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Uncle William by Jennette Lee

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Andy, pleased and resentful, hitched the leg of his trousers. "I
dunno's I be," he said slowly. "I've got money--some. But it takes a
pile to live on."

"Yes?" The artist stood away from his canvas, looking at it. "You and
Uncle William are pretty good friends, aren't you?"

"Good enough," replied Andy. His mouth shut itself securely.

The artist did not look at it. He hastened on. "He misses his boat a
good deal."

"I know that," snapped Andy. His green eye glowered at the bay. "Ef it
hadn't been for foolishness he'd hev it now."

The artist worked on quietly. "I lost his boat for him, Andy. I know
that as well as you do. You needn't rub it in."

"What you goin' to do about it?" demanded Andy.

"I'm goin' to ask you to lend me the money for a new one."

"No, sir!" Andy put his hands in his pockets.

"I'll give you my note for it," said the artist.

"I do' want your note," retorted Andy. "I'd rather have William's and
his ain't wuth the paper it's writ on."

The artist flushed under his new color. "I don't know just why you say
that. I shall pay all I owe--in time."

"Well, you may, and then again you mayn't," said Andy. His tone was
less crusty. "All I know is, you've cost William a heap o' money, fust
and last. You've et a good deal, and you lost the /Jennie/, and he had
to borrow a hunderd of me to go to New York with." Andy spoke with
unction. He was relieving his mind.

The artist looked up. "I didn't know that." He began to gather up his

"What you goin' to do?" asked Andy.

"I'm going to find Uncle William," said the artist.

Andy fidgeted a little. He looked off at the water. "I wa'n't findin'
no fault," he said uneasily. "I was just explainin' why I couldn't
resk any more o' my money on him."

"That's all right," said the artist. "I want to see him."

He found Uncle William sunning the kittens at the east of the house.
He looked up with a nod as the artist appeared. "They're doin' fust-
rate," he said, adjusting the clam-basket a little. "They'll be a
credit to their raisin'. Set down."

The artist seated himself on a rock near by. The sun fell warm on his
back. Across the harbor a little breeze ran rippling. At the foot of
the cliff Andy was making ready to lift anchor. The artist watched him
a minute. "You've wasted a good deal of money on me," he said soberly.

Uncle William looked at him. He dropped an eye to the /Andrew
Halloran/. "He been talkin' to ye?" he asked cheerfully.

"He told me you borrowed of him--"

"Now, don't you mind that a mite. Andy don't. He's proud as Punch to
hev me owe him suthin'. He reminds me of it every day or two. All I
mind about is your frettin' and takin' on so. If you'd jest be easy in
your mind, we'd have a reel comf'tabul time--with the kittens and
all." He replaced one that had sprawled over the edge. "The' 's a lot
o' comfort in doin' for dumb things," he went on cheerfully. "They
can't find fault with the way you fix 'em." He chuckled a little.

The artist smiled. "Look here, Uncle William, you can't fool me any
longer. You're just pining for a boat. Look at that!" He waved his
hand at the water dimpling below.

Uncle William's gaze dwelt on it fondly for a minute.

"And you sit here dawdling over that basket of kittens!" Scorn and
disgust struggled in the artist's voice.

Uncle William laughed out. He stood up. "What is 't you want me to
do?" he asked.

The artist eyed him miserably. "That's the worst of it--I don't know."

"Well, I'll tell ye," said Uncle William. "We'll row down and get the
mail, and after that we'll plan about the boat. I ain't quite so daft
as I look," he said half apologetically. "I've been turnin' it over in
my mind whilst I've been doin' the kittens, and I've 'bout decided
what to do. But fust, we'll get the mail."


There was a letter for the artist. It contained a check from the
Frenchman. He had bought three of the pictures--the one of Uncle
William's house and the two of the old Bodet place.

"Did you know it?" demanded the artist. He was facing Uncle William in
the boat as they rowed home.

"I didn't know it," said Uncle William, with a long, easy pull, "but I
reckoned suthin' 'd be along putty soon. If it hadn't come to-day, I
was goin' to make Andy give us enough to begin on."

"He wouldn't have done it."

"Oh, yes, he'd 'a' done it. He'd 'a' squirmed and twisted some, but
he'd 'a' done it. He'd 'a' had to!"

The artist laughed out happily. "Well, now you can do as you like.
We'll have the best boat there is going."

Uncle William nodded. "I knew you'd want to. I've been kind o'
plannin' for it. We'll go down to-morrow or next day and see about

The artist looked at him curiously. "I don't believe you care half as
much as I do!"

Uncle William returned the look, smiling broadly. "It'll seem putty
good to feel my own boards under me again," he said cheerfully.

"But you didn't care when you didn't have them," said the artist. "You
just toted those infernal kittens--"

Uncle William's chuckle was genial. "Kittens ain't everything," he
said mildly. "But I've seen the time when kittens wa'n't to be
despised. You jest set that way a little mite, Mr. Woodworth, and I'll
beach her even."

"One thing I'm glad of," said the artist, as the boat grated along the
pebbles. "You can pay Andy."

"Andy'll be glad," responded Uncle William, "but it'll be quite a
spell before he has a chance to." He waved his arm toward the bay.
"He's off for the day."

The artist scanned the horizon with disappointed face. "He'll be back
by noon, perhaps?"

