A Letter to a Dyspeptic

YES, my dear Dolorosus, I commiserate you. I regard your case, perhaps, with even sadder emotions than that excellent family-physician who has been sounding its depths these four years with a golden plummet, and has never yet touched bottom. From those generous confidences which, in common with most of your personal acquaintances, I daily share, I am satisfied that no description can do justice to your physical disintegration, unless it be the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds with which Mr. Addison winds up Cato’s Soliloquy. So far as I can ascertain, there is not an organ of your internal structure which is in its right place, at present, or which could perform any particular service, if it were there. In the extensive library of medical almanacs and circulars which I find daily deposited by travelling agents at my front door, among all the agonizing vignettes of diseases which adorn their covers, and which Irish Bridged daily studies with inexperienced enjoyment in the front entry, there is no case which seems to afford a parallel to yours. I found it stated in one of these works, the other day, that there is iron enough in the blood of twenty-four men to make a broadsword; but I am satisfied that it would be impossible to extract enough from the veins of yourself and your whole family to construct a crochet-needle for your eldest daughter. And I am quite confident, that, if all the four hundred muscles of your present body were twisted together by a rope-maker, they would not furnish that patient young laborer with a needleful of thread.

You are undoubtedly, as you claim, a martyr to Dyspepsia; or if you prefer any other technical name for your disease or diseases, I will acquiesce in any, except, perhaps, the word “Neurology,” which I must regard as foreign to etymological science, if not to medical. Your case, you think, is hard. I should think it would be. Yet I am impressed by it, I must admit, as was our adopted fellowcitizen by the contemplation of Niagara. He, you remember, when pressed to admire the eternal plunge of the falling water, could only inquire, with serene acquiescence in natural laws, “And what’s to hinder?” I confess myself moved to similar reflections by your disease and its history. My dear Dolorosus, can you acquaint me with any reason, in the heavens above or on the earth beneath, why you should not have dyspepsia?

My thoughts involuntarily wander back to that golden period, five years ago, when I spent one night and day beneath your hospitable roof. I arrived, I remember, late in the evening. The bed-room to which you kindly conducted me, after a light but wholesome supper of doughnuts and cheese, was pleasing in respect to furniture, but questionable in regard to physiology. The house was not more than twenty years old, and the chamber must therefore have been aired within that distance of time, but not, I should have judged, more recently. Perhaps its close, oppressive atmosphere could not have been analyzed into as many separate odors as Coleridge distinguished in Cologne,—but I could easily identify aromatic vinegar, damp straw, lemons, and dyed silk gowns. And, as each of the windows was carefully nailed down, there were no obvious means of obtaining fresh air, save that ventilator said to be used by an eminent lady in railway-cars,—the human elbow. The lower bed was of straw, the upper of feathers, whose extreme heat kept me awake for a portion of the night, and whose abundant fluffy exhalations suggested incipient asthma during another portion. On rising from these rather unrefreshing slumbers, I performed my morning ablutions with the aid of some three teacupsful of dusty water,—for the pitcher probably held that quantity,—availing myself, also, of something which hung over an elegant towel-horse, and which, though I at first took it for a child’s handkerchief, proved on inspection to be "Chamber Towel, No. 1.”

I remember, as I entered the breakfast-room, a vague steam as of frying sausages, which, creeping in from the neighboring kitchen, obscured in some degree the six white faces of your wife and children. The breakfast-table was amply covered, for you were always what is termed by judicious housewives “a good provider.” I remember how the beefsteak (for the sausages were especially destined for your two youngest Dolorosi, who were just recovering from the measles, and needed something light and palatable) vanished in large rectangular masses within your throat, drawn downward in a maelstrom of coffee;—only that the original whirlpool is, I believe, now proved to have been imaginary;— “that cup was a fiction, but this is reality.” The resources of the house also afforded certain very hot biscuits or breadeakes, in a high state of saleratus; —indeed, it must have been from association with these, that certain yellow streaks in Mr. Ruskin’s drawing of the rock, at the Athenæum, awakened in me such an immediate sense of indigestion; —also fried potatoes, baked beans, mincepie, and pickles. The children partook of these dainties largely, but without undue waste of time. They lingered at table precisely eight minutes, before setting out for school; though we, absorbed in conversation, remained at least ten; -—-after which we instantly hastened to your counting-room, where you, without a moment’s delay, absorbed yourself in your ledger, while I flirted languidly with the “Daily Advertiser.”

