The Autobiography of a Quack: In Two Parts. Part I

AT this present moment of time I am what the doctors call an interesting case, and am to be found in bed No. 10, Ward II. Massachusetts General Hospital. I am told that I have what is called Addison’s Disease, — and that it is this pleasing malady which causes me to be covered with large blotches of a dark mulatto tint, such as I suppose would make me peculiarly acceptable to a Massachusetts constituency, if my legs were only strong enough to enable me to run for Congress. However, it is a rather grim subject to joke about, because, if I believe the doctor who comes around every day and thumps me, and listens to my chest with as much pleasure as if I was music all through,— I say, if I believed him, I should suppose I was going to die. The fact is, I don’t believe him at all. Some of these days I shall take a turn and get about again, but meanwhile it is rather dull for a stirring, active person to have to lie still and watch myself getting big brown and yellow spots all over me, like a map that has taken to growing.

The man on my right has consumption, smells of cod-liver oil, and coughs all night. The man on my left is a Down-Easter, with a liver which has struck work ; looks like a human pumpkin ; and how he contrives to whittle jack-straws all day, and eat as he does, I can’t understand. I have tried reading and tried whittling, but they don’t either of them satisfy me, so that yesterday I concluded to ask the doctor if he could n’t suggest some other amusement.

I waited until he had gone through the ward, and then I seized my chance, and asked him to stop a moment.

“ Well,” said he, “ what do you want ? ”

“ Something to do, Doctor.”

He thought a little, and then replied : “ I ’ll tell you what to do ; I think if you were to write out a plain account of your life, it would be pretty well worth reading, and perhaps would serve to occupy you for a few days at least. If half of what you told me last week be true, you must be about as clever a scamp as there is to be met with, and I suppose you would just as lief put it on paper as talk it.”

“ Pretty nearly,” said I; “I think I will try it, Doctor.”

After he left I lay awhile thinking over the matter. I knew well enough that I was what the world calls a scamp, and I knew also that I had got little good out of the fact. If a man is what people call virtuous, and fails in life, he gets credit at least for the virtue ; but when a man is a rascal, and breaks down at the trade, somehow or other people don’t credit him with the intelligence he has put into the business, — and this I call hard. I never had much experience of virtue being its own reward; but I do know that, when rascality is left with nothing but the contemplation of itself for comfort, it is by no means refreshing. Now this is just my present position ; and if I did not recall with satisfaction the energy and skill with which I did my work, I should be nothing but disgusted at the melancholy spectacle of my failure. I suppose that I shall at least find occupation in reviewing all this, and I think, therefore, that I shall try to give a plain and straightforward account of the life I have led, and the various devices by which I have sought to get my share of the money of my countrymen.

I want it to be clearly understood, at the beginning, that, in what I may have to say, I shall stick severely to the truth, without any overstrained regard for my neighbors’ feelings. In fact, I shall have some little satisfaction when I do come a little heavy on corn or bunyon, because for the past two years the whole world appears to have been engaged in trotting over mine with as much certainty as if there were no other standing-room left in creation.

I shall be rather brief about my early life, which possesses little or no interest.

I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and am therefore what those dreary Pennsylvanians call a Jersey Yankee, and sometimes a Spaniard, as pleases them best. My father was a respectable physician in large practice, too busy to look after me. My mother died too early for me to remember her at all. An old aunt who took her place as our housekeeper indulged me to the utmost, and I thus acquired a taste for having my own way and the best of everything, which has stuck to me through life. I do not remember when it was that I first began to pilfer, but it must have been rather early in life. Indeed, I believe I may say that, charitably speaking, which is the only way to speak of one’s self, I was what the doctors call a kleptomaniac,—which means that, when I could not get a thing in any other way, I took it. As to education, I took very little of that, but I had, notwithstanding, a liking for reading, and especially for light literature. At the age of sixteen I was sent to Nassau Hall, best known as Princeton College ; but, for reasons which I need not state very fully, I did not remain beyond the close of the Junior year. The causes which led to my removal were not the usual foolish scrapes in which college lads indulge. Indeed, I never have been guilty of any of those wanton pieces of wickedness which injure the feelings of others while they lead to no useful result. When I left to return home, I set myself seriously to reflect upon the necessity of greater caution in following out my inclinations, and from that time forward I have steadily avoided the vulgar vice of directly possessing myself of objects to which I could show no legal title. My father was justly indignant at the results of my college career; and, according to my aunt, his sorrow had some effect in shortening his life, which ended rather suddenly within the year.

I was now about nineteen years old, and, as I remember, a middle-sized, well-built young fellow, with large, dark eyes, a slight mustache, and, I have been told, with very good manners, and a somewhat humorous turn. Besides these advantages, my guardian held in trust for me about three thousand dollars. After some consultation between us, it was resolved that I should study medicine.

Accordingly I set out for Philadelphia, with many good counsels from my aunt and guardian. I look back upon this period as a turning-point in my life. I had seen enough of the world already to know that, if you can succeed honestly, it is by far the pleasantest way; and I really believe that, if I had not been endowed with such a fatal liking for all the good things of life, I might have lived along as reputably as most men. This, however, is, and always has been, my difficulty, and I suppose that I am not therefore altogether responsible for the incidents to which it gave rise. Most men also have some ties in life. I had only one, a little sister, now about ten years of age, for whom I have always had more or less affection, but who was of course too much my junior to exert over me that beneficial control which has saved so many men from evil courses. She cried a good deal when we parted, and this, I think, had a very good effect in strengthening my resolution to do nothing which could get me into trouble.

The janitor of the College to which I went directed me to a boarding-house, where I engaged a small, third-story room, which I afterwards shared with Mr. Chaucer of Jawjah, as he called the State which he had the honor to represent.

In this very remarkable abode I spent the next two winters ; and finally graduated, along with two hundred more, at the close of my two years of study. I should also have been one year in a physician’s office as a student, but this regulation is very easily evaded. As to my studies, the less said the better. I attended the quizzes, as they call them, pretty closely, and, being of quick and retentive memory, was thus enabled to dispense, for the most part, with the six or seven lectures a day which duller men found it necessary to follow.

Dissecting struck me as a rather nasty business for a gentleman, and on this account I did just as little as was absolutely essential. In fact, if a man takes his tickets, and pays the dissection fees, nobody troubles himself as to whether or not he does any more than this. A like evil exists as to graduation; whether you merely squeeze through, or pass with credit, is a thing which is not made public, so that I had absolutely nothing to stimulate my ambition.

The astonishment with which I learned of my success was shared by the numerous Southern gentlemen who darkened the floors, and perfumed with tobacco the rooms of our boardinghouse. In my companions, during the time of my studies so called, as in other matters in life, I was somewhat unfortunate. All of them were Southern gentlemen, with more money than I. They all carried great sticks, usually sword-canes, and most of them bowie-knives; also they delighted in dress-coats, long hair, felt hats, and very tight boots, swore hideously, and glared at every woman they met as they strolled along with their arms affectionately over the shoulders of their companions. They hated the “ Nawth,” and cursed the Yankees, and honestly believed that the leanest of them was a match for any halfdozen of the bulkiest of Northerners. I must also do them the justice to say that they were quite as ready to fight as to brag, which, by the way, is no meagre statement. With these gentry, for whom I retain a respect which has filled me with regret at the recent course of events, I spent a good deal of my large leisure. We were what the more respectable students of both sections called a hard crowd; though what we did, or how we did it, little concerns us here, except that, owing to my esteem for chivalric blood and breeding, I was led into many practices and excesses which cost my guardian much distress and myself a good deal of money.

At the close of my career as a student, I found myself aged twenty-one years, and owner of twelve hundred dollars, — the rest of my small estate having disappeared variously within the last two years. After my friends had gone to their homes in the South, I began to look about me for an office, and finally settled upon a very good room in one of the down-town localities of the Quaker City. I am not specific as to number and street, for reasons which may hereafter appear. I liked the situation on various accounts. It had been occupied by a doctor; the terms were reasonable ; and it lay on the skirts of a good neighborhood; while below it lived a motley population, amongst which I expected to get my first patients and such fees as were to be had. Into this new home I moved my medical text-books, a few bones, and myself. Also I displayed in the window a fresh sign, upon which was distinctly to be read: —

“ DR. ELIAS SANDCRAFT. Office hours, 7 to 9 A. M., 3 to 6 P. M., 7 to 9 P. M.”

