"Maria is a very bright, adaptable woman of about thirty-five, who teaches music in the New York public schools, is alone in the world, and manages to keep an attractive home in a mere scrap of a flat. When she comes to visit us, we like her as well the last day of her stay as the first, which fact speaks volumes for heir character! Though forced by circumstances to live in town, she has a deep love for the country, and wishes, if we intend to leave the house open, to come and care for it in our absence, even offering to cook for herself if we do not care to have the expense of a maid, saying, 'to cook a real meal, with a real fire instead of gas, will be a great and refreshing change for me, so you need feel under no obligation whatever!'
"Thinking of the pity of wasting such tempting offers as these, I went to church with my body only, my mind staying outside under a horse-chestnut tree, and instead of listening as I should, I looked sidewise out of the window at my double in the shade and wondered if, after all, the stay-at-home vacation was not a wild scheme. There being a Puritan streak in me, via my father, I sometimes question the right of what I wish to do simply because I like to do it.
"At dinner I was so grumpy, answering in monosyllables, that sensitive Bart looked anxious, and as if he thought I was disappointed at the possible turn of affairs, but The Man from Everywhere laughed, saying, 'Let her alone; she is not through incubating the plan, and you know the best of setting hens merely cluck and growl when disturbed.'
"Immediately after dinner Bart and The Man went for a walk up the river valley, and I, going to the living room, seated myself by the window, where I could watch the Infant playing on the gravel outside, it being the afternoon out of both the general maid Anastasia and Barney the man, between whom I suspect matrimonial intentions.
" The singing of the birds, the hum of bees in the opening lilacs, and the garden fragrance blending with the Infant's prattle, as she babbled to her dolls, floated through the open door and made me drowsy, and I turned from the light toward the now empty fireplace.
"A snap! and the air seemed suddenly exhilarating! Was it an electric spark from the telephone? No, simply the clarifying of the thoughts that had been puzzling me.
"Maria Maxwell shall come during our vacations, - at that moment I decided to separate the time into several periods, - she shall take entire charge of all within doors.
"Bart and I will divide off a portion of the old hay-barn with screens, and camp out there (unless in case of very bad thunder or one of the cold July storms that we sometimes have). Anastasia shall serve us a very simple hot dinner at noon in the summer kitchen, and keep a supply of cooked food in the pantry, from which we can arrange our breakfasts and suppers in the opposite side of the barn from our sleeping place, and there we can have a table, chairs, and a little oil stove for making tea and coffee.
"Maria, besides attending to domestic details, must also inspect the mail and only show us letters when absolutely necessary, as well as to say 'not at home,' with the impenetrable New York butler manner to every one who calls.
"Thus Bart and I will be equally free without the rending of heart strings - free to love and enjoy home from without, for it is really strange when one comes to think of it, we learn of the outside world by looking out the windows, but we so seldom have time to stand in another view-point and look in. Thus it occurred to me, instead of taking one long vacation, we can break the time into three or four in order to follow the garden seasons and the work they suggest. A bit at the end of May for both planning and locating the spring wild flowers before they have wholly shed their petals, and so on through the season, ending in October by the transplanting of trees and shrubs that we have marked and in setting out the hardy roses, for which we shall have made a garden according to the plan that Aunt Lavinia says is to be among the early Garden, You, and I records.
"May 15. Maria Maxwell has joyfully agreed to come the twenty-first, having obtained a substitute for her final week of teaching, as well as rented her 'parlor car,' as she calls her flat, to a couple of students who come from the South for change of air and to attend summer school at Columbia College. It seems that many people look upon New York as a summer watering place. Strange that a difference in climate can be merely a matter of point of view.
"Now that we have decided to camp out at home, we are beginning to realize the positive economy of the arrangement, for as we are not going among people, - neither are they coming to us, - we shall need no new clothes!
"We, a pair of natural spendthrifts, are actually turning miserly for the garden's sake.
"Last night Bart went to the attic with a lantern and dragged from obscurity two frightful misfit suits of the first bicycle cuff-on-the-pants period, that were ripening in the camphor chest for future missionary purposes, announcing that these, together with some flannel shirts, would be his summer outfit, while this morning I went into town and did battle at a sale of substantial, dollar shirt-waists, and turning my back upon all the fascinations of little girls' frills and furbelows, bought stout gingham for aprons and overalls, into which I shall presently pop the Infant, and thus save both stitches and laundry work.
" Mother has sent a note expressing her pleasure in our plan and enclosing a cheque for $50, suggesting that it should be put into a birthday rose bed - my birthday is in two days - in miniature like the old garden at her home on the north Virginia border. I'm sending you the list of such roses as she remembered that were in it, but I'm sure many, like Gloire de Dijon, would be winter killed here. Will you revise the list for me?
"Bart has arranged to shut off the back hall and stairs, so that when we wish, we can get to our indoor bedroom and bath at any hour without going through the house or disturbing its routine.
"Anastasia has been heard to express doubts as to our entire sanity confidentially to Barney, on his return from the removal of two cots from the attic to the part of the barn enclosed by some old piazza screens, thereby publicly declaring our intention of sleeping out in all seasonable weather.
"May 20. The Blakes, next door below, are going to Europe, and have offered us their comfortable family horse, the buggy, and a light-work wagon, if we will feed, shoe, pet, and otherwise care for him (his name, it seems, is Romeo). Could anything be more in keeping with both our desires and needs?
" To-day, half as a joke, I've sent out P. P. C. cards to all our formal friends in the county. Bart frowns, saying that they may be taken seriously and produce like results 1
"May 22. Maria has arrived, taken possession of the market-book, housekeeping box, and had a satisfactory conference with Anastasia.
"Hurrah for Liberty and outdoors! It begins tomorrow. You may label it Their Garden Vacation, and admit it to the records of The Garden, You, and I, at your own risk and peril; but as you say that if you are to boil down the practical part of your garden-boke experiences for the benefit of Aunt Lavinia and me and I must send you my summer doings, I shall take this way of accomplishing it, at intervals, the only regular task, if gossiping to you can be so called, that I shall set myself this summer.
"A new moon to-night. Will it prove a second honeymoon, think you, or end in a total eclipse of our venture? I'm poppy sleepy!
"May 23. 10 a.m. (A postal.) Starting on vacation; stopped bedroom clock and put away watches last night, and so overslept. It seems quite easy to get away from Time! Please tell me what annuals I can plant as late in the season as this, while we are locating the rose bed.