George Fenn.

The Rosery Folk

Not at all, my dear madam; hes a splendid fellow.

It must be terrible for his poor wife, Doctor Scales.

No, maam, it is not, because he has no wife; but it is very trying to his sweet sister.

I say, hark at that, said Scarlett, merrily his sweet sister. Ahem, Jack! In confidence, eh?

What do you mean? cried the doctor, as the ladies smiled.

I say you know his sweet sister. Is that the immortal she?

What? My choice? Ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha? laughed the doctor, with enjoyable mirth. No, no; Im cut out for a bachelor. No wedding for me. Bah! whats a poor doctor to do with a wife! No, sir; no, sir. Im going to preserve myself free of domestic cares for the benefit of all who may seek my aid.

Well, for my part, said Aunt Sophia, I think it must be a very terrible case.

Terrible, my dear madam.

But you will be able to cure him?

I hope so; but indeed that is all I can say. Such cases as this puzzle the greatest men.

I suppose, said Arthur Prayle, in a smooth bland voice, that you administer tonic medicines quinine and iron and the like?

O yes, said the doctor grimly. Thats exactly what we do, and it doesnt cure the patient in the least.

But you give him cold bathing and exercise, doctor?

O yes, Mr Prayle; cold bathing and exercise, plenty of them; but they dont do any good.

Hah! that is singular, said Prayle thoughtfully. Would the failure be from want of perseverance, do you think?

Perhaps so. One doesnt know how much to persevere, you see.

These matters are very strange very well worthy of consideration and study, Doctor Scales.

Very well worthy of consideration indeed, Mr Prayle, said the doctor; and then to himself: This fellow gives me a nervous affection in the toes.

I trust my remarks do not worry you, Lady Scarlett? said Prayle, in his bland way.

O no, not at all, replied that lady. Pray do not think we cannot appreciate a little serious talk.

Prayle smiled as he looked at the speaker a quiet sad smile, full of thankfulness; but it seemed to trouble Lady Scarlett, who hastened to join the conversation on the other side, replying only in monosyllables afterwards to Prayles remarks.

The dinner passed off very pleasantly, and at last the ladies rose and left the table, leaving the gentlemen to their wine, or rather to the modern substitute for the old custom their coffee, after which they smoked their cigarettes in the veranda, and the conversation once more took a medical turn.

I cant help thinking about that patient of yours, Jack, said Sir James. Poor fellow! What a shocking affair!

Yes, it must be a terrible life, said Prayle. Life, Arthur! it must be a sort of death, exclaimed Scarlett excitedly. Poor fellow! What a state!

Well, sympathys all very well, said the doctor, smiling in rather an amused way; but I dont see why you need get excited about it.

Oh, but it is horrible.

Dreadful! echoed Prayle.

Then I must have been an idiot to introduce it here, where all is so calm and peaceful, said the doctor.

Fancy what a shock it would give us all if we were suddenly to hear an omnibus go blundering by. James Scarlett, you are a lucky man. You have everything a fellow could desire in this world: money, a delightful home, the best of health

The best of wives, said Prayle softly. Thank you for that, Arthur, said Scarlett, turning and smiling upon the speaker.

Humph! Perhaps I was going to say that myself, said the doctor sourly. Hah! youre a lucky man.

Well, I dont grumble, said Scarlett, laughing. You fellows come down here just when everythings at its best; but there is such a season as winter, you know.

Of course there is, stupid! said the doctor. If there wasnt, who would care for fickle spring?

May the winter of adversity never come to your home, Cousin James, said Prayle softly: and he looked at his frank, manly young host with something like pathetic interest as he spoke.

Thank you, old fellow, thank you. Now, lets join the ladies.

This fellow wants to borrow fifty pounds, growled Doctor Scales. Then after a pause Theres that itching again in my toes.

Volume One Chapter Six.
Doctor Scales hears a Morning Lecture

Morning, Monnick, said the doctor, who had resigned himself to his fate, and had passed three days without attempting to escape from his pleasant prison.

Morning, sir, said the old gardener, touching his hat.

Sir James down yet?

Oh yes, sir, hes been in the peach-house this last hour.

Has he? thanks, said the doctor, walking on in that direction, to hear his old friends voice, directly after, humming away beneath the glass like some gigantic bee.

Hallo, lazybones! cried Sir James, who was busy at work with a syringe water-shooting the various insects that had affected a lodgment amongst his peach and nectarine trees.

Lazybones; be hanged! why, its barely five.

Well, thats late enough this weather. I love being out early.

