Jack London. The Apostate (part 11)
«Why don’t you thank ‘im, Johnny?» his mother asked anxiously.
«He’s ben that sick he ain’t himself yet,» she explained apologetically to the visitor.
Johnny sat hunched up and gazing steadfastly at the floor. He sat in the same position long after the foreman had gone. It was warm outdoors, and he sat on the stoop in the afternoon. Sometimes his lips moved. He seemed lost in endless calculations.
Next morning, after the day grew warm, he took his seat on the stoop. He had pencil and paper this time with which to continue his calculations, and he calculated painfully and amazingly.
«What comes after millions?» he asked at noon, when Will came home from school. «An’ how d’ye work ’em?»
That afternoon finished his task. Each day, but without paper and pencil, he returned to the stoop. He was greatly absorbed in the one tree that grew across the street. He studied it for hours at a time, and was unusually interested when the wind swayed its branches and fluttered its leaves. Throughout the week he seemed lost in a great communion with himself. On Sunday, sitting on the stoop, he laughed aloud, several times, to the perturbation of his mother, who had not heard him laugh in years.
Next morning, in the early darkness, she came to his bed to rouse him. He had had his fill of sleep all week, and awoke easily. He made no struggle, nor did he attempt to hold on to the bedding when she stripped it from him. He lay quietly, and spoke quietly.
«It ain’t no use, ma.»
«You’ll be late,» she said, under the impression that he was still stupid with sleep.
«I’m awake, ma, an’ I tell you it ain’t no use. You might as well lemme alone. I ain’t goin’ to git up.»
«But you’ll lose your job!» she cried.
«I ain’t goin’ to git up,» he repeated in a strange, passionless voice.
She did not go to work herself that morning. This was sickness beyond any sickness she had ever known. Fever and delirium she could understand; but this was insanity. She pulled the bedding up over him and sent Jennie for the doctor.
When that person arrived, Johnny was sleeping gently, and gently he awoke and allowed his pulse to be taken.
«Nothing the matter with him,» the doctor reported. «Badly debilitated, that’s all. Not much meat on his bones.»
«He’s always been that way,» his mother volunteered.
«Now go ‘way, ma, an’ let me finish my snooze.»