Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XIII

page 85

Chapter XIII.

The First Days in the Cottage—The Bell-birds’ Morning Hymn—Lucy's Repentance—Unpacking—Tom makes a Garden—Aps Gardening.

Upon the morning following their arrival, Lucy was up and out before sunrise. She first went to speak to Bridget, who was already hard at work, getting her kitchen clear of the chips and shavings left by the workmen, and which she declared:—

“Kep’ her awake all night, for fear of fire.”

Next, Lacy examined the appearance of the house from several points, and, being then joined by Tom, who was rather disconcerted to find his sister had got the start of of him on this their first day at home, they set off for the river, to explore its banks, and decide where the boat-house should be.

The sun was just beginning to tinge the snowy-topped hills with crimson, glancing upon the broad surface of the stream, the edges of which were almost black, from the dark shadows of the bushes which overhung the river; from these, a perfect chorus of music was pouring, thousands of Bell-birds singing their morning hymn.

Lucy caught hold of Tom's arm, and made him stand still to listen; but he soon tired, and, telling her not to be sentimental, for she would hear birds every day, walked page 86 on, thereby making Lucy rather ashamed of thinking the song of the little birds so pretty, a feeling which was only banished when her Papa told her that he had gone out at daybreak, nearly twenty times, just to hear the birds, while, next morning, her mother, who joined her in her early walk, actually burst into tears, when the full gush of song broke from the thick bushes. So, after that, Lucy was never ashamed of owning her delight in hearing the Bell-birds.

“Hollo, Luce; don't stand there all day; I want you here,” shouted Tom from the river side. “Isn't this the very place for a boat-house; look at this shelf on the bank, and that slope down; my word! what a stunning launch we should have. You shall break the bottle and name her.”

“What do you mean? Break what bottle? Why, Tom, you're either losing your senses, or thinking I've lost mine. What, in all the world, can breaking a bottle have to do with a boat's name?”

Tom put his hands in his pockets and indulged in a very irritating burst of laughter, which, as might be supposed, vexed Lucy a good deal, and made her cheeks flush crimson, as, unwilling to get angry with Tom, she turned hastily away, and ran off towards the house as fast as she could, Tom's loud laugh ringing unpleasantly in her ears, all the way. When she reached the enclosure for the garden, she slackened her pace, and, after looking behind, to satisfy herself that Tom had not followed, she began to walk very quietly, and think over what had just happened. In the first place, she began to think she had been very silly to make herself so hot and tired, just because Tom laughed page 87 at her. Perhaps she did ask a silly question, too, for Tom knew so much about boats that he might think she should too; besides, she had missed seeing the place Tom had chosen, and, no doubt, made him think her petted and cross. This last reflection brought Lucy to a stand-still. She loved Tom dearly; he understood her better than any one, though he did often quiz and laugh at her for having girlish ideas. What was she now to do. She had offended Tom, and perhaps he would go away to be a sailor, and then, like George, he might not return for years.

Lucy's eyes filled, and her head hung down, as she stood irresolute whether to go back for Tom, or pursue her way to the house, and tell him what she thought at some future time. Just as she made up her mind to go back, Tom appeared, walking very sedately, with both hands in his pockets, and whistling “The Red, White, and Blue.” Glancing at Lucy, and misunderstanding her petulant looks for ill-temper; he whistled a little louder, and would have passed on; but Lucy saw how it was, and, seizing his arms, she said:—


“All serene,” answered her brother, whistling again.

“Tom,” again began poor Lucy.

“Well, ma'am; I'm not deaf,” answered Tom, getting a little impatient, and fancying she was going to give him a lecture.

“Dear Tom, I got angry—”

“I should think so; that's no news.”

“Yes, dear; but, I'm sorry—”

“Are you, Luce. Well, I suppose that makes up.

page 88

There now, don't look so melancholy; it's all right; you'll learn to keep your temper some day.”

“Oh, Tom, don't say that. I'm so sorry,” sobbed Lucy, the tears really coming. “I don't know what to do; I am always unlucky.”

“So you are,” said Tom, gravely; “but crying won't help you. When I get angry, I don't cry, or make a row about it, but think I'm a great ass, and make up my mind to try and be more patient next time.”

