“Betty,” said Sam, as he shook me away from him and then took my shoulders under their thin covering of chiffon in his plow-calloused, big, warm hands, “forget it! There are lots of dream gardens out in the world you can play in when you have time away from the bright lights. Everybody grows ’em without a lick of work. I have to work mine or starve. Good night!” Then with a rough of my hair down across my eyes he was out in the moonlit road, running away from me to his hollow log in a way he had never done before, no matter how I had tagged him.
I ran as far as the gate to watch him out of sight, and then I put my head down against the tall old post that had been one of Sam’s perches when he wanted to climb away from me in former years, and sobbed and sobbed. I had never expected Sam to cast me off.
Girls’ hearts are covered all over with little thin crystallizations of affection, and men ought to be very careful not to smash any of them with their superior strength. Sam had hurt me so that I didn’t even dare think about it. I knew he was poor, and I hadn’t expected him to plow and plant things for me while I went about in a picture-hat snipping them with garden scissors. I had asked him to let me set onions and weed beans and drop peas and corn for him and share his poverty and hard work as a true friend, and he had shut his cedar-pole gate in my face and heart. And I didn’t understand why. I tried to think it was his affection for Peter that made him thus rudely switch my mind from him and his garden to Peter and his need of me, which Sam may have thought was greater than the need of his onions and turnip salad; but I don’t see how Sam could have construed cruelty to me as generosity to Peter.
“Please God,” I prayed out into the everlasting hills toward which Sam was running away from me and from which I had heard intoned “cometh help,” “give me dirt to work in somewhere except in just a yard if I can’t have Sam’s. Help me to get somebody to help me to raise things for people to eat and milk, as well as to inspire a play. I’ll do both things, but I must have earth with rotted leaves in it. Amen.”
Then I went to bed heartbroken for life, and my sad eyes closed on the little glimpse which my window framed of Old Harpeth, the tallest hill in Paradise Ridge, while my hand still folded in the moist hollyhock seeds.
THE BOOK OF SHELTER
Peter’s play is remarkable; it really is. He has collected all the great and wonderful things that life in America contains and put them together in a way that reads as if Edgar Allan Poe had helped Henry James to construct it, though they had forgotten to ask Mark Twain to dinner and had never heard of John Burroughs. I felt when I got through the first act as if I had been living for a week shut into an old Gothic cathedral aisle decorated by marble-carved inspired words, and I was both cold and hungry.