It had been a long business. At first Pashka had walked with his mother in the rain, at one time across a mown field, then by forest paths, where the yellow leaves stuck to his boots; he had walked until it was daylight. Then he had stood for two hours in the dark passage, waiting for the door to open. It was not so cold and damp in the passage as in the yard, but with the high wind spurts of rain flew in even there. When the passage gradually became packed with people Pashka, squeezed among them, leaned his face against somebodys sheepskin which smelt strongly of salt fish, and sank into a doze. But at last the bolt clicked, the door flew open, and Pashka and his mother went into the waiting-room. All the patients sat on benches without stirring or speaking. Pashka looked round at them, and he too was silent, though he was seeing a great deal that was strange and funny. Only once, when a lad came into the waiting-room hopping on one leg, Pashka longed to hop too; he nudged his mothers elbow, giggled in his sleeve, and said: Look, mammy, a sparrow.
Hush, child, hush! said his mother.
A sleepy-looking hospital assistant appeared at the little window.
Come and be registered! he boomed out.
All of them, including the funny lad who hopped, filed up to the window. The assistant asked each one his name, and his fathers name, where he lived, how long he had been ill, and so-on. From his mothers answers, Pashka learned that his name was not Pashka, but Pavel Galaktionov, that he was seven years old, that he could not read or write, and that he had been ill ever since Easter.
Soon after the registration, he had to stand up for a little while; the doctor in a white apron, with a towel round his waist, walked across the waiting-room. As he passed by the boy who hopped, he shrugged his shoulders, and said in a sing-song tenor:
Well, you are an idiot! Arent you an idiot? I told you to come on Monday, and you come on Friday. Its nothing to me if you dont come at all, but you know, you idiot, your leg will be done for!
The lad made a pitiful face, as though he were going to beg for alms, blinked, and said:
Kindly do something for me, Ivan Mikolaitch!
Its no use saying Ivan Mikolaitch, the doctor mimicked him. You were told to come on Monday, and you ought to obey. You are an idiot, and that is all about it.
The doctor began seeing the patients. He sat in his little room, and called up the patients in turn. Sounds were continually coming from the little room, piercing wails, a childs crying, or the doctors angry words:
Come, why are you bawling? Am I murdering you, or what? Sit quiet!
Pashkas turn came.
Pavel Galaktionov! shouted the doctor.
His mother was aghast, as though she had not expected this summons, and taking Pashka by the hand, she led him into the room.
The doctor was sitting at the table, mechanically tapping on a thick book with a little hammer.
Whats wrong? he asked, without looking at them.
The little lad has an ulcer on his elbow, sir, answered his mother, and her face assumed an expression as though she really were terribly grieved at Pashkas ulcer.
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