The young man started. He glanced again at the harbor. “Hum-m!” he said under his breath. He searched in his color-box and mixed a fresh color rapidly on the palette, transferring it swiftly to the canvas. “Ah-h!” he said, again under his breath. It held a note of satisfaction.
Uncle William hitched up his suspender and came leisurely across the sand. He squinted at the canvas and then at the sliding water, rising and falling across the bay. “Putty good,” he said approvingly. “You’ve got it just about the way it looks—”
“Just about,” assented the young man, with quick satisfaction. “Just about. Thank you.”
Uncle William nodded. “Cur’us, ain’t it? there’s a lot in the way you see a thing.”
“There certainly is,” said the painter. His brush moved in swift strokes across the canvas. “There certainly is. I’ve been studying that water for two hours. I never thought of lobsters.” He laughed happily.
Uncle William joined him, chuckling gently. “That’s nateral enough,” he said kindly. “You hain’t been seein’ it every day for sixty year, the way I hev.” He looked at it again, lovingly, from his height.
“What’s the good of being an artist if I can’t see things that you can’t?” demanded the young man, swinging about on his stool.
“Well, what is the use? I dunno; do you?” said Uncle William, genially. “I’ve thought about that a good many times, too, when I’ve been sailin’,” he went on—“how them artists come up here summer after summer makin’ picters,—putty poor, most on ’em,—and what’s the use? I can see better ones settin’ out there in my boat, any day.—Not but that’s better’n some,” he added politely, indicating the half-finished canvas.
The young man laughed. “Thanks to you,” he said. “Come on in and make a chowder. It’s too late to do any more to-day—and that’s enough.” He glanced with satisfaction at the glowing canvas with its touch of green. He set it carefully to one side and gathered up his tubes and brushes.
Uncle William bent from his height and lifted the easel, knocking it apart and folding it with quick skill.
The artist looked up with a nod of thanks. “All right,” he said, “go ahead.”
Uncle William reached out a friendly hand for the canvas, but the artist drew it back quickly. “No, no,” he said. “You’d rub it off.”
“Like enough,” returned the old man, placidly. “I gen’ally do get in a muss when there’s fresh paint around. But I don’t mind my clothes. They’re ust to it—same as yourn.”
The young man laughed anxiously. “I wouldn’t risk it,” he said. “Come on.”
They turned to the path that zigzagged its way up the cliff, and with bent backs and hinged knees they mounted to the little house perched on its edge.
The old man pushed open the door with a friendly kick. “Go right along in,” he said. “I’ll be there ’s soon as I’ve got an armful of wood.”