of submerged and dismasted roots, still upright, spreading their vast, uncouth limbs like enormous spiders beneath the surface.
They are remnants of border wars with the axe, vegetable Witheringtons, still fighting on their stumps, but gradually sinking into the soft ooze, and ready, perhaps, when a score of centuries has piled two more strata of similar remains in mud above them, to furnish foundations for a newer New Orleans; that city having been lately discovered to be thus supported.
The present decline in the manufacturing business is clear revenue to the water-lilies, and these ponds are higher than usual, because the idle mills do not draw them off. But we may notice, in observing the shores, that peculiar charm of water, that, whether its quantity be greater or less, its grace is the same; it makes its own boundary in lake or river, and where its edge is, there seems the natural and permanent margin.
And the same natural fitness, without reference to mere quantity, extends to its flowery children.
Before us lie islands and continents of lilies, acres of charms, whole, vast, unbroken surfaces of stainless whiteness.
And yet, as we approach them, every island cup that floats in lonely dignity, apart from the multitude, appears perfect in itself, couched in white expanded perfection, its reflection taking a faint glory of pink that is scarcely perceptible in the flower.
As we glide gently among them, the air grows fragrant, and a stray breeze flaps the leaves, as if to welcome us. Each floating flower becomes suddenly a ship at anchor, or rather seems beating up against the summer wind in a regatta of blossoms.
Early as it is in the day, the greater part of the flowers are already expanded.
Indeed, that experience of Thoreau
's, of watching them open in the first sunbeams, rank by rank, is not easily obtained, unless perhaps in a narrow stream, where the beautiful slumberers are more regularly marshalled.
In our lake, at least, they open irregularly, though rapidly.
But, this morning, many linger as buds, while others peer up, in half-expanded beauty, beneath the lifted leaves, frolicsome as Pucks or baby-nymphs.
As you raise the leaf, in such cases, it is impossible not to imagine that a pair of tiny hands have upheld it, and that the pretty head will dip down again, and disappear.
Others, again, have expanded all but the inmost pair of white petals, and these spring apart at the first touch of the finger on the stem.
Some spread vast vases of fragrance, six or seven inches in diameter, while others are small and delicate, with petals like fine lace-work.
Smaller still, we sometimes pass a flotilla of infant leaves, an inch in diameter.
All these grow from the dark water,—and the blacker it is, the fairer their whiteness shows.
But your eye follows the stem often vainly into those sombre depths, and vainly seeks to behold Sabrina
fair, sitting with her twisted braids of lilies, beneath the glassy, cool, but not translucent wave.
Do not start, when, in such an effort, only your own dreamy face