Mynheer, in his burgomaster suit, met the party at the door, conducted them inside and silently drew out the chairs at the coffee-room table. He was too overcome to speak.
Joplin dropped into the one hung with ivy and rested his hands on the table.
“Lord! how good it is to get here!” he said, gazing about him, a tremble in his voice. “You don’t know what I’ve gone through, boys.”
“Why, we thought you were getting fat, Joppy,” burst out Marny at last. Up to this time his voice, like that of the others, seemed to have left him, so great was his surprise and anxiety.
Joplin waved his forefinger toward Marny in a deprecatory way, as if the memory of his experience was too serious for discussion, played with his fork a moment, and said slowly:
“Will you lay it up against me, fellows, if I tell you the truth? I’m not as strong as I was and a good deal of the old fight is out of me.”
“Lay up nothin’!” cried Malone. “And when it comes to fightin’ ye kin count on me every—”
“Dry up!” broke in Marny. “You’re way off, Malone. No, Joppy, not a man here will open his head: say the rest.”
“Well, then, listen,” continued the Bostonian. “I did everything they told me: got up at daylight; walked around the spring seven times; sipped the water; ate what they prescribed; lay in wet sheets two hours every day; was kneaded by a man with a chest as hairy as a satyr’s and arms like a blacksmith’s; stood up and was squirted at; had everything about me looked into—even stuck needles in my arm for a sample of my blood; and at the end of three weeks was so thin that my trousers had to be lapped over in the back under a leather strap to keep them above my hips, and my coat hung down as if it were ashamed of me. Doctor Stuffen then handed me a certificate and his bill. This done he stood me up and repeated this formula—has it printed—all languages:
“’You have now thrown from your system every particle of foul tissues, Mr.—, ah, yes—Mr. Joblin, I believe.’ And he looked at the paper. ’You thought you were reasonably fat, Mr. Joblin. You were not fat, you were merely bloated. Go now to Stuckbad for two weeks. There you will take the after-cure; keep strictly to the diet, a list of which I now hand you. At the expiration of that time you will be a strong man. Thank you—my secretary will send you a receipt.’
“Well, I went to Stuckbad—crawled really—put up at the hotel and sent for the resident doctor, Professor Ozzenbach, Member of the Board of Pharmacy of Berlin, Specialist on Nutrition, Fellow of the Royal Society of Bacteriologists, President of the Vienna Association of Physiological Research—that kind of man. He looked me all over and shook his head. He spoke broken English—badly.
“’Who has dreated you, may I ask, Meester Boblin?’
“‘Doctor Stuffen, at Fizzenbad.’
“’Ah, yes, a fery goot man, but a leedle de times behindt. Vat did you eat?’