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The Solitary Summer
Elizabeth von Arnim



To the man of wrath
With some apologies and much love




MAY.


May 2nd.--Last night after dinner, when we were in the garden, I said,
"I want to be alone for a whole summer, and get to the very dregs of
life. I want to be as idle as I can, so that my soul may have time to
grow. Nobody shall be invited to stay with me, and if any one calls they
will be told that I am out, or away, or sick. I shall spend the months
in the garden, and on the plain, and in the forests. I shall watch the
things that happen in my garden, and see where I have made mistakes. On
wet days I will go into the thickest parts of the forests, where the
pine needles are everlastingly dry, and when the sun shines I'll lie on
the heath and see how the broom flares against the clouds. I shall be
perpetually happy, because there will be no one to worry me. Out there
on the plain there is silence, and where there is silence I have
discovered there is peace."

"Mind you do not get your feet damp," said the Man of Wrath, removing
his cigar.

It was the evening of May Day, and the spring had taken hold of me body
and soul. The sky was full of stars, and the garden of scents, and the
borders of wallflowers and sweet, sly pansies. All day there had been a
breeze, and all day slow masses of white clouds had been sailing across
the blue. Now it was so still, so motionless, so breathless, that it
seemed as though a quiet hand had been laid on the garden, soothing and
hushing it into silence.

The Man of Wrath sat at the foot of the verandah steps in that placid
after-dinner mood which suffers fools, if not gladly, at least
indulgently, and I stood in front of him, leaning against the sun-dial.

"Shall you take a book with you?" he asked.

"Yes, I shall," I replied, slightly nettled by his tone. "I am quite
ready to admit that though the fields and flowers are always ready to
teach, I am not always in the mood to learn, and sometimes my eyes are
incapable of seeing things that at other times are quite plain."

"And then you read?"

"And then I read. Well, dear Sage, what of that?"

But he smoked in silence, and seemed suddenly absorbed by the stars.

"See," he said, after a pause, during which I stood looking at him and
wishing he would use longer sentences, and he looked at the sky and did
not think about me at all, "see how bright the stars are to-night.
Almost as though it might freeze."

"It isn't going to freeze, and I won't look at anything until you have
told me what you think of my idea. Wouldn't a whole lovely summer, quite
alone, be delightful? Wouldn't it be perfect to get up every morning for
weeks and feel that you belong to yourself and to nobody else?" And I
went over to him and put a hand on each shoulder and gave him a little
shake, for he persisted in gazing at the stars just as though I had not
been there. "Please, Man of Wrath, say something long for once," I
entreated; "you haven't said a good long sentence for a week."

He slowly brought his gaze from the stars down to me and smiled. Then he
drew me on to his knee.

"Don't get affectionate," I urged; "it is words, not deeds, that I want.
But I'll stay here if you'll talk."

"Well then, I will talk. What am I to say? You know you do as you
please, and I never interfere with you. If you do not want to have any
one here this summer you will not have any one, but you will find it a
very long summer."

"No, I won't."

"And if you lie on the heath all day, people will think you are mad."

"What do I care what people think?"

"No, that is true. But you will catch cold, and your little nose will
swell."

"Let it swell."

"And when it is hot you will be sunburnt and your skin spoilt."

"I don't mind my skin."

"And you will be dull."

"Dull?"

It often amuses me to reflect how very little the Man of Wrath really
knows me. Here we have been three years buried in the country, and I as
happy as a bird the whole time. I say as a bird, because other people
have used the simile to describe absolute cheerfulness, although I do
not believe birds are any happier than any one else, and they quarrel
disgracefully. I have been as happy then, we will say, as the best of
birds, and have had seasons of solitude at intervals before now during
which dull is the last word to describe my state of mind. Everybody, it
is true, would not like it, and I had some visitors here a fortnight ago
who left after staying about a week and clearly not enjoying themselves.
They found it dull, I know, but that of course was their own fault; how
can you make a person happy against his will? You can knock a great deal
into him in the way of learning and what the schools call extras, but if
you try for ever you will not knock any happiness into a being who has
not got it in him to be happy. The only result probably would be that
you knock your own out of yourself. Obviously happiness must come from
within, and not from without; and judging from my past experience and my
present sensations, I should say that I have a store just now within me
more than sufficient to fill five quiet months.

"I wonder," I remarked after a pause, during which I began to suspect
that I too must belong to the serried ranks of the femmes incomprises,
"why you think I shall be dull. The garden is always beautiful, and I am
nearly always in the mood to enjoy it. Not quite always, I must confess,
for when those Schmidts were here" (their name was not Schmidt, but what
does that matter?) "I grew almost to hate it. Whenever I went into it
there they were, dragging themselves about with faces full of indignant
resignation. Do you suppose they saw one of those blue hepaticas
overflowing the shrubberies? And when I drove with them into the woods,
where the fairies were so busy just then hanging the branches with
little green jewels, they talked about Berlin the whole time, and the
good savouries their new chef makes."

"Well, my dear, no doubt they missed their savouries. Your garden, I
acknowledge, is growing very pretty, but your cook is bad. Poor Schmidt
sometimes looked quite ill at dinner, and the beauty of your floral
arrangements in no way made up for the inferior quality of the food.
Send her away."

"Send her away? Be thankful you have her. A bad cook is more effectual a
great deal than Kissingen and Carlsbad and Homburg rolled into one, and
very much cheaper. As long as I have her, my dear man, you will be
comparatively thin and amiable. Poor Schmidt, as you call him, eats too
much of those delectable savouries, and then looks at his wife and
wonders why he married her. Don't let me catch you doing that."

"I do not think it is very likely," said the Man of Wrath; but whether
he meant it prettily, or whether he was merely thinking of the
improbability of his ever eating too much of the local savouries, I
cannot tell. I object, however, to discussing cooks in the garden on a
starlight night, so I got off his knee and proposed that we should
stroll round a little.

It was such a sweet evening, such a fitting close to a beautiful May
Day, and the flowers shone in the twilight like pale stars, and the air
was full of fragrance, and I envied the bats fluttering through such a
bath of scent, with the real stars above and the pansy stars beneath,
and themselves so fashioned that even if they wanted to they could not
make a noise and disturb the prevailing peace. A great deal that is
poetical has been written by English people about May Day, and the
impression left on the foreign mind is an impression of posies, and
garlands, and village greens, and youths and maidens much be-ribboned,
and lambs, and general friskiness. I was in England once on a May Day,
and we sat over the fire shivering and listening blankly to the north-
east wind tearing down the street and the rattling of the hail against
the windows, and the friends with whom I was staying said it was very
often so, and that they had never seen any lambs and ribbons. We Germans
attach no poetical significance to it at all, and yet we well might, for
it is almost invariably beautiful; and as for garlands, I wonder how
many villages full of young people could have been provided with them
out of my garden, and nothing be missed. It is to-day a garden of
wallflowers, and I think I have every colour and sort in cultivation.
The borders under the south windows of the house, so empty and
melancholy this time last year, are crammed with them, and are finished
off in front by a broad strip from end to end of yellow and white
pansies. The tea rose beds round the sun-dial facing these borders are
sheets of white, and golden, and purple, and wine-red pansies, with the
dainty red shoots of the tea roses presiding delicately in their midst.
The verandah steps leading down into this pansy paradise have boxes of
white, and pink, and yellow tulips all the way up on each side, and on
the lawn, behind the roses, are two big beds of every coloured tulip
rising above a carpet of forget-me-nots. How very much more charming
different-coloured tulips are together than tulips in one colour by
itself! Last year, on the recommendation of sundry writers about
gardens, I tried beds of scarlet tulips and forget-me-nots. They were
pretty enough; but I wish those writers could see my beds of mixed
tulips. I never saw anything so sweetly, delicately gay. The only ones I
exclude are the rose-coloured ones; but scarlet, gold, delicate pink,
and white are all there, and the effect is infinitely enchanting. The
forget-me-nots grow taller as the tulips go off, and will presently
tenderly engulf them altogether, and so hide the shame of their decay in
their kindly little arms. They will be left there, clouds of gentle
blue, until the tulips are well withered, and then they will be taken
away to make room for the scarlet geraniums that are to occupy these two
beds in the summer and flare in the sun as much as they like. I love an
occasional mass of fiery colour, and these two will make the lilies look
even whiter and more breathless that are to stand sentinel round the
semicircle containing the precious tea roses.

The first two years I had this garden, I was determined to do exactly as
I chose in it, and to have no arrangements of plants that I had not
planned, and no plants but those I knew and loved; so, fearing that an
experienced gardener would profit by my ignorance, then about as
absolute as it could be, and thrust all his bedding nightmares upon me,
and fill the place with those dreadful salad arrangements so often seen
in the gardens of the indifferent rich, I would only have a meek man of
small pretensions, who would be easily persuaded that I knew as much as,
or more than, he did himself. I had three of these meek men one after
the other, and learned what I might long ago have discovered, that the
less a person knows, the more certain he is that he is right, and that
no weapons yet invented are of any use in a struggle with stupidity. The
first of these three went melancholy mad at the end of a year; the
second was love-sick, and threw down his tools and gave up his situation
to wander after the departed siren who had turned his head; the third,
when I inquired how it was that the things he had sown never by any
chance came up, scratched his head, and as this is a sure sign of
ineptitude, I sent him away.

Then I sat down and thought. I had been here two years and worked hard,
through these men, at the garden; I had done my best to learn all I
could and make it beautiful; I had refused to have more than an inferior
gardener because of his supposed more perfect obedience, and one
assistant, because of my desire to enjoy the garden undisturbed; I had
studied diligently all the gardening books I could lay hands on; I was
under the impression that I am an ordinarily intelligent person, and
that if an ordinarily intelligent person devotes his whole time to
studying a subject he loves, success is very probable; and yet at the
end of two years what was my garden like? The failures of the first two
summers had been regarded with philosophy; but that third summer I used
to go into it sometimes and cry.

As far as I was concerned I had really learned a little, and knew what
to buy, and had fairly correct notions as to when and in what soil to
sow and plant what I had bought; but of what use is it to buy good seeds
and plants and bulbs if you are forced to hand them over to a gardener
who listens with ill-concealed impatience to the careful directions you
give him, says Jawohl a great many times, and then goes off and puts
them in in the way he has always done, which is invariably the wrong
way? My hands were tied because of the unfortunate circumstance of sex,
or I would gladly have changed places with him and requested him to do
the talking while I did the planting, and as he probably would not have
talked much there would have been a distinct gain in the peace of the
world, which would surely be very materially increased if women's
tongues were tied instead of their hands, and those that want to could
work with them without collecting a crowd. And is it not certain that
the more one's body works the fainter grow the waggings of one's tongue?
I sometimes literally ache with envy as I watch the men going about
their pleasant work in the sunshine, turning up the luscious damp earth,
raking, weeding, watering, planting, cutting the grass, pruning the
trees--not a thing that they do from the first uncovering of the roses
in the spring to the November bonfires but fills my soul with longing to
be up and doing it too. A great many things will have to happen,
however, before such a state of popular large-mindedness as will allow
of my digging without creating a sensation is reached, so I have plenty
of time for further grumblings; only I do very much wish that the
tongues inhabiting this apparently lonely and deserted countryside would
restrict their comments to the sins, if any, committed by the indigenous
females (since sins are fair game for comment) and leave their harmless
eccentricities alone. After having driven through vast tracts of forest
and heath for hours, and never meeting a soul or seeing a house, it is
surprising to be told that on such a day you took such a drive and were
at such a spot; yet this has happened to me more than once. And if even
this is watched and noted, with what lightning rapidity would the news
spread that I had been seen stalking down the garden path with a hoe
over my shoulder and a basket in my hand, and weeding written large on
every feature! Yet I should love to weed.

I think it was the way the weeds flourished that put an end at last to
my hesitations about taking an experienced gardener and giving him a
reasonable number of helpers, for I found that much as I enjoyed
privacy, I yet detested nettles more, and the nettles appeared really to
pick out those places to grow in where my sweetest things were planted,
and utterly defied the three meek men when they made periodical and
feeble efforts to get rid of them. I have a large heart in regard to
things that grow, and many a weed that would not be tolerated anywhere
else is allowed to live and multiply undisturbed in my garden. They are
such pretty things, some of them, such charmingly audacious things, and
it is so particularly nice of them to do all their growing, and
flowering, and seed-bearing without any help or any encouragement. I
admit I feel vexed if they are so officious as to push up among my tea
roses and pansies, and I also prefer my paths without them; but on the
grass, for instance, why not let the poor little creatures enjoy
themselves quietly, instead of going out with a dreadful instrument and
viciously digging them up one by one? Once I went into the garden just
as the last of the three inept ones had taken up his stand, armed with
this implement, in the middle of the sheet of gold and silver that is
known for convenience' sake as the lawn, and was scratching his head, as
he looked round, in a futile effort to decide where he should begin. I
saved the dandelions and daisies on that occasion, and I like to believe
they know it. They certainly look very jolly when I come out, and I
rather fancy the dandelions dig each other in their little ribs when
they see me, and whisper, "Here comes Elizabeth; she's a good sort,
ain't she?"--for of course dandelions do not express themselves very
elegantly.

But nettles are not to be tolerated. They settled the question on which
I had been turning my back for so long, and one fine August morning,
when there seemed to be nothing in the garden but nettles, and it was
hard to believe that we had ever been doing anything but carefully
cultivating them in all their varieties, I walked into the Man of
Wrath's den.

"My dear man," I began, in the small caressing voice of one who has long
been obstinate and is in the act of giving in, "will you kindly
advertise for a head gardener and a proper number of assistants? Nearly
all the bulbs and seeds and plants I have squandered my money and my
hopes on have turned out to be nettles, and I don't like them. I have
had a wretched summer, and never want to see a meek gardener again."

"My dear Elizabeth," he replied, "I regret that you did not take my
advice sooner. How often have I pointed out the folly of engaging one
incapable person after the other? The vegetables, when we get any, are
uneatable, and there is never any fruit. I do not in the least doubt
your good intentions, but you are wanting in judgment. When will you
learn to rely on my experience?"

I hung my head; for was he not in the pleasant position of being able to
say, "I told you so"?--which indeed he has been saying for the last two
years. "I don't like relying," I murmured, "and have rather a prejudice
against somebody else's experience. Please will you send the
advertisement to-day?"

They came in such shoals that half the population must have been head
gardeners out of situations. I took all the likely ones round the
garden, and I do not think I ever spent a more chastening week than that
week of selection. Their remarks were, naturally, of the frankest
nature, as I had told them I had had practically only gardeners'
assistants since I lived here, and they had no idea, when they were
politely scoffing at some arrangement, that it happened to be one of my
own. The hot-beds in the kitchen garden with which I had taken such
pains were objects of special derision. It appeared that they were all
wrong--measurements, preparation, soil, manure, everything that could be
wrong, was. Certainly the only crop we had from them was weeds. But I
began about half way through the week to grow sceptical, because on
comparing their criticisms I found they seldom agreed, and so took
courage again. Finally I chose a nice, trim young man, with strikingly
intelligent eyes and quick movements, who had shown himself less
concerned with the state of chaos existing than with considerations of
what might eventually be made of the place. He is very deaf, so he
wastes no time in words, and is exceedingly keen on gardening, and
knows, as I very soon discovered, a vast amount more than I do, in spite
of my three years' application. Moreover, he is filled with that
humility and eagerness to learn which is only found in those who have
already learned more than their neighbours. He enters into my plans with
enthusiasm, and makes suggestions of his own, which, if not always quite
in accordance with what are perhaps my peculiar tastes, at least plainly
show that he understands his business. We had a very busy winter
together altering all the beds, for they none of them had been given a
soil in which plants could grow, and next autumn I intend to have all
the so-called lawns dug up and levelled, and shall see whether I cannot
have decent turf here. I told him he must save the daisy and dandelion
roots, and he looked rather crestfallen at that, but he is young, and
can learn to like what I like, and get rid of his only fault, a nursery-
gardener attitude towards all flowers that are not the fashion. "I shall
want a great many daffodils next spring," I shouted one day at the
beginning of our acquaintance.

His eyes gleamed. "Ah yes," he said with immediate approval, "they are
_sehr modern."

I was divided between amusement at the notion of Spenser's
daffadowndillies being _modern_, and indignation at hearing exactly the
same adjective applied to them that the woman who sells me my hats
bestows on the most appalling examples of her stock.

"They are to be in troops on the grass," I said; whereupon his face grew
doubtful. "That is indeed _sehr modern_," I shouted. But he had grown
suddenly deafer--a phenomenon I have observed to occur every time my
orders are such as he has never been given before. After a time he will,
I think, become imbued with my unorthodoxy in these matters; and
meanwhile he has the true gardening spirit and loves his work, and love,
after all, is the chief thing. I know of no compost so good. In the
poorest soil, love alone, by itself, will work wonders.

Down the garden path, past the copse of lilacs with their swelling dark
buds, and the great three-cornered bed of tea roses and pansies in front
of it, between the rows of china roses and past the lily and foxglove
groups, we came last night to the spring garden in the open glade round
the old oak; and there, the first to flower of the flowering trees, and
standing out like a lovely white naked thing against the dusk of the
evening, was a double cherry in full bloom, while close beside it, but
not so visible so late, with all their graceful growth outlined by rosy
buds, were two Japanese crab apples. The grass just there is filled with
narcissus, and at the foot of the oak a colony of tulips consoles me for
the loss of the purple crocus patches, so lovely a little while since.

"I must be by myself for once a whole summer through," I repeated,
looking round at these things with a feeling of hardly being able to
bear their beauty, and the beauty of the starry sky, and the beauty of
the silence and the scent--"I must be alone, so that I shall not miss
one of these wonders, and have leisure really to _live_."

"Very well, my dear," replied the Man of Wrath, "only do not grumble
afterwards when you find it dull. You shall be solitary if you choose,
and, as far as I am concerned, I will invite no one. It is always best
to allow a woman to do as she likes if you can, and it saves a good deal
of bother. To have what she desired is generally an effective
punishment."

"Dear Sage," I cried, slipping my hand through his arm, "don't be so
wise! I promise you that I won't be dull, and I won't be punished, and I
will be happy."

And we sauntered slowly back to the house in great contentment,
discussing the firmament and such high things, as though we knew all
about them.

May 15th.--There is a dip in the rye-fields about half a mile from my
garden gate, a little round hollow like a dimple, with water and reeds
at the bottom, and a few water-loving trees and bushes on the shelving
ground around. Here I have been nearly every morning lately, for it
suits the mood I am in, and I like the narrow footpath to it through the
rye, and I like its solitary dampness in a place where everything is
parched, and when I am lying on the grass and look down I can see the
reeds glistening greenly in the water, and when I look up I can see the
rye-fringe brushing the sky. All sorts of beasts come and stare at me,
and larks sing above me, and creeping things crawl over me, and stir in
the long grass beside me; and here I bring my book, and read and dream
away the profitable morning hours, to the accompaniment of the amorous
croakings of innumerable frogs.

Thoreau has been my companion for some days past, it having struck me as
more appropriate to bring him out to a pond than to read him, as was
hitherto my habit, on Sunday mornings in the garden. He is a person who
loves the open air, and will refuse to give you much pleasure if you try
to read him amid the pomp and circumstance of upholstery; but out in the
sun, and especially by this pond, he is delightful, and we spend the
happiest hours together, he making statements, and I either agreeing
heartily, or just laughing and reserving my opinion till I shall have
more ripely considered the thing. He, of course, does not like me as
much as I like him, because I live in a cloud of dust and germs produced
by wilful superfluity of furniture, and have not the courage to get a
match and set light to it: and every day he sees the door-mat on which I
wipe my shoes on going into the house, in defiance of his having told me
that he had once refused the offer of one on the ground that it is best
to avoid even the beginnings of evil. But my philosophy has not yet
reached the acute stage that will enable me to see a door-mat in its
true character as a hinderer of the development of souls, and I like to
wipe my shoes. Perhaps if I had to live with few servants, or if it were
possible, short of existence in a cave, to do without them altogether, I
should also do without door-mats, and probably in summer without shoes
too, and wipe my feet on the grass nature no doubt provides for this
purpose; and meanwhile we know that though he went to the woods, Thoreau
came back again, and lived for the rest of his days like other people.
During his life, I imagine he would have refused to notice anything so
fatiguing as an ordinary German woman, and never would have deigned
discourse to me on the themes he loved best; but now his spirit belongs
to me, and all he thought, and believed, and felt, and he talks as much
and as intimately to me here in my solitude as ever he did to his
dearest friends years ago in Concord. In the garden he was a pleasant
companion, but in the lonely dimple he is fascinating, and the morning
hours hurry past at a quite surprising rate when he is with me, and it
grieves me to be obliged to interrupt him in the middle of some quaint
sentence or beautiful thought just because the sun is touching a certain
bush down by the water's edge, which is a sign that it is lunch-time and
that I must be off. Back we go together through the rye, he carefully
tucked under one arm, while with the other I brandish a bunch of grass
to keep off the flies that appear directly we emerge into the sunshine.
"Oh, my dear Thoreau," I murmur sometimes, overcome by the fierce heat
of the little path at noonday and the persistence of the flies, "did you
have flies at Walden to exasperate you? And what became of your
philosophy then?" But he never notices my plaints, and I know that
inside his covers he is discoursing away like anything on the folly of
allowing oneself to be overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool
called a dinner, which is situated in the meridian shallows, and of the
necessity, if one would keep happy, of sailing by it looking another
way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. But he gets grimly carried back for
all that, and is taken into the house and put on his shelf and left
there, because I still happen to have a body attached to my spirit,
which, if not fed at the ordinary time, becomes a nuisance. Yet he is
right; luncheon is a snare of the tempter, and I would perhaps try to
sail by it like Ulysses if I had a biscuit in my pocket to comfort me,
but there are the babies to be fed, and the Man of Wrath, and how can a
respectable wife and mother sail past any meridian shallows in which
those dearest to her have stuck? So I stand by them, and am punished
every day by that two-o'clock-in-the-afternoon feeling to which I so
much object, and yet cannot avoid. It is mortifying, after the sunshiny
morning hours at my pond, when I feel as though I were almost a poet,
and very nearly a philosopher, and wholly a joyous animal in an ecstasy
of love with life, to come back and live through those dreary luncheon-
ridden hours, when the soul is crushed out of sight and sense by cutlets
and asparagus and revengeful sweet things. My morning friend turns his
back on me when I reenter the library; nor do I ever touch him in the
afternoon. Books have their idiosyncrasies as well as people, and will
not show me their full beauties unless the place and time in which they
are read suits them. If, for instance, I cannot read Thoreau in a
drawing-room, how much less would I ever dream of reading Boswell in the
grass by a pond! Imagine carrying him off in company with his great
friend to a lonely dell in a rye-field, and expecting them to be
entertaining. "Nay, my dear lady," the great man would say in mighty
tones of rebuke, "this will never do. Lie in a rye-field? What folly is
that? And who would converse in a damp hollow that can help it?" So I
read and laugh over my Boswell in the library when the lamps are lit,
buried in cushions and surrounded by every sign of civilisation, with
the drawn curtains shutting out the garden and the country solitude so
much disliked by both sage and disciple. Indeed, it is Bozzy who asserts
that in the country the only things that make one happy are meals. "I
was happy," he says, when stranded at a place called Corrichatachin in
the Island of Skye, and unable to get out of it because of the rain,--"I
was happy when tea came. Such I take it is the state of those who live
in the country. Meals are wished for from the cravings of vacuity of
mind, as well as from the desire of eating." And such is the
perverseness of human nature that Boswell's wisdom delights me even more
than Johnson's, though I love them both very heartily.

In the afternoon I potter in the garden with Goethe. He did not, I am
sure, care much really about flowers and gardens, yet he said many
lovely things about them that remain in one's memory just as
persistently as though they had been inspired expressions of actual
feelings; and the intellect must indeed have been gigantic that could so
beautifully pretend. Ordinary blunderers have to feel a vast amount
before they can painfully stammer out a sentence that will describe it;
and when they have got it out, how it seems to have just missed the core
of the sensation that gave it birth, and what a poor, weak child it is
of what was perhaps a mighty feeling! I read Goethe on a special seat,
never departed from when he accompanies me, a seat on the south side of
an ice-house, and thus sheltered from the north winds sometimes
prevalent in May, and shaded by the low-hanging branches of a great
beech-tree from more than flickering sunshine. Through these branches I
can see a group of giant poppies just coming into flower, flaming out
beyond the trees on the grass, and farther down a huge silver birch, its
first spring green not yet deepened out of delicacy, and looking almost
golden backed by a solemn cluster of firs. Here I read Goethe--
everything I have of his, both what is well known and what is not; here
I shed invariable tears over Werther, however often I read it; here I
wade through Wilhelm Meister, and sit in amazement before the
complications of the Wahlverwandschaften; here I am plunged in wonder
and wretchedness by Faust; and here I sometimes walk up and down in the
shade and apostrophise the tall firs at the bottom of the glade in the
opening soliloquy of Iphigenia. Every now and then I leave the book on
the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds, from
which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of
what, in this world, is worth bothering about, and what is not.

In the evening, when everything is tired and quiet, I sit with Walt
Whitman by the rose beds and listen to what that lonely and beautiful
spirit has to tell me of night, sleep, death, and the stars. This dusky,
silent hour is his; and this is the time when I can best hear the
beatings of that most tender and generous heart. Such great love, such
rapture of jubilant love for nature, and the good green grass, and
trees, and clouds, and sunlight; such aching anguish of love for all
that breathes and is sick and sorry; such passionate longing to help and
mend and comfort that which never can be helped and mended and
comforted; such eager looking to death, delicate death, as the one
complete and final consolation--before this revelation of yearning,
universal pity, every-day selfishness stands awe-struck and ashamed.

When I drive in the forests, Keats goes with me; and if I extend my
drive to the Baltic shores, and spend the afternoon on the moss beneath
the pines whose pink stems form the framework of the sea, I take
Spenser; and presently the blue waves are the ripples of the Idle Lake,
and a tiny white sail in the distance is Phaedria's shallow ship,
bearing Cymochles swiftly away to her drowsy little nest of delights.
How can I tell why Keats has never been brought here, and why Spenser is
brought again and again? Who shall follow the dark intricacies of the
elementary female mind? It is safer not to attempt to do so, but by
simply cataloguing them collectively under the heading Instinct, have
done with them once and for all.

What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and
I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing
returns as books and a garden. And how easy it would have been to come
into the world without this, and possessed instead of an all-consuming
passion, say, for hats, perpetually raging round my empty soul! I feel I
owe my forefathers a debt of gratitude, for I suppose the explanation is
that they too did not care for hats. In the centre of my library there is
a wooden pillar propping up the ceiling, and preventing it, so I am told,
from tumbling about our ears; and round this pillar, from floor to
ceiling, I have had shelves fixed, and on these shelves are all the books
that I have read again and again, and hope to read many times more--all
the books, that is, that I love quite the best. In the bookcases round
the walls are many that I love, but here in the centre of the room, and
easiest to get at, are those I love the _best_--the very elect among my
favourites. They change from time to time as I get older, and with years
some that are in the bookcases come here, and some that are here go into
the bookcases, and some again are removed altogether, and are placed on
certain shelves in the drawing-room which are reserved for those that
have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and from whence they
seldom, if ever, return. Carlyle used to be among the elect. That was
years ago, when my hair was very long, and my skirts very short, and I
sat in the paternal groves with _Sartor Resartus_, and felt full of
wisdom and _Weltschmerz_; and even after I was married, when we lived in
town, and the noise of his thunderings was almost drowned by the rattle
of droschkies over the stones in the street below, he still shone forth a
bright, particular star. Now, whether it is age creeping upon me, or
whether it is that the country is very still and sound carries, or
whether my ears have grown sensitive, I know not; but the moment I open
him there rushes out such a clatter of denunciation, and vehemence, and
wrath, that I am completely deafened; and as I easily get bewildered, and
love peace, and my chief aim is to follow the apostle's advice and study
to be quiet, he has been degraded from his high position round the pillar
and has gone into retirement against the wall, where the accident of
alphabet causes him to rest in the soothing society of one Carina, a
harmless gentleman, whose book on the _Bagni di Lucca_ is on his left,
and a Frenchman of the name of Charlemagne, whose soporific comedy
written at the beginning of the century and called _Le Testament de
l'Oncle_, _ou Les Lunettes Cassees_, is next to him on his right. Two
works of his still remain, however, among the elect, though differing in
glory--his _Frederick the Great_, fascinating for obvious reasons to the
patriotic German mind, and his _Life of Sterling_, a quiet book on the
whole, a record of an uneventful life, in which the natural
positions of subject and biographer are reversed, the man of genius
writing the life of the unimportant friend, and the fact that the friend
was exceedingly lovable in no way lessening one's discomfort in the face
of such an anomaly. Carlyle stands on an eminence altogether removed
from Sterling, who stands, indeed, on no eminence at all, unless it be
an eminence, that (happily) crowded bit of ground, where the bright and
courageous and lovable stand together. We Germans have all heard of
Carlyle, and many of us have read him with due amazement, our admiration
often interrupted by groans at the difficulties his style places in the
candid foreigner's path; but without Carlyle which of us would ever have
heard of Sterling? And even in this comparatively placid book mines of
the accustomed vehemence are sprung on the shrinking reader. To the
prosaic German, nourished on a literature free from thunderings and any
marked acuteness of enthusiasm, Carlyle is an altogether astonishing
phenomenon.

And here I feel constrained to inquire sternly who I am that I should
talk in this unbecoming manner of Carlyle? To which I reply that I am
only a humble German seeking after peace, devoid of the least real
desire to criticise anybody, and merely anxious to get out of the way of
geniuses when they make too much noise. All I want is to read quietly
the books that I at present prefer. Carlyle is shut up now and therefore
silent on his comfortable shelf; yet who knows but what in my old age,
when I begin to feel really young, I may not once again find comfort in
him?

What a medley of books there is round my pillar! Here is Jane Austen
leaning against Heine--what would she have said to that, I wonder?--with
Miss Mitford and _Cranford_ to keep her in countenance on her other
side. Here is my Goethe, one of many editions I have of him, the one
that has made the acquaintance of the ice-house and the poppies. Here
are Ruskin, Lubbock, White's _Selborne_, Izaak Walton, Drummond, Herbert
Spencer (only as much of him as I hope I understand and am afraid I do
not), Walter Pater, Matthew Arnold, Thoreau, Lewis Carroll, Oliver
Wendell Holmes, Hawthorne, _Wuthering Heights_, Lamb's _Essays_,
Johnson's _Lives_, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne, Gibbon, the immortal
Pepys, the egregious Boswell, various American children's books that I
loved as a child and read and love to this day; various French
children's books, loved for the same reason; whole rows of German
children's books, on which I was brought up, with their charming
woodcuts of quaint little children in laced bodices, and good
housemothers cutting bread and butter, and descriptions of the
atmosphere of fearful innocence and pure religion and swift judgments
and rewards in which they lived, and how the _Finger Gottes_ was
impressed on everything that happened to them; all the poets; most of
the dramatists; and, I verily believe, every gardening book and book
about gardens that has been published of late years.

These gardening books are an unfailing delight, especially in winter,
when to sit by my blazing peat fire with the snow driving past the
windows and read the luscious descriptions of roses and all the other
summer glories is one of my greatest pleasures. And then how well I get
to know and love those gardens whose gradual development has been
described by their owners, and how happily I wander in fancy down the
paths of certain specially charming ones in Lancashire, Berkshire,
Surrey, and Kent, and admire the beautiful arrangement of bed and
border, and the charming bits in unexpected corners, and all the
evidences of untiring love! Any book I see advertised that treats of
gardens I immediately buy, and thus possess quite a collection of
fascinating and instructive garden literature. A few are feeble, and get
shunted off into the drawing-room; but the others stay with me winter
and summer, and soon lose the gloss of their new coats, and put on the
comfortable look of old friends in every-day clothes, under the frequent
touch of affection. They are such special friends that I can hardly pass
them without a nod and a smile at the well-known covers, each of which
has some pleasant association of time and place to make it still more
dear.

My spirit too has wandered in one or two French gardens, but has not yet
heard of a German one loved beyond everything by its owner. It is, of
course, possible that my countrymen do love them and keep quiet about
them, but many things are possible that are not probable, and experience
compels me to the opinion that this is one of them. We have the usual
rich man who has fine gardens laid out regardless of expense, but those
are not gardens in the sense I mean; and we have the poor man with his
bit of ground, hardly ever treated otherwise than as a fowl-run or a
place dedicated to potatoes; and as for the middle class, it is too busy
hurrying through life to have time or inclination to stop and plant a
rose.

How glad I am I need not hurry. What a waste of life, just getting and
spending. Sitting by my pansy beds, with the slow clouds floating
leisurely past, and all the clear day before me, I look on at the hot
scramble for the pennies of existence and am lost in wonder at the
vulgarity that pushes, and cringes, and tramples, untiring and
unabashed. And when you have got your pennies, what then? They are only
pennies, after all--unpleasant, battered copper things, without a gold
piece among them, and never worth the degradation of self, and the
hatred of those below you who have fewer, and the derision of those
above you who have more. And as I perceive I am growing wise, and what
is even worse, allegorical, and as these are tendencies to be fought
against as long as possible, I'll go into the garden and play with the
babies, who at this moment are sitting in a row on the buttercups,
singing what appear to be selections from popular airs.



June


June 3rd.--The Man of Wrath, I observe, is laying traps for me and being
deep. He has prophesied that I will find solitude intolerable, and he is
naturally desirous that his prophecy should be fulfilled. He knows that
continuous rain depresses me, and he is awaiting a spell of it to bring
me to a confession that I was wrong after all, whereupon he will make
that remark so precious to the married heart, "My dear, I told you so."
He begins the day by tapping the barometer, looking at the sky, and
shaking his head. If there are any clouds he remarks that they are
coming up, and if there are none he says it is too fine to last. He has
even gone the length once or twice of starting off to the farm on hot,
sunny mornings in his mackintosh, in order to impress on me beyond all
doubt that the weather is breaking up. He studiously keeps out of my way
all day, so that I may have every opportunity of being bored as quickly
as possible, and in the evenings he retires to his den directly after
dinner, muttering something about letters. When he has finally
disappeared, I go out to the stars and laugh at his transparent wiles.

But how would it be if we did have a spell of wet weather? I do not
quite know. As long as it is fine, rainy days in the future do not seem
so very terrible, and one, or even two really wet ones are quite
enjoyable when they do come--pleasant times that remind one of the snug
winter now so far off, times of reading, and writing, and paying one's
bills. I never pay bills or write letters on fine summer days. Not for
any one will I forego all that such a day rightly spent out of doors
might give me; so that a wet day at intervals is almost as necessary for
me as for my garden. But how would it be if there were many wet days? I
believe a week of steady drizzle in summer is enough to make the
stoutest heart depressed. It is to be borne in winter by the simple
expedient of turning your face to the fire; but when you have no fire,
and very long days, your cheerfulness slowly slips away, and the
dreariness prevailing out of doors comes in and broods in the blank
corners of your heart. I rather fancy, however, that it is a waste of
energy to ponder over what I should do if we had a wet summer on such a
radiant day as this. I prefer sitting here on the verandah and looking
down through a frame of leaves at all the rosebuds June has put in the
beds round the sun-dial, to ponder over nothing, and just be glad that I
am alive. The verandah at two o'clock on a summer's afternoon is a place
in which to be happy and not decide anything, as my friend Thoreau told
me of some other tranquil spot this morning. The chairs are comfortable,
there is a table to write on, and the shadows of young leaves flicker
across the paper. On one side a Crimson Rambler is thrusting inquisitive
shoots through the wooden bars, being able this year for the first time
since it was planted to see what I am doing up here, and next to it a
Jackmanni clematis clings with soft young fingers to anything it thinks
likely to help it up to the goal of its ambition, the roof. I wonder
which of the two will get there first. Down there in the rose beds,
among the hundreds of buds there is only one full-blown rose as yet, a
Marie van Houtte, one of the loveliest of the tea roses, perfect in
shape and scent and colour, and in my garden always the first rose to
flower; and the first flowers it bears are the loveliest of its own
lovely flowers, as though it felt that the first of its children to see
the sky and the sun and the familiar garden after the winter sleep ought
to put on the very daintiest clothes they can muster for such a festal
occasion.

Through the open schoolroom windows I can hear the two eldest babies at
their lessons. The village schoolmaster comes over every afternoon and
teaches them for two hours, so that we are free from governesses in the
house, and once those two hours are over they are free for twenty-four
from anything in the shape of learning. The schoolroom is next to the
verandah, and as two o'clock approaches their excitement becomes more
and more intense, and they flutter up and down the steps, looking in
their white dresses like angels on a Jacob's ladder, or watch eagerly
among the bushes for a first glimpse of him, like miniature and
perfectly proper Isoldes. He is a kind giant with that endless supply of
patience so often found in giants, especially when they happen to be
village schoolmasters, and judging from the amount of laughter I hear,
the babies seem to enjoy their lessons in a way they never did before.
Every day they prepare bouquets for him, and he gets more of them than a
_prima donna_, or at any rate a more regular supply. The first day he
came I was afraid they would be very shy of such a big strange man, and
that he would extract nothing from them but tears; but the moment I left
them alone together and as I shut the door, I heard them eagerly
informing him, by way of opening the friendship, that their heads were
washed every Saturday night, and that their hair-ribbons did not match
because there had not been enough of the one sort to go round. I went
away hoping that they would not think it necessary to tell him how often
my head is washed, or any other news of a personal nature about me; but
I believe by this time that man knows everything there is to know about
the details of my morning toilet, which is daily watched with the
greatest interest by the Three. I hope he will be more successful than I
was in teaching them Bible stories. I never got farther than Noah, at
which stage their questions became so searching as to completely
confound me; and as no one likes being confounded, and it is especially
regrettable when a parent is placed in such a position, I brought the
course to an abrupt end by assuming that owl-like air of wisdom peculiar
to infallibility in a corner, and telling them that they were too young
to understand these things for the present; and they, having a touching
faith in the truth of every word I say, gave three contented little
purrs of assent, and proposed that we should play instead at rolling
down the grass bank under the south windows--which I did not do, I am
glad to remember.

But the schoolmaster, after four weeks' teaching, has got them as far as
Moses, and safely past the Noah's ark on which I came to grief, and if
glibness is a sign of knowledge then they have learned the story very
thoroughly. Yesterday, after he had gone, they emerged into the verandah
fresh from Moses and bursting with eagerness to tell me all about it.

"Herr Schenk told us to-day about Moses," began the April baby, making a
rush at me.

"Oh?"

"Yes, and a _boser_, _boser Konig_ who said every boy must be deaded,
and Moses was the _allerliebster_."

"Talk English, my _dear_ baby, and not such a dreadful mixture," I
besought.

"He wasn't a cat."

"A cat?"

"Yes, he wasn't a cat, that Moses--a boy was he."

"But of course he wasn't a cat," I said with some severity; "no one ever
supposed he was."

"Yes, but mummy," she explained eagerly, with much appropriate hand-
action, "the cook's Moses _is_ a cat."

"Oh, I see. Well?"

"And he was put in a basket in the water, and that did swim. And then
one time they comed, and she said--"

"Who came? And who said?"

"Why, the ladies; and the _Konigstochter_ said, _'Ach hormal_, _da_
_schreit so etwas_.'"

"In German?"

"Yes, and then they went near, and one must take off her shoes and
stockings and go in the water and fetch that tiny basket, and then they
made it open, and that _Kind_ did cry and cry and _strampel_ so"--here
both the babies gave such a vivid illustration of the _strampeln_ that
the verandah shook--"and see! it is a tiny baby. And they fetched
somebody to give it to eat, and the _Konigstochter_ can keep that boy,
and further it doesn't go."

"Do you love Moses, mummy?" asked the May baby, jumping into my lap, and
taking my face in both her hands--one of the many pretty, caressing
little ways of a very pretty, caressing little creature.

"Yes," I replied bravely, "I love him."

"Then I too!" they cried with simultaneous gladness, the seal having
thus been affixed to the legitimacy of their regard for him. To be of
such authority that your verdict on every subject under heaven is
absolute and final is without doubt to be in a proud position, but, like
all proud positions, it bristles with pitfalls and drawbacks to the
weak-kneed; and most of my conversations with the babies end in a sudden
change of subject made necessary by the tendency of their remarks and
the unanswerableness of their arguments. Happily, yesterday the Moses
talk was brought to an end by the April baby herself, who suddenly
remembered that I had not yet seen and sympathised with her dearest
possession, a Dutch doll called Mary Jane, since a lamentable accident
had bereft it of both its legs; and she had dived into the schoolroom
and fished it out of the dark corner reserved for the mangled and thrust
it in my face before I had well done musing on the nature and extent of
my love for Moses--for I try to be conscientious--and bracing myself to
meet the next question.

"See this poor Mary Jane," she said, her voice and hand quivering with
tenderness as she lifted its petticoats to show me the full extent of
the calamity, "see, mummy, no legs--only twowsers and nothing further."

I wish they would speak English a little better. The pains I take to
correct them and weed out the German words that crop up in every
sentence are really untiring, and the results discouraging. Indeed, as
they get older the German asserts itself more and more, and is
threatening to swallow up the little English they have left entirely. I
talk English steadily with them, but everybody else, including a small
French nurse lately imported, nothing but German. Somebody told me the
thing to do was to let children pick up languages when they were babies,
at which period they absorb them as easily as food and drink, and are
quite unaware that they are learning anything at all; whereupon I
immediately introduced this French girl into the family, forgetting how
little English they have absorbed, and the result has been that they
pass their days delightfully in teaching her German. They were
astonished at first on discovering that she could not understand a word
they said, and soon set about altering such an uncomfortable state of
things; and as they are three to one and very zealous, and she is a meek
little person with a profile like a teapot with a twisted black handle
of hair, their success was practically certain from the beginning, and
she is getting on quite nicely with her German, and has at least already
thoroughly learned all the mistakes. She wanders in the garden with a
surprised look on her face as of one who is moving about in worlds not
realised; and the three cling to her skirts and give her enthusiastic
lessons all day long.

