Like all Tyros, I find
the rudiments of learning extremely
difficult and laborious, but advance so rapidly than I can do
without my Master.
A tall, fresh-coloured, but hectic looking young man, stood behind the counter, making up prescriptions, and a dirty lad, about thirteen years old, was standing near with his basket to deliver the medicines to the several addresses, as soon as they were ready. The young man behind the counter, whose name was Brookes, was within eighteen months of serving his time, when his friends intended to establish him on his own account, and this was the reason which induced Mr Cophagus to take me, that I might learn the business, and supply his place when he left. Mr Brookes was a very quiet, amiable person, kind to me and the other boy who carried out the medicines, and who had been taken by Mr Cophagus, for his food and raiment. The porter told Mr Brookes who I was, and left me. “Do you think that you will like to be an apothecary?” said Mr Brookes to me, with a benevolent smile.
“Yes; I do not see why I should not,” replied I.
“Stop a moment,” said the lad who was waiting with the basket, lookly archly at me, “you hav’n’t got through your rudimans yet.”
“Hold your tongue, Timothy,” said Mr Brookes. “That you are not very fond of the rudiments, as Mr Cophagus calls them, is very clear. Now walk off as fast as you can with these medicines, sir—14, Spring Street; 16, Cleaver Street, as before; and then to John Street, 55, Mrs Smith’s. Do you understand?”
“To be sure I do—can’t I read? I reads all the directions, and all your Latin stuff into the bargain—all your summen dusses, horez, diez, cockly hairy. I mean to set up for myself one of these days.”
“I’ll knock you down one of these days, Mr Timothy, if you stay so long as you do, looking at the print shops; that you may depend upon.”
“I keep up all my learning that way,” replied Timothy, walking off with his load, turning his head round and laughing at me, as he quitted the shop. Mr Brookes smiled, but said nothing.
As Timothy went out, in came Mr Cophagus. “Heh! Japhet—I see,” said he, putting up his cane, “nothing to do—bad—must work—um—and so on. Mr Brookes—boy learn rudiments—good—and so on.” Hereupon Mr Cophagus took his cane from his nose, pointed to the large iron mortar, and then walked away into the back parlour. Mr Brookes understood his master, if I did not. He wiped out the mortar, threw in some drugs, and, showing me how to use the pestle, left me to my work. In half an hour I discovered why it was that Timothy had such an objection to what Mr Cophagus facetiously termed the rudiments of the profession. It was dreadful hard work for a boy; the perspiration ran down me in streams, and I could hardly lift my arms. When Mr Cophagus passed through the shop and looked at me, as I continued to thump away with the heavy iron pestle. “Good,”—said he, “by-and-bye—M.D.—and so on.” I thought it was a very rough road to such preferment, and I stopped to take a little breath. “By-the-by—Japhet—Christian name—and so on—sirname—heh!”