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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER VI FLOWER DAYS AND LEGENDS.
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 Frances soon drove the car up to the side porch where the scouts1 from the house were waiting for the rest of their patrol to join them, and after welcoming Mrs. Tompkins and the three girls, they all started for Solomon’s Seal Camp. On the way past the strip of ground which Norma had had cleared and manured ready to plant Mrs. James was told what Mrs. Tompkins had suggested about fruit and flower bushes from the woods to provide food for bees and birds.  
“That’s a splendid idea, and one that we will carry out without delay, Norma,” replied Mrs. James.
“It will take all of us scouts working with you to complete such a large contract on time,” laughed Janet.
“If the trees are meant for the birds and bees, we will have to bear our share of the burden of moving them from the woods, because we are all partners in the bird and bee business, you know, as well as in Sue’s corporation,” added Natalie.
“I’m sure I have no objection to these offers of help,” retorted Mrs. James.
“Well, then, we’ll mention the contract to Patrol One, as soon as we arrive in camp,” was Belle’s remark. And she did it, too, the moment welcomes were over. The scouts of Patrol One were very glad to accept the contract on shares, and they agreed to start seeking for healthy young trees and bushes without delay.
Then Norma exclaimed: “And what do you think, girls? I told Mrs. Tompkins about the geraniums I wanted to plant all along the fence-bed, and she said that geraniums meant ‘envy.’ Did you ever know that every flower means something?”
The scouts admitted that they did not know it, but they also wanted to know all about the various meanings of well-known flowers. Mrs. James interrupted, however, with the question: “There are many different kinds of geranium, Mrs. Tompkins, so the meaning ‘envy’ cannot apply to them all.”
“No, because we do not classify the flowers correctly. We call several flowers ‘geraniums’ which have no right to the name. In the Far East the geranium is the size of a small tree, but the plants we call by the same name are nothing like that. Then, too, the spiced flower, and the rose-geranium are not really proper names for the plants.
“The tree that really is a geranium in the Far East stood for envy until Mahomet washed his shirt one day and hung it on the limb of the geranium tree to dry. In a marvelously short time the garment was dry, so Mahomet took it from the bush but where the shirt had hung now blossomed forth5 a brilliant crimson6 crown of flowers. And from that day, the tree was no longer green with envy of its flowering neighbors, but proud in its own beauty.”
The two Patrols applauded this unexpected story and Miss Mason added: “I see our Welcome Entertainer lost no time in beginning her work. This deserves a badge of honor from us, I say.”
“We agree, but where is the badge?” asked Janet.
“We’ll make one and invite Mrs. Tompkins to be our guest, on the day we present it to her,” returned Miss Mason, smilingly. So the scouts surmised8 she had a nice little plan in mind with which to thank Mrs. Tompkins.
“I vote that we give Mrs. Tompkins the seat of honor and lose no time in hearing all the valuable things she can tell us,” suggested Mrs. James, waving her girls to the grass to seat themselves.
So the Speaker for the day was conducted to the chair that was the seat of the Captain at other times and the scouts formed a semi-circle about her, with ears and eyes and minds open to hear everything she said.
“I suppose to be a good instructor9, I ought to mention a few things about the flowers; but you all may know, or a few of you may not know of them. However, I will only speak of these things in a general way so you will not need to grow impatient with me,” began Mrs. Tompkins.
“First of all, the floriculturist must understand the soil he expects to plant his flowers, or seeds, in. There are many kinds of compost, and some kinds are better than others, for certain flowers or soil. Best of all general flower fertilizers is a well-rotted cow manure3, but it must be six months old, at least, before it is mixed with the soil. Fresh well-ground bone meal is best for roses, shrubs10, trees and many flowers. Soot11 taken from our chimneys is splendid for box, privet and other hedges, especially so for the bay trees which are so decorative12 these days. If you mix soot with sulphur, you can stop mildew13 which is the bane of many a florist14.
“One reason why country women have good success with the flowers growing about the kitchen doorstep is because they generally throw the dish water or Monday’s wash water from the clothes out over the flower beds. Not that the dirty water helps the flower but the amount of potash from the soap did the work of fertilizing15.
“Sheep manure is fine, but expensive, for flower beds. Also the sweepings16 and rakings of the poultry17 yard—this is as good as any compost I know of. The cleanings of the pig pen also mixes well with the chicken manure, and the combination is excellent.
“One of the main causes of flower sickness and pests, comes from dry atmosphere, dewless nights, dry winds or baking sun rays. These sap the vitality18 of the plants and check their progress. If you dig up the soil a few inches and mix in it the fresh clipped grass from the lawn or a bit of very old manure you can offset19 this evil.
“The minute you find mildew on a plant, fight it, or it will spread so rapidly to other plants that you will find it well nigh impossible to kill it. In a very short time, your most beautiful flowers will be nothing but a memory. Powder your diseased plants with soot and sulphur nor care for their looks as long as you save them in the end.
“Roses are our sweetest and also the most troublesome of flowers. One seldom plucks a rose without finding a bug20 about it somewhere. But all sorts of bugs21 can be cleaned off now and kept away by sprinkling the rose bushes with a water to which a mixture of milk, kerosene22 and water has been added. The directions say: Three pints23 sweet milk, three pints kerosene, two pints water. Then add this as you need to wet the bushes, as follows: one pint24 of mixture to every two gallons of water. Not only sprinkle all leaves, buds and blossoms, but the ground about the bush, as well. This wash can be applied25 every ten days to two weeks apart, from May to June.
“The best all-around cure I know of, for removing every sort of insect or worm, are the birds—plenty of wild birds about your place. To encourage these feathered helpers, keep away strange cats, provide plenty of bird houses, give them bathing pools and feeding stations, as well as berry bushes, fruit trees and plants that will provide plenty of seeds for them to harvest. One of the favorite foods of the wild birds are various kinds of growing grain, corn and seed grasses. The latter are very decorative when grown in clumps26 and large patches, and the grain can be made to add to the beauty of a place if properly grouped.
“There are very few flowers that cannot be planted in the fall and left to come up in the spring. All my bulbs are planted in fall and covered with a straw mixed manure to keep the frost away. Also my hardy27 plants and shrubs are planted in the fall. If vines and self-growing flowers are seeded in the fall and covered with a light compost, they will come up as soon as the season is conducive28. But I seldom set out my tender plants until after Decoration Day. If I need an early start for my flowers, I begin them in the hot-beds, or cold frames.
“I won’t take any more time now, girls, to go into details about plants, because we have all summer to ask and answer questions on any special matter. But I will reply to any query29 you may wish to ask me now, before I begin the legends,” said Mrs. Tompkins.
The scouts showed no desire to postpone31 the telling of the stories they wanted to hear, so the guest smiled and began.
“I’ll begin by telling you that Hester’s natal4 flower is the white rose—her birthday comes on the first of June. The fairy-tale about the first white rose is very pretty.
“One very warm day in the long ago, the Hindu god Vishnu was arguing with Brahma while both of them floated on the water to cool themselves. Brahma had said that the lovely lotus in which he was floating was the fairest flower that ever was seen. Vishnu contradicted his statement, by saying that he knew of a flower far more beautiful.
“Then Brahma said impatiently: ‘I cannot believe what my eyes have ne’er beheld32. Where is this rare blossom thou praiseth?’
“Vishnu smiled wisely and replied: ‘The lotus is fair, but this flower that blooms only in my garden of Paradise is incomparable. Nothing hath ever been seen like unto it.’
“Then Brahma became curious to see it with his own eyes, and he said: ‘Go to! If thy flower be so wondrous33 fair that its beauty exceedeth my lotus, then will I give thee the half of my kingdom. But should it fail to merit my admiration34 and my lotus remains35 the finest flower, then the half of thy domain36 becomes mine.’
“Vishnu agreed to this wager37 and the two quickly hied them to the Paradise that surrounded Vishnu’s palace. Brahma was conducted to a royal banqueting hall to partake of refreshments38, but he was too eager to see the beautiful flower Vishnu had lauded7.
