Towards the end of my stay in the Clinic the leg was, I thought, progressing well. I was to be disillusioned, Dr Tomas on one of his morning rounds, inspected the wound and raised his eyebrows. Turning to Mary he asked her if my temperature has risen during the past twelve hours. Mary said she did not know and immediately pushed a thermometer under my tongue. The result proved that I was harbouring an infection; poison from the wound was creeping along the severed tendons. The doctor dressed the leg and warned me that he might have to make an incision further up the leg to draw off the sepsis.
The following morning Dr Tomas's assistant, a young Spanish Army doctor came in place of Dr Tomas. My temperature was again taken and the result considered by the Doctor, he shook his head and, translated by Mary, told me he must incise and probe the point the sepsis had reached. I was given an injection in the leg to kill the pain and he started, I grasped the top bed rail with both hands as the knife went in and he probed the spot, I could have yelled. Mrs Golding, who was also present, caught hold of one of my hands, it did not lessen the pain but it was a comfort to know that someone cared. The doctor finished eventually and I relaxed, sweating profusely, he was most surprised that I had felt everything he had done. It was my opinion that my leg was so full of sepsis that it had overcome the effects of the pain killing injection, this I told him, he nodded agreement and patted me on the shoulder, "Muy Valiente," he said, and left.
This new addition to my discomfort was to continue for another six days or so, Mrs Golding would hold my left hand and I would grip the top rail with my other.
Then one morning I was visited by three very lovely young ladies, their father was an Englishman, originally from my home town of Birmingham. He had married a beautiful Spanish girl and these three radiant creatures were the result of the union. They brought me cigarettes and introduced themselves, if I remember rightly the eldest was Joan, blonde and quiet, the next was Helen, a lithesome lovely brunette and last came the youngest, whose name I cannot recall, she had an ethereal beauty that was beyond description. Frank who was also present could not take his eyes off her. Just then Dr Tomas came in, "Come on, Sharkey, let's get this leg done." My visitors moved towards the door, the last one was the youngest of my fair visitors. "Just a moment," said the doctor, "this young man will need you to hold his hand." Obediently she turned back; on this island the young obey their elders.
My hand was held gently by her small frail hand, I demurred, I could not seize this delicate hand, when the probing began I would grip whatever I held, the light bowl above the bed would appear to swell and diminish, I would grit my teeth and whatever I held I would squeeze until my hands were numb. I loosed her hand and gripped the bedrail but Dr Tomas would brook no defiance of his orders. "Let her hold your hand, this won't be very pleasant." He waited until she had taken hold of me again and then he started.
I tried not to squeeze too hard, but I must have unconsciously gripped tight for during a pause in the doctor's probing I felt her slide her other hand in to ease the pressure of my grip. At last he finished and bandaged my leg, silent and erect the lassie passed through the door to her waiting sisters. George and Frank came back in, Frank had a distant look in his eyes, "If that girl would hold my hand, they could take my leg off up to the elbow," he murmured. He was a presentable chap, quiet but handsome and one who was admired as much as he admired the opposite sex, and the girl who had just left was lovely enough to move the heart of any man.
The end result of this little incident was that when the lassie, who had almost fainted outside my room, told her father about it he said that if she had found it so painful how then did I feel? Helen told me afterwards that she would rather it had been herself as she had done a little nursing at the military hospital, whereas her youngest sister had always been protected from the unpleasant things of life. To be present at the treating of my leg as her inception to nursing was a bad beginning, my leg was not a pretty sight, it had been completely in the shark's mouth, its teeth had torn the muscles downward and the leg was torn all round. The wound was also still raw, added to this the probing and my tensed apprehension would have upset stronger nerves than those of this sheltered maid.
The father of the girls sent me, from his cellars, a bottle of fine brandy, this to act as a remedy to the probing. Later we, that is George, Frank and I, were invited to dinner at the house of the three lovely maidens.
Slowly the poison abated, the probing ceased and one morning, after the doctor had removed the dressings, I had a look at the damaged leg; it was cleaner looking than when I had first seen it. Where the doctor had put in the tubes to drain the pus and plugs to clean the inside of the muscles, it looked like a trimmed hambone. Dr Tomas expressed his satisfaction at my progress. I too was happier now, I felt stronger and more able. The nights of dreaming that I was back on the raft were behind me, I now spent them in pleasant and restful sleep.
