For an instant the negro hesitated, leaned forward, and then with a burst of joy end out:
“You ain’t!—Fo’ Gawd it is! Dat beard on ye, Marse Harry, done fool me—but you is him fo’ sho. Gor-a-mighty! ain’t I glad ye ain’t daid. Marse George say on’y yisterday you was either daid or sick dat ye didn’t write an’—”
“Said yesterday! Why, is he at home?”
“Home! Lemme throw a blanket over dis hoss and tie him tell we come back. Oh, we had a heap o’ mis’ry since ye went away—a heap o’ trouble. Nothin’ but trouble! You come ’long wid me—’tain’t far; des around de corner. I’ll show ye sompin’ make ye creep all over. An’ it ain’t gettin’ no better—gettin’ wuss. Dis way, Manse Harry. You been ’cross de big water, ain’t ye? Dat’s what I heared. Aunt Jemima been mighty good, but we can’t go on dis way much longer.”
Still talking, forging ahead in the darkness through the narrow street choked with horseless drays, Todd swung into a dingy yard, mounted a flight of rickety wooden steps, and halted at an unpainted door. Turning the knob softly he beckoned silently to Harry, and the two stepped into a small room lighted by a low lamp placed on the hearth, its rays falling on a cot bed and a few chairs. Beside a cheap pine table sat Aunt Jemima, rocking noiselessly. The old woman raised her hand in warning and put her fingers to her lips.
On the bed, with the coverlet drawn close under his chin, lay his Uncle George!
Harry looked about the room in a bewildered way and then tiptoed to St. George’s bed. It had been a day of surprises, but this last had completely upset him. St. George dependent on the charity of his old cook and without other attendant than Todd! Why had he been deserted by everybody who loved him? Why was he not at Wesley or Craddock? Why should he be here of all places in the world?
All these thoughts surged through his mind as he stood above the patient and watched his slow, labored breathing. That he had been ill for some time was evident in his emaciated face and the deep hollows into which his closed eyes were sunken.
Aunt Jemima rose and handed the intruder her chair. He sat down noiselessly beside him. Once his uncle coughed, and in the effort drew the coverlet close about his throat, his eyes still shut; but whether from weakness or drowsiness, Harry could not tell. Presently he shifted his body, and moving his head on the pillow, called softly:
The old woman bent over him.
“Yes, Marse George.”
“Give me a little milk—my throat troubles me.”
Harry drew back into the shadow cast over one end of the cot and rear wall by the low lamp on the hearth. Whether to slip his hand gently over his uncle’s and declare himself, or whether to wait until he dozed again and return in the morning, when he would be less tired and could better withstand the shock of the meeting, was the question which disturbed him. And yet he could not leave until he satisfied himself of just what ought to be done. If he left him at all it must be for help of some kind. He leaned over and whispered in Jemima’s ear: