Chapter XX. – A Doctor’s Mistake, pp.81-83.

[Book of Blunders Contents]

COOKE, in his “Seven Narcotics,” tells a curious story of a young Spanish doctor who went from Madrid to the Philippine Islands some years since, with the design of settling in the colony and pushing his fortune by means of his profession. 

On the morning after he landed, the doctor sallied forth for a walk on the pasco. 

He had not proceeded far when his attention was attracted to a young girl, a native, who was walking a few paces ahead of him. He observed that every now and then the girl stooped her head towards the pavement, which was straightaway spotted with blood. 

Alarmed on the girl’s account, the doctor walked rapidly after her, observing that she still continued to expectorate blood at intervals as she went. Before he could come up with her, the girl had reached her home, a humble cottage in the suburbs, into which she entered. The doctor followed close upon her heels, and summoning her father and mother, directed them to send immediately for the priest, as their daughter had not many hours to live. The distracted parents, having learned the profession of their visitor, immediately acceded to his request. The child was put to bed in extreme affright, having been told what was about to befall her. 

The nearest padre was brought, and everything was arranged to smooth the journey of her soul through the passes of purgatory. 

The doctor plied his skill to the utmost, but in vain. In less than twenty-four hours the girl was dead. As up to that time the young Indian had always enjoyed excellent health, the doctor’s prognostication was regarded as an evidence of great and mysterious skill. The fame of it soon spread through Manilla, and in a few hours the newly-arrived physician was beleaguered with patients, and in a fair way of accumulating a fortune. In the midst of all this, some one had the curiosity to ask the doctor how he could possibly have predicted the death of the girl, seeing that she had been in perfect health a few hours before. 

   “Predict it!” 

replied the doctor, 

   “why, sir, I saw her spit blood enough to have killed her half-a-dozen times.” 

   “Blood!! but how did you know it was blood?” 

   “How! from the colour; how else?” 

   “But every one spits red in Manilla.” 

The doctor, who had already observed this fact, and was labouring under some uneasiness in regard to it, refused to make any further confession at the time; but he had said enough to elucidate the mystery. The thing soon spread throughout the city, and it became clear to every one that what the new medico had taken for blood was nothing else than the red juice of the buyo, and that the poor girl had died from the fear of death caused by his prediction. His patients now fled from him as speedily as they had congregated; and to avoid the ridicule that awaited him, as well as the indignation of the friends of the deceased girl, the doctor was fain to escape from Manilla, and return to Spain in the same ship that had brought him out. 

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