‘I’ll bring you a bite t’ eat before morning,’ he said, presently, as he rose to go. ‘leet me feel o’ your han’, mister.’
Uncle Eb gave him his hand and thanked him.
‘Feels good. First I’ve hed hold of in a long time,’ he whispered.
‘What’s the day o’ the month?’
‘I must remember. Where did you come from?’
Uncle Eb told him, briefly, the story of our going west
‘Guess you’d never do me no harm — would ye?’ the man asked. ’Not a bit,’ Uncle Eb answered.
Then he bade us goodbye, crossed the creaking floor and went away in the darkness.
‘Sing’lar character!’ Uncle Eb muttered.
I was getting drowsy and that was the last I heard. In the morning we found a small pail of milk sitting near us, a roasted partridge, two fried fish and some boiled potatoes. It was more than enough to carry us through the day with a fair allowance for Fred. Uncle Eb was a bit better but very lame at that and kept to his bed the greater part of the day. The time went slow with me I remember. Uncle Eb was not cheerful and told me but one story and that had no life in it. At dusk he let me go out in the road to play awhile with Fred and the wagon, but came to the door and called us in shortly. I went to bed in a rather unhappy flame of mind. The dog roused me by barking in the middle of the right and I heard again the familiar whisper of the stranger.
‘Sh-h-h! be still, dog,’ he whispered; but I was up to my ears in sleep and went under shortly, so I have no knowledge of what passed that night. Uncle Eb tells in his diary that he had a talk with him lasting more than an hour, but goes no further and never seemed willing to talk much about that interview or others that followed it.
I only know the man had brought more milk and fish and fowl for us. We stayed another day in the old house, that went like the last, and the night man came again to see Uncle Eb. The next morning my companion was able to walk more freely, but Fred and I had to stop and wait for him very often going down the big hill. I was mighty glad when we were leaving the musty old house for good and had the dog hitched with all our traps in the wagon. It was a bright morning and the sunlight glimmered on the dew in the broad valley. The men were just coming from breakfast when we turned in at David Brower’s. A barefooted little girl a bit older than I, with red cheeks and blue eyes and long curly hair, that shone like gold in the sunlight, came running out to meet us and led me up to the doorstep, highly amused at the sight of Fred and the wagon. I regarded her with curiosity and suspicion at first, while Uncle Eb was talking with the men. I shall never forget that moment when David Brower came and lifted me by the shoulders, high above his head, and shook me as if to test my mettle. He led me into the house then where his wife was working.