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


The Idea of having a town flower-costume party was the Ethels’, too. It came to them when contributions were beginning to flag, just as they discovered that the grounds around the fire engine house were a disgrace to a self-respecting community, as their emphatic friend, the alderman, described them.

“People are always willing to pay for fun,” Ethel Brown said, “and this ought to appeal to them because the money that is made by the party will go back to them by being spent for the town.”

Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Emerson and Mrs. Smith thought the plan was possible, and they offered to enlist the interest of the various clubs and societies to which they belonged. The schools were closed now so that there was no opportunity of advertising the entertainment through the school children, but all the clergymen co-operated heartily in every way in their power and Mr. Montgomery gave the plan plenty of free advertising, not only in the advertising columns but through the means of reading notices which his reporters prepared with as much interest and skill as they had shown in working up public opinion on the general improvement scheme.

“It must be in the school house hall so everybody will go,” declared Helen.

“Why not use the hall and the grounds, too?” inquired Ethel Blue. “If it’s a fine evening there are various things that would be prettier to have out of doors than indoors.”

“The refreshments, for instance,” explained Ethel Brown. “Every one would rather eat his ice cream and cake at a table on the lawn in front of the schoolhouse than inside where it may be stuffy if it happens to be a warm night.”

“Lanterns on the trees and candles on each table would make light enough,” decided Ethel Blue.

“There could be a Punch and Judy show in a tent at the side of the schoolhouse,” suggested Dorothy.

“What is there flowery about a Punch and Judy show?” asked Roger scornfully.

“Nothing at all,” returned Dorothy meekly, “but for some reason or other people always like a Punch and Judy show.”

“Where are we going to get a tent?”

“A tent would be awfully warm,” Ethel Brown decided. “Why couldn’t we have it in the corner where there is a fence on two sides? We could lace boughs back and forth between the palings and make the fence higher, and on the other two sides borrow or buy some wide chicken wire from the hardware store and make that eye-proof with branches.”

“And string an electric light wire over them. I begin to get enthusiastic,” cried Roger. “We could amuse, say, a hundred people at a time at ten cents apiece, in the side-show corner and keep them away from the other more crowded regions.”

“Exactly,” agreed Dorothy; “and if you can think of any other side show that the people will like better than Punch and Judy, why, put it in instead.”

“We might have finger shadows rabbits’ and dogs’ heads and so on; George Foster does them splendidly, and then have some one recite and some one else do a monologue in costume.”

“Aren’t we going to have that sort of thing inside?”

“I suppose so, but if your idea is to give more space inside, considering that all Rosemont is expected to come to this festivity, we might as well have a performance in two rings, so to speak.”

“Especially as some of the people might be a little shy about coming inside,” suggested Dorothy.

“Why not forget Punch and Judy and have the same performance exactly in both places?” demanded Roger, quite excited with his idea. “The Club gives a flower dance, for instance, in the hall; then they go into the yard and give it there in the ten cent enclosure while number two of the program is on the platform inside. When number two is done inside it is put on outside, and so right through the whole performance.”

“That’s not bad except that the outside people are paying ten cents to see the show and the inside people aren’t paying anything.”

“Well, then, why not have the tables where you sell things if you are going to have any?”

“We are,” Helen responded to the question in her brother’s voice.

“ have your tables on the lawn, and have everybody pay to see the performance ten cents to go inside or ten cents to see the same thing in the enclosure?”

“That’s the best yet,” decided Ethel Brown. “That will go through well if only it is pleasant weather.”

“I feel in my bones it will be,” and Ethel Blue laughed hopefully.

The appointed day was fair and not too warm. The whole U.S.C. which went on duty at the school house early in the day, pronounced the behavior of the weather to be exactly what it ought to be.

The boys gave their attention to the arrangement of the screen of boughs in the corner of the school lot, and the girls, with Mrs. Emerson, Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Smith, decorated the hall. Flowers were to be sold everywhere, both indoors and out, so there were various tables about the room and they all had contributed vases of different sorts to hold the blossoms.

