THE HARVESTER INTERPRETS LIFE
They went through the rooms together, and the Girl suggested the furnishings
she thought necessary, while the Harvester wrote the list. The following morning
he was eager to have her company, but she was very tired and begged to be
allowed to wait in the swing, so again he drove away and left her with
Belshazzar on guard. When he had gone, she went through the cabin arranging the
furniture the best she could, then dressed and went to the swinging couch. It
was so wide and heavy a light wind rocked it gently, and from it she faced the
fern and lily carpeted hillside, the majesty of big trees of a thousand years,
and heard the music of Singing Water as it sparkled diamond-like where the sun
rays struck its flow. Across the drive and down the valley to the brilliant bit
of marsh it hurried on its way to Loon Lake.
There were squirrels barking and racing in the big trees and over the ground.
They crossed the sodded space of lawn and came to the top step for nuts, eating
them from cunning paws. They were living life according to the laws of their
nature. She knew that their sharp, startling bark was not to frighten her, but
to warn straying intruders of other species of their kindred from a nest,
because the Harvester had told her so. He had said their racing here and there
in wild scramble was a game of tag and she found it most interesting to observe.
Birds of brilliant colour flashed everywhere, singing in wild joy, and tilted
on the rising hedge before her, hunting berries and seeds. Their bubbling,
spontaneous song was an instinctive outpouring of their joy over mating time,
nests, young, much food, and running water. Their social, inquiring, short cry
was to locate a mate, and call her to good feeding. The sharp wild scream of a
note was when a hawk passed over, a weasel lurked in the thicket, or a black
snake sunned on the bushes. She remembered these things, and lay listening
intently, trying to interpret every sound as the Harvester did.
Birds of wide wing hung as if nailed to the sky, or wheeled and sailed in
grandeur. They were searching the landscape below to locate a hare or snake in
the waving grass or carrion in the fields. The wonderful exhibitions of wing
power were their expression of exultation in life, just as the song sparrow
threatened to rupture his throat as he swung on the hedge, and the red bird
somewhere in the thicket whistled so forcefully it sounded as if the notes might
On the lake bass splashed in a game with each other. Grebes chattered,
because they were very social. Ducks dived and gobbled for roots and worms of
the lake shore, and congratulated each other when they were lucky.
Killdeer cried for slaughter, in plaintive tones, as their white breasts
gleamed silver-like across the sky. They insisted on the death of their ancient
enemies, because the deer had trampled nests around the shore, roiled the water,
spoiled the food hunting, and had been wholly unmindful of the laws of feathered
folk from the beginning.
Behind the barn imperial cocks crowed challenges of defiance to each other
and all the world, because they once had worn royal turbans on their heads, and
ruled the forests, even the elephants and lions. Happy hens cackled when they
deposited an egg, and wandered through their park singing the spring egg song
Upon the barn Ajax spread and exulted in glittering plumage, and screamed
viciously. He was sending a wireless plea to the forests of Ceylon for a gray
mate to come and share the ridge pole with him, and help him wage red war on the
sickening love making of the white doves he hated.
Everything was beautiful, some of it was amusing, all instructive, and
intensely interesting. The Girl wanted to know about the brown, yellow, and
black butterflies sailing from flower to flower. She watched big black and gold
bees come from the forest for pollen and listened to their monotonous bumbling.
Her first humming bird poised in air, and sipped nectar before her astonished
eyes. It was marvellous, but more wonderful to the Girl than anything she saw or
heard was the fact that because of the Harvester's teachings she now could trace
through all of it the ordained processes of the evolution of life. Everything
was right in its way, all necessary to human welfare, and so there was nothing
to fear, but marvels to learn and pictures to appreciate. She would have taken
Belshazzar and gone out, but the Harvester had exacted a promise that she would
not. The fact was, he could see that she was coming gradually to a sane and
natural view of life and living things, and he did not want some sound or
creature to frighten her, and spoil what he had accomplished. So she swayed in
the swing and watched, and tried to interpret sights and sounds as he did.
Before an hour she realized that she was coming speedily into sympathy with
the wild life around her; for, instead of shivering and shrinking at
unaccustomed sounds, she was listening especially for them, and trying to arrive
at a sane version. Instead of the senseless roar of commerce, manufacture, and
life of a city, she was beginning to appreciate sounds that varied and carried
the Song of Life in unceasing measure and absorbing meaning, while she was more
than thankful for the fresh, pure air, and the blessed, God-given light. It
seemed to the Girl that there was enough sunshine at Medicine Woods to furnish
rays of gold for the whole world.
"Bel," she said to the dog standing beside her, "it's a shame to separate you
from the Medicine Man and pen you here with me. It's a wonder you don't bite off
my head and run away to find him. He's gone to bring more things to make life
beautiful. I wanted to go with him, but oh Bel, there's something dreadfully
wrong with me. I was afraid I'd fall on the streets and frighten and shame him.
I'm so weak, I scarcely can walk straight across one of these big, cool rooms
that he has built for me. He can make everything beautiful, Bel, a home, rooms,
clothing, grounds, and life覧above everything else he can make life beautiful.
He's so splendid and wonderful, with his wide understanding and sane
interpretation and God-like sympathy and patience. Why Belshazzar, he can do the
greatest thing in all the world! He can make you forget that the grave
annihilates your dear ones by hideous processes, and set you to thinking instead
that they come back to you in whispering leaves and flower perfumes. If I didn't
owe him so much that I ought to pay, if this wasn't so alluringly beautiful, I'd
like to go to the oak and lie beside those dear women resting there, and give my
tired body to furnish sap for strength and leaves for music. He can take its
bitterest sting覧from death, Bel覧and that's the most wonderful thing覧in life,
Her voice became silent, her eyes closed; the dog stretched himself beside
her on guard, and it was so the Harvester found them when he drove home from the
city. He heaped his load in the dining-room, stabled Betsy, carried the things
he had brought where he thought they belonged, and prepared food. When she
awakened she came to him.
"How is it going, Girl?" asked the Harvester.
"I can't tell you how lovely it has been!"
"Do you really mean that your heart is warming a little to things here?"
"Indeed I do! I can't tell you what a morning I've had. There have been such
myriad things to see and hear. Oh, Harvester, can you ever teach me what all of
"I can right now," said the Harvester promptly. "It means two things, so
simple any little child can understand覧the love of God and the evolution of
life. I am not precisely clear as to what I mean when I say God. I don't know
whether it is spirit, matter, or force; it is that big thing that brings forth
worlds, establishes their orbits, and gives us heat, light, food, and water. To
me, that is God and His love. Just that we are given birth, sheltered,
provisioned, and endowed for our work. Evolution is the natural consequence of
this. It is the plan steadily unfolding. If I were you, I wouldn't bother my
head over these questions, they never have been scientifically explained to the
beginning; I doubt if they ever will be, because they start with the origin of
matter and that is too far beyond man for him to penetrate. Just enjoy to the
depths of your soul覧that's worship. Be thankful for everything覧that's praising
God as the birds praise him. And 'do unto others' that's all there is of love
and religion combined in one fell swoop."
"You should go before the world and tell every one that!"
"No! It isn't my vocation," said the Harvester. "My work is to provide
pain-killer. I don't believe, Ruth, that there is any one on the footstool who
is doing a better job along that line. I am boastfully proud of it覧just of
sending in the packages that kill fever, refresh poor blood, and strengthen weak
hearts; unadulterated, honest weight, fresh, and scrupulously clean. My
neighbours have a different name for it; I call it a man's work."
"Every one who understands must," said the Girl. "I wish I could help at
that. I feel as if it would do more to wipe out the pain I've suffered and seen
her endure than anything else. Man, when I grow strong enough I want to help
you. I believe that I am going to love it here."
"Don't ever suppress your feelings, Ruth!" hastily cried the Harvester. "It
will be very bad for you. You will become wrought up, and 'het up,' as Granny
Moreland says, and it will make you very ill. When we drive the fever from your
blood, the ache from your bones, the poison of wrong conditions from your soul,
and good, healthy, red corpuscles begin pumping through your little heart like a
windmill, you can stake your life you're going to love it here. And the location
and work are not all you're going to care for either, honey. Now just wait! That
was not 'nominated in the bond.' I'm allowed to talk. I never agreed not to SAY
things. What I promised was not to DO them. So as I said, honey, sit at this
table, and eat the food I've cooked; and by that time the furniture van will be
here, and the men will unload, and you shall reign on a throne and tell me where
"Oh if I were only stronger, David!"
"You are!" said the Harvester. "You are much better than you were yesterday.
You can talk, and that's all that's necessary. The rooms are ready for
furniture. The men will carry it where you want it. A decorator is coming to
hang the curtains. By night we will be settled; you can lie in the swing while I
read to you a story so wonderful that the wildest fairy tale you ever heard
never touched it."
"What will it be, David?"
