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The History of a Mouthful of Bread - And its effect on the organization of men and animals
by Jean Mace
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You must excuse my attempting to explain the meanings of all these names; it would take me too long to do so. After all, the mere names are nothing. If I have succeeded in making you understand how all the different parts act, you may call them what you like.

Here we will rest. We are now on our way to where we shall see the large apartments, and be introduced to the master, that head of the house, whom no one can approach without so many ceremonies.



LETTER VIII.

THE STOMACH.

Once in the oesophagus (you remember this is the name of the tube which leads to the stomach), the mouthful of food has nothing to do but to proceed on its way. All along this tube there is a succession of small elastic rings, [Footnote: Properly, contractile circular fibres.] which contract behind the food to force it forward, and widen before it to give it free passage. They thus propel it forward, one after another, till it reaches the entrance to the stomach, into which the last ring pushes it, closing upon it at the same time.

Have you ever observed a worm or a leech in motion? You see a successive swelling up of the whole surface of its body, as the creature gradually pushes forward, just as if there was something in its inside rolling along from the tail to the head. Such is precisely the appearance which the oesophagus would present to you, as the food passes down it, if you had the opportunity of seeing it in action; and this has been called the vermicular movement, in consequence of its resemblance to the movement of a worm.

Here I wish to draw your attention to the very important fact, that this movement is in one respect of a quite different nature from that of your thumb when you take hold of a bit of bread, or that of your jaw when you bite with your teeth, or of your tongue, &c., when you swallow. All these actions belong to yourself, to a certain extent; they are voluntary, and under your own guidance; that is, you may perform them or not, as you choose. There is a constant connexion between you and them, and you knew what I meant at once as I named each of them in succession. But in speaking of this other movement we enter upon another world, of which you know nothing. Here is the black hole of which I spoke. The little rings of the oesophagus perform their work by themselves, and you have no power in the matter. Not only do they move independently of you, but were you to take it into your head to stop them, it would be about as wise a proceeding as if you were to talk to them. We will speak hereafter, in another place, of these impertinent servants, who do not recognise your authority, and with whom we shall have constantly to do, throughout what remains to be said on the subject of eating. The truth is, your body is like a little kingdom, of which you have to be the queen, but queen of the frontiers only. The arms, the legs, the lips, the eyelids, all the exterior parts, are your very humble servants; at your slightest bidding they move or keep still: your will is their law. But in the interior you are quite unknown. There, there is a little republic to itself, ruling itself independently of your orders, which it would laugh at, if you attempted to issue them.

This republic, to make use of another metaphor, is the kitchen of the body. It is there they make blood, as they know how; putting it to all sorts of uses for your advantage, it is true, but without your consent. You are in the position of the lady of a house whose servants have shut the door of the kitchen in her face that they may carry on their business after their own fashion, leaving only the housemaid and coachman at her command. It may be humiliating, perhaps, to be thus only partially mistress at home; but what can you do, my little demi-queen? I will tell you: make up your mind to govern the subjects under your orders as wisely as possible; and, as to the rest, be content with the only resource left you: viz., that of looking in at the window of the kitchen to see what goes on there!

The stomach is the head cook: the president of the internal republic. He has charge of the stoves; the whole weight of affairs is on his hands, and he provides for the interests of all. Aesop taught us this, long ago, in his fable of "The Belly and Members." [Footnote: La Fontaine's translation is quoted in the French original, where the name of the fable is "Messer Gaster," a more correct title than our own. Gaster is a Greek word signifying stomach; and it is strictly the stomach which is meant in the fable. From this comes, too, the medical term gastritis, the name of a disease of the stomach.—TR.] It is a very good fable, and was wisely appealed to once by a Roman Consul to appease a disturbance in the State. But the application was not quite fair in one respect; and since I have started the subject, I will satisfy myself by explaining to you where it was wrong. The time will not be wasted, for this fable has furnished information to a great many people about the economy of their insides, and possibly to you; and I should like you to know the exact truth of all the particulars alluded to. Whether Aesop understood them all, I cannot pretend to say; but the application by the old Roman to the quarrel between the big-wig senators and the people was on one point decidedly unjust; for there was, as far as facts are concerned, something to be said on behalf of the stomach, which Consul Menenius seems not to have thought of.

When you come to this part of the Roman history you will learn that the Roman Senate was a large and fat stomach, which did, it is true, furnish good nourishment to the other members of the State, but kept the best share for itself. We may say this now without risk of offence, it having been dead for so long a time. Our stomach is the leanest, slightest, frailest part of our body. It is master in the sense in which it is said in the Gospel, "Let him that is first among you be the servant of the others." It receives everything, but it gives everything back, and keeps nothing, or almost nothing, for itself. Between ourselves, Consul Menenius, the advocate of the Senate, had no business to talk to the poor wretches at Rome of any comparison between their government and so careful an administrator of the public good as a human stomach. He should have taken his subject of comparison from the families of geese or ducks—animals which have no teeth. These have strong, well-grown stomachs—true Roman senators—whose stoutness is in proportion to the work given them to do. But man provides his with work already prepared by chewing, supposing him to have had the sense to chew it, of course. It was not from a comparison with man, therefore, that Menenius ought to have got his boasted apologue, which was but a poor jest on the subject.

You did not expect, my dear, to come in for a lesson on Roman History in a discussion on the stomach. But the study of nature is connected with everything else, though without appearing to be so, and I was not sorry to give you, incidentally, this proof of the unexpected light which it throws, as we go along, upon a thousand questions which appear perfectly foreign to it. Look, for example, at this old fable cited by Menenius. For the two thousand years and upwards that it has been in circulation, troops of historians, poets, orators, and writers of all kinds, have passed it forward from one to the other, without having troubled themselves to investigate the laws of nature in connection with the stomach; therefore, not one, that I am aware of, has observed this small error, so trifling in appearance, so important in reality, which nevertheless is obvious to the first young naturalist who thinks the matter over.

But enough of the Romans. Let us return to our master—the head cook, if you choose to call him so.

I was telling you just now that he managed the stoves, and you may have thought that I was merely using similes, as I am apt to do. But not so: it is quite true that he cooks; and so now tell me, if you can, whence he gets his fire to cook with, or rather, to speak more correctly, who gives it to him?

Now you are quite puzzled, so I must help you out.

In the mansion we were talking about some time ago, to whom would anyone who wanted to light a fire, apply for wood?

I think you can answer this yourself, for you cannot have forgotten our famous steward, who gives everything to everybody. But, you will wonder, I dare say, how the blood can carry wood in his pockets. Wood? Ay, and real wood too, as we shall soon see: but it is not wood we are talking about now. The blood has something more to the purpose than wood in his pockets, for he has heat ready made. So when the stomach wishes to set to work, it appeals to the blood, which comes running from all parts of the body, and heats it so effectually that everything within is really and actually cooked. This is why one feels a sort of slight shudder down the back when the stomach has a great deal to do at once, for the blood being called for in a hurry, comes rushing along in great gushes, and carries with it the heat from the other parts of the body.

It is for this reason, too, that it is so dangerous to bathe when the stomach is at work cooking, because the cold of the water drives suddenly back all the blood which has accumulated around the little saucepan, and this causes such a shock in the body that people often die of it.

Do not ask me, to-day, where this heat of the blood comes from; we will speak of that hereafter. But I may tell you at once that our dear steward is not a bit cleverer in this matter than other people, and obtains his heat, like the humblest mortal, by burning his wood. Do not puzzle yourself to find out how. Enough that he burns it as we do, and by a similar process.

Well, in one way or another, the master cook has his fire at command. You know also, already, what it is he has to get cooked; namely, the pulpy stew, which has begun in the mouth by chewing, and which it is his business now to finish perfectly. Now see what a cook does who has got her stew over the fire. She turns and turns it again and again, and shakes the saucepan from time to time, that the ingredients may be more thoroughly mixed up together; and this is precisely what is done by the stomach; for all the time that the cooking is going on, he swells and contracts himself alternately, after the fashion of those rings of the oesophagus we were talking about, tossing and tumbling the food from one side to another, so as to knead it, as it were.

