Matt smiled and continued to watch him. In the paroxysm that followed, Jim did not become unconscious. His muscles tensed and twitched and knotted, hurting him and crushing him in their savage grip. And in the midst of it all, it came to him that Matt was acting queerly. He was traveling the same road. The smile had gone from his face, and there was on it an intense expression, as if he were listening to some inner tale of himself and trying to divine the message. Matt got up and walked across the room and back again, then sat down.
“You did this, Jim,” he said quietly.
“But I didn’t think you’d try to fix _me_,” Jim answered reproachfully.
“Oh, I fixed you all right,” Matt said, with teeth close together and shivering body. “What did you give me?”
“Same as I gave you,” Matt volunteered. “It’s some mess, ain’t it!”
“You’re lyin’, Matt,” Jim pleaded. “You ain’t doped me, have you?”
“I sure did, Jim; an’ I didn’t overdose you, neither. I cooked it in as neat as you please in your half the porterhouse.–Hold on! Where’re you goin’?”
Jim had made a dash for the door, and was throwing back the bolts. Matt sprang in between and shoved him away.
“Drug store,” Jim panted. “Drug store.”
“No you don’t. You’ll stay right here. There ain’t goin’ to be any runnin’ out an’ makin’ a poison play on the street–not with all them jools reposin’ under the pillow. Savve? Even if you didn’t die, you’d be in the hands of the police with a lot of explanations comin’. Emetics is the stuff for poison. I’m just as bad bit as you, an’ I’m goin’ to take a emetic. That’s all they’d give you at a drug store, anyway.”
He thrust Jim back into the middle of the room and shot the bolts into place. As he went across the floor to the food shelf, he passed one hand over his brow and flung off the beaded sweat. It spattered audibly on the floor. Jim watched agonizedly as Matt got the mustard can and a cup and ran for the sink. He stirred a cupful of mustard and water and drank it down. Jim had followed him and was reaching with trembling hands for the empty cup. Again Matt shoved him away. As he mixed a second cupful, he demanded:
“D’you think one cup’ll do for me? You can wait till I’m done.”
Jim started to totter toward the door, but Matt checked him.
“If you monkey with that door, I’ll twist your neck. Savve? You can take yours when I’m done. An’ if it saves you, I’ll twist your neck, anyway. You ain’t got no chance, nohow. I told you many times what you’d get if you did me dirt.”
“But you did me dirt, too,” Jim articulated with an effort.
Matt was drinking the second cupful, and did not answer. The sweat had got into Jim’s eyes, and he could scarcely see his way to the table, where he got a cup for himself. But Matt was mixing a third cupful, and, as before, thrust him away.
“I told you to wait till I was done,” Matt growled. “Get outa my way.”
And Jim supported his twitching body by holding on to the sink, the while he yearned toward the yellowish concoction that stood for life. It was by sheer will that he stood and clung to the sink. His flesh strove to double him up and bring him to the floor. Matt drank the third cupful, and with difficulty managed to get to a chair and sit down. His first paroxysm was passing. The spasms that afflicted him were dying away. This good effect he ascribed to the mustard and water. He was safe, at any rate. He wiped the sweat from his face, and, in the interval of calm, found room for curiosity. He looked at his partner.
A spasm had shaken the mustard can out of Jim’s hands, and the contents were spilled upon the floor. He stooped to scoop some of the mustard into the cup, and the succeeding spasm doubled him up on the floor. Matt smiled.
“Stay with it,” he encouraged. “It’s the stuff all right. It’s fixed me up.”
Jim heard him and turned toward him with a stricken face, twisted with suffering and pleading. Spasm now followed spasm till he was in convulsions, rolling on the floor and yellowing his face and hair in the mustard.
Matt laughed hoarsely at the sight, but the laugh broke midway. A tremor had run through his body. A new paroxysm was beginning. He arose and staggered across to the sink, where, with probing forefinger, he vainly strove to assist the action of the emetic. In the end, he clung to the sink as Jim had clung, filled with the horror of going down to the floor.
The other’s paroxysm had passed, and he sat up, weak and fainting, too weak to rise, his forehead dripping, his lips flecked with a foam made yellow by the mustard in which he had rolled. He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, and groans that were like whines came from his throat.
“What are you snifflin’ about!” Matt demanded out of his agony. “All you got to do is die. An’ when you die you’re dead.”
“I … ain’t … snifflin’ … it’s … the … mustard … stingin’ … my … eyes,” Jim panted with desperate slowness.
It was his last successful attempt at speech. Thereafter he babbled incoherently, pawing the air with shaking arms till a fresh convulsion stretched him on the floor.
Matt struggled back to the chair, and, doubled up on it, with his arms clasped about his knees, he fought with his disintegrating flesh. He came out of the convulsion cool and weak. He looked to see how it went with the other, and saw him lying motionless.
He tried to soliloquize, to be facetious, to have his last grim laugh at life, but his lips made only incoherent sounds. The thought came to him that the emetic had failed, and that nothing remained but the drug store. He looked toward the door and drew himself to his feet. There he saved himself from falling by clutching the chair. Another paroxysm had begun. And in the midst of the paroxysm, with his body and all the parts of it flying apart and writhing and twisting back again into knots, he clung to the chair and shoved it before him across the floor. The last shreds of his will were leaving him when he gained the door. He turned the key and shot back one bolt. He fumbled for the second bolt, but failed. Then he leaned his weight against the door and slid down gently to the floor.