Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE LITTLE BROWN BOWL
Phila Butler Bowman, in "The Churchman." Copyright, 1904, by The Churchman Company, and republished by permission of The Churchman Company.
ONCE there was a little brown bowl that stayed always
in a great closet among other bowls.
There were big bowls and little bowls, bowls with
beautiful gold bands, and bowls over whose sides
clambered rosebuds so beautifully painted that they
looked as if they were growing. There was a bowl that
wore violets all around its brim—like a little girl
wearing violets on her hat. And there was one broad,
 shallow bowl tinted with such colors as are in
the sky when the sun is going down, and on this bowl was
the prettiest little shepherdess! She wore a broad hat
and a blue dress, and her blue eyes always smiled.
So they were all beautiful bowls except the little
brown bowl, which could never be anything but a plain,
thick little brown bowl without even a daisy to wear.
She was so shy among the others that she did not often
speak, but one day, when the maid who took care of the
china set a pretty little pitcher so close to her that
it touched, she gathered courage to ask why the
shepherdess always smiled, and why all the other bowls
were taken out of the closet at times and then brought
back again, but she was always left.
The little pitcher told the little brown bowl that the
shepherdess smiled because she was happy; for every
morning she was carried to the sunny breakfast-room
where Clarita ate her bread and milk from the
Then the little brown bowl grew bolder, and said, so
loudly that everybody heard: "And why don't they come
and get me sometimes, as they get the shepherdess bowl,
and the violet bowl, and all the rest?"
And the little pitcher answered—for the little pitcher
was always kind—"They have not needed you yet.
Perhaps, some day, you may be needed. Then the maid
will come and get you."
"And shall I see Clarita, then?" cried the little brown
bowl, in great happiness. But before the little
pitcher could answer, such a laugh arose from the
mouths of all the other bowls that they rattled on the
closet shelves and the maid cried: "How the wind
"Ah!" cried the rosebud bowl, "you will always stay
 on the closet shelf! You are too ugly ever to be
needed. Do you see the rosebuds on my sides? Clarita
loves them. Once I sat for an hour on a little table
and held bonbons for her."
"And I," cried the gold-banded bowl, "have been near
her at dinner and held water where she dipped her rosy
fingers." And the gold-banded bowl laughed scornfully.
"She loves the beautiful things; she would never look
"No, indeed," said the violet bowl. "I wonder that you
were ever put here. Once, long ago, for an hour I was
carried up to Clarita's own room and held violets for
"Yes, and you were upset," said the tall vase, "which
shows that you were never meant to hold flowers."
But the little brown bowl sat quite still and very sad.
She knew, at last, why for so long she had been kept in
the closet—never taken out, and never needed. If only
she, too, could have been beautiful! And she wished
she might go away and never come back, since she could
never be loved and never be of any use.
She must have wished it aloud, for the shepherdess
bowl, to whom all the others listened, spoke to her
quite gently: "Do not grieve, little brown bowl.
Clarita loves beautiful things, but she loves useful
things, too, and if she ever sees you she will love
you. Only be patient and wait."
So the days came and went. Each morning the
shepherdess bowl went away and came back looking
brighter than before, and one by one the violet bowl
and the rosebud bowl and the gold-banded bowl were
taken out, and brought back—I am sorry to say— haughty
and vain, and saying unkind things to the little brown
 One morning the maid came in and hastily set the
little pitcher down. And the little pitcher, who
always heard what was going on, was quite breathless
It was Clarita's birthday, she said, and Clarita was
six years old, and six beautiful hyacinths were lying
by her place at the table; and Clarita, as soon as she
saw them, would surely be looking for something to put
"Oh, dear!" sighed the shepherdess bowl. "Perhaps if I
were not so shallow she might take me. Think of the
joy of holding Clarita's birthday flowers!"
"Are the hyacinths purple?" asked the violet bowl.
"Indeed, with my lovely shape and color, I stand a good
chance of being chosen."
"You, indeed!" cried the tall vase. "None of you is
fit to hold flowers. One would as soon expect Clarita
to choose that ugly, silent little brown bowl in the
But no one answered, for just then the door swung open
and the little brown bowl saw a little girl with sunny
hair, lovelier than she had dreamed. Her lips wore a
smile happier than that of the shepherdess and her eyes
were deep—like pools of quiet water.
She held her flowers lovingly and looked eagerly among
the bowls, seeking something, touched the rosebud bowl,
and then—the little brown bowl fairly trembled with
joy, for Clarita was looking straight at her and
saying: "Oh, here is the dearest little brown bowl,
mamma, just right for my flowers. It is so deep, and
so strong, and too heavy to upset. Why did I never
find you before, little brown bowl? You shall hold
flowers for me all summer!"
Long days afterward the little brown bowl, filled as
 she always was now with flowers, stood on
Clarita's breakfast-table, close to the shepherdess
"Dear shepherdess bowl," she whispered, "I love you,
because you were kind to me when I thought no one
And the shepherdess bowl whispered back softly: "Did I
not tell you that it was better to be able to hold
beautiful things than to be beautiful outside?"
And the shepherdess smiled more brightly than ever.