I laughed over Christopher and his double stockings, and I danced for joy when Bessy’s aunt told me that she had got me a fine lot of roots of double cowslips. I never guessed what misery I was about to suffer, because of the hose-in-hose.
I had almost forgotten that Bessy’s aunt knew double cowslips. After I became Traveller’s Joy I was so busy with wayside planting that I had thought less of my own garden than usual, and had allowed Arthur to do what he liked with it as part of the Earthly Paradise (and he was always changing his plans), but Bessy’s aunt had not forgotten about it, which was very good of her.
The Squire’s Weeding Woman is old enough to be Bessy’s aunt, but she has an aunt of her own, who lives seven miles on the other side of the Moor, and the Weeding Woman does not get to see her very often. It is a very out-of-the-way village, and she has to wait for chances of a cart and team coming and going from one of the farms, and so get a lift.
It was the Weeding Woman’s aunt who sent me the hose-in-hose.
The Weeding Woman told me—“Aunt be mortal fond of her flowers, but she’ve no notions of gardening, not in the ways of a gentleman’s garden. But she be after ’em all along, so well as the roomatiz in her back do let her, with an old shovel and a bit of stuff to keep the frost out, one time, and the old shovel and a bit of stuff to keep ’em moistened from the drought, another time; cuddling of ’em like Christians. ’Ee zee, Miss, Aunt be advanced in years; her family be off her mind, zum married, zum buried; and it zim as if her flowers be like new childern for her, spoilt childern, too, as I zay, and most fuss about they that be least worth it, zickly tins and contrairy tins, as parents will. Many’s time I do say to she—‘Th’ Old Zquire’s garden, now, ’twould zim strange to thee, sartinly ’twould! How would ’ee feel to see Gardener zowing ’s spring plants by the hunderd, and a-throwing of ’em away by the score when beds be vull, and turning of un out for bedding plants, and throwing they away when he ’e’ve made his cuttings?’ And she ’low she couldn’t abear it, no more ’n see Herod a mass-sakering of the Innocents. But if ’ee come to Bible, I do say Aunt put me in mind of the par’ble of the talents, she do, for what you give her she make ten of, while other folks be losing what they got. And ’tis well too, for if ’twas not for givin’ of tin away, seeing’s she lose nothin’, and can’t abear to destry nothin’, and never takes un up but to set un again, six in place of one, as I say, with such a mossel of a garden, ‘Aunt, where would you be?’ And she ’low she can’t tell, but the Lard would provide. ‘Thank He,’ I says, ‘you be so out o’ way, and ’ee back so bad, and past travelling, zo there be no chance of ’ee ever seem’ Old Zquire’s Gardener’s houses and they stove plants;’ for if Gardener give un a pot, sure’s death her’d set it in the chimbly nook on frosty nights, and put bed-quilt over tin, and any cold corner would do for she.”
At this point the Weeding Woman became short of breath, and I managed to protest against taking so many plants of the hose-in-hose.
“Take un and welcome, my dear, take un and welcome,” replied Bessy’s aunt. “I did say to Aunt to keep two or dree, but ‘One be aal I want,’ her says, ‘I’ll have so many agin in a few years, dividin’ of un in autumn,’ her says. ‘Thee’ve one foot in grave, Aunt,’ says I, ‘it don’t altogether become ’ee to forecast autumns,’ I says, ‘when next may be your latter end, ’s like as not.’ ‘Niece,’ her says, ‘I be no ways presuming. His will be done,’ her says, ‘but if I’m spared I’ll rear un, and if I’m took, ’twill be where I sha’n’t want un. Zo let young lady have un,’ her says. And there a be!”
When I first saw the nice little plants, I did think of my own garden, but not for long. My next and final thought was—“Mary’s Meadow!”
Since I became Traveller’s Joy, I had chiefly been busy in the hedge-rows by the high-roads, and in waste places, like the old quarry, and very bare and trampled bits, where there seemed to be no flowers at all.
You cannot say that of Mary’s Meadow. Not to be a garden, it is one of the most flowery places I know. I did once begin a list of all that grows in it, but it was in one of Arthur’s old exercise-books, which he had “thrown in,” in a bargain we had, and there were very few blank pages left. I had thought a couple of pages would be more than enough, so I began with rather full accounts of the flowers, but I used up the book long before I had written out one half of what blossoms in Mary’s Meadow.
