Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Summer in a Garden and Calvin by Charles Dudley Warner

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

HARTFORD, January, 1880.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book of the day: