Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/505

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
489
THE REMEDIES OF NATURE.

enterprise; but, upon his return to his palatial residence at Bencoolen, he and all his household were prostrated by the jungle-fever, and, at the end of a life perhaps unequaled for successful activity, he found himself bankrupt, childless, and hopeless. At a time when beef or pork steaks and a bottle of porter were the essentials of a Christian breakfast, a vegetarian official of the East India Company might have defied ill-luck to outweigh the advantage of permanent good health where good health obtained the highest premium. Even now, by their obstinate adherence to their native diet, the British residents of the East Indies are almost decimated every year, especially where the zymotic tendency of that diet is aggravated by the effect of foul air.[1]

For on the other hand it is equally sure that strict attention to ventilation and a liberal use of cold air and sponge-baths will palliate the effects of many dietetic sins. The patient has either to adapt his diet to the temperature of the South, or adapt his temperature to the diet of the North. Experience has taught the Creoles to take things coolly. With all their excitable temperament, they avoid violent outbursts of passion; they do not overwork themselves; they preserve the even tenor of their way, even if they are behind time and know that their dinner is getting cold. And, above all, they indulge in liberal siestas. Hard work in the hot sun, with a stomach full of greasy viands, obliges the vital force to resist the triple fire of a furnace heated by the sun-rays, by exercise, and by calorific food. Brain-work, too, is apt, in hot weather, to exert an undue strain on the vital energies, and to complicate the difficulties of the digestive apparatus. Cold air is a peptic stimulant, but even in the North a man can not labor with his brain without impeding the labors of his stomach; but, in the languid atmosphere of a southern marsh-land, that impediment becomes an absolute prevention, and the brain-worker who eats for the purpose of nourishing his organism had better save his food for supper than oblige his stomach to carry it for half a day in an undigested condition. For during that half day putrescent decomposition anticipates the work of gastric disintegration; the ingesta ferment, catalytic humors pass into the circulation and prepare the way for the reception and development of zymotic germs from without. The hygienic alternative is, therefore, a long siesta, or a considerable postponement of the dinner-hour. South of Cape Hatteras, Nature exacts an account for every superfluous act that tends to raise the temperature of the system by a single degree. Keep cool becomes the first commandment of her sanitary code. He who scrupulously avoids anger, enthusiasm, and other calorific passions, who performs the prin-

  1. "In the [East Indian] jails under British control there are usually confined no fewer than 40,000 prisoners, and the average annual mortality of the whole was recently ten per cent, rising in some cases to twenty-six per cent, or more than one in four"(Dr. MacKinnon's "Treatise on the Public Health of Bengal," Cawnpore, 1848, chap. i).