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her heart's desire. One summer morning, came two sturdy woodmen, armed with saws, axes, and bill-hook. To work they went, lopping, hewing, and clearing, and before night-fall, there lay the little brook, exposed to the broad canopy of heaven, revealed in all its littleness, and effectually relieved from the intrusion of those insignificant creatures, which had been scared from their old familiar haunt, by that day's ruthless execution.
“ Well!” quoth the little brook, “this is something like life! What a fine world this is ! A little chilly though, and I feel, I don't know how, quite dazzled and confounded. But to-morrow, when that great, red orb comes over-head again, I shall be warm and comfortable enough, no doubt; and then, I dare say, some of those fine, great creatures will come and visit me; and who knows but I may grow as big as that great pond, in time, now that I enjoy the same advantages.” Down went the sun; up rose the moon ; out shone innumerable hosts of sparkling orbs, and among them, that “bright, particular star” looked out, pre-eminent in luster. Doubtless, its pure and radiant eye dwelt, with tender sorrow,
on the altered condition of its beloved little brook. But that volatile and inconstant creature, quite intoxicated with her change of fortune, and with the fancied admiration of the twinkling myriads she beheld, danced and dimpled, in the true spirit of flirtation, with every glittering spark, till she was quite bewildered among the multitude of her adorers, and welcomed the gray hour of dawn, without having vouchsafed so much as one glance of recognition at her old, unalienated friend.
Down went the moon and stars ; up rose the sun, and higher and higher he mounted in the cloudless heaven, and keener waxed the impatience of the ambitious little brook. Never did court beauty so eagerly anticipate her first presentation to the eye of majesty. And, at last, arrived the hour of fruition. Bright over-head careered the radiant orb; down darted his fervid, fiery beams vertically upon the center of the little brook, penetrating its shallow waters to the very pebbles beneath. At first, it was so awed and agitated, and overpowered by the condescending notice of majesty, fancying, (as small folks are apt to fancy,) that it had attracted peculiar observation, that it was hardly sensible of the unusual degree of warmth, which began to pervade its elementary system: but, presently, when the fermentation of its wits had a little subsided, it began to wonder how much hotter it should grow, still assuring itself that the sensation, though very novel, was exceedingly delightful.
But, at length, such an accession of fever came on, that the self-delusion was no longer practicable, and it began to hiss, as if set over a great furnace. Oh, what would the little brook have given now for only one bough of the holly or the hawthorn, to intercept those intolerable rays! or for the gentle winnowing of the black-bird's wing, or even the poor robin's, to fan its glowing bosom! But those protecting boughs lay scattered around; those small, shy creatures had sought out a distant refuge, and my lady brook had nothing left but to endure what she could not alter. “ And after all,” quoth she, “'t is only for a little while; by and by, when his majesty only looks sidewise at me, I shall be less overcome with his royal favor, and in time, no doubt, be able to sustain his full gaze, without any of these unbecoming flutters, all owing to my rustic education and the confined life I have hitherto led.”
Well, “ his majesty" withdrew westward as usual, and my lady brook began to subside into a comfortable degree of temperature, and to gaze about her again, with restored complacency. What was her exultation, when she beheld the whole train of geese waddling toward her from the great pond, taking that way
homeward out of sheer curiosity, as I suppose. As the goodly company drew nearer and nearer, our brook admired the stateliness of their carriage, and persuaded herself, it was eminently graceful, * for undoubtedly, they are persons of distinguished rank,” quoth she; “and how much finer voices they must have, than those little, vulgar fowls, whose twittering used to make me so nervous.” Just then, the whole flock set up such a gabbling and screeching, as they passed close by, that the little brook well nigh leaped out of her reservoir, with horror and amazement; and to complete her consternation, one fat, old, dowager goose, straggling awkwardly out of the line of march, plumped right down into the middle of the pool, flouncing and floundering about at a terrible rate, filling its whole circumference with her ungainly person, and scrambling out again with an unfeeling precipitation, which cruelly disordered the unhappy victim of her barbarous outrage.
Hardly were they out of sight, those awkward and unmannerly creatures; hardly had the poor little brook begun to breathe, after that terrible visitation, when all her powers of self-possession were called for, by the abrupt approach of another and more prodigious personage. A huge ox, goaded by the intolerable stinging of a gad-fly, broke away from his fellows of the herd, and from his cool station in the great pond, and came galloping down, in his blind agony, lashing the air with his tail, and making the vale echo with his furious bellowing. To the woods just beyond the new cleared spot, he took his frantic course, and, the little brook lying in his way, he splashed into it and out of it without ceremony, or probably so much as heeding the hapless object, subjected to his ruffian treatment. That one splash pretty nearly annihilated the miserable little brook. The huge fore-hoofs forced themselves into its mossy bank; the hind ones, with a single extricating plunge, pounded bank and brook together into a muddy hole; and the tail, with one insolent whisk, spattered half the black mass over the surrounding herbage.
And now, what was wanting to complete the ruin and degradation of the unhappy little brook? A thick, black puddle was all that remained of the once pellucid pool. Poor little brook! if it had erred greatly, was it not greatly humbled ? Night came again; but darkness was on the face of the unhappy brook, and well for it, that it was total darkness; for in that state of conscious degradation, how could it have sustained the searching gaze of its pure, forsaken star ? Long, dark, and companionless was the first night of misery, and when morning dawned, though the turbid water had regained a degree of transparency, it had shrunk away to a tenth part of its former “ fair proportions," so much had it lost by evaporation in that fierce solar alembic; so much from absorption in the loosened and choking soil of its once firm and beautiful margin; and so much by dispersion, from the wasteful havoc of its destructive invaders.
Again, the great sun looked down upon it; again, the vertical beams drank fiercely of its shrunken water; and when evening came, no more remained of the poor little brook, than just so many drops as filled the hollow of one of those large pebbles which had paved its unsullied basin, in the day of its brightness and beauty. But never, in the season of its brightest plenitude, was the water of the little brook so clear, so perfectly clear and pure, as that last portion, which lay, like a liquid gem, in the small concave of that polished stone. It had been filtered from every grosser particle, refined by rough discipline, purified by adversity, even from those lees of vanity and light-mindedness, which had adulterated its sparkling waters in their prosperous state. Just as the last sunbeam was withdrawing its amber light from that small pool, the old, familiar robin hopped on the edge of the hollow pebble, and dipping his beak once and again in the diminished fount, which had slaked his thirst so often and so long, drooped his russet wings with a slight, quivering motion, and broke forth into a short, sweet gush of parting song, before he winged his way forever from his expiring benefactress.
Twilight had melted into night-dark night; for neither moon nor stars were visible through the dark clouds that canopied the earth. In darkness and silence lay the little brook; forgotten it seemed, even by its benignant star, as though its last drops were exhaled into nothingness; its languishing existence already struck out of the list of created things. Time had been, when such apparent neglect would have excited its highest indignation; but now, it submitted humbly and resignedly to the deserved infliction. And, after a little while, looking fixedly upward, it almost fancied that the form, if not the radiance of the beloved star was faintly perceptible through the intervening darkness.
The little brook was not deceived: cloud after cloud rolled away from the central heaven, till, at last, the unchanging star was plainly discernible through the fleecy vapor which yet obscured its perfect luster. But, through that silvery vail, the beautiful star looked intently on its repentant love; and there was more of tenderness, of pity, and reconciliation in that dim, trembling gaze, than if the pure, heavenly dweller had shone out in perfect brightness on the frail, humbled creature below. Just then, a few large drops fell heavily from the disparting cloud; and one, trembling for a moment with starry light, fell, like a forgiving tear, into the bosom of the little pool.
Long, long and undisturbed (for no other eye looked out from heaven that night) was the last mysterious communion of
the reconciled friends. No doubt, that voiceless intercourse was yet eloquent of hope and futurity ; for, though all that remained of the pure little brook was sure to be exhausted by the next day's fiery trial, it would but change its visible form, to become an imperishable essence: and who can tell whether the elementary nature, so purged from earthly impurities, may not have been received up into the sphere of its heavenly friend, and indissolubly united with the celestial substance ?
); Their mates they choose, their breasts with love are filled, And all prepare their mossy (...
) to build.
Who from the south is this, with lingering tread