“I must say, I don’t think these look pretty a bit,” confessed Dorothy, gazing with her head on one side at a large bowl of flowers of all colors that she had placed in the middle of one of the tables.

Her mother looked at it and smiled.

“Don’t try to show off your whole stock at once,” she advised. “Have a few arranged in the way that shows them to the best advantage and let Ethel Blue draw a poster stating that there are plenty more behind the scenes. Have your supply at the back or under the table in large jars and bowls and replenish your vases as soon as you sell their contents.”

The Ethels and Dorothy thought this was a sensible way of doing things and said so, and Ethel Blue at once set about the preparation of three posters drawn on brown wrapping paper and showing a girl holding a flower and saying “We have plenty more like this. Ask for them.” They proved to be very pretty and were put up in the hall and the outside enclosure and on the lawn.

“There are certain kinds of flowers that should always be kept low,” explained Mrs. Smith as they all sorted over the cut flowers that had been contributed. “Flowers that grow directly from the ground like crocuses or jonquils or daffodils or narcissus the spring bulbs should be set into flat bowls through netting that will hold them upright. There are bowls sold for this purpose.”

“Don’t they call them ’pansy bowls’?”

“I have heard them called that. Some of them have a pierced china top; others have a silver netting. You can make a top for a bowl of any size by cutting chicken wire to suit your needs.”

“I should think a low-growing plant like ageratum would be pretty in a vase of that sort.”

“It would, and pansies, of course, and anémones windflowers held upright by very fine netting and nodding in every current of air as if they were still in the woods.”

“I think I’ll make a covering for a glass bowl we have at home,” declared Ethel Brown, who was diligently snipping ends of stems as she listened.

“A glass bowl doesn’t seem to me suitable,” answered her aunt. “Can you guess why?”

Ethel Brown shook her head with a murmured “No.” It was Della who offered an explanation.

“The stems aren’t pretty enough to look at,” she suggested. “When you use a glass bowl or vase the stems you see through it ought to be graceful.”

“I think so,” responded Mrs. Smith. “That’s why we always take pleasure in a tall slender glass vase holding a single rose with a long stem still bearing a few leaves. We get the effect that it gives us out of doors.”

“That’s what we like to see,” agreed Mrs. Morton. “Narcissus springing from a low bowl is an application of the same idea. So are these few sprays of clematis waving from a vase made to hang on the wall. They aren’t crowded; they fall easily; they look happy.”

“And in a room you would select a vase that would harmonize with the coloring,” added Margaret, who was mixing sweetpeas in loose bunches with feathery gypsophila.

“When we were in Japan Dorothy and I learned something about the Japanese notions of flower arrangement,” continued Mrs. Smith. “They usually use one very beautiful dominating blossom. If others are added they are not competing for first place but they act as helpers to add to the beauty of the main attraction.”

“We’ve learned some of the Japanese ways,” said Mrs. Emerson. “I remember when people always made a bouquet perfectly round and of as many kinds of flowers as they could put into it.”

“People don’t make ‘bouquets’ now; they gather a ‘bunch of flowers,’ or they give you a single bloom,” smiled her daughter. “But isn’t it true that we get as much pleasure out of a single superb chrysanthemum or rose as we do out of a great mass of them?”

“There are times when I like masses,” admitted Mrs. Emerson. “I like flowers of many kinds if the colors are harmoniously arranged, and I like a mantelpiece banked with the kind of flowers that give you pleasure when you see them in masses in the garden or the greenhouse.”

“If the vases they are in don’t show,” warned Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Emerson agreed to that.

“The choice of vases is almost as important as the choice of flowers,” she added. “If the stems are beautiful they ought to show and you must have a transparent vase, as you said about the rose. If the stems are not especially worthy of admiration the better choice is an opaque vase of china or pottery.”

