Count Victor Justin paused briefly in his speechifying to ruminate over a tall and frosty mug of reeb. After he ordered drinks all around–yet again–he resumed his tale of the notorious grifter with the alias of ‘Jake Leaming’.
“I’m not trying to say that Leaming was totally without his bright spots. Every man has a few. The born fool around women is good with horses. A Sunday-school Parson may be no good at shoeing horses, but slings a topping Bible talk. And a policeman might be no good at collaring crooks–but a dab hand at ruling the roost at home. Mind the old saying: ‘Every time it rains when the sun is shining, a policeman is beating his wife.’
“Listen, Yobs: Like I said, old Jake Leaming could spiel all day on certain subjects with the best of them. And being a hypochondriac with a death-wish, he could talk all day about why he hated doctors–all doctors–even the good ones, if there were any, which he sincerely doubted.
“Whenever the topic came up–and it often did, for he would always find a way to come around to it–whenever the topic came up, then first off, he would raise the Holy Ned about how all the doctors and all the lawyers were in league with each other, only even the nerviest lawyer would only charge you half the money you had, while your average Doctor respected no law, man-made or otherwise, and would always charge the full freight whether he managed to cure you or not.
“Another reason he favored lawyers over doctors is that lawyers always listened, and would always take advantage of the main chance on your behalf, while quack doctors had their heads stuffed with so much medical foolishness that they could scarcely remember to tie their own shoelaces. Also, you never heard of any trial lawyer worth his salt calling in another trial lawyer to help him out. That’s usually because he wants as much of the money as he could grab between two of his greedy bloated fists. But Doctors, for all their good old book-larnin’, were constantly calling in “specialists”–usually, doddering old fossils whose idea of current medicine ended in 1880 or thereabouts. The old fools were still cupping, and using leeches, some of them. Senile dinosaurs, the lot of them, these specialists. Not the twinkly-eyed General Practitioner you always read about–no! That’s just Doctor’s propaganda. All of them, right down to the last man, are a bunch of cold-hearted fiends who cackle with glee every time a sick man walks through their door. They’re like Spirit Mediums–fraud is a part of their basic framework. ‘A good horse Doctor has twenty times more know-how than one of these quack M.D.s’, said Leaming.
“And–get this–the more you pay them, the more they string you along. If they sense you are on your uppers or haven’t got the dosh, they’ll make quick work of you, sure. And the next stop for you is the boneyard. But once they scent money they’ll dose you up with all kinds of drugs designed to keep you alive, but barely. When you tell them your symptoms haven’t abated but only gotten worse, they’ll tell you that it’s the killing pace of modern life, and you’re not getting any younger; in fact, you’re getting older by the minute, and you’re slowing down, and it’s not to be helped, and you’ll just have to endure it, and maybe if you went on a diet and got more exercise you’d feel better, and you mustn’t neglect fresh air and wholesome sleep, and Say, maybe you’d be better off at a Sanitarium out in the piney woods. Cost? Oh, don’t let money worry you. Cost? Oh, nothing’s more important than your health. Cost? About ten dollars a day.
Ten dollars a day! Seventy dollars a week! How’s that for compassion? Picture your average wretch–working like a dray horse and managing, through might and main, to pay the mortgage on his own house. Until one day he’s too sick to go to work, what with money worries and all the rest of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that life throws his way. What does the grinning ghoul of a Doctor recommend? Rehabilitation at a Sanitarium! At ten dollars a day! Three times his salary! And, even then, once the money stops flowing, he gets the shaft.
“And God alone can’t help you if you happen to be indigent, with no friends or relatives, and you end up in a public charity ward. Ho ho ho–then it’s the Black Bottle for you, with the skull and the crossbones, me hearty. You see, some doctors in the hospitals like to have interesting cases, so they can experiment on their patients. If you don’t have some kind of interesting disease, so they can operate on you and show all the younger doctors and interns something new and different; rather, if, instead, you’re just one of those chronically sick people with an uninteresting ailment and little if any hope of recovery–why, then, me Bucko, they’ll give ye a loving sup from the good old black bottle–and instead of occupying a much-needed hospital bed, you’ll be on your way to the morgue, and very soon. Yes, that Black Bottle has killed more indigents than the plague, I’ll warrant. Tell me–if there isn’t death in the black bottle, then why does if have a skull and crossbones? So you can pretend to be a pirate? Haw! You’re courtin’ death, sure, by going to one of them charity hospitals. Sick people with all kinds of contagious diseases go there; if you’re unlucky enough to end up in one, unless you’re young and strong, then there’s practically no hope for you.
“Yes, that’s the medical profession for you–a bunch of greedy money-hustlers who would put your average grifter to shame. As a matter of fact, I suspect these learned doctors to have more than just a drop of larceny in their souls.
“And, if, as it so happens, they don’t give you a stern lecture and warn you to mend your ways lest you dig your own grave with a knife and fork, then, why, they’re so accomodating and good-natured–as long as the money flows, of course–that they become your pal–your good pal, only they’ll never tell you what’s wrong; only they’ll keep ministering ‘The Dope’ to you until you’re swimming up to your eyeballs in it.
“Either way, with doctors you just can’t win.”