The Man from Everywhere, who prowls about even more than usual, using Bart's den for his own meanwhile, says that the setter will be ruined, for the hound will be sure to trail him on fox and rabbit, and that in consequence he will never after keep true to birds, but somehow we do not care, this dog-friendship between the stranger and the pup is so interesting.
By the way, we have financially persuaded Opie to leave his straggling meadow, that carpets our vista to the river, for a wild garden this summer, instead of selling it as "standing grass," which the purchasers had usually mown carelessly and tossed into poor-grade hay, giving a pittance in exchange that went for taxes.
So many flowers and vines have sprung up under shelter of the tumble-down fences that I was very anxious to see what pictures would paint themselves if the canvas, colour, and brushes were left free for the season through. Already we have had our money's worth, so that everything beyond will be an extra dividend.
The bit of marshy ground has been for weeks a lake of iris, its curving brink foamed with meadow rue and Osmundas that have all the dignity of palms.
Now all the pasture edge is set with wild roses and wax-white blueberry flowers. Sundrops are grouped here and there, with yellow thistles; the native sweet-brier arches over gray boulders that are tumbled together like the relic of some old dwelling; and the purple red calopogon of the orchid tribe adds a new colour to the tapestry, the cross-stitch filling being all of field daisies. Truly this old farm is a well-nigh perfect wild garden, the strawberries dyeing the undergrass red, and the hedges bound together with grape-vines. It does not need rescuing, but letting alone, to be the delight of every one who wishes to enjoy.
On being approached as to his future plans, Amos Opie merely sets his lips, brings his finger-tips together, and says, "I'm open to offers, but I'm not bound to set a price or hurry my decisions."
Meanwhile I am living in a double tremor, of delight at the present and fear lest some one may snap up the place and give us what the comic paper called a Queen Mary Anne cottage and a stiff lawn surrrounded by a gas-pipe fence to gaze upon. O for a pair of neighbours who would join us in comfortable vagabondage, leave the white birches to frame the meadows and the wild flowers in the grass!
June 25. We have been having some astonishing thunder-storms of nights lately, and I must say that upon one occasion I fled to the house. Two nights ago, however, the sun set in an even sky of lead, there was no wind, no grumblings of thunder. We had passed a a very active day and finished placing the stakes on the knoll in the locations to be occupied by shrubs and trees, all numbered according to the tagged specimens over in the reservoir woods.
The Man from Everywhere suggested this system, an adaptation, he says, from the usual one of numbering stones for a bit of masonry. It will prevent confusion, for the perspective will be different when the leaves have fallen, and as we lift the bushes, each one will go to its place, and we shall not lose a year's growth, or perhaps the shrub itself, by a second moving. Our one serious handicap is the lack of a pair of extra hands, in this work as in the making of the rose bed, for our transplanting has developed upon a wholesale plan. Barney does not approve of our passion for the wild; besides, between potatoes and corn to hoe, celery seedlings to have their first transplanting, vegetables to pick, turf grass to mow, and edges to keep trim, with a horse and cow to tend in addition, nothing more can be expected of him.
I was half dozing, half listening, as usual, to the various little night sounds that constantly pique my curiosity, for no matter how long you may have lived in the country you are not wholly in touch with it until you have slept at least a few nights in the open, - when rain began to fall softly, an even, persevering, growing rain, entirely different from the lashing thunder-showers, and though making but half the fuss, was doubly penetrating. Thinking how good it was for the ferns, and venturing remarks to Bart about them, which, however, fell on sleep-deaf ears, I made sure that the pup was in his chosen place by my cot and drifted away to shadow land, glad that something more substantial than boughs covered me!
I do not know how long it was before I wakened, but the first sound that formulated itself was the baying of Dave, the hound, from the well-house porch, where he slept when his evening rambles kept him out until after Amos Opie had gone to bed. Having freed his mind, Dave presently stopped, but other nearer-by sounds made me again on the alert.
The rain, that was falling with increasing power, held one key; the drip from the eaves and the irregular gush from a broken waterspout played separate tunes. I am well used to the night-time bravado of mice, who fight duels and sometimes pull shoes about, of the pranks of squirrels and other little wood beasts about the floor, but the noise that made me sit up in the cot and reach over until I could clutch Bart by the arm belonged to neither of these. There was a swishing sound, as of water being wrung from something and dropping on the floor, and then a human exclamation, blended of a sigh, a wheeze, and a cough, at which the pup wakened with a growl entirely out of proportion to his age and inexperience.
"I wonder, now, is that a dog or only uts growl ter sind me back in the wet fer luv av the laugh at me?" chirped a voice as hoarse as a buttery brogue would allow it to be.
My clutch had brought Bart to himself instantly, and at the words he turned the electric flashlight, that lodged under his pillow, full in the direction of the sound, where it developed a strange picture and printed it clearly on the opposite wall.
In the middle of the circle of light was a little barefoot man, in trousers and shirt; a pair of sodden shoes lay at different angles where they had been kicked off, probably making the sound that had wakened me, and at the moment of the flash he was occupied in the wringing out of a coat that seemed strangely long for the short frame upon which it had hung. The face turned toward us was unmistakably Irish, comical even, entirely unalarming, and with the expression, blended of terror and doubt, that it now wore, he might have slipped from the pages of a volume of Lever that lay face down on the table. The nose turned up at the tip, as if asking questions of the eyes, that hid themselves between the half-shut lids in order to avoid answering. The skin was tanned, and yet you had a certain conviction that minus the tan the man would be very pale, while the iron-gray hair that topped the head crept down to form small mutton-chop whiskers and an Old Country throat thatch that was barely half an inch long.