Read an Excerpt
THIS last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite-Cure in the mountains. I fell over a cliff in the twilight and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatch-roofed farm-houses, with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright colored flowers and cats; on the ground-floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manurepile. That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
There was a village a mile away, and a horse-doctor lived there, but there was no surgeon. It seemed a bad outlook, mine was distinctly a surgery case. Then it was remembered that a lady from Boston was summering in that village; and she was a Christian Science doctor and could cure anything. So she was sent for. It was night by this time, and she could not conveniently come, but sent word that it was no matter, there was no hurry, she would give me "absent treatment" now, and come in the morning; meantime she begged me to make myself tranquil and comfortable and remember that there was nothing the matter with me. I thought there must be some mistake.
"Did you tell her I walked off a cliff seventy five feet high?"
"And struck a boulder at the bottom and bounced?"
"And struck another one and bounced again?"
"And struck another one and bounced yet again?"
"And broke the boulders?"
'"That accounts for it; she is thinking of the boulders. Why didn't you tell her I got hurt too?"
"I did. I told her what you told me to tell her: that you were now but an incoherent series of compound fractures extending from your scalp-lock to your heels, and that the comminuted projections caused you to look like a hat-rack."
"And it was after this that she wished me to remember that there was nothing the matter with me?"
"Those were her words."
"I do not understand it, I believe she has not diagnosed the case with sufficient care. Did she look like a person who was theorizing, or did she look like one who has fallen off precipices herself and brings to the aid of abstract science the confirmations of personal experience?"
It was too large a contract for the Stubenmadchen's vocabulary; she couldn't call the hand. I allowed the subject to rest there, and asked for something to eat and smoke, and something hot to drink, and a basket to pile my legs in; but I could not have any of these things.
"She said you would need nothing at all."
"But I am hungry and thirsty, and in desperate pain."
"She said you would have these delusions, but must pay no attention to them. She wants you to particularly remember that there are no such things as hunger and thirst and pain."
"She does, does she?"
"It is what she said."
"Does she seem to be in full and functionable possession of her intellectual plant, such as it is?"
"Do they let her run at large, or do they tie her up?"
"Tie her up?"
"There, good-night, run along you are a good girl, but your mental Geschirr is not arranged for light and airy conversation. Leave me to my delusions.