It was refused me. During the next fifteen hours I visited the bell every now and then and ordered a dish that was further down the list. Always a refusal. But I was conquering prejudice after prejudice, right along; I was making sure progress; I was creeping up on No. 15 with deadly certainty, and my heart beat faster and faster, my hopes rose higher and higher.
At last when food had not passed my lips for sixty hours, victory was mine, and I ordered No. 15:
‘Soft-boiled spring chicken—in the egg; six dozen, hot and fragrant!’
In fifteen minutes it was there; and the doctor along with it, rubbing his hands with joy. He said with great excitement:
’It’s a cure, it’s a cure! I knew I could do it. Dear sir, my grand system never failed—never. You’ve got your appetite back—you know you have; say it and make me happy.’
‘Bring on your carrion—I can eat anything in the bill!’
’Oh, this is noble, this is splendid—but I knew I could do it, the system never fails. How are the birds?’
’Never was anything so delicious in the world; and yet as a rule I don’t care for game. But don’t interrupt me, don’t—I can’t spare my mouth, I really can’t.’
Then the doctor said:
’The cure is perfect. There is no more doubt nor danger. Let the poultry alone; I can trust you with a beefsteak, now.’
The beefsteak came—as much as a basketful of it—with potatoes, and Vienna bread and coffee; and I ate a meal then that was worth all the costly preparation I had made for it. And dripped tears of gratitude into the gravy all the time—gratitude to the doctor for putting a little plain common-sense into me when I had been empty of it so many, many years.
Thirty years ago Haimberger went off on a long voyage in a sailing-ship. There were fifteen passengers on board. The table-fare was of the regulation pattern of the day: At 7 in the morning, a cup of bad coffee in bed; at 9, breakfast: bad coffee, with condensed milk; soggy rolls, crackers, salt fish; at 1 P.M., luncheon: cold tongue, cold ham, cold corned beef, soggy cold rolls, crackers; 5 P.M., dinner: thick pea soup, salt fish, hot corned beef and sour kraut, boiled pork and beans, pudding; 9 till 11 P.M., supper: tea, with condensed milk, cold tongue, cold ham, pickles, sea-biscuit, pickled oysters, pickled pigs’ feet, grilled bones, golden buck.
At the end of the first week eating had ceased, nibbling had taken its place. The passengers came to the table, but it was partly to put in the time, and partly because the wisdom of the ages commanded them to be regular in their meals. They were tired of the coarse and monotonous fare, and took no interest in it, had no appetite for it. All day and every day they roamed the ship half hungry, plagued by their gnawing stomachs, moody, untalkative, miserable. Among them were three confirmed dyspeptics. These became shadows in the course of three weeks. There was also a bed-ridden invalid; he lived on boiled rice; he could not look at the regular dishes.