Mr Phineas Cophagus might have been about forty-five years of age when I first had the honour of an introduction to him in the receiving room of the Foundling Hospital. He was of the middle height, his face was thin, his nose very much hooked, his eyes small and peering, with a good-humoured twinkle in them, his mouth large, and drawn down at one corner. He was stout in his body, and carried a considerable protuberance before him, which he was in the habit of patting with his left hand very complacently; but although stout in his body, his legs were mere spindles, so that, in his appearance, he reminded you of some bird of the crane genus. Indeed, I may say, that his whole figure gave you just such an impression as an orange might do, had it taken to itself a couple of pieces of tobacco pipes as vehicles of locomotion. He was dressed in a black coat and waistcoat, white cravat and high collar to his shirt, blue cotton net pantaloons and Hessian boots, both fitting so tight, that it appeared as if he was proud of his spindle shanks. His hat was broad-brimmed and low, and he carried a stout black cane with a gold top in his right hand, almost always raising the gold top to his nose when he spoke, just as we see doctors represented at a consultation in the caricature prints. But if his figure was strange, his language and manners were still more so. He spoke, as some birds fly, in jerks, intermixing his words, for he never completed a whole sentence, with um—um—and ending it with “so on,” leaving his hearers to supply the context from the heads of his discourse. Almost always in motion, he generally changed his position as soon as he had finished speaking, walking to any other part of the room, with his cane to his nose, and his head cocked on one side, with a self-sufficient tiptoe gait. When I was ushered into his presence, he was standing with two of the governors. “This is the lad,” said one of them, “his name is Japhet.”
“Japhet,” replied Mr Cophagus; “um, scriptural—Shem, Ham, um—and so on. Boy reads?”
“Very well, and writes a very good hand. He is a very good boy, Mr Cophagus.”
“Read—write—spell—good, and so on. Bring him up—rudiments—spatula—write labels—um—M.D. one of these days—make a man of him—and so on,” said this strange personage, walking round and round me with his cane to his nose, and scrutinising my person with his twinkling eyes. I was dismissed after this examination and approval, and the next day, dressed in a plain suit of clothes, was delivered by the porter at the shop of Mr Phineas Cophagus, who was not at home when I arrived.