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CHAPTER XIV

WE ALL HAVE THE MUMPS

I THINK that it was the following day (for I recall that we had three fables assigned, The Enemies, The Oxen and The Raven and the Fox) when Addison, at dinner, suddenly complained that his left ear ached.

"So does mine," said Ellen. "My jaw on the left side feels queer, too. It is swelled."

Addison remarked that his own jaw also felt queer. "Do you suppose it is the Latin, Ad?" Theodora asked, laughing.

"I shouldn't wonder," Gram observed. "I have been expecting that something would happen to all your jaws, from the strange talk I have heard. in the sitting-room, this week. I would not like to put my jaws about in that way."

"I could not eat a sponge-russet this forenoon, either," continued Ellen. "It tasted so sour and sharp that it made my ear ache dreadfully."

With that Gram, who had been merely in sport, alluding to the Latin, suddenly looked up and said, "Come around here. Let me see your ear, Ellen."

Ellen passed around the table to Gram's chair and was examined attentively for some moments. "Taste a little of that," said the old lady, pouring out a small quantity of vinegar from the cruse. Ellen did so gingerly and laughed at first, but a moment later made a wry face and uttered a cry of extreme discomfort.

I thought so!" Gram cried confidently. "You've got the mumps, young lady!"

"Then I'll bet a cent I've got them!" exclaimed Addison in dismay.

"Well, taste of the vinegar," said Gram, pouring out a little more and passing the spoon to him.

Addison sipped away with a wondrous wise look, slowly tasting it; and then he, too, made a wry face and clapped both hands beneath his ears. "O gracious! how it cuts! how it stings!" he ejaculated, getting very red in the face. What ails my jaws!"

"You've both got the mumps!" cried Gram. "Your jaws will have to keep stiller for a while, or I'm much mistaken!"

"I heard that they had the mumps out at the Corners last week," Joel remarked, "when I went to the post-office."

Addison and Ellen continued studying that afternoon, although they felt far from well; their faces were swollen on both sides.

Next morning they were both quite ill.

Thomas came in alone that morning; Catherine also had an aching ear, he told us; and before noon Halstead began to complain.

"You will all have the mumps, most likely," Joel remarked to us that night. "I conclude it will be better to close the school and save the remainder of your money for the time being. You may wish, perhaps, to have another short term, later on."

We disliked very much to stop, till the fifteen days had expired, but finally decided to do so. Joel bade us farewell, and went back to College the following morning and left us to settle our accounts with the mumps.

The question where we had "caught" the mumps, was one which puzzled Gram exceedingly. No one had been to the house during the previous week save the pupils and neighbors, none of whom, except Catherine, had mumps; in fact, the question how they came to us was obscure. It seemed to be a case of spontaneous mumps. In jest Gram always attributed them to the Latin which had disturbed the normal and proper movements of our jaws. Addison humorously favored this opinion and argued that Latin would come much easier to us all, as soon as we were well over the mumps.

Before night, however, both he and Ellen ceased to find anything humorous in their affection. They were really quite ill. Their cheeks protruded like those of a chipmunk, stuffed with corn. The lower lobes of their ears turned outward in a very comical manner. Both refused food, the effort to masticate caused them such anguish. Gram bound up their cheeks in cotton batting and fed them on chicken broth.

Halstead was not much ill; his jaw gave him less trouble; he now derided Addison, and coming into the sitting-room where the latter lay on the lounge, much flushed and very miserable, set about making a picture of him on the smooth cover of a salt box the only time we ever knew him to attempt anything in the artistic line. He really made a very comical picture, which bore so grotesque a resemblance that we who had not mumps as yet, were convulsed with laughter. Halstead continued at his task, walking first to one point of view, then another, about the lounge, till he nearly drove Addison wild. Theodora sought to coax him away, but he would not budge.

"This is the chance I've always wanted," he declared, "to get a good likeness of Ad and his big head. I mean always to keep it. I want to make it a work of art." Then he resumed his walks about the lounge again.

