UT THIS WAS what had happened. Early the next morning, a man came driving up to the cottage with two strong white horses; in his wagon was a plough. I suppose you have seen ploughs, but Margery never had, and she watched with great interest, while the man and her father took the plough from the cart and harnessed the horses to it. It was a great, three-cornered piece of sharp steel, with long handles coming up from it, so that a man could hold it in place. It looked like this:-
"I brought a two-horse plough because it's virgin soil," the man said. Margery wondered what in the world he meant; it had not been cultivated, of course, but what had that do with the kind of plough? "What does he mean, father?" she whispered, when she got a chance. "He means that this land has not been ploughed before; it will be hard to turn the soil, and one horse could not pull the plough," said her father.
It took the man two hours to plough the little strip of land. He drove the sharp end of the plough into the soil, and held it firmly so, while the horses drew it along in a straight line. Margery found it fascinating to watch the long line of dark earth and green grass come rolling up and turn over, as the knife passed it. She could see that it took real skill and strength to keep the line even, and to avoid the stones. Sometimes the plough struck a hidden stone, and then the man was jerked almost off his feet. But he only laughed, and said, "Tough piece of land; it will be a lot better next year."
When he had ploughed, the man went back to his cart and unloaded another farm implement. This one was like a three-cornered platform of wood, with a long, curved, strong rake under it. It was called a harrow, and it looked like the diagram on the next page.
The man harnessed the horses to it, and then he stood on the platform and drove all over the strip of land. It was fun to watch, but perhaps it was a little hard to do. The man's weight kept the harrow steady, and let the teeth of the rake scratch and cut the ground up, so that it did not stay in ridges.
"He scrambles the ground, father!" said Margery.
"It needs 'scrambling,'" laughed her father. "We are going to get more weeds than we want on this fresh soil, and the more the ground is broken, the fewer there will be."
After the ploughing and harrowing, the man drove off, and Margery's father said that he himself would do the rest of the work in the late afternoons, when he came home from business; they could not afford too much help, he said, and he had learned to take care of a garden when he was a boy. So Margery did not see any more done until the next day.
But the next day there was hard work for Margery's father! Every bit of that ground had to be broken up still more with a spade, and then the clods which were full of grass-roots had to be taken on a fork and shaken, till the earth fell out; when the grass was thrown to one side. That would not have had to be done if the land had been ploughed in the autumn; the grass would have rotted in the ground, and would have made food for the plants. Now, Margery's father put the fertiliser on the top, and then raked it into the earth.
At last, it was time to make the place for the seeds. Margery and her mother helped. Father tied one end of a cord to a little stake, and drove the stake in the ground at one end of the garden. Then he took the cord to the other end of the garden and pulled it tight, tied it to another stake, and drove that down. That made a straight line. Then he hoed a trench, a few inches deep, the whole length of the cord, and scattered fertiliser in it. Pretty soon the whole garden was lined with little trenches.
"Now for the seed," said father.
Margery ran and brought the seed box. "May I help?" she asked.
"If you watch me sow one row, I think you can do the next," said her father.
So Margery watched. Her father took a handful of peas, and, stooping, walked slowly along the line, letting the seed trickle through his fingers. It was pretty to watch; it made Margery think of a photograph her teacher had, a photograph of a famous picture called "The Sower." Perhaps you have seen it.
Putting in the seed was not so easy to do as to watch; sometimes Margery dropped in too much, and sometimes not enough; but her father was patient with her, and soon she did better.
They planted peas, beans, spinach, carrots, and parsnips. And Margery's father made a row of holes, after that, for the tomato plants. He said those had to be transplanted; they could not be sown from seed.
When the seeds were in the trenches they had to be covered up, and Margery really helped at that. It is fun to do it. You stand beside the little trench and walk backward, and as you walk you hoe the loose earth back over the seeds; the same earth that was hoed up you pull back again. Then you rake very gently over the surface, with the back of a rake, to even it all off. Margery liked it, because now the garden began to look like a garden.
But best of all was the work next day, when her own little particular garden was begun. Father Brown loved Margery and Margery's mother so much that he wanted their garden to be perfect, and that meant a great deal more work. He knew very well that the old grass would begin to come through again on such soil, and that it would make terribly hard weeding. He was not going to have any such thing for his two "little girls," as he called them. So he gave that little garden particular attention. This is what he did.
After he had thrown out all the turf, he shovelled clean earth on to the garden,-as much as three solid inches of it; not a bit of grass was in that. Then it was ready for raking and fertilising, and for the lines. The little footpaths were marked out by Father Brown's feet; Margery and her mother laughed well at his actions, for it looked like some kind of dance. Mr Brown had seen gardeners do it when he was a little boy, and he did it very nicely: he walked along the sides of the square, with one foot turned a little out, and the other straight, taking such tiny steps that his feet touched each other all the time. This tramped out a path just wide enough for a person to walk.
The wider path was marked with lines and raked.
Margery thought, of course, all the flowers would be put in as the vegetables were; but she found that it was not so. For some, her father poked little holes with his finger; for some, he made very shallow trenches; and some very small seeds were scattered lightly over the top of the ground.
Margery and her mother had taken so much pains in thinking out the arrangement of the flowers, that perhaps you will like to hear just how they designed that garden. At the back were the sweet peas, which would grow tall, like a screen; on the two sides, for a kind of hedge, were yellow sunflowers; and along the front edge were the gay nasturtiums. Margery planned that, so that she could look into the garden from the front, but have it shut away from the vegetable patch by the tall flowers on the sides. The two front corners had canariensis in them. Canariensis is a pretty creeper with golden blossoms, very dainty and bright. And then, in little square patches all round the garden, were planted London pride, blue bachelor's buttons, yellow marigolds, tall larkspur, many-coloured asters, hollyhocks and stocks. All these lovely flowers used to grow in our grandmothers' gardens, and if you don't know what they look like, I hope you can find out next summer.
Between the flowers and the middle path went the seeds for that wonderful salad garden; all the things Mrs Brown had named to Margery were there. Margery had never seen anything more wonderful than the little round lettuce-seeds. They were so tiny that it did not seem possible that green lettuce leaves could come from them. But they surely would.
Mother and father and Margery were late to supper that evening. But they were all so happy that it did not matter. The last thing Margery thought of, as she went to sleep at night, was the dear, smooth little garden, with its funny footpath, and with the little sticks standing at the ends of the rows, labelled "lettuce," "beets," "helianthus," and so on.
"I have a garden! I have a garden!" was Margery's last thought as she went off to dreamland.