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She recklessly started for it.
“Put down that bursting kitten and come fix Miss Laurie's pump. She will pay you in yams."
The obedient negro deposited the cat in his hat and then went to the pump, kneeling prayerfully and proficiently before it.
“You are ama prevaricator,” murmured Laurie to his employer. She was angry but helpless. “I haven't any yams.”
Roycroft raised his eyebrows in remonstrance.
“The prevarication is entirely yours," he said. “Why deny what is in plain sight?"
He pointed to a field-patch that was thatched thickly with green vines more emerald than all Ireland.
“Yams?” She looked at them with kindling pleasure. “And I thought they were morning-glories !" “So they are. That makes them
That makes them yams. The yam," he went on, dipping into erudition, “is not indigenous to the new world but to the old. The yam," he concluded poetically, “is beyond all reasonable doubt the potato mentioned by Shakespeare."
“Leaving William entirely out, the yam is fine American eating,” summed up Laurie cheerfully, “and I'm glad I've got them. But I could have worried along with fewer miles of them."
Peter stiffly arose to his feet.
“Missis,” he crooned with pain and reproof, "all in de hull yearth dat dis pump needs is fo’ yo' to put some watter in."
“I don't want a pump to put water into; I want a pump to get water out of,” she proclaimed earnestly.
“But yo' has to fotch it wid watter."
“Then fotch it,” she permitted with serene majesty, and Peter shambled lakeward for juice.
Meanwhile Roycroft's expert gaze had been traveling
“Have the fall fertilizer put on without delay," was his ultimatum.
“What is fall fertilizer?” she asked. “If it costs money it won't go on.”
“It does cost money and it must go on,” he said gravely.
“ “What new sorrow craves admission at thy hands that yet I know not of?” ” she quoted. But her heart was sinking, going down steadily as a thermometer, for he was frowning determinedly.
“An orange tree is hungrier than a hound pup,” he explained. “You have to keep feeding it or you lose it. With this grove in its present condition of starvation you cannot afford to wait, but must apply at the very least calculation a hundred dollars' worth of fertilizer.
"I can't !” She spoke with stolid despair.
"When I say you must I mean it. Mortgage your crop."
“Borrowing from whom?” she asked ironically.
"From me,” he answered presently. “This is no time for pride, and no occasion for it. The deal would be a strictly business one."
“Will you promise on your sacred word of honor to foreclose if I can't repay?"
Greatly annoyed he stood silent. “Then I refuse to borrow,” she asserted firmly.
He took another survey of the grove, gaining only surer confirmation of his original opinion.
“You will at least let me send Herman Selig to you, Miss Laurie?"
“What's Herman Selig's forte?”
“And a Jew, but he is fairly honest. What Jew is not? Of course he will drive a good bargain for himself, but not more than the law allows. Incidentally, now I come to think of it, Selig is an orange contractor, and he may be glad to buy your crop. He's fighting the exchanges. The season promises sixty cents a box on the tree. Hang out for it and you will get it. I am to send him?"
"If it has to be," she answered drearily.
So a mortgage was to be added to the accumulated horrors!
Nor were the horrors yet done for.
“What provision have you made for warming your grove?” Roycroft next asked.
He was speaking more earnestly and urgently than
‘Warming”?” she echoed, disbelieving her ears. “Don't you mean putting its goloshes on and pinning a gardenia in its buttonhole?":
He waved this flippancy angrily aside.
"Face facts like a man, as you said you would,” he ordered sharply. “We are not far enough south to make a freeze impossible. That exigency always confronts us and must be met beforehand.”
“What's the process of meeting a freeze beforehand ?” she asked. The new aches were making her hard and stubborn.
“There are several.” “What's yours?”
“For my own grove I have bought heaters at a cost of nearly two thousand dollars.”
“Now I know what's meant by money to burn," she remarked rather indifferently.
Perforce she had dismissed the grove-warming project indefinitely. The mention of two thousand dollars had lifted heaters into Utopia.
But he knew the issue to be too important for dismissal.
“Are those your woods ?” he asked, still on the same tack, pointing to an unfenced forest of tall pines near by.
“Yes, and I love every tree of it,” she answered, a mother's admiration in her eye as she surveyed the sturdy growth.
The pines were indeed nobly strong, quite giants in comparison with the other trees in the neighborhood, the latter having been bought up in large tracts by the turpentine companies, and now showing the sure signs of bleeding to death under the turpentiner's horrible knives.
Roycroft was looking not at all at the standing timber, but hard at the fallen.
“Have it hauled into your grove without delay, and arranged in piles for lighting, a pile to at least every four trees,” he commanded.
Laurie heard and heeded without knowing it, for her
eyes had been caught by a glint of calico among her pines.
“Look at that,” she panted excitedly, "a girl, a girl!" “And why not a girl?” he asked, very displeased
with a mind that could find girls more important than grove-fires.
“Good morning, Mr. Roycroft. Good-by. Thank you for coming. Come again and come soon! I'I do everything you say about the grove.” Thus she packed her social duties into one bundle and tossed it to him hastily. “But just now I'm going after that girl.” And on the word she was off, running like a deer.
After a bored inspection of his deserted environment, Roycroft, catching sight of The McAllister, sauntered up to him for a chat. That gentleman had just succeeded in tugging up by the roots a row of white jasmines very thoughtfully planted by the former owner of the grove in a place where they would blossom to great ornamental advantage, and, in the ghastly holes thus laboriously produced, was getting ready to transplant some cuttings of a ropy, writhing vegetable known as "beach vine," a fearful pest of a thing that had blinded the amateur gardener's judgment because of the immensity of its coarse purple flowers. The dear old man could hardly be blamed for thinking that a plant of such blazingly impudent assurance must have a value to match.
Charles Roycroft, noting, murmured “My word!" painfully to himself, but was too considerate to put his opinions more audibly on record. Even if The McAllister had not happened to be the grandfather of an extremely pretty girl, he would still have been safe from Roycroft criticism, the young Englishman having a very genuine regard for the sensibilities of
“Busy, I see, sir,” was the way he began, baring his brown head respectfully.