Old Pipes And The Dryad
A mountain brook ran through a little village. Over the brook there
was a narrow bridge, and from the bridge a foot-path led out from
the village and up the hillside to the cottage of Old Pipes and his
mother. For many, many years Old Pipes had been employed by the
villagers to pipe the cattle down from the hills. Every afternoon,
an hour before sunset, he would sit on a rock in front of his
cottage and play on his pip
s. Then all the flocks and herds that
were grazing on the mountains would hear him, wherever they might
happen to be, and would come down to the village--the cows by the
easiest paths, the sheep by those not quite so easy, and the goats
by the steep and rocky ways that were hardest of all.
But now, for a year or more, Old Pipes had not piped the cattle
home. It is true that every afternoon he sat upon the rock and
played upon his familiar instrument; but the cattle did not hear
him. He had grown old and his breath was feeble. The echoes of his
cheerful notes, which used to come from the rocky hill on the other
side of the valley, were heard no more; and twenty yards from Old
Pipes one could scarcely tell what tune he was playing. He had
become somewhat deaf, and did not know that the sound of his pipes
was so thin and weak, and that the cattle did not hear him. The
cows, the sheep, and the goats came down every afternoon as before,
but this was because two boys and a girl were sent up after them.
The villagers did not wish the good old man to know that his piping
was no longer of any use, so they paid him his little salary every
month, and said nothing about the two boys and the girl.
Old Pipes's mother was, of course, a great deal older than he was,
and was as deaf as a gate--posts, latch, hinges, and all--and she
never knew that the sound of her son's pipe did not spread over all
the mountain-side and echo back strong and clear from the opposite
hills. She was very fond of Old Pipes, and proud of his piping; and
as he was so much younger than she was, she never thought of him as
being very old. She cooked for him, and made his bed, and mended his
clothes; and they lived very comfortably on his little salary.
One afternoon, at the end of the month, when Old Pipes had finished
his piping, he took his stout staff and went down the hill to the
village to receive the money for his month's work. The path seemed a
great deal steeper and more difficult than it used to be; and Old
Pipes thought that it must have been washed by the rains and greatly
damaged. He remembered it as a path that was quite easy to traverse
either up or down. But Old Pipes had been a very active man, and as
his mother was so much older than he was, he never thought of
himself as aged and infirm.
When the Chief Villager had paid him, and he had talked a little
with some of his friends, Old Pipes started to go home. But when he
had crossed the bridge over the brook and gone a short distance up
the hillside, he became very tired and sat down upon a stone. He had
not been sitting there half a minute when along came two boys and a
"Children," said Old Pipes, "I'm very tired to-night, and I don't
believe I can climb up this steep path to my home. I think I shall
have to ask you to help me."
"We will do that," said the boys and the girl, quite cheerfully; and
one boy took him by the right hand and the other by the left, while
the girl pushed him in the back. In this way he went up the hill
quite easily, and soon reached his cottage door. Old Pipes gave each
of the three children a copper coin, and then they sat down for a
few minutes' rest before starting back to the village.
"I'm sorry that I tired you so much," said Old Pipes.
"Oh, that would not have tired us," said one of the boys, "if we had
not been so far to-day after the cows, the sheep, and the goats.
They rambled high up on the mountain, and we never before had such a
time in finding them."
"Had to go after the cows, the sheep, and the goats!" exclaimed Old
Pipes. "What do you mean by that?"
The girl, who stood behind the old man, shook her head, put her hand
on her mouth, and made all sorts of signs to the boy to stop talking
on this subject; but he did not notice her and promptly answered Old
"Why, you see, good sir," said he, "that as the cattle can't hear
your pipes now, somebody has to go after them every evening to drive
them down from the mountain, and the Chief Villager has hired us
three to do it. Generally it is not very hard work, but to-night the
cattle had wandered far."
"How long have you been doing this?" asked the old man.
The girl shook her head and clapped her hand on her mouth more
vigorously than before, but the boy went on.
"I think it is about a year now," he said, "since the people first
felt sure that the cattle could not hear your pipes; and from that
time we've been driving them down. But we are rested now and will go
home. Good-night, sir."
The three children then went down the hill, the girl scolding the
boy all the way home. Old Pipes stood silent a few moments and then
he went into his cottage.
"Mother," he shouted, "did you hear what those children said?"
