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"A 'Theory of the Will,' "
"The devil! but that's a big subject. He is exhausted, I say, by too much brain-work, by irregular courses, and by the repeated use of too powerful stimulants. Violent exertion of body and mind has demoralized the whole system. It is easy, gentlemen, to recognize in the symptoms of the face and body generally intense irritation of the stomach, an affection of the great sympathetic nerve, acute sensibility of the epigastric region, and contraction of the right and left hypochondriac. You have noticed, too, the large size and prominence of the liver. M. Bianchon has, besides, constantly watched the patient, and he tells us that digestion is troublesome and difficult. Strictly speaking, there is no stomach left, and so the man has disappeared. The brain is atrophied because the man digests no longer. The progressive deterioration wrought in the epigastric region, the seat of vitality, has vitiated the whole system. Thence, by continuous fevered vibrations, the disorder has reached the brain by means of the nervous plexus, hence the excessive irritation in that organ. There is monomania. The patient is burdened with a fixed idea. That piece of skin really contracts, to his way of thinking; very likely it always has been as we have seen it; but whether it contracts or no, that thing is for him just like the fly that some Grand Vizier or other had on his nose. If you put leeches at once on the epigastrium, and reduce the irritation in that part, which is the very seat of man's life, and if you diet the patient, the monomania will leave him. I will say no more to Dr. Bianchon; he should be able to grasp the whole treatment as well as the details. There may be, perhaps, some complication of the disease--the bronchial tubes, possibly, may be also inflamed; but I believe that treatment for the intestinal organs is very much more important and necessary, and more urgently required than for the lungs. Persistent study of abstract matters, and certain violent passions, have induced serious disorders in that vital mechanism. However, we are in time to set these conditions right. Nothing is too seriously affected. You will easily get your friend round again," he remarked to Bianchon.
"Our learned colleague is taking the effect for the cause," Cameristus replied. "Yes, the changes that he has observed so keenly certainly exist in the patient; but it is not the stomach that, by degrees, has set up nervous action in the system, and so affected the brain, like a hole in a window pane spreading cracks round about it. It took a blow of some kind to make a hole in the window; who gave the blow? Do we know that? Have we investigated the patient's case sufficiently? Are we acquainted with all the events of his life?
"The vital principle, gentlemen," he continued, "the Archeus of Van Helmont, is affected in his case--the very essence and centre of life is attacked. The divine spark, the transitory intelligence which holds the organism together, which is the source of the will, the inspiration of life, has ceased to regulate the daily phenomena of the mechanism and the functions of every organ; thence arise all the complications which my learned colleague has so thoroughly appreciated. The epigastric region does not affect the brain but the brain affects the epigastric region. No," he went on, vigorously slapping his chest, "no, I am not a stomach in the form of a man. No, everything does not lie there. I do not feel that I have the courage to say that if the epigastric region is in good order, everything else is in a like condition--- "We cannot trace," he went on more mildly, "to one physical cause the serious disturbances that supervene in this or that subject which has been dangerously attacked, nor submit them to a uniform treatment. No one man is like another. We have each peculiar organs, differently affected, diversely nourished, adapted to perform different functions, and to induce a condition necessary to the accomplishment of an order of things which is unknown to us. The sublime will has so wrought that a little portion of the great All is set within us to sustain the phenomena of living; in every man it formulates itself distinctly, making each, to all appearance, a separate individual, yet in one point co-existent with the infinite cause. So we ought to make a separate study of each subject, discover all about it, find out in what its life consists, and wherein its power lies. From the softness of a wet sponge to the hardness of pumice-stone there are infinite fine degrees of difference. Man is just like that. Between the sponge-like organizations of the lymphatic and the vigorous iron muscles of such men as are destined for a long life, what a margin for errors for the single inflexible system of a lowering treatment to commit; a system that reduces the capacities of the human frame, which you always conclude have been over-excited. Let us look for the origin of the disease in the mental and not in the physical viscera. A doctor is an inspired being, endowed by God with a special gift--the power to read the secrets of vitality; just as the prophet has received the eyes that foresee the future, the poet his faculty of evoking nature, and the musician the power of arranging sounds in an harmonious order that is possibly a copy of an ideal harmony on high."
"There is his everlasting system of medicine, arbitrary, monarchical, and pious," muttered Brisset.
"Gentlemen," Maugredie broke in hastily, to distract attention from Brisset's comment, "don't let us lose sight of the patient."
"What is the good of science?" Raphael moaned. "Here is my recovery halting between a string of beads and a rosary of leeches, between Dupuytren's bistoury and Prince Hohenlohe's prayer. There is Maugredie suspending his judgment on the line that divides facts from words, mind from matter. Man's 'it is,' and 'it is not,' is always on my track; it is the Carymary Carymara of Rabelais for evermore: my disorder is spiritual, Carymary, or material, Carymara. Shall I live? They have no idea. Planchette was more straightforward with me, at any rate, when he said, 'I do not know.' "
Just then Valentin heard Maugredie's voice.
"The patient suffers from monomania; very good, I am quite of that opinion," he said, "but he has two hundred thousand a year; monomaniacs of that kind are very uncommon. As for knowing whether his epigastric region has affected his brain, or his brain his epigastric region, we shall find that out, perhaps, whenever he dies. But to resume. There is no disputing the fact that he is ill; some sort of treatment he must have. Let us leave theories alone, and put leeches on him, to counteract the nervous and intestinal irritation, as to the existence of which we all agree; and let us send him to drink the waters, in that way we shall act on both systems at once. If there really is tubercular disease, we can hardly expect to save his life; so that----"
Raphael abruptly left the passage, and went back to his armchair. The four doctors very soon came out of the study; Horace was the spokesman.
"These gentlemen," he told him, "have unanimously agreed that leeches must be applied to the stomach at once, and that both physical and moral treatment are imperatively needed. In the first place, a carefully prescribed rule of diet, so as to soothe the internal irritation"--here Brisset signified his approval; "and in the second, a hygienic regimen, to set your general condition right. We all, therefore, recommend you to go to take the waters in Aix in Savoy; or, if you like it better, at Mont Dore in Auvergne; the air and the situation are both pleasanter in Savoy than in the Cantal, but you will consult your own taste."
Here it was Cameristus who nodded assent.
"These gentlemen," Bianchon continued, "having recognized a slight affection of the respiratory organs, are agreed as to the utility of the previous course of treatment that I have prescribed. They think that there will be no difficulty about restoring you to health, and that everything depends upon a wise and alternate employment of these various means. And----"
"And that is the cause of the milk in the cocoanut," said Raphael, with a smile, as he led Horace into his study to pay the fees for this useless consultation.
"Their conclusions are logical," the young doctor replied. "Cameristus feels, Brisset examines, Maugredie doubts. Has not man a soul, a body, and an intelligence? One of these three elemental constituents always influences us more or less strongly; there will always be the personal element in human science. Believe me, Raphael, we effect no cures; we only assist them. Another system--the use of mild remedies while Nature exerts her powers--lies between the extremes of theory of Brisset and Cameristus, but one ought to have known the patient for some ten years or so to obtain a good result on these lines. Negation lies at the back of all medicine, as in every other science. So endeavor to live wholesomely; try a trip to Savoy; the best course is, and always will be, to trust to Nature."
It was a month later, on a fine summer-like evening, that several people, who were taking the waters at Aix, returned from the promenade and met together in the salons of the Club. Raphael remained alone by a window for a long time. His back was turned upon the gathering, and he himself was deep in those involuntary musings in which thoughts arise in succession and fade away, shaping themselves indistinctly, passing over us like thin, almost colorless clouds. Melancholy is sweet to us then, and delight is shadowy, for the soul is half asleep. Valentin gave himself up to this life of sensations; he was steeping himself in the warm, soft twilight, enjoying the pure air with the scent of the hills in it, happy in that he felt no pain, and had tranquilized his threatening Magic Skin at last. It grew cooler as the red glow of the sunset faded on the mountain peaks; he shut the window and left his place.
"Will you be so kind as not to close the windows, sir?" said an old lady; "we are being stifled----"
The peculiarly sharp and jarring tones in which the phrase was uttered grated on Raphael's ears; it fell on them like an indiscreet remark let slip by some man in whose friendship we would fain believe, a word which reveals unsuspected depths of selfishness and destroys some pleasing sentimental illusion of ours. The Marquis glanced, with the cool inscrutable expression of a diplomatist, at the old lady, called a servant, and, when he came, curtly bade him:
"Open that window."
Great surprise was clearly expressed on all faces at the words. The whole roomful began to whisper to each other, and turned their eyes upon the invalid, as though he had given some serious offence. Raphael, who had never quite managed to rid himself of the bashfulness of his early youth, felt a momentary confusion; then he shook off his torpor, exerted his faculties, and asked himself the meaning of this strange scene.
A sudden and rapid impulse quickened his brain; the past weeks appeared before him in a clear and definite vision; the reasons for the feelings he inspired in others stood out for him in relief, like the veins of some corpse which a naturalist, by some cunningly contrived injection, has colored so as to show their least ramifications.
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The Magic Skin -by- Honore de Balzac