People always considered Mr. Ripley to be a lucky man. His father was a doctor in Hoyland. When Mr. Ripley got a diploma he started working as a doctor, too. His father used to share some patients with him. After some time the old doctor decided to leave the village and give all his patients to his son. Mr. Ripley earned about 1500 pounds a year, but he also spent some money on his horses.
Doctor James Ripley was single. At the age of 32 he looked rather serious and firm. He tried so hard to communicate with women, but they weren’t interested in him as a man. They needed him as a doctor only. He wasn’t keen on dancing and going on picnics, that’s why in his spare time he preferred reading some articles connected with science and medicine.
Mr. Ripley was passionate about science. It was essential for him to be the most intelligent person in Hoyland. He was proud of himself, because he knew a human’s body like the back of his hand. Doctor Ripley was dedicated to his job and it made him satisfied with his life. He worked until late night and it seemed that nothing could make him exhausted.
Competitors made him furious, that’s why he couldn’t stop developing his skills and improving his knowledge. During his whole career he met only three doctors who had moved to Hoyland. One of them had been ill and treated himself for 18 months before he died. He didn’t seem to be a proficient doctor. The other one wasn’t ready to lift a finger for his career. The only thing he could do was to buy a degree and leave for another place. The third one had stolen everything from the place he used to live and left.
One day he noticed that the house where those “doctors” used to live was occupied by someone. It made Doctor Ripley surprised and furious at the same time. He made his horse stop in order to look at the sign very attentively. “Doctor Verrinder Smith” was written there. The letters were rather small and it seemed strange to Mr. Ripley.
Probably this doctor didn’t want to draw any attention to him. Dr Ripley tried to understand why the new doctor came here. Perhaps he came here in order to do some research. Dr. Ripley tried to persuade himself that everything was alright with Verrinder Smith. Anyway, he was eager to make sure of it by himself. He was going to visit Verrinder Smith and make friends with him.
The house was clean and well furnished. Dr. Ripley noticed some umbrellas and a woman’s hat in the long corridor leading to the doctor’s study. The doctor might have a wife! It could be more difficult to communicate with the doctor as he wouldn’t have much time for long discussions. Dr. Ripley was impressed because he could see expensive instruments and even some machines. There were some bookcases full of books in French and German. He was looking through the books when he heard footsteps. It made him turn around and he could see a woman with a pale face.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Ripley,” she greeted him.
“Good afternoon,” he replied. “Is your husband out?”
“I’m not married,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I’m talking about Doctor Verrinder Smith,” he said.
“I’m Verrinder Smith,” she replied.
“What? Is it you?” He exclaimed.
He had never seen a woman working as a doctor. He was confused. He refused to believe it. He remembered reading the Bible where it was written that only a man could work as a doctor.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t meet your expectations,” she said.
“You surprised me, indeed,” he replied.
“You look shocked,” she said. “I see that it’s impossible for you to see a woman working as a doctor. Why?” Dr. Smith asked.
“I’m afraid you can lose all your privileges when you try to do a man’s job,” Dr. Ripley said.
“Why do you think women can’t be intelligent enough to earn money by themselves?” Dr. Smith asked.
She looked so calm and relaxed that it was making Dr. Ripley nervous.
“I think I should go, Miss Smith,” he answered.
“Doctor Smith,” she corrected him.
“If you want to know the answer. Here it is…” he replied. “I don’t think that the profession of a doctor is suitable for women. I’m against those women who try to become like men.”
It was rather rude of him. He almost regretted saying those words. To his surprise, Dr. Smith raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“It’s time to go, Dr. Smith,” Dr. Ripley said.
“I’m really sorry that there isn’t any chance for us to become friends,” she said.
Doctor Ripley was heading to the door.
“What an amazing coincidence!” She said. “I’ve read your article about spinal cords.”
“Is that so?” He said.
“It seems to me that a very talented doctor has written it,” Dr. Smith answered.
“You’re very kind. Thank you.” Dr. Ripley replied.
“But it’s not good of you to tell lies to your readers. What sources did you use when writing this article?” She asked.
“A book, which was published in 1980,” Dr. Ripley replied angrily.
“And here is the same book, but it was published in 1981. Look at this paragraph, please,” she said, passing the book to Dr. Ripley.
He looked through that paragraph. The information was completely different. He threw the book on the desk and rushed to the door.
Mr. Ripley remembered that he saw Doctor Smith laughing in the window.
When he came home he became even more irritated. That woman was a doctor. She seemed to be smarter than him. He got frightened that she could easily steal his patients. It was still difficult for him to believe that she could treat people. Dr. Ripley insisted on the fact that only men were courageous enough to be doctors.
Mr. Ripley was right about her. Some curious patients decided to visit Dr. Smith. Her new instruments and machines made a great impression on people. Doctor Smith became popular very fast in Hoyland. The locals could speak about nothing, but the new doctor. Mr. Ripley was jealous as Dr. Smith was able to help everyone. No matter what disease it was, she wasn’t scared of it. A farmer had terrible headaches and nothing could help him. Miss Smith gave him a pill and the pain was gone. One woman gained some weight during her pregnancy. She was so angry with herself because of those strawberry pies, but Dr. Smith could fix this too.
