How I Do Love Water-Lilies!
Unhappy episodes in the life of a husband who, being seduced by spareribs and deceived by a catalogue, was nearly ruined by a shovel
J. E. MARCH
NO GARDEN is complete without a water-lily pond. The blooms are so delicate and fragrant. And the goldfish! Yes, of course, you should have one. dear. It’s really very easy to arrange."
Yeah! I always agree with my wife.
More especially do I agree when the local chit and chatter club is cluttering up the premises. I know I'm peculiar that way.
But privately, in the strong, silent Western fashion, I remark: "Yeah!" No normal husband likes preparing lily ponds. No normal, poker-playing, commuting husband, I repeat, likes lily ponds. He may tolerate them. He may even prepare them to please his wife or to show he can do it. But he will never develop a passion for them. Not a real passion. Not such a passion as would lead him to sit by the pool and croon lullabies to the goldfish. I should say not !
It must have been the depression, or perhaps I needed one of those old-fashioned toning-up spring doses that grandmother used to prepare. Anyway, I was involved in the water-lily project long before I was aware that lily-pond propaganda was loose in the household. Husbands know how these things are done. First one seed catalogue, followed by a lot of seed catalogues, then:
“Wouldn't it be nice to have a lily pond? Just a small one, dear. I/x»k at this lovely picture. I don't see why our garden couldn't look like that." Husbandsare well, just husbands.
Our lily pond was authorized that way Yes, we have a lib,' [Kind My wife made up our mind that we were going to have a lily pond in the garden. Only she neglected to inform me of our decision. She didn’t step up in straightforward man-to-man fashion, thump me heartily on the fiack, and say. "Ed. old man. we're going to have a lily
As I say, she didn’t give me a chance to retort. "Like blazes we are." Not she. She has brains. Some idiots call this wifely trait feminine intuition It isn t It s pure
knowledge, and as such is entitled to respect. Instead, she had pork spareribs, cabbage and mashed potatoes for dinner. She knew don’t try to tell me she didn’t that for such a combination of anti-health food I would betray my country, forgive the owner of that big dog down the street, and sign notes for a total stranger.
The rest was too simple. There I was with a napkin tucked under the double chin, oozing brotherly love, human kindness and pan gravy, a monument to the potency of spareribs. and mentally a total loss. There I was, I repeat, a defenseless he-critter with a diet-be-damned expression in my glazing eyes and a weak right hand reaching toward the
"Dear,” she said. "My wife knows something about psychological moments. "My dear, wouldn’t a little lily pool look lovely in the middle of that big flower
"It would,” I heard myself reply, "look
I knew I should be shocked at the idea, but that’s what I said. Dang it, I had a vision of thousands of water-lilies as they looked on the marsh back of the old place down home. Doggone, I'd made ice-cream money selling them when the passenger trains stopped at our village station. Thousands of white waterlilies scattered over acres of swamp, the blossoms floating on the placid water just two feet above the muddy bottom. Barefooted in the old duck boat, and the fun of selling them for a dime a dozen! Beautiful things, water-lilies. I picked weakly at a last series of spareribs.
"Fine, dear.” I waded boldly into the lily pool. “Clever of you to think of it."
Joy shone in my wife's eyes. I had that big-man-of-theworld-making-the-little-woman-happy feeling. Old John B. Shining Mark in person. After that I didn’t have a chance. My wife, bless her efficient little soul, had already written to this water-lily firm and that one.
"I hope you don’t mind, dear, but I thought it would be so nice to know if we could get the roots and things."
How did she know I was a fool for water-lilies? How?
So we have water-lilies.
HAVING water lilies is no joke. In fact, it's a kind of disease It .spreads. Not like measles but like something that really can spread in a big way. The idea flows out and around and leads to curious researches and results, and includes matters and affair* such a* arguments with the Department of Agriculture and a two weeks survey of the wooden wauhtub industry the
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latter leading to the discovery that there isn’t any wooden washtub industry in Canada any more. Indeed, it is a scientific, historic and industrial fact that wixiden washtubs passed away with our great grandmothers, and that their disappearance was coincident with the Chinese discovery of America. This fact should be published abroad, if only to prevent disaster to the amateur water-lily business. Wooden washtubs are important. I didn't know how important wixxien washtubs are. and they aren’t made any more. Dam this romancedestroying machine age!
In the matter of strict record and maintaining the sanctity of the ship s log. it must be admitted that the matter of securing a suitable tub in which to grow water-lilies had already been solved by the promoter and originator of the enterprise.
She said, quite reasonably. "Why not write to the man in New Jersey who sells water-lily roots? It says right here in the catalogue that he has special tubs. ’
But not I Who ever heard of sending to New Jersey for a wixxien washtub? Well, if it wasn’t a wixxien washtub it looked like
“I would,” I said, “just step over to the lixal hardware store and order one.
“I want,” I told the hardware man, “a wixxien washtub.”
