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Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

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Happy Island

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Happy Island

A new "Uncle William" story


Jennette Lee

New York
The Century Co,
1910 .

Copyright, 1910, by

Published, June, 1910

Electrotyped and printed by
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston





To make the young world move He has eyes,
And ears, and he can read the sun

In tune with all the children who laugh best
And longest through the sunshine, though far off
Their laughter, and unheard."


Happy Island

Happy Island

THE sunlight got in Uncle William s
eyes. He looked up from the map
spread on the table before him. Then he
got up slowly and crossed to the window
and drew down the turkey-red curtain a
deep glow filled the room. Juno, on the
lounge, stirred a little and stretched her
claws, and drew them in and tucked her
head behind them and went on sleeping.

Uncle William returned to his map. His
big finger found a dotted line and followed
it slowly up the table with little mumbles
of words. . . . The room was very still
only the faintest whisper of a breeze came
across the harbor and Uncle William s


Happy Island

head bent over the map and traveled with
his finger. ..." They d run in here, like
enough, and ..."

A shadow crossed the curtain and he
looked up.

Andy was in the doorway, grinning a
bunch of lobsters dangling from his hand,
stretching frantic green legs into space.
Andy looked down at them.

Uncle William shook his head. " You ll
get into trouble, Andy, carryin em that
way, right in broad daylight you can put
em out there under the bucket so s t
the sun won t hit em."

Andy departed and the scraping of the
bucket on the hard rock came cautiously
in the window. . . . Juno. lifted her ear
and flicked it and went on dreaming. Uncle
William returned to the map.

" What you huntin up? " asked Andy.
He was looking in the window.

" D you put a stone on top the bucket? "

Happy Island

" Yep What you lookin for? " asked

" I was just seein where they d got to.
.... They must be up along Battle Har
bor way, by this time

11 You heard from em? " said Andy.
He came in and sat down.

" We ve had a letter to-day me and
Benjy "

" Where s he gone? " asked Andy.

"He s up to his place seein about
some plans they re makin they bother
him quite a consid abul."

Andy s face showed no concern. " They
goin to begin working next week? " he

Uncle William pushed back the map a
little and took off his spectacles. . . .
" They don t just seem to know," he said
slowly, " Benjy wants it one way, and the
man that s doin it Ordway he says it
can t be done so they re kind o stuck.

Happy Island

/ wish he d have George Manning. Uncle
William s face expanded. " George d do
it and do it for him good. You see,
Benjy, he wants -

" He ll want money," said Andy
shortly unless he looks out keeping
that contractor and fussing about whether
they ll have the roof two inches up or two
inches down or some such matter as
that and Harr et f eedin the contractor
and getting board money right along
whether he works or don t work."

" I guess I ll do the lobsters for sup
per," said Uncle William. " Benjy likes
em." He stirred about, gathering a few
bits of kindling and paper and striking a
careful match.

Andy watched him with gloomy eye
while he dived under the sink and brought
out a large kettle.

Uncle William lifted the tea kettle a lit
tle and drew it forward. " Most full," he

Happy Island

said contentedly. " That s good and it
ain t fairly cooled off since dinner I
didn t wash any dishes this noon, you see."

Andy s eye roamed about the room.

" They re tucked under the sink," said
Uncle William, " I don t like em clutterin
round. I can t seem to set so easy if I see
em." He opened the sink door and
peered in. "I guess there s about enough
left for a meal You goin to stay ?
He looked back hopefully over his shoul

Andy wriggled a little and looked at the
door. " I didn t say nothin to Harr et,"
he said feebly.

* Well, I guess you better stay said
Uncle William, " You don t get a chance
to eat lobsters every day."

" I don t get em any day," said Andy
gloomily, " She won t cook em for me
and she says she won t have em scrawling

8 Happy Island

Uncle William looked at him sympathet
ically. " Now, that s too bad it s just
come on, ain t it?

Andy nodded. " She says it s the law
and she s going to keep it, and we hain t
had tip nor claw for much as a week now.

" My . . . my! Uncle William s tongue
clicked in sympathy. " Well, you stay
right where you be, Andy, and we ll have
one good meal." He brought in the lob
sters. " Seem s if women keep the law a
little harder n men when they do keep
it," he said thoughtfully, swashing the
lobsters happily down into the kettle.

Andy nodded. " She got scared bout
the fish-warden last week. She says we
can t pay no three hundred dollars for
lobsters and I do no s we can." His
eye was on the steam that rose genially
about the lid of the kettle.

il Well, there won t be any three hun
dred this time," said Uncle William,

Happy Island

" not without the fish- warden s legs are
longer n my spy-glass. Seems kind o
mean business being a warden, he
added kindly.

" I don t mind his bein a warden," said
Andy, " if they d let us have Jim Doshy.
We d got used to him knew his ways,
and he gen lly sent us word anyhow day
or two beforehand But this one
He looked at Uncle William with reproach
ful eye. " The wa n t one of us ready
for him when he come."

Uncle William nodded. " I know
lively work wa n t it? "

Andy grinned. Lively they was
flyin round like hens with their heads
off dumpin em out and scratchin em
under and getting things shipshape." He
grinned again. " I wa n t to home, you
know I d gone off the Point to haul
a mess for dinner, and Harr et had to run
a mile in the hot sun to yell at me to dump

io Happy Island

em out." He drew a long breath as he
heaved the lobsters overboard and righted

" Now, that ain t right," said Uncle
William, " making Harr et run in the hot
sun like that all for them little squirm
ing things, and tain t reasonable. We
ought to know how many lobsters we o t
to eat much as any fish- warden. Ain t
they our lobsters? He shoved up his
glasses and looked at Andy kindly.

Andy s eye was on the kettle. " You
think they re most done? " he said.

Uncle William took off the lid and
peered in. The steam rose about his big
head like a halo and rolled away in light
whiffs. Down on the beach they could hear
the washing of the little waves as the tide
came up. Uncle William s face looked out
of the steam, like a happy moon. " Just
about " he said, " You run and see if
Benjy s anywheres in sight." He lifted

Happy Island

1 1

the kettle and Andy got up stiffly and went
to the door.

" I don t see him nowheres," he said

" You can t see him there, Andy. You
got to go round the corner." Uncle Will
iam carried the kettle to the sink and Andy
departed, reluctant When he returned
the lobsters were on the middle of the
table, red and steaming, with their little
white clouds over them. The map had
been hung on the wall and the table
was scantily set- "There s one spoon
apiece," said Uncle William cheerfully,
" though I do no s we need spoons.
I m going to have a real good washin up
after dinner D you see him, Andy?

"He s comin ," replied Andy "up
the road a piece."

" He ll be right along then," said Uncle
William, " if he don t meet somebody
that wants to advise him bout his house.

12 Happy Island

I d come home round by the lots, if I was
him, I tell him. It s further but he d
get here quicker. You sure t was him?

" The ain t anybody else got that kind
o high-stepping walk, has the ? " said
Andy scornfully.

" I do no s the has," said Uncle Will
iam. " You draw right up, Andy. He ll
be here any minute now."


BENJAMIN BODET stood in the door
way and looked in. He was tall and
thin and distinguished in spite of his
rough suit and slouch hat and the week s
growth of beard on his thin cheeks and
pointed chin. His eye fell on the steaming
red mound in the center of the table and
his face lighted. Lobsters ! " he said.

Uncle William, who had been watching
him, chuckled a little. " Andy s lobsters,"
he said politely.

Andy shuffled in his chair. " They re
your claws, William they re on your
premises "

" Yes, yes," said Uncle William sooth
ingly, " I know bout that. You just eat


14 Happy Island

all you want and I ll pay the bill when
it comes in. You all ready, Benjy? "

1 * All ready and hungry for anything
you ve got especially lobster."

They drew up to the table and reached
out to the red pile breaking it down
slowly. . . . Juno, from her lounge, came
across and rubbed against Uncle William s
big leg. Then she sat up. When Uncle
William s hand reached down with casual
motion, and a hard, red morsel, she snuffed
at it daintily before her teeth opened on it.
Then she bent her head and growled a
little, and crouched over it, crushing it
under her paw and moving her tail in
swift, restrained joy ... to eat was good
but to hold it there under her paw -
caught fast and growl a little. . . . Up
above Uncle William rumbled on about
the weather and fishing and house building
and lobsters. . . . Presently he reached up
and took down a spy-glass and went to the

Happy Island 15

window. The red curtain was up and the
sun came in with soft, side slants. Down
below, the water of the harbor slowly filled
with dusk and reached away. Uncle Will
iam looked out across it toward the west.

" I ve been kind o watching her," he
said, " for some time I guess she s goin

Benjamin Bodet came and stood beside
him, looking out.

Uncle William glanced at him affection
ately as he handed him the glass. He was
not quite used even yet to having
Benjy around. Sometimes he waked in the
night and remembered Benjy was there
before he heard the sound of the waves on
the beach or the wind coming across the
moor behind the house. . . . This some
times gave him a feeling that perhaps it
might be heaven instead of Arichat . . .
and it kept him from getting used to
Benjy s presence in the house.

1 6 Happy Island

Andy, from his seat at the table, looked
at them with grudging eye. " You see
anything? " he said.

" She s running by," said Uncle Will
iam. He came and sat down and looked
contentedly at the untidy table. " That
was a pretty good meal, Andy.

Andy nodded, without enthusiasm.
* The last one I 11 have this season like
as not," he said.

" Oh, you bring em up here any time
and we ll help you out, Benjy and me."

The tall man had come back from the
window and he smiled down at them.
" I ll do my share," he said.

Uncle William looked at him, as if fear
ing a little that he might vanish in his thin
ness. " You set down, Benjy," he said,
"I m going to clear the table and then
we ll get down the map

11 Have you heard f " asked the man

Happy Island 17

" It come today while you was
gone, and it s to both of us," said Uncle

He held the pan of red shells in his
hand, looking at it doubtfully. Juno, with
her back to the stove, licked her paw
and rubbed it down her nose and rubbed
again and licked it and rubbed again
in gentle rhythm.

Uncle William glanced at her with be
nignant eye. " She does set store by lob
ster," he said, " much as anybody I ever
see. I guess I ll save em for her." He
moved toward the sink.

Andy s eye followed him with disap
proving glance. "I d heave em out," he

" Don t you worry, Andy, I m goin to
put em under the sink way back. The
won t no fish-warden get em in there. It s
much s I can do to find things myself
when they get under here He

1 8 Happy Island

emerged from the depths with serene face.
" I see some things in there now, I ve been
looking for quite a spell. Tomorrow I m
going to have a real good clarin -up
time You see!

" I wanted you to go up to my place to
morrow," said Bodet whimsically. " I
thought perhaps you could work that con
tractor around to let me have my house
the way I want it.

" Well, I ll go if you want me to,"
said Uncle William placidly, " The
dishes can wait a spell some of em
can wait," he added, with a touch of con

Benjamin smiled. " You might do them
before we go."

11 And you could wipe," said Uncle
William cheerfully.

Benjamin s face was perhaps a trifle less
glowing than Uncle William s, but his as
sent was cheerful. " All right, William,

Happy Island 19

I ll do my part You help me with that
contractor and I ll wipe dishes for you
all day, if you say so.

Uncle William regarded him thought
fully. " You ought to have George Man
ning to help you about your house, Benjy.
He could do it for you nice.

" Manning? " Bodet looked at him
with lifted eyebrows l You mean that

11 He ain t a boy exactly, Benjy. He
looks kind o young not having any
whiskers, and chewing a piece of grass the
way he does when he s thinking. But he s
old enough. He s built a good many
houses on the Island, fust and last much
as eighteen or twenty, I should think,
counting barns and hen-coops and fish-

Bodet smiled. " My house isn t a hen
coop, William."

" I know, Benjy it s going to be a

2o Happy Island

nice house when you get it started,"
said William.

Bodet sighed and threw out an impatient

Uncle William looked at him sympa
thetically. " Does bother ye a good deal,
don t it? You might talk with George
about it," he added hopefully, " Twon t
hurt any to talk to him he s chuck full
of ideas. He s about the best man we ve
got on the Island, I guess," he added
slowly. " The ain t but one thing wrong
about George."

" What s wrong with him? " asked Bo
det with a little, skeptical smile.

" He ain t married," said Uncle Will

Bodet laughed out. " Neither are you,

" No, I ain t married and you ain t
married. But that s different we re old

Happy Island 2 i

" Just tottering around," laughed Bo-

" It ain t the tottering, Benjy It s the
hevin had your chance and lost it. . . .
That s what s happened to us." He was
looking at him with affectionate eyes, over
the big spectacles.

Bodet nodded. " That s what s hap
pened to us. And George Manning, I sup
pose "

" George never had a chance," said
Uncle William thoughtfully. . . . "I don t
mean that nobody would a had him. I
guess the ain t a girl on the Island but
what s set her cap for George, one time or
another set it kind o modest, you know.
But George don t see em. He just goes
around looking at the sky and things
kind o thinkin in his mind might bump
right up against a girl and not know she
was there " Uncle William chuckled.
" I ve talked to him about em," he added

22 Happy Island

conscientiously " I Ve told him, a good
many times, how interestin they be but
it don t seem to do any good." Uncle
William sighed a little.

Bodet stood up, shaking himself. * Did
you say there was a letter f " he sug

Uncle William blinked a little and took
it from his pocket, regarding it fondly.
" You read it," he said, " whilst I get
down the map."

Andy watched him, a little morosely, as
he mounted a chair and reached for the
map on its nail When you two going
to get a girl! " he said.

Uncle William looked down at him with
open mouth. " Now that s an idea! " he
said slowly.

" What s an idea? " asked Andy.

Uncle William s mouth closed firmly.
" Nothin I didn t mean nothin , I
guess. I was just a-thinking." He chuck-

Happy Island 23

led softly. " We ve got a girl," he added
kindly. We heard from her yesterday.
He reached again to the map.

" When s she coming? demanded

"Well?" Uncle William climbed
slowly from the chair with his map, She
can t come exactly ;

Andy stared at him. " Then you ain t
got her, Willuni :

" Oh, yes, we ve got her and she
wants to come worst way. She s the
one I told you about down to New
York? He looked at Andy over his spec
tacles. " She s a nice girl," he added.
His face held a deep glow. " Bout the
nicest girl you ever see, I reckon."

" I don t know her," said Andy coldly.

"Well, mebbe you forget But I re
member well enough telling you about her
one day down to your house when
Harr et had gone fox-berrying and you

24 Happy Island

and me was there alone, and we was
makin "

" Like enough I do remember," said
Andy hastily.

" That s the one," said Uncle William,
the one I kind o helped to get home from
New York and she d come any day
if there was a place to sleep. Benjy s in
the other room and I m in this one and
the ain t any other His forehead
wrinkled at the problem. " She s got to
come and she s got to hev a place, he
said with decision.

" She could sleep down to my house,"
said Andy.

Why, so she could She could sleep
down to his house, Benjy," said Uncle

The tall man swung his glasses from his
nose and looked at them first one and
then the other. Then a smile came into his
face. " The Lord bless you, Andy," he

Happy Island 25

said, I think I had come about to the end
of my dish-washing powers

" All you ve done, was wipe em,
Benjy, said Uncle William anxiously.

I know, William and it s all right
and I liked it! "

" You d pay a little suthin ," suggested

" Oh, anything reasonable," responded
the tall man. " Now let s see the map."


THEY bent over the table, following
Uncle William s finger. The room
was filled with light smoke from Uncle
William s pipe and the cigarette that Bo-
det held in his fingers and whiffed from
time to time. The dusk outside crept in
and mingled with the smoke.

" It s along up here somewheres. ..."
said Uncle William, peering at the map -
l Here ! Here it is ! : He glued his fin
ger to a tiny spot They stopped here,
they said off St. Pierre, and then run
along up through Placentia Bay and
stopped off two-three times, and back to
St. Mary s kind o edgin along They
struck a squall here off Lance Point
and that kep em back a spell


Happy Island 27

" The boat s all right? " said Bodet

" Oh, she s all right, I guess. They
didn t say nothin about the boat. They
was writin about the scenery and about
their feelings, and so on; but I managed
to make out their course puttin this
and that together. Your boat s all right,
Benjy. She ll stand any weather they ll
get this time o year."

"Yes she ll stand it with good
handling "

" Well, you ve got a captain knows his
business. . . . They ll bring her round to
your back door some day, safe and sound.
. . . You ain t worryin to have em back,
Benjy? "

The other shook his head. " Not a
bit I m contented here." He gave a
little puff to the cigarette and wrinkled
his eyes, smiling across the map and
dreaming a little.

28 Happy Island

Uncle William s eyes were on his face,
kindly and glad. The pipe in his lips gave
out a gentle volume of smoke and rumbled
a little down below * You can t find a
much better place n this is, can you?
He moved his hand toward the window
where the dusk was coming in ... and
across the harbor where the lights glowed
faintly like stars.

Benjy s eye rested on them. " Best
place in the world," he said.

"We all like it," said Uncle William,
Andy likes it, too

The green in Andy s eye retreated a lit
tle I d like to see some of them other
places," he said. . . . " Now, that," he
shoved his finger at a point on the map
" That s the farthest north I ever went."

Uncle William bent to it. ..." Dead
Man s Point." He chuckled a little.
* Tis kind o rough, Andy, ain t it!

" I ve started times enough," said

Happy Island 29

Andy < < once for Labrador and once in
a whaler twas going way up they said.
Seem s if we always got stuck or got a
cargo or suthin before we re fairly
under way and had to turn around and
come back.

Uncle William nodded. " You ve had a
hard time, Andy and I do no s I d risk
taking you along myself not if I wanted
to get anywhere.

Andy grinned. " You ve been," he
said. " You don t care."

Uncle William s eye swept the map and
he laid his great hand on it affectionately,
spreading the fingers wide. " It does feel
good to think you ve seen it," he said,
" But I d rather be right here with you
and Benjy a-traveling this way after
them young things, that don t know where
they re sailing or what kind of waters
they re comin to and not trusting the
Lord even not fairly trustin him, so to

3O Happy Island

speak just kind o thinkin of him as
suthin to fall back on if a storm comes
up a real hard one kind of a tornado

11 She s a good boat," said the tall man.

" She s all right, Benjy and they re
nice children," responded Uncle William,
" and I hope they won t hurry a mite about
getting round the earth. . . . The rate
they re goin now when they wrote I
reckon it ll take just about twenty-five
years," he said reflectively. . . . " They
don t say how far North they plan to make,
but I kind o reckon they ll cut across from
here from Battle Harbor to Disco, and
then skirt along down the Cape, and up,"
.. . . His finger followed the course with
slow touch and the smoke curled about his
head with deep, contemplative puffs. His
eye ran back over the course and lingered
on a bit of clear water to the North. " It
does seem a pity not to go up there when

Happy Island 3 i

they re so near," he said regretfully, " and
best kind of weather, too." . . . His eye
grew dreamy "It was along 71, 1 sailed
there along with Captain Hall You
know that last voyage of his ? We had one
eye on whales and one on the Pole, I
reckon . . . and the Polaris, she edged and
edged, up and up. Some days I didn t
know but she would strike the Pole run
smack into it. ... We d got up here
through the Strait and up Smith s Sound
. . . and on beyond the farthest of any
body t that time and Captain Hall, he
was for pushing on and all of em, ex
cept Buddington he was sailing master
and that slow, cautious kind no sort
o timber to go after the North Pole
with but he said we d winter right
there twas somewheres along in August
then and we run back a little to a good
place and that s where it got its name
now, Polaris Bay we was the ones that

32 Happy Island

named it." Uncle William looked at it,
with, the pride of possession, and rubbed
his finger on it. . . . " Well, we stayed
there. . . . But Captain Hall you
couldn t hold him still, and he was all the
time sledgin off, one way and another
to see what the earth was doin up that
way and it run along into October the
last of the month It all seems like yes
terday," said Uncle William slowly. . . .
" I was a young fellow, you see not
more n twenty-two-three, and I d left
Jennie down here, and gone up there -
so s to make money faster 1 His eye
traveled about the red room . . . and
came back to the map . . . " and there
we was, settin down up there waitin
for winter and not a whale in sight and
then, all of a sudden, before you could say
Jack Robinson Captain Hall died. . . .
There was whisperin s around among the
crew about the way he was took and the

Happy Island 33

Navy went into it later but nothin was
proved . . . and Captain Buddington
wa n t the kind of man you could stand up
to captain or sailin master, or what,
he d have his way . . . and we stayed
there best part of a year. Then he said
we was goin home I remember, s if it
was yesterday, the day we got wind what
he was plannin for. I d been out off from

the boat all day and when I

came in George Pelman, he whispered to
me we was goin home and then, all in
a minute, out there in the snow, I see Jen
nie s face looking to me and smilin , and
my eyes kind o blurred with the snow
and all that and that was the last time
I see her " said Uncle William slowly.
" She died that winter. . . . When we got
home, along in the spring, they told me she
had waited seems s if she kind o made
her body wait till I d come They said it
was like her spirit died out, faint, till it just

34 Happy Island

wa n t there. ... So that s the way I
come to be here alone . . . and it seemed
pretty good when Benjy come back so, one

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