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´╗┐Title: My Summer in a Garden
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley, 1829-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Summer in a Garden" ***

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By Charles Dudley Warner


MY DEAR MR. FIELDS,--I did promise to write an Introduction to these
charming papers but an Introduction,--what is it?--a sort of
pilaster, put upon the face of a building for looks' sake, and
usually flat,--very flat. Sometimes it may be called a caryatid,
which is, as I understand it, a cruel device of architecture,
representing a man or a woman, obliged to hold up upon his or her
head or shoulders a structure which they did not build, and which
could stand just as well without as with them. But an Introduction
is more apt to be a pillar, such as one may see in Baalbec, standing
up in the air all alone, with nothing on it, and with nothing for it
to do.

But an Introductory Letter is different. There is in that no
formality, no assumption of function, no awkward propriety or dignity
to be sustained. A letter at the opening of a book may be only a
footpath, leading the curious to a favorable point of observation,
and then leaving them to wander as they will.

Sluggards have been sent to the ant for wisdom; but writers might
better be sent to the spider, not because he works all night, and
watches all day, but because he works unconsciously. He dare not
even bring his work before his own eyes, but keeps it behind him, as
if too much knowledge of what one is doing would spoil the delicacy
and modesty of one's work.

Almost all graceful and fanciful work is born like a dream, that
comes noiselessly, and tarries silently, and goes as a bubble bursts.
And yet somewhere work must come in,--real, well-considered work.

Inness (the best American painter of Nature in her moods of real
human feeling) once said, "No man can do anything in art, unless he
has intuitions; but, between whiles, one must work hard in collecting
the materials out of which intuitions are made." The truth could not
be hit off better. Knowledge is the soil, and intuitions are the
flowers which grow up out of it. The soil must be well enriched and

It is very plain, or will be to those who read these papers, now
gathered up into this book, as into a chariot for a race, that the
author has long employed his eyes, his ears, and his understanding,
in observing and considering the facts of Nature, and in weaving
curious analogies. Being an editor of one of the oldest daily
news-papers in New England, and obliged to fill its columns day after
day (as the village mill is obliged to render every day so many sacks
of flour or of meal to its hungry customers), it naturally occurred to
him, "Why not write something which I myself, as well as my readers,
shall enjoy? The market gives them facts enough; politics, lies
enough; art, affectations enough; criminal news, horrors enough;
fashion, more than enough of vanity upon vanity, and vexation of purse.
Why should they not have some of those wandering and joyous fancies
which solace my hours?"

The suggestion ripened into execution. Men and women read, and
wanted more. These garden letters began to blossom every week; and
many hands were glad to gather pleasure from them. A sign it was of
wisdom. In our feverish days it is a sign of health or of
convalescence that men love gentle pleasure, and enjoyments that do
not rush or roar, but distill as the dew.

The love of rural life, the habit of finding enjoyment in familiar
things, that susceptibility to Nature which keeps the nerve gently
thrilled in her homliest nooks and by her commonest sounds, is worth
a thousand fortunes of money, or its equivalents.

Every book which interprets the secret lore of fields and gardens,
every essay that brings men nearer to the understanding of the
mysteries which every tree whispers, every brook murmurs, every weed,
even, hints, is a contribution to the wealth and the happiness of our
kind. And if the lines of the writer shall be traced in quaint
characters, and be filled with a grave humor, or break out at times
into merriment, all this will be no presumption against their wisdom
or his goodness. Is the oak less strong and tough because the mosses
and weather-stains stick in all manner of grotesque sketches along
its bark? Now, truly, one may not learn from this little book either
divinity or horticulture; but if he gets a pure happiness, and a
tendency to repeat the happiness from the simple stores of Nature, he
will gain from our friend's garden what Adam lost in his, and what
neither philosophy nor divinity has always been able to restore.

Wherefore, thanking you for listening to a former letter, which
begged you to consider whether these curious and ingenious papers,
that go winding about like a half-trodden path between the garden and
the field, might not be given in book-form to your million readers, I
remain, yours to command in everything but the writing of an



MY DEAR POLLY,--When a few of these papers had appeared in "The
Courant," I was encouraged to continue them by hearing that they had
at least one reader who read them with the serious mind from which
alone profit is to be expected. It was a maiden lady, who, I am
sure, was no more to blame for her singleness than for her age; and
she looked to these honest sketches of experience for that aid which
the professional agricultural papers could not give in the management
of the little bit of garden which she called her own. She may have
been my only disciple; and I confess that the thought of her yielding
a simple faith to what a gainsaying world may have regarded with
levity has contributed much to give an increased practical turn to my
reports of what I know about gardening. The thought that I had
misled a lady, whose age is not her only singularity, who looked to
me for advice which should be not at all the fanciful product of the
Garden of Gull, would give me great pain. I trust that her autumn is
a peaceful one, and undisturbed by either the humorous or the
satirical side of Nature.

You know that this attempt to tell the truth about one of the most
fascinating occupations in the world has not been without its
dangers. I have received anonymous letters. Some of them were
murderously spelled; others were missives in such elegant phrase and
dress, that danger was only to be apprehended in them by one skilled
in the mysteries of medieval poisoning, when death flew on the wings
of a perfume. One lady, whose entreaty that I should pause had
something of command in it, wrote that my strictures on "pusley" had
so inflamed her husband's zeal, that, in her absence in the country,
he had rooted up all her beds of portulaca (a sort of cousin of the
fat weed), and utterly cast it out. It is, however, to be expected,
that retributive justice would visit the innocent as well as the
guilty of an offending family. This is only another proof of the
wide sweep of moral forces. I suppose that it is as necessary in the
vegetable world as it is elsewhere to avoid the appearance of evil.

In offering you the fruit of my garden, which has been gathered from
week to week, without much reference to the progress of the crops or
the drought, I desire to acknowledge an influence which has lent half
the charm to my labor. If I were in a court of justice, or
injustice, under oath, I should not like to say, that, either in the
wooing days of spring, or under the suns of the summer solstice, you
had been, either with hoe, rake, or miniature spade, of the least use
in the garden; but your suggestions have been invaluable, and,
whenever used, have been paid for. Your horticultural inquiries have
been of a nature to astonish the vegetable world, if it listened, and
were a constant inspiration to research. There was almost nothing
that you did not wish to know; and this, added to what I wished to
know, made a boundless field for discovery. What might have become
of the garden, if your advice had been followed, a good Providence
only knows; but I never worked there without a consciousness that you
might at any moment come down the walk, under the grape-arbor,
bestowing glances of approval, that were none the worse for not being
critical; exercising a sort of superintendence that elevated
gardening into a fine art; expressing a wonder that was as
complimentary to me as it was to Nature; bringing an atmosphere which
made the garden a region of romance, the soil of which was set apart
for fruits native to climes unseen. It was this bright presence that
filled the garden, as it did the summer, with light, and now leaves
upon it that tender play of color and bloom which is called among the
Alps the after-glow.

NOOK FARM, HARTFORD, October, 1870

C. D. W.


The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the
latest. Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts. So
long as we are dirty, we are pure. Fondness for the ground comes
back to a man after he has run the round of pleasure and business,
eaten dirt, and sown wild-oats, drifted about the world, and taken
the wind of all its moods. The love of digging in the ground (or of
looking on while he pays another to dig) is as sure to come back to
him as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground, and stay there.
To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and
watch, their renewal of life, this is the commonest delight of the
race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do. When Cicero writes
of the pleasures of old age, that of agriculture is chief among them:

"Venio nunc ad voluptates agricolarum, quibus ego incredibiliter
delector: quae nec ulla impediuntur senectute, et mihi ad sapientis
vitam proxime videntur accedere." (I am driven to Latin because New
York editors have exhausted the English language in the praising of
spring, and especially of the month of May.)

Let us celebrate the soil. Most men toil that they may own a piece
of it; they measure their success in life by their ability to buy it.
It is alike the passion of the parvenu and the pride of the
aristocrat. Broad acres are a patent of nobility; and no man but
feels more, of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he
can call his own. However small it is on the surface, it is four
thousand miles deep; and that is a very handsome property. And there
is a great pleasure in working in the soil, apart from the ownership
of it. The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done
something for the good of the World. He belongs to the producers.
It is a pleasure to eat of the fruit of one's toil, if it be nothing
more than a head of lettuce or an ear of corn. One cultivates a lawn
even with great satisfaction; for there is nothing more beautiful
than grass and turf in our latitude. The tropics may have their
delights, but they have not turf: and the world without turf is a
dreary desert. The original Garden of Eden could not have had such
turf as one sees in England. The Teutonic races all love turf: they
emigrate in the line of its growth.

To dig in the mellow soil-to dig moderately, for all pleasure should
be taken sparingly--is a great thing. One gets strength out of the
ground as often as one really touches it with a hoe. Antaeus (this
is a classical article) was no doubt an agriculturist; and such a
prize-fighter as Hercules could n't do anything with him till he got
him to lay down his spade, and quit the soil. It is not simply beets
and potatoes and corn and string-beans that one raises in his
well-hoed garden: it is the average of human life. There is life in
the ground; it goes into the seeds; and it also, when it is stirred up,
goes into the man who stirs it. The hot sun on his back as he bends to
his shovel and hoe, or contemplatively rakes the warm and fragrant
loam, is better than much medicine. The buds are coming out on the
bushes round about; the blossoms of the fruit trees begin to show; the
blood is running up the grapevines in streams; you can smell the Wild
flowers on the near bank; and the birds are flying and glancing and
singing everywhere. To the open kitchen door comes the busy housewife
to shake a white something, and stands a moment to look, quite
transfixed by the delightful sights and sounds. Hoeing in the garden
on a bright, soft May day, when you are not obliged to, is nearly equal
to the delight of going trouting.

Blessed be agriculture! if one does not have too much of it. All
literature is fragrant with it, in a gentlemanly way. At the foot of
the charming olive-covered hills of Tivoli, Horace (not he of
Chappaqua) had a sunny farm: it was in sight of Hadrian's villa, who
did landscape gardening on an extensive scale, and probably did not
get half as much comfort out of it as Horace did from his more simply
tilled acres. We trust that Horace did a little hoeing and farming
himself, and that his verse is not all fraudulent sentiment. In
order to enjoy agriculture, you do not want too much of it, and you
want to be poor enough to have a little inducement to work moderately
yourself. Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.
It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.


Under this modest title, I purpose to write a series of papers, some
of which will be like many papers of garden-seeds, with nothing vital
in them, on the subject of gardening; holding that no man has any
right to keep valuable knowledge to himself, and hoping that those
who come after me, except tax-gatherers and that sort of person, will
find profit in the perusal of my experience. As my knowledge is
constantly increasing, there is likely to be no end to these papers.
They will pursue no orderly system of agriculture or horticulture,
but range from topic to topic, according to the weather and the
progress of the weeds, which may drive me from one corner of the
garden to the other.

The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not
to give the possessor vegetables or fruit (that can be better and
cheaper done by the market-gardeners), but to teach him patience
and philosophy and the higher virtues, hope deferred and
expectations blighted, leading directly to resignation and sometimes
to alienation. The garden thus becomes a moral agent, a test of
character, as it was in the beginning. I shall keep this central
truth in mind in these articles. I mean to have a moral garden, if
it is not a productive one,--one that shall teach, O my brothers!
O my sisters! the great lessons of life.

The first pleasant thing about a garden in this latitude is, that you
never know when to set it going. If you want anything to come to
maturity early, you must start it in a hot-house. If you put it out
early, the chances are all in favor of getting it nipped with frost;
for the thermometer will be 90 deg. one day, and go below 32 deg. the
night of the day following. And, if you do not set out plants or sow
seeds early, you fret continually; knowing that your vegetables will
be late, and that, while Jones has early peas, you will be watching
your slow-forming pods. This keeps you in a state of mind. When you
have planted anything early, you are doubtful whether to desire to
see it above ground, or not. If a hot day comes, you long to see the
young plants; but, when a cold north wind brings frost, you tremble
lest the seeds have burst their bands. Your spring is passed in
anxious doubts and fears, which are usually realized; and so a great
moral discipline is worked out for you.

Now, there is my corn, two or three inches high this 18th of May, and
apparently having no fear of a frost. I was hoeing it this morning
for the first time,--it is not well usually to hoe corn until about
the 18th of May,--when Polly came out to look at the Lima beans. She
seemed to think the poles had come up beautifully. I thought they
did look well: they are a fine set of poles, large and well grown,
and stand straight. They were inexpensive, too. The cheapness came
about from my cutting them on another man's land, and he did not know
it. I have not examined this transaction in the moral light of
gardening; but I know people in this country take great liberties at
the polls. Polly noticed that the beans had not themselves come up
in any proper sense, but that the dirt had got off from them, leaving
them uncovered. She thought it would be well to sprinkle a slight
layer of dirt over them; and I, indulgently, consented. It occurred
to me, when she had gone, that beans always come up that way,--wrong
end first; and that what they wanted was light, and not dirt.

Observation.--Woman always did, from the first, make a muss in a

I inherited with my garden a large patch of raspberries. Splendid
berry the raspberry, when the strawberry has gone. This patch has
grown into such a defiant attitude, that you could not get within
several feet of it. Its stalks were enormous in size, and cast out
long, prickly arms in all directions; but the bushes were pretty much
all dead. I have walked into them a good deal with a pruning-knife;
but it is very much like fighting original sin. The variety is one
that I can recommend. I think it is called Brinckley's Orange. It
is exceedingly prolific, and has enormous stalks. The fruit is also
said to be good; but that does not matter so much, as the plant does
not often bear in this region. The stalks seem to be biennial
institutions; and as they get about their growth one year, and bear
the next year, and then die, and the winters here nearly always kill
them, unless you take them into the house (which is inconvenient if
you have a family of small children), it is very difficult to induce
the plant to flower and fruit. This is the greatest objection there
is to this sort of raspberry. I think of keeping these for
discipline, and setting out some others, more hardy sorts, for fruit.


Next to deciding when to start your garden, the most important matter
is, what to put in it. It is difficult to decide what to order for
dinner on a given day: how much more oppressive is it to order in a
lump an endless vista of dinners, so to speak! For, unless your
garden is a boundless prairie (and mine seems to me to be that when I
hoe it on hot days), you must make a selection, from the great
variety of vegetables, of those you will raise in it; and you feel
rather bound to supply your own table from your own garden, and to
eat only as you have sown.

I hold that no man has a right (whatever his sex, of course) to have
a garden to his own selfish uses. He ought not to please himself,
but every man to please his neighbor. I tried to have a garden that
would give general moral satisfaction. It seemed to me that nobody
could object to potatoes (a most useful vegetable); and I began to
plant them freely. But there was a chorus of protest against them.
"You don't want to take up your ground with potatoes," the neighbors
said; "you can buy potatoes" (the very thing I wanted to avoid doing
is buying things). "What you want is the perishable things that you
cannot get fresh in the market."--"But what kind of perishable
things?" A horticulturist of eminence wanted me to sow lines of
straw-berries and raspberries right over where I had put my potatoes
in drills. I had about five hundred strawberry-plants in another
part of my garden; but this fruit-fanatic wanted me to turn my whole
patch into vines and runners. I suppose I could raise strawberries
enough for all my neighbors; and perhaps I ought to do it. I had a
little space prepared for melons,--muskmelons,--which I showed to an
experienced friend.

"You are not going to waste your ground on muskmelons?" he asked.
"They rarely ripen in this climate thoroughly, before frost." He had
tried for years without luck. I resolved to not go into such a
foolish experiment. But, the next day, another neighbor happened in.
"Ah! I see you are going to have melons. My family would rather give
up anything else in the garden than musk-melons,--of the nutmeg
variety. They are the most grateful things we have on the table."
So there it was. There was no compromise: it was melons, or no
melons, and somebody offended in any case. I half resolved to plant
them a little late, so that they would, and they would n't. But I
had the same difficulty about string-beans (which I detest), and
squash (which I tolerate), and parsnips, and the whole round of green

I have pretty much come to the conclusion that you have got to put
your foot down in gardening. If I had actually taken counsel of my
friends, I should not have had a thing growing in the garden to-day
but weeds. And besides, while you are waiting, Nature does not wait.
Her mind is made up. She knows just what she will raise; and she has
an infinite variety of early and late. The most humiliating thing to
me about a garden is the lesson it teaches of the inferiority of man.
Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible. She thrusts up her plants
with a vigor and freedom that I admire; and the more worthless the
plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth. She is at it early
and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of

"Eternal gardening is the price of liberty," is a motto that I should
put over the gateway of my garden, if I had a gate. And yet it is
not wholly true; for there is no liberty in gardening. The man who
undertakes a garden is relentlessly pursued. He felicitates himself
that, when he gets it once planted, he will have a season of rest and
of enjoyment in the sprouting and growing of his seeds. It is a
green anticipation. He has planted a seed that will keep him awake
nights; drive rest from his bones, and sleep from his pillow. Hardly
is the garden planted, when he must begin to hoe it. The weeds have
sprung up all over it in a night. They shine and wave in redundant
life. The docks have almost gone to seed; and their roots go deeper
than conscience. Talk about the London Docks!--the roots of these
are like the sources of the Aryan race. And the weeds are not all.
I awake in the morning (and a thriving garden will wake a person up
two hours before he ought to be out of bed) and think of the
tomato-plants,--the leaves like fine lace-work, owing to black bugs
that skip around, and can't be caught. Somebody ought to get up
before the dew is off (why don't the dew stay on till after a
reasonable breakfast?) and sprinkle soot on the leaves. I wonder if
it is I. Soot is so much blacker than the bugs, that they are
disgusted, and go away. You can't get up too early, if you have a
garden. You must be early due yourself, if you get ahead of the
bugs. I think, that, on the whole, it would be best to sit up all
night, and sleep daytimes. Things appear to go on in the night in
the garden uncommonly. It would be less trouble to stay up than it
is to get up so early.

