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Once upon a time, there was a town of poor painters on a high hill.
Sue and Johnsy were both training to be painters. They lived in a little brick house at the edge of town.
Johnsy had come down with pneumonia and stayed in bed, feeling very ill.
Returning home after work, Sue was exhausted.
The wind is so cold outside. Winter is coming.
How are you? Have you been coughing a lot? Have you taken your medicine?
Johnsy was too weak to respond.
Sue and Johnsy were so poor they could barely afford food and medicine.
All they could do was try to sell some of their paintings.
Cough, cough, cough.. Oh..
Johnsy stared listlessly out the window.
There was some ivy on the opposite wall and she could see the leaves dancing in the harsh wind.
What are you looking at?
What about them, Johnsy?
They are just like me…
Stop looking at them. You are nothing like them!
Distressed by Johnsy’s notion, Sue closed the curtains.
No Sue, don’t do that, I want to see the leaves…
Sue ignored Johnsy’’s protests and closed the curtains anyway.
When the last leaf withers and falls, I will die too.
Johnsy said helplessly.
Hmm.. I don’t know what to say..
What do you think Doctor, is there any hope she will get better?
I don’t see much hope for the moment. She has no will to live.
What? But isn’t there anything I can do?
She must believe that she can live and get better.
The best you can do now is give her hope and encouragement.
That is the only medicine that can help her now.
I understand. (Sigh)
Sue had to sit up day and night making illustrations for magazines just to make enough for Johnsy’s medicine.
Johnsy lay in bed beside her and gazed sadly out of the window.
Eight, seven, oh.... one more has fallen. ................ Six.
Johnsy, what are you doing?
See, only six left now. When the last leaf falls, I will die too.
How can you say that? That’s ridiculous! You are not a leaf.
The wind must be very strong outside. Two more have just fallen.
Sue gently took Johnsy’s hand.
Please Johnsy, be strong. The Doctor says you will be alright, Johnsy.
I am so tired of coughing all the time, and of seeing you work so hard to support me
I want to rest, to drift away quietly like those falling leaves. Like that...
Sue had nothing to say. She could only look at Johnsy and cry softly.
Sue and Johnsy had a neighbor called Mr. Behrman.
He was a painter too, but he hadn’t painted anything in a long time.
Some people believed he simply had no talent. Sometimes he would pose for other artists.
He helped Sue with her magazine illustrations.
Tell me Sue, how is Johnsy?
She is so ill and week.
She insists that she will die when all the leaves from the Boston ivy outside have fallen.
The doctor says she can still recover, if she finds the will to live,
but all she wants to do is stare at the leaves.
I wish we could find a way to give her strength…
Heavy winds howled through the streets that night, and raindrops pattered against the windowpane.
Mr. Behrman watched the storm outside.
That looks bad. I don’t know if the leaves can hold up against this weather…
Mr. Behrman wanted to find a way to help Johnsy, but he was very poor himself and couldn’t think of anything.
Sue was nervous as well, and sat by Johnsy’s side all night until she fell asleep.
When morning dawned, Sue woke with an anxious feeling.
What if all the leaves had fallen from the Boston ivy overnight?
Oh Sue, you’re awake.
Johnsy, are you up already?
The leaves must all be gone now, right? Sue, please open the curtains and let me see them.
Sue hesitated, she was afraid of what would happen.
Please Sue, I want to see the last leaf.
No, I can’t! Don’t ask me.
No. You will get better, and then you will go and open them yourself.
Sue didn’t want to open the curtains, but when she saw the tears in Johnsy’s eyes, she knew she had no choice.
Slowly, she went up to the window and grasped the curtains with trembling hands.
Closing her eyes, she pushed them open.
Sue and Johnsy were both stunned.
Despite the rainstorm and the strong winds, the last leaf was still there, holding on to its branch.
Look at that, Sue. The last leaf has survived!
You see Johnsy, it was strong, and it lived through the rainstorm! Johnsy!
Sue, I will be like that leaf. I will get better, I will have the will to live now!
Johnsy and Sue embraced, crying tears of joy.
I am glad to see her so much improved.
It seems she has found the will to live and she will be able to recover very very soon.
Thank you so much, Doctor.
It is Johnsy who has conquered this illness, not me.
The doctor smiled as he turned to go. As he was about to leave he suddenly remembered something…
You know, your neighbor Mr. Behrman was brought to the hospital this morning.
He was found lying out in the street, drenched and half-frozen.
His hands were stained with paint. Could he have been painting something?
Oh, I don’t think so. Why would he be out painting in the pouring rain?
I don’t know. In any case, the poor old man had been lying out in the cold and rain all night.
His health was weak already.
So how is he? Please, tell me.
He didn’t make it, I’m sorry.
(Cough, cough) I hope Johnsy can find her strength in this painting… (Cough, cough)
Sue looked again at the last ivy leaf, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t moving in the wind.
She began to cry quietly, mourning for Mr. Behrman and his sacrifice.