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At The Appetite-Cure
by [?]

I glanced at the list, and my stomach threw a hand-spring. Of all the barbarous lay-outs that were ever contrived, this was the most atrocious. At the top stood ‘tough, underdone, overdue tripe, garnished with garlic;’ half-way down the bill stood ‘young cat; old cat; scrambled cat;’ at the bottom stood ‘sailor-boots, softened with tallow–served raw.’ The wide intervals of the bill were packed with dishes calculated to gag a cannibal. I said:

‘Doctor, it is not fair to joke over so serious a case as mine. I came here to get an appetite, not to throw away the remnant that’s left.’

He said gravely: ‘I am not joking; why should I joke?’

‘But I can’t eat these horrors.’

‘Why not?’

He said it with a naivete that was admirable, whether it was real or assumed.

‘Why not? Because–why, doctor, for months I have seldom been able to endure anything more substantial than omelettes and custards. These unspeakable dishes of yours–‘

‘Oh, you will come to like them. They are very good. And you must eat them. It is a rule of the place, and is strict. I cannot permit any departure from it.’

I said smiling: ‘Well, then, doctor, you will have to permit the departure of the patient. I am going.’

He looked hurt, and said in a way which changed the aspect of things:

‘I am sure you would not do me that injustice. I accepted you in good faith–you will not shame that confidence. This appetite-cure is my whole living. If you should go forth from it with the sort of appetite which you now have, it could become known, and you can see, yourself, that people would say my cure failed in your case and hence can fail in other cases. You will not go; you will not do me this hurt.’

I apologised and said I would stay.

‘That is right. I was sure you would not go; it would take the food from my family’s mouths.’

‘Would they mind that? Do they eat these fiendish things?’

‘They? My family?’ His eyes were full of gentle wonder. ‘Of course not.’

‘Oh, they don’t! Do you?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘I see. It’s another case of a physician who doesn’t take his own medicine.’

‘I don’t need it. It is six hours since you lunched. Will you have supper now–or later?’

‘I am not hungry, but now is as good a time as any, and I would like to be done with it and have it off my mind. It is about my usual time, and regularity is commanded by all the authorities. Yes, I will try to nibble a little now–I wish a light horsewhipping would answer instead.’

The professor handed me that odious menu.

‘Choose–or will you have it later?’

‘Oh, dear me, show me to my room; I forgot your hard rule.’

‘Wait just a moment before you finally decide. There is another rule. If you choose now, the order will be filled at once; but if you wait, you will have to await my pleasure. You cannot get a dish from that entire bill until I consent.’

‘All right. Show me to my room, and send the cook to bed; there is not going to be any hurry.’

The professor took me up one flight of stairs and showed me into a most inviting and comfortable apartment consisting of parlour, bedchamber, and bathroom.

The front windows looked out over a far-reaching spread of green glades and valleys, and tumbled hills clothed with forests–a noble solitude unvexed by the fussy world. In the parlour were many shelves filled with books. The professor said he would now leave me to myself; and added:

‘Smoke and read as much as you please, drink all the water you like. When you get hungry, ring and give your order, and I will decide whether it shall be filled or not. Yours is a stubborn, bad case, and I think the first fourteen dishes in the bill are each and all too delicate for its needs. I ask you as a favour to restrain yourself and not call for them.’