Jerome went straight round to this side door and raised the knocker. He had to wait a little while before any one came, and looked about him. He had been in Squire Eben Merritt’s east yard before, but now he had a sense of invasion which gave it new meanings for him. A great straggling rose-vine grew over the hood of the door, and its young leaves were pricking through the lattice-work; it was old and needed trimming; there were many long barren shoots of last year. However, Squire Merritt guarded jealously the freedom of the rose, and would not have it meddled with, arguing that it had thriven thus since the time of his grandfather, who had planted it; that this was its natural condition of growth, and it would die if pruned.
Jerome looked out of this door-arbor, garlanded with the old rose-vine, into a great yard, skirted beyond the driveway with four great flowering cherry-trees, so old that many of the boughs would never bud again, and thrust themselves like skeleton arms of death through the soft masses of bloom out into the blue. One tree there was which had scarcely any boughs left, for the winds had taken them, and was the very torso of a tree; but Squire Eben Merritt would not have even that cut, for he loved a tree past its usefulness as faithfully as he loved an animal. “Well do I remember the cherries I used to eat off that tree, when I was so high,” Eben Merritt would say. “Many a man has done less to earn a good turn from me than this old tree, which has fed me with its best fruit. Do you think I’ll turn and kill it now?”
He had the roots of the old trees carefully dug about and tended, though not a dead limb lopped. Nurture, and not surgery, was the doctrine of Squire Merritt. “Let the earth take what it gave,” he said; “I’ll not interfere.”