Gateway to the Classics: The Seasons: Spring by Jane Marcet
The Seasons: Spring by  Jane Marcet

Trees Coming into Leaf

"O H, Mamma," cried Willy one morning, running into his Mother's room, "make haste to get up, and you will see something out of the window so funny, and you will be so glad; now do guess what it is."

"Perhaps it is the sun," said she; "I should be very glad to see that, after the rainy day we had yesterday."

"Oh, dear no," cried Willy; "the sun shines every day; I should never run in such a hurry to tell you the sun shone."

"Not quite every day, Willy; I am sure I saw no sun shine yesterday."

"Ay, but the sun shone behind the clouds, you know, Mamma, or else it would not have been daylight. Now guess again."

"Well," said his Mother, "if it is something so very curious, perhaps I should see the moon shining instead of the sun."

"Oh no, Mamma, now you are making fun; I am sure you know it is not the moon: do pray guess in earnest."

"Why, I thought you liked fun better than earnest, Willy."

"So I do sometimes," replied Willy, "but not now, because I want you to guess really, before you are up, and can look out of the window."

Willy had climbed up on the bed, and looking at an opening in the window shutter, he put his little hands over his Mother's eyes, and said, "Now guess, before you peep between the window shutters."

"Well," said his Mother, "if I am to guess in right real earnest, I must think about it first." She then thought a little while, Willy keeping his hands over her eyes, and saying every now and then, "Now mind you don't peep, Mamma."

At length his Mamma said in a very solemn voice, "I guess there are some leaves come out on the trees."

"Well, now, how could you guess that? are you sure, Mamma, you did not peep through my fingers?"

"Indeed I did not," replied she; "that would not have been fair play."

"Then what made you guess it, Mamma?"

"Thinking," replied she. "First, I thought you would be so pleased to see the first young leaves burst from the buds; then I remembered that yesterday was a very rainy day, and that a great deal of the water would get in at the roots, and go up the tree during the night, and swell out the buds, so that their covering would very likely burst open; and it seems that I have guessed right."

"Yes, indeed you have; now make haste to get up, and come and see."

While his Mamma was dressing, Willy said, "Yesterday Harry asked me to guess what he had in his hand; and I guessed without thinking, and said an apple."

"That was without thought indeed," said his Mother; "for an apple is too large for Harry to hold in his hand without your seeing it: and what was it, after all?"

"It was a marble; and if I had thought as you did, Mamma, I dare say that I should have guessed right; for I saw him put his hand into his pocket first, and I know he carries marbles in his pocket.

At length Mamma was dressed, and opened the window shutter, and saw that a number of the horse-chestnut buds had burst open, and the little leaves were come out.

"But look, Mamma, those little leaves hang down like the geranium leaves that wanted water. Don't they want watering, Mamma?"

"I think they had plenty of water yesterday, Willy, when it rained so hard. The leaves droop, because, when they first shoot, the stalk is not strong enough to hold up the leaves, and the leaves are not strong enough to spread themselves out."

"The leaves shoot, Mamma; what does that mean? I thought only animals can shoot, animals like men and great boys; and other animals, like birds, can be shot at."

"No, Willy," said his Mother smiling, "I did not mean shooting with a gun. The leaves are said to shoot, when they first burst the bud and come out of it. And the young buds, and branches, and leaves, that first grow in the spring, are called shoots." His Mother then gathered a small branch with several buds on it, and a few leaves. "Look," said she, "this branch has shot out, that is, grown, this spring. I know it because it is green, and the older branches are brown.

After breakfast they went out to walk in the Park, to see if there were many other trees coming into leaf. They saw several, but they were all of the same kind—horse-chestnuts,—and some of these were much more in leaf than the others.

"I think," said Willy, "that none of them have so many leaves come out as the tree close to our house, Mamma."

"Yes," replied she, "and it is because that tree stands in a very warm spot, the sun shines on it all day, and the house shelters it from the cold wind."

"Does the wind do any harm to the trees, Mamma?"

