The young Bernard arrived in Lyon to take up his apprenticeship in January 1832. He found his way to the rue Royale in the district of Vaise, and a happy reunion with Benoit Blanc, with whom he would share quarters in the attic of the pharmacy. Bernard's duties were initially menial, and he was heckled by a coachload of his former school colleagues who passed by - just as he was sweeping the path in front of the pharmacy. He had to be content with the minor praise which he received for preparing a pot of shoe-black!
He was soon puzzled by the number of preparations dispensed without any experimental support for their efficacy (as far as he could gather from either Millet or the available reference books). The variety of symptoms and conditions for which any one potion or pastille was used was also confusing; particularly the thériaque with its seventy constituents. It was devised by Mithrodatus 2000 years previously as an antidote to snake poison. Several centuries later it was modified by Galen, and then widely dispensed as a panacea for vague symptoms and for conditions which defied diagnosis - of which there were many! Bernard also found his patron adding in his own ingredients from time to time - leftovers from other prescriptions!
All of this was not consistent with the Cartesian 'truth' which he had expected to find in an important practice related to human health. Disillusioned by the science of pharmacy, he secretly began working on the play that he had always wanted to write. Predictably, Millet was displeased when Bernard admitted what he had been doing. Yet the young man had already found someone to produce his piece of vaudeville - possibly a drama school in the recently completed Galerie de l'Argue. Rose du Rhone was quite a success, partly because both the Célestins and Grand Théatre had been closed as a result of the cholera epidemic, then sweeping through France. Bernard was delighted when he was presented with one hundred francs at the end of the short season. The play was never published, and the manuscript has unfortunately been lost.
Soon afterwards, Bernard made a foolish mistake in the pharmacy's storage cellar: an act of carelessness which almost cost him his life. Millet was furious, particularly when he discovered that Bernard was also in the throes of writing his next play: a five-act historical drama entitled Arthur de Bretagne. The young apprentice promptly wrote to his parents that he had lost interest in the practice of pharmacy. It was probably by mutual consent that Millet terminated his apprenticeship.
In July 1833, Bernard said farewell to his friend Blanc and returned to St Julien to his displeased father, and (as always) his more understanding mother. That year, Bernard helped enthusiastically with the harvest, and while he put finishing touches to his play, Madame Bernard set about helping him to further what now seemed to be his chosen career.
She recalled meeting a woman in Villefranche, whose son Jean Vatout was the product of a flirtation with the Duke of Orleans during his brief stay in the town some 40 years earlier. The young Vatout had been a bright and promising scholar, so that the Duke had arranged for him to come to Paris, where he had received a privileged education culminating in a job as his father's librarian. The Duke's legitimate son Louis-Phillippe was now King and had recently appointed Jean Vatout (his half-brother) as Minister of Public and Historic Buildings. Madame Bernard knew that Jean Vatout was also a literary figure of some standing, with books, poems and even songs to his name. She now wrote to Madame Vatout to see if she might give Claude a letter of introduction to her eminent and undoubtedly influential son. Having achieved her aim, she dispatched Claude to Paris bearing this introductory letter and the hefty manuscript of his play.
Vatout wasted no time in referring Bernard to the arch-classicist Saint-Marc Girardin, a highly-revered drama critic based at the Sorbonne. He had quite viciously condemned the romantisme of Victor Hugo's Hernani when it was produced at the Théatre Français three years earlier. Girardin obligingly read Bernard's Arthur de Bretagne - and then also mercilessly condemned it (one wonders what prompted Vatout to propose Girardin in the first place, bearing in mind the critic's well-known prejudice against romantisme). Vatout subsequently suggested a further opinion; from Pierre Ligier, a renowned actor of Romantic roles; but he too was unimpressed. "You have done some pharmacy...." Girardin finally advised Bernard, "....so why not study medicine: you may be better at scientific writing" - or words to that effect.
Bernard agonized over his predicament. He may even have considered seeking more opinions on his play, but he eventually decided to follow Girardin's suggestion. Moving to a room in a boarding house, he restudied for the necessary preliminary: his baccalaureat. He only just passed these exams (and then only at his second attempt) in the summer of 1834, and was subsequently accepted for medical school entry, perhaps helped by his pharmacy experience.
There remained however, the obstacle of compulsory army service. At that time, one could buy oneself out of this responsibility, and his parents obligingly borrowed the 1800 francs necessary to pay for his replacement in the army by a certain Master Deschamps. Now released from this commitment, Bernard began studying for his new career in the autumn of that year.
Student in Paris....