THE CONCEITED APPLE-BRANCH by Hans Christian Andersen

apple tree blooms and blossoms

It was the month of May. The wind still blew cold; but from bush and tree, field and flower, came the welcome sound, “Spring is come.” Wild-flowers in profusion covered the hedges. Under the little apple-tree, Spring seemed busy, and told his tale from one of the branches which hung fresh and blooming, and covered with delicate pink blossoms that were just ready to open.

The branch well knew how beautiful it was; this knowledge exists as much in the leaf as in the blood; I was therefore not surprised when a nobleman’s carriage, in which sat the young countess, stopped in the road just by. She said that an apple-branch was a most lovely object, and an emblem of spring in its most charming aspect. Then the branch was broken off for her, and she held it in her delicate hand, and sheltered it with her silk parasol. Then they drove to the castle, in which were lofty halls and splendid drawing-rooms. Pure white curtains fluttered before the open windows, and beautiful flowers stood in shining, transparent vases; and in one of them, which looked as if it had been cut out of newly fallen snow, the apple-branch was placed, among some fresh, light twigs of beech. It was a charming sight. Then the branch became proud, which was very much like human nature.

People of every description entered the room, and, according to their position in society, so dared they to express their admiration. Some few said nothing, others expressed too much, and the apple-branch very soon got to understand that there was as much difference in the characters of human beings as in those of plants and flowers. Some are all for pomp and parade, others have a great deal to do to maintain their own importance, while the rest might be spared without much loss to society. So thought the apple-branch, as he stood before the open window, from which he could see out over gardens and fields, where there were flowers and plants enough for him to think and reflect upon; some rich and beautiful, some poor and humble indeed.

“Poor, despised herbs,” said the apple-branch; “there is really a difference between them and such as I am. How unhappy they must be, if they can feel as those in my position do! There is a difference indeed, and so there ought to be, or we should all be equals.”

And the apple-branch looked with a sort of pity upon them, especially on a certain little flower that is found in fields and in ditches. No one bound these flowers together in a nosegay; they were too common; they were even known to grow between the paving-stones, shooting up everywhere, like bad weeds; and they bore the very ugly name of “dog-flowers” or “dandelions.”

“Poor, despised plants,” said the apple-bough, “it is not your fault that you are so ugly, and that you have such an ugly name; but it is with plants as with men,—there must be a difference.”

“A difference!” cried the sunbeam, as he kissed the blooming apple-branch, and then kissed the yellow dandelion out in the fields. All were brothers, and the sunbeam kissed them—the poor flowers as well as the rich.

The apple-bough had never thought of the boundless love of God, which extends over all the works of creation, over everything which lives, and moves, and has its being in Him; he had never thought of the good and beautiful which are so often hidden, but can never remain forgotten by Him,—not only among the lower creation, but also among men. The sunbeam, the ray of light, knew better.

“You do not see very far, nor very clearly,” he said to the apple-branch. “Which is the despised plant you so specially pity?”

“The dandelion,” he replied. “No one ever places it in a nosegay; it is often trodden under foot, there are so many of them; and when they run to seed, they have flowers like wool, which fly away in little pieces over the roads, and cling to the dresses of the people. They are only weeds; but of course there must be weeds. O, I am really very thankful that I was not made like one of these flowers.”

There came presently across the fields a whole group of children, the youngest of whom was so small that it had to be carried by the others; and when he was seated on the grass, among the yellow flowers, he laughed aloud with joy, kicked out his little legs, rolled about, plucked the yellow flowers, and kissed them in childlike innocence. The elder children broke off the flowers with long stems, bent the stalks one round the other, to form links, and made first a chain for the neck, then one to go across the shoulders, and hang down to the waist, and at last a wreath to wear round the head, so that they looked quite splendid in their garlands of green stems and golden flowers. But the eldest among them gathered carefully the faded flowers, on the stem of which was grouped together the seed, in the form of a white feathery coronal. These loose, airy wool-flowers are very beautiful, and look like fine snowy feathers or down. The children held them to their mouths, and tried to blow away the whole coronal with one puff of the breath. They had been told by their grandmothers that who ever did so would be sure to have new clothes before the end of the year. The despised flower was by this raised to the position of a prophet or foreteller of events.

“Do you see,” said the sunbeam, “do you see the beauty of these flowers? do you see their powers of giving pleasure?”

“Yes, to children,” said the apple-bough.

By-and-by an old woman came into the field, and, with a blunt knife without a handle, began to dig round the roots of some of the dandelion-plants, and pull them up. With some of these she intended to make tea for herself; but the rest she was going to sell to the chemist, and obtain some money.

“But beauty is of higher value than all this,” said the apple-tree branch; “only the chosen ones can be admitted into the realms of the beautiful. There is a difference between plants, just as there is a difference between men.”

Then the sunbeam spoke of the boundless love of God, as seen in creation, and over all that lives, and of the equal distribution of His gifts, both in time and in eternity.

“That is your opinion,” said the apple-bough.

Then some people came into the room, and, among them, the young countess,—the lady who had placed the apple-bough in the transparent vase, so pleasantly beneath the rays of the sunlight. She carried in her hand something that seemed like a flower. The object was hidden by two or three great leaves, which covered it like a shield, so that no draught or gust of wind could injure it, and it was carried more carefully than the apple-branch had ever been. Very cautiously the large leaves were removed, and there appeared the feathery seed-crown of the despised dandelion. This was what the lady had so carefully plucked, and carried home so safely covered, so that not one of the delicate feathery arrows of which its mist-like shape was so lightly formed, should flutter away. She now drew it forth quite uninjured, and wondered at its beautiful form, and airy lightness, and singular construction, so soon to be blown away by the wind.

“See,” she exclaimed, “how wonderfully God has made this little flower. I will paint it with the apple-branch together. Every one admires the beauty of the apple-bough; but this humble flower has been endowed by Heaven with another kind of loveliness; and although they differ in appearance, both are the children of the realms of beauty.”

Then the sunbeam kissed the lowly flower, and he kissed the blooming apple-branch, upon whose leaves appeared a rosy blush.

THE ANGEL by Hans Christian Andersen

angel with flowers holding a small baby

“Whenever a good child dies, an angel of God comes down from heaven, takes the dead child in his arms, spreads out his great white wings, and flies with him over all the places which the child had loved during his life. Then he gathers a large handful of flowers, which he carries up to the Almighty, that they may bloom more brightly in heaven than they do on earth. And the Almighty presses the flowers to His heart, but He kisses the flower that pleases Him best, and it receives a voice, and is able to join the song of the chorus of bliss.”

These words were spoken by an angel of God, as he carried a dead child up to heaven, and the child listened as if in a dream. Then they passed over well-known spots, where the little one had often played, and through beautiful gardens full of lovely flowers.

“Which of these shall we take with us to heaven to be transplanted there?” asked the angel.

Close by grew a slender, beautiful, rose-bush, but some wicked hand had broken the stem, and the half-opened rosebuds hung faded and withered on the trailing branches.

“Poor rose-bush!” said the child, “let us take it with us to heaven, that it may bloom above in God’s garden.”

The angel took up the rose-bush; then he kissed the child, and the little one half opened his eyes. The angel gathered also some beautiful flowers, as well as a few humble buttercups and heart’s-ease.

“Now we have flowers enough,” said the child; but the angel only nodded, he did not fly upward to heaven.

It was night, and quite still in the great town. Here they remained, and the angel hovered over a small, narrow street, in which lay a large heap of straw, ashes, and sweepings from the houses of people who had removed. There lay fragments of plates, pieces of plaster, rags, old hats, and other rubbish not pleasant to see. Amidst all this confusion, the angel pointed to the pieces of a broken flower-pot, and to a lump of earth which had fallen out of it. The earth had been kept from falling to pieces by the roots of a withered field-flower, which had been thrown amongst the rubbish.

“We will take this with us,” said the angel, “I will tell you why as we fly along.”

And as they flew the angel related the history.

“Down in that narrow lane, in a low cellar, lived a poor sick boy; he had been afflicted from his childhood, and even in his best days he could just manage to walk up and down the room on crutches once or twice, but no more. During some days in summer, the sunbeams would lie on the floor of the cellar for about half an hour. In this spot the poor sick boy would sit warming himself in the sunshine, and watching the red blood through his delicate fingers as he held them before his face. Then he would say he had been out, yet he knew nothing of the green forest in its spring verdure, till a neighbor’s son brought him a green bough from a beech-tree. This he would place over his head, and fancy that he was in the beech-wood while the sun shone, and the birds carolled gayly. One spring day the neighbor’s boy brought him some field-flowers, and among them was one to which the root still adhered. This he carefully planted in a flower-pot, and placed in a window-seat near his bed. And the flower had been planted by a fortunate hand, for it grew, put forth fresh shoots, and blossomed every year. It became a splendid flower-garden to the sick boy, and his little treasure upon earth. He watered it, and cherished it, and took care it should have the benefit of every sunbeam that found its way into the cellar, from the earliest morning ray to the evening sunset. The flower entwined itself even in his dreams—for him it bloomed, for him spread its perfume. And it gladdened his eyes, and to the flower he turned, even in death, when the Lord called him. He has been one year with God. During that time the flower has stood in the window, withered and forgotten, till at length cast out among the sweepings into the street, on the day of the lodgers’ removal. And this poor flower, withered and faded as it is, we have added to our nosegay, because it gave more real joy than the most beautiful flower in the garden of a queen.”

“But how do you know all this?” asked the child whom the angel was carrying to heaven.

“I know it,” said the angel, “because I myself was the poor sick boy who walked upon crutches, and I know my own flower well.”

Then the child opened his eyes and looked into the glorious happy face of the angel, and at the same moment they found themselves in that heavenly home where all is happiness and joy. And God pressed the dead child to His heart, and wings were given him so that he could fly with the angel, hand in hand. Then the Almighty pressed all the flowers to His heart; but He kissed the withered field-flower, and it received a voice. Then it joined in the song of the angels, who surrounded the throne, some near, and others in a distant circle, but all equally happy. They all joined in the chorus of praise, both great and small,—the good, happy child, and the poor field-flower, that once lay withered and cast away on a heap of rubbish in a narrow, dark street.

A STORY by Hans Christian Andersen

blosoming apple tree in meadow, with flowers

In the garden all the apple-trees were in blossom. They had hastened to bring forth flowers before they got green leaves, and in the yard all the ducklings walked up and down, and the cat too: it basked in the sun and licked the sunshine from its own paws. And when one looked at the fields, how beautifully the corn stood and how green it shone, without comparison! and there was a twittering and a fluttering of all the little birds, as if the day were a great festival; and so it was, for it was Sunday.

All the bells were ringing, and all the people went to church, looking cheerful, and dressed in their best clothes. There was a look of cheerfulness on everything. The day was so warm and beautiful that one might well have said: “God’s kindness to us men is beyond all limits.” But inside the church the pastor stood in the pulpit, and spoke very loudly and angrily. He said that all men were wicked, and God would punish them for their sins, and that the wicked, when they died, would be cast into hell, to burn for ever and ever. He spoke very excitedly, saying that their evil propensities would not be destroyed, nor would the fire be extinguished, and they should never find rest. That was terrible to hear, and he said it in such a tone of conviction; he described hell to them as a miserable hole where all the refuse of the world gathers. There was no air beside the hot burning sulphur flame, and there was no ground under their feet; they, the wicked ones, sank deeper and deeper, while eternal silence surrounded them! It was dreadful to hear all that, for the preacher spoke from his heart, and all the people in the church were terrified. Meanwhile, the birds sang merrily outside, and the sun was shining so beautifully warm, it seemed as though every little flower said: “God, Thy kindness towards us all is without limits.” Indeed, outside it was not at all like the pastor’s sermon.

The same evening, upon going to bed, the pastor noticed his wife sitting there quiet and pensive.

“What is the matter with you?” he asked her.

“Well, the matter with me is,” she said, “that I cannot collect my thoughts, and am unable to grasp the meaning of what you said to-day in church—that there are so many wicked people, and that they should burn eternally. Alas! eternally—how long! I am only a woman and a sinner before God, but I should not have the heart to let even the worst sinner burn for ever, and how could our Lord to do so, who is so infinitely good, and who knows how the wickedness comes from without and within? No, I am unable to imagine that, although you say so.”

It was autumn; the trees dropped their leaves, the earnest and severe pastor sat at the bedside of a dying person. A pious, faithful soul closed her eyes for ever; she was the pastor’s wife.

…”If any one shall find rest in the grave and mercy before our Lord you shall certainly do so,” said the pastor. He folded her hands and read a psalm over the dead woman.

She was buried; two large tears rolled over the cheeks of the earnest man, and in the parsonage it was empty and still, for its sun had set for ever. She had gone home.

It was night. A cold wind swept over the pastor’s head; he opened his eyes, and it seemed to him as if the moon was shining into his room. It was not so, however; there was a being standing before his bed, and looking like the ghost of his deceased wife. She fixed her eyes upon him with such a kind and sad expression, just as if she wished to say something to him. The pastor raised himself in bed and stretched his arms towards her, saying, “Not even you can find eternal rest! You suffer, you best and most pious woman?”

The dead woman nodded her head as if to say “Yes,” and put her hand on her breast.

“And can I not obtain rest in the grave for you?”

“Yes,” was the answer.

“And how?”

“Give me one hair—only one single hair—from the head of the sinner for whom the fire shall never be extinguished, of the sinner whom God will condemn to eternal punishment in hell.”

“Yes, one ought to be able to redeem you so easily, you pure, pious woman,” he said.

“Follow me,” said the dead woman. “It is thus granted to us. By my side you will be able to fly wherever your thoughts wish to go. Invisible to men, we shall penetrate into their most secret chambers; but with sure hand you must find out him who is destined to eternal torture, and before the cock crows he must be found!” As quickly as if carried by the winged thoughts they were in the great city, and from the walls the names of the deadly sins shone in flaming letters: pride, avarice, drunkenness, wantonness—in short, the whole seven-coloured bow of sin.

“Yes, therein, as I believed, as I knew it,” said the pastor, “are living those who are abandoned to the eternal fire.” And they were standing before the magnificently illuminated gate; the broad steps were adorned with carpets and flowers, and dance music was sounding through the festive halls. A footman dressed in silk and velvet stood with a large silver-mounted rod near the entrance.

“Our ball can compare favourably with the king’s,” he said, and turned with contempt towards the gazing crowd in the street. What he thought was sufficiently expressed in his features and movements: “Miserable beggars, who are looking in, you are nothing in comparison to me.”

“Pride,” said the dead woman; “do you see him?”

“The footman?” asked the pastor. “He is but a poor fool, and not doomed to be tortured eternally by fire!”

“Only a fool!” It sounded through the whole house of pride: they were all fools there.

Then they flew within the four naked walls of the miser. Lean as a skeleton, trembling with cold, and hunger, the old man was clinging with all his thoughts to his money. They saw him jump up feverishly from his miserable couch and take a loose stone out of the wall; there lay gold coins in an old stocking. They saw him anxiously feeling over an old ragged coat in which pieces of gold were sewn, and his clammy fingers trembled.

“He is ill! That is madness—a joyless madness—besieged by fear and dreadful dreams!”

They quickly went away and came before the beds of the criminals; these unfortunate people slept side by side, in long rows. Like a ferocious animal, one of them rose out of his sleep and uttered a horrible cry, and gave his comrade a violent dig in the ribs with his pointed elbow, and this one turned round in his sleep:

“Be quiet, monster—sleep! This happens every night!”

“Every night!” repeated the other. “Yes, every night he comes and tortures me! In my violence I have done this and that. I was born with an evil mind, which has brought me hither for the second time; but if I have done wrong I suffer punishment for it. One thing, however, I have not yet confessed. When I came out a little while ago, and passed by the yard of my former master, evil thoughts rose within me when I remembered this and that. I struck a match a little bit on the wall; probably it came a little too close to the thatched roof. All burnt down—a great heat rose, such as sometimes overcomes me. I myself helped to rescue cattle and things, nothing alive burnt, except a flight of pigeons, which flew into the fire, and the yard dog, of which I had not thought; one could hear him howl out of the fire, and this howling I still hear when I wish to sleep; and when I have fallen asleep, the great rough dog comes and places himself upon me, and howls, presses, and tortures me. Now listen to what I tell you! You can snore; you are snoring the whole night, and I hardly a quarter of an hour!” And the blood rose to the head of the excited criminal; he threw himself upon his comrade, and beat him with his clenched fist in the face.

“Wicked Matz has become mad again!” they said amongst themselves. The other criminals seized him, wrestled with him, and bent him double, so that his head rested between his knees, and they tied him, so that the blood almost came out of his eyes and out of all his pores.

