“Well, I’m considabul contented. I gen’ally am, ain’t I?” he added quickly.
“So-so,” admitted the young man. “You’re shiftless, that’s what’s the matter with you.”
Uncle William gave his long, low chuckle. “I guess I be,” he said softly. “I guess I be. But I do take a sight o’ comfort.”
The young man finished the brushes and brought them in, standing them up in a quart cup. “Dinner ready?” he asked.
“I reckon it is.” Uncle William scowled at the lavish table. “’Pears to me there’s suthin’ I’ve forgot. Oh, pickles!” He said it triumphantly. “If you wouldn’t mind takin’ that plate, Mr. Woodworth, and goin’ down cellar?”
“All right.” The young man took the plate and disappeared down the ladder that served as a stairway to the tiny hole beneath.
Uncle William looked cautiously at the trap-door. Then he tiptoed to the window. He drew the glass from his pocket and pointed it at the harbor. The boat had come to anchor just off the island. Uncle William fixed her with his glass. “Uh-huh, jest as I thought,” he said softly.
A step sounded on the ladder and he shut the glass, thrusting it into his pocket and turning a bland, innocent face upon the room. “Does beat all how good pickles be with fish. Set ’em right there, Mr. Woodworth. Now we’re ready.”
Uncle William’s chair faced the window, and as he ate his eye dropped, now and then, to the bay below. Once it lighted with a swift gleam and he craned his neck a little.
“What is it?” asked the artist, half turning.
“Nuthin’,” said Uncle William, hastily, “nuthin’. ‘T ain’t wuth turnin’ your head for. I’m al’ays seein’ things. Get up in the night, like enough, and wander round the island, jest to see ’em. Go all over the island some nights. You see a good deal that way—fust and last: little critturs runnin’ round, softlike, and the moon and stars—” Uncle William was talking against time. His eye had lost interest in the bay. It seemed to be fixed on the moon and stars. One ear was turned expectantly toward the door.
The artist watched him with an amused smile. He never interrupted one of Uncle William’s monologues.
“I’ve spent a good deal o’ my life,” went on Uncle William, “lookin’ round at things.”
The gravel crunched outside.
The artist started.
Uncle William turned a little. “Andy, like enough,” he said. He rose and went leisurely toward the door.
The figure of a tall man stood in it, surveying the room.
Uncle William’s smile broke into radiance. It crinkled his eyes and nose and mouth. “I said ’t was you.” He held out a big hand, and drew the man into the room, peering behind him. A little look of disappointment came over his face. “You all alone?” he demanded.
“I am at present,” said the man, smiling. “I left a friend on the beach below. I wasn’t sure how I should find you.” His courteous glance took in the young man.