The Man Who Was Obstinate

THERE was once a man who, in his youth, had several beautiful friendships. They were all covered with buds and blossoms, and he thought he had never seen any with such hardy roots. By and by, as he grew older, some of them withered a little, and one even died down entirely, so that he was on the point of throwing it away. But he was very fond of things that grow, and it hurt him to destroy anything that had ever had one green leaf; so he watered the earth where the root was, and kept on watering it, and made sure it was in the sun whenever there was a ray to be seen.

“Why do you keep that unsightly thing ?” people would say to him. “It’s as dead as a door nail. Did n’t you know that ?”

“Is it, do you think?” the man would ask; for he not only loved to make things grow, but he had something many of us call obstinacy. “Well, perhaps it is. But it has n’t rained much lately. I think I ’ll keep on watering it.”

As time went on, he found he had other newer friendships, because he seemed to be a great man to accumulate that kind of thing. Some of them turned out well, great, strong, hardy growing plants, and some turned out ill.

“Do you like the color of that?” people would say to him, when one put out an ugly bloom.

Then the man would look at it thoughtfully, but he would never express his mind. There was something about friendships that kept him from telling exactly what he thought of them, even to himself. And it cannot be denied that he was better at guarding than at selecting, and that, in the beginning, almost any thrifty-looking plant could impose upon him.

“Well,” said he, “maybe it will look better to you if I put it in this light.” And then he would turn it about until the sun fell on it at exactly the right slant, and sometimes, for a minute or two, he could actually make you believe you were looking at the most beautiful blossom in the world. Still it was true that many of his friendships gave him only trouble, and that, in his moments of heavy-heartedness, he was sure somebody else could have taken care of them far better than he.

After a good many years the man died, and immediately he was taken into a pleasant place where it was all growth and bloom.

“What is this?” he asked. “Is it heaven ? ”

The one who had met him when he came smiled a little.

“That is what they always ask,” said he.

“But is it?” said the man.

“Well,” said the other, “ that is one name for it. You can call it what you like.”

“I never saw so much color,” said the man. He delighted in color. “And certainly I never smelled anything so sweet.”

“Look about you,” said the other. “Don’t you see what the color and the sweetness come from?”

There were his friendships all about him, and they were so full of bud and blossom, their leaves were so shiny, and they nodded their heads so in the sun, and rustled so in the breeze, that he would never have known them. And the one that had seemed to be dead was the tallest and most beautiful of all.

“Why,” said he, “they never looked like that before!”

“No,” said the other, “they never were quite like that. And they never would have been, if you had n’t taken such care of them.”

“Well,” said the man, “then perhaps it pays to be obstinate.”

“ Obstinate ? ” said the other. “ Is that what you call it ?”

“Why, don’t you call it so?” asked the man.

“Well, you can call it that if you like. We have a different name for it here.”