In A London
Garden by Barry
THE RECLAMATION OF THE CAT-WALK: AND THE STORY OF THE POOL IN THE
My London garden is not really mine. I have it for a period of years
on conditions arranged between two legal gentlemen, the tenant paying
the landlord's cost. Obviously the person who owns the property can
better afford to pay those costs than the man who has to hire it. And
similarly the man who is lending money on a mortgage can better afford
to pay costs than the man who has to borrow it. But the tenant pays,
and the borrower pays. It is a principle of the law that the poor man
pays. But this reflection, into which bitterness of spirit has led me,
has nothing whatever to do with my garden.
I wasted more than a year. The thing looked quite hopeless. I left
my garden to the cats, the jobbing gardeners, the caterpillars, and the
Of these the worst and most dangerous is perhaps the jobbing
gardener. As the law stands at present you may kill a caterpillar, but
not a jobbing gardener.
Coming on the wrong dayand he never comes on the right day if he
can avoid ithe brings with him a mixed scent of beer and lubricating
oil. If the weather is wet, he sits in the potting-shed and smokes. If
it is fine, he may possibly mow the lawn. He prefers to mow part of it
and then to get on with something else, leaving it like a man with one
side of his face shaved. He takes no sort of interest in the garden,
and candidly there is no reason why he should take any interest. He
only sees the place for a few hours every week, and he would not see it
then if he were not paid for it. He has untruthful testimonials, very
dirty and decomposed, in his coat pocket, and he is aggrieved when you
sack him. This is quite reasonable. A jobbing gardener who attends to
the gardens of A, B, and C naturally steals something from A's garden
to sell to B, something from B's garden to sell to C, and something
from C's garden to sell to A, and thereout sucks he no small advantage.
When he gets the sack there is nothing left for him but to steal your
secators. He never forgets to do that. I will not say that even in my
regenerate condition I never employ a jobbing gardener. There are days
when it seems a fine, manly, and primitive thing to do a piece of
digging or to mow the lawn. There are more days when such operations
seem rather in the light of a nuisance. One would always sooner direct
than perform. But the jobbing gardeners who come to me now are under
supervision, and are compelled to do things that they hate most in the
worldsuch as putting away their tools when they have finished with
I am not particularly fond of the expert and regular gardener
either. Generally he has the luck to be a Scotchman and is a man of few
words and great knowledge. But his knowledge is always better than his
taste, and he debases an art into a science. His ideals would not fit a
London garden, and his feeling for colour is often wrong and poisonous.
The horticulturist-and-florist debases a science into a commerce. I
have found him useful and shall continue to do so. He saves me trouble.
I will deal with him, but I absolutely refuse to admire him.
The amateur gardener would be pleasant if you could cut out his
conceit, but it is ineradicable. He comes into my garden and points out
my principal mistakes and tells me of the much better things which he
has in his garden.
I myself am not a gardener at all. I admit it. I should imagine that
there is no man in Great Britain and her Dependencies who knows as
little about gardening as I do. But that is not the sole reason why I
write about my London garden. We can distinguish between the dog lover
and the dog fancier. In the same way we may distinguish between the
garden lover and the gardener. It is an important distinction.
The garden in London makes you love it, and it also breaks your
heart. It has therefore all the charm of woman. I am not going to
believe that any garden in the heart of the country, where everything
is green and easy, can give the same pleasure as my half-acre reclaimed
among the chimney-pots. It has its limitations, of course, but so have
I. So have all human beings. One does not ask a beautiful woman to be
clever. One does not expect a clever woman to be beautiful. One does
not even hope that an aggressively good woman will be either. Similarly
one does not ask the London garden for fruit and vegetables. All that
one may really require is shade and flowers. Even that is something,
when you remember how very few flowers will grow in shade.
Some blackguard who was allowed to use this garden before it fell to
my lot planted rhubarb in a part of it. Most of the rhubarb has now
gone, and the rest is going (as the politicians used to say), contrary,
I believe, to the terms of my lease. But my landlord is more
sympathetic than her solicitors. (The word landlady is not to be
used. It gives totally wrong associations.) I have also a currant bush,
and this shall remain. Its green does not displease me. It produces few
currants and I never get or try to get any of them; but birds that are
kept as busy with the slugs and caterpillars as the birds in my garden
are, deserve an occasional change of diet. I have a few old apple trees
and pear trees, but I think I regard them chiefly for their blossom,
though these last two years they have taken heart from the enrichment
of the soil and have been covered with fruit. You will find parsley and
mint in a secluded border, but these represent rather the ornament of
nutrition than nutrition itself.
As a rule parsley in London is terribly over-worked. In the
refreshment-room at a London terminus late at night I have seen a
barmaid collect the sprigs of wilted parsley from the tired sandwiches
and sad hard eggs, and put it all in a teacup with a little water. It
was heart-breaking to think that that parsley would have to go to work
again the next day. But also it presented the barmaid in a new light.
It was so foreign to her abnormal stateliness and her unnatural gaiety.
It tempted one to believe that after all she was human.
Sitting here in the shade on a hot summer day, with an Austrian
brier in full bloom within a few yards of me, I wonder why on earth I
ever neglected this garden.
In the first place it had been neglected before. I think for some
two years previously a jobbing gardener had called one day every week
on purpose to neglect it. Therefore it seemed hopeless to do anything.
In the second place it was too rectilineal. It was an exact rectangle,
surrounded by straight paths and bisected by one straight path. In the
third place I bought a book about gardening for amateurs and it
frightened me. It began just about the point where I shall leave off if
I live to be a hundred years old.
And then, neglected though it was, the garden made its appeal to me.
All round it are tall treeselm, and chestnut, and wild cherry, and
plane, and sycamore. It offered me grateful shade on a hot afternoon,
and I had done nothing to deserve it. In the springtime there were
mauve blossoms on the lilac, and golden trails on the laburnum, that I
had never earned. Later, tall hollyhocks, lavish sunflowers, crowded
Michaelmas daisies, added their reproach. I became uneasy. I went out
and bought things, such as bast, and fertiliser, and green stakes. I
began to wander about the garden, thinking what could be done with it.
By the next summer the garden had got a fair hold of me. A man who can
learn something fresh is not old, wherefore I am not old, but it
surprises me that one of my youth should have learned so amazingly
little about a garden in the time.
I began to see encouraging factors. I had not to think about fruit
and vegetables. I had not to think about a greenhouse, because the
garden has no greenhouse. It has not even got a frame. I shall buy one
next year, or possibly the year after. London is simply crawling with
florists, and for a few shillings you can buy things all ready to put
in. The shilling that goes to the taxicab driver is gone for
eversacrificed to a fit of laziness. The shilling that buys six
sweet-williams provides pleasure for many weeks. The sweet-william is,
I believe, a two-year thing, or as the sacred jargon of the gardener
puts it, a biennial. You start it one year and it flowers the next. It
may be a mean and cowardly thing to do to let the florist do the first
year's work on it, and buy it when it is ready to flower that season,
but I do it, and I shall continue to do it. I shall continue to do
everything that I can think of that will save me trouble in my garden
without injuring the garden. But the Iceland poppies are from seed that
I myself sowed. I have sown blood-red wallflowers and Canterbury bells
to flower next year. One can be lazy without being wholly bad.
Things which looked hopeless at first sight proved better on further
consideration. There was the lawn, for instance. The jobbing gardener
turned up his nose at the lawn. It slopes. It slopes in several
different directions simultaneously.
There's only one thing to be done with that, said the jobber, and
the sooner you make up your mind to it the better. That all wants to be
taken up, levelled, and relaid. It'll cost a bit of money, but it'll
never be satisfactory till it's done.
He produced figures and they frightened me. The lawn still slopes
deviously, and every day that I see it I am thankful for it. Nobody can
possibly play lawn-tennis on it. I hate white rectilineal lines on
grass almost more than I hate underdone mutton or The Lost Chord.
Therefore it is a perpetual joy to me that my lawn slopes.
I asked the jobbing gardener what the roses were, planted in odd
corners of the lawn.
Roses! he said scornfully. They ain't roses. It's just some
common sort of brier. What anybody put it there for, I don't know. It
has never flowered for the last three years, and never will flower, and
if it did, you wouldn't like it.
Those despised briers are all covered with flower at the present
moment, and I like them very much. They are not gardeners' roses, but
they are nicer to look at than the Putney bus.
Are there any plantains in my lawn? There are. There is also more
grass than there used to be. You can do a lot of things with plantains.
If you turn guinea-pigs loose on your lawn, so one newspaper informs
me, they will eat the plantains and leave the grass. But I have not got
any guinea-pigs, and I am not going to provide a manly but barbarous
sport for the cats of the neighbourhood by buying guinea-pigs. Another
method is to cut off the head of the plantain and apply lawn-sand. I
shall very likely do that one day when there is nothing in the garden
which wants doing more, and if I happen to feel like it. A part of a
summer day you must work in a London garden, but it is equally true
that for another part of the summer day you must just sit and enjoy it.
Otherwise you sacrifice the end to the means.
As for that old box tree, said my jobbing Jeremiah, it never
ought to have been put there at all, right on the edge of a bed. If you
take my advice you will have it out. Of course, if it had been properly
trimmed and looked after, that might have been made into a peacock, but
it would take you years to get it into shape now. You can't grow
anything under it, and it's no good trying.
I am glad the old box tree is not a peacock. It has grown the way it
wanted to grow, and it suits it. It is perfectly true that nothing will
grow under it, and therefore I have not tried to grow anything under
it. I found me a handy man and sent him out to buy me a hundred bricks,
what time I marked out under the box tree a place where one might
sita place dry to the feet after the rain. I sent him for red bricks,
and he came back with white, because the red bricks were (a) too
expensive, and (b) too soft. But the white bricks have done very well
with some old bricks mixed in with them, and soon lost their
aggressiveness. So underneath my box tree is an L-shaped pavement of
bricks, with room for a seat and a table.
People look at it and sniff. It is too unusual. Then they go away
and buy bricks. It is astonishing, by the way, how very few bricks
there are in a hundred. What I mean, of course, is what a very small
pavement they make.
I made another seat under the big scarlet thorn, but this is more
ambitious. I got me broken pavement stonesnot very easy to get
nowadaysand paved a semicircle. On that I put a semicircular seat
with a back to it. Irreverent people have compared it (a) to a pew,
and (b) to a loose-box; but it is a pleasant place to sit in in
the evening, and just catches the last of the sunlight. After that I
dealt firmly with myself, and said that I could not be always making
I began to see ways by which I might make the garden a little less
rectilineal. I need hardly say that I wanted a pergola, because of
course everybody wants a pergola. The best house-agents say that a
riverside cottage lets better if it has a pergola and no dining-room
than if it has a dining-room and no pergola. My pergola is built of
rustic wood creosoted, which costs very little. It forms a big
semicircle with a short tail projecting from the middle of the curve.
On it I grow ramblers and glory-roses. I told an expert with some pride
what I had done.
Yes, said the expert sadly and thoughtfully, almost any rose does
well in London, except the Gloire-de-Dijon.
My glory-roses look all right at present, but he is probably
correct. When you do a work and do not know how to do it, you are
handicapped. Almost the first thing I did in the way of gardening was
to put in some gaillardias, which I had bought in a box. Three of them
died. It takes a good deal to kill a gaillardia. Things that I plant
now do not die. I am certainly getting on. I shall soon be able to say
Gloire-de-Dijon when I mean glory-rose.
Perfection is not for me. But there are some pleasant halting-places
this side of it. I consult that book for amateur gardeners at
intervals, principally because it is such a delight to be able to skip
the long chapter about sea-kale. I still struggle, and tell myself
frequently that I shall continue to struggle. But, as I have said,
there are pleasant halting-places this side of perfection, and I have a
great tendency to get out at the next station.
When that tendency comes over me I try to remember the smallness of
my garden. In a small garden you may cut the caterpillar nests off the
scarlet thorn, and burn them to ashes so that no spark of life remains.
You feel sure that not one caterpillar is left in the garden. You may
then get to work and pick caterpillars off the rose trees. You may hunt
the ubiquitous green fly. You may weed properly with a small fork,
instead of perfunctorily with a hoe, after the manner of the jobbing
gardener. In time of drought you can water everything. In a small
garden much is possible.
It is not exactly a garden yet, of course. The author of that book
for amateurs would drop dead from shock if he saw it. But it is more
like a garden than the cankered cat-walk it once was.
By the way, speaking of a garden in London, you may possibly have
heard the story of
THE POOL IN THE DESERT
There was once a desert. Now I come to think of it, there still is.
Across the desert, mounted on three camels, came the millionaire,
the artist, and the analyst. During the day their diet had consisted
principally of biscuits and sand. With this they had drunk as much dry
sherry as happened to be left in the millionaire's gold flask with the
diamond monogram on it. Therefore at first sight they were glad when
they saw the pool, and dismounted hurriedly from their camels. But
self-respect, which is a splendid quality, came to their rescue. It was
the millionaire who spoke first.
I don't call that a pool at all. I have a lake in the park at my
country-place at least four times the size of that. It is a wretched
skimpy little business not worth our attention. Now if we had come to
the cataract of Niagara, that really would have been of some interest.
Even as he spoke, the analyst had produced from his saddle-bags test
tubes, and litmus paper, and a spirit-lamp, and all manner of mixed
chemicals, and was busily engaged on a sample of the water which he had
It was the artist who spoke next.
Water demands green surroundings. To put a pool in a desert is to
put it in a wrong setting altogether. Here we have one stunted and
miserable palm tree, and no other vegetation. There is really nothing
at all here that I should care to paint.
The analyst was now ready with his results.
This is precisely what I feared. There can be no doubt whatever
that this pool suffers from organic pollution. I do not say that it
exists to such an extent as to be dangerous to life, but there is a
very distinct trace. I will show you the figures in my analysis.
He did so. I have forgotten the figures. But that does not matter,
because if I told you them, you also would forget them.
And then for a while these three good men sat and looked at one
I believe I am dying of thirst, said the millionaire.
So am I, said the artist.
There is no known form of liquid that I would not at this moment
gladly drink, said the analyst.
So after all they turned their attention to the pool.
But in the meantime the three camelspoor dumb beasts who knew no
betterhad drunk up the whole of that pool, and had gone on their way
OMISSIONS: AND THE STORY OF THE GIRL WHO WENT BACK
There are smuts in London.
There is also a tradition about the smuts in London, and it may be
as well to differentiate the facts and the tradition. According to
tradition, everywhere within a six-mile radius from Charing Cross smuts
fall heavily and continuously. Nothing will grow. No green things can
exist. A sheet of paper exposed to the open air becomes black in three
seconds, and a thick layer of carbon covers everything. There are many
people who believe this. I was told so only the other night by a
beautiful lady to whom I had inadvertently jabbered about my garden. By
the way, she was wearing a white dress. Why?
The fact is that there are as many smuts as one can reasonably
wantand perhaps a few morein the city and in Mayfair. There are not
so many as there used to be, because there is less smoke. Electricity
does not smoke. Up in St John's Wood and Hampstead the smuts are very
much diminished. Probably if I climbed one of my trees I should find my
hands black. But I am not a boy nor a gorilla, that I should do this
thing. I read or write in the garden, and I find that no smut settles
on the white page. I dine under the tall trees, and the white cloth
remains unpolluted. I may possibly get an elm-seed in my soup, but that
is another matter. (Can anyone tell me, by the way, why the elm
produces such an amazing lot of seeds and sows them broadcast, with a
preference for places where they can never by any possibility
germinate?) This is all quite contrary to tradition, but it happens to
be the truth.
There is a good time comingthe time when smoke will be eliminated.
The London garden will doubtless be an easier and cleaner matter then.
But meanwhile the London garden is not impossible. The evergreens are
distinctly shop-soiled after the winter; but with the summer comes the
fresh green, and in the summer London provides us with less smoke from
fewer fires. Beautiful white dresses must be washed or cleaned, and
after all the garden has its hose and its rain-showers.
The tradition is inept as it stands, but it has a basis of truth.
There is very much that must be omitted in the London garden. There are
flowers that never come to town. Speaking generally, bulbs will do less
work here than they will in the country. After the first year the
tulips get tired. But as a compensation for the many things which one
must omit, come the many other things which one may omit.
The liberty of the subject is too much circumscribed, but I believe
that there is no law in this country which compels a man to grow the
Jacoby geranium. This does not seem to be generally understood. Look at
the window-boxes of London, and look at the gardens. Mayfair as a rule
is ambitious and kills quite pretty things in its window-boxes; but
elsewhere all too frequently one finds the Jacoby geranium and the
edging of blue lobelia. I think that people get these things and grow
them just exactly as they pay their dog licencenot because they want
to do it but because they feel they must. There is probably an
organised conspiracy between florists and jobbing gardeners to promote
Jacobys. You will be wanting some geraniums, says the florist
decisively, and you are hypnotised into believing it. What could we
have in that bed? you ask the jobbing gardener. A few Jacobys, he
says, with the air of a man who has had a bright idea. If he does not
edge them with blue lobelia, he edges them with some yellow stuff which
I think he calls pyrethrum. One has only to smell it once never to try
it again. At the same time there are some super-cultured people who
carry the hatred of the geranium to an unreasonable extent. There is a
white one which does not make me ill, and a pink one which is not too
hideous. But as it happens, the only geranium in my garden is the one
which is grown solely for the scent of its leaves. One year where
geraniums might have been I had blue-violet verbenas, sweet-scented and
just as easy to grow. I was told to hairpin them to the ground, but out
of obstinacy I grew them upright. They did not seem to mind. I have no
rage against the blue lobelia, if it is put in a safe place where its
colour can do no harm. I do not know why the white lobelia has so much
less popularity. One is not bound to grow it as an edging. Now I come
to think of it, I believe I hate all edgings.
I am not very fond of those flowers which are distinctively villa
flowers. I do not think there is any man alive who could sell me a
yellow calceolaria or persuade me to find room for it in my garden. The
fuschia too is rather a self-conscious and ostentatious thing, though I
admit the tree-fuschia. To these I prefer musk, and mignonette, and
heliotrope. They flourish in a wet summer, and I wish I did. Lilies and
carnations of course one must have, and London permits it. London pride
is common enough, but I like it and grow it. It is a generous thing
that asks little and gives much. If only its graceful flower were
expensive, it would be greatly admired. The white and yellow
marguerites are of no dazzling rarity, but I welcome them. Hosts of the
old-fashioned perennials are desirable and possible, though there are
some of them that need to be watched. The sunflower, for instance, is
distinctly greedy and would take the whole garden if it could get it.
If a general principle of omission and selection for a London garden
could be formulated, it would probably run as followschoose
cottage-garden things and avoid villa-garden things. In this way you
will get all that is simple and sweet-scented and easy of cultivation,
and nothing which is formal and perky. There are men who at present do
earn large salaries by making gardens perky. The pity of it!
I have myself seen a long bed covered with things of different
coloured foliage in geometrical patterns. You may see as good Sights,
many times, in Tarts. Thank you, my Lord Verulam, for those words.
Looking at such a bed one did not see the flowers only. The eye of
imagination lingered on all that must have conduced to its
preparationall the pegs, and string, and perspiration, and misplaced
cleverness. A garden may easily be over-educated, and that which is
good in itself may suffer from improvement.
And that reminds me. You do not, perhaps, know the story of
THE GIRL WHO WENT BACK
There was once a girl whose name was Rose, and she was rather pretty
and rather clever. She was not very pretty or very clever, but
everybody said she was very sweet. She had great advantages. Her papa
was a wise man. Her mammawell, her mamma had the best intentions and
was troubled with ambition. But they both loved Rose.
The ambitious mamma said to the wise papa: Rose is now seventeen
years old. She has faults which must be eradicated. She has good
qualities which must be enhanced. The last year of her education must
be peculiarly strenuous.
As how? said the wise papa.
Well, I do not quite like the way she speaks. Her voice is pleasant
in quality, and you can generally understand her; but she slurs her
words and she is just a little weak on the letter 'r'. She must be made
to pay far more attention to her personal appearance. Her waist is not
as small as it might be; and her complexionbut these are not things
which you will require to understand. She must learn German thoroughly.
A smattering is no use. She must not be allowed to have her own way
about the violin. Arithmetic is a very weak point with her. Are you
The wise papa opened his eyes, and said that he had heard every
word, and that she was quite certain to be right, and that he would
leave it to her.
Rose had no ambition and no wisdom. She liked play. She liked real
music. She liked dancing. But as she was quite good, she did what she
was told. Many tutors came about her, and she worked early and late.
Her mother confided to her those secrets which should add to her
The elocution master was quite pleased with her. She learned to
ar-tic-u-late her words and to speak dis-tinct-ly. She pronounced every
r as if it had been a coffee-mill. It was a treat to listen to her.
Her proficiency in foreign languages was really remarkable.
Her music teacher said that she had improved enormously in technique
and in taste. Her playing on the violin was a mixture of gymnastics and
conjuring tricks. She learned to speak slightingly of melody. She
understood advanced orchestration, and pronounced Tschaikowsky
correctly. She occasionally annoyed people by giving Chopin the Russian
Her waist became smaller. You might have thought that her long hours
of study would have made her pale, but there was always a delicate
blush on either cheek-bone, except when she had just washed her face.
Her hair became a work of art. It was marvellously arranged.
The college of domestic-training found Rose its most apt pupil. She
could cook. She could housekeep. Her arithmetic was unfailing. She
could detect at once the mistake in the tradesman's account, and she
could get the right note of asperity into her voice in speaking to him
about it. Is it not rather an extraordinary coincidence that these
frequent errors are always in your own favour? This was obviously the
kind of woman that a sensible man would be glad to marry. She was a
highly developed helpmeet.
The ambitious mamma saw that Rose had improved out of all knowledge.
She became proud of her. She now waited for Rose to make an
exceptionally brilliant match. She continued to wait, for something had
changed in Rose. People said she was very accomplished and very
beautiful, but nobody said she was rather sweet. The boys who had
played with her and danced with her did not seem to require her any
more; they shivered with fear in her splendid presence.
We should all improve ourselves, and try to do our bestthis is the
accepted view and there is no need to dispute itbut concentration on
one's own self, even with the highest possible motive, is poison. And
Rose had drunk of that poison.
And then the ambitious mamma died; and there were some people who
thought that she was better dead. But Rose was overcome with grief. It
was not until six weeks later that, standing before the cheval-glass,
she noticed how very well she looked in black. She worked harder than
ever at the task of self-improvement, until her health broke down. Then
two things happened simultaneously. She was ordered into the country,
and her papa went to take up an important post in Paris.
Rose lived now in a cottage up on a hill with a refined and elderly
lady-companion. Beyond the garden of the cottage was common-land. Here
the bracken grew waist-high, and you might see as many foxgloves in ten
minutes as you would find in London in ten years. Sheep roamed among
the bracken. The difference between the face of the lady-companion and
the face of one of those sheep was hardly noticeable; they also had
similarities in disposition.
When the lady-companion sleptand she was a perfectly grand
sleeperRose wandered all the afternoon about the common. She was not
improving herself any longer, because that was held to be bad for her
health. She worried because she felt that she had lost the love of
people. The longer she lived in the country, the more she wanted to be
loved. She even put tentative questions to the lady-companion, to find
out how it was that she was not loved. But these tentative questions
were of no use, because the lady-companion maintained that Rose was
loved very much indeed, being under the impression that this was the
kind of thing that she was paid to say. She was a conscientious woman.
And then one night Rose had a dream. In her dream she heard a loud
knocking at the cottage door, and she herself went to see who was
There stood a very ugly old pedlar with a leer on his face, and a
pack on his back. He swung his pack round and took off the piece of
American cloth from the top of it.
And what can I sell you to-day, my pretty lady? he asked.
Nothing, thank you, said Rose.
Don't say that, said the pedlar. You have dealt with me before,
Never, said Rose. You are mistaken.
Yes, you did, said the ugly old man stoutly. You bought a packet
of Amoricide, and those that deal with me once must deal with me
What is Amoricide? asked Rose, who began to have a feeling that
after all she did recognise the pedlar's face.
Well, well, said the pedlar, that's telling. I don't mind owning
that there is a lot of the Air of Superiority in it, and there are
other things. You have no complaint to make about it, have you? It does
its work all right. I guarantee that it will exterminate love
absolutely. It is death to love. Have you not found it so?
I have found, said Rose, that it has destroyed the love of others
for me, but not the love of me for others.
The old man chuckled. That's it. That's right. That's why the
people who deal with me once must deal with me again. You must have one
more little packet.
This time I want to know what is in it.
The pedlar began to look uneasy. Don't ask too many questions. We
call it Taedium Vitae. It is a splendid thing.
Rose was highly educated, and she told him that Taedium Vitae meant
life-weariness, and that she would like to know how it acted.
You go down the hill, said the old man absent-mindedly, as if he
were speaking to himself, and then, of course, you come to the pine
Rose nodded. Yes, I know it. Through the wood is the short cut if
you are going to the station. The stile is rather awkward to climb
You can manage it all right. You have done it before. And you know
the dark pool under the trees?
Rose nodded. This time she did not speak.
That's another short cut, said the old man with a chuckle. It's
soon over. The sensation of drowning is said to be quite pleasant. Then
there is no more troubleno more worrying because you have lost love,
and because life has lost its savour.
Rose was rather frightened. When do I pay you? she asked in a
That's all right, said the old man ingratiatingly. You don't pay
me till afterwards. We give credit.
After the pool. Come, you will take this packet.
I will not, said Rose with sudden determination, and shut the door
in the old man's ugly face. He kept on knocking.
Then she knew that it was only the knocking of the maid who brought
her one cup of China tea, one piece of thin bread-and-butter, one large
can of hot water, and the news that it was a fine morning.
After that there was a change in Rose. Some of the change was very
subtle. Some of it was quite obvious. Even a lady-companion with the
mind of a sheep can detect a change in personal appearance. She did
detect it, and she spoke about it with discretion.
Rose answered: Yes, two inches bigger. I don't wear them at all
now. Suppose I shall have to when I go back to town. And I find I
simply cannot stand the other stuff. If I've got brown, that is because
God's sun meant me to be brown.
The merest touch would
Rose was good-humoured, but obstinate.
And in time she went back to town. She had lost the habit of
thinking about herself or of asking why people did not love her. She
gave them the music that they wanted, and not the music that she knew
they ought to have wanted. She became very simple and friendly. The
tone of her voice softened, and the r sound no longer buzzed
properly. She had gone back. And when she was not thinking about it at
all, people began to love her.
One man particularly. And this was fortunate for Rose.
Papa, who was a director of Kekshose & Ciethey make such big
motor-cars that nobody ever dares to let them do as much as they will,
and hardly anybody can afford to buy themcame back for the wedding.
I was just going to say, when that foolish story interrupted me,
that Cardinal Newman wrote a book called Apologia pro vita sua. I
mention it not as a discovery but as a reminder. I believe that almost
every imaginative author writes an Apologia pro vita sua, though
under a different title and in a different guise. I could name one
author (and so, of course, could you) who has written several such
apologiæ. If I have never done it myself, it is because I am not of the
heroic type which undertakes lost causes. But I am not quite sure that
I am not writing an Apologia pro horto meo. There is a serpent
in every Eden, and its name is Pride. If my half-acre of cat-walk can
claim to be a remote descendant of Eden, the serpent exists there too.
I point out the good things in the garden. I cover up the defects,
orwhich is even worseI make elaborate explanations to prove that
they are not defects at all. I cannot expect anybody to like my garden
as much as I do, but I want them to respect it. Jokes about it always
seem to me to be in bad taste. A very good amateur gardener once came
into my garden and mentioned just a few of the things that he noticed.
He did it in the kindliest way. He taught me quite a good deal, and I
hope he will never know how near I came to beating him on the head with
the business end of a large rake.
I think that what I have said about omission is true. Everybody who
loves art loves omission. I should like, for instance, if I could, to
write in the fewest words that lucidity requires. It has given me
pleasure to omit certain things from my garden.
But all the sameand I may as well confess itfewer things would
be omitted from my garden if it were larger and in the heart of the
country, and if I had somebody to help me, and if by chance I happened
to know something about it.
