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Timothy's Quest - Scene 8 Post by :DerekGehl Category :Long Stories Author :Kate Douglas Wiggin Date :May 2012 Read :2069

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Timothy's Quest - Scene 8


The Old Garden.


"God Almighty first planted a garden, and it is indeed the purest of all human pleasures," said Lord Bacon, and Miss Vilda would have agreed with him. Her garden was not simply the purest of all her pleasures, it was her only one; and the love that other people gave to family, friends, or kindred she lavished on her posies.

It was a dear, old-fashioned, odorous garden, where Dame Nature had never been forced but only assisted to do her duty. Miss Vilda sowed her seeds in the springtime wherever there chanced to be room, and they came up and flourished and went to seed just as they liked, those being the only duties required of them. Two splendid groups of fringed "pinies," the pride of Miss Avilda's heart, grew just inside the gate, and hard by the handsomest dahlias in the village, quilled beauties like carved rosettes of gold and coral and ivory. There was plenty of feathery "sparrowgrass," so handy to fill the black and yawning chasms of summer fireplaces and furnish green for "boquets." There was a stray peach or greengage tree here and there, and if a plain, well-meaning carrot chanced to lift its leaves among the poppies, why, they were all the children of the same mother, and Miss Vilda was not the woman to root out the invader and fling it into the ditch. There was a bed of yellow tomatoes, where, in the season, a hundred tiny golden balls hung among the green leaves; and just beside them, in friendly equality, a tangle of pink sweet-williams, fragrant phlox, delicate bride's-tears, canterbury bells blue as the June sky, none-so-pretties, gay cockscombs, and flaunting marigolds, which would insist on coming up all together, summer after summer, regardless of color harmonies. Last, but not least, there was a patch of sweet peas,

"on tiptoe for a flight,
With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white."

These dispensed their sweet odors so generously that it was a favorite diversion among the village children to stand in rows outside the fence, and, elevating their bucolic noses, simultaneously "sniff Miss Cummins' peas." The garden was large enough to have little hills and dales of its own, and its banks sloped gently down to the river. There was a gnarled apple tree hidden by a luxuriant wild grapevine, a fit bower for a "lov'd Celia" or a "fair Rosamond." There was a spring, whose crystal waters were "cabined, cribbed, confined" within a barrel sunk in the earth; a brook singing its way among the alder bushes, and dripping here and there into pools, over which the blue harebells leaned to see themselves. There was a summer-house, too, on the brink of the hill; a weather-stained affair, with a hundred names carved on its venerable lattices,--names of youths and maidens who had stood there in the moonlight and plighted rustic vows.

If you care to feel a warm glow in the region of your heart, imagine little Timothy Jessup sent to play in that garden,--sent to play for almost the first time in his life! Imagine it, I ask, for there are some things too sweet to prick with a pen-point. Timothy stayed there fifteen minutes, and running back to the house in a state of intoxicated delight went up to Samantha, and laying an insistent hand on hers said excitedly, "Oh, Samanthy, you didn't tell me--there is shining water down in the garden; not so big as the ocean, nor so still as the harbor, but a kind of baby river running along by itself with the sweetest noise. Please, Miss Vilda, may I take Gay to see it, and will it hurt it if I wash Rags in it?"

"Let 'em all go," suggested Samantha; "there's Jabe dawdlin' along the road, and they might as well be out from under foot."

"Don't be too hard on Jabe this morning, Samanthy,--he's been to see the Baptist minister at Edgewood; you know he's going to be baptized some time next month."

"Well, he needs it! But land sakes! you couldn't make them Slocums pious 'f you kep' on baptizin' of 'em till the crack o' doom. I never hearn tell of a Slocum's gittin' baptized in July. They allers take 'em after the freshets in the spring o' the year, 'n' then they have to be turrible careful to douse 'em lengthways of the river. Look at him, will ye? I b'lieve he's grown sence yesterday! If he'd ever stood stiff on his feet when he was a boy, he needn't 'a' been so everlastin' tall; but he was forever roostin' on fences' with his laigs danglin', 'n' the heft of his feet stretched 'em out,--it couldn't do no dif'rent. I ain't got no patience with him."

"Jabe has considerable many good points," said Miss Cummins loyally; "he's faithful,--you always know where to find him."

"Good reason why," retorted Samantha. "You always know where to find him 'cause he gen'ally hain't moved sence you seen him last. Gittin' religion ain't goin' to help him much. If he ever hears tell 'bout the gate of heaven bein' open 't the last day, he won't 'a' begun to begin thinkin' 'bout gittin' in tell he hears the door shet in his face; 'n' then he'll set ri' down's comf'table's if he was inside, 'n' say, 'Wall, better luck next time: slow an' sure 's my motto!' Good-mornin', Jabe,--had your dinner?"

