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Jennette Lee.

Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

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you ve been hurrying Seems to me
maybe twon t be near so much fun living
in your house as tis building. ... I ve
got a sight of comfort out of building your
house," he added gently.

Bodet looked at him. " You d get com
fort out of an earthquake, William.



Happy Island 289

" They re interesting," admitted Uncle
William, " I ve been in em three of
em little ones, you know." He gazed
before him.

"I d rather be in three quakes three
big ones than build on this Island, said
Bodet firmly.

Uncle William s gaze broke. He pushed
up his spectacles and leaned forward.
" That s just where tis, Benjy. It s dif
ferent on the Island. When you ve
lived here a spell, you don t want to finish
things up lickety-cut, and then set down
and look at the water. . . . You kind o
spin em out and talk about em paint
one end, mebbe, and go out fishin or
suthin not paint the other for fo-five
months, like enough not ever paint it."
He beamed on him.

Bodet moved restlessly. Did you ever
do any painting with Gunnion! " he de
manded.



290 Happy Island

Uncle William s smile deepened. " I ve
painted with him yes . . . tis kind o
fiddlin work, painting with Jim Gunnion."
He pushed back the dishes and rested his
arms on the table * * This is the way I
see it, Benjy. ... I woke up the other
night along in the night and got to
thinkin about it. We d have a real good
time buildin your house if you wa n t so
kind o pestered in your mind. You see
the s you and me and George and Gun
nion and Andy some days and we
could visit along whilst we was working
have real good times. . . . Like enough the
boys d sing some they most al ays do
sing when they re building on the Island
Sounds nice, when you re out on the water
to hear em two or three hammers goin ,
and singin ... I don t believe they ve
done much singin on your house, Benjy? "
He looked at him inquiringly.

I don t believe they have, said Bodet.



Happy Island 291

His face was thoughtful. " They might
have got along faster if they had sung,"
he added. He looked up with a little
smile.

Uncle William nodded. "I do no s
they d a got along any faster but you d
a liked buildin better. The s suthin
about it " Uncle William gazed about
the little red room " suthin about the
Island when you re settin up nights and
the wind s a-screeching and howling and
the waves poundin , down on the beach. . . .
You get to thinking about how snug the
boys made her, and you kind o remem
ber em, up on the roof, and how the sun
kept shining and the sou -west wind blow
ing and the boys singing. ... It all seems
different, somehow." Uncle William s
gaze dwelt on it.

Bodet took up his hat. " I think I ll go
down to the beach," he said soberly.

Uncle William s eye followed him.



292 Happy Island

" You don t think I m scoldin ye, Benjy,
do you? "

Bodet paused beside him and laid a hand
on the great shoulder. " I d rather have
you scold me, William, than have any other
man I know praise me."

Uncle William s mouth remained open
a little and the smile played about it. "I
do no* why you say that, Benjy. I ain t
any different from anybody cept t I m
fond of ye," he added.

" You re fond of everybody," declared
Bodet laughing.

Uncle William s face grew guilty.
" There s Harr et," he said slowly.
" Some days I can t even abide Harr et! "



XXVI

BODET had taken largely to sitting
about on nail-kegs, listening to the
men talk and joining in now and then. . . .
The little fretted look had left his eyes, and
his voice when he spoke had a quiet note.

" You re doin fine, Benjy! " Uncle
William confided to him one morning. It
was the week before Christmas. A fire had
been built in the big living-room and the
men had gathered about it, talking and
laughing and thawing out. A fierce wind
from the east was blowing and fine sleet
drove against the windows. The room had
a homelike sense shut in from the storm.

"It s a great thing to have building
goin on, a day like this when the s a big
storm from the east," said Uncle William

293



294 Happy Island

cheerfully. " If tw an t for the building,
you might not have a soul in to see you all
day." He glanced complacently at the
group about the fire.

" Costs me twelve-fifty a day," said
Bodet dryly.

11 Wuth it, ain t it? " said Uncle Will
iam, " I do no what money s for if ye
can t be happy with it. ..." He glanced
affectionately at the quiet face opposite
him. " You re getting happy every day,
Benjy. ... I do no s I ever see anybody
get along as fast as you do gettin
happy."

The tall man laughed out. "It s a
choice between that and everlasting
misery on your old Island," he said.

" Yes, I guess tis." Uncle "William s
voice was contented.

The group about the fire broke up and
moved off. Uncle William s eye followed
them " They re going to work now.



