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An essay by George Washington Cable

The Private Garden's Public Value

Title:     The Private Garden's Public Value
Author: George Washington Cable [More Titles by Cable]

What its pages are to a book, a town's private households are to a town.

No true home, standing solitarily apart from the town (unbound, as it were) could be the blessed thing it is were there not so many other houses not standing apart but gathered into villages, towns and cities.

Whence comes civilization but from _civitas_, the city? And where did _civitas_ get its name, when city and state were one, but from citizen? He is not named for the city but the city for him, and his title meant first the head of a household, the master of a home. To make a civilization, great numbers of men must have homes, must mass them compactly together and must not mass them together on a dead level of equal material equipment but in a confederation of homes of all ranks and conditions.

The home is the cornerstone of the state.

The town, the organized assemblage of homes, is the keystone of civilization's arch.

In order to keep our whole civilization moving on and up, _which is the only way for home and town to pay to each other their endless spiral of reciprocal indebtedness_, every home in a town--or state, for that matter--should be made as truly and fully a home as every wise effort and kind influence of all the other homes can make it. Unless it takes part in this effort and influence, no home, be it ever so favored, can realize, even for itself and in itself, the finest civilization it might attain. Why should it? I believe this is a moral duty, a debt as real as taxes and very much like them.

In our People's Institute over in Northampton, Massachusetts, this is the a-b-c of all they seek to do: the individual tutoring, by college girls and town residents, of hundreds of young working men and women in whatever these may choose from among a score or so of light studies calculated to refine their aspirations; the training of young girls, by paid experts, in the arts of the home, from cooking to embroidery; the training of both sexes in all the social amenities; and the enlistment of more than a thousand cottage homes in a yearly prize competition.

It is particularly of this happy garden contest that I wish to say a word or two more. In 1914 it completed its sixteenth season, but it is modelled on a much older one in the town of Dunfermline, Scotland, the birthplace of Mr. Andrew Carnegie, and it is from the bountiful spirit of that great citizen of two lands that both affairs draw at least one vital element of their existence.

We in Northampton first learned of the Dunfermline movement in 1898. We saw at once how strongly such a scheme might promote the general spiritual enrichment of our working people's homes if made one of the functions of our home-culture clubs, several features of whose work were already from five to ten years old. We proceeded to adopt and adapt the plan, and had our first competition and award of prizes in 1898-'99.

Like Dunfermline, we made our prizes large, and to this we attribute no small part of our success. When we saw fit to increase their number we increased the total outlay as well, and at present we award twenty-one prizes a year, the highest being fifteen dollars, and one hundred dollars the sum of the whole twenty-one prizes. So we have gained one of our main purposes: to tempt into the contest the man of the house and thus to stimulate in him that care and pride of his home, the decline of which, in the man of the house, is one of the costliest losses of hard living.

One day on their round of inspection our garden judges came to a small house at the edge of the town, near the top of a hill through which the rustic street cuts its way some twelve or fifteen feet below. The air was pure, the surroundings green, the prospect wide and lovely. Here was a rare chance for picturesque gardening. Although the yard was without a fence there had been some planting of flowers in it. Yet it could hardly be called a garden. So destitute was it of any intelligent plan and so uncared for that it seemed almost to have a conscious, awkward self-contempt. In the flecked shade of a rude trellis of grapes that sheltered a side door two children of the household fell to work with great parade at a small machine, setting bristles into tooth-brushes for a neighboring factory, but it was amusingly plain that their labor was spasmodic and capricious.

The mother was away on a business errand. The father was present. He had done his day's stint in the cutlery works very early, and with five hours of sunlight yet before him had no use to make of them but to sit on a bowlder on the crest of the pleasant hill and smoke and whittle. Had he been mentally trained he might, without leaving that stone, have turned those hours into real living, communing with nature and his own mind; but he had, as half an eye could see, no developed powers of observation, reflection or imagination, and probably, for sheer want of practice, could not have fixed his attention on a worthy book through five of its pages. The question that arose in the minds of his visitors comes again here: what could have been so good to keep idleness from breeding its swarm of evils in his brain and hands--and home--as for somebody, something, somehow, to put it into his head--well--for example--to make a garden? A garden, we will say, that should win a prize, and--even though it failed to win--should render him and his house and household more interesting to himself, his neighbors and his town.

He and his house seemed to be keeping the Ten Commandments in a slouching sort of way and we may even suppose they were out of debt--money debt; yet already they were an unconscious menace to society; their wage-earning powers had outgrown their wants. Outgrown them not because the wages were too high but because their wants were too low; were only wants of the body, wants of the barrenest unculture; _the inelastic wants_.

That is "my own invention," that phrase! The bodily wants of a reptile are elastic. If an alligator or a boa-constrictor catches a dog he can swallow him whole and enjoy that one meal in unriotous bliss for weeks. Thereafter if he must put up with no more than a minnow or a mouse he can do that for weeks in unriotous patience. In a spring in one of our Northampton gardens I saw a catfish swallow a frog so big that the hind toes stuck out of the devourer's mouth for four days; but they went in at last, and the fish, in his fishy fashion, from start to finish was happy. He was never demoralized. It is not so with us. We cannot much distend or contract our purely physical needs. Especially is any oversupply of them mischievous. They have not the reptilian elasticity. Day by day they must have just enough. But the civilized man has spiritual wants and they are as elastic as air.

A home is a house well filled with these elastic wants. Home-culture is getting such wants into households--not merely into single individuals--that lack them. What makes a man rich? Is the term merely comparative? Not merely. To be rich is to have, beyond the demands of our bodily needs, abundant means to supply our spiritual wants. To possess more material resources than we can or will use or bestow to the spiritual advantage of ourselves and others is to be perilously rich, whether we belong to a grinders' union in the cutlery works or to a royal family. Why is it so often right that a rich college, for example, should, in its money-chest, feel poor? Because it could so easily supply more spiritual wants if it had more money.

Not low wages will ever make men harmless, nor high wages make them happy, nor low nor high save them from a spirit of pauperism or of malignant envy; but having wages bigger than their bodily wants, and having spiritual wants numerous and elastic enough to use up the surplus--spiritual wants, that know both how to suffer need and how to abound, and to do either without backsliding toward savagery. Whoever would help this state of things on, let him seek at the same time to increase the home's wage-earning power and its spiritual powers to put to fine use the wages earned: to augment the love of beauty in nature and in art, the love of truth and knowledge, the love of achievement and of service, the love of God and of human society, the ambition to put more into the world than we get out of it. Wages will never be too high, nor the hours of a day's work too many or too few, which follow that "sliding scale." How much our garden contest may do of this sort for that cottage on the hill we have yet to know; last year was its first in the competition. But it has shown the ambition to enter the lists, and a number that promised no more at the outset have since won prizes. One such was so beautiful last year that strangers driving by stopped and asked leave to dismount and enjoy a nearer view.

[Illustration: "Having wages bigger than their bodily wants, and having spiritual wants numerous and elastic enough to use up the surplus."

The owner of this cottage, who stands on the lawn, spaded and graded it and grassed it herself, and by shrubbery plantings about the house's foundation and on the outer boundaries of the grass has so transformed it since this picture was taken as to win one of the highest prizes awarded among more than a thousand competitors.]

[Illustration: "One such competing garden was so beautiful last year that strangers driving by stopped and asked leave to dismount and enjoy a nearer view."

A capital prize-winner's back yard which was a sand bank when he entered the competition. His front yard is still handsomer.]

A certain garden to which we early awarded a high prize was, and yet remains, among the loveliest in Northampton. Its house stands perhaps seventy feet back from the public way and so nearly at one edge of its broad lot that all its exits and entrances are away from that side and toward the garden. A lawn and front bordered on side by loose hedges of Regel's privet and Thunberg's barberry and with only one or two slim trees of delicate foliage near its street line, rises slightly from the sidewalk to the house in a smooth half wave that never sinks below any level it has attained and yet consists of two curves. (It takes two curves, let us say once more, to make even half of the gentlest wave that can be made, if you take it from the middle of the crest to the middle of the trough, and in our American gardening thousands of lawns, especially small front lawns, are spoiled in their first layout by being sloped in a single curve instead of in two curves bending opposite ways.) Along a side of this greensward farthest from the boundary to which the house is so closely set are the drive and walk, in one, and on the farther side of these, next the sun, is the main flower-garden, half surrounding another and smaller piece of lawn. The dwelling stands endwise to the street and broadside to this expanse of bloom. Against its front foundations lies a bed of flowering shrubs which at the corner farthest from the drive swings away along that side's boundary line and borders it with shrubbery down to the street, the main feature of the group being a luxuriant flowering quince as large as ten ordinary ones and in every springtime a red splendor.

