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to bed therefore, and lay awake half the night in a terribly nervous state; and even when I fell asleep I was still haunted in my dreams by the idea of the Stout Gentleman and his wax-topped boots.
I slept rather late the next morning, and was awakened by some stir and bustle in the house, which I could not at first comprehend; until getting more awake, I found there was a mail coach starting from the door. Suddenly there was a cry from below: “ The gentleman has forgot his umbrella; look for the gentleman's umbrella in No. 13."
I heard an immediate scamper of a chamber-maid along the passage, and a shrill reply, as she ran, “Here it is ! here's the gentleman's umbrella!”
The mysterious stranger then was on the point of setting off. This was the only chance I should ever have of knowing him. I sprang out of bed, scrambled to the window, snatched aside the curtains, and just caught a glimpse of the rear of a person getting in at the coach-door. The skirts of a brown coat parted behind, and gave me a full view of the broad disc of a pair of drab breeches. The door closed. “All right,” was the word; the coach whirled off—and that was all I ever saw of the Stout Gentleman.
NEXT to deciding when to start your garden, the most
important matter is, what to put in it. It is difficult to decide what to order for dinner on a given day : how much more oppressive is it to order in a lump an endless vista of dinners, so to speak! For, unless your garden is a boundless prairie (and mine seems to me to be that when I hoe it on hot days), you must make a selection, from the great variety of vegetables, of those you will raise in it; and you feel rather bound to supply your own table from your own garden, and to eat only as you have sown.
I hold that no man has a right (whatever his sex, of course) to have a garden to his own selfish uses. He ought not to please himself, but every man to please his
neighbour. I tried to have a garden that would give general moral satisfaction. It seemed to me that nobody could object to potatoes (a most useful vegetable); and I began to plant them freely. But there was a chorus of protest against them.
“You don't want to take up your ground with potatoes,” the neighbours said : "you can buy potatoes” (the very thing I wanted to avoid doing is buying things). “What you want is the perishable things that you cannot get fresh in the market.”—“But what kind of perishable things?” A horticulturist of eminence wanted me to sow lines of strawberries and raspberries right over where I had put my potatoes in drills. I had about five hundred strawberry-plants in another part of my garden ; but this fruit-fanatic wanted me to turn my whole patch into vines and runners. I suppose I could raise strawberries enough for all my neighbours; and perhaps I ought to do it. I had a little space prepared for melons,—musk-melons, —which I showed to an experienced friend.
6. You are not going to waste your ground on musk-melons ?” he asked. “They rarely ripen in this climate thoroughly, before frost.” He had tried for years without luck. I resolved not to go into such a foolish experiment. But, the next day, another neighbour happened in. “Ah! I see you are going to have melons. My family would rather give up anything else in the garden than musk-melons, of the nutmeg variety. They are the most grateful things we have on the table.” So there it was. There was no compromise: it was melons or no melons, and somebody offended in any case. I half resolved to plant them a little late, so that they would, and they wouldn't. But I had the same difficulty about string-beans (which I detest), and squash (which I tolerate), and parsnips, and the whole round of green things.
I have pretty much come to the conclusion that you have got to put your foot down in gardening. If I had actually taken counsel of my friends, I should not have had a thing growing in the garden to-day but weeds. And besides, while you are waiting, Nature does not wait. Her mind is made up. She knows just what she will raise; and she has an infinite variety of early and late. The most humiliating thing to me about a garden is the lesson it teaches of the inferiority of man. Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible. She thrusts up her plants with a vigour and freedom that I admire; and the more worthless the plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth. She is at it early and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.
“ Eternal gardening is the price of liberty,” is a motto that I should put over the gateway of my garden, if I had a gate. And yet it is not wholly true; for there is no liberty in gardening. The man who undertakes a garden is relentlessly pursued. He felicitates himself that, when he gets it once planted, he will have a season of rest and of enjoyment in the sprouting and growing of his seeds. It is a green anticipation. He has planted a seed that will keep him awake nights, drive rest from his bones, and sleep from his pillow. Hardly is the garden planted, when he must begin to hoe it. The weeds have sprung up all over it in a night. They shine and wave in redundant life. The docks have almost gone to seed; and their roots go deeper than conscience. Talk about the London Docks ! —the roots of these are like the sources of the Aryan race. And the weeds are not all. I awake in the morning (and a thriving garden will wake a person up two hours before he ought to be out of bed), and think of the tomato-plants,the leaves like fine lace-work, owing to black bugs that skip around, and can't be caught. Somebody ought to get up before the dew is off (why don't the dew stay on till after a reasonable breakfast ?) and sprinkle soot on the leaves. I wonder if it is I. Soot is so much blacker than the bugs,