So I kissed him and hurried back to the shack, overtaking Mr. Barnett, who was also going there. Frenchy met us at the door.
“Mebbe heem Docteur no die now, hein! Mebbe heem leeve now. I think heem no die. What you think?”
“We hope and pray he may get well, my good man,” answered the parson.
We went in, and Dr. Johnson rose.
“I can see no change as yet,” he said, “but then it is hardly possible that any should occur so soon. At any rate he is no worse.”
So Mr. Barnett and I sat down by the bed, and Dr. Johnson went away for some supper; I am sure he must have been nearly starving.
“He’s been muttering a good deal,” said the doctor before leaving, “but that is of no very great moment. The important thing is to watch him to prevent his getting out of bed, if he should become excitable. We must have no undue strain on his weakened heart.”
So the little parson and I sat quietly by the patient, who appeared to be sleeping, and for a long time there was no sound at all, and I think we dreaded to move lest the slightest noise might rouse him.
But after a time, so suddenly that it startled me, came the hoarse, low voice that was so painful to hear, and I bent further forward to listen. At first the words were disconnected, with queer interruptions, so that they possessed no meaning, but presently I was listening, breathlessly. He appeared to be giving orders.
“You, Sammy, cast away the lines! Look lively there! Time, time, time!” he muttered. Then he seemed to be waiting for something and began again.
“I told you to be ready! The years, do you hear me? You are wasting the years. She’s good for sixty miles an hour and it will take forty million years to reach the nearest star, where Helen waits. Can’t make it, you say? Don’t I see her beckoning!”
Then he turned his head, slightly, as if he were addressing some one very near.
“One has to have patience,” he said. “They don’t understand, and their fingers are all thumbs, and the hawser is fouling my propeller, and Helen calls, and—and I can do nothing.”
His head, that had been slightly uplifted, fell back again, and two great drops gathered in the dark, sunken eyes and slowly ran down the hollowed cheeks.
Mr. Barnett turned to me. In his eyes there was a strange look of apprehension, as when one awaits yet fears an answer. But there was nothing that I could say to him. My heart was beating as though ready to burst. I cared nothing then for the little man who stared at me, and sank on my knees beside my poor unconscious John, lifting his limp hand to my lips.
From Miss Helen Jelliffe to Miss Jane Van Zandt
Aunt Jennie, darling: