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Title: One Third Off
Author: Cobb, Irvin S. (Irvin Shrewsbury), 1876-1944
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One Third Off" ***

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_One Third Off_



_By Irvin S. Cobb_

_Fiction_

FROM PLACE TO PLACE
THOSE TIMES AND THESE
LOCAL COLOR
OLD JUDGE PRIEST
BACK HOME
THE ESCAPE OF MR. TRIMM

_Wit and Humor_

ONE THIRD OFF
A PLEA FOR OLD CAP COLLIER
THE ABANDONED FARMERS
THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
EATING IN TWO OR THREE LANGUAGES
"OH WELL, YOU KNOW HOW WOMEN ARE!"
FIBBLE D.D.
"SPEAKING OF OPERATIONS--"
EUROPE REVISED
ROUGHING IT DE LUXE
COBB'S BILL OF FARE
COBB'S ANATOMY

_Miscellany_

THE THUNDERS OF SILENCE
THE GLORY OF THE COMING
PATHS OF GLORY
"SPEAKING OF PRUSSIANS--"

       *       *       *       *       *

_New York_

_George H. Doran Company_

       *       *       *       *       *



[Illustration: I WEIGHED MYSELF AND IN THE BOX SCORE CREDITED MYSELF WITH
A PROFOUND SHOCK. _Frontispiece_]



_One Third Off_

_By_

_Irvin S. Cobb_

_Author of_
_"Old Judge Priest," "Speaking_
_of Operations--" Etc._

_Illustrated by Tony Sarg_

_New York_

_George H. Doran Company_



_Copyright, 1921,_

_By George H. Doran Company_

_Copyright, 1921,_

_By The Curtis Publishing Company_

_Printed in the United States of America_



_One Third Off_

TO
HARRY M. STEVENS, ESQUIRE
WHO IN TIMES GONE BY HELPED ME
PUT THAT ONE THIRD ON



_CONTENTS_


CHAPTER ONE:                                         PAGE
_Extra! Extra! All About the Great Reduction_     15

CHAPTER TWO:
_Those Romping Elfin Twenties_                    25

CHAPTER THREE:
_Regarding Liver-Eating Watkins and Others_       31

CHAPTER FOUR:
_I Become the Panting Champion_                   41

CHAPTER FIVE:
_On Acquiring Some Snappy Pores_                  55

CHAPTER SIX:
_More Anon_                                       65

CHAPTER SEVEN:
_Office Visits, $10_                              75

CHAPTER EIGHT:
_The Friendly Sons of the Boiled Spinach_         95

CHAPTER NINE:
_The Fallen Egg_                                 111

CHAPTER TEN:
_Wherein Our Hero Falters_                       121

CHAPTER ELEVEN:
_Three Cheers for Lithesome Grace Regained_      145



ILLUSTRATIONS

I weighed myself and in the box score
credited myself with a profound shock  _Frontispiece_

"64 Broad"                                             19

To observe Mr. Bryan breakfasting is a
sight worth seeing                                     45

"You are now registering the preliminary
warnings--"                                            87



CHAPTER I

_Extra! Extra! All About The Great Reduction!_


The way I look at this thing is this way: If something happens to you and
by writing about it you can make a bit of money and at the same time be a
benefactor to the race, then why not? Does not the philanthropic aspect of
the proposition more than balance off the mercenary side? I hold that it
does, or at least that it should, in the estimation of all fair-minded
persons. It is to this class that I particularly address myself.
Unfair-minded persons are advised to take warning and stop right here with
the contemporary paragraph. That which follows in this little volume is
not for them.

An even stronger motive impels me. In hereinafter setting forth at length
and in detail the steps taken by me in making myself thin, or, let us
say, thinner, I am patterning after the tasteful and benevolent examples
of some of the most illustrious ex-fat men of letters in our country. Take
Samuel G. Blythe now. Mr. Blythe is the present international bant-weight
champion. There was a time, though, when he was what the world is pleased
to call over-sized. In writing on several occasions, and always
entertainingly and helpfully, upon the subject of the methods employed by
him to reduce himself to his current proportions I hold that he had the
right idea about it.

Getting fat is a fault; except when caused by the disease known as
obesity, it is a bad habit. Getting thin and at the same time retaining
one's health is a virtue. Never does the reductionist feel quite so
virtuous as when for the first time, perhaps in decades, he can stand
straight up and look straight down and behold the tips of his toes. His
virtue is all the more pleasant to him because it recalls a reformation on
his part and because it has called for self-denial. I started to say that
it had called for mortification of the flesh, but I shan't. Despite the
contrary opinions of the early fathers of the church, I hold that the
mortification of the flesh is really based upon the flesh itself, where
there is too much of it for beauty and grace, not merely upon the process
employed in getting rid of it.

Ask any fat man--or better still, any formerly fat man--if I am not
correct. But do not ask a fat woman unless, as in the case of possible
fire at a theater, you already have looked about you and chosen the
nearest exit. Taken as a sex, women are more likely to be touchy upon this
detail where it applies to themselves than men are.

I have a notion that probably the late Lucrezia Borgia did not start
feeding her house guests on those deep-dish poison pies with which her
name historically is associated until after she grew sensitive about the
way folks dropping in at the Borgia home for a visit were sizing up her
proportions on the bias, so to speak. And I attribute the development of
the less pleasant side of Cleopatra's disposition--keeping asps around the
house and stabbing the bearers of unpleasant tidings with daggers and
feeding people to the crocodiles and all that sort of thing--to the period
when she found her anklets binding uncomfortably and along toward half
past ten o'clock of an evening was seized by a well-nigh uncontrollable
longing to excuse herself from the company and run upstairs and take off
her jeweled stomacher and things and slip into something loose.

[Illustration: "64 BROAD."]

But upon this subject men are less inclined to be fussy, and by the same
token more inclined, on having accomplished a cure, to take a justifiable
pride in it and to brag publicly about it. As I stated a moment ago, I
claim Mr. Blythe viewed the matter in a proper and commendable light when
he took pen in hand to describe more or less at length his reduction
processes. So, too, did that other notable of the literary world, Mr.
Vance Thompson. Mr. Thompson would be the last one to deny that once upon
a time he undeniably was large. The first time I ever saw him--it was in
Paris some years ago, and he was walking away from me and had his back to
me and was wearing a box coat--I thought for a moment they were taking a
tractor across town. All that, however, belongs to the past. Just so soon
as Mr. Thompson had worked out a system of dieting and by personal
application had proved its success he wrote the volume Eat and Grow Thin,
embodying therein his experiences, his course of treatment and his advice
to former fellow sufferers. So you see in saying now what I mean to say I
do but follow in the mouth-prints of the famous.

Besides, when I got fat I capitalized my fatness in the printed word. I
told how it felt to be fat.

I described how natural it was for a fat man to feel like the Grand Cañon
before dinner and like the Royal Gorge afterwards.

I told how, if he wedged himself into a telephone booth and said, "64
Broad," persons overhearing him were not sure whether he was asking
Central for a number or telling a tailor what his waist measurements were.

I told how deeply it distressed him as he walked along, larding the earth
as he passed, to hear bystanders making ribald comments about the
inadvisability of trying to move bank vaults through the streets in the
daytime. And now that, after fifteen years of fatness, I am getting thin
again--glory be!--wherein, I ask, is the impropriety in furnishing the
particulars for publication; the more especially since my own tale, I
fondly trust, may make helpful telling for some of my fellow creatures?
When you can offer a boon to humanity and at the same time be paid for it
the dual advantage is not to be decried.



CHAPTER II

_Those Romping Elfin Twenties_


It has been my personal observation, viewing the matter at close range,
that nearly always fat, like old age or a thief in the dark, steals upon
one unawares. I take my own case. As a youngster and on through my teens
and into my early twenties--ah, those romping elfin twenties!--I was, in
outline, what might be termed dwindly, not to say slimmish. Those who have
known me in my latter years might be loath to believe it, but one of my
boyhood nick-names--I had several, and none of them was complimentary but
all of them were graphic--was Bonesy. At sixteen, by striping myself in
alternate whites and blacks, I could have hired out for a surveyor's rod.
At twenty-one I measured six feet the long way, and if only mine had been
a hook nose I should have cast a shadow like a shepherd's crook.

My avocation in life was such as to induce slenderness. I was the city
staff of a small-town daily paper, and what with dodging round gathering
up items about people to write for the paper and then dodging round to
avoid personal contact with the people I had written the items about for
the paper, I was kept pretty constantly upon the go. In our part of the
country in those days the leading citizens were prone to take offense at
some of the things that were said of them in the public prints and given
to expressing their sense of annoyance forcibly. When a high-spirited
Southern gentleman, regarding whom something of a disagreeable nature had
appeared in the news columns, entered the editorial sanctum without
knocking, wearing upon his crimsoned face an expression of forthright
irritation and with his right hand stealing back under his coat skirt, it
was time for the offending reporter to emulate the common example of the
native white-throated nut-hatch and either flit thence rapidly or hunt a
hole.

Since prohibition came in and a hiccup became a mark of affluence instead
of a social error, as formerly, and a loaded flank is a sign of
hospitality rather than of menace, things may have changed. I am speaking,
though, of the damper early nineties in Kentucky, when a sudden motion
toward the right hip pocket was a threat and not a promise, as at present.
So, what with first one thing and then another, now collecting the news of
the community and now avoiding the customary consequences, I did a good
deal of running about hither and yon, and kept fit and spry and
stripling-thin.

Yet I ate heartily of all things that appealed to my palate, eating at
least two kinds of hot bread at every meal--down South we say it with
flours--and using chewing tobacco for the salad course, as was the custom.
I ate copiously at and between meals and gained not a whit.



CHAPTER III

_Regarding Liver-Eating Watkins and Others_


It was after I had moved to New York and had taken a desk job that I
detected myself in the act, as it were, of plumping out. Cognizant of the
fact, as I was, I nevertheless took no curative or corrective measures in
the way of revising my diet. I was content to make excuses inwardly. I
said to myself that I came of a breed whose members in their mature years
were inclined to broaden noticeably. I said to myself that I was not
getting the amount of exercise that once I had; that my occupation was now
more sedentary, and therefore it stood to reason that I should take on a
little flesh here and there over my frame. Moreover, I felt good. If I had
felt any better I could have charged admission. My appetite was perfect,
my digestion magnificent, nay, awe-inspiring.

