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"Scratchin?,” replied Tallahassie cheerfully, adding a trifle more darkly, “when I'm let.”
“You come to see me, and maybe I can find something in my medicine chest,” said Laurie, rising.
“What's your hurry, honey?" asked Mrs. Carter, dissuadingly, as she liberally recharged the “bresh.” “Stay a piece longer.”
Osceola remained passively silent, evidently in sympathy with any visitor's wish to depart. She even made a move as if to hasten this one by accompanying her to the gate.
“Oseoly, a body'd think you'd never been raised," mourned Mrs. Carter, sincerely disturbed. “You go fetch Miss McAllister some o' my citron preserve and a glass o' pap's grapefruit wine."
Before Laurie could refuse these delicacies not feeling any too sure of the desirability of food in an establishment where the dog lay on the water-gourd and the chef chewed snuff-Osceola was back with them.
When brought, however, they looked disarmingly toothsome, and proved even more so. Laurie, thirsty, was inclined to approve highly of the grapefruit "cider,” which was her charitable mental classification of it.
"I wouldn't,” said the watchful Osceola, apropos of her guest's second drink.
"Has it gone bad?” asked Laurie, noting signs of fermentation in the amber fluid.
“Gone good,” corrected Mrs. Carter, speaking like a connoisseur. “You can get as drunk as a lord on it."
Miss McAllister put down the wine and confined herself to the preserve which seemed, and was, above any reproach.
“What in the world is it?" she asked finally, unable to place it by its flavor.
“Citron melon,” answered Mrs. Carter, delightedly displaying all her gaps. “That!” she added, illustratively pointing over the porch-railing to a vine which indefatigably covered the ground in every direction and bore quantities of fruit which looked as if it had started out to be a watermelon but midway in this mad career had decided upon remaining a streaky squash.
““That trails all over my place, too,” said Laurie, gazing at it with growing respect. “I thought it wasn't any good.”
"Nothing's any good ef you think it hain't, honey," said Mrs. Carter, gently admonishing. “An' everything in Floridy can be made good ef you take 'nough pains.
. The trouble is you no’therners come down here with oranges on the brain an' can't be cured into seein' nothin' else, even when it's right under your nose. Speculatin' on groves is all right ef you got money back of you, but ef you ain't you better speculate on the scraps, too. Otherwise you'll be presentin' your grocer with all your income.”
Appreciation of more kinds of entertainment than one was in Laurie's thanks and farewells when she finally parted from the cracker family, escorted as far as the gate by the brooding Osceola. This latter had remained persistently taciturn during the greater part of the interview, as though determined to let her home events take their natural course unimpeded by any artificial dams raised by “skuling."
“If there is anything in the world I can do for you, Osceola, mention it,” said Laurie, glancing backward at the domicile where ministration of several sorts certainly seemed to be needed.
Lee, quite worn out with inaction, had stretched his emaciated length on the sofa, and was indulging in a semicataleptic chew of rotten wood, his deathly white face staring up from among the protruding spirals of his uneasy couch, making him look like an early Christian martyr upon the rack; the baby was being experimentally knocked over by Jax; Tallahassie, one heel in hand, was greedily reading her tomato; Mrs. Carter was reapplying the brush to the carriage varnish; and a thin trail of pipe-smoke issued from the woodshed in witness to the fact that "pap” also was busy.
“If you-all have anything of Ruskin's among your books I'd be very grateful for the lend of it,” responded Osceola, kindling.
A velvety softness replaced the sulky gleam in her immense brown eyes as she waved her new friend down the hot and sandy highway.
“Ruskin!” ruminated that new friend, half aghast, “instead of soap! or chloride of lime! or clothing! or medicine! or flea powder for the dog! or teeth for the mother! Ruskin! No wonder men think most girls are crazy!”
Then remembering that her own pressing need in a grave agricultural crisis had been a kitten, Laurie wondered what a certain man (and a very certain man) had thought of her!
HOUGH a general admirer of sociability I don’t | care for it in a frizzly chicken,” Laurie was forced one evening to tell a member of that species, finding it an occupant of the moonlit porch step where she herself was preparing to sit. From the extreme depths of its insides it responded somberly by a “chuckle, chuckle, chickle, cluck!” It being communicative and the girl having absolutely no one else to speak to, she went on, “You should have been in bed long ago. Grandpa goes to bed with the chickens, so he says, and he’s been asleep for an hour.” The “chuckle, chickle, chuckle” which greeted this intimated that grandpa's actions were quite immaterial. “Then move over and let me sit down,” compromised the girl. “Kr-r-r-rrr!” It crooned in drowsing anguish, and made porcupine quills of its already sufficiently outstanding feathers as she shoved it gently to the corner where it soon was at its dreams again. People whose whole acquaintance with chickens is confined to meeting them at dinner are naturally ignorant of the psychic side of fowls and apt to deny it. Roosters and hens are easier to bake than to divine. Through the instrumentality of the frizzlies Laurie was often transported far into the maze of biologic research, and emerged from it with the conviction that chickens could be infinitely more than chickens, especially when they were not wanted to be. The phenomenon of the frizzlies was a calm craving for being treated like folks. From their moment of discovering that their girl mistress had human heart they flew the coop and followed her faithfully around, assisted her actively in the garden, were present at the most private conversations, devotedly played Jacob at the well whenever their Rachel went to draw water, and at night tried to roost in the trees near the house, having to be collected from them and put to bed by hand. “And presently I’ll have to run a perch-special for gyou,” Laurie told her present companion, producing from it a snore-like “kwee!” After wrapping her skirt very snugly around her ankles to protect them from rattlers and moccasins that were closer in imagination than in fact, Laurie settled herself on the porch step, leaned her head against the railing, and gave herself over to contemplation of the really startling beauty all around her. Florida’s moonlight nights are rich with a witchery too dreamlike to be described. Words would have to be of pearl in order to paint it, and even then those lustrous words would fall but dingily upon all ears not eagerly a-listen for the mystic call of romance. In Florida the moonbeams do not bump into high brick buildings and fall dead upon ugly streets, but they bring the dazzle of heaven undeflected to earth, and leave it free to play for miles and miles among the palms and pines, and across the silver surfaces of a thousand lakes, till even the hurrying hearts of the young cannot journey fast enough to keep up with all its radiant suggestion.