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The village, in which the first scenes of this history are laid, was called Trennach; and the land about it was bleak and bare and dreary enough, though situated in the grand old county of Cornwall. For mines lay around, with all the signs and features of miners' work about them; yawning pit mouths, leading down to rich beds of minerals--some of the mines in all the bustle of full operation, some worked out and abandoned. Again, in the neighbourhood of these, might be seen miners' huts and other dwelling-places, and the counting-houses attached to the shafts. The little village of Trennach skirted this tract of labour; for, while the mining district extended for some miles on one side the hamlet; on the other side, half-an-hour's quiet walking brought you to a different country altogether--to spreading trees and rich pasture land and luxuriant vegetation.
The village street chiefly consisted of shops. Very humble shops, most of them; but the miners and the other inhabitants, out of reach of better, found them sufficiently good for their purposes. Most of the shops dealt in mixed articles, and might be called general shops. The linendraper added brushes and brooms to his cottons and stuffs; the grocer sold saucepans and gridirons; the baker did a thriving trade in home-made pickles. On a dark night, the most cheerful-looking shop was the druggist's: the coloured globes displayed in its windows sending forth their reflections into the thoroughfare. This shop had also added another branch to its legitimate trade--that of general literature: for the one solitary doctor of the place dispensed his own medicines, and the sale of drugs was not great. The shop boasted a small circulating library; the miners and the miners' wives, like their betters, being fond of sensational fiction. The books consisted entirely of cheap volumes, issued at a shilling or two shillings each; some indeed at sixpence. The proprietor of this mart, Edmund Float, chemist and druggist, was almost a confirmed invalid, and would often be laid up for a week at a time. The doctor told him that if he would devote less of his time to that noted hostelry, the Golden Shaft, he might escape these attacks of illness. At these times the business of the shop, both as to drugs and books, was transacted by a young native of Falmouth; one Blase Pellet, who had served his apprenticeship in it and remained on as assistant.
The doctor's name was Raynor. He wrote himself Hugh Raynor, M.D., Member of the Royal College of Physicians. That he, a man of fair ability in his profession and a gentleman as well, should be contented to live in this obscure place, in all the drudgery of a general practitioner and apothecary, may seem a matter of surprise--but his history shall be given further on. His house stood in the middle of the village, somewhat back from the street: a low, square, detached building, a bow window on each side its entrance, and three windows above. On the door, which always stood open in the daytime, was a brass plate, bearing the name, "Dr. Raynor." The bow window to the left was screened by a brown wire blind, displaying the word "Surgery" in large white letters. Above the blind Dr. Raynor's white head, or the younger head of his handsome nephew, might occasionally be seen by the passers-by, or by Mr. Blase Pellet over the way. For the doctor's house and the druggist's shop faced each other; and Mr. Pellet, being of an inquisitive disposition, seemed never tired of peeping and peering into his neighbours' doings generally, and especially into any that might take place at Dr. Raynor's. At either end of this rather straggling street were seated respectively the parish church and the Wesleyan meeting-house. The latter was the better attended; for most of the miners followed their fathers' faith--that of the Wesleyan Methodists.