The hardware man was surprised.
“1 can," he offered coldly, "sell you a nice
electric washer on the installment plan." He evidently mistook me for a wife-beater and a hard man to get along with.
"I want it," I said, “to grow waterlilies in."
It was plain that the hardware man looked upon me as a liar. The hardware business had apparently ruined his sense of romance and beauty. He was sorry for my wife. "Wixxien washtubs ain't made any more." Afterward it appeared that my wife had asked him about wixxien washtubs lx-fore I did. and without explaining. Wives will create these little misunderstandings.
The next day I had a disagreement with the lixal contractor. He would. 1 thought, have a half barrel. I maintain that was a reasonable thought. Any contractor worthy of the name should have a half barrel.
"What." he asked suspiciously, “do you want with a half barrel.'”
"Grow water-lilies." I replied.
What did 1 want to grow water-lilies for? “Hi. Bill, this fella wants to gi./.v waterlilies."
Bill stopjx-d piling Ixiards and joined his employer in inspecting me.
“You can Ixith." 1 remarked, "go sit in your half barrels until you freeze.'
After that I walked warily. Mostly I telephoned in a broken-hearted and pathetic way to [x-ople whose numbers my friends gave me as likely to own half Ijarréis or wixxien washtubs In thiswise I unwittingly called two Italian slux-sliine stands, the
local communistic headquarters where an obliging person offered to punch my jaw. and the local police station where they very efficiently traced my call and came around in the patrol wagon seeking an explanation. It certainly is impressive having the patrol wagon at the dixir. and certainly it arouses deep interest and speculation among the neighbors. If the sergeant in charge hadn't been a married man and a sportsman oh. well.
X yfY WIFE was getting restive. It was, ^ ^ she thought, queer that a wooden washtub was not forthcoming. She mentioned New Jersey. It would lxeasy to write to the man there, and here was the summer almost over, or anyway almost nearly over, and not a lily tub on the premises. Other women's husbands seemed to be able to get things and no trouble at all. But I found a friend. He lives on a back street in the East End. He is a crxjper by trade and a gentleman of understanding, lie works in a dusty loft surrounded by pine shavings, lumber and the neighlxjrhixxl children, aixj he ixxsscsses an all-embracing sym|gitliy which includes wives, seed catalogues and water-lilies. I came u|xm my uxi|x-r a wearied and harried man. a trifle suspicious of Canada as a manufacturing country, and inclined toward the radical view in tariff matters I explained myself to the coojx-r. I wanted. I said, a wixxien washtub or a half barrel Any kind of a
wooden washtub or half barrel would do.
Even an old one. I wanted it, I went on in a meek voice, so that my wife could grow water-lilies in it. She wanted, I reiterated, to grow water-lilies. Then I turned around and walked rapidly away.
The cix)|x-r called after me. "Brother," he called; "brother, come back and sit
I did so and the cooper leaned forward on
"My wife," he rumbled, "wanted a rock garden this year.”
We sluxjk hands. We lit our pipes. The silence was very restful. After an interval the cixjper s|xike of rock gardens, using the words of a man who dix-s not like rock gardens. They were, I gathered, a disagreeable form of summer decoration which involved a man in bitter arguments with farmers who objected to an honest man taking a few stones from their fences, and doubly hard on the track of a man's car.
"Did your wife." he asked, "send for seed catalogues illustrated catalogues with marvellous pictures?"
I admitted it. “Sticdid,” I said, and I told the sad tale of the s|>areril>s and of my search for the wixxien tub.
'I've a weakness." lie murmured, "for corn Ixs-f hash, and that last farmer chased me a hundred yards with a pitchfork and ruini-d the right rear tire before I got out of
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We shook hands again and I felt better. “Brother,” he said, “I have half a molasses puncheon I was keeping for a contractor, but you can have it.”
I thumped him heartily on the back and told him to send it home C. O. D. We stayed downtown to dinner, the cooper and I. I got home very late. There is justice in all things.
'T'HE next morning at breakfast my wife wanted to know when I intended digging the hole in the centre of the big flower bed and sinking the puncheon therein. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all finished? Wives are sometimes like that. Always wanting to finish things.
Have you ever dug a hole for a half molasses puncheon? No; I thought not. Very few people have. Take my advice and don’t dig a hole for a half molasses puncheon. Don’t do it. A half molasses puncheon really requires altogether too much hole. The first few shovels are easy. Just a few hearty heaves and the first few shovelfuls are done, and there is a hole which might possibly accommodate an anaemic dickey bird but certainly not a healthy dickey bird with fluffy feathers. It was while 1 was contemplating the puncheon in relation to _ the embryo hole that the real size of a ’half molasses puncheon was made manifest to me. Appreciation was assisted by premonition of a crick in the back and the moral certainty that the spinal column was about to lie down on the job.
Did I say previously that my wife has brains? At this very psychological moment she stepped out of the house and cooed in the most annoying manner; "Dear, do be careful and don’t strain yourself.”
