Jennette Lee.

Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

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at em."

The young man on the rock stirred un

66 Happy Island

Uncle William went on hastily. " I
reckon it ain t wrong for Celia to think
about getting her clothes ready. He was
smiling at the letter. " It s when they
stop thinkin about em that it s wrong.
. . . Why, it s kind o awful! " he added

The young man laughed out. Suddenly
lie stopped and looked at Uncle William.
" Like Andy s wife s! " he said.

11 Like Harr et," assented Uncle Will
iam. " Harr et 11 wear anything any
thing t covers her, that is. She d wear
sailcloth, I reckon, if t wa n t so hard to
sew old ones, you know, t was wore out
for sailin . Harr et wouldn t waste new
sails on her. . . . And that kind o hard
way she has of doin her hair like a
doughnut only harder - " Uncle Will
iam rubbed the back of his head reflect
ively. "I do no what tis about Har
r et. I al ays feel s if the woman part of

Happy Island 67

her was gone off somewheres. . . . It s the
woman part t makes em interestin , I
reckon. You al ays kind o wonder

" Andy don t wonder much," said the
young man. " He s learned mostly." He
was regarding Uncle William curiously
and his face had an alert look. " I never
thought about women that way before,"
he said, turning the bit of grass in his teeth.
" You make em seem interesting, Uncle
William as interesting as a boat
or fishing or doing arithmetic. He
laughed out.

" Celia s letter reads to me s if she d
kind o keep you guessing," said Uncle
William, taking it up.

" I ve got to be going," said George.
He stood up.

" Now, don t you go yet awhile, Geor-
gie." Uncle William got to his feet, look
ing about him, " The s two-three little
things I wanted to ask you about. The

68 Happy Island

ketch to my cupboard door don t work

They went into the house and Uncle
William tucked the letter behind the clock.

The young man examined the lock and
took a file from his pocket and filed the
catch a little, whistling softly. His face
had a keen, happy look.

Uncle William filled the tea-kettle and
put it on and came across and bent over
the young man, a hand on either knee.
" I al ays like to watch ye doin
things, George. You do em so kind o

The young man snapped the catch two
or three times in the lock " That ll
work," he said. He got to his feet, slip
ping the file into his pocket.

" Benjy needs somebody like you up to
his place," said Uncle William.

" I thought he d got a man from Bos
ton." The tone was non-committal and

Happy Island 69

dry. The young man was looking at the

" Well, I guess he s got somebody
He s from Boston yes. Benjy s a good
deal bothered, added Uncle William hope

George shook his head. " I don t want
to be building as long as the fishing suits

Cod so far, said Uncle William.

" You can t tell what 11 be along any
day now, said the young man. He moved
toward the door.

" You think it over, George," said Uncle
William he held up a benignant hand
and cut off the answer You just think
it over. Mebbe he won t need you. But if
he does you ll hev to help him out, I
guess. He s livin on the Island now, you
know, same as the rest of us."


UNCLE WILLIAM and Benjy had
been away all day up at the new
house and Andy s wife had sent dinner
to them. . . . They came home in the dusk,
hungry and tired. " Harr et s cooking d
o t to be e t hot, said Uncle William. He
looked up at his own house. " Hello!
somebody s visitin us."

Benjy s eye lighted. A glow from the
red room shone in the dusk. " It s the
new girl," he said. They quickened their
pace a little.

Uncle William went ahead and opened
the door. The little room was full of
warm light and the pleasant smell of cook
ing. By the stove knelt a young girl, her


Happy Island 71

hand on the oven door. She looked up as
they came in and closed the door carefully.
Then she got to her feet a little smile on
her face. " I ve come, Mr. Benslow," she

" We re glad to see you," said Uncle
William heartily. He glanced at the table.
11 D you find dishes enough for a meal? "

A little dimple in her cheek came out,
and ran away. " I washed a few," she

Uncle William s eye ran along the shelf
over the sink. " You ve done em all! "

1 Not quite I put some of them out
side by the door pots and kettles and
pans "

" That s what I fell over," said Uncle
William, " I gen ally keep em under the
sink out o sight kind of T " He
looked at her.

