The Garden was lovely that sunny spring morning when Florence ran out after breakfast to see if the seeds that she had planted had come up during the night. The sweet pea seeds had been planted while yet the snow was on the ground they had already come up and were now well above the earth. The pansy seeds should be pointing through the ground by this time. Florence looked eagerly for them. Yes, there they were. Each tiny shoot was putting forth two little leaves, and some were only just showing a bit above the soil.
How wonderful it all was! Florence would have liked so much to look below the earth and see what was going on there for there must be many miracles taking place to make all these seeds turn into plants, vines, and flowers. Under the ground all the time silently and constantly the hard seeds must be softening and opening to let the little filaments come out and push up to the light.
All in the garden was full of life, a lovely life that showed itself in all kinds of growing things. The grass was a light yellow-green, and the trees and bushes and vines were pushing forth millions of soft yellow- green buds. By looking closely, Florence could see that even now preparations were being made for the beautiful blossoms that were to appear when the season should be more advanced. The cherry trees were filled with buds, showing bits of pink and white which were to change into beautiful flowers and later into delicious red cherries. The apple trees also would be putting out their buds and blossoms and fruit later in the season, and the strawberry plants, the currants and the raspberries were all busily getting ready for the beautiful season of blossoms and the later harvest of fruits.
All day, Florence thought a great deal about the wonders of the spring and looked forward to the warmer days, when all these preparations of nature would be brought to perfection. Several times, she went back to look at the plants to see if they had grown any; but she could not detect any real change.
"I suppose, though, they are growing all the time," she said to herself, "and all through the nights, too. I'll look at them again tomorrow morning and perhaps I'll find that they have grown a little."
Florence fell asleep that night with this thought in her mind, and awoke to find the moonlight streaming in at her windows.
"It's so light," she decided, "I think I'll just run out into the garden and see if they have grown any." She slipped into her long thick bathrobe and put on her slippers with the felt soles. She had never felt like going out into the garden at this hour before, but now, somehow, she felt differently. She was so full of life, that she just must do something interesting.
The garden was very beautiful, with the moon sinking low in the west and a light iii the east that told Florence that dawn was on the way. She ran first of all to look at the pansy plants. In the moonlight, she could dimly see that they looked the same as when she had looked at them the evening before, but Florence really thought that they had grown a wee bit during the night.
As she was turning to go, she heard a tiny voice beside her, and looked around to see a strange little creature of a light green color standing beside her. He wore a little green cap that looked like a green petal above his little slanting eyes and pointed ears, and he had a little upturned nose and his lips were smiling in friendly greeting. His body was sturdily built and his arms and legs very slender and tightly covered with the green material which looked like flower petals.
"Oh!" Florence cried in delight. "You must be an elf. I've always wanted to see one. But I've seen pictures of you and your friends in my picture books."
"Yes," laughed the elf," people draw pictures of us and write stories and verses about us, so I've been told; but they don't really believe that there are any such creatures. They think we are just make-believe; that we don't exist at all."
"I believe in you," Florence replied. "I've always believed in you and always hoped to see you sometime."
"I knew you did," the elf answered. "That's why I made myself visible to you."
"I thank you for doing so," Florence replied.
"You see, children believe in us and that helps them to see us," the elf explained, "but there's no use in appearing to grown-ups that don't believe in us because if they saw us, which they really couldn't do, not believing in us, they just wouldn't believe that they had seen us. They try to tell children that, too, and then we cannot ever go to the children who deny us."
"I believe in fairies and brownies, too," Florence said.
"And gnomes? Did you ever see a gnome?"
"No, I never did," Florence admitted.
"Would you like to see one?"
"Oh, yes, I should, so much. Please show me one."
"Gnomes stay under the ground most of the time. That's probably why you haven't seen one."
"Yes, they are really the miners of the fairy kingdoms," the elf explained. " They work with the minerals, such as coal, earth, and precious stones. I can take you to see them; but first you'll have to believe that all this earth is like a fog. You are now in your dream body and can pass right through the earth as easily as if it were fog. Just think it's fog and look down through it and there you can see all the wonderful things that are going on down there below the earth. Look down at the seeds you planted. Where are they?"
"Here they are," Florence cried, as she turned back and to the side where a bed of late asters had been planted not long before.
"Just look right down there," the elf said, "and you will see a gnome, busy with the seeds, opening them up so that they will grow, and arranging the earth about them so that they will be able to open and let out the curled center. The seed will fall away and a plant will come out and push up to the light. All this couldn't come about if the gnomes didn't help."
