(Barbara Campbell to Mary Penrose)
Oaklands, September 1. So you have been away and in going discovered the possibilities of growing certain pinks and carnations out-of-doors that, in America at least, are usually considered the winter specialties of a cool greenhouse!
We too have been afield somewhat, having but now returned from a driving trip of ten days, nicely timed as to gardens and resting-places until the last night, when, making a false turn, ten o'clock found us we did not know where and with no prospect of getting our bearings.
We had ample provisions for supper with us, including two bottles of ginger ale; no one knew that we were lost but ourselves and no one was expecting us anywhere, as we travel quite con amore on these little near-by journeys of ours. The August moon was big and hot and late in rising; there was a rick of old hay in a clean-looking field by the roadside that had evidently been used as winter fodder for young cattle, for what remained of it was nibbled about the base, leaving a protruding, umbrella-like thatch, not very substantial, but sufficient shelter for a still night. Then and there we decided to play gypsy and camp out, literally under the sky. Evan unharnessed the horse, watered him at a convenient roadside puddle, and tethered him at the rear of the stack, where he could nibble the hay, but not us! Then spreading the horse-blanket on some loose hay for a bed, with the well-tufted seat of the buggy for a pillow, and utilizing the lap robe for a cover against dew, we fell heavily asleep, though I had all the time a half-conscious feeling as if little creatures were scrambling about in the hay beneath the blanket and occasionally brushing my face or ears with a batlike wing, tiny paws, or whisking tail. When I awoke, and of course immediately stirred up Evan, the moon was low on the opposite side of the stack, the stars were hidden, and there was a dull red glow among the heavy clouds of the eastern horizon like the reflection of a distant fire, while an owl hooted close by from a tree and then flew with a lurch across the meadow, evidently to the destruction of some small creature, for a squeal accompanied the swoop. A mysterious thing, this flight of the owl: the wings did not flap, there was no sound, merely the consciousness of displaced air.
We were not, as it afterward proved, ten miles from home, and yet, as far as trace of humanity was concerned, we might have been the only created man and woman.
Do you remember the old gypsy song? - Ben Jon-son's, I think -
" The owl is abroad, the bat, the toad, And so is the cat-a-mountain; The ant and the mole both sit in a hole, And frog peeps out o' the fountain;
The dogs they bay and the timbrels play And the spindle now is turning; The moon it is red, and the stars are fled But all the sky is a-burning."
But we were still more remote, for of beaters of timbrels and turners of spindles were there none!
Your last chronicle interested us all. In the first place father remembers Mrs. Marchant perfectly, for he and the doctor used to exchange visits constantly during that long-ago summer when they lived on the old Herb Farm at Coningsby. Father had heard that she was hopelessly deranged, but nothing further, and the fact that she is living within driving distance in the midst of her garden of fragrance is a striking illustration both of the littleness of the earth and the social remoteness of its inhabitants.
Father says that Mrs. Marchant was always a very intellectual woman, and he remembers that in the old days she had almost a passion for fragrant flowers, and once wrote an essay upon the psychology of perfumes that attracted some attention in the medical journal in which it was published by her husband. That the perfume of flowers should now have drawn the shattered fragments of her mind together for their comfort and given her the foretaste of immortality, by the sign of the consciousness of personal presence and peace, is beautiful indeed.
Your declaration that henceforth one garden is not enough for your ambition, but that you crave several, amuses me greatly. For a mere novice I must say that you are making strides in seven-league horticultural boots, wherein you have arrived at the heart of the matter, viz.: - one may grow many beautiful and satisfactory flowers in a mixed garden such as falls to the lot of the average woman sufficiently lucky to own a garden at all, but to develop the best possibilities of any one family, like the rose, carnation, or lily, that is a bit whimsical about food and lodging, each one must have a garden of its own, so to speak, which, for the amateur, may be made to read as a special bed in a special location, and not necessarily a vast area.
This need is always recognized in the English garden books, and the chapter headings, The Rose Garden, Hardy Garden, - Wall Garden, - Lily Garden, Alpine Garden, etc., lead one at first sight to think that it is a great estate alone that can be so treated; but it is merely a horticultural protest, born of long experience, against mixing races to their mutual hurt, and this precaution, together with the climate, makes of all England a gardener's paradise!
What you say of the expansiveness of the list of fragrant flowers and leaves is also true, for taken in the literal sense there are really few plants without an individual odour of some sort in bark, leaf, or flower usually sufficient to identify them. In a recent book giving what purports to be a list of fragrant flowers and leaves, the chrysanthemum is included, as it gives out an aromatic perfume from its leaves! This is true, but so also does the garden marigold, and yet we should not include either among fragrant leaves in the real sense.
Hence to make the right selection of plants for the bed of sweet odours it is best, as in the case of choosing annuals, to adhere to a few tried and true worthies.