The artist sat up. “Do you mean to say you wouldn’t stop folks fighting if you could?”
Uncle William eyed the proposition. “Well I dunno’s I’d say jest that. I’ve thought about it a good many times. Men al’ays hev fit and I reckon they will—quite a spell yet. There’s Russia and Japan now: you couldn’t ‘a’ stopped them fightin’ no more’n two boys that had got at it. All them Russians and them little Japs—we couldn’t ‘a’ stopped ’em fightin’—the whole of us couldn’t hev stopped ’em—not unless we’d ‘a’ took ’em by the scruff o’ the neck and thrown ’em down and set on ‘em—one apiece. And I dunno’s that’d be much better’n fightin’—settin’ on ’em one apiece.”
The artist laughed out.
Uncle William beamed on him. “You see, this is the way I figger it: Russia and Japan wa’n’t fightin’ so much for anything they reely wanted to git. It was suthin’ in ’em that made ’em go for each other, tooth and nail, and pommel so—a kind o’ pizen bubbling and sizzling inside ’em; we’ve all got a little of it.” He smiled genially. “It has to work out slow-like. Some does it by fightin’ and some does it by prayin’; and I reckon the Lord’s in the fightin’, same as in the prayin’.”
The artist looked at him curiously. “Some people call that the devil, you know.”
Uncle William cleared his throat. He picked up a little stone and balanced it thoughtfully on the palm of his hand. Then he looked up with a slow smile. “I ain’t so well acquainted with the devil as I ust to be,” he said. “I ust to know him reel well; ust to think about him when I was out sailin’—figger how to get ahead of him. But late years I’d kind o’ forgot—He’s livin’ still, is he?”
The artist laughed quietly. “They say so—some of them.”
Uncle William’s smile grew wider and sweeter. “Well, let him live. Poor old thing! ‘T won’t hurt none, and he is a kind o’ comfort to lay things on when you’ve been, more’n usual, cussed. That’s the Andrew Halloran over there to the left.” He pointed to a dusky boat that was coming in slowly. “That’s his last tack, if he makes it, and I reckon he will. Now, if you’ll go in and start the chowder, I’ll see if he want’s any help about makin’ fast.”