Shrinkage in Diet

THIS is a leaf from my Book of Lamentations, offered to all “contributors ” who, like myself, know too much. A cryptic mole by nature, I am in the full blaze of latter-day investigation. I live with the most fearless and gallant rider of a hobby on our planet of curios — a Pure-Food Expert. He rides it bareback; and at times it rears its front hoofs broncho-wise, and with its hind ones stirs a dust to tease the eyes of non-quadrupedantic oncomers. I was formerly one. I footed it, hugging my illusions and defying Science. It was an impious challenge. I was doomed to know, — I who should have come to my own, in the morning twilight of the world, when the haze was on the hills. Time was when I felt the exhilaration of the road; when with pores open, digestion good, I was the yokel of cheerful Ignorance. I am no longer a wise fool. I have given hostages to health — I who had it without seeking. By “ taking thought,” I have parted from my twin, Contentment. My body still jogs on the road, but my mind is dizzying on an aeroplane. I have married the rider of the hobby!

When a girl, I played the rôle of fair Ellen carried off by young Lochinvar. We decamped on a saw-horse. It was symbolic of my fate. For the hobby sometimes takes that wooden and industrial form. Then I mount it too. We make up in noise what we lack in speed, and many are deceived thereby. We shout and spur and apply the cudgel as Stevenson did to his donkey, and seem to be going somewhere. We do not get there, but that is to my liking. I am neither a coming woman nor a going one, but just stationary. The saw-horse phase suits my timorous nature and my home-keeping wits. I am not dispositioned to ride a Rosinante or a Pegasus, at each of which classics the hobby takes a turn. Then I am left low — as to my tenement of clay. I sit a groundling with my soul elate, and watch the flying feet of the courser without a desire to shout, “Whoa! " I am afraid of a live horse — there, it is out! — and I live with the least cowardly equestrian of my time. Let me prove it.

Before this present age, so blinding with superfluous light, I sat me down to a rasher of bacon, a steak smothered in onions, or a Deerfoot sausage in a snowdrift of mashed potato, with the gustatory innocence of a Bobo. So blissful was my ignorance that wisdom seemed to me the supreme folly. But the serpent came into my garden and proved me a daughter of Eve. Having tasted of the tree, I sought Adam and found him in a Socratic state of mind. He had already mounted his high horse Interrogation, and was sniffing afar the field upturned by the rake, when Chief Wiley blew his bugle.

Away went Gilpin, neck or nought,
Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
Of running such a rig.

No; I ’ll say that for my rider — “’t was sore against his will " that he made the dinner wait to be inspected and certified. To that pass it soon came in our once cheerful home. Then for a season, repose for horse, rider, and pedestrian, under the protective symbols “ U. S.” But as a deluded soldier thinks the victory won, and wrapped in Old Glory lies down to pleasant dreams, only to be rudely awakened by the blast of war, so we. That grim phantom, “Infected Beef,” whether “ a spirit of health or goblin damned,” has crossed our threshold, and banished from our board the juicy rib-roast and the merry soup-bone. Old Mother Hubbard would feel at home in our cupboard.

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

The little pig vanished first, leaving his footprints in memory — a veritable dream-child. The hindquarters of the lamb capered after, on purely sentimental grounds.

Mary loved the lamb, you know.

In a hapless hour I pastured with the sheep and fed them by hand. I saw the trustful lambkins lured to their death and carted bleating to the shambles. Henceforth I could eat no mutton or chops while the world stands.

I do not know where this contraction of edibles will end. The turkeygobbler once wrung his own neck, so to speak, in a morning serenade. But I have recently seen the comedy of young turkeys going to roost, and I cannot bear the thought of turning so cheerful a play into a tragedy. As to the chicken, I am not yet a total abstainer, but temperate; like the woman who so loved birds that she wore only the wings. The hen, apart from that age-limit which renders all veterans immune in our dietary, has a feminine idiosyncracy of indecision that so endears her to my halting and shifty mind at the street-crossing, that I no longer inquire curiously into her strength of sinew and the number of her days, but give her the benefit of the doubt. The speckled trout, the pink-gilled salmon,

I have loved and lost. Fishermen Walton and Van Dyke may jeer at me, and point the finger of science at the diminishing phosphorus in my brain, already too little to make a good lucifcr match; but were it as rare and as precious as radium, I would not obtain it from an “ inameled trout.”

I am laying bare my foible. I am a sentimentalist. And I am yoked to a practical reformer on whose table of the law is written, “ Thou shalt eat no canned goods while benzoate of soda preserveth the wicked.” Him I have promised to obey!

Between my weakness and his strength, our dietary long since reached the limit of expansion — the crinoline stage —and is like the present fashion in gowns, slim and unlovely, adapted only to the lean and lank. Game is ruled out: by me because the bird is in my heart; by Adam because it is in cold storage. The egg remains — that one perfect object in the world, which yet cannot stand alone — so like woman! But our diet is steadily contracting, and I foresee the day when we shall insist on a supply from one hen, government-inspected, and warranted never to set when she can lay.