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Mistress Mary.

From Mother Goose by Frank Baum.
Age Rating 4 to 6.

Start of Story

Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With dingle bells and cockle shells
And cowslips, all in a row.

High upon a cliff that overlooked the sea was a little white cottage, in which dwelt a sailor and his wife, with their two strong sons and a little girl. The sons were also sailors, and had made several voyages with their father in a pretty ship called the "Skylark." Their names were Hobart and Robart. The little girl's name was Mary, and she was very happy indeed when her father and her brothers were at home, for they petted her and played games with her and loved her very dearly But when the "Skylark" went to sea, and her mother and herself were left alone in the little white cottage, the hours were very dull and tedious, and Mary counted the days until the sailors came home again. One spring, just as the grasses began to grow green upon the cliff and the trees were dressing their stiff, barren branches in robes of delicate foliage, the father and brothers bade good-bye to Mary and her mother, for they were starting upon a voyage to the Black Sea.

"And how long will you be gone, papa?" asked Mary, who was perched upon her father's knee, where she could nestle her soft cheek against his bushy whiskers. "How long?" he repeated, stroking her curls tenderly as he spoke; "well, well, my darling, it will be a long time indeed! Do you know the cowslips that grow in the pastures, Mary?" "Oh, yes; I watch for them every spring," she answered. "And do you know the dingle-bells that grow near the edge of the wood?" he asked again. "I know them well, papa," replied Mary, "for often I gather their blue blossoms and put them in a vase upon the table." "And how about the cockle-shells?" "Them also I know," said Mary eagerly, for she was glad her father should find her so well acquainted with the field flowers; "there is nothing prettier than the big white flowers of the cockle-shells. But tell me, papa, what have the flowers to do with your coming home?"

"Why, just this, sweetheart," returned the sailor gravely; "all the time that it takes the cowslips and dingle-bells and cockle-shells to sprout from the ground, and grow big and strong, and blossom into flower, and, yes--to wither and die away again--all that time shall your brothers and I sail the seas. But when the cold winds begin to blow, and the flowers are gone, then, God willing, we shall come back to you; and by that time you may have grown wiser and bigger, and I am sure you will have grown older. So one more kiss, sweetheart, and then we must go, for our time is up." The next morning, when Mary and her mother had dried their eyes, which had been wet with grief at the departure of their loved ones, the little girl asked earnestly, "Mamma, may I make a flower-garden?" "A flower-garden!" repeated her mother in surprise; "why do you wish a flower-garden, Mary?" "I want to plant in it the cockle-shells and the cowslips and the dingle-bells," she answered. And her mother, who had heard what the sailor had said to his little girl, knew at once what Mary meant; so she kissed her daughter and replied,

"Yes, Mary, you may have the flower-garden, if you wish. We will dig a nice little bed just at the side of the house, and you shall plant your flowers and care for them yourself." "I think I 'd rather have the flowers at the front of the house," said Mary. "But why?" enquired her mother; "they will be better sheltered at the side." "I want them in front," persisted Mary, "for the sun shines stronger there." "Very well," answered her mother, "make your garden at the front, if you will, and I will help you to dig up the ground." "But I do n't want you to help," said Mary, "for this is to be my own little flower-garden, and I want to do all the work myself." Now I must tell you that this little girl, although very sweet in many ways, had one serious fault. She was inclined to be a bit contrary, and put her own opinions and ideas before those of her elders. Perhaps Mary meant no wrong in this; she often thought knew better how to do a thing than others did; and in such a case she was not only contrary, but anxious to have her own way.


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