PART TWO - Chapter 1
At the end of the winter, in the Shtcherbatskys' house, a
consultation was being held, which was to pronounce on the state
of Kitty's health and the measures to be taken to restore her
failing strength. She had been ill, and as spring came on she
grew worse. The family doctor gave her cod liver oil, then iron,
then nitrate of silver, but as the first and the second and the
third were alike in doing no good, and as his advice when spring
came was to go abroad, a celebrated physician was called in. The
celebrated physician, a very handsome man, still youngish, asked
to examine the patient. He maintained, with peculiar
satisfaction, it seemed, that maiden modesty is a mere relic of
barbarism, and that nothing could be more natural than for a man
still youngish to handle a young girl naked. He thought it
natural because he did it every day, and felt and thought, as it
seemed to him, no harm as he did it and consequently he
considered modesty in the girl not merely as a relic of
barbarism, but also as an insult to himself.
There was nothing for it but to submit, since, although all the
doctors had studied in the same school, had read the same books,
and learned the same science, and though some people said this
celebrated doctor was a bad doctor, in the princess's household
and circle it was for some reason accepted that this celebrated
doctor alone had some special knowledge, and that he alone could
save Kitty. After a careful examination and sounding of the
bewildered patient, dazed with shame, the celebrated doctor,
having scrupulously washed his hands, was standing in the drawing
room talking to the prince. The prince frowned and coughed,
listening to the doctor. As a man who had seen something of
life, 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 was perhaps the only one who fully comprehended
the cause of Kitty's illness. "Conceited blockhead!" he thought,
as he listened to the celebrated doctor's chatter about his
daughter's symptoms. The doctor was meantime with difficulty
restraining the expression of his contempt for this old
gentleman, and with difficulty condescending to the level of his
intelligence. He perceived that it was no good talking to the
old man, and that the principal person in the house was the
mother. Before her he decided to scatter his pearls. At that
instant the princess came into the drawing room with the family
doctor. The prince withdrew, trying not to show how ridiculous
he thought the whole performance. The princess was distracted,
and did not know what to do. She felt she had sinned against
"Well, doctor, decide our fate," said the princess. "Tell me
"Is there hope?" she meant to say, but her lips quivered, and she
could not utter the question. "Well, doctor?"
"Immediately, princess. I will talk it over with my colleague,
And then I 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 timidly
explaining his opinion, that there was a commencement of
tuberculous trouble, but...and so on. The celebrated doctor
listened to him, and in 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
"The commencement of the tuberculous process we are not, as you
are aware, able to define; till there are cavities, there is
nothing definite. 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 to maintain nutrition?"
"But, you know, there are always moral, spiritual causes at the
back in these cases," the family doctor permitted himself to
interpolate with a subtle 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 I can do it in twenty
minutes. So we were saying the problem may be put thus: to
maintain nutrition and to give tone to the nerves. The one is in
close connection with the other, one must attack both sides at
"And how about a tour abroad?" asked the family doctor.
"I've no liking for foreign tours. And take note: if there is
an early stage of tuberculous process, of which we cannot be
certain, a foreign tour will be of no use. What is wanted is
means of improving nutrition, and not for lowering it." And the
celebrated doctor expounded his plan of treatment with Soden
waters, a remedy obviously prescribed primarily on 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, the removal from conditions calling up reminiscences.
And then the mother wishes it," he added.
"Ah! Well, in that case, to be sure, let them go. Only, those
German quacks are mischievous.... They ought to be persuaded....
Well, let them go then."
He glanced once more at his watch.
"Oh! time's up already," And he went to the door. The celebrated
doctor announced to the princess (a feeling of what was due from
him dictated his doing so) that he ought to see the patient once
"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 to Kitty. Wasted and flushed, with a peculiar glitter in
her eyes, left there by the agony of shame she had been put
through, Kitty stood in the middle of the room. When the doctor
came in she flushed crimson, and her eyes filled with tears. All
her illness and treatment struck her as a thing so stupid,
ludicrous even! Doctoring her seemed to her as absurd as
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 not grieve her mother, especially as her mother
considered herself to blame.
"May I trouble you to sit down, princess?" the celebrated doctor
said to her.
He sat down with a smile, facing her, felt her pulse, and again
began asker 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 the third 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 the room. "However, I had finished..."
And the doctor began scientifically explaining to the princess,
as an exceptionally intelligent woman, the condition of the young
princess, and concluded by insisting on the drinking of
the waters, which were certainly harmless. At the question:
Should they go abroad? the doctor plunged into deep meditation,
as though resolving a weighty problem. Finally his decision was
pronounced: they were to go abroad, but to put no 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
after the doctor had gone. The mother was much more cheerful
when she went back to her daughter, and Kitty pretended to be
more cheerful. She had often, almost always, to be pretending
"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, she began talking of the preparations for the