THE ELDER TREE MOTHER 295
directions, and became larger and larger ; there was the most glorious elder bush—in fact, quite-a great tree. It penetrated even to the bed, and thrust the curtains aside ; how fragrant it was, and how it bloomed ! And in the midst of the tree sat an old, pleasant-looking woman in a strange dress. It was quite green, like the leaves of the elder tree, and bordered with great white elder blossoms ; one could not at once discern whether this border was of stuff or of living green and real flowers.
' What is the woman's name ? ' the little boy asked.
' The Romans and Greeks,' replied the old man, ' used to call her a Dryad ; but we don't understand that : out in the sailors' quarter we have a better name for her ; there she 's called Elder Tree Mother, and it is to her you must pay attention : only listen, and look at that glorious elder tree.'
' Just such a great blooming tree stands out in the sailors' quarter ; it grew there in the corner of a poor little yard, and under this tree two old people sat one afternoon in the brightest sunshine. It was an old, old sailor, and his old, old wife ; they had great-grandchildren, and were soon to celebrate their golden wedding ; but they could not quite make out the date, and the Elder Tree Mother sat in the tree and looked pleased, just as she does here. " I know very well when the golden wedding is to be," said she ; but they did not hear it—they were talking of old times.
' " Yes, do you remember," said the old seaman, " when we were quite little, and ran about and played together ! it was in the very same yard where we are sitting now, and we planted little twigs in the yard, and made a garden."
' " Yes," replied the old woman, " I remember it very well: we watered the twigs, and one of them was an elder twig ; that struck root, shot out other green twigs, and has become the great tree, under which we old people sit."
' " Surely," said he ; " and yonder in the corner stood a butt of water ; there I swam my boat; I had cut it out myself. How it could sail! But I certainly soon had to sail in a different fashion myself."