“But he’s dyin’, doctor.”
“Oh, nonsense. Talk of old Keziah Onthank’s dyin’. He’ll live longer than I shall.”
“I recollect I thought the doctor very unfeelin’ to talk so of a fellow creetur, just stepping into eternity, as a body may say. However, it’s no use drivin’ a horse that’s made up his mind he won’t go, so although I did think the doctor dreadful deliberate about eatin’ his dinner (he always would take half an hour for it), I didn’t dare to say a word for fear he wouldn’t come at all. You see the doctor was dreadful independent, and was bent on havin’ his own way, pretty much, though for that matter I think it’s the case with most folks. However, to come back to my story, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable while I was waitin’ his motions.
“After a long while the doctor got ready. I was in such a hurry that I actilly pulled him along, he walked so slow; but he only laughed, and I couldn’t help thinkin’ that doctorin’ had a hardinin’ effect on the heart. I was determined if ever I fell sick I wouldn’t send for him.
“At last we got there. I went in all of a tremble, and crept to the bed, thinkin’ I should see his dead body. But he wasn’t there at all. I felt a little bothered you’d better believe.”
“Well,” said the doctor, turning to me with a smile, “what do you think now?”
“I don’t know what to think,” said I.
“Then I’ll help you,” said he.
“So sayin’, he took me to the winder, and what do you think I see? As sure as I’m alive, there was the old man in the back yard, a squattin’ down and pickin’ up chips.”
“And is he still living?”
“Yes, or he was when I come along last. The doctor’s been dead these ten years. He told me old Keziah would outlive him, but I didn’t believe him. I shouldn’t be surprised if he lived forever.”
Paul listened with amused interest to this and other stories with which his companion beguiled the way. They served to divert his mind from the realities of his condition, and the uncertainty which hung over his worldly prospects.
On the brink of discovery.
“If you’re in no great hurry to go to New York,” said the pedler, “I should like to have you stay with me for a day or two. I live about twenty-five miles from here, straight ahead, so it will be on your way. I always manage to get home by Saturday night if it is any way possible. It doesn’t seem comfortable to be away Sunday. As to-day is Friday, I shall get there to-morrow. So you can lie over a day and rest yourself.”
Paul felt grateful for this unexpected invitation. It lifted quite a load from his mind, since, as the day declined, certain anxious thoughts as to where he should find shelter, had obtruded themselves. Even now, the same trouble would be experienced on Monday night, but it is the characteristic of youth to pay little regard to anticipated difficulties as long as the present is provided for.