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CHAPTER I IN THE OLD WILLOW TREE
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 He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small.
—Coleridge.
Ruth climbed to her favourite perch1 in the old willow2 tree, and settled Belinda in a crotch beside her.
 
“Now,” she said, drawing a long breath, “we will be cool and comfy.”
 
Certainly if there was a cool spot to be found on this hot August morning it was in the shade of this big willow.
 
“Her very own tree,” as Ruth always called it, for, since she could climb at all, she had loved to sit among its drooping3 branches and 4hear the leaves whispering together the wonderful things, which she knew they were telling each other, even though she could not understand them.
 
Then, too, she could look down into the brook4, and watch the doings of the queer little people who made their home there.
 
These, like all the tiny folk of the outdoor world, were a source of never-failing interest and wonder.
 
In their company, Ruth was never lonely, even though she had neither brother nor sister, nor indeed any little boy or girl to play with.
 
Still it would be so much nicer if she could only talk to the bugs5 and things. There were such lots of questions she wanted to ask them.
 
How she did wish that the funny old tumble bugs would stop rolling their ball, and tell her all about it. They never did, though. They just kept at that ball as though it was the most important thing in the world.
 
Then she wanted to know what the bees 5whispered to the flowers as they buzzed above them, and whether the butterflies spoke6 to each other as they flew by in the sunshine.
 
There were the ants, too, always so busy, and in such a hurry. How fast they could run when any one upset their nest; and how funny they looked carrying those queer white bundles.
 
Mother had called these bundles the ants’ babies, but Ruth thought them very odd babies, and she wondered if they had to be fed and bathed and put to sleep like human babies.
 
She wanted to know all about them, and about the spiders too, and their wonderful webs.
 
“Just think what a chance Miss Muffet had,” she said to Belinda, when both were settled to her satisfaction in the willow-tree perch. “Only a very friendly spider would come up and sit down by you, and who knows the interesting things it could tell. The 6idea of being afraid of a spider anyhow! You might as well be afraid of that funny old toad7 in the garden, and I don’t believe he could hurt you if he tried. I guess he doesn’t do anything but sleep.”
 
Ruth had been trying to talk to the toad that very morning. He had looked so solemn and so wise as he sat under the shade of a big stone in the damp corner of the garden, “but,” as she said, “he wasn’t any good at all,” for he only looked at her, then drew a film over his eyes, and went on swallowing very hard.
 
“He can talk, though, I know,” she said to Belinda. “They can all talk in their way. It sounds like noise to us, because we can’t understand. Do hear them, Belinda? What are they saying?”
 
But of course Belinda could not answer. She never said more than “mama,” in a very squeaky voice, and you had to squeeze her ever so hard to make her do that.
 
Ruth sighed softly, then, leaning forward 7with her elbow propped8 on her knee, and her chin resting in the palm of her hand, she listened to the flood of sound about her; the hum and buzz that came from garden and orchard9, from field and meadow; thousands of tiny voices, rising and falling and rising again, as they told their fascinating life stories, from every leaf and twig10 and grass blade.
 
“They are talking just as fast as they can,” Ruth said again, “but I don’t know what they are saying. Oh! if I only did. Why don’t people learn their language instead of German and French and lots of other old things that aren’t any good? It would be ever so much nicer, and they could find out so many wonderful things, couldn’t they, Belinda?”
 
But, as usual, Belinda only stared at Ruth, and said nothing.
 
“Oh, dear,” said Ruth, “if you were only alive, and could tell me things, you’d be ever so much more interesting, but then maybe,” she added, thoughtfully, “I wouldn’t understand you any better than I do them. Maybe doll language is different too. It is all so puzzling. Sometimes it seems as if it must be Fairyland all around, only I’m deaf. I wonder if there’s a word that lets you in so you can know about things, like ‘Open Sesame’ in ‘The Forty Thieves.’ Oh, Belinda, do you think there is?” And Ruth clasped her hands together at the very thought. “But we can’t find it out,” she added, more soberly, “and so it wouldn’t be any use.”
 
“Watch and listen! Watch and listen!” said a voice so close to her ear that Ruth jumped, and nearly fell to the ground.
 
She looked about her expectantly, but no one was in sight, either in the tree or under it.
 
“It is very queer,” she said. “You can’t talk, Belinda, and I don’t see a single person anywhere.”
 
“It is not so queer as you think,” the voice 10replied, as close to her ear as before. “You cannot see me, but you can feel me.”
 
A passing breeze had touched her cheek and was softly ruffling11 her hair.
 
“I feel the wind,” cried Ruth, with bright eyes. “Dear voice, are you the Wind? Why have you never talked to me before? If you only knew how I have wanted some one to talk to me, and tell me things! People don’t seem to like to answer questions. They haven’t time or something. But you must know such a lot. The wind goes everywhere.”
 
“Yes, I am a great traveller, but, child, the marvellous things are not all far off. There is a wonderland right here at home, if one has the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to feel and understand.”
 
Ruth clapped her hands, and her eyes danced.
 
“I knew it! I knew it!” she cried eagerly. “I told Belinda it was Fairyland all around us; but, dear Wind,” she added, while a little cloud filled her eyes, “I do see and hear 11lots of things, but I can’t understand, and I do want to know all the whys and becauses. Won’t you please, please tell me?”
 
