April 30. Gray dawn, into which father and Evan vanished with their fishing rods; then sunrise, curtained by a slant of rain, during which the birds sang on with undamped ardour, a catbird making his debut for the season as soloist.
It must not be thought that I was up and out at dawn. At twenty I did so frequently, at thirty sometimes, now at thirty-five I can do it perfectly well, if necessary, otherwise, save at the change of seasons, to keep in touch with earth and sky, I raise myself comfortably, elbow on pillow, and through the window scan garden, wild walk, and the old orchard at leisure, and then let my arm slip and the impression deepen through the magic of one more chance for dreams.
9 o'clock. The warm throb of spring in the earth, rising in a potent mist, sap pervaded and tangible, having a clinging, unctuous softness like the touch of unfolding beech leaves, lured me out to finish the transplanting of the pansies among the hardy roses, while the first brown thrasher, high in the bare top of an ash, eyes fixed on the sky, proclaimed with many turns and changes the exact spot where he did not intend to locate his nest. This is an early spring, of a truth.
"The magnolias below at the road-bend."
Presently pale sunbeams thread the mist, gathering colour as they filter through the pollen-meshed catkins of the black birches; an oriole bugling in the Yulan magnolias below at the road-bend, fire amid snow; a high-hole laughing his courtship in the old orchard.
Then Lavinia Cortright coming up to exchange Dahlia bulbs and discuss annuals and aster bugs. She and Martin browse about the country, visiting from door to door like veritable natives, while their garden, at first so prim and genteel, like one of Lavinia's own frocks, has broken bounds and taken on brocade, embroidery, and all sorts of lace frills, overflowed the south meadow, and only pauses at the stile in the wall of our old crab-apple orchard, rivalling in beauty and refined attraction any garden at the Bluffs. Martin's purse is fuller than of yore, owing to the rise in Whirlpool real estate, and nothing is too good for Lavinia's garden. Even more, he has of late let the dust rest peacefully on human genealogy and is collecting quaint garden books and herbals, flower catalogues and lists, with the solemn intent of writing a book on Historic Flowers. At least so he declares; but when Lavinia is in the garden, there too is Martin. To-day, however, he joined my men before noon at the lower brook. Fancy a house-reared man a convert to fishing when past threescore! Evan insists that it is because, being above all things consistent, he wishes to appear at home in the company of father's cherished collection of Walton's and other fishing books. Father says, "Nonsense! no man can help liking to fish!"
Toward evening came home a creel lined with bog moss; within, a rainbow glimmer of brook trout, a posy of shad-bush, marsh marigolds, anemones, and rosy spring beauties from the river woods, - with three cheerfully tired men, who gathered by the den hearth fire with coffee cup and pipe, inside an admiring but sleepy circle of beagle hounds, who had run free the livelong day and who could doubtless impart the latest rabbit news with thrilling detail. All this and much more made up to-day, one of red letters.
Yesterday, Monday, was quite different, and if not absolutely black, was decidedly slate coloured. It is only when some one of the household is positively ill that the record must be set down in black characters, for what else really counts? Why is it that the city folk persist in judging all rural days alike, that is until they have once really lived in the country, not merely boarded and tried to kill time and their own digestions at one and the same moment.
Such exceptional days as yesterday should only be chronicled now and then to give an added halo to happy to-morrows, - disagreeables are remembered quite long enough by perverse human nature.
Yesterday began with the pipe from the water-back bursting, thereby doing away with hot water for shaving and the range fire at the same time. The coffee resented hurry, and the contact with an oil stove developed the peanutty side of its disposition, something that is latent in the best and most equable of brands.
The spring timetable having changed at midnight Sunday, unobserved by Evan, he missed the early train, which it was especially important that he should take. Three other men found themselves in the same predicament, two being Bluffers and one a Plotter. (These are the names given hereabout to our two colonies of non-natives. The Bluffers are the people of the Bluffs, who always drive to the station; the Plotters, living on a pretty tract of land near the village that was "plotted" into house-lots a few years ago, have the usual newcomer's hallucination about making money from raising chickens, and always walk.)
After a hasty consultation, one of the Bluffers telephoned for his automobile and invited the others to make the trip to town with him. In order to reach the north turnpike that runs fairly straight to the city, the chauffeur, a novice in local byways, proposed to take a short cut through our wood road, instead of wheeling into the pike below Wakeleigh.
This wood road holds the frost very late, in spite of an innocent appearance to the contrary; this fact Evan stated tersely. Would a chauffeur of the Bluffs listen to advice from a man living halfway down the hill, who not only was autoless but frequently walked to the station, and therefore to be classed with the Plotters? Certainly not; while at the same moment the owner of the car decided the matter by pulling out his watch and murmuring to his neighbour something about an important committee meeting, and it being the one day in the month when time meant money!