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,” I said, “You’re sick.”
“I’m all right,” he said.
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 lightheaded and after 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.”
“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.
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?”
“People don’t die with a fever of one hundred and two. That’s a silly way to talk.”
“I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you can’t live with forty-four degrees. I’ve got a hundred and two.”
He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o’clock in the morning.
“Poor old Schatz. It’s like miles and kilometers. You aren’t going to die. That’s a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it’s ninety-eight.”
His gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly. The hold over himself relaxed too, finally, and the next day it was very slack and he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance.