Mr. Henry’s Valentine Caper


Mr. Henry lived alone in a small house. He hardly ever went anywhere and he didn’t talk to many people because he really didn’t have any friends. He thought people didn’t like him. Every day he tended his garden in back of the house and his apple trees in front. Everyone knew that Mr. Henry grew the most beautiful apples in town.

On warm summer evenings Mr. Henry sat on his porch watching people go by. But most of the time no one stopped to visit the lonely man.

In the winter he sat by the fire and thought about the way his mother used to surprise him with treats on holidays. He remembered how happy he was when someone gave him a nice surprise. But now there was no one to give him anything and Mr. Henry was sad.

On Valentine’s Day, however, an idea came to him. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it, so he hurried out to his storehouse. He gathered up some of his juicy red apples, picking out only the best he could find, and put them into sacks. He chose some of the odd-shaped ones that looked almost like big hearts.

Carefully, he rubbed and polished each apple until they all were bright and shiny. Then after dark he took the sacks and left one on the doorstep of every house on the street. On each sack he wrote this message: Happy Valentine’s Day—A Friend.

When the last sack of apples was delivered, Mr. Henry went home with a good feeling inside. “They’ll never know who did it,” he told himself as he climbed into bed. “But that’s the fun of it!” Soon he drifted off to sleep.

Now, a curious thing happened after that night. When people walked by his house they would stop and say, “Hello, Mr. Henry,” or “Nice day, Mr. Henry.” And one Sunday, Mrs. Corey brought him a piece of chocolate cake.

“I wonder how they knew?” Mr. Henry asked himself. “It’s strange how sharing a few apples can change a person’s life.”

When Valentine’s Day came the next year, Mr. Henry took apples to his neighbors again, and the next year, and the next. In fact, he took apples to his friends every year.

Now each fall the children come and help him pick his apples. It is fun for them to pretend they don’t know who leaves apples in sacks at their homes on Valentine’s Day. And Mr. Henry is happy too. Everyone in the whole neighborhood has somehow become his friend.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Lynn Titleman