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65 S4- Pccw.5 Ch ucho iD
The Ugly Flower Pots
T was five o'clock in the afternoon. Miss
Hunter, a tall, dignified-looking woman,
was presiding at the afternoon tea-table
'--- in the drawing-room of Chatts Chase.
S'Miss Amabel Hunter stood at the window
in a rather muddy riding-habit, and she
", was -1.':1:'i in her sharp, short tones to
her twin sister Hester, who lay back in
the depths of a large armchair, a novel
open in her lap. Sitting by the cheery wood fire was the
youngest of the sisters, a frail and delicate invalid. She was
turning her face anxiously towards the speaker, and now put in
her word very gently.
'We only thought, Amabel, that it would have comforted the
poor children if you had returned with them in the brougham.
An aunt would naturally have been more acceptable to them
than a strange maid.'
'But I tell you, Sil., tl.,..: are with their own nurse, and
Graham will be far more likely to put them all at ease than
I should. They will hear that "' -:: :- 'L.r is t:.: missis, and
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
lets every one know she is. Miss 'Ester keeps the maids on
their legs all day long because she won't use hers. Miss
H'Amabel does the sporting gent, and is never indoors except
to meals; while Miss Sibyl-well, there, she is not much 'count
in the family, for she can't say bo to a goose, and doesn't mind
how people put on her.!"'
'You saw the children, I suppose?' questioned Miss Hunter
'Of course I did. I rode down to the station for that express
purpose. They are two skinny, puny little monkeys, enveloped
in bundles of wraps. I packed them all up comfortably in the
carriage, and rode on to tell you of their arrival. I don't seem
to have done the right thing,, as usual; but that is always the
way. Here is the carriage lumbering up the drive. Now you
had all better go out on the steps and overwhelm them with
kisses and caresses. Only may I ask that they should be taken
straight up to their nursery, and not brought in here?'
'One would think, to hear you talk, that you hated children,'
murmured Miss Sibyl; 'it is a good thing that Percy and his
wife cannot hear you.'
Miss Hunter left the room at once, and curiosity drew Sibyl
and Hester after her, to see the little nephew and niece who
had been sent to them from India from their only brother.
The four Miss Hunters lived very comfortably together,
though they were all, with the exception of Sibyl, rather self-
willed, opinionated women. All of them being well over forty,
and grey hairs plentiful between them, they had earned the dis-
THE UGLY, FLOWER POTS
tinction of being looked upon as 'old maids,' and some wag
having one day obliterated the 'h' in Chatts Chase, the house
was now familiarly called 'Pussy's Chase.' This did not dis-
turb the good ladies when it came to their ears, for they had
large souls, a keen sense of humour, and too much interest in
life to be fretted by village gossip.
They were now full of plans and purposes regarding the two
small children about to be placed in their charge, and no two
visitors could have caused more excitement and preparation in
the quiet household than did this little couple from India.
'Well,' asked Miss Amabel, as, after a great deal of bustle
and talk in the hall, the sisters came back to the drawing-room,
'and what are your impressions of the kids?'
'Poor little mites!' said Miss Sibyl; 'they seem so very white
and sickly in appearance, that we were quite astonished at the
way they scampered upstairs. I am thankful they were sent
back in charge of an English nurse. Those ayahs are always
Before many days the children astonished their aunts still
more by their agility and ingenuity in mischief of all sorts.
Roland, a fair, curly-haired little fellow of seven, led his smaller
sister Olive into every kind of audacious escapade. Their
spirits were unflagging, though at times their frail-looking little
bodies seemed to droop under their activity.
Miss Hunter came upon little Olive one afternoon sitting on
the stairs in a breathless, exhausted state, and Roland was re-
monstrating with her.
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'You've only run up twenty-five times, Olive, and you're
tired already; it's a mile race, and you must go on.'
She must do nothing of the sort, Roland,' said Miss Hunter
sternly. 'I will not let you tear up and down stairs all day in
this fashion. What do you mean by it?'
'We can't be idle, auntie,' said Roland, shaking his curls back,
and speaking with decision. 'Nurse has the toothache, and
won't take us out. Father says people can be idle very easily,
and put it down to the climate, and"idle hands find mischief,"
he says, and father is never idle. If we don't run up and down
stairs, where can we run ? We like
'''ll the stairs best, because we never have
I stairs in India.'
'Send them into the garden, Marion,'
called out Miss Amabel, from the gar-
Sin den door; 'I am going to the
.''- stables, and then I will look
Little Olive jumped
up. 'Oh, let us go
out, auntie, and
,i~\ i ~ see the pretty
Ii I(III, 1 be very good
THE UGLY FLOWER POTS
Go quietly upstairs, and ask nurse to wrap you up well, as it
is rather cold out.'
