The Wooden Spoon
Once a wooden spoon was so fine, so neat, so pretty, made of the best wood and carved in the most beautiful manner, no one could ever see a more delicate or tasteful wooden spoon, and no one took it up without saying,
“Ah, how pretty it is!”
Thus the little spoon grew vain and proud.
“Ah”, thought the beautiful wooden spoon, “if I could only be like a silver spoon! Now I am used by the servants alone; but if I were a silver spoon it might happen that the king himself would eat rice and milk with me out of a golden dish; whereas being only a wooden spoon, it is nothing but meal porridge that I serve out to quite common folk.”
So the wooden spoon said to the mistress:
“Dear lady, I consider myself too good to be a simple wooden spoon. I feel within myself, that I was not meant to be in the kitchen, but that I ought to appear at great tables. I am not suited to servants, who have such coarse habits and handle me so rudely. Dear mistress, contrive that I shall be like a silver spoon.”
The good woman wished to satisfy her pretty wooden spoon; so she carried her to a goldsmith, who promised to overlay her with silver. He did so. The wooden spoon was silvered over, and shone like the sun. Then she was glad and proud, and scorned her old companions. When she came home she lay in the plate-basket, and became quite intimate with the family silver. She wished the tea-spoons to call her “aunt”, and she called herself “first-cousin” to the forks. But it happened that when the other spoons were taken out for daily use, the silvered wooden one was always left behind, - although she took the greatest care to render herself conspicuous, and often placed herself uppermost in the basket, in order not to be forgotten, but to be laid with rest, on the great table. As this happened several times, and that, too, when there was company, and all the silver was brought out, and the poor wooden spoon was left alone in the basket, she complained again to the mistress, and said:
“Dear lady, I have to beg that the servants may understand that I am a silver spoon, and have a right to appear with the rest of the company. I shine even more than the rest, and cannot understand why I should be so neglected.”
“Ah!” said the mistress, “the servant knows by the weight, that you are only silvered.”
“Weight! Weight!” cried the silvered spoon. “What! Is it not by the brightness alone, that one knows a silver spoon from a wooden one?”
“Dear child, silver is heavier than wood.”
“Then pray make me heavier,” cried the spoon. “I long to be as good as the rest; and I have no patience with the sauciness of that servant.”
The mistress, still willing to gratify the desires of her little spoon, carried her again to the goldsmith.
“Dear heart,” she said to him, “make this silvered wooden spoon as heavy as a real silver one.”
“To do that,” said the goldsmith, “it will be necessary to put a piece of lead here, in the handle.”
“Ah,” thought the poor spoon, “then must he bore straight into my heart,” (for the heart of a wooden spoon always lies in the handle; that is to say, when wooden spoons have hearts;) “but it is necessary to bear all for honor, Yes, he may even put a bit of lead in my heart, if he only makes me so that I shall pass for a real, heavy silver spoon.”
So the goldsmith bored deep into her heart and filled it up with melted lead, which soon hardened within it. But she suffered all for honor’s sake. Then she was silvered over again, and brought back to the plate-basket. Now the servant came and took her up with the rest of the spoons, and saw and felt no difference. So she was placed, with the rest of the silver, on the great dinner-table, and passed for a real, beautiful silver spoon, and would have been as happy as possible, if she had not got a lump of lead in her heart. That lump of lead caused her a great heaviness there, and made her feel not quite happy, in the midst of her honors. So time went on, and the wooden spoon continued to pass for a silver one, so well was she plated, and so heavy had she been made. But the mistress died. At that, the silvered spoon, instead of sorrowing, as she once would have done, almost rejoiced; for every time she had lain shining on the great table, she had recollected that the mistress was the only person who knew that she really was nothing more than a simple wooden spoon; and so, if her mistress took up another spoon instead of her, she was jealous, and said to herself,
“That is because she knows all about me. She knows I am a wooden spoon, silvered outside, and with a lump of lead within me.”
But when the mistress was dead she said to herself, “Now I am free, and can enjoy myself perfectly; for no one will ever know, now that I am not quite what I seem.”
The goods, however, were now to be sold. The family silver was bought up by a goldsmith, who prepared to melt it up, in order to work it anew. The unhappy wooden spoon was bought with the rest; she saw the furnace ready, and heard with dismay, that they should all be cast within. She was dreadfully alarmed, and exclaimed against the cruelty practiced upon the friendless orphans, who had so lately lost their good protectress appealing to her companions in rank and misfortune, who lay calmly within the sight of the furnace.
“They will burn us up!” she cried. “They will turn us to ashes! How quietly you take such inhuman conduct!”
“Oh no,” Said an old silver spoon and fork, who lay composedly side by side. They had been comrades from youth, those two, and had already gone through the furnace, I know not how often.
“Oh no; they will do us no harm, and we shall soon appear in a more fashionable and handsome form.”
The silvered wooden spoon listened, but was not comforted. It did not console her to find that silver would not burn; for she knew well that wood must do so.
“Ah,” cried the silly little spoon, “I see it is not by brightness only, nor only by weight, that real silver is known.”
The silver was cast into the furnace; but when the goldsmith came and took her up, she cried, in great excitement, and with a trembling voice, “Dear master, I certainly am a silver spoon; that is seen both by my appearance and weight; but then I am not of the same sort of silver with the other spoons. I am of a finer sort, which cannot bear fire, but flies away in smoke.”
“Indeed. What are you then? Perhaps tin.”
“Tin! Can the dear master think so meanly of me?”
“Perhaps even lead.”
“Lead! Ah the dear master can easily see if I am lead.”
“Well, that I will do,” said the master, and began to bed the handles, - when, snap it went in two; for wood will not bear bending like silver, any more than it will bear melting. The wooden handle broke in two, and out fell the thump of lead.
“So,” cried the master, “only a common wooden spoon silvered over!”
“Yes,” cried the poor wooden spoon, which, so soon as the lead fell from her heart, grew quite light and happy. “Yes, I am only a common wooden spoon. Take away the silvering dear master, and set me in the kitchen again, to serve out meal porridge for the rest of my life. Now know I well how stupid it was, for a wooden spoon to want to pass for a silver one.”
~Edith Vaughan’s Victory or How to Conquer
By Helen Wall Pierson
Alfred Martien Publisher 1870