Armadale HTML version
utilitarian aspect of the place generally. On either side of the cabinet two
speaking-tubes were inserted in the wall, communicating with the upper regions
of the house, and labeled respectively "Resident Dispenser" and "Head Nurse."
Into the second of these tubes the doctor spoke, on entering the room. An elderly
woman appeared, took her orders for preparing Mrs. Armadale's bed-chamber,
courtesied, and retired.
Left alone again in the Dispensary, the doctor unlocked the center compartment of
the cabinet, and disclosed a collection of bottles inside, containing the various
poisons used in medicine. After taking out the laudanum wanted for the sleeping
draught, and placing it on the dispensary table, he went back to the cabinet,
looked into it for a little while, shook his head doubtfully, and crossed to the open
shelves on the opposite side of the room.
Here, after more consideration, he took down one out of the row of large chemical
bottles before him, filled with a yellow liquid; placing the bottle on the table, he
returned to the cabinet, and opened a side compartment, containing some
specimens of Bohemian glass-work. After measuring it with his eye, he took from
the specimens a handsome purple flask, high and narrow in form, and closed by a
glass stopper. This he filled with the yellow liquid, leaving a small quantity only
at the bottom of the bottle, and locking up the flask again in the place from which
he had taken it. The bottle was next restored to its place, after having been filled
up with water from the cistern in the Dispensary, mixed with certain chemical
liquids in small quantities, which restored it (so far as appearances went) to the
condition in which it had been when it was first removed from the shelf. Having
completed these mysterious proceedings, the doctor laughed softly, and went back
to his speaking-tubes to summon the Resident Dispenser next.
The Resident Dispenser made his appearance shrouded in the necessary white
apron from his waist to his feet. The doctor solemnly wrote a prescription for a
composing draught, and handed it to his assistant.
"Wanted immediately, Benjamin," he said in a soft and melancholy voice. "A lady
patient--Mrs. Armadale, Room No. 1, second floor. Ah, dear, dear!" groaned the
doctor, absently; "an anxious case, Benjamin--an anxious case." He opened the
brand-new ledger of the establishment, and entered the Case at full length, with a
brief abstract of the prescription. "Have you done with the laudanum? Put it back,
and lock the cabinet, and give me the key. Is the draught ready? Label it, 'To be
taken at bedtime,' and give it to the nurse, Benjamin--give it to the nurse."
While the doctor's lips were issuing these directions, the doctor's hands were
occupied in opening a drawer under the desk on which the ledger was placed. He
took out some gayly printed cards of admission "to view the Sanitarium, between
the hours of two and four P.M.," and filled them up with the date of the next day,
"December 10th." When a dozen of the cards had been wrapped up in a dozen
lithographed letters of invitation, and inclosed in a dozen envelopes, he next
consulted a list of the families resident in the neighborhood, and directed the
envelopes from the list. Ringing a bell this time, instead of speaking through a
tube, he summoned the man-servant, and gave him the letters, to be delivered by
hand the first thing the next morning. "I think it will do," said the doctor, taking a
turn in the Dispensary when the servant had gone out--"I think it will do." While