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In The Pavilion
by [?]

I

Now, had Billy Grant really died there would be no story. The story is to relate how he nearly died; and how, approaching that bourne to which no traveller may take with him anything but his sins–and this with Billy Grant meant considerable luggage–he cast about for some way to prevent the Lindley Grants from getting possession of his worldly goods.

Probably it would never have happened at all had not young Grant, having hit on a scheme, clung to it with a tenacity that might better have been devoted to saving his soul, and had he not said to the Nurse, who was at that moment shaking a thermometer: “Come on–be a sport! It’s only a matter of hours.” Not that he said it aloud–he whispered it, and fought for the breath to do even that. The Nurse, having shaken down the thermometer, walked to the table and recorded a temperature of one hundred and six degrees through a most unprofessional mist of tears. Then in the symptom column she wrote: “Delirious.”

But Billy Grant was not delirious. A fever of a hundred and four or thereabout may fuse one’s mind in a sort of fiery crucible, but when it gets to a hundred and six all the foreign thoughts, like seeing green monkeys on the footboard and wondering why the doctor is walking on his hands–all these things melt away, and one sees one’s past, as when drowning, and remembers to hate one’s relations, and is curious about what is coming when one goes over.

So Billy Grant lay on his bed in the contagious pavilion of the hospital, and remembered to hate the Lindley Grants and to try to devise a way to keep them out of his property. And, having studied law, he knew no will that he might make now would hold against the Lindley Grants for a minute, unless he survived its making some thirty days. The Staff Doctor had given him about thirty hours or less.

Perhaps he would have given up in despair and been forced to rest content with a threat to haunt the Lindley Grants and otherwise mar the enjoyment of their good fortune, had not the Nurse at that moment put the thermometer under his arm.

Now, as every one knows, an axillary temperature takes five minutes, during which it is customary for a nurse to kneel beside the bed, or even to sit very lightly on the edge, holding the patient’s arm close to his side and counting his respirations while pretending to be thinking of something else. It was during these five minutes that the idea came into Billy Grant’s mind and, having come, remained. The Nurse got up, rustling starchily, and Billy caught her eye.

“Every engine,” he said with difficulty, “labours–in a low–gear. No wonder I’m–heated up!”

The Nurse, who was young, put her hand on his forehead.

“Try to sleep,” she said.

“Time for–that–later,” said Billy Grant. “I’ll–I’ll be a–long time–dead. I–I wonder whether you’d–do me a–favour.”

“I’ll do anything in the world you want.”

She tried to smile down at him, but only succeeded in making her chin quiver, which would never do–being unprofessional and likely to get to the head nurse; so, being obliged to do something, she took his pulse by the throbbing in his neck.

“One, two, three, four, five, six—-“

“Then–marry me,” gasped Billy Grant. “Only for an–hour or–two, you know. You–promised. Come on–be a sport!”

It was then that the Nurse walked to the table and recorded “Delirious” in the symptom column. And, though she was a Smith College girl and had taken a something or other in mathematics, she spelled it just then with two r’s.

Billy Grant was not in love with the Nurse. She was a part of his illness, like the narrow brass bed and the yellow painted walls, and the thermometer under his arm, and the medicines. There were even times–when his fever subsided for a degree or two, after a cold sponge, and the muddled condition of mind returned–when she seemed to have more heads than even a nurse requires. So sentiment did not enter into the matter at all; it was revenge.