List Of Contents | Contents of Summer in a Garden by Charles D. Warner
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the price of labor, the value of the bushes, the anxiety of weeks of
watchfulness.  I looked about me on the face of Nature.  The wind
blew from the south so soft and treacherous!  A thrush sang in the
woods so deceitfully!  All Nature seemed fair.  But who was to give
me back my peas?  The fowls of the air have peas; but what has man?

I went into the house.  I called Calvin.  (That is the name of our
cat, given him on account of his gravity, morality, and uprightness.
We never familiarly call him John).  I petted Calvin.  I lavished
upon him an enthusiastic fondness.  I told him that he had no fault;
that the one action that I had called a vice was an heroic exhibition
of regard for my interests.  I bade him go and do likewise
continually.  I now saw how much better instinct is than mere
unguided reason.  Calvin knew.  If he had put his opinion into
English (instead of his native catalogue), it would have been: "You
need not teach your grandmother to suck eggs."  It was only the round
of Nature.  The worms eat a noxious something in the ground.  The
birds eat the worms.  Calvin eats the birds.  We eat--no, we do not
eat Calvin.  There the chain stops.  When you ascend the scale of
being, and come to an animal that is, like ourselves, inedible, you
have arrived at a result where you can rest.  Let us respect the cat.
He completes an edible chain.

I have little heart to discuss methods of raising peas.  It occurs to
me that I can have an iron peabush, a sort of trellis, through which
I could discharge electricity at frequent intervals, and electrify
the birds to death when they alight: for they stand upon my beautiful
brush in order to pick out the peas.  An apparatus of this kind, with
an operator, would cost, however, about as much as the peas.  A
neighbor suggests that I might put up a scarecrow near the vines,
which would keep the birds away.  I am doubtful about it: the birds
are too much accustomed to seeing a person in poor clothes in the
garden to care much for that.  Another neighbor suggests that the
birds do not open the pods; that a sort of blast, apt to come after
rain, splits the pods, and the birds then eat the peas.  It may be
so.  There seems to be complete unity of action between the blast and
the birds.  But, good neighbors, kind friends, I desire that you will
not increase, by talk, a disappointment which you cannot assuage.


A garden is an awful responsibility.  You never know what you may be
aiding to grow in it.  I heard a sermon, not long ago, in which the
preacher said that the Christian, at the moment of his becoming one,
was as perfect a Christian as he would be if he grew to be an arch-
angel; that is, that he would not change thereafter at all, but only
develop.  I do not know whether this is good theology, or not; and I
hesitate to support it by an illustration from my garden, especially
as I do not want to run the risk of propagating error, and I do not
care to give away these theological comparisons to clergymen who make
me so little return in the way of labor.  But I find, in dissecting a
pea-blossom, that hidden in the center of it is a perfect miniature
pea-pod, with the peas all in it,--as perfect a pea-pod as it will
ever be, only it is as tiny as a chatelaine ornament.  Maize and some
other things show the same precocity.  This confirmation of the
theologic theory is startling, and sets me meditating upon the moral
possibilities of my garden.  I may find in it yet the cosmic egg.

And, speaking of moral things, I am half determined to petition the
Ecumenical Council to issue a bull of excommunication against
"pusley."  Of all the forms which "error" has taken in this world,
I think that is about the worst.  In the Middle Ages the monks in St.
Bernard's ascetic community at Clairvaux excommunicated a vineyard
which a less rigid monk had planted near, so that it bore nothing.
In 1120 a bishop of Laon excommunicated the caterpillars in his
diocese; and, the following year, St. Bernard excommunicated the
flies in the Monastery of Foigny; and in 1510 the ecclesiastical
court pronounced the dread sentence against the rats of Autun, Macon,
and Lyons.  These examples are sufficient precedents.  It will be
well for the council, however, not to publish the bull either just
before or just after a rain; for nothing can kill this pestilent
heresy when the ground is wet.

It is the time of festivals.  Polly says we ought to have one,--a
strawberry-festival.  She says they are perfectly delightful: it is
so nice to get people together!--this hot weather.  They create such
a good feeling!  I myself am very fond of festivals.  I always go,--
when I can consistently.  Besides the strawberries, there are ice
creams and cake and lemonade, and that sort of thing: and one always
feels so well the next day after such a diet!  But as social
reunions, if there are good things to eat, nothing can be pleasanter;
and they are very profitable, if you have a good object.  I agreed
that we ought to have a festival; but I did not know what object to
devote it to.  We are not in need of an organ, nor of any pulpit-
cushions.  I do not know that they use pulpit-cushions now as much as
they used to, when preachers had to have something soft to pound, so
that they would not hurt their fists.  I suggested pocket
handkerchiefs, and flannels for next winter.  But Polly says that
will not do at all.  You must have some charitable object,--something
that appeals to a vast sense of something; something that it will be
right to get up lotteries and that sort of thing for.  I suggest a
festival for the benefit of my garden; and this seems feasible.  In
order to make everything pass off pleasantly, invited guests will
bring or send their own strawberries and cream, which I shall be
happy to sell to them at a slight advance.  There are a great many
improvements which the garden needs; among them a sounding-board, so
that the neighbors' children can hear when I tell them to get a
little farther off from the currant-bushes.  I should also like a
selection from the ten commandments, in big letters, posted up
conspicuously, and a few traps, that will detain, but not maim, for
the benefit of those who cannot read.  But what is most important is,
that the ladies should crochet nets to cover over the strawberries.
A good-sized, well-managed festival ought to produce nets enough to
cover my entire beds; and I can think of no other method of
preserving the berries from the birds next year.  I wonder how many
strawberries it would need for a festival and whether they would
cost more than the nets.

I am more and more impressed, as the summer goes on, with the
inequality of man's fight with Nature; especially in a civilized
state.  In savagery, it does not much matter; for one does not take a
square hold, and put out his strength, but rather accommodates
himself to the situation, and takes what he can get, without raising
any dust, or putting himself into everlasting opposition.  But the
minute he begins to clear a spot larger than he needs to sleep in for
a night, and to try to have his own way in the least, Nature is at
once up, and vigilant, and contests him at every step with all her
ingenuity and unwearied vigor.  This talk of subduing Nature is
pretty much nonsense.  I do not intend to surrender in the midst of
the summer campaign, yet I cannot but think how much more peaceful my
relations would now be with the primal forces, if I had, let Nature
make the garden according to her own notion.  (This is written with
the thermometer at ninety degrees, and the weeds starting up with a
freshness and vigor, as if they had just thought of it for the first
time, and had not been cut down and dragged out every other day since
the snow went off.)

We have got down the forests, and exterminated savage beasts; but
Nature is no more subdued than before: she only changes her tactics,-
-uses smaller guns, so to speak.  She reenforces herself with a
variety of bugs, worms, and vermin, and weeds, unknown to the savage
state, in order to make war upon the things of our planting; and
calls in the fowls of the air, just as we think the battle is won, to
snatch away the booty.  When one gets almost weary of the struggle,
she is as fresh as at the beginning,--just, in fact, ready for the
fray.  I, for my part, begin to appreciate the value of frost and
snow; for they give the husbandman a little peace, and enable him,
for a season, to contemplate his incessant foe subdued.  I do not
wonder that the tropical people, where Nature never goes to sleep,
give it up, and sit in lazy acquiescence.

Here I have been working all the season to make a piece of lawn.  It
had to be graded and sowed and rolled; and I have been shaving it
like a barber.  When it was soft, everything had a tendency to go on
to it,--cows, and especially wandering hackmen.  Hackmen (who are a
product of civilization) know a lawn when they see it.  They rather
have a fancy for it, and always try to drive so as to cut the sharp
borders of it, and leave the marks of their wheels in deep ruts of
cut-up, ruined turf.  The other morning, I had just been running the
mower over the lawn, and stood regarding its smoothness, when I
noticed one, two, three puffs of fresh earth in it; and, hastening
thither, I found that the mole had arrived to complete the work of
the hackmen.  In a half-hour he had rooted up the ground like a pig.
I found his run-ways.  I waited for him with a spade.  He did not
appear; but, the next time I passed by, he had ridged the ground in
all directions,--a smooth, beautiful animal, with fur like silk, if
you could only catch him.  He appears to enjoy the lawn as much as
the hackmen did.  He does not care how smooth it is.  He is
constantly mining, and ridging it up.  I am not sure but he could be
countermined.  I have half a mind to put powder in here and there,
and blow the whole thing into the air.  Some folks set traps for the
mole; but my moles never seem to go twice in the same place.  I am
not sure but it would bother them to sow the lawn with interlacing
snake-grass (the botanical name of which, somebody writes me, is
devil-grass: the first time I have heard that the Devil has a
botanical name), which would worry them, if it is as difficult for
them to get through it as it is for me.

