MRS. WERFEL had hay fever — not merely the seasonal kind, but the chronic variety that makes you so chronically unattractive. So Mrs. Werfel consulted Dr. Wattle.
At first she was entirely mystified by the word he used. ‘Allergy?’ she repeated.
She had thought allergy was a weed growing in ponds.
The doctor, however, kindly put her right, for in those days ‘allergy’ was not the household word it is now, with new models, so to speak, appearing daily. ’Your clinical history shows you to be so allergic, so highly sensitized,’ he explained as he checked off diphtheria, typhoid, scarlet fever, pneumonia, appendicitis, ‘that I feel sure the skin tests will prove most enlightening.‘
Expectantly he produced his tray of concentrated poisons, two hundred vials containing such deadly extracts as those of the soy bean, the dill pickle, kohl-rabi, nutmeg, and canary feathers. Expectantly, with his tiny flat instrument, he coerced one hundred varying substances into each of Mrs. Werfel’s arms. At the end of the two hours which the operation consumed, her arms bloomed like the rose, but with hives.
‘I do not think,’ said Dr. Wattle happily, ‘that I have ever seen more complete susceptibility. These indications we call immediate reactions; now I will interpret them.’ This he proceeded to do, matching the serried ranks of vials in the tray to the serried ranks of hives on Mrs. Werfel’s arms.
At first Mrs. Werfel worried. Suppose, she thought, that he makes geographical errors in reading, that he mixes up parsley with kapok, for instance, or tangerine with cat hair. But as time went on and she heard that she was intolerant to barley, oats, wheat, buckwheat, casaba, rice, cocoa, coffee, tea, tobacco, artichoke (French), artichoke (Jerusalem), asparagus, the navy bean, beet, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, not to mention chives, com, cottonseed, cucumber, dandelion, parsley, parsnips, peas, pimento, potato, pumpkin, as well as garlic, ginger, hops, malt, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, peppers, psyllium seed, sage, senna — as time went on she dozed, missing the fruit, the fish, the nut, the fabric, the feathers, the powder, the bacillus classes.
‘And now,’ Dr. Wattle was saying when she roused, ‘let us see. By the process of elimination you may eat only butter, heavy cream, goat milk, Parmesan cheese, egg white, duck egg, goose egg, gelatin, pork, rabbit, fig, lemon, bulterfish, butternut. Of course,’ he added, ‘my deductions are drawn merely from the immediate reactions. To-morrow, with the delayed-twenty-four-hour reactions, will tell the story.’
To-morrow came. ‘And now,’ said Dr. Wattle, noting sundry new excrescences, ‘let us see. The list narrows down to butter, heavy cream, goat milk, egg white, goose egg, gelatin, fig, lemon, butternut. Of course,’ he added, ‘my deductions are drawn merely from the immediate plus the delayed-twenty’-four-hour reactions. Tomorrow, witli the delayed-forty-eight-hour reactions, will tell the story.’
Thus it happened that Mrs. Werfel’s diet ultimately consisted of butter, heavy cream, goat milk, goose egg, gelatin, and butternut. And Mrs. Werfel ultimately had the jaundice, which left her, as she indicated to Dr. Wattle, only gelatin and butternut. It was hard, she volunteered piteously, to subsist on gelatin anti butternut; in short, one way and another, she had lost thirty pounds.
It was hard, Dr. Wattle agreed, but he had good news for her. Since her last appointment he had perfected a serum, a really miraculous serum, that did away with all diets, neutralizing all the food poisoning in the system. Take that, and you could eat anything. Tremendously powerful it was, naturally, and the dosage was a ticklish matter. Extreme stimulation or extreme depression followed if the amount administered was too large or too small. The physician could only judge from the patient’s reports. And naturally it took time — two or three years before the system could be properly stabilized. Patience and coöperation were essential.
So for three years Mrs. Werfel coöperated. From a woman not more unreasonable than most she became, in the interests of science, temperamental. She was meticulous in her reports, never feeling anything at all without noting it down for Dr. Wattle. So faithful and so zealous was she in al ways remembering to feel intensely that one day found her trying to jump off a bridge.
Dr. Wattle was really interested. ‘I had been thinking,’ he said, ‘that one onehundredth of a milligram was far too much for you, or too little — I’m not quite convinced yet which. But in the meantime I have achieved the perfect diet, the diet that does away with all serums, the fat-free diet — quite simply, no butter, no cream, no fat-containing foods.’
‘But,’ said Mrs. Werfel, ’I thought butter and cream, according to the skin tests, were almost the only things I could eat — that is, until I got the jaundice.’
‘Skin tests,’ observed Dr. Wattle, ‘served their purpose for a time, but we have since discovered them to be misleading. The fat-free diet, on the other hand, is universal. Moreover, you must remember that there is a certain type of allergy . . . ’