The District Doctor part 4


She looked at me, and then took me by the hand. `I will tell you why I don`t want to die; I will tell you now; we are alone; and only, please don`t you… not to arty one… Listen….’ I bent down; she moved her lips quite to my ear; she touched my cheek with her hair I confess my head went round and began to whisper…. I could make out nothing of it Ah, she was delirious! . . . She whispered and whispered, but so quickly, and as if it were not in Russian; at last she finished, and shivering dropped her head on the pillow, and threatened me with her finger: `Remember, doctor, to no one.` I calmed her somehow, gave her something to drink, waked the servant, and went away.”

At this point the doctor again took snuff with exasperated energy, and for a moment seemed stupefied by its effects.

Contrary Expectations

“However,” he continued, “the next day, contrary to my expectations, the patient was no better. I thought and thought, and suddenly decided to remain there, even though my other patients were expecting me. . . . And you know one can`t afford to disregard that; one`s practice suffers if one does. But, in the first place, the patient was really in danger; and secondly, to tell the truth, I felt strongly drawn to her. Besides, I liked the whole family. Though they were really badly off, they were singularly, I may say, cultivated people.

Their father had been a learned man, an author; he died, of course, in poverty, but he had managed before he died to give his children an excellent education; he left a lot of books too. Either because I looked after the invalid very carefully, or for some other reason, anyway, I can venture to say all the household loved me as if I were one of the family Meantime the roads were in a worse state than ever; all communications, so to say, were cut off completely; even medicine could with difficulty be got from the town The sick girl was not getting better.

Day after day, and day after day… but… here ” (The doctor made a brief pause.) “I declare I don`t know how to tell you….” (He again took snuff, coughed, and swallowed a little tea.) “I will tell you without beating about the bush. My patient… how should I say? . . .Well, she had fallen in love with me… or, no, it was not that she was in love… however… really, how should one say?” (The doctor looked down and grew red.) “No,” he went on quickly, “in love, indeed! A man should not over-estimate himself. She was an educated girl, clever and well-read, and I had even forgotten my Latin, one may say, completely. As to appearance” (the doctor looked himself over with a smile), “I am nothing to boast of there either.

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