CLOVER-BLOSSOM, by Louisa May Alcott

IN a quiet, pleasant meadow,
Beneath a summer sky,
Where green old trees their branches waved,
And winds went singing by;
Where a little brook went rippling
So musically low,
And passing clouds cast shadows
On the waving grass below;
Where low, sweet notes of brooding birds
Stole out on the fragrant air,
And golden sunlight shone undimmed
On all most fresh and fair;—
There bloomed a lovely sisterhood
Of happy little flowers,
Together in this pleasant home,
Through quiet summer hours.
No rude hand came to gather them,
No chilling winds to blight;
Warm sunbeams smiled on them by day,
And soft dews fell at night.
So here, along the brook-side,
Beneath the green old trees,
The flowers dwelt among their friends,
The sunbeams and the breeze.

One morning, as the flowers awoke,
Fragrant, and fresh, and fair,
A little worm came creeping by,
And begged a shelter there.
“Ah! pity and love me,” sighed the worm,
“I am lonely, poor, and weak;
A little spot for a resting-place,
Dear flowers, is all I seek.
I am not fair, and have dwelt unloved
By butterfly, bird, and bee.
They little knew that in this dark form
Lay the beauty they yet may see.
Then let me lie in the deep green moss,
And weave my little tomb,
And sleep my long, unbroken sleep
Till Spring’s first flowers come.
Then will I come in a fairer dress,
And your gentle care repay
By the grateful love of the humble worm;
Kind flowers, O let me stay!”
But the wild rose showed her little thorns,
While her soft face glowed with pride;
The violet hid beneath the drooping ferns,
And the daisy turned aside.
Little Houstonia scornfully laughed,
As she danced on her slender stem;
While the cowslip bent to the rippling waves,
And whispered the tale to them.
A blue-eyed grass looked down on the worm,
As it silently turned away,
And cried, “Thou wilt harm our delicate leaves,
And therefore thou canst not stay.”
Then a sweet, soft voice, called out from far,
“Come hither, poor worm, to me;
The sun lies warm in this quiet spot,
And I’ll share my home with thee.”
The wondering flowers looked up to see
Who had offered the worm a home:
‘T was a clover-blossom, whose fluttering leaves
Seemed beckoning him to come;
It dwelt in a sunny little nook,
Where cool winds rustled by,
And murmuring bees and butterflies came,
On the flower’s breast to lie.
Down through the leaves the sunlight stole,
And seemed to linger there,
As if it loved to brighten the home
Of one so sweet and fair.
Its rosy face smiled kindly down,
As the friendless worm drew near;
And its low voice, softly whispering, said
“Poor thing, thou art welcome here;
Close at my side, in the soft green moss,
Thou wilt find a quiet bed,
Where thou canst softly sleep till Spring,
With my leaves above thee spread.
I pity and love thee, friendless worm,
Though thou art not graceful or fair;
For many a dark, unlovely form,
Hath a kind heart dwelling there;
No more o’er the green and pleasant earth,
Lonely and poor, shalt thou roam,
For a loving friend hast thou found in me,
And rest in my little home.”
Then, deep in its quiet mossy bed,
Sheltered from sun and shower,
The grateful worm spun its winter tomb,
In the shadow of the flower.
And Clover guarded well its rest,
Till Autumn’s leaves were sere,
Till all her sister flowers were gone,
And her winter sleep drew near.
Then her withered leaves were softly spread
O’er the sleeping worm below,
Ere the faithful little flower lay
Beneath the winter snow.

Spring came again, and the flowers rose
From their quiet winter graves,
And gayly danced on their slender stems,
And sang with the rippling waves.
Softly the warm winds kissed their cheeks;
Brightly the sunbeams fell,
As, one by one, they came again
In their summer homes to dwell.
And little Clover bloomed once more,
Rosy, and sweet, and fair,
And patiently watched by the mossy bed,
For the worm still slumbered there.
Then her sister flowers scornfully cried,
As they waved in the summer air,
“The ugly worm was friendless and poor;
Little Clover, why shouldst thou care?
Then watch no more, nor dwell alone,
Away from thy sister flowers;
Come, dance and feast, and spend with us
These pleasant summer hours.
We pity thee, foolish little flower,
To trust what the false worm said;
He will not come in a fairer dress,
For he lies in the green moss dead.”
But little Clover still watched on,
Alone in her sunny home;
She did not doubt the poor worm’s truth,
And trusted he would come.

At last the small cell opened wide,
And a glittering butterfly,
From out the moss, on golden wings,
Soared up to the sunny sky.
Then the wondering flowers cried aloud,
“Clover, thy watch was vain;
He only sought a shelter here,
And never will come again.”
And the unkind flowers danced for joy,
When they saw him thus depart;
For the love of a beautiful butterfly
Is dear to a flower’s heart.
They feared he would stay in Clover’s home,
And her tender care repay;
So they danced for joy, when at last he rose
And silently flew away.
Then little Clover bowed her head,
While her soft tears fell like dew;
For her gentle heart was grieved, to find
That her sisters’ words were true,
And the insect she had watched so long
When helpless, poor, and lone,
Thankless for all her faithful care,
On his golden wings had flown.
But as she drooped, in silent grief,
She heard little Daisy cry,
“O sisters, look! I see him now,
Afar in the sunny sky;
He is floating back from Cloud-Land now,
Borne by the fragrant air.
Spread wide your leaves, that he may choose
The flower he deems most fair.”
Then the wild rose glowed with a deeper blush,
As she proudly waved on her stem;
The Cowslip bent to the clear blue waves,
And made her mirror of them.
Little Houstonia merrily danced,
And spread her white leaves wide;
While Daisy whispered her joy and hope,
As she stood by her gay friends’ side.
Violet peeped from the tall green ferns,
And lifted her soft blue eye
To watch the glittering form, that shone
Afar in the summer sky.
They thought no more of the ugly worm,
Who once had wakened their scorn;
But looked and longed for the butterfly now,
As the soft wind bore him on.

Nearer and nearer the bright form came,
And fairer the blossoms grew;
Each welcomed him, in her sweetest tones;
Each offered her honey and dew.
But in vain did they beckon, and smile, and call,
And wider their leaves unclose;
The glittering form still floated on,
By Violet, Daisy, and Rose.
Lightly it flew to the pleasant home
Of the flower most truly fair,
On Clover’s breast he softly lit,
And folded his bright wings there.
“Dear flower,” the butterfly whispered low,
“Long hast thou waited for me;
Now I am come, and my grateful love
Shall brighten thy home for thee;
Thou hast loved and cared for me, when alone,
Hast watched o’er me long and well;
And now will I strive to show the thanks
The poor worm could not tell.
Sunbeam and breeze shall come to thee,
And the coolest dews that fall;
Whate’er a flower can wish is thine,
For thou art worthy all.
And the home thou shared with the friendless worm
The butterfly’s home shall be;
And thou shalt find, dear, faithful flower,
A loving friend in me.”
Then, through the long, bright summer hours
Through sunshine and through shower,
Together in their happy home
Dwelt butterfly and flower.

“Ah, that is very lovely,” cried the Elves, gathering round little Sunbeam as she ceased, to place a garland in her hair and praise her song.

“Now,” said the Queen, “call hither Moon-light and Summer-Wind, for they have seen many pleasant things in their long wanderings, and will gladly tell us them.”

“Most joyfully will we do our best, dear Queen,” said the Elves, as they folded their wings beside her.

“Now, Summer-Wind,” said Moonlight, “till your turn comes, do you sit here and fan me while I tell this tale of…

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illustration: part of Otsuki Fields in Kai Province, by Ando Hiroshige. A print from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Hiroshige. 1858. corbis.com

Lily-Bell and Thistledown, by Louisa May Alcott

ONCE upon a time, two little Fairies went out into the world, to seek their fortune. Thistledown was as gay and gallant a little Elf as ever spread a wing. His purple mantle, and doublet of green, were embroidered with the brightest threads, and the plume in his cap came always from the wing of the gayest butterfly.

But he was not loved in Fairy-Land, for, like the flower whose name and colors he wore, though fair to look upon, many were the little thorns of cruelty and selfishness that lay concealed by his gay mantle. Many a gentle flower and harmless bird died by his hand, for he cared for himself alone, and whatever gave him pleasure must be his, though happy hearts were rendered sad, and peaceful homes destroyed.

Such was Thistledown; but far different was his little friend, Lily-Bell. Kind, compassionate, and loving, wherever her gentle face was seen, joy and gratitude were found; no suffering flower or insect, that did not love and bless the kindly Fairy; and thus all Elf-Land looked upon her as a friend. Continue reading

THE CONCEITED APPLE-BRANCH by Hans Christian Andersen

apple tree blooms and blossoms

It was the month of May. The wind still blew cold; but from bush and tree, field and flower, came the welcome sound, “Spring is come.” Wild-flowers in profusion covered the hedges. Under the little apple-tree, Spring seemed busy, and told his tale from one of the branches which hung fresh and blooming, and covered with delicate pink blossoms that were just ready to open.

The branch well knew how beautiful it was; this knowledge exists as much in the leaf as in the blood; I was therefore not surprised when a nobleman’s carriage, in which sat the young countess, stopped in the road just by. She said that an apple-branch was a most lovely object, and an emblem of spring in its most charming aspect. Then the branch was broken off for her, and she held it in her delicate hand, and sheltered it with her silk parasol. Then they drove to the castle, in which were lofty halls and splendid drawing-rooms. Pure white curtains fluttered before the open windows, and beautiful flowers stood in shining, transparent vases; and in one of them, which looked as if it had been cut out of newly fallen snow, the apple-branch was placed, among some fresh, light twigs of beech. It was a charming sight. Then the branch became proud, which was very much like human nature.

People of every description entered the room, and, according to their position in society, so dared they to express their admiration. Some few said nothing, others expressed too much, and the apple-branch very soon got to understand that there was as much difference in the characters of human beings as in those of plants and flowers. Some are all for pomp and parade, others have a great deal to do to maintain their own importance, while the rest might be spared without much loss to society. So thought the apple-branch, as he stood before the open window, from which he could see out over gardens and fields, where there were flowers and plants enough for him to think and reflect upon; some rich and beautiful, some poor and humble indeed.

“Poor, despised herbs,” said the apple-branch; “there is really a difference between them and such as I am. How unhappy they must be, if they can feel as those in my position do! There is a difference indeed, and so there ought to be, or we should all be equals.”

And the apple-branch looked with a sort of pity upon them, especially on a certain little flower that is found in fields and in ditches. No one bound these flowers together in a nosegay; they were too common; they were even known to grow between the paving-stones, shooting up everywhere, like bad weeds; and they bore the very ugly name of “dog-flowers” or “dandelions.”

“Poor, despised plants,” said the apple-bough, “it is not your fault that you are so ugly, and that you have such an ugly name; but it is with plants as with men,—there must be a difference.”

“A difference!” cried the sunbeam, as he kissed the blooming apple-branch, and then kissed the yellow dandelion out in the fields. All were brothers, and the sunbeam kissed them—the poor flowers as well as the rich.

The apple-bough had never thought of the boundless love of God, which extends over all the works of creation, over everything which lives, and moves, and has its being in Him; he had never thought of the good and beautiful which are so often hidden, but can never remain forgotten by Him,—not only among the lower creation, but also among men. The sunbeam, the ray of light, knew better.

“You do not see very far, nor very clearly,” he said to the apple-branch. “Which is the despised plant you so specially pity?”

“The dandelion,” he replied. “No one ever places it in a nosegay; it is often trodden under foot, there are so many of them; and when they run to seed, they have flowers like wool, which fly away in little pieces over the roads, and cling to the dresses of the people. They are only weeds; but of course there must be weeds. O, I am really very thankful that I was not made like one of these flowers.”

There came presently across the fields a whole group of children, the youngest of whom was so small that it had to be carried by the others; and when he was seated on the grass, among the yellow flowers, he laughed aloud with joy, kicked out his little legs, rolled about, plucked the yellow flowers, and kissed them in childlike innocence. The elder children broke off the flowers with long stems, bent the stalks one round the other, to form links, and made first a chain for the neck, then one to go across the shoulders, and hang down to the waist, and at last a wreath to wear round the head, so that they looked quite splendid in their garlands of green stems and golden flowers. But the eldest among them gathered carefully the faded flowers, on the stem of which was grouped together the seed, in the form of a white feathery coronal. These loose, airy wool-flowers are very beautiful, and look like fine snowy feathers or down. The children held them to their mouths, and tried to blow away the whole coronal with one puff of the breath. They had been told by their grandmothers that who ever did so would be sure to have new clothes before the end of the year. The despised flower was by this raised to the position of a prophet or foreteller of events.

“Do you see,” said the sunbeam, “do you see the beauty of these flowers? do you see their powers of giving pleasure?”

“Yes, to children,” said the apple-bough.

By-and-by an old woman came into the field, and, with a blunt knife without a handle, began to dig round the roots of some of the dandelion-plants, and pull them up. With some of these she intended to make tea for herself; but the rest she was going to sell to the chemist, and obtain some money.

“But beauty is of higher value than all this,” said the apple-tree branch; “only the chosen ones can be admitted into the realms of the beautiful. There is a difference between plants, just as there is a difference between men.”

Then the sunbeam spoke of the boundless love of God, as seen in creation, and over all that lives, and of the equal distribution of His gifts, both in time and in eternity.

“That is your opinion,” said the apple-bough.

Then some people came into the room, and, among them, the young countess,—the lady who had placed the apple-bough in the transparent vase, so pleasantly beneath the rays of the sunlight. She carried in her hand something that seemed like a flower. The object was hidden by two or three great leaves, which covered it like a shield, so that no draught or gust of wind could injure it, and it was carried more carefully than the apple-branch had ever been. Very cautiously the large leaves were removed, and there appeared the feathery seed-crown of the despised dandelion. This was what the lady had so carefully plucked, and carried home so safely covered, so that not one of the delicate feathery arrows of which its mist-like shape was so lightly formed, should flutter away. She now drew it forth quite uninjured, and wondered at its beautiful form, and airy lightness, and singular construction, so soon to be blown away by the wind.

“See,” she exclaimed, “how wonderfully God has made this little flower. I will paint it with the apple-branch together. Every one admires the beauty of the apple-bough; but this humble flower has been endowed by Heaven with another kind of loveliness; and although they differ in appearance, both are the children of the realms of beauty.”

Then the sunbeam kissed the lowly flower, and he kissed the blooming apple-branch, upon whose leaves appeared a rosy blush.

PUSSY WILLOW’S FURS by Abbie Phillips Walker

flowers and ladybug

Miss Pussy Willow put on her furs one day in March and stepped out into the sunshine; but, while the sun was warm, March’s breath was cold, so she hugged her furs closer about her and sat on a swaying bough.

It was early and Miss Pussy knew it, but what cared she, dressed in her furs; she knew that her silver-gray dress was very much admired, and while she was modest she was not above caring for admiration.

Pussy Willow had no trouble until all the spring and summer flowers arrived in their gayly colored gowns and then, though she did not in the least envy them, she did not like to hear the scornful remarks about her furs, and sometimes she wished that under her fur coat she had a pretty colored gown.

“It is really too bad,” said one Red Flower. “Poor Pussy Willow! I do feel so sorry for her; she wears that fur coat all the year round.”

“You know why, my dear, do you not?” asked a tall Blue Flower growing near.

“I suppose she has no other,” said the Red Flower.

“I think it is because she has on an old dress,” answered tall Blue Flower; “she never takes off that fur coat, you notice, and, of course, these hot days she would if she had a new dress. Don’t you think I am right?”

“I should not wonder if you were,” was the reply, “but let us ask Mr. Poppy what he thinks.”

“Oh, what is the use of asking him. He is asleep half the time. I do believe he never sees our pretty frocks at all,” replied Blue Flower. “Let us ask Miss Thistle; she sees everything and she may have asked Miss Willow before this why she never takes off her coat; you know Thistle cares nothing for the feelings of others.”

Miss Thistle said she did not know, but that she would ask Miss Willow right away, “for why in the world she wears that fur coat all summer I cannot think. She really is the only one around here who does not give attention to her clothes. I think style means more than color,” said Miss Thistle, with a toss of her head.

“I can tell you what you wish to know,” said Lady Bug, alighting on a bush near the gossips.

“Oh, do, dear Lady Bug!” said Blue Flower. “You travel and know the styles. Now don’t you think blue is ever so much better style for summer than any other color?”

“Yes, I do travel,” replied Miss Lady Bug, without replying to Blue Flower’s question, “and I see the styles, as you said, and that is the reason I can tell you the truth about Pussy Willow. She is the only one among you who really is in style.”

“In style with that fur on!” said Thistle, all prickly with anger. “Why, where have you been, Lady Bug? Up to the North Pole?”

“No,” calmly replied Miss Lady Bug. “I have been everywhere that fashionable folks go, and everybody is wearing furs, no matter how hot the weather; and so I tell you again that the only one who is in style is Miss Pussy Willow with her silvery fur.”

Miss Pussy Willow did not let the flowers around her know that she heard what Lady Bug had said, but she felt very happy and no longer did she wish that under her fur she had a dainty colored gown.

She behaved in a modest manner and put on no airs, for did she not know that she was dressed in the latest fashion?

THE WINDFLOWER’S STORY by Abbie Phillips Walker

wildflowers and pansies in the wind

One day a little Windflower growing in a garden heard the Rosebush say to the Pansies, “What a quiet little creature the Windflower is! She seems to be a modest little thing, but she never stays here long enough to get acquainted; so I do not know whether she hides her ignorance by keeping quiet or is a deep thinker.”

“I think she is deep, Miss Rose,” said the Hollyhock, near by. “You know I can see farther than anyone here, and it is my opinion that the Windflower is deep, and I think, too, she has a story.”

“A story!” cried the Pansies, turning up their pretty faces to the Hollyhock. “Oh, how interesting.”

“What do you mean by a story?” asked the Rosebush.

“Oh, I mean she is deep and knows things of which we little dream. There is something between her and the Wind, but I cannot learn her secret.”

Rosebush held up her head, the Pansies turned their little faces around and looked at the modest little Windflower to see if they could read her secret.

“I have no secret the world cannot know,” said the Windflower. “All my family love the Wind; this all the world would know if they knew our history.”

Rosebush and the Pansies and Hollyhock began to question the little Windflower, and this is what she told them:

“Oh, a long, long time ago some beautiful goddess grieved very much over the death of some one she dearly loved, and she created in memory of this friend a beautiful flower which she named Anemone. That is our real name.”

“Oh, how grand is sounds!” said the Rosebush. “Such a big name, too, for such a little flower.”

“Yes, it is big,” replied the little Windflower, “but you see we had nothing at all to do with our name; the Wind fell in love with us and opened our blossoms—that is the way we happened to be named, I am told.”

“Oh, how interesting!” said the Rosebush, beginning to look with envy upon the little Windflower.

“But you are a small family, I think,” said the Rosebush. “I have seen very few of your kind in our garden.”

“No, we are a numerous and beautiful family,” said the Windflower.

“Oh, how conceited she is!” said the Rosebush in a whisper to the Pansies. “Think of calling herself beautiful. For my part, I think her white and purple quite plain-looking.”

But in spite of the low voice of the Rose the little Windflower heard her. “Oh, you are quite mistaken if you think I feel I am beautiful!” she said. “It is of our family I speak; you should see some of my sisters; they are wonderful, purple and so silky they are beautiful.

“And other sisters are a beautiful blue. Oh, I am by far the plainest of our family. But the Wind has no favorites; he takes us all along with him, though, of course, my sisters that grow in mountain pastures go oftener with the Wind than others.”

“Oh, here comes that horrid breeze!” said the Rosebush. “He always spoils everything.” And she gathered her petals closer to her and leaned back among the leaves.

When she opened her petals to look around the garden again the little Windflower was not there.

“Why, where has the Windflower gone?” she asked.

“Oh, you missed it!” said the Pansies, nodding very knowingly. “That breeze came to tell the Windflower that the Wind would be along in a minute. We heard him, so we watched, and in a little while the Wind came and took the Windflower away with him. She went up high right over Hollyhock’s head.”

Hollyhock, who had been gazing about, lowered his head. “She is out of sight,” he told the Rosebush and the Pansies. “The Wind came this morning and whispered to her, but I could not hear what he said; but she opened wide her blossom and nodded.”

“Now, what do you suppose there is between the Windflower and the Wind?” asked Rosebush.

“Just what she told us,” said Hollyhock. “He is in love with the Windflowers.”

“I should prefer a more tender lover,” said Rosebush. “I think him quite rude at times. The way he blows through our garden is far from gentle.”

“Some like strong lovers that can master them,” said Hollyhock, lifting his head and standing very straight.

“I suppose so,” sighed the Rosebush; “but it is just as I have always said. You never can tell about the quiet, modest ones. Think of the little Windflower having such a story and flying away with the Wind. My, my! What a world!”

WHAT THE FLOWERS TOLD MARTHA by Abbie Phillips Walker

white rose and a bird

Martha was visiting her grandmother, who lived in the country. At the back of the farmhouse was a very large porch, and in the front of that a garden in which grew all kinds of flowers.

One afternoon, when everyone else was taking a nap, Martha sat on the porch. It was warm and a bee was buzzing around the flowers. Every little while he would fly around Martha’s head.

“I wish I had someone to play with,” thought Martha. “Everybody is asleep and I am lonesome.”

“The flowers want you to come into the garden,” buzzed the bee.

Martha listened, for she could not believe the bee was really speaking to her, but she heard again, “The flowers want you to come into the garden.”

Martha walked down the path to the Rose Bush. “I’ll find out if that bee is telling the truth,” she said.

“I am so glad you came,” said a Rose, and as Martha looked it seemed that she could almost see the face of a little girl in its petals. “I wanted some one to talk to,” said the Rose.

“So did I,” said a Lily.

“We all are glad to see you,” said a Tulip, “for we never have anyone to talk to.”

“I never knew before that you could talk,” said Martha.

“Of course we can,” said the Rose, “but we are tired of telling stories to one another.”

“Oh! can you tell stories?” asked Martha as she seated herself on the ground beside the flowers.

“Yes, indeed!” said the Rose. “I’ll tell mine first.”

“Did you ever hear how the Rose happened to have thorns?” she asked.

Martha said she never did, and the Rose said, “I will tell you.”

“Before I bloomed here I lived in the warm climates, and although you may not think it I also lived in the land where Jack Frost dwells. But I love best the land where the nightingale lives and tells me of his love. One night when he was singing and telling me that my perfume was the sweetest in the garden and my damask cheek the softest, a Thorn Bush which grew near and had tried many times to win him from me began to tell how sweet were his notes and how graceful his form.”

“‘Do come and sing in my bush,’ she said, ‘and let me show you how strong I am. You will be safer in my bush than on the swaying branches of the Rose.’

“But the nightingale would not leave me, and told the Thorn Bush it was far too bold and its sharp points far too treacherous. ‘You are not so fragrant as the Rose,’ he said, ‘and my love is all for her.’

“‘You shall pay for this,’ screamed the Thorn Bush, angrily, ‘and you will find that your beautiful Rose has thorns as well as I.’ But the nightingale only sang lower and more sweetly to me, and we forgot the Thorn Bush in our happiness.

“The cruel Thorn, however, did not forget or forgive, and one day she twined herself around my roots and pressed into my tender stems until she was a part of me. I tried to cry out, but her strength was greater than mine. That night, when the nightingale came to sing his love song, she raised one of her sharp thorns and pierced his foot.

“‘You see your beautiful Rose has hidden thorns,’ she said, ‘and she is no more to be desired than I am.’

“‘I should be a poor lover were I not willing to suffer for the one I love,’ replied the nightingale as he came closer and sang to me even in his pain.

“‘I will always love you,’ he said; ‘I know you are not to blame for the thorns you wear, and that my love for you brought this upon you. I will never leave you.’ And he sang to me all through the night, and in the morning a deep, red Rose bloomed where the nightingale’s bleeding foot had rested, and the Thorn Bush was more angry than ever when she beheld its beauty.

“‘You shall never be free,’ she said to me; ‘every Rose shall wear a thorn.’

“The nightingale still sings to me and never fails to tell me of his undying love.”

“That is a very pretty story,” said Martha as the Rose finished, “and I am glad to know about that Thorn, for I have wondered many times why a flower so beautiful as you had that sharp point under your soft leaves.”

“Martha! Martha!” some one called from the doorway, and Martha jumped up.

“Come back to-morrow and hear my story,” said the Tiger Lily; “and mine,” said the Tulip; “and mine,” called out the Jonquil.

Martha promised that she would and ran toward the house.

The next day as soon as Martha found herself alone she ran into the garden, for she was curious to hear the promised stories.

The Jonquil spoke first. “My story,” it said, with dignity, “will be historical. I am a descendant from the great Narcissus family, and the Narcissus, as you know, is a very beautiful flower; it grows in wild profusion among the stony places along the great Mediterranean and eastward to China. All that you may have heard, but do you know why Narcissus loves to be near the water?”

Martha said she did not.

“I will tell you,” replied the Jonquil. “Ages and ages ago Narcissus was the son of a river god. He was extremely vain of his extraordinary beauty, which he beheld for the first time in the water. He sought out all the pools in the woods and would spend hours gazing at his reflection, and at last he fell in love with his own image.

“Narcissus could neither eat nor sleep, so fascinated did he become with his reflection. He would put his lips near to the water to kiss the lips he saw, and plunge his arms into it to embrace the form he loved, which, of course, fled at his touch, and then returned after a moment to mock him.

“‘Why cannot you love me?’ he would say to the image; ‘the Nymphs have loved me, and I can see love in your eyes’; which, of course, he did, for he did not know he was gazing at his own reflection.

“At last he pined away and died, and in the place of his body was found a beautiful flower, with soft white petals, nodding to its reflection in the water.

“The Daffodils are also my cousins,” the Jonquil explained, “and descend from the beautiful Narcissus.”

“That is a very pretty story,” said Martha, “and the fate of Narcissus should teach all vain people a lesson.”

The Tiger Lily told her story next.

“Mine is not a love story,” she said; “it is about something I saw in far-off China before I bloomed here.

“In that land little girls are not so happy as they are here because the boys are the pride of the family.

“One day a poor beggar who was faint from hunger and thirst lay down close beside where I bloomed. He groaned aloud in his misery, and a little girl who was passing heard him. She came to him and gave him water from a near-by stream and bathed his face. When he was refreshed he asked, ‘Who are you, and how did you happen to be here?’

“‘I am only a miserable daughter on her way to the mission,’ she replied. ‘My father is very poor and can provide only for his sons. If I can reach the mission they will take me in and I shall be taught many things.’

“The beggar only shook his head; he did not believe that a girl was worth even thanking, and that anyone should bother to teach her was past his belief, and so the little girl passed on.

“I am telling you this story,” said the Tiger Lily, “that you may know how much good your pennies do that you drop into the missionary box, for you see by the kind act of that little girl the Chinese girls are worth saving, for they are kind and good and grow up to be a blessing to their country.”

“What became of the beggar?” asked Martha.

“The little girl reached the mission,” the Lily said, “and they sent some one from there to take the beggar away. Very likely the missionaries took care of him.”

“I am glad you told me that story,” said Martha. “I shall try to save more pennies now to send to the little girls in China.”

The Tulip spoke next.

“I am afraid,” she said, “that my story will not be very interesting, but I don’t suppose that many people know that I bloomed long ago in Constantinople, the city of beautiful hills, where the mosques and the tombs and the fountains make a strange picture in the moonlight.

“There the ladies wear queerly draped gowns and their veiled faces leave only their bright eyes exposed.

“Afterward I bloomed in a country where everybody seems happy, and that is the land I love best. The children in that country look like little stuffed dolls in their many petticoats and close-fitting bonnets around their chubby little faces. Their little shoes clatter over the stones, sounding like many horses in the distance. There I was best loved and grew in profusion and beauty around the quaint homes of these quaint-looking people.

“Ah, me, it is a long way from here,” sighed the Tulip, “and I often long to hear the sound of the Zuider Zee as I did once long ago.”

“Why, she has gone to sleep,” said Martha as the Tulip closed and drooped her head, “and I must go in the house. Grandmother will be looking for me.”

“Will you come again?” asked the flowers; “there are many more that have stories to tell.”

“I shall be glad to hear them,” said Martha, “for I had no idea that flowers could tell such interesting stories.”