scious that the sun, though bright, was now too fiercely hot; that the lake in addition to its sparkling freshness owned a power that was restless and destructive; that yonder was an innocent puffball of a chick with a broken leg; and that closer at hand was a brown-eyed little maid who seemed intent upon hurrying herself uninvited down a lane leading only to a closed gate.


[ocr errors]


HE darling girl has her nose forever in that

God blessed book, my dear Charles," pointed

out Andrew McAllister, mentioning the volume in tones of anything but benediction, notwithstanding

It was late afternoon, hot of course, and the three of them were on Laurie's broad veranda which made

in coolness what it lacked in style, a breeze sweeping over it from the lake all day long and, better still, all night long. With his silvery papal head propped in a pale, lean hand, The McAllister still sat at the little chess table, staring fascinatedly at the black bishop that had just mated him; Roycroft, looking particularly young, handsome and unpapal by contrast, stood opposite, ready to go; Laurie, not far distant, sat on the porch railing, hugging a post for support, and frowning fiercely into the pages of “Citrus Culture in Florida."

“Only my nose?” she asked, not lifting her eyes. "It's a wonder my heart, hands and two feet aren't in it too! Talk about wanting the moon-! why orange trees want the whole solar system, and what's more they manage to get it or you go under. This last half hour I've found out that if you don't spray for white fly by the tenth of the month, your cake is dough; if you don't mulch for cut-worm by the eleventh, your goose is cooked; if you don't powwow for wozzle bug by the

twelfth, your middle name is Mud; and so on through the remainder of the three hundred and sixty-five days.” “Wozzle bug!” hissed The McAllister, quite whizzing it out through circular lips, and boring into Roycroft with a gimlet glance. “What is a wozzle bug?” “Only Miss Laurie knows,” responded Roycroft, going over to her. “And she won’t tell,” she said, not closing the book but relieving herself of it by placing it over the sleeping Little Eva like a tent. “That book contains a great deal that is valuable, Miss Laurie,” said Roycroft gravely, orange culture being his week-day religion. “It does; especially now,” she answered, watching it move rather restlessly on the porch floor. “I perceive that you are in the mood to talk cat,” he observed, lifting his chin suddenly as though from the point of a collar that was hot—a sign of disapproval. “Only kitten,” she corrected beamingly. “My intellect isn’t up to cat yet, the way yours is.” “Tch!” erupted from The McAllister severely. “My very dear girl!” Roycroft’s face had remained calmly stony. “Nice, light, sprightly pair,” she commented, looking from one to the other of them. “I am sat upon because all I wanted was a little talk that wasn’t about melanose or mealy bug.” “I hope you have not noticed indications of mealy bug in your grove,” said Roycroft anxiously, ready for conversation again. “Not yet; but it will come,” she said cheerfully. “Upon what do you base such a prediction?” he asked, scientifically nervous.

[ocr errors]

“Upon the knowledge that everything that shouldn't comes to me in time,” she explained, reinforcing that explanation by singing pathetically, “When a thing is bad, Pass it along, right along-along-along, Todear-old-Dad!

“Why, you can sing, Miss Laurie,” noticed Charles Roycroft, evidencing surprise.

'Ay, and more too,” she quoted darkly. “I play the piano.” She was not exactly averse to letting him know she owned one or two female attributes.

"Annie Laurie sings like a meadow lark, Charles, my dear boy,” announced her grandfather proudly.

“Only comic little Scotch wails,” she interposed quickly, seeing that she was going to be asked to perform.

“You said ş” asked The McAllister tapping the bishop several times on the head, in a linguistic frenzy.

“Only quaint and historic ballads of Scotland, Grandpa.”

Appeased, he left off hitting the bishop, and asked courteously,

“Will you not favor us with 'What's 'a the Steer, Kimmer?', my darling Annie Laurie?”

“Certainly, Grandpa,” she answered, suddenly tender, deeply touched by the old-fashioned reverence he showed her. Then, recovering, "Get ready, gentlemen, it's coming."

First she unconsciously stooped and picked up the kitten from under its library tent, holding its limp and flattened body against her cheek as if it were a tuning fork and she could not warble without it; then, aware of Roycroft's steady gaze, murmured, “I think I'll sing to the orange trees; every little thing helps them,” and turned her face away from her audience,

thing To


looking absently into the grove up whose dim avenues sandal-footed gray evening was slowly approaching.

Andrew leaned back in his chair and got his enormously long, extraordinarily thin forefinger all ready to beat time through the dusk.

Roycroft, standing, folded his arms across his chest, his searching glance being obliged to content itself with Little Eva's vacuous, blear-eyed countenance.

And with flute-like clearness, the quick song came, filling the air with its clear, almost defiant melody, as rapid and inspiring as the lilt of the bagpipes

[ocr errors]

"What's 'a the steer, Kimmer, what's 'a the steer?
Jamie is landed and soon will be here.
Oh lace your boddice blue, lassie, lace your boddice blue,
Put on your Sunday cla’es and trim your cap anew.
For ... I'm right glad o' heart, Kimmer, right glad o'

I ha'e a bonnie breast-knot and for his sake I'll wea't!"

Feeling slightly foolish at the end, as all people do who have to sing without accompaniment, Laurie growled fiercely, still into the grove.

"Hurry up! Say something appropriate, gentlemen!"

“By Jove, I never heard a robin sing any more cheerily, don't you know !" ejaculated the young Englishman, smilingly pleased.

“And now favor us with 'Charlie is my darling,' my dearest of little girls.”

“Oh, grandpa, it is so sad," she objected, suddenly sober. "And there is too much sadness already loose in the world.” As she gazed into the depth of the grove, rubbing Little Eva medicinally up and down against her cheek, the future seemed to sketch all sorts of hor rors-Little Eva maybe chewed by Jax; the yams un

« 前へ次へ »