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SEASON IV Autumn

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    "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

    D

    "Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

    So said George Eliot, and with all due reverence for her opinion, my soul would fly in the opposite direction, seeking the spring. If the autumn led straight on to spring I could love it more, but through its stillness I hear the winter blast; its gorgeous colouring scarce hides the baring boughs; day by day death lays a withering hand on flower and tree; day by day the sun runs quicker to its golden resting-place. Have you ever noticed how great a difference there is between the sun's summer and winter march across the heavens? Note the tree behind which he[Pg 192] sinks in June and then again in November. A whole third of the heavens separates the two; and what does that not mean to us of lack in light and warmth? "Ah! would that the year were always May." And yet there are days, such days of perfect beauty that the year could never spare them. They come in early autumn, and it is as though a recording angel passed, so sweet, so solemn is the hush, the pause, with which Nature holds her breath and listens as she lays open her store of harvest to the "Well done" of the voiceless blessing.

    And then, the blessed rest-day over, she turns about. "To work!" seems to be the order. "Away with these old flowers! No more need for pod-making; wither up the annuals, cut down the perennials, stop those busy youngsters and their growing process for a bit, shake off the leaves, they will come in useful later on, but pile them up now and let the children scuttle through them with happy feet, and have a good clear-out before you go to sleep and wake up again in the springtime'the merry, merry springtime.'[Pg 193] Away, you birds, and look out for yourselves those of you who stay; get your nests ready and your stores safely housed, my small friends of fur and feather, for my work is now to purge and to winnow, to try and to test, and woe betide the weaklings!" So the wind, Dame Nature's mighty broom-maiden, prepares her best besom, and there is soon a thorough good house-cleaning, to the great discomfort of the inhabitants.

    Well, we have to put up with it; and the best plan is to do a little of the same work on one's own account, that so, being in harmony with Nature, one's temper is less sorely tried.

    T

    There is enough to be done.

    I hardly consider September an autumn month, but the calendar does, so I will mention first one bit of work well worth doing. Sow a good long row of sweet-peas. Make a shallow trench and prepare it as was done in the spring, and before Nature[Pg 194] stops all growth above ground you will have a lusty row of little plants five to six inches high. These I should stake before the winter, as a means of protection from frost and snow; and next year, a month earlier than most of your friends, you will have sweet-peas of a height, a size and profusion to make them all envious. And that is, of course, a consummation most devoutly to be wished.

    Some people's autumn borders are things of great joy and beauty. Looking on the Master's profusion, I felt like the Queen of Sheba, for I expect she thought her own house and grounds a very poor show when she got back to Sheba. But I did not, like that celebrated queen, turn and bless him unreservedly. I felt more likemuch more likeabusing Griggs.

    Let me tell you what an autumn border can be like; not in my own poor words, but as a master-hand painted a Master's garden, and, though not my Master's garden, the description fits.

    "Against the deep green of the laurels, the rhododendron and box are sunflowers six[Pg 195] feet high, lit up each of them with a score of blooms, and hollyhocks, taller still, are rosetted with deep claret flowers and mulberry and strange old pink. Between them bushes of cactus dahlias literally ablaze with scarlet. In front are standard roses, only crimson and damask, and now in October bright with their second bloom. Hiding their barren stems, compact and solid, an exquisite combination of green and purple, are perennial astersa single spike of them, with its hundreds of little stars, makes a noble decoration in a roomand humbler, if more vivid, companies of tritonia. Here and again are old clumps of phlox, of fervent carmine or white starred with pink, and, to my mind, of singular beauty, the rudbeckias in brilliant clusters of chrome yellow.

    "Three times in the long border Japanese anemones, mixed white and terra cotta, mark noble periods in the great curve of colour; and at corresponding intervals, as you walk round, your eye catches the beautiful response, set further forward, of[Pg 196] clumps of chrysanthemums, lemon yellow and Indian red, tiny flowers, no doubt, 'for chrysanthemums', but sweetly pretty in their profusion and artless growth. Is that enough? Well, then, for more. There are the snapdragons in every shade of snapdragon colour, and geums now making second displays of flower, and penstemons; and salvias shaded in butterfly-blue, and Iceland poppies, and the round lavender ballslike the spiked horrors which genial Crusaders wore at the end of chains for the thumping of Saracens and similar heathenswhich the Blessed Thistle bears.

    "Can you see this October garden at all?"[2]

    [2] In Garden, Orchard and Spinney, by Phil Robinson.

    Indeed, that must look something like a garden border; and after all, friend Ignoramus, it is not totally out of your reach. Even with my disadvantages some of those glories can be mine.

    The sunflowers, of course, I had, and though rather roughly staked by my old enemy, yet their golden heads were there,[Pg 197] and by diligent decapitation they continued until I "did up" the border. The dahlias did fairly, and some of the poor little water-starved annuals picked up a little and gave patches of colour, notably the marigolds. The Michaelmas daisywhich is here called "perennial aster"gave but little bloom; all my bushy perennial plants will be better next year. The golden rod, that old inhabitant, was fine and useful even this first September. It kept the big jar in the drawing-room going with dahlias and sunflowers, but the day came all too soon when even these gave out, and then I fell back on Dame Nature and plundered her hedgerows. Such leaves, such yellows and reds, and berries, black, red and green, never was a bunch more beautiful than that provided by the country lanes; and if only a garden would go wild in such a fashion I should leave it to itself. But that is the trouble. When once civilisation has laid her hand on flower or savage there is no going back; one must progress, the primitive conditions are lost[Pg 198] for ever. Unless the new ideal be lived up to, the latter state is worse than the first.

    I

    I had been collecting ideas as well as had experience during the summer months, and some of the ideas were greatly augmented by a Visitor who came into the garden during the month of October. He had had varied experiences during the years, not so many either, of his pilgrimage, and after having claimed America, Australia, India as his fields of action, and ranching, mining, pearl-fishing, architecture and the stock exchange as some of his employments, I was not surprised to find he had also made a thorough study of the art of Gardening; in fact, had thought of landscape gardening as a profession.

    His Reverence had said, "Get him to give you some advice; he knows all about it."

    So I sought this fount of knowledge.

    [Pg 199]

    My garden looked indeed a poor thing seen through his eyes.

