Jesus, best comfort of my soul, Be thou my only love, My sacred saviour from my sins, My door to heaven above! O lofty goodness, love divine, Blest is the soul made one with thine!
Alas, how oft this sordid heart Hath wounded thy pure eye! Yet for this heart upon the cross Thou gav'st thyself to die!
Ah, would I were extended there, Upon that cold, hard tree, Where I have seen thee, gracious Lord, Breathe out thy life for me!
Cross of my Lord, give room! give room! To thee my flesh be given! Cleansed in thy fires of love and pain, My soul rise pure to heaven!
Burn in my heart, celestial flame, With memories of him, Till, from earth's dross refined, I rise To join the seraphim!
Ah, vanish each unworthy trace Of earthly care or pride, Leave only, graven on my heart, The Cross, the Crucified! ]
As the monk sang, his soul seemed to fuse itself into the sentiment with that natural grace peculiar to his nation. He walked up and down the little garden, apparently forgetful of Agnes or of any earthly presence, and in the last verses stretched his hands towards heaven with streaming tears and a fervor of utterance indescribable.
The soft and passionate tenderness of the Italian words must exhale in an English translation, but enough may remain to show that the hymns with which Savonarola at this time sowed the mind of Italy often mingled the Moravian quaintness and energy with the Wesleyan purity and tenderness. One of the great means of popular reform which he proposed was the supplanting of the obscene and licentious songs, which at that time so generally defiled the minds of the young, by religious words and melodies. The children and young people brought up under his influence were sedulously stored with treasures of sacred melody, as the safest companions of leisure hours, and the surest guard against temptation.
"Come now, my little one," said the monk, after they had ceased singing, as he laid his hand on Agnes's head. "I am strong now; I know where I stand. And you, my little one, you are one of my master's 'Children of the Cross.' You must sing the hymns of our dear master, that I have taught you, when I am far away. A hymn is a singing angel, and goes walking through the earth, scattering the devils before it. Therefore he who creates hymns imitates the most excellent and lovely works of our Lord God, who made the angels. These hymns watch our chamber-door, they sit upon our pillow, they sing to us when we awake; and therefore our master was resolved to sow the minds of his young people with them, as our lovely Italy is sown with the seeds of all colored flowers. How lovely has it often been to me, as I sat at my work in Florence, to hear the little children go by, chanting of Jesus and Mary,—and young men singing to young maidens, not vain flatteries of their beauty, but the praises of the One only Beautiful, whose smile sows heaven with stars like flowers! Ah, in my day I have seen blessed times in Florence! Truly was she worthy to be called the Lily City!—for all her care seemed to be to make white her garments to receive her Lord and Bridegroom. Yes, though she had sinned like the Magdalen, yet she loved much, like her. She washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. Oh, my beautiful Florence, be true to thy vows, be true to thy Lord and Governor, Jesus Christ, and all shall be well!"
"Amen, dear uncle!" said Agnes. "I will not fail to pray day and night, that thus it may be. And now, if you must travel so far, you must go to rest. Grandmamma has gone long ago. I saw her steal by as we were singing."
"And is there any message from my little Agnes to this young man?" asked the monk.
"Yes. Say to him that Agnes prays daily that he may be a worthy son and soldier of the Lord Jesus."
"Amen, sweet heart! Jesu and His sweet Mother bless thee!"
* * * * *
A NEW COUNTERBLAST
"He that taketh tobacco saith he cannot leave it, it doth bewitch him."—KING JAMES'S COUNTERBLAST TO TOBACCO.
America is especially responsible to the whole world for tobacco, since the two are twin-sisters, born to the globe in a day. The sailors first sent on shore by Columbus came back with news of a new continent and a new condiment. There was solid land, and there was a novel perfume, which rolled in clouds from the lips of the natives. The fame of the two great discoveries instantly began to overspread the world; but the smoke travelled fastest, as is its nature. There are many races which have not yet heard of America: there are very few which have not yet tasted of tobacco. A plant which was originally the amusement of a few savage tribes has become in a few centuries the fancied necessary of life to the most enlightened nations of the earth, and it is probable that there is nothing cultivated by man which is now so universally employed.
And the plant owes this width of celebrity to a combination of natural qualities so remarkable as to yield great diversities of good and evil fame. It was first heralded as a medical panacea, "the most sovereign and precious weed that ever the earth tendered to the use of man," and was seldom mentioned, in the sixteenth century, without some reverential epithet. It was a plant divine, a canonized vegetable. Each nation had its own pious name to bestow upon it. The French called it herbe sainte, herbe sacree, herbe propre a tous maux, panacee antarctique,—the Italians, herba santa croce,—the Germans, heilig wundkraut. Botanists soberly classified it as herba panacea and herba sancta, and Gerard in his "Herbal" fixed its name finally as sana sancta Indorum, by which title it commonly appears in the professional recipes of the time. Spenser, in his "Faerie Queene," bids the lovely Belphoebe gather it as "divine tobacco," and Lilly the Euphuist calls it "our holy herb Nicotian," ranking it between violets and honey. It was cultivated in France for medicinal purposes solely, for half a century before any one there used it for pleasure, and till within the last hundred years it was familiarly prescribed, all over Europe, for asthma, gout, catarrh, consumption, headache; and, in short, was credited with curing more diseases than even the eighty-seven which Dr. Shew now charges it with producing.
So vast were the results of all this sanitary enthusiasm, that the use of tobacco in Europe probably reached its climax in a century or two, and has since rather diminished than increased, in proportion to the population. It probably appeared in England in 1586, being first used in the Indian fashion, by handing one pipe from man to man throughout the company; the medium of communication being a silver tube for the higher classes, and a straw and walnut-shell for the baser sort. Paul Hentzner, who travelled in England in 1598, and Monsieur Misson, who wrote precisely a century later, note almost in the same words "a perpetual use of tobacco"; and the latter suspects that this is what makes "the generality of Englishmen so taciturn, so thoughtful, and so melancholy." In Queen Elizabeth's time, the ladies of the court "would not scruple to blow a pipe together very socially." In 1614 it was asserted that tobacco was sold openly in more than seven thousand places in London, some of these being already attended by that patient Indian who still stands seductive at tobacconists' doors. It was also estimated that the annual receipts of these establishments amounted to more than three hundred thousand pounds. Elegant ladies had their pictures painted, at least one in 1650 did, with pipe and box in hand. Rochefort, a rather apocryphal French traveller in 1672, reported it to be the general custom in English homes to set pipes on the table in the evening for the females as well as males of the family, and to provide children's luncheon-baskets with a well-filled pipe, to be smoked at school, under the directing eye of the master. In 1703, Lawrence Spooner wrote that "the sin of the kingdom in the intemperate use of tobacco swelleth and increaseth so daily that I can compare it to nothing but the waters of Noah, that swelled fifteen cubits above the highest mountains." The deluge reached its height in England—so thinks the amusing and indefatigable Mr. Fairholt, author of "Tobacco and its Associations"—in the reign of Queen Anne. Steele, in the "Spectator," (1711,) describes the snuff-box as a rival to the fan among ladies; and Goldsmith pictures the belles at Bath as entering the water in full bathing costume, each provided with a small floating basket, to hold a snuff-box, a kerchief, and a nosegay. And finally, in 1797, Dr. Clarke complains of the handing about of the snuff-box in churches during worship, "to the great scandal of religious people,"—adding, that kneeling in prayer was prevented by the large quantity of saliva ejected in all directions. In view of such formidable statements as these, it is hardly possible to believe that the present generation surpasses or even equals the past in the consumption of tobacco.
And all this sudden popularity was in spite of a vast persecution which sought to unite all Europe against this indulgence, in the seventeenth century. In Russia, its use was punishable with amputation of the nose; in Berne, it ranked next to adultery among offences; Sandys, the traveller, saw a Turk led through the streets of Constantinople mounted backward on an ass with a tobacco-pipe thrust through his nose. Pope Urban VIII., in 1624, excommunicated those who should use it in churches, and Innocent XII., in 1690, echoed the same anathema. Yet within a few years afterwards travellers reported that same free use of snuff in Romish worship which still astonishes spectators. To see a priest, during the momentous ceremonial of High Mass, enliven the occasion by a voluptuous pinch, is a sight even more astonishing, though perhaps less disagreeable, than the well-used spittoon which decorates so many Protestant pulpits.
But the Protestant pulpits did their full share in fighting the habit, for a time at least. Among the Puritans, no man could use tobacco publicly, on penalty of a fine of two and sixpence, or in a private dwelling, if strangers were present; and no two could use it together. That iron pipe of Miles Standish, still preserved at Plymouth, must have been smoked in solitude or not at all. This strictness was gradually relaxed, however, as the clergy took up the habit of smoking; and I have seen an old painting, on the panels of an ancient parsonage in Newburyport, representing a jovial circle of portly divines sitting pipe in hand around a table, with the Latin motto, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity." Apparently the tobacco was one of the essentials, since there was unity respecting that. Furthermore, Captain Underhill, hero of the Pequot War, boasted to the saints of having received his assurance of salvation "while enjoying a pipe of that good creature, tobacco," "since when he had never doubted it, though he should fall into sin." But it is melancholy to relate that this fall did presently take place, in a very flagrant manner, and brought discredit upon tobacco conversions, as being liable to end in smoke.
Indeed, some of the most royal wills that ever lived in the world have measured themselves against the tobacco-plant and been defeated. Charles I. attempted to banish it, and in return the soldiers of Cromwell puffed their smoke contemptuously in his face, as he sat a prisoner in the guard-chamber. Cromwell himself undertook it, and Evelyn says that the troopers smoked in triumph at his funeral. Wellington tried it, and the artists caricatured him on a pipe's head with a soldier behind him defying with a whiff that imperial nose. Louis Napoleon is said to be now attempting it, and probably finds his subjects more ready to surrender the freedom of the press than of the pipe.
