The Phantom Doctor

In the days of the great plague, there was a woman who was stricken and who would most likely die in a fortnight or two. Some friends came to her and whispered of a phantom doctor, who would come and heal her if she secretly summoned him. First of all, the woman wanted to know why he was a phantom. Secondly, she doubted that this doctor even existed. The friends gave her testimony of their own cures. They showed her letters and prescriptions the doctor had given; they could even perform some of the minor surgeries and treatments to keep her alive until he appeared. They had other scraps of evidence, but the woman was an expert logician, and destroyed all of their bits of evidence with clear, cold, cutting and seemingly irrefutable arguments. It seemed insane that a doctor would only come if summoned. Why all of these intrigues and phantasms? It was simple, her friends explained. The doctor had been banished for treason by the princes, scholars, bishops and magistrates. They blamed him for the plague, and feared his visitation would make the realm sink deeper into the ravages of contagion. I would rather see a witch doctor, the woman said. At least I can find some entertainment in his traditions and culture. As for this phantom doctor, keep him far away from me, and do not lay your hands on me with any intention of mimicking his treatments. Some of her friends praised her for her bravery and honesty in clinging to her principles and respecting the laws of the realm. Most of her friends mourned her senseless death, but had to flee the realm to live elsewhere, for the laws of the land were ensuring the swift and violent extinction of all life.

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