A good meal isn’t to be sneezed at.”
They all had their mouths crammed too full to speak, but the Doctor signified his agreement with Bell’s views by an approving nod.
The cutlets were pronounced first-rate, and it seemed as if they were, for they were all eaten, to the very last morsel.
For dessert they had coffee, which the Doctor brewed himself in a French coffee-pot over spirits-of-wine. He never allowed anybody but himself to concoct this precious beverage; for he made a point of serving it boiling hot, always declaring it was not fit to drink unless it burnt his tongue. This evening he took it so scalding that Altamont exclaimed—
“You’ll skin your throat!”
“Not a bit of it,” was the Doctor’s reply.
“Then your palate must be copper-sheathed,” said Johnson.
“Not at all, friends. I advise you to copy my example. Many persons, and I am one, can drink coffee at a temperature of 131°.”
“131°?” said Altamont; “why, that is hotter than the hand could bear!”
“Of course it is, Altamont, for the hand could not bear more than 122°, but the palate and tongue are less sensitive.”
“You surprise me.”
“Well, I will convince you it is fact,” returned Clawbonny, and taking up a thermometer, he plunged it into the steaming coffee. He waited till the mercury rose as high as 131° and then withdrew it, and swallowed the liquid with evident gusto.
Bell tried to follow his example, but burnt his mouth severely.
“You are not used to it,” said the Doctor, coolly.
“Can you tell us, Clawbonny,” asked Altamont, “what is the highest temperature that the human body can bear.”
“Yes, several curious experiments have been made in that respect. I remember reading of some servant girls, in the town of Rochefoucauld, in France, who could stay ten minutes in a baker’s large oven when the temperature was 300°, while potatoes and meat were cooking all round them.”
“What girls!” exclaimed Altamont.
“Well, there is another case, where eight of our own countrymen— Fordyce, Banks, Solander, Blagdin, Home, Nooth, Lord Seaforth, and Captain Phillips—went into one as hot as 200°, where eggs and beef were frizzling.”
“And they were Englishmen!” said Bell, with a touch of national pride.
“Oh, the Americans could have done better than that,” said Altamont.
“They would have roasted,” returned the Doctor, laughing. “ At all events they have never tried it, so I shall stand up for my countrymen. There is one more instance I recollect, and really it is so incredible, that it would be impossible to believe it, if it were not attested by unimpeachable evidence. The Duke of Ragusa and
Dr. Jung, a Frenchman and an Austrian, saw a Turk plunge into a bath at 170°.”
“But that is not so astonishing as those servant girls, or our own countrymen,” said Johnson.
“I beg your pardon,” replied Clawbonny; “there is a great difference between plunging into hot air and hot water. Hot air produces perspiration, which protects the skin, but boiling water scalds. The maximum heat of baths is 107°, so that this Turk must have been an extraordinary fellow to endure such temperature.”
“What is the mean temperature, Mr. Clawbonny, of animated beings?” asked Johnson.
“That varies with the species,” replied the Doctor. “Birds have the highest, especially the duck and the hen. The mammalia come next, and human beings. The temperature of Englishmen averages 101°.”
“I am sure Mr. Altamont is going to claim a higher rate for his countrymen,” said Johnson, smiling.
“Well, sure enough, we’ve some precious hot ones among us, but as I never have put a thermometer down their throats to ascertain, I can’t give you statistics.”
“There is no sensible difference,” said the Doctor, “between men of different races when they are placed under the same conditions, whatever their food may be. I may almost say their temperature would be the same at the Equator as the Pole.”
“Then the heat of our bodies is the same here as in England,” replied Altamont.
“Just about it. The other species of mammalia are generally hotter than human beings.