The more recent efforts against tobacco, like most arguments in which morals and physiology are mingled, have lost much of their effect through exaggeration. On both sides there has been enlisted much loose statement, with some bad logic. It is, for instance, unreasonable to hold up the tobacco-plant to general indignation because Linnaeus classed it with the natural order Luridae,—since he attributed the luridness only to the color of those plants, not to their character. It is absurd to denounce it as belonging to the poisonous nightshade tribe, when the potato and the tomato also appertain to that perilous domestic circle. It is hardly fair even to complain of it for yielding a poisonous oil, when these two virtuous plants—to say nothing of the peach and the almond—will under sufficient chemical provocation do the same thing. Two drops of nicotine will, indeed, kill a rabbit; but so, it is said, will two drops of solanine. Great are the resources of chemistry, and a well-regulated scientific mind can detect something deadly almost anywhere.
Nor is it safe to assume, as many do, that tobacco predisposes very powerfully to more dangerous dissipations. The non-smoking Saxons were probably far more intemperate in drinking than the modern English; and Lane, the best authority, points out that wine is now far less used by the Orientals than at the time of the "Arabian Nights," when tobacco had not been introduced. And in respect to yet more perilous sensual excesses, tobacco is now admitted, both by friends and foes, to be quite as much a sedative as a stimulant.
The point of objection on the ground of inordinate expense is doubtless better taken, and can be met only by substantial proof that the enormous outlay is a wise one. Tobacco may be "the anodyne of poverty," as somebody has said, but it certainly promotes poverty. This narcotic lulls to sleep all pecuniary economy. Every pipe may not, indeed, cost so much as that jewelled one seen by Dibdin in Vienna, which was valued at a thousand pounds; or even as the German meerschaum which was passed from mouth to mouth through a whole regiment of soldiers till it was colored to perfection, having never been allowed to cool,—a bill of one hundred pounds being ultimately rendered for the tobacco consumed. But how heedlessly men squander money on this pet luxury! By the report of the English University Commissioners, some ten years ago, a student's annual tobacco-bill often amounts to forty pounds. Dr. Solly puts thirty pounds as the lowest annual expenditure of an English smoker, and knows many who spend one hundred and twenty pounds, and one three hundred pounds a year, on tobacco alone. In this country the facts are hard to obtain, but many a man smokes twelve four-cent cigars a day, and many a man four twelve-cent cigars,—spending in either case about half a dollar a day and not far from two hundred dollars per annum. An industrious mechanic earns his two dollars and fifty cents a day or a clerk his eight hundred dollars a year, spends a quarter of it on tobacco, and the rest on his wife, children, and miscellaneous expenses.
But the impotency which marks some of the stock arguments against tobacco extends to most of those in favor of it. My friend assures me that every one needs some narcotic, that the American brain is too active, and that the influence of tobacco is quieting,—great is the enjoyment of a comfortable pipe after dinner. I grant, on observing him at that period, that it appears so. But I also observe, that, when the placid hour has passed away, his nervous system is more susceptible, his hand more tremulous, his temper more irritable on slight occasions, than during the days when the comfortable pipe chances to be omitted. The only effect of the narcotic appears, therefore, to be a demand for another narcotic; and there seems no decided advantage over the life of the birds and bees, who appear to keep their nervous systems in tolerably healthy condition with no narcotic at all.
The argument drawn from a comparison of races is no better. Germans are vigorous and Turks are long-lived, and they are all great smokers. But certainly the Germans do not appear so vivacious, nor the Turks so energetic, as to afford triumphant demonstrations in behalf of the sacred weed. Moreover, the Eastern tobacco is as much milder than ours as are the Continental wines than even those semi-alcoholic mixtures which prevail at scrupulous communion-tables. And as for German health, Dr. Schneider declares, in the London "Lancet," that it is because of smoke that all his educated countrymen wear spectacles, that an immense amount of consumption is produced in Germany by tobacco, and that English insurance companies are proverbially cautious in insuring German lives. Dr. Carlyon gives much the same as his observation in Holland. These facts may be overstated, but they are at least as good as those which they answer.
Not much better is the excuse alleged in the social and genial influences of tobacco. It certainly seems a singular way of opening the lips for conversation by closing them on a pipe-stem, and it would rather appear as if Fate designed to gag the smokers and let the non-smokers talk. But supposing it otherwise, does it not mark a condition of extreme juvenility in our social development, if no resources of intellect can enable a half-dozen intelligent men to be agreeable to each other, without applying the forcing process, by turning the room into an imperfectly organized chimney? Brilliant women can be brilliant without either wine or tobacco, and Napoleon always maintained that without an admixture of feminine wit conversation grew tame. Are all male beings so much stupider by nature than the other sex, that men require stimulants and narcotics to make them mutually endurable?
And as the conversational superiorities of woman disprove the supposed social inspirations of tobacco, so do her more refined perceptions yet more emphatically pronounce its doom. Though belles of the less mature description, eulogistic of sophomores, may stoutly profess that they dote on the Virginian perfume, yet cultivated womanhood barely tolerates the choicest tobacco-smoke, even in its freshness, and utterly recoils from the stale suggestions of yesterday. By whatever enthusiasm misled, she finds something abhorrent in the very nature of the thing. In vain did loyal Frenchmen baptize the weed as the queen's own favorite, Herba Catherinae Medicae; it is easier to admit that Catherine de' Medici was not feminine than that tobacco is. Man also recognizes the antagonism; there is scarcely a husband in America who would not be converted from smoking, if his wife resolutely demanded her right of moiety in the cigar-box. No Lady Mary, no loveliest Marquise, could make snuff-taking beauty otherwise than repugnant to this generation. Rustic females who habitually chew even pitch or spruce-gum are rendered thereby so repulsive that the fancy refuses to pursue the horror farther and imagine it tobacco; and all the charms of the veil and the fan can scarcely reconcile the most fumacious American to the cigarrito of the Spanish fair. How strange seems Parton's picture of General Jackson puffing his long clay pipe on one side of the fireplace and Mrs. Jackson puffing hers on the other! No doubt, to the heart of the chivalrous backwoodsman those smoke-dried lips were yet the altar of early passion,—as that rather ungrammatical tongue was still the music of the spheres; but the unattractiveness of that conjugal counterblast is Nature's own protest against smoking.
The use of tobacco must, therefore, be held to mark a rather coarse and childish epoch in our civilization, if nothing worse. Its most ardent admirer hardly paints it into his picture of the Golden Age. It is difficult to associate it with one's fancies of the noblest manhood, and Miss Muloch reasonably defies the human imagination to portray Shakspeare or Dante with pipe in mouth. Goethe detested it; so did Napoleon, save in the form of snuff, which he apparently used on Talleyrand's principle, that diplomacy was impossible without it. Bacon said, "Tobacco-smoking is a secret delight serving only to steal away men's brains." Newton abstained from it: the contrary is often claimed, but thus says his biographer, Brewster,—saying that "he would make no necessities to himself." Franklin says he never used it, and never met with one of its votaries who advised him to follow the example. John Quincy Adams used it in early youth, and after thirty years of abstinence said, that, if every one would try abstinence for three months, it would annihilate the practice, and add five years to the average length of human life.
In attempting to go beyond these general charges of waste and foolishness, and to examine the physiological results of the use of tobacco, one is met by the contradictions and perplexities which haunt all such inquiries. Doctors, of course, disagree, and the special cases cited triumphantly by either side are ruled out as exceptional by the other. It is like the question of the precise degree of injury done by alcoholic drinks. To-day's newspaper writes the eulogy of A.B., who recently died at the age of ninety-nine, without ever tasting ardent spirits; to-morrow's will add the epitaph of C.D., aged one hundred, who has imbibed a quart of rum a day since reaching the age of indiscretion; and yet, after all, both editors have to admit that the drinking usages of society are growing decidedly more decent. It is the same with the tobacco argument. Individual cases prove nothing either way; there is such a range of vital vigor in different individuals, that one may withstand a life of error, and another perish in spite of prudence. The question is of the general tendency. It is not enough to know that Dr. Parr smoked twenty pipes in an evening, and lived to be seventy-eight; that Thomas Hobbes smoked thirteen, and survived to ninety-two; that Brissiac of Trieste died at one hundred and sixteen, with a pipe in his mouth; and that Henry Hartz of Schleswig used tobacco steadily from the age of sixteen to one hundred and forty-two; nor would any accumulation of such healthy old sinners prove anything satisfactory. It seems rather overwhelming, to be sure, when Mr. Fairholt assures us that his respected father "died at the age of seventy-two: he had been twelve hours a day in a tobacco-manufactory for nearly fifty years; and he both smoked and chewed while busy in the labors of the workshop, sometimes in a dense cloud of steam from drying the damp tobacco over the stoves; and his health and appetite were perfect to the day of his death: he was a model of muscular and stomachic energy; in which his son, who neither smokes, snuffs, nor chews, by no means rivals him." But until we know precisely what capital of health the venerable tobacconist inherited from his fathers, and in what condition he transmitted it to his sons, the statement certainly has two edges.
