From the Improvement Era, 1921 –
The Coin of Eternity
By Ruth Moench Bell
“What’s been the matter up there?” boomed over the wire the voice of the head of the Ashcroft home.
Mrs. Ashcroft, jolted by the events of the morning out of her invalid air of languid indifference, answered somewhat briskly: “Matter? the phone has been ringing all morning.”
“I should think it has! I’ve been trying for an hour to get you.”
“I hope you haven’t called me up to tell me that he is the great Dr. Banford of London?”
“But he is!” roared the husband. “Dixon called me up first thing. He really is the great Banford of London, England, the very one Mrs. Dixon went to when they were on a mission in England.”
“I know. Mrs. Dixon called me. In fact just five people have called up to say that he was here and I must go to him.”
“It is worse than that,” Ashcroft shouted through the receiver. “Dixon gave me to understand that the entire town was interested and would lose sympathy with you and your ailments if we didn’t give Dr. Banford a chance.”
“You surely haven’t called me up to urge me to go to him?”
“I certainly have not. I’ve called you up to command you to go. And what is more, I have already paid the bill. One hundred dollars is his fee, and I had to put up a note for five hundred dollars besides for your good behavior.:”
“Oh,” came over the wire in dismayed tones, “Oh, why did you?”
“Dixon says you and I will be temporally disgraced to say nothing of eternally outclassed if I let you miss this opportunity. Put on your bonnet. I’ll be around inf I’ve minutes with the car. I want you to be the first patient in his office and the first patient well.”
Mrs. Ashcroft was soon in the car beside her husband, speeding away to the office of the world renowned physician.
“What so great a physicians is doing in Utah is the mystery to me,” she observed; “and how can he afford to spend four weeks in our little town of Alton?”
“That’s what puzzles me,” Ashcroft confessed. “Dixon smiled mysteriously when I asked him. He says there is a secret back of it all which the doctor will divulge when your four weeks are up. It is a secret that has something to do with his skill. Dixon would not divulge it. But he says that even if the doctor fails, in your case, we will never regret.”
“But why the five hundred dollar note?”
“I’m to pay that unless you follow every instruction to the letter. He doesn’t begin to doctor you for four weeks. He only gets you ready. The five-hundred dollars is surrendered then, if you have not obeyed strictly. He says every patient he fails to cure costs him that much in reputation and good will.”
“I’ll try to be good.” Mrs. Ashcroft managed a want smile which was as near a laugh as she had been for some years. Chronic invalidism is not compatible with ready laughter.
Mrs. Ashcroft found the learned man as abrupt as her husband.
“What do you run your car on?” he said as she took her seat. Mrs. Ashcroft was accustomed to sympathetic concern on the part of many friends and physicians. besides she had come to discuss her most interesting symptoms. Car, indeed!
“Gasoline,” she finally replied with some dignity.
“Why not use chloroform?” he demanded.
If he was going to shout at her like that her nerves would be shattered. For years everyone, except her husband, had spoken in subdued accents on account of said nerves. Ashcroft couldn’t seem to remember. With beautiful composure she at last answered:
“It wouldn’t run.”
“Hm!” snorted the learned man. ‘How unlike the machine endowed with a soul. It will run for a time on almost anything.”
Mrs. Ashcroft was not there to talk machines. She waited in offended silence. But the doctor was waiting, too. Evidently it was her cue to speak.
“Ours is one of the best cars made. It takes even the Alton hill on intermediate. It has never failed us. We wouldn’t think of exchanging it or experimenting on it.”
“How long do you expect to use this car?”
“Three or four years, at most.”
“Three or four years! What a trifle compared with the machine that has been promised to live to the age of a tree! The machine that was to walk and not grow weary; that was to run and not grow faint! Three or four years! Then it will be a jitney, this machine in which you take such pride and to which you give such intelligent care. It will be a jitney fit only to call at back doors for bottles and scrap iron. It cannot even hope to be resurrected, renewed and given eternal life. And even if you filled its tank with chloroform and its parts with putty instead of oil it would only fail to go. Its soul would not be affected.”
Mrs. Ashcroft was beginning to see the drift of the doctor’s words. Her invalidism had given her a sort of distinction among her friends. it was often the most absorbing topic of conversation among them. Now for the first time she felt ashamed to be ill! Ashamed of the body she had allowed to become so like a jitney. The doctor’s words re-echoed in her ears. “To live to the age of a tree.” “To walk and not grow weary.” “To run and not faint.” What had she done that God’s promise had not been fulfilled in her?