ROSES: AND THE STORY OF THE BLESSED ARTIST
The terminology of the botanist is a standard joke, but as a matter
of fact, the botanist blunders into a good thing sometimes. It was
rather a fine idea to have in plants an order of those that bear the
crosscruciferæ. The turnip and sea-kale are among those whose petals
make the sign, but it need not shock us. Is there not loveliness in the
flower of the potato, and poetry in the foliage of the asparagus? On
the whole, I think the botanist makes me less angry than the
Why, for instance, are so many roses named after abominable
horticulturists or their wearisome female relatives? How can you call a
rose Frau Karl Druschki? I always call that great white rose Mabel,
because it reminds me of a large, lymphatic, handsome girl, who was
entirely without charm. Scent in a flower is charm in a woman. Frau
Karl Druschki has no scent. Hugh Dickson has nothing wrong with it but
its name. Fancy calling a beautiful apricot-tinted rose William Allen
Richardson! Its godfathers and godmothers in its baptism showed a small
sense of humour. Besides, its name is quite obviously Doris. It is
permissible to call a pink rambler Dorothy, but why add the unspeakable
surname Perkins? Why should a red rose be named after a duke? It is
insufferable, snobbish, and inept. No rose should be named after any
man, and should never bear more than the first name of a woman.
Niphetos is a possible name; it is the most sentimental of the white
roses. But almost all roses have their counterparts in women. There is,
for instance, in my garden a pink, useful, knobbly dumpling of a rose.
I have not the faintest idea what the horticulturist would call it, but
no one can see it without knowing that its real name is Kate.
I think the roses that I love best are those of the deepest and
darkest crimson. They have velvety skins and the most perfect
fragrance. It is part of the perversity of the thing that they should
be so difficult to manage. You feed them and tend them, and they give
you scanty and imperfect bloom, or they die, and the intelligent
inquest results in an open verdict. When that happens, the only
consolation is to find somebody else who has had the same trouble with
the same rose. I have not ventured to ask one of them to put up with a
London garden as yet, but I fancy one is coming to stay with me next
year. Perversity haunts the garden, and the dock always grows as near
as possible to some plant that you value. Now then, says the dock,
if you dig me up, you'll have to pay for it. But especially does
perversity attach itself to roses. What have I done for the perennial
lupins? Nothing. And they have given me numberless spikes of
incomparable loveliness. What have I done for the Canterbury bells?
Nothing. And they also seem to like it. But I did a good deal for that
particular rose which I call Mabel, and then there was a late spring
frost. It was no fault of mine. I was not even there when it was done.
I was in bed at the time. But it annoyed Mabel. She seemed unable to
forget it. Why must those loathsome and parthenogenetic green flies
devour the tender roses? There is still a certain amount of rhubarb in
the garden, and they are welcome to it. I would very much rather they
ate it than that I should eat it myself. But the green flies will not
look at it. They cling to the rose and suck its life out. Then, out of
sheer devilry, they grow wings and migrate to some other rose tree.
The queen demands homage, and the rose has received it to the extent
of countless volumes written by wise gardeners who have studied her
specially. Their learning appals. They almost deter the poor blunderer
in London from ever trying to grow a rose or to talk about one. A
little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but the expert runs his
risks also. I was taken through a most beautiful rose-garden once, and
I dared to admire one particular bed. Yes, said the owner of the
garden almost apologetically, it's quite one of the old sorts. And
then I was taken to other beds in which was the very last word in
roseskinds that had only been produced within the last year or
soand here the owner showed more enthusiasm. Has it come to this
thenthat fashion is to stray from the milliner's shop and find a
place in the garden?
From motives of humanity I refrain from bringing out once more
certain over-worked quotations from Herrick and Omar; but in truth the
poets, like the scientific gardeners, have not spared writing materials
where roses were in question. They are ecstatic about the colour and
fragrance, and generally sentimental about the thorns, and never by any
chance allude to the culture. There is something feminine about poets.
They like the result, but they ignore the process, just as a woman eats
a lamb cutlet, but does not want you to talk about the slaughter-house.
Perhaps it is not to be expected that poets should mention the food of
the roses, and yet I hate a shirker of facts. I am not sure that there
is not something of poetry in the plain truth that in nature's
impartial chemistry there is only one step from muck to glory.
And now, if you are tired of uninformative talk about roses, I will
tell you the story of
THE BLESSED ARTIST
There was once an artist who lived in a great town. He was painting
a picture, and he took a great deal of trouble to make it as difficult
for himself as possible. He tried for effects of lighting that needed
miracles. In his work he sought and worshipped difficulties. In the
garden beyond the studio he found plenty of difficulty without seeking
for it. But this was difficulty of a kind that maddened him. He wanted
a garden, but he did not want to make a garden. So he employed a man
one day a week, and was profoundly dissatisfied.
One afternoon he had a dream. He dreamed that an angel came into his
rooma beautiful angel of the accepted Doré Gallery type. The angel
had a pleasant voice and said pleasant things to him.
You have lived well, said the angel, and you have worked well.
You have earned for yourself the blessedness that belonged to the
Garden of Eden. That blessedness shall fall upon your garden. Go and
look at it.
So the artist went out on to his lawn and was quite surprised. It
was of one beautiful tint of fresh green all over, with never a brown
spot. There had been many daisies on that lawn, but they had all gone
now. It had suffered from moss, but the moss had vanished. It had been
superficially irregular, but it was now level. The perfect grass was
just three-quarters of an inch in height, and no tall bents stuck up
anywhere. He went to look at his roses. He remembered them as they had
formerly beenspindly bushes which he had forgotten to prune, and that
bore leaves only at the extreme end of their branches. They had changed
to compact bushes that were green all over and flowered like an
illustration in a seedsman's catalogue. Caterpillars had played havoc
with them aforetime, but now he could find no caterpillar and no trace
of the caterpillar's work. He went on to his two apple trees. They had
borne no blossom that year that he could remember, and the white tufts
of American blight had bedecked their trunks. The American blight was
all gone now. The blossom had set, and the fruit was swelling, and each
tree would bear exactly the right number of apples, neither more nor
less. The carnations were very large, numerous, and fragrant. The
madonna lilies promised well. There was no weed to be seen anywhere,
and the paths had been newly gravelled with the red gravel which he had
always wanted, and never been able to get. The very quality of the soil
had changed, and was now dark and rich. It was worth while to work in
such a garden as this; he took his coat off and went into the
potting-shed to get his tools.
And then he realised his blessedness. There was absolutely nothing
for him to do in the garden. It was all quite good. The drought had not
brought down the leaves nor cracked the surface. The strong winds had
not dishevelled and laid low the sunflowers. He noticed, moreover, that
things were tied up now with green bast to green sticks. He had always
wanted green bast and green sticks, but had used the other kind because
it was the only kind that the man round the corner sold.
He put on his coat and stretched himself on a deck-chair on the lawn
in the evening sunlight in a great state of contentment. When it grew
dusk, from the shrubbery at the end of the garden came beyond mistake
the voice of the nightingale. He had always wanted nightingales, but so
far he had put up with imitative blackbirds. Blessedness had come to
He lit a cigarette and reflected how he would show his garden to
Smith, and how much Smith would be annoyed about it. Smith had a garden
of his own, and was a toilsome amateur with a certain amount of
knowledge. Smith would undoubtedly be green with jealousy. He would ask
Smith to luncheon, and afterwards they would have coffee in the garden.
He would carefully abstain from calling Smith's attention to anything;
but he would watch him, as he slowly drank it all in and meditated
On the day that Smith was to come to luncheon, the blessed artist
rose early in order that he might mow the lawn before breakfast. But
when he went out, he found that it did not require to be mown. The
grass grew to just the right height and then stopped. At luncheon Smith
was inflated with pride, and talked freely about begonias. He mentioned
other things which he had in his gardenthings that that artist ought
to come and see. The artist sat quite meekly, and was very polite until
luncheon was over. Then he said: I think we might have coffee in the
garden, Smith, if you call that backyard of mine a garden.
Ah, said Smith, you should give a little more time and attention
Then they passed out into the garden, and Smith was struck dumb. At
last he said: How do you manage to get those fine dark wallflowers in
full bloom at the end of June?
Takes a bit of management, said the blessed artist complacently.
Smith began to walk round the garden. He admired exceedingly. The
confession that he had got nothing like that escaped him frequently;
and when he had seen it all, he pulled from one pocket an old envelope
and from another a short stubb of a pencil.
Look here, he said, you might just give me the name of the chap
who does your garden for you.
The angels do my garden for me, said the blessed artist.
Oh, all right, said Smith, if you don't want to tell me, you
And he put back the old envelope and the pencil in their respective
pockets, and he went away in a very bad temper. But this incident
reminded the blessed artist to countermand the jobbing gardenera man
of intemperate habits and quite unfit to collaborate with angels.
The next day the artist went into his garden and enjoyed it
The day after he enjoyed it less.
The day after that he began to be dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction
began to settle like a cloud upon him. He wondered why. It came to him
slowly that he felt like a man who had stolen the Victoria Cross and
was wearing it ostentatiously. He was exhibiting a perfection for which
he had never worked; and there was no savour in it.
Better, he cried, imperfection towards which one has contributed
something. Better even the sickly wilderness that this garden once
The sound of his own voice woke him.
He found that he was sitting in a deck-chair on the lawn. It was a
decayed chair, having been left out in many rains. The lawn was just as
bad as ever it had been. He could almost hear the caterpillars
crunching up the surrounding vegetation. One glance showed him that his
rose trees were still a shame and a reproach. And down the steps from
the house came his old friend Smith, smiling and rubicund.
Been asleep in this rotten old garden of yours? he said. It looks
to me as if you would have done better if you had been working in it.
I am inclined to think so, said the artist.
As a rule it is easier to do much work than little. The man who is
underworked rarely does the little that he has to do thoroughly and
punctually. The more leisure one has, the more one desires.
I feel confident that if I had a thousand rose trees, I should be up
bright and early in the morning to do for them all that they required.
I should study the literature on the subject and become expert.
Possibly I should not go so far as some experts, who provide a kind of
conical tin hat for each rose bloom to shelter it from the rain. But it
would not be slackness which would stay my hand; it would be because I
cannot think that the conical tin hat adds greatly to the beauty of the
But I have not got a thousand rose trees. It is none the less
essential that I should cut off all the dead blooms. This labour,
carried out with no unseemly haste, might possibly occupy me for five
And how many times have I shirked those five minutes of labour? I am
shirking them now. Let me see, where are the scissors?
