“I certainly would, ’Loney, except in very small quantities. Raw potatoes contain twenty-two per cent. of the worst form of non-nitrogenous food, and seventy-eight per cent. of water. You, Malone, with your sedentary habits, should never touch an ounce of potato. It excites the epigastric nerve and induces dyspepsia. You’re as lazy as the devil and should only eat nitrogenous food and never in excess. What you require is about one hundred grams of protein, giving you a fuel value of twenty-seven hundred calories, and to produce this fifty-five ounces of food a day is enough. When you exceed this you run to flesh—unhealthy bloat really—and in the wrong places. You’ve only to look at Marny’s sixty-inch waist-line to prove the truth of this theory. Now look at me—I keep my figure, don’t I? Not a bad one for a light-weight, is it? I’m in perfect health, can run, jump, eat, sleep, paint, and but for a slight organic weakness with my heart, which is hereditary in my family and which kills most of us off at about seventy years of age, I’m as sound as a nut. And all—all, let me tell you, due to my observing a few scientific laws regarding hygiene which you men never seem to have heard of.”
Malone now rose to his feet, pewter mug in hand, and swept his eye around the table.
“Bedad, you’re right, Joppy,” he said with a wink at Marny—“food’s the ruination of us all; drink is what we want. On yer feet, gintlemen—every mother’s son of ye! Here’s to the learned, livin’ skeleton from Boston! Five per cint. man and ninety-five per cint. crank!”
The next morning the group of painters—all except Joplin, who was doing a head in “smears” behind the Groote Kerk a mile away—were at work in the old shipyard across the Maas at Papendrecht. Marny was painting a Dutch lugger with a brown-madder hull and an emerald-green stern, up on the ways for repairs. Pudfut had the children of the Captain posed against a broken windlass rotting in the tall grass near the dock, and Malone and Schonholz, pipe in mouth, were on their backs smoking. “It wasn’t their kind of a mornin’,” Malone had said.
Joplin’s discourse the night before was evidently lingering in their minds, for Pudfut broke out with: “Got to sit on Joppy some way or we’ll be talked to death,” and he squeezed a tube of color on his palette. “Getting to be a bloody nuisance.”
“Only one way to fix him,” remarked Stebbins, picking up his mahlstick from the grass beside him.
“How?” came a chorus.
“Scare him to death.”
The painters laid down their brushes. Stebbins rarely expressed an opinion; any utterance from him, therefore, carried weight.
“Go for him about his health, I tell you,” continued Stebbins, dragging a brush from the sheaf in his hand.
“But there’s nothing the matter with him,” answered Marny. “He’s as skinny as a coal-mine mule, but he’s got plenty of kick in him yet.”