The commercial side of a matter of this kind is not the one upon which to dwell the most, except upon the principle of the old black woman who said, “Chillun, count yer marcies arter every spell o’ pain!” and to-day, in assaying our mercies and the various advantages of our garden vacation, I computed that the trees, shrubs, ferns, herbaceous wild flowers, and vines (yes, we have included vines, of which I must tell you), if bought of the most reasonable of dealers, would have cost us at least three hundred dollars, without express or freight charges.
The reason for my being by myself at this particular moment is that Bart, mounted on solemn Romeo, has taken the Infant, astride her diminutive pony, by a long leader, for a long-promised ride up the river road, the same being the finale of the celebration of his birthday, that began shortly after daylight. The Infant, in order to be early enough to give him the first of his thirty-three kisses, came the night before, and though she has camped out with us at intervals all summer, the novelty has not worn off. She has a happy family of pets that, without being caged or in any way coerced or confined, linger about the old barn, seem to watch for her coming, and expect their daily rations, even though they do not care to be handled.
Punch and Judy, the gray squirrels of the dovecote, perch upon her shoulders and pry into the pockets of her overalls for nuts or kernels of corn, all the while keeping a bright eye upon Reddy, the setter pup, who, though he lies ever so sedately, nose between paws, they well know is not to be trusted. While as for birds, all the season we have had chipping-sparrows, catbirds, robins, and even a wood-thrush, leader of the twilight orchestra, all of whom the little witch has tempted in turn by a bark saucer spread with leaves and various grains and small fruits, from strawberries to mulberries, for which she has had a daily hunt through the Opal Farm land the season through.
Toward the English sparrow she positively declines to harden her heart, in spite of my having repeated the story of its encroachments and crimes. She listens and merely shakes her head, saying, “We ’vited them to come, didn’t we, mother? When we ’vites people, we always feed ’em; ’sides, they’re the only ones’ll let me put them in my pocket,” which is perfectly true, for having learned this warm abiding-place of much oats and cracked corn, they follow her in a flock, and a few confiding spirits allow themselves to be handled.
At the birthday dinner party, arranged by the Infant, a number of these guests were present. We must have looked a motley crew, in whose company Old King Cole himself would have been embarrassed, for Bart wore a wreath of pink asters, while a gigantic sunflower made my head-dress, and the cake, made and garnished with red and white peppermints, an American and an Irish flag, by Anastasia, was mounted firmly upon a miscellaneous mass of flowers, with a superstructure of small yellow tomatoes, parsley, young carrots, and beets, the colour of these vegetables having caught the Infant’s eye.