Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/53

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43
MODERN TROGLODYTES.

bage-soup like the private soldiers of his guard, and also to surrender some valuables he had concealed on his person, on condition that they would permit him to sleep in open air. One more week of such nausea and headache as the confinement in a closed room had caused him, would force him to commit suicide, he said, and, if his request was refused, God would charge the guilt of the deed on his tormentors. After taking due precautions against all possibility of escape, they permitted him to sleep on the platform in front of the guard-house; and Colonel Darapski, the commander of the city, informed his government in the following spring that the health and general behavior of his prisoner were excellent, but he had slept in open air every one of the last hundred nights, with no other covering but his own worn-out mantle, and a woollen cap he had purchased from a soldier of the guard to keep his turban from getting soiled by mud and rain.

General Sam Houston, the liberator of Texas, who had exiled himself from his native State in early manhood, and passed long years, not as a captive, but as a voluntary companion of the Cherokee Indians, was ever afterward unable to prolong his presence in a crowded hall or ill-ventilated room beyond ten or twelve minutes, and described his sensation on entering such a locality as one of "uneasiness, increasing to positive alarm, such as a mouse may be supposed to feel under an air-pump."

The cause of this uneasiness is less mysterious than our nature's wonderful power of adaptation that can help us ever to overcome it. The elementary changes in the human body are going on with such rapidity that the waste of tissue and organic fluids is only partially retrieved by the digestible part of the substances which we feed to the abdominal department of our laboratory twice or thrice in twenty-four hours. The difference is made up by the labors of the upper or pectoral department, which renews its supply of raw material independently, or even in spite of our will, twenty times per minute, or 70,000 times in twenty-four hours! With every breath we draw we take into our lungs about one pint of air, so that the quantity of gaseous food thus consumed by the body amounts in a day to 675 cubic feet. The truth, then, is that eating and drinking may be considered as secondary or supplementary functions in the complicated process performed by that living engine called the animal body, while the more important task falls to the share of the lungs. The stomach may suspend its labors entirely for twenty-four hours without serious detriment to the system, and for two or three days without endangering life, while the work of respiration cannot be interrupted for six minutes without fatal consequences.

The first object of respiration is to introduce elements needed in the preparation of blood, the second to remove gaseous carbon and other secretions of the air-cells. The deleterious consequences, therefore, of breathing the same air over and over again arise not only