1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 13

Alberto sent out another batch of instructions before turning back to Phillip. “How can I help?” he asked.

Phillip thought back to when he treated Paulus. He’d only been a twelve year old boy and until he fainted it’d still taken Claus and Dietrich to hold him. The youth on the other hand was probably about his own age, and a lot bigger. He paused in the act of removing his medical kit from his pack. “Just keep a firm hold on him. I don’t want him thrashing about.”

“Babbo,” the patient said, reaching out a beseeching hand.

“Everything will be all right, Carlo.” Alberto glanced at Phillip. “He will be okay?” he asked.

Phillip was saved having to answer by a bucket being laid down beside him. “Thank you,” he said before dipping a finger into the water. It was cold. He hadn’t expected hot water, but this water was only a short step away from ice. He scooped up a handful and splashed it over Carlo’s leg. He reacted to the icy cold water by trying to jerk his leg away. “Can someone hold Carlo’s leg for me,” he asked.

Alberto called out to a man who dropped down and took a firm grip on Carlo’s leg. With the leg held securely Phillip was able to splash water over the gash with one hand while he wiped away the mud and blood with the other, giving him his first real glimpse of the injury. It was worse than he’d feared.

He looked up at Alberto. “Babbo, Carlo’s injury needs to be stitched, but I can’t do it here. If I bandage it, can he be carried to the nearest shelter?”

There were giggles and smiles all round. Even Alberto allowed a smile to form momentarily. “Did I say something wrong?” Phillip asked.

Alberto shook his head. “My name is Alberto. Alberto Rovarini. Carlo is my son, and I am his babbo, his father. And yes, Carlo can ride on one of the wagons.”

“Right.” Phillip felt a proper fool, but he couldn’t let his mind linger on that. The wind was getting up and the rain wasn’t getting any lighter. He grabbed a roll of linen from his medical kit and wrapped it tightly around Carlo’s thigh.

Even in the protective circle of the Rovarinis the wind had been able to reach Phillip. His whole body was chilled and he needed the help of one of Rovarinis to get back to his feet. He was handed his hiking stave, but when he bent to retrieve his pack he was pushed away as another picked it up and carried to one of the wagons. Phillip must have looked dumbfounded, because Alberto came up beside him. “You have helped Carlo, so we help you.”

“I haven’t done anything,” Phillip protested.

“You stopped and did your best while everyone else just looked on or walked past,” Alberto said. He bowed his head. “I am ashamed that I didn’t immediately attend to Carlo’s injuries. My only excuse is my relief that he was still alive.”


The moment the Rovarinis arrived at the traveler’s inn an unconscious Carlo was unloaded from the wagon and carried in. A table was cleared and he was laid down on it. He’d barely been laid out on the table before someone deposited Phillip’s pack at his feet.

Phillip started to take off his oilskins and winter coat. It was a struggle until helping hands divested him of his oilskins and coat and carried them away. It was clear that he was going to be provided with any assistance he required, so he put the situation to good use. “I need good light, and hot water.”

Within minutes he had a good candle and a jug of steaming hot water and a wash basin. He’d spent the time waiting for the hot water removing his jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeves. When the water arrived he indicated that he’d like some of it poured into the basin and when that was done he lowered his hands into it. It was painful, but it was the quickest way to warm them.

With his hands functioning again Phillip unwound the bandage and used it to wipe the inside of the wound clean. Then, under the light of a candle, he made a close examination of the injury. It was bad. The first thing he had to do was tidy up the edges. He had a chunk of Obsidian in his medical kit and a large flake from that served as an excellent scalpel which he used to cut away the torn and ragged skin. He checked how well the two edges met and discovered that he’d cut away too much skin. He needed to cut away some of the tissue under the skin to ensure the edges of the skin met.

Once the wound was trimmed to his satisfaction Phillip smeared his special honey based ointment liberally into the cut. Now he was ready to close the wound. Unlike when he stitched up Paulus’ injury, this time Phillip had some idea what he was supposed to be doing and better yet, he now had a couple of more suitable needles, a palm guard to help force the needle through flesh, and some better thread.

Phillip pushed the needle through the skin and deep into the flesh, so that it was barely visible at the bottom of the wound when it emerged, and then back out through the skin. That formed the basis of the first stitch. He tied the ends together and repeated the procedure as he worked his way along the length of the wound. When he got to the end he wiped the wound clean before smearing it with some of his ointment. Then he reached for the bandage and started to roll it up so that it could easily be wound around Carlo’s thigh once more.

At this point he was interrupted by the innkeeper’s wife. She grabbed the dirty bandages from Phillip’s hands while berating him for thinking to do something so foolish as use them to bind Carlo’s injury. She pushed Phillip away so she could examine his handiwork. She touched a finger to the traces of ointment and tasted it, rewarding him with a grudging nod of approval before she pulled Carlo’s pants down and efficiently wrapped his injury with a clean bandage.

“You did well,” Alberto said, offering Phillip a mug of hot spiced wine. “Here, drink this.”

“Thank you,” Phillip said as he wrapped his hands around the steaming mug. He gestured with his head towards the innkeeper’s wife. “She looks like she thinks she could have done better.”

Alberto glanced in the woman’s direction. “She has a lot of experience. And you . . .” He paused. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Phillip. Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz.” He held out a hand, noticed that it was blood covered, and quickly withdrew it.

“Wash your hands and come and join us for supper.”


Supper was an enlightening meal. Over a hot, mostly vegetable, stew Phillip and the Rovarinis exchanged their stories, although most of Phillip’s conversation had to go through Alberto. He realized that Padua was going to be full of foreigners who didn’t speak German or Latin and that he was going to have to learn the local vernacular if he was going to live in the city any length of time. He admitted as much to Alberto.

“How can we be foreigners in our own country?” Alberto demanded good-naturedly.

Phillip apologized for the way it must have sound, and asked about the availability of Venetian lessons, and most importantly, how much did Alberto think they would cost.

“You are a student?” Alberto asked.

“Of medicine.”

“Doctors are worthless,” one of the Rovarinis said. “Give me a good apothecary or barber-surgeon any day. They are both safer and cheaper.”

“Let the lad alone, Pietro,” Alberto said. “If he wants to be a doctor, it’s his choice.” He looked over to Phillip. “University is expensive. How will you fund your studies?”

“I trained as an assayist and metallurgist at Fugger’s assay office in Augsburg. If necessary I can earn a living doing assays and making acids.”

“For an assayist and metallurgist, you seem to know a thing or two about treating injuries.”

Phillip nodded. “My stepfather was an apothecary and I used to help him compound remedies.”

“And the sewing together of the gash in Carlo’s leg, did he teach you to do that too?”

Phillip related the story of Paulus and his cut, and how he’d realized how lucky he’d been and found someone willing to teach him how to do it properly.

“It was lucky for Carlo that you are here, Phillip,” Alberto said.

Phillip blushed. “I haven’t done anything the innkeeper’s wife couldn’t have done.”