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"I am none too positive in regard to that fact, Mr. Roycroft,” admitted Andrew McAllister, honestly, if majestically. But his grandly severe old face lit up quite beamingly as he surveyed his new friend, and he put his hand fondly on the young man's broad shoulder, a withered, scholarly white hand that did not often permit itself such affectionate familiarity. Be ing "pawed” by Americans had been one of The McAllister's worst crosses on this free and easy side. Before Andrew himself “pawed,” the recipient had to be extremely worthy of it. “None too positive. I fear I make but a pretense of being busy.” He looked down rather wistfully at the garden that he had been mangling. “Is it 'busy,' Mr. Roycroft, to be doing nothing, and worse than nothing?"
"Well, sir,” said Roycroft dubiously, then, perceiving that “worse than nothing" was merely language in full bloom, and no admission whatever that The McAllister had seen the error of his ways in regard to the jasmine, "Try a cigar, sir.'
"Permit me, Mr. Roycroft," said the old man, tremendously polite, letting his courtly hand travel impressively towards his own vest pocket, where he cloistered his precious reserves,-though they were getting very low these days. But to bestow a cigar came easier to The McAllister than to accept one in America.
“It would gratify me extremely to have you call me 'Charles,'” interposed Roycroft gently, insinuating a gold-banded Havana into view.
“Yet more gratify me, Charles, my dear boy,” said The McAllister, completely melted. It would have taken a harder heart than his to have withstood the young man's boyish friendliness and sweetness. And a girl not far away would have opened her wide eyes tantalizingly wider had she happened to witness this fascinating, spontaneous side of her usually stonymannered adviser.
Andrew ceremoniously accepted the cigar, gave it the compliment of a thorough examination, smelled it choicely, lifted it votively to high heaven as a tribute to its transcendent superiority, then carefully added it to his reserves. Roycroft would have patiently stood out the pantomime even had it lasted for an hour, such was his wistful sympathy for a man so old as to have to turn trifles into one-act plays in order to pad out existence.
“I do all that I am permitted to do, Charles, my dear boy,” said Andrew, returning to the topic of his garden-massacre. “But my granddaughter, Annie Laurie -God bless her!—thinks it her duty to forestall me at every turn. The times are for the young.” Andrew let his faded but still wonderful eyes rest dreamily and rather drearily upon the distant sky, visualizing it as “heaven." In his heart of hearts he was not as anxious to go there as he had been while in New York, with the thermometer at zero and the radiator in his apartment not much higher. "The times are for the young."
“Yet had Goethe not lived to be eighty we would have known no “Faust,'” observed Roycroft, taking pains to appear to be generalizing.
“You are right, my dear boy, as always," said The McAllister, removing his eyes from heaven and cheering conspicuously.
“And your Edison"
"Do not say my Edison,” begged Andrew haughtily. "Edison was NOT born in Scotland !” He evidently had small patience with Thomas for neglecting this point.
“Great men seem to be the property of all the world,” explained Roycroft, carefully smileless. “We so need them. And the nearer Edison approaches to his eightieth year,
the more valuable he becomes. Are the times for the young alone, sir?”
“Ha! You score a point,” conceded the old man, pursing his lips portentously, so as not to let them break into a smile of pleasure over the implied flattery. “You score a point. But," practically, and sadly again, “it is not permitted to all of us to work.”
“Yet there is a piece of work on this grove that needs you badly,” said Roycroft, radiant because he had gotten hold of a piece of real truth.
“Me, Charles?” quavering interestedly.
“You, sir,” said Roycroft, clapping him pleadingly on the back as if wheedling a favor instead of conferring hope. His vigorous life poured itself out over the other like a warm blessing, infusing courage, reliance. Under the inspiration of it, Andrew gradually drew himself upright, inch by inch, until he quite towered, pathetically important.
“Mention it, Charles, my dear boy," he remarked, grandly. “What is the work that requires my attention?”
“A fire line, sir,” said Roycroft, frowning deeply at the boundary fence of the grove which seemed to have turned itself generously into a trellis for all the dry, inflammable vines in the county.
"Fire line?” questioned The McAllister, densely and somewhat slightingly.
"A fire line must be hoed on both sides of these fences, sir." “Hoed?” exclaimed The McAllister, quite unable to
connect the humble implement with the important thing so plainly heavy on Roycroft's mind. "Did I understand you to say 'hoed'?”
“To establish a fireguard that is worth the name, one has to hoe and rake the sand absolutely clear of weeds on each side of the fence, two feet towards the road, two feet within the grove.”
“Ah,” assented Andrew, kindly, understanding none of it. “Ah. Very likely. In fact, quite so."
“I'll prove the need,” said Roycroft, seeing that his story would go better if illustrated.
He struck a match and dropped it into the rank grass, dead since the beginning of summer, a dangerous mat that spread for miles and miles. The blaze that at once leaped up raced towards the tinder box of a cottage in a dozen different streaks. As many more writhed menacingly towards the fence. A wolf-like few licked hotly at their boots.
“God bless my soul,” piously ejaculated The McAllister, heroically stationary, though his eyes popped.
Roycroft energetically stamped the fiery ribbons to extinction. But it had required all his supple young alertness.
“There !” he said simply. "Now suppose a spark from a chimney
“Enough,” observed the old man, raising two fingers like a silencing pope. "No further words are needed. I see my duty and I shall perform it. The fire line receives my immediate attention."
“I am sure of it. For the present, good-day, sir."
“Good-day, Charles, and . . . and thank you!" A moisture of joy glittered in his old eyes, for here was a man's work at last. “Not for much, sir,” disclaimed Roycroft, smiling
and grasping the offered hand warmly. But he understood.
“Though what should I expect but consideration from a young man who devotes himself to the noble game
of chess in a noisy land gone mad over a vulgar ruffianly exhibition called baseball!" The McAllister's scornfully hissing b’s made base mean base indeed.
“Seen ripping good set-tos, sir, and roared myself hoarse," acknowledged Roycroft honestly.
“Ah, if you could have witnessed some of the cricket matches at Lord's!" murmured Andrew reminiscently, entirely forgetting that he never used to go there. “Cricket! That is a gentleman's game."
“But I've known of jolly fine bounders who played it,” observed Roycroft, though not so as to be heard, wisely committing the remark to space while wandering towards his canoe. “Poor old duffer!" This he said while tugging at the knotted rope. “Grand old duffer!" This as he stepped into the canoe and shoved it from the dock. Then he sat down and took a few easing sweeps of the oars, sending himself far out upon the bosom of the sweet-smelling fresh water. His strength and youth seemed subtly dearer to him. “Must be beastly for a man to fear he has left off being
I'll buck him up all I can.” By now The McAllister grove was far enough away to be viewed at one glance, like a picture,-rather & pretty picture, too, with the sun shining benignly on the shady cottage, and glittering joyously on the shining grove, touching the pine-lands with hazy shafts of light, turning the wires of the fence into a gold necklace, touching up The McAllister with a special shaft of radiance. But Roycroft, being an analytical philosopher, knew that the cottage roof leaked, that