Copyright
Jennette Lee.

Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

. (page 7 of 11)
Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 7 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


194 Happy Island

" 7 couldn t stay away nights." He
looked at the paper with gloomy eye.

Uncle William wet the pencil with care
ful tongue and bent over the paper. His
fingers traced a large, scrawling A.
There!* He leaned back, looking at
it with satisfied gaze. " A and W s
room -looks good, don t it! " His face
beamed on Andy.

The gloom relaxed a little. " It don t
mean nothing," said Andy.

" Well, I do no ," said Uncle William.
" It sounds nice, and when things sound
nice, seems s if they must mean suthin
down underneath somewheres."

"Huh!" said Andy.



XVII

THE real-estate man and Andy were
out behind the barn. There was a
glimpse of the harbor in the distance, and
behind them the moor rose to the horizon.

The real-estate man s little eyes scanned
it. " You haven t much land," he said
casually.

* I own to the top pretty near an
acre," said Andy. " And there s the
house and barn and the chicken-coop.
He cast an eye toward it.

A white fowl emerged and scurried
across in front of them.

The man s small eyes followed her, with
out interest. I found a number of houses
down in the village," he said smoothly, in
his flat voice, " and plenty of land Al
most any of them will sell, I fancy."

195



196 Happy Island

" Yes, they ll sell." Andy s eye was
gloomy. " Most anybody around here 11
sell except William, he added thought
fully.

The narrow eye turned on him. " How
much did you say you sold to him?

" - Bout four hundred acre, I reckon,"
said Andy.

" Five hundred dollars is what he paid
you, I believe? " The man s voice was
smooth, and patient.

Andy wriggled a little. " Twa n t
enough, he said feebly.

" Well I don t know " The man
glanced about him, " I was looking at a
house down in the village this morning
eight rooms good roof ten acres of
land, and barn. I can have the whole thing
for six hundred."

" That s Gruchy s," said Andy quickly,
" He wants to move off the Island."

" He said he wanted to move that s



Happy Island 197

the name Gruchy I d forgotten." The
small eyes looked off at the distant glint
of water. In some ways I like that place
better than this," he said thoughtfully.
" It s on the shore

" I ve got a right of way," said Andy.

" To the shore? " The man s eyes
looked at him an instant, and a little light
flicked in them, and was gone.

" It s down here," said Andy. He
moved over to the right. " Here s my en
trance and it runs from here straight
across to the shore. We never measured
it off I al ays cut across anywheres I
want to. But it s in the deed and any
body t buys the land 11 have it." He
looked at the other shrewdly.

" I see " The real estate man s gaze
followed the right of way across Uncle
William s moor. "I see Well, of
course, that makes a difference a little
difference. It would be foolish to buy on



198 Happy Island



an island and not have access to the
shore I presume you could buy the
Gruchy place," he suggested.

" That s what I was thinking of," said
Andy, " unless William wanted to give
me a little piece." His gloomy eyes
rested, almost fondly, on the big moor
that stretched away under its piled-up
clouds.

" Better for business down in the vil
lage, I should think, said the man briskly.

" Yes, it s better for business," ad
mitted Andy. Only I ve got kind of used
to it up here." His eye sought the house.
" I was born in there, you know and my
father lived there and my grandfather."

The real-estate man s hand reached to
his pocket and found something and drew
it out, slowly.

Andy s eyes rested on it, fascinated.

The man seemed to hesitate. He looked
down at the roll in his hand, and half re-



Happy Island 199

turned it to his pocket. Then he looked
again, doubtfully, at the house and barn
and chicken-coop. He had turned his back
on the right of way and the horizon line
above them. " I ll tell you how it is, Mr.
Halloran " His voice was frankly con
fidential "I have taken a liking to your
place and I d be willing to pay a little more
for it than for some place I didn t fancy.
I m made like that. He expanded a little.
" Now, value for value, Gruchy s place is
worth twice what yours is and I know
it." He looked at him narrowly. " But
I m going to offer you a thousand dol
lars five hundred down and five hundred
the first of the month if you want to
close now." He fingered the bills a little.

Andy s eyes grew round. " I ll have to
ask Harr et," he said. " She ain t very
well." He glanced toward a darkened
window at the rear of the house * She s
havin neuralgia off and on I wouldn t



2OO Happy Island

want to ask her when she has it. She has
a bad spell today. He shook his head.

The other looked at him sympathetically.
" I have to go to-night and I couldn t
be sure I d want to offer a thousand in the
morning even if I stayed not if I came
across something I like better." He re
turned the bills decisively to his pocket.

