A Wealthy Man
( Originally Published 1916 )
I have received a remarkable letter. It is so significant that I am going to give the greater part of it, amended a bit, to my readers.
Here is a man, it seems to me, who has got himself on the right side of the universe. He is so rich he makes me ashamed of my poverty. He writes:
"I am very wealthy.
"Although you will look in vain for my name in `Who's Who' or the society `Blue Book,' nevertheless all the art treasures of Mr. Morgan or Mr. Altman are trifles compared to my possessions.
"As I write I glance at one of them in rapt admiration and wonder. It is an inexhaustible source of delight to me. Its gifts to me are so prolific that I can trample them under foot, yet still they come.
"My gems are beyond price. The pleasure they supply to me is unalloyed, for they give me no worry along with their enjoyment. I have no fear of burglars. Whoso would rob me would but enrich me further.
"All this vast wealth is confined within the small area of a few hundred feet of the earth's surface, a portion of ground for which I have toiled the greater part of my fifty years of life.
"The thing of beauty I refer to is a noble
SUGAR MAPLE TREE about sixty or seventy feet high, in all the glory of its autumnal foliage.
"Today it is vermilion and green and gold in the sunlight after a drenching rain.
"Every leaf is a jewel, and every one different, thousands upon thousands of them. No rare enamels can compare with them. They shame the porcelains of China, the vases of Japan, the king's treasures from Dresden or Sevres.
"The delicate tracery, the fantastic shapes, the tumult of color in these leaves! They are full of the craftsmanship-joy, the artist-delight, of the infinite Creator. I feel by the joy I get in appreciating them what joy He must have in making them.
"They are falling one by one, and lie in splotches of rich color upon the green of the grass, which flashes with raindrops in all the hues of the prism, a carpet of oriental colors upon a background of diamonds.
"And when all the leaves have returned to the earth from which they came, where they will help to fertilize new lives, I will still have my Tree to admire. Its beautiful naked limbs will be etched against the sky, its rugged bark upon its sturdy trunk will hide the inner secret of life to come.
"I get rest from my Tree, and high thoughts, and winged fancies, which I cannot utter.
"I see two things in my Maple, the two things which speak to my soul, and whisper to me the secret of the world and of the world to come, and of all worthy living.
"The two things are STRENGTH AND BEAUTY."