We chose byways, and only crossed the macadamized highroad, that haunt of automobiles, once, and after an hour's sauntering crossed the river and drove into the woodlots to the north of it, now the property of the water company, who have already posted warning to trespassers. We straightway began to trespass, seeing The Man from Everywhere on horseback coming down to meet us.
Without an apparent change of soil or altitude, the scenery at once grew more bold and dramatic.
"What is it?" I said. "We have been driving through lanes lined by dogwood and yet that little tree below and the scrubby bit of hillside make a more perfect picture than any we have seen!"
Bart, who had left the buggy and was walking beside it with The Man, who had dismounted and led his nag, turned and looked backward, but did not answer.
The Pictorial Value of Evergreens.
"It is the evergreens that give it the quality," said The Man, " even though they are only those stiff little Noah's-ark cedars. I notice it far and wide, wherever I go; a landscape is never monotonous so long as there is a pine, spruce, hemlock, or bit of a cedar to bind it together. I believe that is why I am never content for long in the land of palms!"
"I love evergreens in winter, but I've never thought much about them in the growing leafy season; they seem unimportant then," I said.
"Unimportant or not, they are still there. Look at that wall of trees rising across the river! Every conceivable tint of green is there, besides shades of pink and lavender in leaf case and catkin, but what dominates and translates the whole? The great hemlocks on the crest and the dark pointed cedars off on the horizon where the woodland thins toward the pastures. Whether you separate them or not, they are there. People are only just beginning to understand the value of evergreens in their home gardens, both as windbreaks and backgrounds. No, I don't mean stark, isolated specimens, stiff as Christmas trees. You have a magnificent chance to use them on that knoll of yours that you are going to restore!"
As he was speaking I thought Bart paid very scant attention, but following his pointing finger I at once saw what had absorbed him. On the opposite side of the river, extending into the brush lots, was a knoll the size and counterpart of ours, even in the way that it lay by the compass, only this was untouched, as nature planned it, and the model for our restoration.
"Do you clear the land as far back as this?" Bart asked of The Man, eagerly.
"Yes, not for the sake of the land, but for the boulders and loose rock on those ledges; all the rock hereabout will be little enough for our masonry I"
"Then," said Bart, "I'm going to transplant the growth on this knoll, root and branch, herb and shrub, moss and fern, to our own, if it takes me until Christmas I It isn't often that a man finds an illustrated plan with all the materials for carrying it out under his hand for merely the taking. There are enough young hemlocks up there to windbreak our whole garden. The thing I'm not sure about is just when it will do to begin the transplanting. Meanwhile I'll make a list of the plants we know that we can add to as others develop and blossom."
So he set to work on his list then and there, The Man from Everywhere helping, because he can name a plant from its leaves or even the twigs.
I said that I would write to you at once and ask you or Evan to tell us about the best way to transplant all the wild things, except woody shrubs and trees, because we know it's best to wait for those until leaf fall. But as it turns out, I've waited six days - oh 1 such aggravating days when there is so much to decide and do I
That afternoon The Man rode home with us, as a matter of course, we quite forgetting that instead of late dinner, as usual, the meal would be tea, as the Infant and Maria Maxwell are to dine now at one! As a shower threatened, it seemed much more natural for us to turn into the house than the camp, and before I knew how it happened I was sitting at the head of my own table serving soup instead of tea I I dared not look at Maria, but as the meal was nearly ended she remarked demurely, looking out of the west window to where the shower was passing off slantwise, leaving a glorious sunset trail in its wake, " Wouldn't you like to have your coffee in camp, as the rain forced you to take dinner indoors?" by which I knew that Maria would not allow us to lose sight of our outdoor intentions, Bart laughed, and The Man, gazing around the table innocently said, "Oh, has it begun, and am I intruding and breaking up plans? Why didn't you tell me?"
So we went out through the sweet-smelling twilight, or rather the glow that comes before it, and as we idly sipped the coffee, lo and behold, the old farm lay before us - a dream picture painted by the twilight! The little window-panes, iridescent with age and bulged into odd shapes by yielding sashes, caught the sunset hues and turned to fire opals; the light mist rising over the green meadows where the flowers now slept with heads bent and eyes closed lent the green and pearl tints of those mysterious gems to which drops of rain or dew strung everywhere made diamond settings.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Bart, "how beautiful the Opie farm looks to-night! If a real-estate agent could only get a photograph of what we see, we should soon have a neighbour to rescue the place!"
"You mustn't call it the Opie farm any more; it is Opal Farm from to-night!" I cried, "and no one shall buy it unless they promise to leave in the old windows and let the meadow and crab orchard stay as they are, besides giving me right of way through it quite down to the river woods!"
But to get back by this circuitous route to the threatened danger with which I opened this letter -