High upon a cliff that overlooked the sea was a little white
in which dwelt a sailor and his wife, with their two strong sons
little girl. The sons were also sailors, and had made several
with their father in a pretty ship called the "Skylark."
were Hobart and Robart. The little girl's name was Mary, and she
very happy indeed when her father and her brothers were at home,
they petted her and played games with her and loved her very dearly
But when the "Skylark" went to sea, and her mother and
left alone in the little white cottage, the hours were very dull
tedious, and Mary counted the days until the sailors came home
One spring, just as the grasses began to grow green upon the
the trees were dressing their stiff, barren branches in robes
delicate foliage, the father and brothers bade good-bye to Mary
her mother, for they were starting upon a voyage to the Black
"And how long will you be gone, papa?" asked Mary,
who was perched
upon her father's knee, where she could nestle her soft cheek
his bushy whiskers.
"How long?" he repeated, stroking her curls tenderly
as he spoke;
"well, well, my darling, it will be a long time indeed! Do
the cowslips that grow in the pastures, Mary?"
"Oh, yes; I watch for them every spring," she answered.
"And do you know the dingle-bells that grow near the edge
wood?" he asked again.
"I know them well, papa," replied Mary, "for often
I gather their blue
blossoms and put them in a vase upon the table."
"And how about the cockle-shells?"
"Them also I know," said Mary eagerly, for she was
glad her father
should find her so well acquainted with the field flowers; "there
nothing prettier than the big white flowers of the cockle-shells.
tell me, papa, what have the flowers to do with your coming home?"
"Why, just this, sweetheart," returned the sailor gravely;
time that it takes the cowslips and dingle-bells and cockle-shells
sprout from the ground, and grow big and strong, and blossom into
flower, and, yes--to wither and die away again--all that time
your brothers and I sail the seas. But when the cold winds begin
blow, and the flowers are gone, then, God willing, we shall come
to you; and by that time you may have grown wiser and bigger,
and I am
sure you will have grown older. So one more kiss, sweetheart,
we must go, for our time is up."
The next morning, when Mary and her mother had dried their eyes,
had been wet with grief at the departure of their loved ones,
little girl asked earnestly,
"Mamma, may I make a flower-garden?"
"A flower-garden!" repeated her mother in surprise;
"why do you wish a
"I want to plant in it the cockle-shells and the cowslips
dingle-bells," she answered.
And her mother, who had heard what the sailor had said to his
girl, knew at once what Mary meant; so she kissed her daughter
"Yes, Mary, you may have the flower-garden, if you wish.
We will dig
a nice little bed just at the side of the house, and you shall
your flowers and care for them yourself."
"I think I 'd rather have the flowers at the front of the
"But why?" enquired her mother; "they will be
better sheltered at the
"I want them in front," persisted Mary, "for the
sun shines stronger
"Very well," answered her mother, "make your garden
at the front, if
you will, and I will help you to dig up the ground."
"But I do n't want you to help," said Mary, "for
this is to be my own
little flower-garden, and I want to do all the work myself."
Now I must tell you that this little girl, although very sweet
ways, had one serious fault. She was inclined to be a bit contrary,
and put her own opinions and ideas before those of her elders.
Mary meant no wrong in this; she often thought knew better how
to do a
thing than others did; and in such a case she was not only contrary,
but anxious to have her own way.
And so her mother, who did not like her little daughter to be
often gave way to her in small things, and now she permitted Mary
make her own garden, and plant it as she would.
So Mary made a long, narrow bed at the front of the house, and
she prepared to plant her flowers.
"If you scatter the seeds," said her mother, "the
flower-bed will look
Now this was what Mary was about to do; but since her mother
it, she tried to think of another way, for, as I said, she was
contrary at times. And in the end she planted the dingle-bells
one straight row, and the cockle-shells in another straight row
length of the bed, and she finished by planting the cowslips in
another long row at the back.
Her mother smiled, but said nothing; and now, as the days passed
Mary watered and tended her garden with great care; and when the
flowers began to sprout she plucked all the weeds that grew among
them, and so in the mild spring weather the plants grew finely.
