After we had passed down a village street a quarter of a mile long, bordered on either side by floral combinations of this description, the sight began to pall, and I wondered how it was possible that any flowers well watered and cared for could produce such a feeling of positive aversion as well as eye-strained fatigue; also, if this was all that the Cortrights had driven us many miles to see, when it was so much more interesting to lounge on either of the porches of their own cottage, the one commanding the sea and the other the sand garden, the low dunes, and the marsh meadows.
"It is only half a mile farther on," said Aunt La-vinia, quick to feel that we were becoming bored, without our having apparently given any sign to that effect.
"It! What is it?" asked Bart, while I, without shame it is confessed, having a ravenous appetite, through outdoor living, hoped that it was some quaint and neat little inn that "refreshed travellers," as it was expressed in old-time wording.
"How singular!" ejaculated Aunt Lavinia; "I thought I told you last night when we were in the garden - well, it must have been in a dream instead. It is the garden of Mrs. Marchant, wholly of fragrant things; it is on the little cross-road, beyond that strip of woods up there," and she waved toward a slight rise in the land that was regarded as a hill of considerable importance in this flat country.
"It does not contain.merely a single bed of sweet odours like Barbara's and mine, but is a garden an acre in extent, where everything admitted has fra-grance, either in flower or leaf. We chanced upon it quite by accident, Martin and I, when driving ourselves down from Oaklands, across country, as it were, to Gray Rocks, by keeping to shady lanes, byways, and pent roads, where it was often necessary to take down bars and sometimes verge on trespassing by going through farmyards in order to continue our way.
"After traversing a wood road of unusual beauty, where everything broken and unsightly had been carefully removed that ferns and wild shrubs might have full chance of life, we came suddenly upon a white picket gate covered by an arched trellis, beyond which in the vista could be seen a modest house of the real colonial time, set in the midst of a garden.
"At once we realized the fact that the lane was also a part of the garden in that it was evidently the daily walk of some one who loved nature, and we looked about for a way of retracing our steps. At the same moment two female figures approached the gate from the other side. At the distance at which we were I could only see that one was tall and slender, was diressed all in pure white, and crowned by a mass of hair to match, while the other woman was short and stocky, and the way in which she opened the gate and held it back told that whatever her age might be she was an attendant, though probably an intimate one.
"In another moment they discovered us, and as Martin alighted from the vehicle to apologize for our intrusion the tall figure immediately retreated to the garden, so quickly and without apparent motion that we were both startled, for the way of moving is peculiar to those whose feet do not really tread the earth after the manner of their fellows; and before we had quite recovered ourselves the stout woman had advanced and we saw by the pleasant smile her round face wore that she was not aggrieved at the intrusion but seemed pleased to meet human beings in that out-of-the-way place rather than rabbits, many of which had scampered away as we came down the lane.
"Martin explained our dilemma and asked if we might gain the highway without retracing our steps. The woman hesitated a moment, and then said, 'If you come through the gate and turn sharp to the right, you can go out across the apple orchard by taking down a single set of bars, only you'll have to lead your horse, sir, for the trees are set thick and are heavy laden. I'd let you cross the bit of grass to the drive by the back gate yonder but that it would grieve Mrs. Marchant to see the turf so much as pressed with a wheel; she'd feel and know it somehow, even if she didn't see it.'
"'Mrs. Marchant! Not Mrs. Chester Marchant?' cried Martin, while the far-away echo of something recalled by the name troubled the ears of my memory.
"'Yes, sir, the very same! Did you know Dr. Marchant, sir? The minute I laid eyes on you two I thought you were of her kind!' replied the woman, pointing backward over her shoulder and settling herself against the shaft and side of Brown Tom, the horse, as if expecting and making ready for a comfortable chat.
"As she stood thus I could take a full look at her without intrusiveness. Apparently well over sixty years old, and her face lines telling of many troubles, U yet she had not a gray hair in her head and her poise was of an independent landowner rather than an occupier of another's home. I also saw at a glance that whatever her present position might be, she had not been born in service, but was probably a native of local importance, who, for some reason perfectly satisfactory to herself, was 'accommodating.'
"'Dr. Marchant, Dr. Russell, and I were college mates,' said Martin, briefly, 'and after he and his son died so suddenly I was told that his widow was mentally ill and that none could see her, and later that she had died, or else the wording was so that I inferred as much/ and the very recollection seemed to set Martin dreaming. And I did not wonder, for there had never been a more brilliant and devoted couple than Abbie and Chester Marchant, and I still remember the shock of it when word came that both father and son had been killed by the same runaway accident, though it was nearly twenty years ago.
"'She was ill, sir, was Mrs. Marchant; too ill to see anybody. For a long time she wouldn't believe that the accident had happened, and when she really sensed it, she was as good as dead for nigh five years. One day some of her people came to me - 'twas the year after my own husband died - and asked if I would take a lady and her nurse here to live with me for the summer. They told me of her sickness and how she was always talking of some cottage in a garden of sweet-smelling flowers where she had lived one happy summer with her husband and her boy, and they placed the house as mine.