"They sat quietly and listened," said the colonel. "And I told them things they'd never heard. The buffalo, I told them, the bison. It was worth it. I don't care. I was in a pure fever and I was alive. It doesn't matter if being so alive kills a man; it's better to have the quick fever every time."
Colonel Freeleigh says this to his nurse only a few minutes before he dies. She was scolding him for talking to Douglas, Tom, and Charlie and getting so wound up. He defends the boys and describes beautifully the symbiotic nature of their relationship. He told them about things that they could only have dreamed about, and they made him feel alive and young again. The colonel was severely physically handicapped for the last years of his life, and to him a few moments of youthful vigor was worth more than wasting away. Colonel Freeleigh does not welcome death, but he does not fear it either, and there is no way that he would give up a moment of living to stave it off. He then lives up to his words because his next phone call to Mexico City provides him with the last agitated moments of his life. He dies living, just as he wanted.