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“Your daughter gave you very good advice; and perhaps I may be able to do the same,
your ailment, which you can hardly refuse, now that you have confessed yourself to be completely out of sorts, and that I have come so far on purpose to see you."
“I have already told you my complaint ; I am sixty-three-my grand climacteric, you know: nine times seven ; both of them unlucky numbers. No one escapes altogether at this confounded period. George wrote me on my last birthday that a most dangerous time was coming, and that I must expect to be confoundedly seedy for some months ; but that there was no kind of use in seeing a doctor, as the indisposition was natural and inevitable."
“I thought all belief in the critical year' had been long since abandoned, except by the old women who disguise themselves as old men.
Your son is young enough to know better. Be assured, my good friend, that your sickness has no reference whatever to this peculiar year
life. Cannot you assign any other cause for this sudden change in a constitution which has hitherto been so healthy ?” “ Well
, I don't know. I have certainly had a good deal of worry and anxiety lately."
“ Yet few men have been so prosperous. The world gives you credit for having made an immense fortune by your contracts with government."
“ The world says true ; but wealth, I find, cannot always buy health, and still less happiness.
I tell you what, Doctor,—when a fellow has everything to fear and nothing to hope, he will sometimes look back with regret to the careless days when he had everything to hope and nothing to fear."
“ Thank Heaven, I am in the former predicament, and trust always to remain so."
“ Nay, Doctor, you may get rich when you get old, as I have done.”
“ In other words, I may scrape up money when I am too old to enjoy it, and cannot long retain it. I hope the blind goddess will spare me all such cruel kindness."
“Fate has spared you one calamity-you have no children. I have only two; but, oh! my dear Linnel! words cannot tell
how much disappointment, misery, and vexation, they have latterly occasioned me. If there is one man I hate more than another, it is Godfrey Thorpe, of Oakfield Hall, and not without many and good reasons, exclusively of his being a pompous, supercilious blockhead, as proud as Lucifer and as poor as Job. First, he procured me to be blackballed at the County Club, insolently declaring that he could not associate with a ci-devant maltster. Secondly, his interest with the commissary-general, and certain charges of malpractices on my part—for I'm sure the slanders came from him-prevented my getting the great contract for supplying the cavalry with provender. Thirdly, he ousted me from the borough which I had represented for five years, actually beating me with my own money, for I had just lent him an additional eight thousand pounds on the Oakfield estate, which is now mortgaged to its full value. However, there is one comfort; if he goes on much longer with his hounds and horses, and his grand establishment, I hope, one of these fine days, to
foreclose, and oust him from his boasted old Hall, just as he turned me out of my borough."
“Provoking enough, I confess; but what has all this to do with the annoyance you have suffered from
children ?" “ Listen, and you shall hear. Thorpe has an only daughter, not unattractive in person, but an artful, sly minx, who, being probably well aware of her father's desperate circumstances, and knowing that my son was likely to be one of the richest fellows in the county, set her cap at him so successfully, that the silly gull became perfectly infatuated with her, and actually made her an offer of his hand, which was,
course, instantly accepted. That George should be easily ensnared, and be ready to throw himself away for a pretty plaything, does not surprise me, for he has ever been a spoilt child, accustomed from boyhood to have his own way, and confirmed by long indulgence in waywardness and obstinacy; but guess my shame and wrath when he told me, with an air of satisfaction, that the proud old insolvent had given his consent to the marriage solely on condition that his daughter's husband should take the name of Thorpe! What unparalleled insolence! How could hehow could my son—how could any man dream that, after toiling and moiling for years to build up a fortune, and found a family that might perpetuate my name, I should consent to see that name swamped, and my hard-earned wealth sacrificed, to continue the race, and clear the encumbered estates of a man whom I hated? I dismissed my mean-spirited son with an indignant prohibition of the marriage; and I have since added a codicil to my will, bequeathing my property to the County Hospital, should he ever espouse Julia Thorpe. There is some little comfort in that reflection ; but I leave you to imagine how deeply, how cruelly my heart has been lacerated, by this disappointment of all my fondest and most cherished hopes."
“It must be confessed that your son, knowing your antipathy to Mr. Thorpe, did not make a very discreet selection; but Wordsworth tells us that
The child's the father of the man, and you ought not, therefore, to expect that spoilt boys should grow up to be dutiful sons.
“Ay, there you go, Doctor, girding at me with your stereotyped smile and soft voice, as if you were flattering instead of condemning me. At all events, I never spoiled Sarah ; indeed, people used to say that, in my blind partiality for George, I neglected his sister, and yet, by a singular coincidence, as if I were doomed to be equally tormented by both my children, she has committed a not less egregious act of folly, and has thwarted
my wishes in a still more offensive and more unfilial manner. Not only has she refused an offer from Frank Rashleigh, the man upon whom I had set my heart as a son-in-law, because he is sure of being Earl of Downport, but she has confessed her attachment to Mr. Mason, the curate, a poor creature with a miserable 1001. a-year."
“ But having so rich a father, she does not, I presume, think it necessary that her husband should be rich."
< But I do; or that he should have rank to make atonement for his poverty."
“What are her objections to the man you had chosen ?"
“She says he is a fool and a profligate, with which I have nothing to do. I don't require my son-in-law to be a wise man or a moral one, but I want to see my daughter a countess. As to the curate, she has promised never to marry him without my consent, which she will never get in my
my will has effectually forbidden the banns, for the 1000l. a-year I have left her is to be reduced to 2001. if ever she becomes Mrs. Mason.-Well now, Doctor, if you deny that the climacterical year has anything to do with my indisposition, will you not admit that I have had worry, and vexation, and disappointment enough to disorder any man's health ?”
“ I always like my patient to give me his own impressions as to the cause of his malady; but before I tell you mine, you must detail the symptoms. You have a deranged, intermitting pulse, but you are not deficient in strength, for you have maintained this long conversation without any apparent exhaustion.”
“ That's purely accidental, for sometimes I am suddenly seized with distressing tremor of the heart, giddiness in the head, noise in the ears, flashing of the eyes, which continue till I become insensible, and remain so for a considerable time, just as if I were dead. Upon one occasion I remained three hours in this state, and when I recovered consciousness, another hour elapsed before I could speak. A week ago, after great languor of body and mind, I was suddenly deprived of all voluntary motion, my
limbs being as rigid as if I were a statue ; and while suffering these attacks, several blotches have appeared upon my body, an ailment to which I never have been previously subject. There, Doctor, you have heard my symptoms ; now, tell me, what's the matter with me ?"
“ These are diagnostics of syncope, paralysis, and catalepsy, but presented in so complicated and unusual a form that I cannot exactly specify the nature of your malady. Two things I will frankly tell you -I don't like these paroxysms, which are of a very ugly type; and I do not believe that they have been superinduced by mental anxiety, however poignant. Before we can suggest a remedy for your disordered state, we must try to discover the cause, which may, perhaps, be traced to some recent intemperance--some excess either in eating or drinking; or, at all events, to some deviation from your customary diet.”
“A bad guess, Doctor, for in no single respect have I altered my usual mode of living, except in taking two or three doses a-day of Raby's Restorative."
66 What the deuce is that?”
“Why, my son George, as I told you, is a firm believer in the great danger of the climacterical year, and having heard that this medicine is a sure and wonderful restorer of the vital energies in old men, very kindly sent me up a large supply from Newmarket, where the patentee resides ; and when I complain of getting worse, he is constantly urging me to increase the dose as the only remedy."
“ Telling you, at the same time, that there was no use in sending for a
doctor! Odd enough: I am so often called in by patients who have half killed themselves by trying to cure themselves, that I know the names of quack medicines pretty well, but I never heard of Raby's Restorative. Have you any of this precious compound in the room?"
“ Yes; there is an unopened bottle of it by the glass.”
“ There is no label on the bottle," observed the Doctor, “ an appendage in which patent medicines are seldom deficient; nor is there
vendor's or chemist's name, an omission equally uncommon."
After smelling it for some time, and applying it very cautiously to the tip of his tongue, he continued “I think I can guess one of the ingredients; but if you
will allow me to analyse the mixture at home, I shall be better enabled to decide. Promise me, in the mean time, not to taste another drop till you see me to-morrow."
“Very well ; but I shall miss it, for it's a very pleasant and comfortable cordial. George assures me that when taken in sufficient quantities it has always answered the purpose.”
“ Very likely; but what was the purpose ? I am afraid of quack medicines, as I have already told you, and still more of amateur prescriptions."
“Why, you are as suspicious as Sarah, who has implored me, over and over, not to go on with the Restorative. Poor girl! she has been a capital nurse, waiting upon me early and late, and never out of humour, except when I insist on following George's advice and increasing the cordial.”
“Her looks show that she has been doing too much. This must not be. I will send you a regular nurse to-morrow.”
“As to the girls looks, I don't think much of that. Perhaps she is pining for her pauper lover: besides, my children ought to do something for me; I'm sure I have done enough for them, never hesitating, for their sakes, to commit a little irregularity in my contracts, when I thought it could be done safely,—always remembering my young folks.”
" And sometimes, as it seems, forgetting yourself.
“ I shouldn't confess these little malpractices to any one else, and this I do in confidence; my confession is quite entre nous.”
“No such thing; a third party has been listening to you all the time.” " Bless
Who ?_where ?"
“ Nay, Doctor, you must not be squeamish and puritanical. Every one cheats government."
“But no one cheats God!" was the reply; and I began to wish my rebuker out of the room, when he suddenly exclaimed
“How comes it that your son makes Sarah the dispenser of his quack medicine, if such it is, and the watcher by your bed-side, when he himself ought to perform those duties ?”
“Oh! George never misses the great Newmarket meeting, and he has a horse entered for the two first races. He is always happy when he
in the system.
is staying with his young friend, Sir Freeman Dashwood, and I have always indulged him in his whims and fancies."
“ Even to the double doses of Raby's Restorative, although it has hitherto failed so signally in realising its name. I will hurry home and send you some alexipharmick medicines, which I beg you will take as soon as you can."
“ How fond you all are of long words! What the deuce are alexipharmicks?"
They are usually administered when we suspect the presence of poison “ Poison! what a horrible idea! Surely you do not suspect me of having been poisoned ?”
“ It is not my business to suspect, but to deal with symptoms, and yours very much resemble those of a poisoned man. You
have unconsciously received some deleterious matter into your system, which we must instantly endeavour to expel. Many men are thus destroyed without foul play of any sort. Yours is a case that requires prompt remedies, so I must hurry home. I will give directions to Sarah, in case you should have a recurrence of your attacks to-night, and will repeat my visit early in the morning.”
WHILE I thought that Doctor Linnel had indulged in very unnecessary suspicions as to Raby's Restorative, I could not shake off an occasional misgiving touching its injurious effects upon my health. That the most deleterious compounds were sometimes sold under the name of quack medicines I was fully aware; but that my son, upon whom I had so fondly doated since his childhood, should press
with so much importunity, unless he were fully convinced of its salutary quality, I could not bring myself to believe. With no ordinary interest, therefore, did I cross-question the Doctor next morning, as to the results of his analysis; but his answers were so cautious, not to say evasive, that it was difficult to draw from them any very decided inference. Judging, however, by what he supposed or vaguely hinted, rather than by what he actually said, I was led to believe that his impressions were unfavourable, especially when he again alluded, with much significance of manner, to the absence of a vendor's name, or label of any sort, on the bottles. He congratulated me on having discontinued the draughts, which might possibly, though he would not positively affirm it, have been the cause of my mysterious malady; and expressed a hope that its progress would be arrested by the copious use of the medicines he had prescribed.
My strange complaint, however, had got such complete possession of my system, that it would neither yield
to the most potent remedies, nor to the unremitting and affectionate attentions of my daughter, who was now assisted by a regular nurse. With the fond illusion of an invalid, I still clung to the notion that my climacterical year prevented the remedies from proving efficacious; but whatever might be the cause, I could not conceal from myself that I was rapidly sinking. The derangement of all my bodily functions increased, the fainting fits and cataleptic attacks were more frequent and of longer continuance; and though, as I