'It disturbed his sleep,' he said. 'Why could they not dance in the day-time?—not when all respectable leaves and flowers were sleeping! making such a noise, especially that mischievous Puck!'
And, unfortunately, he grew on the branch nearest to the Aspen, and his constant grumbles made them quiver with sorrow and pain at such incessant complainings. As to his own relatives, they would not listen, but frisked about merrily enough when the zephyrs came and played with them.
'Alas!' said he one day to a little Aspen leaf that grew on a branch close by, and who had patiently borne with his ungrateful complaints; 'how sad is our lot! Here we are always attached to the same place, in a state of cruel bondage; everything around us moves: the birds, happy in their liberty, fly here and there, singing ever their songs of joy; even the beasts of the forests are free—whilst we—ah me!—we never lose our galling chains but in dying!'
'Why do you murmur thus?' asked the Aspen leaf in a sweet, tremulous voice; 'why are you not contented?'
'Oh, it is all very well for you to preach contentment,' it pertly replied, turning up its point with contempt. 'I am a leaf of intellect. I hate this aimless, monotonous life; it does very well for such silly, trembling things as you and yours,—not for me!'
For a moment the little Aspen leaf felt its pride wounded by the contemptuous speech of its neighbour, and was strongly disposed to answer in the same strain; but fortunately, a fairy who chanced to be passing at the time laid her silver wand lightly on its lips, so with a smile she merely said,—
'Yes, I know I am timid, and cling to my parent tree for security and protection. What would you do if you were free? We are so happy here, I would not leave my home; the soft breezes are ever among us with cheerful stories of the countries they have visited to amuse us; and as to the birds, why, all the day long they are singing their sweetest melodies to gladden our hearts and cheer us.'
'I have heard their songs until I am quite tired of their sameness,' was the ungrateful response; 'besides, in a few months the cold winds will be here, and then we shall fall to the ground and be trodden under foot—that will be the end of us. So I am determined to see something of the world before that time comes. I shall go off with the first north wind that visits us—so I tell you. You will not reason me out of my plan.'
'Oh, stay, stay with us!' cried the trembling listener; 'you cannot surely know the sorrow you would cause, nor the troubles you would have to endure. It is true we leave our kind branches but to die, but we are not carelessly trodden on; the rustling of we poor faded leaves beneath man's feet recall to his mind pure and holy thoughts of the unknown future, filling his heart with unuttered prayers to the Great Power who changeth not. Then, if we poor leaves can teach a lesson, we have not lived in vain. Do not murmur at your humble fate, dear friend, but stay with us, contented with your simple destiny and the goodness of God.'
The Aspen leaf ceased speaking, overcome by its emotion, whilst the little grumbler, silenced, but not convinced, turned sulkily away. It did not relish the kind advice of its true friend, nor did it at all intend to follow it, but still it settled down on its tiny twig so very quietly, that all its relatives firmly believed it had given up its foolish scheme of imaginary happy freedom; but they were mistaken, for a few days after a north wind came quite unexpectedly upon them. It bent the Aspen tree almost to breaking, still the loving little leaves clung trembling to their parent, feeling that their very safety rested on their keeping close to it. Then, finding its strength was in vain, away the north wind rushed to the sturdy old Oak, swaying its branches wildly about, and even making them crack in its fierce rage.
But the Oak reared its proud head defiantly, and its leaves hung tightly on—all save one. Alas! with a mocking laugh at his friends' and his brothers' fears, he threw himself into the arms of the cruel north wind, who bore him swiftly away, and ere the night came the foolish leaf lay faded and dead.
As he was whirled away, a sad, sad moan sighed through the branches of the old Oak. 'Twas a cry of anguish for its wilful child.
* * * * *
The bright summer was gone.
One by one the leaves were falling. With a gentle rustle they fell from their parent trees, and lay in their faded beauty upon the earth.
The little Aspen leaf lingered, but one day a soft, sweet zephyr came and gently released her, and she fluttered slowly down to the calm bosom of the little brook, who had, alas! seen many flowers bloom and die.
Tenderly the stream bore it away to a grassy nook on its banks, and there it placed the tiny leaf, alone in its quiet rest.
