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the grove had to be nursed, the fence mended, The McAllister humored; and that one person had to do it all.
“A big handful for one small girl,” was his complete verdict. "How long before she finds out she has to drop it?”
EANWHILE, having reached the boundary
wires of her grove and leaped them like a colt,
Laurie was hot on the trail of her very wild game.
To run fast on a Florida wood-road, leaping pine stumps and dodging small cacti, to say nothing of suffering the awful affection of the sandspur, not only requires ardor, but feeds on it to the final demolishment of that virtue. For the first time in her life Miss McAllister began to detect pathos instead of humor in that classic of nursery rhymes that tells how the carpenter "wept like anything to see such quantities of sand.”
“Won't you stop a moment, please?” she finally cried out to the figure which was plodding steadily on ahead. “I awfully want to meet you."
Thus besought and challenged, the maiden, who certainly must have heard her pursuer long before, now came to a diffident and rather sullen pause, turning but half around and standing apathetically at bay.
Even though ungraciously displayed, the girl's extreme prettiness made her a delightful figure, and she was so young that the vivid pink hue of her dress was a naïveté of artistic expression rather than a slap in the face of good taste. The dress was of cheap material and was palpably home-made, but it was made according to the very last cry of fashion's note. This country girl was so exquisitely and tenderly
proportioned that one could but wonder how wild land had ever succeeded in producing her, and, having produced, how it ever bargained with the sun and winds to spare the white and rose of her velvet skin.
The graceful effect of her was not marred even by the incongruous top detail-a man's slouch hat jammed protectingly down over her face.
"I didn't hurt your land any, did I, walking acrost it?” she presently asked, resentfully sarcastic.
Her voice had liquid sweet cadences in it that entirely glossed over the palpable mishap of "acrost," giving her speech a cultivated sound.
“Please, let's be friends," said Laurie, taking her ingenuously by the hand, wasting no time. "I'm so lonely—for girls—and I was afraid I might never see. you again if I let you go."
“Why, I don't live but yonder," said the other dryly.
By her defensive manner she showed herself to be constantly at war with circumstances. Very plainly circumstances had badgered her extremely in the past, fostering in her a retaliatory skill. Had she been chased for a trespasser she would have known exactly what to do, but finding herself sought as a friend she was nonplussed and ill at ease.
“I am so glad you live near. Your chimney can't have been smoking lately?” said Laurie, remembering its attribute as mentioned by Mr. Hopkins.
"If it did the smoke wouldn't blow your way,” fired the enemy immediately.
“Oh, I never meant that! I meant I never dreamed there was nice company near at hand. I was beginning to fear I was at the end of the world.”
“A northerner, aren't you?" asked the new girl with a curl of her lip.
“I'm from New York,” said Laurie, unwilling to circumscribe that cosmopolitan center by a point of the compass.
"It's always easier for northerners to find fault with Floridy than to hunt for its nice points. What do they come down here for? Do we bind and gag and transport them?”
"I don't need to hunt,” disclaimed Laurie, skipping discreetly over the rest. "I love Florida!"
“Really?” asked the state's champion, smiling slightly. The smile, chasing away the lines of habitual discontent, made her face suddenly charming. "Folks say if you git-get-sand in your shoes you'll stay here for the rest of your days."
“If the sand settles the question I am to be a resident for ever," said Laurie, extending an illustrative foot. Her slipper poured like the glass of time. “See? We're to be neighbors for life, so won't you please tell me your name?”
“I'm Osceola Carter,” said the girl, giving the title angrily. Her smile was gone. “Osceola! My folks named me a name they had seen on an hotel. They thought it was pretty. They took it to be a girl's name. They didn't know any better. I had to go to school to find out I'd been named after an Injun-Indian-and a man Indian too!"
“I think it is perfectly great to have a man's name,” said Laurie, with a sympathetic relapse into her schoolgirl ways. “I should think you'd be proud of it. I'd be.”
“Honest?” asked Osceola eagerly, her doubtful smile glinting out again.
“Honestly." “I meant 'honestly'!” muttered Osceola, flushing.
“I could understand
dislike of a name if it was a sentimental slush of a one like mine,” said Laurie hastily. “Mine is—__"
But she got no further.
"I know it already!" flashed out Osceola. She was goaded by some hidden prick. “Yon's McAllister's grove, and you're McAllister-Annie Laurie McAllister. Your name's Annie Laurie."
“However did you know?” marveled Laurie.
“Cal Tandy told me.” Over very angry eyes Osceola suddenly dropped her lashes.
“Who's she?” asked Laurie, interested. Osceola's lashes now swept searchingly upward.
“Don't you know already?” she asked, scornfully doubtful.
“Don't know her from Eve."
“Cal Tandy's no nigger!" flamed the pretty girl. “He's as proud as proud for all he's poor! Why, he's from Georgia!” After thus establishing the gentleman's rank Osceola went back to the original attack. “And he says he knows you."
“Never stopped in Georgia in my life,” announced Laurie. “Only flew over it in a Pullman, and from what I saw through the window didn't fly any too quickly."
'Twasn't in Georgia that Cal saw you, but here. He works in Floridy now. He's the foreman of the turpentine camp."
“Those are the people who go round murdering whole acres of trees?”