OF ALL THE PATIENTS who passed through my consulting room -- a long procession -- none were more lamentable than those brought there by their own excesses. As I sat at my desk, my eyes shaded by my hand, listening in silence, like an abbé in his confessional, to some disastrous history of self-indulgence, I could not but reflect on the sweet virtue of moderation. And often, wryly, I called to memory the prophetic words of my puritanical old grandmother whose ancestor had died for the Covenant at Bothwell Bridge and who, when I was a child and detected in some misdemeanour, would call me to her knee and, having first placed her steel-rimmed spectacles in her Bible to mark the place, inform me that I should not receive from her my usual Saturday "fairing," then solemnly adjure me: "You see now . . . it pays to be good."
But, in this last court of appeal, when the patient was stripped for examination on my couch, it was seldom a smiling matter. There were the gluttons, the voracious eaters who, unable to resist the lure of rich meats and succulent sauces, of pâté and pastries and truffles, had already dug their own graves with their teeth. The old lechers, with soggy prostates, weakened sphincters, and all the load of misery which the goddess Venus joyously bestows upon her acolytes in reward for a lifetime's service. Then the drug addicts, of every shape and variety -- from the pitiful old scrubwoman who used to beg tremblingly for a bottle of laudanum "to ease her colic" -- and who usually got it, poor creature -- to the smart society girl, glibly sure of herself but with twitching nerves, flashing a false heroin