WHY swelter here in dirt and in wretchedness when the pure delights of the Turkish bath await us in the adjoining city? How great is the advance of American civilization when the choicest luxury of the pampered Oriental is brought to our very doors! The other day, after groaning for three hours over a tough annual, I was struck with an unusually brilliant idea: I would take a Turkish bath and come out an altered man.
A modest young lady guards the portal of that famous basement in Beacon Street, and receives your fee before you enter the shades beyond. Besides this pecuniary transaction she requests you to inscribe your name in a ponderous volume. Could it be that I was thus leaving a last record for the outer world before opening that mysterious plate-glass door on which I deciphered the words "Ring the Bell and Walk in"? I began to feel slightly nervous, and to repent my rashness in coming alone. The first apartment I entered was long and low, and quite dark. It seemed very much like a jail. Three or four small beds were ranged along the wall, on which reclined or squatted several individuals simply attired in a short strip of linen cloth. Opposite the entrance hung a large picture of what I at first thought a ballet-troupe in distress, but I afterwards found that it was only a group of Dr. Dio Lewis's pupils. A big man, in a choker coming up to his ears, and no cravat, told me, in a hollow voice, to put my valuables in a little drawer and to hang the key around my neck. I had always understood that the Turks were low robbers at home, but I had no idea they retained that character in climes so distant from their own. My valuables were with difficulty crammed into the limited space, and I followed the official to a small dressing-room, which likewise looked amazingly like a prison-cell; for the walls were made half of wood and half of stout iron bars.
After a change to a more unpretending style of raiment, I again entered the dusky room, and thence, together with a fat old gentleman, I passed to the first bath-room. The other-world feeling was at first too much for me, and I sank into a chair and gasped for breath, while the fat old gentleman smiled sarcastically. He explained that he was an old bather; had taken a bath every week for years; had got rid of several diseases already through its means, and was now trying it for baldness. He seemed not to mind the heat in the least. In fact, he soon passed on to a hotter room, and left me in a melting solitude. After half an hour of decomposition I was summoned by a thinly clad attendant to another and a cooler cell. I joyfully followed him, leaving the fat old gentleman rubbing the bare crown of his head and complaining that the "rooms were only half heated to-day."
I don't think my new companion was a Turk; at least, he spoke English with only a slight brogue. He laid me on a marble slab. I imagined myself a dead and unknown body waiting in the "Morgue" for identification, but was soon reminded that I could still experience sensation by the ill-bred behavior of my foreign friend. He assaulted me with a combination of blows, rubs, hot and cold water, and soap, and wound up by asking me if I wanted a "plunge." Passing over his insolent conduct in silence, I requested him to produce his "plunge." I descended a flight of slippery steps, and gently stepped into a tank of cool, refreshing water. The place was long and winding, lighted by gas, with a little shelf at each end, just like the seal's tank in an aquarium. Leaving this subterranean lake, I was rubbed down after the manner of ostlers, and laid under a blanket. This was decidedly pleasant. I felt like a new man. Nothing was needed to complete my happiness but a cigarette. I asked in an humble voice to be allowed to smoke one, but the man in the choker said, with a frown, that "Dr. Lewis did not approve of tobacco." I said no more, but dressed and departed. I walked out of town with a brisk step and a light heart. All ye jaded students, try a Turkish bath!