“My poor flowers are quite dead,” said little Ida. “They were so pretty last evening, but now every leaf has withered and drooped. Why do they do that?”she asked the student who sat on the sofa.
She was very fond of him because he told such good stories and could cut such amusing figures out of paper-hearts with dancing ladies inside them, flowers of all sorts, and castles with doors that you could open and close. He was a rollicking fellow.
“Why do my flowers look so ill today?” she asked him again, and showed him her withered bouquet.
“Don’t you know what’s the matter with them?” the student said. “They were at the ball last night, that’s why they can scarcely hold up their heads.”
“Flowers can’t dance,” said little Ida.
“Oh, indeed they can,” said the student. “As soon as it gets dark and we go to sleep, they frolic about in a fine fashion. Almost every night they give a ball.”
“Can’t children go to the ball?”
“Little daisies can go. So can lilies of the valley.”
“Where do the prettiest flowers dance?” Ida asked.
“Haven’t you often visited the beautiful flower garden just outside of town, around the castle where the King lives in the summertime? You remember-the place where swans swim close when you offer them bread crumbs. Believe me! that’s where the prettiest flowers dance.”
“Yesterday I was there with my mother,” said Ida, “but there wasn’t a leaf on the trees, or a flower left. Where are they? Last summer I saw ever so many.”
“They are inside the castle, of course,” said the student.”Confidentially, just as soon as the King comes back to town with all of his court, the flowers run from the garden into the castle and enjoy themselves. You should see them. The two
loveliest roses climb up on the throne, where they are the king and the queen. All the red coxcombs line up on either side, to stand and bow like grooms of the bedchamber. Then all the best dressed flowers come, and the grand ball starts. The blue violets are the naval cadets. Their partners, whom they call ‘Miss,’ are hyacinths and crocuses. The tulips and tiger lilies are the old chaperon es, who see to it that the dancing is done well and that everyone behaves properly.”
“But”, said little Ida, “doesn’t anybody punish the flowers for dancing in the King’s own castle?”
“Nobody knows a thing about it,” said the student. “To be sure, there’s the old castle keeper, who is there to watch over things. Sometimes he comes in the night with his enormous bunch of keys. But as soon as the flowers hear the keys jangle they keep quiet, and hide, with only their heads peeking out from behind the curtains. Then the old castle keeper says, ‘I smell flowers in here.’ But he can’t see any.”
“What fun!” little Ida clapped her hands. “But couldn’t I see the flowers either?”
“Oh easily,” said the student.”The very next time you go there, remember to peep in the windows. There you will see them, as I did today. A tall yellow lily lay stretched on the sofa, pretending to be a lady-in-waiting.”
Can the flowers who live in the botanical gardens visit the castle? Can they go that far?”
“Why certainly. They can fly all the way if it suits them. Haven’t you seen lovely butterflies-white, yellow, and red ones? They almost look like flowers, and that’s really what they used to be. They are flowers, who have jumped up off their stems, high into the air. They beat the air with their petals, as though these were little wings, and so they manage to fly. If they behave themselves nicely, they get permission to fly all day long, instead of having to go home and sit on their stems.