:
AT ARMS
Category: Love Letters
I never could quite understand how Tom Hopkins came to make that
blunder, for he had been through a whole term at a medical
college--before he inherited his aunt's fortune--and had been
considered strong in therapeutics.

We had been making a call together that evening, and afterward Tom
ran up to my rooms for a pipe and a chat before going on to his own
luxurious apartments. I had stepped into the other room for a moment
when I heard Tom sing out:

"Oh, Billy, I'm going to take about four grains of quinine, if you
don't mind-- I'm feeling all blue and shivery. Guess I'm taking cold."

"All right," I called back. "The bottle is on the second shelf. Take
it in a spoonful of that elixir of eucalyptus. It knocks the bitter
out."

After I came back we sat by the fire and got our briars going. In
about eight minutes Tom sank back into a gentle collapse.

I went straight to the medicine cabinet and looked.

"You unmitigated hayseed!" I growled. "See what money will do for a
man's brains!"

There stood the morphine bottle with the stopple out, just as Tom had
left it.

I routed out another young M.D. who roomed on the floor above, and
sent him for old Doctor Gales, two squares away. Tom Hopkins has too
much money to be attended by rising young practitioners alone.

When Gales came we put Tom through as expensive a course of treatment
as the resources of the profession permit. After the more drastic
remedies we gave him citrate of caffeine in frequent doses and strong
coffee, and walked him up and down the floor between two of us. Old
Gales pinched him and slapped his face and worked hard for the big
check he could see in the distance. The young M.D. from the next floor
gave Tom a most hearty, rousing kick, and then apologized to me.

"Couldn't help it," he said. "I never kicked a millionaire before in
my life. I may never have another opportunity."

"Now," said Doctor Gales, after a couple of hours, "he'll do. But keep
him awake for another hour. You can do that by talking to him and
shaking him up occasionally. When his pulse and respiration are normal
then let him sleep. I'll leave him with you now."

I was left alone with Tom, whom we had laid on a couch. He lay very
still, and his eyes were half closed. I began my work of keeping him
awake.

"Well, old man," I said, "you've had a narrow squeak, but we've pulled
you through. When you were attending lectures, Tom, didn't any of
the professors ever casually remark that m-o-r-p-h-i-a never spells
'quinia,' especially in four-grain doses? But I won't pile it up on
you until you get on your feet. But you ought to have been a druggist,
Tom; you're splendidly qualified to fill prescriptions."

Tom looked at me with a faint and foolish smile.

"B'ly," he murmured, "I feel jus' like a hum'n bird flyin' around a
jolly lot of most 'shpensive roses. Don' bozzer me. Goin' sleep now."

And he went to sleep in two seconds. I shook him by the shoulder.

"Now, Tom," I said, severely, "this won't do. The big doctor said you
must stay awake for at least an hour. Open your eyes. You're not
entirely safe yet, you know. Wake up."

Tom Hopkins weighs one hundred and ninety-eight. He gave me another
somnolent grin, and fell into deeper slumber. I would have made him
move about, but I might as well have tried to make Cleopatra's needle
waltz around the room with me. Tom's breathing became stertorous, and
that, in connection with morphia poisoning, means danger.

Then I began to think. I could not rouse his body; I must strive to
excite his mind. "Make him angry," was an idea that suggested itself.
"Good!" I thought; but how? There was not a joint in Tom's armour.
Dear old fellow! He was good nature itself, and a gallant gentleman,
fine and true and clean as sunlight. He came from somewhere down
South, where they still have ideals and a code. New York had charmed,
but had not spoiled, him. He had that old-fashioned chivalrous
reverence for women, that--Eureka!--there was my idea! I worked the
thing up for a minute or two in my imagination. I chuckled to myself
at the thought of springing a thing like that on old Tom Hopkins. Then
I took him by the shoulder and shook him till his ears flopped. He
opened his eyes lazily. I assumed an expression of scorn and contempt,
and pointed my finger within two inches of his nose.

