588 THE LAST DREAM OF THE OLD OAK TREE
rejoiced in the balmy breezes laden with the fragrance of the meadows and of wild roses and elder flowers, of the garden hedges, wild thyme, and mint, and daisies ; the scent of these was all so strong that the Ephemera was almost intoxicated. The day was long and beautiful, full of joy and of sweet feeling, and when the suri sank low the little fly felt very agreeably tired of all its happiness and enjoyment. The delicate wings would not carry it any more, and quietly and slowly it glided down upon the soft grass-blade, nodded its head as well as it could nod, and went quietly to sleep—and was dead.
' Poor little Ephemera ! ' said the Oak. ' That was a terribly short life ! '
And on every summer day the same dance was repeated, the same question and answer, and the same sleep. The same thing was repeated through whole generations of Ephemerae, and all of them felt equally merry and equally happy.
The Oak stood there awake through the spring morning, the noon of summer, and the evening of autumn ; and its time of rest, its night, was coming on apace. Winter was approaching.
Already the storms were singing their ' good night ! good night ! ' Here fell a leaf, and there fell a leaf.
* We pull! See if you can sleep ! We sing you to sleep, we shake you to sleep, but it does you good in your old twigs, does it not ? They seem to crack for very joy. Sleep sweetly ! sleep sweetly ! It 's your three hundred and sixty-fifth night. Properly speaking, you're only a year old yet ! Sleep sweetly ! The clouds strew down snow, there will be quite a coverlet, warm and protecting, around your feet. Sweet sleep to you, and pleasant dreams ! '
And the old Oak Tree stood there, stripped of all its leaves, to sleep through the long winter, and to dream many a dream, always about something that had happened to it, just as in the dreams of men.
The great Oak Tree had once been small—indeed, an acorn had been its cradle. According to human computation, it was now in its fourth century. It was the greatest and best tree in the forest; its crown towered far above all the other trees, and could be descried from afar across