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Jennette Lee.

Happy Island : a new Uncle William story online

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and she lifted indignant eyes, but he did
not see her. His gaze was still on the hori
zon, holding it with intent look.

She got up and gathered the little loose
curls in- her hands, wringing the water
from them and shaking them apart.



Happy Island 257

Then she got to her knees and crawled
to the seat, shivering a little. Off to the
left, the woods of the Point shut off the
main force of the wind, but the breeze was
still fresh. He took off his coat and tossed
it to her. " Put that on," he said briefly.

It fell on the seat beside her, but she did
not touch it or look at it. Her little face
had a firm look.

His gaze left the horizon, for a flash, and
came back. " You put on that coat," he
said.

"I don t want it " The words
trailed away in a sob.

He did not look at her again. " You ll
do as I tell you, he said quietly * or I
shall make you."

She reached out for the coat and put it
on, drawing it miserably about her chin
I think you are horrid. She was wip
ing away the tears that ran quickly down.

"I don t care what you think You



258 Happy Island

might have been killed," he added after a
pause.

" I d rather have been killed. The
breath she drew was a quick sob.

He looked at her a minute. Then he
looked away to the horizon. " There can t
be two captains on a boat," he said
dryly " I didn t mean to hurt you I
had to speak quick."

She did not reply. She did not look at
him again not even when he helped her
into the dory and rowed her ashore.

" I didn t mean to hurt you," he re
peated, as he held up his hand to help her
from the boat. She leaped to the beach.
" I wish I d never gone with you." She
stamped her little foot on the sand. " I ll
never go again never, never not as
long as I live ! She turned her back on
him and walked toward the fish-house.

He looked after her, a curious glint in his
eye. Then he looked at his boat, riding at



Happy Island 259

anchor, and the look changed subtly, You
needn t worry," he said softly but not
too softly to reach the pink ears You
needn t worry, Miss Celia there will
never be but one captain on a boat."

She opened the door into the fish-house
and took her pan and went up the rocky
path without a look behind her.



XXIII

ANDY stepped up the road, a sombre
look in his face. Now and then he
cast an eye at the mouth of the harbor
where the mackerel fleet sailed. Then he
strode on with stately step. He had been
fishing for a week and had caught noth
ing twice his net had been hung up on
the rocks and yesterday the dog-fish had
run it through and Harr et s temper
was worn thin. . . . He looked his griev
ance at the horizon.

Harriet had been firm. If he could not
fish, he should paint, and Bodet was offer
ing three-fifty a day. She had rented the
boat, over his head his boat and she
had talked about Jonah, and had sent him
out of the house with his paint brushes !

260



Happy Island 261

Andy fizzed a little and stepped higher and
looked ahead up the road.

A figure, seated in the sunshine, was
making strange pantomimic gestures with
a paint brush. Andy stopped a min
ute to look at it then he came steadily
on.

Uncle William looked up and nodded.
" Hello, Andy goin to help? "

" Guess so," said Andy. He glared at
the harbor.

Uncle William spatted his brush along
the rock and dipped it again in the tin can
beside him.

11 What you doin ? " asked Andy.

Uncle William squinted at the brush and
rubbed it thoughtfully back and forth a
deep red smudge followed it. " Kind o
getting my brush ready, he said.

Andy sniffed. " Bodet inside? "

"Why, yes he s there " Uncle Will
iam hesitated l Yes he s there



262 Happy Island

He drew a long flourish of red on the rock
and looked at it approvingly.

It 11 take you an hour to get that brush
clean," said Andy.

"Do ye think so? " Uncle William
beamed. " That s just about what I cal -
lated an hour."

"I m going to work," said Andy
virtuously. He moved toward the
house.

Uncle William cast an eye at him. " I
do no s I d go in, Andy, if I was you
not just yet.

" Why not? " He wheeled about.

"Well" Uncle William hesitated a
second and looked at the little clouds
and the big moor, " I don t think Benjy s
ready, he said, not just ready.

" What s he doing? " asked Andy.

" Kind o stewin ," said Uncle William,
"He s got suthin on his mind about
paint."



Happy Island 263

i

" Come ain t it? " Andy s eye was
curious.

"Yes it s come loads of it has
come : Uncle William drew the brush
thoughtfully back and forth, making little
red dabs along the rock. " The s a good
many kinds and colors and sizes
piled up in there but the ain t any of
em what Benjy wants." He lifted his
brush with a flourish.

" What does he want, then? "

"I do no s I can tell ye exactly,
Andy." Uncle William gazed at the har
bor. Benjy knows somewheres in his
mind but he can t seem to find it on
dry land." Uncle William chuckled. . . .
" Gunnion s mixin em, you know."

Andy nodded.

" An he s got a green mixed up in
there that s along kind o east by no -
east, I should think. . . . An what Benjy
wants, far s I make out, is a green that s



264 Happy Island

kind o no -east by east." Uncle William
chuckled again. . . . " Jim puts in the
color, you know, and daubs some of it on
a stick they ve got there and Benjy
looks at it and says, no twon t do
needs more yellow or suthin and Jim
chucks in a little yellow and then they both
look at it and Benjy kind o hops around -
swears some. I thought I d come out and
do my brushes."

" Gunnion s a good painter," said
Andy.

Well yes he can lay it on putty
good. . . . But they ain t got to layin on
yet. I do no s they ever will get to it,"
said Uncle William thoughtfully " It d
be easier if Benjy knew a little how the
colors are liable to act together, I guess
when you put em in." Uncle William s
eye was reflective. * I reckon that s what
makes him lose his head so," he said.
" he ain t prepared in his mind for how



Happy Island 265

Jim 11 make them colors act together. You
see, Jim he puts in the yellow and
Benjy peeks in the pail, expecting to see
suthin kind o yellow and, stead o that,
the thing s turned blue sort o ."

Like enough, said Andy carelessly
i He d ought to know yellow and blue will
run towards green," he said contemptu
ously, " anybody d know that.*

" Benjy don t know it," said Uncle
William, with an accent of decision. * You
can tell by the way he acts lookin in the
pail. You see he s after a green that s a
little mite more on the yellow so he says,
proud as Punch, Put in more yellow, he
says, and then when he sees it he says
things."

A voice sounded from the window and
they turned around. Bodet stood in it,
beaming at them and at the landscape.
Come on in and see the color we Ve got,
he said triumphantly.



266 Happy Island

Uncle William gathered up his brush
and turpentine and they moved slowly
toward the house.

Benjy waved them toward the stairs.
11 Go up and look," he said.

Jim Gunnion, on the floor, was stirring
a pot of paint with a stick. - There was a
set look in his face as he stirred.

Uncle William looked at him and winked.
The look in Jim s face moved a little.

" There s a color for you! " said Bodet.
He moved his hand proudly toward the
door panel.

Uncle William put on his glasses and in
spected it " Tis a good color, Benjy,"
he said cordially, * I m glad ye held out
both of ye."

Bodet, with his head thrown back, stared
at the streak of old-fashioned green on the
panel. The man on the floor stirred the
pot of paint. Uncle William looked at
them both with benignant eye. . . . " I



Happy Island 267

reckon I m all ready to begin." He drew
the paint brush down the leg of his trou
sers and looked at it inquiringly
" Putty clean," he said with satisfaction.
l Now, where 11 you have me ?

The man on the floor handed him a pot
of paint in silence and pointed to the mop-
board. Uncle William sighed a little and
let himself down. Andy, seizing another
pail, attacked the unfinished panel. The
painter went on mixing color. Benjy,
over by the window, studied the harbor.

Presently he looked back into the room.
" Fog s setting in," he said. Andy came
across and looked out.

"Uh-hiih,"he said.

Uncle William, from the floor, looked up.
" They ve had quite a spell of weather,"
he said cheerfully, " and this 11 give em
a chance to rest up a little and overhaul
their tackle. . . . Tis too bad about
George I kind o reckoned he d ketch



268 Happy Island

suthin today." He got up and came to
the window. A great blanket of white was
moving toward them, over the water. All
the little distant boats were hidden behind
it. . . . " They ll hev to come in keerful,"
said Uncle William. " I reckon I won t
paint any more today. He laid his brush
carefully along the top of the pail.

Andy looked at him and looked at his
panel and hesitated. " You better stay
here, Andy," said Uncle William encour
agingly. " You ll get quite a lot done if
you stay."

He went cheerfully out, and Benjamin,
watching from the window, saw him enter
the blanket of fog and disappear.



XXIV

UNDEE its white garment, the Island
lay muffled and still. Tiny specks
moved about on it under some great
canopy of space they emerged and
drifted and ran calling into the fog. Out
at sea the bell sounded its note, swinging
to and fro with a deep, sharp clang. Men
on the shore listened to it and peered into
the fog. . . . The boats had come creeping
in, one by one some of them loaded
to the rail some grumbling at fog, and
riding high. Only two were out now, and
the day had come on to dusk the dusk of
the fog and of the night sliding silently in
together.

