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Back There In The Grass
by [?]

It was spring in the South Seas when, for the first time, I went ashore at Batengo, which is the Polynesian village, and the only one on the big grass island of the same name. There is a cable station just up the beach from the village, and a good-natured young chap named Graves had charge of it. He was an upstanding, clean-cut fellow, as the fact that he had been among the islands for three years without falling into any of their ways proved. The interior of the corrugated iron house in which he lived, for instance, was bachelor from A to Z. And if that wasn’t a sufficient alibi, my pointer dog, Don, who dislikes anything Polynesian or Melanesian, took to him at once. And they established a romping friendship. He gave us lunch on the porch, and because he had not seen a white man for two months, or a liver-and-white dog for two years, he told us the entire story of his young life, with reminiscences of early childhood and plans for the future thrown in.

The future was very simple. There was a girl coming out to him from the States by the next steamer but one; the captain of that steamer would join them together in holy wedlock, and after that the Lord would provide.

“My dear fellow,” he said, “you think I’m asking her to share a very lonely sort of life, but if you could imagine all the–the affection and gentleness, and thoughtfulness that I’ve got stored up to pour out at her feet for the rest of our lives, you wouldn’t be a bit afraid for her happiness. If a man spends his whole time and imagination thinking up ways to make a girl happy and occupied, he can think up a whole lot…. I’d like ever so much to show her to you.”

He led the way to his bedroom, and stood in silent rapture before a large photograph that leaned against the wall over his dressing-table.

She didn’t look to me like the sort of girl a cable agent would happen to marry. She looked like a swell–the real thing–beautiful and simple and unaffected.

“Yes,” he said, “isn’t she?”

I hadn’t spoken a word. Now I said:

“It’s easy to see why you aren’t lonely with that wonderful girl to look at. Is she really coming out by the next steamer but one? It’s hard to believe because she’s so much too good to be true.”

“Yes,” he said, “isn’t she?”

“The usual cable agent,” I said, “keeps from going mad by having a dog or a cat or some pet or other to talk to. But I can understand a photograph like this being all-sufficient to any man–even if he had never seen the original. Allow me to shake hands with you.”

Then I got him away from the girl, because my time was short and I wanted to find out about some things that were important to me.

“You haven’t asked me my business in these parts,” I said, “but I’ll tell you. I’m collecting grasses for the Bronx Botanical Garden.”

“Then, by Jove!” said Graves, “you have certainly come to the right place. There used to be a tree on this island, but the last man who saw it died in 1789–Grass! The place is all grass: there are fifty kinds right around my house here.”

“I’ve noticed only eighteen,” I said, “but that isn’t the point. The point is: when do the Batengo Island grasses begin to go to seed?” And I smiled.

“You think you’ve got me stumped, don’t you?” he said. “That a mere cable agent wouldn’t notice such things. Well, that grass there,” and he pointed–“beach nut we call it–is the first to ripen seed, and, as far as I know, it does it just six weeks from now.”

“Are you just making things up to impress me?”