    He stood taking in the general effect.

    "Hump!ha!yes!you ought to have all that cleared away," waving a hand towards a shrubbery which indeed looked as though it needed judicious pruning; "it is in the wrong place, and it would add considerably to the size of the lawn if it were done away with. And that path, you notice the fatal curve. Why in the name of Reason make a curve when a straight line leads quicker between two places? Curves and circles are an abomination in a garden. Don't you see it?"

    "Oh, quite, but I didn't make that path."

    "No, but why tolerate it? I can assure you I could not live with that silly crooked line waving itself aside like a fanciful damsel. Pah! Get that altered for one thing, and then, don't have it gravelled. Between grass, what can look so staring and hideous as that patch of yellow? Not that yours is very yellow, been down some time, eh? Buy some old slabs of slate,[Pg 200] quite easy to get. Go round to the old churches; you are sure to find some Philistine parson removing the old slate leading through the churchyard and putting down hideous, gritty gravel! You can benefit by his crass stupidity. And thenah, yesdon't have wire fencing between the garden and that field. Prettily-laid-out field that is, too. I congratulate you on that clump of trees. Very nice! yes, very nice But that aggressive railing paling thing! Away with it! and have a sunk fence if you need anything."

    "Sheep are sometimes put in that field," I said timidly, for I felt, in spite of that clump of trees, that I was responsible for a great deal of fearful ignorance.

    "Oh, well, a sunk fence will keep them out. Now let us walk on a bit. Dear, dear, how those two round beds hurt one! Remind one of bulls'-eyes, don't they? You must not have round beds, have them in squares; two oblongs would fit in better there. But let me see, ah, yes, that would be better. Now look here. Take away that hedge"he[Pg 201] pointed to the holly hedge dividing the lawn from the kitchen garden"right away; make there a good border, that will give you the colour, and you can do away with those beds."

    "But the kitchen garden!"

    "Don't you like the look of a kitchen garden? Nothing more beautiful. Border everything with flowers, and think what a vista you have from your window."

    "Oh, I know. I want an opening somewhere."

    "An opening! You want it open, not boxed in like this. The intention of hedges was to shut out the roads or one's prying neighbours. You have neither. For goodness' sake give yourself room. What is there so attractive in that prickly hedge? But if you want a division, if you must keep the vulgar vegetables in their place, why, put up a pergola!"

    "Oh!" I exclaimed. Pergola somehow suggested fairy-land, or Italian lakes at the least.

    "Yes, pergola. Now just see it. Beautiful green lawn. By the way, you must have this re-turfed, it is quite hopeless; good grass[Pg 202] leading straight down to that hedge, no pathway between," and he shuddered. "Do away with the prickly hedge, have a border of bright flowers taking its place; behind that a pergola of roses, through which you get vistas of all the good sprouting green things, and clumps of flowers, hedges of sweet-peas, banks of poppies, and everything bright and beautiful, with suggestions of gooseberry bushes and strawberry beds, and feathery carrots and waving asparagus. Now, how does that sound?"

    "Delightful," I replied, sinking on a garden seat with a most doleful sigh, and looking from that picture to the one that lay before me.

    "Ah, yes," following my eye, "and don't forget that path; straight, mind you, and slates. There is something about a wet slate bordered with grass that gives you sensations of coolness and repose that really consoles you for the rain. You try it! Now, I daresay I could suggest a good many more things that need doing, but I suppose you won't manage more this autumn."

    [Pg 203]

    "It is very kind of you," I began.

    "Oh, not at all, not at all. I assure you it is a great pleasure to suggest improvements. Now here you have a little garden, nothing much about it, you may say, but at once I see what can be made of it. My mind is full of the higher vision, until really sometimes it is a shock to me to come back to real earth, as it were, and find how far it is from the ideal."

    "Yes, I should think so," I murmured.

    "Of course that is what is needed for landscape gardening, to which I gave special attention at one time. Flowers I have not yet taken up; but shrubs! ah, well, I think I won't begin on shrubs, for I have to catch that train."

    Then we walked back to the house, and I wished I too had a train to catch that I might never, never look at my garden again.

    The Others said I was very depressed for some days, but at last I resolutely faced my garden.

    "You are all wrong," I said, "made wrong from the beginning, and I can't alter you, but[Pg 204] as you are the only one we have I must just make the best of you. One thing I can do, and that is to have down the old holly hedge and make a pergola."

    So I approached the Others.

    They agreed at once that we wanted vistas, and jumped at the pergola, but Jim shook his head.

    "No go," said he, and said no more.

    "But I am not sure about a vista of cabbages and onions," remarked a cautious One. "I don't like them in any form."

    "But I should have borders of flowers everywhere," and the Visitor's picture rose in my mind. "You don't mind asparagus."

    "No, if you can keep your vistas to that."

    "But a pergola! Mary, that sounds a large order."

    "Yes. But this is a thing that affects us all, so we must all make an effort."

    "Does your effort mean £ s. d.?"

    "Something very like it."

    And there was a chorus of "Oh's" and "That's all very fine! but"

    "Well, you are all for it, anyhow?" I said.

    [Pg 205]

    "Oh, yes, we are all for it."

    "Then I am going to tackle his Reverence."

    "There he is, then, at the bottom of the lawn, with a slaughtered bunny in his hand, so the moment should be auspicious."

    But it wasn't.

    I approached my subject delicately, mindful of the overwhelming sense of impossibility with which the Visitor's suggestions had filled my soul; but when it dawned on his Reverence that I wanted not only to erect a pergola but to cut down the holly hedge, it then transpired that the holly hedge was the joy of his heart and the pride of his eyes; when other things failed, and snails ate the onions, that hedge was always there, always green, always solid, and always a consolation.

    I explained my views and he explained his, and then we both explained them together; he said I was very obstinate, and I said he was not allowing me a free hand. He said he did, and I said, "Then may I do it?" He said, "Certainly not," and I said, "Very good, then, I resign the garden." I[Pg 206] heard his laugha hearty oneas I marched with dignity back to the drawing-room.

    "Well!" the Others cried, "you look as though you had had a lively time."

    "I could have told you exactly what his Reverence would say and saved you the trouble of a row."

    I tried to squash Jim with a look, but nothing under many hundredweights could do that. So I said coldly,

    "We had no row; and little boys don't always know what their elders will say."

    "Bet you I know what he said to you. And on the whole I agree with him. It's no use taking a bigger bite than you can chew."

    "It isn't a bigger bite thanJim, you are very vulgar! But I don't care now, I have given up the garden."

    "Resigned your stewardship!" said Jim, tragically. "Anything over of the five pounds? I wouldn't retire yet, you can't have saved enough."

    "Don't talk nonsense, Mary. At least, it[Pg 207] doesn't matter what you talk, you can't do it," said one of the Others.

    "Can't I? we shall see," hardening my heart.

    "What did his Reverence say to your resignation?"

    "Hehe didn't say anything."

    "He laughed! I heard him," said Jim, "and he is splitting his sides telling the Young Man all about it."

    "He isn't! Jim, go quick, interrupt them. I won't let them talk of mmy garden."

    Jim is really a nice boy; he swaggered off with his hands in his pockets, whistling, and joined the two men. I knew he would give the conversation the turn I wished.

    I began to cool down. It was easy to say I would "resign" the garden, but could I? Putting pride aside, was not my interest in all those young promising plants for the spring too deep for me now to desert them? Had I not rooted, amongst other things, too much of myself in my garden for me now lightly to withdraw?

    While I pondered I strolled down the[Pg 208] garden, and coming up the other side ran into the group of three viewing the holly hedge from the back.

    "It is one of the best holly hedges I have ever seen," his Reverence was saying. "Cut it down! Why, it would be sheer madness."

    Then the Young Man, without noticing me, began,

    "All the same, you do want an opening somewhere. It is quite true that fine hedge shuts you in very much."

    "I like being shut in," said his Reverence; "but I might consider your idea of an opening here, an archway in the middle, particularly as the hedge is already rather thin in one place, only 'Mary, Mary, quite contrairy.'"

    "You had better not abuse me, because I am listening," I put in.

    "Oh, here you are. I was going to say you had resigned."

    "If you had heard all your Visitor suggested you would have thrown up the living."

    "Bumptious fellow! I should not have listened to him."

    [Pg 209]

    "But you told me to."

    "Because I had had enough of him."

    "But what he said was true. It is absolutely immoral to have that curveting path, that hideous paling, and this bisecting hedge."

    "Well, Mary, I did give you credit for some common sense."

    "It's un-common sense I am blessed with, and I am trying to educate you up to higher ideals for the garden."

    But I had taken his arm.

    "Then do it by degrees. The Young Man suggests a peep-hole through the hedge. Will that satisfy you?"

    "Well, may I have this gravel path up and make a border here?"

    "What! more borders? However will you and Griggs manage those you have already?"

    "Perhaps if I have this I won't poach any more on the kitchen garden."

    His Reverence looked at the gravel path critically. "I don't see that we need this path very much, but it means a lot of work to take away this gravel and bring in good[Pg 210] mould. It is no use having a bad border while you are about it. Who is to do it?"

    "Griggs andand help," I answered boldly, "and you shall direct."

    "And you won't resign?"

    "I will think better of my decision."

    "And I may keep my holly hedge?"

    "For the present, until I have educated you up to the pergola."

    "Oh! thank you."

    Then I explained fully to the Young Man the glories and delights of a pergola and vistas; and he is quite ready to help fix the iron arches, fasten overhead the wire netting, train the clambering roses, vines and clematis, andcut down the holly hedge.

    His Reverence's education will take a little time, I expect. In the meanwhile the archway made in the broad gap cut in his holly hedge will help to train his eye to the beauty of vistas.

    But how the Visitor would despise my compromising soul!

    It was judicious of me to give his Reverence the direction of the new border. I[Pg 211] heard nothing of expense, and, once started, he went ahead in thorough fashion.

    The gravel was carted away, and some feet of stony earth. Then we came to a layer of good though light soil. The backs of shrubberies, a small wood at the bottom of a field, a bank in the kitchen garden were all taxed for their share of the best soil we could get, and this, finally mixed in with some old turf and manure, made a border that looked promising. There was no need to begin with a layer of broken china and sardine tins, for the drainage in my soil was more than sufficient, and this disappointed Jim, who said he was ready with a fine collection, had that substratum been necessary.

    And then, my new border ready, I launched out.

    It was to be partly herbaceous, partly for bulbs and annuals.

    The promised plants, which began to come in, supplied me with some delphiniums and small perennial sunflowers. I moved there some of my young plants of oriental poppies, planting them near together until they[Pg 212] should have expanded. Then I selected my lilies. The auratum and other delightful varieties I had to leave out, but the white Madonna lily would thrive, and croceum, an orange-coloured bloom, and the soft apricot shade of an elegans promised to be hardy. These were placed in front of the delphiniums and room left for big sunflowers in the spring. Half forward the Canterbury bells, sweet-Williams and tall campanulas were placed in clumps, and in front of them, well buried, were groups of the Spanish and English irises, meant, as they succeed each other, to keep bright patches of yellow, purple and white flowering there for some time. They are not very dearfive shillings a hundredand I now began to reckon on a new five pounds. Montbresias, too, I launched into, and left spaces for groups of gladiolas to join them in the spring. Then for early flowering I introduced my thriving young wallflowers, always in groups, not rows, and some of the dear narcissi and gorgeous tulips would, I thought, be admired before other things had a chance. To end up with, and be gay to[Pg 213] the verge of gaudy, I had forget-me-nots and pink silene.

    Even the thought of the Visitor could not disturb my satisfaction over my new border. He had not given me his views on flowers.

    T

    The archway where the holly hedge was sacrificed for my vista was formed of two iron staves bent into arches and joined with wire netting of eighteen inches wide. The village blacksmith supplied the staves; they measured some fourteen feet when they arrived, but were cut and buried until the archway was at its highest point seven feet; and the wire netting was fastened on by my usual assistants. The Young Man was very neat-handed. Then we consulted as to its covering, and, had all suggestions been taken, it would have had to bear a vine on account of its foliage; a virginian creeper for the red leaves in autumn; a Gloire de Dijon since it seemed to prosper in my soil; clematis,[Pg 214] both montana and flamulata, and any number of the coloured varieties; a wisteria, as we had none; a pink and a white banksia; a W. A. Richardson and a crimson rambler. My arch having but two sides I was obliged to offend a good many voters, and, despite jeers as to my former failures, I decided on giving the crimson rambler another try. I chose also a white banksia and a clematis montana, with free promises of introducing other clematis and annual creepers later on, and carrying out all ideas when once I had my pergola.

    E

    Even after this supreme effort my autumn's work was only just beginning. There was the verandah with its failures to tackle. The beginning of November I unearthed the ramblers that even still refused to ramble, and soon the cause of their stunted condition was laid bare.

    "Pot bound! Whoi," said Griggs, "so they are! Curious! I don't moind 'avin' see'd 'em[Pg 215] look like that. Maybe I was drefful 'urried at the toime and never paid no 'eed."

    As he spoke he tore at the poor roots, confined with a web-like substance just the shape of the pot they had come in.

    Anyone, absolutely any Ignoramus, must have seen the hopelessness of planting a rose-tree with its roots cramped like that. It was impossible for the poor plant to strike out, make itself at home, and get enough nourishment to grow on. How it had managed to live was the marvel. And they were all the same, W. A. Richardson and the other ramblers yellow and red; the standards had not come in pots, so their fate had been better.

    It was soon done, and I felt that prisoners had been released. We gave them turf mould and manure mixture to strengthen them.

    But it was not only the roses; all the creepers, excepting one clematis, had made but poor growth. At last the mystery was solved.

    A spreading beech threw its grateful shade over half the house and grew within three yards of one end of the verandah. How far-reaching were its roots I now discovered, and[Pg 216] their greedy feelers taking every bit of nourishment, both deep and near the surface, my creepers fought an unequal fight for their daily bread. The condition of the roots of a poor honeysuckle reminded one of prisoners of the Bastille.

    But how to circumvent the tree? how to teach it manners? For there it must stay, and so must the creepers and plants. We could cut the roots, but they would come again.

    Griggs scratched his head. "It's Natur', that's wot it is, an' that ere tree 'ave been 'ere longer than any of us. So you can't do nothink."

    "We must do something. Young Man, are you thinking?"

    "Hard," was the answer.

    "Let's build an underground wall," suggested Jim. But we all shook our heads and thought again.

    "Let's sink something," said the Young Man.

    "Oh! a tub, an oil tub!" I almost shouted.

    "Why, yes," said the Young Man. "I was[Pg 217] thinking of zinc, but that sounds so airtight and stuffy."

    "Wouldn't a wooden tub rot away, though? A coffin goes to pieces pretty quick," said Jim.

    "Well, it will give them a better chance, and perhaps the roots will get accustomed to going round. Anyway they can be renewed," said the Young Man, cheerfully. "If no other idea is forthcoming, let us go and find some tubs."

    Now, how long wooden tubs will last under ground I cannot say, but we did then and there sink four tubs beneath the gravel, and filled them with good mixture, making holes and placing stones at the bottom for drainage, and there the roots of the poor starvelings had, at least for a time, a good meal, and when growing time comes I expect the honeysuckle, the roses and the clematis to do justice to their fare.

    The further end of the verandah was almost out of reach of the greedy roots, as the long white streamers of the flamulata proved.

    It is a satisfaction when things grow and[Pg 218] flower and flourish as books and catalogues have led you to expect.

    T

    Two of my green tubs were now emptied of the still rampant leaves of the nasturtium and the strong-growing geraniums. It seemed a pity to cut short any vigorous life at the dying season of the year, but Jack Frost would feel no compunction, and I might as well try and live up to the Master's maxim of "getting forward"; so after refilling my tubs with as wholesome a mixture as I could, I planted in each four good roots of my old friend hellebore, and had them placed just under the verandah.

    The Others at first looked askance. "Will they flower?" I bade them examine the already formed buds. For I bought my hellebore in promising condition at one shilling and sixpence each, and by moving them with a good solid lump of earth round the roots I hoped not to check their development. I bought the common kind of white Christmas[Pg 219] rose, niger, and also a pinky-purple kind, with tall graceful heads called atrorubens.

    And when the robins, the snow, the sunshine and my Christmas roses all came together, my verandah realised a very pretty Christmas-card effect, and the Others said, "That is not at all bad." Then the jasmine growing under the verandah burst also into golden stars, its growth of one year having been carefully left alone, and I received as much praise as though I had done something wonderful, which is often the way of the world.

    "Luck was with glory wed."

    This, however, is very previous, and I must go back to the end of October.

    I

    I determined the Others should not complain next spring of lack of colour. The sturdy little forget-me-not plants were placed all round the narrow verandah border, and bright red[Pg 220] tulips, I allowed myself fifty for that purpose, were buried between their roots a foot apart. That effect ought to be gay.

    In the small inner border between the windows that open on to the verandah I placed the violets from their too shady bed. By taking them up with good balls of earth I hoped not to check any flowering aspirations they might have, and as this was done in October they did recover, and in November and December they kept the verandah sweet, and ought to do even better in March.

    Under the study windows I planted a good mass of my red and yellow wallflowers, not only to delight the eye but to send up the fragrance that fills one with the joy of life and spring, and that his Reverence might open his windows in April and say, "Well, the garden is growing;" I also gave him a touching border of forget-me-nots.

    Then, too, the desolate front border needed attention. It was always a trial, for it was the poorest of my poor soil, and much robbed by laurels, laburnum and may in the background. I knew I ought to re-make the[Pg 221] whole border, and treat it as I had treated the new one; but prudence bade me lie low and leave it for another year. I removed the old things, the clumps of seedlings, marigolds, zinnias and the gallant little antirrhinums, who had now marched their last march, also geraniums and dahlias; the latter being carefully dried and stored in an open wooden box in the potting-shed.

    Griggs kindly gave it "a bit of a dig," and removed the stones that struck even him as being rather heavy for a border. I wish the worms could be taught to carry their useful work a little further and not only dig up the stones but place them in piles by the wayside.

