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HAVE bought me a new patent bedstead, to facilitate
early rising, called a "wake-up." It is a good thing to rise early in the country. Even in the winter time it is conducive to health to get out of a warm bed by lamplight; to shiver into your drawers and slippers; to wash your face in a basin of ice-flakes; and to comb out your frigid hair with an uncompromising comb, before a frosty lookingglass. The only difficulty about it lies in the impotence of human will. You will deliberate about it and argue the point. You will indulge in specious pretences, and lie still
with only the tip end of your nose outside the blankets ; you will pretend to yourself that you do intend to jump out in a few minutes; you will tamper with the good intention, and yet indulge in the delicious luxury. To all this the
wake-up” is inflexibly and triumphantly antagonistic. It is a bedstead with a clock scientifically inserted in the head-board. When you go to bed you wind up the clock, and point the index-hand to that hour on the dial at which you wish to rise in the morning. Then you place yourself in the hands of the invention and shut your eyes.
You are now, as it were, under the guardianship of King Solomon and Doctor Benjamin Franklin. There is no need to recall those beautiful lines of the poet's—
Early to bed and early to rise,
Science has forestalled them. The “wake-up” is a combination of hard wood, hinges, springs, and clock-work, against sleeping late o' mornings. It is a bedstead with all the beautiful vitality of a flower—it opens with the dawn. If, for instance, you set the hand against six o'clock in the morning, at six the clock at the bed's head solemnly strikes a demi-twelve on its sonorous bell. If you pay no attention to the monitor, or idly, dreamily endeavour to compass the coherent sequence of sounds, the invention, within the succeeding two minutes, drops its tail-board and lets down your feet upon the floor. While you are pleasantly defeating this attempt upon your privacy by drawing up your legs within the precincts of the blankets, the virtuous head-board and the rest of the bed suddenly rise up in protest; and the next moment, if you do not instantly abdicate, you are launched upon the floor by a blind elbow that connects with the crank of an eccentric, that is turned by a cord that is wound around a drum, that is moved by an endless screw, that revolves within the body of the machinery. So soon as you are turned out, of course, you waive the balance of the nap and proceed to dress.
“Mrs. Sparrowgrass,” said I, contemplatively, after the grimy machinists had departed, “this machine is one of the most remarkable evidences of progress the ingenuity of man has yet developed. In this bedstead we see a host of cardinal virtues made practical by science. To rise early one must possess courage, prudence, self-denial, temperance, and fortitude. The cultivation of these virtues, necessarily attended with a great deal of trouble, may now be dispensed with, as this engine can entirely set aside, and render useless, a vast amount of moral discipline. I have no doubt in a short time we shall see the finest attributes of the human mind superseded by machinery. Nay, more; I have very little doubt that, as a preparatory step in this great progress, we shall have physical monitors of cast-iron and wheel-work to regulate the ordinary routine of duty in every family.”
Mrs. Sparrowgrass said she did not precisely understand what I meant.
“For instance,” said I, in continuation, “we dine every day; as a general thing, I mean. Now sometimes we eat too much, and how easy, how practicable it would be to regulate our appetites by a banquet-dial. The subject, having had the superficial area of his skull and the cubic capacity of his body worked out respectively by a licensed craniologist and by a licensed corporalogist, gets from each a certificate, which certificates are duly registered in the county clerk's office. From the county clerk he received a permit, marked, we will say, ten.”
“Not ten pounds, I hope,” said Mrs. S.
“No, my dear,” I replied, “ten would be the average of his capacity. We will now suppose the chair, in which the subject is seated at dinner, rests upon a pendulous platform, over a delicate arrangement of levers, connected
with an upright rod, that runs through the section of table in front of his plate, and this rod, we will suppose,
is toothed into a ratchet-wheel, that moves the index of the banquet-dial. You will see at once that, as he hangs balanced in this scale, any absorption of food would be instantly indicated by the index. All then he is called upon to do is to watch the dial until the hand points to 'ten,' and then stop eating.”
“But,” said Mrs. Sparrowgrass, "suppose he shouldn't be half through ?"
“Oh !” said I, “that would not make any difference. When the dial says he has had enough, he must quit.”
“But,” said Mrs. Sparrowgrass, “suppose he would not stop eating?"
“Then,” said I, “the proper way to do would be to inform against him, and have him brought immediately before a justice of the peace, and if he did not at once swear that he had eaten within his limits, fine him, and seize all the victuals on his premises."
“Oh !” said Mrs. S., "you would have a law to regulate it, then?"
“Of course," said I, “a statute—a statutory provision, or provisionary act. Then, the principle once being established, you see how easily and beautifully we could be regulated by the simplest motive powers. All the obligations we now owe to society and to ourselves could be dispensed with, or rather transferred to, or vested in, some superior machine, to which we would be accountable by night and day. Nay, more than that, instead of sending representatives to legislate for us, how easy it would be to construct a legislature of bronze and wheel-work—an incorruptible legislature. I would suggest a hydraulic or pneumatic congress as being less liable to explode, and more easily graduated than one propelled by steam simply. All that would be required of us then would be to elect a state engineer annually, and he, with the assistance of a few underlings, could manage the automata as he pleased.”
“I do not see,” replied Mrs. Sparrowgrass, "how that would be an improvement upon the present method, from all I hear.”
This unexpected remark of Mrs. S. surprised me into silence for a moment, but immediately recovering, I answered, that a hydraulic or pneumatic legislature would at least have this advantage—it would construct enactments for the State at, at least, one-fiftieth part of the present expense, and at the same time do the work better and quicker.
“Now, my dear," said I, as I wound up the ponderous machinery with a huge key, “as you are always an early riser, and as, of course, you will be up before seven o'clock, I will set the indicator at that hour, so that you will not be disturbed by the progress of science. It is getting to be very cold, my dear, but how beautiful the stars are to-night. Look at Orion and the Pleiades ! Intenseiy lustrous in the frosty sky."
The sensations one experiences in lying down upon a complication of mechanical forces are somewhat peculiar if they are not entirely novel. I once had the pleasure, for one week, of sleeping over the boiler of a high-pressure Mississippi steamboat; and, as I knew in case of a blow
up I should be the first to hear of it, I composed my mind as well as I could under the circumstances. But this reposing upon a bed of statics and dynamics, with the constant chirping and crawling of wheel-work at the bed's head, with a thought now and then of the inexorable iron elbow below, and an uncertainty as to whether the clock itself might not be too fast, or too slow, caused me to be rather reflective and watchful than composed and drowsy.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the lucent stars in their blue depths, and the midnight moon, now tipping the Palisades