Again, the cook adds water to her stew from time to time to keep it moist; and so the stomach pours constantly upon his stew a liquid, which contains a great deal of water, and which flows in from a quantity of little holes, sunk in his delicate coats.

What more?

The cook puts in a little salt: and this the stomach takes care not to forget either, for he is a cook who understands his business. In the liquid of which I am speaking, there is, if not exactly salt as one sees it at table, at all events the most active part of salt, that which possesses in the highest degree the property of reducing everything we eat to a paste; and this is the real reason why we find all food so insipid which has not been seasoned with salt. As salt contains a principle essential to the work to be done by the stomach, some method had to be devised to induce us to provide him with it, and this method the porter up above has hit upon. He makes a face if we offer him anything without a little salt on it, as much as to say—"How can you expect them to cook you properly down below, my good friend, if you don't bring them proper materials?"

Upon which hint men have always acted from the beginning; and as far as we can trace history back, we find them mixing salt with their food, though without knowing the real reason why. It is the same, too, with the lower animals. They know nothing of the matter either, but this does not prevent their having a natural relish for salt, as any one will tell you who has the charge of cattle; for their stomachs require for their cooking the very same seasoning as our own, and therefore their porter above has received the same orders.

Salt is not the only thing, however, that exists in that liquid in the stomach. Learned men, after making minute researches, have found in it another equally powerful material, which is also found in milk. Therefore cheese, which contains this material as well as salt, is quite in its place at the end of dinner. It furnishes reinforcements for the stomach in cooking, and this is why you so often hear people say that a little cheese helps the digestion.

The digestion! Yes, that is the word I ought to have begun with. It is the real name of all this cooking; an operation after which I would defy you to recognise the nice little cakes you have eaten, any better than your mamma can trace her pretty rosy-cheeked apples in the jelly which she left on the fire two hours ago. The stomach, as you see, is very busy quite as long a time as that, and if we have to be very careful (as I pointed out before) not to disturb him too suddenly in his work after dinner, it is also important that we should not, while at dinner, give him more work to do than he is capable of doing. Although he is the master, he is but a puny fellow, as I have already pointed out; nevertheless, he works conscientiously, because he knows that the life of the whole body depends upon his exertions. Some people even say that in spite of his leanness he strips himself, at each digestion, of his interior skin, which he sacrifices to his work, and the fragments of which tend to increase and improve the stew which is entrusted to his care. Think of this, my dear, whenever a greedy fit comes over you, and recollect that such a disinterested public functionary deserves some consideration. Besides, there is serious danger, quite apart from any question of injustice, in overwhelming him with work. If your legs are wearied out, you have it in your power to lie in bed. If your arm is in pain, you can keep it at rest. But your stomach is like those poor people who have to support their families by the labor of each day. He, too, labors for others: he has no right to rest, no right to be ill, therefore; and when he begins to fail, woe betide you—you will have enough of it.

Children who have learnt nothing may laugh at all this, but you, my dear, are beginning to know something, and "science constrains," i.e. it has its claims and requirements. It requires you, to-day, not to be greedy, to-morrow, something else, and so on, continually, until you have become quite reasonable and wise. I am sorry for you if this vexes you, but it was your own wish to learn, and science constrains. Indeed, I will whisper to you in confidence that this is the best excuse people who are unwilling to learn have to offer for refusing. They do not know what learning may lead to, and what a pity it would be if they could no longer be greedy, or ill-natured, or selfish. What would become of us all in such a case?



LETTER IX.

THE STOMACH—(continued).

We made a very long story of the stomach last time, my dear child; and, after all, I see that there was one thing I forgot to tell you—viz., what it is like.

Have you ever seen a bagpiper, I wonder? A man who carries under his arm a kind of large dark brown bag, which he fills with air by blowing into it, and out of which he presently forces the same air into a musical pipe by pressing it gently with his elbow. If you never saw such a thing, it is a pity; first, because the bagpipe was the national instrument of our ancestors the Gauls, and is religiously preserved as such by the Scotch Highlanders and the peasants of Brittany—(two remnants of that illustrious race, whose history I recommend to your careful perusal some day); secondly, and it is this fact which has the greatest interest for us just now, because that large bag, which is the principal part of the instrument, gives you a very exact idea of your stomach; for in fact it really and truly is a stomach itself, and moreover, the stomach of an animal whose interior formation resembles yours very, very much.

And who do you suppose is this audacious animal, which presumes to have an inside so like that of a pretty little girl? Really, I am half ashamed to name him, for fear you should be angry with me for doing so. It is—it is the pig! The resemblance is not exactly a flattering one to you, perhaps, but we are all alike, and it would be worse than foolish to grumble at being created as we are. Moreover, there is one difference; the pig, who thinks of nothing but eating, has a very much larger stomach than we have, which is some consolation, at any rate.

Place the palm of your right hand on what is called the pit of the stomach, turning the ends of the fingers towards the heart; your hand will nearly cover the space usually occupied by the stomach, and you may figure it to yourself as a rounded and elongated bag, bigger above than below, making a very decided bend inside as it descends from the heart downward; something like one of those long French pears, called "Bon-chretiens," if it were bent in the middle, and the big end of it were placed next the heart. As for the exact size of the bag, there is no telling it, for it depends upon circumstances. It is a very convenient bag in that respect; just such a one as you would like to have in your frock for a pocket; only there would be a danger of your being tempted to put too many things into it. For as you fill it, it expands, and enlarges itself like an indian-rubber ball, which, though only the size of an egg to begin with, becomes as big as your head if you blow hard into it. Then, as it gets empty, it recovers itself, diminishing gradually in size in plait-like contractions.

When people remain too long without eating, they have, as they say, twinges in the stomach. This is because the stomach, becoming by degrees quite empty, and contracting more and more, the surrounding parts which were sustained by it, lose their support, and strain at their ligaments, which now have all the weight to bear. Careless people, who do not think of such things, are reminded by the twinging pains that it is time to eat, just as a careless servant is called to order by the bell of which his master has pulled the string.

In your case, my dear child, such warnings are soon attended to, and you have not always even to wait till they come. But there are hundreds of miserable beings who are warned to no purpose, who cannot obey the master when he calls for his rations, because they have nothing to give him; and when this forced disobedience lasts too long, they end by dying of it. In cases like these, when human beings thus cruelly perish, the stomach is found to be contracted till it is scarcely bigger than one's finger.

On the other hand, a man once died suffocated from excess of food, after one of those great public dinners, which last four, six, or more hours—one can scarcely say correctly how long—and the doctors who examined him found his stomach so prodigiously enlarged that it alone occupied more than one-half of his inside. As you perceive, therefore, the stomach has, properly speaking, no fixed size. Its size depends upon what there is in it. It is like those men whose manners go up and down with their fortunes; who seem very grand people when their pockets are well filled, but become very small ones when their purses are empty. There is, nevertheless, this difference between them, that such men are fools, because they are men, and not bags; whereas the stomach is a sensible bag, fulfilling with intelligence the duties of its character as a bag. It is very fortunate for us that it is ready to change its size, according to the caprices of our appetite; and dressmakers would do well if they could get a hint from it how to improve their style of pockets, which certainly cannot have cost their inventors any very great effort of imagination!

The way in which this extraordinary pocket empties itself is not less curious than the rest. As long as digestion is going on, the stomach is firmly closed at each end; at the upper one by the last ring of the aesophagus, and at the lower by another ring of the same kind, only stronger; the watchful guardian of the passage which leads to the intestines. This ring is called the pylorus.

For once, here is a name which agrees with our method of describing the human machine, and I have much pleasure in translating it to you, although it is a Greek word. Pylorus is the Greek for a porter; and our ring is indeed a porter like the one of which we have already said so much, and which I called last time the porter up above, in anticipation of his colleague below.

The porter up above presides at the entrance; the one below at the exit, and both for the same purpose, namely, to taste. [Footnote: It would be absurd to say so in the common acceptation of the term; but according to No. 1 of Mr. Mayo's "Classification of the impressions produced by substances taken into the fauces," viz., "Where sensations of touch alone are produced, as by rock-crystal, sapphire, or ice," the word taste may be applied to the discriminating faculty of the Pylorus.—TR.]

It may well astonish you, that you should have in your inside a taster who is not accountable to you; who experiences sensations of which you know nothing, and cannot even form an idea. Yet thus it is. The pylorus actually tastes the paste which is in the stomach, and if it is not to his taste, that is to say, if the work of digestion has not sufficiently transformed it for use, he keeps the door relentlessly closed.

The porter up above has a thousand different tastes. He makes his bow to meringues, and admits wings of chickens. Fries, roasts, stews, things tender or crisp, sweet and salt, oily, greasy, or sour; amongall kinds he has friends whom he welcomes in succession; and it is well for us that he does so, for we share in all his pleasures.

The porter below, who works for himself alone, obscure and unknown down in his black hole, the porter below, I say, has but one taste, knows but one friend—a gray-looking paste, semi-liquid, with a very peculiar unsavoury smell, disagreeable enough to any one but himself, which is called the chyme, I scarcely know why, but it is what everything one eats turns into, without exception, be it delicate or coarse by nature. The great lord's truffle-stuffed pullet makes, as nearly as possible, the same chyme as the charcoal-burner's black bread; and though the palate of the former may be better treated than that of the latter, the pylori can enjoy but one and the selfsame sauce. Equality is soon restored in this case, therefore, as you see.

To be free to pass through then, the contents of the stomach must be reduced to the condition of chyme, the only substance which finds favor with the pylorus: and as, in the endless varieties of food which go to form our nutriment, some sorts turn into chyme much more quickly than others, it follows, that by the aid of its discriminating tact (which is not easy to elude) the pylorus allows some to pass, while it turns back others, until all in succession are converted into chyme. For example, in the case of a mouthful of bread and meat swallowed at once, the bread passes away on its travels long before the meat has done dancing attendance in the stomach, awaiting that transformation without which the pylorus will never allow it to slip through.

This ought to make you seriously reflect on the danger of carelessly swallowing things, which, by their nature, are not susceptible of being converted into chyme, particularly if they are too large to hide in the general paste, as a cherry-stone will sometimes do, so mixed up with other food as to pass unperceived by the pylorus, over whose decisions we have no control, remember. It bangs the door to, be assured, in the very face of anything obnoxious without hesitation, and the poor stomach would find itself condemned to retain them for an indefinite period, unless by dint of prayers and supplications they should contrive to soften the stern guardian, who may at last get accustomed to their approach, and, perhaps, in a weak moment, allow them to pass as contraband goods; like a custom-house officer on a foreign frontier who will occasionally shut his eyes to a country friend's packet of tobacco. But the poor stomach has had to suffer a martyrdom meantime, while the dispute was pending, and before the intruder has been winked at by the porter.

I shall remember all my life the history of a peach-stone, which was related to me in 1831. I was at the time a youngster at the Stanislaus College, and (aided perhaps by the Revolution of July, which had recently occurred), it was just then discovered to be a proper thing to set about teaching the laws of nature to children. Consequently, for the first time in the history of schools, a professor of natural history was added to the instructors of Latin and Greek. I leave you to judge how we opened our ears to his lessons. When we arrived in the course of our new studies at the pylorus, of which we had none of us ever heard before, our professor, in warning us, as I have done you, of the dangers of imprudent gluttony, related, as an instance, the case of a lady who had inadvertently swallowed a peach-stone. For two years she suffered agonies in her stomach without any cessation or relief. The luckless peach-stone, repelled by the walls of the stomach, which its very touch irritated, was incessantly thrown against the entrance of the pylorus, but in vain. As to turning itself into chyme, such a thing was not to be thought of, it was far too hard a substance for that. Round and round it went, causing in its relentless course such renewed suffering to the poor patient, that she was visibly sinking from day to day.

The doctors, finding all their treatment of no avail, began to despair of her life, when one fine day she was suddenly, and as if by enchantment, relieved of her tormentor. The peach-stone had bribed the porter, with whom, in the course of the two years, it had scraped up a sort of friendship. It had cleared the terrible barrier, had been allowed to slip out, and the lady was saved; but it was only just in time.

I do not know, my dear, that this story, which is certainly well calculated to cure you of any fancy for swallowing peach-stones, willmake as much impression on you as it did on me five-and-twenty years ago. The idea of telling it to you occurred to me quite by chance. It has carried me back to the time when, as is now the case with you, the mysteries which lie hidden in our internal organization were beginning to be revealed to my mind; and you will one day know with what delight one recalls the remembrance of these first dawnings of the intellectual life—that delightful infancy of the growing mind—more rich in recollections, and more interesting a thousand fold than the infancy of the body. I have allowed myself the little treat of this episode, and if I have had the good fortune to amuse you at all during our progress, you must not cavil at this piece of self-indulgence. And now we have done just what the peach-stone did; we, too, have passed the barrier, and are out of the stomach, but still we have not yet come to the end of our tale.



LETTER X.

THE INTESTINAL CANAL.

I venture to hope, my dear child, that more and more light is dawning upon your mind, as we gradually proceed on our little journey. You must by this time have some idea how the food, which has been masticated and softened in the mouth, cooked, kneaded, and decomposed in the stomach, and transformed into a soft, semi-transparent kind of paste, will soon be ready to mix with the blood, in order to repair the waste that the life-stream is continually undergoing in its ceaseless course through all parts of the body.

You have perhaps thought it a sad degradation for a truffle-stuffed fowl to turn to chyme. But when you consider that by this means it becomes part and parcel of a human body, the change is not to be despised. It was necessary, to begin with, that materials destined to the honor of being incorporated into our frame, should break the links which bound them to the condition of fowl and vegetable, and thus be free to engage in new relations; just as a man who wishes to be naturalized in a new country must first break the ties which hold him to the old one. Those articles of food we were speaking of lately, which are so stiff and ceremonious, and want so much coaxing before they change into chyme, which, moreover, we call indigestible because they tire the stomach so much more than the rest, are merely those whose component parts being held together by more solid ties than usual, continue obstinately in the same state as at first, and will not consent to that dissolution which is the first condition of their glorious transformation.

Moreover, the transformation which has been described to you now, you will henceforth meet with everywhere; wherever, that is to say, and as far as, you choose to pursue the study of nature. God works by one grand and simple rule so far as we can discover. He destroys to reconstruct, builds up what is to be, out of the ruins of what has been, creates life by death, if I may so express myself, and thus, what takes place in our stomachs on a small scale goes on on a large one in the universe.

Social communities, like everything else, are subject to this universal law, and it is not always an advantage to them when they refuse to be digested in the great stomach of the age!

While we are on this subject, and to show you how wonderfully this little history of eating, told in this familiar style, applies right and left, let us reflect on the causes which have produced a great and mighty nation in one country (as in France), while in another (as in. Germany), a far more numerous and even more intellectual population has failed to rise to anything like the same distinction. The explanation is not difficult. In the one case, the petty tribes among which the land was originally divided consented to mix, and dissolve, and be digested as it were together, in order to revive again for a more glorious career; while in the other, the aboriginal societies have adhered stiffly to their distinctive characters, and failing to submit to the regenerating process, cling together in indigested portions, rather than assimilate into one great whole.

However, we must return to the pylorus or we shall be getting into a difficulty! What I am now going to offer you though, is rather hard of digestion, but it will not do to provide sweet pastry only for your brain; it will be more wholesome for it to have something a little more solid to bite at from time to time.

