She started to say “Yurelkum" in imitation of Peter's garbling of the conventional acknowledgment of thanks, but stopped when the double-edge of her companion's remark struck home. She flashed an indignant and astonished look at him.

“Anything to prevent me from doing a bit of pretending myself?” he imperturbably inquired. “I fancy it would be a most consolatory habit to acquire, don't

" Done with him, she dropped the durable Florida flower to the sand where it lay quite fresh and pleased, and, taking up the neglected nozzle again, commenced implacably spraying.

Whereupon he sauntered away to the house to employ himself for an hour or so in the hard task of losing a chess game on purpose without being caught.

[ocr errors]



HE entire Carter household, with the exception

of its head and feet—that is, always granting

that Mr. Carter and the baby held those relative positions arrived at the McAllister grove bright and early the next morning to initiate its young owner in the mysteries of digging a yam crop.

First came Osceola, pink-gowned as usual, but more than usually pretty and vivid owing to the business and social importance of the occasion.

"It's going to be drudgery, Miss McAllister,” she warned, while the two girls were in the barn selecting such implements as might be of help, “so I thought it would be a good plan if we learned some poetry while we worked, and I've brought 'Locksley Hall' along."

“ 'Laurie, if you please,” said Laurie ingratiatingly. "And though it rather strikes me that learning ‘Locksley Hall' would be drudgery added to drudgery, still I don't mind trying it. Certainly the first line is appropriate:

‘Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 'tis early


“ 'Tain't,” said Tallahassie, entering the conversation and the place with equal abruptness. “S'eight o'clock."

Since she had been up since four drawing water for the family wash she naturally felt that the day had

advanced, but it had evidently not advanced to haircombing time. Jax had come too, but was giving his attention to Little Eva. He was “pointing” at her with considerable concentration, and from the expression on his face was trying to make out whether she was a kitten or a caterpillar. The terrified hump to her back made either supposition probable, and neither of them likely. Later along came Lee, six feet tall if he was an inch, but so lackluster of eye and unhealthily pale of face as to look very much more like a stale codfish than a potential man. The ambition which led him to Laurie's barn deserted him after landing him there, and he sank subsidingly upon an inverted pail to chew his nails and brood. “If you are going to sit you might as well sit and fish,” said Osceola impatiently, trying to point him to the dock. “Whatever I cotches,” he said, gesturing somnambulistically to Laurie, “I’ll guv to she, for her knows how to be pretty and NOT stucken up.” “Are there fish in the lake?” asked Laurie, interested, though there seemed but little probability since the boy did not move. “I’ll show you,” vaunted the intrepid Tallahassie, approaching her brother and producing fishing tackle from his pockets, going through them all for that purpose without any more resistance from him than if he had been a corpse. When equipped she dashed down to the dock as fast as her bare legs could carry her, and, to do her justice, it must be said that she kept at it till she landed more than one bass, pop-eyed, big-mouthed things that, when

hooked, came swirling across the top of the water fighting like sharks, but sank into a state of polliwog meekness upon finding out that the game was up.

Meanwhile Mrs. Carter reached the grove, toothless amiability personified. Her skirts were soaked to the waist as a result of her morning's work, and the transparency

of their wetness showed that she wore two or three of them, all different lengths and colors, each one eclipsing the other for fade and sag.

“Here we air, and we allus come like Brown's cowsone a-hind the other!” she sang out cheerily. Then she covered her gums with reproachful lips, immediately taking note of a sign of wastefulness on the grove. "Laws o' mussy, honey, you' guavas is a-droppin'! Why don't you turn 'em into jell?”

“Jelly of those things?” queried Laurie dubiously. She looked without much favor upon the straggling bushes and their strong-odored fruit-bushes that looked as if they had rather wanted to be trees, and fruit that was mostly skin, seeds, and smell. “They taste like cabbage pie!"

“But the cabbage biles off, and pie ain't no name for what's left," insisted Mrs. Carter, already gathering guavas into her held-up skirt.

She carried her point and made the jelly, ultimately consenting to Laurie's proposition to “go halves"; she made shelf after shelf of other toothsome compounds, as time went on. She had a positive gift for evolving something out of nothing, and was moreover a picturesque economist, deploring the use of more “when enough was a-plenty," saying she “never saw no sense in plasterin' butter on bacon.”

Later on she told the girl how to market her pecans, how to make grapefruit candy, where to sell the broken

[ocr errors]

yams for cattle-feed, and how to boil up the roots into a hot mash for the frizzly chickens, "and sot 'em to layin' better by warmin' up they innerds."

"Your mother is wonderful,” Laurie told Osceola this morning

“Especially at grammar," observed the daughter with quiet bitterness.

Laurie's reflections on the justice or injustice of this filial attitude were cut short by the crowding exigencies of the yam-digging profession, superinducing a positive respect for the astounding vagaries of that vegetable. Truly, to “know beans” is an esoteric expression lifted high above slang; to know any vegetable's private life is to have taken big strides into a worthwhile education. That education loses a trifle of its fullness if it has to travel up a hoe handle, and thrills the student better when it enters through his fingertips.

When once plunged into the tangle of emerald vines that covered the deeply furrowed yam patch with a level sea of leaves, the two girls soon discarded their rakes and hoes as too cumbersome, and literally embraced the earth, sitting down on the hummocks and groping into them with their hands as the only sensible way of following up the trails of a sweet potato with a wanderlust.

The country girl worked with stolid industry, interested only when “Locksley Hall” was part of the curriculum, and totally unable to share in the city girl's enthusiasm over grim nature at close range.

It seems so fascinating and queer to dive into yellow sand and find it black inside, doesn't it, Osceola? And didn't you think that sweet potatoes grew on the end of a stringy root like white ones? I did. It's quite

« 前へ次へ »