The Thrift Flower


Once upon a time in the long, long ago, there lived a wee woman in a wee house. The house was old and the wee woman was old, but her garden was as young and lovely as the springtime.

The little old woman had one flower in particular that she loved more than all the others. In those long-ago days it was called ladies’ cushion. All summer long it colored her garden with thousands of rosy blooms.

One day the wee woman’s wealthy grandson came to visit her in the wee house. Grandmother has many flowers, he thought, but no damask roses. I will have my gardener dig up all these homely and worthless flowers scattered about the garden and plant damask roses in their place.

The gardener followed his master’s instructions. He dug up the old woman’s flowers and loaded them onto a cart. Then he took the wilted flowers over a great gray mountain and down to the barren seacoast, where he dumped them.

“Huh!” sniffed most of the flowers. “This water is too salty for us. We shall surely die.” And many did.

But the ladies’ cushion said, “Let’s see. Here is green seaweed that has grown in the salt water. If it thrives, perhaps we can also.” They drank deeply of the salt water. And they began to grow. Soon they were healthier and lovelier than ever.

One day the rich grandson’s children came to play on the beach. There, blooming on the yellow sand, were masses of small pink flowers.

“Look!” the children shouted. “Great-Grandmother’s ladies’ cushions are growing where no flowers bloomed before. How wonderful!”

The little flowers had covered the beach and the nearby cliffs. They looked lovelier than ever on the yellow sand beside the blue and green ocean. So the flowers came to be called sea pinks.

Above the seacoast was a great gray mountain. Nothing grew on its barren sides but a few thorn bushes. The sea pinks said, “If we could find food on those old gray rocks, perhaps we could brighten such a dreary landscape.”

When autumn came and their rosy petals had fallen, the sea pinks sent forth many small parachutes, each bearing a tiny seed. The south wind blew the seeds up onto the mountainside.

All winter long the seeds lay under the snow. When spring came, they sprouted and sent their tiny rootlets down into the crevices between the gray stones. There they absorbed nourishment from the rain-washed rocks and thrived. In time the mountainside was covered with lovely blooms.

Many hearts were gladdened when they saw the mountain covered with rosy blooms. The flowers were now called mountain pinks. And because each tiny flowerlet carried in its heart a drop of honey, many beautiful butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and bees came to live there.

On summer nights, fireflies lighted the old mountain as though thousands of stars had come to earth. The mountain seemed touched by magic so that all who came there were happy. Those who grieved came to the mountain and were comforted. Those who were greedy came to the mountain and went away satisfied with what they had. When children came to the mountain, they laughed and sang and danced for joy. They called it Happy Mountain.

And the old gray mountain was glad, for it had been lonely.

The mountain pinks spread over the sunny side of the mountain onto the shaded side. There a banker came to see them. “Mountain pinks is not a proper name for this flower,” he declared, “because it uses everything it has so carefully. See, even when all its flowers are gone, the hearts are saved in tiny parachutes to carry the seeds away. Because it is so frugal, let us call it the thrift flower.”

One autumn day some of the tiny seed-bearing parachutes landed softly in the wee woman’s garden. There they waited secretly through the time of falling leaves and the cold deep snows of winter.

In the springtime the seeds burst their withered gray shells and began to grow among the beautiful damask roses. “What are you small, useless things doing in our garden?” asked one proud rose.

“We are not as lovely as you nor do we grow as tall, but we are not useless,” said the little thrifts to the stately rose. “We have covered a sandy shore and on old gray mountain with beauty. Hungry butterflies, moths, birds, and bees gather our nectar. We have taken the salt and the bitter soil and turned it into good earth. And the hearts of many people have been gladdened at the sight of us.”

One soft spring day the wee old woman walked out into her garden. There she found the thrift flowers blooming in the shadow of the great roses. Seeing them there made her feel as young and lovely as springtime again.

[illustration] Illustrated by Richard Hull