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THE LITTLE COTYLEDONS

from Stories To Tell Children





This is another story about Margery's garden.

The next morning after the garden was planted, Margery was up and out at
six o'clock. She could not wait to look at her garden. To be sure, she
knew that the seeds could not sprout in a single night, but she had a
feeling that _something_ might happen at any moment. The garden was just
as smooth and brown as the night before, and no little seedlings were in
sight.

But a very few mornings after that, when Margery went out, she saw a
funny little crack opening up through the earth, the whole length of the
patch. Quickly she knelt down on the footpath, to see. Yes! Tiny green
leaves, a whole row of them, were pushing their way through the crust!
Margery knew what she had put there: it was the radish-row; these must
be radish leaves. She examined them very closely, so that she might
know a radish next time. The little leaves, no bigger than half your
little-finger nail, grew in twos,--two on each tiny stem; they were
almost round.

Margery flew back to her mother, to say that the first seeds were up.
And her mother, nearly as excited as Margery, came to look at the little
crack.

Each day, after that, the row of radishes grew, till, in a week, it
stood as high as your finger, green and sturdy. But about the third day,
while Margery was stooping over the radishes, she saw something very,
very small and green, peeping above ground, where the lettuce was
planted. Could it be weeds? No, for on looking very closely she saw that
the wee leaves faintly marked a regular row. They did not make a crack,
like the radishes; they seemed too small and too far apart to push the
earth up like that. Margery leaned down and looked with all her eyes at
the baby plants. The tiny leaves grew two on a stem, and were almost
round. The more she looked at them the more it seemed to Margery that
they looked exactly as the radish looked when it first came up. "Do you
suppose," Margery said to herself, "that lettuce and radish look alike
while they are growing? They don't look alike when they are on the
table!"

Day by day the lettuce grew, and soon the little round leaves were
easier to examine; they certainly were very much like radish leaves.

Then, one morning, while she was searching for signs of other seeds,
Margery discovered the beets. In irregular patches on the row, hints of
green were coming. The next day and the next they grew, until the beet
leaves were big enough to see.

Margery looked. Then she looked again. Then she wrinkled her forehead.
"Can we have made a mistake?" she thought. "Do you suppose we can have
planted _all_ radishes?"

For those little beet leaves were almost round, and they grew two on a
stem, precisely like the lettuce and the radish; except for the size,
all three rows looked alike.

It was too much for Margery. She ran to the house and found her father.
Her little face was so anxious that he thought something unpleasant had
happened. "Papa," she said, all out of breath, "do you think we could
have made a mistake about my garden? Do you think we could have put
radishes in all the rows?"

Father laughed. "What makes you think such a thing?" he asked.

"Papa," said Margery, "the little leaves all look exactly alike! every
plant has just two tiny leaves on it, and shaped the same; they are
roundish, and grow out of the stem at the same place."

Papa's eyes began to twinkle. "Many of the dicotyledonous plants look
alike at the beginning," he said, with a little drawl on the big word.
That was to tease Margery, because she always wanted to know the big
words she heard.

"What's 'dicotyledonous'?" said Margery, carefully.

"Wait till I come home to-night, dear," said her father, "and I'll tell
you."

That evening Margery was waiting eagerly for him. When her father
finished his supper they went together to the garden, and father
examined the seedlings carefully. Then he pulled up a little radish
plant and a tiny beet.

"These little leaves," he said, "are not the real leaves of the plant;
they are only little pockets to hold food for the plant to live on till
it gets strong enough to push up into the air. As soon as the real
leaves come out and begin to draw food from the air, these little
substitutes wither up and fall off. These two lie folded up in the
little seed from the beginning, and are full of plant food. They don't
have to be very special in shape, you see, because they don't stay on
the plant after it is grown up."

"Then every plant looks like this at first?" said Margery.

"No, dear, not every one; plants are divided into two kinds: those which
have two food leaves, like these plants, and those which have only one;
these are called dicotyledonous, and the ones which have but one food
leaf are monocotyledonous. Many of the dicotyledons look alike."

"I think that is interesting," said Margery.

"I always, supposed the plants were different from the minute they began
to grow."

"Indeed, no," said father. "Even some of the trees look like this when
they first come through; you would not think a birch tree could look
like a vegetable or a flower, would you? But it does, at first; it looks
so much like these things that in the great nurseries, where trees are
raised for forests and parks, the workmen have to be very carefully
trained, or else they would pull up the trees when they are weeding.
They have to be taught the difference between a birch tree and a weed."

"How funny!" said Margery, dimpling.

"Yes, it sounds funny," said father; "but, you see, the birch tree is
dicotyledonous, and so are many weeds, and the dicotyledons look so much
alike at first."

"I am glad to know that, father," said Margery, soberly. "I believe I
shall learn a good deal from living in the country; don't you think so?"

Margery's father took her in his arms. "I hope so, dear," he said; "the
country is a good place for little girls."

And that was all that happened, that day.





Next: THE TALKATIVE TORTOISE

Previous: COLCHESTER.



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