Wild roses, and white bramble, and hawthorn, and dogwood, with its curious flowers; and nuts, and maple, and privet, and all sorts of bushes in the hedge, far more than one would think; and ferns, and the stinking iris, which has such splendid berries, in the ditch—the ditch on the lower side where it is damp, and where I meant to sow forget-me-nots, like Alphonse Karr, for there are none there as it happens. On the other side, at—the top of the field, it is dry, and blue succory grows, and grows out on the road beyond. The most beautiful blue possible, but so hard to pick. And there are Lent lilies, and lords and ladies, and ground ivy, which smells herby when you find it, trailing about and turning the colour of Mother’s “aurora” wool in green winters; and sweet white violets, and blue dog violets, and primroses, of course, and two or three kinds of orchis, and all over the field cowslips, cowslips, cowslips—to please the nightingale.
And I wondered if the nightingale would find out the hose-in-hose, when I had planted six of them in the sunniest, cosiest corner of Mary’s Meadow.
For this was what I resolved to do, though I kept my resolve to myself, for which I was afterwards very glad. I did not tell the others because I thought that Arthur might want some of the plants for our Earthly Paradise, and I wanted to put them all in Mary’s Meadow. I said to myself, like Bessy’s great-aunt, that “if I was spared” I would go next year and divide the roots of the six, and bring some off-sets to our gardens, but I would keep none back now. The nightingale should have them all.
We had been busy in our gardens, and in the roads and bye-lanes, and I had not been in Mary’s Meadow for a long time before the afternoon when I put my little trowel, and a bottle of water, and the six hose-in-hose into a basket, and was glad to get off quietly and alone to plant them. The highways and hedges were very dusty, but there it was very green. The nightingale had long been silent, I do not know where he was, but the rooks were not at all silent; they had been holding a parliament at the upper end of the field this morning, and were now all talking at once, and flapping about the tops of the big elms which were turning bright yellow, whilst down below a flight of starlings had taken their place, and sat in the prettiest circles; and groups of hedge-sparrows flew and mimicked them. And in the fields round about the sheep baaed, and the air, which was very sweet, was so quiet that these country noises were the only sounds to be heard, and they could be heard from very far away.
I had found the exact spot I wanted, and had planted four of the hose-in-hose, and watered them from the bottle, and had the fifth in my hand, and the sixth still in the basket, when all these nice noises were drowned by a loud harsh shout which made me start, and sent the flight of starlings into the next field, and made the hedge-sparrows jump into the hedge.
And when I looked up I saw the Old Squire coming towards me, and storming and shaking his fist at me as he came. But with the other hand he held Saxon by the collar, who was struggling to get away from him and to go to me.
I had so entirely forgotten about Father’s quarrel with the Squire, that when the sight of the old gentleman in a rage suddenly reminded me, I was greatly stupefied and confused, and really did not at first hear what he said. But when I understood that he was accusing me of digging cowslips out of his field, I said at once (and pretty loud, for he was deaf) that I was not digging up anything, but was planting double cowslips to grow up and spread amongst the common ones.
I suppose it did sound rather unlikely, as the Old Squire knew nothing about our game, but a thing being unlikely is no reason for calling truthful people liars, and that was what the Old Squire called me.
It choked me, and when he said I was shameless, and that he had caught me with the plants upon me, and yelled to me to empty my basket, I threw away the fifth and sixth hose-in-hose as if they had been adders, but I could not speak again. He must have been beside himself with rage, for he called me all sorts of names, and said I was my father’s own child, a liar and a thief. Whilst he was talking about sending me to prison (and I thought of Harry’s dream, and turned cold with fear), Saxon was tugging to get to me, and at last he got away and came rushing up.
Now I knew that the Old Squire was holding Saxon back because he thought Saxon wanted to worry me as a trespasser, but I don’t know whether he let Saxon go at last, because he thought I deserved to be worried, or whether Saxon got away of himself. When his paws were almost on me the Old Squire left off abusing me, and yelled to the dog, who at last, very unwillingly, went back to him, but when he just got to the Squire’s feet be stopped, and pawed the ground in the funny way he sometimes does, and looked up at his master as much as to say, “You see it’s only play,” and then turned round and raced back to me as hard as he could lay legs to ground. This time he reached me, and jumped to lick my face, and I threw my arms round his neck and burst into tears.
When you are crying and kissing at the same time, you cannot hear anything else, so what more the Old Squire said I do not know.
I picked up my basket and trowel at once, and fled homewards as fast as I could go, which was not very fast, so breathless was I with tears and shame and fright.
When I was safe in our grounds I paused and looked back. The Old Squire was still there, shouting and gesticulating, and Saxon was at his heels, and over the hedge two cows were looking at him; but the rooks and the starlings were far off in distant trees and fields.
And I sobbed afresh when I remembered that I had been called a liar and a thief, and had lost every one of my hose-in-hose; and this was all that had come of trying to make an Earthly Paradise of Mary’s Meadow, and of taking upon myself the name of Traveller’s Joy.