“Where, Sam—where?” he asked, trying to raise himself upon his elbow. “Is Alice here, did you say?”
“No, massah; not ’zactly here—but on de road. If massah could ride, Sam hold him on, like massah oncet held on ole Sam, and we’ll get to her directly. They’s kind o’ Secesh folks whar she is, but mighty good to her. She knowed ’em ’fore, ’case way down here is whar Sam was sold dat time Miss Ellis comed and show him de road to Can’an. Miss Ellis tell me somethin’ nice for Massah Hugh, ef he’s dyin’—suffin make him so glad. Is you dyin’, massah?”
“I hardly think I am as bad as that. Can’t you tell unless I am near to death?” Hugh said; and Sam replied:
“No, massah; dem’s my orders. ‘Ef he’s dyin’, Sam, tell him I’—dat’s what she say. Maybe you is dyin’, massah. Feel and see!”
“It’s possible,” and something like his old mischievous smile played around Hugh’s white lips as he asked how a chap felt when he was dying.
“I’se got mizzable mem’ry, and I don’t justly ’member,” was Sam’s answer; “but I reckons he feel berry queer and choky—berry.”
“That’s exactly my case, so you may venture to tell,” Hugh said; and getting his face close to that of the young man, Sam whispered: “She say, ‘Tell Massah Hugh—I—I—’ You’s sure you’s dyin’?”
“I’m sure I feel as you said I must,” Hugh, continued, and Sam went on: “‘Tell him I loves him; and ef he lives I’ll be his wife.’ Dem’s her very words, nigh as I can ‘member—but what is massah goin’ to do?” he continued in some surprise, as Hugh attempted to rise.
“Do? I’m going to Alice,” was Hugh’s reply, as with a moan he sank back again, too weak to rise alone.
“Then you be’nt dyin’, after all,” was Sam’s rueful comment, as he suggested: “Ef massah only clamber onto Rocket.”
This was easier proposed than done, but after several trials Hugh succeeded; and, with Sam steadying him, while he half lay on Rocket’s neck, Hugh proceeded slowly and safely through the woods, meeting at last with some Unionists, who gave him what aid they could, and did not leave him until they saw him safely deposited in an ambulance, which, in spite of his entreaties, took him direct to Georgetown. It was a bitter disappointment to Hugh, so bitter, indeed, that he scarcely felt the pain when his broken arm was set; and when, at last, he was left alone in his narrow hospital bed, he turned his face to the wall and cried, just as many a poor, homesick soldier had done before him, and will do again.
Twenty-four hours had passed, and in Hugh’s room it was growing dark again. All the day he had watched anxiously the door through which visitors would enter, asking repeatedly if no one had called for him; but just as the sun was going down he fell away to sleep, dreaming at last that Golden Hair was there—that her soft, white hands were on his brow, her sweet lips pressed to his, while her dear voice murmured softly: “Darling Hugh!”