May 6th Tuesday Orinthia & I went into the flower garden
and worked some time on the beds but the
ground was very wet as it rained last night.
Robinson has painted the bedroom up stairs
over the first time. This afternoon we planted
some sweet peas and have got the beds ready for
the seeds Had Mr Swain to dine with us
Orinthia finished her school Saturday […]
Mr. Robinson was back doing work for Evelina. He was the handyman who, earlier in the year, had spilled varnish on the parlor carpet and taken too long to paint the mantels. Either he was an affable favorite of the family or his price was right, or both, for he was back at the Ames’s, this time painting an upstairs bedroom. Jane McHanna must have been at work, too, keeping busy with meals and chores while she waited for the sun to dry yesterday’s wash. John Swain, the new clerk at O. Ames & Sons, came for dinner.
Despite the wet ground, Evelina and Orinthia, the young teacher who had become her friend, planted sweet peas and worked the ground for seeds yet to come. Sweet peas were a popular flower in the 19th century; John Keats praised them in a stanza of his 1817 poem “I stood tip-toe upon a little hill:”
Here are sweet-peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings.
The flowers were fragrant, delicate-looking but hardy, and slow to germinate. Evelina and Orinthia probably placed them in a sunny spot in the beds. Did they need a trellis? Did the ladies wear gloves as they worked, or did they just dig into the dirt? Evelina, at least, probably wore some kind of protection, as she wasn’t at all fond of chaffing her hands.