I have been setting out some new raspberries, two sorts,--a silver
and a gold color. How fine they will look on the table next year in
a cut-glass dish, the cream being in a ditto pitcher! I set them
four and five feet apart. I set my strawberries pretty well apart
also. The reason is, to give room for the cows to run through when
they break into the garden,--as they do sometimes. A cow needs a
broader track than a locomotive; and she generally makes one. I am
sometimes astonished, to see how big a space in, a flower-bed her
foot will cover. The raspberries are called Doolittle and Golden
Cap. I don't like the name of the first variety, and, if they do
much, shall change it to Silver Top. You never can tell what a thing
named Doolittle will do. The one in the Senate changed color, and
got sour. They ripen badly,--either mildew, or rot on the bush.
They are apt to Johnsonize,--rot on the stem. I shall watch the


I believe that I have found, if not original sin, at least vegetable
total depravity in my garden; and it was there before I went into it.
It is the bunch, or joint, or snakegrass,--whatever it is called. As
I do not know the names of all the weeds and plants, I have to do as
Adam did in his garden,--name things as I find them. This grass has
a slender, beautiful stalk: and when you cut it down, or pull up a
long root of it, you fancy it is got rid of; but in a day or two it
will come up in the same spot in half a dozen vigorous blades.
Cutting down and pulling up is what it thrives on. Extermination
rather helps it. If you follow a slender white root, it will be
found to run under the ground until it meets another slender white
root; and you will soon unearth a network of them, with a knot
somewhere, sending out dozens of sharp-pointed, healthy shoots, every
joint prepared to be an independent life and plant. The only way to
deal with it is to take one part hoe and two parts fingers, and
carefully dig it out, not leaving a joint anywhere. It will take a
little time, say all summer, to dig out thoroughly a small patch; but
if you once dig it out, and keep it out, you will have no further

I have said it was total depravity. Here it is. If you attempt to
pull up and root out any sin in you, which shows on the surface,--if
it does not show, you do not care for it,--you may have noticed how
it runs into an interior network of sins, and an ever-sprouting
branch of them roots somewhere; and that you cannot pull out one
without making a general internal disturbance, and rooting up your
whole being. I suppose it is less trouble to quietly cut them off at
the top--say once a week, on Sunday, when you put on your religious
clothes and face so that no one will see them, and not try to
eradicate the network within.

Remark.--This moral vegetable figure is at the service of any
clergyman who will have the manliness to come forward and help me at
a day's hoeing on my potatoes. None but the orthodox need apply.

I, however, believe in the intellectual, if not the moral, qualities
of vegetables, and especially weeds. There was a worthless vine that
(or who) started up about midway between a grape-trellis and a row of
bean-poles, some three feet from each, but a little nearer the
trellis. When it came out of the ground, it looked around to see
what it should do. The trellis was already occupied. The bean-pole
was empty. There was evidently a little the best chance of light,
air, and sole proprietorship on the pole. And the vine started for
the pole, and began to climb it with determination. Here was as
distinct an act of choice, of reason, as a boy exercises when he goes
into a forest, and, looking about, decides which tree he will climb.
And, besides, how did the vine know enough to travel in exactly the
right direction, three feet, to find what it wanted? This is
intellect. The weeds, on the other hand, have hateful moral
qualities. To cut down a weed is, therefore, to do a moral action.
I feel as if I were destroying sin. My hoe becomes an instrument of
retributive justice. I am an apostle of Nature. This view of the
matter lends a dignity to the art of hoeing which nothing else does,
and lifts it into the region of ethics. Hoeing becomes, not a
pastime, but a duty. And you get to regard it so, as the days and
the weeds lengthen.

Observation.--Nevertheless, what a man needs in gardening is a
cast-iron back,--with a hinge in it. The hoe is an ingenious
instrument, calculated to call out a great deal of strength at a
great disadvantage.

The striped bug has come, the saddest of the year. He is a moral
double-ender, iron-clad at that. He is unpleasant in two ways. He
burrows in the ground so that you cannot find him, and he flies away
so that you cannot catch him. He is rather handsome, as bugs go, but
utterly dastardly, in that he gnaws the stem of the plant close to
the ground, and ruins it without any apparent advantage to himself.
I find him on the hills of cucumbers (perhaps it will be a
cholera-year, and we shall not want any), the squashes (small loss),
and the melons (which never ripen). The best way to deal with the
striped bug is to sit down by the hills, and patiently watch for him.
If you are spry, you can annoy him. This, however, takes time. It
takes all day and part of the night. For he flieth in darkness, and
wasteth at noonday. If you get up before the dew is off the plants,
--it goes off very early,--you can sprinkle soot on the plant (soot is
my panacea: if I can get the disease of a plant reduced to the
necessity of soot, I am all right) and soot is unpleasant to the bug.
But the best thing to do is to set a toad to catch the bugs. The
toad at once establishes the most intimate relations with the bug.
It is a pleasure to see such unity among the lower animals. The
difficulty is to make the toad stay and watch the hill. If you know
your toad, it is all right. If you do not, you must build a tight
fence round the plants, which the toad cannot jump over. This,
however, introduces a new element. I find that I have a zoological
garden on my hands. It is an unexpected result of my little
enterprise, which never aspired to the completeness of the Paris
"Jardin des Plantes."


Orthodoxy is at a low ebb. Only two clergymen accepted my offer to
come and help hoe my potatoes for the privilege of using my vegetable
total-depravity figure about the snake-grass, or quack-grass as some
call it; and those two did not bring hoes. There seems to be a lack
of disposition to hoe among our educated clergy. I am bound to say
that these two, however, sat and watched my vigorous combats with the
weeds, and talked most beautifully about the application of the
snake-grass figure. As, for instance, when a fault or sin showed on
the surface of a man, whether, if you dug down, you would find that
it ran back and into the original organic bunch of original sin
within the man. The only other clergyman who came was from out of
town,--a half Universalist, who said he wouldn't give twenty cents
for my figure. He said that the snake-grass was not in my garden
originally, that it sneaked in under the sod, and that it could be
entirely rooted out with industry and patience. I asked the
Universalist-inclined man to take my hoe and try it; but he said he
had n't time, and went away.

But, jubilate, I have got my garden all hoed the first time! I feel
as if I had put down the rebellion. Only there are guerrillas left
here and there, about the borders and in corners, unsubdued,--Forrest
docks, and Quantrell grass, and Beauregard pig-weeds. This first
hoeing is a gigantic task: it is your first trial of strength with
the never-sleeping forces of Nature. Several times, in its progress,
I was tempted to do as Adam did, who abandoned his garden on account
of the weeds. (How much my mind seems to run upon Adam, as if there
had been only two really moral gardens,--Adam's and mine!) The only
drawback to my rejoicing over the finishing of the first hoeing is,
that the garden now wants hoeing the second time. I suppose, if my
garden were planted in a perfect circle, and I started round it with
a hoe, I should never see an opportunity to rest. The fact is, that
gardening is the old fable of perpetual labor; and I, for one, can
never forgive Adam Sisyphus, or whoever it was, who let in the roots
of discord. I had pictured myself sitting at eve, with my family, in
the shade of twilight, contemplating a garden hoed. Alas! it is a
dream not to be realized in this world.

My mind has been turned to the subject of fruit and shade trees in a
garden. There are those who say that trees shade the garden too
much, and interfere with the growth of the vegetables. There may be
something in this: but when I go down the potato rows, the rays of
the sun glancing upon my shining blade, the sweat pouring from my
face, I should be grateful for shade. What is a garden for? The
pleasure of man. I should take much more pleasure in a shady garden.
Am I to be sacrificed, broiled, roasted, for the sake of the
increased vigor of a few vegetables? The thing is perfectly absurd.
If I were rich, I think I would have my garden covered with an
awning, so that it would be comfortable to work in it. It might roll
up and be removable, as the great awning of the Roman Coliseum was,
--not like the Boston one, which went off in a high wind. Another very
good way to do, and probably not so expensive as the awning, would be
to have four persons of foreign birth carry a sort of canopy over you
as you hoed. And there might be a person at each end of the row with
some cool and refreshing drink. Agriculture is still in a very
barbarous stage. I hope to live yet to see the day when I can do my
gardening, as tragedy is done, to slow and soothing music, and
attended by some of the comforts I have named. These things come so
forcibly into my mind sometimes as I work, that perhaps, when a
wandering breeze lifts my straw hat, or a bird lights on a near
currant-bush, and shakes out a full-throated summer song, I almost
expect to find the cooling drink and the hospitable entertainment at
the end of the row. But I never do. There is nothing to be done but
to turn round, and hoe back to the other end.

Speaking of those yellow squash-bugs, I think I disheartened them by
covering the plants so deep with soot and wood-ashes that they could
not find them; and I am in doubt if I shall ever see the plants
again. But I have heard of another defense against the bugs. Put a
fine wire-screen over each hill, which will keep out the bugs and
admit the rain. I should say that these screens would not cost much
more than the melons you would be likely to get from the vines if you
bought them; but then think of the moral satisfaction of watching the
bugs hovering over the screen, seeing, but unable to reach the tender
plants within. That is worth paying for.

I left my own garden yesterday, and went over to where Polly was
getting the weeds out of one of her flower-beds. She was working
away at the bed with a little hoe. Whether women ought to have the
ballot or not (and I have a decided opinion on that point, which I
should here plainly give, did I not fear that it would injure my
agricultural influence), 'I am compelled to say that this was rather
helpless hoeing. It was patient, conscientious, even pathetic
hoeing; but it was neither effective nor finished. When completed,
the bed looked somewhat as if a hen had scratched it: there was that
touching unevenness about it. I think no one could look at it and
not be affected. To be sure, Polly smoothed it off with a rake, and
asked me if it was n't nice; and I said it was. It was not a
favorable time for me to explain the difference between puttering
hoeing, and the broad, free sweep of the instrument, which kills the
weeds, spares the plants, and loosens the soil without leaving it in
holes and hills. But, after all, as life is constituted, I think
more of Polly's honest and anxious care of her plants than of the
most finished gardening in the world.


I left my garden for a week, just at the close of the dry spell. A
season of rain immediately set in, and when I returned the
transformation was wonderful. In one week every vegetable had fairly
jumped forward. The tomatoes which I left slender plants, eaten of
bugs and debating whether they would go backward or forward, had
become stout and lusty, with thick stems and dark leaves, and some of
them had blossomed. The corn waved like that which grows so rank out
of the French-English mixture at Waterloo. The squashes--I will not
speak of the squashes. The most remarkable growth was the asparagus.
There was not a spear above ground when I went away; and now it had
sprung up, and gone to seed, and there were stalks higher than my
head. I am entirely aware of the value of words, and of moral
obligations. When I say that the asparagus had grown six feet in
seven days, I expect and wish to be believed. I am a little
particular about the statement; for, if there is any prize offered
for asparagus at the next agricultural fair, I wish to compete,
--speed to govern. What I claim is the fastest asparagus. As for
eating purposes, I have seen better. A neighbor of mine, who looked
in at the growth of the bed, said, "Well, he'd be -----": but I told
him there was no use of affirming now; he might keep his oath till I
wanted it on the asparagus affidavit. In order to have this sort of
asparagus, you want to manure heavily in the early spring, fork it
in, and top-dress (that sounds technical) with a thick layer of
chloride of sodium: if you cannot get that, common salt will do, and
the neighbors will never notice whether it is the orthodox Na. Cl.
58-5, or not.

I scarcely dare trust myself to speak of the weeds. They grow as if
the devil was in them. I know a lady, a member of the church, and a
very good sort of woman, considering the subject condition of that
class, who says that the weeds work on her to that extent, that, in
going through her garden, she has the greatest difficulty in keeping
the ten commandments in anything like an unfractured condition. I
asked her which one, but she said, all of them: one felt like
breaking the whole lot. The sort of weed which I most hate (if I can
be said to hate anything which grows in my own garden) is the
"pusley," a fat, ground-clinging, spreading, greasy thing, and the
most propagatious (it is not my fault if the word is not in the
dictionary) plant I know. I saw a Chinaman, who came over with a
returned missionary, and pretended to be converted, boil a lot of it
in a pot, stir in eggs, and mix and eat it with relish,--"Me likee
he." It will be a good thing to keep the Chinamen on when they come
to do our gardening. I only fear they will cultivate it at the
expense of the strawberries and melons. Who can say that other
weeds, which we despise, may not be the favorite food of some remote
people or tribe? We ought to abate our conceit. It is possible that
we destroy in our gardens that which is really of most value in some
other place. Perhaps, in like manner, our faults and vices are
virtues in some remote planet. I cannot see, however, that this
thought is of the slightest value to us here, any more than weeds

There is another subject which is forced upon my notice. I like
neighbors, and I like chickens; but I do not think they ought to be
united near a garden. Neighbors' hens in your garden are an
annoyance. Even if they did not scratch up the corn, and peck the
strawberries, and eat the tomatoes, it is not pleasant to see them
straddling about in their jerky, high-stepping, speculative manner,
picking inquisitively here and there. It is of no use to tell the
neighbor that his hens eat your tomatoes: it makes no impression on
him, for the tomatoes are not his. The best way is to casually
remark to him that he has a fine lot of chickens, pretty well grown,
and that you like spring chickens broiled. He will take them away at

The neighbors' small children are also out of place in your garden,
in strawberry and currant time. I hope I appreciate the value of
children. We should soon come to nothing without them, though the
Shakers have the best gardens in the world. Without them the common
school would languish. But the problem is, what to do with them in a
garden. For they are not good to eat, and there is a law against
making away with them. The law is not very well enforced, it is
true; for people do thin them out with constant dosing, paregoric,
and soothing-syrups, and scanty clothing. But I, for one, feel that
it would not be right, aside from the law, to take the life, even of
the smallest child, for the sake of a little fruit, more or less, in
the garden. I may be wrong; but these are my sentiments, and I am
not ashamed of them. When we come, as Bryant says in his "Iliad," to
leave the circus of this life, and join that innumerable caravan
which moves, it will be some satisfaction to us, that we have never,
in the way of gardening, disposed of even the humblest child
unnecessarily. My plan would be to put them into Sunday-schools more
thoroughly, and to give the Sunday-schools an agricultural turn;
teaching the children the sacredness of neighbors' vegetables. I
think that our Sunday-schools do not sufficiently impress upon
children the danger, from snakes and otherwise, of going into the
neighbors' gardens.


Somebody has sent me a new sort of hoe, with the wish that I should
speak favorably of it, if I can consistently. I willingly do so, but
with the understanding that I am to be at liberty to speak just as
courteously of any other hoe which I may receive. If I understand
religious morals, this is the position of the religious press with
regard to bitters and wringing-machines. In some cases, the
responsibility of such a recommendation is shifted upon the wife of
the editor or clergy-man. Polly says she is entirely willing to make
a certificate, accompanied with an affidavit, with regard to this
hoe; but her habit of sitting about the garden walk, on an inverted
flower-pot, while I hoe, some what destroys the practical value of
her testimony.

As to this hoe, I do not mind saying that it has changed my view of
the desirableness and value of human life. It has, in fact, made
life a holiday to me. It is made on the principle that man is an
upright, sensible, reasonable being, and not a groveling wretch. It
does away with the necessity of the hinge in the back. The handle is
seven and a half feet long. There are two narrow blades, sharp on
both edges, which come together at an obtuse angle in front; and as
you walk along with this hoe before you, pushing and pulling with a
gentle motion, the weeds fall at every thrust and withdrawal, and the
slaughter is immediate and widespread. When I got this hoe I was
troubled with sleepless mornings, pains in the back, kleptomania with
regard to new weeders; when I went into my garden I was always sure
to see something. In this disordered state of mind and body I got
this hoe. The morning after a day of using it I slept perfectly and
late. I regained my respect for the eighth commandment. After two
doses of the hoe in the garden, the weeds entirely disappeared.
Trying it a third morning, I was obliged to throw it over the fence
in order to save from destruction the green things that ought to grow
in the garden. Of course, this is figurative language. What I mean
is, that the fascination of using this hoe is such that you are
sorely tempted to employ it upon your vegetables, after the weeds are
laid low, and must hastily withdraw it, to avoid unpleasant results.
I make this explanation, because I intend to put nothing into these
agricultural papers that will not bear the strictest scientific
investigation; nothing that the youngest child cannot understand and
cry for; nothing that the oldest and wisest men will not need to
study with care.

