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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/59

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had been put in operation and then abandoned to their fate.

No less dehumanized was the town. Lying on the hill-side, it was empty and lifeless. A few children played in the streets, a few women toiled here and there up the hill; but apathy, as if initiative had been crushed by the nearness to elemental and tremendous forces, lay oyer New Rome.

Yet even as this singular desolation was impressing itself on Floyd, something happened close at hand suggesting that there was life here, and that it was not always in shadow. From the door of the green frame house just below him—the last house up the hill—a girl issued singing; her head was uncovered, and Floyd's attention was fixed by her gorgeous hair. It was brilliantly, radiantly red; in the whole panorama of the view there had been before not one beautiful detail to emerge from the overpowering black ugliness; yet now, suddenly, there had appeared this, which caught at once Floyd's admiring eyes.

He stood quite near, but the girl, coming out with definite purpose, did not see him; she stopped beside the blackened young peach-tree in the front yard and looked up. Floyd, following her eyes, observed that they rested on one large peach—the only one that the tree bore. Her face showed a childish desire and an equally childish hesitation; she put up her hand and rose on tip-toe, but though she stretched her arm and stood for a moment quivering, the peach was just beyond her grasp. She dropped back with an air of petulance; then bending over, she hunted on the ground for a stick, and finding one, took aim and hurled it, with an awkward push-motion, at which Floyd was amused. The branch shook and the peach jumped, but that was all. She looked round in despair, and saw Floyd; then, with a very stiff show of indifference, she began to saunter about the tree, as if she expected to find something lying on the ground, but had no particular interest in the search.