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´╗┐Title: Bulbs and Blossoms
Author: Feuvre, Amy le, -1929
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bulbs and Blossoms" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BULBS AND BLOSSOMS

by

AMY LE FEUVRE

Author of
"Probable Sons", "Teddy's Button", etc

Illustrated by Eveline Lance



[Illustration: (_See page 23._)]

[Illustration: Rise up, for, lo, the winter is past.]



London
The Religious Tract Society
56 Paternoster Row &
65 St Pauls Churchyard

[Illustration]



CHAPTER I

The Ugly Flower Pots


[Illustration: I]

It was five o'clock in the afternoon. Miss Hunter, a tall,
dignified-looking woman, was presiding at the afternoon tea-table in the
drawing-room of Chatts Chase. Miss Amabel Hunter stood at the window in
a rather muddy riding-habit, and she was speaking in her sharp, short
tones to her twin sister Hester, who lay back in the depths of a large
armchair, a novel open in her lap. Sitting by the cheery wood fire was
the youngest of the sisters, a frail and delicate invalid. She was
turning her face anxiously towards the speaker, and now put in her word
very gently.

'We only thought, Amabel, that it would have comforted the poor children
if you had returned with them in the brougham. An aunt would naturally
have been more acceptable to them than a strange maid.'

'But I tell you, Sibyl, they are with their own nurse, and Graham will
be far more likely to put them all at ease than I should. They will hear
that "Miss 'Unter, is the missis, and lets every one know she is. Miss
'Ester keeps the maids on their legs all day long because she won't use
hers. Miss H'Amabel does the sporting gent, and is never indoors except
to meals; while Miss Sibyl--well, there, she is not much 'count in the
fam'ly, for she can't say bo to a goose, and doesn't mind how people put
on her!"'

'You saw the children, I suppose?' questioned Miss Hunter gravely.

'Of course I did. I rode down to the station for that express purpose.
They are two skinny, puny little monkeys, enveloped in bundles of wraps.
I packed them all up comfortably in the carriage, and rode on to tell
you of their arrival. I don't seem to have done the right thing, as
usual; but that is always the way. Here is the carriage lumbering up the
drive. Now you had all better go out on the steps and overwhelm them
with kisses and caresses. Only may I ask that they should be taken
straight up to their nursery, and not brought in here?'

'One would think, to hear you talk, that you hated children,' murmured
Miss Sibyl; 'it is a good thing that Percy and his wife cannot hear
you.'

Miss Hunter left the room at once, and curiosity drew Sibyl and Hester
after her, to see the little nephew and niece who had been sent to them
from India from their only brother.

The four Miss Hunters lived very comfortably together, though they were
all, with the exception of Sibyl, rather self-willed, opinionated women.
All of them being well over forty, and grey hairs plentiful between
them, they had earned the distinction of being looked upon as 'old
maids,' and some wag having one day obliterated the 'h' in Chatts Chase,
the house was now familiarly called 'Pussy's Chase.' This did not
disturb the good ladies when it came to their ears, for they had large
souls, a keen sense of humour, and too much interest in life to be
fretted by village gossip.

They were now full of plans and purposes regarding the two small
children about to be placed in their charge, and no two visitors could
have caused more excitement and preparation in the quiet household than
did this little couple from India.

'Well,' asked Miss Amabel, as, after a great deal of bustle and talk in
the hall, the sisters came back to the drawing-room, 'and what are your
impressions of the kids?'

'Poor little mites!' said Miss Sibyl; 'they seem so very white and
sickly in appearance, that we were quite astonished at the way they
scampered upstairs. I am thankful they were sent back in charge of an
English nurse. Those ayahs are always so unsatisfactory.'

Before many days the children astonished their aunts still more by their
agility and ingenuity in mischief of all sorts. Roland, a fair,
curly-haired little fellow of seven, led his smaller sister Olive into
every kind of audacious escapade. Their spirits were unflagging, though
at times their frail-looking little bodies seemed to droop under their
activity.

Miss Hunter came upon little Olive one afternoon sitting on the stairs
in a breathless, exhausted state, and Roland was remonstrating with her.

'You've only run up twenty-five times, Olive, and you're tired already;
it's a mile race, and you _must_ go on.'

'She must do nothing of the sort, Roland,' said Miss Hunter sternly. 'I
will not let you tear up and down stairs all day in this fashion. What
do you mean by it?'

'We can't be idle, auntie,' said Roland, shaking his curls back, and
speaking with decision. 'Nurse has the toothache, and won't take us out.
Father says people can be idle very easily, and put it down to the
climate, and "idle hands find mischief," he says, and father is never
idle. If we don't run up and down stairs, where can we run? We like the
stairs best, because we never have stairs in India.'

[Illustration]

'Send them into the garden, Marion,' called out Miss Amabel, from the
garden door; 'I am going to the stables, and then I will look after
them.'

Little Olive jumped up.

'Oh, let us go out, auntie, and see the pretty flowers.'

'You must be very good children then. Go quietly upstairs, and ask nurse
to wrap you up well, as it is rather cold out.'

And then Miss Hunter, who found children rather a perplexing problem,
walked back to her book and her fireside, and thought no more about
them.

Roland and Olive danced out of doors a little time after, in delight at
finding themselves unattended.

'Now,' said Roland peremptorily, 'we're going for a walk, Olive, and you
are not to get tired. And we'll go and find those big iron gates first
of all; they're down this road.'

Down the avenue trotted the children; it was fully half a mile long, and
the thick shrubberies on either side rather alarmed the little girl.

'You're _quite_ sure there isn't a tiger in the bushes?' she asked
repeatedly.

And Roland in superior tones replied,--

'I've told you the English people caught all their tigers long ago, and
put them in a garden in London. Father told me so.'

'And what's outside the big gates, Roly--a jungle?'

'No, I think the trains are. I want to go and see them. Come on!'

They reached the gates, but found them shut, and as Roland was exerting
all his strength to open them, an old man stepped out of the pretty
little lodge close by.

'Why, where be ye off to, little master?' he asked with a beaming smile.
'Isn't your nurse with you this afternoon?'

'No; we're taking a walk. Open the gates, please.'

But this the old man did not seem willing to do.

'Won't ye come into my little parlour here, and pay me a visit? My
niece, Jane, is away to market to-day, and I be very lonely. Old Bob has
a lot of pretty things in his room.'

[Illustration]

Roland hesitated, but when Olive with sparkling eyes ran in at the open
door, he followed, saying,--

'We always like to pay visits, so if you're a good and nice man we'll
come in. Mother only likes us to talk to very nice people; but I s'pose
every one in England is nice, because they're white, and it's only the
blacks that don't know better.'

[Illustration]

The old man laughed, and his quaint, old-fashioned room, with a cheery
fire and bright coloured prints round the walls, delighted his little
guests.

'What are those ugly pots in your window without any flowers?' asked
Roland presently.

Old Bob gave a little sigh and a smile.

'Ah, you've hit upon my greatest treasures,' he said. 'You won't call
them ugly pots when Easter comes.'

'What is Easter?' asked both the children.

'The happiest time in the whole year to me,' said Bob, shaking his
head; 'but another day I'll tell you the tale of those pots--not
to-day.'

'And have you got a garden?' asked Roland eagerly. 'Olive and me love
flowers, but England doesn't seem to have any out of doors.'

'Come and see my garden,' said the old man proudly; 'it's the joy of my
life, next to them there "ugly pots"!'

He led the way to the back of the house, where was a good-sized cottage
garden; but the children's faces fell considerably when they saw the
barren desolation, for Bob had no evergreen shrubs, and only some rows
of cabbages and broccoli showed signs of life.

'It's all brown earth and dead things--no flowers at all!' they
exclaimed.

'But this is the wrong time o' year,' Bob said apologetically; 'there be
heaps o' beautiful stuff all under the earth, awaitin' to come up in
their time.'

'But why don't you make them come up now? What's the good of a garden
without flowers? In India we have lovely flowers.'

'Winter is a-comin' on, my dears; you won't see my pretty flowers just
yet. They're fast asleep bidin' their time; no frost or cold can touch
'em--bidin' their time!'

Bob's face looked wistful as he gazed at his empty flower beds.

'What's winter?' asked Olive curiously.

'Bless the little dear, has she never known a winter? 'Tis the dreary
dark time of waitin', the sunless, joyless bit o' all the year, when
the singin' birds fly away, the butterflies and flowers die, and the
very trees sigh and moan in their bareness and decay. 'Tis an empty bit
o' life, when all that makes life sweet falls to pieces and fades away.'

This was not quite intelligible to the children; but they shivered a
little at the gloom in the old man's tone, and Olive's blue eyes filled
with tears.

'I don't want to stay here in winter,' she said; 'let's go back to
India, Roly!'

Roland stood with knitted brows considering.

'Who makes the winter?' he asked. 'Does the devil? Because God only
makes beautiful things, doesn't He?'

Old Bob raised his hat, and looked up into the grey autumnal sky with a
smile.

[Illustration]

'Nay, little master, the devil wouldn't have wished to give us such a
lesson as winter teaches us. 'Tis God Almighty in His love that gives us
winter, to try our faith and patience, and teach us hope's lessons. If
we had no winter, we should have no Easter, and 'tis well worth the
waitin' for!'

'And does everything die in winter?' asked Roland in a mournful voice.

His question was unanswered, for Miss Amabel appeared on the scene.

'Oh, you children!' she exclaimed breathlessly. 'What a chase I have had
after you! If I had known you were in such safe quarters, I would have
spared myself the trouble of looking for you. Have they been here long,
Bob?'

'Nigh on a quarter o' an hour, Miss Amabel. They was for going out at
the gate, but I 'ticed 'em in to my place.'

'Much obliged to you. Now, chicks, remember this, you're never to go
outside those gates alone. Come back to the house with me, and say
good-bye to Bob.'

Olive lifted up her little face to be kissed by the old man, and Roland
held out his hand.

'Good-bye, Mr. Bob. We will come and see you again, and you will tell us
about your ugly pots.'

Then as they walked up the avenue by the side of their aunt, Roland said
to her, pointing to the leafless trees above them,--

'We don't have ugly trees like that in India. Why don't you cut them all
down? They're quite dead, aren't they?'

'No, indeed,' replied Miss Amabel briskly; 'they'll all come to life
again next spring.'

'Is spring Easter that Mr. Bob was telling us about?'

'Yes, Easter comes in spring.'

'And does everything dead come to life in spring?'

'A good many things in the garden do,' said Miss Amabel carelessly.

'Why does God make winter in England, and not in India? Is He angry with
the people in England?'

'Bless the boy! What a curiosity-box! Keep your questions for Aunt
Sibyl--she will appreciate them. And as for winter, I couldn't do
without it, for there would be no hunting then, and I should feel half
my enjoyment gone in life.'

'Do you like winter, Aunt Am'bel?' asked Olive.

'Yes, I love it; and so will you when you become hardy and rosy, like
English boys and girls!'

The children looked very doubtful at this statement, but did not dispute
it.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER II

Under the Earth


The next day was still colder, but the children, in company with their
nurse, found a delightful retreat in the garden, and this was in the
conservatory. James, the old gardener, was always glad of some one to
talk to, and he and nurse were soon fast friends. He took them into the
vinery, then into the fern house, and lastly into the conservatory next
the house, which was a brilliant mass of bloom and blossoms.

Olive clapped her hands in delight.

'We are back in India, Roly. Oh, how nice and warm!'

'We will always come and play here,' said Roland. Then, looking up at
the old gardener, he said,--

'You never let winter come here, do you?'

'Not if I can help it,' said James with a dry chuckle. 'Me and Jack
Frost have had many a fight, but I gets the better of him generally.'

'Who is Jack Frost?'

'Ha! ha! Not heerd o' Jack Frost? Well, unless I'm much mistaken he'll
pay us a visit to-night, and then you'll feel him as well as see him.'

Olive looked puzzled, but Roland's mind was working too busily to heed
Jack Frost. He walked round and round the flowers, then he remarked
abruptly, 'If you don't have winter here, you won't have a Easter--Mr.
Bob said so!'

'Oh, there!' said nurse with a laugh, 'don't heed his curious talk, Mr.
Jenkins; he's such a dreadful child for arguing.'

She and James continued their chat, and the children sat down on a low
wicker seat, playing with the fallen fuchsia buds, and comparing their
present life with the one they had so lately left.

'I wish Mr. Bob had a nice glass house like this,' said Olive
thoughtfully. 'Why doesn't he, Roly?'

'We'll ask him next time we see him. I expect he is too poor.'

'And, Roly, do you think Jack Frost is a thief who tries to steal
James's flowers?'

'I don't know.'

A little later, when nurse was taking them into the house, Olive
inquired again, rather anxiously, 'Nurse, I hope Jack Frost won't come
to us when we're in bed; James seemed to think we should feel him.'

'No, no, Miss Olive; I'll tuck you up too warm for that. There will be
no Jack Frost in our nursery, I can tell you. I keep too big a fire.'

But the little girl was anxious and ill at ease, till at last she
unburdened her mind to Miss Sibyl, when she went to wish her
'good-night' in the drawing-room.

'Why, Olive dear, Jack Frost isn't a man; that is only a joke. When it
is very cold the air freezes, and the pretty dew-drops on the grass and
flowers all turn to ice. Have you never seen a frost?'

'No, never.'

'Frosts kill all the flowers--that is why James does not like it coming;
but it is the flowers out of doors that feel it most.'

'But,' said Roland, edging up to his aunt, 'there are no flowers to
kill; there are only bare, dried-up trees and dark bushes. Mr. Bob told
us they had all gone to sleep under the ground.'

'So they have, but it is frost and cold that has killed them off.'

'I don't like England,' said little Olive mournfully; and when she was
comfortably tucked up in bed that night, she said sleepily, 'If I had a
nice garden of flowers, I wouldn't leave them all out in the cold and
dark to die, and I'll never live in England when I grow up, for winter
is a dreadful thing!'

