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


Roger had a fair crop of lettuce in one of his flats by the middle of March and transplanted the tiny, vivid green leaves to the hotbed without doing them any harm. The celery and tomato seeds that he had planted during the first week of the month were showing their heads bravely and the cabbage and cauliflower seedlings had gone to keep the lettuce company in the hotbed. On every warm day he opened the sashes and let the air circulate among the young plants.

“Wordsworth says

’It is my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes,’

and I suppose that’s true of vegetables, too,” laughed Roger.

The girls, meanwhile, had been planting the seeds of Canterbury bells and foxgloves in flats. They did not put in many of them because they learned that they would not blossom until the second year. The flats they made from boxes that had held tomato cans. Roger sawed through the sides and they used the cover for the bottom of the second flat.

The dahlias they provided with pots, joking at the exclusiveness of this gorgeous flower which likes to have a separate house for each of its seeds. These were to be transferred to the garden about the middle of May together with the roots of last year’s dahlias which they were going to sprout in a box of sand for about a month before allowing them to renew their acquaintance with the flower bed.

By the middle of April they had planted a variety of seeds and were watching the growth or awaiting the germination of gay cosmos, shy four o’clocks, brilliant marigolds, varied pétunias and stocks, smoke-blue ageratums, old-fashioned pinks and sweet williams. Each was planted according to the instructions of the seed catalogues, and the young horticulturists also read and followed the advice of the pamphlets on “Annual Flowering Plants” and “The Home Vegetable Garden” sent out by the Department of Agriculture at Washington to any one who asks for them.

They were prudent about planting directly in the garden seeds which did not require forcing in the house, for they did not want them to be nipped, but they put them in the ground just as early as any of the seedsmen recommended, though they always saved a part of their supply so that they might have enough for a second sowing if a frost should come.

Certain flowers which they wished to have blossom for a long time they sowed at intervals. Candytuft, for instance, they sowed first in April and they planned to make a second sowing in May and a third late in July so that they might see the pretty white border blossoms late in the autumn. Mignonette was a plant of which Mr. Emerson was as fond as Roger was of sweetpeas and the girls decided to give him a surprise by having such a succession of blooms that they might invite him to a picking bee as late as the end of October. Nasturtiums also, they planted with a liberal hand in nooks and crannies where the soil was so poor that they feared other plants would turn up their noses, and pansies, whose demure little faces were favorites with Mrs. Morton, they experimented with in various parts of the gardens and in the hotbed.

The gardens at the Mortons’ and Smiths’ were long established so that there was not any special inducement to change the arrangement of the beds, except as the young people had planned way back in January for the enlargement of the drying green. The new garden, however, offered every opportunity. Each bed was laid out with especial reference to the crop that was to be put into it and the land was naturally so varied that there was the kind of soil and the right exposure for plants that required much moisture and for those that preferred a sandy soil, for the sun lovers and the shade lovers.

The newly aroused interest in plants extended to the care of the house plants which heretofore had been the sole concern of Mrs. Emerson and Mrs. Morton. Now the girls begged the privilege of trimming off the dead leaves from the ivies and geraniums and of washing away with oil of lemon and a stiff brush the scale that sometimes came on the palms. They even learned to kill the little soft white creature called aphis by putting under the plant a pan of hot coals with tobacco thrown on them.

“It certainly has a sufficiently horrid smell,” exclaimed Ethel Brown. “I don’t wonder the beasties curl up and die; I’d like to myself.”

“They say aphis doesn’t come on a plant with healthy sap,” Ethel Blue contributed to this talk, “so the thing to do is to make these plants so healthy that the animals drop off starved.”

“This new development is going to be a great comfort to me if it keeps on,” Mrs. Emerson confessed to her daughter humorously. “I shall encourage the girls to use my plants for instruction whenever they want to.”

“You may laugh at their sudden affection,” returned Mrs. Morton seriously, “but I’ve noticed that everything the U.S.C. sets its heart on doing gets done, and I’ve no doubt whatever that they’ll have what Roger calls ‘some’ garden this next summer.”

“Roger has had long consultations with his grandfather about fertilizers and if he’s interested in the beginnings of a garden and not merely in the results I think we can rely on him.”

“They have all been absorbed in the subject for three months and now

’Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of
birds is come.’”

Roger maintained that his Aunt Louise’s house ought to be begun at the time that he planted his sweetpeas.

“If I can get into the ground enough to plant, surely the cellar diggers ought to be able to do the same,” he insisted.

