Appetite declares itself by languor in the stomach, and a slight sensation of fatigue.
The soul at the same time busies itself with things analogous to its wants; memory recalls food that has flattered its taste; imagination fancies that it sees them, and something like a dream takes place. This state is not without pleasure, and we have heard many adepts say, with joy in their heart, “What a pleasure it is to have a good appetite, when we are certain of a good meal.”
The whole nutritive apparatus is moved. The stomach becomes sensible, the gastric juices are moved and displace themselves with noise, the mouth becomes moist, and all the digestive powers are under arms, like soldiers awaiting the word of command. After a few moments there will be spasmodic motion, pain, and hunger.
Every shade of these gradations may be observed in every drawing-room, when dinner is delayed.
They are such in nature, that the most exquisite politeness cannot disguise the symptoms. From this fact I deduced the apothegm, “The most indispensable quality of a good cook is promptness.”
I was invited to dine with a high public functionary. The hour was half past five, and at the appointed time all were present. We knew he liked exactness, and always scolded the dilatory.
I was amazed, when I came, at the consternation which pervaded the party. People whispered together, and looked into the courtyard through the window—all betokened something extraordinary.
I approached the one of the guests I thought best able to satisfy my curiosity, and asked him what the news was.
“Alas!” said they, “Monsieur has been sent for to the Council of State; he has just gone, and none know when he will return.”
“Is that all!” said I. “Be of good cheer, we will be detained only a quarter of an hour; something particular has happened. All know today is his regular dinner, and we will not have to fast.” I was not, however, easy, and wished I was away.
The first hour passed well enough, and those who were intimate sat together. Common places were exhausted, and conjectures were formed as to what could have called the Prince to the Tuilleries.
At the commencement of the second hour there were many signs of impatience; people looked anxiously at each other and the first who murmured were three or four guests who, finding no place to sit in, were not in a convenient position to wait.
At the third hour, the discontent became general, and every symptom became exaggerated. “When will he return?” said one. “What can he be thinking of?” said another. “This is death,” said a third. This question was then put, but not determined, “Shall we go or not?”
At the fourth hour every symptom became aggravated. People stretched out their arms without the slightest regard whether they interrupted their neighbors or not. Unpleasant sounds were heard from all parts of the room, and everywhere the faces of the guests bore the marks of concentration. No one listened to me when I remarked that beyond doubt our absent amphytrion was more unhappy than any one of us.
Our attention was for a moment arrested by an apparition. One of the guests … had gone into the kitchen, and returned panting. His face looked as if the day of judgment had come, and in an almost inarticulate voice, which announced at once both the fear of making a noise and of not being heard, “Monsigneur went away without giving any orders, and happen what may, dinner will not be served until his return.”
The terror caused by what he said could not be exceeded by that to be expected at the last trump.
Among the martyrs, the most unfortunate was D’Aigrefeuille, whom all Paris knew. His whole body seemed to suffer, and the agony of Laocoon was marked on his face. Pale, terrified, he saw nothing but sank in a chair, grasped his hands on his round stomach, and closed his eyes, not to sleep but to die.
He did not though. About ten o’clock a carriage drove into the yard. All were on the qui-vive and arose spontaneously. Hilarity succeeded suffering, and in five minutes we were at the table.
Appetite however was gone, all seemed amazed to sit down to dinner at such an unusual hour; the jaws had not that isochronous measure which announces a regular business. I know many were sufferers thus.
The course to be taken is not to eat immediately after the obstacle has ceased, but to drink a glass of eau-sucree, or take a plate of soup to sustain the stomach, and then in ten or fifteen minutes to begin dinner, to prevent the stomach being oppressed by the weight of the aliments with which it is surcharged.