You read in books about the pleasures of London, and about how people who live in the country long for the gay whirl of fashion in town because the country is so dull. I do not agree with this at all. In London, or at any rate Lewisham, nothing happens unless you make it happen; or if it happens it doesn’t happen to you, and you don’t know the people it does happen to. But in the country the most interesting events occur quite freely, and they seem to happen to you as much as to any one else. Very often quite without your doing anything to help.
The natural and right ways of earning your living in the country are much jollier than town ones, too; sowing and reaping, and doing things with animals, are much better sport than fishmongering or bakering or oil-shopping, and those sort of things, except, of course, a plumber’s and gasfitter’s, and he is the same, town or country–most interesting and like an engineer.
I remember what a nice man it was that came to cut the gas off once at our old house in Lewisham, when my father’s business was feeling so poorly. He was a true gentleman, and gave Oswald and Dicky over two yards and a quarter of good lead piping, and a brass tap that only wanted a washer, and a whole handful of screws to do what we liked with. We screwed the back door up with the screws, I remember, one night when Eliza was out without leave. There was an awful row. We did not mean to get her into trouble. We only thought it would be amusing for her to find the door screwed up when she came down to take in the milk in the morning. But I must not say any more about the Lewisham house. It is only the pleasures of memory, and nothing to do with being beavers, or any sort of exploring.
I think Dora and Daisy are the kind of girls who will grow up very good, and perhaps marry missionaries. I am glad Oswald’s destiny looks at present as if it might be different.
We made two expeditions to discover the source of the Nile (or the north pole), and owing to their habit of sticking together and doing dull and praiseable things–like sewing, and helping with the cooking, and taking invalid delicacies to the poor and indignant–Daisy and Dora were wholly out of it both times, though Dora’s foot was now quite well enough to have gone to the north pole or the equator either. They said they did not mind the first time, because they like to keep themselves clean; it is another of their queer ways. And they said they had had a better time than us. (It was only a clergyman and his wife who called, and hot cakes for tea.) The second time they said they were lucky not to have been in it. And perhaps they were right. But let me to my narrating. I hope you will like it. I am going to try to write it a different way, like the books they give you for a prize at a girls’ school–I mean a “young ladies’ school,” of course–not a high school. High schools are not nearly so silly as some other kinds. Here goes:
“‘Ah, me!’ sighed a slender maiden of twelve summers, removing her elegant hat and passing her tapery fingers lightly through her fair tresses, ‘how sad it is–is it not?–to see able-bodied youths and young ladies wasting the precious summer hours in idleness and luxury.’
“The maiden frowned reproachingly, but yet with earnest gentleness, at the group of youths and maidens who sat beneath an umbragipeaous beech-tree and ate black currants.
“‘Dear brothers and sisters,’ the blushing girl went on, ‘could we not, even now, at the eleventh hour, turn to account these wasted lives of ours, and seek some occupation at once improving and agreeable?’