“Or silver or copper?” questioned Margaret.

“Metals and blossoms never seem to me to go well together,” confessed Mrs. Emerson. “I have seen a copper cup with a bunch of violets loosely arranged so that they hung over the edge and the copper glinted through the blossoms and leaves and the effect was lovely; but flowers to be put into metal must be chosen with that in mind and arranged with especial care.”

“Metal jardinieres don’t seem suitable to me, either,” confessed Mrs. Emerson. “There are so many beautiful potteries now that it is possible to something harmonious for every flowerpot.”

“You don’t object to a silver centrepiece on the dining table, do you?”

“That’s the only place where it doesn’t seem out of place,” smiled Mrs. Emerson. “There are so many other pieces of silver on the table that it is merely one of the articles of table equipment and therefore is not conspicuous. Not a standing vase, mind you!” she continued. “I don’t know anything more irritating than to have to dodge about the centrepiece to see your opposite neighbor. It’s a terrible bar to conversation.”

They all had experienced the same discomfort, and they all laughed at the remembrance.

“A low bowl arranged flat is the rule for centrepieces,” repeated Mrs. Emerson seriously.

“Mother always says that gay flowers are the city person’s greatest help in brightening up a dark room,” said Della as she laid aside all the calliopsis from the flowers she was sorting. “I’m going to take a bunch of this home to her to-night.”

“I always have yellow or white or pink flowers in the dark corner of our sitting room,” said Mrs. Smith. “The blue ones or the deep red ones or the ferns may have the sunny spots.”

“Father insists on yellow blossoms of some kind in the library,” added Mrs. Emerson. “He says they are as good as another electric light to brighten the shadowy side where the bookcases are.”

“I remember seeing a gay array of window boxes at Stratford-on-Avon, once upon a time,” contributed Mrs. Morton. “It was a sunshiny day when I saw them, but they were well calculated to enliven the very grayest weather that England can produce. I was told that the house belonged to Marie Corelli, the novelist.”

“What plants did she have?” asked Dorothy.

“Blue lobelia and scarlet geraniums and some frisky little yellow bloom; I couldn’t see exactly what it was.”

“Red and yellow and blue,” repeated Ethel Brown. “Was it pretty?”

“Very. Plenty of each color and all the boxes alike all over the front of the house.”

“We shouldn’t need such vividness under our brilliant American skies,” commented Mrs. Smith. “Plenty of green with flowers of one color makes a window box in the best of taste, to my way of thinking.”

“And that color one that is becoming to the house, so to speak,” smiled Helen. “I saw a yellow house the other day that had yellow flowers in the window boxes. They were almost extinguished by their background.”

“I saw a white one in Glen Point with white daisies, and the effect was the same,” added Margaret. “The poor little flowers were lost. There are ivies and some small evergreen shrubs that the greenhouse-men raise especially for winter window boxes now. I’ve been talking a lot with the nurseryman at Glen Point and he showed me some the other day that he warranted to keep fresh-looking all through the cold weather unless there were blizzards.”

“We must remember those at Sweetbrier Lodge,” Mrs. Smith said to Dorothy.

“Why don’t you give a talk on arranging flowers as part of the program this evening?” Margaret asked Mrs. Smith.

“Do, Aunt Louise. You really ought to,” urged Helen, and the Ethels added their voices.

“Give a short talk and illustrate it by the examples the girls have been arranging,” Mrs. Morton added, and when Mrs. Emerson said that she thought the little lecture would have real value as well as interest Mrs. Smith yielded.

“Say what you and Grandmother have been telling us and you won’t need to add another thing,” cried Helen. “I think it will be the very best number on the program.”

“I don’t believe it will compete with the side show in the yard,” laughed Mrs. Smith, “but I’m quite willing to do it if you think it will give any one pleasure.”

“But you’ll be part of the side show in the yard,” and they explained the latest plan of running the program.

