“Seems queer to say that, when a little while ago I was telling you it was time to die,” he said.
That night, after ten o’clock, Kent went through his setting-up exercises four times. He marveled even more than the preceding night at the swiftness with which his strength was returning. Half a dozen times the little devils of eagerness working in his blood prompted him to take to the window at once.
For three days and nights thereafter he kept his secret and added to his strength. Doctor Cardigan came in to see him at intervals, and Father Layonne visited him regularly every afternoon. Mercer was his most frequent visitor. On the third day two things happened to create a little excitement. Doctor Cardigan left on a four-day journey to a settlement fifty miles south, leaving Mercer in charge—and Mooie came suddenly out of his fever into his normal senses again. The first event filled Kent with joy. With Cardigan out of the way there would be no immediate danger of the discovery that he was no longer a sick man. But it was the recovery of Mooie from the thumping he had received about the head that delighted Mercer. He was exultant. With the quick reaction of his kind he gloated over the fact before Kent. He let it be known that he was no longer afraid, and from the moment Mooie was out of danger his attitude was such that more than once Kent would have taken keen pleasure in kicking him from the room. Also, from the hour he was safely in charge of Doctor Cardigan’s place, Mercer began to swell with importance. Kent saw the new danger and began to humor him. He flattered him. He assured him that it was a burning shame Cardigan had not taken him into partnership. He deserved it. And, in justice to himself, Mercer should demand that partnership when Cardigan returned. He, Kent, would talk to Father Layonne about it, and the missioner would spread the gospel of what ought to be among others who were influential at the Landing. For two days he played with Mercer as an angler plays with a treacherous fish. He tried to get Mercer to discover more about Mooie’s reference to Kedsty. But the old Indian had shut up like a clam.
“He was frightened when I told him he had said things about the Inspector,” Mercer reported. “He disavowed everything. He shook his head—no, no, no. He had not seen Kedsty. He knew nothing about him. I can do nothing with him, Kent.”
He had dropped his “sirs,” also his servant-like servility. He helped to smoke Kent’s cigars with the intimacy of proprietorship, and with offensive freedom called him “Kent.” He spoke of the Inspector as “Kedsty,” and of Father Layonne as “the little preacher.” He swelled perceptibly, and Kent knew that each hour of that swelling added to his own danger.
He believed that Mercer was talking. Several times a day he heard him in conversation with the guard, and not infrequently Mercer went down to the Landing, twirling a little reed cane that he had not dared to use before. He began to drop opinions and information to Kent in a superior sort of way. On the fourth day word came that Doctor Cardigan would not return for another forty-eight hours, and with unblushing conceit Mercer intimated that when he did return he would find big changes. Then it was that in the stupidity of his egotism he said: