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When the root of the pneumogastric nerves
are torn, death is instantaneous; and this
rupture requires marvellously little to
accomplish it. Suicides are mistaken for
murders by persons who do not know how easily
suicides can kill themselves with their feet
resting, or with their bodies lying, upon the
ground. Nothing more is needful than force
enough to tear the breadth of a pin's head of
nervous fibre. The hangman's work is
commonly spoken of as an asphyxia, which it only
is when bunglingly done. I once knew a
benevolent clergyman who, having been a surgeon
before he entered the Church, and knowing
the secret of hanging, showed his affection
for a penitent culprit condemned to death for
a small offence, by attending him upon the
scaffold, and by himself adjusting the knot of
the rope in the way needful to secure the
instantaneous rupture of the point of life.

The functions of the vital spot, while
explaining the suddenness of many deaths
which are constantly deemed mysterious and
suspicious, explain also the prolongation of
life for considerable periods, sometimes after
the most fatal and frightful wounds. What
I have said about the vital point explains
what used to be when I was there, and
perhaps still is, one of the standing wonders of
London. There used to be several eating-
houses in the city famous for turtle soup;
and, of course, there are plenty of them still.
But at the doors of the houses which
exhibited the wonder there might be seen lying
upon a layer of sawdust, at the bottom of a
basket, the living head and neck of a turtle,
the flesh of which was said to be already
made into soup, and served up to the gastronomes
inside. The head was undoubtedly
alive. The eyes were alive and moving.
They seemed dimly, vaguely, and feebly to
ask from the spectators if not an explanation
of the phenomenon, at least, why and wherefore
the head had been served in this way.
Persons hardy enough to put their fingers
into the mouth were assured of the vivacity
of the severed head by receiving a good
pinch. I for one am guiltless of having ever
eaten any of the soup; nevertheless I am
still haunted by those reproaching eyes,
although I am sure I could exclaim, "Thou
canst not say I did it."

The physiologists long since reversed the
wonder of the London cooks. The cooks
displayed heads alive and bodies soup, and
the savans displayed heads dead and bodies
alive. Redi cut off the head of a turtle which
survived twenty-three days. Flourens had
some salamanders which lived several months
without their heads. Legallois says birds
have been known to walk and run with their
heads off.

The explanations are very simple. The
vital point is close to the head in all reptiles,
and especially in the batrachian reptiles; and
the London cooks, when cutting off the head
cut off the vital point with it. The physiologists
do just the reverse. When the
physiologists sever the heads of frogs, turtles, or
salamanders, with a view to show the
reptiles living without their heads, they are
careful, by cutting above the vital point, to
keep it attached to the body.

One more explanation and I have done.
The newspaper correspondents who wrote
home accounts of the battle of the Alma,
challenged physiologists to explain how a
soldier, the length of whose head from the
front to the back had been traversed by a
bullet, was able to walk down the hill to
wash his head in the river. Similar facts
have long been well known. Men have lived
many years, well, sane, and healthy, after their
skulls have been cleft to a considerable depth
on one side. The records of physiology
are full of marvellous survivals after the
most terrible wounds; and their number
will be increased continually, as the spread of
science diminishes fear and increases courage
among mankind. Hope will more and more
help the healing art, when it is known how
nature triumphs over the most dismal
disasters which leave unscathed the vital point
that all important but well protected pin's-
head point, where alone the prick of a pin is


WE are not related. His name is John
Griffiths, and I am William Waldur; and
we called ourselves the Patagonian Brothers,
because it looked well in the bills and pleased
the public. We met by chance, about six
years since, on the race-course at Doncaster,
and so took a sort of mutual liking, and went
partners in a tour through the midland
counties. We had never seen or heard of
each other up to that time; and though we
became good friends, were never greatly
intimate. I knew nothing of his past life,
nor he of mine, and I never asked him a
question on the subject. I am particular
to have this all clear from the beginning;
for I am a plain man telling a plain story,
and I want no one to misunderstand a word
of what I am about to relate.

We made a little money by our tour. It
was not much; but it was more than either
of us had been able to earn before; so we
agreed to stay together and try our fortune
in London. This time we got an engagement
at Astley's for the winter, and, when the
summer came, joined a travelling circus, and
roamed about as before.

The circus was a capital thinga republic,
so to say, in which all were equals. We had
a manager, to whom we paid a fixed salary,
and the rest went shares in the profits.
There were times when we did not even
clear our expenses; there were towns where
we made ten and fifteen pounds a-night;
but the bad luck went along with the good,
and, on the whole, we prospered.

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