“An’ ye has the ship’s medicine-chest?” queried Pat. “Then we’ll give her the bitter white powder—quinine—aye, quinine. Every ship carries it, lad. When I was took wid the fever in Port-o’-Spain didn’t the mate shake it on to me tongue till me ears crackled like hail on the roof, an’ when I got past stickin’ out me tongue didn’t he mix it wid whiskey an’ pour it into me? Sure, Denny! An’ it knocked the fever galley west in t’ree days an’ left me limp as cook’s dish-clout hangin’ to dry under the starboard life-boat. But it bes better nor dyin’ entirely wid the fever. I’ll step round wid ye, skipper, and p’int out this here quinine to ye.”
And he did. He found a large bottle of quinine in the box, in powder form. He measured out a quantity of it in doses of from three to five grains, for his memory of the sizes of the doses administered to him by the mate was somewhat dim, and advised Mother Nolan not to give the powders too often nor yet not often enough. Mother Nolan asked for more exact directions. She felt that she had a right to them. Pat Kavanagh combed his long whiskers reflectively with his long fingers, gazing at the medicine-chest with a far-away look in his pale eyes.
“I don’t rightly recollect the ins an’ outs o’ me own case,” he said, at last, “but I has a dim picter in me mind o’ how Mister Swim, the mate, shook the powder on to me tongue every blessed time I opened me mouth to holler. An’ the b’ys let me drink all the cold water I could hold—aye, an’ never once did they wake me up when I was sleepin’ quiet, not even to give the quinine to me. An’ they stowed me in blankets an’ made me sweat, though the fo’castle was hotter nor the hatches o’ hell. An’ when I wouldn’t stick out me tongue for the powder then they’d melt it in whiskey an’ pour it down me neck.”
With this Mother Nolan had to be content. She retired to her own room, mixed a powder in a cup of root-tea and gave it to the girl, who was quiet now, though wide-awake and bright-eyed. Kavanagh went home, invented a ballad about his fever in Port-o’-Spain, and wrote it upon his memory, verse by verse—for he did not possess the art of writing upon paper. After supper Cormick retired to the loft and his bed; but the skipper did not touch a blanket that night. He spent most of the time in his chair by the stove; but once in every hour he tiptoed into his grandmother’s room and listened. If he heard any sound from