Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/663

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
645
THE PILGRIM PATH OF CHOLERA.

What is to happen to the crowd of pilgrims who close in on the spot that he has left, and who, each in turn, swallow in rapt fervor the fetid draught in which these thousands have been washed? Can we wonder, then, knowing the history of the Broad Street pump, that in 1866, within a few days of the ceremony, the road leading from Mecca was for twelve miles thickly strewn with dead bodies—a holocaust to be added to the account of perverted religious rites which has already so deadly a record?

Gradually England is undertaking the gigantic task of not only ruling India—a thing to which India has been accustomed for untold centuries—but of reforming and remodeling her habits and her customs, a thing hitherto quite unknown, untried, and thought by many to be impossible. A stolid mass of conservatism of habit and even of thought has to be moved, and has to be so moved as not to drift into anarchy and reaction. This is a long, slow, tedious process. The existence of the "endemic area," the "home of cholera," depends largely on the persistence of habits and modes of life which can hardly be rooted out. If they are to cease, they must probably die away or be slowly crushed out rather than be swiftly overturned. We may at once make up our minds that if the safety of Europe can only be attained by abolishing cholera in India, Europe will for long remain in danger. It is hard to say how long: the object of this essay is to abridge the period to the utmost. To those, again, who know best the condition of the towns in the south of Europe it seems an almost equally far-off hope to expect them within any reasonable time to reach such a condition of cleanliness and sanitary preparedness as to be able to look calmly on the approach of the dread disease. But this is a much less formidable and more hopeful task, when once it is courageously and persistently faced. Are we meantime to stand helpless? Can nothing be done to stop the infection on the way? Not so. In the matter of ordinary travelers isolation of the infected need not be insuperably difficult. The individual attacked may be sent to a properly equipped hospital, be surrounded by a true cordon sanitaire in the modern sense—not a ring of gendarmes or a circle of quarantine as of old, but an area of sanitation, within which cholera can not spread. Within this area the disease may expend its force with injury to no one and the crisis pass without danger to the country. But the case of the pilgrims is different. Fairs and pilgrimages of India differ from other means of spreading the disease in this, that not only do they draw people from all parts and thus increase the chances of receiving the infection, but the people attend them in such numbers that they support each other in carrying on their own customs, the very customs which have for centuries conduced to the spread of the disease in cholera's home. It is as if the fair or