For there are facts equally notorious on the other side. It is not denied that it is found necessary to exclude tobacco, as a general rule, from insane asylums, or that it produces, in extreme cases, among perfectly sober persons, effects akin to delirium tremens. Nor is it denied that terrible local diseases follow it,—as, for instance, cancer of the mouth, which has become, according to the eminent surgeon, Brouisson, the disease most dreaded in the French hospitals. He has performed sixty-eight operations for this, within fourteen years, in the Hospital St. Eloi, and traces it entirely to the use of tobacco. Such facts are chiefly valuable as showing the tendency of the thing. Where the evils of excess are so glaring, the advantages of even moderate use are questionable. Where weak persons are made insane, there is room for suspicion that the strong may suffer unconsciously. You may say that the victims must have been constitutionally nervous; but where is the native-born American who is not?
In France and England the recent inquiries into the effects of tobacco seem to have been a little more systematic than our own. In the former country, the newspapers state, the attention of the Emperor was called to the fact that those pupils of the Polytechnic School who used this indulgence were decidedly inferior in average attainments to the rest. This is stated to have led to its prohibition in the school, and to the forming of an anti-tobacco organization, which is said to be making great progress in France. I cannot, however, obtain from any of our medical libraries any satisfactory information as to the French agitation, and am led by private advices to believe that even these general statements are hardly trustworthy. The recent English discussions are, however, more easy of access.
"The Great Tobacco Question," as the controversy in England was called, originated in a Clinical Lecture on Paralysis, by Mr. Solly, Surgeon of St. Thomas's Hospital, which was published in the "Lancet," December 13, 1856. He incidentally spoke of tobacco as an important source of this disease, and went on to say,—"I know of no single vice which does so much harm as smoking. It is a snare and a delusion. It soothes the excited nervous system at the time, to render it more irritable and feeble ultimately. It is like opium in this respect; and if you want to know all the wretchedness which this drug can produce, you should read the 'Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.'" This statement was presently echoed by J. Ranald Martin, an eminent surgeon, "whose Eastern experience rendered his opinion of immense value," and who used language almost identical with that of Mr. Solly:—"I can state of my own observation, that the miseries, mental and bodily, which I have witnessed from the abuse of cigar-smoking, far exceed anything detailed in the 'Confessions of an Opium-Eater.'"
This led off a controversy which continued for several months in the columns of the "Lancet,"—a controversy conducted in a wonderfully good-natured spirit, considering that more than fifty physicians took part in it, and that these were almost equally divided. The debate took a wide range, and some interesting facts were elicited: as that Lord Raglan, General Markham, and Admirals Dundas and Napier always abandoned tobacco from the moment when they were ordered on actual service; that nine-tenths of the first-class men at the Universities were non-smokers; that two Indian chiefs told Power, the actor, that "those Indians who smoked gave out soonest in the chase"; and so on. There were also American examples, rather loosely gathered: thus, a remark of the venerable Dr. Waterhouse, made many years ago, was cited as the contemporary opinion of "the Medical Professor in Harvard University"; also it was mentioned, as an acknowledged fact, that the American physique was rapidly deteriorating because of tobacco, and that coroners' verdicts were constantly being thus pronounced on American youths: "Died of excessive smoking." On the other hand, that eminent citizen of our Union, General Thomas Thumb, was about that time professionally examined in London, and his verdict on tobacco was quoted to be, that it was "one of his chief comforts"; also mention was made of a hapless quack who announced himself as coming from Boston, and who, to keep up the Yankee reputation, issued a combined advertisement of "medical advice gratis" and "prime cigars."
But these stray American instances were of course quite outnumbered by the English, and there is scarcely an ill which was not in this controversy charged upon tobacco by its enemies, nor a physical or moral benefit which was not claimed for it by its friends. According to these, it prevents dissension and dyspnoea, inflammation and insanity, saves the waste of tissue and of time, blunts the edge of grief and lightens pain. "No man was ever in a passion with a pipe in his mouth." There are more female lunatics chiefly because the fumigatory education of the fair sex has been neglected. Yet it is important to notice that these same advocates almost outdo its opponents in admitting its liability to misuse, and the perilous consequences. "The injurious effects of excessive smoking,"—"there is no more pitiable object than the inveterate smoker,"—"sedentary life is incompatible with smoking,"—highly pernicious,—general debility,—secretions all wrong,—cerebral softening,—partial paralysis,—trembling of the hand,—enervation and depression,—great irritability,—neuralgia, —narcotism of the heart: this Chamber of Horrors forms a part of the very Temple of Tobacco, as builded, not by foes, but by worshippers. "All men of observation and experience," they admit, "must be able to point to instances of disease and derangement from the abuse of this luxury." Yet they advocate it, as the same men advocate intoxicating drinks; not meeting the question, in either case, whether it be wise, or even generous, for the strong to continue an indulgence which is thus confessedly ruinous to the weak.
The controversy had its course, and ended, like most controversies, without establishing anything. The editor of the "Lancet," to be sure, summed up the evidence very fairly, and it is worth while to quote him:—"It is almost unnecessary to make a separate inquiry into the pathological conditions which follow upon excessive smoking. Abundant evidence has been adduced of the gigantic evils which attend the abuse of tobacco. Let it be granted at once that there is such a thing as moderate smoking, and let it be admitted that we cannot accuse tobacco of being guilty of the whole of Cullen's 'Nosology'; it still remains that there is a long catalogue of frightful penalties attached to its abuse." He then proceeds to consider what is to be called abuse: as, for instance, smoking more than one or two cigars or pipes daily,—smoking too early in the day or too early in life,—and in general, the use of tobacco by those with whom it does not agree,—which rather reminds one of the early temperance pledges, which bound a man to drink no more rum than he found to be good for him. But the Chief Justice of the Medical Court finally instructs his jury of readers that young men should give up a dubious pleasure for a certain good, and abandon tobacco altogether:—"Shun the habit of smoking as you would shun self-destruction. As you value your physical and moral well-being, avoid a habit which for you can offer no advantage to compare with the dangers you incur."
Yet, after all, neither he nor his witnesses seem fairly to have hit upon what seem to this present writer the two incontrovertible arguments against tobacco; one being drawn from theory, and the other from practice.
First, as to the theory of the thing. The laws of Nature warn every man who uses tobacco for the first time, that he is dealing with a poison. Nobody denies this attribute of the plant; it is "a narcotic poison of the most active class." It is not merely that a poison can by chemical process be extracted from it, but it is a poison in its simplest form. Its mere application to the skin has often produced uncontrollable nausea and prostration. Children have in several cases been killed by the mere application of tobacco ointment to the head. Soldiers have simulated sickness by placing it beneath the armpits,—though in most cases our regiments would probably consider this a mistaken application of the treasure. Tobacco, then, is simply and absolutely a poison.
Now to say that a substance is a poison is not to say that it inevitably kills; it may be apparently innocuous, if not incidentally beneficial. King Mithridates, it is said, learned habitually to consume these dangerous commodities; and the scarcely less mythical Du Chaillu, after the fatigues of his gorilla warfare, found decided benefit from two ounces of arsenic. But to say that a substance is a poison is to say at least that it is a noxious drug,—that it is a medicine, not an aliment,—that its effects are pathological, not physiological,—and that its use should therefore be exceptional, not habitual. Not tending to the preservation of a normal state, but at best to the correction of some abnormal one, its whole value, if it have any, lies in the rarity of its application. To apply a powerful drug at a certain hour every day is like a schoolmaster's whipping his pupil at a certain hour every day: the victim may become inured, but undoubtedly the specific value of the remedy must vanish with the repetition.
Thus much would be true, were it proved that tobacco is in some cases apparently beneficial. No drug is beneficial, when constantly employed. But, furthermore, if not beneficial, it then is injurious. As Dr. Holmes has so forcibly expounded, every medicine is in itself hurtful. All noxious agents, according to him, cost a patient, on an average, five per cent. of his vital power; that is, twenty times as much would kill him. It is believed that they are sometimes indirectly useful; it is known that they are always directly hurtful. That is, I have a neighbor on one side who takes tobacco to cure his dyspepsia, and a neighbor on the other side who takes blue pill for his infirmities generally. The profit of the operation may be sure or doubtful; the outlay is certain, and to be deducted in any event. I have no doubt, my dear Madam, that your interesting son has learned to smoke, as he states, in order to check that very distressing toothache which so hindered his studies; but I sincerely think it would be better to have the affliction removed by a dentist at a cost of fifty cents than by a drug at an expense of five per cent. of vital power.
Fortunately, when it comes to the practical test, the whole position is conceded to our hands, and the very devotees of tobacco are false to their idol. It is not merely that the most fumigatory parent dissuades his sons from the practice; but there is a more remarkable instance. If any two classes can be singled out in the community as the largest habitual consumers of tobacco, it must be the college students and the city "roughs" or "rowdies," or whatever the latest slang name is,—for these roysterers, like oysters, incline to names with an r in. Now the "rough," when brought to a physical climax, becomes the prize-fighter; and the college student is seen in his highest condition as the prize-oarsman; and both these representative men, under such circumstances of ambition, straightway abandon tobacco. Such a concession, from such a quarter, is worth all the denunciations of good Mr. Trask. Appeal, O anxious mother! from Philip smoking to Philip training. What your progeny will not do for any considerations of ethics or economy, to save his sisters' olfactories or the atmosphere of the family altar,—that he does unflinchingly at one word from the stroke-oar or the commodore. In so doing, he surrenders every inch of the ground, and owns unequivocally that he is in better condition without tobacco. The old traditions of training are in some other respects being softened: strawberries are no longer contraband, and the last agonies of thirst are no longer a part of the prescription; but training and tobacco are still incompatible. There is not a regatta or a prize-fight in which the betting would not be seriously affected by the discovery that either party used the beguiling weed.
