<< Предыдущий рассказ
Следующий рассказ >>
Little Ida's Flowers
"My poor flowers are quite dead," said little
Ida. "They were so pretty last evening, but now every leaf has
withered and drooped. Why do they do that?" she asked the student
who sat on the sofa.
She was very fond of him because he told such
good stories and could cut such amusing figures out of paper-hearts
with dancing ladies inside them, flowers of all sorts, and castles
with doors that you could open and close. He was a rollicking
"Why do my flowers look so ill today?" she
asked him again, and showed him her withered bouquet.
"Don't you know what's the matter with them?"
the student said. "They were at the ball last night, that's why they
can scarcely hold up their heads."
"Flowers can't dance," said little Ida.
"Oh, indeed they can," said the student. "As
soon as it gets dark and we go to sleep, they frolic about in a fine
fashion. Almost every night they give a ball."
"Can't children go to the ball?"
"Little daisies can go. So can lilies of the
"Where do the prettiest flowers dance?" Ida
"Haven't you often visited the beautiful
flower garden just outside of town, around the castle where the King
lives in the summertime? You remember-the place where swans swim
close when you offer them bread crumbs. Believe me! that's where the
prettiest flowers dance."
"Yesterday I was there with my mother," said
Ida, "but there wasn't a leaf on the trees, or a flower left. Where
are they? Last summer I saw ever so many."
"They are inside the castle, of course," said
the student. "Confidentially, just as soon as the King comes back to
town with all of his court, the flowers run from the garden into the
castle and enjoy themselves. You should see them. The two loveliest
roses climb up on the throne, where they are the king and the queen.
All the red coxcombs line up on either side, to stand and bow like
grooms of the bedchamber. Then all the best dressed flowers come,
and the grand ball starts. The blue violets are the naval cadets.
Their partners, whom they call 'Miss,' are hyacinths and crocuses.
The tulips and tiger lilies are the old chaperones, who see to it
that the dancing is done well and that everyone behaves properly."
"But", said little Ida, "doesn't anybody
punish the flowers for dancing in the King's own castle?"
"Nobody knows a thing about it," said the
student. "To be sure, there's the old castle keeper, who is there to
watch over things. Sometimes he comes in the night with his enormous
bunch of keys. But as soon as the flowers hear the keys jangle they
keep quiet, and hide, with only their heads peeking out from behind
the curtains. Then the old castle keeper says, 'I smell flowers in
here.' But he can't see any."
"What fun!" little Ida clapped her hands. "But
couldn't I see the flowers either?"
"Oh easily," said the student. "The very next
time you go there, remember to peep in the windows. There you will
see them, as I did today. A tall yellow lily lay stretched on the
sofa, pretending to be a lady-in-waiting."
Can the flowers who live in the botanical
gardens visit the castle? Can they go that far?"
"Why certainly. They can fly all the way if it
suits them. Haven't you seen lovely butterflies-white, yellow, and
red ones? They almost look like flowers, and that's really what they
used to be. They are flowers, who have jumped up off their stems,
high into the air. They beat the air with their petals, as though
these were little wings, and so they manage to fly. If they behave
themselves nicely, they get permission to fly all day long, instead
of having to go home and sit on their stems. In time their petals
turn into real wings. You've seen them yourself. However, it's quite
possible that the botanical garden flowers have never been to the
King's castle and don't know anything about the fun that goes on
there almost every night. Therefore I'll tell you how to arrange a
surprise for the botanical professor. You know the one I mean-he
lives quite near here. Well, the next time you go to the garden,
tell one of his flowers that they are having a great ball in the
castle. One flower will tell the others, and off they'll fly. When
the professor comes out in the garden not one flower will he find,
and where they've all gone he will never be able to guess."
"How can a flower tell the others?" You know
flowers can't speak."
"They can't speak," the student agreed, "but
they can signal. Haven't you noticed that whenever the breeze blows
the flowers nod to one another, and make signs with their leaves.
Why, it's as plain as talk."
"Can the professor understand their signs?"
"Certainly he can. One morning he came into
his garden and saw a big stinging nettle leaf signaling to a
glorious red carnation, 'You are so beautiful, and I love you so
much.' But the professor didn't like that kind of thing, so he
slapped the nettle's leaves, for they are its fingers. He was stung
so badly that he hasn't laid hands on a stinging nettle since."
"Oh, how jolly!" little Ida laughed.
"How can anyone stuff a child's head with such
nonsense?" said the prosy councilor, who had come to call and sit on
the sofa too. He didn't like the student a bit. He always grumbled
when he saw the student cut out those strange, amusing
pictures-sometimes a man hanging from the gallows and holding a
heart in his hand to show that he had stolen people's hearts away;
sometimes an old witch riding a broomstick and balancing her husband
on her nose. The councilor highly disapproved of those, and he would
say as he said now, " How can anyone stuff a child's head with such
nonsense-such stupid fantasy?"
But to little Ida, what the student told her
about flowers was marvelously amusing, and she kept right on
thinking about it. Her flowers couldn't hold their heads up, because
they were tired out from dancing all night. Why they must be ill.
She took them to where she kept her toys on a nice little table,
with a whole drawer full of pretty things. Her doll, Sophie, lay
asleep in the doll's bed, but little Ida told her:
"Sophie, you'll really have to get up, and be
satisfied to sleep in the drawer tonight, because my poor flowers
are ill. Maybe, if I let them sleep in your bed tonight, they will
get well again."
When she took the doll up, Sophie looked as
cross as could be, and didn't say a word. She was sulky because she
couldn't keep her own bed.
Ida put the flowers to bed, and tucked the
little covers around them. She told them to be good and lie still,
while she made them some tea, so that they would get well and be up
and about tomorrow. She carefully drew the curtains around the
little bed, so the morning sun would not shine in their faces.
All evening long she kept thinking of what the
student had said, before she climbed into bed herself. She peeped
through the window curtains at the fine potted plants that belonged
to her mother-hyacinths and tulips, too. She whispered very softly,
"I know you are going to the ball tonight."
But the flowers pretended not to understand
her. They didn't move a leaf. But little Ida knew all about them.
After she was in bed, she lay there for a long
while thinking how pleasant it must be to see the flowers dance in
the King's castle. "Were my flowers really there?" she wondered.
Then she fell asleep. When she woke up again in the night, she had
been dreaming of the flowers, and of the student, and of the prosy
councilor who had scolded him and had said it was all silly
nonsense. It was very still in the bedroom where Ida was. The night
lamp glowed on the table, and Ida's mother and father were asleep.
"Are my flowers still asleep in Sophie's bed?"
Ida wondered. "That's what I'd like to know."
She lifted herself a little higher on her
pillow, and looked towards the door which stood half open. In there
were her flowers and all her toys. She listened, and it seemed to
her that someone was playing the piano, very softly and more
beautifully than she had ever heard it played.
"I'm perfectly sure that those flowers are all
dancing," she said to herself. "Oh, my goodness, wouldn't I love to
see them." But she did not dare get up, because that might awaken
her father and mother.
"I do wish the flowers would come in here!"
she thought. But they didn't. The music kept playing, and it sounded
so lovely that she couldn't stay in bed another minute. She tiptoed
to the door, and peeped into the next room. Oh, how funny-what a
sight she saw there!
No night lamp burned in the next room, but it
was well lighted just the same. The moonlight streamed through the
window, upon the middle of the floor, and it was almost as bright as
day. The hyacinths and the tulips lined up in two long rows across
the floor. Not one was left by the window. The flowerpots stood
there empty, while the flowers danced gracefully around the room,
making a complete chain and holding each other by their long green
leaves as they swung around.
At the piano sat a tall yellow lily. Little
Ida remembered it from last summer, because the student had sad,
"Doesn't that lily look just like Miss Line?" Everyone had laughed
at the time, but now little Ida noticed that there was a most
striking resemblance. When the lily played it had the very same
mannerisms as the young lady, sometimes bending its long, yellow
face to one side, sometimes to the other, and nodding in time with
the lovely music.
No one suspected that little Ida was there.
She saw a nimble blue crocus jump up on the table where her toys
were, go straight to the doll's bed, and throw back the curtains.
The sick flowers lay there, but they got up at once, and nodded down
to the others that they also wanted to dance. The old chimney-sweep
doll, whose lower lip was broken, rose and made a bow to the pretty
flowers. They looked quite themselves again as they jumped down to
join the others and have a good time.
It seemed as if something clattered off the
table. Little Ida looked, and saw that the birch wand, that had been
left over from Mardigras time, was jumping down as if he thought he
were a flower too. The wand did cut quite a flowery figure, with his
paper rosettes and, to top him off, a little wax figure who had a
broad trimmed hat just like the one that the councilor wore.