March was not over when he succeeded in preparing a trench a foot deep all around the spot which was to be his vegetable garden except for a space about three feet wide which he left for an entrance. In the bottom he placed three inches of manure and over that two inches of good soil. In this he planted the seeds half an inch apart in two rows and covered them with soil to the depth of three inches, stamping it down hard. As the vines grew to the top of the trench he kept them warm with the rest of the earth that he had taken out, until the opening was entirely filled.

The builder was not of Roger’s mind about the cellar digging, but he really did begin operations in April. Every day the Mortons and Smiths, singly or in squads, visited the site of Sweetbrier Lodge, as Mrs. Smith and Dorothy had decided to call the house. Dorothy had started a notebook in which to keep account of the progress of the new estate, but after the first entry “Broke ground to-day” matters seemed to advance so slowly that she had to fill in with memoranda concerning the growth of the garden.

Even before the house was started its position and that of the garage had been staked so that the garden might not encroach on them. Then the garden had been laid out with a great deal of care by the united efforts of the Club and Mr. Emerson and his farm superintendent.

Often the Ethels and Dorothy extended their walk to the next field and to the woods and rocks at the back. The Clarks had learned nothing more about their Cousin Emily, although they had a man searching records and talking with the older people of a number of towns in Nebraska. He reported that he was of the opinion that either the child had died when young or that she had moved to a considerable distance from the town of her birth or that she had been adopted and had taken the name of her foster parents. At any rate consultation of records of marriages and deaths in several counties had revealed to him no Emily Leonard.

The Clarks were quite as depressed by this outcome of the search as was Mrs. Smith, but they had instructed the detective to continue his investigation. Meanwhile they begged Dorothy and her cousins to enjoy the meadow and woods as much as they liked.

The warm moist days of April tempted the girls to frequent searches for wild flowers. They found the lot a very gold mine of delight. There was so much variety of soil and of sunshine and of shadow that plants of many different tastes flourished where in the meadow across the road only a few kinds seemed to live. It was with a hearty shout they hailed the first violets.

“Here they are, here they are!” cried Ethel Blue. “Aunt Marion said she was sure she saw some near the brook. She quoted some poetry about it

“’Blue ran the flash across;
Violets were born!’”

“That’s pretty; what’s the rest of it?” asked Ethel Brown, on her knees taking up some of the plants with her trowel and placing them in her basket so carefully that there was plenty of earth surrounding each one to serve as a nest when it should be put into Helen’s wild flower bed.

“It’s about something good happening when everything seems very bad,” explained Ethel Blue. “Browning wrote it.”

“Such a starved bank of moss
Till, that May morn,
Blue ran the flash across:
Violets were born!

“Sky what a scowl of cloud
Till, near and far,
Ray on ray split the shroud:
Splendid, a star!

“World how it walled about
Life with disgrace
Till God’s own smile came out:
That was thy face!”

“It’s always so, isn’t it!” approved Dorothy. “And the more we think about the silver lining to every cloud the more likely it is to show itself.”

“What’s this delicate white stuff? And these tiny bluey eyes?” asked Ethel Blue, who was again stooping over to examine the plants that enjoyed the moist positions near the stream.

“The eyes are houstonia Quaker ladies. We must have a clump of them. Saxifrage, Helen said the other was. She called my attention the other day to some they had at school to analyze. It has the same sort of stem that the hepatica has.”

“I remember a scape only this isn’t so downy.”

“They’re pretty, aren’t they? We must be sure to get a good sized patch; you can’t see them well enough when there is only a plant or two.”

“Helen wants a regular village of every kind that she transplants. She says she’d rather have a good many of a few kinds than a single plant of ever so many kinds.”

“It will be prettier. What do you suppose this yellow bell-shaped flower is?”

“It ought to be a lily, hanging its head like that.”

“It is a lily,” corroborated Ethel Brown, “but it’s called ’dog-tooth violet’ though it isn’t a violet at all.”

“What a queer mistake. Hasn’t it any other name?”

“Adder’s-tongue. That’s more suitable, isn’t it?”

“Yes, except that I hate to have a lovely flower called by a snake’s name!”

“Not all snakes are venomous; and, anyway, we ought to remember that every animal has some means of protecting himself and the snakes do it through their poison fangs.”

“Or through their squeezing powers, like that big constrictor we saw at the Zoo.”

“I suppose it is fair for them to have a defence,” admitted Ethel Blue, “but I don’t like them, just the same, and I wish this graceful flower had some other name.”

