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Madge A. Bigham

Origin of the Brown-Eyed Susans, a Kind of Sunflower

There was once a little red dwarf named Evil Eye, who lived within the heart of the blossoms on the poison-oak vine.

It was said by all the fairies that this vine had never become poisonous until Evil Eye chose it for his home, and it was his breath that really poisoned the vine so that the earth-children are afraid even to touch its leaves to-day.

His breath was poisonous, of course, because his heart was evil; and some said Evil Eye had once got a piece of the wicked giant's black glass in his eye, and ever since that time his eyes could see only the ugly, crooked things in life, and never anything beautiful.

That was very sad I can tell you. Even the flowers looked ugly to Evil Eye. The beautiful birds, the trees and water, the ferns and daisies, and the blue, blue sky—all seemed ugly to Evil Eye.

But that was not all, for there was something about him even sadder than that—every little girl or boy who was touched by Evil Eye became poisonous too, and could see only ugly things, as he did, and never anything beautiful.

They would begin at once to fight and quarrel and snarl like the little street dogs, and that would please Evil Eye very much, because if he could blow his breath into their faces then—why the little girl or the little boy was changed at once into a little black street dog, and ran growling and snarling through the streets. And,—it was said,—his evil breath had already changed more than one little boy and one little girl into snarling dogs.

Now the king of the country had heard about Evil Eye and sent his soldiers out many times to see if they could capture him and lock him up in his dungeon, because he was causing so much trouble in the land. But, though the soldiers tried their best, they could never capture Evil Eye. This was because of the invisible cap he carried around with him, and when he chose to wear it, why, no one could see him!—not even with a spy-glass.

Now the king had a little girl, the Princess Susan, whom he loved better than anything in his kingdom, and no wonder, since she was as good as she was beautiful.

Her hands were kind, her lips were kind, and her eyes saw only the beautiful, so that not only the king himself but everyone loved the little Princess Susan, with her long, golden hair and sparkling, brown eyes and rosy, dimpled cheeks. She, somehow, reminded everyone of a flower, perhaps because she was so pure and sweet.

But I forgot just now when I said everyone loved her. I should have said, everyone loved her but one, and you can guess who that one was.

Yes! it was Evil Eye. He hated the little princess and her father too, and he tried and tried to blow his breath upon the little Princess Susan, because he knew it would grieve the king, and then, too, he wished to change the little princess into a snarling snapping dog.

But how could that be? Anyone that is pure and sweet inside could never be changed into a snarling, snapping dog. It is only those with an evil eye that could be changed into anything ugly.

Anyway, Evil Eye could not see this, so he kept on trying and trying to get close enough to the little golden-haired princess to touch and blow his breath into her face, and one day the chance came.

The king was in the palace gardens playing "hide-and-seek," with the little princess, and as she ran to hide behind a tree, Evil Eye slipped quickly up, and with one puff his poisonous breath touched the fair cheek of the Princess Susan, whom everyone loved,—and what do you think happened?

No, no, no! never was she changed into a snarling little dog, but when the king ran up to the tree to find her, there was no little princess at all. She was changed, right before his eyes, into a beautiful yellow flower, with sunny petals like gold, and a centre of dark, rich brown,—just like the little girl's eyes.

Well, of course, the king was very sorrowful, for while he loved beautiful new flowers, he loved his golden-haired daughter better, and for days and days he sat by the dainty, yellow flower in the hope that it would change again into his own little girl.

But no change came, except that the flower was busy making its seeds and pollen dust and dancing in the sunshine and nodding to the breeze and calling to the butterflies to taste of its nectar juice.

So, you see, even as a flower the little Princess Susan was loving and kind.

At last the king sent for the queen of the fairies to see if anything could be done, and it was then that he learned that Evil Eye had become blind, after blowing his breath into the face of the little brown-eyed princess, and that he had gone back to the poisonous oak vine, afraid to stir from its shade.

So you see, Evil Eye had come to sorrow, as all evil people do some day.

Now the queen of the fairies felt very sorry for the king, and she said to him:

"Cheer up, there is still hope for the little princess. Now that Evil Eye is blind, he is very anxious for another pair of eyes, and we must get them for him,—eyes that are pure and true, eyes that look only for the good and the beautiful in everything.

"If this can be done, Evil Eye will see the great wrong he has done the little Princess Susan, and will be only too glad to change her back again to her real self."

Now do you know, I believe the fairy queen could have changed the little princess back herself,—because a fairy queen can do anything, you know. But I rather think she did not want to do it herself. She wanted Evil Eye to right the wrong that he had done, because that was best for him, you see, and would change him from an evil dwarf into a good dwarf.

Well, the king found out it was no easy matter to find anyone who would be willing to give his eyes to the little red dwarf.

Eyes are so very precious that no one likes to part with them, especially if they are good and pure, so it seemed the little Princess Susan was ever to remain a flower after all.

But at last someone was found, and guess, if you can, who it was? Not the fairy queen,—far from it!

It was only a little worm who had spent his life in the king's garden, ploughing the earth soft about the plants and doing his best to help them grow.

He liked to look on the bright coloured flowers, and the soft, white clouds, and the dancing sunbeams,—they were very beautiful to him.

But if he could make the king happy and give the little Princess Susan back to him, why, that would be greater joy, don't you think?

And so the little worm gave his kind, pure eyes to the red dwarf, Evil Eye, and sure enough, just as the fairy queen had said, no sooner had Evil Eye got his new eyes, than he began to do kind things straight away, and the very first thing he did was to change the dear little princess back to her real self once more.

But the pretty brown-eyed Susans we still find blooming in old-fashioned flower gardens, reminding us of the little Princess Susan and the very kind little worm, who, since he has no eyes, and cannot see, still works away beneath the damp ground, ploughing about the flower roots and helping to make the world beautiful for others to see.