“Well, doctor, decide our fate,” said the princess. “Tell me everything.”
“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 observations.
“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 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 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 more.