HOW DAN TOOK HIS MEDICINE

While in this irritable and pugnacious temper it chanced most
fortunately that the doctor did not happen to fall in with Rich; and
when he did, being in a different state of mind, matters wore quite
another aspect.

The doctor was remarkably fond of music, and no mean performer himself
upon the clarionet. Being at meeting for the first time since the
arrival of Rich on the Sabbath when Deacon Starkweather made his exit,
he was mightily tickled with the whole proceedings; said the deacon
ought to have his head shaved, and a blister drawn on it, and was
consequently inclined to feel more kindly disposed towards Rich. While
his prejudices were thus somewhat weakened, he was introduced to the
latter by Perk, and was so much charmed with the modest appearance,
intelligence, and address of Rich, that he received him with all the
cordiality of a parent.

“This young gentleman, Mr. Perkins,” said the doctor to Perk the next
morning, “is a very different person from the great majority of those
who profess to study medicine, having some respect for age and
experience, and as amendable to counsel as he is intelligent and refined
in his manners.”

The doctor was not dependent upon his practice for a living, having
inherited an ample property from his grandfather. His library was large,
consisting of all the medical works then esteemed, and a complete set of
the instruments then used in this country. It is safe to say that the
doctor consulted the length of his purse in the choice of books, rather
than his mental needs, as Rich, after looking over, found a great
portion of them with the leaves still uncut, although they had been ten,
and some of them twenty, years in the doctor’s possession.

Most physicians at that period were provided with more or less bones for
the study of anatomy, generally of the limbs, as they were most liable
to be broken or dislocated: very few went beyond this. Dr. Ryan,
however, had not even all these–only the bones of the lower
extremities; but the deficiency was in some manner supplied by plates
contained in the anatomical works in his library; indeed, he felt very
little interest in surgery, dreading nothing so much as being called to
set a bone, amputate a limb, or reduce a dislocation, and frequently
advised his patients to send for Dr. Slaughter, who excelled as a
surgeon.

In the course of his long practice, he had rendered many cripples for
life by sheer carelessness in bandaging limbs that had been properly
set, and once made a blunder that would have proved fatal to one less
beloved.

He was called to a man who had recently moved into the place, who was
afflicted with a tumor in his ham; the doctor, after examining, shoved
his lancet into it. To his terror and astonishment, the blood spurted in
his face; he had cut an artery! The new lights represented that he was
so frightened the patient bled to death while he sent for his
instruments. It was not so; yet not much better. The doctor clapped his
thumb on the artery, and instructed the family to arrest the blood, in
the meanwhile sent for his instruments and took up the artery; but the
coats of the artery, where he applied the ligature, being diseased,
sloughed in the night; and in a short time the ligature came away, and
the man bled to death.

It was an old false aneurism, in which so many concentric layers of
coagulum had accumulated that no pulsation could be perceived. Had the
doctor inquired into the history of it, he would have found that it had
pulsated in the past; but neglecting to do this, and unable to perceive
the throb of the artery, he mistook it for an abscess. Notwithstanding
his lack of surgical skill, he was versed in the properties and
operation of medicines, a close observer, could detect the nature of
disease, and had acquired a great amount of experimental knowledge.

He made an agreement with Rich to superintend his studies, permit him
the use of his library, with opportunities to visit patients, for thirty
dollars a year.

It was now that Rich began to realize the deep-seated affection
cherished for him by his scholars. There were many young men, the sons
of farmers, from nineteen to twenty-one, who attended the academy in the
winter term; in March they came together, and cut up the whole year’s
stock of wood for Mrs. Clemens, and put it under cover, thus relieving
Rich, and affording him time for study. Dan Clemens and his mates also
performed their part in smaller matters, so that Rich had really no more
to do than sufficed for exercise.

There could not be a greater contrast than existed between Rich,
earnest, ambitious, still farther stimulated by the pressure of poverty,
and the genial old doctor, who loved a good story and a good joke, had
an abundance of this world’s goods, and cared very little whether his
practice increased or decreased, so that it was not intruded upon by the
new lights.

Yet they were great friends. Rich loved the doctor, though soon made
aware of his deficiencies, and treated him with the greatest deference;
while the latter obstinately shut his eyes to the fact, often brought
to view by his fellow-physician, Dr. Slaughter, that he was nourishing a
most thorough-going radical and new light in his own bosom, although
never obtruding his heresies; for if ever there was a boy bound to go to
the root of principles, that boy was Rich.

Mrs. Clemens was a lady after the doctor’s own heart. She was
intelligent, refined, benevolent, and universally esteemed. Like most
persons in delicate health, she was fond of having a physician round
her, consulted the doctor in respect to every trifling indisposition,
and was very conservative in her notions. She had one weak point, as who
has not. This was a perfect passion for reading medical works and
practising upon herself and the members of her family–a sentiment
fostered by her delicate state of health.

