Two days of April have passed, and on the third, as I open my windows to let in the spring sunshine and warmth, I see my little friend coming down the yard under the lilac trees, holding carefully some little handfuls of—what, I cannot tell. But in a minute more the blue hepaticas are in my lap, and houstonias white as the snow that must have been lying about them when she found them.
"And here too, dear aunty," she says, opening her apron pocket, "see what I have brought—best of all, a wiry little striped snake that had crept out among the stones to sun himself. I sung to him, and while he listened, picked him up to bring home to you.
"Everything is so busy out on the hill to-day," she said. " I laid my ear down to the earth and heard such talking. Where the snow still lay about the crevices of the rocks, and the brown oak leaves were all wet with its melting, this blue hepatica had dared to open; and in another sunny spot on the hilltop, this whole cluster; but the others are afraid it is n't yet time. Their little roots are full of sap, and it flows and swells and tries to push them forward; but one whispers to another, 'I think it must be very cold out there; from my corner of the world I can see nothing but snow; not even a bit of blue sky.' 'It was just so last year grandmother says,' cried a second,' and she bade me push up bravely, and I should soon see that there is sunshine enough to live upon all day long. The willow catkins too, that hung themselves out long ago, are throwing off their brown cloaks, which they never would do if they expected another snowstorm. The willow is old and experienced; he has stood down there by the brook for ten long years, and may be expected to know about these things. And did n't we all hear the robins calling us this morning? And the violet, who is so buried in moss that she might bloom all the week before the sun would find her, says that she opened her eyes for one moment, sunrise, and saw a bluebird. So it is clear to me that it is time for us all to push our way into the world, open our eyes, and look about us.' "
Then the sap rose in the heroic veins of the brave little plant and even tinged her cheeks with pink, as she pushed aside her gray wrappings and looked out into the great world from the sunny side of the hill.
Warm and sweet had been her winter sleep; but how much more delicious this waking! How blue the sky, and with what a laugh the brook leaps along in the valley! He has been out of his icy bed for many a day already, and has worked his waters clear and free from the drifting leaves and sticks that the autumn winds tossed down to him. Full of bright new life he is, and he can't help saying so and singing it over to himself, and everybody else who chooses to hear.
Then there are the snakes. Nobody knew how many snug houses they had in crevices of the rocks, nor how they lay in bright coils hidden away there all winter. But to-day the warm sunshine has tempted them out; they slide over the stones, lift their forked tongues, and rejoice in the springtime as fully as do the flowers.
All this the daring hepatica sees and feels, and she sends down a thrill through her roots to tell the others how good it is and how sweet is life in the air above. And under the hemlocks, among the moss, the mayflowers have dreamed that one might now safely push open the green cloak and dare to look up at the sky; and their perfume is wafted through the dark old forest, a sweet messenger to tell the wood anemone and the violet that spring has come.
All this while the birch tree stands white in the sunshine, drawing up from the earth, through a thousand roots, food for the young buds that are beginning to grow in good earnest. And the sugar maples, in the farmer's great sugar orchard, have already given sap enough for pounds upon pounds of sugar, and are now busy with the rest, swelling their green folded buds that are to be spread out into a lovely summer dress, and give shade and shelter to robins' nests and blackbirds and thrushes.
The knotty old oaks are pushing off their last year's clothes, that would cling and stay through all the winter, but must now make room for the downy, pink-tinged, gray leaves that have so much work to do before another spring.
And if we had the fine ears to listen and to hear under the earth, we should become aware of the busy murmur all day long as the roots gather food for every plant; strength for the stems and tree trunks, fiber and soft tissues for the leaves, and delicate color and fragrance for the blossoms.
From the dark earth all is gathered; gathered by the roots which reach like little hands for what they need, and up into the sunlight and air all is carried. For without the blessing of the sunshine the sap would work in vain; it could make neither strong stem, green leaf, nor fair flowers, but only poor, pale plants, feeble and sickly.
Does the spring waken you, dear children, as it does the flowers, and make you leap and grow in the sunshine?