You bent over your desk the whole morning, occasionally having anxious consultations with certain sickly men whom I supposed to be superannuated bookkeepers, in impoverished circumstances, and rather pallid from the want of nutritious food. One of them, dressed in rusty black, with a flabby white neckcloth, I took for an ex-clergyman; he was absorbed in the last number of the “Independent,” though I observed, at length, that he was only studying the list of failures, a department to which, as it struck me, he himself peculiarly appertained. All of these, I afterwards ascertained from your office-boy, were eminent capitalists; something had gone wrong in the market,—not in the meat-market, as I should have supposed from their appearance, but in the money-market. I believe that there was some sudden fall in the price of indigo. I know you looked exceedingly blue as we walked home to dinner.

Dinner was ready the instant we opened the front door. I expected as much; I knew the pale, speechless woman who sat at the head of your table would make sure of punctuality, if she died for it. We took our seats without a word. The party was smaller than at breakfast. Two of the children had staid at school, having their luncheon-baskets well filled from the cold remains of breakfast. Your eldest girl, Angelina, aged ten, one of those premature little grown women who have learned from the cradle that man is born to eat pastry and woman to make it, postponed her small repast till an indefinite future, and sat meekly ready to attend upon our wants. Nathaniel, a thin boy of eight, also partook but slightly, having impaired his appetite, his mother suspected, by a copious luncheon of cold baked beans and vinegar, on his return from school. The two youngest (twins) had relapsed to their couches soon after breakfast, in consequence of excess of sausage.

You were quite agreeable in conversation, I remember, after the first onset of appetite was cheeked. You gave me your whole theory of the indigo crisis, with minute details, statistical and geographical, of the financial condition and supposed present location of your principal absconding debtors. This served for what is called, at public dinners, the intellectual feast; while the carnal appetite was satisfied with fried pork, ditto roasted, strong coffee, turnips, potatoes, and a good deal of gravy. For dessert, (at which point Nathaniel regained his appetite,) we had mince-pie, apple-pie, and lemon-pie, the latter being a structure of a two-story description, an additional staging of crust being somehow inserted between upper and under. We lingered long at that noon meal,— fifteen minutes, at the very least; for you hospitably said that you did not have these little social festivals very often,— owing to frequent illness in the family, and other causes,—and must make the most of it.

I did not see much of you during that afternoon; it was a magnificent day, and I said, that, being a visitor, I would look about and see the new buildings. The truth was, I felt a sneaking desire to witness the match-game on the Common, between the Union Base-Ball Club, No. 1, of Ward Eleven, and the Excelsiors of Smithville. I remember that you looked a little dissatisfied, when I came into the counting-room, and rather shook your head over my narrative (perhaps too impassioned) of the events of the game. “Those young fellows,” said you, “may not all be shiftless, dissipated characters, yet,—but see what it comes to! They a'n't content with wasting their time,— they kill it, Sir, actually kill it!" When I thought of the manly figures and handsome, eager faces of my friends of the “Union” and the "Excelsior,"—the Excelsiors won by ten tallies. I should say, the return match to come off at Smithville the next month,—and then looked at the meagre form and wan countenance of their critic, I thought to myself, “Dolorosus, my boy, you are killing something besides Time, if you only knew it.”

However, indigo had risen again, and your spirits also. As we walked home, you gave me a precise exhibit of your income and expenditures for the last five years, and a prospective sketch of the same for the next ten; winding up with an incidental delineation of the importance, to a man of business, of a good pew in some respectable place of worship. We found Mrs, D., as usual, ready at the table; we partook of pound-cake (or pound-and-a-half, I should say) and sundry hot cups of a very Cisatlantic beverage, called by the Chinese epithet of tea,—and went, immediately after, to a prayer-meeting. The church or chapel was much crowded, and there was a certain something in the atmosphere which seemed to disqualify my faculties from comprehending a single word that was spoken. It certainly was not that the ventilators were closed, for there were none. The minister occasionally requested that the windows might be let down a little, and the deacons invariably closed them again when he looked the other way. At intervals, females were carried out, in a motionless condition,— not, as it appeared, from conviction of sin, but from faintness. You sat, absorbed in thought, with your eyes closed, and seemed not to observe them. I remember that you were very much shocked when I suggested that the breath of an average sinner exhausted atmospheric air at the rate of a hogshead an hour, and asked you how much allowance the laws of the universe made for the lungs of church-members? I do not recall your precise words, but I remember that I finally found it expedient, as I was to leave for home in the early train, to spend that night at the neighboring hotel, where I indulged, on an excellent mattress, in a slumber so profound, that it seemed next morning as if I ought, as Dick Swiveller suggested to the single gentleman, to pay for a double-bedded room.

Well, that is all over now. You have given up business, from ill health, and exhibit a ripe old age, possibly a little over-ripe, at thirty-five. Your dreams of the forthcoming ten years have not been exactly fulfilled; you have not precisely retired on a competency, because the competency retired from you. Indeed, the suddenness with which your physician compelled you to close up your business left it closed rather imperfectly, so that most of the profits are found to have leaked out. You are economizing rather strictly, just now, in respect to everything but doctors’ bills. The maternal Dolorosa is boarding some where in the country, where the children certainly will not have more indigestible food than they had at home, and may get less of it in quantity,—to say nothing of more air and exercise to aid digestion. They are not, however, in perfect condition. The twins are just getting up from scarlet fever; Nathaniel has been advised to leave school for a time; and something is thought to be the matter with Angelina’s back. Meanwhile, you are haunting water-cures, experimenting on life-pills, holding private conferences with medical electricians, and thinking of a trip to the Bermudas.

You are learning, through all this, the sagest maxims of resignation, and trying to apply them. “Life is hard, but short,” you say; “Providence is inscrutable; we must submit to its mysterious decrees.” Would it not be better, my dear Dolorosus, to say instead, “Life is noble and immortal; God is good; we must obey his plain laws, or accept the beneficent penalties”? The rise and fall of health are no more accidental than the rise and fall of indigo; and it is the duty of those concerned in either commodity to keep their eyes open, and learn the business intelligently. Of the three proverbial desiderata, it is as easy to be healthy as to be wealthy, and much easier than to be wise, except so far as health and wisdom mean the same thing. After health, indeed, the other necessaries of life are very simple, and easily obtained;—with moderate desires, regular employment, a loving home, correct theology, the right polities, and a year’s subscription to the “Atlantic Monthly,” I have no doubt that life, in this planet, may be as happy as in any other of the solar system, not excepting Neptune and the fifty-five asteroids.

You are possibly aware, my dear Dolorosus,—for I remember that you were destined by your parents for the physician of your native seaside village, until you found a more congenial avocation in curing mackerel,—that the ancient medals represented the goddess Hygeia with a serpent three times as large as that carried by Æsculapius, to denote the superiority of hygiene to medicine, prevention to cure. To seek health as you are now seeking it, regarding every new physician as if he were Pandora, and carried hope at the bottom of his medicine-chest, is really rather unpromising. This perpetual self-inspection of yours, registering your pulse thrice a day, as if it were a thermometer and you an observer for the Smithsonian,—these long consultations with the other patients in the dreary parlor of the infirmary, the morning devoted to debates on the nervous system, the afternoon to meditations on the stomach, and the evening to soliloquies on the spine,—will do you no good. The more you know, under these circumstances, the worse it will be for you. You will become like Boerhaave’s hypochondriacal student, who, after every lecture, believed himself to be the victim of the particular disease just expounded. We may even think too much about health,—and certainly too much about illness. I solemnly believe that the very best thing that could be done for you at this moment, you unfortunate individual, would be to buy you a saddlehorse and a revolver, and start you tomorrow for the Rocky Mountains, with distinct instructions to treat any man as a Border Ruffian who should venture to allude to the subject of disease in your presence.

