“But I tell yer, I kyant reckerlect a thing befo’ I kinder waked up in the hospital, en the Johnnies call me Yankee Blank. I jes’ wish folks would lemme alone on that pint. Hit allus bothers me en makes me mad. How kin I reckerlect when I kyant?” and he began to show signs of strong vexation.
Dr. Barnes was about to interfere when Mrs. Nichol, who had grown calmer, rose, took her son’s hand, and said brokenly: “Albert, look me in the face, your mother’s face, and try, try with all your heart and soul and mind. Don’t you remember me?”
It was evident that her son did try. His brow wrinkled in the perplexed effort, and he looked at her fixedly for a moment or more; but no magnetic current from his mother’s hand, no suggestion of the dear features which had bent over him in childhood and turned toward him in love and pride through subsequent years found anything in his arrested consciousness answering to her appeal.
The effort and its failure only irritated him, and he broke out: “Now look yere, I be as I be. What’s the use of all these goin’s on? Doctor, if you sez these folks are my father and mother, so be it. I’m learning somethin’ new all the time. This ain’t no mo’ quar, I s’pose, than some other things. I’ve got to mind a doctor, for I’ve learned that much ef I hain’t nuthin’ else, but I want you uns to know that I won’t stan’ no mo’ foolin’. Doctors don’t fool me, en they’ve got the po’r ter mek a feller do ez they sez, but other folks is got ter be keerful how they uses me.”
Mrs. Nichol again sank into her chair and wept bitterly; her husband at last remained silent in a sort of inward, impotent rage of grief. There was their son, alive and in physical health, yet between him and them was a viewless barrier which they could not break through.
The strange complications, the sad thwartings of hope which must result unless he was restored, began to loom already in the future.
Dr. Barnes now came forward and said: “Captain Nichol, you are as you are at this moment, but you must know that you are not what you were once. We are trying to restore you to your old self. You’d be a great deal better off if we succeed. You must help us all you can. You must be patient, and try all the time to recollect. You know I am not deceiving you, but seeking to help you. You don’t like this. That doesn’t matter. Didn’t you see doctors do many things in hospitals which the patients didn’t like?”
“I reckon,” replied Nichol, growing reasonable at once when brought on familiar ground.
“Well, you are my patient. I may have to do some disagreeable things, but they won’t hurt you. It won’t be like taking off an arm or a leg. You have seen that done, I suppose?”
“You bet!” was the eager, proud reply. “I used to hold the fellows when they squirmed.”
“Now hold yourself. Be patient and good-natured. While we are about it, I want to make every appeal possible to your lost memory, and I order you to keep on trying to remember till I say: ‘Through for the present.’ If we succeed, you’ll thank me all the days of your life. Anyhow, you must do as I say.”