I need not add that the care of a garden with this hoe becomes the
merest pastime. I would not be without one for a single night. The
only danger is, that you may rather make an idol of the hoe, and
somewhat neglect your garden in explaining it, and fooling about with
it. I almost think that, with one of these in the hands of an
ordinary day-laborer, you might see at night where he had been

Let us have peas. I have been a zealous advocate of the birds. I
have rejoiced in their multiplication. I have endured their concerts
at four o'clock in the morning without a murmur. Let them come, I
said, and eat the worms, in order that we, later, may enjoy the
foliage and the fruits of the earth. We have a cat, a magnificent
animal, of the sex which votes (but not a pole-cat),--so large and
powerful that, if he were in the army, he would be called Long Tom.
He is a cat of fine disposition, the most irreproachable morals I
ever saw thrown away in a cat, and a splendid hunter. He spends his
nights, not in social dissipation, but in gathering in rats, mice,
flying-squirrels, and also birds. When he first brought me a bird, I
told him that it was wrong, and tried to convince him, while he was
eating it, that he was doing wrong; for he is a reasonable cat, and
understands pretty much everything except the binomial theorem and
the time down the cycloidal arc. But with no effect. The killing of
birds went on, to my great regret and shame.

The other day I went to my garden to get a mess of peas. I had seen,
the day before, that they were just ready to pick. How I had lined
the ground, planted, hoed, bushed them! The bushes were very fine,
--seven feet high, and of good wood. How I had delighted in the
growing, the blowing, the podding! What a touching thought it was
that they had all podded for me! When I went to pick them, I found
the pods all split open, and the peas gone. The dear little birds,
who are so fond of the strawberries, had eaten them all. Perhaps
there were left as many as I planted: I did not count them. I made a
rapid estimate of the cost of the seed, the interest of the ground,
the price of labor, the value of the bushes, the anxiety of weeks of
watchfulness. I looked about me on the face of Nature. The wind
blew from the south so soft and treacherous! A thrush sang in the
woods so deceitfully! All Nature seemed fair. But who was to give
me back my peas? The fowls of the air have peas; but what has man?

I went into the house. I called Calvin. (That is the name of our
cat, given him on account of his gravity, morality, and uprightness.
We never familiarly call him John). I petted Calvin. I lavished
upon him an enthusiastic fondness. I told him that he had no fault;
that the one action that I had called a vice was an heroic exhibition
of regard for my interests. I bade him go and do likewise
continually. I now saw how much better instinct is than mere
unguided reason. Calvin knew. If he had put his opinion into
English (instead of his native catalogue), it would have been: "You
need not teach your grandmother to suck eggs." It was only the round
of Nature. The worms eat a noxious something in the ground. The
birds eat the worms. Calvin eats the birds. We eat--no, we do not
eat Calvin. There the chain stops. When you ascend the scale of
being, and come to an animal that is, like ourselves, inedible, you
have arrived at a result where you can rest. Let us respect the cat.
He completes an edible chain.

I have little heart to discuss methods of raising peas. It occurs to
me that I can have an iron peabush, a sort of trellis, through which
I could discharge electricity at frequent intervals, and electrify
the birds to death when they alight: for they stand upon my beautiful
brush in order to pick out the peas. An apparatus of this kind, with
an operator, would cost, however, about as much as the peas. A
neighbor suggests that I might put up a scarecrow near the vines,
which would keep the birds away. I am doubtful about it: the birds
are too much accustomed to seeing a person in poor clothes in the
garden to care much for that. Another neighbor suggests that the
birds do not open the pods; that a sort of blast, apt to come after
rain, splits the pods, and the birds then eat the peas. It may be
so. There seems to be complete unity of action between the blast and
the birds. But, good neighbors, kind friends, I desire that you will
not increase, by talk, a disappointment which you cannot assuage.


A garden is an awful responsibility. You never know what you may be
aiding to grow in it. I heard a sermon, not long ago, in which the
preacher said that the Christian, at the moment of his becoming one,
was as perfect a Christian as he would be if he grew to be an
archangel; that is, that he would not change thereafter at all, but
only develop. I do not know whether this is good theology, or not; and
I hesitate to support it by an illustration from my garden, especially
as I do not want to run the risk of propagating error, and I do not
care to give away these theological comparisons to clergymen who make
me so little return in the way of labor. But I find, in dissecting a
pea-blossom, that hidden in the center of it is a perfect miniature
pea-pod, with the peas all in it,--as perfect a pea-pod as it will ever
be, only it is as tiny as a chatelaine ornament. Maize and some other
things show the same precocity. This confirmation of the theologic
theory is startling, and sets me meditating upon the moral
possibilities of my garden. I may find in it yet the cosmic egg.

And, speaking of moral things, I am half determined to petition the
Ecumenical Council to issue a bull of excommunication against
"pusley." Of all the forms which "error" has taken in this world,
I think that is about the worst. In the Middle Ages the monks in St.
Bernard's ascetic community at Clairvaux excommunicated a vineyard
which a less rigid monk had planted near, so that it bore nothing.
In 1120 a bishop of Laon excommunicated the caterpillars in his
diocese; and, the following year, St. Bernard excommunicated the
flies in the Monastery of Foigny; and in 1510 the ecclesiastical
court pronounced the dread sentence against the rats of Autun, Macon,
and Lyons. These examples are sufficient precedents. It will be
well for the council, however, not to publish the bull either just
before or just after a rain; for nothing can kill this pestilent
heresy when the ground is wet.

It is the time of festivals. Polly says we ought to have one,--a
strawberry-festival. She says they are perfectly delightful: it is
so nice to get people together!--this hot weather. They create such
a good feeling! I myself am very fond of festivals. I always go,
--when I can consistently. Besides the strawberries, there are ice
creams and cake and lemonade, and that sort of thing: and one always
feels so well the next day after such a diet! But as social
reunions, if there are good things to eat, nothing can be pleasanter;
and they are very profitable, if you have a good object. I agreed
that we ought to have a festival; but I did not know what object to
devote it to. We are not in need of an organ, nor of any
pulpit-cushions. I do not know that they use pulpit-cushions now as
much as they used to, when preachers had to have something soft to
pound, so that they would not hurt their fists. I suggested pocket
handkerchiefs, and flannels for next winter. But Polly says that will
not do at all. You must have some charitable object,--something that
appeals to a vast sense of something; something that it will be right
to get up lotteries and that sort of thing for. I suggest a festival
for the benefit of my garden; and this seems feasible. In order to
make everything pass off pleasantly, invited guests will bring or send
their own strawberries and cream, which I shall be happy to sell to
them at a slight advance. There are a great many improvements which
the garden needs; among them a sounding-board, so that the neighbors'
children can hear when I tell them to get a little farther off from the
currant-bushes. I should also like a selection from the ten
commandments, in big letters, posted up conspicuously, and a few traps,
that will detain, but not maim, for the benefit of those who cannot
read. But what is most important is, that the ladies should crochet
nets to cover over the strawberries. A good-sized, well-managed
festival ought to produce nets enough to cover my entire beds; and I
can think of no other method of preserving the berries from the birds
next year. I wonder how many strawberries it would need for a festival
and whether they would cost more than the nets.

I am more and more impressed, as the summer goes on, with the
inequality of man's fight with Nature; especially in a civilized
state. In savagery, it does not much matter; for one does not take a
square hold, and put out his strength, but rather accommodates
himself to the situation, and takes what he can get, without raising
any dust, or putting himself into everlasting opposition. But the
minute he begins to clear a spot larger than he needs to sleep in for
a night, and to try to have his own way in the least, Nature is at
once up, and vigilant, and contests him at every step with all her
ingenuity and unwearied vigor. This talk of subduing Nature is
pretty much nonsense. I do not intend to surrender in the midst of
the summer campaign, yet I cannot but think how much more peaceful my
relations would now be with the primal forces, if I had, let Nature
make the garden according to her own notion. (This is written with
the thermometer at ninety degrees, and the weeds starting up with a
freshness and vigor, as if they had just thought of it for the first
time, and had not been cut down and dragged out every other day since
the snow went off.)

We have got down the forests, and exterminated savage beasts; but
Nature is no more subdued than before: she only changes her tactics,
--uses smaller guns, so to speak. She reenforces herself with a
variety of bugs, worms, and vermin, and weeds, unknown to the savage
state, in order to make war upon the things of our planting; and
calls in the fowls of the air, just as we think the battle is won, to
snatch away the booty. When one gets almost weary of the struggle,
she is as fresh as at the beginning,--just, in fact, ready for the
fray. I, for my part, begin to appreciate the value of frost and
snow; for they give the husbandman a little peace, and enable him,
for a season, to contemplate his incessant foe subdued. I do not
wonder that the tropical people, where Nature never goes to sleep,
give it up, and sit in lazy acquiescence.

Here I have been working all the season to make a piece of lawn. It
had to be graded and sowed and rolled; and I have been shaving it
like a barber. When it was soft, everything had a tendency to go on
to it,--cows, and especially wandering hackmen. Hackmen (who are a
product of civilization) know a lawn when they see it. They rather
have a fancy for it, and always try to drive so as to cut the sharp
borders of it, and leave the marks of their wheels in deep ruts of
cut-up, ruined turf. The other morning, I had just been running the
mower over the lawn, and stood regarding its smoothness, when I
noticed one, two, three puffs of fresh earth in it; and, hastening
thither, I found that the mole had arrived to complete the work of
the hackmen. In a half-hour he had rooted up the ground like a pig.
I found his run-ways. I waited for him with a spade. He did not
appear; but, the next time I passed by, he had ridged the ground in
all directions,--a smooth, beautiful animal, with fur like silk, if
you could only catch him. He appears to enjoy the lawn as much as
the hackmen did. He does not care how smooth it is. He is
constantly mining, and ridging it up. I am not sure but he could be
countermined. I have half a mind to put powder in here and there,
and blow the whole thing into the air. Some folks set traps for the
mole; but my moles never seem to go twice in the same place. I am
not sure but it would bother them to sow the lawn with interlacing
snake-grass (the botanical name of which, somebody writes me, is
devil-grass: the first time I have heard that the Devil has a
botanical name), which would worry them, if it is as difficult for
them to get through it as it is for me.

I do not speak of this mole in any tone of complaint. He is only a
part of the untiring resources which Nature brings against the humble
gardener. I desire to write nothing against him which I should wish
to recall at the last,--nothing foreign to the spirit of that
beautiful saying of the dying boy, "He had no copy-book, which,
dying, he was sorry he had blotted."


My garden has been visited by a High Official Person. President
Gr-nt was here just before the Fourth, getting his mind quiet for
that event by a few days of retirement, staying with a friend at the
head of our street; and I asked him if he wouldn't like to come down
our way Sunday afternoon and take a plain, simple look at my garden,
eat a little lemon ice-cream and jelly-cake, and drink a glass of
native lager-beer. I thought of putting up over my gate, "Welcome
to the Nation's Gardener;" but I hate nonsense, and did n't do it.
I, however, hoed diligently on Saturday: what weeds I could n't
remove I buried, so that everything would look all right. The
borders of my drive were trimmed with scissors; and everything that
could offend the Eye of the Great was hustled out of the way.

In relating this interview, it must be distinctly understood that I
am not responsible for anything that the President said; nor is he,
either. He is not a great speaker; but whatever he says has an
esoteric and an exoteric meaning; and some of his remarks about my
vegetables went very deep. I said nothing to him whatever about
politics, at which he seemed a good deal surprised: he said it was
the first garden he had ever been in, with a man, when the talk was
not of appointments. I told him that this was purely vegetable;
after which he seemed more at his ease, and, in fact, delighted with
everything he saw. He was much interested in my strawberry-beds,
asked what varieties I had, and requested me to send him some seed.
He said the patent-office seed was as difficult to raise as an
appropriation for the St. Domingo business. The playful bean seemed
also to please him; and he said he had never seen such impressive
corn and potatoes at this time of year; that it was to him an
unexpected pleasure, and one of the choicest memories that he should
take away with him of his visit to New England.

N. B.--That corn and those potatoes which General Gr-nt looked at I
will sell for seed, at five dollars an ear, and one dollar a potato.
Office-seekers need not apply.

Knowing the President's great desire for peas, I kept him from that
part of the garden where the vines grow. But they could not be
concealed. Those who say that the President is not a man easily
moved are knaves or fools. When he saw my pea-pods, ravaged by the
birds, he burst into tears. A man of war, he knows the value of
peas. I told him they were an excellent sort, "The Champion of
England." As quick as a flash he said, "Why don't you call them 'The
Reverdy Johnson'?"

It was a very clever bon-mot; but I changed the subject.

The sight of my squashes, with stalks as big as speaking-trumpets,
restored the President to his usual spirits. He said the summer
squash was the most ludicrous vegetable he knew. It was nearly all
leaf and blow, with only a sickly, crook-necked fruit after a mighty
fuss. It reminded him of the member of Congress from...; but I
hastened to change the subject.

As we walked along, the keen eye of the President rested upon some
handsome sprays of "pusley," which must have grown up since Saturday
night. It was most fortunate; for it led his Excellency to speak of
the Chinese problem. He said he had been struck with one, coupling
of the Chinese and the "pusley" in one of my agricultural papers; and
it had a significance more far-reaching than I had probably supposed.
He had made the Chinese problem a special study. He said that I was
right in saying that "pusley" was the natural food of the Chinaman,
and that where the "pusley" was, there would the Chinaman be also.
For his part, he welcomed the Chinese emigration: we needed the
Chinaman in our gardens to eat the "pusley;" and he thought the whole
problem solved by this simple consideration. To get rid of rats and
"pusley," he said, was a necessity of our civilization. He did not
care so much about the shoe-business; he did not think that the
little Chinese shoes that he had seen would be of service in the
army: but the garden-interest was quite another affair. We want to
make a garden of our whole country: the hoe, in the hands of a man
truly great, he was pleased to say, was mightier than the pen. He
presumed that General B-tl-r had never taken into consideration the
garden-question, or he would not assume the position he does with
regard to the Chinese emigration. He would let the Chinese come,
even if B-tl-r had to leave, I thought he was going to say, but I
changed the subject.

During our entire garden interview (operatically speaking, the
garden-scene), the President was not smoking. I do not know how the
impression arose that he "uses tobacco in any form;" for I have seen
him several times, and he was not smoking. Indeed, I offered him a
Connecticut six; but he wittily said that he did not like a weed in a
garden,--a remark which I took to have a personal political bearing,
and changed the subject.

The President was a good deal surprised at the method and fine
appearance of my garden, and to learn that I had the sole care of it.
He asked me if I pursued an original course, or whether I got my
ideas from writers on the subject. I told him that I had had no time
to read anything on the subject since I began to hoe, except
"Lothair," from which I got my ideas of landscape gardening; and that
I had worked the garden entirely according to my own notions, except
that I had borne in mind his injunction, "to fight it out on this
line if"--The President stopped me abruptly, and said it was
unnecessary to repeat that remark: he thought he had heard it before.
Indeed, he deeply regretted that he had ever made it. Sometimes, he
said, after hearing it in speeches, and coming across it in
resolutions, and reading it in newspapers, and having it dropped
jocularly by facetious politicians, who were boring him for an
office, about twenty-five times a day, say for a month, it would get
to running through his head, like the "shoo-fly" song which B-tl-r
sings in the House, until it did seem as if he should go distracted.
He said, no man could stand that kind of sentence hammering on his
brain for years.

The President was so much pleased with my management of the garden,
that he offered me (at least, I so understood him) the position of
head gardener at the White House, to have care of the exotics. I
told him that I thanked him, but that I did not desire any foreign
appointment. I had resolved, when the administration came in, not to
take an appointment; and I had kept my resolution. As to any home
office, I was poor, but honest; and, of course, it would be useless
for me to take one. The President mused a moment, and then smiled,
and said he would see what could be done for me. I did not change
the subject; but nothing further was said by General Gr-nt.

The President is a great talker (contrary to the general impression);
but I think he appreciated his quiet hour in my garden. He said it
carried him back to his youth farther than anything he had seen
lately. He looked forward with delight to the time when he could
again have his private garden, grow his own lettuce and tomatoes, and
not have to get so much "sarce" from Congress.

The chair in which the President sat, while declining to take a glass
of lager I have had destroyed, in order that no one may sit in it.
It was the only way to save it, if I may so speak. It would have
been impossible to keep it from use by any precautions. There are
people who would have sat in it, if the seat had been set with iron
spikes. Such is the adoration of Station.


I am more and more impressed with the moral qualities of vegetables,
and contemplate forming a science which shall rank with comparative
anatomy and comparative philology,--the science of comparative
vegetable morality. We live in an age of protoplasm. And, if
life-matter is essentially the same in all forms of life, I purpose
to begin early, and ascertain the nature of the plants for which I am
responsible. I will not associate with any vegetable which is
disreputable, or has not some quality that can contribute to my moral
growth. I do not care to be seen much with the squashes or the
dead-beets. Fortunately I can cut down any sorts I do not like with
the hoe, and, probably, commit no more sin in so doing than the
Christians did in hewing down the Jews in the Middle Ages.

