September 15th.--This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers,
and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden;
of tea under the acacias instead of the too shady beeches;
of wood-fires in the library in the chilly evenings. The babies go
out in the afternoon and blackberry in the hedges; the three kittens,
grown big and fat, sit cleaning themselves on the sunny verandah steps;
the Man of Wrath shoots partridges across the distant stubble;
and the summer seems as though it would dream on for ever.
It is hard to believe that in three months we shall probably
be snowed up and certainly be cold. There is a feeling about
this month that reminds me of March and the early days of April,
when spring is still hesitating on the threshold and the garden
holds its breath in expectation. There is the same mildness
in the air, and the sky and grass have the same look as then;
but the leaves tell a different tale, and the reddening creeper
on the house is rapidly approaching its last and loveliest glory.
My roses have behaved as well on the whole as was to be expected,
and the Viscountess Folkestones and Laurette Messimys have been
most beautiful, the latter being quite the loveliest things in the garden,
each flower an exquisite loose cluster of coral-pink petals, paling at
the base to a yellow-white. I have ordered a hundred standard tea-roses
for planting next month, half of which are Viscountess Folkestones,
because the tea-roses have such a way of hanging their little heads
that one has to kneel down to be able to see them well in the dwarf forms--
not but what I entirely approve of kneeling before such perfect beauty,
only it dirties one's clothes. So I am going to put standards down each
side of the walk under the south windows, and shall have the flowers on
a convenient level for worship. My only fear is, that they will stand the
winter less well than the dwarf sorts, being so difficult to pack up snugly.
The Persian Yellows and Bicolors have been, as I predicted, a mistake
among the tea-roses; they only flower twice in the season and all
the rest of the time look dull and moping; and then the Persian Yellows
have such an odd smell and so many insects inside them eating them up.
I have ordered Safrano tea-roses to put in their place, as they all come
out next month and are to be grouped in the grass; and the semicircle
being immediately under the windows, besides having the best position
in the place, must be reserved solely for my choicest treasures.
I have had a great many disappointments, but feel as though I were really
beginning to learn. Humility, and the most patient perseverance,
seem almost as necessary in gardening as rain and sunshine, and every
failure must be used as a stepping-stone to something better.
I had a visitor last week who knows a great deal
about gardening and has had much practical experience.
When I heard he was coming, I felt I wanted to put my arms right
round my garden and hide it from him; but what was my surprise
and delight when he said, after having gone all over it, "Well, I
think you have done wonders." Dear me, how pleased I was!
It was so entirely unexpected, and such a complete novelty
after the remarks I have been listening to all the summer.
I could have hugged that discerning and indulgent critic,
able to look beyond the result to the intention, and appreciating
the difficulties of every kind that had been in the way.
After that I opened my heart to him, and listened reverently to all
he had to say, and treasured up his kind and encouraging advice,
and wished he could stay here a whole year and help me through
the seasons. But he went, as people one likes always do go,
and he was the only guest I have had whose departure made me sorry.
The people I love are always somewhere else and not able
to come to me, while I can at any time fill the house with
visitors about whom I know little and care less. Perhaps, if I
saw more of those absent ones, I would not love them so well--
at least, that is what I think on wet days when the wind is
howling round the house and all nature is overcome with grief;
and it has actually happened once or twice when great friends
have been staying with me that I have wished, when they left,
I might not see them again for at least ten years. I suppose
the fact is, that no friendship can stand the breakfast test,
and here, in the country, we invariably think it our duty
to appear at breakfast. Civilisation has done away with curl-papers,
yet at that hour the soul of the Hausfrau is as tightly screwed
up in them as was ever her grandmother's hair; and though
my body comes down mechanically, having been trained that way
by punctual parents, my soul never thinks of beginning to wake up
for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely
till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine.
Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning?
It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies;
it is the triumph of the Disagreeable and the Cross.
I am convinced that the Muses and the Graces never thought
of having breakfast anywhere but in bed.