The Weeds by Carl Ewald

1

It was a fine and fruitful year.

Rain and sunshine came turn and turn about, in just the way that was best for the corn. As soon as the farmer thought that things were getting rather dry, he could be quite sure that it would rain next day. And, if he considered that he had had rain enough, then the clouds parted at once, just as though it were the farmer that was in command.

The farmer, therefore, was in a good humour and did not complain as he usually did. Cheerful and rejoicing he walked over the land with his two boys:

"It will be a splendid harvest this year," he said. "I shall get my barns full and make lots of money. Then Jens and Ole shall have a new pair of trousers apiece and I will take them with me to market."

"If you don't cut me soon, farmer, I shall be lying down flat," said the rye and bowed her heavy ears right down to the ground.

Now the farmer could not hear this, but was quite able to see what the rye was thinking of; and so he went home to fetch his sickle.

"It's a good thing to be in the service of men," said the rye. "I can be sure now that all my grains will be well taken care of. Most of them will go to the mill and that, certainly, is not very pleasant. But afterwards they will turn into beautiful new bread; and one must suffer something for honour's sake. What remains the farmer will keep and sow next year on his land."

2

Along the hedge and beside the ditch stood the weeds. Thistle and burdock, poppy and bell-flower and dandelion grew in thick clusters and all had their heads full of seed. For them, too, it had been a fruitful year, for the sun shines and the rain falls on the poor weeds just as much as on the rich corn.

"There's no one to cut us and cart us to the barn," said the dandelion and shook her head, but very carefully, lest the seed should fall too soon. "What is to become of our children?"

"It gives me a headache to think of it," said the poppy. "Here I stand, with many hundreds of seeds in my head, and I have no idea where to dispose of them."

"Let's ask the rye's advice," said the burdock.

And then they asked the rye what they ought to do.

"It doesn't do to mix in other people's affairs when one's well off," said the rye. "There is only one piece of advice that I will give you: mind you don't fling your silly seed over my field, or you'll have me to deal with!"

Now this advice was of no use to the wild flowers; and they stood all day pondering as to what they should do. When the sun went down, they closed their petals to go to sleep, but they dreamt all night of their seed and next morning they had found a remedy.

The poppy was the first to wake.

She carefully opened some little shutters in the top of her head, so that the sun could shine right in upon the seeds. Next, she called to the morning wind, who was running and playing along the hedge:

"Dear Wind," she said, pleasantly. "Will you do me a service?"

"Why not?" said the wind. "I don't mind having something to do."

"It's a mere trifle," said the poppy. "I will only ask you to give a good shake to my stalk, so that my seeds can fly away out of the shutters."

"Right you are," said the wind.

And away flew the seeds to every side. The stalk certainly snapped; but that the poppy did not bother about. For, when one has provided for one's children, there's really nothing left to do in this world.

"Good-bye," said the wind and wanted to go on.

"Wait a bit," said the poppy. "Promise me first that you won't tell the others. Else they might have the same ideas; and then there would be less room for my seeds."

"I shall be silent as the grave," said the wind and ran away.

"Pst! Pst!" said the bell-flower. "Have you a moment to do me a tiny service?"

"All right," said the wind. "What is it?"

"Oh, I only wanted to ask you to shake me a little!" said the flower. "I have opened some shutters in my head and I should like to have my seeds sent a good distance out into the world. But you must be sure not to tell the others, or they might think of doing the same thing."

"Lord preserve us!" said the wind and laughed. "I shall be dumb as a fish."

And then he gave the flower a thorough good shaking and went on.

"Dear Wind, dear Wind!" cried the dandelion. "Where are you off to so fast?"

"Is there anything the matter with you too?" asked the wind.

"Not a bit," said the dandelion. "I only wanted to have a word with you."

"Then be quick about it," said the wind, "for I am thinking seriously of going down."

