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Jack and Jill

18. May Baskets
Spring was late that year, but to Jill it seemed the loveliest she had ever known, for
hope was growing green and strong in her own little heart, and all the world looked
beautiful. With the help of the brace she could sit up for a short time every day, and
when the air was mild enough she was warmly wrapped and allowed to look out at the
open window into the garden, where the gold and purple crocuses were coming bravely
up, and the snowdrops nodded their delicate heads as if calling to her,
"Good day, little sister, come out and play with us, for winter is over and spring is here."
"I wish I could!" thought Jill, as the soft wind kissed a tinge of color into her pale cheeks.
"Never mind, they have been shut up in a darker place than I for months, and had no
fun at all; I won't fret, but think about July and the seashore while I work."
The job now in hand was May baskets, for it was the custom of the children to hang
them on the doors of their friends the night before May-day; and the girls had agreed to
supply baskets if the boys would hunt for flowers, much the harder task of the two. Jill
had more leisure as well as taste and skill than the other girls, so she amused herself
with making a goodly store of pretty baskets of all shapes, sizes, and colors, quite
confident that they would be filled, though not a flower had shown its head except a few
hardy dandelions, and here and there a small cluster of saxifrage.
The violets would not open their blue eyes till the sunshine was warmer, the columbines
refused to dance with the boisterous east wind, the ferns kept themselves rolled up in
their brown flannel jackets, and little Hepatica, with many another spring beauty, hid
away in the woods, afraid to venture out, in spite of the eager welcome awaiting them.
But the birds had come, punctual as ever, and the bluejays were screaming in the
orchard, robins were perking up their heads and tails as they went house-hunting,
purple finches in their little red hoods were feasting on the spruce buds, and the faithful
chip birds chirped gayly on the grapevine trellis where they had lived all winter, warming
their little gray breasts against the southern side of the house when the sun shone, and
hiding under the evergreen boughs when the snow fell.
"That tree is a sort of bird's hotel," said Jill, looking out at the tall spruce before her
window, every spray now tipped with a soft green. "They all go there to sleep and eat,
and it has room for everyone, It is green when other trees die, the wind can't break it,
and the snow only makes it look prettier. It sings to me, and nods as if it knew I loved it."
"We might call it 'The Holly Tree Inn,' as some of the cheap eating-houses for poor
people are called in the city, as my holly bush grows at its foot for a sign. You can be
the landlady, and feed your feathery customers every day, till the hard times are over,"
said Mrs. Minot, glad to see the child's enjoyment of the outer world from which she had
been shut so long.
 
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