"I ain't even hed my breakfast," responded Mr. Slocum easily.

"Blessed are the lazy folks, for they always git their chores done for 'em," remarked Samantha scathingly, as she went to the buttery for provisions.

"Wall," said Laigs, looking at her with his most irritating smile, as he sat down at the kitchen table, "I don't find I git thru any more work by tumblin' out o' bed 't sun-up 'n I dew 'f I lay a spell 'n' let the univarse git het up 'n' runnin' a leetle mite. 'Slow 'n' easy goes fur in a day' 's my motto. Rhapseny, she used to say she should think I'd be ashamed to lay abed so late. 'Wall, I be,' s' I, 'but I'd ruther be ashamed 'n git up!' But you're an awful good cook, Samanthy, if ye air allers in a hurry, 'n' if yer hev got a sharp tongue!"

"The less you say 'bout my tongue the better!" snapped Samantha.

"Right you are," answered Jabe with a good-natured grin, as he went on with his breakfast. He had a huge appetite, another grievance in Samantha's eyes. She always said "there was no need of his being so slab-sided 'n' slack-twisted 'n' knuckle-jointed,--that he eat enough in all conscience, but he wouldn't take the trouble to find the victuals that would fat him up 'n' fill out his bag o' bones."

Just as Samantha's well-cooked viands began to disappear in Jabe's capacious mouth (he always ate precisely as if he were stoking an engine) his eye rested upon a strange object by the wood-box, and he put down his knife and ejaculated, "Well, I swan! Now when 'n' where'd I see that baby-shay? Why, 't was yesterday. Well, I vow, them young ones was comin' here, was they?"

"What young ones?" asked Miss Vilda, exchanging astonished glances with Samantha.

"And don't begin at the book o' Genesis 'n' go clean through the Bible, 's you gen'ally do. Start right in on Revelations, where you belong," put in Samantha; for to see a man unexpectedly loaded to the muzzle with news, and too lazy to fire it off, was enough to try the patience of a saint; and even David Milliken would hardly have applied that term to Samantha Ann Ripley.

"Give a feller time to think, will yer?" expostulated Jabe, with his mouth full of pie. "Everything comes to him as waits 'd be an awful good motto for you! Where'd I see 'em? Why, I fetched 'em as fur as the cross-roads myself."

"Well, I never!" "I want to know!" cried the two women in one breath.

"I picked 'em up out on the road, a little piece this side o' the station. 'T was at the top o' Marm Berry's hill, that's jest where 't was. The boy was trudgin' along draggin' the baby 'n' the basket, 'n' I thought I'd give him a lift, so s' I, 'Goin' t' the Swamp or t' the Falls?' s' I. 'To the Falls,' s' 'e. 'Git in,' s' I, ''n' I'll give yer a ride, 'f y' ain't in no hurry,' s' I. So in he got, 'n' the baby tew. When I got putty near home, I happened ter think I'd oughter gone roun' by the tan'ry 'n' picked up the Widder Foss, 'n' so s' I, 'I ain't goin' no nearer to the Falls; but I guess your laigs is good for the balance o' the way, ain't they?' s' I. 'I guess they be!' s' 'e. Then he thanked me 's perlite's Deacon Sawyer's first wife, 'n' I left him 'n' his folks in the road where I found 'em."

"Didn't you ask where he belonged nor where he was bound?"

"'T ain't my way to waste good breath askin' questions 't ain't none o' my bis'ness," replied Mr. Slocum.

"You're right, it ain't," responded Samantha, as she slammed the milk-pans in the sink; "'n' it's my hope that some time when you get good and ready to ask somebody somethin' they'll be in too much of a hurry to answer you!"

"Be they any of your folks, Miss Vildy?" asked Jabe, grinning with delight at Samantha's ill humor.

"No," she answered briefly.

"What yer cal'latin' ter do with 'em?"

"I haven't decided yet. The boy says they haven't got any folks nor any home; and I suppose it's our duty to find a place for 'em. I don't see but we've got to go to the expense of takin' 'em back to the city and puttin' 'em in some asylum."

"How'd they happen to come here?"

"They ran away from the city yesterday, and they liked the looks of this place; that's all the satisfaction we can get out of 'em, and I dare say it's a pack of lies."

"That boy wouldn't tell a lie no more 'n a seraphim!" said Samantha tersely.