THE FOUNTAIN: AND THE STORY OF THE LITTLE DEATH
I will admit that I very nearly erected a sun-dial in my garden.
There was a kind of snobbery about it. So many artistic people have
erected sun-dials in their gardens, that I supposed that I should be
artistic if I erected a sun-dial in mine. But all the time, somewhere
at the back of my head, was the conviction that the thing was rotten. I
knew it was rotten some time before I knew the reason why.
Sun-dials are not used nowadays for the purpose of telling the time.
It is therefore insincere and affected to put a sun-dial in a modern
garden. It is not conscientious. It is like the artificial creation of
worm-holes in the spurious-antique furniture. Where the sun-dial
already exists in an old garden one may be glad of it, but one may not
deliberately put a sun-dial into a new garden.
So I put in a fountain.
The simplest and most satisfactory way to get a fountain in one's
garden is to buy one from the fountain shop, make arrangements with the
Water Company, and get a real plumber to fix it. This did not appeal to
me. There was no adventure about it, it would cost too much, and I knew
that I should hate shop-fountains. I therefore designed and made my own
fountain, and will now instruct others how they may make one which will
be nearly as bad and delightful.
The first step is to find among your acquaintances a family where
the baby is grown up. Talk about babies. Ask if the baby had a tin bath
with a lid to it, the kind that its things are packed in when it goes
to the seaside in the summer. Ask further if that bath is still in
existence. If it is, then make the family give you the bath. It is to
serve as the reservoir for your fountain and is essential.
You proceed to the second step. In deciding where you would put your
fountain, you will remember of course that fountains always look best
among big trees with a green background. You now fix the disused bath
firmly in the tree twenty feet or so from the ground, in such a
position that it is secluded by foliage from the gaze of the curious
and impertinent. The chestnut tree seems to have been specially
designed by nature for this purpose.
Your third step would be to dig out the basin of the fountain. I
chose a spot under the trees mid ferns and laurels. I bought from a
stone-yard a cartload of material, half of it broken flat paving-stone
and half of it chunks, and I may add incidentally that I paid too much
for it. I paved the bottom of the basin with flat stone and concrete,
leaving a space for the jet of the fountain to come up in the middle. I
used the flat stone also for the border round the margin of the basin.
At the back of the fountain I built up the chunks to the height of six
feet or so, putting in plenty of earth with them. I have golden and
silver ivies climbing over the stones, and I have planted there
anything which I thought would grow.
The reservoir being in its place and the basin constructed, the next
step is to connect them. This is done by a compo pipe with a
surreptitious tap in it.
And after that you fill the bath with the garden hose and turn the
tap. As a rule nothing happens the first time, because there is air in
the pipe; but you can put the garden syringe to the fine nozzle in
which the compo pipe terminates, and draw out the air. My own fountain
will play for six hours continuously; and then when no one is looking
one must fill up the bath reservoir again.
It is really extraordinary how gardening turns decent, God-fearing
men into braggarts. I have said that I did this myself. I did design
it. I did direct the work, and to some extent assist in it; but can I
fix compo pipes on to holes in baths, or fine nozzles on to compo
pipes? Can I fit taps? Can I manipulate stone and concrete? Certainly
It is very useful to know a man who can do everything, especially
when one gets ambitious in a London garden. The same man who did the
plumbing work of the fountain also did the stone work. He built the
palaceit were an affectation of modesty to call it a kennelin which
the Pekinese puppy lives when it is not eating the Iceland poppies. He
painted the garden seats. He is an expert in the removal of the
American blight. He has diagnosed that my wild cherry is bark-bound,
and wishes me to let him cut a slit in it, but I dare not. He is
wonderful and he is inexpensive.
The public fountain is always placed in an open space. There is a
tendency even among quite decent private people to use the fountain as
a lawn decoration. I like it better among trees myself; it is more
classical. It recalls more lines of Horace. The fountain must never be
allowed to play on a dull or cold day. And if you yourself are doing
something strenuous in the garden, it is irksome to have the fountain
playing while you are working. The fountain belongs to sunlight and
repose, and the garden that is not a place of rest is no garden. The
purr of the lawn-mower and the tinkle of falling water are the two most
soporific sounds in existence. They should be used by the medical
profession in the cure of insomnia. I do not know why, but people
generally seem to be a little proud of insomnia. They like to tell you
how many times in the night they heard the clock strike. One will do
almost anything to be interesting, undeterred by failure in it. This, I
suppose, it is which drives some to story-writing.
You may have chanced to hear the story of
THE LITTLE DEATH
There was once (but it must have happened a long time ago and in
some very distant island) a race of people who never slept.
Occasionally they became tired and lay down, but they never closed
their eyes and never lost consciousness. They had never heard of sleep.
They had never learned it. And in consequence they did a great deal of
work, but they died very young. They were quite happy about it of
course, because one never misses what one has never had. There may be
something quite as sweet as sleep which we ourselves do not miss, only
because we do not know about it.
One day a shipwrecked man was cast up on the shore. These were
hospitable people, and they took him up to the King's palace and
entertained him. And when night came, after he had feasted and drunk,
the King said: And now what pleasure can we offer you? Would you like
to hear music, or to see the dancing-girls, or to ride out in the
The man laughed. None of these things, sir, he said. The day has
been long, and a feeling of weariness overcomes me. I should now like
That is some new game? asked the King, intelligently.
Sleep? said the Princess Melissa. We do not know that. What is
The man explained it as best he could, and his account was received
with the greatest interest. Many questions were put to him.
I perceive, said the King at last, that this sleep is really a
little death. For the time being you are dead. Take my advice,
therefore, O stranger, and give it up. It is an awful risk, thus
voluntarily to enter into the place of death. Suppose that one day you
find something there that keeps you, and you cannot come back again.
The stranger explained that, so far was this from being the case,
that every time when he went to sleep he was more afraid that something
would wake him, than that he would never wake at all.
I fear, said the King, that this shows that you have not thought
about the matter profoundly.
Possibly not, said the stranger. But I am as I am constructed. I
sleep because I must sleep. Had I but a couch to lie upon, I could be
asleep now in five minutes.
How exciting, said the Princess Melissa.
May we all see it? May we watch you when you are dead of the little
Most certainly, said the stranger politely. I am so tired that I
am likely to sleep very soundly, but all the same noise or bright light
would wake me again, and that would make me very angry. I must beg,
therefore, that when you come to look upon me in my sleep, the light
may be subdued and no sound may be made.
And to this condition they agreed.
A room was prepared for the stranger in the palace. It was thickly
carpeted, so that no footfall could sound. It had a curtained entrance,
that the stranger might not be disturbed by the sound of the door
opening and shutting when people entered to see the show. The room was
dimly lit by the flame of a small lamp. In five minutes the stranger
One by one they entered the roomthe King, the Princess, and all
the people of the courtto see this new and awful phenomenon of a man
who was dead of his own volition and would yet come to life again.
Three ladies of the court fainted on leaving the apartment. The King
became terribly anxious. This is a dangerous game, he said, and must
be stopped at once. We do not wish to have the death of this stranger
on our conscience. Bring, therefore, bright lights and make a loud
But here the Princess Melissa intervened. No, she said; he is not
really dead, for he still breathes. I watched him most carefully and am
sure of it. It is an experiment which he has often made. He tells me
that he has had this sleep every night of his life.
Doubtless, said the King, he wished to make an impression; we are
not bound to believe that.
But the King was bound to admit, though he did so grudgingly, that a
man who breathed was not a dead man.
All the night through they watched outside the sleeping-chamber, and
about the middle of the night they heard a terrific sound.
That, said the King, is the cry of his death agony. I know it. I
am sure of it. We have done wrong.
As a matter of fact, the sound was the first snore which had ever
been heard in that island. It made even the Princess Melissa nervous.
But she investigated the phenomenon and reported that no interference
seemed to be required. The man was not only breathing, he was breathing
more strenuously than he did when he was awake.
Nevertheless a great weight was taken from the King's mind when his
guest came back to life again in the morning. It was noted that the man
was none the worse for his strange experience. He seemed even better
for it. He was more active and alert. His eye was brighter. He was
instantly ready to undertake the fatigue of swimming for a long
distance in the sea.
That morning, as he conversed with the Princess Melissa, he tried to
explain to her something even more strange than sleepthe dreams that
come to one in sleep. The two walked alone through the forest together.
Tell me, said the Princess, do you think that I also could sleep
and have a dream? I know it is bizarre and morbid, but I long
passionately and above all things to have this strange experience.
So far as I can judge, said her companion, you are constructed
precisely as the women of the rest of the world, where sleep is a
nightly event. I may be wrong, but I should imagine that if the initial
impulse could be given to you, you also would sleep.
The Princess clasped her hands in ecstasy. How perfectly splendid!
she said. But then how am I to get the initial impulse?
What, asked the man, is that glow of red amid the yellow in the
That is where poppies grow among ripening corn. But what have they
to do with the initial impulse?
They are it, said the stranger; by means of those poppies I could
prepare for you the secret of sleep. But there would be a risk.
You told me just now that in a dream it seemed to you that you were
sitting in a boat with an elephant, drinking tea, and the elephant had
on a small white coat with a rose in its buttonhole. That seemed as
real to you in the dream as it seems now that you are walking with me
on the edge of the forest?
Quite as real, absolutely real.
Then for such a miraculous experience as that, who would not run
any risk? Come, we will go and gather poppies.