    We supplemented the poverty of the border with a little of our manure heap diet, and here I may remark that our savoury heap was composed of all kinds of material besides that derived from the stable. The grass mowings, border trimmings, leaf sweepings, also all refuse of roots and vegetables, after having formed a bonfire, were carefully added to this store. The bonfire reduces the bulk but makes valuable diet without the danger of[Pg 222] sowing unwelcome seeds. Though to the owners of big gardens worth writing about, and limitless gardeners and purse, my one poor means of improving the soil may seem very inadequate, still it was much better than nothing at all, and about suited to my other equipment of Griggs and ignorance and five pounds.

    Griggs, who regarded me more and more as an interloper, gave grudgingly of this store. "And wot 'ull I do for my wegetables?" It was always "my wegetables" and "your flowers." "The Rector 'ull be at me if I let you finish hoff that 'ere 'eap. 'E thinks a lot more of 'es wegetables than you do. An 'e's right. You can eat wegetables. So I ain't a-going to let you have no more."

    I felt reference to his Reverence just then might be injudicious, so I soothed Griggs and put up, or the border did, with pauper fare. The hardiest things were placed here. Foxgloves in clumps, and white and purple Canterbury-bells. Further forward I tried sweet-Williams and lupins. I bought some of these, both white and so-called blue, at five[Pg 223] shillings a dozen, rather small plants, but though my friends fulfilled their promises and sent me hampers, I had so much room, and all the long border to think of. Some of my tulip bulbs from last year came in handy, and I edged off with pink silene.

    To get a border bright in May and June did not seem an impossibility to me now, but to continue the array through the summer was brain-splitting. But though looking forward and calculating is the very essence of gardening, one must also remember that one cannot get two seasons' work into one, and I tried resolutely to put the summer from my mind and reckon only with the spring, leaving February and March to tackle the further future.

    I turned then to my two round beds. They had been a consolation even after our Visitor had insulted them. "Si on n'a pas ce qu'on aime, il faut aimer ce qu'on a." Theoretically I hate compromises, practically I live by them. And so I prepared two beautiful Persian carpets, nothing to do with carpet bedding, for March, April and May.[Pg 224] My polyanthuses just filled in those two round beds, and Jim and I took up the yellow harmony with feelings of regret.

    "It was a jolly good idea," said Jim, "and you and I concocted it together, you know, Mary. But, would you believe it, his Reverence was talking the other day as though he had evolved the whole blooming show. I said, 'You had better let Mary hear you.'"

    "Why, that is the biggest compliment the beds could have had, Jim. He would not have claimed them unless they had been a success. I hope my Persian carpets will come off as well; I am only going to give the plants six inches to expand in. They are very neat and trim, and some are forming buds already, which is foolish of them. Nip them off. But things don't grow rampantly in this soil, it is no use deceiving oneself."

    "I never did," said Jim; "'excepting weeds' you should add."

    Those beds had to be refreshed, and as Griggs was busy down the kitchen garden, Jim enlisted the Young Man as he left the study and made him help to wheel a[Pg 225] barrowful of the "heap" on to the scene of action.

    "I tell him it's a healthy smell," said Jim; "fancy, he didn't want to come."

    "Didn't he? Then, Jim, it is very forward of you to make him. His Reverence's Young Man ought not to be worried. He has much more important things to do than plant polyanthuses."

    "Oh, I dare say! but I wasn't going to lug all this smelly stuff about alone, and you know you won't do it, and Griggs wouldn't let you have it if I had told him to do it, so who was there?"

    "I am very pleased to be of any service to you, Mistress Mary, but I didn't want to intrude," said the Young Man, and there was an east wind in his voice.

    "When a fellow was caught by the press-gang he didn't apologise for intruding," said Jim, scornfully.

    So the Young Man chased Jim round, and after the latter had screamed "Peccavi!" they both came back heated and consequently[Pg 226] thawed, and I wondered over the boyishness of men.

    I don't think I am a very good hand at digging; I let Jim feel the superiority of his sex to the full when it comes to hard manual labour, and I have to retract a great deal that I have said in less guarded moments about the masculine hands and feminine head. Jim tried to lure the Young Man into the discussion, but when the opponent lies down flat there is nothing to be done. Jim said it was sneaky, and the Young Man said, "No, feminine diplomacy," with a look that meant "that will cause a rise"; but I was giving all the little brain I had to the work in hand, and my only answer was,

    "Oh, do dig that in quickly; if Griggs comes he will cart it all away for those rapacious cabbages of his."

    Jim is sometimes the Young Man's mouthpiece.

    "Ha, ha! you funk having it out with him."

    "Perhaps Mistress Mary is merciful because she is strong," said the Young Man.

    [Pg 227]

    "You don't know her as I do, that's all. She is 'Mary, Mary, quite contrairy.'"

    I ignored Jim and turned to the Young Man.

    "And why did you need the press-gang to make you come and help this nice hard-working kind of an afternoon?"

    Then the reason for the east wind became clear.

    "I could hardly flatter myself you really wanted me. I have not seen you, not been in the garden, I mean, for five days."

    "Oh! but whose fault is that?" I asked mildly, for the heinousness of the omission did not startle me.

    The Young Man straightened up all his six foot and looked tragic.

    "I offered to come last Thursday, you may remember, and I was told, most politely, that I need not trouble myself."

    "Now really that is scarcely fair! I only said, I know I said how kind you were, but that you ought not to work too hard, and that, I remember I said quite a number of nice and considerate things."

    "I heard through all only the 'No,'" said[Pg 228] the Young Man, giving a free translation of a favourite German quotation.

    "You know I value your help. The garden is much indebted to you, but of course I don't like to bother people."

    "That is quite a new idea," interrupted Jim, scraping his muddy little hands and then plunging them in among the roots again. "I can't say I have seen much result from it myself!"

    "Don't you know it is no bother to me," continued the Young Man with fresh earnestness. "Don't you know"

    "Oh, no, really I don't. I have been working so hard these last few days, and I seem able to think of nothing but roots and bulbs andpractical things like that."

    "I am sure I wish to be practical. I wish for nothing better," he exclaimed energetically.

    "Then do finish that row of polyanthuses," I said, looking up with a forgiving smile.

    "The first sensible word either of you have spoken for the last five minutes," remarked Jim, with decision. "The way you two palaver while I go steady ahead!"