Happy Island 295

You ll get quite a piece done today " He
came back to the fire. I was thinking
how d it do to have dinner up here? " He
was looking about the room.

Bodet s glance followed his " Who ll
cook it? " he said.

11 We could send for Celia," said Uncle
William. " Gunnion s team s out in the
shed he didn t unhitch. We could send
down, easy enough, and fetch her up
dinner and all and she could cook it
out in your kitchen Uncle William
beamed. " You d like that, wouldn t
ye? "

" It s not a bad idea I ll tell Gunnion
to drive down and get her.

Uncle William laid a hand on his arm.
" I reckon you d better let George fetch
her up," he said.

" I can t spare him," said Bodet de
cisively. " Gunnion can drive back and
forth all day if he wants to " Uncle



296 Happy Island

William got in his way, " I guess you
better let George go, Benjy he won t
be no time driving down there and
back."

* With a little smile, Bodet yielded the
point and Uncle William rolled off to find
George Manning and send him out into the
storm.

" You tell her to wrap up good," he
called into the sleet . . . " and you see
she s tucked in, George, and tell her to
bring plenty of salt and pep-p-er." The
last word was whirled apart by wind, and
Uncle William retired into the house, a
deep smile on his face.

Within an hour Celia was there, little
beading moisture on the bobbing curls, and
the pink in her cheeks like a rose the
kind that grows wild and red among the
rocks. Uncle William looked at her ap
provingly. " Did you good to get out a
spell, didn t it? " he said kindly.



Happy Island 297



( i



I didn t know you were worrying
about my health She shook the little
curls. " I thought you were hungry."

Well, I wa n t not altogether,
Uncle William s face was placid, " but
I wouldn t a wanted you to get cold
I guess George tucked you in pretty
good :

11 I tucked myself in," she said. " Have
you got a fire made for me ?

" Everything s all ready, Celia." Uncle
William led her out to the tiny kitchen,
tiled in white and fitted with all the con
trivances for skill and swiftness. She
stood looking about her the little color
in her face. " Well, this is a kitchen! "
she said. She drew a deep breath.

Uncle William chuckled. " I knew
you d like it. You see you can stand right
here in the middle and throw things.
Twouldn t suit me so well "he said re
flectively. I like to roll around more



298 Happy Island

but this is about right for you, Celia. He
looked at her.

" Just right," she said emphatically
" But there isn t room for two is
there? She looked at him and he retired,
chuckling, while she examined the range,
taking off lids and peeking into the
oven. . . . George Manning appeared in
the doorway. " Uncle William told me to
ask you if there s anything you want ? " he
said, looking about the shining little room.

Celia whisked her apron from the basket
and put it on. " You can tell him there
isn t a thing I need except to be left
alone," she added severely, " and I just
told him that."

The young man withdrew a heavy
color rising in his face.

" She didn t want anything, did she?
said Uncle William casually.

" No." Manning took up his plane and
attacked a piece of board screwed to the



Happy Island 299

bench. Uncle William watched the long,
even lunge of the plane and the set of the
square shoulders. He moved discreetly
away.

In her kitchen, Celia spread the contents
of the basket on the white shelf, and
settled to her work like- a bird to its
nest. . . . Out in the rooms beyond
amid the swirl of planes and the smell of
paint and shavings and clean, fresh wood,
they heard a voice singing softly to it
self . . . and against the windows the sleet
dashed itself and broke, and the great
storm from the east gathered. By and by
Uncle William looked into the kitchen.
11 You couldn t just go out in the other
room, Celia, and fetch me my coat, could
ye? " He was standing in his shirt sleeves,
looking at her kindly.

She glanced up from her work and
paused, " No, Mr. Benslow, I couldn t
and I do wish you d stop acting so. . . .



300 Happy Island

You re just ridiculous! " She lifted a
pie and whisked it into the oven and Uncle
William retired.

He went for his coat himself and put
it on, shrugging his great shoulders com
fortably down into it " If they want to
act like that, they ll have to get along best
way they can," he muttered to himself.

His face resumed its calm and he strolled
from room to room, giving advice and en
joying life. " I do like a big, comfortable
storm like this," he said, standing at the
window and looking out across the black-
stretched harbor. " Everything snug
down there," he waved his hand to the
bleakness, and everything going all
right up here to your house going along
putty good, that is," he added conscien
tiously.

Bodet came and stood beside him, look
ing out. " It suits me," he said. " I don t
want anything better than this except to



Happy Island 301

have the children back," he added after a
minute.

