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“ ‘Pardon me,’ said the old physician from Gratz, looking displeased, ‘I shall state
my own view of the case in my own way another time. I grieve, Monsieur le
General, that by my skill and science I can be of no use. Before I go I shall do
myself the honour to suggest something to you.’
“He seemed thoughtful, and sat down at a table and began to write. Profoundly
disappointed, I made my bow, and as I turned to go, the other doctor pointed
over his shoulder to his companion who was writing, and then, with a shrug,
significantly touched his forehead.
“This consultation, then, left me precisely where I was. I walked out into the
grounds, all but distracted. The doctor from Gratz, in ten or fifteen minutes,
overtook me. He apologised for having followed me, but said that he could not
conscientiously take his leave without a few words more. He told me that he
could not be mistaken; no natural disease exhibited the same symptoms; and
that death was already very near. There remained, however, a day, or possibly
two, of life. If the fatal seizure were at once arrested, with great care and skill her
strength might possibly return. But all hung now upon the confines of the
irrevocable. One more assault might extinguish the last spark of vitality which is,
every moment, ready to die.
“ ‘And what is the nature of the seizure you speak of?’ I entreated.
“ ‘I have stated all fully in this note, which I place in your hands upon the distinct
condition that you send for the nearest clergyman, and open my letter in his
presence, and on no account read it till he is with you; you would despise it else,
and it is a matter of life and death. Should the priest fail you, then, indeed, you
may read it.’
“He asked me, before taking his leave finally, whether I would wish to see a man
curiously learned upon the very subject, which, after I had read his letter, would
probably interest me above all others, and he urged me earnestly to invite him to
visit him there; and so took his leave.
“The ecclesiastic was absent, and I read the letter by myself. At another time, or
in another case, it might have excited my ridicule. But into what quackeries will
not people rush for a last chance, where all accustomed means have failed, and
the life of a beloved object is at stake?
“Nothing, you will say, could be more absurd than the learned man’s letter. It was
monstrous enough to have consigned him to a madhouse. He said that the
patient was suffering from the visits of a vampire! The punctures which she
described as having occurred near the throat, were, he insisted, the insertion of
those two long, thin, and sharp teeth which, it is well known, are peculiar to
vampires; and there could be no doubt, he added, as to the well-defined
presence of the small livid mark which all concurred in describing as that induced
by the demon’s lips, and every symptom described by the sufferer was in exact
conformity with those recorded in every case of a similar visitation.
“Being myself wholly sceptical as to the existence of any such portent as the
vampire, the supernatural theory of the good doctor furnished, in my opinion, but
another instance of learning and intelligence oddly associated with some one
hallucination. I was so miserable, however, that, rather than try nothing, I acted
upon the instructions of the letter.