One cannot always tell by a man's coat what kind of a heart he has under it; still, his dress is apt to be the out-blossoming of his character, and is not to be disregarded. We make no indiscriminate onslaught upon customs of dress. Why did God put spots on the pansy, or etch the fern leaf? And what are china-asters good for if style and color are of no importance?
"We must get my factotum, Clarke, here to-morrow," so ran my thoughts, "to clear away that rubbish, and try a little bold transplanting; late hollyhocks, late dahlias, a few pots of lobellias and chrysanthemums, a few patches of coreopsis and china-asters, and plenty of scarlet geraniums, will soon make this desolation flourishing.
The sweetfern is changed mostly to russet, but still retains its wild and delightful fragrance when pressed in the hand. Wild China-asters are scattered about, but beginning to wither. A little while ago, mushrooms or toadstools were very numerous along the wood-paths and by the roadsides, especially after rain. Some were of spotless white, some yellow, and some scarlet.
The streets are long and wide, shaded by gigantic American elms, whose drooping branches, interlacing here and there, span the avenues with arches graceful enough to be the handiwork of fairies. Many of the houses have small flower-gardens in front, gay in the season with china-asters, and are substantially built, with massive chimney-stacks and protruding eaves.
Here and there at what is termed the West End is a neat brick mansion with garden attached, where nature asserts herself in dahlias and china-asters; but the houses are mostly frame houses that have taken a prevailing dingy tint from the breath of the tall chimneys which dominate the village.
And now he was going to see the bright young face once more. He had been away from town about a fortnight; but taken in relation with Miss Halliday, that fortnight seemed half a century. Chrysanthemums and china-asters beautified Mr. Sheldon's neat little garden, and the plate-glass windows of his house shone with all their wonted radiance.
Many a time he had passed in front of it and behind it, pensive and indifferent, without dreaming that the sanctuary of a goddess was there, the only one henceforth whom his heart could adore. There was a little garden, surrounded with palings, with two paths which crossed, and placed in the middle, a statue of the Little Corporal in a bed of China-asters.
Looking westward, their colors are lost in a blaze of light; but in other directions the whole forest is a flower-garden, in which these late roses burn, alternating with green, while the so-called "gardeners," walking here and there, perchance, beneath, with spade and water-pot, see only a few little asters amid withered leaves. These are my China-asters, my late garden-flowers.
But there is one remarkable exception, where the pools worn in a hard limestone are filled with what seem at first sight beds of china-asters, of all loveliest colours primrose, sea-green, dove, purple, crimson, pink, ash-grey. What they do there, what they think of, or what food is brought into their curious grinding-mills by the Atlantic surges which thunder over them twice a day, who can tell?
He seated himself beside Lucie on a stone bench: he told her his love, with the profound gaze of the Little Corporal, in bronzed plaster, resting upon them; and, full of delicious confusion, she replied, "Speak to mamma," dropping her bewildered eyes and gazing at the bed of china-asters, whose boxwood border traced the form of a cross of the Legion of Honor.