“It has.”

“O, that! ‘Dog-tooth’ is just about as ugly as ‘adder’s tongue’! The botanists were in bad humor when they christened the poor little thing!”

“Do you remember what Bryant says about ’The Yellow Violet’?” asked Ethel Brown, who was always committing verses to memory.

“Tell us,” begged Ethel Blue, who was expending special care on digging up this contribution to the garden as if to make amends for the unkindness of the scientific world, and Ethel Brown repeated the poem beginning

“When beechen buds begin to swell,
And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,
The yellow violet’s modest bell
Peeps from last year’s leaves below.”

Dorothy went into ecstasies over the discovery of two roots of white violets, but there seemed to be no others, though they all sought diligently for the fragrant blossoms among the leaves.

A cry from Ethel Blue brought the others to a drier part of the field at a distance from the brook. There in a patch of soil that was almost sandy was a great patch of violets of palest hue, with deep orange eyes. They were larger than any of the other violets and their leaves were entirely different.

“What funny leaves,” cried Dorothy. “They look as if some one had crumpled up a real violet leaf and cut it from the edge to the stem into a fine fringe.”

“Turn it upside down and press it against the ground. Don’t you think it looks like a bird’s claw?”

“So it does! This must be a ‘bird-foot violet,’”

“It is, and there’s more meaning in the name than in the one the yellow bell suffers from. Do you suppose there are any violets up in the woods?”

“They seem to fit in everywhere; I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if there were some there.”

Sure enough, there were, smaller and darker in color than the flowers down by the brook and hiding more shyly under their shorter-stemmed leaves.

“Helen is going to have some trouble to make her garden fit the tastes of all these different flowers,” said Ethel Brown thoughtfully. “I don’t see how she’s going to do it.”

“Naturally it’s sort of half way ground,” replied Ethel Blue. “She can enrich the part that is to hold the ones that like rich food and put sand where these bird foot fellows are to go, and plant the wet-lovers at the end where the hydrant is so that there’ll be a temptation to give them a sprinkle every time the hose is screwed on.”

“The ground is always damp around the hydrant; I guess she’ll manage to please her new tenants.”

“If only Mother can buy this piece of land,” said Dorothy, “I’m going to plant forget-me-nots and cow lilies and arum lilies right in the stream. There are flags and pickerel weed and cardinals here already. It will make a beautiful flower bed all the length of the field.”

“I hope and hope every day that it will come out right,” sighed Ethel Blue. “Of course the Miss Clarks are lovely about it, but you can’t do things as if it were really yours.”

Almost at the same instant both the Ethels gave a cry as each discovered a plant she had been looking for.

“Mine is wild ginger, I’m almost sure,” exclaimed Ethel Brown. “Come and see, Dorothy.”

“Has it a thick, leathery leaf that lies down almost flat?” asked Dorothy, running to see for herself.

“Yes, and a blossom you hardly notice. It’s hidden under the leaves and it’s only yellowish-green. You have to look hard for it.”

“That must be wild ginger,” Dorothy decided. “What’s yours, Ethel Blue?”

“I know mine is hepatica. See the ‘hairy scape’ Helen talked about? And see what a lovely, lovely color the blossom is? Violet with a hint of pink?”

“That would be the best of all for a border. The leaves stay green all winter and the blossoms come early in the spring and encourage you to think that after a while all the flowers are going to awaken.”

“It’s a shame to take all this out of Dorothy’s lot.”

“It may never be mine,” sighed Dorothy. “Still, perhaps we ought not to take too many roots; the Miss Clarks may not want all the flowers taken out of their woods.”

“We’ll take some from here and some from Grandfather’s woods,” decided Ethel Brown. “There are a few in the West Woods, too.”

So they dug up but a comparatively small number of the hepaticas, nor did they take many of the columbines nodding from a cleft in the piled-up rocks.

“I know that when we have our wild garden fully planted I’m not going to want to pick flowers just for the sake of picking them the way I used to,” confessed Ethel Blue. “Now I know something about them they seem so alive to me, sort of like people I’m sure they won’t like to be taken travelling and forced to make a new home for themselves.”

“I know how you feel,” responded Dorothy slowly. “I feel as if those columbines were birds that had perched on those rocks just for a minute and were going to fly away, and I didn’t want to disturb them before they flitted.”

They all stood gazing at the delicate, tossing blossoms whose spurred tubes swung in every gentlest breeze.