Uncle William shook his head. "Not afore night. I can tell by the way
he's movin'. We'll come up and hev dinner and then we can plan her

They sat on the rocks all the afternoon, looking at the dancing waves
and planning for the new /Jennie/. Uncle William drew models on the
back of an old envelope and explained figures. The artist followed him
with eager eyes. Now and then his chest expanded and he drew a deep
breath of satisfaction.

"Feel's good, don't it?" said Uncle William. "I ust to feel that way
when I'd been in debt a good while and made a big ketch. Seemed 's if
the whole world slid off my shoulders." He shook his head. "But it was
kind o' foolishness."

"Wouldn't you feel that way now?" demanded the artist.

"I don't believe I would," said Uncle William, slowly. "It's a kind o'
wicked feelin'--when the sun's a-shinin' jest the same, and the
water's movin' up and down,--" he motioned toward the harbor,--"and
the boats are comin' in at night, settlin' down like birds, and the
lights." He looked affectionately at the water. "It's all there jest
the same whether I owe anybody or not. And the rocks don't budge
much--" He laid his big brown hand on the warm surface beside him,
smoothing it in slow content.

The artist looked at him, smiling a little wistfully. "It sounds all
very well to talk about," he said, "but the world would go to rack and
ruin if everybody felt that way."

"I ust to think so," said Uncle William, placidly. "I ust to lie awake
nights worryin' about it. But late years I've give it up. Seems to jog
along jest about the same as when I was worryin'--and /I/ take a heap
sight more comfort. Seems kind o' ridiculous, don't it, when the
Lord's made a world as good as this one, not to enjoy it some?"

"Don't you feel any responsibility toward society?" asked the artist,

Uncle William shook his head with a slow smile. "I don't believe I do.
I ust to. Lord, yes! I ust to think about folks that was hungry till
my stummick clean caved in. I ust to eat my dinner like it was
sawdust, for fear I'd get a little comfort out of it, while somebody
somewheres was starvin'--little childern, like enough. That was al'ays
the hardest part of it--little childern. I ust to think some of
foundin' a'sylum up here on the rocks--sailin' round the world and
pickin' up a boat-load and then bringin' 'em up here and turnin' 'em
loose on the rocks, givin' 'em all they could stuff to eat. And then
one night, when I was cal'atin' and figgerin' on it, I saw that I
couldn't get half of 'em into my boat, nor a quarter, nor a tenth--
jest a little corner of 'em. And then it come over me, all of a
sudden, what a big job I'd tackled, and I jest turned it over to the
Lord, then an there. And all the next day I kep' kind o' thinkin'
about it out here on the rocks--how he'd took a thousand year--mebbe
't was more; a good long spell, they say--to get the rocks ready for
folks to live on--jest the rocks! And like enough he knew what he was
plannin' to do, and didn't expect me to finish it all up for him in
fo'-five years. Since then I've been leavin' it to him more--takin' a
hand when I could, but payin' more attention to livin'. I sort o'
reckon that's what he made us for--to live. The' 's a good deal o' fin
in it if you go at it right."

"That's a great idea, Uncle William," said the artist.

"It's comf'tabul," assented Uncle William. "You get your livin' as you
go along, and a little suthin' over. Seems 's if some folks didn't
even get a livin' they're so busy doing things."

He was silent for a while, his blue eyes following the light on the
water. "The' was a man I sailed with once,--a cur'us sort o' chap,--
and when he wa'n't sober he could tell you interestin' things. He
hadn't been a sailor al'ays--took to it 'cause he liked it, he said.
And he tol' me a good deal about the goings-on of the earth. Like
enough 't wa'n't so--some on it--but it was interestin'. He told me 't
the earth was all red-hot once, and cooled off quicker on the outside
--like a hot pertater, I s'pose. You've heard about it?" He looked
inquiringly at the artist.

The artist nodded. "Yes."

"Well, I've thought about that a good many times when I've been
sailin'. I could see it all, jest the way he put it, the earth a-
whirlin' and twirlin', and the fire and flames a-shootin' up to the
sky, and rocks and stones and stuff a'b'ilin' and flyin'--" Uncle
William's eye dwelt lovingly on the picture. "I'd seem to see it all
jest the way he tol' it, and then I'd put my hand out over the side of
the boat and trail it along in the water to cool off a little." Uncle
William chuckled. "Sometimes it seems 's if you'd come a million miles
all in a minute--rocks all along the shore, good hard rocks 't you
could set on, and the hill up to the sky with grass on it, green and
soft, and the water all round. It a'most takes your breath away to
come back like that from that red-hot ball he talked about and see it
all lyin' there, so cool and still, and the sun shinin' on it. I got
to thinkin' 'bout it, days when I was sailin', and wondering if mebbe
the Lord wa'n't gettin' /folks/ ready jest the way he did the rocks--
rollin' 'em over and havin' 'em pound each other and claw and fight
and cool off, slow-like, till byme-by they'd be good sweet earth and
grass and little flowers--comf'tabul to live with."

The artist sat up. "Do you mean to say you wouldn't stop folks
fighting if you could?"

