Aunt Eunice seemed literally stunned and wholly incapable of action, while the negroes howled dismally for Mas’r Hugh, who, Chloe said, was sure to die.
“She’d felt it all along. She knew dem dogs hadn’t howled for nothing, nor them deathwatches ticked in the wall. Mas’r Hugh was gwine to die, and all the blacks would be sold—down the river, most likely, if Harney didn’t get ’em,” and crouching by the kitchen fire old Chloe bewailed the calamity she knew was about to befall them.
Alice alone was calm and capable of action. A room must be prepared, and somebody must direct, but to find the somebody was a most difficult matter. Chloe couldn’t, Hannah couldn’t, Aunt Eunice couldn’t, and consequently it all devolved upon herself.
They carried Hugh to the room designated by Densie, and into which he went very unwillingly.
It was not his den, he said, drawing back with a bewildered look; his was hot, and close, and dingy, while this was nice and cool—a room such as women had—there must be a mistake, and he begged of them to take him away.
“No, no, my poor boy. This is right; Miss Johnson said you must come here just because it is cool and nice. You’ll get well so much faster,” and Aunt Eunice’s tears dropped on Hugh’s flushed face.
“Miss Johnson!” and the wild eyes looked up eagerly at her. “Who is she? Oh, yes, I know, I know,” and a moan came from his lips as he whispered: “Does she know I’ve come? Does it make her hate me worse to see me in such a plight? Ho, Aunt Eunice, put your ear down close while I tell you something. Ad said—you know Ad—she said I was—I was—I can’t tell you what she said for this buzzing in my head. Am I very sick, Aunt Eunice?” and about the chin there was a quivering motion, which betokened a ray of consciousness, as the brown eyes scanned the kind, motherly face bending over him.
“Yes, Hugh, you are very sick,” and Aunt Eunice’s tears dropped upon the face of her boy, so fearfully changed since yesterday.
He wiped them away himself, and looked inquiringly at her.
“Am I so sick that it makes you cry? Is it the fever I’ve got?”
“Yes, Hugh, the fever,” and Aunt Eunice bowed her face upon his burning hands.
For a moment he lay unconscious, then raising himself up, he fixed his eyes piercingly upon her, and whispered, hoarsely:
“Aunt Eunice, I shall die! I have never been sick in my life; and the fever goes hard with such. I shall surely die. It’s been days in coming on, and I thought to fight it off; I don’t want to die. I’m not prepared.”
He was growing terribly excited now, and Aunt Eunice hailed the coming of the doctor with delight. Hugh knew him, offering his pulse and putting out his tongue of his own accord. The doctor counted the rapid pulse, numbering even then 130 per minute, noted the rolling eyeballs and the dilation of the pupils, felt the fierce throbbing of the swollen veins upon the temple, and then gravely shook his head. Half conscious, half delirious, Hugh watched him nervously, until the great fear at his heart found utterance in words.