The Prickly Bush by Carolyn Sherwin Balley

Story type: Literature

It was the only growing thing in the whole, beautiful garden that was prickly. It stood beside the sunny path, so low that the white rabbit could jump over it. It longed to spread its branches across the path to be touched by the gardener and the children, but no one cared to go very near the little bush that was so covered with thorns.

The day lily had broad, soft leaves without a single thorn. It spread them away from the prickly bush. The tulips had tall, smooth leaves. They held them very high, and away from the bush that was so full of thorns. The white rabbit that lived in the garden and loved to sun himself beneath the plants was very careful not to go near the prickly little bush.

“I must tie this bush so that it cannot hurt any one,” the gardener said one day as he passed it. “The thorns on it are growing larger and larger every day.” So he cut a long, straight stick, and painted it green, and stuck it in the ground beside the prickly little bush. Then he tied the bush tightly to the stick, which kept it from leaning over the path.

“Be very careful not to go near that ugly little bush,” said the children to each other. “It will scratch you even worse than the cat scratches.”

All this was very discouraging, and the prickly little bush drooped and did not feel like growing.

The days of the summer grew warmer, the sun shone, and soft rains fell upon the garden. A pleasant breeze came singing down the path, and the sun, and the rain, and the breeze, each one, spoke to the prickly little bush.

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“Climb up a little higher,” the great, yellow sun seemed to say. So the prickly little bush pulled and stretched its prickly branches up toward the blue sky, and as it grew higher and higher, its thorns went, too, out of the way of the rabbit and the children.

“Push harder,” the pattering raindrops seemed to say to the roots of the prickly little bush as they soaked down through the ground. So the roots of the prickly little bush pushed, and pushed until the branches seemed bursting, and green leaves and tiny buds came and covered over the thorns so that they could scarcely be seen at all.

“Open your buds as wide as you can,” the warm breezes seemed to sing as they stopped in the branches of the prickly little bush. So the little bush unfolded its brown buds as wide and as prettily as it could.

Then it came to be the most beautiful day of all, the mother’s birthday. The children went out to the garden to try to find the loveliest thing that grew there to be their mother’s birthday gift. And that was not easy because the garden was so full of lovely things.

“I am sure that she will like this tall white lily,” said one of the children.

“But the lily fades so quickly after it is picked,” said another child. “I think that she would like a red tulip.”

“But our mother loves pink better than she loves red,” said the youngest child. “Do let us go on a little farther before we decide what to take her for her birthday. Oh, how pretty–” The youngest child stopped in front of the prickly little bush, and the others crowded close to see, too.

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They never would have known that it was the prickly bush, at all. It stood as proudly and as straight as a little tree, and its green leaves covered it like a beautiful dress. Peeping out from between the leaves were the most lovely pink flowers, as soft as velvet and with so many curling petals that one could not count them. They smelled more sweetly than any other flower in the garden, and the children could scarcely speak at first, they were so surprised.

“Roses!” said one child.

“Pink roses!” said another child.

“The prickly little bush has turned into a rose bush for our mother’s birthday,” said the youngest child.

So they smelled of the beautiful pink roses, and touched them to feel how soft and like velvet the petals were. Then they decided that the pink roses that had bloomed on the prickly little bush were the loveliest flowers in the whole garden, and they picked the largest pink rose of all to carry into the house for their mother’s birthday gift.

On the way they met the gardener, and they showed him the beautiful rose, telling him how it had grown upon the prickly little bush. He smiled, for he knew a great deal about the strange ways of his plants.

“I thought it would bear roses this year,” the gardener said. “It often happens that the bush with the sharpest thorns to carry, once it blooms, has the prettiest roses.”

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