This matter of vegetable rank has not been at all studied as it
should be. Why do we respect some vegetables and despise others,
when all of them come to an equal honor or ignominy on the table?
The bean is a graceful, confiding, engaging vine; but you never can
put beans into poetry, nor into the highest sort of prose. There is
no dignity in the bean. Corn, which, in my garden, grows alongside
the bean, and, so far as I can see, with no affectation of
superiority, is, however, the child of song. It waves in all
literature. But mix it with beans, and its high tone is gone.
Succotash is vulgar. It is the bean in it. The bean is a vulgar
vegetable, without culture, or any flavor of high society among
vegetables. Then there is the cool cucumber, like so many people,
good for nothing when it is ripe and the wildness has gone out of it.
How inferior in quality it is to the melon, which grows upon a
similar vine, is of a like watery consistency, but is not half so
valuable! The cucumber is a sort of low comedian in a company where
the melon is a minor gentleman. I might also contrast the celery
with the potato. The associations are as opposite as the dining-room
of the duchess and the cabin of the peasant. I admire the potato,
both in vine and blossom; but it is not aristocratic. I began
digging my potatoes, by the way, about the 4th of July; and I fancy I
have discovered the right way to do it. I treat the potato just as I
would a cow. I do not pull them up, and shake them out, and destroy
them; but I dig carefully at the side of the hill, remove the fruit
which is grown, leaving the vine undisturbed: and my theory is, that
it will go on bearing, and submitting to my exactions, until the
frost cuts it down. It is a game that one would not undertake with a
vegetable of tone.

The lettuce is to me a most interesting study. Lettuce is like
conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you
scarcely notice the bitter in it. Lettuce, like most talkers, is,
however, apt to run rapidly to seed. Blessed is that sort which
comes to a head, and so remains, like a few people I know; growing
more solid and satisfactory and tender at the same time, and whiter
at the center, and crisp in their maturity. Lettuce, like
conversation, requires a good deal of oil to avoid friction, and keep
the company smooth; a pinch of attic salt; a dash of pepper; a quantity
of mustard and vinegar, by all means, but so mixed that you will notice
no sharp contrasts; and a trifle of sugar. You can put anything, and
the more things the better, into salad, as into a conversation; but
everything depends upon the skill of mixing. I feel that I am in the
best society when I am with lettuce. It is in the select circle of
vegetables. The tomato appears well on the table; but you do not want
to ask its origin. It is a most agreeable parvenu. Of course, I have
said nothing about the berries. They live in another and more ideal
region; except, perhaps, the currant. Here we see, that, even among
berries, there are degrees of breeding. The currant is well enough,
clear as truth, and exquisite in color; but I ask you to notice how far
it is from the exclusive hauteur of the aristocratic strawberry, and
the native refinement of the quietly elegant raspberry.

I do not know that chemistry, searching for protoplasm, is able to
discover the tendency of vegetables. It can only be found out by
outward observation. I confess that I am suspicious of the bean, for
instance. There are signs in it of an unregulated life. I put up
the most attractive sort of poles for my Limas. They stand high and
straight, like church-spires, in my theological garden,--lifted
up; and some of them have even budded, like Aaron's rod. No
church-steeple in a New England village was ever better fitted to draw
to it the rising generation on Sunday, than those poles to lift up my
beans towards heaven. Some of them did run up the sticks seven feet,
and then straggled off into the air in a wanton manner; but more than
half of them went gallivanting off to the neighboring grape-trellis,
and wound their tendrils with the tendrils of the grape, with a
disregard of the proprieties of life which is a satire upon human
nature. And the grape is morally no better. I think the ancients, who
were not troubled with the recondite mystery of protoplasm, were right
in the mythic union of Bacchus and Venus.

Talk about the Darwinian theory of development, and the principle of
natural selection! I should like to see a garden let to run in
accordance with it. If I had left my vegetables and weeds to a free
fight, in which the strongest specimens only should come to maturity,
and the weaker go to the wall, I can clearly see that I should have
had a pretty mess of it. It would have been a scene of passion and
license and brutality. The "pusley" would have strangled the
strawberry; the upright corn, which has now ears to hear the guilty
beating of the hearts of the children who steal the raspberries,
would have been dragged to the earth by the wandering bean; the
snake-grass would have left no place for the potatoes under ground;
and the tomatoes would have been swamped by the lusty weeds. With a
firm hand, I have had to make my own "natural selection." Nothing
will so well bear watching as a garden, except a family of children
next door. Their power of selection beats mine. If they could read
half as well as they can steal awhile away, I should put up a notice,
"Children, beware! There is Protoplasm here." But I suppose it would
have no effect. I believe they would eat protoplasm as quick as
anything else, ripe or green. I wonder if this is going to be a
cholera-year. Considerable cholera is the only thing that would let
my apples and pears ripen. Of course I do not care for the fruit;
but I do not want to take the responsibility of letting so much
"life-matter," full of crude and even wicked vegetable-human
tendencies, pass into the composition of the neighbors' children,
some of whom may be as immortal as snake-grass. There ought to be a
public meeting about this, and resolutions, and perhaps a clambake.
At least, it ought to be put into the catechism, and put in strong.


I think I have discovered the way to keep peas from the birds. I
tried the scarecrow plan, in a way which I thought would outwit the
shrewdest bird. The brain of the bird is not large; but it is all
concentrated on one object, and that is the attempt to elude the
devices of modern civilization which injure his chances of food. I
knew that, if I put up a complete stuffed man, the bird would detect
the imitation at once: the perfection of the thing would show him
that it was a trick. People always overdo the matter when they
attempt deception. I therefore hung some loose garments, of a bright
color, upon a rake-head, and set them up among the vines. The
supposition was, that the bird would think there was an effort to
trap him, that there was a man behind, holding up these garments, and
would sing, as he kept at a distance, "You can't catch me with any
such double device." The bird would know, or think he knew, that I
would not hang up such a scare, in the expectation that it would pass
for a man, and deceive a bird; and he would therefore look for a
deeper plot. I expected to outwit the bird by a duplicity that was
simplicity itself I may have over-calculated the sagacity and
reasoning power of the bird. At any rate, I did over-calculate the
amount of peas I should gather.

But my game was only half played. In another part of the garden were
other peas, growing and blowing. To-these I took good care not to
attract the attention of the bird by any scarecrow whatever! I left
the old scarecrow conspicuously flaunting above the old vines; and by
this means I hope to keep the attention of the birds confined to that
side of the garden. I am convinced that this is the true use of a
scarecrow: it is a lure, and not a warning. If you wish to save men
from any particular vice, set up a tremendous cry of warning about
some other; and they will all give their special efforts to the one
to which attention is called. This profound truth is about the only
thing I have yet realized out of my pea-vines.

However, the garden does begin to yield. I know of nothing that
makes one feel more complacent, in these July days, than to have his
vegetables from his own garden. What an effect it has on the
market-man and the butcher! It is a kind of declaration of
independence. The market-man shows me his peas and beets and
tomatoes, and supposes he shall send me out some with the meat. "No,
I thank you," I say carelessly; "I am raising my own this year."
Whereas I have been wont to remark, "Your vegetables look a little
wilted this weather," I now say, "What a fine lot of vegetables
you've got!" When a man is not going to buy, he can afford to be
generous. To raise his own vegetables makes a person feel, somehow,
more liberal. I think the butcher is touched by the influence, and
cuts off a better roast for me, The butcher is my friend when he sees
that I am not wholly dependent on him.

It is at home, however, that the effect is most marked, though
sometimes in a way that I had not expected. I have never read of any
Roman supper that seemed to me equal to a dinner of my own
vegetables; when everything on the table is the product of my own
labor, except the clams, which I have not been able to raise yet, and
the chickens, which have withdrawn from the garden just when they
were most attractive. It is strange what a taste you suddenly have
for things you never liked before. The squash has always been to me
a dish of contempt; but I eat it now as if it were my best friend. I
never cared for the beet or the bean; but I fancy now that I could
eat them all, tops and all, so completely have they been transformed
by the soil in which they grew. I think the squash is less squashy,
and the beet has a deeper hue of rose, for my care of them.

I had begun to nurse a good deal of pride in presiding over a table
whereon was the fruit of my honest industry. But woman!--John Stuart
Mill is right when he says that we do not know anything about women.
Six thousand years is as one day with them. I thought I had
something to do with those vegetables. But when I saw Polly seated
at her side of the table, presiding over the new and susceptible
vegetables, flanked by the squash and the beans, and smiling upon the
green corn and the new potatoes, as cool as the cucumbers which lay
sliced in ice before her, and when she began to dispense the fresh
dishes, I saw at once that the day of my destiny was over. You would
have thought that she owned all the vegetables, and had raised them
all from their earliest years. Such quiet, vegetable airs! Such
gracious appropriation! At length I said,--

"Polly, do you know who planted that squash, or those squashes?"

"James, I suppose."

"Well, yes, perhaps James did plant them, to a certain extent. But
who hoed them?"

"We did."

"We did!" I said, in the most sarcastic manner.

And I suppose we put on the sackcloth and ashes, when the striped bug
came at four o'clock A.M., and we watched the tender leaves, and
watered night and morning the feeble plants. "I tell you, Polly,"
said I, uncorking the Bordeaux raspberry vinegar, "there is not a pea
here that does not represent a drop of moisture wrung from my brow,
not a beet that does not stand for a back-ache, not a squash that has
not caused me untold anxiety; and I did hope--but I will say no

Observation.--In this sort of family discussion, "I will say no
more" is the most effective thing you can close up with.

I am not an alarmist. I hope I am as cool as anybody this hot
summer. But I am quite ready to say to Polly, or any other woman,
"You can have the ballot; only leave me the vegetables, or, what is
more important, the consciousness of power in vegetables." I see how
it is. Woman is now supreme in the house. She already stretches out
her hand to grasp the garden. She will gradually control everything.
Woman is one of the ablest and most cunning creatures who have ever
mingled in human affairs. I understand those women who say they
don't want the ballot. They purpose to hold the real power while we
go through the mockery of making laws. They want the power without
the responsibility. (Suppose my squash had not come up, or my beans
--as they threatened at one time--had gone the wrong way: where would
I have been?) We are to be held to all the responsibilities. Woman
takes the lead in all the departments, leaving us politics only. And
what is politics? Let me raise the vegetables of a nation, says
Polly, and I care not who makes its politics. Here I sat at the
table, armed with the ballot, but really powerless among my own
vegetables. While we are being amused by the ballot, woman is
quietly taking things into her own hands.


Perhaps, after all, it is not what you get out of a garden, but what
you put into it, that is the most remunerative. What is a man? A
question frequently asked, and never, so far as I know,
satisfactorily answered. He commonly spends his seventy years, if so
many are given him, in getting ready to enjoy himself. How many
hours, how many minutes, does one get of that pure content which is
happiness? I do not mean laziness, which is always discontent; but
that serene enjoyment, in which all the natural senses have easy
play, and the unnatural ones have a holiday. There is probably
nothing that has such a tranquilizing effect, and leads into such
content as gardening. By gardening, I do not mean that insane desire
to raise vegetables which some have; but the philosophical occupation
of contact with the earth, and companionship with gently growing
things and patient processes; that exercise which soothes the spirit,
and develops the deltoid muscles.

In half an hour I can hoe myself right away from this world, as we
commonly see it, into a large place, where there are no obstacles.
What an occupation it is for thought! The mind broods like a hen on
eggs. The trouble is, that you are not thinking about anything, but
are really vegetating like the plants around you. I begin to know
what the joy of the grape-vine is in running up the trellis, which is
similar to that of the squirrel in running up a tree. We all have
something in our nature that requires contact with the earth. In the
solitude of garden-labor, one gets into a sort of communion with the
vegetable life, which makes the old mythology possible. For
instance, I can believe that the dryads are plenty this summer: my
garden is like an ash-heap. Almost all the moisture it has had in
weeks has been the sweat of honest industry.

The pleasure of gardening in these days, when the thermometer is at
ninety, is one that I fear I shall not be able to make intelligible
to my readers, many of whom do not appreciate the delight of soaking
in the sunshine. I suppose that the sun, going through a man, as it
will on such a day, takes out of him rheumatism, consumption, and
every other disease, except sudden death--from sun-stroke. But,
aside from this, there is an odor from the evergreens, the hedges,
the various plants and vines, that is only expressed and set afloat
at a high temperature, which is delicious; and, hot as it may be, a
little breeze will come at intervals, which can be heard in the
treetops, and which is an unobtrusive benediction. I hear a quail or
two whistling in the ravine; and there is a good deal of fragmentary
conversation going on among the birds, even on the warmest days. The
companionship of Calvin, also, counts for a good deal. He usually
attends me, unless I work too long in one place; sitting down on the
turf, displaying the ermine of his breast, and watching my movements
with great intelligence. He has a feline and genuine love for the
beauties of Nature, and will establish himself where there is a good
view, and look on it for hours. He always accompanies us when we go
to gather the vegetables, seeming to be desirous to know what we are
to have for dinner. He is a connoisseur in the garden; being fond of
almost all the vegetables, except the cucumber,--a dietetic hint to
man. I believe it is also said that the pig will not eat tobacco.
These are important facts. It is singular, however, that those who
hold up the pigs as models to us never hold us up as models to the

I wish I knew as much about natural history and the habits of animals
as Calvin does. He is the closest observer I ever saw; and there are
few species of animals on the place that he has not analyzed. I
think he has, to use a euphemism very applicable to him, got outside
of every one of them, except the toad. To the toad he is entirely
indifferent; but I presume he knows that the toad is the most useful
animal in the garden. I think the Agricultural Society ought to
offer a prize for the finest toad. When Polly comes to sit in the
shade near my strawberry-beds, to shell peas, Calvin is always lying
near in apparent obliviousness; but not the slightest unusual sound
can be made in the bushes, that he is not alert, and prepared to
investigate the cause of it. It is this habit of observation, so
cultivated, which has given him such a trained mind, and made him so
philosophical. It is within the capacity of even the humblest of us
to attain this.

And, speaking of the philosophical temper, there is no class of men
whose society is more to be desired for this quality than that of
plumbers. They are the most agreeable men I know; and the boys in
the business begin to be agreeable very early. I suspect the secret
of it is, that they are agreeable by the hour. In the driest days,
my fountain became disabled: the pipe was stopped up. A couple of
plumbers, with the implements of their craft, came out to view the
situation. There was a good deal of difference of opinion about
where the stoppage was. I found the plumbers perfectly willing to
sit down and talk about it,--talk by the hour. Some of their guesses
and remarks were exceedingly ingenious; and their general
observations on other subjects were excellent in their way, and could
hardly have been better if they had been made by the job. The work
dragged a little, as it is apt to do by the hour. The plumbers had
occasion to make me several visits. Sometimes they would find, upon
arrival, that they had forgotten some indispensable tool; and one
would go back to the shop, a mile and a half, after it; and his
comrade would await his return with the most exemplary patience, and
sit down and talk,--always by the hour. I do not know but it is a
habit to have something wanted at the shop. They seemed to me very
good workmen, and always willing to stop and talk about the job, or
anything else, when I went near them. Nor had they any of that
impetuous hurry that is said to be the bane of our American
civilization. To their credit be it said, that I never observed
anything of it in them. They can afford to wait. Two of them will
sometimes wait nearly half a day while a comrade goes for a tool.
They are patient and philosophical. It is a great pleasure to meet
such men. One only wishes there was some work he could do for them
by the hour. There ought to be reciprocity. I think they have very
nearly solved the problem of Life: it is to work for other people,
never for yourself, and get your pay by the hour. You then have no
anxiety, and little work. If you do things by the job, you are
perpetually driven: the hours are scourges. If you work by the hour,
you gently sail on the stream of Time, which is always bearing you on
to the haven of Pay, whether you make any effort, or not. Working by
the hour tends to make one moral. A plumber working by the job,
trying to unscrew a rusty, refractory nut, in a cramped position,
where the tongs continually slipped off, would swear; but I never
heard one of them swear, or exhibit the least impatience at such a
vexation, working by the hour. Nothing can move a man who is paid by
the hour. How sweet the flight of time seems to his calm mind!


Mr. Horace Greeley, the introduction of whose name confers an honor
upon this page (although I ought to say that it is used entirely
without his consent), is my sole authority in agriculture. In
politics I do not dare to follow him; but in agriculture he is
irresistible. When, therefore, I find him advising Western farmers
not to hill up their corn, I think that his advice must be political.
You must hill up your corn. People always have hilled up their corn.
It would take a constitutional amendment to change the practice, that
has pertained ever since maize was raised. "It will stand the
drought better," says Mr. Greeley, "if the ground is left level." I
have corn in my garden, ten and twelve feet high, strong and lusty,
standing the drought like a grenadier; and it is hilled. In advising
this radical change, Mr. Greeley evidently has a political purpose.
He might just as well say that you should not hill beans, when
everybody knows that a "hill of beans" is one of the most expressive
symbols of disparagement. When I become too lazy to hill my corn, I,
too, shall go into politics.

I am satisfied that it is useless to try to cultivate "pusley." I set
a little of it one side, and gave it some extra care. It did not
thrive as well as that which I was fighting. The fact is, there is a
spirit of moral perversity in the plant, which makes it grow the
more, the more it is interfered with. I am satisfied of that. I
doubt if any one has raised more "pusley" this year than I have; and
my warfare with it has been continual. Neither of us has slept much.
If you combat it, it will grow, to use an expression that will be
understood by many, like the devil. I have a neighbor, a good
Christian man, benevolent, and a person of good judgment. He planted
next to me an acre of turnips recently. A few days after, he went to
look at his crop; and he found the entire ground covered with a thick
and luxurious carpet of "pusley," with a turnip-top worked in here
and there as an ornament. I have seldom seen so thrifty a field. I
advised my neighbor next time to sow "pusley" and then he might get a
few turnips. I wish there was more demand in our city markets for
"pusley" as a salad. I can recommend it.

