– SUFFERINGS OF GEORGE AND HARRIS.
– A VICTIM TO ONE HUNDRED
AND SEVEN FATAL MALADIES.
– USEFUL PRESCRIPTIONS.
– CURE FOR LIVER COMPLAINT IN
– WE AGREE THAT WE ARE OVERWORKED, AND NEED REST.
– A WEEK ON THE ROLLING
DEEP? – GEORGE SUGGESTS THE RIVER.
– MONTMORENCY LODGES AN OBJECTION.
MOTION CARRIED BY MAJORITY OF THREE TO ONE.
THERE were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.
We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were – bad from
a medical point of view I mean, of course.
We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris
said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he
hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that HE had fits of giddiness
too, and hardly knew what HE was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of
order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading
a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which
a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.
It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement
without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular
disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every
case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some
slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the
book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned
the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was
the first distemper I plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know –
and, before I had glanced half down the list of ''premonitory symptoms,'' it was
borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.
I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair,
I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered
that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered
what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus's Dance – found, as I expected, that I
had that too, – began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to
the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was
sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight.
Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so
far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications;
and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through
the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's
I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight.
Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while,
however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known
malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without
housemaid's knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized
me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with
from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was
nothing else the matter with me.
I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical
point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no
need to ''walk the hospitals,'' if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All
they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.
Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my
pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed
to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven
to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped
beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been
there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted
myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a
bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear
anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go,
and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the
tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than
before that I had scarlet fever.
I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit
I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse, and
looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I'm
ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to him now. ''What a doctor
wants,'' I said, ''is practice. He shall have me. He will get more practice out
of me than out of seventeen hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with
only one or two diseases each.'' So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:
''Well, what's the matter with you?''
''I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the matter
with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will
tell you what is NOT the matter with me. I have not got housemaid's knee. Why I
have not got housemaid's knee, I cannot tell you; but the fact remains that I have
not got it. Everything else, however, I HAVE got.''
And I told him how I came to discover it all.
Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and then
he hit me over the chest when I wasn't expecting it – a cowardly thing to do, I
call it – and immediately afterwards butted me with the side of his head. After
that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me,
and I put it in my pocket and went out.
I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist's, and handed it in. The
man read it, and then handed it back.
He said he didn't keep it.
''You are a chemist?''
''I am a chemist. If I was a co-operative stores and family hotel combined, I
might be able to oblige you. Being only a chemist hampers me.''
I read the prescription. It ran:
''1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours. 1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night. And don't stuff up your head with things you don't
I followed the directions, with the happy result – speaking for myself – that my
life was preserved, and is still going on.
In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms,
beyond all mistake, the chief among them being ''a general disinclination to work
of any kind.''
What I suffer in that way no tongue can tell. From my earliest infancy I have
been a martyr to it. As a boy, the disease hardly ever left me for a day. They did
not know, then, that it was my liver. Medical science was in a far less advanced
state than now, and they used to put it down to laziness.
''Why, you skulking little devil, you,'' they would say, ''get up and do something
for your living, can't you?'' – not knowing, of course, that I was ill.
And they didn't give me pills; they gave me clumps on the side of the head. And,
strange as it may appear, those clumps on the head often cured me – for the time
being. I have known one clump on the head have more effect upon my liver, and make
me feel more anxious to go straight away then and there, and do what was wanted
to be done, without further loss of time, than a whole box of pills does now.
You know, it often is so – those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes
more efficacious than all the dispensary stuff.
We sat there for half-an-hour, describing to each other our maladies. I explained
to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William
Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George stood on the hearth-rug,
and gave us a clever and powerful piece of acting, illustrative of how he felt in
George FANCIES he is ill; but there's never anything really the matter with him,
At this point, Mrs. Poppets knocked at the door to know if we were ready for
supper. We smiled sadly at one another, and said we supposed we had better try to
swallow a bit. Harris said a little something in one's stomach often kept the disease
in check; and Mrs. Poppets brought the tray in, and we drew up to the table, and
toyed with a little steak and onions, and some rhubarb tart.
