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into the ovule, and so the ovule is fertilized. The work of the flower is now accomplished; the bright petals fade and drop off, and leave only the seeds in their capsule ; and these they grow and ripen, until at last the capsule bursts, and they are scattered on the kindly earth, to grow into new crocuses next spring.
The snowdrop must not be forgotten in a winter paper. One of the first flowers to bloom, it often pierces its way through the very snow, and expands its tender blossom in spite of the frost.
• As Nature's breath, by some transforming power,
And winter lingers in its icy veins.' Examination will show that, like the crocus, it has a parallel-veined leaf, and is arranged in threes. Its six white petals, three of them smaller than the rest, indented at the edge, and curiously blotched with green, inclose the same organs as we found in the crocus, but differently arranged. The receptacle for the ovules (the ovary) is divided into three cells, as you may see by cutting it across; but the pollen-bags, or anthers, instead of growing on the side of the flower, are fixed on the top of the ovary; and there are six of them, instead of three. The graceful drooping head of the snowdrop should be observed ; and perhaps it would puzzle some of my readers to guess why it should hang down, and not hold itself up, like the bold little daisy, for instance. The fact is, it is by way of protection from the ants. The bees are the plant's best friends; the ants are usually its worst enemies. Consequently whilst the plant endeavours by brilliant colouring and delicate fragrance and sweet stores of nectar to attract the bees to visit it, on the other hand, it uses every possible device to keep the ants out. The reason is not far to seek. The object of the plant is to get its ovules fertilized; and usually this can only be effectively done by bees and similar insects. Ants are too small and smooth to be of any use in fertilizing a plant themselves; and when they once get into a flower, they take good care that nobody joins them to share in the nectar; and as soon as any unlucky bee puts his nose in, he gets such a bite from the first occupier, as sends him off with an inward resolve never to visit that flower again. So when an ant gets into a flower (and they are always trying to do so, for they are very fond of nectar), that flower has very little chance indeed of getting fertilized, and so reproducing its kind. The various devices . employed by the plants to keep the ants out would be almost incredible, if they were not well ascertained. Somo, like the common teagle, surround themselves with a sort of moat, full of fluid, which the ants can't swim across; others cover their stems with sticky
secretions, in which the ants are entangled; others surround themselves with stiff hairs pointing downwards, so that the ants can't crawl up their stalks; others, like some kinds of lettuce, have very tender skins, which are pierced by the sharp claws of the ants; from . these punctures a milky, sticky juice pours out, and fixes the intruder on the spot. The snowdrop protects itself in a simpler, but equally effectual way. Its petals are very smooth and slippery, and their tips are curved back, so that the ants can't climb round them into the flower, but tumble off ; and as the head of the plant hangs down, they tumble, not into the flower, but on to the ground.
Then there is the daisy, which flowers all the year 'round, from January to December, and so gets its botanical name of Bollis perennis, the All-the-year-round Beauty.' A little patient search will be sure to be rewarded, even in this month of snow, by a sight of its yellow disk and delicate white or crimson-tipped ray. Begin as before with the leaf. You cannot fail to be struck with the difference between this and the crocus, or snowdrop leaf. Instead of being parallel to one another, the veins are netted in a very complicated way; and though at first sight this may seem a very small matter, it is really one of the most marked and constant distinctions between the two great classes of flowering plants, the Exogens and Endogens. Whenever you
find a plant with a leaf like that of the crocus or snowdrop, you may be pretty sure that the parts of its flower will be arranged in threes; that the first shoot that it sends up from the seed will be a single leaf; and that if it is a woody tree, the wood will be arranged as it is in a cane or bamboo. But if the veins are netted, the parts of the flower will be in twos or fives, or multiples of
the first shoot from the seed will be two leaves ; and if it has wood, the wood will be arranged as in the oak, with a pith surrounded by rings and enclosed in a bark. Turning to the flower, it seems at first to be utterly different from those we have already examined ; you fail to see any ovary or anthers, and cannot find the ovules which are to be the seed of next year. But look a little closer; pull away just one of the little yellow tubes that form the eye or disk of the daisy ; look at it if possible through a magnifying-glass, and you will see that it itself a complete flower. There is first the yellow tube or corol a uivided at the edge into four or five points; within this, small as it is, are packed the anthers with their pollen grains, four or five in number; and an ovary of one cell terminating in a slender two-branched stalk tipped with cone-shaped stigmata. And, moreover, each of the white petals of the ray is a separate flower ; and if you pull one off and examine it carefully, you will see the style (that is, the slender stalk which springs from the ovary); and
following it downwards, you will reach the ovary, where the solitary
So, you see, we must no longer call the daisy a flower ; it is a collection of flowers, each one complete in itself. It belongs to one of the commonest orders of plants, the Composite ; and a little reflection will soon bring to your mind that many of our most familiar wild flowers are members of the same class; such as the dandelion, the coltsfoot, the common groundsel, all the thistles, camomile, and very many more ; each of which will supply something new for the lover of nature to study and think about.
LIGHT AND LIFE.
A CHRISTMAS PARABLE.
The evening of a dark December day was settling down over the To
busy, grimy town of Blackfolds. Across the streets, where the soiled snow was trampled into brown mud, the shop windows began to stream forth light and show their glittering Christmas wares; and through the loitering groups gathered about them, a nimble little figure threaded its way—the figure of a girl of twelve, whose bright hair, escaping from a scarlet hood, made a glittering frame for a thincheeked face of elfish beauty, and whose slender, poorly-clad shape was almost hidden behind a great branch of holly, a miniature tree rich in red berries and glossy leaves, which she carried very carefully in both hands. She seemed a pathetic little vision of Christmas joy and early care as she passed unnoticed through the busy throngs, and vanished from the well-lit thoroughfares into a tangle of dark byways, whence she soon emerged into a broad, quiet road, bordered by small villas, and shadowed by the trees in their gardens. The child turned into one of these dwellings, the only one which showed no gleam of light from any window. Its entry was full of gloom, but she made her way easily to a small back room, whose door she flung open and entered, crying : 'Look here, mamma; you said we could not afford
Christmas green ; look what Mr. Flowers has given me !' and a lady, sitting by the dim fire, turned her head to look at the joyful child and at the great trophy of holly which she upheld.
"Get a light, mamma,' said the little one eagerly; do get a light; you can't half see how beautiful it is, and my hands are full;' and with a little laugh the lady obeyed, lighting a gas bracket by the mantle
piece. •Mr. Flowers saw me looking at the holly,' said the child; "it was in his shop; and he said, “You'd like to have that branch, little miss, I'll warrant ?” and he gave it me! isn't it splendid ? But I won't put them up now,' said Vivia. 'I shall keep the holly fresh till Christmas-Eve. I'll hide it somewhere out of the boys' way, for they might break it up;' and Vivia passed out of the room with her burden, only just in time to escape running against her loudvoiced, merry brothers, who hurried in from school. Theirs was
a sadly common story—few of us but know one like it; and Helen Barry, the sorely-tried house-mother, knew well that her lot was not an exceptional one. There had been the happy dawn of her wedded life, when her husband was a gay, enterprising young man of business, very fond and proud of her; still fonder, still prouder, of their beautiful children, for whom no English names were good enough; and so our little holly-bearer had the proud Roman title of Vivia Perpetua; and her brothers, from tall Augustus to baby Claudius, had the names, though not the fortunes, of Roman emperors. But the gay dawn of promise had soon darkened into a stormy noon for Mrs. Barry, and she looked forward with daily fear to a hopeless night. James Barry had repeated mysterious illnesses ; his enterprises failed one after another ; his gay spirits vanished ; and now the remains of his fortunes were all embarked in a mining undertaking which his wife did not shrink from saying would shipwreck them utterly; but her words had no weight with her husband now. She kept her griefs sternly to herself; but their secret, she knew, was open to the world. So it was that the sweet influences of the Christmas season could hardly touch her; and in secret she hoped that Vivia's holly might wither before it was wanted, and not mock her with the symbols of a joy she did not share.
But Christmas-Eve came to little Vivia with more than its wonted charm. She had hidden her holly in a deep closet opening from her little bed-room ; she had kept the stem plunged in water, and the glossy green leaves and scarlet berries looked fresh as ever.
On the morning of the eventful day Vivia waited impatiently till all other members of the household were scattered to their own pursuits, and the family sitting-room offered her a clear field of action; then she hurried to her hiding-place and drew out her great bough. A few leaves fell off as she moved, but they were not faded; she carried them also downstairs, and prepared to cut off the sprays she wanted. Another crisp shower of leaves fell as she laid the holly on the table, and more still as she plied her knife; till, when the work of division was complete, the table was strewn with green, hardly one leaf clinging to the despoiled stems. Vivia looked at them for a moment in great perplexity, and then sank down on the floor and cried. Fortunately a visitor who had been vainly knocking at the door now ventured in, and finding the little maid thus plunged in desolation, tried her hand at comfort. It was Mrs. Gray, the wife of the Minister who dwelt in the nearest little villa. Childless herself, Mary Gray had taken the keenest interest in the abundant child-life of her neighbour's house; and Helen had welcomed her timid advances with a cordiality that surprised her.
Vivia knew Mrs. Gray well, and was very willing to pour out her sorrows to her, and Mary soothed her, in practical fashion, by sending her for a stout needle and thread, and instructing her how to weave her fallen leaves into flat wreaths, with the berries intermixed. Vivia