John Dough and the Cherub eBook: Page2

L. Frank Baum (2014)

  The Two Flasks

  Presently she remembered that the front door was yet unlocked. So shetrotted out into the shop, bolted the door securely, drew down thecurtains, and put out the dim light that had burned over the counter.Then Madame returned to the little room and looked at the two flasksagain.

  Aside from her rheumatism the good lady had one other physicalweakness; she was color-blind. That is, she could seldom distinguishone color from another, and was quite liable to think blue was greenand green was yellow. Many people have this trouble with their eyes;but it never had bothered Madame especially in waiting upon hercustomers.

  Now, however, when she came back into her room and gazed at the twoflasks upon her table, she had no idea which one was of gold and whichof silver, for the weakness of her eyes prevented her from telling themapart by means of their color.

  "Let me see," she murmured; "this must be the flask which the Arabfirst drew from his pocket. No--I think _this_ was the one." But themore she hesitated the more confused she became, and in the end shetold herself honestly that she had not the faintest clue to guide herin knowing which flask contained the Essence of Vitality and which thecure for rheumatism.

  And the pains were now so bad that she was anxious to cure them withouta moment's delay.

  The engraving on the two flasks was nearly the same; and if some ofthose queer foreign characters really differed, Madame did not know it.Also in size and shape the flasks were exactly alike. Truly Madame wasin a fine quandary, and there seemed no way of getting out of it withsafety.

  She had almost decided to hide both flasks until the Arab returned,when several sharp twinges of pain caught her and made her long mostearnestly for relief. If she went to bed now she would be sure tosuffer all night, and in one of the flasks was a sure cure.

  "I'll guess at it, and take the chances!" declared Madame, firmly. Andthen, choosing at haphazard, she hid the silver flask behind the mirrorand put the gold one in her pocket. Afterward she picked up the lampand walked as silently as possible through the short passage that ledto Monsieur Jules' bake-room.

  The big place was still and dark, and the little lamp only brighteneda small part of it. But Madame did not care for that. Those pains weregetting extremely hard to bear, and she had even ceased to care whetheror not she had selected the right flask.

  Taking a brown bowl from the shelf she drew it nearly full of water andthen placed it upon a corner of the long, white mixing-table, besidethe lamp. Next she took the golden flask from her pocket.

  "How much did the Arab say to put in the water?" she wondered, pausingin perplexed thought. "I declare, I've actually forgotten! But he saidit was sure to cure me, so I may as well use all the flask contains.For, after I am cured, I shall not need any more of it."

  Reasoning thus, Madame removed the stopper and poured into the bowlevery drop of that precious Elixir which Ali Dubh had prized more thanlife itself, and which his wild countrymen had come all the way fromArabia to America to possess. For generation after generation thepriceless liquor had been preserved with jealous care, and now thebaker's wife was rubbing it upon her limbs in an endeavor to cure thepangs of rheumatism!

  She used very little of the contents of the bowl, after all. The touchof the Elixir upon her skin, although it was diluted with so muchwater, sent a glow of exhilaration throughout all her stout body.

  The pains were suddenly eased, and Madame began to feel as light andairy as a fairy, in spite of her great mass of flesh.

  It occurred to her that she would like to dance; to run and shout, tocaper about as she used to do as a girl. But soon her shrewd commonsense returned, and she told herself this was but the effect of thewonderful medicine, and that the wisest thing she could do was to goto bed and sleep soundly while she might.

  Being still somewhat bewildered, the good woman picked up the lamp,and, leaving the bowl containing the Elixir standing upon the table,mounted the stairs with lighter steps than she had known in years.

  Five minutes later she was in bed, snoring as loudly as Monsieur Juleshimself.