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by [?]

Tiverton has breezy, upland roads, and damp, sweet valleys; but should you tarry there a summer long, you might find it wasteful to take many excursions abroad. For, having once received the freedom of family living, you will own yourself disinclined to get beyond dooryards, those outer courts of domesticity. Homely joys spill over into them, and, when children are afoot, surge and riot there. In them do the common occupations of life find niche and channel. While bright weather holds, we wash out of doors on a Monday morning, the wash-bench in the solid block of shadow thrown by the house. We churn there, also, at the hour when Sweet-Breath, the cow, goes afield, modestly unconscious of her own sovereignty over the time. There are all the varying fortunes of butter-making recorded. Sometimes it comes merrily to the tune of

“Come, butter, come!
Peter stands a-waiting at the gate,
Waiting for his butter-cake.
Come, butter, come!”

chanted in time with the dasher; again it doth willfully refuse, and then, lest it be too cool, we contribute a dash of hot water, or too hot, and we lend it a dash of cold. Or we toss in a magical handful of salt, to encourage it. Possibly, if we be not the thriftiest of householders, we feed the hens here in the yard, and then “shoo” them away, when they would fain take profligate dust-baths under the syringa, leaving unsightly hollows. But however, and with what complexion, our dooryards may face the later year, they begin it with purification. Here are they an unfailing index of the severer virtues; for, in Tiverton, there is no housewife who, in her spring cleaning, omits to set in order this outer pale of the temple. Long before the merry months are well under way, or the cows go kicking up their heels to pasture, or plants are taken from the south window and clapped into chilly ground, orderly passions begin to riot within us, and we “clear up” our yards. We gather stray chips, and pieces of bone brought in by the scavenger dog, who sits now with his tail tucked under him, oblivious of such vagrom ways. We rake the grass, and then, gilding refined gold, we sweep it. There is a tradition that Miss Lois May once went to the length of trimming her grass about the doorstone and clothes-pole with embroidery scissors; but that was a too-hasty encomium bestowed by a widower whom she rejected next week, and who qualified his statement by saying they were pruning-shears.

After this preliminary skirmishing arises much anxious inspection of ancient shrubs and the faithful among old-fashioned plants, to see whether they have “stood the winter.” The fresh, brown “piny” heads are brooded over with a motherly care; wormwood roots are loosened, and the horse-radish plant is given a thrifty touch. There is more than the delight of occupation in thus stirring the wheels of the year. We are Nature’s poor handmaidens, and our labor gives us joy.

But sweet as these homespun spots can make themselves, in their mixture of thrift and prodigality, they are dearer than ever at the points where they register family traits, and so touch the humanity of us all. Here is imprinted the story of the man who owns the farm, that of the father who inherited it, and; the grandfather who reclaimed it from waste; here have they and their womenkind set the foot of daily living and traced indelible paths. They have left here the marks of tragedy, of pathos, or of joy. One yard has a level bit of grassless ground between barn and pump, and you may call it a battlefield, if you will, since famine and desire have striven there together. Or, if you choose to read fine meanings into threadbare things, you may see in it a field of the cloth of gold, where simple love of life and childlike pleasure met and sparkled for no eye to see. It was a croquet ground, laid out in the days when croquet first inundated the land, and laid out by a woman. This was Della Smith, the mother of two grave children, and the wife of a farmer who never learned to smile. Eben was duller than the ox which ploughs all day long for his handful of hay at night and his heavy slumber; but Della, though she carried her end of the yoke with a gallant spirit, had dreams and desires forever bursting from brown shells, only to live a moment in the air, and then, like bubbles, die. She had a perpetual appetite for joy. When the circus came to town, she walked miles to see the procession; and, in a dream of satisfied delight, dropped potatoes all the afternoon, to make up. Once, a hand-organ and monkey strayed that way, and it was she alone who followed them; for the children were little, and all the saner house-mothers contented themselves with leaning over the gates till the wandering train had passed. But Della drained her draught of joy to the dregs, and then tilted her cup anew. With croquet came her supremest joy,–one that leavened her days till God took her, somewhere, we hope, where there is playtime. Della had no money to buy a croquet set, but she had something far better, an alert and undiscouraged mind. On one dizzy afternoon, at a Fourth of July picnic, when wickets had been set up near the wood, she had played with the minister, and beaten him. The game opened before her an endless vista of delight. She saw herself perpetually knocking red-striped balls through an eternity of wickets; and she knew that here was the one pastime of which no soul could tire. Afterwards, driving home with her husband and two children, still in a daze of satisfied delight, she murmured absently:–