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(In Five Parts) .. 77, 81, 84, 88, 92
NEW CODE READERS.
THE DAY LILY AND THE OLD
MAHOGANY TREE. On the eastern shore of Yucatan, in America, there is a spot noted for the density and variety of its vegetation. At the head of a small inlet in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a little hill covered with some large trees. These slope down steeply on one side, and more gently in other directions. At the foot of this hill, on its steepest side, there once sprang up a little flower. It was a strange flower, which is never found except in certain latitudes. It grows from the ground nearly to perfection in a single day.
All at once the sun, which had been gradually approaching the horizon, sank beneath it, and darkness fell suddenly upon the forest. The last rays of light that had struggled through the dense, dark leaves had played upon the little flower, revealing its wondrous beauty, but leaving it unfinished, imperfect, and alone in the dark night.
The little flower was in despair. “Alas!" she cried, “why must the light and heat that have brought me into being, and which are so necessary to my existence, be withdrawn at the very moment that I need them most of all? Of what worth is my life, if I am not permitted to arrive at perfection ? And now the sun himself is extinguished, and I must perish unknown, without having served one good purpose of my creation, and without knowing myself of what I am capable."
All at once she paused; for she heard a voice calling, “ Child of the forest I"
By the starlight, and the little of daylight that still lingered, and by straining her young eyes, she saw that it was an old tree upon the bank just above her that spoke-an old mahogany tree that she had often seen in the course of her brief life-an old and lofty tree, that lifted up high in the air his huge rough body, and which threw far and wide his arms, covered with a great multitude of broad, shining leaves.
Again he spoke : “Child of the forest! Why weepest thou ? Listen, little one. I am a thousand years old !”
“ Years !" whispered the lily, “what are years?"
"Was not the sun more beautiful,” continued the tree, “when in the first part of your life his beams shone upon you from yonder bay, than when lately they could hardly peep through the forest behind us?”
“Yes, he certainly was," replied the lily.
“I have stood here a thousand years," said the tree, " and even so he has seemed to me to be most beautiful, and so he will be again ; for his light is by no means extinguished. But he cannot rise, unless he first set."
The poor little lily pondered long and deeply upon it, but could not understand it.
“ Think again," continued the tree. “We are not the only things that he looks upon. A single footstep might crush you" (the lily shuddered and trembled), “ or a single whirlwind might prostrate me, and we should hardly be missed ; for look behind us—how
thick the forest grows! And so it is the world aroundand they all need his light and warmth as much as we. Would you be so selfish as to leave them all to perish ?"
The lily hung her head in silence.
After a pause, the old tree resumed : “Think again ! Is it not better for you even as it is ? Could you have borne the fierceness of this heat much longer?"
The lily bethought herself of a strange weariness and weakness, under which, during the latter part of her life, she had almost fainted.
“Ah, then," she sighed, “my life, it appears, must be brought to a close.”
“Not so," replied the old tree, "you must look forward to a better life. Our sun has indeed gone down, but it is only that he may shine on other parts of the world. It is only that he may give you time to acquire new strength to bear his brighter rays. True, unless he comes again over yonder bay your life must end here, and mine too; for it is upon him that our life depends, and he must rise again before we can revive. But courage, little child of the forest, he will certainly, certainly come!”
As the old mahogany tree spoke thus, he flung his arms about in the night breeze, and all his leaves, myriads in number, seemed to whisper. “He will certainly, certainly come !".
But oh ! how long the night seemed to the little flower--a whole lifetime! She shrank timidly away from the coarse, unsightly weeds that waved carelessly and fearlessly backwards and forwards, jeering at her weakness and fears. She trembled at the sight of the burning eyes of the beasts of prey, that loved darkness, that stared at her through the brakes, and she listened
in terror to the sound of their footsteps. She shuddered as she felt the slimy trail of the serpent over one of her leaves, or heard the heavy flapping wing of some foul night bird over her head, or the buzzing of hideous, goggle-eyed insects about her face. She shivered in the cold fog, and was half stifled by the dank, foul vapour, that crept up from the marsh. The tears gathered fast upon her face. “Old tree !" she sobbed, “I shall never see him again !”
“Courage, little child of the forest, courage ! These trials will only serve to make you stronger, and these tears, even, will add to your beauty. For your sake he delays ; but he will certainly, certainly come."
And again the myriads of shining leaves lisped their echoes, “He will certainly, certainly come!”
At last a little breath of air came dancing over the water, and as it passed it seemed to say, “He is coming!”
Once more the leaves of the old mahogany murmured, “He is coming, he is coming!”
And far back in the forest countless little voices seemed whispering to one another, “He is coming, coming, coming!"
The lily raised her head. How solemn to see those countless leafy dwellers in the forest, standing in breathless silence, listening, listening—waiting, waiting! for the great life of the world! The lily quietly turned her eye towards the water. No soft twilight, no long, slowly-changing dawn, announced the approach of day. But å quick flash spreading over the sky—a fleecy cloud suddenly blushing crimson--a flood of purple on the dancing waters—fierce flashes of golden light streaming far upwardsa burning mass of fire and the day was come!