“I have always been most careful what I ate,” she volunteered.
“You might have used chloroform and putty in your car, also, most carefully. The agent of the firm which made your car no doubt advised gasoline and certain lubricants. It is a question, you see, of intelligent direction,.”
“I was always well as a girl,” was Mrs. Ashcroft’s apology for her present condition.
“My dear lady, God sends most of us here well. But we all come limping back to him. Some with maimed bodies! Some with maimed souls! And few of us realize that a needlessly maimed body hampers the soul and is in itself a desecration.”
Doctor Banford sat thoughtfully for some time. Then he reached into his desk for a printed slip.
“The One who made your machine,” he said impressively, “says to run it on these.”
Mrs. Ashcroft glanced over the slip. She was about to remark that she was different. that she had tried vainly to do as others should do. But the words of the doctor were still in her ears: “The One who made your machine says to run it on these.”
She re-read the slip:
Eat With Every Meal
Some raw, uncooked fruits or vegetables, apples, celery, watercress, lettuce, raw cabbage, oranges, figs, dates, etc. Plenty of these.
At least eight glasses of water daily.
In your diet each day vegetables that have simmered gently on the back of the stove. Use every bit of juice from them, either in soups or sauces, or gravy. Drink one or two glasses of milk or buttermilk each day.
Most Important of All
Buy your own mill and grind for yourself your own wheat and corn. Make it into muffins, cookies, mushes, cakes and bread. Insist on getting the un-milled rice. Butter, cream, fresh eggs, honey and molasses are all good natural foods. Make all the other mistakes you choose but eat sparingly of meats, canned goods and factory denatured products.
“Must I give up my tea and coffee?” Mrs. Ashcroft asked.
“Hot drinks are a frequent cause of cancer. A glass of milk or buttermilk with your meals will soon help you to forget the hot drinks.”
Mrs. Ashcroft started for the door. Dr. Banford’s voice arrested her.
“Walk two blocks today. Add two blocks a day every day till you return to the office. As you walk enjoy the fresh air, the stars, the clouds, the trees, the grass, the flowers, the streams of water.”
Mrs. Ashcroft sighed. It was long since she had attempted to walk. The exertion would certain prove too much for her.
“Any medicines?” she enquired.
“Not for this week,” the doctor advised. “You are not ready for medicines. We must clean you up first.”
Mrs. Ashcroft, conscious of her daily bath, her scrupulous attention to hair, teeth, nails and clothing, looked indignant.
“Inside!” roared the great physician. “Your sidewalks are well paved and carefully swept; but the sewers underneath, that intestinal tract thirty-six feet long, has not been properly cleaned for years.”
“Then you wish me to continue taking the pills to which I am accustomed?”
“Pills! Who said pills? Bread made of the entire grain of the wheat, properly made, not allowed to stand around for hours till it has developed harmful bacteria, such bread, well baked, eaten daily, plenty of it with quantities of water, fruits and vegetables, ought to keep you as clean inside as bran mash keeps a cow. You may need yeast cakes. Yes, compressed, moist yeast cakes. They will expand in the intestinal tract just as they do in bread and so expanding will exercise the muscles which have lain dormant so long stuffed with denatured foods that clump together and form a first class plug, but offer no resistance to the muscles which long since ceased to work. creep on all fours for five or ten minutes every day, or if you prefer get down on your knees and mop the floor. That will help to exercise the muscles of the diaphragm. And do it every day.”
Mrs. Ashcroft had barely reached home when her husband called up.
“Any prescriptions to fill?” he asked.
“No, the doctor wont’ allow me a drop of medicine for a week.”
“Shall I bring up some more of your tonic?”
“Not any medicines,” she said. “It will cost us five hundred dollars if I take any. You might bring up a bunch of celery and some oranges.”
Mrs. Ashcroft surprised her husband, four days later, by walking into the office at closing time.
“Oh, you brought the car down,” he observed.
“No, I had to do my eight blocks today, o I thought I’d meet you.”
It was delightful walking home together especially as there was no shopping to be done and they were both in a merry mood. But he was hungry enough to eat a horse right then and there and in no mood to wait for dinner. There again another surprise awaited him. The meal was all on the table, save for a mysterious brown pot on the back of the stove and another which emerged from the oven steaming hot.
