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Jane Marcet

Willy's Garden

W ILLY'S Mother had promised to give him a little garden for himself; and she chose a piece of ground near the house, that he might go and work in it alone. Mark dug it up, and laid it out in beds for him; for Willy would not have been able to do such hard work himself; then Johnny showed him how to sow seeds of different sorts. There were peas, and beans, and flowers of various kinds, sown in these beds. This amused Willy extremely; but when all the seeds were put into the ground, covered up, and nothing more was to be seen, he began to get impatient for his garden to look pretty, and enquired of Johnny how soon the seeds would grow into plants, and the flowers blow.

"Oh," said Johnny, "that will take a long time; but I will transplant some young stocks and wallflowers into your garden, and in a week or two they will come into blossom."

This was done; but Willy was not yet satisfied; he wanted his garden to look pretty at once. Having waited many days without seeing any thing appear above ground, he determined to set to work himself to beautify his garden. He gathered some roses, and several other flowers, all in full blossom, which he stuck in the ground, and then ran and called his Mamma to come and see how beautiful his garden looked.

"Mark and Johnny have worked at it a long while, and yet they have done nothing that you can see. All those pretty flowers I  planted," said he, laying a stress upon the word I.

His Mamma smiled, and replied—"It is very pretty now, but it will not last."

"Oh yes, I shall water the flowers every day, and that will keep them alive."

"But, Willy, they have no roots to suck up the water."

"Oh dear, I quite forgot that! Well, then, Mamma, I will get some flowers with roots."

He took his little spade, and contrived to dig up some pinks, which he put, roots and all, into his wheelbarrow, and wheeled them to his garden. He then planted them as well as he could, and gave them plenty of water. The next day, however, to his great disappointment, not only were the flowers he had stuck in the ground quite dead, but the pretty pinks hung down their heads, and looked as if they were going to die also. This Willy could not understand; for the pinks had roots to suck up water, and he had given them a great deal; therefore he thought that they ought to have been quite fresh and strong. He ran to ask Mark why they looked so sickly. Mark was too busy transplanting young lettuces, to attend to him. He held a short pointed stick in his hand, with which he made a hole in the ground; he then put the little roots of the lettuce in the ground, and covering them over, pressed the earth close round them with his fingers, that the lettuce might not fall. Then he planted another and another, all in a row; and Willy wondered he could make the row so straight and even.

"Do you not see," said Mark, "that there is a line that goes all along the row?"

Willy then observed a string stretched tight, which served to show Mark how to plant his lettuces straight.

"And are lettuces planted, and not sown?" asked Willy.

"Oh no," replied Mark; "every thing in the garden is sown, for all plants come from a seed at first. These little lettuces I am transplanting were sown in the spring; and when they grew up as big as they are now, they were too close together to grow well any longer; so I took them up out of the ground, and now I am putting them in again further off from each other, that they may have more room to grow."

"But I think they will die," said Willy; "their leaves hang down just like my pinks."

"They will look quite fresh again when they have had some water."

"Oh no, Mark," said Willy, thinking himself very wise from what he had seen happen to his pinks; "I watered my pinks, but it did them no good."

"Because," replied Mark, "the pinks were too old to be transplanted; you must never transplant plants in blossom."

The next day Willy went to see the lettuces, and found that what Mark had said was true; they looked quite fresh, and as if their new bed agreed with them very well.

"They will grow famously now," said Mark.

"How big?" enquired Willy.

"As large as those you see in the next bed;" and he took him to a bed of full grown lettuces.

"They would grow larger still," said Mark; "but then they would not be so tender and good to eat; so when they are as big as these, I gather them for salad."

He then took out his knife, and cut six lettuces; and, having stripped off the outer leaves, he gave them to Johnny to take to the cook.

"You throw away the outside leaves, just as you did the outside leaves of the cabbage."

"Yes," replied Mark; "outside leaves are coarse and hard, and seldom good to eat."

When Johnny returned, he took Willy to show him the peas which had been sown in the spring. They were now grown up, and stood in rows trained up against branches of dry sticks, which were stuck in the ground, because the stalks of the peas were not strong enough to stand by themselves. Willy walked between these rows of peas, and saw that they were much higher than his head. He was astonished that such little things as the dry peas which he had seen Johnny sow should have grown into such tall plants. There were a few pretty white blossoms left upon these plants, but most of them had fallen off, and there remained on the stalk a green shell or pod. Willy gathered one of the largest, split it open, and in the inside there was a row of small green peas.

"Look," said Johnny, "they are each fastened to the inside of the pod by a little stalk, to prevent their rolling about, and knocking against one another. So you see that you could not rattle them, as you said you would."

"I think," said Mamma, who had just joined them, "these short stalks are of some other use besides preventing the peas from rolling about in the shell. You remember, Willy, that the water which feeds the plant is sucked up by the roots, and then rises through the stalks, and goes into the branches, and leaves, and flowers, and fruit; for they all want water to make them grow."

"Oh, yes, Mamma, I remember all that."

"Well, my dear, the water gets into these pea-shells through the stalks; if the peas were loose in the pod, no water could get inside of them to make them grow."

Willy then went to work in his own garden; and not having any more seeds to sow, or flowers to transplant, he thought he should like to make a little gravel walk. He therefore picked up all the loose pebbles he could find in the gravel walks, and carried them to his garden: he found he should be a long time making his gravel walk, if he brought the stones in his hands, or even if he carried them in his pinafore; so he fetched his wheelbarrow, and when he had filled it with gravel, he found it so heavy that he had some difficulty to wheel it to his garden. He then began laying the stones one beside the other, in a line, as straight as he could. In doing this, he trod over the beds where the seeds were sown, and many of them, which were just coming up, were crushed. When he saw them all bruised, he said,—"Oh, these are nothing but weeds; I must pull them up and throw them away, as Johnny does." So he pulled them up, and was throwing them away, when his Mamma came up to him, and said,—

"Why, Willy, what are you doing?"

"I am making a gravel walk in my garden, Mamma; and pulling up the weeds that would spoil it."

"Oh, Willy," said she, "I am afraid you are too young to understand gardening yet. These are not weeds, but the seeds which you sowed with Johnny, and which are just beginning to grow."

Willy looked a little ashamed; but he thought so much of his gravel walk, that he cared but little for his seeds. So he said, "Oh, Mamma, it does not signify much: they take such a long time to grow, I was tired of waiting. But look at the pretty gravel walk I am making; only I shall never get stones enough. I wish the gravel walk would grow, Mamma, and then it would get large enough without giving me so much trouble. Does gravel grow, Mamma?"

"No, my dear: gravel is not an animal, nor a vegetable; and nothing else grows."

"Is it made of dead vegetables, like tables and boxes, Mamma?"

"No, my dear; it is not made by men, but it is found in the ground. Don't you remember seeing a man dig gravel out of the ground, one day, when we were walking on the common?"

"Oh, yes; he took it out of a great deep hole, as big as a house."

"Well; gravel is a sort of earth."

Willy was quite surprised: he had thought that every thing was animal or vegetable, or made from dead animals and vegetables. But his Mamma said, No—that all kinds of earth and stones were very different from animals or vegetables; for they were not alive, and never had been alive; therefore they could not take any food, nor grow.

"They, do not look as if they could," said Willy; "for they have no mouths, like animals, to eat with; nor roots, like plants, to suck up water. Then they have no arms nor legs, Mamma; nor leaves or flowers. Oh, no; they are not half so nice as animals and vegetables. My gravel walk looks pretty, though, Mamma. But as for the earth, why, it is nothing but dirt: you know, Ann says I am always dirtying myself with the mould in my garden."

"It is a sort of dirt that is very useful to us, Willy: I do not know what we should do without it; for Mark could grow no vegetables in the kitchen-garden without earth to sow them in."

"And we should have no trees, Mamma, if there was no ground to plant them in."

"No; not even grass," said she.

"Then earth is very useful, Mamma, though it is so dirty."

"Shall I tell you what all those things are called that are not alive, such as earth and stones of all kinds?"

"Oh, do, Mamma."

"They are called minerals."

"I don't like minerals half so well as animals and plants, Mamma: they are not pretty; and look as if they had no shape."

"I think they have all sorts of shapes, Willy: look at the pebbles you are making your gravel walk with—there are not two of them alike."

"No," said Willy; "some are large, and some are small."

"And some are round, and others oblong," said his Mother; "and some are broken and pointed."

"Well, Mamma, but gravel is a prettier mineral than dirty ground."

"There is a mineral that you know well, Willy, which is much more dirty than earth, and that neither Ann nor I like you to meddle with."

"What is that, Mamma?"

"It is coal, which is dug out of the ground like gravel."

"Why, what dirty, ugly things minerals are!"

"Not all," replied she. "There are some minerals that are very beautiful; but they are buried deep in the earth, and you must dig very low down to find them."

They could talk no longer about minerals, for Ann now called Willy in to dinner.

When he sat down to table, instead of potatoes to eat with his meat, what should he see but a dish of nice green peas.—"Oh, there are some of Johnny's peas!—let me taste them, Ann."

She put a large spoonful on his plate; and he thought he had never eaten any thing so good before. His Mamma came in, and he asked her to eat some. Then he said,—"Mamma, may I thank God for making such nice peas for me?"

"Yes, my dear: whenever you enjoy any thing, it is right to thank God for it. But, as God knows your thoughts, you may think it, which is as well as saying it. But I would rather that you should thank God for the good peas that he has made for other people as well as for yourself. I do not like children to be too fond of thinking of themselves. God Almighty makes vegetables grow for all; he loves every one; and you should learn to do the same, and be glad that other people can eat peas as well as yourself."

"Then, Mamma," said Willy, "I will thank God for me, and for all the other people too."