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by [?]

“It’s a funny thing, this Marconi business, isn’t it?” said Mr. Shaynor, coughing heavily. “Nothing seems to make any difference, by what they tell me–storms, hills, or anything; but if that’s true we shall know before morning.”

“Of course it’s true,” I answered, stepping behind the counter. “Where’s old Mr. Cashell?”

“He’s had to go to bed on account of his influenza. He said you’d very likely drop in.”

“Where’s his nephew?”

“Inside, getting the things ready. He told me that the last time they experimented they put the pole on the roof of one of the big hotels here, and the batteries electrified all the water-supply, and”–he giggled–“the ladies got shocks when they took their baths.”

“I never heard of that.”

“The hotel wouldn’t exactly advertise it, would it? Just now, by what Mr. Cashell tells me, they’re trying to signal from here to Poole, and they’re using stronger batteries than ever. But, you see, he being the guvnor’s nephew and all that (and it will be in the papers too), it doesn’t matter how they electrify things in this house. Are you going to watch?”

“Very much. I’ve never seen this game. Aren’t you going to bed?”

“We don’t close till ten on Saturdays. There’s a good deal of influenza in town, too, and there’ll be a dozen prescriptions coming in before morning. I generally sleep in the chair here. It’s warmer than jumping out of bed every time. Bitter cold, isn’t it?”

“Freezing hard. I’m sorry your cough’s worse.”

“Thank you. I don’t mind cold so much. It’s this wind that fair cuts me to pieces.” He coughed again hard and hackingly, as an old lady came in for ammoniated quinine. “We’ve just run out of it in bottles, madam,” said Mr. Shaynor, returning to the professional tone, “but if you will wait two minutes, I’ll make it up for you, madam.”

I had used the shop for some time, and my acquaintance with the proprietor had ripened into friendship. It was Mr. Cashell who revealed to me the purpose and power of Apothecaries’ Hall what time a fellow-chemist had made an error in a prescription of mine, had lied to cover his sloth, and when error and lie were brought home to him had written vain letters.

“A disgrace to our profession,” said the thin, mild-eyed man, hotly, after studying the evidence. “You couldn’t do a better service to the profession than report him to Apothecaries’ Hall.”

I did so, not knowing what djinns I should evoke; and the result was such an apology as one might make who had spent a night on the rack. I conceived great respect for Apothecaries’ Hall, and esteem for Mr. Cashell, a zealous craftsman who magnified his calling. Until Mr. Shaynor came down from the North his assistants had by no means agreed with Mr. Cashell. “They forget,” said he, “that, first and foremost, the compounder is a medicine-man. On him depends the physician’s reputation. He holds it literally in the hollow of his hand, Sir.”

Mr. Shaynor’s manners had not, perhaps, the polish of the grocery and Italian warehouse next door, but he knew and loved his dispensary work in every detail. For relaxation he seemed to go no farther afield than the romance of drugs–their discovery, preparation packing, and export–but it led him to the ends of the earth, and on this subject, and the Pharmaceutical Formulary, and Nicholas Culpepper, most confident of physicians, we met.

Little by little I grew to know something of his beginnings and his hopes –of his mother, who had been a school-teacher in one of the northern counties, and of his red-headed father, a small job-master at Kirby Moors, who died when he was a child; of the examinations he had passed and of their exceeding and increasing difficulty; of his dreams of a shop in London; of his hate for the price-cutting Co-operative stores; and, most interesting, of his mental attitude towards customers.