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A Tragedy In Little
by [?]

The great question of the day is, What will become of Sidney? Whenever I think of him now, the unbidden tear wells into my eye … and wells down my cheek … and wells on to my collar. My friends think I have a cold, and offer me lozenges; but it is Sidney who makes me weep. I fear that I am about to lose him.

He came into my life in the following way.

Some months ago I wanted to buy some silk stockings; not for myself, for I seldom wear them, but for a sister. The idea came suddenly to me that any woman with a brother and a birthday would simply love the one to give her silk stockings for the other. But, of course, they would have to be the right silk stockings–the fashionable shape for the year, the correct assortment of clocks, and so forth. Then as to material–could I be sure I was getting silk, and not silkette or something inferior? How maddening if, seeing that I was an unprotected man, they palmed off Jaeger on me! Clearly this was a case for outside assistance. So I called in Celia.

“This,” I said to her, “is practically the only subject on which I am not an expert. At the same time I have a distinct feeling for silk stockings. If you can hurry me past all the embarrassing counters safely, and arrange for the lady behind the right one to show me the right line in silken hose, I will undertake to pick out half a dozen pairs that would melt any sister’s heart.”

Well, the affair went off perfectly. Celia took the matter into her own hands and behaved just as if I were buying them for her. The shop-assistant also behaved as if I were. Fortunately I kept my head when it came to giving the name and address. “No,” I said firmly to Celia. “Not yours; my sister’s.” And I dragged her away to tea.

Now whether it was because Celia had particularly enjoyed her afternoon; or because she felt that a man who was as ignorant as I about silk stockings must lead a very lonely life; or because I had mentioned casually and erroneously that it was my own birthday that week, I cannot say; but on the following morning I received a little box, with a note on the outside which said in her handwriting, “Something for you. Be kind to him.” And I opened it and found Sidney.

He was a Japanese dwarf-tree–the merest boy. At eighty or ninety, according to the photographs, he would be a stalwart fellow with thick bark on his trunk, and fir-cones or acorns (or whatever was his speciality) hanging all over him. Just at present he was barely ten. I had only eighty years to wait before he reached his prime.

Naturally I decided to lavish all my care upon his upbringing. I would water him after breakfast every morning, and (when I remembered it) at night. If there was any top-dressing he particularly fancied, he should have it. If he had any dead leaves to snip off, I would snip them.

It was at this moment that I discovered something else in the box–a card of instructions. I have not got it now, and I have forgotten the actual wording, but the spirit of it was this:


The life of this tree is a precarious one, and if it is to be successfully brought to manhood the following rules must be carefully observed–

I. This tree requires, above all else, fresh air and exercise.

II. Whenever the sun is shining, the tree should be placed outside, in a position where it can absorb the rays.

III. Whenever the rain is raining, it should be placed outside, in a position where it can absorb the wet.