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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/354

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

pork-fritters, generally result in apocalyptic visions, and an eel-pie for supper is a reliable receipt for a first-class nightmare. Vivid dreams, per se, however, are by no means a morbid symptom; on the contrary, the scenes of the slumber-drama are most lively and lifelike in the happiest years of childhood; and I remember a time when I longed for the bed-hour, in anticipation of a pleasant dream-land excursion. Children are apt to relate their trance adventures, and I would encourage the habit; dreams, as the elder Pliny already observes, may often afford a suggestive insight into the ethical condition of the mind; also into the condition of the stomach. Melodramatic incidents indicate the presence of irritating ingesta, and the least attempt at clairvoyance calls for out-door exercise and an aperient diet. A South-German feather-bed is a Trophonian cave; the difficulty of turning from side to side crowds the brain with alarming phantasms, and the excessive warmth of the thing itself is apt to affect the imagination. The best bed is, indeed, a hard, broad mattress, or a well-stuffed straw tick, and, for reasons I have stated in the chapter on "In-door Life" a woolen blanket over a linen bed-sheet is preferable to a quilt. Those who find it uncomfortable to sleep in an absolutely horizontal position should slightly raise the head-end of the bedstead rather than use a thick bolster. A thick pillow bends the head upon the breast, or keeps the neck in a position that aggravates the distress of respiratory difficulties. Woven-wire mattresses recommend themselves by their cleanliness and durability; their elastic qualities alone would hardly justify a great expense, though luxury has even devised an "hydrostatic bed," a trough of water with a tegument of caoutchouc. History records the name of the Sybarite who "cried aloud because a leaflet of his flower-mattress got crumpled"; and Chevalier Luckner, the Russian Lucullus, built himself an air-pillow bed on noiseless wheels, that could be turned by a hand-lever, in order to move the sleeping-car from or toward the stove, the aphelion and perihelion being determined by the state of the out-door atmosphere. Such chevaliers deserve the penance of Ezekiel (iv, 3-6), who had to lie three hundred and ninety days on his left side for the iniquity of the house of Israel, and forty days extra for the iniquity of the house of Judah. A weary head needs no air-cushions, with noiseless wheel-attachments; brakesmen take their intermittent naps on the hard caboose-bunk of a rumbling freight-train; and the log of the Royal Sovereign records that, during the heat of the battle of the Nile, some of the over-fatigued boys fell asleep upon the deck.

The habit of going to sleep at fixed hours can overcome the tortures of neuralgia, and some practical stoics have manifested a not less astonishing command over their mental emotions; Napoleon I slept soundly on the eve of the battle he knew to be his last chance, like Mohammed II before his last neck-or-nothing assault upon the ramparts of Constantinople. Army-life can acquaint a man with