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[edit] The Young Uncle Safroni

By Kathleen Watkins

The young Uncle Safroni had in him the essence of all that an uncle should be. Not every niece and nephew can boast such a one nor swear, with certain truth, to adventures no less glowing than those of the heroes in story books.
      When Uncle Safroni came on a visit smelling, as we fancied, of schooners and palm trees and the great Pacific Ocean, he filled, like a giant, the narrow hallway. There were several uncles in the family but they were all short and thin and wore black city hats and gabardine overcoats. They usually carried umbrellas which, if it was raining, they shook briskly on the front doorstep before looping them over a peg on the hatstand. Uncle Safroni never carried an umbrella. His hat was the one he had worn in Samoa with a wide, floppy brim and high crown, and Uncle Safroni wore it turned up above his left ear and slightly tilted. His waistcoats were bright and flowery and instead of a tie he knotted a piece of silk which dangled on his shirt in long, loose ends. When Uncle Safroni sat at the tea-table, Sunday teas were no longer proper and Sunday-ish - for he was a lavish and imaginative talker - but became, at once, times of high delight and hearty expectation, as warm and exhilarating as the hot sun and trade winds he told us of.
And no one, in the telling of it, could bring a place so near as did Uncle Safroni.
      After tea, stretched out, more like a giant than ever, on the horsehair sofa - sometimes, for a joke, with an antimacassar spread over his face - it was as if he had put us on a magic carpet which took us far beyond the rooftops to where there were green parrots and lagoons, and tall trees that swayed in the sun.
      Uncle Safroni, when he was still a boy, ran away from home to sail before the mast on a full-rigged ship bound for Australia. He took his violin with him and the rough sailors on board listened meekly when he played it. In the streets of Brisbane his violin earned him a living. It was also, at one time, in pawn and when Uncle Safroni was able to retrieve it he stowed himself on a ship going out to the Samoan islands. There, too, his violin had proved a valuable and timely asset for, if we are to believe Uncle Safroni, without it there is small doubt that he could not have escaped being eaten by cannibals. He had come upon the cannibals preparing a human dinner in the middle of a forest, and only by fiddling continuously throughout the ceremony did he charm off a like fate.

Count Safroni's index pageList of Kathleen's storiesUncle Safroni the elder

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