Macfadden's Fasting, Hydropathy and Exercise/CHAPTER IV
The strongest temperance argument I ever heard was the incidental remark of a lecturing naturalist, that "it would be easy to name a thousand different animals that subsist on a thousand different kinds of food, but that they all drink water."
The question as to the most effective and most natural remedy might be settled with similar conclusiveness. Crapulent dogs can now and then be seen eating grass, and after a surfeit of green fodder ruminants evince a hankering after salt, but serious sickness prompts all animals to fast. Wounded deer will retire to some secluded glen and starve for weeks together. In the southern Alleghanies, where mineral efflorescences, mingling with stagnant water cause a disorder known as "milk sickness," the animals thus affected get "off their feed," and by rest and total abstinence generally contrive to recover without medical assistance in the course of a week or two.
A fortnight's fast does not preclude the hope of survival. In the moulting season certain cage birds prefer to get along for a month with a minimum of food, to compensate the lack of facilities for active exercise, and I remember the case of a little dachshund (a species of bowlegged terrier) that survived a fall from the loft of a tall building by three weeks of almost total abstinence. During a visit to the riding-school of a cavalry regiment I had turned over the little waddler to a sergeant, who put him in a barn, and finding that he could crawl out under the gate and was apt to come to grief by being kicked by a horse, finally put him in a bag and ordered one of the men to lock him up in the hay-loft at the top of the building. That checked his restlessness for the time being, but on stepping out on the street, an hour after, I heard a whine as from the clouds, and looking up saw my dachshund crouching on the edge of an open louvre and yelping crescendo, to draw my attention to the discomfiture of his situation. In the next moment he had lost his balance, and after a series of aerial somersaults, landed on the hard pavement, with a crack that seemed to have broken every bone in his body. Blood was trickling from his mouth and nostrils when they picked him up, and the troopers advised me to "put him out of misery," but he was my little brother's pet, and, after some hesitation, I decided to take him home in a basket and give the problem of his cure the benefit of a fractional chance. Investigation proved that he had broken two legs and three ribs, and judging by the way he raised his head and gasped for air, every now and then, it seemed probable that his lungs had been injured.
The location of his grave had already been settled; but the next morning he was still alive and lapped up a pint of water. For twenty days and twenty nights the little terrier stuck to life and his cotton-lined basket, without touching a crumb of solid food, but ever ready to lick up a few drops of cold water, in preference even to milk or soup. At the end of the third week he made an effort to leave his couch, and a few days after contrived to stagger along the floor to get the benefit of a hearth-fire. He had broken his fast with a saucerful of sweet milk, but only on the evening of the twenty-sixth day began to betray a personal interest in the contents of a plateful of meat-scraps that had been placed near his basket every morning.
Before the end of the winter he accompanied his friends to that same riding-school and was introduced to the veterinary surgeon of the regiment. Misknit bones had made his crooked legs a trifle crookeder, but he could run again and attest the vigor of his lungs by a lusty bark. A clear case of recovery in spite of—we did not venture to say because of—total abstinence from drugs.
"What did you feed him on?" inquired the surgeon, taking it for granted that Nature must have been assisted somehow or other.
"Nothing, for the first three weeks."
"Nothing, sir. Or, to be quite exact, nothing except some air and water."
The surgeon shook his head. "Stout chaps, these daxes," he muttered, caressing the paradox with the tip of his boot. "The vitality of those brutes!" he probably thought to himself; "the idea of that thing recovering in spite of such neglect."
Surgeon K. had a horseload of instruments and might have succeeded in dosing the patient with a prescription of beef, wine and iron, by means of a stomach-funnel. If the little dachshund could have survived the additional affliction, is another question.
The fasting-cure instinct is not limited to our dumb fellow-creatures. It is a common experience that pain, fevers, gastric congestions, and even mental afflictions "take away the appetite," and only unwise nurses will try to thwart the purpose of Nature in that respect. The manager of a large Michigan sanitarium makes it a rule to let his attendants indulge his patients with all the cold water they want to drink, or even coax them to try another glass, but never urge them to eat against their inclination.
"Abstinence is by far too much feared in the treatment of acute diseases generally. We have good reason for believing that many a life has been destroyed by the indiscriminate feeding which is so often practised among the sick. The safety of abstinence will be apparent when we remember how often persons have lain in fevers, dysentery, and other prostrating diseases, fourteen, twenty-one, and even more days without nutriment, and in the end doing well."—Joel Shaw. M.D.
The "Health-school of Talerno," in its "Vademecum of Sanitary Maxims," has an apothegm to the effect that "The more you feed a sick body the sicker you make it," and Dr. Isaac Jennings, the author of "Medical Reform," expresses the same truth in an emphatic manner of his own. "Don't aggravate the troubles of a sick fellow-man," he says, "by forcing him to swallow food against the protest of his stomach.
"No one ever thinks of eating if the appetite is abolished by a trivial ailment and plainly for the reason that it would be an unpleasant experience attended by depressing results; but if the ailment is thought dangerous, why, then the physics and chemestry of digestion are utterly ignored, and food must be enforced.
"There is a very general concurrence of opinion that the aversion to food that characterizes all cases of acute disease, which is fully in proportion to the severity of the symptoms, is one of Nature's blunders that requires the intervention of art, and hence enforced feeding regardless of aversion.
"I can have no doubt that feeding during illness when no hunger exists is a disease-prolonging agency.
"The more I study the question of nutrition in disease at the bedside of acute illness the more am I unable to comprehend the logic of giving the sick, and especially the very sick, a form of food that even in the most vigorous health cannot be borne, even for a single day, without a lowering of vital power; nay, that where even one meal of it cannot be put into the stomach of hunger without a clearly perceptible loss of power.
"No physician will admit that normal health can be maintained for a single day, for the above reasons, on milk and whisky; then where is the logic of feeding it to the sick? How expect, by its use, to raise abnormal health to the normal, when it inevitably lowers the normal to the abnormal?
"Most of the need of drugs to allay restlessness or pain, and to enforce sleep in cases of the severely sick, arises from the exhaustive taxing of the vital power from the enforced feeding and stimulation."—E. H. Dewey, M.D.
There is no danger in temporary abstinence. Nature knows best. . . . Accustom yourself in all your little ailments, and also in your grave and more distressing affections, to regard the movement concerned in them in a friendly aspect —designed for and tending to the removal of a difficulty of whose existence you were unaware, and which, if suffered to remain and accumulate, might prove the destruction of the house you live in. And that, instead of its symptoms needing to be suppressed, they are themselves curative operations, and that what should be called the disease, lies back of them, as the real disorder or difficulty which they are intended to remove."
The physiological rationale of the fasting instinct is this: The task of digestion monopolizes the vital energies of the organism to a degree that interferes with emergency work. While the kitchen is undergoing repairs to undo the mischief of a storm or a conflagration, the cook would ask to be excused from routine drudgery. No care could obviate the risk of her fritters getting sprinkled with plaster-dust or showers of soot, and pending renovation she would expect her folks to shift with cold lunch, preserves, and other winter-stores of the pantry. Even thus Nature tries to remove the obstacles of a remedial problem. When mustering her energies for a struggle with a critical disorder she prefers to be exempted from other work, and, as it were, get her hands free for the effective and rapid accomplishment of a task that may admit of no delay. The functions of the alimentary organs are thus temporarily suspended. Lack of appetite, or even a violent aversion to food, are physiological intimations of the fact that the kitchen-department of the organism has been closed for repairs. But that arrangement implies no risk of starvations.
"When death occurs before the skeleton condition is reached it is always due to old age or some form of disease or injury, and not to starvation."—E. H. Dewey, M.D.
There are alimentary reserve stores; accumulations of adipose tissue gathered to guard against this. They will supply all essential needs for the time being, and can be replaced at leisure, after the work of reconstruction has been finished. In some cases they may have been put away for the needs of old age, but are now drawn upon for a transient emergency. The body, so to say, has for a time to make shift with its winter stores.
These nutritive reserves are ready for use at short notice and their application to the momentary needs of the system does not interfere with other work. Digestive problems, in other senses of the word, would prove a serious handicap upon the efficacy of the disease fighters, and, moreover, could be solved only in a perfunctory manner. The ingesta would have to be concocted and hurried out without real benefit to the department of nutrition.
