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But Mr. Crossbone knew better. It was his boast; he knew life ; and therefore always paved its little shabby passages with silver : other passages require gold, and only for that reason are not thought so shabby. True, therefore, to his principles, Mr. Crossbone sneaked a card and a dollar into the porter's hand.
“ Ralph, take this card to his lordship. Good deal bothered, all of us, just now," added the porter.
“Good deal,” corroborated Ralph, the son of Gum, and looking up and down at the apothecary, he went his way. Quick was his return ; and with respectful voice he begged the gentleman to follow him.
“ We have met before, Mr. Crossbone,” said St. James, and a shadow crossed his face. “I well remember." ,
“No doubt, my lord. It was my happiness to employ my poor skill in a case of great danger. Need I say, how much I am rewarded by your lordship's present health ?”
“Humph! I have been worse beaten since then,” said the young lord, and he bit his lip. He then with a gay air continued: “ Mr. Snipeton is, I believe, your patient ? ”
“Bless your heart, my lord,—that is, I beg your pardon,"for Crossbone felt the familiarity of the benison—"Mr. Snipeton is no man's patient. King Charles of Charing Cross-saving his majesty's presence—has just as much need of the faculty. When people, my lord, have no feelings they have little sickness : that 's à discovery I've made, my lord, and old Snipeton bears it out. Now his wife-ha! that's a flower.”
“ Tender and beautiful,” cried St. James, with animation. “ And her health, Mr. Crossbone ?"
“Delicate, my lord ; delicate as a bird of paradise. I've often said it, she wasn't made for this world ; it's too coarse and dirty. However, she 'll not be long out of her proper place. No: she's dying fast.”
" Dying !” exclaimed St. James. “Dying! Impossible ! Dying—with what?”
“A more common malady than 's thought of, my lord,” answered Crossbone. He then advanced a step, and projecting the third finger of the left hand, with knowing look observed—“Ringworm, my lord.”
“Ha!” cried St. Giles, airily. “Ring-worm! Is that indeed so fatal ?"
“When, my lord, it fixes on the marriage finger of the young
"My lord," answered the apothecary, with a thanksgiving bow, “I am.
Now, when a man pays a man this praise, it happens, say six times out of nine, that the compliment really means this much : “ You are a man of the world ; that is, you are a shrewd fellow who know all the by-ways and turnings of life : who know that what is called a wrong, a shabbiness, in the pulpit or in the diningroom (before company), is nevertheless not a wrong, not a shabbiness when to be undertaken for a man's especial interest. They are matters to be much abused, until required : to shake the head and make mouths at, until deemed indispensable to our health to swallow.". To praise a man for knowing the world, is often to commend him only for his knowledge of its dirty lanes and crooked alleys. Any fool knows the broad paths—the squares of life.
And Mr. Crossbone—sagacious person !--took the lord's compliment in its intended sense. He already felt that he was about to be entrusted with a secret, a mission, that might test the lofty knowledge for which he was extolled. Therefore, to clench his lordship's confidence, the apothecary added, “I am, my lord, az man of the world. There are two golden rules of life ; I have ever studied them."
“And these are?"-asked St. James, drawing him on.
“These are, to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Your lordship inay command me.''
“Mr. Crossbone”—and St. James, motioning the apothecary to a chair, seated himself for serious consultation—“Mr. Crossbone, this Snipeton has deeply injured me."
“I believe him capable of anything, my lord. Sorry am I to say it,” said Crossbone, blithely.
“ He has wounded the dignity of my family. He has wrested
from us the borough of Liquorish”-Crossbone looked wondrous disgust at the enormity ;-"a borough that has been ours, aye, since the Conquest.”
"No doubt,” cried Crossbone. “He might as well have stolen the family plate."
“ Just so. Now, Mr. Crossbone, I do not pretend to be a whit better than the ordinary run of my fellow-creatures. I must therefore confess 'twould give me some pleasure to be revenged of this money-seller."
“Situated as you are, my lord ; wounded as you must be in a most patriotic part, I do not perceive how your lordship can, as a nobleman and a gentleman, do less than take revenge. It is a duty you owe your station-a duty due to society, for whose better example noblemen were made. Revenge, my lord ! ” cried Crossbone, with a look of devotion,
“ The sweeter still the better,” said St. James.
“ Right, my lord ; very right. Revenge is a magnificent passion, and not to be meddled with in the spirit of a chandler. No trumpery ha'porths of it,'twould be unworthy of a nobleman."
“Mr. Crossbone, you are a man of great intelligence. A man who ought not to vegetate in the country with dandelion and pimpernel. No, sir : you must be fixed in London. A genius like yours, Mr. Crossbone, is cast away upon bumpkins. We shall yet see you with a gold cane, in your own carriage, Mr. Crossbone.”
And with these words, Lord St. James gently pressed the tips of Crossbone's fingers. The apothecary was wholly subdued by the condescension of his lordship. He sat in a golden cloud, smiling, and looking bashfully grateful. And then his eyes trembled with emotion, and he felt that he should very much like to acknowledge upon his knees the honour unworthily conferred upon him. It would have much comforted him to kneel ; nevertheless, with heroic self-denial he kept his seat; and at length in a faint voice said " It isn't for me, your lordship, to speak of my poor merits ; your lordship knows best. But this I must say, my lord ; I do think I have looked after the weeds of the world quite long enough. I own, it is now my ambition to cultivate the lilies.”
“I understand, Mr. Crossbone! Well, I don't know that even the court may not be open to you.”
The vision was too much for the apothecary. He sighed, as though suddenly oppressed by a burthen of delight. In fancy,