« 前へ次へ »
trate Florida now happened to be lying as inert in the sunlight as one of her own alligators, further copying that home saurian by keeping her main eye warily open for live bait, looking to the river to bring it. And down the picturesque kinks of the St. John's the live bait came, borne on the decks of a stern wheel steamer, built quite after the pattern of the razorbacked hog, and that is squat and thin and high, so that it could nose around new curves in the narrow flood without bumping its rear disastrously against the curve just left. The live bait? Why, questing northerners! Some of them were wealthy, hunting health; some were healthy, hunting wealth; some of them were healthy and wealthy, hunting for fun. And it is only fair to lazy, lovely Florida to say that they all had good chances to find what they sought. There were many people on the boat, but this tale concerns itself with only two of them—old Andrew McAllister and his granddaughter, Annie Laurie. To her credit be it announced at once that she had cut off the sentimental first and endeavored to be known as Laurie. There ought to be a special hearth in hell set apart for the roasting of reckless christeners; and perhaps there is. Spurred by a noble desire to offset the sins of her godparents, Laurie McAllister was always trying to stamp poetry out of her system, and just at present she was at that stage in her endeavor when she honestly wanted men to treat her like a man. Since she was pretty and feminine to a degree, this stage made her a fearful sapper of the bachelor resolve. “Did you ever in your life see anything grander?” she was now demanding of space.
“Than what?” counter-demanded Andrew, royally testy.
To stand in a crowd on the deck of a boat and be vulgarly bumped by his fellow men violated his conception of what was everywhere due a McAllister. And, truly, his unalterable majesty of mien, coupled with the majesty of his many years, gave him the air of being on a plane high above average humanity. Not to be irreverent, he looked like a pope on a picnic.
“Than this river,” explained the girl. “Every twist in it is divine. You think there can't possibly be a nook prettier than the one you're leaving, then before you know it you're in one. Look at the ferns everywhere! Real florist's ferns—the kind that you generally have to pay dollars for and bring home in a pot and watch die! And the palms, making you think of dates and coconuts and caliphs and "The Arabian Nights! And, best of all, you don't have to go
abroad for it, but have it right here at home! Oh, I'm so glad I'm an American!”
“Which is precisely what you are not!" rapped out old Andrew McAllister, unfeignedly angered.
"When I was born in nice old New York?” wheedled Laurie insinuatingly.
“To be born in a stable does not make you a horse,” he said, with the triumphant tone of being the originator of that senile proverb.
“N-no," murmured Laurie, not with conviction, however. “Yet if you are born in a Harlem flat you are not extremely likely to be a cow. That saw cuts both ways, grandpa. My mother was an American.”
"Only till she married my son, your father!" “And that made her British ?” asked Laurie, demurely. “Scotch!" quite hissed her grandfather. To him
there was no joke about it anywhere. Upon the other side he was still referred to as “The” McAllister. What wonder that upon his sensitive old ears the scattering term “British” fell insultingly short of the mark? And oh, the woe when a careless, uninformed American chanced to mention him to his face as "English"! English? Red rag to a bull! Scotch, I tell you.
“Be all as it may, I don't feel Scotch,” settled Laurie, gently. “I was born in New York-New York gave me a mighty good education free, and New York's money has been feeding me and mine for years. Now Florida is going to relieve her of the task-I hope!”
This last was said so low as to pass unheard.
Imperceptibly the razor-backed boat had slowed down; now, grunting, it poked its snout towards the wharf of Perseverance City, rooting ruthlessly through rafts of water hyacinth, a lovely, lilac-colored flower that covered the river like a carpet. From the paddle wheels, munched green leaves and scrunched blossoms dripped in tons, almost stopping progress.
And now the first signs of human life appeared on the rotting landing. Three fat, half-clad negro men came from the wharf shed and began to do comic and entirely unnecessary things with the tie ropes, spurred thereunto by the hope of coaxing dimes out of the tourists who hung over the deck rail in flattering mass.
In order to furnish more paying vaudeville the negroes burst into song, a medley that was very musical in spite of being commercial. “Oh, Ah see ma Sally Ann a-comin' todes me on de jump.
Sing Juba, pat Juba!
On the boat the passenger gang plank was being fussed with. “Who on earth is fool enough to land at this jumping off place?” ringingly asked a tourist. He was a boy, and was from New England—a combination of circumstances which inclined him to feel that the sensibilities of his fellow creatures decreased as the distance between himself and his home increased. “I am fool enough P’ cried Laurie, goaded to the accident of speech. She pointed almost triumphantly to the bags and satchels around her feet, sure indications of a near disembarkment. “Beg pardon,” stammered New England, contritely snatching off his cap. “Really I didn’t know you lived here!” “I don’t,” confided Laurie, with an extremely dubious glance at the sizzling wharf, “but I’m going to.” Then with a gently millionaire-ish tone, she added, “I’ve bought a grove here.” “Here?” The lad was looking at the gasoline tank and the pigs. “Here.” “Where?” His glance jumped over the pigs and traveled one of the salty roads to nothingness. “I don’t know,” she confessed, busily loading herself down with the satchels, noticing that the boat was now tied. “Bought without ever seeing?” New England's amazement was a credit to his caution. Indeed it was sufficient to do credit to the entire Atlantic Coast. “I—I purchased it on reputable advisement,” stated Laurie, straightening up under the encouragement of her masculine-sounding vocabulary. “Now, grandpa,”
she said cheerily to the old man, who had become quite helpless by reason of his too nervous desire to be helpful, “take my arm and trust me to get you down all right.”
“But the satchels !” he fumed, dropping his own in order to clutch the young girl's arm. “Do they imagine us to be barnyard fowls?” he hissed, viewing the plank with hectic displeasure.
"Never mind the satchels; I have two of them and will run back for the others. Come, dear.”
“On no account permit me to slip,” charged The McAllister, tightening his clutch upon her arm as he felt the gang plank sway beneath him.
"Never a slip, grandpa,” she promised patiently, quite used to being made responsible for his every move. “Hang on. Be a kiltie, mon. Just a few more steps, dear. There you are!" this last as she landed him, safe but trembling, upon the wharf. “Now I'll go back for your bags."
But when she turned she collided with them, for penitent New England had carried them down for her, hurrying back aboard ship to escape thanks.
“Tch!” choked and spluttered Andrew McAllister, who made a point of refusing to admit that little girls grew up. "There is always some man or another dancing attendance upon you, Annie Laurie!”
“I fancy we have come to the final end of men and their dancing, don't you, grandpa ?” she asked thoughtfully, after turning herself completely aroundlike a storm door-and establishing the fact of their complete isolation. "Two Crusoes and no Friday!”
Their trunks and a few crated household odds and ends had been hurled recklessly from the vessel's hold,