All that science could do was done. All that care could do was done, but our giant weakened. The doctors talk of the croupous form of pneumonia, and of some other form—I do not know the difference—but I do know that this man had a great pain in his chest, and that his head ached, and that he had alternate arctic chills and flames of fever. His pulse was rapid, and he gasped as he breathed. Sometimes he would become delirious, then weaker in the sane intervals. He would send us from the room then, and call for Jean alone, and, when she emerged—well—God help me!—I never want to see that awful look of suspense and agony upon a human face again. It will stay with me until I follow the roadway leading to my friends.
The doctor gave the sick man opiates or stimulants, as the case might at any moment seem to need, and they had some slight effect; but there came a shallower breathing, and the quilts tossed under the heaving of the broad chest, fitfully. It reminded me in some strange way of the imitation sea scenes at the theater, where a great cloth of some sort is rocked and lifted to represent the waves. Only one lung was congested in the beginning, but, later, the thing extended to each, and the air-cells began filling, and the man suffered more and more. He fought against it fiercely.
“Grant,” said the doctor, after the administration of some strong stimulant, “help us all you can. Cough! Force the air through those huge lungs of yours, and see if you can’t tear away that tissue which is forming to throttle you!”
And Grant would summon all his strength, by no means yet exhausted, and exert his will, and cough, despite the fearful pain of it; but the human form held not the machinery to dislodge that growing web which was filling the lung-chambers and cutting off, hour by hour, the oxygen which makes pure blood and makes the being.
And the man who laughed at things grew weaker and weaker, and, though he laughed still and was his old self and made us happy for a brief interval, when he had not the fever and was clear-headed, and said that it was nothing and that he would throw it off, we knew that there was deadly peril. And one evening, when Grant was again delirious, the doctor came to me and said there was very little hope.
What is the mood of fate? Must strong men die illogically? What does it all mean, anyhow? About this I am but blind and reasonless. I wish I knew! The world is more than hollow to me, yet I have a hope, I’ll say that. There was some one very like Jean, one whom I loved and who loved me, thirty years ago. Will she and I meet some day, I wonder? And what will she be to me then? I suppose I have the philosophy and endurance of the average man; but this is, with any doubt, a black world at times, and one in which there is no good. The breaking of heart-strings mars all music. I am alone and dull and wondering, and in a blind revolt. Why should all things change so, and what is this death which comes? There must be some future world. If there be not, what a failure is all the brutal material scheme.