The District Doctor – Ivan Turgenev (1818 1883)
Born at Orel in 1818, Turgenev was educated in his native country. Though the greater part of his life was spent in Paris, he wrote invariably about his own people. He is one of the finest figures in Russian literature, surpassing all other Russians in beauty of language and form.
A Sportsman’s Sketches was one of his earliest works. It is a collection of stories, from which The District Doctor has been chosen. The present translation is by Constance Garnett, and is published by William Heinemann.
The District Doctor
From A Sportsman’s Sketches
The District Doctor – One day in autumn on my way back from a remote part of the country I caught cold and fell ill. Fortunately the fever attacked me in the district town at the inn; I sent for the doctor. In half-an- hour the district doctor appeared, a thin, dark-haired man of middle height. He prescribed me the usual sudorific, ordered a mustard- plaster to be put on, very deftly slid a five-ruble note up his sleeve, coughing drily and looking away as he did so, and then was getting Up to go home, but somehow fell into talk and remained. I was exhausted with feverishness; I foresaw a sleepless night, and was glad of a little chat with a pleasant companion.
Tea was served. My doctor beg an to converse freely. He was a sensible fellow, and expressed him- nrir with vigor and some humor. Queer things happen in the world: you may live a long while with some people, and be on friendly terms with them, and never once speak openly with them from your soul: with otlicrs you have scarcely time to get acquainted, and all at once you are pouring out to him or he to you all your secrets, as though you were at confession. I don’t know how I gained the confidence of my new friend anyway, with nothing to lead up to it, he told me a rather curious incident; and here I will report his tale for the information of the indulgent reader. I will try to tell it in the doctor’s own words.