"Eat all the red raspberries and cream, bread and butter, and drink all the
milk you can. There's blood, beefsteak, and bones in it. As I was saying, you
have come here a stranger to a strange land. The first thing is for you to
understand and love the woods. Before you can do that you should master the
history of one tree; just the same as you must learn to know and love me before
your childlike trust in all mankind returns again. Understand? Well, the fates
knew you were on the way, coming trembling down the brink, Ruth, so they put it
into the heart of a great man to write largely of a wonderful tree, especially
for your benefit. After it had fallen he took it apart, split it in sections,
and year by year spread out history for all the world to read. It made a classic
story filled with unsurpassed wonders. It was a pine of a thousand years, close
the age of our mother tree, Ruth, and when we have learned from Enos Mills how
to wrest secrets from the hearts of centuries, we will climb the hill and
measure our oak, and then I will estimate, and you will write, and we will make
a record for our tree."
"Oh, I'd like that!"
"So would I," said the Harvester. "And a million other things I can think of
that we can learn together. It won't require long for me to teach you all I
know, and by that time your hand will be clasped in mine, and our 'hearts will
beat as one,' and you will give me a kiss every night and morning, and a few
during the day for interest, and we will go on in life together and learn songs,
miracles, and wonders until the old oak calls us. Then we will ascend the hill
gladly and lie down and offer up our bodies, and our children will lay flowers
over our hearts, and gather the herbs and paint the pictures? Amen. I hear a van
on the bridge. Just you go to your room and lie down until I get things unloaded
and where they belong. Then you and the decorator can make us home-like, and
to-morrow we will begin to live. Won't that be great, Ruth?"
"With you, yes, I think it will."
"That will do for this time," said the Harvester, as he opened the door to
her room. "Lie and rest until I say ready."
As he went to meet the men, she could hear him singing lustily, "Praise God
from whom all blessings flow."
"What a child he is!" she said. "And what a man!"
For an hour heavy feet sounded through the cabin carrying furniture to
different rooms. Then with a floor brush in one hand, and a polishing cloth in
the other, the Harvester tapped at her door and helped the Girl upstairs. He had
divided the space into three large, square sleeping chambers. In each he had set
up a white iron bed, a dressing table, and wash stand, and placed two
straight-backed and one rocking chair, all white. The walls were tinted lightly
with green added to the plaster. There was a mattress and a stack of bedding on
each bed, and a large rug and several small ones on the floors. He led her to
the rocking chair in the middle room, where she could see through the open doors
of the other two.
"Now," said the Harvester, "I didn't know whether the room with two windows
toward the lake and one on the marsh, or two facing the woods and one front, was
the guest chamber. It seemed about an even throw whether a visitor would prefer
woods or water, so I made them both guest chambers, and got things alike for
them. Now if we are entertaining two, one can't feel more highly honoured than
the other. Was that a scheme?"
"Fine!" said the Girl. "I don't see how it could be surpassed."
"'Be sure you are right, then go ahead,'" quoted the Harvester. "Now I'll
make the beds and Mr. Rogers can hang the curtains. Is white correct for
sleeping rooms? Won't that wash best and always be fresh?"
"It will," said the Girl. "White wash curtains are much the nicest."
"Make them short Mr. Rogers; keep them off the floor," advised the Harvester.
"And simple覧don't arrange any thing elaborate that will tire a woman to keep in
order. Whack them off the right length and pin them to the poles."
"How about that, Mrs. Langston?" asked the decorator.
"I am quite sure that is the very best thing to do," said the Girl; and the
curtains were hung while the mattress was placed.
"Now about this?" inquired the Harvester. "Do I put on sheets and fix these
beds ready to use?"
"I would not," said the Girl. "I would spread the pad and the counterpane and
lay the sheets and pillows in the closet until they are wanted. They can be
sunned and the bed made delightfully fresh."
"Of course," said the Harvester.
When he had finished, he spread a cover on the dressing table and laid out
white toilet articles and grouped a white wash set with green decorations on the
stand. Then he brushed the floor, spread a big green rug in the middle and small
ones before the bed, stand, and table, and coming out closed the door.
"Guest chamber with lake view is now ready for company," announced the
Harvester. "Repeat the operation on the woods room, finished also. Why do some
people make work of things and string them out eternally and fuss so much? Isn't
this simple and easy, Ruth?"
"Yes, if you can afford it," said the Girl.
"Forbear!" cried the Harvester. "We have the goods, the dealer has my check.
Excuse me ten minutes, until I furnish another room."
The laughing Girl could catch glimpses of him busy over beds and dresser,
floor and rugs; then he came where she sat.
