A FARMER who owned a fine orchard, one day

Went out with his sons to take a survey,

The time of the year being April or May.


The buds were beginning to break into bloom,

The air all about him was rich with perfume,

And nothing at first waked a feeling of gloom.


But all at once, going from this place to that,

He shaded his eyes with the brim of his hat,

Saying, "Here is a tree dying out, that is flat!"


He called his sons, Joseph and John, and said he,

"This sweeting, you know, was my favorite tree—

Just look at the top now, and see what you see!


"The blossoms are blighted, and, sure as you live,

It won't have a bushel of apples to give!

What ails?  The rest of the tree seems to thrive.


"Run, boys, bring hither your tools, and don't stop,

But take every branch that is falling alop,

And saw it out quickly, from bottom to top!"


"Yes, father," they said and away they both ran—

For they always said father, and never old man,

And for my part I don't see how good children can.


And before half an hour of the morning was gone,

They were back in the orchard, both Joseph and John,

And presently all the dead branches were sawn.


"Well, boys," said the farmer, "I think, for my share,

If the rain and the sunshine but second our care,

The old sweeting yet will be driven to bear!"


And so when a month, may be more, had gone by,

And borne out the June, and brought in the July,

He came back the luck of the pruning to try.


And lo when the sweeting was reached, it was found

That wind-falls enough were strewn over the ground,

But never an apple all blushing and sound.


Then the farmer said, shaping his motions to suit,

First up to the boughs, then down to the fruit,

"Come, Johnny, come, Joseph, and dig to the root!"


And straightway they came with their spades and their hoes,

And threw off their jackets, and shouting, "Here goes!"

They digged down and down with the sturdiest blows.


And by and by Joseph his grubbing-hoe drew do!"

From the earth and the roots, crying, "Father, look!

And he pointed his words with the toe of his shoe!


And the farmer said, shaping a gesture to suit,

"I see why our sweeting has brought us no fruit—

There's a worm sucking out all the sap at the root!"


Then John took his spade with an awful grimace,

And lifted the ugly thing out of its place,

And put the loose earth back in very short space.


And when the next year came, it only is fair

To say that the sweeting rewarded the care,

And bore them good apples, enough and to spare.


And now, my dear children, whenever you see

A life that is profitless, think of that tree;

For ten chances to one, you'll find there will be


Some habit of evil indulged day by day,

And hid as the earth-worm was hid in the clay,

That is steadily sapping the life-blood away.


The fruit, when the blossom is blighted, will fall;

The sin will be searched out, no matter how small;

So, what you're ashamed to do, don't do it at all.





Alice Cary.