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by [?]

There are three vines that belong to the ancient forest. Elsewhere they will not grow, though the soil prepared for them be never so rich, the shade of the arbour built for them never so closely and cunningly woven. Their delicate, thread-like roots take no hold upon the earth tilled and troubled by the fingers of man. The fine sap that steals through their long, slender limbs pauses and fails when they are watered by human hands. Silently the secret of their life retreats and shrinks away and hides itself.

But in the woods, where falling leaves and crumbling tree-trunks and wilting ferns have been moulded by Nature into a deep, brown humus, clean and fragrant–in the woods, where the sunlight filters green and golden through interlacing branches, and where pure moisture of distilling rains and melting snows is held in treasury by never-failing banks of moss–under the verdurous flood of the forest, like sea-weeds under the ocean waves, these three little creeping vines put forth their hands with joy, and spread over rock and hillock and twisted tree-root and mouldering log, in cloaks and scarves and wreaths of tiny evergreen, glossy leaves.

One of them is adorned with white pearls sprinkled lightly over its robe of green. This is Snowberry, and if you eat of it, you will grow wise in the wisdom of flowers. You will know where to find the yellow violet, and the wake-robin, and the pink lady-slipper, and the scarlet sage, and the fringed gentian. You will understand how the buds trust themselves to the spring in their unfolding, and how the blossoms trust themselves to the winter in their withering, and how the busy bands of Nature are ever weaving the beautiful garment of life out of the strands of death, and nothing is lost that yields itself to her quiet handling.

Another of the vines of the forest is called Partridge-berry. Rubies are hidden among its foliage, and if you eat of this fruit, you will grow wise in the wisdom of birds. You will know where the oven-bird secretes her nest, and where the wood-cock dances in the air at night; the drumming-log of the ruffed grouse will be easy to find, and you will see the dark lodges of the evergreen thickets inhabited by hundreds of warblers. There will be no dead silence for you in the forest, any longer, but you will hear sweet and delicate voices on every side, voices that you know and love; you will catch the key-note of the silver flute of the woodthrush, and the silver harp of the veery, and the silver bells of the hermit; and something in your heart will answer to them all. In the frosty stillness of October nights you will see the airy tribes flitting across the moon, following the secret call that guides them southward. In the calm brightness of winter sunshine, filling sheltered copses with warmth and cheer, you will watch the lingering blue-birds and robins and song-sparrows playing at summer, while the chickadees and the juncos and the cross-bills make merry in the windswept fields. In the lucent mornings of April you will hear your old friends coming home to you, Phoebe, and Oriole, and Yellow-Throat, and Red-Wing, and Tanager, and Cat-Bird. When they call to you and greet you, you will understand that Nature knows a secret for which man has never found a word–the secret that tells itself in song.

The third of the forest-vines is Wood-Magic. It bears neither flower nor fruit. Its leaves are hardly to be distinguished from the leaves of the other vines. Perhaps they are a little rounder than the Snowberry’s, a little more pointed than the Partridge-berry’s; sometimes you might mistake them for the one, sometimes for the other. No marks of warning have been written upon them. If you find them it is your fortune; if you taste them it is your fate.