The room was filled with the hum of light—faces and flowers and color everywhere. Uncle William walked among them erect, overtopping the crowd, his gaze, for the most part, on the sky-line. Sergia, beside him, seemed a slight figure. Glances followed them as they went, amused or curious or a little admiring. Uncle William, oblivious to the glances and to the crowd that opened before him, and closed silently behind the great figure, beamed upon it all. He was used to making his way through a crowd unhindered. To Sergia the experience was more novel, and she watched the crowd and the pictures and the old man moving serene among them, with amused eyes. Once she called his attention to a celebrated painter in the crowd. Uncle William’s eye rested impartially upon him for a moment and returned to its sky-line. “He looks to me kind o’ pindlin’. One o’ the best, is he?”
“He’s not strong, you mean?”
“Well, not strong, and not much to him—as if the Lord was kind o’ skimped for material. Is that one o’ his picters?”
Her eyes followed his hand. “Alan’s! Come.” They moved quickly to it across the larger room. “They are all here.” Her glance had swept the walls. “In the best light, too.” She moved eagerly from one to the other. “See how well they are hung.”
Uncle William’s eye surveyed them. “Middlin’ plumb,” he assented. “That fu’ther one looks to me a leetle mite off the level. It’s the one o’ my house, too.” He moved toward it and straightened the frame with careful hand, then he stepped back, gazing at it with pride. “Putty good, ain’t it?” he said.
She smiled, quietly. “Perfect. He has never done anything so good.”
“It is a putty nice house,” said Uncle William. His eye dwelt on it fondly. “I’d a’most forgot how nice it was. You see that little cloud there—that one jest over the edge? That means suthin’ ’fore mornin’.” He lifted his hand to it. “I wouldn’t trust a sky like that—not without reefin’ down good.” He drew a breath. “Cur’us how it makes you feel right there!” he said. “I’d a’most forgot.” He glanced at the moving crowd a little hostilely and drew another deep breath.
“The atmosphere is fine,” said the girl. She was studying it with half-shut eyes, her head thrown a little back. “It is clear and deep. You can almost breathe it.”
“It is a good climate,” assented Uncle William. “You couldn’t get sick there if you tried. Can’t hardly die.” He chuckled a little. “Sam’l Gruchy’s been tryin’ for six year now. He was ninety-seven last month. We don’t think nuthin’ o’ roundin’ out a hunderd up there—not the cheerful ones. ’Course if you fret, you can die ’most anywhere.”
“Yes, if you fret.” The girl was looking at him with pleased eyes. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever known what it was to fret?”