But I cannot venture to hope that you will do anything so reasonable. The fascinations of your present life are too overwhelming; when an invalid once begins to enjoy the contemplation of his own woes, as you appear to do, it is all over with him. Besides, you urge, and perhaps justly, that your case has already gone too far, for so rough a tonic. What, then, can I do for you? Medicine I cannot offer; for even your respectable family-physieian occasionally hints that you need something different from that. I suspect that all rational advice for you may be summed up in one prescription: Reverse instantly all the habits of your previous physical existence, and there may be some chance for you. But, perhaps, I had better enter more into detail.

Do not think that I am going to recur to the painful themes of doughnuts and diet. I fear my hints, already given, on those subjects, may wound the sensitive nature of Mrs. D., who suffers now such utter martyrdom from your condition that I cannot bring myself to heap further coals of fire on her head, even though the coals be taken from her own very ineffectual cooking-stove. Let me dwell rather on points where you have exclusive jurisdiction, and can live wisely or foolishly, at your pleasure.

It does not depend on you, perhaps, whether you shall eat bread or saleratus, meat or sole-leather; but it certainly does depend upon yourself whether you shall wash yourself daily. I do not wish to be personal, but I verily believe, O companion of my childhood! that, until you began to dabble in Hydropathy, you had not bestowed a sincere ablution upon your entire person since the epoch when, twenty years ago, we took our last plunge together, off Titcomb's wharf, in our native village. That in your wellfurnished house there are no hydraulic privileges beyond pint water-pitchers, I know from anxious personal inspection. I know that you have spent an occasional week at the sea-shore during the summer, and that many people prefer to do up their cleanliness for the year during these excursions; indeed, YOU yourself have mentioned to me, at such times, with some enthusiasm, your daily seabath. But I have been privately assured, by the other boarders, that the bath in question always consisted of putting on a neat bathing-dress and sitting awhile on a rock among the sea-weed, like an insane merman, with the highest waves submerging only your knees, while the younger Dolorosi splashed and gambolled in safe shallows behind you. Even that is better than nothing, but—Soul of Mohammed!—is that called bathing? Verily, we are, as the Turks declare, a nation of “dirty Franks,” if this be the accepted definition.

Can it be possible that you really hold with the once-celebrated Mr. Walker, “The Original,” as he was deservedly called, who maintained, that, by a correct diet, the system became self-purifying, through an active exhalation which repelled impurity,—so that, while walking on dusty roads, his feet, and even his stockings, remained free from dust? “By way of experiment, I did not wash my face for a week; nor did any one see, nor I feel, the difference." My deluded friend, it is a fatal error. Mr. Walker, the Original, may have been inwardly a saint and a sage, but it is impossible that his familiar society could have been desirable, even to fools or sinners. Rather recall, from your early explorations in Lemprière’s Dictionary, how Medea renewed the youth of Pelias by simply cutting him to pieces and boiling him; whereon my Lord Bacon justly remarks, that “there may be some boiling required in the matter, but the cutting to pieces is not needful.” If you find that the water-cure agrees with your constitution. I rejoice in it; I should think it would; but, I implore you, do not leave it all behind you when you leave the institution. When you return to your family, use your very first dollars for buying a sponge and a tin-hat, for each member of the household; and bring up the five children to lead decent lives.

