“So some one was trying to tell me, Jimmy,” replied the little missioner with an effort to smile back.
“Yes. He told me about it confidentially. The poor boy must have fallen in love with the young lady.”
“So have I, mon pere. I don’t mind confessing it to you. I’m rather glad. And if Cardigan hadn’t scheduled me to die—”
“Jimmy,” interrupted the missioner quickly, but a bit huskily, “has it ever occurred to you that Doctor Cardigan may be mistaken?”
He had taken one of Kent’s hands. His grip tightened. It began to hurt. And Kent, looking into his eyes, found his brain all at once like a black room suddenly illuminated by a flash of fire. Drop by drop the blood went out of his face until it was whiter than Father Layonne’s.
“Yes, yes, boy, I mean just that,” said the missioner, in a voice so strange that it did not seem to be his own. “You are not going to die, Jimmy. You are going to live!”
“Live!” Kent dropped back against his pillows. “Live!” His lips gasped the one word.
He closed his eyes for an instant, and it seemed to him that the world was aflame. And he repeated the word again, but only his lips formed it, and there came no sound. His senses, strained to the breaking-point to meet the ordeal of death, gave way slowly to the mighty reaction. He felt in those moments like a reeling man. He opened his eyes, and there was a meaningless green haze through the window where the world should have been. But he heard Father Layonne’s voice. It seemed a great distance off, but it was very clear. Doctor Cardigan had made an error, it was saying. And Doctor Cardigan, because of that error, was like a man whose heart had been taken out of him. But it was an excusable error.
If there had been an X-ray—But there had been none. And Doctor Cardigan had made the diagnosis that nine out of ten good surgeons would probably have made. What he had taken to be the aneurismal blood-rush was an exaggerated heart murmur, and the increased thickening in his chest was a simple complication brought about by too much night air. It was too bad the error had happened. But he must not blame Cardigan!
He must not blame cardigan! Those last words pounded like an endless series of little waves in Kent’s brain. He must not blame Cardigan! He laughed, laughed before his dazed senses readjusted themselves, before the world through the window pieced itself into shape again. At least he thought he was laughing. He must—not— blame—Cardigan! What an amazingly stupid thing for Father Layonne to say! Blame Cardigan for giving him back his life? Blame him for the glorious knowledge that he was not going to die? Blame him for—
Things were coming clearer. Like a bolt slipping into its groove his brain found itself. He saw Father Layonne again, with his white, tense face and eyes in which were still seated the fear and the horror he had seen in the doorway. It was not until then that he gripped fully at the truth.