But the focus of the gardening scheme is at the southeasterly side entrance of the house. To this the drive comes on unrigorous lines from the street. The walk curves away a few steps earlier to go to the front door but the drive, passing on, swings in under the rear corner windows and to the kitchen steps, veers around by the carriage-house door and so loops back into itself. In this loop, and all about the bases of the dwelling and carriage-house the flowers rise in dense abundance, related to one another with clever taste and with a happy care for a procession of bloom uninterrupted throughout the season. Straightaway from the side door, leaving the drive at a right angle, runs a short arbor of vines. Four or five steps to the left of this bower a clump of shrubbery veils the view from the street and in between shrubs and arbor lies a small pool of water flowers and goldfish. On the arbor's right, in charming privacy, masked by hollyhocks, dahlias and other tall-maidenly things, lie beds of strawberries and lettuce and all the prim ranks and orders of the kitchen garden.

Words are poor things to paint with; I wish I could set forth all in one clear picture: lawn, drive, house, loop, lily pond, bower, rose-bordered drive again (as the eye comes back) and flowers crowding before, behind and beside you, some following clear out to the street and beseeching you not to go so soon. Such is the garden, kept without hired labor, of two soft-handed women; not beyond criticism in any of its aspects but bearing witness to their love of nature, of beauty and of home and of their wisdom and skill to exalt and refine them.

This competitor early won, I say, a leading prize, and in later seasons easily held--still holds--a fine pre-eminence. Yet the later prizes fell to others, because, while this one had been a beautiful garden for years before the competition began, they, rising from much newer and humbler beginnings, sometimes from very chaos, showed between one season and the next far greater advances _toward_ artistic excellence. In the very next year a high prize fell to a garden in full sight of this one, a garden whose makers had caught their inspiration from this one, and, copying its art, had brought forth a charming result out of what our judges described as "particularly forlorn conditions."

Does this seem hardly fair to the first garden? But to spread the gardening contagion and to instigate a wise copying after the right gardeners--these are what our prizes and honors are for. Progress first, perfection afterward, is our maxim. We value and reward originality, nevertheless, and only count it a stronger necessity to see not merely that no talented or happily circumstanced few, but that not even any one or two fortunate neighborhoods, shall presently be capturing all the prizes. Hence the rules already cited, which a prompt discovery of this tendency forced upon us.

About this copying: no art is more inoffensively imitated than gardening but unluckily none is more easily, or more absurdly, miscopied. A safe way is to copy the gardener rather than the garden. To copy any performance in a way to do it honor we must discern and adapt its art without mimicking its act. To miscopy is far easier--we have only to mimic the act and murder the art. I once heard a man ask an architect if it would not answer to give his plan to the contractor and let him work it out without the architect's supervision.

"My dear sir," the architect replied, "you wouldn't know the corpse."

I suppose one reason why even the miscopying of gardens provokes so little offence is that the acts it mimics have no art it can murder. Mrs. Budd sets out her one little "high geraingia" in the middle of her tiny grass-plat (probably trimming it to look like a ballet-dancer on one leg). Whereupon Mrs. Mudd, the situation of whose house and grounds is not in the least like her neighbor's, plants and trims hers the same way and feels sure it has the same effect, for--why shouldn't it?

The prize-winning copyist I am telling of copied principles only. To have copied mere performance would have been particularly unlucky, for though his garden stands within fifty yards of the one from which it drew its inspiration the two are so differently located that the same art principles demand of them very different performances. An old-time lover of gardens whom I have to quote at second-hand mentions in contrast "gardens to look in upon" and "gardens to look out from." The garden I have described at length is planned to be looked in upon; most town gardens must be, of course; but its competitor across the street, of which I am about to give account, is an exception. The lot has a very broad front and very little depth--at one side almost none, at the other barely enough for a small house and a few feet of front yard. Why there should be a drive I cannot say, but it is so well taken into the general scheme that to call it to account would be ungenerous. It enters at the narrowest part of the ground, farthest from the house, makes a long parabola, and turns again into the street close beside the dwelling. In the bit of lawn thus marked off, shrubs have place near the street, three or four old apple-trees range down the middle, and along the drive runs a gay border of annual flowers. Along the rear side of the drive lies but a narrow strip of turf beyond which the ground drops all at once to another level some thirty feet below. On the right this fall is so abrupt that the only way down to it is by a steep rustic stair. On the left, behind the house, the face of the bluff is broken into narrow terraces, from top to bottom of which, and well out on the lower level, the entire space is mantled with the richly burdened trellises of a small vineyard. At the right on this lower ground is a kitchen garden; beyond it stretch fair meadows too low to build on, but fruitful in hay and grain; farther away, on higher ground, the town again shows its gables and steeples among its great maples and elms, and still beyond, some three miles distant, the green domes and brown precipices of the Mount Holyoke Range stand across the sky in sharp billows of forest and rock. It seems at times a pity that Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom cannot themselves know how many modest gardens they are a component part of--the high violin note of: gardens, like this one, "to look out from."

It stops one's pen for one to find himself using the same phrases for these New England cottage gardens that famous travellers have used in telling of the gardens of Italian princes; yet why should we not, when the one nature and the one art are mother and godmother of them all? It is a laughing wonder what beauty can be called into life about the most unpretentious domicile, out of what ugliness such beauty can be evoked and at how trivial a cost in money. Three years before this "garden to look out from" won its Carnegie prize it was for the most part a rubbish heap. Let me now tell of one other, that sprang from conditions still more unlovely because cramped and shut in.

It was on the other side of the town from those I have been telling of. The house stood broadside to the street and flush with the sidewalk. The front of the lot was only broad enough for the house and an alley hardly four feet wide between the house's end and a high, tight board fence. The alley led into a small, square back yard one of whose bounds was the back fence of the house. On a second side was a low, mossy, picturesquely old wing-building set at right angles to the larger house, its doors and windows letting into the yard. A third boundary was the side of one well weathered barn and the back of another, with a scanty glimpse between them of meadows stretching down to the Connecticut River. The fourth was an open fence marking off a field of riotous weeds. When the tenant mistress of this unpromising spot began to occupy it the yard and alley were a free range for the poultry of the neighborhood, and its only greenery was two or three haphazard patches of weedy turf. One-fourth of the ground, in the angle made by the open fence and one of the barns, had been a hen-yard and was still inclosed within a high wire-netting; but outside that space every plant she set out had to be protected from the grubbing fowls by four stakes driven down with a hammer. Three years afterward she bore off our capital prize in a competition of one hundred gardens. Let me tell what the judges found.

[Illustration: "Beauty can be called into life about the most unpretentious domicile."

One of a great number of competing cottages whose gardens are handsomer in the rear and out of sight than on the street-front, though well kept there also.]

[Illustration: "Those who pay no one to dig, plant or prune for them."

The aged owner of this place has hired no help for twenty years. Behind her honey-locust hedge a highly kept and handsome flower and shrubbery garden fills the whole house lot. She is a capital prize-winner.]

Out in the street, at the off side of the alley-gate, between a rude fence and an electric-railway siding, in about as much space as would give standing room to one horse and cart, bloomed--not by right of lease, but by permission of the railway company--a wealth of annual flowers, the lowest (pansies and such like) at the outer edge, the tallest against the unsightly fence. This was the prelude. In the alley the fence was clothed with vines; the windows--of which there were two--were decked with boxes of plumbago--pink, violet, white and blue, and of lady-ferns and maiden-hair. The back yard was a soft, smooth turf wherever there were not flowers. Along the back doors and windows of the house and the low-roofed wing a rough arbor was covered with a vine whose countless blossoms scented the air and feasted the bees, while its luminous canopy sheltered a rare assemblage of such flowers as bloom and thrive only for those whom they know and trust. But the crowning transformation was out in the open sunlight, in the space which had been the hen-yard. Within it was a holiday throng of the gardening world's best-known and loved gentles and commons, from roses down to forget-me-nots. Its screen of poultry-netting had been kept in place, and no feature on the premises more charmingly showed that this floral profusion came of no mere greed for abundance or diversity, but of a true art instinct recognizing the limits of its resources. The garden had to be made a "garden to look in upon," a veritable imprisoned garden; the question of expense required it to be chiefly of annuals, and all the structural features of the place called for concealment. These wire nettings did so; on their outside, next the grass, two complete groups of herbaceous things were so disposed as to keep them veiled in bloom throughout the whole warm half of the year. Close against them and overpeering their tops were hollyhocks and dahlias; against these stood at lesser height sweet peas, asters, zinnias, coreopsis and others of like stature; in front of these were poppies for summer, marigolds for autumn; beneath these again were verbenas, candytuft--all this is sketched from memory, and I recall the winsome effect rather than species and names; and still below nestled portulaca and periwinkle. I fear the enumeration gives but a harlequin effect; but the fault of that is surely mine, for the result was delightful.

