“Luff her,” he cried. “She’s gone—Luff her, I tell you!” He sprang back, jamming the tiller from him. “Let her out, Andy, every inch!”
The canvas flew wide to the wind. The great boat responded to its touch. She rose like a bird and dipped, in sweeping sidewise flight, to the race.
Across the water something bobbed—black, uncertain.
“Look sharp, Andy,” said Uncle William.
Andrew peered with blinking eyes across the waste. The spirit of the chase was on him. His indifference had washed from him, like a husk, in that center of terror. His eyes leaped to the mass and glowed on it. “Yep,” he said solemnly, “he’s held on—he’s there!”
“Keep your eye on her, Andy. Don’t lose her.” Uncle William’s big arms strained to the wind, forcing the great bird in her course. Nearer she came and nearer, circling with white wings that opened and closed silently, softly. Close to the bobbing boat she grazed, hung poised a moment, and swept away with swift stroke.
The artist had swung through the air at the end of a huge arm. As he looked up from the bottom of the boat where he lay, the old man’s head, round and smooth, like a boulder, stood out against the black above him. It grew and expanded and filled the horizon—thick and nebulous and dizzy.
“Roll him over, Andy,” said Uncle William, “roll him over. He’s shipped too much.”
Uncle William sat on the beach mending his nets. He drew the twine deftly in and out, squinting now and then across the harbor at a line of smoke that dwindled into the sky. Each time he looked it was fainter on the horizon. He whistled a little as he bent to his work.
Over the rocks Andrew appeared, bearing on his back a huge bundle of nets. He threw it on the sand with a grunt. Straightening himself, he glanced at the line of smoke. “He’s gone,” he said, jerking his thumb toward it.
“He’s gone,” assented Uncle William, cheerfully.
Andrew kicked the bundle of nets apart and drew an end toward him, spreading it along the beach. “He’s left you poorer’n he found you,” he said. His tough fingers worked swiftly among the nets, untying knots and straightening meshes.
“I dunno ’bout that,” said Uncle William. His eyes followed the whiff of smoke kindly.
“You kep’ him a good deal, off and on. He must ‘a’ e’t considerable,” said Andrew. “And now he’s up and lost your boat for you.” He glanced complacently at the Andrew Halloran swinging at anchor. “You’ll never see her again,” he said. He gave a final toss to the net.
“Mebbe not,” said Uncle William. “Mebbe not.” His eyes were on the horizon, where the gray-blue haze lingered lightly. The blue sky dipped to meet it. It melted in sunlight. Uncle William’s eyes returned to his nets.
“How you going to get along ’bout a bout?” asked Andrew, carelessly.