THE AMBITIOUS WILD-FLOWER—AMBITION.
'Who'll buy my roses? they're lovely and fair, They're Nature's own bloom, and are fed on fresh air.'
So sang a little girl, as she walked along a shady lane, carrying a basket of those glorious flowers which she was taking to a friend as a birthday gift; and so on she went, singing her song of Roses, sweet Roses, little thinking that others were listening to her melody (besides the birds), or that her simple words would raise angry feelings in the very flowers themselves.
'Oh yes!' exclaimed a small Wild-flower—its name I will not tell; 'oh yes!' she repeated, waiting until the singer was out of hearing; 'always Roses, or Violets, or Lilies—no one ever composes songs about—us—we are only common flowers.'
'Don't say so,' interposed Pimpernel, 'because that is not true. There is a poem on a Daisy that will ever be remembered, and I have heard some children sing a pretty one about Buttercups and Daisies, besides.'
'Oh, of course you uphold these song-makers, because your name has appeared in print,' she interrupted, with a toss of her bonnie petals; 'but no one has ever noticed me.'
'Nonsense!' said Ragged Robin, who, having been of a wandering disposition, had seen and heard a great deal in his time; 'why, there is one poet who says,—
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its fragrance on the desert air."
Therefore, if you are not mentioned by name, you certainly must be included among these unknowns who are born to blush unseen.'
'I don't want to be included among these "unknowns" then,' exclaimed the Flower angrily. 'I am sure I am'—she hesitated a moment—'quite as lovely as a Rose, or any other garden beauty;' but she could not help hanging her head for very shame whilst uttering this piece of self-conceit.
'Oh! oh! oh!' were the exclamations to be heard on all sides.
'So I am,' she persisted, going on now in sheer desperation, having proceeded too far to retract. 'My petals are delicately fair, with just a faint rosy blush, my pistils and stamens of a tender yellow, and my form, if fragile, is very graceful—so there!'
You may imagine the laughter that ensued as she ended with that emphatic 'so there!' laughter which could not be suppressed, although she plainly showed her anger at their behaviour; they could not help it, so flower-bells shook and leaves fluttered with mirth, even Quaker grass quivered with merriment.
'I would advise you to be more contented,' said a Honeysuckle, as she looked down upon the ambitious little Flower from her own elevated position; 'let me tell you it is not always those who are highest up in the world are the happiest; they feel the cold winds quite as keenly, perhaps more so.'
'Ah, but I want to live in a conservatory or a greenhouse. I feel I am fitted for that position,' grumbled the other; 'in such a place I should be more seen, and consequently more admired and appreciated.'
'What vanity!' sneered wild Vetch, who was somewhat ambitious also, seeing he tried to climb up as high as he could.
An angry retort was on the lips of the one addressed, but Honeysuckle interposed, by saying kindly,—
'Well, well, we shall see,—perhaps your position may be altered one day, and then you will be able to show us how you bear prosperity. Many flowers I have known transplanted to conservatories, thinking they would prove to be exotics, but I have heard that they generally withered in the heated atmosphere to which they were removed, and did not come to perfection when taken from their native soil.'
'I am sure I should enjoy the change,' was the answer vouchsafed to this friendly warning. 'I know I am not in my proper sphere; such beauty as mine was never surely intended by Nature for a hedgerow.'
'We shall see!' cried several Blossoms, who felt indignant at her contemptuous way of speaking. 'Your parents were no doubt'—
'Exotics, I am convinced,' she said.
'Then how came you here among such humble company?' asked merry Ragged Robin, who was fond of teasing.
She deigned no reply, but looked him scornfully up and down, to his intense amusement.
'Let her alone!' cried a sturdy Bramble; 'she will buy her experience with sighs and tears, I fear.'
So, acting upon Bramble's advice, they did leave her alone to muse over her ambitious hopes and desires, whilst they, contented and happy with their lowly fate, opened their buds to the bright sunshine, which beams alike upon the high or humble.
