[Transcriber's notes: _ before and after a word or phrase indicate italics, + indicate bolded text]
THE WRITINGS IN PROSE AND VERSE OF EUGENE FIELD
A LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES
NEW YORK 1901
By EUGENE FIELD.
TO MY SEVEREST CRITIC, MY MOST LOYAL ADMIRER, AND MY ONLY DAUGHTER, MARY FRENCH FIELD, THIS LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED. E.F.
I have never read a poem by Mr. Field without feeling personally drawn to the author. Long after I had known him as a poet, I found that he had written in prose little scraps or long essays, which had attracted me in just the same way, when I had met with them in the newspapers, although I had not known who the author was.
All that he writes indeed is quite free from the conventionalisms to which authorship as a profession is sadly liable. Because he is free from them, you read his poems or you read his prose, and are affected as if you met him. If you were riding in a Pullman car with him, or if you were talking with him at breakfast over your coffee, he would say just such things in just this way. If he had any art, it was the art of concealing art. But I do not think that he thought much of art. I do not think that he cared much for what people say about criticism or style. He wrote as he felt, or as he thought, without troubling himself much about method. It is this simplicity, or what it is the fashion of the day to call frankness, which gives a singular charm to his writing.
EDWARD E. HALE.
The Tales in this Little Book
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE
THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT
THE COMING OF THE PRINCE
THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM
THE DIVELL'S CHRYSTMASS
THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA
THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET
THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY
MARGARET: A PEARL
RODOLPH AND HIS KING
THE HAMPSHIRE HILLS
EZRA'S THANKSGIVIN' OUT WEST
LUDWIG AND ELOISE
FIDO'S LITTLE FRIEND
THE OLD MAN
BILL, THE LOKIL EDITOR
THE LITTLE YALLER BABY
THE FAIRIES OF PESTH
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE
Once upon a time the forest was in a great commotion. Early in the evening the wise old cedars had shaken their heads ominously and predicted strange things. They had lived in the forest many, many years; but never had they seen such marvellous sights as were to be seen now in the sky, and upon the hills, and in the distant village.
"Pray tell us what you see," pleaded a little vine; "we who are not as tall as you can behold none of these wonderful things. Describe them to us, that we may enjoy them with you."
"I am filled with such amazement," said one of the cedars, "that I can hardly speak. The whole sky seems to be aflame, and the stars appear to be dancing among the clouds; angels walk down from heaven to the earth, and enter the village or talk with the shepherds upon the hills."
The vine listened in mute astonishment. Such things never before had happened. The vine trembled with excitement. Its nearest neighbor was a tiny tree, so small it scarcely ever was noticed; yet it was a very beautiful little tree, and the vines and ferns and mosses and other humble residents of the forest loved it dearly.
"How I should like to see the angels!" sighed the little tree, "and how I should like to see the stars dancing among the clouds! It must be very beautiful."
As the vine and the little tree talked of these things, the cedars watched with increasing interest the wonderful scenes over and beyond the confines of the forest. Presently they thought they heard music, and they were not mistaken, for soon the whole air was full of the sweetest harmonies ever heard upon earth.
"What beautiful music!" cried the little tree. "I wonder whence it comes."
"The angels are singing," said a cedar; "for none but angels could make such sweet music."
"But the stars are singing, too," said another cedar; "yes, and the shepherds on the hills join in the song, and what a strangely glorious song it is!"
The trees listened to the singing, but they did not understand its meaning: it seemed to be an anthem, and it was of a Child that had been born; but further than this they did not understand. The strange and glorious song continued all the night; and all that night the angels walked to and fro, and the shepherd-folk talked with the angels, and the stars danced and carolled in high heaven. And it was nearly morning when the cedars cried out, "They are coming to the forest! the angels are coming to the forest!" And, surely enough, this was true. The vine and the little tree were very terrified, and they begged their older and stronger neighbors to protect them from harm. But the cedars were too busy with their own fears to pay any heed to the faint pleadings of the humble vine and the little tree. The angels came into the forest, singing the same glorious anthem about the Child, and the stars sang in chorus with them, until every part of the woods rang with echoes of that wondrous song. There was nothing in the appearance of this angel host to inspire fear; they were clad all in white, and there were crowns upon their fair heads, and golden harps in their hands; love, hope, charity, compassion, and joy beamed from their beautiful faces, and their presence seemed to fill the forest with a divine peace. The angels came through the forest to where the little tree stood, and gathering around it, they touched it with their hands, and kissed its little branches, and sang even more sweetly than before. And their song was about the Child, the Child, the Child that had been born. Then the stars came down from the skies and danced and hung upon the branches of the tree, and they, too, sang that song,—the song of the Child. And all the other trees and the vines and the ferns and the mosses beheld in wonder; nor could they understand why all these things were being done, and why this exceeding honor should be shown the little tree.
When the morning came the angels left the forest,—all but one angel, who remained behind and lingered near the little tree. Then a cedar asked: "Why do you tarry with us, holy angel?" And the angel answered: "I stay to guard this little tree, for it is sacred, and no harm shall come to it."
The little tree felt quite relieved by this assurance, and it held up its head more confidently than ever before. And how it thrived and grew, and waxed in strength and beauty! The cedars said they never had seen the like. The sun seemed to lavish its choicest rays upon the little tree, heaven dropped its sweetest dew upon it, and the winds never came to the forest that they did not forget their rude manners and linger to kiss the little tree and sing it their prettiest songs. No danger ever menaced it, no harm threatened; for the angel never slept,—through the day and through the night the angel watched the little tree and protected it from all evil. Oftentimes the trees talked with the angel; but of course they understood little of what he said, for he spoke always of the Child who was to become the Master; and always when thus he talked, he caressed the little tree, and stroked its branches and leaves, and moistened them with his tears. It all was so very strange that none in the forest could understand.
So the years passed, the angel watching his blooming charge. Sometimes the beasts strayed toward the little tree and threatened to devour its tender foliage; sometimes the woodman came with his axe, intent upon hewing down the straight and comely thing; sometimes the hot, consuming breath of drought swept from the south, and sought to blight the forest and all its verdure: the angel kept them from the little tree. Serene and beautiful it grew, until now it was no longer a little tree, but the pride and glory of the forest.
One day the tree heard some one coming through the forest. Hitherto the angel had hastened to its side when men approached; but now the angel strode away and stood under the cedars yonder.
