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Mushrooms On The Moor
by [?]

Mr. G. K. Chesterton does not like mushrooms. That is the most arresting fact that I have gleaned from reading, carefully and with delight, his Victorian Age in Literature. In his treatment of Dickens, he writes very contemptuously of ‘that Little Bethel to which Kit’s mother went,’ and he likens it to ‘ a monstrous mushroom that grows in the moonshine and dies in the dawn.’ Now no man who was really fond of the esculent and homely fungus would have employed such a metaphor by way of disparagement. I can only infer that Mr. Chesterton thinks mushrooms very nasty. His opinion of Little Bethel does not concern me. It is neither here nor there. But Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms ! I cannot get over that!

I feel very sorry for Mr. Chesterton. It is not merely a matter of taste. I would not presume to set my opinion in a matter of this kind over against his. But the authorities are with me. I have looked up the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and its opening sentence on the subject affirms that ‘there are few more delicious members of the vegetable kingdom than the common mushroom.’ I suppose that in these matters association has a lot to do with it. I cannot forget those delicious summer mornings in England when we boys, rising with the lark, stole out of the house like so many burglars, and scampered with our baskets across the fragrant meadows to gather the white buttons that dotted the sparkling, dew-drenched grass. It was, as I have said in the introduction to this book, a large part of childhood’s radiant romance! What tales our fancy wove into the fairy-rings under the elm-trees! We lifted each moist fungus half expecting to see the brownies and the elves fly from beneath it! And what fearsome care we took to include no single hypocritical toadstool among our treasures! I am really afraid that Mr. Chesterton would have been less conscientious. Mushrooms and toadstools are all alike to him. He can never have had such frolics in the fields as we enjoyed in those ecstatic summer mornings. And he never, therefore, knew the fierce joy of the breakfast that followed when, hungry as hunters, we returned with flushed faces to feast upon the spoils of our boisterous foray. Over such brave memories Mr. Chesterton cannot fondly linger. For Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms.

What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton? For, to Gene Stratton Porter’s hero, mushrooms were half-way to destiny. ‘In the morning, brilliant sunshine awoke him, and he arose to find the earth steaming.

‘”If ever there was a perfect mushroom morning!” he said to his dog. “We must hurry and feed the stock and ourselves, and gather some!” The Harvester breakfasted, fed the stock, hitched Betsy to the spring wagon, and went into the dripping, steamy woods. If any one had asked him that morning concerning his idea of heaven, he would never have dreamed of describing gold-paved streets, crystal pillars, jewelled gates, and thrones of ivory. He would have told you that the woods on a damp sunny May morning was heaven. He only opened his soul to beauty, and steadily climbed the hill to the crest, and then down the other side to the rich, half-shaded, half-open spaces, where big, rough mushrooms sprang in a night.’

Yes, a mushroom morning was heaven to the Harvester. And it was the mushrooms that led him the first step of the way towards the discovery of his dream-girl. The mushrooms represented the first of those golden stairs by which he climbed to his paradise. And Mr. Chesterton does not like mushrooms! What would the Harvester have said to Mr. Chesterton?