The artist watched him with amused eyes. “You waste a lot of oil on the government, Uncle William,” he said laughingly. “Why don’t you apply for a salary?”
Uncle William smiled genially. “Well, I s’pose the guvernment would say the’ wa’n’t any reel need for a light here. And I don’t s’pose the’ is, myself—not any reel need. But it’s a comfort. The boys like to see it, comin’ in at night. They’ve sailed by it a good many year now, and I reckon they’d miss it. It’s cur’us how you do miss a thing that’s a comfort—more’n you do one ’t you reely need sometimes.” He lighted the lamp swinging, ship fashion, from a beam above, and surveyed the table. He drew up his chair. “Well, it’s ready,” he said, “such as it is.”
“That’s all airs, Uncle William,” said the young man, drawing up. “You know it’s fit for a king.”
“Yes, it’s good,” said the old man, beaming on him. “I’ve thought a good many times there wa’n’t anything in the world that tasted better than chowder—real good clam chowder.” His mouth opened to take in a spoonful, and his ponderous jaws worked slowly. There was nothing gross in the action, but it might have been ambrosia. He had pushed the big spectacles up on his head for comfort, and they made an iron-gray bridge from tuft to tuft, framing the ruddy face.
“There was a man up here to Arichat one summer,” he said, chewing slowly, “that e’t my chowder. And he was sort o’ possessed to have me go back home with him.”
The artist smiled. “Just to make chowder for him?”
The old man nodded. “Sounds cur’us, don’t it? But that was what he wanted. He was a big hotel keeper and he sort o’ got the idea that if he could have chowder like that it would be a big thing for the hotel. He offered me a good deal o’ money if I’d go with him—said he’d give me five hunderd a year and keep.” The old man chuckled. “I told him I wouldn’t go for a thousand—not for two thousand,” he said emphatically. “Why, I don’t s’pose there’s money enough in New York to tempt me to live there.
“Have you been there?”
“Yes, I’ve been there a good many times. We’ve put in for repairs and one thing and another, and I sailed a couple of years between there and Liverpool once. It’s a terrible shet-in place,” he said suddenly.
“I believe you’re right,” admitted the young man. He had lighted his pipe and was leaning back, watching the smoke. “You do feel shut in—sometimes. But there are a lot of nice people shut in with you.”
“That’s what I meant,” he said, quickly. “I can’t stan’ so many folks.”
“You’re not much crowded here.” The young man lifted his head. Down below they could hear the surf beating. The wind had risen. It rushed against the little house whirlingly.
The old man listened a minute. “I shall have to go down and reef her down,” he said thoughtfully. “It’s goin’ to blow.”