Once more he patiently mixed.
"Too muddy coloured," I corrected.
"It must be fun to be a painter," said the girl.
"Oh, we get used to it," said he.
"Try a little yellow," I suggested. "I want that tint warmed up a trifle."
He did so, and something emerged which looked right to me.
"That's a queer olive, though," said the girl.
"Well, it's a greenish, brownish, yellowish olive, isn't it?" I replied. "That's what I asked for! Do the walls in this colour, and paint the woodwork, mantels, and the panels over them and the bookcase and settles a creamy white, with a creamy white on the ceiling, and oil up this old floor and stain the strip of new boards where the part.i.tion was, and my room is ready!"
We went into the little hall, where the front door stood open, and we could see Hard on a ladder mending the beautiful carved door cap outside.
"This hall the same colour," said I, "with the rails of the bal.u.s.ter in the cream white of the trim."
We went into the northeast room and the dining-room behind it.
"Same colour here?" asked the painter.
I was about to answer yes, when Miss Goodwin spoke. "I should think you'd want these rooms lighter in colour," she said, "as they face the north."
"The lady's right," said the painter.
"They always are," I smiled. "You two fix up the colour for this room, then. We can decide on the other rooms after these downstairs are done."
"No," cried the girl, "I won't do anything of the kind! You might not like what I picked."
"Incredible!" said I. "I've really got to get to work outside now."
And I ran off, leaving her looking a little angrily, I thought, after me.
I was so impatient to see how my lawn was going to look that I went to the shed to hunt up a dummy sundial post which I could set up and mark off my beds around it, getting them manured for planting. At first I could find nothing, except some old logs, but looking up presently into a loft under the eaves, I saw the dusty end of what looked like a Doric pillar poking out. I scrambled up and pulled forth, to my joy, a wooden pillar about nine feet long, in excellent preservation. How it got there, I had no idea. The dust had evidently acc.u.mulated on it for years. It had once been painted white. I dragged the heavy column down, and ran to get Hard Cider.
He grunted. "All yer side porch pillars wuz them kind when I wuz a boy," he said. "Old man n.o.ble's fust wife didn't like the porch--thought it kept light out o' the kitchen, an' hed it took down.
His second wife hed it put back, but some o' the columns hed got lost, or burnt up, I reckon, so's they put it back with them square posts yer hev now. I reckon that column's nigh on a century old."
I sawed off the upper four feet carefully, and stowed the remainder back in the loft. Then I made a square base of planking, a temporary one till I could build a brick foundation, washed off the dust, and took my pedestal around to the lawn. With a ball of twine tied to the centre of the south room door I ran a line directly out to the rose trellis, and midway between the trellis and where the edge of my pergola was to be I placed the pillar. Then I took out my knife, and thrust the blade lightly in at an angle, to simulate the dial marker, and turned to call Miss Goodwin.
But she was already standing in the door.
"Oh!" she cried, running lightly down the plank and across the ground, "a sundial already, and a real pedestal! Come away from it a little, and see how it seems to focus all the sunlight."
We stood off near the house, and looked at the white column in mid-lawn. It did indeed seem to draw in the sunlight to this level spot before the dwelling, even though it rose from the brown earth instead of rich greensward, and even though beyond it was but the unsightly, half-finished, naked trellis. Even as we watched, a bird came swooping across the lawn, alighted on my knife handle, and began to carol.
"Oh, the darling!" cried Miss Goodwin. "He understands!"
I was very well content. I had unexpectedly found a pedestal, and was experiencing for the first time the real sensation of garden warmth and intimacy and focussed light which a sundial, rightly placed, can bring.
I did not speak, and presently beside me I heard a voice saying, "But I forgot that I am angry at you."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you had no right to leave me to pick out the paint for your dining-room," said she.
"Why not?" said I. "You picked out the name of my house and the style of the rose trellis."
"That was different," she replied.
"I don't see why."
"Then you are extremely stupid," she answered.
"Doubtless," said I. "But that doesn't help me any to understand, you know."
"Come," she replied, "and see if the paint suits you. Then I must go home and write some letters."
The paint and calcimine tint suited me, of course. They were a warm, golden cream and a very delicate buff, which made the rooms seem lighter.
I thanked her as heartily as I could, and watched her depart up the road, pausing only long enough to press to her nose the first bud on the great lilac tree at the corner.
The place seemed curiously deserted after she had gone. I went out into the vegetable area to see if Mike and Joe were getting on all right, and to watch them planting, that I might learn how it was done.
"Aren't we pretty late with all these seeds?" I asked.
Mike shook his head. "There's some things, like peas, ye can't get in too soon," he said, "and some like termaters and cauliflowers that ye got to start under gla.s.s; but up here in these mountains, with the frosts comin' and the cold nights, ye don't know when, ye can wait till the middle o' May and dump on the manure and get yer crop with the next man."
"Well, I'm trusting you," said I. "But next year we'll start earlier, just the same. I don't want to be with the next man. I want to beat him. I don't see why that isn't what a farmer should do as well as a merchant."
"Sure, it is," said Mike, "only the G.o.d almighty don't like it, and sinds frosts down upon yer presoomin'."
"You talk like a Calvinist," I laughed.
"Sure, I dunno what that is," Mike replied. "How much of this last plantin' of corn shall I put in? It's Stowell's Evergreen. Maybe it's the frosts will get it all, come September."
"We'll take a chance," said I. "I'm a gambler. Put in all you've got room for."
"Yes, sor," said he, "and it's pea brush we'll be needin' soon for them early peas I planted late. Is it Joe I shall sind to cut some in the pasture lot behind the barn?"
I hadn't thought of my ten-acre pasture across the road. In fact, I had scarcely been in it. "What's there to cut?" I asked.
"Poverty birch," said Mike. "Sure, it's walkin' up from the brook like it was a weed, which it are, and eatin' the good gra.s.s up. The pasture will be better for it out."
"Cut away, then," said I. "But, mind you, no other trees!"
I went back to my sundial, between two rows of cauliflower plants Bert had given to me, and which Mike had set out thus early for an experiment, between threads of sprouting radishes, lines of onion sets, and other succulent evidences of the season to come. As I started to mark out the beds around the pedestal, I found myself wishing Miss Goodwin were there to advise me. I made a few marks on the ground, surveyed the pattern, didn't like it, could think of nothing better, and resolved to await her return. I took a few steps toward the house. Then I stopped.
"No, you fool," I said to myself. "This is your house. You are going to live in it. If you can't plan it yourself, you'd better go back to teaching."
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