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putting her master at defiance. But alas ! the very next day Patrick waked me at daylight to announce that the fowls were “all dead entirely.”
After a vain attempt to understand him, I hurried on my clothes, and, rushing to the coop where they were accustomed to roost, found it empty, and their murdered corpses scattered about in every direction. The small wounds, the unruffled feathers, the universal massacre, showed that a mink had done the deed. My chickens, my rare and valuable chickens, that were to have laid so many eggs and raised such countless posterity; the roosters, that were to have been fathers of a long line of famous descendants; the hens, that were to have been models of matronly propriety and parental self-sacrifice; my pets, that I had raised through so many dangers, that I had saved from one neighbor's flock and another neighbor's pups; my profits, that were to have put the author of “ Ten Acres Enough" to silence, were cut off forever. Golden visions of eggs were destroyed; anticipations of tender spring broilers were disappointed; my quarter of a million of prospective profitsall were annihilated together by a mink.
We killed that mink. Like Oliver Twist, he returned for more, and met his fate. I had him stuffed, for one mink-skin is certainly a curious result from an investment of twenty pairs of chickens.
CHAPTER I X.
THE summer was pretty well over, and the various
duties which accompany it accomplished after the manner already described; but there remained much to be performed as the cool weather approached. Not only is there the regular planting season in the spring, but Nature and Bridgeman permit some plants to be set out and seeds to be sown in the fall. September is the month for starting a strawberrybed, and as my firm resolve was to have a grand plot of this best of small fruits, and as my first summer's success encouraged me to continue a country residence, Patrick was dispatched to the nearest nursery to engage two thousand plants, to be delivered on the breaking out of the first shower.
Here was the chance for me to make my fortune. The author of " Ten Acres Enough” lays it down as a maxim always to buy some new and hitherto unknown variety, that will bear the largest fruit in the
greatest profusion, and insure not only a return for the fruit, but a good income by the sale of offshoots. So Patrick was directed to inform the nurseryman that I wanted a new kind, just discovered and superior to all that had preceded it. This request, though natural enough to any man who had studied the work referred to, must have seemed strange to the nurseryman, who was probably not literary, and who came back with Patrick to see about it.
He said he had several new varieties, but he was not entirely satisfied that they were better than the There was one,
however, that promised well, called the Bonheur Seedling; but it had not been tested thoroughly. By-the-by, what excellent scholars all market gardeners are. Their ordinary language is Greek and Latin, and their nearest approach to that of common mortals, French. They overwhelm you with incomprehensible terms that early reminiscences assure you must be from one of the dead languages, and call every-day fruits Duchesse d'Angoulême, Louise Bonne de Jersey, Belle Lucrative, Triomphe de Gand, and so forth. I was not surprised, therefore, at hearing the new strawberry called “Bonheur Seedling," and rather took to the name as an omen of good luck. Without more ado, I ordered two thousand of the “Bonheur Seedling,"
while visions of enormous fruit and invaluable offshoots floated before my mind. The man, anxious, no doubt, to keep the market to himself, suggested that perhaps I had better divide the order and take some of the ordinary kinds; but his object was too palpable to lead me from my purpose. If the Bonheur Seedlings were good for him to keep, they were better for me to plant, and so the order was not changed.
The drought of the summer continued, and, having parched the ground till it was as dry as an Irishman's throat the morning after election day, gave no signs of abating. September came in with a beautiful clear sky, remained with a beautiful clear sky, and went out with a beautiful clear sky. September is one of the finest months in the year, especially when the cloudless heavens permit the sun to send his warm beams to temper the cool breezes that begin to prevail, and, if a person has not a strawberry bed on his mind, no weather can be more enjoyable; but when agricultural purposes demand rain, even a cloudless September becomes tiresome. Patrick waited in daily expectation. He had managed to dig up the ground by the liberal use of a pickaxe and crowbar; but the sunshiny days were a trial to him.
“Shure I'm thinkin it's never going to rain agin," he said in despair, and the nurseryman was of the same opinion, for his patience gave out, and, without waiting for the actual falling of the precious drops, he took advantage of the first dark day, which did not arrive till the beginning of October, and sent the two thousand plants. Under these circumstances, and as Bridgeman says the beds may be made in October, if not finished before, there was nothing to be done but to soak the roots, thus trying to make them believe it was raining, as Patrick explained it, and set them out.
A strawberry is a thrifty plant; the only inconsiderateness it is guilty of is to fill its delicious pulpy fruit with nasty little crackling seeds; but give it the least chance, and it will grow. Ours were assiduously watered, and although, disgusted with the weather, some wilted away, others managed to "weather it," as our sailors say, and put forth a few feeble leaves in testimony of existence. By the end of October there were gaps in their regular ranks, but still the ranks were discernible, and the bed was an accomplished fact. I was not a little proud of this suc
It is only necessary, in these cases, to take the thing in hand one's self, and I had kept the watering-pot in hand steadily.