To me it seemed that physically I was just as active and agile as I had
been in those 'prentice years of my professional career when the ability
to shift quickly from place to place and to think with an ornithological
aptitude were conducive to a continuance of unimpaired health among young
reporters. Anyhow--thus I to myself in the same strain,
continuing--anyhow, I was not actually getting fat. Nothing so gross as
that. I merely was attaining to a pleasant, a becoming and a dignified
fullness of contour as I neared my thirtieth birthday. So why worry about
what was natural and normal among persons of my temperament, and having my
hereditary impulses, upon attaining a given age?

I am convinced that men who are getting fat are generally like that. For
every added pound an added excuse, for each multiplying inch at the
waistline a new plea in abatement to be set up in the mind. I see the
truth of it now. When you start getting fat you start getting fatuous.
With the indubitable proof of his infirmity mounting in superimposed folds
of tissues before his very gaze, with the rounded evidence presented right
there in front of him where he can rest his elbows on it, your average
fattish man nevertheless refuses to acknowledge the visible situation.
Vanity blinds his one eye, love of self-indulgence blinds the other.
Observe now how I speak in the high moral tone of a reformed offender,
which is the way of reformed offenders and other reformers the world over.
We are always most virtuous in retrospect, as the fact of the crime
recedes. Moreover, he who has not erred has but little to gloat over.

There are two sorts of evidence upon which many judges look askance--that
sort of evidence which is circumstantial and that sort which purely is
hearsay. In this connection, and departing for the space of a paragraph or
so from the main theme, I am reminded of the incident through which a
certain picturesque gentleman of the early days in California acquired a
name which he was destined to wear forever after, and under which his
memory is still affectionately encysted in the traditions of our great Far
West. I refer to the late Liver-Eating Watkins. Mr. Watkins entered into
active life and passed through a good part of it bearing the
unilluminative and commonplace first name of Elmer or Lemuel, or perhaps
it was Jasper. Just which one of these or some other I forgot now, but no
matter; at least it was some such. One evening a low-down
terra-cotta-colored Piute swiped two of Mr. Watkins' paint ponies and by
stealth, under cover of the cloaking twilight, went away with them into
the far mysterious spaces of the purpling sage.

To these ponies the owner was deeply attached, not alone on account of the
intrinsic value, but for sentimental reasons likewise. So immediately on
discovering the loss the next morning, Mr. Watkins took steps. He saddled
a third pony which the thief had somehow overlooked in the haste of
departure, and he girded on him both cutlery and shootlery, and he mounted
and soon was off and away across the desert upon the trail of the vanished
malefactor. Now when Mr. Watkins fared forth thus accoutered it was a sign
he was not out for his health or anybody else's.

Friends and well-wishers volunteered to accompany him upon the chase, for
they foresaw brisk doings. But he declined their company. Folklore,
descending from his generation to ours, has it that he said this was his
own business and he preferred handling it alone in his own way. He did
add, however, that on overtaking the fugitive it was his intention, as an
earnest or token of his displeasure, to eat that Injun's liver raw. Some
versions say he mentioned liver rare, but the commonly accepted legend has
it that the word used was _raw_. With this he put the spur to his steed's
flank and was soon but a mere moving speck in the distance.

Now there was never offered any direct proof that our hero, in pursuance
of his plan for teaching the Indian a lesson, actually did do with regard
to the latter's liver what he had promised the bystanders he would do;
moreover, touching on this detail he ever thereafter maintained a
steadfast and unbreakable silence. In lieu of corroborative testimony by
unbiased witnesses as to the act itself, we have only these two things to
judge by: First, that when Mr. Watkins returned in the dusk of the same
day he was wearing upon his face a well-fed, not to say satiated,
expression, yet had started forth that morning with no store of
provisions; and second, that on being found in a deceased state some days
later, the Piute, who when last previously seen had with him two of Mr.
Watkin's pintos and one liver of his own, was now shy all three. By these
facts a strong presumptive case having been made out, Mr. Watkins was
thenceforth known not as Ezekiel or Emanuel, or whatever his original
first name had been, but as Liver-Eating, or among friends by the
affectionate diminutive of Liv for short.

This I would regard as a typical instance of the value of a chain of good
circumstantial evidence, with no essential link lacking. Direct testimony
could hardly have been more satisfactory, all things considered; and yet
direct testimony is the best sort there is, in the law courts and out. On
the other hand, hearsay evidence is viewed legally and often by the layman
with suspicion; in most causes of action being barred out altogether.
Nevertheless, it is a phase of the fattish man's perversity that,
rejecting the direct, the circumstantial and the circumferential testimony
which abounds about him, he too often awaits confirmation of his growing
suspicions at the hands of outsiders and bystanders before he is willing
openly to admit that condition of fatness which for long has been patent
to the most casual observer.

Women, as I have observed them, are even more disposed to avoid confession
on this point. A woman somehow figures that so long as she refuses to
acknowledge to herself or any other interested party that she has
progressed out of the ranks of the plumpened into the congested and
overflowing realms of the avowedly obese, why, for just so long may she
keep the rest of the world in ignorance too. I take it, the ostrich which
first set the example to all the other ostriches of trying to avoid
detection by the enemy through the simple expedient of sticking its head
in the sand was a lady ostrich, and moreover one typical of her sex. But
men are bad enough. I know that I was.



CHAPTER IV

_I Become The Panting Champion_


Month after month, through the cycle of the revolving seasons, I went
along deceiving myself, even though I deceived none else, coining new
pleas in extenuation or outright contradictions to meet each new-arising
element of confirmatory proof to a state of case which no unprejudiced
person could fail to acknowledge. The original discoverer of the alibi was
a fat man; indeed, it was named for him--Ali Bi-Ben Adhem, he was, a
friend and companion of the Prophet, and so large that, going into Mecca,
he had to ride on two camels. This fact is historically authenticated. I
looked it up.

In the fall of the year, when I brought last winter's heavy suit out of
the clothes-press and found it now to hug o'ersnugly for comfort, I
cajoled my saner self into accepting a most transparent lie--my figure had
not materially altered through the intervening spring and summer; it was
only that the garments, being fashioned of a shoddy material, had shrunk.
I owned a dress suit which had been form fitting, 'tis true, but none too
close a fit upon me. I had owned it for years; I looked forward to owning
and using it for years to come. I laid it aside for a period during an
abatement in formal social activities; then bringing it forth from its
camphor-ball nest for a special occasion I found I could scarce force my
way down into the trousers, and that the waistcoat buttons could not be
made to meet the buttonholes, and that the coat, after finally I had
struggled into it, bound me as with chains by reason of the pull at
armpits and between the shoulders. I could not get my arms down to my
sides at all. I could only use them flapper fashion.

I felt like a penguin. I imagine I looked a good bit like one too.

But I did not blame myself, who was the real criminal, or the grocer who
was accessory before the fact. I put the fault on the tailor, who was
innocent. Each time I had to let my belt buckle out for another notch in
order that I might breathe I diagnosed the trouble as a touch of what
might be called Harlem flatulency. We lived in a flat then--a nonelevator
flat--and I pretended that climbing three flights of steep stairs was what
developed my abdominal muscles and at the same time made me short of wind.

I coined a new excuse after we had moved to a suburb back of Yonkers.
Frequently I had to run to catch the 5:07 accommodation, because if I
missed it I might have to wait for the 7:05, which was no accommodation. I
would go jamming my way at top speed toward the train gate and on into the
train shed, and when I reached my car I would be 'scaping so emphatically
that the locomotive on up ahead would grow jealous and probably felt as
though it might just as well give up trying to compete in volume of sound
output with a real contender. But I was agile enough for all purposes and
as brisk as any upon my feet. Therein I found my consolation.

Among all my fellow members of the younger Grand Central Station set there
was scarce a one who could start with me at scratch and beat me to a train
just pulling out of the shed; and even though he might have bested me at
sprinting, I had him whipped to a soufflé at panting. In a hundred-yard
dash I could spot anyone of my juniors a dozen pairs of pants and win out
handily. I was the acknowledged all-weights panting champion of the Putnam
division.

[Illustration: TO OBSERVE MR. BRYAN BREAKFASTING IS A SIGHT WORTH SEEING.
_Page 45_]

If there had been ten or twelve of my neighbors as good at this as I was
we might have organized and drilled together and worked out a class cheer
for the Putnam Division Country Club--three deep long pants, say,
followed by nine sharp short pants or pantlets. But I would have been
elected pants leader without a struggle. My merits were too self-evident
for a contest.

But did I attribute my supremacy in this regard to accumulating and
thickening layers of tissue in the general vicinity of my midriff? I did
not! No, sir, because I was fat--indubitably, uncontrovertibly and beyond
the peradventure of a doubt, fat--I kept on playing the fat man's game of
mental solitaire. I inwardly insisted, and I think partly believed, that
my lung power was too great for the capacity of my throat opening, hence
pants. I cast a pitying eye at other men, deep of girth and purple of
face, waddling down the platform, and as I scudded on past them I would
say to myself that after all there was a tremendous difference between
being obese and being merely well fleshed out. The real reason of course
was that my legs had remained reasonably firm and trim while the torso was
inflating. For I was one who got fat not all over at once but in favored
localities. And I was even as the husband is whose wife is being gossiped
about--the last person in the neighborhood to hear the news.

As though it were yesterday I remember the day and the place and the
attendant circumstances when and where awakening was forced upon me. Two
of us went to Canada on a hunting trip. The last lap of the journey into
camp called for a fifteen-mile horseback ride through the woods. The
native who was to be our chief guide met us with our mounts at a way
station far up in the interior of Quebec. He knew my friend--had guided
him for two seasons before; but I was a stranger in those parts. Now until
that hour it had never occurred to me that I was anywhere nearly so
bulksome as this friend of mine was. For he indubitably was a person of
vast displacement and augmented gross total tonnage; and in that state of
blindness which denies us the gift to see ourselves as others see us I
never had reckoned myself to be in his class, avoir-dupoisefully
speaking. But as we lined up two abreast alongside the station, with our
camp duffel piled about us, the keen-eyed guide, standing slightly to one
side, considered our abdominal profiles, and the look he cast at my
companion said as plainly as words, "Well, I see you've brought a spare
set along with you in case of a puncture."

But he did not come right out and say a thing so utterly tactless. What he
did say, in a worried tone, was that he was sorry now he had not fetched
along a much more powerful horse for me to ride on. He had a good big
chunky work animal, not fast but very strong in the back, he said, which
would have answered my purposes first rate.

I experienced another disillusioning jolt. Could it be that this practiced
woodsman's eye actually appraised me as being as heavy as my mate, or even
heavier? Surely he must be wrong in his judgments. The point was that I
woefully was wrong in mine. How true it is that we who would pluck the
mote from behind a fellow being's waistcoat so rarely take note of the
beam which we have swallowed crosswise!

Even so, a great light was beginning to percolate to my innermost
consciousness. A grave doubt pestered me through our days of camping there
in the autumnal wilderness. When we had emerged from the woods and had
reached Montreal on the homeward trip I enticed my friend upon a
penny-in-the-slot weighing machine in the Montreal station and I observed
what he weighed; and then when he stepped aside I unostentatiously weighed
myself, and in the box score credited myself with a profound shock; also
with an error, which should have been entered up a long time before that.

Approximately, we were of the same height and in bone structure not
greatly unlike. I had figured that daily tramping after game should have
taken a few folds of superfluous flesh off my frame, and so, no doubt, it
had done. Yet I had pulled the spindle around the face of the dial to a
point which recorded for me a total of sixteen pounds and odd ounces more
than his penny had registered for him.

If he was fat, unmistakably and conclusively fat and he was--what then was
I? In Troy weight--Troy where the hay scales come from--the answer was
written. I was fat as fat, or else the machine had lied. And as between me
and that machine I could pick the liar at the first pick.



CHAPTER V

_On Acquiring Some Snappy Pores_


That night on the sleeper a splendid resolution sprouted within me. Next
morning when we arrived home it was ready and ripe for plucking. I would
trim myself down to more lithesome proportions and I would start the job
right away. It did not occur to me that cutting down my daily consumption
of provender might prove helpful to the success of the proposed
undertaking. Or if it did occur to me I put the idea sternly from me, for
I was by way of being a robust trencherman. I had joyed in the pleasures
of the table, and I had written copiously of those joys, and I now
declined to recant of my faith or to abate my indulgences.

All this talk which I had heard about balanced rations went in at one ear
and out at the other. I knew what a balanced ration was. I stowed one
aboard three times daily--at morn, again at noon and once more at
nightfall. A balanced ration was one which, being eaten, did not pull you
over on your face; one which you could poise properly if only you leaned
well back, upon arising from the table, and placed the two hands, with a
gentle lifting motion, just under the overhang of the main cargo hold.

Surely there must be some way of achieving the desired result other than
by following dieting devices. There was--exercising was the answer. I
would exercise and so become a veritable faun.

Now, so far as I recalled, I had never taken any indoor exercise excepting
once in a while to knock on wood. I abhorred the thought of ritualistic
bedroom calisthenics such as were recommended by divers health experts.
Climbing out of a warm bed and standing out in the middle of a cold room
and giving an imitation of a demoniac semaphore had never appealed to me
as a fascinating divertisement for a grown man. As I think I may have
remarked once before, lying at full length on one's back on the floor
immediately upon awakening of a morning and raising the legs to full
length twenty times struck me as a performance lacking in dignity and
utterly futile.

Besides, what sort of a way was that to greet the dewy morn?

So as an alternative I decided to enroll for membership at a gymnasium
where I could have company at my exercising and make a sport of what
otherwise would be in the nature of a punishment. This I did. With a group
of fellow inmates for my team mates, I tossed the medicine ball about. My
score at this was perfect; that is to say, sometimes when it came my turn
to catch I missed the ball, but the ball never once missed me. Always it
landed on some tender portion of my anatomy, so that my average, written
in black-and-blue spots, remained an even 1000.

Daily I cantered around and around and around a running track until my
breathing was such probably as to cause people passing the building to
think that the West Side Y.M.C.A. was harboring a pet porpoise inside.
Once, doing this, I caught a glimpse of my own form in a looking-glass
which for some reason was affixed to one of the pillars flanking the oval.
A looking-glass properly did not belong there; distinctly it was out of
place and could serve no worthy purpose. Very few of the sights presented
in a gym which largely is patronized by city-bred fat men are deserving to
be mirrored in a glass. They are not such visions as one would care to
store in fond memory's album. Be that as it may, here was this mirror, and
swinging down the course suddenly I beheld myself in it. Clad in a
chastely simple one-piece garment, with my face all a blistered crimson
and my fingers interlaced together about where the third button of the
waistcoat, counting from the bottom up, would have been had I been
wearing any waistcoat, I reminded myself of a badly scorched citizen
escaping in a scantily dressed condition from a burning homestead bringing
with him the chief family treasure clasped in his arms. He had saved the
pianola!

From the running track or the medicine-ball court I would repair to the
steam room and simmer pleasantly in a temperature of 240 degrees
Fahrenheit--I am sure I have the figures right--until all I needed before
being served was to have the gravy slightly thickened with flour and a
dash of water cress added here and there. Having remained in the steam
cabinet until quite done, I next would jump into the swimming pool, which
concluded the afternoon's entertainment.

Jumping into the cool water of the pool was supposed to reseal the pores
which the treatment in the hot room had caused to open. In the best
gymnasium circles it is held to be a fine thing to have these educated
pores, but I am sure it can be overdone, and personally I cannot say that
I particularly enjoyed it. I kept it up largely for their sake. They
became highly trained, but developed temperament. They were apt to get the
signals mixed and open unexpectedly on the street, resulting in bad colds
for me.

For six weeks, on every week day from three to five P.M. I maintained this
schedule religiously--at least I used a good many religious words while so
engaged--and then I went on the scales to find out what progress I had
made toward attaining the desired result. I had kept off the scales until
then because I was saving up, as it were, to give myself a nice jolly
surprise party.

So I weighed. And I had picked up nine pounds and a half! That was what I
had gained for all my sufferings and all my exertions--that, along with a
set of snappy but emotional pores and a personal knowledge of how a New
England boiled dinner feels just before it comes on the table.

"This," I said bitterly to myself--"this is sheer foolhardiness! Keep this
up for six weeks more and I'll find myself fallen away to a perfect
three-ton truck. Keep it up for three months and I'll be ready to rent
myself out to the aquarium as a suitable playmate for the leviathan in the
main tank. I shall stop this idiocy before it begins making me seasick
merely to look down at myself as I walk. I may slosh about and billow
somewhat, but I positively decline to heave up and down. I refuse to be
known as the human tidal wave, with women and children being hurriedly
removed to a place of safety at my approach. Right here and now is where I
quit qualifying for the inundation stakes!"

Which accordingly I did. What I did not realize was that the unwonted
exercise gave me such a magnificent appetite that, after a session at the
gymnasium, I ate about three times as much as I usually did at
dinner--and, mark you, I never had been one with the appetite, as the
saying goes, of a bird, to peck at some Hartz Mountain roller's prepared
food and wipe the stray rape seed off my nose on a cuttle-fish bone and
then fly up on the perch and tuck the head under the wing and call it a
meal. I had ever been what might be termed a sincere feeder. So, never
associating the question of diet with the problem of attaining physical
slightness, I swung back again into my old mode of life with the resigned
conviction that since destiny had chosen me to be fat there was nothing
for me to do in the premises excepting to go right on to the end of my
mortal chapter being fat, fatter and perhaps fattest. I'd just make the
best of it.

And I'd use care about crossing a county bridge at any gait faster than a
walk.

Now this continued for years and years, and then here a few months ago
something else happened. And on top of that something else--to wit: The
Great Reduction.

Of the Great Reduction more anon.



CHAPTER VI

_More Anon_


Well, I made up my mind, having tried violent exercise in the gymnasium,
coupled with violent language in the steam room, and having found neither
or both had been of the least avail in trimming down my proportions, but
on the contrary had augmented them to the extent of nearly ten pounds,
live weight, that I would let well enough alone. If 'twere my ordained
fate to be fat--why, then so be it; I'd be fatly fatalistic and go on
through life undulating and rippling. If an all-wise Providence meant to
call me to the estate of being the bulkiest writing man using the English
language for a vehicle, then let Hilaire Belloc look to his laurels and
Gilbert K. Chesterton to his unholsterings. There was one consolation:
Thank heavens the championship would remain in America!

The years go marching by in ordered processional. A great war bursts and
for a space endures. In our own land prohibition is nationally enacted and
women's suffrage comes to be, and Irving Berlin, reading the signs of the
times, decides to write The Blue Laws Blues. Fashions of thought change;
other fashions, also. A girl who was born without hips or eyebrows and who
in childhood was regarded as a freak, now finds herself, at the age of
eighteen, exactly in the mode, thus proving that all things come to those
who wait. Czecho-Slovakia is discovered. The American forces spent three
days taking Château-Thierry and three years trying to learn to pronounce
it. Ireland undertakes to settle her ancient problem on the basis of
self-extermination. Several rich retail profiteers die, the approval being
hearty and general, and on arriving at heaven experience great difficulty
in passing through the Needle's Eye, or tradesmen's entrance. Somebody
tells Henry Ford about what some high priests did in Jerusalem nearly two
thousand years ago and in the first flush of his startled indignation he
becomes violently anti-Semitic. General Pershing returns from the
battlefields of Europe universally acclaimed a model of military
efficiency and wearing so many medals that alongside him John Philip
Sousa, by contrast, looks absolutely nude. His friends project him into
the political arena and the result is summed in a phrase--"Lafayette, he
ain't there!" Unavailing efforts are made by a rebellious and unreconciled
few of us to find a presidential candidate willing to run on a platform of
but four planks, namely: Wines, ales, liquors and cigars. Harding wins,
Scattering second; Cox also ran: slogan: "He Kept Us Out of McAdoo."
Manhattan Island, from whence the rest of the country derives its panics,
its jazz tremblors and its girl shows, develops a severe sinking sensation
in the pit of its financial stomach, accompanied by acute darting pains
at the juncture of Broad and Wall. This is the way Thomas Carlyle used to
start off a new chapter, and I like it. It denotes erudition. Ziegfeld
builds a new Follies show around twelve pairs of winsome knee joints.
North Dakota blows down the Nonpartisan League and discovers that darned
thing was loaded in both barrels. The Prussians are pained to note that
for some reason or other a number of people seem to harbor a grudge
against them. Nine thousand Kentucky mint patches are plowed under and the
sites sown with rosemary; that's for remembrance. In New York plans are
undertaken for construing the Eighteenth Amendment along the lines of the
selective draft, upon the theory that booze is a bad thing for some people
and much too good for many of the others. The word "intrigued" creeps into
our language and becomes common property, but the fiction writers saw it
first. A business men's cabinet, composed almost exclusively of
politicians, succeeds a business men's cabinet composed almost
exclusively of politicians. In order to hurry along the payment of
Installment One of the Indemnity France whistles up the reserves and that
chore is chored. Pessimists, including many of the old-line Democrats,
practically all the maltsters, and Aunt Emma Goldman, are filled with a
dismal conviction that creation has gone plum' to perdition in a hand
basket. Those more optimistically inclined look upon the brighter side of
things and distill consolation from the thought that nothing is so bad but
what it might have been worse--Trotzky might have been born twins. Great
Britain has her post-war industrial crisis, Serial Number 24. The Sinn
Féin enlarges the British national anthem to read God Save the King Till
We Can Get at Him! By a strict party vote Congress decides the share in
the victory achieved by the A.E.F. was overwhelmingly Republican, but that
the airship program went heavily Democratic. Popular distrust of
home-brew recipes assumes a nationwide phase. This brings us up to the
early spring of this year of grace, 1921, which is what I have been aiming
for all through this paragraph.

Quite without warning, I discovered along about the first of March that
something ailed me; something was rocking the boat. About my heart there
was a sense of pressure, so it seemed to me, or else my imagination was at
fault. Mentally, I found myself--well, for lack of a better word to
express it--logy. Otherwise, in all physical regards, I felt as brisk and
peart as ever I have, despite the circumstance of having reached the age
when a great many of us are confronted by the distressing discovery that
we are rapidly getting no younger.

Now when a man who has always enjoyed such outrageously perfect health as
it has been my good fortune to enjoy takes note that certain nagging
manifestations are persisting within him it is his duty, or least it
should be his duty, to try to find out the underlying cause of whatever
it is that distresses him and correct the trouble before it becomes
chronic.

I did not get frightened--I trust I am not a self-alarmist--but I did get
worried. I made up my mind that I would not wait, as those who approach
middle age so often do, for the medical examiner of an insurance company
to scare me into sudden conniption fits. But I also made up my mind that I
would find out what radically was wrong with me, if anything, and endeavor
to master it while the mastering was good.

This, though, was after I had harked back to the days of my adolescence. I
was born down on the northern edge of the southern range of the North
American malaria belt; and when I was growing up, if one seemed
intellectually torpid or became filled with an overpowering bodily
languor, the indisposition always was diagnosed offhand as a touch of
malaria. Accordingly, the victim, taking his own advice or another's,
jolted his liver with calomel until the poor thing flinched every time a
strange pill was seen approaching it, and then he rounded out the course
of treatment with all the quinine the traffic would stand. Recalling these
early campaigns, I borrowed of their strategy for use against my present
symptoms--if symptoms they were. I took quinine until my ears rang so that
persons passing me on the public highway would halt to listen to the
chimes. My head was filled with mysterious muffled rumblings. It was like
living in a haunted house and being one at the same time.



CHAPTER VII

_Office Visits, $10_


It required all of two weeks of experimenting with my interior to convince
me that whatever it might be that annoyed me, it surely was not a thing
which an intensive bombardment of the liver would cure. The liver has a
low visibility but is easy to hit.

I had the aversion to seeking professional guidance for the curing of a
presumably minor disorder that most robust male adults have. In personal
tribute I may add that I have never been hypochondriac in any possible
respect. However, toward the end of those three weeks I formed the
decision that I would go to see a doctor or so. But I would sneak up on
these gentlemen, so to speak. I would call upon them in the rôle of a
friend rather than avowedly as a prospective patient, and take them into
my confidence, as it were, by degrees. Somewhere in the back part of my
brain I nursed a persistent fear that my complaints might be diagnosed as
symptoms of that incurable malady known as being forty-four years old,
going, on forty-five. And I knew that much already without paying a
physician twenty-five dollars for telling me so the first time and ten
dollars for each time he told it to me over again.

Rather shamefacedly, with a well-simulated air of casualness, I dropped in
upon a physician who is a friend of mine and in whose judgment I have
confidence; and then, after a two-day interval, I went to see a second
physician of my acquaintance who, I believe, also thoroughly knows his
trade. With both men I followed the same tactics--roundabout chatting on
the topic of this or that, and finally an honest confession as to the real
purpose of my visit. In both instances the results were practically
identical. Each man manifested an almost morbid curiosity touching on my
personal habits and bodily idiosyncrasies. Each asked me a lot of
questions. Each went at me with X-ray machines and blood tests and
chemical analysissies--if there isn't any such word I claim there should
be--until my being was practically an open book to him and I had no
secrets left at all.

And the upshot of all this was that each of them told me that though
organically I was as sound as a nut in fact much sounder than some of the
nuts they knew professionally--I was carrying an overload of avoirdupois
about with me. In other words, I was too fat for my own good. I was eating
too much sweet stuff and entirely too much starch--especially starch. They
agreed on this point emphatically. As well as I could gather, I was
subjecting my interior to that highly shellacked gloss which is peculiar
to the bosom of the old-fashioned full-dress or burying shirt upon its
return from the steam laundry, when what my system really called for was
the dull domestic finish.

"Well, doc," I said upon hearing this for the second time in language
which already had a familiar sound--"well, all that you say being true,
what then?"

"For one thing, more exercise."

"But I take plenty of exercise now."

"For example, what?"

"For example, golf."

"How often do you play golf?"

"Well, not so very often, as the real golf-bug or caddie's worm would
measure the thing--say, on an average of once a week in the golfing
season. But I take so many swings at the ball before hitting it that I
figure I get more exercise out of the game than do those who play oftener
but take only about one wallop at the pill in driving off. And when I
drive into the deep grass, as is my wont, my work with the niblick would
make you think of somebody bailing out a sinking boat. My bunker exercises
are frequently what you might call violent. And in the fall of the year I
do a lot of tramping about in the woods with a gun. I might add that on a
hunting trip I can walk many a skinny person into a state of total
exhaustion." I stated this last pridefully.

"All right for that, then," he said. "We'll concede that you get an
abundance of exercise. Then there is another thing you should do, and of
the two this is by far the more essential--you should go on a diet."

Right there I turned mentally rebellious. I wanted to reduce my bulk, but
I did not want to reduce my provender. I offered counter-arguments in
defense. I pointed but that for perhaps five years past my weight
practically had been stationary. Also I called attention to the fact that
I no longer ate so heavily as once I had. Not that I wished actually to
decry my appetite. It had been a good friend to me and not for worlds
would I slander it. I have a sincere conviction that age cannot wither nor
custom stale my infinite gastric juices. Never, I trust, will there come a
time when I shan't relish my victuals or when I'll feel disinclined to
chase the last fugitive bite around and around the plate until I overtake
it. But I presented the claim, which was quite true, that I was not the
consumer, measured by volume, I once had been. Perhaps my freighterage
spaces, with passing years, had grown less expansive or less accommodating
or something.

Likewise, I invited his consideration of the fact, which was not to be
gainsaid either, that many men very much less elaborated than I in girth
customarily ate very much more than I did. I recalled, offhand, sundry
conspicuous examples of this sort. I believe I mentioned one or two such.
For instance, now, there was Mr. William Jennings Bryan. The Bryan
appetite, as I remarked to the doctor, is one of the chief landmarks of
Mr. Bryan's home city of Lincoln, Nebraska. They take the sight-seeing
tourists around to have a look at it, the first thing.

To observe Mr. Bryan breakfasting on the morning when a national
Democratic convention is in session is a sight worth seeing. A double
order of cantaloupes on the half shell, a derby hat full of oatmeal, a
rosary of sausages, and about as many flapjacks as would be required to
tessellate the floor of a fair-sized reception hall is nothing at all for
him. And when he has concluded his meal he gets briskly up and strolls
around to the convention hall and makes a better speech and a longer one
and a louder pile than anybody. Naturally, time, the insatiable remodeler,
has worked some outward changes in Mr. Bryan since the brave old days of
the cross of gold. His hair, chafed by the constant pressure of the halo,
has retreated up and ever up his scalp until the forehead extends clear
over and down upon the sunset slope. The little fine wrinkles are thickly
smocked at the corners of the eagle eyes that flashed so fiercely at the
cringing plutocrats.

But his bearing is just as graceful and his voice just as silvery and as
strong as when in '96 he advocated free silver to save the race, or when
he advocated anti-expansion in the Philippines, or government ownership
of the railroads, or a policy of nonpreparedness for war when Germany
first began acting up--Grover Cleveland Bergdoll felt the same way about
it and so did Ma Bergdoll;--and I, for one, have no doubt that Mr. Bryan
will be just as supple, mentally and physically, three years hence when,
if he runs true to form, he will be advocating yet another of that series
of those immemorial Jeffersonian principles of the fathers, which he
thinks up, to order, right out of his own head, when a campaign impends.
Mr. Bryan knows how to play the political game--none better; but he
certainly does have a large discard. That, however, is aside from the main
issue.

The point I sought to bring out there in the office of my friend Doctor
So-and-so was that Mr. Bryan, to my knowledge, ate what he craved and all
that he craved, yet did not become obese. When the occasion demanded he
could be amply bellicose, but the accent was not upon the first two
syllables.

I cited similar cases further to buttress my position. I told him that
almost the skinniest human being I ever knew had been one of the largest
eaters. I was speaking now of John Wesley Bass, the champion raw-egg eater
of Massac Precinct, whose triumphant career knew not pause or discomfiture
until one day at the McCracken County fair when suddenly tragedy dire
impended.

He did not overextend himself in the gustatory line--that to one of John
Wesley Bass' natural gifts and attainments well-nigh would have been
impossible; but he betrayed a lack of caution when, having broken his
former record by eating thirty-six raw eggs at a sitting, he climbed upon
a steam merry-go-round, shortly thereafter falling off the spotted wooden
giraffe which he rode, and being removed to the city hospital in an
unconscious condition.

