“I think I’ll go for a sail,” said the artist.
The other glanced at the horizon. “It’s going to storm,” he said indifferently.
“I’ll keep an eye out.”
“Ye better not go.”
“Think not?” He looked again at the harbor. “It’s my last chance for a sail—I’ll watch out.”
“All right. ’T ain’t my business,” said the man. He went on slitting fish.
The harbor held a still light—ominously—grey with a tinge of yellow in its depths. Uncle William hurried down the face of the cliff, a telescope in his hand. Now and then he paused on the zigzag path and swept the bay with it. The grey stillness deepened.
On the beach below, the man paused in his work to look up. As Uncle William approached he grunted stiffly. “She’s off the island,” he said. He jerked a fishy thumb toward the water.
Uncle William’s telescope fixed the boat and held it. His throat hummed, holding a kind of conversation with itself.
The man had returned to his fish, slitting in rough haste and tossing to one side. “Fool to go out—I told him it was coming.”
The telescope descended. Uncle William regarded him mildly. “I o’t to ‘a’ kept an eye on him,” he said humbly. “I didn’t jest sense he was goin’. I guess mebbe he did mention it. But I was mixin’ a batch of biscuit and kind o’ thinkin’ to myself. When I looked up he wa’n’t there.” He slid the telescope together and slipped it into his pocket. “I’ll hev to go after him,” he said.
The other looked up quickly. “How’ll you go?”
Uncle William nodded toward the boat that dipped securely
“I’ll take her,” he said.
The man laughed shortly. “The Andrew Halloran? I guess not!” He shut his knife with a decisive snap and stood up. “I don’t trust her—not in such a storm as that’s going to be.” He waved his arm toward the harbor. The greyness was shifting rapidly. It moved in swift green touches, heavy and clear—a kind of luminous dread. In its sallow light the man’s face stood out tragically. “I won’t resk her,” he cried.
“You’ll hev to, Andrew.” Uncle William bent to the bow of the dory that was beached near by. “Jump in,” he said.
The man drew back a step. The hand with the clasped knife fell to his side. “Don’t you make me go, William,” he said pacifically. “You can take the boat in welcome, but don’t take me. It’s too much resk!”
“It’s al’ays a resk to do your duty,” said Uncle William. “Jump in. I can’t stand talkin’.” An edge of impatience grazed the words.
The man stepped in and seized the oars. “I’ll help get her off,” he said, “but I won’t go.”
In the green light of the harbor a smile played over Uncle William’s face grotesquely. He gave a shove to the boat and sprang in. “I guess you’ll go, Andrew,” he said; “you wouldn’t want a man drowned right at your door-yard.”