The children soon found out what frost and cold meant; but the novelty
of the small icicles outside their windows, and the beauty of the hoar
frost glittering on the trees and bushes in the sunshine, more than
compensated for the uncomfortable experience of cold hands and feet.

[Illustration]

They soon paid a visit to old Bob again, and this time he took them into
the old-fashioned churchyard, which lay just outside the lodge gates on
the other side of the road.

'This is my other garden,' he said gravely, 'for I gets so much from the
rector every year for keeping the ground tidy.'

Roland and Olive looked round them with much interest.

Old Bob took them to a quiet corner soon, and pointed out five grassy
mounds all in a row.

'There!' he said, his old face quivering all over; 'underneath them
mounds are my dear wife and four children, all taken from me in less
than one month.'

'Did they die?' asked Roland with solemn eyes.

'The Lord took 'em. 'Twas the scarlet fever was ragin' in our village;
little Bessie, our baby, was the first one to take it. She were only
five year old, and as merry as a cricket; then Rob and Harry, big lads
o' twelve and thirteen, were stricken next, and then Nellie, her
mother's right hand; and the poor wife nursed 'em all through herself,
and just lived to see the last o' the four buried, and then she follered
them, and I were left in the empty house alone.'

Little Olive squeezed the old man's hand tightly.

'I feel as if I was going to cry,' she said. 'Why did God make them die,
Mr. Bob?'

Bob raised his face to the sky above him.

'He didn't tell me why,' he said; 'but He'll tell me one day. 'Twas just
at this time o' year they were taken. Ah, dear! That were a terrible
winter for me! It all seemed dark and drear, and not a gleam of sunshine
in sight. But thank the good Lord I got my bit o' cheer when Easter
came. And it have come reg'lar and fresh like every Easter since. Do you
mind them "ugly pots" in my window? Now you come back with me, and I'll
tell you their story. 'Tis too cold for us to be standin' here, but
don't forget my five grassy mounds in this corner when I tells the
tale!'

As the children turned away to follow him, Roland said thoughtfully,
'They're all under the ground, just like you say the flowers are!'

Old Bob smiled.

'That's it, Master Roland! That's my comfort. You've hit upon the very
thing I was agoin' to explain!'

And then a few minutes after, taking little Olive upon his knees, and
making Roland sit in a small chair on the opposite side of the
fireplace, the old man began,--

'My dear wife were powerful fond o' flowers, and she were quite as
clever at rearing 'em as ever I were. She would get cuttin's from James
Green up at the house, and in summer our garden was just a pictur.' Just
before she were a taken ill, James had sent her down a lily bulb, a
beautiful pure white one, and she'd put it in a pot in our cellar, and
says she to me, "Bob, I means to bring that lily out by Easter; with
care I'm sure I shall do it!" Then when she were near her end, and she
seed me a-frettin' my heart out, she calls me to her bed. "Bob," says
she, "take care o' my lily, and, Bob dear, when Easter comes and you see
it a-burstin' out in all its beauty, then think o' me and the children."
"So also is the resurrection of the dead.... It is sown in dishonour, it
is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power." "For
if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which
sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him!" Them were the very two tex's
she said to me, and then she says: "The nex' time you'll see me, Bob,
will be in my body o' glory! Unless you foller me first, but I can't
help thinking," she says, "that the Resurrection mayn't be far off!" And
so she left me!'

[Illustration]

There was a pause. Bob wiped his eyes with his handkerchief, then put
Olive down from his knees and walked across to his flower-pots.

The children followed him silently, and peeped over the edge of the
pots, only to see bare brown earth, and their faces fell at the sight.

[Illustration]

Bob turned to them with a smile: 'This here big pot in the middle is my
wife's lily; I set to work when she went, and got four other o' the same
kind o' bulb and planted them in these smaller pots. This one is
Bessie's, that one is Nellie's, and the others are just Bob's and
Harry's. Well, all that winter I goes to my graves in the churchyard,
and comes back to these pots, and I shakes my head over them all, and
couldn't get no comfort nohow. But shall I ever forget a-comin' into my
kitchen on Easter Sunday, and seein' the sun shine in upon five pure
white lilies! I just fell a-sobbin' on my knees beside them. "Lord," I
says, "I knows as certain sure as I sees these lilies now, and remembers
all the silence and darkness that came upon them from the time they were
put in the earth, that Thou wilt give me back my dear ones ten thousand
times more beautiful than ever I saw 'em here! And if their Easter will
come a little later, 'tis just as sure!" Ay, little ones, and for three
years the Lord has delighted my soul by bringin' up these lilies at
Easter time, just to tell me that my graves is goin' to be opened like
the Lord's Himself, and I'm a-goin' to see my family again. The devil
himself may tempt and try one in the winter, but away he goes in the
spring, when every bit o' this blessed earth is preaching the
resurrection to us!'

Much of this was above the children's heads, but Roland said, after a
minute's thought, 'Will dead people come up out of the ground like the
flowers?'

'Ay, Master Roland, the flowers are a very poor picture of the glorified
body.'

'And they go to sleep in the winter time?' the boy went on; 'and how
often does Easter come?'

'The flowers have their Easter every year, but we have to wait a little
longer for ours. I ofttimes think that when the Lord do come down from
heaven with a shout, He will choose Easter Sunday to wake the dead, for
'tis the day He rose Himself!'

Old Bob did not say much more, and Roland and Olive went back to the
house thinking busily.

The next day was Sunday, and they went to church with their aunts; but
directly the service was over, Roland, who was walking with Miss Hester,
pulled her by the hand towards Bob's five graves in the corner.

'Do just let me look at them again! Have you got any graves here, Aunt
Hester? I wish I had some. Poor Bob has too many, hasn't he?'

Miss Hester gave a little shiver.

'What an extraordinary child you are! You don't know the meaning of
graves, or you wouldn't talk so!'

'Yes, I do,' said Roland earnestly; 'the earth is full of graves in
winter; these graves in the churchyard belong to dead people, but the
dead flowers are everywhere, and they're all coming up at Easter--Mr.
Bob said so.'

'Bob fills your head with a lot of nonsense; come along.'

The boy felt snubbed, and said no more; but that afternoon, when he and
his little sister came down to the drawing-room, the subject was opened
afresh.

[Illustration]

Their aunts found Sunday afternoon long and tedious, especially as now a
heavy downpour of sleet and rain had set in, and it was in the hope of
being amused that Miss Hunter sent for the children.

Miss Hester was on one of the sofas half asleep; Miss Amabel standing on
the hearthrug with her back to the fire; whilst Miss Sibyl and Miss
Hunter were both trying to read books of a religious character, and
feeling very dull and bored.

'Now come and talk to us,' said Miss Amabel briskly, as the children
appeared; 'we are all bored to death, and we want you to entertain us.'

Roland sat down on a footstool, and clasped his knees in an
old-fashioned way. Olive ran to Miss Hunter and climbed into her lap.
She was accustomed to be petted, and looked upon grown-up people's knees
as her rightful privilege.

'What shall we talk about?' asked Roland.

'Let's ask Aunt Marion to tell us the story of Easter Sunday,' suggested
Olive.

'Yes, nurse doesn't know it properly--she makes it so short.'

Miss Hunter looked helplessly at her sisters.

'I'm not good at Bible stories,' she said; 'I forget them so.'

'You tell us what you know about it,' said Miss Amabel.

Roland puckered his brows for a moment, then he began,--

'Jesus was dead--quite, quite dead. He had been hung on the cross, and
killed by wicked, cruel men; and all His friends were crying and
sobbing, and He was put in a grave, and soldiers stood outside.'

'All His friends were crying and sobbing,' repeated Olive, shaking her
little head mournfully at Miss Hunter, 'and they thought they were never
going to see Him again; never, _never_!'

'And then,' continued Roland, 'suddenly, bang! bang! the great stone
grave broke open, and two beautiful angels flew down from heaven, and
Jesus Christ came rising up from the grave quite well and strong again,
and the soldiers ran away, and the good women came near.'

'And the good women were sobbing and crying,' put in Olive again, 'and
they thought they were never going to see Him again, _never_!'

'And then one of them, called Mary, saw some one in the garden, and she
didn't quite know who it was; and then He called out her name, and then
she saw it was Jesus Himself.'

[Illustration]

'Jesus Himself, quite well and strong, and wasn't she glad!' repeated
little Olive.

'And that's what happened on Easter Sunday,' said Roland.

There was silence. The children's soft, earnest voices and the sweet
Bible story touched the hearts of those who heard it.

'And how long will it be before Easter?' asked Olive, after a pause.

'Oh, a long, long time. Why, we haven't come to Christmas! We don't want
Easter to come yet.'

'Mr. Bob says Easter is the happiest time in all the year; he likes it
better than Christmas.'

'Yes, and so will we, when we see the dead flowers come up, and all the
dead people too!'

'Oh, don't get them on the subject of "dead people" and graves,'
murmured Miss Hester sleepily; 'they can talk of nothing else at
present.'

'Tell us about your life in India, Roland,' said Miss Hunter, quite
willing to change the subject; and the boy instantly obeyed, whilst his
little sister, with knitted brows, was trying to puzzle out in her small
mind why Aunt Hester did not like graves.

But when they left the drawing-room an hour afterwards, she said to her
brother, 'All our aunties like the winter. It is only Mr. Bob who says
Easter is best.'