Uncle William eyed the proposition. "Well I dunno's I'd say jest
/that/. I've thought about it a good many times. Men al'ays /hev/ fit
and I reckon they /will/--quite a spell yet. There's Russia and Japan
now: you couldn't 'a' stopped them fightin' no more'n two boys that
had got at it. All them Russians and them little Japs--we couldn't 'a'
stopped 'em fightin'--the whole of us couldn't hev stopped 'em--not
unless we'd 'a' took 'em by the scruff o' the neck and thrown 'em down
and set on 'em--one apiece. And I dunno's that'd be much better'n
fightin'--settin' on 'em one apiece."

The artist laughed out.

Uncle William beamed on him. "You see, this is the way I figger it:
Russia and Japan wa'n't fightin' so much for anything they reely
wanted to /git/. It was suthin' /in/ 'em that made 'em go for each
other, tooth and nail, and pommel so--a kind o' pizen bubbling and
sizzling inside 'em; we've all got a little of it." He smiled
genially. "It has to work out slow-like. Some does it by fightin' and
some does it by prayin'; and I reckon the Lord's in the fightin', same
as in the prayin'."

The artist looked at him curiously. "Some people call that the devil,
you know."

Uncle William cleared his throat. He picked up a little stone and
balanced it thoughtfully on the palm of his hand. Then he looked up
with a slow smile. "I ain't so well acquainted with the devil as I ust
to be," he said. "I ust to know him reel well; ust to think about him
when I was out sailin'--figger how to get ahead of him. But late years
I'd kind o' forgot-- He's livin' still, is he?"

The artist laughed quietly. "They say so--some of them."

Uncle William's smile grew wider and sweeter. "Well, let him live.
Poor old thing! 'T won't hurt none, and he /is/ a kind o' comfort to
lay things on when you've been, more'n usual, cussed. That's the
/Andrew Halloran/ over there to the left." He pointed to a dusky boat
that was coming in slowly. "That's his last tack, if he makes it, and
I reckon he will. Now, if you'll go in and start the chowder, I'll see
if he want's any help about makin' fast."


Andy eased in to the wharf with cautious eye. He threw the rope to
Uncle William and busied himself with the sail.

Uncle William peered down upon him. "Got quite a nice mess, didn't


"How'd they run?"


"Ye got /some/ halibut."

"A few." Andy admitted it grudgingly. His tone implied that the
Creator withheld halibut out of pure spite. The ways of the universe
were a personal grievance to Andy.

"Quite a nice mess," said Uncle William. "Goin' to unload?"

"Nope--wait for the tide."

"Ye'll jest about make it," said Uncle William. He glanced at the sky.
"I'll come down and help ye clean, like enough, after supper."

Andy climbed up in silence. His somber face appeared above the edge of
the wharf. Uncle William looked down on it, smiling. "I've got good
news for ye, Andy."

"Huh?" Andy paused half way.

Uncle William nodded. "You'll be reel tickled about it. I'm goin' to
have a new boat--right off."

"Ye be?" Andy's mouth remained open. It took in the sky and the bay
and Uncle William's smile.

"Right off. I knew ye'd be glad."

The mouth came together. "Where you goin' to get it?"

"He's got some money." Uncle William nodded toward the cliff.

Andy looked. "He's poor as poverty. He's said so--times enough."

Uncle William smiled. "He's had luck--quite a run o' luck. He's been
sellin' picters--three-four on 'em."

"What's picters!" said Andrew, scornfully. He scrambled on to the
wharf with a backward glance at the /Andrew Halloran/. "You won't buy
no boat off o' picters, Willum. A boat costs three hunderd dollars--a
good one."

"I was cal'atin' to pay five hunderd," said Uncle William.

"You was?" Andy wheeled about. "You wont' get it out o' him!" He
jerked a thumb at the cliff.

Uncle William chuckled. "Now, ye've made a mistake, Andy. He's got
that much and he's got more." The gentle triumph in Uncle William's
tone diffused itself over the landscape.

Andy took it in slowly. "How much?" he asked at last.

"Six-seven thousand," said Uncle William.

"What!" Andy's feet scuffed a little. "'T ain't reasonable," he said

"No, 't ain't reasonable." Uncle William spoke gently. "I was a good
deal s'prised myself, Andy, when I found how high they come--picters.
Ye can't own a gre't many of 'em--not at one time."

"Don't want to," said Andy, caustically.

"No, you wouldn't take much comfort in 'em," said William. "/'T is/
cur'us 't anybody should want a picter o' my old hut up there 'nough
to pay--how much d'ye s'pose they did pay for it, Andy?"

Andy glanced at it contemptuously. It glowed in the light of the late
sun, warm and radiant. "'T ain't wuth a hunderd," he said.

Uncle William's face fell a little. "Well, I wouldn't say jest that,

"Roof leaks," said Andrew.

"A leetle," admitted Uncle William, "over 'n the southeast corner,
She's weather-tight all but that." He gazed at the little structure
affectionately. The sun flamed at the windows, turning them to gold.
The artist's face appeared at one of them, beckoning and smiling.
Uncle William turned to Andy. "A man give him two thousand for it," he
said. There was sheer pride in the words.

"For that?" Andy looked at him for a minute. Then he looked at the
house and the bay and the flaming sky. His left eyelid lowered itself
slowly and he tapped his forehead significantly with one long finger.

Uncle William shook his head. "He's as sensible as you be, Andy--or

Andy pondered the statement. A look of craft crept into his eye.
"What'll ye bet he ain't foolin' ye?" he said.