I felt now that I had done my fair share towards attaining a virtuous subsistence, and so I waited tranquilly, and without undue enthusiasm, to see the rest of the world do its part in the matter. Meanwhile I read up on all sorts of imaginable cases, stayed at home all through my office hours, and at intervals explored the strange section of the town which lay to the south of my office. I do not suppose there is anything like it elsewhere. It was then, and still is, a nest of endless grog-shops, brothels, slop-shops, and low lodging-houses. You may dine here for a penny off of soup made from the refuse meats of the rich, gathered at back gates by a horde of half-naked children, who all tell varieties of one woful tale. Here, too, you may be drunk at five cents, and lodge for three, with men, women, and children of all colors lying about you. It is this hideous mixture of black and white and yellow wretchedness which makes the place so peculiar. The blacks predominate, and have mostly that swollen, reddish, dark skin, the sign in this race of habitual drunkenness. Of course only the lowest whites are here, — rag-pickers, pawnbrokers, old-clothes-men, thieves, and the like. All of this, as it came before me, I viewed with mingled disgust and philosophy. I hated filth, but I understood that society has to stand on somebody, and I was only glad that I was not .one of the undermost and worst-squeezed bricks.

You will hardly believe me, but I had waited a month without having been called upon by a single patient. At last the policeman on the beat brought me a fancy man, with a dog bite. This patient recommended me to his brother, the keeper of a small pawnbroking shop, and by very slow degrees I began to get stray patients who were too poor to indulge in uptown doctors. I found the police very useful acquaintances ; and, by a drink or a cigar now and then, I got most of the cases of cut heads and the like at the next station-house. These, however, were the aristocrats of my practice ; the bulk of my patients were soapfat-men, rag-pickers, oystermen, hosehouse bummers, and worse, with other and nameless trades, men and women, white, black, or mulatto. How they got the levies and quarters with which I was reluctantly paid, I do not know; that indeed was none of my business. They expected to pay, and they came to me in preference to the dispensary doctor two or three squares away, who seemed to me to live in the lanes and alleys about us. Of course he received no pay except experience, since the dispensaries in the Quaker City, as a rule, do not give salaries to their doctors ; and the vilest of the poor will prefer a pay doctor, if he can get one, to one of these disinterested gentlemen who are at everybody’s call and beck. I am told that most young doctors do a large amount of poor practice, as it is called ; but, for my own part, I think it better for both parties when the doctor insists upon some compensation being made to him. This has been usually my own custom, and I have not found reason to regret it.

Notwithstanding my strict attention to my own interests, I have been rather sorely dealt with by fate, upon several occasions, where, so far as I could see, I was vigilantly doing everything in my power to keep myself out of trouble or danger. I may as well relate one of them, merely as an illustration of how little value a man’s intellect may be, when fate and the prejudices of the mass of men are against him.

One evening late, I myself answered a ring at the bell, and found a small black boy on the steps, a shoeless, hatless little wretch, with curled darkness for hair, and teeth like new tombstones. It was pretty cold, and he was relieving his feet by standing first on one and then on the other. He did not wait for me to speak.

“ Hi, sah, Missy Barker she say to come quick away, sah, to Numbah 709 Bedford Street.”

The locality did not look like pay, but it was hard to say in this quarter, because sometimes you found a wellto-do “ brandy-snifter,” — local for ginshop,— or a hard-working “leatherjeweller,”— ditto for shoemaker, — with next door, in a house no better or worse, dozens of human rats for whom every police trap in the city was constantly set.

With a doubt, then, in my mind as to whether I should find a good patient or some mean nigger, I sought out the place to which I had been directed. I did not like its looks ; but I blundered up an alley, and into a back room, where I fell over somebody, and was cursed and told to lie down and keep easy, or somebody, meaning the man stumbled over, would make me. At last I lit on a staircase which led into the alley, and, after some inquiry, got as high as the garret. People hereabouts did not know one another, or did not want to know, so that it was of little avail to ask questions. At length I saw a light through the cracks in the attic door, and walked in. To my amazement, the first person I saw was a woman of about thirty-five, in pearl-gray Quaker dress, — one of your calm, good-looking people. She was seated on a stool beside a straw mattress, upon which lay a black woman. There were three others crowded close around a small stove, which was red-hot, — an unusual spectacle in this street. Altogether a most nasty den.

