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   Chapter 20 TOM TURNS DOCTOR

The Young Engineers in Nevada; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a Pick By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 7067

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


The door opened almost noiselessly.

"Shut that door," cried Tom, angrily, without looking around.

"Whoever you are, do you know that we have a sick man here"

"Well, the men chased me out of one shack, and wouldn't let me in the other, and I don't want to go near the cook," complained a whining young voice.

It was Alf Drew who uttered the words.

"Shut the door," Tom repeated.

"May I stay here?" asked Alf, after obeying.

"I suppose so, though we have about enough trouble here already.

Why did the men chase you out of their shack?"

"They said they couldn't stand the smell of cigarettes," Drew replied.

"I don't wonder at that," muttered Tom.

"They were all smoking. I don't see why I couldn't smoke, too,"

Alf whined.

"That's just the point," Tom returned. "The men were smoking. Now, as I've told you before, the use of cigarettes isn't smoking at all. You annoyed men who were minding their own business."

"They're a mean lot," complained young Drew. Being cold he went over to the fire to warm himself. Then he drew a cigarette from one of his pockets, and struck a match. Tom Reade, slipping up behind the youngster, deftly took the cigarette away from him, tossing it into the fire.

"You'll have to quit that," Tom ordered sternly. "If I catch you trying to light a cigarette then out you go. We have a man here sick with lung trouble and with a high fever, and we don't propose to have any cigarette smoke around here."

"What am I going to do, then?" asked Alf, after a minute or so spent in a kind of trance.

"Do anything you please, as long as you keep quiet and don't light any cigarettes," Tom suggested, rummaging in the cupboard for a medicine chest that he knew was there.

"But I'll go to pieces, if I can't smoke a cigarette or two," whined the boy.

Tom had the medicine chest in his lap by this time. His hand touched a bottle of pellets labeled "quassia."

"Here, chew on one of these, and you won't need your cigarette,"

Tom suggested, passing over a pellet.

Alf mutely took the pellet, crushing it with his teeth.

"Ugh!" he uttered disgustedly.

"Don't spit it out," urged Tom. "It's the best thing possible to take the place of a cigarette. Keep it in your mouth until it is all dissolved."

Alf made a wry face, but knew he must obey Tom. So he stuck to the pellet until the last of it had dissolved on his tongue. The pellet was gone, but the taste wasn't.

"Ugh!" grunted the youngster.

"You said that before," urged Tom. "Try to be original. Want another pellet?"

"No; I don't. I wouldn't touch one again!"

"Don't happen to want a cigarette, either, do you?"

"I don't want anything, now, but just to get that taste out of my mouth," Alf uttered.

"All right; go over in the corner and keep quiet. Jim, do you know anything about the use of the medicines in this chest?"

"Not a blessed thing," Ferrers replied regretfully. "I never took as much as a pinhead of medicine in my life."

"But Harry must have something," Tom insisted. "We can't let him lie there and die."

It was one of those ready-made medicine chests that are sold to campers and others who must live at a considerable distance from medical aid. Finding a small book of instructions in the chest, Tom moved over under the strong light and settled himself to read thoughtfully.

Harry tossed restlessly, unmindful of what was going on around him. His heavy, rapid breathing filled the place. Once in a while he moaned slightly, every sound of thi

s kind going through Tom like a knife.

A particularly deep moan caused Tom to shiver and close the book.

He went over and felt Harry's hot, drier skin.

"Jim," he directed, "I'm sure that, somehow, we should force the perspiration through his dry, parched skin. Take some of the blankets out of my bunk and spread them over Harry."

"It'll make his fever worse, won't it?"

"I'm sure I don't know," Tom admitted helplessly. "We'd better try it for a while, anyway."

Then Tom stood looking down at the flushed face of his chum, muttering below his breath:

"Harry, old fellow, I wish your mother were here. She'd know just what to do. And for your mother's sake, as well as my own, I've just got to blunder into something that will cure you."

Heaving a sigh, Tom went back under the lamp to read with blurted eyes.

At last he struck a paragraph that he thought bore on the case in hand. He read eagerly, praying for light.

"I've got it, at last," he announced, moving over to the bunk, beside which Ferrers stood.

"Got what?" asked Jim.

"I believe I'm on the track of the right stuff to give poor old Harry."

"What's the name of the stuff you're going to give harry"

"There are three medicines mentioned here," replied Reade, holding up the book. "They're all to be given."

"Three medicines!" gasped Jim. "By the great Custer three are enough to kill a horse!"

"I'm going to try 'em," sighed Tom stolidly. "The poor fellow will die if nothing is done for him."

"Wouldn't it be better," suggested Ferrers, hopelessly, "to try one medicine on the lad and then wait ten minutes. Then, if that doesn't work, try one of the others on him! If that doesn't work then you know that the third kind of stuff is the right sort of bracer."

Despite his great anxiety, Reade could not suppress the smile that Jim's advice brought out. It was plain that Ferrers, good fellow as he was, would be of no use on the medical end of the fight that must be waged.

Tom searched the chest and found the medicines. Then he looked up the doses and started to administer the remedies as directed.

Even over the steadily increasing gale the notes of the supper horn reached them faintly.

"It's too tough weather to expect the cook to bring the stuff over here tonight," said Jim. "So, if you can spare me, I'll go and eat with the boys. Then I'll bring your chuck over to you."

Alf came out of his corner, pulling on the ragged overcoat that he had picked up in a trade with an undersized man down at the Bright Hope Mine.

Left alone, Tom drew a stool up beside the bunk, and sat studying his chum's face.

Twenty minutes later Hazelton opened his eyes.

"You're feeling better, now, aren't you?" asked Tom hopefully.

"I--I guess so," Harry muttered faintly.

"Where does it hurt you most, chum?"

"In--in my chest."

"Right lung!"

"Yes."

"Is the pain severe, Harry?"

"It's about all I can--can stand--old fellow."

"Poor chap. Don't try to talk, now. We're taking good care of you, and we'll keep on the job day and night. You've had some medicine, though you didn't know it. Now, try to sleep, if you can."

But Hazelton couldn't sleep. He tossed restlessly, his face aflame with fever.

Jim Ferrers came back with the supper, but Reade could eat very little of it. Alf Drew did not return. He had made his peace with the workmen.

Through the night Harry grew steadily worse. When daylight came in, with the blizzard still raging, the young engineer was delirious.

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