THE WHITE FLOWER OF HAPPINESS
No matter how hard the people had to work, if the little plant was growing in their homes, they were happy. Indeed, the book said that the flower of the plant was so beautiful that no garden was complete without it; so in the days of the long ago, it grew in the gardens of the rich and the poor, while happiness and prosperity reigned in the land.
Eagerly the king read the description of the little flower that grew on this wonderful plant. It was white as the driven snow. It had heart-shaped petals surrounding a wonderful heart of gold, and it was known as the White Flower of Happiness.
Now the King loved flowers dearly and there were many in his garden; but he was sure he had never seen this little flower. So, because he wanted to have one for his very own and especially because he wanted happiness and prosperity for his people, he determined to find it.
“Surely somewhere in the kingdom there must be a plant left if it grew so common in the days of my great-great-grandfather,” said the King.
Then calling the heralds to him he said:
“Ride forth and search. Go East, and West, and North, and South, and say to my people, ‘Search for the White Flower of Happiness, and when you have found it, bring it to me that I may raise more seeds so that all may have a chance to own it. ‘Tis a little flower, white as the driven snow, with petals that are heart-shaped around a heart of gold.’”
Eagerly the people, both rich and poor, went to work, for they knew of the wondrous beauty of the flower and wished it for their own.
Now there were two people who were very sure they would be first to find the flower. One was a rich woman who loved beautiful things. Her home was the largest of any on the finest street in the royal city. She had many and large gardens, cared for by the best gardeners to be found. Yet in the summer-time, when they were glowing with hundreds of flowers, few there were who could enjoy them. A high hedge surrounded them all and only her friends were permitted to go through the iron entrance gate.
This wealthy woman said to herself: “I will find the flower and it will be easy to keep it secret from all others if I have it here behind the hedge. Then I shall be sure of happiness in the future.”
So all of her gardeners were set to work to search for the White Flower of Happiness. Wherever they found a plant of rare beauty, they bought it hoping that it might be the plant she sought. Seeds of all kinds also were planted. And in the blossoming time there were flowers in the gardens by the thousands—but behind that great wall there was no flower that was white as the driven snow, with heart-shaped petals surrounding a heart of gold.
There was also a man in the kingdom who thought he could surely find the flower. He was a business man.
“If I could find it,” he said, “I would grow more plants and sell them to the people at a great profit. Then I should quickly grow rich and there would be no need for me to work.”
So he set his office force all to work to write letters to the gardeners and seed-growers of the world. They described the little flower and offered large sums for one single plant. But he, too, failed in his search. It was not to be found.
Down in the heart of the poorer section of the royal city there lived a little old lady whom every one called Aunt Betsy. She was very poor; she had only one room that she could call home, and her only companion was a scrawny cat that every one else had driven away. But it loved her and she loved it, and was glad to have it share her home.
She was very lame and had to hobble away to her work every morning, yet she was the cheeriest little body alive and every one loved her.
Aunt Betsy, like all of her neighbors, was seeking the White Flower of Happiness.
“This old street with its tumble-down houses, and uneven sidewalks, and tin cans surely needsa heap of something to cheer it,” she would say. “Now, if I could find just one plant, I would make this old alley the finest place ever. Then the little children here could have some chance. I wish I might find it.”
But no flowers grew where she lived or where she worked, so she couldn’t hope to find the plant. The only thing she could do was to save every penny she could so that, if the King found the plant, she might possibly buy a seed.
Into an old tin cup she put the pennies, one by one, but it was very slow work, for Aunt Betsy was very poor.
One winter night as Aunt Betsy returned from work, she found a queer looking bundle on her door-step and, on unrolling it, she found Bobby, one of the neighbor’s children. Now Bobby had no mother and only a poor drunken father, who often beat him. And Aunt Betsy saw, as she unrolled him, that his face was all tear-stained, so she knew what had been happening. Bobby had crept away from the blows to come to his best friend when in trouble—Aunt Betsy.
Carefully she picked the little fellow up, carried him into her bare little room, gave him a hot drink, and then tucked him all comfortably on the couch which served as her bed. Tired from his day of play and work, the little fellow was soon lost in sleep.
Not so Aunt Betsy. Sitting by the fire, all she could see were the great holes in the shoes she was drying. Bobby needed some shoes very badly, but she had no money with which to buy some.
“There is the money in the cup,” said a voice within.
“But I couldn’t give that, for I want so much to buy a seed to bring happiness to this alley,” thought Aunt Betsy.
“But a pair of shoes would bring happiness to Bobbie now,” said the voice.
She looked again at the little swollen feet under the cover on the couch. Then slowly, yet with a smile of infinite tenderness, she softly stole to the cupboard, took the money from the little tin cup, drew on her old shawl, and went out into the night.
’Twas a very happy Bobbie who went back to his home in the morning, and behind Aunt Betsy’s stove were the little worn shoes. A little later a little old woman went down the narrow stairs to her work and she sang as she went.
That night Aunt Betsy, hurrying past a florist’s shop, bumped into a barrel of waste that stood on the walk. Stopping abruptly, she saw a wilted-looking plant in an old broken pot on the top of the pile.
“Why, you poor little plant,” said Aunt Betsy. “I’ll just take you home and love you; perhaps you will grow for me in my little upper room.”
So she carried it home, transplanted it into the old tin cup from which she had taken the money, and then set it where the sunshine would find it the very first thing in the morning.
In two days the plant showed signs of life. In a week it stood tall and firm. In two weeks there was a bud which Aunt Betsy watched with great care. Would it be pink or red or yellow? She didn’t care if only it were a blossom.
’Twas night when she came home from her work, but as soon as she opened the door she knew that the little flower had opened, for the room was full of the fragrance that it was sending forth. She hurried to the window and she saw—oh, could she believe her eyes! She saw a little flower, white as the driven snow. Its petals were heart-shaped and surrounded a heart of wonderful gold. It was the White Flower of Happiness.
During the night, the little plant stayed with her in the attic room, but in the morning she carried it to the palace and gave it to the King. Thus, through a simple loving old woman, the White Flower of Happiness was given to a whole kingdom.
But the strange thing about the plant was this: Whenever its owner kept the flower only for self and did not share it with others, it withered and died; but, when lovingly shared, it grew and blossomed and made happy, not only its owner, but all to whom it went. It was in very truth to all—The White Flower of Happiness.
Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Regency Romance novel, A Very Merry Chase
Founder of The LadyWeb Family Of Informational & Educational Websites
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915