+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

look. Am I, or am I not, the picture of a
prosperous man?"

Magdalen attempted to answer him. The
captain's deluge of words flowed over her again
in a moment.

"Don't exert yourself," he said. "I'll put
all your questions for you. What have I been
about? Why do I look so remarkably well off?
And how in the world did I find my way to this
house? My dear girl, I have been occupied,
since we last saw each other, in slightly modifying
my old professional habits. I have shifted
from Moral Agriculture to Medical Agriculture.
Formerly, I preyed on the public sympathy;
now I prey on the public stomach. Stomach
and sympathy, sympathy and stomachlook
them both fairly in the face, when you reach
the wrong side of fifty, and you will agree with
me that they come to much the same thing.
However that may be, here I amincredible as
it may appeara man with an income, at last.
The founders of my fortune are three in number.
Their names are Aloes, Scammony, and
Gamboge. In plainer words, I am now livingon a
Pill. I made a little money (if you remember) by
my friendly connexion with you. I made a little
more, by the happy decease (Requiescat in Pace!)
of that female relative of Mrs. Wragge's, from
whom, as I told you, my wife had expectations.
Very good. What do you think I did? I
invested the whole of my capital, at one fell swoop,
in advertisementsand purchased my drugs and
my pill-boxes on credit. The result is now before
you. Here I am, a Grand Financial Fact.
Here I am, with my clothes positively paid for;
with a balance at my banker's; with my servant
in livery, and my gig at the door; solvent,
flourishing, popularand all on a Pill."

Magdalen smiled. The captain's face assumed
an expression of mock gravity: he looked as if
there was a serious side to the question, and as
if he meant to put it next.

"It's no laughing matter to the public, my
dear," he said. "They can't get rid of me and
my Pillthey must take us. There is not a
single form of appeal in the whole range of
human advertisement, which I am not making
to the unfortunate public at this moment.
Hire the last new novelthere I am, inside the boards
of the book. Send for the last new Songthe
instant you open the leaves, I drop out of it.
Take a cabI fly in at the window, in red. Buy
a box of tooth-powder at the chemist'sI wrap
it up for you, in blue. Show yourself at the
theatreI flutter down on you, in yellow. The
mere titles of my advertisements are quite
irresistible. Let me quote a few from last week's
issue. Proverbial Title:—'A Pill in Time,
saves Nine.' Familiar Title:—'Excuse me, how
is your Stomach?' Patriotic Title:—'What
are the three characteristics of a true-born
Englishman? His Hearth, his Home, and his Pill.'
Title in the form of a nursery dialogue:—
'Mamma, I am not well.' 'What is the matter,
my pet?' 'I want a little Pill.' Title in the
form of an Historical Anecdote:—'New
Discovery in the Mine of English History. When
the Princes were smothered in the Tower, their
faithful attendant collected all the little possessions
left behind them. Among the touching
trifles dear to the poor boys, he found a tiny
Box. It contained the Pill of the Period. Is
it necessary to say, how inferior that Pill was,
to its Modern Successor, which prince and
peasant alike may now obtain——' Et c√¶tera,
et cætera. The place in which my Pill is made,
is an advertisement in itself. I have got one of
the largest shops in London. Behind one counter
(visible to the public through the lucid medium
of plate-glass) are four-and-twenty young men,
in white aprons, making the Pill. Behind
another counter, are four-and-twenty young men,
in white cravats, making the boxes. At the
bottom of the shop are three elderly accountants,
posting the vast financial transactions accruing
from the Pill, in three enormous ledgers. Over
the door are my name, portrait, and autograph,
expanded to colossal proportions, and surrounded,
in flowing letters, by the motto of the establishment:
'Down with the Doctors!' Even Mrs.
Wragge contributes her quota to this prodigious
enterprise. She is the celebrated woman whom
I have cured of indescribable agonies from every
complaint under the sun. Her portrait is
engraved on all the wrappers, with the following
inscription beneath it::—'Before she took the
Pill, you might have blown this patient away
with a feather. Look at her now!!!' Last, not
least, my dear girl, the Pill is the cause of
my finding my way to this house. My department
in the prodigious Enterprise already mentioned,
is to scour the United Kingdom in a gig,
establishing Agencies everywhere. While founding
one of those Agencies, I heard of a certain friend
of mine, who had lately landed in England, after
a long sea  voyage. I got his address in London
he was a lodger in this house. I called on
him forthwithand was stunned by the news of
your illness. Such, in brief, is the history of
my existing connexion with British Medicine;
and so it happens that you see me at the present
moment, sitting in the present chair, now as
ever, yours truly, Horatio Wragge."

In these terms the captain brought his
personal statement to a close. He looked more
and more attentively at Magdalen, the nearer
he got to the conclusion. Was there some
latent importance attaching to his last words,
which did not appear on the face of them? There
was. His visit to the sick-room had a serious
object; and that object he had now approached.

In describing the circumstances under which
he had become acquainted with Magdalen's
present position, Captain Wragge had skirted with
his customary dexterity round the remote
boundaries of truth. Emboldened by the absence
of any public scandal in connexion with Noel
Vanstone's marriage, or with the event of his
death as announced in the newspaper obituary,
the captain, roaming the eastern circuit, had
ventured back to Aldborough, a fortnight since,
to establish an agency there for the sale of his
wonderful Pill. No one had recognised him