Uncle William returned the look with slow dignity. "I don't speak that
way o' my friends, Andy," he said gently. "I'd a heap rather trust 'em
and get fooled, than not to trust 'em and hev 'em all right."

Andy looked guilty. "When's it comin'?" he said gruffly.

"It's come a'ready," replied Uncle William; "this mornin'. We've been
figgerin' on a new boat all day, off and on. He's goin' to give me
five hunderd to make up for the /Jennie/."

"She wa'n't wuth it!" Andy spoke with conviction. He dropped a jealous
eye to the /Andrew Halloran/ rising slowly on the tide.

"No, she wa'n't wuth more'n three hunderd, if she was that," admitted
Uncle William. "I'm goin' to take the three hunderd outright and
borrow the rest. I'm goin' to pay you, too, Andy."

Andy's face, in the light of the setting sun, grew almost mellow. He
turned it slowly. "When you goin' to pay me, Willum?"

"To-morrow," answered William, promptly, "or mebbe next day. I
reckoned we'd all go down and see about the boat together."

Andy looked at him helplessly. "Everything seems kind o' turnin'
upside down," he said. He drew a deep breath. "What d'ye s'pose it is,
Willum--about 'em--picters--that makes 'em cost so like the devil?"

Uncle William looked thoughtful. "I dunno," he said slowly. "I've
thought about that, myself. Can't be the paint nor the canvas."

"Cheap as dirt," said Andy.

"Must be the way he does 'em."

"Just a-settin' and a-daubin', and a-settin' and a-daubin'," sneered

"I dunno's I'd say that, Andy," said Uncle William, reprovingly. "He
sweat and fussed a lot."

Andy's eye roamed the landscape. "'T ain't reasonable," he said,
jealously. "A thing o't to be wuth more'n a picter of it. There's more
/to/ a thing." He struck the solid ground of fact with relief.

Uncle William's eye rested on him mildly. "Ye can't figger it that
way, Andy. I've tried it. A shark's bigger'n a halibut, but he ain't
wuth much--'cept for manure."

"Chowder!" The call rang down from the little house, clear and full.

Both men looked up. "/He's/ a-callin' ye," said Andrew. There was
mingled scorn and respect in the tone.

"You come on up to supper, Andy. We can talk it over whilst we're

Andy looked down at his clothes. "I'm all dirt."

Uncle William surveyed him impartially. "Ye ain't any dirtier 'n ye
al'ays be."

"I dunno's I be," admitted Andy.

"Well, you come right along, and after supper we'll all turn to and
help you clean."

The artist looked up as they entered. "How are you, Andy? The fish are
running great to-day."

Andy grinned feebly. "I've heard about it," he said. He drew up to the
table with a subdued air and took his chowder in gulps, glancing now
and then at the smiling face and supple hands on the opposite side of
the table. It was a look of awe tinged with incredulity, and a little
resentment grazing the edges of it.


The noon sun shone down upon the harbor. The warmth of early summer
was in the air. A little breeze ran through it, ruffling the surface
of the water. The artist, from his perch on the rock, looked out over
it with kindling eye.

His easel, on the rock before him, had held him all morning. He had
been trying to catch the look of coming summer, the crisp, salt tang
of the water, and the scudding breeze. When he looked at the canvas, a
scowl held his forehead, but when he glanced back at the water, it
vanished in swift delight. It was color to dream on, to gloat over--to
wait for. Some day it would grow of itself on his palette, and then,
before it could slip away, he would catch it. It only needed a stroke
--he would wait. His eye wandered to the horizon.

A face appeared over the edge of the cliff and cut off the vision. It
was Uncle William, puffing a little and warm. "Hello." He climbed up
and seated himself on the rock, stretching his legs slowly to the sun.
"I reckoned I'd find ye here. Been doin' her?" He nodded toward the

The artist looked into the distance with puzzled eyes. "Her?" He put
the word doubtingly.

Uncle William glanced at him sharply. "Don't you see nuthin' over
there?" He waved a huge arm at the horizon.

The artist looked again and shook his head slowly. "I see a color I'd
give my eyes to get."

Uncle William chuckled a little. "Reckon they ain't wuth much to ye."
His hand slid into the pocket of his coat and brought out a small spy-
glass. He slipped the parts into place and adjusted it to his eye.
"There!" He handed it to the young man. "See if that'll help ye any."

The young man took it, looking out over the bay. "Yes, I see her now.
She's a schooner." He put down the glass. "Do you mean to say you can
see that with the naked eye?"

"Al'ays could." Uncle William held out his hand again for the glass.
"I don't make her out a schooner, though."

"She's two-masted."

"Yes." Uncle William's eye was glued to the glass. "But she's lighter
built, trimmer. Some pleasure-craft, like enough. You can see her walk
--same as if she was a lady--a-bowin' and bobbin'." He laid down the
glass, a look of pleasure in his face. "She's comin' right in, whoever
she is. She'll drop anchor by noon-time." He glanced at the easel.
"You been paintin'?"

"Trying to."

"'Bout a thousand dollars' wuth, I s'pose?"

"Not ten cents' worth."

