The Sidewalk Lavender Preacher

The Sidewalk Lavender Preacher

Betty and John went to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed by our early American patriots.

They walked together down an old, narrow street called Chestnut Street, where Benjamin Franklin used to walk. The winter wind was blowing, and Betty and John tipped their heads to sniff the tangy, brisk air, when Betty suddenly stopped her brother John. Her nose was twitching like a bunny rabbit.

"What's that I smell, John?" she demanded.

John wiggled his nose, sniffed, and said, "I just got a whiff of beautiful perfume like flowers blooming somewhere."

They both looked at the hard pavement of the sidewalk and the cement of the street. They knew no flower gardens could grow there, and besides it was winter when flowers did not bloom in the frost and cold.

Like a detective, John followed along the sidewalk the trail of fragrance sniffing and saying, "Where is it coming from?"

Just then Betty heard a voice on the wind say, "Take home lavender, buy sweet lavender."

They both saw the man at the same time. He was an old man on crutches, for he was lame, and he was leaning against the stone building. He was wearing a fur cap and mittens, trying to keep warm. His face was red with the cold wind and weather-beaten. Around his neck, hanging by two strings, was a shallow wooden tray which rested out in front of his chest. This tray was piled with purple-colored flower buds which gave off a sweet fragrance on the December air.

The old man smiled at John and Betty, "Take home sweet lavender, sweet lavender," he said. He had little packages of lavender to sell to those who passed by.

John and Betty smelled some of the pretty envelopes of lavender. They did smell so lovely. They gave the man a quarter for three of the little packages. Betty put one in her pocketbook. John put one in his handkerchief pocket, and they said, "We'll take this one home to Mother."

"Do you come here and do this every day?" asked John.

"Yes," said the man, "I have been here nearly every day, except when I have been sick, for almost forty years. I've seen all kinds of people pass by, in all kinds of weather."

"O0000, that's an awful long time, isn't it?" said Betty.

You see, Betty and John were really too young to understand how many tens of thousands of packages of lavender, smelling like the sweet perfume of summer gardens, this old man had sent out through the city in all those long years.

"Do you stand here all alone?" asked Betty.

"Well, yes," said the man, shifting his crutch to make it easier under his arm. "You see, my wife is nearly blind, and she can't come with me."

Betty and John walked slowly down the street. They heard auto horns, brakes screeching, traffic officers whistling, and the big buses grinding, but above all the traffic noises, they could hear a gentle voice chanting along the street, "Buy sweet lavender, take home lavender."

Just then the newsboys began to shout: "Read all about the big hydrogen bomb blast!"

Still above the shrill voices of the news of bursting bombs, they heard the old man's voice softly trailing along, "Take home the sweet scent of lavender. Buy fragrance."

The noises of the city street mingled into a long, low roar, but as John and Betty moved farther away down the street above it all they could hear like a faint whisper trailing away in the distance, "Take home fragrance, buy sweet lavender."

John and Betty were glad that, like the old man who had never stopped selling and spreading fragrance around through summer and winter all those long years, they, too, were taking home a little whiff of summer fragrance to make others happy in December.

| More