Work of supererogation to tell me that, old fellow.

So it is, Jack, and I suppose Im a monomaniac. Fellows at the club laugh at me. They say, here you are with plenty of money, which is true; heaps of brains which is not; a title and a seat in the house, openings before you to get some day in the cabinet, and you go down in the country and work like a gardener. They think Im a fool.

Let em, said the doctor, grimly.

But I am a bit of a lunatic over garden matters, and country-life, Jack.

So much the better, said the doctor, lighting a cigar and beginning to walk up and down. Go on with your squirting.

Shant! I shall follow your bad habit. And Sir James took one of his friends cigars and began to smoke. Pleasure and profit together, he said; it will kill insects.

Nice place, this, said the doctor, glancing about the large light structure, with its healthy fruit trees growing vigorously; but I should be careful about sudden changes. Might get a cold that would affect you seriously.

Out, croaker! cried Sir James; I never catch cold. And he perched himself upon a pair of steps.

Going to preach? said the doctor, because if so Ill sit down.

Then sit, for I am, sir, a charity sermon; but there will be no collection after I have done.

Go ahead, said the doctor.

My dear guest, said Sir James, there is nothing pleasanter than being, through your own foresight, on the right side of the hedge. The bull may bellow and snort, and run at the unfortunates who carelessly cross the dangerous meadow, but it does not hurt you, who can calmly shout to those in danger to run here or there to save themselves from horns or hoofs. In the same way how satisfactory to float at your ease when the flood comes, and to see your neighbours floundering and splashing as they struggle to bank or tree, hardly saving themselves, while you, armed as you are with that pocket. Noahs Ark of a safety-belt, philosophically think, what a pity it is that people will not take precautions against the inevitable.

What are you aiming at, Jemmy? said the doctor.

Sir, said Sir James, waving his cigar; I take this roundabout way of approaching that most popular though slightly threadbare subject, the weather; and as I do so I cannot help, in my self-satisfied way, feeling a kind of contemptuous compassion for those who, being agriculturally or horticulturally disposed, go out metaphorically without macintosh, umbrella, or goloshes. It is in this spirit that I feel but small pity for unfortunate Pat who, knowing that Erin is so green on account of its heavy rainfall, will persist in making the staple of his growth the highly satisfactory but tropical potato that child of the sun which blights and rots and dies away in a humid atmosphere, the consequence of our heavy downpours of rain. But we must have potatoes, say both Pat, and John Bull. True: then do as I, Ajax, the weather defier, have done: grow early sorts, which flourish, ripen, and can be housed before the setting in of the heavy autumnal rains.

Hear, hear, said the doctor, sitting back in his wicker chair and holding his fuming cigar in the middle of a peach-tree, where some insects had effected a lodgment.

Thats right, doctor, give them a good dose, said Sir James following suit. But to proceed. It is not apropos of tubers that I indulge this spring in a pleasant warm feeling of self-satisfaction, but on account of wall-fruit the delicious plum, a bag of golden saccharine pulp, or a violet bloomed, purple-skinned mass of deliciously flavoured amber; the downy-skinned peach, with a ruddy tint like that of a bonny English maidens cheek; the fiery stoned luscious nectarine that vinous ambrosial fruit that ought to be eaten with the eyes closed that the soul may dream and be transported into transports of mundane bliss; item, the apricot, that bivalve of fruits which will daintily split into two halves, to enable you to drop the stone before partaking of its juicy joys. Come good season or bad season your Londoner sees the pick of these princes of the fruit world reposing in perfect trim in the market or window; but in such an autumn as the past it was melancholy to walk round ones friends gardens say with Tompkins or Smith or Robinson, each of whom spends a little fortune upon his grounds, over which Macduff or Macbeth or Macfarlane, or some other gairdner fra the North, tyrannically presides. The plums upon the most favoured walls were cracked, and dropped spoiled from the trees; the peaches looked white and sickly, and were spotted with decomposition; the nectarines that consented to stay on the twigs were hard and green, and where one that approached the appearance of ripeness was tasted, it was watery, flavourless, and poor.

Watery, flavourless, and poor, is good, said the doctor. I dont often buy wall-fruit, but if I do spend sixpence in the Central Avenue, Covent Garden, that is about the state of the purchase.

