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The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 1 by Charles Dudley Warner

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The Complete Writings of Charles Dudley Warner Volume 1




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

NOOK FARM, HARTFORD, October, 1870

C. D. W.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"James, I suppose."

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

"We did."

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

and reconnoitered from behind the blinds.

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

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

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

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

Not exactly,

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

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

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

and cried,--

"Halloo, there! What are you doing?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But these are private grounds."

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Don't be foolish."

And now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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