Lily Hardy Hammond.

In the garden of delight online

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V. PREMONITIONS . . . . . 81

VI. BEFORE THE DAWN . . . . .115

VII. SPRING MAGIC . . . . . 126









THERE is one thing, at least, in this puzzling
world which, though everything changes it,
nothing can spoil: and that is out-of-doors.
Long ago, when this place was stately old
Cedarhurst instead of home-y Bird Corners,
and I a wilful small girl climbing trees and
tearing my frocks whenever Great- aunt Vir-
ginia and Great-aunt Letitia were both look-
ing the other way at the same time a coin-
dence as blissful as it was infrequent I
thought being outdoors was heaven enough for

In the long winter afternoons I sat by the
big wood fire in the back parlor and hemmed
towels and napkins when I wasn't pulling
out yesterday's work because Great-aunt Vir-
ginia found the stitches too big: and I looked
out at the cold, bare hills, blue and beautiful



against the pale sky, and longed to play over
them like the winds, and to be whirled up into
the air like the brown leaves which scurried
about them all winter long. And in the spring,
when the budding branches draped the trees
with jewelled mists, all silver and green and
gold and ruby red, I wished the great-aunts
had learned to play on the grass with their
whole selves, instead of just with their fingers
on the big old rosewood piano, which stood
stiff and square in the front parlor, an instru-
ment of torture to rebellious hands that longed
to be pulling wild flowers, and to ears tuned to
catch the songs of birds. And in summer time,
when the rain blotted out the hills, and every
leaf of every tree sang the Song of the Rush-
ing Winds; when the lightning ran zigzag all
over the sky and the thunder jarred the house
oh, why should great-aunts call one indoors,
and shut the free winds out, and put cotton
in their ears, and make little girls come away
from the windows, and the chimneys, and
every place where they wanted to be, instead
of leaving them out in the rain to be drenched
like the flowers and shake themselves dry like
the birds?


And in autuirn but those memories are
too painful! On frosty days the house was
shut tight, the log fires kindled, and my small
person swathed in insufferable flannels flan-
nels! in a Tennessee October! And when I
rebelled, there were fearsome tales of children
who had died of pneumonia, or gone into con-
sumption, because their misguided relatives had
allowed them to play outdoors in the cold.

And yet outdoors was never more beautiful.
Some of the hills were far and blue, and some
were near and green, or brown with stubble,
or yellow with stalks of corn. The grass in
the pasture was greenest green; and when I
slipped out on the back porch the sycamores
down by the brook rustled their drying leaves
and called me as loud as they dared. And
the doves flew by in flocks, and the killdeers
whirred up from the valley with wild, free
cries, and the field-larks sang on the fence-
posts, or lighted on the short, sweet grass, the
white of their outer tail feathers shining in
the sun. But Great-aunt Letitia would call
me back to the parlor, where she made tea,
which she and Great-aunt Virginia drank,
sitting in rosewood arm-chairs, dressed in soft

shimmering silks, with cobwebby lace about
their throats.

I myself balanced unhappily upon one of
the big square ottomans, too small to get far
enough back on it to have any purchase against
the slippery horsehair, and painfully conscious
of Great-aunt Virginia's eyes on my awkward-
ly swinging feet. I kept my place as best I
could, holding a bit of egg-shell china, and
sipping my odious cambric tea.

This was the chosen time to instill proper
principles of conduct into my callous little
soul. The gentle old aunts made a duet of it,
and I always thought they practiced it to-
gether beforehand, like a "piece" on the piano.
It was really very easy not to hear!

I always sat on the ottoman nearest the
center table. The other was nearer the east
window, and showed the long front drive bor-
dered by the stiff lines of cedars, which gave
Cedarhurst its name before the great-aunts
were born. But the one by the table had the
double advantage of giving me a dutiful ap-
pearance, being equally distant from both of
the arm chairs, and of allowing me, by an
almost imperceptible sliding to one corner, to
look out of the silver-maple window to the jug


of water I kept in the center of the seven
trunks, a drinking fountain for all the birds of
the place. I sat very still during the duet, my
head raised a little to see the lowest branches,
where the birds always alighted; and I often
quite forgot my cambric tea until Great-aunt
Letitia gently reminded me of it. My docility
touched them very much. I heard Great-aunt
Letitia tell Great-aunt Virginia one day that
she was afraid I would never live to grow up,
my expression was so rapt when they urged my
duty upon me; and she felt as though there
were an invisible halo above my little brown
head. I was running in through the hall when I
heard this, and stopped in breathless amaze-
ment. I had no thought of eavesdropping,
but I saw Great-aunt Virgina wipe her eyes;
and Great-aunt Letitia almost sniffed. I sat
stiller than ever after that, and rolled my eyes
a little; and Great-aunt Letitia sent for the
doctor, who said I needed calico dresses and
mud pies. The great-aunts were shocked at
first, but the doctor was firm. And after that
I played outdoors unless the thermometer was
very unkind and the wind in an especially
dangerous quarter.

There are really two of the-most-beautiful-


place-in-the-world. One of them is the real
outdoors ; and the other is outdoors in the Land
of Make-Believe. The advantage of the real
outdoors is that its loveliness is ready-made.
One invents nothing; one merely opens eyes
and ears and soul to drink in beauty and joy,
and learns, almost without knowing it, the
most curious and interesting things. The ad-
vantage of Make-Believe is that when things
are as they shouldn't be, one can instantly
step over into that blessed country and make
them be exactly what they should. No one
ever sees you do it, either, or guesses that you
can make a world in a twinkling, out of dreams.
It has all the charm and mystery of a fairy
ring, or fern seed, or Aladdin's lamp. One's
body can perch on a horsehair piano stool,
twisting one's two little meat legs about its
one fat leg of rosewood, and great-aunts may
be sure you are practising scales most faith-
fully; and all the time you are really running
races in the wind with charming, dirty children
who tear their dresses all day long, and never
had their hair in curl papers in their lives.

And that is only the beginning. For one
can learn so well the road to that dear land


that one never forgets it, even in grown-up
days. There is never any sickness in Make-
Believe. One can walk and run there always,
though one's body lies weak and helpless, or
drags slowly about, year after year, in a world
that is full of pain. One can slip away from
the long, black, sleepless nights into a lovely
world where imagination is the motive power,
and all one needs and all one longs for lie
ready to one's hand.

It was the January after I was sixteen that
Cedarhurst burned down. It was a bitter
cold time; and the heaviest snow I had ever
seen turned my familiar world into fairyland
under the winter moon.

It was Great-aunt Letitia who found the
fire. She had been looking for it all her life.
One of the most familiar memories of my child-
hood is the waking at night to hear a soft
rustle past my open door the doors were al-
ways left open that we might smell the fire
when we really had one and to see Great-
aunt Letitia, her white hair tucked away under
a dainty nightcap and the light of her candle
bringing out soft gleams in her flowered silk


dressing gown, as she followed her highbred
nose to the spot where it assured her a fire had
broken out. It used to frighten me at first;
but I grew too accustomed to it even to wake.
So it taxed my credulity to the utmost when,
on that bitter night, she roused me to tell me
with tense white lips that Cedarhurst was in

How the fire started, we never knew. It
burst through the floor of the empty guest
room first, and the ceiling of the dining room
below it. But however it started, it was there ;
and there was no one to fight it but two fragile
old ladies, a half-grown girl, and the terrified
Negroes. It was before the days of rural tele-
phones, and the house was in ruins before any
one in the village knew our need. We carried
the news ourselves when we drove into Chat-
terton in the gray dawn, shivering with cold.
We were all fully dressed, of course; the
great-aunts would have perished in the flames
before they would have shocked the stars of
heaven by appearing outdoors in the mildest
disarray. And we saved the family silver, a
portrait or two, great-grandmother's sewing
table, a few books, and the clothes upon our


On the way to the village Great-aunt Vir-
ginia said we had much to be thankful for.
in that our lives were spared ; but hers, had we
known it, was already lost. She had stood
in the snow after the flames barred all access
to the house, until the roof fell in and her birth-
place was a mass of ruins ; and before we had
been a week at the home of her nephew, Cousin
William Wrenn, she had died of pneumonia,
leaving Great-aunt Letitia and me, as she told
us in the parting, alone and unprotected save
for the Father of all, to whom she trusted us.

But Great-aunt Letitia, whom every one ex-
pected to wither and droop without her sister's
sheltering care, developed an amazing power
of decision. She seemd crushed at first. But on
the fourth day after Great-aunt Virginia had
been laid to rest in the hillside burial ground
at home, she came into the family sitting room,
looking, in her deep mourning, very tall and
white and frail, and announced that she had
decided not to rebuild Cedarhurst, but to go to
the city to live.

I could scarcely believe my ears. The city's
outmost edge was only fifteen miles away, but
even the village of Chatterton, peopled large-
ly by our own relatives, seemed crowded and


bustling after the wide quiet of the fields at
home. That this frail, retiring old lady should
contemplate a plunge into the vortex of a city
whose inhabitants were numbered by tens of
thousands really several tens seemed mad-
ness. But her determination was fixed.

" This dear child needs the advantages of
city life," she declared. " I always found the
country exceedingly quiet myself, and-er not
altogether progressive. But I deferred to Sis-
ter Virginia's judgment. Now, however " her
voice trembled a moment, and then went on
quite steadily "the responsibility is mine, and
I cannot shirk it. I think Lydia should
have city advantages. I shall go there and
devote myself to her education, and prepare
for her entrance into society at the proper

Argument was of no avail. When I avouch-
ed my preference for the country she said
quietly that I knew nothing of the city yet,
and that every one should try more than one
side of life before making a final choice. She
was very gentle, but Great-aunt Virginia her-
self could not have been more inflexible. We
went, to the envy of my cousin, Billy Wrenn,


and to my own silent and passionate grief.

As I grew older, Aunt Letitia grew young-
er younger, that is, in her ideas and in her
desires for me. She cared far more than I
about my clothes, and took a livelier interest
in possible lovers. I understood, beneath this
late blossoming of pleasure in what she called
gay life, the starved aspirations of her own
youth, shut away in the seclusion of her beau-
tiful home during the many years of her wid-
owed mother's invalidism and morbid grieving
for her husband. There were times when her
dead-and-gone girlhood rose to life in her eyes,
and a soft color tinged her delicate cheeks, as
she imagined for me some small social triumph
or admired me in some new dress. I divined
that she was immensely interested in my men
friends, though her shyness in discussing them
was even greater than her interest. I won-
dered often if she had a love-story of her own ;
but I never knew. My own love-story, when
it came, gave her great happiness; and for
three years after my marriage she lived with
us in great content, and passed out at last in
utter peace.

My husband is known in our family circle


as the Peon, since he entered into a contract to
work for me without wages for life. He
brought into our home at our marriage his
brother's orphaned child, David Bird, a little
fellow four years of age, who flatly refused to
call me auntie and dubbed me Mammy Lil.
That was many years ago; and as the time has
passed the Peon and I have realized with deep-
ening gratitude our debt to the little child who
has given our home its crowning joy. But
for David we would have been childless, grow-
ing old alone ; for we owe Caro to David, too.
I have never flattered myself that we could
have captured and held the heart of that trick-
sey birdling if David had not added to our
attractions childhood's lure to a child.

For our years in the city, however, we found
David sufficient in himself. He has grown up
like the Peon's own son, sturdy, steady, large
of body and of heart. He has stood well in his
classes without much effort; but more because
it is his disposition to do thoroughly whatever
he does at all than because of any great love
for books. He is deliberate in manner, and
somewhat slow of speech ; and his steady gray
eyes seem made to look facts in the face. He


has always moved in straight lines, mentally
and physically, cutting through obstacles which
Caro would flutter around in a twinkling; yet
somehow he arrived at the goal in time to
secure whatever he set out to obtain. He was
rather too solemn as a child, and regarded me,
apparently, somewhat as the Peon did at times,
with an air of amused and affectionate toler-
ance. I used to hunt through his small per-
sonality for the spark of fun I was sure lay
hidden there, and as the years passed I caught
the glint of it more and more frequently; but
it was really Caro who brought it out into the
open, and set it, a perpetual signal, in his eyes.
I found it easy to awaken in him my own
love of outdoors, and together we made friends
with such birds as could be enticed to our
shady yard in the city's outer circle. We were
sworn comrades in our enmity to the English
sparrows, and the bond of a common foe was
one of the many things that drew us into a
fellowship unusually close. The Peon used
to say that no boy came to genuine manhood
without something in the way of an evil to
hate and to fight; and for my part I joyfully
set up the English sparrows as the embodiment


of all wickedness, to be destroyed beak and
tail. My own objections to them were the
result of long watching; but David's hatred
sprang to life full-fledged the morning we
found four of the wretched bullies fighting one
small chickadee, which hung head downward
from a twig of privet, his eyes shut tight, his
claws clenched, and his throat and breast ex-
posed to his enemies' vicious bills. I think some
deep thirst for justice seized the child's soul
at sight of the helpless victim, and ever since
he has been mindful of weak things in a way
surprising in a boy so ruggedly strong.

He has been wonderfully mindful of me,
always. Long before we left the city I had
learned to enjoy outdoors from a cot under
the trees in the back yard. The pain which
was to be by turns my companion, my jailer,
and my emancipator had already laid upon
me an iron hand. I was up and about when
the Peon was at home; but when he came in
unexpectedly he learned to look for me under
the drooping silver maples in the yard ; and my
old-time love of birds was an easy explanation
of the many-cushioned cot and the long hours
I daily spent upon it.


David filled the birds' drinking fountain
for me when he came home to leave his books
and get his bat or his football ; and I would lie
there, watching my visitors, wondering at the
variety of birds to be seen in a city yard, and
wishing the sparrows' duels were less on the
harmless French order. They never fought
because they needed to do it ; it was always for
something perfectly futile and foolish. They
would leave all the food I could scatter to tear
one crumb from a neighbor. For it is English-
sparrow nature never to be satisfied with what
they have, to want only what some one else is
enjoying, and to get it for themselves if they
can. David and I were fully agreed that if any-
thing more hateful was ever created we wished
to be spared acquaintance with it.



IT is to Uncle Milton that I owe our return
to the country, and all the delights of Bird

Uncle Milton is an inheritance from my
great-aunts and Cedarhurst, where he had the
finest flowers and the most flourishing vege-
table garden in the country. He is a lean old
Negro, tall, and straight as a pine. His fea-
tures are finely cut; and with his gray hair,
long gray moustache, regular features, and
skin like polished bronze, he makes a distin-
guished appearance, even in his old blue jeans.
He is a real lover of the outdoor world, and
the earth and the plants know it. He bends
over the flower-beds lovingly, with eyes that
see, not dirt, but all dirt's possibilities of beauty
and life. There is never a plant set carelessly
nor a seed that falls by chance. No wonder
all he touches grows !



That he went to town with Great-aunt Let-
itia, and stayed there afterward with me, spoke
eloquently of the strength of affection between
us. But after my great-aunt's death he did not
accept the situation without constant protests,
and the advice which my youth and ignorance

' You ain't got no mo' business in de city dan
I is, Miss Lil," he said spring after spring, as I
sat on the grass by the flower-beds and watched
his fork go in and out like clock-work, leaving
behind it long rows of fresh-turned earth.
' You done los' all dem roses you had in yo'
face at home. Ef Miss Ferginny done lived
she wouldn' put up wid dis foolishness not er

"But the city is more convenient for Mr.
Bird," I would explain. "Some day when he
is rich enough he expects to give up business,
and then we will go back."

" He'll be givin' up his wife fus* news you
know," growled the old man, stopping to thin
the thick border of violets. " / An* he'll be goin'
to bury you dar by Miss Ferginny and Miss
'Titia befo' he goes retirin* from business ef he
don' look out. We-all got er plenty ter live on


now you got er plenty widout his'n ; en ef you
ain't, I kin make er plenty outen dat groun'.
Hit's de riches' Ian' in Davis'son county. I
made hit pay befo', en I kin do hit agin, stidder
was'in' it on po' white-trash renters like you all
do. But I 'clare to gracious, Miss Lil,' ef you-
all don' go, I will. I been mixin' up wid town
niggers till I'm plumb wo' out wid 'em. Dis
is de las' spring Milton'll fix yo' flowers in dis
mizzable little cramped-up lot."

