The Story of the Broken Flower-pot
[Pisistratus, the young hero, had pushed his mother's favorite flower-pot out of the window, in mischief, and told the truth about it.]
From that time I first date the hour when I felt that I loved my father, and knew that he loved me; from that time, too, he began to converse with me. He would no longer, if he met me in the garden, pass by with a smile and nod; he would stop, put his book in his pocket, and though his talk was often above my comprehension, still, somehow, I felt happier and better, and less of an infant, when I thought over it, and tried to puzzle out the meaning; for he had a way of suggesting, not teaching; putting things into my head, and then leaving them to work out their own problems.
Not long after this, Mr. Squills made me a present far exceeding in value those usually bestowed on children; it was a beautiful, large domino-box in cut ivory, painted and gilt. This domino-box was my delight. I was never weary of playing at dominoes with Mrs. Primmins, and I slept with the box under my pillow.
"Ah," said my father, one day, when he found me ranging the ivory parallelograms in the parlor, "ah, you like that better than all your playthings, eh?"
"Oh, yes, papa."
"You would be very sorry if your mamma was to throw that box out of the window and break it, for fun?"
I looked beseechingly at my father, and made no answer.
"But, perhaps, you would be very glad," he resumed, "if, suddenly, one of those good fairies you read of could change the domino-box into a beautiful geranium, in a beautiful blue-and-white flower-pot, and that you could have all the pleasure of putting it on your mamma's window-sill?"
"Indeed I would!" said I, half crying.
"My dear boy, I believe you; but good wishes don't mend bad actions; good actions mend bad actions."
So saying, he shut the door, and went out. I cannot tell you how puzzled I was to make out what my father meant by his aphorism; but I know that I played at dominoes no more that day. The next morning, my father found me seated by myself under a tree in the garden; he paused, and looked at me with his grave, bright eyes, very steadily.
"My boy," said he, "I am going to walk to Webster, (a town about two miles off), will you come? And, by-the-bye, fetch your domino-box; I would like to show it to a person there."
I ran in for the box, and, not a little proud of walking with my father upon the high-road, we set out.
"Papa," said I, by the way, "there are no fairies, now."
"What, my child?"
"Why, how then can my domino-box be changed into a geranium and a blue-and-white flower-pot?"
"My dear," said my father, leaning his hand on my shoulder, "everybody, who is in earnest to be good, carries two fairies about with him; one here," and he touched my heart, "and one here," and he touched my forehead.
"I don't understand, papa."
"I can wait until you do, Pisistratus. What a name!"
My father stopped at a nursery-gardener's, and, after looking over the flowers, paused before a large double geranium.
"Ah, this is finer than that which your mamma was so fond of. What is the cost, sir?"
"Only 7s. 6d.," said the gardener.
My father buttoned up his pocket. "I can't afford it today," said he, gently, and we walked out. On entering the town, we stopped again, at a china ware-house.
"Have you a flower-pot like that I bought some months ago? Ah, here is one marked 3s. 6d. Yes, that is the price. Well, when your mamma's birthday comes again, we must buy her another. That is some months to wait. And we can wait, Master Sisty. For truth, that blooms all the year round, is better than a poor geranium; and a word that is never broken, is better than a piece of delf."
My head, which had drooped before, rose again, but the rush of joy at my heart almost stifled me.
"I have called to pay your little bill," said my father, entering the shop of one of those fancy stationers, common in country towns, and who sell all kinds of pretty toys and nicknacks; "and, by the way," he added, as the smiling shopman looked over his books for the entry, "I think my little boy, here, can show you a much handsomer specimen of French workmanship than that work-box which you enticed Mrs. Caxton into raffling for, last winter. Show your domino-box, my dear."
I produced my treasure, and the shopman was liberal in his commendations.
"It is always well, my boy, to know what a thing is worth, in case one wishes to part with it. If my young gentleman gets tired of his plaything, what will you give him for it?"
"Why, sir," said the shopman, "I fear we could not afford to give more than eighteen shillings for it, unless the young gentleman took some of these pretty things in exchange."
"Eighteen shillings!" said my father. "You would give that? Well, my boy, whenever you do grow tired of your box, you have my permission to sell it."
My father paid his bill, and went out. I lingered behind, a few moments, and joined him at the end of the street.
"Papa! papa!" I cried, clapping my hands, "we can buy the geranium — we can buy the flower-pot;" and I pulled a handful of silver from my pockets.
"Did I not say right?" said my father, passing his handkerchief over his eyes; "you have found the two fairies!"
Oh, how proud, how overjoyed I was, when, after placing vase and flower on the window-sill, I plucked my mother by the gown, and made her follow me to the spot.
"It is his doing and his money!" said my father; "good actions have mended the bad."
"What!" cried my mother, when she had learned all, "and your poor domino-box that you were so fond of! We will go back, tomorrow, and buy it back, if it costs us double."
"Shall we buy it back, Pisistratus?" asked my father.
"Oh, no, no, no! it would spoil all!" I cried, burying my face on my father's bosom.
"My wife," said my father, solemnly, "this is my first lesson to our child, the sanctity and the happiness of self-sacrifice; undo not what it should teach to his dying day."
And this is the history of the broken flower-pot.