"Sho, now! Is that so?" He got up and looked down at the canvas,
bending above it like some genial giraffe. He straightened himself,
smiling. "'Tis kind o' dobby," he admitted. "Mebbe you'll do better

"Maybe. Was there a letter for me?"

The old man shook his head. "Nary letter.--I reckon 't ain't time
yet," he added consolingly.

The young man looked gloomily at the water. "She must be ill."

"Busy, more likely," said Uncle William.

"It's been six weeks."

"You're feelin' putty well," said Uncle William.

"I shall go down to-morrow," said the young man. He had begun to
gather up his brushes. The hands that lifted them were firm and
strong. A clear color ran beneath the tan of his face.

Uncle William watched him with a little smile. "I dunno's I'd go
to-morrow. You could go next week if you don't hear nuthin'."

"I shall go to-morrow. I've been a fool to wait so long."

Uncle William's eye twinkled. "You've been gettin' well," he said.

"I'm well now."

"Yes, you're-- Hello, there's Andy." He leaned over the edge of the
cliff. "What d'ye make her?" he called down.

Andy squinted at the distance. "Coaster," he announced.

"Come up here and take a look at her."

Andy climbed slowly up the cliff. "Got your glass?" He took it and
fixed the moving speck. "'T ain't a coaster," he muttered. "What you
folks been doin' all the mornin'?"

"Well, I've been for the mail and some things, and Mr. Woodworth here
he's been paintin'."

Andy cast a side glance at the easel. Then he gazed fixedly at the
bay. He seated himself on a rock. "It's time for me to go home," he

No one paid any attention to it--Andy least of all. He sat with one
leg swinging over the other, chewing a bit of grass and staring
gloomily out to sea. The look of baffled humility in his face made it
almost tragic. The artist fell to sketching it under cover of his
hand. Uncle William studied the approaching boat. "She's never been in
these waters afore," he announced. "She's comin' in keerful." No one
replied. Andy stared at fate and the artist worked fast. Uncle William
reached out for the glass. He took a long look. He dropped it hastily
and glanced at the young man, who was working with serene touch--
oblivious to the bay. Uncle William looked through the glass again--a
long, slow look. Then he slipped it into his pocket and got up,
decision in his face. "Comin' in to dinner, Andy?"

Andy looked up mildly. "I reckon Harr'et's waitin' for me." He got
slowly to his feet. "You've got another done, I s'pose?" He glanced
enviously at the easel.

The artist laughed out. "Want to see it?" He withdrew his hand.

Andy shambled across. He looked down at it casually. A sheepish grin
crept into this face, and spread. "You've made me look kind o' queer,
hain't you?" He gazed, fascinated, at his tragic face.

Uncle William came over and bent to the canvas. He drew out his
spectacles and peered at it, almost rubbing the paint with his great
nose. "It's Andy!" he said with shrewd delight. "It's Andy! And it's
the spittin' image of him!" He pushed up the glasses, beaming upon

Andrew returned the look somberly. "It's a good likeness, you think,
do you?"

"Fust-rate, Andy, fust-rate; couldn't be better." Uncle William laid
an affectionate hand on his shoulder. "It looks jest as mean as you do
--and jest as good, too, Andy."

Andy cast a glance at the young man. "How long was ye makin' it?"

"Half an hour, perhaps; while we've been sitting here."

Andy sighed heavily. "Wuth more'n I be, too, I reckon?"

The artist stared at him.

"I mean--" Andy was almost apologetic. "I know they come high--
picters. I don't suppose I could afford to buy it of ye--"

The artist's face lighted. "Do you want it?"

"Harr'et might,"--cautiously,--"if 't wa'n't too high. She's got an
easel for it. She al'ays cal'ated to have me done, and she'd got as
fur as the easel." His eye returned almost wistfully to the canvas.
"Willum says it's a good likeness." He spoke with a kind of dubious

"It /is/ good." The young man's eye rested on it affectionately. "It's
a ripping good sketch--and you may have it and welcome."

Andy drew back a step. "You mean--"

"I'll give it to you, yes." The artist was holding it out laughingly.
"And some day you'll sit for me again. That'll be pay enough."

Andy rubbed his hands carefully on the sides of his trousers. He
reached them out for the canvas. "It's kind o' wet," he said. "I'll
have to hold it keerful." He took it in both hands, beaming upon it
with a kind of somber joy. Carrying it at arm's-length, he bore it
away over the rocks. The artist watched the stern, angular figure loom
against the sky and dip down over the cliff out of sight.

"I shall do a sketch of him some day that will make us famous," he
said quietly.

"It's time for dinner," responded Uncle William.


Uncle William set the table, with one eye on the harbor. As he
pottered about with the bread and cheese and salmon, a smile widened
his round face.

The artist looked up from the brushes he was cleaning at the door.
"You look as happy as if you'd had a fortune left you," he said.

"Well, I'm considabul contented. I gen'ally am, ain't I?" he added

"So-so," admitted the young man. "You're shiftless, that's what's the
matter with you."

Uncle William gave his long, low chuckle. "I guess I be," he said
softly. "I guess I be. But I do take a sight o' comfort."

The young man finished the brushes and brought them in, standing them
up in a quart cup. "Dinner ready?" he asked.

"I reckon it is." Uncle William scowled at the lavish table. "'Pears
to me there's suthin' I've forgot. Oh, pickles!" He said it
triumphantly. "If you wouldn't mind takin' that plate, Mr. Woodworth,
and goin' down cellar?"

