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The Scare Cure


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Early in this century a restless Yankee, who wore the uninspiring name of
Tompkinson, found his way into Carondelet--or Vuide Poche, the French
settlement on the Mississippi since absorbed by St. Louis--and cast about
for something to do. He had been in hard luck on his trip from New
England to the great river. His schemes for self-aggrandizement and the
incidental enlightenment and prosperity of mankind had not thriven, and
it was largely in pity that M. Dunois gave shelter to the ragged,
half-starved, but still jaunty and resourceful adventurer. Dunois was the
one man in the place who could pretend to some education, and the two got
on together famously.

As soon as Tompkinson was in clothes and funds--the result of certain
speculations--he took a house, and hung a shingle out announcing that
there he practised medicine. Now, the fellow knew less about doctoring
than any village granny, but a few sick people that he attended had the
rare luck to get well in spite of him, and his reputation expanded to
more than local limits in consequence. In the excess of spirits that
prosperity created he flirted rather openly with a number of virgins in
Carondelet, to the scandal of Dunois, who forbade him his house, and of
the priest, who put him under ban.

For the priest he cared nothing, but Dunois's anger was more serious--for
the only maid of all that he really loved was Marie Dunois, his daughter.
He formally proposed for her, but the old man would not listen to him.
Then his practice fell away. The future looked as dark for him as his
recent past had been, until a woman came to him with a bone in her throat
and begged to be relieved. His method in such cases was to turn a
wheel-of-fortune and obey it. The arrow this time pointed to the word,

He grasped a scalpel and advanced upon his victim, who, supposing that he
intended to cut her throat open to extract the obstacle, fell a-screaming
with such violence that the bone flew out. What was supposed to be his
ready wit in this emergency restored him to confidence, and he was able
to resume the practice that he needed so much. In a couple of years he
displayed to the wondering eyes of Dunois so considerable an accumulation
of cash that he gave Marie to him almost without the asking, and, as
Tompkinson afterward turned Indian trader and quadrupled his wealth by
cheating the red men, he became one of the most esteemed citizens of the

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