In a coign of the cliff between lowland and highland, At the sea-down's edge between windward and lee, Walled round with rocks as an inland island,
The ghost of a garden fronts the sea. A girdle of brushwood and thorn encloses,
The steep square slope of the blossomless bed Where the weeds that grew green from the graves of its roses Now lie dead.
IN the very heart of old New England towns there may often be seen some dilapidated house falling into ruins, surrounded by half-dead fruit-trees and straggling shrubs, while an adjacent garden, once productive and blooming, runs to waste beside it. Its gates are off the hinges, the fences falling to pieces, the hedges untrimmed, the flower-beds smothered in weeds; coarse burdocks and rampant wild vines encumber the ground and run over into the highway, the trim paths have disappeared, the out-houses are toppling over: forlornness and abandonment speak in every line of the decaying house, the former gentility of which renders its decline still more melancholy.
It was such a dreary old place as this that attracted our attention when we first came to settle in Massachusetts. Why such a desirable spot should have fallen into disrepute was always a surprise, for the situation in itself was excellent, the estate running for nine hundred feet along the main street of the town, and lying about half way between the two villages known in popular parlance as The Plain and Broad Bridge, so that it was only a quarter of a mile from the post-office of one, while the railway station of the other was within a ten minutes1 moderate walk for a man. Moreover, it commanded a lovely inland view, and had an unusual variety of surface to make it interesting, as well as a fertile soil for grass and garden.
The view was what particularly appealed to us, for it comprised a charming stretch of salt meadow, with a blue stream winding through it like a ribbon, skirted by low, heavily wooded hills, with a distant glimpse of houses overtopped by the masts of the shipping in the harbor. From the higher levels of the farm one could catch a glimpse, when the leaves were off the trees, of a strip of blue sea, and Boston Light could plainly be seen revolving after sundown, while of a still evening the monotonous roll of the waves upon the beach could be clearly heard.
The old house, which we vainly tried to find habitable, had stood for two hundred years, and must have been a fine dwelling in its day; its rooms, though low-ceiled, being spacious and numerous, and their outlook picturesque. It was ill-planned for modern ideas, though many of its contemporaries in this ancient town are still occupied, and by a little alteration made very comfortable; while, owing to neglect and ill usage by tenants, the owners having long since moved away, it was in a condition of hopeless disrepair. The floors had settled, and the walls with them, until in some of the lower rooms there were gaps beside the beams of the ceiling, in which rats or squirrels had made their nests, so that supplies of nuts were to be seen safely stored away in the holes. The window-panes were broken, the shingles mossgrown and ragged, the chimneys falling into ruins, and the sills had rotted away. Moreover, the road that wound by the door had been so raised by the accre tion of two hundred years, that the part of the place around the house lay in a hollow, and, there being no one to complain, the town dug water-ways and coolly drained the road over the surface of the ground, so that, after a spring freshet, piles of sand were to be found all over the grass, giving the farm a water-logged aspect that added to its disrepute.