To-day, Uncle Henry was in one of his temperamental moods. Gilbert, sitting calmly at the little table, writing, in the low main room of the adobe, could hear the chair whirling about, each wheel vocal, and revealing the state of mind of the occupant.
“Gosh! ain’t it hot!” finally came from Uncle Henry, his voice a drawl.
Gilbert said nothing. There was nothing to say. Of course it was hot; and he knew Uncle Henry could be depended upon to continue any conversation once begun. Sure enough, it wasn’t the weather at all that he was deeply interested in, but the forthcoming midday meal. “Say, ain’t we never goin’ to eat? I’m as hungry as a bear.”
“Dinner ought to be ready now,” Gilbert answered patiently, never looking up from his paper.
Uncle Henry was not satisfied. “Then why ain’t it,” he rasped, giving his chair a twist, “I ain’t had nothin’ but a rotten cup of coffee since five o’clock this mornin’.”
His nephew rose, and went over to the mantel-piece. How often he had heard just that remark! He didn’t bother to reply to it. Instead, he merely silenced his uncle with a gesture. Uncle Henry didn’t like being silenced. He looked around, as peevish as a spoiled child, and picked at the cloth that rested on his knees. Then he switched his chair within reach of the table, and snatched up a newspaper, much as a boy might grab the brass ring at a merry-go-round. He would read, if he couldn’t make his nephew talk; and he buried himself in the printed page. Gilbert, having lighted his pipe, went back to his writing. “Well, what do you know about that!” exclaimed Uncle Henry, his face aglow.
“About what, Uncle?”
“Why, Ezry Pringle’s dead.”
“Who’s Ezry Pringle?” Gilbert asked, feigning an interest he did not feel.
“A friend o’ mine. Only seventy years old, too. He was right in the prime of life.”
Gilbert smiled. “What’s that paper you’re reading?”
“The Bangor Daily Commercial, printed at Bangor, Maine. An’ that’s the only decent town in the whole gol darn world. Wisht I was there now!” He glanced at the alcove that led to another room, as if conscious that Morgan Pell might have heard him. He wanted to say something more to Gilbert, but something told him he had better keep silent. Instead, he read an item from the paper aloud to him. “Listen to this, Gilbert,” he said: “’The Elite Fish Market has just received five barrels of soft clams from Eastport.