The anonymous narrator, who was trained as a surgeon, has been arranging the papers of his deceased mentor, Dr. Martin Hesselius. One case in particular, from about sixty-four years before, draws his attention; forthwith the narrator presents a set of letters, with a memorandum, that discuss the doctor’s efforts to treat a particularly insidious and vexing complaint.
One evening, Dr. Hesselius meets the Reverend Mr. Robert Lynder Jennings at the house of a mutual friend, Lady Mary Heyduke. In an aside, the hostess informs the doctor of Mr. Jennings’s probity and good standing in the community; nevertheless, the clergyman’s health is uncertain and he seems subject to sudden and mysterious collapses. With some evident embarrassment, the clergyman engages Dr. Hesselius in a discussion of Metaphysical Medicine, and evinces an active interest in the doctor’s publications on the subject. Later, Lady Mary mentions that Mr. Jennings’s late father had seen and spoken with a ghost. On the following evening, the clergyman sends his calling card with a note requesting a consultation with Dr. Hesselius.
At Mr. Jennings’s house in Richmond, the doctor is received by Jones, the vicar’s servant; the clergyman has been detained by work in his parish. While waiting in his host’s library, Dr. Hesselius comes on a set of the complete works, in Latin, of Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish mystical philosopher; perusal indicates that Mr. Jennings has underscored such passages as “May God compassionate me.” As Dr. Hesselius continues, he realizes with a start that “four eyes were reading the passage.” Mr. Jennings’s unannounced return is revealed by his features reflected in an overhanging mirror. He abruptly embarks on a conversation about the origins of illness, and he confounds the doctor with his spirited denunciation of materialism in medical thought. Dr. Hesselius is taken aback particularly by the abrupt fluctuations of unchecked gloom and brisk gaiety in his host’s demeanor.
After five weeks, Mr. Jennings again summons the doctor to his home, and there sets forth his own diagnosis of the maladies that have taken possession of him. Already he has been described as having once been an inveterate tea drinker. Mr. Jennings now maintains that his nervous sensibilities have been upset by the consumption first of black and then, gradually and more insidiously, of green tea. Even a change in his habits has not improved his condition. More than that, he is stalked by a creature that, whether imagined or real, relentlessly insinuates itself into his field of vision at every turn.
Once while riding on an omnibus, Mr. Jennings endeavored to push a small monkey out of his way; his umbrella actually seemed to pierce the animal. Since that time, this small, jet-black primate has followed him, its eyes ever animated with burning malevolence; in the dark, it is enveloped in a glowing reddish aura. Inexplicably it has been absent for fifteen days, but the clergyman suspects it...
(The entire section contains 756 words.)
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