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Jennette Lee.

Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

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was done and most of the inside woodwork
was up. A new set of men had been put on,
to replace the mackerel men, and Manning
drove them hard. It had not been easy to
get men, or to keep them with the mack
erel schooling red out there in the harbor.
But something in Manning s eye held them
to their work.

"I d let him go, Benjy," said Uncle
William. The two men stood in front of

225



226 Happy Island

the new house, looking toward it. " He s
got her closed in tight went on Uncle
William, " Windows all in. The can t
anything happen to her now. . . . He s
stood by ye putty well," he suggested
craftily better n I d a done with
all that go in on out there! He waved
his hand at the water.

Bodet s eye followed the motion. " I
want him for the inside work, he said.

Uncle William looked at him benevo
lently. " I know you want him, Benjy.
But here on the Island we al ays kind o
give and take Ain t you been taking
quite a spell? " he added gently.

Bodet turned a little. " A contract s a
contract," he said uneasily.

" Well, mebbe," said Uncle William, " I
reckon that s why we ain t ever had many
contracks here on the Island We ve
al ays liked to live along kind o human
like."



Happy Island 227

Bodet smiled a little. " I ll let him off,
he said, " if he 11 get things along so
we can paint I can look after the paint
ing for him myself his chest expanded
a little.

Uncle William s eye was mild. " I
reckoned you d come around to doin it,
Benjy. We wouldn t ever a felt com
fortable, sitting in your house when
twas all done," Uncle William looked
at it approvingly "We wouldn t a
wanted to set there and look at it and
remember how George Manning didn t get
a chance to put down a net all this sea
son. ... I reckon I d al ays kind o re
member his face when I was settin
there the way he looks in there, and the
mackerel ripplin round out there in the
water and him hammerin ."

Bodet grunted a little. All right
I ll let him off tomorrow."

Uncle William beamed on him. " You ll



228 Happy Island

feel a good deal better, Benjy now t
you ve done it. I see it was kind o making
you bother !

1 i I could have stood it quite a while
yet if you could have," said Bodet
dryly.

Uncle William chuckled and looked
toward the house There s George in
there now You go tell him why don t
you, Benjy."

He moved away and Bodet stepped
toward the house. He disappeared inside
and Uncle William seated himself on a
rock and studied the boats that dotted the
harbor. Only two were at anchor the
new Jennie, riding in proud, fresh paint,
near by, and George Manning s great
boat dark green, with crimson lines and
gleams of gold along the prow. She was
a handsome boat, large and finely built,
and Manning had refused more than one
offer for her for the mackerel season.



Happy Island 229

He would take her out himself or she
should ride the season at anchor.

Uncle William turned toward the
house The young man was coming from
the door. Hello, George I hear you re
going out !

The sombre face smiled a little. Bout
time! " His eye dropped to the big boat
and lingered on it. " She s all ready
and I ve got my pick of men." He gath
ered a stem of grass from the cliff and
took it in his teeth. " I don t believe I
was going to hold out much longer," he
said.

" Oh, yes you d a held out. I wa n t
a mite afraid of your not holdin out," said
Uncle William. * All I was afraid of was
that Benjy d hold out I kind o thought
he d be shamed byme-by when he come
to see how twas on the Island. ... It s
different, living on an island, George. We
can t expect everybody to see what we



230 Happy Island

do right off, I guess. There s something
about living on an island, perhaps. You
just get little handy samples o things and
see how tis right off. Bein born on an
island s a dretful good thing saves you
hurryin and repentin ! " Uncle William
gazed at the horizon. " Benjy don t like
repentin any more n you do. He ll be
real glad bout your going byme-by."

"I m going down to fix things up a
little I ll be back along towards night."

1 Oh George f " Uncle William s
fingers fumbled in his pocket.

The young man held his step.

"I ve got it here somewheres "
murmured Uncle William. Yes here
tis. . . . You just give this to Celia, will
you? He held out a torn envelope.
" You tell, her to put it behind the clock
for me." Uncle William s face was im
passive.

The young man eyed it a minute. . . .



Happy Island 231

" All right." He held out his hand. " I
wasn t expecting to go by your place. But
I can if you want me to." He tucked
the note in his pocket and moved off.

Uncle William looked after him with a
kindly smile Just hates to do it
worst way," he murmured. . . . * Don t
none of us know what s good for us, I
reckon no more n he does.