In the case of mental affections that precaution has sometimes a peculiar by-purpose. Care, worry, but especially fits of rage, have a tendency to vitiate the humors of the system, and precautionary Nature shuts off the kitchen-supplies to prevent more serious mischief.
Dr. Carpenter in his "Mental Physiology," quotes the experience of an Austrian doctor who was called to the death-bed of a child poisoned by the milk of its own mother. A soldier had been quartered in the house, and one day came in drunk and promptly picked a quarrel with the paterfamilias—a poor Bohemian shoemaker. A scuffle followed, the drunken ruffian drew his sword and the cobbler was getting worsted, when suddenly his wife rushed in and with the superhuman strength of fury overpowered the intruder, snatched his sword and snapped it into pieces. Neighbors interposed, and the cobbler's wife, still trembling with excitement, sat down to nurse her baby. A few minutes after, the child began to twist as in a fever fit, and died in convulsions, though medical assistance had been instantly summoned.
It has also been noticed that the bite of tortured animals often becomes poisonous. In a last resort of self-defence the organism has evolved an avenging virus, but observes the precaution to cut off the appetite for food, in order to lessen the risk of the envenomed saliva entering the circulation and its blood-poison reaching the wrong address.
More or less every disorder of the organic function involves a risk of food turning into poison, and thus suggests a secondary significance of the fasting instinct.
In other words, food, eaten in the crisis of a serious disease, would not only hamper the work of cure, but might expose the system to an added peril.
Over-eating has become a vice of enormous prevalence, and for millions a protracted fast would prove a specific for the cure of ailments that defy medication. Diarrhœa, for instance, admits of no readier or more harmless remedy. It is a result of dietetic abuses and Nature's usual way to evacuate irritant substances—often accumulations of indigestible food threatening to become virulent under the influence of a high temperature.
A day's fast would mitigate the trouble. Two days of total abstinence would generally cure it and leave the condition of the alimentary organs improved in every way. But the patient cannot wait. Instead of earning the right to health he wants to buy it ready-made over the counter, and applies to a drug-monger. Loose bowels indicate a deficiency of vital strength, yet nearly every debilitating poison of the vegetable and mineral kingdom has been employed to paralyze the activity, and, as it were, silence the protest of the rebellious organs. Bismuth, arsenic, calomel, opium, mercury, nux vomica, zinc salts, acetate of lead and nitrate of silver are among the gentle "aids to Nature" that have been prescribed to control the revolt of the mutinous bowels. An attempt to control a fit of vomiting by choking the neck of the patient would be an analogous mistake. The prescription operates as long as the vitality of the bowels is absolutely paralyzed by the virulence of the drug; but the first return of functional energy will be used to eject the poison.
That new protest is silenced by the same argument; for awhile the exhaustion of the whole system is mistaken for a sign of submission, till a fresh revolt calls for a repetition of the coercive measures. In the meantime the organism suffers under a compound system of starvation; the humors are surcharged with virulent matter, the whole digestive apparatus withdraws its aid from the needs of the vital economy, and the flame of life feeds on the store of tissue; the patient wastes far more rapidly than an unpoisoned person would on an air-and-water diet.
It is not too much to say that the timely application of the fasting cure would have saved such patients nine-tenths of their time and trouble. Denutrition, or the temporary deprivation of food, exercises an astringent influence as part of its general conservative effect. The organism, stinted in its supply of vital resources, soon begins to curtail its current expenditure. The movements of the respiratory process decrease; the temperature of the body sinks; the secretion of bile and uric acid is diminished, and before long the retrenchment of the assimilative functions reacts on the intestinal organs; the colon contracts and the smaller intestines retain all but the most irritating ingesta.
A persistent hunger-cure will eliminate even an active virus by a gradual molecular catalysis and removal of the inorganic elements. No deepest-seated microbes have a living chance against that method of expurgation. With no digestive drudgery on hand, Nature employs the long-desired leisure for general house-cleaning purposes. The accumulations of superfluous tissue are overhauled and analyzed; the available component parts to be turned over to the department of nutrition, the refuse to be thoroughly and permanently removed. Germ diseases are swept out together with other rubbish. Influenza (La Grippe) can be nipped in the bud by a few days of total abstinence. Its microbes are preparing to feed on pulmonary tissues, but are bundled out before they have time to entrench their position. Catarrh ("colds") and incipient consumption can be cured in the same manner, and a U. S. army surgeon reports the case of a patient wrecked on the coast of southern Texas and reaching civilization only after a month of dreadful hardships, that reduced him to a living skeleton, but permanently cured his lung disorder. The mystery of the "King's Evil" cures probably admits of a similar solution. At a time when scrofula was ten times more prevalent than nowadays, thousands of health-seekers crowded the ante-chambers of royal palaces, to be touched by the hand of an anointed king. The Lord's anointed was in many cases a worn-out rake with his own hide full of germ-diseases, but his touch rarely missed its effect on patients who had come from a considerable distance, whence Dr. Burnett's remark that the natives of farthest Scotland and Ireland trusted the miraculous power of their sovereign more than his next neighbors. Scrofulous cockneys, who could reach the royal presence by crossing the street, crossed in vain; but pilgrims who had come from the other side of the Tweed and starved like Texas temperance editors, returned rejoicing, and would have been cured just as effectually if a Devonshire dairyman had touched them up with his pitchfork. The true believers were mostly children of poverty who had come the long road afoot; and microbes that could have defied the shoulder hits of all the legitimate despots of Christendom had succumbed to a hunger-cure, intensified by liberal doses of active exercise.
Among the germ-diseases that have been relieved by fasting, the author of "The True Science of Living" also mentions malaria, eczema, gastric cancer, pneumonia and typhoid fever.
It is also a significant fact that the abstemious natives of the tropics are far less subject to the risk of blood-poison from severe wounds than the overfed children of civilization.
A germ-disease, as virulent as syphilis, and long considered too persistent for any but palliative methods of treatment (by mercury, etc.) was radically cured by the fasting cures, prescribed in the Arabian hospitals of Egypt, at the time of the French occupation. Avicena already alludes to the efficacy of that specific, which he seems to have employed with similar success against smallpox, and Dr. Robert Bartholow, a stickler for the faith in drugs, admits that "it is certainly an eminently rational expedient to relieve the organism of a virus by a continuous and gradual process of molecular destruction and a renewal of the anatomical elements. Such is the hunger-cure of syphilis, an Oriental method of treating that disease. Very satisfactory results have been attained by this means."—(Materia Medica and Therapeutics, pp. 31-32.)
The most mysterious of all disorders of the human organism, asthma, or respiratory paralysis, has been ascribed to November mists as often as to the debilitating influence of midsummer heat; but its proximate cause appears to have something to do with the accumulation of phlegm in the bronchial tubes, and its cure by abstinence, though slow, is far more permanent than the relief now and then obtained by the use of drugs. The villainous fumes of burning stramonium leaves, for instance, cause a convulsion of the respiratory apparatus which does break the asthma spell for the time being, but within half an hour after the patient has stopped panting and spitting the ominous torpor is apt to creep on again, and it has been noticed that with every repetition the doses of the distressing remedy has to be increased.
Denutrition, or total abstinence from solid food and all liquids but water, has no appreciable effect on respiratory paralysis for the first day or two, but before the end of the third day breathing becomes easier, the respirations, though weak, are freer, and before long become "deeper" and lung-filling enough to compensate the system for weeks of air-famine. One patient of my acquaintance had suffered such misery from suffocating fits that he felt as if the grip of a demon had been relaxed when his lungs began to work freer, and rather than forfeit his hard-won deliverance, hesitated to break his fast that day or the next. "I would rather drink my fill of air than of boarding-house coffee," he whispered, "and, as for hunger, I have really no time to notice the slight beginnings of that, I'm so busy feeling blest."
Fasters generally notice that the first two days of total abstinence are the worst, a sensation of general languor continues to increase, but by that time denutrition has begun to relieve all sorts of incidental affections, and the net result is a feeling of relief similar to that of a convalescent from a fever fit.
The effect of a fasting cure depends often upon its length, and upon no other point of an admittedly important problem the impressions of the general public are more contradictory and vague.
