Many years ago there was a poor gentleman shut up in one of the great

prisons of France. His name was Char-ney, and he was very sad and

un-hap-py. He had been put into prison wrong-ful-ly, and it seemed to

him as though there was no one in the world who cared for him.

He could not read, for there were no books in the prison. He was not

allowed to have pens or paper, and so he could not write. The time

ged slowly by. There was nothing that he could do to make the days

seem shorter. His only pastime was walking back and forth in the paved

prison yard. There was no work to be done, no one to talk with.

One fine morning in spring, Char-ney was taking his walk in the yard.

He was counting the paving stones, as he had done a thousand times

before. All at once he stopped. What had made that little mound of

earth between two of the stones?

He stooped down to see. A seed of some kind had fallen between the

stones. It had sprouted; and now a tiny green leaf was pushing its way

up out of the ground. Charney was about to crush it with his foot,

when he saw that there was a kind of soft coating over the leaf.

"Ah!" said he. "This coating is to keep it safe. I must not harm it."

And he went on with his walk.

The next day he almost stepped upon the plant before he thought of it.

He stooped to look at it. There were two leaves now, and the plant was

much stronger and greener than it was the day before. He staid by it a

long time, looking at all its parts.

Every morning after that, Charney went at once to his little plant. He

wanted to see if it had been chilled by the cold, or scorched by the

sun. He wanted to see how much it had grown.

One day as he was looking from his window, he saw the jailer go across

the yard. The man brushed so close to the little plant, that it seemed

as though he would crush it. Charney trembled from head to foot.

"O my Pic-cio-la!" he cried.

When the jailer came to bring his food, he begged the grim fellow to

spare his little plant. He expected that the man would laugh at him;

but al-though a jailer, he had a kind heart.

"Do you think that I would hurt your little plant?" he said. "No,

indeed! It would have been dead long ago, if I had not seen that you

thought so much of it."

"That is very good of you, indeed," said Char-ney. He felt half

ashamed at having thought the jailer unkind.

Every day he watched Pic-cio-la, as he had named the plant. Every day

it grew larger and more beautiful. But once it was almost broken by

the huge feet of the jailer's dog. Charney's heart sank within him.

"Picciola must have a house," he said. "I will see if I can make one."

So, though the nights were chilly, he took, day by day, some part of

the firewood that was allowed him, and with this he built a little

house around the plant.

The plant had a thousand pretty ways which he noticed. He saw how it

always bent a little toward the sun; he saw how the flowers folded

their petals before a storm.

He had never thought of such things before, and yet he had often seen

whole gardens of flowers in bloom.

One day, with soot and water he made some ink; he spread out his

hand-ker-chief for paper; he used a sharp-ened stick for a pen--and

all for what? He felt that he must write down the doings of his little

pet. He spent all his time with the plant.

"See my lord and my lady!" the jailer would say when he saw them.

As the summer passed by, Picciola grew more lovely every day. There

were no fewer than thirty blossoms on its stem.

But one sad morning it began to droop. Charney did not know what to

do. He gave it water, but still it drooped. The leaves were

with-er-ing. The stones of the prison yard would not let the plant


Charney knew that there was but one way to save his treasure. Alas!

how could he hope that it might be done? The stones must be taken up

at once.

But this was a thing which the jailer dared not do. The rules of the

prison were strict, and no stone must be moved. Only the highest

officers in the land could have such a thing done.

Poor Charney could not sleep. Picciola must die. Already the flowers

had with-ered; the leaves would soon fall from the stem.

Then a new thought came to Charney. He would ask the great Napoleon,

the em-per-or himself, to save his plant.

It was a hard thing for Charney to do,--to ask a favor of the man whom

he hated, the man who had shut him up in this very prison. But for the

sake of Picciola he would do it.

He wrote his little story on his hand-ker-chief. Then he gave it into

the care of a young girl, who promised to carry it to Napoleon. Ah! if

the poor plant would only live a few days longer!

What a long journey that was for the young girl! What a long, dreary

waiting it was for Charney and Picciola!

But at last news came to the prison. The stones were to be taken up.

Picciola was saved!

The em-per-or's kind wife had heard the story of Charney's care for

the plant. She saw the handkerchief on which he had written of its

pretty ways.

"Surely," she said, "it can do us no good to keep such a man in


And so, at last, Charney was set free. Of course he was no longer sad

and un-lov-ing. He saw how God had cared for him and the little plant,

and how kind and true are the hearts of even rough men. And he

cher-ished Picciola as a dear, loved friend whom he could never