Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/257

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN—AMERICANS?

223

“The ——— there was!” A shadow falls across them, and out over their heads, blue and amber, floats the cloud of a cigarette. It’s Frankie Silvado, the surfman from Pamet Station, and he has a purple moustache and dark, live, ardent eyes. He might have yellow eyes and green whiskers for all Andy and Isaiah: they won’t see him and they don’t see him.

Andy clears an indomitable throat: “Accordin’ to my calc’lations, Isaiah, the way she’s sinkin’ now——”

“That’s a lovely pipe, that is,” persists the tactless shade. “I been patrollin’ this shore ten years and more, and I used to have to walk on the cliff because the tide was all over where them grass-flats is now. You old geezers ain’t up with the times, or you’d know all this land is makin’ all the while. There was a professor lectured to Provincetown last summer, and he says, like’s not, it’ll be all dry ground from here clean to Plymouth shore one day, with woods, like’s not, and farms, and cities——”

Cities! The brothers are betrayed. From one to the other passes a sage and soundless guffaw.

“Though,” adds Silvado, “I don’t know what kind o’ people there'll be to live in ’em, the way things are goin’ now with this Cape crowd, gettin’ to be smugglers—runnin’ in liquor off these West Indie vessels for all they’re worth —women as bad as the men, too, accordin’ to what Tony Fuller says he seen last night. I tell you the truth, I don’t know what this country of ourn is comin’ to.”

By and by Andy turns an eye on Isaiah, and once more, with dogmatic patience, clears his throat.

“As I was sayin’—the way she’s sinkin’ now—and the way they’re droppin’ off—Sam yesterday—like’s not you or me to-morrow—’twon’t be so long now before there won’t be any left hereabouts.”

“Any what?”

Curse and double curse that Ginny! Like drops of water on the skull it grows suddenly too much.

“Any folks!” cried Isaiah.

“Any folks?”

Now they upend on their reedy legs and face him and lash out at him.

“ Any—any—''Americans?

In the white pouring of the sunshine, as they watch greed-