Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/206

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symptoms of the decline have assumed the chronic form, before the process of digestion becomes utterly deranged, before the impoverishment of the blood results in dropsy and a livid discoloration of the lips, while the patient has intervals of sound sleep and sound appetite, and strength enough left to walk a couple of miles—there is more than an even chance that the disease can be permanently cured. One memento only of its ravages will remain—the acceleration of the breathing-process whenever the convalescent engages in active exercise. But even that inconvenience can be diminished by a system of training that will gradually inure the lungs to the strain of the ordinary movements and exertions of daily life: namely, by walking up-hill (or upstairs) with a load of daily increasing weight. After two months or so it will take two scuttles full of coal to produce the panting and gasping which used to result from a small pailful of water, and the mere weight of the body will seem barely sufficient to indicate the difference between a rough mountain-trail and a graded pike-road.

A few years ago an emaciated Canadian miner came South for his health, and located a small placer-claim on the plateau of the "Fort Mountain," in Murray County, Georgia. The mountain is a mile high, and the up-trip with a few dozen eggs from the next valley farm obliged the miner to stop every few minutes to keep his chest from bursting, but before the end of the year he was able to make the same trip, without a stop, with a bushel-bag full of corn-meal. The waste from the corrosions of the tubercle-virus can perhaps never be repaired, but the healthy tissue of the remaining portion of the lung is susceptible both of expansion and invigoration. The lungs expand and contract with the chest. If three sisters marry on the same day—the first a ferryman, and learns to row a boat; the second a tailor, and takes to tight-lacing; the third a grocer, and tends his shop—an autopsy would show that in twenty years after their separation the ferrywoman's lungs have grown fifty per cent larger than the shopkeeper's, and fully twice as large as the dressmaker's.

But few consumptives ever outgrow the sensitiveness of their lungs, and must beware of contagion, avoid crowded meetings and lectures, and rather offend Mrs. Grundy than prolong their visits to a catarrh-infected house. Thoroughly healed though reduced lungs (reduced often to two thirds of their original size) will perform their functions in a sufficient manner for a long series of years. With the above-named precautions and a nutritive but strictly non-stimulating diet, there is no reason why a convalescent from pulmonary scrofula in its most unmistakable form should not enjoy an out-door festival in honor of his eightieth birthday. It is well known that in the deliquium of pulmonary consumption, in the stage of violent haemorrhages and dropsical swellings, the confidence of the patient often gives way to gloomy forebodings—the harbingers of the long night that never fails to cast its shadows before. But this despondency