Uncle William brought him a glass of water. “I know how it tastes, but I reckon it’ll do the work. Now, let’s see.” he stood back, surveying the untidy room, a mellow smile on his lips. “‘T is kind o’ cluttered up,” he said. “I’ll jest make a path through.” He gathered up a handful of shoes and slippers and thrust them under the bed, drawing the spread down to hid them. The cups and glasses and scattered spoons and knives he bore away to the bath-room, and the artist heard them descending into the tub with a sound of rushing water. Uncle William returned triumphant. “I’ve put ’em a-soak,” he explained. The table-spread, with its stumps of cigars, bits of torn papers, and collars and neckties and books and paint-brushes and tubes, he gathered up by the four corners, dumping it into a half-open drawer. He closed the drawer firmly. “Might ’s well start fresh.” He replaced the spread and stood back, surveying it proudly. “What’s that door?” He pointed across the room.
“It’s your bedroom,” said the artist, a little uneasily. “But I don’t believe you can get in.”
Uncle William approached cautiously. He pushed open the door and looked in. He came back beaming. “The’ ’s quite a nice lot of room,” he said, taking hold of the end of his box and dragging it away.
The artist lay looking about the room with brightening eyes. The window-shades were still askew and there were garments here and there, but Uncle William’s path was a success. The sun was coming over the tops of the houses opposite, and Uncle William reappeared with shining face.
“You reely needed a man around,” he said. “I’m putty glad I come.”
“What made you come?” asked the artist.
“What made me?” Uncle William paused, looking about him. “Where’s my spectacles? Must ‘a’ left ’em in there.” He disappeared once more.
While the artist was waiting for him to return he dozed again, and when he opened his eyes, Uncle William was standing by the bed with a cup of something hot. He slipped a hand under the young man’s head, raising it while he drank.
The artist took his time—in slow, surprised sips. “It’s good!” he said. He released the cup slowly.
Uncle William nodded. “I’ve been overhaulin’ your locker a little.”
“You didn’t find that in it.” The artist motioned to the cup.
“Well—all but a drop or two,” said Uncle William, setting it down. “A drop o’ suthin’ hot’ll make ’most anything tasty, I reckon. I’ll go out and stock up pretty soon.”
A slow color had come into the artist’s face. He turned it away. “I don’t need much,” he said.
“No more’n a robin,” said Uncle William, cheerfully; “but I can’t live on bird-seed myself. I reckon I’ll lay in suthin’—two-three crackers, mebbe, enough to make a chowder.”
The young man laughed out. “I feel better,” he declared.
“It’s a good pill,” said Uncle William. “Must be ’most time for another.” He pulled out his great watch. “Jest about.” He doled out the pill with careful hand.