" They ll be long byme-by, Benjy."
Uncle William s gaze was on the blackened
water. " They ll be long and the little
one with em. . . . You ought to have
somebody to keep house for you, Benjy
till they come He turned and looked
at him " Want me to lend you Celia
awhile? " he said craftily, " just whilst
you re finishing up? She likes it out
there "he nodded to the kitchen. She
likes it fust-rate out there and I don t mind
letting you have her you can have her
just as well as not." He studied the keen
face opposite him.

The man shook his head. " I don t need
her, William I ve sent for some one
a Jap that I knew years ago. He took care
of me over there when I was with the Em
bassy. He said he d come to me any time
I sent for him so I sent.



302 Happy Island

Uncle William beamed. " Now, ain t
that good! And it s good his bein a
man! " he added thoughtfully. " I like
women. I do no anybody t I like
better n I do women but sometimes
they re kind o trying." His ear listened
to the clink of dishes from the kitchen.

Bodet laughed " Well, he s a man-
Jimnra Yoshitomo s a man though you
don t think about it either way."

Uncle William nodded. " I know what
you mean, Benjy they ve got way past
that Japs have past being men and
women they re just old, and kind o
human and not just human either," he
added slowly, " I do no what it is ...
but I feel different when they re round
kind o sleepy, somehow the way I feel
on the Island, still days when the sun
shines ? He looked at him inquiringly.

" That s it. I ve always meant to have
a Jap when I had a home, and now I have



Happy Island 303

the home. He looked about the big room
contentedly.

Celia came to the door and looked in.
"I m going to set the table in here," she
announced, " by the fire."

She set the table and called the men and
returned to her kitchen. Uncle William
followed her with inquiring step You
come and eat your dinner out here with the
rest of us, Celia, whilst it s hot," he com
manded.

" I ve got things to do I can t be
bothered to eat now." She shut the door
on him.

Uncle William returned to the living-
room with subdued face, but when he saw
the group at table and the leaping fire and
the plates and piles of steaming food, his
face grew round again and he smiled.
" Does seem good, don t it! " He sat
down, helping himself to potato and salt
and butter. " The s suthin about eatin



304 Happy Island

that s different," he said. " You can t
have a home without you eat in it. ...
I ve seen folks try it eatin one
place and livin another, and twa n t
home. They seemed kind o stayin
round not livin anywheres. If 7 was
a young man, the fust thing I d do d be
to have a home." His eyes looked over
Manning s head, into space, and he chewed
slowly.

Manning ignored it. " Mr. Bodet says
lie s going to have a Jap keep house for
him, he said to the table in general. Andy
looked up quickly. " I wouldn t have one
of them things around."

" I do no why," said Uncle William,
" They re nice little folks."

" They re different," said Andy.

1 1 Some places you couldn t send for one
that way," said Manning. " They d call it
* contract labor and send him back pretty
quick where he came from."



Happy Island 305

" That s what I d do pretty quick. "
said Andy.

" Now, what makes you talk like that,
Andy," said Uncle William. " You ain t
ever see one."

" They ll work for nothing and live
on dirt," said Andy glibly.

" I guess you didn t ever see how they
live, did you, Andy ? said Uncle William.
His eyes were on something now and they
smiled to it. "I do no s I could just
make you see it if you wa n t ever
there But they re about the nicest little
houses you ever see and clean You
feel kind o fraid to step in em, they re
so clean and fixed-up. . . . I do no s I
ever feel so big and clutterin as I do
times t I m in Japan," he said reflect
ively. " Seem s if there d have to be a
lot done to me fore I was pared down
fit to live in Japan. . . . Nice ways,
too bowin and ridiculous, like monkeys,



306 Happy Island

maybe, but doin things quicker n Jack
Robinson."

" They ll work for nothing muttered
Andy.

Uncle William turned and regarded him
over his spectacles "If anybody wants
to do my work for nothin , I do no why
I should hinder em," he said kindly.
" They can come on to the Island and do
my gardenin all they want to. It don t
hurt my feelin s any to see em digging."
He waved his hand out to where the storm
drove "Why we should shove em off
the edge when they re just aching to do
our work for us, is what I can t see. I
never see the time yet when the wa n t
work enough to go round."

Andy shifted uneasily in his chair.

" The s too much! " said Uncle Will
iam with conviction.

" I guess we d better be doing a little of
it, laughed Manning. He got up from the



Happy Island 307

table and went toward the other room . . .
and Uncle William s eye came back from
Japan and followed him hopefully.