"All right." The young man took the plate and disappeared down the
ladder that served as a stairway to the tiny hole beneath.

Uncle William looked cautiously at the trap-door. Then he tiptoed to
the window. He drew the glass from his pocket and pointed it at the
harbor. The boat had come to anchor just off the island. Uncle William
fixed her with his glass. "Uh-huh, jest as I thought," he said softly.

A step sounded on the ladder and he shut the glass, thrusting it into
his pocket and turning a bland, innocent face upon the room. "Does
beat all how good pickles be with fish. Set 'em right there, Mr.
Woodworth. Now we're ready."

Uncle William's chair faced the window, and as he ate his eye dropped,
now and then, to the bay below. Once it lighted with a swift gleam and
he craned his neck a little.

"What is it?" asked the artist, half turning.

"Nuthin'," said Uncle William, hastily, "nuthin'. 'T ain't wuth
turnin' your head for. I'm al'ays seein' things. Get up in the night,
like enough, and wander round the island, jest to see 'em. Go all over
the island some nights. You see a good deal that way--fust and last:
little critturs runnin' round, softlike, and the moon and stars--"
Uncle William was talking against time. His eye had lost interest in
the bay. It seemed to be fixed on the moon and stars. One ear was
turned expectantly toward the door.

The artist watched him with an amused smile. He never interrupted one
of Uncle William's monologues.

"I've spent a good deal o' my life," went on Uncle William, "lookin'
round at things."

The gravel crunched outside.

The artist started.

Uncle William turned a little. "Andy, like enough," he said. He rose
and went leisurely toward the door.

The figure of a tall man stood in it, surveying the room.

Uncle William's smile broke into radiance. It crinkled his eyes and
nose and mouth. "I said 't was you." He held out a big hand, and drew
the man into the room, peering behind him. A little look of
disappointment came over his face. "You all alone?" he demanded.

"I am at present," said the man, smiling. "I left a friend on the
beach below. I wasn't sure how I should find you." His courteous
glance took in the young man.

Uncle William turned quickly. "It's Mr. Curie," he said, "the one that
bought your picters. And he's left somebody--a friend--down below.
Mebbe you wouldn't mind stepping down and fetchin' 'em up."

"Of course." The young man rose, holding out a hand. "I'm glad to meet
you, sir. I shall be back in a minute. I'll bring him right up." His
step rang quick on the rock outside.

The two old men looked at each other.

Uncle William's face wore its roundest smile. "I wouldn't be s'prised
if he stayed quite a spell." He brought a chair and planted it in
front of the stranger. "Set down."

The man sat down, looking around the room. "It is good to be here," he

Uncle William, with a hand on either knee, surveyed him over his
spectacles. "I saw 't was you 'fore you landed."

The man's face fell a little. "We wanted to surprise you--"

"You've s'prised /him/ all right. He hain't no idea what he's runnin'
to." He looked toward the door. "I reckon he'll stay an hour."

The man crossed one thin leg over another. "That gives me more time,"
he said contentedly.

Uncle William gazed politely. "Was you wantin' time?" he asked.

The man smiled. "I wanted to see you."

"You wanted to see /me/?" Uncle William's face held pleasure, but not
very much curiosity.

The man nodded. "I came on purpose."

"You did? I thought you come to bring her?" His thumb indicated the

"I wanted to see you, and she wanted to come, so here we are."

"Here you be," assented Uncle William. "And I'm glad to see ye. He was
gettin' middlin' hard to hold."

The other man studied his face. "How much will you take for your
place?" he asked.

Uncle William looked up. He shook his head slowly. "I won't take

The man smiled. "I'll give you five thousand for it."

"You will?" Uncle William's glance was mild. A smile crept into it. "I
wish 't Andy could hear you say that," he said; "but I can't sell."

"Why not?"

"Where'd I live?"

The stranger appeared to ponder a minute. "You could keep enough to
live on," he said at last. "I'd rather have you, in fact."

"I'll give /you/ enough to live on," said Uncle William. "I like your
looks. I'd like to have you round."

"That won't do for me," said the man.

"'T won't do for me, either," said Uncle William.

They confronted each other. The stranger's eyes dropped first. "I'll
give you ten thousand," he said quietly.

"You will?" Uncle William moistened his lips with his tongue. "I'll
/hev/ to go tell Andy that," he said.

"You'll take it?"

"Lord, no, I couldn't take it! Nor twenty thousand; so don't you go
offerin' it to me. I /should/ like to tell Andy you was offerin' it,

The man laughed out. "I was thinking of it," he said.

Uncle William leaned forward, looking at him. "What are you so set on
buyin' my place for? It's a God-forsaken spot--most folks would call
it. Andy does."

"I like it," said the man.

"So do I," said Uncle William.

The Frenchman waited a minute. Then he turned a little, looking into
Uncle William's face. "Did you ever see be before?" he asked slowly.

Uncle William returned the look in full measure. "You ain't forgot I
saw you in New York--'long in the spring?"

"I don't mean that. I mean before--years ago." The man's voice was

Uncle William studied the thin face and looked over the thin legs.
"No, I hain't ever seen ye," he said. "And yet the' 's suthin' about
ye,"--the man uncrossed his legs,--"suthin' that keeps kind o' pullin'
on me." Uncle William rubbed the back of his head thoughtfully. "You
ever seen me?" he demanded.

