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HOME > Classical Novels > Norma: A Flower Scout > CHAPTER IX VARIOUS UNDESIRED TASKS.
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 The addition of a cow and a calf1, the two swarms2 of bees, the goslings and Rhode Island Red chickens increased the interest of the girls in their farm life, but it also increased Janet’s work and responsibilities. Then Natalie’s vegetables grew so well that lettuce3 was an every-day side dish at meals now; and soon, there would be new string beans, beet4 tops to cut and cook and radishes.  
Meantime, Norma’s asters had recovered from their almost fatal dose of Paris Green and the heliotrope5 that Mrs. Tompkins had sent the amateur florist7 to replace the one she had killed with the poison was blooming well and wafting8 its sweet incense9 upon the breezes, to be carried everywhere about the house.
While the girls were still at breakfast, Mr. Ames drove in at the side gate. Janet sat facing the open window and was the first to see him.
“Oh, he’s got the dump cart and old Ben!” cried she.
“He must be planning to use the cart for something,” said Norma.
But a lively breeze carried an odor far different from the heliotrope blooming in Norma’s garden.
“Oo-oh! Close the door and windows—hurry up, Nat!” called Janet, holding her breath while the girls ran to close the windows.
“Ames brought the compost for the water garden,” was Mrs. James undisturbed statement.
“Of course, he had to bring it some time, but he did not have to stop with it directly under the dining room windows,” said Natalie, in an injured voice.
“Some one had better run out and direct him where to dump the cart load or he will leave it right here, just as he did that other load of fertilizer that he brought for Norma’s flower gardens,” said Belle11 anxiously.
“If you girls will excuse me, I’ll go and tell him what to do with it,” said Mrs. James, rising and going out.
Then the cart was soon rolling away from that side of the house, and Mrs. James showed Farmer Ames where to leave the old well-rotted cow manure12 that was to be thoroughly13 mixed with the mucky marsh14 soil before spreading it out on the floor bottom of the lake.
“I brung the cart ’cause I figgered the gals15 would want to use the hoss and cart to get the sand and small rocks for the garden,” explained Ames, as he mopped his brow, after finishing his work on the compost.
“Oh, yes, they will be glad to know they can use it,” said Mrs. James, but at the same time she wondered how to manage so small a cart and so many scouts—for every one of them would wish to ride and cart sand.
Mr. Ames found Sam waiting to help, so the two went to the hollow that was to be a lake and were agreeably surprised to find the water drained out and the bogs16 standing18 free and ready to be removed. Mrs. James had forgotten to tell Ames what the girls had accomplished19 the previous evening with work on the ditch near the barn yard.
Frances drove to Four Corners immediately after breakfast and Janet had to take care of her stock. Natalie had to weed her garden that morning, as she had given it no attention for the past four days and Rachel warned her about the weeds growing higher than the corn and beans.
It was Norma’s and Belle’s turn to milk Sue and prepare the milk for the morning, but both the girls preferred to work on the water garden. When Belle slipped into the kitchen to offer Rachel a quarter if she would do the milking, Mrs. James overheard it and came out.
“No, indeed, Belle! Norma and you must do your work even if you detest20 it and want to fuss around in the bog17. Besides this milking, Norma has to cut the lawns when Frances brings back the mowing21 machine from Four Corners. She agreed to attend to this work, long before we dreamed of having a water garden. So now it will have to be done, you know.”
Norma pouted22 but said nothing, for the fact was too obvious to be denied. So Belle and she reluctantly went to the barn yard where Sue waited impatiently to be milked. She had been waiting for more than an hour already and was not apt to be very quiet during milking when she had been kept from her cool pasture so long after sun-up.
“You start the milking, Belle, and I’ll mix the mush for her,” suggested Norma, going to the barn to get the meal.
Belle looked for the stool but could not see it, so she grumbled23 to herself: “Oh, well! I’ll milk without a seat. Sue always stands still these days and Norma will be holding the pan of mush for her to eat, anyway.”
Janet was very busy in the pig pen, trying to dig out a pool for her pigs to bathe in. Now that the cement was on hand, and she had heard how to mix concrete, she was going to build a fine bath for them. So she merely glanced up when Belle and Norma came to the barn yard to milk the cow.
Belle stooped upon her heels and sat the pail in position, but before she could start milking, Sue gave a vicious kick with a hind24 foot and sent the pail against the fence of the pig pen. It was badly dented25 when Belle picked it up and shook it at the cow. That attracted Janet’s attention, and she left the pool-digging and leaned on the fence to watch her companions try to milk Sue.
Norma brought the pan of mush from the barn and hurried with it to Sue’s nose. But Norma had not quite overcome her old timidity of a cow, and Sue’s eyes this morning looked very suggestive of evil. Then, too, those two horns were very long and very curved and very sharp on the ends!
So Norma stood as far on one side as she well could and still manage to hold out the tin pan of corn and bran meal mixed in warm water to keep Sue in a good humor while she was being milked. Being so intent on the cow’s next move, Norma did not notice that Belle was not seated on the stool.
The pail was placed in position again, and Belle again squatted27 to begin milking. All went well for a few minutes but a horse fly lit on Sue’s leg and took a good hard nip out of it. Instantly the cow kicked rebelliously28 and switched her tail to try and wipe the pest away. This time the pail rolled over and the contents foamed29 away in a little stream.
Janet laughed aloud and called to Belle: “Try, try again!”
“Don’t waste futile30 words—can’t you see that I am trying again and again!”
Norma momentarily forgot her dread31 of Sue in watching Belle pick up the pail and plank32 it down hard upon the ground, then squat26 to try the milking once more. But the horse fly still clung to the cow’s leg and kept the bovine33 victim aware of its presence, so that Sue finally switched her tail fiercely and suddenly turned her head to see if she could frighten it away by the bobbing of her horns.
This was so unexpected to Norma, that when she saw the big eyes and lolling tongue of the cow staring her right in the face, she dropped the pan and screamed. At the same time she tried to spring backwards34 out of Sue’s reach, but stumbled over a board and measured her length on the ground.
The switch of the tail, the banging of the tin pan, the scream of Norma, all made Belle jump but she was squatting35 on her heels and could not balance, so she went right over backwards. Janet leaned over the fence of the pig pen and fairly screamed with mirth at the sight of her two friends stretched out on the barn yard ground.
But Farmer Ames had sent Sam to the barn to get an extra pickaxe and he now arrived in time to see the trouble Belle was having in trying to milk the cow. So he sat down and in a few minutes the stream of milk was flowing freely and the horse fly flew away to find a better resting place without so many disturbing mortals always about.
“Now, then,” said Sam, when he had finished the task. “You gals can lead her to pasture in the field, but be careful and not tether her near them beehives, or she’ll get stung and run away again like she did afore.”
With Sue secured in the pasture lot, Norma and Belle felt that the hardest work of the day was finished. So they walked back to the house eagerly planning for the water garden. They went in at the side door of the porch, to get their sun bonnets36, but Norma heard Frances call out as she drove the car past the door:
“I’ve left the lawn mower37 out here for you, Norma! Jimmy said you were to try and see if you can cut the lawn with it.”
“Dear me! I forgot all about the old grass! I suppose that will take all day, now!” exclaimed Norma impatiently.
But Belle had no condolences to offer, so Norma went through the kitchen and flew down the stoop steps to look for the new mower—she called it “that old mower!”
Frances had left it on the gravel38 path just around the corner of the house, and Norma, in ............
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