Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/50

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sumption in each State bears an exact proportion to the greater or smaller number of inhabitants who follow in-door occupations, and is highest in the factory districts of New England and the crowded cities of our central States. In Great Britain the rate increases with the latitude, and attains its maximum height in Glasgow, where, as Sir Charles Brodie remarks, windows are opened only one day for every two in Birmingham, and every three and a half in London; but going farther north the percentage suddenly sinks from twenty-three to eleven, and even to six, if we cross the fifty-seventh parallel, which marks the boundary between the manufacturing counties of Central Scotland and the pastoral regions of the north.

It is distressingly probable, then, to say the least, that consumption, that most fearful scourge of the human race, is not a "mysterious dispensation of Providence," nor a "product of our outrageous climate," but the direct consequence of an outrageous violation of the physical laws of God. Dyspepsia (for which also open-air exercise is the only remedy), hypochondria, and not only obstruction but destruction of the sense of smell—"knowledge from one entrance quite shut out"—will all be pronounced mere trifles by any one who has witnessed the protracted agony of the Luft-Noth, as the Germans call it with horrid directness—the frantic, ineffectual struggle for life-air. Dr. Haller thought that, if God punishes suicide, he would make an exception in favor of consumptives; and there is no doubt that, without the merit of martyrdom, the victim of the cruel disease endures worse than ever Eastern despot or grand-Inquisitor could inflict on the objects of his wrath, because the same amount of torture in any other form would induce speedier death.

But not only the punishments but also the warnings of Nature are proportioned to the magnitude of each offense against her laws. Injurious substances are repulsive to our taste, incipient exhaustion warns us by a feeling of hunger or weariness, and every strain on our frame that threatens us with rupture or dislocation announces the danger by an unmistakable appeal to our sensorium. How, then, can it be reconciled with the immutable laws of life that the greatest bane of our physical organism overcomes us so unawares that consumption is proverbially referred to as the insidious disease? Should it really be possible that Nature has failed to provide any alarm-signals against a danger like this? The truth is, that none of her protests are more pathetic or more persistent than those directed against the habit that is fraught with such pernicious consequences to our respiratory organs.

It is probable that some of the victims of our numerous dietetic abuses have become initiated to these vices at such an early period of their lives that they have forgotten the time when the taste of tea and alcohol seemed bitter, or the smell of tobacco produced nausea; but I am certain that no man gifted with a moderate share of memory,