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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Molière (Jean Baptiste Poquelin) (1622–1673)

An Apothecary’s Bill

From “The Imaginary Invalid”

ARGAN (sitting at a table, adding up his apothecary’s bill with counters).

THREE and two make five, and five make ten, and ten make twenty. “Item: on the 24th, a small, insinuative clyster, preparative and gentle, to soften, moisten, and refresh the bowels of M. Argan.” What I like about M. Fleurant, my apothecary, is that his bills are always civil—“The bowels of M. Argan.” All the same, M. Fleurant, it is not enough to be civil, you must also be reasonable, and not plunder sick people. Thirty sous for a clyster! I have already told you, with all due respect to you, that elsewhere you have only charged me twenty sous; and twenty sous, in the language of apothecaries, means only ten sous. Here they are, these ten sous. “Item: on the said day, a good detergent clyster compounded of double catholicon rhubarb, honey of roses, and other ingredients, according to the prescription, to scour, work, and clear out the bowels of M. Argan, thirty sous.” With your leave, ten sous. “Item: on the said day, in the evening, a julep, hepatic, soporiferous, and somniferous, intended to promote the sleep of M. Argan, thirty-five sous.” I do not complain of that, for it made me sleep very well. Ten, fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen sous six deniers. “Item: on the 25th, a good purgative and corroborative mixture, composed of fresh cassia with Levantine senna and other ingredients, according to the prescription of M. Purgon, to expel M. Argan’s bile, four francs.” You are joking, M. Fleurant; you must learn to be reasonable with patients; M. Purgon never ordered you to put four francs. Tut! put three francs, if you please. Worth thirty sous. “Item: on the said day, a dose, anodyne and astringent, to make M. Argan sleep, thirty sous.” Ten sous, M. Fleurant. “Item: on the 26th, a carminative clyster to cure the flatulence of M. Argan, thirty sous.” “Item: the clyster repeated in the evening, as above, thirty sous.” Ten sous, M. Fleurant. “Item: on the 27th, a good mixture composed for the purpose of driving out the bad humors of M. Argan, three francs.” Good; twenty or thirty sous; I am glad that you are reasonable. “Item: on the 28th, a dose of clarified and edulcorated whey, to soften, lenify, temper, and refresh the blood of M. Argan, twenty sous.” Good; ten sous. “Item: a potion, cordial, and preservative, composed of twelve grains of bezoar, sirup of citrons, and pomegranates, and other ingredients, according to the prescription, five francs.” Ah! M. Fleurant, gently, if you please; if you go on like that, no one will wish to be unwell. Be satisfied with four francs. Twenty, forty sous. Three and two are five, and five are ten, and ten are twenty. Sixty-three francs four sous six deniers. So that during this month I have taken one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight mixtures, and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve clysters; and last month there were twelve mixtures and twenty clysters. I am not astonished, therefore, that I am not so well this month as last. I shall speak to M. Purgon about it, so that he may set the matter right.