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great pleasure in building bright prospects for her darling sons when
they should attain maturity and become competent to fill useful and
honorable positions in the world. Living in a rapidly-growing Western
community, they had every prospect of growing up to honorable
usefulness, a comfort to their parents, a blessing to the world, and
capable of enjoying life in the highest degree.
But suddenly certain manifestations appeared which gave rise to grave
apprehensions on the part of the parents. It was observed that the elder
of the little boys no longer played about with that nimbleness which
he had formerly shown, but seemed slow and stiff in his movements.
Sometimes, indeed, he would stagger a little when he walked. Soon, also,
his speech became affected in some degree; he mumbled his words and
could not speak distinctly. In spite of all that could be done, the
disease continued, increasing slowly in all its symptoms from week to
week. Soon the hands, also, became affected, so that the little boy
could not feed himself. The mind now began to fail. The bright eyes
became vacant and expressionless. Instead of the merry light which used
to shine in them, there was a blank, idiotic stare.
Imagine the grief and anguish of the poor mother! No one but a mother
who has been called to pass through a similar trial could know how to
sympathize with such a one. Her darling son she saw daily becoming a
prey to a strange, incurable malady, with no power even to stay the
progress of the terrible disease.
But there was still greater grief in store for her. Within a year or
two the younger son began to show symptoms of the same character, and
in spite of all that was done, rapidly sank into the same helpless state
as his brother. As a last resort, the mother took her boys and came
a long journey to place her sons under our care. At that time they were
both nearly helpless. Neither could walk but a few steps. They reeled
and staggered about like drunken men, falling down upon each other and
going through the most agonizing contortions in their attempts to work
their way from one chair to another and thus about the room. Their heads
were no longer erect, but drooped like wilted flowers. On their faces
was a blank, imbecile expression, with a few traces of former
intelligence still left. The mouth was open, from the drooping of the
lower jaw, and the saliva constantly dribbled upon the clothing.
Altogether, it was a spectacle which one does not care to meet every
day; the impression made was too harrowing to be pleasant even from
its interest from a scientific point of view.
We at once set to work to discover the cause of this dreadful condition,
saying to ourselves that such an awful punishment should certainly be
the result of some gross violation of nature's laws somewhere. The most
careful scrutiny of the history of the parents of the unfortunate lads
gave us no clue to anything of an hereditary character, both parents
having come of good families, and having been always of sober, temperate
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