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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/351

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PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

for a cooling liquid is not plainer than the brain's craving for rest and slumber when a high temperature adds its somniferous tendency to the drowsy influence of a full meal. On warm summer days all Nature indulges in a noontide nap; I have walked through tropical forests that were as silent under the rays of a vertical sun as a Norwegian pine-grove in the dead of a polar night; nor would it be easy to name a single animal that does not appear sleepy after meals. At noon leaf-trees throw their densest shade; even butterflies seek the penetralia of the foliage, and lizards cling lazily to the dark side of the lower branches; every school-teacher knows that children feel the drowsy spell of the afternoon sun; why should they alone be hurt by yielding to its promptings? Either postpone the principal meal to the end of the day, or increase the noontide recess to at least three hours, so as to leave time for a digestive siesta.

In midsummer all mammals (squirrels, perhaps, excepted) become semi-nocturnal: deer and llamas pasture the moonlit mountain-meadows; bears, badgers, and the larger species of monkeys are wide-awake; buffaloes wander en masse to the next drinking-place; and the stepchildren of Nature, the starved lazzaroni of Southern Europe, forget their misery if they can procure a fiddle or a guitar. The moonlit streets of the Mexican cities swarm with merry children, but north of the Rio Grande not a decent lad is seen out-doors after sundown; Luna has to seek her Endymions in the tropics, though our summer nights are often as glorious as the noches serenas of southern Andalusia. And what would our hardy forefathers have said about our dread of the morning dew? How many thousands of hunters and soldiers have slept in the open fields, and how many times did we wade through the dew-drenched brambles of the Ardennes, my little brother and I, to see the sun rise, and breathe the mountain wind, at the only hour when the air is both fragrant and cool, inspiring thoughts which music can only awaken for a fleeting moment!—if such hours are mortiferous, there can not be a more agreeable way of ending what our latter-day epicures are pleased to call life.

What harm can there be in dividing our daily portion of sleep? Birds and beasts do it, the founders of the most ascetic orders of Spanish monks allowed it, and our summer months are certainly as warm as those of Southern Europe. People who are so anxious to improve the shining hours for business purposes had much better curtail the number of their meals; take a vote among the juvenile operatives of a cotton-factory, and ten to one that a large majority would gladly postpone, or even renounce, their dinner for the privilege of sleeping an hour or two between 1 and 3 p. m. A Belgian silk manufacturer, who had spent his own boyhood at the loom, told me that he could never find it in his heart to discharge a factory-child for dozing over its work.

Necessity may compel individuals to compromise such matters. If