But the young man passed the kitchen
door without a glance. Uncle William
sighed and got up from the table. " You
make yourself ridiculous talking about for
eign folks, Andy folks t you ain t ever
seen," he said severely. The sound of the
hammers came through the open door and
Celia s voice, singing gently to itself. . . .
Outside, the rain roared hoarse, running
across the moor and blotting out the sky
and the boats tugging at anchor below.



XXVII

IN March Jimmu Yoshitomo arrived and,
soon after him, a cablegram from Alan
and Sergia.

" Hurray! Uncle William leaned out
of the window, waving it, " It s come,
Benjy Didn t I tell you it d come! "

Bodet hurried up and took it from him,
reading it aloud, Uncle William leaning
over him

" Wilhelmina Bodet Woodworth and Mother both doing
well."

Uncle William leaned out further, read
ing it over his shoulder. " Wil-helmina
Bodet Kind o queer, ain t it, Benjyf "

"It s a girl and she s named for
you," said Bodet proudly.

"Why, so t is Willie-Meeny." Un
cle William regarded the paper fondly.

308



Happy Island 309

" and it s a girl, you think, do you,
Benjy? ... I m glad it s a girl. I al ays
like little girls they have ways with
em." He took the paper and handled it
tenderly turning it over and looking at
it as if something further might crop up.
" Jest think how it come to us, Benjy
scootin round the world Twa n t
twenty-four hours old and here tis and
we knowin all about it and seeing her
lying there, all kind o quiet, and the little
one and folks steppin around soft and
doin things. ... I reckon that s what the
Lord made em for He held off the
telegram and looked at it * * so s t we
could be happy everywheres seeing folks
all in a minute Seems like all one fam ly.
You don t need to travel just sit still and
look."

" There s considerable travel going on
still " said Bodet smiling. He was look
ing out across the harbor, to the world of



310 Happy Island

steamboat lines and railroads and automo
biles threading the earth off there. * * Peo
ple don t sit still a great deal," he said.
" There s quite a lot of machinery hum
ming." His hand motioned from the top
of the world where they stood, off to the
sun-lit space below.

Uncle William nodded, looking at it
thoughtfully. " I ve thought about em
when I ve been sailin all them machines.
I reckon they re made for folks that
can t travel in their minds don t know
how it kind o makes feet and legs for
em so s t they can get around faster.
They feel sort o empty in their minds,
and lonesome, like enough, and then they
take a train and go somewheres or a
toboggan slide, or suthin , and they feel
better Don t you reckon that s the way
tis, Benjy? " He looked at him hope
fully.

" I shouldn t wonder at all," said Bo-



Happy Island 311

det * t There ought to be some excuse for
clatter." . . . The Japanese servant ap
peared around the corner of the house,
moving a mysterious, respectful hand and
Bodet joined him.

Uncle William looked at them -a minute.
Then he tucked the telegram in his pocket.
" Guess I ll go tell folks about it," he said.

Jimmu Yoshitomo took possession of
Bodet and his belongings as thoroughly as
Celia had taken possession of Uncle Will
iam though with possibly a little less
flurry. He made a little garden for him
out by the house, and raised flowers and
vegetables and planted flowers alongside
the house and among the rocks and
found a sheltered corner where wisteria
would live through the winter if care
fully protected.

By September the wisteria had sent
great shoots against the house, and the



312 Happy Island

flowers among the rocks were a brilliant
mass of bloom. The Japanese moved
among them like a dusky blossom in white
coat and trousers his century-old face
turned always toward Bodet and his needs.

Andy, coming up the road, regarded him
with disfavor Monkey man and mon
key clo es, he said scornfully.

" Benjy takes a sight o comfort with
him, responded William.

They made their way toward the house,
and Jimmu Yoshitomo approached from
the garden, bowing low.

Uncle William bowed low in return.
Andy remained stiffly erect, detached from
all these things.

" Don t you stop workin , Jimmie
Yosh," said Uncle William kindly
" We re just goin to set round a spell."
They went on toward the house and Jimmu
Yoshitomo returned to his flowers.

Inside, the house was a bit of tropic-land



Happy Island 313

that had floated over seas, and lighted on
the Island. Colors in the old rugs glowed
dully, and little gleams of metal and glass
caught the light and played with it. The
tiny kitchen was a white-set gem, and
through the long vista of the living-room
doors there were hints of the art gallery
and a scattered horde of pictures.