"Children!" exclaimed the old woman; "I did not hear them. I did not
know there were any children here."
Then Old Pipes told his mother--shouting very loudly to make her
hear--how the two boys and the girl had helped him up the hill, and
what he had heard about his piping and the cattle.
"They can't hear you?" cried his mother. "Why, what's the matter
with the cattle?"
"Ah me!" said Old Pipes, "I don't believe there's anything the
matter with the cattle. It must be with me and my pipes that there
is something the matter. But one thing is certain: if I do not earn
the wages the Chief Villager pays me, I shall not take them. I shall
go straight down to the village and give back the money I received
"Nonsense!" cried his mother. "I'm sure you've piped as well as you
could, and no more can be expected. And what are we to do without
"I don't know," said Old Pipes; "but I'm going down to the village
to pay it back."
The sun had now set; but the moon was shining very brightly on the
hillside, and Old Pipes could see his way very well. He did not take
the same path by which he had gone before, but followed another,
which led among the trees upon the hillside, and, though longer, was
not so steep.
When he had gone about half-way the old man sat down to rest,
leaning his back against a great oak-tree. As he did so he heard a
sound like knocking inside the tree, and then a voice distinctly
"Let me out! let me out!"
Old Pipes instantly forgot that he was tired, and sprang to his
feet. "This must be a Dryad-tree!" he exclaimed. "If it is, I'll let
Old Pipes had never, to his knowledge, seen a Dryad-tree, but he
knew there were such trees on the hillsides and the mountains, and
that Dryads lived in them. He knew, too, that in the summer-time, on
those days when the moon rose before the sun went down, a Dryad
could come out of her tree if any one could find the key which
locked her in, and turn it. Old Pipes closely examined the trunk of
the tree, which stood in the full moonlight. "If I see that key," he
said, "I shall surely turn it." Before long he perceived a piece of
bark standing out from the tree, which appeared to him very much
like the handle of a key. He took hold of it, and found he could
turn it quite around. As he did so a large part of the side of the
tree was pushed open, and a beautiful Dryad stepped quickly out.
For a moment she stood motionless, gazing on the scene before
her--the tranquil valley, the hills, the forest, and the
mountain-side, all lying in the soft clear light of the moon. "Oh,
lovely! lovely!" she exclaimed. "How long it is since I have seen
anything like this!" And then, turning to Old Pipes, she said, "How
good of you to let me out! I am so happy and so thankful that I must
kiss you, you dear old man!" And she threw her arms around the neck
of Old Pipes and kissed him on both cheeks. "You don't know," she
then went on to say, "how doleful it is to be shut up so long in a
tree. I don't mind it in the winter, for then I am glad to be
sheltered; but in summer it is a rueful thing not to be able to see
all the beauties of the world. And it's ever so long since I've been
let out. People so seldom come this way; and when they do come at
the right time they either don't hear me, or they are frightened and
run away. But you, you dear old man, you were not frightened, and
you looked and looked for the key, and you let me out, and now I
shall not have to go back till winter has come and the air grows
cold. Oh, it is glorious! What can I do for you to show you how
grateful I am?"
"I am very glad," said Old Pipes, "that I let you out, since I see
that it makes you so happy; but I must admit that I tried to find
the key because I had a great desire to see a Dryad. But if you wish
to do something for me, you can, if you happen to be going down
toward the village."
"To the village!" exclaimed the Dryad. "I will go anywhere for you,
my kind old benefactor."
"Well, then," said Old Pipes, "I wish you would take this little bag
of money to the Chief Villager and tell him that Old Pipes cannot
receive pay for the services which he does not perform. It is now
more than a year that I have not been able to make the cattle hear
me when I piped to call them home. I did not know this until
to-night; but now that I know it I cannot keep the money, and so I
send it back." And, handing the little bag to the Dryad, he bade her
good-night and turned toward his cottage.
"Good-night," said the Dryad. "And I thank you over and over and
over again, you good old man!"
Old Pipes walked toward his home, very glad to be saved the fatigue
of going all the way down to the village and back again. "To be
sure," he said to himself, "this path does not seem at all steep,
and I can walk along it very easily; but it would have tired me
dreadfully to come up all the way from the village, especially as I
could not have expected those children to help me again." When he
reached home his mother was surprised to see him returning so soon.
