“Putting the Seed Children to Bed”
Margaret Peckham, Mercury Press, 1982
Autumn Story

Part One: The Littlest Gnome

In the autumn all the little gnomes were very busy deep down in the earth. They were making the brown earth beds ready for the Seed Children and mixing good rich broth to feed them in the winter. One day the King of the Gnomes sent for the Littlest Gnome and told him: -

“Go up above the earth and see if the Seed Children are ready to come to bed”

So the Littlest Gnome climbed up through the dark ground and didn’t need any light to see because he was used to darkness. When he popped out above the ground it was so light and bright he was nearly blinded, but he heard birds flying overhead and called up to them:-

“Are the Seed Children ready to come to bed?”

“Good-bye! Good-bye!” called the birds, “We are flying South to keep warm all winter!”

“Why can’t they answer me, stupid things!” growled the Littlest Gnome, stamping his feet.

Then he saw the red and yellow leaves falling and shouted to them:-

“Are the Seed Children ready to come to bed?”

They paid no attention but went on falling slowly and softly, turning in the wind.

Then he spoke to the yellow and purple flowers and asked:-

“Tell me, are the Seed Children ready to come to bed?”

But they paid no attention at all just went on turning their face to the warm autumn sun.

Then the Littlest Gnome stamped his feet in rage and shouted crossly:-
“You are all stupid things! You don’t know anything!” And he ran stamping down into the dark earth to the Gnome King.

“Are the Seed Children ready to come to bed?” asked the King.

“None of the stupid things would tell me!” answered the Littlest Gnome, and he told the King what he had done. But the King said:-

“You are the only stupid one. The birds and the leaves and the flowers were all doing what they should do, but you were not. Just what did i tell you to do?

“You told me to see if the Seed Children were ready to come to bed,” said the Littlest Gnome, looking ashamed.

“Then next time remember what you are told,” said the King.

The Second Gnome

It began to grow very cold so the Gnome King sent a second little gnome up to the top of the earth to tell the Seed Children it was time to come to bed. The Second Gnome climbed up through the dark until he came to the top of the earth. There he saw the apples hanging on a tree and he called to them:-

“Come down, come down! It’s time for the Seed Children to go to bed!”

But the apples wouldn’t come down. The Second Gnome tried to shake the tree but it did no good. Then he called to the flowers to send their Seed Children to bed, but they kept their pods tight shut and wouldn’t send the Seed Children down to their earth beds. Then the Second Gnome shook them and shook them, but they wouldn’t open. So then the Second Gnome called to the Wind:-

“O Wind, please shake the apples from the trees and the seeds from their pods!”

And the Wind came rushing along saying, “Oo-oo! Oo-oo!” and he shook the trees and he shook the seed pods, but he could not make them fall.

Then the Second Gnome looked and saw Father Sun shining down so warmly and kindly and he said:-

“Father Sun, what shall I do, I’ve tried to make the Little Seed Children come to bed, but they won’t.”

“I’ll send them,” answered Father Sun, smiling. And he sent for his warmest Sun Fairies and told them:-

“Go down and touch the apples with your warm fingers and touch the seed pods so they will open and send the Seed Children to bed.”

The Sun Fairies flew quickly down and touched the apples until they grew red and ripe and fell to the ground. And the children ate them, and so did the squirrels, but the seeds they did not seed so they fell to the earth and went to bed. Then the Sun Fairies opened the seed pods with their warm fingers and the Wind blew “Oo-oo!” until the Seed Children danced down to bed. Then the Second Little Gnome went home, his task well done.

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