Poor Seraphine! What courage to weigh anchor at eighteen and go into a
foreign country, to a place where you are among utter strangers, without
a friend, unable to speak a word of the language, and not even sure
before you start whether you will be given enough to eat. Either it is
that saddest of courage forced on the timid by necessity, or, as Doctor
Johnson would probably have said, it is stark insensibility; and I am
afraid when I look at her I silently agree with the apostle of common
sense, and take it for granted that she is incapable of deep feeling,
for the altogether inadequate reason that she has a certain resemblance
to a teapot. Now is it not hard that a person may have a soul as
beautiful as an angel's, a dwelling-place for all sweet sounds and
harmonies, and if nature has not thought fit to endow his body with a
chin the world will have none of him? The vulgar prejudice is in favour
of chins, and who shall escape its influence? I, for one, cannot, though
theoretically I utterly reject the belief that the body is the likeness
of the soul; for has not each of us friends who, we know, love beyond
everything that which is noble and good, and who by no means themselves
look noble and good? And what about all the beautiful persons who love
nothing on earth except themselves? Yet who in the world cares how
perfect the nature may be, how humble, how sweet, how gracious, that
dwells in a chinless body? Nobody has time to inquire into natures, and
the chinless must be content to be treated in something of the same
good-natured, tolerant fashion in which we treat our poor relations
until such time as they shall have grown a beard; and those who by their
sex are for ever shut out from this glorious possibility will have to
take care, should they be of a bright intelligence, how they speak with
the tongues of men and of angels, nothing being more droll than the
effect of high words and poetic ideas issuing from a face that does not
match them.

I wish we were not so easily affected by each other's looks. Sometimes,
during the course of a long correspondence with a friend, he grows to be
inexpressibly dear to me; I see how beautiful his soul is, how fine his
intellect, how generous his heart, and how he already possesses in great
perfection those qualities of kindness, and patience, and simplicity,
after which I have been so long and so vainly striving. It is not I
clothing him with the attributes I love and wandering away insensibly
into that sweet land of illusions to which our footsteps turn whenever
they are left to themselves, it is his very self unconsciously writing
itself into his letters, the very man as he is without his body. Then I
meet him again, and all illusions go. He is what I had always found him
when we were together, good and amiable; but some trick of manner, some
feature or attitude that I do not quite like, makes me forget, and be
totally unable to remember, what I know from his letters to be true of
him. He, no doubt, feels the same thing about me, and so between us
there is a thick veil of something fixed, which, dodge as we may, we
never can get round.

"Well, and what do you conclude from all that?" said the Man of Wrath,
who had been going out by the verandah door with his gun and his dogs to
shoot the squirrels before they had eaten up too many birds, and of
whose coat-sleeve I had laid hold as he passed, keeping him by me like a
second Wedding Guest, and almost as restless, while I gave expression to
the above sentiments.

"I don't know," I replied, "unless it is that the world is very evil and
the times are waxing late, but that doesn't explain anything either,
because it isn't true."

And he went down the steps laughing and shaking his head and muttering
something that I could not quite catch, and I am glad I could not, for
the two words I did hear were women and nonsense.

He has developed an unexpected passion for farming, much to my relief,
and though we came down here at first only tentatively for a year, three
have passed, and nothing has been said about going back to town. Nor
will anything be said so long as he is not the one to say it, for no
three years of my life can come up to these in happiness, and not even
those splendid years of childhood that grow brighter as they recede were
more full of delights. The delights are simple, it is true, and of the
sort that easily provoke a turning up of the worldling's nose; but who
cares for noses that turn up? I am simple myself, and never tire of the
blessed liberty from all restraints. Even such apparently indifferent
details as being able to walk straight out of doors without first
getting into a hat and gloves and veil are full of a subtle charm that
is ever fresh, and of which I can never have too much. It is clear that
I was born for a placid country life, and placid it certainly is; so
much so that the days are sometimes far more like a dream than anything
real, the quiet days of reading, and thinking, and watching the changing
lights, and the growth and fading of the flowers, the fresh quiet days
when life is so full of zest that you cannot stop yourself from singing
because you are so happy, the warm quiet days lying on the grass in a
secluded corner observing the procession of clouds--this being, I admit,
a particularly undignified attitude, but think of the edification! Each
morning the simple act of opening my bedroom windows is the means of
giving me an ever-recurring pleasure. Just underneath them is a border
of rockets in full flower, at that hour in the shadow of the house,
whose gables lie sharply defined on the grass beyond, and they send up
their good morning of scent the moment they see me leaning out, careful
not to omit the pretty German custom of morning greeting. I call back
mine, embellished with many endearing words, and then their fragrance
comes up close, and covers my face with gentlest little kisses. Behind
them, on the other side of the lawn on this west side of the house, is a
thick hedge of lilac just now at its best, and what that best is I wish
all who love lilac could see. A century ago a man lived here who loved
his garden. He loved, however, in his younger years, travelling as well,
but in his travels did not forget this little corner of the earth
belonging to him, and brought back the seeds of many strange trees such
as had never been seen in these parts before, and tried experiments with
them in the uncongenial soil, and though many perished, a few took hold,
and grew, and flourished, and shade me now at tea-time. What flowers he
had, and how he arranged his beds, no one knows, except that the eleven
beds round the sun-dial were put there by him; and of one thing he seems
to have been inordinately fond, and that was lilac. We have to thank him
for the surprising beauty of the garden in May and early June, for he it
was who planted the great groups of it, and the banks of it, and massed
it between the pines and firs. Wherever a lilac bush could go a lilac
bush went; and not common sorts, but a variety of good sorts, white, and
purple, and pink, and mauve, and he must have planted it with special
care and discrimination, for it grows here as nothing else will, and
keeps his memory, in my heart at least, for ever gratefully green. On
the wall behind our pew in church there is his monument, he having died
here full of years, in the peace that attends the last hours of a good
man who has loved his garden; and to the long Latin praises of his
virtues and eminence I add, as I pass beneath it on Sundays, a heartiest
Amen. Who would not join in the praises of a man to whom you owe your
lilacs, and your Spanish chestnuts, and your tulip trees, and your
pyramid oaks? "He was a good man, for he loved his garden"--that is the
epitaph I would have put on his monument, because it gives one a far
clearer sense of his goodness and explains it better than any amount of
sonorous Latinities. How could he be anything _but_ good since he loved
a garden--that divine filter that filters all the grossness out of us,
and leaves us, each time we have been in it, clearer, and purer, and
more harmless?


June 16th.--Yesterday morning I got up at three o'clock and stole
through the echoing passages and strange dark rooms, undid with
trembling hands the bolts of the door to the verandah, and passed out
into a wonderful, unknown world. I stood for a few minutes motionless on
the steps, almost frightened by the awful purity of nature when all the
sin and ugliness is shut up and asleep, and there is nothing but the
beauty left. It was quite light, yet a bright moon hung in the cloudless
grey-blue sky; the flowers were all awake, saturating the air with
scent; and a nightingale sat on a hornbeam quite close to me, in loud
raptures at the coming of the sun. There in front of me was the sun-
dial, there were the rose bushes, there was the bunch of pansies I had
dropped the night before still lying on the path, but how strange and
unfamiliar it all looked, and how holy--as though God must be walking
there in the cool of the day. I went down the path leading to the stream
on the east side of the garden, brushing aside the rockets that were
bending across it drowsy with dew, the larkspurs on either side of me
rearing their spikes of heavenly blue against the steely blue of the
sky, and the huge poppies like splashes of blood amongst the greys and
blues and faint pearly whites of the innocent, new-born day. On the
garden side of the stream there is a long row of silver birches, and on
the other side a rye-field reaching across in powdery grey waves to the
part of the sky where a solemn glow was already burning. I sat down on
the twisted, half-fallen trunk of a birch and waited, my feet in the
long grass and my slippers soaking in dew. Through the trees I could see
the house with its closed shutters and drawn blinds, the people in it
all missing, as I have missed day after day, the beauty of life at that
hour. Just behind me the border of rockets and larkspurs came to an end,
and, turning my head to watch a stealthy cat, my face brushed against a
wet truss of blossom and got its first morning washing. It was
wonderfully quiet, and the nightingale on the hornbeam had everything to
itself as I sat motionless watching that glow in the east burning
redder; wonderfully quiet, and so wonderfully beautiful because one
associates daylight with people, and voices, and bustle, and hurryings
to and fro, and the dreariness of working to feed our bodies, and
feeding our bodies that we may be able to work to feed them again; but
here was the world wide awake and yet only for me, all the fresh pure
air only for me, all the fragrance breathed only by me, not a living
soul hearing the nightingale but me, the sun in a few moments coming up
to warm only me, and nowhere a single hard word being spoken, or a
single selfish act being done, nowhere anything that could tarnish the
blessed purity of the world as God has given it us. If one believed in
angels one would feel that they must love us best when we are asleep and
cannot hurt each other; and what a mercy it is that once in every
twenty-four hours we are too utterly weary to go on being unkind. The
doors shut, and the lights go out, and the sharpest tongue is silent,
and all of us, scolder and scolded, happy and unhappy, master and slave,
judge and culprit, are children again, tired, and hushed, and helpless,
and forgiven. And see the blessedness of sleep, that sends us back for a
space to our early innocence. Are not our first impulses on waking
always good? Do we not all know how in times of wretchedness our first
thoughts after the night's sleep are happy? We have been dreaming we are
happy, and we wake with a smile, and stare still smiling for a moment at
our stony griefs before with a stab we recognise them.

There were no clouds, and presently, while I watched, the sun came up
quickly out of the rye, a great, bare, red ball, and the grey of the
field turned yellow, and long shadows lay upon the grass, and the wet
flowers flashed out diamonds. And then as I sat there watching, and
intensely happy as I imagined, suddenly the certainty of grief, and
suffering, and death dropped like a black curtain between me and the
beauty of the morning, and then that other thought, to face which needs
all our courage--the realisation of the awful solitariness in which each
of us lives and dies. Often I could cry for pity of our forlornness, and
of the pathos of our endeavours to comfort ourselves. With what an agony
of patience we build up the theories of consolation that are to protect,
in times of trouble, our quivering and naked souls! And how fatally
often the elaborate machinery refuses to work at the moment the blow is
struck.

I got up and turned my face away from the unbearable, indifferent
brightness. Myriads of small suns danced before my eyes as I went along
the edge of the stream to the seat round the oak in my spring garden,
where I sat a little, looking at the morning from there, drinking it in
in long breaths, and determining to think of nothing but just be happy.
What a smell of freshly mown grass there was, and how the little heaps
into which it had been raked the evening before sparkled with dewdrops
as the sun caught them. And over there, how hot the poppies were already
beginning to look--blazing back boldly in the face of the sun, flashing
back fire for fire. I crossed the wet grass to the hammock under the
beech on the lawn, and lay in it awhile trying to swing in time to the
nightingale's tune; and then I walked round the ice-house to see how
Goethe's corner looked at such an hour; and then I went down to the fir
wood at the bottom of the garden where the light was slanting through
green stems; and everywhere there was the same mystery, and emptiness,
and wonder. When four o'clock drew near I set off home again, not
desiring to meet gardeners and have my little hour of quiet talked
about, still less my dressing-gown and slippers; so I picked a bunch of
roses and hurried in, and just as I softly bolted the door, dreadfully
afraid of being taken for a burglar, I heard the first water-cart of the
day creaking round the corner. Fearfully I crept up to my room, and when
I awoke at eight o'clock and saw the roses in a glass by my side, I
remembered what had happened as though it had been years ago.

Now here I have had an experience that I shall not soon forget,
something very precious, and private, and close to my soul; a feeling as
though I had taken the world by surprise, and seen it as it really is
when off its guard--as though I had been quite near to the very core of
things. The quiet holiness of that hour seems all the more mysterious
now, because soon after breakfast yesterday the wind began to blow from
the northwest, and has not left off since, and looking out of the window
I cannot believe that it is the same garden, with the clouds driving
over it in black layers, and angry little showers every now and then
bespattering its harassed and helpless inhabitants, who cannot pull
their roots up out of the ground and run for their lives, as I am sure
they must long to do. How discouraging for a plant to have just proudly
opened its loveliest flowers, the flowers it was dreaming about all the
winter and working at so busily underground during the cold weeks of
spring, and then for a spiteful shower of five minutes' duration to come
and pelt them down, and batter them about, and cover the tender,
delicate things with irremediable splashes of mud! Every bed is already
filled with victims of the gale, and those that escape one shower go
down before the next; so I must make up my mind, I suppose, to the
wholesale destruction of the flowers that had reached perfection--that
head of white rockets among them that washed my face a hundred years
ago--and look forward cheerfully to the development of the younger
generation of buds which cannot yet be harmed.

I know these gales. We get them quite suddenly, always from the north-
west, and always cold. They ruin my garden for a day or two, and in the
summer try my temper, and at all seasons try my skin; yet they are
precious because of the beautiful clear light they bring, the intensity
of cold blue in the sky and the terrific purple blackness of the clouds
one hour and their divine whiteness the next. They fly screaming over
the plain as though ten thousand devils with whips were after them, and
in the sunny intervals there is nothing in any of nature's moods to
equal the clear sharpness of the atmosphere, all the mellowness and
indistinctness beaten out of it, and every leaf and twig glistening
coldly bright. It is not becoming, a north-westerly gale; it treats us
as it treats the garden, but with opposite results, roughly rubbing the
softness out of our faces, as I can see when I look at the babies, and
avoid the further proof of my own reflection in the glass. But there is
life in it, glowing, intense, robust life, and when in October after
weeks of serene weather this gale suddenly pounces on us in all its
savageness, and the cold comes in a gust, and the trees are stripped in
an hour, what a bracing feeling it is, the feeling that here is the
first breath of winter, that it is time to pull ourselves together, that
the season of work, and discipline, and severity is upon us, the stern
season that forces us to look facts in the face, to put aside our dreams
and languors, and show what stuff we are made of. No one can possibly
love the summer, the dear time of dreams, more passionately than I do;
yet I have no desire to prolong it by running off south when the winter
approaches and so cheat the year of half its lessons. It is delightful
and instructive to potter among one's plants, but it is imperative for
body and soul that the pottering should cease for a few months, and that
we should be made to realise that grim other side of life. A long hard
winter lived through from beginning to end without shirking is one of
the most salutary experiences in the world. There is no nonsense about
it; you could not indulge in vapours and the finer sentiments in the
midst of its deadly earnest if you tried. The thermometer goes down to
twenty degrees of frost Reaumur, and down you go with it to the
realities, to that elementary state where everything is big--health and
sickness, delight and misery, ecstasy and despair. It makes you remember
your poorer neighbours, and sends you into their homes to see that they
too are fitted out with the armour of warmth and food necessary in the
long fight; and in your own home it draws you nearer than ever to each
other. Out of doors it is too cold to walk, so you run, and are rewarded
by the conviction that you cannot be more than fifteen; or you get into
your furs, and dart away in a sleigh over the snow, and are sure there
never was music so charming as that of its bells; or you put on your
skates, and are off to the lake to which you drove so often on June
nights, when it lay rosy in the reflection of the northern glow, and all
alive with myriads of wild duck and plovers, and which is now, but for
the swish of your skates, so silent, and but for your warmth and
jollity, so forlorn. Nor would I willingly miss the early darkness and
the pleasant firelight tea and the long evenings among my books. It is
then that I am glad I do not live in a cave, as I confess I have in my
more godlike moments wished to do; it is then that I feel most capable
of attending to the Man of Wrath's exhortations with an open mind; it is
then that I actually like to hear the shrieks of the wind, and then that
I give my heartiest assent, as I warm my feet at the fire, to the poet's
proposition that all which we behold is full of blessings.

But what dreariness can equal the dreariness of a cold gale at
midsummer? I have been chilly and dejected all day, shut up behind the
streaming window-panes, and not liking to have a fire because of its
dissipated appearance in the scorching intervals of sunshine. Once or
twice my hand was on the bell and I was going to order one, when out
came the sun and it was June again, and I ran joyfully into the
dripping, gleaming garden, only to be driven in five minutes later by a
yet fiercer squall. I wandered disconsolately round my pillar of books,
looking for the one that would lend itself best to the task of
entertaining me under the prevailing conditions, but they all looked
gloomy, and reserved, and forbidding. So I sat down in a very big chair,
and reflected that if there were to be many days like this it might be
as well to ask somebody cheerful to come and sit opposite me in all
those other big chairs that were looking so unusually gigantic and
empty. When the Man of Wrath came in to tea there were such heavy clouds
that the room was quite dark, and he peered about for a moment before he
saw me. I suppose in the gloom of the big room I must have looked rather
lonely, and smaller than usual buried in the capacious chair, for when
he finally discovered me his face widened into an inappropriately
cheerful smile.

"Well, my dear," he said genially, "how very cold it is."

"Did you come in to say that?" I asked.

"This tempest is very unusual in the summer," he proceeded; to which I
made no reply of any sort.

"I did not see you at first amongst all these chairs and cushions. At
least, I saw you, but it is so dark I thought you were a cushion."

Now no woman likes to be taken for a cushion, so I rose and began to
make tea with an icy dignity of demeanour.

"I am afraid I shall be forced to break my promise not to invite any one
here," he said, watching my face as he spoke. My heart gave a distinct
leap--so small is the constancy and fortitude of woman. "But it will
only be for one night." My heart sank down as though it were lead. "And
I have just received a telegram that it will be to-night." Up went my
heart with a cheerful bound.

"Who is it?" I inquired. And then he told me that it was the least
objectionable of the candidates for the living here, made vacant by our
own parson having been appointed superintendent, the highest position in
the Lutheran Church; and the gale must have brought me low indeed for
the coming of a solitary parson to give me pleasure. The entire race of
Lutheran parsons is unpleasing to me,--whether owing to their fault or
to mine, it would ill become me to say,--and the one we are losing is
the only one I have met that I can heartily respect, and admire, and
like. But he is quite one by himself in his extreme godliness, perfect
simplicity, and real humility, and though I knew it was unlikely we
should find another as good, and I despised myself for the eagerness
with which I felt I was looking forward to seeing a new face, I could
not stop myself from suddenly feeling cheerful. Such is the weakness of
the female mind, and such the unexpected consequences of two months'
complete solitude with forty-eight hours' gale at the end of them.

We have had countless applications during the last few weeks for the
living, as it is a specially fat one for this part of the country, with
a yearly income of six thousand marks, and a good house, and several
acres of land. The Man of Wrath has been distracted by the difficulties
of choice. According to the letters of recommendation, they were all
wonderful men with unrivalled powers of preaching, but on closer inquiry
there was sure to be some drawback. One was too old, another not old
enough; another had twelve children, and the parsonage only allows for
eight; one had a shrewish wife, and another was of Liberal tendencies in
politics--a fatal objection; one was in money difficulties because he
would spend more than he had, which was not surprising when one heard
what he did have; and another was disliked in his parish because he and
his wife were too close-fisted and would not spend at all; and at last,
the Man of Wrath explained, the moment having arrived when if he did not
himself appoint somebody his right to do so would lapse, he had written
to the one who was coming, and invited him down that he might look at
him, and ask him searching questions as to the faith which is in him.

I forgot my gloom, and my half-formed desperate resolve to break my vow
of solitude and fill the house with the frivolous, as I sat listening to
the cheerful talk of the little parson this evening. He was so cheerful,
yet it was hard to see any cause for it in the life he was leading, a
life led by the great majority of the German clergy, fat livings being
as rare here as anywhere else. He told us with pleasant frankness all
about himself, how he lived on an income of two thousand marks with a
wife and six children, and how he was often sorely put to it to keep
decent shoes on their feet. "I am continually drawing up plans of
expenditure," he said, "but the shoemaker's bill is always so much more
than I had expected that it throws my calculations completely out."

His wife, of course, was ailing, but already his eldest child, a girl of
ten, took a great deal of the work off her mother's shoulders, poor
baby. He was perfectly natural, and said in the simplest way that if the
choice were to fall on him it would relieve him of many grinding
anxieties; whereupon I privately determined that if the choice did not
fall on him the Man of Wrath and I would be strangers from that hour.

"Have you been worrying him with questions about his principles?" I
asked, buttonholing the Man of Wrath as he came out from a private
conference with him.

"Principles? My dear Elizabeth, how can he have any on that income?"

"If he is not a Conservative will you let that stand in his way, and
doom that little child to go on taking work off other people's
shoulders?"

"My dear Elizabeth," he protested, "what has my decision for or against
him to do with dooming little children to go on doing anything? I really
cannot be governed by sentiment."

"If you don't give it to him--" and I held up an awful finger of warning
as he retreated, at which he only laughed.

When the parson came to say good-night and good-bye, as he was leaving
very early in the morning, I saw at once by his face that all was right.
He bent over my hand, stammering out words of thanks and promises of
devotion and invocations of blessings in such quantities that I began to
feel quite pleased with myself, and as though I had been doing a
virtuous deed. This feeling I saw reflected on the Man of Wrath's face,
which made me consider that all we had done was to fill the living in
the way that suited us best, and that we had no cause whatever to look
and feel so benevolent. Still, even now, while the victorious candidate
is dreaming of his trebled income and of the raptures of his home-coming
to-morrow, the glow has not quite departed, and I am dwelling with
satisfaction on the fact that we have been able to raise eight people
above those hideous cares that crush all the colour out of the lives of
the genteel poor. I am glad he has so many children, because there will
be more to be made happy. They will be rich on the little income, and
will no doubt dismiss the wise and willing eldest baby to appropriate
dolls and pinafores; and everybody will have what they never yet have
had, a certain amount of that priceless boon, leisure--leisure to sit
down and look at themselves, and inquire what it is they really mean,
and really want, and really intend to do with their lives. And this, I
may observe, is a beneficial process wholly impossible on 100 pounds a
year divided by eight.

But I wonder whether they will be thin-skinned enough ever to discover
that other and less delightful side of life only seen by those who have
plenty of leisure. Sordid cares may be very terrible to the sensitive,
and make them miss the best of everything, but as long as they have them
and are busy from morning till night keeping up appearances, they miss
also the burden of those fears, and dreads, and realisations that beset
him who has time to think. When in the morning I go into my sausage-room
and give out sausages, I never think of anything but sausages. My
horizon is bounded by them, every faculty is absorbed by them, and they
engross me, while I am with them, to the exclusion of the whole world.
Not that I love them; as far as that goes, unlike the effect they
produce on most of my country-men, they leave me singularly cold; but it
is one of my duties to begin the day with sausages, and every morning
for the short time I am in the midst of their shining rows, watching my
_Mamsell_ dexterously hooking down the sleekest with an instrument like
a boat-hook, I am practically dead to every other consideration in
heaven or on earth. What are they to me, Love, Life, Death, all the
mysteries? The one thing that concerns me is the due distribution to the
servants of sausages; and until that is done, all obstinate questionings
and blank misgivings must wait. If I were to spend my days in their
entirety doing such work I should never have time to think, and if I
never thought I should never feel, and if I never felt I should never
suffer or rapturously enjoy, and so I should grow to be something very
like a sausage myself, and not on that account, I do believe, any the
less precious to the Man of Wrath.

I know what I would do if I were both poor and genteel--the gentility
should go to the place of all good ilities, including utility,
respectability, and imbecility, and I would sit, quite frankly poor,
with a piece of bread, and a pot of geraniums, and a book. I conclude
that if I did without the things erroneously supposed necessary to
decency I might be able to afford a geranium, because I see them so
often in the windows of cottages where there is little else; and if I
preferred such inexpensive indulgences as thinking and reading and
wandering in the fields to the doubtful gratification arising from kept-
up appearances (always for the bedazzlement of the people opposite, and
therefore always vulgar), I believe I should have enough left over to
buy a radish to eat with my bread; and if the weather were fine, and I
could eat it under a tree, and give a robin some crumbs in return for
his cheeriness, would there be another creature in the world so happy? I
know there would not.



JULY


July 1st.--I think that after roses sweet-peas are my favourite flowers.
Nobody, except the ultra-original, denies the absolute supremacy of the
rose. She is safe on her throne, and the only question to decide is
which are the flowers that one loves next best. This I have been a long
while deciding, though I believe I knew all the time somewhere deep down
in my heart that they were sweet-peas; and every summer when they first
come out, and every time, going round the garden, that I come across
them, I murmur involuntarily, "Oh yes, _you_ are the sweetest, you dear,
dear little things." And what a victory this is, to be ranked next the
rose even by one person who loves her garden. Think of the wonderful
beauty triumphed over--the lilies, the irises, the carnations, the
violets, the frail and delicate poppies, the magnificent larkspurs, the
burning nasturtiums, the fierce marigolds, the smooth, cool pansies. I
have a bed at this moment in the full glory of all these things, a
little chosen plot of fertile land, about fifteen yards long and of
irregular breadth, shutting in at its broadest the east end of the walk
along the south front of the house, and sloping away at the back down to
a moist, low bit by the side of a very tiny stream, or rather thread of
trickling water, where, in the dampest corner, shining in the sun, but
with their feet kept cool and wet, is a colony of Japanese irises, and
next to them higher on the slope Madonna lilies, so chaste in looks and
so voluptuous in smell, and then a group of hollyhocks in tenderest
shades of pink, and lemon, and white, and right and left of these white
marguerites and evening primroses and that most exquisite of poppies
called Shirley, and a little on one side a group of metallic blue
delphiniums beside a towering white lupin, and in and out and everywhere
mignonette, and stocks, and pinks, and a dozen other smaller but not
less lovely plants. I wish I were a poet, that I might properly describe
the beauty of this bit as it sparkles this afternoon in the sunshine
after rain; but of all the charming, delicate, scented groups it
contains, none to my mind is so lovely as the group of sweet-peas in its
north-west corner. There is something so utterly gentle and tender about
sweet-peas, something so endearing in their clinging, winding, yielding
growth; and then the long straight stalk, and the perfect little winged
flower at the top, with its soft, pearly texture and wonderful range and
combination of colours--all of them pure, all of them satisfying, not an
ugly one, or even a less beautiful one among them. And in the house,
next to a china bowl of roses, there is no arrangement of flowers so
lovely as a bowl of sweet-peas, or a Delf jar filled with them. What a
mass of glowing, yet delicate colour it is! How prettily, the moment you
open the door, it seems to send its fragrance to meet you! And how you
hang over it, and bury your face in it, and love it, and cannot get away
from it. I really am sorry for all the people in the world who miss such
keen pleasure. It is one that each person who opens his eyes and his
heart may have; and indeed, most of the things that are really worth
having are within everybody's reach. Any one who chooses to take a
country walk, or even the small amount of trouble necessary to get him
on to his doorstep and make him open his eyes, may have them, and there
are thousands of them thrust upon us by nature, who is for ever giving
and blessing, at every turn as we walk. The sight of the first pale
flowers starring the copses; an anemone held up against the blue sky
with the sun shining through it towards you; the first fall of snow in
the autumn; the first thaw of snow in the spring; the blustering, busy
winds blowing the winter away and scurrying the dead, untidy leaves into
the corners; the hot smell of pines--just like blackberries--when the
sun is on them; the first February evening that is fine enough to show
how the days are lengthening, with its pale yellow strip of sky behind
the black trees whose branches are pearled with raindrops; the swift
pang of realisation that the winter is gone and the spring is coming;
the smell of the young larches a few weeks later; the bunch of cowslips
that you kiss and kiss again because it is so perfect, because it is so
divinely sweet, because of all the kisses in the world there is none
other so exquisite--who that has felt the joy of these things would
exchange them, even if in return he were to gain the whole world, with
all its chimney-pots, and bricks, and dust, and dreariness? And we know
that the gain of a world never yet made up for the loss of a soul.

One day, in going round the head inspector's garden with his wife, whose
care it is, I remarked with surprise that she had no sweet-peas. I
called them _Lathyrus odoratus_, and she, having little Latin, did not
understand. Then I called them _wohlriechende Wicken_, the German
rendering of that which sounds so pretty in English, and she said she
had never heard of them. The idea of an existence in a garden yet
without sweet-peas, so willing, so modest, and so easily grown, had
never presented itself as possible to my imagination. Ever since I can
remember, my summers have been filled with them; and in the days when I
sat in my own perambulator and they were three times as tall as I was, I
well recollect a certain waving hedge of them in the garden of my
childhood, and how I stared up longingly at the flowers so far beyond my
reach, inaccessibly tossing against the sky. When I grew bigger and had
a small garden of my own, I bought their seeds to the extent of twenty
pfennings, and trained the plants over the rabbit-hutch that was the
chief feature in the landscape. There were other seeds in that garden
seeds on which I had laid out all my savings and round which played my
fondest hopes, but the sweet-peas were the only ones that came up. The
same thing happened here in my first summer, my gardening knowledge not
having meanwhile kept pace with my years, and of the seeds sown that
first season sweet-peas again were the only ones that came up. I should
say they were just the things for people with very little time and
experience at their disposal to grow. A garden might be made beautiful
with sweet-peas alone, and, with hardly any labour, except the sweet
labour of picking to prolong the bloom, be turned into a fairy bower of
delicacy and refinement. Yet the Frau Inspector not only had never heard
of them, but, on my showing her a bunch, was not in the least impressed,
and led me in her garden to a number of those exceedingly vulgar red
herbaceous peonies growing among her currant bushes, and announced with
conviction that they were her favourite flower. It was on the tip of my
tongue to point out that in these days of tree-peonies, and peonies so
lovely in their silvery faint tints that they resemble gigantic roses,
it is absolutely wicked to suffer those odious red ones to pervert one's
taste; that a person who sees nothing but those every time he looks out
of his window very quickly has his nice perception for true beauty
blunted; that such a person would do well to visit my garden every day
during the month of May, and so get himself cured by the sight of my
peony bushes covered with huge scented white and blush flowers; and that
he would, I was convinced, at the end of the cure, go home and pitch his
own on to the dust-heap. But of what earthly use would it have been?
Pointing out the difference between what is beautiful and what misses
beauty to a Frau Inspector of forty, whose chief business it is to make
butter, is likely to be singularly unprolific of good results; and,
further, experience has taught me that whenever anything is on the tip
of my tongue the best thing to do is to keep it there. I wonder why a
woman always wants to interfere.

It is a pity, nevertheless, that this lady should be so wanting in the
aesthetic instinct, for her garden is full of possibilities. It lies due
south, sheltered on the north, east, and west by farm buildings, and is
rich in those old fruit-trees and well-seasoned gooseberry bushes that
make such a good basis for the formation of that most delightful type of
little garden, the flower-and-fruit-and-vegetable-mixed sort. She has,
besides, an inestimable slimy, froggy pond, a perpetual treasure of
malodorous water, much pined after by thirsty flowers; and then does she
not live in the middle of a farmyard flowing with fertilising properties
that only require a bucket and a shovel to transform them into roses?
The way in which people miss their opportunities is melancholy.

This pond of hers, by the way, is an object of the liveliest interest to
the babies. They do not seem to mind the smell, and they love the slime,
and they had played there for several days in great peace before the
unfortunate accident of the June baby's falling in and being brought
back looking like a green and speckled frog herself, revealed where it
was they had persuaded Seraphine to let them spend their mornings. Then
there was woe and lamentation, for I was sure they would all have
typhoid fever, and I put them mercilessly to bed, and dosed them, as a
preliminary, with castor oil--that oil of sorrow, as Carlyle calls it.
It was no use sending for the doctor because there is no doctor within
reach; a fact which simplifies life amazingly when you have children.
During the time we lived in town the doctor was never out of the house.
Hardly a day passed but one or other of the Three had a spot, or, as the
expressive German has it, a _Pickel_, and what parent could resist
sending for a doctor when one lived round the corner? But doctors are
like bad habits--once you have shaken them off you discover how much
better you are without them; and as for the babies, since they inhabit a
garden, prompt bed and the above-mentioned simple remedy have been all
that is necessary to keep them robust. I admit I was frightened when I
heard where they had been playing, for when the wind comes from that
quarter even sitting by my rose beds I have been reminded of the
existence of the pond; and I kept them in bed for three days, anxiously
awaiting symptoms, and my head full of a dreadful story I had heard of a
little boy who had drunk seltzer water and thereupon been seized with
typhoid fever and had died, and if, I asked myself with a power of
reasoning unusual in a woman, you die after seltzer water, what will you
not do after frog-pond? But they did nothing, except be uproarious, and
sing at the top of their voices, and clamour for more dinner than I felt
would be appropriate for babies who were going to be dangerously ill in
a few hours; and so, after due waiting, they were got up and dressed and
turned loose again, and from that day to this no symptoms have appeared.
The pond was at first strictly forbidden as a playground, but afterwards
I made concessions, and now they are allowed to go to a deserted little
burying-ground on the west side of it when the wind is in the west; and
there at least they can hear the frogs, and sometimes, if they are
patient, catch a delightful glimpse of them.

The graveyard is in the middle of a group of pines that bounds the Frau
Inspector's garden on that side, and has not been used within the memory
of living man. The people here love to make their little burying-grounds
in the heart of a wood if they can, and they are often a long way away
from the church to which they belong because, while every hamlet has its
burying-ground, three or four hamlets have to share a church; and indeed
the need for churches is not so urgent as that for graves, seeing that,
though we may not all go to church, we all of us die and must be buried.
Some of these little cemeteries are not even anywhere near a village,
and you come upon them unexpectedly in your drives through the woods--
bits of fenced-in forest, the old gates dropping off their hinges, the
paths green from long disuse, the unchecked trees casting black,
impenetrable shadows across the poor, meek, pathetic graves. I try
sometimes, pushing aside the weeds, to decipher the legend on the almost
speechless headstones; but the voice has been choked out of them by
years of wind, and frost, and snow, and a few stray letters are all that
they can utter--a last stammering protest against oblivion.

The Man of Wrath says all women love churchyards. He is fond of sweeping
assertions, and is sometimes curiously feminine in his tendency to infer
a general principle from a particular instance. The deserted little
forest burying-grounds interest and touch me because they are so
solitary, and humble, and neglected, and forgotten, and because so many
long years have passed since tears were shed over the newly made graves.
Nobody cries now for the husband, or father, or brother buried there;
years and years ago the last tear that would ever be shed for them was
dried--dried probably before the gate was reached on the way home--and
they were not missed. Love and sorrow appear to be flowers of
civilisation, and most to flourish where life has the broadest margin of
leisure and abundance. The primary instincts are always there, and must
first be satisfied; and if to obtain the means of satisfying them you
have to work from morning till night without rest, who shall find time
and energy to sit down and lament? I often go with the babies to the
enclosure near the Frau Inspector's pond, and it seems just as natural
that they should play there as that the white butterflies should chase
each other undisturbed across the shadows. And then the place has a
soothing influence on them, and they sober down as we approach it, and
on hot afternoons sit quietly enough as close to the pond as they may,
content to watch for the chance appearance of a frog while talking to me
about angels.

This is their favourite topic of conversation in this particular place.
Just as I have special times and places for certain books, so do they
seem to have special times and places for certain talk. The first time I
took them there they asked me what the mounds were, and by a series of
adroit questions extracted the information that the people who had been
buried there were now angels (I am not a specialist, and must take
refuge in telling them what I was told in my youth), and ever since then
they refuse to call it a graveyard, and have christened it the angel-
yard, and so have got into the way of discussing angels in all their
bearings, sometimes to my confusion, whenever we go there.

"But what _are_> angels, mummy?" said the June baby inconsequently this
afternoon, after having assisted at the discussions for several days and
apparently listening with attention.

"_Such_ a silly baby!" cried April, turning upon her with contempt,
"don't you know they are _lieber Gott's_ little girls?"

Now I protest I had never told those babies anything of the sort. I
answer their questions to the best of my ability and as conscientiously
as I can, and then, when I hear them talking together afterwards, I am
staggered by the impression they appear to have received. They live in a
whole world of independent ideas in regard to heaven and the angels,
ideas quite distinct from other people's, and, as far as I can make out,
believe that the Being they call _lieber Gott_ pervades the garden,
and is identical with, among other things, the sunshine and the air on a
fine day. I never told them so, nor, I am sure, did Seraphine, and still
less Seraphine's predecessor Miss Jones, whose views were wholly
material; yet if, on bright mornings, I forget to immediately open all
the library windows on coming down, the April baby runs in, and with
quite a worried look on her face cries, "Mummy, won't you open the
windows and let the _lieber Gott_ come in?"

If they were less rosy and hungry, or if I were less prosaic, I might
have gloomy forebodings that such keen interest in things and beings
celestial was prophetic of a short life; and in books, we know, the
children who talk much on these topics invariably die, after having
given their reverential parents a quantity of advice. Fortunately such
children are confined to books, and there is nothing of the ministering
child--surely a very uncomfortable form of infant--about my babies.
Indeed, I notice that in their conversations together on such matters a
healthy spirit of contradiction prevails, and this afternoon, after
having accepted April's definition of angels with apparent reverence,
the June baby electrified the other two (always more orthodox and
yielding) by remarking that she hoped she would never go to heaven. I
pretended to be deep in my book and not listening; April and May were
sitting on the grass sewing ("needling" they call it) fearful-looking
woolwork things for Seraphine's birthday, and June was leaning idly
against a pine trunk, swinging a headless doll round and round by its
one remaining leg, her heels well dug into the ground, her sun-bonnet
off, and all the yellow tangles of her hair falling across her sunburnt,
grimy little face.

"No," she repeated firmly, with her eyes fixed on her sisters' startled
faces, "I don't want to. There's nothing there for babies to play with."

"Nothing to play with?" exclaimed the other two in a breath--and
throwing down their needle-work they made a simultaneous rush for me.

"Mummy, did you hear? June says she doesn't want to go into the
_Himmel_!" cried April, horror-stricken.

"Because there's nothing to play with there, she says," cried May,
breathlessly; and then they added with one voice, as though the subject
had long ago been threshed out and settled between them, "Why, she can
play at ball there with all the _Sternleins_ if she likes!"

The idea of the June baby striding across the firmament and hurling the
stars about as carelessly as though they were tennis-balls was so
magnificent that it sent shivers of awe through me as I read.

"But if you break all your dolls," added April, turning severely to
June, and eyeing the distorted remains in her hand, "I don't think
_lieber Gott_ will let you in at all. When you're big and have tiny
Junes--real live Junes--I think you'll break them too, and _lieber_
_Gott_ doesn't love mummies what breaks their babies."

"But I _must_ break my dolls," cried June, stung into indignation by
what she evidently regarded as celestial injustice; "_lieber Gott_
made me that way, so I can't help doing it, can I, mummy?"

On these occasions I keep my eyes fixed on my book, and put on an air of
deep abstraction; and indeed, it is the only way of keeping out of
theological disputes in which I am invariably worsted.


July 15th.--Yesterday, as it was a cool and windy afternoon and not as
pleasant in my garden as it has lately been, I thought I would go into
the village and see how my friends the farm hands were getting on.
Philanthropy is intermittent with me as with most people, only they do
not say so, and seize me like a cold in the head whenever the weather is
chilly. On warm days my bump of benevolence melts away entirely, and
grows bigger in proportion as the thermometer descends. When the wind is
in the east it is quite a decent size, and about January, in a north-
easterly snowstorm, it is plainly visible to the most casual observer.
For a few weeks from then to the end of February I can hold up my head
and look our parson in the face, but during the summer, if I see him
coming my mode of progression in getting out of the way is described
with perfect accuracy by the verb "to slink."

The village consists of one street running parallel to the outer
buildings of the farm, and the cottages are one-storied, each with rooms
for four families--two in front, looking on to the wall of the farmyard,
which is the fashionable side, and two at the back, looking on to
nothing more exhilarating than their own pigstyes. Each family has one
room and a larder sort of place, and shares the kitchen with the family
on the opposite side of the entrance; but the women prefer doing their
cooking at the grate in their own room rather than expose the contents
of their pots to the ill-natured comments of a neighbour. On the
fashionable side there is a little fenced-in garden for every family,
where fowls walk about pensively and meditate beneath the scarlet-
runners (for all the world like me in my garden), and hollyhocks tower
above the drying linen, and fuel, stolen from our woods, is stacked for
winter use; but on the other side you walk straight out of the door on
to manure heaps and pigs.

The street did not look very inviting yesterday, with a lowering sky
above, and the wind blowing dust and bits of straw and paper into my
face and preventing me from seeing what I knew to be there, a consoling
glimpse of green fields and fir woods down at the other end; but I had
not been for a long while--we have had such a lovely summer--and
something inside me had kept on saying aggressively all the morning,
"Elizabeth, don't you know you are due in the village? Why don't you go
then? When are you going? Don't you know you _ought_ to go? Don't you
feel you _must_? Elizabeth, pull yourself together and _go_" Strange
effect of a grey sky and a cool wind! For I protest that if it had been
warm and sunny my conscience would not have bothered about me at all. We
had a short fight over it, in which I got all the knocks, as was evident
by the immediate swelling of the bump alluded to above, and then I gave
in, and by two o'clock in the afternoon was lifting the latch of the
first door and asking the woman who lived behind it what she had given
the family for dinner. This, I was instructed on my first round by the
Frau Inspector, is the proper thing to ask; and if you can follow it up
by an examination of the contents of the saucepan, and a gentle sniff
indicative of your appreciation of their savouriness, so much the
better. I was diffident at first about this, but the gratification on
their faces at the interest displayed is so unmistakable that I never
now omit going through the whole business. This woman, the wife of one
of the men who clean and feed the cows, has arrived at that enviable
stage of existence when her children have all been confirmed and can go
out to work, leaving her to spend her days in her clean and empty room
in comparative dignity and peace. The children go to school till they
are fourteen, then they are confirmed, are considered grown up, and
begin to work for wages; and her three strapping daughters were out in
the fields yesterday reaping. The mother has a keen, shrewd face, and
everything about her was neat and comfortable. Her floor was freshly
strewn with sand, her cups and saucers and spoons shone bright and clean
from behind the glass door of the cupboard, and the two beds, one for
herself and her husband and the other for her three daughters, were more
mountainous than any I afterwards saw. The size and plumpness of her
feather beds, the Frau Inspector tells me, is a woman's chief claim to
consideration from the neighbours. She who can pile them up nearest to
the ceiling becomes the principal personage in the community, and a flat
bed is a social disgrace. It is a mystery to me, when I see the
narrowness of the bedsteads, how so many people can sleep in them. They
are rather narrower than what are known as single beds, yet father and
mother and often a baby manage to sleep very well in one, and three or
four children in the opposite corner of the room in another. The
explanation no doubt is that they do not know what nerves are, and what
it is to be wakened by the slightest sound or movement in the room and
lie for hours afterwards, often the whole night, totally unable to fall
asleep again, staring out into the darkness with eyes that refuse to
shut. No nerves, and a thick skin--what inestimable blessings to these
poor people! And they never heard of either.

