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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XXV

page 177

Chapter XXV.

The Purchase of Roses—The Scotch Gardener—A Long Walk—Who gained the Victory.

Besides the care of the cows and poultry, many other duties devolved upon the girls, and one of these was the management of the garden, the hard work being done by any of the men who had an hour or two to spare, or any visitor who might be staying at the farm—a very common occurrence, as Captain Graham was always making new friends, and scarcely ever returned from his monthly visits to Christchurch without bringing some one to enliven them.

The flower-garden was a perfect wonder of beauty. Every English flower was there, mingled with many of those beautiful tropical plants that we dare not trust out of a hot-house in England. The geranium and fuchsia hedge had grown so fast, that the second summer it required trimming down, and was now a perfect blaze of blossom, the dark glossy leaves of the myrtle making a beautiful and refreshing contrast.

Upon one of his visits to Christchurch, their Papa had fallen in with the captain of a trading vessel, who had brought out a large number of rose-plants, and thinking they were all dead, offered to sell them for a very small page 178 sum. Captain Graham bought them and had them planted, and very soon nearly every one began to bud; and the consequence of his lucky speculation was, that he had a nursery of roses worth several hundred pounds; and so famous did it become, that people thought nothing of making a journey from Christchurch on purpose to see the roses; and as every one who goes to a colony turns the produce of the land into money, Captain Graham made quite a large sum by his roses, and ended by engaging a regular gardener to look after them.

This poor man was quite a character in his way. He had come out, thinking he could find lots of gardening work; but was surprised to see the settlers all managed their own gardens, and thought a great deal more of the peas and beans than flowers; so for a long time the poor man wandered about, doing a day's work now and then, when he fell in with some charitable people. One day he heard some one talking of Captain Graham's roses, and the very next day set off for the farm, making up his mind on the way to offer to keep the roses in order and do anything for his living.

The Grahams were at breakfast when he arrived; and as the rose garden lay near the pathway, any one coming to the house had to pass along it. Lucy was the first to notice that a man was coming along the path; she saw him stand still, take off his hat and throw it in the air, then seizing a hoe, begin working away as if it was his own ground.

Captain Graham watched him with great amusement; and though he certainly was predisposed in his favour, he had heard of so many methods taken to impose upon page 179 settlers, that he determined to be cautious in the present instance. At last he went out, and walking across the garden, stood looking at the man for some minutes before he noticed him. At last, looking up, he started, and pulling his forelock, said, in an accent not to be mistaken, “Fine day, maister.”

“So it is, Sandy,” said Captain Graham, laughing at the man's coolness or impudence. “Do you find the ground very dirty? ”

“Gude sake, it's fair filthy. There's no a squar inch on which a bit o’ groosal ‘ll thrive, let alone a rose-bush.”

“Well, hadn't you better get a bit of breakfast?” said Captain Graham, seeing he had no ordinary character to deal with, and making up his mind he would let the man tell his story in his own way, which he was sure would very soon happen.

“Weel, sur, I'd no object to a morsel o' food, seein' that it's twa days sin' I broke my faust. Its a weary way fra Christchurch here, but its a long lonnen that knows no turning; sae I joust waulked an' waulked, saying to mysel', Keep yer heart up, Saundy, thou'rt of more vally than many sparraus.”

“And so you've walked all the way from Christchurch here, my man. Did yon smell the roses all the way there?”

The man laughed and picked up his cap. “Aiblins, I did, an’ aiblins I didn't, sur; but this I wull say, that I'm grateful t'ye for life, aund ye'll never repent yer hospitality. I'm a gude gairdener, an’ hae sarved ma time in his Grace the Dook of Authol's gairdens, ye'll maybe hae seen them.”

page 180

“No, I never did; but come, get in and have your breakfast. You'll find plenty to do for a week or two, and when you've done with the weeds, we'll begin talking.”

Sandy laughed aloud. “Ye'll no be Scoatch yersel', Cauptain?” asked he.

“I believe I ought to be, but its a long time ago. Do you intend to go back?”

“Bauck to Scootland, Cauptain! Dinna ye ken a Scootsmaun never goes bauck to his ain laund, he either wuns or decs in the laund he takes up.”

Just then they approached the breakfast-room window, from which Captain Graham's interview had been watched.

“Get me a cup of tea and a loaf, girls. Here's a gardener come all the way from Scotland after our roses. He says he smelt them at Blair Athol.”

“Oh, Cauptain, yer makin' gaum o' me. The young leddy kens ye owre weel, I wager, to heed ye. I'm a puir forlorn widdy, my leddy; an' when I heard them speiring o' the roses, I jest made up ma mind to come an’ care them for the Cauptain. I'd always a wonderful knowledge o' roses, an' can bud them as weel as his Grace's heed maun.”

“I am very glad to hear it,” said Mrs. Graham. “We wanted a man sadly. You must set to work at once.”

“Deed an’ I wull, my leddy. As sun as I get ma hunger a bit quenched, aw'll set to wark, an’ ye'll no ken your roses.”

Sandy then apologised for sitting down, and began his breakfast, first, however, taking off his cap and laying it page 181 on his knees, then folding his hands over it, he asked a blessing upon his meat.

And thus another servant was added to the farm, for they were so much delighted by Sandy's energy, that they all voted to keep him; and as Bridget had been located for some weeks in her new cottage, her old room became Sandy's. The first thing he did, after getting the roses cleaned, pruned, and arranged, was to propose to make a new garden, where he would transplant the best roses, and put in stocks in the old ground for budding. Seeing he understood the garden, and feeling sure he might trust a Scotchman's sagacity, Captain Graham gave him his own way, and soon found he had judged rightly in doing so, and had got a really invaluable gardener and faithful servant, who, though he said little, and never spoke except when spoken to, had a head full of shrewd common sense, and as honest and true a heart as ever beat.

Bridget rather turned up her nose at him for some time, but he made peace with her by telling her he had never eaten “parritch out of his mither's house like that she made.”

Mr. Wilson prided himself upon being Scotch, so at once took Sandy in hand, so much so as to excite Dick's jealousy; and after a fortnight's sulks and grumbling, sneering and quizzing, he and Sandy came to blows. Sandy, though not nearly so strong as Dick, had a cooler temper, and gained the victory, after which Dick shook hands, and became his unalterable friend ever after.