He had said this so often that I regarded it
as one of Nature's regular spring processes;
and beyond a sudden deeper stirring of my
constant homesickness, his threats passed unno-
ticed. But one February morning he came out
and stood by my cot under the trees with a
face at once elated and downcast.

"Are you going to begin the spring work to-
day?" I asked in delight.

He looked embarrassed.

" Hit's sorter early to rake dem leaves offen
de beds yit," he said. Then he hesitated. "I
spec I ain't gwinter be able ter do de wuk

no mo'.'

" Are you sick?" I asked anxiously. Then I
saw the new look in his face, and gasped.


"You're going to the country!" I cried.

"Yassum, I is. I can't stan' it yere no
longer, Miss Lil: I'm er gittin' too ole fer
town ; I des bleeged ter go out whar God made
de worl' en breathe free en be er man ergin,
befo' I die."

The years had slipped from him like a cloak,
I looked at him enviously just as an English
sparrow might look at some bird of stronger
flight, I reflected suddenly, and scowled at one
of my greedy kinsman in the walk, trying to
gobble all the best crumbs at once.

" I'm glad for you," I said honestly. " When
do you go?"

' When my mont's out. But I hates ter go,
Miss Lil."

" What am I to do here? " I demanded, the
sparrow in me refusing to be quenched alto-

" I'll do de bes' I kin," he said. " I been
lookin' roun' fer you all winter. But dese
town niggers is a onery set, fer sho'. When
you-all comes home Milton's comin' back."

" Never mind," I said; " we'll manage some-

I closed my eyes because they were getting


full of tears. He moved away, and I let the
tears come. I wanted the country, too; and
more and more as my illness grew, and it be-
came increasingly difficult to take my part in
the busy city life. The more one's bodily free-
dom is restricted by weakness and pain, the
more one longs for the unconfmed spaces of
earth and air, for wide horizons and sweeping
winds, and wings that flash far up into the sun-
shine, above the shadows where one must lie,
conning the hard lesson of patient idleness.
And I wanted Uncle Milton the visible link
between me and that dear world of hill and sky
for which I longed. Return to it seemed so
bright a possibility while another heart, even
this old Negro's, held it as dear as I. If he
went from me he would leave my hope bereft.
I lay with closed eyes, absorbed in longing for
that dear receding vision of delight.

" Don' you see how bad she wanter go, Marse
John?" said Uncle Milton again, close beside
me. I sprang up in amazement, to find him
and the Peon by my cot. " She ain't gwine ter
say a word ef she think hit'll discommerdate
you; but de chile's e'en erbout breakin' her
heart fer de country, same as I is."


"Uncle Milton," I began indignantly; but
the old man brushed my words aside.

"You en Marse John fight hit out, honey,"
he said. "Mek 'er tell de trufe, Marse John.
Hit's you en her fer it now; Milton's done
his bes'."

He turned deliberately and walked out of
the yard.

It did not take the Peon long to get the
facts, to answer all my objections as to the in-
convenience to himself, and to settle finally our
immediate return. We would rebuild Cedar-
hurst at once.

" Oh, no," I cried, " not Cedarhurst ! Let us
build our own home, all sunshine and out-
of-doors! It isn't the old house that I love;
it was too cold and stately and dark such an
in-doors kind of house. It's the hills I'm home-
sick for, and the sky, and the biggest maple,
and the pasture, and the sycamores down by
the brook."

" But we can't sleep in the maple," objected
the Peon, " nor eat in the pasture when it rains.
There must be a house."

" Oh, of course. But let it be our house
not Great-aunt Virginia's. You may really


build it any way you please if only you will
have porches enough, and so many windows
that wherever you sit you can lift your eyes
and look right out, miles and miles and miles.
And I'd like all the rooms to have a southern
exposure, of course, on account of the breeze
and the sun, and east windows for winter morn-
ings, and west windows for the sunsets. I

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