By Edwin Henderson,2014-08-31 00:22
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    A Days Wait

    Ernest Hemingway

    He came into the room to shut the windows while we 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.

    Whats the matter, Schatz?

    Ive got a headache.

    You better go back to bed.

    No, Im al right.

    You go to bed. Ill see you when Im dressed.

    But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a 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 the bed, I said, youre sick.

    Im all right, he said.

    When the doctor came he took the boys temperature.

    What is it? I asked him.

    One hundred and two.

    Downstairs, the doctor left three different medicines in different colored capsules with instructions for giving them. One was to bring down the fever, another a purgative, the third to overcome an acid condition. The germs of influenza can only exist in an acid condition, he explained. 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 flu and there was no danger if you avoided pneumonia.

    Back in the room I wrote the boys temperature down and made a note of the

    time to give 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 aloud from Howard Pyles 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, looking very strangely.

    Why dont you try to sleep? Ill wake you up for the medicine.

    Id rather stay awake.

    After a while he said to me, You dont have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it

    bothers you.

    It doesnt bother me.

    No, I mean you dont have to stay if its going to bother you.

    I thought perhaps he was a little lightheaded and after giving him the prescribed capsules at eleven oclock I went out for a while. It was a bright, cold day, the ground covered with a sleet that had frozen so that it seemed as if all the bare trees, the bushes, the cut brush and all the grass and bare ground had been varnished with ice. I took the young Irish setter for a walk up the road and along a frozen creek, but it was difficult to stand or walk on the glassy surface and the red dog slipped and slithered and I fell twice, hard, once, dropping my gun and having it slide away over the ice. We flushed a covey of quail under a high clay bank with overhanging brush and I killed two as they went out of sight over the top of the bank. Some of the covey lit in trees, but most of them scattered into brush piles and it was necessary to jump on the ice-coated mounds of brush several times before they would flush. Coming out while you were poised unsteadily on the icy, springy brush, they made difficult shooting and I killed two, missed five, and started back pleased to have found a covey close to the house and happy there were so many left to find on another day.

    At the house they said the boy had refused to let any one come into the room.


    You cant come in, he said. You mustnt get what I have.

    I went up to him and found him in exactly the 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?

    The doctor.

    Your temperature is all right, I said, Its nothing to worry about.

    I dont worry, he said, but I cant keep from thinking.

    Dont think, I said. Just take it easy.

    Im 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 Im going to die? he asked.


    About how long will it be before I die?

    You arent going to die. Whats the matter with you?

    Oh, yes, I am. I heard him say a hundred and two.

    People dont die with a fever of one hundred and two. Thats a silly way to talk.

    I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you cant live with

    forty-four degrees. Ive got a hundred and two.

    He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine oclock in the morning.


    You poor Schatz, I said. Poor old Schatz. It’s like miles and kilometers. You

    arent going to die. Thats a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind its ninety-eight.

    Are you sure?

    Absolutely, I said. Its like miles and kilometers. You know, like how many kilometers we make when we do seventy miles in the car?

    Oh, he said.

    But 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.


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