Visit from an old Acquaintance
We had not been many days ashore, when Doctor Johnson was espied coming along the Broom Road.
We had heard that he meditated a visit, and suspected what he was after. Being upon the consuls hands, all our expenses were of course payable by him in his official capacity; and, therefore, as a friend of Wilson, and sure of good pay, the shore doctor had some idea of allowing us to run up a bill with him. True, it was rather awkward to ask us to take medicines which, on board the ship, he told us were not needed. However, he resolved to put a bold face on the matter, and give us a call.
His approach was announced by one of the scouts, upon which someone suggested that we should let him enter, and then put him in the stocks. But Long Ghost proposed better sport. What it was, we shall presently see.
Very bland and amiable, Doctor Johnson advanced, and, resting his cane on the stocks, glanced to right and left, as we lay before him. Well, my ladshe began how do you find yourselves to-day?
Looking very demure, the men made some rejoinder; and he went on.
Those poor fellows I saw the other daythe sick, I meanhow are they? and he scrutinized the company. At last, he singled out one who was assuming a most unearthly appearance, and remarked that he looked as if he were extremely ill. Yes, said the sailor dolefully, Im afeard, doctor, Ill soon be losing the number of my mess! (a sea phrase, for departing this life) and he closed his eyes, and moaned.
What does he say? said Johnson, turning round eagerly.
Why, exclaimed Flash Jack, who volunteered as interpreter, he means hes going to croak (die).
Croak! and what does that mean, applied to a patient?
Oh! I understand, said he, when the word was explained; and he stepped over the stocks, and felt the mans pulse.
Whats his name? he asked, turning this time to old Navy Bob.
We calls him Jingling Joe, replied that worthy.
Well then, men, you must take good care of poor Joseph; and I will send him a powder, which must be taken according to the directions. Some of you know how to read, I presume?
That ere young cove does, replied Bob, pointing toward the place where I lay, as if he were directing attention to a sail at sea.
After examining the restsome of whom were really invalids, but convalescent, and others only pretending to be labouring under divers maladies, Johnson turned round, and addressed the party.
Men, said he, if any more of you are ailing, speak up, and let me know. By order of the consul, Im to call every day; so if any of you are at all sick, its my duty to prescribe for you. This sudden change from ship fare to shore living plays the deuce with you sailors, so be cautious about eating fruit. Good-day! Ill send you the medicines the first thing in the morning.
Now, I am inclined to suspect that with all his want of understanding, Johnson must have had some idea that we were quizzing him. Still, that was nothing, so long as it answered his purpose; and therefore, if he did see through us, he never showed it.
Sure enough, at the time appointed, along came a native lad with a small basket of cocoa-nut stalks, filled with powders, pill-boxes, and vials, each with names and directions written in a large, round hand. The sailors, one and all, made a snatch at the collection, under the strange impression that some of
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