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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER VIII THE RAIN INTERFERES.
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 Every scout1 at Green Hill went to sleep that night with radiant visions of working on the water garden the next day, and perhaps, seeing it nearing its completion by evening. But the day dawned and very few of the scouts2 could crawl out of bed. The unusual work that had brought many dormant3 muscles into play the day before caused backs and limbs to stiffen4 and ache, so that they cared little when they heard the rain pattering heavily upon tents and roof.  
“Dear me! Do you suppose Mr. Ames will work in the rain?” asked Norma impatiently when she saw the steady downpour.
“He worked in the water up to his knees all day yesterday so I shouldn’t think the rain would frighten him away,” said Janet.
“But he had on hip5 boots that kept his feet dry. If he works in the rain he will be drenched6 in no time,” explained Belle7.
“Besides, this rain will fill up the hollow so that the marsh8 will be very unpleasant to dig in,” added Mrs. James.
“I don’t see why the horrid9 old rain couldn’t stay away for a few days, until we got the lake finished,” grumbled10 Norma.
“The farmers will be so glad for this rain. We haven’t had any in so long they feared their crops would suffer from the drought,” ventured Mrs. James mildly.
“Oou-ch! Oo-oh!” came from Natalie, at this moment, and every one turned to ask what was the matter.
“Oooh—a stitch in my back that cramped11 me all up!” sighed the girl, bending over in order to crawl to the couch by the window.
That started a comparison of aches and cramps12 and pains that lasted until Rachel served the nice hot breakfast. She always had some remark to make on the progress of work at the farm, and now she said: “I declare! You scouts ain’t done any more experimentin’ on dat new churn we got, and I ain’t got no moh time to make your butter dan I’se got to fly! Seems to me you-all can work dat churn on a day like dis.”
“Rachel is right, girls! This is the sort of weather to make scouts look after house work. Now some of you can play with the churn while I experiment with a cake recipe I got from a farmer’s wife last week,” said Belle.
“If the cake is a success, who is going to eat it?” asked Janet.
“If the scouts in this part of the country weren’t so famished13 when cake was mentioned, I’d say you all could have a party with it,” laughed Belle.
“I’d say Belle had better finish her experiment first and then talk of parties later. Maybe no one will want to risk their lives with a bite of the cake after she has it baked,” added Natalie.
With teasing and laughing, the breakfast was finished and Janet, Natalie and Frances decided14 to do the churning that day, Belle said she would be occupied all morning in the kitchen, and Norma decided to put on her raincoat and oilskin cap and go out to see how the flower beds were looking.
Sambo’s dog, Grip, had not evinced any desire to bother anyone at Green Hill Farm because he was seldom to be found about the place, excepting at such times as when he rushed home for a meal or to sleep at night. The scouts of Patrol Number One said they often found him roaming about the woodland down by the stream, and Farmer Ames said he visited them at odd times and begged for a drink of water. Then he would wag his tail and scamper15 away again.
Sam grinned whenever any one of the girls asked him “what good was a dog like that?” And he generally said apologetically: “Dat Grip ain’t never had such a good time afore, so he don’t know how to enjoy it all at once.”
But Grip disliked the rain and so he lounged about the house and followed the girls to the cellar when they went to try the churn. And he was still prowling about in the corners when he heard Rachel call his name. That always meant something to eat, so he rushed up the cellar stairs in great haste.
Norma had gone out to her garden and the first thing she saw was a rank growth of weeds coming up where the seeds had been planted. This would never do, so she leaned down to pull them up. As she bent16 over the ground a dreadful odor came from it. She had to straighten up and turn away her nose because the smell was so unpleasant.
She examined everything near the flower garden to see if a dead cat, or rabbit, or other creature, was hidden in some corner, but nothing could be seen. When she turned back to the flower beds again, the odor was still there—overpowering to her delicate sense of smell.
“I’ll go and ask Jimmy if she used a new kind of compost on the ground without my knowledge.” So saying, Norma turned to go in by the kitchen way, but she saw Grip on the stoop very busy with a huge soup bone.
