Why Flowers Have Bright Colours
If you had been in the Garden Beautiful late one moonlight night, you would have heard the Lady Petunia, all dressed in a violet robe, tell such a wonderful story that even the dewdrops nestled among her leaves to listen.
"Once upon a time," she said, "when the world was new, all flowers were white, and none wore the bright coloured dresses we see them wear these days.
"The queen of the flowers was an exquisite white rose. She grew in the centre of the garden, near the lake, and grouped around her were flowers of every kind—pinks, nasturtiums, poppies, dahlias, lilacs, hyacinths, phlox, daisies, daffodils, and many, many other kinds.
"But all, like the queen, were dressed in pure white.
"They loved the rose queen, because it was she who had taught them all the wonderful secrets that they knew.
"She had shown them how to send forth their slender roots under the ground for food to eat, and how to carry it up the stalks to the leaves and precious blossoms.
"She had shown them, too, how to make the wonderful pollen dust of gold, and even how to make the little seed cradles with the wee baby seeds tucked inside.
"But one thing, the greatest thing of all, the rose queen could not tell them; and that was how to ripen the wee seed babies and make them grow fat and round and plump,—as an earth baby does, you know.
"For many days the rose queen bowed her head and thought and wondered over this question. What could she do?
"It would be too bad if the baby seeds from none of the plants ever ripened or grew any larger, for not even a little seed likes always to be a baby. Then too, without well-ripened seed, soon there would be no flowers blooming in the Garden Beautiful—because there would be no seeds to plant.
"So, you see, that was enough to make the rose queen sorrowful, and for nights and days she thought or dreamed of nothing else.
"At last she said, one day, to a little breeze fairy who was softly fanning her cheeks:
" 'Pretty breeze fairy, in all of your travels, have you heard of no one who knows how flowers may ripen their seeds, and make them grow plump and round?'
" 'I know how trees ripen their seeds, replied the little breeze fairy.'They exchange their golden pollen dust with one another. I have often helped the wind blow it from one tree to another.
" 'Perhaps that is the way flowers should ripen their seed babies, too. I would help you if I could, but when the wind blows it is so rough and strong that I feel sure it would blow the dainty flower-cups all to pieces.
" 'Why do you not ask the bees to help you do this or the moths and butterflies? They would be the very ones to help you out of your trouble, and carry the pollen dust to and fro.'
"Now the rose queen had often seen the bees and butterflies flitting by the garden; but they never came near any of the flowers. So how could she ask any of them to carry the golden pollen dust from flower to flower?
" 'I must get a message to these bees and butterflies somehow,' said the queen to herself. 'How shall I do it? '
"And then, the very next moment, a smile played over her beautiful face and she said softly: 'Oh, now I know what we can do! I suppose bees and butterflies are like the earth-children and like good things to eat.
" 'I will tell the flowers about my plan in the morning, and we will all make sweet nectar juice and tuck it away, down in our flower cups, and then the bees and butterflies will be sure to come to us for a taste.
" 'It is then I will ask them to help us exchange our golden pollen dust with one another—roses with roses, violets with violets, pinks with pinks,—that is the way.'
"And so the rose queen fell asleep, happy in her new-made plan, because she knew how happy it would make the flowers next day when they heard that she had at last thought of a way to make their seed babies ripen and grow.
"And, indeed, they were very happy when they heard about it, and they began at once, and worked from early morning until night, storing away delicious nectar juice for their visitors, the bees and butterflies, whom they were expecting very soon.
"But alas! though the nectar juice was of the sweetest and very best, none of the bees or the dainty butterflies stopped to take even a sip, and because of this the beautiful rose queen was more sorrowful than ever, and the flowers drooped low over the cradles where the young seed babies lay sleeping, sick and pale.
"It seemed that they would have to die after all, since neither the bees nor butterflies would come to help them exchange their golden pollen dust, and this alone was all that could possibly save their lives. "Surely something must be done, or very soon the Garden Beautiful would be without its lovely flowers, since there would be no more seeds to grow up in place of the flowers that withered.
" 'Iíll tell you,' said the little breeze, who lingered again by the side of the rose queen. 'Why do you not put out signal flags of red and blue and other bright colours?
" 'All of your flowers in the Garden Beautiful are dressed in white, and perhaps bees and butterflies cannot see white.
" 'Now if you will put out brightly-coloured signal flags, I am sure the bees and butterflies will come, because they like bright colours, and when they find out that you have made sweet nectar juice for them they will be only too glad to keep on coming.
" 'Try it,' laughed the little breeze, 'and while the bees and butterflies are busy sipping nectar juice, the flowers can be sprinkling golden pollen dust over their bodies and wings so they will be sure to leave some with every new flower they call on.
'"The fair rose queen laughed merrily with the little breeze, as he talked, and then she said:
" 'But wait; before you go, tell me, pray, where I am to get these brightly-coloured signal flags you speak of? I have none.'
" 'Oh, the sunbeam fairies can bring you every colour of the rainbow,—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet,' replied the mischievous little breeze, tickling her leaves into fresh laughter as he flew away.
"Then the happy rose queen called quickly to a sunbeam fairy who danced that way.
" 'Come and help me, shining fairy of the sky,' she said. ' Bring to me, I pray thee, many brightly-coloured flags. I would have them of the lovely rainbow colours, so beautiful to look upon.'
" 'Flags?' replied the shining sunbeam fairy, pausing in his dance. 'I have no flags, fair queen, but I can bring you something better—dresses in all the rainbow colours, bright and beautiful to look upon.'
"So away he hastened to the palace of the sun, leaving the dear rose queen very happy, and when he returned there came with him many, many tiny sunbeam fairies, each one heavily laden, and oh, the beautiful, beautiful dresses they brought with them! Soon all the flowers had changed their robes of spotless white for garments of the brightest rainbow hues—of blue and red and violet and orange and their tints and shades.
"Very soon there was a wonderful change in the Garden Beautiful and the rose queen's cheeks flushed a delicate pink when she bowed her head in thanks to the kind little sunbeam fairies.
"And it really happened just as the little breeze fairy said it would.
"Very soon the bees and butterflies caught sight of the Garden Beautiful, decked out in its wonderful new colours, and over the old wall they flew in troops and visited every flower.
"Best of all, they liked the nectar juice so much that they came again and again, and, fluttering here and there, they carried with them the golden pollen dust which was needed so much to help the seed babies grow.
"So, day by day, the flowers worked to keep a store of nectar juice, and day by day the bees and butterflies kept coming, until by and by the seed babies were ripe and plump and strong, and the fair rose queen knew the Garden Beautiful would remain as it had been—fresh and beautiful every year.
"And now," said the Lady Petunia, "my story is ended, and you know why it is that the flowers wear bright-coloured dresses.
"True, a few of them still wear white in memory of the fair rose queen, but by their perfume the bees and butterflies have learned that they keep sweet nectar juice for their friends and visit them just the same.
"Some of these white flowers bloom only at night when the bees and butterflies have gone to bed. But the little gray moths that flit about in the starlight know how sweet they smell, and visit them often—sipping their nectar and carrying the golden pollen dust from flower to flower."