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ďI donít like either,Ē said Martin. ďFolks who eat onions belong to a low order of humanity. Criminals and idiots and such folks are always fond of them, Iíve read.Ē
ďWhere do you get that stuff?Ē asked Stacey Ross. ďLook at Garibaldi.Ē
ďWhere?Ē asked Martin flippantly.
ďWasnít he a patriot and a man of brains and Ė and blameless life?Ē pursued Stacey.
ďI guess so,Ē assented Martin doubtfully.
ďAll right! Garibaldi invented onions, didnít he?Ē
Martin viewed him suspiciously. ďWell, maybe he did, but Iíll bet he didnít eat them! Carbol invented carbolic acid, but he didnít drink it, did he?Ē
ďGaribaldi,Ē remarked Bob gravely, ďmade onions his principal diet: ate them three times a day and fed his army on them!Ē
ďOh, well, he was an Italian,Ē said Martin. ďIím talking about folks in this country.Ē
ďGeorge Washington invariably began the day with a raw sliced onion,Ē said Bob. ďHistory tells you that.Ē
ďSure,Ē asserted Stacey. ďWasnít it Washington who said ĎIn onion there is strengthí?Ē
ďYou fellows make me weary,Ē retorted Martin. ďIíll bet you eat them yourselves! As I remarked hitherto, the onion is the favorite fruit of the mentally deficient! And you fellows talk like you never ate anything else!Ē
Stacey continued to expatiate on the merits of the onion, but Bob relapsed into silence. He had been visited by an idea and he was busy developing it all the rest of the way back to school. When he said good night to Martin later in front of Lykes there was an expression on his face that might have caused the other some uneasiness had he noticed it.
ďItís awfully funny,Ē remarked Martin after dinner the next day, ďbut I can still taste those onions, Brand.Ē
ďWhat onions?Ē asked Willard.
ďIn that lunch-cart last night. Taste the smell of them, I mean. Itís just as though Iíd eaten them myself. Gosh, I didnít enjoy my dinner a bit, either. Everything seemed to smell of the beastly things!Ē
ďWe didnít have onions at our table,Ē said Willard.
ďNeither did we, but Iíll swear I could almost smell them! Itís queer, but I simply canít stand the smell of onions. It almost makes me sick. I can go a little of it, of course, and I manage to eat soups and things like that that are flavored with onions, but I donít like them.Ē
ďMaybe there was onion in the gravy or something,Ē Willard suggested. But Martin shook his head.
ďIt isnít that. I guess I got my lungs full of the smell last night. Funny thing is, though, that it seems almost as if I could taste them!Ē
ďYouíll get over it,Ē Willard consoled. ďLetís go for a walk. Maybe the air will do you good.Ē
Later Martin confessed that the imaginary onions bothered him less, but after supper the trouble recurred, and he was fairly miserable and wore a pained look all the evening. ďI guess itís dyspepsia,Ē he confided to them in Bobís room. ďNo matter what I eat, seems as if it was flavored with onion.
I ought never to go near the beastly things.Ē
ďYou must have a very delicate stomach,Ē observed Bob sympathetically. ďI knew a fellow once who was like you. He couldnít stand the sight of garlic. Heíd go a mile out of his way so as not to have to pass by a garlic Ė er Ė grove. Used to get sick at the mere mention of the word!Ē
ďIs that so?Ē asked Martin with almost a sneer. ďWhat was his name?Ē
ďHis name? Why Ė er Ė Smith, Jack Smith. Did you know him?Ē
ďNo, but I knew an awful liar once,Ē answered Martin stiffly. ďHis name wasnít Jack, though, it was Robert.Ē
Afterwards, back in the room and preparing for bed, Martin spoke earnestly of seeing a doctor on the morrow if he didnít stop smelling onions and even tasting them, and Willard said he thought it would be a very sensible thing to do, and was careful to hide his smile behind the jacket of his pajamas. In the morning, though, Martin was quite himself again and told Willard he guessed heíd imagined those onions.
But two hours later, returning to Number 16 for a book, Willard discovered a very pale and unhappy Martin stretched out on the window-seat with his head on the ledge and a chilling October wind ruffling his locks. ďOnions,Ē groaned Martin in response to Willardís concerned inquiry. ďI Ė Iíve got them again, something fierce!Ē He closed his eyes and shuddered. ďDo you smell them, Brand?Ē he asked weakly.
