Wednesday, January 1, 2014
But before they got to read the notebook, they had a visit. That is, first they went to Mass, then they went home, then drinking tea they sat down to open the notebook of Lucy. And then the doorbell rang. Audoin opened and yelled "Su, it's from the Kilns" so she went up and greeted her visitor. Audoin went in and left them a few moments.
Paxford came along with cider - five bottles of it, homemade from the Kilns.
"Jack and Warren are sorry they cannot come, they are helping an American lady, who is involved in a divorce affair."
"Oh, how awful for her. Is she keeping her children at least?"
"They are over here in England. They are bright and curious. David is ten and Douglas is eight going on nine in a couple of months."
"Well, if a parent keeps her children, she's the lucky parent, I reckon."
"So do I. And it seems she deserves it."
"Getting along with Jack?"
"Getting along may be a soft word. But as you know very well, Jack has a winning way."
"So have you."
Frank Paxford afforded her an apologetic smile. "But Mr Errol more so, I should think."
Of course Audoin came out again to tell Paxford there was more toast in the fireplace and another place for tea. Which Paxford stayed for before getting back.
"There are in fact countries where gardeners do try planting trees."
"But it gets into an awful disorder when it does not all happen naturally. I mean, in France they have for years been planting trees in bakeries, and every CHristmas the pastry bakers are obliged to cut them down and sell them as Yule logs."
"You mean, the French buy their Yule logs where they buy their pastry?"
"Yes, they call it 'bûche de Noël' and it is a very popular commerce around that Holy Season."
Susan looked hard at him to catch even a glimpse of irony in the eye but failed. Even so she suspected he was joking and that the bûche de Noël was some kind of cake. And even so she ate up the apple.
"Now, don't throw the core away, please."
"You want to plant it?"
"I might try to plant a tree just this once, even if that is not what gardeners usually do. Johnny Appleseed went all over the Mid West and helped grow orchards for making hard cider ... let us try."
And Fred Paxford dug a hole in the ground and Susan put the applecore into it. And the gardener shovelled earth over it. While explaining that this was for settlers also the easiest way to uphold a claim to being a settler. Such was the policy of the United States at the time.
"So the main activity of a gardener in England, when not imitating Johnny Appleseed or avoiding to imitate the anarchic gardeners of France, is simply keeping the garden clean?"
"Ah, indeed. When a tree falls down, from old age or from storm, you don't want to have the wood rotting where it fell, you chop it up for firewood, usually."
"Well, my father once saw an apple tree fallen to the ground with very good wood, he did not make firewood of it."
"He told his employer, one Digory Kirke, that one could make some furniture of it."
All the earth needed was on the apple seed in the Kilns' orchard, so he had resumed standing leaning on the spade.
"And Mister Kirke agreed, and they made a big wardrobe out of it."
"Oh?" Susan recalled one big wardrobe which just possibly could have been made out of apple wood.
"A huge wardrobe, they hung fur coats in it, you know they are longer than some other coats. Two doors and mirrors on the doors."
"Would that have been in a spare room in his house?"
"Oh, you have seen it? Yes, they kept it in a spare room. Houses were bigger before and during the war, now the Labour Government has reduced the possibility of living on the land like a gentleman."
One of the pleasures available in an hospital, whether you are kept in there by your sore body or someone else's assessment of your sore mind (or someone else's sore assessment of your mind, for that matter) is that of looking out of windows.
Trees and birds and clouds and the sky are so unrelated to the hospital, they are like balm for your eyes. One tree outside was precisly an apple tree.
Susan looked again at the book of palaeontology the doctor had left her to convince her of his philosophy of death, of evolution. And he did it the precisely wrong way.
He tried to give evidence, when the evidence was not very obviously on his side.
At least not for Susan who had heard Paxford's claim that the orchard in the Kilns had grown over two thousand years from a single apple seed, dropped accidentally by a bird. The "hundred feet of stems become roots as covered with soil from the apple tree leaves" of which, with all the floods, only ten feet were left, were all too close to the supposed evidence for evolution.
She broke out in a laugh and thought that that must have been Paxford's intention with the hoax.
"God bless that gardener!" she said out loud, and laughed because he didn't laugh when telling his splendid joke.
In looked a guard who asked "are you all right?" in a most worried voice.
One of the extreme displeasures of a hospital, when you are kept there because someone else made a sore assessment of your mind is not being allowed to enjoy a good mood, since it can be taken for a "maniac phase". She did shut up very quickly.
When she was alone again, she was despondent. Any place she had been staying before, laughing at a private joke would not have hurt her. Here it could get her very unwanted attentions.
She thought of another garden, as the "daughter of Eve" she had been called in Narnia. And of how the priests and her late sister Lucy called the Blessed Virgin Mary "the New Eve". And she thought of the Hail Mary she had nearly said when escaping from a would be ravisher. So, she prayed one Hail Mary - as she had learned it on her voayage to Italy, to Narni - and then looked out of the window again.
Humanly speaking she had no hope. If she had been raving out of her mind, she might have had the hope - not enjoyed it, but had it for real, to get out once she was put straight. But if she was already straight, when was she then supposed to get out if she was even so kept in? And yet she did not feel quite hopeless.
Even the Palaeontology book left on her nightstand was not as depressing as it had been when it came with greetings from Dr. Peter Sorner. Actually she felt there was a parallel with the orchard developing ... and still only ten feet left of the hundred feet theoretically involved in the process. In Palaeontology too very few if any places seemed to have thickness of ages stamped into the fossils. Unlike Geology where it is supposed to be automatically there because of slow deposit. She decided to get out into the parlour. In fossils of one place you often found fossils of one or two closely related slices of geological age.