"You cannot expect a sick person to fast all day?" inquires Mrs. Hearsay, who would not hesitate to swallow sixteen different kinds of fashionable poisons.
In reply, Thomas Campanella states that frail nuns often sought relief from attacks of hysteria by fasting "seven times seventy hours," or twenty days and a half. Total abstinence for three weeks or more was not an uncommon prescription of Avicena, who was so averse to drastic remedies that he would sooner watch all night at the fever-bed of a patient than risk complications by the use of opiates. The great Arab was not an ascetic either. He detested unnecessary self-denial, so much so, indeed, that he advised his friends to miss no chance for fun on this side of the grave and set them convivial examples at the risk of incurring the wrath of Moslem zealots. Dr. Tanner, I believe, broke his thirty-nine days' fast by a midway glass of sweet lemonade, but Buddha Sakyammi, like his Galilean successor, fasted forty days even, just for the sake of clearing his brain.
The penance-worn saints of the early Christian Church thought nothing of retiring to the desert for a month or two, to fight down temptations and dine on the water of some dilapidated old cistern. To touch even millet-seed on such occasions was considered a breach of contract, forfeiting the merit of the enterprise, but at the end of the second month the gaunt world-renouncer had generally strength enough left to reach his convent unassisted and smash the solar plexus of a cell-brother who ventured to question the reality of his visions. Robert de Moleme, the founder of the Cistercian brotherhood, was overcome with grief on learning the death of a female friend, and like General Boulanger, resolved to follow her to the Land of Shades. Being averse to direct suicide, he retired to the mountain-lodge of a relative, and abstained from food in the hope that one of his frequent fainting fits would fade into the sleep that knows no morning. But finding himself alive at the end of the seventieth day, he reconsidered his resolution and began to suspect a miraculous interposition of Providence. By resuming his meals, in half-ounce instalments, he contrived to recover from a condition of frightful emaciation, and in the supervision of an ever-increasing number of scattered monasteries, led an active life for the next fourteen years.
Trance-fasters, like Augusta Kerner of Ingolstadt, survived in a semi-conscious condition for nearly a quarter of a year, but it would be a mistake to suppose that staying powers of that kind are a prerogative of the sick. Miners in collieries, affording a sufficient supply of water, have been found alive after weeks of enforced abstinence from any more nutritious food than scraps of leather soaked in pit-water and masticated with desperate perseverance. Sailors, deprived of food and drink, have endured exposure to the glare of a tropical sun for a week or more. But the marvels of long-continued abstinence without loss of strength reach their maximum in the winter-sleep of several species of warm-blooded animals. Reptiles, with their small expenditure of vital energy, can easily survive dietetic deprivations, but bears and badgers, with an organization essentially analogous to that of the human species, and with a circulation of the blood active enough to maintain the temperature of their bodies more than a hundred degrees above that of the winter-storms, dispense with food for periods varying from three to five months, and at the termination of their ordeal emerge from their dens in the full possession of their physical and mental energies. 
The black bear of northern Russia rolls itself up in scrap-heaps of leaves and moss, about the end of November, trusting to good luck to be left to the enjoyment of peaceful slumber till middle of March, but if disturbed before the end of February is wide awake in a minute and attacks the intruders with a fury expressed in a Slavonic phrase: equivalent to "savage as a waked winter bear." Badgers leave their burrows a little sooner, being often awakened by a spell of warm weather, a month before the vernal equinox, and after an absolute fast of ten weeks will trot for miles in search of roots and acorns that have perhaps to be scraped out of the half-frozen ground.
The little dormouse, in its winter-sleep of five months, suffers a loss of weight sometimes
exceeding forty per cent., and exhibition fasters have survived a reduction of thirty per cent., without anything like a total collapse of vital vigor.
The first few meals after such a fast have to be served in doll-house saucers. Reckless gorging might forfeit all the advantages of a sanitary fast, and rations have to be raised from ounces to half pounds, with four-hour intervals—a precaution which Nature tries to enforce in a peculiar way of her own: After a fast of four days or more the teguments of the palate become so sensitive that mastication has to proceed with pauses.
The above quoted instances preclude the idea of a week's fast involving any life-endangering consequences. It would often relieve disorders which drugs can only complicate and give the patient a new lease of life, hope and vigor.