The pylorus, then, as has been shown, makes way for all sorts of aliments when they have been converted into chyme; i.e., when they have lost their original form and individuality. They are dead to their first life, therefore; now the question is, how are they to be revived into the new one?

Behind the pylorus extends a long conduit or tube—so long as to be sometimes seven times the length of the whole body, but doubled up backwards and forwards a number of times, so as to form a large bundle, which fills the whole cavity of the belly—or as we also call it, the abdomen. This bundle or packet is known to everybody as the intestines, and it is divided into two portions: the small intestine—that is, the slenderer, finer portion which begins at the pylorus, and forms all the doublings of the packet, and the large intestine, which is shorter and thicker also, as its name implies, and keeps to some extent separate, though it is in reality only a continuation of the other. This starts at the base of the abdomen, near the right side, goes up in a straight line to the height of the stomach, below which it passes, making a large bend in front of the small intestine; after which it descends on the left side to the lower part of the trunk, where it terminates.

You will perhaps inquire how the chyme continues to make its way through all these manifold twists of the intestines; but do not trouble yourself; it has only to let itself go. That vermicular movement which we noticed in the oesophagus and in the stomach is found here also. It reigns, so to speak, from one end of our internal eating-machine to the other; which eating-machine, by the way, we will now call by its proper scientific name—the intestinal canal; and it is by that movement the food is carried forward from the first moment it leaves the mouth, and helped through all its journeyings, till it reaches the termination of the large intestine.

If your body were made of glass, so that you could look through it to watch the intestine at work, it would appear to you like an enormous worm coiled up into a bundle, heaving and moving with all its rings at once. You never suspected there was such a movement within you; yet it has been going on there continually ever since you were born, and will not cease till you die. Your internal machinery never goes to sleep, not even when you are sleeping yourself. It is a workshop in constant operation, providing night and day for your necessities; and in this respect the inner man sets a first-rate example to the outer one! You will recollect what I said to you the other day about the internal republic, and the provinces which are under your sole government. It would be very disgraceful for the kingdom to be doing nothing while the republic is working so hard; and a queen who understands her office will make it a point of honor to banish idleness from her household; in the houses of her neighbors this word is unknown.

The chyme once launched into this moving tube, is in no danger of remaining stationary there; the fear is, of its passing on too quickly, as you will soon see. But this danger has been provided against. Along the whole course of its journey, though chiefly at the commencement, it encounters at intervals certain elastic fleshy valves which interrupt its progress, and do not allow it to pass till it has accumulated in sufficient force to push them before it, and so escape. In consequence of which it is always being checked in its advance; and during these stoppages a most important work goes on upon it at leisure.

You must understand first, that the substances of which our food is composed, and which are afterwards decomposed in the stomach, are not all invited to enter the blood. Our aliments are something like the stones which the gold-seekers of California reduce to powder in order to extract therefrom the hidden particles of gold they contain. The gold of our food is that portion of it which the blood is able to appropriate to his own advantage; the rest he rejects as refuse. And this explains why a small slice of meat nourishes you more than a whole plateful of salad. Meat is a stone absolutely full of gold, while the salad has only a few veins of it here and there, and by far the greater part of the material it sends to the intestines, has, in consequence, to be thrown away.

Now it is in the first portion of the small intestine, the part known by the Latin name duodenum, which signifies twelve (because it is about the length of twelve finger-breadths), that the division takes place between the parts which go to nourish the blood, and those which are useless refuse. It is an important operation as you may suppose, and were the chyme to pass rapidly through the small intestine the gold would run the risk of being carried off with the refuse.

After the delay in the stomach, the food-substances make another halt in the duodenum, which, being very thin and slender, would have great difficulty in containing them at the time of their grand entry, an hour or two after a meal, were it not that it possesses the property of expanding itself to such an extent, that it swells out on grand occasions to the usual size of the stomach itself, so that it has sometimes been considered as a second stomach. And no doubt the operation which takes place in it gives it a claim to the appellation, for thereby the finishing stroke is put to the work previously begun in the stomach, and one may fairly say that, but for this last touch, very little would be accomplished at all.

Above the duodenum, and hid behind the stomach, is a kind of sponge, similar in nature to those we have already observed in the mouth. To this has been given the somewhat ridiculous name of pancreas; I call it ridiculous because it is derived from two Greek words which signify all flesh; whereas the pancreas, which is a sponge of the same description as the salivary glands, presents the appearance of a grayish granulous mass which is not fleshy at all. Whatever be its name, however, our sponge communicates with the duodenum through a small tube, by means of which it pours into the chyme, as it accumulates, a copious supply of a fluid exactly like the saliva of the mouth.

Just by the place where the tube from the pancreas empties itself into the duodenum, another tube arrives bringing also a fluid, but of a different sort. This last comes from the liver, where there is a manufactory of bile—an unpleasant yellowish-green liquid, the name of which you have no doubt heard before, and which plays a very important part in the transformation of the aliments.

These new agents, the bile and the liver, are far too important to be passed over in a few words; I reserve them, therefore, for my next letter. Meantime, not to leave you longer in suspense, I may say that the separation between the gold and the refuse in the chyme takes place as soon as the latter has received the two liquids furnished by the liver and the pancreas. If you ask in what manner the division is accomplished, I confess, to my shame, that I am not able to explain it! What takes place there is a chemical process, and hereafter I shall have occasion to explain the meaning of that phrase. But the Great Chemist has not in this instance seen fit to divulge to man the secret of the work.

Indeed, you must prepare yourself beforehand, my dear child, to meet with many other mysteries besides this, if we pursue to the end our study of this flesh and bone which constitute the body of man. And here I recall what Camille Desmoulins is reported to have said about St. Just, viz., that he carried his head as high as if it were a consecrated Host.

[Footnote: The young Protestant reader who has never lived in a Catholic country, will perhaps need to be told, that what is here called Consecrated Host, is the sacramental wafer, or communion bread of the church. In French called hostie, in Italian, ostia.

In all their religious processions, which are very frequent, the host is carried by the priest highest in authority, in a glass box placed on a staff about four feet long, which he holds before him and so far elevated that he has to look up to it. Over his head a richly embroidered canopy of satin is always carried by several men; and while these are passing, all good Catholics uncover the head and bend the knee, wherever they may be.

It is the custom also for the priest to be called to administer the sacrament to any one about to die, on which occasion he always walks under this canopy, dressed in his priestly robes, carrying the host and preceded by some boys, ringing a bell, when the same ceremony is observed. In passing a regiment or company of soldiers, the column is halted, wheeled into line, and with arms presented, the whole line, officers and men, kneel before it, and the priest usually turns and offers a benediction. When he goes in the evening to the house of the dying, it is customary for the people to go out upon the balconies with lighted lamps and kneel while the host is being carried by.]

You will read about these two men by-and-by in history. Meantime I will not bid you do exactly the same as St. Just, because you would be laughed at; but in one point of view he was not altogether wrong. The human body is, in very truth, a temple in which the Deity maybe said to reside, not inactively, not veiling his presence, but living and moving unceasingly, watching on our behalf over the mysterious accomplishment of the everlasting laws which equally guide the chyme in its workings through our frames, and direct the sun in its course through the heavens. We mortals eat, but it is God who brings nourishment out of our food.



LETTER XI.

THE LIVER.

I fear you will be getting a little weary, my dear, of dwelling so long on this intestinal tube, where things which looked so well on one's plate become so transformed that they cannot be recognized, and where there is nothing to talk about but chyme, and bile, and the pancreas, and all sorts of things neither pleasant to the eye nor agreeable to the ear.

But what is to be done? It is always the same story with useful things. The people by whose labor you live in this world, are by no means the handsomest to look at, and so it is in the little world we carry about in our bodies.

Never mind! Keep up your heart. We are getting to the end. We shall very soon be following the nourishing portion of our food, on its journey to the blood, and you will find yourself in new scenes.