I had been at least two weeks in bed and hoped soon to be allowed to get up, my leg was slowly healing, my strength returning. I was now allowed more visitors and among my regulars were Mr and Mrs Davy. Mr Davy was large, handsome, jovial and wise; Mrs Davy was a beautiful balance to the power of her husband. She was a lady of soft voice, gracious charm and unsurpassed kindness. She was a member of a well-connected family of which more anon. They were a devoted middle-aged couple who had carried their love and understanding of each other on into their maturity.
Davy came to see all of us who were in the clinic and as each of the other boys departed he still continued to visit me. From the first he had called me 'Sharkey', his wife had remonstrated but to no avail, the name stuck.
One evening he told me that I was to be their guest, that was until I had returned a little nearer to normality. "When?" I asked, Davy smiled, "Tomorrow." Dr Tomas who was present nodded his head in agreement.
I spent that night wondering what it would be like to be out of the clinic, also that night I was presented with a silken dressing gown so that I might be respectable around the house.
Davy fetched me by car the following morning, it was an enjoyable drive to the Davy home. The house was large and white, in Spanish style, nestling at the foot of the volcanic mountains which ran into the island, and surrounded by a pleasant garden. I only had a moment to take in the general picture and we swung into the drive. The gardener opened my door and Davy introduced us, we then went into the house to be welcomed by Mrs Davy.
I was shown over the lower rooms, the dining room and the lounge. On the walls of these hung various arms, signs of Davy's time as a District Officer in Malaya.
"Now," said Davy, "If you can face the stairs we will show you to your bedroom." It was a pleasant room, the windows led out onto a balcony. Antonia, the maid, had just finished tidying the room and according to Davy's orders every morning she was to bring me breakfast in bed, this until I became more adept at the stairs. I was next introduced to the cook, I could see I was to be well cared for during my stay at my new abode.
We were then summoned to lunch, the meal was delicious and most enjoyable, the standard of all the meals at the Davys'.
The name of the house was 'El Nympha', they did tell me why they had given it this title but I have forgotten the reason.
Davy suffered from diabetes and every day had to give himself an insulin injection, this I only found out by accident, he would never have told me; he was a man I respected, the epitome of all that a man might be.
Many mornings I would dress myself, a great venture this, lever my crutches down the stairs and read until lunchtime. The verandah was my favourite spot but the noonday sun would drive me to the shade of the lounge.
When Davy arrived home in the evening from the business of running his plantations, we would sit on the lawn and drink our 'Sundowners', a nice nip of whisky topped with lemonade and a large chunk of ice. The drink tasted all the better for the company in which it was taken.
Banana packing next to Mr Davy's plantation
There were mornings when many of the officer survivors would visit 'El Nympha', to partake of gin and bitters: Commander Spurgeon, Lt Cox RN, who acted as second in command, Lt Sangster and others. Then there were afternoons when tea would be taken on the lawn, a little bit of English ways, far from home.
One morning one of the officers announced that he was throwing a party at the 'Pino de Ora' hotel and he invited the Davys. Mrs Davy, who sat placidly knitting, said without looking up, "It will depend on whether the doctor will allow Sharkey to go out." Quietly and gently she had made it obvious that no one was inviting them out unless their guest went too. So the invitation was extended to cover me also and to the party we all went. I was amused that evening when we arrived at the 'Pino de Ora' to see the faces of my friends as the officers, Sharkey in their midst, entered into the private lounge.
Mr Davy and Alfred Warren
They were idyllic days at 'El Nympha', Davy would tell me of his experiences in Malaya some twenty years before, and of their experiences at 'El Nympha' during the Spanish Civil War. Of how, when the noise of firing grew too loud, Mrs Davy would gently draw the curtains. There were apparently bullet marks on the walls, not fired at the Davys, but just a little of the haphazard shot that flew about.
One morning Davy and I were listening to the news and we heard that Hess had flown in to see the Duke of Hamilton, in a wild attempt to halt the war. "By God!" exclaimed Davy, "You wait until my wife comes down." I asked the reason for his amused anger, "Didn't you know old boy, she's a Hamilton."
A short while after, Mrs Davy joined us in the lounge; she was greeted with, "So I married a fifth columnist," she turned her serene gaze on the husband, "Pardon dear." He told her of the news on the wireless; she turned to me for confirmation. "How strange," she murmured, and so saying put the entire thing into its correct perspective.
Davy of course had to repeat the tale at the gathering for gin and bitters; he was delighted at the chance of a leg-pull at his wife's expense. I think he loved to try to flaw her imperturbability, she for her part knew her man too well. They were grand couple.