T HE flax was in blossom; it had pretty little blue flowers, even more delicate than the moth's wings. The sun shone on it, the raindrops fell on it and moistened it, and it grew prettier every day.
"The people say that I look unusually well," said the Flax, "and that I am fine and long, and will make a good piece of linen. How well off I am! How the sunshine gladdens, and the rain refreshes one! I am the happiest of all beings."
"Yes, yes," said the fence post, "but you don't know the world; I do." And then he creaked out sadly:
"No; it is not done," said the Flax.
But one day some people came and roughly pulled up the Flax—pulled it up by the roots. Then it was laid in some water, as if they were going to drown it; and then they put it over the fire, as if they were going to roast it. It was dreadful! "One cannot always have pleasant times. One must suffer some to know what life is," said the Flax.
But times grew worse. The Flax was moistened and roasted, and broken and hackled; and other things were done that it would not tell. Then it was put on the spinning-wheel—whirr! whirr! whirr! round and round, till it was quite dizzy.
"I have been very happy, even if I am not now," it thought, in all its pain. "One must be contented with the good one has enjoyed! Contented! Contented!" And it kept saying that until it was put into the loom and became a large, beautiful piece of linen. All the Flax, to the last stalk, was used in making one piece.
"How remarkable this is!" said the Flax. "I could not have believed it. The fence post was wrong when he said:
"The song is not done by any means. Now it is beginning in earnest. If I have suffered, I have been made into something! How strong and fine I am, and how white! This is much better than being a plant. Now I am cared for; the maid turns me over every morning, and I get a shower bath every evening from the watering pot. Even the clergyman's wife says I am the best piece of linen in the whole parish. I cannot be happier."
One day the linen was taken into the house and put under the scissors. How it was cut and torn, and then pricked with needles! That was not pleasant; but twelve garments were made of it—a whole dozen!
"Just think," it said; "now something has really been made of me! I shall be of some use in the world!"
Years passed away, and now the garments were old and worn—they could not hold together any longer.
"It must be over, some day," said one piece. "I would gladly have held together a little longer, but I know that we cannot last always."
They were now torn into pieces. They thought they were to be thrown away, but they were ground into shreds, and softened and boiled; and even they, themselves, did not know all that was done to them. But at last they became beautiful white paper!
"Now, what a surprise this is!" said the paper. "I am even finer than before! How fortune favors me! I shall be taken to the printer."
And really the most beautiful stories and verses were printed upon it. The people read what was on the paper, and became wiser and better.
"This is more than I ever imagined when I was bearing little blue flowers in the fields. How could I know that I should spread joy among men? Each time I have been promoted from one pleasure and honor to another. Each time, when I thought the song was done, it began again in a higher and better way."