T HE big sky above the hard, frozen ground was dark. The little stars had hidden their winking, yellow eyes, and the round old moon had forgotten to shine. Big, black clouds were hurrying past each other, back and forth, from east to west.
Up on the old oak tree, at the corner of the lane, a little leaf still clung. He was very tiny, very brown, and very much wrinkled; but still he kept a tight hold on the stiff old branch where he had lived all his life.
"Ugh!" he said, as he shivered, and clung still closer, "it's going to rain again. I'm sure I felt a drop just then."
But it was not a drop of rain, but a soft, cold something else, which nestled down among the brown wrinkles. The leaf stirred, and then shivered again.
"What is the matter?" queried a sweet voice.
"I'm very cold," said the leaf.
"Are you? What makes you cold?" asked the voice.
"I think it is—you," said the leaf, slowly; for he did not want to hurt any one's feelings.
"Oh, no; I'm sure it's not I, because I'm not cold; and if I made you cold I would be cold, too, wouldn't I?"
"I suppose you would," said the leaf, thoughtfully. "But, anyway, I'm not as warm as I am in the summertime. I'm lonesome, too, up here alone—that is, I am when you are not here," he added, politely.
"What is summer?" asked the snowflake. "I never heard about it."
"It is a very nice time," said the leaf, hugging the old tree, and drawing his tight edges close. "It's the time when you are green and soft—and warm," he added, with a sigh.
"I don't believe we have it, then, up where I live," said the snowflake; "for I never remember being green."
"It is very pleasant in summer," went on the leaf. "The birds perch upon the branches here, and sing so sweetly. Once a robin built a beautiful nest just here, where we are now. It was a large nest made of hay and threads, woven nicely together. One day, after the nest was built, and the mother bird had been staying there nearly all the time, I saw four tiny birds, with great big mouths, wide open. It seemed to me that they were always calling to be fed, and the mother and father were busy from morning till night fetching worms for those hungry little ones. But before long they learned to fly, and, one by one, they left the nest and flew out into the world.
"I am never alone in the summer, for the tree is full of leaves, but they have all fallen off until only I am left. Every time the wind blows, I expect to go, too."
"Where will you go?" asked the snowflake, with much interest.
"Oh, I shall drop to the ground below, and grow smaller and smaller. Then I shall sink down underneath, where the new grass is getting ready to sprout in the spring and the violets are waiting for the sun to bid them unfold their buds."
"Is it nice down there, in the dark?" asked the snowflake.
"Oh, yes," said the leaf. "It is very warm and sweet, and not a bit lonely, for the worms and bugs and roots and seeds are all busy, getting ready for the spring."
Just then a heavy gust of wind shook the old oak tree, and down fell the little brown leaf and the snowflake, too. The snowflake melted at once, but the little leaf waited happily there until he should reach the busy little world under the ground.
|— Helen Preble, "Christian Register"|