It does not take a great man to soon discover that, in raising
anything, the greater part of the plants goes into stalk and leaf,
and the fruit is a most inconsiderable portion. I plant and hoe a
hill of corn: it grows green and stout, and waves its broad leaves
high in the air, and is months in perfecting itself, and then yields
us not enough for a dinner. It grows because it delights to do so,
--to take the juices out of my ground, to absorb my fertilizers, to
wax luxuriant, and disport itself in the summer air, and with very
little thought of making any return to me. I might go all through my
garden and fruit trees with a similar result. I have heard of places
where there was very little land to the acre. It is universally true
that there is a great deal of vegetable show and fuss for the result
produced. I do not complain of this. One cannot expect vegetables
to be better than men: and they make a great deal of ostentatious
splurge; and many of them come to no result at last. Usually, the
more show of leaf and wood, the less fruit. This melancholy
reflection is thrown in here in order to make dog-days seem cheerful
in comparison.

One of the minor pleasures of life is that of controlling vegetable
activity and aggressions with the pruning-knife. Vigorous and rapid
growth is, however, a necessity to the sport. To prune feeble plants
and shrubs is like acting the part of dry-nurse to a sickly orphan.
You must feel the blood of Nature bound under your hand, and get the
thrill of its life in your nerves. To control and culture a strong,
thrifty plant in this way is like steering a ship under full headway,
or driving a locomotive with your hand on the lever, or pulling the
reins over a fast horse when his blood and tail are up. I do not
understand, by the way, the pleasure of the jockey in setting up the
tail of the horse artificially. If I had a horse with a tail not
able to sit up, I should feed the horse, and curry him into good
spirits, and let him set up his own tail. When I see a poor,
spiritless horse going by with an artificially set-up tail, it is
only a signal of distress. I desire to be surrounded only by
healthy, vigorous plants and trees, which require constant cutting-in
and management. Merely to cut away dead branches is like perpetual
attendance at a funeral, and puts one in low spirits. I want to have
a garden and orchard rise up and meet me every morning, with the
request to "lay on, Macduff." I respect old age; but an old
currant-bush, hoary with mossy bark, is a melancholy spectacle.

I suppose the time has come when I am expected to say something about
fertilizers: all agriculturists do. When you plant, you think you
cannot fertilize too much: when you get the bills for the manure, you
think you cannot fertilize too little. Of course you do not expect
to get the value of the manure back in fruits and vegetables; but
something is due to science,--to chemistry in particular. You must
have a knowledge of soils, must have your soil analyzed, and then go
into a course of experiments to find what it needs. It needs
analyzing,--that, I am clear about: everything needs that. You had
better have the soil analyzed before you buy: if there is "pusley"
in it, let it alone. See if it is a soil that requires much hoeing,
and how fine it will get if there is no rain for two months. But
when you come to fertilizing, if I understand the agricultural
authorities, you open a pit that will ultimately swallow you up,
--farm and all. It is the great subject of modern times, how to
fertilize without ruinous expense; how, in short, not to starve the
earth to death while we get our living out of it. Practically, the
business is hardly to the taste of a person of a poetic turn of mind.
The details of fertilizing are not agreeable. Michael Angelo, who
tried every art, and nearly every trade, never gave his mind to
fertilizing. It is much pleasanter and easier to fertilize with a
pen, as the agricultural writers do, than with a fork. And this
leads me to say, that, in carrying on a garden yourself, you must
have a "consulting" gardener; that is, a man to do the heavy and
unpleasant work. To such a man, I say, in language used by
Demosthenes to the Athenians, and which is my advice to all
gardeners, "Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize!"


I find that gardening has unsurpassed advantages for the study of
natural history; and some scientific facts have come under my own
observation, which cannot fail to interest naturalists and
un-naturalists in about the same degree. Much, for instance, has
been written about the toad, an animal without which no garden would
be complete. But little account has been made of his value: the
beauty of his eye alone has been dwelt on; and little has been said
of his mouth, and its important function as a fly and bug trap. His
habits, and even his origin, have been misunderstood. Why, as an
illustration, are toads so plenty after a thunder-shower? All my
life long, no one has been able to answer me that question. Why,
after a heavy shower, and in the midst of it, do such multitudes of
toads, especially little ones, hop about on the gravel-walks? For
many years, I believed that they rained down; and I suppose many
people think so still. They are so small, and they come in such
numbers only in the shower, that the supposition is not a violent
one. "Thick as toads after a shower," is one of our best proverbs.
I asked an explanation 'of this of a thoughtful woman,--indeed, a
leader in the great movement to have all the toads hop in any
direction, without any distinction of sex or religion. Her reply
was, that the toads come out during the shower to get water. This,
however, is not the fact. I have discovered that they come out not
to get water. I deluged a dry flower-bed, the other night, with
pailful after pailful of water. Instantly the toads came out of
their holes in the dirt, by tens and twenties and fifties, to escape
death by drowning. The big ones fled away in a ridiculous streak of
hopping; and the little ones sprang about in the wildest confusion.
The toad is just like any other land animal: when his house is full
of water, he quits it. These facts, with the drawings of the water
and the toads, are at the service of the distinguished scientists of
Albany in New York, who were so much impressed by the Cardiff Giant.

The domestic cow is another animal whose ways I have a chance to
study, and also to obliterate in the garden. One of my neighbors has
a cow, but no land; and he seems desirous to pasture her on the
surface of the land of other people: a very reasonable desire. The
man proposed that he should be allowed to cut the grass from my
grounds for his cow. I knew the cow, having often had her in my
garden; knew her gait and the size of her feet, which struck me as a
little large for the size of the body. Having no cow myself, but
acquaintance with my neighbor's, I told him that I thought it would
be fair for him to have the grass. He was, therefore, to keep the
grass nicely cut, and to keep his cow at home. I waited some time
after the grass needed cutting; and, as my neighbor did not appear, I
hired it cut. No sooner was it done than he promptly appeared, and
raked up most of it, and carried it away. He had evidently been
waiting that opportunity. When the grass grew again, the neighbor
did not appear with his scythe; but one morning I found the cow
tethered on the sward, hitched near the clothes-horse, a short
distance from the house. This seemed to be the man's idea of the
best way to cut the grass. I disliked to have the cow there, because
I knew her inclination to pull up the stake, and transfer her field
of mowing to the garden, but especially because of her voice. She
has the most melancholy "moo" I ever heard. It is like the wail of
one uninfallible, excommunicated, and lost. It is a most distressing
perpetual reminder of the brevity of life and the shortness of feed.
It is unpleasant to the family. We sometimes hear it in the middle
of the night, breaking the silence like a suggestion of coming
calamity. It is as bad as the howling of a dog at a funeral.

I told the man about it; but he seemed to think that he was not
responsible for the cow's voice. I then told him to take her away;
and he did, at intervals, shifting her to different parts of the
grounds in my absence, so that the desolate voice would startle us
from unexpected quarters. If I were to unhitch the cow, and turn her
loose, I knew where she would go. If I were to lead her away, the
question was, Where? for I did not fancy leading a cow about till I
could find somebody who was willing to pasture her. To this dilemma
had my excellent neighbor reduced me. But I found him, one Sunday
morning,--a day when it would not do to get angry, tying his cow at
the foot of the hill; the beast all the time going on in that
abominable voice. I told the man that I could not have the cow in
the grounds. He said, "All right, boss;" but he did not go away. I
asked him to clear out. The man, who is a French sympathizer from
the Republic of Ireland, kept his temper perfectly. He said he
wasn't doing anything, just feeding his cow a bit: he wouldn't make
me the least trouble in the world. I reminded him that he had been
told again and again not to come here; that he might have all the
grass, but he should not bring his cow upon the premises. The
imperturbable man assented to everything that I said, and kept on
feeding his cow. Before I got him to go to fresh scenes and pastures
new, the Sabbath was almost broken; but it was saved by one thing: it
is difficult to be emphatic when no one is emphatic on the other
side. The man and his cow have taught me a great lesson, which I
shall recall when I keep a cow. I can recommend this cow, if anybody
wants one, as a steady boarder, whose keeping will cost the owner
little; but, if her milk is at all like her voice, those who drink it
are on the straight road to lunacy.

I think I have said that we have a game-preserve. We keep quails, or
try to, in the thickly wooded, bushed, and brushed ravine. This bird
is a great favorite with us, dead or alive, on account of its
tasteful plumage, its tender flesh, its domestic virtues, and its
pleasant piping. Besides, although I appreciate toads and cows, and
all that sort of thing, I like to have a game-preserve more in the
English style. And we did. For in July, while the game-law was on,
and the young quails were coming on, we were awakened one morning by
firing,--musketry-firing, close at hand. My first thought was, that
war was declared; but, as I should never pay much attention to war
declared at that time in the morning, I went to sleep again. But the
occurrence was repeated,--and not only early in the morning, but at
night. There was calling of dogs, breaking down of brush, and firing
of guns. It is hardly pleasant to have guns fired in the direction of
the house, at your own quails. The hunters could be sometimes seen,
but never caught. Their best time was about sunrise; but, before one
could dress and get to the front, they would retire.

One morning, about four o'clock, I heard the battle renewed. I
sprang up, but not in arms, and went to a window. Polly (like
another 'blessed damozel') flew to another window,--

   "The blessed damozel leaned out
    From the gold bar of heaven,"

and reconnoitered from behind the blinds.

   "The wonder was not yet quite gone
    From that still look of hers,"

when an armed man and a legged dog appeared in the opening. I was
vigilantly watching him.

    . . . . "And now
    She spoke through the still weather."

"Are you afraid to speak to him?" asked Polly.

Not exactly,

    . . . ."she spoke as when
    The stars sang in their spheres.

"Stung by this inquiry, I leaned out of the window till

   "The bar I leaned on (was) warm,"

and cried,--

"Halloo, there! What are you doing?"

"Look out he don't shoot you," called out Polly from the other
window, suddenly going on another tack.

I explained that a sportsman would not be likely to shoot a gentleman
in his own house, with bird-shot, so long as quails were to be had.

"You have no business here: what are you after?" I repeated.

"Looking for a lost hen," said the man as he strode away.

The reply was so satisfactory and conclusive that I shut the blinds
and went to bed.

But one evening I overhauled one of the poachers. Hearing his dog in
the thicket, I rushed through the brush, and came in sight of the
hunter as he was retreating down the road. He came to a halt; and we
had some conversation in a high key. Of course I threatened to
prosecute him. I believe that is the thing to do in such cases; but
how I was to do it, when I did not know his name or ancestry, and
couldn't see his face, never occurred to me. (I remember, now, that
a farmer once proposed to prosecute me when I was fishing in a
trout-brook on his farm, and asked my name for that purpose.) He
said he should smile to see me prosecute him.

"You can't do it: there ain't no notice up about trespassing."

This view of the common law impressed me; and I said,

"But these are private grounds."

"Private h---!" was all his response.

You can't argue much with a man who has a gun in his hands, when you
have none. Besides, it might be a needle-gun, for aught I knew. I
gave it up, and we separated.

There is this disadvantage about having a game preserve attached to
your garden: it makes life too lively.


In these golden latter August days, Nature has come to a serene
equilibrium. Having flowered and fruited, she is enjoying herself.
I can see how things are going: it is a down-hill business after
this; but, for the time being, it is like swinging in a hammock,
--such a delicious air, such a graceful repose! I take off my hat as
I stroll into the garden and look about; and it does seem as if
Nature had sounded a truce. I did n't ask for it. I went out with a
hoe; but the serene sweetness disarms me. Thrice is he armed who has
a long-handled hoe, with a double blade. Yet to-day I am almost
ashamed to appear in such a belligerent fashion, with this terrible
mitrailleuse of gardening.

The tomatoes are getting tired of ripening, and are beginning to go
into a worthless condition,--green. The cucumbers cumber the
ground,--great yellow, over-ripe objects, no more to be compared to
the crisp beauty of their youth than is the fat swine of the sty to
the clean little pig. The nutmeg-melons, having covered themselves
with delicate lace-work, are now ready to leave the vine. I know
they are ripe if they come easily off the stem.

Moral Observations.--You can tell when people are ripe by their
willingness to let go. Richness and ripeness are not exactly the
same. The rich are apt to hang to the stem with tenacity. I have
nothing against the rich. If I were not virtuous, I should like to
be rich. But we cannot have everything, as the man said when he was
down with small-pox and cholera, and the yellow fever came into the

Now, the grapes, soaked in this liquid gold, called air, begin to
turn, mindful of the injunction, "to turn or burn." The clusters
under the leaves are getting quite purple, but look better than they
taste. I think there is no danger but they will be gathered as soon
as they are ripe. One of the blessings of having an open garden is,
that I do not have to watch my fruit: a dozen youngsters do that, and
let it waste no time after it matures. I wish it were possible to
grow a variety of grape like the explosive bullets, that should
explode in the stomach: the vine would make such a nice border for
the garden,--a masked battery of grape. The pears, too, are getting
russet and heavy; and here and there amid the shining leaves one
gleams as ruddy as the cheek of the Nutbrown Maid. The Flemish
Beauties come off readily from the stem, if I take them in my hand:
they say all kinds of beauty come off by handling.

The garden is peace as much as if it were an empire. Even the man's
cow lies down under the tree where the man has tied her, with such an
air of contentment, that I have small desire to disturb her. She is
chewing my cud as if it were hers. Well, eat on and chew on,
melancholy brute. I have not the heart to tell the man to take you
away: and it would do no good if I had; he wouldn't do it. The man
has not a taking way. Munch on, ruminant creature.

The frost will soon come; the grass will be brown. I will be
charitable while this blessed lull continues: for our benevolences
must soon be turned to other and more distant objects,--the
amelioration of the condition of the Jews, the education of
theological young men in the West, and the like.

I do not know that these appearances are deceitful; but I
sufficiently know that this is a wicked world, to be glad that I have
taken it on shares. In fact, I could not pick the pears alone, not
to speak of eating them. When I climb the trees, and throw down the
dusky fruit, Polly catches it in her apron; nearly always, however,
letting go when it drops, the fall is so sudden. The sun gets in her
face; and, every time a pear comes down it is a surprise, like having
a tooth out, she says.

"If I could n't hold an apron better than that!"

But the sentence is not finished: it is useless to finish that sort
of a sentence in this delicious weather. Besides, conversation is
dangerous. As, for instance, towards evening I am preparing a bed
for a sowing of turnips,--not that I like turnips in the least; but
this is the season to sow them. Polly comes out, and extemporizes
her usual seat to "consult me" about matters while I work. I well
know that something is coming.

"This is a rotation of crops, is n't it?"

"Yes: I have rotated the gone-to-seed lettuce off, and expect to
rotate the turnips in; it is a political fashion."

"Is n't it a shame that the tomatoes are all getting ripe at once?
What a lot of squashes! I wish we had an oyster-bed. Do you want me
to help you any more than I am helping?"

"No, I thank you." (I wonder what all this is about?)

"Don't you think we could sell some strawberries next year?"

"By all means, sell anything. We shall no doubt get rich out of this

"Don't be foolish."

And now!

"Don't you think it would be nice to have a?"....

And Polly unfolds a small scheme of benevolence, which is not quite
enough to break me, and is really to be executed in an economical
manner. "Would n't that be nice?"

"Oh, yes! And where is the money to come from?"

"I thought we had agreed to sell the strawberries."

"Certainly. But I think we would make more money if we sold the
plants now."

"Well," said Polly, concluding the whole matter, "I am going to do
it." And, having thus "consulted" me, Polly goes away; and I put in
the turnip-seeds quite thick, determined to raise enough to sell.
But not even this mercenary thought can ruffle my mind as I rake off
the loamy bed. I notice, however, that the spring smell has gone out
of the dirt. That went into the first crop.

In this peaceful unison with yielding nature, I was a little taken
aback to find that a new enemy had turned up. The celery had just
rubbed through the fiery scorching of the drought, and stood a
faint chance to grow; when I noticed on the green leaves a big
green-and-black worm, called, I believe, the celery-worm: but I don't
know who called him; I am sure I did not. It was almost ludicrous that
he should turn up here, just at the end of the season, when I supposed
that my war with the living animals was over. Yet he was, no doubt,
predestinated; for he went to work as cheerfully as if he had arrived
in June, when everything was fresh and vigorous. It beats me--Nature
does. I doubt not, that, if I were to leave my garden now for a week,
it would n't know me on my return. The patch I scratched over for the
turnips, and left as clean as earth, is already full of ambitious
"pusley," which grows with all the confidence of youth and the skill of
old age. It beats the serpent as an emblem of immortality. While all
the others of us in the garden rest and sit in comfort a moment, upon
the summit of the summer, it is as rampant and vicious as ever. It
accepts no armistice.


It is said that absence conquers all things, love included; but it
has a contrary effect on a garden. I was absent for two or three
weeks. I left my garden a paradise, as paradises go in this
protoplastic world; and when I returned, the trail of the serpent was
over it all, so to speak. (This is in addition to the actual snakes
in it, which are large enough to strangle children of average size.)
I asked Polly if she had seen to the garden while I was away, and she
said she had. I found that all the melons had been seen to, and the
early grapes and pears. The green worm had also seen to about half
the celery; and a large flock of apparently perfectly domesticated
chickens were roaming over the ground, gossiping in the hot September
sun, and picking up any odd trifle that might be left. On the whole,
the garden could not have been better seen to; though it would take a
sharp eye to see the potato-vines amid the rampant grass and weeds.