The argument is irresistible,—or rather, it is not so much an argument as a plea of guilty under the indictment. The prime devotees of tobacco voluntarily abstain from it, like Lord Raglan and Admiral Napier, when they wish to be in their best condition. But are we ever, any of us, in too good condition? Have all the sanitary conventions yet succeeded in detecting one man, in our high-pressure America, who finds himself too well? If a man goes into training for the mimic contest, why not for the actual one? If he needs steady nerves and a cool head for the play of life,—and even prize-fighting is called "sporting,"—why not for its earnest? Here we are all croaking that we are not in the health in which our twentieth birthday found us, and yet we will not condescend to the wise abstinence which even twenty practises. Moderate training is simply a rational and healthful life.
So palpable is this, that there is strong reason to believe that the increased attention to physical training is operating against tobacco. If we may trust literature, as has been shown, its use is not now so great as formerly, in spite of the vague guesses of alarmists. "It is estimated," says Mr. Coles, "that the consumption of tobacco in this country is eight times as great as in France and three times as great as in England, in proportion to the population"; but there is nothing in the world more uncertain than "It is estimated." It is frequently estimated, for instance, that nine out of ten of our college students use tobacco; and yet by the statistics of the last graduating class at Cambridge it appears that it is used by only thirty-one out of seventy-six. I am satisfied that the extent of the practice is often exaggerated. In a gymnastic club of young men, for instance, where I have had opportunity to take the statistics, it is found that less than one-quarter use it, though there has never been any agitation or discussion of the matter. These things indicate that it can no longer be claimed, as Moliere asserted two centuries ago, that he who lives without tobacco is not worthy to live.
And as there has been some exaggeration in describing the extent to which Tobacco is King, so there has doubtless been some overstatement as to the cruelty of his despotism. Enough, however, remains to condemn him. The present writer, at least, has the firmest conviction, from personal observation and experience, that the imagined benefits of tobacco-using (which have never, perhaps, been better stated than in an essay which appeared in this magazine, in August, 1860) are ordinarily an illusion, and its evils a far more solid reality,—that it stimulates only to enervate, soothes only to depress,—that it neither permanently calms the nerves nor softens the temper nor enlightens the brain, but that in the end its tendencies are precisely the opposites of these, beside the undoubted incidental objections of costliness and uncleanness. When men can find any other instance of a poisonous drug which is suitable for daily consumption, they will be more consistent in using this. When it is admitted to be innocuous to those who are in training for athletic feats, it may be possible to suppose it beneficial to those who are out of training. Meanwhile there seems no ground for its supporters except that to which the famous Robert Hall was reduced, as he says, by "the Society of Doctors of Divinity." He sent a message to Dr. Clarke, in return for a pamphlet against tobacco, that he could not possibly refute his arguments and could not possibly give up smoking.
* * * * *
Ye who listen to stories told, When hearths are cheery and nights are cold,
Of the lone wood-side, and the hungry pack That howls on the fainting traveller's track,—
Flame-red eyeballs that waylay, By the wintry moon, the belated sleigh,—
The lost child sought in the dismal wood, The little shoes and the stains of blood
On the trampled snow,—O ye that hear, With thrills of pity or chills of fear,
Wishing some angel had been sent To shield the hapless and innocent,—
Know ye the fiend that is crueller far Than the gaunt gray herds of the forest are?
Swiftly vanish the wild fleet tracks Before the rifle and woodman's axe:
But hark to the coming of unseen feet, Pattering by night through the city street!
Each wolf that dies in the woodland brown Lives a spectre and haunts the town.
By square and market they slink and prowl, In lane and alley they leap and howl.
All night they snuff and snarl before The poor patched window and broken door.
They paw the clapboards and claw the latch, At every crevice they whine and scratch.
Their tongues are subtle and long and thin, And they lap the living blood within.
Icy keen are the teeth that tear, Red as ruin the eyes that glare.
Children crouched in corners cold Shiver in tattered garments old,
And start from sleep with bitter pangs At the touch of the phantoms' viewless fangs.
Weary the mother and worn with strife, Still she watches and fights for life.
But her hand is feeble, and weapon small: One little needle against them all!
In evil hour the daughter fled From her poor shelter and wretched bed.
Through the city's pitiless solitude To the door of sin the wolves pursued.
Fierce the father and grim with want, His heart is gnawed by the spectres gaunt.
Frenzied stealing forth by night, With whetted knife, to the desperate fight,
He thought to strike the spectres dead, But he smites his brother man instead.
O you that listen to stories told, When hearths are cheery and nights are cold,
Weep no more at the tales you hear, The danger is close and the wolves are near.
Shudder not at the murderer's name, Marvel not at the maiden's shame.
Pass not by with averted eye The door where the stricken children cry.
But when the beat of the unseen feet Sounds by night through the stormy street,
Follow thou where the spectres glide; Stand like Hope by the mother's side;
And be thyself the angel sent To shield the hapless and innocent.
He gives but little who gives his tears, He gives his best who aids and cheers.
He does well in the forest wild Who slays the monster and saves the child;
But he does better, and merits more, Who drives the wolf from the poor man's door.
* * * * *
A STORY OF TO-DAY.
Now that I have come to the love part of my story, I am suddenly conscious of dingy common colors on the palette with which I have been painting. I wish I had some brilliant dyes. I wish, with all my heart, I could take you back to that "Once upon a time" in which the souls of our grandmothers delighted,—the time which Dr. Johnson sat up all night to read about in "Evelina,"—the time when all the celestial virtues, all the earthly graces were revealed in a condensed state to man through the blue eyes and sumptuous linens of some Belinda Portman or Lord Mortimer. None of your good-hearted, sorely-tempted villains then! It made your hair stand on end only to read of them,—dyed at their birth clear through with Pluto's blackest poison, going about perpetually seeking innocent maidens and unsophisticated old men to devour. That was the time for holding up virtue and vice; no trouble then in seeing which were sheep and which were goats! A person could write a story with a moral to it, then, I should hope! People that were born in those days had no fancy for going through the world with half-and-half characters, such as we put up with; so Nature turned out complete specimens of each class, with all the appendages of dress, fortune, et cetera, chording decently. At least, so those veracious histories say. The heroine, for instance, glides into life full-charged with rank, virtues, a name three-syllabled, and a white dress that never needs washing, ready to sail through dangers dire into a triumphant haven of matrimony;—all the aristocrats have high foreheads and cold blue eyes; all the peasants are old women, miraculously grateful, in neat check aprons, or sullen-browed insurgents planning revolts in caves.
Of course, I do not mean that these times are gone: they are alive (in a modern fashion) in many places in the world; some of my friends have described them in prose and verse. I only mean to say that I never was there; I was born unlucky. I am willing to do my best, but I live in the commonplace. Once or twice I have rashly tried my hand at dark conspiracies, and women rare and radiant in Italian bowers; but I have a friend who is sure to say, "Try and tell us about the butcher next door, my dear." If I look up from my paper now, I shall be just as apt to see our dog and his kennel as the white sky stained with blood and Tyrian purple. I never saw a full-blooded saint or sinner in my life. The coldest villain I ever knew was the only son of his mother, and she a widow,—and a kinder son never lived. I have known people capable of a love terrible in its strength; but I never knew such a case that some one did not consider its expediency as "a match" in the light of dollars and cents. As for heroines, of course I know beautiful women, and good as fair. The most beautiful is delicate and pure enough for a type of the Madonna, and has a heart almost as warm and holy as hers who was blessed among women. (Very pure blood is in her veins, too, if you care about blood.) But at home they call her Tode for a nickname; all we can do, she will sing, and sing through her nose; and on washing-days she often cooks the dinner, and scolds wholesomely, if the tea-napkins are not in order. Now, what is anybody to do with a heroine like that? I have known old maids in abundance, with pathos and sunshine in their lives; but the old maid of novels I never have met, who abandoned her soul to gossip,—nor yet the other type, a lifelong martyr of unselfishness. They are mixed generally, and are not unlike their married sisters, so far as I can see. Then as to men, certainly I know heroes. One man, I knew, as high a chevalier in heart as any Bayard of them all; one of those souls simple and gentle as a woman, tender in knightly honor. He was an old man, with a rusty brown coat and rustier wig, who spent his life in a dingy village office. You poets would have laughed at him. Well, well, his history never will be written. The kind, sad, blue eyes are shut now. There is a little farm-graveyard overgrown with privet and wild grape-vines, and a flattened grave where he was laid to rest; and only a few who knew him when they were children care to go there, and think of what he was to them. But it was not in the far days of Chivalry alone, I think, that true and tender souls have stood in the world unwelcome, and, hurt to the quick, have turned away and dumbly died. Let it be. Their lives are not lost, thank God!
I meant only to ask you, How can I help it, if the people in my story seem coarse to you,—if the hero, unlike all other heroes, stopped to count the cost before he fell in love,—if it made his fingers thrill with pleasure to touch a full pocket-book as well as his mistress's hand,—not being withal, this Stephen Holmes, a man to be despised? A hero, rather, of a peculiar type,—a man, more than other men: the very mould of man, doubt it who will, that women love longest and most madly. Of course, if I could, I would have blotted out every meanness or flaw before I showed him to you; I would have given you Margaret an impetuous, whole-souled woman, glad to throw her life down for her father without one bitter thought of the wife and mother she might have been; I would have painted her mother tender as she was, forgetting how pettish she grew on busy days: but what can I do? I must show you men and women as they are in that especial State of the Union where I live. In all the others, of course, it is very different. Now, being prepared for disappointment, will you see my hero?
