Not till morning came did the Storm grow weary and lie down to rest. "Now you shall have peace for a time," he said. "I will take a rest till we have the spring cleaning. Then we can have another turn together--that is, if there are any of you left by then." And the leaves lay down to rest, and spread themselves like a thick carpet over the whole land.
The Anemones felt that it had become pleasantly warm. "Can it be my Lady Spring already?" they asked each other.
"I haven't got my buds ready," shouted one of them.
"Nor I! Nor I!" cried the others in one voice. But one of them took courage and peeped out over the earth.
"Good-morning!" cried the withered Beech Leaves. "It is a little too early, little lady. I hope you will be none the worse for it."
"Isn't it my Lady Spring?" inquired the Anemone.
"Not yet," answered the Beech Leaves. "It is only the green Beech Leaves that you were so angry with last summer. The green has gone from us, so we have no great finery to boast of now. We have enjoyed our youth and had our fling, I can tell you. And now we lie here and protect all the little flowers in the earth against the winter."
"And meanwhile _I_ stand shivering in all my bare boughs,"
said the Beech peevishly.
The Anemones talked it over one to another down below in the earth, and thought it was grand. "Those grand Beech Leaves!" they said.
"Mind you remember this next summer when I burst into leaf," said the Beech.
"We will! we will!" whispered the Anemones.
But that sort of promise is easily made--and easily broken.
By Carl Ewald
It was a beautiful, fruitful season. Rain and sunshine came by turns just as it was best for the corn. As soon as ever the farmer began to think that things were rather dry, you might depend upon it that next day it would rain. And when he thought that he had had rain enough, the clouds broke at once, just as if they were under his command.
So the farmer was in a good humour, and he did not grumble as he usually does. He looked pleased and cheerful as he walked over the field with his two boys.
"It will be a splendid harvest this year," he said. "I shall have my barns full, and shall make a pretty penny. And then Jack and Will shall have some new trousers, and I'll let them come with me to market."
"If you don't cut me soon, farmer, I shall sprawl on the ground,"
said the Rye, and she bowed her heavy ear quite down towards the earth.
The farmer could not hear her talking, but he could see what was in her mind, and so he went home to fetch his scythe.
"It is a good thing to be in the service of man," said the Rye. "I can be quite sure that all my grain will be well cared for. Most of it will go to the mill: not that that proceeding is so very enjoyable, but in that way it will be made into beautiful new bread, and one must put up with something for the sake of honour.
The rest the farmer will save, and sow next year in his field."
At the side of the field, along the hedge, and the bank above the ditch, stood the weeds. There were dense clumps of them--Thistle and Burdock, Poppy and Harebell, and Dandelion; and all their heads were full of seed. It had been a fruitful year for them also, for the sun shines and the rain falls just as much on the poor weed as on the rich porn.
"No one comes and mows _us_ down and carries us to a barn,"
said the Dandelion, and he shook his head, but very cautiously, so that the seeds should not fall before their time. "But what will become of all our children?" "It gives me a headache to think about it," said the Poppy. "Here I stand with hundreds and hundreds of seeds in my head, and I haven't the faintest idea where I shall drop them." "Let us ask the Rye to advise us," answered the Burdock. And so they asked the Rye what they should do.
"When one is well off, one had better not meddle with other people's business," answered the Rye. "I will only give you one piece of advice: take care you don't throw your stupid seed on to the field, for then you will have to settle accounts with _me_."
This advice did not help the wild flowers at all, and the whole day they stood pondering what they should do. When the sun set they shut up their petals and went to sleep; but the whole night through they were dreaming about their seed, and next morning they had found a plan.
The Poppy was the first to wake. She cautiously opened some little trap-doors at the top of her head, so that the sun could shine right in on the seeds. Then she called to the Morning Breeze, who was running and playing along the hedge. "Little Breeze," she said, in friendly tones, "will you do me a service?"
"Yes, indeed," said the Breeze. "I shall be glad to have something to do."
"It is the merest trifle," said the Poppy. "All I want of you is to give a good shake to my stalk, so that my seeds may fly out of the trap-doors."
"All right," said the Breeze.
And the seeds flew out in all directions. The stalk snapped, it is true; but the Poppy did not mind about that, for when one has provided for one's children, one has really nothing more to do in the world.
"Good-bye," said the Breeze, and would have run on farther.
"Wait a moment," said the Poppy. "Promise me first that you will not tell the others, else they might get hold of the same idea, and then there would be less room for my seeds."
"I am mute as the grave," answered the Breeze, running off.
"Ho! ho!" said the Harebell. "Haven't you time to do me a little, tiny service?"
"Well," said the Breeze, "what is it?"
"I merely wanted to ask you to give me a little shake," said the Harebell. "I have opened some trap-doors in my head, and I should like to have my seed sent a good way off into the world. But you musn't tell the others, or else they might think of doing the same thing."
"Oh! of course not," said the Breeze, laughing. "I shall be as dumb as a stone wall." And then she gave the flower a good shake and went on her way.
"Little Breeze, little Breeze," called the Dandelion, "whither away so fast?"
"Is there anything the matter with you, too?" asked the Breeze.
[Illustration: PEOPLE WHO WERE OUT FOR AN EVENING STROLL.
_From the painting by Edmund Dulac _]
"Nothing at all," answered the Dandelion. "Only I should like a few words with you."
"Be quick then," said the Breeze, "for I am thinking seriously of lying down and having a rest."
"You cannot help seeing," said the Dandelion, "what a fix we are in this year to get all our seeds put out in the world; for, of course, one wishes to do what one can for one's children. What is to happen to the Harebell and the Poppy and the poor Burdock I really don't know. But the Thistle and I have put our heads together, and we have hit on a plan. Only we must have you to help us."
"That makes _four_ of them," thought the Breeze, and could not help laughing out loud.
"What are you laughing at?" asked the Dandelion. "I saw you whispering just now to the Harebell and Poppy; but if you breathe a word to them, I won't tell you anything."
"Why, of course not," said the Breeze. "I am mute as a fish. What is it you want?"
"We have set up a pretty little umbrella on the top of our seeds.
It is the sweetest little plaything imaginable. If you will only blow a little on me, the seeds will fly into the air and fall down wherever you please. Will you do so?"