have got it all safe by this
time. I saw to that. The whole of it isn't bigger than a silver quarter, if I
haven't forgotten the size of one."
And his rattling laugh sounded
like thin ice crackling under the skater's heel.
The purple Heliotrope, leaning on
the arm of her faithful Geranium, had a little story, not a new one, to tell.
There have been such tales ever since young people found that flowers could tell
of gentle hopes easier than lips. The fair Queen smiled, and the goblin shape
hissed out a sneer.
The Geraniums fluttered their
fans, and spoke much of the delights of gay society, and the select circles in
which they moved. In turn they were chilled with the icy hauteur of the snowy
Camelia, who, scarcely bending her head, and vouchsafing not a word, swept past
the fragrant but parvenue throng.
There were pure white flowers in
crowds, and side by side with them I saw a Blue Violet from the garden of a
crippled child. There was a Scarlet Bean, grown in a window-box, from a poor
tenement house, in New York, side by side with the night-blooming Cereus from
the great hot-house. The Mistletoe, in the guise of a white-haired gentleman of
the old school, violently ogled the blushing Holly, who appeared in a rich green
satin, tastefully ornamented with coral, while Miss did not in the least resent
the liberty, but was evidently pleased with her ancient friend. The demure
Lavender, in the character of a pretty German chamber-maid, was covertly
carrying on a flirtation with a tall and slender Sweet Clover, who was trying to
assist her in her passage through the crowd. The Sweet-Pea, looking for all the
world like one's own pretty country cousin, clung for support to the Purple
Lilac, who, in the similitude of a rustic schoolmaster, took the best care of
her that he could. This pair, being in turn severely snubbed by his cousin, the
White Lilac, who, having lately been presented at the court of Eugenie, gave
herself immense airs in consequence. The Crimson Peony, who was accompanied by
her consumptive sister, was severely injured by the rudeness of a Prickly Pear,
who had nearly destroyed her best red satin gown on his spurs.
"The less I see of men the better
I like them," was his uncourteous address to the Queen. "Let us alone and we do
no harm; but woe to him who tramples on my rights!" And he swung his yellow cap
defiantly, and actually put it on his head.
It being evident that he had
partaken too freely of the private bottle of aguardiente which it was known he
was in the habit of carrying, the Grand Chamberlain signed to two stout Scotch
Thistles, who guarded the throne with fixed bayonets, to remove him. He
struggled violently, but the stout Highlanders carried him to a distance and
gave him a severe ducking, which, being at variance with his usual habits,
effectually cooled his impudence.
"There was small chance for an
argument then —bayonets against spurs," I remarked to the shape.
"They had no right to meddle,"
growled the Dark One. "He had as good right to his spurs as they to bayonets.
Let him alone, and there would have been no row."
I could but dimly discern his
figure in the pale light, but I fancied I could see—no matter what kind of feet.
He wore no boots, and had the C. S. A. buttons.
Now each fair plant and tender
blossom had spoken a few words, and the Emerald crown had glittered and paled as
each testimony was of greater or less valuable service; yet it still remained
immovably fixed upon its velvet cushion.
Then the Herald sounded again on
his fragrant bugle:
"Oyez! oyez! oyez! Inasmuch as
the crown hath not been awarded to the Flowers, now let all the green tribes who
feed mankind, or comfort his heart with drink or drug, come forth, and declare
what deed of signal service they have done! Let them now speak! Oyez! oyez!
And now, to be sure, arose a
tumult, as the motley crowd began to jostle toward the throne.
Here a portly dame, in flaming
yellow gown and green gaiters, tried hard to push herself ahead of another,
evidently of her own family, though of a more elegant shape.
"Don't give yourself airs, Miss
Squashblossom," she panted; "you're no better'n what I be, if you ain't quite so
"Off my toes, you lumbering
porpoise!" roared out a sturdy Potato. "It's enough to bring the tears to my
eyes to tramp on a fellow's corns at that rate!"
"I shall certainly cry in two
minutes!" moaned the poor Onion, who was getting the worst of it, as the crowd
pushed her on one side.
"I shall certainly exhale in this
vulgar jam!" sighed the Tobacco.
"Now do set yourself up, Cousin
Tobacco!" growled a Tomato vine. "I wonder which of us smells the worst, or is
hardest to learn to like at first, you or I—hey!"
"Ah me!" sighed the Poppy, to her
gallant cousin, Cannabis Indicus, "would I were at home in my own bed! Late
hours were always too much for me!"
"'There will be merry work ere
long," whispered the Hasheesh, leaning across to a Shamrock, who covertly
fingered his shillalah a little on one side.
"Ay, wait a bit!" was the
exulting answer; but the big Thistle, knowing their characters, quietly tipped
them a warning wink, and they relapsed into quiet.
"Will you just see the airs
Cauliflower is taking on," whispered the Cabbage, as he bowled along with the
Turnip on his arm, while the Cauliflower scornfully cut her ancient relative.
With much difficulty the Usher
and the Royal Guards succeeded in arranging the order of presentation.
The Potato plead hard for the
reward. She claimed she had fed more people, and "betther ones," too, than any
other vegetable on the ground, and she glanced appealingly toward the Shamrock,
who quickly responded, "Thrue for ye, darlint!"