Willard sniffed the air and truthfully replied that he didnít. Martin sighed dolorously. ďI canít make it out,Ē he said. ďI was all right this morning until breakfast. Then, just as soon as I got to the table it came back. Everything seemed to smell of onions, and taste of íem, too. Why, even the coffee did!Ē
ďI suppose you imagined it,Ē murmured Willard.
ďI suppose so. No one else noticed it. I guess Iíll have to cut French. Tell Metcalfe Iím sick, will you, Brand?Ē
ďYes, but why donít you take something?Ē
ďWhatíll I take?Ē groaned Martin.
ďSoda-mint tablets are good, I think. Hot water, too. Want me to get you some hot water?Ē
Martin nodded weakly but gratefully, and Willard went off to the lavatory and presently returned with a tooth-mug filled with scalding-hot water. As it was then time for a nine oíclock recitation, he had to leave Martin sipping and shuddering. When he next saw him, shortly before dinner, he was much better physically but in poor mental condition. His disposition was utterly vile. He put his tongue out and wagged it accusingly at Willard.
ďI burned my tongue,Ē he said. ďThat water was too blamed hot!Ē
ďToo bad,Ē replied Willard soothingly. ďIt made you feel better, though, didnít it?Ē
ďWhat if it did? Whatís the good of feeling better if your tongue is all scalded?Ē Martin demanded huffily. ďWhy didnít you tell me?Ē
ďTell you what?Ē asked Willard indignantly. ďNot to burn your tongue, you simp?Ē
ďTell me it was so hot! Howíd I know?Ē
ďI thought maybe you could tell by the feel of it,Ē answered Willard dryly. ďMost folks can!Ē
ďFunny, arenít you?Ē Martin turned disgruntedly to the window, and after a moment Willard asked:
ďDid you get to any classes?Ē
ďMath,Ē grunted the other. ďI was too sick for the rest of them. What time is it?Ē
ďNearly half-past. Coming along?Ē
ďI donít believe I want any dinner. Whatís the use? Itíll just taste of Ė of those things!Ē
ďOnions?Ē asked Willard innocently.
ďShut up! Donít speak of íem!Ē yelled Martin. ďNow youíve made me all squirmy again!Ē He sank to the window-seat, placed anxious hands on his waistcoat and glared at Willard accusingly. ďI was feeling all right, too!Ē
ďWell, how did I know you didnít want me to say Ė Ē
ďCut it out, I tell you!Ē
ďI wasnít going to say on Ė Ē
ďYouíre saying it!Ē shrieked Martin. ďI hope you get it, too! When you do, Iíll say Ďonionsí to you! You see if I donít!Ē
ďYou just said it yourself,Ē said Willard, grinning.
ďThatís different.Ē Martin glared ferociously. ďYouíre just trying to make me sick again!Ē
ďOh, be good,Ē answered the other humoringly. ďTell you what Iíll do, Mart. Iíll go over to the drug store and get you some soda-mints right after dinner.Ē
Martin looked slightly mollified for an instant. Then he asked suspiciously: ďDo they taste awful?Ē
ďN Ė no, not very. Come along to dinner. Youíd better try to eat something, even if you donít feel hungry.Ē
ďWell, all right, but I know I canít eat.Ē
MARTIN CALLS QUITS
From his own table, by craning his neck, Willard could see Martinís, and it was apparent that the latter was not making much of a meal. Bob, who sat at his left, was plainly sympathetic and solicitous: Willard could see Bob passing the spinach and urging his neighbor to eat, and could see Martinís dismal refusal. Perhaps it was because Martin partook only of a little soup and a dish of rice pudding that the malady returned to him less severely after the noon meal. Willard kept his promise and procured a small bottle of soda-mint tablets, and all the rest of the day Martinís expression was one of supreme disgust as he continuously dissolved the tablets in his mouth. The remedy at least allowed him to take an active part in practice, which was fortunate since he was given a try-out at left tackle. He was a bit slow at first, but, with Mr. Cade constantly urging, he showed quite a lot of speed toward the end of the practice. He confessed to Willard later that he might have done better if the onion smell hadnít bothered him. ďIt came on in the locker room,Ē he said. ďI didnít notice it until I was changing. Then I got it strong and it stayed with me all the time. I Ė I get it yet, but itís not so bad.Ē
ďIt must be your imagination,Ē said Willard. ďEver troubled like this before? I say, Mart, there isnít Ė isnít any Ė Ē
ďWell, any Ė er Ė insanity in your family, is there?Ē
ďDonít be a silly fool!Ē begged Martin.