"You see," said the dandelion, "it's very difficult for us this year to get all our seed settled; and yet one would like to do the best one can for one's children. How the bell-flower and the poppy and the poor burdock will manage I do not know, upon my word. But the thistle and I have put our heads together and have hit upon an expedient. You must help us."

"That makes four in all," thought the wind and could not help laughing aloud.

"What are you laughing at?" asked the dandelion. "I saw you whispering with the bell-flower and the poppy just now; but, if you give them the least hint, I won't tell you a thing."

"What do you take me for?" said the wind. "Mum's the word! What is it you want?"

"We've put a nice little umbrella up at the top of our seed. It's the sweetest little toy that you can think of. If you only just blow on me, it will fly up in the air and fall down wherever you please. Will you?"

"Certainly," said the wind.

And—whoosh!—he blew over the thistle and the dandelion and carried all their seed with him across the fields.

3

The burdock still stood pondering. She was thick-headed and that was why she took so long. But, in the evening, a hare jumped over the hedge:

"Hide me! Save me!" he cried. "Farmer's Trust is after me."

"Creep round behind the hedge," said the burdock; "then I'll hide you."

"You don't look to me as if you were cut out for that job," said the hare; "but beggars can't be choosers."

And then he hid behind the hedge.

"Now, in return, you might take some of my seeds to the fields with you," said the burdock; and she broke off some of her many burs and scattered them over the hare.

Soon after, Trust came running along the hedge.

"Here's the dog!" whispered the burdock; and, with a bound, the hare leapt over the hedge into the rye.

"Have you seen the hare?" asked Trust. "I can see that I'm too old for hunting. One of my eyes is quite blind and my nose can no longer find the scent."

"I have seen him," replied the burdock, "and, if you will do me a service, I will show you where he is."

Trust agreed and the burdock struck some of her burs in his back and said:

"Would you just rub yourself against the stile here, inside the field? But that's not where you're to look for the hare, for I saw him run to the wood a little while ago."

Trust carried the burs to the field and ran off into the wood.

"So now I've got my seeds settled," said the burdock and laughed to herself contentedly. "But goodness knows how the thistle is going to manage and the dandelion and the bell-flower and the poppy!"

Next spring, already, the rye was standing quite high:

"We are very well off, considering all things," said the rye-stalks. "Here we are in a great company that contains none but our own good family. And we don't hamper one another in the very least. It's really an excellent thing to be in the service of men."

But, one fine day, a number of little poppies and thistles and dandelions and burdocks and bell-flowers stuck their heads up above the ground in the midst of the luxuriant rye.

"What's the meaning of this now?" asked the rye. "How in the world did you get here?"

And the poppy looked at the bell-flower and asked:

"How did you get here?"

And the thistle looked at the burdock and asked:

"How on earth did you get here?"

They were all equally surprised and it was some time before they had done explaining. But the rye was the angriest and, when she had heard all about Trust and the hare and the wind, she was quite furious:

"Thank goodness that the farmer shot the hare in the autumn," said she. "Trust, luckily, is dead too, the old scamp! So I have no further quarrel with them. But how dare the wind carry the seed of the weeds on to the farmer's land!"

"Softly, softly, you green Rye!" said the wind, who had been lying behind the hedge and had heard all this. "I ask no one's leave, but do as I please; and now I'm going to make you bow before me."

Then he blew over the young rye so that the thin stalks swayed to and fro:

"You see," he said, "the farmer looks after his rye, for that is his business. But the rain and the sun and I interest ourselves in all of you alike, without distinction of persons. To us the poor weeds are quite as attractive as the rich corn."

Now the farmer came out to look at his rye and, when he saw the weeds that stood in the fields, he was vexed and scratched his head and began to scold in his turn:

"That's that dirty Wind," he said to Jens and Ole, who stood beside him with their hands in the pockets of their new trousers.

But the wind dashed up and blew off the hats of all three of them and trundled them ever so far away. The farmer and his boys ran after them, but the wind was the quicker. At last, he rolled the hats into the pond; and the farmer and his boys had to stand ever so long and fish for them before they got them out.