I have ventured to make report of these two or three gardens, not as in themselves worthy of a great public's consideration and praise but as happy instances of a fruitage we are gathering among hundreds of homes in a little city where it is proposed to give every home, if possible, its utmost value. Many other pleasing examples could be cited if further turnings of the kaleidoscope were a real need, but this slender discourse is as long now as it should be. It seems droll to call grave attention to such humble things in a world so rightly preoccupied with great sciences and high arts, vast industries, shining discoveries and international rivalries, strifes and projects; yet what are all these for, at last, but the simple citizen, his family and his home, and for him and them in the cottage as well as in the palace? The poor man's home may shine dimly but it is one of the stars by which civilization must guide its onward course.

It may well be supposed that those whose office it is to award the twenty-one prizes of our garden competition among our eleven hundred competitors have an intricate task. Yet some of its intricacies add to the pleasure of it.

One of these pleasing complications arises from our division of the field of contest into seven parts, in each of which prizes must be given to three contestants. Another comes from our rule that not alone the competitors who show the best gardening are to be rewarded, but also those who have made the most earnest effort and largest progress toward the best gardening. Under this plan one whose work shows a patient and signal progress in the face of many disadvantages may outrank on our prize list a rival whose superior artistic result has been got easily under favoring conditions and reveals no marked advance beyond the season before.

After the manner of Dunfermline again, our rules are that no gardener by trade and no one who hires help in his garden may compete. Any friend may help his friend, and any one may use all the advice he can get from amateur or professional. Children may help in the care of the gardens, and many do; but children may not themselves put gardens into the competition.

"If the head of the house is the gardener-in-chief," shrewdly argued one of our committee, "the children, oftener than otherwise, will garden with him, or will catch the gardening spirit as they grow up; but if the children are head-gardeners we shall get only children's gardening. We want to dispel the notion that flower-gardening is only woman's work and child's play."

Our rule against hired labor sets naturally a maximum limit to the extent of ground a garden may cover. Our minimum is but fifty square yards, including turf, beds, and walks, and it may be of any shape whatever if only it does not leave out any part of the dooryard, front or rear, and give it up to neglect and disorder. To the ear even fifty square yards seems extensive, but really it is very small. It had so formidable a sound when we first named it that one of our most esteemed friends, pastor of a Catholic church in that very pretty and thrifty part of Northampton called for its silk mills Florence, generously added two supplementary prizes for gardens under the limit of size. This happy thought had a good effect, for, although in the first and second years Father Gallon's people took prizes for gardens above the minimum limit in size, while his own two prizes fell to contestants not in his flock, yet only in the third year did it become to all of us quite as plain as a pikestaff that fifty square yards are only the one-fiftieth part of fifty yards square, and that whoever in Northampton had a dooryard at all had fifty square yards. In 1903 more than two hundred and fifty gardens were already in the contest but every one was large enough to compete for the Carnegie prizes, and the kind bestower of the extra ones (withdrawn as superfluous), unselfishly ignoring his own large share of credit, wrote:

"Your gardens have altered the aspect of my parish."

Such praise is high wages. It is better than to have achieved the very perfection of gardening about any one home. We are not trying to raise the world's standard of the gardening art. Our work is for the home and its indwellers; for the home and the town. Our ideal is a town of homes all taking pleasant care of one another. We want to make all neighbors and all homes esthetically interesting to one another, believing that this will relate them humanely, morally and politically. We began with those who pay no one to dig, plant or prune for them, but soon we went further and ventured to open to gardens kept with hired service an allied competition for a separate list of prizes. In this way we put into motion, between two elements of our people which there are always more than enough influences to hold sufficiently apart, a joint pursuit of the same refining delight and so promoted the fellowship of an unconflicting common interest. In degree some of us who use hired help had already obtained this effect. Last season:

"Come," I often heard one of our judges say on his rounds, "see my own garden some afternoon; I'll show you all the mistakes I've made!" And some came, and exchanged seeds and plants with him.

