When he wakened again it was almost dark in the room. Uncle William sat by the window, looking down into the street. He came across to the bed as the artist stirred. “You’ve had a good long sleep.” He laid a hand on the moist forehead. “That’s good. Fever’s gone.”
“It will come back. It always does.” There was anxious dread in the tone.
“It won’t this time.” Uncle William sat nodding at him mildly. “I know how you feel—kind o’ scared to believe anything—anything that’s good.”
The artist smiled. “You never felt that way!”
“Jest that way,” said Uncle William. “I didn’t want to believe I wa’n’t al’ays goin’ to be sick. I kep’ kind o’ thinkin’ I’d rather be sick’n not—jest as if the devil had me.”
“Yes”—the young man spoke almost eagerly—“it’s the way I’ve been! Only I didn’t know it till you said so.”
“The’ ’s a good many things we don’t know—not jest exactly know—till somebody says ’em.”
They sat quiet, listening to the hum from the street.
“I’ve done some queer things,” said the artist.
“Like enough.” Uncle William did not ask what they were.
“They begin to look foolish.” He turned his head a little.
“Do you good—best thing in the world.”
“I don’t see how I could.” The tone was uneasy. “I must have been beastly to her.”
Uncle William said nothing.
“She didn’t tell you?” The artist was looking at him.
“She? Lord, no! women don’t tell anything you’ve done to ’em—not if it’s anything bad.”
“I might have known. . . . I fairly turned her out. But she kept coming back. She wanted me to marry her, so she could stay and take care of me.” He was not looking at Uncle William.
“And you wouldn’t let her?”
“I couldn’t—There was no money,” he said at last.
Uncle William glanced about him in the clear dusk. “Comf’tabul place,” he said.
The artist flushed. “She pays the rent, I suppose. They would have turned me out long since. I haven’t asked, but I know she pays it. There is no one else.”
“She is rich, probably,” said Uncle William.
“Rich?” The young man smiled bitterly. “She has what she earns. She works day and night. If she should stop, there would be nothing for either of us.”
“Not unless suthin’ come in,” said Uncle William. “Suthin’ might come in. You’d kind o’ like to see her, wouldn’t you?”
The artist held out a hand as if to stop him. “Not till I can pay her back, every cent!”
“Guess you need another pill, likely,” said Uncle William. He got up in the dark and groped about for the bottle. His great form loomed large above the bed as he handed it to the young man. “That’s four,” he said soothingly. “Jest about one more’ll fix ye.”
The young man swallowed it almost grudgingly. He lay back upon the pillow. “I can pay her the money sometime.” His gaunt eyes were staring into the dark. “But I can never make up to her for the way I treated her.”