ďI just thought that maybe Ė Ē
ďListen here, Brand! Thereís no imagination about it. Iíve been poisoned.Ē
ďPoisoned!Ē gasped Willard. Martin nodded gravely.
ďYes, Iíve got it all doped out. Iíve been onion poisoned.Ē
ďBut onions arenít Ė arenít poisonous,Ē expostulated Willard.
ďMaybe not to some folks, but they are to me,Ē Martin spoke with conviction. ďWhat happened is just this. That night we went to the lunch-cart the place was full of onion odor. Remember? Well, I breathed a lot of it into my system and it poisoned me. Itís in my blood probably. If Iím not all right tomorrow Iím going to see a doctor.Ē
Willard considered the theory for a moment and then gravely acknowledged that there might be something in it.
ďYou bet there is,Ē Martin assured him. ďWhy, it stands to reason. Look what chloroform does. It gets into your blood when you inhale it, doesnít it? Well, itís the same way with onions. Some folks arenít affected by it, but Iím different. I guess a doctor would be mighty interested in my case.Ē Martin paused to consider the idea and then went on proudly. ďYes, sir, Iíll bet he would! Iíll bet heíd write about me to the Ė the medical association!Ē
ďI dare say,Ē assented Willard. ďMaybe it would get in the New York papers, too. ĎPoisoned by Onions! Strange Case of Young Preparatory School Student Puzzles the Medical Fraternity!í Maybe theyíd print your picture, Mart.Ē
ďYou can make a silly joke of it if you like,Ē said Martin, ďbut Iíll bet Iím right!Ē
Joe and Bob came up to the room that night and Martin explained his theory again for their benefit. He was undergoing another visitation of the onion malady, but interest in his case and in his solution of it gave him strength to bear up better than usual. Joe and Bob Ė Bob especially Ė were tremendously impressed with the theory and Bob recalled having read of a similar case. ďOnly,Ē he said, ďin that case the man had been poisoned by eating watercress.Ē
ďEating what?Ē asked Martin incredulously.
ďWatercress,Ē repeated Bob. ďIt doesnít affect most people, but some fellows canít eat it at all. Youíve heard that, havenít you, Joe?Ē
ďYes,Ē Joe assented soberly. ďI had a cousin like that. Watercress and strawberries were like poison to him.Ē
Martin looked from Joe to Bob suspiciously, but they were so evidently in earnest that he asked: ďWhat happened to this fellow?Ē
ďWhy, he ate watercress and was poisoned. It got into his blood, you know, and the only way they could save his life was by transfusion.Ē
ďWhatís that? You mean pumping someone elseís blood into him?Ē
ďSure! Thatís the only thing possible in extreme cases.Ē
Martin hurriedly produced his bottle and popped a soda-mint into his mouth. ďWell, I guess onions wouldnít do that to a fellow,Ē he said with a confidence that didnít quite ring true. ďWould you think so, Joe?Ē
ďSearch me,Ē replied Joe comfortingly. ďI never heard of onion poisoning before.Ē
ďNor I,Ē said Bob troubledly. ďI guess itís a pretty rare disease, and maybe the doctors donít understand it yet. Guess itís sort of like sleeping sickness,Ē he added blandly.
Martin shot a hostile and wary look at him, but Bob only smiled sympathetically and reached out his hand. ďLetís see one of those tablets, Mart,Ē he requested. ďIíve got a sort of a heavy feeling myself tonight.Ē
ďYou donít notice the taste of onions, do you?Ē asked Martin hopefully as he tossed the bottle across the table.
ďN Ė no, not exactly. More a sort of gone sensation. I guess it was the baked potato I ate.Ē He took some time to get a tablet out, under cover of the table; so long that Martin said impatiently: ďShake the bottle. Theyíre probably stuck.Ē
ďIíve got it, thanks.Ē Bob popped a tablet into his mouth, made a wry face, screwed the cover on the bottle again and tossed it back. ďNasty tasting things, arenít they?Ē he asked.
