"Story of a Tree"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Royal Book of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 28, 1920.
She would not be cut down and shorn of her green branches and carried far from her native ground. She made him think of the tall pine trees that had stood beside him in the deep forest on the mountain side. Dimly he could see the waving tops of his old comrades. They had not carried him too far for that, fortunately.
He still felt dizzy and flurried from his experiences, and paid no attention to the buzzing that seemed continually going on over his head.
Perhaps the little pine tree sensed his feeling of strangeness, for, waiting until the street was deserted, she called across:
"Hello, Mr. Tree; so you are the new telegraph pole! My, how tall you are!"
"Don't call me a tree," sighed the tree trunk; "I'm nothing but a great piece of wood, with all the life gone!"
"Oh, no you're not," smiled the little tree wisely; "you've only lost your leaves and branches and you're used to going without leaves in winter anyway. Really, now, you're quite handsome, so white and straight!"
"Am I?" said the pole slowly. "But what is all this cross-work and wires overhead and this buzzing?"
"Why, you don't even know what you are, you important person!" chuckled the little tree, and began laughing softly to herself. Just then a whole company of boys and girls came running down the street, and the conversation stopped. But the big tree began to think of the little tree's words. That surely was so about his being used to going without leaves; perhaps there was still something for him to do after all. He puzzled over it a long time. Without branches, he was of no use to the birds, and without branches he cast not a mite of shadow, so what use was he? He had heard the old trees in the forest talk of the time when they should be used for building; but here he was stuck straight up in the air; surely he was not a building! He must talk some more to that little tree across the way.
That evening, when the street was dark and quiet, he called across to the pine tree, and pretty soon he was telling her all about his life on the mountain side, of the great storms and winds that swept over them, of the forest animals and birds and of all his comrades in leaves.
"Very fine," agreed the little pine tree, "but you are much more useful now. How I envy you, for I never could be tall enough to do your work nor play so big a part in the affairs of the world."
"What do you mean?" asked the pole again.
"That you are one of the sentinels of the earth on guard always, standing ready to send the messages of men flying from one end of the world to the other. That buzzing you hear above are the words of men that you help to send flying through space telling the East what is happening in the West and the West what is happening in the East, ready to spread an alarm in time of danger and carry good news to those who wait. Listen!"
The tall pole thrilled with excitement and tried to guess what each tremor over the wires meant, and it was not long before he could read those flying taps as well as the men who sent them, and how he and the little pine tree would rejoice when the news was good and how solemn and sorry they were when the news was bad.
So interested was the great tree that it forgot it was unhappy, and when it thought of the long, long ranks of telegraph poles standing guard from one end of the country to the other, a thrill of pride made it straighten up as tall as it could. And it never tired nor grew weary. "This," thought the tree, "is life!"
One day from the far-away mountainside, a great column of smoke rose and a hot, dry smell drifted into the little valley town.
"Oh!" groaned the pole, "my comrades are doomed; see, it is a fire on the mountainside! What shall I do! What shall I do!"
"Wait," cried the little tree breathlessly. "What you have seen surely will be seen by others; get ready, for the message will come. Call to your comrade below that there will be a rush call in a moment, and bid him pass along the word."
Scarcely had the little tree ceased speaking before the message for help flashed along the wires. How quickly those gallant sentinels tossed it along the line, and how quickly the response from the valley came. The battle with the flames was fought and won, and the tall pole, watching the smoke die away, felt so happy that he could hardly keep from running across the street to embrace the little pine tree. The forest was saved and his friends--and he had helped.
"What a wonderful life mine is!" he sighed happily. "And so is every life of service."
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 7, 1919.
For the Riddle Bugs
First and foremost you'll want the answers to last week's riddles. Well, here they are: foothills, millwheel, Sir Launfal, Shylock and buzz-saw.
Here are some of the Forgetful Poet's new riddles assorted. Serious, worse and otherwise.
Some well-loved flowers
Name a war
Fought in England
A word that means polite
Another war you know,
(Or ought to.)
And after you've unriddled that
Tell why an ant is like a rat?
It does not shut
And yet it is a gate,
And everybody has one
Let me state.
[Answers next time.]
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