“You don’t know how to take a man’s pulse from the neck. There—right there—put your fingers where mine are. D’ye get it? Ah, I thought so. Heart weak, but steady as a chronometer.”
“It’s only twenty-four hours,” Captain Jamie said, “and he was never in like condition before.”
“Putting it on, that’s what he’s doing, and you can stack on that,” Al Hutchins, the head trusty, interjected.
“I don’t know,” Captain Jamie insisted. “When a man’s pulse is that low it takes an expert to find it—”
“Aw, I served my apprenticeship in the jacket,” Al Hutchins sneered. “And I’ve made you unlace me, Captain, when you thought I was croaking, and it was all I could do to keep from snickering in your face.”
“What do you think, Doc?” Warden Atherton asked.
“I tell you the heart action is splendid,” was the answer. “Of course it is weak. That is only to be expected. I tell you Hutchins is right. The man is feigning.”
With his thumb he turned up one of my eyelids, whereat I opened my other eye and gazed up at the group bending over me.
“What did I tell you?” was Doctor Jackson’s cry of triumph.
And then, although it seemed the effort must crack my face, I summoned all the will of me and smiled.
They held water to my lips, and I drank greedily. It must be remembered that all this while I lay helpless on my back, my arms pinioned along with my body inside the jacket. When they offered me food—dry prison bread—I shook my head. I closed my eyes in advertisement that I was tired of their presence. The pain of my partial resuscitation was unbearable. I could feel my body coming to life. Down the cords of my neck and into my patch of chest over the heart darting pains were making their way. And in my brain the memory was strong that Philippa waited me in the big hall, and I was desirous to escape away back to the half a day and half a night I had just lived in old France.
So it was, even as they stood about me, that I strove to eliminate the live portion of my body from my consciousness. I was in haste to depart, but Warden Atherton’s voice held me back.
“Is there anything you want to complain about?” he asked.
Now I had but one fear, namely, that they would unlace me; so that it must be understood that my reply was not uttered in braggadocio but was meant to forestall any possible unlacing.
“You might make the jacket a little tighter,” I whispered. “It’s too loose for comfort. I get lost in it. Hutchins is stupid. He is also a fool. He doesn’t know the first thing about lacing the jacket. Warden, you ought to put him in charge of the loom-room. He is a more profound master of inefficiency than the present incumbent, who is merely stupid without being a fool as well. Now get out, all of you, unless you can think of worse to do to me. In which case, by all means remain. I invite you heartily to remain, if you think in your feeble imaginings that you have devised fresh torture for me.”