And very pretty looked that hedgerow on this same morning. The flowers were so lovely and fresh, for their gentle Mother Nature had washed their bonnie faces fresh with dew, and so they held their petals up to catch the sun's brightest rays, which came in golden gleams through the thickly-leaved hedges above them. What life could possibly be happier? There were the birds flying about, cheering them with merry twitterings, as they sped from tree to tree, or perched in the boughs overhead, warbling ever their songs of gladness. Then the bees would come, and ask them, in drowsy, murmuring voices, for just a sip of nectar from their cups, a boon which was never refused, and in return the busy little workers would leave them some pollen to colour their petals, and render them (if it were possible) more lovely than before. The butterflies, too, would alight on their leaves, and display their brilliant hues for their admiration, or the gay dragon-flies would fly about them in that wandering fashion peculiar to those gorgeous insects, darting hither and thither like flashes of rainbow light. At night the moonlight would kiss their weary eyes to sleep, whilst the soft night-breezes soothed them to rest with murmuring lullabies.
It is true there were storms sometimes, and the cold rain would fall upon them; but still they were sheltered from all fierce tempests, and would rise up refreshed after the dark clouds had passed away, for they knew
'Behind the clouds the sun's still shining. * * * * * Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary;'
and as to the summer showers, why, they tossed their heads, and laughed merrily at them, shaking the light rain-drops from their petals in playful fun.
But on this morning, when the tiny Wild-flower was making her life miserable by useless repinings at her humble lot, and sighing for—she knew not what!—well, on this same morning there was not a cloud to dim the sky, so brightly blue was it, and the soft west wind crept among the leaves and flowers, whispering to them the glad tidings of 'Summer is come!'
I do not know how long it was after the little girl had passed, that a gentleman came sauntering slowly up the lane; and as he went, he would stop every now and then to examine the hedgerow flowers and shrubs. All at once he espied our friend, almost hidden though she was by the leaves and long grass around.
'What a lovely little flower!' he exclaimed, as he stooped down to examine more closely his newly-found treasure; 'how delicate in colour, how sweet in perfume! Surely this was never intended to remain hidden in a hedge?'
Oh, if you could but have seen how she tried to raise her pretty head, which Nature had bowed in simple loveliness, and endeavoured to look big, little thinking that her greatest charm lay in this sweet simplicity.
'I must certainly transplant it to my greenhouse,' he went on saying. 'With care and skill, who knows into what it may not develop!—an entirely new plant, I doubt not. I will at once take it home.'
And away he went to procure the necessary tools for removing her from her lowly home to one more suited to her wishes.
'Did I not tell you so!' was her delighted exclamation.
'Well, I never!' ejaculated Pimpernel, whose pretty eyes were now opened wide in astonishment.
'Better to be born lucky than rich,' muttered Ragged Robin.
'Shall I not be grand in a conservatory?' cried the ambitious Flower.
'I would rather
"Adorn the rustic stibble-field, Unseen, alane,"'
murmured meek Daisy.
'Ah, you have no ambition!' sneered the other; 'besides, "the rustic stibble-field" is your proper sphere—it is not mine!'
'Pride, pride!' rebuked Honeysuckle, gazing sorrowfully down upon the arrogant little speaker. 'Take care that you sigh not yet for your old home and humble friends.'
'Indeed I shall not!' she retorted insolently.
'Wait, wait!' continued sturdy Bramble; ''tis the time of flowers now—wait till the fruit-time comes.'
'I do not know what you mean,' she retorted angrily; 'nor do I'—
'That there is a time for all things,' explained Shepherd's Clock, interrupting her.
'I trust your high hopes will be realized,' said Speedwell kindly.
How much longer this wrangling would have continued it is impossible to say, for at that moment the gentleman returned with a trowel, spade, and basket, and proceeded to remove her from her native soil. In justice to her, it must be confessed that, when the moment came to part for ever from all her old friends, and the surroundings to which, in spite of her incessant murmurs, she felt attached, she clung desperately with her slender, fibrous roots to the familiar spot where from a seedling she had lived and grown—yes, clung desperately! But with the utmost care every tender fibre was released, and she was placed in the basket and carried away. Was she glad now? No, far from it—wishing again and again that she had been left alone.
However, it was too late. She had always complained of not being in her proper position, and now the glorious change was come; she was being taken to where her hopes had aspired,—a conservatory or a greenhouse, it mattered not which.
