Many years of solid service is what had secured his reputation, his status within a community. There was, I suppose, an element of irony around his downfall.
Irony, not meaning something having the quality of iron, was a good example of why he never bothered. Even during the long years, mourning his son, he never bothered.
It ought also be stated that downfall is a word that is too strong here. Mr. Breven continued his work as the only pharmacist in the town and always enjoyed the custom of many people in that town. Not everyone, of course, but many. Enough for him to see out his active years behind the counter, and even eek out a modest retirement. A retirement of reflection, during which he still did not concern himself to learn.
A medical man (or sorts) who cannot read, nor write, is not quite the problem you may imagine. Certainly on arriving in this town I suspected nothing and then, some years later, arriving upon the knowledge of Mr. Breven’s lack of knowledge I was surprised. Dismayed maybe. I even offered, obliquely, to teach him. He misunderstood my overture however, and thought I had invited him to lunch.
Thus it was that he and I enjoyed lunch every third Thursday, at my expense, for some thirty years until his timely death .
We never once spoke of the fateful day that his potions were muddled and his illiteracy led to him selecting ‘Silver Sand’ in error, whilst making up a delicate prescription.
This substance is, of course, a fatal poison to all, not least to Mr. Breven’s only son, the late Ernest Breven.
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