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....