This rendered it quite difficult for her to keep a hired girl, for
though they liked her, and received good wages, they were not fond of
the medicines she insisted upon their taking to keep them from being
sick. Next to the Holy Scriptures, she reverenced Buchan’s Domestic
Medicine,–a copy of which, elegantly bound, lay on her table beside the
Bible,–abhorred innovations in medical practice, and would much rather
have died under the hands of a regular physician than been cured by a
quack.

“Doctor,” she said, one day, “how mysterious it seems, that my dear
husband, who was a great, stout, healthy man, the very picture of
health, and used to take care of me just like a baby, should be in his
grave, and I still spared!”

“Invalids, ma’am, live the longest of any people in the world.”

“How can that be, doctor?”

“Because they take care of themselves.”

The good lady, indeed, took excellent care of herself; but she was sadly
tried in regard to taking care of her son Dan.

Dan was a robust, red-cheeked boy, sound to the core, of fearless,
sanguine temperament, and it was the hardest work in the world for Dan
to sit on a bench and apply himself to study. Nothing but their
attachment to Rich would have induced him and his sworn friends, Ned
Baker and Frank Merrill, to attempt and accomplish it. But much as Dan
loved his mother, he did abhor medicine, and to be coddled up.

Richardson was often placed between the two horns of a dilemma, as Mrs.
Clemens invariably appealed to him when Dan proved refractory.

One morning his mother insisted that he had taken cold, and Dan as
stoutly maintained the negative.

“Daniel, you must wear your great coat to school; your face is flushed,
and I think you are feverish.”

“It’s always flushed, mother. I haven’t one mite of cold, and I can’t
stand it to wear a coat this pleasant morning.”

“Yes, you must, dear; your tongue is coated. I’ll ask Mr. Richardson.”

But Rich, who had overheard the conversation, made a bolt for the door,
and escaped that time. In the course of an hour, Betty Gookins, the
help, came in, bringing in her hand a garment.

“Only look here, ma’am. I went to pump a pail of water, and I couldn’t,
cause Dan’s coat was in the pump-nose.”

“O, dear, how that boy does try me! Well, I shall soon be in my grave.”




But as the good lady had said the same for the last thirty years, there
was evidently hope in the case. Dan, however, was not to escape so
easily the watchful care of his mother. That night, when he came in to
supper, he was regaled with the odor of salts and senna simmering in the
corner.

“O, dear!” he said to himself; “have I got to take that awful, sickish,
nasty stuff?”

The next morning, about half an hour before school-time, Rich wanted
Dan.

“The poor child is not well, Mr. Richardson, and has gone into the
unfinished room to take some medicine. He says he can take it better if
he is alone, and nobody looking at him. I wish he didn’t dislike to take
medicine so much; if it was not such a trial to him, I should give him
‘picra.'”

When Rich entered the room, Dan had got up a brick in the hearth, and
was administering the salts and senna to the cross-sill beneath. He
started like a guilty thing when the door opened, but, seeing who it
was, completed his purpose.

“What are you about, Daniel?”

“Taking salts and senna, sir.”

“Is that the way you always take them?”

“I never took any so before; but this is the way I mean to take them for
the future. I expect to pour gallons into this hole.”

“Are you well enough to get me a big log out of the wood-pile?”

“Certainly, Mr. Richardson. I never was weller in my life.”

“But your mother said yesterday that your tongue was coated.”

“So it was. I had been breaking a pan of cream. Mother don’t like to
have her cream disturbed after it is set. I licked the cream off my
lips, but left it on my tongue.”

“I think your mother’ll have the best of it if she gives you salts and
senna. She thinks highly of assafoetida, and may give you that.”

“I never will take that; I’ll leave home first.”

The next evening, as Rich was passing through the kitchen with an armful
of wood for his evening fire, he noticed Mrs. Clemens seated before the
fire, in her lap a pair of old-fashioned kitchen bellows, on a chair
beside her a skillet full of hot coals, a roll of sheep-skin, a junk of
Burgundy pitch, and a knife. After cutting from the skin a piece of the
right size for a plaster, she placed on it a piece of the pitch, put
both on the flat side of the bellows, made the knife hot in the coals,
and spread the plaster; while Dan, with no very joyous expression of
countenance, sat awaiting the result.

“I am going to put this plaster between Daniel’s shoulders, Mr.
Richardson,” said she; “it is a sovereign remedy for a cold; doesn’t
open the pores like a sweat, and expose one to take more cold.”

The next morning the good lady declared the plaster had worked wonders;
that Daniel’s cold was very much better, and would soon be well.

“Perhaps I had better take it off, my son, wipe it, and wipe the
perspiration from your back. The plaster will draw better, and it will
prevent its itching and annoying you in school.”

“O, no, mother; I shall be late. It don’t itch one mite.”

And he rushed from the house.

“It is very singular,” replied his mother, looking after him, “_my_
plasters always itch, and are very troublesome. I think they don’t do
much good except they itch.”

Mrs. Clemens would have been less surprised had she known that the
plaster began to itch the moment Dan was warm in bed. After enduring it
awhile, he pulled it off and tucked it up chimney. So he told Frank
Merrill, with whom, on the way to school, he shared some guava jelly
given him by his mother, after taking the salts and senna, to take the
taste out of his mouth.