The new strawberry-plants, for one thing, had taken advantage of my
absence. Every one of them had sent out as many scarlet runners as
an Indian tribe has. Some of them had blossomed; and a few had gone
so far as to bear ripe berries,--long, pear-shaped fruit, hanging
like the ear-pendants of an East Indian bride. I could not but
admire the persistence of these zealous plants, which seemed
determined to propagate themselves both by seeds and roots, and make
sure of immortality in some way. Even the Colfax variety was as
ambitious as the others. After having seen the declining letter of
Mr. Colfax, I did not suppose that this vine would run any more, and
intended to root it out. But one can never say what these
politicians mean; and I shall let this variety grow until after the
next election, at least; although I hear that the fruit is small, and
rather sour. If there is any variety of strawberries that really
declines to run, and devotes itself to a private life of
fruit-bearing, I should like to get it. I may mention here, since we
are on politics, that the Doolittle raspberries had sprawled all over
the strawberry-bed's: so true is it that politics makes strange

But another enemy had come into the strawberries, which, after all
that has been said in these papers, I am almost ashamed to mention.
But does the preacher in the pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, year after
year, shrink from speaking of sin? I refer, of course, to the
greatest enemy of mankind, "p-sl-y." The ground was carpeted with
it. I should think that this was the tenth crop of the season; and
it was as good as the first. I see no reason why our northern soil
is not as prolific as that of the tropics, and will not produce as
many crops in the year. The mistake we make is in trying to force
things that are not natural to it. I have no doubt that, if we turn
our attention to "pusley," we can beat the world.

I had no idea, until recently, how generally this simple and thrifty
plant is feared and hated. Far beyond what I had regarded as the
bounds of civilization, it is held as one of the mysteries of a
fallen world; accompanying the home missionary on his wanderings, and
preceding the footsteps of the Tract Society. I was not long ago in
the Adirondacks. We had built a camp for the night, in the heart of
the woods, high up on John's Brook and near the foot of Mount Marcy:
I can see the lovely spot now. It was on the bank of the crystal,
rocky stream, at the foot of high and slender falls, which poured
into a broad amber basin. Out of this basin we had just taken trout
enough for our supper, which had been killed, and roasted over the
fire on sharp sticks, and eaten before they had an opportunity to
feel the chill of this deceitful world. We were lying under the hut
of spruce-bark, on fragrant hemlock-boughs, talking, after supper.
In front of us was a huge fire of birchlogs; and over it we could see
the top of the falls glistening in the moonlight; and the roar of the
falls, and the brawling of the stream near us, filled all the ancient
woods. It was a scene upon which one would think no thought of sin
could enter. We were talking with old Phelps, the guide. Old Phelps
is at once guide, philosopher, and friend. He knows the woods and
streams and mountains, and their savage inhabitants, as well as we
know all our rich relations and what they are doing; and in lonely
bear-hunts and sable-trappings he has thought out and solved most of
the problems of life. As he stands in his wood-gear, he is as
grizzly as an old cedar-tree; and he speaks in a high falsetto voice,
which would be invaluable to a boatswain in a storm at sea.

We had been talking of all subjects about which rational men are
interested,--bears, panthers, trapping, the habits of trout, the
tariff, the internal revenue (to wit the injustice of laying such a
tax on tobacco, and none on dogs:--"There ain't no dog in the United
States," says the guide, at the top of his voice, "that earns his
living"), the Adventists, the Gorner Grat, Horace Greeley, religion,
the propagation of seeds in the wilderness (as, for instance, where
were the seeds lying for ages that spring up into certain plants and
flowers as soon as a spot is cleared anywhere in the most remote
forest; and why does a growth of oak-trees always come up after a
growth of pine has been removed?)--in short, we had pretty nearly
reached a solution of many mysteries, when Phelps suddenly exclaimed
with uncommon energy,--

"Wall, there's one thing that beats me!"

"What's that?" we asked with undisguised curiosity.

"That's 'pusley'!" he replied, in the tone of a man who has come to
one door in life which is hopelessly shut, and from which he retires
in despair.

"Where it comes from I don't know, nor what to do with it. It's in
my garden; and I can't get rid of it. It beats me."

About "pusley" the guide had no theory and no hope. A feeling of awe
came over me, as we lay there at midnight, hushed by the sound of the
stream and the rising wind in the spruce-tops. Then man can go
nowhere that "pusley" will not attend him. Though he camp on the
Upper Au Sable, or penetrate the forest where rolls the Allegash, and
hear no sound save his own allegations, he will not escape it. It
has entered the happy valley of Keene, although there is yet no
church there, and only a feeble school part of the year. Sin travels
faster than they that ride in chariots. I take my hoe, and begin;
but I feel that I am warring against something whose roots take hold
on H.

By the time a man gets to be eighty, he learns that he is compassed
by limitations, and that there has been a natural boundary set to his
individual powers. As he goes on in life, he begins to doubt his
ability to destroy all evil and to reform all abuses, and to suspect
that there will be much left to do after he has done. I stepped into
my garden in the spring, not doubting that I should be easily master
of the weeds. I have simply learned that an institution which is at
least six thousand years old, and I believe six millions, is not to
be put down in one season.

I have been digging my potatoes, if anybody cares to know it. I
planted them in what are called "Early Rose,"--the rows a little
less than three feet apart; but the vines came to an early close in
the drought. Digging potatoes is a pleasant, soothing occupation,
but not poetical. It is good for the mind, unless they are too small
(as many of mine are), when it begets a want of gratitude to the
bountiful earth. What small potatoes we all are, compared with what
we might be! We don't plow deep enough, any of us, for one thing. I
shall put in the plow next year, and give the tubers room enough. I
think they felt the lack of it this year: many of them seemed ashamed
to come out so small. There is great pleasure in turning out the
brown-jacketed fellows into the sunshine of a royal September day,
and seeing them glisten as they lie thickly strewn on the warm soil.
Life has few such moments. But then they must be picked up. The
picking-up, in this world, is always the unpleasant part of it.


I do not hold myself bound to answer the question, Does gardening
pay? It is so difficult to define what is meant by paying. There is
a popular notion that, unless a thing pays, you had better let it
alone; and I may say that there is a public opinion that will not let
a man or woman continue in the indulgence of a fancy that does not
pay. And public opinion is stronger than the legislature, and nearly
as strong as the ten commandments: I therefore yield to popular
clamor when I discuss the profit of my garden.

As I look at it, you might as well ask, Does a sunset pay? I know
that a sunset is commonly looked on as a cheap entertainment; but it
is really one of the most expensive. It is true that we can all have
front seats, and we do not exactly need to dress for it as we do for
the opera; but the conditions under which it is to be enjoyed are
rather dear. Among them I should name a good suit of clothes,
including some trifling ornament,--not including back hair for one
sex, or the parting of it in the middle for the other. I should add
also a good dinner, well cooked and digestible; and the cost of a
fair education, extended, perhaps, through generations in which
sensibility and love of beauty grew. What I mean is, that if a man
is hungry and naked, and half a savage, or with the love of beauty
undeveloped in him, a sunset is thrown away on him: so that it
appears that the conditions of the enjoyment of a sunset are as
costly as anything in our civilization.

Of course there is no such thing as absolute value in this world.
You can only estimate what a thing is worth to you. Does gardening
in a city pay? You might as well ask if it pays to keep hens, or a
trotting-horse, or to wear a gold ring, or to keep your lawn cut, or
your hair cut. It is as you like it. In a certain sense, it is a
sort of profanation to consider if my garden pays, or to set a
money-value upon my delight in it. I fear that you could not put it in
money. Job had the right idea in his mind when he asked, "Is there any
taste in the white of an egg?" Suppose there is not! What! shall I
set a price upon the tender asparagus or the crisp lettuce, which made
the sweet spring a reality? Shall I turn into merchandise the red
strawberry, the pale green pea, the high-flavored raspberry, the
sanguinary beet, that love-plant the tomato, and the corn which did not
waste its sweetness on the desert air, but, after flowing in a sweet
rill through all our summer life, mingled at last with the engaging
bean in a pool of succotash? Shall I compute in figures what daily
freshness and health and delight the garden yields, let alone the large
crop of anticipation I gathered as soon as the first seeds got above
ground? I appeal to any gardening man of sound mind, if that which
pays him best in gardening is not that which he cannot show in his
trial-balance. Yet I yield to public opinion, when I proceed to make
such a balance; and I do it with the utmost confidence in figures.

I select as a representative vegetable, in order to estimate the cost
of gardening, the potato. In my statement, I shall not include the
interest on the value of the land. I throw in the land, because it
would otherwise have stood idle: the thing generally raised on city
land is taxes. I therefore make the following statement of the cost
and income of my potato-crop, a part of it estimated in connection
with other garden labor. I have tried to make it so as to satisfy
the income-tax collector:--

Manure........................................ 8.00
Assistance in planting and digging, 3 days.... 6.75
Labor of self in planting, hoeing, digging,
     picking up, 5 days at 17 cents........... 0.85
          Total Cost................$17.60

Two thousand five hundred mealy potatoes,
    at 2 cents..............................$50.00
Small potatoes given to neighbor's pig.......  .50

            Total return..............$50.50

       Balance, profit in cellar......$32.90

Some of these items need explanation. I have charged nothing for my
own time waiting for the potatoes to grow. My time in hoeing,
fighting weeds, etc., is put in at five days: it may have been a
little more. Nor have I put in anything for cooling drinks while
hoeing. I leave this out from principle, because I always recommend
water to others. I had some difficulty in fixing the rate of my own
wages. It was the first time I had an opportunity of paying what I
thought labor was worth; and I determined to make a good thing of it
for once. I figured it right down to European prices,--seventeen
cents a day for unskilled labor. Of course, I boarded myself. I
ought to say that I fixed the wages after the work was done, or I
might have been tempted to do as some masons did who worked for me at
four dollars a day. They lay in the shade and slept the sleep of
honest toil full half the time, at least all the time I was away. I
have reason to believe that when the wages of mechanics are raised to
eight and ten dollars a day, the workmen will not come at all: they
will merely send their cards.

I do not see any possible fault in the above figures. I ought to say
that I deferred putting a value on the potatoes until I had footed up
the debit column. This is always the safest way to do. I had
twenty-five bushels. I roughly estimated that there are one hundred
good ones to the bushel. Making my own market price, I asked two
cents apiece for them. This I should have considered dirt cheap last
June, when I was going down the rows with the hoe. If any one thinks
that two cents each is high, let him try to raise them.

Nature is "awful smart." I intend to be complimentary in saying so.
She shows it in little things. I have mentioned my attempt to put in
a few modest turnips, near the close of the season. I sowed the
seeds, by the way, in the most liberal manner. Into three or four
short rows I presume I put enough to sow an acre; and they all came
up,--came up as thick as grass, as crowded and useless as babies in a
Chinese village. Of course, they had to be thinned out; that is,
pretty much all pulled up; and it took me a long time; for it takes a
conscientious man some time to decide which are the best and
healthiest plants to spare. After all, I spared too many. That is
the great danger everywhere in this world (it may not be in the
next): things are too thick; we lose all in grasping for too much.
The Scotch say, that no man ought to thin out his own turnips,
because he will not sacrifice enough to leave room for the remainder
to grow: he should get his neighbor, who does not care for the
plants, to do it. But this is mere talk, and aside from the point:
if there is anything I desire to avoid in these agricultural papers,
it is digression. I did think that putting in these turnips so late
in the season, when general activity has ceased, and in a remote part
of the garden, they would pass unnoticed. But Nature never even
winks, as I can see. The tender blades were scarcely out of the
ground when she sent a small black fly, which seemed to have been
born and held in reserve for this purpose,--to cut the leaves. They
speedily made lace-work of the whole bed. Thus everything appears to
have its special enemy,--except, perhaps, p----y: nothing ever
troubles that.

Did the Concord Grape ever come to more luscious perfection than this
year? or yield so abundantly? The golden sunshine has passed into
them, and distended their purple skins almost to bursting. Such
heavy clusters! such bloom! such sweetness! such meat and drink in
their round globes! What a fine fellow Bacchus would have been, if
he had only signed the pledge when he was a young man! I have taken
off clusters that were as compact and almost as large as the Black
Hamburgs. It is slow work picking them. I do not see how the
gatherers for the vintage ever get off enough. It takes so long to
disentangle the bunches from the leaves and the interlacing vines and
the supporting tendrils; and then I like to hold up each bunch and
look at it in the sunlight, and get the fragrance and the bloom of
it, and show it to Polly, who is making herself useful, as taster and
companion, at the foot of the ladder, before dropping it into the
basket. But we have other company. The robin, the most knowing and
greedy bird out of paradise (I trust he will always be kept out), has
discovered that the grape-crop is uncommonly good, and has come back,
with his whole tribe and family, larger than it was in pea-time. He
knows the ripest bunches as well as anybody, and tries them all. If
he would take a whole bunch here and there, say half the number, and
be off with it, I should not so much care. But he will not. He
pecks away at all the bunches, and spoils as many as he can. It is
time he went south.

There is no prettier sight, to my eye, than a gardener on a ladder in
his grape-arbor, in these golden days, selecting the heaviest
clusters of grapes, and handing them down to one and another of a
group of neighbors and friends, who stand under the shade of the
leaves, flecked with the sunlight, and cry, "How sweet!" "What nice
ones!" and the like,--remarks encouraging to the man on the ladder.
It is great pleasure to see people eat grapes.

Moral Truth.--I have no doubt that grapes taste best in other
people's mouths. It is an old notion that it is easier to be
generous than to be stingy. I am convinced that the majority of
people would be generous from selfish motives, if they had the

Philosophical Observation.--Nothing shows one who his friends are
like prosperity and ripe fruit. I had a good friend in the country,
whom I almost never visited except in cherry-time. By your fruits
you shall know them.


I like to go into the garden these warm latter days, and muse. To
muse is to sit in the sun, and not think of anything. I am not sure
but goodness comes out of people who bask in the sun, as it does out
of a sweet apple roasted before the fire. The late September and
October sun of this latitude is something like the sun of extreme
Lower Italy: you can stand a good deal of it, and apparently soak a
winter supply into the system. If one only could take in his winter
fuel in this way! The next great discovery will, very likely, be the
conservation of sunlight. In the correlation of forces, I look to
see the day when the superfluous sunshine will be utilized; as, for
instance, that which has burned up my celery this year will be
converted into a force to work the garden.

This sitting in the sun amid the evidences of a ripe year is the
easiest part of gardening I have experienced. But what a combat has
gone on here! What vegetable passions have run the whole gamut of
ambition, selfishness, greed of place, fruition, satiety, and now
rest here in the truce of exhaustion! What a battle-field, if one
may look upon it so! The corn has lost its ammunition, and stacked
arms in a slovenly, militia sort of style. The ground vines are
torn, trampled, and withered; and the ungathered cucumbers, worthless
melons, and golden squashes lie about like the spent bombs and
exploded shells of a battle-field. So the cannon-balls lay on the
sandy plain before Fort Fisher after the capture. So the great
grassy meadow at Munich, any morning during the October Fest, is
strewn with empty beermugs. History constantly repeats itself.
There is a large crop of moral reflections in my garden, which
anybody is at liberty to gather who passes this way.

I have tried to get in anything that offered temptation to sin.
There would be no thieves if there was nothing to steal; and I
suppose, in the thieves' catechism, the provider is as bad as the
thief; and, probably, I am to blame for leaving out a few winter
pears, which some predatory boy carried off on Sunday. At first I
was angry, and said I should like to have caught the urchin in the
act; but, on second thought, I was glad I did not. The interview
could not have been pleasant: I shouldn't have known what to do with
him. The chances are, that he would have escaped away with his
pockets full, and jibed at me from a safe distance. And, if I had
got my hands on him, I should have been still more embarrassed. If I
had flogged him, he would have got over it a good deal sooner than I
should. That sort of boy does not mind castigation any more than he
does tearing his trousers in the briers. If I had treated him with
kindness, and conciliated him with grapes, showing him the enormity
of his offense, I suppose he would have come the next night, and
taken the remainder of the grapes. The truth is, that the public
morality is lax on the subject of fruit. If anybody puts arsenic or
gunpowder into his watermelons, he is universally denounced as a
stingy old murderer by the community. A great many people regard
growing fruit as lawful prey, who would not think of breaking into
your cellar to take it. I found a man once in my raspberry-bushes,
early in the season, when we were waiting for a dishful to ripen.
Upon inquiring what he was about, he said he was only eating some;
and the operation seemed to be so natural and simple, that I disliked
to disturb him. And I am not very sure that one has a right to the
whole of an abundant crop of fruit until he has gathered it. At
least, in a city garden, one might as well conform his theory to the
practice of the community.

