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- Her Weight in Gold - 4/40 -


ceiling of the library, tried to penetrate to the sacred precincts above. Even the riches and the stateliness of the Gamble mansion failed to reimburse his fancy for the losses it was sustaining with each succeeding minute of suspense. Dimly he recalled that General Gamble had spent nearly half a million dollars in the construction of this imposing edifice. The library was worth more than one hundred thousand dollars; the stables were stocked with innumerable thoroughbreds; the landed estate was measured by sections instead of acres; the stocks and bonds were--But even as he considered the question of assets, there surged up before him an overwhelming liability that brought the General's books to balance.

By this time, Eddie had become so proficient in the art of rapid calculation that he could estimate within a few ounces just what a person would have to weigh in order to be worth as much as the library, the mansion, or the bonds. The great Gainsborough that hung in the west end of the room corresponded in value (if reports were true concerning the price Gamble had asked for it) to a woman weighing a shade over two hundred and three pounds troy.

He lifted a handsome bronze figure from the library table and murmured: "It's worth a ten-pound baby, twenty-two hundred dollars and a fraction."

The General came in, followed closely by the butler, who bore a tray holding at least ten cocktails. After the greetings, Eddie glanced uneasily at the cocktails.

"Is--is it to be as big a dinner as all this?" he asked ruefully.

"Oh, no. Just family, my boy; we four. The women don't drink, Eddie, so help yourself."

Eddie gratefully swallowed three in rapid succession.

"I see you mean to make it absolutely necessary for me to take the gold cure," he said with a forlorn smile.

Martha put in an appearance at seven-thirty, having kept dinner waiting for half an hour, much to the amazement of those who had lived with her long enough to know her promptness in appearing for meals.

Mr. Ten Eyck, who was a rather good-looking chap and fastidious to a degree, did not possess the strength to keep his heart anywhere near the customary level. It went hurtling to his very boots. He shook hands with the blushing young woman and then involuntarily shrank toward the cocktails, disregarding the certainty that he would find them lukewarm and tasteless.

She was gotten up for the occasion. But, as it was not her costume that he was to embrace in matrimony, we will omit a description of the creation she wore. It was pink, of course, and cut rather low in order to protect her face from the impudent gaze of man.

Her face? Picture the face of the usual heroine in fiction and then contrive to think of the most perfect antithesis, and you have Martha in your mind's eye much more clearly than through any description I could hope to present.

She was squat. Her somewhat brawny shoulders sloped downward and forward--and perhaps a little sidewise, I am not sure about that. Her hair was straw-coloured and stringy in spite of the labour she had expended on it with curling-iron and brush. As to her face, the more noticeable features were a very broad, flat nose; a comparatively chinless under jaw, on which grew an accidental wisp of hair or two; a narrow and permanently decorated upper lip. When she smiled--well, the effect was discouraging, to say the least. Her eyes were pale and prominent. In spite of all this, practice in rouging might have helped her a little, but she had had no practice. Young men never came to the house, and it was not worth while to keep up appearances for the old ones who were content to dodder at the end of the way. You would say at a glance that she was a very strong and enduring person, somewhat along the lines of a suffragette ward politician.

The dinner was a genial one, after all. The General was at his best, and the wine was perfect. In lucid moments, Eddie found himself reflecting: "If I can drink enough of this I'll have delirium tremens and then I won't have to believe all that I see."

Martha had always called him Eddie. In fact, every one called him Eddie. He was that sort of a chap. To-night, he observed, with a hazy interest, she addressed him as Mr. Ten Eyck, and rather frequently, at that. It was: "Do you really think so, Mr. Ten Eyck?" or "How very amusing, Mr. Ten Eyck," or "Good gracious, Mr. Ten Eyck," until poor Eddie, unused to this distinction, reached a point where he muttered something in way of protest that caused the General to cough violently in order to give his guest a chance to recover himself before it was too late.

After dinner the General and Mrs. Gamble retired somewhat precipitously, leaving the young people alone.

