A REIGN OF TERROR
When a man is in politics—when the party is intrusting its sacred interests to his leadership—it is expected that he will stay at head-quarters. It is as good as understood that he will be where the touching committees can touch him. His clarion voice must be heard denouncing the evil plans of the political enemy.
The absence of David Lockwin from his head-quarters is therefore declared to be a “bomb-shell.” In the afternoon papers it is said that he has undoubtedly withdrawn in favor of Harpwood.
The morning papers announce serious illness in Lockwin’s family.
What they announce matters nothing to Lockwin. He cannot be seen.
If it be diphtheria Lockwin will use whisky plentifully. It is his hobby that whisky is the only antidote.
Dr. Floddin has taken charge. He believes that whisky would increase Davy’s fever. “It is not diphtheria,” he says. “Be assured on that point. It is probably asthma.”
Whatever it may be, it is terrible to David Lockwin, and to Esther, and to all.
The child draws his breath with a force that sometimes makes itself heard all over the house. He must be treated with emetics. He is in the chamber this Wednesday night, on a couch beside the great bed. The room has been hot, but by what chance does the furnace fail at such a moment? It is David Lockwin up and down, all night—now going to bed in hope the child will sleep—now rising in terror to hear that shrill breathing—now rousing all hands to heat the house and start a fire at the mantel. Where is Dr. Cannoncart’s book? Read that. Ah, here it is. “For asthma, I have found that stramonium leaves give relief. Make a decoction and spray the patient.”
Off the man goes to the drug store for the packet of stramonium. It must be had quickly. It must be boiled, and that means an hour. It is incredible that the fire should go out! The man sweats a cold liquor. He feels like a murderer. He feels bereft. He is exhausted with a week of political orgy.
And yet along toward morning, as the gray morn grows red in response to the stained glasses and rich carpetings, the room is warm once more. The whistling in the child’s throat is less shrill. The man and the woman sit by the little couch and the man presses the rubber bulb and sprays the air about the sick boy.
He will take no medicine. Never before did he refuse to obey. But now he is in deeper matters. It requires all his strength and all his thoughts to get his breath. As for medicine, he will not take it. For the spray he is grateful. His beautiful eyes open gloriously when a breath has come without that hard tugging for it.
At eight in the morning the man and the woman eat—a cup of coffee and a nubbin of bread. The mother of Esther arrives. She too is terrified by the ordeal through which the child is passing.