Master Simon's Garden A Story
MASTER SIMON’S GARDEN
Margeret loved them too.
|I||The Edge of the World|
|II||Master Simon’s Pilgrimage|
|III||Roofs of Gold|
|IV||The Gospel of Fear|
|VI||The Schoolhouse Lane|
|VII||Goody Parsons on Guard|
Old Goody Parsons, with her cleanest whitekerchief, her most sorrowful expression offace and her biggest brown basket, had gonedown through the village and across the hill to tellMaster Simon what a long, hard winter it had beenand how her cupboard was as bare, indeed, as MotherHubbard’s own. Now, as she made her way up thestony path again, her wrinkled old face was wreathedin smiles and her burden sagged heavily from herarm, for once more it had been proved that no onewho came hungry to Master Simon’s door ever wentaway unsatisfied. He had piled her basket highwith good things from his garden, his wife had addedthree loaves of freshly baked bread and a jar ofhoney, and his little daughter Margeret had walkedpart of the way up the hill to help the old woman onher homeward road.
“Good-bye to you, little Mistress,” Goody Parsonscalled after her when they parted at last, “andmay the blessings on your dear father and motherbe as many as are the good gifts in my basket.”
Margeret, since her father needed her, did notwait to reply, but scampered away down the pathagain. The old woman stood on the hill-crest lookingdown at the scattered houses of the little Puritantown, at the spreading, sloping meadows and thewide salt marshes growing yellow-green under thepleasant April sunshine.
“These hills and meadows will never look as fairto me as those of England,” she sighed, “but afterall it is a goodly land that we have come to. Evenif there be hunger and cold and want in it, arethere not also freedom and kindness and MasterSimon?”
The little town of Hopewell had been establishedlong enough to have passed by those first terribleyears when suffering and starvation filled the NewEngland Colonies. There were, however, manyhard lessons to be learned before those who knewhow to live and prosper in the Old World couldmaster the arts necessary to the keeping of body andsoul together in the New. Men who had tilled therich smooth fields of England and had followed theplough down the furrows that their great-grand-fathershad trod before them, must now break outnew farm lands in those boulder-strewn meadowsthat sloped steeply down to the sea. Grievous workthey surely found it, and small the returns for thefirst hard years. Yet, whenever food or fire orcourage failed, the simplest remedy in the world forevery trouble was to go in haste to Master SimonRadpath. His grassy meadow was always green,his fields rich every harvest time with bowing grain,his garden always crowded with herbs and vegetables,and gay the whole summer long with flowers,scarlet and white and yellow.
The old woman who had been his visitor to-daywatched Margeret’s yellow head disappear downthe lane, and then turned to rest her basket on therude stone wall, not because the burden was tooheavy for her stout old arm, but because she heardfootsteps behind her and she did dearly love to stopa neighbour on the road for a bit of talk.
“Good morrow, friend,” she cried out, almostbefore she saw to whom she was speaking.
Her face fell a little when she discovered that itwas only Samuel Skerry, the little crooked-backedshoemaker who lived with his apprentice in a tinycottage, one field away from Master Simon’s garden.A scowling, morose fellow the shoemaker was, butGoody Parsons’ eager tongue could never be stoppedby that.
“Spring is surely coming at last, neighbour,” shebegan, quite undisturbed by Skerry’s sullen greeting.“Here is another winter gone where it can troubleold bones no longer.”
“Spring indeed,” snarled the shoemaker, in hisharsh voice, “why, the wind is cold as January andevery key-hole in my house was shrieking aloud alllast night! Where see you any Spring?”
“I have been, but now, to visit Master and MistressRadpath,” she returned, “and their garden isalready green, with a whole row of golden daffodilsnodding before the door.”
“Ah,” answered her companion, “trust MasterSimon to have some foolish, useless blossoms in hisgarden the moment the sun peeps out of the winterclouds. Does he never remember that so much timespent on what is only bright and gaudy is not strictlyin accord with our Puritan law?”
“It was with herbs from that same garden thathe healed you and many of the rest of us during thatdreadful season of sickness,” retorted Goody Parsons,“and did you not lie ill for two months of thatsummer and yet have a better harvest than any yearbefore, because he had tended your fields along withhis own?”
“Ay, and preached to me afterwards about everynettle and bramble that he found there, as thougheach had been one of the seven deadly sins. No,no, I like not his ways and I am weary of all thistalk of how great and good a man is Master Simon.I fear me that all is not well in that bright-floweringgarden of his.” The shoemaker nodded craftily, asthough he knew much that he would not tell.
Goody Parsons edged nearer. She was gratefulto that gentle-voiced, kind-faced Master Simon whohad helped her so often in trouble; she loved himmuch but, alas, she loved gossip more.
“Tell me what they say, good neighbour,” shecoaxed.
Samuel Skerry was provokingly silent for a space.
“They say,” he said at last, “that in that garden—beyondthe tulip bed—behind the hedge—”
“Yes, yes!” she gasped as he paused again.
“There is Something hid,” he concluded—“Somethingthat no one of us ever sees but thatneighbours hear, sometimes, crying aloud.”
“But what is it?” she begged to know, in anagony of curiosity.
“Hush, I will whisper in your ear,” he said. “Itwere not meet to speak such a thing aloud.”
Goody Parsons bent her grey head to listen, andstarted back at the shoemaker’s low-spoken words.
“Ah, surely that can not be true of so good aPuritan!” she cried in horror.
“You may believe me or not, according to yourwill,” returned the shoemaker testily. “You werethere but now; did you hear naught?”
Loyalty to her dear Master Simon and love ofgiving information struggled for a moment in theGoody’s withered face, but at last the words simplyburst from her.
“I did hear a strange cry,” she said. “Ah, woeis me to think ill of so good a man! Come with metoward my house, Neighbour Skerry, and I will tellyou what the sound was like.”
So off the two went together, their heads bentclose, their lips moving busily, as they gossiped withwords that were to travel far.
Only Master Simon, his wife and his daughter,Margeret, knew the real reason why his garden andfields had greater success than any other’s, knew ofthe ceaseless labour and genuine love that he expendedupon his plants and flowers. Margeretloved them also, and would often rise early and goout with him to weed the hills of Indian corn, waterthe long beds of sweet-smelling herbs or coax somedrooping shrub back to life and bloom. It waspleasant to be abroad then, when the grey mists lyingover the wide, quiet harbour began to lift andturn to silver, when the birds were singing in thegreat forest near by and the dark-leaved bayberrybushes dropped their dew like rain when she brushedagainst them. Then she would see, also, mysteriousforms slipping out of the dark wood, the graceful,silent figures of the friendly Indians, who also gotup before the dawn and came hither for long talkswith their good friend, Master Simon. Theybrought him flowers, roots and