But for ordinary purposes even a two-days' intermission of surfeits would result in sanitary benefits apt to reform all but the most inveterate gluttons. No need of aggravating the sickness of dyspeptics by mentioning the "duty of self-denial," and evoke visions of spiritual advisers helping themselves to the assets of world-renouncing idiots; the mere change from physical misery and oppression to buoyancy and freedom would be sufficient to attain the approval of believers in happiness on this side of the grave.
During the last summer of Kitchener's campaign in the Soudan the Mahdists captured a British quartermaster, baggage and all, and, after harnessing him like a donkey, put him in a chain-gang of burden-carriers and loaded him up with a cargo of camping outfit and nigger babies. Pinching fetters, perspiration, and vermin completed the horrors of his predicament, and he was on the verge of suicide, when Captain Magruder's dragoons overtook his captors and celebrated his deliverance with a picnic at a spring. Washed, refreshed and dressed in cleanest linen, the freed man continued his journey rejoicing, but the contrast of misery and comfort can hardly have surpassed that of a dyspeptic before and after a fasting-cure. The relief of his overburdened stomach has given Nature a chance to expurgate all sorts of encumbrances: accumulated ingesta, vitiated humors and sixteen different kinds of pinching, gnawing and excavating microbes. He feels as if a burden of rags and parasites had been removed from his shoulders; he can continue the pilgrimage of life without a handicap; his soul has been dressed in clean raiment.
And even from an epicuric point of view the revival of appetite would more than compensate a few days' abstinence. Food is relished to a degree that implies a pledge of its thorough assimilation. House-cleaning has prepared the storerooms for the reception of fresh supplies. The night's rest following the first appetite-sanctioned meal will not be disturbed by nightmares. Fasting, like exercise and refrigeration, makes repose sweet. The dull, unheeded, but ever-gnawing reproaches of the physical conscience have been silenced.
One great aid to the successful accomplishment of a fasting-cure is the rule to keep the mind as much as possible occupied, so as to prevent its brooding over the topic of alimentary deprivations; create some diversion by exciting pastimes or interest-absorbing work. Frederic Gerstaecker, in his "Chronicle of the Forty-niners," remarks that every nugget-bonanza lessened the temptations of intemperance. The miners were too busy to waste the golden chance on rum; they neglected the bar-room because they could find better excitement at the gravel-bar. They would hardly take time to eat their meals. The successful ones, especially, merely nibbled a crust and hurried back to work. After a cat-nap or two, they left their hammocks and opened the window-shutters as if they could hardly await the dawn of the morning. "Get up, boys, here's daylight at last," one of them would call out in the middle of the night; then, after scrutenizing the signs of the sky more closely: "Blame the luck, it's only the moon, after all."
It is, therefore,, a good plan to reserve a specially diverting job of work for the term of a fasting-cure, but it should be remembered that severe physical efforts tend to complicate the demands upon the reserve energies of the organism. Tree-felling while fasting would be burning the candle of life at both ends. For similar reasons cold weather is apt to aggravate the ordeal of total abstinence. Winter is not the worst time for a fast, it may even be the best, to judge from the phenomena of hibernation; only it is well to recollect that in remedial effects two fasting-days, combined with exercise in a snow-storm, are equivalent to three fasting-days in midsummer.
The influence of habit tends to make abstinence easy—as easy almost as the dietetic restrictions which our gormandizing ancestors used to dignify by the name of fasting. Lenten fare, in the South-German sense of the word, came at last to imply only the shelving of flesh-pots, without excluding eggs, butter, cheese, oysters and fish, in any desired quantities. The greasy made dishes and eel-pies of the Bavarian refectories were perfect burlesques on the bona-fide fasts of the poor, and there is an anecdote about an Austrian granger who had attended a revival, and upon his return was seized with qualms of conscience at the sight of preparation for a feast of gravy dumplings. "Say, Jane, this is Good Friday," he muttered, "a dozen of those things is really too much for creatures who have souls to save. Make only ten, this time; but"—after some reflection—"you can make them a little larger than last week."
Yet with all their cart blanche of butter-pan dishes some slaves of habit contrived to get spiritual license for meat-rations on traveling-days, "on account of the extra fatigue and exposure to wind and weather."
