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Madge A. Bigham

Why Nasturtiums Have Lines

Once there was a band of merry earth-children who sometimes wandered through the Garden Beautiful gathering seeds.

They carried with them pretty boxes which they had made themselves, and all the seeds they found, ripe and plump and brown, they placed in these seed boxes, keeping them snug through the cold winter months, and planting them when the pleasant spring time came.

The hands of the children were soft and gentle, and the flowers were glad to have them care for their precious seed babies through the frost and cold of the winter months.

But there was one pretty blossom, the Red, Red Nasturtium, that the children always passed by, after a moment's glance at the cradle where her seed babies slept.

"We do not wish your seeds, Red, Red Nasturtium," they said, "because they are not ripe."

Now the reason of this was that the Red, Red Nasturtium wanted to keep all of her nectar juice for herself, and of course when the bees and butterflies found this out they stopped visiting her—because no one likes to visit selfish people, you know.

So, by and by, when the Red, Red Nasturtium really needed the bees and butterflies to help her exchange her golden pollen dust, there was not one to help her, and her seed babies were almost ready to shrivel up and die.

One night as she drooped in the moonlight, crying softly to herself, the fair rose queen heard her and sent a flower pixie to ask what the trouble was.

"The bees and butterflies are mean to me," replied the Red, Red Nasturtium. "They will not help me exchange my pollen dust, and my seed babies are almost ready to die."

"That is very strange, indeed," said the little flower pixie. "Since the time flowers first wore coloured dresses the bees and butterflies have delighted to visit them, and ever since have gladly exchanged for them their golden dust.

"Perhaps you forgot to make them any nectar juice."

"No," replied the Red, Red Nasturtium, bending her head low in the moonlight, "I have made nectar juice, but I have wanted it all myself, and when the bees and butterflies first came I told them there was none to spare."

"Dear me!" said the little flower pixie, "no wonder the bees and butterflies stopped coming to see you. How can you expect them to exchange your golden pollen dust for you unless you are kind enough to give them a few drops of nectar juice for their own baby seeds?

"How could they even make honey for the merry children who visit the Garden Beautiful if all of the flowers should do as you have done? Everybody was made to help in the earth-world, you know." And then the Red, Red Nasturtium felt her cheeks burn a deep crimson as she hung her head lower still in the moonlight.

She felt full of shame that she had kept all of the nectar juice for herself and given none to the butterflies and bees,—the flowers' best friends.

"What shall I do?" she asked the little flower pixie. "After all, it is I, and not the bees and butterflies, who have been mean. I am afraid they will never come to see me now."

"Oh, yes, they will if you will invite them," replied the little flower pixie.

"I will take my tiny silver pencil and draw a few lines on your two back petals, leading straight to your nectar juice, and when the bees and butterflies come you can just tell them to follow your fairy road and they will find something good to eat at the end."

Then the little flower pixie and the Red, Red Nasturtium laughed merrily together, and while the flower pixie was drawing the lines, the Red, Red Nasturtium cried:

"Oh, oh, how you tickle!" And then they laughed again.

But anyway, the lines were drawn, broad and plain, leading straight to the sweet nectar juice, and the Red, Red Nasturtium felt very much happier afterwards, I can tell you.

The next morning she was the first flower awake in the Garden Beautiful, and she looked so happy and bright that all the sunbeam fairies danced around her, as she sang her merry song:

"Come this way, oh, come this way,

I'll give sweet nectar to all to-day.

Come, come, oh, come this way,

You butterflies and bees so gay."

And at that very minute a busy bee buzzed by, and the Red, Red Nasturtium called quickly to him:

"Come, pretty bee, and see what I have for you! Follow the fairy road along my back petals, and they will surely lead you to something good."

And so the bee did. He crawled very slowly along the lines that the little flower pixie had drawn with his silver pencil, and sure enough, they led him straight to the little nectar jar of the Red, Red Nasturtium where he sipped the sweetest nectar juice he had ever tasted.

"Thank you, pretty flower," said the bee. "I have a pocketful of pollen dust from the yellow nasturtium across the way.

"You may have it for your seed babies if you wish, and I will gladly bring you more. We bees like to help."

So he emptied his pockets into the lap of the Red, Red Nasturtium who quickly sprinkled it over her little seed babies, while the bee, with his wings laden down with her own pollen dust, hurried on to other nasturtiums growing across the way.

Then again the Red, Red Nasturtium swung on her stem and sang her pretty song:

"Come this way, oh, come this way,

I'll give sweet nectar to all to-day.

Come, come, oh, come this way,

You butterflies and bees so gay."

And hardly had she finished when a pretty yellow butterfly stopped by her side, and when she told him about the fairy lines on her back petals, which surely led to something sweet, he, too, followed the fairy road and drank of the sweet nectar juice.

The yellow butterfly did not forget about the pollen dust, either, and gladly exchanged what he had with the Red, Red Nasturtium, who sprinkled it as before on her sleeping seed babies.

So through all the long days to come the Red, Red Nasturtium sang her pretty song, and many were the bees and butterflies who visited her, until, by and by, her precious seed babies were round and plump and brown, and the children were glad to gather them and keep them safe in their snug seed boxes until the balmy spring.

The next time you pull a nasturtium, look for the fairy lines which lead to the sweet nectar juice. All nasturtiums have them now.