As I followed up my saturnine avocation, I generally had an open book on the counter beside me; not a marble-covered dirty volume, from the Minerva press, or a half-bound, half-guinea’s worth of fashionable trash, but a good, honest, heavy-looking, wisdom-implying book, horribly stuffed with epithet of drug; a book in which Latin words were redundant, and here and there were to be observed the crabbed characters of Greek. Altogether, with my book and my look, I cut such a truly medical appearance, that even the most guarded would not have hesitated to allow me the sole conduct of a whitlow, from inflammation to suppuration, and from suppuration to cure, or have refused to have confided to me the entire suppression of a gumboil. Such were my personal qualifications at the time that I was raised to the important office of dispenser of, I may say, life and death.
It will not surprise the reader when I tell him that I was much noticed by those who came to consult, or talk with, Mr Cophagus. “A very fine looking lad that, Mr Cophagus,” an acquaintance would say. “Where did you get him—who is his father?”
“Father!” Mr Cophagus would reply, when they had gained the back parlour, but I could overhear him, “father, um—can’t tell—love—concealment—child born—foundling hospital—put out—and so on.”
This was constantly occurring, and the constant occurrence made me often reflect upon my condition, which otherwise I might, from the happy and even tenor of my life, have forgotten. When I retired to my bed I would revolve in my mind all that I had gained from the governors of the hospital relative to myself.—The paper found in the basket had been given to me. I was born in wedlock—at least, so said that paper. The sum left with me also proved that my parents could not, at my birth, have been paupers. The very peculiar circumstances attending my case, only made me more anxious to know my parentage. I was now old enough to be aware of the value of birth, and I was also just entering the age of romance, and many were the strange and absurd reveries in which I indulged. At one time I would cherish the idea that I was of a noble, if not princely birth, and