"Woods guest chamber ready," he said. "Now we come to the interior apartment,
that from its view might be called the marsh room. Aside from being two windows
short, it is exactly similar to the others. It occurred to me that, in order to
make up for the loss of those windows, and also because I may be compelled to
ask some obliging woman to occupy it in case your health is precarious at any
time, and in view of the further fact that if any such woman could be found, and
would kindly and willingly care for us, my gratitude would be inexpressible; on
account of all these things, I got a shade the BEST furnishings for this room."
The Girl stared at him with blank face.
"You see," said the Harvester, "this is a question of ethics. Now what is a
guest? A thing of a day! A person who disturbs your routine and interferes with
important concerns. Why should any one be grateful for company? Why should time
and money be lavished on visitors? They come. You overwork yourself. They go.
You are glad of it. You return the visit, because it's the only way to have back
at them; but why pamper them unnecessarily? Now a good housekeeper, that means
more than words can express. Comfort, kindness, sanitary living, care in
illness! Here's to the prospective housekeeper of Medicine Woods! Rogers, hang
those ruffled embroidered curtains. Observe that whereas mere guest beds are
plain white, this has a touch of brass. Where guest rugs are floor coverings,
this is a work of art. Where guest brushes are celluloid, these are enamelled,
and the dresser cover is hand embroidered. Let me also call your attention to
the chairs touched with gold, cushioned for ease, and a decorated pitcher and
bowl. Watch the bounce of these springs and the thickness of this mattress and
pad, and notice that where guests, however welcome, get a down cover of sateen,
the lady of the house has silkaline. Won't she prepare us a breakfast after a
night in this room?"
"David, are you in earnest?" gasped the Girl.
"Don't these things prove it?" asked the Harvester. "No woman can enter my
home, when my necessities are so great I have to hire her to come, and take the
WORST in the house. After my wife, she gets the best, every time. Whenever I
need help, the woman who will come and serve me is what I'd call the real guest
of the house. Friend? Where are your friends when trouble comes? It always
brings a crowd on account of the excitement, and there is noise and racing; but
if your soul is saved alive, it is by a steady, trained hand you pay to help
you. Friends come and go, but a good housekeeper remains and is a business
proposition熔ne that if conducted rightly for both parties and on a strictly
common-sense basis, gives you living comfort. Now that we have disposed of the
guests that go and the one that remains, we will proceed downward and arrange
"David, did you ever know any one who treated a housekeeper as you say you
"No. And I never knew any one who raised medicinal stuff for a living, but
I'm making a gilt-edged success of it, and I would of a housekeeper, too."
"It doesn't seem覧"
"That's the bedrock of all the trouble on the earth," interrupted the
Harvester. "We are a nation and a part of a world that spends our time on
'seeming.' Our whole outer crust is 'seeming.' When we get beneath the surface
and strike the BEING, then we live as we are privileged by the Almighty. I don't
think I give a tinker how anything SEEMS. What concerns me is how it IS. It
doesn't 'seem' possible to you to hire a woman to come into your home and take
charge of its cleanliness and the food you eat葉he very foundation of life預nd
treat her as an honoured guest, and give her the best comfort you have to offer.
The cold room, the old covers, the bare floor, and the cast off furniture are
for her. No wonder, as a rule, she gives what she gets. She dignifies her labour
in the same ratio that you do. Wait until we need a housekeeper, and then gaze
with awe on the one I will raise to your hand."
"Don't! It's wearing! Come tell me how to make our living-room less bare than
it appears at present."
They went downstairs together, followed by the decorator, and began work on
the room. The Girl was placed on a couch and made comfortable and then the
Harvester looked around.
"That bundle there, Rogers, is the curtains we bought for this room. If you
and my wife think they are not right, we will not hang them."
The decorator opened the package and took out curtains of tan-coloured goods
with a border of blue and brown.
"Those are not expensive," said the Harvester, "but to me a window appears
bare with only a shade, so I thought we'd try these, and when they become soiled
we'll burn them and buy some fresh ones."
"Good idea!" laughed the Girl. "As a house decorator you surpass yourself as
a Medicine Man."
"Fix these as you did those upstairs," ordered the Harvester. "We don't want
any fol-de-rols. Put the bottom even with the sill and shear them off at the
"No, I am going to arrange these," said the decorator, "you go on with your
"All right!" agreed the Harvester. "First, I'll lay the big rug."
He cleared the floor, spread a large rug with a rich brown centre and a wide
blue border. Smaller ones of similar design and colour were placed before each
of the doors leading from the room.
"Now for the hearth," said the Harvester, "I got this tan goat skin. Doesn't
that look fairly well?"
It certainly did; and the Girl and the decorator hastened to say so. The
Harvester replaced the table and chairs, and then sat on the couch at the Girl's
"I call this almost finished," he remarked. "All we need now is a bouquet and
something on the walls, and that is serious business. What goes on them usually
remains for a long time, and so it should be selected with care. Ruth, have you
a picture of your mother?"