As I came in, the little Quaker woman got up, and said, “ I took the liberty of sending for thee to look at this poor woman. I am afraid she has the small-pox. Will thee be so kind as to look at her ? ” And with this she held down the candle towards the bed.

“ Good gracious ! ” said I hastily, seeing how the creature was speckled, “ I did n’t understand this, or I would not have come. Best let her alone, miss,” I added, “there’s nothing to be done for these cases.”

Upon my word, I was astonished at the little woman’s indignation. She said just those things which make you feel as if somebody had been calling you names or kicking you. Was I a doctor? Was I a man? and so on. However, I never did fancy the smallpox, and what could a fellow get by doctoring wretches like these ? So I held my tongue and went away. About a week afterwards, I met Evans, the Dispensary man.

“ Halloa ! ” says he. “ Doctor, you made a nice mistake about that darky at No. 709 Bedford Street the other night. She had nothing but measles after all.”

“ Of course I knew,” said I, laughing ; “ but you don’t think I was going into dispensary trash, do you ? ”

“ I should think not,” says Evans.

I learned afterwards that this Miss Barker had taken an absurd fancy to the man because he had doctored the darky, and would not let the Quakeress pay him. The end was, that when I wanted to get a vacancy in the Southwark Dispensary, where they do pay the doctors, Miss Barker was malignant enough to take advantage of my oversight by telling the whole story to the board ; so that Evans got in, and I was beaten.

You may be pretty sure that I found rather slow the kind of practice I have described, and began to look about tor chances of bettering myself. In this sort of location these came up now and then ; and as soon as I got to be known as a reliable man, I began to get the peculiar sort of practice I wanted. Notwithstanding all my efforts, however, I found myself at the close of three years with all my means spent, and just able to live meagrely from hand to mouth, which by no means suited a person of my luxurious turn. Six months went by, and I was worse off than ever, — two months in arrears of rent, and numerous other debts to cigar-shops and liquor-dealers. Now and then, some good job, such as a burglar with a cut head, helped me up for a while ; but on the whole, I was like Slider Downeyhylle in poor Neal’s Charcoal Sketches, and “kept going downer and downer the more I tried not to.” Something must be done.

One night, as I was debating with myself as to how I was to improve my position, I heard a knock on my shutter, and, going to the door, let in a broad-shouldered man with a white face and a great hooked nose. He wore a heavy black beard and mustache, and looked like the wolf in the pictures of Red Riding-Hood which I had seen as a child.

“Your name ’s Sandcraft?” said the man, shaking the snow over everything. “ Set down, want to talk to you.#8221;

“ That’s my name. What can I do for you ? ” said I.

The man looked around the room rather scornfully, at the same time throwing back his coat, and displaying a red neckerchief and a huge garnet pin. “Guess you ’re not overly rich,” he said.

“ Not especially,” said I.

“ Know — Simon Stagers ? ”

“Can’t say I do,” said I. Simon was a burglar who had blown off two fingers when mining a safe, and whom I had attended while he was hiding.

“ Can’t say you do,” says the wolf.

“Well, you can lie, and no mistake. Come now, Doctor, Simon says you ’re safe, and I want to do a leetle plain talk with you.” With this he laid ten eagles on the table ; I put out my hand instinctively.

“ Let ’em alone,” cried the man sharply. “ They ’re easy earned, and ten more like em.”

“ For doing what ? ” said I.

The man paused a moment, looked around him, eyed me furtively, and finally loosened his cravat with a hasty pull. “ You ’re the coroner,” said he.

“I ! What do you mean ? ”

“ Yes, you, — the coroner, don't you understand ? ” and so saying he shoved the gold pieces towards me.

“Very good,” said I, “we will suppose I’m the coroner.”

“And being the coroner,” said he, “you get this note, which requests you to call at No. 9 Blank Street to examine the body of a young man which is supposed — only supposed, you see — to have — well, to have died under suspicious circumstances.”

“Go on,” said I.

“No,” he returned, “not till I know how you like it. Stagers and another knows it; and it would n’t be very safe for you to split, besides not making nothing out of it ; but what I say is this. Do you like the business of coroner ? ”

Now I did not like it, but two hundred in gold was life to me just then; so I said, “Let me hear the whole of it first.”