And then Miss Hunter, who found children rather a per-
plexing problem, walked back to her book and her fireside, and
thought no more about them.
Roland and Olive danced out of doors a little time after, in
delight at finding themselves unattended.
'Now,' said Roland peremptorily, 'we're going for a walk,'
Olive, and you are not to get tired. And we'll go and find
those big iron gates first of all; they're down this road.'
Down the avenue trotted the children; it was fully half a mile
long, and the thick shrubberies on either side rather alarmed
the little girl.
'You're quite sure there isn't a tiger in the bushes?' she
.And Roland in superior tones replied,-
'I've told you the English people caught all their tigers long
ago, and put them in a garden in London. Father told me so.'
'And what's outside the big gates, Roly-a jungle?'
'No, I think the trains are. I want to go and see them.
They reached the gates, but found them shut, and as Roland
was exerting all his strength to open them, an old man stepped
out of the pretty little lodge close by.
'Why, where be ye off to, little master?' he asked with a
beaming smile. 'Isn't your nurse with you this afternoon?'
'No; we're taking a walk. Open the gates, please.'
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
But this the old man did not seem willing to do.
'Won't ye come into my little parlour here, and pay me a
visit? My niece, Jane, is away to market to-day, and I be
very lonely. Old Bob has a lot of pretty things in his room.'
Roland hesitated, but when Olive with sparkling eyes ran in
at the open door, he followed, saying,-
'We always like to pay visits, so if you're a good and nice
man we'll come in. Mother only likes us to talk to very nice
THE UGLY FLOWER POTS
people-; but I s'pose every one in England is nice, because
they're white, and it's only the blacks that don't know better.'
The old man laughed, and his quaint, old-fashioned room,
with a cheery fire and bright coloured prints round the walls,
delighted his little guests.
'What are those ugly pots in your window without any
flowers?' asked Roland presently.
Old Bob gave a little sigh and a smile.
'Ah, you've hit upon my greatest treasures,' he said. 'You
won't call them ugly pots when Easter comes.'
'What is Easter?' asked both the children.
'The happiest time in the whole year to me,' said Bob, shaking
his head; but another day I'll tell you the tale of those pots-
'And have you got a garden?' asked Roland eagerly. 'Olive
and me love flowers, but England doesn't seem to have any out
'Come and see my garden,' said the old man proudly; 'it's
the joy of my life, next to them there "ugly pots "!'
He led the way to the back of the house, where was a good-
sized cottage garden ; but the children's faces fell considerably
when they saw the barren desolation, for Bob had no evergreen
shrubs, and only some rows of cabbages and broccoli showed
signs of life.
'It's all brown earth and dead things-no flowers at all!'
'But this is the wrong time o' year,' Bob said apologetically;
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'there be heaps o' beautiful stuff all under the earth, awaiting' to
come up in their time.'
'But why don't you make them come up now? What's the
good of a garden without flowers ? In India we have lovely
'Winter is a-comin' on, my dears; you won't see my pretty
flowers just yet. They're fast asleep bidin' their time; no frost
or cold can touch 'em-bidin' their time !'
Bob's face looked wistful as he gazed at his empty flower
'What's winter?' asked Olive curiously.
'Bless the little dear, has she never known a winter? 'Tis
the dreary dark time of waiting the sunless, joyless bit o' all the
year, when the singin' birds fly away, the butterflies and flowers
die, and the very trees sigh and moan in their bareness and
decay. 'Tis an empty bit o' life, when all that makes life sweet
falls to pieces and fades away.'
This was not quite intelligible to the children; but they
shivered a little at the gloom in the old man's tone, and Olive's
blue eyes filled with tears.
'I don't want to stay here in winter,' she said; 'let's go back
to India, Roly !'
Roland stood with knitted brows considering.
'Who makes the winter?' he asked. 'Does the devil? Be-
cause God only makes beautiful things, doesn't He?'
Old Bob raised his hat, and looked up into the grey autumnal
sky with a smile.
THE UGLY FLOWER POTS
'Nay, little master, the devil wouldn't have wished to give us
such a lesson as winter teaches us. 'Tis God Almighty in His
love that gives us winter, to try our faith and patience, and teach
us hope's lessons. If we had no winter, we% should have no
Easter, and 'tis well worth the waiting' for!'
'And does everything die in winter?' asked Roland in a
His question was unanswered, for Miss Amabel appeared on
'Oh, you children!' she exclaimed breathlessly. 'What a
chase I have had after you If I had known you were in such.
safe quarters, I would have spared myself the trouble of looking
for you. Have they been here long, Bob?'
'Nigh on a quarter o' an hour, Miss Amabel. They was for
going out at the gate, but I 'ticed 'em in to my place.'