"Listen to me, Hopkins," I said, in cutting and distinct tones, "you
and I have been good friends, but I want you to understand that in the
future my doors are closed against any man who acts as much like a
scoundrel as you have."

Tom looked the least bit interested.

"What's the matter, Billy?" he muttered, composedly. "Don't your
clothes fit you?"

"If I were in your place," I went on, "which, thank God, I am not, I
think I would be afraid to close my eyes. How about that girl you left
waiting for you down among those lonesome Southern pines--the girl
that you've forgotten since you came into your confounded money? Oh,
I know what I'm talking about. While you were a poor medical student
she was good enough for you. But now, since you are a millionaire,
it's different. I wonder what she thinks of the performances of that
peculiar class of people which she has been taught to worship--the
Southern gentlemen? I'm sorry, Hopkins, that I was forced to speak
about these matters, but you've covered it up so well and played your
part so nicely that I would have sworn you were above such unmanly
tricks."

Poor Tom. I could scarcely keep from laughing outright to see him
struggling against the effects of the opiate. He was distinctly angry,
and I didn't blame him. Tom had a Southern temper. His eyes were
open now, and they showed a gleam or two of fire. But the drug still
clouded his mind and bound his tongue.

"C-c-confound you," he stammered, "I'll s-smash you."

He tried to rise from the couch. With all his size he was very weak
now. I thrust him back with one arm. He lay there glaring like a lion
in a trap.

"That will hold you for a while, you old loony," I said to myself. I
got up and lit my pipe, for I was needing a smoke. I walked around a
bit, congratulating myself on my brilliant idea.

I heard a snore. I looked around. Tom was asleep again. I walked over
and punched him on the jaw. He looked at me as pleasant and ungrudging
as an idiot. I chewed my pipe and gave it to him hard.

"I want you to recover yourself and get out of my rooms as soon as
you can," I said, insultingly. "I've told you what I think of you. If
you have any honour or honesty left you will think twice before you
attempt again to associate with gentlemen. She's a poor girl, isn't
she?" I sneered. "Somewhat too plain and unfashionable for us since we
got our money. Be ashamed to walk on Fifth Avenue with her, wouldn't
you? Hopkins, you're forty-seven times worse than a cad. Who cares
for your money? I don't. I'll bet that girl don't. Perhaps if you
didn't have it you'd be more of a man. As it is you've made a cur
of yourself, and"--I thought that quite dramatic--"perhaps broken a
faithful heart." (Old Tom Hopkins breaking a faithful heart!) "Let me
be rid of you as soon as possible."

I turned my back on Tom, and winked at myself in a mirror. I heard
him moving, and I turned again quickly. I didn't want a hundred and
ninety-eight pounds falling on me from the rear. But Tom had only
turned partly over, and laid one arm across his face. He spoke a few
words rather more distinctly than before.

"I couldn't have--talked this way--to you, Billy, even if I'd heard
people--lyin' 'bout you. But jus' soon's I can s-stand up--I'll break
your neck--don' f'get it."

I did feel a little ashamed then. But it was to save Tom. In the
morning, when I explained it, we would have a good laugh over it
together.

In about twenty minutes Tom dropped into a sound, easy slumber. I felt
his pulse, listened to his respiration, and let him sleep. Everything
was normal, and Tom was safe. I went into the other room and tumbled
into bed.

I found Tom up and dressed when I awoke the next morning. He was
entirely himself again with the exception of shaky nerves and a tongue
like a white-oak chip.

"What an idiot I was," he said, thoughtfully. "I remember thinking
that quinine bottle looked queer while I was taking the dose. Have
much trouble in bringing me 'round?"

I told him no. His memory seemed bad about the entire affair. I
concluded that he had no recollection of my efforts to keep him awake,
and decided not to enlighten him. Some other time, I thought, when he
was feeling better, we would have some fun over it.

When Tom was ready to go he stopped, with the door open, and shook my
hand.

"Much obliged, old fellow," he said, quietly, "for taking so much
trouble with me--and for what you said. I'm going down now to
telegraph to the little girl."



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