“You are killing the unfortunate man,” said the pastor, and as he stretched out his hand to protect him who already suffered too much, the scene changed. They flew through rich halls and wretched hovels; wantonness and envy, all the deadly sins, passed before them. An angel of justice read their crimes and their defence; the latter was not a brilliant one, but it was read before God, Who reads the heart, Who knows everything, the wickedness that comes from within and from without, Who is mercy and love personified. The pastor’s hand trembled; he dared not stretch it out, he did not venture to pull a hair out of the sinner’s head. And tears gushed from his eyes like a stream of mercy and love, the cooling waters of which extinguished the eternal fire of hell.

Just then the cock crowed.

“Father of all mercy, grant Thou to her the peace that I was unable to procure for her!”

“I have it now!” said the dead woman. “It was your hard words, your despair of mankind, your gloomy belief in God and His creation, which drove me to you. Learn to know mankind! Even in the wicked one lives a part of God—and this extinguishes and conquers the flame of hell!”

The pastor felt a kiss on his lips; a gleam of light surrounded him—God’s bright sun shone into the room, and his wife, alive, sweet and full of love, awoke him from a dream which God had sent him!

PUSSY WILLOW’S FURS by Abbie Phillips Walker

flowers and ladybug

Miss Pussy Willow put on her furs one day in March and stepped out into the sunshine; but, while the sun was warm, March’s breath was cold, so she hugged her furs closer about her and sat on a swaying bough.

It was early and Miss Pussy knew it, but what cared she, dressed in her furs; she knew that her silver-gray dress was very much admired, and while she was modest she was not above caring for admiration.

Pussy Willow had no trouble until all the spring and summer flowers arrived in their gayly colored gowns and then, though she did not in the least envy them, she did not like to hear the scornful remarks about her furs, and sometimes she wished that under her fur coat she had a pretty colored gown.

“It is really too bad,” said one Red Flower. “Poor Pussy Willow! I do feel so sorry for her; she wears that fur coat all the year round.”

“You know why, my dear, do you not?” asked a tall Blue Flower growing near.

“I suppose she has no other,” said the Red Flower.

“I think it is because she has on an old dress,” answered tall Blue Flower; “she never takes off that fur coat, you notice, and, of course, these hot days she would if she had a new dress. Don’t you think I am right?”

“I should not wonder if you were,” was the reply, “but let us ask Mr. Poppy what he thinks.”

“Oh, what is the use of asking him. He is asleep half the time. I do believe he never sees our pretty frocks at all,” replied Blue Flower. “Let us ask Miss Thistle; she sees everything and she may have asked Miss Willow before this why she never takes off her coat; you know Thistle cares nothing for the feelings of others.”

Miss Thistle said she did not know, but that she would ask Miss Willow right away, “for why in the world she wears that fur coat all summer I cannot think. She really is the only one around here who does not give attention to her clothes. I think style means more than color,” said Miss Thistle, with a toss of her head.

“I can tell you what you wish to know,” said Lady Bug, alighting on a bush near the gossips.

“Oh, do, dear Lady Bug!” said Blue Flower. “You travel and know the styles. Now don’t you think blue is ever so much better style for summer than any other color?”

“Yes, I do travel,” replied Miss Lady Bug, without replying to Blue Flower’s question, “and I see the styles, as you said, and that is the reason I can tell you the truth about Pussy Willow. She is the only one among you who really is in style.”

“In style with that fur on!” said Thistle, all prickly with anger. “Why, where have you been, Lady Bug? Up to the North Pole?”

“No,” calmly replied Miss Lady Bug. “I have been everywhere that fashionable folks go, and everybody is wearing furs, no matter how hot the weather; and so I tell you again that the only one who is in style is Miss Pussy Willow with her silvery fur.”

Miss Pussy Willow did not let the flowers around her know that she heard what Lady Bug had said, but she felt very happy and no longer did she wish that under her fur she had a dainty colored gown.

She behaved in a modest manner and put on no airs, for did she not know that she was dressed in the latest fashion?

THE WINDFLOWER’S STORY by Abbie Phillips Walker

wildflowers and pansies in the wind

One day a little Windflower growing in a garden heard the Rosebush say to the Pansies, “What a quiet little creature the Windflower is! She seems to be a modest little thing, but she never stays here long enough to get acquainted; so I do not know whether she hides her ignorance by keeping quiet or is a deep thinker.”

“I think she is deep, Miss Rose,” said the Hollyhock, near by. “You know I can see farther than anyone here, and it is my opinion that the Windflower is deep, and I think, too, she has a story.”

“A story!” cried the Pansies, turning up their pretty faces to the Hollyhock. “Oh, how interesting.”

“What do you mean by a story?” asked the Rosebush.

“Oh, I mean she is deep and knows things of which we little dream. There is something between her and the Wind, but I cannot learn her secret.”

Rosebush held up her head, the Pansies turned their little faces around and looked at the modest little Windflower to see if they could read her secret.

“I have no secret the world cannot know,” said the Windflower. “All my family love the Wind; this all the world would know if they knew our history.”

Rosebush and the Pansies and Hollyhock began to question the little Windflower, and this is what she told them:

“Oh, a long, long time ago some beautiful goddess grieved very much over the death of some one she dearly loved, and she created in memory of this friend a beautiful flower which she named Anemone. That is our real name.”

“Oh, how grand is sounds!” said the Rosebush. “Such a big name, too, for such a little flower.”

“Yes, it is big,” replied the little Windflower, “but you see we had nothing at all to do with our name; the Wind fell in love with us and opened our blossoms—that is the way we happened to be named, I am told.”

“Oh, how interesting!” said the Rosebush, beginning to look with envy upon the little Windflower.

“But you are a small family, I think,” said the Rosebush. “I have seen very few of your kind in our garden.”

“No, we are a numerous and beautiful family,” said the Windflower.

“Oh, how conceited she is!” said the Rosebush in a whisper to the Pansies. “Think of calling herself beautiful. For my part, I think her white and purple quite plain-looking.”

