The doctor, who had risen and picked up his hat when Mrs Puckey linked his name with the widow Tresize’s, came back and re-seated himself by the bedside. The old woman enjoyed her chat—it did her more good than medicine, she said—and so long as she steered it clear of himself and his private affairs he was willing enough to indulge her. Nay, he too—being no prude—enjoyed her general disquisitions on matrimony and the sexes. Homo sum, etc., . . . He was a great reader of Montaigne, and like Montaigne he loved listening to folks, however humble, who (as he put it) knew their subject. Mrs Puckey certainly knew her subject, and if in experience she fell a little short of Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath,’ she handled it with something of that lady’s freedom, and, in detail, with a plainness of speech worthy of Panurge.
She knew very well that by further reference to Mrs Tresize she risked cutting short the doctor’s visit. Yet, woman-like, she could not forbear from just one more word.
‘She keeps it under the bed.’
‘Keeps what?’ asked Doctor Unonius.
The old woman chuckled again. ’Why, her money, to be sure—hundreds an’ hundreds o’ pounds—in a great iron chest. I wonder she can sleep o’ nights with it, up in that g’e’rt lonely house, an’ not a man within call—Aw, doctor, dear, don’t tell me you’re goin’!’
 Quaere. Was this some faint inherited memory of ’the old profession’?—In nomine domini, etc.
A year passed; a year and three months. Old Mrs Puckey was dead and laid in churchyard, and the doctor remained a bachelor. Christmas found him busy upon two papers written almost concurrently: the one ’A Description of a Kind of Trigla vulgarly confounded with Trigla Blochii,’ intended for Loudon’s ‘Magazine of Natural History,’ the other, ‘On Savagery in Dogs and Methods of Meeting their Attacks,’ for the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall.
On the morning of St Stephen’s (or Boxing) Day, his professional visits over, he devoted an hour to the second of these treatises. He had reached this striking passage,—
’Homer informs us that the
fury of a dog in attacking an
approaching stranger is appeased by the man’s sitting down:—
‘"Soon as Ulysses near
th’ enclosure drew,
With open mouths the furious mastiffs flew:
Down sat the sage and, cautious to withstand,
Let fall th’ offensive truncheon from his hand.”