That same little skeleton was yet for sale when Jerome purchased his medical books at the price of waste-paper, and might possibly have been thrown into the bargain had he wished to study anatomy.
Jerome sought only to gain an extension of any old wife’s knowledge of healing roots and herbs and the treatment of simple and common maladies. Surgery he did not meddle with, until one night, about a year later, when Jake Noyes, Doctor Prescott’s man, came over secretly with a little whimpering dog in his arms.
“We run over this little fellar,” he said to Jerome, when he had been summoned to the door, “an’ his leg’s broke, an’ the doctor told me I’d better finish him up; guess he’s astray; but”—Jake’s voice dropped to a whisper—“I’ve heard what you’re up to, an’ I’ve brought a splint, an’, if you say so, I’ll show you how to set a bone.”
So up in his little chamber, with his mother and Elmira listening curiously below, and a little whining, trembling dog for a patient, Jerome learned to set a bone. His first surgical case was nearly a complete success, moreover, for the little dog abode with him for many a year after that, and went nimbly and merrily on his four legs, with scarcely a limp.
Later on, Jake Noyes, this time with Jerome himself as illustration, gave him a lesson in bleeding and cupping, which was considered indispensable in the ordinary practice of that day. “Dun’no’ what the doctor would say,” Jake Noyes told Jerome, “an’ I dun’no’ as I much care, but I’d jest as soon ye’d keep it dark. Rows ain’t favorable to the action of the heart, actin’ has too powerful stimulants in most cases, an’ I had an uncle on my mother’s side that dropped dead. But I feel as if the doctor had ground the face of the poor about long enough; it’s about time somebody dulled his grindstone a little. He’s just foreclosed that last mortgage on John Upham’s place, an’ they’ve got to move. Mind ye, J’rome, I ain’t sayin’ this to anybody but you, an’ I wouldn’t say it to you if I didn’t think mebbe you could do something to right what he’d done wrong. If he won’t do it himself, somebody ought to for him. Tell ye what ‘tis, J’rome, one way an’ another, I think considerable of the doctor. I’ve lived with him a good many years now. I’ve got some books I’ll let ye take any time. I calculate you mean to do your doctorin’ cheap.”
“Cheap!” replied Jerome, scornfully. “Do you think I would take any pay for anything I could do? Do you think that’s what I’m after?”
Jake Noyes nodded. “Didn’t s’pose it was, J’rome. Well, there’ll be lots of things you can’t meddle with; but there’s no reason why you can’t doctor lots of little ails—if folks are willin’—an’ save ’em money. I’ll learn ye all I know, on the doctor’s account. I want it to balance as even as he thinks it does.”
The result of it all was that Jerome Edwards became a sort of free medical adviser to many who were too poor to pay a doctor’s fees, and had enough confidence in him. Some held strenuously to the opinion that “he knew as much as if he’d studied medicine.” He was in requisition many of the hours when he was free from his shoemaker’s bench; and never in the Uphams was there a sick man needing a watcher who did not beg for Jerome Edwards.