The wand skipped about on his three red wooden
legs, and stamped them as hard as he could, for he was dancing the
mazurka. The flowers could not dance it, because they were too light
to stamp as he did.
All of a sudden, the wax figure grew tall and
important. He whirled around to the paper flowers beside him, and
said, "How can anyone stuff a child's head with such nonsense-such
stupid fantasy?" At that moment he was a perfect image of the
big-hatted councilor, just as sallow and quite as cross. But the
paper flowers hit back. They struck his thin shanks until he
crumpled up into a very small wax manikin. The change was so
ridiculous that little Ida could not keep from laughing.
Wherever the sceptered wand danced the
councilor had to dance too, whether he made himself tall and
important or remained a little wax figure in a big black hat. The
real flowers put in a kind word for him, especially those who had
lain ill in the doll's bed, and the birch wand let him rest.
Just then they heard a loud knocking in the
drawer where Ida's doll, Sophie, lay with the other toys. The
chimney-sweep rushed to the edge of the table, lay flat on his
stomach and managed to pull the drawer out a little way. Sophie sat
up and looked around her, most surprised.
"Why, they are having a ball!" she said "Why
hasn't somebody told me about it?"
"Won't you dance with me?" the chimney-sweep
"A fine partner you'd be!" she said, and
turned her back on him.
She sat on the edge of the drawer, hoping one
of the flowers would ask her to dance, but not one of them did, She
coughed, "Hm, hm, hm!" and still not one of them asked her. To make
matters worse, the chimney-sweep had gone off dancing by himself,
which he did pretty well.
As none of the flowers paid the least
attention to Sophie, she let herself tumble from the drawer to the
floor with a bang. Now the flowers all came running to ask, "Did you
hurt yourself?" They were very polite to her, especially those who
had slept in her bed. But she wasn't hurt a bit. Ida's flowers
thanked her for the use of her nice bed, and treated her well. They
took her out in the middle of the floor, where the moon shone, and
danced with her while all the other flowers made a circle around
them. Sophie wasn't at all cross now. She said they might keep her
bed. She didn't in the least mind sleeping in the drawer.
But the flowers said, "Thank you, no. We can't
live long enough to keep your bed. Tomorrow we shall be dead. Tell
little Ida to bury us in the garden, next to her canary bird's
grave. Then we shall come up again next summer, more beautiful than
"Oh, you mustn't die," Sophie said, and kissed
all the flowers.
Then the drawing room door opened, and many
more splendid flowers tripped in. Ida couldn't imagine where they
had come from, unless - why, they must have come straight from the
King's castle. First came two magnificent roses, wearing little gold
crowns. These were the king and the queen. Then. Then came charming
gillyflowers and carnations, who greeted everybody. They brought the
musicians along. Large poppies and peonies blew upon pea pods until
they were red in the face. Blue hyacinths and little snowdrops
tinkled their bells. It was such funny music. Many other flowers
followed them, and they all danced together, blue violets with pink
primroses, and daisies with the lilies of the valley.
All the flowers kissed one another, and that
was very pretty to look at. When the time came to say good night,
little Ida sneaked back to bed too, where she dreamed of all she had
As soon as it was morning, she hurried to her
little table to see if her flowers were still there. She threw back
the curtain around the bed. Yes, they were there, but they were even
more faded than yesterday. Sophie was lying in the drawer where Ida
had put her. She looked quite sleepy.
"Do you remember what you were to tell me?"
little Ida asked.
But Sophie just looked stupid, and didn't say
"You are no good at all," Ida told her. "And
to think how nice they were to you, and how all of them danced with
She opened a little pasteboard box, nicely
decorated with pictures of birds, and laid the dead flowers in it.
"This will be your pretty coffin," she told
them. "When my cousins from Norway come to visit us, they will help
me bury you in the garden, so that you may come up again next summer
and be more beautiful than ever."
Her Norwegian cousins were two pleasant boys
named Jonas and Adolph. Their father had given them two new
crossbows, which they brought with them for Ida to see. She told
them how her poor flowers had died, and they got permission to hold
a funeral. The boys marched first, with their crossbows on their
shoulders. Little Ida followed, with her dead flowers in their nice
box. In the garden they dug a little grave. Ida first kissed the
flowers, and then she closed the box and laid it in the earth.
Adolph and Jonas shot their crossbows over the grave, for they had
no guns or cannons.