The “extensive shrubbery” consisted of several dwarfed trees. One was a very weak young weeping willow, so very limp and maudlin, and so evidently bent on establishing its reputation, that it had to be tied up against the house for support. The dampness of that portion of the house was usually attributed to the presence of this lachrymose shrub. And to these a couple of highly objectionable trees, known, I think, by the name of Malva, which made an inordinate show of cheap blossoms that they were continually shedding, and one or two dwarf oaks, with scaly leaves and a generally spiteful exterior, and you have what was not inaptly termed by our Milesian handmaid “the scrubbery.”
The gentility of our neighbor suffered a blight from the unwholesome vicinity of McGinnis Court. This court was a kind of cul de sac that, on being penetrated, discovered a primitive people living in a state of barbarous freedom, and apparently spending the greater portion of their lives on their own door-steps. Many of those details of the toilet which a popular prejudice restricts to the dressing-room in other localities, were here performed in the open court without fear and without reproach. Early in the week the court was hid in a choking, soapy mist, which arose from innumerable washtubs. This was followed in a day or two later by an extraordinary exhibition of wearing apparel of divers colors, fluttering on lines like a display of bunting on ship-board, and whose flapping in the breeze was like irregular discharges of musketry. It was evident also that the court exercised a demoralizing influence over the whole neighborhood. A sanguine property-owner once put up a handsome dwelling on the corner of our street, and lived therein; but although he appeared frequently on his balcony, clad in a bright crimson dressing-gown, which made him look like a tropical bird of some rare and gorgeous species, he failed to woo any kindred dressing-gown to the vicinity, and only provoked opprobrious epithets from the gamins of the court. He moved away shortly after, and on going by the house one day, I noticed a bill of “Rooms to let, with board,” posted conspicuously on the Corinthian columns of the porch. McGinnis Court had triumphed. An interchange of civilities at once took place between the court and the servants’ area of the palatial mansion, and some of the young men boarders exchange playful slang with the adolescent members of the court. From that moment we felt that our claims to gentility were forever abandoned.
Yet, we enjoyed intervals of unalloyed contentment. When the twilight toned down the hard outlines of the oaks, and made shadowy clumps and formless masses of other bushes, it was quite romantic to sit by the window and inhale the faint, sad odor of the fennel in the walks below. Perhaps this economical pleasure was much enhanced by a picture in my memory, whose faded colors the odor of this humble plant never failed to restore. So I often sat there of evenings