'They haven't got any graves like Mr. Bob,' responded Roland
thoughtfully, 'nor lilies buried in flower-pots. If they had, they would
like Easter quite as much as he does.'



CHAPTER III

Signs of Life


[Illustration: T]

The winter came on. The days grew darker and colder, and the children
were loth to leave their nursery with its warm fire, and sally out into
the cold December air for their constitutional walk with nurse. Only the
thought of old Bob at the lodge kept their spirits up, and if they were
allowed to have a word or two with him occasionally, their walks were
more cheerfully taken. The conservatory was their chief joy, and often
would they steal down from the nursery, and be found by one of their
aunts comfortably established with their toys and picture-books in a
corner of it.

'I never thought Indian children would hate the winter so much as these
two mites do,' said Miss Hunter one evening at dinner; 'they seem to
look upon it as a regular curse. I should have thought the very novelty
would have attracted them.'

'They seem to have such ridiculous theories about it,' said Miss Hester.
'I fancy Bob has been stuffing their heads with his gloomy views.'

'I always think Bob looks as happy as can be,' put in Miss Amabel
briskly. 'I don't think the children were prepared for the barrenness
and dreariness of an English winter. They have come from the land of
brilliant flowers and sunshine, and naturally feel the difference.'

'Yes,' remarked Miss Sibyl gently. 'They told me this afternoon, when I
found them in the conservatory, that they were pretending it was summer.
And Roland added shrewdly, "You see, Aunt Sibyl, James shuts out the
winter in here, doesn't he? And so he makes it easy for us to forget it.
We pretend there is no cold, and no dead trees and flowers and graves,
when we are here. Don't you think it a good plan?" I told them I thought
it a very good plan. It is the same game we older people play at
sometimes. We shut out from our minds and thoughts what we would rather
not remember.'

'Sibyl is turning into a parson,' said Miss Amabel with a laugh.

[Illustration]

Miss Sibyl did not mind the laugh.

'The children are unfolding a parable to me,' she said quietly, 'and I
am getting the benefit of its interpretation.'

Christmas came and went, and Roland and Olive, with the delights of a
Christmas tree, and a party, and all the brightness attending that
festive season, were a little shaken in their views upon an English
winter. They went down to the lodge to talk it over with old Bob.

'I don't think Easter can be much nicer than Christmas!' said Olive, as
she climbed up on the old man's knees. 'Don't you like Christmas, Mr.
Bob?'

'Yes, Miss Olive, I loves the Christmas in the Bible; but not as some
folks make it here. 'Tis very nice for you little ones, with all your
bright spirits; but when you get old, you somehow never feel so sad as
when every one round you is extra happy. I'm a lonely old man, and I
miss my dear ones at these times.'

'It seems _years_ since we came to England,' said Roland, his thoughts
taking another direction, 'and it has been winter ever since we came
from India. I can't think how it will ever look any different You're
quite sure we shall see all the gardens full of beautiful flowers at
Easter, Mr. Bob? I don't see how it is going to happen.'

'No more do any of us,' said Bob, with shining eyes; 'we just hope and
wait, and the good Lord never fails. You won't see the garden at its
best at Easter, perhaps, Master Roland, but you'll see the beginning of
it all, like "the shining light that shineth more and more unto the
perfect day."'

So time passed, and then one day when the children were passing by the
lodge, Bob called them in with a mysterious face.

'Look inside my dear wife's pot,' he said.

Eagerly the little faces peered down into it, and then little Olive
laughed and clapped her hands.

'A dear little tiny weeny green stem! It's coming up at last!'

[Illustration]

'And look! In two other pots I can see something! exclaimed Roland
excitedly.

'Ay, I remember the first sight I ketched of it after my loss,' said
Bob. 'I were very broken-hearted, but it seemed to bring a tiny spark of
hope to my heart, to see what I had only believed by faith was goin' on
underground. It's grand to see the Lord's workin's; but mind, you little
ones, that there plant is just as much alive before it shows itself.
There is a deal goin' on in the silence and darkness that we knows
nothin' about, but it's fact all the same.'

The children could talk of nothing else all that day, and little Olive
was found by her nurse standing over Bob's graves, giving them most
careful scrutiny a short time after.

'What are you doing here?' asked nurse. 'I've been looking for you
everywhere.'

'Mr. Bob's lilies have come through the earth at last, nurse,' said
Olive, raising her blue eyes earnestly to her nurse's face; 'so I came
to see if these graves were cracking yet. They'll be like Jesus' grave
in the garden, you know, at Easter.'

