"Certainly," said the Breeze.
And ush! it went over the Thistle and the Dandelion and carried all the seeds with it into the cornfield.
The Burdock still stood and pondered. Its head was rather thick, and that was why it waited so long. But in the evening a Hare leapt over the hedge. "Hide me! Save me!" he cried. "The farmer's dog Trusty is after me."
"You can creep behind the hedge," said the Burdock, "then I will hide you."
"You don't look to me much good for that job," said the Hare, "but in time of need one must help oneself as one can." And so he got in safety behind the hedge.
"Now you may repay me by taking some of my seeds with you over into the cornfield," said the Burdock; and it broke off some of its many heads and fixed them on the Hare.
A little later Trusty came trotting up to the hedge. "Here's the dog," whispered the Burdock, and with one spring the Hare leapt over the hedge and into the Rye.
"Haven't you seen the Hare, Burdock?" asked Trusty. "I see I have got too old to go hunting. I am quite blind in one eye, and I have completely lost my scent."
"Yes, I have seen him," answered the Burdock; "and if you will do me a service, I will show you where he is."
Trusty agreed, and the Burdock fastened some heads on his back, and said to him,--"If you will only rub yourself against the stile there in the cornfield, my seeds will fall off. But you must not look for the Hare there, for a little while ago I saw him run into the wood."
Trusty dropped the burs on the field and trotted to the wood.
"Well, I've got _my_ seeds put out in the world all right,"
said the Burdock, and laughed as if much pleased with itself; "but it is impossible to say what will become of the Thistle and the Dandelion, and the Harebell and the Poppy."
Spring had come round once more, and the Rye stood high already.
"We are pretty well off on the whole," said the Rye plants. "Here we stand in a great company, and not one of us but belongs to our own noble family. And we don't get in each other's way in the very least. It is a grand thing to be in the service of man."
But one fine day a crowd of little Poppies, and Thistles and Dandelions, and Burdocks and Harebells poked up their heads above ground, all amongst the flourishing Rye. "What does _this_ mean?" asked the Rye. "Where in the world are _you_ sprung from?"
And the Poppy looked at the Harebell and asked, "Where do you come from?"
And the Thistle looked at the Burdock and asked, "Where in the world have _you_ come from?" They were all equally astonished, and it was an hour before they had explained. But the Rye was the angriest, and when she had heard all about Trusty and the Hare and the Breeze she grew quite wild.
"Thank heaven, the farmer shot the Hare last autumn," she said; "and Trusty, fortunately, is also dead, the old scamp. So I am at peace, as far as _they_ are concerned. But how dare the Breeze promise to drop the seeds of the weeds in the farmer's cornfield?"
"Don't be in such a passion, you green Rye," said the Breeze, who had been lying behind the hedge and hearing everything. "I ask no one's permission, but do as I like; and now I'm going to make you bow to me." Then she passed over the young Rye, and the thin blades swayed backwards and forwards.
"You see," she said, "the farmer attends to his Rye, because that is _his_ business. But the rain and the sun and I--we attend to all of you without respect of persons. To our eyes the poor weed is just as pretty as the rich corn."
The farmer now came out to look at his Rye, and when he saw the weeds in the cornfield he scratched his head with vexation and began to growl. "It's that scurvy wind that's done this," he said to Jack and Will, as they stood by his side with their hands in the pockets of their new trousers.
But the Breeze flew towards them and knocked all their caps off their heads, and rolled them far away to the road. The farmer and the two boys ran after them, but the Wind ran faster than they did.
It finished up by rolling the caps into the village pond, and the farmer and the boys had to stand a long time fishing for them before they got them out.
SOME VOICES FROM THE KITCHEN GARDEN
By Mrs. Alfred Gatty
ONE--two--three--four--five; five neatly-raked kitchen-garden beds, four of them side by side, with a pathway between; the fifth a narrow slip, heading the others, and close to the gravel walk, as it was for succession-crops of mustard and cress, which are often wanted in a hurry for breakfast or tea.
Most people have stood by such beds in their own kitchen-gardens on soft spring mornings and evenings, and looked for the coming up of the seeds which either they or the gardener had sown.
Radishes in one, for instance, and of all three sorts--white-turnip, red-turnip, and long-tailed.
Carrots in another; and this bed had been dug very deep indeed--subsoil digging, as it were; two spades' depth, that the roots might strike freely down.
Onions in another. Beets in the fourth; both the golden and red varieties; while the narrow slip was half mustard and half cress.
Such was the plan here, at least, and here, for a time, all the seeds lay sleeping, as it seemed. For, as the long smooth-raked beds stretched out dark and bare under the stars, they betrayed no symptoms of anything going on within.
Nevertheless, there was no sleeping in the case. The little seed-grains were fulfilling the law of their being, each after its kind; the grains, all but their inner germs, decaying; the germs swelling and growing, till they rose out of their cradles, and made their way, through their earthen cover lid, to the light of day.
They did not all come up quite together, of course, nor all quite alike. But as to the time, the gardener had made his arrangements so cleverly, that none was very far behind his neighbour. And as to the difference of shape in the first young leaves, what could it signify? It is true the young mustards were round and thick; the cresses oval and pointed; the carrots mere green threads; the onions sharp little blades; while the beets had an odd, stainy look. But they all woke up to the same life and enjoyment, and were all greeted with friendly welcome as they appeared, by the dew, and light, and sunshine, and breezes, so necessary to them all.
"I find I get deeper and deeper into the soil every day," remarked the Carrot. "I shall be I don't know how long, at last. I have been going down regularly, quite straight, for weeks. Then I am tapering off to a long point at the end, in the most beautiful proportions possible. A Grub told me, the other day, this was perfection, and I believe he was right."
(That mischievous vagabond Grub, you see!)
"I knew what it was to live near the surface in my young days," the Carrot went on; "but never felt solid enjoyment till I struck deeply down, where all is so rich and warm. This is really being firmly established and satisfactory to one's-self, though still progressing, I hope, for I don't see why there should be a limit Pray tell me, neighbours," added he, good-naturedly enough, "how it fares with all the rest of you. I should like to know that your roots are as long, and slim, and orange coloured as mine; doing as well, in fact, and sinking as far down. I wish us to be all perfect alike. Perfection is the great thing to try for."
"When you are sure you are trying in the right way," sneered a voice from the neighbouring radish-bed (the red and white turnip variety were always satirical). "But if the long, slim, orange-roots, striking deep into the earth, are your idea of perfection, I advise you to begin life over again. Dear me! I wish you had consulted us before. Why, we stopped going down long ago, and have been spreading out sideways and all ways, into stout, round solid balls ever since, close white flesh throughout, inside; and not orange, but red without."
"White, he means," shouted another.
"Red, I call it," repeated the first. "But no matter; certainly not orange!"
And "Certainly not orange!" cried they all.
"So," continued the first speaker, "we are quite concerned to hear you ramble on about growing longer and longer, and strongly advise you to keep your own counsel, and not mention it to any one else.
We are friends, you know, and can be trusted; but you really must leave off wasting your powers and energy in the dark inside of the ground, out of everybody's sight and knowledge. Come to the surface, and make the most of it, as we do, and then you'll be a credit to your friends. Roll yourself up into a firm round ball as fast as you can. You won't find it hard if you once begin. You have only to--"
"Let me put in a word first," interrupted one of the long-tailed Radishes in the same bed; "for it is of no use to go out of one extreme into another, which you are on the high road to do if you are disposed to take Mr. Roundhead's advice; who, by the way, ought to be ashamed of forcing his very peculiar views upon his neighbours. Just look at us. We always strike moderately down, so we know it's the right thing to do, and that solid round balls are the most unnatural and useless things in the world. But, on the other hand, my dear friend, we have learnt where to stop, and a great secret it is, but one I fear you know nothing about at present; so the sooner you make yourself acquainted with it the better. There's a limit to everything but folly--even to striking deep into the soil. And as to the soil being better so very far down, nobody can believe it; for why should it be? The great art is to make the most of what is at hand, as we do. Time enough to go into the depths when you have used up what is so much easier got at. The man who gathered some of us yesterday, called out, 'These are just right.' So I leave you to judge whether some other people we know of must not be wrong."
"You rather overwhelm me, I own," mused the Carrot; "though it's remarkable you counsellors should not agree among yourselves. Is it possible, however, that I have been making a great mistake all my life? What lost time to look back upon! Yet a ball;--no, no, not a ball! I don't think I could grow into a solid round ball were I to try for ever!"
"Not having tried, how can you tell?" whispered the Turnip-Radish persuasively. "But you never will, if you listen to our old-fashioned friend next door, who has been halting between two opinions all his life:--will neither make an honest fat lump of it, as I do, nor plunge down and taper with you. But nothing can be done without an effort: certainly no change."
"That is true," murmured the Carrot, rather sadly; "but I am too old for further efforts myself. Mistake or no mistake, my fate is fixed. I am too far down to get up again, that's certain; but some of the young ones may try. Do you hear, dears? Some of you stop short, if you can, and grow out sideways and all ways, into stout, round, solid balls."
"Oh, nonsense about round balls!" cried the long-tailed Radish in disgust; "what will the world come to, if this folly goes on!
Listen to me, youngsters, I beg. Go to a moderate depth, and be content; and if you want something to do, throw out a few fibres for amusement. You're firm enough without them, I know, but the employment will pass away time."
"There are strange delusions abroad just now," remarked the Onions to each other; "do you hear all this talk about shape and way of growth? and everybody in the dark on the subject, though they seem to be quite unconscious of the fact themselves. That fellow chattered about solid balls, as if there was no such thing as bulbs, growing layer upon layer, and coat over coat, at all. Of course the very long orange gentleman, with his tapering root, is the most wrong of the whole party; but I doubt if Mr. Roundhead is much wiser when he speaks of close white flesh inside, and red (of all ridiculous nonsense) without. Where are their flaky skins, I should like to know? Who is ever to peel them, I wonder? Poor things! I can't think how they got into such ways. How tough and obstinate they must be! I wish we lived nearer. We would teach them a little better than that, and show them what to do."
"_I_ have lived near you long enough," grumbled a deep-red Beet in the next bed; "and you have never taught me; neither shall you, if I can help it. A pretty instructor you would be, who think it ridiculous to be red! I suppose you can't grow red yourself, and so abuse the colour out of spite. Now I flatter myself I am red inside as well as out, so I suppose I am more ridiculous than your friend who contrives to keep himself white within, according to his own account; but I doubt the fact. There, there! it is a folly to be angry; so I say no more, except this: get red as fast as you can. You live in the same soil that I do, and ought to be able."