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Title: My Summer in a Garden
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley
Language: English
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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 worked.

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 Introduction,



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

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 garden.

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


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 things.

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 exhaustion.

“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

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 Doolittles.


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 trouble.

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


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 are.

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 once.

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

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 working.

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

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

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 more.”

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 pigs.

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

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

“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 neighborhood.

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

“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

“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

“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 bedfellows.

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

“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

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

    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 opportunity.

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

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


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

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

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

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 lived.

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 moments.

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 affliction.

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 died.

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

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