" I saw where you kept them." She had
clear, searching eyes and quick little move-

72 Happy Island

merits that ran ahead of her and did things
for her. " Supper is ready," she said.
" The biscuit are just right." She took
the biscuit from the oven and set chairs
for them at the table and flitted about, with
quick, soft steps. Juno, on her lounge,
huddled herself a little and turned her half-
shut eyes on the swish of skirts. By and
by she got down and came over to Uncle

He fed her a bit of fish and she returned
to her lounge, closing her eyes. " She
knows suthin s happened," said Uncle
William, " Her mind s going round and

Bodet smiled. " She looks placid

" You can t tell that way," said Uncle
William. " Women ain t like men-folks
not just like em. They ll smile and look
polite and fix their faces and then, all of
a sudden, things 11 happen.

Happy Island 73

A little laugh bubbled over from the sink.

Uncle William turned in his chair and
looked at her. He adjusted his glasses and
looked again. " D you say anything,
Celia? "

No, sir I just thought it was kind
of funny about women

"So tis," said Uncle William, "It s
funny s anything I know the way
women be. I take a sight o comfort
thinkin about women and the way they

* Yes, sir would you like some more
tea? "

Uncle William waved it away * Not
another mite. We ve had a good supper."
He pushed back from the table. " Now,
we 11 help you clear up a little He
looked about him.

" I don t want anybody to touch my
dishes," she said promptly.

Uncle William looked at her over his

74 Happy Island

glasses. I was going to show you where
things be," he said.

11 I know where everything is." The
little smile played about her lips. " And
I don t need any help." She whisked the
cloth from the table and bore it away.

Uncle William s eye followed her.

" There s a letter for you." She took
it from behind the clock and laid it on the

Uncle William took it up with slow fin
gers. " I gen ally read my letters first
thing," he said reflectively.

" It s better to have your supper first."
She disappeared out of the door and they
heard a little rattle of pans. Uncle Will
iam chuckled. " Some like the sou -west
wind," he said. " You read it, Benjy."

Bodet held out his hand. " They re in
Greenland," he said, glancing at the post

" I reckoned they d be." Uncle Will-

Happy Island 75

iam reached down the map and they bent
over the table, talking and tracing the
line of travel and reading bits from the

The girl, as she moved about the room,
glanced at them contentedly now and then.
When she had finished her work, she took
off her apron and folded it up. "I m go
ing now," she announced, " I ll be up in
the morning along about six. She
moved toward the door.

Uncle William looked up, blinking. He
had come from Labrador at a lively rate.
..." Why you can t go alone, Celia.
You wait a minute whilst I see about get
ting ready to go with you."

" I know the way," she said promptly,
I came up.

* * The s rocks, said Uncle William. He
was lighting a lantern.

I know about the rocks I 11 take the
lantern thank you, sir. She went out

76 Happy Island

of the door and the light of her lantern
flitted along down the path over the cliff.

Uncle William s eye followed it. He
chuckled softly and looked at Benjy. " A
good deal like the sou -west wind," he said,
" a little west-by-sou -west, mebbe and
blowin hard."

" She s a pretty girl," said Bodet,
watching the light out in the dark.

" She s a good girl," said Uncle Will
iam. He looked silently at the shining rows
of dishes over the sink He crossed the
room and opened the cupboard door under
the sink and looked in " The ain t a
dish left," he said solemnly, " She s
washed em all ! "


" T VE got a fire made, Celia. You come

JL right along in," said Uncle William.
He regarded her kindly as she stood in the
doorway, her curls freshened in the wind
and her cheeks touched with clear pink
like the morning outside.

She cast a quick glance at the disordered
room and came in.

Uncle William retreated a little. " I
was cal lating to clear it up fore you got
here," he said. He gathered in an armful
of boots and shoes and slippers that had
strayed away and looked about him a little

A smile crept into her face and lingered
in it. " You ve got somebody to take care
of you now," she said. " You put those


78 Happy Island

right down and bring me a pail of water
and some wood she looked in the box,
and a little fine stuff to hurry with.
Nobody could hurry with that " She
cast a scornful hand at the wood in the

" Tis kind o green," admitted Uncle
William. He took the water-pail and went
outside, looking at the morning with slow
content and moving in supreme restfulness
toward the well. When he returned the
room was in order, a smell of coffee filled
the air, and the table by the window was
set, in the sunshine, with plates for two.

" Benjy up? asked Uncle William.
He glanced toward the inner door as he
set the pail on its shelf.

She nodded quickly. " I called him,"
she said.

" I gen ally let him sleep," replied
Uncle William.

" Better for him to be up." She filled

Happy Island 79

a dipper of water and carried it to the
table, filling the glasses.

