To say that the Agency doctor was astonished at being requested to ride thirty miles to prescribe for an ailing Indian baby, would be a mild statement of the doctor's emotion. He could hardly keep from laughing, when it was made clear to him that this was what the Indian father expected.
"Good Lord!" he said, turning to a crony who chanced to be lounging in the office. "Listen to that beggar, will you? I wonder what he thinks the Government pays me a year for doctoring Indians!"
Alessandro listened so closely it attracted the doctor's attention. "Do you understand English?" he asked sharply.
"A very little, Senor," replied Alessandro.
The doctor would be more careful in his speech, then. But he made it most emphatically clear that the thing Alessandro had asked was not only out of the question, but preposterous. Alessandro pleaded. For the child's sake he could do it. The horse was at the door; there was no such horse in San Bernardino County; he went like the wind, and one would not know he was in motion, it was so easy. Would not the doctor come down and look at the horse? Then he would see what it would be like to ride him.
"Oh, I've seen plenty of your Indian ponies," said the doctor. "I know they can run."
Alessandro lingered. He could not give up this last hope. The tears came into his eyes. "It is our only child, Senor," he said. "It will take you but six hours in all. My wife counts the moments till you come! If the child dies, she will die."
"No! no!" The doctor was weary of being importuned. "Tell the man it is impossible! I'd soon have my hands full, if I began to go about the country this way. They'd be sending for me down to Agua Caliente next, and bringing up their ponies to carry me."