"What!" she exclaimed, "have you already come back? What did the
Chief Villager say? Did he take the money?"
Old Pipes was just about to tell her that he had sent the money to
the village by a Dryad when he suddenly reflected that his mother
would be sure to disapprove such a proceeding, and so he merely said
he had sent it by a person whom he had met.
"And how do you know that the person will ever take it to the Chief
Villager?" cried his mother. "You will lose it, and the villagers
will never get it. Oh, Pipes! Pipes! when will you be old enough to
have ordinary common sense?"
Old Pipes considered that as he was already seventy years of age he
could scarcely expect to grow any wiser, but he made no remark on
this subject; and, saying that he doubted not that the money would
go safely to its destination, he sat down to his supper. His mother
scolded him roundly, but he did not mind it; and after supper he
went out and sat on a rustic chair in front of the cottage to look
at the moon-lit village, and to wonder whether or not the Chief
Villager really received the money. While he was doing these two
things he went fast asleep.
When Old Pipes left the Dryad, she did not go down to the village
with the little bag of money. She held it in her hand and thought
about what she had heard. "This is a good and honest old man," she
said, "and it is a shame that he should lose this money. He looked
as if he needed it, and I don't believe the people in the village
will take it from one who has served them so long. Often, when in my
tree, have I heard the sweet notes of his pipes. I am going to take
the money back to him." She did not start immediately, because there
were so many beautiful things to look at; but after a while she went
up to the cottage, and, finding Old Pipes asleep in his chair, she
slipped the little bag into his coat pocket and silently sped away.
The next day Old Pipes told his mother that he would go up the
mountain and cut some wood. He had a right to get wood from the
mountain, but for a long time he had been content to pick up the
dead branches which lay about his cottage. To-day, however, he felt
so strong and vigorous that he thought he would go and cut some fuel
that would be better than this. He worked all the morning, and when
he came back he did not feel at all tired, and he had a very good
appetite for his dinner.
Now, Old Pipes knew a good deal about Dryads, but there was one
thing which, although he had heard, he had forgotten. This was that
a kiss from a Dryad made a person ten years younger. The people of
the village knew this, and they were very careful not to let any
child of ten years or younger go into the woods where the Dryads
were supposed to be; for if they should chance to be kissed by one
of these tree-nymphs, they would be set back so far that they would
cease to exist. A story was told in the village that a very bad boy
of eleven once ran away into the woods and had an adventure of this
kind; and when his mother found him he was a little baby of one year
old. Taking advantage of her opportunity, she brought him up more
carefully than she had done before; and he grew to be a very good
Now, Old Pipes had been kissed twice by the Dryad, once on each
cheek, and he therefore felt as vigorous and active as when he was a
hale man of fifty. His mother noticed how much work he was doing,
and told him that he need not try in that way to make up for the
loss of his piping wages; for he would only tire himself out and get
sick. But her son answered that he had not felt so well for years,
and that he was quite able to work. In the course of the afternoon,
Old Pipes, for the first time that day, put his hand in his coat
pocket, and there, to his amazement, he found the little bag of
money. "Well, well!" he exclaimed, "I am stupid indeed! I really
thought that I had seen a Dryad; but when I sat down by that big
oak-tree I must have gone to sleep and dreamed it all; and then I
came home thinking I had given the money to a Dryad, when it was in
my pocket all the time. But the Chief Villager shall have the money.
I shall not take it to him to-day; but to-morrow I wish to go to the
village to see some of my old friends, and then I shall give up the
Toward the close of the afternoon, Old Pipes, as had been his custom
for so many years, took his pipes from the shelf on which they lay,
and went out to the rock in front of the cottage.
"What are you going to do?" cried his mother. "If you will not
consent to be paid, why do you pipe?"
"I am going to pipe for my own pleasure," said her son. "I am used
to it, and I do not wish to give it up. It does not matter now
whether the cattle hear me or not, and I am sure that my piping will
injure no one."
When the good man began to play upon his favorite instrument he was
astonished at the sound that came from it. The beautiful notes of
the pipes sounded clear and strong down into the valley, and spread
over the hills and up the sides of the mountain beyond, while, after
a little interval, an echo came back from the rocky hill on the
other side of the valley.
