5 April, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up betimes, when saw a little rime on the lawn, though in the shade only and the water in my fountayne not iced, the wind being from the Artick and very cold. By the Messenger from Mr. M. Jones that he hath installed a new weather vane on his house, though he hath been obliged to speak with its fabrickater, for it should talk to his magick screen, which it did not in all the manner of things that it should; but all is now righted and he is mightily contented with it and must shew me how it works. Thence to my office, to study more of a matter that has perplexed me for some time, which is the use made amongst the youth of the city of abbreviacions, to discourse between themselfs, for I feel my lack of familiaritie a disadvantage, these being the like of IMHO and ROTFL, and WTF and FFS — not to mention one that pertanes particularly to this last year, which is USCWP. After, it then being not so cold, to errands, and to my own Doctor, which is young Dr. Burnett, of a great line from old Dr. Burnett, who died of the former plague, there to pick up a repeat Prescripcion. None present but I, though obliged nevertheless to peruse a five year old old copy of Commodious Coaches while waiting the customery twenty minutes to be seen.
‘Sorry to keep you, Mr. Pepys,’ says Dr. Burnett at last. ‘How are you? I am pleased to see you have survived the plague, and I am sure you are too.’
‘I might state it somewhat more positively than that,’ say I, ‘but yes, on balance I am pleased to have survived the plague, and in all other respects relating to my health I hope I am well. I exercise a little, the tension in my vessells is adequate and I am abjuring wine, ale and strong water on a regular basis, this being the third such day.’
‘That all sounds excellent,’ says he. ‘If it is merely a repeat prescripcion you need, it is a simple matter.’ Whereupon he took up his quill and wrote upon a piece of parchment which he handed me from a Special Distance. ‘The Apothecary will dispence this for you, in the usual manner.’
‘I hope he can understand it, for I cannot read a word of it,’ say I, squinting at it.
‘My script is perfectly legible,’ counters he. ‘I am famed for my cursives. Prescripcions are writ in Latin, wherein perhaps lies the difficulty.’
‘Indeed,’ say I, ‘for it is a language in which I achieved no more than a D at ordinary Level, and even then have forgot it. I sometimes think you retain it and your professional abbreviations for no other purpose than obfuscation! There are some who hold that both are employed as a code to ridicule the patient. If so, it is an ill-concealed secret.’
‘Oh, you do make me lol, Mr. Pepys. I do not know why people might think such a thing!’ says he.
Thence to my booksellers, where paid a little debt and browsed, taking only A Cornish Brothel by Mrs. Pryce, finely bound, which I had wrapped in brown paper to take home from the shop, lest it prove lewd and bawdy, as I hoped.
At the Apothecarys two before me in the street, then in.
‘Morning, Mr. Pepys,’ says he from behind his plague-glass screen.
‘Good morning,’ say I, sliding my prescripcion across his counter. He reads it, and am sure sniggers behind his mask.
‘Is there something in it to amuse you?’ say I, crossly.
‘No, no! Not at all,’ says he hastily, scurrying to uncork a stoneware jar and measure out my pills.
‘You have changed your display since I was last here. The plants of which you sold me one have gone.’
‘They have,’ says he, ‘along with my neighbour, MacSporran. You will have seen the premices have been sold?’
‘I have seen. The export regs scuppered his business, or so he told me.’
‘Hah!’ says he. ‘There is more to it than that. Look at this.’ Whereupon my pills and my script sets he to one side on his counter, and I my book in its wrapper to the other, making between them a flat space on which to open the morning gazette, where together we read its head Line — viz.: ‘In which is presented, for the Edification of the Public, news, of Arrests made in the furtherance of Investigacions into a Great Scandal pertaneing to illicit Products dissemenated from a respected Butchershoppe in the City’, and, below, that… ‘In persuance of Enquiries into the appearance on the streets of Comestibles adulterated with a halucenogenick plant Product, which had found pertick. favour with the youth of the Environs, an arrest hath been made of Mr. Jas. MacSporran, Butcher…’ (‘Good grief!’ breath I, aghast. ‘It had reached as far as the Environs!’ ‘Read on,’ says the Apothecarie. ‘It gets better.’) ‘…While in Holland hath been taken into Custodie, for the serious Misdemeanour of contraveneing Regulacions newly put in place relating to the export of Plant Materiel to Brittayne from the Union of Evrope, Mrs. Judith MacSporran, wife of the Aforementioned, who had floated there in a Special Bubble, from Westminster Stairs in a downpour, to the Estuarie of the Thames and thence all the way to Amsterdam where she had domiciled for many months in a bar on a canal by the port, on a charge of thriving on illicit funds derived from the sale to sailors and sundry wretches of Commodities related almost solely to the hemp plant, C. sativa, the illegal importation of which by her husband in London is most unlikely to have occurred without the Collusion and Connivance of Persons of Seniority within our own Constabulary…’ (‘Good heavens!’) ‘…all of which is to be investigated with Meticulosnesse and Rectitude — “leaving not a stone unturned in our efforts to root out the guilty,” as said the Officer in charge, Constable S. Arnott.’