As Hoyland was a small village, Mr. Ripley could see Dr. Smith very often. It took a lot of effort for him to be polite to her. At first, he was surprised that she was a doctor. Then he was irritated by this fact. Now he could say that he hated her guts. The number of his patients decreased every day. Dr. Ripley was disappointed because she could do really difficult things with her patients. Dr. Smith was able to operate on people when Dr. Ripley sent such patients to London.
One day he was asked to be an assistant during one operation. It would be rude of him to refuse. Dr. Ripley could see how she was operating on a person with his own eyes. Mr. Ripley realised that his worst enemy was a proficient doctor. Thanks to this operation Miss Smith became even more popular. That day Doctor Ripley found one more reason to hate Doctor Smith. Nobody could know that everything would change.
One winter evening, Mr. Ripley received a letter from a rich landowner. His daughter had burnt her hand and needed immediate help. They also sent for Miss Smith. What mattered most to them was who could arrive the fastest. Doctor Ripley got crazy and he rushed to his carriage. He swore to himself that he would be the first. Dr. Ripley lived near that house, that’s why he was sure he would get there fast.
Unfortunately, that was not going to happen. His carriage fell and the horses ran away. Mr. Ripley could see something white and sharp sticking out of his leg.
“Oh My God!” He screamed. “I won’t be able to walk for so long!”
Then he fainted.
When he awoke he could see Miss Smith, who was cutting his trousers.
“You’ll be fine, Dr. Ripley,” she said. “I’m really sorry about what happened to you. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I saw you on the ground.”
After these words he passed out.
“You are finally awake! Doctor Smith said. “Everything is alright with your leg. You shouldn’t worry now. If you want we can send for a doctor from another village later,” she added.
“I will be glad if you continue treating me, Doctor Smith,” Mr. Ripley said. “You have taken all my patients. I think you should take me, too,” he replied and laughed.
Doctor Ripley had a brother. His name was William. He used to work as a surgeon in a hospital in London. When he heard about his brother’s injury he came to Hoyland immediately. Mr. Ripley told William everything in detail.
“Your doctor is a woman. How is it possible?” William exclaimed.
“She helped me out. I can’t even imagine what I would do without her,” he replied.
“I have no doubts she can be a nurse, but a doctor?” His brother asked.
“She is endowed with a extensive knowledge,” Dr. Ripley answered.
“It’s a well-known fact that the profession of a doctor is not the best for a woman,” his brother added.
“I assume that we can be wrong about it,” he said.
“Look, I accept the fact that women can do some research, but when it comes to some serious things they get completely lost,” William replied.
“William, listen …,” Mr. Ripley couldn’t finish his speech.
“I want to check your leg. I’m not sure that she bound your leg well,” William insisted.
“I don’t want you to touch it,” Dr. Ripley said. “She assured me it’s fine.”
His brother seemed to be offended. Doctor William Ripley returned to London that evening.
Miss Smith knew about William’s arrival. She became surprised that he went back home so fast.
“We have had an argument,” Mr. Ripley said.
Doctor Smith had been visiting Mr. Ripley for 2 months. They saw each other every day. He learnt many things about his rival. She turned out to be a professional doctor. Moreover, she was very friendly and talkative with him. Mr. Ripley was in bed and he found those days the most boring in his life. Only Doctor Smith was able to cheer him up when she visited him. It turned out they had a lot in common with each other. They had long and interesting discussions. The most important thing was that Mr. Ripley could see how gentle and caring she was. He could see a beautiful woman. He realised he was mistaken.
“I don’t know if you can forgive me,” he said one day, when he felt much better and could sit in a chair.
“Forgive you for what, Mr. Ripley?” She asked.
“For what I’ve told you before,” he replied. “About you being a doctor… I was sure that you would be less attractive as a woman.”
“Am I?” She asked.
“No. You are a very affectionate woman,” Mr. Ripley answered.
“Thank you.” Miss Smith replied. “I’m glad you have changed your mind about it.”
Mr. Ripley remembered how her cheeks blushed, how beautiful she was at that very moment. He was sure that she was the one. He was so pleased when she was there for him. Dr. Ripley was over the moon when he remembered how she took care of him. His attitude changed towards her. Now he was afraid that he wouldn’t need her help any longer. He was on the road to recovery.
It was the last day when she visited him. When Dr. Ripley saw her, he felt that everything depended on him at that moment. He was able to change his future. Doctor Smith touched his hand to check his pulse. Mr. Ripley was ready to express his feelings.
“Will you marry me, Miss Smith?” he asked.
“And combine our patients?” She asked.
He flinched and got offended.
“Do you really think that patients are more important to me?” He exclaimed. “I love you with all my heart.”
“I’m sorry. It was stupid of me,” she answered. “Forget what I have just said. I really appreciate it. Anyway I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
He was going to persuade her to say yes, but then looking at her face he understood it would be in vain. She seemed to be rather determined. He preferred being silent.
“I’m really sorry. I don’t want to upset you” she replied. “I had no idea you felt this way. I think I should’ve explained everything much earlier. I am going to devote my life to science. Many women are born to start a family and only few women are interested in Biology. I’ve arrived here in order to wait for a laboratory to open in Paris. I’ve received a letter that there is a vacancy for me. I was unfair to you. I thought you were arrogant. When I was taking care of you, I realised you were different. I will always appreciate our friendship.”
Some weeks later, Dr. Ripley became the only doctor in Hoyland again. People noticed that he got much older during the next months. Only boredom was seen in his blue eyes. He was becoming less and less interested in young ladies.