" Ain t you going to have breakfast with
us ? " asked Uncle William, glancing at the

1 I Ve had mine I brought in the kin
dling-wood myself," she added pointedly.

Uncle William s face fell. " I did kind
o forget The door opened and Benjy
came out yawning, but brisk. Well,
we ve got a good start," he said. He
nodded to the girl and sat down.

Uncle William looked relieved. " I
thought you d kind o mind getting up so
early? " he said.

Bodet laughed out. " I don t mind get
ting up It s waiting for breakfast that I

Uncle William looked out of the window.
" I go kind o slow on breakfasts," he ad
mitted. He craned his neck a little
Guess George is going out. He glanced

8o Happy Island

behind him. The girl had stepped outside
the door a minute and Uncle William
leaned forward with a confidential whis
per, " She d make a dretful good wife for
a young man, wouldn t she !

" You d better eat your breakfast, Will
iam and be thankful, said Bodet se

Uncle William made no reply. A look
of deep craft was in his eye. When Bodet
started off, he lingered behind.

" I ll be long byme-by, Benjy," he said.
He nodded to him kindly. " You go
tell Ordway what you want and I ll talk
to him bout it when I come. I reckon
he ll do it the way you want it," he said

Bodet disappeared up the road, and
Uncle William pottered about the door.
By and by he went in.

The girl glanced up quickly. * * I thought
you d gone."

Happy Island 81

" No, I ain t gone." Uncle William s
tone was cheerful. " The s two-three lit
tle things I want to tend to." He strayed
into the bedroom and when he came out
she was seated by the window paring po
tatoes. " I ll have to soak em an hour,"
she said briskly, " You ought to buy some
new ones."

" They be kind o old," said Uncle Will
iam. He glanced past her, out of the win
dow. " Nice place to set," he suggested.

She did not look up.

" Guess George Manning s going out,"
said Uncle William.

" Who s George Manning? " said Celia.
She finished another potato, with efficiency,
and dropped it into the pan of water be
side her.

11 George Manning He s about the
nicest young man on the Island, I guess,"
said Uncle William innocently.

A little laugh flitted at the potatoes.

82 Happy Island

She glanced out of the window and re
turned to her work.

Uncle William s look deepened. " He d
make a dretful good husband for some

" I don t believe much in husbands,"
she replied. She held the knife in her
hand, and she was looking at him with can
did, laughing eyes.

Uncle William returned the look re
proachfully. " You don t have no call to
say that, Celia !

" I ve been engaged," she replied
promptly. She took up another potato
with a little glance of scorn at it.

Uncle William leaned forward. When
you goin to be married? " he asked hap
pily, " I might a known you was en
gaged nice as you be !

She looked at him. " I m not engaged
any more," she replied, " I just was."

Uncle William s face was full of sym-

Happy Island 83

pathy. " I didn t know t you d lost any
body, he said. * You poor little girl !

She looked up again a little puzzled
line between her eyes, " He wasn t so
much to lose she said slowly.

" When was it he died? " asked Uncle

She stared at him. Then she laughed
and threw out her hands in a quick gesture.
You thought he died ! she said.

" Didn t you say so? " demanded Uncle

I didn t mean that She returned,
a little guiltily, to her potatoes.

Uncle William looked at her.

" I just meant I wasn t going to marry
him nor anybody! " She lifted her head
with a little defiant movement.

Uncle William s gaze was sober. " You
don t mean you promised him and then
wouldn t ?" He was looking at her
over his spectacles.

84 Happy Island

She nodded her head over the potatoes,
biting her lip a little. " I only loved his
hair anyway, she said. There was silence
in the room, and the faint sound of voices
came from the beach.

He had curly hair, she said, and it
was yellow like gold and all the other
girls wanted him -

" George s hair is black," said Uncle
William hopefully, most black.

She looked at him and the eyes danced
a little behind their mistiness, " I wouldn t
marry a man not if his hair was coal-
black, nor if twas yellow, nor brown, nor
any color I ve got you to take care of
and that s enough ! : She glanced at him,
almost tenderly, and carried the potatoes
to the sink. " It makes you feel foolish,"
she said, splashing the water into the pan
and moving the potatoes about "It s
foolish caring about folks and thinking
they re beautiful and then finding out

Happy Island 85

that they re selfish and stupid and
lazy ! "

Uncle William looked out at the sun.
" It s getting late, he said.

