(Mary Penrose to Barbara Campbell)
Woodridge, September 10. Your chronicle of the Pink Family found me by myself in camp, dreaming away as vigorously as if it was a necessary and practical occupation. After all, are we sure that it is not, in a way, both of these? This season my dreams of night have been so long that they have lingered into the things of day and vice versa, and yet neither the one nor the other have whispered of idleness, but the endless hope of work.
Bart's third instalment of vacation ends to-morrow, though we shall continue to sleep out of doors so long as good weather lasts; the remaining ten days we are saving until October, when the final transplanting of trees and shrubs is to be made; and in addition to those for the knoll we have marked some shapely dogwoods, hornbeams, and tulip trees for grouping in other parts of the home acres. There are also to be had for the digging good bushes of the early pink and clammy white azalea, mountain-laurel, several of the blueberry tribe, that have white flowers in summer and glorious crimson foliage in autumn, white-flowered elder, button-bush, groundsel tree, witchhazel, bay-berry, the shining-leaved sumach, the white meadowsweet, and pink steeplebush, besides a number of cornels and viburnums suitable for shrubberies. As I glance over the list of what the river and quarry woods have yielded us, it is like reading from the catalogue of a general dealer in hardy plants, and yet I suppose hundreds of people have as much almost.at their doors, if they did but know it.
The commercial side of a matter of this kind is not the one upon which to dwell the most, except upon the principle of the old black woman who said, "Chil-lun,count yer marcies arter every spell o' pain!" and to-day, in assaying our mercies and the various advantages of our garden vacation, I computed that the trees, shrubs, ferns, herbaceous wild flowers, and vines (yes, we have included vines, of which I must tell you), if bought of the most reasonable of dealers, would have cost us at least three hundred dollars, without express or freight charges.
The reason for my being by myself at this particular moment is that Bart, mounted on solemn Romeo, has taken the Infant, astride her diminutive pony, by a long leader, for a long-promised ride up the river road, the same being the finale of the celebration of his birthday, that began shortly after daylight. The Infant, in order to be early enough to give him the first of his thirty-three kisses, came the night before, and though she has camped out with us at intervals all summer, the novelty has not worn off. She has a happy family of pets that, without being caged or in any way coerced or confined, linger about the old barn, seem to watch for her coming, and expect their daily rations, even though they do not care to be handled.
Punch and Judy, the gray squirrels of the dovecote, perch upon her shoulders and pry into the pockets of her overalls for nuts or kernels of corn, all the while keeping a bright eye upon Reddy, the setter pup, who, though he lies ever so sedately, nose between paws, they well know is not to be trusted. While as for birds, all the season we have had chipping-sparrows, catbirds, robins, and even a wood-thrush, leader of the twilight orchestra, all of whom the little witch has tempted in turn by a bark saucer spread with leaves and various grains and small fruits, from strawberries to mulberries, for which she has had a daily hunt through the Opal Farm land the season through.
Toward the English sparrow she positively declines to harden her heart, in spite of my having repeated the story of its encroachments and crimes. She listens and merely shakes her head, saying, "We 'vited them to come, didn't we, mother? When we 'vites people, we always feed 'em; 'sides, they're the only ones'll let me put them in my pocket," which is perfectly true, for having learned this warm abiding-place of much oats and cracked corn, they follow her in a flock, and a few confiding spirits allow themselves to be handled.
At the birthday dinner party, arranged by the Infant, a number of these guests were present. We must have looked a motley crew, in whose company Old King Cole himself would have been embarrassed, for Bart wore a wteath of pink asters, while a gigantic sunflower made my head-dress, and the cake, made and garnished with red and white peppermints, an American and an Irish flag, by Anastasia, was mounted firmly upon a miscellaneous mass of flowers, with a superstructure of small yellow tomatoes, parsley, young carrots, and beets, the colour of these vegetables having caught the Infant's eye.
The pony, Ginger, had a basket of second-crop clover flowers provided for him; Reddy some corned-beef hash, his favourite dish, coaxed from Anastasia; while for Punch, Judy, and as many of their children as would venture down from the rafters, the Infant had compounded a wonderful salad of mixed nuts and corn. As the Infant ordained that "the childrens shan't turn in 'til d'sert," we had the substantial part of our meal in peace; but the candles were no sooner blown out and the cake cut than Ginger left his clover to nibble the young carrots, the squirrels got into the nut dish bodily and began sorting over the nuts to find those they liked best, with such vigour that the others flew in our faces, and Reddy fell off the box upon which the Infant had balanced him with difficulty, nearly carrying the table-cloth with him, while at this moment, the feast becoming decidedly crumby, we were surrounded by the entire flock of English sparrows!
Now this is not at all what I started to tell you; quite the contrary. Please forgive this domestic excursion into the land of maternal pride and happenings. What I meant to write of was my conviction, that came through sitting on the hay rafters and looking down upon the garden, that as a beautiful painting is improved by proper framing, so should the garden be enclosed at different points by frames, to focus the eye upon some central object.