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CHAPTER V. A CONVERSATION WITH THE DISAGREEABLE WOMAN.
One afternoon between five and six o'clock I was passing the Star Theatre, when I overtook the Disagreeable Woman.

I had only exchanged a few remarks with her at the table, and scarcely felt acquainted. I greeted her, however, and waited with some curiosity to see what she would have to say to me.

"Dr. Fenwick, I believe?" she said.

"Yes; are you on your way to supper?"

"I am. Have you had a busy day?"

As she said this she looked at me sharply.

"I have had two patients, Miss [Pg 42]Blagden. I am a young physician, and not well known yet. I advance slowly."

"You have practised in the country?"

"Yes."

"Pardon me, but would it not have been better to remain there, where you were known, than to come to a large city where you are as one of the sands of the sea?"

"I sometimes ask myself that question, but as yet I am unprepared with an answer. I am ambitious, and the city offers a much larger field."

"With a plenty of laborers already here."

"Yes."

"I suppose you have confidence in yourself?"

Again she eyed me sharply.

"Yes and no. I have a fair professional training, and this gives me some confidence. But sometimes, it would be greater if I had an extensive practise, I[Pg 43] feel baffled, and shrink from the responsibility that a physician always assumes."

"I am glad to hear you say so," she remarked, approvingly. "Modesty is becoming in any profession. Do you feel encouraged by your success thus far?"

"I am gaining, but my progress seems slow. I have not yet reached the point when I am self-supporting."

She looked at me thoughtfully.

"Of course you would not have established yourself here if you had not a reserve fund to fall back upon? But perhaps I am showing too much curiosity."

"No, I do not regard it as curiosity, only as a kind interest in my welfare."

"You judge me right."

"I brought with me a few hundred dollars, Miss Blagden—what was left to me from the legacy of a good aunt—but I have already used a quarter of it, and every month it grows less."

"I feel an interest in young men—I am[Pg 44] free to say this without any fear of being misunderstood, being an old woman—"

"An old woman?"

"Well, I am more than twenty-nine."

We both smiled, for this was the age that Mrs. Wyman owned up to.

"At any rate," she resumed, "I am considerably older than you. I will admit, Dr. Fenwick, that I am not a blind believer in the medical profession. There are some, even of those who have achieved a certain measure of success, whom I look upon as solemn pretenders."

"Yet if you were quite ill you would call in a physician?"

"Yes. I am not quite foolish enough to undertake to doctor myself in a serious illness. But I would repose unquestioning faith in no one, however eminent."

"I don't think we shall disagree on that point. A physician understands his own limitations better than any outsider."

"Come, I think you will do," she said,[Pg 45] pleasantly. "If I am ill at any time I shall probably call you in."

"Thank you."

"And I should criticise your treatment. If you gave me any bread pills, I should probably detect the imposture."

"I should prefer, as a patient, bread pills to many that are prescribed."

"You seem to be a sensible man, Dr. Fenwick. I shall hope to have other opportunities of conversing with you. Let me know from time to time how you are succeeding."

"Thank you. I am glad you are sufficiently interested in me to make the request."

By this time we had reached the boarding-house. We could see Mrs. Wyman at the window of the reception room. She was evidently surprised and amused to see us together. I was sure that I should hear more of it, and I was not mistaken.

"Oh, Dr. Fenwick," she said playfully,[Pg 46] as she took a seat beside me at the table. "I caught you that time."

"I don't understand you," I said, innocently.

"Oh, yes, you do. Didn't I see you and Miss Blagden coming in together?"

"Yes."

"I thought you would confess. Did you have a pleasant walk?"

"It was only from the Star Theatre."

"I see you are beginning to apologize. You could say a good deal between Waverley Place and the Star Theatre."

"We did."

"So I thought. I suppose you were discussing your fellow boarders, including poor me."

"Not at all."

"Then my name was not mentioned?"

"Yes, I believe you were referred to."

"What did she say about me?" inquired the widow, eagerly.

"Only that she was older than you."

[Pg 47]

"Mercy, I should think she was. Why, she's forty if she's a day. Don't you think so?"

"I am no judge of ladies' ages."

"I am glad you are not. Not that I am sensitive about my own. I am perfectly willing to own that I am twenty seven."

"I thought you said twenty-nine, the other evening?"

"True, I am twenty-nine, but I said twenty-seven to see if you would remember. I suppose gentlemen are never sensitive about their ages."

"I don't know. I am twenty-six, and wish I were thirty-six."

"Mercy, what a strange wish! How can you possibly wish that you were older."

"Because I could make a larger income. It is all very well to be a young minister, but a young doctor does not inspire confidence."

[Pg 48]

"I am sure I would rather call in a young doctor unless I were very sick."

"There it is! Unless you were very sick."

"But even then," said the widow, coquettishly, "I am sure I should feel confidence in you, Dr. Fenwick. You wouldn't prescribe very nasty pills, would you?"

"I would order bread pills, if I thought they would answer the purpose."

"That would be nice. But you haven't answered my question. What were you and Miss Blagden talking about?"

"About doctors; she hasn't much faith in men of my profession."

"Or of any other, I fancy. What do you think of her?"

"That is a leading question, Mrs. Wyman; I haven't thought very much about her so far, I have thought more of you."

"Oh, you naughty flatterer!" said the[Pg 49] widow, graciously. "Not that I believe you. Men are such deceivers."

"Do ladies never deceive?"

"You ought to have been a lawyer, you ask such pointed questions. Really, Dr. Fenwick, I am quite afraid of you."

"There's no occasion. I am quite harmless, I do assure you. The time to be afraid of me is when you call me in as a physician."

"Excuse me, doctor, but Mrs. Gray is about to make an announcement."

We both turned our glances upon the landlady.
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