Short Stories » The Dead Grape-vine
The Dead Grape-vine
YOU say, "Dig up this old vine and burn it; it is worthless." Did you but know the story of this gray stump and brittle branches, you would recall the last words, for what has once been of use and beauty can never be worthless. We do not speak so of dead great men, and a vine is an object of worth in its own sphere. Let me tell you the story of this old grape-vine, and learn whether it does not deserve your gentle respect.
To begin with, it has been quite a traveler, and came of a high family, in a lovely country you have never seen. Far away on the fairy-like coast of a tropical land, there flourished a vineyard more than a hundred years old, a vineyard that had outlived three kings, and had quietly pursued its appointed destiny, while countries waged war against each other, deluged fields with blood of horses and men, destroyed the grand works of years, and brought sorrow into hearts and homes by the thousand.
But from this vineyard, which escaped destruction, the choicest clusters were plucked for the tables of royalty. Often the peasants filling the baskets have tasted the lesser clusters (such fruit as you and I never tasted under this cold sky); and, oh, how sweet the air was there, how beautiful the scene from the terraces where these vines grew, and what melody rang through the long green rows by day, and the changeful voice of the nightingale when all others were silent ! Ah, the native associations of this dead grape-vine were beautiful indeed !
Then someone from our own free America brought away cuttings from those noble vines,* and whether all survived in this cold climate I cannot say, but this one, faithful to its ancient name, bore clusters of such fruit as few mortals taste.
He trained it around the porch of the home to which he brought his bride. Here they often sat in the moon- light, and, later, how often they lifted up the baby to catch at the tempting fruit !
How many a cluster has this vine yielded, carrying delight and refreshment to the fevered lips of the sick ! How rich have been the dried and pressed bunches in the long winter evenings ! and tiny glasses have spark- led with the rich coloring of their autumn yield.
Shade, food, and drink through many a year, a noble ancestry, beauty and usefulness all its life, these are what it has given you.
A dead grape-vine ! Who will write its epitaph, this vanished delight?