The artist’s face had grown hard. “I shall not go until I can carry her the money in my hand—all that I owe her.”
“Is ’t a good deal?” asked Uncle William.
But the artist had turned his face to the wall.
Uncle William looked down at him with a kind of compassionate
“If I was you—”
A whistle sounded and an arm, holding a letter, was thrust in at the door.
“What is it?” The artist had turned. He half raised himself, reaching out a hand. “What is it? Give it to me.”
Uncle William examined the lines slowly. “Why, it seems to be for me,” he said kindly. “I dunno anybody that’d be writin’ to me.”
He found his glasses and opened it, studying the address once or twice and shaking his head.
The artist had sunk back, indifferent.
“Why!” The paper rustled in Uncle William’s hand. He looked up. “She’s gone!” he said.
The artist started up, glaring at him.
Uncle William shook his head, looking at him pityingly. “Like as not we sha’n’t see her again, ever.”
The artist’s hand groped. “What is it?” he whispered.
“She’s gone—left in the night.”
“She will come back.” The gaunt eyes were fixed on his face
Uncle William shook his head again, returning the gaze with a kind of sternness. “I dunno,” he says. “When a man treats her like Andy has, she must kind o’ hate him—like pizen.”
The artist sat up, a look of hope faint and perplexed, dawning beneath his stare. He leaned forward, speaking slowly. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talkin’ about that.” Uncle William held out the letter. “It’s from Andy, and Juno’s left him. Took to the woods. She couldn’t stan’ havin’ him round, I guess.” Uncle William chuckled a little.
The young man lay back. He moistened his lips a little with his tongue. “You were talking about her?” The words were a whisper.
Uncle William looked at him over his glasses. “Didn’t you hear me say so?”
There was a long silence. “I thought you meant—Sergia.”
“Sergia!—What!” Uncle William looked down at the letter. A light dawned slowly in his eye. He fixed it on the young man. A chuckle sounded somewhere and grew in little rolls, tumbling up from the depths. “You thought I meant—her!” Uncle William’s sides shook gently. “Lord, no! Sergia didn’t run away. She’ll stan’ by till the last man’s hung. She’s that kind.”
“I know.” The tone was jealous. “I ought to know.”
“Yes, you ought to know.” Uncle William left the moral to take care of itself. He did up the work, singing hopefully as he rolled about the room, giving things what he called “a lick and a promise.”
“You were late last night,” said the artist, watching him.
“Yes, considabul late,” said Uncle William. He had come upon another pile of cigar-ashes behind a picture on the shelf, and was brushing it up, whistling softly. “You must ‘a’ smoked a good deal,” he said, rapping out the ashes. “I’ve been sweepin’ ’em up ever since I come.”