"None since she was my mother. I have some lovely girl photographs."
"Good!" cried the Harvester. "Exactly the thing! I have a picture of my
mother when she was a pretty girl. We will select the best of yours and have
them enlarged in those beautiful brown prints they make in these days, and we'll
frame one for each side of the mantel. After that you can decorate the other
walls as you see things you want. Fifteen minutes gone; we are ready to take up
the line of march to the dining-room. Oh I forgot my pillows! Here are a half
dozen tan, brown, and blue for this room. Ruth, you arrange them."
The Girl heaped four on the couch, stood one beside the hearth, and laid
another in a big chair.
"Now I don't know what you will think of this," said the Harvester. "I found
it in a magazine at the library. I copied this whole room. The plan was to have
the floor, furniture, and casings of golden oak and the walls pale green. Then
it said get yellow curtains bordered with green and a green rug with yellow
figures, so I got them. I had green leather cushions made for the window seats,
and these pillows go on them. Hang the saffron curtains, Rogers, and we will
finish in good shape for dinner by six. By the way, Ruth, when will you select
your dishes? It will take a big set to fill all these shelves and you shall have
exactly what you want."
"I can use those you have very well."
"Oh no you can't!" cried the Harvester. "I may live and work in the woods,
but I am not so benighted that I don't own and read the best books and
magazines, and subscribe for a few papers. I patronize the library and see what
is in the stores. My money will buy just as much as any man's, if I do wear
khaki trousers. Kindly notice the word. Save in deference to your ladyship I
probably would have said pants. You see how ELITE I can be if I try. And it not
only extends to my wardrobe, to a 'yaller' and green dining-room, but it takes
in the 'chany' as well. I have looked up that, too. You want china, cut glass,
silver cutlery, and linen. Ye! Ye! You needn't think I don't know anything but
how to dig in the dirt. I have been studying this especially, and I know exactly
what to get."
"Come here," said the Girl, making a place for him beside her. "Now let me
tell you what I think. We are going to live in the woods, and our home is a log
"With acetylene lights, a furnace, baths, and hot and cold water覧"
interpolated the Harvester.
The Girl and the decorator laughed.
"Anyway," said she, "if you are going to let me have what I would like, I'd
prefer a set of tulip yellow dishes with the Dutch little figures on them. I
don't know what they cost, but certainly they are not so expensive as cut glass
"Is that earnest or is it because you think I am spending too much money?"
"It is what I want. Everything else is different; why should we have dishes
like city folk? I'd dearly love to have the Dutch ones, and a white cloth with a
yellow border, glass where it is necessary, and silver knives, forks, and
"That would be great, all right!" endorsed the decorator. "And you have got a
priceless old lustre tea set there, and your willow ware is as fine as I ever
saw. If I were you, I wouldn't buy a dish with what you have, except the yellow
"Great day!" ejaculated the Harvester. "Will you tell me why my great
grandmother's old pink and green teapot is priceless?"
The Girl explained pink lustre. "That set in the shop I knew in Chicago would
sell for from three to five hundred dollars. Truly it would! I've seen one
little pink and green pitcher like yours bring nine dollars there. And you've
not only got the full tea set, but water and dip pitchers, two bowls, and two
bread plates. They are priceless, because the secret of making them is lost;
they take on beauty with age, and they were your great-grandmother's."
The Harvester reached over and energetically shook hands.
"Ruth, I'm so glad you've got them!" he bubbled. "Now elucidate on my willow
ware. What is it? Where is it? Why have I willow ware and am not informed. Who
is responsible for this? Did my ancestors buy better than they knew, or worse?
Is willow ware a crime for which I must hide my head, or is it further riches
thrust upon me? I thought I had investigated the subject of proper dishes quite
thoroughly; but I am very certain I saw no mention of lustre or willow. I
thought, in my ignorance, that lustre was a dress, and willow a tree. Have I
been deceived? Why is a blue plate or pitcher willow ware?"
"Bring that platter from the mantel," ordered the Girl, "and I will show
The Harvester obeyed and followed the finger that traced the design.
"That's a healthy willow tree!" he commented. "If Loon Lake couldn't go ahead
of that it should be drained. And will you please tell me why this precious
platter from which I have eaten much stewed chicken, fried ham, and in youthful
days sopped the gravy覧will you tell me why this relic of my ancestors is called
a willow plate, when there are a majority of orange trees so extremely fruitful
they have neglected to grow a leaf? Why is it not an orange plate? Look at that
boat! And in plain sight of it, two pagodas, a summer house, a water-sweep, and
a pair of corpulent swallows; you would have me believe that a couple are
eloping in broad daylight."
