Uncle William carried the letter up the zigzag rocks in his big fingers. A touch of spring was in the air, but the Andrew Halloran rocked alone at the foot of the cliff. Uncle William turned back once to look at her. Then he pursued his way up the rocky cliff. He had not heard from the artist for over a month. He glanced down curiously at the letter in his hand, once or twice, as he climbed the cliff. It was a woman’s handwriting.
He sat down by the table, tearing open the envelope with cautious fingers. A strip of bluish paper fluttered from it and fell to the floor. Uncle William bent over and picked it up. He looked at it a little bashfully and laid it on the table. He spread the letter before him, resting his elbows on the table and bending above it laboriously. As he read, an anxious line came between his eyes. “Now, that’s too bad—sick in bed—I want to know—Well, well! Pshaw, you needn’t ‘a’ done that! Of course I’ll go.” He picked up the bluish slip and looked at it. He pushed the spectacles back on his head and sat surveying the red room. He shook his head slowly. “He must be putty sick to feel like that,” he said.
He took up the letter again, spelling it out slowly.
“MY DEAR MR. BENSLOW: You have not forgotten Alan Woodworth, the artist who was in Arichat last summer? I am writing to tell you that he is very ill. He has not been well for two months or more, and for the last three weeks he has been very ill indeed. He is in his rooms alone and there is no one to look after him. His friends have tried all along to have him go to a hospital, or to let them take care of him. But until two or three weeks ago he would have times of partial recovery—days when he seemed perfectly well. So no one has guessed how really ill he is, and they suppose now that he has gone away from the city to recuperate. No one, except me, knows that he is still in his rooms. The door is locked and no one answers if you go there. I am writing you as a last resort. He has told me about you—how good you were to him last summer—”
Uncle William looked up, perplexed. “Sho, now! What does she mean by that? I didn’t do nuthin’—nuthin’ to speak of.”
“I feel as if he would let you in and let you do things for him. He has talked about you to me, since he came back; and in his illness, earlier, when the fever was on, he would call for you—talking and muttering in his sleep. If you could come down for a little while, I feel almost sure that it would give him the start he needs. The fever makes him distrustful of every one, but I know that he would see you. I am inclosing a check for the trip. It is really money that belongs to him—to Alan. He gave me last year a beautiful present—something far too expensive for him to give; and now that he needs the money—needs to see you—more than I need the jewel. I am sending it to you, begging that you will come very soon if you can. Alan said that he had told you about me. You will not wonder who I am or why I am writing. I hope that I shall see you and know you when you come.