Andy s glance followed them. " I don t
really need to ask her." His glance flick
ered. " She s said, time and again, she d
be glad if I d sell. She comes from north
east of Digby. I reckon she d like to go
back."

" Digby s a fine place," said the man.
* * Well, good day, Mr. Halloran. I m glad
to have met you." He held out a round
hand.

Andy took it without enthusiasm. " I
do no but I might as well sell," he said
feebly.

The other waved it away. " Don t think



Happy Island 201

of it not without your wife s consent
not if you re accustomed to doing what she
tells you."

" I ain t," said Andy indignantly.

Of course not I only meant that
you d be better satisfied "

"I m satisfied now," said Andy. " You
pay me the five hundred down, and the
place is yours."

The man cast a cool glance at the house
and barn and the white fowl strutting be
fore them. Well if you really want to
sell He drew the roll from his pocket
and counted out the bills slowly, handing
them to Andy with careless gesture.

Andy s hand closed about them spas
modically and he looked down at them with
half-open mouth and grinned a little.

"Now, if you ll sign the receipt "
The man drew a fountain pen from his
pocket and wrote a few lines rapidly.
41 There you are. Sign here, please."



2O2 Happy Island

Andy s fingers found the place and
rubbed it a little and traced his name
slowly. He looked at the crumpled bills,
and a deep smile filled his face. Harr et
will be pleased ! " he said.

" That s good! The real-estate man
beamed on him benignantly. " Tomorrow
we will draw up the papers, and you can
look about you for a place. You ll find
something to suit, and I sha n t hurry
you Take your time." He moved off
slowly, waving his hands in a kind of real-
estate benediction, and Andy stared after
him, entranced.

* Oh, by the way The man came
back. " I wouldn t say anything about it
if I were you not for a while. There
are always people ready to make trouble
and you ll be able to buy cheaper if they
don t know you ve got to buy." He beamed
on him. " Of course, if you have to tell
your wife ? "



Happy Island 203

" I don t have to," blurted Andy.

" All the better all the better. The
fewer women know things, the better."
The man smiled genially, and his light,
smooth steps bore him away out of
Andy s sight.

When he had disappeared, Andy looked
down at the bills. He drew out from his
coat a large rumpled handkerchief and tied
the bills skillfully in one corner and thrust
it back into his pocket. Then he walked,
with firm step, past the darkened window,
into the house.



XVIII

f 1 1HERE was a gathering cloud in the
-L air brooding, like a storm. Uncle
William looked up to it, then he went on
dragging his dory down the beach to the
water s edge. A voice sailed through the
air, and he paused and looked up. Benjy,
coming down the rocky path, was signal
ling to him violently. Uncle William
dropped the dory and stood up. He ad
vanced up the beach and the two men faced
each other. Great clouds were rolling up
from the horizon, and down behind them
the sea boomed.

" Have you heard what s going onf
demanded Bodet. He was breathing a lit
tle grimly.

204



Happy Island 205

* I kind o got it out of Andy this morn
ing," admitted Uncle William.

Bodet looked at him in silence.

"I do no why I didn t get the idee
sooner," went on Uncle "William. " Their
lumber must have been lying around here
fo-five days, now. But you ve had such a
lot of stuff clutterin up the dock, that I
didn t take no notice. I do no s I d a*
seen it this morning only Andy looked
so kind o queer and meachin down t the
dock that I said plain out to him, I said,
1 What you been doing, Andy? An he
had to tell me. He hated to like pizen.
Uncle William smiled a little. I told him
he d been putty foolish," he added slowly.

"Foolish!" Bodet fizzed. "It s a
crime ! Building a hotel ! up there !
He waved his hand up over the great cliffs.

Uncle William looked up to them with
kindly eye. " Tain t a hotel ex
actly"



206 Happy Island

11 Seventy- five rooms," said Bodet.

" Tis a good many," said Uncle Will
iam.

"Traipsing all over the place I ll
shoot em, said Bodet savagely.

" Shootin won t do any good, Benjy."
Uncle William was mild. " 7 thought about
^hootin em myself whilst I was bein
mad this mornin .

" They sha n t step on my land nor
yours," said Bodet. " Do you think I d
have come up here to the ends of the
earth to be tramped on? "

" Why, no, Benjy an you ain t goin
to be tramped on." Uncle William s voice
was soothing. "But, you see they ve
got a right to go acrost your land, and
across mine."

Bodet looked at him. He took oat his
handkerchief and wiped his forehead and
put the handkerchief back. * * What do you
mean William? " he said.



