As to Alice, that which occupied her waking thoughts was how to prolong the situation without letting the doctor feel her need of him. Then again there was her husband. Would he agree to a continuance of Sperry’s visit if she proposed it outright? She had lately noticed a certain reserved manner in Thayor whenever he found them together—nothing positive—but something unusual in one so universally courteous to everybody about him, especially a guest. Would this develop into antagonism if he read her thoughts?
That same day Sperry went twice to the lower shanty to see Le Boeuf. His increasing his usual morning visit to glance at the slowly mending fracture was sufficient to make Thayor inquire anxiously about the little Frenchman’s condition.
“Is poor Le Boeuf worse?” he asked the doctor as they sat over their cigars in the den after dinner.
Sperry rose, bent over the lamp chimney and kindled the end of a fresh Havana.
“I am afraid,” he said, resuming his seat, “that the poor fellow’s arm is in a rather discouraging condition. I shall see him again to-night.”
Thayor frowned—the old worried look came again into his eyes. Suffering of any kind always affected him—suffering for which in a measure he was responsible was one of the things he could not bear.
“You don’t say so!” he exclaimed; “that is bad news. I’m very, very sorry. You know my men are my children; there is not one of them who would not stand by me if I was ill or in danger. And you really consider Le Boeufs condition alarming?”
Sperry shrugged his shoulders. “A fracture like that sometimes gives us serious trouble,” he replied in his best professional manner. “Frankly, I do not like the looks of things at all.”
“And he needs a doctor,” Thayor said, suddenly looking up. “You will, of course, stay until he is out of danger?”
“No, I must return to New York,” Sperry protested. “I feel I have already imposed on you and your good wife’s hospitality; besides, there are my patients waiting. It is neither right nor fair to my assistant, Bainbridge. His last letter was rather savage,” laughed Sperry.
“But can Le Boeuf be moved?”
“Well—er—no. Frankly, I would not take the risk.”
“Then you consider his condition alarming?”
“Alarming enough to know that unless things take a sudden turn for the better, blood-poisoning will set in. We shall then have to amputate. These cases sometimes prove fatal.”
“Then I will not hear of your going,” Thayor said in a decisive tone—“at least not until Le Boeuf is out of danger. You have set his arm and are thoroughly in touch with the case. You must stay here and pull him through.”
Sperry raised his arms in hopeless protest.
“Really, my dear Mr. Thayor, it is impossible,” he said.
“No—nothing is impossible where a man’s life is at stake,” Thayor continued, lapsing into his old business-like manner. “As to your practice, you know me well enough to know I would not for a moment put you to any personal loss.”