I must have been very weak at the time; because I know, after the first half-hour
or so, I seemed to take no interest whatever in my food – an unusual thing for me
– and I didn't want any cheese.
This duty done, we refilled our glasses, lit our pipes, and resumed the discussion
upon our state of health. What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none
of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it – whatever it was
– had been brought on by overwork.
''What we want is rest,'' said Harris.
''Rest and a complete change,'' said George. ''The overstrain upon our brains
has produced a general depression throughout the system. Change of scene, and absence
of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium.''
George has a cousin, who is usually described in the charge-sheet as a medical
student, so that he naturally has a somewhat family-physicianary way of putting
I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and
old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its
drowsy lanes – some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach
of the noisy world – some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence
the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint.
Harris said he thought it would be humpy. He said he knew the sort of place I
meant; where everybody went to bed at eight o'clock, and you couldn't get a REFEREE
for love or money, and had to walk ten miles to get your baccy.
''No,'' said Harris, ''if you want rest and change, you can't beat a sea trip.''
I objected to the sea trip strongly. A sea trip does you good when you are going
to have a couple of months of it, but, for a week, it is wicked.
You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going
to enjoy yourself. You wave an airy adieu to the boys on shore, light your biggest
pipe, and swagger about the deck as if you were Captain Cook, Sir Francis Drake,
and Christopher Columbus all rolled into one. On Tuesday, you wish you hadn't come.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you wish you were dead. On Saturday, you are
able to swallow a little beef tea, and to sit up on deck, and answer with a wan,
sweet smile when kind-hearted people ask you how you feel now. On Sunday, you begin
to walk about again, and take solid food. And on Monday morning, as, with your bag
and umbrella in your hand, you stand by the gunwale, waiting to step ashore, you
begin to thoroughly like it.
I remember my brother-in-law going for a short sea trip once, for the benefit
of his health. He took a return berth from London to Liverpool; and when he got
to Liverpool, the only thing he was anxious about was to sell that return ticket.
It was offered round the town at a tremendous reduction, so I am told; and was
eventually sold for eighteenpence to a bilious-looking youth who had just been advised
by his medical men to go to the sea-side, and take exercise.
''Sea-side!'' said my brother-in-law, pressing the ticket affectionately into
his hand; ''why, you'll have enough to last you a lifetime; and as for exercise!
why, you'll get more exercise, sitting down on that ship, than you would turning
somersaults on dry land.''
He himself – my brother-in-law – came back by train. He said the North– Western
Railway was healthy enough for him.
Another fellow I knew went for a week's voyage round the coast, and, before they
started, the steward came to him to ask whether he would pay for each meal as he
had it, or arrange beforehand for the whole series.
The steward recommended the latter course, as it would come so much cheaper.
He said they would do him for the whole week at two pounds five. He said for breakfast
there would be fish, followed by a grill. Lunch was at one, and consisted of four
courses. Dinner at six – soup, fish, entree, joint, poultry, salad, sweets, cheese,
and dessert. And a light meat supper at ten.
My friend thought he would close on the two-pound-five job (he is a hearty eater),
and did so.
Lunch came just as they were off Sheerness. He didn't feel so hungry as he thought
he should, and so contented himself with a bit of boiled beef, and some strawberries
and cream. He pondered a good deal during the afternoon, and at one time it seemed
to him that he had been eating nothing but boiled beef for weeks, and at other times
it seemed that he must have been living on strawberries and cream for years.
Neither the beef nor the strawberries and cream seemed happy, either – seemed
At six, they came and told him dinner was ready. The announcement aroused no
enthusiasm within him, but he felt that there was some of that two-pound-five to
be worked off, and he held on to ropes and things and went down. A pleasant odour
of onions and hot ham, mingled with fried fish and greens, greeted him at the bottom
of the ladder; and then the steward came up with an oily smile, and said: