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Title: Five Acres too Much
Author: Roosevelt, Robert Barnwell
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Illustration: _Your friend and brother Sportsman Rob B Roosevelt_]



                         FIVE ACRES TOO MUCH.

                        A TRUTHFUL ELUCIDATION

                                  OF

                    The Attractions of the Country,

                                  AND

                    A CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF THE

              _Question of Profit and Loss as involved in
                           Amateur Farming_,

                               WITH MUCH

            VALUABLE ADVICE AND INSTRUCTION TO THOSE ABOUT
                   PURCHASING LARGE OR SMALL PLACES
                        IN THE RURAL DISTRICTS.

                      _NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION._


                                  BY

                      ROBERT BARNWELL ROOSEVELT,

      AUTHOR OF “GAME FISH OF NORTH AMERICA,” “SUPERIOR FISHING,”
     “FLORIDA AND THE GAME WATER BIRDS,” “PROGRESSIVE PETTICOATS,”
                “FISH HATCHING AND FISH CATCHING,” ETC.


                               NEW YORK:
                   O. JUDD CO. DAVID W. JUDD, PRES.
                             751 BROADWAY.
                                 1885.

    Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1885, by the

                           O. JUDD COMPANY,

       In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



                                  TO

                         THE WRITERS OF BOOKS

                                  ON

            FARMING, GARDENING, HORTICULTURE, AGRICULTURE,
                           AND FLORICULTURE,

                _THIS WORK IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED_,

                            AS AN EVIDENCE
            OF WHAT CAN BE DONE AND WHAT WONDERFUL RESULTS
                 THEIR DIRECTIONS AND STRICT OBEDIENCE
                            TO THEIR RULES;

                                  AND

          AS A SLIGHT TESTIMONIAL TO THE ACCURACY, LUCIDITY,
              AND PRACTICABILITY OF THE ADVICE WHICH THEY
                GIVE AND THE EXPERIENCES THEY DESCRIBE;

                          IN THE SINCERE HOPE
             THAT THEY WILL NEVER WEARY OF COMPOSING BOOKS
                    EQUALLY TRUTHFUL, TRUSTWORTHY,
                           AND INTERESTING.

                              THE AUTHOR.



 CONTENTS.


 INTRODUCTION.

 Apotheosis of the Country, especially of such Portions of the Country
 as the Author has for sale.--Many Attractions and still more Lots
 at Flushing.--Simplicity of Farming, and Lucidity of Agricultural
 Books.--Profits and Pleasures of Rural Life.....Page ix


 CHAPTER I.

 A COW.

 Special Points about the Bovine Race.--Directions in
 Feeding.--Preparations to receive the Animal.--Her Arrival.--An
 awful Pause.--The Fray about to begin.--Intelligence of Cows and
 Biddies.--Victory.--A Calm.--Cow Complainings.--Approaching Storm.--A
 Tempest in a back Yard.--Soothing Effects of “Mash.”--Immense
 Profits and glorious Prospects for the Future.--Peculiarities and
 Eccentricities of the Race as exhibited in a confined Space.--She is
 sent to the Country for the benefit of her Health.....19


 CHAPTER II.

 A HOUSE, PLANS, AND SPECIFICATIONS.

 Wonderful architectural Genius of the Author.--He admires himself
 and consults his Friends.--Difficulties in obtaining “just the
 Thing.”--Want of Time.--Free Trade in Houses advocated as superior
 to Home Production.--The imported Article falls into the Hands of a
 Philistine named Barney.--A fresh Arrival.--The House comes, but the
 Builder does not.--The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Flight of the
 Housekeeper.....37


 CHAPTER III.

 MORE LIVE-STOCK--A HORSE AND A PIG. WHICH IS THE NOBLER ANIMAL?

 Beauties of the Pig.--Defects of the Horse.--The dearest Pig and the
 dearest Horse, each in their way.--A haunted House, and the Effect
 of Ghosts on Horses.--The Ghost Story precisely as it occurred.--Are
 Ghosts liable to Damages when they frighten Horses into fits of
 running away?--Equine Eccentricities.--Practical Playfulness.....61


 CHAPTER IV.

 THE COUNTRY, AND HOW TO GET THERE.

 Easy Accessibility of Flushing.--An improving Railroad.--Education by
 Steam.--True Principles of Travel.....77


 CHAPTER V.

 A WELL.

 A Well, considered classically and otherwise.--A Cat in search of
 the Truth.--A Catastrophe.--Pumps and Vanities of Life.--A poor
 Sucker.--Hydraulic Pressure.....86


 CHAPTER VI.

 A KITCHEN GARDEN.

 Advantages thereof.--Things to have.--You wish you may get
 them.--Ornamental as opposed to practical Views.--A dissolving
 View.--Bad Beginnings do not always make a good Ending.--Daniel
 O’Rourke’s as a grazing Crop.--The new-mown Hay.--Its Flavor and
 Flower.--Remarkable Results of Gardening for Profit.....97


 CHAPTER VII.

 THE FLOWER GARDEN.

 Architectural Skill set at defiance by practical Difficulties.--Result
 of too much Greenness.--A Disappointment.....111


 CHAPTER VIII.

 POULTRY.

 Strange Attack of Somnolency.--Dogs and Peppers as awakeners.--The
 right Thing in the wrong Place.--A Hen lays herself out.--Twenty pair
 of Chickens raise the Hair of one Mink.....124


 CHAPTER IX.

 FALL WORK.

 A Fortune in Strawberries.--How to get it out.--Debility
 developed.--Science to the Rescue.--The wonderful Effects of a Liquid
 Fertilizer.--No Farmer should fail to have such a Thing in the
 House.....136


 CHAPTER X.

 PROFIT AND LOSS.

 Immense pecuniary Advantages of high old Farming.--Exactitude
 the Foundation of Success in Life.--A plain Statement.--General
 Reflections.--An amateur Butcher.--Boiled salt Pork.....148


 CHAPTER XI.

 THE FLUSHING SKATING-POND--A DIGRESSION.

 A nice Man as an Ice-man.....161


 CHAPTER XII.

 THE SECOND YEAR.

 A new Start, with no Drawbacks.--Immense Results, but not precisely
 what was wanted.--The great Pea turns out small.--Wonderful obstinacy
 of Plants.....169


 CHAPTER XIII.

 SCIENCE.

 Knowledge is Power.--The new Flower.--A Thing of Beauty.--Appearance
 contrasted with Perfume.--The Fox is the Finder.....179


 CHAPTER XIV.

 A SECOND DIGRESSION--FAIRY TALES FOR LITTLE FOLKS.

 Retributive Justice.--Don’t be such a Goose.....189


 CHAPTER XV.

 NUISANCES, INHUMAN AND HUMAN. PETS--THE CHARM OF COUNTRY LIFE.

 With a few Reservations.--Flies on the Rampage.--Wonderful
 Discovery.--Dogs on Seedlings.--A Hop-toad Hunt.....203


 CHAPTER XVI.

 BUTTER-MAKING. SEEDS AND THE DEVIL.

 Butter-making in all its Attractions.--The Cream unequal to the
 Emergency.--Some Things can’t be Done as well as Others.--Electrical
 Phenomena.--Gathering Seed.--Incidental Reference to Satan and his
 Works.--not his agricultural ones.....216


 CHAPTER XVII.

 SUCCESS OF THE YEAR.

 A second Year’s Balance-sheet.--Still greater Promises.--Success
 assured.--Every Man should be his own Market Gardener.--No dearth of
 Onions.--Transported at the Result.--The last of the family Horse.--He
 closes his Career by a wonderful Feat in drawing Teeth Page......233

 CHAPTER XVIII.

 PREPARATIONS FOR REMOVAL.

 The Window Garden.--Warm Work.--Immense Resources of Science.--Mind
 against Matter.--What can the Matter be?--The new Flower......253

 CHAPTER XIX.

 A GREAT RUNNER.

 A perfect Jonah.--Very fine, only don’t do it again.--A Gourd runs
 away with its Master.--A changeable Crimson.--A new Specimen of Flax,
 Red one Year and Yellow the next......266

 CHAPTER XX.

 A BEAUTIFUL NEW COACH.

 A Rockaway stricken with Palsy.--Sudden Recovery.--Honesty of country
 Mechanics their best Recommendation.--A Roof over one’s Head.--Its
 Necessity, as well as Beauty.--A Fellow-feeling makes us willing to
 lend Shingles.--The latter End......283

 CHAPTER XXI.

 THREE HUNDRED ACRES NOT ENOUGH.

 New Farms.--More Land.--No Rooms for Mushrooms.--Many Sects of
 Insects.--The Squash.--Unexpected Fungi.--The Triumph that Grazed
 Defeat.--The Joys of Memory......297



INTRODUCTION.


It was in consequence of reading a little volume called “Ten Acres
Enough”--a practical and statistical, as well as, in certain points, a
poetical production--that I came to prepare this volume. In that work a
charming and interesting account is given of the successful attempt of a
Philadelphia mechanic to redeem a strip of exhausted land of ten acres
in extent. In the course of it, a vast deal of advice and most valuable
directions are given on the subject of planting and sowing, draining and
reaping, manuring and pruning; berries and fruits, vines and vegetables,
are duly considered; and the question of outlay and income, expenses and
receipts, losses and profits, is forever ding-donged into one’s ears. So
useful is the instruction it contains, that no one should think of
buying a farm, experimenting in rural life, or even reading this book,
without first perusing that one. To be sure, the author forgets
occasionally some minor matters--such as clothing, food, and the like,
leaving his family naked and unfed for several years--but that is
doubtless due to his poetical temperament and intense love of nature. In
the same spirit, therefore, no matter how frequently I may refer to
money matters in the course of the following pages, even if I should
occasionally condescend to speak of food and raiment--those commonplace
necessities--it must be understood to be with no sordid view; and if I
keep these matters before the reader’s attention, it will be for the
sole purpose of benefiting and enlightening him, and pointing out
clearly the financial consequence of investing in rural residences.

The country--how beautiful it is! To a man wearied with the cares of
city life; who has pursued an exhausting profession for several years
with vigorous energy; who has taken a hand in politics, attended
caucuses and Conventions, and helped to “run the machine;” who has a
philanthropic turn of mind, and gone on committees and made public
collections; and who, moreover, has abundant means--this, though last,
is by no means least--the country, with its green leaves, its lovely
flowers, its waving grass, its early vegetables, and its luscious
fruits, is most attractive; and where a residence can be obtained which
combines all these luxuries with pure air, and no chills and fever, and
which is not too remote from city life and its attractions, it is as
near to Paradise as this world permits.

There are many such places near New York. Gorgeous villas dot the banks
of the Hudson, and congregate together thickly on Staten Island; there
are beautiful spots along the coves of Westchester County, and persons
who do not mind expatriating themselves go to Jersey; but there is one
locality that far surpasses all others. The steep banks of the Hudson,
cut off as they are from the westerly winds by the Palisades and higher
hills beyond them, are uncomfortably hot; Staten Island is overrun by
sourkrout-eating, lager-beer-drinking, and small-bird-shooting Germans,
who trespass with Teutonic determination wherever their notions of
sportsmanship or the influence of lager leads them; Westchester County,
like some of our famous _prima donnas_, is fair to look upon, but great
on shakes--too much so for perfect repose; and Jersey will be a pleasant
place to live in when the inhabitants, individually and as a government,
cease to live off strangers.

The locality referred to--the chosen spot of this earth--the Eden of a
country village--has none of these drawbacks. An invigorating breeze
blows over pure salt marshes; Germans do not trespass nor make one
afraid; no man residing there has ever had a case of chills and fever,
no matter what may have happened to his neighbor, where the boys are
forever out o’ nights and exposed to the dew; and the inhabitants are
always ready to kindly take a stranger in.

It is a village, and yet country houses stand embosomed in majestic
trees; cows pasture in the vacant lots and bellow in the streets;
nurseries for the propagation of trees and shrubs give a condensed
edition of miniature forests, and furnish in one rod the flowers that
Nature, if left alone to her parsimonious way, would scatter over an
acre; gas is in the residences, pigs root in the public roads, and early
peas are combined with plank side-walks. This unequaled concentration of
attractions can be reached in thirty minutes from either the upper or
lower part of the city--of course New York city is meant, as no one need
leave Philadelphia or Boston to get into the country--and by a most
delightful route, partly on water and partly by railroad. The trains run
every hour all through the day, and the line is the safest in the world.
This spot, so desirable, so infinitely superior to all others, is
Flushing, Long Island.

I have some property at Flushing which I should like to sell in lots to
suit purchasers; in fact, it is five acres of such lots--the five acres
that this book is all about. I owned this superior investment when “Ten
Acres Enough” led me to thinking that if the author could make such a
delicious thing of a plot of sand in New Jersey, as much could probably
be done with half the area in the fine soil of Flushing. Unfortunately,
my land had no improvements, but then it was a magnificent level square,
precisely like a block in the city, and admirably adapted to building.
Otherwise my five acres were full as good as the half of his ten acres;
the grass seemed to be abundant, for the cows of the entire neighborhood
had grazed on it from time immemorial; a previous owner had been once
known to plant cabbages, and the tradition is that they grew and came
out cabbages, and did not, as they usually do, spread themselves and
become very fine but rather loose leaves. The soil was deep, a well
having been sunk on the adjoining property without descending beyond it,
or reaching any water worth speaking of; and the exposure was as sunny
as could be desired--there being only six trees, and one of those in
doubtful health, on the entire five acres. Teachers generally say, on
receiving a new pupil from another master, that there is more trouble to
unlearn than to learn; here there was nothing to be undone--everything
was to be done. It was not exactly a virgin soil, but, like a lovely
widow, it had lain fallow--a friendly farmer made use of that word--so
long, that it would be grateful for the touch of a rake or a hoe. There
was no garden, no fence, no orchard, and no fruit-trees of any kind
except one apple-tree, but then the nurseries and a little labor would
make this right.

An unpleasant suspicion crossed my mind that perhaps it would have been
better if some of these things had been done to my hand, and that
possibly I was not exactly the man to do them in the best way; but a
second perusal of “Ten Acres Enough” was enough for me, and these absurd
doubts were banished forever. If an uneducated mechanic could leave
Philadelphia, rescue a decaying farm, and make it splendidly
remunerative, why could not an educated lawyer from New York convert an
uninjured farm into the eighth or ninth--we Americans have added a few
to them--wonder of the world?

The affair was as simple as could be. With a class-book of botany, a
recipe from Professor Mapes, a few cuttings of some wonderful new
berry--of which, doubtless, there were plenty, and Bridgman’s
“Gardener’s Assistant,” the result was certain. It was merely a question
of seeds, weeds, and manure--the first and last to be encouraged, and
the other to be eradicated.

After all, what is the wonderful science in farming? You put a seed in
the ground, and it comes up--that is, if it does come up--either a pea
or a bean, a carrot or a turnip, and, with your best skill and greatest
learning, you can not plant a pea and induce it to come up a bean, or
convert a carrot into a turnip. As for planting, any fool can do that,
and as for making it grow, the wisest man in the land can not effect it.
These and a few other similar arguments were entirely conclusive, and
soon visions of the accomplished fact engrossed my mind.

I should have a neat, modest, small, but cosy little house; square, for
economy’s sake, but surrounded on all sides by a deep piazza; the garden
should be filled with delicious vegetables, fruits, and berries, the
earliest and best of their kinds; there should be a magnificent bed of
asparagus--that king of the kitchen garden--a dozen long rows of
strawberries, with fruit as luscious as a young girl’s lips; Bartlett
pears, early peas, peaches and cream--the latter only indirectly
vegetable--cauliflowers, tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce--every thing, in
fact, that a gentleman eats when he can get it, and nothing that he
eschews when he can do no better. The residue of the farm was to be
partly orchard and partly market garden, and this was to supply the
family during the winter and pay the expenses of the household.

It is an immense satisfaction, of a hot evening in summer, even in the
prematurely scorching days of June, to leave the city, after a long day
of labor and trouble, and, rushing away with railroad speed into the
country, to enjoy the delicious air and cool breeze, to sit beneath the
outspreading trees, to wander through the woods, to bathe in the brook,
to doze or smoke in the shade. The scent of the blossoms or the hay, or
no smell at all, is such an exquisite relief from the customary odors of
New York streets. The sun seems to lose half and the air to gain double
its ordinary power. The pleasures are so innocent, the matters of
interest so pure, the mind is braced but not wearied. The garden,
whether kitchen or flower garden--those delightful adjuncts of a country
place--is such an infinite source of health, improvement, and delight.
Man, confined to the city by dire necessity of money-making, recognizing
the country as the natural sphere of his existence, dreams of a neat,
quiet, retired country place, and books such as “Ten Acres Enough”
persuade him to convert these dreams into realities.

I had always been troubled with similar visions, although by a strange
fatality my education in country matters had been wofully neglected, for
I could hardly distinguish tomato-vines from egg-plants, and had not the
remotest notion of modes or seasons of planting; but, now that there was
a possibility that these imaginings might be realized, I was so charmed,
that I resolved to record my experiences for the guidance and
instruction of others. Thus it came about that this work was written;
and if it is occasionally defective in style and irregular in plan, it
is probably not more so than was my farming.

In looking over this introduction with a view to getting up a revised
and enlarged edition of “Five Acres too Much” some fifteen years after
the original was written, I find little to add and less to change in it.
Finding my farm of five acres so remarkably improving, productive, and
remunerative, I purchased one of twenty-five, afterwards another of a
hundred and twenty, and now I own, have, hold, possess, till, and enjoy
three hundred and fifty broad acres of health and fertility. To-day I am
the “past grand” of farmers, for I have raised the giant squash which
admits to the innermost circles of the initiated. My readers will be
glad to learn that Patrick is still with me. My farming and my writings
on farm-life would have been a failure without his efficient aid, and
he still possesses that versatility of resources which in the original
pages of this work almost elevated him to the rank of genius. I have
added some of our modern experiences, and believe the patient reader
will find them fully equal to anything I had previously chronicled. When
my dear old friend and instructor Mr. Horace Greeley first read my
humble contribution to the literature of plough and spade, he pronounced
the unpleasant criticism that “the man who wrote that book ought to be
kicked.” But I felt that he was in error, or that possibly jealousy
rather than public spirit dictated his cynical words, because “What I
knew about Farming” differed in some essentials from what he knew,
although we had in the main reached the same results. An additional
chapter gives my subsequent operations, which were as gloriously
successful as the previous ones, and prove beyond dispute the delight,
benefit, and profit of rural occupations when they are intelligently
conducted by a citizen of liberal education, scientific attainments, and
vigorous back.

                                             THE AUTHOR.

May, 1885.



FIVE ACRES TOO MUCH.



CHAPTER I.

A COW.


It was early in winter when I made up my mind finally to erect a country
house on the Flushing five acres. Plans, and size, and arrangements were
in the vague and misty future; for months the ground could not be broken
to build the foundations, and little could be done besides preparing for
the next year. The first thing that seemed of vital importance was the
stock. Pigs and chickens could be obtained at any time; horses had to be
had, of course, but need not bother one till the last moment; but a cow
was a creature that must be taken when a good one offered. Moreover, I
have a weakness for cows: it is a purely theoretical interest, for my
knowledge is less than moderate, not even extending to the mode of
milking them; but their big eyes, and gentle manners, and unnecessary
horns, and split feet, have always filled my heart with love and
wonder. Horses are miserable creatures, invariably doing precisely what
they ought not to do, kicking when they ought to go, going when they
ought to stand still, balking when their owner is in the most frantic
haste; forever sick, or lame, or requiring to be shod--a pest, a
nuisance, and a bore. But cows do not balk, or run, or go lame, or need
shoeing; and although they occasionally kick over the milk-pail, it is
probably with good reason or with the best of intentions. They have nice
long coats that keep them from catching cold in winter, and have an odd
way of perspiring through their noses that is as curious as it is
interesting. A cow is a model--without referring to this last
peculiarity--for a wife; she is gentle, good, and beautiful, and never
makes a fuss. The first point, therefore, was to buy a cow.

I had a friend living at Flushing named Augustus Weeville, who had been
there several years, and who had acquired great knowledge of the
intricacies of rural performances, and, among other things, was learned
in cows. In fact, he was learned in most farming matters, and, being
naturally proud of his adopted village, and interested in my success in
emigrating thither, gave me throughout his valuable advice and
assistance.

Of course, his aid was called in on the cow question, and equally, of
course, he knew an Irishman--by-the-by, what can be the reason that
Irishmen are the only people that have cows to sell? Is it because they
love cows, or hate them? The whole world knows their “strong weakness”
for pigs, but do they collect rare specimens of cows out of pure
affection, to dispose of to curiosity-seekers having good homes? Or is
it that they love pigs too well to endure the presence of a rival, and
dispose of the bovine race as fast as they obtain them? However that may
be, if you ever want a cow, an Irishman will want to sell you one; and
this particular Irishman had a particularly fine animal--just the thing
for the occasion.

Before purchasing, I made a few elementary inquiries--as to what cows
eat, how much exercise they needed, in what manner they were to be
stabled, and how many quarts of oats they would require daily. My friend
replied that they preferred a warm mash, to be given three times a day;
and when he saw from my countenance that my mind was a blank on the
subject of warm mashes, he explained that hot water was poured upon bran
and meal mixed, and that the mixture was then usually called a mash,
although why and wherefore he could not distinctly say. Then, carried
away by the extent of his knowledge, and rousing to the subject, he went
into the habits of cows in general; that he thought ship-stuff was an
excellent change of diet; that they liked hay, turnips, carrots,
potato-peelings, bread, slops of all kinds that were not greasy; that
they were not fed oats, and required no exercise and no care, in the
stable, but stood in the sun all day long, winking and blinking with
contentment, and put themselves to bed at night; that the one he
referred to was not young, but gentle and a good milker; and mentioned
incidentally that he hardly knew where I would keep her in the city, as
no cow would ever go down the area steps and through a narrow hall-way
into a back yard.

Now I knew nothing of bran, and meal, and ship-stuff, and only listened
with an attempt at an intelligent smile, satisfied that the articles
could be purchased by name, and without explaining their nature; but I
was well aware that the yard was the only place in which to keep the
cow, and that the road to it was down the steps and through the lower
hall; at least, if there was any other way thither, I had not yet
discovered it, and I had owned my house then some twenty years. So this
casual objection was quite a serious one, and we were compelled to
discuss the feasibility of leading the animal up the front steps--a
proceeding, however, which would have required her to go down the back
ones--or hoisting her over the fence. As these measures did not seem
practicable, and a cow must be had, my friend mildly suggested that
several Irishmen with a stout rope might drag her through the
passage-way; and as my faith in the nature of cows was illimitable, it
was determined to make the purchase on the chance. The weight of a cow
was to me an utterly unknown quantity, and the floor she was to pass
over having once, on a previous occasion, and without any great strain,
given way, a carpenter had to be called in to strengthen it. He, in his
enthusiasm, and being probably as ignorant as myself, used so many
supports that it would have been strong enough to carry an elephant,
while four able-bodied men were engaged from a neighboring stable, and
provided with a good-sized rope, so that we were fully prepared for any
emergency.

In order that there may be no mistake in the debit and credit of this
transaction, it must be known that the cow cost $100, to be delivered at
the door free of charge. So this sum must be charged to principal as so
much invested in stock, whether it ever entered my back yard or not; and
the interest on it will hereafter be one of the current expenses,
amounting, at seven per cent., to exactly $7 a year. It is essential
that these matters should be watched; “look after the pennies, and the
pounds will take care of themselves;” and the point would be whether the
cow’s milk and so forth would hereafter pay $7 annually net profit.

The day appointed to receive my new pet arrived, and with it the animal,
while four brawny, red-handed Irishmen, strong enough to pick her up and
carry her if she resisted, were at the door. They at once became
excited, and prepared for action, and the cow looked wild and
threatening as they closed in around her. Her owner, who was leading her
with a cord, called out “soo-so-o-o” in a deprecatory manner, that
evidently produced no effect; he, however, got her head to the first
step, where she hesitated, and began to sniff suspiciously. The moment
of action had evidently come, and I was about to shout to my supporters,
who had been carefully instructed as to their duties, “Up, guards, and
at her,” when the lower door opened, and an intelligent Irish female
appeared, holding a turnip in her hand. The effect was magical; the
creature’s countenance changed instantly; turnips evidently had been
scarce with her, or her owner, not thinking it worth while to waste
food that would not be paid for, had left her hungry; she advanced her
nose expectantly, and, as the tempting viand was skillfully withdrawn,
followed it and the “retiring maid” down the steps, through the hall,
and into the yard.

[Illustration]

Four natives of the “Gem of the Sea” were sadly disappointed; they came
for an “illegant bit of a scrimmage,” and determined to make that cow do
what she did not want to do, as well as increase their reward by
extraordinary violence; and they would have liked to follow her, and, as
they could not make her go in, make her come out against her will, and
without the allurement of turnips. Of this satisfaction her
incomprehensible behavior had deprived them, and they went away sad and
disappointed men. This incident only placed the character of cows on a
still more exalted pedestal, and fully justified my confidence.

My friend Weeville had given me specific directions in writing how to
feed that cow; exactly how much bran--of which, after some trouble, and
a vain attempt to buy a few pounds of it, I had obtained a bag--was to
be mixed with a certain proportion of meal; and how often daily this
mess, which is probably English for mash, covered with warm water, was
to be fed; and about how much hay would fill up the intervals. These
instructions were carefully transmitted to the servant who had charge of
the dairy, with particular injunctions to carry them out to the letter,
and not to deviate from them in the smallest particular.

For several days my new purchase demeaned herself unexceptionably, being
quiet and well-behaved; but at the end of about a week she began to
bellow, and kept on increasing her complaints daily until they became
unendurable. Neighbors put their heads out of windows, evidently
meditating dire resolves unless “something were done, and that
shortly,” whenever I went into the yard to appease her.

What to do was not very clear. When my dog howls I go out and whip him,
and he appears to think that is the right thing to do, and stops; but a
cow is such a big thing to whip, and she did not seem to be in the least
mollified by a few strokes of a stick that I tried. Gratitude for my
good opinion should have induced that cow to take a hint from her equine
friends and put a “bridle on her tongue,” but, instead of doing so, she
gave free vent to her feelings, and, in spite of petting or flogging,
abusing or praising, made “the air musical.” My exalted admiration for
her race diminished as sleep fled from my pillow, and murderous thoughts
possessed my soul. I seemed to see a dagger “with its handle to my
hand,” which looked much like a butcher’s knife, and there was an
estrangement springing up between us that might have terminated fatally
had not the Celtic heroine of the turnip adventure reappeared. With the
energy peculiar to that sympathetic race, the lady of the kitchen
announced, “It was starving, the poor baste was; and if the master would
let her feed the crayture all she wanted, there would be no more noise
at all, at all.” That consent was not long withheld; one more roar
removed all scruples of dignity, superior intelligence, and the like,
and Biddy fled to the meal-tub. She returned in ten minutes with the
biggest tub of mash the cow or myself had ever seen. The former--not
Biddy, but the cow--plunged her nose into it nearly to the eyes, and
devoured it without once pausing, and then did the like with a
replenished dish. My opinion of the intelligence of cows and Biddies was
elevated, and I concluded cow-feeding was not my specialty. With those
two feeds, or more properly gluts, of mash, comfort returned to my
household.

About the time that these events occurred, milkmen had concluded that
the lacteal fluid--or what they sold for such--was scarce and valuable,
and they raised the price to the rate of twelve cents a quart. Our cow,
which had been baptized with the name of Cushy, gave about eleven quarts
daily, and as the household only needed six, there was a clear opening
for profit to the extent of sixty cents a day. Pure milk is rather a
rarity--by which is intimated that it is not universal--in the milkmen’s
carts in the great city of New York, where that of a watery consistency
and cerulean hue is more common than the dull, pale opaque of the real
article. In fact, it is said by dairymen that milk just as it comes from
the cow is heating--too heating for persons confined to the narrow and
unhealthy limits of a city, and should have a little dash of fresh water
to take the fire out.

In spite of their convincing arguments, however, an individual was found
so little alive to the excellence of the dealer’s milky way as to be
ready not merely to pay the current price, but to supply his own cans
and send for the milk. This opened a magnificent vista; it was the first
of the long series of profits that were to flow in one steady stream
from the country place or its accompaniments. If one cow yielded a clear
daily income of sixty cents, that a hundred or a thousand would yield
proportionally more was merely a question in the rule of three.

There was one little matter, however, that somewhat impaired the full
measure of this success. The haymakers, or whoever they are that own
hay, had raised the price of their goods to keep pace with the price of
milk, so that hay was at the moderate rate of two dollars or two dollars
and a half a hundred pounds. Moreover, that was an uncommonly
intelligent cow, and she used her superior gifts to assure her own
comforts, regardless of my feelings or my profits. The hay was stored in
a closet under the steps that led down into the yard, and, in spite of
every care and contrivance to keep her out, Cushy would open the door,
and not only help herself to all she wanted, but throw down armfuls
under her feet, and then, like all her dainty race, she would utterly
refuse to eat whatever had become dirty. If the door was latched, she
pushed the latch up; if bars were placed across, she removed them with
her horns; if a rope was used, she broke or stretched it; and if she
could not get in otherwise, she would tear the whole away.

After trying many plans, the door was ingeniously hung from the top, so
that, as was supposed, it would effectually prevent her unauthorized
inroads; but next day it was found at the other end of the yard, having
been carried thither on her head. Besides, the amount of hay she ate
seemed to have no effect in diminishing the quantity of mash she wanted;
rather she appeared to carry into practice the deceptive proposition of
the stingy father to his hungry sons--that he who ate the most meat
should have the most pie--by demanding more bran the more hay she
consumed.

In spite of these drawbacks she was an immense convenience. Her
manufactory seemed to work better than more scientific and artificial
arrangements, and turned out a more agreeable article than the most
skillful chemical milkman. However disgraceful to human nature is the
confession, science is nowhere against a cow. To be sure, she would on
wash-days carry a few clothes off the lines, and drag them around in the
most nonchalant and unconcerned way conceivable; would even now and then
get her horns mixed up with the lines generally, and pull out half a
dozen hooks; but the moment this was done she was entirely satisfied,
and would stand perfectly quiet until she was disencumbered. She made
more dirt than was altogether sightly, and a man had to be engaged to
come daily and remove it.

[Illustration]

These various eccentricities added somewhat to her cost, and made it
difficult to compute the amount accurately; but, apart from the value
of clothes and clothes-lines, her feed cost thirty dollars a month, and
the man’s attendance six more. So long as she kept on giving twelve
quarts a day, there was a clear profit of four cents daily, besides the
thorough manuring of the yard, which with farmers is an important point,
and would have been more valuable in this instance if it had been
possible to grow any thing in it, and had it not been, unfortunately,
that, for some unknown reason, not even a spear of grass had ever been
willing to exist there.

The quantity of milk, however, soon began to diminish, until, after six
weeks, the arrangement with our neighbor had to be discontinued. This
reduced the profit, although Cushy still gave more than an abundance for
our family, and there would have been a loss had not hay and bran come
up to the occasion by coming down in price. The reader, therefore, must
call upon the author of “Ten Acres Enough” to determine, by a few
algebraical eliminations, whether, if a cow’s yield falls off more or
less, and her feed diminishes in price considerably, there is a loss or
profit, and if so, why so, and how much. For my part, I never could
arrive at any satisfactory conclusion except that pure milk and fresh
cream were, either combined or separate, very satisfactory.

Cushy had an excellent disposition; she never exhibited but one evil
passion, and that was for the meal-tub: she would feed from the hand or
a pail, or, in fact, in any way, so long as she was fed enough. Upon
this regimen she waxed fat, until it became a serious question whether
she would ever again pass out of the doors that it was at first doubtful
whether she would enter. Her stomach was of goodly size when she came,
and I did not wonder that it occupied so much of her thoughts; but it
grew prodigiously, and she had a way of standing still by the hour, with
her head under the clothes on the lines, when the sun began to grow hot
in the spring, or of lying at full length in their shade, that was
evidently conducive to corpulency. When she wanted her meals, which she
did not only at frequent intervals, but whenever any one came into the
yard, she would go to the kitchen window, and, thrusting forward her
head as far as the bars permitted, would “moo” gently to express her
wants. If not attended to immediately, she would soon speak louder, and
at last would demand food in the most peremptory tone of stentorian
bovine lungs. She invariably had her desires gratified, and thus was
this interesting evidence of intelligence greatly developed. She had an
amusing way of playing with whatever boxes or baskets might be left in
the yard, somewhat regardless, to be sure, of their fragile nature; she
would carry them on her head round about, and occasionally pin them to
the earth with a thrust of her horns; and if she found the stable, which
was of wood, close and uncomfortable, she now and then walked out of it
through the side, but did these things in so unconscious a way that no
one could find fault.

She kept on growing fat and fatter--(to continue her history and
somewhat anticipate events)--until summer came, and it was necessary to
send her to the country. Then the services of another Irishman, of
course, were called into requisition, and he started off from the house
with her, early one morning in June, to lead her eight miles to her
future home at Flushing. Neither himself nor the cow was heard of again
till late that night, when, with startled countenance, he related his
adventures to my friend Weeville. He had hardly turned the corner before
a butcher rushed out and announced that he wanted to buy that cow.
Patrick indignantly refused, true to the aristocratic Irish idea that
the employer is always above disposing of any thing; but the butcher was
irrepressible, and, pulling out his wallet, offered ninety-five dollars
for her; but Pat retorted. “You’ll not get the likes of her for
ninety-five dollars.” This the would-be purchaser mistook for a haggle
over price, and demanded how much she would be sold for, when Patrick,
breaking away from him with indignation, answered resolutely, “She is
not for sale at all, at all, but going to the country for air and
grass.”

“But it’s an awful time I’ve had with her,” he continued, in his
narration. “Sure and didn’t she lay down with me twelve times, and
didn’t I think every blessed time that she would niver get up again? Her
tongue hung out a yard, in spite of me watering her at every trough
along the road. She kept me ever since tin o’clock this very morning,
and would stop to rest whenever she felt like it, until I began to think
I shouldn’t get home till next day.”

Thus Cushy exhibited another evidence of her intelligence. As she had
heretofore insisted upon being fed whenever she was hungry, she now had,
with equal peremptoriness, demanded rest when she was tired. Fat and
unaccustomed to travel, she made the Irishman conform to her views of
speed, like the superior being she was, knowing well that he was only
sent to wait on and accompany her in her journey. She was evidently
pleased with the country, being found next morning up to her knees in
clover; and, had it not been for the attacks of a gadfly, which she
resented furiously, she would have led a perfectly happy life. She
certainly was a model animal. My presentiments of success were not
mistaken, and I felt almost like claiming, with the modest author of
“Ten Acres Enough,” that my impressions were never wrong.

[Illustration: PORTRAIT OF A LADY.]



CHAPTER II.

A HOUSE, PLANS, AND SPECIFICATIONS.


If there is any one thing on which I do pride myself more than another,
it is my ability to plan and lay out a house. No matter how remarkable
the shape of the lot may be, I can always devise an admirable
arrangement; and if architecture, not law, had been my fate, the public
would have been surprised at my productions. To be sure, chimneys have
an inconvenient habit of coming up through windows, and windows of
getting in the way of partitions, or locating themselves in odd and
unsymmetrical places; sometimes the only passage from the kitchen to the
front door, after my plan is completed, will turn out to be through
every room on the first floor, and occasionally the stairs will be
omitted; but these are matters for the practical builder to correct--the
great point is to mark out the general scheme scientifically.

Of course, therefore, the first thing to do toward building my intended
house was to prepare the plans. A large house--a huge pile of wood or
brick--is an abomination, and it costs so outrageously (the profit or
loss was never out of my mind); but there seems to be a limit in
reduction of size that can not be surpassed. I at once proceeded to lay
out an admirable plan for a house twenty-four feet square, a neat, nice,
cosy, comfortable little cottage; and this is an economical size,
because it requires precisely two lengths of board. I arranged for a
grand hall through the centre, and a piazza round three sides; there
were four rooms on each floor, and it would have been perfection had not
the parlor and dining-room proved to be only about seven feet by twelve,
which, after some careful measurements, was determined to be rather
small.

However, the plan had so many recommendations that I determined to make
an effort with it. In my younger days I had passed much time in
Connecticut, and had there seen houses of the nicest kind, attractive
inside and out, and which were said to cost only a few thousand dollars
apiece. A friend of mine, residing on Long Island Sound, had imported
one, which came to him cut out, sawed and marked, ready to be put up.
So, having determined to try something of the same nature, I inquired
the name of the maker, and sent him my plan, requesting an estimate.
Instead of returning me an estimate by which I could readily calculate
for a little increase of size, the stupid fellow replied that he would
come to New York and show me some plans of his own. I wrote a severe
letter in answer, saying that I wanted an estimate, not a plan. Since
then I have not heard from the gentleman, and believe he is still
studying out the beauties of my arrangement, and will, one of these
days, come before the world as a great architect on the strength of my
abilities.

Not to be put down or deterred, however, I made other plans, some of
which had the kitchen outside, some in the basement, and others on the
first floor. In one there was a piazza on all sides, in another there
was no piazza whatever; some had the servants in the garret, others
placed them in the cellar. I was ready to erect an entirely new house,
or to convert an old barn that was near the premises into two or three
houses. There was nothing that my resources were not equal to, and the
drawings would have furnished quite a new stock in trade for a young
architect.

My friends gave me their advice. They respectively assured me that I
could not live with my kitchen in a wing, and could not exist if it were
any where else; that I would be robbed if the servants were in the
attic, and robbed and murdered if they were on the ground floor; that no
house was worth building unless it were filled in with brick, and that
brick filling was a mere waste of money; that it would be hot as an oven
if it was not double boarded, or if it was double boarded and not double
plastered; that every floor must be deafened, or that the noise overhead
would be unendurable, and that deafening would be of no use whatever;
that the roof must be of gravel, or it would leak, and if made of gravel
it would break the entire building down; that oiling was the true mode
of protecting the woodwork, and that nothing whatever but paint would
answer; that the natural wood was the most beautiful trimming, and that
only stained or painted woodwork was decent; that the proper way was to
paper the walls, and that no paper would stick on fresh walls. There was
much more equally valuable advice, for which I was exceedingly grateful,
and desire again publicly to thank my friends.

While ruminating over these statements and my various different
projects, I was struck with the appearance of a neat little house in one
of the streets of the village. It was a parallelogram, which is the most
practical and economical shape for a house, and had a modest little
piazza in front, and a pretty French roof above. The internal
arrangement, with such modifications as my superior experience
immediately dictated, was absolute perfection. The building was only
twenty-four feet by thirty-six, yet there were seven comfortable rooms
on the first and second floors, the parlor moderately large, the
dining-room long and narrow to suit a dinner-table, and the bedrooms of
admirable proportion. I determined at once, with the heroism of
self-control, to abandon my own fancies, and to look and think no
farther; but, having completed my modifications, gave them to a
draughtsman, to be expressed in builders’ signs and particularized with
specifications. This event suggested the following beautiful sentiment:
It often happens that, while we are roaming over the world to gratify
our desires, the precise article for the purpose is at our very doors.

The drawings and specifications were soon made out in gorgeous style;
there was a beautiful picture of what the house would look like, with an
amount of finish and moulding that did the draughtsman great credit,
showing the inside and outside, sections and ground plans, stairs and
closets; and the specifications provided how every nail was to be
driven, and were completed with a minuteness that would set imposition
at defiance. When finished, they were submitted to several builders for
estimates.

This happened at a time when, although the inflation of gold had passed
its culminating point, labor and materials were at their highest. The
builders, smarting under the recollection of unprofitable contracts made
on a rising market, were deaf to my eloquent observations on the
certainty of a rapid fall in the value of articles at a time when the
war was manifestly drawing to a close. They had lost faith not only in
the ninety-days’ theory of our leading modern statesman, but that the
rebellion would die other than a lingering death, and refused
obstinately to be convinced. Some of them offered to oversee the work on
a commission, by which ingenious arrangement the more they wasted the
more they would make. Others charged nearly double what was the fair
value, insisting upon allowing for a farther rise in prices. One man was
so entirely overcome that, after keeping the plans a month, he returned
them secretly, ran away, and was never heard of afterward.

New York being pretty much exhausted by this time, application was made
to the carpenters of Flushing. With one exception, they declined the
job, as they called it, entirely; but this one put in the lowest
estimate that had yet been made, so that the reader will perceive that
Flushing contains not merely the finest building-lots and the gentlest
cows, but the most intelligent and enterprising carpenters. There was
only one difficulty in the way of closing with this proposal, and that
was, as he coolly informed me, that he could not finish the house till
next winter. Now I wanted a summer residence, not a winter one. The city
is a sane man’s home in bleak and stormy weather, but in the summer
solstice the green fields and fragrant pastures, limpid brooks and shady
trees, tempt an equally sane man (meaning myself, of course) into the
country. It is true, much time had been wasted over specifications and
estimates, especially by the man who ran away, and the spring was pretty
well advanced; but that house had to be done by July. So, as it was
impossible to accept the services of the intelligent Flushing mechanic,
or to make use of the admirably planned Flushing house, it became
necessary to cast about for some other means of accomplishing the
object.

Over against the eastern end of that barren and crooked point of land
known as Cape Cod, which, projecting into the ocean, considers the
object of its being accomplished when it protects and shelters the “Hub
of the Universe,” lie three islands that were, in early days, according
to unquestionable tradition, the estate and property of an elderly
gentleman who was blessed with three daughters. On his death the ladies
are supposed to have divided the property among them. The daughters’
names were Anna, Martha, and Naomi, and their names appertain to the
islands still. The largest is called Martha’s Vineyard, showing that
Martha had the good sense to cultivate the luscious fruit, although the
strict Puritan customs of those times may have forbidden her enjoying
its juice, except, perhaps, in the Puritan way--on the sly. Anna took
the next largest island, which from that day has been called Nantookit,
or Nantucket, the graceful Anna being vulgarized into the familiar Nan.
Naomi’s land has since been converted into Nomansland; and well it
might, for no man would have been contented with such a portion while
brothers carried off the broad acres of the neighboring islands, and few
women, except such submissive creatures as Naomis and Cinderellas are
popularly supposed to be.

Of this group, Nantucket was once flourishing and populous, with a large
tonnage of whalemen, and a goodly population of whaling-men--where money
was so plenty and morals so pure that theft was unknown and hackmen
charged fair prices. This modern Arcadia, however, was sadly affected
by the rapid diminution of whales, was injured by the invention of
kerosene, and ruined by the discovery of petroleum, the barbarous names
of which had been, until lately, unknown in all that country. Whales
tried, for a time, to compete with these innovations, but, finding the
effort useless, gave up in disgust, and retired to their northern homes
beyond the reach of man. This would have made little difference if ships
were used in obtaining petroleum; but, although enthusiasts suppose it
comes from the decayed bones of whales that existed when this old world
was young, they had been buried “deeper than ever plummet sounded”
beneath the accumulations of modern dust; so the whalemen, being
useless, were sunk in Charleston Harbor, and the whaling-men sought
“green fields and pastures new” in California.

Nan’s inheritance went to decay, and her people were our people--that
is, they learned to cheat, and the hackmen imitated their fellows.
Population diminished, building lots were worthless, and one half the
houses were vacant. But the inhabitants were a Scriptural people, and,
remembering how the patriarchal tribes, when water and grass became
scarce, struck their tents and struck out for better quarters, they
pulled down every man his house--and not only that, but every woman her
house--and carried them over to the main land. It was at the zenith of
this exodus that my troubles culminated, and hearing of a spot where the
inhabitants had each a house to sell, and wanting the article myself,
without more ado I ordered one to be delivered at Flushing.

It was not necessary to see the new domicile; it was sufficient that it
came from Nantucket, the home of purity and truth, and to be put up by a
Nantucketan, doubtless a specimen of these qualities. He contracted to
pull it down, transport it to Flushing, and erect it on the premises
aforesaid, as we lawyers say, by the seventh day of July then next
ensuing; and if he failed so to do, then he was to forfeit and pay the
sum of ten dollars for each and every day’s default and delay over and
beyond such day as aforesaid; provided, however, nevertheless, if he
finished and completed such house before the first day of July, he was
to receive a further sum of ten dollars a day for each day that the same
should be so finished and completed before the said last mentioned, to
wit, the first day of July then next ensuing. His name was Sille--not
silly, as our New York builders would call him if they read those
provisions which, I think, do not disgrace my profession, and which of
themselves are more than worth, to the reader, the cost of this book.

The contractor soon sent me a rough diagram of the house. It was not
exactly according to my views; instead of being an economical
parallelogram, it was made up of angles and eccentricities; the
architecture was of the conglomerate style, the main building being
Doric and the extension Corinthian; the former having a peaked roof so
perpendicular that it seemed as if it never would come to a point, and
that a fly would have difficulty in maintaining a foothold on it, and
the latter being so flat that a ball would hardly roll off the eaves.
The whole was ornamented with an unlimited amount of trimming and
moulding, and there were windows of all shapes and characters. There was
stained glass in the front and rear doors, plain glass in some windows,
and parti-colored panes in others; there were windows where no one would
expect them, and blanks where one would naturally expect windows. It
might have been called a model of surprises. To a person who prided
himself on his abilities for laying out a plan economically and
advantageously, this was discouraging; but, after all, to a philosophic
mind, so long as the necessary accommodation is obtained, the particular
plan makes little difference.

Flushing is a small place, and any unusual occurrence throws it into a
wild state of excitement. Some one had been moving a house down its
main street in the ordinary manner, with rollers and a windlass, and its
slow rate of progression led to much animadversion, and many remarks
that in a country village pass for jokes. One by-stander wanted to know
whether it had stopped at the corner to take a drink, another desired to
inquire whether it was going to the city for a visit, and a third
sarcastically pointed out its rate of speed as an example for the
railroad company to imitate. The Flushing _Gazette_ took the matter up,
and had an editorial every week on the progress of the house. So the
reader can imagine what was the effect when the Flushingites learned
that a stranger was about bringing a house from Nantucket. The _Gazette_
entered into the subject with spirited hilarity, hoping that it would
move faster than the “pattern house,” and wondering whether it would
sail down or come by land--suggesting that the other houses, the old
settlers, ought to call on the new-comer--and generally made itself
quite facetious over the affair.

After signing his agreement, Mr. Sille disappeared, it was supposed, to
look up the house, and the foundation was rapidly completed by a
resident mason; but neither he nor the house reappeared. Weeks went by;
the prophecies of the incredulous were being confirmed; those who had
“known better” all along were in high spirits; the evidence was
altogether against the success of the new enterprise, and were among the
most favorable. It was rumored that contractor, house, and all had gone
down in a storm on the Long Island Sound. In the midst of these dreadful
rumors, a vessel appeared one morning at the dock near the premises, and
landed bricks, beams, and timbers--evidently what had been once a house,
and what must be a house again. The whole aspect of affairs changed;
hilarity succeeded gloom; doubts disappeared; hopes grew into
certainties; and the mason who was building the foundation engaged all
the carts, trucks, and wagons in the village to transport what he called
“the stuff” to my premises. He drove down in a great state of
excitement--only to find the gate to the dock closed and locked.

Here was an unexpected block to the wheels of progress. There was a
high, strong gate. On one side, all the vehicles of Flushing; on the
other, a mass of timber, joists, boards, and shingles, supposed to
represent a house. On careful investigation, it turned out that an
Irishman named Barney--whether it was something Barney or Barney
something, no one ever knew, as he was invariably called simply
Barney--had hired the dock, and demanded “his damages” before he would
allow “the stuff” to leave. Here was a predicament--my house landed, all
the transportation of the village ready to remove it, and an obstinate
Irishman named Barney barring the way. He was immovable, however,
insisting upon “his damages;” so the carts, and wagons, and trucks drove
away, and the Irish character came under a lively discussion. The
inhabitants of the Emerald Isle are certainly a magnificent race,
especially when their biographer does not happen to own a house which
has strayed on their land, and does want to run for alderman; and if
they did not lie, steal, cheat, rob, murder, get drunk, perjure
themselves, quarrel, fight, and insist upon damages unreasonably, they
would be almost as good as other nations. Barney was evidently a
superior Irishman, and, as no one had ever landed a load of house at his
dock before, and probably never would again, he felt that the dignity of
tenants was at stake, and must be sustained.

When these facts were reported to me I took down my law-books, and
prepared a rod for Mr. Barney. There was the clear right to land at a
public dock; there was the clear wrong of detaining property belonging
to another. Damages began to loom up before my eyes, and a very pretty
case as introduction to a lucrative legal practice in the place of my
newly-intended residence. Vistas of writs, and suits, and appeals, and
new trials, rose in my mind in graceful array, and I thanked Barney, who
was reported to be not only “ugly,” but responsible, with all my heart.
There were two difficulties in the way of legal action--first, that
until the suit was terminated the residence could not be built;
secondly, that Sille, who would have to be plaintiff, had disappeared
from the sight of man. Now the house might be delayed, as the damages
would thus be increased; but a suit without a plaintiff was beyond
ordinary legal remedies, and was not provided for even by the new Code
of Procedure. So Barney, Irishman-like, in spite of law, justice, sense,
or hospitality, kept my house, or rather intended house, by “force and
arms,” and the cellar and foundation were completed alone.

A cellar is a delightful part of a house, it is so cool in summer and
warm in winter; it is such a nice place to store “things,” as the
housewives call them; but to have all cellar and no house is carrying
the point too far. It is a pleasant place when surmounted by the proper
amount of beams and mortar, but alone is like an alligator’s
countenance, altogether too open. I am not particular, and could have
made out during the summer months, probably, if the cellar had only been
upside down.

The foundation was built, the mason was out of work, and myself out of
humor, when we were both again raised to the pinnacle of happiness by
the arrival of another vessel, which fortunately selected another dock,
and landed another house. On inquiry, it appeared that this was my
house. Lest the reader may suppose that Nantucket was so overflowing
with houses that they floated down the Sound and drifted ashore any
where, it must be explained that the first house was merely the
workshop. So the carts and trucks reappeared, and this time carried away
the _débris_ of what was once the house of some bluff seafaring
man--timbers that were shivered, as he had no doubt often requested they
should be, doors, windows, shingles, pieces of roof, floor-boards,
posts, moulding, and a thousand other odds, ends, bits, and pieces, in
the most admired confusion--and deposited them upon my entire five
acres, scattered hither and thither, as though they were component parts
of five houses instead of one.

As Mr. Sille had not come with the house, but was to arrive the next
day--for it appeared he had been storm-bound in some of the numerous
“bights,” as the Yankees call them, of Nantucket or Martha’s
Vineyard--he sent a watchman who was to sleep among the “stuff,” and
prevent Mr. Barney’s compatriots from converting it into firewood.

Mr. Sille was to arrive the next day. Week after week went by, but he
did not appear. The house lay on the ground as though a hundred-pound
rebel shell had dropped into the cellar and scattered it to the four
winds of heaven; the watchman waited, watched, and prayed, doubtless,
for relief, till his money was spent, and his shoes worn out, and his
coat thread-bare; I alternated between imbecility and fury; Barney even
was overcome, and sent word begging to have the workshop, which had been
placed on top of a pile of his hay, removed; and Flushing made it the
regular fashionable evening drive to visit my five acres to see how the
house was--not getting on.

In about a month, when the mason had almost become crazy, myself
frantic, and Barney idiotic, Sille reappeared from Nantucket or some
other remote spot, looking like the ghost of his former self, and
announced that he had been at the point of death. Not taking into
consideration for a moment my losses and sufferings, he absolutely
wanted sympathy; in the first place, he must nearly drown himself, and
now he must catch the erysipelas, and expect me to feel for any one but
myself. I asked him sternly whether this was his habit with every house
that he moved, and explained that it must not happen again; that I had
been sick too--very sick of the whole affair; that the watchman had
become demoralized and run away; that it was nearly midsummer, and that
all Flushing was laughing at us.

[Illustration]

The watchman lived in a little place not larger than a good-sized
dog-kennel that he constructed from pieces of roof, and the boys of the
neighborhood considered it fine sport to pay him a visit of a dark
night, and signalize their presence by a shower of stones. His food was
never luxurious, being cooked by himself under many disadvantages and
with few utensils; and when his money became scant, it was supplied
mainly through the charity of the neighbors. He had no bedding and no
change of clothes; and when a murder was committed near by, and the
murderer was hunted through the place by constables, officers, and half
the people as _posse comitatus_, accompanied by all the dogs in the
village; and the crowd, yelling, screaming, and fighting, rushed over
the watchman’s kennel at midnight, waking him out of sleep, he could
stand it no longer, but incontinently fled to parts unknown; so that
Sille had not arrived too soon, and found every thing needing care and
attention. He went to work at once, and, bringing order out of chaos,
began rapidly to construct the confused mass of material into the form
and stature of a dwelling.

Murders are abhorrent things to me; either from some natural
idiosyncracy, or from the training of my profession, which teaches
obedience to the powers that be, and prefers technicalities to violence,
I have a positive objection to murdering any one or being murdered
myself--especially the latter. It is so dirty and bloody, the body is
so dreadful to look at and so hard to dispose of, and the whole affair
so sudden and altogether unpleasant. I was anxious to know, before
settling in Flushing, whether murder was one of the institutions, and
was to be guarded against like chills and fever, musquitoes, and other
similar visitations.

A day or two after the occurrence, I applied to my invaluable friend
Weeville for information, and inquired whether murders were a common
event in that neighborhood. His manner in reply was very encouraging. He
had lived in Flushing nine years, and this was the first case of the
kind. It was the most peaceable place he knew; in fact, he had hardly
ever heard a loud word spoken. He pictured it as the abiding-place of
angels or Quakers, and put my scruples entirely at rest. Violence, or
disputes even, among the Flushingites were not heard of, and murders
were far rarer than deaths by lightning.

The day after this conversation there was a little friendly contest
among various fire-companies at the peaceable village to determine which
engine could throw the highest stream of water; and what was my
amazement, on reading the accounts in the daily papers, to learn that
the contest wound up in a free fight; that knives, pistols, and clubs
were freely used, and that four persons were killed and forty wounded.
For a family of semi-angels this was doing well. The philosophy of
averages furnished one consolation, however--Flushing had evidently
concentrated into one day its allowance of murders for the next five
years.

None of Sille’s men were in the fight, although at first I anticipated
finding my cellar a hospital, and expected a renewed experience in the
matter of lint and bandages, such as occupied so much of our time during
the war. He kept on steadily adding boards, and windows, and siding, and
beams together, till they took on the semblance of a house. To be sure,
it was rickety and open as yet: one man fell between the timbers,
another out of a window, and a third from the roof--but that did not
hurt the house.

Two Irishmen were one day at work digging a well, and I commenced
moralizing at their fate--doomed to a lower existence than hewers of
wood and drawers of water, not sufficiently intelligent, even, to cut
sticks, and condemned to carry wood and dig for water; their life one of
weary, heart-rending, back-breaking toil; no time for pleasure, no
chance to cultivate the intellect and develop the mind--a miserable
life, little better than death itself.

Musing on their hard lot, I peered down into the deep hole they were
making in the ground during the intense heats of summer, wondering how
soon science would raise the lowest of men above the condition of beasts
of burden, when one of them, glancing up, perceived me, and inquired,
“Was I the boss?” I answered in the affirmative, and he informed me that
it was customary for the boss to “stand something” when he first came on
the ground. Moved by my sympathies, I stood a dollar apiece, explaining
that it must not be wasted in liquor, to which they assented with great
hilarity. Alas for sympathy, and charity, and the milk of human
kindness! those wretched men immediately clubbed their two dollars
together, and, converting them into gin, knocked off work and proceeded
to get drunk. They remained incoherent, as the term goes that is applied
to their betters, all the next day. As it was essential that the well
should be finished as rapidly as possible, my feelings changed, my
sympathy died a premature death, and I never stood any thing of the kind
again.

What with drunken Irishmen and injured workmen, murdered villagers and
fighting firemen, the country house progressed slowly toward completion.
The walls, it is true, arose like mushrooms--those delicious vegetables,
which I must pause to compliment--in a night; the roof climbed into
place, partitions grew and floors were laid, windows crept into their
sash-cases, and doors and blinds were hung, but “the end was not yet.”
The seventh day of July had come and gone, and the country house bid
fair to be finished about Christmas time.

Of the cost of the progressing dwelling it is not pleasant to speak; but
as this veritable history depends greatly, for its value to future
generations, upon its accuracy and minuteness, I will admit the expense
was not despicable. Labor was high, as the Nantucket builder explained,
and timber was high, and bricks were high, and Irishmen occasionally got
high, and altogether he was compelled--much against his wishes--to
charge a high price. As the building progressed, or rather failed to
progress, it was suggested that he may have charged enough to leave a
surplus to cover a few days’ delay at ten dollars a day; but that would
hardly have accorded with the proverbial honesty of Nan’s dower island.

I concluded to hire a house near by, which, although not the one I
expected to occupy, was doubtless as good, and had the advantage of a
tight roof and solid walls. Here I could conveniently watch the progress
of the undertaking without being so deeply interested as if my lodging
depended on it. As distance is supposed to lend enchantment to the
view, the distant prospect of the completion of my house should have
been enchanting; and as summers invariably return every year, it would
be only a question of a few months, and my summer house would be merely
a next summer house.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER III.

MORE LIVE-STOCK--A HORSE AND A PIG. WHICH IS THE NOBLER ANIMAL?


In order to live in the country, one must own a horse; in order to keep
house in the country, one must own a pig. In popular estimation, the
animal creation stand in relation to man in the following order--cows,
horses, pigs, dogs. For the existence of a large portion of the race of
infants in these modern days of tight lacing and slender limbs, a cow is
a prime necessity; for utility in transferring one’s self from place to
place between which there is no railroad, or if there is, and the
person’s life is precious in his own eyes, a horse is extremely useful;
for association in contemplative moments and suggestiveness of
comfortable ideas, a pig is very pleasant; for the higher enjoyments of
life, for the sports of the field and wood, the dog takes first rank.

I have already described the cow. My dog, like those of all my friends,
is the best in the world, and I bought the “love of a pig.” Pigs are a
highly intellectual race; they not only know on which side their bread
is buttered, but in which part of the trough to find the best-buttered
pieces. Reader, didst thou ever study the language of a pig--the
beautiful intonations of its various expressions; the grunt of welcome
at its master’s approach; the sharp warning to desist if punishment is
threatened; the squeal demanding more food, broken often into the most
piteous accents of entreaty; the cry of pain, or scream of rage?
Pig-language is a copious one, although the power to understand it is
given to but few of the human race. The expressions of a pig’s face are
most impressive; the eye speaks the enjoyment of a joke--twinkles with
fun, as we say; conveys an intimation of anger, or expresses scorn of an
underhand action or watchfulness against it. Who ever got the better of
a pig by fair means? Chase him, and see him provokingly keep half a
dozen feet ahead of you; try to drive him, and measure his obstinacy
even by that of your wife; endeavor to lead him, and make up your mind
to have a “good time.”

Our pig united many pleasant qualities and points of sagacity to a
gentleness and suavity rare in the race; he had an appetite that was a
joy to behold, and was as effective an appetizer as a gin-cocktail.

[Illustration]

The household was large, and swill consequently abundant, but piggy
never shrank from his duty; he seemed to feel that the reputation of all
pigdom rested on him, and, no matter how often the trough was
replenished, he was ever ready to renew his attacks. His sides were
puffed out and rounded like a ball, but he would stand with one foot in
the trough, and never desist till the last morsel was consumed. He was
as clean and white as a baby in a morning-gown, and would allow his
flanks to be scratched in the most gracious way, grunting gently the
while, and occasionally turning over on his side. He was altogether a
rarely sociable companion: so much for our pig.

In selecting a horse, there was one point I had made up my mind upon--he
must be gentle; he might be fast or slow, stylish or commonplace, but
kind in single or double harness, as the professionals term it, he
should be. My experience of horse-flesh has been varied and instructive:
I have been thrown over their heads and slid over their tails; have been
dragged by saddle-stirrups and tossed out of wagons; I have had them to
balk and to kick, to run and to bolt, to stand on their hind feet and
kick with their front, and then reciprocate by standing on their front
and kicking with their hind feet. I have seen more of a horse’s heels,
have known more of the intricacies and possibilities of a “smash-up,”
have had more bits of pole and whiffle-trees sent flying over my head
than falls to the lot of most men; I have been thrown much with horses,
and more by them; I have had them do nearly every thing they should not
have done, and leave undone all that they should have done. So
gentleness was the one prerequisite to a purchase, and many were the
animals I examined to secure this qualification, many the faults I
discovered; but I finally obtained the precise creature I wanted. He
was graceful, free, fast, stylish, and, above all, perfectly gentle--a
very family horse.

On the confines of Flushing stands a house about two hundred feet from
the road, and surrounded on three sides by a high hedge of _arbor-vitæ_.
At the front is a court-yard, and what was once a stately entrance, with
a carriage-drive round a circle, and a number of noble forest-trees; but
the grass has covered the carriage-road, weeds have choked the lawn, and
the trees spread their scraggy branches untrimmed and uncared for. The
dwelling is large, and has a deep piazza along the entire front; it
gives every outward appearance of comfort, but no family has occupied it
more than two consecutive months for many years. The house is haunted.

Many years ago an old French lady owned the place, and she had one
daughter--a beauty, of course--given to falling in love, equally of
course, or she would not have been French--and somewhat undutiful, as
the sequel will show. The mother, according to the ordinary Parisian
habit, wished to make a good match for her daughter; the latter,
according to the universal female habit, wished to select a handsome
husband for herself; the mother offered a wealthy and highly respectable
“mentor, guide, and friend” of sixty; the young lady chose a dashing,
devil-may-care lover of twenty-five. The parent dismissed the latter,
the daughter dismissed the former; the mother threatened to anathematize
if she was not obeyed, and, being disobeyed, did something of the
kind--what, among gentlemen, would be called “tall swearing.” The
daughter, who had learned the habits of American children, consented to
an elopement with her lover; the time was set, the hour arrived.

It was a bright moonlight night, the seventh of October, in the year
eighteen hundred and no matter what; a high wind was blowing, and
scattered clouds were driving rapidly across the sky; the young
gentleman at the appointed hour stood at the gate with a pair of fast
trotters and one of the lightest turnouts of Brewster & Co., of Bond
Street, having engaged a clergyman in the city of New York. Time flew
by, but he waited in vain. His lady-love had not failed of her promises,
however, but, after her mother had retired, and by her loud snoring
attested the profundity of her repose, she quietly descended the stairs,
opened the front door silently as the expertest of thieves, and stepped
upon the piazza. At that moment a heavy cloud passed across the moon,
and a fierce gust slammed to the door; fearing that her mother might
have been aroused, she groped her way hastily across the piazza, caught
the balustrade of the steps, and--walked off on the wrong side. It was
a fall of ten feet; with a wild shriek she pitched head foremost on the
bricks of the area.

The lover waited and waited, fearing let suspicions might have been
aroused, or resolution have failed; amid the noise of blustering winds
and falling leaves he thought he heard a cry of distress, and, at last
becoming uneasy, determined to visit his dulcinea’s window, and ask her
how she did. Tying his horses, he crept quietly along the shady side of
the hedge, which was that on the opposite side to her room, as he did
not wish to be seen. As soon as he reached the piazza, he followed along
under the edge of it till he came to the steps, where he waited for a
friendly cloud to conceal his movements, when he was compelled to pass
outside of them.

The opportunity soon offered, he slipped by, and the cloud cleared away
just after he had stumbled on a bundle of clothes, as he supposed,
beyond the steps; he turned to look; and there, lying upon her back,
staring up to heaven with lack-lustre, wide-open eyes, the crimson
stains upon her white forehead telling her fate, stiff, and stark, and
cold, lay all that he held dearest in this world. Her lips would never
again whisper words of love; her heart had ceased to feel that passion
which had proved her destruction. The lover’s cries aroused the house,
and brought out the trembling mother to behold her daughter still
undisturbed, with the horror of sudden and cruel death upon her
unmitigated. And amid the shrieks of the parent and the lamentations of
the servants, the maddened lover, who had been attacked with a frenzy
that never left him, heaped reproaches, and retaliated with curses on
her whose curses seemed in his insanity to have caused this terrible
calamity.

Of the parties to this tragedy there were none living in three months;
they were buried in adjoining graves, at the request of the mother, who
had it done apparently as an atonement. This palliation did not seem to
answer, however, for on the seventh of every month, at the hour of
eleven, a ghostly figure slips out of the front door, whether it is
locked or not, and with a scream falls from the piazza; a male figure
suddenly appears rent with agony at its side, and then another female
wringing her hands in despair, while the male gesticulates fiercely at
her. Such is this veritable history as I have it from the oldest
inhabitant, and it is no wonder that people do not like living in a
house with such associates.

I do not often use our horse; I am not fond of driving, and have a vivid
recollection of the early accidents with horse-flesh heretofore
mentioned; but when it became necessary to buy a pig, my judgment was
indispensable, and I was compelled to drive to the place of his
residence--which was the haunted house. I did not know that it was
haunted, and, being well aware of the decorum that requires the master
of the establishment to “tool” his coachman, no matter how much more
competent the latter may be, I took the reins, and dashed in grand style
along the entrance to the door. Leaving the coachman at the animal’s
head, I walked to the pig-pen, which was in the rear of the house, and
there was soon engrossed in admiring the beautiful little creature that
I have already described. Many minutes were devoted to the contemplation
of his innumerable fine points, and I was only aroused by the noise of a
struggle, shouts for help, and a clatter of hoofs. Instantly running
toward the front, I arrived just in time to see the heels of Dandy
Jim--for such was the animal’s name--disappearing round the corner, and
to help my groom, who was lying on his back in the road, upon his feet.

It seemed that the horse had stood perfectly quiet for several minutes,
then became uneasy, began to tremble, and turn his head with a wild look
over his shoulder. In spite of the efforts of the coachman, who was a
powerful fellow, and had been severely bruised in the struggle, he
reared and plunged violently, and finally, breaking away, dashed round
the circle, out at the entrance, and away up the road. The man firmly
believed that Dandy had seen the ghost, which was now mentioned for the
first time, although my views inclined to accept the occurrence as an
outcropping of the original sin of the horse family.

The pursuit of a runaway horse is a melancholy operation--his speed is
so much greater than his pursuer’s; his means of flight so much better
than the latter’s opportunities for stopping him; he has four feet to
set against two, and knows so well how to use them; he has such
unpleasant soundness of wind and limb, and such a raging devil inside of
him, while the satisfaction of recovering ruined _débris_ is so slight,
and the mode of punishment so vague. I followed along as best I might,
picking up a cushion here, a blanket there, the whip in one place, and
the seat in another, inquiring of every one that I met whether they had
seen a horse, and being invariably answered “that they guessed they
had.” It is enough to say that, after smashing every thing to pieces,
tearing the body of the wagon from the wheels, tossing out what was
movable, and ruining his harness, Dandy Jim became satisfied, and
allowed a rustic to catch him.

Here was a pretty family horse--afraid of a ghost when all respectable
families teach their children that there are no such things as ghosts;
running away under supernatural, and without even the excuse of mortal,
terror. I felt like shooting or selling--probably the latter, on
economical principles--Dandy Jim, but eventually concluded to repair,
or, more properly, remake the wagon. I could only have sold out at a
great loss--and I so rarely rode behind him.

Dandy had several peculiarities of temper besides his fear of ghosts. He
did not like steam-engines--if he had known how many people they kill,
he would have been entirely justifiable; so one day, when I was crossing
the track after having been to make a visit to a friend--for no one
visits on foot in the country--Dandy Jim saw the engine approaching.
That was sufficient; he immediately rose on his hind legs and pawed the
air. This might possibly have contented him, but the leather straps,
which were not intended to stand such a strain, gave way, and the wagon
came upon his heels. What then happened I do not precisely know; he
seemed to fly; occasionally he would appear to rise above the trees,
and then to descend into the bowels of the earth; he leaped from side
to side of the road with an ease and rapidity that would have shamed a
well-practiced kangaroo; the wagon bounded after him like the tail to a
boy’s kite when the latter gets pitching about with the violence of the
wind, while his heels played like flashes of lightning far over my head.
Fortunately, a countryman ran to my assistance and held back the wagon,
while another caught the horse by the head. I rewarded those men
liberally. Now a family horse should not kick, nor plunge, nor rear.

Another of his peculiarities was a dislike to standing. He did not mind
standing in the stable in the least, but when he was harnessed he
expected to keep moving. I hardly drove him sufficiently to learn his
eccentricities of temper, and on one occasion laid down the reins for a
moment. He immediately started, and the reins slipped over the
dash-board out of reach. Reader, have you ever experienced the feeling
of being run away with--I mean, female reader--by a horse? If not, do
not aspire to it. It is not pleasant. The motion is rapid, and perhaps
exhilarating, but it is not smooth, and the mode of stopping is
uncertain. There is little to do, and probably much to suffer, with a
possibility of ceasing to be. Dandy, instead of being a family horse,
ought to have been a race-horse; his speed was wonderful, though I
forgot to time it. I held by the dash-board, and shouted “ho!” at the
top of my voice. Evidently his knowledge of English was imperfect; he
mistook “ho” for “go,” and the more I shouted the faster he went.

[Illustration]

Where we went, or how we went, I never knew. When I came to my ordinary
senses, and escaped from what seemed to me like a blazing comet on a
“bust,” I found myself on the top of a pile of soft dirt--that species
of filth that the farmers obtain in the city, and put on their lands to
make vegetables grow. Although it smelled strong, and my clothes were
seriously damaged, my body proved, on careful examination, to be unhurt,
and my mental nature only badly scared. I concluded to sell that family
horse. My prejudices and impressions were in this instance, as in all
others, borne out by the result. I determined to wait, before I drove
again, till I could drive my own private steam-engine, for, with good
management, I believe steam-engines run smoother than horses.

It is hardly necessary to mention other peculiarities, such as an insane
desire to eat me up whenever I passed near his head, in entire disregard
of the fact that Nature had not made him carnivorous, and an equally
intense wish to kick me with his heels whenever I passed by his flanks.
These idiosyncracies prevented my visiting the stable frequently, while
our out-door acquaintance he had made short, and not sweet. Fortunately,
he was lame most of the time, and when he was not lame he wanted
shoeing, so that the family were not able to risk their lives
unreasonably often.

All this while the pig had been quietly feeding and growing; in fact, a
pig is a very different sort of animal. A pig never runs away and
smashes wagons;

[Illustration]

a pig never kicks people, nor dashes out their brains, nor drags them by
stirrups, nor does other such disagreeable things, but is gentle and
sweet tempered; he is all good. A boar’s head was the famous dish of
antiquity; his hams, and shoulders, and sides enable nations to carry on
war, ships to go to sea, and commerce to exist; his bristles help us to
keep our heads and clothes clean; his skin bestrides his competitor--and
then, upon the classic rule of a part standing for the whole, he is in
his right place; his petitoes are the delight of connoisseurs; his
entrails are converted into delicious sausages; and who has not read the
apotheosis of roast pig? Of a horse, the hide and bones perhaps are
useful, but the worthless carcass is only fit for carrion; dangerous in
life, while in death his boiling bones breed a pestilence.

Which, then, is the nobler animal?

     NOTE.--My horse has just run away again, and I must go and collect
     the wagon.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER IV.

THE COUNTRY, AND HOW TO GET THERE.


A very large portion of every man’s life is expended in transporting
himself from one place to another, and there are several modes of doing
it. The most disagreeable and disgusting is to crowd into a city
railroad car, and the next is to ride in an omnibus; the dyspeptic rich
use carriages, the healthy poor do not; you can go on horseback if you
know how to stay there and your horse is agreeable; in cold weather
skating is rapid, in warm weather steam-boats carry you luxuriantly;
and, if time is an object, and life is none, you trust yourself to the
locomotive. To reach Flushing, you must use both steam-boat and
railroad.

“There is one thing,” said Weeville, in the commencement of our
enterprise, with his usual enthusiastic manner, “that you will
appreciate--the access to Flushing is most convenient; there are twelve
trains each way daily, and they run with perfect regularity. No
railroad in the country is so well managed as ours, and no trip could be
pleasanter. You have a half hour on the ferry-boat, and almost twenty
minutes in the cars, just a delightful variety and absolute safety. Why,
they have never killed a passenger since the track was laid.”

This was certainly satisfactory information, and I had to regret that
the necessity of repairing this admirable road compelled its intelligent
and exemplary managers to reduce the number of trains considerably the
very day I commenced building. But it was certainly time the repairs
were made, as a train had just broken through a bridge, and commenced
the customary business of killing passengers; and the entire pile-work,
which constitutes one half the track, was discovered to be utterly
rotted out. I was not sorry the repairs were commenced, although I was
sadly inconvenienced, as the speed and regularity had apparently both
decayed with the woodwork.

Compared with other places, the superior accessibility of Flushing was
apparent. The delay would be temporary, and for good purpose; whereas,
if you wish to live on the North River, it is an even chance that you
are dumped into the water every day or two; if you travel by the Long
Island road, you must carry a month’s provision, and carefully avoid
standing on the platforms or sitting in the front car--collisions, at
the moderate speed of this road, rarely affect the rear cars; if you are
on the line of the Erie, or Morris and Essex, you will have to clamber
over Bergen Hill, and take the train after it comes out of the tunnel,
provided you desire an approach to safety; and the weight and
inconvenience of a life-preserver on a hot summer day--even one of the
patent portable blow-up-able vests of modern invention--render
steam-boat travel unendurable. In going to Flushing you have a double
cause for rejoicing--you are first thankful when you are safe off the
steam-boat and on board the cars, and, in returning, doubly thankful
when you are safe out of the cars and back again on the steam-boat.

There is an unreasonable prejudice in the public mind against being
killed on a railroad. There are many worse deaths: there is hanging, for
instance, but that, alas! is rare, or we should have fewer aldermen;
there is being broken on the wheel on the French antique model, or sawed
asunder after the Chinese fashion; lockjaw is unpleasant, apoplexy
uncomfortable, and epilepsy repulsive. In fact, death is so
disagreeable, and comes in so many ways, that a man hardly knows how to
make a judicious choice. Therefore I always sit on the end seat,
provided the ladies, as is their artless habit, bless their souls! have
each occupied a bench to herself, and have thus taken up all the room,
for I would as lief any time face death as a strange woman with a
hoop-skirt. Besides, by so doing I have a monopoly of this bench myself,
and, if I am to be killed, have it done out of hand and without
prolonged inconvenience.

The Flushing cars were crowded, which proves what a thriving place it
was, for the gentlemanly directors would certainly never willingly
inconvenience or unnecessarily crowd their passengers; and the dépôt is
not skillfully constructed. Alongside the platform was the track of the
Long Island road, beyond it a narrow strip of two or three boards, and
then the Flushing track. As the Long Island train was always in, or
coming in, or going out when the Flushing train was about to start, much
practice, nerve, and courage were required to reach it safely. The other
train had either to be stormed or avoided; passengers had to dribble in
a long line between the tracks, or climb over the platform of the Long
Island cars; and, since no one insulted them by gratuitous advice, they
not unfrequently took the wrong train.

As nerve, courage, and presence of mind are valuable qualities, and
rarely cultivated among ladies, Hunter’s Point dépôt was equal to a
public school, and deserved the commendation of the public. No man or
woman who has safely traveled by this road for a year need dread “the
battle or the breeze.” Any one who can stand on a platform not more than
two feet wide, and, unmoved, let one train whiz past in one direction
and another whiz past in the contrary, without allowing dress or person
to be caught or struck, deserves a diploma for self-command. Of course,
a few “go under” in learning how, but the mass of the traveling public
is vastly improved by the experience.

The completion of the repairs of the road was not followed by an
immediate return to traditional punctuality. I remember reaching
Hunter’s Point one evening by the Twenty-third Street ferry “just in
time to be too late;” the train did not wait for the boat, which was
delayed because the pilot had a curious incapacity for steering into the
dock, and usually ran against all the pile-work of the neighborhood. The
train went out of the dépôt as I came into it. There was only an hour to
wait, however, and a person should never be without that amount of
patience; so I sat down on the platform, dangling my feet over the edge,
as was the universal custom, and commenced to endure an hour’s
unnecessary existence. It is queer how we hate life when it is forced
upon us, and how we love it when there is danger of its being taken away
from us. There sat half a dozen men who would have given from five to
fifty dollars each to have had sixty minutes less of life, whereas the
wretch on the scaffold would give five thousand for sixty minutes more.

The hour went by, then another, and another, each bringing accessions to
the crowd of anxious, hungry, unhappy waiting men and women that clung
round the dépôt like drones round a hive, and giving me plenty of time
to work out the foregoing speculations. Night came upon us. The only
official--the ticket-man--shut up his office and went home, probably to
a loving wife and family; the brakeman put out all but one light; five
o’clock had resolved itself into ten. Conveyances of all kinds, from a
carriage down to a swill-cart, were in demand to carry passengers to
Flushing; fares by these novel and somewhat dilatory vehicles ranged
from one dollar to five. Men became disgusted, women exhausted, and
children irrepressible; but still no train. When I left in despair, at
about midnight, the men had fallen asleep on the benches, while women
were frantically demanding where there was a respectable hotel.

Next day it appeared that the train had run off the track. On this road
the engine had, in those early days of its unperfected existence, the
habit of running with one end foremost while going, and with the other
end foremost when returning; so that, as it unfortunately is not
provided with a cow-catcher at both extremities, it occasionally met
with difficulties. On this particular occasion, during the return trip,
a stupid ox had planted himself in the way, entirely forgetting that the
cow-catcher was not there for him, and absolutely succeeded in
discommoding and annoying at least five hundred people, besides killing
himself--a piece of stupidity on his part only worthy of an ox.

The trains had become very variable; during the first week of my
residence in Flushing, out of the six trips four were failures, and in
the first month I had completed the round of experiences. The boat had
missed the train, and the train had missed the boat; the boat had blown
or burnt up--I never knew which--and the train had gone off the track.
Several men who were not experienced in dodging had been killed; fuel
had given out, and water dried up; engines had grown wheezy, and bridges
become rickety; the pilot had run down the dock entirely, and the engine
reduced its speed to six miles an hour. Once the train started before
the time, but the outsiders became so enraged that no train ever
afterward started on time; in fact, every conceivable mode of evading
punctuality had been tested, but I was happy, at the conclusion, to be
able to repeat the immortal words, “I still live.”

Philosophy is a great resource under such circumstances, and, after all,
there is often as much gained as lost by a want of punctuality. Many a
comfortable nap and undisturbed perusal of the daily papers--two
pleasures for which the ordinary day rarely furnishes
opportunities--have I had by the aid of the Flushing Railroad. Some
persons grumbled, and abused the officials, and uttered bad language,
but it did no good. The employés soon became used to the disappointment,
why should not the passengers? On one occasion, when the locomotive had
been wheezing along at a snail’s pace, stopping frequently to rest and
take breath, I became alarmed, and asked a brakeman what was the matter
with the engine. This was temerity on my part, for railroad men do not
approve of familiarity from passengers, and I dreaded the result as he
gazed calmly at me; but suddenly a smile broke over his countenance, and
he answered laconically, “Played out.”

The conductor was another sort of man; when an unhappy passenger, who
had not borne his trials well, and during the summer had uttered
numerous complaints, was finding fault toward the close of the season
with some omission or commission, the conductor, whose patience had been
entirely exhausted, turned upon him with,

“You have been casting slurs on our railroad all summer; now what do you
know about it?”

“Why, I have been spending the season at Flushing, and have been
traveling on it.”

“Then let me tell you, it is as well managed as other railroads, and if
you don’t like it you need not ride on it. I don’t want any passengers
who are not satisfied.”

This was putting things on their true basis; some silly people think it
a swindle when certain times are advertised but not kept, when boats are
taken off without notice, connections are not made, and the time of
passengers is wasted; but they seem to forget that they need not go by
rail. If they do not wish to ride, they can always walk; the choice is
open to them, and Flushing is only six miles off.

     NOTE.--Since the foregoing was written all this has been changed.
     The railroad has been put in charge of a newspaper editor. It now
     has the finest cars, the best conductors, and makes the most
     regular time of any road in the United States. My lots are not all
     sold yet.



CHAPTER V.

A WELL.

“If ’twere well done when ’twere done, ’twere well ’twere done
quickly.”


Some of the incidents connected with digging our well have already been
referred to, but good water is so necessary to a country place that the
mode of obtaining it deserves a separate chapter. Well-digging is a
profession, and the most cultivated master of the art to be found in the
neighborhood had been engaged, immediately after the foundation of the
house was commenced, to dig the well. It was strange, however, how many
people at about the same time had determined to do the same thing; it
seemed as though the entire village had been seized with a mania for
sinking wells. He was exceedingly busy, and was compelled, much against
his wishes, to demand an exorbitant price for his services. He regretted
it deeply, but he would have to ask four dollars and a half a foot. As
the ordinary price was about a dollar, it was certainly honest of him to
explain beforehand the necessities of his situation; and although it
was inconvenient that the villagers should have been stricken with this
fancy at so inopportune a moment, it was certainly fortunate that the
man was so honest. He was employed at once, and strongly impressed with
the necessity of the utmost haste.

It is probable that his other engagements engrossed much of his time.
The well did not progress rapidly; but, as it soon appeared that the
house would not be completed for occupation before the ensuing summer,
the immediate necessity for drinking-water was done away with. There is
a wonderful romance about the “old oaken bucket.” Many a time in
youthful days have I plunged my nose into its liquid contents, and
choked myself, and poured the water down my shirt-front, in frantic
endeavors to drink from its thick rim; often have I lowered the empty
vessel far into the bowels of the earth, and jumped it up and down at
the risk of dashing it to pieces against the stone sides, in order to
fill it, and then puffed over the heavy pull of bringing it, laden with
the cooling crystal, to the surface. With due reverence have I studied
the many poetical things which have been said in its honor; but the days
of oaken buckets are numbered; they have been succeeded by force-pumps,
and chain-pumps, and iron pumps, that save the muscles, but offend the
sensibilities.

Were it not that I was subject to the dominion of several Irish maidens,
denominated servants, I should certainly have sacrificed utility to
beauty; but, under the force of a ukase from them, I was compelled to
buy a pump. Of the various patterns of these, a pretty iron one had
taken my fancy, and no sooner was the well completed than it was
purchased. Unfortunately, the entire village of Flushing was then
putting in pumps, and there was no possibility of having it set up for
two entire weeks. We had just occupied the house opposite, which had no
well, and we depended for water upon our own.

Header, have you ever hauled up water from a well in a pail? If you have
not, you should learn to do it; it requires skill and courage. You must
balance yourself carefully on a few loose planks, and, peering down
giddily into the dark hole that yawns beneath, you must lower the pail
with a long rope for what seems an endless distance, and when it reaches
the bottom, will have to jerk it about vigorously, as it obstinately
refuses for a long time to fill; and then you must draw up carefully the
heavy weight that threatens to pull you in, instead of your pulling it
out; and manage not to let it touch the sides, as that will spill the
contents. All the while the slipping of board, or earth, or foot will
necessitate the calling together of a coroner’s jury.

It is a pity that there is no way of falling down a well comfortably. If
you go down head foremost, your feet stick out above the water, it is
true, but you do not breathe through that portion of the body; if you
strike feet foremost, the climb back is such a long and uncertain
journey; and if you go down doubled up, you are apt to find trouble in
straightening out. Every time a maid went to the well I speculated as to
which of these modes she would follow, and feared that the case of the
broken pitcher would be illustrated.

This state of things lasted some time, as the pump-maker found his
Flushing customers more exacting than even he expected; or possibly his
workmen had gone on more sprees than he allowed for. Three weeks had
gone by, and we were still drawing water; and, what is more, the water
which we did with such infinite pains draw up was far from good. We had
been warned that for some time after its completion the well would be
dirty; that before it was finished one or more Irishmen would have to
work waist deep in the water, which would not recover from their
presence for a long while; but, instead of improving, it became worse
and worse. At first it tasted badly, but it soon smelt unendurably.
There was a great deal of house-cleaning and washing to do, but the
women finally rebelled, and flatly refused to use the odoriferous stuff
any longer, even for such base purposes, and it had been from the first
utterly undrinkable.

Weeville had always boasted of the purity of the water-bed that underlay
this entire tract of land, and in his comparisons had placed it a long
way ahead of the Croton. Of course he was called in. “It was useless to
tell him any thing against the water; he was not going to believe any
visionary stories originated by Irish servant-girls--he must taste it.”
This he did not do, however; the smell was enough.

“Pheugh!” he burst forth as it approached his nose. “I will tell you
what is the matter--the well has never been cleaned out; that infernal
well-digger has taken advantage of you, and left the pieces of dirt and
rubbish that fall in--old bits of dinner, fragments of meat and cheese,
perhaps--and which must always be removed, or they will decay, and spoil
the water for a long time.”

I immediately went after the well-digger in an intense state of wrath,
and rated him soundly for his conduct; but he not only swore by all that
was truthful that he had cleaned out the well, but called up the man
that did it. A severe cross-examination having convinced me that they
both told the truth, I returned home wondering how long it would take to
learn to like stinking, as the Mississippians have learned to like
dirty, water. I have always had a weakness for water. Whisky is the
natural American drink; lager bier is admirably suited to the Teutonic
mistiness of intellect; the frothy Champagne is adapted to the volatile
Frenchman, and the thick ale to the muddled Englishman. Brandy is
suitable for men, if we are to believe high authority. Gin, in the shape
of schnapps, was the daily potation of our respectable Dutch ancestors.
Both are irreproachable liquors, and rum deserves a better reputation;
but pure, cold, transparent spring or well water, fresh from its
bubbling fountain, or drawn from the cold recesses of its deep
receptacle, has always been very attractive to me, and for washing
purposes it has no equal. The prospect, therefore, of doing without
water was unpleasant. Cows, and horses, and pigs have not learned to
appreciate strong drinks; they prefer the native element; and to draw
for half a mile from the nearest good pump as much as a cow and a horse
can swallow would require pretty nearly the entire time of the latter.

In the midst of our troubles, the rope broke--not the golden cord,
fortunately, of any member of the household, but the cord that was
fastened to the pail. Here was a dilemma! To fish up a bucket out of
forty feet of darkness was difficult; to use another pail till the first
was removed was impossible. I began to think it would be necessary to
dig a new well, when I was informed that a man could climb down the
present one. This seemed to me a feat worthy of Hanlon; but I was
prepared for the last extremities, even death itself--provided it was
not my own--and simply said, “Let him do it,” as though seeing men cling
to a slippery wall of stones, like a fly on a pane of glass, had been
the commonest experience of my life. How he managed I did not care to
see; but that he did go to the bottom was proved by what he brought up,
which was, not the pail, but--a dead cat!

Cats are a singular and unreliable race; they never possess the
intelligence of dogs, and are given to strange vagaries. They roam about
continually, and wander no one knows whither; but what should take a cat
to the bottom of my well I can not understand. They are graceful
creatures, and old maids and little children think them handsome; but,
after they have been in water for three weeks, and become much puffed
up with their position, they are not handsome. Still, I was very glad to
see that cat.

[Illustration]

The well-water visibly improved, and the pump was finally completed. To
be sure, the maker could not spare time to put it up, but other men were
readily engaged, and one evening, on my return from the city, I found it
duly installed in its place, looking very attractive. It was a neat and
appropriate pump, and, remembering the inconveniences and dangers of
drawing water with a pail, I joyfully seized the handle and commenced to
pump. I worked away right manfully for a few moments, but did not manage
to bring up any water. When I stopped for an instant, a long sigh seemed
to express the thing’s regret that it could not accommodate me, or the
sufferings to which my exertions put it. I recommenced, and appeared to
gain for a little distance, to judge by the effort required, but at a
certain point success deserted me; the pump evidently was not equal to
the occasion. I worked away on that hot August afternoon till the
perspiration ran freely, if the water did not; and, when entirely
convinced, if not satisfied, I indulged in as little strong language as
the circumstances would admit, and sent for the pump-maker.

His bill had not been paid, and he came at once. When informed of the
difficulty, he seized the pump-handle with amusing alacrity, but a few
strokes changed his confidence to doubt. When he paused, the same
appalling sigh that had greeted me announced a similar result, and I
smiled amid my misery to see his manner change as he recommenced. After
two or three attempts, he stopped suddenly and inquired,

“How deep is your well?”

He was not going to get off by any subterfuge if I could help it, so I
answered promptly,

“Never mind that; the well is deep enough.”

“But what is the depth? It is essential to know.”

“Don’t worry yourself about that now; fix your pump first,” was the
ready response.

“I can not do so till I know the depth of the well.”

“Well, then, if you are so anxious to be informed, it is forty-five feet
deep--deep enough, in all conscience.”

“That is the trouble, of course; the pump won’t suck.”

“Of course it is, that is plain enough; and I expect you to give me one
that will suck.”

“But how can I?”

“That is your affair, not mine,” beginning to be put out at the coolness
of the fellow. “I want a pump that will suck!”

“Why,” he replied, “don’t you know that no pump will draw at over thirty
feet?”

Suddenly the remembrance of school-days and their instruction came back
to me; a vacuum and its properties, the weight of a column of air, and
all that, returned to my mind after a long absence. I recalled the rule
of fifteen pounds to a square inch, the power of suction--which for
many years I had only tested with a straw and a julep--and the
comparative specific gravity of water. Early education is a good thing,
and the natural sciences are almost as practical as the learned
classics. Without a remark, I left that pump-maker and his pump, and
retired to the cool privacy of my neighboring dwelling. A wooden pump
with a long rod is in my well, and it not only sucks, but lifts; the
water is very fine.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER VI.

A KITCHEN GARDEN.


To the full enjoyment of a country house, there are few things more
conducive than a large, well-filled kitchen garden. The farmers
generally, with a wrong-headedness that is incomprehensible, neglect one
of the most important sources of supply for the table; they devote
themselves to the heavy crops--the staples of agriculture--that are
scattered through the fields, and overlook the vast additional amount of
food that may be concentrated in an acre. They condemn themselves to the
everlasting routine of bread, potatoes, and salt meat, forgetting that
the labor of a few hours occasionally of themselves or their children in
the garden would furnish an agreeable, healthy, and nutritive variety of
edibles. This, being a matter of dollars and cents as well as health,
merited the closest attention from so practical a person as myself, and
was taken in hand promptly, and the account of my success carries me
back a little in matter of time.

It was late in April when the contract was closed for the building of
the country house, and it was essential to prepare and plant the kitchen
garden immediately. My ideas on the subject were vague. I knew what I
wanted, but had not an accurate conception how those wants were to be
converted into realities. I must have a choice, yet ample supply. Fresh
asparagus is so delicate, fresh peas so tender, fresh lettuce so crisp,
cauliflower so immaculate, cabbages so rich, beets so racy, and every
other vegetable so much better when just pulled. There should be a
plenteous variety, from the humble radish up to the aristocratic
egg-plant--through all the range of carrots, turnips, celery, spinach,
and cucumbers--every thing that creeps, climbs, or stands--but, above
all, must there be a grand, deep, rich bed of asparagus, with heads as
big as your thumb. The fruits, too, should not be forgotten:
blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and especially strawberries;
pears, plums, and apples--dwarfs and standards; currants, grapes, and
quinces; the numberless productions of the earth that wise men eat
before breakfast or after dinner. With these numerous necessaries, it
was apparent that the planting must be done at once if it was to produce
a satisfactory result this year.

But, before striking a spade, it was necessary to lay out the ground,
and here, although the undertaking was different from planning a house,
my natural abilities stood me in good stead. After much study, the plot
was divided into beds of about five feet width, so that the plants could
be plucked without treading on them; I laid out broad walks at right
angles to one another, like grand avenues, to be shaded by the future
pear and apple trees, and in my mind determined to cover them with pure,
white, salt-water pebbles. I left a narrow border along the outer edge
for currant and raspberry bushes, marked places for the fruit-trees
every fifteen feet, and devoted one bed to strawberries, another to
tomatoes, a third to sweet corn, and so on. I noticed that there seemed
to be about as much walk as bed, but this I had been accustomed to in
flower gardens in the city, and thought produced a pleasing effect.

Before these dispositions were determined on, the grass had grown
considerably, the spring being early, and to get rid of it, as
“Bridgeman’s Assistant,” which, with “Ten Acres Enough,” was my constant
companion, contained no directions to meet the case, the advice of
Weeville was called for. He said the land must be plowed, harrowed, and
well dug over, and asked where the kitchen garden was to be placed. It
was with no little satisfaction that I produced my plans, anticipating
his surprise and pleasure, and laid them proudly before him. He gazed a
moment, and exclaimed, “What is all this?” Not a little amused with his
perplexity, I explained the design, and pointed out its advantages. He
kept his eyes on it in a dazed sort of way, and then blurted out, “You
have twice as much walk as you have bed.”

“Not quite--not quite,” I responded; “but still that is quite a feature;
they will be attractive, covered with white gravel.”

“White gravel! What is that for?” he exclaimed. “Nonsense; your walks
will be overrun with weeds, and you will have enough to do to keep them
out of your beds. I’ll fix your garden for you, now I know where you
want it.”

Before I could protest, he rushed away, taking my plans with him, as
though they were of no value whatever, with that wretched conceit which
characterizes your practical man, not even waiting to hear a full
explanation of my views, and evidently not appreciating them. He set his
men to work next day without so much as consulting me.

Leaving Weeville’s men hard at work with plow and harrow over the
practical portion of the undertaking, I set to work with “Bridgeman’s
Assistant,” and soon learned how to trench and make drills--which, to
my great astonishment, proved not to be holes--and became acquainted
with the uses of the various garden implements. The quality and nature
of the soil was quite a puzzle; but, as it had been ascertained by
sinking the well that the upper six feet was a stiff, clayey substance,
and beneath there was a pure stratum of sand, there could be little
doubt but it must be a loam, which is described as a mixture of clay and
sand. It was a fine, strong yellow, and my general impression was that
loam is dark; but of its depth there could be no question, as the
well-diggers went down forty-five feet before they reached water, and
encountered no rock whatever.

There were many surprising statements in “Bridgeman’s Assistant.” It
would seem natural that seeds, especially of radishes, beets, or
carrots, should be planted at least a foot deep, so that the root might
be long; but the author insisted that they should be covered with only
two inches of earth. Unfortunately, however, as my investigations
proceeded, some pleasing illusions were dissipated; one vegetable after
another had to be given up, for the entire kingdom seemed to be governed
by the most absurd laws; and when it was ascertained that strawberries
would not bear the first season, and that asparagus might produce heads
in the course of three years, I was in despair. Weeville, however, who
confirmed these doleful discoveries, came to my rescue by inquiring in
an enthusiastic way whether I had ever eaten a Daniel O’Rourke pea. I
replied that doubtless I had, as I paid the highest price in market.

“Oh, pshaw!” he answered, “they are never sold in market; wait till you
eat a Daniel O’Rourke pea, and then you can say you know what peas are.
There are plenty of vegetables that you will be in time to plant; the
ground is plowed and harrowed, and the Irishman is digging out the sods.
A hard time he is having of it; the grass got up too high, and he has to
break them up and shake each one out with a pitchfork. No person should
live in the country without a garden; mine is the greatest comfort I
have, and saves nearly half the expense of living.”

So, it being clearly an economy, my investigations were pursued
diligently. A long list of the best vegetables still attainable was
selected, consisting of early Mohawk and Lima beans, blood turnip-rooted
beets, long orange carrots, long green cucumbers, sweet corn, large
green-head lettuce, silver-skinned onions, Dutch parsnips, and Daniel
O’Rourke peas, and purchased at the seed-store for the moderate sum of
four dollars and fifty cents, according to the particular entry made in
my memorandum-book at the time. The necessary tools, such as
wheel-barrows, spades, hoes, drills, cultivators, etc., were added, but
the charge for these seems to have been omitted; and when Weeville
reported that the first planting--two rows of Daniel O’Rourke peas--had
been completed, I invited a couple of friends to ride over on horseback
to see my country place, for I was still living in the city. The house
was then in its foundation state, but the garden would be well worth a
visit.

It is a beautiful ride to Flushing. An intelligent man, named Jackson,
has built an excellent turnpike--almost the only one in our
country--and, with justifiable pride, has called it after himself. The
scenery is diversified with hill and dale, with fertile fields and dense
woods, and, before reaching the village, the highway skirts the bay, and
presents a clear view for some distance up the Sound. We clattered along
past the bridge and through the village out to the five-acre plot. There
it lay, bare and charming, without a fence, almost without a tree; the
house scattered in every direction; the foundation going up and the well
going down; heaps of sand collected here and there, and a platform for
mixing mortar directly where the flowers ought to be; but where the
garden? We rode in every direction, and at last made out that a little
bare spot which we had been over, forward and back, several times, and
which was about twelve feet long by three wide, must be it. We did not
dismount, but, consoling ourselves with the idea that the earth had been
well stirred with our horses’ hoofs--for stirring the earth is essential
to a productive condition, as Bridgeman says--we returned to the city.

Next day Weeville went to oversee the Irishman, who was hard at work
struggling to subdue the sods on another twelve feet by three, and was
surprised to find many of the peas out of the ground. He took a hoe and
replanted them, treading them down so as to keep them under for the
future; and, having done this with a dozen or more, turned to Patrick,
and told him that he must be more careful hereafter, and must cover the
peas well with earth.

“Sure and I am sorely puzzled, sir,” replied Patrick; “I have been all
the morning poking the pays back under the earth. I’ve been thinking
there must have been somebody over it, for they were all out of the
ground intirely.”

Considering that three horses had been trampling back and forth over the
bed the night before, Patrick was about right. But he had other
difficulties to contend with more formidable than horses’ hoofs. The
sod was strong, not having been disturbed for years, and it was many
days before there was any thing resembling regular beds. In time,
however, the peas appeared above ground; egg-plants were transplanted;
beans crept up, and demanded poles to climb on; queer-looking, weedy
affairs, that Weeville designated cauliflowers or tomatoes, as he
pleased, made themselves conspicuous, and the success of the undertaking
seemed assured--when one morning Pat rushed up to Weeville’s place, and,
with staring eyes, announced that the cows had grazed off all the peas.

Any animal that entered that plot of ground appeared instinctively to
know where the garden was, although better-endowed creatures might have
trouble to find it, and either wanted to rest or pasture there, or at
least to run over it. But when they proceeded to graze on the peas, it
became serious, and upon Pat’s announcing, the following week, that they
had been at it again, Weeville called upon me to say that there must be
a fence round the lot, or he would not answer for the garden. Pat was
set to work at once building fence.

Since the days of the Tower of Babel, when the world was divided up into
tribes, the nations have been distinguished by peculiar aptitudes. The
English nation has a gift for building pirate ships, the French for
fashioning new dresses, the Chinese for growing pig-tails and cutting
off heads, the Russians for eating candles, the Turks for stealing
wives, the Americans for doing a little of every thing, and the Irish
for digging holes. Pat never could learn to use a saw or an axe, or even
to drive a nail without splitting the wood, but he could dig against the
world. He proceeded at once to make the holes for the posts of the
fence.

While he was thus occupied, however, the garden was neglected, and as he
could not by any possibility keep the holes in a line, and consequently
wasted much time, the weeds grew apace. It requires a great many boards
to reach round five acres, and the holes for the posts had to be very
numerous. The cows, having discovered the superior qualities of Daniel
O’Rourke peas, paid them regular visits, and kept them well cropped, so
that the garden fared badly. Pat dug so many holes, in consequence of
making them either out of line or at an improper distance, that he might
almost be said to have trenched the lot; and by the time he was through,
and before the posts were all up, or the fence more than half finished,
it was time to cut the grass.

This was a season of scarcity of labor. The high prices had satisfied
the working-men that their time was too valuable to waste on every
menial kind of drudgery, and they were particular, not only in selecting
their masters, but their employment; so that Pat had to be the main
reliance, with the occasional aid of a half-grown boy, to take hold of
all the “odd jobs” required by a country place. He not only planted the
garden, and built the fence, and helped in the house, and dug in the
well, but he must mow the grass and milk the cow. In fact, if there was
any thing that nobody else could or would do, Pat was called upon.

The grass was very fine. A handsome flower, with rich yellow centre,
surrounded by a single white row of radiating petals, called a
daisy--the lovely flower celebrated so frequently in English poetry, and
the apt simile for all that is virtuous and innocent--had grown to great
luxuriance, proving the uncommon richness of the soil. Its stalk was a
foot long, and the pretty floweret topped the grass, and by its vast
numbers lent a uniform tone of color to the entire lot. There seemed to
be almost as much daisy as there was grass, which was what the natives
called “switch grass,” and they were both knee-high. This crop was
especially thick and heavy on the upper portion of the plot, as the
carts and wagons had been in the habit, entirely regardless of the
enormous damages they occasioned, of driving over the lower end, and the
cattle of the neighborhood had grazed it pretty thoroughly. There was,
consequently, only about an acre and a half left to mow, and Pat, with
the aid of the boy, had that done in a day or two.

In my youthful days, often “of a summer day” I had “raked the meadow,
sweet with hay,” and consequently had learned the importance of sun in
hay-making. Unfortunately, no sooner was the hay cut and scattered about
than there came on the heaviest rain of the season; it was a veritable
northeaster, and lasted four or five days. The barn, which was expected
to hold the crop, existed as yet only in anticipation; and when the hay
did finally dry, it had to be collected in a pile, which Weeville called
a stack, and left to the mercy of the elements. However, the labor cost
only about seven dollars, and I was offered seventeen dollars for the
stack, so that there was a clear profit of ten dollars. This was so
encouraging that I felt almost inclined to lay down the entire five
acres in grass, until I remembered that if an acre and a half produced
ten dollars, five acres would only yield about thirty-five
dollars--hardly sufficient interest on property valued at ten thousand
dollars.

When the hay was stacked, and one board nailed on the fence so that the
cattle could no longer wander wheresoever they listed, a careful
examination of the garden gave the following result: Weeds profuse and
luxuriant; vegetables scarce and sickly; peas about six inches high,
well cropped, without flowers or pods; tomato-plants small, and well
shaded by the surrounding weeds; egg-plants entirely invisible, having
probably gone back into the egg in disgust; bean-poles tall and
vigorous, beans about one foot high, being nearly up with the
neighboring grass, and apparently unable to climb any higher. The other
garden-truck was not to be found, and it required great discernment to
distinguish the garden from the residue of the five acres. Weeville said
it was no matter, after all, as he could supply me with whatever I
wanted from his garden, and that it was always cheaper to buy vegetables
than to raise them!

My glorious anticipations had dwindled; asparagus, cabbages, beets,
strawberries, raspberries, pears, and plums had been given up; and now
the hope of peas, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and egg-plants was to be
destroyed. That garden on which I counted so greatly--which was to have
furnished not merely cheap food for my family, but subject for
exultation over city friends--had proved a failure. Daniel O’Rourke peas
were not to be; crisp lettuce could not be dressed in that style of art
upon which I pride myself, and handed exultingly round to friends after
the woodcock and claret, as so much superior to the stale, insipid stuff
purchased in the markets. Egg-plants, richest of vegetables, were not to
be pressed upon the surfeited guest as coming from my garden. Beans had
proved a delusion, and tomato-vines a snare. All my study of
horticultural works was to be thrown away.

It is true, we had raised an egg-plant, but it was small--so small that
we thought of sending it to the agricultural fair as a rare production:
it measured one inch and a half in circumference. We also raised one
tomato, but a careless wretch trod on it, and crushed it and our hopes
together. There was a fine lot of wild radish, which my friends
pronounced to be weeds, although I had hopes for a time that a few of
them would become tame. I was disappointed, however: they covered the
new beds, as fast as these were cleared and dug, with a luxuriant
clothing of bright green, and their leaves were pretty and graceful, but
their roots never would come to any thing worth mentioning. It is deeply
to be regretted that Nature has so constituted plants and weeds
respectively, that the former won’t grow and the latter will. I did not
eat a Daniel O’Rourke pea after all.



CHAPTER VII.

THE FLOWER GARDEN.


The results of the effort to produce a kitchen garden out of the raw
material of virgin sod was discussed in the last chapter. When it was
well under way, and after Weeville had, in his authoritative manner,
taken it off my hands, I turned my attention to the flower garden. Of
this I determined to take entire charge. I had not studied Bridgeman for
weeks, nor peered into seedsmen’s windows, and examined the
peculiarities of all the plants that fell in my way, for nothing.
Weeville might superintend the coarse vegetables if he pleased, but the
delicate and elegant parterre of flowers that already existed in my
mind’s eye was to be my credit and responsibility alone.

It was some time before I could induce the masons to remove the platform
for mortar that they had, with instinctive stupidity, placed in the
centre of what was to be my principal bed; but I got them off at last,
although they grumbled somewhat at being compelled to carry their loads
a considerably longer distance. I had already marked out the general
plan on paper with that skill which has been occasionally referred to;
the main idea was taken from a Chinese puzzle, and had no equal in the
most complicated productions of the ablest masters of landscape
gardening, ancient or modern.

It is well known that, according to the highest standard of the art, the
great point in laying out a garden is to avoid the monotony of tame
regularity; and in that line little more could be done. There were beds
shaped like stars and ellipses, worms and circles, triangles and
octagons; some were round on one side and flat on the other; some had
big heads and little tails, and others diminished to nothing at each
end; there were sinuosities and projections, sharp points and easy
curves, imitation bays and promontories; large beds suddenly contracted,
narrow ones expanded; what promised to be a long stretch was broken off
unexpectedly, and there certainly was no danger of monotony. Amid these
wound the paths in the most admired irregularity, never leading where
one would naturally expect, and giving the mind a vivid impression of
the labyrinth.

The arrangement of the beds on paper was not difficult, but to trace
them on the natural sod was another matter. This could not be intrusted
to a common workman; one, to whom the plan was shown, insisted upon
mistaking the walks for beds, and even proposed some alterations, which
he called improvements. Somehow, I never was very good at the practical
part of a design. Moreover, the weather had been dry, for this point had
been reached toward the close of one of the rainless terms that
alternated with the floods of this particular season. The ground was
hard, the sun was hot, and my experience with a shovel--spade my man
called it--had been limited; but the difficulty had to be overcome,
regardless of previous habits, and, grasping the shovel bravely, I set
to work at once.

The centre bed was a circle, and, by driving a stake in the ground, and
attaching to it a string, there was no difficulty in making a faint
impression of the outline on the grass. This outline I deepened into a
shallow furrow with my spade, although my arms and back ached, and my
clothes were damp with perspiration before I had finished. The next
figure, which was a star, was not so easy; and when it came to the
worms, and the bays, and promontories, there bid fair to be far too
little monotony. In fact, the figures would not take the shapes they
assumed on paper, and the more they were worked at the worse they grew.
If they were narrowed, they became immediately too long; if they were
lengthened, they had to be widened; if one part was taken off, another
portion immediately bulged out; bays were either too deep or too
shallow, promontories either stretched entirely across the adjoining
walk or disappeared utterly. The walks were continually being squeezed
into a strait that would not by any possibility admit the passage of
modern crinoline, or spread out into a sort of desert waste. The truth
is, such vulgar trivialities as are implied in practical performance are
not suited to the intellectual mind. After working the plan several
weeks, nearly killing myself, and sadly confusing the man I had hired
for this express matter, I concluded to let him finish it alone. It is a
matter of pride, however, that, in spite of some sad blunders through
his ignorance, it still bears palpable traces of the original design,
and entirely avoids the fatal fault of monotony.

While the man was completing the physical part, there was an excellent
opportunity to select the best flowers that were to be procured. The
study of botany is not a branch of the legal profession, nor even
included in the limits of a classical education; but, fortunately,
there is no necessity for knowing scientifically why the rose is red and
the lily white provided one has the innate appreciation to enjoy the
beauty of each. Perhaps it is desirable to be able to distinguish the
plants when not in flower, but that is not absolutely necessary provided
“Bridgeman” is always at hand.

The amount of information in this work is as inexhaustible as it is
surprising. Under the author’s manipulation, plants assume a fresh
nature and exhibit new attractions; the most vulgar flower comes back
decked in an aristocratic dress, and endowed with a name that is
absolutely imposing. The common hollyhock--that vulgar, base, staring,
and offensive flower--is suddenly converted into the delicate and
refined althea; the larkspur becomes a delphinium; the old-fashioned
Johnny-jump-up, a viola grandiflora; the commonplace poppy, a papaver;
and the gaudy sunflower is transformed into the magnificent helianthus.
The human mind is hardly prepared to accept gomphrenas for batchelors’
buttons, and revolts from the association of the suggestive mirabilis
with the commonplace four o’clocks. The kingdom of flowers, as it is
usually called, becomes a model republic; the low and ignorant are
elevated; the humble dweller in the hedge-row is raised to a place
beside the tender production of the green-house; and the refined habitué
of the ballroom is found to be twin sister to the wild inhabitant of the
open field or native forest.

After some thought and careful consultation with the price-lists of all
the seed-stores in the city, lest the utmost advantage should not be
taken of the market, a list including the following principal varieties
was selected: roses, pinks, carnations, lilies, fleur-de-lys, jasmines,
peonies, verbenas, daisies, fuchsias, heliotropes, tulips, dahlias,
crocuses, tube-roses, forget-me-nots, jonquils, wall-flowers,
gillyflowers, mignonnette, fox-gloves, and china-asters. There were many
others, but this selection is sufficient to show that the garden was to
be well stocked. It is to be regretted that midsummer is not the most
appropriate time to plant flowers, and that many of them require to be
set out in earliest spring, or even the year before they are expected to
blossom. Drought is especially unfavorable to the sowing of seeds or
transplanting of roots, and the drought that had already begun to
distinguish this midsummer positively forbade immediate action.

