THE garden suffers from the long drought in this last week of July, though I water it faithfully. The sun burns so hot that the earth dries again in an hour, after the most thorough drenching I can give it. The patient flowers seem to be standing in hot ashes, with the air full of fire above them. The cool breeze from the sea flutters their drooping petals, but does not refresh them in the blazing noon. Outside the garden on the island slopes the baked turf cracks away from the heated ledges of rock, and all the pretty growths of Sorrel and Eyebright, Grasses and Crowfoot, Potentilla and Lion's-tongue, are crisp and dead. All things begin again to pine and suffer for the healing touch of the rain.
Toward noon on this last day of the month the air darkens, and around the circle of the horizon the latent thunder mutters low. Light puffs of wind eddy round the garden, and whirl aloft the weary Poppy petals high in air, till they wheel like birds about the chimney-tops. Then all is quiet once more. In the rich, hot sky the clouds pile themselves slowly, superb white heights of thunder-heads warmed with a brassy glow that deepens to rose in their clefts toward the sun. These clouds grow and grow, showing like Alpine summits amid the shadowy heaps of looser vapor; all the great vault of heaven gathers darkness; soon the cloudy heights, melting, are suffused in each other, losing shape and form and color. Then over the coast-line the sky turns a hard gray-green, against which rises with solemn movement and awful deliberation an arch of leaden vapor spanning the heavens from southwest to northeast, livid, threatening, its outer edges shaped like the curved rim of a mushroom, gathering swiftness as it rises, while the water beneath is black as hate, and the thunder rolls peal upon peal, as faster and faster the wild arch moves upward into tremendous heights above our heads. The whole sky is dark with threatening purple. Death and destruction seem ready to emerge from beneath that flying arch of which the livid fringes stream like gray flame as the wind rends its fierce and awful edge. Under it afar on the black level water a single sail gleams chalk-white in the gloom, a sail that even as we look is furled away from our sight, that the frail craft which bears it may ride out the gale under bare poles, or drive before it to some haven of safety. Earth seems to hold her breath before the expected fury. Lightning scores the sky from zenith to horizon, and across from north to south "a fierce, vindictive scribble of fire" writes its blinding way, and the awesome silence is broken by the cracking thunder that follows every flash. A moment more, and a few drops like bullets strike us; then the torn arch flies over in tattered rags, a monstrous apparition lost in darkness; then the wind tears the black sea into white rage and roars and screams and shouts with triumph, — the floods and the hurricane have it all their own way. Continually the tempest is shot through with the leaping lightning and crashing thunder, like steady cannonading, echoing and reechoing, roaring through the vast empty spaces of the heavens. In pauses of the tumult a strange light is fitful over sea and rocks, then the tempest begins afresh as if it had taken breath and gained new strength. One's whole heart rises responding to the glory and the beauty of the storm, and is grateful for the delicious refreshment of the rain. Every leaf rejoices in the life-giving drops. Through the dense sparkling rain-curtain the lightning blazes now in crimson and in purple sheets of flame. Oh, but the wind is wild! Spare my treasures, oh, do not slay utterly my beautiful, beloved flowers! The tall stalks bend and strain, the Larkspurs bow. I hold my breath while the danger lasts, thinking only of the wind's power to harm the garden; for the leaping lightning and the crashing thunder I love, but the gale fills me with dread for my flowers defenseless. Still down pour the refreshing floods; everything is drenched: where are the humming-birds? The boats toss madly on the moorings, the sea breaks wildly on the shore, the world is drowned and gone, there is nothing but tempest and tumult and rush and roar of wind and rain.
The long trailing sprays of the Echinocystus vine stretch and strain like pennons flying out in the blast, the Wistaria tosses its feathery plumes over the arch above the door. Alas, for my bank of tall Poppies and blue Cornflowers and yellow Chrysanthemums outside! The Poppies are laid low, never to rise again, but the others will gather themselves together by and by, and the many-colored fires of Nasturtiums will clothe the slope with new beauty presently. The storm is sweeping past, already the rain diminishes, the lightning pales, the thunder retreats till leagues and leagues away we hear it "moaning and calling out of other lands." The clouds break away and show in the west glimpses of pure, melting blue, the sun bursts forth, paints a rainbow in the east upon the flying fragments of the storm, and pours a flood of glory over the drowned earth; the pelted flowers take heart and breathe again, every leaf shines, dripping with moisture; the grassy slopes laugh in sweet color; the sea calms itself to vast tranquillity and answers back the touch of the sun with a million glittering smiles.
Though the outside bank of flowers is wrecked and the tall Poppies prone upon the ground, those inside the garden are safe because I took the precaution to run two rows of wire netting up and down through the beds for their support. So, when the winds are cruelly violent, the tall, brittle stalks lean against this light but strong bulwark and are unhurt.
After the storm, in the clear, beautiful morning, before sunrise I went as usual into the garden to gather my flowers. To and fro, up and down over the ruined bank I passed; the wind blew cool and keen from the west, though the sky was smiling. The storm had beaten the flowers flat all over the slope; in scarlet and white and blue and pink and purple and orange bloom they were prostrate everywhere, leaves, stalks, blossoms, and all tangled and matted in an inextricable confusion. Swiftly I made my way through it, finding a foothold here and there, and stooping for every freshly unfolded cup or star or bell whose bud the tempest had spared. As I neared the little western gate with my hands full of blossoms to enter the garden on my way to the house, I was stopped still as a statue before a most pathetic sight. There, straight across the way, a tall Poppy plant lay prone upon the ground, and clinging to the stem of one of its green seed-pods sat my precious pet humming-bird, the dearest of the flock that haunt the garden, the tamest of them all. His eyes were tightly closed, his tiny claws clasped the stem automatically, he had no feeling, he was rigid with cold. The chill dew loaded the gray-green Poppy leaves, the keen wind blew sharply over him, — he is dead, I thought with a pang, as I shifted my flowers in a glowing heap to my left arm, and clasped the frozen little body in the palm of my right hand. It was difficult to disengage his slender wiry claws from their close grip on the chilly stalk, but he never moved or showed a sign of life as I took him off. I held him most tenderly in my closed hand, very careful not to crush or even press his tiny perishing body, and breathed into the shut hollow of my palm upon him with a warm and loving breath. I was so very busy, there were so many things to be done that morning, I could not stop to sit down and nurse him back to life. But I held him safe, and as I went up and down the garden paths gathering the rest of my flowers, I breathed every moment into my hand upon him. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes passed; he made no sign of life. Alas, I thought, he is truly dead; when all at once I felt the least little thrill pass through the still, cold form, an answering thrill of joy ran through me in response, and more softly, closely, tenderly yet I sent my warm breath to the tiny creature as I still went on with my work. In a few minutes more I began to feel the smallest fluttering pulse of life throbbing faintly within him; in yet a few moments more he stirred and stretched his wings, c0mforting himself in the genial heat. When at last I felt him all alive, I took a small shallow basket of yellow straw, very small and light, and in it put a tuft of soft cotton wool, filled a tiny glass cup with sugar and water, honey-thick, placed it in the basket by the cotton, then gently laid the wee bird on the warm fluff. His eyes were still closed, but he moved his head slowly from side to side. The sun had risen and was pouring floods of light and heat into the garden. I carried the basket out into the corner where the heavenly blue Larkspurs stood behind the snow-whiteness of the full blossoming Lilies, and among the azure spikes I hung the pretty cradle where the sunbeams lay hottest and brightest on the flowers. The wind, grown balmy and mild, rocked the tall flower-spikes gently, the basket swayed with them, and the heat was so reviving that the dear little creature presently opened his eyes and quietly looked about him. At that my heart rejoiced. It was delightful to watch his slow return to his old self as I still went on with my work, looking continually toward him to see how he was getting on. The ardent sunbeams sent fresh life through him; suddenly he rose, an emerald spark, into the air, and quivered among the blue flowers, diving deep into each winged blossom for his breakfast of honey.
