Now and then they heard a man speak in a low voice, or someone move across the room; and always that ghastly, overpowering odour kept creeping in, making them think they would die of suffocation, and their three babies also. The suspense and horror had become almost unbearable—when finally they began to hear Lacey Granitch again, moaning, sobbing—most harrowing sounds. “My God! My God!” whispered Lizzie, “What are they doing?” And when Jimmie did not answer, she whispered again. “We ought to stop them! We ought to get help!”
But then once more the door opened, and “Paul” came in. “It’s all right now,” he said. “He’s coming out.” Neither of the Jimmies had the least idea what “coming out” meant, but they were reassured to know that the masterful person at least was satisfied. They waited; they heard Lacey vomiting, as it seemed—and then they heard him cursing, in between his feeble gasps. He called the men the same foul name that he had called Jimmie; and that somehow made the whole affair seem better—it brought one down to earth again!
“Paul” went out and stayed for a while, and when he came back, he said, “We’re going now; and understand, there’s nothing for you to worry about. We shall leave the patient here, and as soon as we get to a telephone, we’ll notify the hospital to send an ambulance. So all you have to do is to wait, and keep quiet and don’t worry. And here’s something for the use of your house—“The man put out his hand with a roll of bills, which Jimmie mechanically took—“and if anybody asks you about what happened to-night, just say you didn’t see anything and don’t know anything whatever about it. I’m sorry to have troubled you, but it couldn’t be helped. And now, good night.”
And so the masterful young man went out, and they heard him and his companions tramping down the porch-steps. They listened, until they heard the automobile start up and disappear in the darkness. Then from the next room they heard a moan.
Trembling with terror, Jimmie got up and stole to the door, and opened it a tiny crack. The room was in utter darkness. “Get me some water!” the voice of Lacey groaned; and Jimmie tiptoed back and got the little smoky lamp, and came to the door again. He peered in, and saw that Lacey was lying on the floor with a sheet over him—everything but his head, which was resting on a pillow. His face was yellow and twisted with pain. “Water! Water!” he sobbed; and Jimmie rushed to get a glass and fill it from the pail. When he brought it, Lacey first tried to drink, and then began to vomit; then he lay, sobbing softly to himself. He saw Jimmie staring at him, and his eyes filled with sudden hate and he whispered, “This is what you got me in for, you damned little skunk!”
JIMMIE HIGGINS FACES THE WAR