By your leave there! By your leave!' He soon returned with the gentleman in question; and at both openings of the board-room door-- at his coming in and at his going out--simple clients were seen to stretch their necks and stand upon their toes, thirsting to catch the slightest glimpse of that mysterious chamber.
'Jobling, my dear friend!' said Mr Tigg, 'how are you? Bullamy, wait outside. Crimple, don't leave us. Jobling, my good fellow, I am glad to see you.'
'And how are you, Mr Montague, eh?' said the Medical Officer, throwing himself luxuriously into an easy-chair (they were all easy- chairs in the board-room), and taking a handsome gold snuff-box from the pocket of his black satin waistcoat. 'How are you? A little worn with business, eh? If so, rest. A little feverish from wine, humph? If so, water. Nothing at all the matter, and quite comfortable? Then take some lunch. A very wholesome thing at this time of day to strengthen the gastric juices with lunch, Mr Montague.'
The Medical Officer (he was the same medical officer who had followed poor old Anthony Chuzzlewit to the grave, and who had attended Mrs Gamp's patient at the Bull) smiled in saying these words; and casually added, as he brushed some grains of snuff from his shirt-frill, 'I always take it myself about this time of day, do you know!'
'Bullamy!' said the Chairman, ringing the little bell.
'Not on my account, I hope?' said the doctor. 'You are very good. Thank you. I'm quite ashamed. Ha, ha! if I had been a sharp practitioner, Mr Montague, I shouldn't have mentioned it without a fee; for you may depend upon it, my dear sir, that if you don't make a point of taking lunch, you'll very soon come under my hands. Allow me to illustrate this. In Mr Crimple's leg--'
The resident Director gave an involuntary start, for the doctor, in the heat of his demonstration, caught it up and laid it across his own, as if he were going to take it off, then and there.
'In Mr Crimple's leg, you'll observe,' pursued the doctor, turning back his cuffs and spanning the limb with both hands, 'where Mr Crimple's knee fits into the socket, here, there is--that is to say, between the bone and the socket--a certain quantity of animal oil.'
'What do you pick MY leg out for?' said Mr Crimple, looking with something of an anxious expression at his limb. 'It's the same with other legs, ain't it?'
'Never you mind, my good sir,' returned the doctor, shaking his head, 'whether it is the same with other legs, or not the same.'
'But I do mind,' said David.
'I take a particular case, Mr Montague,' returned the doctor, 'as illustrating my remark, you observe. In this portion of Mr Crimple's leg, sir, there is a certain amount of animal oil. In every one of Mr Crimple's joints, sir, there is more or less of the same deposit. Very good. If Mr Crimple neglects his meals, or fails to take his proper quantity of rest, that oil wanes, and becomes exhausted. What is the consequence? Mr Crimple's bones sink down into their sockets, sir, and Mr Crimple becomes a weazen, puny, stunted, miserable man!'
The doctor let Mr Crimple's leg fall suddenly, as if he were already in that agreeable condition; turned down his wristbands again, and looked triumphantly at the chairman.
'We know a few secrets of nature in our profession, sir,' said the doctor. 'Of course we do. We study for that; we pass the Hall and the College for that; and we take our station in society BY that. It's extraordinary how little is known on these subjects generally. Where do you suppose, now'--the doctor closed one eye, as he leaned back smilingly in his chair, and formed a triangle with his hands, of which his two thumbs composed the base--'where do you suppose Mr Crimple's stomach is?'
Mr Crimple, more agitated than before, clapped his hand immediately below his waistcoat.
'Not at all,' cried the doctor; 'not at all. Quite a popular mistake! My good sir, you're altogether deceived.'
'I feel it there, when it's out of order; that's all I know,' said Crimple.