AN OLD MAID’S FIRST LOVE. I Went once to the south of France for my health; and! being recommended to choose the neighbourhood of Avignon, took my place, I scarcely know why, in the! diligence all the way from Paris. By tliis proceeding I missed the steam-voyage down tho Rhone, but fell in with some very pleasant people, about whom I am going to speak. I travelled in the int&ienr, and from Lyon had no one for companion but a fussy little lady, of a certain age, who had a large basket, a parrot in a cage, a little lapdog, a bandbox, a huge blue umbrella, which she could never succeed in stowing anywhere, and a moth-eaten muff. In my valetudinarian state I was not pleased with this inroad — especially as the little lady had a thin, pinched-up face, and obstinately looked out of tho window, while she popped about the inUrieur as if she had just taken lodgings and was putting them in order, throwing me every now and then some gracious apology in a not unpleasant voice. ‘Mince as you please, madam,’ thought I; ‘you are a bore.’ I am sorry to add that I was very unaccommodating, gave no assistance in the stowing away of the umbrella, and when Fanfreluche came and placed his silken paws upon my knees, pushed him away very rudely. The little old maid—it was evident this was her quality—apologised for her dog as she hod done for herself, and went on arranging her furniture^—an operation not completed before we got to St Saphorin.
For some hours a perfect silence was preserved, although my companion several times gave a short, dry cough, as if about to make an observation. At length, the digestion of a hurried dinner being probably completed, I felt all of a sudden quite bland and sociable, and began to bo mightily ashamed of myself. ‘Decidedly,’ thought I, ‘I must give this poor woman the benefit of my conversation.’ So I spoke, very likely with that self-satisfied air assumed sometimes by ni’.u accustomed to be well received. To my great vexation the old maid had by this time taken offence, and answered in a very stiff and reserved manner. Now the whole absurdity of my conduct was evident to me, and I determined to make amends. Being naturally of a diplomatic turn, I kept quiet for awhile, and then began to make advances to Fanfreluche. The poor animal boro no malice, and I won his heart by stroking his long cars. Then I gave a piece of sugar to the parrot; and having thus effected a practicable breach, took the citadel by storm by pointing out a more commodious way of arranging the great blue umbrella.
We were capital friends thenceforward; and I soon knew the history of M”« Nathalie Bernard by heart. A mightily uninteresting history it was to all but herself; so I shnll not repeat it: suffice to say, that she had lived long on her little income, as she called it, at Lyon, and was now on her way to Avignon, where a very important object called her. This was no other than to save her niece Marie from a distasteful marriage, which her parents, very good people, but dazzled by the wealth of the unamiable suitor, wished to bring about.
‘And have you,’ said I, ‘any reasonable hope of succeeding in your mission ? *
‘Parblatl’ replied the old maid, ‘I have composed a little speech on ill-assorted unions, which I am sure will melt the hearts of my sister and my brother-in-law; and if that does not succeed—why, I will make love to the/ufur myself, and whisper in his ear that a comfortable little income available at once, and a willing old maid, are better than a cross-grained damsel with expectations only. You see I am resolved to make any sacrifice to effect my object.’
I laughed at the old maid’s disinterestedness, which was perhaps greater than at first appeared. At least Bhe assured me that she had refused several respectable offers, simply because she liked the independence of a single life; and that if she had remained single to that age, it was a sign that marriage had nothing attractive for her in itself. We discussed the point learnedly as the diligence rolled; and what with the original turn of my companion’s mind, the sportive disposition of Fanfreluche, and the occasional disjointed soliloquies of Coco, the parrot, our time passed very pleasantly. When night came, M”» Nathalie ensconced herself in the comer behind her parcels and animals, and endeavoured to sleep; but the jolting of the diligence, and her- own lively imagination, wakened her every five minutes; and I had each time to give her a solemn assurance, on my word of honour as a gentleman, that there was no particular danger of our being upset into the Rhone.
We were ascending a steep hill next day; both hod got out to walk. I have omitted to note that it was autumn. Trees and fields were touched by the golden fingers of the season. The prospect was wide, but I forget the precise locality. On the opposite side of the Rhone, which rolled its rapid current in a deepening valley to our right, rose a range of hills, covered with fields that sloped wonderfully, and sometimes gave place to precipices or wood-lined declivities. Here and there the ruins of some old castle—reminiscences of feudal times—rose amid lofty crags, and traced their jagged outline against the deep-blue sky of Provence. Nathalie becamo almost sentimental as she gazed around on this beautiful scene.
We had climbed about half of the hill: the diligence was a little way behind: the five horses were stamping and striking fire from the pavement as they struggled up with the ponderous vehicle: the other passengers had lingered in the rear with the conductor, who had pointed out a little auberge among some trees. We here saw a man preceding us upon the road carrying a little bundle at the end of a stick over his shoulder: he seemed to advance painfully. Our attention was attracted—I scarcely knew why. He paused a moment—then went on with an uncertain step—paused again, staggered forward, and fell on his face just as we came up. M»o Nathalie, with a presence of mind that surprised me, had her smellingbottle out in an instant, and was soon engaged in
restoring the unfortunate traveller to consciousness. I assisted as well as I was able, and trust that my goodwill may atone for my awkwardness. Nathalie did everything; and, just as the diligence reached us, was gazing witli delight on the languid opening of a pair of as fine eyes as I have ever seen, and supporting in her lap a head covered with beautiful curls. Even at that moment, as I afterwards remembered, she looked upon the young man as a thing over which she had acquired a right of property. ‘He is going our way,’ said she: ‘let us lift him into the diligence.’
‘A beggarly Parisian; yo, yo!’ quoth the postilion as he passed, clacking his long whip.
‘Who will answer for his fare?’ inquired the conductor.
‘I will,’ replied Nathalie, taking the words out of my mouth.
In a few minutes the young man, who looked bewildered and could not speak, was safely stowed among Nathalie’s other parcels; and the crest of the hill being gained, we began rolling rapidly down a steep descent. The little old maid, though in a perfect ecstasy of delight—the incident evidently appeared to her quite an adventure—behaved with remarkable prudence. While I was puzzling my head to guess by what disease this poor young man had been attacked, she was getting ready the remedies that appeared to her the most appropriate, in the shape of some excellent cakes and a bottle of good wine, which she fished out of her huge basket. Her proUgt, made tame by hunger, allowed himself to be treated like a child. First she gave him a very small sip of Burgundy, then a diminutive fragment of cake; and then another sip and another piece of cake—insisting on his eating very Blowly. Being perfectly useless, I looked quietly on, and smiled to see thesubmissiveness with which this fine, handsome fellow allowed himself to be fed by the fussy old maid, and how he kept his eyes fixed upon her with an expression of wondering admiration.
Before we arrived at Avignon we knew the history of the young man. He was an artist, who had spent several years studying in Paris, without friends, without resources, except a miserable pittance which his mother, a poor peasant woman living ‘in a village not far from Aix, had managed to send him. At first he had been upheld by hope; and although he knew that his mother not only denied herself necessaries, but borrowed money to support him, he was consoled by the idea that the time would come when, by the efforts of his genius, he would be able to repay everything with the accumulated interest which affection alone would calculate. But his expenses necessarily increased, and no receipts came to meet them. He was compelled to apply to his mother for further assistance. The answer was one word—’ impossible.’ Then he endeavoured calmly to examine his position, came to the conclusion that for several years more he must be a burden to his mother if he obstinately pursued his career, and that she must be utterly ruined to insure his success. So he gave up his art, sold everything he had to pay part of his debts, and set out on foot to return to his village and become a peasant, as his father had been before him. The little money he had taken with him was gone by the time he reached Lyon. He had passed through that city without stopping, and for more than two days, almost for two nights, had incessantly pursued his journey, without rest and without food, until he had reached the spot where, exhausted with fatigue and hunger, he had fallen, perhaps to perish had we not been there to assist him.
Nathalie listened with eager attention to this narrative, told with a frankness which our sympathy excited. Now and then she gave a convulsive start, or checked a hysterical sob, and at last fairly burst into tears. I was interested as well as she, but retained more calmness to observe how moral beauty almost vainly struggled to appear through the insignificant features of this admirable woman. Her little eyes, reddened with weeping; her pinchcd-up nose, blooming at the point; her thin lips, probably accustomed to sarcasm; her cheeks, with a leaded citron hue; her hair that forked up in unmanageable curls—all combined to obscure the exquisite expression of respect and sympathy, perhaps already of love, sparkling from her kindled soul, that could just be made out by an attentive eye. At length, however, she became for a moment perfectly beautiful, as, when the young painter had finished his story, with an expression that shewed how bitterly he regretted his abandoned art, she took both his hands in hers, and exclaimed: ‘No, mon enfant, you shall not be thus disappointed. Your genius’—she already took for granted he had genius—’ shall have nn opportunity for development. Your mother cannot do what is necessary—she has played her part. I will be a—second mother to you, in return for the little affection you can bestow on me without ingratitude to her to whom you owe your life.’
‘My life has to be paid for twice,’ said he, kissing her hand. Nathalie could not help looking round proudly to me. It was so flattering to receive the gallant attentions of so handsome a young man, that I think she tried to forget how she had bought them.
In the exuberance of her hospitality, the little old maid invited both Claude Richer and myself to spend some time in the large farmhouse of her brother-inlaw. I declined, with a promise to be a frequent visitor; but Claude, who was rather commanded than asked, could do nothing but accept. I left them at the diligence office, and saw them walk away, the little Nathalie affecting to support her feeble companion. For the honour of human nature let me add, that the conductor said nothing about the fare. ‘It would have been indelicate,’ he said to me, ‘to remind M”e Nathalie of her promise in the young man’s presence. I know her well; and she will pay me at a future time. At anyrate I must shew that there is a heart under this waistcoat.’ So saying, the conductor thumped his breast with simple admiration of his own humanity, and went away, after recommending me to the Cafe’ de Paris—indeed an excellent house.
I shall say nothing of a variety of little incidents that occurred to me at Avignon, nor about my studies on the history of the popes who resided there. I must reserve myself entirely for the development of Nathalie’s romance, which I could not follow step by step, but the chief features of which I was enabled to catch during a series of visits I paid to the farmhouse. Nathalie herself was very communicative to me at first, and scarcely deigned to conceal her sentiments. l!y degrees, however, as the catastrophe approached, she became more and more reserved; and I had to learn from others, or to guess the part she played.
The farmhouse was situated on the other side of the river, in a small plain, fertile and well wooded. Old Cosfu, the owner, was a fine jolly fellow, but evidently a little sharp in money-matters. I was surprised at first that he received the visit of Claude favourably; but when it came out that a good part of his capital belonged to Nathalie, every circumstance of deference to her was explained. Mere Cossu was not a very remarkable personage; unless it be remarkable that she entertained the most profound veneration for her husband, quoted his commonest sayings as witticisms, and was ready to laugh herself into convulsions if he sneezed louder than usual. Marie was a charming little person; perhaps a little too demure in her manners, considering her wicked black eyes. She was soon very friendly with Claude and me, but seemed to prefer passing her time in whispered conversations with Nathalie. I was let into the secret that their conversation turned principally on the means of getting rid of the husband-elect—a great lubberly fellow, who
lived some leagues off, and whose red face shone over the garden-gate, in company with a huge nosegay, regularly every Sunday morning. In spite of the complying temper of old Cossu in other respects when Nathalie gave her advice, he seemed obstinately bent on choosing his own son-in-law. Parents are oftener correct than romancers will allow in their negative opinions on this delicate subject, but I cannot say as much for them when they undertake to be affirmative.