"Dear angel," cried the tree, "can you not hear the footsteps of some one approaching? Why do you leave me?"
"Have no fear," said the angel; "for He who comes is the Master."
The Master came to the tree and beheld it. He placed His hands upon its smooth trunk and branches, and the tree was thrilled with a strange and glorious delight. Then He stooped and kissed the tree, and then He turned and went away.
Many times after that the Master came to the forest, and when He came it always was to where the tree stood. Many times He rested beneath the tree and enjoyed the shade of its foliage, and listened to the music of the wind as it swept through the rustling leaves. Many times He slept there, and the tree watched over Him, and the forest was still, and all its voices were hushed. And the angel hovered near like a faithful sentinel.
Ever and anon men came with the Master to the forest, and sat with Him in the shade of the tree, and talked with Him of matters which the tree never could understand; only it heard that the talk was of love and charity and gentleness, and it saw that the Master was beloved and venerated by the others. It heard them tell of the Master's goodness and humility,—how He had healed the sick and raised the dead and bestowed inestimable blessings wherever He walked. And the tree loved the Master for His beauty and His goodness; and when He came to the forest it was full of joy, but when He came not it was sad. And the other trees of the forest joined in its happiness and its sorrow, for they, too, loved the Master. And the angel always hovered near.
The Master came one night alone into the forest, and His face was pale with anguish and wet with tears, and He fell upon His knees and prayed. The tree heard Him, and all the forest was still, as if it were standing in the presence of death. And when the morning came, lo! the angel had gone.
Then there was a great confusion in the forest. There was a sound of rude voices, and a clashing of swords and staves. Strange men appeared, uttering loud oaths and cruel threats, and the tree was filled with terror. It called aloud for the angel, but the angel came not.
"Alas," cried the vine, "they have come to destroy the tree, the pride and glory of the forest!"
The forest was sorely agitated, but it was in vain. The strange men plied their axes with cruel vigor, and the tree was hewn to the ground. Its beautiful branches were cut away and cast aside, and its soft, thick foliage was strewn to the tenderer mercies of the winds.
"They are killing me!" cried the tree; "why is not the angel here to protect me?"
But no one heard the piteous cry,—none but the other trees of the forest; and they wept, and the little vine wept too.
Then the cruel men dragged the despoiled and hewn tree from the forest, and the forest saw that beauteous thing no more.
But the night wind that swept down from the City of the Great King that night to ruffle the bosom of distant Galilee, tarried in the forest awhile to say that it had seen that day a cross upraised on Calvary,—the tree on which was stretched the body of the dying Master.
THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT
THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT
Once upon a time a young man made ready for a voyage. His name was Norss; broad were his shoulders, his cheeks were ruddy, his hair was fair and long, his body betokened strength, and good-nature shone from his blue eyes and lurked about the corners of his mouth.
"Where are you going?" asked his neighbor Jans, the forge-master.
"I am going sailing for a wife," said Norss.
"For a wife, indeed!" cried Jans. "And why go you to seek her in foreign lands? Are not our maidens good enough and fair enough, that you must need search for a wife elsewhere? For shame, Norss! for shame!"
But Norss said, "A spirit came to me in my dreams last night and said, 'Launch the boat and set sail to-morrow. Have no fear; for I will guide you to the bride that awaits you.' Then, standing there, all white and beautiful, the spirit held forth a symbol—such as I had never before seen—in the figure of a cross, and the spirit said: 'By this symbol shall she be known to you.'"
"If this be so, you must need go," said Jans. "But are you well victualled? Come to my cabin, and let me give you venison and bear's meat."
Norss shook his head. "The spirit will provide," said he. "I have no fear, and I shall take no care, trusting in the spirit."
So Norss pushed his boat down the beach into the sea, and leaped into the boat, and unfurled the sail to the wind. Jan stood wondering on the beach, and watched the boat speed out of sight.
On, on, many days on sailed Norss,—so many leagues that he thought he must have compassed the earth. In all this time he knew no hunger nor thirst; it was as the spirit had told him in his dream,—no cares nor dangers beset him. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea gambolled about his boat; by night a beauteous Star seemed to direct his course; and when he slept and dreamed, he saw ever the spirit clad in white, and holding forth to him the symbol in the similitude of a cross.
At last he came to a strange country,—a country so very different from his own that he could scarcely trust his senses. Instead of the rugged mountains of the North, he saw a gentle landscape of velvety green; the trees were not pines and firs, but cypresses, cedars, and palms; instead of the cold, crisp air of his native land, he scented the perfumed zephyrs of the Orient; and the wind that filled the sail of his boat and smote his tanned cheeks was heavy and hot with the odor of cinnamon and spices. The waters were calm and blue,—very different from the white and angry waves of Norss's native fiord.
As if guided by an unseen hand, the boat pointed straight for the beach of this strangely beautiful land; and ere its prow cleaved the shallower waters, Norss saw a maiden standing on the shore, shading her eyes with her right hand, and gazing intently at him. She was the most beautiful maiden he had ever looked upon. As Norss was fair, so was this maiden dark; her black hair fell loosely about her shoulders in charming contrast with the white raiment in which her slender, graceful form was clad. Around her neck she wore a golden chain, and therefrom was suspended a small symbol, which Norss did not immediately recognize.
"Hast thou come sailing out of the North into the East?" asked the maiden.
"Yes," said Norss.
"And thou art Norss?" she asked.
"I am Norss; and I come seeking my bride," he answered.
"I am she," said the maiden. "My name is Faia. An angel came to me in my dreams last night, and the angel said: 'Stand upon the beach to-day, and Norss shall come out of the North to bear thee home a bride.' So, coming here, I found thee sailing to our shore."
Remembering then the spirit's words, Norss said: "What symbol have you, Faia, that I may know how truly you have spoken?"
"No symbol have I but this," said Faia, holding out the symbol that was attached to the golden chain about her neck. Norss looked upon it, and lo! it was the symbol of his dreams,—a tiny wooden cross.
Then Norss clasped Faia in his arms and kissed her, and entering into the boat they sailed away into the North. In all their voyage neither care nor danger beset them; for as it had been told to them in their dreams, so it came to pass. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea gambolled about them; by night the winds and the waves sang them to sleep; and, strangely enough, the Star which before had led Norss into the East, now shone bright and beautiful in the Northern sky!
