Into the road they plunged, and after several hairbreadth lurches, for the cut is deep and in places the rocks parallel with the roadway, the turnpike was visible; then a sudden jolt, a sort of groan from the motor, and it ceased to breathe, the heavy wheels having settled in a treacherous spot not wholly free from frost, its great stomach, or whatever they call the part that holds its insides, wallowed hopelessly in the mud!
The gentlemen from the Bluffs deciding that, after all, there was no real need of going to town, as they had only moved into the country the week previous, and the auto owner challenged to a game of billiards by his friend, they returned home, while the Plotter and Evan walked back two miles to the depot and caught the third train!
At home things still sizzled. Father had an important consultation at the hospital at ten; ringing the stable call for the horses, he found that Tim, evidently forgetting the hour, had taken them, Evan's also being of the trio, to the shoer half an hour before. There was a moment's consternation and Bertel left the digging over of my hardy beds to speed down to the village on his bicycle, and when the stanhope finally came up, father was as nearly irritable as I have ever seen him, while Tim Saunders's eyes looked extra small and pointed. Evidently Bertel had said things on his own account.
Was an explosion coming at last to end twelve years of out-of-door peace, also involving my neighbour and domestic standby, Martha Corkle Saunders?
No; the two elderly men glanced at each other; there was nothing of the domineering or resentful attitude that so often renders difficult the relation of master and man - "I must be getting old and forgetful," quoth father, stepping into the gig.
"Nae, it's mair like I'm growin' deef in the nigh ear," said Tim, and without further argument they drove away.
I was still pondering upon the real inwardness of the matter, when the boys came home to luncheon. Two hungry, happy boys are a tonic at any time, and for a time I buttered bread - though alack, the real necessity for so doing has long since passed - when, on explaining father's absence from the meal, Ian said abruptly, "Jinks! grandpa's gone the day before! he told Tim Tuesday at 'leven, I heard him!"
But, as it chanced, it was a slip of tongue, not memory, and I blessed Timothy Saunders for his Scotch forbearance, which Evan insists upon calling prudence.
My own time of trial came in the early afternoon. During the more than ten years that I have been a gardener on my own account, I have naturally tried many experiments and have gradually come to the conclusion that it is a mistake to grow too many species of flowers, - better to have more of a kind and thus avoid spinki-ness. The pink family in general is one of those that has stood the test, and this year a cousin of Evan's sent me over a quantity of Margaret carnation seed from prize stock, together with that of some exhibition single Dahlias.
Late in February I sowed the seed in two of the most protected hotbeds, muffled them in mats and old carpets every night, almost turned myself into a patent ventilator in order to give the carnations enough air during that critical teething period of pinks, when the first grasslike leaves emerge from the oval seed leaves and the little plants are apt to weaken at the ground level, damp off, and disappear, thinned them out with the greatest care, and had (day before yesterday) full five hundred lusty little plants, ready to go out into the deeply dug cool bed and there wax strong according to the need of pinks before summer heat gains the upper hand.
The Dahlias had also thriven, but then they are less particular, and if they live well will put up with more snubs than will a carnation.
Weather and Bertel being propitious, I prepared to plant out my pets, though of course they must be sheltered of nights for another half month. As I was about to remove one of the props that held the sash aloft, to let in air to the Dahlias, and still constitute it a windbreak, I heard a violent whistling in our grass road north of the barn that divides the home acres from the upper pastures and Martha's chicken farm. At first I thought but little of it, as many people use it as a short cut from the back road from the Bluffs down to the village. Soon a shout came from the same direction, and going toward the wall, I saw Mr. Vandeveer struggling along, his great St. Bernard Jupiter, prize winner in a recent show and but lately released from winter confinement, bounding around and over him to such an extent that the spruce New Yorker, who had the reputation of always being on dress parade from the moment that he left bed until he returned to it in hand-embroidered pink silk pajamas, was not only covered with abundant April mud,but could hardly keep his footing.
At the moment I spied the pair, a great brindled cat, who sometimes ventures on the place, in spite of all the attentions paid her by the beagles, and who had been watching sparrows in the barnyard, sprang to the wall. Zip! There was a rush, a snarl, a hiss, and a smash! Dog and what had been cat crashed through the sash of my Dahlia frame, and in the rebound ploughed into the soft earth that held the carnations.
The next minute Mr. Vandeveer absolutely leaped over the wall, and seeing the dog, apparently in the midst of the broken glass, turned almost apoplectic, shouting, "Ah, his legs will be cut; he'll be ruined, and Julie will never forgive me! He's her best dog and cost $3000 spot cash! Get him out, somebody, why don't you?
What business have people to put such dangerous skylights near a public road?"
Meanwhile, as wrath arose in my throat and formed ugly words, Jupiter, a great friend of ours, who has had more comfortable meals in our kitchen during the winter than the careless kennel men would have wished to be known, sprang toward me with well-meant, if rough, caresses, - evidently the few scratches he had amounted to nothing. I forgave him the cat cheerfully, but my poor carnations! They do not belong to the grovelling tribe of herbs that bend and refuse to break like portu-laca, chickweed, and pusley the accursed. Fortunately, just then, a scene of the past year, which had come to me by report, floated across my vision. Our young hounds, Bob and Pete, in the heat of undisciplined rat-catching (for these dogs when young and unbroken will chase anything that runs), completely undermined the Van-deveers' mushroom bed, the door of the pit having been left open!