"When they have grown up big and strong," said Mary
one morning, as
she weeded the bed, "and when they have budded and blossomed
away again, then papa and my brothers will come home. And I shall
the cockle-shells papa, for they are the biggest and strongest;
the dingle-bells shall be brother Hobart, and the cowslips brother
Robart. And now I feel as if the flowers were really my dear ones,
I must be very careful that they come to no harm!"
She was filled with joy when one morning she ran out to her
flower-garden after breakfast and found the dingle-bells and cowslips
were actually blossoming, while even the cockle-shells were showing
their white buds. They looked rather comical, all standing in
straight rows, one after the other; but Mary did not mind that.
While she was working she heard the tramp of a horse's hoofs,
looking up saw the big bluff Squire riding toward her. The big
was very fond of children, and whenever he rode near the little
cottage he stopped to have a word with Mary. He was old and
bald-headed, and he had side-whiskers that were very red in color
very short and stubby; but there was ever a merry twinkle in his
eyes, and Mary well knew him for her friend.
Now, when she looked up and saw him coming toward her flower-garden,
she nodded and smiled to him, and the big bluff Squire rode up
side, and looked down with a smile at her flowers.
Then he said to her in rhyme (for it was a way of speaking the
"Mistress Mary, so contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips all in a row!"
And Mary, being a sharp little girl, and knowing the Squire's
ways, replied to him likewise in rhyme, saying,
"I thank you, Squire, that you enquire
How well the flowers are growing;
The dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips all are blowing!"
The Squire laughed at this reply, and patted her upon her head,
then he continued,
"'T is aptly said. But prithee, maid,
Why thus your garden fill
When ev'ry field the same flowers yield
To pluck them as you will?"
"That is a long story, Squire," said Mary; "but
this much I may tell you,
"The cockle-shell is father's flower,
The cowslip here is Robart,
The dingle-bell, I now must tell,
I 've named for Brother Hobart
"And when the flowers have lived their lives
In sunshine and in rain,
And then do fade, why, papa said
He 'd sure come home again."
"Oh, that 's the idea, is it?" asked the big bluff
his poetry. "Well, it 's a pretty thought, my child, and
because the flowers are strong and hearty that you may know your
father and brothers are the same; and I 'm sure I hope they 'll
back from their voyage safe and sound. I shall come and see you
little one, and watch the garden grow." And then he said
his gray mare, and rode away.
The very next day, to Mary's great surprise and grief; she found
leaves of the dingle-bells curling and beginning to wither.
"Oh, mamma," she called, "come quick! Something
is surely the matter
with brother Hobart!"
"The dingle-bells are dying," said her mother, after
at the flowers; "but the reason is that the cold winds from
swept right over your garden last night, and dingle-bells are
flowers and grow best where they are sheltered by the woods. If
had planted them at the side of the house, as I wished you to,
wind would not have killed them."
Mary did not reply to this, but sat down and began to weep, feeling
the same time that her mother was right and it was her own fault
being so contrary.
While she sat thus the Squire rode up, and called to her
"Fie, Mary, fie! Why do you cry;
And blind your eyes to knowing
How dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips all are growing?"
"Oh, Squire!" sobbed Mary, "I am in great trouble
"Each dingle-bell I loved so well
Before my eyes is dying,
And much I fear my brother dear
In sickness now is lying!"
"Nonsense!" said the Squire; "because you named
the flowers after your
brother Hobart is no reason he should be affected by the fading
dingle-bells. I very much suspect the real reason they are dying
because the cold sea wind caught them last night. Dingle-bells
delicate. If you had scattered the cockle-shells and cowslips
about them, the stronger plants would have protected the weaker;
you see, my girl, you planted the dingle-bells all in a row, and
the wind caught them nicely."
Again Mary reproached herself for having been contrary and refusing
listen to her mother's advice; but the Squire's words comforted
nevertheless, and made her feel that brother Hobart and the flowers
had really nothing to do with each other.
The weather now began to change, and the cold sea winds blew
night over Mary's garden. She did not know this, for she was always
lying snugly tucked up in her bed, and the warm morning sun usually
drove away the winds; but her mother knew it, and feared Mary's
One day Mary came into the house where her mother was at work
"Papa and my brothers will soon be home now."
"Why do you think so?" asked her mother.
"Because the cockle-shells and cowslips are both fading
dying, just as the dingle-bells did, and papa said when they faded
withered he and the boys would come back to us."
Mary's mother knew that the harsh winds had killed the flowers
their time, but she did not like to disappoint her darling, so
only said, with a sigh,
"I hope you are right, Mary, for we both shall be glad to
dear ones home again."
But soon afterward the big bluff Squire came riding up, as was
wont, to where Mary stood by her garden, and he at once asked,
"Pray tell me, dear, though much I fear
The answer sad I know,
How grow the sturdy cockle-shells
And cowslips, all in a row?"
And Mary looked up at him with her bright smile and answered,
"Dingle-bells and cockle-shells
And cowslips are all dead,
And now my papa's coming home,
For so he surely said."
"Ah," said the Squire, looking at her curiously, "I
'm afraid you are
getting way ahead of time. See here, Mary, how would you like
ride with me on my nag?"
"I would like it very much, sir," replied Mary.
"Then reach up your hand. Now!--there you are, little one!"
found herself seated safely in front of the Squire, who clasped
with one strong arm so that she could not slip off.
"Now, then," he said "we 'll take a little ride
down the hill and by
the path that runs beside the wood."
So he gave the rein to his mare and they rode along, chatting
together, till they came to the wood. Then said the Squire,
"Take a look within that nook
And tell me what is there."
And Mary exclaimed,
"A dingle-bell, and truth to tell
In full bloom, I declare!"
The Squire now clucked to his nag, and as they rode away he said,
"Now come with me and you shall see
A field with cowslips bright
And not a garden in the land
Can show so fair a sight."
And so it was, for as they rode through the pastures the cowslips
bloomed on every hand, and Mary's eyes grew bigger and bigger
thought of her poor garden with its dead flowers.
And then the Squire took her toward the little brook that wandered
through the meadows, flowing over the pebbles with a soft, gurgling
sound that was very nearly as sweet as music; and when they reached
the big Squire said,
"If you will look beside the brook
You 'll see, I know quite well,
That hidden in each mossy nook
Is many a cockle-shell."
This was indeed true, and as Mary saw them she suddenly dropped
head and began to weep.
"What 's the matter, little one?" asked the Squire
in his kind, bluff
voice. And Mary answered,
"Although the flowers I much admire,
You know papa did say
He won't be home again, Squire,
Till all have passed away."
"You must be patient, my child," replied her friend;
"and surely you
would not have been thus disappointed had you not tried to make
field flowers grow where they do not belong. Gardens are all well
enough for fancy flowers to grow in, but the posies that God gave
all the world, and made to grow wild in the great garden of Nature,
will never thrive in other places. Your father meant you to watch
flowers in the field; and if you will come and visit them each
you will find the time waiting very short indeed."
Mary dried her eyes and thanked the kindly old Squire, and after
she visited the fields each day and watched the flowers grow.
And it was not so very long, as the Squire said before the blossoms
began to wither and fall away; and finally one day Mary looked
over the sea and saw a little speck upon the waters that looked
sail. And when it came nearer and had grown larger, both she and
mother saw that it was the "Skylark" come home again,
and you can
imagine how pleased and happy the sight of the pretty little ship
And soon after, when Mary had been hugged by her two sunburned
brothers and was clasped in her father's strong arms, she whispered,
"I knew you were coming soon, papa."
"And how did you know, sweetheart?" he asked, giving
her an extra
"Because I watched the flowers; and the dingle-bells and
cockle-shells are all withered and faded away. And did you not
that, God willing, when this happened you would come back to us?"
"To be sure I did," answered her father, with a happy
laugh; "and I
must have spoken truly, sweetheart, for God in His goodness was
willing, and here I am!"