"Ha! ha!" he cried, "what has happened to my pipes? They must have
been stopped up of late, but now they are as clear and good as
Again the merry notes went sounding far and wide. The cattle on the
mountain heard them, and those that were old enough remembered how
these notes had called them from their pastures every evening, and
so they started down the mountain-side, the others following.
The merry notes were heard in the village below, and the people were
much astonished thereby. "Why, who can be blowing the pipes of Old
Pipes?" they said. But, as they were all very busy, no one went up
to see. One thing, however, was plain enough: the cattle were coming
down the mountain. And so the two boys and the girl did not have to
go after them, and had an hour for play, for which they were very
The next morning Old Pipes started down to the village with his
money, and on the way he met the Dryad. "Oh, ho!" he cried, "is that
you? Why, I thought my letting you out of the tree was nothing but a
"A dream!" cried the Dryad; "if you only knew how happy you have
made me you would not think it merely a dream. And has it not
benefited you? Do you not feel happier? Yesterday I heard you
playing beautifully on your pipes."
"Yes, yes," cried he. "I did not understand it before, but I see it
all now. I have really grown younger. I thank you, I thank you, good
Dryad, from the bottom of my heart. It was the finding of the money
in my pocket that made me think it was a dream."
"Oh, I put it in when you were asleep," she said, laughing, "because
I thought you ought to keep it. Good-by, kind, honest man. May you
live long and be as happy as I am now."
Old Pipes was greatly delighted when he understood that he was really
a younger man; but that made no difference about the money, and he
kept on his way to the village. As soon as he reached it he was
eagerly questioned as to who had been playing his pipes the evening
before; and when the people heard that it was himself, they were
very much surprised. Thereupon Old Pipes told what had happened to
him, and then there was greater wonder, with hearty congratulations
and hand-shakes; for Old Pipes was liked by every one. The Chief
Villager refused to take his money, and, although Old Pipes said
that he had not earned it, every one present insisted that, as he
would now play on his pipes as before, he should lose nothing
because, for a time, he was unable to perform his duty.
So Old Pipes was obliged to keep his money, and after an hour or two
spent in conversation with his friends, he returned to his cottage.
There was one individual, however, who was not at all pleased with
what had happened to Old Pipes. This was an Echo-dwarf, who lived on
the hills on the other side of the valley, and whose duty it was to
echo back the notes of the pipes whenever they could be heard. There
were a great many other Echo-dwarfs on these hills, some of whom
echoed back the songs of maidens, some the shouts of children, and
others the music that was often heard in the village. But there was
only one who could send back the strong notes of the pipes of Old
Pipes, and this had been his sole duty for many years. But when the
old man grew feeble, and the notes of his pipes could not be heard
on the opposite hills, this Echo-dwarf had nothing to do, and he
spent his time in delightful idleness; and he slept so much and grew
so fat that it made his companions laugh to see him walk.
On the afternoon on which, after so long an interval, the sound of
the pipes was heard on the echo-hills, this dwarf was fast asleep
behind a rock. As soon as the first notes reached them, some of his
companions ran to wake him. Rolling to his feet, he echoed back the
merry tune of Old Pipes. Naturally he was very much annoyed and
indignant at being thus obliged to give up his life of comfortable
leisure, and he hoped very much that this pipe-playing would not
occur again. The next afternoon he was awake and listening, and,
sure enough, at the usual hour, along came the notes of the pipes as
clear and strong as they ever had been; and he was obliged to work
as long as Old Pipes played. The Echo-dwarf was very angry. He had
supposed, of course, that the pipe-playing had ceased forever, and
he felt that he had a right to be indignant at being thus deceived.
He was so much disturbed that he made up his mind to go and try to
find out whether this was to be a temporary matter or not. He had
plenty of time, as the pipes were played but once a day, and he set
off early in the morning for the hill on which Old Pipes lived. It
was hard work for the fat little fellow, and when he had crossed the
valley and had gone some distance into the woods on the hillside, he
stopped to rest, and in a few minutes the Dryad came tripping along.
"Ho, ho!" exclaimed the dwarf; "what are you doing here? and how did
you get out of your tree?"
"Doing!" cried the Dryad, "I am being happy; that's what I am doing.
And I was let out of my tree by a good old man who plays the pipes
to call the cattle down from the mountain. And it makes me happier
to think that I have been of service to him. I gave him two kisses
of gratitude, and now he is young enough to play his pipes as well
The Echo-dwarf stepped forward, his face pale with passion. "Am I to
believe," he said, "that you are the cause of this great evil that
has come upon me? and that you are the wicked creature who has again
started this old man upon his career of pipe-playing? What have I
ever done to you that you should have condemned me for years and
years to echo back the notes of those wretched pipes?"
At this the Dryad laughed loudly.
"What a funny little fellow you are!" she said. "Any one would think
you had been condemned to toil from morning till night; while what
you really have to do is merely to imitate for half an hour every
day the merry notes of Old Pipes's piping. Fie upon you, Echo-dwarf!
You are lazy and selfish; and that is what is the matter with you.
Instead of grumbling at being obliged to do a little wholesome
work--which is less, I am sure, than that of any other Echo-dwarf
upon the rocky hillside--you should rejoice at the good fortune of
the old man who has regained so much of his strength and vigor. Go
home and learn to be just and generous; and then, perhaps, you may
be happy. Good-by."
"Insolent creature!" shouted the dwarf, as he shook his fat little
fist at her. "I'll make you suffer for this. You shall find out what
it is to heap injury and insult upon one like me, and to snatch from
him the repose that he has earned by long years of toil." And,
shaking his head savagely, he hurried back to the rocky hillside.
Every afternoon the merry notes of the pipes of Old Pipes sounded
down into the valley and over the hills and up the mountain-side;
and every afternoon when he had echoed them back, the little dwarf
grew more and more angry with the Dryad. Each day, from early
morning till it was time for him to go back to his duties upon the
rocky hillside, he searched the woods for her. He intended, if he
met her, to pretend to be very sorry for what he had said, and he
thought he might be able to play a trick upon her which would avenge
him well. One day, while thus wandering among the trees, he met Old
Pipes. The Echo-dwarf did not generally care to see or speak to
ordinary people; but now he was so anxious to find the object of his
search that he stopped and asked Old Pipes if he had seen the Dryad.
The piper had not noticed the little fellow, and he looked down on
him with some surprise.
"No," he said, "I have not seen her, and I have been looking
everywhere for her."
"You!" cried the dwarf; "what do you wish with her?"
Old Pipes then sat down on a stone, so that he should be nearer the
ear of his small companion, and he told what the Dryad had done for
When the Echo-dwarf heard that this was the man whose pipes he was
obliged to echo back every day, he would have slain him on the spot
had he been able; but, as he was not able, he merely ground his
teeth and listened to the rest of the story.
"I am looking for the Dryad now," Old Pipes continued, "on account
of my aged mother. When I was old myself, I did not notice how very
old my mother was; but now it shocks me to see how feeble and
decrepit her years have caused her to become; and I am looking for
the Dryad to ask her to make my mother younger, as she made me."
The eyes of the Echo-dwarf glistened. Here was a man who might help
him in his plans.
"Your idea is a good one," he said to Old Pipes, "and it does you
honor. But you should know that a Dryad can make no person younger
but one who lets her out of her tree. However, you can manage the
affair very easily. All you need do is to find the Dryad, tell her
what you want, and request her to step into her tree and be shut up
for a short time. Then you will go and bring your mother to the
tree; she will open it, and everything will be as you wish. Is not
this a good plan?"
"Excellent!" cried Old Pipes; "and I will go instantly and search
more diligently for the Dryad."
"Take me with you," said the Echo-dwarf. "You can easily carry me on
your strong shoulders; and I shall be glad to help you in any way
that I can."
"Now, then," said the little fellow to himself, as Old Pipes carried
him rapidly along, "if he persuades the Dryad to get into a
tree--and she is quite foolish enough to do it--and then goes away
to bring his mother, I shall take a stone or a club and I will break
off the key of that tree, so that nobody can ever turn it again.
Then Mistress Dryad will see what she has brought upon herself by
her behavior to me."
Before long they came to the great oak-tree in which the Dryad had
lived, and, at a distance, they saw that beautiful creature herself
coming toward them.
"How excellently well everything happens!" said the dwarf. "Put me
down, and I will go. Your business with the Dryad is more important
than mine; and you need not say anything about my having suggested
your plan to you. I am willing that you should have all the credit
of it yourself."
