The Pumpkin-Glory by William Dean Howells

Story type: Literature

The papa had told the story so often that the children knew just exactly what to expect the moment he began. They all knew it as well as he knew it himself, and they could keep him from making mistakes, or forgetting. Sometimes he would go wrong on purpose, or would pretend to forget, and then they had a perfect right to pound him till he quit it. He usually quit pretty soon.

The children liked it because it was very exciting, and at the same time it had no moral, so that when it was all over, they could feel that they had not been excited just for the moral. The first time the little girl heard it she began to cry, when it came to the worst part; but the boy had heard it so much by that time that he did not mind it in the least, and just laughed.

The story was in season any time between Thanksgiving and New Years; but the papa usually began to tell it in the early part of October, when the farmers were getting in their pumpkins, and the children were asking when they were going to have any squash pies, and the boy had made his first jack-o’-lantern.

“Well,” the papa said, “once there were two little pumpkin seeds, and one was a good little pumpkin seed, and the other was bad–very proud, and vain, and ambitious.”

The papa had told them what ambitious was, and so the children did not stop him when he came to that word; but sometimes he would stop of his own accord, and then if they could not tell what it meant, he would pretend that he was not going on; but he always did go on.

“Well, the farmer took both the seeds out to plant them in the home-patch, because they were a very extra kind of seeds, and he was not going to risk them in the cornfield, among the corn. So before he put them in the ground, he asked each one of them what he wanted to be when he came up, and the good little pumpkin seed said he wanted to come up a pumpkin, and be made into a pie, and be eaten at Thanksgiving dinner; and the bad little pumpkin seed said he wanted to come up a morning-glory.

“‘Morning-glory!’ says the farmer. ‘I guess you’ll come up a pumpkin-glory, first thing you know,’ and then he haw-hawed, and told his son, who was helping him to plant the garden, to keep watch of that particular hill of pumpkins, and see whether that little seed came up a morning-glory or not; and the boy stuck a stick into the hill so he could tell it. But one night the cow got in, and the farmer was so mad, having to get up about one o’clock in the morning to drive the cow out, that he pulled up the stick, without noticing, to whack her over the back with it, and so they lost the place.

“But the two little pumpkin seeds, they knew where they were well enough, and they lay low, and let the rain and the sun soak in and swell them up; and then they both began to push, and by-and-by they got their heads out of the ground, with their shells down over their eyes like caps, and as soon as they could shake them off and look round, the bad little pumpkin vine said to his brother:

“‘Well, what are you going to do now?’

“The good little pumpkin vine said, ‘Oh, I’m just going to stay here, and grow and grow, and put out all the blossoms I can, and let them all drop off but one, and then grow that into the biggest and fattest and sweetest pumpkin that ever was for Thanksgiving pies.’

“You didn’t say it had any ears before,” said the boy.

“No; it had them behind,” said the papa; and the boy felt like giving him just one pound; but he thought it might stop the story, and so he let the papa go on.

“As soon as the grandmother saw it open its mouth that way she just gave one scream, ‘My sakes! It’s comin’ to life!’ And she threw up her arms, and she threw up her feet, and if the funniest papa hadn’t been there to catch her, and if there hadn’t been forty or fifty other sons and daughters, and grandsons and daughters, and great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, very likely she might have fallen. As it was, they piled round her, and kept her up; but there were so many of them they jostled the pump, and the first thing the pumpkin-glory knew, it fell down and burst open; and the pig that the boys had plagued, and that had kept squealing all the time because it thought that the people had come out to feed it, knocked the loose board off its pen, and flew out and gobbled the pumpkin-glory up, candle and all, and that was the end of the proud little pumpkin-glory.”

“And when the pig ate the candle it looked like the magician when he puts burning tow in his mouth,” said the boy.

“Exactly,” said the papa.

The children were both silent for a moment. Then the boy said, “This story never had any moral, I believe, papa?”

“Not a bit,” said the papa. “Unless,” he added, “the moral was that you had better not be ambitious, unless you want to come to the sad end of this proud little pumpkin-glory.”

“Why, but the good little pumpkin was eaten up, too,” said the boy.

“That’s true,” the papa acknowledged.

“Well,” said the little girl, “there’s a great deal of difference between being eaten by persons and eaten by pigs.”

“All the difference in the world,” said the papa; and he laughed, and ran out of the library before the boy could get at him.