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Fisherman's Luck Henry van Dyke

A Wild Strawberry

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Between the time when William Butler first needed the services of a physician, in 1535, and the time when he last prescribed for a patient, in 1618, there was plenty of trouble in England. Bloody Queen Mary sat on the throne; and there were all kinds of quarrels about religion and politics; and Catholics and Protestants were killing one another in the name of God. After that the red-haired Elizabeth, called the Virgin Queen, wore the crown, and waged triumphant war and tempestuous love. Then fat James of Scotland was made king of Great Britain; and Guy Fawkes tried to blow him up with gunpowder, and failed; and the king tried to blow out all the pipes in England with his COUNTERBLAST AGAINST TOBACCO; but he failed too. Somewhere about that time, early in the seventeenth century, a very small event happened. A new berry was brought over from Virginia,-- FRAGRARIA VIRGINIANA,--and then, amid wars and rumours of wars, Doctor Butler's happiness was secure. That new berry was so much richer and sweeter and more generous than the familiar FRAGRARIA VESCA of Europe, that it attracted the sincere interest of all persons of good taste. It inaugurated a new era in the history of the strawberry. The long lost masterpiece of Paradise was restored to its true place in the affections of man.

Is there not a touch of merry contempt for all the vain controversies and conflicts of humanity in the grateful ejaculation with which the old doctor greeted that peaceful, comforting gift of Providence?

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"From this time forward," he seems to say, "the fates cannot beggar me, for I have eaten strawberries. With every Maytime that visits this distracted island, the white blossoms with hearts of gold will arrive. In every June the red drops of pleasant savour will hang among the scalloped leaves. The children of this world may wrangle and give one another wounds that even my good ale cannot cure. Nevertheless, the earth as God created it is a fair dwelling and full of comfort for all who have a quiet mind and a thankful heart. Doubtless God might have made a better world, but doubtless this is the world He made for us; and in it He planted the strawberry."

Fine old doctor! Brave philosopher of cheerfulness! The Virginian berry should have been brought to England sooner, or you should have lived longer, at least to a hundred years, so that you might have welcomed a score of strawberry-seasons with gratitude and an epigram.

Since that time a great change has passed over the fruit which Doctor Butler praised so well. That product of creative art which Divine wisdom did not choose to surpass, human industry has laboured to improve. It has grown immensely in size and substance. The traveller from America who steams into Queenstown harbour in early summer is presented (for a consideration) with a cabbage-leaf full of pale-hued berries, sweet and juicy, any one of which would outbulk a dozen of those that used to grow in Virginia when Pocahontas was smitten with the charms of Captain John Smith. They are superb, those light-tinted Irish strawberries. And there are wonderful new varieties developed in the gardens of New Jersey and Rhode Island, which compare with the ancient berries of the woods and meadows as Leviathan with a minnow. The huge crimson cushions hang among the plants so thick that they seem like bunches of fruit with a few leaves attached for ornament. You can satisfy your hunger in such a berry-patch in ten minutes, while out in the field you must pick for half an hour, and in the forest thrice as long, before you can fill a small tin cup.

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Fisherman's Luck
Henry van Dyke

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