Eddie heaved a tremendous sigh of decision and bravely crossed the room. Martha was seated upon the davenport, nervously toying with her fan. He saw with misgiving that she evidently expected something was going to happen. Her eyes were downcast.

He stood silent and somewhat awed before her for many minutes, taking the final puffs at an abbreviated cigarette. Then he abruptly sat down at the opposite end of the couch. As he did so, she thought she heard him mutter something about "one hundred and seventy, at the lowest."

"So many people have given up playing golf, Mr. Ten Eyck," she said. "I am surprised that you keep it up."

"Golf?" he murmured blankly.

"Weren't you speaking of your score for the eighteen holes?"

He gazed at her helplessly for a moment, then set his jaw.

"Say, Martha," he began, in a high and unnatural treble, "I am a man of few words. Will you marry me? Oh! Ouch! What the dickens are you doing? O--oh! Don't jump at me like that!"

The details are painful and it isn't necessary to go into them. Suffice it to say, she told him that he had always been her ideal and that she had worshipped him from childhood's earliest days. He, on the other hand, confessed, with more truth than she could have guessed, that he had but recently come to a realisation of her true worth, and what she really meant to him.

She set the wedding day for November the eleventh,--just seven weeks off.

Before leaving,--she kept him until nearly twelve,--he playfully came up behind her as she stood near the table, and, placing his hands under her elbows, said:

"Hold 'em stiff now."

Then, to her amazement, he tried to lift her from the floor. He couldn't budge her.

"It's all right," he exclaimed exultantly and refused to explain.

That night in his dreams an elephant came along and stood for a while on his chest, but he was used to it by that time, and didn't mind.

The next morning, General Gamble reported by telephone that Martha weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds and nine ounces. A minute later, Eddie was at his desk calculating.

On the twenty-third of September she weighed two thousand and twenty- five ounces troy. At nineteen dollars and twenty cents an ounce she was then worth $38,880. With any sort of luck, he figured, she might be expected to pick up a few pounds as the result of her new-found happiness and peace of mind. Her worries were practically over. Contented people always put on flesh. If everything went well, she ought to represent at least $40,000 on her wedding day. Perhaps more.

He haunted the Country Club by day and the town clubs by night, always preoccupied and figuring, much to the astonishment of his friends and cronies. He scribbled inexplicable figures on the backs of golf cards, bar checks, and menus.

By the end of the first week he had made definite promises to all of his creditors. He guaranteed that every one should be paid before the middle of November. Moreover, he set aside in his calculations the sum of $7,000 for the purchase of a new house. Early in the second week he had virtually expended $15,000 of what he expected to receive, and was giving thanks for increased opportunities.

He called at the Gamble house regularly, even faithfully. True, he urged Martha to play on the piano nearly all of the time, but to all intents and purposes it was a courtship.

When the engagement was announced, the town--in utter ignorance of the conspiracy--went into convulsions. The half-dozen old maids in upper circles who had long since given up hope began to prink and perk themselves into an amazing state of rejuvenation,--revival, you might say. They tortured themselves with the hope that never dies. They even lent money to impecunious gentlemen who couldn't believe their senses and went about pinching themselves.

Eddie Ten Eyck's credit was so good that he succeeded in borrowing nearly five thousand dollars from erstwhile adamantine sceptics.

One day the General met him in the street. The old soldier wore a troubled look. "She's sick," he said without preamble. "Got pains all over her and chills, too."

"Is it serious?" demanded Eddie.

"I don't know. Neither does the doctor. He's waiting for developments. Took a culture to-day. She's in bed, however."

"SHE MUST NOT DIE," said Eddie, a desperate gleam in his eye. "I-- can't afford to have anything like that happen now. Can't she be vaccinated?"

At the end of the second day thereafter it was known all over town that Martha Gamble was ill with typhoid fever. She was running a temperature of 104 degrees and two doctors had come up from New York to consult with the Essex physician, bringing with them a couple of trained nurses. They said her heart was good.

After the consultation, the General and Eddie sat alone in the library, woebegone and disconsolate.


Her Weight in Gold - 4/40

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