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Pages from an Old Volume of Life; a collection of essays, 1857-1881 by Oliver Wendell Holmes
page 3 of 156 (01%)
system as a consequence of the war excitement in non-combatants. Take the
first trifling example which comes to our recollection. A sad disaster
to the Federal army was told the other day in the presence of two
gentlemen and a lady. Both the gentlemen complained of a sudden feeling
at the epigastrium, or, less learnedly, the pit of the stomach, changed
color, and confessed to a slight tremor about the knees. The lady had a
"grande revolution," as French patients say,--went home, and kept her bed
for the rest of the day. Perhaps the reader may smile at the mention of
such trivial indispositions, but in more sensitive natures death itself
follows in some cases from no more serious cause. An old, gentleman fell
senseless in fatal apoplexy, on hearing of Napoleon's return from Elba.
One of our early friends, who recently died of the same complaint, was
thought to have had his attack mainly in consequence of the excitements
of the time.

We all know what the war fever is in our young men,--what a devouring
passion it becomes in those whom it assails. Patriotism is the fire of
it, no doubt, but this is fed with fuel of all sorts. The love of
adventure, the contagion of example, the fear of losing the chance of
participating in the great events of the time, the desire of personal
distinction, all help to produce those singular transformations which we
often witness, turning the most peaceful of our youth into the most
ardent of our soldiers. But something of the same fever in a different
form reaches a good many non-combatants, who have no thought of losing a
drop of precious blood belonging to themselves or their families. Some
of the symptoms we shall mention are almost universal; they are as plain
in the people we meet everywhere as the marks of an influenza, when that
is prevailing.

The first is a nervous restlessness of a very peculiar character. Men
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