Happy Island 207

" Set down, Benjy." Uncle William
found a convenient rock. " It s in the
deed. You see, Andy, he wanted it that
way and I never thought much about it, one
way or the other I reckon he wouldn t
ever a sold it without," Uncle William
added slowly. " Anyway I give it to him,
and it runs right by your place near as
I can make out. I ve been kind o thinking
about it since I found out.

Benjy groaned a little.

" I know jest how you feel, Benjy."
Uncle William s voice held a deep note in
in it, " about rusticators, and havin em
go by your windows, all hours, day and
night, a-gabbling and so kind o cheerful-
like. I do no s I could stand it myself.

"I m not going to stand it," said Bodet,
"I ll sell out leave the Island."

" Mebbe that s what he wants what
he s countin on," said William slowly.

Benjy glared at him.



208 Happy Island

Don t you worry, Benjy. Uncle Will
iam looked out to sea where the big waves
tumbled under the wind and the whitecaps
gathered and bobbed and rode high
* * Don t you holler fore you re hurt. The
ain t anybody gone past your windows
yet. ... I m figgerin on it," went on
Uncle William, "an I can t stan it, no
more n you can to have em a-settin
on the beach here " Uncle William s
gaze dwelt on it fondly. " Twouldn t be
the same place if I d got to look up, any
minute, and see two-three of em settin ,
or kind o gettin into the boats, and
squealin . ... It s partly the clo es, I
reckon," said Uncle William after a min
ute, " the women s things like men s-
and the men s like women s. Can t tell
which from tother, half the time. Look
up, and see a hat and coat and shoes,
mebbe, and think it s a man and get your
mind all fixed for a man and it turns



Happy Island 209

into a woman. . . . There was a young
man over to Pie Beach one summer, said
Uncle William slowly, " that had a green
veil onto his hat. I d hate to have a young
man with a green veil a-settin on my
beach."

Bodet snorted.

Uncle William cast a mild eye at him.
" They re nice folks, too some of em,"
he said conscientiously, " and they re al
ways polite. They talk to me real kind
and encouraging." His eyes rested on the
dark horizon line beyond the tumbling
waves. " But the s suthin queer about
the way I feel when I m talking with em.
They re polite and I m polite real polite,
for me. But sometimes, when we re a-set
tin here as close as you be and talkin
real comfortable, I get to feelin s if I was
alongside a chasm kind of a big, deep
place like and standin on tiptoe, shout
ing to em." Uncle William wiped his



2io Happy Island

forehead. " I gen ally go out and sail a
spell after I ve talked to em," he added.

Bodet laughed out.

Uncle William smiled. " Now, don t you
mind, Benjy. I m figgerin on it. I reckon
we 11 manage to live along somehow.

" The place is his," said Bodet,
bought and paid for

" A thousand dollars," said Uncle Will
iam.

Bodet looked at him then he groaned
softly. " And he ll use your land, and
mine, for a door-yard and the beach
for a sand-pile. All he needs is land
enough to build his hotel on and he s got
it."

" Yes, he s got it," admitted William,
* and they must have quite a piece of build
ing done, by this time They re adding
on and raising up, Andy said." Uncle
William got to his feet. " I reckon I ll go
take a look at it." He glanced at the har-



Happy Island 211

bor. * No kind o day to fish George
Manning working? " he asked casually.

"Yes he s working." Bodet s tone
was a little stiff.

i Um-m Uncle William moved off
a little distance. He drew his dory up the
beach, and pottered about a little. I was
just going out to see to the Jennie," he
said. But she s all right and mebbe
it 11 blow over. He looked up at the sky.
"I o t to get some things down t the
store He felt in his pockets. You
got any money, Benjy? "

Benjy shook his head. * I can give you
a cheque if you want it." There was a
little, quizzical smile with the words.

Uncle William paused, his hand half
drawn from his pocket a light filled
his face, and a little laugh. " That ll
do, Benjy that ll do fust-rate," he
said.

Bodet drew out his cheque book and



212 Happy Island

opened it. " How much do you want?
he asked.

Uncle William paused. He looked at the
cliffs, and at the sky I might want a
considabul," he said slowly " Couldn t
you just sign your name down there,
Benjy, the way you do, and let me get what
I need! "

Bodet looked at him a minute. Then he
signed the cheque and handed it to him
a little smile in his eyes. " Tell me what
you make it, he said.

" Oh, I ll teU you," said Uncle William
cordially. " I d tell you now only I
don t know how much it ll cost what
I m going to buy." He moved off up the
beach.

At the foot of the cliff he paused and
looked back. " Mebbe I ll see Harriet,"
he said. " Her temper ain t good. But
she s firm, and she s got sense."

