Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/320

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306
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and lamp-light. The patient begins to fret under the weight of his afflictions, but still declines to remove the cause. To out-door exercise he objects, not on general principles, but on some special plea or other. He has to husband his strength. The raw March wind would turn his cough into a chronic catarrh. The warm weather would spoil his appetite and aggravate his vertigo. The truth is, that of the large quantum of comestibles ingested only a small modicum is digested, and that the system begins to weaken under the influence of indirect starvation. Business routine prevents the dyspeptic from changing his meal-times. He can not reduce the number of his meals; people have to conform to the arrangements of their boarding-house. The stomach needs something strengthening between breakfast and supper. The truth is, that the exertions of the digestive organs alternate with occasional reactions, entailing a nervous depression which can be (temporarily) relieved by the stimulus of a fresh engorgement. Business reasons may really prevent a reduction of working hours, and domestic duties a change of climate or of occupation. The daily engorgement in the mean while goes on as before.

Nature then resorts to more emphatic protests. Sleep comes in the form of a dull torpor that would make a nightmare a pleasant change of programme. The digestive laboratory seems to have lost the discretion of its automatic contrivances; the process of assimilation, in all its details, obtrudes itself upon the cognizance of the sensorium, and urges the co-operation of the voluntary muscles. Contortions and pressing manipulations have to force each morsel through the gastric apparatus; the lining of the stomach has become sentient, and shirks its work like a blistered palate. Special tidbits can be traced through the whole course of their abdominal adventures. Undigested green peas roll on like buckshot hot from the smelting-pan of a shot-tower. A grilled partridge crawls along like a reluctant crab, clawing and biting at each step. Nausea and headache strive to relieve themselves in spasmodic eructations. Vertigoes, like fainting-fits, eclipse the eyesight for minutes together. Constipation, often combined with a morbid appetite, suggests distressful speculations on the possible outcome of the accumulating ingesta. The overfed organism is under-nourished to a degree that reveals itself in the rapid emaciation of the patient. The general derangement of the nervous system reacts on the mental faculties, and impairs their efficacy even for the most ordinary business purposes, till the invalid at last realizes the necessity of reform. He tries to reduce the number of his meals; but the lengthened intervals drag as heavily as the toper's time between drinks. He hopes to appease his stomach by a change of diet, but finds that the resolution has come too late; the gastric mutiny has become indiscriminate, and protests as savagely against a Graham biscuit as against a broiled pork sausage. He tries pedestrianism, but finds the remedy worse than the evil. The enemy has cut off his means of retreat; the