“I did. It helped me forget.”
“It didn’t help you get well, I reckon,” said Uncle William. “What you need,” he added, “is fresh air and wind—and rocks.”
The artist mused. “It would seem good.”
The old man had paused in his work. “Will you go—to-morrow?”
The artist looked about him, hesitating. “I couldn’t get ready—”
“I’ll get ye ready.”
“We might—in a week?”
“I can’t wait,” said Uncle William, decisively. “I’ve got to look up Juno. She’ll like enough get desperate—drown herself the first thing I know. I’m goin’ to start to-morrow. If you want to go along, I’ll pack ye up.”
The young man looked at him helplessly. “I can’t get along without you. You know I need you.”
“Yes, I know you need me,” said Uncle William. “I kind o’ counted on that.” He began to pack vigorously, emerging now and then out of the dust and clatter to beam on the young man. “Now, don’t you worry a mite. You’re goin’ to get well and earn money and come back and pay her, and everything’s comin’ out all right.”
In the afternoon tickets arrived from Sergia. There was a line with them, asking Uncle William to call for her, at eight, that evening. The artist looked at the tickets a little enviously. “I should like to go, myself,” he said. “It’s the first view.” He glanced at Uncle William appealingly.
The old man ignored it. “You couldn’t go, noways,” he said; “not if we’re goin’ to start to-morrow.”
The artist sighed. He was sitting in an arm-chair, wrapped in a blanket, a pillow behind his head. “I don’t suppose I could.” He sighed again.
Uncle William looked at him keenly. “The’ ’s a good deal of leg-work to an exhibit, ain’t they?”
“Yes.” The artist smiled faintly.
Uncle William nodded. “I thought so. Well, it’s all you can do to set in a chair with a piller behind you. I wouldn’t say no more about picters if I was you.” He took down the mirror and laid it between two cushions, holding it in place while he reached for the knot. “I don’t suppose you have the least idee how you look,” he said. “I cal’ate to have you look a sight better’n that ’fore Sergia sees you.”
The artist’s face flushed. “Give me the glass.”
Uncle William shook his head. “I’ve got to hustle to get these things done.” He drew the sailor’s knot firmly in place. “I cal’ate to have everything ready so ’s to get an early start.”
“She wouldn’t mind how I looked,” said the young man, defensively.
“Mebbe not.” Uncle William was gathering together the trifles from the shelf and table, and knotting them in a table-spread. “You want to save this out?” he asked indifferently. It was a picture of the girl in an oval frame.
The young man seized it. He was looking at it with warm eyes.
Uncle William glanced down on them from his height. “Mebbe not,” he said gently, “but I reckon she’d hate to see ye lookin’ like that. It’s about all I can stan’ to see ye, myself.”