“Has he a fighting chance?” old Hector demanded bluntly of the doctor. It seemed to him that his son’s face already wore the look of one doomed to dissolution at an early date.
“Yes, he has, Mr. McKaye,” the doctor replied gravely; “provided he’ll fight. You will understand that in typhoid fever the mortality rate is rather high—as high as thirty per cent. However, in the case of Donald, who is a husky athlete, I should place the odds at about ten to one that he’ll survive an attack of even more than moderate severity. That is,” he added, “under the most favorable conditions.”
“Well, what’s wrong with the conditions in this case?” The Laird demanded crisply. “You can have anything you want—if you’re shy on material to work with, and I’ve sent for the best physician in the state to come here and consult with you.”
“The hospital conditions are perfect, Mr. McKaye. What I mean is this: It is a well recognized principle of medical practice that a patient combating a disease of extreme severity and high mortality is sustained quite as much by his courage and a passionate desire to get well—in a word, by his morale—as he is by his capacity for physical resistance. Your son is, I think, slightly depressed mentally. That is the sole reason I see to warrant apprehension.”
“Oh—so that’s all, eh?” The Laird was relieved. “Then don’t worry about him. He’ll put up a battle—never fear. Why, he never quit in all his life. However, in case he might need a bit of encouragement from his old daddy from time to time, you’ll have a room made ready for me. I’ll stay here till he’s out of danger.”
That was a terrible week on old Hector. The nurse, discovering that his presence appeared to excite her patient, forbade him the room; so he spent his days and part of his nights prowling up and down the corridor, with occasional visits to the mill office and The Dreamerie, there to draw such comfort from Daney and his family as he might. While his temperature remained below a hundred and four, Donald would lie in a semi-comatose condition, but the instant the thermometer crept beyond that point he would commence to mutter incoherently. Suddenly, he would announce, so loudly The Laird could hear every word, that he contemplated the complete and immediate destruction of Andrew Daney and would demand that the culprit be brought before him. Sometimes he assumed that Daney was present, and the not unusual phenomenon attendant upon delirium occurred. When in good health Donald never swore; neither would he tolerate rough language in his presence from an employe; nevertheless, in his delirium he managed, at least once daily, to heap upon the unfortunate Daney a generous helping of invective of a quality that would have made a mule-skinner blush. Sometimes Mr. Daney was unfortunate enough to drop in at the hospital in time to hear this stream of anathema sounding through the corridor; upon such occasions he would go into The Laird’s room and he and old Hector would eye each other grimly but say never a word.