“That’s square enough,” said the man; “my wife ’s got ” — correcting himself with a little shiver — “ my wife had a brother that’s been cuttin’ up rough, because, when I ’d been up too late, I handled her a leetle hard now and again. About three weeks ago, he threatened to fetch the police on me for one or two little things Stagers and I done together. Luckily, he fell sick with a typhoid just then; but he made such a thunderin’ noise about opening safes, and what he done, and I done, and so on, that I did n’t dare to have any one about him. When he began to mend, I gave him a little plain talk about this business of threatening to bring the police on us, and next day I caught him a saying something to my wife about it. The end of it was, he was took worse next morning, and — well he died yesterday. Now what does his sister do, but writes a note, and gives it to a boy in the alley to put in the post. Luckily, Stagers happened to be round ; and after the boy got away a bit, Bill bribes him with a quarter to give him the note, which was n't no less than a request to the coroner to come to our house to-morrow and make an examination, as foul play was suspected.”

Here he paused. As for myself, I was cold all over. I was afraid to go on, and afraid to go back, besides which I did not doubt that there was a good deal of money in the case. “Of course,” said I, “ it ’s all nonsense; only I suppose you don’t want the officers about, and a fuss, and that sort of thing.”

“ Exactly,” said my friend, “ you ’re the coroner ; you take this note and come to my house. Says you, ‘ Mrs. File, are you the woman that wrote this note ? because in that case I must examine the body.’ ”

“ I see,” said I ; “ she need n’t know who I am, or anything else. But if I tell her it’s all right, do you think she won’t want to know why there ain’t a jury, and so on ? ”

“ Bless you,” said the man, “ the girl is n’t over seventeen, and does n’t know no more than her baby.”

“ I ’ll do it,” said I, suddenly, for, as I saw, it involved no sort of risk ; “ but I must have three hundred dollars.”

“And fifty,” added the wolf, “if you do it well.”

With this the man buttoned about him a shaggy gray overcoat, and took his leave without a single word in addition.

For the first time in my life I failed that night to sleep. I thought to myself at last that I would get up early, pack a few clothes, and escape, leaving my books to pay, as they might, my arrears of rent. Looking out of the window, however, in the morning, I saw Stagers prowling about the opposite pavement, and, as the only exit except the street door was an alleyway, which opened alongside of the front of the house, I gave myself up for lost. About ten o’clock I took my case of instruments, and started for File’s house, followed, as I too well understood, by Stagers.

I knew the house, which was in a small street, by its closed windows and the craped bell, which I shuddered as I touched. However, it was too late to draw back, and I therefore inquired for Mrs. File. A young and haggard-looking woman came down, and led me into a small parlor, for whose darkened light I was thankful enough.

“Did you write me this note?” said I.

“ I did,” said the woman, “if you ’re the coroner. Joe, he ’s my husband, he’s gone out to see about the funeral. I wish it was his, I do.”

“ What do you suspect ? ” said I.

“ I ’ll tell you,” she returned, in a whisper. “ I think he was made away with. I think there was foul play. I think he was poisoned. That’s what I think.”

“ I hope you may be mistaken,” said I. “ Suppose you let me see the body.”

“ You shall see it,” she replied ; and, following her, I went up stairs to a front chamber, where I found the corpse.

“ Get it over soon,” said the woman, with a strange firmness. “If there ain’t no murder been done, I shall have to run for it. If there is,” and her face set hard, “ I guess I ’ll stay.” With this she closed the door, and left me with the dead.

If I had known what was before me, I never should have gone into the thing at all. It looked a little better when I had opened a window, and let in plenty of light; for, although I was, on the whole, far less afraid of dead than living men, I had an absurd feeling that I was doing this dead man a distinct wrong, as if it mattered to the dead, after all. When the affair was over, I thought more of the possible consequences than of its relation to the dead man himself; but do as I would at the time, I was in a ridiculous tremor, and especially when, in going through the forms of a post-mortem dissection, I had to make the first cut through the skin. Of course, I made no examination of the internal organs. I wanted to know as little as possible about them, and to get done as soon as I could, Unluckily, however, the walls of the stomach had softened and given way, so that I could not help seeing, among the escaped contents of the stomach, numerous grains of a white powder, which I hastened to conceal from my sight by rapidly sewing up the incisions which I had made.

I am free to confess now that I was careful not to uncover the man’s face, and that when it was over I backed to the door, and hastily escaped from the room. On the stairs opposite to me Mrs. File was seated, with her bonnet on, and a small bundle in her hand.

“ Well,” said she, rising as she spoke, and with a certain eagerness in her tones, “ what killed him ? Was it arsenic ? ”

“ Arsenic, my good woman ! ” said I; “when a man has typhoid fever, he don’t need poison to kill him.”

“ And you mean to say he was n’t poisoned,” said she, with more than a trace of disappointment in her voice, — “ not poisoned at all ?”

“ No more than you are,” said I. “ If I had found any signs of foul play, I should have had a regular inquest. As it is, the less said about it the better ; and the fact is, it would have been much wiser to have kept quiet at the beginning. I can’t understand why you should have troubled me about it at all.”

“ Neither I would,” said she, “ if I had n’t been pretty sure. I guess now the sooner I leave, the better for me.”

“ As to that,” I returned, “ it is none of my business; but you may rest certain that you are mistaken about the cause of your brother’s death.”

As I left the house, whom should I meet but Dr. Evans. “Why, halloa!” said he; “called you in, have they? Who’s sick?

You may believe I was scared. “Mrs. File,” said I, remembering with horror that I had forgotten to ask whether at any time the man had had a doctor.

“ Bad lot,” returned Evans ; “ I was sent for to see the brother when he was as good as dead.”

“As bad as dead,” I retorted, with a sickly effort at a joke. “What killed him ? ”

“I suppose one of the ulcers gave way, and that he died of the consequences. Perforation, you know, and that sort of thing. I thought of asking File for a post, but I did n’t.”

“ Wish you luck of them. Good by.”

I was greatly alarmed at this new incident, but my fears were somewhat quieted that evening when Stagers and the wolf appeared with the remainder of the money, and I learned that Mrs. File had fled from her home, and, as File thought likely, from the city also. A few months later, File himself disappeared, and Stagers found his way into the Penitentiary.

I felt, for my own part, that I had been guilty of more than one mistake, and that I had displayed throughout a want of intelligence for which I came near being punished very severely. I should have made proper inquiries before venturing on a matter so dangerous, and I ought also to have got a good fee from Mrs. File on account of my services as coroner. It served me, however, as a good lesson, but it was several months before I felt quite easy in mind. Meanwhile, money became scarce once more, and I was driven to my wit’s end to devise how I should continue to live as I had done. I tried, among other plans, that of keeping certain pills and other medicines, which I sold to my patients; but on the whole I found it better to send all my prescriptions to one druggist, who charged the patient ten or twenty per cent over the correct price, and handed this amount to me.

In some cases I am told the percentage is supposed to be a donation on the part of the apothecary; but I rather fancy the patient pays for it in the end. It is one of the absurd vagaries of the profession to discountenance the practice I have described, but I wish, for my part, I had never done anything worse or more dangerous. Of course it inclines a doctor to change his medicines a good deal, and to order them in large quantities, which is occasionally annoying to the poor ; yet, as I have always observed, there is no poverty so painful as your own, so that in a case of doubt I prefer equally to distribute pecuniary suffering among many, rather than to concentrate it on myself.

About six months after the date of my rather annoying adventure, an incident occurred which altered somewhat, and for a time improved, my professional position. During my morning office-hour an old woman came in, and, putting down a large basket, wiped her face with a yellow cotton handkerchief first, and afterwards with the corner of her apron. Then she looked around uneasily, got up, settled her basket on her arm with a jerk, which decided the future of an egg or two, and remarked briskly, “Don’t see no little bottles about ; got to the wrong stall I guess. You ain’t no homoeopath doctor, are you ? ”

With great presence of mind, I replied, “Well, ma’am, that depends upon what you want. Some of my patients like one, and some like the other.” I was about to add, “ You pays your money and you takes your choice,” but thought better of it, and held my peace, refraining from classical quotation.

“ Being as that’s the case,” said the old lady, “ I ’ll just tell you my symptoms. You said you give either kind of medicine, did n’t you ?”