    [Pg 229]

    But the Young Man interpreted my smile in his own way and went on cheerfully, "That's all right, then. Now, Jim, look to your laurels; these plantlets are going in with a rush!"

    Weeks after, when contemplating the neat, regular little roots, my thoughts went back, as thoughts will, to the conversation attached to them, and I wondered what he meant by its being "all right." I had never felt anything was wrong. Words are such clumsy mediums, and sometimes even thoughts are too definite. There is a kind of inner consciousness, vague and mystical, full of colour and sensation, but without form or sound, and I think women develop it more strongly than men.

    The Young Man has a very definite character. His energy next took the form of a large hamper of plants from his mother's garden, a godsend for that half-empty, long border.

    And my conscience, growing with my garden, I suppose, found a safety-valve in ornamenting the window boxes of the Young Man's sitting-room, lately filled with Mrs[Pg 230] Jones's screen of geraniums, with some spare bulbs. I do think they will look rather nice, but his gratitude was quite absurd, for really Jim did most of the work.

    I

    I am aware that to form a proper herbaceous border you should have a colour scheme, or rather several colour schemes, in your mind's eye from the very beginning. This is a counsel of perfection to which I humbly hope I may some day attain. I confess to being still at the stage where all flowers, all colours, and plenty of everything holds great attraction for me. But, Ignoramus as I am, I do not want disorder to reign; one must at least grasp the height and the flowering time of each plant, and strive after a succession of bloom fairly well represented over all the border and all the months. I thought therefore of my background, the tall varieties; my middle distance of less exalted growth, and my foreground of humble height.[Pg 231] And then I took a large sheet of paper and drew on it a long border with three divisions, and proceeded to fill in these divisions with what flowers I already had planted, and others yet to come.

    Then I tried to imagine the plants in bloom, and what colours would look well next each other, and how to repeat them as the eye follows the length of the border.

    In early spring, as in late autumn, yellow is the most prevalent colour; but in spring the yellow mixed with all the budding green has a most bright and young appearance. It is the sunrise, the promise of the day that is to be; whereas in autumn, with the rich tints of departing glory surrounding it, the suggestion is of "mellow fruitfulness."

    The yellow doronicum in the middle distance will probably be the first to break the greenness of the herbaceous border, unless there are clumps of daffodils hidden, but I think the border may be full enough without them, and they can be massed in so many places unfit for border plants. Patches of polyanthus and even snowy London pride are[Pg 232] useful at that early season, and can be placed near the edge. I saw one lovely effect, but cannot myself undertake to repeat it; it would answer better in a more favoured garden. Instead of the usual box edging the whole length of the border was given to violets, and a delightful purple line as well as delicious scent was the result. It needs more care than the trim box, but the close green leaves form a very effective edging after the flowers have departed. The "bleeding heart" should follow the doronicum very quickly, it also belongs to the middle division; but the colour scheme is still mostly green, with just these occasional breaks.

    Then the paper border was quickly filled with a bright procession for June and July. At the back delphiniums in numerous successive clumps and all degrees of blue; valerian, several of the strong little roots placed together to form a good show of delightful rosy red blossoms. Foxgloves should rear their effective spotted heads between, and later on liliesMadonna's white and tiger's yellowwould take their place. Lupins were also in[Pg 233] this division, but a little more forward, each division naturally sub-dividing itself into tall and taller. Galega, both white and mauve, were to grow here, but hollyhocks well at the back. The sunflower also, soleil d'or, with the thought of the annual variety to follow in spring, and therefore a space to be left. The smaller kind I kept for the middle division; it is a useful, neat little bush, rigidus by name, and cost me sixpence a plant. Spir?a, a strong, herbaceous variety, should come as a kind of break to the regularity; it should grow so bushy and tall that it must be given two divisions in which to expand. The phlox must be placed at the back, also the hardy white daisy, several old plants of which had weathered Griggs's reign; also the bright and useful golden rod, and some welcome clumps of Japanese anemones. My friends dealt in larger clumps than the mercenary florist, I found. We left a good space here and there for the dahlias, and thus my background seemed fairly full.

    I considered the iris roots for some time, and then determined to give the German[Pg 234] variety a place all to themselves. Strained political relations had nothing to do with my decision, but when not on show the knife-like leaves and twisting roots are not particularly pleasing; so, before his Reverence could forbid, I had my iris row down a side border. The kitchen garden is cut by a most convenient number of paths, and Griggs has no objection to my taking from his space.

    Then for the middle division I had some of my nurslings ready. More oriental poppies, in groups of three for the present; campanulas, also in threes, but with room for each one to expand; penstemons, but these were cuttings that had been given me, and though promised a place here they were kept for their first winter in the frame and only figured on my paper border. Gaillardias, most promising plants, which even in this their first year had given me one or two of their "effective" blooms, were placed singly; my small and not very satisfactory chrysanthemums were moved forward from the background, where they had been hidden.[Pg 235] Michaelmas daisies also were in this division, and my Canterbury-bells and sweet-Williams, though they were not to be permanent plants, and might come out year by year when their duty was done. The doronicums were there and the bleeding heart, and old Lovell's two Turks' heads in sturdy independence, and I added a few clumps of crown imperials. Coreopsis, at five shillings a dozen, joined the show, and montbresias, those that were over from my new border, and in time gladiolas also I hoped, but I had to remember my limitations.

    In front came groups of columbines and Iceland poppy, the small roots of campanula, the geum already there; and I collected from its scattered hiding-places all the Solomon's seal I could find, and grouped it behind the geums, for I noticed how well those two bore each other company. A few patches of Japanese irises I allowed myself, and again I tried the anemones. Neat labels marked the burying-places of those things that prefer to pass the winter with their heads underground.

    [Pg 236]

    I think that border, in spite of its many disadvantages, ought to make something of a show, not only on paper.

    There are other things I hope to have in time for this my old-fashioned border. There is honesty, almost nicer in sound than in reality; and lavender must come here, or where will be the old fashion? Also the "Saracen-head thumping balls" of the purple thistle, and the blue-green sea-holly. Tritoma, called in the vulgar tongue "red poker," ought to have a place in the background. Then rocket, purple and white, is a neat, spikey little plant that should be represented, and I have no doubt that I shall be introduced to many more. If I love them at all, and if they can become at all reconciled to my soil, they shall find a home here.

