“You were gone a good while,” he said. The locket had slipped from his fingers and hung lightly on its steel chain, swinging a little as he bent to the fire.
The old man nodded. “I see the Andrew Halloran had dragged her anchor a little, as I went out, and I stopped to fix her. It took quite a spell. I couldn’t find the extry anchor. He’d got it stowed away for’ard somewheres, and by the time I found it she was driftin’ putty bad. I found a good bottom for her and made things fast before I left. I reckon she’ll hold.”
“Won’t he be down himself to look after her?”
“Mebbe not. It’s a goodish step, from his place, down and back. He knows I keep an eye out for her.
“Why doesn’t he anchor up there,” said the artist, “near by?”
The old man shook his head. “He’s a kind o’ set man, Andy is—part Irish and part Scotch. He al’ays has anchored here and I reckon he al’ays will. I told him when I bought the land of him he was welcome to.”
“It was his land, then?”
“Most on it—I do’ know as he wanted to sell reely, but I offered him more’n he could stan’. He’s a little near—Andy is.” He chuckled.
The artist laughed out. “So he keeps the anchorage and right of way and you look after his boat. I don’t see but he’s fairly well fixed.”
“Yes, he’s putty well fixed,” said the old man, slowly. “’S fur as this world’s goods go Andy is comf’tably provided for.” His eyes twinkled a little, but most of the big face was sober. “We’ve been neighbors, Andy ‘n’ me, ever sence we was boys,” he said. “I guess there ain’t a mean thing about Andy that I don’t know, and he the same about me. I should feel kind o’ lonesome nights not to hev his boat to look after—and know, like as not, in the mornin’ he’ll come down, cussin’ and swearin’ ’cause she wa’n’t fixed jest right.” He peered into the kettle on the stove. “’Most empty.” He filled it from the pail by the sink, and resumed his seat, stretching his great legs comfortably. Juno sprang from the lounge and perched herself on his knee. He tumbled her a little, in rough affection, and rubbed his big fingers in her neck. She purred loudly, kneading her claws with swift strokes in the heavy cloth. He watched her benignly, a kind of detached humor in his eyes. “Wimmen folks is a good deal alike,” he remarked dryly. “They like to be comf’tabul.”
“Some of them,” assented the artist.
The old man looked up with a swift twinkle. “So-o?” he said.
The artist sat up quickly. The locket swayed on its chain and his hand touched it. “What do you mean?” he said.
“Why, nuthin’, nuthin’,” said Uncle William, soothingly. “Only I thought you was occupied with art and so on—“?
Uncle William said nothing.
Presently the artist leaned forward. “Do
you want to see her?” he said.
He was holding it out.