Elizabeth & Her German Garden HTML version

his Swedes passed through more than once, as is duly recorded in archives still preserved,
for we are on what was then the high-road between Sweden and Brandenburg the
unfortunate. The Lion of the North was no doubt an estimable person and acted wholly
up to his convictions, but he must have sadly upset the peaceful nuns, who were not
without convictions of their own, sending them out on to the wide, empty plain to
piteously seek some life to replace the life of silence here.
From nearly all the windows of the house I can look out across the plain, with no obstacle
in the shape of a hill, right away to a blue line of distant forest, and on the west side
uninterruptedly to the setting sun--nothing but a green, rolling plain, with a sharp edge
against the sunset. I love those west windows better than any others, and have chosen my
bedroom on that side of the house so that even times of hair-brushing may not be entirely
lost, and the young woman who attends to such matters has been taught to fulfil her
duties about a mistress recumbent in an easychair before an open window, and not to
profane with chatter that sweet and solemn time. This girl is grieved at my habit of living
almost in the garden, and all her ideas as to the sort of life a respectable German lady
should lead have got into a sad muddle since she came to me. The people round about are
persuaded that I am, to put it as kindly as possible, exceedingly eccentric, for the news
has travelled that I spend the day out of doors with a book, and that no mortal eye has
ever yet seen me sew or cook. But why cook when you can get some one to cook for
you? And as for sewing, the maids will hem the sheets better and quicker than I could,
and all forms of needlework of the fancy order are inventions of the evil one for keeping
the foolish from applying their heart to wisdom.
We had been married five years before it struck us that we might as well make use of this
place by coming down and living in it. Those five years were spent in a flat in a town,
and during their whole interminable length I was perfectly miserable and perfectly
healthy, which disposes of the ugly notion that has at times disturbed me that my
happiness here is less due to the garden than to a good digestion. And while we were
wasting our lives there, here was this dear place with dandelions up to the very door, all
the paths grass-grown and completely effaced, in winter so lonely, with nobody but the
north wind taking the least notice of it, and in May--in all those five lovely Mays-- no one
to look at the wonderful bird-cherries and still more wonderful masses of lilacs,
everything glowing and blowing, the virginia creeper madder every year, until at last, in
October, the very roof was wreathed with blood-red tresses, the owls and the squirrels
and all the blessed little birds reigning supreme, and not a living creature ever entering
the empty house except the snakes, which got into the habit during those silent years of
wriggling up the south wall into the rooms on that side whenever the old housekeeper
opened the windows. All that was here,--peace, and happiness, and a reasonable life,--
and yet it never struck me to come and live in it. Looking back I am astonished, and can
in no way account for the tardiness of my discovery that here, in this far-away corner,
was my kingdom of heaven. Indeed, so little did it enter my head to even use the place in
summer, that I submitted to weeks of seaside life with all its horrors every year; until at
last, in the early spring of last year, having come down for the opening of the village
school, and wandering out afterwards into the bare and desolate garden, I don't know
what smell of wet earth or rotting leaves brought back my childhood with a rush and all