What would you do? The idea of a man straining himself while digging a hole for a water-lily tub ! I maintain that a man cannot afford to strain himself while preparing
for water-lilies. A man may strain himself by falling off a train, or when successfully defending himself from four tough eggs met late at night after leaving the club, but not while digging a hole for a lily pool; not and live with himself afterward. So I dug.
The book on water-lilies is very misleading. It says quite plainly that it is only necessary to sink a hole in the garden sufficiently deep to accommodate the tub. It says nothing whatever about the low secretive habits of previous gardeners. It fails to mention the proper method of dealing with old rubber boots, tomato cans and empty beer bottles. It is truly amazing what the subsoil of a city garden can contain.
In fact there are a lot of points altogether overlooked by the lily book man. For one thing he has neglected a series of chatty, not to say zippy, stories wherewith the tired gardener can entertain his wife and thus distract her attention from the fact that the hole is not going down as fast as provided for in the original estimate. His oversight involved me in a long and complicated yarn on trench digging in the blood-red battlefields of France and Flanders, which only led my wife to the opinion that as a trench digger I was an excellent public speaker. Then, too, he forgets to provide a chapter on suitable answers to silly questions propounded by the neighbors. Neighbors can be very silly in the lily-pond digging season.
The lily-book author is totally a blank on the subject of surplus earth. I am suspicious that he has never dug a hole for a half molasses puncheon. Certainly he has no idea of how much earth can come out of a hole like that. Tons of it. Literally tons of it. He overlooked altogether that it costs money to hire a truck to cart the surplus earth away. All the lily man said before dealing learnedly with lilies was that they involved very little work and gave magnificent results in delicate fragrant blooms.
U AVE you ever entered the market for water-lilies and water hyacinths? Possibly not. No! Well, it’s not advisable. One is immediately regarded with suspicion. One’s friends are liable to make insulting remarks, and furthermore it’s almost impossible to purchase water-lilies. Anyone would think that buying water-lilies was easy. Certainly, you say. Just drop into the nearest greenhouse on the way to the office, and—well, buy water-lilies. It seemed a reasonable supposition in a land where whole rivers, lakes and swamps are choked with water-lilies; where, indeed, the noise of their bursting up through the mud in the pleasant springtime often disturbs the sleep of the honest farmers. So it would seem. But, as a matter of fact, buying water-lilies is about as easy as touching the bank for a loan or shoving a promoter in jail.
My wife, as usual, thought of an easy way to do it. She suggested writing to the water-lily man in New Jersey. But surely, I reasoned, Canada can produce her own water-lilies. What is the use of the protective tariff if we can’t grow our own water-lilies?
About this time I made friends with the neighbor’s boy. The neighbor’s boy has my undying gratitude. I took him into my confidence, and for fifty cents he went out back of the town one Saturday morning and in a convenient swamp dug up enough waterlily roots to patch—well, anyway, he dug up plenty. He is a good boy, the neighbor’s boy, and what if he did ruin a suit of clothes? His mother thinks I put him up to it. She was quite upset about it. Said they had an awful time getting the leeches off his legs.
I was all set up. I had the tub and the water-lilies. All I had to do was to shovel earth in the tub, bury the roots, and turn on the water. I did, immediately winning the mud-pie making record of all time. I challenge the world to make a bigger or better mud pie, fricassee or stew than that
one. It was perfect. My wife telephoned a friend and went to the movies.
I am now looking for the man who wrote the water-lily book. Away in the middle of the book, in small type that makes it looklike a description of something special in the way of water-lilies, he points out that water-lily roots must be buried in large pots. The earth is then covered with an inch of fine sand and the pot placed gently in a tub full of clean water. My wife said, “Any fool would know that.” She said this just before she went to the movies. She has spoken of it since. It is, I feel, most regrettable that wives will continue to revive memories of little slips of judgment much better left unrecalled. I’m sure you’ve noticed it.
And now we have water-lilies. Actually, we have water-lilies with the pads floating on the surface. And we have water hyacinths and oxygenating plants.
Also I have a fish spear. True it is a homemade fish spear, but still it is a fish spear. Contrary to popular belief, the fish spear is not for spearing the goldfish. I do not think I’d care to know any person who made a practice of spearing goldfish. No, the fish spear is to snick field mice out of the waterlily pool. The lily book forgot altogether to mention the myriads of field mice capable of maliciously and wilfully drowning themselves in a water-lily pool.
The goldfish ! Cute little gadgets, goldfish. The members of the knit and slander club all say the goldfish are cute goldfish. They are not cute goldfish. I know. I have to dig worms for them, and the worms have all left my garden. They just up and went away when they heard the news. It’s a scientific fact. Doubting Thomases can use my digging fork if they desire to demonstrate an argument to the contrary. If they find any worms I’ll feed them to the goldfish.
How I do love water-lilies!