All day and every day he haunts the garden, and when tired rests contentedly on the small twig of a dry pea-stick near the Larkspurs. The rosy Peas blossom about him, the Hollyhock flowers unfold in glowing pink with lace-like edges of white; the bees hum there all day in and out of the many flowers; the butterflies hover and waver and wheel. When one comes too near him, up starts my beauty and chases him away on burnished wings, away beyond the garden's bounds, and returns to occupy his perch in triumph, — the dry twig he has taken for his home the whole sweet summer long. Other humming-birds haunt the place, but he belongs there; they go and come, but he keeps to his perch and his Larkspurs faithfully. He is so tame he never stirs from his twig for anybody, no matter how near a person may come; he alights on my arms and hands and hair unafraid; he rifles the flowers I hold, when I am gathering them, and I sometimes think he is the very most charming thing in the garden. The jealous bees and the butterflies follow the flowers I carry also, sometimes all the way into the house. The other day, as I sat in the piazza which the vines shade with their broad green leaves and sweet white flowers climbing up to the eaves and over the roof, I saw the humming-birds hovering over the whole expanse of green, to and fro, and discovered that they were picking off and devouring the large transparent aphides scattered, I am happy to say but sparingly, over its surface, every little gnat and midge they snapped up with avidity. I had fancied they lived on honey, but they appeared to like the insects quite as well.
In the sweet silence before sunrise, standing in the garden I watch the large round shield of the full moon slowly fading in the west from copper to brass and then to whitest silver, throwing across a sea of glass its long, still reflection, while the deep, pure sky takes on a rosy warmth of color from the approaching sun. Soon an insufferable glory burns on the edge of the eastern horizon; up rolls the great round red orb and sets the dew twinkling and sparkling in a thousand rainbows, sending its first rejoicing rays over the wide face of the world. When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before any one is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness. In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with a silent joy that fills me with infinite content; each gives me its color, its grace, its perfume, and enriches me with the consummation of its beauty. All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all the burdens of life slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child that asks nothing beyond its present moment of innocent bliss. These myriad beaming faces turned to mine seem to look at me with blessing eyes. I feel the personality of each flower, and I find myself greeting them as if they were human. "Good-morning, beloved friends! Are all things well with you? And are you tranquil and bright? and are you happy and beautiful?" They stand in their peace and purity and lift themselves to my adoring gaze as if they knew my worship, — so calm, so sweet, so delicately radiant, I lose myself in the tranquillity of their happiness. They seem like sentient beings, as if they knew me and loved me, not indeed as I love them, but with almost a reliance on my sympathy and care, and a pleasure in my delight in them. I please myself with the thought that if anything goes wrong with them, if a vine or tender stalk droops for lack of support, or if some insect is working them woe, or threat of harm comes to them from any quarter, they say to each other, "Patience! She will be coming soon, she will see our trouble, she will succor us, and all will again be well."
Home of the Humming-bird
The summer life in the garden of the winged things of the air is most charming, — the wonderful creatures that have escaped, as it were, from the earth. The life that crawls and creeps and devours and destroys, in the forms of slug and cutworm and all hideous shapes, is utterly forgotten as we watch these ethereal beings, fluttering, quivering, darting, dancing, wavering, wheeling, rejoicing aloft in merry flight. The Larkspur spikes bend with the weight of the booming bees, the whole blossoming space is alive with many-colored butterflies like floating flowers, and the humming-birds are a perpetual pleasure. They are astir even before sunrise, when the air is yet chill with the breath of the retreating night, — there they are, vibrating with their soft humming over the Larkspur blossoms which are themselves like exquisite azure birds all poised for flight, or diving deep into the fragrant trumpets of the Honeysuckle, everywhere flashing in emerald and ruby as the sun's first beams strike them, like the living jewels they are. Their fearlessness is something amazing. I never shall forget the surprise of joy that filled me when for the first time one alighted on my sleeve and rested, as much at home as if I were a stick or a harmless twig! Sparrows and nuthatches had often alighted on my head as I stood musing over my flowers, perfectly still, but to have this tiny spark of brilliant life come to anchor, as it were, on anything so earthly as my arm was indeed a nine days' wonder! Now it has grown to be an old story, but it is never any less delightful.
August 18th. This morning the garden was so dry again when I sought it at sunrise, in spite of the heavy dew, that I took the hose and turned on the water, showering the whole place most thoroughly. When I had done the drops clung thickly to everything, to the sprays of Sweet Peas especially, the rough surface of their leaves and stalks catching and holding the water more tenaciously than the smoother foliage; they were begemmed, as it were, with so many sparkling spheres of light. The tamest, dearest hummingbird, whose home is in the Larkspurs, was greatly excited by this unexpected and refreshing shower, and whirred about me, uttering continually his one fine, sweet, keen note. When my rain-storm ceased he flew to the Sweet Peas close to his azure bower, and sitting on a green spray already bent with the weight of the clear drops, proceeded to take his morning bath with the most cheerful enjoyment. He fluttered his tiny wings and ducked his head and wagged his tail and drenched himself completely; his feathers were so soaking wet that his little body looked no bigger than a bumble-bee; then he flew up and lighted on the tallest pea-stick that reached over the fence among the Larkspurs: there sitting on his favorite twig he rapidly preened his feathers, shook himself, spread his wings and tail and combed them with his slender beak and dried them in the broad, bright beams that poured across the garden from the low sun. With claws and beak he smoothed and arranged his dainty raiment, perfectly regardless of me, his ardent admirer, standing near enough to touch him with my finger. Then he fluttered in and out among the flowers, dipping into every dewy chalice and feasting on his fragrant honey.
I wonder, as I muse over the charms of these most minute of feathered creatures, how it is possible for their tiny wings to bear them over the miles of restless and perilous brine, to find this rock with its nest of flowers! Do they surmise the hospitality that awaits them at the end of their long journey as they steer their dangerous way across the wastes of the salt sea on those small, weak, quivering pinions? Have they some subtle inkling of the tender welcome that awaits them here? Do they guess how they will be admired and adored? I have filled a small glass mug with sugar and water thick as honey, and fastened it in a crotch of the pea-sticks for them to feed upon; the bees throng to it, the ants have found it, and I hope the humming-birds will feast there too. One morning lately, as I was busy in the garden, a little creature brushed by me so close I thought it was a bee; turning to look at it, I was sure it was a humming-bird, but such an atom! Its like I had never imagined. I watched it, fascinated, as it flew here, there, and everywhere, whirring just like a humming-bird, crazy over the annual Larkspurs. A greenish golden sheen was reflected from the head and back, the very color of the little bird, and it had a small, short tail, with a band of white round its body, which seemed feathered, as also its mottled breast. Its bright black eyes were like the bird's, and it hummed with its wings in precisely the same way. Its beak was short, and as it went from flower to flower, probing for honey, I was perfectly sure it was a new variety of humming-bird, the most minute that was ever created. I watched it with breathless interest, completely puzzled by it. Perfectly tame, it flew all about me and investigated the flowers in my hand. Suddenly I discovered that it had three pairs of legs! No bird, I said, ever had more than one, and then I was satisfied that it must be the most marvelous moth in the world. It was so happy and beautiful, flying about so confidingly in the bright sunshine within reach of my hand! But I knew of some one to whom it would be a treasure, so I threw a light veil over, caught it, and sent it softly to sleep forever with some chloroform. It was Ællopos Titan, very rare, and found in the tropics.