Only a few weeks after this, both Olive and her brother lay prostrate in
their beds with a severe attack of measles. Their aunts had been so
long unaccustomed to children's ailments, that perhaps they may have
exaggerated the danger; still, even the family doctor looked grave and
talked about 'Indian constitutions,' 'no stamina,' etc., etc., and the
old house that had so lately rung with childish voices and laughter now
lay hushed and silent in the sweet spring sunshine.

[Illustration]

'They're too precocious,' said Miss Hunter with tearful eyes, as she
came down from the sick room one day; 'it is always the good precocious
children that die young. Roland has just said, in his little weak,
quavering voice, "Auntie, perhaps Olive and I are going to die and be
put in a grave." And when I told him that wasn't likely, and he mustn't
think of such things, he said in quite a cheerful tone, "Oh, well we
shall come up at Easter, you know. If it isn't this Easter, it will be
another one, and you'll have our graves to look after, like Mr. Bob.
Jesus will take care of us till we come up, like Mr. Bob takes care of
his lily pots." I don't half understand their talk.'

'I do,' said Miss Sibyl, with a wistful smile; 'and I believe they are
going to get well, and give us more of faith's lessons to learn and
understand.'

They did get well, though their recovery was somewhat slow; and Easter,
late as it came that year, was close at hand before they were quite
convalescent.

It was a lovely spring morning when, wrapped up in shawls, the two
little invalids were brought out of the house to take their first
airing.

Never as long as they lived would the children forget the scene before
them! The budding trees, the singing of the birds, and the sweet scents
that came to them were only part of the great surprise that awaited
them. Golden sheets of daffodil and white narcissus bordered the dark
evergreen shrubberies; edging the old lawn were clumps of violets and
primroses. Hyacinths, tulips, and other bulbs were making the flower
beds a mass of bright colour, and the lilac and laburnum trees seemed
overweighted with their bloom.

Roland could hardly find voice to express his delight, but Olive trotted
here and there, breaking out into happy peals of laughter.

'It's better than ever I thought! It's lovelier than India! It's all
true, and Easter is here at last!'

Then, after their admiration had worked itself out, they implored to be
taken down to the lodge.

'No, no,' said nurse; 'you have been out long enough You must get
stronger before you can take that walk. Be good children and come
indoors now.'

'When does Easter Sunday come?' asked Roland, as he and his sister were
enjoying their basins of beef-tea at the nursery table shortly
afterwards.

'It is only a week to-morrow,' was the reply.

Roland nodded across at his sister.

'That's the proper real Easter,' he said; 'that's when Mr. Bob's lilies
will be out.'

'How glad the flowers must be, now the winter is over!' said Olive
dreamily. 'What a long, long time they've been under the ground! If Mr.
Bob hadn't told us about them we shouldn't have known they were there,
should we? This is nicer than India, Roly!'

'Much nicer. When we get quite well we will stay out in the garden
always. We shan't want James's flowers now.'

'And we'll go and see Mr. Bob's lilies to-morrow, and we'll see his
graves too, won't we?'

'I don't think,' Roland said slowly, pausing between his spoonfuls of
beef-tea, and regarding his sister with serious eyes, 'I don't think Mr.
Bob said his graves would open for certain this Easter. They may; but
perhaps he will have to wait.'

'He said his lilies were sure to come up, and that made him sure about
his graves,' said Olive, with disappointment in her tone.

'Yes; but I think he meant his graves might take longer than his lilies.
I think he told us that, Olive.'

'Well, we'll ask him all about it to-morrow.'

But they were not allowed to go down the avenue on the next day, nor
yet the day after, and Easter Eve arrived before they had been able to
visit their old friend.



CHAPTER IV

Easter Morning


It was indeed a lovely morning for Easter Sunday; the sky was a
cloudless blue, and the birds awoke the children early by their jubilant
thanksgiving.

Nurse was in good spirits as she dressed the children. She had received
a pair of new kid gloves 'from a gentleman friend,' and 'of course,' she
said to the children, 'it would be very bad luck not to have something
new on Easter Sunday!'

'And what have we got new?' asked Olive with great interest.

Nurse showed her a little white serge frock, and put into Roland's hands
a new tie and a pair of gloves.

'Your Aunt Marion brought the frock up to the nursery last night, and
said that you were to put it on. So I looked out a fresh tie and gloves
for Master Roland, so that he might not be left out. And if it keeps
fine, you can go down to the lodge to-day.'

'But we shall go to church, shan't we?'

'Oh no, your aunt said she couldn't hear of it. But if you're good
children, I'll take you down that way this afternoon, and you can peep
in and see the pretty flowers. James says it is lovely, and he has sent
a lot of flowers himself.'

Roland and Olive went downstairs to greet their aunts in great
excitement. They were to have breakfast in the dining-room for a treat,
and when they caught sight of the glittering glass and silver, with
great bowls and vases of golden daffodils in the centre of the table,
Olive exclaimed,--

'It's going to be a lovely day, Roland, from the very beginning! I wish
our breakfast table in the nursery was like this!'

