The weather now began to change, and the cold sea winds blew each 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 garden would suffer.
One day Mary came into the house where her mother was at work and said, gleefully,
"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 away and dying, just as the dingle-bells did, and papa said when they faded and withered he and the boys would come back to us."
Mary's mother knew that the harsh winds had killed the flowers before their time, but she did not like to disappoint her darling, so she only said, with a sigh,
"I hope you are right, Mary, for we both shall be glad to welcome our dear ones home again."
But soon afterward the big bluff Squire came riding up, as was his 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 a little 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!" and Mary found herself seated safely in front of the Squire, who clasped her 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 merrily 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 as she 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 it 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 her 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 the 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 to 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 the flowers in the field; and if you will come and visit them each day, you will find the time waiting very short indeed."
Mary dried her eyes and thanked the kindly old Squire, and after that 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 out over the sea and saw a little speck upon the waters that looked like a sail.