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Children's Story Garden  >  The Flower that Jack Did Not Count

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

The Flower that Jack Did Not Count


THE FLOWER THAT JACK DID NOT COUNT

ONE lovely morning in June, when the dew still sparkled on the grass, a little boy named Jack ran out into his mother's garden. He looked around him at the bright, fresh colors of the flowers — many different kinds blooming all so gaily. A cool, delicious fragrance hung in the air, making him think somehow of the woods, rather than of the sunny garden.

Jack's mother was gathering roses over beyond the sun-dial. One big bush had only small pink roses on it, and as Jack watched her cut them with loving care, he said: "Mother, why do you keep those little roses in your garden? The bush takes up lots of room, and they aren't nearly so pretty as the others."

"Oh, but Jack — just smell them!" she answered quickly, "They are Damask roses, and they grew in my mother's garden long before anyone cultivated the larger roses. They still smell sweeter than any other kind."

"But they are so little. I like flowers that you can see a mile off — real big."

Mother smiled. "Don't exaggerate, Jack. Little, inconspicuous flowers are often the most useful." She looked around the garden and sniffed that cool, delicious fragrance." I've thought of a fine game for you, Jack. Count how many different kinds of flowers you can find blooming right now in the garden."

"All right — that'll be fun," Jack answered, for he had learned to count up to one hundred that year in school, and enjoyed doing it.

He started at the end nearest the house where the path led through the shady grape arbor. Here the cool smell was very, very strong. Clumps of nodding columbine — pink, yellow and blue — were scattered here and there in the half shade Jack counted them " One,'* and hurried out into the sun, where a long row of sweet peas of all colors clambered up the twiggy sticks that supported them He especially loved sweet peas — so like little gay butterflies poised on slender stems. "Two." Beyond them named the most brilliant flowers in the garden, the scarlet bowls of the oriental poppies — rich satiny petal with a black patch at its base, when you gazed down into it. "Three."

Then Jack came to a whole mass of flowers and counted rapidly. Iris with golden whiskers on their three drooping petals, up which the bees clambered; tall, white spikes of foxgloves — Jack stopped to stick a finger gently down several spotted throats; a bright pink patch of flat-headed sweet williams over which butterflies hovered; — Jack counted busily, wandering round and round the garden, until Mother, with her basket full of roses, called "How many?"

"Fifteen — and I've counted every single one!" He named them off to her triumphantly, glancing around the garden to remind himself.

"Fine! But I know of one you have missed," Mother said

"Oh, Mother, I'm sure as anything I haven't! I've been up and down from the arbor to the sun dial three times You tell me."

"I'II show you."

Mother led Jack back under the thick, shady grape arbor, and again he sniffed that cool, delicious odor.

"What do yon smell, Jack?"

"Don't know. It isn't roses — or sweet williams."

"No. It's very near you now Look!" Mother pulled down a slender branch of the grape, where Jack could see it closely. Besides the big flat leaves that were so useful in

making the arbor shade, there were several clusters of tiny green and yellowish things — Jack saw they were flowers with little yellow stamens, but he had never noticed them before.

"You wouldn't count them, would you?" he said in disgust,

"Indeed I would — I'd count them first of all in the garden. Smell that, Jack, — the most wonderful fragrance! Haven't you smelled the wild grapes in the woods! Doesn't it make you almost shiver with delight? But that's not the best of those little green flowers. Just wait. We'll come to the garden next September and see how things look."

Of course Jack was in the garden hundreds of times before September, but he didn't think especially about the grapes. One afternoon when the leaves were beginning to turn yellow and fall down, and the arbor was less shady than it had been, Mother called Jack to the garden. "Let's count the flowers again," she said.

"Nothing to count," answered Jack, running to her side. "Nasturtiums and cosmos and marigolds — that's about all."

"Where are all the fifteen you found last June," asked Mother, looking around her.

Jack laughed, for he knew she was only pretending to be puzzled. Hadn't she cut off their dead tops herself

"Sweat peas torn up by the roots because they turned yellow as soon as the hot July sun struck them ——" Mother went on, counting them off on her fingers. "Poppies dead down to the ground; however, they will come up another year. Nothing left of iris but leaves — nor columbines — nor sweet williams. Poor, old foxgloves all rooted up, though they've scattered little seeds here and there. Not much left now to show for all the gay colors last June, is there, Jack? Now come here a minute." She led him under the arbor and pointed up toward where the sky peeped through. Jack had just returned from a long visit to his grandmother, so he hadn't noticed the arbor very lately, although some time before he had seen green bunches of grapes. Now he was amazed to see the big purple clusters, full and beautiful — and his mouth watered. The blue-black grapes were so swollen with juice that it would have been hard to slip the point of a penknife between them.

"We'll pick some for the table," Mother said, reaching up high above Jack's head. He ran to get a basket

"Jack," said Mother, "you know this is what the tiny green flowers turned into. The other flowers were gay and showy for a little while, and then they were gone. But the little blossoms of the grape, that you despised so — see what they have made! You'll find it is often that way with people, too — the quiet, inconspicuous ones do the best things in the world."

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.