There were four of us — George, William Samuel Harris, myself (my friends call me J), and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room and were smoking and talking about our bad health.
We were all feeling very ill, and we were unhappy about it. Harris said he felt dizzy sometimes. George felt dizzy, too.
My big problem was my liver. I knew I had a bad liver. I had read about all the symptoms of liver disease in a book. I had every symptom that was written.
Every time I read about an illness, I realise that I have it.
One day, I had a little health problem. I went to the British Museum Library to read about it. After some time, I began reading about another illness. I don't remember the name now, but it was something terrible. I knew I had that terrible illness, too.
I began reading the book from the letter 'a' to the letter 'z\ I had the symptoms of all the diseases in the book, except for one!
I didn't have housemaid's knee. This made me a bit unhappy. Why didn't I have housemaid's knee, too?
With all the diseases I had, I knew my life was short. I tried to examine myself. I tried to feel my heart. I tried to look at my tongue. When I had walked into the library, I had been a happy, healthy man. When I left it, I was a very ill man.
I went to see my doctor. He is an old friend. Whenever I think I am ill, he examines me and says I am fine. A doctor really must have practice! This time, I thought, he will get more practice with me than with a thousand normal patients. After all, normal patients have only one or two diseases each.
'Well, what's wrong with you?' he asked.
I said, 'If I tell you what is wrong with me, you will die before I finish. Life is too short! I'll tell you what is not wrong with me... I don't have housemaid's knee. But I have everything else.'
I told him about what I had read at the library.
He looked at me carefully. He listened to my heart and looked at my tongue. After that, he wrote a prescription I and gave it to me. I put it in my pocket and went out.
I didn't read the prescription. I took it to the chemist's and gave it to him. He read it and gave it back to me. He said, 'I don't have the things on the prescription.'
'But you're a chemist, aren't you?' I asked.
He said, 'You're right, sir. I'm a chemist. I don't have a shop and a hotel.'
I read the prescription. It said:
Every six hours: lb of good, fresh meat
/ pint of beer
Every morning: / ten-mile walk
Go to bed no later than II o'clock each night and don't read books about things you don't understand.
I followed the doctor's prescription. It saved my life. I now feel rather well, except for my liver problem. The main symptom of liver disease is 'a general feeling of sleepiness and no interest in working.'
I have suffered from this illness ever since I was a boy. Medical science was not advanced in those days. Doctors did not know that I had liver illness. They thought I was lazy. People called me 'a lazy little devil', and said, 'go and do your work.' They did not know I was ill with liver disease. Instead of giving me liver pills, they gave me blows on the head. Those blows were good for me, because after each blow I went to do my work. That old remedy worked better than a box of modern pills.
That evening, George, William Harris and I sat in my room. We described our illnesses. I explained to George and William Harris how I felt in the morning. William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed. Then George stood up, and told us how he felt at night.
George always thinks he is ill, but there is really nothing wrong with him.
At that moment, Mrs Poppets, the housekeeper, I served our dinner. We were not hungry. We ate some meat, onions and cake. We had no interest in food.
We began talking about our illnesses again. We all knew that our illnesses were caused by too much work.
'We need a rest,' said Harris.
'A rest and a change,' George added. 'Our minds are tired from too much work. We must rest our minds.'
'Let's go to the countryside!' I said. 'We'll find a nice, quiet place, with no people.'
Harris said, 'Oh, how boring! In the country everyone goes to bed at eight o'clock. You can't even find a newspaper! If you want a rest and a change, then the best place is the sea.'
'What a terrible idea!' I said. 'A sea trip gives you seasickness. Who wants a whole week of seasickness? You leave on Monday and you're feeling well. On Tuesday you feel worse. Then on Wednesday you're really sick. On Thursday and Friday you're almost dead. On Saturday you can finally drink a few teaspoons of tea. On Sunday you can walk again and eat some food. Then on Monday you're happy, because it's time to get off the boat.'
So George said, 'Let's go up the river. We'll have fresh air and quiet on the river. The hard work on the boat will make us hungry, so we'll enjoy our food. We'll be so tired at the end of the day, that we'll sleep well.'
Harris said, 'You don't have any trouble sleeping, George. There are only twenty-four hours in the day, and you sleep most of that time. If you sleep any more, you're dead! However, I like your idea of a holiday on the River Thames.'
I liked it too. George was surprised that we both liked his idea. The only one who didn't like the idea was Montmorency, my fox-terrier.I He looked at us with his big eyes.
'You like the idea, but I don't,' his face said. 'On the river there's nothing for me to do. I don't like looking at the trees. I certainly don't smoke. If I see a rat, you won't stop the boat so I can run after it. When I'm asleep, you'll probably rock the boat, and I'll fall into the river. The whole idea is stupid.'
We were three to one. So we decided to go on the river trip.