For the next few days the stranger was shut up in his apartments in
the palace, making the sleep-producing drug of which he knew. He had to
test it many times, that he might be assured that the Princess ran no
risk. And during these days the Princess Melissa gathered dry bracken
and carried it to the ruined temple that stood in the heart of the
forest. For it was there that she meant to yield to her great
The man continued to sleep at nights, always before a good audience.
For the wonderful story had been bruited abroad, and all the people in
the land were eager to see. One night he slept for a charity in which
the King was interested. Money was turned away at the doors, and the
thing was a great financial success. But one newspaper of the island
complained of the morbid character of the exhibition. We cannot,
wrote the editor, approve that this poor sufferer should be made to
earn money by what is doubtless his disease.
The time came at last on a hot afternoon in July. The Princess drank
the potion that was given her and lay down on the bed of bracken. The
stranger watched by her side.
It is going to fail. I am not asleep, said the Princess; I do not
see elephants or boats or anything but what is really here.
Close your eyes, said the stranger; relax your muscles, breathe
regularly, and count every breath you take up to ten. Then begin to
It is no use, said the Princess wearily.
But in a few minutes she was fast asleep.
The Princess was young. Two years before she had fallen in love with
a man whom she could not marry, and the man had fallen in love with
her. There had been no scandal, such was the discretion that they used,
but there had been material for a scandal. The matter was all over now,
for the man in his wisdom had gone away.
When the Princess awoke, she sighed deeply.
You have slept? said the man.
You have dreamed?
Tell me your dream.
I cannot tell you my dream, but I have been to Paradise.
Les yeux gris vont au Paradis, quoted the man.
Now give me more of the poppy juice, said the Princess.
No, said the man, I have given you as much as you may take safely
in one day.
So the Princess pretended to be meek and obedient, and said it was
very well and she would think no more about it, and perhaps now sleep
would come to her at nights even if she did not drink the poppy juice.
That had broken down the barrier of the garden of sleep, and now she
would be able to enter the garden freely when she would.
Perhaps, said the man.
But when for many nights she tried and could not sleep, she grew
rebellious, and going secretly to his apartments she procured the poppy
juice he had prepared. With this treasure in her hand, she went back to
the temple and stretched herself again on the bed of bracken. She drank
the whole of the poppy juice.
For, she said aloud, if the little death be so sweet,
And here she fell asleep.
For ten successive days I had forgotten to buy the weed-killer;
therefore on the tenth day, which was a Wednesday, I went out to weed
the gravel paths with my own hands. It is not a pleasant operation. It
is, I believe, the thing in gardening that I loathe most.
The faint burble of water led me towards my fountain. It was playing
joyously, and some careless person had left beside it a garden-chair
and the current issue of Punch.
Any man with a sense of duty and a reasonable amount of will-power
would have turned off the fountain and got to work.
The sun was shining brightly. The day was warm. I had not seen that
number of Punch. And I did not turn off the fountain, I turned
off the work.
But the next day I remembered to buy weed-killer. The commonest
saying of the Spaniard is not duly appreciated in this country, and is
especially useful in the summer-time.
THE STRUGGLE: AND THE STORY OF ALFRED SIMPSON
The garden is peaceful, and this is the more extraordinary because
it is really the perpetual scene of the bloodiest warfare, and this
warfare is the more acute in a London garden because in London there
are more enemies. One has the fight of the gardener against natural
conditions, his fight against the enemies of his plants, and the fight
of the plants among themselves.
One season there was a prolonged drought and the leaves of the trees
fell prematurely. That's due to the drought, said the experts. The
following year the season was very wet, and once more my trees shed
their leaves before the time. What else can you expect after all the
rain we've had? said the experts. And in both seasons the dairymen,
who seem to have a touch of the expert about them, raised the price of
milk. Perhaps one year I shall find the kind of season which exactly
suits my London garden.
To fight the drought I got me a great length of hose, and made the
usual arrangements with the Water Board. But once the question of a
garden is raised, the Water Board also seems to be infected with the
military spirit. I had a printed document from them, which was severe
to the point of truculence. They reserve themselves rights. They do not
guarantee. They are not responsible. They strictly forbid. With these
and similar phrases they teach the man who dares to use a hose what a
poor worm he is. They tell me that the hose must not be left
unattended. What am I to do with it then? Am I to sit up all night with
it and hold its nozzle? A wet season brings home to me the awful
injustice of Water Boards. Nobody who can get rain for his garden will
use the hard, less satisfactory, but highly valuable products of the
Water Board. But in the wet season, as in the dry, the consumer must
pay. In strict justice, the amount one pays for the water supply for
the hose should in any season be in inverse proportion to the rainfall
during that season.
When the drought was here I watered my lawn profusely (and the Water
Board need not rage and swell, for I never left the hose unattended for
one moment). A little later I walked over the lawn to collect its
gratitude, as it were, and I saw hosts of strange and horrid things.
They were white, and yellow, and yellowish brown. They had come out of
the crevices, and they had crawled. When I thought that for weeks past,
this, my garden, had been providing them with sustenance, I was moved
to fury. But I did not lose my head. There is a right way and a wrong
way of doing everything. There is even a right way of killing slugs.
I have read in books that the gardener takes the slug and crushes it
under his heel on the gravel path; a jobbing gardener might possibly do
thatjobbing gardeners will do anything. Any man who does that is not
fit to have a garden. He is only fit to collect house refuse in an open
cart during hot weather.
My own method is simple and refined. I have a large jar filled with
a strong solution of salt and water. I have, moreover, a large pair of
surgical forceps serrated on the inner edge, price one shilling at the
shop in the Strand. With the forceps I lift up the slug and I place him
in the salt water; he dies incontinently and very neatly. My best time
so far is a hundred and one in a quarter of an hour. I have found out
the thing which the green fly absolutely cannot stand, and I give the
green fly plenty of that thing with the syringe. I destroy earwigs. I
destroy caterpillars. I have not yet reached the fine Tennysonian
sensibility of the gentleman whose eyes were tender over drowning
flies. I kill some things that other things may live. They cannot all
have it their own way in my garden, and I must settle which side is to
prevail. All the same, I do sometimes try to look at it from the slug's
point of view. What does the slug think about it? Let us hope and
believe that the slug does not think about it.
With what brutality, too, does the gardener fight against the
prolific impulses of nature. The dead flowers must be picked off from
the sweet peas; otherwise they give up work early. If you cut down the
lupine spikes as soon as the beans have formed, you will get more
spikes. (I am told that this will not weaken the plant if it is well
fed, but I never do it myself.) And what does it all mean, when one
comes to think of it? These poor beautiful things live and struggle
only for the perpetuation of their kind. When that is done, their
warfare is accomplished. We make lovely gardens by thwarting and
baffling this natural instinct.
Even among the plants that I tend there is civil war. My garden is
surrounded by tall trees, so that at any hour of the day I can get
shade. I would not have it otherwise. I would not lose one of the
trees. But they are all unprincipled robbers. Their roots spread far
underneath the ground. The fight goes on, and they steal the sustenance
that one has given to the roses.
I knew a man who admired in his neighbour's garden the golden stars
of the stone-crop. He put a little piece in an envelope and planted it
in his own garden. A few years later he turned out of his garden three
cartloads of stone-crop; that, I admit, was in the country. Australian
bamboo is determined and rapacious. It is easy to get it into the
garden. It is next to impossible to get it out. The smallest fragment
of root seems to be enough, and up it comes again. The perennial
sunflower is terrifically aggressive. It has a disregard of limits and
wants the world. If its masses of yellow flowers were not so
exhilarating, I would turn it out of my garden altogether. One would
like to be able to argue with these things. I should like to say to
those sunflowers: Try to take example by the bergamot. It has the same
perennial advantages as yourself, and it is quite beautiful. In
addition, the scent of its leaves pressed in the fingers reminds one of
Egypt. You do not find the bergamot shoving itself forward wherever it
has a chance. Contemplate it and learn modesty. But argument does not
avail with the perennial sunflower. The knife and the spade are the
things that it understands.
I fight the weeds of course, but I have vague ideas as to what a
weed is. I am quite merciless towards the bindweed, it is a murderer
and a garrotter; but with the materials at my disposal I could not make
anything quite so beautiful as its flowers. I found two low-growing
things in a flower-bed, which seemed to be of the clover kind. One had
small crimson-brown leaves with a flush of green on them; the other had
a much larger green leaf with a delicate design in grey on it. The
jobbing gardener said they were weeds, he would have turned them out. I
saved their lives, and the one with the reddish-brown leaf rewarded me
with any number of little yellow flowers. Were I a sentimentalist, I
should say that this showed its gratitude. Next year some more of the
same clovery thing came up in the middle of a gravel path, where it was
not wanted; was that gratitude?
When one comes into my garden at the close of a fine summer day, one
does really seem to come into a peaceful place apart, where the fight
for life no longer exists. But the fight for life exists everywhere,
and one can never get away.
Don't go, let me tell you the story of
Alfred Simpson was a nice-looking young man who had independent
means and other attractions. People liked him, but when they spoke of
him it was with a smile. He is so easily influenced, said some. He
is so frightfully obstinate, said others. He has such funny ideas,
Simpson could be easily influenced by anything he saw in print. From
views which he had formed in this way he could not be driven by spoken
words of mature and skilled experience. He had the very unusual habit
of acting upon his convictions, and the unusual is frequently funny. So
possibly in what they said about Alfred Simpson people had reason.
I have definitely made up my mind, said Alfred Simpson one day. I
will take no part whatever in the struggle. To struggle is vulgar. It
happens that I have just enough to live upon; but if I had not, I
should decline to earn anything. One cannot earn without beginning the
struggle. Just as I set no value on property, so do I set none on my
own rights. I would never resist anything.
Nobody minded. In spite of previous experience, nobody expected that
Alfred Simpson would be as good as his word.