"A very cold wind does in the spring; for the young leaves, after they have been all the winter so snugly wrapped up within the bud, do not like to feel a cold wind when first they come out."

"But you forget, Mamma, they cannot feel."

"True, my dear; I only meant to say, that the cold wind was bad for them. When the leaves are grown large and strong, the wind does them no harm; on the contrary, it is good for their branches to be moved about; it makes the water which is going up all the way from the roots move quicker, and get to the leaves and flowers. Are you not very glad the poor trees should be moved sometimes, for you know they cannot move by themselves."

"But, Mamma," said Willy, "I remember the great trees at Ash Grove moved their branches all by themselves, and it made such a great wind you can't think: I saw it from the nursery window, for Ann would not let me go out, because she said that some of the branches might fall upon me and hurt me—so you see, Mamma, those trees moved by themselves."

"Oh you little goose!" said his Mamma; "it was the wind that moved the trees, and not the trees that made the wind."

"But," said Willy earnestly, "I saw the trees move, and I did not see the wind."

"That does not signify; trees are vegetables which cannot move of themselves, and it is the wind which blows them about: sometimes it blows them so hard as to break their branches; and if a broken branch fell upon you, it might hurt you; that was what Ann was afraid of when she would not let you go out. Sometimes the wind blows with such violence, that it pushes the tree down. Then the roots are all torn up out of the ground, just as I pulled the geranium up by the roots."

"What great roots a large tree must have, Mamma!"

"Yes," replied she; "a tree is very seldom blown down; for those great roots fasten it so firm and tight in the ground, that the wind cannot easily blow it down."

"What a funny thing the wind is, Mamma! it blows so hard, and it is stronger than a man, sometimes, when it can blow down a tree; for a man cannot pull down a tree by himself. Don't you remember what a great many men there were to pull down the tree in the garden? They all pulled together by a rope that was tied to the tree, and it was a long while before they could pull it down."

"Yes," said his Mother; "and besides, the gardener had dug all round the tree, that the roots might come up easier."

"Do, Mamma," said Willy, "tell me what the wind is made of."

"Oh dear!" cried his Mother, "I hardly know myself; that is far too difficult for little boys to understand."

"Well, then, but where does it come from?"

"That is not much easier to explain, and I am tired now; but we will talk about the wind some other time."

Willy then went, into the nursery, where, to his great sorrow, he found his three plants drooping, and looking as if they were going to die. "Oh dear, Ann," cried he, "make haste and give me some water; I am sure they want something to drink."

"Indeed, you give them a great deal too much water," said Ann; "you are every day emptying the water-jug to fill your watering-pot; you will kill them if you go on so, Willy."

"But, Ann, when Mamma's flower-pots hang down so, and look dry, she gives them some water, and then, a little while after, they spread out their leaves and are quite well again."

"When you are hungry," replied Ann, "and faint and weary for want of your dinner, if you eat some meat and potatoes it makes you strong and well again."

"Yes," said Willy; "and water is meat and potatoes to the plants, Ann, for you know they cannot eat—I mean drink—any thing else."

"Well," said Ann, "if after you had dined a little while, I was to bring some more meat and potatoes, and put them into your mouth and make you eat them, would you like it?"

"No, because I should not be hungry so soon after dinner."

"And if, though you were not hungry, I was to go on for several days, forcing you to eat more than you wanted, at last it would make you quite ill; and we should be obliged to send for the doctor to cure you. Now, this is what you are doing with your plants. They cannot tell you, 'I am not dry now, I do not want so much water as you give me;' and so they are ill."

"And will you send for the doctor, Ann?"

"The gardener is the best doctor for plants," said Ann; "but he is at Ash Grove. However I dare say that if you leave off watering your pots for some time, and open the window that the sun and air may get to them to dry them, they will recover."

Willy ran to consult his Mamma, and she was quite of Ann's opinion; so the plants were put out on the balcony, and after some little time they got well. Willy was, after this, very careful to give his plants no more water than was good for them. And he seldom ventured to water them, without first asking Ann whether she thought they wanted it or not.

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