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Fountain in the Wood.
BY H. J. SLACK, F.G.S.
LITTLE way apart from a great city, was
a fountain in a wood. The water gushed from a rock and ran in a little crystal stream to a mossy basin below; the wild flowers nodded their heads to catch its tiny spray; tall trees overarched it, and
through the interspaces of their moving leaves the sun-light came and danced with rainbow feet upon its sparkling surface.
There was a young girl, who managed every day to escape a little while from the turmoil of the city, and went, like a pilgrim, to the fountain in the wood. The water was sparkling, the moss and fern looked very lovely in the gentle moisture which the fountain cast upon them, and the trees waved their branches and rustled their green leaves in happy concert with the summer breeze. The girl loved the beauty of the scene, and it grew upon her. Every day the fountain had a fresh tale to tell, and the whispering murmur of the leaves was ever new. By-and-by she came to know something of the language in which the fountain, the ferns, the mosses, and the trees held converse.
She listened very patiently, full of wonder and of love. She heard them often regret that man would not learn their language, that they might tell him the beautiful things they had to say. At last, the maiden ventured to tell them that she knew their tongue, and with what exquisite delight she heard them talk. The fountain flowed faster, more sunbeams danced on its waters, the leaves sang a new song, and the ferns and mosses grew greener before her eyes. They all told her what joy thrilled through them at her words. Human beings had passed them in abundance, they said, and as there was a tradition among the flowers that men once spoke, they hoped one day to hear them do so again. The maiden told them that all men spoke, at which they were astonished, but said that making articulate noises was not speaking; many such they had heard, but never till now real human speech; for that, they said, could come alone from the mind and heart. It was the voice of the body, which men usually talked with, and that they did not understand, but only the voice of the soul, which was rare to be heard. Then there was great joy through all the wood, and there went forth a report, that at length a maiden was found whose soul could speak, and who knew the language of the flowers and the fountain. And the trees and the stream said one to another, “Even so did our old prophets teach, and now hath it been fulfilled.” Then the maiden tried to tell her friends in the city what she heard at the fountain, but could explain very little; for, although they knew her words, they felt not her meaning. And certain young men came and begged her to take them to the wood, that they might hear the voices. So she took one after another; but nothing came of it, for to them the fountain and the trees were mute. Many thought the maiden mad, and laughed at her belief, but they could not take the sweet voices away from her. Now the maidens wished her to take them, also; and she did, but with little better success. A few thought they heard something, but knew not what, and on their return to the city, its bustle obliterated the
small remembrance they had carried away. At length, a young man begged the maiden to give him a trial, and so she did. They went hand in hand to the fountain, and he heard the language, although not so well as the maiden ; but she helped him, and found that, when both heard the words together, they were more beautiful than ever. She let his hand, and much of the beauty was gone: the fountain told them to join hands and lips also, and they did it. Then arose sweeter sounds than they had ever heard, and soft voices encompassed them, saying, “From henceforth be united; for the Spirit of Youth and Beauty hath made you one.”
Wunting the Wren.
SHE Wren has a short and feeble flight, it
is therefore easily hunted down ; and in Ireland there is a cruel practice prevalent, of chasing the poor little bird from hedge to hedge, and beating it to death with
sticks. This barbarous custom appears to be very ancient, its origin being lost in the regions of fable. Mr. Thompson, writing on the Birds of Ireland, introduces a note to this effect>" To hunt the Wren on Christ. mas-day, is a favorite pastime of the pesantry of Kerry. This they do, each using two sticks, one to beat the bushes the other to fling at the bird. It was the boast of an old man who lately died at the age of one hundred, that he had hunted the Wren for the last eighty years on a Christmas-day. On St. Stephen's day, the children exhibit the slaughtered birds in an ivy bush, decked with ribbons of various colours, singing the well-known song, and thus collect money."