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Mistress Mary.

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And so her mother, who did not like her little daughter to be unhappy, often gave way to her in small things, and now she permitted Mary to make her own garden, and plant it as she would. So Mary made a long, narrow bed at the front of the house, and then she prepared to plant her flowers. "If you scatter the seeds," said her mother, "the flower-bed will look very pretty." Now this was what Mary was about to do; but since her mother advised it, she tried to think of another way, for, as I said, she was contrary at times. And in the end she planted the dingle-bells all in one straight row, and the cockle-shells in another straight row the length of the bed, and she finished by planting the cowslips in another long row at the back. Her mother smiled, but said nothing; and now, as the days passed by, Mary watered and tended her garden with great care; and when the flowers began to sprout she plucked all the weeds that grew among them, and so in the mild spring weather the plants grew finely.



"When they have grown up big and strong," said Mary one morning, as she weeded the bed, "and when they have budded and blossomed and faded away again, then papa and my brothers will come home. And I shall call the cockle-shells papa, for they are the biggest and strongest; and the dingle-bells shall be brother Hobart, and the cowslips brother Robart. And now I feel as if the flowers were really my dear ones, and I must be very careful that they come to no harm!" She was filled with joy when one morning she ran out to her flower-garden after breakfast and found the dingle-bells and cowslips were actually blossoming, while even the cockle-shells were showing their white buds. They looked rather comical, all standing in stiff, straight rows, one after the other; but Mary did not mind that. While she was working she heard the tramp of a horse's hoofs, and looking up saw the big bluff Squire riding toward her. The big Squire was very fond of children, and whenever he rode near the little white cottage he stopped to have a word with Mary. He was old and bald-headed, and he had side-whiskers that were very red in color and very short and stubby; but there was ever a merry twinkle in his blue eyes, and Mary well knew him for her friend.



Now, when she looked up and saw him coming toward her flower-garden, she nodded and smiled to him, and the big bluff Squire rode up to her side, and looked down with a smile at her flowers. Then he said to her in rhyme (for it was a way of speaking the jolly Squire had),

"Mistress Mary, so contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips all in a row!"

And Mary, being a sharp little girl, and knowing the Squire's queer ways, replied to him likewise in rhyme, saying,

"I thank you, Squire, that you enquire
How well the flowers are growing;
The dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips all are blowing!"

The Squire laughed at this reply, and patted her upon her head, and then he continued,

"'T is aptly said. But prithee, maid,
Why thus your garden fill
When ev'ry field the same flowers yield
To pluck them as you will?"

"That is a long story, Squire," said Mary; "but this much I may tell you,

"The cockle-shell is father's flower,
The cowslip here is Robart,
The dingle-bell, I now must tell,
I 've named for Brother Hobart

"And when the flowers have lived their lives
In sunshine and in rain,
And then do fade, why, papa said
He 'd sure come home again."



"Oh, that 's the idea, is it?" asked the big bluff Squire, forgetting his poetry. "Well, it 's a pretty thought, my child, and I think because the flowers are strong and hearty that you may know your father and brothers are the same; and I 'm sure I hope they 'll come back from their voyage safe and sound. I shall come and see you again, little one, and watch the garden grow." And then he said "gee-up" to his gray mare, and rode away. The very next day, to Mary's great surprise and grief; she found the leaves of the dingle-bells curling and beginning to wither. "Oh, mamma," she called, "come quick! Something is surely the matter with brother Hobart!" "The dingle-bells are dying," said her mother, after looking carefully at the flowers; "but the reason is that the cold winds from the sea swept right over your garden last night, and dingle-bells are delicate flowers and grow best where they are sheltered by the woods. If you had planted them at the side of the house, as I wished you to, the wind would not have killed them."

       



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