When Norss and his bride reached their home, Jans, the forge-master, and the other neighbors made great joy, and all said that Faia was more beautiful than any other maiden in the land. So merry was Jans that he built a huge fire in his forge, and the flames thereof filled the whole Northern sky with rays of light that danced up, up, up to the Star, singing glad songs the while. So Norss and Faia were wed, and they went to live in the cabin in the fir-grove.
To these two was born in good time a son, whom they named Claus. On the night that he was born wondrous things came to pass. To the cabin in the fir-grove came all the quaint, weird spirits,—the fairies, the elves, the trolls, the pixies, the fadas, the crions, the goblins, the kobolds, the moss-people, the gnomes, the dwarfs, the water-sprites, the courils, the bogles, the brownies, the nixies, the trows, the stille-volk,—all came to the cabin in the fir-grove, and capered about and sang the strange, beautiful songs of the Mist-Land. And the flames of old Jans's forge leaped up higher than ever into the Northern sky, carrying the joyous tidings to the Star, and full of music was that happy night.
Even in infancy Claus did marvellous things. With his baby hands he wrought into pretty figures the willows that were given him to play with. As he grew older, he fashioned, with the knife old Jans had made for him, many curious toys,—carts, horses, dogs, lambs, houses, trees, cats, and birds, all of wood and very like to nature. His mother taught him how to make dolls too,—dolls of every kind, condition, temper, and color; proud dolls, homely dolls, boy dolls, lady dolls, wax dolls, rubber dolls, paper dolls, worsted dolls, rag dolls,—dolls of every description and without end. So Claus became at once quite as popular with the little girls as with the little boys of his native village; for he was so generous that he gave away all these pretty things as fast as he made them.
Claus seemed to know by instinct every language. As he grew older he would ramble off into the woods and talk with the trees, the rocks, and the beasts of the greenwood; or he would sit on the cliffs overlooking the fiord, and listen to the stories that the waves of the sea loved to tell him; then, too, he knew the haunts of the elves and the stille-volk, and many a pretty tale he learned from these little people. When night came, old Jans told him the quaint legends of the North, and his mother sang to him the lullabies she had heard when a little child herself in the far-distant East. And every night his mother held out to him the symbol in the similitude of the cross, and bade him kiss it ere he went to sleep.
So Claus grew to manhood, increasing each day in knowledge and in wisdom. His works increased too; and his liberality dispensed everywhere the beauteous things which his fancy conceived and his skill executed. Jans, being now a very old man, and having no son of his own, gave to Claus his forge and workshop, and taught him those secret arts which he in youth had learned from cunning masters. Right joyous now was Claus; and many, many times the Northern sky glowed with the flames that danced singing from the forge while Claus moulded his pretty toys. Every color of the rainbow were these flames; for they reflected the bright colors of the beauteous things strewn round that wonderful workshop. Just as of old he had dispensed to all children alike the homelier toys of his youth, so now he gave to all children alike these more beautiful and more curious gifts. So little children everywhere loved Claus, because he gave them pretty toys, and their parents loved him because he made their little ones so happy.
But now Norss and Faia were come to old age. After long years of love and happiness, they knew that death could not be far distant. And one day Faia said to Norss: "Neither you nor I, dear love, fear death; but if we could choose, would we not choose to live always in this our son Claus, who has been so sweet a joy to us?"
"Ay, ay," said Norss; "but how is that possible?"
"We shall see," said Faia.
That night Norss dreamed that a spirit came to him, and that the spirit said to him: "Norss, thou shalt surely live forever in thy son Claus, if thou wilt but acknowledge the symbol."
Then when the morning was come Norss told his dream to Faia, his wife; and Faia said,—
"The same dream had I,—an angel appearing to me and speaking these very words."
"But what of the symbol?" cried Norss.
"I have it here, about my neck," said Faia.
So saying, Faia drew from her bosom the symbol of wood,—a tiny cross suspended about her neck by the golden chain. And as she stood there holding the symbol out to Norss, he—he thought of the time when first he saw her on the far-distant Orient shore, standing beneath the Star in all her maidenly glory, shading her beauteous eyes with one hand, and with the other clasping the cross,—the holy talisman of her faith.
"Faia, Faia!" cried Norss, "it is the same,—the same you wore when I fetched you a bride from the East!"
"It is the same." said Faia, "yet see how my kisses and my prayers have worn it away; for many, many times in these years, dear Norss, have I pressed it to my lips and breathed your name upon it. See now—see what a beauteous light its shadow makes upon your aged face!"
The sunbeams, indeed, streaming through the window at that moment, cast the shadow of the symbol on old Norss's brow. Norss felt a glorious warmth suffuse him, his heart leaped with joy, and he stretched out his arms and fell about Faia's neck, and kissed the symbol and acknowledged it. Then likewise did Faia; and suddenly the place was filled with a wondrous brightness and with strange music, and never thereafter were Norss and Faia beholden of men.
Until late that night Claus toiled at his forge; for it was a busy season with him, and he had many, many curious and beauteous things to make for the little children in the country round about. The colored flames leaped singing from his forge, so that the Northern sky seemed to be lighted by a thousand rainbows; but above all this voiceful glory beamed the Star, bright, beautiful, serene.
Coming late to the cabin in the fir-grove, Claus wondered that no sign of his father or of his mother was to be seen. "Father—mother!" he cried, but he received no answer. Just then the Star cast its golden gleam through the latticed window, and this strange, holy light fell and rested upon the symbol of the cross that lay upon the floor. Seeing it, Claus stooped and picked it up, and kissing it reverently, he cried: "Dear talisman, be thou my inspiration evermore; and wheresoever thy blessed influence is felt, there also let my works be known henceforth forever!"
No sooner had he said these words than Claus felt the gift of immortality bestowed upon him; and in that moment, too, there came to him a knowledge that his parents' prayer had been answered, and that Norss and Faia would live in him through all time.
And lo! to that place and in that hour came all the people of Mist-Land and of Dream-Land to declare allegiance to him: yes, the elves, the fairies, the pixies,—all came to Claus, prepared to do his bidding. Joyously they capered about him, and merrily they sang.
