| Parables from Nature|
|by Margaret S. Gatty|
|Parables for children inspired by nature. This collection includes all 29 stories from the first, second, third, and fourth series, originally published in separate volumes. Ages 6-12 |
TRAINING AND RESTRAINING
"Train up a child in the way he should go."—PROVERBS. xxii. 6.
 "WHAT a fuss is made about you, my dear little friends!" murmured
the Wind, one day, to the flowers in a pretty villa garden.
"I am really quite surprised at your submitting so patiently
and meekly to all the troublesome things that are done to
you! I have been watching your friend the Gardener for some
time to-day; and now that he is gone at last, I am quite
curious to hear what you think and feel about your unnatural
"Is it unnatural?" inquired a beautiful Convolvulus Major,
from the top of a tapering fir-pole, up which she had crept,
and from which her velvet flowers hung suspended like purple
"I smile at your question," was the answer of the Wind. "You
surely cannot suppose that in a natural state you would be
forced to climb regularly up one tall bare stick such as I
see you upon now. Oh dear, no! Your cousin, the wild
Convolvulus, whom I left in the fields this morning, does no
such thing, I assure you. She runs along and climbs about,
just as the whim takes her. Sometimes she takes a turn upon
the ground; sometimes she enters a hedge, and
 plays at
bo-peep with the birds in the thorn and nut-trees—twisting
here, curling there, and at last, perhaps coming out at the
top, and overhanging the hedge with a canopy of green leaves
and pretty white flowers. A very different sort of life from
yours, with a Gardener always after you, trimming you in one
place, fastening up a stray tendril in another, and
fidgeting you all along—a sort of perpetual 'mustn't go
here'—'mustn't go there.' Poor thing! I quite feel for you!
Still I must say you make me smile; for you look so proud
and self-conscious of beauty all the time, that one would
think you did not know in what a ridiculous and dependent
position you are placed."
Now the Convolvulus was quite abashed by the words of the
Wind, for she was conscious of feeling very conceited that
morning, in consequence of having heard the Gardener say
something very flattering about her beauty; so she hung down
her rich bellflowers rather lower than usual, and made no
But the Carnation put in her word: "What you say about the
Convolvulus may be true enough, but it cannot apply to me. I
am not aware that I have any poor relations in this country,
and I myself certainly require all the care that is bestowed
upon me. This climate is both too cold and too damp for me.
My young plants require heat, or they would not live; and
the pots we are kept in protect us from those cruel
wire-worms who delight to destroy our roots."
"Oh!" cried the Wind, "our friend the Carnation is quite
profound and learned in her remarks, and I admit the justice
of all she says about damp and cold, and wire-worms;
but,"—and here the Wind gave a low-toned whistle as he took
a turn round the
 flower-bed—"but what I maintain, my dear,
is that when you are once strong enough and old enough to be
placed in the soil, those gardeners ought to let you grow
and flourish as Nature prompts, and as you would do were you
left alone. But no! forsooth, they must always be clipping,
and trimming, and twisting up every leaf that strays aside
out of the trim pattern they have chosen for you to grow in.
Why not allow your silver tufts to luxuriate in a natural
manner? Why must every single flower be tied up by its
delicate neck to a stick, the moment it begins to open?
Really, with your natural grace and beauty, I think you
might be trusted to yourself a little more!"
And the Carnation began to think so too; and her colour
turned deeper as a feeling of indignation arose within her
at the childish treatment to which she had been subjected.
"With my natural grace and beauty," repeated she to herself,
"they might certainly trust me to myself a little more!"
Still the Rose-tree stood out that there must be some great
advantages in a Gardener's care; for she could not pretend
to be ignorant of her own superiority to all her wild
relations in the woods. What a difference in size, in
colour, and in fragrance!
Then the Wind assured the Rose he never meant to dispute the
advantage of her living in a rich-soiled garden; only there
was a natural way of growing, even in a garden; and he
thought it a great shame for the gardeners to force the
Rose-tree into an unnatural way, curtailing all the energies
of her nature. What could be more outrageous, for example,
than to see one rose growing in the shape of a bush on the
top of the stem of another?
"Think of all the pruning
necessary," cried he,
 "to keep the poor thing in the round
shape so much admired. And what is the matter with the
beautiful straggling branches, that they are to be cut off
as fast as they appear? Why not allow the healthy Rose-tree
its free and glorious growth? Why thwart its graceful
droopings or its high aspirings? Can it be too large or too
luxuriant? Can its flowers be too numerous? Oh, Rose-tree,
you know your own surpassing merits too well to make you
think this possible!"
And so she did, and a new light seemed to dawn upon her as
she recollected the spring and autumnal prunings she
regularly underwent, and the quantities of little branches
that were yearly cut from her sides, and carried away in a
wheel-barrow. "It is a cruel and a monstrous system, I
fear," said she.
Then the Wind took another frolic round the garden, and made
up to the large white Lily, into whose refined ear he
whispered a doubt as to the necessity or advantage of her
thick powerful stem being propped up against a stupid, ugly
stick! He really grieved to see it! Did that lovely creature
suppose that Nature, who had done so much for her that the
fame of her beauty extended throughout the world, had yet
left her so weak and feeble that she could not support
herself in the position most calculated to give her ease and
"Always this tying up and restraint!" pursued the
Wind, with an angry puff. "Perhaps I am prejudiced; but as
to be deprived of freedom would be to me absolute death, so
my soul revolts from every shape and phase of slavery!"
