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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Anxious Leaf

O NCE upon a time a little leaf was heard to sigh and cry, as leaves often do when the wind is about. And the twig said: "What is the matter, little leaf?"

And the little leaf said: "The wind just told me that one day it would pull me off and throw me to die on the ground!"

The twig told it to the branch on which it grew, and the branch told it to the tree. And when the tree heard it, it rustled all over, and sent back word to the leaf: "Do not be afraid; hold on tightly, and you shall not go till you want to."

And so the leaf stopped sighing, and went on nestling and singing. Every time the tree shook itself and stirred up all its leaves, the branches shook themselves, and the little twig shook itself, and the little leaf danced up and down merrily, as if nothing could ever pull it off. And so it grew all summer long till October.

And when the bright days of autumn came the little leaf saw all the other leaves around it becoming very beautiful. Some were yellow, and some were scarlet, and some were striped with both colors. Then it asked the tree what it meant; and the tree said: "All the leaves are getting ready to fly away, and they are putting on these beautiful colors because of joy."

Then the little leaf began to want to go, and grew very beautiful in thinking of it, and when it was very gay in color it saw that the branches of the tree had no color at all in them, and so the leaf said: "Oh, branches, why are you lead color and we golden?"

And the branches said: "We must keep on our work clothes, for our life is not done; but your clothes are for holiday, for your tasks are over."

Just then a little puff of wind came, and the leaf let go without thinking, and the wind took it up, and whirled it over and over, and tossed it like a spark of fire in the air, and then it fell gently down under the edge of the fence among hundreds of other leaves; and it fell into a dream and never waked up to tell what it dreamed about.

— Henry Ward Beecher, "Norwood"