Maria and I sat and talked for some time about The Man from Everywhere, the chickens, and the location of the rose beds. She is surprisingly keen about flowers, considering that it is quite ten years since her own home in the country was broken up, but then I think this is the sort of knowledge that stays by one the longest of all. I hope that I have succeeded in convincing her that The Man is not company to be bothered about, but a comfortable family institution to come and go as he likes, to be taken easily and not too seriously.
When the moon disappeared beyond the river woods, we went to the southwest porch, and there decided that the piece of lawn where we had some uninteresting foliage beds one summer was the best place for the roses and we might possibly have a trellis across the north wall for climbers. Would you plant roses in rows or small separate beds? And how about the soil? But perhaps the plan you are sending me will explain all this.
It was more than an hour before the men returned, and, not having found Barney, Bart had signed for the poultry in order to leave the express agent free to go home, and had left word at the stable for them to send the crates up as soon as the long wagon returned from Leighton, whither it had gone with trunks.
After much discussion we decided that the fowls should be housed for the night in the small yard back of the stable, where the Infant's cow (a present from my mother) spends her nights under the shed.
"Did you find any signs of a chicken house on the place when you first came?" asked Maria, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if its location was the only thing now to be considered.
"Yes, there was one directly in the fence line at the eastern gap where we see the Three Brothers Hills," said Bart, "and I've always intended to plant a flower bed of some sort there both to hide the gap in the wall and that something may be benefited by the hen manure of decades that must have accumulated there!"
"How would the place do for the new hen-house?" pursued Maria, relentlessly.
"Not at all I" I snapped very decidedly; "it is directly in the path the cool summer winds take on their way to the dining room, and you know at best fowl houses are not bushes of lemon balm I"
"Then why not locate your bed of good-smelling things in the gap, and sup on nectar and distilled perfume," said The Man from Everywhere, soothingly.
"The very thing! and I will write Mrs. Evan at once for a list of the plants in her 'bed of sweet odours,' 1 as she calls it." Then presently, as the men sat talking, Maria having gone into the house, our summer work seemed to lie accomplished and complete before me, even as you once saw your garden of dreams before its making, - the knoll restored to its wildness, ending not too abruptly at the garden in some loose rock; the bed of sweet odours filling the gap between it and the gate of the little pasture in the rear; straight beds of hardy plants bordering the vegetable squares; the two seed beds topping the furthest bit, then a space of lawn with the straight walk of the old garden running through, to the sundial amid some beds of summer flowers at the orchard end, while the open lawn below the side porch is given up to roses!
I even crossed the fence in imagination, and took in the possibilities of Opal Farm. If only I could have some one there to talk flowers and other perplexities to, as you have Lavinia Cortright, without going through the front gate!
Two hours must have passed in pleasant chat, for the hall clock, the only one in the front part of the house we had not stopped, was chiming eleven when wheels paused before the house and the latch of the gate that swung both ways gave its double click!
"The hens have come!" I cried in dismay, the dream garden vanishing before an equally imaginary chorus of clucks and crows.
Mr. Hale himself, the stable keeper, appeared at the house corner at the same moment that Bart and The Man reached it. Consternation sat upon his features, and his voice was fairly husky as he jerked out, - "They've gone, - clean gone, - Mr. Penrose, all three crates! and the dust is so kicked up about that depot that you can't read out no tracks. Some loafers must hev seen them come and laid to get in ahead o' you, as hevin' signed the company ain't liable! What! don't you want to drive down to the sheriff's?" and Mr. Hale's lips hung loose with dismay at Bart's apparent apathy.
"Mr. Hale," said Bart, in mock heroic tones, "I thank you for your sympathy, but because some troubles fall upon us unawares, it does not follow that we should set bait for others!"
Whereupon Mr. Hale the next day remarked that he didn't know whether or not Penrose was taking action in the matter, because you could never judge a good lawyer's meanings by his speech.
However, if the hens escaped, so did we, and the next morning Bart forgot his paper until afternoon, so eager was he to test the depth of soil in the knoll.
I'm sending you a list of the wild things at hand. Will you tell me in due course which of the ferns are best for our purpose? I've noticed some of the larger ones turn quite shabby early in August.