There was once an apple tree that stood on a scruffy bit of ground not far from a Church. At Rogation-tide, the Vicar would take the whole congregation around the parish to bless the fields and the tractors and pray for a good harvest. The head choirboy always made sure that this tree got an extra special splash of holy water.
He knew that this tree was no ordinary tree. In the autumn the apples were so sweet the children thought they were really toffee-apples. When no grown-ups were looking, if the children stood around it in a ring and sang it a little thank-you song, the tree would bend down its branches so that each child could take just one toffee-apple before running off to play.
One autumn day, the children went to the apple tree, and found they couldn’t stand in a ring and sing to the tree. Someone had put a fence in the way. On the fence was a notice saying ‘This tree is now the property of the Village Sweetmaker. Toffee-apples are available in the shop. One penny each’
Some of the children ran back home to beg a penny. A few children were able to go to the shop. But some children didn’t bother. They knew their family had nothing to spare for shop-bought toffee apples.
At Rogation-tide the next year, the procession didn’t get near the tree. Time passed. Most of the children forgot the tree and each autumn it bore fewer, smaller, sourer apples.
One Rogation-tide, as the procession went past, the children saw that the singing ringing toffee-apple tree had been cut down.
After the Church Service, the head choirboy and a couple of the other children went back to see. The head boy climbed over the fence. He helped his friends until all three stood in a ring around the stump. Feeling sad, the head choirboy reached into his trouser pocket and found three rather old and sticky toffees. He handed them round. They stood and chewed the toffees in memory of the tree.
When they had finished, they stuffed the sticky silver wrappers into a gap between the roots of the tree, wiped their sticky hands and snotty noses on the tree stump, climbed over the fence and ran off to play.
Some people say it was because it was Rogation-tide. Some people say it was magic. Other people say there is something special in children’s tears. But the next morning, one of the parishioners called the Vicar to come and see a marvellous thing.
Where the toffee-apple tree had been, another tree was growing. By the time the Vicar and the Churchwardens arrived it was tall and strong. But it wasn’t an ordinary tree. It was made of silver, like toffee papers. The leaves were the shape of children’s hands.
‘This tree is here to remind us that, in God’s Kingdom, the sweetest things are always those we share’ was what the Vicar said.