I was walking with some friends in a retired part of the country. It had rained for fourteen days before, and I believed it rained then; but there was a belief among the ladies of that country that it is better to walk in all weather. The lane was wide enough to pass in file, with chilly droppings from the boughs above, and rude re-action of the briers beneath. The clay upon our shoes showed a troublesome affinity to the clay upon the road. Umbrellas we could not hold up because of the wind. But it was better to walk than stay at home, so at least my companions assured me, for exercise and an appetite. After pursuing them, with hopeless assiduity, for more than a mile, without sight of egress or sign of termination, finding I had already enough of the one, and doubting how far the other might be off, I lagged behind, and began to think how I might amuse myself till their return.
By one of those fortunate incidents, which they tell me never happen to any body but a listener, I heard the sound of voices over the hedge. This was delightful. In this occupation I forgot both mud and rain, exercise and appetite. The hedge was too thick to see through, and all that appeared above it was a low chimney, from which I concluded it concealed a cottage garden.
“What in the name of wonder, James, can you be doing?” said a voice, significant of neither youth nor gentleness.
“I war’nt ye know what I am about,” said another, more rudely than unkindly.
“I’m not sure of that,” rejoined the first; “you’ve been hacking and hewing at them trees this four hours, and I do not see, for my part, as you’re like to mend them.”
“Why, mother,” said the lad, “you see we have but two trees in all the garden, and I’ve been thinking they’d match better if they were alike; so I’ve tied up to a pole the boughs of the gooseberry-bush, that used to spread themselves about the ground, to make it look more like this thorn; and now I’m going to cut down the thorn to make it look more like the gooseberry-bush.”
“And what’s the good of that?” rejoined the mother; “has not the tree sheltered us many a stormy night, when the wind would have beaten the old casement about our ears? and many a scorching noon-tide, hasn’t your father eaten his dinner in its shade? And now, to be sure, because you are the master, you think you can mend it!”
“We shall see,” said the youth, renewing his strokes. “It’s no use as it is; I dare say you’d like to see it bear gooseberries.”
“No use!” exclaimed the mother; “don’t the birds go to roost on the branches, and the poultry get shelter under it from the rain? and after all your cutting, I don’t see as you’re likely to turn a thorn-tree into a gooseberry-bush!”
“I don’t see why I should not,” replied the sage artificer, with a tone of reflectiveness; “the leaf is near about the same, and there are thorns on both; if I make that taller and this shorter, and they grow the same shape, I don’t suppose you know why one should bear gooseberries any more than the other, as wise as you are.”