Uncle William’s face assumed an air of explanation. “It’s good as far as it goes. The’ ain’t anything the matter with it—not anything you can lay your finger on—not till you get over there, a little east by sou’east. Don’t you see anything the matter over there?” He asked the question with cordial interest.
The Frenchman held the eyeglass chain in his fingers. He swung the glasses to his nose and stared at the spot indicated.
Uncle William regarded him hopefully.
The glasses dropped. He faced about, shaking his head. “I’m afraid I don’t see it.” He spoke in polite deprecation. “It seems to me very nearly perfect.” He faced it again. “I can breathe that air.”
“So can I,” said Uncle William. “So can I.”
They stood looking at it in silence. “It’ll be fo’-five hours before it strikes,” said Uncle William, thoughtfully.
“Before it—” The Frenchman had half turned. The rapt look in his face wrinkled a little.
“Before it strikes,” repeated Uncle William. “That cloud I p’inted out to you means business.”
The Frenchman looked again. The wrinkles crept to the corners of his eyes. He turned them on Uncle William. “I see. You were speaking of the weather?”
“Wa’n’t you?” demanded Uncle William.
“Well—partly. Yes, partly. But I’m afraid I was thinking how well it is done.” His face grew dreamy. “To think that paint and canvas and a few careless strokes—”
“He worked putty hard,” broke in Uncle William. Sergia’s hand on his arm stayed him. He remained open-mouthed, staring at his blunder.
But the Frenchman had not perceived it. He accepted the correction with a cordial nod. “Of course—infinite patience. And then a thing like that!” he lifted his hand toward it slowly. It was a kind of courteous salute—the obeisance due to royalty.
Uncle William watched it a little grudgingly. “They’re putty good rocks,” he said—“without paint.”
The Frenchman faced him. “Don’t I know?” He checked himself. “I’ve not mentioned it to you, but I was born and brought up on those rocks.”
“You was!” Uncle William confronted him.
The stranger nodded, smiling affably. His long nose was reminiscent. “I’ve played there many a time.”
Sergia’s face watched him hopefully.
Uncle William’s had grown a little stern. He bent toward the stranger. “I don’t think I jest caught your name,” he said slowly.
“My name is Curie,” said the man, politely—“Benjamin F. Curie.” He extracted a card from his pocket and handed it to Uncle William with a deep bow.
Uncle William pinched it between his thumb and forefinger. He drew down the spectacles from his tufts and examined it carefully. Then he bent and snapped it in his fingers. “I don’t know no such—”
A hand was laid lightly on his arm. “Come, we must look at the other pictures. It is almost time to go.”