Uncle William nodded. “I knew you’d want to. I’ve been kind o’ plannin’ for it. We’ll go down to-morrow or next day and see about it.”
The artist looked at him curiously. “I don’t believe you care half as much as I do!”
Uncle William returned the look, smiling broadly. “It’ll seem putty good to feel my own boards under me again,” he said cheerfully.
“But you didn’t care when you didn’t have them,” said the artist. “You just toted those infernal kittens—”
Uncle William’s chuckle was genial. “Kittens ain’t everything,” he said mildly. “But I’ve seen the time when kittens wa’n’t to be despised. You jest set that way a little mite, Mr. Woodworth, and I’ll beach her even.”
“One thing I’m glad of,” said the artist, as the boat grated along the pebbles. “You can pay Andy.”
“Andy’ll be glad,” responded Uncle William, “but it’ll be quite a spell before he has a chance to.” He waved his arm toward the bay. “He’s off for the day.”
The artist scanned the horizon with disappointed face. “He’ll be back by noon, perhaps?”
Uncle William shook his head. “Not afore night. I can tell by the way he’s movin’. We’ll come up and hev dinner and then we can plan her out.”
They sat on the rocks all the afternoon, looking at the dancing waves and planning for the new Jennie. Uncle William drew models on the back of an old envelope and explained figures. The artist followed him with eager eyes. Now and then his chest expanded and he drew a deep breath of satisfaction.
“Feel’s good, don’t it?” said Uncle William. “I ust to feel that way when I’d been in debt a good while and made a big ketch. Seemed ’s if the whole world slid off my shoulders.” He shook his head. “But it was kind o’ foolishness.”
“Wouldn’t you feel that way now?” demanded the artist.
“I don’t believe I would,” said Uncle William, slowly. “It’s a kind o’ wicked feelin’—when the sun’s a-shinin’ jest the same, and the water’s movin’ up and down,—” he motioned toward the harbor,—“and the boats are comin’ in at night, settlin’ down like birds, and the lights.” He looked affectionately at the water. “It’s all there jest the same whether I owe anybody or not. And the rocks don’t budge much—” He laid his big brown hand on the warm surface beside him, smoothing it in slow content.
The artist looked at him, smiling a little wistfully. “It sounds all very well to talk about,” he said, “but the world would go to rack and ruin if everybody felt that way.”
“I ust to think so,” said Uncle William, placidly. “I ust to lie awake nights worryin’ about it. But late years I’ve give it up. Seems to jog along jest about the same as when I was worryin’—and I take a heap sight more comfort. Seems kind o’ ridiculous, don’t it, when the Lord’s made a world as good as this one, not to enjoy it some?”
“Don’t you feel any responsibility toward society?” asked the artist, curiously.