'Much obliged to you. Now, chicks, remember this, you're
never to go outside those gates alone. Come back to the house
with me, and say good-bye to Bob.'
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
Olive lifted up her little face to be kissed by the old man,
and Roland held out his hand.
'Good-bye, Mr. Bob. We will come and see you again, and
you will tell us about your ugly pots.'
Then as they walked up the avenue by the side of their
aunt, Roland said to her, pointing to the leafless trees above
'We don't have ugly trees like that in India. Why don't
you cut them all down? They're quite dead, aren't they?'
'No, indeed,' replied Miss Amabel briskly; 'they'll all come
to life again next spring.'
'Is spring Easter that Mr. Bob was telling us about?'
'Yes, Easter comes in spring.'
'And does everything dead come to life in spring ?'
'A good many things in the garden do,' said Miss Amabel
'Why does God make winter in England, and not in India?
Is He angry with the people in England?'
'Bless the boy! What a curiosity-box! Keep your questions
for Aunt Sibyl-she will appreciate them. And as for winter, I
couldn't do without it, for there would be no hunting then,
and I should feel half my enjoyment gone in life.'
'Do you like winter, Aunt Am'bel?' asked Olive.
'Yes, I love it; and so will you when you become hardy and
rosy, like English boys and girls!'
The children looked very doubtful at this statement, but did
not dispute it.
Under the Earth
THE next day was still colder, but the children, in com-
pany with their nurse, found a delightful retreat in the
garden, and this was in the conservatory. James, the
old gardener, was always glad of some one to talk to, and he
and nurse were soon fast friends. He took them into the
vinery, then into the fern house, and lastly into the conserva-
tory next the house, which was a brilliant mass of bloom and
Olive clapped her hands in delight.
'We are back in India, Roly. Oh, how nice and warm !'
'We will always come and play here,' said Roland. Then,
looking up at the old gardener, he said,-
- L __
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'You never let winter come here, do you ?'
'Not if I can help it,' said James with a dry chuckle. 'Me
and Jack Frost have had many a fight, but I gets the better
of him generally.'
'Who is Jack Frost?'
'Ha! ha! Not heerd o' Jack Frost? Well, unless I'm
much mistaken he'll pay us a visit to-night, and then you'll
feel him as well as see him.'
Olive looked puzzled, but Roland's mind was working too
busily to heed Jack Frost. He walked round and round the
flowers, then he remarked abruptly, If you don't have winter
here, you won't have a Easter-Mr. Bob said so!'
'Oh, there!' said nurse with a laugh, 'don't heed his curious
talk, Mr. Jenkins; he's such a dreadful child for arguing.'
She and James continued their chat, and the children sat
down on a low wicker seat, playing with the fallen fuchsia
buds, and comparing their present life with the one they had
so lately left.
- I wish Mr. Bob had a nice glass house like this,' said Olive
thoughtfully. 'Why doesn't he, Roly?'
'We'll ask him next time we see him. I expect he is too
'And, Roly, do you think Jack Frost is a thief who tries to
steal James's flowers?'
'I don't know.'
A little later, when nurse was taking them into the house,
Olive inquired again, rather anxiously,' Nurse, I hope Jack
UNDER THE EARTH
Frost won't come to us when we're in bed; James seemed to
think we should feel him.'
'No, no, Miss Olive; I'll tuck you up too warm for that.
There will be no Jack Frost in our nursery, I can tell you. I
keep too big a fire.'
But the little girl was anxious and ill at ease, till at last she
unburdened her mind to Miss Sibyl, when she went to wish
her 'good-night' in the drawing-room.
'Why, Olive dear, Jack Frost isn't a man; that is only a
joke. When it is very cold the air freezes, and the pretty dew-
drops on the grass and flowers all turn to ice. Have you never
seen a frost ? '
'Frosts kill all the flowers-that is why James does not like
it coming; but it is the flowers out of doors that feel it
'But,' said Roland, edging up to his aunt, 'there are no
flowers to kill; there are only bare, dried-up trees and dark
bushes. Mr. Bob told us they had all gone to sleep under the
'So they have, but it is frost and cold that has killed them
I don't like England,' said little Olive mournfully ; and when
she was comfortably tucked up in bed that night, she said
sleepily, If I had a nice garden of flowers, I wouldn't leave
them all out in the cold and dark to die, and I'll never live
in England when I grow up, for winter is a dreadful thing '
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
The children soon found out what frost and cold meant; but
the novelty of the small icicles outside their windows, and the
beauty of the hoar frost glittering on the trees and bushes in
the sunshine, more than compensated for the uncomfortable
experience of cold hands and feet.
They soon paid a visit to old Bob again, and this time he
.: ?. _
took them into the old-fashioned churchyard, which lay just
outside the lodge gates on the other side of the road.
'This is my other garden,' he said gravely, 'for I gets so
much from the rector every year for keeping the ground tidy.'
Roland and Olive looked round them with much interest.
Old Bob took them to a quiet corner soon, and pointed out
five grassy mounds all in a row.
UNDER THE EARTH
'There!' he said, his old face quivering all over; 'under-
neath them mounds are my dear wife and four children, all
taken- from me in less than one month.'
'Did they die?' asked Roland with solemn eyes.
'The Lord took 'em. 'Twas the scarlet fever was ragin' in
our village; little Bessie, our baby, was the first one to take it.
She were only five year old, and as merry as a cricket; then
Rob and Harry, big lads o' twelve and thirteen, were stricken
next, and then Nellie, her mother's right hand; and the poor
wife nursed 'em all through herself, and just lived to see the
last o' the four buried, and then she follered them, and I were
left in the empty house alone.'
Little Olive squeezed the old man's hand tightly.
I feel as if I was going to cry,' she said. 'Why did God make
them die, Mr. Bob?'
Bob raised his face to the sky above him.
'He didn't tell me why,' he said; 'but He'll tell me one day.
'Twas just at this time o' year they were taken. Ah, dear That
were a terrible winter for me It all seemed dark and drear, and
not a gleam of sunshine in sight. But thank the good Lord I got
my bit o' cheer when Easter came. And it have come regular and
fresh like every Easter since. Do you mind them ugly pots"
in my window? Now you come back with me, and I'll tell you
their story. 'Tis too cold for us to be standin' here, but don't
forget my five grassy mounds in this corner when I tells the
As the children turned away to follow him, Roland said
.24 BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
thoughtfully, 'They're all under the ground, just like you.-say
the flowers are!'
Old Bob smiled.
'That's it, Master Roland! That's my comfort. You've hit
upon the very thing I was agoin' to explain!'
And then a few minutes after, taking little Olive upon his knees,
and making Roland sit in a small chair on the opposite side of the.
fireplace, the old man began,-
My dear wife were powerful fond o' flowers, and she were quite
as clever at rearing 'em as ever I were. She would get cutting's
from James Green up at the house, and in summer our garden was
just a picture Just before she were a taken ill, James had sent her
down a lily bulb, a beautiful pure white one, and she'd put it in a
pot in our cellar, and says she to me, "Bob, I means to bring that
lily out by Easter; with care I'm sure I shall do it! Then when
she were near her end, and she seed me a-frettin' my heart out,
she calls me to her bed. Bpb," says she, "take care o' my lily,
and, Bob dear, when Easter comes.-and you see it a-burstin' out
in all its beauty, then think o' me and the children." "So also is
the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in dishonour, it is
raised in glory ; it is, sown in weakness, it is raised in power."
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them
also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him!" Them were
the very two tex's she said to me, and then she says : The nex'.
time you'll see me, Bob, will be in my body o' glory Unless you
foller me first, but I can't help thinking," she says, "that the
Resurrection mayn't be far off!" And so she left me!'
UNDER THE EARTH
There was a pause. Bob wiped his eyes with his handkerchief,
then put Olive down from his knees and walked across to his
The children followed him silently, and peeped over the edge of
the pots, only to see bare brown earth, and their faces fell at the
Bob turned to them with a smile: 'This here big pot in the
middle is my wife's lily; I set to work when she went, and got four
other o' the same kind o' bulb and planted them in these smaller
pots. This one is Bessie's, that one is Nellie's, and the others are
just Bob's and Harry's. Well, all that winter I goes to my. graves
in the churchyard, and comes back to these pots, and I shakes my
head over them all, and couldn't get no comfort nohow. But shall
I ever forget a-comin' into my kitchen on Easter Sunday, and seeing'
the sun shine in upon five pure white lilies! I just fell a-sobbin'
on my knees beside them. "Lord," I says, "I knows as certain
sure as I sees these lilies now, and
remembers all.the silence and darkness
That came upon them from the time
they were put in the earth, that Thou
wilt give me back my dear ones ten
thousand times more beautiful than
ever I saw 'em here And if their Easter
will come a little later, 'tis just as sure!"
Ay, little ones, and for three years the
Lord has delighted my soul by bringing' up
these lilies at Easter time, just to tell me
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
that my graves is goin' to be opened like the Lord's Himself,
and I'm a-goin' to see my family again. The devil himself may
tempt and try one in the winter, but away he goes in the spring,
when every bit o' this blessed earth is preaching the resurrection
to us !'
Much of this was above the children's -heads, but Roland
said, after a minute's thought, 'Will dead people come up out
of the ground like the flowers?'
'Ay, Master Roland, the flowers are a very poor picture of
the glorified body.'
'And they go to sleep in the winter time?' the boy went
on; and how often does Easter come?'
'The flowers have their Easter every year, but we have to
wait a little longer for ours. I ofttimes think that when the
Lord do come down from heaven with a shout, He will choose
Easter Sunday to wake the dead, for 'tis the day He rose
Old Bob did not say much more, and Roland and Olive went
back to the house thinking busily.
The next day was Sunday, and they went to church with
their aunts; but directly the service was over, Roland, who was
walking with Miss Hester, pulled her by the hand towards
Bob's five graves in the corner.
'Do just let me look at them again! Have you got any
graves here, Aunt Hester? I wish I had some. Poor Bob has
too many, hasn't he ?'
Miss Hester gave a little shiver.
UNDER THE EARTH
'What an extraordinary child you are! You don't know the
meaning of graves, or you wouldn't talk so !'
'Yes, I do,' said Roland earnestly; 'the earth is full of
graves in winter; these graves in the churchyard belong to
dead people, but the dead flowers are everywhere, and they're
all coming up at Easter-Mr. Bob said so.'
'Bob fills your head with a lot of nonsense; come along.'
The boy felt snubbed, and said no more; but that afternoon,
when he and his little sister came down
to the drawing-room, the subject was
Their aunts found Sunday afternoon "R -J
long and tedious, especially as now a ./
heavy downpour of sleet and rain had set
in, and it was in the hope of being amused
that Miss Hunter sent for the children.
Miss Hester was on one of the sofas
half asleep ; Miss Amabel standing on
the hearthrug with her back to the fire;
whilst Miss Sibyl and Miss Hunter were
both trying to read books of a religious character, and feeling
very dull and bored.
'Now come and talk to us,' said Miss Amabel briskly, as
the children appeared; 'we are all bored to death, and we want
you to entertain us.'
Roland sat down on a footstool, and clasped his knees in an
old-fashioned way. Olive ran to Miss Hunter and climbed into
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
her lap. She was accustomed to be petted, and looked upon
grown-up people's knees as her rightful privilege.
'What shall we talk about?' asked Roland.
'Let's ask Aunt Marion to tell us the story of Easter Sunday,'
'Yes, nurse doesn't know it properly-she makes it so short.'
Miss Hunter looked helplessly at her sisters.
'I'm not good at Bible stories,' she said; 'I forget them so.'
'You tell us what you know about it,' said Miss Amabel.
Roland puckered his brows for a moment, then he began,-
'Jesus was dead-quite, quite dead. He had been hung on
the cross, and killed by wicked, cruel men; and all His friends
were crying and sobbing, and He was put in a grave, and
soldiers stood outside.'
'All His friends were crying and sobbing,' repeated Olive,
shaking her little head mournfully at Miss Hunter, 'and they
thought they were never going to see Him again; never,
'And then,' continued Roland, 'suddenly, bang! bang! the
great stone grave broke open, and two beautiful angels flew
down from heaven, and Jesus Christ came rising up from the
grave quite well and strong again, and the soldiers ran away,
and the good women came near.'
'And the good women were sobbing and crying,' put in Olive
again, 'and they thought they were never going to see Him
'And then one of them, called Mary, saw some one in the
UNDER THE EARTH
garden, and she didn't quite know who it
was; and then He called out her name,
and then she saw it was Jesus Himself.' -
'Jesus Himself, quite well and strong,
and wasn't she glad!' repeated little -
'And that's what happened on Easter
Sunday,' said Roland.
There was silence. The children's
soft, earnest voices and the sweet Bible
story touched the hearts of those who
'And how long will it be before
Easter?' asked Olive, after a pause.
'Oh, a long, long time. Why, we haven't come to Christmas!
We don't want Easter to come yet.'
Mr. Bob says Easter is the happiest time in all the year; he
likes it better than Christmas.'
'Yes, and so will we, when we see the dead flowers come up,
and all the dead people too!'
'Oh, don't get them on the subject of "dead people" and
graves,' murmured Miss Hester sleepily; 'they can talk of nothing
else at present.'
'Tell us about your life in India, Roland,' said Miss Hunter,
quite willing to change the subject; and the boy instantly obeyed,
whilst his little sister, with knitted brows, was trying to puzzle
out in her small mind why Aunt Hester did not like graves.
32 BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
But when they left the drawing-room an hour afterwards, she
said to her brother, 'All our aunties like the winter. It is only
Mr. Bob who says Easter is best.'
'They haven't got any graves like Mr. Bob,' responded Roland
thoughtfully, 'nor lilies buried in flower-pots. If they had, they
would like Easter quite as much as he does.'
