Faith That Killed
Category: IN THE PACIFIC
Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate
Back in the 30's an emigrant of some account arrived in Manila. He was
a young doctor of medicine who had just won his sheepskin in Salamanca,
and had been persuaded that there was small hope of a living for
him in a province where the people were too poor to be ill and too
lazy to die. The Philippines had been suggested as a promising field
for his practice, and realizing that he needed practice he made the
long journey around Good Hope and reached the Luzon capital nearly
penniless, but full of gratitude and expectancy. Having secured
lodgings, to which he at once affixed his shingle, he sallied forth to
see the town and its people, and one of the first of its inhabitants
to claim his attention, though she claimed it unwittingly, was a
girl of the lower class who was walking along the street with an
easy, elastic step, and in seeming health, yet who was evidently
suffering from a hemorrhage, for at every few paces she paused and
spat blood. Her bearing and expression were in odd contrast with her
peril, for she seemed indifferent to the danger.
Prompted by compassion as well as by a professional interest,
the physician followed the invalid, expecting at every moment to
see her fall or hear her beg for help, his wonder at the stoicism
and endurance of the Filipino growing constantly. When she reached
her home, an humble house in a poor quarter of the city, he begged
immediate audience with her parents, who were, unfortunately,
acquainted with the Spanish tongue, and told them it was his duty to
warn them that the girl had not twenty-four hours to live; that she
was afflicted with a mortal illness; that a priest should be called
at once. The girl's cheeks were ruddy, she was in good spirits, and
the old people were inclined to resent the warning as a joke, being an
exceeding poor one. The visitor explained that he was a medical man,
that he was actuated by the most charitable of motives, that he would
do everything in his power to delay the fatal ending of the disease,
but that restoration to health was impossible.
When this dreadful news was broken to the girl she had a violent fit
of weeping, then hysterics, then a long fainting spell, and sank into a
decline so swift that the parents were in despair. Neighbors flocked in
to offer condolences and comforts; a priest received the young woman's
confession and performed the last rites; the doctor plied his patient
with drugs, fomentations, and stimulants; father, mother, and friends
groaned, prayed, and tore their hair. All the time the poor creature
sank steadily, the color left her face, her breath grew labored,
and as night fell the doctor's warning was fulfilled,--she was dead.
In a single day the fame of this wonderful physician spread through
all the city, and people flocked to his lodging with money and
diseases. He was dazzled at the prospect of riches. After three or
four years of this kind of thing, if the tax man did not hear too
much of his success, he could return to Spain and live in comfortable
retirement. Alas! for human hopes, he returned sooner than he had
intended. A few days after the death of his first patient somebody
asked how he forecast her fate so exactly.
"It was easy enough,--she spat blood," he answered.
"Are you sure it was blood?"
"Certainly. It was red."
"Ah, senor, every one spits red in Manila."
"Oh, it is true! Everybody chews the buyo leaf, which is like the
betel of India, that you have heard of, just as everybody smokes in
Luzon. The juice of the buyo is red."
Then the doctor realized that he had killed his patient by making
her believe she was doomed to die, and with the earnings of his brief
career in the Philippines he bought a passage back to Spain in the same
ship that had carried him to the East. So, if you hear that a person
is ill, but if your informant winks and says that he is spitting red,
you may believe that the invalid will be out after a good sleep and
a little bromide.
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