First, though, let us say a few words about the liver—the bile-manufacturer; and to begin with, I will describe the place he occupies in our interior.

The interior of the human body is divided into two large compartments, placed one above the other; the chest and the abdomen. These are two distinct apartments, each containing its own particular class of tenants: the upper one being occupied by the heart and the lungs (the respective offices of which I will presently explain to you); while in the lower are the stomach, the intestines, and all the other machinery which assists in the process of digestion. These two stories of apartments are separated as those of our houses are, by a floor placed just above the pit of the stomach. This floor is a large thin, flat muscle, stretched like canvas, right across the body; and it is called the diaphragm—another hard word! Never mind; but do your best to recollect it, for we shall have great need of it when we come to the lungs. If you had been born in Greece, you would have no difficulty with the word, for it is Greek for separation. It means, in fact, a separating partition, or, as I called it just now, a floor. All this is preparatory to telling you that the liver is hooked to the diaphragm in the abdomen. It is a very large mass and fills up, by itself alone, all the right side of the lower compartment, from the top downwards, to where the bones end which protect the abdomen on each side, and which are called the short ribs. Place your hand there, and you will find them without difficulty.

Large as the liver is, it hangs suspended to a mere point of the diaphragm, and shakes about with even the slightest movement of the body. It is partly on this account that many people do not like to sleep lying on the left side, especially after a good dinner, because in this position the liver weighs upon and oppresses the stomach, like a stout gentleman asleep in a coach who falls upon and crushes his companion at every jolt of the vehicle. The liver within you produces, then, the same effect that a cat, lying on the pit of your stomach would do, and the result is that you have the nightmare.

The liver is of a deep-red color. It is an accumulation of excessively minute atoms, which, when united, form a somewhat compact mass, and within each of which there is a little cell, invisible to the naked eye, where an operation of the highest importance to our existence is mysteriously carried on. It appears a very simple one, it is true, yet hitherto it has baffled all attempts at explanation. Listen, however; the subject is well worthy your careful attention, whether it can be explained or not, and we must look back to take it up from thebeginning.

I told you about the thousand workmen constantly busied in every part of our bodies, who call on the blood without ceasing for "more, more." You will remember further that it is to enable the blood to supply these constant demands, that we require food.

This being understood, it is not difficult to see why we grow; the difficulty is, rather, to explain why we do not continue to grow.

Consider, for instance, the quantity of food you have eaten during the last year. Picture to yourself all the bread, meat, vegetables, fruits, cakes, &c., piled upon a table. Put a whole year's milk into a large earthenware pan, all the sweetmeats into a large jar, all the soup into a great tureen, and see what a huge heap you will have collected together. Then try to recollect how much you have increased in size with all this nourishment, which has entered your body. But reckoning in this way—even supposing the little workmen had used only a half or even a third of the materials in question, and rejected the rest as refuse—you would have to stoop in order to get in at the door; and as for your papa, whose heap must have been bigger than yours, his case would be desperate indeed; and yet he has not grown at all!

This is very curious, and I dare say you have never thought about it before.

Do you know the story of a certain lady called Penelope, who was the wife of Ulysses, a very celebrated king of whom the world has talked for the last 3000 years—thanks to a poet called Homer, who did him the honor of making him his hero! The husband of Penelope had left her for a long time to go to the wars, and as he did not return, people tried to persuade her to marry again. For peace and quiet's sake, she promised to do so when she should have finished a piece of cloth she was weaving, at which she worked all day long. They thought to get hold of her very soon, but her importunate lovers were disappointed; for the faithful wife, determined to await the return of her husband, unwove every night the portion she had woven during the day; and I leave you to judge what progress the web made in the course of a year!

Now, every part of our bodies is a kind of Penelope's web, with this difference—that here the web unravels at one end as fast as the work progresses at the other. As the little masons put new bricks to the house on one side, the old ones crumble away on another—in this manner the work might go on forever without the house becoming bigger; while, on the other hand, the house is always being rebuilt. People who are fond of building, as some are, would quite enjoy having such a mansion as this on hand!

At your early age, my love, fewer bricks drop out than are added, and this is why you grow from year to year. At your papa's age, just the same number perish and are replaced; and therefore he continues the same size, although in the course of the year he swallows three times his own weight of food. But when I say this, do not suppose it is an offensive remark, or that I think him either too little a man, or too great an eater; seeing that there are 365 days in the year, and that a quart of water weighs two pounds: I need not say more!

But the next question is, what becomes of all the refuse which this perpetual destruction produces?

What becomes of it? Have you forgotten our steward who looks after everything? He is a more active fellow than I have represented him! To the office of purveyor-general he adds that of universal scavenger. But in the latter department he obtains help. Wherever he passes along, troops of little scavengers press forward, like himself always busy; and while he holds out a new brick to the mason as he hurries by, the little scavenger slips out the old one and conveys it away. The history of these scavengers is a very curious one, and we shall have to speak about it a little further on. They are minute pipes, i.e. ducts, spread all over the body, which they envelope as if with fine net work. They all communicate together, and end by emptying the whole of their contents into one large canal, which, in its turn, empties itself into the great stream of the blood. Imagine all the drains of a great town flowing into one large one, which should empty itself into the river on which the town was built, and you will have a fair idea of the whole transaction. What the river would in such a case be to the town, the blood is to the body—the universal scavenger, as I said before. But you will ask further, What does the blood do with all this?—a question which brings us back once more to the liver.

You must have seen, just now, that the pockets of our dear steward would be rapidly overloaded, were he to keep constantly filling them with the old worn-out materials which the builders rejected, unless he had some means of emptying them as he went along. Accordingly, a wise Providence has furnished the body, on all sides, with clusters of small chambers or cells, in which the blood deposits, as he goes by, all the refuse he has picked up, and which makes its exit from the body sometimes in one way, sometimes in another. Now, the cells of the liver are among these refuse-chambers. One may even consider them as some of the most important ones. When the blood has run its course through the lower compartment, I mean the abdomen, it collects from all directions and rushes into a large canal called the portal vein, which conveys it to the liver. As soon as this canal has entered the liver, it divides and subdivides itself in every direction, like the limbs and branches of a tree diverging from the trunk; and very soon the blood finds itself disseminating through an infinity of small canals or pipes, whose ultimate extremities, a thousand times finer than the finest hairs of your head, communicate with the tiny cells of the liver. There, each of the imperceptible little drops, thus carried into these imperceptibly minute cell-chambers, rids itself—but no one knows how—of a part of the sweepings it has carried along with it. Which done, the little drops thread their way back through other canals as fine as the first, and which go on uniting more and more to each other, like the branches of a tree on their way to the trunk—forming at last one large canal, through which the blood escapes from the liver, once more relieved from its weight of rubbish, and ready to recommence its work.

You are going to ask me, "What is all this to me—this history of the blood and its sweepings? It was the bile you undertook to tell me about, that liquid you spoke of as so necessary for the transformation of the food: we were to get out of the intestinal tubes by the help of the bile, you promised me."

Well, my little impatient minx, it is the history of the bile that I have been relating to you, and what is most remarkable about it is this. You have perhaps heard of those wholesale ragpickers, who makelarge fortunes by collecting out of the mud and dirt of the streets, the many valuable things which have been dropped there? Well, the liver is the master-ragpicker of the body. He fabricates, out of the refuse of the blood, that bile which is so valuable in the economy of the human frame. This bile is neither more nor less than the deposit left by the little drops of blood in the innumerable minute liver-cells. See what an ingenious arrangement, and in what a simple way two objects are effected by one operation!

Now you have learnt the genealogy of the bile, and the double office of the liver, which benefits the blood by what it takes from it, benefits the chyme by what it gives it, and is an economist at the same time—since it only gives back what it has received. This was what I particularly wished to explain to you: the rest you will easily learn.

