“Well,” said Ah Cum, amiably, “when I argued against the venture, he threatened to go wandering about alone, I was most concerned in bringing him back unhurt.”
He then spoke authoritatively to the girl. He appeared to thunder dire happenings if she did not obey him without further ado. He picked up the broken fiddle and beckoned. The sing-song girl rose and meekly pattered out of the office into the night.
Ruth crossed over to the dramatist of this tragicomedy and put a hand on his shoulder.
“I understand,” she said. Her faith in human beings revived. “You tried to do something that was fine, and ... and civilization would not let you.”
Spurlock turned his dull eyes and tried to focus hers. Suddenly he burst into wild laughter; but equally as suddenly something strangled the sound in his throat. He reached out a hand gropingly, sagged, and toppled out of the chair to the floor, where he lay very still.
The astonishing collapse of Spurlock created a tableau of short duration. Then the hotel manager struck his palms together sharply, and two Chinese “boys” came pattering in from the dining room. With a gesture which was without any kind of emotional expression, the manager indicated the silent crumpled figure on the floor and gave the room number. The Chinamen raised the limp body and carried it to the hall staircase, up which they mounted laboriously.
“A doctor at once!” cried Ruth excitedly.
“A doctor? What he needs is a good jolt of aromatic spirits of ammonia. I can get that at the bar,” the manager said, curtly. He was not particularly grateful for the present situation.
“I warn you, if you do not send for a doctor immediately, you will have cause to regret it,” Ruth declared vigorously. “Something more than whisky did that. Why did you let him have it?”
“Let him have it? I can’t stand at the elbow of any of the guests and regulate his or her actions. So long as a man behaves himself, I can’t refuse him liquor. But I’ll call a doctor, since you order it. You’ll be wasting his time. It is a plain case of alcoholic stupor. I’ve seen many cases like it.”
He summoned another “boy” and rumbled some Cantonese. Immediately the “boy” went forth with his paper lantern, repeating a cry as he ran—warning to clear the way.
“Have the aromatic spirits of ammonia sent to Mr. Taber’s room at once,” Ruth ordered. “I will administer it.”
“You, Miss Enschede?”—frankly astonished that one stranger should offer succour to another.
“There is nobody else. Someone ought to be with him until the doctor arrives. He may die.”
The manager made a negative sign. “Your worry is needless.”
“It wasn’t the fumes of whisky that toppled him out of his chair. It was his heart. I once saw a man die after collapsing that way.”