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A Diagnosis of Death
by [?]

“I am not so superstitious as some of your physicians–men of science, as you are pleased to be called,” said Hawver, replying to an accusation that had not been made. “Some of you–only a few, I confess–believe in the immortality of the soul, and in apparitions which you have not the honesty to call ghosts. I go no further than a conviction that the living are sometimes seen where they are not, but have been–where they have lived so long, perhaps so intensely, as to have left their impress on everything about them. I know, indeed, that one’s environment may be so affected by one’s personality as to yield, long afterward, an image of one’s self to the eyes of another. Doubtless the impressing personality has to be the right kind of personality as the perceiving eyes have to be the right kind of eyes–mine, for example.”

“Yes, the right kind of eyes, conveying sensations to the wrong kind of brain,” said Dr. Frayley, smiling.

“Thank you; one likes to have an expectation gratified; that is about the reply that I supposed you would have the civility to make.”

“Pardon me. But you say that you know. That is a good deal to say, don’t you think? Perhaps you will not mind the trouble of saying how you learned.”

“You will call it an hallucination,” Hawver said, “but that does not matter.” And he told the story.

“Last summer I went, as you know, to pass the hot weather term in the town of Meridian. The relative at whose house I had intended to stay was ill, so I sought other quarters. After some difficulty I succeeded in renting a vacant dwelling that had been occupied by an eccentric doctor of the name of Mannering, who had gone away years before, no one knew where, not even his agent. He had built the house himself and had lived in it with an old servant for about ten years. His practice, never very extensive, had after a few years been given up entirely. Not only so, but he had withdrawn himself almost altogether from social life and become a recluse. I was told by the village doctor, about the only person with whom he held any relations, that during his retirement he had devoted himself to a single line of study, the result of which he had expounded in a book that did not commend itself to the approval of his professional brethren, who, indeed, considered him not entirely sane. I have not seen the book and cannot now recall the title of it, but I am told that it expounded a rather startling theory. He held that it was possible in the case of many a person in good health to forecast his death with precision, several months in advance of the event. The limit, I think, was eighteen months. There were local tales of his having exerted his powers of prognosis, or perhaps you would say diagnosis; and it was said that in every instance the person whose friends he had warned had died suddenly at the appointed time, and from no assignable cause. All this, however, has nothing to do with what I have to tell; I thought it might amuse a physician.

“The house was furnished, just as he had lived in it. It was a rather gloomy dwelling for one who was neither a recluse nor a student, and I think it gave something of its character to me– perhaps some of its former occupant’s character; for always I felt in it a certain melancholy that was not in my natural disposition, nor, I think, due to loneliness. I had no servants that slept in the house, but I have always been, as you know, rather fond of my own society, being much addicted to reading, though little to study. Whatever was the cause, the effect was dejection and a sense of impending evil; this was especially so in Dr. Mannering’s study, although that room was the lightest and most airy in the house. The doctor’s life-size portrait in oil hung in that room, and seemed completely to dominate it. There was nothing unusual in the picture; the man was evidently rather good looking, about fifty years old, with iron-gray hair, a smooth-shaven face and dark, serious eyes. Something in the picture always drew and held my attention. The man’s appearance became familiar to me, and rather ‘haunted’ me.