"You can't judge folks by appearances," answered Vilda. "But anyhow, don't talk to the neighbors, Jabe; and if you haven't got anything special on hand to-day, I wish you'd patch the roof of the summer house and dig us a mess of beet greens. Keep the children with you, and see what you make of 'em; they're playin' in the garden now."

"All right. I'll size 'em up the best I ken, tho' mebbe it'll hender me in my work some; but time was made for slaves, as the molasses said when they told it to hurry up in winter time."

Two hours later, Miss Vilda looked from the kitchen window and saw Jabez Slocum coming across the road from the garden. Timothy trudged beside him, carrying the basket of greens in one hand, and the other locked in Jabe's huge paw; his eyes upturned and shining with pleasure, his lips moving as if he were chattering like a magpie. Lady Gay was just where you might have expected to find her, mounted on the towering height of Jabe's shoulder, one tiny hand grasping his weather-beaten straw hat, while with the other she whisked her willing steed with an alder switch which had evidently been cut for that purpose by the victim himself.

"That's the way he's sizin' of 'em up," said Samantha, leaning over Vilda's shoulder with a smile. "I'll bet they've sized him up enough sight better 'n he has them!"

Jabe left the children outside, and came in with the basket. Putting his hat in the wood-box and hitching up his trousers impressively, he sat down on the settle.

"Them ain't no children to be wanderin' about the earth afoot 'n' alone, 'same 's Hitty went to the beach;' nor they ain't any common truck ter be put inter 'sylums 'n' poor-farms. There's some young ones that's so everlastin' chuckle-headed 'n' hombly 'n' contrairy that they ain't hardly wuth savin'; but these ain't that kind. The baby, now you've got her cleaned up, is han'somer 'n any baby on the river, 'n' a reg'lar chunk o' sunshine besides. I'd be willin' ter pay her a little suthin' for livin' alongside. The boy--well, the boy is a extra-ordinary boy. We got on tergether's slick as if we was twins. That boy's got idees, that's what he's got; 'n' he's likely to grow up into--well, 'most anything."

"If you think so highly of 'em, why don't you adopt 'em?" asked Miss Vilda curtly. "That's what they seem to think folks ought to do."

"I ain't sure but I shall," Mr. Slocum responded unexpectedly. "If you can't find a better home for 'em somewheres, I ain't sure but I'll take 'em myself. Land sakes! if Rhapseny was alive I'd adopt 'em quicker 'n blazes; but marm won't take to the idee very strong, I don't s'pose, 'n' she ain't much on bringin' up children, as I ken testify. Still, she's a heap better 'n a brick asylum with a six-foot stone wall round it, when yer come to that. But I b'lieve we ken do better for 'em. I can say to folks, 'See here: here's a couple o' smart, han'some children. You can have 'em for nothin', 'n' needn't resk the onsartainty o' gittin' married 'n' raisin' yer own; 'n' when yer come ter that, yer wouldn't stan' no charnce o' gittin' any as likely as these air, if ye did.'"

"That's true as the gospel!" said Samantha. It nearly killed her to agree with him, but the words were fairly wrung from her unwilling lips by his eloquence and wisdom.

"Well, we'll see what we can do for 'em," said Vilda in a non-committal tone; "and here they'll have to stay, for all I see, tell we can get time to turn round and look 'em up a place."

"And the way their edjercation has been left be," continued Mr. Slocum, "is a burnin' shame in a Christian country. I don' b'lieve they ever see the inside of a school-house! I've learned 'em more this mornin' 'n they ever hearn tell of before, but they're 's ignorant 's Cooper's cow yit. They don' know tansy from sorrel, nor slip'ry ellum from pennyroyal, nor burdock from pigweed; they don' know a dand'lion from a hole in the ground; they don' know where the birds put up when it comes on night; they never see a brook afore, nor a bull-frog; they never hearn tell o' cat-o'-nine-tails, nor jack-lanterns, nor see-saws. Land sakes! we got ter talkin' 'bout so many things that I clean forgot the summer-house roof. But there! this won't do for me: I must be goin'; there ain't no rest for the workin'-man in this country."

"If there wa'n't no work for him, he'd be wuss off yet," responded Samantha.

"Right ye are, Samanthy! Look here, when 'd you want that box you give me to fix?"

"I wanted it before hayin', but I s'pose any time before Thanksgivin' 'll do, seein' it's you."

"What's wuth doin' 't all 's wuth takin' time over, 's my motto," said Jabe cheerfully, "but seein' it's you, I'll nail that cover on ter night or bust!"

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