The dazzling white Lilies blossoming now, bright as silvery snow below the Larkspurs, are taller than they by several feet. I wish I could in any words paint the hues of these splendid Delphiniums; such shades of melting blue, some light, others dark, some like the summer heaven, and dashed across their pale azure wings with delicious rose. Now is the garden at high tide of beauty. Sweet Peas are brilliant in all their vivid tints; they are doing bravely, spite of the drought, because their roots are so well shaded. They bloom so plenteously that they can hardly be gathered, though they are cut daily. The Rose Campion bed is a lake of delicate colors with its border of scarlet Flax. Poppies of every tint are blazing; the Hollyhocks are splendid, with their comrades the Sunflowers; every day the single Dahlias surprise me with new and unexpected flowers; the Tea Rose bed is a perpetual delight and astonishment; the purple Zanzibar Lily is blossoming in its tub and never is without its wonderful cup afloat; the Lotus sends up strong, long-stemmed leaves aloft, and keeps me eagerly looking for its promised flower of radiant pink, — its leaves are a marvel with their mystic markings held so high above the water. The Honeysuckles are breathing out all their sweetness on the air; the Pinks are out in spicy bloom; the Mountain Fringe drapes the doorway with cloudy green and pale rose-color. Constellations of Marigolds and Artemisias and Coreopsis, whole solar systems of fiery suns and stars, blossom all over the place, and in partly shaded corners large fragrant stars of Nicotiana shine also when twilight falls. The Japanese Sunflowers make every spot gay where they unfold; they are hardy; when once they fairly get a foothold in the garden, they will not be dislodged, and I for one would never wish to dislodge them, though they spread and grow and multiply rapidly, and take much space if left to go on undisturbed. They have an indescribable golden atmosphere about them, because, I suppose, of their cup-like shape; they never stretch their petals out flat like other Sunflowers. They have a small brown central disk, and their "ray-like florets" are of deep yellow, curved more inward than outward. The Artemisias are in one shade of full, rich gold, in shape like a common field Daisy; the Marigolds are in every shade of yellow, orange, and flame, effulgent, — some with centres of velvet brown, some with peacock green, some all gold, with exquisite gradations of color through all their rays. "Ardent Marigolds!" sang John Keats. Ardent indeed they are, with fervors of color that glow like the beams of day.
The dark crimson Jacqueminot Roses are almost gone, but almost every other flower is at its best, the whole garden in blossom at once. Dearly I love to sit in the sun upon the doorstep with a blossom in my hand and meditate upon its details, the lavish elaboration of its loveliness, to study every peculiar characteristic of each, and wonder and rejoice in its miraculous existence, a feast more delicate and satisfying than the honey the birds and bees and butterflies gather from its heart. Over my head the Cobœa vine droops its large green and purple bells, with many another flower beside. The Tropæolum Lucifer thronging up the trellis on either hand truly merits the name of Light-bearer; its scarlet velvet blooms have almost an illuminating quality. I hold a flower of the pretty Love-in-a-mist, the quaint Nigella, and scan its charming face. It blossoms late and long, and is a flower of most distinguished beauty. It is star-shaped, in tints of white, blue, and purple, with full rich stamens and anthers of warmer red-purple, the petals on the back delicately veined in each variety with fine lines of faint green. The rich cluster of stamens is surrounded at the base by eight smaller inner petals in different tints, so wonderful in detail, so ornate in decoration as to be simply indescribable. Each large outer petal is curved and cup-shaped, yet each has its finishing point which makes the blossom starry, and these eight inner petals radiate from the centre within, above the larger ones. The foliage whence it gets its old-time name, Love-in-a-mist, is like a soft green vapor, and in the double varieties, the white especially, runs up and mixes itself with the petals. The single varieties are much the finest. They have a faint perfume of anise, and they are among the quaintest and most interesting flowers I know.
