Ezekiel replied, “Well, to be honest, Uncle Ike, Huldy and me had a little tiff, and I haven’t seen her to speak to her for more than three weeks, but I guess it will all come out all right some day.”
“Well, you’re on the right track, ’Zeke,” said Uncle Ike. “Do all your fighting before you get married. But what brings you down here so early in the morning?”
“I’ve got some bad news,” replied Ezekiel. “Have you heard from Alice lately?”
“No,” said Uncle Ike, “and I can’t understand it. She has always written to me once a fortnight, and it’s a month now since I heard from her, and she has sent me a book every Christmas until this last one.”
“She has been very sick, Uncle Ike,” said Ezekiel. “She was taken down about the middle of December and was under the doctor’s care for three weeks.”
“Is she better?” asked Uncle Ike eagerly.
“Yes, she is up again,” said Ezekiel, “but she is very weak; but that ain’t the worst of it,” he added.
“Why, what’s the matter?” asked Uncle Ike. “Why didn’t her friends let us know?”
“She wouldn’t let them,” said Ezekiel. “If it hadn’t been for what the eye doctor told her she wouldn’t have telegraphed to me what she did.”
“Well, what’s the matter with her?” cried Uncle Ike almost fiercely.
“Well, Uncle Ike,” said Ezekiel, and the tears stood in his eyes as he said it, “our Allie is almost blind, but the eye doctor says she will get better, but it will take a very long time. She has had to give up her job, and I am going to Boston again to-morrow to bring her home to the old house.”
“What’s the matter with her eyes?” asked Uncle Ike.
“He called them cataracts,” said Ezekiel, “or something like that.”
Uncle Ike sat down in his armchair and thought for a minute or two.
“Yes,” he said, “I know what they are; I have read all about them, and I know people who have had them. One was a schoolmate of mine. He was a mighty smart fellow and I felt sorry for him and used to help him out in his studies. I heard he had his eyes operated on and recovered his sight.”
“Well, the doctor she has,” said Ezekiel, “is agin operations. He says they can be cured without them. She drops something in her eyes and blows something in them, and then the tears come, and then she sits quietly with her hands folded, thinking, I suppose, till the time comes to use the medicine again.”
“What can I do to help you?” asked Uncle Ike. “You know I always loved Alice even better than I did my own children, because she is more lovable, I suppose. Now, ’Zeke, if you want any money for doctor’s bills or anything else, I am ready to do everything in the world I can for Alice. Did she ask after me, ’Zeke?”
“Almost the first thing she said was, ‘How is dear old Uncle Ike?’ and then she said how glad she would be to get back to Eastborough, where she could have you to talk to. ‘I am lonesome now,’ she said, ’I cannot write nor read, and the time passes so slowly with no one to talk to.’”