It must be in admirable condition, sir; perfect chronometer-work. Otherwise your spirits could not be so remarkable. Your bosom's lord sits lightly on its throne, Mr Chuzzlewit, as what's-his-name says in the play. I wish he said it in a play which did anything like common justice to our profession, by the bye. There is an apothecary in that drama, sir, which is a low thing; vulgar, sir; out of nature altogether.'
Mr Jobling pulled out his shirt-frill of fine linen, as though he would have said, 'This is what I call nature in a medical man, sir;' and looked at Jonas for an observation.
Jonas not being in a condition to pursue the subject, took up a case of lancets that was lying on the table, and opened it.
'Ah!' said the doctor, leaning back in his chair, 'I always take 'em out of my pocket before I eat. My pockets are rather tight. Ha, ha, ha!'
Jonas had opened one of the shining little instruments; and was scrutinizing it with a look as sharp and eager as its own bright edge.
'Good steel, doctor. Good steel! Eh!'
'Ye-es,' replied the doctor, with the faltering modesty of ownership. 'One might open a vein pretty dexterously with that, Mr Chuzzlewit.'
'It has opened a good many in its time, I suppose?' said Jonas looking at it with a growing interest.
'Not a few, my dear sir, not a few. It has been engaged in a--in a pretty good practice, I believe I may say,' replied the doctor, coughing as if the matter-of-fact were so very dry and literal that he couldn't help it. 'In a pretty good practice,' repeated the doctor, putting another glass of wine to his lips.
'Now, could you cut a man's throat with such a thing as this?' demanded Jonas.
'Oh certainly, certainly, if you took him in the right place,' returned the doctor. 'It all depends upon that.'
'Where you have your hand now, hey?' cried Jonas, bending forward to look at it.
'Yes,' said the doctor; 'that's the jugular.'
Jonas, in his vivacity, made a sudden sawing in the air, so close behind the doctor's jugular that he turned quite red. Then Jonas (in the same strange spirit of vivacity) burst into a loud discordant laugh.
'No, no,' said the doctor, shaking his head; 'edge tools, edge tools; never play with 'em. A very remarkable instance of the skillful use of edge-tools, by the way, occurs to me at this moment. It was a case of murder. I am afraid it was a case of murder, committed by a member of our profession; it was so artistically done.'
'Aye!' said Jonas. 'How was that?'
'Why, sir,' returned Jobling, 'the thing lies in a nutshell. A certain gentleman was found, one morning, in an obscure street, lying in an angle of a doorway--I should rather say, leaning, in an upright position, in the angle of a doorway, and supported consequently by the doorway. Upon his waistcoat there was one solitary drop of blood. He was dead and cold; and had been murdered, sir.'
'Only one drop of blood!' said Jonas.
'Sir, that man,' replied the doctor, 'had been stabbed to the heart. Had been stabbed to the heart with such dexterity, sir, that he had died instantly, and had bled internally. It was supposed that a medical friend of his (to whom suspicion attached) had engaged him in conversation on some pretence; had taken him, very likely, by the button in a conversational manner; had examined his ground at leisure with his other hand; had marked the exact spot; drawn out the instrument, whatever it was, when he was quite prepared; and--'
'And done the trick,' suggested Jonas.
'Exactly so,' replied the doctor. 'It was quite an operation in its way, and very neat. The medical friend never turned up; and, as I tell you, he had the credit of it. Whether he did it or not I can't say. But, having had the honour to be called in with two or three of my professional brethren on the occasion, and having assisted to make a careful examination of the wound, I have no hesitation in saying that it would have reflected credit on any medical man; and that in an unprofessional person it could not but be considered, either as an extraordinary work of art, or the result of a still more extraordinary, happy, and favourable conjunction of circumstances.'
His hearer was so much interested in this case, that the doctor went on to elucidate it with the assistance of his own finger and thumb and waistcoat; and at Jonas's request, he took the further trouble of going into a corner of the room, and alternately representing the murdered man and the murderer; which he did with great effect.