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.
Mrs. Hill was a woman of a short, plethoric habit; one that might be supposed to move about with little agility, and to find excessive warmth rather inconvenient; but she was Of a happy, cheerful temperament; and when it rained she tucked up her skirts, put on thick shoes, and waddled about the same as ever, saying to herself, "This will make the grass grow," or "it will bring on the radishes," or something else equally consolatory.
Mrs. Troost, on the contrary, was a little thin woman, who looked as though she might move about nimbly at any season; but, as she herself often said, she was a poor unfortunate creature, and pitied herself a great deal, as she was in justice bound to do, for nobody else cared, she said, how much she had to bear.
They were near neighbors - these good women - but their social interchanges of tea-dVhikmg were not of very frequent occurrence, for Mrs. Troost had nothing to wear like other folks; sometimes it was too hot, and sometimes it was too cold; and then again, nobody wanted to see her, and she was sure she didn't want to go where she wasn't wanted. Moreover, she had such a great barn of a house as no other woman ever had to take care of. But in all the neighborhood it was called the big house, so Mrs. Trooct was in some measure compensated for the pains it cost her. It was however, as she said, a barn of a place, with half the rooms unfurnished, partly because they had no use for them, and partly because they were unable to get furniture. So it stood right in the sun, with no shutters, and no trees about it, and Mrs. Troost said she didn't suppose it ever would have. She was always opposed to building it, but she never had her way about anything. Nevertheless, some people said Mr. Troost had taken the dimensions of his house with his wife's apron strings - but that may have been slander.
While Mrs. Troost sat sighing over things in genera], Mrs. Hill sewed on the last button, and shaking the loose threads from the completed garment, held it up a moment to take a satisfactory view, as it were, and folded it away.
"Well, did you evert" said Mrs. Troost; "you have made half a shirt, and I have got nothing at all done. My hands sweat so I can't use the needle, and its no use to try".
" Lay down you work for a little while, and we will walk in the garden.
So Mrs. Hill threw a towel over her head, and taking a little tin basin in her hand, the two went into the garden - Mrs. Troost under the shelter of the blue umbrella, which she said was so heavy that it was worse than nothing. Beans, radishes, raspberries and currants, besides many other things, were there in profusion, and Mrs. Troost said everything flourished for Mrs. Hill, while her garden was all choked up with weeds. "And yon have bees, too - don't they sting the children, and give you a great deal of trouble? Along in May, I guess it was, Troost, (Mrs. Troost always called her husband so,) bought a hive, or rather he traded a calf for one - a nice, likely calf, too, it was - and they never did us one bit of good" - and the unhappy woman sighed.
" They do say," said Mrs. Hill, sympathizingly, " that bees won't work for some folks; in case their king dies they are likely to quarrel, and not do well; bat we have never had any ill luck with ours; and we last year sold forty dollars worth of honey, besides having all we wanted for our own use. Did yours die off, or what, Mrs. Troost?"
"Why," said the ill-natured visitor, " my oldest boy got stung one day, and, being angry, upset the hive, and I never found it out for two or three days; and, sending Troost to put it up in its place, there was not a bee to be found, high or low".
"You don't tell! the obstinate little creatures! but they must be treated kindly, and I have heard of their going off for less things".
The basin was by this time filled with currants, and they returned to the house. Mrs. Hill, seating herself on the sill of the kitchen door, began to prepare her fruit for tea, while Mrs. Troost drew her chair near, saying, " Did you ever hear about William Mc-Micken's bees?"
Mrs. Hill had never heard, and expressing an anxiety to do so, was told the following story:
"His wife, you know, was she that was Sally May, and its an old saying - 'To change the name, and not the letter, You marry for worse, and not for better.'
"Sally was a dressy, extravagant girl; she had her bonnet ' done up' twice a year always, and there was no end to her frocks and ribbons and fine things. Her mother indulged her in everything; she used to say Sally deserved all she got; that she was worth her weight in gold. She used to go everywhere, Sally did. There was no big meeting that she was not at, and no quilting that she didn't help to get up. All the girls went to her for the fashions, for she was a good deal in town at her Aunt Hanner's, and always brought out the new patterns. She used to have her sleeves a little bigger than anybody else, you remember, and then she wore great stiffners in them - la me! there was no end to her extravagance.
"She had a changeable silk, yellow and blue, made with a surplus front; and when she wore that, the ground wasn't good enough for her to walk on, so some folks used to say; but I never thought Sally was bit proud or lifted up; and if anybody was sick, there was no better-hearted creature than she; and then, she was always good-natured as the day was long, and would sing all the time at her work, I remember, along before she was married, she used to sing one song a great deal, beginning 'I've got a sweetheart with bright black eyes;' and they said she meant William McMicken by that, and that she might not get him after all - for a good many thought they would never make a match, their dispositions were so contrary, William was of a dreadful quiet turn, and a great home body; and as f6r being rich, he had nothing to brag of, though he was high larnt, and followed the river as clark sometimes".
Mrs. Hill had by this time prepared her currants, and Mrs. Troost paused from her story while she filled the kettle, and attached the towel to the end of the well-sweep, where it waved as a signal for Peter to come to supper.
"Now, just move your chair a leetle nearer to the kitchen door if you please," said Mrs. Hill," and I can make up my biscuit, and hear you too".
Meantime, coming to the door with some bread-crumbs in her hand, she began scattering them on the ground, and calling, " Biddy, biddy, biddy - chicky, chicky, chicky" - hearing which, a whole flock of poultry was about her in a minute; and stooping down, she secured one of the fattest, which, an hour afterwards, was broiled for supper.
"Dear me, how easily you do get along!" said Mrs. Troost.
And it was sometime before she could compose herself sufficiently to take up the thread of her story. At length, however, she began with - "Well, as I was saying, nobody thought William McMicken would marry Sally May. Poor man, they say he is not like himself any more. He may get a dozen wives, but he'll never get another Sally. A good wife she made him, for all she was such a wild girl.
"The old man May was opposed to the marriage, and threatened to turn Sally, his own daughter, out of house and home; but she was headstrong, and would marry whom she pleased; and so she did, though she never got a stitch of new clothes, nor one thing to keep house with. No; not one single thing did her father give her when she went away, but a hive of bees. He was right down ugly, and called her Mrs. McMicken, whenever he spoke to her after she was married; but Sally did'nt seem to mind it, and took just as good care of the bees as though they were worth a thousand dollars. Every day in winter she used to feed them - maple-sugar, if she had it; and if not, a little Muscovade in a saucer or some old broken dish.
"But it happened one day that a bee stung her on the hand - the right one, I think it was - and Sally said right away that it was a bad sign; and that very night she dreamed that she went out to feed her bees, and a piece of black crape was tied on the hive. She felt that it was a token of death, and told her husband so, and she told me and Mrs. Hanks. No, I won't be sure she told Mrs. Hanks, but Mrs. Hanks got to hear it some way".
"Well," said Mrs. Hill, wiping the tears away with her apron, " I really didn't know, till now, that poor Mrs. McMicken was dead".
"Oh, she is not dead," answered Mrs. Troost, "but as well as she ever was, only she feels that she is not long for this world." The painful interest of her story, however, had kept her from work, so the afternoon passed without her having accomplished much - she never could work when she went visiting.
Meantime Mrs. Hill had prepared a delightful supper, without seeming to give herself the least trouble. Peter came precisely at the right moment, and, as he drew a pail of water, removed the towel from the well-sweep, easily and naturally, thus saving his wife the trouble.
"Troost would never have thought of it," said his wife; and she finished with an "Ah, well!" as though all her tribulations would be over before long.
As she partook of the delicious honey, she was reminded of her own upset hive, and the crisp-red radishes brought thoughts of the weedy garden at home; so that, on the whole, her visit, she said, made her perfectly wretched, and she should have no heart for a week; nor did the little basket of extra nice fruit, which Mrs. Hill presented her as she was about to take leave, heighten her spirits in the least. Her great heavy umbrella, she said, was burden enough for her.
"But Peter will take you in the carriage," insisted Mrs. Hill.
"No," said Mrs. Troost, as though charity were offered her; "it will be more trouble to get in and out than to walk" - and so she trudged home, saying, "Some folks are born to be lucky".
Alice Cart has been pronounced by the reviewers to be the superior of Miss Mitford, whose rural sketches of England have 60 long held the highest rank in this kind of composition. Clovernook is, in short, one of the most popular books of the season, and if any of our readers, who wish to enjoy a real American country book, have not already met with it, we commend it to them, with the fullest confidence, as one of the best of fireside companions.