The girl looked up from her copying. Uncle William stood in the doorway, beaming on her. She got up quickly. “You are early.”
Uncle William held out a hand detainingly. “You set right down and go to work. I come early a-purpose. I thought I’d like to set a spell and watch ye.”
The girl resumed her copying. The lamp beside her shed its dull glow on the page, and on her face and neck, as she bent to it. The dark room rose mysteriously behind her. Uncle William settled himself in his chair with a breath of relief.
When she had finished the copying she came across to him. “It is done now.” She smiled to him through the dim light.
“Keeps you workin’ pretty steady, don’t it?” said Uncle William.
“Yes.” There was no complaint in the word.
Uncle William nodded. “I reckoned I’d find you doin’ it. That’s why I come early. I kind o’ wanted a chance to set—where ’t was quiet and things wa’n’t worryin’.”
She leaned forward. “Is he worse?”
“Well, not worse, so to speak, but kind o’ triflin’—wanting his own way a good deal. If I was home, I wouldn’t mind it a mite. I’d go outdoor and take two-three good whiffs, look at the water and see how things was comin’ on. I’d be all right in no time. But here—” He drew a kind of caged breath. “It’s worse outdoor ’n ’t is in.”
“You mind the noise, don’t you?” She was looking at him sympathetically.
“Well, ’t ain’t the noise so much,—I’ve heard the ocean roar,—it’s folks. Pesters me havin’ ’em round—so many on ’em.”
Her look changed to a little wonder. “I should think you would like to be with them. You help them.” She spoke the words softly, almost shyly. The clear glow of her eyes rested on his face.
The face showed no pride. “Yes, I reckon I help ’em—some. There’s gen’ally suthin’ to do, if you’re where folks be; but I have to get away from ’em. Can’t breathe if I don’t. And there ain’t any place to go to. I was feelin’ a good deal cooped up to-night, and then I thought o’ your place here.” He moved his hand toward the dark recesses. “It’s kind o’ clean and high.”
They sat in silence, the girl’s head resting on her hand.
Uncle William watched her face in the half-light. “You’re gettin’ tired and kind o’ peaked.”
She looked up. “I am resting.”
“Yes—yes, I know how it is. You stan’ all you can and byme-by you come to a place you can rest in, and you jest rest—hard.”
“You ought to ‘a’ asked somebody to help ye,” said Uncle William, gently.
“There wasn’t any one.”
“There was me.”
“Yes. I did ask you when I couldn’t go on.”
“That wa’n’t the way. Somebody would ‘a’ helped—your folks, like enough—” He stopped, remembering.