Other receptacles of a like kind we have in different stages of progress, made of the wood of sassafras, oak, beech, and hackberry, together with several irregular stumps of lichen-covered cedar. Two long limbs with several short side branches Bart has flattened on the back and arranged with picture-hooks, so that they can be bracketed against the frame of the living-room door, opposite the flower-greeting table that I have fashioned after yours. These are to be used for vines, and I shall try to keep this wide, open portal cheerfully garlanded.
The first week of my flower wardenship was a most strenuous one. I use the word reluctantly, but having tried half a dozen others, no equivalent seemed to fit. I had flowers in every room in the house, bedchambers included, using in this connection the cleanest-breathed and longest-lived blossoms possible.
Late as was the sowing, the annuals remaining in the seed bed have begun to yield a glorious crop. The fireplaces were filled with black-eyed Susans from the fields and hollyhocks from an old self-seeded colony at Opal Farm, and every available vase, bowl, and pitcher had something in it. How I laboured! I washed jars, sorted colours, and freshened still passable arrangements of the day before, and all the while I felt sure that Maria was watching me, with an amused twinkle in the tail of her eye!
One day, the middle of last week, the temperature dropped suddenly, and we fled from camp to the house for twenty-four hours, lighted the logs in the hall, and actually settled down to a serious game of whist in the evening, Maria Maxwell, The Man, Bart, and I. Yes, I know how you detest the game, but I - though I am not exactly amused by it - rather like it, for it gives occupation at once for the hands and thoughts and a cover for studying the faces and moods of friends without the reproach of staring.
By the way, The Man has hired half the house from Amos Opie - it was divided several years ago - and established helter-skelter bachelor quarters at Opal Farm. Bart has told him, over and over again, how welcome he is to stay here, under any and all conditions, while he works in the vicinity, but he says that he needs a lot of room for his traps, muddy boots, etc., while Opie, a curious Jack-at-all-trades, gives him his breakfast. I'm wondering if The Man felt that he was intruding upon Maria by staying here, or if she has any Mrs. Grundy ideas and was humpy to him, or even suggested that he would better move up the road. She is quite capable of it!
However, he seems glad enough to drop in to dinner of an evening now, and the two are so delightfully cordial and unembarrassed in their talk, neither yielding a jot to the other, in the resolute spinster and bachelor fashion, that I must conclude that his going was probably a natural happening.
This evening, while Maria and I were waiting together for the men to finish toying with their coffee cups and match-boxes and emerge refreshed from the delightful indolence of the after-dinner smoke, the odour of the flowers - intensified both by dampness and the wood-smoke - was very manifest.
"How do you like your employment?" asked Maria.
"I like the decorative and inventive part of it," I said, thinking into the fire, "but I believe" - and here I hesitated as a chain of peculiar green flame curled about the log and held my attention. "That it is quite as possible to overdo the hpuse decoration with flowers as it is to spoil a nice bit of lawn with too many fantastic flower beds!" Bart broke in quite unexpectedly, coming behind me and raising my face, one hand beneath my chin. "Isn't that what you were thinking, my Lady Lazy?"
"Truly it was, only I never meant to let it pop out so suddenly and rudely," I was forced to confess. "In one way it would seem impossible to have too many flowers about, and yet in another it is unnatural, for are not nature's unconscious effects made by using colour as a central point, a focus that draws the eye from a more sombre and soothing setting?"
"How could we enjoy a sunset that held the whole circle of the horizon at once? " chimed in The Man, suddenly, as if reading my thoughts. " Or twelve moons? " added Bart, laughing.
No, Mrs. Evan, I am convinced by so short a trial as two weeks that the art of arranging flowers for the house is first, your plan of having some to greet the guest as he enters, a bit of colour or coolness in each room where we pause to read or work or chat, and a table garnishing to render aesthetic the aspect and surroundings of the human animal at his feeding time; otherwise, except at special seasons of festivity, a surplus of flowers in the house makes for restlessness, not peace. Two days ago I had thirty-odd vases and jars filled with flowers, and I felt, as I sat down to sew, as if I was trespassing in a bazaar! Also, if there are too many jars of various flowers in one room, it is impossible that each should have its own individuality.
To-day I began my new plan. I put away a part of my jars and vases and deliberately thought out what flowers I would use before gathering them.
The day being overcast though not threatening, merely the trail, as it were, of the storm that had passed, and the den being on the north side of the house and finished in dark woodwork and furniture, I gathered nasturtiums in three shades for it, the deep crimson, orange-scarlet, and canary-yellow, but not too many - a blue-and-white jar of the Chinese "ginger" pattern for one corner of the mantel-shelf, and for the Japanese well buckets, that are suspended from the central hanging lamp by cords, a cascade of blossoms of the same colour still attached to their own fleshy vines and interspersed with the foliage. Strange as it may seem, this little bit of pottery, though of a peculiar deep pink, harmonizes wonderfully well with the barbaric nasturtium colours. There seems to be a kind of magic blended with the form and colour of these buckets, plain and severe in shape, that swing so gracefully from their silken cords, for they give grace to every flower that touches them. When filled with stiff stalks of lilies-of-the-valley or tulips, they have an equally distinguished air as when hung with the bells of columbines or garlands of flowering honeysuckles twisted about the cords climbing quite up to the lamp.