"'That reads like neither!' said Bart, sitting up with a start.
"'No, both!' replied The Man from Everywhere, opening his eyes and gazing first at Bart and then at me with a quizzical expression.
"Instantly curiosity was piqued, for compared to this most domestic of travelled bachelors, the Lady from Philadelphia was without either foresight or resources.
" 'You said that your riddle was to take three from two and have four. My plan is very simple; just add three to two and you have not only four but five! Take a vacation from business, but stay at home; do your own garden improvements with your head and a horse and cart and a pair of strong hands with a pick and spade to help you out, for you can't, with impunity, turn an office man, all of a sudden, into a day labourer. As to hewing the knoll into terraces up and down again, tear up that confounded plan. Restore the ground on nature's lines, and you'll have a better windbreak for your house and garden in winter than the best engineer could construct, besides having a retreat for hot weather where you can sit in your bones without being observed by the neighbours!'
"He spoke very slowly, letting the smoke wreaths float before his eyes, as if in them he sought the solution he was voicing.
" 'A terrace implies closely shorn turf and formal surroundings, out of keeping with this place; besides, young people with only a general maid and a useful man can't afford to be formal, - if they would, the game isn't worth the strain.' (Did I not tell you that he observes?)
" 'Let us take a look at the knoll to-morrow and see what has grown there and guess at what may be coaxed to grow, and then you can spend a couple of months during this summer and autumn searching the woods and byways for native plants for the restoration. This reservoir building is your opportunity; you can rob the river valley with impunity, for the clearing will begin in October, consequently anything you take will be in the line of a rescue. So there you are - living in the fresh air, improving your place, and saving money at both ends.'
" 'By George! It sounds well, as far as I'm concerned!' ejaculated Bart, 'but how will such a scheme give Mary a vacation from housekeeping and the everlasting three meals a day? She seldom growls, but the last month she too has confessed to feeling tired.'
" 'I think it's a perfectly fascinating idea, but how will it give Bart a "complete change, away from the sound of the beat of time," as the doctor puts it?' I asked with more eagerness than I realized, for I always dislike to be far away from home at night, and you see there has been whooping cough in the neighbourhood and there are also green apples to be reckoned with in season, even though the Infant has long ago passed safely through the mysteries of the second summer.
"The Man from Everywhere did not answer Bart at all, but, turning to me with the air of a paternal sage and pointing an authoritative forefinger, said, some-what sarcastically, I thought, 'What greater change can an American have than leisure in which to enjoy his own home? For giving Time the slip, all you have to do is to stop the clocks and follow the sun and your own inclinations. As to living out of doors, the old open-sided hay barn on the pasture side of the knoll, that you have not decided whether to rebuild or tear down, will make an excellent camp. Aside from the roof, it is as open as a hawk's nest. Don't hurry your decision; incubate the idea over Sunday, Madam Penrose, and I'll warrant by Monday you will have hatched a really tangible plan, if not a brood of them.'
"I looked at Bart, he nodded back approvingly, so I slipped out, first to see that the Infant was sleeping properly, head up, and not down under the clothes, as I had once found her, and then to walk to and fro under the budding stars for inspiration, leaving the pair to talk the men's talk that is so good and nourishing for a married man like Bart, no matter how much he cares for the Infant and me.
"Jumbled up as the garden is, the spring twilight veils all deficiencies and releases persuasive odours from every corner, while the knoll, with its gnarled trees outlined against the sky, appealed to me as never before, a thing desirable and to be restored and preserved even at a cost rather than obliterated.
"'Oh, Mrs. Evan, I wish I could tell you how The Maris plan touches me and seems made for me especially this spring. I seem fairly to have a passion for home and the bit of earth about and sky above it that is all our own. And unlike other times when I loved to have my friends come and visit me, and share and return the hospitality of neighbours, I want to be alone with myself and Bart, to spend long days under the sky and trees and have nothing come between our real selves and God, not even the ticking and dictation of a clock! There is so much that I want to tell my husband just now, that cannot be put in words, and that he may only read by intuition. When I was younger and first married, I did not feel this need so much, but now life seems to take on so much deeper a meaning! Do you understand? Ah, yes, I know you do! But I am wandering from the point, just as I yearn to wander from all the stringencies of life this summer.
"Evidently seeing me, the Rural Delivery man whistled from his cart, instead of leaving the evening mail in its wren box, as usual. I went to the gate rather reluctantly, I was so absorbed in garden dreams, took the letters from the carrier, and, as the men were still sitting in the dark, carried them up to the lamp in my own sitting room, little realizing that even at that moment I was holding the key to the 'really tangible plan' in my hand.
"The next morning. Two of the letters I received on Saturday night would have been of great importance if we were still planning to go away for a vacation, instead of hoping to stay at home for it. The first, from mother, told me that she and my brother expect to spend the summer in taking a journey, in which Alaska is to be the turning-point. She begs us to go with them and offers to give me her right-hand- reliable, Jane McElroy, who cared for me when a baby, to stay here with the Infant. The second letter was from Maria Maxwell, a distant cousin of Bart's. She has also heard of our intended vacation, - indeed the rapidity with which the news travels and the interest it causes are good proofs of our stay-at-home tendencies and the general sobriety of our six years of matrimony!