The man's eyes laughed. "Hundreds of times."

"You hev?" Uncle William sat up. Where?"

"Right here."

"In this house?"

"Well, around here," said the man, "on these rocks and near by. I
lived here once. I dote on these rocks--every one." He waved a hand at
the landscape.

Uncle William fixed him with stern eye. "You hain't ever lived here,"
he said slowly. "You don't mean to lie." His gaze grew kindlier.
"You're jest romancin'." He brought it out with unction.

The Frenchman stared. Then he laughed out. "Well done! I can't fight
you for that." He leaned forward. "Who lived this side of Gunnion's
when you were a boy?" he asked.

Uncle William paused. He looked again at the face with its lifted
eyebrows and pointed beard. He shook his head. A light grew in his
face slowly--he started forward. "Not Bodet?" he said eagerly. "Not
little Benjy Bodet?" He stared again.

The man laughed musically. "Right." He stood up, holding out his hand.
"I thought you would know me."

Uncle William took it slowly. He studied the thin, keen face. "Benjy
Bodet," he said. "I'd know you--much as you've changed--I'd know you!
Set right down and tell me all about it."

"All?" said the man. He laughed again, looking contentedly about the
room. "It will take some time."

"You'll have to stay quite a while," said Uncle William.

The man nodded. "I mean to. I've wanted to come back ever since the
day we sailed for France."

"You was twelve year old that summer," said Uncle William. "Your folks
come into property, didn't they, over there?"

"Yes--on my mother's side. We took her name. I was sick for months
after we got there--homesick, cooped up in rooms."

"You poor little chap!" Uncle William surveyed him. Affection was in
his eyes, and memory. "You was al'ays a kind o' peaked little thing,"
he said reflectively. "You hain't changed much--when you come to look.
Take off your whiskers and slick up your hair and fetch down your
eyebrows a little--jest about the same."

The man laughed out. He swung his eyeglasses boyishly from their
chain. "Well, you're not."

"Me?" Uncle William looked down at his bulk. "More of me--bigger a
little, sort o', mebbe."

The man nodded. "But just the same underneath."

"Jest the same," said Uncle William.

The man drew a deep breath. "I've traveled all over the world. There's
no place like this anywhere."

"Nowheres," said Uncle William, fervently.

"I shall spend my days here."

"Right here," assented Uncle William.

The man looked at him keenly. "Will you sell?"

Uncle William shook his head. "I'll divide."

The man held out his hand. "It's a bargain."

Uncle William took it and held it fast. His eyes twinkled. "I /must/
go and tell Andy," he said. "He'll be reel pleased."

"Andy?" The man's face lighted. "You don't mean Andy Halloran? Is he
here yet?"

"Right on deck; jest slid down the rock here this minute," said Uncle

The man's eyes twinkled. "Remember the day he took my lobster-pot?"

"Borrowed it," said Uncle William, dryly.

"Borrowed it," assented the man. He chuckled a little. "He got his

Uncle William nodded. "He al'ays does. Andy's borrowin' lobster-pots
now--same Andy--gets his pay every time. He's great on gettin' his
pay, Andy is."

"He ought to have made a mean man," said the other, thoughtfully.

"Well, he hain't, not so to speak," said Uncle William, slowly.
"There's mean spots--rocks; you hev to steer some, but it's sandy
bottom if you know how to make it. I've anchored on him a good many
year now and I never knew him to slip anchor. It may drift a little
now and then. Any bottom will drift."

The man laughed out. "So it will." He took up his hat. "I must go and
look up a place to stay," he said.

Uncle William looked at him sternly. "Not a step. You don't stir a
step, Benjy Bodet." He pointed to the red lounge.

The Frenchman paused, irresolute. "I'm going to stay some time, you
know." He glanced about the little room. "I shall be in the way."

"You set right down," said Uncle William.

The man looked at him with raised brows. "You want me?"

"Want you? Why shouldn't I want you!" roared Uncle William. "I've been
waitin' for you sixty year and odd. Set down!"

The Frenchman sat down on the red lounge and crossed his legs.

A ball of gray fur descended upon them and fluffed itself, purring.

He peered at it uncertainly. He swung the glasses to place upon his
nose, surveying it.

"Now, don't that show?" demanded Uncle William. "She don't take to
strangers--never. Look at her." She was kneading her paws in the thin
knees, delicately, with treading softness.

The Frenchman's eyes lighted. "She's your cat?"

"She is," said Uncle William, "and she knows a lot. If she says you're
goin' to stay, you're goin' to. You won't leave here, not till you've
built over there on the old cellar place." He waved his hand toward
the horizon. "I'll help ye build," he exclaimed. "They ain't nuthin' I
like better'n potterin' around and tellin' folks what to do. I can't
fish till the /Jennie's/ done and I'll turn to and help. The' 's a
girl I can get to do the work. She's a good cook, and she'll come down
and do for us--be glad to." He rubbed his hands, beaming upon his

The Frenchman stroked the gray fur with slow touch. "I might take the
young man's place," he said thoughtfully.