Then, again, consider the fact that our lungs were created to consume oxygen. I suppose that never in your life, Dolorosus, did those breathing organs of yours inhale more than one half the quantity of air that they were intended to take in,—to say nothing of its quality. Yet one would think, that, in the present high prices of other food, you would make the most of the only thing you can put into your mouth gratis. Here is Nature constantly urging on us an unexceptionable atmosphere forty miles high,—for if a pressure of fourteen pounds to the square inch is not to be called urging, what is? —and yet we not only neglect, but resist the favor. Our children commonly learn to spell much better than they ever learn to breathe, because much more attention is paid to the former department of culture. Indeed, the materials are better provided; spelling-books are abundant; but we scarcely allow them time, in the intervals of school, to seek fresh air out of doors, and we sedulously exclude it from our houses and school-rooms. Is it not possible to impress upon your mind the changes which “modern improvements” are bringing upon us? In times past, if a gentleman finished the evening with a quiet cigar in his parlor, (a practice I deprecate, and introduce only for purposes of scientific illustration,) not a trace of it ever lingered to annoy his wife at the breakfast-table; showing that the draft up the open chimney had wholly disposed of it, the entire atmosphere of the room being changed during the night. Now, on the other hand, every whiff lingers persistently beside the domestic altar, and betrays to the youngest child, next day, the parental weakness. For the sake of family example, Dolorosus, correct this state of things, and put in a ventilator. Our natures will not adapt themselves to this abstinence from fresh air, until Providence shall fit us up with new bodies, having no lungs in them. Did you ever hear of Dr. Lyne, the eccentric Irish physician? Dr. Lyne held that no house was wholesome, unless a dog could get in under every door and a bird fly out at every window. He even went so far as to build his house with the usual number of windows, and no glass in the sashes; he lived in that house for fifty years, reared a large family there, and no death ever occurred in it. He himself died away from home, of small-pox, at eighty; his son immediately glazed all the windows of the house, and several of the family died within the first year of the alteration. The story sounds apocryphal, I own, though I did not get it from Sir Jonah Barrington, but somewhere in the scarcely less amusing pages of Sir John Sinclair. I will not advise you, my unfortunate sufferer, to break every pane of glass in your domicile, though I have no doubt that Nathaniel and his boy-companions would enter with enthusiasm into the process; I am not fond of extremes; but you certainly might go so far as to take the nails out of my bed-room windows, and yet keep a good deal this side the Lyne.

I hardly dare go on to speak of exercise, lest I should share the reproach of that ancient rhetorician who,—as related by Plutarch, in his Aphorisms,—after delivering an oration in praise of Hercules, was startled by the satirical inquiry from his audience, whether any one had ever dispraised Hercules. As with Hercules, so with the physical activity he represents.—no one dispraises, if few practise it. Even the disagreement of doctors has brought out but little skepticism on this point. Cardan, it is true, in his treatise, “Plantæ cur Animalibus diuturniores,” maintained that trees lived longer than men because they never stirred from their places. Exercise, he held, increases transpiration; transpiration shortens life; to live long, then, we need only remain perfectly still. Lord Bacon fell in with this fancy, and advised “oily unctions,” to prevent perspiration. Maupertuis went farther, and proposed to keep the body covered with pitch for this purpose: conceive, Dolorosus, of spending threescore years and ten in a garment of tar, without even the ornament of feathers, sitting tranquilly in our chairs, waiting for longevity! In more recent times, I can remember only Dr. Darwin as an advocate of sedentary living. He attempted to show its advantages by the healthy longevity attained by quiet old ladies in country-towns. But this is questioned by his critic, Dr. Beddoes, who admits the longevity, but denies the healthiness; he maintains that the old ladies are taking some new medicine every day,—at least, if they have a physician who understands his business.

Now I will not maintain, with Frederick the Great, that all our systems of education are wrong, because they aim to make men students or clerks, whereas the mere shape of the body shows (so thought King Frederick) that we are primarily designed for postilions, and should spend most of our lives on horseback. But it is very certain that all the physical universe takes the side of health and activity, wooing us forth into Nature, imploring us hourly, and in unsuspected ways, to receive her blessed breath into body and soul, and share in her eternal youth. For this are summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, given; for this do violet and bloodroot come, and gentian and witch-hazel go; for this do changing sunsets make you path between the pines a gateway into heaven; for this does day shut us down within the loneliness of its dome of light, and night, lifting it, make us free of the vast fellowship of stars; for this do pale meteors wander nightly, soft as wind-blown blossoms, down the air; for this do silent snows transform the winter woods to feathery things, that seem too light to linger, and yet too vast to take their flight; for this docs the eternal ocean follow its queen with patient footsteps round earth’s human shores; for this does all the fair creation answer to every dream or mood of man, so that we receive but what we give;—all is offered to us, to call us from our books and our trade, and summon us into Nature’s health and joy. To study, with the artist, the least of her beauties,—to explore, with the man of science, the smallest of her wonders,—or even simply to wander among her exhaustless resources, like a child, needing no interest unborrowed from the eye,—this feeds body and brain and heart and soul together.