Celia, moving about the room like a bird,
paused a moment and listened. Then she
went cautiously to the window and pushed
back the red curtain and looked out . . .
her eyes followed the line of road, with
eager, glancing look little smiles in them
and bubbles of laughter. She dropped the
curtain and went back to her work, shaking
out pillows and dusting the quaint room,
with intent, peering looks that darted at
the dust and shook it out and rebuked it
as it flew.



232 Happy Island

A shadow blocked the door, but she did
not look up. She held a pillow in her hand,
looking severely at a rip in the side and
Uncle William s feathers fluffing out. .
The young man scraped his feet a little on
the stone step.

She looked up then the severe look
still in her face. " Mr. Benslow is not
here," she said.

" I know he is not here." He stepped
over the sill. " He asked me to give you
this." He fetched the foolish paper out
of his pocket grimly and looked at it and
handed it to her.

She took it gravely. " What is it for? "
she asked.

11 He said you were to put it behind the
clock I don t know what it s for "he
said a littl^ gruffly.

Her laugh scanned the bit of paper. I
can put it behind the clock if he wants
it there She walked over and tucked



Happy Island 233

it away. " But I think it s a funny idea,"
she said.

" So do I," said George.

" Will you sit down? " She motioned
to the disorderly room.

11 I ve got to go," he replied. He looked
about him sitting down.

A little smile played through Celia s
face and ran away. " I didn t thank
you for carrying the potatoes for me
that night she said politely.
" You went off so quick I didn t get a
chance.

"I m going mackereling tomorrow," re
sponded George.

* You are ! Her eyes opened. Did
Mr. Bodet say you could? "

His face darkened. "I d have gone
before so far as he is concerned." He
straightened himself a little.

" Oh I thought he didn t want
you to go."



234 Happy Island

" He didn t but that isn t what kept
me."

What was it kept you, then ? She
had seated herself and her hands, holding
the dust-cloth, were crossed demurely in
her lap.

George looked at them. " I stayed be
cause I thought I ought to," he said.

" I d have gone." She gave a little
flit to the dust-cloth and folded it
down.

He turned his eyes away. " Likely
enough you would " he said, " you re a
woman

11 I don t know what you mean by
that! " She had got to her feet and was
looking at him.

" I don t know just what I mean my
self," said George. " But I guess I didn t
mean any harm women are just differ
ent, you know. . . . I ve got to go now "
he said, crossing his legs.



Happy Island 235

11 You ve got a nice boat," said Celia.
The teasing look had left her face.

" Do you think so? " He flushed a
little and lifted his eyes to the win
dow.

" Uncle William says she s the best boat
on the harbor," said Celia.

11 Well I guess she is. ... He s got
a good one, too mine s bigger," said
George.

11 It s a beautiful boat, I think," said the
girl. She had gone to the window and was
looking down. The wind came in and blew
past her curls a little and ruffled around
through the room.

"I d like to take you out in her some
day," said George.

Would you ! She turned to him,
with a quick little flutter of curls and the
color dabbing her cheeks. " I d love to
go!"

" All right." He got up. He went



236 Happy Island

toward the door slowly as if fingers
held him.

The girl did not stir. . . .

He turned at the door and looked at
her " Good-bye," he said

" Good-bye." She moved a step,
Oh I"

He paused a minute waiting.

" I thank you for bringing the paper,"
said Celia.

" That s all right." He moved away
down the path.

She stood where he had left her the
dust-cloth in her hand, the little clear color
in her cheeks. Slowly the look changed.
By and by she went to the window and
looked out. Down below, a young man had
drawn a dory to the water s edge and was
shoving off. She watched him seat him
self and pull out with long, easy strokes.

Presently he looked up. He crossed the
clumsy oars in one hand and lifted his hat.



Happy Island 237

The dust-cloth fluttered a moment and
was gone.

With a smile the young man replaced his
hat and resumed the oars. The dory
moved through the water with long, even
motion and overhead a gull followed the
dory, hanging on moveless, outspread
wings.



XXI

f MHE day was alive pink dawn, mov-
J_ ing waves, little tingling breaths of
salt, and fresh, crisp winds. Celia, up in
the little house, was singing bits of song,
peering into closets and out, brushing and
scrubbing and smiling, and running to and
fro. . . . Uncle William, out on the big
rock near the house, turned his head and
listened to the flurry going on inside. . . .
There was a pause and a quick exclama
tion and silence. Through the open door
he could see the curly head bent over an old
plate. She was standing on a chair and
had reached the plate down from the top
shelf. Uncle William s face fell a little.
She jumped down from the chair and came
toward the door, holding it at arm s length.
4 Look at that ! she said.

238



Happy Island 239

Uncle William looked. " That s my
boot-grease," he said a little wistfully. " I
put it up there kind o out of your way,
Celia."

She set it down hard on the rock. " I 11
make you some fresh when I ge^ to it."
She disappeared in the door, and Uncle
William looked at the plate. He half got
up and reached out to it " The s suthin
about real old grease "he murmured
softly. He took up the plate and looked
at it and looked around him at the
sky and moor and sea. . . . "I do no
where I d put it t she wouldn t find it,"
he said regretfully. He set the plate down
on the rock and returned to his harbor. A
light wind touched the water and the little
boats skimmed and shook out sail. Down
on the beach George Manning was bending
over his dory, stowing away nets. The
other men on the beach went to and fro,
and scraps of talk and laughter floated up.



240 Happy Island

Uncle William leaned over, scanning the
scene with happy eye " When you goin
out, Georgie? " he called down.

The young man lifted his head and made
a hollow of his hands Waiting for
Steve, he called up.

11 He goin out with yef "

The young man nodded and pointed to a
figure loping down over the rocks.

The figure joined him and stood by him.
The two men were talking and scanning the
sky. Uncle William gazed over their
heads out to the clear horizon. . . .
" Best kind o weather," he murmured.
He looked a little wistfully at the Jennie
rocking below.

Celia came to the door. * You going out
today, Mr. Benslow?

Uncle William shook his head and looked
at the sky.

" It s a good day," said Celia.

" Best kind o day " assented Uncle



Happy Island 241

William. He looked again at the heavens.
Little scallops rays of clouds, shot
athwart it.

" I d go if I was you," said Celia.

11 I thought mebbe I d stay and help
Benjy byme-by. George Manning s go
ing out. The corner of his eye sought her
face.

It dimpled a little. * He told me he was
going out when he brought the paper
yesterday," she said. " It s behind the
clock when you want it, she added.

I don t want it not now, said Uncle
William absently.

Celia returned to her work and Uncle
William was left in the clear, open peace
of the morning. Along the horizon the
boats crawled back and forth, and down on
the beach the clutter and hurry of men and
oars came up, fresh. He bent forward
and watched it all his big, round face
full of sympathy and happy comment. . . .



242 Happy Island



" Much as ever George 11 make out to set
this morning," he said. His eye scanned
the distant boats that crept along the hori
zon with cautious tread. " He ought to a
known Steve Burton d be late. Steve d
miss his own funeral if they d let

him." Uncle William chuckled The

great, dark boat had lifted sail and was
moving a little, feeling her way to meet
the mysterious power that waited some
where out in the open Uncle William
watched her swing to the wind and lift
her wings. ...

He stepped to the door * Oh, Celia
Want to see suthin pretty? "

The girl went to the window and looked
out. She gazed at the sky, and swept the
horizon with a look. " Anything different
from usual? " she said. Her eye kept
away from the harbor.

Uncle William came and stood behind
her, looking down. Just look down there



Happy Island 243

a minute, Celia. He took the curly head
in his hands and bent it gently.

She gazed at the boat pacing slowly
with the deepening wind and her eyes
glinted a little.

11 Looks nice, don t it? " said Uncle
William.

She nodded, her fingers on her apron
traveling with absent, futile touch. " I
always like to see boats start off, she said
happily. . . . " Look, how she takes the
wind ! " She leaned forward, her eyes
glowing, her face lighted with the same
quick, inner light that touched the breeze
and the sails.

Uncle William, behind her, smiled be-
nignantly. " He s a good sailor," he said
contentedly, I taught George how to sail
a boat myself."

He leaned forward beside her. The boat
had come opposite them gathering her
self for flight. The full sails tightened to



244 Happy Island

the breeze, and the bow rose and dipped in
even rhythm. . . . The girl s eyes fol
lowed it happily.

Uncle William s hands made a trumpet
about his words Oh-o George ! Oh-
lo-ho ! Ship ahoy ! " he bellowed.

The young man looked up. He took off
his hat and swung it about his head. The
boat was moving faster and the wind blew
the hair from his forehead.

" Give him a kind of send-off, Celia!
said Uncle William. He untied the little
starched bow of her apron. " Wave it to
him, he said. * * It 11 bring him good luck,
mebbe ! "

She pulled at the apron and flung it
wide shaking it up and down with quick
little movements that danced.

" That s the way," said Uncle William,
" That s right."

The young man looked up with eager
eyes. He leaped on the rail and ran along



Happy Island 245

with quick, light step, waving back. Then
he sprang to the stern seat and took the
tiller. He was off to the mackerel fleet
with the sun shining overhead and up
on the cliff the girl stood with eager eyes
and little freshening curls that blew in the
wind.

She tied on the apron soberly and went
back to her work.

Uncle William, standing up over the
sink, was looking for something.

11 What is it you want? " she asked.

Uncle William climbed down and peered
under the sink. " I used to have a paint
brush, he said. He looked about the room
vaguely and helplessly

" Covered with red paint? " asked Celia.

" Mebbe twas red," said Uncle Will
iam thoughtfully, * I do no when I used
that paint-brush But it s a good brush
and Benjy said they was short of brushes.
I thought mebbe



246 Happy Island

" It s out behind the woodpile," she
said crisply, " I put it there yesterday -
fifty old rags with it I was going to burn
them up," she added, " but I didn t get to
it." Her eyes danced.

" They re perfectly good paint rags,
Celia." Uncle William looked at her re
proachfully. " I was tellin Benjy this
morning I d got a nice lot of rags for him.
I do no what I d a done if you d burned
them up."

" There are plenty more around," said
the girl. She looked meaningly at a
bit of wristband that showed below his
sleeve.

Uncle William tucked it hastily out of
sight. * I gen ally trim em off, he said.
" But I couldn t find my scissors this
morning I thought the knife had cut it
putty good? He peered down at it dis
trustfully.

" Knife! " The word was scornful



Happy Island 247

but the little look that followed him from
the door held only gentleness and affec
tion.

Uncle William, outside the door, looked
at the sky and the harbor, with the mack
erel fleet sailing on it and at the Jennie
rocking below. Then his eye traveled, half
guiltily, over the moor toward Benjy s,
and back. . . . " Best kind o weather,"
he murmured. No kind o day to "
He took a step toward Benjy s house
another, and another, and moved briskly
off up the road. Suddenly he turned, as
if a hand had been laid on his shoulder,
and strode toward the rocky path that led
to the beach. A big smile held his face.
" No kind o day to paint, he said
softly as he dragged the dory to the
water s edge and shoved off. Five minutes
later the Jennie had hoisted anchor and
was off to the fleet. Benjy, painting with
Gunnion up in the new house, looked out



248 Happy Island

now and then from the window as if ho
ping to see a big figure rolling toward him
along the white road.

Celia, in the little house on the cliff,
brought a roll of cloth from the shelf over
the sink and undid it slowly. Inside was
a large pair of scissors. She smiled a little
as she took them up and spread out the
cloth. It was a great garment, the size and
shape of Uncle William. Sitting by the
window, where the breeze blew in from the
"water, her thimble flew in the light. Now
and then she glanced far out where the
boats sailed. Then her eyes returned to
her needle and she sewed with swift
stitches ... a little smile came and went
on her face as the breeze came and went
on the water outside.



XXII

IN the clear morning light the mackerel
fleet stood out against the horizon.
Only one boat had not gone out a dark
one, green with crimson lines and gold
along her prow. The girl on the beach
looked at it curiously as she selected her
fish from the dory, transferring them to
the pan held high in the hollow of her arm.
The silver scales gleamed in the sun
lavender, green and blue, and violet-black,
as she lifted them, in running lines of light.
The salt tang in the air and the little wind
that rippled the water touched her face.
She lifted it with a quick breath and looked
out to the mackerel fleet upon the sea. . . .
Uncle William had promised to take her
some day. She returned again to her fish,

249



250 Happy Island

selecting them with quick, scrutinizing
glance. ... A shadow fell across the pan
and she looked up. The young man had
paused by the dory and was regarding
her with sombre eyes.

The little curls shook themselves and she
stood up. " Aren t you going out? "

The sombre eyes transferred themselves
to the sky. By and by maybe no
hurry." He smiled down at her, and the
blood in her cheeks quickened.

1 1 Everybody else has gone : She
waved an impatient hand at the distant
fleet that sailed the horizon.

" I haven t gone," he said. He contin
ued to study the sky with serene gaze.

" Why don t you? " she asked severely.

He looked at her again, the little, dark
smile touching his lip, "I m waiting for
luck," he said.

