Outside the hedge of bays, where a trodden pathway leads to the boat landing, the weathered rocks, washed with soft tints blended of the breath of sea mist and sunset rays, break through the sand. In the lee of these, held in place by a line of stones, is a long, low bed of large-flowered portulaca, borrowed from inland gardens, and yet so in keeping with its surroundings as to seem a native flower of sea sands.
The fleshy leaves at a little distance suggest the form of many plants of brackish marsh and creek edges, and even the glasswort itself. When the day is gray, the flowers furl close and disappear, as it were, but when the sun beats full upon the sand, a myriad upraised fleshy little arms stretch out, each holding a coloured bowl to catch the sunbeams, as if the heat made molten the sand of quartz and turned it into pottery in tints of rose, yellow, amber, scarlet, and carnation striped. It was a bold experiment, this garden in the sand, but already it is making good.
Then, too, what a refreshment to the eyes is it, when the unbroken expanse of sky and sea before the house tires, to turn them landward over the piece of flowers toward the cool green marshes ribboned with the pale pink camphor-scented fleabane, the almost intangible sea lavender, the great rose mallows and cat-tail flags of the wet ground, the false indigo that, in the distance, reminds one of the broom of Scottish hills, the orange-fringed orchis, pink sabbatia, purple maritime gerardia, milkwort, the groundsel tree, that covers itself with feathers in autumn, until, far away beyond the upland meadows, the silver birches stand as outposts to the cool oak woods, in whose shade the splendid yellow gerardia, or downy false foxglove, nourishes. Truly, while the land garden excels in length of season and profusion, the gardens of the sea appeal to the lighter fancies and add the charmed spice of variety to out-of-door life.
One of the most interesting features of this cottage and its surroundings is the further transplanting of Martin Cortright from his city haunts. At Meadow’s End, though he works in the garden in a dilettante sort of way with Lavinia, takes long walks with father, and occasionally ventures out for a day’s fishing with either or both of my men, he is still the bookworm who dives into his library upon every opportunity and has never yet adapted his spine comfortably to the curves of a hammock! In short he seems to love flowers historically—more for the sake of those in the past who have loved and written of them than for their own sake.
But here, even as I began to write to you, Mary Penrose, entrenched in a nook among the steep rocks between the cottage and the sea, a figure coming up the sand bar, that runs northward and at low water shows a smooth stretch a mile in length, caught my eye. Laboriously but persistently it came along; next I saw by the legs that it was a man, a moment later that he was lugging a large basket and that a potato fork protruded from under one arm, and finally that it was none other than Martin Cortright, who had been hoeing diligently in the sand and mud for a couple of hours, that his guests might have the most delectable of all suppers,—steamed clams, fresh from the water, the condition alone under which they may be eaten sans peur et sans reproche!