That night later when the crisis had passed the doctors said that as
nearly as they could figure out a case so unusual, Mr. Bass had had a
very close call from being just naturally scrambled to death. I spoke at
length of my former fellow townsman's powers, dwelling heavily upon the
fact that, despite all, he never thickened up at the waistline. Throughout
the narrative, however, the doctor punctuated my periods with derisive
snorts which were disconcerting to an orderly presentation of the facts.
Nevertheless, I continued until I had reached what I regarded as a telling
climax.

"Piffle!" he rejoined. "One hoarse raucous piffle and three sharp decisive
puffs for your arguments! I tell you that what ails you is this: You are
now registering, the preliminary warnings of obesity. The danger is not
actually here yet; but for you Nature already has set the danger signals.
There's a red light on the switch for one I. Cobb. You are due before a
great while for a head-end collision with your own health. You can take my
advice or you can let it alone. That's entirely up to you. Only don't
blame me if you come back here some day all telescoped up amidships.

"And please don't consume time which is reasonably valuable to me, however
lightly you may regard it, by telling me now about slim men who eat more
than you do and yet keep their figures. The woods are full of them; also
the owl wagons. The difference between such men as those you have
described and such men as you is that they were made to be thin men and to
keep on being thin men regardless of their food consumption, and that your
sort are naturally predisposed to fatness. You can't judge their cases by
yours any more than you can judge the blood-sweating behemoth of Holy Writ
by the plans and specifications of the humble earwig.

"One man's meat is another man's poison; that's a true saying. And here's
another saying--one cannot eat his cake and have it, too. But that's an
error so far as you are concerned. The trouble with you is that when you
eat your cake you still have it--in layers of fat. If you want to get rid
of the layers you'll have to cut out the cake, or most of it, anyway. Must
I make you a diagram, or is this plain enough for your understanding?"

It was--abundantly. But I still had one more bright little idea waiting in
the second-line trenches. I called up the reserves.

"Ahem!" I said. "Well now, old man, how about trying some of these
electrical treatments or these chemicalized baths or these remedies I see
advertised? I was reading only the other day where one successful operator
promised on his word of honor to take off flesh for anybody, no matter who
it was, without interfering with that person's table habits and customs."

My friend can be very plain-spoken when the spirit moves him.

[Illustration: "YOU ARE NOW REGISTERING THE PRELIMINARY
WARNINGS--" _Page 87_]

"Say, listen to me," he snapped, "or better still, you'd better write down
what I'm about to say and stick it in your hat where you can find it and
consult it when your mind begins wandering again. Those special
mechanical devices to reduce fat people are contrived for the benefit of
men and lazy women who are too slothful to take exercise or else too
besotted in the matter of food indulgence to face the alternative of
dieting. They may not do any harm--properly operated, they probably do
not--but, at best, I would regard them as being merely temporary
expedients specially devised as first aid to the incurably lazy.

"And as for pills and boluses and bottled goods guaranteed to reduce your
weight, and as for all these patented treatments and proprietary
preparations which you see boosted in the papers--bah! Either they are
harmless mixtures, in which event they'll probably do you no serious
injury, but will certainly do you no real good; or else they contain drugs
which, taken to excess, may cut you down in size, but have the added
drawback of very probably cutting short your life.

"No, sir-ree! For you it's dieting, now and from now on. You may be able
to relax your diet in time, but you can never altogether forego it. Give
us this day our daily diet--that's your proper prayer. And you'd better
start praying pretty soon, too!"

"All right, doc," I said resignedly. "You've practically converted me. I
can't say I'm happy over the prospect, but if you say so I'm prepared to
become a true believer. But since, between us, we're about to take all the
joy out of life, let's be thorough. What must I do to be saved? Give me
the horrible details right here. I might as well hear the worst at one
session."

"I'm no dietitian," he said. "I don't profess to be one. That's not my
line--my line is the diagnostic. Of course I could lay down a few broad
general rules for your guidance--any experienced practitioner could do
that--but to get the best returns you should consult a diet specialist.
However, in parting--I have several paying guests waiting for me and we
are now about to part--I will throw in one more bit of advice without
charge. No matter what suggestions you may get from any quarter, I would
urge you not to follow any banting formula so rigorous as to take off your
superfluous flesh very rapidly. Take your time about it. If you live as
long as both of us hope you may you'll have plenty of time. There's no
rush, so go at it gradually. Be regular about it, but don't be too
ambitious at the outset. Don't try to turn yourself into a tricky sprite
in two weeks. For a fat man too abruptly to strip the flesh off his bones
I regard as dangerous. It weakens him and depletes his powers of
resistance and makes him fair game for any stray microbe which may be
cruising about looking for a place to set up housekeeping."

At first blush it might appear to the lay mind that a germ would scarcely
care to pick a bone when it had fat meat to feed on, but my own
recollections bore out my friend's statements. I remembered a man of my
acquaintance, an enormously fleshy and unwieldy man, who, fearing
apoplexy, undertook a radical scheme of banting. He lost fifty pounds in
three months, so apoplexy did not get him, but pneumonia did with great
suddenness. He was sick only three days. Nobody suspected that he was
seriously ill until the third day, when suddenly he just hauled off and
died.

So I promised to have a care against seeking to hurry myself right out of
the flounder class and right into the smelt division.



CHAPTER VIII

_The Friendly Sons of the Boiled Spinach_


My friend gave me the names of several men of acknowledged standing and
told me I should be making no mistake did I put myself in the hands of any
one on the list. I thanked him and departed from his presence. To the
casual eye I may have seemed, going away, to be in high spirits; but,
confidentially, I wasn't feeling so very brash. My spirits were low. I had
heard the truth--I made no effort to deceive myself there--but the truth
was painful.

Still, knowing what I should do, I hesitated, temporizing with myself. I
gave a couple of days of intensive meditation to the subject, and then I
reached this conclusion: I would read a few standard and orthodox works
on dietetics, and, so doing, try to arrive at least at a superficial
knowledge of the matter. Also, I would balance what one recognized
authority said as against what another recognized authority said, and
then, before going to a specialist, I would do a little personal
experimenting with my diet and mark the effects.

I arrived at this decision privately, taking no one into my confidence.
And without an intent to deprive any hard-worked specialist of a
prospective fee, I shall ever continue to believe that the second part of
the course I chose to follow was a wise one. It might not serve my
brother-in-obesity, but it served me well. I'm sure of that.

But the first part of the system naturally came first. This had to do with
research work among the best authorities. Here I struck one of the snags
that rise in the pathway of the hardy soul who goes adventuring into any
given department of the science of medicine and its allied sciences. I was
pained to observe how rare it was for two experts, of whatsoever period,
to agree upon a single essential element. An amateur investigator was left
at a loss to fathom why such entirely opposite conclusions should have
been arrived at by the members of the same school when presumably both had
had the same raw materials to work on. By their raw materials I mean their
patients. But so it was.

The ancient apostles of dietetics, the original pathfinders into a
hitherto untracked field, had disciples who set out to follow in their
footsteps, but before they had traveled very far along the alimentary
trail the disciples were quarreling bitterly with the masters' deductions
and conclusions. To-day's school was snooty touching on the major opinions
of yesterday's crowd, and to-morrow's crowd already made faces at
to-day's.

On just two points I found a unanimity of opinion among what might be
termed the middle group of dietetic explorers as counter-distinguished
from the pioneering cult and the modern or comparatively modern. Each one
was so absolutely certain that he was so absolutely right and so
absolutely certain that all his contemporaries were so absolutely wrong.

At the beginning, it seemed, a reduction of the sufferer's flesh had been
attempted by the simple device of bleeding him copiously--not with a
monthly statement, as latterly, but with a lancet. Abundant drinking of
vinegar also had been recommended as a means to accomplish the desired
end. They were noble drinkers in the olden times, but until I began
delving into literature of the subject I did not suspect that there had
been any out-and-out vinegar topers.

There was citation in an early work of the interesting case of the Marquis
of Cortona, a subchieftain under the Duke of Alva, and a fine fat old
butcher he must have been, too, by all tellings. Finding himself grown so
rotund that no longer could he enter with zest into the massacre bees and
torture outings which the Spaniards were carrying on in the harried
Netherlands, the marquis had recourse to vinegar; and so efficacious was
the treatment that, as the tradition runs, he soon could wrap his loosened
skin about him in great slack folds like a cloak, and thus, close-reefed,
go merrily murdering his way across the Low Countries.

One pictures the advantages accruing. In cold weather, now, he might
overlap his wrinkles in a clapboarded effect and save the expense of
laying in heavy underwear. True, this might give to the wearer a
clinker-built appearance; still it would keep him nice and warm, and no
doubt he had his armor on outside the rest of his things. But likewise
there must have been drawbacks. Suppose, now, the marquis were caught out
in blowy weather and the wind worked in under his tucks and the ratlines
pulled loose and, all full-rigged and helpless, bellying and billowing and
flapping and jibing, he went scudding against his will before the gale.
Could he hope to tack and go about before he blew clear over into the next
county? I doubt it.

And suppose he inflated himself for a party or a reception or something,
and a practical joker put a tack in a chair and he sat down on it and had
a blow-out. The thought is not a pretty one, yet the thing were possible.

From these crude beginnings I worked my way down toward the present day.
Doctor Banting, of England, the father of latter-day dietetics from whose
name in commemoration of his services to mankind we derive the verb
intransitive "to bant," had theories wherein his chief contemporaneous
German rival, Epstein the Bavarian, radically disagreed with him. Voit,
coming along subsequently, disagreed in important details with both. Among
the moderns I discerned where Dr. Woods Hutchinson had his pet ideas and
Doctor Wiley had his, diametrically opposed. So it went. There was almost
as much of disputation here as there is when a federation of women's
clubs is holding an annual election. It was all so very confusing to one
aiming to do the right thing.

One learned savant flatly laid down the ultimatum that the individual
seeking to reduce should cut out all pork products from chitterings clear
through the list to headcheese and give his undivided support to the red
meats and the white. One of his brethren was equally positive that I might
partake of bacon and even ham in moderation, but urged that I walk around
red meat as though it were a pesthouse. Yet a third--a foe, plainly, to
the butcher, but a well-wisher to the hay-and-produce dealer if ever one
lived--recommended that I should eliminate all meat of whatsoever
character or color and stick closely to fodder, roughage and processed
ensilage. I judge he sent his more desperate cases to a livery stable.

According to one dictum, bread was all right up to a certain point, and,
according to another, all wrong. This man here held a brief for beans,
especially the succulent baked bean; that man yonder served solemn warning
upon me that if perversely I persisted to continue to eat baked beans the
fat globules would form so fast I would have the sensation that a little
boy was inside of me somewhere blowing bubbles. The writer didn't exactly
say this, but it was the inference I drew from his remarks.

Eat dried fruits until your seams give, said Doctor A. Avoid dried fruits
as you would the plague, counseled the equally eminent Doctor B. Professor
C considered the drinking of water with meals highly inadvisable; whereas
Professor D said that without adding an extra ounce of weight I might
consume water until my fluid contents sloshed up and down in me when I
walked, and merely by getting a young lady in Oriental costume to stand
alongside me I might qualify at a Sunday-school entertainment for the
entire supporting cast of the familiar tableau entitled Rebecca at the
Well. He intimated that just so I stopped short of committing suicide as
an inside job all would be fine and dandy. I do not claim that these were
his words; this is the free interpretation of his meaning. Sink the knife
in the butter to the very hilt--there will be no ill effects but only a
beneficial outcome--declares such-and-such a food faddist. Eschew butter
by all means or accept the consequences, clarions an earnest voice. Well,
I never was much of a hand for eschewed butter anyway. We keep our own cow
and make our own butter and it seems to slip down, just so.

In the vegetable kingdom the controversy raged with unabated fury. The
boiled prune, blandest and most inoffensive of breakfast dishes, formed
the basis of a spirited debate. There were pro-prunists and there were
con-prunists. The parsnip had its champions and its antagonists; the
carrot its defenders and its assailants. In this quarter was the cabbage
heartily indorsed, there was it belittled and made naught of. The
sprightly spring onion, already socially scorned in some of the best lay
circles, suffered attack at the hands of at least one scientific and
scholarly professional.

After reading his strictures I remarked to myself that really there
remained but one field of useful popularity for the onion to adorn; in
time it might hope to supplant the sunflower as the floral emblem of
Kansas, as typifying a great political principle which originated in that
state: The Initiative, when one took a chance and ate a young onion; the
Referendum, while one's digestive apparatus wrestled with it; the Recall,
if it disagreed with one. Alone, of all the vegetables, stood spinach,
with not a single detractor. On this issue the vote in the affirmative
practically was by acclamation. I am tin position to state that boiled
spinach has not an enemy among the experts. This seems but fair--it has so
few friends among the eating public.

I observed much and confusing talk of the value of nitrogens, proteids
and--when I had reached the ultra-modernists--vitamines. Vitamines, I
gathered, had only recently been discovered, yet by the progressives they
were held to be of the supremest importance in the equation of properly
balanced human sustenance. To my knowledge I had never consciously eaten
vitamines unless a vitamine was what gave guaranteed strictly fresh string
beans, as served at a table-d'hôte restaurant, that peculiar flavor. Here
all along I had figured it was the tinny taste of the can, which shows how
ignorant one may be touching on vitally important matters. I visualized a
suitable luncheon for one banting according to the newest and most
generally approved formula:

=RELISH=
MIXED GELATINOIDS

=POTAGE=
STRAINED NITROGEN GUMBO

=ENTREE=
GRILLED PROTEIDS WITH GLOBULIN PATTIES

=DESSERT=
COMPOTE OF ASSORTED VITAMINES

Or the alternative course for one sincerely desirous of reducing, who
believed everything he saw in print, was to cut out all the proscribed
articles of food--which meant everything edible except spinach--and starve
gracefully on a diet composed exclusively of boiled spinach, with the
prospect of dying a dark green death in from three to six weeks and
providing one's own protective coloration if entombed in a cemetery
containing cedars.

Personally I was not favorably inclined toward either plan, so I elected
to let my conscience be my guide, backed by personal observation and
personal experimentation. I was traveling pretty constantly this past
spring, and in the smoking compartments of the Pullmans, where all men,
for some curious reason, grow garrulous and confidential, I put crafty
leading questions to such of my fellow travelers as were over-sized and
made mental notes of their answers for my own subsequent use. Since the
Eighteenth Amendment put the nineteenth hole out of commission,
prohibition and how to evade it are the commonest of all conversational
topics among those moving about from place to place in America; but the
subject of what a man eats, and more particularly what he eats for
breakfast, runs it a close second for popularity.

For example, there is the seasoned trans-atlantic tourist who, on the
occasion of a certain terrifically stormy passage, was for three days the
only person on board excepting the captain who never missed a single meal.
You find him everywhere; there must be a million or more of him; and he
loves to talk about it, and he does.

But even more frequently encountered is the veteran drummer--no, beg
pardon, the veteran district sales manager, for there aren't any drummers
any more, or even any traveling salesmen; but instead we have district
sales managers featuring strong selling points--I say, even more
frequently encountered is the veteran district sales manager, wearing a
gravy-colored waistcoat if a tasty dresser, or a waistcoat of a
nongravy-colored or contrasting shade if careless, who craves to tell
strangers what, customarily, he eats for breakfast.

I made it a point to study the proportions and hearken to the disclosures
of such a one, and if he carried his stomach in a hanging-garden effect,
with terraces rippling down and flying buttresses and all; and if he had a
pasty, unhealthy complexion or an apoplectic tint to his skin I said to
myself that thenceforth I should apply the reverse English to his favorite
matutinal prescription.



CHAPTER IX

_Adventure of The Fallen Egg_


So, having mapped out my campaign of attack against my fat, I rose one
morning from my berth in the sleeping car and I dressed; and firmly
clutching my new-formed resolution to prevent its escape, I made my way to
the dining car and sat down and gave my order to the affable honor
graduate of Tuskegee Institute who graciously deigned to wait on me.

Now, theretofore, for so far back as I remembered, breakfast had been my
heartiest meal of the entire day, with perhaps two exceptions--luncheon
and dinner. Precedent inclined me toward ordering about as many pieces of
sliced banana as would be required to button a fairly tall woman's
princess frock all the way down her back, with plenty of sugar and cream,
and likewise a large porringer of some standard glutinous cereal, to be
followed by sausages with buckwheat cakes and a few odd kickshaws and
comfits in the way of strawberry preserves and hot buttered toast and
coffee that was half cream, and first one thing and then another. But
Spartanlike I put temptation sternly behind me and told the officiating
collegian to bring me plain boiled prunes, coffee with hot milk and
saccharin tablets, dry toast and one dropped egg.

The prunes and the coffee were according to specifications, although,
lacking the customary cream and three lumps of sugar, the coffee was in
the nature of a profound disappointment. But a superficial inquiry
convinced me that the egg was not properly a dropped egg at all.

Here was a fallen egg, if I ever saw one. I was filled with pity for
it--poor, forsaken, abandoned thing, with none to speak a kind word for
it! And probably more sinned against than sinning, too. Perhaps there was
hereditary influences to be reckoned with. Perhaps its producer had been
incubator raised, with no mother to guide her and only the Standard Oil
Company for a foster parent. And what would a New Jersey corporation know
about raising a hen?

Thus in sudden compassion I mused. To the waiter, though, I said:

"There has been a mistake here, alumnus. This egg never was meant to be
dropped--it was meant to be thrown. Kindly remove the melancholy
evidences."

He offered to provide a substitute, but the edge of my zest seemed dulled.
I made dry toast the climax of my chastely simple repast. It was simple
and it was chaste, but otherwise not altogether what I should characterize
as a successful repast. It lacked, as it were.

Let us pass along to noontime. Ere noontime came I was consumed with
gnawing pains of emptiness. As nearly as I might judge, I contained naught
save vast hollow spaces and acoustics and vacuums and empty, echoing,
neglected convolutions. Sorely was I tempted to relax the rigors of the
just-inaugurated régime; nobly, though, I resisted the impulse.

As I look back now on that day I find the memory of my suffering has
dimmed slightly. The passage of weeks and months has served to soften the
harsh outlines of poignant recollection. What now in retrospect most
impresses me is the heroism I displayed, the stark fortitude, the grandeur
of will power, the triumph for character. Sheer gallantry, I call it.

For my midday meal I had more dry toast, a reduced portion of boiled
tongue and a raw apple--satisfying enough to some, I grant you, but to me
no more than a tease to my palate. Long before three o'clock I knew
exactly how a tapeworm feels when its landlord goes on a hunger strike.
Every salivary gland I owned was standing on tiptoe screaming for help;
every little mucous membrane had a sorrow all its own. Each separate
fiber of my innermost being cried out for greases and for sugars and for
the wonted starchy compounds for to stay it and for to comfort it.

I underwent pangs such as had not been mine since away back yonder in
August of 1914, in the time of the sack of Belgium, when the Germans
locked up five of us for a day and a night in a cow stable where no
self-respecting cow would voluntarily have stayed, and, then sent us by
train under guard on a three-day journey into Germany, yet all the while
kept right on telling us we were not prisoners but guests of the German
Army. And at the end of the third day we reached the unanimous conclusion
among ourselves that the only outstanding distinction we could see, from
where we sat, between being prisoners of the German Army and guests of the
German Army was that from time to time they did feed the prisoners. For
throughout the journey the eight of us--since by now our little party had
grown--lived rather simply and frugally and, I might say, sketchily on
rations consisting of one loaf of soldiers' bread, one bottle of mineral
water and a one-pound pot of sour and rancid honey which must have
emanated in the first place from a lot of very morbid, low-minded bees.

However, in those exciting days there were many little moving distractions
about to keep one from brooding o'ermuch on thoughts of lacking provender.
I boast not, but merely utter a verity, when I state that every time I
shook myself I shifted the center of population. Where we had been the
lesser wild life of midcontinental Europe abounded. In the matter of a
distinction which had come to me utterly without solicitation or effort on
my part I have no desire to brag, but in justice to myself--and my
boarders--I must add that at that moment, of all the human beings in
Central Europe, I was the most densely inhabited. My companions scratched
along, doing fairly well, too; but I led the field--I was so much roomier
than any one of them was.

But here aboard this Pullman on this, the dedicatory day of my
self-imposed martyrdom, I could not lose myself as I had on that former
historic occasion in the ardor of chasing the small game of the country.
By four o'clock in the afternoon I could appreciate the sensations of a
conch shell on a parlor whatnot. I had a feeling that if anyone were to
press his ear up against me he would hear a murmuring sound as of distant
sea waves. Yet, mark you, I held bravely out, fighting still the good
fight. This, then, was my dinner, if such it might in truth be called:
Clear soup, a smallish slice of rare roast beef cut shaving thin, gluten
bread sparsely buttered, a cloud of watercress no larger than a man's
hand, another raw apple and a bit of domestic cheese--nothing rich,
nothing exotic, no melting French _fromages_, no creamy Danish pastries.

Only when I reached my demi-tasse, which I took straight, did I permit
myself a touch of luxury. I lit my cigar with a genuine imported Swedish
parlor match.

Followed then the first comforting manifestation, the first gratefully
registered taste of recompense for my privations. I had to speak that
night and in a large hall, too, and I found my voice to be clearer and
stronger than usual, and found, also, that I spoke with much less effort
than usual. I was sure partial fasting during the day was bearing fruits
in the evening, and I was right, as subsequent evening experiences proved
to me. I had rather dreaded that hunger gripes would make my night a
sleepless one, but it didn't happen. I may have dreamed longing dreams
about victuals, but I tore off eight solid hours of unbridled and--I dare
say--uproarious rest.



CHAPTER X

_Wherein Our Hero Falters_


Next day I kept it up, varying the first day's menus slightly, but keeping
the bulk consumption down, roughly, to about one-half or possibly
one-third what my rations formerly had been. Before night of the second
day that all-gone sensation had vanished. Already I had made the agreeable
discovery that I could get along and be reasonably happy on from 35 to 50
per cent of what until then I had deludedly thought was required to
nourish me. Before the week ended I felt fitter and sprier in every way
than I had for years past; more alive, more interested in things, quicker
on my feet and brisker in my mental processes than in a long time. The
chronic logy, foggy feeling in my head disappeared and failed to return.
I may add that to date it still has not returned. Relieved of pressure
against its valves--at least I assume that was what came to pass--my heart
began functioning as I assume a normal heart should function, and at once
the sense of oppression in the neighborhood of the heart was gone.

Within the same week I took most joyful note of the fact that I was losing
flesh in the vicinities where mainly I craved to lose it amidships and at
the throat. I still had a double chin in front, but the third one, which I
carried behind as a spare--the one which ran all the way round my neck and
lapped at the back like a clergyman's collar--was melting away. And unless
I was woefully mistaken, I no longer had to fight so desperate a battle
with the waistband of my trousers when I dressed in the mornings.

I was not mistaken. Glory be and likewise selah! My first and second
mezzanines were visibly shrinking. By these signs and portents was I
stimulated to continue the campaign so auspiciously launched and so
satisfactorily progressing.

I shall not deny that in the second week I did some backsliding. The swing
of the tour carried me into the South. It was the South in the splendor of
the young springtime when the cardinal bird sang his mating song. With
brocading dandelions each pasture gloriously became even as the Field of
the Cloth of Gold; and lo, the beginning of the strawberry shortcake
season overlapped the last of the smoked-hog-jowl-and-turnip-greens
period, and the voice of the turtle was heard in the land.

Figuratively, I was swept off my feet when a noble example of Southern
womanhood put before my famished eyes the following items, to wit: About
half a bushel of newly picked turnip greens, rearing islandwise above a
sloshing sea of pot licker and supporting upon their fronded crests the
boiled but impressive countenance of a hickory-cured shote, the whole
being garnished with paired-off poached eggs like the topaz eyes of
beauteous blond virgins turned soulfully heavenward; and set off by
flankings of small piping-hot corn pones made with meal and water and salt
and shortening, as Providence intended a proper corn pone should be made.

Then the years rolled away like a scroll and once again was I back in the
Kentucky foothills, a lean and lathy sprout of a kid, a limber six-foot
length of perpendicular appetite; and it was twelve o'clock for some
people, but it was dinner time for me!

My glad low gurgle of anticipatory joy smothered the small inner voice of
caution as I leaped, as it were, headlong into that bosky dell of young
turnip greens. So, having set my feet on the downward path I backslode
some more--for behold, what should come along then but an old-fashioned
shortcake, fashioned of crisp biscuit dough, with more fresh strawberries
bedded down between its multiplied and mounting layers than you could buy
at the Fritz-Charlton for a hundred and ninety dollars.

Right then and there was when and where I lost all I had gained in a
fortnight of stalwart self-disciplining; rather it was where I regained
all I haply had lost. When, gorged and comatose, I staggered from that
fair matron's depleted table I should never have dared to trundle over a
wooden culvert at faster than four miles an hour. Either I should have
slowed down or waited until they could put in some re-enforced-concrete
underpinnings.

I was right back where I had started, and for the moment didn't care a
darn either. Sin is glorious when you sin gloriously.

But I rallied. I retrieved myself. However, I do not take all the credit
to myself for this; circumstances favored me. Shortly I quitted the land
of temptation where I had been born, and was back again up North living on
dining cars and in hotels, with nothing more seductive to resist than
processed pastry and machine-made shortcakes and Thousand Islands
dressing; which made the fight all the easier to win, especially as
regards the last named. I sometimes wonder why, with a thousand islands to
choose from, the official salad mixer of the average hotel always picks
the wrong one.

I kept on. The thing proved magically easy of accomplishment. By the fit
of my clothing, if by nothing else, I could have told that several of my
more noticeable convexes were becoming plane surfaces and gave promise in
due season of becoming almost concave, some of 'em. But there was other
and convincing testimony besides. I could tell it by my physical feelings,
by my viewpoint, by my enhanced zest for work and for play.

Purposely, for the first month I refrained from weighing myself. When I
did begin weighing at regular intervals I found I was losing at a rate of
between two and three pounds a week. Moreover, I had now proved to my own
satisfaction that within sane reasonable limitations I could resume eating
most of the things which formerly I ate to excess and which I had
altogether eliminated from my menus during the initiatory stages of
dieting.

About the time I emerged from the novitiate class I discerned yet one more
gratifying fact. If I were in the woods, camping and fishing, or hunting
or tramping or riding or taking any fairly arduous form of exercise, I
could eat pretty much anything and everything, no matter how fattening it
might be. Work in the open air whetted my appetite, but the added exertion
burned up the waste matter so that the surplus went into bodily strength
instead of into fatty layers. Consumption was larger, but assimilation was
perfect.

For my daily life at home, where I am writing this, I have cut out these
things: All the cereals; nearly all the white bread; all the hot bread;
practically all pastries except very light pastries; white potatoes
absolutely; rice to a large extent; sausages and fresh pork and nearly all
the ham; cream in my coffee and on fruits; and a few of the starchier
vegetables.

Of butter and of cheese and of nuts I eat perhaps one-third the amount I
used to eat, and of meats, roughly, one-half as much as before the dawn of
reason came. Of everything except the items I just have enumerated I eat
as freely as I please. And when a person begins to reckon up everything
else among the edibles--flesh, fowl, fish, berries, fruits, vegetables and
the rest he finds quite a sizable list.

I shall not pretend that I do not pine often for sundry tabooed things.
Take pies, now--if there is any person alive who likes his pie better than
I do he's the king of the pie likers, that's all. And I am desolated at
being compelled to bar out the rice--not the gummy, glued-together,
sticky, messy stuff which Northerners eat with milk and sugar on it, but
real orthodox rice such as only Southerners and Chinamen and East Indians
know how to prepare; white and fluffy and washed free of all the lurking
library paste; with every grain standing up separate and distinct like
well-popped corn and treated only with salt, pepper and butter, or with
salt, pepper and gravy before being consumed.

And as for white potatoes--well, it distresses me deeply to think that
hereafter the Irish potato, except when I'm camping out, will be to me
merely something to stopper the spout of a coal-oil can with, or to stab
the office pen in on the clerk's desk in an American-plan hotel. For I
have ever cherished the Irish potato as one of Nature's most succulent
gifts to mankind. I like potatoes all styles and every style, French
fried, lyonnaise, O'Brien, shoestring shape, pants-button design, hashed
brown, creamed, mashed, stewed, soufflé--if only I knew who blew 'em
up--and most of all, baked _au naturel_ in the union suit. And I miss them
and shall keep on missing them. But no longer do I yearn for cream in my
coffee, now that it is out of it, and I am getting reconciled to dry toast
for breakfast, where once upon a time only members of the justly famous
Flap Jackson family seemed to satisfy.

Of course I imbibe alcoholic stimulant when and where procurable. From the
standpoint of one intent upon cutting a few running feet off the waistline
measurements this distinctly is wrong, as full well I know. But what would
you? I do not wish to pose as an eccentric. I have no desire to be pointed
out as a person aiming to make himself conspicuously erratic by behaving
differently from the run of his fellows. Since the advent of Prohibition
nearly everybody I meet is drinking with an unbridled enthusiasm; and when
not engaged in the act of drinking is discussing the latest and most
approved methods of evading, circumventing and defying the Federal and
State statutes against drinking. Therefore I drink, too. Even so, I have
not yet succeeded in accustoming my palate to strong waters
indiscriminately swallowed. I confess to a fear that I shall never make a
complete success of the undertaking.

I suppose the trouble with me is lack of desire. Prior to the attempted
enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment potable and vatted mixtures had
but small lure for my palate, or my stomach, or my temperament. An
occasional mild cocktail before a dinner, and perhaps twice a week a
bottle of light beer or a glass of light wine with the dinner--these, in
those old wild wicked days which ended in January, 1920, practically made
up the tally of my habitual flirtations with the accursed Demon. In the
springtime I might chamber an occasional mint julep, but this, really, was
a sort of rite, a gesture of salute to the young green year. Likewise at
Christmas time I partook sparingly of the ceremonial and traditional
egg-nog. And once in a great while, on a bitter cold night in the winter,
a hot apple toddy was not without its attractions. But these indulgences
about covered the situation, alcoholically speaking, so far as I was
concerned. For me the strong, heady vintages, whether still or sparkling,
and the more potent distillations had mighty little appeal. Champagne, to
me, was about the poorest substitute for good well-water that had ever
been proposed; and the Messrs. Haig & Haig never had to put on a night
shift at the works on my account.

Yet I came from a mid-section of the republic where in the olden days
Bourbon whiskey was regarded as a proper staff of life. The town where I
was born was one of the last towns below Mason & Dixon's Line to stand out
against the local option wave which had swept the smaller interior
communities of America; and my native state of Kentucky was one of the two
remaining states of the South, Louisiana being the other, which had not
officially gone dry by legislative action up to the time when Br'er
Volstead's pleasant little act went over nationally.

While I was growing up, through boyhood, through my youth and on into
manhood, I had the example of whiskey-drinking all about me. Many of our
oldest and most respected families owned and operated distilleries. Some
of them had been distillers for generations past; they were proud of the
purity of their product. Men of all stations in life drank freely and with
no sense of shame in their drinking. Mainly they took their'n straight or
in toddies; in those parts, twenty years ago, the high-ball was looked
upon with suspicion as a foreign error which had been imported by
misguided individuals up North who didn't know any better than to drown
good liquor in charged water. There were decanters on the sideboard; there
were jimmy-johns in the cellar; and down at the place on the corner twenty
standard varieties of bottled Bourbons and ryes were to be had at an
exceedingly moderate price. Bar-rail instep, which is a fallen arch
reversed, was a common complaint among us.

Even elderly ladies who looked with abhorrence upon the drinking habit
were not denied their wee bit nippy. They got it, never knowing that they
got it. Some of them stayed pleasantly corned year in and year out and
supposed all the time they merely were enjoying good health. For them
stimulating tonics containing not in excess of sixty per cent of pure
grain alcohol were provided by pious patent-medicine manufacturers in
Chattanooga and Atlanta and Louisville--earnest-minded, philanthropic
patriots these were, who strongly advocated the closing-up of the Rum
Hole, which was their commonest pet name for the corner saloon, but who
viewed with a natural repugnance those provisions of the Pure Food Act
requiring printed confession as to fluid contents upon the labels of their
own goods. It was no uncommon thing in the Sunny Southland to observe a
staunch churchgoer who was an outspoken advocate of temperance rising up
and giving three rousing hiccups for good old Dr. Bunkum's Nerve Balm. And
distinctly I recall the occasion when a stalwart mother in Israel,
starting off to attend a wedding and feeling the need of a little special
toning-up beforehand, took three wineglassfuls of her favorite Blood
Purifier instead of the customary one which she took before a meal; and,
as a consequence, on her arrival at the scene of festivities was with
difficulty dissuaded from snatching down the Southern smilax and other
decorations that she might twine with them a wreath to crown herself. She
somehow had got the idea that she was the queen emeritus of the May. It
was reported about town afterward that she tried to do the giant swing on
the parlor chandelier. But this was a gross exaggeration; she only tried
to hang by her legs from it.

Reared, as I was, amid such surroundings and in a commonwealth abounding
in distilleries, rectifying works, blending establishments, bottle-houses,
barrel-houses, and saloons, I should have been a hopeless inebriate long
before I came of age. The literature of any total abstinence society
would prove conclusively that I never had a chance to avoid filling a
drunkard's grave. Yet somehow I escaped the fate ordained for me. As I
say, I drank sparingly and for long periods not at all, until Prohibition
came. Then I began doing as about ninety per cent of my fellow-adult
Americans began doing--which was to take a drink when the opportunity
offered. As I diagnose it, we nearly all are actuated now by much the same
instinct which causes a small boy to loot a jam closet. He doesn't
particularly want all that jam but he takes the jam because it is
summarily denied him and because he's afraid he may never again get a
whack at unlimited jam.

To my way of thinking, the main result of the effort drastically to
enforce Prohibition, aside from making us a nation of law-breakers,
law-evaders, sneaks, bribers, boot-leggers, bigots, corruptionists and
moral cowards, has been to transfer the burden of inebriety from one set
of shoulders to another set of shoulders. Men who formerly drank to
excess have sobered up, against their will, for lack of cash or lack of
chance to buy hard liquor. They cannot rake together enough coin to
purchase the adulterated stuff at ten times the price they had paid for
better liquor before the law went into effect. On the other hand, men--and
women--who formerly drank but little are now drinking to excess, some of
them being prompted, I think, by a feeling of protest against what they
regard as an invasion of their personal liberties and some, no doubt,
inspired by a perfectly understandable impulse to do a thing which is
forbidden when the doing of it gives them a sense of adventure and daring.

Far be it from an humble citizen to criticise our national law-making
body. Far be it from him, as he contemplates the spectacle frequently
presented under the dome of the Capitol at Washington, to paraphrase Ethan
Allen's celebrated remark when he took Fort Ticonderoga in the name of
Jehovah and the Continental fathers and exclaim: "Congress--oh, my God!"
Far be it, I repeat, from such a one to do such things as these. But I
trust I may be pardoned for venturing the statements that excessive
drinking already was going out of fashion in this country, that the
treating evil was in a fair way to die a natural death anyhow, and that
the present sumptuary attempt to cure us overnight of a habit which has
been ingrained in the very fibre of the race for so far back as the
history of the race runs, has only had the effect of making a bad thing
worse.

At that, I hold no brief for the brewer and the distiller. They got
exactly what was coming to them. Had they, as a class, been content to
obey the existing laws, instead of conniving to break them; had they kept
their meddling fingers out of local politics; had they realized more fully
their responsibilities as manufacturers and purveyors of potentially
dangerous products; had they been willing to cooperate with right-thinking
men in a sane and orderly campaign for the cleaning-up and the proper
regulation of the liquor traffic; had they seen that the common man's
inarticulate but very definite resentment against the iniquities of the
corner saloon system was tending to the legal abolition of the whole
business of licensed drinking, I believe we should have had no Eighteenth
Amendment saddled upon us and no Volstead act to bridle us.

In the final analysis, and stripping aside the lesser contributory causes,
I maintain there were just two outstanding reasons why this country went
dry after the fashion in which it did go dry: One reason was the
Distiller; the other was the Brewer. And for the woes of either or both I,
for one, decline to shed a single tear.

How a fellow does run on when he gets on the subject which is uppermost in
the minds of the American people this year! All I intended to say, when I
started off on this tack, a few pages back, was that if I absolutely and
completely cut out all alcoholic stimulant no doubt I should be reducing
my weight much faster than is the case at this writing. To-day practically
all the members in good standing of the Order of Friendly Sons of the
Boiled Spinach--I mean the dietetic sharps--agree that he or she who is
banting will be well-advised to drink not at all. For the most part they
do not make a moral issue of this detail. Some of them refuse to concede
that a teetotaler is necessarily healthier or happier or more useful to
the world than the moderate imbiber is. They merely point out that
whiskies and beers are, for the majority of humans, fattening things and
should therefore be eliminated from the diet of those wishful to lose
their superfluous adipose tissue. Here, again, they disagree with their
professional forebears. The experts of the preceding generations, being
mainly Englishmen and Germans, could not conceive of living without
drinking. Some advocated wines, some ales, some a mixture of both with an
occasional measure of spirits added for the sake of digestion. But among
the dependable dietetic authorities of the present day there appears to
be no wide range of argument on this point. They pretty generally agree
that even a casual indulgence in beverages is not indicated for those who
seek to reduce. I am sure they are right. But as I remarked just now, what
can you do when you are encompassed about by the bottle-toting,
sop-it-up-behind-the-door custom which has sprung up since Prohibition was
slipped over on us by the Anti-Saloon League?

I confess that I have not the strength of character to swim, almost alone,
against the social current. So I partake of the occasional snort and to
that extent stand a self-admitted apologist for an offense which no true
reductionist should commit.

But I claim that otherwise--that in so far as the solid foodstuffs are
concerned--I have, for my own individual case, exactly the right idea
about it.



CHAPTER XI

_Three Cheers for Lithesome Grace Regained!_


My advice to the man or the woman who is in the same fix I was in is to go
and do likewise, with variations to suit the individual temperament. It
means self-denial but self-denial persevered in is a virtue, and virtue he
will find--or she will--not alone is its own reward but a number of
additional rewards as well. Let my late fellow sufferer likewise patronize
the gymnasium and the steam room and the cold plunge if he so chooses. If
he desires to have automatic pores, all right. As for me, I recall what
the Good Book says about the pores which ye have always with ye, and I
decline to worry about the present uncultured state of mine. Let him try
the electric rollers and the electric baths, if such be his bent; no doubt
they have their value. And by all means let him consult a qualified
physician if he fears either that he is overdoing or underdoing his
banting. Personally, though, I am satisfied with the plan I tried out, of
being my own private test tube.

I claim that I have better information touching on what sustenance I need
than any outsider ever can hope to have unless he breaks into me
surgically. I claim that a series of rational experiments should tell any
rational human how much he needs to eat and what he needs to eat in order
to reduce his bulk and yet keep his powers and his bodily vigor
unimpaired. I am not speaking now, understand me, of those unfortunates
with whom obesity is a disease, but of those who owe their grossness of
outline to gluttony. Lacking vital statistics on the subject, I
nevertheless dare assert that these latter constitute fully 90 per cent of
those among the American people who are distinctly and uncomfortably and
frequently unhealthily fat.

Remains but one fly in the ointment. Since Tony Sarg is going to
illustrate this treatise, then Tony must revise the old working plans. For
my figure is not so much pro as once it was. It is more con, if you get my
meaning--the profile curves in toward, instead of being, as formerly, so
noticeably from.

Still, I should worry about the troubles of an artist, even though a
friend. I weighed myself this morning. Three months ago, when I set out to
reduce my belt line and my collar size, I snatched the beam down ker-smack
at two hundred and thirty-six pounds, stripped. This morning I weighed
exactly one hundred and ninety-seven, including amalgam fillings and the
rights of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.
One hundred and eighty-five pounds is my ultimate aim. Howsoever, I may
keep right on when I attain that figure and justify the title of this
book by taking a full one third off. In either event, though, I shall
know exactly where I am going and I'm on my way. And I feel bully and I'm
happy about it and boastfully proud.

Three rousing cheers for lithesome grace regained!


THE END

[Transcriber's note: Obvious typos in this project were corrected.]





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