But I see that your attention is wandering a little, Dolorosus, and perhaps I ought not to be surprised. I think I hear you respond, impatiently, in general terms, that you are not “sentimental.” I admit it; never within my memory did you err on that side. You also hint that you never did care much about weeds or bugs. The phrases are not scientific, but the opinion is intelligible. Perhaps my ardor has carried me too fast for my audience. While it would be a pleasure, no doubt, to see you transformed into an artist or a savant, yet that is scarcely to be expected, and, if attained, might not be quite enough. The studies of the naturalist, exclusively pursued, may tend to make a man too conscious and critical, —patronizing Nature, instead of enjoying her. He may even grow morbidly sensitive, like Buffon, who became so impressed with the delicacy and mystery of the human organization, that he was afraid to stoop even to pick up his own pen, when dropped, but called a servant to restore it. The artist, also, becomes often narrowed and petty, and regards the universe as a sort of factory, arranged to turn out “good bits of color” for him. Something is needed to make us more free and unconscious, in our out-door lives, than these too wise individuals; and that something is best to be found in athletic sports. It was a genuine impulse which led Sir Humphrey Davy to care more for fishing than even for chemistry, and made Byron prouder of his swimming than of “Childe Harold," and induced Sir Robert Walpole always to open his gamekeeper's letters first, and his diplomatic correspondence afterwards. Athletic sports are “boyish,” are they? Then they are precisely what we want. We Americans certainly do not have much boyhood under the age of twenty, and we must take it afterwards or not at all.

Who can describe the unspeakable refreshment for an overworked brain, of laying aside all cares, and surrendering one’s self to simple bodily activity? Laying them aside! I retract the expression; they slip off unnoticed. You cannot embark care in your wherry; there is no room for the odious freight. Care refuses to sit behind the horseman, despite the Latin sentence; you leave it among your garments when you plunge into the river, it rolls away from the rolling cricket-ball, the first whirl in the gymnasium disposes of it, and you are left free, as boys and birds are free. If athletic amusements did nothing for the body, they would still be medicine for the soul. Nay, it is Plato who says that exercise will almost cure a guilty conscience,—and can we be indifferent to this, my fellow-sinner?

Why will you persist in urging that you “cannot afford” these indulgences, as you call them? They are not indulgences,—they are necessaries. Charge them, in your private account-book, under the heads of food and clothing, and as a substitute for your present enormous items under the head of medicine. O mistaken economist! can you afford the cessation of labor and the ceaseless drugging and douching of your last few years? Did not all your large experience in the retail-business teach you the comparative value of the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure? Are not fresh air and cold water to be had cheap? and is not good bread less costly than cake and pies? Is not the gymnasium a more economical institution than the hospital? and is not a pair of skates a good investment, if it aids you to elude the grasp of the apothecary? Is the cow Pepsin, on the whole, a more frugal hobby to ride than a good saddle-horse? Besides, if you insist upon pecuniary economy, do begin by economizing on the exercise which you pay others for taking in your stead,—on the corn and pears which you buy in the market, instead of removing to a suburban house and raising them yourself—and in the reluctant silver you pay the Irishman who splits your wood. Or if, suddenly reversing your line of argument, you plead that this would impoverish the Irishman, you can at least treat him as you do the organ-grinder, and pay him an extra fee to go on to your next neighbor.

Dolorosus, there is something very noble, if you could but discover it, in a perfect human body. In spite of all our bemoaning, the physical structure of man displays its due power and beauty when we consent to give it a fair chance. On the cheek of every healthy child that plays in the street, though clouded by all the dirt that ever inerusted a young O’Brien or M’Cafferty, there is a glory of color such as no artist ever painted. I can take you to-morrow into a circus or a gymnasium, and show you limbs and attitudes which are worth more study than the Apollo or the Antinoüs, because they are life, not marble. How noble were Horatio Greenough’s meditations, in presence of the despised circus-rider! “I worship, when I see this brittle form borne at full speed on the back of a fiery horse, yet dancing as on the quiet ground, and smiling in conscious safety.”

