Why the Sweet Laburnum Comes First in the Spring
Two little seeds were talking together one day about being planted.
"I do not think it would be nice to be planted at all," said one little seed.
"Think of being covered over in the dark, cold ground like that! It must be dreadful."
"You make me think of the very first seed that ever was planted," said Old Mother Nature, with one of her sunny smiles.
"There is always somebody who must be the first to do things, no matter how unpleasant they are, and it always takes somebody who is strong and brave.
"Now the sweet laburnum was a plant of that kind,—she showed others the way, and to-day you will find her frail, yellow blossoms the first to greet us in the early spring, often blooming in old-fashioned flower gardens when the sleet and snow are on the ground. Her story is a pretty one, and runs thus:—
"Long, long ago there was a time when on the earth there bloomed no flowers at all. There were no lacy ferns, no waving grasses, no trees, no blossoms, no growing plants of any kind. Everything was bare and brown.
"And, of course, all the birds and flitting butterflies and dusky moths and tiny ants and other insects were dying of hunger and thirst, because they could not live, you know, without something green and growing.
"The Prince of the Kingdom of Love heard of this suffering and went to the earth himself to see what the trouble was.
"After walking for miles along barren fields and bare roads, with no sign of anything green and beautiful along the way, he at last reached a large store house, the floors and shelves of which were covered with seeds of every growing plant under the sun.
"Seeds, seeds, seeds! nothing but seeds everywhere, and every little seed lying fast asleep.
" 'Why, little seeds," said the Prince of Love, 'how can you lie here asleep when the outside world is dying for your help? You are needed to clothe the fields for hungry cattle, to deck the trees, to make the flowers, to feed the hungry, and shelter the weak.
" 'How can you sleep? Why lie you idle here?'
" 'Because we are afraid,' said the seeds whom the voice had awakened. 'We would like to make the world beautiful and help those who hunger and thirst, but we cannot bear the idea of being buried beneath the ground first in order to do this.
" 'It is so cold and dark under the ground. Can you not change us into flowering plants now, as here we lie, without having to bury us beneath the ground? Then we would gladly grow to brighten the earth.'
"Then the Prince of Love was very sorrowful indeed, because he knew how impossible this would be. No seed can become a fresh, growing plant without first being buried beneath the ground. Everyone knows this.
"So, turning his kind eyes on the little seed nearest him, the Prince of Love said:
" 'Could you not, little seed, forget your sleep in the cold, dark earth and remember only the glad awakening?
" 'Would you rather he here in your rough, brown body covered with dust and decay, rather than sleep in the earth for a season and come forth changed into a living, growing plant crowned with fresh, green leaves and glorious blossoms? Only think of that glad awakening!'
"Now the little seed, which was that of the sweet laburnum, had no answer ready for the Prince of Love; but when he had gone away she thought and thought about his words, and the more she thought the more she felt that she would like to change herself into a living, growing plant that would brighten the outside world. Then perhaps, if she showed the way, other seeds might follow and change themselves into growing plants.
"She felt very happy when she had made up her mind about it, and touching the little seed next to her, she said:
" 'Little brother, I do not know whether it is true that if I bury myself I shall rise again into a fresh and growing plant. I can only believe what the Prince of Love has told me and trust that it is true.
" 'So I shall slip through the little crack in the storehouse and bury myself in the earth. You must watch for me, and if I awake tell the others, that they too may believe.'
"Then the little seed slipped quietly through the crack, and the Prince of Love must have seen, and was glad, because he sent down the raindrops, who pressed her gently beneath the earth, and the wind, who covered her snugly over, and then as the little seed dropped asleep beneath the brown earth she felt happier than she had ever felt before—perhaps because she was trying to show the way, and to help make others happy.
"Somehow she did not feel afraid as she thought she would, and kept singing to herself even in her sleep this soft little song:
"For many days the sweet laburnum slept and dreamed beneath the barren earth, and then one morning she opened her drowsy eyes and felt some one lifting her up, and a voice, tender and sweet, like that of the Prince of Love, was calling, 'Arise!'
"And then, before the little seed was fully awake, why, she found herself growing up, up, up, right through the ground—no longer a little, hard, brown seed with her beautiful life shut within, but a glorious living plant, fresh and new.
"By and by there was a crown of delicate, yellow blossoms for her too, and her joy was so great that she called in ecstasy to all the seeds she had left asleep in the great storehouse; when they saw her joy and beauty they longed to be like her, and one by one they slipped through the same little crack and buried themselves in the earth.
"And so the world became fresh and beautiful again, but the little plant who led the way is still the first to greet us in the early spring."