“Oh, Edna! you ought to see the palm-trees. They grow everywhere, great cocoa-nut and date palms, and we drink the milk out of the cocoa-nuts when we go on picnics and get thirsty. And the roses are perfectly lovely, and they have great oleanders and cactuses, and hundreds of flowers that I don’t know the names of, and they are all in full bloom now, though it is nearly Christmas. I don’t suppose I shall hang up my stocking this Christmas; they don’t seem to do it down here.
“The other day we went out to the soldiers’ barracks, and saw a banyan-tree that ‘Captain Li’ says is the only one in the United States, but we didn’t see any monkeys or elephants. Mark says he don’t think this is very tropical, because we haven’t seen any bread-fruit-trees nor a single pirate; but they used to have them here—I mean pirates. Anyhow, we have custard apples, and they sound tropical, don’t they? And we have sapadilloes that look like potatoes, and taste like—well, I think they taste horrid, but most people seem to like them.
“It is real hot here, and I am wearing my last summer’s best straw hat and my thinnest linen dresses—you know, those I had last vacation. The thermometer got up to 85 degrees yesterday.
“Do write, and tell me all about yourself and the girls. Has Susie Rand got well enough to go to school yet? and who’s head in the algebra class? Mark wants to know how’s the skating, and if the boys have built a snow fort yet? Most all the people here are black, and everybody talks Spanish: it is so funny to hear them.
“Now I must say good-bye, because Mark is calling me to go to the fruit auction. I will tell you about it some other time.
“With love to everybody, I am your own lovingest friend,
“P.S.—Don’t forget that you are coming down here to see me next winter.”
Before Ruth finished this letter Mark began calling to her to hurry up, for the bell had stopped ringing, and the auction would be all over before they got there. She hurriedly directed it, and put it in her pocket to mail on the way to the auction, just as her brother called out that he “did think girls were the very slowest.”
They had got nearly to the end of the wharf at which the schooner lay, when Ruth asked Mark if he had any money.
“No,” said he, “not a cent. I forgot all about it. Just wait here a minute while I run back and get some from mother.”
“Well,” said Ruth, “if boys ain’t the very carelessest!” But Mark was out of hearing before she finished.
While she waited for him, Ruth looked in at the open door of a very little house, where several colored women were making beautiful flowers out of tiny shells and glistening fish-scales. She became so much interested in their work that she was almost sorry when Mark came running back, quite out of breath, and gasped, “I’ve got it! Now let’s hurry up!”