Portland, May 10th, 1861
To Mrs. Ferrell:
Yours of the 9th was received, and I will sit down and try my best to relieve your right side and hope I shall be able to affect it. Be assured I shall not forget you, but shall have a dutiful care over you and encourage you through your trouble, till you can see out of it and feel that your health is out of danger.
Your cough is the effect of your health, throwing off the morbid state of your system and, of course, it makes you feel very bad. I am very sorry that I can't stop your cough at once; but so it is, and I will do my best to stop it. You see how my patients hold me to my promises. You say in your letter that I told you so-and-so, and you hold me to my promise; just as though I would forget you, if I had not promised that you would get well. Now these promises are the very thing I am trying to get rid of; for when you promise a child anything on condition, they never think of the obligation to their parent, but claim the reward. So it is with all my patients. It sometimes makes me smile to see how artful they will be to get me to make a promise; and when I do it, it seems as that was all, and they never think that they have anything to do for themselves. This is so common among the sick that I have become very cautious how I promise; for if I do not fulfill my promises, they are sure to remind me of it. It often makes me feel as though they thought me to blame for not fulfilling my promise. And I really feel guilty myself; for I believe that our minds are under some wisdom, for a love the natural man is unaware, and when I mentally agree, unconditionally, to do a thing, it annoys me much if I fail to do it.
Now I know you, as Mrs. Ferrell, do not hold me, as P. P. Quimby, responsible to stop your cough. But this sick idea does hold me to my promise, so I will try my best to fulfill it. In doing so, I must hold you, not Mrs. F., but the sick idea, to its promise. And for fear you may forget, I will just remind Mrs. F. what the sick idea promised on her part. It was that she would keep up good courage and not believe in what anyone said and not be afraid if she coughed a little, but keep calm and cheerful. Now if I hear about you complaining about your cough and getting low spirited, I shall tell you of it and hold you to your bargain. You see, you are bound to keep the peace and to do all that is right, so that your health may come, and you may once more rejoice.
Now I think I have sat with you some time, and this contract I want you to read now and then, and I will sit and listen when you are reading it, and I think we will get along first-rate.
So good night.
P. P. Quimby