“Just so,” I replied.

“ Clams or oysters, whichever opens most lively, as my Joe says. Perhaps you know Joe, — tends the oyster-stand at stall No. 9.”

No, I did not know Joe ; but what were the symptoms ?

They proved to be numerous, and included a stunnin’ in the head, and a misery in the side, and a goin’ on with bokin’ after victuals.

I proceeded of course to apply a stethoscope over her ample bosom, though what I heard on this or similar occasions I should find it rather difficult to state. I remember well my astonishment in one instance, where, having unconsciously applied my instrument over a large chronometer in the watch-fob of a sea-captain, I concluded for a brief space that he was suffering from a rather remarkable displacement of the heart. As to the old lady, whose name was Checkers, and who kept an apple-stall near by, I told her that I was out of pills just then, but would have plenty next day. Accordingly I proceeded to invest a small amount at a place called a Homoeopathic Pharmacy, which I remember amused me immensely.

A stout little German, with great silver spectacles, sat behind a counter containing numerous jars of white powders labelled concisely, Lack., Led., Onis., Op., Puls., etc., while behind him were shelves filled with bottles of what looked like minute white shot.

“ I want some homoeopathic medicine,” said I.

“ Vat kindst ? ” said my friend. “Vat you vants to cure ? ”

I explained at random that I wished to treat diseases in general.

“ Vell, ve gifs you a case, mit a pooks ” ; — and thereupon produced a large box containing bottles of small pills and powders, labelled variously with the names of diseases, so that all you required was to use the headache or colic bottle in order to meet the needs of those particular maladies.

I was struck at first with the exquisite simplicity of this arrangement; but before purchasing, I happened luckily to turn over the leaves of a book, in two volumes, which lay on the counter, and was labelled, “Jahr — Manual.” Opening at page 310, Vol. I., I lit upon Lachesis, which, on inquiry, proved to be snake-venom. This Mr. Jahr stated to be indicated in upwards of a hundred maladies. At once it occurred to me that Lach. was the medicine tor my money, and that it was quite needless to waste cash on the box. I therefore bought a small jar of Lach. and a lot of little pills, and started for home.

My old woman proved a fast triend ; and as she sent me numerous patients, I by and by altered my sign to “ Homoeopathic Physician and Surgeon,” whatever that may mean, and was regarded by my medical brethren as a lost sheep, and by the little-pill doctors as one who had seen the error of his ways.

In point of fact, my new practice had decided advantages. All the pills looked and tasted alike, and the same might be said of the powders, so that I was never troubled by those absurd investigations into the nature of the remedies which some patients are prone to make. Of course I desired to get business, and it was therefore obviously unwise to give little pills of Lach. or Puls, or Sep., when a man distinctly needed full doses of iron, or the like. I soon discovered, however, that it was only necessary to describe cod-liver oil, for instance, as a diet, in order to make use of it where required. When a man got impatient over an ancient ague, I usually found, too, that I could persuade him to let me try a good dose of quinine; while, on the other hand, there was a distinct pecuniary advantage in those cases of the shakes which could be made to believe that it was “best not to interfere with nature.” I ought to add, that this kind of faith is uncommon among folks who carry hods or build walls.

For women who are hysterical, and go heart and soul into the business of being sick, I have found the little pills a most charming resort, because you cannot carry the refinement of symptoms beyond what my friend Jahr has done in the way of fitting medicines to them, so that, if I had been disposed honestly to practise this droll style of therapeutics, it had, as I saw, certain conveniences.

Another year went by, and I was beginning to prosper in my new mode of life. The medicines (being chiefly milksugar, with variations as to the labels) cost next to nothing; and, as I charged pretty well for both these and my advice, I was now able to start a gig, and also to bring my sister, a very pretty girl of fourteen years old, to live with me in a small house which I rented, a square from my old office.

This business of my sister’s is one of the things I like the least to look back upon. When she came to me she was a pale-faced child, with large, mournful gray eyes, soft, yellow hair, and the promise of remarkable good looks. As to her attachment to me, it was something quite ridiculous. She followed me to the door when I went out, waited for me to come in, lay awake until she heard my step at night, and, in a word, hung around my neck like a kind of affectionate mill-stone.