Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/319

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But their descendants finally solved that problem. To the alcoholic stimulants of the ancients we have added tea, coffee, tobacco, absinthe, chloral, opium, and pungent spices. Every year increases the number of our elaborately unwholesome-made dishes, and decreases our devotion to the field-sports that helped our forefathers to digest their boar-steaks. We have no time to masticate our food; we bolt it, and grumble if we can not bolt it smoking hot. The competition of our domestic and public kitchens tempts us to eat three full meals a day, and two of them at a time when the exigencies of our business-routine leave us no leisure for digestion. At night, when the opportunity for that leisure arrives, we counteract the efforts of the digestive apparatus by hot stove-fires and stifling bedrooms. Since the beginning of the commercial-epicurean age of the nineteenth century the votaries of fashion have persistently vied in compelling their stomachs to dispose of the largest possible amount of the most indigestible food under the least favorable circumstances.

That persistence has at last exhausted the self-regulating resources of our digestive organs. But even after such provocations the stomach does not strike work without repeated warning's. The first omen of the wrath to come is the morning languor, the hollow-eyed lassitude which proves that the arduous labor of the assimilative organs has made the night the most fatiguing part of the twenty-four hours. The expression of the face becomes haggard and sallow. The tongue feels gritty, the palate parched, in spite of the restless activity of the salivary glands, which every now and then try to respond to the appeals of the distressed stomach. Gastric acidity betrays itself by many disagreeable symptoms; loss of appetite, however, marks a later stage of the malady. For years the infinite patience of Nature labors every night to undo the mischief of every day, and before noon the surfeited organs again report ready for duty. Habitual excess in eating and drinking sometimes begets an unnatural appetency that enables the glutton to indulge his penchant to the last, only with this difference, that the relish for special kinds of food has changed into a vague craving for repletion, just as the fondness for a special stimulant is apt to turn into a chronic poison-hunger. This craving after engorgement forms a distinctive symptom of plethoric dyspepsia, but even in the first stage of asthenic or nervous dyspepsia the hankering after food is not hunger proper, but a nervous uneasiness, suggesting the idea that a good meal would, somehow, supply the means of relief. The first full meal, however, entails penalties which the sufferer would gladly exchange for the less positive discomfort of the morning. Instinct fails to keep its promise, as a proof that Nature has been supplanted by a deceptive second-nature. Headache, heart-burn, eructations, humming in the ears, nausea, vertigo, and gastric spasms, make the after-dinner hour "the saddest of the sad twenty-four": a dull mist of discontent broods over the whole afternoon, and yields only to tea