“Gone? Land, no!” Uncle William sat up from a cat-nap, rubbing his eyes and blinking a little. “I cal’ate to stay quite a spell yet.” He stretched his great legs slowly, first one and then the other, as if testing them.
Reproach filled the artist’s eyes. “You’ve not lain down all night!”
“Didn’t need to,” said Uncle William. He got to his feet briskly. “I slep’ a good deal comin’ down in the boat. There wa’n’t a great deal goin’ on. If you’ve got a little water and soap handy, I reckon I could use it.”
The artist half started to get up, but a firm hand held him back. “Now, stay right there. You jest tell me where things be—”
He pointed to a door at the left. “You won’t find it in very good order, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t you mind.” Uncle William had disappeared through the doorway. “It won’t bother me a mite.” His voice came back sociably. “I’m considabul ust to havin’ things mussed up.”
The artist lay with a smile, listening to the sounds that came through the half-open door—thumping and blowing and splashing.
Uncle William reappeared with shining face. “It seems good to hev suthin’ bigger’n a teacup to wash in,” he said. “I like the hull ocean, myself, but a tub does putty well. Now, jest let me see.”
He drew up to the bed, looking at the young man with keen glance.
“Oh, I’m all right—now.”
“Had a fever?”
“You all alone?”
“There’s a man comes in by and by. He’ll clean up and get things for me.”
Uncle William ignored the pride in the tone. “Jest roll over a little mite. There—” He placed his broad hand under the thin back. “Feel sore there? Kind o’ hurts, don’t it? I thought so—There.” He laid him back gently. “You jest wait a minute.” He was fumbling at the lock that held his box.
“Are you a doctor?” The young man was watching him with half-amused eyes.
“Well, not a doctor exactly.” Uncle William had taken out a small bottle and was holding it up to the light, squinting through it. “But I had a fever once, myself—kep’ a-runnin’.” He had come over to the bedside, the bottle in his hand. “You got a doctor?”
The young man shook his head. “He will come if I send for him.”
Uncle William nodded. “That’s the best kind.” He held out the bottle. “I’d like to give you ’bout five on ’em.”
“What are they?”
“Well, that’s what I don’t know, but it took about five on ’em to break up mine.” He had poured one into the palm of his hand and held it out. It was a small, roughly shaped pill, with grayish surface pitted with black.
The young man eyed it doubtfully.
“It don’t look very nice,” said Uncle William, “and the man that made it never had a stitch of clothes on his back in his life; but I guess you better take it.”
The young man opened his lips. The thing slid down, leaving a sickish, sweetish taste behind it.