THIRD JOURNEY

Perhaps it will be as well here to mention a fever which came on, and the treatment of it: it may possibly be of use to thee, shouldst thou turn wanderer in the tropics; a word or two also of a wound I got in the forest, and then we will say no more of the little accidents which sometimes occur, and attend solely to natural history. We shall have an opportunity of seeing the wild animals in their native haunts, undisturbed and unbroken in upon by man. We shall have time and leisure to look more closely at them, and probably rectify some errors which, for want of proper information or a near observance, have crept into their several histories.

It was in the month of June, when the sun was within a few days of Cancer, that I had a severe attack of fever. There had been a deluge of rain, accompanied with tremendous thunder and lightning, and very little sun. Nothing could exceed the dampness of the atmosphere. For two or three days I had been in a kind of twilight state of health, neither ill nor what you may call well: I yawned and felt weary without exercise, and my sleep was merely slumber. This was the time to have taken medicine, but I neglected to do so, though I had just been reading: "O navis, referent in mare te novi fluctus, O quid agis? fortiter occupa portum." I awoke at midnight: a cruel headache, thirst and pain in the small of the back informed me what the case was. Had Chiron himself been present he could not have told me more distinctly that I was going to have a tight brush of it, and that I ought to meet it with becoming fortitude. I dozed and woke and startled, and then dozed again, and suddenly awoke thinking I was falling down a precipice.

The return of the bats to their diurnal retreat, which was in the thatch above my hammock, informed me that the sun was now fast approaching to the eastern horizon. I arose in languor and in pain, the pulse at one hundred and twenty. I took ten grains of calomel and a scruple of jalap, and drank during the day large draughts of tea, weak and warm. The physic did its duty, but there was no remission of fever or headache, though the pain of the back was less acute. I was saved the trouble of keeping the room cool, as the wind beat in at every quarter.

At five in the evening the pulse had risen to one hundred and thirty, and the headache almost insupportable, especially on looking to the right or left. I now opened a vein, and made a large orifice, to allow the blood to rush out rapidly; I closed it after losing sixteen ounces. I then steeped my feet in warm water and got into the hammock. After bleeding the pulse fell to ninety, and the head was much relieved, but during the night, which was very restless, the pulse rose again to one hundred and twenty, and at times the headache was distressing. I relieved the headache from time to time by applying cold water to the temples and holding a wet handkerchief there. The next morning the fever ran very high, and I took five more grains of calomel and ten of jalap, determined, whatever might be the case, this should be the last dose of calomel. About two o'clock in the afternoon the fever remitted, and a copious perspiration came on: there was no more headache nor thirst nor pain in the back, and the following night was comparatively a good one. The next morning I swallowed a large dose of castor-oil: it was genuine, for Louisa Backer had made it from the seeds of the trees which grew near the door. I was now entirely free from all symptoms of fever, or apprehensions of a return; and the morning after I began to take bark, and continued it for a fortnight. This put all to rights.

The story of the wound I got in the forest and the mode of cure are very short. I had pursued a redheaded woodpecker for above a mile in the forest without being able to get a shot at it. Thinking more of the woodpecker, as I ran along, than of the way before me, I trod upon a little hardwood stump which was just about an inch or so above the ground; it entered the hollow part of my foot, making a deep and lacerated wound there. It had brought me to the ground, and there I lay till a transitory fit of sickness went off. I allowed it to bleed freely, and on reaching headquarters washed it well and probed it, to feel if any foreign body was left within it. Being satisfied that there was none, I brought the edges of the wound together and then put a piece of lint on it, and over that a very large poultice, which was changed morning, noon and night. Luckily Backer had a cow or two upon the hill; now as heat and moisture are the two principal virtues of a poultice, nothing could produce those two qualities better than fresh cow- dung boiled: had there been no cows there I could have made out with boiled grass and leaves. I now took entirely to the hammock, placing the foot higher than the knee: this prevented it from throbbing, and was, indeed, the only position in which I could be at ease. When the inflammation was completely subdued I applied a wet cloth to the wound, and every now and then steeped the foot in cold water during the day, and at night again applied a poultice. The wound was now healing fast, and in three weeks from the time of the accident nothing but a scar remained: so that I again sallied forth sound and joyful, and said to myself:

  I, pedes quo te rapiunt et aurae 
  Dum favet sol, et locus, i secundo 
  Omine, et conto latebras, ut olim, 
                     Rumpe ferarum.