"Perhaps it's night! And those birds are doves."
"Never!" cried the Harvester. "There is a total absence of shadows. There is
no moon. Each orange tree is conveniently split in halves, so you can see to
count the fruit accurately; the birds are in flight. Only a swallow or a stork
can fly in decorations, either by day or by night. And for any sake look at that
elopement! He goes ahead carrying a cane, she comes behind lugging the baggage,
another man with a cane brings up the rear. They are not running away. They have
been married ten years at least. In a proper elopement, they forget there are
such things as jewels and they always carry each other. I've often looked up the
statistics and it's the only authorized version. As I regard this treasure, I
grow faint when I remember with what unnecessary force my father bore down when
he carved the ham. I'll bet a cooky he split those orange trees. Now me覧I'll
never dare touch knife to it again. I'll always carve the meat on the broiler,
and gently lift it to this platter with a fork. Or am I not to be allowed to
dine from my ancestral treasure again?"
"Not in a green and yellow room," laughed the Girl. "I'll tell you what I
think. If I had a tea table to match the living-room furniture, and it sat
beside the hearth, and on it a chafing dish to cook in, and the willow ware to
eat from, we could have little tea parties in there, when we aren't very hungry
or to treat a visitor. It would help make that room 'homey,' and it's wonderful
how they harmonize with the other things."
"How much willow ware have I got to 'bestow' on you?" inquired the Harvester.
"Suppose you show me all of it. A guilty feeling arises in my breast, and I fear
me I have committed high crimes!"
"Oh Man! You didn't break or lose any of those dishes, did you?"
"Show me!" insisted the Harvester.
The Girl arose and going to the cupboard he had designed for her china she
opened it, and set before him a teapot, cream pitcher, two plates, a bowl, a
pitcher, the meat platter, and a sugar bowl. "If there were all of the cups,
saucers, and plates, I know where they would bring five hundred dollars," she
"Ruth, are you getting even with me for poking fun at them, or are you in
earnest?" asked the Harvester.
"I mean every word of it."
"You really want a small, black walnut table made especially for those old
"Not if you are too busy. I could use it with beautiful effect and much
pleasure, and I can't tell you how proud I'd be of them."
The Harvester's face flushed. "Excuse me," he said rising. "I have now
finished furnishing a house; I will go and take a peep at the engine." He went
into the kitchen and hearing the rattle of dishes the Girl followed. She stepped
in just in time to see him hastily slide something into his pocket. He picked up
a half dozen old white plates and saucers and several cups and started toward
the evaporator. He heard her coming.
"Look here, honey," he said turning, "you don't want to see the dry-house
just now. I have terrific heat to do some rapid work. I won't be gone but a few
minutes. You better boss the decorator.
"I'm afraid that wasn't very diplomatic," he muttered. "It savoured a little
of being sent back. But if what she says is right, and she should know if they
handle such stuff at that art store, she will feel considerably better not to
He set his load at the door, drew an old blue saucer from his pocket and made
a careful examination. He pulled some leaves from a bush and pushed a greasy
cloth out of the saucer, wiped it the best he could, and held it to light.
"That is a crime!" he commented. "Saucer from your maternal ancestors' tea
set used for a grease dish. I am afraid I'd better sink it in the lake. She'd
feel worse to see it than never to know. Wish I could clean off the grease! I
could do better if it was hot. I can set it on the engine."
The Harvester placed the saucer on the engine, entered the dry-house, and
closed the door. In the stifling air he began pouring seed from beautiful, big
willow plates to the old white ones.
"About the time I have ruined you," he said to a white plate, "some one will
pop up and discover that the art of making you is lost and you are priceless,
and I'll have been guilty of another blunder. Now there are the dishes mother
got with baking powder. She thought they were grand. I know plenty well she
prized them more than these blue ones or she wouldn't have saved them and used
these for every day. There they set, all so carefully taken care of, and the
Girl doesn't even look at them. Thank Heaven, there are the four remaining
plates all right, anyway! Now I've got seed in some of the saucers; one is
there; where on earth is the last one? And where, oh unkind fates! are the
He found more saucers and set them with the plates. As he passed the engine
he noticed the saucer on it was bubbling grease, literally exuding it from the
particles of clay.
"Hooray!" cried the Harvester. He took it up, but it was so hot he dropped
it. With a deft sweep he caught it in air, and shoved it on a tray. Then he
danced and blew on his burned hand. Snatching out his handkerchief he rubbed off
all the grease, and imagined the saucer was brighter.
