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

A Visit to Ash Grove

O NE fine morning Willy heard his Mamma order the carriage to come to the door directly after breakfast. "I mean to take you with me;—guess where I am going, Willy," said she.

Willy was very glad to hear that; but, though he tried several times, he could not guess where they were to go. Then his Mother told him she was going to spend the morning at Ash Grove; for now that almost all the trees were in leaf, and many of them in blossom, she wanted to see the garden. "Oh, then we shall see Johnny Barton," cried Willy, "working in the garden; how glad I shall be!"

He ran to get ready, and to tell Ann of his expected pleasure; and then he looked out at the window, thinking that every carriage that passed must be Mamma's. "How tiresome the coachman is, to be so long in putting the horses to the carriage!" said he, peevishly; "why does he not come?"

"I suppose, because the carriage is not ready yet."

"But, Mamma, you don't seem to be in a hurry to go; don't you like very much to go to Ash Grove?"

"Indeed I do," replied she, "and I wish the coachman would come: but it takes some time for him to get the carriage ready. Then I know, that if I were to fret, and put myself out of temper, I should not feel happy; and I want to be happy at Ash Grove."

"But you would not be out of temper when you got to Ash Grove?"

"Perhaps not; but then I should be sorry for having been out of temper; because it is wrong for grown up people to be out of temper, as well as for children. If I were to be angry with the coachman, and scold him for not coming sooner, I should be vexed with myself afterwards, and be thinking of that, all the way I was going to Ash Grove, instead of enjoying the drive. Besides," said she; "perhaps the coachman is not to blame; and that something prevents his coming." So it happened. One of the horses had lost a shoe, and was obliged to be taken to the farrier's, to have it nailed on before he could be put to the carriage. This detained them a full hour: Willy found it a long trial of patience, but he determined to imitate his Mamma, and not be cross or angry.

At length they set out; and as they drove along, Willy was delighted to see the grass banks on each side of the road covered with flowers. "Oh, Mamma, look what a number of flowers, how pretty they are! do let us stop the coachman, and get out and gather some; and there. . . . there are some beautiful blue flowers."

"You must wait till we get to Ash Grove," replied his Mother. "I dare say you will find plenty there: they are called blue-bells, because each little flower is shaped like a little bell."

"Only look at that field up there, Mamma. I declare it is quite full of yellow flowers: what are they called?"

"Cowslips, my dear."

"Well, I shall make a grand nosegay when I get to Ash Grove."

The house stood on a rising ground, and Willy perceived it at some distance. "Oh, there it is, Mamma; I remember it; and there is the avenue of great trees;"—and what should Willy see come leaping down the avenue but the great dog, Alpin. At first he began to bark at the carriage and horses. "What, have you forgotten us, Alpin?" said Willy. But Alpin soon remembered them, and frisked about the carriage, and leaped up to the window to try to lick Willy's hand: but it was all in vain; the coachman kept driving on, and Willy could only look at Alpin, and call him by his name, till they reached the house. The carriage then stopped, John opened the door, and out jumped Willy. Alpin nearly threw him down with his caresses; and Willy in return gave him such a close hug with his two little arms round his throat, that the poor dog could hardly breathe, and began to growl.

"Willy," said his Mother, "do you forget that a dog breathes, and if you squeeze his throat so tight, the air cannot get in or out, and you will choke him. If he could speak he would tell you so."

"Poor Alpin cannot talk, though he can breathe; so he can only tell me that I hurt him, by growling."

"But if you do not listen to his growling, he has another way of letting you know that you hurt him, and that he will not let you hurt him."

"What is that, Mamma?"

"He would snap at you, and bite you."

"Oh no," said Willy, "Alpin would never be so naughty as to bite me."

"It would not be naughty if you continued to hurt him after he had told you so by growling, for he has no other means of making you leave off."

"Poor Alpin," said Willy, patting him, "I am sure I did not mean to hurt you." Willy was in such a hurry to go into the garden, that he ran off when his Mamma went into the house; and Alpin galloped after him: he soon found his way to the green gate and hollowed out for Mark. Mark, the gardener, was not there, but up came Johnny Barton to open the gate for him. They were both overjoyed to see each other. How d'ye do, and how d'ye do, passed from one to another, and they shook hands. "And what are you doing in the garden now?" said Willy.

"Come and see," replied Johnny: "but Alpin must not come in; he would run over the beds, and spoil them."

"What, have you got beds in the garden?" exclaimed Willy, with surprise.

"Oh no," said Johnny, laughing, "not such beds as you sleep on; but we have beds for the flowers and the garden stuff; and all the things that grow."

"But plants don't go to sleep, Johnny; for though they are alive, they cannot run about and tire themselves: besides, they have no eyes to shut; so how can they go to sleep?"

Johnny kept laughing all the while. "Ay, I see you are no gardener yet," said he; "but you need not mind that: I did not know much more than you, when first I came here; but Mark has taught me a great many things now."

"Well, do tell me," said Willy, "what sort of beds flowers and garden stuff have; and what they want beds for, if they cannot sleep."

Johnny then took him to a bed of smooth mould, which Mark had prepared for sowing peas. "Is that all?" said Willy; "why, it is only a piece of ground."

"But a bed made of ground, nicely dug, and smoothly raked, is all that plants want," said Johnny.

Johnny had a small bag full of dry peas, and he took them one by one, and put them into the ground.

"What are you doing that for?" asked Willy.

"I am sowing peas; and when they grow up, you shall have some for your dinner. These peas will shoot out roots, and stalks, and leaves."

"What, under the ground?" said Willy.

"Yes; and the roots will grow down in the ground, but the stalk will grow up out of the ground, very high."

"Higher than I can reach?" said Willy.

"Yes, or I either," replied Johnny.

"I wish I could peep under the ground, and see them grow," said Willy; and he began scratching away some of the earth that covered the peas.

"You must not do that," said Johnny; "the peas will not grow if you do not leave them quiet. But come here, and I will show you some that were put into the ground last week, and are now beginning to grow." He then took Willy to another bed, and showed him some tiny green things, just coming up out of the ground. "We will take up one out of the ground; Mark won't be angry, as it is to show you." So he pulled one up, and Willy saw there was a pea at the bottom; and the pea had burst open, and out of the opening, little roots grew down into the ground; and a little stalk grew up out of the ground; and on the top of the stalk, there were two very small leaves.

"And will this tiny stalk grow up higher than you or I can reach, Johnny?"

"O yes, you will see when summer comes; there will grow a great many large leaves on the tall stalk, and then pretty flowers."

"Oh, then I shall gather some," said Willy.

"No, you must not; for if you gather the flowers, there will be no peas. You must let the flowers stay on the stalk till they wither, and die, and fall off; then you will begin to see a little tiny green shell; Mark calls it a pod: don't you know what a pea-pod is?"

"No," said Willy.

"Well, it is something like a little long box; and all the peas are inside. You will see next summer."

"Oh, then I shall rattle them about!" said Willy: "don't you like to rattle things in a box, Johnny?"

"But you cannot rattle peas in a pod, because the pod is not hard like a box, but soft, more like a leaf; and the peas are soft too: and besides, they are all fastened to the pod."

"Well, then, let us go and gather some flowers."

"I must finish the job the gardener has set me," cried Johnny, "and then I will go with you."

Willy saw a tree at a little distance, covered with beautiful flowers; they were white, with a little pink in the middle: some of the boughs hung down so low as to be within his reach: he tried to gather one, but the branch was tough, and he could not break it off; he tugged and tugged, but in vain. While he was doing this, his Mamma came up to him, with Mark, the gardener, who cried out, "Oh, Master Willy, what are you doing? spoiling one of my young apple trees?"

"Apple tree!" repeated Willy; "I am sure there are no apples on that tree."

"No, nor ever will be," retorted Mark, "if you destroy all the blossoms."

"But, Mamma, I wanted to bring you some of those pretty flowers."

"They are very beautiful," replied she; "but when you tried to gather them you did not know that those flowers, or blossoms, would turn into apples in time, if you allowed them to grow."

"How can a flower turn into an apple, Mamma?"

"It is not the whole of the flower, but only a part of it, that grows into an apple. These pretty pink and white leaves wither, and fall off; and then you will see upon the stalk a very small green apple."

"Just like the peas that Johnny has been telling me about?"

"Very like it," said his Mother; "and when the apples first begin to grow, they are not larger than a pea."

"But are there no little tiny green apples on the tree now, Mamma?"

"I cannot see any," replied she; "all the flowers look fresh and beautiful; and they must die, and fall off, before you can see the apples."

"There are some apricots set," said Mark, "if you will walk this way, Ma'am."

They followed Mark, who showed them a tree whose branches were nailed against the wall: there were many blossoms on it; and many that had fallen off, and were strewed on the ground: and where they had fallen off, Willy saw a small green round fruit. "Oh, these are the tiny apples, Mamma," cried he.

"These are not apples," said his Mother, "but apricots; a very nice fruit, which you shall eat when it is ripe."

"And when will that be?"

"Not before the summer; you must allow them time to grow and ripen, and be sweet and nice, which they are not now: "and she gathered one, and bade Willy taste it.

"It is bitter, and very bad," said he.

"You will see how different it will be when it is ripe."

His Mamma then stooped down to gather some violets: they were so covered over with their leaves, that Willy did not see the flowers till she pointed them out to him, and asked him to help her to gather some.

"I will get you some much prettier flowers from the grass," said Willy: "look what a number of daisies, and yellow flowers, and blue flowers."

"I like violets best," replied his Mother, "though they are not the prettiest, because they smell so sweet. But you may run and gather those you like best."

Willy asked leave for Johnny to go with him. The two boys ran off together into the field. Willy picked up every flower that he could find: but Johnny gathered nothing but cowslips; and when he had got a great number, he began to tie them up; and he made a ball of them, the stalks of the flowers being altogether inside the ball, and the outside was all beautiful yellow flowers, so that it looked like a yellow ball. Willy tossed it up, and caught it again; then he smelt it, and said, "Oh, I must take it to Mamma; she likes flowers that smell sweet." He showed her his beautiful ball, and told her how cleverly Johnny had made it.

"I am sure," said he, "Johnny likes better working in the garden than sweeping chimneys—don't you, Johnny?"

"That I do," replied the boy.

"And a very good obedient boy he is," said the gardener, "and helps me very well; only when I set him to weed, he sometimes pulls up the wrong things, for he does not yet well know the difference between a weed and a flower; but he will learn it in time." Just then the carriage drew up. Willy was very sorry to leave Ash Grove: he took his whole lap full of flowers, and his cowslip ball, into the carriage, bade Johnny and Mark good by, and amused himself all the way home with thinking of the pleasure he should have in showing Ann all he had brought home, and telling her all he had seen at Ash Grove.

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