Read CHAPTER IX of Cudjo's Cave , free online book, by J. T. Trowbridge, on ReadCentral.com.

TOBY’S PATIENT HAS A CALLER.

Mr. Bythewood had now taken his departure; Salina had been intrusted with the secret; and Penn had been put to bed (as the rover correctly surmised) in the corner bedchamber.

He had been diligently plucked; as much of the tar had been removed as could be easily taken off by methods known to Stackridge and Toby, and his wounds had been dressed. And there he lay, at last, in the soothing linen, exhausted and suffering, yet somehow happy, thinking with gratitude of the friends God had given him in his sore need.

“Bress your heart, dear young massa!” said old Toby, standing by the bed (for he would not sit down), and regarding him with an unlimited variety of winks, and nods, and grins, expressive of satisfaction with his work; “ye’re jest as comf’table now as am possible under de sarcumstances. If dar’s anyting in dis yer world ye wants now, say de word, and ol’ Toby’ll jump at de chance to fetch ’em fur ye.”

“There is nothing I want now, good Toby, but that you and Carl should rest. You have done everything you can and far more than I deserve. I will try to thank you when I am stronger.”

“Can’t tink ob quittin’ ye dis yer night, nohow, massa! Mr. Stackridge he’s gone; Carl he can go to bed, he ain’t no ’count here, no way. But I’se took de job o’ gitt’n you well, Mass’ Penn, and I’se gwine to put it frew ’pon honor, do it up han’some!”

And notwithstanding Penns remonstrances, the faithful black absolutely refused to leave him. Indeed, the most he could be prevailed upon to do for his own comfort, was to bring his blanket into the room, and promise that he would lie down upon it when he felt sleepy. Whether he kept his word or not, I cannot say; but there was no time during the night when, if Penn happened to stir uneasily, he did not see the earnest, tender, cheerful black face at his pillow in an instant, and hear the affectionate voice softly inquire,

“What can I do fur ye, massa? Ain’t dar nuffin ol’ Toby can be a doin’ fur ye, jes’ to pass away de time?”

Sometimes it was water Penn wanted; but it did him really more good to witness the delight it gave Toby to wait upon him, than to drink the coolest and most delicious draught fresh from the well.

At length Penn began to feel hot and stifled.

“What have you hung over the window, Toby?”

“Dat ar? ’Pears like dat ar’s my blanket, sar. Ye see, ’twouldn’t do, nohow, to let nary a chink o’ light be seen from tudder side, ’cause dat ‘ud make folks s’pec’ sumfin’, dis yer time o’ night. So I jes’ sticks up my ol’ blanket ’pears like I can sleep a heap better on de bar floor!”

“But I must have some fresh air, you dear old hypocrite!” said Penn, deeply touched, for he knew that the African had deprived himself of his blanket because he did not wish to disturb him by leaving the room for another.

“I’ll fix him! Ill fix him!” said Toby. And he seemed raised to the very summit of happiness on discovering that there was something, requiring the exercise of his ingenuity, still to be done for his patient.

After that Penn slept a little. “Tank de good Lord,” said the old negro the next morning, “you’re lookin’ as chirk as can be! I’se a right smart hand fur to be nussin’ ob de sick; and sakes! how I likes it! I’se gwine to hab you well, sar, ’fore eber a soul knows you’se in de house.” Yet Toby’s words expressed a great deal more confidence than he felt; for, though he had little apprehension of Penn’s retreat being discovered, he saw how weak and feverish he was, and feared the necessity of sending for a doctor.

Penn now insisted strongly that the old servant should not neglect his other duties for him.

“Now you jes’ be easy in yer mind on dat pint! Dar’s Carl, tends to out-door ’rangements, and I’se got him larnt so’s’t he’s bery good, bery good indeed, to look arter my cow, and my pigs, and sech like chores, when I’se got more ’portant tings on hand myself. And dar’s Miss Jinny, she’s glad enough to git de breakfust herself dis mornin’; only jes’ I kind o’ keeps an eye on her, so she shan’t do nuffin wrong. She an’ Massa Villars come to ’quire bery partic’lar ’bout you, ’fore you was awake, sar.”

These simple words seemed to flood Penn’s heart with gratitude. Toby withdrew, but presently returned, bringing a salver.

“Nuffin but a little broff, massa. And a toasted cracker.”

“O, you are too kind, Toby! Really, I can’t eat this morning.”

“Can’t eat, sar? I declar, now!” (in a whisper), “how disappinted she’ll be!”

“Who will be disappointed?”

“Who? Miss Jinny, to be sure! She made de broff wid her own hands. Under my d’rections, ob course! But she would make ’em herself, and took a heap ob pains to hab ’em good, and put in de salt wid her own purty fingers, and looked as rosy a stirrin’ and toastin’ ober de fire as eber you see an angel, sar!”

For some reason Penn began to think better of the broth, and, to Toby’s infinite satisfaction, he consented to eat a little. Toby soon had him bolstered up in bed, and held the salver before him, and looked a perfect picture of epicurean enjoyment, just from seeing his patient eat.

“It is delicious!” said Penn; at which brief eulogium the whole rich, exuberant, tropical soul of the unselfish African seemed to expand and blossom forth with joy. “I shall be sure to get well and strong soon, under such treatment. You must let Carl go to Mrs. Sprowl’s and fetch my clothes; I shall want some of them when I get up.”

“Bress you, sar! you forgets nobody ain’t to know whar you be! Mass’ Villars he say so. You jes’ lef’ de clo’es alone, yit awhile. Wouldn’t hab dat ar Widder Sprowl find out you’se in dis yer house, not if you’d gib me

Rap, rap, at the chamber door; two light, hurried knocks.

“Miss Jinny herself!” said old Toby, forgetting Mrs. Sprowl in an instant. And setting down the salver, he ran to the door.

Penn heard quick whispers of consultation; then Toby came back, his eyes rolling and his ivory shining with a ludicrous expression of wrath and amazement.

“It’s de bery ol’ hag herself! Speak de débil’s name and he’s allus at de door!”

“Who? Mrs. Sprowl?”

“Yes, sar! and I wish she was furder, sar! She’s a ‘quirin’ fur you, says she knows you’se in de house, and it’s bery ’portant she must see ye. But, tank de Lord, massa!” chuckled the old negro, “Carl’s forgot his English, and don’t know nuffin what she wants! he, he, he! Or if she makes him und’stan’ one ting, den he talks Dutch, and she don’t und’stan.’ And so dey’se habin’ it, fust one, den tudder, while Miss Jinny she hears ’em and comes fur to let us know. But how de ol’ critter eber found you out, dat am one ob de mysteries!”

“She merely guesses I am here,” said Penn. “I’m only afraid Carl will overdo his part, and confirm her suspicions.”

“‘Sh!” hissed Toby in sudden alarm. “She’s a comin! She’s a comin’ right up to dis yer door!” And he flew to fasten it.

He had scarcely done so when a hand tried the latch, and a voice called,

“Come! ye needn’t, none of ye, try to impose on me! I know you’re in this very room, Penn Hapgood, and you’ll let me in, old friends so, I’m shore! I’ve bothered long enough with that stupid Dutch boy, and now Virginny wants to keep me, and talk with me; but I’ve nothing to do with nobody in this house but you!”

Mrs. Sprowl had not been on amicable terms with her daughter-in-law’s family since Salina and her husband separated; and this last declaration she made loud enough for all in the house to hear.

Penn motioned for Toby to open the door, believing it the better way to admit the lady and conciliate her. But Toby shook his head and his fist with grim defiance.

“Wal!” said Mrs. Sprowl, “you can do as you please about lettin’ a body in; but I’ll give ye to understand one thing I don’t stir a foot from this door till it’s opened. And if you want it kept secret that you’re here, it’ll be a great deal better for you, Penn Hapgood, to let me in, than to keep me standin’ or settin’ all day on the stairs.”

The idea of a long siege struck Toby with dismay. He hesitated; but Penn spoke.

