THE FIR-TREE 103
had to run round it. 'Ah! to grow and grow, and become great and old! that is the only pleasure in life,' thought the tree. In the autumn the woodcutters used to come and hew some of the tallest trees; this happened every year, and the young fir-tree would shiver as the magnificent trees fell crashing and cracking to the ground, their branches hewn off, and the great trunks left bare, so that they were almost unrecognisable. But then they were laid on waggons and dragged out of the wood by horses. 'Where are they going? What will happen to them ? '
In spring, when the swallows and storks came, the fir-tree asked them, ' Do you know where they were taken ? Have you met them? '
The swallows knew nothing of them, but the stork nodded his head thoughtfully, saying, ' I think I know. I met many new ships as I flew from Egypt; there were splendid masts on the ships. I '11 wager those were they! They had the scent of fir-trees. Ah! those are grand, grand! *
' Oh! if I were only big enough to sail away over the sea too! What sort of thing is the sea? what does it look like?'
' Oh! it would take much too long to tell you all that,' said the stork, and off he went.
' Rejoice in your youth,' said the sunbeams, ' rejoice in the sweet growing time, in the young life within you.'
And the wind kissed it and the dew wept tears over it, but the fir-tree did not understand.
Towards Christmas-time quite little trees were cut down, some not as big as the young fir-tree, or just the same age, and now it had no peace or rest for longing to be away. These little trees, which were chosen for their beauty, kept all their branches; they were put in carts and drawn out of the wood by horses.
'Whither are those going?' asked the fir-tree; 'they are no bigger than I, and one there was much smaller