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absence she would be surrounded by her own family and occupied in attending to mine—if the word could be applicable to one little baby—I felt less difficulty in leaving her, the more especially as my stay at Cuthbert's would be so extremely short.
My deliberations and consultations, however, were broken in upon by the arrival of Sniggs, the announcement of whose name in connexion with the duty which, according to the groomboy's account, he had been performing, produced something like a shudder on my frame, but whom, of course, it was most essential I should see. I accordingly went down stairs, and am almost ashamed to own how unwillingly; suffice it to say, without attempting to describe them, that my feelings, whatever they were, were by no means moderated by seeing both my pet dogs worrying about and sniffing the worthy apothecary's clothes, as if they were aware of the presence of an odour which might breathe infection in my yet untainted house. I drove them out of the room with an abruptness of manner and severity of tone very unusual with me in my intercourse with dumb animals.
"Well, Sir," said Sniggs, "this is a sad business; I had hoped better things: however, it is a consolation to myself and Mrs. Sniggs to know that everything was done that could be done."
Yes, thought I, and something more than need have been done.
"I never saw an instance where fever increased so rapidly—it was irresistible—an effusion of blood on the brain terminated the struggle. Poor fellow! he suffered greatly during the night and became delirious, and at the last was quite unconscious of what was passing—when will he be buried, Sir?"
"That is a matter upon which I can say nothing till I have seen my brother," said I.
"You propose going to him, then?" said Sniggs.
"I think so."
"Because," continued the apothecary, "it struck me that, perhaps, having had charge of him, having attended him, and watched him through the progress of the disease, it might have been, in some degree, consolatory and satisfactory to Mr. Gurney if I were to go to him myself: I could explain more correctly and minutely the circumstances of the case, and"
"But," said I, "your patients here!"
"Oh," said Sniggs, "I can arrange all that —my friend Pillman would take charge of them; besides, my own assistant is perfectly able to do that. This is no time for joking; but you know what Pillman said to the bishop who refused to ordain him, because he was not properly qualified
M He said, 'my lord, I regret this refusal more for the sake of others than myself—it may cause the death of hundreds.' 'How so, Sir?' said the bishop. * Why, my lord,' replied Pillman, 'If I do not get into the church, I must follow my father's profession, and practise physic'"
Sniggs, I fancy, saw in the expression of my countenance that I did not particularly admire the tone and manner of his conversation at such a moment; for he suddenly threw an extra proportion of grief into his strange-looking features, and inquired in a mournful tone whether I approved of his proposal.
It struck me that it would be an exceedingly good plan; but I determined not to sanction it without further consultation in the family cabinet. It was not difficult to discover divers and sundry reasons why the active son of iEsculapius was both ready and willing to undertake the expedition. In the first place he would show his anxiety and sympathy; in the second, he would explain the case more favourably for himself, carefully concealing, no doubt, the episode of the cherry-brandy, which as I felt, although I did not admit, had mainly contributed to the catastrophe; and, in the third place, his extra attention and rapid journey, to the manifest prejudice and neglect of all his other patients, would give him a substantial claim upon Cuthbert's liberality, which, after the melancholy termination of the boy's illness, might probably require some powerful stimulants in the way of counteracting the grief and disappointment of the hopes he had entertained of the apothecary's skill.
"Well," said I, "I will go and talk this over with Mrs. Gurney; and if we agree in thinking your scheme available, when shall you be ready to start?"
"In an hour," said Sniggs. "I have given all the necessary orders with respect to the body, and every thing will go on perfectly well in my absence, subject to such instructions as Mr. Gurney may give me, which, of course, I shall hurry back to fulfil."
"Will you wait five minutes?" said I.
"I am at your orders," replied Sniggs. "I don't know whether it is quite luncheon time, but if it is—and I assure you I am deuced hungry—hav'n't had time to eat a morsel this morning—and you are for my going, I would take a snack, which would save time, and I could order horses as I went by the King's Head, and so come round here for your letter."
"Luncheon you shall have," said I, not entirely forgetting what his morning's occupations