“I am very weak, and very ill, madam. But I have learned what it is to be driven from a door that should be opened to welcome me; and I am not willing, under any circumstances, to treat another as you last night treated me.”

This was spoken to the lady’s face; for Toby, seeing that concealment was at an end, had slipped the bolt, and she had come in.

“Wal! now! Mr. Hapgood!” she began, with a simper, which betrayed a little contrition and a good deal of crafty selfishness, “you mustn’t go to bein’ too hard on me for that. Consider that I’m a poor widder, and my life war threatened, and I had to do as I did.”

“Well, well,” said Penn, “I certainly forgive you. Give her a chair, Toby.”

Toby placed the chair, and widow Sprowl sat down.

“I couldn’t be easy old friends so till I had come over to see how you be,” she said, folding her hands, and regarding Penn with a solemn pucker of solicitude. “I know, ’twas a dreadful thing; but it’s some comfort to think it’s nothing I’m any ways to blame fur. It’s hard enough for me to lose a boarder, jest at this time, say nothing about a friend that’s been jest like one of my own family, and that I’ve cooked, and washed, and ironed fur, as if he war my own son!”

And Mrs. Sprowl wiped her eyes, while she carefully watched the effect of her words.

“I acknowledge, you have cooked, washed, and ironed for me very faithfully,” said Penn.

“And I thought,” said she, “old friends so, may be you wouldn’t mind making me a present of the trifle you’ve paid over and above what’s due for your board; for I’m a poor widder, as you know, and my only son is a wanderer on the face of the ’arth.”

Penn readily consented to make the present perhaps reflecting that it would be equally impossible for him ever to board it out, or get her to return the money.

“Then there’s that old cloak of yourn,” said Mrs. Sprowl, sympathizingly. “I believe you partly promised it to me, didn’t you? I can manage to get me a cape out on’t.”

“Yes, yes,” said Penn, “you can have the cloak;” while Toby glared with rage behind her chair.

“And I considered ’twouldn’t be no more’n fair that you should pay for the I don’t see how in the world I can afford to lose it, bein’ a poor widder, and live geeses’ feathers at that, and my only son ” She hid her face in her apron, overcome with emotion.

“What am I to pay for?” asked Penn.

“Fur, you know,” she said, “I never would have parted with it fur any money, and it will take at least ten dollars to replace it, which is hard, bein’ a poor widder, and as strong a linen tick as ever you see, that I made myself, and that my blessed husband died on, and helped me pick the geese with his own hands; and I never thought, when I took you to board, that ever that bed would be sacrificed by it, for ’twas on your account, you are ware, it was took last night and done for.”

“And you think I ought to pay for the bed!” said Penn, as much astonished as if Silas Ropes had sent in his bill, “To 1 coat tar and feathers, $10.00.”

“They said I must look to you,” whined the visitor; “and if you don’t pay fur’t, I don’t know who will, I’m shore! for none of them have sot at my board, and drinked of my coffee, and e’t of my good corn dodgers, and slep’ in my best bed, all for four dollars fifty a week, washing and ironing throwed in, and a poor widder at that!”

“Mrs. Sprowl,” said Penn, laughing, ill as he was, “have the kindness not to tell any one that I am here, and as soon as I am able to do so, I will pay you for your excellent feather-bed.”

“Thank you, very good in you, I’m shore!” said the worthy creature, brightening. “And if there’s anything else among your things you can spare.”

“I’ll see! I’ll see!” said Penn, wearily. “Leave me now, do!”

“But if you had a few dollars, this morning, towards the bed,” she insisted, “for my son ” She almost betrayed herself; being about to say that Lysander had arrived, and must have money; but she coughed, and added, in a changed voice, “is a wanderer on the face of the ’arth.”

Penn, however, reflecting that she would have more encouragement to keep his secret if he held the reward in reserve, replied, that he could not possibly spare any money before collecting what was due him from the trustees of the Academy. Her countenance fell on hearing this; and, reluctantly abandoning the object of her mission, she took her leave, and went home to her hopeful son.