"If 'a little is good, more is better,'" quoted the Harvester.
Wadding the handkerchief he returned the saucer to the engine. Then he
slipped out, dripping perspiration, glanced toward the cabin, and ran into the
work room. The first object he saw was a willow cup half full of red paint,
stuck and dried as if to remain forever. He took his knife and tried to whittle
it off, but noticing that he was scratching the cup he filled it with
turpentine, set it under a work bench, turned a tin pan over it, and covered it
with shavings. A few steps farther brought one in sight, filled with carpet
tacks. He searched everywhere, but could find no more, so he went to the
laboratory. Beside his wash bowl at the door stood the last willow saucer. He
had used it for years as a soap dish. He scraped the contents on the bench and
filled the dish with water. Four cups held medicinal seeds and were in good
condition. He lacked one, although he could not remember of ever having broken
it. Gathering his collection, he returned to the dry-house to see how the saucer
was coming on. Again it was bubbling, and he polished off the grease and set
back the dish. It certainly was growing better. He carried his treasures into
the work room, and went to the barn to feed. As he was leaving the stable he
uttered a joyous exclamation and snatched from a window sill a willow cup,
gummed and smeared with harness oil.
"The full set, by hokey!" marvelled the Harvester. "Say, Betsy, the only name
for this is luck! Now if I only can clean them, I'll be ready to make her tea
table, whatever that is. My I hope she will stay away until I get these in
He filled the last cup with turpentine, set it with the other under the work
bench, stacked the remaining pieces, polished the saucer he was baking, and went
to bring a dish pan and towel. He drew some water from the pipes of the
evaporator, put in the soap, and carried it to the work room. There he carefully
washed and wiped all the pieces, save two cups and one saucer. He did not know
how long it would require to bake the grease from that, but he was sure it was
improving. He thought he could clean the paint cup, but he imagined the harness
oil one would require baking also.
As he stood busily working over the dishes, with light step the Girl came to
the door. She took one long look and understood. She turned and swiftly went
back to the cabin, but her shoulders were shaking. Presently the Harvester came
in and explained that after finishing in the dry-house he had gone to do the
feeding. Then he suggested that before it grew dark they should go through the
rooms and see how they appeared, and gather the flowers the Girl wanted. So
together they decided everything was clean, comfortable, and harmonized.
Then they went to the hillside sloping to the lake. For the dining-room, the
Girl wanted yellow water lilies, so the Harvester brought his old boat and
gathered enough to fill the green bowl. For the living-room, she used wild
ragged robins in the blue bowl, and on one end of the mantel set a pitcher of
saffron and on the other arrowhead lilies. For her room, she selected big,
blushy mallows that grew all along Singing Water and around the lake.
"Isn't that slightly peculiar?" questioned the Harvester.
"Take a peep," said the Girl, opening her door.
She had spread the pink coverlet on her couch, and when she set the big pink
bowl filled with mallows on the table the effect was exquisite.
"I think perhaps that's a little Frenchy," she said, "and you may have to be
educated to it; but salmon pink and buttercup yellow are colours I love in
She closed the door and went to find something to eat, and then to the swing,
where she liked to rest, look, and listen. The Harvester suggested reading to
her, but she shook her head.
"Wait until winter," she said, "when the days are longer and cold, and the
snow buries everything, and then read. Now tell me about my hedge and the things
you have planted in it."
The Harvester went out and collected a bunch of twigs. He handed her a big,
evenly proportioned leaf of ovate shape, and explained: "This is burning bush,
so called because it has pink berries that hang from long, graceful stems all
winter, and when fully open they expose a flame-red seed pod. It was for this
colour on gray and white days that I planted it. In the woods I grow it in
thickets. The root bark brings twenty cents a pound, at the very least. It is
good fever medicine."
"Is it poison?"
"No. I didn't set anything acutely poisonous in your hedge. I wanted it to be
a mass of bloom you were free to cut for the cabin all spring, an attraction to
birds in summer, and bright with colour in winter. To draw the feathered tribe,
I planted alder, wild cherry, and grape-vines. This is cherry. The bark is
almost as beautiful as birch. I raise it for tonics and the birds love the
cherries. This fern-like leaf is from mountain ash, and when it attains a few
years' growth it will flame with colour all winter in big clusters of scarlet
berries. That I grow in the woods is a picture in snow time, and the bark is one
of my standard articles."
The Girl raised on her elbow and looked at the hedge.
"I see it," she said. "The berries are green now. I suppose they change
colour as they ripen."