He had sauntered out from the city for a morning walk,—not through the hills, as Margaret went, going home, but on the other side, to the river, over which you could see the Prairie. We are in Indiana, remember. The sunlight was pure that morning, powerful, tintless, the true wine of life for body or spirit. Stephen Holmes knew that, being a man of delicate animal instincts, and so used it, just as he had used the dumb-bells in the morning. All things were made for man, weren't they? He was leaning against the door of the school-house,—a red, flaunting house, the daub on the landscape: but, having his back to it, he could not see it, so through his half-shut eyes he suffered the beauty of the scene to act on him. Suffered: in a man, according to his creed, the will being dominant, and all influences, such as beauty, pain, religion, permitted to act under orders. Of course.
It was a peculiar landscape,—like the man who looked at it, of a thoroughly American type. A range of sharp, dark hills, with a sombre depth of green shadow in the clefts, and on the sides massed forests of scarlet and flame and crimson. Above, the sharp peaks of stone rose into the wan blue, wan and pale themselves, and wearing a certain air of fixed calm, the type of an eternal quiet. At the base of the hills lay the city, a dirty mass of bricks and smoke and dust, and at its far edge flowed the Wabash,—deep here, tinted with green, writhing and gurgling and curdling on the banks over shelving ledges of lichen and mud-covered rock. Beyond it yawned the opening to the great West,—the Prairies. Not the dreary deadness here, as farther west. A plain dark russet in hue,—for the grass was sun-scorched,—stretching away into the vague distance, intolerable, silent, broken by hillocks and puny streams that only made the vastness and silence more wide and heavy. Its limitless torpor weighed on the brain; the eyes ached, stretching to find some break before the dull russet faded into the amber of the horizon and was lost. An American landscape: of few features, simple, grand in outline as a face of one of the early gods. It lay utterly motionless before him, not a fleck of cloud in the pure blue above, even where the mist rose from the river; it only had glorified the clear blue into clearer violet.
Holmes stood quietly looking; he could have created a picture like this, if he never had seen one; therefore he was able to recognize it, accepted it into his soul, and let it do what it would there.
Suddenly a low wind from the far Pacific coast struck from the amber line where the sun went down. A faint tremble passed over the great hills, the broad sweeps of color darkened from base to summit, then flashed again,—while below, the prairie rose and fell like a dun sea, and rolled in long, slow, solemn waves.
The wind struck so broad and fiercely in Holmes's face that he caught his breath. It was a savage freedom, he thought, in the West there, whose breath blew on him,—the freedom of the primitive man, the untamed animal man, self-reliant and self-assertant, having conquered Nature. Well, this fierce masterful freedom was good for the soul, sometimes, doubtless. It was old Knowles's vital air. He wondered if the old man would succeed in his hobby, if he could make the slavish beggars and thieves in the alleys yonder comprehend this fierce freedom. They craved leave to live on sufferance now, not knowing their possible divinity. It was a desperate remedy, this sense of unchecked liberty; but their disease was desperate. As for himself, he did not need it; that element was not lacking. In a mere bodily sense, to be sure. He felt his arm. Yes, the cold rigor of this new life had already worn off much of the clogging weight of flesh, strengthened the muscles. Six months more in the West would toughen the fibres to iron. He raised an iron weight that lay on the steps, carelessly testing them. For the rest, he was going back here; something of the cold, loose freshness got into his brain, he believed. In the two years of absence his power of concentration had been stronger, his perceptions more free from prejudice, gaining every day delicate point, acuteness of analysis. He drew a long breath of the icy air, coarse with the wild perfume of the prairie. No, his temperament needed a subtiler atmosphere than this, rarer essence than mere brutal freedom. The East, the Old World, was his proper sphere for self-development. He would go as soon as he could command the means, leaving all clogs behind. All? His idle thought balked here, suddenly; the sallow forehead contracted sharply, and his gray eyes grew in an instant shallow, careless, formal, as a man who holds back his thought. There was a fierce warring in his brain for a moment. Then he brushed his Kossuth hat with his arm, and put it on, looking out at the landscape again. Somehow its meaning was dulled to him. Just then a muddy terrier came up, and rubbed itself against his knee. "Why, Tige, old boy!" he said, stooping to pat it kindly. The hard, shallow look faded out, and he half smiled, looking in the dog's eyes. A curious smile, unspeakably tender and sad. It was the idiosyncrasy of the man's face, rarely seen there. He might have looked with it at a criminal, condemning him to death. But he would have condemned him, and, if no hangman could be found, would have put the rope on with his own hands, and then most probably would have sat down pale and trembling, and analyzed his sensations on paper,—being sincere in all.
He sat down on the school-house step, which the boys had hacked and whittled rough, and waited; for he was there by appointment, to meet Dr. Knowles.
Knowles had gone out early in the morning to look at the ground he was going to buy for his Phalanstery, or whatever he chose to call it. He was to bring the deed of sale of the mill out with him for Holmes. The next day it was to be signed. Holmes saw him at last lumbering across the prairie, wiping the perspiration from his forehead. Summer or winter, he contrived to be always hot. There was a cart drawn by an old donkey coming along beside him. Knowles was talking to the driver. The old man clapped his hands as stage-coachmen do, and drew in long draughts of air, as if there were keen life and promise in every breath. They came up at last, the cart empty, and drying for the day's work after its morning's scrubbing, Lois's pock-marked face all in a glow with trying to keep Barney awake. She grew quite red with pleasure at seeing Holmes, but went on quickly as the men began to talk. Tige followed her, of course; but when she had gone a little way across the prairie, they saw her stop, and presently the dog came back with something in his mouth, which he laid down beside his master, and bolted off. It was only a rough wicker-basket which she had filled with damp plushy moss, and half-buried in it clusters of plumy fern, delicate brown and ashen lichens, masses of forest-leaves all shaded green with a few crimson tints. It had a clear woody smell, like far-off myrrh. The Doctor laughed as Holmes took it up.
"An artist's gift, if it is from a mulatto," he said. "A born colorist."
The men were not at ease, for some reason; they seized on every trifle to keep off the subject which had brought them together.
"That girl's artist-sense is pure, and her religion, down under the perversion and ignorance of her brain. Curious, eh?"
"Look at the top of her head, when you see her," said Holmes. "It is necessity for such brains to worship. They let the fire lick their blood, if they happen to be born Parsees. This girl, if she had been a Jew when Christ was born, would have known him as Simeon did."
Knowles said nothing,—only glanced at the massive head of the speaker, with its overhanging brow, square development at the sides, and lowered crown, and smiled significantly.
"Exactly," laughed Holmes, putting his hand on his head. "Crippled there by my Yorkshire blood,—my mother. Never mind; outside of this life, blood or circumstance matters nothing."
They walked on slowly towards town. Surely there was nothing in the bill-of-sale which the old man had in his pocket but a mere matter of business; yet they were strangely silent about it, as if it brought shame to some one. There was an embarrassed pause. The Doctor went back to Lois for relief.
"I think it is the pain and want of such as she that makes them susceptible to religion. The self in them is so starved and humbled that it cannot obscure their eyes; they see God clearly."
"Say rather," said Holmes, "that the soul is so starved and blind that it cannot recognize itself as God."
The Doctor's intolerant eye kindled.
"Humph! So that's your creed! Not Pantheism. Ego sum. Of course you go on with the conjugation: I have been, I shall be. I,—that covers the whole ground, creation, redemption, and commands the hereafter?"
"It does so," said Holmes, coolly.
"And this wretched huckster carries her deity about her,—her self-existent soul? How, in God's name, is her life to set it free?"
Holmes said nothing. The coarse sneer could not be answered. Men with pale faces and heavy jaws like his do not carry their religion on their tongue's end; their creeds leave them only in the slow oozing life-blood, false as the creeds may be.
Knowles went on hotly, half to himself, seizing on the new idea fiercely, as men and women do who are yet groping for the truth of life.
"What is it your Novalis says? 'The true Shechinah is man.' You know no higher God? Pooh! the idea is old enough; it began with Eve. It works slowly, Holmes. In six thousand years, taking humanity as one, this self-existent soul should have clothed itself with a freer, royaller garment than poor Lois's body,—or mine," he added, bitterly.
"It works slowly," said the other, quietly. "Faster soon, in America. There are yet many ills of life for the divinity within to conquer."
"And Lois and the swarming mass yonder in those dens? It is late for them to begin the fight?"
"Endurance is enough for them here. Their religions teach them that they could not bear the truth. One does not put a weapon into the hands of a man dying of the fetor and hunger of the siege."
"But what will this life, or the lives to come, give to you champions who know the truth?"
"Nothing but victory," he said, in a low tone, looking away.
Knowles looked at the pale strength of the iron face.
"God help you, Stephen!" he broke out, his shallow jeering falling off. "For there is a God higher than we. The ills of life you mean to conquer will teach it to you, Holmes. You'll find the Something above yourself, if it's only to curse Him and die."
Holmes did not smile at the old man's heat,—walked gravely, steadily.
There was a short silence. The old man put his hand gently on the other's arm.
"Stephen," he hesitated, "you're a stronger man than I. I know what you are; I've watched you from a boy. But you're wrong here. I'm an old man. There's not much I know in life,—enough to madden me. But I do know there's something stronger,—some God outside of the mean devil they call 'Me.' You'll learn it, boy. There's an old story of a man like you and the rest of your sect, and of the vile, mean, crawling things that God sent to bring him down. There are such things yet. Mean passions in your divine soul, low, selfish things, that will get the better of you, show you what you are. You'll do all that man can do. But they are coming, Stephen Holmes! they're coming!"
He stopped, startled. For Holmes had turned abruptly, glancing over at the city with a strange wistfulness. It was over in a moment. He resumed the slow, controlling walk beside him. They went on in silence into town, and when they did speak, it was on indifferent subjects, not referring to the last. The Doctor's heat, as it usually did, boiled out in spasms on trifles. Once he stumped his toe, and, I am sorry to say, swore roundly about it, just as he would have done in the new Arcadia, if one of the jail-birds comprising that colony had been ungrateful for his advantages. Philanthropists, for some curious reason, are not the most amiable members of small families.
