A DAY’S WAIT by E. Hemingway
He came into the room to shut the windows while me were still in bed and I saw he looked ill. He was shivering, his face was white, and he walked slowly as though it ached to move.
“What’s the matter, Schatz?”
“I’ve got a headache”.
“You better go back to bed”.
“No, I am all right”.
“You go to bed. I’ll see you when I’m dressed”.
But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a very sick and miserable boy of nine years. When I put my hand on his forehead I knew he had a fever.
“You go up to bed,” said, “you are sick”.
“I am all right”, he said.
When the doctor came he took the boy’s temperature.
“What is it?” I asked him.
“One hundred and two.”
Downstairs, the doctor left three different medicines in different coloured capsules with instructions for giving them. He seemed to know all about influenza and said there was nothing to worry about if the fever did not go above one hundred and four degrees. This was a light epidemic of influenza and there was no danger if you avoided pneumonia.
Back in the room I wrote the boy’s temperature down and made a note of the time to give the various capsules.
“Do you want me to read to you?”
“All right. If you want to,” said the boy. His face was very white and there were dark areas under his eyes. He lay still in the bed and seemed very detached from what was going on.
I read about pirates from Howard Pyle’s “Book of Pirates”, but I could see he was not following what I was reading.
“How do you feel, Schatz?” I asked him.
“Just the same, so far,” he said.
I sat at the foot of the bed and read to myself while I waited for it to be time
to give another capsule. It would have been natural for him to go to sleep, but when I looked up he was looking at the foot of the bed.
“Why, don’t you try to go to sleep? I’ll wake you up for the medicine.”
“I’d rather stay awake.”
After a while he said to me. “You don’t have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it bothers you.”
“It doesn’t bother me.”
“No, I mean you don’t have to stay if it’s going to bother you.”
I thought perhaps he was a little light-headed and af ter giving him the prescribed capsules at eleven o’clock I went out for a while…
At the house they said the boy had refused to let any one come into the room.
“You can’t come in,” he said. “You mustn’t get what I have.” I went up to him and found him in exactly the same position I had left him, white-faced, but with the tops of his cheeks flushed by the fever, staring still, as he had stared, at the foot of the bed.
I took his temperature.
“What is it?”
“Something like a hundred,” I said. It was one hundred and two and four tenths.
“It was a hundred and two,” he said.
“Who said so? Your temperature is all right,” I said. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t worry,” he said, “but I can’t keep from thinking.”
“Don’t think,” I said. “Just take it easy.”
“I’m taking it easy,” he said and looked straight ahead.
He was evidently holding tight onto himself about something.
“Take this with water.”
“Do you think it will do any good?”
“Of course, it will.”
I sat down and opened the “Pirate” book and commenced to read, but I could see he was not following, so I stopped.
“About what time do you think I’m going to die?” he asked.
“About how long will it be before I die?”
“You aren’t going to die. What’s the matter with you?”
“Oh, yes, I am. I heard him say a hundred and two.”
“People don’t die with a fever of one hundred and two. That’s a silly way to talk.”
“I know they do.