Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 19 THE PAIN EPICURES

  • ### I.
  • Nicholas Vance, a student in Harvard University, had the misfortune to suffe_lmost incessantly with acute neuralgia during the second term of his senio_ear. The malady not only caused him great anguish of face, but it als_eprived him of the benefit of Professor Surdity's able lecture on speculativ_ogic, a study of which Vance was passionately fond.
  • If Vance had gone in the first place to a sensible physician, as Miss Margare_tull urged him to do, he would undoubtedly have been advised that it wa_ental friction that had set his face on fire. To extinguish the conflagratio_e would have been told to abandon speculative logic for a time and go _ishing.
  • But although the young man loved Miss Margaret Stull, or at least loved her a_uch as it is possible to love one who feels no interest in hypotheses, he ha_ittle respect for her opinion in a matter such as the neuralgia. Instead o_onsulting with a duly qualified member of the faculty of medicine, he rushe_cross the bridge one morning, in a paroxysm of pain, to seek counsel o_ithami Concannon, the very worst person, under the circumstances, to whom h_ossibly could have applied.
  • Tithami was himself a speculative logician. He lived up four pairs of stairs,
  • and his one window overlooked a dreary expanse of back yards and clotheslines.
  • By a subtle process of reasoning he knew that the window commanded a super_iew of the sunset, granted only that the sun rose in the west and set in th_ast. As Tithami was aware, moreover, that east and west are relative terms,
  • arbitrarily employed, and that inherently and absolutely there is no mor_eason why the sun should travel from east to west than from west to east, h_erived a great deal of enjoyment from the sunsets he did notice. Such are th_esources of speculative logic.
  • Tithami owed his education to his name. Thomas Concannon, who thirty years ag_aught the Harvard freshmen how to pronounce the digamma, died a month befor_ithami was born. Poor little Mrs. Concannon, sincerely desiring to complimen_he memory of her deceased husband, named the infant after a Greek verb whic_he tutor had held in especial esteem, and of whose capabilities she had ofte_eard him speak with enthusiasm. Her family tried in vain to persuade th_imple-minded mother to give up the idea, or at least to compromise o_imothy, approximate in form to the heathen verb, but thoroughly respectabl_n its associations. She would not yield—not one final iota—and Tithami th_aby was baptized. This queer christening proved both the making and th_arring of the child. A rich, eccentric great uncle, mightily tickled by th_nconscious humor of the appellation, offered to give young Tithami the bes_chooling that money could buy, and he kept his word, all the way from _indergarten to Heidelberg. At the latter institution Tithami learned so muc_ogic from the renowned Speisecartius, and went so deep into metaphysics wit_he profound Zundholzer, that he thoroughly unfitted himself for all practica_ork in life. He came home and speedily argued his benevolent uncle to death,
  • but not before the old gentleman had stricken the logician from his will an_iverted his entire property to the endowment of an asylum for deaf mutes.
  • "My dear Nicholas," said Tithami, when Vance had sung all twelve books of hi_pic of pain, "you are the luckiest individual in the city of Boston. _ongratulate you from the bottom of my heart. Take your hand away from you_heek and sit down in that easy chair and rejoice."
  • "Thank you," groaned Vance, who knew the chair. "I prefer to stand up."
  • "Well," said Tithami cheerfully, "stand up if it pleases you so long as yo_tand still. The floor creaks and my landlady, who is absurdly fussy over _rifle of rent, has a way of rushing in when the slightest noise reminds he_f the fact of my existence. You've read how, in the Alps, a breeze sometime_rings down an avalanche?"
  • "Hang your landlady!" shouted Nicholas. "I came to you as a friend, fo_ympathy, not to be jeered at."
  • "If you must walk up and down like a maniac, Nicholas," continued Tithami,
  • "pardon me for suggesting that you keep off that third plank from th_ireplace. It's particularly loose. I repeat, Nicholas, that you are a luck_og. I would give my dinners for a week for such a neuralgia."
  • "Can you do anything for me or not?" demanded Nicholas, fiercely. "I don'_ike to exercise intimidation, but, by Jupiter, if you don't stop chaffing,
  • I'll raise a yell that will start the avalanche."
  • A perceptible tremor passed over Tithami's frame. It was evident that th_hreat was not ineffectual. He arose hastily and assured himself that the doo_as securely bolted. Then he returned to Vance and addressed him wit_onsiderable impressiveness of manner.
  • "Nicholas," said he, "I was perfectly serious when I congratulated you upo_our neuralgia. You, like myself, are a speculative logician. Although not i_n entirely candid and reasonable frame of mind just now, you will not, I a_ure, refuse a syllogism. Let me ask you two plain Socratic questions an_resent one syllogism, and then I'll give you something that will subdue you_ain—under protest, mind you, for I shall feel that I am wronging you,
  • Nicholas."
  • "Confound your sense of justice!" exclaimed Nicholas. "I accept th_roposition."
  • "Well, answer me this. Do you like a hot Indian curry?" "Nothing better," sai_icholas.
  • "But suppose someone had offered you a curry when you were fifteen year_ounger—during the bread and milk era of your gastronomic evolution. Would yo_ave partaken of it with signal pleasure?"
  • "No," said Vance. 'I should have as soon thought of sucking the red-hot end o_ poker."
  • "Good. Now we will proceed to our syllogism. Here it is. Sensations that ar_rimarily disagreeable may become more or less agreeable by a proper educatio_f the senses. Physical pain is primarily disagreeable. Therefore, eve_hysical pain, by judicious cultivation, may be made a source of exquisit_leasure"
  • "That doesn't help my neuralgia," said Nicholas. "What does it all mean,
  • anyway?"
  • "I never heard you speak unkindly of a syllogism before," said Tithami,
  • sorrowfully. Then he took a small jar from a closet in the corner and shoo_ut of it a little pile of fine white powder, of which he gave Nicholas a_uch as would cover an old-fashioned copper cent. This he did with eviden_eluctance.
  • "Come here tonight," he added, "at half past nine, and I will try to show yo_hat it all means, my young friend."