A Flower Book







When the snow lies thick

on the ground and all the

streams that babble in summer

lie still in their houses of

ice, you think, I daresay, that

the flowers are asleep, and

that nothing can wake them

before the spring?



But I know of a wood

where the little elves and

sprites and the delicate fairies

dance in a ring in the moonlight,

and I will tell you of

what happens there at twelve

o'clock on the first night of

every year.



IVY


The clock in the cathedral

tower booms out twelve solemn

strokes, and all the church

bells peal a welcome to the

New Year. That is the signal

for the fairies to come down

on a moonbeam—with their

white dresses shining and their

long yellow hair streaming.



WINTER JASMINE


Most beautiful of them all

is Rusialka, the queen of fairies

and elves. She wears a

necklet of dewdrops, and dew-drops

sparkle in her dress and

in her hair. She glides softly

over the snow, and all the

fairies follow her to a great

elder bush that grows in the

middle of the little wood. She

knocks once and calls:



“Lady Elder! are you

within?”



And the tree shoots out its

green buds and the tender

leaves unfold themselves.



Then again the fairy Rusialka

knocks and calls:



“Lady Elder! Lady Elder!

are you within?”



And the sweet white blossoms

open overhead, and a

gentle rain of flowers falls

upon the fairies.



For the third time Rusialka

calls:



“Lady Elder! Lady Elder!

Lady Elder! are you within?”



MICHAELMAS DAISY


And then the tree opens

slowly, and the Lady Elder

appears. She is very old, for

she is the Mother of all the

fairies and elves.



SNOWDROP


“What is it you want of

me, my children?” she asks,

in a voice like a silver bell.



And all the fairies curtsey

very long and low, and they

answer her:



“The New Year is come,

Lady Elder; and we want you

to grant us leave to wake the

little flowers that sleep under

the snow!”



“The World is yet cold for

the flowers, my children,” answers

the Lady Elder. “They

are all asleep, each to be

awakened in her time. But

this you may do. You may

call them up for to-night,

and when you leave this

wood in the morning, they

will all go back to their beds

again.”



VIOLET


“Our glad thanks to you,

Ma'am,” the fairies sing back

joyfully.



DOG ROSE


Then they all join hands

and frolic away, singing as

they go:



“Little flowerets gay and sweet


Hear the patter of our feet;


Little flowerets sweet and gay


Come and dance a roundelay!”




Then slower and slower fades

the dance.






“O Christmas Rose! O

Christmas Rose!” called Rusialka,

on the particular night

I am telling you of.



A little voice answered under

the snow:



“I am here, good ladies!”



And the Christmas Rose,

holding her blossom-standard

in one hand, peeped out.



“Will you join our dance?”

asked Rusialka.



HAWTHORN


The Christmas Rose held

out her hands, and the merry

party danced on singing a

song the fairies love, till they

came to a spot where the Ivy

slept on a little brown bed of

earth under a bright white

coverlet of snow—with all her

clusters of berries resting on

her leaves.



HONEYSUCKLE


“Wake up! Wake up!

little Ivy!” cried Rusialka.



“O, is it spring come again?”

called out Ivy in a sleepy voice.

“Or are you two sad friends

who at parting want to give

each other a token of true

friendship?”



“We are not sad friends at

all,” answered Rusialka. “We

are the Little Ladies come

to frolic on earth, and we

want you, Ivy, to join in our

frolic.”



“Isn't it cold out in the

world now?” asked the little

voice again.



“The dance will warm you,”

answered the fairy. “And in

the morning before we go, we

will lay you back in your

warm bed.”



POPPY


So Ivy joined the dance,

and right merrily they went

round and round, till they all

had to sit down to take

breath.



WILLOW


Highest of all, on a tuft of

soft earth, sat Rusialka. All

the little white fairies sat in a

circle round her. And Ivy and

Christmas Rose took one

another by the hand and

curtsied to Rusialka.



“White Lady,” said the

Ivy, “if you like we will go

and wake up our little sisters,

and when we are all here we

will dance to your company

a dance that the breezes

taught us last spring.”



“Go then,” said Rusialka,



“and bring your sisters to me.”



So Christmas Rose and Ivy

went away, and returned

presently with another little

sister-flower, the Yellow Jasmine.



ROSE


“Jasmine,” said Rusialka,

“you are slight and slender,

and winsome! I can see that

your blossoms will bring a

pang to tender hearts, for

you mean 'separation,' but

of all the messengers of woe

you are the gentlest, sweet

Jasmine.”



Then the Michaelmas Daisy

came forward too.



CHRYSANTHEMUM


“And you, Daisy,” added

Rusialka, “you soften the

bitter parting with a fond

farewell.”



The Jasmine gave a sigh

and curtsied.



“If I bring a sad message,”

she said, “my sister the Snowdrop

is ever close at hand—and

her meaning is 'hope.'”



The Snowdrop came forward

and curtsied to the fairy.



“I am the herald in all our

flower pageants,” she said.

“And some call me the 'Fair

Maid of February.'”



Rusialka waved her crystal

wand three times and said: “I

can see a walled-in garden in a

distant land. A bell is ringing

for vespers, and all the nuns

with downcast eyes hasten

across a cloister to the chapel

door. The youngest of them

all sees a bed of snowdrops lift

their white heads and she smiles,

because they are an emblem of

hope, and a symbol of her life.”



PERIWINKLE


The Snowdrop curtsied, and

stepped aside to make room

for the Violet.



CARNATION


She peeped out shyly from

under a bunch of leaves and

a sweet perfume filled the

air.



“Violets for faithfulness,”

she said, turning to the Yellow

Jasmine, “I comfort friends

who are parted. What pictures

do you see for me, Lady

Rusialka?”



Rusialka waved her crystal

wand and said:



“Call up your bright sisters

who bring both joy and hope,

and stand before me.”



The Snowdrop turned to

obey the fairy's command, and

presently returned holding the

Hawthorn and the Poppy by

the hands.



WOOD ANEMONE


“I bring security and hope,”

the Hawthorn said, “and I protect

the good country people

from harm, if they do but hang

a spray of my blossoms over

their houses in May. For then

the wicked fairies and elves

who are your enemies, White

Ladies, as well as the enemies

of men, can do no harm.”



WIND FLOWER


“I, too,” said Honeysuckle,

“I, too, fight the wicked little

sprites and keep from harm

the good milch cows and the

beasts that feed and clothe

poor children in cold northern

lands.”



Then the Poppy spoke out.

She did not appear to be in

the least bit shy, and waved

the scarlet folds of her mantle

about her head, and all the

black fringe of seed trembled

and stood out like a halo.



“And I am consolation,”



she said. “The hope that

springs up again after doubt.”



“If all were faithful and

true,” whispered the Violet,

“there would be less need of

you, proud Poppy.”



“Or,” suggested the Willow,

“if people would but

listen to my warning and not

bind their hearts with chains.

I am the emblem of freedom.”



CORNFLOWER


But the Rose and the

Chrysanthemum came forward

at these words and curtsied to

Rusialka.



COWSLIP


“They do not speak wisely

and truly, O dear White

Ladies,” they said. “We both

mean 'love,' and we know

that smiles and joy attend us.

Ask our sisters who best know.”



“I am early friendship,”

said the Periwinkle, pensively,

as she came and stood before

Rusialka. “Even the very old

on earth find comfort in me.”



Then Clematis appeared.

She lifted her banner like a

wreath round her head. “I

mean poverty,” she said: “but

even poverty is sweet with love,

for love can make all things

beautiful.”



But two flowers came

forward sadly, and sighed as

they curtsied to Rusialka.

They were Carnation and

Anemone.



“Alas! for my poor heart,”

said the first. “To me love

brings but sadness.”



BLACKBERRY


“And when the dewdrops

fall,” said the second, “I think

they are the tears of all who

are like me, forsaken.”



SPINDLE BERRY


The Windflower stepped

forward boldly, and a breath

of breeze ran through her hair

and raised her banner.



“I know that tears dry and

give place to smiles,” she said.



“Oh, do not weep then,

sweet little sisters,” said the

Cornflower, gently. “See,

Cowslip and I will take you

by the hand and lead you to

a bright, clear patch by the tree

of the Lady Elder, where we

will play together till morning.”



As they disappeared they

heard the voice of Rusialka:



“O, hasten, Blackberry,”

she said. “Hasten, Spindle,

and Holly and Misletoe, for

before the coldest hour that

precedes the dawn has passed

over the earth your little sisters

must all be back in their little

warm beds.”



HOLLY


Then forward came the four

linked hand in hand and curtsied.

Then the Holly kissed

the Mistletoe, and the Blackberry

and the Spindleberry

raised their banners on high,

while all the flowers marched

through hand in hand.



MISTLETOE


They marched up to the tree

of the Lady Elder, and Rusialka

knocked once, twice,

thrice, with her crystal wand.



The Lady Elder came out

of her tree and smiled upon

the flowers.



“Good night, my children,”

she said. “Good night, and

farewell until the Spring.”



And then the flowers

frolicked and danced merrily;

and at the dawn of day they

drooped their heads and fell

asleep, and the fairies brought

them back to their little warm

beds and covered them up

with their sparkling white

coverlets.



CLEMATIS


And then all the White Ladies climbed on their moonbeam

and glided softly up, up,

up, into Fairyland.









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