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Poetry and Fiction by Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

The Doctor

A romance novel (1860)

by: Rebekah Hyneman (1816-1875)

Doctor Jeremiah Watson was no beauty in face, form, feature, and if the truth must be told, not very amiable either, so that he was the last person one would think of taking for the hero of a story, for his very nature was unromantic. Plain Jeremiah, which even his most intimate friends-- family he had none,-- never presumed to contract into Jerry.

He was a short, stout, hard-featured man of about twenty-six when he first came to Westford, and everybody seemed shy of him because of his ugliness and gruff ways; and had he depended upon his profession for a living, he would have starved before the first year was out, for all the encouragement he met with. But when the cholera came into our little village, and day and night found him by the bedside of his patients unwearied, and unflagging in his attentions, all Westford was loud in its praise.

It is true he did not seem to abate one iota of his gruff ways, and answered all thanks with a petulant "pish!" or "pshaw!" and wondered whether a man could not find pleasure in his profession; but still they could not be blind to the fact of his untiring endeavors to alleviate their sufferings; and no mother ever handled her babe more tenderly than he did his patients. Another thing that told well for him was his attention to his poorer patients, among whom the terrible epidemic raged most fiercely. No hovel, however dilapidated and filthy; no sufferers, however degraded and loathsome, could deter him from entering, and, with all his skill striving to stay the ravages of the fearsome disease.

But when it ceased-- which was not before it had thinned the little town-- Doctor Watson subsided into the indifferent, morose, ugly old fellow he had been before, neither courting notice, nor caring for practice.

His household consisted of a deaf old woman, as eccentric as himself, and a little boy who took charge of his house and vehicle. Betsy was as uncommunicative as her master, and her deafness served as a pretext for not answering the thousand and one questions, put to her by the inquisitive portion of the community of Westford; she never heard what she did not want to hear. Jack, the boy aforesaid, did not sleep in the house, and never was further than the kitchen and office, so that he could communicate nothing, and the penetralia of Doctor Watson’s house was an unexplored mystery to the curious, and wonder-loving gossips of the place.

Upon one point, and only one, had Betsy ever deigned to throw even a glimmer of light, and that was rather in defense of her master, than as a revelation of the past. She had been questioned and cross-questioned in vain by some one, who, at last sneeringly remarked that he had no need to be a woman hater,-- as he professed to be-- for he was too ugly for any woman to love; she guessed they would rather he should hate than love them; for her share, she did not know how a woman could even tolerate such an ugly fellow.

"If he is ugly," retorted Betsy, "a better woman than any in Westford might be proud to love him. And as for women, he had good cause to hate the whole of ‘em, for they made him what he is," and added, "that for her part, she hated ‘em too; when she thought of him, and was ashamed of herself for being one." And with that she flounced out of the little shop where she had been to make her Saturday night’s purchases, and after that grew more deaf than ever.

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