He gave Holmes the roll of parchment he had in his pocket, looking keenly at him, as he did so, but only saying, that, if he meant to sign it, it would be done to-morrow. As Holmes took it, they stopped at the great door of the factory. He went in alone, Knowles going down the street. One trifle, strange in its way, he remembered afterwards. Holding the roll of paper in his hand that would make the mill his, he went, in his slow, grave way, down the long passage to the loom-rooms. There was a crowd of porters and firemen there, as usual, and he thought one of them hastily passed him in the dark passage, hiding behind an engine. As the shadow fell on him, his teeth chattered with a chilly shudder. He smiled, thinking how superstitious people would say that some one trod on his grave just then, or that Death looked at him, and went on. Afterwards he thought of it. Going through the office, the fat old book-keeper, Huff, stopped him with a story he had been keeping for him all day. He liked to tell a story to Holmes; he could see into a joke; it did a man good to hear a fellow laugh like that. Holmes did laugh, for the story was a good one, and stood a moment, then went in, leaving the old fellow chuckling over his desk. Huff did not know how, lately, after every laugh, this man felt a vague scorn of himself, as if jokes and laughter belonged to a self that ought to have been dead long ago. Perhaps, if the fat old book-keeper had known it, he would have said that the man was better than he knew. But then,—poor Huff! He passed slowly through the long alleys between the great looms. Overhead the ceiling looked like a heavy maze of iron cylinders and black swinging bars and wheels, all in swift, ponderous motion. It was enough to make a brain dizzy with the clanging thunder of the engines, the whizzing spindles of red and yellow, and the hot daylight glaring over all. The looms were watched by women, most of them bold, tawdry girls of fifteen or sixteen, or lean-jawed women from the hills, wives of the coal-diggers. There was a breathless odor of copperas. As he went from one room to another up through the ascending stories, he had a vague sensation of being followed. Some shadow lurked at times behind the engines, or stole after him in the dark entries. Were there ghosts, then, in mills in broad daylight? None but the ghosts of Want and Hunger and Crime, he might have known, that do not wait for night to walk our streets: the ghosts that poor old Knowles hoped to lay forever.
Holmes had a room fitted up in the mill, where he slept. He went up to it slowly, holding the paper tightly in one hand, glancing at the operatives, the work, through his furtive half-shut eye. Nothing escaped him. Passing the windows, he did not once look out at the prophetic dream of beauty he had left without. In the mill he was of the mill. Yet he went slowly, as if he shrank from the task waiting for him. Why should he? It was a simple matter of business, this transfer of Knowles's share in the mill to himself; to-day he was to decide whether he would conclude the bargain. If any dark history of wrong lay underneath, if this simple decision of his was to be the struggle for life and death with him, his cold, firm face told nothing of it. Let us be just to him, stand by him, if we can, in the midst of his desolate home and desolate life, and look through his cold, sorrowful eyes at the deed he was going to do. Dreary enough he looked, going through the great mill, despite the power in his quiet face. A man who had strength to be alone; yet, I think, with all his strength and power, his mother could not have borne to look back from the dead that day, to see her boy so utterly alone. The day was the crisis of his life, looked forward to for years; he held in his hand a sure passport to fortune. Yet he thrust the hour off, perversely, trifling with idle fancies, pushing from him the one question which all the years past and to come had left for this day to decide.
Some such idle fancy it may have been that made the man turn from the usual way down a narrow passage into which opened doors from small offices. Margaret Howth, he had learned to-day, was in the first one. He hesitated before he did it, his sallow face turning a trifle paler; then he went on in his hard, grave way, wondering dimly if she remembered his step, if she cared to see him now. She used to know it,—she was the only one in the world who ever had cared to know it,—silly child! Doubtless she was wiser now. He remembered he used to think, that, when this woman loved, it would be as he himself would love, with a simple trust which the wrong of years could not touch. And once he had thought—Well, well, he was mistaken. Poor Margaret! Better as it was. They were nothing to each other. She had put him from her, and he had suffered himself to be put away. Why, he would have given up every prospect of life, if he had done otherwise! Yet he wondered bitterly if she had thought him selfish,—if she thought it was money he cared for, as the others did. It mattered nothing what they thought, but it wounded him intolerably that she should wrong him. Yet, with all this, whenever he looked forward to death, it was with the certainty that he should find her there beyond. There would be no secrets then; she would know then how he had loved her always. Loved her? Yes; he need not hide it from himself, surely.
He was now by the door of the office;—she was within. Little Margaret, poor little Margaret! struggling there day after day for the old father and mother. What a pale, cold little child she used to be! such a child! yet kindling at his look or touch, as if her veins were filled with subtile flame. Her soul was like his own, he thought. He knew what it was,—he only. Even now he glowed with a man's triumph to know he held the secret life of this woman bare in his hand. No other human power could ever come near her; he was secure in possession. She had put him from her;—it was better for both, perhaps. Their paths were separate here; for she had some unreal notions of duty, and he had too much to do in the world to clog himself with cares, or to idle an hour in the rare ecstasy of even love like this.
He passed the office, not pausing in his slow step. Some sudden impulse made him put his hand on the door as he brushed against it: just a quick, light touch; but it had all the fierce passion of a caress. He drew it back as quickly, and went on, wiping a clammy sweat from his face.
The room he had fitted up for himself was whitewashed and barely furnished; it made one's bones ache to look at the iron bedstead and chairs. Holmes's natural taste was more glowing, however smothered, than that of any saffron-robed Sybarite. It needed correction, he knew, and this was the discipline. Besides, he had set apart the coming three or four years of his life to make money in, enough for the time to come. He would devote his whole strength to that work, and so be sooner done with it. Money, or place, or even power, was nothing but means to him: other men valued them because of their influence on others. As his work in the world was only the development of himself, it was different, of course. What would it matter to his soul the day after death, if millions called his name aloud in blame or praise? Would he hear or answer then? What would it matter to him then, if he had starved with them or ruled over them? People talked of benevolence. What would it matter to him then, the misery or happiness of those yet working in this paltry life of ours? In so far as the exercise of kindly emotions or self-denial developed the higher part of his nature, it was to be commended; as for its effect on others, that he had nothing to do with. He practised self-denial constantly to strengthen the benevolent instincts. That very morning he had given his last dollar to Joe Byers, a half-starved cripple. "Chucked it at me," Joe said, "like as he'd give a bone to a dog, and be damned to him! Who thanks him?" To tell the truth, you will find no fairer exponent than this Stephen Holmes of the great idea of American sociology,—that the object of life is to grow. Circumstances had forced it on him, partly. Sitting now in his room, where he was counting the cost of becoming a merchant prince, he could look back to the time of a boyhood passed in the depths of ignorance and vice. He knew what this Self within him was; he knew how it had forced him to grope his way up, to give this hungry, insatiate soul air and freedom and knowledge. All men around him were doing the same,—thrusting and jostling and struggling, up, up. It was the American motto, Go ahead; mothers taught it to their children; the whole system was a scale of glittering prizes. He at least saw the higher meaning of the truth; he had no low ambitions. To lift this self up into a higher range of being when it had done with the uses of this,—that was his work. Self-salvation, self-elevation,—the ideas that give birth to, and destroy half of our Christianity, half of our philanthropy! Sometimes sleeping instincts in the man struggled up to assert a divinity more terrible than this growing self-existent soul that he purified and analyzed day by day: a depth of tender pity for outer pain; a fierce longing for rest, on something, in something, he cared not what. He stifled such rebellious promptings,—called them morbid. He called it morbid, too, the passion now that chilled his strong blood, and wrung out these clammy drops on his forehead, at the mere thought of this girl below.
He shut the door of his room tightly: he had no time to-day for lounging visitors.
For Holmes, quiet and steady, was sought for, if not popular, even in the free-and-easy West; one of those men who are unwillingly masters among men. Just and mild, always; with a peculiar gift that made men talk their best thoughts to him, knowing they would be understood; if any core of eternal flint lay under the simple, truthful manner of the man, nobody saw it.
He laid the bill of sale on the table; it was an altogether practical matter on which he sat in judgment, but he was going to do nothing rashly. A plain business document: he took Dr. Knowles's share in the factory; the payments made with short intervals; John Herne was to be his indorser: it needed only the names to make it valid. Plain enough; no hint there of the tacit understanding that the purchase-money was a wedding dowry; even between Herne and himself it never was openly put into words. If he did not marry Miss Herne, the mill was her father's; that of course must be spoken of, arranged to-morrow. If he took it, then? if he married her? Holmes had been poor, was miserably poor yet, with the position and habits of a man of refinement. God knows it was not to gratify those tastes that he clutched at this money. All the slow years of work trailed up before him, that were gone,—of hard, wearing work for daily bread, when his brain had been starving for knowledge, and his soul dulled, debased with sordid trading. Was this to be always? Were these few golden moments of life to be traded for the bread and meat he ate? To eat and drink,—was that what he was here for?
As he paced the floor mechanically, some vague recollection crossed his brain of a childish story of the man standing where the two great roads of life parted. They were open before him now. Money, money,—he took the word into his heart as a miser might do. With it, he was free from these carking cares that were making his mind foul and muddy. If he had money! Slow, cool visions of triumphs rose before him outlined on the years to come, practical, if Utopian. Slow and sure successes of science and art, where his brain could work, helpful and growing. Far off, yet surely to come,—surely for him,—a day to come when a pure social system should be universal, should have thrust out its fibres of light knitting into one the nations of the earth, when the lowest slave should find its true place and rightful work, and stand up, knowing itself divine. "To insure to every man the freest development of his faculties": he said over the hackneyed dogma again and again, while the heavy, hateful years of poverty rose before him that had trampled him down. "To insure to him the freest development," he did not need to wait for St. Simon, or the golden year, he thought with a dreary gibe; money was enough, and—Miss Herne.
