“Temperature a hundred and four,” said the Dawson doctor.
“Oh, is—is that much or little?”
“Well, it’s more than most of us go in for.”
“Can you tell what’s the matter with him?”
“Oh, typhoid, of course.”
The Boy pulled his hat over his eyes.
“Guess you won’t mind my stayin’ now?” said Maudie at his elbow, speaking low.
He looked up. “You goin’ to take care of him? Good care?” he asked harshly.
But Maudie seemed not to mind. The tears went down her cheeks, as, with never a word, she nodded, and turned towards the tent.
“Say,” he hobbled after her, “that doctor’s all right—only wanted fifty.” He laid four hundred-dollar bills in her hand. She seemed about to speak, when he interrupted hoarsely, “And look here: pull the Colonel through, Maudie—pull him through!”
“I’ll do my darnedest.”
He held out his hand. He had never given it to her before, and he forgot that few people would care now to take it. But she gave him hers with no grudging. Then, on a sudden, impulse, “You ain’t takin’ him to Dawson to-night?” she said to the constable.
“Why, he’s done the trip twice already.”
“I can do it again well enough.”
“Then you got to wait a minute.” She spoke to the constable as if she had been Captain Constantine himself. “Better just go in and see the Colonel,” she said to the Boy. “He’s been askin’ for you.”
“N-no, Maudie; I can go to Dawson all right, but I don’t feel up to goin’ in there again.”
“You’ll be sorry if you don’t.” And then he knew what a temperature at a hundred and four foreboded.
He went back into the tent, dreading to face the Colonel more than he had ever dreaded anything in his life.
But the sick man lay, looking out drowsily, peacefully, through half-shut eyes, not greatly concerned, one would say, about anything. The Boy went over and stood under the gray blanket canopy, looking down with a choking sensation that delayed his question: “How you feelin’ now, Kentucky?”
“Why, that’s good news. Then you—you won’t mind my goin’ off to—to do a little prospectin’?”
The sick man frowned: “You stay right where you are. There’s plenty in that jampot.”
“Yes, yes! jampot’s fillin’ up fine.”
“Besides,” the low voice wavered on, “didn’t we agree we’d learned the lesson o’ the North?”
“The lesson o’ the North?” repeated the other with filling eyes.
“Yes, sah. A man alone’s a man lost. We got to stick together, Boy.” The eyelids fell heavily.
“Yes, yes, Colonel.” He pressed the big hand. His mouth made the motion, not the sound, “Good-bye, pardner.”
THE GOING HOME