The bile does not make a long stay in the little cells, it also escapes, by canals similar to those which carry off the blood, after itspurification; and which in a similar way unite by degrees together, until at length they terminate in a single canal, communicating with a little bag placed close against the liver, where the bile accumulates between the periods of digestion—so forming a stock on hand, ready to pour at once into the duodenum when the latter calls for its assistance. The next time the cook cleans out a fowl, ask her to show you the little greenish bladder which she calls the gall and which she takes such care not to burst, because it contains a bitter liquid which, if spilt upon it, would quite ruin the flavor of the fowl. Such, precisely, is the bag which holds the bile. Moreover, it is close by the liver of the fowl that you will find it placed: and you can convince yourself in a moment by it, that the little provision I tell you of is always stored away therein.

We have also within us a multitude of minute electric telegraphs, which transmit intelligence of all that occurs from one part of the body to another, in a more wonderful manner even than the telegraphs of man's making; later we shall see how they work. By their means the little bag by the liver is made aware in the twinkling of an eye of the entrance of the chyme into the duodenum, and forthwith the bile returns for some distance by the canal which brought it, and then branches off into a larger one which opens into the duodenum.

The liver, on getting this intelligence, sets to work more diligently than ever, and the bile flows in streams into the duodenum, where it mixes as it arrives with the current which comes from the pancreas. Thus combined, the two liquids flow over the chyme, which they saturate on all sides; and here, as I have said, the work of the intestinal canal ends. What is serviceable for the blood is separated from the useless refuse, and nothing remains but to get it out of the intestines. It is true that in their character of tubes these are closed on all sides. But do not trouble yourself: a means of escape is prepared.

Before we part, however, I must apologize for something. I have not described to you what the bile consists of, or what kind of refuse the blood leaves in the liver; nevertheless, as you take an interest in this much-neglected book of nature, you ought to know these things.

It is, however, very difficult to lead you by the hand through so many wonder*, where the secrets of nature are all in operation at once, and to explain each as soon as we meet with it. They combine, and progress together like the waves of the sea, where one breath suffices to agitate the whole mass.

When we have talked about the lungs, we will have another word to say about the liver.



LETTER XII. THE CHYLE.

To-day we have to begin by making acquaintance with a new term. I would willingly have spared you this, if I could, for the word is neither a pretty, nor a well-chosen one, but we cannot get on without it.

You are aware now that the learned, unknown sponsors, who gave names to the different parts of the body, bestowed the odd-enough one of chyme on that pasty substance which passes out of the stomach when the cooking is over. We have said quite enough about it, and you know enough of it I am sure. Well! the people seem to have had quite a fancy for the word chyme, for they adopted it again, with only a very slight alteration, when they wanted to specify separately the quintessence of the chyme (the useful part that is), which has to unite with the blood, and which we have been speaking of as the gold of the aliments —this then they called chyle. I give you the name as I received it, but have no responsibility in the matter.

In concluding the last chapter I said we were sure to find there was a plan for extracting the best part of the chyme, viz. the chyle, from the intestinal canal; and a very simple one it is. A complete regiment of those little scavengers lately described, are drawn up in battle-array along the whole length of the small intestine, but especially round about the duodenum. There, a thousand minute pipes pierce in all directions through the coat of the intestine, and suck, like so many constantly open mouths, the drops of chyle as fast as they are formed. They are called chyliferous vessels or chyle-bearers, just as we might call hot-air stoves caloriferous or heat-bearers— from the Latin word fero, which means to carry or bear. I mentioned before that there were, within the intestine, certain elastic valves which obstruct the progress of the chyme, and oblige it to be constantly stopping. There are in fact so many of these, and the skin which lines the intestinal canal is so folded and plaited, that if it were stretched out at full length on a big table, it would cover at least as large a surface as that other skin, with which you are so well acquainted, which entirely clothes the body outside.

Now, the chyliferous vessels we have been speaking of insinuate themselves into all the plaits and folds alluded to, and thus they reach at last the very centre of the chymous paste, and not a single drop of chyle can escape them. They do their work so well, that the separation is effected long before the paste reaches the large intestine; and when that has forced its way through the door which guards the entrance, and which prevents its ever returning again, the chyle is already far off on its mission. It has threaded its way along the little pipes, and, always creeping nearer and nearer, is on the high-road to the heart, where it is anxiously expected.

And what becomes of the rest? There is nothing further to be said about it, but that it shares the fate of everything else which, having answered its purpose in its place, is no longer wanted and must be got rid of. Thus in works where iron-stone smelting is carried on, the refuse that remains after the ore is extracted, though available for road-making or other purposes, is thrown out of the manufactory as a useless incumbrance there.

Our history requires us to follow the fate of that golden aliment the chyle, which is now in a condition to support the life of the body, and every drop of which will turn into blood—the blood which beats at our hearts, nourishes our limbs, and sets at work the fibres of our brain.

I ought to tell you first that the chyle, when it leaves the intestine, is very like milk. It is a white, rather fatty juice, having the appearance, when you look closely at it, of a kind of whey, in which a crowd of globules, or little balls if you prefer it, infinitesimally small, are swimming about. Some people, whose curiosity nothing can check, have put the tips of their tongue to it; so I am able to tell you, if you care for the information, that it has rather a saltish taste.

At this point it is what may be called new-born blood, and to carry on the metaphor, blood whose education has yet to be completed. All the elements of blood are there already, but in confusion and intermingled, so that they cannot yet be recognised. A wonderful fact, and one of which I have no explanation to offer you, because among the many mysteries which are silently going on within us is this, that the education of the new-born blood begins entirely of itself in the vessels which are carrying it along. During their very journey, the confused elements are setting themselves in order and forming into groups. In short the chyle, when it comes out of the chyliferous vessels, is already much more like blood than when it entered them, and yet one cannot account for the change. It is changed, however; its whiteness has already assumed a rosy tinge, and if it is exposed to the air it may be seen turning slightly red, as if to give notice to the observer of what it is about to become.

You know that all our scavengers uniting together deposit their sweepings in one large canal, which is called the thoracic duct. The chyle scavengers arrive there just like the rest, and there our poor friend finds himself confounded for a moment with all the dross of the body, as sometimes happens to men who devote themselves to the public good. But the crisis passes in an instant. A little further off, the thoracic duct pours its whole contents together into a large vein situated close to the heart, and the blood has no difficulty in recognising and appropriating what belongs to him.

Here, my dear little scholar, we conclude the first part of our story. To eat is to nourish oneself; that is, to furnish all parts of the body with the substances necessary to them for the proper performance of their functions. The mouth receives these substances in their crude condition, the intestinal canal prepares them for use, and the blood distributes them.

After the history of the preparation, comes naturally that of the distribution.

The first is called the DIGESTION. It is the history of the _chyle,_ which begins between the thumb and forefinger while as yet invisible, hid in the thousand prisons of our different sorts of food, and ends in the _thoracic duct, when, disengaged from all previous bonds, purified and refined by the ordeals of its intestinal life, it leaps into the blood, carrying with it a renewal of life and power.

The second history is that of the CIRCULATION. It is the history of the Blood, that indefatigable traveler, who is constantly circulating or describing a circle (the Latins called it circulus) through the body; by which I mean that it is continually retracing its steps, coming out of the heart to return to it, re-entering it only to leave it again, and so on without intermission, until the hour of death.

The history of the Digestion, which we have just gone through, goes on quietly from one end to the other without any complication.

That of the Circulation, which we are about to begin, is mixed up with another history, from which it cannot be kept separate while the description is going on, although the two histories are in reality quite distinct from each other. The blood describes two circles, to speak correctly: 1st. A wide one, which extends from the extremities of the body to the heart, and back again from the heart to the extremities. 2d. A more contracted one, which goes from the heart to the lungs, and back from the lungs to the heart. Whilst circulating in the lungs, it encounters the air we breathe; and here takes place, between it and the air, one of the most curious transactions imaginable, without which the blood would not be able to nourish the body even for five minutes. This is called RESPIRATION, or the act of breathing.

