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thistle mother.

From The suns babies by Edith Howes.
Age Rating 2 to 4.

Start of Story

Thistle-mother looked up and saw that the winter was over, for the sun was creeping higher and higher in the sky, and the birds were practising their spring songs. So, unfolding her arms, she spread them over the ground, and began to push herself up into the warm air. Her home was on the roadside, where grasses and weeds grew so closely together that it was hard to find room. As she grew, they began to complain. "Don't push so," they cried. "And oh! how horribly prickly you are! You are scratching us dreadfully." "I am very sorry," she said, "but I really cannot help it. I seem to grow like this without knowing it." "Well, you might at least go somewhere else to live, where you will not disturb so many people," they grumbled. But this was just what she could not do. She went on growing; as the others shrank back from her prickly arms she could look over their heads. One day she saw a cow eating the grasses near her. She shuddered as its long tongue twisted itself round their poor helpless stems, and forced them into its great mouth. When it passed her by untouched she felt thankful that she had so many thorns on her arms. "At last I know why I grow like this," she thought. "The prickles are very useful, after all." When the summer came she began to make her children's cots. She wove the overlapping sides of brightest cot-green, strong and fine. Then, remembering the cow, she put a sharp prickle at each point, and closed the points together. She made warm fluffy beds, and in them she placed her children. They were tiny, helpless things, white and soft. They looked up at the shining walls as she gently put them in their cots, and asked: "Mother, must we always stay in here?" "No, dear ones," said the mother; "when you are strong and brown you shall fly out over the world. But rest now while I make your wings." Nothing daintier or more beautiful than their wings had ever been seen. They were snow-white and glistening, and long and fine, and softer than the softest silk. She tied them firmly to the little shoulders, and in the middle of each wing she placed a long lilac-coloured plume. Then she gently opened the cots a little, and the plume-ends floated out into the sunshine. The children sang for joy. "We have the most beautiful wings in the world," they sang. "Now we can fly away." "Not yet," said Thistle-Mother. "Wait a little longer. You must grow brown and strong first." The lilac plumes glowed in the sunshine, and the cots swung in the summer winds. "Now your time is coming, for your plumes are turning brown," said Thistle-Mother; the children looked at one another, and saw that they themselves had turned from white to lilac. "Shall we be brown next?" they asked. "Yes," she answered, "when your plumes are curled and twisted. Rest again." Soon the plumes were curled and twisted, and Thistle-Mother opened the cots widely at the top. Now the children were brown and strong. When they saw the blue sky they sprang to meet it; but, instead of flying up, they tumbled in a heap on their mother's arms. Thistle-Mother laughed tenderly at them. "You were in too great a hurry," she said. "Lie here till the wind comes. He will lift your wings and give you a start, and then you can fly away. And, children, when you have seen the world, and feel ready to settle down, be sure to choose a good growing-place. Then in time you too will become Thistle-Mothers. Ah! here comes the wind. Good-bye, my little ones." "Good-bye, mother dear," they called gaily, for the wind was lifting them and spreading their wings. They floated up into the air, and flew off, their beautiful white feathers glistening like silver in the sunlight. "What a glorious place the world is!" they called to one another as they flew over the land. They went everywhere and saw everything. Those who remembered Thistle-Mother's words chose a good growing-place and settled down and became Thistle-Mothers themselves; but the careless ones, who forgot--well, nobody knows what became of them. Left alone, Thistle-Mother folded her tired arms and sank into the ground, to sleep till summer and cot-making time should come again.


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