* Like enough he s in there, said Will
iam.

The gallery was the only room in the
house that had not been put in order.
Even Sergia s and Alan s rooms were
ready the beds made and a little basket
cradle swinging in the apple-wood frame
that George Manning had made for it in
his off hours.

Uncle William could never pass the door
without looking in. He peeked in now, on
tiptoe, and withdrew.

" Looks nice, don t it? " he confided to
Andy.



314 Happy Island



. .



Kind o odd," admitted Andy.

They stood in the door of the gallery
and looked in on its emptiness. Pictures
stood on the floor and on boxes and chairs.
Some of the boxes were still unopened
and only a small part of the pictures taken
out had been hung up.

Uncle William looked around him with
pleased eyes. " He s got some new ones
out, Andy."

Uh-huh. Andy bent over and peered
at one a little behind the others. He
straightened himself quickly and shut his
eyes. " They ain t fit to look at," he said.

Uncle William bent over and drew the
picture out and regarded it with interest.
He set it against a box and stood off and
looked at it, and looked at it again.
" She s dreadful pretty, ain t she, Andy? "

Andy opened his eye a crack and with
drew it. " She ain t decent," he said
firmly.



Happy Island 315

11 You can set with your back to it,
Andy, said Uncle William kindly. You
don t need to go stun-blind not to see it."

" They won t let him have it on the
Island," said Andy. He sat down and
glared at the picture of an innocent cow
of the Dutch school.

" Well, I do no , Andy." Uncle Will
iam studied the picture with lenient eyes.
1 She s kind o young and pretty The
ain t much about this climate in it " He
glanced casually up at the glass roof above
them. Come along winter, now when
the winds get to shrieking and blowing up
there it 11 seem kind o queer to see her
standin on a bank like that all ready
to jump in so, won t it? "

Andy turned his head a little and craned
his neck.

" I ve been in countries," went on Uncle
William, " where that d seem putty
good Italy, now best kind of place



316 Happy Island

warm and summery always year round.
Seems s if in this climate we d ought to
paint furs and woolen goods more. I
don t suppose Benjy knew where he was
going to hang his pictures when he bought
em just gathered em up most any
wheres without thinkin how they d
look hung up."

" He s coming," said Andy. He
wheeled about on his box.

The man stood in the doorway, looking
at them with pleased eyes. " I thought I
should find you here." The glasses dan
gled from their long chain and he swung
them a little, smiling. . . . " What do you
think is down in the harbor? " he said
quietly

Uncle William got to his feet Hev
they come, Benjy?

" Looks like it," said the man. " If I
know my own yacht she s just dropped
anchor off the Island."



Happy Island 317

Uncle William cast a quick glance at the
glass roof overhead.

" You can t see anything there," said
Bodet smiling. " Come on out."

They went quickly from the house out
to the edge of the cliff. Beneath the cliff,
close to the Jennie, a big white boat swung
at anchor, and on the deck a man and
woman stood looking up to the Island.

" She s got it with her, Benjy! " said
Uncle William. He leaned over the cliff.
Little white garments in the woman s arms
fluttered softly.

The woman looked up and saw them and
raised the child high in her arms, lifting
it to them in the shining harbor light.



xxvrn

THEY were sitting about the fire-place
in the big living-room, and a fire
burned briskly for the cool September
morning. In front of the fire, on a great
rug, Wilhelmina Bodet Woodworth, fresh
from her bath, gurgled and reached out
cooing hands to the fire. Her language
could not be understood not even by the
dusky Jimmu Yoshitomo, who came and
stood in the doorway and looked in with
unfathomable eyes. But the words were
very pointed and sweet and quick and had
little laughs and chuckles behind them
all about things she used to know. . . . By
and by when she had learned proper
ones, she would forget the things she used
to know or remember them only in her

318



Happy Island 319

dreams, or some day when she met a
stranger in the street and half stopped
and went on listening to the little bells
that were ringing somewhere far
off. . . . She lunged toward the fire and
fell afonl of her toes and laughed and
seized them and gazed at them intently.

Uncle William, a hand on either knee
gazed in rapt content. " She s about the
littlest and the nicest " he said, "I
didn t reckon she d be like that."

He looked at Bodet for sympathy.
Benjy smiled and swung the long glasses
playfully toward the rug. . . . The person
on the rug regarded them a minute then
she adjusted her muscles and made a little
hitching motion toward the glasses they
were round and they glittered and went


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Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 10 of 11)