Chapter XX. Every Dog has His Day
 

That was on a Saturday morning. During the golf season Saturday is always a busy day with us, with the husbands coming up for over Sunday, and trying to get in all the golf, baths and spring water they can in forty-eight hours. But in the winter Saturday is the same as any, other day.

It had stopped snowing and the sun was shining, although it was so cold that the snow blew like powder. By eleven o'clock every one who could walk had come to the spring-house. Even Mr. Jennings came down in a wheeled chair, and Senator Biggs, still looking a sort of grass-green and keeping his eyes off me, came and sat in a corner, with a book called Fast versus Feast held so that every one could see.

There were bridge tables going, and five hundred, and a group around the slot-machine, while the crocheters formed a crowd by themselves, exchanging gossip and new stitches.

About twelve o'clock Mr. Thoburn came in, and as he opened the door, in leaped Arabella. The women made a fuss over the creature and cuddled her, and when I tried to put her out everybody objected. So she stayed, and Miss Summers put her through a lot of tricks, while the men crowded around. As I said before, Miss Summers was a first favorite with the men.

Mr. von Inwald and Miss Patty came in just then and stood watching.

"And now," said Mr. von Inwald, "I propose, as a reward to Miss Arabella, a glass of this wonderful water. Minnie, a glass of water for Arabella!"

"She doesn't drink out of one of my glasses," I declared angrily.

"It's one of my rules that dogs--"

"Tut!" said Mr. Thoburn. "What's good for man is good for beast.

Besides, the little beggar's thirsty."

Well, they made a great fuss about the creature's being thirsty, and so finally I got a panful of spring water and it drank until I thought it would burst. I'm not vicious, as I say, but I wish it had.

Well, the dog finished and lay down by the fire, and everything seemed to go on as before. Mr. Thoburn was in a good humor, and he came over to the spring and brought a trayful of glasses.

"To save you steps, Minnie!" he explained. "You have no idea how it pains me to see you working. Gentlemen, name your poison!"

"A frappe with blotting-paper on the side," Mr. Moody snarled from the slot-machine. "If I drink much more, I'll have to be hooped up like a barrel."

"Just what is the record here?" the bishop asked. "I'm ordered eight glasses, but I find it more than a sufficiency."

"We had one man here once who could drink twenty-five at a time," I said, "but he was a German."

"He was a tank," Mr. Sam corrected grumpily. He was watching something on the floor--I couldn't see what. "All I need is to swallow a few goldfish and I'd be a first-class aquarium."

"What I think we should do," Miss Cobb said, "is to try to find out just what suits us, and stick to that. I'm always trying."

"Damned trying!" Mr. Jennings snarled, and limped over for more water. "I'd like to know where to go for rheumatism."

"I got mine here," said Mr. Thoburn cheerfully. "It's my opinion this place is rheumatic as well as malarious. And as for this water, with all due respect to the spirit in the spring"--he bowed to me--"I think it's an insult to ask people to drink it. It isn't half so strong as it was two years ago. Taste it; smell it! I ask the old friends of the sanatorium, is that water what it used to be?"

"Don't tell me it was ever any worse than this!" Miss Summers exclaimed. But Thoburn went on. The card-players stopped to listen, but Mr. Sam was still staring at something on the floor.

"I tell you, the spring is losing its virtue, and, like a woman, without virtue, it is worthless."

"But interesting!" Mr. Sam said, and stooped down.

"Consider," went on Mr. Thoburn, standing and holding his glass to the light, "how we are at the mercy of this little spring! A convulsion in the bowels of the earth, and its health-giving properties may be changed to the direst poison. How do we know, you and I, some such change has not occurred overnight? Unlikely as it is, it's a possibility that, sitting here calmly, we may be sipping our death potion."

Some of the people actually put down their glasses and everybody began to look uneasy except Mr. Sam, who was still watching something I could not see.

Mr. Thoburn looked around and saw he'd made an impression. "We may," he continued, "although my personal opinion of this water is that it's growing too weak to be wicked. I prove my faith in Mother Nature; if it is poisoned, I am gone. I drink!"

Mr. Sam suddenly straightened up and glanced at Miss Summers. "Perhaps I'm mistaken," he said, "but I think there is something the matter with Arabella."

Everybody looked: Arabella was lying on her back, jerking and twitching and foaming at the mouth.

"She's been poisoned!" Miss Summers screeched, and fell on her knees beside her. "It's that wretched water!"

