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Mac’s Enteric Fever
by [?]

Merry are the months when the years go slow,

Shining on ahead of us, like lamps in a row:

Lamps in a row in a briskly moving town.

Merry are the moments ere the night shuts down

Halleval and Haskeval.”

In those days we took great care of our health. It was about the only thing we had to take care of. So we went to lodge on the topmost floor of a tall Edinburgh land, with only some indifferent slates and the midnight tomcats between us and the stars. The garret story in such a house is, medically speaking, much the healthiest. We have always had strong views about this matter, and we did not let any considerations of expense prevent us taking care of our health.

Also, it is a common mistake to over-eat. Therefore, we students had porridge twice a day, with a herring in between, except when we were saving up for a book. Then we did without the herring. It was a fine diet, wholesome if sparse, and kept us brave and hungry. Hungry dogs hunt best, except retrievers.

In this manner we lived for many years with an excellent lady, who never interfered with our ploys unless we broke a poker or a leaf of the table at least. Then she came in and told us what she thought of us for ten eloquent minutes. After that we went out for a walk, and the landlady gathered up the fragments that remained.

It was a lively place when Mac and I lodged together. Mac was a painter, but he had not yet decided which Academy he would be president of–so that in the meantime Sir Frederick Langton and Sir Simeon Stormcloud could sleep in their beds with some ease of mind.

Our room up near the sky was festooned with dim photographs of immense family tombstones–a perfect graveyard of them, which proved that the relations of Mrs. Christison, our worthy landlady, would have some trouble in getting to bed in anything like time if by chance they should be caught wandering abroad at cock-crow. Mixed with these there were ghastly libels on the human form divine, which Mac had brought home from the students’ atelier–ladies and gentlemen who appeared to find it somewhat cold, and had therefore thoughtfully provided themselves with a tight-fitting coat of white-wash. Mac said this was the way that flesh-colour was painted under direct illumination. Well, it might have been. We did not set up for judges. But to an inexperienced eye they looked a great deal more like deceased white-washed persons who had been dug up after some weeks’ decent burial. We observed that they appeared to be mildewed in patches, but Mac explained that these were the muscles. This also was possible; but, all the same, we had never seen any ladies or gentlemen who carried their muscles outside, so to speak. Mac said he did this sort of thing because he was applying for admission to the Academy Life Class. We all hoped he would get in, for we had had quite enough of dead people, especially when they were white-washed and resurrected, besides given to wearing their muscles outside.

Mac used, in addition to this provocation, to play jokes on us, because Almond and I were harmless and quiet. Almond was studying engineering because he was going to be a wholesale manufacturer of wheelbarrows. I was an arts student who wrote literary and political articles in the office of a moribund newspaper all night, and wakened in time to go along the street to dine in a theological college.

So Mac used to play off his wicked jokes upon Almond and myself for the reasons stated. He bored a hole through the wall at the head of our bed, and awoke us untimeously in the frosty mornings by squirting mysterious streams of water upon us. He said he had promised Almond’s mother to see that he took a bath every morning, and he was going to do it. He anticipated us at our tins of sardines, and when we re-opened them we found all the tails carefully preserved in oil and sawdust. He made disgraceful caricatures of our physiognomies by falsely representing that he wished us to sit for our portraits. He perpetrated drawings upon the backs of our college exercises, mixing them with opprobrious remarks concerning our preceptors, which we did not observe till our attention was called to them upon their return by the preceptors themselves. We bore these things meekly on the whole, for that was our nature–at least mine.