Short Story Type: Novelette
Summary: At the turn of the century thirteen year old Arthur is left alone in New York City to fend for himself. His resourcefulness, industry, and good fortune contribute to creating a future -- but so does a mysterious "guardian angel". This is a "quietly wonderful" (Clair Higgins, "Queer Bent for the Tudor Gent") story about young Arthur Silver, his mentor Ralph Jonas who teaches him to create spectacular gardens, and the mysterious woman who made his new life possible. Heartwarming and inspirational.
Spring came at last and Arthur resumed his habit of wandering the alleys that ran between the townhouses and mansions of the Upper East Side. Gardeners and housemaids grew accustomed to seeing the strange boy, usually with a gardening book in his hand, peering through fences at the plants coming in to bloom. He seemed like a nice enough boy, sturdy looking with longish fair hair that could do with a trim and clothes that were a little out of fashion but clean and of good quality. He’d stand outside the fence examining a flower or a tree then ruffle through the book in his hand until he found the picture that matched it. The gardeners were amused. One day, as Arthur knelt to examine a patch of chives that was glowing spiky and green in the April sunlight, Ralph Jonas, the gardener for the Wentworth Billingsly family stopped spading and addressed the boy. "Never seen chives before?”
The boy’s head snapped up and he grinned sheepishly. It was a very nice grin. “Yes, sir,” he said, “I just didn’t know that was their name.”
Jonas nodded slowly. “Like gardening, do you?”
The boy grinned again. “Yes, sir. Well, yes, I think I do.”
"You live around here?”
That seemed to startle the boy but he shook his head. Jonas knew about things like that. He knew about being embarrassed to say where you lived. He’d been through that himself.
"Want to give me a hand?”
Jonas thought later he’d never seen a face light up like that in all his days. “You’d a’thought I gave him a fifty dollar bill,” he told his friends at the tavern that night.
Arthur proved to be the happiest, most eager worker Ralph Jonas was ever to see. He spaded furrows and pulled up weeds and did every job Jonas gave him as though it was the most fun he’d ever had in his life. When Sophie, the kitchen maid brought them mugs of lemonade and pieces of fresh baked apple pie, the boy swallowed his in a few bites and then asked if he could go back to the work. The sun was low in the sky when Jonas told him it was time to stop.
'What’s your name, lad?” Jonas asked rummaging in the pocket of his work pants.
"Arthur, sir, Arthur Silver.”
"Well, Sir Arthur Silver, you did a fine day’s work. Here.” He held out a quarter and the boy looked up at him with enormous eyes.
"Take it,” Jonas said. He nodded toward the shed against the brick wall at the back of the garden. “You go in there and wash up now. And if you are back here tomorrow morning at sunup I’ll have another quarter for you at the end of the day.”
"Yes, sir!” Arthur thought that was the happiest evening of his life. He was going to be a gardener. Nothing seemed more wonderful.