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Physical Culture
by [?]

“Why don’t you sit up?” said Adela at dinner, suddenly prodding me in the back. Adela is old enough to take a motherly interest in my figure, and young enough to look extremely pretty while doing so.

“I always stoop at meals,” I explained; “it helps the circulation. My own idea.”

“But it looks so bad. You ought—-“

“Don’t improve me,” I begged.

“No wonder you have—-“

“Hush! I haven’t. I got a bullet on the liver in the campaign of ’03, due to over smoking; and sometimes it hurts me a little in the cold weather. That’s all.”

“Why don’t you try the Hyperion?”

“I will. Where is it?”

“It isn’t anywhere; you buy it.”

“Oh, I thought you dined at it. What do you buy it for?”

“It’s one of those developers with elastics and pulleys and so on. Every morning early, for half an hour before breakfast—-“

“You are trying to improve me,” I said suspiciously.

“But they are such good things,” went on Adela earnestly. “They really do help to make you beautiful—-“

“I am beautiful.”

“Well, much more beautiful, and strong—-“

“Are you being simply as tactful as you can be?”

“–and graceful.”

“It isn’t as though you were actually a relation,” I protested.

Adela continued, full of her idea.

“It would do you so much good, you know. Would you promise me to use it every day if I sent you mine?”

“Why don’t you want yours any more? Are you perfect now?”

“You can easily hook it to the wall—-“

“I suppose,” I reflected, “there is a limit of beauty beyond which it is dangerous to go. After that either the thing would come off its hook, or—-“

“Well,” said Adela suddenly, “aren’t I looking well?”

“You’re looking radiant,” I said appreciatively; “but it may only be because you’re going to marry Billy next month.”

She smiled and blushed. “Well, I’ll send it to you,” she said. “And you try it for a week, and then tell me if you don’t feel better. Oh, and don’t do all the exercises to begin with; start with three or four of the easy ones.”

“Of course,” I said.

* * * * *

I undid the wrappings eagerly, took off the lid of the box, and was confronted with (apparently) six pairs of braces. I shook them out of the box and saw I had made a mistake. It was one pair of braces for Magog. I picked it up, and I knew that I was in the presence of the Hyperion. In five minutes I had screwed a hook into the bedroom wall and attached the beautifier. Then I sat on the edge of the bed and looked at it.

There was a tin plate fastened to the top, with the word “LADIES” on it. I got up, removed it with a knife, and sat down again. Everything was very dusty, and I wondered when Adela had last developed herself.

By-and-by I went into the other room to see if I had overlooked anything. I found on the floor a chart of exercises, and returned triumphantly with it.

There were thirty exercises altogether, and the chart gave you:

(1) A detailed explanation of how to do each particular exercise;

(2) A photograph of a lady doing it.

“After all,” I reassured myself, after the first bashful glance, “it is Adela who has thrust this upon me; and she must have known.” So I studied it.

Nos. 10, 15 and 28 seemed the easiest; I decided to confine myself to them. For the first of these you strap yourself in at the waist, grasp the handles, and fall slowly backwards until your head touches the floor–all the elastic cords being then at full stretch. When I had got very slowly halfway down, an extra piece of elastic which had got hitched somewhere came suddenly into play, and I did the rest of the journey without a stop, finishing up sharply against the towel-horse. The chart had said, “Inhale going down,” and I was inhaling hard at the moment that the towel-horse and two damp towels spread themselves over my face.