The whole Island had gathered on the
beach, looking into the fog peering for
glimpses of water, and the darker shapes of

269



270 Happy Island

the boats out there. . . . George Manning
had not come in and about noon Uncle
William had lifted anchor and drifted out,
looking for absent boats Sometimes I
kind o sense where they be without seem
em, he had said. . . . The boats were all
in now, swinging at their moorings under
the soft dusk all but Manning s and
Uncle William. The last boats in had had
glimpses of the Jennie and had heard Uncle
William s voice booming through the
fog. . . . " He was off the Point, last I
heard," said a voice on the beach. . . .
" He was drifting along, sort o looking
out told us how things was ahead then
the fog drove in and shut him off
then we heard him quite a spell after we
couldn t see him "... the voice ran
along the beach and ceased.

Someone had lighted a bonfire, and the
children went fitfully back and forth in
the glow. . . . The night was coming



Happy Island 271

down. ..." I don t mind a blow," said
a complaining voice, " I don t care how
hard a gale it blows, but I can t, stan
fog. ... I wish they was in."

Up in the little house on the cliff, the
ship s lantern was lighted and a dull
eye glowed at the night. ... In the room,
the girl moved with light feet, stopping
now and then and bending her head for
steps on the path or for some sound of the
sea. She crossed once to the window and
put her hands about her face and looked
out into the grayness. She drew back with
a little quick breath, and went again to her
work.

On the beach, men strained their ears
to listen . . . oar-locks creaked faintly,
marking the fog. The beach listened and
drew to its edge. ..." That s William ! "

"Uncle William s come!" The chil
dren rushed down the beach and stood
alert at the fog.



272 Happy Island

The oar-locks creaked leisurely in and
the big form grew to them over the
dory s bow. Hands reached out and drew
it up on the sand as the wave receded.
Uncle William stepped out, without
hurry No, I didn t find him He
must a gone out considabul far put
in-shore, like enough." He drew a hand
down his length of face and flicked the
moisture from it. " Putty thick," he said
cheerfully.

The children drifted off, with running
shouts. Someone threw fresh staves on
the fire and the flames leaped up, playing
against the great curtain of fog and show
ing strange shapes. The faces took on
mystery, and moved in the leaping light
as if they were all a big play. The call
ing tones deepened to the fog and the
even-clanging bell rang its note and
stopped -r- and rang again.

Men went home to eat, and came back



Happy Island 273

to the beach, and Uncle William climbed to
the house on the cliff. " It s been a putty
good day," he said placidly. " They ve
had quite a run o luck forty-fifty barrel,
all told, I should think."

11 Are they all in? " said the girl. She
had placed the plate of fried fish before
him, and stood beside him, waiting a
wistful look in her face.

" Where s Benjy? " asked Uncle Will
iam, helping himself to fish with leisurely
hand.

" Down to the beach hours ago," said
the girl.

" Um-m I didn t see him. . . . Yes,
they re all in now except George. He ll
be along pretty quick, I guess." He
chewed with easy relish, reaching down a
hand to Juno as she rubbed alongside.
" She had her supper? " he asked.

No, sir I was waiting f OP you I
guess I kind of forgot her, too," said



274 Happy Island

the girl with a little laugh. " Here,
Juno I Juno walked across with
stately mien to the plate of scraps.

The girl lifted a sober face. " You go
ing back down to the beach, Uncle Will
iam? "

"Well mebbe I ll go down a little
while, byme-by. I didn t leave the Jennie
all snug You want some wood? He
peered into the box.

* I brought some in while I was wait
ing."

" You hadn t ought to a done that,
Celia "

" I hadn t anything else to do," said the
girl, and I was tired waiting. She
bent over the sink, scrubbing vigorously at
the kettle.

Uncle William glanced at her. " If I
was you, I wouldn t do any more tonight,
Celia. I gen ally chucked em under the
sink nights like this " His gaze



Happy Island 275

sought the window. " You ought to be
getting back to Andy s pretty quick
fore it gets any darker. The fog s com
ing in thick."

" I m going by and by. You through
your supper? She glanced at his plate.

" Yes, I m through." He looked at the
plate a little guiltily. " It was cooked
nice," he said.

She smiled at him. " You didn t eat
much." She carried the plate to the sink.

Uncle William took up his hat. " I ll be
going down, I guess." He went to the
door her glance followed him

" Uncle William I "

" Yes, Celia."

She was looking down at her hands.

Uncle William came back. He reached
out a hand and rested it on her shoulder.
11 There ain t any danger t the Lord can t
take care of, Celia," he said smiling. " I
s pose if / was takin care of him, I d be



276 Happy Island

worried a night like this. . . . But, you
see, the Lord s got him."