"A high civilization," said an old soldier to me only a few days ago, "must always produce great social inequalities. They are needed mainly by and for those who see no need of them."

I admitted that the need is as real, though not so stern, as the need of inequalities in military rank.

"But," I said, "in the military relation you must also vividly keep up, across all inequalities of rank, a splendid sentiment of common interest and devotion, mutual confidence and affection, or your army will be but a broken weapon, a sword without a hilt."

"Yes," he agreed, "and so in civilization; if it would be of the highest it must draw across its lines of social cleavage the bonds of civic fellowship."

It was what I had intended to say myself. Social selection raises walls between us which we all help to build, but they need not be Chinese walls. They need not be so high that civic fellowship, even at its most feminine stature, may not look over them every now and then to ask:

"How does my neighbor's garden grow?"

It is with this end in view as well as for practical convenience that we have divided our field into seven districts and from our "women's council" have appointed residents of each to visit, animate and counsel the contestants of that district. The plan works well.

On the other hand, to prevent the movement, in any district, from shrinking into village isolation; in order to keep the whole town comprised, and, as nearly as may be, to win the whole town's sympathy and participation, we have made a rule that in whatever district the capital prize is awarded, the second prize must go to some other district. If we have said this before you may slip it here; a certain repetitiousness is one part of our policy. A competitor in the district where the capital prize is awarded may take the third prize, but no one may take the third in the district where the second has been awarded. He may, however, be given the fourth. In a word, no two consecutive prizes can be won in the same district. Also, not more than three prizes of the fifteen may in one season be awarded in any one district. So each district has three prize-winners each year, and each year the prizes go all over town. Again, no garden may take the same prize two years in succession; it must take a higher one or else wait over.

"This prize-garden business is just all right!" said one of the competitors to our general secretary. "It gives us good things to say to one another's face instead of bad things at one another's back, it does!"

That is a merit we claim for it; that it operates, in the most inexpensive way that can be, to restore the social bond. Hard poverty minus village neighborship drives the social relation out of the home and starves out of its victims their spiritual powers to interest and entertain one another, or even themselves. If something could keep alive the good aspects of village neighborship without disturbing what is good in that more energetic social assortment which follows the expansion of the village into the town or city, we should have better and fairer towns and cities and a sounder and safer civilization. But it must be something which will give entirely differing social elements "good things to say to one another's face instead of bad things at one another's back."

We believe our Northampton garden competition tends to do this. It brings together in neighborly fellowship those whom the discrepancies of social accomplishments would forever hold asunder and it brings them together without forced equality or awkward condescension, civic partners in that common weal to neglect which is one of the "dangers and temptations of the home."

Two of our committee called one day at a house whose garden seemed to have fallen into its ill condition after a very happy start. Its mistress came to the door wearing a heart-weary look. The weather had been very dry, she said in a melodious French accent, and she had not felt so very well, and so she had not cared to struggle for a garden, much less for a prize.

"But the weather," suggested her visitors, "had been quite as dry for her competitors, and few of them had made so fair a beginning. To say nothing of prizes, was not the garden itself its own reward?"

She shook her head drearily; she did not know that she should ever care to garden any more.

"Why?" exclaimed one questioner persuasively, "you didn't talk so when I was here last month!"

"No," was the reply, "but since three weeks ago--" and all at once up came the stifled tears, filling her great black eyes and coursing down her cheeks unhindered, "I los' my baby."

The abashed visitors stammered such apologies as they could. "They would not have come on this untimely errand could they have known." They begged forgiveness for their slowness to perceive.

"Yet do not wholly," they presently ventured to urge, "give up your garden. The day may come when the thought that is now so bitter will, as a memory, yield some sweetness as well, and then it may be that the least of bitterness and the most of sweetness will come to you when you are busy among your flowers."

"It may be," she sighed, but with an unconvinced shrug. And still, before the summer was gone, the garden sedately, yet very sweetly, smiled again and even the visitors ventured back.

That was nearly three years ago. Only a few weeks since those two were in the company of an accomplished man who by some chance--being a Frenchman--had met and talked with this mother and her husband.

"We made a sad bungle there," said the visitors.

"Do not think it!" he protested. "They are your devoted friends. They speak of you with the tenderest regard. Moreover, I think they told me that last year--"

"Yes," rejoined one of the visitors, "last year their garden took one of the prizes." ////////

[The end]
George Washington Cable's essay: The Private Garden's Public Value