She nodded, her face overflowing with happiness.
Uncle William surveyed it. “I was cal’atin’ to have that one myself.” He said it almost grudgingly.
“You were? Could you?” she faced him.
“Couldn’t I have it as well as him?” He nodded toward the man in the distance intent on his catalogue.
The girl’s brow wrinkled a little. “He is rich,” she said. “I didn’t know—”
“Well, I ain’t rich,” said Uncle William, “but I reckon I could scrape together enough to pay for a picter.”
The girl’s face lighted. “Of course, Alan would rather you had it. And he may buy one of the others.”
The man had moved on a little, out of sight. The picture remained facing them. For a minute the crowd had parted in front of it and they saw it at the end of a long pathway. Uncle William drew a proud breath. “How much will it cost?” he said.
She took up the catalogue from her lap and opened it, glancing down the page. “It must be here—somewhere. Yes, this is it—’The House on the Rocks,’ $2000.”
Uncle William’s jaw clicked a little as it came together. He held out a hand. “Will you jest let me look at that a minute?” he said.
He ran his great finger down the page. When it came to the $2000, he pressed it a little with his thumb, as if expecting it to rub off. Then he looked at her, shaking his head. “It’s a leetle higher’n I can go,” he said slowly. “I wa’n’t expectin’ it would cost so much. You see, the house itself didn’t cost more’n three hunderd, all told, and I thought a picter of it wouldn’t cost more’n five or six.”
“Five or six hundred?” Her eyes laughed.
Uncle William shook his head guiltily. “Not more’n five or six dollars,” he said. “I reckon mebbe I did put it a leetle low.” A smile had bloomed again in his face. “If he can pay the price, he’ll have to have it, I reckon—for all o’ me.”
“Yes, he can pay it. He is very rich, and he cares for pictures. He has hundreds. He buys them everywhere—in Paris, London, St. Petersburg, Italy—It only depends on whether he likes—”
The man had come into view again and was studying the picture, dipping toward it in little sidewise flights. Uncle William watched the pantomime jealously. “How’d you come to know him?” he asked.
“He knew my mother. He had known her from a girl. I think he loved her,” she said quietly, her eyes on the man. “He was on the legation at St. Petersburg—See! He does like them!” She had leaned forward.
Uncle William glanced up.
The man was standing a little removed from the painting, his arms folded, his head thrown back, oblivious to the crowd.
She rose quickly. “I am going to speak to him,” she said. “Wait here for me.” She passed into the changing throng that filled the room beyond.
Uncle William waited patiently, his eyes studying the swift kaleidoscope of the doorway. When she reappeared in it, her face was alight with color. “Come.” She held out her hand. “I want you to meet him. He likes them—oh, very much!” She pressed her hands together lightly. “I think he will buy them—two, at least.”