“Mebbe she didn’t mind,” said Uncle William, non-committally. “Sometimes they don’t.”
“Mind? She couldn’t help minding. I was a fiend to her. I did everything but strike her.”
A smile grew, out of the dark, in Uncle William’s face. “I was thinkin’ about that ol’ chief,” he said slowly—“the one that give me the pills. I treated him—why, I treated him wuss ’n anything. ’Course, he wa’n’t like white folks; but I was fightin’ crazy with the fever, not sick enough to go to bed, but jest sittin’ around and jawin’ at things. I dunno how he come to take such a likin’ to me. Might ‘a’ been on account o’ my size—we was about the same build. I’d set and jaw at him, callin’ him names. Don’t s’pose he understood half of ’em, but he could see plain enough I was spittin’ mad. He’d kind o’ edge up to me, grinnin’ like and noddin’, and fust thing I knew, one day, he’d fetched a pill and made me take it. I was mad enough to ‘a’ killed him easy, but ’fore I could get up to do it, I fell asleep somehow. And when I woke up I felt different. You feel different, don’t you?”
The artist smiled through the soft dark. “I would like to get down on my knees.”
Uncle William smoothed the spread in place. “They’d feel kind o’ sharp, I guess. I wouldn’t try it—not yet. You wait till Sergia comes.”
“Will she come?”
“She’d come to-night if she knew you wanted her. You go to sleep, and in the mornin’ you’ll take that other pill.” He lifted the pillow and turned it over, patting it in place. “Why, that ol’ chief he was so glad when he see me feelin’ better he acted kind o’ crazy-like. I held out my hand to him when I woke up; but he didn’t know anything about shakin’ hands. He jest got down and took my feet and hugged ’em. It made me feel queer,” said Uncle William. “You do feel queer when you hain’t acted jest right.”
“Can I see her to-day?” It was the first question in the morning.
“You feelin’ well enough to sit up?”
“Well, then, you can stay where you be another day.” Uncle William smiled cheerfully.
“Can I see her?”
“We’ll see about that. I’ve got a good many things to tend to.” Uncle William bustled away.
After a time his head was thrust in the door. “I’ll go see her, myself, byme-by,” he said kindly. “Mebbe she’ll come back with me.”
“It’s too late now.” The artist spoke a little bitterly.
“Too late!” Uncle William came out, reproachful and surprised. “What d’you mean?”
“It’s quarter to nine. She goes to work at nine. She has pupils—she teaches all day.”
Uncle William’s face dropped a little. “That’s too bad now, ain’t it! But don’t you mind. I wa’n’t just certain I’d let you see her to-day, anyhow.”