Here is a story about a little boy named Schatz who thinks he is going to die and waits for his death, which is nowhere near him! Now read on.
He came into the room to shut the window 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.
"What's the matter, Schatz?"
"I've got a headache."
"You better go back to bed."
"No. I'm 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 fever.
"You go up to bed," I said. "You're sick."
"I'm alright," 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. One was to bring down the
fever, another a purgative, the third to overcome acidity, he explained.
He seemed to know all about the influenza and said there was nothing to
worry about if the fever did not go above a hundred and four degrees.
There was a mild epidemic of flu and there was no danger if you avoided
Back in the room, I wrote down the boy's temperature and made a note
of the time for giving 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 aloud 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 him another capsule. It would have been natural for him to go to sleep, but when I looked down, he was looking strangely at the foot of the bed.
"Why don't you try to sleep? I'll wake you up for the medicines."
"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. After giving him the prescribed capsules at eleven o'clock, l went out a while. At the house, they said the boy had refused to let anyone come into the room.
"You can't come in," he said. "You must not 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, still staring 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."
"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 am 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. 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.
“You poor Schatz!" I said. “Poor old Schatz. You aren't going to die. There are different kinds of thermometers. On one thermometer, thirty-seven is normal. On this kind, ninety-eight is normal."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely," I said. "It's like miles and kilometres, you know. Like how
many kilometres we make when we do seventy miles in the car."
"Oh," he said.
But his gaze at the foot of the bed relaxed slowly. His body relaxed too,
finally. It was very slack the next day, and he cried very easily at little
things that were of no importance.