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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER VII THE ROCK AND WATER GARDEN.
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 Late that afternoon, when the girls were engaged with their various pursuits, Norma called Mrs. James to join her over at the rail fence. Here the two paced off the strip of ground and tied strings1 on the rails opposite which they planned to plant the wild berry and flower bushes from the woods.  
This done, Norma said: “Now let’s go over to the barn yard and decide where to plant the sun flowers and other bushes from the woods.”
This was finally done, also, and then Mrs. James walked slowly from the barn to the edge of the tiny brook2 that ran all along the edge of the barn yard and found its outlet3 in the woodland stream. Norma followed, wondering why her companion paused so often to study the environment and why she turned to allow her eyes to rove over the rivulet4 and its weedy sides.
“I’ve been thinking, Norma, that this unsightly spot on the farm ought to be redeemed6 in some way. Not only does this insignificant7 creek8 afford many stagnant10 places where mosquitoes breed, but the briars and weeds growing so thickly on its banks keep scattering11 their seeds every fall and causing more work for us the following season.”
“What were you thinking of doing with it, Jimmy?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking a great deal of what you said yesterday, Norma, about wishing to build a rock garden with ferns and plants that grow well in such soil, and then when you had time to figure out the plans and cost of building a miniature water garden, you wanted to take up that interesting work.
“I have always had a desire to build a water garden, too, but I never really got so far as to see it done. I felt the wish to make one revive the moment you spoke12 of planning one. And just now when we crossed this undesirable13 patch of ground, I started wondering if we could not divert this stream into something for our garden.”
“Oh, but I had no idea of having my water garden over by the barn yard, Jimmy,” exclaimed Norma, greatly disturbed. “I wanted it to be on the front lawn, or near enough to the house so we could all enjoy its refreshing14 looks whenever we passed by it or sat on the porch.”
“That is my intention, too. I want to find out the source of this tiny creek, because it must have a source somewhere, you know. I do not remember any brook or water passing over the main road in front of the house, do you?”
“No, but we may have overlooked its being there. There may be a large drain pipe under the road, to conduct the creek from one side of the road to our side. I’ll go and find out.”
“We’ll both go and see just where this water has its birth. Now that I’ve given a thought to it, I’m as curious as can be, to locate its origin,” said Mrs. James.
So the two hurried past the house and out to the road. Here they walked for some distance past the corner post of the farm-line, but could not find anything that might possibly be a spring or creek that would finally form the tiny rivulet they were investigating.
So they retraced15 their steps and again reached the little ford9 over the barn yard lane, where the stream crossed.
“We’ll have to break our way into this jungle of shoulder-high weeds and briars, if we expect to find the source of the creek,” remarked Mrs. James, pinning her short skirt tightly about her and beginning to bend down the weedy stems that obstructed16 the way.
Norma followed closely in her tracks and after a slow progress through the stubborn undergrowth, the two came to a spot almost opposite the house, but about three hundred yards away from it.
“Why, the creek turns sharply towards the house here, Norma, but the jungle spreads further afield,” said Mrs. James, as she turned to the left to follow the stream.
They now reached a point in the course of the creek that was not a hundred feet away from the front corner of the house, but the reeds and briars had always hidden the small stream winding17 its way through the jungle. Mrs. James was elated at discovering a natural supply of water so near the front lawns and stepped out to proceed, when suddenly her foot sank in a soft bog18.
“Oh!” exclaimed she, quickly pulling her foot out and stepping back. Norma was just about to advance, but she, too, jumped back to avoid a collision.
“What is it—a water snake?” called Norma anxiously.
“No, a mire19. I went right down in a marsh20. But it is not possible to determine how large an area the mire covers, because the undergrowth is so dense21. Let’s go back and try to enter the place from the front-lawn side.”
So the two hastened back the way they had come, and tried to continue their investigations22 from the front lawn side of the briar patch.
The two stood on a slight elevation23 of ground at the front corner of the lawn, where stood a group of giant pines which had done service as silent sentinels for more than a century. They made one of the artistic24 scenic25 effects on the farm, with their wide-spreading limbs tipped with flat fans of aromatic26 green shading the lawn and road.
“From this slight knoll27, the ground slopes naturally to this depression that is now covered with that tangled29 undergrowth,” said Mrs. James, pointing generally at the area under discussion. “You can see that the ground rises very gradually from the depression until it is on a level with the main road again. From the spot where I went down in the marsh, over to the property line of our farm, is more than a hundred yards across, and it is all such a jungle that no one ever bothered to investigate the possibilities of doing anything with it. At least, that is what I think, because this place has been uncultivated for years, as one can see.”
Norma listened intently and followed with her eyes, the various directions pointed30 out, but wondered what could be done.
“Now I am almost convinced that that creek finds its source somewhere in that bog. I believe that the spring we will discover there is not only the cause of that bog and the rank growth of weeds and briars, but it also furnishes the tiny stream of water that trickles31 past the barn. If this is so, Norma, then our hardest problem is already solved. In building a water garden the question of water supply is the greatest thing.
“One can run a pipe line from the house to any locality, and one can divert a nearby stream into a pool, and then lead its overflow32 away again, but that means a lot of work and expense. If we can find that the spring is located in, or near, this depression of ground, we not only have solved our difficulty of water supply, but we also have a natural pool formed by this slight hollow that is nicely graded all around to form the banks of our lake.”
“But, Jimmy, those roots will grow up again even if we cut off the tops of the weeds, and the bog will be horrid33 if it is underneath34 our pool,” was Norma’s disappointed reply.
“We’d have to get help and dig out the roots to prevent their decaying when under water. And we’d have to clear out the boggy35 ground and dig down until we struck solid earth again; then leave that for our basis to build on,” explained Mrs. James.
“Do you think Sam can do all of that? I know you and I could never accomplish it alone,” ventured Norma.
“I would have Mr. Ames go over the area and tell us what he thought of it. He can give us an idea of what it will cost to clear out the jungle, and clean up the bog from the bottom of the depression. If it does not cost too much, I think I will start the work at once.”
“It would be just wonderful if we could make our dreams of a water garden come true this year. I was afraid I would have to wait for next summer before I could try anything so elaborate,” sighed Norma delightedly.
“Now that we know where the creek starts, Norma, suppose we walk around by the road and climb the fence to get into the fringe of woods on the other side of this area. I’m curious to find out if this depression extends far across to the other boundary line of this farm. I only hope it does, for that will give us a wonderful expanse of water to plan for, and the spring can fill it just as easily as if it were a tiny little puddle36. The height of the dam we will have to build at the far end of the depression, will be determined37 by the depth of the water we wish to have in the lake.”
“Oh, Jimmy! Will we have a real dam, too?” cried Norma.
“Of course! That is what will back up the water and fill the depression. If there is no dam, the water will go right on running away as it now does.”
The two now started for the road in order to gain the far side of the briar area, but Frances was seen coming from the barn in the automobile38. They reached the gateway39 about the same time and Mrs. James asked: “Where are you going, Frances?”
“Over to Dorothy Ames’s to see if she can come over and advise Janet about some pigeons. Dot raises them, you know, and we want her to find a suitable place for Sam to start the cote.”
“Then I wish you would stop at the other Ames’s farm and see if Mr. Ames is home. If he can come over for a half hour, I’d like very much to ask him about some work to be done here,” said Mrs. James.
“I’ll not only stop and ask him, but we’ll stop and bring him back with us, if he can get away,” agreed Frances.
While the two were waiting for Frances to reappear with Farmer Ames, they talked eagerly of the lake they could already visualize40 in the place where bog and weeds now stood.
“If we build a dam, Jimmy, that means we will have a water falls, too, doesn’t it?” was Norma’s eager question.
“Yes, and I will want a bridge, too, over the lake.”
“Oh, how lovely! Maybe we can build a bridge like I’ve seen in magazines, where the large estates have landscape gardeners beautify the grounds. I’ve seen Japanese gardens with the loveliest bridges and islands in the lakes! I’d like a bridge with stone lanterns and Japanese idols41 and temples on it.”
Mrs. James laughed. “I’d like them, too, but I will be contented42 with a rustic43 bridge of cedar44, for the time being. We may be able to have the upright posts heavy enough to hold up an iron lantern on its top, but the temple and little gods are out of the question, because they cost so much in the city.”
“Another thing, Jimmy, we can transplant lots of wild fruit and berry bushes from those woods on the other side of the fence, and grow them in groups on the banks of our lake. And we must group rocks in such places where they will be most effective, and then plant the fern and plants that will need moisture and shade. Oh, it will be perfectly45 lovely when it is finished!”
When Frances brought Farmer Ames back with her, the experienced man heard Mrs. James’s plans and wishes to start a lake. At first he laughed heartily46 at such a suggestion, but the more he looked at the disgraceful briar patch and thought of the beautiful spot a water garden would make, right there he changed his laughter to serious ideas.
“The old tenant47 never tilled that ground because it was so boggy and he claimed it was sour. So he just let it go like this, all the ten years he lived on the farm,” explained Mr. Ames.
“One thing I want you to find out now, is this: Just where is that spring located, and how much muck will have to be dug out before you strike hard ground to build on,” said Mrs. James.
“I kin5 tel you that in a very short time. I’ve got on my rubber boots, so I kin plunge48 right in now,” agreed Mr. Ames.
So he thrashed down the reeds and briars in his way and went into the marsh. The two anxious watchers on the high ground could see that his feet sank to a depth of about ten inches, or more. But that did not say that he had struck solid hard ground. He might have to dig out another six to ten inches of muck soil before solid earth could be reached.
Finally Mr. Ames shouted to the anxious gardeners: “I’ve struck the spring itself! Here’s where it bubbles up.”
“It’s almost in the middle of the area, isn’t it?” called Mrs. James delightedly.
“Yeh, and it makes quite a little way for itself until it gets clogged49 with dirt and tangle28 of debris50. Then it spreads all over the place and causes the bog. It looks like an easy job to clean out a little ditch to run the water along to the creek, until we are ready to flood the whole area,” said Ames.
He prodded51 about some more and then he came out again. “I should say, Mis’ James, that that fixin’ ought to be right easy.”
“You do! How far over can we extend the water?”
“The land doesn’t begin to rise again until you get close to the fringe of bushes, over there—this side Natalie’s fence.”
“Splendid! Just what I hoped for!” cried Mrs. James, clasping her hands eagerly.
“And how far down past the house can we run it, Mr. Ames?” added Norma.
“Well, up hereabouts, where the roadway drops down to this hollow, it will be wider than down by the house, you know. In plain words, the head of the lake would be about where the fence divides the land from the main road. It will sort of round itself off before it gets to the clump52 of pine trees, and on t’other side it will round quite sharp instead of having any corner where the side fence joins the front fence of the property lines.
“Right across from the lawn to that side will be the widest part of the pond, and from there down to the end of the briar patch it will gradually narrow in until it reaches the place where you intend having the dam set,” Mr. Ames explained.
“How much work will it be to cut down the jungle and dig up the roots?” asked Mrs. James anxiously.
“If you mean for me to do it, I could start in with your man Sam to help me and clean off the weeds and the roots in about two days’ time.”
Norma could hardly believe it, but she said nothing, for Mrs. James was speaking again. “And then how long do you suppose it will take to scrape off the bog and muck and reach hard pan?”
“Umph! That’s not easy to figger on, ’cause some of the bog might be made by deep roots that hold on for dear life to the soil underneath. But Sam and I ought to be able to clean out the stuff in another two to four days—all depends.”
“We’ll do it, Mr. Ames! Even if I have to pay for the work out of my own money—we’ll have this lake without any delay. I wish you’d come and start work to clear the weeds just as soon as you can,” declared Mrs. James.
“Can you spare Sam all day tomorrow, if I come over to work?” asked the farmer.
“Yes, not only Sam, but Norma and I are going to help in this work. Perhaps some of the other scouts53 will join us, and every one can find something to do in the clearing of the place. While you are throwing out the muck, I intend to convey it to places conveniently near where it can be well mixed with manure54 and be ready to spread out on the floor of the pond as soon as you are ready for it. Yes, you come over in the morning, and we will be ready for you, Mr. Ames,” said Mrs. James.
That evening the scouts sat under the group of pine trees listening to Mrs. James describe her vision of a water garden. Each one had something to say, and every one wanted to help with the interesting development of the lake. So the work was detailed55 off in order to give every one a certain contract to fulfill56.
There were large and picturesque57 rocks to haul, to pile up or group, in order to add to the natural beauty of the garden. Frances suggested a way to haul these rocks.
“We’ll get a chain and tackle from Ames and fasten the fingers of the clutch about a rock. The chain can be hooked to the back of the car and then I’ll drive while the rock is being dragged along the road to the lakeside.”
“You’ll have a dreadful hard job dragging an uneven58 rock over the dirt road. It will gouge59 up the ground and half bury itself all along the way. It would be much easier if we could wheel the rocks in some way, instead of dragging them over the road,” said Janet speculatively60.
“Maybe we can borrow that old truck from the station man, at Four Corners, and hook the handle to the automobile and just pull it along with the rocks on it,” ventured Norma.
“That’s a good idea! I’ll drive in first thing in the morning and get it. Si Tompkins will ask the man for me. We won’t hurt it any more than trunks and ploughs and other things it has to move from the baggage cars to the farmers’ carts,” said Frances.
“Oh, no one will worry about hurting it,” laughed Natalie. “It is in such a battered61 state that nothing more can injure it.”
“Well, that’s settled, then. Some of you scouts will see to it that the rocks are delivered on the shores of the lake,” said Mrs. James. Then she went on: “Some will have to dig up the bushes and young trees in the woodland stretch, over on the other side, and carefully transplant them in suitable pits dug to receive them on the shores of the pool.”
A group of scouts was told off for this work and Janet with a number of friends were ordered to bring well-rotted cow manure from Ames’s farm and mix it with the soft muck which would be cleared out of the hollow. Small heaps of this mixture would be left at intervals62 all around the lake, so it could be readily shovelled63 back and spread out to form a rich soil under the water where water lilies, Egyptian lotus and iris64 could be planted.
“Another task that must be attended to is the carting of nice white sand to the fence line in front; so it can be used when the lake bottom is all finished. The sand must be spread out about an inch in depth, all over the compost soil, to keep the water clear. I’m going to hire Ames’s cart and farm horse to do this work. The sand from a pit half a mile down the road is just the kind we will need, so a few of you scouts can drive there and attend to this branch of work,” said Mrs. James.
But the majority of the scouts were chosen to help work on the clearing of the land. Not only were they willing to drag away the tough roots of old nettles65 and reeds, but they offered to help dig out the bog and carry the muck up from the hollow to heap it where Mrs. James would designate.
When Hester Tompkins went home that night and told her parents of the plan to turn the wild briar patch into a water garden, they thought it was splendid, and offered to assist in the work in any way Mrs. James needed them. So the next morning found Mrs. Tompkins ready to go with Hester to walk to the farm and begin to work for the future lake.
Mr. Tompkins had no trouble in borrowing the heavy truck from the baggage office at the station, and when Frances started for Green Hill, pulling the truck behind the automobile, several of the natives stood laughing. But the store keeper suggested a better way to help than by standing66 there laughing at nothing.
“I say! we husky men pitch in and help them gals67 root up the rocks they want for their garden. We all own crow bars, and we know how to handle a rock, so let’s pitch in, says I, eh?”
Most of the men had heard of the scouts’ farming and other work at Green Hill and every one wanted to inspect the place and see what these girls could do, so they agreed to join Si Tompkins and help collect the rocks for the garden. Had it not been for the strength and experience these men had to pry68 the rocks out of their resting places and remove them to the water garden which they were meant to beautify, it is doubtful if the girls could have finished that work quite so speedily.
When Mrs. Tompkins reached the house at Green Hill, she was welcomed by the girls because they knew she could advise them in many ways that would help the work along faster and better.
As Mrs. James led the way to the briar patch, Mrs. Tompkins said: “Have you planned to have a Japanese garden, or just a pool?”
“Norma said yesterday, how she would love to have a real Japanese water garden similar to those she has seen in magazines. But I told her we could not afford the money for the decorative69 lanterns, and temples and seats such as a Japanese garden called for.”
“Why, they won’t cost very much extra—only for the cement, you know,” said Mrs. Tompkins.
Norma and Mrs. James gazed in surprise at their visitor and Norma said: “What cement do you mean?”
“Why, the cement for the concrete. And the work is so interesting, too, you ought to try it before you count the cost.”
“You don’t mean that we can make the temples and other objects?” exclaimed Mrs. James.
“Of course! You didn’t mean to hire them made, did you?” was the lady’s retort, as much surprised as her two hostesses.
“I never dreamed of it! I don’t know a thing about concrete,” was Mrs. James’s dismayed answer.
“I’ll show you. As long as you are going to build a dam to back up the pond, you may as well order a few extra bags of cement and build your seats and bridges and other things so they will last.”
“I thought I would try and have some sort of a bridge of rustic wood, but I was pondering how to erect70 the pillars or posts so they would be firm and strong enough to hold up the span,” said Mrs. James.
By this time the three reached the edge of the area where Ames and Sam were already ditching a narrow outlet used to drain the marsh of the spring water. Mrs. James pointed out where she wanted a bridge to be, and Mrs. Tompkins nodded, then suggested:
“Don’t try to span the entire water with one bridge, Mrs. James. When Ames gets the marsh all cleaned out and it is dry enough for us to work in, we will mix the concrete and make a few islands in the lake. The largest one can be in the direction of the widest diameter of the lake, which is near the roadway that passes the place. Our bridge will run from here to that island. Then from the other side of that island we will build another smaller bridge to span the distance to an island nearer the other side, but further down near the dam. Then a third bridge can span that water from the island to the opposite shore. What do you think of my suggestions?”
“Oh, perfectly fine, but think of all the work in making the islands?” said Mrs. James.
“No more work than if you had to construct three solid piers71 for the bridge if you spanned the entire width of the lake. The concrete base we use for the islands will not have to be molded or clean-cut, you know. It will be poured on the floor of the marsh first then the thicker concrete will be piled on top of that when it is hard. We will embed72 rocks in this second layer so the mass will harden together and form as fine a foundation as one can want. In the crevices73 of the rocks and all over the concrete foundation, we will throw the rich soil you are planning to prepare, and in this we can plant our bushes and flowers.
“On the smaller islands we will not have room for bushes or shrubs74, but the ferns and water plants can grow there. Besides, a planting of cat-tails in the soil around the islands will make them look much larger than they really are, and still show glimpses of the water glistening75 through their stalks.”
“Dear me, I’m so glad you came to advise us, Mrs. Tompkins, that I want to hug you for it!” exclaimed Norma enthusiastically.
The two women laughed and Mrs. James added: “Norma was so keen about having temples and seats and Japanese lanterns that I felt sorry for her disappointment. Now she can have them all and more, too.”
“I wanted to have those cute little dwarf76 pines in the stone jars on the bridge, you know, like they have in pictures, but Jimmy said the stone objects cost too much,” explained Norma.
“Let me tell you right here that the crooked77 little pines and cedars78 that you see growing in or near the water in the finest of Japanese gardens are not planted in the water nor in the soil of the water garden. They are planted in large galvanized or other metal buckets so they will be waterproof79, and these pails are sunken into the ground, or hidden by reeds and ferns that grow up about the outer edges of the pail to screen it. The water generally reaches up to within an inch of the top of the pail so that the plant and the soil it is in never get wet from the lake. Quite often, the pails holding the trees are placed in the jardinieres of concrete, but do not show from the outside. They can be easily lifted out and given the care they need, and then replaced again. If they were planted right in the concrete posts they could not be taken out and attended to as they require it.”
“Then we can get some metal pails and have trees growing on our bridge, too!” declared Norma eagerly.
“You can buy some of the ordinary stable pails that Si keeps in stock. They are large and heavy and will never rust,” said Mrs. Tompkins.
“If you haven’t ordered your water lilies, or iris, or the lotus and cat-tail seeds yet, I think I can get them for you from a gardener over White Plains way, and save you money, too. He will give me a lot of plants for nothing, because I’ve given him plenty of valuable advice for nothing in the past.
“As for the cement—order that from White Plains at once so you won’t be delayed after the clearing is done. In fact, if I were in your place, Mrs. James, I’d let Frances drive over and bring back as many bags at a time as she can comfortably carry in the car. The bags can be wrapped in paper to keep the car clean.”
“I wish I knew half as much as you do, Mrs. Tompkins, because I’d think myself something, then,” sighed Mrs. James.
Mrs. Tompkins laughed. “The more you really know, the more you discover how little you have actually understood. Then the fact of one human’s insignificance80 dawns upon you.”
“Well, we sure are glad you gave us all this advice, even if you do consider yourself an insignificant human,” said Norma in so earnest a tone that the others laughed merrily at her.
Frances drove Mrs. Tompkins back to Four Corners and got the metal pails to carry back to the farm. She then wrote down the address of the store where she was to go for the cement and finally started back for Green Hill.
Rachel spread a long table, constructed of several boards, placed across two trestles on the side lawn that evening, and then called every one to supper. It was her greatest delight to invite company to dinner or supper and this occasion was an unusual one to treat the men from Four Corners who had remained and helped with the work all that afternoon.
Hands and faces were washed at the hydrant where the garden hose was generally attached. Rachel provided towels and soap for every one, and a merry group of girls and farmers were soon splashing freely in order to hurry their toilets and sit down on the boxes that stood in rows beside the long plank81 table.
Perhaps it was the feast, or it may have been the merry scouts as they entertained these middle-aged82 villagers that made Si Tompkins declare as they were ready to go home: “Boys, shall we help the gals out again tomorrer? They’ve got a powerful lot of rocks to haul, yet!”
And that is how the scouts secured such desirable workers in doing the very heaviest part of the entire work on the water garden.
After the men had gone and the dishes were all in the kitchen, the girls began to carry away the boards that had been in the cellar and were used for swing shelves in winter time, Mrs. James remarked to Miss Mason: “I wonder if goldfish will thrive in such a pond?”
“Why, of course! Didn’t you know that they are an absolute necessity for the health of your plants and the purity of the water? They eat up all the insect pests and mosquito larvae83 that grow on the water. But you won’t want to place any gold fish in the water until it is all settled and cleared from the work and soil.”
“Isn’t it funny, Jimmy, how I started out with a meek84 idea for a little rookery or a pool garden, and you had such great ambitions that we adventured into the bog. Now just see what is growing out of our infant plan! A great pond with islands and bridges and temples and everything!” exclaimed Norma, her eyes shining.
“We may end by holding a Japanese flower show in the garden this fall,” added Janet teasingly.
“Not unless my flowers and plants grow better than they seem to at present. I really suppose they were planted too late to have much courage this summer, but next year they’ll pay me back,” said Norma.
“You talk as if you liked Green Hill and was coming back!” laughed Natalie, pleased as could be at the idea.
“Coming back! Of course we are—if Jimmy and you will only let us! You didn’t think I was raising Susy for you to own next year, did you?” demanded Janet anxiously.
Mrs. James laughed: “We still have plenty of time in which to discuss next year, girls, so don’t let us argue about it, at this early date.”

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