Anna karenina, p.35
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       Anna Karenina, p.35

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  PART TWO

  Chapter 1

  At the end of the winter, in the Shtcherbatskys' house, a consultationwas being held, which was to pronounce on the state of Kitty's healthand the measures to be taken to restore her failing strength. She hadbeen ill, and as spring came on she grew worse. The family doctor gaveher cod liver oil, then iron, then nitrate of silver, but as the firstand the second and the third were alike in doing no good, and as hisadvice when spring came was to go abroad, a celebrated physician wascalled in. The celebrated physician, a very handsome man, stillyoungish, asked to examine the patient. He maintained, with peculiarsatisfaction, it seemed, that maiden modesty is a mere relic ofbarbarism, and that nothing could be more natural than for a man stillyoungish to handle a young girl naked. He thought it natural because hedid it every day, and felt and thought, as it seemed to him, no harm ashe did it and consequently he considered modesty in the girl not merelyas a relic of barbarism, but also as an insult to himself.

  There was nothing for it but to submit, since, although all the doctorshad studied in the same school, had read the same books, and learned thesame science, and though some people said this celebrated doctor was abad doctor, in the princess's household and circle it was for somereason accepted that this celebrated doctor alone had some specialknowledge, and that he alone could save Kitty. After a carefulexamination and sounding of the bewildered patient, dazed with shame,the celebrated doctor, having scrupulously washed his hands, wasstanding in the drawing room talking to the prince. The prince frownedand coughed, listening to the doctor. As a man who had seen something oflife, and neither a fool nor an invalid, he had no faith in medicine,and in his heart was furious at the whole farce, specially as he wasperhaps the only one who fully comprehended the cause of Kitty'sillness. "Conceited blockhead!" he thought, as he listened to thecelebrated doctor's chatter about his daughter's symptoms. The doctorwas meantime with difficulty restraining the expression of his contemptfor this old gentleman, and with difficulty condescending to the levelof his intelligence. He perceived that it was no good talking to the oldman, and that the principal person in the house was the mother. Beforeher he decided to scatter his pearls. At that instant the princess cameinto the drawing room with the family doctor. The prince withdrew,trying not to show how ridiculous he thought the whole performance. Theprincess was distracted, and did not know what to do. She felt she hadsinned against Kitty.

  "Well, doctor, decide our fate," said the princess. "Tell meeverything."

  "Is there hope?" she meant to say, but her lips quivered, and she couldnot utter the question. "Well, doctor?"

  "Immediately, princess. I will talk it over with my colleague, and thenI will have the honor of laying my opinion before you."

  "So we had better leave you?"

  "As you please."

  The princess went out with a sigh.

  When the doctors were left alone, the family doctor began timidlyexplaining his opinion, that there was a commencement of tuberculoustrouble, but ... and so on. The celebrated doctor listened to him, andin the middle of his sentence looked at his big gold watch.

  "Yes," said he. "But..."

  The family doctor respectfully ceased in the middle of his observations.

  "The commencement of the tuberculous process we are not, as you areaware, able to define; till there are cavities, there is nothingdefinite. But we may suspect it. And there are indications;malnutrition, nervous excitability, and so on. The question stands thus:in presence of indications of tuberculous process, what is to be done tomaintain nutrition?"

  "But, you know, there are always moral, spiritual causes at the back inthese cases," the family doctor permitted himself to interpolate with asubtle smile.

  "Yes, that's an understood thing," responded the celebrated physician,again glancing at his watch. "Beg pardon, is the Yausky bridge done yet,or shall I have to drive around?" he asked. "Ah! it is. Oh, well, then Ican do it in twenty minutes. So we were saying the problem may be putthus: to maintain nutrition and to give tone to the nerves. The one isin close connection with the other, one must attack both sides at once."

  "And how about a tour abroad?" asked the family doctor.

  "I've no liking for foreign tours. And take note: if there is an earlystage of tuberculous process, of which we cannot be certain, a foreigntour will be of no use. What is wanted is means of improving nutrition,and not for lowering it." And the celebrated doctor expounded his planof treatment with Soden waters, a remedy obviously prescribed primarilyon the ground that they could do no harm.

  The family doctor listened attentively and respectfully.

  "But in favor of foreign travel I would urge the change of habits, theremoval from conditions calling up reminiscences. And then the motherwishes it," he added.

  "Ah! Well, in that case, to be sure, let them go. Only, those Germanquacks are mischievous.... They ought to be persuaded.... Well, let themgo then."

  He glanced once more at his watch.

  "Oh! time's up already," And he went to the door. The celebrated doctorannounced to the princess (a feeling of what was due from him dictatedhis doing so) that he ought to see the patient once more.

  "What! another examination!" cried the mother, with horror.

  "Oh, no, only a few details, princess."

  "Come this way."

  And the mother, accompanied by the doctor, went into the drawing room toKitty. Wasted and flushed, with a peculiar glitter in her eyes, leftthere by the agony of shame she had been put through, Kitty stood in themiddle of the room. When the doctor came in she flushed crimson, and hereyes filled with tears. All her illness and treatment struck her as athing so stupid, ludicrous even! Doctoring her seemed to her as absurdas putting together the pieces of a broken vase. Her heart was broken.Why would they try to cure her with pills and powders? But she could notgrieve her mother, especially as her mother considered herself to blame.

  "May I trouble you to sit down, princess?" the celebrated doctor said toher.

  He sat down with a smile, facing her, felt her pulse, and again beganasking her tiresome questions. She answered him, and all at once got up,furious.

  "Excuse me, doctor, but there is really no object in this. This is thethird time you've asked me the same thing."

  The celebrated doctor did not take offense.

  "Nervous irritability," he said to the princess, when Kitty had left theroom. "However, I had finished..."

  And the doctor began scientifically explaining to the princess, as anexceptionally intelligent woman, the condition of the young princess,and concluded by insisting on the drinking of the waters, which werecertainly harmless. At the question: Should they go abroad? the doctorplunged into deep meditation, as though resolving a weighty problem.Finally his decision was pronounced: they were to go abroad, but to putno faith in foreign quacks, and to apply to him in any need.

  It seemed as though some piece of good fortune had come to pass afterthe doctor had gone. The mother was much more cheerful when she wentback to her daughter, and Kitty pretended to be more cheerful. She hadoften, almost always, to be pretending now.

  "Really, I'm quite well, mamma. But if you want to go abroad, let's go!"she said, and trying to appear interested in the proposed tour, shebegan talking of the preparations for the journey.

 

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