Standing Room Only?

Standing Room Only?

Standing Room Only?

Standing Room Only?

Excerpt

Long ago the dying Darius observed that the world has a thousand doors through which its tenants continually pass away. True, but how early does humanity disappear through these doors? Are most of them called away from a scarce-tasted banquet, or are they summoned after they have eaten their fill? For about half of living mankind we can answer this question, but the past is very nearly a sealed book.

DUSK HIDES THE MORTALITY OF LONG AGO. Compared with the immense antiquity of our race, recorded history is but the story of a month or two in a man's life; yet even history sheds little light on how long our forefathers lived or what they died of. Not far can we see up the Valley of Death. Near two centuries ago there began to be illumined patches, which since then have become larger and more numerous. Shafts of light touch here and there in the Middle Ages. Farther away the haze thickens, and only by adjusting the strong field-glasses of mythology can we make out the distant scene. Back of classic times the landscape is hopelessly shrouded.

From the distant ages there seep down to us gruesome tales of pestilence--the literary "thrillers" of the time-- but of everyday mortality and longevity the past tells us little. After listing the diseases mentioned by the medieval chroniclers, Creighton, the historian of epidemics in Britain, says: "One great chapter in the history of disease, the sickness and mortality of infants and children, is al . . .

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