Once upon a time there was a woman who was all alone in the world. Her whole family had been killed in a cruel fire—husband and child, father and mother, brother and sister. She had no one to turn to and was very sad, and one day she sold her house which was so empty. She bundled up a few belongings. She decided to go out and find a new place to live, where she would not constantly be reminded of what she had lost.
She went to many places, and people were kind to her and gave her food and shelter. Sometimes she worked for them in exchange. Sometimes she sat with the children and told them stories, but always she would goon. "Where are you going?" they would ask. "What are you searching? Why do you not stay?" But she had no answer. She only knew she must go further.
One day, as she walked along the road, she noticed a big, high wall. Many houses and properties were surrounded by walls, she had never noticed them before, but this one was so long, she became curious as to whom it might belong to, what grand garden or park it might surround. Finally she found a door, overhung by branches, half hidden by vines. The hinges were rusty, but she managed to open the door and step inside. What a sight met her eyes! The most beautiful garden she had ever seen, more beautiful than anyone could imagine. It had deep green grass, knotty old trees that gave shade and shelter, flowers in gay profusion, sweet perfumes lingering in the air, and the melodious song of many birds. There was not a soul around. Only lizards flitted across the paths. Chipmunks dashed up and down the trees. Bees hummed softly. It was so quiet and peaceful here, that she decided to sit down and rest a while, drinking in the beauty hungrily with her eyes and ears.
She must have fallen asleep, for, suddenly she came to with a start. A man was standing in front other, asking her who she was and what she wanted here. ~he told him her story and said, "I have never found such a lovely place before, and I am tired of walking in search of I know not what. Would you let me stay here, please? Perhaps, I can be of some help to you." But the man said he needed no help. She was very reluctant to leave the garden and pleaded with him to let her stay. But he said it was his garden alone and he needed no one.
"It is like magic , she said. "A magic garden out of a fairy tale, so beautiful and so serene."
He was harsh in his answer. "There is no such thing as magic," he replied. "It was hard work and God's Grace which made this garden what it is."
Finally he took pity on her asked her whether she wanted to have a garden of her own? He said he would give her a piece of land and show her how to cultivate it, and if she worked hard enough she might, one day, be as beautiful as his. "You understand, you will have to work hard," he said. She was very happy that he was willing to help her and promised to put all her best efforts to work, and so he led her down the paths into an old tool shed. He gave her a spade and a shovel, a basinet and small implements, and took her to a far comer of the land, full of stones, weeds and rubbish. He said she could
have this, and showed her how to clear off and prepare the ground.
"But you mist give me something in exchanger he said. She did not know what to give him, because all she had were her bangles. Hesitatingly she took them off her wrists. "These," she said, "were given to me by my husband, to remember him always. They are very dear to me." But she knew she must hand them over. Perhaps they would only be a hindrance in her work, she thought, and if the man promised that she could have a beautiful garden, surely it was only right to give him something in return. So she handed over her bangles and took the basket in. which to collect the rocks and rubbish from her plot of land. She started earnestly to work.
It took her many, many days of hard work in the hot sun to clear the ground. But one day it was all finished and the gardener was back. "Now you must dig up the earth," he said, "so that it will be soft and ready to receive the seeds." He showed her how to do it, and again he asked for something in return What could she give—what did she hair falling down over her shoulders. "My hair, oh no!" she said aghast, "it is a living part of me, you must not want to have my hair." But he looked at her sternly, and with a sigh she took the garden shears and cut off her hair. "It would only have hindered you in your work," the gardener said kindly and smiled at her.
Many days she spent, digging up the soil. Her hands were full of blisters. Her back ached. Yet she kept on digging and turning the soil because she wanted to do whatever was necessary to have a beautiful garden of her own. When all the work was finished, the gardener was back again. He had brought bulbs and seeds and a watering can, and showed her how to make the flower beds and plant the seeds and bulbs. When he asked for payment this time, she cringed. "No," she cried out in agony, "not my heart. You cannot take my heart, you must no." But as she looked at him she thought, "My heart has been dead for a long time. It died when my husband and child died. What use is it to me, anyway?" And she felt it flutter once. And then all was calm inside. What a strange relief, suddenly, with no heart to grieve' and sorrow, she felt as light as a bird,
she had never known such happiness. And as she looked around a rainbow of laughter welled up through her tears—there was her garden, miraculously sprung into full bloom, a riot of colour, fragrant and fresh.