“Where did you get the dried corn?” he asked as he opened the brown pot for a second helping.
“The Dixons gave it to me. They dry quantities of it every year. Isn’t it delicious cooked in this brown clay pot?”
“Is that why it is so tender?”
“Yes, it doesn’t boil. Just cooks slowly, like our grandmothers cooked it. It is one of the roughages Doctor Banford recommends. We should eat it often, or popcorn.”
‘I’m willing. And the buttermilk!”
“Another Banford prescription. The Dixons let me have it, too. They have kept a cow ever since Mrs. Dixon went to him.
“Let’s have one. I’ll milk if you’ll churn,” he dared her.
“Agreed,” she laughed.
Three days later Mrs. Ashcroft entered Dr. Banford’s office. And the famous physician smiled as she sat down.
“You’ve kept your word, I see,” he greeted her.
“How can you tell for sure?” she asked.
He handed her a mirror. She couldn’t help noticing that she was looking less like a jitney. “I am improved,” she admitted.
“Same bill of fare,” he announced. “You’re getting the idea, aren’t you? Plenty of raw, green, rough, natural food. Leave out the pasty, milled foods which clump together like putty and hinder nature’s work. Continue to walk every day. Creep every day till the day you die. Now for your new prescription: allow no moldy, mildewed thoughts to get into your mental attic.”
“Think no complains, think no scoldings, think no fault-findings, think no symptoms. In other words, open your attic windows, let in the sunshine and fresh air. sweetness, serenity, laughter, peaceful thoughts are the only thoughts to stow away there. Make a bon-fire of the others and enjoy the conflagration. For this week: no tiresome recounting of symptoms to anyone; and find fault and complain at no one verbally, for this week.”
Mrs. Ashcroft’s nose went up. How absurd to pay one hundred dollars for advice like this.
“Not even your doctor,” the great man commanded. “Criticisms excite the nerves and ruin digestion. Complaints are even worse. Scoldings are worse still! The three are a brutal assault on the finer feelings of anyone who has to listen to them. They are even harder on the one who utters them. They waste nerve force, make the nerves tense so the circulation si impeded and no food can digest.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Ashcroft agreed meekly.
“Indulgence in either, for this week, will cost you five hundred dollars.”
Mrs. Ashcroft went thoughtfully home with her prescription.
“Any news?” her husband enquired at dinner. he was keen to know what the doctor’s new prescription had been.
“He is perfect absurd,” Mrs. Ashcroft started to say; but caught herself in time. “I’d like to tell you,” she smiled finally, “but it would cost us five hundred dollars. Fifty dollars a word is more than I care to pay for that remark.”
“Well, we can go over the week’s expenses instead,” he advised.
“The meat bill is less,” she explained, “but those awful – ” Again Mrs. Ashcroft remembered, in time.
Her husband looked up quizzically. “Another five hundred dollar remark?” he asked.
“Precisely!” she pouted whimsically.
“What can we talk about?” she cried. And then they both realized how poverty-stricken their conversation must have been. “If I criticise the doctor or complain of the grocer or scold you for sending me to that – good kind physician,” she ended lamely, “it will cost so much money.”
“Sit down to the piano and let us sing something instead. Maybe we better do it often till the doctor removes the embargo on fault-findings.”
They sang many of their favorites and incidentally fell in love all over again with each other, as they recalled happy times of which the songs brought memories.
The second week had made even greater improvement in Mrs. Ashcroft. Nevertheless, she was totally unprepared for the doctor’s third prescription.
“Make a list of all the people you hate or dislike or don’t exactly get on with,” the doctor ordered, as he handed her pencil and paper.
Mrs. Ashcroft looked alarmed.
“It is not for publication,” he assured her. “No one is to see it except yourself.”
“I am not sure I want to see it myself,” she answered, “and besides, how do you know there are any?”
“How do I know there are any you dislike?” he repeated. “Your face, your nerves, your circulation, your digestion tell the tale. No one who loves all, as Christ loved, with understanding, sympathy and pity gets into such a condition. but do not blame yourself unnecessarily. The distress and discomfort that come from a stuffed up system makes anyone irritable and easily angered.”
When it came to actually putting the names on paper, Mrs. Ashcroft found there were surprisingly few with whom she was not entirely reconciled.
