Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/327

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13
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

meal. Not only that the progress of digestion is thus interrupted, not only that the body derives no strength from the inert mass of ingesta, but that mass, by undergoing a putrid instead of peptic decomposition, vitiates the humors of the system it was intended to nourish, irritates the sensitive membranes of the stomach, and gradually impairs the vigor of the whole digestive apparatus. Hence the gastric torments of poor overworked teachers, who (unlike happier servants of the public) can not shirk their work, and have to snatch their dinner during a brief interval of the hardest kind of mental drudgery. Hence the sallow complexion, the hollow eyes, and the weary gait of thousands of city clerks, scholars, lawyers, newspaper drudges, and even physicians. Housewives, after dinner, have generally the good sense to rest awhile, often a very good while, and thus manage to digest their food; for, that their immunity is not a prerogative of their sex is demonstrated by the chlorotic complexion of lady-teachers and boarding-school girls, who have only an hour's recess—physiologically no recess at all, if the school-bell rings right after dinner.

For those who have to drudge the whole afternoon, it would be better to postpone the principal meal to the very end of the day, and laugh at the supposed danger of "sleeping on a full stomach." For what do those who add a supper to an undigested dinner? only with this difference, that their stomachs are obliged to dispose of an acidulated mélange. Animals, in a state of nature, nearly always sleep or rest after a heavy meal; only the homo sapiens disregards the promptings of his instincts, and relies on a dyspepsia-pill.

In most cases, however, the matter could be compromised. Early rising and an unmuddled brain would enable almost any man to go home at 3 or 4 p. m., and counting-house clerks should consent to a reduction of their wages rather than forego the same privilege; at five, a full meal of milk, farinaceous preparations, and nutritive vegetables, followed by a dessert of fresh or cooked fruit; then a siesta of two full hours, music, conversation, or, faute de mieux, an entertaining book; then, the weather permitting, a ramble in the cool evening air, or light gymnastics; then rest in undress, an air-bath, and open bedroom-windows.

The general adoption of that plan would soon dissipate a strange and strangely prevalent fallacy: the supposed natural antagonism of the brain and the stomach—the alleged impossibility of combining studious habits with a sound digestion. Restricted to proper hours, head-work is as stimulating as any other kind of labor, and promotes digestion instead of hindering it. The nature-abiding habits of such men as Boileau, Linnæus, Cuvier, Goethe, and Humboldt, enabled them to reconcile the mental strain of their enormous literary activity with the enjoyment of almost uninterrupted health.

Dyspeptics, therefore, need not shirk brain-work, but, as they would shun the pills of a mercury-quack, they should beware of