“No,” sighed Miss Cotton, glad to admit it; “that’s beautiful.”
In the edge of the woods and the open spaces among the trees the blueberries grew larger and sweeter in the late Northern summer than a more southern sun seems to make them. They hung dense upon the low bushes, and gave them their tint through the soft grey bloom that veiled their blue. Sweet-fern in patches broke their mass here and there, and exhaled its wild perfume to the foot or skirt brushing through it.
“I don’t think there’s anything much prettier than these clusters; do you, Miss Pasmer?” asked Mavering, as he lifted a bunch pendent from the little tree before he stripped it into the bowl he carried. “And see! it spoils the bloom to gather them.” He held out a handful, and then tossed them away. “It ought to be managed more aesthetically for an occasion like this. I’ll tell you what, Miss Pasmer: are you used to blueberrying?”
“No,” she said; “I don’t know that I ever went blueberrying before. Why?” she asked.
“Because, if you haven’t, you wouldn’t be very efficient perhaps, and so you might resign yourself to sitting on that log and holding the berries in your lap, while I pick them.”
“But what about the bowls, then?”
“Oh, never mind them. I’ve got an idea. See here!” He clipped off a bunch with his knife, and held it up before her, tilting it this way and that. “Could anything be more graceful! My idea is to serve the blueberry on its native stem at this picnic. What do you think? Sugar would profane it, and of course they’ve only got milk enough for the coffee.”
“Delightful!” Alice arranged herself on the log, and made a lap for the bunch. He would not allow that the arrangement was perfect till he had cushioned the seat and carpeted the ground for her feet with sweet-fern.
“Now you’re something like a wood-nymph,” he laughed. “Only, wouldn’t a real wood-nymph have an apron?” he asked, looking down at her dress.
“Oh, it won’t hurt the dress. You must begin now, or they’ll be calling us.”
He was standing and gazing at her with a distracted enjoyment of her pose. “Oh yes, yes,” he answered, coming to himself, and he set about his work.
He might have got on faster if he had not come to her with nearly every bunch he cut at first, and when he began to deny himself this pleasure he stopped to admire an idea of hers.
“Well, that’s charming—making them into bouquets.”
“Yes, isn’t it?” she cried delightedly, holding a bunch of the berries up at arm’s-length to get the effect.
“Ah, but you must have some of this fern and this tall grass to go with it. Why, it’s sweet-grass—the sweet-grass of the Indian baskets!”
“Is it?” She looked up at him. “And do you think that the mixture would be better than the modest simplicity of the berries, with a few leaves of the same?”