Chapter 45 Summary
Jerry’s New Year
Christmas and the New Year are happy times for most people, but cabmen and their horses do not have time to celebrate. The work is hard and often late, for the weather is cold and the waiting seems longer when there is a merry celebration just inside, where it is warm. Jerry uses Jack for most of the evening work. They stay very busy and Jerry’s cough is bad; however, no matter how late they arrive home, Polly is up and comes to greet her husband with a lantern in her hand and anxiety on her face. On the evening of the New Year, Jack and Jerry take two gentlemen to a gathering at nine o’clock and are told to return for them at eleven o’clock. They may be a few minutes later than eleven, but they want the cab there on time.
Jerry is waiting at eleven; as the clock strikes twelve, he is still waiting. It is windy, the sleet is bone-chilling, and there is no shelter for the cab or the horse. Jerry tries to protect Jack with cloths and walks to stay warm until he begins to cough. At twelve thirty, Jerry rings the bell and asks the servant if the cab will be needed tonight. He is assured the cab will be needed soon, so they wait.
At 1:15 the two gentleman walk out of the house and into the cab without a word to their driver except to tell him their destination. The address is nearly two miles away, and Jack’s legs are so cold he nearly stumbles. The men say nothing until Jerry tells them the fare and they complain about paying for his waiting time. Because Jerry is an honest man, he never charges more than he is due, but he never leaves without collecting his fare. The fare was hard-earned that night. He can barely speak and his cough is dreadful. Polly opens the door and holds the lantern, as always. He tells her she can feed Jack something warm and then boil him some gruel as he rubs down his horse as usual. Once Jack is warm and comfortable, Polly and Jerry lock the stable.
It is late the next morning before Harry comes to the stable. He tends to both horses as if it were Sunday. The boy is quiet; he neither whistles nor sings. At noon Dolly comes with him to give the horses their food and water. She is crying and Jack learns their father is dangerously ill with bronchitis. Two days pass and the children are still caring for the horses. Polly is tirelessly at her husband’s side, for he must remain very quiet. On the third day, Governor Grant comes in to the stable and asks Harry about his father. Harry says it is bad, and the physician believes tonight things will turn one way or the other for Jerry. Governor encourages the boy not to lose hope, though. The doctor believes Jerry has a better chance than most men because he does not drink. If not, his fever was so high...
(The entire section is 798 words.)