Who would see the day when he is old, and stale, and shabby, when, like us, they could come out to meet him as he walks across the meadow with a mantle of dew wrapped round him, and a garland of paling rose-clouds, that an hour ago were crimson, about his head?
The place toward which we tend is at some little distance, and our road thither leads through all manner of comely rustic places, flowered fields, where the buttercups crowd their little varnished cups, and the vigilant ox-eyes are already wakefully staring up from among the grass-spears; a little wood; a deep and ruddy-colored lane, along whose unpruned hedges straggle the riches of the wild-rose, most delicately flushed, as if God in passing had called her very good, and she had reddened at his praise; where the honey-suckle, too, is holding stilly aloft the open cream-colored trumpets and closed red trumpet-buds of her heaven-sweet crown.
In an instant Tou Tou is scrawling and scrambling like a great spider up the steep bank: in an instant more she is tugging, tearing, devastating; while the faint petals that no mightiest king can restore, but that any infant with a touch can destroy, are showering in scented ruin around her. It gives me a pain to see it, as if I saw some sentient thing in agony. I think I feel, with Walter Savage Landor—
“I never pluck the rose; the violet’s
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
And not reproached me: the ever-sacred cup
Of the pure lily hath between my hands
Felt safe, unsoiled, nor lost one grain of gold.”
“You will have your basket filled before we get there,” I say, remonstrating, but she does not heed me.
Hot and scratched—at least I am glad that in their death-pain they were able to scratch her—she still tugs and mauls. I walk on. We reach the meadow. Well, at least to-day we are in time. It has the silence and solitude of the dawn of Creation’s first still day, broken only by the sheep that are cropping
“The slant grass, and daisies pale.”
The slow, smooth river washes by, sucking in among the rushes. Our footsteps show plainly shaped as we step along through the hoary dew. We separate—going one this way, one that—and, in silence and gravity, pace with bent heads and down-turned eyes through the fine, short grass. Excitement and emulation keep us dumb, for let who will—blase and used up—deny it, but there is an excitement, wholesome and hearty, in seeking, and a joy pure and unadulterated in finding, mushrooms in a probable field in the hopeful morning; whether the mushroom be a patriarch whose gills are browned with age, and who is big enough to be an umbrella for the fairy people, or a little milk-white button, half hidden in daisies and trefoil. Sometimes a cry of rage and anguish bursts from one or other of us who has been the dupe of a puff-ball family, and who is satiating his or her revenge by stamping on the