Jerome sprang forward to offer his assistance in summoning him, but at that instant the man reappeared again and clutched the woman by the arm. “Come back, come back in the house, Laura,” he gasped, faintly, and yet with wild energy.
Jerome saw then that the man was ghastly, staggering, and yellow-white, except for blazing red spots on the cheeks, and that his great eyes were bright with fever. Jerome knew him; he was a young farmer, Henry Leeds by name, and not long married. Jerome had gone to school with the wife, and called her familiarly by name. “What’s the matter, Laura?” he asked.
“Oh, J’rome,” she half sobbed, “do help me—do call the doctor. Henry’s awful sick; I know he is. He’d ought to have the doctor, but he won’t because it costs so much. Do call him; I can’t make him hear.”
Jerome opened his mouth to shout, but the sick man flew at him with an awful, piteous cry. “Don’t ye, don’t ye,” he wailed out; “I tell ye not to, J’rome Edwards. I ’ain’t got any money to pay him with.”
“But you’re sick, Henry,” said Jerome, putting his hand on the man’s shaking shoulder to steady him. “You’d better let me run after him—I can make him hear now. It won’t cost much.”
“Don’t ye do it,” almost sobbed the young farmer. “It costs us a dollar every time he comes so far, an’ he’ll say right off, the way he did about mother that last time she was sick—when she broke her hip—that he’d take up a little piece of land beforehand; it would jest pay his bill. He’ll do that, an’ I tell ye I ’ain’t got ’nough land now to support me. I ’ain’t got ’nough land now, J’rome.”
The poor young wife was weeping almost like a child. “Do let him call the doctor, do let him, Henry,” she pleaded.
“There’s another thing, J’rome,” half whispered the young man, turning his back on his wife and fastening mysterious bright eyes on Jerome’s—“there’s another thing. Laura, she’ll have to have the doctor before long, you can see that, an’—there’ll be another mouth to fill, an’ I’ve been savin’ up a little, an’ it ain’t goin’ for me—I tell ye it ain’t goin’ for me, J’rome.”
All the while poor Henry Leeds, in spite of hot red spots on his cheeks, was shivering violently, but stiffly, like a tree in a freezing wind. The doctor had whirled quite out of sight over the hill. “He’s gone,” wailed the wife—“he’s gone, and Henry ’ll die—oh, I know he’ll die!”
Then Jerome, who had been standing bewildered, not knowing whether he should or should not run and call after the doctor, and listening first to one, then to the other, collected himself. “No, he isn’t going to die, either,” he said to the poor girl, who was very young; and he said it quite sharply, because he so pitied her in her innocent helplessness, and would give her courage even in a bitter dose. He asked her, furthermore, as brusquely as Doctor Prescott himself could have done, what medicine she had in the house. Then he bade her hasten, if she wished to help and not hurt her husband, to the nearest neighbor and beg some sweat-producing herbs—thoroughwort or sage or catnip—all of which he had heard were good for fever.