After a while, with the usual indifference of such natures, her regrets subsided, giving place to thoughts respecting the place in which she was destined to live.
'Of course I shall be welcomed by all the nobler flowers with delight and astonishment,' she mused; 'delight because of my agreeable manners, and astonishment at my beauty! How I wish my old hedgerow friends could but be present to witness my reception!'
But this reception, upon which she built such bright fancies, was delayed for some few days, for, on arriving at her destination, she was carried into a dingy shed, not into the splendid glass palace her visions had conjured up.
'Is this the place to which I am destined?' she muttered complainingly. 'Oh dear! no one will see me here. I wish I had remained in the lane, for there was a chance of my being admired by some passer-by. What is the use of my ambitious hopes, if this is to be the end of them?'
Fortunately there was no flower or even a plant near to be wearied with her repinings, so on she grumbled, until at last her misery reached its climax, when she was taken and pressed tightly into a horrible flower-pot, then carefully watered, and afterwards put into a dark corner to take root. Had she been capable of shedding tears, no water would have been required, such as was given to revive her; for the sorrow she felt was almost too great to be borne. Here was a life to lead after all her high aspirations, and her slender roots, too, were so cramped and squeezed it was something dreadful! Oh for the once despised hedgerow, with the soft, cool earth, in which she could stretch her delicate fibres!
But wait, impatient little flower! other days are coming.
One morning—at least so it proved to be, though at the time she did not know it, as in her dark dwelling she saw neither sunrise nor sunset—well, this morning of which we speak, to her intense delight, the gentleman came and carried her out into the open air, and surveyed her critically.
'Yes,' she heard him say, and how her heart bounded with pride, 'it is indeed a lovely flower, and may well take its place among those in the conservatory, for it is really exquisite.'
Here was a triumph! this was the hour to which she had so long looked forward.
'At last, at last!' she murmured. 'Oh, if my old acquaintances could but see me now, what would they say? I wish some of them were here.'
Not satisfied even yet! You see there is always an alloy in our greatest earthly pleasures or triumphs—always a something wanting. Yet so completely bewildered was she by this excess of gratified pride, that she knew not whither she was borne, until, when the delirium, for such it was, had passed, she found herself in a place which her wildest imaginings never could have supposed possible—a wondrous glass palace, filled with the most gorgeous flowers of all tints and forms, some deliciously perfumed, making the air fragrant; whilst in the centre of this palace a fountain rose and fell with soothing murmurs, scattering its silvery spray upon exquisite blossoms that floated in the marble basin. It was almost too lovely, and our little wayside friend sighed with a sense of overpowering astonishment at the wondrous beauties around, beauties that dazzled her unaccustomed eyes. Her place, however, was upon one of the lower shelves, and above her head waved the feathery leaves of tropical plants, which throve wonderfully well in the heated atmosphere of this (to her) paradise.
Then she was left alone with her new associates—alone! how much that word conveys!
After some time the other flowers became aware of a stranger having come among them, and a flutter (as much as such well-bred creatures deigned to evince) stirred their leaves and petals.
'What is she like?' asked a Maidenhair Fern, who from her position could get not even a glimpse of the new arrival.
'Is she elegant and refined?' inquired a Camellia languidly.
'Is she fair or dark?' questioned Tea-Rose, with a faint breath.
'It matters not to me what she is,' murmured Ice-Plant coldly.
'Where does she come from?' whispered Myrtle to her neighbour Cape Jasmine.
'From a hedgerow,' was the reply, but uttered so that all around her heard the answer.
'Only a Wild-flower!' was the general exclamation. 'What presumption to come amongst us!'
Then a chilling silence fell upon them all, except when they spoke to each other; but, after that unlucky explanation of her origin, it was as though they ignored her very existence—she was with them, still not of them.
And, strange to say, our little friend, who was so ready with words among her compeers, was completely silenced by these disdainful beauties, and, instead of replying, and holding, or rather maintaining, her position there, she shrank, as it were, abashed and ashamed of her lowly origin.
Was this the triumphant reception she had expected? Where was the homage her beauty was supposed to exact, and where the admiration of her manners and elegance generally? Ah me! she was only a little wayside blossom after all, pretty, it is true, and suited to the quiet hedgerow, but without the merits or the talents to raise her to a higher place. Better far the humble friends, the lowly mossy bank where she had grown in peace and rest (save for her own unquiet ambition), than the grandeur and contempt which now were hers.
So day after day passed on, and the florist who had brought her from the shady lane, hoping he had discovered a lovely and rare flower, saw with regret that his treasure was fading; the heated atmosphere of this splendid conservatory was too great for her to bear, and she was pining away for the fresh air and freedom of her old home; but, above all, she longed for the kindly if rough sympathy of her humble friends; the cold society of these exotics was gradually yet slowly killing her! In vain was the owner's care lavished upon her—it would not do; the delicate petals shrank up witheringly, the slender green leaves became shrivelled and dying, so in kindness he took her from the gorgeous palace, which she quitted gladly, without one sigh of regret, and carried her back to the shady lane, the once despised hedgerow, and carefully placed her in the very spot from which she had been taken.
It was the home for her!
Sadly she turned her dim eyes to the old friends around, who gazed upon the sorrow-stricken Flower pityingly and without reproach.
'I have returned to die,' she murmured. 'Ambition which has pure and holy aspirations is laudable in all; but I mistook pride for that which is more noble, and I am punished. Do not blame me,' she pleaded piteously, 'but give me your pity, and when I am gone, think with tenderness upon the poor little Wild-flower who knew, when too late, that her place was best and happiest when among the humble blossoms by the peaceful hedgerow!'
THE HONEYSUCKLE AND THE BUTTERFLY—HUMILITY AND PRIDE.
One early spring day, a little shoot of Honeysuckle was putting forth its tendrils low down on the ground at the foot of a quickset hedge. As yet it was but a weakly sprig, not knowing its own strength, nor even dreaming that it would ever rise far above the earth. Yet still it was very contented, drawing happiness from its lowly surroundings, happy in living, and feeling the warm sunshine kissing its fragile leaves.
Close by, there was a strange, dark, oblong mass, and the little Honeysuckle tried to imagine what it could possibly be, for it never moved, nor evinced emotion of any kind; and yet it was alive, because people would take it up, examine it, then put it down again, saying,—
'It is only a common Chrysalis!' But what that was the Honeysuckle knew not.
At last, one day, when the sun was shining very brightly indeed, and the air was warm, and filled with the sweet breath of spring, to her great surprise she saw this peculiar object move, then by degrees the dark brown casing was cast aside, and she saw that it had wings!
'Why, what are you?' she questioned, in utter amazement at this marvellous transformation.
'Me!' he replied. 'Oh, I am a Butterfly, and you will see that very soon I shall become most lovely, such gloriously tinted feathers will deck my wings, all the world will be lost in admiration, I shall be so beautiful!'
'And will you let me see you then?' the meek little flower asked humbly.
'Oh yes! certainly you shall gaze upon me,' he answered, with a mighty air of condescension.
'But will you not always remain here?' she questioned, pleased at the idea of having so charming a neighbour.
'Dear me, no! I should think not, indeed. Why, I shall fly far away from this humble neighbourhood!' was his exclamation.
'What! and leave me?'
'Certainly! what else could you expect?' he replied. 'My ambition could not endure such a humdrum existence as yours; with these gay-coloured wings of mine I shall soar to higher realms, and be courted and caressed where'er I go!'
'Oh that I had wings like yours, or that you clung to earth!' sighed the tender-hearted Honeysuckle, who, from having been so long in close companionship with the dark, unsociable Chrysalis had actually grown to like him.
'Nonsense! what a ridiculous wish!' exclaimed the gaudy insect, who did not share his little friend's feeling of regard. 'Why, I should die if I were rooted to one place! I require a large sphere in which to move about; while as to you—I doubt if ever you will rise higher in the world than you are now.'
Not a kind remark to make, certainly, and it sadly grieved the humble flower to hear the Butterfly thus speak.
'And yet,' she sorrowfully mused, 'perhaps he is right; I know I am but a little green plant, very small, and very lowly, whilst he is so noble and beautiful with his gorgeous wings. Still, it is heart-rending to think I shall never rise above the sordid earth, always remain a mere groundling! But never mind,' she added more cheerfully; 'even groundlings can do good sometimes, so I'll take courage, and hope for the best.'
