This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Dear Editor: Allow me to say a few words to your readers of the Horticultu-rist about the petty annoyances of the fruit grower. The source of the present sketch might, with some propriety, be ranked among the same category as grub-worms, millers, butterflies, and caterpillars, were it not that it proceeded, and has to be endured, from a much higher order of beings, though they are often intrinsically equally vexatious.
Now, sir, we live in the country, of course. When I say we, I mean myself and good housewife. A small estate, I may say, is our own, and has become so entirely by our combined industry. We have co-operated together for years, held many consultations in regard to the arrangement of "matters and things" about and around the house, and may congratulate ourselves on having finally succeeded in having things to our taste and satisfaction. Though the whole is, throughout, on a miniature scale, it yet affords us many peculiar pleasures not enjoyed in every condition of life, for it is here that we may reap the fruits of our labor in the true sense of the word. To this, indeed, not a few are strangers. Quite too many fail from neglect to plant and cultivate at all, and hence must reap the fruits of negligence. Let us see the effect of this upon the moral deportment of both. The latter often fail to learn to appreciate and properly respect those that do plant. The systematic cultivator, on the other hand, plants and rears around him, and, as years roll by, his place soon grows into a little terrestrial paradise, abounding in peace and plenty, rendering a home an inviting place, lovely and beautiful, where friends love to dwell.
We greatly enjoy the condition of things around us, and so do our little chubby boys. They also love the charming retreats among the various bowers and arbors. Though they are yet quite young, they have already imbibed the influences of the surrounding atmosphere. They take pride in all these things, and seem to thrive all the better for occasionally lending willing hands in aid where anything requires repair and fixing. They vie to excel, and vie in growing up strong and ruddy, not unlike the flowers they are so food of cultivating. Bot they have learned more; the effect of these influences does not stop here. They would not harm a single flower unbidden; neither touch any of the tempting fruit which surrounds them, unless directed. They know that they will share it when it has fully matured, and already look forward to the beautiful pictures, the fine dwarf pears, the rich clustering grapes, will afford them in their natural perfection, undefaced by them or anybody else. They love pictures, they appreciate them, and know full well that bunches of grapes deprived of half their berries, do not afterwards present a very desirable aspect.
At least, but a bad picture.
Such is but a meagre description of the influences of our country home upon ourselves and family. Morally, its effects are as obvious, if not more so, than physically. It inculcates and cultivates a sense of taste and propriety which we find of inestimable value in our intercourse at home or abroad. But how does this apply to some of our friends that occasionally honor us with a visit? Let us draw a sketch from life and see. Let the season be autumn.
The summer is well advanced, and a fine prospect of half-ripe fruit decorates our trees and arbors. All presents a fine prospective, and all are looking forward with high anticipations and gladness, especially to the ripening of the newly added varieties. It is a fine, sunny day, and the family is honored with a visit of some half-dozen ladies. In the absence of the husband, the wife seats them comfortably in the parlor, and entertains them until the big hours of noon draw nigh. Dinner is to be served, and cannot be done by proxy, and, taking circumstances in consideration (for the visit was unannounced), requires rather busy hands to be in time; for, in the country, we dine in the middle of the day, and not in the afternoon.
The company is left to itself for the moment But time drags heavily with them, though surrounded with mental food and amusement - all that could be desired; for the company boasts of an acquaintance with all these matters. They break up, and start on a ramble through the gardens. They ask no questions. They seem perfectly at home. They seem to require no guide, preferring to go on their own hook.
They advanced but a short distance; their attention was attracted by a dwarf pear-tree. This was a new and rare variety. It bore a few this year, for the first time - the first fruit looked forward to by the proprietor, after bestowing four years of careful attention. The fruit looked somewhat tempting. It was plucked and tasted by them. It was found unpalatable. Another is tried, and another, and all found equally unripe, and are heedlessly and carelessly thrown away, as though there was no reason for disappointing them.
But the depredation does not stop here. They seem to act as though they were in the wild woods, and entirely unobserved. Yet the little boys were taking observations, all the while, from one of their hiding arbors. Though surrounded with flowers of beauty and fragrance, this seemed to make but little impression upon their cultivated minds (?). But the ornamental grape arbor seems to offer new and better attractions, and thither they repair.
The fruit hung in its grandest beauty, in rich clusters, just on the verge of assuming the amethystine hue of ripening. The temptation was greater than the first (especially to such as have learned more of everything else than "lead us not into temptation.") It proved irresistible, and, for the time, all moral law of propriety was lost sight of. Down came the fruit, and all accessible bunches having berries with only a purple blush, were picked!
The actual value of such an amount of fruit, and much better fruit than this, is considered as nothing; but the almost unsurpassable beauty of the arbor, where the work of art and nature were so successfully interwoven, presenting a picture of which we felt proud, was sadly the worse for it in the eyes of an amateur.
As these proceedings were progressing; the silent lookers-on could endure it no longer. They stole away unobserved, and told their busy mother all about it. She went to the rescue. But what would she do? Scold them? Put 'em in jail? as these towners would be very ready to do, were we to venture to town, and attempt to act their part. Nay, we must take it all good-naturedly. In this case, as dinner was over, and a few hours spent in social tete a tete, the poor things needed no further chastisement, for their imprudent violation of the laws of health by eating an undue quantity of unripe fruit, inflicted its punishment most keenly; it told a sickening tale on them.
Trivial as the subject of this sketch may appear to you and others, it is not the less truthful, and is what we have frequently to undergo; and I ask whether you do not consider such conduct very annoying, especially when it has to be endured from such as lay claims to the advantages of a good education? To the generality of amateurs, it is ever a pleasure to give, but few will be found who do not keenly regret having the things in which they feel so lively an interest pillaged and despoiled; most who cultivate, have learned to value them too much to be thus trifled . with. Very often we have new varieties, just coming into first bearing, in the cultivation of which we have spent time and money, and are thus deprived of ascertaining their real qualities.
Sketches, ad infinitum, of a similar character, and some far more vexatious, could be added, if desired; but this may, perhaps, suffice for the present (if not already superfluous).