“Hello there, my name is Mr Benjamin, I’m here on behalf of Restormal Borough Council in regards to the proposed division wall and I’m looking for an Arthur Bagshot?”
“Yes, I’ve been expecting you, I’m Arthur, pleased to meet you, sir.”
The last to speak, put down a half-eaten scotch egg onto a red and white polka dot handkerchief-such as the kind itinerant’s use for bindles-upon the counter top next to a bread bap, a large wedge of Stilton cheese and a bottle of Natch cider, then wiped his greasy chubby hand upon the side of his once white apron and offered it to the other gentleman for the pleasure of shaking.
After this formal greeting was conducted, there was a slight pause in the proceedings as Arthur’s attention was caught by an urchin of no more than 10 years old jiggling a wooden barrel from left to right by a doorway on the opposite side of the room.
“For Christ sake, stop jiggling it, you’ll have it over, twist it and roll half-circles at a time, sidle it boy, sidle!”
Whilst this was going on Mr Benjamin glanced casually around the Apothecary’s shop at the usual staple adornments, objects and curiosities that inhabit the walls and shelves of such a business types dwelling, aforementioned.
There were dusty jars of all different types and sizes, filled with everything from powders to liquids and everything in between, there was a bucket of halfpenny liquorice beside the second huge cast iron till, various metal advertisements decorating the walls for products such as Laudanum, Andrew’s Liver Salts, Extracts of Vanilla, Strychnine, Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters, Snake Oil, Electro Magnetic Bathing Fluids, Belladonna and Foxglove Extracts and of course Dr. Mountebanks Reducing Pastilles etc.
There was also, behind the far left of the counter, a full skeleton in top hat, shirt cuffs and claw-hammer overcoat with a monocle affixed, Mr. Benjamin let out a haughty chuckle and turned in the direction of Arthur as he spoke in explanation with a smile and a wink.
“Tis Lord Snivel-Bottom our kindly assistant.”
“Quite so, quite so, he looks very kindly indeed, I bet the ankle-biters love him!” retorted Mr. Benjamin with a full degree of mirth.
Just then the clock struck two of the afternoon bringing both parties joltingly back to the reality of business and that business was a wall or more clearly a dividing wall.
“So you see that trench there, running up the floor to the double shop front doors?”
Mr. Benjamin indicated that he did and Arthur Bagshot continued his explanation.
“After the infamous ‘Massacre of Thirteen’ 6 months ago and the subsequent hangings a month later, we erected a wooden partition to try and stem the violently brewing storm of discontent between the both queuing parties but alas this was breached from the female side and once a hole appeared both sides ripped the entire thing down in to pieces handy enough to use as weapon’s.
Luckily it was only the first Monday of opening since the ‘Massacre of Thirteen’ and in anticipation and fear of the ugly and unpleasant again happening, we had in attendance 30 foot Constables and there were merely 3 disablements but no fatalities.”
“Yes, I read about these dreadful incidents in the Morning Tribune, simply ghastly, it must have been terrifying.” spoke Mr. Benjamin whilst shaking his head vigorously.
“Well, I can handle myself when it comes to fisticuffs sir, I was lightweight champion 2 years running up on the commons in my heyday but Mrs Bagshot’s nerves are not quite the same after giving birth to seven and losing eight and it fair near finished her off for a few weeks after.” replied Arthur Bagshot with a wince.
“I bet it did, and you say the trouble only erupts on a Monday, how peculiar?” perceived Mr Benjamin.
“Well yes, of course on Monday’s, it’s after the 4 day weekends isn’t it. You know I’m the only Apothecary stupid enough or brave enough to be in business within a 5 mile radius and come 7am Monday morning the queue reaches for 2 streets away.
We’ve managed to get the men with their hangovers queuing up along the left hand side of the road and the women with their headaches off to the right hand side but the trouble begins when the queues meet coming in through the double doors and into the shop, it’s mayhem.
We’ve got husband-beaters and wife-beaters and their brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and friends all bunched up together, there are the freshly caught married folk exposed for carrying on with each others better-halves right here on the shop floor, it gets more like an arena than a place of business and then there’s the people who owe each other money or who have ripped someone off or stolen from this or that person, the rest of the week we’re steady but quiet, Lord give me strength!” sighed Arthur Bagshot.
“So let me get this right, you are proposing to build a solid brick structure from the counter just here?” asked Mr. Benjamin indicating with his left forefinger.
“Right away along this trench down the middle of the shop, ceiling high and terminating by dividing the now double doorway into two separate entry points?”
“Yes, that is the plan completely, except that my brother-in-law Joey and his friends ‘The Banwen Brothers Three’ are going to stand in the middle of the pavement outside every Monday morning for a 6 pint bar-tab each.” confirmed Arthur Bagshot.
“Well, in that case, I see absolutely no reason at all to stall this application going through, in short, I agree to the proposal most definitely and if you will put your mark upon the bottom off this sheet of paper our business for the day here will be complete.” explained Mr Benjamin pulling forth a document from his leather case and laying it down upon the counter top next to the Apothecary’s unfinished meal.
Arthur Bagshot signed the decree happily and after shaking the Council Man’s hand rigorously several times in gratitude, called loudly at the ceiling for Mrs Bagshot to come down to hear some good news.
Mr Benjamin smiled, placed the document safely back into his leather case, fished out a halfpenny from his waistcoat pocket, threw it down upon the counter top next to the liquorice bucket and with his mouth happily engaged in chewing he exited the Apothecary’s shop.