He moved toward the door and stood
with his back to her. I like to have folks
get married, Celia "he said slowly, * I
like to think about homes and buildin em
on the Island and little ones coming
Don t you like to think about it that
way? "

Her hands dabbled in the water thought
fully. -"I don t know s I do," she said.
1 < I Ve got a home now with you

" It ain t real not a real home," said
Uncle William quickly.

" It s the nicest one I ever had," she
said. A little laugh lighted her face
_" and it will be the nicest one that ever
was when I ve cleaned up a little." She
dried her hands on the towel, looking down
at them. " I know what you mean, Mr.

86 Happy Island

Benslow about little ones I guess
every woman knows about that and
wants em," she added, under her breath,
to the towel. " But there s some things
we can t have! : She took down the
broom from the wall. " Now, if you re
going out, I ll sweep up a little."

Uncle William did not look back.
11 Andy s coming," he said, " I guess
we ll go see how Benjy s getting on
Don t you mind anything I said, Celia.
I m kind o old and foolish, like enough."

The girl did not reply. But when he had
gone, she came to the door and stood look
ing after him and the dancing look in
her eyes grew wistful and sweet.

U T"TTE used to meet on this rock when

V T we was boys, said Uncle Will
iam, sitting down, " - - You remember
them times, Andy?

" I don t remember nothin , said Andy.

Uncle William looked at him. "I do
no how you forget so easy. ... I can
see it all, just as plain as you be settin
there -you and me and Benjy, racing to
get to this rock first and planning
suthin suthin t we hadn t o t to. . . .
Seems kind o good to have Benjy back
just s if he d never been off the island? "

" He s changed some," said Andy.

"Well outside he s peaked up a
little but inside, I can t see a mite o dif
ference. He gets mad just about s easy B

88 Happy Island

ever," said Uncle William contentedly.
. . . * * Now, this morning - Uncle Will
iam moved his hand toward the horizon,
" He s gone over to his place, all kind o
boilin -like ". . . . He stopped and gazed
at a figure that loomed on the horizon at
the end of the long road. They watched
the light, high-stepping figure come
swiftly down the road.

" He s got something on his mind,"
said Uncle William, I can see by the way
his elbows act kind o stiff so. I reckon
that contractor does bother him a good
deal," he added thoughtfully.

The man came on quickly, lessening his
gait a little as he neared the rock, and
taking off his hat to the breeze. " Feels
good," he said, nodding. He seated him
self on the big rock. " Well I ve done
it." He turned his head slowly, taking in
great whiffs of the fresh, bracing air.
" I ve fired him," he said.

Happy Island 89

" You hev! " Uncle William s face
beamed. " That s good He s fired him,
Andy "

" When s he going to leave? " asked

" He s going to leave just as soon as he
can pack," said Bodet with satisfaction,
" He s stood all he can and so have I."
He threw out his thin legs and looked at
them. " I don t think I ever knew a man
that irritated me the way he did," he said

11 I see he kind o did," said Uncle Will

Andy looked out to sea. " Harr et was
boardin him," he said, " She was caP-
lating on the board money right along."
His eye dropped to Bodet.

The man threw out an impatient leg.

11 Now, don t you mind about that," said
Uncle William hastily, * * Benjy 11 fix it up
all right He s got to have somebody to

90 Happy Island

build his house, and it s got to be somebody
that 11 eat somebody with a stomach.

The thin man sat up, smiling a little.
" I wish to the Lord I knew whose stomach
it was ! " he said, " It s like trying to build
a house in heaven having to import con
tractors and masons and plumbers

Uncle William chuckled " We gen -

ally use the home-folks, round here, * he
said after a pause.

Bodet looked at him a little. " You
wouldn t build a twenty- thousand dollar
house just with the home-folks, would
you? "

" I do no why not," said Uncle Will
iam, " It ain t so much different from any
other house, fur as I see just more of
it more spread. There s George Man
ning," he suggested.

" The carpenter? " Bodet s lip smiled.

11 Well he ain t exactly a carpenter
not exactly," said Uncle William. " He s

Happy Island 91

a fisherman too first-class and he can
steer any kind of a craft you want to rig
up. He was captain on the Halifax Line
one spell." Uncle William s eye followed
the boats passing across the harbor. " An
he s a kind o mason, and a first-rate
painter I do no s you could git a man
knows more n George Manning does. . . .
I never see the thing yet George wa n t
willing to tackle. Seems s if he kind o
liked to try his hand at things folks said
couldn t be done. I ve seen him sit up
night after night figgering on things -

" He ll have to figure some on this,"
said Bodet. He drew the plans from his
pocket. " This is what we ve just split
on Ordway and I He spread out the
paper, holding it between his hands. Uncle
William moved over a little toward it.
Andy dropped an eye from above. . . .
" This is it," said Bodet. " You see how
that roof -line comes down, don t you? "

92 Happy Island

" Uh-huh," Uncle William looked at it
with pleased smile " Comfy, ain t it
Sort o makes a house look like an old hen
with her chickens.