I do not speak of this mole in any tone of complaint.  He is only a
part of the untiring resources which Nature brings against the humble
gardener.  I desire to write nothing against him which I should wish
to recall at the last,--nothing foreign to the spirit of that
beautiful saying of the dying boy, "He had no copy-book, which,
dying, he was sorry he had blotted."


My garden has been visited by a High Official Person.  President
Gr-nt was here just before the Fourth, getting his mind quiet for
that event by a few days of retirement, staying with a friend at the
head of our street; and I asked him if he wouldn't like to come down
our way Sunday afternoon and take a plain, simple look at my garden,
eat a little lemon ice-cream and jelly-cake, and drink a glass of
native lager-beer.  I thought of putting up over my gate, "Welcome
to the Nation's Gardener; "but I hate nonsense, and did n't do it.
I, however, hoed diligently on Saturday: what weeds I could n't
remove I buried, so that everything would look all right.  The
borders of my drive were trimmed with scissors; and everything that
could offend the Eye of the Great was hustled out of the way.

In relating this interview, it must be distinctly understood that I
am not responsible for anything that the President said; nor is he,
either.  He is not a great speaker; but whatever he says has an
esoteric and an exoteric meaning; and some of his remarks about my
vegetables went very deep.  I said nothing to him whatever about
politics, at which he seemed a good deal surprised: he said it was
the first garden he had ever been in, with a man, when the talk was
not of appointments.  I told him that this was purely vegetable;
after which he seemed more at his ease, and, in fact, delighted with
everything he saw.  He was much interested in my strawberry-beds,
asked what varieties I had, and requested me to send him some seed.
He said the patent-office seed was as difficult to raise as an
appropriation for the St. Domingo business.  The playful bean seemed
also to please him; and he said he had never seen such impressive
corn and potatoes at this time of year; that it was to him an
unexpected pleasure, and one of the choicest memories that he should
take away with him of his visit to New England.

N. B.--That corn and those potatoes which General Gr-nt looked at I
will sell for seed, at five dollars an ear, and one dollar a potato.
Office-seekers need not apply.

Knowing the President's great desire for peas, I kept him from that
part of the garden where the vines grow.  But they could not be
concealed.  Those who say that the President is not a man easily
moved are knaves or fools.  When he saw my pea-pods, ravaged by the
birds, he burst into tears.  A man of war, he knows the value of
peas.  I told him they were an excellent sort, "The Champion of
England."  As quick as a flash he said, "Why don't you call them 'The
Reverdy Johnson'?"

It was a very clever bon-mot; but I changed the subject.

The sight of my squashes, with stalks as big as speaking-trumpets,
restored the President to his usual spirits.  He said the summer
squash was the most ludicrous vegetable he knew.  It was nearly all
leaf and blow, with only a sickly, crook-necked fruit after a mighty
fuss.  It reminded him of the member of Congress from...; but I
hastened to change the subject.

As we walked along, the keen eye of the President rested upon some
handsome sprays of "pusley," which must have grown up since Saturday
night.  It was most fortunate; for it led his Excellency to speak of
the Chinese problem.  He said he had been struck with one, coupling
of the Chinese and the "pusley" in one of my agricultural papers; and
it had a significance more far-reaching than I had probably supposed.
He had made the Chinese problem a special study.  He said that I was
right in saying that "pusley" was the natural food of the Chinaman,
and that where the "pusley" was, there would the Chinaman be also.
For his part, he welcomed the Chinese emigration: we needed the
Chinaman in our gardens to eat the "pusley; "and he thought the whole
problem solved by this simple consideration.  To get rid of rats and
"pusley," he said, was a necessity of our civilization.  He did not
care so much about the shoe-business; he did not think that the
little Chinese shoes that he had seen would be of service in the
army: but the garden-interest was quite another affair.  We want to
make a garden of our whole country: the hoe, in the hands of a man
truly great, he was pleased to say, was mightier than the pen.  He
presumed that General B-tl-r had never taken into consideration the
garden-question, or he would not assume the position he does with
regard to the Chinese emigration.  He would let the Chinese come,

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