Read CHAPTER V of Ethel Morton's Enterprise, free online book, by Mabell S.C. Smith, on


In spite of their having made such an early start in talking about gardens the members of the United Service Club did not weary of the idea or cease to plan for what they were going to do. The only drawback that they found in gardening as a Club activity was that the gardens were for themselves and their families and they did not see exactly how there was any “service” in them.

“I’ll trust you youngsters to do some good work for somebody in connection with them,” asserted Grandfather Emerson one day when Roger had been talking over with him his pet plan for remodelling the old Emerson farmhouse into a place suitable for the summer shelter of poor women and children from the city who needed country air and relief from hunger and anxiety.

“We aren’t rushing anything now,” Roger had explained, “because we boys are all going to graduate this June and we have our examinations to think about. They must come first with us. But later on we’ll be ready for work of some sort and we haven’t anything on the carpet except our gardens.”

“There are many good works to be done with the help of a garden,” replied Mr. Emerson. “Ask your grandmother to tell you how she has sent flowers into New York for the poor for many, many summers. There are people right here in Rosemont who haven’t enough ground to raise any vegetables and they are glad to have fresh corn and Brussels sprouts sent to them. If you really do undertake this farmhouse scheme there’ll have to be a large vegetable garden planted near the house to supply it, and you can add a few flower beds. The old place will look better flower-dressed than empty, and perhaps some of the women and children will like to work in the garden.”

Roger went home comforted, for he was very loyal to the Club and its work and he did not want to become so involved with other matters that he could not give himself to the purpose for which the Club was organized helping others.

As he passed the Miss Clarks he stopped to give their furnace its nightly shaking, for he was the accredited furnace man for them and his Aunt Louise as well as for his mother. He added the money that he earned to the treasury of the Club so that there might always be enough there to do a kind act whenever there should be a chance.

As he labored with the shaker and the noise of his struggles was sent upward through the registers a voice called to him down the cellar stairs.

“Ro-ger; Roger!”

“Yes, ma’am,” replied Roger, wishing the old ladies would let him alone until he had finished his work.

“Come up here, please, when you’ve done.”

“Very well,” he agreed, and went on with his racket.

When he went upstairs he found that the cause of his summons was the arrival of a young man who was apparently about the age of Edward Watkins, the doctor brother of Tom and Della.

“My nephew is a law student,” said Miss Clark as she introduced the two young people, “and I want him to know all of our neighbors.”

“My name is Stanley Clark,” said the newcomer, shaking hands cordially. “I’m going to be here for a long time so I hope I’ll see you often.”

Roger liked him at once and thought his manner particularly pleasant in view of the fact that he was several years older. Roger was so accustomed to the companionship of Edward Watkins, who frequently joined the Club in their festivities and who often came to Rosemont to call on Miss Merriam, that the difference did not seem to him a cause of embarrassment. He was unusually easy for a boy of his age because he had always been accustomed to take his sailor father’s place at home in the entertainment of his mother’s guests.

Young Clark, on his side, found his new acquaintance a boy worth talking to, and they got on well. He was studying at a law school in the city, it seemed, and commuted every day.

“It’s a long ride,” he agreed when Roger suggested it, “but when I get home I have the good country air to breathe and I’d rather have that than town amusements just now when I’m working hard.”

Roger spoke of Edward Watkins and Stanley was interested in the possibility of meeting him. Evidently his aunts had told him all about the Belgian baby and Miss Merriam, for he said Elisabeth would be the nearest approach to a soldier from a Belgian battlefield that he had seen.

Roger left with the feeling that his new acquaintance would be a desirable addition to the neighborhood group and he was so pleased that he stopped in at his Aunt Louise’s not only to shake the furnace but to tell her about Stanley Clark.

During the next month they all came to know him well and they liked his cheerfulness and his interest in what they were doing and planning. On Saturdays he helped Roger build a hot bed in the sunniest spot against the side of the kitchen ell. They found that the frost had not stiffened the ground after they managed to dig down a foot, so that the excavation was not as hard as they had expected. They dug a hole the size of two window sashes and four feet deep, lining the sides with some old bricks that they found in the cellar. At first they filled the entire bed with fresh stable manure and straw. After it had stayed under the glass two days it was quite hot and they beat it down a foot and put on six inches of soil made one-half of compost and one-half of leaf mould that they found in a sheltered corner of the West Woods.

“Grandfather didn’t believe we could manage to get good soil at this season even if we did succeed in digging the hole, but when I make up my mind to do a thing I like to succeed,” said Roger triumphantly when they had fitted the sashes on to planks that sloped at the sides so that rain would run off the glass, and called the girls out to admire their result.

“What are we going to put in here first?” asked Ethel Brown, who liked to get at the practical side of matters at once.

“I’d like to have some violets,” said Ethel Blue. “Could I have a corner for them? I’ve had some plants promised me from the Glen Point greenhouse man. Margaret is going to bring them over as soon as I’m ready for them.”

“I want to see if I can beat Dicky with early vegetables,” declared Roger. “I’m going to start early parsley and cabbage and lettuce, cauliflower and egg plants, radishes and peas and corn in shallow boxes flats Grandfather says they’re called in my room and the kitchen where it’s warm and sunny, and when they’ve sprouted three leaves I’ll set them out here and plant some more in the flats.”

“Won’t transplanting them twice set them back?”

“If you take up enough earth around them they ought not to know that they’ve taken a journey.”

“I’ve done a lot of transplanting of wild plants from the woods,” said Stanley, “and I found that if I was careful to do that they didn’t even wilt.”

“Why can’t we start some of the flower seeds here and have early blossoms?”

