A woman goes to see Dr. Malsufrido in Mexico City precisely because of his reputation for being keeping the secrets of his patients secret. When she arrives, her desire to protect her privacy is so great that she wears a veil to hide her face, but her clothing gives away the fact she comes from a wealth family. She arrived with the request that he remove forever all evidence of a wind-colored blemish located low enough on her back that it would remain a mystery beneath even the most fashionable of gowns.
Impressed by the sheer remarkable beauty of the vine-leaf stain which stands in sharp distinctly stark contrast to the skin surrounding, the doctor at first attempts dissuasion. The woman’s rising anger-infused impatience convinces the doctor to do as the woman asks, remarking that he seemed to feel more emotional pain at the stain’s removal than the woman felt physical pain. Afterward, he refuses to accept payment and only agrees because this placement of her under an obligation to him makes her trust him all the greater.
Five years of experience and increased prosperity pass and Dr. Malsufrido’s place in society has risen enough that he makes acquaintances with a well-traveled Marques with whom he shares an interest in anthropology. Upon accepting an invitation to the home of the Marques to view a collection of artifacts brought back from distant points on the globe, he is shown the prize of the collection: a portrait of nude woman poised with her back to the artist she gazes into a mirror as she twists flowers into her hair.
A nude woman whose back features a wine-red vine-leaf blemish.
The mirror which should be reflecting the face of the mysterious woman who came him to five years earlier has been crudely smudged and distorted after completion of the portrait, however. The Doctor quickly learns that the painting was the last completed by an artist named Andrade who was shortly thereafter discovered murdered in his studio with a knife still stuck between his shoulders.
The Marques confesses that he had desired to own painting at a time when there no vine-leaf upon the model and the face in the mirror was barely hinted at. Andrade’s refusal only stimulated the Marques to pursue ownership all the more intensely as he planned to make it a betrothal gift to his wife-to-be, Lisarda Mone Alegre. As the hears of the one morning when the door to the artist’s studio was no locked as usual, he suddenly remembers that it was the Marques who actually discovered the dead body of Andrade.
The morning when the door was left open allowed the Marques to not only discover Andrade’s dead body, but also discover that the painting of the nude woman now featured the vine-leaf blemish painted in a color lacking the artist’s usually deft skill at mixing pigments and obviously brushed in a frenzied state of approaching death. The Marques deduced from the evidence that the artist added the blemish for the purpose of identifying his assassin. The Marques quickly eliminated the clues pointing toward the portrait as evidence to ensure it remained in his hands rather than in the hands of the police.
At that point, the Doctor mentions that it would be a strange gift for a woman you are about to marry as surely any bride would find the subject matter a source for jealousy. The Marques assures him that his wife’s desire to not look upon the portrait stems from the modesty of her religious conviction.
At that point, the doctor hears a woman’s voice behind him repeat a phrase about being superstitious that she had said to him five years earlier in his office. He turns to gaze at the remarkable beauty of the face of the Marquesa and for the first time sees the face of the woman whose vine-leaf mark he removed. She asks if he could blame her for not wanting to gaze upon the image of the lady of questionable virtue in the painting. To which the doctor replies that it would take a woman of extraordinary virtues to bewitch a man who has never seen her face.