Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/250

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238
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

some of these Coleoptera eject by the anus a caustic liquid which, vaporizing suddenly, detonates with intensity, like an explosive; whence the Brachini have been called bombarders.


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THE PEARL OF PRACTICE.

By ELIZABETH ROBINSON.

THE Wakefield family have always been very proud of tracing their descent from an old English doctor who came to this country in the latter part of the seventeenth century. Proudly they show the various relics of this highly respected ancestor — his old battered silver snuff-box, with dim, worn inscription, telling that it was a gift from a scion of nobility, who thus rewarded his medical man for service done in his cause; the comical night-cap which once covered the dear doctor's revered head, a pair of shoe-buckles, a few buttons from his small-clothes, and last, but not least, an old account-book and book of prescriptions. The account-book opens of itself at the pages where noble names are most often inscribed: "A purge for Lady Mary Brown"; an emetic (the good doctor uses a more Shakespearean word) for Lady Betty Smith, a draught for this lord, a blister for that, etc.

We turn with due consideration the thin, yellow pages, covered with fine, faded writing, still perfectly legible, queerly spelled. The book of prescriptions, The Pearl of Practice, is so old, so near dropping in pieces, that it surely has to be taken up tenderly, handled with care. It has every appearance of great age, and we are not surprised to learn that it was printed in London two hundred and seven years ago. The ancient volume shows evidence of much consultation. We open it with respect, which quickly turns to righteous horror and indignation as we peruse the crumbling pages. We can only hope that this venerated disciple of Æsculapius practiced mostly in his own country, and did not work fell disaster in the struggling colonies of America. Truly British brawn and the accessory of England's climate were needed even for the "survival of the fittest" if many of these strange and wonderful prescriptions were followed. Even so early in our history the Americans were far too "nervous" to bear many such heroic doses, even if the true nature of the ingredients could have been concealed. Perhaps we have always had a leaning toward the "new school" of medicine; a little study of these old pages quite convinced us of it. But we fancy the most conservative physician of the "old school" to-day would not go very far by this queer little book.

In the first place, one would have to be the happy possessor of