But this is not all. Amos declines to allow Larry to lodge in the house for another night, attributing the ducking to him, in spite of the fact that he was at least six miles away. In this both Bart and I think Amos right, for Larry's eye had a most inquiring expression on his return, and I detected him slipping into the old barn at the first opportunity to see if the tank was empty, while Bart says that he has been talking to himself in a gleeful mood all the morning, and so he has decided that, as Larry has worked long enough to justify it, he will buy him a prepaid passage home to his daughter and see him off personally by to-morrow's steamer. As Amos will have none of Larry, to send the man into village lodgings would probably hasten his downfall. I did hope to keep him until autumn, for he has taught me not a little gardening in a genial and irresponsible sort of way, and the rose garden is laid out in a manner that would do credit to a trained man, Larry having the rare combination of seeing a straight line and yet being able to turn a graceful curve. But even if Amos had been willing to allow him to sleep over one of his attacks, it would have been a dubious example for Barney, and in spite of the comfort he has been I now fully realize the limitations of so many of his race, at once witty, warm-hearted, soothing, and impossible; it is difficult not to believe what they say, even when you know they are lying, and this condition is equally demoralizing both to master and man.
August 11. Anastasia wept behind her apron when Larry left, but Barney assumed a cheerfulness and interest in his work that he has never shown before. Bart says that in spite of a discrepancy of twenty-odd years he thinks that Larry, by his fund of stories and really wonderful jig dancing, was diverting Anastasia's thoughts, and the comfortable savings attached, from Barney, who, though doubtless a sober man and far more durable in many ways, is much less interesting an object for the daily contemplation of an emotional Irishwoman.
While Bart was in town yesterday seeing Larry started on his journey, Maria and I, with the Infant tucked between in the buggy, went for an outing under the gentle guidance of Romeo, who through constant practice has become the most expert standing horse in the county. I'm only afraid that his owners on their return may not appreciate this accomplish-s ment. Being on what Maria calls "a hunt for antiques," we drove in the direction of Newham village, which you know is away from railroads and has any number of old-time farms. We were not looking for spinning-wheels and andirons, but old-fashioned roses and peonies, especially the early double deep crimson variety that looks like a great Jack rose. We located a number of these in June and promised to return for our plunder in due season. Last year I bought some peony roots in August, and they throve so well, blooming this spring, that I think it is the best time for moving them.
In one of the houses where we bought pink-and-white peonies the woman said she had a bed, as big as the barn-door, of "June" lilies, and that, as they were going to build a hen-house next autumn on the spot where they grew, she was going to lift some into one of her raised mounds (an awful construction, being a cross between a gigantic dirt pie and a grave), and said that I might have all the spare lily bulbs that I wanted if I would give her what she termed a "hatching" of gladiolus bulbs. Just at present the lilies have entirely disappeared, and nothing but bare earth is visible, but I think from the description that they must be the lovely Madonna lilies of grandmother's Virginia garden that made a procession from the tea-house quite down to the rose garden, like a bevy of slender young girls in confirmation array. If so, they do not take kindly to handling, and I have an indistinct remembrance of some rather unusual time of year when it must be done if necessary.
Please let me know about this, for I can be of little use in the moving of the evergreens and I want some-thing to potter about in the garden. There are two places for a lily bed, but I am uncertain which is best until I hear from you. Either will have to be thoroughly renovated in the matter of soil, so that I am anxious to start upon the right basis. One of these spots is in full sun, with a slope toward the orchard; in the other the sun is cut off after one o'clock, though there are no overhanging branches; there is also a third place, a squashy spot down in the bend of the old wall.
On our return, toward evening, we met The Man from Everywhere driving down from the reservoir ground toward Opal Farm, a pink-cheeked young fellow of about twenty sharing the road wagon with him. As he has again been away for a few days, we drew up to exchange greetings and The Man said, rather aside, "I'm almost sorry that Larry fell from the skies to help out your gardening, for here is a young German who has come from a distance, with a note from a man I know well, applying for work at the quarry; but there will be nothing suitable for him there for several months, for he's rather above the average. He would have done very well for you, as, though he speaks little English, I make out that his father was an under-forester in the fatherland. As it is, I'm taking him to the farm with me for the night and will try to think of how I may help him on in the morning."
Instantly both Maria and I began to tell of Larry's defection in different keys, the young man meanwhile keeping up a deferential and most astonishing bowing and smiling.
Having secured the seal of Bart's approval, Meyer has been engaged, and after to-day we must accustom our ears to a change from Larry's rich brogue to the juicy explosiveness of German; and worse yet, I must rack my brains for the mostly forgotten dialect of the schoolroom language that is learned with such pain and so quickly forgotten.
I'm wondering very much about The Man's sudden return to Opal Farm and if it will interfere with Maria Maxwell's daily care of Amos Opie; for, as it turns out, he is really ill, the chill resulting from Larry's prank having been the final straw, and no suitable woman having been found, who has volunteered to tend the old man in the emergency, but Maria! That is, to the extent of taking him food and giving him medicines, for though in pain he is able to sit in an easy-chair. Maria certainly is capable, but so stupid about The Man. However, as the farm-house is now arranged as two dwellings, with the connecting door opening in the back hall and usually kept locked on Amos's side, she cannot possibly feel that she is putting herself in The Man's way!