The Little Acorn
It was a little acorn that hung on the bough of a tree.
It had a tender green cup and a beautifully carved saucer to hold it. The mother oak fed it with sweet sap every day, the birds sang good-night songs above it, and the wind rocked it gently to and fro. The oak leaves made a soft green shade above it, so the sun might not shine too warmly on its green cover, and it was as happy as an acorn could be.
There were many other acorns on the tree, and the mother tree, through her wind voices, whispered loving words to all her babies.
The summer days were so bright and pleasant that the acorn never thought of anything but sunshine and an occasional shower to wash the dust off the leaves. But summer ends, and the autumn days came. The green cup of the acorn turned to a brown cup, and it was well that it grew stiffer and harder, for the cold winds began to blow.
The leaves turned from green to golden brown, and some of them were whisked away by the rough wind. The little acorn began to grow uneasy.
"Isn't it always summer?" it asked.
"Oh, no," whispered the mother oak, "the cold days come and the leaves must go and the acorns too. I must soon lose my babies."
"Oh, I could never leave this kind bough," said the frightened acorn. "I should be lost and forgotten if I were to fall."
So it tried to cling all the closer to its bough; but at last it was alone there. The leaves were blown away, and some of them had made a blanket for the brown acorns lying on the ground.
One night the tree whispered a message to the lonely acorn. "This tree is your home only for a time. This is not your true life. Your brown shell is only the cover for a living plant, which can never be set free until the hard shell drops away, and that can never happen until you are buried in the ground and wait for the spring to call you. So, let go, little acorn, and fall to the ground, and some day you will wake to a new and glorious life."
The acorn listened and believed, for was not the tree its mother? It bade her good-bye, and, loosing its hold, dropped to the ground.
Then, indeed, it seemed as if the acorn were lost. That night a high wind blew and covered it deep under a heap of oak leaves. The next day a cold wind washed the leaves closer together, and trickling streams from the hillside swept some earth over them. The acorn was buried.
"But I shall wake again," it said, and so it fell asleep. It was very cold, but the frost fairies wove a soft, white snow blanket to cover it, and so it was kept warm.
If you had walked through the woods that winter, you would have said that the acorn was gone. But spring came and called to all the sleeping things underground to waken and come forth. The acorn heard and tried to move, but the brown shell held it fast. Some raindrops trickled through the ground to moisten the shell, and one day the pushing life within set it free. The brown shell was of no more use and was lost in the ground, but the young plant lived. It heard voices of birds calling it upward. It must grow. "A new and glorious life," the mother oak had said.
"I must arise," the acorn thought, and up the living plant came, up into the world of sunshine and beauty. It looked around. There was the same green moss in the woods; it could hear the same singing brook.
"Now I know that I shall live and grow," it said.
"Yes," rustled the mother oak, "you are now an oak tree. This is your real life."
And the little oak tree was glad, and stretched higher and higher toward the sun.