I admit that this view, like every other, may be carried to excess. We can hardly expect to correct our past neglect of bodily training, without falling into reactions and extremes, in the process. There is our friend Jones, for instance, "the Englishman,” as the boys on the Common call him, from his cheery portliness of aspect. He is the man who insisted on keeping the telegraph-office open until 2, A. M., to hear whether Morrissey or the Benicia Boy won the prizefight. I cannot say much for his personal conformity to his own theories at present, for he is growing rather too stout; but he likes vicarious exercise, and is doing something for the next generation, even if he does make the club laugh, sometimes, by advancing theories of training which the lower circumference of his own waistcoat does not seem to justify. But Charley, his eldest, can ride, shoot, and speak the truth, like an ancient Persian; he is the best boxer in college, and is now known to have gone to Canada incog., during the vacation, under the immediate supervision of Morris, the teacher of sparring, to see that same fight. It is true that the youth blushes, now, whenever that trip is alluded to; and when he was cross-questioned by his pet sister Kate, (Kate Coventry she delights to be called.) as to whether it wasn’t “splendid,” he hastily told her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, (which was undoubtedly true.)—and that he wished he didn’t, either. The truth is, that Charley, with his honest, boyish face, must have been singularly out of place among that brutal circle; and there is little doubt that he retired from the company before the setto was fairly begun, and that respectable old Morris went with him. But, at any rate, they are a noble-looking family, and well brought up. Charley, with all his pugilism, stands fair for a part at Commencement, they say; and if you could have seen little Kate teaching her big cousin to skate backwards, at Jamaica Pond, last February, it would have reminded you of the pretty scene of the little cadet attitudinizing before the great Formes, in “Figaro.” The whole family incline in the same direction; even Laura, the elder sister, who is attending a course of lectures on Hygiene, and just at present sits motionless for half an hour before every meal for her stomach's sake, and again a whole hour afterwards for her often (imaginary) infirmities,—even Laura is a perfect Hebe in health and bloom, and saved herself and her little sister when the boat upset, last summer, at Dove Harbor,—while the two young men who were with them had much ado to secure their own elegant persons, without rendering much aid to the girls. And when I think, Dolorosus, of this splendid animal vigor of the race of Jones, and then call to mind the melancholy countenances of your forlorn little offspring, I really think that it would, on the whole, be unsafe to trust you with that revolver; you might be tempted to damage yourself or somebody else with it, before departing for the Rocky Mountains.

Do not think me heartless for what I say, or assume, that, because I happen to be healthy myself, I have no mercy for ill-health in others. There are invalids who are objects of sympathy indeed, guiltless heirs of ancestral disease, or victims of parental folly or sin,—those whose lives are early blighted by maladies that seem as causeless as they are cureless,—or those with whom the world has dealt so cruelly that all their delicate nature is like sweet bells jangled,—or those whose powers of life are all exhausted by unnoticed labors and unseen cares,—or those prematurely old with duties and dangers, heroes of thought and action, whose very names evoke the passion and the pride of a hundred thousand hearts. There is a tottering feebleness of old age, also, nobler than any prime of strength; we all know aged men who are floating on, in stately serenity, towards their last harbor, like Turner’s Old Téméraire, with quiet tides around them, and the blessed sunset bathing in loveliness all their dying day. Let human love do its gracious work upon all these; let angelic hands of women wait upon their lightest needs, and every voice of salutation be tuned to such a sweetness as if it whispered beside a dying mother’s bed.

But you, Dolorosus,—you, to whom God gave youth and health, and who might have kept them, the one long and the other perchance always, but who never loved them, nor reverenced them, nor cherished them, only coined them into money till they were all gone, and even the ill-gotten treasure fell from your debilitated hands,—you, who shunned the sunshine as if it were sin, and called all innocent recreation time wasted,—you, who staid under ground in your goldmine, like the sightless fishes of the Mammoth Cave, till you were as blind and unjoyous as they,—what plea have you to make, what shelter to claim, except that charity which suffereth long and is kind? We will strive not to withhold it; while there is life, there is hope. At forty, it is said, every man is a fool or a physician. We will wait and see which vocation you select as your own, for the broken remnant of your days.