The Female Prose Writers of America: With Portraits, Biographical Notices, and Specimens of their Writings/Caroline Orne/Doctor Plumley

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The boy who had been sent for Dr. Plumley now returned, and with a giggle, which his most strenuous efforts could not suppress, told us that the Doctor was close at hand. He then retreated to a part of the room where his mistress could not have an eye on him, and evidently made a violent effort to compose the muscles of his face. When the Doctor’s footsteps were heard in the entry, he braced his whole person and tightly compressed his lips.

Dr. Plumley, it seems, had recently invented an oil for the hair, which he imagined would prove exceedingly efficacious in strengthening the roots, and prevent it from falling off. As time had begun to thin his own locks, he was desirous of personally testing its wonderful qualities. Having previously settled in his mind the improbability of being called to exert his medical skill, he made so copious an application of the unguent as completely to saturate his hair, and then drew on a flannel cap of a pyramidal form to prevent the too speedy escape of the volatile aromatics, which he imagined would strengthen, while the oleaginous part mollified. In his haste, all this escaped his memory, and when, on entering the room, he removed his hat in his usual quick and smart manner, thereby revealing his singular headgear, and made a brisk bow to each of us, the point of his cap nodding in unison, his appearance was so exquisitely ludicrous that my risibility got the better of my gravity, and I was obliged hastily to retreat behind Agnes. In the mean time I stole a glance at the poor boy, who stood convulsed with suppressed laughter, the tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Oh, dear doctor, how glad I am that you’ve come!” said my aunt; “though I am sorry you’ve got the headache,” glancing at his flannel cap.

“I understand,” said he, without noticing her remark, “that you have elongated the ligaments of your ankle joint—that is, sprained your ankle.”

“Yes, and it pains me so, that I am afraid that the information will get into it afore morning.”

“As it never got into your head, ma’am, there is no great danger of its getting into your ankle,” he replied, winking at Agnes and me. “Be pleased,” continued he, seeing my aunt about to speak, while he at the same time waved his hand in what he considered a very graceful and dignified manner, “be pleased, ma’am, to listen to a few observations which I propose to make. I shall proceed as systematically with your ankle, ma’am, as if I were treating a fever. I shall, however, omit the emetic.”

“Well, I am master glad o’ that, for I took some tatramatic once, and”——

“If you please, ma’am, permit me to proceed without interruption with my observations,—I was speaking of a fever. Now, in my estimation, to speak metaphorically, a fever is the very pink of diseases, and I had rather treat it than any other. However, a sprained ankle will do to brighten a man’s science in lieu of a better case. In the first place, ma’am, in accordance with the invariable rules of my practice in all similar cases, I shall apply to the part injured, a plaster, the several ingredients of which are all eminently calorific, and which in more simple language may be called a heater.”

“La, doctor, my ankle is as hot as fire coals now, and that is what makes me afraid of the information.”

“But, ma’am, though it were ten times hotter than fire coals, I assure you, there is a great deal of latent cold, which will be brought to the surface by means of this calorific plaster, which will evaporate in the form of perspiration.”

“Well, doctor, I suppose what you say is all right, but you do talk so figurey, that I don’t understand more than half you say. Now, as you don’t pretend to doctor according to the rules of the reg’lar faculty, as they call ’em, I don’t see the need of your being so high flown.”

“I tell you, ma’am, there is a certain dignity in the profession, which ought to be supported by a suitable selection of long, sonorous words. But your interruption, ma’am, has broken the concatenation of my ideas. Pray, Miss Agnes, do you recollect what I was speaking of?”

“Perspiration, I believe, sir.”

“Ay, ay—that word has restored the concatenation. When a copious perspiration has ensued, a reaction will be necessary. To effect this reaction, I shall apply what I call a refrigeratory plaster—in other words, a cooler. I shall, in the next place, in order to impart a proper pliancy to the cords, envelop the diseased part of the limb in a cloth completely saturated in a limpid salve, which I call a grand mollification salve, but which you may, if you please, term a laxer—the invention of which caused me to grow pale by the midnight lamp. The laxer must be succeeded by a double compound astrictory, which you will better understand by the appellation of bracer, the application of which will complete the cure, and make your ankle as much stronger than it was before the accident as it was then stronger than a baby’s.”