    Of course, with so many alterations to be made, and so many new-comers to be welcomed, I had again to break all rules and regulations belonging to a herbaceous border. Griggs and a spade, fatal things both of them, had to be tolerated, and roots disturbed, for in the spring my arrangements[Pg 237] had been very happy-go-lucky. Now, armed with a certain amount of information, I hoped to settle things more permanently.

    But when the length and depth of that border had been worked I felt that my life's task was finished, and I never went near it for three whole days.

    M

    My one and only frame presented a more cheering appearance than it had done the year before. It was a capacious frame, and possessed means for heating. This was often Griggs's one duty in the winter, and a grand excuse for not chopping wood. In the summer and autumn time an ignorant gardener can always account for himself with unnecessary lawn-mowing and diligent sweeping up of leaves that are instantly replaced by others; in the winter, unless snow provides a little gentle exercise, he is sore put to it to fill up his hours with a show of use. Thus the frame with its[Pg 238] stoke-hole was a boon to Griggs, and I felt that I too should be much interested in its welfare this winter. For in their winter quarters were my hundred deep red "Henry Jacobys" and sundry other geranium cuttings far removed from Griggs's former favourites. Square wooden boxes held my young penstemons, a nice lot of tiny sprigs from the bluest of the lobelias, and three varieties of antirrhinum, also cuttings of yellow daisies and white. I was trying if cuttings from the not-successful violas would make better plants than those grown from seed, so there was one box devoted to these. A few pots held hyacinth bulbs and tulips, some choice arrangements that were to astonish the Others, coming in a time of dire scarcity.

    Griggs looked in with something like pride gleaming in his old eyes. He always talked of "moi frame" and what he would allow me to put there. But we had no ructions, and I must only guard against his pride overflowing in too much water.

    [Pg 239]

    O

    One day I took his Reverence's arm and led him round the garden. I steered him past the plantains, for he loves prodding at their stubborn roots, and I wanted his whole attention. I pointed out the present, I referred gracefully to the past, and I dilated on the future. "Now, sir, the year is nearly up, say, 'how has the garden grown?'"

    "Grown! Why, you wicked girl! I believe you have prigged yet another border!"

    "Oh! for those irises! Yes. I wasn't talking about that little path and that little border: they will look very nice there by-and-by. I was talking of the flowers."

    And I led him away from that unlucky path and fixed him opposite my legitimate and much-developed border.

    "It looks much neater, certainly. I wonder, now, have you let Griggs have any time for the vegetables lately?"

    "Do you know, sir, the uninitiated might mistake you for a most cold-hearted and callous parent. If you lived up to the ideal,[Pg 240] you would be saying beautiful things about my industry, and the conversion of wilderness into rose, and Griggs's, well, not his conversion, but he has done more work this last year than for the twenty before. And you would be saying that the five pounds"

    "Ah! I thought we were coming to that. It's quite gone, I suppose?"

    "Gone! Goodness me! and so has a good deal of its successor. But it is all right. I practically went the year round with that first fiver. All I am doing now is for next year, you see. I have drawn you up a statement of accounts and you will see that I even kept a little money for summer bulbs, though they can only come on next year. Which was generous of the first year to the second, you will perceive. But I wanted so many things that it was too late to buy last autumn or I did not know of them. And I have begged and borrowed as well as bought. Don't you think the garden has grown?"

    "Yes, Mary, I really do; and I conclude from your having entered upon the second[Pg 241] five pounds that you want it, and are not going to resign the situation."

    "I don't think you can do without me."

    And his Reverence said, after a moment,

    "I don't want to try."

    The little statement of accounts that I formally laid upon the study table was as follows:

    Bulbs    £2    0    0

    Seeds    1    10    0

    Odd Plants    0    3    6

    Roses    0    13    6

    Geranium Cuttings      0    6    0

    Summer Bulbs    0    7    0

    £5    0    0

    His Reverence eyed it critically.

    "How neatly it fits in. You have not been driven to arrange matters with the usual feminine etcetera."

    "Because I have paid those etceteras myself."

    "Really, but what were the etceteras? I thought they were always unknown quantities in ladies' accounts."

    [Pg 242]

    "That is one of the delusions of menkind. My etceteras were all the pennies paid for hampers coming and going, for labels, for scissors, three shillings those, without whose aid I could never have cut my way through the summer; they hold the flowers as you cut and save much backache. Then for sulphur, for quassia chips, for bast, for"

    "Hold! I will never ask what a woman's etcetera means again. I see it is much the most important part of the whole account. I wish they always paid it themselves. But why did you?"

    "Oh, because, because five pounds is so little, you can have no idea how little, to buy everything with."

    "Yes, but you started away with the idea it was a great deal."

    "I said I could put some flowers in the garden with it anyway, and so I have. Even the Others allow that."

    "Well, shall we say six pounds for this next year?"

    "Will you really, sir? Oh, that is good![Pg 243] Now I shall go at once and order a pound's worth of peonies. There was such an enticing advertisement in this morning's Standard, and I have been resisting temptation, because I really had to buy herbaceous plants and a good many bulbs. They have made such a hole. But in time, you see, in time the garden will get quite full."

    Yes, peonies with the delicious description of "blush rose," "deep carmine," "snowy queen" had held my thoughts for some time. That front border ought to be devoted to all varieties of flowering shrubs, and in time it should be. There was plenty of room for my peonies; so they were quickly ordered and the border made as good for them as I could manage. They like being well-treated. But when I thought of the watering next year my heart failed me. Something must be done.

    That advertisement and the extra pound lured me on to further bulbs. Two hundred narcissi, mixed, and so cheap! only five shillings, were buried in the grass down the shrubbery side of the lawn. How cheering[Pg 244] they would be in spring! A sweep of sweet nodding white and yellow.

    "There is one thing you have utterly forgotten, Mary, and really no garden should be without them," said one of the Others.

    "I know you are going to suggest some greenhouse nursling. Remember the frame is not a conservatory." And I hoped my bulbs were still a surprise.

    "Oh, you old Solomon! And since when do lilies of the valley refuse to grow out of doors?"

