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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/617

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ther aggravate the evil, each night generally undoes the mischief of the day; the child becomes plethoric with fat; Nature has shifted the burden from the vital organs to the tegumental tissues, and in hopes of final relief manages to hold the fort of life against daily and complicated attacks. Relief comes at last when the nursling is weaned and reduced from ten or twelve to three meals a day. The aftereffects of medication may retard recovery for a while, but, the main cause being removed, the morbid symptoms disappear in the course of four or five months.

A less frequent but (through gross maltreatment) often more dangerous disease is scrofula, the cachectic degeneration of the humors resulting from the combined influence of unwholesome food and foul air. In the rural districts of our milk and corn-bread States scrofulous children are as rare as white wolves in the tropics; in Northern Europe the disease is now far less prevalent than formerly; and the operatives of our large cities, in spite of their wretched habitations, might avoid it altogether, or at least obviate its more serious consequences, but for the fatuous quackery which so often turns a transient skin-disease into a chronic lung-complaint. In the middle ages, when science was at its lowest ebb and supernaturalism in full tide, the "king's-evil" was considered an almost unavoidable disease, resisting all common remedies and yielding only to the mandate of royalty—the touch of a legitimate king, supplemented by the mandamus of a clerical exorcist. In the fifteenth century from eight to twelve thousand families per year performed long journeys to the English capital; Charles II, in the course of his reign, touched near a hundred thousand persons. The days on which the miracle was to be wrought were solemnly notified by the clergy of all parish churches (Macaulay's "History of England," Chapter XIY). Traveling was expensive in those days, and, scrofula being distinctively a disease of the poor, nine out of ten patients of the royal doctor had probably come "afoot, and often from distances which suggest the explanation of the marvelous cures: the pilgrims left the pest-air of their hovels behind, and Nature availed herself of the respite, as she improves a temporary change from city fumes to the woodland air of some rural retreat whose salubriousness is ascribed to the accidental presence of a nauseous sulphur-spring—the one abnormal thing about the place. The king's-evil patients, as well as the exorcists, ascribed the cure to what Dr. Joel Brown called the charisma basilicon—the healing touch of the Lord's anointed—in other words, they believed that the cure of a Yorkshire man's disease depended upon the chance of the Yorkshire man's coming in contact with a Londoner who, perhaps ten or twenty years ago, had undergone the rites of a certain ceremony. Imagination probably helped a little, for after the spread of skepticism "perfect cures became much less frequent," as Dr. Brown naïvely remarks. The charisma basilicon has now fallen into utter discredit, but our