Not many days after this, the Butterfly called out joyfully to his little admirer,—
'Good-bye! good-bye! See! I have acquired my full beauty, so now I am off to entrance the world with my perfect loveliness! I think I am an Emperor, though I am not quite sure; but there! people will soon appreciate me, and, of course, will acknowledge my claims to admiration.'
'And are you really going?' she asked sadly.
'Yes, of course! I am perfect now, and could not possibly stay here any longer;' looking round contemptuously upon his humble surroundings. 'But I'll come and see you again, perhaps; you are sure to be found in the same place!'
And away he flew with a mocking laugh; his gay wings fluttered merrily in the sunshine as he poised above the gorgeous garden flowers a while, then he sped away into distance, and was lost to sight, whilst the little Honeysuckle felt very lonely as she watched him disappear.
'Oh dear me!' she sighed; 'I feel rather sad now he has gone. It certainly must be very nice to rise a little in the world, not to be'—
'Take hold of my hand, my dear,' said a kind Bramble, who happened to hear the flower lament her lowly fate. 'I may perhaps be able to give you a lift up.'
'Oh, thank you very much,' was the response; 'but I fear your kindness would be thrown away, for I do not think I shall ever be more than I am at present.'
'One can never know, until he has tried, what may be done,' was the encouraging rejoinder. 'Look at me, for example! I am only what is called a Bramble, very much despised by some folks, no doubt; but then, who despises the fruit I bear? Why, every one likes the hardy blackberry, and I believe "by your fruit ye are known."'
'But I shall never yield fruit,' the Honeysuckle exclaimed; 'and as to flowers'—
'You are as yet only a green sprig of something—what I know not,' interrupted the Bramble sharply. 'But courage, child; take fast hold of me. I am rough but trusty; so take my hand.'
'I fear to climb!' cried the other timidly.
'Nonsense, child! nothing is done without an effort. Only, when once you have secured a chance, hold it fast,' was the caution given.
So she ventured to put forth a tender green tendril and clasp her kind friend's helping hand, which, if rough and thorny, was certainly honest and true.
It is very seldom in this world that the humble and shrinking find friends ready and willing to raise them from the ground; for there is such a rush and scramble to reach the temples of 'Fame' and of 'Mammon,' that each one elbows the other in the crowd. Some of the weaker ones get sadly pushed to the wall, others are trampled under foot, and it is only the very boldest and most daring of the throng who ever reach the desired goal.
But amongst the flowers it is not so; for how many of the weak ones cling for support to others, and, through their tender care, gain strength and beauty. And this was the case with the Honeysuckle; she felt so secure resting on that strong, protecting arm, that by degrees she began to gain courage, and to feel her own power. The Bramble, too, perceiving she was something more than a mere 'little green sprig of something,' kindly encouraged her to persevere in her upward course. So she clambered up higher and higher; the delicate green tendrils became firmer and stronger, and at length, after much painful toiling and many a disappointment, she reached the highest summit of her hopes—the top of a quickset hedge!
'Oh, how can I thank you all!' she joyfully cried, when from her lofty position she gazed around on beautiful scenes undreamt of ere this, and then looked back upon the toilsome path she had travelled, and beheld the many kind friends who had helped her on her way, each one of whom was now rejoicing in her success; 'and you, dear Bramble, my first generous guide'—
'We are all very pleased to see that at last you have succeeded in your efforts, my dear,' interrupted that sturdy friend; 'and, what is more, we do not fear you will prove ungrateful, you are sure to remember us.'
'Indeed, indeed I ever shall!' cried the happy little flower. 'Can I ever forget those who loved me when I was poor and lowly? that would be cruel and unkind.'
And so it proved; for, as the summer grew warmer, and her lovely blossoms opened to the bright sunshine, she in her gratitude showered them over those dear ones who had helped her in the days of her poverty; and the fragrant blossoms thus spread over the hedge and the bramble enhanced their beauty, and rendered them still more lovely in the eyes of the passers-by.
'Dear me!' exclaimed the Butterfly, as one very hot day he alighted to rest upon one of the Honeysuckle's leaves. 'Dear me!' he repeated, surveying her critically; 'why, really I did not know you again. How did you contrive to get so high up in the world?'
'Kind hearts, loving hands, helped me,' was the simple answer given.
'Oh, indeed!' he curtly said. 'Well, I owe gratitude to no one. I suppose you will not get any higher?' he questioned, after a pause.
'No,' she replied, with her usual humility; 'and even if I could, I would not wish it; for, living as I do amongst all who are dear to me, I have no higher ambition.'
'You were always a faint-hearted thing,' exclaimed the insect, quite forgetting even to be commonly polite, so elated was he with pride. 'Just compare the difference in our lives! I fly here, I fly there, now on this flower, now on that. Ah, mine is a glorious life! nothing but pleasure and excitement all the livelong day. Confess, now, would you not like to be me?'
'No,' she answered, with the utmost sincerity; 'I am so happy here, I would not change my lot even for a career so brilliant as yours.'
'What a taste!' he exclaimed, with scornful pity; 'no wonder you remain a hedge-flower! Why, poets write about us, and there is actually a song called "I'd be a Butterfly." Only think of that!' he exultantly cried.
'What! and have a pin stuck through one's head, and to be suffocated with camphor, merely for the sake of being placed in a glass-case for people to stare at!' ejaculated Spleenwort, with a dash of malice in his tone.
'Don't talk of such things, you common flower!' the insect angrily exclaimed. 'I'll not stay here any longer to listen to such vulgarity. I prefer more refined society!'
And away he flew, evidently very much disturbed in his mind by what Spleenwort had remarked as occurring to butterflies in general, although he would not acknowledge that it was so, even to himself, but tried to banish the thought by indulging more freely in what he considered pleasure. You see—poor, giddy flutterer—he did not like to hear the plain truth spoken; flattery would have pleased him better, yet truth, though sometimes bitter, is a wholesome tonic when taken properly.
* * * * *
The summer days sped fast, for Father Time's scythe is never idle, and he was gradually, though slowly, mowing down the flowers which had garlanded the sunny hours. The leaves once so green were changing now, assuming their glowing autumn tints, whilst some would fall fluttering to the ground with a gentle sigh of weariness, as the cold winds were rustling by. Then the stern northern gale came sweeping along, proclaiming to the forest trees that winter was on her way; and a shudder would pass through their sturdy branches when they heard the tidings, for they feared her chill, icy breath.
The bees took refuge in their well-stored hives, the ants had barred their outer doors, and retired to their most secluded apartments; even the garden spider was sheltered in his home—only the once gay butterfly was homeless and friendless.
'Shelter me, shelter me, dear Honeysuckle,' moaned the shivering insect, coming back to the old home in the day of his sorrow. 'I am so cold, so weary!'
'Poor thing!' the tender flower exclaimed, with the utmost pity, forgetting now all former slights. 'Creep under my leaves, perhaps they may shield you. But your beautiful wings, how came they so torn and colourless?'
'The pitiless storm last night fell upon me and crushed me to the earth in its fury,' he answered, with difficulty, for he was so feeble. ''Tis true the gleams of sunshine to-day have revived me a little; but alas! I am dying! my brief day is over, and there is no one to give me a refuge save you!'
'Where are your gay friends?' she asked,'those with whom you sported throughout the livelong summer hours?'
'Gone far from me,' he answered bitterly; 'they were but friends of the fleeting sunshine, and I in the day of my power thought but of myself, and now—I am left alone to die!'
The Honeysuckle was deeply moved; she remembered no more his haughty pride, she only saw that now he was ill and in sorrow; so she placed her clinging tendrils gently around him, trying thus to keep the poor Butterfly under the shelter of her protecting leaves.
Night came stealing on, folding her sable curtains over the earth; and it was a wild night, for not a star shone in the skies, all was dark and dreary, for the Storm King was abroad in all his mighty strength. The fierce gales came with terrific power, tossing the lordly ships as they nobly braved its fury, but causing, oh, so many loving hearts to fervently pray 'for those at sea.' No wonder, then, that when the cold grey dawn awoke the early flowers, they saw the poor crushed Butterfly lying dead! close beside the little Honeysuckle, whose trustful, meek heart he had once so cruelly derided.
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