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A Cry For Fresh Air
by [?]

“Once upon a time,” reads the familiar nursery tale, while the fairies, invited by a king and queen to the christening of their daughter, were showering good gifts on the baby princess, a disgruntled old witch, whom no one had thought of asking to the ceremony, appeared uninvited on the scene and revenged herself by decreeing that the presents of the good fairies, instead of proving beneficial, should bring only trouble and embarrassment to the royal infant.

A telling analogy might be drawn between that unhappy princess over whose fate so many youthful tears have been shed, and the condition of our invention-ridden country; for we see every day how the good gifts of those nineteenth century fairies, Science and Industry, instead of proving blessings to mankind, are being turned by ignorance and stupidity into veritable afflictions.

If a prophetic gentleman had told Louis Fourteenth’s shivering courtiers-whom an iron etiquette forced on winter mornings into the (appropriately named) Galerie des Glaces, stamping their silk-clad feet and blowing on their blue fingers, until the king should appear-that within a century and a half one simple discovery would enable all classes of people to keep their shops and dwellings at a summer temperature through the severest winters, the half-frozen nobles would have flouted the suggestion as an “iridescent dream,” a sort of too-good-to-be-true prophecy.

What was to those noblemen an unheard-of luxury has become within the last decade one of the primary necessities of our life.

The question arises now: Are we gainers by the change? Has the indiscriminate use of heat been of advantage, either mentally or physically, to the nation?

The incubus of caloric that sits on our gasping country is particularly painful at this season, when nature undertakes to do her own heating.

In other less-favored lands, the first spring days, the exquisite awakening of the world after a long winter, bring to the inhabitants a sensation of joy and renewed vitality. We, however, have discounted that enjoyment. Delicate gradations of temperature are lost on people who have been stewing for six months in a mixture of steam and twice-breathed air.

What pleasure can an early April day afford the man who has slept in an overheated flat and is hurrying to an office where eighty degrees is the average all the year round? Or the pale shop-girl, who complains if a breath of morning air strays into the suburban train where she is seated?

As people who habitually use such “relishes” as Chutney and Worcestershire are incapable of appreciating delicately prepared food, so the “soft” mortals who have accustomed themselves to a perpetual August are insensible to fine shadings of temperature.

The other day I went with a friend to inspect some rooms he had been decorating in one of our public schools. The morning had been frosty, but by eleven o’clock the sun warmed the air uncomfortably. On entering the school we were met by a blast of heated air that was positively staggering. In the recitation rooms, where, as in all New York schoolrooms, the children were packed like dominoes in a box, the temperature could not have been under eighty-five.

The pale, spectacled spinster in charge, to whom we complained of this, was astonished and offended at what she considered our interference, and answered that “the children liked it warm,” as for herself she “had a cold and could not think of opening a window.” If the rooms were too warm it was the janitor’s fault, and he had gone out!

Twelve o’clock struck before we had finished our tour of inspection. It is to be doubted if anywhere else in the world could there be found such a procession of pasty-faced, dull-eyed youngsters as trooped past us down the stairs. Their appearance was the natural result of compelling children dressed for winter weather to sit many hours each day in hothouses, more suited to tropical plants than to growing human beings.