"Yes," said the Harvester. "And you must not confuse them with sumac. The
leaves are somewhat similar, but the heads differ in colour and shape. The sumac
and buckeye you must not touch, until we learn what they will do to you. To some
they are slightly poisonous, to others not. I couldn't help putting in a few
buckeyes on account of the big buds in early spring. You will like the colour if
you are fond of pink and yellow in combination, and the red-brown nuts in
grayish-yellow, prickly hulls, and the leaf clusters are beautiful, but you must
use care. I put in witch hazel for variety, and I like its appearance; it's
mighty good medicine, too; so is spice brush, and it has leaves that colour
brightly, and red berries. These selections were all made for a purpose. Now
here is wafer ash; it is for music as well as medicine. I have invoked all good
fairies to come and dwell in this hedge, and so I had to provide an orchestra
for their dances. This tree grows a hundred tiny castanets in a bunch, and when
they ripen and become dry the wind shakes fine music from them. Yes, they are
medicine; that is, the bark of the roots is. Almost without exception everything
here has medicinal properties. The tulip poplar will bear you the loveliest
flowers of all, and its root bark, taken in winter, makes a good fever remedy."
"How would it do to eat some of the leaves and see if they wouldn't take the
feverishness from me?"
"It wouldn't do at all," said the Harvester. "We are well enough fixed to
allow Doc to come now, and he is the one to allay the fever."
"Oh no!" she cried. "No! I don't want to see a doctor. I will be all right
very soon. You said I was better."
"You are," said the Harvester. "Much better! We will have you strong and well
soon. You should have come in time for a dose of sassafras. Your hedge is filled
with that, because of its peculiar leaves and odour. I put in dogwood for the
white display around the little green bloom, lots of alder for bloom and
berries, haws for blossoms and fruit for the squirrels, wild crab apples for the
exquisite bloom and perfume, button bush for the buttons, a few pokeberry plants
for the colour, and I tried some mallows, but I doubt if it's wet enough for
them. I set pecks of vine roots, that are coming nicely, and ferns along the
front edge. Give it two years and that hedge will make a picture that will do
your eyes good."
"Can you think of anything at all you forgot?"
"Yes indeed!" said the Harvester. "The woods are full of trees I have not
used; some because I overlooked them, some I didn't want. A hedge like this, in
perfection, is the work of years. Some species must be cut back, some
encouraged, but soon it will be lovely, and its colour and fruit attract every
bird of the heavens and butterflies and insects of all varieties. I set several
common cherry trees for the robins and some blackberry and raspberry vines for
the orioles. The bloom is pretty and the birds you'll have will be a treat to
see and hear, if we keep away cats, don't fire guns, scatter food, and move
quietly among them. With our water attractions added, there is nothing
impossible in the way of making friends with feathered folk."
"There is one thing I don't understand," said the Girl. "You wouldn't risk
breaking the wing of a moth by keeping it when you wanted a drawing very much;
you don't seem to kill birds and animals that other people do. You almost
worship a tree; now how can you take a knife and peel the bark to sell or dig up
beautiful bushes by the root."
"Perhaps I've talked too much about the woods," said the Harvester gently.
"I've longed inexpressibly for sympathetic company here, because I feel rooted
for life, so I am more than anxious that you should care for it. I may have made
you feel that my greatest interest is in the woods, and that I am not consistent
when I call on my trees and plants to yield of their store for my purposes.
Above everything else, the human proposition comes first, Ruth. I do love my
trees, bushes, and flowers, because they keep me at the fountain of life, and
teach me lessons no book ever hints at; but above everything come my fellow men.
All I do is for them. My heart is filled with feeling for the things you see
around you here, but it would be joy to me to uproot the most beautiful plant I
have if by so doing I could save you pain. Other men have wives they love as
well, little children they have fathered, big bodies useful to the world, that
are sometimes crippled with disease. There is nothing I would not give to allay
the pain of humanity. It is not inconsistent to offer any growing thing you soon
can replace, to cure suffering. Get that idea out of your head! You said you
could worship at the shrine of the pokeberry bed, you feel holier before the
arrowhead lilies, your face takes on an appearance of reverence when you see
pink mallow blooms. Which of them would you have hesitated a second in uprooting
if you could have offered it to subdue fever or pain in the body of the little
mother you loved?"
"Oh I see!" cried the Girl. "Like everything else you make this different.
You worship all this beauty and grace, wrought by your hands, but you carry your
treasure to the market place for the good of suffering humanity. Oh Man! I love
the work you do!"
"Good!" cried the Harvester. "Good! And Ruth-girl, while you are about it,
see if you can't combine the man and his occupation a little."