While all this spring and fall cleaning was going on, the heavy labor of grading was in progress. Teams and men were coming and going, heavy scrapers were plowing part of the little knoll down into the valley, and loads of gravel were being dumped to bring the slopes into proper form, the surface soil having been first removed to cover the future lawn. Week by week the work went on, till the very landscape changed its contours, as the removal of the crown of the knoll threw open to view, from the sidewalk, the fine stretch of green meadow and blue stream, once hidden from view by its cone.
When our much interested critics found that we had chosen the site for our dwelling in an unexpected part of the grounds, their murmurs again reached our ears.
"Why in the world don't the doctor build up on top of the hill, where he can see everything, and be among neighbors?" sang half the chorus.
"If I had a lot of big trees like those Elums I 'd get the good of 'em, and put my new house on the old cellar," echoed the antiphonal.
"Never can make anything better 'n a Shumack-bush grow in that gravel-pit," shouted they all together.
"Well, perhaps he knows what he's about," would interpose some friendly voice; " but it would n't be my way, anyhow. He '11 find out, come to plan tin', that he's got to have soil, even for a door-yard".
When it came to building the foundations, their distance from the highway seemed inordinate to most of these critics, but now and then we were reproached by the more ambitious for not leaving front enough. In fine, we came to be in full sympathy with the Old Man and His Ass of the fable; but being luckier than he in having a mind of our own, we did not end by pitching house and all into the water, as we might have been tempted to do from the multitude of counselors, in which, in spite of Solomon, there is not always wisdom.
Our firm conviction was that the hill, in spite of the commanding view toward the north, was too bleak and exposed a position to be pleasant for an all-the-year-round home; it was also too near the neighbors' lines, and too remote from orchard and garden.
On the other hand, tempting as the great Elms certainly were on a hot summer day, the lot at that end of the farm was quite too narrow for a house and stable such as we required. The knoll, though limited in area, gave us plenty of elbow-room, and from its elevation we overlooked the grassy swale on one side, with the hill for a background, and northward could view the ever-changing tints of the meadow, behind the gardens and the fruit-trees. Experience has confirmed the wisdom of our choice, and, in justice to our advisers, I will say that they now handsomely admit that, though they "did n't think much of the doctor's ch'ice, to begin with," they are now convinced that "he has got about the likeliest lot on the street".