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that is coming from between the hills, but, as
it were, a branching oak moving towards the
water? Heaven and earth! What a creature!
The elk of fable, beside which the cattle show
like dogs, and the young fawns like mice. As
it bends to the brink, what a shadow it casts
far into the lake; and how the fishing-boats
draw off to the further shore! Something
humbler is it that you want me to see
something very small and mean? Is it the snake
under the fallen leaves, or . . . It is under
the water, you say. Is it the salmon, come
up from, the sea, lurking in its sandy cove
under the shadow of the bank? Is it . . .
Nothing of that kind, you say, but a very
small thing, with a very small movement,
which is destined to outlast and to bury all
the living creatures we have seen, with their
posterity, and even these oaks of a thousand
years, rooted firm in the everlasting hills.
And what is this very small thing? That
little moss?—that tiny plant which the child
with the wooden sword could pluck up with
his finger and thumb? O yes; we will watch
it; for two or three thousand years, if you please.

Small and silent as it is, I see it does grow
and work diligently. Here is where it began
here, where this water-hen's nest stopped
the flow of this little drip into the cove.
Here sprang the moss; and see how its
filaments are now spread among all the
vegetation on the bank, and how it is stealing out
all along the margin of the lake, even covering
its bottom for some way in. Already it intercepts
and soaks up the smaller tributaries
that feed the lake. Already it holds, as in a
sponge, the water of the lake itself. By
absorbing its supplies, and at the same time
encroaching upon its bed, it is actually starving
the lake. See, in half a century, it is perceptibly
smaller; and, instead of the sandy
and pebbly beach, which was so pretty and
convenient, there is now a margin of wet
sponge, which it is not easy to cross. There
is a natural bridge that fallen tree: it was
the little moss that gave us that bridge. That
yew stood firm, a few years since. The soaking
of the sour water about its roots loosened
them, and down it sank by its own weight.
Yesyou promised me that the moss should
bury everything; and I see that it is creeping
about the fallen yew growing up among its
branches. At the rate of an inch and a half
a year, is it growing? Then the poor yew
will be soon covered upaway from human
sight for ever. Not so? Are we to see it
again? Well, time will show. But I see no
oaks down, as you promised. Their turn is
by and by, is it? Ay, I see that they are
rooted differently from the firs and other
inferior trees; they stand rooted each in its
own hillock of gravel and firm soil: they
may resist the moss for a good while.

But what is to become of this whole district,
if the moss goes on unchecked? It is higher
now than the surface of the lake. It is rising
in the middle, and sending back the waters
where there is no channel for them; so that
they soak and loosen the soil far and wide.
The cushion is climbing the stockade, and
will quite cover the island soon; and nobody
will resist this, for the place has long been
deserted there being no approach to it now
but over a shaking bog, which is neither land
nor water. The live cushion is creeping over
the green sward where the cattle used to
graze. Some of those strange old cattle,
unwilling to give up their pasture, venture to
pick their meals there still. There! there
goes one poor animal, down to death! She
was deceived by the greenness of that knoll,
and, committing her weight to it, down she
wentthe deeper, the more she struggled in
the slough, till the black mud closed over her
horns. I am certain I saw that heavy oak
shake. See! down it goes, with a snap and
crash, and a plunging sound as it buries itself
in the wet moss. Its roots are still firm, you
see: it was the trunk that snapped, and now
it lies along on its bed of sponge, ten feet
thick. Now that one has gone, more will
quickly follow. I see now how the little moss
may lay low, and bury the mighty forest.

What now? What is all this? The little
moss grows very greedy and impatient.
What a slide there was! Half an acre of
parasitic soil pushing on over what was once
the track of the royal boats; and from the
cracks and chasms a bubbling up of hideous
black mud, rolling on and actually surrounding
that old house that we saw building.
The bog had long ago begun to grow up
about it, but now it is to be buried in this
pitchy stream of decayed vegetation. See
how the mud fills up the house, and how it
flows on to the hearthstone, and covers up
everything, leaving only a level black surface,
on which vegetation will soon again sprout
and spread.

A century passes away, and the house is
covered deep; and the oak is hidden, both
the scraggy root and the fallen trunk. The
mossy surface is strong enough now to bear
the tread of small animals; and some one of
them has dropped an acorn in a favourable
spot, where it sprouts and grows; so that an
oak strikes root on a level considerably
higher than the old one, even directly over it.
There is a new layer of firs, and more are
tumbled down from their places on the hills.
There is a new race of people in the land, who
do not suspect that there was ever a lake
occupying the space usurped by the ambitious
and devouring moss. These people wear steel
arms and curious dresses, and have come from
abroad; and those unaccountable round towers
which appear here and there must, one would
think, have been built by them. Then comes
in another race, with iron armour and utensils,
and new wars and ways. How generation
after generation, race after race, comes to the
edge of the moss, and tries to set foot on it,
and draws back, because it is a treacherous