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- Her Weight in Gold - 5/40 -
"They think they can pull her through," said the former vaguely.
"Curse 'em," grated Eddie; "they've GOT to do it. If there is the least prospect of her dying, General, I must insist that the wedding day be moved forward. I'll--I'll marry her to-day. By Jove, it might go a long way toward reducing her temperature."
"Impossible! We shall stick to the original agreement." "Confound you, I believe you are hoping she'll die before the eleventh of November. It would be just like you, General Gamble."
"I'm not hoping for anything of the sort, sir," thundered the other. "But, if it SHOULD happen--" He did not finish the sentence, but there was a green light in his eyes.
Eddie was silent for many minutes.
"And if she SHOULD die, where do I come in, or get off, or whatever is the proper thing to say in the circumstances? It wouldn't be fair to me, General Gamble. You know it wouldn't. It would be a damned outrage. Here am I, a devoted lover, eager to make her happy--to MAKE HER LAST MOMENTS happy ones, mind you, and you sit there and deny her the consolation of--"
"All's fair in love, my boy," said the General blandly.
"Martha wasn't strong enough to stand the excitement. It was like a sudden and frightful change in the weather. Her constitution couldn't fight it off." "Constitution? Good Lord!"
"We ought to make allowances, my boy."
"I am in no position to make allowances. Are these doctors any good?"
"The best in New York City."
"And the nurses? Everything depends on good nursing."
"They are real Canadians."
"General, up to the time I was eleven years old I said my prayers every night. I'm going to begin again to-night," said Eddie solemnly, as he passed his hand across his brow.
The days went by with monotonous similarity. Bright or dark, wet or dry, they looked the same to Eddie Ten Eyck. At first he had been permitted to visit her once or twice a day, staying for a few minutes on each occasion. After a while the visits were stopped by the doctor's order. But still he haunted the Gamble mansion. He waylaid the doctor; he bribed or coerced the nurses; he watched the sick-room door with the eye of a hungry dog; he partook inordinately of the General's liquors. Martha was delirious, that much he was able to gather by persistent inquiry. She seemed obsessed with the idea that she and Eddie were to keep house in Heaven, with two cherubs and a hypodermic syringe.
Mrs. Gamble was deeply touched and not a little surprised by the devotion of her daughter's fiance. She turned to him in these hours of despair and gave to him a large share of her pity and consolation. She asked him to pray for Martha. He said he had been praying for some one else nearly all his life, but henceforth would put in a word for Martha.
The wedding day was near at hand when an unexpected and alarming complication set in. The doctors were hurriedly gathered in consultation. There was a crisis. One of the nurses confided to Mr. Ten Eyck that there was no hope, but the other declared that if the patient survived the eighth of November she would "be out of the woods." The eighth was three days off. Those three days were spent by Eddie in a state of fearful suspense. He implored Providence and Fate to stand by him until after the eleventh. He went so far as to add a couple of days to include the thirteenth, not being superstitious. The night of the eighth was a memorable one. No one in the Gamble house went to bed. The ninth came and then the doctors appeared with glad tidings. The crisis was past and there was every chance in the world for the patient to recover, unless of course, some unforeseen complication intervened.
Eddie staggered out to the stables and performed a dance of joy.
"What's her temperature?" he demanded of one of the grooms, absently repeating a question he had asked five thousand times during the past few weeks. "I beg your pardon, Smith." Then he hurried back to the house. Meeting one of the doctors he gripped him by the arm.
"Is she sure to live, doc--doctor?"
"Forever," said the doctor, meaning to comfort him.
"No!" gasped Eddie.
"Let me congratulate you, Mr. Ten Eyck. She is quite rational now and --pardon me if I repeat a sick-room secret--she declares that there shall be no postponement of the wedding. She is superstitious about postponements."
Eddie hesitated. "Ahem! Is--is she emaciated?"
"No more than might be expected."
"I--I hope she hasn't wasted very much."
"Skin and bones," said the doctor with the most professional bluntness.
Eddie mopped his brow. "You--you don't mean it! See here, doctor, you ought to advise very strongly against the--er--marriage at this time. Tell her it would kill her. The shock, I mean. I am willing to wait-- GOD KNOWS, I am only too willing to wait--until she is strong and well and herself once more. Tell her--"
"Perhaps you would better talk it over with her father, Mr. Ten Eyck. I am not--"
"Her father--" began Eddie, but caught himself up.
"I would not answer for her safety if a postponement were even suggested. Her heart is set on it, my dear fellow. She will be strong enough to go through with it."
"But I want to be married in church."
"I daresay you will agree with me when I say that your feelings are not to be considered in a crisis of this kind," said the doctor coldly, and moved away.
At noon on the eleventh Martha awoke from a sound and restful sleep. Sweet lassitude enveloped her, but her mind went groping for something that had been troubling her in a vague sort of way for the last forty- eight hours.
"Is it the eleventh?" she whispered, stretching out her hand to the watchful nurse.
"Yes, my dear. Now try to go to sleep again--"
"Where is Mr. Ten Eyck?"
"What time is it!"
"Now don't worry about the time--"
"Is it night or day?"
"It is noon."
"I am to be married at eight o'clock this evening, Miss Feeney."
"Yes, yes, I know," soothingly.
"You might send word to Mr. Ten Eyck that I shall be ready. He may forget the ring unless you tell him that--there--is--to be--no post--" She went to sleep in the middle of postponement.
While the nurses were preparing her for the ceremony, General Gamble sent word into the sick-room that the doctor desired her correct weight--for scientific purposes.
The patient, too weak to help herself, was lifted upon the scales, where she remained long enough for it to be seen that she weighed seventy-three pounds and eight ounces. She was then hustled into bed, but seemed to be in even better spirits than before, confiding to the nurses that she knew Mr. Ten Eyck was partial to slender women, and that if she had anything to do with it she'd never weigh more than one hundred and ten again, "as long as she lived."
"One hundred and ten is a lovely weight, don't you think, Miss Feeney!" she asked.
Miss Feeney was feeling her pulse. The other nurse was trying to stick a mouth thermometer between the patient's lips.
"It is a much lovelier weight than seventy-three," said Miss Feeney gently.
The General, in the privacy of his bed-chamber, reduced the pounds to ounces and found that Martha, in her present state, represented eight hundred and eighty-four ounces. He could not suppress a chuckle, even though he felt very mean about it. She was worth $16,972 in gold. Her illness had cost him approximately $2,000 in doctors' fees, et cetera, but it had cost Eddie Ten Eyck $21,911 in pure gold, with twenty cents over in silver.
It is said that the bridegroom almost collapsed when he looked for the first time upon his emaciated investment. It was worse than he had expected. She was literally "skin and bones."
Mechanically, semi-paralysed, he made the responses to the almost staccato words of the clergyman. The ceremony was hurried through at a lively rate, but to Eddie it seemed to take hours. Her fingers felt like a closed fan in his own pulseless hand. He replied "I do" and "I will" without really being aware of the fact, and all the time he was gazing blankly at her, trying to remember where he had seen her before.
Away back in the dim, forgotten ages there was a robust, squat,
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