S OME days afterwards, as Willy was walking out with his Mamma, he observed how much larger the buds on the trees were grown.
"Only look, Mamma, at the great buds on that branch; I do think they are as big as—as a great plum; pray do gather some; I want so much to see the little leaves and flowers inside. The branch was so high that his Mamma could not reach it: she tried several times, but to no purpose. At last she thought of pulling down the branch with an umbrella which she had in her hand. It had a hooked handle; she lifted it up as high as she could reach, and by standing on tip-toe, she just caught hold of the branch with the hook, and bent it downwards, till it was within reach of her hands. She then gathered several of the buds, and gave one of them to Willy.
"How sticky it feels," said he; "I think it is dirty."
"No," replied his Mother, "this sticky stuff comes from the inside of the bud, and covers the outside all over, to prevent the rain from touching the bud; for the rain would hurt it."
"Now let us see what there is inside, Mamma," said Willy.
His Mamma told him they would be able to examine the inside of the bud much better at home. However, as they had several, she gave one of them to Willy. In pulling the bud open with his fingers, he broke it in pieces; part fell on the ground and was lost, and Willy could make out nothing clearly.
"I do not know what there is in it," said he, "but I can see no leaves or flowers;" and he looked quite disappointed.
In their way home they gathered a number of other buds: some from high trees, and some from low ones; they were of all sorts of shapes and sizes, but none of them were so large as the buds of the horse-chestnut tree.
When they reached home, his Mamma took all these buds out of the paper in which she had wrapped them, and laid them on a table; and having chosen one of the largest of the buds of the horse-chestnut tree, she cut it into two halves with a penknife, which being very sharp, cut it very nicely and smoothly.
"Look, Mamma," said Willy, "there are no leaves, nor flowers!"
"There is something," replied she, "that would have grown into leaves and flowers, if the bud had remained on the tree." She then picked out the inside of the bud with the point of the knife, and showed Willy some little things shaped like leaves, but they were not green.
"How curious," said he; "and what is this white stuff sticking about the little leaves? it looks like bits of cotton, such as you put in my ear when I had the ear-ache, to keep it warm. Oh! this is to keep the little buds warm, though it is not cotton."
As she picked out the leaves she made Willy observe how nicely they were folded over each other, and how closely they stuck together.
"If they were not so well squeezed together," said Willy, "they could never all be packed up in this bud, though it is a large one. And what is the cover made of, Mamma? It is made of little leaves also. But they are hard, and do not look at all like the little leaves inside."
"No, because the cold weather spoilt them; so, instead of growing into leaves, they became brown and hard; but you see they do very well to cover up the others, and keep them warm."
"Oh yes, Mamma, just like my brown great coat; but now, pray show me the flower."
"Here it is," said she, taking something out of the middle of the bud; "you can just see the shape. This would have grown into a pretty bunch of white and pink flowers. When the buds on the tree burst open, and you see the leaves and the flower growing, do you think you will know their shape again?"
"Oh yes, Mamma; only they will be a great deal bigger."
"The buds will grow larger and larger every day," said his Mamma, "till at last the covering will be too small to hold them: then it will burst open; and the little leaves will be green, and spread themselves out, and after that the flower will blow, and look beautiful. But a great many days must pass first; for they must have rain to water them, and sunshine to warm them and make them grow."
"How can they have rain and sunshine? for you know, Mamma, that, when it rains, the black clouds hide the sun behind them."
"They will not have rain and sunshine together," replied his Mother, "but the one after the other. One day the sun may shine and the weather be fine, and another day the rain may fall, and both days will do them good and make them grow."
"And sometimes," said Willy, "the sun shines after it has rained on the same day; but," added he, after a pause, "did not you say, Mamma, that the rain would hurt the buds if it touched them, and that the sticky outside was to prevent the wet from getting at them?"
"Very true," replied she; "the rain would injure them, if it got to them on the outside; but it gets to them another way, to make them grow."
"How can that be?" cried Willy; "it cannot get to the inside of the bud, without going through the outside."
"Yes, it can; but it would be too long for me to explain that to you now, for it is near dinner-time, and I must go and dress."
Just then the great dinner-bell went ting a ring a ring a ring.—"Now," said Mamma, "take all the buds up to Ann, and try if she and you together can open some of the smaller buds, and find out the little leaves and flowers within. It is not very easy; for the smaller the bud is, the less will be the leaves and flower within; so you must open wide your eyes, Willy, and observe as well as you can."
Mamma then went up stairs, and Willy had some trouble to collect together all the buds to take into the nursery. Ann did not understand opening and explaining the buds as well as his Mamma; and the buds being smaller, made it more difficult; so Willy was soon tired, and finished by amusing himself with picking the buds to pieces, without observing their inside.—"We can get some more when we go out to-morrow, Ann," said he; "and they will be grown bigger."