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The Last Dream Of The Old Oak Tree – A Christmas Tale
by [?]

In the forest, high up on the steep shore, hard by the open sea coast, stood a very old oak tree. It was exactly three hundred and sixty-five years old, but that long time was not more for the tree than just as many days would be to us men. We wake by day and sleep through the night, and then we have our dreams: it is different with the tree, which keeps awake through three seasons of the year, and does not get its sleep till winter comes. Winter is its time for rest, its night after the long day which is called spring, summer, and autumn.

On many a warm summer day the Ephemera, the fly that lives but for a day, had danced around his crown–had lived, enjoyed, and felt happy; and then rested for a moment in quiet bliss the tiny creature, on one of the great fresh oak leaves; and then the tree always said:

“Poor little thing! Your whole life is but a single day! How very short! It’s quite melancholy!”

“Melancholy! Why do you say that?” the Ephemera would then always reply. “It’s wonderfully bright, warm, and beautiful all around me, and that makes me rejoice!”

“But only one day, and then it’s all done!”

“Done!” repeated the Ephemera. “What’s the meaning of done? Are you done, too?”

“No; I shall perhaps live for thousands of your days, and my day is whole seasons long! It’s something so long, that you can’t at all manage to reckon it out.”

“No? then I don’t understand you. You say you have thousands of my days; but I have thousands of moments, in which I can be merry and happy. Does all the beauty of this world cease when you die?”

“No,” replied the Tree; “it will certainly last much longer–far longer than I can possibly think.”

“Well, then, we have the same time, only that we reckon differently.”

And the Ephemera danced and floated in the air, and rejoiced in her delicate wings of gauze and velvet, and rejoiced in the balmy breezes laden with the fragrance of meadows and of wild roses and elder-flowers, of the garden hedges, wild thyme, and mint, and daisies; the scent of these was all so strong that the Ephemera was almost intoxicated. The day was long and beautiful, full of joy and of sweet feeling, and when the sun sank low the little fly felt very agreeably tired of all its happiness and enjoyment. The delicate wings would not carry it any more, and quietly and slowly it glided down upon the soft grass blade, nodded its head as well as it could nod, and went quietly to sleep–and was dead.

“Poor little Ephemera!” said the Oak. “That was a terribly short life!”

And on every summer day the same dance was repeated, the same question and answer, and the same sleep. The same thing was repeated through whole generations of ephemera, and all of them felt equally merry and equally happy.

The Oak stood there awake through the spring morning, the noon of summer, and the evening of autumn; and its time of rest, its night, was coming on apace. Winter was approaching.

Already the storms were singing their “good night, good night!” Here fell a leaf, and there fell a leaf.

“We’ll rock you, and dandle you! Go to sleep, go to sleep! We sing you to sleep, we shake you to sleep, but it does you good in your old twigs, does it not? They seem to crack for very joy! Sleep sweetly, sleep sweetly! It’s your three hundred and sixty-fifth night. Properly speaking, you’re only a stripling as yet! Sleep sweetly! The clouds strew down snow, there will be quite a coverlet, warm and protecting, around your feet. Sweet sleep to you, and pleasant dreams!”

And the Oak Tree stood there, denuded of all its leaves, to sleep through the long winter, and to dream many a dream, always about something that had happened to it, just as in the dreams of men.