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Curing a Cold - Mark Twain

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The First Sneeze'

When the White House of Virginia City, Nevada burnt down, I lost my home, my happiness, my health and my trunk. The loss of my home and my happiness was not a problem. A home without a mother or a sister who care for you isn't really a home. The loss of my happiness was not a problem either. I am not a poet, and so I am usually a happy person.

But the loss of my good health and of my handsome trunk was a serious problem. On the day of the fire, I caught a terrible cold.

The first time I began to sneeze, a friend told me to put my feet in hot water and then go to bed. I did this.

The next day, another friend advised me to take a cold shower. I did this too.

After an hour, another friend told me to eat a big quantity of good food. So I went to a new restaurant and started to eat everything I saw. The owner of the restaurant asked me if the people of Virginia City often had colds. I answered that they did. He then went outside, took down the new sign and closed the restaurant.

That day I met another good friend. He told me that I must drink a bottle of warm salt water. This was the only remedy to cure a cold. I tried it and the result was surprising. I threw up everything I had in my stomach!

I will never drink warm salt water again! And I will never advise anyone to do so. I prefer being in a California earthquake, than drinking a bottle of warm salt water. This horrible remedy did not cure my cold, and it made my stomach sick for some time.

I continued to sneeze violently, to blow my nose and to destroy handkerchiefs. My suffering grew.


The Remedies

One day I met a woman who appeared to be one hundred and fifty years old. She came from a deserted part of the Far West, where there were no doctors. She had years of experience helping sick people. She prepared a special mixture of molasses, aquafortis, oils and other strange drugs. She advised me to drink a glass of this mixture every fifteen minutes.

I only drank one glass of the mixture. It was enough to make me crazy. I became extremely mean and dangerous. My mind was full of wild thoughts. My behavior was horrible. I was proud of being bad!

After a few days, the effect of the horrible mixture passed. I felt a lot worse. My cold passed from my head to my lungs. I coughed every moment of the day and of the night. It was impossible to sleep. The sound of my voice frightened me.

I got worse every day. An old friend recommended gin. I drank it. Then I drank gin with molasses. Finally, I added onions. So I had gin, molasses and onions. The smell of my breath was terrible.


The San Francisco Remedy

I decided to travel to the countryside to improve my health. I went to Lake Bigler with my friend, Wilson. We traveled in a comfortable Pioneer coach. At Lake Bigler we fished and sailed on the lake. We hunted for hours in the woods. In the evening we danced. I enjoyed myself greatly. But, my illness got worse.

A tourist at Lake Bigler recommended a cold sheet-bath. I never refused a remedy. At midnight, when it was very cold, I undressed completely. I covered my body with a wet, ice-cold sheet. I kept the sheet on my body for a long time.

It was the worst experience of my life. The wet, ice-cold sheet made my blood freeze and made my heart stop! I thought it was time for me to die.

Never take a sheet-bath — NEVER! This is my advice to everyone.

My condition got a lot worse. Other people recommended other remedies. Not one of these remedies cured my cold.

After a week at Lake Bigler, I decided to go to Steamboat Springs. I thought that the hot baths there were good for my health. They were not. While I was at Steamboat Springs, I tried several different remedies. But I just got worse and worse. I was desperate.

I finally decided to visit the city of San Francisco. The day I arrived, a woman at the hotel told me to drink a bottle of whisky every twenty-four hours. A dear friend, who lived in San Francisco, recommended exactly the same thing: a bottle of whisky every twenty-four hours. That's two bottles of whisky.

Well, I am happy to say that this San Francisco remedy finally cured my cold!


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