“Oh, Tom, but then you're good-tempered,” sighed Lucy, putting her arms round his neck, and I'm a nasty, ill-tempered, cross—”

“Hold hard, Miss; don't call yourself names,” interrupted her brother. “You wouldn't let me say all that, and you go and say them yourself. Just hold your tongue, and try and don't get into a passion again. You know you are my own dear sister, and I love you better than anybody but Papa and Mamma, and when I am a sailor, you'll see what pretty things I'll bring you home.

“Oh, don't go away, dear, darling Tom,” cried Lucy, now breaking into a regular crying fit, all her forced calmness upset by the idea of parting. “Don't go, darling Tom, and I'll never be angry again.”

“You're a regular donkey, Lucy. A fellow cannot stay at home, idle, because his sister wants him. Why, look at George, you were sorry to leave him, but you don't care so much now; besides, only thick, when I come back with such lots of stories and funny things to show you. Come, Luce, I'm awfully hungry, and you've kept me talking nonsense nearly half-an-hour.”

So saying, he put his arm round his sister's waist, and page 89 marched her off into the house, taking care not to speak, lest he should bring back her tears, and thus incur an explanation from their father or mother.

That day was a very busy one, everybody being engaged unpacking furniture, etc., etc., but so speedily did they set to work, and with such good-will keep it up, that before night a great part of their first importation of necessary articles were brought to light, and, after being enveloped in matting and straw for ever since they were packed in England, came out fresh and familiar before their eager gaze.

“This stood in the window, before;” and “This stood close to the fireplace,” were the expressions that burst continually from the children's lips, all three of whom were anxious to put everything as like the old house, as, with their much lessened supply of furniture and ornaments they could. The carpet did not fit the floor at all, so was rolled up and laid aside for the present, to be cut up and altered when there was more time; still, with the fresh planed boards no one missed the carpet much, and all agreed it would be cooler, at least, without it.

As soon as the inside of the house was arranged, they began to think about a garden. Tom marked put what he thought an admirable plan for the beds, and getting out Lucy's paint-box, coloured each bed the shade of the particular flowers he intended having in them. This plan he displayed with great triumph, and was not at all prepared for his father's decision against it in favour of vegetables.

“Oh, Papa, you don't mean to say you are going to plant cabbages close to the house,” exclaimed Lucy, who page 90 was looking over his shoulder at Tom's handiwork; “and potatoes, too; may we not have any flowers?”

“Don't potatoes flower?” asked her Papa.

“Yes; but then they are vegetables.”

“So are scarlet-runners and nasturtiums, and a certain little daughter of mine had both in her garden.”

“Oh, but they have pretty blossoms, and not great leaves and little common flowers, like potatoes.”

“There's not an ugly flower in the world, in my eyes, Lucy. God never intended us to think his works ugly.”

Lucy blushed.

“I did not mean exactly ugly; but surely there are some flowers not so pretty as others.”

“Yes, of course,” answered her father; but if the flowers you call ugly were very rare, and only to be seen with expense and trouble, I dare say you would think them very beautiful. Now, just think of a dandelion, for instance. You do not consider it pretty, growing, as it does, in all the hedges and ditches at home; but if you were to go to a country where there were no such flowers, and some one was to ask you to look at a beautiful flower they had paid a great deal of money for and kept in their conservatory, and this rare flower was, in fact, only a dandelion, would you not be inclined to think it very pretty, and value it on account of its rarity?”

“I think you are right, Papa,” cried Lucy, “for I'm sure I've seen plants in greenhouses very like wild-flowers. But please let us have a flower-garden round the front-door and verandah.”

“Well, if you, Beatrice and Tom, will promise to take page 91 care of it yourselves, I don't object; but, remember, if Mamma and I find it untidy, and what we think ugly, we shall plant cabbages and potatoes immediately.”

“Lucy was delighted, and rushed off with Tom, to settle the exact shape and size of the beds. Presently Beatrice followed. After some discussion, she proposed asking the two workmen to lay out and dig the garden, when they were not engaged with other work, so Tom went off to look for them and make the proposal. He found them having a cup of tea in Bridget's kitchen: the first tea they had tasted, they said, for three months; and, to prove how much they liked it, they each drank six large breakfast-caps full, and Bridget, in spite of her desire to please them, was really losing patience, and beginning to think they were not going to stop at all.

“Share, Masther Tom, you're not coming for tay, too; the Chinesemen theirsilves couldn’ take more than these two jintlemen have conshumed. Faith, I'll make greater preparations, nixt time, an’ the big, black kittle ‘ll be me tay-pot.”

“Then surely Bridget, you'll give me some,” said Tom; “but I don't want tea. I came to ask Wilson and Dick if they would help me to make a garden.”

“That we will, Master Tom,” cried Wilson;” I'm pining to see a few wallflowers and marigolds again.”

“Pining, are ye—an’ for Miss Mary Goulds, too,” ex-claimed Bridget; “it's little she'll have to do, av she pines for the like ov you, Misther Wilson.”

The men and Tom burst out laughing, Wilson especially, slapping his leg with his great broad hand, and, as soon as he could articulate, said:—

page 92

“Mary Gold's a flower, Miss Bridget, and I beg to inform you, that, when Master Tom and I make a garden, I'll present you with a bouquet to smell at.

“Git out wid ye'r nonsense; what do ye take me for? Shure, in Ould Ireland we call things by their right names, not haythenish things. Shure ye'll corropt the childer. But git along wid ye all, and lave me kitchen to meself; it's little pace of me life you'd be laying me, av I couldn't keep me own.”

“There's no fear of your not doing that, Miss Bridget,” said Wilson, winking at Dick.

They left the kitchen and went off to look at the garden-ground, which Wilson decided upon starting at once, finishing off piece by piece, so that Tom could get in some flower-seeds in a few days. The railing round was the first thing, and this was to be as rustic as possible, to please Lucy. To accomplish this, Tom and the workmen went off to the forest, to cut branches, such as would suit the fence.

Having some distance to go, they took their dinner with them, and did not return until dark. Tom came, laden with flowers of the Rata, and a pretty yellow flower, called Parrot's-bill. These he next morning put into the ground intended for the garden, so that when Aps went out, in the morning, he stood looking at the gay flowers in amazement, then rushed off to his Mamma, shouting that there had been a fairy in the garden, and filled it with beautiful scarlet and gold flowers, and poor Aps was very much ashamed when he heard the trick Tom had played, but next day showed himself wonderfully wise. His Mamma lost him in the morning, and after searching for him in page 93 every direction, she and Beatrice could think of, Tom, who came home for another hatchet, joined in the search, and, at last, discovered Master Aps, standing up to his knees in earth, which had been dug up near the river. When asked what he was doing, his reply was that he was growing, as he wanted to be as tall as Tom, to go to the woods. The poor child cried bitterly when he was carried home, and could not understand why the ground would not make him grow, like the trees, grass or flowers.

For a week or two, Aps was very busy with his garden, working diligently, with a sharp stick and a very rough wooden spade one of the men made for him, and, at the end of a month, the secret came out: Aps had planted three silver spoons, four knives, several plates, cups, and saucers, and a pair of his own shoes, thinking he would beat everybody with his garden; but, fertile as the soil in New Zealand is, it won't grow such things, and poor Aps was very much surprised when his Papa told him if he ever planted anything again, he would be sent to bed, a punishment Aps was particularly afraid of.

When the railing round the garden was finished, nothing could be prettier. Roots were set at regular distances, and crooked twisted branches stretched from one to the other, forming a capital fence, and really an ornamental piece of work.

Round this railing, Tom planted a row of geranium and myrtle, with some plants of a red honeysuckle, he found, interspersed, here and there. This done, they set to work at the garden.

Lucy had found plenty, as yet, to do inside the house. First, she always got up in time to dust the sitting-rooms, page 94 while Bridget cleaned the fireplaces and got the men's breakfast ready, Beatrice, meantime, attending to the hens, and milking the cows, an office she had especially begged for.

Then, after breakfast, both girls set to work sewing, for an hour or two, making up curtains, carpets, and coverings for the different rooms, and so busy were they that, in a month after, they had everything in a home-like shape, and could draw the comfortable red curtains, at night, when they assembled round the tea-table, to tell each other all they had done that day, and their plans for the next.