Every tree has its gnome or elf; they used to call us dryads in old times; but nowadays people are getting so cock-sure of knowing everything, that they can't see what is going on right under their noses. Trees are never still," he continued; "they are always moving.
"'Where there is movement, there is life,
Where there is life, there is thought,
Where there is thought, there is individuality.'
"Do you follow me? That is logically expressed."
"You forget we are only children, Mr Tree Man; you are talking too grown-upy for us. Father talks like that sometimes; but then we don't listen," they replied.
"Well," continued the gnome, "in every tree there either lives a jolly fellow like me or a lovely lady fairy. Yes," he said in a sentimental tone, "I, too, old and tough though I am, I, too, have known love."
"Who is she?" asked Trudel eagerly.
"Alas! I can never reach her; my old bones are too stiff and unbendable. She is a graceful larch-tree in all the glory of her youth. You may see her yonder!" He sat down and sighed deeply.
The children looked in the direction that the gnome had indicated, and there they saw a larch-tree on which the sunlight had just fallen. It was exquisitely dressed in a robe of delicate green and—was it only fancy?—for one moment the children thought that they saw a lovely lady with flowing tresses that gleamed golden in the sunlight, and large starry eyes. As they gazed, she melted into the blue mist which shimmers always between the forest trees.
"Now we must go home, children," mother called out, "before it begins to rain again."
The children glanced round; their little friend had vanished, and no trace was to be seen of the lady of the larch-tree. So they turned reluctantly from the tree-house fully determined to come again very soon to this enchanted spot.
"Mother, may we see your sketch?"
"Not now," said mother, "it's going to be a surprise."
"Did mother see him too?"
"Do you think so?" said Lottchen. "Mother's a fairy herself.