As for children (and it sometimes looks as if the chief products of
my garden were small boys and hens), it is admitted that they are
barbarians. There is no exception among them to this condition of
barbarism. This is not to say that they are not attractive; for they
have the virtues as well as the vices of a primitive people. It is
held by some naturalists that the child is only a zoophyte, with a
stomach, and feelers radiating from it in search of something to fill
it. It is true that a child is always hungry all over: but he is
also curious all over; and his curiosity is excited about as early as
his hunger. He immediately begins to put out his moral feelers into
the unknown and the infinite to discover what sort of an existence
this is into which he has come. His imagination is quite as hungry
as his stomach. And again and again it is stronger than his other
appetites. You can easily engage his imagination in a story which
will make him forget his dinner. He is credulous and superstitious,
and open to all wonder. In this, he is exactly like the savage
races. Both gorge themselves on the marvelous; and all the unknown
is marvelous to them. I know the general impression is that children
must be governed through their stomachs. I think they can be
controlled quite as well through their curiosity; that being the more
craving and imperious of the two. I have seen children follow about
a person who told them stories, and interested them with his charming
talk, as greedily as if his pockets had been full of bon-bons.

Perhaps this fact has no practical relation to gardening; but it
occurs to me that, if I should paper the outside of my high board
fence with the leaves of "The Arabian Nights," it would afford me a
good deal of protection,--more, in fact, than spikes in the top,
which tear trousers and encourage profanity, but do not save much
fruit. A spiked fence is a challenge to any boy of spirit. But if
the fence were papered with fairy-tales, would he not stop to read
them until it was too late for him to climb into the garden? I don't
know. Human nature is vicious. The boy might regard the picture of
the garden of the Hesperides only as an advertisement of what was
over the fence. I begin to find that the problem of raising fruit is
nothing to that of getting it after it has matured. So long as the
law, just in many respects, is in force against shooting birds and
small boys, the gardener may sow in tears and reap in vain.

The power of a boy is, to me, something fearful. Consider what he
can do. You buy and set out a choice pear-tree; you enrich the earth
for it; you train and trim it, and vanquish the borer, and watch its
slow growth. At length it rewards your care by producing two or
three pears, which you cut up and divide in the family, declaring the
flavor of the bit you eat to be something extraordinary. The next
year, the little tree blossoms full, and sets well; and in the autumn
has on its slender, drooping limbs half a bushel of fruit, daily
growing more delicious in the sun. You show it to your friends,
reading to them the French name, which you can never remember, on the
label; and you take an honest pride in the successful fruit of long
care. That night your pears shall be required of you by a boy!
Along comes an irresponsible urchin, who has not been growing much
longer than the tree, with not twenty-five cents worth of clothing on
him, and in five minutes takes off every pear, and retires into safe
obscurity. In five minutes the remorseless boy has undone your work
of years, and with the easy nonchalance, I doubt not, of any agent of
fate, in whose path nothing is sacred or safe.

And it is not of much consequence. The boy goes on his way,--to
Congress, or to State Prison: in either place he will be accused of
stealing, perhaps wrongfully. You learn, in time, that it is better
to have had pears and lost them than not to have had pears at all.
You come to know that the least (and rarest) part of the pleasure of
raising fruit is the vulgar eating it. You recall your delight in
conversing with the nurseryman, and looking at his illustrated
catalogues, where all the pears are drawn perfect in form, and of
extra size, and at that exact moment between ripeness and decay which
it is so impossible to hit in practice. Fruit cannot be raised on
this earth to taste as you imagine those pears would taste. For
years you have this pleasure, unalloyed by any disenchanting reality.
How you watch the tender twigs in spring, and the freshly forming
bark, hovering about the healthy growing tree with your pruning-knife
many a sunny morning! That is happiness. Then, if you know it, you
are drinking the very wine of life; and when the sweet juices of the
earth mount the limbs, and flow down the tender stem, ripening and
reddening the pendent fruit, you feel that you somehow stand at the
source of things, and have no unimportant share in the processes of
Nature. Enter at this moment boy the destroyer, whose office is that
of preserver as well; for, though he removes the fruit from your
sight, it remains in your memory immortally ripe and desirable. The
gardener needs all these consolations of a high philosophy.


Regrets are idle; yet history is one long regret. Everything might
have turned out so differently! If Ravaillac had not been imprisoned
for debt, he would not have stabbed Henry of Navarre. If William of
Orange had escaped assassination by Philip's emissaries; if France
had followed the French Calvin, and embraced Protestant Calvinism, as
it came very near doing towards the end of the sixteenth century; if
the Continental ammunition had not given out at Bunker's Hill; if
Blucher had not "come up" at Waterloo,--the lesson is, that things do
not come up unless they are planted. When you go behind the
historical scenery, you find there is a rope and pulley to effect
every transformation which has astonished you. It was the rascality
of a minister and a contractor five years before that lost the
battle; and the cause of the defeat was worthless ammunition. I
should like to know how many wars have been caused by fits of
indigestion, and how many more dynasties have been upset by the love
of woman than by the hate of man. It is only because we are ill
informed that anything surprises us; and we are disappointed because
we expect that for which we have not provided.

I had too vague expectations of what my garden would do of itself. A
garden ought to produce one everything,--just as a business ought to
support a man, and a house ought to keep itself. We had a convention
lately to resolve that the house should keep itself; but it won't.
There has been a lively time in our garden this summer; but it seems
to me there is very little to show for it. It has been a terrible
campaign; but where is the indemnity? Where are all "sass" and
Lorraine? It is true that we have lived on the country; but we
desire, besides, the fruits of the war. There are no onions, for one
thing. I am quite ashamed to take people into my garden, and have
them notice the absence of onions. It is very marked. In onion is
strength; and a garden without it lacks flavor. The onion in its
satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables; and it is
the only one that represents the essence of things. It can almost be
said to have a soul. You take off coat after coat, and the onion is
still there; and, when the last one is removed, who dare say that the
onion itself is destroyed, though you can weep over its departed
spirit? If there is any one thing on this fallen earth that the
angels in heaven weep over--more than another, it is the onion.

I know that there is supposed to be a prejudice against the onion;
but I think there is rather a cowardice in regard to it. I doubt not
that all men and women love the onion; but few confess their love.
Affection for it is concealed. Good New-Englanders are as shy of
owning it as they are of talking about religion. Some people have
days on which they eat onions,--what you might call "retreats," or
their "Thursdays." The act is in the nature of a religious ceremony,
an Eleusinian mystery; not a breath of it must get abroad. On that
day they see no company; they deny the kiss of greeting to the
dearest friend; they retire within themselves, and hold communion
with one of the most pungent and penetrating manifestations of the
moral vegetable world. Happy is said to be the family which can eat
onions together. They are, for the time being, separate from the
world, and have a harmony of aspiration. There is a hint here for
the reformers. Let them become apostles of the onion; let them eat,
and preach it to their fellows, and circulate tracts of it in the
form of seeds. In the onion is the hope of universal brotherhood.
If all men will eat onions at all times, they will come into a
universal sympathy. Look at Italy. I hope I am not mistaken as to
the cause of her unity. It was the Reds who preached the gospel
which made it possible. All the Reds of Europe, all the sworn
devotees of the mystic Mary Ann, eat of the common vegetable. Their
oaths are strong with it. It is the food, also, of the common people
of Italy. All the social atmosphere of that delicious land is laden
with it. Its odor is a practical democracy. In the churches all are
alike: there is one faith, one smell. The entrance of Victor Emanuel
into Rome is only the pompous proclamation of a unity which garlic
had already accomplished; and yet we, who boast of our democracy, eat
onions in secret.

I now see that I have left out many of the most moral elements.
Neither onions, parsnips, carrots, nor cabbages are here. I have
never seen a garden in the autumn before, without the uncouth cabbage
in it; but my garden gives the impression of a garden without a head.
The cabbage is the rose of Holland. I admire the force by which it
compacts its crisp leaves into a solid head. The secret of it would
be priceless to the world. We should see less expansive foreheads
with nothing within. Even the largest cabbages are not always the
best. But I mention these things, not from any sympathy I have with
the vegetables named, but to show how hard it is to go contrary to
the expectations of society. Society expects every man to have
certain things in his garden. Not to raise cabbage is as if one had
no pew in church. Perhaps we shall come some day to free churches
and free gardens; when I can show my neighbor through my tired
garden, at the end of the season, when skies are overcast, and brown
leaves are swirling down, and not mind if he does raise his eyebrows
when he observes, "Ah! I see you have none of this, and of that." At
present we want the moral courage to plant only what we need; to
spend only what will bring us peace, regardless of what is going on
over the fence. We are half ruined by conformity; but we should be
wholly ruined without it; and I presume I shall make a garden next
year that will be as popular as possible.

And this brings me to what I see may be a crisis in life. I begin to
feel the temptation of experiment. Agriculture, horticulture,
floriculture,--these are vast fields, into which one may wander away,
and never be seen more. It seemed to me a very simple thing, this
gardening; but it opens up astonishingly. It is like the infinite
possibilities in worsted-work. Polly sometimes says to me, "I wish
you would call at Bobbin's, and match that skein of worsted for me,
when you are in town." Time was, I used to accept such a commission
with alacrity and self-confidence. I went to Bobbin's, and asked one
of his young men, with easy indifference, to give me some of that.
The young man, who is as handsome a young man as ever I looked at,
and who appears to own the shop, and whose suave superciliousness
would be worth everything to a cabinet minister who wanted to repel
applicants for place, says, "I have n't an ounce: I have sent to
Paris, and I expect it every day. I have a good deal of difficulty
in getting that shade in my assortment." To think that he is in
communication with Paris, and perhaps with Persia! Respect for such
a being gives place to awe. I go to another shop, holding fast to my
scarlet clew. There I am shown a heap of stuff, with more colors and
shades than I had supposed existed in all the world. What a blaze of
distraction! I have been told to get as near the shade as I could;
and so I compare and contrast, till the whole thing seems to me about
of one color. But I can settle my mind on nothing. The affair
assumes a high degree of importance. I am satisfied with nothing but
perfection. I don't know what may happen if the shade is not
matched. I go to another shop, and another, and another. At last a
pretty girl, who could make any customer believe that green is blue,
matches the shade in a minute. I buy five cents worth. That was the
order. Women are the most economical persons that ever were. I have
spent two hours in this five-cent business; but who shall say they
were wasted, when I take the stuff home, and Polly says it is a
perfect match, and looks so pleased, and holds it up with the work,
at arm's length, and turns her head one side, and then takes her
needle, and works it in? Working in, I can see, my own obligingness
and amiability with every stitch. Five cents is dirt cheap for such
a pleasure.

The things I may do in my garden multiply on my vision. How
fascinating have the catalogues of the nurserymen become! Can I
raise all those beautiful varieties, each one of which is preferable
to the other? Shall I try all the kinds of grapes, and all the sorts
of pears? I have already fifteen varieties of strawberries (vines);
and I have no idea that I have hit the right one. Must I subscribe
to all the magazines and weekly papers which offer premiums of the
best vines? Oh, that all the strawberries were rolled into one, that
I could inclose all its lusciousness in one bite! Oh for the good
old days when a strawberry was a strawberry, and there was no
perplexity about it! There are more berries now than churches; and
no one knows what to believe. I have seen gardens which were all
experiment, given over to every new thing, and which produced little
or nothing to the owners, except the pleasure of expectation. People
grow pear-trees at great expense of time and money, which never yield
them more than four pears to the tree. The fashions of ladies'
bonnets are nothing to the fashions of nurserymen. He who attempts
to follow them has a business for life; but his life may be short.
If I enter upon this wide field of horticultural experiment, I shall
leave peace behind; and I may expect the ground to open, and swallow
me and all my fortune. May Heaven keep me to the old roots and herbs
of my forefathers! Perhaps in the world of modern reforms this is
not possible; but I intend now to cultivate only the standard things,
and learn to talk knowingly of the rest. Of course, one must keep up
a reputation. I have seen people greatly enjoy themselves, and
elevate themselves in their own esteem, in a wise and critical talk
about all the choice wines, while they were sipping a decoction, the
original cost of which bore no relation to the price of grapes.


The closing scenes are not necessarily funereal. A garden should be
got ready for winter as well as for summer. When one goes into
winter-quarters, he wants everything neat and trim. Expecting high
winds, we bring everything into close reef. Some men there are who
never shave (if they are so absurd as ever to shave), except when
they go abroad, and who do not take care to wear polished boots in
the bosoms of their families. I like a man who shaves (next to one
who does n't shave) to satisfy his own conscience, and not for
display, and who dresses as neatly at home as he does anywhere. Such
a man will be likely to put his garden in complete order before the
snow comes, so that its last days shall not present a scene of
melancholy ruin and decay.

I confess that, after such an exhausting campaign, I felt a great
temptation to retire, and call it a drawn engagement. But better
counsels prevailed. I determined that the weeds should not sleep on
the field of battle. I routed them out, and leveled their works. I
am master of the situation. If I have made a desert, I at least have
peace; but it is not quite a desert. The strawberries, the
raspberries, the celery, the turnips, wave green above the clean
earth, with no enemy in sight. In these golden October days no work
is more fascinating than this getting ready for spring. The sun is
no longer a burning enemy, but a friend, illuminating all the open
space, and warming the mellow soil. And the pruning and clearing
away of rubbish, and the fertilizing, go on with something of the
hilarity of a wake, rather than the despondency of other funerals.
When the wind begins to come out of the northwest of set purpose, and
to sweep the ground with low and searching fierceness, very different
from the roistering, jolly bluster of early fall, I have put the
strawberries under their coverlet of leaves, pruned the grape-vines
and laid them under the soil, tied up the tender plants, given the
fruit trees a good, solid meal about the roots; and so I turn away,
writing Resurgam on the gatepost. And Calvin, aware that the summer
is past and the harvest is ended, and that a mouse in the kitchen is
worth two birds gone south, scampers away to the house with his tail
in the air.

And yet I am not perfectly at rest in my mind. I know that this is
only a truce until the parties recover their exhausted energies. All
winter long the forces of chemistry will be mustering under ground,
repairing the losses, calling up the reserves, getting new strength
from my surface-fertilizing bounty, and making ready for the spring
campaign. They will open it before I am ready: while the snow is
scarcely melted, and the ground is not passable, they will begin to
move on my works; and the fight will commence. Yet how deceitfully
it will open to the music of birds and the soft enchantment of the
spring mornings! I shall even be permitted to win a few skirmishes:
the secret forces will even wait for me to plant and sow, and show my
full hand, before they come on in heavy and determined assault.
There are already signs of an internecine fight with the devil-grass,
which has intrenched itself in a considerable portion of my
garden-patch. It contests the ground inch by inch; and digging it
out is very much such labor as eating a piece of choke-cherry pie
with the stones all in. It is work, too, that I know by experience I
shall have to do alone. Every man must eradicate his own
devil-grass. The neighbors who have leisure to help you in
grape-picking time are all busy when devil-grass is most aggressive.
My neighbors' visits are well timed: it is only their hens which have
seasons for their own.

I am told that abundant and rank weeds are signs of a rich soil; but
I have noticed that a thin, poor soil grows little but weeds. I am
inclined to think that the substratum is the same, and that the only
choice in this world is what kind of weeds you will have. I am not
much attracted by the gaunt, flavorless mullein, and the wiry thistle
of upland country pastures, where the grass is always gray, as if the
world were already weary and sick of life. The awkward, uncouth
wickedness of remote country-places, where culture has died out after
the first crop, is about as disagreeable as the ranker and richer
vice of city life, forced by artificial heat and the juices of an
overfed civilization. There is no doubt that, on the whole, the rich
soil is the best: the fruit of it has body and flavor. To what
affluence does a woman (to take an instance, thank Heaven, which is
common) grow, with favoring circumstances, under the stimulus of the
richest social and intellectual influences! I am aware that there
has been a good deal said in poetry about the fringed gentian and the
harebell of rocky districts and waysides, and I know that it is
possible for maidens to bloom in very slight soil into a wild-wood
grace and beauty; yet, the world through, they lack that wealth of
charms, that tropic affluence of both person and mind, which higher
and more stimulating culture brings,--the passion as well as the soul
glowing in the Cloth-of-Gold rose. Neither persons nor plants are
ever fully themselves until they are cultivated to their highest. I,
for one, have no fear that society will be too much enriched. The
only question is about keeping down the weeds; and I have learned by
experience, that we need new sorts of hoes, and more disposition to
use them.

Moral Deduction.--The difference between soil and society is
evident. We bury decay in the earth; we plant in it the perishing;
we feed it with offensive refuse: but nothing grows out of it that is
not clean; it gives us back life and beauty for our rubbish. Society
returns us what we give it.

Pretending to reflect upon these things, but in reality watching the
blue-jays, who are pecking at the purple berries of the woodbine on
the south gable, I approach the house. Polly is picking up chestnuts
on the sward, regardless of the high wind which rattles them about
her head and upon the glass roof of her winter-garden. The garden, I
see, is filled with thrifty plants, which will make it always summer
there. The callas about the fountain will be in flower by Christmas:
the plant appears to keep that holiday in her secret heart all
summer. I close the outer windows as we go along, and congratulate
myself that we are ready for winter. For the winter-garden I have no
responsibility: Polly has entire charge of it. I am only required to
keep it heated, and not too hot either; to smoke it often for the
death of the bugs; to water it once a day; to move this and that into
the sun and out of the sun pretty constantly: but she does all the
work. We never relinquish that theory.

