Short Stories » Jimmy
Jimmy - Page 3 of 3
Just as Jimmy was doing fairly well and beginning to see a definite prospect of a new hat and overalls, he became sick. It was not considered anything serious at first only a sore throat and by his mother's wish Jimmy stayed at home all day to take care of himself and be ready for the next day's campaign. When his mother came home at night, he had a fever. The boys came around the gate, and finally sent in word that they would come that way in the morning. By the time they appeared, Jimmy was helpless with a burning fever, and they went on in a lingering, unsatisfied manner for a block or two, then stopped to talk it over, arriving at an arrangement to sell one or two baskets to Jimmy's customers for him, and call and report financially. This resolve had great effect in elating their spirits, and inspiring great diligence in the fore- noon's work and the afternoon's sales. But when they filed up the steep, narrow sidewalk and neared the house, a yellow flag, the sign of diphtheria, floated from over the door. A swift exchange of surprised looks, a brief consultation, and then one of them said, " I don't care, I'll take his money to the door anyway."
The rest of the group stood with cautious prudence quite near enough to catch the infected atmosphere, and watched the bearer approach the door, and, putting the money into the bewildered mother's hand, then deliver a brief explanation.
"I'll put it by till he can understand, and then tell him," she said; "but he's very sick, the doctor says." And the poor mother brushed her hand across her eyes, and turned to answer Jimmy's faint, delirious call.
Very quietly the boys walked away, and halted at the corner instead of making their usual visit to a baker's shop.
"Poor Jimmy! I guess, though, he'll get well, don't you think so? " "Let's come up this way in the morning. I've got a pup I was going to give Jimmy," said another. "I wish water-melons were ripe, I think one might do him good," added a third. "And I'll tell my mother, she knows what's good for sickness jellies and things," joined in the fourth. This last suggestion seemed to afford more immediate satisfaction than the others, and they parted, each going his own way at quickened pace to tell the news at home that "Jimmy Jones has got the diphtheria, the very worst kind. It's so, I've been right to the house."
This communication was received with unmistakable interest and alarm in each home where it was repeated; and painful injunctions given as to the next day's appointed visit.
Watching so eagerly for a return of consciousness in the sufferer's face, sat the sorrowful mother. He called her, he seemed to know her all the time, and she caught the chance to try and bring back other memories.
"Jimmy, dear, the boys were here last night. They brought your share of money for the water-cress; see, here it is, won't you hold it in your hand?"
He looked at her, and she knew he thought only of her; the poor brown fingers that she had shut upon the two dimes and the two nickels opened, and the unnoticed silver rolled upon the white sheet. She picked them up again and held them so that he could see them: "The boys brought you this, Jimmy, they said it was yours; look, dear."
But Jimmy only answered, "Mother, take me." And her tired, loving arms that had lifted and held him night and day, raised him up again, so that he would cease his restless moving and moaning.
The hot sun came through the white curtains ; the smell of stale water and soap-suds thrown out upon the little yards of the tenement houses came in through the raised windows; the flies swarmed in, too, and the air was full of kitchen odors and medicines. The low wall, where hung his faded and frayed apparel, faced him; the low, smoky ceiling seemed to close down upon him; voices from all through the house reached that room, and dust rolled in from the street; and if any remembrance of earthly ills or happy plans he had told came back to him, or if a better promise, a truer and sweeter, was before his eyes, that looked with so uncertain gaze in hers, she could not tell.
The father sat in helpless silence looking on the wasted form; the children tiptoed carefully about with whispers and tearful eyes; and, alive to all, caring for everything, for nothing, shuddering, with one dreadful truth before her, yet holding back the cry of anguish struggling to be free, the mother held him to her heart, and watched the last look answer to her own, heard the last breath pass away forever and Jimmy was gone!