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The Oak
by [?]

An old and experienced gardener had been watching a tree for many days, whose branches and foliage did not seem to repay him for his care. “I see,” he said, a little sadly; “the roots are not striking deep enough: they must have a firmer hold in the earth, and only the wind and the fierce blast will do it.”

It was now sunset, and the faithful gardener put away his tools, closed the garden gates, and went into his cottage. Soon a mass of dark clouds began to gather on the horizon. “I am sorry to use such harsh means,” he said, waving his hand in the direction of the wind clouds; “but the tree needs to be more firmly rooted, and naught but a violent wind will aid it.”

A low, moaning sound went through the air, shaking every bush and tree to its foundation.

“Oh, dear!” sighed the tree. “Oh, the cruel gardener, to send this wind! It will surely uproot me!”

The tree readied forth its branches like arms for help, and implored the gardener to come and save it from the fearful blasts. The flowers at its feet bowed their heads, while the winds wafted their fragrance over the struggling, tempest-tost tree.

“They do not moan, as I do. They cannot be suffering as I am,” said the tree, catching its breath at every word.

“They do not need the tempest. The rain and the dew are all they want,” said a vine, which had been running many years over an old dead oak, once the pride of the garden. “I heard the gardener say this very afternoon,” continued the vine, “that you must be rooted more firmly; and he has sent this wind for that purpose.”

“I wonder if I am the only thing in this garden that needs shaking,” spoke the oak, somewhat indignantly. “There’s a poor willow over by the pond that is always weeping and–“

“But,” interrupted the vine, “that’s what keeps the beautiful sheet of water full to the brim, and always so sparkling,–the constant dropping of her tears; and we ought to render her gratitude. Besides, she is so graceful–“

“Oh, yes: all the trees are lovely but me. I heard the gardener’s praise, the other day, of the elms and the maples, and even the pines; but not one word did he say about the oaks. I didn’t care for myself in particular, but for my family, which has always been looked up to. Well, I shall die, like my brother, and soon we shall all pass away; but, unlike my brother oak, no one will cling to me as you do, vine, to his old body.”

“You’re mistaken, sir. The gardener said, but a few days ago, that he should plant a vine just like myself at your trunk if your foliage was not better, so that you might present a finer appearance by the mingling of the vine’s soft leaves, and be more ornamental to the garden.”

“I’ll save him that trouble if my life is spared. I have no desire to be decked in borrowed leaves. The oaks have always kept up a good appearance; but oh, dear me, vine, didn’t that blast take your breath away? I fear I shall die; but, if I do live, I’ll show the gardener what I can do. But, vine,” and the voice of the oak trembled, “tell the gardener, when he comes in the morning, if–if I am dead–that–that the dreadful tempest killed instead of helped me.”

The wind made such a roaring sound that the oak could not hear her reply, and he tried now to become reconciled to death. He thought much in that brief space of time and resolved, if his life was spared him, that he would try and put forth his protecting branches over the beds of flowers at his feet, to protect them from the blazing sun, and try to be more kind and friendly to all. Deeper and deeper struck the roots into the earth, till a new life-thrill shot through its veins. Was it death?

The oak raised its head. The clouds were drifting to the south. All was calm, and the stars shone like friendly eyes in the heavens above him.

“That oak would have surely died but for the tempest which passed over us,” said the gardener, a few weeks later, as he was showing his garden to a friend.

The gardener stood beneath the branches, and saw with pleasure new leaves coming forth and the texture of the old ones already finer and softer.

“It only needed a firmer hold on the earth. The poor thing could not draw moisture enough from the ground before the storm shook its roots and embedded them deeper. If I had known the philosophy of storms before, I need not have lost the other oak.”

Here the old gardener sat beneath the branches of the oak, and they seemed to rise and fall as if bestowing blessings on his head. That spot became his favorite resting-place amid his labors for many years. The oak lived to a good old age, and was the gardener’s pride. Maidens gathered its leaves and wove garlands for their lovers. Children sported under its boughs. It was blessed and happy in making others so. It had learned the lesson of the storm, and was often heard to say to the young oaks growing up about it, “Sunshine and balmy breezes have their part in our growth, but they are not all that is needful for our true development.”