical practice because of illness, Cronin took up writing and quickly became an enormously popular author. His better-known autobiographical work, The Citadel, broke all sales records when it came out in 1937, and annual U.S. sales of his works were in the millions during the 1950s (see annotation in this database.

Primary Source

Adventures in Two Worlds



Place Published

New York



Page Count