But in the highlands of Algeria, in a climate almost as rigorous as that of the Alps, the soldiers of General Clausel were unable to procure meat, and after a few weeks' practice found, possibly to their own surprise, that they could get along very comfortably on dates, bread and cheese.
Eating only one meal a day becomes so much of a second nature, in a month or two, that habitués almost pity the slaves of custom who have to handicap their energies by forenoon surfeits. "Breakfast," if its etymology can be trusted, is a misnomer, where there has been no fast to speak of, and the idea of repletion before the day's work is done comes to appear as foolish as an invitation to a Saturday picnic at the beginning of the week. "Don't spoil your supper," whispers an inner monitor when the noonday pause awakens old-time associations, but after a little experience the contrast of present all-day buoyancy and former afternoon life-weariness is quite enough to nip temptations in the bud.
Abstinence from two meals has become natural enough to require no self-denial whatever, and in the course of time a fasting-cure expert can tackle the task of a two-days' term of total abstinence almost without a presentiment of discomfort." A fishing-trip to-morrow evening will help me over the hill," he reflects, "and the next day I can eat with the assurance of digesting my supper to the last fraction of an ounce."
Even after a short fast the first full meal had better be preceded by a light lunch and a few hours' pause, to initiate the activity of the digestive organs, but the selection of a simple and perfectly digestible breakfast may modify the necessity of that precaution.
About the third week of Dr. Tanner's ordeal a Georgia sympathizer sent him an enormous watermelon that was wrapped up in newspapers and hidden in a corner of the room to mitigate the tantalizing effect of its presence. Visitors had almost forgotten its existence, but the moment his quarantine had been accomplished, the survivor got hold of that melon and proceeded to help himself with the energy of an Afro-American picnicker.
"Don't, sir, don't, screeched a Philadelphia dude, "you'll kill yourself in five minutes if you keep on like that."
"Hold on there, young man," said the old doctor, grabbing the meddler's arm, "I may be mistaken, but I believe I'm running this circus myself."
But there was probably no mistake about it; a ripe watermelon is made up of about 97 per cent. of fluids to three of harmless solids, and the plucky faster's breakfast was almost as unobjectionable as a quart of sugar-water. The same quantum of hash might have killed him, and even the attempt to masticate a big piece of bread would have been baffled by the protest of the sensitive palate.
The question as to the requisite length of a remedial fast depends upon the previous habits of the experimenter. A glutton who has complicated the consequences of three daily surfeits by drastic drugs cannot hope to be restored to anything like a normal condition in less than a quarter of a year, devoted to three fasts of a week each, and with three-weeks' intervals of moderate eating and abundant outdoor exercise.
For an ordinary indigestion three days of total abstinence will generally suffice, and votaries of the one-meal plan can keep disease at bay with a two-days' fast at the end of every month. Provided that they abstain from greasy made-dishes and all abnormal stimulants that precaution will even save them the necessity of regulating the quantity of their meals after the plan of Louis Cornaro, who weighed out his daily rations with half-ounce scales. "Abstinence is easier than temperance," and a combination of the one-meal plan with an occasional fast is far more sensible, because more practicable, than everlasting self-denial.
- Karl Vogt in his "Curiosities of Instinct," mentions the case of a spaniel that had accidentally been locked up by visitors to the attic of an old castle-ruin, and contrived to procure a few drops of water by gnawing the edges of a cleft in the slate-covered roof. His life had thus been saved by the accident of a few heavy rain-showers, but there was no chance for a crumb of food, no grain, leather, rats or mice, no vestige of living things with the exception of a few spiders under the rafters of the roof. The whole summer passed, and a part of autumn; but during the first week of October there was a picnic on the castle mountain, and a wandering party of sight-seers rescued the little prisoner that had been locked up about the middle of June. Its ribs could be counted as easily as in a skeleton, but it was still able to drag itself across the floor and lick the hands of its deliverers. Chossat in his Recherches sur l'Inanition, states that the land tortoise of southern France can starve for a year without betraying a reduction of vital energy, and the Proteus anguinus, or serpent salamander, even for a year and a half, provided that the temperature of its cage be kept above the freezing point.