AT ARMS WITH MORPHEUS
by O. Henry
I never could quite understand how Tom Hopkins
came to make that blunder, for he had been
through a whole term at a medical college--before
he inherited his aunt's fortune--and had been
considered strong in therapeutics.
We had been making a call together that evening,
and afterward Tom ran up to my rooms for a pipe
and a chat before going on to his own luxurious
apartments. I had stepped into the other room for
a moment when I heard Tom sing out:
"Oh, Billy, I'm going to take about four grains
of quinine, if you don't mind-- I'm feeling all
blue and shivery. Guess I'm taking cold."
"All right," I called back. "The bottle is on
the second shelf. Take it in a spoonful of that
elixir of eucalyptus. It knocks the bitter out."
After I came back we sat by the fire and got our
briars going. In about eight minutes Tom sank back
into a gentle collapse.
I went straight to the medicine cabinet and looked.
"You unmitigated hayseed!" I growled. "See what
money will do for a man's brains!"
There stood the morphine bottle with the stopple
out, just as Tom had left it.
I routed out another young M.D. who roomed on the
floor above, and sent him for old Dr. Gales, two
squares away. Tom Hopkins has too much money to
be attended by rising young practitioners alone.
When Gales came we put Tom through as expensive
a course of treatment as the resources of the
profession permit. After the more drastic remedies
we gave him citrate of caffeine in frequent doses
and strong coffee, and walked him up and down the
floor between two of us. Old Gales pinched him and
slapped his face and worked hard for the big check
he could see in the distance. The young M.D. from
the next floor gave Tom a most hearty, rousing kick,
and then apologized to me.
"Couldn't help it," he said. "I never kicked a
millionaire before in my life. I may never have
"Now," said Dr. Gales, after a couple of hours,
"he'll do. But keep him awake for another hour.
You can do that by talking to him and shaking him
up occasionally. When his pulse and respiration are
normal then let him sleep. I'll leave him with you
I was left alone with Tom, whom we had laid on a
couch. He lay very still, and his eyes were half
closed. I began my work of keeping him awake.
"Well, old man," I said, "you've had a narrow
squeak, but we've pulled you through. When you
were attending lectures, Tom, didn't any of the
professors ever casually remark that m-o-r-p-h-i-a
never spells 'quinia,' especially in four-grain
doses? But I won't pile it up on you until you
get on your feet. But you ought to have been a
druggist, Tom; you're splendidly qualified to
Tom looked at me with a faint and foolish smile.
"B'ly," he murmured, "I feel jus' like a hum'n
bird flyin' around a jolly lot of most 'shpensive
roses. Don' bozzer me. Goin' sleep now."
And he went to sleep in two seconds. I shook him
by the shoulder.
"Now, Tom," I said, severely, "this won't do. The
big doctor said you must stay awake for at least
an hour. Open your eyes. You're not entirely safe
yet, you know. Wake up."
Tom Hopkins weighs one hundred and ninety-eight.
He gave me another somnolent grin, and fell into
deeper slumber. I would have made him move about,
but I might as well have tried to make Cleopatra's
needle waltz around the room with me. Tom's breathing
became stertorous, and that, in connection with
morphia poisoning, means danger.
Then I began to think. I could not rouse his body;
I must strive to excite his mind. "Make him angry,"
was an idea that suggested itself. "Good!" I thought;
"but how?" There was not a joint in Tom's armor.
Dear old fellow! He was good nature itself, and a
gallant gentleman, fine and true and clean as sunlight.
He came from somewhere down South, where they still
have ideals and a code. New York had charmed, but
had not spoiled him. He had that old-fashioned
chivalrous reverence for women, that--Eureka!--there
was my idea! I worked the thing up for a minute or
two in my imagination. I chuckled to myself at the
thought of springing a thing like that on old Tom
Hopkins. Then I took him by the shoulder and shook
him till his ears flopped. He opened his eyes lazily.
I assumed an expression of scorn and contempt, and
pointed my finger within two inches of his nose.
