986 THE DRYAD
layer, high up in the sky. Flashes of lightning darted forth ; * they also are servants of God the Lord,' the old priest had said. And there came a bluish dazzling flash, a blaze as if the sun itself had burst the purple rocks, and the lightning came down, and splintered the mighty old oak tree to the roots ; its crown was rent, its trunk was rent, it fell split asunder as if it spread itself out to embrace the messenger of light. No metal cannon can boom through the air and over the land at the birth of a royal child, as the thunder rumbled here at the death of the old oak tree. The rain streamed down : a refreshing breeze blew, the storm was past, and a Sunday calm fell on everything. The village people gathered round the fallen old oak ; the venerable priest spoke words in its praise, and an artist made a sketch of the tree itself as a lasting memorial.
* Everything passes away !' said the Dryad, ' passes away like the clouds, and returns no more.' The old priest came there no more; the school roof had fallen, and the teachers' chair was gone. The children came no more, but the autumn came, winter came, and the spring came too, and in all the changing seasons the Dryad gazed towards the quarter where every evening and night, far away on the horizon, Paris shone like a shimmering mist. Out from it sped engine after engine, the one train after the other, rushing and roaring, at all hours; in the evening and at midnight, in the morning, and through the whole of the daytime came the trains, and from every one and into every one crowded people from all the countries in the world ; a new wonder of the world had called them to Paris. How did this wonder reveal itself ?
' A splendid flower of art and industry,' they said, * has sprung up on the barren soil of the Field of Mars ; a gigantic sunflower, from whose leaves one can learn geography and statistics, get the learning of a guild-master, be elevated in art and poetry, and learn the size and greatness of different countries.'
' A fairy-blossom,' said others, ' a many-coloured lotus-plant, which spreads its green leaves over the sand, like a velvet carpet, which has sprung forth in the early spring. The summer shall see it in all its glory; the autumn storms will sweep it away ; neither root nor leaf shall be left.'