“You can. I don’t see why we can’t keep it going all the time and have a constant supply of flowers and vegetables earlier than we should if we trusted to Mother Nature to do the work unaided.”

“Then in the autumn we can stow away here some of the plants we want to save, geraniums and bégonias, and plants that are pretty indoors, and take them into the house when the indoor ones become shabby.”

“Evidently right in the heart of summer is the only time this article won’t be in use,” decided Stanley, laughing at their eagerness. “Have you got anything to cover it with when the spring sunshine grows too hot?”

“There is an old hemp rug and some straw matting in the attic won’t they do?”

“Perfectly. Lay them over the glass so that the delicate little plants won’t get burned. You can raise the sashes, too.”

“If we don’t forget to close them before the sun sets and the night chill comes on, I suppose,” smiled Ethel Blue. “Mr. Emerson says that seeds under glass do better if they’re covered with newspaper until they start.”

It was about the middle of March when Mrs. Smith went in to call on her neighbors, the Miss Clarks, one evening. They were at home and after a talk on the ever-absorbing theme of the war Mrs. Smith said,

“I really came in here on business. I hope you’ve decided to sell me the meadow lot next to my knoll. If you’ve made up your minds hadn’t I better tell my lawyer to make out the papers at once?”

“Sister and I made up our minds some time ago, dear Mrs. Smith, and we wrote to Brother William about it before he came to stay with us, and he was willing, and Stanley, here, who is the only other heir of the estate that we know about, has no objection.”

“That gives me the greatest pleasure. I’ll tell my lawyer, then, to have the title looked up right away and make out the deed though I feel as if I should apologize for looking up the title of land that has been in your family as long as Mr. Emerson’s has been in his.”

“You needn’t feel at all apologetic,” broke in Stanley. “It’s never safe to buy property without having a clear title, and we aren’t sure that we are in a position to give you a clear title.”

“That’s why we haven’t spoken to you about it before,” said the elder Miss Clark; “we were waiting to try to make it all straight before we said anything about it one way or the other.”

“Not give me a clear title!” cried Mrs. Smith. “Do you mean that I won’t be able to buy it? Why, I don’t know what Dorothy will do if we can’t get that bit with the brook; she has set her heart on it.”

“We want you to have it not only for Dorothy’s sake but for our own. It isn’t a good building lot it’s too damp and we’re lucky to have an offer for it.”

“Can you tell me just what the trouble is? It seems as if it ought to be straight since all of you heirs agree to the sale.”

“The difficulty is,” said Stanley, “that we aren’t sure that we are all the heirs. We thought we were, but Uncle William made some inquiries on his way here, and he learned enough to disquiet him.”

“Our father, John Clark, had a sister Judith,” explained the younger Miss Clark. “They lived here on the Clark estate which had belonged to the family for many generations. Then Judith married a man named Leonard Peter Leonard and went to Nebraska at a time when Nebraska was harder to reach than California is now. That was long before the Civil War and during those frontier days Aunt Judith and Uncle Peter evidently were tossed about to the limit of their endurance. Her letters came less and less often and they always told of some new grief the death of a child or the loss of some piece of property. Finally the letters ceased altogether. I don’t understand why her family didn’t hold her more closely, but they lost sight of her entirely.”

“Probably it was more her fault than theirs,” replied Mrs. Smith softly, recalling that there had been a time when her own pride had forbade her letting her people know that she was in dire distress.

“It doesn’t make much difference to-day whose fault it was,” declared Stanley Clark cheerfully; “the part of the story that interests us is that the family thought that all Great-aunt Judith’s children were dead. Here is where Uncle William got his surprise. When he was coming on from Arkansas he stopped over for a day at the town where Aunt Judith had posted her last letter to Grandfather, about sixty years ago. There he learned from the records that she was dead and all her children were dead except one.”

“Except one!” repeated Mrs. Smith. “Born after she ceased writing home?”

“Exactly. Now this daughter Emily was her name left the town after her parents died and there is no way of finding out where she went. One or two of the old people remember that the Leonard girl left, but nothing more.”

“She may be living now.”

“Certainly she may; and she may have married and had a dozen children. You see, until we can find out something about this Emily we can’t give a clear title to the land.”

Mrs. Smith nodded her understanding.

“It’s lucky we’ve never been willing to sell any of the old estate,” said Mr. William Clark, who had entered and been listening to the story. “If we had we should, quite ignorantly, have given a defective title.”

“Isn’t it possible, after making as long and thorough a search as you can, to take the case into court and have the judge declare the title you give to be valid, under the circumstances?”

“That is done; but you can see that such a decision would be granted only after long research on our part. It would delay your purchase considerably.”

“However, it seems to me the thing to do,” decided Mrs. Smith, and she and Stanley at once entered upon a discussion of the ways and means by which the hunt for Emily Leonard and her heirs was to be accomplished. It included the employment of detectives for the spring months, and then, if they had not met with success, a journey by Stanley during the weeks of his summer vacation.

Dorothy and Ethel were bitterly disappointed at the result of Mrs. Smith’s attempt to purchase the coveted bit of land.

“I suppose it wouldn’t have any value for any one else on earth,” cried Dorothy, “but I want it.”

“I don’t think I ever saw a spot that suited me so well for a summer play place,” agreed Ethel Blue, and Helen and Roger and all the rest of the Club members were of the same opinion.

“The Clarks will be putting the price up if they should find out that we wanted it so much,” warned Roger.

“I don’t believe they would,” smiled Mrs. Smith. “They said they thought themselves lucky to have a customer for it, because it isn’t good for building ground.”

“We’ll hope that Stanley will unearth the history of his great-aunt,” said Roger seriously.

“And find that she died a spinster,” smiled his Aunt Louise. “The fewer heirs there are to deal the simpler it will be.”