I love to pore over every blossom that unfolds in the garden, no matter what it may be, to study it and learn it by heart as far as a poor mortal may. If one but gazes closely into a tiny flower of the pale blue Forget-me-not, what a chapter of loveliness is there! One sees at a glance the sweet color of the starry, compact cluster, and perhaps will notice that the delicate buds in their cherishing calyx are several shades of rose and lilac before they unclose, but unless one studies it closely, how shall one know that in most cases the himmel-blau petals are distinctly heart-shaped, that round its golden centre it wears a necklace of pearls, or so they seem, till on looking closer one discovers that the effect is made by the fluting of the whitened, folds of each petal at the base; it looks precisely as if it wore a string of polished beads. The tiny spot of darkness within its inmost yellow ring holds five stamens, with dusty anthers of paler yellow (also heart-shaped when the flower first unfolds) in a close circle; round the pistil of pale green. Unless the eyes are young and keen a microscope only will tell this; but it is one of the wisest things in the world to carry in one's pocket a little magnifying glass, for this opens so many unknown gates into the wonders and splendors of Creation. There is such wealth of ornament, such marvelous sub-tile thought spent on the smallest blossom! The "sweet and cunning hand of Nature" is so lavish of its work, and it is all so happy, the joy is so inexhaustible, the refreshment to the human soul so heavenly!
The fragrant fringes of the Mignonette, how surprising and curiously beautiful they are under the little pocket microscope! What elaboration of detail, what tempered harmonies of color, what marvels of construction! I reach my hand for a blossom of Coreopsis Coronata some one has let fall on the step, — what a refulgent flower! There is something Spanish about its aspect always to me. There are eight yellow velvet petals deeply toothed at the edges, and rich embroideries in red about the warmer yellow of the centre. Gorgeous it is, and so is its relative, Coreopsis Drummondii, and both have a double row of sepals, the row nearest the corolla brown and thin and light, the outer one much coarser and bright green. The centre of the Drummondii is more like the wild Rudbeckia, with markings not so ornate as the Coronata, but in a mass, and of a brighter, clearer red. All this family of flowers, Lanceolata, Golden Banner, the deep scarlet and maroon varieties, are superb and most decorative.
It is a great temptation to linger over the loveliness of every flower that unfolds, but I spare my patient readers, and leave them to pursue these fascinating researches for themselves.
I have had reward enough for all my care of the Water Lilies (even though they had put forth only leaves, but they have blossomed well) in the delight of the birds over the tubs of clear water on which the mottled leaves are floating. So many charming creatures pause at them to drink, and the song-sparrows bathe there daily. Enchanting it is to watch their pretty ways as they hop from the tub's edge upon a Lily-pad which yields beneath their weight and lets them gently down, but out of this they always flit and take their own way about it, dipping and splashing bravely till they are thoroughly drenched, then preening and drying themselves as they sit upon the brim, and singing their song of sweet content when all is done.
September 23d. Now are the crickets loud in the grass and the Hawkweed waves in pale yellow all over the island, the autumn Dandelion, starry on its long and slender stem. But still the garden glows, and still autumn
" Sets budding more
And still more later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er brimmed their clammy cells."
Where the Hollyhocks earliest to blossom stand bereft of all save their thick-growing, full, round seed vessels, the late Morning-glories have wreathed and twined themselves and hung the stems with white and rose and heaven-blue bells, and the later blooming stalks are rich with fresh flowers. Still the Sweet Peas blossom as if their thick ranks were ready to fly away with myriad wings of delicious pink, blue, purple, red, and white. Poppies yet bloom, Rose Campions at their brightest, hemmed in with the Scarlet Flax, and the stars and suns of Marigolds blaze with a matchless glory. Single Dahlias are sumptuous in every color, and in their prime. One Coreopsis Golden Banner is a sight to see, like a great gold mountain heaped in the middle of the garden. Many kinds of Helianthus make splendid the little inclosure; Love-in-a-mist puts out flower after flower of mystic charm; the Asters bloom in profusion of exquisite colors, — the Comet variety, which I think is most lovely of all. The white Stocks are dazzling in their purity, and so fragrant Nasturtiums run riot, of course, and light up every corner; the Phloxes glow; the Mourning Brides are fine in their sumptuous black-red