It was curious, that, when this woman, whom he saw every day, came up in his mind, it was always in one posture, one costume. You have noticed that peculiarity in your remembrance of some persons? Perhaps you would find, if you looked closely, that in that look or indelible gesture which your memory has caught there lies some subtile hint of the tie between your soul and theirs. Now, when Holmes had resolved coolly to weigh this woman, brain, heart, and flesh, to know how much of a hindrance she would be, he could only see her, with his artist's sense, as delicate a bloom of coloring as eye could crave, in one immovable posture,—as he had seen her once in some masquerade or tableau vivant. June, I think it was, she chose to represent that evening,—and with her usual success; for no woman ever knew more thoroughly her material of shape or color, or how to work it up. Not an ill-chosen fancy, either, that of the moist, warm month. Some tranced summer's day might have drowsed down into such a human form by a dank pool, or on the thick grass-crusted meadows. There was the full contour of the limbs hid under warm green folds, the white flesh that glowed when you touched it as if some smothered heat lay beneath, the sleeping face, the amber hair uncoiled in a languid quiet, while yellow jasmines deepened its hue into molten sunshine, and a great tiger-lily laid its sultry head on her breast. June? Could June become incarnate with higher poetic meaning than that which this woman gave it? Mr. Kitts, the artist I told you of, thought not, and fell in love with June and her on the spot, which passion became quite unbearable after she had graciously permitted him to sketch her,—for the benefit of Art. Three medical students and one attorney Miss Herne numbered as having been driven into a state of dogged despair on that triumphal occasion. Mr. Holmes may have quarrelled with the rendering, doubting to himself if her lip were not too thick, her eye too brassy and pale a blue for the queen of months; though I do not believe he thought at all about it. Yet the picture clung to his memory.
As he slowly paced the room to-day, thinking of this woman as his wife, light blue eyes and yellow hair and the unclean sweetness of jasmine-flowers mixed with the hot sunshine and smells of the mill. He could think of her in no other light. He might have done so; for the poor girl had her other sides for view. She had one of those sharp, tawdry intellects whose possessors are always reckoned "brilliant women, fine talkers." She was (aside from the necessary sarcasm to keep up this reputation) a good-humored soul enough,—when no one stood in her way. But if her shallow virtues or vices were palpable at all to him to-day, they became one with the torpid beauty of the oppressive summer day, and weighed on him alike with a vague disgust. The woman luxuriated in perfume; some heavy odor always hung about her. Holmes, thinking of her now, fancied he felt it stifling the air, and opened the window for breath. Patchouli or copperas,—what was the difference? The mill and his future wife came to him together; it was scarcely his fault, if he thought of them as one, or muttered, "Damnable clog!" as he sat down to write, his cold eye growing colder. But he did not argue the question any longer; decision had come keenly in one moment, fixed, unalterable.
If, through the long day, the starved heart of the man called feebly for its natural food, he called it a paltry weakness; or if the old thought of the quiet, pure little girl in the office below came back to him, he—he wished her well, he hoped she might succeed in her work, he would always be ready to lend her a helping hand. So many years (he was ashamed to think how many) he had built the thought of this girl as his wife into the future, put his soul's strength into the hope, as if love and the homely duties of husband and father were what life was given for! A boyish fancy, he thought. He had not learned then that all dreams must yield to self-reverence and self-growth. As for taking up this life of poverty and soul-starvation for the sake of a little love, it would be an ignoble martyrdom, the sacrifice of a grand unmeasured life to a shallow pleasure. He was no longer a young man now; he had no time to waste. Poor Margaret! he wondered if it hurt her now.
He left the writing in the slow, quiet way natural to him, and after a while stooped to pat the dog softly, who was trying to lick his hand,—with the hard fingers shaking a little, and a smothered fierceness in the half-closed eye, like a man who is tortured and alone.
There is a miserable drama acted in other homes than the Tuileries, when men have found a woman's heart in their way to success, and trampled it down under an iron heel. Men like Napoleon must live out the law of their natures, I suppose,—on a throne or in a mill.
So many trifles that day roused the under-current of old thoughts and old hopes that taunted him,—trifles, too, that he would not have heeded at another time. Pike came in on business, a bunch of bills in his hand. A wily, keen eye he had, looking over them,—a lean face, emphasized only by cunning. No wonder Dr. Knowles cursed him for a "slippery customer," and was cheated by him the next hour. While he and Holmes were counting out the bills, a little white-headed girl crept shyly in at the door, and came up to the table,—oddly dressed, in an old-fashioned frock fastened with great horn buttons, and with an old-fashioned anxious pair of eyes, the color of blue Delft. Holmes smoothed her hair, as she stood beside them; for he never could help caressing children or dogs. Pike looked up sharply,—then half smiled, as he went on counting.
"Ninety, ninety-five, and one hundred, all right,"—tying a bit of tape about the papers. "My Sophy, Mr. Holmes. Good girl, Sophy is. Bring her up to the mill sometimes," he said, apologetically, "on 'count of not leaving her alone. She gets lonesome at th' house."
Holmes glanced at Pike's felt hat lying on the table: there was a rusty strip of crape on it.
"Yes," said Pike, in a lower tone, "I'm father and mother, both, to Sophy now."
"I had not heard," said Holmes, kindly. "How about the boys, now?"
"Pete and John's both gone West," the man said, his eyes kindling eagerly. "'S fine boys as ever turned out of Indiana. Good eddications I give 'em both. I've felt the want of that all my life. Good eddications. Says I, 'Now, boys, you've got your fortunes, nothing to hinder your bein' President. Let's see what stuff's in ye,' says I. So they're doin' well. Wrote fur me to come out in the fall. But I'd rather scratch on, and gather up a little for Sophy here, before I stop work."
He patted Sophy's tanned little hand on the table, as if beating some soft tune. Holmes folded up the bills. Even this man could spare time out of his hard, stingy life to love, and be loved, and to be generous! But then he had no higher aim, knew nothing better.
"Well," said Pike, rising, "in case you take th' mill, Mr. Holmes, I hope we'll be agreeable. I'll strive to do my best,"—in the old fawning manner, to which Holmes nodded a curt reply.
The man stopped for Sophy to gather up her bits of broken China with which she was making a tea-party on the table, and went down-stairs.
Towards evening Holmes went out,—not going through the narrow passage that led to the offices, but avoiding it by a circuitous route. If it cost him any pain to think why he did it, he showed none in his calm, observant face. Buttoning up his coat as he went: the October sunset looked as if it ought to be warm, but he was deathly cold. On the street the young doctor beset him again, with bows and news: Cox was his name, I believe; the one, you remember, who had such a Talleyrand nose for ferreting out successful men. He had to bear with him but for a few moments, however. They met a crowd of workmen at the corner, one of whom, an old man freshly washed, with honest eyes looking out of horn spectacles, waited for them by a fire-plug. It was Polston, the coal-digger,—an acquaintance, a far-off kinsman of Holmes, in fact.
"Curious person making signs to you, yonder," said Cox; "hand, I presume."
"My cousin Polston. If you do not know him, you'll excuse me?"
Cox sniffed the air down the street, and twirled his rattan, as he went. The coal-digger was abrupt and distant in his greeting, going straight to business.
"I will keep yoh only a minute, Mr. Holmes"——
"Stephen," corrected Holmes.
The old man's face warmed.
"Stephen, then," holding out his hand, "sence old times dawn't shame yoh, Stephen. That's hearty, now. It's only a wured I want, but it's immediate. Concernin' Joe Yare,—Lois's father, yoh know? He's back."
"Back? I saw him to-day, following me in the mill. His hair is gray? I think it was he."
"No doubt. Yes, he's aged fast, down in the lock-up; goin' fast to the end. Feeble, pore-like. It's a bad life, Joe Yare's; I wish 'n' 't would be better to the end"——
He stopped with a wistful look at Holmes, who stood outwardly attentive, but with little thought to waste on Joe Yare. The old coal-digger drummed on the fire-plug uneasily.
"Myself, 't was for Lois's sake I thowt on it. To speak plain,—yoh'll mind that Stokes affair, th' note Yare brought? Yes? Ther's none knows o' that but yoh an' me. He's safe, Yare is, only fur yoh an' me. Yoh speak the wured an' back he goes to the lock-up. Fur life. D' yoh see?"
"He's tryin' to do right, Yare is."
The old man went on, trying not to be eager, and watching Holmes's face.
"He's tryin'. Sendin' him back—yoh know how that 'll end. Seems like as we'd his soul in our hands. S'pose,—what d' yoh think, if we give him a chance? It's yoh he fears. I see him a-watchin' yoh; what d' yoh think, if we give him a chance?" catching Holmes's sleeve. "He's old, an' he's tryin'. Heh?"
"We didn't make the law he broke. Justice before mercy. Haven't I heard you talk to Sam in that way, long ago?"
The old man loosened his hold of Holmes's arm, looked up and down the street, uncertain, disappointed.
"The law. Yes. That's right! Yoh're a just man, Stephen Holmes."
"Yes. I dun'no'. Law's right, but Yare's had a bad chance, an' he's tryin'. An' we're sendin' him to hell. Somethin's wrong. But I think yoh're a just man," looking keenly in Holmes's face.
"A hard one, people say," said Holmes, after a pause, as they walked on.