I soon observed that Nathalie was not so entirely devoted to the accomplishment of the object for which she had undertaken her journey as she had promised; and, above all, that she spoke no more of the disinterested sacrifice of herself as a substitute for Marie. I maliciously alluded to this subject in one of our private confabulations, and Nathalie, instead of being offended, frankly answered that she could not make big Paul Boneau happy and assist Claude in his studies at the same time. ‘I have now,’ she said, ‘an occupation for the rest of my life — namely, to develop this genius, of which France will one day be proud; and I shall devote myself to it unremittingly.’
‘Come, Nathalie,’ replied I, taking her arm in mine as we crossed the poplar-meadow, ‘have you no hope of a reward?’
‘I understand,’ quoth she frankly; ‘and I will not play at cross-purposes with you. If this young man really loves his art, and his art alone, as he pretends, could he do better than reward me—as you call it—for my assistance? The word has a cruel signification, but you did not mean it unkindly.’
I looked at her wan, sallow countenance, that had begun for some days to wear an expression of painful anxiety. At that moment I saw over a hedge—but she could not—Claude and Marie walking in a neighbouring field, and pausing now and then to bend their heads very close together in admiration of some very common flower. ‘Poor old maid,’ thought I, ‘you will have no reward save the consciousness of your own pure intentions.’
The minute development of this drama without dramatic scenes would perhaps be more instructive than any elaborate analysis of human passions in. general; but it would require a volume, and I can only here give a mere summary. Nathalie, in whom alone I felt particularly interested, soon found that she had deceived herself as to the nature of her sentiments for Claude—that instead of regarding him with almost maternal solicitude, she loved him with an intensity that is the peculiar characteristic of passions awakened late in life, when the common consolation is inadmissible—’after all, I may find better.’ This was her last, her only chance of a happiness, which she had declared to me she had never dreamed of, but which in reality she had only declined because it did not present itself to her under all the conditions required by her refined and sensitive mind. Claude, who was an excellent fellow, but incapable of comprehending her or sacrificing himself, never swerved from grateful deference to her; but 1 could observe, that as the state of her feelings became more apparent, he took greater care to mark the character of his sentiments for her, and to insist with some affectation on the depth of his filial affection. Nathalie’s eyes were often red with tears—a fact which Claude did not choose perhaps to notice, for fear of an explanation. Marie, on the contrary, became more blooming every day, while her eloquent eyes were still more assiduously bent upon the ground. It was evident to me that she and Claude understood one another perfectly welL
At length the same thing became evident to Nathalie. How the revelation was made to her I do not know; but sudden it must have been, for I met her one day in the poplar-field, walking hurriedly along with an extraordinary expression of despair in her countenance. I know not why, but the thought at once occurred to me that the Klione ran rapid and deep not far off,
and I threw myself across her path. She started like n guilty thing, but did not resist when I took her hand and led her back slowly towards the farmhouse. We had nearly reached it in silence when she suddenly stopped, and bursting into tears, turned away into a by-lane where was a little bench under an elm. Here she sat down and sobbed for a long time, while I stood by. At length she raised her head and asked me: ‘Do morality and religion require self- sacrifice even to the end—even to making half a life a desert, even to heart-breaking, even unto death?’
‘It scarcely belongs to a selfish mortal to counsel such virtue,’ I replied; ‘but it is because it is exercised hero and there, now and then, once in a hundred years, that man can claim some affinity with the divine nature.’
A smile of ineffable sweetness played about the poor old girl’s lips. She wiped her eyes, and began talking of the changing aspect of the season, and how the trees day by day more rapidly shed their leaves, and how the ltliMiie had swelled within its ample bed, and of various topics apparently unconnected with her frame of mind, but all indicating that she felt the winter was coming—a long and dreary winter for her. At this moment Fanfreluche, which had missed her, came down the lane barking with fierce joy; and she took the poor little beast in her arms, and exhaled the last bitter feeling that tormented her in these words: ‘Thou at least lovest me—because I have fed thee!’ In her humility she seemed now to believe that her only claim to love was her cliarity; and that even this claim was not recognised except by a dog!
