Out-of-door interests, therefore, have to be replaced by stuffy indoor ones, but trees and leaves in picture books are not nearly so interesting as are real ones. Let us try an experiment, therefore, and see how delightful it is to watch something growing, not in the ground, where it is hidden, but outside, where you can see it.
Ask nurse to cover a good big glass jar with thick, coarse flannel. Buy a penny packet of mustard seed and a penny packet of cress, and soak the seed for two hours in water. With the aid of a teaspoon, place the seed evenly over the wet flannel, but do not spread too thickly; no seed should lie on the top of another. Then stand the flannel-covered bottle in a soup plate with half an inch of water at the bottom.
Keep this water bath constantly renewed, since the flannel absorbs the water, and, if ever any part of the flannel looks dry, ladle some water on to it gently with a teaspoon, being very careful not to detach any seeds.
A Mustard and Cress Race
When all the seeds have sent up their shoots, you can scrub the bottle well and begin all over again.
It is a good plan to grow the mustard seed on one bottle and the cress on another, as the mustard sprouts so much more quickly, and if you give the cress three days start, you will be able to have your two crops ready together.
It is not, of course, only bottles that can be used on which to grow mustard and cress. The larger china shops and fancy repositories sell amusing and inexpensive clay figures of pigs and other animals, and quaint heads of negroes, and the like, on which a child would delight to sow a crop. The droll effect of a clay-coloured gentleman with vividly green hair and beard will amuse the most fractious of small convalescents, and affords interest for many a weary hour.
Wheat can also be grown in the same manner, though it is slower in its growth, and does not boast the practical virtue of being "good to eat," as are mustard and cress. Its greater length of stem, too, is somewhat against it, as regards appearance, though, if placed in a deep receptacle, its tender colouring is refreshing to the eye.
The following is a good firm for supplying materials mentioned in this section: Henry Eckford, F.r.h.s. (Sweet Peas).