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HOME > Short Stories > The Disagreeable Woman > CHAPTER VIII. THE PROFESSOR IN LOVE.
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CHAPTER VIII. THE PROFESSOR IN LOVE.
I was sitting in my office one morning waiting for patients, much of my time was passed in this way, very often I waited in vain. The modest sign which I was allowed to put on the outside of the house,

Dr. James Fenwick

didn't seem to attract attention. Of the little practise I had, at least a third was gratuitous. Yet I was expected to pay my bills, and when my little stock of money was exhausted there seemed a doubt as to whether the bills would be paid at all.

[Pg 72]

One day I was summoned to a house where a child of three was struggling with croup. It was a serious case, and I gave up my time to the case. After several hours I succeeded in bringing the child round and pronouncing her out of danger.

When I sent in my bill, the mother said:

"Dr. Fenwick, Mary is but three years old."

"Indeed!" I returned.

I failed to understand why I should be informed of this fact.

"And," continued the mother, "I don't think any charge ought to be made for a child so young."

I was fairly struck dumb with amazement at first.

Then I said, "The age of the patient has nothing to do with a physician's charges. Where did you get such an extraordinary idea?"

[Pg 73]

"I don't have to pay for her on the horse-cars."

"Madam," I said, provoked, "I will not argue with you. You ought to know that no physician treats children free. If you were very poor, and lived in a tenement house, I might make some discount, or leave off the charge altogether."

"But I don't live in a tenement house," objected the lady, angrily.

"No; you have the appearance of being very well to do. I must distinctly decline abating my charge."

"Then, Dr. Fenwick," said the mother, stiffly, "I shall not employ you again."

"That is as you please, madam."

This seemed to me exceptionally mean, but doctors see a good deal of the mean side of human nature. Rich men with large incomes keep them out of their pay for a long time, sometimes where their lives depended on the physician's skill and fidelity. Oftentimes I have been so[Pg 74] disgusted with the meanness of my patients, that I have regretted not choosing a different profession. Of course there is a different side to the picture, and gratitude and appreciation are to be found, as well as the opposite qualities.

I had been waiting a long time without a patient, when a shuffling sound was heard on the stairs, and a heavy step approaching the door.

Next came a knock.

Instead of calling out, "Come in!" I was so pleased at the prospect of a patient, that I rose from my seat and opened the door, myself.

I started back in surprise. For in the heavy, lumbering figure of the new arrival I recognized Prof. Poppendorf.

"Prof. Poppendorf!" I exclaimed.

"Ja, doctor, it is I. May I come in?"

"Certainly."

Supposing that he had come to consult me on the subject of his health, I began to wonder from what disease he was[Pg 75] suffering. Remembering his achievements at the table I fancied it might be dyspepsia.

The Professor entered the room, and sank into an armchair, which he quite filled from side to side.

"I suppose you are surprised to see me, Herr Doctor," began the Professor.

"Oh, no. I am never surprised to see anybody. I had not supposed you were sick."

"Sick! Oh, no, I'm all right. I eat well and I sleep well. What should be the matter with me?"

"I am glad to hear such good reports of you."

Was I quite sincere? I am afraid it was a disappointment to learn that my supposed patient was in no need of advice.

"Ja, I am well. I was never better, thank God!"

"Then I am to consider this a social call," I said with affected cheerfulness.[Pg 76] "You are very kind to call upon me, Prof. Poppendorf. I appreciate it as a friendly attention."

"No, it is not quite dat."

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I come on a little peezness."

I was puzzled. I could not understand what business there could be between the Professor and myself.

"I shall be glad to hear what it is."

"You see, I thought I would ask you if you were courting Mees Ruth Canby, if you mean to make her your wife?"

I dropped into the nearest chair—I had been standing—in sheer amazement. To be asked my intentions in regard to the young woman from Macy's was most astonishing, and by Prof. Po............
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