Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/472

This page has been validated.
456
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

one's bedclothing; and even nervous ladies will resist the temptation to cover up their faces, if they find how soon the wonted morning languor gives way to the influence of Nature's restorative. Those who dislike to risk the discomfort of initiation before ascertaining the value of the remedy can make another test-experiment: After a summer excursion, when fatigue and early rising enable anybody to sleep soundly in an open tent, the first few nights after returning home will be a favorable time for defying the night air superstition and sleeping, perhaps with slight qualms of the old prejudice, but without the least bodily discomfort, on a balcony or in an open hall, with open windows on all sides. After a week, transfer the couch to the old airtight bedroom, and note the result: All the next forenoon a queer feeling of discomfort, as after a prolonged exposure to the fumes of a smoky kitchen, will illustrate the difference between natural and unnatural modes of life. To persons who have thus emancipated themselves from the delusions of the night-air dread, the atmosphere of a close bedroom is oppressive enough to spoil the night's rest and bring on a relapse of many of the distressing concomitants of nervous insomnia. A slight elevation of the window-sash will remedy the evil, and we might expatiate upon the correlation between the nerve-centers and the respiratory apparatus of the human body, but the plain ultimate reason is that the organism has been restored to an essential element of its original existence.

Jacob Engel has a story of a splenetic student who composed his own funeral dirge, with a lugubrious list of the sorrows from which he anticipated demise would liberate his soul. On discovering the lyric, his father ordered him to excavate a gravel-bank for a family vault, as none of his relatives could be expected to survive his untimely fate. The prescription proved a success, and a few weeks later Heraclitus Junior was caught writing sonnets to the hired girl. Want of exercise is, indeed, a most fruitful cause of nervous maladies. Our Darwinian relatives, creatures so similar to us in the structure of every muscle, every joint and sinew of their bodies, are the most restless habitants of the woods. "It makes one dizzy to watch the evolutions of the long-armed gibbons," Victor Jacquemont writes from the Nerbudda; "the first one I saw made me think that he was suffering from an acute attack of St. Vitus's fits, but I have found out that it is a chronic disease. They keep moving while the sun is in sight." Savages alternate their wigwam holiday with periods of prodigious exertion, and an occasional mountain tour would atone for a good many days of city life, but hardly for weeks of sedentary occupation. Without at least one hour per day of active out-door exercise, no native strength of constitution can resist the morbific influences of stagnant humors. Of the immortal soul's dependence upon the conditions of the body there are few stranger illustrations than the psychic influence of narcotic drugs. A mere indigestion can temporarily meta-