Digestion, circulation, respiration, the three histories together form but one—that of NUTRITION, or the act of nourishing; in other words, of supporting life. This is what I called eating at first, that I might not mystify you at the beginning with hard words. But now that we are growing learned ourselves, we must accustom ourselves to the terms in use among learned people, especially when they are not more formidable than those I have just taught you.

Our next subject for consideration, then, Will be the circulation; and we will begin with the heart, since that is to the circulation what the stomach is to the digestion—viz., master of the establishment. He is a very important person, this heart, as I hardly need tell you. Even ignorant people speak respectfully of him, and I am sure beforehand that his history will interest you very much.

Do you feel as I do, my dear child? I am quite happy at having brought you thus far on our journey, and at being able to take a rest with you at the gateway of the new country into which we are about to enter, like travelers sitting down upon a boundary frontier. What a distance we have come, since the day when I took you by the hand to conduct you inside this little body, of which you were making use without knowing anything about it! How many things we have learned already, and how many more remain to be learned, of which you have at present no idea! I assure you I should be almost afraid myself of what is before us yet, if I did not rely upon my own strong desire to instruct you, and the tender affection I bear to you. Believe me, the greatest of constraining powers is love; and when I get bewildered in the midst of some difficult explanation which will not come out clearly, I have only to place before me those laughing eyes of yours, where sleeps a soul that must soon awaken to consciousness, in order to make the daylight come into my own!

Must I add, too, that I am not working for you only? We are all placed in this world to help each other, and in striving to bring down light into your intellect, and good sentiments into your heart, I am thinking also of those to whom you, in your turn, may render the same good service hereafter, provided I have the happiness of succeeding now with you. This ought to be so, ought it not? You should resolve to be numbered one day among those who have not lived altogether for themselves, but who have given the world something worth having as they passed through it. To-day's labor will have been well employed if, later on, it turns out that this history of the chyle has not been told you in vain!



LETTER XIII.

THE HEART.

There was once upon a time a banker, a millionaire, who could reckon his wealth not by millions only, but by hundreds of millions and more; who was, in fact, so tremendously rich that he did not know what to do with his money—a difficulty in which nobody had ever been before.

This man took it into his head to build a palace infinitely superior to anything that had hitherto been seen. Marbles, carpets, gildings, silk hangings, pictures, and statues—in fact, the whole mass of common-place luxuries as one sees them even in the grandest royal abodes, fell short of his magnificent pretensions. He was an intelligent man, and thoroughly understood the respect due to his riches; and the common fate of kings seemed to him far too shabby for the entertainment of his dynasty, which he looked upon as very superior to all the families of crowned heads in the world. In consequence he sent to the four quarters of the globe for the most illustrious professors, the most skilful engineers, the cleverest and most ingenious workmen in every department; and giving them unlimited permission as to expenditure? ordered them to adorn his palace with all the wonders of science and human industry.

Science, and human industry, and unlimited means—what will they not accomplish? No wonder that nothing was talked of for a hundred miles around but the magic building—of which, by the way, I do not venture to give you a description, because it would carry me too far away. Let it suffice to say, that never Emperor of China, Caliph of Bagdad, or Great Mogul had such a habitation as our banker, and for a very good reason—he was twenty times as rich as any such gentry as I have named ever were in their lives.

When all was finished one trifling flaw was discovered: the place was not supplied with water. A spring-seeker, who was summoned to the premises, could only discover a small subterranean watercourse, a sort of zigzag pipe, formed by nature, between two beds of clay, in which the rain of the neighborhood collected as in a sort of reservoir. The water was neither very clear nor very plentiful, as you may imagine; and the professor appointed to examine it, having begun by tasting it, made a horrible face, and declared there was no use in proceeding any further; for it had a stagnant flavor which would not be agreeable to my lord.

To the amazement of every body, my lord jumped for joy when he heard this unpleasant news. It was proposed to him to fetch water from a river which flowed a few miles' distance off; but he would hear of nothing of the sort. What he wanted was something new, unexpected, impossible—that was his object throughout. He took a pen and drew up at a sitting the following programme, which caused our poor professors to open their eyes in dismay:—

1st. We will use the water on the premises.

2ndly. It shall flow night day and in all parts of the palace at once.

3rdly. There shall be plenty of it, and it shall be good.

The professors looked at each other for some time without speaking, and the gravest of them, whose fortunes and characters had been long ago established, suggested that they should simply give my lord and his money the slip, and so teach him to make fools of people another time!

But the youngsters, less easily discouraged, cried out against this with one accord. They declared that the honor of science was at stake, and that they ought to return impudence for impudence, by executing to the letter the impertinent programme! At length, after much discussion and many propositions made against all hope, and thrown aside one after the other as impracticable, a sudden inspiration crossed the brain of an engineer who had not yet spoken; and the following is what he proposed:—

What prevented the water from being sweet and fit to drink, was the want of movement and air. What had to be done, therefore, was to erect a pump, but a pump provided with numberless small pipes, extending to the watercourse in all directions, and so arranged that by means of them it should be able to draw up the water from all the corners and windings where it lay stagnating, and then forcing it forward into a pipe terminating in a rose, like that of a watering-pot, whence it should gush out to fall down in fine rain, into a reservoir in the open air. From thence another action of the pump was to bring it back well aerated, to send it once more into a large pipe with numerous lesser ramifications, which should convey it into every corner of the palace.

Up to this point all seemed practicable, but the hardest part had not yet come. The great difficulty was how to supply this enormous consumption with so slender a runnel of water as the one at their disposal. But our engineer had provided for this by a stroke of genius.

Under each of the taps (always kept open), which were dispersed all over the palace, he would place a small cistern, from the bottom of which should go a pipe communicating with the body of the force-pump which drew up the water from the original watercourse. By which means the water which ran from the taps would be taken up again and go back to feed the reservoir in the open air; whence it would again return to supply the taps; and so on and on, the same water continually keeping the game alive, as people call it. Have you not sometimes seen at a circus or theatre a large army represented by a hundred supernumeraries, who file in close columns before the audience, going out at one side of the stage and coming in at the other, following close at each other's heels indefinitely? By a similar artifice the engineer would change his meagre little runnel into an inexhaustible fountain. The water drawn up from the watercourse by each stroke of the pump would fully compensate for what was used in its passage through the palace by the inhabitants. Lastly, as it might sometimes happen that the said inhabitants washed their hands under the taps, the water on its return to the cisterns, was to pass through a series of small filters, in order to cleanse it from any impurity it might have contracted by the way. Always flowing, always limpid, it would soon lose every trace of its original source, and might defy comparison with the water of any river in the world!

A unanimous buzz of congratulations welcomed this plan, at once so simple and so bold, and our professors thought their troubles were over, but they were not at the end of their difficulties yet. When it came to the actual erection of the machine, (naturally a most complicated one, as it had to set a-going a quintuple system of pipes—pipes from the water-course to the pump, pipes from the pump to the reservoir, pipes from the reservoir to the pump, from the pump to the taps, and from the taps to the pump again,)—our banker, who had got amused and excited as they went on, conducted them to a small dark closet, only a few square feet in size, concealed in a corner of the large apartments, and informed them with a laugh that he had no other place to offer them. Besides which, he made them understand that on account of its situation, there could be no question of furnaces or boilers being set up there (he detested equally coal-smoke, fires, and explosions)—nor of workmen employed about the machine (it would not be decent to have them going up and down the front staircase)— nor above all, of the frightful brake-wheels always screeching and grinding, the unwieldy pistons rising and falling with a noise sufficient to give one the headache. He himself slept near the little dark closet, and the slightest noise was fatal to his repose. Having explained all this, the rich man curtly made his bow and retired.

