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Page 170

Doctor In The House (1946)

same number of candidates were there, but they were a subdued, muttering crowd, like the supporters of a home team who had just been beaten in a cup tie.
We pushed our way into the large hall on the ground floor. It was packed full with anxious students. On the side of the hall facing us was the foot of a marble staircase. To the left of the staircase was a plain, open door, over which had been recently pinned a large black and white card saying `EXIT'. To the right was a clock, which stood at a few minutes before twelve.
We had heard exactly what would happen. At midday precisely the Secretary of the Committee would descend the stairs and take his place, flanked by two uniformed porters, on the lowermost step. Under his arm would be a thick, leather-covered book containing the results. One of the porters would carry a list of the candidates' numbers and call them out, one after the other. The candidate would step up closely to the Secretary, who would say simply `Pass' or `Failed'. Successful men would go upstairs to receive the congratulations and handshakes of the examiners and failures would slink miserably out of the exit to seek the opiate of oblivion.
`One thing, it's quick,' Benskin muttered nervously.
`Like the drop,' said Grimsdyke.
One minute to twelve. The room had suddenly come to a frightening, unexpected silence and stillness, like an unexploded bomb. A clock tinged twelve in the distance. My palms were as wet as sponges. Someone coughed, and I expected the windows to rattle. With slow scraping feet that could be heard before they appeared the Secretary and porters came solemnly down the stairs.

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