From Chapter XXXVIII of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens: ‘How Mr. Winkle, When He Stepped Out of the Frying-Pan, Walked Gently and Comfortable into the Fire’:
“And a very snug little business you have, no doubt?” said Mr. Winkle knowingly.
“Very,” replied Bob Sawyer [a medical gentleman]. “So snug, that at the end of a few years you might put all the profits in a wine-glass, and cover ’em over with a gooseberry leaf.”
“You cannot surely mean that?” said Mr. Winkle. “The stock itself—”
“Dummies, my dear boy,” said Bob Sawyer; “half the drawers have nothing in ’em, and the other half don’t open.”
“Nonsense!” said Mr. Winkle.
“Fact—honour!” returned Bob Sawyer, stepping out into the shop, and demonstrating the veracity of the assertion by divers hard pulls at the little gilt knobs on the counterfeit drawers. “Hardly anything real in the shop but the leeches, and they are second-hand.”
“I shouldn’t have thought it!” exclaimed Mr. Winkle, much surprised.
“I hope not,” replied Bob Sawyer, “else where’s the use of appearances, eh?” ….
[T]he conversation was becoming general, when it was interrupted by the entrance into the shop of a boy, in a sober gray livery and a gold-laced hat, with a small covered basket under his arm, whom Mr. Bob Sawyer immediately hailed with, “Tom, you vagabond, come here.”
The boy presented himself accordingly.
“You’ve been stopping to over all the posts in Bristol, you idle young scamp!” said Mr. Bob Sawyer.
“No, sir, I haven’t,” replied the boy.
“You had better not!” said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with a threatening aspect. “Who do you suppose will ever employ a professional man, when they see his boy playing at marbles in the gutter, or flying the garter in the horse-road? Have you no feeling for your profession, you groveller? Did you leave all the medicine?”
“The powders for the child, at the large house with the new family, and the pills to be taken four times a day at the ill-tempered old gentleman’s with the gouty leg?”
“Then shut the door, and mind the shop.”
“Come,” said Mr. Winkle, as the boy retired, “things are not quite so bad as you would have me believe, either. There is some medicine to be sent out.”
Mr. Bob Sawyer peeped into the shop to see that no stranger was within hearing, and leaning forward to Mr. Winkle, said, in a low tone: “He leaves it all at the wrong houses.”
Mr. Winkle looked perplexed, and Bob Sawyer and his friend [Mr. Ben Allen, another medical gentleman] laughed.
“Don’t you see?” said Bob. “He goes up to a house, rings the area bell, pokes a packet of medicine without a direction into the servant’s hand, and walks off. Servant takes it into the dining-parlour; master opens it, and reads the label: ‘Draught to be taken at bedtime—pills as before—lotion as usual—the powder. From Sawyer’s, late Nockemorf’s. Physicians’ prescriptions carefully prepared,’ and all the rest of it. Shows it to his wife—she reads the label; it goes down to the servants—they read the label. Next day, boy calls: ‘Very sorry—his mistake—immense business—great many parcels to deliver—Mr. Sawyer’s compliments—late Nockemorf.’ The name gets known, and that’s the thing, my boy, in the medical way. Bless your heart, old fellow, it’s better than all the advertising in the world. We have got one four-ounce bottle that’s been to half the houses in Bristol, and hasn’t done yet.”
“Dear me, I see,” observed Mr. Winkle; “what an excellent plan!”
“Oh, Ben and I have hit upon a dozen such,” replied Bob Sawyer, with great glee. “The lamplighter has eighteenpence a week to pull the night-bell for ten minutes every time he comes round; and my boy always rushes into the church just before the psalms, when the people have got nothing to do but look about ’em, and calls me out, with horror and dismay depicted on his countenance. ‘Bless my soul,’ everybody says, ‘somebody taken suddenly ill! Sawyer, late Nockemorf, sent for. What a business that young man has!’”
At the termination of this disclosure of some of the mysteries of medicine, Mr. Bob Sawyer and his friend, Ben Allen, threw themselves back in their respective chairs, and laughed boisterously.