“So the two sought the gardens where the sweetest and loveliest flowers bloomed all the year round. Then came Vishnu to a circular bed that was surrounded by a path, and all about this path were wonderful roses, wafting39 their perfume everywhere. But all the blossoms turned the one way—towards the circular flower bed in the center of which stood a tall, slender, majestic40 rose plant.
“Vishnu halted in front of this rose tree that stood apart from its brethren, as if consecrated41 for a purpose. And as he lifted his eyes to the tiny green bud that crowned the top of the bush, the bud began to grow. Brahma stared in wonderment, but said not a word—so marvelled42 he.
“In a few moments the bud had increased to its full size, which was thrice the size of a man’s head. And then it began to open its green doors. Slowly the white leaves of a flower appeared and when full grown, leaned back upon the stem of the blossom to make room for the other petals43.
“Finally all the petals had appeared, and the rose seemed full-blown. Then came such a rare perfume from its heart as would intoxicate44 the beholders. And from the heart of the rose, there came slowly and gracefully45 a waxen-white goddess of surpassing beauty and fairness. She stepped daintily from the rose and stood before the bewildered Vishnu. Brahma was speechless with surprise also.
“Then spake the queen of the roses and said: ‘Vishnu, because thou hast honored the flowers in thine own home garden, Nature hath sent me to be your bride. Henceforth, the white rose shall be a bride’s flower, and its sweetness and beauty shall ne’er fade.’
“Thereupon, Brahma admitted willingly that this flower in the garden of Paradise was the most beautiful in the world, and the half of his kingdom became Vishnu’s, who now was the greater lord and governed Brahma and his possessions.”
When Mrs. Tompkins concluded her story of the white rose, the scouts applauded delightedly, and then Janet called out: “Tell me my flower, Mrs. Tompkins, and what is the legend to go with it.”
“When is your birthday, Janet?” asked the story-teller.
“August twentieth.”
Mrs. Tompkins laughed lightly and replied: “Janet, you have a flower that is a keynote to your character—daring, frank, stubborn to resist obstacles and adverse46 conditions, generous in sweetness and sunny coloring, but so willing to bloom everywhere that others might be cheered, that it is not half appreciated. I mean the dandelion, your natal day flower.”
The other scouts laughed at Janet’s expression and Mrs. James remarked significantly: “The dandelion never borrows trouble, skips merrily over the meadow or roadway, creeps in to smile on the fairest lawns, lifts its sunny face in the most squalid corners, but is often trampled47 under foot, or scorned because of its intrepid48 stand but bold assurance.”
“Well, if that means I am bold because I was impatient to know what my birth flower was, I have my answer. A dandelion! Pooh!” was Janet’s scornful rejoinder.
“Don’t scorn this little flower, Janet, because you say it grows commonly everywhere. The field and roadside blossoms have the greatest mission in God’s flower kingdom. Because they are told to brighten and cheer all climes and creatures. Besides this, the dandelion has a most interesting construction and its great sweetness offers unlimited49 nectar and pollen50 to the bees and birds. What would they do without the dandelion?” said Mrs. Tompkins.
Janet felt more resigned at this explanation, and Mrs. Tompkins continued: “The name of dandelion is not the correct one for this sunny blossom, but like so many of our English words it became commonly called the ‘dandelion’ because a foppish51 young lion of society who was one of the ‘dandies’ of his day, and used the little yellow flower as his symbol. It was used on his linen52, his crest53, and he always wore one in his button-hole.
“But the real name of the flower was Sun Lion, because of its endurance and powers to withstand overwhelming adversities, and because its face always smiled serenely54 up at the sun, and turned as the sun moved across the sky, to always keep its eye open towards it. This is what made its fine golden petals radiate from the central point outward—as the sun’s rays shine outward to all.
“The legend that I have heard of the dandelion comes from Indian lore55, and the moral is quite simple to understand—never procrastinate56.
“The South Wind, who was very fond of wild flowers, took a walk one day through a woods where he became enchanted57 with the pretty blossoms he found growing there. But he loitered so long that he became drowsy58 when the sun shone warmly down at noontime. So he found a secluded59 shady nook and curled up to have a nap.
“When he awoke, he found he had slept through the night and now it was morning again; so he lifted his head and rested it upon his elbow, and gazed delightedly around him. The woods with its admiring blossoms, smiled back at him, and out on the meadows the meek60 and lowly flowers nodded joyously61 to greet him.
“As South Wind smiled back at his admirers, he suddenly saw a happy little flower maid out on the meadow, dancing for joy and waving about her a bright sunny cloud of golden hair.
“South Wind was so enchanted by this bright vision that he decided62 to woo her for his bride. But the sun rose higher and reached noontime, when it shone too warm for South Wind to exert himself very much. So he said he would defer63 his wooing until the next day. Then he sought the cool and shady nook in the woods and soon fell fast asleep again.
“When he awoke again, it was another day, but still the golden-haired maid was dancing and smiling in the meadow; and the amorous64 South Wind sighed with sentiment and started to rise and woo the captivating beauty. But again the heat of noonday overcame his good intentions and he dropped back and took one more nap.
“He awoke early on the third morn and jumped up with the determination to go and win the fair maid that day without fail. So he blew himself quickly out of the alluring65 woods and reached the meadowland where he had watched the golden-haired dancer. As he softly approached the figure which now stood still in the grass, he smiled, for he pictured the greeting such a spirited maid would give him—the South Wind!
“He reached the figure, but what was his chagrin66 when he saw the wonderful golden hair had faded to grey, and the youth of the charming dancer had turned to old age upon a bended stem! Poor South Wind knew it was because of his delay in wooing and winning the object of his love, while youth and beauty remained, that now filled his heart with bitter disappointment. He sighed heavily with his sorrow, and his breath blew over the grey head of Sun Lion and at that breath of love lost, the whitened hair fell from her crown and were lightly wafted67, here and there, and far away, leaving the old head shorn of all its covering, and bent68 low in useless regrets.”
This story met with more appreciative69 applause than the white rose legend, and then so many girls called for their natal flowers and the legends to go with them, that the Captain held up a hand for patience. When quiet reigned70 once more, Mrs. James said:
“I propose that we hear from our hostess of Green Hill Farm. Perhaps she has a favorite natal flower and a pretty legend to go with it.”
“Yes, Natalie—what is your birth date?” asked Mrs. Tompkins.
“My birthday is on the eleventh of June?” said the girl eagerly.
“June eleventh has the field daisy for its flower. It means ‘optimism.’ There are many stories in connection with the daisy—or Marguerite, as it is known in France. But the story that is claimed to be a true one, tells how Marguerite of heathen times, was driven from her father’s home in Antioch because she would not renounce71 the Christian72 faith and bow low to the pagan god. She loved the daisy and it became her flower after her martyrdom.
“There is a legend, or myth, about the daisy that says: ‘Once the dryads were dancing on the great Green of the world, when the god of spring passed by and stopped to watch the dance. The dryads were so merry and gay in the abandon of their whirl that they did not see the god of spring creep up and await his opportunity to spring forward and catch up the sweetest of them all—a modest lovely little form which had attracted his eye.
“‘Just as the god snatched the beauteous maiden73 from her companions, she lifted her head and called to heaven for help. Instantly she was turned into the lovely little daisy that always lifts its head toward heaven and greets the sun with smiles.’”
When the girls’ applause for this tale died out, Norma suggested eagerly: “Now we ought to hear Jimmy’s natal flower and its legend.”
“I already know my natal flower, and my birthday being so near at hand I think I will ask to be excused from the publicity74 such a revelation will make just now,” laughed Mrs. James.
“Tell us what your flower is, if you know it?” demanded Natalie eagerly.
“It is the honeysuckle—not the wild but the clinging vine,” returned Mrs. James.
“Ha! That means devotion, doesn’t it. Quite true of your characteristics, too,” remarked Mrs. Tompkins.
Mrs. James flushed, but smiled with thanks at the delicate compliment, then added: “Is there a legend to go with it?”
“It is a love story of Old England, but not claimed to be true. It goes like this: A sweet little country maid would not look at the uncouth75 lads of her village, so they stood aside and sighed in vain.
“But a handsome young gallant76 rode through the dale, one morn, and spied the lovely discontented rural maid as she stood beside the door of her humble77 home-cottage. He tarried in the village long enough to woo the girl who had appealed so strongly to his senses, but when he had won her love and she was dreaming of her wedding day, he realized how tiresome78 she would be in his gay life of London.
“So he told her ruthlessly one moonlight evening that he could not wed30 because he had wearied of her love. The maid cried out brokenly that she would not let him leave her. But he sprang away from her outstretched hands and ran for his horse which had been hidden behind the trees. Before he could reach it, however, the jilted maid ran after and caught his body in her embrace. She sank upon her knees, while she still clung desperately79 to his waist and hands and begged him to remain with her yet a little while.
“He was just about to tear away her clinging fingers so he could escape, when the moon rode out from behind the black cloud that had veiled its face hitherto. The broken-hearted maiden cried to the moon to help her keep her lover always beside her, and instantly, an icy finger of moonlight touched the callous80 youth and turned him into a slender tree. About the trunk of the tree there twined the arms of the girl in the form of the honeysuckle, but every tear she wept produced a splash of a flower that shed sweetest fragrance81 upon the air.”
“That is a very romantic little story, but not one that I can claim as an appropriate one for myself,” laughed Mrs. James.
“Now that Jimmy has had her flower and its legend, I think we ought to hear one for Miss Mason, too,” declared Janet.
“Yes, yes!” chorused the scouts eagerly.
“Well, girls, my birthday happens to be soon, and I feel the same as my Lieutenant82 does—that it will give the date too much publicity if you all hear it, just now,” retorted Miss Mason.
“Oh, I know when Jimmy’s is. If yours is near that time it ought to be the honeysuckle, too,” said Natalie.
“Just to compel the Captain to reveal the date of her birth, I will tell you, scouts, that my birthday is on the sixteenth of July—very imminent83, you see,” said Mrs. James.
“Why! how interesting! That is my birthday, too!” exclaimed the Captain.
“Ho! A double birthday, then,” exclaimed Norma.
“And one we must celebrate without fail,” added Janet.
“Yes, indeed! Our two grand masters of the lodge84 having a birthday on the same day!” laughed Natalie.
“We’ll have the party, all right, to celebrate, but the Captain has no legend coming to her. She’ll have to take some of Jimmy’s honeysuckle and share the romance with her,” said Norma.
The scouts laughed merrily and when the teasing had subsided85 somewhat the Captain said: “We ought to know what Solomon’s Seal means—in a legend, I mean.”
But the girls were clamoring for their own birth flowers, so that Miss Mason’s words were lost. Mrs. Tompkins replied to most of the requests for the names and meanings of the various natal flowers, and the scouts heard that June the fifth had Verbena for its flower and its meaning was “discretion.” The Crocus for March seventh meant cheerfulness. The Canterbury Bell in August stood for gratitude86. And the April Violet meant modesty87. One of the scouts heard that the snapdragon meant presumption88 but she was the most retiring one of all the Patrol, so this called out a general laugh at her expense. Then Frances was told that her flower was the proud and disdainful sunflower and again the scouts laughed heartily89 for they declared that the flower dictionary was wrong. Frances should have had the fuchsia instead, which means “mad ambition.”
Two hours had passed in this interesting form of story-telling and now Mrs. Tompkins said she must be starting back home or her husband would send out the secret detective force of Four Corners to locate her.
The very idea of Four Corners having any such force made the scouts laugh gayly, but Miss Mason said anxiously: “Oh, you must not think of leaving the scout2 gathering90 until we have had our refreshments, Mrs. Tompkins.”
This part of the programme was unexpected by Patrol Two, but nevertheless very acceptable. Short shrift was made of the cakes baked by the scouts that morning; and the birch lemonade concocted91 from the essence distilled92 from macerated birch, made a delicious drink.
As the scouts of Patrol Number Two left camp and started for the house, one of the members of Patrol One called out: “Don’t forget the celebration on the sixteenth! We’ve got to get together very soon and plan for it.”
And Natalie, speaking for her scouts, called back: “No, we won’t forget!”

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