" That s it," said Bodet quickly, " It s
the very thing I want a house that
settles down among the rocks as if it
belonged there The architect got the
idea all right from photographs. But
he hadn t been here and we hadn t allowed
for that dip to the south You know

Uncle William nodded. * Drops f o -five
feet, I should think? "

1 Six a little over six, replied Bodet,
* * and this is the kind of thing he wanted -
Ordway wanted! He took out a rough
pencil sketch and held it at arm s length.
" He wants to run it out here in the air,
this way, and put a lattice-work under
neath. . . . paint it green, I suppose."
He snorted a little.

Happy Island 93

"Does look kind o funny don t it,
Andy? " said Uncle William.

Looks good enough far as I see,
said Andy, " I ve seen a lot of houses built
that way."

il So have /, broke in Bodet. He
crushed the paper in his hand. "It s a
seaside cottage, he said, " a regular
seaside cottage !

" I do no what you feel that way about
it for," said Andy, " if tis a cottage
and tis built on the sea right along
side "

Bodet got impatiently to his feet
11 Ordway couldn t see, either. That s
why I fired him seaside cottage!
He fizzed a little and straightened his gar
ments and shook his legs.

"There, there, Benjy, don t you
mind. I m a-thinkin about it," said Uncle
William soothingly.

Benjy smiled the thin, sweet smile

94 Happy Island

that seemed to come of itself from some
where behind the high, nervous features,
when Uncle William s voice spoke to it,
" All right, William, I won t mind now
I ve got Ordway off my hands. I thought
one time he would drive me crazy -

11 I didn t know but he would, too," said
Uncle William, * You acted kind o queer.

* Well, I felt kind o queer, responded
Bodet dryly. " Now, about Manning -
We ll go talk things over with him. . . .
He might do with a little watching.


BENJY thought mebbe you d do the
whole thing, George? "

The three men stood on the site of the
new house. Across the rocks and moor
Uncle William s chimney showed against
the sky, and below them the water of the
harbor dimpled in little waves of light.

Benjamin Bodet stood looking across it,
a kind of quiet satisfaction in his face.

11 He s been a good deal bothered," said
Uncle William to the younger man. They
moved a little aside and looked at him.
" What he wants," said Uncle William,
" is somebody that 11 take everything off
him do all the figgerin and plannin
that comes up and trot round and get
things men, you know and things you


96 Happy Island

run out of and can t get on the Island. It s
kind o hard building out at sea," he said
tentatively, " But you could do it? He
turned to him.

i Yes, I could do it if he wants me
to," said Manning. He held the stalk of
grass between his teeth and it turned
slowly as he talked, "I d like to build a
house like this one such as he s planning
for. . . . There must be a good many
things come up, you won t know how to
do." He moved his hand toward the
circumference about them, with a half

" That s it," said Uncle William,
" That s just what I told Benjy. . . . You
take the whole thing over tell him how
much twill cost, and so on figger it
out? "

11 Beforehand? " said the man with a
slow look.

Uncle William nodded. " He wants to

Happy Island 97

know before he begins. I told him mebbe
you couldn t do it but he s kind o set
on it. He looked at the other a little anx
iously. The man chewed the bit of grass
in silence.

" Ordway d done it," said Uncle Will
iam simply.

Manning turned a slow eye on him.
" How d he know he could get men here
on the Island and keep em ? " he de

" Well, he didn t know it, George."
Uncle William chuckled a little. " I
reckon he d a learned quite a few
things about the Island if he d a kep
on it."

I reckon he would, said the man with
a slow smile. " I can t tell Bodet what
it 11 cost What if a barge-load of lumber
should be held up, getting here ? Might
have to wait weeks Suppose I can t get
anybody to board em

98 Happy Island

" Andy 11 board em," said Uncle Will

" Umph," said the man.

" An Andy s wife you want to put
her in. She might up an say she wouldn t,
any day?

Manning shook his head. " I can t sign
any contract, and I can t tell him what it
will cost not within a good many dol
lars a house like that but if he wants
me to build it, I ll take it and do my best

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Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 3 of 11)