When the flowers had all been arranged to their satisfaction the girls went into the yard where they found the tables and chairs placed for the serving of the refreshments. The furniture had been supplied by the local confectioner who was to furnish the ice cream and give the management a percentage of what was received. The cake was all supplied by the ladies of the town and the money obtained from its sale was clear profit.

The girls covered the bleakness of the plain tables by placing a centrepiece of radiating ferns flat on the wood. On that stood a small vase, each one having flowers of but one color, and each one having a different color.

Under the trees among the refreshment tables, but not in their way, were the sales tables. On one, cut flowers were to be sold; on another, potted plants, and a special corner was devoted to wild plants from the woods. A seedsman had given them a liberal supply of seeds to sell on commission, agreeing to take back all that were not sold and to contribute one per cent. more than he usually gave to his sales people, “for the good of the cause.”

Every one in the whole town who raised vegetables had contributed to the Housewives’ Table, and as the names of the donors were attached the table had all the attraction of an exhibit at a county fair and was surrounded all the time by so many men that the women who bought the vegetables for home use had to be asked to come back later to get them, so that the discussion of their merits among their growers might continue with the specimens before them.

“That’s a hint for another year,” murmured Ethel Blue to Ethel Brown. “We can have a make-believe county fair and charge admission, and give medals ”

“Of pasteboard.”

“Exactly. I’m glad we thought to have a table of the school garden products; all the parents will be enormously interested. It will bring them here, and they won’t be likely to go away without: spending nickel or a dime on ice cream.”

A great part of the attractiveness of the grounds was due to the contribution of a dealer in garden furniture. In return for being allowed to put up advertisements of his stock in suitable places where they would not be too conspicuous, he furnished several artistic settees, an arbor or two and a small pergola, which the Glen Point greenhouseman decorated in return for a like use of his advertising matter.

Still another table, under the care of Mrs. Montgomery, the wife of the editor, showed books on flowers and gardens and landscape gardening and took subscriptions for several of the garden and home magazines. Last of all a fancy table was covered with dolls and paper dolls dressed like the participants in the floral procession that was soon to form and pass around the lawn; lamp shades in the form of huge flowers; hats, flower-trimmed; and half a hundred other small articles including many for ten, fifteen and twenty-five cents to attract the children.

At five o’clock the Flower Festival was opened and afternoon tea was served to the early comers. All the members of the United Service Club and the other boys and girls of the town who helped them wore flower costumes. It was while the Ethels were serving Mrs. Smith and the Miss Clarks that the latter called their attention to a man who sat at a table not far away.

“That man is your rival,” they announced, smiling, to Mrs. Smith.

“My rival! How is that?” inquired Mrs. Smith.

“He wants to buy the field.”

They all exclaimed and looked again at the man who sat quietly eating his ice cream as if he had no such dreadful intentions. The Ethels, however, recognized him as he pushed back a lock of hair that fell over his forehead.

“Why, that’s our werwolf!” they exclaimed after taking a good look at him, and they explained how they had seen him several times in the field, always digging a stick into the ground and examining what it brought up.

“He says he’s a botanist, and he finds so much to interest him in the field that he wants to buy it so that he may feel free to work there,” said Miss Clark the younger.

“That’s funny,” commented Ethel Blue. “He almost never looks at any flowers or plants. He just pokes his stick in and that’s all.”

“He offered us a considerable sum for the property but we told him that you had an option on it, Mrs. Smith, and we explained that we couldn’t give title anyway.”

“Did his interest seem to fail?”

“He asked us a great many questions and we told him all about our aunt and the missing cousin. I thought you might be interested to know that some one else besides yourself sees some good in the land.”

“It’s so queer,” said the other Miss Clark. “That land has never had an offer made for it and here we have two within a few weeks of each other.”

“And we can’t take advantage of either of them!”

The Ethels noticed later on that the man was joined by a girl about their own age. They looked at her carefully so that they would recognize her again if they saw her, and they also noticed that the werwolf, as he talked to her, so often pushed back from his forehead the lock of hair that fell over it that it had become a habit.