But in spite of the low voice of the Rose the little Windflower heard her. “Oh, you are quite mistaken if you think I feel I am beautiful!” she said. “It is of our family I speak; you should see some of my sisters; they are wonderful, purple and so silky they are beautiful.

“And other sisters are a beautiful blue. Oh, I am by far the plainest of our family. But the Wind has no favorites; he takes us all along with him, though, of course, my sisters that grow in mountain pastures go oftener with the Wind than others.”

“Oh, here comes that horrid breeze!” said the Rosebush. “He always spoils everything.” And she gathered her petals closer to her and leaned back among the leaves.

When she opened her petals to look around the garden again the little Windflower was not there.

“Why, where has the Windflower gone?” she asked.

“Oh, you missed it!” said the Pansies, nodding very knowingly. “That breeze came to tell the Windflower that the Wind would be along in a minute. We heard him, so we watched, and in a little while the Wind came and took the Windflower away with him. She went up high right over Hollyhock’s head.”

Hollyhock, who had been gazing about, lowered his head. “She is out of sight,” he told the Rosebush and the Pansies. “The Wind came this morning and whispered to her, but I could not hear what he said; but she opened wide her blossom and nodded.”

“Now, what do you suppose there is between the Windflower and the Wind?” asked Rosebush.

“Just what she told us,” said Hollyhock. “He is in love with the Windflowers.”

“I should prefer a more tender lover,” said Rosebush. “I think him quite rude at times. The way he blows through our garden is far from gentle.”

“Some like strong lovers that can master them,” said Hollyhock, lifting his head and standing very straight.

“I suppose so,” sighed the Rosebush; “but it is just as I have always said. You never can tell about the quiet, modest ones. Think of the little Windflower having such a story and flying away with the Wind. My, my! What a world!”

WHAT THE FLOWERS TOLD MARTHA by Abbie Phillips Walker

white rose and a bird

Martha was visiting her grandmother, who lived in the country. At the back of the farmhouse was a very large porch, and in the front of that a garden in which grew all kinds of flowers.

One afternoon, when everyone else was taking a nap, Martha sat on the porch. It was warm and a bee was buzzing around the flowers. Every little while he would fly around Martha’s head.

“I wish I had someone to play with,” thought Martha. “Everybody is asleep and I am lonesome.”

“The flowers want you to come into the garden,” buzzed the bee.

Martha listened, for she could not believe the bee was really speaking to her, but she heard again, “The flowers want you to come into the garden.”

Martha walked down the path to the Rose Bush. “I’ll find out if that bee is telling the truth,” she said.

“I am so glad you came,” said a Rose, and as Martha looked it seemed that she could almost see the face of a little girl in its petals. “I wanted some one to talk to,” said the Rose.

“So did I,” said a Lily.

“We all are glad to see you,” said a Tulip, “for we never have anyone to talk to.”

“I never knew before that you could talk,” said Martha.

“Of course we can,” said the Rose, “but we are tired of telling stories to one another.”

“Oh! can you tell stories?” asked Martha as she seated herself on the ground beside the flowers.

“Yes, indeed!” said the Rose. “I’ll tell mine first.”

“Did you ever hear how the Rose happened to have thorns?” she asked.

Martha said she never did, and the Rose said, “I will tell you.”

“Before I bloomed here I lived in the warm climates, and although you may not think it I also lived in the land where Jack Frost dwells. But I love best the land where the nightingale lives and tells me of his love. One night when he was singing and telling me that my perfume was the sweetest in the garden and my damask cheek the softest, a Thorn Bush which grew near and had tried many times to win him from me began to tell how sweet were his notes and how graceful his form.”

“‘Do come and sing in my bush,’ she said, ‘and let me show you how strong I am. You will be safer in my bush than on the swaying branches of the Rose.’

“But the nightingale would not leave me, and told the Thorn Bush it was far too bold and its sharp points far too treacherous. ‘You are not so fragrant as the Rose,’ he said, ‘and my love is all for her.’

“‘You shall pay for this,’ screamed the Thorn Bush, angrily, ‘and you will find that your beautiful Rose has thorns as well as I.’ But the nightingale only sang lower and more sweetly to me, and we forgot the Thorn Bush in our happiness.

“The cruel Thorn, however, did not forget or forgive, and one day she twined herself around my roots and pressed into my tender stems until she was a part of me. I tried to cry out, but her strength was greater than mine. That night, when the nightingale came to sing his love song, she raised one of her sharp thorns and pierced his foot.

“‘You see your beautiful Rose has hidden thorns,’ she said, ‘and she is no more to be desired than I am.’

“‘I should be a poor lover were I not willing to suffer for the one I love,’ replied the nightingale as he came closer and sang to me even in his pain.

“‘I will always love you,’ he said; ‘I know you are not to blame for the thorns you wear, and that my love for you brought this upon you. I will never leave you.’ And he sang to me all through the night, and in the morning a deep, red Rose bloomed where the nightingale’s bleeding foot had rested, and the Thorn Bush was more angry than ever when she beheld its beauty.

“‘You shall never be free,’ she said to me; ‘every Rose shall wear a thorn.’

“The nightingale still sings to me and never fails to tell me of his undying love.”

“That is a very pretty story,” said Martha as the Rose finished, “and I am glad to know about that Thorn, for I have wondered many times why a flower so beautiful as you had that sharp point under your soft leaves.”

“Martha! Martha!” some one called from the doorway, and Martha jumped up.

“Come back to-morrow and hear my story,” said the Tiger Lily; “and mine,” said the Tulip; “and mine,” called out the Jonquil.

Martha promised that she would and ran toward the house.

The next day as soon as Martha found herself alone she ran into the garden, for she was curious to hear the promised stories.

