Aleck was a little boy five years old, with a round, rosy face, surrounded with dark brown curly hair, a pair of laughing brown eyes, and a mouth that looked as if it was just made for asking questions. His real name was Alexander, which was his grandfather's name, but they called him Aleck for short; he had no brothers, sisters or cousins, with whom to play, so he was always out in the garden, or orchard, playing with the birds, butterflies and grasshoppers, or else would play in the dirt and make mud pies. lle also had a bed of his own in the garden, in which he would plant peas, corn, potatoes, etc., but he was always digging them up to see if they were growing. Some rolled away, and after awhile a pea vine and a few red radishes grew up. As soon as they were big enough to eat, he pulled them up and ate them, without washing the dirt off.
One day he was digging away in his garden bed, after a hard rain, when he spied a long red worm. Now Aleck was not afraid of anything, but he thought this was such an ugly worm, so he moved off a little way, sat down on a lump of dirt, and looked at the worm for several minutes, while it raised its head from the ground and looked at him. Aleck could finally keep from asking questions no longer, and he said to the worm, "You are not pretty."
The worm said, "No," very meekly.
"You can't dance?"
"And you can't learn your letters?"
"Butterflies can fly," said Aleck.
"And bees can hum."
"But you can do nothing, can you?"
"Yes, I can," very loudly replied the worm. This startled Aleck so that he fell off the lump of dirt, but got up and sat down again. The worm continued: "I can do something that neither boys, bees nor butterflies can do."
Aleck again said, "What?"
"Take up your spade," said the worm, "and cut me in two pieces."
"Oh, but that would be cruel!"
"Not if I tell you to do it."
"But it will hurt you."
"No, it will not."
"Are you quite sure?"
"Yes, quite," said the worm.
So Aleck took the spade and did as the worm bid, and lo! and behold! the one half crept away, and the other half crept another way, and the head, looking back, said, "Can you and the bees and the butterflies do this?"
Aleck said "No," and as the worm moved off he said, "Good-bye, Aleck," and Aleck said, "Good-bye, worm," and down he sat again, and thought and thought what a strange worm it was.
What the Worm Could Do
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen