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- Tillie: A Mennonite Maid - 6/48 -
you some pills, or what, to make you feel some better; ain't?" he said, again passing his rough hand over her forehead and cheek, with a touch as nearly like a caress as anything Tillie had ever known from him. The tears welled up in her eyes and slowly rolled over her white face, as she felt this unwonted expression of affection.
Her father turned away quickly and went to the table, about which the children were gathering.
"Where's Sammy?" he asked his wife. "I'm sendin' him fur the Doc after supper."
"Where? I guess over," she motioned with her head as she lifted the youngest, a one-year-old boy, into his high chair. "Over" was the family designation for the pump, at which every child of a suitable age was required to wash his face and hands before coming to the table.
While waiting for the arrival of the doctor, after supper, Getz ineffectually tried to force Tillie to eat something. In his genuine anxiety about her and his eagerness for "the Doc's" arrival, he quite forgot about the fee which would have to be paid for the visit.
"THE DOC" COMBINES BUSINESS AND PLEASUBE
Miss Margaret boarded at the "hotel" of New Canaan. As the only other regular boarder was the middle-aged, rugged, unkempt little man known as "the Doc," and as the transient guests were very few and far between, Miss Margaret shared the life of the hotel- keeper's family on an intimate and familiar footing.
The invincible custom of New Canaan of using a bedroom only at night made her unheard-of inclination to sit in her room during the day or before bedtime the subject of so much comment and wonder that, feeling it best to yield to the prejudice, she usually read, sewed, or wrote letters in the kitchen, or, when a fire was lighted, in the combination dining-room and sitting-room.
It was the evening of the day of Tillie's confession about "Ivanhoe," and Miss Margaret, after the early supper-hour of the country hotel, had gone to the sitting-room, removed the chenille cover from the centre-table, uncorked the bottle of fluid sold at the village store as ink, but looking more like raspberryade, and settled herself to write, to one deeply interested in everything which interested her, an account of her day and its episode with the little daughter of Jacob Getz.
This room in which she sat, like all other rooms of the district, was too primly neat to be cozy or comfortable. It contained a bright new rag carpet, a luridly painted wooden settee, a sewing- machine, and several uninviting wooden chairs. Margaret often yearned to pull the pieces of furniture out from their stiff, sentinel-like stations against the wall and give to the room that divine touch of homeyness which it lacked. But she did not dare venture upon such a liberty.
Very quickly absorbed in her letter-writing, she did not notice the heavy footsteps which presently sounded across the floor and paused at her chair.
"Now that there writin'--" said a gruff voice at her shoulder; and, startled, she quickly turned in her chair, to find the other boarder, "the Doc," leaning on the back of it, his shaggy head almost on a level with her fair one.
"That there writin'," pursued the doctor, continuing to hold his fat head in unabashed proximity to her own and to her letter, "is wonderful easy to read. Wonderful easy."
Miss Margaret promptly covered her letter with a blotter, corked the raspberry-ade, and rose.
"Done a'ready?" asked the doctor.
"For the present, yes."
"See here oncet, Teacher!"
He suddenly fixed her with his small, keen eyes as he drew from the pocket of his shabby, dusty coat a long, legal-looking paper.
"I have here," he said impressively, "an important dokiment, Teacher, concerning of which I desire to consult you perfessionally."
"You just stay settin'; I'll fetch a chair and set aside of you and show it to you oncet."
He drew a chair up to the table and Margaret reluctantly sat down, feeling annoyed and disappointed at this interruption of her letter, yet unwilling, in the goodness of her heart, to snub the little man.
The doctor bent near to her and spoke confidentially.
"You see, them swanged fools in the legislature has went to work and passed a act--ag'in' my protest, mind you--compellin' doctors to fill out blanks answerin' to a lot of darn-fool questions 'bout one thing and 'nother, like this here."
He had spread open on the table the paper he had drawn from his pocket. It was soiled from contact with his coat and his hands, and Margaret, instead of touching the sheet, pressed it down with the handle of her pen.
The doctor noticed the act and laughed. "You're wonderful easy kreistled [disgusted]; ain't? I took notice a'ready how when things is some dirty they kreistle you, still. But indeed, Teacher," he gravely added, "it ain't healthy to wash so much and keep so clean as what you do. It's weakenin'. That's why city folks ain't so hearty--they get right into them big, long tubs they have built in their houses up-stairs! I seen one oncet in at Doc Hess's in Lancaster. I says to him when I seen it, 'You wouldn't get me into THAT--it's too much like a coffin!' I says. 'It would make a body creepy to get in there.' And he says, 'I'd feel creepy if I DIDN'T get in.' 'Yes,' I says,'that's why you're so thin. You wash yourself away,' I says."
"What's it all about?" Miss Margaret abruptly asked, examining the paper.
"These here's the questions," answered the doctor, tracing them with his thick, dirty forefinger; "and these here's the blank spaces fur to write the answers into. Now you can write better 'n me, Teacher; and if you'll just take and write in the answers fur me, why, I'll do a favor fur you some time if ever you ast it off of me. And if ever you need a doctor, just you call on me, and I'm swanged if I charge you a cent!"
Among the simple population of New Canaan the Doc was considered the most blasphemous man in America, but there seemed to be a sort of general impression in the village that his profanity was, in some way, an eccentricity of genius.
"Thank you," Miss Margaret responded to his offer of free medical services. "I'll fill out the paper for you with pleasure."
She read aloud the first question of the list. '"Where did you attend lectures?'"
Her pen suspended over the paper, she looked at him inquiringly. "Well?" she asked.
"Lekshures be blowed!" he exclaimed. "I ain't never 'tended no lekshures!"
"Oh!" said Miss Margaret, nodding conclusively. "Well, then, let us pass on to the next question. 'To what School of Medicine do you belong?'"
"School?" repeated the doctor; "I went to school right here in this here town--it's better 'n thirty years ago, a'ready."
"No," Miss Margaret explained, "that's not the question. 'To what School of MEDICINE do you belong?' Medicine, you know," she repeated, as though talking to a deaf person.
"Oh," said the doctor, "medicine, is it? I never have went to none," he announced defiantly. "I studied medicine in old Doctor Johnson's office and learnt it by practisin' it. That there's the only way to learn any business. Do you suppose you could learn a boy carpenterin' by settin' him down to read books on sawin' boards and a-lekshurin' him on drivin' nails? No more can you make a doctor in no such swanged-fool way like that there!"
"But," said Margaret, "the question means do you practise allopathy, homeopathy, hydropathy, osteopathy,--or, for instance, eclecticism? Are you, for example, a homeopathist?"
"Gosh!" said the doctor, looking at her admiringly, "I'm blamed if you don't know more big words than I ever seen in a spellin'-book or heard at a spellin'-bee! Home-o-pathy? No, sir! When I give a dose to a patient, still, he 'most always generally finds it out, and pretty gosh-hang quick too! When he gits a dose of my herb bitters he knows it good enough. Be sure, I don't give babies, and so forth, doses like them. All such I treat, still, according to home-o-pathy, and not like that swanged fool, Doc Hess, which only last week he give a baby a dose fitten only fur a field-hand--and HE went to college!--Oh, yes!--and heerd lekshures too! Natural consequence, the baby up't and died fur 'em. But growed folks they need allopathy."
"Then," said Margaret, "you might be called an eclectic?"
"A eclectic?" the doctor inquiringly repeated, rubbing his nose. "To be sure, I know in a general way what a eclectic IS, and so forth. But what would YOU mean, anyhow, by a eclectic doctor, so to speak, heh?"
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