“It has a bird’s name, too,” added Dorothy as if there had been no silence; “aquilegia the eagle flower.”

“Why eagle? The eagle is a strenuous old fowl,” commented Ethel Brown. “The name doesn’t seem appropriate.”

“It’s because of the spurs they suggest an eagle’s talons.”

“That’s too far-fetched to suit me,” confessed Ethel Brown.

“It is called ‘columbine’ because the spurs look a little like doves around a drinking fountain, and the Latin word for dove is ’columba,” said Dorothy.

“It’s queer the way they name flowers after animals ” said Ethel Blue.

“Or parts of animals,” laughed her cousin. “Saxifrage isn’t; Helen told me the name meant ‘rock-breaker,’ because some kinds grow in the clefts of rocks the way the columbines do.”

“I wish we could find a trillium,” said Ethel Blue. “The tri in that name means that everything about it is in threes.”

“What is a trillium?” asked Ethel Brown.

“Roger brought in a handful the other day. ‘Wake-robin’ he called it.”

“O, I remember them. There was a bare stalk with three leaves and the flower was under the leaves.”

“There were three petals to the corolla and three sepals to the calyx. He had purple ones and white ones.”

“Here’s a white one this very minute,” said Dorothy, pouncing upon a plant eight or ten inches in height whose leaves looked eager and strong.

“See,” she said as they all leaned over to examine it; “the blossom has two sets of leaves. The outer set is usually green or some color not so gay as to attract insects or birds that might destroy the flower when it is in bud. These outer leaves are called, all together, the calyx, and each one of them is called a sepal.”

“The green thing on the back of a rose is the calyx and each of its leaflets is called a sepal,” said Ethel Brown by way of fixing the definition firmly in her mind.

“The pretty part of the flower is the corolla which means ’little crown,’ and each of its parts is called a petal.”

“How did you learn all that?” demanded Ethel Brown admiringly.

“Your grandmother told me the other day.”

“You’ve got a good memory. Helen has told me a lot of botanical terms, but I forget them,”

“I try hard to remember everything I hear any one say about flowers or vegetables or planting now. You never can tell when it may be useful,” and Dorothy nodded wisely.

“Shall we take up this wake-robin?” asked Ethel Blue.

“Let’s not,” pleaded Ethel Brown. “We shall find others somewhere and there’s only one here.”

They left it standing, but when they came upon a growth of wind-flowers there were so many of them that they did not hesitate to dig them freely.

“I wonder why they’re called ’wind-flowers’?” queried Ethel Brown, whose curiosity on the subject of names had been aroused.

“I know that answer,” replied Ethel Blue unexpectedly. “That is, nobody knows the answer exactly; I know that much.”

The other girls laughed.

“What is the answer as far as anybody knows it?” demanded Dorothy.

“The scientific name is ‘anemone.’ It comes from the Greek word meaning ‘wind.’”

“That seems to be a perfectly good answer. Probably it was given because they dance around so prettily in the wind,” guessed Dorothy.

“Helen’s botany says that it was christened that either because it grew in windy places or because it blossomed at the windy season.”

“Dorothy’s explanation suits me best,” Ethel Brown decided. “I shall stick to that.”

“I think it’s prettiest myself,” agreed Dorothy.

“She’s so much in earnest she doesn’t realize that she’s deciding against famous botanists,” giggled Ethel Brown.

“It is prettier a lot prettier,” insisted Ethel Blue. “I’m glad I’ve a cousin who can beat scientists!”

“What a glorious lot of finds!” cried Ethel Brown. “Just think of our getting all these in one afternoon!”

“I don’t believe we could except in a place like this where any plant can have his taste suited with meadow or brookside or woods or rocks.”

“And sunshine or shadow.”

They were in a gay mood as they gathered up their baskets and trowels and gently laid pieces of newspaper over the uprooted plants.

“It isn’t hot to-day but we won’t run any risk of their getting a headache from the sun,” declared Dorothy.

“These woodsy ones that aren’t accustomed to bright sunshine may be sensitive to it,” assented Ethel Blue. “We must remember to tell Helen in just what sort of spot we found each one so she can make its corner in the garden bed as nearly like it as possible.”

“I’m going to march in and quote Shakespeare to her,” laughed Ethel Brown. “I’m going to say

’I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlip and the nodding violet grows,’

and then I’ll describe the ‘bank’ so she can copy it.”

“If she doesn’t she may have to repeat Bryant’s ’Death of the Flowers’:

‘The windflower and the violet, they perished long ago.’”