The Lady Petunia awoke one morning in a great fright. Somebody had broken into her house the night before and stolen away the nectar juice and pollen dust which she had been saving up for her friends, the bees and butterflies, who helped her nurse her seed babies. Who could it have been?
Not the butterflies, because they, too, were special friends of the Lady Petunia, and besides, they would not do such a thing.
But the Lady Petunia knew grieving would do no good, so she set to work and filled her cups again with fresh nectar juice, and went to bed that night with a happy heart.
And when she awoke the next morning, what do you suppose had happened?
The nectar juice had been stolen again and not one drop was left in her cups. That was enough to make her angry, I am sure, but flowers are not like some children I know, so the Lady Petunia set bravely to work once more and filled her cups with nectar juice, fresh and sweet.
Perhaps it was her love for her small seed babies that made her so anxious to keep plenty of nectar juice on hand.
Not that the seed babies cared especially for it themselves, but the bees and butterflies did you know, and the Lady Petunia knew they might stop visiting her if she did not sometimes treat them to her delicate nectar juice. And if they stopped coming, why, there would be no one to bring her pollen dust from across the way, which she needed so much to ripen and make her seed babies grow.
So, after the Lady Petunia had finished with her nectar juice this last time, she sat in deep thought, wondering how she could catch up with the robbers who had been stealing from her.
She had not been thinking very long, however, when a little brownie hopped by, and she told him of her trouble and asked what was best to be done.
The little brownie thought for a moment, and then he laughed and said:
"You will have to set a trap, as Brother Fox did with the tar baby. That was the only way he ever caught up with Mr. Rabbit, who was stealing his milk and butter."
So, when the Lady Petunia had heard all the tar-baby story, she laughed and laughed, and then she set to work to make herself a tar baby.
Not a real tar baby, of course, because the Lady Petunia could not make one of those, you know, but she did make something very, very sticky, and spread it all over the under side of her blossom and all down the stem.
I do not know whether you can guess why she did this or not,—unless you know all about Mr. Rabbit and the tar baby.
Anyway, the little brownie hid beneath a leaf to watch that night, and he saw a whole line of black robbers leave their cave in the ground and climb up the stalk of the Lady Petunia's house—one behind the other—and when they reached her blossom and started in after the nectar juice the little brownie went off into merry peals of laughter, for every little robber stuck fast in his tracks; they couldn't go forward and they couldn't go backward.
So there they stuck like Brother Rabbit and the tar baby—hard and fast—to the under side of the Lady Petunia's blossom, and though they wriggled they couldn't get away, but stuck all the closer, and there, early the next morning, the Lady Petunia found them and knew who the robbers were that had been stealing her nectar juice. Do you?
They were very small and very black, and they begged and begged to be turned loose, and because the Lady Petunia's heart was kind, she consented, and the robbers promised to steal her nectar juice no more.
One by one she set them free, but ever since the Lady Petunia has been very careful to make plenty of sticky gum to spread beneath her blossoms and on her stem. You can feel it for yourself when next you pull a petunia.
When all the other flowers heard about the Lady Petunia's trap to catch the robbers, they thought she was very wise indeed, and many of them began to do the very same thing. So now you know why some flowers always feel sticky. They are only on the look-out for little black robbers.