And you did not even know an apple had a star within, you say? Why, then, I am afraid you have never eaten an apple in just the proper way.
The next time you have one, cut it round into three circles, and just in the very centre of each circle you will find the picture of an apple blossom, and in the centre of the blossom you will find a beautiful star—each one of the five points holding baby seeds. How did the star get there?
Well, that is a story that Old Mother Nature told the other trees, and I will tell it to you.
A long,long time ago the very first apple seed lay in the ground fast asleep. The raindrop fairies carried her water to drink, and the sunbeam fairies kept her warm, while a little worm ploughed the ground and made it soft about her feet.
One bright spring morning the bluebirds sang, "Wake up, wake up," and the baby apple seed stretched, rubbed her eyes, pushed right through the brown earth, and was very much surprised to find herself a small apple-tree.
She thought the outside world was a very beautiful place indeed, and wondered and wondered about the clouds and the birds and the sun. She thought the day was very beautiful, but when night spread its canopy over the world, spangled over with the silver moon and thousands of sparkling stars shining like so many candles in the sky, the little apple-tree reached out her limbs as high as she could and longed with all her baby soul for just one star of her very own.
Now the little apple-tree had hardly made the wish when she heard the tinkle of tiny silver bells, and there, close to her side, stood the fairy princess of all the orchard trees, a star formed of rare diamonds sparkling in her crown.
"I have heard your wish, little tree," she said, "and the star shall be yours if you are willing to wait and work for it. Beautiful things come only through striving, and if, as you live, you seek to grow both strong and beautiful, the wish shall be granted you and the star shall be your own to do with as you choose." And then the fairy was gone.
For many days the little tree could think only of the fairy and the promised star, and as she thought, she worked, sending her roots deeper and deeper into the ground, and trying hard to keep her trunk and branches straight and strong.
This was not always easy to do, for the wind often blew roughly against the little tree, and the rain storms beat upon her, bending her body almost to the ground, and shaking her limbs from root to crown.
Still she did not forget or cease to try, and when the wind and rain had passed she lifted her head to the sunbeam fairies and waved to them for help, and little by little, inch by inch, she raised her body up again, and each time found herself stronger than before.
"It is the way of the Storm King," said the sunbeam fairies, as they danced through the leaves of the little tree. "He bends you back and forth and up and down to help to make you strong. You have only to try, and you can always rise again—straighter and stronger than ever before."
So the little tree learned not to be afraid of the great Storm King, and at night when she looked up into the spangled heavens, the twinkling stars smiled down on her and she was very happy indeed.
One morning a happy surprise came to the little apple-tree. She found when she awoke that all of her branches were filled with exquisite blossoms of delicate pink, and as she looked with joy into the heart of each wee bud, she thought she saw a star fairy, smiling back at her.
Day by day she gloried in the richness of her treasures, though now her work seemed only just begun, for there was pollen dust to make and nectar juice to prepare for the bees, who so kindly helped her to care for the dainty blossoms.
But the little tree grew happier and happier—not so much because her blossoms were so beautiful, as that she knew the blossoms would soon change into apples, and that every one would hold baby apple seeds, which would some day be planted and grow into apple-trees like herself.
And so she did not grieve when, one morning, as it happens to all orchard trees, the pretty pink petals fell from the blossoms and drifted away to play with the wind.
Indeed, the apple-tree became so busy caring for the little apples which held her baby seeds that she forgot all about the fairy princess, who had promised her the beautiful star, forgot about herself, forgot everything but the baby seeds, and feeding and caring for them.
That is just the way it is with mothers, you know,—they often forget everything, but loving and working for their children.
And so, day by day, the apples which held the baby seeds grew large and round and juicy, and when the sunbeam fairies came to kiss them they blushed a crimson red, while the apple-tree rustled her leaves with laughter, so very happy was she.
What did she care for stars, now that she had her baby seeds? The earth-children were welcome to the red apples—she had made them juicy and red on purpose that they might be eaten,—for how else were the baby seeds to get out, I should like to know?
So, you see, the little apple-tree had grown very wise in her love for her baby seeds, and she was very much surprised one night when again she heard the tinkle, tinkle of silver bells, and the orchard fairy stood smiling at her side. In her hand she held, not one, but a whole bagful of stars.
"Strong and very beautiful have you grown, little tree," she said,—"strong because you have forgotten yourself for others, beautiful because you have lived for others.
"Many months have I watched you battle against rain and wind storms, heat and drought; every time you have fallen you have risen again, stronger and more beautiful than before. Behold, here are your stars. Shall I make you a crown?"
"A crown oh, beautiful fairy? Not for me," said the tree. "That was a foolish wish of mine. But if stars you have to give,—give them, I pray you, to my baby seeds."
A smile passed over the fairy's face, and bowing her head in the moonlight, she replied, "It is ever as you say, little tree, and I grant to you your wish."
So it is that the earth-children find stars in their apples to-day; and tucked snugly away in each tiny point, you will find the brown seed babies, which the apple-trees delight to have you plant.