Bodet shook his head. " The thing is



Happy Island 213

tied tight, William. I looked into it before

I came down."

" D you see Moseley? " said William.

I 1 He could tell ye. He knows the Island
and everybody on it."

" Yes, I saw him. He said the pa
pers were drawn and signed two weeks
ago in his office. You re not dealing
with Andy this time, William."

11 I guess I ll go see Harr et," said
Uncle William cheerfully. " And don t
you worry, Benjy. The ain t nobody go
ing to set on your land without you want
em to -it ain t right and it ain t goin
to be."

Uncle William smiled a great, reas
suring smile and mounted the zigzag
path to the cliff. For a minute his figure
loomed against the sky at the top. Then
it disappeared over the edge, headed
toward Andv s house.



XIX

THE large man came softly along the
beach, treading with light, smooth
steps.

Uncle William, mending his net, did not
look up.

The man paused beside him, and looked
about with pleased, expansive eye.

Uncle William s glance rested on him.

The man looked down. * Good morning,
Mr. Benslow I ve come back, you see."

" I see ye," said Uncle William.

The man filled his chest. " I ve come to
see how they re getting on over at my
place. I bought a small piece, of Halloran,
you know You heard about it, I pre
sume?

" Andy said suthin about your wantin

214



Happy Island 215

to buy of him," said Uncle William dis
creetly.

Yes, I bought his house and what land
goes with it. It s small but there didn t
seem to be much land for sale around
here " He dropped a casual eye in
Uncle William s direction.

Uncle William s face was placid.

" I m building a little, said the man.

" So I heard tell," said Uncle William.

11 It s a great place, said the man. His
chest expanded a little more. i I shall ad
vertise, of course, and I expect a good class
of patrons for this place." He balanced
himself on his toes and looked down on
Uncle William benignantly.

Uncle William went on mending his net.
His blue eyes squinted at the meshes and
his big arms moved back and forth in even
rhythm.

The man looked down at him doubtfully.
Then he found a nail l^eg a stout one



216 Happy Island

and sat down. " I want to be on good
terms with my neighbors, Mr. Benslow,"
he said genially. He was leaning forward
a little, toward Uncle William, one arm
resting on his knee and the hand spread
out toward him.

Uncle William looked at it a minute.
Then he pushed up his spectacles and
looked out to sea. " The ain t many
neighbors round here," he said, " jest
me and Benjy and Andy."

" That s what I meant," said the man,
" only I m the neighbor now instead of
Hallo ! There s Halloran himself. I
want to speak to him. He rose cautiously
from his keg and motioned to Andy who
was disappearing behind a pile of lumber
down on the dock.

Andy came out, a little grudgingly, it
seemed, and the man moved forward to
meet him.

Uncle William went on mending his net.



Happy Island 217

When the man returned his face had a
reddish look and his voice was a little con
trolled and stiff. "Halloran tells me you ve
put an injunction on my work up there? "
He moved his hand toward the cliff.

Uncle William held up his net and
squinted at it. " We-1-1," he said slowly,
* we told em they better not do any more
building not till you come." He looked
at him mildly.

There was silence on the beach. The
gulls sailed overhead and the waves lapped
softly, rippling up and back, with little salt
washes. Uncle William looked about him
with contented gaze. " We don t really
need a hotel on the Island, Mr. Carter
not really," he said slowly.

The man looked at him a moment. Then
he sat down on the keg, adjusting his
weight nicely. " I understand your feel
ing, Mr. Benslow, I understand it per
fectly and it s natural. But you don t



218 Happy Island

foresee, as I do, what a hotel will do for
this Island. I ve had experience in these
matters, and I can tell you that in three
years " he looked about him proudly,
" you wouldn t know the place!

Uncle William cast a quick glance at the
cliff " I don t suppose I should," he
said hastily.

11 And as for values " The man s hand
swept the horizon. " You could sell at
your own price. I m really doing you a
favor, Mr. Benslow - he leaned toward
him, " if you had foresight."

" Yes, I reckon it takes foresight," said
Uncle William. He looked at him mildly.
* I might just as well tell ye, Mr. Carter -
you can t build no hotel not up here.
You can build down t the village, if you
want to," he added.

" In that hole t " The man looked at
him cynically. " Do you think anybody
would board in that hole? "



Happy Island 219

I shouldn t want to myself, admitted
William, but folks are different some
folks are different."

The man rose to his feet. " I shall be
sorry to have any ill feeling with yon, Mr.
Benslow. But you can t expect me to sac
rifice my plans not unless you are will
ing to buy the place yourself." He
dropped a narrow eye on him for a minute.