[Illustration]

'Olive looks very well in that little serge frock,' remarked Miss Amabel
presently, looking across at her little niece with approval in her eyes;
'she is getting quite a pink colour in her cheeks, and has lost that
pinched, peaky look. I really think the measles did them both good!'

'And does Roland look nice too?' asked Olive quietly, being quite
accustomed to personal remarks from her aunts, 'because he has got a new
tie on. It's a pretty blue one.'

'Does everybody wear something new on Easter Sunday?' Roland asked
quickly.

'It's an old superstition, dear; no, everybody does not.'

'Why ought we to wear new things?' demanded Olive.

'Why, Olive, of course it's because it's the proper time,' answered
Roland. 'Easter is when people get their new bodies, and the flowers are
all new.'

Olive was quite satisfied with this explanation.

Miss Sibyl, who did not seem quite as bright as usual, looked at them
with wistful eyes. After breakfast was over she took Olive into the
garden with her. The child begged to be told the 'Easter story,' and
Miss Sibyl tried to oblige her, saying as she did so, 'But you know it
much better than I do.'

When she had finished her rather halting narrative, Olive looked up and
added,--

'So everybody dried their tears and were very happy, because they knew
Jesus would never die again.'

Then after a pause she asked, 'Why didn't Jesus always stay down in the
world, Aunt Sibyl? Why did He go back to heaven so soon?'

'I think He told us He had finished His work, my dear.'

'What work?'

'Well--dying on the cross for us. He came down from heaven to do that.
When He had died for our sins, He went back to heaven.'

'But He came out of His grave first!' said the child triumphantly.

Their conversation was interrupted by Roland, who came flying out of the
house.

'Aunt Marion has changed her mind; she says we can go to church, Olive.
Come along and tell nurse!'

Olive scampered into the house, and Miss Sibyl walked along, thinking
deeply. For some weeks past she had been anxious and ill at ease. She
realized how fruitless and empty her life had been, but could not see
how to remedy it. Her own words to Olive came back to her,--

'He had finished His work. When He had died for our sins He went back to
heaven.'

'Has He indeed died for mine?' she murmured. 'Can I trust Him like
these innocent little ones to "wash me and make me whiter than snow"?
Oh, I wish I could, I wish I could!'

She was very silent on the way to church; not even the glee of the
children could distract her thoughts.

Roland and Olive thoroughly enjoyed themselves; the sweet spring flowers
in the church, the joyous Easter hymns, and the familiar story read once
again by the rector, satisfied their little souls. They sat with radiant
faces in the family pew, and when they caught sight of Bob singing away
with tearful eyes and a happy smile in the village choir, they nodded
across at him with great satisfaction.

Miss Sibyl came into church with a burden upon her soul; but when the
Easter anthem fell upon her ear, she listened with more interest than
she had ever felt in it before. 'Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to
be dead indeed unto sin: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our
Lord.' What did it mean? And then with a burst of triumph the words came
to her: 'For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made
alive.'

[Illustration]

Like a flash of light Miss Sibyl saw it all, and then and there her poor
dead soul reached hold of its Saviour, and life--that 'life more
abundant,'--flooded the empty corners of her anxious heart.

The service over, the children begged their aunt's permission to speak
to Bob.

Seizing hold of his hands, they led him to his graves.

'Let's come and see them, Mr. Bob, first, and then we'll see your
lilies. Do tell us. Have they come out? We have been ill such a long
time, and they wouldn't let us come and see you before. Isn't it a
lovely day? And hasn't it all come true about the flowers? We never
thought England could have such pretty ones. Oh, I hope the winter will
never come again!'

'Eh, my dears, how you run on! Old Bob has missed you sure enough, and
as for his lilies, well, you shall see them, for 'tis my custom to do
the same every year.'

He paused as they came in sight of those grassy mounds, and the children
pressed forward with eagerness. There on each mound stood one of the
'ugly flower pots,' but the pot itself was sunk in a bed of moss, and a
lovely pure white lily raised its glorious head in the sunshine. Five
lilies stood on the five graves, and old Bob, gazing at them through a
mist of tears, said in a solemn tone, '"And white robes were given unto
every one of them, and it was said unto them that they should rest yet
for a little season." Life out of death, my dears. That is the lesson of
those lilies. The good Lord has never failed to teach me from them every
Easter.'

The children stood awed and silent, then Roland said timidly,--

'But this Easter hasn't brought the dead people to life, only the
flowers.'

'It has brought a dead soul to life, which is even better.'

The old man and the children turned at the murmured voice; but Miss
Sibyl passed them quickly by, and tears were dropping as she went.



Finis.

[Illustration]


Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.





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