“My forehead feels damp,” he said; “and I’m not hot at all. Just take hold of my hands. They’re like wet crumpets. I wonder what makes me so stiff. A man mustn’t sit at business too long at a time. Sure to make people think he’s ill. What was that about a doctor? I seem to remember. I won’t see one.”
Emilia had filled a glass with brandy. She brought it nearer to his hand, while he was speaking. At the touch of the glass, his fingers went round it slowly, and he raised it to his mouth. The liquor revived him. He breathed “ah!” several times, and grimaced, blinking, as if seeking to arouse a proper brightness in his eyes. Then, he held out his empty glass to her, and she filled it, and he sipped deliberately, saying: “I’m warm inside. I keep on perspiring so cold. Can’t make it out. Look at my finger-ends, my dear. They’re whitish, aren’t they?”
Emilia took the hand he presented, and chafed it, and put it against her bosom, half under one arm. The action appeared to give some warmth to his heart, for he petted her, in return.
A third time he held out the glass, and remarked that this stuff was better than medicine.
“You women!” he sneered, as at a reminiscence of their faith in drugs.
“My legs are weak, though!” He had risen and tested the fact. “Very shaky. I wonder what makes ’em—I don’t take much exercise.” Pondering on this problem, he pursued: “It’s the stomach. I’m as empty as an egg-shell. Odd, I’ve got no appetite. But, my spirits are up. I begin to feel myself again. I’ll eat by-and-by, my dear. And, I say; I’ll tell you what:—I’ll take you to the theatre to-night. I want to laugh. A man’s all right when he’s laughing. I wish it was Christmas. Don’t you like to see the old pantaloon tumbled over, my boy?—my girl, I mean. I did, when I was a boy. My father took me. I went in the pit. I can smell oranges, when I think of it. I remember, we supped on German sausage; or ham—one or the other. Those were happy old days!”
He shook his head at them across the misty gulf.
“Perhaps there’s a good farce going on now. If so, we’ll go. Girls ought to learn to laugh as well as boys. I’ll ring for Braintop.”
He rang the bell, and bade Emilia be careful to remind him that he wanted Braintop’s address; for Braintop was useful.
It appeared that there were farces at several of the theatres. Braintop rattled them out, their plot and fun and the merits of the actors, with delightful volubility, as one whose happy subject had been finally discovered. He was forthwith commissioned to start immediately and take a stage-box at one of the places of entertainment, where two great rivals of the Doctor genus promised to laugh dull care out of the spirit of man triumphantly, and at the description of whose drolleries any one with faith might be half cured. The youth gave his address on paper to Emilia.