Then a flood of words poured from his very soul. "No, daddy; wait--here--I can't. Here is this old man. I have been here for five days. He gazes at me incessantly. I thought he was you. I love him dearly. He looks at me; I give him his drink; he wants me always beside him; he is very ill now. Have patience; I have not the courage--I don't know--it pains me too much; I will return home tomorrow; let me stay here a little longer; I don't at all like to leave him. See how he looks at me! I don't know who he is, but he wants me; he will die alone: let me stay here, dear daddy!"
"Bravo, little fellow!" exclaimed the attendant.
The father stood in perplexity, staring at the boy; then he looked at the sick man. "Who is he?" he inquired.
"A countryman, like yourself," replied the attendant, "just arrived from abroad, and who entered the hospital on the very day that you entered it. He was out of his senses when they brought him here, and could not speak. Perhaps he has a family far away, and sons. He probably thinks that your son is one of his."
The sick man was still looking at the boy.
The father said to Cicillo, "Stay."
"He will not have to stay much longer," murmured the attendant.
"Stay," repeated his father: "you have heart. I will go home immediately, to relieve mamma's distress. Here is a scudo for your expenses. Good by, my brave little son, until we meet!"
He embraced him, looked at him intently, kissed him again on the brow, and went away.
The boy returned to his post at the bedside, and the sick man appeared consoled. And Cicillo began again to play the nurse, no longer weeping, but with the same eagerness, the same patience, as before; he again began to give the man his drink, to arrange his bedclothes, to caress his hand, to speak softly to him, to exhort him to courage. He attended him all that day, all that night; he remained beside him all the following day. But the sick man continued to grow constantly worse; his face turned a purple color, his breathing grew heavier, his agitation increased, inarticulate cries escaped his lips, the inflammation became excessive. On his evening visit, the doctor said that he would not live through the night. And then Cicillo redoubled his cares, and never took his eyes from him for a minute. The sick man gazed and gazed at him, and kept moving his lips from time to time, with great effort, as though he wanted to say something, and an expression of extraordinary tenderness passed over his eyes now and then, as they continued to grow smaller and more dim. And that night the boy watched with him until he saw the first rays of dawn gleam white through the windows, and the sister appeared. The sister approached the bed, cast a glance at the patient, and then went away with rapid steps. A few moments later she reappeared with the assistant doctor, and with a nurse, who carried a lantern.