Hector Brown was quite a different type of man. His friends said
that Hector was a rough diamond. His enemies said more briefly that he
was a rough. Hector Brown went to a dance, danced with Mary, took her
into the conservatory, and then and there kissed hercontra pacem
and to the scandal of the Government.
Mary was very angry. She had promised to marry Alfred Simpson, and
it was to him that she complained.
Now, what you've got to do, said Alfred's friends, is to punch
Hector Brown's head.
Why? said Simpson.
What will you ask next? For infringing your copyright, of course.
That, said Simpson coldly, would be quite contrary to the views
which I have already expressed to you.
So he did not punch Hector Brown's head, and Mary told Alfred
Simpson that he could go away and play by himself. Mary's decision was
warmly applauded by her parents, who had heard without enthusiasm of
the noble resolve on the part of their prospective son-in-law never to
earn anything. Three months later Mary married Hector Brown.
Now Alfred Simpson was not a coward. He was not quite so big and
heavy as Hector Brown, but he was quicker, harder, and in better
training. He had been boxing while Hector had been boozing. The
instructor was of opinion that Alfred could punch Hector when he liked,
where he liked, and as often as he liked. Of this Alfred's friends were
well aware, and it made them the more angry with him. They despaired.
What could they say to a man who banged the door on the primeval
instincts and declared that struggle, resistance, and retaliation were
repugnant to him.
Alfred's subsequent refusal to secure a highly valuable post by the
medium of a competitive examination alienated his family, as he had
already alienated his friends. It is probable that his friends would
have refused to have anything whatever to do with him, but for one
factit was possible to borrow money from Alfred Simpson. They all did
it, except one man, but differed in the amount and the frequency of
their borrowings, according as their self-respect hindered or their
necessities encouraged them. The one man who would not do it was the
most confirmed borrower of them all. To the professional money-lender
he was well known. But, he said, I cannot borrow from Alfred
Simpson; it is altogether too easyit is inartistic and gives me no
Without working Alfred Simpson could very well have lived on his
income. But his income depended on capital, and his capital rapidly
dwindled to nothing under the inroads made upon it. When his last
hundred had been lent to a young gentleman who wished to test
practically his solution of certain mathematical problems in the
neighbourhood of Nice, Alfred Simpson went with empty pockets to those
to whom he had lent money, and inquired if the repayment of the whole
or part would be convenient. He returned from this inquiry with one
pound six shillings, and the happy consciousness that he had not been
vulgar. He had never insisted, he had never urged.
His next step was to sell the furniture of his well-appointed flat
in order to pay the rent for it. After that he lived on a fairly
extensive wardrobe and a few small articles of jewellery that he
possessed. He retained only the gold watch and chain which had been
presented to him by his mother on his twenty-first birthday.
There came a day when he had lunched lightly on his last six
collarsor, to speak with pedantic accuracy, on the meal which had
been provided with the money which had been acquired by the sale of
those six collars. In spite of this banquet, by eight o'clock in the
evening he felt hungry again, and our sentiments yield to our
necessities. He therefore went out to dispose of his watch and chain.
He went through Regent's Park and was stopped by a man whose appearance
was against him. He looked in so many directions at once that anybody
else would have mistrusted him.
Could you tell us the time, Gov'nor? said the man.
Alfred produced his watch. The man snatched it and the chain
therewith, and ran. He did not run remarkably well. It would have been
perfectly easy for Alfred Simpson to have overtaken him and to have
given him into custody. But such an act would have been inconsistent
with the rest of his career. So he gave up the idea of dinner and sat
on the Embankment.
On the following day he remained in the parks until closing time and
then sat on the Embankment again.
And the next night he dreamed that he died on the Embankment.
And after death Alfred Simpson opened his eyes and saw that he was
in a large and very plainly furnished room. He sat on a hard bench, not
unlike that which had been his bed on the Embankment, and many others,
mostly of villainous appearance, sat there also.
I say, said Alfred Simpson to the grey-haired reprobate next to
him. This isn't Heaven, is it?
The reprobate chuckled. Not exactly, he said.
Then what is it?
It's the waiting-room for lost souls before they take their trial.
But I'm not a lost soul, said Alfred Simpson indignantly. I ought
not to be here. I must have taken the wrong turning. I have never done
anything very wrong in my life, and I have done heaps of good. I gave
up the only girl I ever loved.
I know, said the old man; and in consequence she married a man
she did not love out of pique. He's a brute, he ill-treats her, and she
will die. You murdered her.
This is terrible, said Alfred Simpson. I had no idea of it. But I
have done lots of other good things. I refused to go in for a
competitive examination and take up a valuable post, in order that some
other man might enjoy it.
I know, said the old man again. The other man got it; he had not
your mental equipment and he was not equal to it. He bungled badly and
disgraced himself. That's him over there, the man with the bullet-hole
in his temples. It was his hand that held the revolver, but it was you
who shot him, Alfred Simpson.
This is most distressing, said Alfred. If I could have foreseen
this kind of thing, I should certainly have revised my ideas. I should
have drawn out another scheme for my life altogether. But as it is, I
must have done some good. I lent large sums of money without interest.
I know, said the old man once more. And by so doing you have
turned various people who might have had self-respect and industry into
worthless wastrels. The souls of some of them are waiting now to give
evidence against you.
It is very sad, said Alfred, that things do not turn out as one
intends. One of my last acts on earth was to allow a man to steal my
watch and chain. I suppose it is useless to plead that this was a good
Quite. How can you suppose it to be a good action to put such a
premium on dishonesty?
Then the door of the waiting-room opened and there stood there a
most gigantic policeman.
Alfred Simpson, he called, in a fruity and resonant voice.
Here I am, said Alfred meekly. Could you tell me what I am
You know perfectly well, said the policeman. You are charged with
starting the millennium before it was ready.
The shock awoke him. He rose and walked to his father's house. His
dire necessities and abject condition broke down the alienation which
had existed between him and his family, and he was welcomed as the
returned prodigal. On the following morning, decently attired, with a
bundle of IOU's in his pocket, he started across Regent's Park to call
upon his solicitor. On his way he met a shabby man who looked in all
directions at once. The shabby man saw him and ran. Alfred ran also. He
caught the shabby man in an unfrequented part of the park, took from
him fourpence in bronze, which was all that he possessed, and
administered to him an extremely thorough hiding.
He handed the bundle of IOU's to his solicitor. Those who could pay
in full were to pay in full. Those who could pay in part were to pay in
part. Those who could not pay were to be left alone. Nobody was to be
ruined, but Alfred Simpson was to have some of his money back.
And later, some two years later, he married the widow of Hector
Brown. He is on his way to take up an important post in India, and she
accompanies him. They say that she looks quite young and pretty again.
She is certainly quite happy with her husband, though there are some
who think him a little too selfish and dictatorial.
NIGHT IN THE GARDEN: AND THE STORY OF THE GHOSTLY MUSIC
There are many things that may bring a man, normally sociable, into
that state of mind when it is not desirable that he shall dine out. Too
many wrong numbers on the telephone, too many visitors, too much
talkanything in fact that jangles the nerves may be the cause. In my
case the cause was unimportant and uninteresting, but I was undoubtedly
in that state of mind. I had to dine out, and I had not the feeling of
gratitude which would have better become me. The idea of dining out
filled me with rage and despairdisproportionate, ludicrous, but quite
real. I recalled the words of a woman who had been through many
seasons. I want, she said to me earnestly, to be asked to everything
and to go to nothing.
And then the blessed sentence of reprieve came over the telephone.
Never before had I known what a lovely word chicken-pox is. Postponed
is another beautiful word; the long o sounds are like the coo of a
dove. My more important nerves that had been revolving rapidly like
large hot corkscrews began to shrink, to slow, and to cool.
Later, when it was dark, I went out into the garden. Lighted windows
patterned themselves on the lawn, and half-way across it a warm wave of
perfume met me from the white stars of the tobacco plants. The scents
of flowers please me. Lavender and rosemary, lemon verbena and musk,
rose and carnationI have them all. But for scents in bottles or
sachets, the chemist's products, I have only hatred and contempt. The
bottled perfume is like mechanical music; the freshness and life have
departed from it.
Even in the daytime but little sound of traffic reaches my garden,
and at night there are such long stretches of precious silence that one
seems to be far from London. As one grows older one values silence
moremaybe a gentle providence, that in the end the great silence may
not be unwelcome. The years change in so many things our sense of
value. Property loses much of its attraction when one begins to think
for how short a time one may hold it. This is consolatory if one be
poor. I cannot own this scrap of London garden, but what matter? I may
use it as if it were my own in return forwell, for so many stories a
year. The transaction seems more estimable when the medium of exchange
is not mentioned.
I sat and smoked, and drank the silence like some sharp,
strengthening wine. The great trees before me, motionless in the still
air, were a flat dark grey against a sky a little paler. Below, where
in the sunlight would be a riot of colour, were masses of velvety black
out of which only the white flowers spoke. The tall white hollyhock
would be a patient sentinel all night while its dark sister slept
invisible. There is peace in the gardens of the countrygardens far
richer and more beautiful than minebut here the peace seemed deeper
because of the near contrast. Not far away the useful deadly motor-bus
would be busy for hours yet. Theatres would be full, and Fleet Street
would be strenuous, and (in houses which the chicken-pox had not yet
reached) people would be dining out. Perhaps, without being too
artistic and diseased, one who has sometimes liked crowds may sometimes
like to escape them. Dusk and sweet scents, silence and solitudethe
London garden has pleasant gifts for folks who are temporarily tired of
Across the lighted squares or mirrored windows on the lawn, slow yet
alert, crept a cat with a heart full of sinful purposes. It flickered
over the wall, poised clear against the sky for one moment, on its way
to blood and passion in some valerian-scented hell. The nocturnal cat
is supposed to be comic, but (in spite of many opportunities) I have
never managed to see the joke. There is something terrific in those
lower animalsthere are several of themthat in certain moments
produces the sound of the human voice. Strange too is that electric
repugnance that a cat may set up. Unseen and unheard, her presence is
yet felt and loathed. She is a creature of the night, mysterious and
satanic. Watch her as she starts for the black sabbatha voluptuous
sprawl with claws extended, steps of tense and measured stealth, and
then a mad scurry. Presently, you shall hear her cry like a woman, even
as the wounded hare sobs out her sisterhood. To-night it was as though
for a few moments a taint of monstrousness had passed through the peace
of the garden.
Through an open window not far away came the sound of
musicsomebody was playing the piano. Music heard from another house
is supposed to be a torture, and so (like the cat) has its place among
the accepted jokes. But, because to-night I was to have the luckwho
invented chicken-pox?it was not distressing and funny. It was fine
music played by an artist on a good instrument. It had the quality of
the night, wistful and desiderious. Long ago and in a far country there
was a king who suffered from a restless melancholy, or a bad temper, or
something of that kind, and somebody made music for him. So Saul was
refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
Surely, that nocturne was meant to be heard as I heard itin a garden
at night. Alas, these concerts, with their awful too-muchness, and
professional smirks, and roars of ugly applause! I do not like to have
music thus administered. But for the music that visited my garden that
night I had the most grateful welcome.
When the chance things are charming they far surpass the calculated,
and love itself may be no more than a delightful accident. It was just
by chance that somebody in a lighted room, without a thought of
audience, went to the piano and remembered that music. Chance makes
things grow on old stone walls; and in the rich man's rock-garden,
wealth, skill, and calculation try to imitate the charm. The music
ceased, and my gratitude must remain unspokenunless, by a chance that
were wellnigh miraculous, this page may carry it. But artistsbe they
makers of music or pictures, poems or storiesmust not think too much
of gratitude; for they will not always get it, and they will not always
deserve it. That king of old once flung a javelin at the musician who
played before him. Some lazy souls can never do their uttermost unless
they are thrashed up to it. A moderate amount of javelinavoiding
vital partsis not always bad for the artist.
My garden, they tell me, was once the garden of an old priory. Under
one corner of the lawn is the well that provided the religious with
water. It has been covered in with stone, and just over the stone the
grass refuses to grow. It is like a tonsure. But though I have been in
my garden I think at every hour of the night and of the early morning,
I have met no shadowy figures counting their beads or reading their
little illuminated books. These good people sleep long and quietly.
Let me tell you the story of
THE GHOSTLY MUSIC
There was once a master of music, who, from the charity of his heart
and from his love of excellence, took as his pupil without reward a
young boy that was greatly gifted. And in time it came to pass that the
pupil reached his zenith and the powers of the master had begun to
decline, so that it was said by some that the pupil now surpassed the
master. And the hints of this that came to the master's ears were to
him bitter as wormwood.
Now it happened one day that, as the pupil walked in a wood, music
came to him; and he hastened back to his house in order that he might
sit down at the piano and play it. For although, being a musician, he
knew quite well how the music would sound, he yet wished to hear it.
And as he was on his way, though it was a calm day, the great limb of a
treacherous elm fell upon him and crushed him so that he died. And in
his music-room his piano waited in vain.
Upon his death all bitterness passed away from the heart of his
master. Rivalry died with the rival. There came back to him old
recollections of the boy and of the esteem and affection in which he
had then held him. There was now no one who spoke of the dead musician
with more generous praise than his master. In his own music-room the
master placed the piano on which his pupil had been used to play. It
had been specially bequeathed to him. It was the dead man's gift.
But now the old man became himself conscious that he was not as he
had been. The fountains were dried up. Melody had ceased to come. He
was arid and unproductive. His fear that his power was leaving him
tended the more to diminish it. There were many long days and nights
when he could do nothing; and at such seasons he would not enter his
music-room upstairs, but sat in the room below it, trying sometimes to
divert his mind by reading, and at other times cursing the wretchedness
into which the course of nature had brought him.
After a long while it happened that one night when he sat late
alone, his wretchedness seemed to him more than he could bear. In a few
weeks he was to play before the King and there would be many great
musicians in the audience. On such occasions it had always been his
custom to produce some new work. Now he had nothing to give them. He
would have to fall back on the compositions of his younger days. He
could picture in his mind the meaning looks which the musicians would
interchange. He could hear their polite applause, and it was like a
torture. The King, himself no mean musician, might ask some question.
He could not go into that company and thus fail. It was not possible.
It could not be asked of him thus to debase himself. And there seemed
to him but one alternativea little more than usual of that laudanum
in which he had lately sought inspiration.
But as he raised the glass to his lips he heard something so
unexpected that the glass crashed to the floor. In the music-room
overhead someone was playing the piano. Who could it be? No servant of
his had that skill, and besides, hours before his servants had gone to
sleep. It was divine music, entrancing, uplifting.
For a moment he hesitated, and then the desire to know overcame his
fears. He went up the stairs, and in the passage outside the music-room
he noted that a light showed under the door. Someone had switched the
light on then. Was it the carelessness of a servant? Quite possibly,
he said to himself. Quite possibly.
He opened the door and entered, and his eyes flew to the piano. No
one was seated there, but the notes moved and the touch was human. He
shrank back from the piano and stood in the farthest corner of the
room, listening intently. When at last the music ceased, he had a great
desire to say something, and yet could choose no words. And, as he
hesitated, there was a sudden click and the lights were switched off.
He fled from the darkness down the stairs to the brightly lit room
below. For a while he was too overcome to be able to do anything; and
then, for he had a musician's memory, he took paper and wrote down the
music that he had heard.
A few days later it chanced that a great lady asked him what new
music he would play before the King.
I have decided, said the master, to play a composition of mine
thatif one must give these things namesI shall call 'The Sylvan
Sylvan? How delightful. It represents scenes in the wood then.
The master shook his head. Music represents nothing, he said.
Music is music. It is not an imitation of a sylvan scene, or church
bells heard in the distance, or any other rubbish. I call this music
'The Sylvan Sonata' merely because it has in it different phases of
woodland feeling. You understand me? It is the kind of music that might
occur to the mind of a musician when he was walking through a wood.
But how that reminds one, said the great lady. It was in the wood
that your favourite pupil died.
I prefer, said the master sternly, not to speak of that.
He preferred also not to think of it. The piano which had been
bequeathed to him was kept closed and locked now, and it was on another
instrument in another room that he prepared himself for the great
occasion. He was a fine executant, as not every composer is. He tried
to cheat himself. He said again and again to himself that what he had
seen and heard in the music-room that night was illusion. The notes had
not really moved. His brain had been over-wrought with worry and
anxiety. The music was really his own. But the attempt to cheat himself
was idle, for he knew too much of the characteristics of a promising
young composer who was now dead. No one else but him could have written
The evening came and the occasion found him equal to it. His playing
of The Sylvan Sonata was as near perfection as a man may attain. When
he had finished there were a few seconds of silence before the audience
could get back to the world again and begin their applause. And when
that had died away, many came up to congratulate him, and a critic of
I am ashamed of myself, said the critic. I confess that I had
thought, in company with many others, that you declined in power,
maestro. You have given us to-night something more superb than we
have ever heard from you before. You are at your very highest at this
The master did not seem to hear, did not seem to see the hands which
were stretched out to him. He sat looking intently before him, as at
some presence not visible to the others. And when he was summoned to
speak to the King, he rose stiffly and moved mechanically, looking now
and again over his shoulder, as at someone who followed him.
And when the King had finished his compliments, he drew a deep
breath, as of one who makes an effort. He swung round and pointed with
a wave of his hand.
Alas, sir, he said, I am not he who made 'The Sylvan Sonata'. But
the composer is here. See him. He stands behind me. The face was
somewhat crushed by the fall of the tree, but it is made well again. It
is as it always was. It is his music, not mine, that I have played to
He stepped backward from the royal presence. The shiver of sensation
went through the great assembly. This was clearly aberration. Someone
should see to the old man. The trial had been too great for him, and
his reason had been overcome. A doctor should be summoned.
But before anything could be done, the old man had slipped out of
the assembly and left the palace and gone back to his own house. Once
more he poured the laudanum, and this time his hand did not fail him.
When he had drunk, he went up to the music-room again and unlocked the
piano that had once been his pupil's. He opened it and began to play.
It was there they found him in the morning.
It was late at night and I had gone out to see the September moon.
It was one of those nights which people like to say are as light as
day. It was not in the least as light as day. It was light grey and
silver. It was even black in places. I heard a faint crackle and could
smell the acrid smoke which mounted thin and straight in the still air
from the fire which had been made in the morning. There burned things
which had done their work and had been beautiful, but were now over.
The fire had been lit that morning and the lawn had been swept that
morning; but there was a rustle of fallen leaves about my feet. The air
was shrewd and chill. Next morning I should still see flowers in my
garden, but none the less the sentence had been pronounced. Summer was
I suppose it is a question of temperament. Youth can enjoy the
moment. Age must look forward. There is plenty of work to do in this
garden in the autumn, and not a little in the winter. And all the time
one is looking forward to the springto the coming of the new leaves
and the fresh green.
But then, throughout the summer, one is haunted with fear and hatred
of the coming winter. Even as one plants or sows, one seems to see the
September weed fire.
It is better not to be wearisome, sentimental, and self-pitying on
the subject, for one might get into that state of mind when, throughout
the winter, one would no longer dare to look forward to the summer,
because one would know the summer would be haunted with the hatred of
the next winter. From which refinement and desolation may I be