Uncle William paused. "Lord! I'd clean forgot--I feel about twelve
year old," he added apologetically. "But don't you worry. This
house'll stretch. We three'll get along all right in it."

"And Sergia?" said the man, with a smile.

Uncle William rubbed his head. "Um--I'd forgot /her/, too."

The man laughed out. "You don't need to worry. I'm going to lend them
my yacht for a trip."

"Both on 'em?" asked Uncle William. His puzzled face gazed at the man.


Uncle William stared. Then the light dawned. "Right off?" he demanded.

"Right off," said the man. "And when they come back, the house will be
ready for them."

Uncle William glowed. "They goin' to live with you?"

"I hope so."

"Well, well!" He rubbed his great knees thoughtfully with either hand.
"I wouldn't ever 'a' thought o' that. And the Lord himself couldn't
'a' planned anything better 'n that."

"Thank you," said the man, smiling.

"Jest the right thing," went on Uncle William. "And byme-by there'll
be little toddlers--gettin' over the rocks between here and there."


"And settin' by the fire, warmin' their toes and eatin' tarts jest the
way we used to."

"Just the same," said the man.

Uncle William mused thoughtfully. The light of flitting memories was
in his face.

The man on the lounge watched him through the high-perched glasses.
Presently he took off the glasses and rubbed them on his handkerchief.
Then he blew his nose.

Uncle William looked up. The smile on his face was beautiful and
tender and full of light. "Where be they?" he said.


They were standing by a great rock at the foot of the cliff. The
afternoon had slipped away and the harbor was full of changing light,
but the artist's back was turned to it. He was looking into two little
round mirrors of light. Perhaps he saw the harbor reflected there. He
saw everything else--the whole round world, swinging in space, and
life and death. He bent closer to them. "Why didn't you write?"

"Uncle William wouldn't let me."

"Uncle William!"

She nodded. "He told me not to write. He said you would get well
faster if you had something to bother you." The demure face was full
of glinting lights. "He seemed to think that is what we are made for--
mostly. He's an old dear!" she added.

"He is!" He had gained possession of the quick-moving hand. "I shall
keep you now that I have you--"


"--for that very purpose!"

She smiled quietly. "I'll try to live up to it. You took the prize,
you know."

He caged the other hand. "Bother the prize! There's only one thing I

Her lip trembled a little.

He watched it jealously. He bent and touched the trembling line. The
world was blotted out--sun and bay and wheeling sky. A new world was
born--of two souls and swift desire. The heart of the universe opened
to them. When they drew apart, her eyes were lighted with tears. He
wiped them away slowly, holding the prisoned hands. "We will not
wait," he whispered.

"No," half breathed.

"In a week?" insistently.


"To-morrow?" imperiously.

The laughter had come back to her eyes. "To-day!" She freed her hands.

He was searching her face. "You mean it?"

"Why not? They will be glad to get rid of us." She lifted a laughing
gesture to the cliff.


"William and Benjamin." She said the names with slow pleasure, smiling
at his puzzled face. "It all came out when I told him that I knew you
and that Uncle William lived here. He saw in a flash--everything! We
started next day."

He had put an arm about her, guardingly. "We'll go hunt up a priest,"
he said.


"At once!" decisively. "Uncle William might think I needed more

"You're looking very well." She was gazing at him with fond eyes.

"I /am/ well." He stretched out his arms. "I could conquer the world."

"We'll sail round it." She nodded to the boat that was anchored off
the island. "She is ours--for as long as we want her."

He stared at the boat and raised a glance to the cliff. "And what will
/he/ do?"

"M. Curie? He builds for himself a house, for himself--and for us."
She half chanted the words in sheer delight.

"A house--here--for himself--and for us!" His glance took in the bare,
stern grandeur. "It will be very near heaven."

"Very near. Come, let us go." They climbed the steep path, with many
pauses to look back on the gleaming bay and the boat riding at anchor
--the boat that was to carry them away to the ends of the earth.

"We will go to St. Petersburg," said Sergia, watching the shining

"And Italy."

"And build castles there."

"Castles! And then we will come home at last--"

"Home!" He said the word under his breath. They had come close to the
little house. Through the open door they saw the red room,--half in
shadow, half in light,--and in the red room the two old men looking at
each other.

Uncle William saw them first and got to his feet, his big face filled
with welcome. "Come in, my dear." He took the girl's face between his
hands, looking down into it with gentle delight. "We're glad you've
come," he said slowly. "It was jest about time." He studied the face.
"We want you to feel to home," he went on. "'Most everybody does feel
to home, that comes here." He bent and kissed the face with rough

Juno, from her perch, jumped down and rubbed a sidewise welcome along
the gray skirt.

The girl stooped to stroke her. When she looked up, her eyes were
filled with tears. She brushed them hastily aside.

Uncle William, from his height, looked down on them benignly. "You
needn't mind those, my dear. Good salt water never hurt anybody yet--
on sea or land. You do it all you want to."

The girl laughed out. And the music of her laugh filled the room. The
twilight was lighted with it. Down below the tide came in slowly,
lapping the stones. Across the harbor a single star shone out.

Uncle William glanced across to it. "Time to light up," he said. He
took down the lantern from its place and lighted it with clumsy,
careful fingers, setting it in the window. Then he surveyed the little
room and his guests, a look of affection in his big face. "Must be
'most time for supper," he said.

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