" That s what I was thinking," said
Uncle William cordially.

The man smiled a little. " What would
you consider it worth? " he asked pleas
antly.

1 Well Uncle William considered,
" I do no just what tis worth. We paid
Andy two thousand for it."

The man s mouth looked at him for a
minute, then it closed, in a little smile.
1 You mean you would pay that, he sug
gested.

I mean we did pay it," said Uncle



< i



22o Happy Island

William stoutly, " last week. An then
I told em not to drive another nail, or I d
sue em! He was sitting erect now and
there was a little glint in the blue eyes.
" Set down, Mr. Carter." He motioned to
the nail keg. " I might jest as well tell
ye plain out so s t you can under
stand. Andy didn t own that place. He
ain t owned it for years. He don t own
stock nor stone on the Island Don t own
his own boat out there Uncle William
nodded to the dark boat, rocking beside the
Jennie. Andy, on the deck, was busy haul
ing up the sail and making ready to cast
off. Uncle William s eye rested on him,
with a little humorous gleam. " You see,
Andy, he got scared, fo-five years ago,
bout his property. He s a kind o near
man, Andy is, and he got the idee he d
make everything over to Harr et to have
it safe. So that s what he done. He give
her a paper saying he d made it all over to



Happy Island 221

her everything. Nobody knew it, I
guess except me. And I wouldn t a
known it if it hadn t been for one day,
when we was out sailin We got to talk
ing about one thing and another and
fust thing he knew, he d told me. He made
me promise not to tell, and I ain t told
not a soul not till now. Uncle William
beamed on him. " I reckon twon t do any
harm now."

The man s gaze was fixed on him. " I
shall see what the law has to say about it,
he said quietly.

1 Well, I would if I was you, said Uncle
William cordially, " I did, when I bought
my piece. I see a lawyer a good one
and he said my deed wa n t wuth the paper
twas writ on if Harr et didn t give a quit
claim deed So she give it.

The man s gaze was looking out to sea.

Uncle William looked at him benevo
lently. " It ain t a just law anybody



222 Happy Island

can see it ain t just! How was you going
to know t Harr et owns Andy ? I wouldn t
a known it if we hadn t been sailing that
way. And you couldn t a known it You
didn t know," said Uncle William with
conviction.

The narrow eyes turned on him for a
minute. " There s such a thing as law,"
he repeated.

" Law s ticklish," said Uncle William.
" Far as I make out, the man that s got the
most money, beats after a spell."

There was silence again. " I suppose
you know I paid Halloran five hundred
down," said the man.

" Yes, Andy told me about the five hun
dred down and five hundred the first of
the month." Uncle William s hand sought
his pocket. * l Andy give that five hundred
to me. I reckon he kind o hated to hand
it to ye." Uncle William s eye sought the
dark boat that had lifted sail and was



Happy Island 223

creeping out of the harbor. " I told him
I d just as lives give it to you as not I d
be real glad." He held out the roll of
bills.

The man took them, in thick fingers, and
counted them.

Uncle William watched him, with deep,
detached eye " I ll tell you how it is,
Mr. Carter You wouldn t ever a been
happy here on the Island not really
happy. You see, here on the Island, we
gen ally fish, or cut bait, or go ashore,
^ou d like it better to go ashore.

The man moved away a few steps. To
tell you the truth, I am glad to be out of
it," he said, " I was making your land al
together too valuable and nothing in it
for me."

" That s the way I felt," said Uncle
William cordially. " I don t like things t
I own to get too val able. It makes a lot
of bother owning em. . . . You ll just



224 Happy Island

about get the boat if you was thinkin
of going today," he suggested.

The man looked at him then he smiled
and held out his hand. " Good-by, Mr.
Benslow. I think I know a gentleman
when I meet him."

Uncle William rubbed his hand down his
trouser leg and took the one that was held
out. " Good-by, Mr. Carter. I don t sup
pose I ll see you again. You won t be
comin back to the Island, I suppose. But
we ll buy your lumber we can work it
in somehow, I reckon."

The man moved away, and Uncle Will
iam returned to his net. Now and then his
eyes sought the little dark boat that sailed
back and forth against the misty hori
zon and a smile crept up to the eyes and
lingered in them a little smile of humor
and gentleness and kindly pity and
strength.



* T D let him go, Benjy, if I was you.
J_ Two weeks had gone by and the
mackerel continued to run. George Man
ning had stayed by the house, driving nails
with big, fierce strokes and looking out
over the harbor with his set face. . . . The
house had come on rapidly the shingling


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11

Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 7 of 11)