THE RACERS 637
opinion, though it would have been quite as well if she had done so—' it certainly appears to me jthat the sunbeam ought to have had the first prize and the second too. The sunbeam flies in a moment along the enormous path from the sun to ourselves, and arrives in such strength that all nature awakes at it; such beauty does it possess that all we roses blush and exhale fragrance in its presence. Our worshipful judges do not appear to have noticed this at all. If I were the sunbeam, I would give each of them a sunstroke—but that would only make them mad, and that they may become as things stand. I say nothing,' thought the Wild Rose. ' May peace reign in the forest ! It is glorious to blossom, to scent, and to refresh—to live in song and legend. The sunbeam will outlive us all.'
' What's the first prize ? ' asked the Earthworm, who had overslept the time, and only came up now.
' It consists in a free admission to a cabbage garden,' replied the Mule. ' I proposed that as the prize. The Hare was decided to have won it, and therefore I, as an active and reflective member, took especial notice of the advantage of him who was to get it : now the Hare is provided for. The Snail may sit upon the fence and lick up moss and sunshine, and has further been appointed one of the first umpires in the racing. It is so good to have a professional in the thing men call a committee. I must say I expect much from the future—we have made so good a beginning.'
' Ding-dong ! ding-dong !' It sounds up from the ' bell-deep ' in the Odense River. What river is that ? Every child in the town of Odense knows that it runs at the bottom of the gardens and flows on under the wooden bridges from the dam to the water-mill. In the river grow the yellow water-lilies and brown feathery reeds ; the dark velvety reed-mace grows there, high and thick ; old and decayed willows, slanting and tottering, hang far out over the stream beside the monks' meadow and by the bleaching ground ; but opposite there are gardens upon