in Anatomy by
The youth whom we shall call "Tom"—and nothing but "Tom," was one of
those individuals who labor with a fierce, burning anxiety to burst
through the trammels imposed upon them by a limited education,—one of
those votaries of science, whose energy seems to grow all the more,
because it has nothing to feed upon. He was very slightly formed, and
had eyes so bright and shining that when one gazed on him, one was
inclined to overlook all his other thin, sharply defined features.
Never was there a more complete appearance of a clear intelligence in a
The few half-pence which Tom was enabled to save from his scanty
earnings at a laborious trade, he regularly expended at the bookstall;
and on one occasion was highly delighted at picking up a small book on
anatomy. The work was one of those that had long been superseded by
more modern and better treatises, and the little plates were as ill and
coarsely done as possible. Nevertheless, with him it had not the
disadvantage of comparison. He thought it a mine of science yet
unexplored, and he suffered his whole soul to be absorbed by it.
In a few weeks he had transferred the entire contents of the work into
his own brain; and though he invariably carried the book in his pocket,
it was more out of respect to it, as an old friend, than from any
further benefit to be derived from it. The names of eery bone,
cartilage, ligament, and muscle of which he had read, were deeply
imprinted in his mind; and he could have passed with glory through the
sharpest examination, provided it had been based on the contents of the
But Tom, in spite of his knowledge, was too intelligent not to perceive
the defective state of his acquirements. He soon felt that his anatomy
was after all, a science of names, rather than of things—that though
he could have described accurately all the intricate bones of the
skull, and all the muscles of the extremities, his descriptions would
have been little more than a repetition of words committed to memory.
He had not seen a single real object connected with his science. If he
could but have set eyes upon a skeleton, what an advantage it would
We once read of a celebrated anatomist, who, far from admiring human
beauty, regarded the skin, as an impertinent obstacle to the
acquisition of science, concealing, as it does, the play of the
muscles. Whether such a clear notion as this ever entered the mind of
our hero, we cannot say, but certainly if some tall, lean beggar passed
him on the road, he would clutch convulsively at his knife, and follow
the man with a sad, wistful look.
One autumnal evening he sat in the ale-house parlor, watching the smoke
of his pipe, and indulging in his own reflections; for though the
conversation in the room was noisy and animated, it had no interest for
him. Devoted to his own pursuits, births, deaths and marriages were to
him things of nought, and he paid no heed to the constant discussions
which were held in the village, on the extraordinary case of old
Ebenezer Grindstone, who had been thought extremely rich, but in whose
house not a farthing had been found after his decease, to the great
disappointment of his creditors.
Soon, however, there was such a violent dash of rain against the
window, that even Tom was compelled to start, when he saw the door
open, and a stranger enter, completely muffled in a cloak. The new
comer stood before the fire as if to dry himself, and seemed to be of
the same taciturn disposition as Tom, for he made no answer to the
different questions that were addressed to him, nor did he even
condescend to look at the speakers. The shower having ceased, the moon
shining brightly through the window, the stranger walked out again,
without the sign of leave-taking.
"That be a queer chap," said the ostler, "I'll run and see where he's
going," and he followed the stranger, who had awakened a curiosity in
every one except Tom. Scarcely five minutes had elapsed, when the
ostler rushed into the room, pale as death.
"Udds buddikins!" said he, and it was not before a glass of spirits had
been poured down his throat, that he could state the cause of his
alarm. "Old chap just gone out got no proper face like—only a death's
head—he just looked around on me in the moonlight."
"Do you mean to say," exclaimed Tom, "that he is nothing but a
"Aye, sure I do," said the ostler.
"And which way did he go?"
"Why, towards the church-yard, sure," said the ostler. Tom waited for
no more, but, dashing down his pipe, he rushed out of the room, and
tore along the road to the churchyard. When he had got there, he saw
the stranger standing by the tomb of old Ebenezer Grindstone. The moon
was shining full upon him, and, as Tom approached, the cloak fell down,
leaving nothing but a bare skeleton before him.
"Thank my stars!" exclaimed Tom, "I have seen a skeleton at last!"
"Young man!" said the skeleton, in a hollow voice, while it hideously
moved its jaws, "attend!"
"How beautifully," cried Tom, enraptured, "can I see the play of the
"Attend!" repeated the skeleton; "but, rash man! what are you about?"
it added, turning suddenly round. The fact is, Tom was running his
fingers down the vertebrae, and counting to see if their number
corresponded with that given in his book. "Seven cervical, twelve
dorsal!" he cried with immense glee.
The skeleton lost all patience, and, raising its arm, shook its fist
angrily at Tom, who, with his eyes fixed on the elbow, merely shouted
his joy, at perceiving the "ginglymoid" movement.
The skeleton, who had been accustomed to terrify other people, was
completely amazed at the scientific position taken by the young
anatomist. In fact, the most extraordinary scene that can be conceived
presently occurred; for the apparition, feeling panic-struck at Tom's
coolness and scientific spirit, darted away from him, and endeavored to
escape by dodging among the tomb-stones. Tom was too anxious to pursue
his studies to allow himself to be baffled in this way; and putting
forth all his strength, soon overtook the skeleton, and held him tight,
a conversation ensued, in the course of which the skeleton explained
that he was old Grindstone himself, who had buried a quantity of money
underground, and could not rest in peace till it was dug up and
distributed among the creditors. This office he requested Tom to
"It will be some trouble," said Tom, "and the affair is none of mine—
but lookye—I'm willing to comply with your request, if, as a reward,
you will allow me to come and study you every night for the next month.
You may then retire to rest for as long a time as you please."
"Agreed," said the skeleton; and, quite recovered from his alarm, he
shook hands with Tom in ratification of the bargain.
Tom found the money, distributed it among the creditors, and passed
every night for the next month in the old churchyard, observing his
beloved skeleton, which as it moved into any position he desired, gave
him an opportunity of studying the motion of the bones, in a way that
had not been enjoyed by any other anatomist.
The young enthusiast, sitting at midnight with the strange assistant to
his pursuits, would have been a delightful sight, had any one possessed
the courage to stop and look at the party. When the month had expired,
Tom and his good friend shook hands and parted with great regret; but
Tom had completely retained in his mind all he had seen and laid the
foundation of that profound anatomical science by which he was
afterwards so much distinguished.
It is needless to add that this is the true account of the early career
of the celebrated Dr.——, and that all others are baseless