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The Story of Uncle Dick
by [?]

I had two schools offered me that summer, one at Rocky Valley and one at Bayside. At first I inclined to Rocky Valley; it possessed a railway station and was nearer the centres of business and educational activity. But eventually I chose Bayside, thinking that its country quietude would be a good thing for a student who was making school-teaching the stepping-stone to a college course.

I had reason to be glad of my choice, for in Bayside I met Uncle Dick. Ever since it has seemed to me that not to have known Uncle Dick would have been to miss a great sweetness and inspiration from my life. He was one of those rare souls whose friendship is at once a pleasure and a benediction, showering light from their own crystal clearness into all the dark corners in the souls of others until, for the time being at least, they reflected his own simplicity and purity. Uncle Dick could no more help bringing delight into the lives of his associates than could the sunshine or the west wind or any other of the best boons of nature.

I had been in Bayside three weeks before I met him, although his farm adjoined the one where I boarded and I passed at a little distance from his house every day in my short cut across the fields to school. I even passed his garden unsuspectingly for a week, never dreaming that behind that rank of leafy, rustling poplars lay a veritable “God’s acre” of loveliness and fragrance. But one day as I went by, a whiff of something sweeter than the odours of Araby brushed my face and, following the wind that had blown it through the poplars, I went up to the white paling and found there a trellis of honeysuckle, and beyond it Uncle Dick’s garden. Thereafter I daily passed close by the fence that I might have the privilege of looking over it.

It would be hard to define the charm of that garden. It did not consist in order or system, for there was no trace of either, except, perhaps, in that prim row of poplars growing about the whole domain and shutting it away from all idle and curious eyes. For the rest, I think the real charm must have been in its unexpectedness. At every turn and in every nook you stumbled on some miracle of which you had never dreamed. Or perhaps the charm was simply that the whole garden was an expression of Uncle Dick’s personality.

In one corner a little green dory, filled with earth, overflowed in a wave of gay annuals. In the centre of the garden an old birch-bark canoe seemed sailing through a sea of blossoms, with a many-coloured freight of geraniums. Paths twisted and turned among flowering shrubs, and clumps of old-fashioned perennials were mingled with the latest fads of the floral catalogues. The mid-garden was a pool of sunshine, with finely sifted winds purring over it, but under the poplars there were shadows and growing things that loved the shadows, crowding about the old stone benches at each side. Somehow, my daily glimpse of Uncle Dick’s garden soon came to symbolize for me a meaning easier to translate into life and soul than into words. It was a power for good within me, making its influence felt in many ways.

Finally I caught Uncle Dick in his garden. On my way home one evening I found him on his knees among the rosebushes, and as soon as he saw me he sprang up and came forward with outstretched hand. He was a tall man of about fifty, with grizzled hair, but not a thread of silver yet showed itself in the ripples of his long brown beard. Later I discovered that his splendid beard was Uncle Dick’s only vanity. So fine and silky was it that it did not hide the candid, sensitive curves of his mouth, around which a mellow smile, tinged with kindly, quizzical humour, always lingered. His face was tanned even more deeply than is usual among farmers, for he had an inveterate habit of going about hatless in the most merciless sunshine; but the line of forehead under his hair was white as milk, and his eyes were darkly blue and as tender as a woman’s.