‘May the Lord bless and comfort you, my boy!’ said he.
I got away shortly and made for the door. Uncle Eb stopped me.
‘My stars, Willie!’ said he putting his hand on my upper coat pocket’ ‘what ye got in there?’
‘Doughnuts,’ I answered.
‘An’ what’s this?’ he asked touching one of my side pockets.
‘Doughnuts,’ I repeated.
‘An’ this,’ touching another.
‘That’s doughnuts too,’ I said.
‘An’ this,’ he continued going down to my trousers pocket.
‘Bread an’ butter,’ I answered, shamefacedly, and on the verge of tears.
‘Jerusalem!’ he exclaimed, ’must a ’spected a purty long sermon.
’Brought ’em fer ol’ Fred,’ I replied.
‘Ol’ Fred!’ he whispered, ‘where’s he?’
I told my secret then and we both went out with Hope to where we had left him. He lay with his head between his paws on the bed of grass just as I had seen him lie many a time when his legs were weary with travel on Paradise Road, and when his days were yet full of pleasure. We called to him and Uncle Eb knelt and touched his head. Then he lifted the dog’s nose, looked a moment into the sightless eyes and let it fall again.
‘Fred’s gone,’ said he in a low tone as he turned away. ’Got there ahead uv us, Willy.’
Hope and I sat down by the old dog and wept bitterly.
Uncle Eb was a born lover of fun. But he had a solemn way of fishing that was no credit to a cheerful man. It was the same when he played the bass viol, but that was also a kind of fishing at which he tried his luck in a roaring torrent of sound. Both forms of dissipation gave him a serious look and manner, that came near severity. They brought on his face only the light of hope and anticipation or the shadow of disappointment.
We had finished our stent early the day of which lam writing. When we had dug our worms and were on our way to the brook with pole and line a squint of elation had hold of Uncle Eb’s face. Long wrinkles deepened as he looked into the sky for a sign of the weather, and then relaxed a bit as he turned his eyes upon the smooth sward. It was no time for idle talk. We tiptoed over the leafy carpet of the woods. Soon as I spoke he lifted his hand with a warning ‘Sh — h!’ The murmur of the stream was in our ears. Kneeling on a mossy knoll we baited the hooks; then Uncle Eb beckoned to me.
I came to him on tiptoe.
’See thet there foam ‘long side o’ the big log?’ he whispered, pointing with his finger.
‘Cre-e-ep up jest as ca-a-areful as ye can,’ he went on whispering. ‘Drop in a leetle above an’ let ‘er float down.’
Then he went on, below me, lifting his feet in slow and stealthy strides.
He halted by a bit of driftwood and cautiously threw in, his arm extended, his figure alert. The squint on his face took a firmer grip. Suddenly his pole gave a leap, the water splashed, his line sang in the air and a fish went up like a rocket. As we were looking into the treetops it thumped the shore beside him, quivered a moment and flopped down the bank He scrambled after it and went to his knees in the brook coming up empty-handed. The water was slopping out of his boot legs.