“Take the list home with you,” the doctor said. “Continue your wholesome, natural diet. Read all you can about foods till you learn to balance your meals intelligently. Continue to enjoy to the uttermost the works of God’s hands whenever you step out of doors. Continue your daily walks and creeping. Continue to eliminate fault-finding, complaints, scoldings from your conversation and thoughts. And now we come to your third prescription. Before the week is over, learn to love or admire or understand with kindly sympathy or pity every person with whom you now feel out of sympathy. Come back one week from today with none but kindly thoughts toward all.”
“In one week?” Mrs. Ashcroft gasped.
“It could be done in one hour of sincere prayer or sorrow,” the doctor assured her solemnly.
“What are your thoughts when you are about your work? What are you thinking when the children want to talk to you, and you shove them aside? Keep a book of your favorite poems close at hand. think over some of the merriest tales you have heard, unless the children are there. If they are there, listen to them. Listen to them! Enter heartily into their confidences, and it will make you young again. Get out your Bible. Don’t spend nine-tenths of your time on the sensational stories of the papers. Keep in touch with something uplifting. Never miss a sunset or a sunrise if you can help it. Always some music, some poetry, or some genuine enjoyment of nature and children every day. Come back in one week,” he ended abruptly, “the worst is yet to come.”
One week later Mrs. Ashcroft appeared in the office, serenely ready for the new prescription.
“Sign this,” Dr. Banford ordered, placing a document in her hands.
She signed and then looked it over to see what it was to which she had affixed her signature. to her amazement the following words in larger print than the rest of the document, met her eyes:
“This is my religion which I hereby agree to adopt as my daily creed.”
“You must release me from this,” she cried. “I am a Latter-day Saint and no other religion could possibly satisfy me.”
“I am sorry,” the doctor observed blandly, as he withdrew the document and substituted instead of her husband’s note.
“I hereby agree,” she read and then that awful five hundred dollars.
“It is not too much to pay for my religion,” she declared valiantly.
“I am glad to hear you say that,” he said, “but sorry, of course, that you must lose. I had thought that every Latter-0day Saint would have made this an important part of his creed.”
“You have wondered at my presence in Utah. I came to convert the ‘Mormons.’ Hundreds of them have signed this document and live up to it.”
“I regret that you have found so many weak in faith among us.”
“I also am sorry,” he agreed, “if they had read this right, that is understandingly, they would have had no need of me. That, my dear lady, is one of the most remarkable documents given to mankind in several centuries. If it had been published two or three years ago it would still have been valuable but not marvelous. it would merely have reflected the thought of the age. Appearing in 1833, before science discovered that hot drinks are a frequent cause of cancer, that fruits and vegetables, that is the ‘herbs of the field,’ are vitally essential to the health of mankind that ‘wheat for man,” wheat, all of it, not the starchy extract of it, but all of it contains vitamins the body must have. Coming before prohibition, coming before science had observed that ‘fault-finding’ or angry, excited or tense feelings turn foods into poisons, that the ‘mantle of charity’ must envelope our souls if our bodies are to digest their foods, such words as these are indeed miraculous:
“‘All grain is good for the food of man, as also the fruit of the vine, that which yieldeth fruit whether in the ground or above the ground, nevertheless wheat for man.’”
There was something strangely familiar about the words the doctor read. He wen ton:
“And shall walk and not grow weary, and shall run and not faint.”
“Why that – that – ” she exclaimed. But the doctor unheeding resumed reading excerpts:
“Cease to be idle. Cease to be unclean. Cease to find fault.”
“But you are reading,” she attempted to interrupt. Yet his sonorous tones continued:
“But above all things clothe thyself with the bonds of charity as with a mantle which is the bond of perfectness and peace.”
“That is our Word of Wisdom,” Mrs. Ashcroft finally interrupted.
“Yes, that is your ‘Word of Wisdom,’ that and the chapter preceding it. That, my dear lady, is as a mine out of which you should get the coin with which to purchase eternity: the coin of health and happiness. That document made a ‘Mormon’ of me. That document brought me to Utah. Use it wisely. It is the Word of Wisdom, indeed, the Coin of Eternity.”
“Then I haven’t lost the five hundred dollars?”
“Not unless you feel that you cannot make your Word of Wisdom a part of your religion, your daily creed.”