The Four Million
The Love-Philtre Of Ikey Schoenstein
The Blue Light Drug Store is downtown, between the Bowery and First Avenue, where
the distance between the two streets is the shortest. The Blue Light does not consider that
pharmacy is a thing of bric-a-brac, scent and ice-cream soda. If you ask it for pain-killer
it will not give you a bonbon.
The Blue Light scorns the labour-saving arts of modern pharmacy. It macerates its opium
and percolates its own laudanum and paregoric. To this day pills are made behind its tall
prescription desk—pills rolled out on its own pill-tile, divided with a spatula, rolled with
the finger and thumb, dusted with calcined magnesia and delivered in little round
pasteboard pill-boxes. The store is on a corner about which coveys of ragged-plumed,
hilarious children play and become candidates for the cough drops and soothing syrups
that wait for them inside.
Ikey Schoenstein was the night clerk of the Blue Light and the friend of his customers.
Thus it is on the East Side, where the heart of pharmacy is not glacé. There, as it should
be, the druggist is a counsellor, a confessor, an adviser, an able and willing missionary
and mentor whose learning is respected, whose occult wisdom is venerated and whose
medicine is often poured, untasted, into the gutter. Therefore Ikey's corniform, be-
spectacled nose and narrow, knowledge-bowed figure was well known in the vicinity of
the Blue Light, and his advice and notice were much desired.
Ikey roomed and breakfasted at Mrs. Riddle's two squares away. Mrs. Riddle had a
daughter named Rosy. The circumlocution has been in vain—you must have guessed it—
Ikey adored Rosy. She tinctured all his thoughts; she was the compound extract of all that
was chemically pure and officinal—the dispensatory contained nothing equal to her. But
Ikey was timid, and his hopes remained insoluble in the menstruum of his backwardness
and fears. Behind his counter he was a superior being, calmly conscious of special
knowledge and worth; outside he was a weak-kneed, purblind, motorman-cursed rambler,
with ill-fitting clothes stained with chemicals and smelling of socotrine aloes and
valerianate of ammonia.
The fly in Ikey's ointment (thrice welcome, pat trope!) was Chunk McGowan.
Mr. McGowan was also striving to catch the bright smiles tossed about by Rosy. But he
was no outfielder as Ikey was; he picked them off the bat. At the same time he was Ikey's
friend and customer, and often dropped in at the Blue Light Drug Store to have a bruise
painted with iodine or get a cut rubber-plastered after a pleasant evening spent along the
One afternoon McGowan drifted in in his silent, easy way, and sat, comely, smooth-
faced, hard, indomitable, good-natured, upon a stool.