Exactly, said Sir James eagerly, and it is impossible to help triumphing in ones pity while one reasonably says, Why attempt to grow out-of-doors the tender fruits of a warmer clime in such a precarious country as ours? Or, if you must grow them, why not metaphorically provide your peaches, nectarines, apricots, and choice plums with goloshes, macintoshes, and, above all, with an umbrella? I do, and I egotistically take my friends to see the result. Their trees are drenched, desolate, and the saturated ground beneath is strewn with rotting fruit. My trees, on the contrary, have their toes nice and warm; their bodies are surrounded by a comfortable great coat; and, above all, their delicate leaves and still more delicate blossoms are sheltered by a spreading umbrella of glass. In other words I grow them in an orchard house, and the result is that they are laden with luscious fruit.

Ah! said the doctor, but this is the luxury of the rich, my boy: glass-houses are a great expense.

By no means, Jack. If gorgeous glass palaces and Paxtonian splendour are desired, of course I have nothing to say; but the man of modest mind who likes to exercise his own ingenuity to slope some rafters from the top of a garden wall to a few posts and boards in front, and cover in the slope with the cheapest glass, may provide himself at a very trifling expense with a glazed shed, within whose artificial climate he may grow as many choice plants as he chooses, he may begin with five pounds, or go up to five hundred, as he pleases: the fruit would be the same: all that is required is shelter, ventilation, and abundance of light. The heat is provided by Nature, none other is needed no furnaces, boilers, hot-water pipes, flues, or expensive apparatus of any kind; finally, comprehensively, nothing is necessary but a glass-roofed shed with brick or boarded sides, and, I repeat, the roughest structure will give as good fruit, perhaps as much satisfaction, as the grandest house.

Just as poor Hodge enjoys his slice of bacon as much as you do your pat?.

Exactly, Jack, continued Sir James, who was well mounted upon his hobby, there is no secret about the matter. The delicate fruits of the peach family, and even choicer plums, are most abundant bearers; all they want is a suitable climate to produce their stores. That climate, save, say, once in seven or eight years, England does not afford. The troubles of these aristocrats of the garden begin very early in the year, when, according to their habit, every twig puts forth a wondrous display of crimson, pink, and delicately-tinted white bloom, just at a time when our nipping frosts of early spring are rife. The consequence is that in a few short hours the hopes of a season are blighted. In sheltered positions often, by chance, a few blossoms, as a gardener would say, set their fruit, which run the gauntlet of our fickle clime, and perhaps ripen, but more likely drop from the trees in various stages of their approach to maturity, the whole process being so disheartening that, in a season like the past, many gardeners declared that it was a hopeless effort to attempt to grow peaches and nectarines out-of-doors.

The doctor looked at his watch.

All! it isnt breakfast time yet, Jack, and you are in for my lecture. As I was about to say, nous avons chang? tout cela. We build our orchard house handsome or plain, according to our means, and in that shelter we have an artificial climate, such as made some gentlemen from the South of France exclaim, when visiting the gardens of the late Mr Rivers, of Sawbridgeworth, the introducer of the system, Ah! Monsieur Rivers, voici notre climat! In fact the above gentleman, in his interesting work, says: An orchard house in the south of England will give as nearly as possible the summer climate of Toulouse. And this, mind, from sun heat and earth heat alone heat which, so far from needing increase, has to be modified by abundant ventilation.

Ah! thats what I want you to mind, old fellow, said the doctor; you are not a plant, and I dont want you to get yourself in a state of heat under the glass here, and then expose yourself to abundant ventilation.

Only like cooling after a Turkish bath, said Sir James.

I dont like Turkish baths, said the doctor, the overheating affects the nerves.

You are always croaking about the nerves, said Sir James; but as I was saying

Oh! go on, preach the orchard house down, said the doctor, Ill listen.

Im preaching it up, man, said Sir James. Given the matter of the orchard house, then, what next? Presuming that you have taken advantage of the possession of a south or south west wall already covered with trees, and against which you have placed glass roof and simple front and ends, all else necessary is to plant the space unoccupied by nailed-up trees moderately full of little bushes and standards.

I always thought peaches and nectarines ought to be nailed-up against walls till I saw yours, said the doctor.

Yes; if you like to torture them into that position; but they will grow and bear better like ordinary apple-trees or pears, only asking for abundant pruning, plenty of water, and freedom from insect plagues. If you prefer so doing, you may grow them in large pots, the same as you would camellias, and ornament your dining-table with a beautiful little eighteen-inch or two-feet high Early Louise peach, an Elruge nectarine, or Moor Park apricot, bearing its dozen or so of perfectly-shaped fruit. And to the man of frugal mind this has its advantages; for every one exclaims, Oh, it would be a pity to pick them! and the dessert is saved.

My dear James, I shall never say that, I promise you.

