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The Schoolmaster and Other Stories

Malingerers
MARFA PETROVNA PETCHONKIN, the General's widow, who has been practising
for ten years as a homeopathic doctor, is seeing patients in her study on one of the
Tuesdays in May. On the table before her lie a chest of homeopathic drugs, a book on
homeopathy, and bills from a homeopathic chemist. On the wall the letters from some
Petersburg homeopath, in Marfa Petrovna's opinion a very celebrated and great man,
hang under glass in a gilt frame, and there also is a portrait of Father Aristark, to whom
the lady owes her salvation --that is, the renunciation of pernicious allopathy and the
knowledge of the truth. In the vestibule patients are sitting waiting, for the most part
peasants. All but two or three of them are barefoot, as the lady has given orders that their
ill-smelling boots are to be left in the yard.
Marfa Petrovna has already seen ten patients when she calls the eleventh: "Gavrila
Gruzd!"
The door opens and instead of Gavrila Gruzd, Zamuhrishen, a neighbouring landowner
who has sunk into poverty, a little old man with sour eyes, and with a gentleman's cap
under his arm, walks into the room. He puts down his stick in the corner, goes up to the
lady, and without a word drops on one knee before her.
"What are you about, Kuzma Kuzmitch?" cries the lady in horror, flushing crimson. "For
goodness sake!"
"While I live I will not rise," says Zamuhrishen, bending over her hand. "Let all the world
see my homage on my knees, our guardian angel, benefactress of the human race! Let
them! Before the good fairy who has given me life, guided me into the path of truth, and
enlightened my scepticism I am ready not merely to kneel but to pass through fire, our
miraculous healer, mother of the orphan and the widowed! I have recovered. I am a new
man, enchantress!"
"I . . . I am very glad . . ." mutters the lady, flushing with pleasure. "It's so pleasant to
hear that. . . Sit down please! Why, you were so seriously ill that Tuesday."
"Yes indeed, how ill I was! It's awful to recall it," says Zamuhrishen, taking a seat. "I had
rheumatism in every part and every organ. I have been in misery for eight years, I've had
no rest from it . . . by day or by night, my benefactress. I have consulted doctors, and I
went to professors at Kazan; I have tried all sorts of mud-baths, and drunk waters, and
goodness knows what I haven't tried! I have wasted all my substance on doctors, my
beautiful lady. The doctors did me nothing but harm. They drove the disease inwards.
Drive in, that they did, but to drive out was beyond their science. All they care about is
their fees, the brigands; but as for the benefit of humanity--for that they don't care a
straw. They prescribe some quackery, and you have to drink it. Assassins, that's the only
word for them. If it hadn't been for you, our angel, I should have been in the grave by
now! I went home from you that Tuesday, looked at the pilules that you gave me then,
 
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