The artist entered the glowing room. Turkey-red blazed at the windows and decorated the walls. It ran along the line of shelves by the fire and covered the big lounge. One stepped into the light of it with a sudden sense of crude comfort.
The artist set his canvas carefully on a projecting beam and looked about him, smiling. A cat leaped down from the turkey-red lounge and came across, rubbing his legs. He bent and stroked her absently.
She arched her back to his hand. Then, moving from him with stately step, she approached the door, looking back at him with calm, imperious gaze.
“All right, Juno,” he said. “He’ll be along in a minute. Don’t you worry.”
She turned her back on him and, seating herself, began to wash her face gravely and slowly.
The door opened with a puff, and she leaped forward, dashing upon the big leg that entered and digging her claws into it in ecstasy of welcome.
Uncle William, over the armful of wood, surveyed her with shrewd eyes. He reached down a long arm and, seizing her by the tail, swung her clear of his path, landing her on the big lounge. With a purr of satisfaction, she settled herself, kneading her claws in its red softness.
He deposited the wood in the box and stood up. His bluff, kind gaze swept the little room affectionately. He took off the stove-lid and poked together the few coals that glowed beneath. “That’s all right,” he said. “She’ll heat up quick.” He thrust in some light sticks and pushed forward the kettle. “Now, if you’ll reach into that box behind you and get the potatoes,” he said, “I’ll do the rest of the fixin’s.”
He removed his hat, and taking down a big oil-cloth apron, checked red and black, tied it about his ample waist. He reached up and drew from behind the clock a pair of spectacles in steel bows. He adjusted them to his blue eyes with a little frown. “They’re a terrible bother,” he said, squinting through them and readjusting them. “But I don’t dare resk it without. I got hold of the pepper-box last time. Thought it was the salt—same shape. The chowder was hot.” He chuckled. “I can see a boat a mile off,” he said, lifting the basket of clams to the sink, “but a pepper-box two feet’s beyond me.” He stood at the sink, rubbing the clams with slow, thoughtful fingers. His big head, outlined against the window, was not unlike the line of sea-coast that stretched below, far as the eye could see, rough and jagged. Tufts of hair framed his shining baldness and tufts of beard embraced the chin, losing themselves in the vast expanse of neckerchief knotted, sailor fashion, about his throat.
Over the clams and the potatoes and the steaming kettles he hovered with a kind of slow patience,—in a smaller man it would have been fussiness,—and when the fragrant chowder was done he dipped it out with careful hand. The light had lessened, and the little room, in spite of its ruddy glow, was growing dark. Uncle William glanced toward the window. Across the harbor a single star had come out. “Time to set my light,” he said. He lighted a ship’s lantern and placed it carefully in the window.