ďYou get used to them after awhile,Ē replied Martin consolingly. ďI guess Iíve eaten twenty of them today. When you have blood trans Ė whatever it is, Bob, how do you do it? I mean, where do you get the blood?Ē
ďAdvertise, I think. It isnít easy, of course, because the other fellow, the one who gives the new blood, has to be pretty healthy. Lots of times you canít find anyone and itís no use.Ē
ďWhat happens then?Ē inquired Martin uneasily.
Bob shrugged. ďThe patient dies, of course. You hear of it very often.Ē
Martin gulped and almost swallowed his tablet. ďGee! I guess Iíd find someone if I had to,Ē he said. ďMaybe, though, itís more imagination than anything with me. You know you can imagine all sorts of things, and I guess onions wouldnít be very hard, eh?Ē
ďN Ė no,Ē said Joe, ďbut I have a hunch that your theory is about right, Mart. It certainly sounds mighty reasonable to me.Ē
ďI donít see how you make that out,Ē replied Martin shortly. ďIf it was really a case of Ė of being poisoned I guess Iíd be a lot worse now than I am. Itís been going on two days, and anyone knows that poison acts pretty quick.Ē
ďSome poisons,Ē answered Bob significantly. ďBut there are others that act Ė er Ė very slowly. Thereís hemp, for instance.Ē
ďThatís a rope,Ē said Martin derisively.
ďItís a very deadly poison,Ē said Bob sternly, ďand itís very Ė very Ė whatís the word, Joe?Ē
ďLingering?Ē asked Joe.
ďInsidious,Ē suggested Willard.
ďInsidious, thatís it! Sometimes the patient suffers for weeks.Ē
ďWell, I havenít eaten any hemp,Ē said Martin crossly. ďI havenít eaten anything, confound it! Iím mighty near starved! Maybe thatís what the trouble is. If it wasnít so late Iíd go out and get a sandwich or a piece of pie or something.Ē
ďWhat you need is hearty food,Ē said Bob. ďA nice steak and onions, for instance.Ē
ďShut up! I hope you choke!Ē Martin fairly gibbered. ďI wish you had it! I wish you all had it, you gang of grinning apes! You make me sick!Ē In proof of the latter assertion he shuddered violently, hurriedly produced his bottle of soda-mint tablets and, keeping his lips very tightly closed, agitatedly unscrewed the top. The others watched with almost painful intensity. Martin inverted the bottle, seized a tablet and popped it into his mouth. Instantly a strange, haunted look came over his face. He swallowed once, his eyes round and alarmed, and then the tablet came out of his mouth even quicker than it had gone in and he laid hands on his stomach and closed his eyes.
ďWhat is it?Ē asked Bob anxiously. ďFeeling sick, Mart?Ē
ďSick! I Ė Iím dying! They Ė theyíre full of it!Ē
ďWhat are? Full of what?Ē asked Joe.
ďThe tablets.Ē Martin opened his eyes slowly, and gazed in horror at the questioner. ďTheyíre full of Ė of onion! Oh, gee!Ē
ďNonsense,Ē said Bob cheerfully. ďHow could they be? Letís see them.Ē Martin weakly brought them forth from his pocket and held them out with averted head. Bob removed the lid and held the bottle to his nose. ďI donít smell anything,Ē he said. ďDo you, Brand?Ē
ďNot a thing,Ē replied Willard gravely. ďYou try, Joe.Ē
ďWell, thereís a faint Ė ah Ė medicinal odor apparent,Ē said Joe judicially, ďbut as for onions Ė Ē
ďLet me smell,Ē demanded Martin. He took the bottle and put it to his nostrils. Then it went flying across the room and its contents rolled merrily about the floor. ďIt is!Ē he yelled. ďThey are! Canít you fellows smell it?Ē
ďLook here, Martin,Ē responded Joe sternly. ďYouíd better pull yourself together, old man. It wonít do to let this Ė this hallucination go too far. Better get into bed and try to forget about onions. Maybe a good nightís rest is what you need. In the morning Iíd have a talk with the doctor. Of course your trouble may not be serious, Mart. I dare say if you take it in time you can be cured. But Iíd feel a whole lot easier if you saw a doctor, old man.Ē
Martinís expression of glowering distaste changed slightly. He stared in growing fascination at Bob.
