The woods were already beginning to wear a wistful, dejected look. There was a feeling of departure everywhere, a sense that the year’s excitements were over. The procession had gone by, and there was an empty, purposeless air of waiting-about upon things, a sort of despairing longing for something else to happen—and a sure sense that nothing more could happen till next year. Every event in the floral calendar had taken place with immemorial punctuality and tragic rapidity. All the full-blooded flowers of Summer had long since come and gone, with their magic faces and their souls of perfume. Gone were the banners of blossom from the great trees. The locust and the chestnut, those spendthrifts of the woods, that went the pace so gorgeously in June, are now sober-coated enough, and growing even threadbare. All the hum and the honey and breathless bosom-beat of things is over. The birds sing no more, but only chatter about time-tables. The bee keeps to his hive, and the bewildered butterfly, in tattered ball-dress, wonders what has become of his flowery partners. The great cricket factory has shut down. Not a wheel is heard whirring. The squirrel has lost his playful air, and has an anxious manner, as though there were no time to waste before stocking his granary. Everywhere berries have taken the place of buds, and bearded grasses the place of flowers. Even the goldenrod has fallen to rust, and the stars of the aster are already tarnished. Only along the edges of the wood the dry little paper immortelles spread long shrouds and wreaths in the shade.
Suddenly you feel lonely in the woods, which had seemed so companionable all Summer. What is it—Who is it—that has gone? Though quite alone, there was some one with you all Summer, an invisible being filling the woods with his presence, and always at your side, or somewhere near by. But to-day, through all the green halls and chambers of the wood, you seek him in vain. You call, but there is no answer. You wait, but he does not come. He has gone. The wood is an empty palace. The prince went away secretly in the night. The wood is a deserted temple. The god has betaken himself to some secret abode. Everywhere you come upon chill, abandoned altars, littered debris of Summer sacrifices. Maybe he is dead, and perchance, deeper in the wood, you may come upon his marble form in a winding-sheet of drifting leaves.
Not a god, maybe, you have pictured him, not a prince, but surely as a friend—the mysterious Green Friend of the green silence and the golden hush of Summer noons. The mysterious Green Friend of the woods! So strangely by our side all Summer, so strangely gone away. It is in vain to await him under our morning sycamore, nor under the great maples shall we find him walking, nor amid the alder thickets discover him, nor yet in the little ravine beneath the pines. No! he has surely gone away, and his great house seems empty without him, desolate, filled with lamentation, all its doors and windows open to the Winter snows.