He had spoken half to himself, and received no answer. Some blacker shadow troubled him than old Yare's fate.
"My mother was a hard woman,—you knew her?" he said, abruptly.
"She was just, like yoh. She was one o' th' elect, she said. Mercy's fur them,—an' outside, justice. It's a narrer showin', I'm thinkin'."
"My father was outside," said Holmes, some old bitterness rising up in his tone, his gray eye lighting with some unrevenged wrong.
Polston did not speak for a moment.
"Dunnot bear malice agin her. They're dead, now. It wasn't left fur her to judge him out yonder. Yoh've yer father's eyes, Stephen, 'times. Hungry, pitiful, like women's. His got desper't' 't th' last. Drunk hard,—died of't, yoh know. But she killed him,—th' sin was writ down fur her. Never was a boy I loved like him, when we was boys."
There was a short silence.
"Yoh're like yer mother," said Polston, striving for a lighter tone. "Here,"—motioning to the heavy iron jaws. "She never—let go. Somehow, too, she'd the law on her side in outward showin', an' th' right. But I hated religion, knowin' her. Well, ther's a day of makin' things clear, comin'."
They had reached the corner now, and Polston turned down the lane.
"Yoh'll think o' Yare's case?" he said.
"Yes. But how can I help it," Holmes said, lightly, "if I am like my mother here?"—putting his hand to his mouth.
"God help us, how can yoh? It's harrd to think father and mother leave their souls fightin' in their childern, cos th' love was wantin' to make them one here."
Something glittered along the street as he spoke: the silver mountings of a low-hung phaeton drawn by a pair of Mexican ponies. One or two gentlemen on horseback were alongside, attendant on a lady within. She turned her fair face, and pale, greedy eyes, as she passed, and lifted her hand languidly in recognition of Holmes. Polston's face colored.
"I've heered," he said, holding out his grimy hand. "I wish yoh well, Stephen, boy. So'll the old 'oman. Yoh'll come an' see us, soon? Ye 'r' lookin' fagged, an' yer eyes is gettin' more like yer father's. I'm glad things is takin' a good turn with yoh; an' yoh'll never be like him, starvin' fur th' kind wured, an' havin' to die without it. I'm glad yoh've got true love. She'd a fair face, I think. I wish yoh well, Stephen."
Holmes shook the grimy hand, and then stood a moment looking back to the mill, from which the hands were just coming, and then down at the phaeton moving idly down the road. How cold it was growing! People passing by had a sickly look, as if they were struck by the plague. He pushed the damp hair back, wiping his forehead, with another glance at the mill-women coming out of the gate, and then followed the phaeton down the hill.
* * * * *
HEALTH IN THE HOSPITAL.
In preparing to do the duty of society towards the wounded or sick soldier, the first consideration is, What is a Military Hospital? No two nations seem to have answered this question in the same way; yet it is a point of the first importance to them all.
When England went to war last time, after a peace of forty years, the only idea in the minds of her military surgeons was of Regimental Hospitals. There was to be a place provided as an infirmary for a certain number of soldiers; a certain number of orderlies were to be appointed as nurses; and the regimental doctor and hospital-sergeant were to have the charge of the inmates. In each of these Regimental Hospitals there might be patients ill of a great variety of disorders, from the gravest to the lightest, all to be treated by the same doctor or doctors. These doctors had to make out statements of all the diets, as well as all the medicines required by their patients, and send in their requisitions; and it might be said that arrangements had to be separately made for every individual patient in the whole army. The doctors went to work each in his own way, even in the case of epidemics. There was no knowing, except by guess, what diseases were the most to be apprehended in particular places or circumstances; nor what remarkable phenomena of disease were showing themselves on any extended scale; nor what improvements could be suggested in the treatment. There was no possibility of such systematic cleanliness and such absolute regularity of management as can be secured by organization on a large scale. Yet the medical officers preferred the plan to any other. One plea was, that the medical officers and the patients were acquainted with and attached to each other: and this was very true. Another consideration was, that each surgeon liked to have his field of duty to himself, and found it an advantage to have a large variety of ailments to treat, to the constant improvement of his experience. They said that doctors and patients and nurses all liked the Regimental Hospital best, and this was clear proof that it was the best. They could at that time say also, that every soldier and every doctor had a horror of General Hospitals, where the mortality was so excessive during the Peninsular War that being carried to the General Hospital was considered the same thing as being sentenced to death.
Such being the state of opinion and feeling in the profession, it naturally happened that British army-surgeons stuck to their Regimental Hospitals as long as they could, and, when compelled to cooperate in a General Hospital, made the institution as like as possible to a group of Regimental Hospitals,—resisting all effective organization, and baffling all the aims of the larger institution.
In busy times, no two Regimental Hospitals were alike in their management, because the scheme was not capable of expansion. The surgeon and his hospital-sergeant managed everything. The surgeon saw and treated the cases, and made out his lists of articles wanted. It was his proper business to keep the books,—to record the admissions, and make the returns, and keep the accounts, and post up all the documents: but professional men do not like this sort of work, when they want to be treating disease; and the books were too often turned over to the hospital-sergeant. His indispensable business was to superintend the wards, and the attendance on the patients, the giving them their medicines, etc., which most of us would think enough for one man: but he had besides to keep up the military discipline in the establishment,—to prepare the materials for the surgeon's duty at the desk,—to take charge of all the orders for the diet of all the patients, and see them fulfilled,—to keep the record of all the provisions ordered and used in every department,—and to take charge of the washing, the hospital stores, the furniture, the surgery, and the dispensary. In short, the hospital-sergeant had to be at once ward-master, steward, dispenser, sergeant, clerk, and purveyor; and, as no man can be a six-sided official, more or fewer of his duties were deputed to the orderly, or to anybody within call.
Nobody could dispute the superior economy and comfort of having a concentration of patients arranged in the wards according to their ailments, with a general kitchen, a general laundry, a dispensary and surgery, and a staff of officials, each with his own distinct business, instead of as many jacks-of-all-trades, each doing a little of everything. Yet the obstinacy of the fight made by the surgeons for the system of Regimental Hospitals was almost insuperable. There was no desire on any hand to abolish their hospitals, which must always be needed for slight, and also for immediately pressing cases. What was asked of them was to give way when epidemics, or a sudden influx of wounded, or protracted cases put a greater strain upon the system than it would bear.
The French, meantime, had three sorts of hospitals,—the Divisional ones coming between the Regimental and the General. Only the very slightest cases ever enter their Regimental Hospital; those which may last weeks are referred to the Divisional; and those which may last months, with prospect of recovery, to the General Hospital. The Sardinian plan was nearly the same. The Russians had Divisional Hospitals at various stations; and all cases were carried to them.
The Regimental Hospitals are wherever the regiments are. The advantage is, that aid can be immediately rendered,—not only in case of wounds, but of cholera, in which it is desirable to lay a patient down in the nearest bed to which he can be conveyed. The disadvantages are the hap-hazard quality of the site, the absence of quiet and seclusion, and the liability of being near the scene of conflict. These things cause the French to prefer the Divisional Hospital, which, while still within reach, is set farther back from the force, in a picked situation, and managed on a large scale and with nicer exactitude.
The General Hospital is understood to be at the base of operations: and this supposes, as a part of its organization, a system of transport, not only good of its kind, but adequate to any demands consequent on a great battle, or the spread of an epidemic in the camp. The nearer the hospital is to the active force, the better, of course; but there are conditions to be fulfilled first. It must be safe from the enemy. It must be placed in a permanent station. It must be on a good road, and within immediate reach of markets. It ought also to be on the way home, for the sake of the incurable or the incapacitated who must be sent home.
In the Regimental Hospital, the surgeon may be seen going from the man who has lost a finger to a fever patient,—and then to one who has ophthalmia,—passing on to a fellow raving in delirium tremens,—next to whom is a sufferer under bronchitis, who will not be allowed to go out of doors for weeks to come; and if half a dozen are brought in with cholera in the course of the day, the officials do not know which way to turn. It is possible that the surgeon may be found making starch over the kitchen fire, because there is nobody at hand who understands how to make starched bandages; or he may be at the desk, casting up columns of figures, or writing returns, when he is urgently wanted at the bedside. Such things can hardly happen now; but they have happened within ten years. The Russians, meantime, would be carrying all manner of patients to one of their hospital-stations,—each sufferer to the hospital of his own division. The French would leave the men with scratches and slight diarrhea and delirium tremens in the Regimental Hospital,—would send the fever and bronchitis and scorbutic patients to the Divisional,—and any gravely wounded, or rheumatic, or other very long cases to the General Hospital at the base of operations.
Such arrangements, however, are of no use, if the last be not so organized as to render it fit to supply what the others cannot give, and to answer purposes which the others cannot even propose.
When doctors and soldiers alike shuddered at the mention of the General Hospital as a necessary institution at or near the seat of war, they were thinking of what they had seen or heard of during the Peninsular Campaigns. There were such infirmaries wherever there was a line of march in Spain; and they seemed to be all alike. Hospital gangrene set in among the wounded, and fever among the sick, so that the soldiers said, "To send a poor fellow to the hospital is to send him to death." Yet there was nothing else to be done; for it was impossible to treat the seriously sick and wounded at the spot where they fell. During that war, nearly twice the number which composed the army passed through the hospitals every year; and of these there were known deaths to the amount of thirteen thousand five hundred; and thousands more were never the same men again. When the case was better understood,—as during the last year in the Crimea,—the mortality in the hospitals barely exceeded that of the Guards in their barracks at home! Recovery had become the rule, and death a remarkable event. General Hospitals had come to surpass all other means of curing patients, while fulfilling their own peculiar service to society through new generations.