"Not more than mine does!" cried the proud white Lily,
leaning as heavily as she could against the strip of matting
that tied her to her stick. But
 it was of no use—she could
not get free; and the Wind only shook his sides and laughed
spitefully as he left her, and then rambled away to talk the
same shallow philosophy to the Honeysuckle that was trained
up against a wall.
Indeed, not a flower escaped his
mischievous suggestions. He murmured among them all—laughed
the trim-cut Box-edges to scorn—maliciously hoped the
Sweet-peas enjoyed growing in a circle, and running up a
quantity of crooked sticks—and told the flowers, generally,
that he should report their unheard-of submission and meek
obedience wherever he went.
Then the white Lily called out to him in great wrath, and
told him he mistook their characters altogether. They only
submitted to these degrading restraints because they could
not help themselves; but if he would lend them his powerful
aid, they might free themselves from at least a part of the
unnatural bonds which enthralled them.
To which the wicked Wind, seeing that his temptations had
succeeded, replied, in great glee, that he would do his
best; and so he went away, chuckling at the discontent he
All that night the pretty silly flowers bewailed their
slavish condition, and longed for release and freedom; and at
last they began to be afraid that the Wind had only been
jesting with them, and that he would never come to help
them, as he had promised. However, they were mistaken; for,
at the edge of the dawn, there began to be a sighing and a
moaning in the distant woods, and by the time the sun was
up, the clouds were driving fast along the sky, and the
trees were bending about in all directions; for the Wind had
returned—only now he had come in his
 roughest and wildest
mood—knocking over everything before him.
"Now is your
time, pretty flowers!" shouted he, as he approached the
garden; and "Now is our time!" echoed the flowers
tremulously, as, with a sort of fearful pleasure, they
awaited his approach.
He managed the affair very cleverly, it must be confessed.
Making a sort of eddying circuit round the garden, he
knocked over the Convolvulus-pole, tore the strips of bast
from the stick that held up the white Lily, loosed all the
Carnation flowers from their fastenings, broke the Rose-tree
down, and levelled the Sweet-peas to the ground. In short,
in one half-hour he desolated the pretty garden; and when
his work was accomplished, he flew off to rave about his
deed of destruction in other countries.
Meanwhile, how fared it with the flowers? The Wind was
scarcely gone before a sudden and heavy rain followed, so
that all was confusion for some time. But towards the
evening the weather cleared up, and our friends began to
look around them.
The white Lily still stood somewhat
upright, though no friendly pole supported her juicy stem;
but, alas! it was only by a painful effort she could hold
herself in that position. The Wind and the weight of rain
had bent her forward once, beyond her strength, and there
was a slight crack in one part of the stalk, which told that
she must soon double over and trail upon the ground.
Convolvulus fared still worse. The garden-beds sloped
towards the south; and when our friend was laid on the
earth—her pole having fallen—her lovely flowers were choked
up by the wet soil which drained towards her. She felt the
muddy weight as it soaked into her beautiful velvet bells,
and could have cried
 for grief: she could never free herself
from this nuisance. O that she were once more climbing up
the friendly fir-pole!
The Honeysuckle escaped no better;
and the Carnation was ready to die of vexation, at finding
that her coveted freedom had levelled her to the dirt.
Before the day closed, the Gardener came whistling from his
farm work, to look over his pretty charges. He expected to
see a few drooping flowers, and to find that one or two
fastenings had given way. But for the sight that awaited him
he was not prepared at all. Struck dumb with astonishment,
he never spoke at first, but kept lifting up the heads of
the trailing, dirtied flowers in succession. Then at last he
broke out into words of absolute sorrow:—
"And to think of
my mistress and the young lady coming home so soon, and that
nothing can be done to these poor things for a fortnight,
because of the corn harvest! It's all over with them, I
fear;" and the Gardener went his way.
Alas! what he said was true; and before many days had
passed, the shattered Carnations were rotted with lying in
the wet and dirt on the ground. The white Lily was
languishing discoloured on its broken stalk; the
Convolvulus flowers could no longer be recognised, they
were so coated over with mud stains; the Honeysuckle was
trailing along among battered Sweet-peas, who never could
succeed in shaking the soil from their fragrant heads; and
though the Rose-tree had sent out a few straggling branches,
she soon discovered that they were far too weak to bear
flowers—nay, almost to support themselves—so that they added
neither to her beauty nor her comfort. Weeds meanwhile
 and a dreary confusion reigned in the once
orderly and brilliant little garden.
At length, one day before the fortnight was over, the
house-dog was heard to bark his noisy welcome, and servants
bustled to and fro. The mistress had returned; and the young
lady was with her, and hurried at once to her favourite
garden. She came bounding towards the well-known spot with a
song of joyous delight; but, on reaching it, suddenly
stopped short, and in a minute after burst into a flood of
tears! Presently, with sorrowing steps, she bent her way
round the flower-beds, weeping afresh at every one she
looked at; and then she sat down upon the lawn, and hid her
face in her hands. In this position she remained, until a
gentle hand was laid upon her shoulder.
"This is a sad spectacle, indeed, my darling," said her
"Never mind about the garden, mamma," replied the young
girl, lifting up her tearful face; "we can plant new
flowers, and tie up even some of these afresh. But what I
have been thinking is, that now, at last, I quite understand
what you have so often said about the necessity of training,
and restraint, and culture, for us as well as for flowers,
in a fallen world. The wind has torn away these poor things
from their fastenings, and they are growing wild whichever
way they please. I know I should once have argued that if it
were their natural mode of growing it must therefore be the
best. But I cannot say so, now that I see the result. They
are doing whatever they like, unrestrained and the end is,
that my beautiful GARDEN
is turned into a WILDERNESS."
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