As we pass around the house, I discover a boy in the ravine filling a
bag with chestnuts and hickorynuts. They are not plenty this year;
and I suggest the propriety of leaving some for us. The boy is a
little slow to take the idea: but he has apparently found the picking
poor, and exhausted it; for, as he turns away down the glen, he hails
me with,

"Mister, I say, can you tell me where I can find some walnuts?"

The coolness of this world grows upon me. It is time to go in and
light a wood-fire on the hearth.


NOTE.--The following brief Memoir of one of the characters in
this book is added by his friend, in the hope that the record
of an exemplary fife in an humble sphere may be of some service
to the world.

   HARTFORD, January, 1880.



Calvin is dead. His life, long to him, but short for the rest of us,
was not marked by startling adventures, but his character was so
uncommon and his qualities were so worthy of imitation, that I have
been asked by those who personally knew him to set down my
recollections of his career.

His origin and ancestry were shrouded in mystery; even his age was a
matter of pure conjecture. Although he was of the Maltese race, I
have reason to suppose that he was American by birth as he certainly
was in sympathy. Calvin was given to me eight years ago by Mrs.
Stowe, but she knew nothing of his age or origin. He walked into her
house one day out of the great unknown and became at once at home, as
if he had been always a friend of the family. He appeared to have
artistic and literary tastes, and it was as if he had inquired at the
door if that was the residence of the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin,"
and, upon being assured that it was, bad decided to dwell there.
This is, of course, fanciful, for his antecedents were wholly
unknown, but in his time he could hardly have been in any household
where he would not have heard "Uncle Tom's Cabin" talked about. When
he came to Mrs. Stowe, he was as large as he ever was, and
apparently as old as he ever became. Yet there was in him no
appearance of age; he was in the happy maturity of all his powers,
and you would rather have said that in that maturity he had found the
secret of perpetual youth. And it was as difficult to believe that
he would ever be aged as it was to imagine that he had ever been in
immature youth. There was in him a mysterious perpetuity.

After some years, when Mrs. Stowe made her winter home in Florida,
Calvin came to live with us. From the first moment, he fell into the
ways of the house and assumed a recognized position in the family,--I
say recognized, because after he became known he was always inquired
for by visitors, and in the letters to the other members of the
family he always received a message. Although the least obtrusive of
beings, his individuality always made itself felt.

His personal appearance had much to do with this, for he was of royal
mould, and had an air of high breeding. He was large, but he had
nothing of the fat grossness of the celebrated Angora family; though
powerful, he was exquisitely proportioned, and as graceful in every
movement as a young leopard. When he stood up to open a door--he
opened all the doors with old-fashioned latches--he was portentously
tall, and when stretched on the rug before the fire he seemed too
long for this world--as indeed he was. His coat was the finest and
softest I have ever seen, a shade of quiet Maltese; and from his
throat downward, underneath, to the white tips of his feet, he wore
the whitest and most delicate ermine; and no person was ever more
fastidiously neat. In his finely formed head you saw something of
his aristocratic character; the ears were small and cleanly cut,
there was a tinge of pink in the nostrils, his face was handsome, and
the expression of his countenance exceedingly intelligent--I should
call it even a sweet expression, if the term were not inconsistent
with his look of alertness and sagacity.

It is difficult to convey a just idea of his gayety in connection
with his dignity and gravity, which his name expressed. As we know
nothing of his family, of course it will be understood that Calvin
was his Christian name. He had times of relaxation into utter
playfulness, delighting in a ball of yarn, catching sportively at
stray ribbons when his mistress was at her toilet, and pursuing his
own tail, with hilarity, for lack of anything better. He could amuse
himself by the hour, and he did not care for children; perhaps
something in his past was present to his memory. He had absolutely
no bad habits, and his disposition was perfect. I never saw him
exactly angry, though I have seen his tail grow to an enormous size
when a strange cat appeared upon his lawn. He disliked cats,
evidently regarding them as feline and treacherous, and he had no
association with them. Occasionally there would be heard a night
concert in the shrubbery. Calvin would ask to have the door opened,
and then you would hear a rush and a "pestzt," and the concert would
explode, and Calvin would quietly come in and resume his seat on the
hearth. There was no trace of anger in his manner, but he would n't
have any of that about the house. He had the rare virtue of
magnanimity. Although he had fixed notions about his own rights, and
extraordinary persistency in getting them, he never showed temper at
a repulse; he simply and firmly persisted till he had what he wanted.
His diet was one point; his idea was that of the scholars about
dictionaries,--to "get the best." He knew as well as any one what was
in the house, and would refuse beef if turkey was to be had; and if
there were oysters, he would wait over the turkey to see if the
oysters would not be forthcoming. And yet he was not a gross
gourmand; he would eat bread if he saw me eating it, and thought he
was not being imposed on. His habits of feeding, also, were refined;
he never used a knife, and he would put up his hand and draw the fork
down to his mouth as gracefully as a grown person. Unless necessity
compelled, he would not eat in the kitchen, but insisted upon his
meals in the dining-room, and would wait patiently, unless a stranger
were present; and then he was sure to importune the visitor, hoping
that the latter was ignorant of the rule of the house, and would give
him something. They used to say that he preferred as his table-cloth
on the floor a certain well-known church journal; but this was said
by an Episcopalian. So far as I know, he had no religious
prejudices, except that he did not like the association with
Romanists. He tolerated the servants, because they belonged to the
house, and would sometimes linger by the kitchen stove; but the
moment visitors came in he arose, opened the door, and marched into
the drawing-room. Yet he enjoyed the company of his equals, and
never withdrew, no matter how many callers--whom he recognized as of
his society--might come into the drawing-room. Calvin was fond of
company, but he wanted to choose it; and I have no doubt that his was
an aristocratic fastidiousness rather than one of faith. It is so
with most people.

The intelligence of Calvin was something phenomenal, in his rank of
life. He established a method of communicating his wants, and even
some of his sentiments; and he could help himself in many things.
There was a furnace register in a retired room, where he used to go
when he wished to be alone, that he always opened when he desired
more heat; but he never shut it, any more than he shut the door after
himself. He could do almost everything but speak; and you would
declare sometimes that you could see a pathetic longing to do that in
his intelligent face. I have no desire to overdraw his qualities,
but if there was one thing in him more noticeable than another, it
was his fondness for nature. He could content himself for hours at a
low window, looking into the ravine and at the great trees, noting
the smallest stir there; he delighted, above all things, to accompany
me walking about the garden, hearing the birds, getting the smell of
the fresh earth, and rejoicing in the sunshine. He followed me and
gamboled like a dog, rolling over on the turf and exhibiting his
delight in a hundred ways. If I worked, he sat and watched me, or
looked off over the bank, and kept his ear open to the twitter in the
cherry-trees. When it stormed, he was sure to sit at the window,
keenly watching the rain or the snow, glancing up and down at its
falling; and a winter tempest always delighted him. I think he was
genuinely fond of birds, but, so far as I know, he usually confined
himself to one a day; he never killed, as some sportsmen do, for the
sake of killing, but only as civilized people do,--from necessity.
He was intimate with the flying-squirrels who dwell in the
chestnut-trees,--too intimate, for almost every day in the summer he
would bring in one, until he nearly discouraged them. He was, indeed,
a superb hunter, and would have been a devastating one, if his bump of
destructiveness had not been offset by a bump of moderation. There was
very little of the brutality of the lower animals about him; I don't
think he enjoyed rats for themselves, but he knew his business, and for
the first few months of his residence with us he waged an awful
campaign against the horde, and after that his simple presence was
sufficient to deter them from coming on the premises. Mice amused him,
but he usually considered them too small game to be taken seriously; I
have seen him play for an hour with a mouse, and then let him go with a
royal condescension. In this whole, matter of "getting a living,"
Calvin was a great contrast to the rapacity of the age in which he

I hesitate a little to speak of his capacity for friendship and the
affectionateness of his nature, for I know from his own reserve that
he would not care to have it much talked about. We understood each
other perfectly, but we never made any fuss about it; when I spoke
his name and snapped my fingers, he came to me; when I returned home
at night, he was pretty sure to be waiting for me near the gate, and
would rise and saunter along the walk, as if his being there were
purely accidental,--so shy was he commonly of showing feeling; and
when I opened the door, he never rushed in, like a cat, but loitered,
and lounged, as if he had no intention of going in, but would
condescend to. And yet, the fact was, he knew dinner was ready, and
he was bound to be there. He kept the run of dinner-time. It
happened sometimes, during our absence in the summer, that dinner
would be early, and Calvin, walking about the grounds, missed it and
came in late. But he never made a mistake the second day. There was
one thing he never did,--he never rushed through an open doorway. He
never forgot his dignity. If he had asked to have the door opened,
and was eager to go out, he always went deliberately; I can see him
now standing on the sill, looking about at the sky as if he was
thinking whether it were worth while to take an umbrella, until he
was near having his tail shut in.

His friendship was rather constant than demonstrative. When we
returned from an absence of nearly two years, Calvin welcomed us with
evident pleasure, but showed his satisfaction rather by tranquil
happiness than by fuming about. He had the faculty of making us glad
to get home. It was his constancy that was so attractive. He liked
companionship, but he wouldn't be petted, or fussed over, or sit in
any one's lap a moment; he always extricated himself from such
familiarity with dignity and with no show of temper. If there was
any petting to be done, however, he chose to do it. Often he would
sit looking at me, and then, moved by a delicate affection, come and
pull at my coat and sleeve until he could touch my face with his
nose, and then go away contented. He had a habit of coming to my
study in the morning, sitting quietly by my side or on the table for
hours, watching the pen run over the paper, occasionally swinging his
tail round for a blotter, and then going to sleep among the papers by
the inkstand. Or, more rarely, he would watch the writing from a
perch on my shoulder. Writing always interested him, and, until he
understood it, he wanted to hold the pen.

He always held himself in a kind of reserve with his friend, as if he
had said, "Let us respect our personality, and not make a 'mess' of
friendship." He saw, with Emerson, the risk of degrading it to
trivial conveniency. "Why insist on rash personal relations with
your friend?" "Leave this touching and clawing." Yet I would not
give an unfair notion of his aloofness, his fine sense of the
sacredness of the me and the not-me. And, at the risk of not being
believed, I will relate an incident, which was often repeated.
Calvin had the practice of passing a portion of the night in the
contemplation of its beauties, and would come into our chamber over
the roof of the conservatory through the open window, summer and
winter, and go to sleep on the foot of my bed. He would do this
always exactly in this way; he never was content to stay in the
chamber if we compelled him to go upstairs and through the door. He
had the obstinacy of General Grant. But this is by the way. In the
morning, he performed his toilet and went down to breakfast with the
rest of the family. Now, when the mistress was absent from home, and
at no other time, Calvin would come in the morning, when the bell
rang, to the head of the bed, put up his feet and look into my face,
follow me about when I rose, "assist" at the dressing, and in many
purring ways show his fondness, as if he had plainly said, "I know
that she has gone away, but I am here." Such was Calvin in rare

He had his limitations. Whatever passion he had for nature, he had
no conception of art. There was sent to him once a fine and very
expressive cat's head in bronze, by Fremiet. I placed it on the
floor. He regarded it intently, approached it cautiously and
crouchingly, touched it with his nose, perceived the fraud, turned
away abruptly, and never would notice it afterward. On the whole,
his life was not only a successful one, but a happy one. He never
had but one fear, so far as I know: he had a mortal and a reasonable
terror of plumbers. He would never stay in the house when they were
here. No coaxing could quiet him. Of course he did n't share our
fear about their charges, but he must have had some dreadful
experience with them in that portion of his life which is unknown to
us. A plumber was to him the devil, and I have no doubt that, in his
scheme, plumbers were foreordained to do him mischief.

In speaking of his worth, it has never occurred to me to estimate
Calvin by the worldly standard. I know that it is customary now,
when any one dies, to ask how much he was worth, and that no obituary
in the newspapers is considered complete without such an estimate.
The plumbers in our house were one day overheard to say that, "They
say that she says that he says that he wouldn't take a hundred
dollars for him." It is unnecessary to say that I never made such a
remark, and that, so far as Calvin was concerned, there was no
purchase in money.

As I look back upon it, Calvin's life seems to me a fortunate one,
for it was natural and unforced. He ate when he was hungry, slept
when he was sleepy, and enjoyed existence to the very tips of his
toes and the end of his expressive and slow-moving tail. He
delighted to roam about the garden, and stroll among the trees, and
to lie on the green grass and luxuriate in all the sweet influences
of summer. You could never accuse him of idleness, and yet he knew
the secret of repose. The poet who wrote so prettily of him that his
little life was rounded with a sleep, understated his felicity; it
was rounded with a good many. His conscience never seemed to
interfere with his slumbers. In fact, he had good habits and a
contented mind. I can see him now walk in at the study door, sit
down by my chair, bring his tail artistically about his feet, and
look up at me with unspeakable happiness in his handsome face. I
often thought that he felt the dumb limitation which denied him the
power of language. But since he was denied speech, he scorned the
inarticulate mouthings of the lower animals. The vulgar mewing and
yowling of the cat species was beneath him; he sometimes uttered a
sort of articulate and well-bred ejaculation, when he wished to call
attention to something that he considered remarkable, or to some want
of his, but he never went whining about. He would sit for hours at a
closed window, when he desired to enter, without a murmur, and when
it was opened, he never admitted that he had been impatient by
"bolting" in. Though speech he had not, and the unpleasant kind of
utterance given to his race he would not use, he had a mighty power
of purr to express his measureless content with congenial society.
There was in him a musical organ with stops of varied power and
expression, upon which I have no doubt he could have performed
Scarlatti's celebrated cat's-fugue.

Whether Calvin died of old age, or was carried off by one of the
diseases incident to youth, it is impossible to say; for his
departure was as quiet as his advent was mysterious. I only know
that he appeared to us in this world in his perfect stature and
beauty, and that after a time, like Lohengrin, he withdrew. In his
illness there was nothing more to be regretted than in all his
blameless life. I suppose there never was an illness that had more
of dignity, and sweetness and resignation in it. It came on
gradually, in a kind of listlessness and want of appetite. An
alarming symptom was his preference for the warmth of a
furnace-register to the lively sparkle of the open woodfire.
Whatever pain he suffered, he bore it in silence, and seemed only
anxious not to obtrude his malady. We tempted him with the
delicacies of the season, but it soon became impossible for him to
eat, and for two weeks he ate or drank scarcely anything. Sometimes
he made an effort to take something, but it was evident that he made
the effort to please us. The neighbors--and I am convinced that the
advice of neighbors is never good for anything--suggested catnip. He
would n't even smell it. We had the attendance of an amateur
practitioner of medicine, whose real office was the cure of souls,
but nothing touched his case. He took what was offered, but it was
with the air of one to whom the time for pellets was passed. He sat
or lay day after day almost motionless, never once making a display
of those vulgar convulsions or contortions of pain which are so
disagreeable to society. His favorite place was on the brightest
spot of a Smyrna rug by the conservatory, where the sunlight fell and
he could hear the fountain play. If we went to him and exhibited our
interest in his condition, he always purred in recognition of our
sympathy. And when I spoke his name, he looked up with an expression
that said, "I understand it, old fellow, but it's no use." He was to
all who came to visit him a model of calmness and patience in

I was absent from home at the last, but heard by daily postal-card of
his failing condition; and never again saw him alive. One sunny
morning, he rose from his rug, went into the conservatory (he was
very thin then), walked around it deliberately, looking at all the
plants he knew, and then went to the bay-window in the dining-room,
and stood a long time looking out upon the little field, now brown
and sere, and toward the garden, where perhaps the happiest hours of
his life had been spent. It was a last look. He turned and walked
away, laid himself down upon the bright spot in the rug, and quietly

It is not too much to say that a little shock went through the
neighborhood when it was known that Calvin was dead, so marked was
his individuality; and his friends, one after another, came in to see
him. There was no sentimental nonsense about his obsequies; it was
felt that any parade would have been distasteful to him. John, who
acted as undertaker, prepared a candle-box for him and I believe
assumed a professional decorum; but there may have been the usual
levity underneath, for I heard that he remarked in the kitchen that
it was the "driest wake he ever attended." Everybody, however, felt
a fondness for Calvin, and regarded him with a certain respect.
Between him and Bertha there existed a great friendship, and she
apprehended his nature; she used to say that sometimes she was afraid
of him, he looked at her so intelligently; she was never certain that
he was what he appeared to be.

When I returned, they had laid Calvin on a table in an upper chamber
by an open window. It was February. He reposed in a candle-box,
lined about the edge with evergreen, and at his head stood a little
wine-glass with flowers. He lay with his head tucked down in his
arms,--a favorite position of his before the fire,--as if asleep in
the comfort of his soft and exquisite fur. It was the involuntary
exclamation of those who saw him, "How natural he looks!" As
for myself, I said nothing. John buried him under the twin
hawthorn-trees,--one white and the other pink,--in a spot where Calvin
was fond of lying and listening to the hum of summer insects and the
twitter of birds.

Perhaps I have failed to make appear the individuality of character
that was so evident to those who knew him. At any rate, I have set
down nothing concerning him, but the literal truth. He was always a
mystery. I did not know whence he came; I do not know whither he has
gone. I would not weave one spray of falsehood in the wreath I lay
upon his grave.

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