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and now huddled dismally one against the other in the center of the landing, a sorry monument of shabbiness. The sun traveled over them gaily, poking a merciless finger into all their venerable dents and gashes. “Somebody's dump heap," the dancing rays seemed to announce.
Giving a long-drawn-out howl of delight at being able to leave Perseverance City the steamer shoved from the dock, and Laurie looked after it with a suddenly sinking heart. A few minutes before it had been a boat and only a boat, now-paddling inexorably away up-stream-it stood for the vanishing benefits of civilization, friends, music, theaters, hot baths, telephone, telegraph, caramels, and deviled crabs. What was left behind was merely heat, glare, silence. And such eye-wearying glare, such blanketing heat, such far-reaching silence!
Andrew McAllister sat on a trunk, put both his hands on the knob of his cane, pursed his lips very papally, and noddled around him with growing sternness. Even the negroes were gone, it having taken the united efforts of all three to trundle one small cheese box to the store.
“Everything will come out right, grandpa," said the girl hurriedly, as she put a reassuring and tenderly protective hand upon his shoulder.
Why shouldn't things "come out right”? For she had not made this tremendously upsetting move without long deliberation.
Her mind galloped back over the happenings of the near past. True, she had done exactly as she had confessed to New England—had bought an orange grove, unseen, like a pig in a poke. Worse, she had spent her entire savings upon it, keeping only a very
few dollars indeed for daily expenses until the fruit crop could be sold.
This advertised crop is what had tempted her in the first place and had decided her in the last; for the real estate agents at Perseverance City had written her that the capacity of the trees was twenty boxes apiece. The grove had about five hundred trees. Oranges were selling at four dollars a box in New York city.
Laurie McAllister had sharpened a pencil, taken a piece of paper, and had done some figuring. Then she told herself she would have been not only cowardly but criminal to hesitate. First and foremost, her grandfather was each year suffering more and more from the northern winters. Suppose she remained in New York and he fell so ill that she, being obliged to nurse him, could no longer go on earning sustenance for them, what then? Why, the savings would have gone anyhow, and afterwards ... the poorhouse.
On the other hand, twenty boxes multiplied by five hundred is ten thousand boxes. There was no getting around that. Figures do not lie. And four dollars, the price of one box, multiplied by ten thousand is forty thousand dollars.
She permitted herself one mad moment to visualize the whole sum in figures$40,000! This of course she knew to be mad.
She was merely temporarily indulging herself, tasting of the delights of the poet who wrote: “How mad and bad and sad it was, but oh, how it was sweet!"
Then, having been conscientiously bred to remember the fate of the exasperatingly sanguine young woman in the school readers who counted her chickens before they were hatched, Laurie made deductions on account of the boxes of oranges that might fail to hatch, so to
speak. Suppose that only half the trees bore, and that the price of oranges fell with a soul-harrowing bangsay to only fifty per cent of the present price? What would multiplication have to say to that?
Twenty times two hundred and fifty times two is ten thousand. Ten thousand dollars. Even after she had provided calamities with a liberal hand she felt that the results were still too good to be true. So she chopped off fifty more per cent just on general principles. By that time the income was modest enough for her to dare look it in the face, yet large enough to set her dizzy with relief and delight.
To think of five thousand dollars a year rolling in for years to come!
“I feel like the countryman who stared at a live giraffe in a circus for a full half-hour, and then walked away muttering, 'I don't believe thar ain't no sech an animile !” said Laurie to herself, again logically reaching the five thousand dollars, and this time from the vantage point of the Promised Land itself.
But where were the orange groves? This she wondered as she peered across the river and up the river and down the river, discovering only more palms and more pines and more stretches of hot sand. As for a house or even a roof, absolutely nothing of the sort was visible. Silence had settled down tight as a pot lid. Once in a while the dreamy lap of the water would break it startlingly. Occasionally, too, there came to the ear a peculiarly rasping creak.
“Someone should oil that wagon wheel,” said The McAllister, clutching the knob of his cane severely.
“I don't think it's a wagon wheel; I think it's a bird," ventured Laurie, who had caught sight of an hysterically bobbing medley of blue on a near-by pine.
“Are you endeavoring to suggest to me that my silvered locks have addled my brains to the extent of rendering them incapable of differentiating between an axle and a feathered biped?” asked The McAllister.
When he turned himself into a thesaurus of English words he was on the verge of what Laurie Americanized as a “double cat-fit."
She pointed out the blue jay, which vindicated her by ruffling its throat and singing a few notes sounding like the old oaken bucket getting cranked up to the top of the well.
The McAllister's glance at it was fierce enough to have killed the warbler where it perched.
“I might have known better than to expect the proximity of anything human,” scathingly meditated the old gentleman, throttling the neck of his cane instead of fondling the knob.
The girl gnawed her soft red lip anxiously and scanned the quivering horizon.
“He is an inexcusably dilatory individual,” observed the thesaurus.
“That's what he is, grandpa,” she admitted. “He said he would be here to meet the boat."
“Which man is coming?” he asked. “Biddle or Hopkins?” He bit off the first syllables and flung them from him as if asking, “Scum or dregs?”
“Biddle and Hopkins” formed the name of the real estate firm from which the grove had been purchased.
“I don't know which, grandpa," the grove owner confessed. “He always signed himself by the two names. Look! Maybe that puff of dust is he.”
As she pointed to the puff of dust it resolved itself into an approaching automobile. This automobile was coming so quickly down one of the sandy bad roads
that it hopped from side to side with the light and nonchalant sprightliness of a gazelle.
“God bless my soul,” devoutly murmured The McAllister, in comment upon this semi-aviation.
Not only was the machine of an unanchorable disposition, being half tin, but the roads in addition to being sandy owned the kinks of a piece of crimped wire. All Florida roads connecting places a mile apart measure three miles in length; for every time a road comes to a pine tree it politely turns out and goes round. To quote Cal Tandy, “A Floridy highway ’ud break a snaik's back a-follerin' hit."
But there is no use bringing in Cal Tandy before he belongs.
To return to Mr. Biddle and Hopkins: that gentleman-one of him at any rateraced his machine through the wharf shed on to the wharf, stopped just short of skipping into the water, then adroitly and miraculously turned his conveyance around in a space no wider than a kitten would need in which to chase an especially lively tail.
This hair-raising feat accomplished, the motorist cut off his engine, leaned back in his seat for a wellearned rest, and, after glancing skimmingly over the old man and the girl, proceeded to look around him as if searching for someone else.
After a period of indecision, Laurie detached herself from her sweltering lares and penates and ventured to the side of the car.
“Are are you looking for me?” she asked timidly. “I am Miss McAllister. If you are Mr. Biddle
“Hopkins," he said, sitting bolt upright and removing his hat. On the point of replacing this article he sized up the youthful sweetness of the girl, and very