I stood a little while talking, not asked to sit down, for that would be
thought a liberty, and hearing how they had had potatoes and bacon for
dinner, and how the eldest girl Bertha was going to be married at
Michaelmas, and how well her baby was getting through its teething.

"Her baby?" I echoed, "I have not heard of a baby?"

The woman went to one of the beds and lifted up a corner of the great
bag of feathers, and there, sure enough, lay a round and placid baby,
sleeping as sweetly and looking as cherubic as the most legitimate of
its contemporaries.

"And he is going to marry her at Michaelmas?" I asked, looking as
sternly as I could at the grandmother.

"Oh yes," she replied, "he is a good young man, and earns eighteen marks
a week. They will be very comfortable."

"It is a pity," I said, "that the baby did not make its appearance after
Michaelmas instead of before. Don't you see yourself what a pity it is,
and how everything has been spoilt?"

She stared at me for a moment with a puzzled look, and then turned away
and carefully covered the cherub again. "They will be very comfortable,"
she repeated, seeing that I expected an answer; "he earns eighteen marks
a week."

What was there to be said? If I had told her her daughter was a grievous
sinner she might perhaps have felt transiently uncomfortable, but as
soon as I had gone would have seen for herself, with those shrewd eyes
of hers, that nothing had been changed by my denunciations, that there
lay the baby, dimpled and healthy, that her daughter was making a good
match, that none of her set saw anything amiss, and that all the young
couples in the district had prefaced their marriages in this way.

Our parson is troubled to the depths of his sensitive soul by this
custom. He preaches, he expostulates, he denounces, he implores, and
they listen with square stolid faces and open mouths, and go back to
their daily work among their friends and acquaintances, with no feeling
of shame, because everybody does it, and public opinion, the only force
that could stop it, is on their side. The parson looks on with
unutterable sadness at the futility of his efforts; but the material is
altogether too raw for successful manipulation by delicate fingers.

"Poor things," I said one day, in answer to an outburst of indignation
from him, after he had been marrying one of our servants at the eleventh
hour, "I am so sorry for them. It is so pitiful that they should always
have to be scolded on their wedding day. Such children--so ignorant, so
uncontrolled, so frankly animal--what do they know about social laws?
They only know and follow nature, and I would from my heart forgive them
all."

"It is _sin_" he said shortly.

"Then the forgiveness is sure."

"Not if they do not seek it."

I was silent, for I wished to reply that I believed they would be
forgiven in spite of themselves, that probably they were forgiven
whether they sought it or not, and that you cannot limit things divine;
but who can argue with a parson? These people do not seek forgiveness
because it never enters their heads that they need it. The parson tells
them so, it is true, but they regard him as a person bound by his
profession to say that sort of thing, and are sharp enough to see that
the consequences of their sin, foretold by him with such awful
eloquence, never by any chance come off. No girl is left to languish and
die forsaken by her betrayer, for the betrayer is a worthy young man who
marries her as soon as he possibly can; no finger of scorn is pointed at
the fallen one, for all the fingers in the street are attached to women
who began life in precisely the same fashion; and as for that
problematical Day of Judgment of which they hear so much on Sundays,
perhaps they feel that that also may be one of the things which after
all do not happen.

The servant who had been married and scolded that morning was a groom,
aged twenty, and he had met his little wife, she being then seventeen,
in the place he was in before he came to us. She was a housemaid there,
and must have been a pretty thing, though there were few enough traces
of it, except the beautiful eyes, in the little anxious face that I saw
for the first time immediately after the wedding, and just before the
weary and harassed parson came in to talk things over. I had never heard
of her existence until, about ten days previously, the groom had
appeared, bathed in tears, speechlessly holding out a letter from her in
which she said she could not bear things any longer and was going to
kill herself. The wretched young man was at his wit's end, for he had
not yet saved enough to buy any furniture and set up housekeeping, and
she was penniless after so many months out of a situation. He did not
know any way out of it, he had no suggestions to offer, no excuses to
make, and just stood there helplessly and sobbed.

I went to the Man of Wrath, and we laid our heads together. "We do not
want another married servant," he said.

"No, of course we don't," said I.

"And there is not a room empty in the village."

"No, not one."

"And how can we give him furniture? It is not fair to the other servants
who remain virtuous, and wait till they can buy their own."

"No, certainly it isn't fair."

There was a pause.

"He is a good boy," I murmured presently.

"A very good boy."

"And she will be quite ruined unless somebody--"

"I'll tell you what we can do, Elizabeth," he interrupted; "we can buy
what is needful and let him have it on condition that he buys it back
gradually by some small monthly payment."

"So we can."

"And I think there is a room over the stables that is empty."

"So there is."

"And he can go to town and get what furniture he needs and bring the
girl back with him and marry her at once. The sooner the better, poor
girl."

And so within a fortnight they were married, and came hand in hand to
me, he proud and happy, holding himself very straight, she in no wise
yet recovered from the shock and misery of the last few hopeless months,
looking up at me with eyes grown much too big for her face, eyes in
which there still lurked the frightened look caught in the town where
she had hidden herself, and where fingers of scorn could not have been
wanting, and loud derision, and utter shame, besides the burden of
sickness, and hunger, and miserable pitiful youth.

They stood hand in hand, she in a decent black dress, and both wearing
very tight white kid gloves that refused to hide entirely the whole of
the rough red hands, and they looked so ridiculously young, and the
whole thing was so wildly improvident, that no words of exhortation
would come to my lips as I gazed at them in silence, between laughter
and tears. I ought to have told them they were sinners; I ought to have
told them they were reckless; I ought to have told them by what a narrow
chance they had escaped the just punishment of their iniquity, and
instead of that I found myself stretching out hands that were at once
seized and kissed, and merely saying with a cheerful smile, "_Nun_
_Kinder_, _liebt Euch_, _und seid brav_." And so they were
dismissed, and then the parson came, in a fever at this latest example
of deadly sin, while I, with the want of moral sense so often observable
in woman, could only think with pity of their childishness. The baby was
born three days later, and the mother very nearly slipped through our
fingers; but she was a country girl, and she fought round, and by and by
grew young again in the warmth of married respectability; and I met her
the other day airing her baby in the sun, and holding her head as high
as though she were conscious of a whole row of feather beds at home,
every one of which touched the ceiling.

In the next room I went into an old woman lay in bed with her head tied
up in bandages. The room had not much in it, or it would have been
untidier; it looked neglected and gloomy, and some dirty plates,
suggestive of long-past dinners, were piled on the table.

"Oh, such headaches!" groaned the old woman when she saw me, and moved
her head from side to side on the pillow. I could see she was not
undressed, and had crept under her feather bag as she was. I went to the
bedside and felt her pulse--a steady pulse, with nothing of feverishness
in it.

"Oh, such draughts!" moaned the old woman, when she saw I had left the
door open.

"A little air will make you feel better," I said; the atmosphere in the
shut-up room was so indescribable that my own head had begun to throb.

"Oh, oh!" she moaned, in visible indignation at being forced for a
moment to breathe the pure summer air.

"I have something at home that will cure your headache," I said, "but
there is nobody I can send with it to-day. If you feel better later on,
come round and fetch it. I always take it when I have a headache"--
("Why, Elizabeth, you know you never have such things!" whispered my
conscience, appalled. "You just keep quiet," I whispered back, "I have
had enough of you for one day.")--"and I have some grapes I will give
you when you come, so that if you possibly can, do."

"Oh, I can't move," groaned the old woman, "oh, oh, oh!" But I went away
laughing, for I knew she would appear punctually to fetch the grapes,
and a walk in the air was all she needed to cure her.

How the whole village hates and dreads fresh air! A baby died a few days
ago, killed, I honestly believe, by the exceeding love of its mother,
which took the form of cherishing it so tenderly that never once during
its little life was a breath of air allowed to come anywhere near it.
She is the watchman's wife, a gentle, flabby woman, with two rooms at
her disposal, but preferring to live and sleep with her four children in
one, never going into the other except for the christenings and funerals
which take place in her family with what I cannot but regard as
unnecessary frequency. This baby was born last September in a time of
golden days and quiet skies, and when it was about three weeks old I
suggested that she should take it out every day while the fine weather
lasted. She pointed out that it had not yet been christened, and
remembering that it is the custom in their class for both mother and
child to remain shut up and invisible till after the christening, I said
no more. Three weeks later I was its godmother, and it was safely got
into the fold of the Church. As I was leaving, I remarked that now she
would be able to take it out as much as she liked. The following March,
on a day that smelt of violets, I met her near the house. I asked after
the baby, and she began to cry. "It does not thrive," she wept, "and its
arms are no thicker than my finger."

"Keep it out in the sun as much as you can," I said; "this is the very
weather to turn weak babies into strong ones."

"Oh, I am so afraid it will catch cold if I take it out," she cried, her
face buried in what was once a pocket-handkerchief.

"When was it out last?"

"Oh--" she stopped to blow her nose, very violently, and, as it seemed
to me, with superfluous thoroughness. I waited till she had done, and
then repeated my question.

"Oh--" a fresh burst of tears, and renewed exhaustive nose-blowing.

I began to suspect that my question, put casually, was of more
importance than I had thought, and repeated it once more.

"I--can't t-take it out," she sobbed, "I know it--it would die."

"But has it not been out at all, then?"

She shook her head.

"Not once since it was born? Six months ago?"

She shook her head.

"_Poor_ baby!" I exclaimed; and indeed from my heart I pitied the little
thing, perishing in a heap of feathers, in one close room, with four
people absorbing what air there was. "I am afraid," I said, "that if it
does not soon get some fresh air it will not live. I wonder what would
happen to my children if I kept them in one hot room day and night for
six months. You see how they are out all day, and how well they are."

"They are so strong," she said, with a doleful sniff, "that they can
stand it."

I was confounded by this way of looking at it, and turned away, after
once more begging her to take the child out. She plainly regarded the
advice as brutal, and I heard her blowing her nose all down the drive.
In June the father told me he would like the doctor; the child grew
thinner every day in spite of all the food it took. A doctor was got
from the nearest town, and I went across to hear what he ordered. He
ordered bottles at regular intervals instead of the unbroken series it
had been having, and fresh air. He could find nothing the matter with
it, except unusual weakness. He asked if it always perspired as it was
doing then, and himself took off the topmost bag of feathers. Early in
July it died, and its first outing was to the cemetery in the pine woods
three miles off.

"I took such care of it," moaned the mother, when I went to try and
comfort her after the funeral; "it would never have lived so long but
for the care I took of it."

"And what the doctor ordered did no good?" I ventured to ask, as gently
as I could.

"Oh, I did not take it out--how could I--it would have killed it at
once--at least I have kept it alive till now." And she flung her arms
across the table, and burying her head in them wept bitterly.

There is a great wall of ignorance and prejudice dividing us from the
people on our place, and in every effort to help them we knock against
it and cannot move it any more than if it were actual stone. Like the
parson on the subject of morals, I can talk till I am hoarse on the
subject of health, without at any time producing the faintest
impression. When things are very bad the doctor is brought, directions
are given, medicines made up, and his orders, unless they happen to be
approved of, are simply not carried out. Orders to wash a patient and
open windows are never obeyed, because the whole village would rise up
if, later on, the illness ended in death, and accuse the relatives of
murder. I suppose they regard us and our like who live on the other side
of the dividing wall as persons of fantastic notions which, when carried
into effect among our own children, do no harm because of the vast
strength of the children accumulated during years of eating in the
quantities only possible to the rich. Their idea of happiness is eating,
and they naturally suppose that everybody eats as much as he can
possibly afford to buy. Some of them have known hunger, and food and
strength are coupled together in their experience--the more food the
greater the strength; and people who eat roast meat (oh, bliss
ineffable!) every day of their lives can bear an amount of washing and
airing that would surely kill such as themselves. But how useless to try
and discover what their views really are. I can imagine what I like
about them, and am fairly certain to imagine wrong. I have no real
conception of their attitude towards life, and all I can do is to talk
to them kindly when they are in trouble, and as often as I can give them
nice things to eat. Shocked at the horrors that must surround the poor
women at the birth of their babies, I asked the Man of Wrath to try and
make some arrangement that would ensure their quiet at those times. He
put aside a little cottage at the end of the street as a home for them
in their confinements, and I furnished it, and made it clean and bright
and pretty. A nurse was permanently engaged, and I thought with delight
of the unspeakable blessing and comfort it was going to be. Not a baby
has been born in that cottage, for not a woman has allowed herself to be
taken there. At the end of a year it had to be let out again to
families, and the nurse dismissed.

"_Why_ wouldn't they go?" I asked the Frau Inspector, completely
puzzled. She shrugged her shoulders. "They like their husband and
children round them," she said, "and are afraid something will be done
to them away from home--that they will be washed too often, perhaps. The
gracious lady will never get them to leave their homes."

"The gracious lady gives it up," I muttered.

When I opened the next door I was bewildered by the crowd in the room. A
woman stood in the middle at a wash-tub which took up most of the space.
Every now and then she put out a dripping hand and jerked a perambulator
up and down for a moment, to calm the shrieks of the baby inside. On a
wooden bench at the foot of one of the three beds a very old man sat and
blinked at nothing. Crouching in a corner were two small boys of pasty
complexion, playing with a guinea-pig and coughing violently. The
loveliest little girl I have seen for a very long while lay in the bed
nearest the door, quite silent, with her eyes closed and her mouth shut
tight, as though she were trying hard to bear something. As I pulled the
door open the first thing I saw, right up against it, was this set young
face framed in tossed chestnut hair. "Why, _Frauchen_," I said to the
woman at the tub, "so many of you at home to-day? Are you all ill?"
There was hardly standing room for an extra person, and the room was
full of steam.

"They have all got the cough I had," she answered, without looking up,
"and Lotte there is very bad."

I took Lotte's rough little hand--so different from the delicate face--
and found she was in a fever.

"We must get the doctor," I said.

"Oh, the doctor--" said the mother with a shrug, "he's no use."

"You must do what he tells you, or he cannot help you."

"That last medicine he sent me all but killed me," she said, washing
vigorously. "I'll never take any more of his, nor shall any child of
mine."

"What medicine was it?"

She wiped her hand on her apron, and reaching across to the cupboard
took out a little bottle. "I was in bed two days after it," she said,
handing it to me--"as though I were dead, not knowing what was going on
round me." The bottle had contained opium, and there were explicit
directions written on it as to the number of drops to be taken and the
length of the intervals between the taking.

"Did you do exactly what is written here?" I asked.

"I took it all at once. There wasn't much of it, and I was feeling bad."

"But then of course it nearly killed you. I wonder it didn't quite. What
good is it our taking all the trouble we do to send that long distance
for the doctor if you don't do as he orders?"

"I'll take no more of his medicine. If it had been any good and able to
cure me, the more I took the quicker I ought to have been cured." And
she scrubbed and thumped with astounding energy, while Lotte lay with
her little ashen face a shade more set and suffering. The wash-tub,
though in the middle of the room, was quite close to Lotte's bed,
because the middle of the room was quite close to every other part of
it, and each extra hard maternal thump must have hit the child's head
like a blow from a hammer. She was, you see, only thirteen, and her skin
had not had time to turn into leather.

"Has this child eaten anything to-day?"

"She won't."

"Is she not thirsty?"

"She won't drink coffee or milk."

"I'll send her something she may like, and I shall send, too, for the
doctor."

"I'll not give her his stuff."

"Let me beg you to do as he tells you."

"I'll not give her his stuff."

"Was it absolutely necessary to wash to-day?"

"It's the day."

"My good woman," said I to myself, gazing at her with outward blandness,
"I'd like exceedingly to tip you up into your wash-tub and thump you as
thoroughly as you are thumping those unfortunate clothes." Aloud I said
in flute-like tones of conciliation, "Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon," said she without looking up.

Washing days always mean tempers, and I ought to have fled at the first
sight of that tub, but then there was Lotte in her little yellow flannel
night-gown, suffering as only children can suffer, helpless, forced to
patience, forced to silent endurance of any banging and vehemence in
which her mother might choose to indulge. No wonder her mouth was shut
like a clasp and she would not open her eyes. Her eyebrows were reddish
like her hair, and very straight, and her eyelashes lay dusky and long
on her white face. At least I had discovered Lotte and could help her a
little, I thought, as I departed down the garden path between the rows
of scarlet-runners; but the help that takes the form of jelly and iced
drinks is not of a lasting nature, and I have but little sympathy with a
benevolence that finds its highest expression in gifts of the kind.
There have been women within my experience who went down into the grave
accompanied by special pastoral encomiums, and whose claims to lady-
bountifulness, on closer inquiry, rested solely on a foundation of
jelly. Yet nothing in the world is easier than ordering jelly to be sent
to the sick, except refraining from ordering it. What more, however,
could I do for Lotte than this? I could not take her up in my arms and
run away with her and nurse her back to health, for she would probably
object to such a course as strongly as her mother; and later on, when
she gets well again, she will go back to school, and grow coarse and
bouncing and leathery like the others, affording the parson, in three or
four years' time, a fresh occasion for grief over deadly sin. "If one
could only get hold of the children!" I sighed, as I went up the steps
into the schoolhouse; "catch them young, and put them in a garden, with
no older people of their own class for ever teaching them by example
what is ugly, and unworthy, and gross."

Afternoon school was going on, and the assistant teacher was making the
children read aloud in turns. In winter, when they would be glad of a
warm, roomy place in which to spend their afternoons, school is only in
the morning; and in summer, when the thirstiest after knowledge are apt
to be less keen, it is both morning and afternoon. The arrangement is so
mysterious that it must be providential. Herr Schenk, the head master,
was away giving my babies their daily lessons, and his assistant, a
youth in spectacles but yet of pugnacious aspect, was sitting in the
master's desk, exercising a pretty turn for sarcasm in his running
comments on the reading. A more complete waste of breath and brilliancy
can hardly be imagined. He is not yet, however, married, and marriage is
a great chastener. The children all stood up when I came in, and the
teacher ceased sharpening his wits on a dulness that could not feel, and
with many bows put a chair for me and begged me to sit on it. I did sit
on it, and asked that they might go on with the lesson, as I had only
come in for a minute on my way down the street. The reading was
accordingly resumed, but unaccompanied this time by sarcasms. What
faces! What dull, apathetic, low, coarse faces! On one side sat those
from ten to fourteen, with not a hopeful face among them, and on the
other those from six to ten, with one single little boy who looked as
though he could have no business among the rest, so bright was he, so
attentive, so curiously dignified. Poor children--what could the parson
hope to make of beings whose expressions told so plainly of the sort of
nature within? Those that did not look dull looked cunning, and all the
girls on the older side had the faces of women. I began to feel
dreadfully depressed. "See what you have done," I whispered angrily to
my conscience--"made me wretched without doing anybody else any good."
"The old woman with the headache is happy in the hopes of grapes," it
replied, seeking to justify itself, "and Lotte is to have some jelly."
"Grapes! Jelly! Futility unutterable. I can't bear this, and am going
home." The teacher inquired whether the children should sing something
to my graciousness; perhaps he was ashamed of their reading, and indeed
I never heard anything like it. "Oh yes," I said, resigned, but
outwardly smiling kindly with the self-control natural to woman. They
sang, or rather screamed, a hymn, and so frightfully loud and piercingly
that the very windows shook. "My dear," explained the Man of Wrath, when
I complained one Sunday on our way home from church of the terrible
quality and volume of the music, "it frightens Satan away."

Our numerous godchildren were not in school because, as we have only
lived here three years, they are not yet old enough to share in the
blessings of education. I stand godmother to the girls, and the Man of
Wrath to the boys, and as all the babies are accordingly named after us
the village swarms with tiny Elizabeths and Boys of Wrath. A hunchbacked
woman, unfit for harder work, looks after the babies during the day in a
room set apart for that purpose, so that the mothers may not be hampered
in their duties at the farm; they have only to carry the babies there in
the morning, and fetch them away again in the evening, and can feel that
they are safe and well looked after. But many of them, for some reason
too cryptic to fathom, prefer to lock them up in their room, exposed to
all the perils that surround an inquiring child just able to walk, and
last winter one little creature was burnt to death, sacrificed to her
mother's stupidity. This mother, a fair type of the intelligence
prevailing in the village, made a great fire in her room before going
out, so that when she came back at noon there would still be some with
which to cook the dinner, left a baby in a perambulator, and a little
Elizabeth of three loose in the room, locked the door, put the key in
her pocket, and went off to work. When she came back to get the dinner
ready, the baby was still crowing placidly in its perambulator, and the
little Elizabeth, with all the clothes burnt off her body, was lying
near the grate dead. Of course the mother was wild with grief,
distracted, raving, desperate, and of course all the other women were
shocked and horrified; but point the moral as we might, we could not
bring them to see that it was an avoidable misfortune with nothing
whatever to do with the _Finger Gottes_, and the mothers who preferred
locking their babies up alone to sending them to be looked after, went
on doing so as undisturbed as though what had occurred could in no wise
be a lesson to themselves. "Pray, _Herr Lehrer_, why are those two
little boys sitting over there on that seat all by themselves and not
singing?" I asked at the conclusion of the hymn.

"That, gracious lady, is the vermin bench. It is necessary to keep--"

"Oh yes, yes--I quite understand--good afternoon. Good-bye, children,
you have sung very nicely indeed."

"Now," said I to myself, when I was safely out in the street again, "I
am going home."

"Oh, not yet," at once protested my unmanageable conscience; "your
favourite old woman lives in the next cottage, and surely you are not
going to leave her out?"

"I see plainly," I replied, "that I shall never be quite comfortable
till I have got rid of _you_" and in I went to the next house.

The entrance was full of three women--the entrances here are narrow, and
the women wide--and they all looked more cheerful than seemed
reasonable. They stood aside to let me pass, and when I opened the door
I found the room equally full of women, looking equally happy, and
talking eagerly.

"Why, what is happening?" I asked the nearest one. "Is there a party?"

She turned round, grinning broadly in obvious delight. "The old lady
died in her sleep," she said, "and was found this morning dead in her
bed. I was in here only yesterday, and she said--" I turned abruptly and
went out again. All those gloating women, hovering round the poor body
that was clothed on a sudden by death with a wonderful dignity and
nobleness, made me ashamed of being a woman. Not a man was there,--
clearly a superior race of beings. In the entrance I met the Frau
Inspector coming in to arrange matters, and she turned and walked with
me a little way.

"The old lady was better off than we thought," she remarked, "and has
left a very good black silk dress to be buried in."

"A black silk dress?" I repeated.

"And everything to match in goodness--nice leather shoes, good
stockings, under-things all trimmed with crochet, real whalebone
corsets, and a quite new pair of white kid gloves. She must have saved
for a long time to have it all so nice."

"But," I said, "I don't understand. I have never had anything to do yet
with death, and have not thought of these things. Are not people, then,
just buried in a shroud?"

"A shroud?" It was her turn not to understand.

"A sheet sort of thing."

She smiled in a highly superior manner. "Oh dear, no," she said, "we are
none of us quite so poor as that."

I glanced down at her as she walked beside me. She is a short woman, and
carries weight. She was smiling almost pityingly at my ignorance of what
is due, even after death, to ourselves and public opinion.

"The very poorest," she said, "manage to scrape a whole set of clothes
together for their funerals. A very poor couple came here a few months
ago, and before the man had time to earn anything he died. The wife came
to me (the gracious lady was absent), and on her knees implored me to
give her a suit for him--she had only been able to afford the
_Sterbehemd_, and was frantic at the thought of what the neighbours
would say if he had nothing on but that, and said she would be haunted
by shame and remorse all the rest of her life. We bought a nice black
suit, and tie, and gloves, and he really looked very well. She will be
dressed to-night," she went on, as I said nothing; "the dressers come
with the coffin, and it will be a nice funeral. I used to wonder what
she did with her pension money, and never could persuade her to buy
herself a bit of meat. But of course she was saving for this. They are
beautiful corsets."

"What utter waste!" I ejaculated.

"Waste?"

"Yes--utter waste and foolishness. Foolishness, not to have bought a few
little comforts, waste of the money, and waste of the clothes. Is there
any meaning, sense, or use whatever in burying a good black silk dress?"

"It would be a scandal not to be buried decently," she replied,
manifestly surprised at my warmth, "and the neighbours respect her much
more now that they know what nice clothes she had bought for her
funeral. Nothing is wanting. I even found a box with a gold brooch in
it, and a bracelet."

"I suppose, then, as many of her belongings as will go into the coffin
will be buried too, in order to still further impress the neighbours?" I
asked--"her feather bed, for instance, and anything else of use and
value?"

"No, only what she has on, and the brushes and combs and towels that
were used in dressing her."

"How ugly and how useless!" I said with a shiver of disgust.

"It is the custom," was her tranquil reply.

Suddenly an unpleasant thought struck me, and I burst out emphatically,
"Nothing but a shroud is to be put on me."

"Oh no," she said, looking up at me with a face meant to be full of the
most reassuring promises of devotion, "the gracious lady may be quite
certain that if I am still here she will have on her most beautiful ball
dress and finest linen, and that the whole neighbourhood shall see for
themselves how well _Herrschaften_ know what is due to them."

"I shall give directions," I repeated with increased energy, "that there
is only to be a shroud."

"Oh no, no," she protested, smiling as though she were humouring a
spoilt and eccentric child, "such a thing could never be permitted. What
would our feelings be when we remembered that the gracious lady had not
received her dues, and what would the neighbours say?"

"I'll have nothing but a shroud!" I cried in great wrath--and then
stopped short, and burst out laughing. "What an absurd and gruesome
conversation," I said, holding out my hand. "Good-bye, Frau Inspector, I
am sure you are wanted in that cottage."

She made me a curtsey and turned back. I walked out of the village and
through the fir wood and the meadow as quickly as I could, opened the
gate into my garden, went down the most sheltered path, flung myself on
the grass in a quiet nook, and said aloud "Ugh!"

It is a well-known exclamation of disgust, and is thus inadequately
expressed in writing.



August


August 5th.--August has come, and has clothed the hills with golden
lupins, and filled the grassy banks with harebells. The yellow fields of
lupins are so gorgeous on cloudless days that I have neglected the
forests lately and drive in the open, so that I may revel in their scent
while feasting my eyes on their beauty. The slope of a hill clothed with
this orange wonder and seen against the sky is one of those sights which
make me so happy that it verges on pain. The straight, vigorous flower-
spikes are something like hyacinths, but all aglow with a divine
intensity of brightness that a yellow hyacinth never yet possessed and
never will; and then they are not waxy, but velvety, and their leaves
are not futile drooping things, but delicate, strong sprays of an
exquisite grey-green, with a bloom on them that throws a mist over the
whole field; and as for the perfume, it surely is the perfume of
Paradise. The plant is altogether lovely--shape, growth, flower, and
leaf, and the horses have to wait very patiently once we get among them,
for I can never have enough of sitting quite still in those fair fields
of glory. Not far from here there is a low series of hills running north
and south, absolutely without trees, and at the foot of them, on the
east side, is a sort of road, chiefly stones, but yet with patience to
be driven over, and on the other side of this road a plain stretches
away towards the east and south; and hills and plain are now one sheet
of gold. I have driven there at all hours of the day--I cannot keep
away--and I have seen them early in the morning, and at mid-day, and in
the afternoon, and I have seen them in the evening by moonlight, when
all the intensity was washed out of the colour and into the scent; but
just as the sun drops behind the little hills is the supreme moment,
when the splendour is so dazzling that you feel as though you must have
reached the very gates of heaven. So strong was this feeling the other
day that I actually got out of the carriage, being impulsive, and began
almost involuntarily to climb the hill, half expecting to see the
glories of the New Jerusalem all spread out before me when I should
reach the top; and it came with quite a shock of disappointment to find
there was nothing there but the prose of potato-fields, and a sandy road
with home-going calves kicking up its dust, and in the distance our
neighbour's _Schloss_, and the New Jerusalem just as far off as ever.

It is a relief to me to write about these things that I so much love,
for I do not talk of them lest I should be regarded as a person who
rhapsodizes, and there is no nuisance more intolerable than having
somebody's rhapsodies thrust upon you when you have no enthusiasm of
your own that at all corresponds. I know this so well that I generally
succeed in keeping quiet; but sometimes even now, after years of study
in the art of holding my tongue, some stray fragment of what I feel does
occasionally come out, and then I am at once pulled up and brought to my
senses by the well-known cold stare of utter incomprehension, or the
look of indulgent superiority that awaits any exposure of a feeling not
in the least understood. How is it that you should feel so vastly
superior whenever you do not happen to enter into or understand your
neighbour's thoughts when, as a matter of fact, your not being able to
do so is less a sign of folly in your neighbour than of incompleteness
in yourself? I am quite sure that if I were to take most or any of my
friends to those pleasant yellow fields they would notice nothing except
the exceeding joltiness of the road; and if I were so ill-advised as to
lift up a corner of my heart, and let them see how full it was of wonder
and delight, they would first look blank, and then decide mentally that
they were in the unpleasant situation of driving over a stony road with
that worst form of idiot, a bore, and so fall into the mood of self-
commiseration which is such a solace to us in our troubles. Yet it is
painful being suppressed for ever and ever, and I believe the torments
of such a state, when unduly prolonged, are more keenly felt by a woman
than a man, she having, in spite of her protestations, a good deal of
the ivy nature still left in her, and an unhealthy craving for sympathy
and support. When I drive to the lupins and see them all spread out as
far as eye can reach in perfect beauty of colour and scent and bathed in
the mild August sunshine, I feel I must send for somebody to come and
look at them with me, and talk about them to me, and share in the
pleasure; and when I run over the list of my friends and try to find one
who would enjoy them, I am frightened once more at the solitariness in
which we each of us live. I have, it is true, a great many friends--
people with whom it is pleasant to spend an afternoon if such afternoons
are not repeated often, and if you are careful not to stir more than the
surface of things, but among them all there is only one who has,
roughly, the same tastes that I have; and even her sympathies have
limitations, and she declares for instance with emphasis that she would
not at all like to be a goose-girl. I wonder why. Our friendship nearly
came to an end over the goose-girl, so unexpectedly inflaming did the
subject turn out to be. Of all professions, if I had liberty of choice,
I would choose to be a gardener, and if nobody would have me in that
capacity I would like to be a goose-girl, and sit in the greenest of
fields minding those delightfully plump, placid geese, whiter and more
leisurely than the clouds on a calm summer morning, their very waddle in
its lazy deliberation soothing and salutary to a fretted spirit that has
been too long on the stretch. The fields geese feed in are so specially
charming, so green and low-lying, with little clumps of trees and
bushes, and a pond or boggy bit of ground somewhere near, and a
profusion of those delicate field flowers that look so lovely growing
and are so unsatisfactory and fade so quickly if you try to arrange them
in your rooms. For six months of the year I would be happier than any
queen I ever heard of, minding the fat white things. I would begin in
April with the king-cups, and leave off in September with the
blackberries, and I would keep one eye on the geese, and one on the
volume of Wordsworth I should have with me, and I would be present in
this way at the procession of the months, the first three all white and
yellow, and the last three gorgeous with the lupin fields and the blues
and purples and crimsons that clothe the hedges and ditches in a
wonderful variety of shades, and dye the grass near the water in great
patches. Then in October I would shut up my Wordsworth, go back to
civilised life, and probably assist at the eating of the geese one after
the other, with a proper thankfulness for the amount of edification I
had from first to last extracted from them.

I believe in England goose eating is held to be of doubtful refinement,
and is left to one's servants. Here roast goose stuffed with apples is a
dish loved quite openly and simply by people who would consider that the
number of their quarterings raises them above any suspicion as to the
refinement of their tastes, however many geese they may eat, and however
much they may enjoy them; and I remember one lady, whose ancestors,
probably all having loved goose, reached back up to a quite giddy
antiquity, casting a gloom over a dinner table by removing as much of
the skin or crackling of the goose as she could when it came to her,
remarking, amidst a mournful silence, that it was her favourite part. No
doubt it was. The misfortune was that it happened also to be the
favourite part of the line of guests who came after her, and who saw
themselves forced by the hard laws of propriety to affect an indifferent
dignity of bearing at the very moment when their one feeling was a
fierce desire to rise up and defend at all costs their right to a share
of skin. She had, I remember, very pretty little white hands like tiny
claws, and wore beautiful rings, and sitting opposite her, and free
myself from any undue passion for goose, I had leisure to watch the
rapid way in which she disposed of the skin, her rings and the whiteness
of her hands flashing up and down as she used her knife and fork with
the awful dexterity only seen in perfection in the Fatherland. I am
afraid that as a nation we think rather more of our eating and drinking
than is reasonable, and this no doubt explains why so many of us, by the
time we are thirty, have lost the original classicality of our contour.
Walking in the streets of a town you are almost sure to catch the word
_essen_ in the talk of the passers-by; and _das Essen_, combined, of
course, with the drinking made necessary by its exaggerated indulgence,
constitutes the chief happiness of the middle and lower classes. Any
story-book or novel you take up is full of feeling descriptions of what
everybody ate and drank, and there are a great many more meals than
kisses; so that the novel-reader who expects a love-tale, finds with
disgust that he is put off with _menus_. The upper classes have so many
other amusements that _das Essen_ ceases to be one, and they are as
thin as all the rest of the world; but if the curious wish to see how
very largely it fills the lives, or that part of their lives that they
reserve for pleasure, of the middle classes, it is a good plan to go to
seaside places during the months of July and August, when the schools
close, and the _bourgeoisie_ realises the dream in which it has been
indulging the whole year, of hotel life with a tremendous dinner every
day at one o'clock.

The April baby was a weak little creature in her first years, and the
doctor ordered as specially bracing a seaside resort frequented solely
by the middle classes, and there for three succeeding years I took her;
and while she rolled on the sands and grew brown and lusty, I was dull,
and fell to watching the other tourists. Their time, it appeared, was
spent in ruminating over the delights of the meal that was eaten, and in
preparing their bodies by gentlest exercise for the delights of the meal
that was to come. They passed their mornings on the sands, the women
doing fancy work in order that they might look busy, and the men
strolling aimlessly about near them with field-glasses, and nautical
caps, and long cloaks of a very dreadful pattern reaching to their heels
and making them look like large women, called Havelocks,--all of them
waiting with more or less open eagerness for one o'clock, the great
moment to which they had been looking forward ever since the day before,
to arrive. They used to file in when the bell rang with a sort of silent
solemnity, a contemplative collectedness, which is best described by the
word _recueillement_, and ate all the courses, however many there were,
in a hot room full of flies and sunlight.

The dinner lasted a good hour and a half, and at the end of that time
they would begin to straggle out again, flushed and using toothpicks as
they strolled to the tables under the trees, where the exhausted waiters
would presently bring them breakfast-cups of coffee and cakes. They
lingered about an hour over this, and then gradually disappeared to
their rooms, where they slept, I suppose, for from then till about six a
death-like stillness reigned in the place and April and I had it all to
ourselves. Towards six, slow couples would be seen crawling along the
path by the shore and panting up into the woods, this being the only
exercise of the day, and necessary if they would eat their suppers with
appreciation; and April and I, peering through the bracken out of the
nests of moss we used to make in the afternoons, could see them coming
up through the trees after the climb up the cliff, the husband with his
Havelock over his arm, a little in front, wiping his face and gasping,
the wife in her tight silk dress, her bonnet strings undone, a cloak and
an umbrella, and very often a small mysterious basket as well to carry,
besides holding up her dress, very stout and very uncomfortable and very
breathless, panting along behind; and however much she had to carry, and
however fat and helpless she was, and however steep the hill, and
however much dinner she had eaten, the idea that her husband might have
taken her cloak and her umbrella and her basket and carried them for her
would never have struck either of them. If it had by some strange chance
entered his head, he would have reasoned that he was as stout as she
was, that he had eaten as much dinner, that he was several years older,
and that it was her cloak. Logic is so irresistible.

To go on eating long after you have ceased to be hungry has
fascinations, apparently, that are difficult to withstand, and if it
gives you so much pleasure that the resulting inability to move without
gasping is accepted with the meekness of martyrs, who shall say that you
are wrong? My not myself liking a large dinner at one o'clock is not a
reason for my thinking I am superior to those who do. Their excesses, it
is true, are not my excesses, but then neither are mine theirs; and what
about the days of idleness I spend, doing nothing from early till late
but lie on the grass watching clouds? If I were to murmur gluttons,
could not they, from their point of view, retort with conviction fool?
All those maxims about judging others by yourself, and putting yourself
in another person's place, are not, I am afraid, reliable. I had them
dinned into me constantly as a child, and I was constantly trying to
obey them, and constantly was astonished at the unexpected results I
arrived at; and now I know that it is a proof of artlessness to suppose
that other people will think and feel and hope and enjoy what you do and
in the same way that you do. If an officious friend had stood in that
breathless couple's path and told them in glowing terms how much happier
they would be if they lived their life a little more fully and from its
other sides, how much more delightful to stride along gaily together in
their walks, with wind enough for talk and laughter, how pleasant if the
man were muscular and in good condition and the woman brisk and wiry,
and that they only had to do as he did and live on cold meat and toast,
and drink nothing, to be as blithe as birds, do you think they would
have so much as understood him? Cold meat and toast? Instead of what
they had just been enjoying so intensely? Miss that soup made of the
inner mysteries of geese, those eels stewed in beer, the roast pig with
red cabbage, the venison basted with sour cream and served with beans in
vinegar and cranberry jam, the piled-up masses of vanilla ice, the
pumpernickel and cheese, the apples and pears on the top of that, and
the big cups of coffee and cakes on the top of the apples and pears?
Really a quick walk over the heather with a wiry wife would hardly make
up for the loss of such a dinner; and besides, might not a wiry wife
turn out to be a questionable blessing? And so they would pity the
nimble friend who wasted his life in taking exercise and missed all its
pleasures, and the man of toast and early rising would regard them with
profound disgust if simple enough to think himself better than they,
and, if he possessed an open mind, would merely return their pity with
more of his own; so that, I suppose, everybody would be pleased, for the
charm of pitying one's neighbour, though subtle, is undeniable.

I remember when I was at the age when people began to call me
_Backfisch_, and my mother dressed me in a little scarlet coat with big
pearl buttons, and my eyes turned down because I was shy, and my nose
turned up because I was impudent, one summer at the seaside with my
governess we noticed in our walks a solitary lady of dignified
appearance, who spoke to no one, and seemed for ever wrapped in distant
and lofty philosophic speculations. "She's thinking about Kant and the
nebular hypothesis," I decided to myself, having once heard some men
with long beards talking of both those things, and they all had had that
same far-away look in their eyes. "_Qu'est-ce que c'est une_
_hypothese nebuleuse_, _Mademoiselle_?" I said aloud.

"_Tenez-vous bien_, _et marchez d'une facon convenable_," she
replied sharply.

"_Qu'est-ce que c'est une hypothese_--"

"_Vous etes trap jeune pour comprendre ces choses_."

"_Oh alors vous ne savez pas vous-meme_!" I cried
triumphantly, "_Sans cela vous me diriez_."

"_Elisabeth_, _vous ecrirez_, _des que nous rentrons_, _leverbe_
_Prier le bon Dieu de m'Aider a ne plus Etre si_
_Impertinente_."

She was an ingenious young woman, and the verbs I had to write as
punishments were of the most elaborate and complicated nature--
_Demander pardon pour Avoir Siffle comme un Gamin_
_quelconque_, _Vouloir ne plus Oublier de Nettoyer mes_
_Ongles_, _Essayer de ne pas tant Aimer les Poudings_, are
but a few examples of her achievements in this particular branch of
discipline.

That very day at the _table d'hote_ the abstracted lady sat next to
me. A _ragout_ of some sort was handed round, and after I had taken some
she asked me, before helping herself, what it was.

"Snails," I replied promptly, wholly unchastened by the prayers I had
just been writing out in every tense.

"Snails! _Ekelig_." And she waved the waiter loftily away, and looked on
with much superciliousness at the rest of us enjoying ourselves.

"What! You do not eat this excellent _ragout_?" asked her other
neighbour, a hot man, as he finished clearing his plate and had time to
observe the emptiness of hers. "You do not like calves' tongues and
mushrooms? _Sonderbar._"

I still can see the poor lady's face as she turned on me more like a
tigress than the impassive person she had been a moment before. "_Sie_
_unverschamter Backfisch_!" she hissed. "My favourite dish--I have you
to thank for spoiling my repast--my day!" And in a frenzy of rage she
gripped my arm as though she would have shaken me then and there in the
face of the multitude, while I sat appalled at the consequences of
indulging a playful fancy at the wrong time.

Which story, now I come to think of it, illustrates less the tremendous
importance of food in our country than the exceeding odiousness of
_Backfisch_ in scarlet coats.


August 10th.--My idea of a garden is that it should be beautiful from
end to end, and not start off in front of the house with fireworks,
going off at its farthest limit into sheer sticks. The standard reached
beneath the windows should at least be kept up, if it cannot be
surpassed, right away through, and the German popular plan in this
matter quite discarded of concentrating all the available splendour of
the establishment into the supreme effort of carpet-bedding and glass
balls on pedestals in front of the house, in the hope that the stranger,
carefully kept in that part, and on no account allowed to wander, will
infer an equal magnificence throughout the entire domain; whereas he
knows very well all the time that the landscape round the corner
consists of fowls and dust-bins. Disliking this method, I have tried to
make my garden increase in loveliness, if not in tidiness, the farther
you get into it; and the visitor who thinks in his innocence as he
emerges from the shade of the verandah that he sees the best before him,
is artfully conducted from beauty to beauty till he beholds what I think
is the most charming bit, the silver birch and azalea plantation down at
the very end. This is the boundary of my kingdom on the south side, a
blaze of colour in May and June, across which you see the placid meadows
stretching away to a distant wood; and from its contemplation the ideal
visitor returns to the house a refreshed and better man. That is the
sort of person one enjoys taking round--the man (or woman) who, loving
gardens, would go any distance to see one; who comes to appreciate, and
compare, and admire; who has a garden of his own that he lives in and
loves; and whose talk and criticisms are as dew to the thirsty gardening
soul, all too accustomed in this respect to droughts. He knows as well
as I do what work, what patience, what study and watching, what laughter
at failures, what fresh starts with undiminished zeal, and what bright,
unalterable faith are represented by the flowers in my garden. He knows
what I have done for it, and he knows what it has done for me, and how
it has been and will be more and more a place of joys, a place of
lessons, a place of health, a place of miracles, and a place of sure and
never-changing peace.

Living face to face with nature makes it difficult for one to be
discouraged. Moles and late frosts, both of which are here in abundance,
have often grieved and disappointed me, but even these, my worst
enemies, have not succeeded in making me feel discouraged. Not once till
now have I got farther in that direction than the purely negative state
of not being encouraged; and whenever I reach that state I go for a
brisk walk in the sunshine and come back cured. It makes one so healthy
to live in a garden, so healthy in mind as well as body, and when I say
moles and late frosts are my worst enemies, it only shows how I could
not now if I tried sit down and brood over my own or my neighbour's
sins, and how the breezes in my garden have blown away all those worries
and vexations and bitternesses that are the lot of those who live in a
crowd. The most severe frost that ever nipped the hopes of a year is
better to my thinking than having to listen to one malignant truth or
lie, and I would rather have a mole busy burrowing tunnels under each of
my rose trees and letting the air get at their roots than face a single
greeting where no kindness is. How can you help being happy if you are
healthy and in the place you want to be? A man once made it a reproach
that I should be so happy, and told me everybody has crosses, and that
we live in a vale of woe. I mentioned moles as my principal cross, and
pointed to the huge black mounds with which they had decorated the
tennis-court, but I could not agree to the vale of woe, and could not be
shaken in my belief that the world is a dear and lovely place, with
everything in it to make us happy so long as we walk humbly and diet
ourselves. He pointed out that sorrow and sickness were sure to come,
and seemed quite angry with me when I suggested that they too could be
borne perhaps with cheerfulness. "And have not even such things their
sunny side?" I exclaimed. "When I am steeped to the lips in diseases and
doctors, I shall at least have something to talk about that interests my
women friends, and need not sit as I do now wondering what I shall say
next and wishing they would go." He replied that all around me lay
misery, sin, and suffering, and that every person not absolutely blinded
by selfishness must be aware of it and must realise the seriousness and
tragedy of existence. I asked him whether my being miserable and
discontented would help any one or make him less wretched; and he said
that we all had to take up our burdens. I assured him I would not shrink
from mine, though I felt secretly ashamed of it when I remembered that
it was only moles, and he went away with a grave face and a shaking
head, back to his wife and his eleven children. I heard soon afterwards
that a twelfth baby had been born and his wife had died, and in dying
had turned her face with a quite unaccountable impatience away from him
and to the wall; and the rumour of his piety reached even into my
garden, and how he had said, as he closed her eyes, "It is the Will of
God." He was a missionary.

But of what use is it telling a woman with a garden that she ought
really to be ashamed of herself for being happy? The fresh air is so
buoyant that it lifts all remarks of that sort away off you and leaves
you laughing. They get wafted away on the scent of the stocks, and you
stand in the sun looking round at your cheerful flowers, and more than
ever persuaded that it is a good and blessed thing to be thankful. Oh a
garden is a sweet, sane refuge to have! Whether I am tired because I
have enjoyed myself too much, or tired because I have lectured the
servants too much, or tired because I have talked to missionaries too
much, I have only to come down the verandah steps into the garden to be
at once restored to quiet, and serenity, and my real and natural self. I
could almost fancy sometimes that as I come down the steps, gentle hands
of blessing have been laid on my head. I suppose I feel so because of
the hush that descends on my soul when I get out of the close, restless
house into that silent purity. Sometimes I sit for hours in the south
walk by the verandah just listening and watching. It is so private
there, though directly beneath the windows, that it is one of my
favourite places. There are no bedrooms on that side of the house, only
the Man of Wrath's and my day-rooms, so that servants cannot see me as I
stand there enjoying myself. If they did or could, I should simply never
go there, for nothing is so utterly destructive to meditation as to know
that probably somebody inquisitive is eyeing you from behind a curtain.
The loveliest garden I know is spoilt to my thinking by the
impossibility of getting out of sight of the house, which stares down at
you, Argus-eyed and unblinking, into whatever corner you may shuffle.
Perfect house and perfect garden, lying in that land of lovely gardens,
England, the garden just the right size for perfection, not a weed ever
admitted, every dandelion and daisy--those friends of the unaspiring--
routed out years ago, the borders exquisite examples of taste, the turf
so faultless that you hardly like to walk on it for fear of making it
dusty, and the whole quite uninhabitable for people of my solitary
tendencies because, go where you will, you are overlooked. Since I have
lived in this big straggling place, full of paths and copses where I am
sure of being left alone, with wide fields and heath and forests beyond,
and so much room to move and breathe in, I feel choked, oppressed,
suffocated, in anything small and perfect. I spent a very happy
afternoon in that little English paradise, but I came away quite
joyfully, and with many a loving thought of my own dear ragged garden,
and all the corners in it where the anemones twinkle in the spring like
stars, and where there is so much nature and so little art. It will grow
I know sweeter every year, but it is too big ever to be perfect and to
get to look so immaculate that the diseased imagination conjures up
visions of housemaids issuing forth each morning in troops and dusting
every separate flower with feather brushes. Nature herself is untidy,
and in a garden she ought to come first, and Art with her brooms and
clipping-shears follow humbly behind. Art has such a good time in the
house, where she spreads herself over the walls, and hangs herself up
gorgeously at the windows, and lurks in the sofa cushions, and breaks
out in an eruption of pots wherever pots are possible, that really she
should be content to take the second place out of doors. And how
dreadful to meet a gardener and a wheelbarrow at every turn--which is
precisely what happens to one in the perfect garden. My gardener, whose
deafness is more than compensated for by the keenness of his eyesight,
very soon remarked the scowl that distorted my features whenever I met
one of his assistants in my favourite walks, and I never meet them now.
I think he must keep them chained up to the cucumber-frames, so
completely have they disappeared, and he only lets them loose when he
knows I am driving, or at meals, or in bed. But is it not irritating to
be sitting under your favourite tree, pencil in hand, and eyes turned
skywards expectant of the spark from heaven that never falls, and then
to have a man appear suddenly round the corner who immediately begins
quite close to you to tear up the earth with his fangs? No one will ever
know the number of what I believe are technically known as winged words
that I have missed bringing down through interruptions of this kind.
Indeed, as I look through these pages I see I must have missed them all,
for I can find nothing anywhere with even a rudimentary approach to
wings.

Sometimes when I am in a critical mood and need all my faith to keep me
patient, I shake my head at the unshornness of the garden as gravely as
the missionary shook his head at me. The bushes stretch across the
paths, and, catching at me as I go by, remind me that they have not been
pruned; the teeming plant life rejoices on the lawns free from all
interference from men and hoes; the pinks are closely nibbled off at the
beginning of each summer by selfish hares intent on their own
gratification; most of the beds bear the marks of nocturnal foxes; and
the squirrels spend their days wantonly biting off and flinging down the
tender young shoots of the firs. Then there is the boy who drives the
donkey and water-cart round the garden, and who has an altogether
reprehensible habit of whisking round corners and slicing off bits of
the lawn as he whisks. "But you can't alter these things, my good soul,"
I say to myself. "If you want to get rid of the hares and foxes, you
must consent to have wire-netting, which is odious, right round your
garden. And you are always saying you like weeds, so why grumble at your
lawns? And it doesn't hurt you much if the squirrels do break bits off
your firs--the firs must have had that happening to them years and years
before you were born, yet they still flourish. As for boys, they
certainly are revolting creatures. Can't you catch this one when he
isn't looking and pop him in his own water-barrel and put the lid on?"

I asked the June baby, who had several times noticed with indignation
the culpable indifference of this boy in regard to corners, whether she
did not think that would be a good way of disposing of him. She is a
great disciplinarian, and was loud in her praise of the plan; but the
other two demurred. "He might go dead in there," said the May baby,
apprehensively. "And he is such a naughty boy," said April, who had
watched his reckless conduct with special disgust, "that if he once went
dead he'd go straight to the _Holle_ and stay all the time with the
_diable_."

That was the first French word I have heard them say: strange and
sulphureous first-fruits of Seraphine's teaching!

We were going round the garden in a procession, I with a big pair of
scissors, and the Three with baskets, into one of which I put fresh
flowers, and into the others flowers that were beginning to seed, dead
flowers, and seed-pods. The garden was quivering in heat and light; rain
in the morning had brought out all the snails and all the sweetness, and
we were very happy, as we always are, I when I am knee-deep in flowers,
and the babies when they can find new sorts of snails to add to their
collections. These collections are carried about in cardboard boxes all
day, and at night each baby has hers on the chair beside her bed.
Sometimes the snails get out and crawl over the beds, but the babies do
not mind. Once when April woke in the morning she was overjoyed by
finding a friendly little one on her cheek. Clearly babies of iron
nerves and pellucid consciences.

"So you do know some French," I said as I snipped off poppy-heads; "you
have always pretended you don't."

"Oh, keep the poppies, mummy," cried April, as she saw them tumbling
into her basket; "if you picks them and just leaves them, then they
ripes and is good for such a many things."

"Tell me about the _diable_" I said, "and you shall keep the poppies."

"He isn't nice, that _diable_," she said, starting off at once with
breathless eloquence. "Seraphine says there was one time a girl and a
boy who went for a walk, and there were two ways, and one way goes where
stones is, but it goes to the _lieber Gott_; and the girl went that
way till she came to a door, and the _lieber Gott_ made the door
opened and she went in, and that's the _Himmel_."

"And the boy?"

"Oh, he was a naughty boy and went the other way where there is a tree,
and on the tree is written, 'Don't go this way or you'll be dead,' and
he said, 'That is one _betise_,' and did go in the way and got to the
_Holle_, and there he gets whippings when he doesn't make what the
_diable_ says."

"That's because he was so naughty," explained the May baby, holding up
an impressive finger, "and didn't want to go to the _Himmel_ and didn't
love glory."

"All boys are naughty," said June, "and I don't love them."

"_Nous allons parler Francais_" I announced, desirous of finding
out whether their whole stock was represented by _diable_ and _betise_;
"I believe you can all speak it quite well."

There was no answer. I snipped off sweet-pea pods and began to talk
French at a great rate, asking questions as I snipped, and trying to
extract answers, and getting none. The silence behind me grew ominous.
Presently I heard a faint sniff, and the basket being held up to me
began to shake. I bent down quickly and looked under April's sun-bonnet.
She was crying great dreadful tears, and rubbing her eyes hard with her
one free hand.

"Why, you most blessed of babies," I exclaimed, kneeling down and
putting my arms round her, "what in the world is the matter?"

She looked at me with grieved and doubting eyes. "Such a mother to talk
French to her child!" she sobbed.

I threw down the scissors, picked her up, and carried her up and down
the path, comforting her with all the soft words I knew and suppressing
my desire to smile. "That's not French, is it?" I whispered at the end
of a long string of endearments, beginning, I believe, with such flights
of rhetoric as priceless blessing and angel baby, and ending with a
great many kisses.

"No, no," she answered, patting my face and looking infinitely relieved,
"that is pretty, and how mummies always talks. Proper mummies never
speak French--only Seraphines." And she gave me a very tight hug, and a
kiss that transferred all her tears to my face; and I set her down and,
taking out my handkerchief, tried to wipe off the traces of my attempt
at governessing from her cheeks. I wonder how it is that whenever babies
cry, streaks of mud immediately appear on their faces. I believe I could
cry for a week, and yet produce no mud.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, babies," I said, anxious to restore
complete serenity on such a lovely day, and feeling slightly ashamed of
my uncalled-for zeal--indeed, April was right, and proper mothers leave
lessons and torments to somebody else, and devote all their energies to
petting--"I'll give a ball after tea."

"_Yes_!" shouted three exultant voices, "and invite all the babies!"

"So now you must arrange what you are going to wear. I suppose you'd
like the same supper as usual? Run away to Seraphine and tell her to get
you ready."

They seized their baskets and their boxes of snails and rushed off into
the bushes, calling for Seraphine with nothing but rapture in their
voices, and French and the _diable_ quite forgotten.

These balls are given with great ceremony two or three times a year.
They last about an hour, during which I sit at the piano in the library
playing cheerful tunes, and the babies dance passionately round the
pillar. They refuse to waltz together, which is perhaps a good thing,
for if they did there would always be one left over to be a wallflower
and gnash her teeth; and when they want to dance squares they are forced
by the stubbornness of numbers to dance triangles. At the appointed hour
they knock at the door, and come in attired in the garments they have
selected as appropriate (at this last ball the April baby wore my
shooting coat, the May baby had a muff, and the June baby carried
Seraphine's umbrella), and, curtseying to me, each one makes some remark
she thinks suitable to the occasion.

"How's your husband?" June asked me last time, in the defiant tones she
seems to think proper at a ball.

"Very well, thank you."

"Oh, that is nice."

"Mine isn't vely well," remarked April, cheerfully.

"Indeed?"

"No, he has got some tummy-aches."

"Dear me!"

"He was coming else, and had such fine twowsers to wear--pink ones with
wibbons."

After a little more graceful conversation of this kind the ball begins,
and at the end of an hour's dancing, supper, consisting of radishes and
lemonade, is served on footstools; and when they have cleared it up even
to the leaves and stalks of the radishes, they rise with much dignity,
express in proper terms their sense of gratitude for the entertainment,
curtsey, and depart to bed, where they spend a night of horror, the prey
of the awful dreams naturally resulting from so unusual a combination as
radishes and babies. That is why my balls are rare festivals--the babies
will insist on having radishes for the supper, and I, as a decent parent
with a proper sense of my responsibilities, am forced accordingly to
restrict my invitations to two, at the most three, in a year.

When this last one was over I felt considerably exhausted, and had
hardly sufficient strength to receive their thanks with civility. An
hour's jig-playing with the thermometer at 90 leaves its marks on the
most robust; and when they were in bed, and the supper beginning to do
its work, I ordered the carriage and the kettle with a view to seeking
repose in the forest, taking the opportunity of escaping before the Man
of Wrath should come in to dinner. The weather has been very hot for a
long time, but the rain in the morning had had a wonderful effect on my
flowers, and as I drove away I could not help noticing how charming the
borders in front of the house were looking, with their white hollyhocks,
and white snapdragons, and fringe of feathery marigolds. This gardener
has already changed the whole aspect of the place, and I believe I have
found the right man at last. He is very young for a head gardener, but
on that account all the more anxious to please me and keep his
situation; and it is a great comfort to have to do with somebody who
watches and interprets rightly every expression of one's face and does
not need much talking to. He makes mistakes sometimes in the men he
engages, just as I used to when I did the engaging, and he had one poor
young man as apprentice who very soon, like the first of my three meek
gardeners, went mad. His madness was of a harmless nature and took a
literary form; indeed, that was all they had against him, that he would
write books. He used to sit in the early morning on my special seats in
the garden, and strictly meditate the thankless muse when he ought to
have been carting manure; and he made his fellow-apprentices unspeakably
wretched by shouting extracts from Schiller at them across the
intervening gooseberry bushes. Let me hasten to say that I had never
spoken to him, and should not even have known what he was like if he had
not worn eyeglasses, so that the Man of Wrath's insinuation that I
affect the sanity of my gardeners is entirely without justification. The
eyeglasses struck me as so odd on a gardener that I asked who he was,
and was told that he had been studying for the Bar, but could not pass
the examinations, and had taken up gardening in the hope of getting back
his health and spirits. I thought this a very sensible plan, and was
beginning to feel interested in him when one day the post brought me a
registered packet containing a manuscript play he had written called
"The Lawyer as Gardener," dedicated to me. The Man of Wrath and I were
both in it, the Man of Wrath, however, only in the list of characters,
so that he should not feel hurt, I suppose, for he never appeared on the
scenes at all. As for me, I was represented as going about quoting
Tolstoi in season and out of season to the gardeners--a thing I protest
I never did. The young man was sent home to his people, and I have been
asking myself ever since what there is about this place that it should
so persistently produce books and lunacy?

On the outskirts of the forest, where shafts of dusty sunlight slanted
through the trees, children were picking wortleberries for market as I
passed last night, with hands and faces and aprons smudged into one blue
stain. I had decided to go to a water-mill belonging to the Man of Wrath
which lies far away in a clearing, so far away and so lonely and so
quiet that the very spirit of peace seems to brood over it for ever; and
all the way the wortleberry carpet was thick and unbroken. Never were
the pines more pungent than after the long heat, and their rosy stems
flushed pinker as I passed. Presently I got beyond the region of
wortleberry-pickers, the children not caring to wander too far into the
forest so late, and I jolted over the roots into the gathering shadows
more and more pervaded by that feeling that so refreshes me, the feeling
of being absolutely alone.

A very ancient man lives in the mill and takes care of it, for it has
long been unused, a deaf old man with a clean, toothless face, and no
wife to worry him. He informed me once that all women are mistakes,
especially that aggravated form called wives, and that he was thankful
he had never married. I felt a certain delicacy after that about
intruding on his solitude with the burden of my sex and wifehood heavy
upon me, but he always seems very glad to see me, and runs at once to
his fowlhouse to look for fresh eggs for my tea; so perhaps he regards
me as a pleasing exception to the rule. On this last occasion he brought
a table out to the elm-tree by the mill stream, that I might get what
air there was while I ate my supper; and I sat in great peace waiting
for the kettle to boil and watching the sun dropping behind the sharp
forest me, and all the little pools and currents into which the stream
just there breaks as it flows over mud banks, ablaze with the red
reflection of the sky. The pools are clothed with water-lilies and
inhabited by eels, and I generally take a netful of writhing eels back
with me to the Man of Wrath to pacify him after my prolonged absence. In
the lily time I get into the miller's punt and make them an excuse for
paddling about among the mud islands, and even adventurously exploring
the river as it winds into the forest, and the old man watches me
anxiously from under the elm. He regards my feminine desire to pick
water-lilies with indulgence, but is clearly uneasy at my affection for
mud banks, and once, after I had stuck on one, and he had run up and
down in great agitation for half an hour shouting instructions as to
getting off again, he said when I was safely back on shore that people
with petticoats (his way of expressing woman) were never intended for
punts, and their only chance of safety lay in dry land and keeping
quiet. I did not this time attempt the punt, for I was tired, and it was
half full of water, probably poured into it by a miller weary of the
ways of women; and I drank my tea quietly, going on at the same time
with my interrupted afternoon reading of the _Sorrows of Werther_,
in which I had reached a part that has a special fascination for me
every time I read it--that part where Werther first meets Lotte, and
where, after a thunderstorm; they both go to the window, and she is so
touched by the beauties of nature that she lays her hand on his and
murmurs "Klopstock,"--to the complete dismay of the reader, though not
of Werther, for he, we find, was so carried away by the magic word that
he flung himself on to her hand and kissed it with tears of rapture.

I looked up from the book at the quiet pools and the black line of
trees, above which stars were beginning to twinkle, my ears soothed by
the splashing of the mill stream and the hooting somewhere near of a
solitary owl, and I wondered whether, if the Man of Wrath were by my
side, it would be a relief to my pleasurable feelings to murmur
"Klopstock," and whether if I did he would immediately shed tears of joy
over my hand. The name is an unfortunate one as far as music goes, and
Goethe's putting it into his heroine's mouth just when she was most
enraptured, seems to support the view I sometimes adopt in discoursing
to the Man of Wrath that he had no sense of humour. But here I am
talking about Goethe, our great genius and idol, in a way that no woman
should. What do German women know of such things? Quite untrained and
uneducated, how are we to judge rightly about anybody or anything? All
we can do is to jump at conclusions, and, when we have jumped, receive
with meekness the information that we have jumped wrong. Sitting there
long after it was too dark to read, I thought of the old miller's words,
and agreed with him that the best thing a woman can do in this world is
to keep quiet. He came out once and asked whether he should bring a
lamp, and seemed uneasy at my choosing to sit there in the dark. I could
see the stars in the black pools, and a line of faint light far away
above the pines where the sun had set. Every now and then the hot air
from the ground struck up in my face, and afterwards would come a cooler
breath from the water. Of what use is it to fight for things and make a
noise? Nature is so clear in her teaching that he who has lived with her
for any time can be in little doubt as to the "better way." Keep quiet
and say one's prayers--certainly not merely the best, but the only
things to do if one would be truly happy; but, ashamed of asking when I
have received so much, the only form of prayer I would use would be a
form of thanksgiving.



September


September 9th--I have been looking in the dictionary for the English
word for _Einquartierung_, because that is what is happening to us just
now, but I can find nothing satisfactory. My dictionary merely says (1)
the quartering, (2) soldiers quartered, and then relapses into
irrelevancy; so that it is obvious English people do without the word
for the delightful reason that they have not got the thing. We have it
here very badly; an epidemic raging at the end of nearly every summer,
when cottages and farms swarm with soldiers and horses, when all the
female part of the population gets engaged to be married and will not
work, when all the male part is jealous and wants to fight, and when my
house is crowded with individuals so brilliant and decorative in their
dazzling uniforms that I wish sometimes I might keep a bunch of the
tallest and slenderest for ever in a big china vase in a corner of the
drawing-room.

This year the manoeuvres are up our way, so that we are blest with more
than our usual share of attention, and wherever you go you see soldiers,
and the holy calm that has brooded over us all the summer has given
place to a perpetual running to and fro of officers' servants, to meals
being got ready at all hours, to the clanking of spurs and all those
other mysterious things on an officer that do clank whenever he moves,
and to the grievous wailings of my unfortunate menials, who are quite
beside themselves, and know not whither to turn for succour. We have had
one week of it already, and we have yet another before us. There are
five hundred men with their horses quartered at the farm, and thirty
officers with their servants in our house, besides all those billeted on
the surrounding villages who have to be invited to dinner and cannot be
allowed to perish in peasant houses; so that my summer has for a time
entirely ceased to be solitary, and whenever I flee distracted to the
farthest recesses of my garden and begin to muse, according to my habit,
on Man, on Nature, and on Human Life, lieutenants got up in the most
exquisite flannels pursue me and want to play tennis with me, a game I
have always particularly disliked.

There is no room of course for all those extra men and horses at the
farm, and when a few days before their arrival (sometimes it is only
one, and sometimes only a few hours) an official appears and informs us
of the number to be billeted on us, the Man of Wrath has to have
temporary sheds run up, some as stables, some as sleeping-places, and
some as dining-rooms. Nor is it easy to cook for five hundred people
more than usual, and all the ordinary business of the farm comes to a
stand-still while the hands prepare barrowfuls of bacon and potatoes,
and stir up the coffee and milk and sugar together with a pole in a tub.
Part of the regimental band is here, the upper part. The base
instruments are in the next village; but that did not deter an
enthusiastic young officer from marching his men past our windows on
their arrival at six in the morning, with colours flying, and what he
had of his band playing their tunes as unconcernedly as though all those
big things that make such a noise were giving the fabric its accustomed
and necessary base. We are paid six pfennings a day for lodging a common
soldier, and six pfennings for his horse--rather more than a penny in
English money for the pair of them; only unfortunately sheds and
carpentry are not quite so cheap. Eighty pfennings a day is added for
the soldier's food, and for this he has to receive two pounds of bread,
half a pound of meat, a quarter of a pound of bacon, and either a
quarter of a pound of rice or barley or three pounds of potatoes.
Officers are paid for at the rate of two marks fifty a day without wine;
we are not obliged to give them wine, and if we do they are regarded as
guests, and behave accordingly. The thirty we have now do not, as I
could have wished, all go out together in the morning and stay out till
the evening, but some go out as others come in, and breakfast is not
finished till lunch begins, and lunch drags on till dinner, and all day
long the dining-room is full of meals and officers, and we ceased a week
ago to have the least feeling that the place, after all, belongs to us.

Now really it seems to me that I am a much-tried woman, and any peace I
have enjoyed up to now is amply compensated for by my present torments.
I believe even my stern friend the missionary would be satisfied if he
could know how swiftly his prediction that sorrow and suffering would be
sure to come, has been fulfilled. All day long I am giving out table
linen, ordering meals, supporting the feeble knees of servants, making
appropriate and amiable remarks to officers, presiding as gracefully as
nature permits at meals, and trying to look as though I were happy;
while out in the garden--oh, I know how it is looking out in the garden
this golden weather, how the placid hours are slipping by in unchanged
peace, how strong the scent of roses and ripe fruit is, how the sleepy
bees drone round the flowers, how warmly the sun shines in that corner
where the little Spanish chestnut is turning yellow--the first to turn,
and never afterwards surpassed in autumn beauty; I know how still it is
down there in my fir wood, where the insects hum undisturbed in the
warm, quiet air; I know what the plain looks like from the seat under
the oak, how beautiful, with its rolling green waves burning to gold
under the afternoon sky; I know how the hawks circle over it, and how
the larks sing above it, and I edge as near to the open window as I can,
straining my ears to hear them, and forgetting the young men who are
telling me of all the races their horses win as completely as though
they did not exist. I want to be out there on that golden grass, and
look up into that endless blue, and feel the ecstasy of that song
through all my being, and there is a tearing at my heart when I remember
that I cannot. Yet they are beautiful young men; all are touchingly
amiable, and many of the older ones even charming--how is it, then, that
I so passionately prefer larks?

We have every grade of greatness here, from that innocent being the
ensign, a creature of apparent modesty and blushes, who is obliged to
stand up and drain his glass each time a superior chooses to drink to
him, and who sits on the hardest chairs and looks for the balls while we
play tennis, to the general, invariably delightful, whose brains have
carried him triumphantly through the annual perils of weeding out, who
is as distinguished in looks and manners as he is in abilities, and has
the crowning merit of being manifestly happy in the society of women.
Nothing lower than a colonel is to me an object of interest. The lower
you get the more officers there are, and the harder it is to see the
promising ones in the crowd; but once past the rank of major the air
gets very much cleared by the merciless way they have been weeded out,
and the higher officers are the very flower of middle-aged German males.
As for those below, a lieutenant is a bright and beautiful being who
admires no one so much as himself; a captain is generally newly married,
having reached the stage of increased pay which makes a wife possible,
and, being often still in love with her, is ineffective for social
purposes; and a major is a man with a yearly increasing family, for
whose wants his pay is inadequate, a person continually haunted by the
fear of approaching weeding, after which his career is ended, he is
poorer than ever, and being no longer young and only used to a soldier's
life, is almost always quite incapable of starting afresh. Even the
children of light find it difficult to start afresh with any success
after forty, and the retired officer is never a child of light; if he
were, he would not have been weeded out. You meet him everywhere, shorn
of the glories of his uniform, easily recognisable by the bad fit of his
civilian clothes, wandering about like a ship without a rudder; and as
time goes on he settles down to the inevitable, and passes his days in a
fourth-floor flat in the suburbs, eats, drinks, sleeps, reads the
_Kreuzzeitung_ and nothing else, plays at cards in the day-time, grows
gouty, and worries his wife. It would be difficult to count the number
of them that have answered the Man of Wrath's advertisements for book-
keepers and secretaries--always vainly, for even if they were fit for
the work, no single person possesses enough tact to cope successfully
with the peculiarities of such a situation. I hear that some English
people of a hopeful disposition indulge in ladies as servants; the cases
are parallel, and the tact required to meet both superhuman.

Of all the officers here the only ones with whom I can find plenty to
talk about are the generals. On what subject under heaven could one talk
to a lieutenant? I cannot discuss the agility of ballet-dancers or the
merits of jockeys with him, because these things are as dust and ashes
to me; and when forced for a few moments by my duties as hostess to come
within range of his conversation I feel chilly and grown old. In the
early spring of this year, in those wonderful days of hope when nature
is in a state of suppressed excitement, and when any day the yearly
recurring miracle may happen of a few hours' warm rain changing the
whole world, we got news that a lieutenant and two men with their horses
were imminent, and would be quartered here for three nights while some
occult military evolutions were going on a few miles off. It was
specially inopportune, because the Man of Wrath would not be here, but
he comforted me as I bade him good-bye, my face no doubt very blank, by
the assurance that the lieutenant would be away all day, and so worn out
when he got back in the evening that he probably would not appear at
all. But I never met a more wide-awake young man. Not once during those
three days did he respond to my pressing entreaties to go and lie down,
and not all the desperate eloquence of a woman at her wit's end could
persuade him that he was very tired and ought to try and get some sleep.
I had intended to be out when he arrived, and to remain out till dinner
time, but he came unexpectedly early, while the babies and I were still
at lunch, the door opening to admit the most beautiful specimen of his
class that I have ever seen, so beautiful indeed in his white uniform
that the babies took him for an angel--visitant of the type that visited
Abraham and Sarah, and began in whispers to argue about wings. He was
not in the least tired after his long ride he told me, in reply to my
anxious inquiries, and, rising to the occasion, at once plunged into
conversation, evidently realising how peculiarly awful prolonged pauses
under the circumstances would be. I took him for a drive in the
afternoon, after having vainly urged him to rest, and while he told me
about his horses, and his regiment, and his brother officers, in what at
last grew to be a decidedly intermittent prattle, I amused myself by
wondering what he would say if I suddenly began to hold forth on the
themes I love best, and insist that he should note the beauty of the
trees as they stood that afternoon expectant, with all their little buds
only waiting for the one warm shower to burst into the glory of young
summer. Perhaps he would regard me as the German variety of a hyena in
petticoats--the imagination recoils before the probable fearfulness of
such an animal--or, if not quite so bad as that, at any rate a creature
hysterically inclined; and he would begin to feel lonely, and think of
his comrades, and his pleasant mess, and perhaps even of his mother, for
he was very young and newly fledged. Therefore I held my peace, and
restricted my conversation to things military, of which I know probably
less than any other woman in Germany, so that my remarks must have been
to an unusual degree impressive. He talked down to me, and I talked down
to him, and we reached home in a state of profoundest exhaustion--at
least I know I did, but when I looked at him he had not visibly turned a
hair. I went upstairs trying to hope that he had felt it more than he
showed, and that during the remainder of his stay he would adopt the
suggestion so eagerly offered of spending his spare time in his room
resting.

At dinner, he and I, quite by ourselves, were both manifestly convinced
of the necessity, for the sake of the servants, of not letting the
conversation drop. I felt desperate, and would have said anything sooner
than sit opposite him in silence, and with united efforts we got through
that fairly well. After dinner I tried gossip, and encouraged him to
tell me some, but he had such an unnatural number of relations that
whoever I began to talk about happened to be his cousin, or his brother-
in-law, or his aunt, as he hastily informed me, so that what I had
intended to say had to be turned immediately into loud and unqualified
praise; and praising people is frightfully hard work--you give yourself
the greatest pains over it, and are aware all the time that it is not in
the very least carrying conviction. Does not everybody know that one's
natural impulse is to tear the absent limb from limb? At half-past nine
I got up, worn out in mind and body, and told him very firmly that it
had been a custom in my family from time immemorial to be in bed by ten,
and that I was accordingly going there. He looked surprised and wider
awake than ever, but nothing shook me, and I walked away, leaving him
standing on the hearthrug after the manner of my countrymen, who never
dream of opening a door for a woman.

The next day he went off at five in the morning, and was to be away, as
he had told me, till the evening. I felt as though I had been let out of
prison as I breakfasted joyfully on the verandah, the sun streaming
through the creeperless trellis on to the little meal, and the first
cuckoo of the year calling to me from the fir wood. Of the dinner and
evening before me I would not think; indeed I had a half-formed plan in
my head of going to the forest after lunch with the babies, taking wraps
and provisions, and getting lost till well on towards bedtime; so that
when the angel-visitant should return full of renewed strength and
conversation, he would find the casket empty and be told the gem had
gone out for a walk. After I had finished breakfast I ran down the steps
into the garden, intent on making the most of every minute and hardly
able to keep my feet from dancing. Oh, the blessedness of a bright
spring morning without a lieutenant! And was there ever such a hopeful
beginning to a day, and so full of promise for the subsequent right
passing of its hours, as breakfast in the garden, alone with your teapot
and your book! Any cobwebs that have clung to your soul from the day
before are brushed off with a neatness and expedition altogether
surprising; never do tea and toast taste so nice as out there in the
sun; never was a book so wise and full of pith as the one lying open
before you; never was woman so clean outside and in, so refreshed, so
morally and physically well-tubbed, as she who can start her day in this
fashion. As I danced down the garden path I began to think cheerfully
even of lieutenants. It was not so bad; he would be away till dark, and
probably on the morrow as well; I would start off in the afternoon, and
by coming back very late would not see him at all that day--might not,
if Providence were kind, see him again ever; and this last thought was
so exhilarating that I began to sing. But he came back just as we had
finished lunch.

"The _Herr Lieutenant_ is here," announced the servant, "and has gone
to wash his hands. The _Herr Lieutenant_ has not yet lunched, and will
be down in a moment."

"I want the carriage at once," I ordered--I could not and would not
spend another afternoon _tete-a-tete_ with that young man,--"and you are
to tell the _Herr Lieutenant_ that I am sorry I was obliged to go out,
but I had promised the pastor to take the children there this afternoon.
See that he has everything he wants."

I gathered the babies together and fled. I could hear the lieutenant
throwing things about overhead, and felt there was not a moment to lose.
The servant's face showed plainly that he did not believe about the
pastor, and the babies looked up at me wonderingly. What is a woman to
do when driven into a corner? The father of lies inhabits corners--no
doubt the proper place for such a naughty person.

We ran upstairs to get ready. There was only one short flight on which
we could meet the lieutenant, and once past that we were safe; but we
met him on that one short flight. He was coming down in a hurry, giving
his moustache a final hasty twist, and looking fresher, brighter,
lovelier, than ever.

"Oh, good morning. You have got back much sooner than you expected, have
you not?" I said lamely.

"Yes, I managed to get through my part quickly," he said with a
briskness I did not like.

"But you started so early--you must be very tired?"

"Oh, not in the least, thank you."

Then I repeated the story about the expectant parson, adding to my guilt
by laying stress on the inevitability of the expedition owing to its
having been planned weeks before. April and May stood on the landing
above, listening with surprised faces, and June, her mind evidently
dwelling on feathers, intently examined his shoulders from the step
immediately behind. And we did get away, leaving him to think what he
liked, and to smoke, or sleep, or wander as he chose, and I could not
but believe he must feel relieved to be rid of me; but the afternoon
clouded over, and a sharp wind sprang up, and we were very cold in the
forest, and the babies began to sneeze and ask where the parson was, and
at last, after driving many miles, I said it was too late to go to the
parson's and we would turn back. It struck me as hard that we should be
forced to wander in cold forests and leave our comfortable home because
of a lieutenant, and I went back with my heart hardened against him.

That second evening was worse a great deal than the first. We had said
all we ever meant to say to each other, and had lauded all our relations
with such hearty goodwill that there was nothing whatever to add. I sat
listening to the slow ticking of the clock and asking questions about
things I did not in the least want to know, such as the daily work and
rations and pay of the soldiers in his regiment, and presently--we
having dined at the early hour usual in the country--the clock struck
eight. Could I go to bed at eight? No, I had not the courage, and no
excuse ready. More slow ticking, and more questions and answers about
rations and pipeclay. What a clock! For utter laziness and dull
deliberation there surely never was its equal--it took longer to get to
the half-hour than any clock I ever met, but it did get there at last
and struck it. Could I go? Could I? No, still no excuse ready. We
drifted from pipeclay to a discussion on bicycling for women--a dreary
subject. Was it becoming? Was it good for them? Was it ladylike? Ought
they to wear skirts or--? In Paris they all wore--. Our bringing-up here
is so excellent that if we tried we could not induce ourselves to speak
of any forked garments to a young man, so we make ourselves understood,
when we desire to insinuate such things, by an expressive pause and a
modest downward flicker of the eyelids. The clock struck nine. Nothing
should keep me longer. I sprang to my feet and said I was exhausted
beyond measure by the sharp air driving, and that whenever I had spent
an afternoon out, it was my habit to go to bed half an hour earlier than
other evenings. Again he looked surprised, but rather less so than the
night before, and he was, I think, beginning to get used to me. I
retired, firmly determined not to face another such day and to be very
ill in the morning and quite unable to rise, he having casually remarked
that the next one was an off day; and I would remain in bed, that last
refuge of the wretched, as long as he remained here.

I sat by the window in my room till late, looking out at the moonlight
in the quiet garden, with a feeling as though I were stuffed with
sawdust--a very awful feeling--and thinking ruefully of the day that had
begun so brightly and ended so dismally. What a miserable thing not to
be able to be frank and say simply, "My good young man, you and I never
saw each other before, probably won't see each other again, and have no
interests in common. I mean you to be comfortable in my house, but I
want to be comfortable too. Let us, therefore, keep out of each other's
way while you are obliged to be here. Do as you like, go where you like,
and order what you like, but don't expect me to waste my time sitting by
your side and making small-talk. I too have to get to heaven, and have
no time to lose. You won't see me again. Good-bye."

I believe many a harassed _Hausfrau_ would give much to be able to make
some such speech when these young men appear, and surely the young men
themselves would be grateful; but simplicity is apparently quite beyond
people's strength. It is, of all the virtues, the one I prize the most;
it is undoubtedly the most lovable of any, and unspeakably precious for
its power of removing those mountains that confine our lives and prevent
our seeing the sky. Certain it is that until we have it, the simple
spirit of the little child, we shall in no wise discover our kingdom of
heaven.

These were my reflections, and many others besides, as I sat weary at
the window that cold spring night, long after the lieutenant who had
occasioned them was slumbering peacefully on the other side of the
house. Thoughts of the next day, and enforced bed, and the bowls of
gruel to be disposed of if the servants were to believe in my illness,
made my head ache. Eating gruel _pour la galerie_ is a pitiable
state to be reduced to--surely no lower depths of humiliation are
conceivable. And then, just as I was drearily remembering how little I
loved gruel, there was a sudden sound of wheels rolling swiftly round
the corner of the house, a great rattling and trampling in the still
night over the stones, and tearing open the window and leaning out,
there, sitting in a station fly, and apparelled to my glad vision in
celestial light, I beheld the Man of Wrath, come home unexpectedly to
save me.

"Oh, dear Man of Wrath," I cried, hanging out into the moonlight with
outstretched arms, "how much nicer thou art than lieutenants! I never
missed thee more--I never longed for thee more--I never loved thee more
--come up here quickly that I may kiss thee!--"



October 1st.--Last night after dinner, when we were in the library, I
said, "Now listen to me, Man of Wrath."

"Well?" he inquired, looking up at me from the depths of his chair as I
stood before him.

"Do you know that as a prophet you are a failure? Five months ago to-day
you sat among the wallflowers and scoffed at the idea of my being able
to enjoy myself alone a whole summer through. Is the summer over?"

"It is," he assented, as he heard the rain beating against the windows.

"And have I invited any one here?"

"No, but there were all those officers."

"They have nothing whatever to do with it."

"They helped you through one fortnight."

"They didn't. It was a fortnight of horror."

"Well. Go on."

"You said I would be punished by being dull. Have I been dull?"

"My dear, as though if you had been you would ever confess it."

"That's true. But as a matter of fact let me tell you that I never spent
a happier summer."

He merely looked at me out of the corners of his eyes.

"If I remember rightly," he said, after a pause, "your chief reason for
wishing to be solitary was that your soul might have time to grow. May I
ask if it did?"

"Not a bit."

He laughed, and, getting up, came and stood by my side before the fire.
"At least you are honest," he said, drawing my hand through his arm.

"It is an estimable virtue."

"And strangely rare in woman."

"Now leave woman alone. I have discovered you know nothing really of her
at all. But _I_ know all about her."

"You do? My dear, one woman can never judge the others."

"An exploded tradition, dear Sage."

"Her opinions are necessarily biassed."

"Venerable nonsense, dear Sage."

"Because women are each other's natural enemies."

"Obsolete jargon, dear Sage."

"Well, what do you make of her?"

"Why, that she's a DEAR, and that you ought to be very happy and
thankful to have got one of her always with you."

"But am I not?" he asked, putting his arm round me and looking
affectionate; and when people begin to look affectionate I, for one,
cease to take any further interest in them.

And so the Man of Wrath and I fade away into dimness and muteness, my
head resting on his shoulder, and his arm encircling my waist; and what
could possibly be more proper, more praiseworthy, or more picturesque?



THE END





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