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and to try which can get the most round things-you have one in your pocket.”
“Sixpence," said Guido. “It's quite a new one."
“And other things quite as silly," the Wheat continued. "All the time the flowers are flowering, but they will go, even the oaks will go. We think the reason you do not all have plenty, and why you do not do only just a little work, and why you die of hunger if you leave off, and why so many of you are unhappy in body and mind, and all the misery is because you have not got a spirit like the wheat, like us; you will not agree, and you will not share, and you will hate each other, and you will be so avaricious, and you will not touch the flowers, or go into the sunshine (you would rather half of you died among the hard stones first), and you will teach your children hum, hum, to follow in some foolish course that has caused you all this unhappiness a thousand years, and you will not have a spirit like us, and feel like us. Till you have a spirit like us, and feel like us, you will never, never be happy. Lie still, dear; the shadow of the oak is broad and will not move from you for a long time yet."
“But perhaps Paul will come up to my house, and Percy and Morna."
“Look up in the oak very quietly, don't move, just open your eyes and look," said the Wheat, who was very cunning. Guido looked and saw a lovely little bird climbing up a branch. It was chequered, black and white, like a very small magpie, only without such a long tail, and it had a spot of red about its neck. It was a pied woodpecker, not the large green
woodpecker, but another kind. Guido saw it go round the branch, and then some way up, and round again till it came to a place that pleased it, and then the woodpecker struck the bark with its bill, taptap. The sound was quite loud, ever so much more noise than such a tiny bill seemed able to make. Tap-tap! If Guido had not been still so that the bird had come close he would never have found it among the leaves. Tap-tap! After it had picked out all the insects there, the woodpecker flew away over the ashpoles of the copse.
“I should just like to stroke him," said Guido. “If I climbed up into the oak perhaps he would come again, and I could catch him.”
“No,” said the Wheat, “he only comes once a day." “Then tell me stories," said Guido, imperiously.
“I will if I can," said the Wheat. a time, when the oak the lightning struck was still living, and when the wheat was green in this very field, a man came staggering out of the wood, and walked out into it. He had an iron helmet on, and he was wounded, and his blood stained the green wheat red as he walked. He tried to get to the streamlet, which was wider then, Guido dear, to drink, for he knew it was there, but he could not reach it. He fell down and died in the green wheat, dear, for he was very much hurt with a sharp spear, but more so with hunger and thirst.
“I am so sorry," said Guido; "and now I look at you, why you are all thirsty and dry, you nice old Wheat, and the ground is as dry as dry under you ; I will get you something to drink.”
• Once upon
And down he scrambled into the ditch, setting his foot firm on a root, for though he was so young, he knew how to get down to the water without wetting his feet, or falling in, and how to climb up a tree, and everything jolly. Guido dipped his hand in the streamlet, and flung the water over the wheat five or six good sprinklings till the drops hung on the wheat
Then he said, "Now you are better.” “ Yes, dear, thank you, my love," said the Wheat, who was very pleased, though of course the water was not enough to wet its roots. Still it was pleasant, like a very little shower. Guido lay down on his chest this time, with his elbows on the ground, propping his head up, and as he now faced the wheat, , he could see in between the stalks.
“Lie still," said the Wheat, “the corncrake is not very far off, he has come up here since your papa told the mowers to mow the meadow, and very likely if you stay quiet you will see him.- If you do not understand all I say, never mind, dear; the sunshine is warm, but not too warm in the shade, and we all love you, and want you to be as happy as ever you can be."
“It is jolly to be quite hidden like this,” said Guido. “No one could find me; if Paul were to look all day he would never find me; even Papa could not find me. Now go on and tell me stories."
“Ever so many times, when the oak the lightning struck was young,” said the Wheat, “great stags used to come out of the wood and feed on the green wheat; it was early in the morning when they came. Such great stags, and so proud, and yet so timid, the least thing made them go bound, bound, bound.”
Oh, I know!” said Guido; “I saw some jump over the fence in the forest—I am going there again
If I take my bow I will shoot one!” “But there are no deer here now," said the Wheat; “they have been gone a long, long time; though I think your papa has one of their antlers.”
“Now, how did you know that ?" said Guido; "you have never been to our house, and you cannot see in from here because the fir copse is in the way; how do you find out these things ? "
“Oh!” said the Wheat, laughing, "we have lots of ways of finding out things. Don't you remember the swallow that swooped down and told you not to be frightened at the hare? The swallow has his nest at your house, and he often flies by your windows and looks in, and he told me. The birds tell us lots of things, and all about what is over the sea."
“But that is not a story," said Guido.
“Once upon a time," said the Wheat, "when the oak the lightning struck was alive, your papa's papa’s papa, ever so much farther back than that, had all the fields round here, all that you can see from Acre Hill. And do you know it happened that in time every one of them was lost or sold, and your family, Guido dear, were homeless—no house, no garden or orchard, and no dogs or guns, or anything jolly. One day the papa that was then came along the road with his little Guido, and they were beggars, dear, and had no place to sleep, and they slept all night in the wheat in this very field close to where the hawthorn bush grows now-where you picked the May flowers, you know, my love. They slept there all the summer night, and the fern owls flew to and fro, and the bats and crickets chirped, and the stars shone faintly, as if they were made pale by the heat. The poor papa never had a house, but that little Guido lived to grow up a great man, and he worked so hard, and he was so clever, and every one loved him, which was the best of all things. He bought this very field and then another, and another, and got such a lot of the old fields back again, and the goldfinches sang for joy, and so did the larks and the thrushes, because they said what a kind man he was. Then his son got some more of them, till at last your papa bought ever so many more.
But we often talk about the little boy who slept in the wheat in this field, which was his father's father's field. If only the wheat then could have helped him, and been kind to him, you may be sure it would. We love you so much we like to see the very crumbs left by the men who do the hoeing when they eat their crusts; we wish they could have more to eat, but we like to see their crumbs, which you know are made of wheat, so that we have done them some good at least."
“That's not a story," said Guido.
“There's a gold coin here somewhere," said the Wheat, “such a pretty one, it would make a capital button for your jacket, dear, or for your mamma; that is all any sort of money is good for; I wish all the coins were made into buttons for little Guido."
“Where is it?" said Guido.
“I can't exactly tell where it is," said the Wheat. “It was very near me once, and I thought the next thunder's rain would wash it down into the streamlet