One day in autumn on my way back from a remote part of the country I caught cold and fell ill. Fortunately, the fever attacked me in the district town at the inn; I sent for the doctor. In half-an-hour the district doctor appeared, a thin, dark-haired man of middle height. He prescribed me the usual sudorific, ordered a mustard-plaster to be put on, very deftly slid a five-ruble note up his sleeve, coughing drily and looking away as he did so, and then was getting up to go home, but somehow fell into talk and remained.
I was exhausted with feverishness; I foresaw a sleepless night and was glad of a little chat with a pleasant companion. Tea was served. My doctor began to converse freely. He was a sensible fellow and expressed himself with vigour and some humour.
Queer things happen in the world: you may live a long while with some people, and be on friendly terms with them, and never once speak openly with them from your soul; with others you have scarcely time to get acquainted, and all at once you are pouring out to him--or he to you--all your secrets, as though you were at confession.
I don't know how I gained the confidence of my new friend--anyway, with nothing to lead up to it, he told me a rather curious incident; and here I will report his tale for the information of the indulgent reader. I will try to tell it in the doctor's own words. "You don't happen to know," he began in a weak and quavering voice (the common result of the use of unmixed Berezov snuff);
"you don't happen to know the judge here, Mylov, Pavel Lukich?... You don't know him?... Well, it's all the same." (He cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes.) "Well, you see, the thing happened, to tell you exactly without mistake, in Lent, at the very time of the thaws. I was sitting at his house--our judge's, you know--playing preference.
Our judge is a good fellow, and fond of playing preference. Suddenly" (the doctor made frequent use of this word, suddenly) "they tell me, 'There's a servant asking for you.
' I say, 'What does he want?' They say, He has brought a note--it must be from a patient.'