    "Lilies of the valley! Now, why didn't you speak sooner?"

    "Is it too late? Why? You are still grubbing in things, aren't you?"

    "I have shut the purse for the autumn. Honestly, I must keep the rest for the spring."

    "Well, look here, don't be alarmed, we won't do it often, but I looked at your catalogue and saw they were six shillings a hundred, so 'we' give them on the condition we may pick them."

    "I like you! Where don't you pick? All right, I will gratefully take the six shillings."

    [Pg 245]

    "A shady spot," I should have said a year ago, but no, not a bit of it, after my experiences with the violets. A narrow border near a little wall, but on which the sun did not flare continuously, and there we prepared the ground, though it seemed pretty good on its own account for a wonder; and the hundred fibrous roots were carefully spread out and covered over. I thought of young "Sandhurst." If I give him lilies of the valley for a button-hole he will think the garden is indeed growing. Though if the lilies should fail! But why should they? Griggs did not touch them.

    J

    Jim said,

    "You are a fraud, Mary, that's what you are."

    My thoughts flew to suggestions given for an essay on "The Heroic Qualities" which Jim and I had discussed with much energy. But it was not that.

    [Pg 246]

    "No, it was pretty footling, that essay, anyway; but the other fellows did just as badly. You promised me a go at tap-roots, and even old Griggs says we can't tackle them now. He says he thinks there are probably jolly long ones, and I do think you might have thought of it in time."

    "I have been so busy, Jim, and it isn't my department proper. Let us bike over and ask the Master if it is too late. Griggs doesn't really know; he generally repeats what I tell him."

    "He knows enough not to do things, does Griggs. I have found that out. He is a champion skulker."

    Jim was very despondent, but a good spin along the hard road, with the bright sun that late autumn sometimes sees, raised his spirits.

    The Master was in his garden, and oh! how neat and brushed up and ready for its sleeping-time looked his garden. Not empty or dead, but intentionally tucked up and ready for the snowy counterpane, and protected from the biting blast.

    [Pg 247]

    It was late, he said, but the weather still held up; we might try taking up one at a time and replacing it so that it should not take cold.

    Jim took the directions with great attention.

    "I am going to boss this, Mary; you said it wasn't your department."

    The way he worked and ordered about Griggs and the coachman, summoned to give his unwilling help, promised well for his future as an admiral. The whole roots of the young pear tree were dug up with the greatest care; the tap-root, there it was sure enough, and all the vitality of the tree going gaily to swell its dimensions, was cut away, and then it was raised into a well-doctored hole, with a broad slab-like stone under it to cut short any further aspirations after such a root again, and all other branch roots carefully spread out to encourage growth and general productiveness.

    Jim worked himself and his men, and also the Young Man, hard; I was an[Pg 248] admiring onlooker until the operation was finished and the tree standing up quite firm again. Then, as Jim was bent on yet another, and refused to think it too late, I wandered down my lime-tree walk, where snowdrops were now hidden. I had collected ferns there and more primroses, and clumps of foxgloves on the sunniest side, just where they would catch the eye from the garden.

    A feeling of peace was in the air; one bird dropped a note and another caught it up; not a ringing challenge of song, but a pleasant exchange of compliments. "Going strong?" "Oh, rather!" "Berries look well." "Prime!" "Good old world!" A squirrel frisked past up a tree with a look down at me, saying, "Ah! don't you wish you could do it!" and then off he went, terribly busy with his nut store. He and Griggs had had a race over the small walnuts which adorned one tree, and I think the squirrel could account for the better part. It was all right, all in order, this going to sleep time, this baring of[Pg 249] boughs, decaying of vegetation, this "season of mists." A little while, only a little while and the change would begin; after sleep would come the great awakening. I picked a brown bud from the chestnut tree and cut it in half with my knife. There was the promise, the great life spirit already at work. Cushioned in the centre the embryo of the spiral-shaped bloom for May was to be plainly seen. The spring was preparing right through the winter. I heard Jim's voice, cheery and ringing, "Now then, you fellows, heave away! Oh, I say, Young Man, don't scoot just yet."

    Steps rustled behind me, and as he joined me we walked on under the lime trees and I tried to talk of my garden, but he did not appear responsive; and finally, when I could walk no further, for I was wedged in the swing gate that opened on to the field he blocked the opening and said,

    "I don't the least want to talk of the garden."

    "Well, talk of this," I said, and gave him[Pg 250] the chestnut twig I had broken off; "it is full of meaning."

    "It is very bare and dead-looking."

    "No. It is really full of life and hope. See its wonderful centre. There, I will open one to give you a parable from Nature. We need hope at this time of the year."

    "I have been hoping so long," he would not be put off, "perhaps I am tired of mere hoping. I want to progress."

    "Try faith then," I suggested.

    His eyes held mine.

    "There is one thing better than faith, you know." I suppose the wind was cold. I gave a little shiver and he placed his hand over mine.

    Then I said, "I think faith ought to have its turn."

    "What is faith in this instance?"

    "Waiting, I should think," I answered slowly.

    "But waiting with a knowledge of"

    "Ah! I must teach you another parable, I see. When the seed is sown in the ground[Pg 251] we have to wait for it to spring up; it has to grow, to grow underground quite a long while before it comes to the light. It is not good to uncover it before it naturally springs up."

    "Can I be sure the seed is there?" he asked eagerly.

    "Some seeds take longer than others too, don't they?" I answered evasively. "The annuals come up quite quickly, but perennials are much slower. I prefer perennials, don't you?"

    "I will wait."

    "The winter is such a good time for waiting," I remarked cheerfully.

    "If faith be added to hope is the next step sure?" he questioned.

    "Don't you know we cannot hurry the seasons. It is no good. If you are in winter, in the faith time, why, be content."

    "Yes, spring will come, I will wait," he said again, and I too knew that spring would come.

    I loosened my hand gently and we walked back under the bared boughs of the lime trees,[Pg 252] a tangle of grass, weeds and ferns, and a rustling of brown fallen leaves at our feet. A hush as of going to sleep was in the air, and a robin from a full throat seemed to assure us that each season in its turn is good, and that spring never quite leaves the earth.

    The End
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