“That I am sure I would,” replied Tim; and I made the same assertion.
“Well, I was taken in that way at a fair, and lost ten shillings by the wager; now, we’ll try whether you can tell or not.” He took out some money from his pocket, which he selected without our seeing it, put a coin into the hand of each of us, closing our fists over it, “and now,” said he, “keep your eyes shut for a minute.”
We did so, and a second or two afterwards we heard a voice which we instantly recognised. “Nay, but it was wrong to leave me on the way side thus, having agreed to pay the sum demanded. At my age one walketh not without fatigue, Excipenda tamen quaedam sunt urbium, as Philostratus says, meaning, ’that old limbs lose their activity, and seek the help of a crutch.’”
“There’s the doctor,” cried Timothy, with his eyes still shut.
“Now open your eyes,” said the man, “and tell me, before you open your hand, what there is in it.”
“A halfpenny in mine,” said Tim.
“A guinea in mine,” replied I.
We opened our hands, and they were empty.
“Where the devil is it?” exclaimed I, looking at Tim.
“And where the devil’s the doctor?” replied he, looking round.
“The money is in the doctor’s pocket,” replied the man, smiling.
“Then where is the doctor’s pocket?”
“Here,” replied he, slapping his pocket, and looking significantly at us. “I thought you were certain of knowing him again. About as certain as you were of telling the money in your hand.”
He then, to our astonishment, imitated the doctor’s voice, and quoted prosody syntax, and Latin. Timothy and I were still in astonishment, when he continued, “If I had not found out that you were in want of employ, and further, that your services would be useful to me, I should not have made this discovery. Do you now think that you know enough to enter into my service? It is light work, and not bad pay; and now you may choose.”
“I trust,” said I, “that there is no dishonesty?”
“None that you need practise, if you are so scrupulous; perhaps your scruples may some day be removed. I make the most of my wares—every merchant does the same. I practise upon the folly of mankind—it is on that, that wise men live.”
Timothy gave me a push, and nodded his head for me to give my consent. I reflected a few seconds, and at last I extended my hand. “I consent,” replied I, “with the reservation I have made.”
“You will not repent,” said he; “and I will take your companion, not that I want him particularly, but I do want you. The fact is, I want a lad of gentlemanly address, and handsome appearance—with the very knowledge you possess—and now we will say no more for the present. By-the-bye, was that real Latin of yours?”
“No,” replied I, laughing; “you quoted the grammar, and I replied with medical prescriptions. One was as good as the other.”