The Jonquil spoke first. “My story,” it said, with dignity, “will be historical. I am a descendant from the great Narcissus family, and the Narcissus, as you know, is a very beautiful flower; it grows in wild profusion among the stony places along the great Mediterranean and eastward to China. All that you may have heard, but do you know why Narcissus loves to be near the water?”

Martha said she did not.

“I will tell you,” replied the Jonquil. “Ages and ages ago Narcissus was the son of a river god. He was extremely vain of his extraordinary beauty, which he beheld for the first time in the water. He sought out all the pools in the woods and would spend hours gazing at his reflection, and at last he fell in love with his own image.

“Narcissus could neither eat nor sleep, so fascinated did he become with his reflection. He would put his lips near to the water to kiss the lips he saw, and plunge his arms into it to embrace the form he loved, which, of course, fled at his touch, and then returned after a moment to mock him.

“‘Why cannot you love me?’ he would say to the image; ‘the Nymphs have loved me, and I can see love in your eyes’; which, of course, he did, for he did not know he was gazing at his own reflection.

“At last he pined away and died, and in the place of his body was found a beautiful flower, with soft white petals, nodding to its reflection in the water.

“The Daffodils are also my cousins,” the Jonquil explained, “and descend from the beautiful Narcissus.”

“That is a very pretty story,” said Martha, “and the fate of Narcissus should teach all vain people a lesson.”

The Tiger Lily told her story next.

“Mine is not a love story,” she said; “it is about something I saw in far-off China before I bloomed here.

“In that land little girls are not so happy as they are here because the boys are the pride of the family.

“One day a poor beggar who was faint from hunger and thirst lay down close beside where I bloomed. He groaned aloud in his misery, and a little girl who was passing heard him. She came to him and gave him water from a near-by stream and bathed his face. When he was refreshed he asked, ‘Who are you, and how did you happen to be here?’

“‘I am only a miserable daughter on her way to the mission,’ she replied. ‘My father is very poor and can provide only for his sons. If I can reach the mission they will take me in and I shall be taught many things.’

“The beggar only shook his head; he did not believe that a girl was worth even thanking, and that anyone should bother to teach her was past his belief, and so the little girl passed on.

“I am telling you this story,” said the Tiger Lily, “that you may know how much good your pennies do that you drop into the missionary box, for you see by the kind act of that little girl the Chinese girls are worth saving, for they are kind and good and grow up to be a blessing to their country.”

“What became of the beggar?” asked Martha.

“The little girl reached the mission,” the Lily said, “and they sent some one from there to take the beggar away. Very likely the missionaries took care of him.”

“I am glad you told me that story,” said Martha. “I shall try to save more pennies now to send to the little girls in China.”

The Tulip spoke next.

“I am afraid,” she said, “that my story will not be very interesting, but I don’t suppose that many people know that I bloomed long ago in Constantinople, the city of beautiful hills, where the mosques and the tombs and the fountains make a strange picture in the moonlight.

“There the ladies wear queerly draped gowns and their veiled faces leave only their bright eyes exposed.

“Afterward I bloomed in a country where everybody seems happy, and that is the land I love best. The children in that country look like little stuffed dolls in their many petticoats and close-fitting bonnets around their chubby little faces. Their little shoes clatter over the stones, sounding like many horses in the distance. There I was best loved and grew in profusion and beauty around the quaint homes of these quaint-looking people.

“Ah, me, it is a long way from here,” sighed the Tulip, “and I often long to hear the sound of the Zuider Zee as I did once long ago.”

“Why, she has gone to sleep,” said Martha as the Tulip closed and drooped her head, “and I must go in the house. Grandmother will be looking for me.”

“Will you come again?” asked the flowers; “there are many more that have stories to tell.”

“I shall be glad to hear them,” said Martha, “for I had no idea that flowers could tell such interesting stories.”

DISCONTENTED DEWDROP by Abbie Phillips Walker

dewdrop flower illustration

One morning a little Dewdrop was resting on the petal of a wild rose that grew beside a river. The sun shining on it made it glisten like a diamond and a lady who was passing stopped to admire its beauty.

“It is the most beautiful thing in the world,” she remarked. “See the colors in that tiny little drop. Isn’t it wonderful?”

“Wonderful,” repeated the Dewdrop when the lady had walked away. “If I were like the river I might be wonderful; it is too bad; here I am sitting here while the river can run on and on and see all the sights. It bubbles and babbles as it goes, and that is worth while. I have never a chance to be wonderful. Oh, if I were only in the river water I might be something.”

Just then a breeze passing heard the little Dewdrop’s wish.

“You shall have your wish, foolish Dewdrop,” she said, blowing gently on the rose, which swayed, and off went the little Dewdrop into the rushing river.

“This is like something, being a part of this river,” said the Dewdrop as it mingled its tiny drop with the running river. “Now I am worth admiring and can see something of the world.”

On and on it ran with the water of the river, but it was no longer a Dewdrop; it was a part of the river.

“I wish I could stop for a minute so some one might admire me,” said the silly little drop, for it thought it could still be seen and was making all the babbling it heard as the river ran along.

But no one admired it, nor did it stop. On went the river to a larger river, and by and by it came to the bay and the Dewdrop went rolling into it with the other water.

“Surely I am greater now than ever and worth admiring,” thought the drop, but it heard no sweet words such as the lady spoke of the little Dewdrop on the rose by the river.

The bay mingled at last with the ocean and little Dewdrop knew at last that it was no longer a thing to be admired for itself alone, but a part of the great ocean. It was completely lost in the vastness of the mighty waters of which it was only a drop.

The breeze went whispering over it, calling, “Little Dewdrop, little Dewdrop, where are you?”

But the drop answered never a word. It did not even hear the gentle voice of the breeze, so loud was the roar of the ocean.

