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Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome (extract)

I have bolded the first use of all the medical words and added some explanations of more difficult words in brackets (you may still need a dictionary).

THERE were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself,  and Montmorency.  We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about  how bad we were – bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.
 
We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it.   Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at  times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that  HE had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what HE was doing.  With  me, it was my liver that was out of order.  I knew it was my liver that  was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill  circular (advert for a non-standard cure), in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man  could tell when his liver was out of order.  I had them all.
 
It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine  advertisement without being impelled (driven) to the conclusion that I am  suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most  virulent (strongest) form.  The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly  with all the sensations that I have ever felt.
 
I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment  for some slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it  was.  I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an  unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently  study diseases, generally.  I forget which was the first distemper I  plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I  had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” (first signs) it was borne in  upon me that I had fairly got it.
 
I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of  despair, I again turned over the pages.  I came to typhoid fever – read  the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for  months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St.  Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – began to get  interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so  started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening  for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another  fortnight.  Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a  modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years.   Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have  been born with.  I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six  letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was  housemaid’s knee.
 
I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of  slight.  Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee?  Why this invidious  reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed.  I  reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I  grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee.  Gout,  in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my  being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from  boyhood.  There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there  was nothing else the matter with me.
 
I sat and pondered.  I thought what an interesting case I must be from a  medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class!   Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me.  I  was a hospital in myself.  All they need do would be to walk round me,  and, after that, take their diploma.
 
Then I wondered how long I had to live.  I tried to examine myself.  I  felt my pulse.  I could not at first feel any pulse at all.  Then, all of  a sudden, it seemed to start off.  I pulled out my watch and timed it.  I  made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute.  I tried to feel my  heart.  I could not feel my heart.  It had stopped beating.  I have since  been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the  time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it.  I patted  myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I  went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back.  But I could  not feel or hear anything.  I tried to look at my tongue.  I stuck it out  as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it  with the other.  I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I  could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had  scarlet fever.
 
I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man.  I crawled out  a decrepit wreck.
 
I went to my medical man.  He is an old chum of mine, and feels my pulse,  and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing,  when I fancy I’m ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by going to  him now.  “What a doctor wants,” I said, “is practice.  He shall have me.   He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen hundred of your  ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two diseases each.”  So  I went straight up and saw him, and he said:
 
“Well, what’s the matter with you?”
 
I said:
 
“I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the  matter with me.  Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had  finished.  But I will tell you what is NOT the matter with me.  I have  not got housemaid’s knee.  Why I have not got housemaid’s knee, I cannot  tell you; but the fact remains that I have not got it.  Everything else,  however, I HAVE got.”
 
And I told him how I came to discover it all.
 
Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my wrist, and  then he hit me over the chest when I wasn’t expecting it – a cowardly  thing to do, I call it – and immediately afterwards butted me with the  side of his head.  After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription,  and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and went out.
 
I did not open it.  I took it to the nearest chemist’s, and handed it in.   The man read it, and then handed it back.
 
He said he didn’t keep it.
 
I said:  “You are a chemist?”
 
He said:  “I am a chemist.  If I was a co-operative stores and family hotel 
combined, I might be able to oblige you.  Being only a chemist hampers 
me.”
 
I read the prescription.  It ran:
 
 “1 lb. beefsteak, with
 1 pt. bitter beer
every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.”
__________________________________________
The full book can be downloaded free from GUTENBERG

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