Signs of Life
-I.E winter came on. The days grew darker
i,-_ ) and colder, and the children were loth to
leave their nursery with its warm fire, and
Sll sally out into the cold December air for
their constitutional walk with nurse. Only
I .the thought of old Bob at the lodge kept
i *their spirits up, and if they were allowed
to have a word or two with him occasion-
Sally, their walks were,more cheerfully taken.
The conservatory was their chief joy, and
often would they steal down from the nursery, and be found by
one of their aunts comfortably established with their toys and
picture-books 'in a corner of it.
'I never thought Indian children would hate the winter so
.much as these two mites do,' said Miss Hunter one evening at
dinner; 'they seem to look upon it as a regular curse. I should
have thought the very novelty would have attracted them.'
'They seem to have such ridiculous theories about it,' said
Miss Hester. 'I fancy Bob has been stuffing their heads with
his gloomy views.'
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'I always think Bob looks as happy as can be,' put in Miss
Amabel briskly. I don't think the children were prepared for
the barrenness and dreariness of an English winter. They have
come from the land of brilliant flowers and sunshine, and
naturally feel the difference.'
'Yes,' remarked Miss Sibyl gently. 'They told me this after-
noon, when I found them in the conservatory, that they were
pretending it was summer. And Roland added shrewdly, "You
see, Aunt Sibyl, James shuts out the winter in here, doesn't he?
And so he makes it easy for us to forget it. We pretend there
is no cold, and no dead trees and flowers and graves, when we
are here. Don't you think it a good plan?" I told them I
thought it a very good plan. It is the same game we older
people play at sometimes. We shut out from our minds and
thoughts what we would rather not remember.'
'Sibyl is turning into a parson,' said Miss Amabel with a laugh.
Miss Sibyl did not mind the laugh.
'The children are unfolding a parable to
'.. me,' she said quietly, 'and I am getting the
benefit of its interpretation.'
.-. ..-' Christmas came and went, and Roland
i. ''- and Olive, with the delights of a Christmas
tree, and a party, and all the brightness
attending that festive season, were a little
'-'' shaken in their views upon an English
'- winter. They went down to the lodge to
talk it over with old Bob.
SIGNS OF LIFE
I don't think Easter can be much nicer than Christmas said
Olive, as she climbed up on the old man's knees. 'Don't you
like Christmas, Mr. Bob?'
'Yes, Miss Olive, I loves the Christmas in the Bible; but not
as some folks make it here. 'Tis very nice for you little ones, with
all your bright spirits; but when you get old, you somehow never
feel so sad as when every one round you is extra happy. I'm a
lonely old man, and I miss my dear ones at these times.'
'It seems years since we came to England,' said Roland, his
thoughts taking another direction, and it has been winter ever
since we came from India. I can't think how it will ever look
any different. You're quite sure we shall see all the gardens full
of beautiful flowers at Easter, Mr. Bob? I don't see how it is
going to happen.'
No more do any of us,' said Bob, with shining eyes ; we just
hope and wait, and the good Lord never fails. You won't see the
garden at its best at Easter, perhaps, Master Roland, but you'll
see the beginning of it all, like the shining light that shineth
more and mote unto the perfect day."'
So time passed, and then one day when the children were
passing by the lodge, Bob called them in with a mysterious
'Look inside my dear wife's pot,' he said.
Eagerly the little faces peered down into it, and then little
Olive laughed and clapped her hands.
'A dear little tiny weeny green stem! It's coming up at
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'And look In two
t/ helr pots I can see some-
thing!' exclaimed Ro-
'Ay, I remember
e ws the first sight I
Sm sketched of it after
my loss,' said Bob.
'I were very broken-
hearted, but it
..,-,1i d tobring a tiny spark
-" h,:,pe to my heart, to see
i I,:t I had only believed by
at, ...-h goin' on underground.
It- tI i. .ee the Lord's working's;
but mind, you little ones, that there
plant is just as much alive before it
shows itself. There is a deal goin' on in the silence and
darkness that we knows nothing' about, but it's fact all .the
The children could talk of nothing else all that day, and little
Olive was found by her nurse standing over Bob's graves, giving
them most careful scrutiny a short time after.
'What are you doing here?' asked nurse. I've been looking
for you everywhere.'
'Mr. Bob's lilies have come through the earth at last, nurse,'
SIGNS OF LIFE
said Olive, raising her blue eyes earnestly to her nurse's face; so
I came to see if these graves were cracking yet. They'll be like
Jesus' grave in the garden, you know, at Easter.'
Only a few weeks after this, both Olive and her brother lay
prostrate in their beds with a severe attack of measles. Their
aunts had been so long unaccustomed to children's ailments, that
perhaps they may have exaggerated the danger; still, even the
family doctor looked grave and talked about 'Indian constitu-
tions,' 'no stamina,' etc., etc., and the old house that had so
lately rung with childish voices and laughter
now lay hushed and silent in the sweet ""',
'They're too precocious,' said Miss Hunter ..,
with tearful eyes, as she came down from
the sick room one day; 'it is always the
good precocious children that die young.
Roland has just said, in his little weak,
quavering voice, "Auntie, perhaps Olive and
I are going to die and be put in a grave."
And when I told him that wasn't likely, and he mustn't think
of such things, he said in quite a cheerful tone, "Oh, well
we shall come up at Easter, you know. If it isn't this Easter,
it will be another one, and you'll have our graves to look after,
like Mr. Bob. Jesus will take care of us till we come up, like
Mr. Bob takes care of his lily pots." I don't half understand
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'I do,' said Miss Sibyl, with a wistful smile; 'and I believe
they are going to get well, and give us more of faith's lessons
to learn and understand.'
They did get well, though their recovery was somewhat
slow; and Easter, late as it came that year, was close at
hand before they were quite convalescent.
It was a lovely spring morning when, wrapped up in shawls,
the two little invalids were brought out of the house to take
their first airing.
Never as long as they lived would the children forget the
scene before them! The budding trees, the singing of the
birds, and the sweet scents that came to them were only part
of the great surprise that awaited them. Golden sheets of
daffodil and white narcissus bordered the dark evergreen
shrubberies; edging the old lawn were clumps of violets and
primroses. Hyacinths, tulips, and other bulbs were making
the flower beds a mass of bright colour, and the lilac and
laburnum trees seemed overweighted with their bloom.
Roland could hardly find voice to express his delight, but
Olive trotted here and there, breaking out into happy peals of
'It's better than ever I thought! It's lovelier than India!
It's all true, and Easter is here at last!'
Then, after their admiration had worked itself out, they
implored to be taken down to the lodge.
'No, no,' said nurse; 'you have been out long enough
SIGNS OF LIFE
You must get stronger before you can take that walk. Be
good children and come indoors now.'
'When does Easter Sunday come?' asked Roland, as he
and his sister were enjoying their basins of beef-tea at the
nursery table shortly afterwards.
'It is only a week to-morrow,' was the reply.
Roland nodded across at his sister.
'That's the proper real Easter,' he said; 'that's when Mr.
Bob's lilies will be out.'
'How glad the flowers must be, now the winter is over!' said
Olive dreamily. 'What a long, long time they've been under
the ground If Mr. Bob hadn't told us about them we
shouldn't have known they were there, should we? This is
nicer than India, Roly!'
'Much nicer. When we get quite well we will stay out in
the garden always. We shan't want James's flowers now.'
'And we'll go and see Mr. Bob's lilies to-morrow, and we'll
see his graves too, won't we?'
'I don't think,' Roland said slowly, pausing between his
spoonfuls of beef-tea, and regarding his sister with serious
eyes, 'I don't think Mr. Bob said his graves would open for
certain this Easter. They may; but perhaps he will have to
'He said his lilies were sure to come up, and that made
him sure about his graves,' said Olive, with disappointment in
40 BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
'Yes; but I think he meant his graves might take longer
than his lilies. I think he told us that, Olive.'
'Well, we'll ask him all about it to-morrow.'
But they were not allowed to go down the avenue on the
next day, nor yet the day after, and Easter Eve arrived before
they had been able to visit their old friend.
IT was indeed a lovely morning for Easter Sunday; the
sky was a cloudless blue, and the birds awoke the
children early by their jubilant thanksgiving.
Nurse was in good spirits as she dressed the children. She
had received a pair of new kid gloves 'from a gentleman
friend,' and 'of course,' she said to the children, 'it would be
very bad luck not to have something new on Easter Sunday!'
'And what have we got new?' asked Olive with great interest.
Nurse showed her a little white serge frock, and put into
Roland's hands a new tie and a pair of gloves.
'Your Aunt Marion brought the frock up to the nursery
last night, and 'said that you were to put it on. So I looked
out a fresh tie and gloves for Master Roland, so that he might
not be left out. And if it keeps fine, you can go down to
the lodge to-day.'
'But we shall go to church, shan't we?'
'Oh no, your aunt said she couldn't hear of it. But if you're
good children, I'll take you down that way this afternoon, and
you can peep in and see the pretty flowers. James says it is
lovely, and he has sent a lot of flowers himself.'
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
Roland and Olive went downstairs
to greet their aunts in great excite-
ment. They were to have breakfast
in the dining-room for a treat, and -
when they caught sight of the '
glittering glass and silver, with Pl, ,
great bowls and vases of golden
daffodils in the centre of the
table, Olive exclaimed,-
'It's going to be a lovely
day, Roland, from the very
beginning I wish our break-
fast table in the nursery was
like this !'
'Olive looks very well in that little serge frock,' remarked
Miss Amabel presently, looking across at her little niece with
approval in her eyes; 'she is getting quite a pink colour in
her cheeks, and has lost that pinched, peaky look. I really
think the measles did them both good!'
'And does Roland look nice too?' asked Olive quietly, being
quite accustomed to personal remarks from her aunts, 'because
he has got a new tie on. It's a pretty blue one.'
'Does everybody wear something new on Easter Sunday?'
Roland asked quickly.
'It's an old superstition, dear; no, everybody does not.'
'Why ought we to wear new things?' demanded Olive.
'Why, Olive, of course it's because it's the proper time,'
. EASTER MORNING
answered Roland. 'Easter is when people get their new
bodies, and the flowers are all new.'
Olive was quite satisfied with this explanation.
Miss Sibyl, who did not seem quite as bright as usual, looked
at them with wistful eyes. After breakfast was over she took
Olive into the garden with her. The child begged to be told
the 'Easter story,' and Miss Sibyl tried to oblige her, saying
as she did so, 'But you know it much better than I do.'
When she had finished her rather halting narrative, Olive
looked up and added,-
So everybody dried their tears and were very happy, because
they knew Jesus would never die again.'
Then after a pause she asked, 'Why didn't Jesus always stay
down in the world, Aunt Sibyl ? Why did He go back to heaven
'I think He told us He had finished His work, my dear.'
'Well-dying on the cross for us. He came. down from
heaven to do that. When He had died for our sins, He went
back to heaven.'
'But He came out of His grave first!' said the child triumph-
Their conversation was interrupted by Roland, who came
flying out of the house.
'Aunt Marion has changed her mind; she says we can go to
church, Olive. Come along and tell nurse!'
Olive scampered into the house, and Miss Sibyl walked along,
44 BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
thinking deeply. For some weeks past she had been anxious
and ill at ease. She realized how.fruitless and empty her life
had been, but could not see how to remedy it. Her own words
to Olive came back to her,-
'He had finished His work. When He had died for our
sins He went back to heaven.'
'Has He indeed died for, mine?' she murmured. 'Can I
trust Him like these innocent little ones to "wash me and
make me whiter than snow"? Oh, I wish I could, I wish I
She was very silent on the way to church; not even the glee
of the children could distract her thoughts.
Roland and Olive thoroughly enjoyed themselves; the sweet
spring flowers in the church, the joyous Easter hymns, and the
familiar story read once again by the rector, satisfied their little
souls. They sat with radiant faces in the family pew, and when
they caught sight of Bob singing away with tearful eyes, and a
happy smile in the village choir, they nodded across at him with
Miss Sibyl came into church with a burden upon her soul;
but when the Easter anthem fell upon her ear, she listened
with more interest than she had ever felt in itbefore. 'Like-
wise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin : but
alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' What did it
mean? And then with a burst of triumph the words came to
her: 'For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be
Like a flash of light Miss Sibyl saw it all,-and then and there
her poor dead soul reached hold of its Saviour, and life-that
'life more abundant,'-flooded the empty corners of- her anxious
The service over, the children begged their aunt's permission
to speak to Bob.
Seizing hold of his hands, they led him to his graves.
'Let's come and see them, Mr. Bob, first, and then we'll see
your lilies. Do tell us. Have they come out? We have been
ill such a long time, and they wouldn't let us come and see you
before. Isn't it a lovely day? And hasn't it all come true
about the flowers? We never thought England could have such
pretty ones. Oh, I hope the winter will never come again !'
'Eh, my dears,, how you run on! Old Bob has missed you
sure enough, and as for his lilies, well, you shall see them, for
'tis my custom to do the same every year.'
He paused as they came in sight of those grassy mounds,
and the children pressed forward with eagerness. There on
each mound stood one of the 'ugly flower pots,' but the pot
itself was sunk in a bed of moss, and a lovely pure white lily
raised its glorious head in the sunshine. Five lilies stood on
the five graves, and old Bob, gazing at them through a mist of
tears, said in a solemn tone, '" And white robes were -given unto
every one of them, and it was said unto them that they should
rest yet for a little season." Life out of death, my dears. That
is the lesson of those lilies. The good Lord has never failed to
teach me from them every Easter.'
BULBS AND BLOSSOMS
The children stood awed and silent, then Roland said
'But this Easter hasn't brought the dead people to life, only
'It has brought a dead soul to life, which is even better.'
The old man and the children turned at the murmured voice;
but Miss Sibyl passed them quickly by, and tears were dropping
as she went.
Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.