THE BUCKWHEAT 223
very much handsomer : my flowers are beautiful as the blossoms of the apple tree: it's quite a delight to look upon me and mine. Do you know anything more splendid than we are, you old Willow Tree ? '
And the Willow Tree nodded his head, just as if he would have said, ' Yes, certainly I do ! '
But the Buckwheat spread itself out from mere vainglory, and said,
' The stupid tree! he 's so old that the grass grows in his body.'
Now a terrible storm came on : all the field flowers folded their leaves together or bowed their little heads while the storm passed over them, but the Buckwheat stood erect in its pride.
' Bend your head like us,' said the Flowers.
' I've not the slightest cause to do so,' replied the Buckwheat.
' Bend your head as we do,' cried the corn. ' Now the angel of the storm comes flying on. He has wings that reach from the clouds just down to the earth, and he'll cut you right in two before you can cry for mercy.'
* Yes, but I won't bend,' quoth the Buckwheat.
' Shut up your flowers and bend your leaves,' said the old Willow Tree. ' Don't look up at the lightning when the cloud bursts : even men do not do that, for in the lightning one may look into heaven, but that sight dazzles even men ; and what would happen to us, if we dared do so—we, the plants of the field, that are much less worthy than they ?'
1 Much less worthy ! ' cried the Buckwheat. ' Now I'll just look straight up into heaven.'
And it did so, in its pride and vain-glory. It was as if the whole world were on fire, so vivid was the lightning.
When afterwards the bad weather had passed by, the flowers and the crops stood in the still, pure air, quite refreshed by the rain ; but the Buckwheat was burned coal-black by the lightning, and it was now like a dead weed upon the field.
And the old Willow Tree waved its branches in the wind, and great drops of water fell down out of the green leaves just as if the tree wept.