“You go to some of the neighbours, and stay away from there,” he said.
“Hurry!” begged Kate. “Oh, do hurry!”
She was beside him as they sped down the street, and at his shoulder as they entered the room. With one glance she lurched against the casing and then she plunged down the hall, entered her room, closed the door behind her, and threw herself on the bed. She had only a glance, but in that glance she had seen Peter Mines sitting fully clothed, his hat on his head, his stick in his hands, in her easy chair; the operating table folded and standing against the wall; Mrs. Holt holding the camphor bottle to Peter’s nose, while George had one hand over Peter’s heart, the other steadying his head.
The doctor swung the table in place, and with George’s help laid Peter on it, then began tearing open his clothes. As they worked the two men followed into the house to see if they could do anything and excited neighbours began to gather. George and his mother explained how Peter had exhausted himself walking two miles from the country that hot morning, how he had entered the office, tottering with fatigue, and had fallen in the chair in a fainting condition. Everything was plausible until a neighbour woman, eager to be the centre of attention for a second, cried: “Yes, we all see him come more’n an hour ago; and when he begin to let out the yells we says to each other, ’there! George has got his first patient, sure!’ An’ we all kind of waited to see if he’d come out better.”
The doctor looked at her sharply: “More than an hour ago?” he said. “You heard cries?”
“Yes, more’n a good hour ago. Yes, we all heard him yell, jist once, good and loud!” she said.
The doctor turned to George. Before he could speak his mother intervened.
“That was our Kate done the yellin’,” she said. “She was scart crazy from the start. He jest come in, and set in the chair and he’s been there ever since.”
“You didn’t give him any treatment, Holt?” asked the doctor.
Again Mrs. Holt answered: “Never touched him! Hadn’t even got time to get his table open. Wa’n’t nothing he could ‘a’ done for him anyway. Peter was good as gone when he got here. His fool folks never ought ‘a’ let him out this hot day, sick as he was.”
The doctor looked at George, at his mother, long at Peter. “He surely was too sick to walk that far in this heat,” he said. “But to make sure, I’ll look him over. George, you help me. Clear the room of all but these two men.”
He began minutely examining Peter’s heart region. Then he rolled him over and started to compress his lungs. Long white streaks marked the puffy red of the swollen, dropsical flesh. The doctor examined the length of the body, and looked straight into George Holt’s eyes.
“No use,” he said. “Bill, go to the ’phone in my office, and tell Coroner Smith to get here from Hartley as soon as he can. All that’s left to do here is to obey the law, and have a funeral. Better some of the rest of you go tell his folks. I’ve done all I can do. It’s up to the Coroner now. The rest of you go home, and keep still till he comes.”