"If you don't quit, I will get up and throw you out!" cried Addison, at length.

"Guess I wouldn't try it. I rather think I can best you to-night," said Halse. "If I should get in a blow right under that left ear of yours, you would squeal. Doesn't that ear stick out, though! I never saw two such chops on any living creature, except a fat pig. Addison, you ought to get your photograph taken tonight and send it over to Edith Thomas. You'd like to have Edith see it, you know."

Addison began to get up, his swollen, flushed visage turning even redder from pent-up indignation and wrath; but at this juncture Gram entered and turned Halstead out.

Addison sank back on the lounge with a groan, quite dizzy, his ears singing, as he confessed, like a hot teakettle. "But, by ginger, I will thrash that fellow, if I ever get well," he exclaimed thickly.

Halstead meantime had gone out to interview Ellen who was in an old rocking-chair, wrapped up in a comforter, by the kitchen stove; and soon we heard a plaintive outcry from that quarter: "Dear me! Do go off and let me alone. You've no more feeling than a horse! Gram! Gram! Sha'n't Halse quit plaguing me?" The old lady set off for the kitchen in haste; and a moment later Halstead's feet were heard clattering out toward the wood-house.

Mumps, or parotitis, is a capricious malady, due to an infection which finds lodgment in the parotid, and more rarely, in the sub-maxillary glands; and here I may record that one of the Murch boys had an inflammation of the sub-maxillary gland a fortnight later, instead of the more usual parotitis. Why the left parotid gland is so much more commonly attacked than the right, at first, is one of the mysteries of the ailment.

Addison was not as ill the next morning and improved rapidly, although his cheeks continued swollen for three or four days. Ellen was miserably ill for two days longer; yet her face was not as badly swollen as Addison's. Halstead scarcely minded his attack at all. His face was swollen but little and he boasted that he was able to sip vinegar every day.

Meantime Catherine was quite ill, but none of the others of our school group were attacked till seven or eight days later.

The Old Squire, with the two hired Doanes, had now begun to work up the great wood-piles in front of the farmhouse ell. He summoned Halstead and me to his assistance. We had first to cut the eight-foot logs in two and split them, then put them on a saw-horse and saw them, once for the sitting-room fire-place, twice for the kitchen stove and other stoves in the chambers. The stove-wood had to be split again, so that altogether we had a laborious task before us.

The old gentleman always made a point of getting his entire stock of fuel for the year prepared and packed away in the wood-house before beginning field work in the spring. It was new business for me; and that wood-pile looked so huge that I imagined that we would hardly finish it in time for much else that season. The great tiers grew small very slowly, during those first three or four days. When Addison was able to join us, the task progressed a little better, and in the course of a week the most of the great logs had gone over into a heap of fresh white stove-wood which was rapidly tanned yellow under the March wind.

Not alone the wood was tanned; our faces got brown with equal rapidity. Theodora assured us that she could see the brown tint on our cheeks deepen every hour when the wind blew. A little vacation was at hand for me, however; in the course of about nine days, parotitis claimed me, too; Theodora and I had been testing our mouths with vinegar for several days; she failed to stand the test on the following day; and Wealthy was seized the day after. All three of us had the mumps very lightly, however; although I am sorry to confess that I made as much of mine as I could, in order to escape the wood-pile which I had grown heartily tired of. It was far more agreeable to sit in the house with the girls and play the invalid. Gram had seen too much parotitis in her day to be much deceived by my languid airs, however, and soon pronounced me able to work again. Ellen and Addison had sympathy for me; but Halstead declared me a shirk. As I sat at the window, indoors, he would look up from sawing wood, at intervals, and make the most abominable faces to me and, with expressive gestures and much dumb show, intimate that my proper place was out there with the buck-saw. I managed to enjoy a vacation of three days, however. In fact, I then regarded the mumps as a rather agreeable respite from toil; but with mumps much depends on the severity of the attack.


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