In the cheapest room of a big block of furnished apartment Stepan Klotchkov, a medical student in his third year, was walking to and fro, zealously conning his anatomy. His mouth was dry and his forehead perspiring from the unceasing effort to learn it by heart.

In the window, covered by patterns of frost, sat on a stool the girl who shared his room—Anyuta, a thin little brunette of five-and-twenty, very pale with mild grey eyes. Sitting with bent back she was busy embroidering with red thread the collar of a man’s shirt. She was working against time.… The clock in the passage struck two drowsily, yet the little room had not been put to rights for the morning. Crumpled bed-clothes, pillows thrown about, books, clothes, a big filthy slop-pail filled with soap-suds in which cigarette ends were swimming, and the litter on the floor—all seemed as though purposely jumbled together in one confusion.…

“The right lung consists of three parts …” Klotchkov repeated. “Boundaries! Upper part an anterior wall of thorax reaches the fourth or fifth rib, on the lateral surface, the fourth rib … behind to the spina scapulæ…”

Klotchkov raised his eyes to the ceiling, striving to visualise what he had just read. Unable to form a clear picture of it, he began feeling his upper ribs through his waistcoat.

“These ribs are like the keys of a piano,” he said. “One must familiarise oneself with them somehow, if one is not to get muddled over them. One must study them in the skeleton and the living body.…I say, Anyuta, let me pick them out.”

Anyuta put down her sewing, took off her blouse, and straightened herself up. Klotchkov sat down facing her, frowned, and began counting her ribs.

“H’m!…One can’t feel the first rib; it’s behind the shoulderblade.… This must be the second rib.… Yes.… this is the third…this is the fourth.… H’m!… yes.… Why are you wriggling?”

“Your fingers are cold!”

“Come, come … it won’t kill you. Don’t twist about. That must be the third rib, then…this is the fourth.…You look such a skinny thing, and yet one can hardly feel your ribs. That’s the second … that’s the third.… Oh, this is muddling, and one can’t see it clearly.…I must draw it.… Where’s my crayon?”

Klotchkov took his crayon and drew on Anyuta’s chest several parallel lines corresponding with the ribs.

“First-rate. That’s all straightforward.…Well, now I can sound you. Stand up!”

Anyuta stood up and raised her chin. Klotchkov began sounding her, and was so absorbed in this occupation that he did not notice how Anyuta’s lips, nose, and fingers turned blue with cold. Anyuta shivered, and was afraid the student, noticing it, would leave off drawing and sounding her, and then perhaps, might fail in his exam.

“Now it’s all clear,” said Klotchkov when he had finished. “You sit like that and don’t rub off the crayon, and meanwhile I’ll learn up a little more.”

And the student again began walking to and fro, repeating to himself. Anyuta, with black stripes across her chest, looking as though she had been tattooed, sat thinking, huddled up and shivering with cold. She said very little as a rule; she was always silent, thinking and thinking.…

In the six or seven years of her wanderings from one furnished room to another, she had known five students like-Klotchkov. Now they had all finished their studies, had gone out into the world, and of course, like respectable people, had long ago forgotten her. One of them was living in Paris, two were doctors, the fourth was an artist, and the fifth was said to be already a professor. Klotchkov was the sixth.… Soon he, too, would finish his studies and go out into the world. There was a fine future before him, no doubt, and Klotchkov probably would become a great man, but the present was anything but bright; Klotchkov

  By PanEris using Melati.

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