For once our professors owned themselves beaten. They had come forward quite proud of their invention, and now they were received, not with ecstasies of delight, but with fresh demands, more ridiculous even than the first. They were decidedly being mystified, and were preparing in consequence to pack up and begone, furious, and swearing by all their gods that they would never again expose science to see itself disgraced by a purse-proud vulgarian's scorn; when, lo! happily, a good fairy, the special friend of learned men, came passing by that way. She raised her enchanted wand with the tip of her finger, and all at once a little girl dressed in rags appeared in the midst of our astonished professors. Without giving them time to recover themselves, the child put her hand into the little patched waist of her dress, and drew forth a rounded object, about the size of her closed fist from which hung a quantity of tubes spreading in all directions.

"See!" cried she; "here is the machine your banker demands of you."

Picture to yourself a small closed bag, narrowing to a point at the end, and separated within into two very distinct compartments by a fleshy partition which went across the inside from the top to the bottom. Such was the object held up by the little girl. Prom each of these compartments issued a thick tube, ramifying into endless smaller ones; and they were moreover each surmounted by a sort of pouch, into which ran another tube, of the same description as the first. Each of these four portions (the two compartments and their pouches) was in constant but independent motion, distending and contracting alternately; and by carefully examining the noiseless play of this singular machine, (the walls of which were, by the magic power of the fairy, rendered transparent to the bystanders,) the learned assembly were very soon enabled to convince themselves, that it fulfilled all the monstrousconditions exacted of them by the fantastic millionaire.

All was in movement together, I told you; but let us begin at one end. The right-hand compartment and its pouch represented the first pump; the pump employed to draw, by the same stroke, the water from the stagnant channel, and that from the taps. It was perfectly easy to distinguish the two systems of pipes, and how they united together at the small pouch on their arrival. When this was distended, a vacuum was created inside, which was instantly filled by the liquid from the tube which ran into it, (do not ask me why or how; I will explain that presently). When it contracted again, the liquid which had just entered was not able to get back, being prevented from so doing by a very ingenious and simple contrivance, which requires a brief explanation.

Take off the lock from your chamber-door, which opens inside; then, standing outside, push against it with your shoulder, and you will get in without any difficulty. But when you are in, try to push the door open again with your shoulder in order to get outside into the passage, and you will find that you will not be able to pass through, and this simply because it does not open on that side.

Which was exactly what happened to the liquid in the pouch!

The door between the tube and the pouch only opened inwardly, and the liquid finding itself pressed on all sides in proportion as the pouch contracted more and more, and unable to return, was obliged at last to make its way through another similar door which led to the large compartment below. Here the same game recommenced. The compartment which had distended itself to receive it, contracted in its turn, and the liquid finding the road again barred behind it, had no choice but to force its way through the tube which led to the air-reservoir.

Here commenced the work of the second pump,—the pump of the left compartment. The little pouch, when distended, was filled by the liquid from the reservoir, and then forced it forward into the large compartment below, always by means of the same process. This compartment again drove it, by a powerful contraction, into the large conducting tube charged with the office of its general distribution throughout the body. At the end of all which, it returned once more into the right-hand pump as before, to pursue the same course again, &c., &c.

Thus, as you see, the whole mechanism turned upon two little points of detail, of the simplest description possible; namely, first, on the entrance-doors only opening on one side; and secondly, on the elastic covers of the pouches and compartments distending and contracting spontaneously. It was the prettiest thing in the world to see this unpretending-looking little bag working thus, quite naturally, without a suspicion that it was solving a problem which so many men, proud of their science, had given up as hopeless. Certainly here was a machine which made no noise! Once installed in its dark closet, it would have been necessary to place your hand upon it to find out that it moved at all. My lord could certainly sleep beside it without disturbance.

"How much do you want for it?" said they to the poor little beggar girl. "Name your price; have no fear; we will pay you anything you wish."

"I cannot give it to you," replied the child; "I need it too much myself: IT IS MY HEART. Now that you have seen it, make another like it, if you can." And she disappeared.

It is said that the engineer, who longed to see his idea carried out, tried hard to construct a similar machine with gutta-percha and iron wires, and to set it in motion by electricity. But history does not tell us that he succeeded, and we have yet to ask ourselves whether the richest man in the world, aided by the wisest men in the world, could ever provide himself with a miracle of wonder, such as the, ragged child had received as a free gift from the hands of a gracious Creator.



LETTER XIV.

THE ARTERIES.

If you have thoroughly understood the story I last told you, my child, it will have revealed to you the whole mystery of the circulation of the blood, and you are at the present moment wiser than all the learned men of antiquity and the middle ages, for they had none of them the faintest surmise of the truth.

It may, perhaps, seem odd to you that men should have existed for upwards of five thousand years without making inquiry into a matter which so closely concerned them, and which was so easy to find out. Is it not almost incredible that so many hearts should have beaten for so long a period without any of their owners having felt a wish to know exactly why? Yet so it is. The action of the heart and the flow of the blood have not been understood for much more than two hundred years, and the man whose name is attached to this great discovery richly deserves that we should say a few words about him.

He was called Harvey. He was an Englishman; physician to King Charles I., who was beheaded in 1648; and when he first ventured publicly to teach that the blood was constantly circulating from one end of the human body to the other, perpetually returning and retracing its steps, a great scandal was created in the world. He was called a fool,—an impertinent innovator,—a madman. His words shattered old doctrines, and he only received for his reward all the petty annoyances which men are apt to lavish so freely upon any one who tells them something new; because—do you see?—it is so disagreeable to be disturbed in one's habits and preconceived ideas.

Harvey is not the only one in the history of mankind who has committed the sin of being right in defiance of the opinions of his age. It is true posterity takes account afterwards of the labors of genius, and inscribes a fresh name upon her list. But one must pay for this glory in one's lifetime. One cannot have everything at once.

This is an old story, my child, but always new nevertheless; and for my own part it is, I own, one of my pleasures to amuse myself by reflecting how much cause for laughter three-fourths of the great men of the present day are providing for the little girls who shall be alive two centuries hence. Time is a great avenger, and puts many things and men in their proper places.

Let us pause here a moment while we are speaking of Harvey. I should be curious to know what any one of the courtiers of Charles I., bedecked in feathers, ribbons and laces, would have said to the valet who would have placed the excellent Harvey, with his insane invention, above his most gracious majesty, the lord and king of all Great Britain! And yet what is his most gracious majesty to you to-day? What do you owe to him? in what does he interest you? While you can never hear the name of Harvey pronounced without remembering that you are under many obligations to him! A thousand years hence, when society shall have made the great progress which may reasonably be expected, the name of Harvey will be familiar to every one who owns a heart, while that of Charles I. will be only a vanished shadow; a souvenir lost in the maze of history.

Our debt of remembrance paid, let us return to the heart—the little closed bag which labors so prettily. We must now inquire the real names of whatever has figured in our story.

The two great compartments are called ventricles, the two small pouches auricles, and they are also distinguished as being on the right or left side;—right ventricle, left ventricle, right auricle, left auricle.

The inner doors on which depends all the action of the machine, are called valvelets. By-and-bye, when the pump and the steam-engine are explained to you, you will meet again with these treacherous doors, which never allow what has once entered to go back again; but then we shall call them valves.

The air-reservoir, I need scarcely tell you, is the lung, to which the blood goes to put itself in contact with the air.

The subterranean watercourse, of which I hope we have talked long enough, is the small intestine, in which the chyle collects; and the tubes which run into it are, of course, the chyliferous vessels, the only channels by which anything reaches the heart which has not previously gone out from it.

The tubes of distribution, which run out from the machine in all directions, are called with us arteries; the return tubes, which bring back the water to the machine, are called veins.

Finally, we have not exactly the filters employed to clear the water from the impurities contracted as it goes along, for no such thing exists in us. There are in our case the refuse-chambers of which I have already spoken, in connexion with the liver, where the blood disembarrasses itself of any useless materials, and from which it comes out with clean pockets, so to speak, reverting to the comparison of which we have already availed ourselves.

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