"Listen to me, Hopkins," I said, in cutting and
distinct tones, "you and I have been good friends,
but I want you to understand that in the future my
doors are closed against any man who acts as much
like a scoundrel as you have."
Tom looked the least bit interested.
"What's the matter, Billy?" he muttered, composedly.
"Don't your clothes fit you?"
"If I were in your place," I went on, "which, thank
God, I am not, I think I would be afraid to close
my eyes. How about that girl you left waiting for
you down among those lonesome Southern pines--the
girl that you've forgotten since you came into your
confounded money? Oh, I know what I'm talking about.
While you were a poor medical student she was good
enough for you. But now, since you are a millionaire,
it's different. I wonder what she thinks of the
performances of that peculiar class of people which
she has been taught to worship--the Southern gentlemen?
I'm sorry, Hopkins, that I was forced to speak about
these matters, but you've covered it up so well and
played your part so nicely that I would have sworn
you were above such unmanly tricks."
Poor Tom. I could scarcely keep from laughing outright
to see him struggling against the effects of the
opiate. He was distinctly angry, and I didn't blame
him. Tom had a Southern temper. His eyes were open
now, and they showed a gleam or two of fire. But the
drug still clouded his mind and bound his tongue.
"C-c-confound you," he stammered, "I'll s-smash you."
He tried to rise from the couch. With all his size
he was very weak now. I thrust him back with one arm.
He lay there glaring like a lion in a trap.
"That will hold you for a while, you old loony," I
said to myself. I got up and lit my pipe, for I was
needing a smoke. I walked around a bit, congratulating
myself on my brilliant idea.
I heard a snore. I looked around. Tom was asleep again.
I walked over and punched him on the jaw. He looked
at me as pleasant and ungrudging as an idiot. I chewed
my pipe and gave it to him hard.
"I want you to recover yourself and get out of my
rooms as soon as you can," I said, insultingly. "I've
told you what I think of you. If you have any honor
or honesty left you will think twice before you
attempt again to associate with gentlemen. She's a
poor girl, isn't she?" I sneered. "Somewhat too
plain and unfashionable for us since we got our
money. Be ashamed to walk on Fifth Avenue with her,
wouldn't you? Hopkins, you're forty-seven times
worse than a cad. Who cares for your money? I don't.
I'll bet that girl don't. Perhaps if you didn't
have it you'd be more of a man. As it is you've
made a cur of yourself, and"--I thought that quite
dramatic--"perhaps broken a faithful heart." (Old
Tom Hopkins breaking a faithful heart!) "Let me be
rid of you as soon as possible."
I turned my back on Tom, and winked at myself in
a mirror. I heard him moving, and I turned again
quickly. I didn't want a hundred and ninety-eight
pounds falling on me from the rear. But Tom had
only turned partly over, and laid one arm across
his face. He spoke a few words rather more distinctly
"I couldn't have--talked this way--to you, Billy,
even if I'd heard people--lyin' 'bout you. But jus'
soon's I can s-stand up--I'll break your neck--don'
I did feel a little ashamed then. But it was to
save Tom. In the morning, when I explained it, we
would have a good laugh over it together.
In about twenty minutes Tom dropped into a sound,
easy slumber. I felt his pulse, listened to his
respiration, and let him sleep. Everything was
normal, and Tom was safe. I went into the other
room and tumbled into bed.
I found Tom up and dressed when I awoke the next
morning. He was entirely himself again with the
exception of shaky nerves and a tongue like a
"What an idiot I was," he said, thoughtfully. "I
remember thinking that quinine bottle looked queer
while I was taking the dose. Have much trouble in
bringing me 'round?"
I told him no. His memory seemed bad about the entire
affair. I concluded that he had no recollection of
my efforts to keep him awake, and decided not to
enlighten him. Some other time, I thought, when he
was feeling better, we would have some fun over it.
When Tom was ready to go he stopped, with the door
open, and shook my hand.
"Much obliged, old fellow," he said, quietly, "for
taking so much trouble with me--and for what you
said. I'm going down now to telegraph to the little
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~