velvet; Verbenas are brilliant; Tea Roses blossoming yet; the Giant Spider flower, Cleome pungens, rises all over the garden in rosy purple clouds. Mignonette is lavish of rich spikes of bloom, and the Pansies never so splendid; immense smooth, perfect flowers of every color, they never put forth such in the summer heats. Pico-tee pinks are bright and sweet, but the poor little Margarets suffered too much with the venomous carnation worm, spite of my daily care, and are only just now sending up their buds. I shall take them up and keep them safe in the house over the winter. In a corner the deep blue Plumbago Lady Larpent blooms finely, the Foxgloves are strong and tall, though they will not blossom till another year; but the whole garden is a mass of bloom and fragrance, still haunted by birds, bees, butterflies, and dragonflies; the humming birds are gone, I know not whither, not to return this year. The withering vines are alive with many little creepers and warblers and flycatchers; indeed, the island is full of distinguished bird-strangers on their way south. Scores of golden woodpeckers, or flickers, or yellow-hammers (they have dozens of striking names) are here, and just now two great ospreys perch on the vane above the highest ridge-pole, and soar and perch again, uttering strange, harsh cries. This morning a large flock of wild geese flew over toward the south, so low we could see the colors and the markings of their plumage. The familiar curlews call sweetly as in spring. Outside the garden this tranquil morning the soft green turf that slopes smoothly to the sea in front is shaggy with the thick dew from which the yet low sun strikes a thousand broken rainbows. The clumps of wild Roses glow with their red haws in the full light; the Elder bushes are laden with clusters of purple berries; Goldenrod and wild Asters bloom, and a touch of fire begins to light up the Huckleberry bushes, "Autumn laying here and there a fiery finger on the leaves." The gray rocks show so fair in the changing lights, and all the dear island with its sights and sounds is set in the pale light summer-blue of a smiling sea as if it were June, with hardly a wave to break its happy calm. Round the horizon a band of haze, the same ashes-of-roses color as that which makes lovely the skies of May, holds the fair world in a light embrace for this one day; a few white clouds are losing themselves in the pure blue above; a few sails gleam afar. Though the tide is full, it makes no murmur; I hear only the drowsy bees in the Hollyhocks, the young fledgling song-sparrows trying their voices, learning the sweet song their parents are pouring at intervals on the quiet air, and the chirp and twitter of other birds, birds of passage, with finch and thrush, nuthatch and late robin, the whistle of a whitethroat, the clanking jar of the kingfisher that perches on the mast of the faithful little tug Pinafore (so many years our only link with the mainland in winter), as she lies at her wharf in the upper cove, and shows his handsome blue and gray plumage and white collar glittering in the sun. A fisherman draws his nets in a shining white skiff, but he makes no sound that I can hear. The season is so divinely tranquil and sweet, all things are so beautiful in and about the little isle, from the glittering seal that emerges from the waves to sun himself sometimes on the seaweed-covered rocks, to the smallest flower that blossoms in my garden; from the wonderful jelly-fish that spreads its large diaphanous cup, expanding and contracting as it swims, and colored like a great melting opal in the pale-green, translucent water, to the bright-eyed bats that flitter at dusk when the evening star is sparkling above the rich red of the sunset sky. And that reminds me that all summer a white bat has skittered ghostly with its dark companions, as soon as twilight fell, about the place. Of a white bat never before have I heard, but all kinds of strange and remarkable creatures find their way here, and I am surprised at nothing.
Sunset and the Pinafore
Once more the weird laughter of the loons comes to my ear, the distance lends it a musical, melancholy sound. From a dangerous ledge off the lighthouse island floats in on the still air the gentle tolling of a warning bell as it swings on its rocking buoy; it might be tolling for the passing of summer and sweet weather with that persistent, pensive chime.
so the ripe year wanes. From turfy slopes afar the breeze brings
delicious, pungent, spicy odors from the wild Everlasting flowers,
and the mushrooms are pearly in the grass. I gather the seed-pods in
the garden beds, sharing their bounty with the birds I love so well,
for there are enough and to spare for us all. Soon will set in the
fitful weather, with fierce gales and sullen skies and frosty air,
and it will be time to tuck up safely my Roses and Lilies and the
rest for their long winter sleep beneath the snow, where I never
forget them, but ever dream of their wakening in happy summers yet to