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The Flower Question

"Look, Auntie Gertie," shouted Freddie, as he walked past the hall table; those flowers have their heads bowed. Are they praying? Or have they died?"

Freddie and his family were just returning home from a four-day trip to the Lake District. His mother, his father, and his sister, Alice, were still getting their luggage out of the car. The chrysanthemums on the hall table had caught Freddie's attention as soon as he got through the front door. Instead of showing him their bright, yellow faced, as they had when he left, the flowers were indeed all bent over.

"Not to worry," said Aunt Gertie cheerfully; "they got very thirsty while we were gone. But a drink of cool water is all they need."

Aunt Gertie, who was the flower expert in the Davidson family, dropped her suitcase and walked straight into the kitchen. There she filled a small, red watering can and returned to give the chrysants a drink.

Freddie looked on thoughtfully. "I didn't know flowers get thirsty," he said.

`"Just like you," Aunt Gertie reassured him; "but they take a long, long drink. It will be tomorrow before their thirst is quenched and they're happy again."

The door burst open, revealing Alice, loaded down with blankets and stuffed toys, followed by Father and Mother. "It's certainly good to be home," sighed Father, "even if it is prettier in the Lake District and . . ."-he caught sight of the bowed chrysanthemums - "even if Gertie's flowers have dried up in our absence."

"They haven't dried up," explained Freddie; "they're just thirsty. Auntie Gertie is going to give them a long drink." "Flowers can't be thirsty," muttered Alice; "they haven't got tongues or throats." Luckily, no one heard her. Soon she and Freddie were safely tucked in bed and the grown-ups were relaxing over a cup of tea.

* * *

The next morning Freddie was wakened by the bark of a dog outside. For a moment he didn't know where he was; then he realized he was at home and it was his dog, Pepper, who was barking to be let in. The nextdoor neighbors, the Stewarts, had looked after Pepper while the Davidsons were away.

Sleepily Freddie stretched, got up, dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. At the foot of the stairs Freddie caught sight of the Chrysanthemums. Auntie Gertie was right. They had gone cheerful, just as she said they would. Their heads were no longer bowed. Their bright, yellow faces smiled at anybody who stopped to look at them.

"Morning, Mummy," said Freddie to his mother, who was putting an egg into boiling water over the stove. He gave her a hug as Pepper came yapping up excitedly. He patted and then hugged Pepper affectionately.

"Auntie Gertie's flowers are happy again," Freddie reported.

"Flowers can't be happy," scowled Alice, who was hunched over a bowl of cornflakes in the corner; "Auntie Gertie likes to talk about flowers as if they were people. But really they don't have any feelings. They can't be thirsty, or sad, or happy."

"Is that right, Mom?" asked Freddie in some disappointment.

"You'd better talk to your Aunt Gertie," said Mother; "she knows much more about flowers than any of the rest of us."