"Now haste ye all," cried Claus,—"haste ye all to your homes and bring to my workshop the best ye have. Search, little hill-people, deep in the bowels of the earth for finest gold and choicest jewels; fetch me, O mermaids, from the bottom of the sea the treasures hidden there,—the shells of rainbow tints, the smooth, bright pebbles, and the strange ocean flowers; go, pixies, and other water-sprites, to your secret lakes, and bring me pearls! Speed! speed you all! for many pretty things have we to make for the little ones of earth we love!"
But to the kobolds and the brownies Claus said: "Fly to every house on earth where the cross is known; loiter unseen in the corners, and watch and hear the children through the day. Keep a strict account of good and bad, and every night bring back to me the names of good and bad, that I may know them."
The kobolds and the brownies laughed gleefully, and sped away on noiseless wings; and so, too, did the other fairies and elves.
There came also to Claus the beasts of the forest and the birds of the air, and bade him be their master. And up danced the Four Winds, and they said: "May we not serve you, too?"
The snow-king came stealing along in his feathery chariot. "Oho!" he cried, "I shall speed over all the world and tell them you are coming. In town and country, on the mountain-tops and in the valleys,—wheresoever the cross is raised,—there will I herald your approach, and thither will I strew you a pathway of feathery white. Oho! oho!" So, singing softly, the snow-king stole upon his way.
But of all the beasts that begged to do him service, Claus liked the reindeer best. "You shall go with me in my travels; for henceforth I shall bear my treasures not only to the children of the North, but to the children in every land whither the Star points me and where the cross is lifted up!" So said Claus to the reindeer, and the reindeer neighed joyously and stamped their hoofs impatiently, as though they longed to start immediately.
Oh, many, many times has Claus whirled away from his far Northern home in his sledge drawn by the reindeer, and thousands upon thousands of beautiful gifts—all of his own making—has he borne to the children of every land; for he loves them all alike, and they all alike love him, I trow. So truly do they love him that they call him Santa Claus, and I am sure that he must be a saint; for he has lived these many hundred years, and we, who know that he was born of Faith and Love, believe that he will live forever.
THE COMING OF THE PRINCE
THE COMING OF THE PRINCE
"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" said the wind, and it tore through the streets of the city that Christmas eve, turning umbrellas inside out, driving the snow in fitful gusts before it, creaking the rusty signs and shutters, and playing every kind of rude prank it could think of.
"How cold your breath is to-night!" said Barbara, with a shiver, as she drew her tattered little shawl the closer around her benumbed body.
"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" answered the wind; "but why are you out in this storm? You should be at home by the warm fire."
"I have no home," said Barbara; and then she sighed bitterly, and something like a tiny pearl came in the corner of one of her sad blue eyes.
But the wind did not hear her answer, for it had hurried up the street to throw a handful of snow in the face of an old man who was struggling along with a huge basket of good things on each arm.
"Why are you not at the cathedral?" asked a snowflake, as it alighted on Barbara's shoulder. "I heard grand music, and saw beautiful lights there as I floated down from the sky a moment ago."
"What are they doing at the cathedral?" inquired Barbara.
"Why, haven't you heard?" exclaimed the snowflake. "I supposed everybody knew that the prince was coming to-morrow."
"Surely enough; this is Christmas eve," said Barbara, "and the prince will come tomorrow."
Barbara remembered that her mother had told her about the prince, how beautiful and good and kind and gentle he was, and how he loved the little children; but her mother was dead now, and there was none to tell Barbara of the prince and his coming,—none but the little snowflake.
"I should like to see the prince," said Barbara, "for I have heard he was very beautiful and good."
"That he is," said the snowflake. "I have never seen him, but I heard the pines and the firs singing about him as I floated over the forest to-night."
"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" cried the wind, returning boisterously to where Barbara stood. "I've been looking for you everywhere, little snowflake! So come with me."
And without any further ado, the wind seized upon the snowflake and hurried it along the street and led it a merry dance through the icy air of the winter night.
Barbara trudged on through the snow and looked in at the bright things in the shop windows. The glitter of the lights and the sparkle of the vast array of beautiful Christmas toys quite dazzled her. A strange mingling of admiration, regret, and envy filled the poor little creature's heart.
"Much as I may yearn to have them, it cannot be," she said to herself, "yet I may feast my eyes upon them."
"Go away from here!" said a harsh voice. "How can the rich people see all my fine things if you stand before the window? Be off with you, you miserable little beggar!"
It was the shopkeeper, and he gave Barbara a savage box on the ear that sent her reeling into the deeper snowdrifts of the gutter.
Presently she came to a large house where there seemed to be much mirth and festivity. The shutters were thrown open, and through the windows Barbara could see a beautiful Christmas tree in the centre of a spacious room,—a beautiful Christmas tree ablaze with red and green lights, and heavy with toys and stars and glass balls, and other beautiful things that children love. There was a merry throng around the tree, and the children were smiling and gleeful, and all in that house seemed content and happy. Barbara heard them singing, and their song was about the prince who was to come on the morrow.
"This must be the house where the prince will stop," thought Barbara. "How I would like to see his face and hear his voice!—yet what would he care for me, a 'miserable little beggar'?"
So Barbara crept on through the storm, shivering and disconsolate, yet thinking of the prince.
"Where are you going?" she asked of the wind as it overtook her.
"To the cathedral," laughed the wind. "The great people are flocking there, and I will have a merry time amongst them, ha, ha, ha!"
And with laughter the wind whirled away and chased the snow toward the cathedral.
"It is there, then, that the prince will come," thought Barbara. "It is a beautiful place, and the people will pay him homage there. Perhaps I shall see him if I go there."
So she went to the cathedral. Many folk were there in their richest apparel, and the organ rolled out its grand music, and the people sang wondrous songs, and the priests made eloquent prayers; and the music, and the songs, and the prayers were all about the prince and his expected coming. The throng that swept in and out of the great edifice talked always of the prince, the prince, the prince, until Barbara really loved him very much, for all the gentle words she heard the people say of him.
"Please, can I go and sit inside?" inquired Barbara of the sexton.
"No!" said the sexton, gruffly, for this was an important occasion with the sexton, and he had no idea of wasting words on a beggar child.
"But I will be very good and quiet," pleaded Barbara. "Please, may I not see the prince?"
"I have said no, and I mean it," retorted the sexton. "What have you for the prince, or what cares the prince for you? Out with you, and don't be blocking up the doorway!" So the sexton gave Barbara an angry push, and the child fell half-way down the icy steps of the cathedral. She began to cry. Some great people were entering the cathedral at the time, and they laughed to see her falling.