Old Pipes put the Echo-dwarf upon the ground, but the little rogue
did not go away. He concealed himself between some low, mossy rocks,
and he was so much of their color that you would not have noticed
him if you had been looking straight at him.
When the Dryad came up, Old Pipes lost no time in telling her about
his mother, and what he wished her to do. At first the Dryad
answered nothing, but stood looking very sadly at Old Pipes.
"Do you really wish me to go into my tree again?" she said. "I
should dreadfully dislike to do it, for I don't know what might
happen. It is not at all necessary, for I could make your mother
younger at any time if she would give me the opportunity. I had
already thought of making you still happier in this way, and several
times I have waited about your cottage, hoping to meet your aged
mother; but she never comes outside, and you know a Dryad cannot
enter a house. I cannot imagine what put this idea into your head.
Did you think of it yourself?"
"No, I cannot say that I did," answered Old Pipes. "A little dwarf
whom I met in the woods proposed it to me."
"Oh!" cried the Dryad, "now I see through it all. It is the scheme
of that vile Echo-dwarf--your enemy and mine. Where is he? I should
like to see him."
"I think he has gone away," said Old Pipes.
"No, he has not," said the Dryad, whose quick eyes perceived the
Echo-dwarf among the rocks. "There he is. Seize him and drag him
out, I beg of you."
Old Pipes perceived the dwarf as soon as he was pointed out to him,
and, running to the rocks, he caught the little fellow by the arm
and pulled him out.
"Now, then," cried the Dryad, who had opened the door of the great
oak, "just stick him in there and we will shut him up. Then I shall
be safe from his mischief for the rest of the time I am free."
Old Pipes thrust the Echo-dwarf into the tree; the Dryad pushed the
door shut; there was a clicking sound of bark and wood, and no one
would have noticed that the big oak had ever had an opening in it.
"There!" said the Dryad; "now we need not be afraid of him. And I
assure you, my good piper, that I shall be very glad to make your
mother younger as soon as I can. Will you not ask her to come out
and meet me?"
"Of course I will," cried Old Pipes; "and I will do it without
And then, the Dryad by his side, he hurried to his cottage. But when
he mentioned the matter to his mother, the old woman became very
angry indeed. She did not believe in Dryads; and, if they really did
exist, she knew they must be witches and sorceresses, and she would
have nothing to do with them. If her son had ever allowed himself to
be kissed by one of them, he ought to be ashamed of himself. As to
its doing him the least bit of good, she did not believe a word of
it. He felt better than he used to feel, but that was very common;
she had sometimes felt that way herself. And she forbade him ever to
mention a Dryad to her again.
That afternoon Old Pipes, feeling very sad that his plan in regard
to his mother had failed, sat down upon the rock and played upon his
pipes. The pleasant sounds went down the valley and up the hills and
mountain, but, to the great surprise of some persons who happened to
notice the fact, the notes were not echoed back from the rocky
hillside, but from the woods on the side of the valley on which Old
Pipes lived. The next day many of the villagers stopped in their
work to listen to the echo of the pipes coming from the woods. The
sound was not as clear and strong as it used to be when it was sent
back from the rocky hillside, but it certainly came from among the
trees. Such a thing as an echo changing its place in this way had
never been heard of before, and nobody was able to explain how it
could have happened. Old Pipes, however, knew very well that the
sound came from the Echo-dwarf shut up in the great oak-tree. The
sides of the tree were thin, and the sound of the pipes could be
heard through them, and the dwarf was obliged by the laws of his
being to echo back those notes whenever they came to him. But Old
Pipes thought he might get the Dryad in trouble if he let any one
know that the Echo-dwarf was shut up in the tree, and so he wisely
said nothing about it.
One day the two boys and the girl who had helped Old Pipes up the
hill were playing in the woods. Stopping near the great oak-tree,
they heard a sound of knocking within it, and then a voice plainly
"Let me out! let me out!"
For a moment the children stood still in astonishment, and then one
of the boys exclaimed:
"Oh, it is a Dryad, like the one Old Pipes found! Let's let her
"What are you thinking of?" cried the girl. "I am the oldest of all,
and I am only thirteen. Do you wish to be turned into crawling
babies? Run! run! run!"
And the two boys and the girl dashed down into the valley as fast as
their legs could carry them. There was no desire in their youthful
hearts to be made younger than they were. And for fear that their
parents might think it well that they should commence their careers
anew, they never said a word about finding the Dryad-tree.
