Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Doctor Aberford’s Prescription

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

Charles Reade (1814–1884)

Doctor Aberford’s Prescription

From “Christie Johnstone”

“DR. ABERFORD, my lord.”

This announcement, made by Mr. Saunders, checked his lordship’s reverie.

“Insults everybody, does he not, Saunders?”

“Yes, my lord,” said Saunders monotonously.

“Perhaps he will me; that might amuse me,” said the other.

A moment later the doctor bowled into the apartment, tugging at his gloves as he ran.

The contrast between him and our poor rich friend is almost beyond human language.

Here lay on a sofa Ipsden, one of the most distinguished young gentlemen in Europe; a creature incapable, by nature, of a rugged tone or a coarse gesture; a being without the slightest apparent pretension, but refined beyond the wildest dream of dandies. To him enter Aberford, perspiring and shouting. He was one of those globules of human quicksilver one sees now and then for two seconds. They are, in fact, two globules; their head is one, invariably bald, round, and glittering; the body is another in activity and shape, totus teres atque rotundus. And in fifty years they live five centuries. Of these our doctor was the chief. He had hardly torn off one glove, and rolled as far as the third flower from the door on his lordship’s carpet, before he shouted:

“This is my patient, lolloping in pursuit of health. Your hand,” added he. For he was at the sofa long before his lordship could glide off it.

“Tongue. Pulse is good. Breathe in my face.”

“Breathe in your face, sir? How can I do that?” (with an air of mild doubt).

“By first inhaling, and then exhaling in the direction required, or how can I make acquaintance with your bowels?”

“My bowels?”

“The abdomen, and the greater and lesser intestines. Well, never mind, I can get at them another way. Give your heart a slap—so. That’s your liver. And that’s your diaphragm.”

His lordship having found the required spot (some people that I know could not) and slapped it, the Aberford made a circular spring and listened eagerly at his shoulder-blade. The result of this scientific pantomime seemed to be satisfactory, for he exclaimed, not to say bawled:

“Hullo! here is a viscount as sound as a roach! Now, young gentleman,” added he, “your organs are superb, yet you are really out of sorts. It follows you have the maladies of idle minds, love, perhaps, among the rest. You blush, a diagnostic of that disorder. Make your mind easy; cutaneous disorders, such as love, etc., shall never kill a patient of mine with a stomach like yours. So, now to cure you!” And away went the spherical doctor, with his hands behind him, not up and down the room, but slanting and tacking, like a knight on a chess-board. He had not made many steps before, turning his upper globule, without affecting his lower, he hurled back, in a cold, business-like tone, the following interrogatory:

“What are your vices?”

“Saunders,” inquired the patient, “which are my vices?”

“His lordship hasn’t any vices,” replied Saunders, with dull, matter-of-fact solemnity.

“Lady Barbara makes the same complaint,” thought Lord Ipsden.

“It seems I have not any vices, Dr. Aberford,” said he demurely.

“That is bad; nothing to get hold of. What interests you, then?”

“I don’t remember.”

“What amuses you?”

“I forget.”

“What! no winning horse to gallop away your rents?”

“No, sir!”

“No opera girl to run her foot and ankle through your purse?”

“No, sir! And I think their ankles are not what they were.”

“Stuff! Just the same, from their ankles up to their ears, and down again to their morals! It is your eyes that are sunk deeper into your head. Hm! no horses, no vices, no dancers, no yacht. You confound one’s notions of nobility, and I ought to know them, for I have to patch them all up a bit just before they go to the deuce.”

“But I have, Dr. Aberford.”


“A yacht! And a clipper she is too.”

“Ah! (Now I’ve got him.)”

“In the Bay of Biscay she lay half a point nearer the wind than Lord Heavyjib.”

“Oh! bother Lord Heavyjib, and his Bay of Biscay.”

“With all my heart; they have often bothered me.”

“Send her round to Granton Pier, in the Firth of Forth.”

“I will, sir.”

“And write down this prescription.” And away he walked again, thinking the prescription.

“Saunders,” appealed his master.

“Saunders be hanged.”

“Sir!” said Saunders with dignity, “I thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, thank your own deserts,” replied the modern Chesterfield. “Oblige me by writing it yourself, my lord; it is all the bodily exercise you will have had to-day, no doubt.”

The young viscount bowed, seated himself at a desk, and wrote from dictation:

“Make acquaintance with all the people of low estate who have time to be bothered with you; learn their ways, their minds, and, above all, their troubles.”

“Won’t all this bore me?” suggested the writer.

“You will see. Relieve one fellow-creature every day, and let Mr. Saunders book the circumstances.”

“I shall like this part,” said the patient, laying down his pen. “How clever of you to think of such things. May not I do two sometimes?”

“Certainly not; one pill per day. Write Fish the herring! (that beats deer-stalking). Run your nose into adventures at sea; live on tenpence, and earn it. Is it down?”

“Yes, it is down, but Saunders would have written it better.”

“If he hadn’t he ought to be hanged,” said the Aberford, inspecting the work. “I’m off. Where’s my hat? Oh, there. Where’s my money? Oh, here. Now look here, follow my prescription, and

  • ‘You will soon have Mens sana in corpore sano,
  • And not care whether the girls say yes or say no.’
  • Neglect it, and—my gloves; oh, in my pocket—you will be blasé and ennuyé, and (an English participle, that means something as bad) God bless you!”

    And out he scuttled, glided after by Saunders, who opened and shut the street-door for him.