T HE first story I ever heard the child tell was one of those which seemed to hold comfort and cheer for herself or for humble little souls like her. It was a story of the closed gentian, the title of which she announced, as she always did, loudly, and with an amusing little air of self-satisfaction.
Once there was a posy. 'T wa' n't a common kind o' posy, that blows out wide open, so 's everybody can see its outsides and its insides too. But 't was one of them posies like what grows down the road, back o' your pa's sugar-house, Danny, and don't come till way towards fall. They 're sort o' blue, but real dark, and they look 's if they was buds 'stead o' posies,—only buds opens out, and these does n't They 're all shet up close and tight, and they never, never, never opens. Never mind how much sun they get, never mind how much rain or how much drouth, whether it 's cold or hot, them posies stay shet up tight, kind o' buddy, and not finished and humly. But if you pick 'em open, real careful, with a pin,—I 've done it,—you find they 're dreadful pretty inside.
You could n't see a posy that was finished off better, soft and nice, with pretty little stripes painted on 'em, and all the little things like threads in the middle, sech as the open posies has, standing up, with little knots on their tops, oh, so pretty,—you never did! Makes you think real hard, that does; leastways, makes me. What 's they that way for? If they ain't never goin' to open out, what 's the use o' havin' the shet-up part so slicked up and nice, with nobody never seein' it? Folks has different names for 'em, dumb foxgloves, blind genshuns, and all that, but I allers call 'em the shet-up posies.
Well, 't was one o' that kind o' posy I was goin' to tell you about. 'T was one o' the shet-uppest and the buddiest of all on 'em, all blacky-blue and straight up and down, and shet up fast and tight. Nobody 'd ever dream 't was pretty inside. And the funniest thing, it did n't know 't was so itself! It thought 't was a mistake somehow, thought it had oughter been a posy, and was begun for one, but wa' n't finished, and 't was terr'ble unhappy. It knew there was pretty posies all 'round there, goldenrod and purple daisies and all; and their inside was the right side, and they was proud of it, and held it open, and showed the pretty lining, all soft and nice with the little fuzzy yeller threads standin' up, with little balls on their tip ends. And the shet-up posy felt real bad; not mean and hateful and begrudgin', you know, and wantin' to take away the nice part from the other posies, but sorry, and kind o' 'shamed.
"Oh, deary me!" she says,—I most forgot to say 't was a girl posy,—"deary me, what a humly, skimpy, awk'ard thing I be! I ain't more 'n half made; there ain't no nice, pretty lining inside o' me, like them other posies; and on'y my wrong side shows, and that 's jest plain and common. I can't chirk up folks like the goldenrod and daisies does. Nobody won't want to pick me and carry me home. I ain't no good to anybody, and I never shall be."
So she kep' on, thinkin' these dreadful sorry thinkin's, and most wishin' she 'd never been made at all. You know 't wa' n't jest at fust she felt this way. Fust she thought she was a bud, like lots o' buds all 'round her, and she lotted on openin' like they did. But when the days kep' passin' by, and all the other buds opened out, and showed how pretty they was, and she did n't open, why, then she got terr'ble discouraged; and I don't wonder a mite. She 'd see the dew a-layin' soft and cool on the other posies' faces, and the sun a-shinin' warm on 'em as they held 'em up, and sometimes she 'd see a butterfly come down and light on 'em real soft, and kind o' put his head down to 'em, 's if he was kissin' 'em, and she thought 't would be powerful nice to hold her face up to all them pleasant things. But she could n't.
But one day, afore she 'd got very old, 'fore she 'd dried up or fell off, or anything like that, she see somebody comin' along her way. 'T was a man, and he was lookin' at all the posies real hard and partic'lar, but he was n't pickin' any of 'em. Seems 's if he was lookin' for somethin' diff'rent from what he see, and the poor little shet-up posy begun to wonder what he was arter. Bimeby she braced up, and she asked him about it in her shet-up, whisp'rin' voice. And says he, the man says: "I 'm a-pickin' posies. That 's what I work at most o' the time. 'T ain't for myself," he says, "but the one I work for. I 'm on'y his help. I run errands and do chores for him, and it 's a partic'lar kind o' posy he 's sent me for to-day." "What for does he want 'em?" says the shet-up posy, "Why, to set out in his gardin," the man says. "He 's got the beautif'lest gardin you never see, and I pick posies for 't." "Deary me," thinks she to herself, "I jest wish he 'd pick me. But I ain't the kind, I know." And then she says, so soft he can't hardly hear her, "What sort o' posies is it you 're arter this time?" "Well," says the man, "it 's a dreadful sing'lar order I 've got today. I got to find a posy that 's handsomer inside than 't is outside, one that folks ain't took no notice of here, 'cause 't was kind o' humly and queer to look at, not knowin' that inside 't was as handsome as any posy on the airth. Seen any o' that kind?" says the man.
Well, the shet-up posy was dreadful worked up. "Deary dear!" she says to herself, "now if they 'd on'y finished me off inside! I 'm the right kind outside, humly and queer enough, but there 's nothin' worth lookin' at inside,—I 'm certin sure o' that." But she did n't say this nor anything else out loud, and bimeby, when the man had waited, and did n't get any answer, he begun to look at the shet-up posy more partic'lar, to see why she was so mum. And all of a suddent he says, the man did, "Looks to me 's if you was somethin' that kind yourself, ain't ye?" "Oh, no, no, no!" whispers the shet-up posy. "I wish I was, I wish I was. I 'm all right outside, humly and awk'ard, queer 's I can be, but I ain't pretty inside,—oh! I most know I ain't." "I ain't so sure o' that myself," says the man, "but I can tell in a jiffy." "Will you have to pick me to pieces? " says the shet-up posy. "No, ma'am," says the man; "I 've got a way o' tellin', the one I work for showed me." The shet-up posy never knowed what he done to her. I don't know myself, but 't was somethin' soft and pleasant, that did n't hurt a mite, and then the man he says, "Well, well, well!" That 's all he said, but he took her up real gentle, and begun to carry her away. "Where be ye takin' me?" says the shet-up posy. "Where ye belong," says the man; "to the gardin o' the one I work for," he says. "I did n't know I was nice enough inside," says the shet-up posy, very soft and still. "They most gen'ally don't," says the man.