It is my impression that in early youth I remember reading of an ancient
Roman who, having lost a valuable ring overboard at sea, subsequently
caught the fish that had swallowed the ring. On recovering his
property, he raised his eyes toward heaven, wondering what terrible
calamity the gods had in store for him to equalize such good fortune. If
there is no such story there ought to be, for nature is certainly made
up of compensations. If a woman is rich she is rarely handsome; if a man
is handsome he is not apt to be wise; if we are extremely fortunate we
may expect a reverse; one misfortune wards off another; if we lose a leg
in battle we are likely to save our head; the old motto says, “Lucky in
love, unlucky in play;” and if it rains in spring, it is apt to be dry
weather in summer. It had rained all through the spring as though the
flood-gates of heaven never were to be closed, but when they were
finally shut down they fitted so well that scarcely a drop trickled
through the cracks. May was a deluge; July was a drought. All
authorities coincide in holding that seeds must be planted before or
immediately after a rain, but they give no directions how to produce a
rain if it does not come naturally. It was in vain that I waited for
even a shower--in vain that I scanned the sky at sunrise or sunset,
watched the wind, or consulted the weather-wise. Clouds ceased to be the
harbingers of rain; a threatening sunset only insured a cloudless
morrow; an easterly wind was positive evidence of clear weather, and
the sky was as blue as my feelings.

The time for planting one species after another of seed or root passed
by. July came and went, August arrived and was slipping by, the list of
seeds was fearfully reduced, when at last clouds covered the sky and
rain began to fall. It is unnecessary to say that all such seeds as
might by any possibility germinate so late in the season were, in spite
of the pattering drops, planted ere the storm had fairly begun.
Bridgeman’s instructions had been learned by heart, and each kind was
set out in a circle, while a stick with the empty bag, marked with the
name, was stuck up in the centre. The trough in which they were planted
was dug about two inches deep, and filled with manure, to insure
vigorous growth. Two inches is deeper than was authorized, but it seemed
desirable that the plants should take a deep root. Hardly were the seeds
planted ere the rain stopped, the clouds broke, and the sun came out
hotter than ever. For three weeks that sun never ceased to blaze except
when it went to bed--for three weeks not another cloud appeared or drop
of rain fell.

Tending a garden is a pleasant occupation, but when the only thing to be
done is to water, every morning and evening, a spot of bare earth where
seeds are supposed to be, it is monotonous. Some puppies that were kept
by a neighbor, and which were forever trampling over my premises, chewed
up and pulled out the sticks, and the location of the future plants
became somewhat indefinite; and when Weeville asked me one day how my
garden was getting on, I answered evasively,

“Finely, so far as I can see.”

My conscience permitted me to presume all was going on right
underground, although nothing had yet come to the surface. Not
satisfied, however, he wanted to know exactly how I had set out the
seeds; and when he was told they were planted two inches deep in a rich
bed of manure, he burst forth,

“Why, you must have burnt them all up; plants want earth as much as
manure. And if you buried them two inches deep, you dug their grave; not
one will ever come up.”

This coarse confidence on Weeville’s part was not pleasant. I knew
plants--thistles especially--would grow in manure, for my beds were full
of them, and they appeared to do best when covered over and surrounded
with the strongest lumps; but my mind had troubled me a little about the
depth at which the seeds were planted; so, when he was gone, I took the
first good opportunity to rake off about two inches of the earth.

It rained at last; vegetation started in every direction except where I
supposed my seeds were; weeds spread over the beds, came up in the
walks, and exhibited great luxuriance. I watched my garden anxiously,
visiting it early and late; dreadful were my doubts and fears; but at
last a circle of beautiful delicate green began to show itself, not
exactly in the place I expected, but not far off. My delight was
unbounded. I watched that circle like a mother would watch a sick child.
I hung over it and tended it with most assiduous care. If the sun shone
two days in succession, I watered it; if it rained too hard, I sheltered
it. My triumph over Weeville was to be complete; it is true that only
one out of the numerous varieties that were planted had appeared, but it
would not be necessary to refer to the others.

That green circle grew slowly. The tiny leaves, in spite of the great
care bestowed upon them, seemed to be feeble; their thin, pale stalks
were hardly able to support their weight; the slightest rain threatened
to wash them away, and a few hours of sunlight to scorch them up. I
nursed them carefully through their infantile diseases; and when they
were fairly past danger and presented a circle of unbroken green, I
invited Weeville out to inspect my garden.

“Bare enough,” he said sarcastically, as he passed down the main path;
“plenty of walks and weeds, but no flowers this year.”

“Wait till you see,” was my triumphant answer.

“I can see pretty well now,” he replied; “there is certainly nothing to
obstruct the view. I have a fine prospect of muddy walks and
absurdly-shaped beds. You will learn to be practical before you are
through. Another year or two will take the city nonsense out of you, and
teach you some valuable lessons.”

He was going on with his egotistical homilies, when I stopped him in
front of my infant plants.

“Look at that!” I said, exultingly, grasping his arm and facing him
toward the bed.

“Look at what?” he repeated, staring stupidly about.

“At those plants. Are they not promising? I intend to separate and
transplant them: there will be abundance to stock half my garden. Rather
better than raising egg-plants, eh? We city boys know a few things,
after all. What do you think of those little beauties?”

“What on earth--or, more properly speaking, in the earth--are you
talking about? I don’t see any plants, or beauties either.”

“Not see any plants!” I replied, laughing at his ignorance. “Perhaps you
can not tell plants when you do see them: you must study Bridgeman.
These, sir, are the beautiful columbine _aquilegia formosa_, the most
lovely ornaments of the refined and elegant parterre.”

I did not know what they were, as the stick was gone; but this was the
only name I could recall at the moment.

“May I ask,” he replied, solemnly, “whether you are joking or crazy? If
the former, it is too damp here to make it worth while to continue the
entertainment; if the latter, the lunatic asylum is close by. What is it
you are talking about?”

“Why, those _aquilegia formosas_, that beautiful circlet of exquisite
green that I planted a month ago, and which assiduous care has finally
brought to its present vigorous condition,” I rejoined, smiling proudly,
although my mind somewhat misgave me as to the vigorous health; “that
fertile hot-bed of fragrant beauty, that will furnish the groundwork,
with skillful increase, for my entire garden.”

“What!” he demanded, in a surprised tone; “is that what you are talking
of?”

“Yes,” I replied, a little confused, but confident still.

“That your beautiful circlet of exquisite green which is to fecundate
your entire garden!” At this point he commenced laughing, and, between
shouts of merriment and the half-intelligible repetition of “exquisite
green,” it was ten minutes before he became comprehensible. “Why, that
circlet of exquisite green--” here he burst out again till he nearly
choked--“exquisite green is nothing but a lot of wild carrots, that you
have watered till you have washed all the life out of them.”

Alas! this turned out to be true. What became of my seeds I never
discovered; whether they were drowned out, or burnt up, or raked away,
is hard to tell; certain it is that they have not come up to the present
time. But the greatest mystery is, why should wild carrots grow in a
circle merely to arouse hopes that were to be blasted?



CHAPTER VIII.

POULTRY.


I have a respect for chickens. The hens have the finest qualities of the
most exemplary mothers; the cocks possess many of the characteristics,
in courage and devotion to “the sex,” of the cavaliers of olden time.
Behold the anxious matron ruffling her feathers and expanding her wings
in threatening defiance of the approaching stranger, or gathering the
little ones under her breast, and exposing her own person to the
swooping hawk. Observe the fierce-eyed rooster guarding his mates with
zealous care, ever ready to meet in deadly conflict the rival or
intruder, but invariably calling his wives to accept any unusual luxury
of fat grub or dainty bug. To be sure, they rise early, which the
uncultivated regard as a virtue, and make much noise when they wake,
crowing at most unseasonable hours; but as for the absurd charges that
the prejudiced author of “Ten Acres Enough” brings against them in
wholesale condemnation, these are not worth answering.

What if they do scratch in the garden, it was clear that they could not
damage mine; and do they not also catch the early worm that destroys the
crop? Besides, chickens are good gastronomically, and eggs undeniable.
They pick up most of their own food, and consequently are economical,
and this, with so careful a calculator as myself, was sufficient. Their
increase is vast, and the profit upon them immense. If every hen should
only raise five broods yearly of ten each, and there were ten hens to
start with, at the end of two years they would number three hundred and
forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty, after the superfluous
roosters were sold; and then, supposing the extra eggs to have paid for
their keeping, and the produce to be worth only a dollar and a half a
pair, there would be a clear profit of $258,520. Allowing for occasional
deaths, this sum might be stated in round numbers at a quarter of a
million, which would be a liberal increase from ten hens. Of course, I
did not expect to do so well as this, but merely mention what might be
done with good luck and forcing.

Chickens had become very scarce about the time I wanted to purchase.
Whether hens had given up laying eggs or raising young was not clear,
but every old woman in the neighborhood to whom application was made
informed me that chickens were scarce and high, and that she only let me
have them as a special favor. Moreover, the breed of chickens kept at
Flushing is rare and valuable; they were either Shanghais, or Dorkings,
or Black Spanish, or something else extremely precious and desirable,
and none of them were worth less than five dollars a pair. They were
young and small, not yet exhibiting these remarkable attractions; but,
as one old woman observed when I suggested this circumstance, “Sure you
wouldn’t expect a little chicken to be a full-grown hen the moment it
comes out of the shell.” This was so clearly reasonable that I made no
farther objection, but purchased twenty pair of the best to be had. A
coop was built, and the chickens turned in, Patrick remarking, in the
process,

“Indade, they were the smallest lot that iver he saw.”

I explained that they would grow; but he shook his head, and seemed to
doubt it, and immediately proceeded to fill the smallest crevices in the
coop, lest they should creep through.

Patrick fed and I watched these chickens faithfully. They were rather
unhappy-looking things at the start, and as their principal amusement
seemed to be plucking one another’s feathers out at meal-time, their
appearance did not improve. In a few days I observed that they had a
strange way of opening their mouths, as though they were sleepy; but, as
they went to bed at early candlelight, and slept, with little
intermission, except for the occasional recreation of pushing each other
off the perches, till sunrise, it seemed hardly possible, in spite of
their early rising, that they suffered for loss of sleep. If they did
happen to need more rest, no ready way suggested itself of supplying the
deficiency--unless they attended to it themselves, which there was
nothing to prevent--as I was not acquainted with an appropriate lullaby.
So they were left to their own devices. Their yawning became
infectious--as with human beings, when one gapes his companions will
follow suit--until at last one, that seemed to desire to outdo the
others or make up permanently for her lost time, “slept the sleep that
knows no waking.” This was bringing matters to a serious issue; and when
two more were found on a subsequent morning stark and stiff, Weeville
was sent for in all haste. He arrived in a short time with his usual
cheery manner, and inquired “What was the matter now?” as though nothing
ever went wrong with him, and as though he could put right every thing
that went wrong with others. He was shown to the coop, where
thirty-seven chickens were busily engaged opening their mouths every few
seconds, as though they had taken into their throats a very large-sized
grain of corn, and were unable to swallow it. It was an appalling sight.
There was an earnestness and solemnity about their actions that removed
all ludicrousness, and, with a painful feeling of despair, I asked what
could be the matter with them.

“Why, they’ve got the gaps,” Weeville answered at once.

If there is any thing unpleasant, it is to have a friend, whose advice
you have asked on a serious matter--a matter in which your feelings are
interested, if not otherwise very important--take advantage of the
opportunity to indulge his wit. A joke is never a joke when uttered at
the expense of a friend, or of the creatures, human or animal, for which
that friend has an affection. The only way to punish such ill-timed
pleasantry is to appear not to have felt it, and I responded carelessly,
although internally indignant,

“You might better say they had the yawns. But, seriously, what is the
matter with them?”

“I say they have the gaps; a whole black pepper--”

“Never mind carrying the joke any farther,” I replied, firmly. “You may
think it witty to say my chickens have the gaps, and I would laugh if
possible; but, as three of them have died, it is no laughing matter. If
you have nothing more useful to suggest, we will return to the house.”

“I say they have the gaps; don’t you know what that is? It is a regular
disease, coming often from dampness, neglect, or inherent weakness--some
people imagine there is a worm in the chicken’s throat--and is cured by
a change of diet, free exercise, and forcing whole black peppers down
their throats. Let your chickens out of this miserable little hole where
you have been suffocating them, and give them a change of diet,
especially some worms or meat, and compel the worst to swallow a whole
pepper every day or two. You may save a good many of them yet.”

This was an exceedingly suggestive speech. My coop, which was some four
feet square, was called a “hole;” my care and attention were termed
“neglect;” and it was considered possible that I might save a “good
many” of my pets. So I laughed at the idea, ridiculed his remedy, and
told him there was danger that his “whole peppers” would keep them
awake, and make them more “gapy” than ever; but the moment he was gone,
Patrick and I caught every chicken, and, in spite of struggles and
cries, forced two whole peppers--for two were certainly better than
one--down the throat of each, and turned them out of the coop.

They did not seem to be much improved by the operation, and went
“gaping” round the premises in a miserable way, leaving one of their
number dead here and another there, till they happened to attract the
attention of my neighbor’s pups. I have referred to these pups before.
They were playful creatures; if there was any horrible and disgusting
injury that they could, in a frolicsome mood, inflict upon me, they
never missed the chance. They tore up the sticks that I set to mark my
flowers; they scratched and dug in my strawberry bed, which I had
succeeded in planting before the summer was over; they dragged in every
direction my clothes that were laid out to bleach; they tormented my
favorite cat; they appeared to think of nothing but plan deviltry
against me, and do nothing but execute it. When the more flagrant of
these wrongs had from time to time been inflicted, my neighbor called to
apologize blandly and express his regrets, but never once proposed to
kill the dreadful brutes.

The moment these pups saw my chickens they started after them. The
fluttering, squawking, and barking attracted my attention, and I gave
chase to the pups. Away we went, chickens screeching with fear, the pups
yelping with delight, and I storming with rage: “Come here! get out! go
home! how dare you?”

If there had been one pup, I might have stood a chance; but, “being in
doubt where to begin,” I “both neglected.” Each pounced on a chicken--of
course, the largest and healthiest--and squeezed the breath out of them
in a moment, and did not even give me the sweet satisfaction of revenge;
but, having effected their object, and seeing me approach, stick in
hand, bent on exemplary punishment, they each dropped their prey, and,
darting through the neighboring fence, secured their retreat, or, as
army men have it, “saved their bacon.” This little amusement was renewed
daily, and Patrick was continually on guard against a sortie of the
enemy. But we became more skillful with practice, and a few
well-directed blows and successful shots sent the enemy howling to the
rear, and demoralized him greatly. Our chickens, however, had somewhat
diminished in number; there were the killed, wounded, and missing,
leaving quite a moderate residue. Moreover, there was a gentleman of
Irish extraction living close by, who had kept chickens before I had;
but it seemed to me that his flock increased as mine diminished, and I
even thought that I recognized some of my “lost ones.” It may be that
they went there for safety, although, if any questions were asked, he
could always explain how he came by that particular bird, and give its
entire history, and the man’s name that he bought it from.

When the pups were repressed and the gaps cured, and my remaining
chickens--which were reduced to ten--were persuaded to stay at home, and
when they had become large enough to give promise of future usefulness
and eggs, Patrick was directed to prepare boxes for them to lay in. He
filled these half full of soft hay, and deposited a white glass
nest-egg, which cost twenty-five cents apiece, in each, and fastened
them up in the most enticing locations. But the chickens did not seem to
fancy the nests; in fact, they did not appear to turn their minds to
laying at all, but were contented to “eat, drink, and be merry,” without
regard to their philoprogenitive duties. Patrick suggested that a little
“mate” might bring them up to the required point, and, when that failed,
said something about lime being required to make the shells; but I did
not see the necessity for shells till we had the “filling” ready.

Certainly every inducement was offered those chickens to lay; they had
abundant “feeds” of meal, and oats, and wheat, with “mate” twice a day,
like an Irish servant-girl; they had the grazing of the entire “five
acres,” and most attractive boxes, but they did not seem to improve
their opportunities. I had concluded that they were such a rare breed
that they could not afford to overstock the market, and no longer
wondered at their monstrous price, when Patrick rushed in to announce
that the big Dominick--by which name he insisted upon calling a bird
that had been sold to me as a Black Spanish of the most valuable
kind--had a nest full of eggs.

“Sure and I jist found her out, the cunning baste; she stole her nest on
me, and has it full of the purtiest eggs yez iver saw.”

“Well, Patrick, that is a good sign; you must look round and find some
more; they are all doubtless laying. Now go and bring me the eggs that
you have found.”

“Bring in the eggs, is it?”

“Certainly; it is too late in the year for setting.”

“Sure, and how am I to do that?”

“Why, go and take them; you’re not afraid of a hen?”

“But how am I to get there?”

“Walk, of course; what do you mean by talking to me in that way?”

“I don’t mane any thing at all, at all, but I can’t get the eggs unless
your honor pulls down the barn. The old spalpeen has settled herself
right under the middle of the flure, and meself spied her out through
the cracks.”

Sure enough, there she was. Utterly regardless of all the attractive
boxes and imitation eggs, she had crawled away where only a rat could
follow, and where a rat would, in the end, be sure to follow her, and
had made her nest under the centre timber of the barn floor. There were
two ways of reaching her--either by digging a tunnel such as our
prisoners made at Libby, or by taking up the planks. As both of these
modes would have cost somewhat more than the eggs were worth, even
supposing she was a Black Spanish and not a Dominick--about which, I
confess, I occasionally had some doubts--we never enjoyed more than a
dim view through the dirty cracks of our “hidden treasures.”

This, however, was rather encouraging; another hen might conclude to
lay, and might select a more eligible situation. It was a difficult
matter to get under the barn, and the next one might not be willing to
take the trouble, even for the satisfaction of putting her master at
defiance. But alas! the very next day Patrick waked me at daylight to
announce that the fowls were “all dead entirely.”

After a vain attempt to understand him, I hurried on my clothes, and,
rushing to the coop where they were accustomed to roost, found it empty,
and their murdered corpses scattered about in every direction. The small
wounds, the unruffled feathers, the universal massacre, showed that a
mink had done the deed. My chickens, my rare and valuable chickens, that
were to have laid so many eggs and raised such countless posterity; the
roosters, that were to have been fathers of a long line of famous
descendants; the hens, that were to have been models of matronly
propriety and parental self-sacrifice; my pets, that I had raised
through so many dangers, that I had saved from one neighbor’s flock and
another neighbor’s pups; my profits, that were to have put the author of
“Ten Acres Enough” to silence, were cut off forever. Golden visions of
eggs were destroyed; anticipations of tender spring broilers were
disappointed; my quarter of a million of prospective profits--all were
annihilated together by a mink.

We killed that mink. Like Oliver Twist, he returned for more, and met
his fate. I had him stuffed, for one mink-skin is certainly a curious
result from an investment of twenty pairs of chickens.



CHAPTER IX.

FALL WORK.


The summer was pretty well over, and the various duties which accompany
it accomplished after the manner already described; but there remained
much to be performed as the cool weather approached. Not only is there
the regular planting season in the spring, but Nature and Bridgeman
permit some plants to be set out and seeds to be sown in the fall.
September is the month for starting a strawberry-bed, and as my firm
resolve was to have a grand plot of this best of small fruits, and as my
first summer’s success encouraged me to continue a country residence,
Patrick was dispatched to the nearest nursery to engage two thousand
plants, to be delivered on the breaking out of the first shower.

Here was the chance for me to make my fortune. The author of “Ten Acres
Enough” lays it down as a maxim always to buy some new and hitherto
unknown variety, that will bear the largest fruit in the greatest
profusion, and insure not only a return for the fruit, but a good income
by the sale of offshoots. So Patrick was directed to inform the
nurseryman that I wanted a new kind, just discovered and superior to all
that had preceded it. This request, though natural enough to any man who
had studied the work referred to, must have seemed strange to the
nurseryman, who was probably not literary, and who came back with
Patrick to see about it.

He said he had several new varieties, but he was not entirely satisfied
that they were better than the common ones. There was one, however, that
promised well, called the Bonheur Seedling; but it had not been tested
thoroughly. By-the-by, what excellent scholars all market gardeners are.
Their ordinary language is Greek and Latin, and their nearest approach
to that of common mortals, French. They overwhelm you with
incomprehensible terms that early reminiscences assure you must be from
one of the dead languages, and call every-day fruits _Duchesse
d’Angoulême_, _Louise Bonne de Jersey_, _Belle Lucrative_, _Triomphe de
Gand_, and so forth. I was not surprised, therefore, at hearing the new
strawberry called “Bonheur Seedling,” and rather took to the name as an
omen of good luck. Without more ado, I ordered two thousand of the
“Bonheur Seedling,” while visions of enormous fruit and invaluable
offshoots floated before my mind. The man, anxious, no doubt, to keep
the market to himself, suggested that perhaps I had better divide the
order and take some of the ordinary kinds; but his object was too
palpable to lead me from my purpose. If the Bonheur Seedlings were good
for him to keep, they were better for me to plant, and so the order was
not changed.

The drought of the summer continued, and, having parched the ground till
it was as dry as an Irishman’s throat the morning after election day,
gave no signs of abating. September came in with a beautiful clear sky,
remained with a beautiful clear sky, and went out with a beautiful clear
sky. September is one of the finest months in the year, especially when
the cloudless heavens permit the sun to send his warm beams to temper
the cool breezes that begin to prevail, and, if a person has not a
strawberry bed on his mind, no weather can be more enjoyable; but when
agricultural purposes demand rain, even a cloudless September becomes
tiresome. Patrick waited in daily expectation. He had managed to dig up
the ground by the liberal use of a pickaxe and crowbar; but the sunshiny
days were a trial to him.

“Shure I’m thinkin it’s never going to rain agin,” he said in despair,
and the nurseryman was of the same opinion, for his patience gave out,
and, without waiting for the actual falling of the precious drops, he
took advantage of the first dark day, which did not arrive till the
beginning of October, and sent the two thousand plants. Under these
circumstances, and as Bridgeman says the beds may be made in October, if
not finished before, there was nothing to be done but to soak the roots,
thus trying to make them believe it was raining, as Patrick explained
it, and set them out.

A strawberry is a thrifty plant; the only inconsiderateness it is guilty
of is to fill its delicious pulpy fruit with nasty little crackling
seeds; but give it the least chance, and it will grow. Ours were
assiduously watered, and although, disgusted with the weather, some
wilted away, others managed to “weather it,” as our sailors say, and put
forth a few feeble leaves in testimony of existence. By the end of
October there were gaps in their regular ranks, but still the ranks were
discernible, and the bed was an accomplished fact. I was not a little
proud of this success. It is only necessary, in these cases, to take the
thing in hand one’s self, and I had kept the watering-pot in hand
steadily.

[Illustration]

Success in any undertaking in this life is a pleasant thing. The mere
accomplishment of what we are aiming at, regardless of its importance,
is a satisfaction, and a satisfaction that, so far in my country
experience, I had not frequently enjoyed. There, however, was the bed:
it was green with thriving beauty. To be sure, there were many weeds,
but there were also a few “Bonheur Seedlings.” Weeville made some
disparaging remarks--something about my having a good bed in two or
three years--but I felt too complacent to mind him. So, when the cold
began to increase, I had Patrick cover over my treasures carefully with
plenty of straw, and possessed my soul in patience for the next spring.

The agriculture of modern days is very different from what it was in the
times of our forefathers. Without going back to the days of Adam and
Eve, when the vegetable kingdom managed itself, but after perspiration
became a necessity of existence, the first gardening was rude, seeds
were planted in the merest ignorance of all organic laws, and left to
the fate that the earth and the waters held in store for them. Slowly,
by innumerable failures, certain rules were learned, and fertilizers,
rotation of crops, and suitable soils were dimly comprehended. In later
days science has stepped in, and shed a flood of light on the subject.
Now, before you plant a seed, you ask a chemist to analyze the soil, and
ascertain exactly how much hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphate of
lime, and other ingredients with hard names, the dirt is composed of,
and then you add whatever is deficient. One of the most beautiful
inventions of science is liquid manure; not that it is beautiful in
itself, for it certainly is not agreeable to the senses of smell or
sight, and probably not to that of taste, but it does so admirably
comply with all scientific requirements. The great object in applying a
fertilizer is to so subdivide its particles as to enable the finer
tissues of the roots to take it up by their almost invisible mouths. Not
only is this done perfectly by dissolving the material to be applied,
but water, the second great essential of vegetable life, is supplied at
the same time. Upon this subject all the scientific books, including my
favorites, “Ten Acres Enough” and “Bridgeman’s Assistant,” enter with an
enthusiasm which is surprising to the novice. Of course I was a great
admirer of the liquid theory, and resolved that my strawberries should
not suffer from its want.

Nothing, however could be done till the following spring, and we must
anticipate events to give the conclusion of the attempt. It was with
some anxiety that I watched the removal of the straw covering the next
April, and with no little relief did I observe that the “Bonheur
Seedlings”--if they could be so called now that they had attained
maturity--were still there; not quite so numerous, perhaps, as when they
were covered up, and not by any means the original two thousand, but
still to the number of several scores. The first thing to do was to give
them a strong fertilizer, and that must be liquid. The drainings from
the kitchen had been led into a sink, and, having fermented during
winter, complied with all the requisites for this valuable nourishment.
So deeply had I been impressed with the necessity of saving every thing
that could supply plant-food, so entirely was I convinced of the force
of scientific arguments, and the duty which every man owes to his
country in aiding the fertility of her fields, that not a drop of the
precious liquid had been wasted.

Patrick stared when he was told to water the plants with it, and
murmured something about “its being too hot”--quite an Irish absurdity,
considering it had been out all winter--but obeyed orders, and soon had
a nice coating of what looked much like whitewash over the entire bed.
After a day or two the “Bonheurs” were examined, and, not seeming very
strong, were treated to a second watering; then, as they did not
improve, fresh waterings were given them. In case of sickness science is
our only resource, and, although Patrick ignorantly begged to have them
left to themselves, the liquid fertilizer was applied steadily. It was
given to them early and late; the weaker and paler they became, the more
they had of it; once a day, twice a day, even three times a day, was the
dose exhibited.

I am now satisfied that the “Bonheur Seedling” is not a success--it is
not a sufficiently hardy plant for our climate. They may be good
bearers--of this I can not speak--but they can not be called vigorous.
By the first of June the last had wilted away, in spite of steady
waterings with the best liquid manure. My experience in this matter is
of great value to the public; for, while I can advise no one to invest
in “Bonheur Seedlings,” I can thoroughly indorse the virtues of that
universally praised and admirably scientific liquid fertilizer--the
washings from the kitchen sink, and earnestly urge all young gardeners
never to omit the use of it on their beds. If any thing can insure the
success of the strawberry--even the “Bonheur Seedling”--it is this
invaluable compost, and the directions for saving it contained in all
agricultural works are well worth following, in spite of the trouble
they entail. No one who uses it will fail to thank science for the
benefits that it has conferred on agriculture. It is true that in my
case it was not quite equal to the occasion, and I had to buy new plants
and set them out in the spring; but I always regretted that the
sink-water was exhausted ere this was done, for I felt sure that on any
species but the feeble “Bonheur” so thoroughly scientific a fertilizer
would have had a prodigious effect.

This very interesting matter has led us somewhat ahead of our story,
and, although it seemed essential to give these valuable results of the
application of science to strawberries, we must now return to our fall
work. Next in importance to the strawberries was the asparagus-bed, and
great were the preparations made for it. Bridgeman was consulted. He is
somewhat obscure, and I did not practically understand some of his
directions, especially the one which he lays down as of the first
importance, that the plot of ground must be thoroughly “trenched.” Of
course, I was perfectly acquainted with the meaning of that word in its
ordinary acceptation--it signifies to dig a ditch; but the exact purpose
of a ditch in an asparagus-bed was not entirely apparent. It was not for
drainage, for, as far as I could make out, the ditch was to be filled up
again as soon as made; it was not merely as an ornament, or to separate
these valuable plants from their baser and less aristocratic neighbors,
but it had some occult purpose manifestly connected with a subtle and
technical interpretation. An application to the last pictorial and
unabridged “Worcester” did no good: there “trench” was made to mean a
“pit, drain, or ditch.” As “drain or ditch” were impossible, so “pit”
seemed equally out of the question.

Not seeing any better way out of the dilemma, and the necessity to
proceed being pressing, I put a bold face upon the matter, and, in an
indifferent sort of way, told Patrick to trench the necessary ground. To
my great surprise and relief, he understood me, and I found it was not
making a ditch round the plot, as I had suspected, but digging it well
over and putting in manure. The roots of the asparagus were
queer-looking things, without any green tops, reminding one of the
frogs’ legs seen in market strung on a stick, only that they have rather
more legs than a frog. They were planted under my own supervision, and
there we shall leave them until next spring, in the firm hope we shall
see more of them.

The fruit-trees had to be set out in the fall, besides a forest of
shade-trees; but, as this was done in October, after the cold weather
had driven me to town, some painful mistakes arose in placing them; the
fruit-trees generally found themselves where the shade-trees were to
have been, and the smallest dwarfs usurped the locations of the tallest
monarchs of the forest. This produced an irregular effect. There bid
fair to be great thinness of foliage where we hoped for the densest
shade, and the large trees were generally planted in such parts of the
garden as required most sun; this, however, was not a serious matter, as
they could be arranged in the ensuing fall, and it is not clear, after
all, whether a little shade is not a good thing for plants in our
extreme climate. This, with plowing and digging, closed our fall work,
and in the next chapter we shall get a comparative statement of profit
and loss, showing the manifold advantages of living in the country.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER X.

PROFIT AND LOSS.


Now that we have finished our first year’s experience, and shown how
readily a person can pass from the profession of a lawyer to that of an
agriculturist, we come to the subject which, after all, is the great
question of both city and country life, and which we have always kept so
steadily in view--the question of profit and loss. The reader must bear
in mind that I had great difficulties to contend with; no one had kindly
set out fruit-trees for me, nor started my asparagus and strawberry
beds, nor even laid out my garden. Moreover, the weather had been
exceptionally hot and dry; for it does usually rain occasionally during
the summer in our climate, and several accidents had happened that can
hardly be expected to take place invariably. The profit, therefore, must
be looked for, not in the merely vulgar, material sense, but somewhat in
the sensations, thoughts, and experiences that were included in the
results of the year’s labor. To be sure, there was an indirect material
gain: if I had gone to Saratoga or Newport, or had hired a summer
residence elsewhere, $2000 or $3000 would hardly have covered the
expense, even if I did not fall into the clutches of the “tiger;” and if
I had staid in the city, at the present price of mint juleps and sherry
cobblers, and the present dusty condition of the public thoroughfares, I
could hardly have got off for less. The pure air of Flushing supplied
the place of both these excitements, while the deep interest of my
agricultural pursuits kept my mind in a pleasant state of occupation.

The original outlay for house and grounds was, in round numbers,
$15,000; my fruit-trees cost $145 50, which must be added to principal
of investment, as it was not to be expected I should have to buy
fruit-trees every year. The strawberry plants cost $20, and this should
also be part of principal; but, as they all died, it may be that this
must be yearly expense, at least for the first season. The asparagus
plants cost $25, and we can hardly be able to tell where to place that
item until next year shall determine what becomes of them. The baker’s
boy, who served me with bread, ran his cart against my gate-post, and
put me to an expense of $35 for repairs; this clearly should be
principal, as he could hardly be expected to renew the operation yearly;
besides, he has been dismissed by his employer. My seeds cost $3 75,
and, as they never came up, I fear they must go to annual expenditure.
The bean-poles cost $2, and, if the neighboring boys do not steal them,
that is an item of investment. The nest-eggs for the hens cost 75 cents,
which, I have been informed, is more than they are worth; but that
constitutes permanent capital. My furniture was badly damaged in being
transported from the city to the country, and then from the country to
the city; the legs of the chairs became somewhat displaced, and the
upper drawer fell out of one bureau, that was laid face downward; but,
as I am now suing the express-men for damages by reason of their
negligence, it is hard to say whether this should be included; I have
put my damages at $250, but, perhaps, for the purposes of this work, we
might reduce them to $25. Dandy Jim cost $450, and ate about half as
much in hay and oats, and smashed my wagon to such an extent that the
repairs came to $50, and the wagon was nearly ruined. I paid $100 for
the cow, and would not part with her for twice the money. The chickens
cost $105, which item must go to annual expenditure, less the value of
one mink skin. The pig cost $12, and grew finely, eating not only all
the kitchen refuse, but a good feed of corn-meal and water three times
a day; unfortunately, pork fell, and when he was killed he would only
have produced $11 in market; but, as we intended to cure and eat him, he
would have been fairly worth what we should have had to pay for salt
pork by retail, had not an accident happened that will be described
hereafter. The value of the premises was really greatly enhanced by
their occupation and the improvements made on them, but the precise
amount of such increase is too indefinite to be stated with the accuracy
required by this work, consequently it is omitted altogether, the
intention of the writer being to give only such items as may be fully
relied on by any person intending to embark in a similar venture.

The account may be stated as follows:

INVESTMENT.--DEBIT.

  Premises                                     $15,000 00
  Fruit-trees                                      145 50
  Shade-trees (mostly in wrong places)             107 00
  Asparagus plants (doubtful)                       25 00
  Repairs to gate                                   35 00
  Bean-poles                                         2 00
  Dandy Jim                                        450 00
  Cow                                              100 00
  Nest-eggs                                            75
                                               ----------
        Total                                  $15,865 25

INVESTMENT.--CREDIT.

  Premises worth                                   $15,000 00
  Trees (besides improving the premises)               350 00
  Asparagus-bed (if successful)                        150 00
  Bean-poles (if not stolen)                             2 00
  Dandy Jim (would be glad to take)                    200 00
  Cushy (would not sell her for)                       200 00
  Nest-egg (all but one lost)                              05
                                                   ----------
  Total                                            $15,902 05

The increased value in the trees is due to the fact that they have been
standing some months, and are really worth so much more on one’s place
than crowded together in a nursery. A few may die--but it is not well to
anticipate misfortunes--and the expense of replacing them will, in such
case, fall into the annual account of the succeeding year.

YEARLY EXPENDITURE.

  Interest on investment                             $1050 00
  Strawberry plants                                     20 00
  Seeds                                                  3 75
  Damages to furniture                                  25 00
  Repairs of wagon (yearly expenditure so long as
    Dandy Jim remains with me)                          50 00
  Chickens                                             105 00
                                                     --------
        Total                                        $1253 75

YEARLY PROCEEDS.

  Expense of trip to Newport or Saratoga saved       $2000 00
  Proceeds from suit against express-men                50 00
  Costs, ditto                                         200 00
  One mink skin                                            25
                                                     --------
        Total                                        $2250 25

The profits of my first year were not large, but sufficient to induce me
to continue the experiment. There may be some few items of expense, such
as neglect of business, which are omitted; but the amount is difficult
to compute, and rather too remote, as we lawyers say, for the business
might have been neglected in any event. The mink skin was taken at a bad
season of the year for the fur; it is included among the annual receipts
as an offset to the chickens, and in the confident expectation that if
another mink were to do similar damage he would suffer the same fate.
The clear profit may be set down at $1000 in round numbers, which was
entirely satisfactory, considering the unusual difficulties that
presented themselves, and which more experience and less drought would
probably remove in succeeding years. It will be observed that the costs
of suit are included, although the case is not yet tried; but as it is a
question involving a long account of many items, and is brought by a
lawyer, the judge will probably refer it to another lawyer, who will
undoubtedly perceive the justice of the claim. The amount of both
recovery and costs is rather understated, if any thing. This is a source
of profit that could only be counted on by one of the profession; a
non-professional would probably find it the other way; but, as the
damages are charged, the receipts must go against them. The saving on
the trip to Newport or Saratoga is fairly included, as none of my
readers would expect me to pass the summer in town.

This was certainly, taken all in all, a flattering exhibit, as, with the
charming and original author of “Ten Acres Enough,” when he forgot to
put any clothing on the backs of his wife and daughters, we must not
confine our view merely to the humdrum matter of fact affairs of
every-day life, but must look at the whole subject from a higher
stand-point. Think of all the pleasures, intellectual and physical, of
the change from the dull, dreary city streets to the lovely country
roads--from the nasty Croton, running through its poisonous leaden
pipes, and vulgarly penetrating into every room on every story, to the
pure, sparkling well-water, so fresh and delicious (after the cat was
removed), drawn from the deep well by pump or bucket. Think of going
from the unhealthy atmosphere of overcrowded New York, where sickness of
all kinds is on the look-out for its victims--where pestilence stalks in
the noonday--to the invigorating air of Flushing, where a slight attack
of chills and fever, if it does happen, is rather an agreeable variety.
Think of escaping from the offensive over-supply of Fulton and
Washington Markets, and the consequent difficulty in making selections
for the daily returning dinner, and being every morning informed by the
butcher-boy that you can have a beefsteak or mutton-chop, and nothing
else, according as hairy or woolly cattle are cheapest. Think of all
these advantages, apart from pecuniary considerations!

In a moral aspect, the advantage is equally striking. No late hours or
evening dissipations at Flushing--no demoralizing club-life--no
theatrical entertainments--no political meetings. Occasionally, perhaps,
some exponent of the water-cure theory, some second-rate necromancer,
some believer in spiritualism, or some devotee of cold water, gives a
lecture at the town hall; but these can scarcely rise to the dangerous
dignity of dissipations, and are agreeably somnolescent in their
influence. Husbands are not apt to be led away by them into neglecting
their wives, nor literary or professional men into deserting their
books; while for the youth of either sex these attractions are not
excessive. Once in a while there may be a public ball, but, as every one
has been seeing every body else every day in every week for months, if
not years, and as nothing but ice cream, cakes, and lemonade are served
round, it is a mild species of orgy at worst.

But, to escape from moral considerations and to return to practical
ones, it will be observed that the pig does not appear in the accounts;
this is due to what may properly be called an accident, and can not be
blamed to the writer. Piggy grew finely, and toward Christmas Patrick
butchered him in artistic style, and brought him to the city. He must
have weighed 220 lbs., although, not having scales sufficiently strong
to sustain that weight, I can not be positive that he did not exceed it;
but, unfortunately, the price of pork was then only five cents per
pound, which would have brought him to eleven dollars, whereas we had
paid twelve for him six months before, and put a goodly amount of corn,
to say nothing of swill, into him besides. He was not for sale, however,
being intended for the salting-kettle, and I proceeded to cut him up.

I was not skilled in the art of animal dissection, and the result would
hardly have been approved by a scientific butcher. His back was
particularly hard to split, especially with no better instrument than a
heavy carving-knife, which was somewhat nicked in the operation, and it
was very difficult to chop in the true line. Surgery not having been a
part of my education, I found the disjointing of the limbs an intricate
process. The shoulders and hams took

[Illustration]

odd shapes, unlike what I had been accustomed to seeing on table, and
the flesh insisted upon looking more like gobs than the ordinary pieces.
Still, Patrick was strong, and he pulled as I cut, and between us
something was sure to give way, and I succeeded in separating the
joints, and reducing him to a shape that would go into the barrel, the
abundant fat that I encountered in the process promising well for the
quality of the future salt pork that he was to make.

Weeville had given me an accurate recipe for preparing the brine that
was to cover him: it was to be composed of salt and water boiled, and
strong enough to bear an egg, with a modicum of saltpetre. The hams and
shoulders were to be rubbed well with brown sugar, with a view to their
being smoked, and the brine was to be poured over the pork after the
latter had been carefully packed in the barrel, and then a weight was to
be laid on top.

These directions were very explicit, and it seemed impossible to make a
mistake; but, unfortunately, Weeville forgot to mention that the brine
must be allowed to cool before it is used. Being ignorant of this
important particular, I poured the boiling pickle over the meat, which
had been carefully disposed in the bottom of a huge hogshead, and calmly
awaited the effect. Without entering into farther particulars on this
painful subject, it is sufficient to say that we did not eat our own
salt pork that year. It would undoubtedly have been remarkably fine, and
far superior to any thing that is to be had in market, for it is my firm
impression that that pig had eaten three or four times its weight in
corn before it had consented to harden its flesh, which my scientific
neighbors tell me is the object in feeding corn. I bore the
disappointment as well as I could, but it is to be regretted that
people are not more careful to be exact in their instructions; and,
above all, when an error of this kind is committed and pointed out, they
should not reply--as Weeville was inconsiderate enough to do, when I
told him of his omission--“Well, I thought you knew enough for that.”

This loss, being a mere accident, for which I was clearly no more to
blame than if my pocket had been picked in the cars, or I had trod on a
nail when surveying my garden and been compelled to pay doctor’s bills,
is not fairly chargeable to the account of country life. In fact, the
loss took place in the city; for when the pig left the country he was
manifestly worth eleven, if not twelve dollars, at market rates, and was
even more valuable for home consumption. The loss was not my fault, nor
the pig’s fault, and Weeville says it was not his fault--and it
certainly was not the fault of country life--so I have omitted it
altogether from the statement.

I have been particular to be thus explicit and exact, and to keep every
thing within bounds; for, knowing what numbers will be induced by these
pages to follow my example, I wish to give them merely such views and
facts as they can implicitly rely upon; and it is confidently believed
that any other professional man can do as well as I did, or very nearly
so, with any five acres he may select in the vicinity of Flushing, or in
some other equally eligible locality, if any locality as eligible as
that delightful and fashionable village can be found--a point about
which, until my lots are sold, I shall continue to have very great
doubts.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XI.

THE FLUSHING SKATING-POND--A DIGRESSION.


“Well,” said Weeville one day, during the ensuing winter, as he dropped
into my quiet office in the city, where I try to forget the charms and
allurements of the country, and devote myself to Coke, Blackstone, and
Kent, “we have finally put our skating-pond in good hands. Last year
there was much complaint because the snow was not cleared off, and the
best days in the season were wasted from this neglect; but now we shall
have no farther trouble. You know the ice-man, Willis, who supplies the
residents with ice--he has taken hold of it. His services were engaged
at considerable expense, because we all knew his long experience had
made him thoroughly acquainted with the subject. He has had to do with
ice ever since he was a boy; he has cut it, and packed it, and sold it,
and can make it freeze if there is any freeze in it. During the mildest
winters his supply has never failed; he is a remarkable man in that
line. We have a splendid pond, nicely fenced in, and much superior to
your Central Park affairs, where the boys jostle and upset you, or to
the petty concerns got up as rinks, and occupying half a city block,
where you can scarcely turn round. There is plenty of room on our lake,
and the company is select. You are fond of skating. Why don’t you make
up a party and run out some day? All the best people go there, and you
know how pretty our girls are in Flushing.”

I had come to the city quite early, not being entirely satisfied, in my
blind ignorance, that winters in the country, with snow or mud on the
ground, the thermometer clinging to zero, and the wind having full
sweep, were as pleasant as they are in New York, even when streets are
impassable and sidewalks slippery. Nevertheless, I am devotedly fond of
skating; not that I excel in the art; for, on the contrary, I can do
little more than the simplest steps, and generally return from every
expedition with bruised body and sore limbs. I keep on hoping that I
shall improve, and make the most of the fresh air and exercise, although
the fancy steps, and my efforts to disregard the simplest laws of
equilibrium, bring me to grief. It is pleasant to skate, and pleasant to
see others skate, especially of the female sex, with their cheeks aglow
and their eyes sparkling, and with their neat dresses and dainty feet.
On the Central Park the troublesome boys annoy me, and the private ponds
are so filled with superior artists that I am ashamed to appear on them;
skating is not only a fashionable recreation, but peculiarly a country
pastime, where ponds abound, not having been filled up to make city
lots; so I determined to take advantage of Weeville’s suggestion.

Moreover, I am fond of the best people; I like good society. It is
pleasant to mention that I met so and so, and imply that we are on
intimate terms. Of course, all are equals in this country, and my family
is exceedingly old, going back almost to the time of my grandfather. I
have a right to consideration, but still one feels better to be among
the best. Besides these two attractions, Weeville had intimated that the
young ladies of the neighborhood frequented that favored pond; this was
a still stronger inducement. Woman is pretty in every costume that
fashion adopts; she is angelic in high bonnets and divine in flat hats;
she is bewitching in tight skirts, and enrapturing in balloon crinoline;
she is entrancing in short robes, and overwhelming in long trains;
whether she wears feathers or ribbons, crape or colors, high necks or
low necks, she is charming; but in a skating costume, with her dress
high looped up, her red balmoral appearing below, and her dear little
feet--seeming smaller from being strapped to skates--peeping out from
under all, and occasionally exhibiting an ankle above, she becomes
tenfold more enchanting. The exercise and cold air are splendid artists
for painting her cheeks, and the swan is nowhere in comparison with her
grace of motion. No place so abounds in the beautiful of their sex as
Flushing. So I resolved that I would steal a day from pressing cares and
labors, and collect a few friends to visit the skating pond.

The house had been finished and closed, and had been given in Patrick’s
charge; some furniture had been left there, and it was merely necessary
to make a few arrangements to receive hospitably the guests who had been
invited. Weeville was to bring me word when the ice was solid, so that
we might start on the ensuing morning early. The thermometer was the
subject of much interest for some days. It went down finally, and staid
down resolutely; rumors circulated that the New York Rink was frozen,
and skating had commenced there; next the public conveyances bore
announcements that the opposition private pond was solid; and finally
the red ball went up, and thousands rushed to the Central Park. Our
party, too much on the _qui vive_ for the superior attractions of
Flushing to make engagements for any of those places, waited and waited
for Weeville. After the rest of the skating world had been enjoying
themselves for a week, he appeared at my office in a great state of
hilarity.

“Ready at last,” he shouted. “Willis wanted the ice to be solid; a
careful man, that; no accidents while he is in charge. But last night
fixed it. The ice is at least six inches thick, and to-morrow the whole
town will be on hand. Nothing like starting right; put some one with
brains at the head, and you are sure to go straight; twenty years’
experience does not pass for nothing. I suppose you have been impatient,
but remember we have no life-saving machines, and it is better to be on
the sure side, if it is a little slower. Come in the early train
to-morrow.”

There was great excitement in warning and collecting our forces, and we
did not get off as early as we hoped; but having at last managed to
cross the river and reach the train--except a few couples that were left
behind--we were soon at the Flushing dépôt.

Instead of having wagons ready to carry the party at once to the pond,
as he had promised, Weeville received us alone. His usual hilarity was
wanting, his air was sad, his manner disconsolate. As we crowded around
him, he said slowly, “There is no skating.”

“Ridiculous,” was the answer, in a chorus of astonished voices; “there
must be skating.”

“Yes,” said our precise associate, “I have a recording thermometer, and
last night the mercury fell to fifteen.”

“Your man is a little too cautious,” I said; “there is such a thing as
erring on the right side.”

“Oh!” said the ladies, “if that’s all, we are not afraid; are we,
Mr.----?” each turning to her particular companion with a look that
induced the latter to engage unanimously to answer for their safety.

“But there is no ice,” again said Weeville, with a manner of most
deplorable abasement.

“Now, how can that be?” demanded our precise man again; “water freezes
at thirty-two.”

“Why,” burst forth the female chorus, “the Central Park has been frozen
these two days.”

“Well, Mr. Weeville,” I then commenced, growing incensed at his
stupidity, “if there was no ice, why did you tell me last evening that
it was six inches thick?”

“So it was,” he replied, still more drearily.

“Then, in Heaven’s name, what has become of it?”

“Willis cut it all yesterday, and put it in his ice-houses,” was the
final reply. If he had fired a pistol among the party, my friend could
not have surprised them more. “He says he wanted it to freeze smoother;
but the pond is ruined for the season, as the little pieces and lumps
that have broken off will remain, and destroy the surface.”

“What a shame!” cried the ladies. “The scoundrel!” growled the men.
“Well, what can we do?” asked the former. “Let us go home,” replied the
latter. Vain were my imploring requests that they would at least visit
my country seat--in company I speak of it as my country “place” or
“seat”--that they might warm themselves after their journey, and satisfy
the cravings of hunger and thirst. “All aboard!” yelled the conductor,
for the Flushing trains make immediate return trips, like ferry-boats.
My companions clambered up the steps and into the seats, and, in a
moment more, were being whirled back to the city. I did not accompany
them, but remained with Weeville, who, though far from lively, was
probably a more pleasant associate for me just then.

In fact, on the question of skating the city seems to possess certain
advantages. In the country snow keeps falling at odd and inconvenient
times, and there are no enthusiastic individuals to shovel it off.
Hardly does the thermometer go down into the twenties, and succeed in
congealing the surface and raising the expectations of the devotees of
the “ringing steel,” ere the clouds cover the sky, snow-flakes make
their appearance, and settle down with some inches of soft
impassability, winding up, probably, with a rain or “freeze,” that
leaves the entire surface of every pond an uninviting expanse of “humps
and bumps,” that bid defiance equally to high art and unskilled
blundering. The ice-shaving machines, the snow-sweepers and the like,
are confined to the metropolitan limits; and, although there is plenty
of ice in the country, it is often hard to get at, even if there is not
an “ice-man” to carry it away for other uses than skating.



CHAPTER XII.

THE SECOND YEAR.


We now come to the second year. The house had been finished. It occupied
a commanding position on the beautiful square that constituted my
possessions, and, with the wind whistling through the innumerable
ornaments that covered the edges of its high peaks, brought to mind its
original seafaring owner. The land had been well plowed, at last, and
was no longer impervious to spade and pick; the strawberries, whose
untimely fate has already been described in anticipation, had been
planted, and the asparagus-bed was in a promising state of preparation.
Fruit-trees, and raspberry bushes, and the “great Lawton
blackberry”--which, having originally been discovered by Mr. Seaton, was
called by my intelligent fellow-farmers after Mr. Lawton, because both
names ended with “ton”--were set out; my accounts for the year were made
up, and I determined to go to Europe.

My trip was principally undertaken--apart from some business claims
which importunate clients insisted on pressing upon me--to study the
European mode of agriculture. With that view I spent most of my time in
Paris, and went steadily to the Jardin des Plantes, Jardin
d’Acclimitation, Jardin Mobille, Château de Vincennes, Château des
Fleurs, the Lilac Festival, Bois des Boulogne, Pare Monceau, and all
such places where there was a chance to learn any thing I did not know
before. The information I acquired was very valuable, and if the reader
perceives its effect in the future pages he need not be surprised.

This threw the garden pretty much upon Patrick’s shoulders, and he
bought me a new lot of forty chickens, two watch-dogs, and four cats--as
the rats had almost taken possession of my house and barn, thinking,
apparently, that it was built for their convenience--and put into the
ground the most enormous quantity of manure. He seemed to have imbibed
the scientific agriculturist’s admiration for fertilizers, or else felt
an interest in the welfare of his numerous friends and compatriots in
the neighborhood who kept pigs and cattle, and raised what the books
politely term compost. He spread seven hundred loads of it on my five
acres, and when he was through there was not a load of compost to be had
in Flushing for love--although I do not believe that ever bought a load
of compost any where--or money.

Of course, I did not know exactly what seeds Patrick had put in, and if
I asked him, during the spring, whether he had this or that vegetable,
his answer always was, “Shure and he had lashings ov it;” but I feared
he had a sneaking weakness for onions and cabbages. My first question on
my return, which was after a flying visit of a few months, in which I
had learned all that was essential, was about the success of the
asparagus-bed.

“Faith, nothing has iver come up,” was the heart-rending response.
“There was a most beautiful pond of water standing on the spot all
winter, and I consaited that the roots was rotted out intirely; so, as
the bed was ilegantly manured, I jist put in a fine crop o’ turnips, as
I thought that would be the doin’ ov it.”

This was the end of my asparagus--a bed that requires three years to
mature, and which could not be started till another fall; a bed that had
been trenched and fertilized, and on which so much brain-work and
back-work had been expended; a bed in which the roots ought to have
slept comfortably and safely during their sleepy season. One or two
spears struggled up through the second planting, but even they were
feeble, and barely exhibited that delicate fringe that mature asparagus
assumes by contrast to its earlier state. My disgust can be imagined--to
plant asparagus and reap turnips, which I never eat, and yet have
Patrick inform me that this was “the doing of it!” To have, in place of
the most aristocratic and delicate of vegetables, the most vulgar and
indigestible one; to have the favorite plant of refined gourmets
supplanted by the food of cattle! I felt as though the only thing “done”
was myself.

Although my return to farming was a little late in the season, I went to
work in earnest, undismayed by this deplorable failure, planting every
spot that Patrick had neglected, and, as his memory was not very
accurate, occasionally putting a second sowing where he had already
planted a different seed. I felt I must make the most of my ground in
its present productive condition, and filled up every hole and corner.
The weather was propitious, and every thing grew in grand style. The
peas climbed up the bushes that were set round them and out over the
top; the beans went to the summit of their poles, and then waved their
heads round in the wind like measuring-worms on the end of a stick; and
the squashes covered the ground with enormous leaves.

The first that came to bearing were our peas--Daniel O’Rourkes, of
course. They rather went to stalk, being some seven feet high--about
twice their proper height, as laid down in agricultural works, and
almost out of reach. There were not many pods, and Patrick said “he
’most broke his back laining up to reach ’em;” but the flavor fully
justified Weeville’s enthusiasm. Unfortunately, only two rows had been
planted, and they furnished but a few meals--we had moved out of town
early to enjoy the full benefit of our fresh vegetables--and our next
planting consisted of a quantity of dwarf marrowfats. Now dwarf peas
have some advantages; they are easy to plant and easier to take care of;
they grow luxuriantly and bear abundantly; they are what farmers call a
“sure crop,” but as for eating them, that is another question. In a
religious and penitential point of view they would be invaluable, as no
amount of boiling would ever soften them. It is said they are a
profitable crop, and good, when plowed under, to enrich the land. It
would seem as though they were excellent in every way but on the table,
and it so happened that it was just for this especial purpose that I
wanted them. My land needed no farther enriching--Patrick’s compost had
done that effectually. Piety, of course, is desirable in its way, and
penitence is necessary, but mine never ran in the pea line; and
pilgrimages in tight boots was as much as ever I could endure and
retain a pious frame of mind, without adding the torture of dwarf peas.
Patrick, however, had great faith in dwarf peas, because they required
no bushes, and had consequently planted little else, so that our taste
of Daniel O’Rourkes was tantalizing. After the latter were gone we
bought the peas for our table in the village, while I had the
satisfaction of feeding Patrick the dry, tasteless “dwarfs” all summer,
till he thought the “dwarf pays weren’t good at all, at all.”

[Illustration]

Our next crop was squashes. We had the earliest squashes in all
Flushing. Their broad leaves covered the ground and reached up like
hands toward heaven; their insinuating runners spread in every
direction; large yellow flowers, into which bumblebees retired for honey
till they were out of sight, appeared innumerably, and at last the
creamy, delicate fruit shone through the thick foliage. It was with no
little exultation that I handed a fine large ripe one to Weeville, whose
vines were not nearly so forward. I anticipated his surprise, and
watched for its manifestation with interest. He, however, thanked me
kindly, but said he never ate squashes. This was simply the effect of
envy. He was indignant that his scholar should have been ahead of him,
and pretended he was merely raising a few for the servants. The excuse
was a palpable evasion, and I did not allow it to depress me, although I
must confess that I do not eat squashes myself. Peas are fine,
especially Daniel O’Rourkes, and except dwarfs; but squashes are a
miserably watery vegetable, fit only to feed cattle, who will hardly eat
them--except always when one raises them one’s self, and has the
earliest in the neighborhood, then they must be eaten with a relish, and
I did my best to keep up appearances.

Our cucumbers were a marvel of success. The water and musk melons did
not do so well, although the squashes were placed on one side of them
and the cucumbers on the other. Unfortunately, I do not eat cucumbers
either. The onions succeeded admirably--almost too much so, for Patrick,
as I had dreaded, had planted about an acre of them. I should have eaten
these, but there is a popular prejudice against them, and I observed
that after indulging in them, if I paid a visit, my lady friends did not
care to hear me whisper sweet nothings into their ears. Our turnips and
cabbages were immense, but it was never expected that any one but the
servants and cattle would touch them. The cauliflowers and egg-plants
did not do so well. Patrick made an effort to sell our surplus
vegetables, but the market seemed to be supplied, or the price turned
out very different from what we were in the habit of paying when we
purchased. They mostly went to Cushy, Dandy Jim--who rather turned up
his nose at them--and the pigs, of which Patrick had purchased an entire
litter.

I am a great admirer of cauliflowers, with their creamy consistency and
delicate flavor, and when July arrived, as ours evinced no desire to
hold up their heads and “blossom like the rose,” it was clear “something
must be done, and that shortly.”

Fresh application was made to the books, but the information there
contained was not quite so full and satisfactory as had been expected.
Much was said about cold frames, and housing young plants for the
winter, but very little that seemed to meet the case in point. My plants
did not want any housing over winter; they were to be eaten at once, if
they would only come to the edible point. The sole difficulty was that
they presented to the eye nothing that in the least resembled what one
finds in market under the name of cauliflower--a delicious concentration
of vegetable cream. There were leaves and stalks, but no flower, and
what precisely the former were good for except to feed the cow, neither
Patrick nor myself could exactly tell. He had a very vague idea of the
cause of the difficulty, and all that the books seemed to suggest was a
return to that most useful nourishment, the liquid fertilizer.

Our kitchen sink having been exhausted on the strawberries, this had to
be manufactured from the refuse of the chicken coop. It was not a
refined idea to pour such a filthy compound over so absorbent a
substance--in fact, over any substance that was to be eaten--and the
necessity of success alone forced me to it. But the plants were
themselves evidently disgusted with such treatment, and only spread out
their leaves like umbrellas to shield themselves from the offensive
showers. We had a few heads, or what passed for heads; but they were
leafy and rather tough--quite different from the white full heads sold
in market--and we fancied tasted of their nourishment.

There seemed to be a spell on the garden; whatever we wanted failed, and
had to be purchased in the village, and whatever was useless grew
magnificently. One of our cucumbers measured two feet in length by one
in circumference, and took the prize--a certificate merely--at the
county fair; but, generally, our success was not in exact accordance
with our taste. This, of course, was due to my unfortunate absence early
in the season. It never does to leave such important matters to
unlettered ignorance. How Adam ever made out to earn his bread in early
days, without the aid of “Ten Acres Enough,” and “Bridgeman’s
Assistant,” is a puzzle. Science is our only salvation, and it was a
matter of congratulation that I returned in time to apply it to the
flower garden, if I was somewhat late for the coarser vegetables.



CHAPTER XIII.

SCIENCE.


I had a high appreciation of the superiority of learning in cultivating
the earth. Beside the dazzling statements of the brilliant writers on
agriculture, the humdrum notions of the plodding workers were little
less than disgusting. What is the few bushels of potatoes which an acre
yields under common management when compared with the hundreds of
barrels which it should give by scientific appliances? Under such
manipulation the compost heap becomes a mountain of wealth, and morass a
mine of gold. Of course, I discussed these points with Weeville, and
impressed upon him frequently the great value of science. Inspired by
this feeling, it is not surprising that none of my failures had in the
least disheartened me. I was still a firm believer in high art, and
studied out every new suggestion that could be made applicable to the
restricted area of five acres. I had read all the latest books on the
farm, the garden, trees, vegetables, plants, berries, fruits, and every
thing whatever which the earth produced for the service of man, except
what pertained to the mineral kingdom. No sooner would a seed-store
issue a new catalogue than I had it, and devoured the contents for the
purpose of discovering novelties; I corresponded with distant florists
for whatever they produced as a specialty, or to obtain their
descriptive catalogue, and I really began to feel as though I were a man
of science myself.

My particular attention had been given to the flowers. This department
had been under my charge from the commencement, Patrick confining his
exertions to the supply of edibles. I had run through the general list
of flowers, had purchased all the hardy bedding sorts which could be
obtained ready to be set out, and had at last succeeded in compelling
them to grow in spite of their vigorous opposition. I had conquered
asters, columbine, anagallis, Jacobœa, snap-dragon, phlox, foxglove,
Canterbury bells, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, balsams, Callirrhoe,
coreopsis, pansies, poppies, lobelias, sweet peas, garden rockets,
larkspurs, verbenas, zinnias, and many more of the common varieties,
besides innumerable shrubs; but, not content with these, my attention
was turned to another world, a higher one to overcome, and deeper
science to be applied.

This awakening came through a very full and complete catalogue and list
of seeds and plants published by a firm strongly indorsed by the ablest
periodical on farming in the country, and which I believe in next to the
prayer-book. Of course, this approval was sufficient to entitle to
implicit confidence what the seedsmen might say, and I fairly devoured
the glowing descriptions of new plants that this work--for it contained
some one hundred and fifty pages--presented. I made quite a large
selection of seeds, and among them ordered a double quantity of a
strange plant described in the following enthusiastic manner:

     DATURA (TRUMPET-FLOWER), Nat. Ord. _Solanaceæ_.--An ornamental
     class of plants, many of which possess attractions of the highest
     order, and are not nearly so extensively cultivated as they ought
     to be. In large clumps or borders of shrubbery they produce an
     excellent effect. The roots may be preserved in sand through the
     winter in a dry cellar. _Half-hardy perennials._

     DATURA WRIGHTII (_Meteloides_).--A splendid variety, with
     bell-shaped flowers eight inches long, white bordered with lilac,
     and sweet scented; continues in bloom from July to November;
     beautiful beyond description; from Asia.

Here was a magnificent future--a perennial, with flowers eight inches
long, “beautiful beyond description.” To be sure, I was a little
troubled about the name. I could not make up my mind positively whether
it was “Datura” or “Meteloides.” They were both good names, however, and
that, in science, is half the battle. Still, accuracy is a weakness of
mine, and it was unpleasant to call these new seeds half the time
Datura, and the other half Meteloides. But I felt that, under either
appellation, they were invaluable, and I carefully concealed the
possession of the new treasure, that I might at last have a satisfactory
triumph over Weeville, who, with his practical and most incomprehensibly
successful mode of gardening, was quite a thorn in my scientific side.
The papers inclosing the purchase contained minute directions for its
cultivation, and I followed these most exactly, resolved that there
should be no failure this time, if the strictest attention could prevent
it. I supervised the preparation of the hot-bed personally; I saw that
the material was properly turned over and worked, and the mould
carefully prepared; and two distinct sowings were made, so that in case
any untoward accident happened to one, the other might succeed.

Anxiously I waited the issue, and my exultation may be imagined when
both came up. Datura, even in its earliest stages, exhibited its
aristocratic extraction. There is usually some little difficulty in
distinguishing a youthful weed from a plant by its mere appearance; but
Meteloides was peculiarly elegant and graceful. The first leaves were
not two coarse lobes, but long, slender, delicate, and refined spears of
a pale green color, supported by a tall, spare stalk. They gathered
strength slowly, and, under assiduous care, frequent watering, and
careful shading from the sun, became robust, and finally put forth the
permanent foliage. There were a good many of them; in fact, they took up
a considerable share of my hot-bed, and they soon began to grow large
and strong, till I could hardly wait for the warm weather to transplant
them into the garden. This change was also effected with the utmost
precaution, dull or rainy days being selected; and so determined was I
to oversee every step myself, that a slight rheumatism remains to remind
me of the circumstance.

However, my labors were rewarded, and, once established in the garden,
the Daturas began to grow vigorously. If they occupied considerable room
in the hot-bed, they demanded still more in the open air, and the
assurance of a wonderful abundance was no longer questionable, the only
doubt remaining as to whether there would be place for the other
inhabitants. Still, it was apparent that flowers “eight inches long, of
white bordered with lilac, and sweet scented,” could hardly be
surpassed, and that it was impossible to have too many of a plant which
was “beautiful beyond description,” and the roots of which could “be
preserved in sand through the winter,” and secure a succession of
loveliness for years to come. As the foliage expanded and the branches
spread, the difference between this plant and the others, its neighbors,
became more and more apparent. It was certainly remarkable, and, the
ground having been doubly enriched to receive it, it grew amazingly.

Precisely at what point in its existence doubts about Meteloides arose
in my mind, I can not say; and, although they were pooh-poohed and
discarded at first, they pressed themselves upon me, and forced me to
notice a very strange and unpleasant resemblance. These suspicions grew
stronger as the Daturas grew larger, and when the latter began to
overshadow all the other flowers, the former became painfully
oppressive. I began to suspect that my new purchase was not all right,
and awaited anxiously the appearance of those flowers “eight inches
long.” To be sure, it was an immense reassurance to recall the words of
the catalogue, and to read over the indorsement of the seedsmen in the
well-known agricultural paper, which was most severe on humbugs; and I
felt that my doubts were so unworthy that I was careful never to
mention them, but awaited patiently the _dénouement_. Unfortunately, at
this precise moment of suspense, Weeville called to see me; and although
I endeavored to distract his attention--for his way was always so
painfully abrupt--and tried to beguile him with the seductions of the
mint-bed, one of his first questions was,

“Well, how goes on the garden? Have you discovered any new way of
growing beans wrong end up, or inducing potatoes to produce a dozen
sprouts to every eye?”

I replied that my garden was getting along very well; and when he
insisted upon a personal inspection, that he might get a lesson or two
in science, as he expressed it, I did my best to lead him to the
vegetable department. But the attempt was vain. He spied my strange
flowers at once, and hastened directly toward a Datura with an
expression of countenance that was far from reassuring.

“What on earth have you got there?” he burst forth, before he was near
the plant, so that I, skillfully pretending to misunderstand him, and
assuming that his question applied to a shrub near by, replied,

“Oh, that is a spiræa. A handsome one, is it not? Growing finely; it
will soon cover the entire path.”

“I don’t mean that--”

“By the way,” I inquired, interrupting him, “have you any egg-plants to
spare? Ours are not as successful as they ought to be.”

“Yes, yes; plenty. But I want to know why you have filled your garden--”

“Walk this way, if you please,” I again broke in. “There’s a remarkably
pretty double Jacobœa that I should like to show you.”

“In a minute; but tell me first--”

“And our Lima beans, they are really remarkable; and such carrots and
turnips, to say nothing of many other excellent vegetables.”

I was becoming a little incoherent, and not sticking to the absolute and
naked truth, for Weeville was not to be moved. He stopped resolutely
before a wonderful specimen of Datura, and said positively,

“Before I go any where else, I want to know what you call that?”

“Oh, that,” I replied, with affected indifference, “that is a Datura.”

As he broke into unpleasantly convulsive laughter, I added, hastily,

“I mean to say Meteloides.” As he still appeared unconvinced and
somewhat choked with merriment, I further explained: “Datura Wrightii
Meteloides; a plant which ought to be more extensively cultivated;
bears flowers eight inches long, white bordered with lilac, sweet
scented, beautiful beyond description.”

“Beautiful!” he shouted; “sweet scented! Why, that is a stink-weed. If
you don’t believe me, just touch it.”

It was. I am sorry to confess the fact, but my fears and suspicions were
confirmed. I had succeeded in producing about a hundred stink-weeds.
There is one disadvantage about science, which consists in the
difficulty of understanding it. Datura and Meteloides are so little like
stink-weed that the common mind could hardly connect the two together,
although the latter have sweet-scented flowers eight inches long.
Moreover, I had supposed that stramonium was the learned name, but it
would appear that science had altered that. It was a good deal of
trouble to get rid of those Daturas. I could not touch them, for by
either name they smelt equally, although not absolutely sweet. It was
out of the question to pull them up, and almost as difficult to cut them
down. During the operation of their removal they gave forth an odor
which seemed to me quite a satisfactory reason why they were not more
“extensively cultivated,” and which rivaled the best efforts of the
American civet, an animal vulgarly known by a more plebeian name. When
they were finally eradicated the garden looked quite bare, and a fresh
application had to be made to the florists for bedding plants to fill up
the vacancies. I still believe in science, but seedsmen should be more
full in their descriptions or more careful in their selections;
certainly stink-weeds are not very desirable flowers, even under the
romantic name Datura or Meteloides.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIV.

A SECOND DIGRESSION--FAIRY TALES FOR LITTLE FOLKS.


My five acres at Flushing were located on the top of a hill called
Monkey Hill; why so called I can not imagine, for there was never a
monkey seen there since the earliest recollection of the first
inhabitant; nor could it have been from the want of monkeys, as that is
so common a deficiency on Long Island. To be sure, there is a settlement
of Irish on one declivity near the salt meadow; but even supposing that,
by a stretch of the imagination, Irishmen can be converted into monkeys,
that is of comparatively modern date, whereas our Dutch ancestry named
the hill generations back. Nevertheless, the hill is Monkey Hill, and
the settlement is Monkey Town.

I wander through Monkey Town occasionally, admire the originality of its
Celtic architecture, puzzling myself over the buildings to find out
which are pig-pens and which are houses--for the pig-pens are so like
houses, and the houses are so like pig-pens, that it is hard to tell
them apart--and enter into conversation with my fellow-citizens of Irish
extraction. I am very affable. I pat the girls on their towy heads, and
praise the boys for stout young lads, in the vague hope that the parents
may not tear down my fences, nor let their children rob my future
apple-trees or steal my pumpkins.

During one of my visits I was much attracted by an old crone who wore
spectacles. Spectacles are not unbecoming to some people; they lend an
air of maturity to youth, and even improve an elderly lady reading her
Bible; but worn permanently by a very wrinkled old woman, with a very
long nose and very sharp chin, they have a bewitching effect that, in
Massachusetts, would insure the culprit’s early decease at the stake. I
made immediate advances to that spectacled female, whose age might have
been any where from a hundred and fifty to three hundred, in the firm
conviction that her conversation would be interesting and improving; nor
was I mistaken, for the intimacy engendered by a few visits induced her
to confide in me the following story relative to a small, round, muddy
pond, that has neither outlet or inlet, but which is always full, or
nearly so, of water, and which lies across the main road over against
my premises. I can not give the old crone’s language, nor could she
probably give the real language of the parties in action, for it was
undoubtedly Dutch; nor can I convey an idea of her halting, though
impressive manner; but the story, having come direct through the
broomstick fraternity, is doubtless true in every particular, and may be
entitled


                         LIVE-GEESE FEATHERS.


On the sloping bank near that little pond there dwelt, ages ago, an old
man and his wife. The situation was pleasant, and would have been
handsome--for the trees were more numerous then than now--if the edge of
the bank had been covered with its natural sod; but the trampling of
geese and ducks had long ago worn away the vegetation to the bare earth.
The water was not over clear, and the scum that here and there floated
about, innoxious as it might be to the feathered tribes, was not
agreeable to the human eye. In fact, the pond would have been
unceremoniously termed a duck-pond, although it was mainly appropriated
to geese. Yes, the old man and his wife made their daily bread by
raising geese. Not only did the old fellow count upon the sale of the
goose for food, but several times a year did he pluck the feathers; and
on a large sign, in whitish though somewhat weather-worn letters, he
had inscribed “LIVE-GEESE FEATHERS.”

The truth must be told, as it always should, and old Marrott had for
twenty years, four times a year, cruelly plucked their feathers from the
living geese. With the most unfeeling barbarity, he put them to awful
tortures, tearing from their reeking bodies the natural covering--and
all that he and his wife might not starve. How diabolical must have been
the wretch! Little did he heed the poor creatures when their cries,
plainly as words, begged and implored mercy; little did he pause when,
finding remonstrance vain, they made violent struggles to escape, and
flapped their wings, and dashed themselves about; little remorse did his
merciless heart experience provided the feathers were numerous and of
good quality; and if two or three died from the torture and exposure,
what did he care, provided he could sell their remains for food. Was it
not a wonder that he had been permitted to carry on his inhuman practice
so long? But his punishment came at last.

Among his flock was one, aged and venerable, that he had owned from the
very beginning, and which had been plucked upward of eighty times. In
his earlier days that gander had struggled, and cried, and besought
like the others, but in time he had come to passive endurance, although
there was a peculiar fire in his eye, that, if Marrott had noticed,
would have quickened even his dull sense. He had been a noble-looking
bird--the lord of the flock--but age and ill usage had worn him away to
a huge gaunt skeleton. His body was in many places bare, the feathers
had been plucked so often; his proud step had fallen away to an awkward
shuffle, and, but for the gleam of his eye, no one would have dreamed he
had once been a king of birds, so sorry was his plight. The plucking
season had almost come round again, and already the geese--for long
experience had accustomed them to the time--began to tremble in their
feathers; already they had serious thoughts of rebellion or flight, and
their loud cackling whenever their master appeared very clearly evinced
their terror.

One night Mother Marrott had gone to the market with a number of eggs to
sell, and had left the old man alone. She was not to be back till next
day--for it was a long journey to the city in those times, before
railroads were invented, and when the traveler had no horse--and, as her
husband sat in the evening by the faint, flickering light of the tallow
candle, the most painful apprehensions took possession of what must be
called his mind. Strange ghost and goose like sounds passed round and
round the old house. Ever and anon from the poultry-yard came curious
low noises, as of suppressed conversational cackling, and the wind
sighed with a hissing sound, while his shadow fell in all sorts of odd
and uncouth shapes upon the wall, as little like himself and much like a
goose as could be. In fact, it seemed as though there was the dim
outline of a goose trying to conceal itself in his shadow. He was afraid
to look at it fairly, but he could see from the corner of his eye that
it was something uncommon. There was but one refuge--bed; he hastened to
undress, but his clothes had never before made such objection to being
taken off. He was afraid to pull his shirt over his head--he was
confident it would catch round his throat--so he left it on. Amid his
trepidation he resolved to keep the light burning; but, just as he went
to snuff it, an audible hiss resounded from the chimney corner, and in
an instant he snuffed it out. Then he leaped into bed, and hid his head
below the bedclothes, glad of the refuge.

There he lay still, while his heart beat so loud that it seemed to shake
the room. The unusual noises increased even above its beating, and still
more ominous sounds were heard. The windows rattled, the door creaked,
the fire crackled, the wind whistled. Horror on horrors! the door
opened! unquestionably it swung open, and the cold night air rushed in.
For a moment afterward all was silent, then pat, pat, pat went little
feet across the floor. Yes, above the rattling and the creaking could
his sharpened senses detect the unearthly tread of those little
feet--pat, pat, pat. They seemed now to pause before the fire. Pat, pat,
pat, they walk to the window. Then pat, pat, pat, they approached the
bed. Old Marrott shivered, but it was not with cold this time; old
Marrott shrank down, but it was not to avoid the night air.

He hoped he would escape observation; but no; there was a rustle, and
something rested on the bed. The old man’s breath came thick and fast.
Suddenly the covers were dragged from off him, and as he sprang up to a
sitting posture a fearful sight met his eyes. There, upon the foot of
the bed, stood the old gander, with one end of the bedclothes in his
mouth. There he stood, grim and silent, and now the old man saw but too
plainly the revengeful glow of his piercing eye. Around and behind him
were feathers--millions of feathers--the same that had been plucked from
him during his long life. They had all arrived for that night of
vengeance. Some had come from ladies’ beds and some from lawyers’
desks, some from lovers’ hands and some from gluttons’ teeth. There they
were floating to and fro in the air, and awaiting the orders of their
parent, the gander.

The gander looked sternly at the trembling culprit, who clasped his
hands and tried to think of a prayer; but his prayers had been forgotten
long ago. Then it stretched out its neck till its head was close to his,
and it uttered a low hiss. That hiss had the sound of a human voice. But
what was the old man’s dread and fright when the goose drew back and
commenced to speak as follows:

“For this many and many a year,” he said, and his voice had plainly a
foreign accent, “I have lived within your power. I have endured all the
cruelties your malice could inflict. What excuse have you to offer?”

The old man’s teeth chattered so that he could scarcely reply, while a
fresh-sharpened pen from a merchant’s hand started forward and enforced
the question with a deep thrust.

“Oh! oh!” screamed poor Marrott, his wits on the stretch; “I only did it
to get my living.”

“What! Hard-hearted man! could you not have stripped us after death,
instead of torturing us while alive?” and then three quills fell upon
him, and came away dyed in his blood.

“Oh, mercy! I could not obtain enough feathers that way,” replied
Marrott, scarcely conscious of what he was saying.

“Was it avarice, then? Is that your explanation? Do you imagine that an
excuse which rather aggravates your crime?” and a dozen feathers
enforced the gander’s words, amid the cries of the miserable victim.

[Illustration]

“Every one does the same!” he shrieked in his agony.

“If every one else is cruel, is that a reason you should be? Ought you
not rather to have drawn a better moral from their vicious example?” and
again the plumes plunged into his flesh, for he was but little protected
against such an attack.

“Oh, murder! murder! The feathers of dead geese are not worth as much as
those of live,” he cried out, the torture getting the better of his
prudence.

This answer was too unfeeling for the gander and his followers to
endure. They dashed, one and all, upon the old man, who leaped from the
bed and took to flight. They followed, and now, when they plunged into
his body, the feathers remained sticking there. They pursued him round
the yard, while he fought with his arms, and cried, and begged, much as
the geese had flapped, and fluttered, and cackled before. The rest of
the flock joined in the hunt, and bit the flesh from his bare legs, and
beat him with their wings, till the old man sank in a swoon. Then they
spread their wings, and soared far, far out of sight.

Next day, when Dame Marrott returned, what was her astonishment to find
the house-door open, and to see her husband’s clothes scattered about
upon the floor, while he was nowhere to be found. She called, but there
was no answer. The place seemed unusually silent, and there was no noise
from the fowls. She went to the poultry-yard; no geese were to be seen.
She called them, as if to be fed; they did not come. She began to
search, and then she found one poor goose stretched upon the ground,
bloody and half dead. What did it mean? She took him up and carried him
in, to revive him by the fire. Little did she dream that she bore her
husband in her arms. She rubbed and caressed him till he came to
himself, and then, for the first, did the old man know what had befallen
him. He was changed to a gander; he tried to speak--a loud hiss alone
issued from his mouth. He tried to gesticulate--he could only flap his
wings. He walked hastily up and down; he pulled at the dame’s frock, who
was now busied with other things, and he thrust his bill in her lap,
till she, alarmed at such proceedings, drove him from the house. How
miserable was now his lot! how sorely he repented of his past
wickedness! He approached other geese of the neighbors, but they either
fled from him, or fell upon and beat him. He was compelled to remain
solitary and miserable, with no one to whom he could confide his
sorrows.

But the worst was to come. His wife, after wondering what had become of
her husband, concluded that “he was such an old goose he had got drowned
in the creek;” and, as it was plucking-time, and she had nothing else to
divert her mind, she determined to pluck the only one of the flock
remaining. Oh, what dreadful torments did the poor gander endure, and
from the hands of her he loved! How he shrieked! how he struggled! What
agonizing efforts he made to speak, but in vain! The old woman, only too
well accustomed to her business, held him fast, and tore out feather
after feather; and, although she thought more blood than usual flowed
from the wounds, she did not worry herself about that. It was now his
turn to endure those tortures he had so often inflicted--tortures
tenfold increased from the greater tenderness of his flesh. When the
task was finished, he lay bleeding, and agonized, and scarce able to
move. He waddled slowly down to the pond, and the cool water assuaged
his wounds. But what was his dread, and his wife’s delight, when he saw
his feathers growing again with astounding rapidity! In two weeks they
were quite large, and in two more he was in condition to pluck again.
What a life was before him, to be doomed every month to excruciating
sufferings, and that from one who was mourning for her husband at every
pang she gave him.

But the dame grew rich. In her one goose she had an exhaustless
treasure. He cost little to keep, and the more she plucked, the more
there was for next month. She built a new house, and then, forgetting
her husband, ideas of a fresh marriage suggested themselves to her.
There was a young man soon found to marry her for her wealth, and what
was her old husband’s misery to think that his torments purchased her a
new bridegroom! But this husband was a worthless fellow, much given to
drink, and, in a fit of intoxication, he killed the old goose, from
which all their luxuries flowed. Poverty came upon them, and, ere long,
the dame had no feathers to sell, and was forced to dispose of her house
and her land, pond included, and to take down the sign of


                        “LIVE-GEESE FEATHERS.”

Whether this story is positively and literally true, I can not say of my
own knowledge, not having been born till one or more centuries after it
is supposed to have happened; but there are many pieces of corroborative
evidence that go to maintain its entire accordance with fact. Whether
the geese really spoke is to be doubted, and the conversation may have
been merely a dream--the effect of a bad supper on a worse
conscience--but that they flew away can not be questioned, for the pond
is there, and I have visited it often, and never saw a goose near it. It
is well known that feathers are plucked from the living geese, and, as
the sign is no longer up, it is fair to presume it must have been taken
down. So, with the foundation of the pond, which still exists, to start
upon, and with the absence of the sign and the admitted probability of
the geese, we have a strong case without the positive assertion of my
informant, who insisted she had been there, and whom I shrewdly
suspected to be Dame Marrott herself, converted by glamourie from a
Dutch vrow into an Irish crone. As this legend lends a double charm and
greatly-enhanced value to the property in the neighborhood of the pond,
the interests of my five acres and their owner could not permit it to be
lost.



CHAPTER XV.

NUISANCES, INHUMAN AND HUMAN.--PETS--THE CHARM OF COUNTRY LIFE.


“Musquitoes! You’ll never be troubled with them. You may be surprised to
hear it, but musquitoes at Flushing never come into the house. They will
often be plenty outside, but they disappear the moment your foot touches
the piazza. Another strange thing about them is, that they may be
abundant in the grass, and, as you walk through, may rise up in
thousands, but they seem to be frightened at man, and fly away at once
without waiting to bite. It is my opinion they get some other kind of
food, and are too well supplied to overcome the instinctive animal
repugnance to a human being.”

Thus remarked Weeville, in his usual enthusiastic way over every thing
that “lives, moves, or has its being” in or about Flushing, and no one
who heard him could doubt for a moment his firm conviction in the entire
accuracy of his statements. Historic truth, however, compels me to
admit that his views were not entirely borne out by experience; for,
although Flushing musquitoes have amiable tempers for musquitoes, they
do occasionally bite.

But if the musquitoes are not bad in this delectable spot, another
torment exists, which, in spite of learned arguments proving its utility
to man, is certainly trying--flies are occasionally abundant. Now it may
be that flies are great scavengers, and save us from epidemics, and
noxious smells, and dangerous vapors, and that their presence is a sure
indication of a healthy locality; but in the early morning, when one is
in bed, enjoying that most enjoyable season for sleep--the forbidden
hours between sunrise and eight o’clock--two or three hundred flies
buzzing about, alighting on one’s face, crawling into one’s nostrils,
tickling every inch of exposed skin, are aggravating enough. In saying
two or three hundred, I do not wish to be understood as positively
confining myself to that number for the reputation of the place and the
salability of my five acres of lots. I wish to avoid exaggerating, and
there may have been two or three thousand.

After they had routed me out of bed at an hour when there was nothing
whatever to do--for the daily papers can not be obtained in Flushing
before

[Illustration]

half past seven o’clock--they pursued me all day long. They crawled into
the cream, they scalded themselves to death in my coffee, they clambered
over the butter, dragging their greasy legs heavily and slowly; they
planted themselves on my paper if I tried to write; they filled up my
inkstand and clogged the ink; they scratched in my hair, selecting the
tenderest and least thickly covered spots, and always returning to them
after being frightened away; and when, exhausted with loss of rest and
worn out with their attacks, I endeavored to take a nap, they fell upon
me and banished sleep from my eyes.

“Flies!” said Weeville, when he heard of my miseries; “why do you not
kill them off? I used to be troubled with them, but I bought some of the
gray fly-paper--Berensohn’s lightning-killer--and soon brought matters
to an issue. The very first day we killed forty or fifty, and the girl
swept them up in the kitchen by tea-cups full: the supply was not equal
to the demand, and I have not been waked by a fly since. What a comfort
it is to sleep through the morning in peace, and not a single buzz!”

Before night I had the famous death-dealer, and, according to
directions, set it out in saucers, covered with a little water, and
watched complacently, and with somewhat of an about-to-be-gratified
revengeful feeling in my breast, for the result. I waited and waited;
the flies buzzed, and crawled, and tickled, but not one went near the
fatal saucer; in every part of the room were they except in that spot.
They crawled up and down the walls, they perched on the ceiling, they
committed suicide in the water-pitcher, they collected in masses on the
crumbs lying about, and chased one another around in playful and amatory
mood, but touch that saucer they did not. I moved it from place to
place, and set it near where they were thickest, but they only flew
hurriedly away with louder buzz, as much as to say, “Get out with your
old fly-killer.” In a rage, I caught some and threw them into the
poisoned chalice, but they whisked out again with a shake of their
wings, and went off as diabolically busy and buzzy as ever. I poured out
some of the water, fearing the attraction was too much diluted; then,
finding that that did not answer, I added an extra quantity, but the
result was the same. The only part of the room entirely free from flies
was the neighborhood of the fly-paper. I was in despair till a happy
thought struck me: taking two of the sheets, which are conveniently
stuck together at the edges, I laid them over my face and composed
myself to sleep. The effect was magical. Not a fly came near me, and my
nap was deliciously unbroken.

Next day, Weeville, on hearing my account, abused me because I had not
put some sugar in the water; but, as sugar was not mentioned in the
direction, it is hardly to be expected a person would divine its
necessity. With that addition, the paper afterward killed flies enough;
but, unfortunately, the sugar attracted ten where the poison killed one,
and recourse was finally had to nets, which kept the breeze and the
flies out together.

I have said that Patrick, among his other acquisitions for our second
year’s operations, had obtained two pups and two kittens. This was with
a view to the extermination of the rats and mice that ate our oats and
danced nocturnal jigs in the partitions and ceilings of the house. As
Patrick explained it, he wanted the dogs to catch the rats, and the cats
to catch the mice, which was certainly a fair division of labor; but the
former evidently considered that they were merely designed to carry into
practice one link in the story of the “House that Jack Built,” and
devoted their time mainly to worrying the latter. Whether the pups would
have caught rats or the kittens mice is hard to tell, as they were
altogether too busy worrying or being worried to devote much attention
to the chase, and many was the battle waged between the belligerents.
The entire science of strategy could be learned from studying the
conduct of this feline and canine war, and I have always believed that
Grant and Lee had both gone to the cats and dogs to acquire their
knowledge. Felis, being the weaker, retires behind her intrenchment of
boxes or chairs, and takes advantage of the natural defenses of corners
and holes, while canis, being driven to the attack, exhausts his
ingenuity in endeavoring to turn his opponent’s flank, or to inveigle
her from her intrenchments. I called my dogs Gran and Sher (it seemed
almost sacrilegious to copy the names literally), and the cats Lee and
John.

Gran was a bull-dog, although not of quite pure blood, and my conscience
troubled me somewhat on that score; but his grip was most tenacious, and
no punishment could make him “sing out;” while Sher was a full-blooded
Scotch terrier, as ugly as possible, but a sly little fellow, great on
unexpected attacks, and dodging in on exposed places. Apart from his
permanent battle with the kittens, and a most inveterate dislike to boys
and beggars, Gran was the gentlest of dogs. He would beg for his dinner,
and would howl out his affection if asked whether he loved his master
and simultaneously offered a piece of sugar, of which he was
extravagantly fond. His countenance was expressive of the strongest
devotion, and his curly tail had a kindly wag for all his acquaintances.
But let a dirty boy appear--and Flushing abounds with this nuisance--or
let a beggar attempt to enter the front gate, and Gran went into a
paroxysm of rage; his hair bristled up, his tail straightened and became
twice its natural thickness, and his eyes glared with the wildest fury.
If the offending party carried a bag, his fate was sealed, and many was
the time that I had to rush out and interpose to save some tramp from
the fate of the gentleman mentioned in Scripture, whose flesh was eaten
by dogs. On these occasions Sher was true to himself; and while Gran
rushed headlong on the enemy, he would suddenly bounce out from under a
bush, or slip round through the fence, and make a diversion in the rear.
My dogs were soon a terror to the neighborhood, and a much more
effectual protection than patting the children on their heads. To be
sure, there were a few drawbacks to set off these advantages. It was
difficult to keep any work-people round the place; and I had to pay for
a pair of pantaloons that my painter left principally in Gran’s mouth
ere he could escape up his ladder when a sudden attack caught him
unprepared.

There was but one matter in which the kittens and pups all four agreed,
and that was to steal whatever they had the slightest fancy for. Milk
was the weakness of the kittens, and, provided they could discover any
unguarded pan, a truce was declared, and friend and foe united in
foraging upon their master. On such occasions they were content to drink
together from the same dish in the most amicable way, although the
moment the feast was exhausted the cats fled to their intrenchments,
without so much as cleaning their whiskers, and hostilities were
renewed. The pups preferred meat, and great was the genius exhibited by
Sher in obtaining it surreptitiously. He would pretend he was asleep,
waiting till the cook’s back was turned; or he would ostentatiously go
out of the door, and then, slipping back, hide and watch his
opportunity. When he obtained it he always divided with Gran, and a bone
would occasionally alternate half a dozen times between them ere it was
exhausted.

Their playful moods were their most destructive; digging holes was one
of their chief pastimes. Why they dug holes I never could imagine; they
neither buried nor discovered any hidden treasure; but they worked away
with a zeal and patience that would have been most praiseworthy if
properly applied. Some of my favorite “herbaceous” plants, as Bridgeman
calls them, were rooted up, and my grass-plot--one which I had laid out
in a beautiful oval beneath our solitary cedar, and had planted with the
most delicate lawn-grass--was fairly honeycombed with burrows. At first
I filled these holes and restored my plants, but the pups only seemed to
regard this as a challenge to their industry, and immediately proceeded
to dig them up again; so I was compelled to let them have their way,
although it gave rather a strange appearance to the place, and left an
impression that a family of prairie-dogs resided there.

The pups were particularly fond of roaming round the flower garden. When
the seeds had pushed their delicate sprouts above ground, I used to walk
through the neatly-boxed paths, and admire the thriving way in which
every thing was growing. The pups invariably watched for such occasions,
and rushed toward me in an apparent burst of affection, bounding up and
down over the beds, and dancing with delight on my frailest seedlings.
If I took no notice of them, they seized one another by the ears, and,
thus coupled, rushed about, sweeping away the flowers in their course;
if I scolded them, Sher slipped into the nearest bush, and, lying down
in the centre, watched my actions with a wary eye, while Gran, on the
other hand, came directly to me, and, seating himself on a bed, looked
me honestly and affectionately in the face, while his wagging tail swept
away the sprouting plants by dozens.

Sher was particularly fond of a gilia; its delicate leaves seemed to
please him both as a bed and a hiding-place, and he soon rolled the life
out of it; if I charged upon him, he fled, taking refuge in some other
bushy plant; and when I did catch him, he would not walk, but insisted
upon being dragged in a most destructive manner from off the bed. If I
took hold of Gran he retained his sitting posture, which was almost
equally injurious. I soon found my only plan was to match my cunning
against theirs, and, the moment they appeared, to rush out of the
garden, calling them “good dogs,” which was a falsehood of the blackest
dye, and pretending I was ready for a romp. By this means they would be
induced to follow me with great hilarity, and occasionally forget to go
back; but I lost much of my enjoyment of the garden.

When not busy with the flowers, they devoted themselves to the
vegetables; Gran was delighted with hunting “hop-toads,” as children
call them, and as these abounded in our five acres, and were
particularly fond of hiding in the water-melon patch, he hunted it over
and over again, fairly plowing it up with his nose, crushing the vines,
tearing the leaves to pieces, and breaking off the fruit. If he had
killed the toads his proceedings might have come to an end with the
exhaustion of the game; but he was too tender-hearted for this, and only
pushed them with his nose to make them jump. He pursued this exciting
sport till the water-melons were almost ruined, while Sher devoted
himself mainly to hiding under the okras or among the carrots, and
darting out at any passers-by in a playful mood. In the course of his
strategic movements he broke down most of the brittle okras, and
trampled rows of string-beans into the earth.

They had seen Patrick chase the chickens from the garden, and, having
constituted themselves his adjutants, proceeded to keep the sacred
precincts clear of these unholy intruders. Never would a wandering
pullet or youthful rooster step within the fatal bounds but the two dogs
would dart out with loud yelps, and would frequently follow her or him,
naturally bewildered, and not knowing which way to escape, several times
round the garden, over the beds and through the vegetables, doing more
harm in five minutes than an entire brood of chickens would do in a
month. It was in vain that we endeavored to explain to them that zeal
was dangerous; and their manner of self-congratulation, and of demanding
approval when they had finally succeeded in ejecting the trespasser,
disarmed blame or correction.

There was one idiosyncrasy in Patrick’s mind--he never could punish an
animal. If the pups destroyed an entire bed, or broke down a dozen
plants, he would only utter an exclamation or two of horror and
reproach, and then add, apologetically, “Ah! the poor bastes do not know
any better.” This threw the duty of correction upon my shoulders, and I
never was a subscriber to that horrible doctrine that punishment must
not be inflicted in anger. There is something fiendish in a person
nursing up his wrath, and then, with deliberate cruelty, venting it upon
child or pet who has been trembling for hours with dread anticipation.
When the pups had dug up some favorite and expensive plant, or crushed
my only plantation of some pet seed, and when I was naturally in a
towering rage, I could fall upon them and drive them howling to some
secret place of safety; but when, after an hour’s delay had dissipated
my passion, Gran would approach with deprecating wag and loving smile,
and Sher, following more cautiously, would lick his hairy chops in a
contrite way, it went against my very nature to beat them. Therefore,
although the pups met with some cuffs, and occasionally received the
blow of a well-directed stone, they were not punished with absolute
regularity, had it a good deal their own way with the place and its
surroundings, and inflicted no little damage upon the growing crops.



CHAPTER XVI.

BUTTER-MAKING.--SEEDS AND THE DEVIL.


There is one advantage about the country that gives it a great
superiority over the town. In it you have every thing so fresh--fresh
vegetables, fresh milk, fresh eggs, fresh poultry, and fresh butter. You
always feel sure that nothing is old or stale. We had not yet tried
making butter, but the other articles we had enjoyed in their pristine
excellence, although some ignorant visitors from the city pretended that
all of those which were sold in the Flushing stores were brought from
the New York markets. I had been accustomed to buying butter in the
village, but the Flushing farmers do not seem to have the knack of
making fresh butter. My purchases had not been altogether satisfactory,
and occasionally I obtained a rancid conglomeration of fatty matter that
was far from inviting. When more than ordinarily disgusted, I had
brought a supply home from Fulton Market, where it was to be had both
better and cheaper; but as my friends, who met me in the cars,
invariably inquired what I had in my tin kettle, and wanted to know
whether I had gone out for a day’s work and taken my dinner-pail along,
I grew ashamed, and determined thereafter to make my own butter.

To say that I was utterly unacquainted with butter-making was simply to
admit that I had been born and reared in the city; and, except for some
early reminiscences of an enthusiastic youth passing his summer amid
rural pleasures, and helping the tired and rosy-cheeked dairy-maid, 1
knew nothing whatever on the subject, and did not even know in what
scientific work to look for the needful instruction, as nothing
satisfactory was to be found in “Bridgeman” or “Ten Acres Enough.” A
churn was to be used, that was clear; but whether the milk was churned
or the cream, or how long it required, or what other mysteries were
involved, I could not tell.

The first necessity, therefore, was to have a churn, and to obtain this
I stopped in at one of the numerous stores in and near Fulton Street,
where agricultural implements are sold. I inquired falteringly if they
had churns for sale, not being certain that these came under that
designation, and a good deal confused at the mass of curious implements
and wonderful pieces of mechanism which were scattered about.

“Certainly,” said the polite clerk; “we might say that we have the only
churn, properly so called, for it alone does the work as it should be
done. You probably know,” he continued, as he led the way up stairs
toward the fourth story, “the scientific principles which govern the
rapid production of butter. The oxygen of the air is brought in
immediate contact with the oleaginous particles of the milk, the lactic
acid is developed, the curd and whey are separated, and the butter is
crystallized, so to speak. Here,” he said at last, when we had reached
the highest floor, and, after conducting me between a hundred strange
and complex machines, stopped before one that more nearly resembled a
modern ice-cream freezer than any thing else, with the addition of a
crank and a few extra cog-wheels, “here is the Patent Duplex Elliptic
Milk Converter, the only true and perfect churn. You pour the milk
in”--[ah! thought I to myself, it is the milk that is churned, after
all]--“you turn this handle; by a simple arrangement of multiplying
cogs, the dasher is revolved at great speed, the air is distributed
through every part of the mass, and brought in contact with every
molecule composing it. The lactic acid is generated--but I need not
explain further to one who evidently understands the subject so
thoroughly as yourself.”

“Is there no danger of the machine’s getting out of order?” I inquired
mildly, not, however, disclaiming the compliment, and much impressed by
this display of thorough scientific attainment on the part of my
informant.

“None whatever. Observe the dasher.”

With that he jerked off the cover and lifted out the part referred to.

“It is armed with flanges, which revolve between the projecting knives,
or plates, fastened to the sides of the tub. They thoroughly agitate the
milk, which is thrown from one to the other, and never allowed to rest.
The effects are truly wonderful. The exertion is the minimum; the
results are the maximum. No more sour cream; no more rancid butter. A
child can produce a pound of butter from a quart of milk in the short
space of a minute and a half.”

By this time, between the revolving of the wheels and the man’s
incomprehensible conversation, I was in a dazed state, and may not
remember accurately his statements. I was only clear on one point, and
that was that the Duplex Elliptic Milk Converter, although evidently the
perfection of science, was too grand for my wants.

“Have you nothing simpler?” I inquired, faintly.

“Nothing can be simpler,” was the decided response; “here you have a
crank; there, a few iron wheels; inside, the dasher. The price is
moderate; one that would do the work of a dairy would be only fifty
dollars. That amount could be saved in a summer.”

“I should like to inquire farther,” I hastily answered; and, hurrying
down stairs, in spite of remarks about acids and oxygen, nitrogen,
caseine, and a dozen other scientific compounds, I escaped from the
store. There is always a dreadful feeling of shame connected with not
purchasing when one enters a store and asks for an article. It seems as
though you were getting credit and making a display on false pretenses.
The manner of the attendant suggests a doubt of your honesty, and any
little compliments he may have paid you are manifestly taken back at
once, and contempt usurps the place of esteem.

After pausing to recover my breath and my courage, I entered the nearest
place of a similar character and made the same inquiry.

“Yes, sir; we have a churn of a most approved and successful
description. There,” he continued, as the clerk brought me face to face
with a still stranger-looking machine, more like the walking-beam of a
steam-engine than my early recollections of a churn, “there you have
simplicity itself. In it you go back to first principles. You wind up a
spring--”

“A spring!” I exclaimed.

“Undoubtedly. No one thinks of using manual power in these times. The
dashers are secured to each end of this bar, and as one rises while the
other falls, there is no loss from the attraction of gravitation. We
call this the Hippo-opticon.”

“The Hippo-opticon, did you say?” I inquired, wonderingly.

“Yes; the name is derived from two Greek words, _hippo_, a horse, and
_opticon_, sight; because it has the strength of a horse and the eye of
intelligence. It works without care or superintendence. When once
started it runs of itself. The cream--”

“The cream!” I muttered to myself, having supposed that I had just
discovered that milk was churned.

“The cream is placed in these two receptacles; the dashers fall
regularly and slowly.”

“Slowly!” I exclaimed, still more surprised, remembering the praises I
had heard of excessive speed.

“Churning must be done slowly; that is the best established law. There
must be deliberation and regularity.”

“What is your opinion,” I inquired, “of the Patent Duplex Elliptic Milk
Converter?”

“Then you have seen that worthless contrivance! It could not have
deceived an experienced farmer like yourself. Why, that whirligig is the
most utterly useless affair conceivable. It is forever out of order; the
flanges bend, the cogs break. Whatever you do, don’t buy that. In ours
you have primitive simplicity and perfect security.”

At this point a brilliant idea entered my mind, and, taking my departure
without even waiting to ask the price of this wonderful invention, I
hurried back to the first store. Thrusting my head in at the door, and
not daring to advance farther lest I should be overwhelmed by a second
avalanche of learned terms, I inquired of the smiling clerk, who
evidently saw the certainty of a customer in my return, what he thought
of the Hippo-opticon.

“The Hippo-opticon!” he laughed; “that old fogy concern that winds up
with a spring? My opinion simply is that it will never make butter at
all. It never has yet, and it never will. They could not humbug a
gentleman of your discernment with that attempt to return to the
antiquated days of our forefathers. The Patent Duplex--”

“Thank you!” I shouted, as I slammed to the door, and fled without
waiting to hear farther. The selection of a churn was evidently an
intricate matter. It was a practical affair, in which intellectual
research would not help me, and recourse must be had to Weeville. As
soon as I returned to the country I sent for him, and inquired which was
the proper churn to use, and what was the proper thing to put in it.

“Well,” he said, deliberately, “the art of making butter is yet in its
infancy; the principles that control it are not fully understood. Great
cleanliness is a prime requisite; the dairy must be well ventilated;
electricity is very injurious. In Switzerland they do not allow women to
take part in any of the operations, even in milking the cows, on account
of their possessing more electricity than men.”

“Oh!” I broke forth in despair, “I give it up; it is altogether too
complicated a matter--”

“Nonsense,” said Weeville, suddenly recovering himself; “the
old-fashioned ordinary churn is the best; I will send you one. You must
use cream, and there is no difficulty so long as proper regard is paid
to cleanliness.”

With that he left me. His suggestions about electricity were alarming. I
had often felt the electrical power of the female sex. I had received
many dangerous shocks from them; the touch even of their hands had
often produced palpitations and electrical phenomena of the strangest
kind. There could be no anticipating what might be the result if the
cream was affected by their presence. While I was hesitating what to do,
I suddenly thought of Patrick. There was nothing electrical about him.
He might be dirty--his hands and face usually were--but there was no
other danger. He was called at once, and told to milk the cow himself in
future, and be sure to wash his hands and face first; to which
directions he gave a surprised assent, wondering, no doubt, at the
sudden interest his master evinced in his personal appearance. I took
charge of the dairy myself, to exclude all possibility of electrical
phenomena, and skimmed the cream carefully. Cushy had been falling off
lately for some incomprehensible reason, having done so well for
eighteen months; and when, at the end of a week, the churn arrived, it
seemed ludicrously large for the small bowlful of cream that had been
collected--not much more than a pint in all. Patrick, when I called upon
him to wash his hands and set to work, burst forth with the astonished
inquiry,

“Sure yer honor does not want me to churn that little speck ov crame in
this big tub. It would get lost intirely.”

[Illustration]

“But, Patrick,” I replied, “this cream must be churned at once.” This
conclusion was not any deduction of science, although it was announced
in an authoritative tone, intended to impress Patrick with my vast
experience and thorough knowledge of the subject. To state how I arrived
at my opinion, it is sufficient to say that my nose assured me of it.
The weather was warm, and the dairy was merely a closet in the cellar,
springs and brooks not being numerous in my territory.

“Well, then, yer honor, let me make a nate little churn out ov a
ginger-pot there is in the cellar, with the lid ov a salt-box for
dasher, and the piece ov a broom for handle. That will be the doin’ ov
it.”

“Just as you please, Patrick,” I answered, entirely convinced of the
inadequacy of the cream to the occasion; “only be sure and make me a
good article.”

“Indade and I will do that same, and I’m sure yer honor will be mightily
plased. Let me aloon for that.”

Shortly after, Patrick produced a queer-looking extemporized churn that,
although odd enough in appearance, was manifestly better adapted to the
emergency than the enormous affair that Weeville had sent me, apparently
supposing that I was about to set up a public dairy. I expected a friend
to dinner that day, and gave especial directions that the results of the
churning were to come on the table as a surprise to my guest.

When the dinner was served, I was delighted with the whiteness of the
fresh butter, that spoke so well for its purity. Without saying a word,
I helped my friend liberally, and then awaited the result. How I
enjoyed, by anticipation, his enjoyment of so rare a delicacy! I could
scarcely wait for him to taste it before explaining how it was obtained.
He looked at it curiously, then spread some on his bread and tried it,
then ate the bread without. Hastily taking a piece and tasting it, I no
longer wondered at his conduct, but, turning to the maid, sternly
demanded how she dare put such stuff on the table.

“Oh, never mind,” said my friend; “these things will happen in the
country, where you do not have any markets to go to. I often taste bad
butter when I am out of town, although not often so bad as this; but I
can do without very well.”

When dinner was over, I visited my man, and inquired of him, rather
reproachfully than angrily,

“Patrick, what was that you made? Was it cheese, or was it butter? It
was very bad as either; but which was it?”

“Sure, yer honor,” he replied, scratching his head, “I don’t rightly
know meself; but the crame was spoilt intirely, and I did the best I
could.”

“Patrick,” I answered, “I am afraid you are electrical, after all.”

This attempt was but a sort of interlude, and I kept my mind mainly on
the various productions of the earth.

“Weeville,” I said one day, in early fall, when the first cold snap had
thrown a tinge of brown over much of my garden, “how do you manage to
collect the flower-seeds for use next spring?”

“Why, my dear boy,” he replied, gayly, “that is easy enough: dry them a
little, put them in bags labeled, and set them aside in a dry place,
where the mice can not get at them to make a daily meal at your
expense.”

“I do not refer to that part; the books on gardening speak of that, but
they give no directions for gathering the seed. I have studied
Bridgeman, Rand, and the rest of them, but they nowhere tell you when or
how to collect the seed.”

“My dear fellow, you surely would not expect Bridgeman to tell you how
to save seeds; that is his occupation, and a pretty fool he would be to
let out all the secrets of his trade.”

“Then he had no business to write on gardening,” I added, earnestly; for
I have an immense idea of duty, and a high standard for the obligations
of authorship; “a man who publishes a book, and retains any knowledge on
the subject of which he treats for his own purposes, is a scoundrel and
a cheat; he is false--”

“Now, now,” interrupted Weeville, soothingly, “don’t get on your high
horse; remember human nature. A pretty notion it would have been if
Bridgeman had enabled all his customers to do without him, and perhaps
set up in the seed-business themselves.”

“I can only say, then, that he had no right to take upon himself the
honors of authorship; there is no justification for his assuming the
place of instructor when he was merely a self-seeker. His book, then, is
simply an advertisement.”

“Call it what you please, but do not get excited. Borrow his catalogues,
which contain much useful information, and for which he charges nothing,
but do not abuse a hard-working man, striving to get ahead in the
world.”

“Very well, then. To come back to my difficulties--I want to know when I
am to gather the seeds; they only ripen in small quantities, and, if
left, are scattered and lost.”

“Oh, you must watch your chance; stick to it; ‘here a little, and there
a little;’ do not be impatient.”

“The pods of phlox burst the moment they turn yellow, and, ere I notice
them among the mass of those still green, they have spilled their
contents; the gilia are so small that I can not find them at all; the
mignonnette really does not seem to bear seed; and the capsules of the
portulaca have to be picked one at a time, and are so low that it almost
breaks my back to bend down to them. How is it that you manage?”

“I never have any trouble; I go through my garden daily.”

“To come to a point--what do you do about the phlox?”

“You must be on the alert, and save all you can.”

“Now, Weeville,” I said, sternly, for he was in the act of buttoning up
his coat to go, as though the discussion were over, “I do not believe
you know any thing about it.”

“What--what--what’s that you say?”

“I do not believe you are any better acquainted with the right mode of
gathering seeds than I am.”

“Well,” he replied, as he went out of the door, with a pleasant smile,
“the fact is, I do generally get a new supply every year from Thorburn.”

Before I had fully recovered from my surprise at this discovery, and
when I was remembering how, every year, the oldest farmers and gardeners
were to be seen running into the seed-stores to buy what they should
have saved if they had known how, Patrick thrust his head in at the
door.

“Can I spake to yer honor a moment?”

“Certainly, Patrick.”

“And is it thrue, what Mr. Weeville says, that the devil’s been seen on
the earth?”

“It is so alleged in the papers,” I replied, “and you know whatever is
stated there must be true.”

“Yes, yer honor,” he answered, evidently referring in his own mind to a
temporary connection of mine with that palladium of freedom. “And sure,”
he continued, as he approached cautiously, “and what is he like?”

“He is described as being forty feet high, spitting fire from his mouth
and nostrils, and with huge horns over his eyes.”

“That’s awful intirely; but there’s prophecies in the Good Book that he
should be let loose on the earth, but I didn’t think it was to be quite
yet. Was it far from here that he was?”

“Yes, more than a thousand miles.”

“Sure and that’s pleasant, for it ain’t likely he’ll get this far.”

“That is not so certain,” I replied, to lead him on. “He has a habit of
going up and down on the earth.”

“But it would take him a long time to travel that distance.”

“The devil, if it really was he, could go a thousand miles in an
instant.”

“Could he, now? Well, I suppose he don’t go by rail, more especially
like the one that runs from New York to Flushing. Perhaps he travels on
the telegraph wires, that, they say, takes a letter along so fast you
can’t see it. Well, well, if he comes this way, all I have to say is,
he’ll get great gatherins in Flushing.”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XVII.

SUCCESS OF THE YEAR.


The agricultural books all tell us that, at the close of the season, we
should look back and review the work that we have accomplished,
comparing it with previous results, or studying where improvements could
be effected. Our second year was certainly a great advance upon the
first, as the former might be said to have been rather a case for what
the merchants call profit and loss--all loss and no profit, so far as
actual production is concerned. The previous attempt had resulted in
raising absolutely nothing, whereas our subsequent one had raised a
great deal; we had much to show for it, although not always exactly what
we wanted. There was ample room for improvement, and there were abundant
errors manifestly requiring correction. We did not need an acre of
onions, that was perfectly clear, as the servants could consume but a
limited quantity, which fell off rapidly when they were told they could
have all they wanted, and the residue did not seem to have a positive
market value, Patrick vainly offering them at any price to every
market-man in Flushing; so it was evident that we should not require as
many the ensuing season.

Onions are rather a pretty vegetable, and grateful for the least care.
They grow readily; in fact, like the would-be “butcher boy,” they are
bound to do it. They come up so well that they come clear up above
ground in their effort, and show their luscious yellow or white bulbs
above the surface. When these first began to swell I proceeded to earth
them over, fearing lest their nakedness should expose them to injury;
but, as the plot devoted to their service was rather large, and Patrick
utterly refused to assist me, being invariably too busy whenever I
called upon him to help cover the onions, and insisting that “they
didn’t nade it at all, at all, and that it was ruinin’ them I was
intirely,” I finally abandoned the attempt. It was some time ere my
fears for the result were removed, and the discovery made that onions
could take care of themselves. It is a pity egg-plants do not grow as
obstinately as onions; they do not, however, nor do most other good
things.

Peas are a profitable crop--that is, if they are not dwarfs, or do not
go to leaf, as ours did; and there are many different kinds--so many
that the novice in gardening is somewhat puzzled to choose. Fortunately,
by Weeville’s advice, we had made an excellent selection, and by
changing the acre of onions into an acre of Daniel O’Rourkes we might
possibly have enough for the family. As I have mentioned before, the
O’Rourkes are not profuse bearers; it may be called a rather lucky
chance if they bear any thing but leaf, and consequently it is not in a
monetary sense that they are profitable; the benefit they confer is in
enabling one to crow over one’s city visitors. The dwarfs are not
desirable. They constituted our principal stock, and, useful as they
might be in the penance line, as edibles they compare unfavorably with
pebbles.

We had an immense quantity of beets, and had experimented in divers ways
of cooking them. We had them boiled, baked, stuffed, and roasted, hot,
cold, pickled in vinegar, and even fried, but through it all they were
“dead beets.” I had serious ideas of trying to extract sugar from them;
but when Patrick informed me that Dandy Jim approved of their flavor, I
gave them over to his care. Our pole-beans, which are good for pork and
beans--if any Christian eats that dish and lives--were also extremely
successful. The Limas bore a few pods, but that was after we returned
to the city; Patrick, however, said they were excellent. Our spinach was
so abundant that I should have turned Cushy into it if I could have
restricted her attentions to that alone. The cucumbers were very
numerous, our cabbages innumerable, and our cauliflowers nowhere.

It was clear that this must be changed. The Limas must be made to
emulate the pole-beans, the spinach, beets, and onions must be kept down
to proper limits, the cucumbers and cabbages must be eliminated, and the
cauliflowers encouraged. How to effect these changes, however, was not
entirely clear to my mind.

Our corn grew remarkably well. Fresh sweet corn is a dish of which I am
particularly fond; it is luscious, healthful, and appetizing; it
contains much milk--the human being’s natural nourishment; it is
excellent boiled or roasted on the cob, stewed in milk, or mixed with
beans into succotash; even corn juice is good occasionally--but that
requires age. Patrick had planted a goodly lot of it. I watched the
stalks rise and the broad leaves spread out with infinite pleasure. The
ears formed with their long silky tops, and swelled, as they reached
maturity, like a budding maiden. It was with great anticipations that we
awaited our first meal of new corn. This was admirably cooked, and came
on the table smoking hot, each cob enveloped in its steaming green
cuticle, but somehow the taste did not prove so agreeable as we had
expected. Thinking that it might be too young, I told Patrick not to
pick any more for a day or two. The next trial was even more
unsatisfactory--it had absolutely no flavor whatever. Feeling there must
be something wrong, with sinking heart I cross-questioned Patrick, and
discovered that he did not know there was any difference between sweet
corn and the common kind, and had planted a quantity of that which he
was using for the horses. I never ascertained what became of it, but we
did not try it again on the table.

Our asparagus was gone without redemption. The few spears that struggled
up into existence reached a partial state of forwardness; but
association with Patrick’s planting of turnips appeared to disgust them,
and they lay down and died with hardly an effort. Our trees succeeded
excellently; they were unusually large, and had cost an extra price, as
the nurseryman, when I bought them, assured me that they would bear
fruit the first year. They stood the blasts of winter bravely. In spring
they put out their leaves, and even burst into occasional flower, but
they did not go so far as bearing fruit. They appeared to have some
misunderstanding of the principal object of their existence, and did
not come up to the promise made for them on their purchase, and by them
afterward. As shade-trees they did not amount to much, and even as
ornaments they were rather thin; but as fruit-bearers they were a total
failure.

Our strawberries had rather surpassed expectation. The first lot, it is
true, had died out, but those planted in the spring seemed to feel
called upon to redeem the good name of the race. They grew admirably,
and not only covered themselves with blossoms, but actually bore
fruit--not very luxuriantly, but much more abundantly than I had any
reason to anticipate. We had quite a bowlful of them--the red, firm,
ripe berries being a delicious contrast to the soft, faded, stale things
that are sold to us in the city. When these were picked, the vines were
still covered with green fruit, and I expected to have many a dessert
from them. I am a great admirer of strawberries--and so are chickens--in
spite of the crisp little seeds that somewhat injure them. They have
just the proper amount of acidity to render them piquant when compounded
with sufficient sugar. Raspberries are too sweet, and blackberries have
not sufficient delicacy of flavor, so that I prefer strawberries. But,
unfortunately, as I remarked above, so do chickens.

After our first taste I visited the garden hopefully every morning, but
was much surprised to find none of the green berries become ripe. They
disappeared gradually, and I was greatly at a loss to understand the
reason. I knew that Gran was fond of strawberries, but he was an honest
dog. You might trust him with untold strawberries, and he would not
touch one without permission. He might howl for them until he would
drive his master crazy, but, although his howlings were ineffectual, he
would not steal. Sher was less trustworthy, but he did not like the acid
berries. The pigs could not get out, nor Cushy get in; so that the
diminution was a mystery to me, until, happening to rise one morning
quite early, I discovered our entire flock of chickens busy in the
strawberry-patch, and, driving them out, I noticed the remains of
several fine ripe berries. This explained the difficulty. There was no
place where we could cage the chickens; in fact, as the berries were
mostly consumed, to do so would be rather late, and I had nothing for it
but to see my favorite fruit “grow small by degrees and beautifully
less,” amid the early “clucks” of delight that thereafter suggestively
broke in upon my morning slumbers, until the entire plot was bare.

From this adventure two deductions were to be drawn: one, that I must
plant more of these energetic vines; the other, that I must build a
chicken-coop. The latter would cost heavily, probably more than many
years’ supply of both berries and chickens; and, to save the expense of
applying to the nurseries for the former, I must encourage our own vines
to run and propagate. To effect this, when July drew toward a close, and
they put out suckers in every direction, I pinned these down with small
forked sticks, so as to compel them to take root. This was an original
idea of my own, of which I was particularly proud. Weeville ridiculed
it, saying that there would be young plants enough without that trouble;
but I determined to help Nature--which the doctors have lately
ascertained is the true principle in encouraging human plants to grow
and discouraging them from dying. The work kept me quite busy, for it
was astounding how many runners started off and how fast they ran. They
took root finely, and soon made the entire patch a mass of flourishing
plants. They grew and grew, and interlaced and twined round one another,
and, unfortunately, the weeds grew with them, till, when I undertook to
transplant them in the fall, I could not tell the old plants from the
young. This was rather unlucky; for, unless the old stools, as they are
called, were preserved, there would be but a slim crop the following
year. Nevertheless, I tried in vain to distinguish the parents from
their healthy children, and at last had to direct Patrick to dig out as
many as he wanted indiscriminately, and then to cut paths through the
residue at regular intervals, regardless of what might be in the way.
The next year will show the result, for which I was prepared to wait
with due patience.

The second season of my life in the country having closed, and the new
year, with relaxation from agricultural pursuits, being upon us, I
proceeded to make up my annual exhibit of the result. The investments of
my previous year had not turned out well; the asparagus and strawberries
failed utterly, and my garden had been a virgin soil when it was
attacked in the spring. But this season there was every reason to be
satisfied with the result; the productions, although not exactly such as
a gourmand would prefer, were abundant; the flowers had been a grand
success, some of them far surpassing the wildest anticipations; and the
vegetables did no discredit to the soil, although they did not reflect
much honor on Patrick’s judgment. The fact had been clearly established
that there was only needed the eye and mind of the master to produce a
highly creditable result. It could not be questioned that a place which
would grow such wonderful pumpkins, and such vast expanse of onion, and
such early and abundant squashes, would also, if properly managed, be as
fertile of egg-plants, cauliflowers, and the other higher classes of
vegetables. There was no probability of my again visiting the Old World,
and I should be able to devote undivided attention to my horticultural
pursuits.

As with the previous year, it is not an easy matter to make out the
accounts satisfactorily; there were items that were of questionable
relationship toward investment or yearly expenditure; there were kinds
of profit difficult of estimation, and, as usual, there were sundry
matters altogether forgotten. If there is any one point more important
than another in recording the experiences of an individual in any
pursuit, when these experiences are to be the guide of others, it is
absolute exactness in figures and calculations. I have, therefore, been
exceedingly careful, and devoted much consideration to every item ere it
was inserted, and I flatter myself that the following statement may be
relied upon confidently:

INVESTMENT ACCOUNT.--DEBIT.

Cost of premises                                $15,000
Three hundred loads of fertilizer                   180
Strawberry plants                                     3
New teeth                                            50
Dandy Jim                                           450
                                                -------
      Total                                     $15,683

INVESTMENT ACCOUNT.--CREDIT.

Value of premises                               $16,000
Dandy Jim                                            50
New teeth                                           100
Strawberry bed                                       50
                                                -------
      Total                                     $16,200

YEARLY EXPENSES.--DEBIT.

Asparagus                                       $  6 00
Seeds                                             10 50
Subscription to Skating-pond                      10 00
Damage to wagon                                   50 00
                                                -------
      Total                                     $ 76 50

YEARLY RECEIPTS.--CREDIT.

One quart of strawberries                       $    50
One hundred bushels (estimated) of onions         50 00
Ten egg-plants                                     2 50
One peck Daniel O’Rourke peas                      2 00
One thousand squashes                            100 00
Five hundred cucumbers                            20 00
One hundred pumpkins                              25 00
Five cauliflowers                                  2 50
Fifty bushels of tomatoes                         25 00
Beets, beans, turnips, etc.                       50 00
                                                -------
      Total                                     $277 50

There are some items in the foregoing accounts that require explanation.
The manure was included in permanent capital, because it went into the
ground, became incorporated with it, and added just so much additional
value to it. The strawberries, having now proved successful, ceased to
be a current expense, but entered into the total cost. The new teeth
referred to are not for the rakes, as might be supposed, but for myself.
Having heretofore mentioned some of Dandy Jim’s peculiarities, I omitted
an explanation of our last association and final separation. I was not
fond of driving the gallant steed--so gallant that he usually danced
twenty feet to one side, and stood on his hind legs whenever he saw the
dress of a woman--but I was occasionally forced to make use of his
services. The train happening to give out, and being pressed to attend
to some business in town, I had him harnessed, and, with some
misgivings, commenced my journey toward the city. By great care and
discretion, I managed to make my way through the village, which he
cleared at full run, in consequence of a sudden whistle from a
locomotive attached to a dirt train; over the bridge, where he shied
from one side to the other, grazing both the wheels against the heavy
plank balustrade; along Jackson’s Avenue, where he bounced up and down
on passing every market-wagon or hay-cart; on board the ferry-boat, to
which he was only constrained by violent abuse and the physical
strength of several of the hands of the boat, and where he amused
himself by pawing steadily, and occasionally backing on the horse
directly behind, and thus causing much excitement, bad temper, and
coarse language during the entire trip; and fairly on the stone
pavements of the city streets.

By this time I had lost all fear, having resigned myself to perfect
recklessness, like the man who, after being exposed a thousand times to
death, no longer dreads it; and I drove up Thirty-fourth Street, across
the tunnel at Fourth Avenue, and into Fifth Avenue, as though there was
no such thing as peril in my path. Down our fashionable thoroughfare I
proceeded, assuming rather a jaunty and professional air; I squared my
elbows, held my whip in my hand, taking great care not to touch Dandy
Jim, however, and looked round at the foot-passengers, as much as to
say, “I am not afraid to drive this wild animal; I do it every day.”
Unfortunately for the triumph of my assumptions, there was a piece of
paper lying directly in our path.

Now Dandy Jim has an objection to paper, why I never could discover; but
paper, white or brown, newspaper or blank paper, leaves or letters, is
to him a thing of horror--his very soul revolts at it. It certainly
never could have done him any injury--it is, except as a vehicle of
slander, so perfectly harmless--but he seemed to hold it in abject
terror. This idiosyncracy was well known to me, but, unfortunately, my
mind was so occupied with the effect I was producing that I did not
notice the exciting cause. To aggravate the difficulty, just as we
approached the objectionable article, and when my peculiar animal might
have consented to pass by with a reasonable amount of self-restraint, a
sudden gust blew it directly under his feet. If paper was his
detestation, moving paper was a monstrosity magnified fifty fold; he
reared up on his hind legs, made one bound sideways full thirty feet,
and then, stopping suddenly, slipped on the pavement, and fell flat on
his side.

Exactly what happened to me I never could determine. I seemed to be
flying; next I beheld a splendid coruscation of fire-works; and then I
awoke to find myself stretched at full length in the street, with a
bloody nose and a scarcity of front teeth. Dandy Jim regained his feet
more quickly than myself, ran away, smashed the wagon, as was his wont,
and wound up by getting shut in by stages and carts, when he was
ignominiously led away captive by a stalwart policeman. I gathered
myself up as well as I could, and went home in a dilapidated state.
This led to my selling Dandy Jim and buying a set of false front teeth;
the former brought precisely what it cost to pay for the latter.

[Illustration]

Thus it was that I overcame a prejudice that had long beset me against
the artificial productions of manufacturing dentistry. This objection
exists in the minds of many persons, although nothing can be more
unfounded. If there is any thing that is an utterly miserable failure,
it is the natural set of teeth. From almost the hour when we come into
the world, until the time when we quit it, or so long as a stump or root
remains, our teeth are a source of annoyance to us. They have to be cut,
and then pulled out, that they may “cut and come again.” As babies, we
are “never ourselves” for the cutting of our teeth; when we grow older
we wish we were any body else, from the misery they cause us. They ache,
and decay, and break; they come out when they should stay in, and stay
in when they should come out; they torture and torment us till we only
get rid of them with life itself.

On the other hand, the artificial teeth never pain the possessor, rarely
break, and, if broken, are easily replaced; are readily cleaned, do not
fall out, but can be removed at pleasure. They are infinitely handsomer
than their ugly, irregular, uneven, discolored, and dirty prototypes.
These exquisite productions of art are made of a delicate, pearly shade
of white; they form a perfect row of well-proportioned beauty,
undistinguishable from the genuine article, their very gums matching and
closely fitting the natural flesh beneath them; they never inflict a
torturing tooth-ache, driving man crazy with pain, and keeping him
sleepless the long, dreary nights; they require no filling--an operation
that the unfortunate possessor of living teeth dreads only less than
the rack itself; and they do not have to be pulled out, with an agony
comparable to the effect of drawing the entire brain out through the
hole at the roots.

From my experience before and since my accident, I should certainly
advise my fellow-creatures to have as little to do with real teeth as
possible, and to substitute the imitation as soon as they can. There may
be a certain amount of suffering in having teeth, and especially sound
ones, extracted, but the satisfaction of being finally rid of the
troublesome things more than pays for the temporary annoyance. A natural
set will become dirty in spite of endless scrubbing with the
tooth-brush; some are invariably longer than others; there are
projections and depressions; wherever they lap, tartar settles; inside
it is impossible to get at them at all, and they compel a half-yearly
interview with the dentist, from which one comes away greatly unnerved.
Their substitutes are a great improvement to one’s personal appearance,
and never cause the slightest inconvenience, besides saving hours in
cleaning, that, in a long life, amount to an aggregate of years. The new
teeth were so far superior to those that they replaced, that they are
valued on the credit side of the account at a hundred dollars, showing a
clear profit of one hundred per cent. In fact, I regard this discovery
as one of the most valuable, if not the very most valuable, of the
results of my country experience.

The premises are set down at an increase of one thousand dollars, and,
if my readers had seen the difference between a bare tract of land and a
garden blooming with beauty, odorous with fragrance, and smiling with
abundance, they would have felt that the improvement was stated at too
low a rate. The strawberries are also put at a large advance upon the
prime cost; but a thriving bed of this excellent fruit, bidding fair to
supply the wants of the entire household, to gratify friends, and to
supply the place of costlier desserts, was well worth a round sum of
money. It certainly cost me much care and anxiety; it had failed once,
and threatened at first to give out the second time, but finally had
proved an absolute success, and was already becoming the parent of other
plantations.

Among the items of yearly expense will be found included a charge for
entrance-fee to the skating-pond. This may at first seem to be more of a
luxury than an actual necessity, but, as it was clear that I should not
have incurred it if I had not been in Flushing, I put it down. My yearly
receipts do not represent so much income actually received, for, as has
been stated previously, there did not appear to be a market for garden
produce in Flushing, but are given as the amount I should have had to
pay if I had bought the various articles at retail prices. This is
clearly proper; for, if we had wanted them to eat, had purchased them at
the stalls, and had paid the current charges, there would have been just
so much additional outlay; that we did not eat them is no answer, for we
could have done so had we wished.

This exhibit was certainly entirely satisfactory; the account had
steadily improved, and bade fair soon to show a large income. I have
even gone so far as to leave out of question rent saved, dissipation at
Saratoga avoided, health improved, digestion invigorated, pure air
enjoyed, and a thousand other matters for which we pay so dearly; I
merely take the hard, dry figures--the positive profit and loss in
dollars and cents--and they give a clear net profit of nearly eight
hundred dollars. Nothing could be asked more promising than this; if it
went on improving at this rate, there was no telling where it would
stop. Farming had evidently proved itself a source of vast wealth. We
were nowhere near the limit of the productiveness of my five acres, and,
with additional attention, we might reasonably anticipate increased
returns. The result was so encouraging, the life at Flushing so
charming, the access to the city so easy, that I resolved to move there
permanently. There was much to be done besides sleigh-riding and
skating, even in the winter months; roots had to be stored from frost,
bulbs required attention, potatoes and turnips demanded care,
chicken-coops had to be built, forcing-frames dug, and a green-house
erected. Taking all these things into consideration, I resolved to
abandon the city, and, in spite of frozen ground, deep snows, piercing
winds, and muddy roads, to devote myself to agricultural pursuits.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XVIII.

PREPARATIONS FOR REMOVAL.


In the last chapter I have stated that so charming did the country seem
to me, so pure its pleasures, and profitable its cultivation, that I
resolved to remove there permanently, and give up entirely the less
lucrative, if more distinguished, pursuit of the law. A most essential
preparation for this change was the necessity of cultivating and
increasing the present stock of plants--the tender and fragile things
requiring winter protection--which the abundance of the last year had
left me. My stock was not, perhaps, what finished gardeners would call
choice; they were not those out-of-the-way foreign productions which
only rejoice in one name, and that a polysyllabic Latin one; but,
although they were equally entitled to a scientific appellation, they
were generally known under common ones. I had an abundance of
carnations, which I had sometimes referred to as varieties of _Dianthus
caryophyllus_ when my uneducated city visitors called to see me. There
was quite a stock of scarlet geranium; for, although I had ordered from
the florist at Flushing a dozen different colors, he had determined that
one kind would answer my purposes. There were a few of the exquisite
_bellis perennis Hortensis_, more generally known as daisies. But of all
my treasures, the most numerous of any one kind was a great variety of
verbenas, which I had raised from seed, and which had sported into every
variety of color, except--as Weeville once said when he was in an
envious mood--a handsome one; but tastes differ.

These valuable plants must be protected during the winter, and
preparations had to be made to insure their being turned into the beds
the ensuing spring in healthy condition. To this end it was necessary to
add to the books of reference. To “Breck’s Book of Flowers,” and Rand’s
“Work on the Garden,” which I already possessed, I added Beust’s “Flower
Garden Directory;” Leuchar’s “How to Build Hot-houses;” Todd’s “Young
Farmer’s Manual;” Fuller’s “Small Fruit Culturist;” Warder’s “American
Pomology;” Dr. Chase’s “Recipes, or Information for Every Body;” Mead’s
“American Grape Culture,” besides a number of others equally learned and
abstruse, in addition to subscribing for the _American Agriculturist_, I
put my name down for the _Farmer’s Friend_, and the _American Farmer_,
as well as the London _Field_, which always contained a valuable article
on “Work for the Week,” that gave me a number of important suggestions.
The thorough study of these for the space of a month made me perfectly
acquainted with the subject in hand; they not only told me all about
green-houses and window-culture, but gave me valuable hints about
propagating vines, pruning trees, increasing and improving manure,
building concrete walls, skinning sheep, sawing logs, chopping down
trees, and concerning a vast number of other subjects, all of which
information might prove exceedingly useful some day or other if my
farming enterprises proceeded.

By the aid of these works it was ascertained that plants could be grown
advantageously in a room of an ordinary dwelling-house, provided the
proper care was exercised. This was quite satisfactory, as,
unfortunately, I had no other place than the fourth-story room of my
house in the city to devote to my new protégés. Under the published
directions, which I studied over till I had them by heart, a room with a
southerly exposure was selected, a staging was erected in front of the
windows, and the gas was so secured that no thoughtless person could
turn it on and poison the air of the extemporized green-house. The
preparatory study and the final execution of the plans recommended had
somewhat delayed the fall potting of the plants, until a few frosts had
warned me that there was no time to lose. Unfortunately, when I
appointed a day for effecting the transfer from the garden to pots and
boxes, and went to Flushing for the express purpose, I discovered, to my
dismay, that Patrick was in a great state of confusion as to which
flowers were hardy and which required removal. As my reading had not
extended to that question, or I had forgotten it amid the extensive list
generally catalogued, I had to go mainly on what might be called general
principles. By general principles is meant that, as the cold had been
pretty severe, it might be presumed to have exercised a preliminary
influence on the tender species; so, wherever a perennial was observed
to be withered and have a sickly appearance in its leaves, it was taken
up and potted.

Fortunately, I was well acquainted with the characteristics of verbenas,
carnations, and Johnny-jump-ups, and selected them without trouble; but
as to other matters, I felt, to the last, that there was considerable
uncertainty. The verbenas having struck root at every joint, and as I
felt that not one must be lost, a very considerable number of pots was
necessary, and the time I could spare for personal supervision was
exhausted long before the work of transplanting was accomplished. It was
necessary, therefore, to leave Patrick to his own unaided resources,
with such advice and instruction as it was probable he would appreciate.

He evinced his usual enthusiasm and self-reliance, and within a few days
arrived at my city residence with a wagon full of what the books termed
“bedding plants,” and assured me he “had the likes of that three times
over.” The labor of carrying a hundred pots full of earth up four
flights of stairs is excessive; and ere Patrick’s reserve was exhausted,
I was much the same myself. Nevertheless, perseverance conquered, and we
finally transported the last pot, managing to break less than a dozen on
the way. Unfortunately, some of Patrick’s trips were made during a cold
snap that we had, and it is possible that the frost slightly damaged the
plants, which did not seem exactly healthy when they arrived. There were
some among them that I did not recognize accurately, and one in
particular looked so strange, that I inquired of Patrick what it was. In
answer to my question, he scratched his head for a second, poked his
finger under the stunted foliage, peered in among the leaves
inquiringly, and finally said

[Illustration]

authoritatively, “That! why that’s a verbayny, sure; and yer honor knows
a verbayny as well as meself.” “But, Patrick, that does not look at all
like a verbena; it has a very different leaf. Are you confident that you
are right?” My honest servitor looked at me a moment reproachfully, and
then replied interrogatively, “And does yer honor think I’d be after
decaiving you about such a thing as a verbayny?” Of course, there was
nothing more to be said, and the difference in leaf, which seemed so
puzzling, must have been due to what florists would designate as a
sportive change in the plant--possibly the first specimen of a new and
valuable seedling.

I tended those plants carefully; water was given them regularly, the
windows were opened on every genial day, and the directions contained in
my books were marked, and re-read daily, to insure the observance of
every important point. Still the plants did not seem to thrive. They
grew weaker slowly, but steadily; every morning found them less
vigorous, and often was marked by a premature death. In fact, the living
ones diminished quite rapidly, and ere a month had elapsed nearly all
had perished utterly. This epidemic was peculiarly fatal among my
verbenas, although the books had described them as being rather
unusually hardy; and with the exception of Patrick’s new seedling, which
was vigorous enough, they were either dead or dying. This was quite an
appalling state of affairs. Recourse was had to my literary counselors;
recipes were found for curing mildew, bugs, borers, red spiders, and a
large number of other difficulties, but nothing on the subject of
general debility.

My flowers had no active disease, unless it were an analogy to human
consumption, or what our quack doctors describe as a loss of manly
vigor; and as these complaints are not referred to in horticultural
works, and as the medicines guaranteed to cure the human frame could
hardly be expected to benefit them, I scarcely knew what to do. In
despair, I purchased some whale-oil soap, and proceeded to wash the
leaves with that highly-recommended compound. Perhaps whale-oil soap is
not advantageous in general debility; perhaps it was made too strong, or
applied too often. Under its application, my future progenitors of
bedding beauties perished faster than ever. A solitary fuchsia, that had
been purchased the spring previous, went early; the roses followed
precipitately; the daisies were not far behind; the verbenas made haste
after these; the carnations followed in this headlong race, until, in
spite of the most tender care, the most scientific nursing, the most
approved protection and artistic cultivation, ere spring arrived, the
entire collection was dead save one--that famous new seedling verbena of
Patrick’s discovery. It still lived, not flourishingly nor
enthusiastically--not as though it could endure much more
assistance--but, as the pleasant days were near at hand, exhibiting
sufficient strength to last till the winds of heaven could be trusted
not to visit its cheek too roughly.

My assiduity in tending that solitary plant was praiseworthy. Nothing
was left undone that could insure its welfare; water, warmed to a proper
temperature, a sufficiency of fresh air, occasional supplies of a little
new earth or well-rotted manure, a gentle stirring of the surface, and
pruning of straggling and superfluous sprouts--none of these were
omitted. In spite of this attention, it remained pale, yellow, and
feeble, so deadly must have been the nature of the unknown and invisible
malaria that had penetrated into my green-house; but it survived the
danger. It became gradually weaker as March passed by and April
advanced, but was still alive when, in May, after it had been carefully
hardened off by progressive exposure to the air, it was once more
consigned to the earth of the garden. The fuchsia was gone; the roses,
the daisies, the carnations, were no more; its brothers had fallen by
the way-side; but this peculiar variety--this child of my own
raising--this new species, that had no equal for hardness, and probably
would have none in beauty--this seedling, that was destined to electrify
the floral world--this original discovery, which I had already mentally
resolved should make my name immortal as the _Verbena Barnwellii_--was
saved! That was all-sufficient.

Weeville had inquired from time to time how the scientific cooking-shop,
as he ironically designated my green-house--because the dry furnace-air
which ascended to the upper story did make it rather warm--was
progressing, and sarcastically remarked that a hundred new and healthy
plants could be bought in the spring for what it would cost to keep one
over the winter. But I had too much confidence in the books which I had
studied to believe in his old fogy notions. I had put him off with
“glittering generalities,” intending to keep my discovery a secret, and
enjoying by anticipation his amazement and rage when he should find that
a mere tyro, by scientific appliances, could surpass an experienced hand
like himself, and do that which was beyond his utmost hope--originate a
new variety. I had intended waiting till my plant had recovered its
vigor under the influence of the “wanton wind” and the warm sun; but as
it did not improve rapidly, and no doubt missed my fostering care, I
took an early opportunity to invite him into my garden.

There were a number of roses, fuchsias, and other bedding plants that I
had just purchased and set out, and he remarked at once, with a laugh,

“So your cook-house did not work; you have had to buy new plants after
all. Furnace-houses, with dry, hot, parched air, are poor places for
green leaves and thirsty vegetable mouths. Moisture is a necessity to
the cultivation of flowers, and it will not answer perfectly when
applied only to the roots.”

During this discourse I had led him toward the new seedling, and at the
proper moment I replied,

“That may be true; but the satisfaction of tending one’s own flowers is
great; the pleasure of watching them is sufficient reward; and then
there is always a chance of effecting something original.”

“Yes, there is that, no doubt. Amateur green-houses are original
enough.”

“I mean there is a possibility of making some discovery, of starting a
new variety. For instance,” I said, slowly and impressively, “look at
that; is not that reward enough for all my trouble?”

“Look at what?” he replied, peering about in a stupid way, striving not
to notice the wonderful plant at his feet, and stopping in a doubtful
way when his eyes finally rested on it.

“Ay, look at it. Study it well,” I continued, enthusiastically. “Examine
its texture and its foliage; observe the delicate edge of each leaf; the
tender strength of each spray. Conceive its future freshness of beauty,
and the glory its discovery will confer.”

“Are you talking of that?” Weeville inquired, giving the sacred flower a
sacrilegious shove with the toe of his boot. “Why, what do you take that
for?”

“What do I take it for? You may well inquire. I take it for the _Verbena
Barnwellii_, the crowning glory--”

“Verbena fiddlesticks! It is nothing but a weed--a piece of wild sorrel,
just like a dozen others hereabouts, for they seem to abound in your
garden--only it is rather miserable looking, and is near about dead from
some cause or other. But what has that to do with your city
green-house?”

Explanations were unnecessary. Patrick had made a mistake; he had either
taken up a weed for a verbena, or had potted a weed and verbena
together, and the verbena had died early, for certain it was that my new
seedling, the puzzling variety of an old species, was nothing but an
ugly specimen of worthless sorrel. It died soon after. I was glad it
did. Possibly scientific hot-house culture is not beneficial to weeds,
but until it perished of itself I had not the heart to dig it up, and
thus put a violent end to so many vain hopes and promising
anticipations. The _Verbena Barnwellii_ is still in the undiscovered
future. Patrick had committed other errors; most of the plants that he
had taken up ought to have been left out, and most of those that were
left out should have been taken up. The results of this practice
convinced me that Weeville was right, and that it is cheaper to buy
plants than to raise them, even with all the aids of modern science; and
that, if any gentleman finds too many weeds in his garden, he has only
to remove them to his green-house and cultivate them assiduously to
exterminate them rapidly.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER XIX.

A GREAT RUNNER.


In describing the unfortunate termination of my efforts to winter our
stock, I have advanced a little beyond the regular order of events.
There was much other work to be done in the garden, even without
referring to the masses of bedding plants and the quantities of new
seeds that I had purchased. As the third season opened, a renewed energy
took possession of me, and I went at digging and planting like a giant
refreshed. There was no longer a sense of desolation around my place.
The florists and nurserymen, under my careful instruction, had set out
trees, and planted flowers, and got hedges in order, until Nature in my
five acres was bursting from a smile into a grin. It is true that the
cows of the neighborhood, which were invariably allowed to roam
whithersoever they listed, had fed rather profusely on the evergreens,
breaking down the tops and nipping off the ends of the branches; that
here and there the hedges had died out, and left yawning gaps; but, on
the whole, there was a remarkable change. It was at this point that I
bethought me of an omission from my flower garden which was as
surprising as it was inexcusable; hitherto I had neglected doing justice
to the gourd tribe.

I am great on gourds; they are my specialty. I will undertake to grow
them against the world, and will meet Jonah in a fair field, and no
miracles, any time; in fact, I am a perfect Jonah on gourds. In early
youth, when my gardening was confined to a city yard, my gourds were the
first, and fattest, and yellowest to be seen; and, from that remote
period to the time of which I speak, I had always felt an affection for
the beautiful fruit, and wondered why Nature did not put more in it. Of
course there must be gourds in my garden, in spite of their being a
useless production and very hollow--Weeville made a joke about their
beating other fruit all hollow--and, except to make fragile
water-dippers (which, by the way, no one ever makes of them), quite
worthless; so I not only planted the seeds in the open garden, but
forced some in the hot-beds.

My special favorites were three seeds of an almost unknown variety,
called Hercules’ Club, upon the past history and future prospects of
which I could get little information. I planted these little germs of
promise in a prominent place in the front beds, and watched with tender
care till they came up. A pale, delicate, juicy little spear, guarded by
its two seed-lobes, pushed its way above ground, where it seemed ill
suited to battle with the breeze and brave the sun, that threatened to
break or consume it. My solicitude became greater when the feeble stem
put forth a feebler leaf, not larger than one’s finger-nail, and so thin
that the tracing of the veins was like gossamer. My horror, therefore,
can be imagined when I found, on the ensuing morning, that a squash-bug
had fallen upon my tender nursling and eaten the leaf all up.

I killed that bug. He endeavored to slip into the earth, but I slew him
without remorse. He was not an ugly bug in outward appearance;
entomologists might even have called him handsome; his colors were a
mixture of gilt and black, but his beauty was no protection. The next
day another delicate leaf rewarded my protection, but the following
morning another squash-bug devoured it; he met the fate of his
predecessor; but, when a third leaf was disposed of in the same way, the
result began to be doubtful; the question was arising, which would give
out first, the squash-bugs or the leaves? Having heard that wood-ashes
was good to drive away bugs, I was about applying a dose, when Patrick
assured me that they would “scorch such a little mite of a thing all
up;” and, as I had already discovered that no reliance could be placed
on tobacco, I was nearly at what ladies call their “wits’
end”--whichever end that may be, when Weeville again came to the rescue.

“Squash-bugs!” he said; “there is no need of ever being troubled by
them. Nature always has a remedy for all Nature’s ills, if we only look
for it. Onions, my boy, are the thing. Does a squash-bug ever eat an
onion? No, sir. Then make him eat it, and see how it agrees with him. I
used to be bothered with them among my cucumber-vines till I put a few
onions in each hill. No more bugs now. I never lose a leaf--not a single
leaf. When you plant gourds next time, put in a few onion-seeds at the
same time, and you will have no trouble. The smell does it.”

This was very fine for the future, but I wanted to save my Hercules’
Club for the present; so I thought to myself that if onions would answer
when grown in the vicinity, why would they not answer if removed to the
place, and kept renewed from time to time? There was no scarcity of
onions, and if we did not use them in this way, it was doubtful whether
they would be used at all, so I immediately gathered a quantity, and
built a breastwork of bulbs and stalks round my little pets. At this
time the sprouts were bare, having been stripped by our remorseless
enemies; but next morning still another leaf put forward its claim to
recognition--somewhat weaker, perhaps, than the earlier ones, but still
a leaf. By sundown it was fully developed, and my anxiety can be
imagined to learn its fate next day. I was up and dressed by sunrise,
and, to my great delight, found the leaf there and no squash-bug.

The victory was won. The fatal _chevaux-de-frise_ was renewed daily, and
proved itself an effectual barrier to the foe. One leaf followed
another; they increased in size; the stalk mounted a few inches, and was
secured to a stake. This appeared to be the turning-point of the plant’s
existence. It suddenly began to grow, and, having exhibited its
feebleness in infancy, now commenced to show its strength. In one night
it grew a foot, and up it rushed, in a few days, to the top of the
stake. There were three plants in all, not far apart, and they had soon
climbed as high as they could on their supports. Huge broad leaves, as
large as a straw hat, made their appearance. Fresh stakes had to be
inserted, and then, when these were covered, which happened in a few
days, still larger ones were substituted. My skill had been tested in
inducing the wonderful plant to grow, and I was not to be outdone now.
Hoops were arranged from post to post like a single section of an arbor;
cross-pieces were added, and still the plant outran them. I was becoming
weak, and, having beaten Jonah, was trying a match with Jack of the
famous “Beanstalk,” with heavy odds in my own opinion that I should win.
It was still early summer, and where my gourds would end ere the season
was over seemed doubtful.

Unfortunately, at this stage of the contest there came up a storm of
wind and rain. This was a contingency that had not entered my mind. My
supports were frail, my lashings insecure; in an instant the whole
structure was leveled to the ground. Without waiting to tear my
garments, as I should have done if I had been Jonah, I rushed bareheaded
into the storm, fearing that an hour’s delay would give the gourd a
start never to be overcome, and again raised my frame-work and secured
it more firmly. Still the gourd grew. I led strings in all directions,
but, not satisfied with these, it spread over the ground, covered my
small plants, crawled up the neighboring bushes and trees, crept out
into the paths, and threatened to occupy the entire garden. I was still
bravely contending against the inevitable, when destruction in the
shape of another storm came upon me in the night, and the following
morning found my labors again stretched upon the ground.

This proved too much for me, and, giving in at once, I called Patrick to
do what he could under the circumstances. He straightway sunk two stout
posts and braced them with guys in every direction, and then we let the
Clubs--of which these certainly seemed to be the kings--follow their own
fancy and grow till they should be tired. Being in a conspicuous part of
the garden--in fact, pretty thoroughly hiding the smaller flowers--our
friends had been deeply interested, and, never having seen the vine
before, wondered what kind of fruit it bore. It had produced abundance
of white flowers, in shape somewhat like the yellow blossoms of the
squash, but they fell off, “leaving not a wrack behind,” nor any fruit.
I could not find that Jonah’s gourd, or the beanstalk of my friend Jack,
had produced fruit or left seed, and began to think that mine was an
exceptional production of a similar character, that could only be raised
by those who were great on gourds, or, as the Vulgate hath it, “some
pumpkins.” If Jack’s stalk had produced beans, we should have known
those beans; if Jonah’s gourd had borne seed, we should have found them
at the seed-stores to this day.

My anxiety was greatly relieved, therefore, when at last something that
was evidently intended for fruit made its appearance. It was almost of
the size and shape of a small lead-pencil, and closely resembled a long
green worm. This remarkable fruit--only odder, if any thing, than the
parent that bore it--after the same hesitancy and dilatoriness,
commenced to grow in the same mad way. It was soon as thick as your
finger, then as your wrist, then as your arm, and considerably longer
than the latter; and, ere it gave up, became as large round and longer
than a small man’s leg. Hercules, even, would have been bothered to
manage such a club.

It bore seeds, but I destroyed them. My squashes were ahead of all in
Flushing. My pumpkins ran for hundreds of feet, climbed the bean-poles,
and bore a large fruit on top, one specimen being huge enough to have
furnished Peter Piper’s wife with a comfortable apartment. My ordinary
round gourds attained the size of a child’s head; and if I produced such
a result as I have described from my first year’s attempt with the
Hercules’ Club, I was not prepared to take the consequences of a second
or third effort.

It was better to allow such a plant to disappear; the discovery of new
species of flowers and vegetables is creditable so long as they are
either handsome or useful, but to get the reputation of being the man
who originated a wonderful gourd, to go down to posterity celebrated for
this alone, to be spoken of in horticultural works as the gourd-man, was
too terrible a fate. Moreover, there was some danger in renewing such an
experiment; on the second trial the wonderful plant might have spread
all over the neighborhood, climbed upon crops, strangled trees,
surmounted houses, and invaded the village in such a way as to make me
liable for damages for trespass. There are some things which a man does
too well to do often; growing gourds was evidently one of those with me,
and I determined never to be led into such an undertaking again.

To counterbalance this wonderful success, it is necessary to record a
remarkable failure. “Variety is the spice of life.” It is this variety
which gives agricultural pursuits their principal zest; no two attempts
in planting bring about the same results. There may be the same
circumstances of time, place, and weather, but the conclusion will be
altogether dissimilar. All honest farmers must confess--and farmers are,
like lawyers, without exception, upright and truthful--that the return
from no two years has been alike. One year the potatoes fail, another
leaves us without corn, a third is too much for the wheat; then the
fruit rots, or the turnips will not grow, or the sweet potatoes run
entirely to vine, or the oats to straw. Something never comes out right,
or does what was expected of it, and often behaves in a shabby manner.
Of coarse, my horticulture could be no exception, but the eccentricities
of Flushing soil are rather extravagant, although the editor of the
_Agriculturist_ lives in the neighborhood, and does all he can to keep
it in order. I have mentioned some peculiarities of my hot-house
experience. I will give certain facts, quite as strange, relative to
out-of-door gardening.

There were some hardy perennials which I had raised with great care, and
among them a fine specimen of crimson flax, or what I had satisfied
myself was crimson flax. My seeds had fallen into a little confusion in
consequence of the names getting washed off the labels by the rains;
but, as the plant bore a crimson flower, and did not resemble any thing
else in particular, I had made up my mind it was crimson flax; if it
were not, there must have been a defect in Thorburn’s seeds, which is
not to be presumed, for nothing else of that description came up.
Perennials are not generally satisfactory during their first season;
they make a poor growth of it, showing a feebleness that is extremely
painful to a fond and devoted gardener. They are not easily
distinguished from weeds at best, and, as they grow far slower than the
latter, are often lost entirely among them. For this reason I was
especially proud of my crimson flax. It grew thriftily, spread into a
good-sized bush, and covered itself with delicate flowers.

This had occurred during the previous season, and when fall came I was
careful to mark the spot where it was with several large stakes, in
order to warn Patrick against digging it up. Patrick was rather an
enthusiast with a spade, and somewhat zealous in weeding; he was fond of
digging up the garden to “meliorate” it, as he expressed the idea, and
to prepare it for spring planting; and if he had not the flowers very
distinctly and plainly marked, he would, in the excitement of the
operation, dig them up ruthlessly. So also, in weeding, he had to be
warned and watched, for more than once was my blood frozen with horror
at beholding Patrick weeding up a valuable plant, and twice he weeded
all the young sprouts off a flowering shrub so effectually that the
shrub never recovered from the shock. With this fear before my eyes, and
a question about the perfect reliability of my own memory, I marked the
spot where my crimson flax was located with great care, surrounding it
on all sides with stakes plainly lettered. Thus fortified, I waited
confidently till the winter should be over, having put my own weaknesses
and Patrick’s at defiance.

True to my confident expectations, with the first few warm suns my
crimson flax reappeared amid its palisade of stakes. It grew far more
strongly than before, spreading rapidly into a large bush, and requiring
the assistance of supports and strings to keep it in shape. There was an
odd singularity about it, however, which struck me as remarkable. The
leaf seemed different from what it had been before--it was longer and
narrower; but this probably was one of those changes which perennials
undergo ere they get firmly established, and, among the many curious
things I had experienced, did not surprise me particularly. The plant
was on the exact place where it had been the year previous; it was
growing luxuriantly, and bid fair to be a magnificent ornament to the
garden, for it had a prominent situation. I did not boast of it,
however. Boasting is not natural to me. I did not even call Weeville’s
attention to it. He had disappointed me so often that I resolved he
should be disappointed himself. I was determined to say nothing until it
should be covered with its crimson gems.

It grew remarkably. If it had done well the previous year, it bid fair
to surpass itself this season. As its time for flowering approached I
became quite nervous and excited. Slowly the buds formed, being almost
innumerable, and covering each spray; they filled and distended, and
finally burst. But what was my astonishment when I discovered that they
had changed their color. Instead of the rich crimson flowers that were
expected, I found the bush one morning covered with strange-looking
blossoms of a dull yellow. The most remarkable transformation ever known
had taken place--crimson flax had lost its natural hue under careful
cultivation, and assumed the appearance of a cross between an orange
blossom and a dandelion; if any thing, it was rather more like the
dandelion. It was no longer crimson--had, in fact, no shade of crimson.
It was a pure yellow, and not altogether a handsome one. To describe the
disgust that this unexpected change wrought in my usually placid temper
is impossible. I began to hate that plant. The more it blossomed the
more furious I felt, until finally, when it had covered itself with
these wretched straw-colored abortions, my feelings overcame me, and I
pulled it up by the roots.

This burst of passion has caused me much regret. By a moment’s
indulgence of anger I destroyed the chance of raising a new species of
plant, a changeable crimson flax--crimson one year and yellow the next.
Weeville, when subsequently informed of my indiscretion, attempted to
console me by endeavoring to make out that it was a weed which had
smothered the original flower. He even doubted whether there ever had
been any crimson flax in my garden, and pretended dissatisfaction with
my description of that plant. He said he was not aware that crimson flax
was a perennial, and thought that the designation in the catalogue was
an error, ridiculous as such a supposition was to my mind. He undertook
to show me numerous weeds by the road-side--for weeds are quite abundant
in Flushing--which bore yellow blossoms, and which he felt confident
were the same as the one I had raised. They did resemble it in many
points; but, as I had marked my plant carefully, had seen it blossom the
year previous, and knew whereof I spoke, I utterly disdained his
explanation. I must still feel that the loss of my new flax was serious,
and must regret the outburst that led to it. Even a flower convertible
into a weed, or changing biennially from one to the other, would be rare
and curious.

Moreover, although we did raise several garden weeds, this was like
none of them. They were most deceptive things, and imitated the
appearance of plants wonderfully. One grew quite tall, and seemed to be
on the point of flowering all the while, but never did so. Another
spread into quite a large tuft, something between a daisy and a violet,
and imposed upon Patrick, even, so thoroughly that he never dug it up in
a single instance, notwithstanding his readiness to extirpate whatever
was of doubtful authenticity. It spread rapidly, until it was quite a
labor to pull it up. Another of these troublesome members of the
vegetable kingdom attained almost the dimensions of a shrub, and had a
thick, solid stalk, and actually flowered; but the blossoms were the
minutest things possible, and bore a ludicrous disproportion with the
size of the bush; while the snap-dragon obtained a hold in the beds
which it is probable I never shall eradicate, by an error of
appreciation continued through a few months. In fact, the weeds
performed such strange antics, and behaved in so unexpected a way, that
the question arose in my mind as to what was a weed. The author of “Ten
Acres Enough” says that it is a flower out of place. The latter half of
his explanation may be well enough; but as to its being a flower, most
of those that came up in my garden had no flowers whatever. Without
entering too far upon a religious disquisition, it may do merely to
suggest that it struck me that weeds were original sin, springing up to
trouble us every where, and calling for that sweat of the brow which is
ordained as the lot of the human kind for the first great crime of
Mother Eve.

The nature of weeds is exceedingly perverse. They seem to have been sent
to torment man, sprouting up continually without apparently ever
becoming exhausted, causing an immense deal of unnecessary annoyance. As
an evidence of their innate perversity, it is only necessary to refer to
the manner in which they behaved toward my _portulaca splendens_. This
showy plant had been thriving admirably, and as its seeds, when allowed
to sow themselves, naturally reappear in augmented splendor the
following year, I had founded great expectations upon the anticipated
result. It is true that the portulaca did sow itself, and did come up
finely the present spring; but, unfortunately, weeds come up without any
sowing. They originate or “come of themselves,” as my brother farmers
lucidly express it, and they appeared with the portulaca, and grew twice
as rapidly.

The end of it was, that, although the flower was there, and even
matured, it was hidden so effectually that there was no way of getting
a sight at a blossom except by pulling up a yard square of weeds. My
conclusion from this--and valuable it is to the cause of
agriculture--was that our scientific men had not paid sufficient
attention to weeds; that they had taught us how to make things grow, but
had not told us how to prevent their growing; that an anti-fertilizer
was more important than a fertilizer. There is twice as much labor
expended in rooting weeds out as in putting vegetables in. We have our
phosphates and superphosphates, our guano, marl, bone-dust, lime, and a
dozen other species of manures, but not a single invention to prevent
undesirable growth. The present necessity is a drug or acid, or some
sort of medicament, that will kill all the weeds and the germs of weeds
in the ground, but which will soon lose its power, so that the ground
will perform its proper functions when seed is planted. Until this
discovery is made, farming will be laborious, and I hope our learned men
will devote their attention to it promptly. I shall only claim the honor
of originating the idea, and leave the entire profits to the inventor.



CHAPTER XX.

A BEAUTIFUL NEW COACH.


I have already mentioned the honesty of the people in Flushing. Nothing
is more pleasant and satisfactory than to deal with persons on whom one
can rely; to feel that one gets precisely what is agreed upon--can trust
entirely to the word of the seller. To be sure, they were now and then a
little too confiding. They had a way of supplying any person in the
village with whatever he wanted, and charging it to me. If I objected,
they answered conclusively that he had given my name, and that they were
not accustomed, in the country, to doubt every man’s word who applied to
them for a keg of nails or a dozen boards; and they explained that
confidence was the foundation of business. Rather than disturb this
creditable, almost too creditable state of affairs, I submitted, and
paid for a good many articles that went to other people. I made a short
attempt to enforce a rule that any applicant who gave my name must have
a written order, and I even opened a pass-book with the leading
store-keeper; but these innovations met with so much opposition, and the
leading store-keeper had always so much to add to what appeared in the
pass-book, that I gave up the effort, and accepted country ways of
dealing.

Even the farmers were affected by this simplicity of views; they had
peculiar and somewhat unwise opinions, but they held to them
religiously. They believed in New York as the Moslem believes in Mecca;
they considered that they must make all their sales there, and that
weekly pilgrimages thither were a necessity of their success in life. No
inducement would persuade them to sell any of their produce on the road,
or short of that sacred destination. It was vain to apply to them for a
load of hay, or a dozen bags of oats; they would cart these six miles
over heavy roads rather than sell them within a few rods of their doors.
This was inconvenient, but a sure guaranty for their honesty; none but
very honest people could be so simple, and their faith in the metropolis
of the nation was actually touching.

“Sure, yer honor,” said Patrick to me one morning, “and the new Rockaway
is gone intirely.”

“Why, Patrick, you surprise me; I only bought it last spring.” I did not
say that I had obtained it second-hand, as it is well not to forget
appearances, and human nature is somehow or other ashamed of buying any
thing second-hand. The fact was that Dandy Jim had pretty much used up
my first wagon; he had run away with it so often, had dragged it over so
many fences, and smashed it so frequently and so effectually, that, when
he was sold and the new family horse was purchased, a new wagon had to
be bought for him. I said nothing to Patrick about its being
second-hand, and he said nothing to me; we neither of us pretended to be
aware of a fact which both of us knew perfectly well. True to his
instinctive Irish delicacy, not a word was breathed against the honor of
the house to which his fortunes were attached. So he replied,

“Be gorra! and it was a beautiful wagon intirely when yer honor brought
it home; you may well say that.”

“What is the trouble, then, now?”

“Sorrow a one o’ me knows, but they tell its going fast, and I thought
it was me duty to spake about it before any accident happened, which
would be a pity, indade, indade.”

“Is there any thing wrong with the axle-trees?” I inquired, anxiously,
worried at the implied risk.

“Axle-trees! whirra, and they’re as strong and sound as the day they
were put in; divil a word can be said against the axle-trees.”

“Well, then, is it the springs?”

“The springs! Now did yer honor ever see a purtier pair of springs in
yer life?”

“Perhaps it’s the wheels?”

“The wheels! divil a bit is there any thing the matter with the wheels;
better running wheels, when they’re well grased, were never put in a
wagon at all, at all.”

“Then, Patrick,” I cried in despair, “what on earth is the matter?”

“And didn’t I say it was wake all over, it was; and if it comes down
when yer honor’s out driving, you mustn’t blame me. Yer honor knows
best, but I shouldn’t like to be in it if it did break down; but perhaps
there’d be no harm done--you may be going slow, like, and the horse may
stop.”

“Patrick,” I responded, still more appalled at this picture, and not at
all confident of so fortunate a result, my experience having been rather
the reverse--“Patrick, it will never do to run any risk. What shall I do
about it?”

“Yer honor does not seem to care for it, but, as I tould yer honor
before, there’s a beautiful new coach down at the carriage-maker’s. If
you saw it once, you would be much plased; it’s lovely intirely. If you
would only get that, that would be the doin’ ov it.”

This discussion was not altogether an unusual thing between us. My
Rockaway had been growing weaker and weaker for some time past, and, as
its weakness became more striking, the “beautiful new coach” loomed up
more distinctly. At first the spring would want strengthening, then the
axles would need examining, next the tires would require resetting, and
so on, until an application to the wheelwright became an event of weekly
recurrence. On each repetition, the attractions of the “beautiful new
coach” would come under discussion, and be dilated upon, although, as I
had little faith in country work, and entire confidence in my Rockaway,
I turned a deaf ear to all such suggestions.

However, matters had been becoming more serious lately. The wagon had
certainly acquired a wobbly motion, which was neither agreeable nor
reassuring. The springs or wheels, or both, appeared to have lost their
strength; the latter did not track quite true, and, in turning a corner
or crossing a gutter, there was evidence of a defect somewhere. No
special difficulty had made itself apparent, but there was a general
giving out--a sort of grogginess all over. The whole concern “yawed
about” and “slewed round,” as the nautical gentlemen express it, after
an unpleasant and threatening fashion. It was apparent that something
must be done, and the carriage-maker, who also had the “beautiful new
coach” for sale, declared that repairing would do no more good; so to
Patrick’s last remark I responded with resignation,

“I suppose I shall have to get a new wagon of some sort. What does the
man ask for the one you speak of?”

“Only three hundred and fifty dollars, with pole and shafts. Mr. Jones
paid him four hundred for one just like it last week, but he says he
wants yer honor to give him a chance. There’s nothing but the best of
stuff gone into it. He puts on new patent clips; and the painting is the
loveliest blue and red that iver was seen.”

“Well, Patrick, you may drive me down, and I will look at it.”

“Thank yer honor; and shall I hitch up right away?”

“Yes; the sooner it’s over the better.”

“Thrue for you, and so it is; for a break-down would be a pity, with the
doctors charging so high. But ye’ll be safe enough in the new coach.”

We found the wheelwright at his shop, and ready to expatiate on the many
good points of his vehicles and the excellence of his work; the
advantages he had over city builders, and the danger there was in riding
in a broken-down affair which was made of such wretched stuff as mine,
that he only wondered had held together as long as it had. The proposed
carriage was quite gorgeous and very fine with paint and upholstery. I
thought it rather heavy for one horse, but Patrick, who had taken much
interest in the discussion, immediately, on my making the suggestion,
seized the shafts, and ran it up and down as if it were as light as a
feather. So there was nothing for it but to say that I would take the
“beautiful new coach;” and, stepping to one side with the maker, I said,
“I am informed that the price is three hundred and fifty dollars.”

“Oh,” he replied, “that is without the pole; with the pole it is three
hundred and seventy-five. Mr. Jones paid me--”

“Never mind about Mr. Jones. I understood the price was three hundred
and fifty dollars with pole and shafts; but, as I do not want the
former, I will do without that.”

“But they both go together,” replied the man. “Now I’ll tell you what,”
he added, dropping his voice to a confidential whisper, “you have been
a good customer of mine, and I want to please you; so let’s say three
hundred and sixty-five, and that will be almost throwing the pole in. It
costs a good twenty-five dollars to build one.”

I never liked haggling over trifles, so I consented and paid down the
money. I did not send for the new carriage immediately; in fact, a
change seemed to have come over the Rockaway; it gave up wobbling, the
wheels ran steadier, the springs became stronger, and its general
debility disappeared. It was altogether a changed vehicle. I heard no
more complaints from Patrick, and all danger in using it seemed to have
disappeared, for he took five of his female acquaintances to church in
it the very next Sunday morning. When we did get the new coach home it
proved to be entirely too heavy, and Patrick was the loudest in
declaring it was “no good at all, at all.” Of course, it could not have
been that an honest village wheelwright would purposely have put my
wagon out of order that he might sell me a new one, but such a sudden
recovery of health on the part of a Rockaway was extraordinary and
wonderful to the last degree.

Of course, when a man moves permanently into the country, he builds an
addition to his house. Why he does so, neither he nor any one else can
tell. He never does the like in town; no additional room is necessary,
but he does it all the same. I was attacked with the same mania, of
course. The only way of adding to my house was by putting a second story
on the main wing; there was no possible mode of extending either side,
or erecting an adjoining building, or doing any thing whatever except
moving a step nearer the heavens. This implied the removal of the roof.
Now a roof is a very necessary thing; people who have been in the habit
of living under one know little of the inconveniences of doing without
it, even for a short time. It is ornamental--may have a pretty border,
or edging, as our farmers say; but it is not only ornamental, it is
extremely useful; and if any reader doubts this, let him remove the roof
from his house, and try the effect of a change. The foundation is
necessary, the sides are advantageous, but the roof is essential.

As fate would have it, my alterations were commenced in March, which is
not altogether the best month for such things, in view of the fact,
little appreciated by citizens, that that month is the commencement of
the rainy season. So the tin was rolled up and taken off, the rafters
were pulled down, the sides of the additional story were completed--and
then it rained. I had prepared as well as I could to meet this
contingency, being the possessor of a large amount of canvas, which once
constituted the racing sails of a yacht that I owned in my younger days,
and I had spread this over the yawning gulf as well as I could. But it
did not answer; perhaps there was not peak enough, or the duck was worn
thin by age; certain it was that it leaked, and leaked badly, not in
mere drops, but in rivulets, that first covered the upper floor, and
then worked their way down through the lower ceilings, and dripped on
the furniture, and discolored the walls, and loosened the plaster.

Moreover, the rain always came at the worst times and in the most
disagreeable ways. I would go calmly to bed, leaving every thing
apparently serene, not a cloud in the sky, the stars shining brightly,
and the wind due west, and be waked up at midnight by the beating of the
storm, and the trickle of the water as it came down through one corner,
its favorite spot, in my room. Then the wind would blow, and work under
the canvas, and tug at the ends, until it succeeded in rolling it up, so
that it could expose what was beneath.

And then, of course, at the precise moment when a dozen more days’ work
would have made me

[Illustration]

safe--when the windows only were wanting, or a few more boards would
have shut out the destructive element--the carpenters and sash-makers
concluded they would enjoy a little “strike”--preferring leisure to
work, and needing a short rest from their labors. Many a time would I be
roused from my comfortable bed, and be forced, with quite a scanty
amount of clothing, to climb up the rickety, half-finished stairs at
midnight, and get drenched through putting up boards or nailing down the
canvas; for water, useful as it undoubtedly is for some purposes, can
do so extensive and unexpected an amount of damage; it gets into such
odd places, and produces such queer results. However, Patrick, true to
his Irish nature, was so delighted with my example that he determined to
follow it, and begged time enough to build himself a house. When my
troubles were about over, I met him one day, and asked how his building
was getting on?

“Thank yer honor,” he replied, joyfully, “I am doing finely; there was a
frind, begorra, and true frind he was, and a carpenter at that, and he
has built it all for nothing, because he was out of work. Sure and it’s
an ilegant house.”

“Well, then, Patrick, I suppose you’ll soon be moving into it.”

“I would that, but for wan thing.”

“And what is that?” I inquired.

“It hasn’t any roof on it.”

“You don’t say so; why, that is quite important.”

“Thrue for you, yer honor, it is that; the flure and the sides is
beautiful; it has two flures and a roof as purty as ever was.”

“Why, I thought you said it had no roof,” I responded, growing somewhat
confused, as I often did over Patrick’s explanations.

“Oh no; the roof is all there, but it lakes, it does.”

“Still, if it does leak, the upper floor would catch that, and you might
occupy the lower story, as I have been doing.”

“So I would, indade, but the flures have no boards on them; nothing at
all, at all, but jest the bare bames. But I wouldn’t mind that meself,
and me family would do well enough on the ground if it wasn’t for the
lakes, and the bad saison it is at that.”

“You ought to find out where the leaks are, and stop them,” I replied.

“Sure, and it lakes all over.”

“Now, Patrick,” I remonstrated, “how can it do that? No roof was ever
made that leaked all over; the thing can’t be.”

“Well, yer honor knows best; but when a roof hasn’t any shingles on, it
lakes purty bad.”

“Patrick,” I said, pausing and looking at him sternly, “what on earth do
you mean by saying one minute that you have a roof, and the next that
you have none?”

“Well, yer honor knows the boards for the roof is all there, and put up
beautiful, but I hadn’t any shingles, more’s the pity, and me paying
rint all the time, and me frind with nothing to do until he gets some
work, and no telling the day when he may do that. And I thought perhaps
yer honor will give me the loan of some shingles, and keep the house
yerself until I could work it out. The windies ain’t much matter, and
boards will do very well, but sure a house is good for nothing intirely
unless it has a roof on it.”

I coincided fully in Patrick’s views; there was a bond of brotherhood in
suffering between us; and although I did not keep his house for him, he
had his shingles. And so he was fairly housed, and my extra story being
completed, and the garden having at last consented to grow, and the
trees to furnish foliage and give yearly promise of fruit, and my vast
experience having been carefully stored away for the use of others, and
myself finally and peremptorily settled in the country, I think it is
time that I closed this veracious and trustworthy account of “Five Acres
more than Enough.”



CHAPTER XXI.

THREE HUNDRED ACRES NOT ENOUGH.


I am writing this supplementary chapter after the expiration of nearly
fifteen years since the record of my farming experiences was commenced;
and while I have nothing to take from the interesting statements which
have been set forth in the previous pages, I have much to add to them.
Everything has gone on as it began, with the same invariable pleasure,
profit, and satisfaction. The field and the fields of my labor have
alike been one long delight--from the soft yellow of the upturned
surfaces when the plough had just prepared them for the seeds, through
their period of emerald-green promise and their crowning glories of
fruitful russet and gold, till they passed under the snow-white mantle
of their wintry death. My success on “five acres” was so triumphant that
I purchased a farm of twenty-five at Rockville Centre, and subsequently
one of two hundred at Sayville, and to those have kept perpetually
adding till they number three hundred and fifty, and bid fair never to
be enough. My feet have trodden all the highways and by-ways of
successful agriculture, and my efforts have done much to solve the great
problem that the world has been groping over for four thousand years;
for only when science shall teach just how much hydrogen, nitrogen,
super-phosphate, hydrocephalus, tredecem radiatus, esox reticulatus, and
cerebro-spinal meningitis make up the component parts of every stalk of
corn, grain of wheat, or head of oats will the human race be redeemed
from darkness and ignorance, and all men made rich and happy.

Patrick and I built hot-beds and cold-frames; and if the hot-beds did
come out cold-frames, and the cold-frames occasionally endeavored to be
hot-beds by burning up all the plants in them, we were sure to get one
or the other almost every time. Moreover, we have had our triumphs as
great as those of war. We have raised the mammoth squash, a miniature
planet of orange loveliness, bursting with beauty and solid with
succulence--so roomy, that Cinderella would have found no trouble in
using it for her coach, or Peter Piper for a wife-protector. It was sent
to the county fair, where it was much admired by my friends, and caused
much envy in the mind of Weeville, to judge from the disparaging
remarks he indulged about the taste and value of squashes. It would have
taken the prize were it not that another farmer had sent one a few
pounds heavier, although far inferior in contour and general excellence
of expression. Ours should have had a second prize, but that the chief
official informed me that they never gave second prizes for squashes.

Of course there have been drawbacks, but what mattered it if the
commonplaces did not come up to expectation, if the turnips and carrots
failed and the grass dried up. Who could not spare the horse vegetables
in the land of the pea, the Lima-bean, the asparagus?--where there was
never too much heat or drought for the sweet corn, and where the
luxuriant egg-plants would spread out their broad green hands to the
generous sun in gratitude for his rays in summer, and would round out
their purple globes in the cool days of September and October--that is,
when the potato-bug did not eat them all up. Insects have become rather
over-abundant. Indeed this might be said to be the bug age, in contrast
with the stone age and the iron age and the golden age which have passed
before. There is every known and unknown sort of insect on Long Island.
The Colorado beetle paid his respects promptly, on his evolution, and
has remained permanently; the borers bore our apple-trees; the curculio
swarms in our plum-trees; moths and army-worms and tent-caterpillars and
every other sort of creeping and stinging thing assist our labors and
share our profits.

The poor broken-backed farmer has fallen upon the day of small
things--the winged, creeping, crawling, and ever-devouring small things
of six legs and more or less wings and unlimited stomach; those that
delve in the ground and worm their way into roots, or climb up the
branches and eat the leaves, or which strike the fruit and spot and
blight it. He must poison the potato-beetle, he must burn the galleys
and cities of the tent-builders, he must prod the borers with wires. By
comparison with these the hum of the ever-present mosquito is but a
humbug, and his bites flea-bites.

Following the directions of enthusiastic bug sportsmen I tried to
inveigle the innocent moths into the candle of destruction. Patrick was
directed, to place a lamp in the orchard and set it in a pan of water
with kerosene oil on the surface. There was every reason to expect that
the moths from their known weakness for light would have rushed to this
death-trap by myriads. But Patrick soon gave the most discouraging
accounts of bug behavior and insect artifice.

“Arrah that was no good at all at all,” he said in a disgusted tone.
“They wouldn’t be after going widin a mile of it.”

“But, Patrick,” I replied reprovingly, for I was afraid he had not given
the experiment a fair trial, “they must have been within a mile of it,
as the orchard is not a quarter of a mile either way, and they seem to
be as plenty there as ever.”

“And your honor may well say that. Plenty, is it? There is no end of
them, and they keep growing on us every day.”

That was a personal way of stating the case which made my flesh creep,
and sent itching sensations over my whole body. So I asked him hastily,

“Then why did you not try the lamp?”

“Try? And sure and I did that same. Och, but it burned beautifully, and
all the country round could have seen their way to steal our fruit, only
there wasn’t any fruit to steal. More’s the pity.”

“Well, what did you catch?” I asked impatiently.

“Catch, is it? Sure the first night I caught a mosquito and a house-fly,
and the next night I caught only a mosquito. I didn’t think it worth
while to be wasting oil at that rate, for we would be a hundred years
before we caught all the bugs in our orchard; and then, more be token,
they would grow ten times as fast.”

Since the commencement of my horticultural operations I had had on my
mind and in my heart a longing for a bed of mushrooms. The realization
of this dream had been postponed in consequence of a certain obscurity
in the directions contained in my authorities. Bridgeman was very
enthusiastic and hopeful, but slightly incomprehensible. He said that
the bed must be established in “a light cellar.” Now none of my houses
had a light cellar--neither the first one imported from Nantucket, which
might be expected to produce any imaginable eccentricity, nor that
old-fashioned farm-house at Rockville Centre, nor the modern production
of lath and plaster. It is true that when the first was in the formative
state--had got as far as the cellar and no farther--in which condition
it remained, as has been explained, that part of the construction was as
light as could be wished; still I felt in my soul that the necessary
cellar must be the cellar of a house, not a house that was all cellar.
If Bridgeman had only said a light garret, I could have accommodated
him. But all cellars I had ever entered were dark. Or if there had been
some way of putting a cellar out of doors. I could have introduced the
gas into the cellar, but was afraid to burn it or kerosene lest they
might burn too much. I was all in the dark about the cellar, and doubted
whether artificial aid if attainable would convert its inherent darkness
into the light of Bridgeman’s intelligence.

He said if there was no light cellar we might use an old shed. But here,
again, was a similar difficulty. We had no old shed; they were all new:
besides, they were not much lighter than the cellar. Light was evidently
necessary, and it was only after much thought that I hit upon a feasible
plan. We had built a sort of greenhouse; it had not been used long, the
plants not proving green enough to live in it, and it had been converted
into a chicken-coop for the forcing of infant chickens. No better place
could be selected, if light was wanted; for the sun poured down upon its
glass roof and sides all day long, till the chickens got so over-heated
under the forcing process that they spent most of their time, when they
were not engaged pulling out each other’s feathers, standing and panting
with their mouths open. Here it was that I determined to establish the
mushroom-bed, where it would have a sure chance to heat, and where it
could have as much light as the lightest cellar Bridgeman had ever
discovered.

When I subsequently mentioned my intentions to Patrick, he made
incoherent remarks about “its being too hot intirely, and that the sun
would burn them all up.” But he had not studied the habits of mushrooms
and their demand for light; so we picked out “the droppings,” as we were
ordered from day to day, and turned and flattened them, and laid layers
of earth between layers of them, in the most approved manner. The middle
of August arrived before we were through, and the place was so hot I
fairly gasped as I worked in it; but when it was completed, I broke the
cakes of mushroom spawn into pieces, and deposited them under a few
inches of soil, and covering the whole with a deep mass of straw,
awaited developments. It was some time before any results made their
appearance; then there was a motion in the earth, which, at first I
supposed was the activity of the seeds and the bursting forth of the
fruitful fungi. Nothing of that sort came of it. Instead, the motion
extended itself till it resembled a gentle movement of the entire bed.
At this my suspicions were aroused, and I proceeded quietly and
cautiously to investigate. I lifted off the straw from one corner, and
stirred the earth and dug down into it; then the truth came upon me.
There was a motion--a motion through the entire conglomeration of earth
and droppings; but it was not of the bursting fungi, nor even vegetable
in its origin; it was entirely vermicular: the bed was one wriggling,
moving, turning, twisting mass of worms. They might have been a new
development of the worm family--a sort of mushroom worm produced by
spontaneous generation; but I had not the heart to investigate them,
under the knowledge that all our efforts to produce a bed of mushrooms
were to end in the production of a crop of worms.

I said nothing to Patrick, but carried out the straw, and let in the
chickens once more. They had got a fresh growth of feathers from running
about the grounds, and had accumulated a healthy appetite, and the way
they scratched and dug and dusted in that mushroom-bed showed the extent
of our misdirected results, and assured me that if we ever wanted to
raise chickens all we had to do was to establish a mushroom-bed on the
most approved principles, and in a light and sunny exposure.

Hardly, however, had the painful admission of our failure been forced
upon us, when a special Providence, as it might be called, or an
agricultural equipoise, came to our assistance. I had laid out a portion
of the garden for a plot of fall spinach, and told Patrick to give it
what is politely termed a “good dressing”--a ball costume, or regular
wedding outfit of manure. This had been planted, but gave no signs of
coming to fruition; at least Patrick assured me that he had “put
lashings of seeds into it,” although doubts began to arise whether he
had not forgotten that important step in successful agriculture. The
plants certainly did not show up, although we were now passing well into
the autumn, and I was wondering how I could turn that “dressing” to
account. One morning, as I was studying the problem, I noticed that
there had been a movement in the soil, such as I had at first hoped from
my mushroom-bed. Little mounds had erected themselves here and there, as
though the tiniest of gnomes were at work, or the spinach had collected
itself in spots for one tremendous and united effort to break through
the stubborn soil. I instantly suspected more worms, and thought of
turning the chickens from the hothouse into the garden, but before doing
so resolved to investigate. To my equal surprise and delight I found,
on uncovering one of these mounds, that they were the mud-homes of the
precious fungi, and that the mushrooms which were vainly sought in the
light of science, were the mound-builders, and had surreptitiously
transferred themselves to the garden. There are many surprises in
horticulture, and especially in mushroom propagation. Having produced a
bed of vermicular life when I was in pursuit of fungi, a reward of fungi
had equalized matters by usurping the place of a plot of spinach. I
watched those succulent eccentricities with the attention they merited.
I lifted the earth off their tender heads lest they should be pressed
back into the ground. I gloated over their creamy consistency, so
superior to the dull discoloration of the vapid and faded objects
purchased in the markets. At last my well-earned triumph was to come,
and Weeville was to be taught that, although I might not succeed
precisely as I had planned, intelligence and study were sure to be
crowned in the end. The weather was growing cooler, the season being
early, and I felt that no time was to be lost.

I proceeded promptly to make a collection of the luscious edibles as
soon as they were sufficiently matured and abundant, determined to use
them as a surprise to my friends in the city, including Weeville, who
was not to escape from my triumph now. There was no depending on the
uncertain future, for the grounds of glory were in the basket. I
telegraphed an invitation to a supper at the Manhattan Club, merely
saying I would bring a dish from my farm that I thought would astonish
my friends, and teach them that there was something in home-farming
after all. It was a big basket and well filled, that there might be no
stint, and weighed so heavily when packed that I put it on the piazza
out of the sun till Patrick should bring up the horse. The horse was
rather restive; horses always are restive till you get in, and seem to
be in a terrible hurry, and there is no end to their anxiety to be under
way till they are, when they generally become more moderate. Our horse
was peculiarly unsteady on this occasion, and Patrick had all he could
do to control him as I climbed over the wheels, for years of hard toil
in the field have made me stiff in my limbs, and slow in climbing. So we
started in some confusion and trepidation. It was only when the train
had reached Jamaica that I found that I had forgotten all about my
basket of mushrooms, and had left it calmly resting in the shadiest part
of the piazza.

The little party went off very pleasantly at the club, and I left the
guests mystified as to which special dish it was that had come from the
farm, although Weeville in his blunt fashion blurted out that he
believed “I had made another failure of it.”

That night there came a severe frost, and not only were all the
mushrooms that had been picked shrivelled up, but those in the garden
were killed. I kept that spot sacred next season, hoping that the
treasure of the earth would again present itself: but the little genii
never favored me thereafter; nothing but weeds grew the ensuing summer,
and after that we converted it to the raising of corn and cucumbers.
This was a disappointment, but I had the satisfaction of feeling that I
had raised the finest mushrooms that ever were seen, and could raise
them again, provided they took into their heads to appear as
unexpectedly as in this remarkable instance. It is a permanent pleasure
to dwell on the thought of how good they would have been, if only we had
had a chance to try them, and had not forgotten that basket, and I never
can pass that portion of the garden without a reawakening of such
sentiments, and if any visitors happen to be with me taking occasion to
point out to them my mushroom-bed.





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