The full effect of the flower costumes was seen after the lanterns were lighted, when some of the young married women attended to the tables while their youngers marched around the lawn that all might see the costumes and be attracted to the entertainment in the hall and behind the screen in the open.

Roger led the procession, impersonating “Spring.”

“That’s a new one to me,” ejaculated the editor of the Star in surprise. “I always thought ‘Spring’ was of the feminine gender.”

“Not this year,” returned Roger merrily as he passed by.

He was dressed like a tree trunk in a long brown cambric robe that fitted him closely and gave him at the foot only the absolute space that he needed for walking. He carried real apple twigs almost entirely stripped of their leaves and laden with blossoms made of white and pink paper. The effect was of a generously flowering apple tree and every one recognized it.

Behind Roger came several of the spring blossoms the Ethels first, representing the yellow crocus and the violet. Ethel Brown wore a white dress covered with yellow gauze sewn with yellow crocuses. A ring of crocuses hung from its edge and a crocus turned upside down made a fascinating cap. All the flowers were made of tissue paper. Ethel Blue’s dress was fashioned in the same way, her violet gauze being covered with violets and her cap a tiny lace affair with a violet border. In her case she was able to use many real violets and to carry a basket of the fresh flowers. The contents was made up of small bunches of buttonhole size and she stepped from the procession at almost every table to sell a bunch to some gentleman sitting there. A scout kept the basket always full.

Sturdy James made a fine appearance in the spring division in the costume of a red and yellow tulip. He wore long green stockings and a striped tulip on each leg constituted his breeches. Another, with the points of the petals turning upwards, made his jacket, and yet another, a small one, upside down, served as a cap. James had been rather averse to appearing in this costume because Margaret had told him he looked bulbous and he had taken it seriously, but he was so applauded that he came to the conclusion that it was worth while to be a bulb if you could be a good one.

Helen led the group of summer flowers. As “Summer” she wore bunches of all the flowers in the garden, arranged harmoniously as in one of the old-fashioned bouquets her grandmother had spoken of in the morning. It had been a problem to keep all these blossoms fresh for it would not be possible for her to wear artificial flowers. The Ethels had found a solution, however, when they brought home one day from the drug store several dozen tiny glass bottles. Around the neck of each they fastened a bit of wire and bent it into a hook which fitted into an eye sewed on to the old but pretty white frock which Helen was sacrificing to the good cause. After she had put on the dress each one of these bottles was fitted with its flowers which had been picked some time before and revived in warm water and salt so that they would not wilt.

“These bottles make me think of a story our French teacher told us once,” Helen laughed as she stood carefully to be made into a bouquet. “There was a real Cyrano de Bergerac who lived in the 17th century. He told a tale supposed to be about his own adventures in which he said that once he fastened about himself a number of phials filled with dew. The heat of the sun attracted them as it does the clouds and raised him high in the air. When he found that he was not going to alight on the moon as he had thought, he broke some of the phials and descended to earth again.”

“What a ridiculous story,” laughed Ethel Blue, kneeling at Helen’s feet with a heap of flowers beside her on the floor.

“The rest of it is quite as foolish. When he landed on the earth again he found that the sun was still shining, although according to his calculation it ought to be midnight; and he also did not recognize the place he dropped upon in spite of the fact that he had apparently gone straight up and fallen straight down. Strange people surrounded him and he had difficulty in making himself understood. After a time he was taken before an official from whom he learned that on account of the rotation of the earth under him while he was in the air, although he had risen when but two leagues from Paris he had descended in Canada.”

The younger girls laughed delightedly at this absurd tale, as they worked at their task. Bits of trailing vine fell from glass to glass so that none of the holders showed, but a delicate tinkling sounded from them like the water of a brook.

“This gown of yours is certainly successful,” decided Margaret, surveying the result of the Ethels’ work, “but I dare say it isn’t comfortable, so you’d better have another one that you can slip into behind the scenes after you’ve made the rounds in this.”

Helen took the advice and after the procession had passed by, she put on a pretty flowered muslin with pink ribbons.

Dorothy walked immediately behind Helen. She was dressed like a garden lily, her petals wired so that they turned out and up at the tips. She wore yellow stockings and slippers as a reminder of the anthers or pollen boxes on the ends of the stamens of the lilies.

Dicky’s costume created as much sensation as Roger’s. He was a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. A suit of green striped in two shades fitted him tightly, and over his head he carried his pulpit, a wire frame covered with the same material of which his clothes were made. The shape was exact and he looked so grave as he peered forth from his shelter that his appearance was saluted with hearty hand clapping.

Several of the young people of the town followed in the Summer division. One of them was a fleur-de-lis, wearing a skirt of green leaf blades and a bodice representing the purple petals of the blossom. George Foster was monkshood, a cambric robe a “domino” serving to give the blue color note, and a very correct imitation of the flower’s helmet answering the purpose of a head-dress. Gregory Patton was Grass, and achieved one of the successful costumes of the line with a robe that rippled to the ground, green cambric its base, completely covered with grass blades.

“That boy ought to have a companion dressed like a haycock,” laughed Mr. Emerson as Gregory passed him.

Margaret led the Autumn division, her dress copied from a chestnut tree and burr. Her kirtle was of the long, slender leaves overlapping each other. The bodice was in the tones of dull yellow found in the velvety inside of the opened burr and of the deep brown of the chestnut itself. This, too, was approved by the onlookers.

Behind her walked Della, a combination of purple asters and golden rod, the rosettes of the former seeming a rich and solid material from which the heads of goldenrod hung in a delicate fringe.

A “long-haired Chrysanthemum” was among the autumn flowers, his tissue paper petals slightly wired to make them stand out, and a stalk of Joe-Pye-Weed strode along with his dull pink corymb proudly elevated above the throng.

All alone as a representative of Winter was Tom Watkins, decorated superbly as a Christmas Tree. Boughs of Norway spruce were bound upon his arms and legs and covered his body. Shining balls hung from the twigs, tinsel glistened as he passed under the lantern light, and strings of popcorn reached from his head to his feet. There was no question of his popularity among the children. Every small boy who saw him asked if he had a present for him.

The flower procession served to draw the people into the hall and the screened corner. They cheerfully yielded up a dime apiece at the entrance to each place, and when the “show” was over they were re-replaced by another relay of new arrivals, so that the program was gone through twice in the hall and twice in the open in the course of the evening.

A march of all the flowers opened the program. This was not difficult, for all the boys and girls were accustomed to such drills at school, but the effect in costumes under the electric light was very striking. Roger, still dressed as an apple tree, recited Bryant’s “Planting of the Apple Tree.” Dicky delivered a brief sermon from his pulpit. George Foster ordered the lights out and went behind a screen on which he made shadow finger animals to the delight of every child present. Mrs. Smith gave her little talk on the arrangement of flowers, illustrating it by the examples around the room which were later carried out to the open when she repeated her “turn” in the enclosure. The cartoonist of the Star gave a chalk talk on “Famous Men of the Day,” reciting an amusing biography of each and sketching his portrait, framed in a rose, a daisy, mountain laurel, a larkspur or whatever occurred to the artist as he talked.

There was music, for Mr. Schuler, who formerly had taught music in the Rosemont schools and who was now with his wife at Rose House, where the United Service Club was taking care of several poor women and children, had drilled some of his former pupils in flower choruses. One of these, by children of Dicky’s age, was especially liked.

Every one was pleased and the financial result was so satisfactory that Rosemont soon began to blossom like the flower from which it was named.

“Team work certainly does pay,” commented Roger enthusiastically when the Club met again to talk over the great day.

And every one of them agreed that it did.