“I should say it is blowing,” said the young man.
“Not yet,” returned Uncle William. “You’ll hear it blow afore mornin’ if you stay awake to listen—though it won’t sound so loud up the shore where you be. This is the place for it. A good stiff blow and nobody on either side of you—for half a mile.” A kind of mellow enthusiasm held the tone.
The young man smiled. “You are a hermit. Suppose somebody should build next you?”
“I own it.”
The old man nodded. “Not the shore, of course. That’s free to all. But where anybody could build I own.” He said it almost exultantly. “I guess maybe I’m part Indian.” He smiled apologetically. “I can’t seem to breathe without I have room enough, and it just come over me once, how I should feel if folks crowded down on me too much. So I bought it. I’m what they call around here ‘land-poor.’” He said it with satisfaction. “I can’t scrape together money enough to buy a new boat, and it’s ’s much as I can do to keep the Jennie patched up and going. But I’m comfortable. I don’t really want for anything.”
“Yes, you’re comfortable.” The young man glanced about the snug room.
“There ain’t a lot of folks shying up over the rocks at me.” He got up with deliberation, knocking the ashes from his pipe. “I’m goin’ to make things snug and put down the other anchor,” he said. “You stay till I come back and we’ll have suthin’ hot.”
He put on his oil-skin hat and coat, and taking the lantern from its hook, went out into the night.
Within, the light of the swinging lamp fell on the turkey-red. It glowed. The cat purred in its depths.
The artist had been dreaming. In his hand he held an open locket. The face within it was dark, like a boy’s, with careless hair brushed from the temples, and strong lines. The artist knew the lines by heart, and the soft collar and loose-flowing tie and careless dress. He had been leaning back with closed eyes, watching the lithe figure, tall and spare, with the rude grace of the Steppes, the freshness of the wind. . . . How she would enjoy it—this very night—the red room perched aloft in the gale!
A fresh blast struck the house and it creaked and groaned, and righted itself. In the lull that followed, steps sounded up the rocky path. With a snap, the young man closed the locket and sat up. The door opened on Uncle William, shining and gruff. The lantern in his hand had gone out. His hat and coat were covered with fine mist. He came across to the fire, shaking it off.
“It’s goin’ to blow all right,” he said, nodding to the artist.
“And it’s raining. You’re wet.”
“Well, not wet, so to speak.” He took off his hat, shaking it lightly over the stove. A crackling and fine mist rose from the hot drops. Juno lifted her head and yawned. She purred softly. The old man hung his hat and coat on the wooden pegs behind the door and seated himself by the stove, opening wide the drafts. A fresh blaze sprang up. The artist leaned forward, holding out his hands to it.