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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/60

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the Second Zouaves, was one night awakened by the growling of his spaniel, and thought he saw something like the form of a man crawling out of his tent. The next day the captain informed the company that some fellow had entered the hospital-camp with burglarious intent, and that he had instructed the sentries to arrest or shoot all nocturnal trespassers. About a week after, the doctor was again awakened by his dog, and, lighting a match, he distinguished the figure of a large man crawling from under his table and carrying in his hand a box or a big book. He called upon him to stop, cocking his pistol at the same time, but the fellow made a rush for the door, and in the next moment was floored by a ball that penetrated his skull two inches above the neck. He lived long enough to confess the motive of his desperate enterprise. His regiment had been stationed in Northern Algiers, where he learned to smoke opium, and having exhausted his supply, and his financial resources, as well as the patience of the hospital steward, who had at various times furnished him small doses of the drug, he felt that life was no longer worth living, and resolved to risk it in the attempt at abducting the doctor's medicine chest. What can exhortation avail against a passion of that sort? We should learn to treat it as the advanced stage of a physical disorder, rather than as a controvertible moral aberration.

And, even after the delirium of that disease has subsided, homilies should be preceded by an appeal to reason. Ignorance is a chief cause of intemperance. The seductions of vice would not mislead so many of our young men if they could realize the significance of their mistake. All the efforts of the Temperance party have thus far failed to eradicate the popular fallacy that there is some good in alcohol; that somehow or other the magic of a stimulating drug could procure its votaries an advantage not attainable by normal means. Nor is this delusion confined to the besotted victims of the poison-vice. Even among the enlightened classes of our population, nay, among the champions of temperance, there is still a lingering belief that, with due precaution against excess, adulteration, etc., a dram-drinker might "get ahead" of Nature, and, as it were, trick her out of some extra enjoyment.

There is no hope of a radical reform till an influential majority of all intelligent people have realized the fact that this trick is in every instance a losing game, entailing penalties which far outweigh the pleasures that the novice may mistake for gratuitous enjoyments, and by which the old habitué can gain only a temporary and qualified restoration of the happiness which his stimulant has first deprived him of. For the depression of the vital energy increases with every repetition of the stimulation-process, and in a year after the first dose all the "grateful and exhilarating tonics" of our professional poison-venders can not restore the vigor, the courage, and the cheerfulness which the mere consciousness of perfect health imparts to the total abstainer.