ďIt might be,Ē continued the latter kindly, ďthat youíve been bitten by the Diptera onionensis, otherwise known as the onion-fly. Of course, it isnít probable, but you never can tell, Mart. Thereís the tse-tse fly, now. You wouldnít expect to find that around here, but Iíve been told that it is quite common. Then why not the onion-fly?Ē
Martinís gaze was fixed on Bob and Martinís mouth was slowly dropping open. He was like one who is seeing a Great Light and who is still too dazed by its refulgence for speech. Bob smiled gently and continued, keeping, however, perhaps unintentionally, the table between him and Martin.
ďYouíve been so awfully sympathetic about my sleeping sickness, Mart, that I just canít bear to see you troubled like this. It would certainly be a load off my mind if youíd just talk things over with the doctor Ė Ē
ďYou did it!Ē hissed Martin. ďYou Ė you played a trick on me!Ē
ďWhy, Mart,Ē protested Bob in hurt tones. ďHow can you sit there and say them cruel words?Ē
Martin glared wildly about him. Joe was so entirely overcome by some emotion that he had his head in his hands and Willard was gasping, perhaps with pain, his countenance hidden behind a propped-up book. Martin swallowed hard once, drew his feet beneath him and then was out of his chair with a roar.
ďIíll onion you!Ē he shouted. ďIíll Ė Iíll Ė Ē
Around the table they plunged, hurdling Joeís legs, since that youth was too helpless to draw them back, twirling Willard around in his chair like a chip in a maelstrom as they passed, Bob a half circuit to the good at the end of each lap. Noise and confusion reigned supreme, but through it came Bobís voice, made faint by laughter:
ďFor the love of Mike, Mart, use discretion!Ē
Martinís invariable reply was a savage howl of wrath.
On the tenth circuit Ė or perhaps it was the eleventh!†Ė disaster overtook the pursued. Bob slipped coming into the backstretch and went down, and Martin hurled himself on him. Over and over they went, grunting, gasping, gurgling. Willard rescued the lamp just before the table went over on top of the battlers, showering them with books and papers. Had Bob been in his best form that contest would have been brief, for he was bigger and stronger than his antagonist, but laughter drugged him and before he could cry for mercy Martin had thumped his head many times on the rug and jounced merrily up and down on his ribs. When, at last, Martin drew off and Bob climbed weakly to his feet the room was a wreck and over the scene hung, like a horrible miasma, the sickening concentrated odor of onions!
Martin sniffed and would have flung himself on Bob again if the latter had not pointed beseechingly to the floor. Martin looked and picked up the stoppered remains of a broken bottle. To it clung a paper label. ďOnion Extract,Ē he read.
When peace, if not complete order, had been restored Bob confessed. ďI gave you fair warning, Mart,Ē he said. ďI told you Iíd get even. Trouble with you is you think you invented joking and that no one else can get away with it. I got the idea that night when you turned up your nose at the onions in the lunch-cart. I paid the cook a quarter for that bottle of onion extract and the rest was easy. All I had to do was get to table long enough ahead of you to drop a little of the stuff around: on your napkin, in your porridge, in your salt-cellar and so on. I was clever enough not to be too generous with it, you know. Once, when you were looking the other way, I got some on your meat, and another time in your coffee. Yesterday I sprinkled a good big lot on your football togs. Maybe you noticed it?Ē
Martin said: ďHm!Ē grimly.
ďI tried to get Brand to put some on your toothbrush and your pillow, but he was too tender-hearted,Ē added Bob. Martin turned a sorrowfully accusing look on Willard. ďAnd thatís that,Ē Bob ended, smilingly.
ďHuh,Ē said Martin this time, scornfully. ďI knew all along it was just some silly joke!Ē
ďOh, no, you didnít, pettie! Anyhow, weíll call it quits now if you like. Iím satisfied if you are. Only, Mart, no more Ďtse-tse fliesí and Ďsleeping sicknessí stuff. My health is very good, thank you, and if you want a place on the team, son, you get out and earn it!Ē
ďOh, thatís all right, Bob,Ē answered Martin, grinning. ďJohnny told me today I was to play left tackle after this. So I donít care whether you have sleeping sickness or not!Ē Then, after a perceptible pause, he added: ďMuch!Ē
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