I was not admitted to the secret of the family conclave that took place, but learned simply that Nathalie pleaded with feverish energy the love tliat had grown up between Marie and Claude as an insuperable bar to the proposed marriage between Paul Boneau and her niece. Matters were arranged by means of large sacrifices on the part of the heroic maid. Paul’s face ceased to beam over the gardengate on a Sunday morning; and by degrees the news got abroad that Marie was betrothed to the young artist. One day a decent old woman in sabots came to the farmhouse: it was Claude’s mother, who had walked from Aix to see him. It was arranged that Claude should pursue his studies a year longer, and then marry. Whether any explanation took place I do not know; but I observed that the young man sometimes looked with the same expression of wondering admiration I had observed in the diligence at the little Nathalie— more citron-hued than ever. At length she unhooked the cage of Coco, the parrot, took Panfreluche under one arm and her blue umbrella under the other, and went away in company with the whole family, myself included, every one carrying a parcel or a basket to the diligence office. What a party that was! Every one was in tears except Nathalie. She bore up manfully, if I may use the word; laughed, and actually joked; but just as I handed Coco in, her factitious courage yielded, and she burst into an agony of grief. With officious zeal I kept at the window until the diligence gave a lurch and started; and then turning round I looked at Claude and Marie, who were already mingling their eyes in selfish forgetfulness of their benefactress, and said solemnly: ‘There goes the best woman ever created for this unworthy earth.’ The artist, who, for an ordinary man, did not lack sentiment, took my hand and said: ‘Sir, I will quarrel with any man who says less of that angel than you have done.’
The marriage was brought about in less time than had been agreed upon. Nathalie of course did not come; but she sent some presents and a pleasant letter of congratulation, in which she called herself ‘an inveterate old maid.’ About a year afterwards I passed through Lyon and saw her. She was still
very yellow, and more than ever attentive to Fanfreluche and Coco. I even thought she devoted herself too much to the service of these two troublesome pets, to say nothing of a huge cat which she had added to her menagerie, as a kind of hieroglyphic of her condition. ‘How fare the married couple?’ cried she, tossing up her cork-screw curls. ‘Still cooing and billing?’
‘Mademoiselle,’said I, ‘they are getting on pretty well. Claude, finding the historic pencil not lucrative, has taken to portrait-painting; and being no longer an enthusiastic artist, talks even of adopting the more expeditious method of the Daguerreotype. In the meantime, half the tradesmen of Avignon, to say nothing of Aix, have bespoken caricatures of themselves by his hand. Marie makes a tolerable wife, but has a terrible will of her own, and is feared as well as loved.’
Nathalie tried to laugh; but the memory of her old illusions coming over her, she leaned down towards the cat she was nursing, and sparkling tears fell upon its glossy fur.
THE POISON-EATERS. A Vehy interesting trial for murder took place lately in Austria. The prisoner, Anna Alexander, was acquitted by the jury, who, in the various questions put to the witnesses, in order to discover whether the murdered man, Lieutenant Mathew Wurzel, was a poison-eater or not, educed some very curious evidence relating to this class of persons.
As it is not generally known that eating poison is actually practised in more countries than one, the following account of the custom, given by a physician, Dr T. von Tschudi, will not be without interest.
In some districts of Lower Austria and in Styria, especially in those mountainous parts bordering on Hungary, there prevails the strange habit of eating arsenic. The peasantry in particular are given to itThey obtain it under the name of hedri from the travelling hucksters and gatherers of herbs, who, on their side, get it from the glass-blowers, or purchase it from the cow-doctors, quacks, or mountebanks.
The poison-eaters have a twofold aim in their dangerous enjoyment: one of which is to obtain a fresh, healthy appearance, and acquire a certain degree of embonpoint. On this account, therefore, gay village lads and lasses employ the dangerous agent, that they may become more attractive to each other; and it is really astonishing with what favourable results their endeavours are attended, for it is just the youthful poisoneaters that are, generally speaking, distinguished by a blooming complexion, and an appearance of exuberant health. Out of many examples I select the following:—
A farm-servant who worked in the cow-house belonging to was thin and pale, but nevertheless well
and healthy. This girl had a lover whom she wished to enchain still more firmly; and in order to obtain a more pleasing exterior she had recourse to the wellknown means, and swallowed every week several doses of arsenic. The desired result was obtained; and in a few months she was much fuller in the figure, rosycheeked, and, in short, quite according to her lover’s taste. In order to increase the effect, she was so rasli as to increase the dose of arsenic, and fell a victim to her vanity: she was poisoned, and died an agonising death.