“I may not do that, child,” was the answer, “for each thing speaks in its own language, and will tell its own story to those who seek truly and earnestly. You are a thoughtful child, and for that reason it will be given to you to know those things which you most desire to learn. Only remember, ‘Watch and be patient,’ and never forget the password ‘Brotherhood,’ for even the lowest creature has some rights to be respected.”
 
The breeze passed on, softly singing through the willow branches, but Ruth sat without moving, her eyes wide with eager wonder.
 
“I didn’t dream it,” she said at last in an awed12 little whisper. “It was as real as anything could be that you couldn’t see. I suppose ‘brotherhood’ means not to be unkind or cruel to things. Oh, Belinda, just think of it: hearing what they say, the bees and the butterflies and the dear little crickets 12and funny old grasshoppers,” and she snatched Belinda to her and hugged her tight. “It will be harder than ever to go into the house now, won’t it?” she finished soberly. Then she sat for a few minutes thinking, very quiet, but very happy.
 
“Kerchug—kerchug—kerchug,” called a voice from the brook, and Ruth started so suddenly she nearly dropped Belinda, and caught a branch just in time to keep herself from falling.
 
“Gracious,” she said, “how that scared me. I do believe it was that big green and brown frog. See him down there, Belinda? He is just showing his head and his funny eyes out of the water. Let’s get down close to him, and maybe he’ll come out all the way.”

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1 perch 5u1yp     
n.栖木,高位,杆;v.栖息,就位,位于
参考例句:
  • The bird took its perch.鸟停歇在栖木上。
  • Little birds perch themselves on the branches.小鸟儿栖歇在树枝上。
2 willow bMFz6     
n.柳树
参考例句:
  • The river was sparsely lined with willow trees.河边疏疏落落有几棵柳树。
  • The willow's shadow falls on the lake.垂柳的影子倒映在湖面上。
3 drooping drooping     
adj. 下垂的,无力的 动词droop的现在分词
参考例句:
  • The drooping willows are waving gently in the morning breeze. 晨风中垂柳袅袅。
  • The branches of the drooping willows were swaying lightly. 垂柳轻飘飘地摆动。
4 brook PSIyg     
n.小河,溪;v.忍受,容让
参考例句:
  • In our room we could hear the murmur of a distant brook.在我们房间能听到远处小溪汩汩的流水声。
  • The brook trickled through the valley.小溪涓涓流过峡谷。
5 bugs e3255bae220613022d67e26d2e4fa689     
adj.疯狂的,发疯的n.窃听器( bug的名词复数 );病菌;虫子;[计算机](制作软件程序所产生的意料不到的)错误
参考例句:
  • All programs have bugs and need endless refinement. 所有的程序都有漏洞,都需要不断改进。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • The sacks of rice were swarming with bugs. 一袋袋的米里长满了虫子。 来自《简明英汉词典》
6 spoke XryyC     
n.(车轮的)辐条;轮辐;破坏某人的计划;阻挠某人的行动 v.讲,谈(speak的过去式);说;演说;从某种观点来说
参考例句:
  • They sourced the spoke nuts from our company.他们的轮辐螺帽是从我们公司获得的。
  • The spokes of a wheel are the bars that connect the outer ring to the centre.辐条是轮子上连接外圈与中心的条棒。
7 toad oJezr     
n.蟾蜍,癞蛤蟆
参考例句:
  • Both the toad and frog are amphibian.蟾蜍和青蛙都是两栖动物。
  • Many kinds of toad hibernate in winter.许多种蟾蜍在冬天都会冬眠。
8 propped 557c00b5b2517b407d1d2ef6ba321b0e     
支撑,支持,维持( prop的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • He sat propped up in the bed by pillows. 他靠着枕头坐在床上。
  • This fence should be propped up. 这栅栏该用东西支一支。
9 orchard UJzxu     
n.果园,果园里的全部果树,(美俚)棒球场
参考例句:
  • My orchard is bearing well this year.今年我的果园果实累累。
  • Each bamboo house was surrounded by a thriving orchard.每座竹楼周围都是茂密的果园。
10 twig VK1zg     
n.小树枝,嫩枝;v.理解
参考例句:
  • He heard the sharp crack of a twig.他听到树枝清脆的断裂声。
  • The sharp sound of a twig snapping scared the badger away.细枝突然折断的刺耳声把獾惊跑了。
11 ruffling f5a3df16ac01b1e31d38c8ab7061c27b     
弄皱( ruffle的现在分词 ); 弄乱; 激怒; 扰乱
参考例句:
  • A cool breeze brushed his face, ruffling his hair. 一阵凉风迎面拂来,吹乱了他的头发。
  • "Indeed, they do not,'said Pitty, ruffling. "说真的,那倒不一定。" 皮蒂皱皱眉头,表示异议。
12 awed a0ab9008d911a954b6ce264ddc63f5c8     
adj.充满敬畏的,表示敬畏的v.使敬畏,使惊惧( awe的过去式和过去分词 )
参考例句:
  • The audience was awed into silence by her stunning performance. 观众席上鸦雀无声,人们对他出色的表演感到惊叹。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • I was awed by the huge gorilla. 那只大猩猩使我惊惧。 来自《简明英汉词典》


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