During the first week of December, Christopher developed a cough. It got worse. As he sat by the fire Friday morning at breakfast, he couldn’t stop shaking.
“Ya ain’t gittin no better,” Blake observed. “We gotta git ya ta the hospital.”
“Not going,” Christopher stated firmly. “Most people who go to the hospital end up dying. I have to get warm.” He shivered uncontrollably.
“We have to get him more blankets,” Matthew suggested.
“Ther’s extra in the supply tent,” Blake stated.
Matthew thought a minute. He knew the captain wouldn’t let the boys have them. He reached over and touched his friend’s forehead. “Your burning up!”
“But I’m freezing!”
“Sarah always said as ya have ta sweat the fev’r out from a person,” Blake shared.
“Who’s Sarah?” the drummer boy asked.
“She’s ar house servant who knows the most doct’rin.”
“That settles it,” Matthew said. “We’re getting those blankets.”
“When the cap’n calls fer fust muster, I’ll do Christopher’s drummin an says as he’s sick an yer with him. Ya sneak in the back a the supply tent an git the blankets.”
“I gotta git his drum.”
Blake walked to the musicians’ tent and retrieved the drum with its strap and sticks. He also brought the drummer’s blankets.
“Here, put these on him fer now.”
The two opened the blankets and wrapped them around their friend’s shoulders.
“Private, sound assembly,” Lieutenant Kidner ordered.
Blake reported to the captain’s tent and struck the call. As the long roll echoed through the camp, Sergeant Carson made sure all responded.
“Where’s Privates Mills and Jamison,” he asked peering at Blake.
“Jamison’s sick an Mills is takin care a him,” Blake responded.
Knowing Carson, Lieutenant Kidner went to check. He returned to report to the Captain. “Captain, Jamison is burning up with fever and Mills is tending to him by the fire.”
“Very well,” the captain instructed, “let them be reported as accounted for.” He proceeded to inspect the line.
Matthew crept into the back of the supply tent and grabbed up a half dozen wool blankets, then carefully worked his way back to the musicians’ tent. Depositing them inside, he returned to the fire before anyone realized he had left it. The troops were instructed to replenish their firewood supplies and dismissed.
“Can you guys get us firewood so Bradford can help me with Christopher?” Matthew asked.
“We’ll take care of it,” John replied. As they left, the two helped their friend into his tent and rearranged his bedding. Two blankets were spread on the ground. Christopher was placed on top fully clothed. The rest of the blankets were placed on top of him and tucked in under his body. The two waited to see if it would work.
“I’m cold settin here,” Blake complained.
“Let’s git ar blankets and wrap up agin him.”
“You stay,” Matthew said. “I’ll get them.”
The two wrapped up in their own blankets then lay down on either side of their patient as close as they could get. An hour passed. The others returned with the firewood. Wondering where their friends had gone, Beverly entered the tent in search.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Bradford said we should try to sweat the sickness out of him,” Matthew explained.
“I’ve heard of that, too,” the bugler stated. “But our drummer is going to have to do his duty. I’ll take over then.”
The hours passed; at some point Christopher stopped shaking and slept. John and Beverly kept the fire going and the coffee hot. Blake slipped out for meal call then afternoon muster, colors, and dinner. Sergeant Carson showed up to see where everyone was.
He saw the pile of blankets. “You are going on report and are in so much trouble.” He left. Shortly thereafter another came.
“What’s going on here?” a voice approached the tent. Lieutenant Kidner stepped inside. “What’s this about blankets being stolen?”
“We jest borrowed them ta he’p Private Jamison git well,” Blake explained.
“How is that?” the officer asked.
“We’re trying to sweat it out of him,” Matthew explained.
“When you’re finished, I expect to find them accounted for in the supply tent.” He left.
Christopher slept through it all. Darkness fell. Blake was called to sound taps. All six of the friends piled close to each other for the night.