" You won t find it here- " Her eye
swept the beach with its tumbling fish-



Happy Island 251

houses and the litter of dories and
trawls.

" Maybe I shall," he said. He looked
down at the dory. " There are more fish
right there than I ve caught in three
days," he said quietly.

Her wide eyes regarded him with a
little laugh in them somewhere. " They
call you King of the Fleet, don t they? "
she said demurely.

11 That s what they call me," he replied.
He moved a little away from her toward
a dory at the water s edge. " Want to go
out? " he said carelessly.

Her eyes danced, and she looked down at
the fish in her pan and up to the sky, and
ran lightly to the fish-house and pushed
the pan far inside and shut the door. " I
ought to be getting dinner, she said, com
ing back, with a quick smile.

Never mind dinner. He held out his
hand and she scrambled into the dory, her



252 Happy Island

eyes shining and the little curls bobbing
about her face. She was like a child -
made happy.

He pulled out with long strokes, looking
contentedly at her as she sat huddled in
the end of the boat. " I am taking you
along for luck, you know."

" I ll never bring anybody luck," she
replied. Her eyes followed the great gulls
overhead. "I m like the birds, I guess,"
she lifted her hand, " I just keep around
where luck is."

" That s good enough for me," he re
plied. He helped her into the boat and
lifted anchor, running up the sails and
casting off. The breeze freshened and
caught the sail and filled it and the great
boat crept from the harbor and rounded
the point. . . . Out in the open, it was
blowing stiff and the boat ran fast before
it, little dashes of spray striking the bow
and flying high. The girl s laugh sounded



Happy Island 253

in the splashing water, and the salt spray
was on her arms and cheeks and hair.

The young man looked at her and smiled
and turned the bow ever so little to
take the wave and send it splashing about
her, and her laugh came to him through the
swash of the spray. It was a game old
as the world . . . pursuit and laughter and
flight and soft, shining color and the big
sun overhead, pulling the whole game
steadily through space holding the egg
shell boats on the waves and these two,
riding out to sea.

He turned the bow again and the splash
ing of the water ceased. She was looking
at him with beseeching, shining eyes, and
he bent a little forward, a tremulous smile
of power on his lip. He was drinking
life and sky and sea were blotted out.
The boat ran heedless on her way . . . and
he talked foolish nothings that sounded
important and strange in his unstopped



254 Happy Island

ears. . . . The girl nodded shyly and spoke
now and then but only to* the sky and
sea. . . .

The sky had darkened and the distant
fleet bore toward home casting curious
glances toward the dark boat that moved
with random hand. . . . George Manning
could be trusted in any blow, but he was
up to something queer off there with a
sky like that. They drew in sail and ran
close, making for harbor. . . .

The young man looked up and blinked
a little and sprang to his feet. He had
pushed the tiller as he sprang, and one leg
held it firm while he reached to the guy
rope and loosed it. " Get down/ he said
harshly.

Her quick eyes questioned him and the
little head lifted itself. With a half -mut
tered word he had seized her, crowding her
to the bottom of the boat and ducking his
head as the great boom swung past.



Happy Island 255

She gazed at him in swift anger, pulling
herself free. But her wrath spoke only to
the winds He had run forward, dragging
down the foresail, and was back to the
tiller his dark face set sternly, his eyes
on the horizon.

When she tried to get up, he did not look
at her " Stay where you are/ he said
roughly.

She hesitated a minute and sank back,
biting her lip close. The line of gunwale
that rose with heavy sweep to the sky and
fell through space, cut her off. There was
only the creaking of the boat, straining
against the sea, and the figure of the man,
above her, who had thrust her down the
great figure of the man and the blackened
sky. By and by the rain fell and drenched
her and the wind blew fiercely past the
boat, driving them on. She could see the
great hand on the tiller tighten itself to
the wind, and force its will upon it, and the



256 Happy Island

figure of the man grow tense. One leg
thrust itself quickly and struck against
her and pushed her hard but she would
not cry out She hated him and his
boat and the great sea pounding about
them. . . . She wanted to get her pan of
fish and go home to Uncle William and
cook the dinner. The tears were on her
face, mingling with the rain and the salt
water that drenched it.

By and by the pounding waves grew less
and the boat ceased to strain and creak and
the great hand on the tiller relaxed its
hold a little.

" You d better get up now," he said
his voice sounded rough and indifferent


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Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 8 of 11)