The number of deaths in consequence of the immoderate enjoyment of arsenic is not inconsiderable, especially among the young. Every priest who has the cure of souls in those districts where the abuse prevails could tell of sucli tragedies; and the inquiries I have myself made on the subject have opened out very singular details. Whether it arise from fear of the law, which forbids the unauthorised possession of arsenic, or whether it be that an inner voice proclaims to him his sin, the arsenic-eater always conceals as much as possible the employment of these dangerous means. Generally speaking, it is only the confessional or the deathbed that raises the veil from the terrible secret.
The second object the poison-caters have in view is to make them, as they express it, ‘better winded!’— that is, to make their respiration easier when ascending the mountains. Whenever they have far to go and to mount a considerable height, they take a minute morsel of arsenic and allow it gradually to dissolve. The effect is surprising; and they ascend with ease heights which otherwise they could climb only with distress to the chest.
The dose of arsenic with which the poison-eaters begin, consists, according to the confession of some of them, of a piece the size of a lentil, which in weight would be rather less than half a grain. To this quantity, which they take fosting several mornings in the week, they confine themselves for a considerable time; and then gradually, and very carefully, they increase the dose according to the effect produced.
The peasant R , living in the parish of A g, a
strong, hale man of upwards of sixty, takes at present at every dose a piece of about the weight of four grains. For more than forty years he has practised this habit, which he inherited from his father, and which he in liis turn will bequeath to his children.
It is well to observe, that neither in these nor in other poison – eaters is there the least trace of an arsenic cachexy discernible; that the symptoms of a chronic arsenical poisoning never shew themselves in individuals who adapt the dose to their constitution, even although that dose should be considerable. It is not less worthy of remark, however, that when, either from inability to obtain the acid, or from any other cause, the perilous indulgence is stopped, symptoms of illness arc sure to appear, which have the closest resemblance to those produced by poisoning from arsenic. These symptoms consist principally in a feeling of general discomfort, attended by a perfect indifference to all surrounding persons and things, great personal anxiety, and various distressing sensations arising from the digestive organs, want of appetite, a constant feeling of the stomach being overloaded at early morning, an unusual degree of salivation, a burning from the pylorus to the throat, a cramp-like movement in the pharynx, pains in the stomach, and especially difficulty of breathing. For all these symptoms there is but one remedy—a return to the enjoyment of arsenic.
According to inquiries made on the subject, it would seem that the habit of eating poison among the inhabitants of Lower Austria has not grown into a passion, as is the case with the opium-eaters in the East, the chewers of the betel nut in India and Polynesia, and of the cocoa-tree among the natives of Peru. When once commenced, however, it becomes a necessity.
In some districts sublimate of quicksilver is used in the same way. One case in particular is mentioned by Dr von Tschudi, a case authenticated by the English ambassador at Constantinople, of a great opium-eater at Brussa, who daily consumed the enormous quantity of forty grains of corrosive sublimate with his opium. In the mountainous parts of Peru the doctor met very frequently with eaters of corrosive sublimate ; and in Bolivia the practice is still more frequent, where this poison is openly sold in the market to the Indians.
In Vienna the use of arsenic is of every-day occurrence among horse-dealers, and especially with the coachmen of the nobility. They either shake it in a
pulverised state among the corn, or they tie a bit the size of a pea in a piece of linen, which they fasten to the curb when the horse is harnessed, and the saliva of the animal soon dissolves it. The sleek, round, shining appearance of the carriage-horses, and especially the much-admired foaming at the mouth, is the result of this arsenic-feeding.* It is a common practice with the farm-servants in the mountainous ports to strew a pinch of arsenic on the last feed of hay before going up a steep road. This is done for years without the least unfavourable result; but should the horse fall into the hands of another owner who withholds the arsenic, he loses flesh immediately, is no longer lively, and even with the best feeding there is no possibility of restoring him to his former sleek appearance.
Tlie above particulars, communicated by a contributor residing in Germany, are curious only inasmuch as they refer to poisons of a peculiarly quick and deadly nature. Our ordinary ‘indulgences’ in this country are the some in kind, though not in degree, for we are all poison-eaters. To say nothing of our opium and alcohol consumers, our teetotallers are delighted with the briskness and sparkle of spring-water, although these qualities indicate the presence of carbonic acid or fixed air. In like manner, few persons will object to a drop or two of the frightful corrosive, sulphuric acid (vitriol), in a glass of water, to which it communicates an agreeably acid taste; and most of us have, at some period or other of our lives, imbibed prussic acid, arsenic, and other deadly poisons under the orders of the physician, or the first of these in the more pleasing form of confectionary. Arsenic is said by Dr Pearson to be as harmless as a glass of wine in the quantity of oneBixteenth part of a grain; and in the cure of agues it is so certain in its effects, that the French Directory once issued an edict ordering the surgeonB of the Italian army, under pain of military punishment, to banish that complaint, at two or three days’ notice, from among the vast numbers of soldiers who were languishing under it in the marshes of Lombardy. It would seem that no poison taken in small and diluted doses is immediately hurtful, and the same thing may be said of other agentB. The top of a fan, for instance, is a blow, and so is the stroke of a club; but the one gives an agreeable sensation, and the other fells the recipient to the ground. In like manner the analogy holds good between the distribution of a blow over a comparatively large portion of the surface of the body and the dilution or distribution of the particles of a poison. A smart thrust upon the breast, for instance, with a foil does no injury; but if the button is removed, and the same momentum thus thrown to a point, the instrument enters the structures, and perhaps causes death.
But the misfortune is, that poisons swallowed for the sake of the agreeable sensations they occasion owe this effect to their action upon the nervous system; and the action must be kept up by a constantly increasing dose till the constitution is irremediably injured. In the case of arsenic, as we have seen, so long as the excitement is undiminished all is apparently well; but the point is at length reached when to proceed or to turn back is alike death. The moment the dose is diminished or entirely withdrawn, symptoms of poison appear, and the victim perishes because he has shrunk from killing himself. It is just so when the stimulant is alcohol. The morning experience of the drinker prophesies, on every succeeding occasion, of the fate that awaits him. It may be pleasant to get intoxicated, but to get sober is horror. The time comes, however, when the pleasure is at an end, and the horror alone remains. When the habitual stimulus readies its highest, and the undermined constitution can stand
* Arsenic produces an increased salivation.
no more, then comes the reaction. If tlie excitement could go on ad infinitum, the prognosis would be different; but the poison-symptoms appear as soon as the dose can no longer be increased without producing instant death, and the drunkard dies of the want of drink! Many persons, it cannot be denied, reach a tolerable age under this stimulus; but they do so only by taking warning in time—perhaps from some frightful illness —and carefully proportioning the dose to the sinking constitution. ‘I cannot drink now as formerly,’ is a common remark—sometimes elevated into the boast, ‘I do not drink now as formerly.’ But the relaxation of the habit is compulsory; and by a thousand other tokens, as well as the inability to indulge in intoxication, the ci-devant drinker is reminded of a madness which even in youth produced more misery than enjoyment, and now adds a host of discomforts to the ordinary fragility of age. As for arsenic-eating, we trust it will never be added to the madnesses of our own country. Think of a man deliberately condemning himself to devour this horrible poison, on an increasing scale, during his whole life, with the certainty that if at any time, through accident, necessity, or other cause, he holds his hand, he must die the most agonising of all deaths! In so much horror do we hold the idea, that we would have refrained from mentioning the subject at all if we had not observed a paragraph making the round of the papers, and describing the agreeable phases of the practice without mentioning its shocking results.