‘Who would have imagined a scandal of such proportions?’ say I.
‘And with the smack of Organised Crime!’ says the other, relishing it.
Business concluded, I took my pills and my prescipcion, and made to retrieve my brown packet — but not before the Apothecarie had snook a view of its contents.
‘Mr. Pepys! I did not think that kind of book would be your thing!’ exclayms he, and once again I felt I heard a barely suppressed snigger.
‘Have a care for your tone and keep your counsel,’ cry I, red of face and snatching back my book, ‘lest someone in this scandal suppose you an Accessory!’
Anon, it now being light till sunset, since we have made the day longer by an hour, walked a little in my garden, the breeze gentle enough to move only the leafs and small twigs on my Conyfer there, and to flutter a flag on a poal in the distance; then in. By and by comes Mr. M. Jones for supper, who without ado must shew me how works the new weather vane on his house jointly with his magick screen, for he is mightily joyed by it.
‘See!’ says he. ‘Seated here as I am by the comfort of your hearth, I am shown the state of the weather at my own home in all its meteorological entirity: the wind, its direction and speed, the temperature, its highs and lows, and all one could wish to know!’
‘That is very impressive, I am sure,’ say I, unsure of it.
He prods his magick screen and reads from it. ‘This morning, for instance, there was “Some rime on the grass but without ice, and the wind was slight — ”’
‘ — and cold and from the north,’ say I, ‘as I knew from opening the door.’
‘A skeptick, as ever, in the face of Technologie,’ says he, shaking his head. ‘You are so 17th century. This evening there is “A gentle breeze: leaves and small twigs in constant motion — ”’
‘ — and light flags extended,’ say I. ‘I know that too, from walking in the garden. I am sure you will derive great pleasure from it for many years, but if it cannot tell the weather for tomorrow, which should be its greatest asset, I shall continue to rely on Mr. Schadenfreude. Now, if I may change the topic of conversation there is a matter on which I would like your engagement. I cannot shake off a suspition of some covert communication between my physician and my Apothecary, which I fear may be at my expence and to their amusement. Young Dr. Burnett denies it with a vehemence I am reluctant to counter lest I misrepresent the case, but to set my mind at rest I wonder if you might translate this prescripcion into common English, for my feeble grasp of Latin will not suffice.’
I pass it to him.
℞ Rosuverstattine 5ℨ mane o.d. Mitte 28.
Amavi fabulam de herba cannabe. RCMT.
‘Well,’ says he, ‘The first is simple: “I prescribe rosuver-whatnot, five drams in the morning, dah-de-dah-de-dah…” and then — ’ (here, like the apothecary, he cannot suppress a snigger) ‘ — and then he says…oh! I am not sure you wish to know — ! ’
‘Go on,’ say I.
‘ — he says, “Loved the story about the cannabis plant”!’
‘The rogue!’ cry I. ‘It is a secret message to discomfit me, as I feared! And what of the initials that follow? What of RCMT?’
Mr. Jones falters momentarily, but then I see him fall about.
‘Ha, ha, ha, ha, hah! You have been familiarising yourself with text speak, I believe?’
‘This very morning,’ say I, guardedly.
‘Well, so it seems has the good doctor,’ says he, recovering himself, ‘for I believe those letters to stand for Ridens culum meum tantum!’ He wipes his eyes. ‘Oh, dear! LMAO!’
‘Yes, I can see you are doing that!’ say I, hotly. ‘But what does it mean in plain English?’
‘Oh, Pepys!’ cries he. ‘I have just told you what it means in plain English!’
The penny drops.
‘The scoundrel!’ cry I, jumping to my feet. ‘The villain!’
At supper Mr. Jones urged that wine must soothe my indignation as much as celibrate his merry mood, so had two pints. Conveyed to him the gossip of the day, at which rubbed he his hands with relish, for he enjoys a scandall and cannot stand MacSporran. Then parted, he home to check that his weather was working, and I to read my new book, which to further my irittacions of the day I discover to be not at all what I did think, but rather the tale of a gentlewoman in a town house in Truro pining her betrothed, a sea farer presumed dead but seized by the Portuguees from a convent in Brazil. On closer inspection found it to be called A Cornish Betrothal and an historicle Romance, but it is well wrote. The night darkening, set the book aside for fear of my eyes in the candle light, and lastly out to my recicling bins, where of all things there was snow beginning to fall and the wind up, which made it colder — followed immediately by confirmacion by the Messenger that there was ‘wintry precipitacion and a wind chill factor’.
Mr. Jones did not rub his hands with relish like HP sauce or Branston pickle. He rubbed them with glee.