“I suppose so, though we have about enough trouble here already. Why did the men chase you out of their shack?”
“They said they couldn’t stand the smell of cigarettes,” Drew replied.
“I don’t wonder at that,” muttered Tom.
“They were all smoking. I don’t see why I couldn’t smoke, too,” Alf whined.
“That’s just the point,” Tom returned. “The men were smoking. Now, as I’ve told you before, the use of cigarettes isn’t smoking at all. You annoyed men who were minding their own business.”
“They’re a mean lot,” complained young Drew. Being cold he went over to the fire to warm himself. Then he drew a cigarette from one of his pockets, and struck a match. Tom Reade, slipping up behind the youngster, deftly took the cigarette away from him, tossing it into the fire.
“You’ll have to quit that,” Tom ordered sternly. “If I catch you trying to light a cigarette then out you go. We have a man here sick with lung trouble and with a high fever, and we don’t propose to have any cigarette smoke around here.”
“What am I going to do, then?” asked Alf, after a minute or so spent in a kind of trance.
“Do anything you please, as long as you keep quiet and don’t light any cigarettes,” Tom suggested, rummaging in the cupboard for a medicine chest that he knew was there.
“But I’ll go to pieces, if I can’t smoke a cigarette or two,” whined the boy.
Tom had the medicine chest in his lap by this time. His hand touched a bottle of pellets labeled “quassia.”
“Here, chew on one of these, and you won’t need your cigarette,” Tom suggested, passing over a pellet.
Alf mutely took the pellet, crushing it with his teeth.
“Ugh!” he uttered disgustedly.
“Don’t spit it out,” urged Tom. “It’s the best thing possible to take the place of a cigarette. Keep it in your mouth until it is all dissolved.”
Alf made a wry face, but knew he must obey Tom. So he stuck to the pellet until the last of it had dissolved on his tongue. The pellet was gone, but the taste wasn’t.
“Ugh!” grunted the youngster.
“You said that before,” urged Tom. “Try to be original. Want another pellet?”
“No; I don’t. I wouldn’t touch one again!”
“Don’t happen to want a cigarette, either, do you?”
“I don’t want anything, now, but just to get that taste out of my mouth,” Alf uttered.
“All right; go over in the corner and keep quiet. Jim, do you know anything about the use of the medicines in this chest?”
“Not a blessed thing,” Ferrers replied regretfully. “I never took as much as a pinhead of medicine in my life.”
“But Harry must have something,” Tom insisted. “We can’t let him lie there and die.”
It was one of those ready-made medicine chests that are sold to campers and others who must live at a considerable distance from medical aid. Finding a small book of instructions in the chest, Tom moved over under the strong light and settled himself to read thoughtfully.