Youre a humbug, Jack. Here we are, and all this place, asking you to run down and share some of its fruits, but you will never come. But to proceed. I think I shall write a pamphlet on this subject.

I would, said the doctor, drily.

I dont care for your chaff, my boy. I want to see poor people refine their ways, working-men growing vines, old ladies with orchard houses.

And I hope you may get it, said the doctor.

My dear Jack, continued Sir James, such a structure as an orchard house for a long period of the year is a thing of beauty, and a walk down the central avenue, with the little trees blooming, leafing, and fruiting, is a joy, for ever so long. There is a large sound about that central avenue, but, believe me, there is great pleasure to be derived if the little path be only six feet long, and this is a pleasure that can be enjoyed by the man of very humble means, who may make it profitable if he has the heart to sell his pets. Even in the simplest structure there is infinite variety to be obtained.

I daresay, said the doctor. I say, how this leaf has curled up. It has killed the insects, though.

So would you curl up if a giant held a red hot cigar end against your body, said Sir James. Do I bore you?

Not a bit, my dear boy; not a bit, cried the doctor. You do me good. Your verdant prose refreshes me, and makes me think the world is better than it is.

Get out. But Ive nearly done. I say, Jack, Im trying this on you. Its part of a lecture Im writing to deliver at our National School.

And here have I been sitting admiring your eloquence. Oh! James Scarlett, what a deceitful world is this! But there: go on, old enthusiast.

Some of the commonest plums, continued Sir James, are lovely objects when grown under glass; so are the dwarf cherries, trees which are clusters of coral from root to top, while those who have not partaken of that wonderfully beautiful fruit, the apple, when a choice American kind is grown in an orchard house, have a new sensation before them in the way of taste. The modern Continental mode of growing fruit on cordons, as they are termed, a simple stick, so to speak, without an extraneous branch, all being fruit spurs, enables the lover of such a form of horticulture to place an enormous number of trees beneath his glass in a very small space, as they will flourish well at a distance of two feet apart all along the back and sides, and three feet apart in the centre, while as to expense, the choicest of young trees can be purchased for from eighteenpence to half-a-crown each. In fact, if I wanted an orchard house, I would start with quite a small one, erected and stocked for a five-pound note, and if I could not raise so large a sum, I would do it for half the money with old sashes from some house-wreckers stock, and grow it to a better by-and-by.

How much did this place cost? said the doctor.

Five hundred, said Sir James. But listen to the finish, old fellow. Ajax, if he builds himself such a structure, can defy the weather the much-abused weather, which, in spite of all that has been said, seems much the same as ever, people forgetting that they ask it to perform the same miracles of growth that it does in Eastern and Southern climes. Nature meant England to grow sloes, blackberries, and crabs, and we ask her to grow the pomegranate, the orange, and the date. She definitely says she wont, though she does accord the fig, but in a very insipid, trashy way. Put up the glass umbrella however, and shut out her freezing winds, and she will perform wonders at our call. Our grandfathers thought they had done everything when they had planted their trees against a sheltering wall. Our fathers went farther, and gave us the idea of growing grapes and pines in a house of glass. But, the pine and grape were luxurious affairs, not to be approached by the meek, to whom these ideas are presented as facts that will add another pleasure to their lives.

As the celebrated Samuel Weller observed, when he had listened patiently to the Shepherds discourse, Brayvo! Very pretty! But I say, Im getting hungry.

Not seven yet, said Sir James; go and get yourself a glass of milk, and Ill have a walk with you till breakfast time. Here, Ill come with you now.

But, my dear boy, you are not coming out of this hot, moist atmosphere without first putting on a coat?

Stuff! Nothing hurts me, Im used to it.

My dear fellow, youll have a bad attack some day, said the doctor.

Not if I know it, Jack. Get out, you old rascal, you want to run me up a bill. Im as sound as a roach, and shall be as long as I lead my country-life. I say, Im going to empty the pond to-day. Well get the water out, and then the ladies can come and see us catch the fish.

Us? said the doctor, us?

Yes, you shall have a landing-net at the end of a pole. Youll come?

Is Prayle going to be there?

Of course.

Then I think I shall stay away.

Nonsense, you prejudiced humbug. I want you to see the fun. You will come?

My dear James Scarlett, I do not get on at my profession, I know now why. It is from weakness of will. I see it now. You have taught me that lesson this morning. First, I find myself listening to a rigmarole about growing fruit under glass. Now I am weakly consenting to make myself as much a schoolboy as you in your verdant idyllic life.

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