Florence watched the gnome intently. He was a funny little creature and looked like an old man with a long white beard. He was dressed in brown just the color of the earth and wore a little brown pointed cap with his two bright eyes under it always in motion, and his little brown fingers busy with the seeds, turning them to different positions.
"What's he doing that for?" Florence asked.
"Because people don't know how to plant the seeds just right to leave the place free where the seed is to open and let out the tiny plant," the elf explained. "The gnomes have to arrange them just in the right positions, as we often have to untwist the vines and turn them in the right way, when people have been training them in the wrong way."
The gnome kept busily at work and under his skilled fingers the seeds began to open so that the tiny plants could come out into the earth.
"Look at these gladiolus bulbs," the elf cried, as he crossed to the other side of the garden path. "Those you had planted last fall. Look at them now."
More gnomes were busily opening the bulbs and getting them ready for the summer season, giving them softening treatments and freeing their shoots.
"People think they are doing it all when they plant the seeds and that Mother Nature does the rest. True, but how does she do it? By having millions of helpers. Just look down below this sod and see how many gnomes it takes to make a lawn."
Florence looked down and there were many gnomes, an army of them all working on the earth and the roots of the sod. They worked together as a single worker.
"That's what they call team work ill your world," the elf remarked.
"It's like a school," Florence replied.
"I'll say it is; and they have a teacher, too, a leader of the gnomes. Now I'll take you to that tree over there. Even when a tree is all budded, the gnomes have to keep right on working all of the time to stretch the roots of it still further and make the tree suck lip more and more life from the earth."
When they had reached the large tree down at the end of the garden, Florence looked down and could see the long roots of the tree and many little brown men working busily with the soil while near them, but higher up were the little elves themselves, making the grass grow.
"I never knew before that everything had to be made to grow. I thought it just grew," Florence remarked.
"But how could a plant grow," the elf asked, "if someone didn't give it the right things to build into itself, new food to live upon? Gardeners don't think enough about these things. Soon the fairies will be putting their work in the buds, so as to have them ready to open out into cherry and apple blossoms, and they have so much to do to make the flowers. Putting the colors on the flowers is special work and is attended to by some very clever fairies and gnomes. That work is a real art, as for example painting the faces on the pansies and the lovely lines on the orchid."
"How wonderful it all is," Florence cried, "and how I wish that I could help them!"
"You do help them," the elf answered. "Every time that you water the plants when they need rain, you a~re helping them. You help them, too, by loving them. Don't you know that love makes everything grow better? Yes, everything -- plants or puppies or people. Then there is another way that you can help them. The rain last week washed away some of the soil in the rock garden. You can put more on the plants there, because it is hard, even for the gnomes, to move much earth, which is rather too heavy for their tiny fingers."
"I'll do that the first thing in the morning," Florence promised.
"That's a good little girl," the elf said. "Now come down to the pond and I'll show you some little water-babies."
Together they skipped down to the shore and there in the sedges along the shore, the elf showed Florence the little eggs which were going to hatch out into pollywogs. Some were already hatching and the tiny black pollywogs were coming out of them. Taking care of this work were beautiful green and blue creatures that gleamed in the water like fishes, but looked like fairies without their wings. Some were playing in the water while their clothing floated with the current, blown by other fairylike creatures above them, whose flying draperies made soft little puffs of wind.
"How lovely they are!" Florence exclaimed.
"What are they?"
Those in the water are undines and those in the air are the sylphs. They make the breezes that are so refreshing on a hot day."
Just then the sun rose and cast long beams over the garden and brightened the already bright foliage of trees and vines and bushes. They all seemed so alive that Florence exclaimed: "Why, I never before knew that they are all alive, just like people!"
"Indeed they are," the elf agreed. "Now you must go, but remember that when you go back to your world."
"And will you take me again sometime to see your world," Florence asked, "some other night?"
"Of course I will," the elf replied. "And now good-bye. Don't forget to water the garden when it doesn't rain, and to put more earth on the rock garden."
"I'll remember, " Florence promised," and thank you for showing me all the wonderful things." She floated home quickly.
She was soon awake, but it must have been longer than she thought, for the sun was much higher.
Florence was still thinking of her wonderful adventures, when Mother came in, with three little white rabbits.
"Just look at these, dear," she said. "They came last night."
"Oh, the darlings!" Florence exclaimed, as she took them one by one and smoothed their fur and held them up in the way that she had been taught to handle rabbits. Then she said:
"Mother, a little elf took me to see the gnomes and the elves and the undines and sylphs at work, but he didn't take me to the rabbit hutch. I suppose he wanted to keep this for a surprise today, and this is the best surprise of all."