BELONGING to the lordly manor-house was beautiful,
well-kept garden, with rare trees and flowers; the guests of
the proprietor declared their admiration of it; the people of
the neighborhood, from town and country, came on Sundays and
holidays, and asked permission to see the garden; indeed,
whole schools used to pay visits to it.
Outside the garden, by the palings at the road-side, stood
a great mighty Thistle, which spread out in many directions
from the root, so that it might have been called a thistle
bush. Nobody looked at it, except the old Ass which drew the
milk-maid's cart. This Ass used to stretch out his neck
towards the Thistle, and say, 'You are beautiful; I should
like to eat you!' But his halter was not long enough to let
him reach it and eat it.
There was great company at the manor-house- some very
noble people from the capital; young pretty girls, and among
them a young lady who came from a long distance. She had come
from Scotland, and was of high birth, and was rich in land and
in gold- a bride worth winning, said more than one of the
young gentlemen; and their lady mothers said the same thing.
The young people amused themselves on the lawn, and played
at ball; they wandered among the flowers, and each of the
young girls broke off a flower, and fastened it in a young
gentleman's buttonhole. But the young Scotch lady looked
round, for a long time, in an undecided way. None of the
flowers seemed to suit her taste. Then her eye glanced across
the paling- outside stood the great thistle bush, with the
reddish-blue, sturdy flowers; she saw them, she smiled, and
asked the son of the house to pluck one for her.
'It is the flower of Scotland,' she said. 'It blooms in
the scutcheon of my country. Give me yonder flower.'
And he brought the fairest blossom, and pricked his
fingers as completely as if it had grown on the sharpest rose
She placed the thistle-flower in the buttonhole of the
young man, and he felt himself highly honored. Each of the
other young gentlemen would willingly have given his own
beautiful flower to have worn this one, presented by the fair
hand of the Scottish maiden. And if the son of the house felt
himself honored, what were the feelings of the Thistle bush?
It seemed to him as if dew and sunshine were streaming through
'I am something more than I knew of,' said the Thistle to
itself. 'I suppose my right place is really inside the
palings, and not outside. One is often strangely placed in
this world; but now I have at least managed to get one of my
people within the pale, and indeed into a buttonhole!'
The Thistle told this event to every blossom that unfolded
itself, and not many days had gone by before the Thistle
heard, not from men, not from the twittering of the birds, but
from the air itself, which stores up the sounds, and carries
them far around- out of the most retired walks of the garden,
and out of the rooms of the house, in which doors and windows
stood open, that the young gentleman who had received the
thistle-flower from the hand of the fair Scottish maiden had
also now received the heart and hand of the lady in question.
They were a handsome pair- it was a good match.
'That match I made up!' said the Thistle; and he thought
of the flower he had given for the buttonhole. Every flower
that opened heard of this occurrence.
'I shall certainly be transplanted into the garden,'
thought the Thistle, and perhaps put into a pot, which crowds
one in. That is said to be the greatest of all honors.'
And the Thistle pictured this to himself in such a lively
manner, that at last he said, with full conviction, 'I am to
be transplanted into a pot.'
Then he promised every little thistle flower which
unfolded itself that it also should be put into a pot, and
perhaps into a buttonhole, the highest honor that could be
attained. But not one of them was put into a pot, much less
into a buttonhole. They drank in the sunlight and the air;
lived on the sunlight by day, and on the dew by night;
bloomed- were visited by bees and hornets, who looked after
the honey, the dowry of the flower, and they took the honey,
and left the flower where it was.
'The thievish rabble!' said the Thistle. 'If I could only
stab every one of them! But I cannot.'
The flowers hung their heads and faded; but after a time
new ones came.
'You come in good time,' said the Thistle. 'I am expecting
every moment to get across the fence.'
A few innocent daisies, and a long thin dandelion, stood
and listened in deep admiration, and believed everything they
The old Ass of the milk-cart stood at the edge of the
field-road, and glanced across at the blooming thistle bush;
but his halter was too short, and he could not reach it.
And the Thistle thought so long of the thistle of
Scotland, to whose family he said he belonged, that he fancied
at last that he had come from Scotland, and that his parents
had been put into the national escutcheon. That was a great
thought; but, you see, a great thistle has a right to a great
'One is often of so grand a family, that one may not know
it,' said the Nettle, who grew close by. He had a kind of idea
that he might be made into cambric if he were rightly treated.
And the summer went by, and the autumn went by. The leaves
fell from the trees, and the few flowers left had deeper
colors and less scent. The gardener's boy sang in the garden,
across the palings:
'Up the hill, down the dale we wend,
That is life, from beginning to end.'
The young fir trees in the forest began to long for
Christmas, but it was a long time to Christmas yet.
'Here I am standing yet!' said the Thistle. 'It is as if
nobody thought of me, and yet I managed the match. They were
betrothed, and they have had their wedding; it is now a week
ago. I won't take a single step-because I can't.'
A few more weeks went by. The Thistle stood there with his
last single flower large and full. This flower had shot up
from near the roots; the wind blew cold over it, and the
colors vanished, and the flower grew in size, and looked like
a silvered sunflower.
One day the young pair, now man and wife, came into the
garden. They went along by the paling, and the young wife
looked across it.
'There's the great thistle still growing,' she said. 'It
has no flowers now.'
'Oh, yes, the ghost of the last one is there still,' said
he. And he pointed to the silvery remains of the flower, which
looked like a flower themselves.
'It is pretty, certainly,' she said. 'Such an one must be
carved on the frame of our picture.'
And the young man had to climb across the palings again,
and to break off the calyx of the thistle. It pricked his
fingers, but then he had called it a ghost. And this
thistle-calyx came into the garden, and into the house, and
into the drawing-room. There stood a picture- 'Young Couple.'
A thistle-flower was painted in the buttonhole of the
bridegroom. They spoke about this, and also about the
thistle-flower they brought, the last thistle-flower, now
gleaming like silver, whose picture was carved on the frame.
And the breeze carried what was spoken away, far away.
'What one can experience!' said the Thistle Bush. 'My
first born was put into a buttonhole, and my youngest has been
put in a frame. Where shall I go?'
And the Ass stood by the road-side, and looked across at
'Come to me, my nibble darling!' said he. 'I can't get
across to you.'
But the Thistle did not answer. He became more and more
thoughtful- kept on thinking and thinking till near Christmas,
and then a flower of thought came forth.
'If the children are only good, the parents do not mind
standing outside the garden pale.'
'That's an honorable thought,' said the Sunbeam. 'You
shall also have a good place.'
'In a pot or in a frame?' asked the Thistle.
'In a story,' replied the Sunbeam.