The moment he saw Norma place a foot on the lower step, he grumbled at such interference with his repast, and taking a firm hold on the bone with both jaws17, he dashed off the stoop and ran towards Norma’s garden.
She stood watching him without any special motive18 in doing so, when suddenly she saw him burrowing19 a hole in her flower bed. She shouted and ran to stop such depredations20, but Grip was pawing away with both front feet just as fast as he could, and the dirt flew out from under the active paws and scattered21 about for a radius22 of more than ten feet.
“Get out! Stop that, you rascal23!” shouted Norma, now close enough to catch hold of his tail and try to pull him away.
But Grip had dropped the bone in the pit already made, and now tried to nose the soil back over it, while defying the drag Norma had on his appendage24.
“Now I know what that awful smell is, you old tramp!” exclaimed Norma, angrily, as she gave up tugging25 at his tail, and instead ran to the cellar to get her garden tools.
The three girls in the cellar listened to her story of how Grip made a store room of her garden, and as they laughed appreciatively at the dog’s preference for a flower garden in which to save his future meals, Norma got her tools and went out.
With a little judicious26 hoeing and raking, she soon unearthed27 several well-decayed bones and chunks28 of raw meat which Grip could not finish at his meals, but planned to save them for a day of famine.
Norma tied a handkerchief about her nose as she dug up the odoriferous morsels29 and carried them on the shovel30, held at arm’s length, down the lane to the barn yard where a compost heap was started for next year’s planting.
“There now! One book said that old bones and meat, as well as green garbage was excellent to mix in a compost heap before winter time, as it would all mature together.”
With this satisfaction of having performed a good deed, Norma returned to her flower garden to continue the weeding that had been so unpleasantly interrupted.
But Norma discovered that the same muscles in her hips31 and back that had ached so dreadfully all night, began aching again, with the bending over the flower garden to weed, so she had to give up all hopes of gardening that day. Having put her tools away in their accustomed place, she went to the kitchen to offer her services to Belle.
“You can stir up the chopped almonds if you will,” said Belle, busily engaged in beating the cake batter32.
“Where is it?” asked Norma, looking on the table for a dish of nuts.
“On the stove—in the frying pan,” returned Belle.
“Goodness sake! Do you fry the nuts before you use them?” asked Norma, amazed at this way of making a nut cake.
“No, I do not fry nuts but I fry that mixture,” explained Belle. “You see this is a recipe a woman way back in the country gave me. She never has any nuts so she uses this counterfeit33, and no one ever knows the difference.”
“What is it?” was Norma’s question, as she sniffed34 the mixture she was supposed to stir to keep from scorching35.
“I cracked a lot of cherry stones that came from the pitter when Rachel canned those cherries, and the meat was soaked in a tablespoonful of alcohol to extract the flavor. Then I took a cupful of grape nuts cereal and soaked it in some cream. When it was soft I added the flavoring to taste, and now you are about to brown the whole thing in butter to keep the chopped nuts soft enough to chew like real nut-meat when it is in the cake. See?”
“Well, I never! What a fake!” laughed Norma.
“The woman told me of all sorts of fakes the bakers36 do to make customers believe they are getting first-class food stuffs. She told me how they used egg coloring to make the cakes and things look yellow as if plenty of eggs were used in them. Then she told me of the substitute for milk, which many bakers used because milk costs so much these days. Lots of them actually use a substitute for sugar and hardly any of them use vanilla37 bean, or real lemon, or genuine fruit extracts for their flavoring. It all is made of synthetic38 preparations that counterfeit the real flavors and are so much cheaper.”
“Huh! That’s why it pays to cook and bake at home, isn’t it?” said Norma.
“Yes, but even then, Norma, I found out that you have to know what you are buying or you get a counterfeit extract or baking powder, that is very injurious to eat. If one does not know this deception39, one pays for the real thing and doesn’t get it.”
“I think someone ought to put a stop to such things!” was Norma’s amazed rejoinder to Belle’s disclosures.
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but the food adulterers go right on their merry way, coining money out of their poor imitation articles............
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