“Come away,” called a loud wind to the gentle breeze; “that is no place for you. I must blow here and make the waves high, and you will never find your little Dewdrop. It has been swallowed long ago by the ocean. Go back to your river and tell the other Dewdrops the fate of their companion.”

The gentle breeze went away and the loud wind swept the ocean, making the waves high and the roar louder and louder. The little Dewdrop was there somewhere in the great whole, but it was lost forever in its longing to become great.

The gentle breeze went back to the river, and as she sighed around the rose where the discontented Dewdrop had rested she heard another drop say:

“Look at the river. Isn’t it big? Here am I only a Dewdrop, so small no one can see me.”

“Ah, that is where you are mistaken, my dainty Dewdrop,” said the gentle breeze. “You can be seen now, but if you were to become a part of the river you would never be seen. You would lose your identity as soon as you mingled with the waters of the river. Be your own sweet self and be content with the part you play in this world. You are helping to make it more beautiful by your own dainty beauty. Do not wish to do what only seems a greater thing.”

And then she told the fate of the discontented Dewdrop that had wished to become great and how at last it was swallowed by its own greatness, and its dainty beauty which had been so admired no longer remained.

“Be content with the small but beautiful part you play in this world,” she told the drop, “and do not long for a greatness which may result in your unhappiness.”

JACK THE PREACHER by Abbie Phillips Walker

small flower and mushroom illustration

One morning in very early springtime the big Evergreen Trees began to talk about the part they took in telling all the woodland flowers that it was spring.

“Why, if we were not here,” said one Evergreen Tree, “who would awake these sleepy springtime flowers to their duty? I should like you to tell me!”

“You speak truly, brother,” said another tree. “We are ever green and need no awakening to our duty; but for us the woods would be a sorry-looking place in the summer. Those lazy crocuses would sleep right on and on!”

“Yes, and the little violets never would dare show their timid little heads,” said another Evergreen Tree, “when the soft winds begin to run through the woods. It is then we call forth to all sleeping flowers and shrubs and bushes: ‘Awake! It is time to get up!’”

“And who would tell the Bee summer was on its way?” said another Tree. “He would never get his work started at all if it were not for us. How lucky the flowers and all the woodland things are that we are here to tell them when to get up!”

So the Evergreens talked and bragged about how they preached Springtime to the woodland folk, and as they talked all the spring flowers awoke and the insects began lazily to stretch their wings, but it was not because of what the big Evergreen Trees were saying; no, it was because they had heard the voice of the little woodland preacher.

And who was he, do you think? Why, no other than Jack-in-the-pulpit, who gives a talk every spring to all the woodland dwellers on just how to bloom and how to buzz and when to do it.

Every night for ever so long before it is time for the crocus or the violet or any early spring flower to bloom, when it is the magic hour the Fairies come running through the woods and touch Jack on his nodding little head under the dry leaves and up he pops and begins to preach.

So when the flowers and bees and things heard the big Evergreen Trees talking they nodded to each other and laughed. “Isn’t it funny to hear them?” said a beautiful yellow crocus. “Those tall trees know nothing about the real truth of things, do they?”

“Fancy thinking they awaken us!” said another flower. “Why, they themselves are asleep. They get so used to winter they stand still all the time, but who is to tell them the truth about our Preacher Jack? The Evergreen Trees never bend or sway to one side or the other far enough to see the beauties of our woodland spring. They only know what the winds tell them.”

“Let them think what they like,” said a little bush of pretty blossoms. “It does not hurt Jack-in-the-pulpit if the Evergreens think they are the preachers of the woods, for all the spring and summer flowers know that Jack has always been our preacher and the Evergreens haven’t any pulpit to preach from. Only they do not know it.”

And so the sleepy old Evergreens thought they were the ones who awakened the flowers and preached to them about their duty, and no one ever told them about little Jack-in-the-pulpit, who always has and always will preach about the spring and summer to all the woodland dwellers.

HOW THE BUTTERCUP GREW YELLOW by Abbie Phillips Walker

flower and elves

Long, long ago it is told that the flowers were all white and that each received its color by some magic power. The little Daisy, with its yellow eye, received its golden center when the angry elves pelted the little Fairies with sunbeams.

The Daisy grew to be very proud of her yellow eye and thought it showed off to perfection her pure white rim. One day she was looking about the field where she grew and saw the little White Cups growing all about her in abundance.

“There is too much white in this field,” she told the other Daisies. “Our beautiful white borders would show off much better if the White Cups were golden.”

“But perhaps the White Cups do not wish to become golden,” said her sisters.

“Oh, but we do, dear Daisies,” said the White Cups all in chorus; “we have always wanted to be a beautiful yellow like your eyes, but we thought you would not like to have us that color, as we have to live in the same field.”

“Oh yes, we would,” said the Daisy, “and I am sure the fields will look much more beautiful with you a golden color than white; besides that, we shall be seen to better advantage; so both of us will gain by the change.”

“But who will help us to change our color?” asked the White Cups.

The daisy thought a long time, and at length she said: “You might get the Goblins to color you, but the thing is to get them to do it. They are such queer little fellows that if they thought they were bothering the Fairies they would do it quick enough; but if we ask them to make you yellow that we all may look more beautiful they would only laugh and run off.”

“Why can’t we make them think they would make the Fairies angry if they made us golden?” asked the White Cups; “I am sure we can find a way.”

“That would be the very thing,” said the Daisy, “but what do you propose to do?”

“We will ask the Fairies when they come into the fields to-night for their frolic,” said the White Cups.

That night when the Fairies came flying over the field the White Cups called to them and told them what they wanted.

“Oh, that will be beautiful,” said the Fairy Queen, “and we can fool the Goblins easy enough, as you shall see.”

The Fairy Queen called her Fairies around her and whispered so low that the field flowers could not hear what she said, but they heard the Fairies laugh as they flew away, and each alighted on a little White Cup and began to sing.

“We love you, little White Cup, Our Lady of the Field;
We will watch o’er you and keep you and from all danger shield;
You are prettier than the Daisy with her yellow eye so bright,
You are like a waxen blossom in the pale moonlight.”

Over and over they sang the verse as they leaned over and kissed the little Cups, and by and by from out of the woods came the Goblins, hopping and jumping like leaves before the wind.

“Here they are,” they said, when they saw the Fairies. “Listen and hear what they are singing.”

When they heard the Fairies’ pretty love song to the little White Cup the Goblins kicked up their heels and laughed, each laying a tiny finger beside his nose as he winked at his brother.

Off they scampered to the woods again, and the Fairies kept on singing their song, while the Daisy watched with its yellow eye, wondering how her cousin, the White Cup, would be made the color for which she had wished.

By and by the Goblins came back, but this time they carried bags over their shoulders and they crept carefully through the grass.

The Fairies saw them all the time, but of course they pretended not to, and when the Goblins were quite near the Queen said:

“Come, my children; leave your best-loved flower for to-night. To-morrow you shall come again.”

As they were flying away they glanced back, and in the moonlight they saw the Goblins hard at work over each little White Cup.

When the morning sun awoke he opened wide his eyes, for all over the field among the Daisies he beheld little Golden Cups nodding gaily at their cousins with the golden eyes.

The next night when the Fairies came flying through the fields they saw the Yellow Cups. “You are more beautiful than ever,” they said to the Golden Cups, “and we will call you our Golden Cups, but you must be known as the Buttercups or the Goblins will discover our trick and make you white again.”

The Buttercups thanked the Fairies and told them they would be glad to be their cups whenever they gave a banquet and that never would they let the Goblins know the Fairies had fooled them.

So they bloom among the Daisies in the fields and are called Buttercups, but they know to the Fairies they are the little Golden Cups, and the Goblins wonder why the Fairies always seem so happy when they fly near the Buttercup and find it changed.

The Fairies are too wise to let the Goblins know how they fooled them and gained for the Buttercups the very color that they wanted, but it is rather hard sometimes not to tell them when the little Goblins scamper about and try to upset their plans.

The Fairy Queen has taught them that “Silence is golden,” and they know their Queen is always right.

MORNING-GLORY by Abbie Phillips Walker

morning-glory illustration

Once upon a time there was a very little Morning-glory that grew on the end of a high vine, and one day when the wind was blowing a brisk breeze passed by the little Morning-glory, making it wish it, too, could go along and see more of the world.

The big mother vine knew what was in the heart of her little Glory, so she whispered soft words of love to it and told the little flower that it must never follow the breeze, for he was a wanderer and might take it far from its home, where it would be very unhappy and perhaps die out in the cold world. But the silly little Morning-glory still wanted to leave the big vine, and the next time the breeze came along it pushed up its head and the breeze took it off the big vine and bore it along with it far, far away.

But by and by the wind grew tired of carrying the little Glory, so it dropped it, and when the Morning-glory looked around it found it was in the midst of big tall trees and rocks and briers.

Vainly it tried to crawl along to a tree where it could twine itself around and climb, but it was too small, and then the rain came and made it cold and wet, and even the fickle wind did not come to it again.

Then the cold days came and the poor little Glory grew faded and had to crawl under the dead leaves for protection.

When the summer came again up came the little Glory, but it was a sad little flower. Now it longed to climb, but it was too small to do anything but lie on the ground.

After a while it grew near to a bush and put its weak little vine around it, hoping to get off the ground.

“What do you mean by trying to cling to me?” said the bush. “I have all I can do to take care of myself.”

So the poor little Morning-glory dropped back to the ground. By and by it grew long enough to reach a tree and slowly it climbed up the big trunk until it came to the branches.

“Now I shall be able to see the world,” it thought. “This tree is big and will shelter me, and I can climb to the very top.”

As soon as the big tree saw what was happening it told the little Morning-glory it would not have it climbing about its branches, because it would spoil its leaves.

“What are you doing in our woods?” asked the tree. “You should be growing in a garden, on an arbor or up the side of some little house. How came you here?”

The poor little Glory had to tell how it ran away from its mother with the breeze and was left alone in the woods all winter.

“Please don’t send me back to the ground. I cannot see a thing there and I am so lonely,” pleaded the little Morning-glory.

“I am sorry for you,” said the tree, “but I cannot have my leaves spoiled on any account. I’ll tell you what I will do, but you must be satisfied and never ask for more liberty. If you do, back you go to the ground.”

The poor little Morning-glory was so lonely and sad it was ready to promise anything to get off the ground.

“You should stay where you are, but you cannot grow up any higher. If you do I shall grow my twigs and leaves about you and crush you,” said the tree.

So the little Morning-glory had to promise to stay on the trunk of the tree and never grow any higher, but it sighed for its mother vine, and, because it could not climb, never grew any big blossoms, but tiny little flowers which sighed because they could not stretch out their vines and grow. But the tree kept the little Glory to its promise and not a vine could get above the trunk.

And then one day when the days grew cold and the Morning-glory vine was going to sleep for the winter, the runaway Glory was heard to say to the other blossoms: “Children, be careful of the breeze and what he may tell you next summer. I may not be here to care for you, but he will surely come and tempt you to go along with him. He is fickle and will carry you far, far away and then drop you in a place perhaps worse than this, for we do not belong here, but in a garden with other flowers. I ran away from my mother vine one day, and this is where the breeze left me; so cling to the big tree as long as you bloom, for here you are safe at least, even if you do not live and bloom in a garden.” And then she went to sleep.