As the summer days went on Old Pipes's mother grew feebler and
feebler. One day when her son was away--for he now frequently went
into the woods to hunt or fish, or down into the valley to work--she
arose from her knitting to prepare the simple dinner. But she felt
so weak and tired that she was not able to do the work to which she
had been so long accustomed. "Alas! alas!" she said, "the time has
come when I am too old to work. My son will have to hire some one to
come here and cook his meals, make his bed, and mend his clothes.
Alas! alas! I had hoped that as long as I lived I should be able to
do these things. But it is not so. I have grown utterly worthless,
and some one else must prepare the dinner for my son. I wonder where
he is." And tottering to the door, she went outside to look for him.
She did not feel able to stand, and reaching the rustic chair, she
sank into it, quite exhausted, and soon fell asleep.
The Dryad, who had often come to the cottage to see if she could
find an opportunity of carrying out Old Pipes's affectionate design,
now happened by; and seeing that the much-desired occasion had come,
she stepped up quietly behind the old woman and gently kissed her on
each cheek, and then as quietly disappeared.
In a few minutes the mother of Old Pipes awoke, and looking up at
the sun, she exclaimed, "Why, it is almost dinner-time! My son will
be here directly, and I am not ready for him." And rising to her
feet, she hurried into the house, made the fire, set the meat and
vegetables to cook, laid the cloth, and by the time her son arrived
the meal was on the table.
"How a little sleep does refresh one!" she said to herself, as she
was bustling about. She was a woman of very vigorous constitution,
and at seventy had been a great deal stronger and more active than
her son was at that age. The moment Old Pipes saw his mother, he
knew that the Dryad had been there; but, while he felt as happy as a
king, he was too wise to say anything about her.
"It is astonishing how well I feel to-day," said his mother; "and
either my hearing has improved or you speak much more plainly than
you have done of late."
The summer days went on and passed away, the leaves were falling
from the trees, and the air was becoming cold.
"Nature has ceased to be lovely," said the Dryad, "and the night
winds chill me. It is time for me to go back into my comfortable
quarters in the great oak. But first I must pay another visit to the
cottage of Old Pipes."
She found the piper and his mother sitting side by side on the rock
in front of the door. The cattle were not to go to the mountain any
more that season, and he was piping them down for the last time.
Loud and merrily sounded the pipes of Old Pipes, and down the
mountain-side came the cattle, the cows by the easiest paths, the
sheep by those not quite so easy, and the goats by the most
difficult ones among the rocks; while from the great oak-tree were
heard the echoes of the cheerful music.
"How happy they look, sitting there together!" said the Dryad; "and
I don't believe it will do them a bit of harm to be still younger."
And moving quietly up behind them, she first kissed Old Pipes on his
cheek and then his mother.
Old Pipes, who had stopped playing, knew what it was, but he did not
move, and said nothing. His mother, thinking that her son had kissed
her, turned to him with a smile and kissed him in return. And then
she arose and went into the cottage, a vigorous woman of sixty,
followed by her son, erect and happy, and twenty years younger than
The Dryad sped away to the woods, shrugging her shoulders as she
felt the cool evening wind.
When she reached the great oak, she turned the key and opened the
door. "Come out," she said to the Echo-dwarf, who sat blinking
within. "Winter is coming on, and I want the comfortable shelter of
my tree for myself. The cattle have come down from the mountain for
the last time this year, the pipes will no longer sound, and you can
go to your rocks and have a holiday until next spring."
Upon hearing these words the dwarf skipped quickly out, and the
Dryad entered the tree and pulled the door shut after her. "Now,
then," she said to herself, "he can break off the key if he likes.
It does not matter to me. Another will grow out next spring. And
although the good piper made me no promise, I know that when the
warm days arrive next year he will come and let me out again."
The Echo-dwarf did not stop to break the key of the tree. He was too
happy to be released to think of anything else, and he hastened as
fast as he could to his home on the rocky hillside.
* * * * *
The Dryad was not mistaken when she trusted in the piper. When the
warm days came again he went to the oak-tree to let her out. But, to
his sorrow and surprise, he found the great tree lying upon the
ground. A winter storm had blown it down, and it lay with its trunk
shattered and split. And what became of the Dryad no one ever knew.