WAKING TO CONSCIOUSNESS
The sultry August glided by, and in the warm, still days of late September Hugh awoke from the sleep which had so long hung over him. Raising himself upon his elbow, he glanced around the room. There were the table, the stand, the mirror, the curtains, the vases, and the flowers, but what—did he see aright, or did his eyes deceive him? and the perspiration stood thickly about his mouth, as in the bouquet, that morning arranged, he recognized the gay flowers of autumn, not such as he had gathered for Alice, delicate summer flowers, but rich and gorgeous with a later bloom.
“I must have been sick,” he whispered, and pressing his hand to his still throbbing head, he tried to reveal and form into some definite shape the events which had seemed, and which seemed to him still, like so many phantoms of the brain.
Was it a dream—his mother’s tears upon his face, his mother’s voice calling him her Hughey boy, his mother’s sobs beside him? Was it, could it be all a dream that she, the Golden Haired, had been with him constantly? No that was not a dream. She did not hate him, else she had not prayed, and words of thanksgiving were going up to Golden Hair’s God, when a footstep in the hall announced the approach of some one. Alice, perhaps, and Hugh lay very still, with half-shut eyes, until Muggins, instead of Alice, appeared.
He was asleep, she said, as, standing on tiptoe, she scanned his face. He was asleep, and in her own dialect Muggins talked to herself about him as he lay there so still.
“Nice Mas’r Hugh—pretty Mas’r Hugh!” and Mug’s little black hand was laid caressingly on the face she admired so much. “I mean to ask God about him, just like I see Miss Alice do,” she continued, and stealing to the opposite side of the room, Muggins kneeled down, and with her face turned toward Hugh, she said: “If God is hearin’ me, will He please do all dat Miss Alice ax him ‘bout curin’ Mas’r Hugh.”
This was too much for Hugh. The sight of that ignorant negro child, kneeling by the window unmanned him entirely, and hiding his head beneath the sheets, he sobbed aloud. With a nervous start, Mug arose from her knees, and stood for an instant gazing in terror at the trembling of the bedclothes.
“I’ll bet he’s in a fit. I mean to screech for Miss Alice,” and Muggins was about darting away, when Hugh’s long arm caught and held her fast. “Oh, de gracious, Mas’r Hugh,” she cried, “you skeers me so. Does you know me, Mas’r Hugh?” and she took a step toward him.
“Yes, I know you, and I want to talk a little. Where am I, Mug? What room, I mean?”
“Why, Miss Alice’s, in course. She ’sisted, and ’sisted, till ’em brung you in here, ’case she say it cool and nice. Oh, Miss Alice so fine.”
“In Miss Johnson’s room,” and Hugh looked perfectly bewildered. In the room he had taken so much pains to have in order; it could not be; and he passed his hand up and down the comfortable mattress, striking it once with his fist, to see if it would sink in, and then, in a perplexed whisper, he asked: “This is her room, you say; but, Mug, where are the two feather beds?”