There was pretty nearly a riot in a minute. Everybody jumped up and stared at the dog, and everybody remembered the water he or she had just had, and coming on top of Mr. Thoburn's speech, it made them babbling lunatics. As I look back, I have a sort of picture of Miss Summers on the floor with Arabella in her lap, and the rest telling how much of the water they had had and crowding around Mr. Thoburn.

"It seems hardly likely it was the water," he said, "although from what I recall of my chemistry it is distinctly possible. Springs have been known to change their character, and the coincidence--the dog and the water--is certainly startling. Still, as nobody feels ill--"

But they weren't sure they didn't. The bishop said he felt perfectly well, but he had a strange inclination to yawn all the time, and Mrs. Biggs' left arm had gone to sleep. And then, with the excitement and all, Miss Cobb took a violent pain in the back of her neck and didn't know whether to cry or to laugh.

Well, I did what I could. The worst of it was, I wasn't sure it wasn't the water. I thought possibly Mr. Pierce had made a mistake in what he had bought at the drug store, and although I don't as a rule drink it myself, I began to feel queer in the pit of my stomach.

Mr. Thoburn came over to the spring, and filling a glass, took it to the light, with every one watching anxiously. When he brought it back he stooped over the railing and whispered to me.

"When did you fix it?" he asked sternly.

"Last night," I answered. It was no time to beat about the bush.

"It's yellower than usual," he said. "I'm inclined to think something has gone wrong at the drug store, Minnie."

I could hardly breathe. I had the most terrible vision of all the guests lying around like Arabella, twitching and foaming, and me going to prison as a wholesale murderess. Any hair but mine would have turned gray in that minute.

Mr. von Inwald was watching like the others, and now he came over and caught Mr. Thoburn by the arm.

"What do you think--" he asked nervously. "I--I have had three glasses of it!"

"Three!" shouted Senator Biggs, coming forward. "I've had eleven! I tell you, I've been feeling queer for twenty-four hours! I'm poisoned! That's what I am."

He staggered out, with Mrs. Biggs just behind him, and from that moment they were all demoralized. I stood by the spring and sipped at the water to show I wasn't afraid of it, with my knees shaking under me and Arabella lying stock-still, as if she had died, under my very nose. One by one they left to look for Doctor Barnes, or to get the white of egg, which somebody had suggested as an antidote.

Miss Cobb was one of the last to go. She turned in the doorway and looked back at me, with tears in her eyes.

"It isn't your fault, Minnie," she said, "and forgive me if I have ever said anything unkind to you." Then she went, and I was alone, looking down at Arabella.

Or rather, I thought I was alone, for there was a movement by one of the windows and Miss Patty came forward and knelt by the dog.

"Of all the absurdities!" she said. "Poor little thing! Minnie, I believe she's breathing!"

She put the dog's head in her lap, and the little beast opened its eyes and tried to wag its blue tail.

"Oh, Miss Patty, Miss Patty!" I exclaimed, and I got down beside her and cried on her shoulder, with her stroking my hand and calling me dearest! Me!

I was wiping my eyes when the door was thrown open and Mr. Pierce ran in. He had no hat on and his hair was powdered with snow. He stopped just inside the door and looked at Miss Patty.

"You--" he said "you are all right? You are not--" he came forward and stood over her, with his heart in his eyes. She must have known from that minute.

"My God!" he exclaimed, "I thought you were poisoned!"

She looked up, without smiling, and then I thought she half shut her eyes, as if what she saw in his face hurt her.

"I am all right," she assured him, "and little Arabella will be all right, too. She's had a convulsion, that's all--probably from overeating. As for the others--!"

"Where is the--where is von Inwald?"

"He has gone to take the white of an egg," she replied rather haughtily. She was too honest to evade anything, but she flushed. Of course, I knew what he didn't--that the prince had been among the first to scurry to the house, and that he hadn't even waited for her.

He walked to the window, as if he didn't want her to see what he thought of that, and I saw him looking hard at something outside in the snow. When he walked back to the fire he was smiling, and he stooped over and poked Arabella with his finger.

"So that was it!" he said. "Full to the scuppers, poor little wretch! Minnie, I am hoist with my own petard, which in this case was a boomerang."

"Which is in English--" I asked.

"With the instinct of her sex, Arabella has unearthed what was meant to be buried forever. She had gorged herself into a convulsion on that rabbit I shot last night!"