" Yes, sir," said Celia.

* You go right home and you go to
sleep," said Uncle William.

"I d rather stay here," said the girl
quickly, " this is home."

" Why, so tis," said Uncle William,
" and the ain t any reason why you
can t stay as well as not. You just lie
down on the lounge here. . . . Juno s good
comp ny and there s the fire, and
lights. . . . You won t get lonesome."
He patted the shoulder and was gone.

The girl finished the dishes and sat down
in the big chair by the stove. Juno came
and jumped on her lap, and the girl gath
ered her up, hiding her face in the thick
fur. . . . Out in the harbor she could hear
the stroke of the fog-bell, and the voices
from the beach, muffled and vague. Some
thing was in the air her fingers tingled



Happy Island 277

with it the electricity in Juno s thick
fur or was it something out there with
the voices? She put down the cat and sat
erect, gazing before her. Then she got up
and took a little shawl from its nail and
flitted from the room . . . down the steep
path, stumbling and catching her breath
hurrying on, her face toward the sea
and the little shawl gathered closer about
her.

A great form loomed from the mist and
came close to her " That you, Celia?
It was Uncle William s voice, with a deep
note in it, and she turned to him, catching
at something in her throat, " I couldn t
stay up to the house : It was a breath
less cry

" There there You come right
here. He gathered her hand, laying it on
his arm and patting it a little. " Now
we 11 run along, he said, and see what s
doing."



278 Happy Island

Down the beach they could hear the
voices talking, calling dying away. The
fire had flared up, and the faces danced in
and out. ..." I kind o sense suthin
coming, " said Uncle William.

There was a long, gruff sound a big
whistle, like low thunder and si
lence . . . then the whistle sharper, and
seeking and the muffled chugging of big
screws. . . . The faces, toward the sea,
waited intent. " She s off her
course "... The vague sounds came
in nearer and sheered away. . . .
Through the veiling fog they could see
red lights and green of the steamer.
Then the whistle broke shrilly and moved
off . . . the churring waves followed
her. . . . On the beach they had thrown
fresh brush on the fire, great armfuls that
flared high and the sound of the steamer
dwindled through the mist.

" Looks as if the moon might break



Happy Island 279

through," said Uncle William. The eyes
looked up to a luminous spot in the fog
and came back to the beach. . . . " He d
a been in hours ago, said Andy, " if
he was coming

"Put in-shore like enough," re
sponded Uncle William.

The men gathered about the fire, squat
ting on the sand or sitting on boxes and
kegs. . . . The fire was dying down now,
but no one rose to throw on fuel. . . . The
girl wandered to the water s edge and
stood listening. The little waves touched
her feet, but she did not draw back . . .
Glances, by the fire, sought her and looked
away. A dense stillness had settled on
them only the little moving waves broke
it, as they ran up and ran back. ... A
muffled creak out of the dark, like the whis
per of a sail turning, half -a sleep Then
the rattle of cords, and a voice that
laughed * A-hoy ! The mist was still



280 Happy Island

again, and then the call, coming through
its blankness, A-hoy ! Ship ahoy !

The mist parted and the boat came glid
ing through her lights little points in the
night Slowly the mists lifted rolling
up, like great curtains into the darker
night. A soft light that was not of moon
or stars grew about them The fire had
died out and only the gentle light shone
everywhere and through it the dark boat,
seeming motionless, crept softly in.



XXV

fTHHE group on the beach went swiftly
JL toward the dock, Uncle William s
lantern leading the way and swinging
toward the end. He leaned over toward
the boat in the mysterious light, " What d
you ketch, Georgie I

The young man looked up and a rope
swirled through the air ( Twenty- six-
seven barrel," he said easily.

A shout went up from the dock, broken
sounds, bits of scoffing disbelief that piled
down into the boat and shouted back and
made a marvel of the catch.

Uncle William, with his big smile, moved
back along the wharf looking for some
one. . . . He went toward the beach,
swinging his lantern far in the distance,
towards Andy s, something flitted, and

281



282 Happy Island

paused, and went on, and drifted past the
horizon, out of sight. Uncle William s eye
followed it, smiling. " Cur us the way
women is running after ye, one minute
till you re most scared and then." . . .
He waved his lantern at the misty, moon
lit hill, where the little figure flitted toward
the sky. He shook his head. . . . Out at
the end of the wharf there was calling and
creaking, and the thumping of barrels and
blocks of ice. Uncle William watched them
a minute then he turned toward the cliff.
11 What he ll need more n anything s a
good hot meal," he said. He climbed to
the little house and opened the door cau
tiously. Bodet, across the room, glanced at
him. " He s come," he said.

" Yes, he s come." Uncle William bus
tled about, getting out the kettle. " I
thought mebbe you d be in bed." He
placed the kettle on the stove and went
over to the cupboard.



Happy Island 283

In bed ? " Bodet laughed " I came
up to get my coat. I don t go to bed to
night not while things are stirring down
there.

Uncle William turned his head to
listen Sounds of thumping came up
faintly. " "Pis interesting," he said.
" The s times when it seems s if more
things was happening on this island than
anywheres in the world big things, you
know. . . . Where do you s pose Celia put
that fish? " He peered under a bowl and
brought out a piece of pie and looked at it
fondly and set it on the table and went back.

" You might look down cellar, " sug
gested Bodet.

With a sigh, Uncle William took up his
lantern, and lifted a trap door in the floor.
11 I most hoped it wa n t down cellar," he
said. He put his foot on the steep lad
der and disappeared in inches. . . . He
emerged triumphant. " The s quite a lot



284 Happy Island

o things down there I didn t know
where she kep em."

" Just as lief you didn t," said Bodet.

Uncle William chuckled. " She looks
after me putty well. I don t believe I ve
overe t once since she come! He sur
veyed the table.

" You going to make coffee? " asked
Bodet.

Uncle William looked at him. " You d
like some, wouldn t you, Benjy?

" I shouldn t object," said Bodet, " if
you re making it."

"Well, I might s well make some
twon t take long if you ll go fetch a pail
of water."

Benjy laughed and took up the pail.
Uncle William watched him benignantly.
" And you might kind o holler to
George tell him to come up when he s
done."

" All right." Bodet departed with his



Happy Island 285

pail and Uncle William pottered about,
singing a little, a kind of rolling chant, and
grinding coffee measuring it with care
ful eye. ..." She couldn t a run faster
if the d been snakes after her. He chuck
led into the coffee pot and looked up

Benjy had come in. " He says he ll be
right up," he said, finding a place for his
pail on the sink.

" I d better hurry, said Uncle William.
He made coffee and cut bread and served
the fish, with accustomed hand. " The s
suthin about cooking your own things,"
he said, "I do no what t is Hallo,
George! " he looked up. " Come right in.
We re all ready for ye."

They drew up to the table and Uncle
William beamed on them. " Seems like
old times, don t it! Help yourself,
Greorge You made a putty big catch ! "

Pretty fair, said the young man with
a twinkle.



286 Happy Island

" What 11 they figger up? " asked Uncle
William.

* Twenty-nine barrel on ice " re
sponded Manning.

Uncle William s eye sought Bodet.
" That ll give you two thousand dollar
putty near ? "

"I m counting on twenty- three hun
dred if I take them over myself."

" When are you coming back? " asked
Bodet quickly.

The young man turned to him * Back
here? "

" Back to my house? "

" You can t have him yet awhile," said
William.

Bodet shrugged his shoulders. " Gun-
nion s a fool! " he said.

"Well I do no s I d say that."
Uncle William considered * He s color
blind, mebbe, but he s got sense."

Ben jy looked at him "Do you mean



Happy Island 287

to tell me that man can t tell color? " he
said sternly.

" He can tell some colors," said Uncle
"William, " I forget just which they be
but if you happen to strike em, he can tell
em good as anybody."

" I didn t happen to strike them," said
Bodet dryly "I want you," he said.
He was looking at George.

Uncle William leaned back in his chair.
" You comin back, Georgie? " he asked.

" Give me three more days and I m with
you," said the young man. He rose and
took up his hat. " I m off now Thank
you for the supper, Uncle William." He
was gone and they heard his leaping feet
on the rocky path.

Uncle William looked at Bodet. " I
reckon you better let him go, Benjy? "

" I don t see that I have any choice in
the matter," said Bodet. He had pushed
back from the table and was looking about



288 Happy Island

him, a little fretfully. " We sha n t get
done by Christmas the rate we re going
now," he added.

Uncle William looked at him. " What
makes you in such a hurry, Benjy 1 "

" Hurry! Christmas !." said Benjy.
There was a little sniff in the air.

What you going to do with your house
when you get it done f asked Uncle Will
iam casually.

Benjy stared at him. "I m going to
live in it," he said with emphasis.
" Providence permitting."

" I ve been kind o thinking about that,"
said Uncle William slowly, * whilst


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Online LibraryJennette LeeHappy Island : a new Uncle William story → online text (page 9 of 11)