"Have you seen the prince?" inquired a snowflake, alighting on Barbara's cheek. It was the same little snowflake that had clung to her shawl an hour ago, when the wind came galloping along on his boisterous search.
"Ah, no!" sighed Barbara, in tears; "but what cares the prince for me?"
"Do not speak so bitterly," said the little snowflake. "Go to the forest and you shall see him, for the prince always comes through the forest to the city."
Despite the cold, and her bruises, and her tears, Barbara smiled. In the forest she could behold the prince coming on his way; and he would not see her, for she would hide among the trees and vines.
"Whirr-r-r, whirr-r-r!" It was the mischievous, romping wind once more; and it fluttered Barbara's tattered shawl, and set her hair to streaming in every direction, and swept the snowflake from her cheek and sent it spinning through the air.
Barbara trudged toward the forest. When she came to the city gate the watchman stopped her, and held his big lantern in her face, and asked her who she was and where she was going.
"I am Barbara, and I am going into the forest," said she, boldly.
"Into the forest?" cried the watchman, "and in this storm? No, child; you will perish!"
"But I am going to see the prince," said Barbara. "They will not let me watch for him in the church, nor in any of their pleasant homes, so I am going into the forest."
The watchman smiled sadly. He was a kindly man; he thought of his own little girl at home.
"No, you must not go to the forest," said he, "for you would perish with the cold."
But Barbara would not stay. She avoided the watchman's grasp and ran as fast as ever she could through the city gate.
"Come back, come back!" cried the watchman; "you will perish in the forest!"
But Barbara would not heed his cry. The falling snow did not stay her, nor did the cutting blast. She thought only of the prince, and she ran straightway to the forest.
"What do you see up there, O pine-tree?" asked a little vine in the forest.
"You lift your head among the clouds tonight, and you tremble strangely as if you saw wondrous sights."
"I see only the distant hill-tops and the dark clouds," answered the pine-tree. "And the wind sings of the snow-king to-night; to all my questionings he says, 'Snow, snow, snow,' till I am weary with his refrain."
"But the prince will surely come to-morrow?" inquired the tiny snowdrop that nestled close to the vine.
"Oh, yes," said the vine. "I heard the country folks talking about it as they went through the forest to-day, and they said that the prince would surely come on the morrow."
"What are you little folks down there talking about?" asked the pine-tree.
"We are talking about the prince," said the vine.
"Yes, he is to come on the morrow," said the pine-tree, "but not until the day dawns, and it is still all dark in the east."
"Yes," said the fir-tree, "the east is black, and only the wind and the snow issue from it."
"Keep your head out of my way!" cried the pine-tree to the fir; "with your constant bobbing around I can hardly see at all."
"Take that for your bad manners," retorted the fir, slapping the pine-tree savagely with one of her longest branches.
The pine-tree would put up with no such treatment, so he hurled his largest cone at the fir; and for a moment or two it looked as if there were going to be a serious commotion in the forest.
"Hush!" cried the vine in a startled tone; "there is some one coming through the forest."
The pine-tree and the fir stopped quarrelling, and the snowdrop nestled closer to the vine, while the vine hugged the pine-tree very tightly. All were greatly alarmed.
"Nonsense!" said the pine-tree, in a tone of assumed bravery. "No one would venture into the forest at such an hour."
"Indeed! and why not?" cried a child's voice. "Will you not let me watch with you for the coming of the prince?"
"Will you not chop me down?" inquired the pine-tree, gruffly.
"Will you not tear me from my tree?" asked the vine.
"Will you not pluck my blossoms?" plaintively piped the snowdrop.
"No, of course not," said Barbara; "I have come only to watch with you for the prince."
Then Barbara told them who she was, and how cruelly she had been treated in the city, and how she longed to see the prince, who was to come on the morrow. And as she talked, the forest and all therein felt a great compassion for her.
"Lie at my feet," said the pine-tree, "and I will protect you."
"Nestle close to me, and I will chafe your temples and body and limbs till they are warm," said the vine.
"Let me rest upon your cheek, and I will sing you my little songs," said the snowdrop.
And Barbara felt very grateful for all these homely kindnesses. She rested in the velvety snow at the foot of the pine-tree, and the vine chafed her body and limbs, and the little flower sang sweet songs to her.
"Whirr-r-r, whirr-r-r!" There was that noisy wind again, but this time it was gentler than it had been in the city.
"Here you are, my little Barbara," said the wind, in kindly tones. "I have brought you the little snowflake. I am glad you came away from the city, for the people are proud and haughty there; oh, but I will have my fun with them!"
Then, having dropped the little snowflake on Barbara's cheek, the wind whisked off to the city again. And we can imagine that it played rare pranks with the proud, haughty folk on its return; for the wind, as you know, is no respecter of persons.
"Dear Barbara," said the snowflake, "I will watch with thee for the coming of the prince."
And Barbara was glad, for she loved the little snowflake, that was so pure and innocent and gentle.
"Tell us, O pine-tree," cried the vine, "what do you see in the east? Has the prince yet entered the forest?"
"The east is full of black clouds," said the pine-tree, "and the winds that hurry to the hill-tops sing of the snow."
"But the city is full of brightness," said the fir. "I can see the lights in the cathedral, and I can hear wondrous music about the prince and his coming."
"Yes, they are singing of the prince in the cathedral," said Barbara, sadly.
"But we shall see him first," whispered the vine, reassuringly.
"Yes, the prince will come through the forest," said the little snowdrop, gleefully.
"Fear not, dear Barbara, we shall behold the prince in all his glory," cried the snowflake.
Then all at once there was a strange hubbub in the forest; for it was midnight, and the spirits came from their hiding-places to prowl about and to disport themselves. Barbara beheld them all in great wonder and trepidation, for she had never before seen the spirits of the forest, although she had often heard of them. It was a marvellous sight.
"Fear nothing," whispered the vine to Barbara,—"fear nothing, for they dare not touch you."
The antics of the wood-spirits continued but an hour; for then a cock crowed, and immediately thereat, with a wondrous scurrying, the elves and the gnomes and the other grotesque spirits sought their abiding-places in the caves and in the hollow trunks and under the loose bark of the trees. And then it was very quiet once more in the forest.
"It is very cold," said Barbara. "My hands and feet are like ice."
Then the pine-tree and the fir shook down the snow from their broad boughs, and the snow fell upon Barbara and covered her like a white mantle.
"You will be warm now," said the vine, kissing Barbara's forehead. And Barbara smiled.
Then the snowdrop sang a lullaby about the moss that loved the violet. And Barbara said, "I am going to sleep; will you wake me when the prince comes through the forest?"
And they said they would. So Barbara fell asleep.
"The bells in the city are ringing merrily," said the fir, "and the music in the cathedral is louder and more beautiful than before. Can it be that the prince has already come into the city?"
"No," cried the pine-tree, "look to the east and see the Christmas day a-dawning! The prince is coming, and his pathway is through the forest!"
The storm had ceased. Snow lay upon all the earth. The hills, the forest, the city, and the meadows were white with the robe the storm-king had thrown over them. Content with his wondrous work, the storm-king himself had fled to his far Northern home before the dawn of the Christmas day. Everything was bright and sparkling and beautiful. And most beautiful was the great hymn of praise the forest sang that Christmas morning,—the pine-trees and the firs and the vines and the snow-flowers that sang of the prince and of his promised coming.
"Wake up, little one," cried the vine, "for the prince is coming!"
But Barbara slept; she did not hear the vine's soft calling, nor the lofty music of the forest.
A little snow-bird flew down from the fir-tree's bough and perched upon the vine, and carolled in Barbara's ear of the Christmas morning and of the coming of the prince. But Barbara slept; she did not hear the carol of the bird.
"Alas!" sighed the vine, "Barbara will not awaken, and the prince is coming."
Then the vine and the snowdrop wept, and the pine-tree and the fir were very sad.
The prince came through the forest clad in royal raiment and wearing a golden crown. Angels came with him, and the forest sang a great hymn unto the prince, such a hymn as had never before been heard on earth. The prince came to the sleeping child and smiled upon her and called her by name.
"Barbara, my little one," said the prince, "awaken, and come with me."
Then Barbara opened her eyes and beheld the prince. And it seemed as if a new life had come to her, for there was warmth in her body, and a flush upon her cheeks and a light in her eyes that were divine. And she was clothed no longer in rags, but in white flowing raiment; and upon the soft brown hair there was a crown like those which angels wear. And as Barbara arose and went to the prince, the little snowflake fell from her cheek upon her bosom, and forthwith became a pearl more precious than all other jewels upon earth.
And the prince took Barbara in his arms and blessed her, and turning round about, returned with the little child unto his home, while the forest and the sky and the angels sang a wondrous song.
The city waited for the prince, but he did not come. None knew of the glory of the forest that Christmas morning, nor of the new life that came to little Barbara.
Come thou, dear Prince, oh, come to us this holy Christmas time! Come to the busy marts of earth, the quiet homes, the noisy streets, the humble lanes; come to us all, and with thy love touch every human heart, that we may know that love, and in its blessed peace bear charity to all mankind!
THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM
THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM
Whilst you were sleeping, little Dear-my-Soul, strange things happened; but that I saw and heard them, I should never have believed them. The clock stood, of course, in the corner, a moonbeam floated idly on the floor, and a little mauve mouse came from the hole in the chimney corner and frisked and scampered in the light of the moonbeam upon the floor. The little mauve mouse was particularly merry; sometimes she danced upon two legs and sometimes upon four legs, but always very daintily and always very merrily.
"Ah, me!" sighed the old clock, "how different mice are nowadays from the mice we used to have in the good old times! Now there was your grandma, Mistress Velvetpaw, and there was your grandpa, Master Sniffwhisker,—how grave and dignified they were! Many a night have I seen them dancing upon the carpet below me, but always the stately minuet and never that crazy frisking which you are executing now, to my surprise—yes, and to my horror, too."
"But why shouldn't I be merry?" asked the little mauve mouse. "To-morrow is Christmas, and this is Christmas eve."
"So it is," said the old clock. "I had really forgotten all about it. But, tell me, what is Christmas to you, little Miss Mauve Mouse?"
"A great deal to me!" cried the little mauve mouse. "I have been very good a very long time: I have not used any bad words, nor have I gnawed any holes, nor have I stolen any canary seed, nor have I worried my mother by running behind the flour-barrel where that horrid trap is set. In fact, I have been so good that I'm very sure Santa Claus will bring me something very pretty."
This seemed to amuse the old clock mightily; in fact, the old clock fell to laughing so heartily that in an unguarded moment she struck twelve instead of ten, which was exceedingly careless and therefore to be reprehended.
"Why, you silly little mauve mouse," said the old clock, "you don't believe in Santa Claus, do you?"
"Of course I do," answered the little mauve mouse. "Believe in Santa Claus? Why shouldn't I? Didn't Santa Claus bring me a beautiful butter-cracker last Christmas, and a lovely gingersnap, and a delicious rind of cheese, and—and—lots of things? I should be very ungrateful if I did not believe in Santa Claus, and I certainly shall not disbelieve in him at the very moment when I am expecting him to arrive with a bundle of goodies for me.
"I once had a little sister," continued the little mauve mouse, "who did not believe in Santa Claus, and the very thought of the fate that befell her makes my blood run cold and my whiskers stand on end. She died before I was born, but my mother has told me all about her. Perhaps you never saw her; her name was Squeaknibble, and she was in stature one of those long, low, rangy mice that are seldom found in well-stocked pantries. Mother says that Squeaknibble took after our ancestors who came from New England, where the malignant ingenuity of the people and the ferocity of the cats rendered life precarious indeed. Squeaknibble seemed to inherit many ancestral traits, the most conspicuous of which was a disposition to sneer at some of the most respected dogmas in mousedom. From her very infancy she doubted, for example, the widely accepted theory that the moon was composed of green cheese; and this heresy was the first intimation her parents had of the sceptical turn of her mind. Of course, her parents were vastly annoyed, for their maturer natures saw that this youthful scepticism portended serious, if not fatal, consequences. Yet all in vain did the sagacious couple reason and plead with their headstrong and heretical child.
"For a long time Squeaknibble would not believe that there was any such archfiend as a cat; but she came to be convinced to the contrary one memorable night, on which occasion she lost two inches of her beautiful tail, and received so terrible a fright that for fully an hour afterward her little heart beat so violently as to lift her off her feet and bump her head against the top of our domestic hole. The cat that deprived my sister of so large a percentage of her vertebral colophon was the same brindled ogress that nowadays steals ever and anon into this room, crouches treacherously behind the sofa, and feigns to be asleep, hoping, forsooth, that some of us, heedless of her hated presence, will venture within reach of her diabolical claws. So enraged was this ferocious monster at the escape of my sister that she ground her fangs viciously together, and vowed to take no pleasure in life until she held in her devouring jaws the innocent little mouse which belonged to the mangled bit of tail she even then clutched in her remorseless claws."
"Yes," said the old clock, "now that you recall the incident, I recollect it well. I was here then, in this very corner, and I remember that I laughed at the cat and chided her for her awkwardness. My reproaches irritated her; she told me that a clock's duty was to run itself down, not to be depreciating the merits of others! Yes, I recall the time; that cat's tongue is fully as sharp as her claws."
"Be that as it may," said the little mauve mouse, "it is a matter of history, and therefore beyond dispute, that from that very moment the cat pined for Squeaknibble's life; it seemed as if that one little two-inch taste of Squeaknibble's tail had filled the cat with a consuming passion, or appetite, for the rest of Squeaknibble. So the cat waited and watched and hunted and schemed and devised and did everything possible for a cat—a cruel cat—to do in order to gain her murderous ends. One night—one fatal Christmas eve—our mother had undressed the children for bed, and was urging upon them to go to sleep earlier than usual, since she fully expected that Santa Claus would bring each of them something very palatable and nice before morning. Thereupon the little dears whisked their cunning tails, pricked up their beautiful ears, and began telling one another what they hoped Santa Claus would bring. One asked for a slice of Roquefort, another for Neufchatel, another for Sap Sago, and a fourth for Edam; one expressed a preference for de Brie, while another hoped to get Parmesan; one clamored for imperial blue Stilton, and another craved the fragrant boon of Caprera. There were fourteen little ones then, and consequently there were diverse opinions as to the kind of gift which Santa Claus should best bring; still, there was, as you can readily understand, an enthusiastic unanimity upon this point, namely, that the gift should be cheese of some brand or other.
"'My dears,' said our mother, 'what matters it whether the boon which Santa Claus brings be royal English cheddar or fromage de Bricquebec, Vermont sage, or Herkimer County skim-milk? We should be content with whatsoever Santa Glaus bestows, so long as it be cheese, disjoined from all traps whatsoever, unmixed with Paris green, and free from glass, strychnine, and other harmful ingredients. As for myself, I shall be satisfied with a cut of nice, fresh Western reserve; for truly I recognize in no other viand or edible half the fragrance or half the gustfulness to be met with in one of these pale but aromatic domestic products. So run away to your dreams now, that Santa Claus may find you sleeping.'
"The children obeyed,—all but Squeaknibble. 'Let the others think what they please,' said she, 'but I don't believe in Santa Claus. I'm not going to bed, either. I'm going to creep out of this dark hole and have a quiet romp, all by myself, in the moonlight.' Oh, what a vain, foolish, wicked little mouse was Squeaknibble! But I will not reproach the dead; her punishment came all too swiftly. Now listen: who do you suppose overheard her talking so disrespectfully of Santa Claus?"
"Why, Santa Claus himself," said the old clock.
"Oh, no," answered the little mauve mouse. "It was that wicked, murderous cat! Just as Satan lurks and lies in wait for bad children, so does the cruel cat lurk and lie in wait for naughty little mice. And you can depend upon it, that when that awful cat heard Squeaknibble speak so disrespectfully of Santa Claus, her wicked eyes glowed with joy, her sharp teeth watered, and her bristling fur emitted electric sparks as big as marrowfat peas. Then what did that bloodthirsty monster do but scuttle as fast as she could into Dear-my-Soul's room, leap up into Dear-my-Soul's crib, and walk off with the pretty little white muff which Dear-my-Soul used to wear when she went for a visit to the little girl in the next block! What upon earth did the horrid old cat want with Dear-my-Soul's pretty little white muff? Ah, the duplicity, the diabolical ingenuity of that cat! Listen.
"In the first place," resumed the little mauve mouse, after a pause that testified eloquently to the depth of her emotion,—"in the first place, that wretched cat dressed herself up in that pretty little white muff, by which you are to understand that she crawled through the muff just so far as to leave her four cruel legs at liberty."
"Yes, I understand," said the old clock.
"Then she put on the boy doll's fur cap," said the little mauve mouse, "and when she was arrayed in the boy doll's fur cap and Dear-my-Soul's pretty little white muff, of course she didn't look like a cruel cat at all. But whom did she look like?"
"Like the boy doll," suggested the old clock.
"No, no!" cried the little mauve mouse.
"Like Dear-my-Soul?" asked the old clock.
"How stupid you are!" exclaimed the little mauve mouse. "Why, she looked like Santa Claus, of course!"
"Oh, yes; I see," said the old clock. "Now I begin to be interested; go on."
"Alas!" sighed the little mauve mouse, "not much remains to be told; but there is more of my story left than there was of Squeaknibble when that horrid cat crawled out of that miserable disguise. You are to understand that, contrary to her sagacious mother's injunction, and in notorious derision of the mooted coming of Santa Claus, Squeaknibble issued from the friendly hole in the chimney corner, and gambolled about over this very carpet, and, I dare say, in this very moonlight."
"I do not know," said the moonbeam, faintly. "I am so very old, and I have seen so many things—I do not know."
"Right merrily was Squeaknibble gambolling," continued the little mauve mouse, "and she had just turned a double back somersault without the use of what remained of her tail, when, all of a sudden, she beheld, looming up like a monster ghost, a figure all in white fur! Oh, how frightened she was, and how her little heart did beat! 'Purr, purr-r-r,' said the ghost in white fur. 'Oh, please don't hurt me!' pleaded Squeaknibble. 'No; I'll not hurt you,' said the ghost in white fur; 'I'm Santa Claus, and I've brought you a beautiful piece of savory old cheese, you dear little mousie, you.' Poor Squeaknibble was deceived; a sceptic all her life, she was at last befooled by the most palpable and most fatal of frauds. 'How good of you!' said Squeaknibble. 'I didn't believe there was a Santa Claus, and—' but before she could say more she was seized by two sharp, cruel claws that conveyed her crushed body to the murderous mouth of mousedom's most malignant foe. I can dwell no longer upon this harrowing scene. Suffice it to say that ere the morrow's sun rose like a big yellow Herkimer County cheese upon the spot where that tragedy had been enacted, poor Squeaknibble passed to that bourn whence two inches of her beautiful tail had preceded her by the space of three weeks to a day. As for Santa Claus, when he came that Christmas eve, bringing morceaux de Brie and of Stilton for the other little mice, he heard with sorrow of Squeaknibble's fate; and ere he departed he said that in all his experience he had never known of a mouse or of a child that had prospered after once saying that he didn't believe in Santa Claus."
"Well, that is a remarkable story," said the old clock. "But if you believe in Santa Glaus, why aren't you in bed?"
"That's where I shall be presently," answered the little mauve mouse, "but I must have my scamper, you know. It is very pleasant, I assure you, to frolic in the light of the moon; only I cannot understand why you are always so cold and so solemn and so still, you pale, pretty little moonbeam."
"Indeed, I do not know that I am so," said the moonbeam. "But I am very old, and I have travelled many, many leagues, and I have seen wondrous things. Sometimes I toss upon the ocean, sometimes I fall upon a slumbering flower, sometimes I rest upon a dead child's face. I see the fairies at their play, and I hear mothers singing lullabies. Last night I swept across the frozen bosom of a river. A woman's face looked up at me; it was the picture of eternal rest. 'She is sleeping,' said the frozen river. 'I rock her to and fro, and sing to her. Pass gently by, O moonbeam; pass gently by, lest you awaken her.'"
"How strangely you talk," said the old clock. "Now, I'll warrant me that, if you wanted to, you could tell many a pretty and wonderful story. You must know many a Christmas tale; pray tell us one to wear away this night of Christmas watching."
"I know but one," said the moonbeam. "I have told it over and over again, in every land and in every home; yet I do not weary of it. It is very simple. Should you like to hear it?"
"Indeed we should," said the old clock; "but before you begin, let me strike twelve; for I shouldn't want to interrupt you."
When the old clock had performed this duty with somewhat more than usual alacrity, the moonbeam began its story:—
"Upon a time—so long ago that I can't tell how long ago it was—I fell upon a hillside. It was in a far distant country; this I know, because, although it was the Christmas time, it was not in that country as it is wont to be in countries to the north. Hither the snow-king never came; flowers bloomed all the year, and at all times the lambs found pleasant pasturage on the hillsides. The night wind was balmy, and there was a fragrance of cedar in its breath. There were violets on the hillside, and I fell amongst them and lay there. I kissed them, and they awakened. 'Ah, is it you, little moonbeam?' they said, and they nestled in the grass which the lambs had left uncropped.
"A shepherd lay upon a broad stone on the hillside; above him spread an olive-tree, old, ragged, and gloomy; but now it swayed its rusty branches majestically in the shifting air of night. The shepherd's name was Benoni. Wearied with long watching, he had fallen asleep; his crook had slipped from his hand. Upon the hillside, too, slept the shepherd's flock. I had counted them again and again; I had stolen across their gentle faces and brought them pleasant dreams of green pastures and of cool water-brooks. I had kissed old Benoni, too, as he lay slumbering there; and in his dreams he seemed to see Israel's King come upon earth, and in his dreams he murmured the promised Messiah's name.
"'Ah, is it you, little moonbeam?' quoth the violets. 'You have come in good time. Nestle here with us, and see wonderful things come to pass.'
"'What are these wonderful things of which you speak?' I asked.
"'We heard the old olive-tree telling of them to-night,' said the violets. '"Do not go to sleep, little violets," said the old olive-tree, "for this is Christmas night, and the Master shall walk upon the hillside in the glory of the midnight hour." So we waited and watched; one by one the lambs fell asleep; one by one the stars peeped out; the shepherd nodded and crooned and crooned and nodded, and at last he, too, went fast asleep, and his crook slipped from his keeping. Then we called to the old olive-tree yonder, asking how soon the midnight hour would come; but all the old olive-tree answered was "Presently, presently," and finally we, too, fell asleep, wearied by our long watching, and lulled by the rocking and swaying of the old olive-tree in the breezes of the night.'
"'But who is this Master?' I asked.
"'A child, a little child,' they answered. 'He is called the little Master by the others. He comes here often, and plays among the flowers of the hillside. Sometimes the lambs, gambolling too carelessly, have crushed and bruised us so that we lie bleeding and are like to die; but the little Master heals our wounds and refreshes us once again.'
"I marvelled much to hear these things. 'The midnight hour is at hand,' said I, 'and I will abide with you to see this little Master of whom you speak.' So we nestled among the verdure of the hillside, and sang songs one to another.
"'Come away!' called the night wind; 'I know a beauteous sea not far hence, upon whose bosom you shall float, float, float away out into the mists and clouds, if you will come with me.'
"But I hid under the violets and amid the tall grass, that the night wind might not woo me with its pleading. 'Ho, there, old olive-tree!' cried the violets; 'do you see the little Master coming? Is not the midnight hour at hand?'
"'I can see the town yonder,' said the old olive-tree. 'A star beams bright over Bethlehem, the iron gates swing open, and the little Master comes.'
"Two children came to the hillside. The one, older than his comrade, was Dimas, the son of Benoni. He was rugged and sinewy, and over his brown shoulders was flung a goat-skin; a leathern cap did not confine his long, dark curly hair. The other child was he whom they called the little Master; about his slender form clung raiment white as snow, and around his face of heavenly innocence fell curls of golden yellow. So beautiful a child I had not seen before, nor have I ever since seen such as he. And as they came together to the hillside, there seemed to glow about the little Master's head a soft white light, as if the moon had sent its tenderest, fairest beams to kiss those golden curls.
"'What sound was that?' cried Dimas, for he was exceeding fearful.
"'Have no fear, Dimas,' said the little Master. 'Give me thy hand, and I will lead thee.'
"Presently they came to the rock whereon Benoni, the shepherd, lay; and they stood under the old olive-tree, and the old olive-tree swayed no longer in the night wind, but bent its branches reverently in the presence of the little Master. It seemed as if the wind, too, stayed in its shifting course just then; for suddenly there was a solemn hush, and you could hear no noise, except that in his dreams Benoni spoke the Messiah's name.
"'Thy father sleeps,' said the little Master, 'and it is well that it is so; for that I love thee, Dimas, and that thou shalt walk with me in my Father's kingdom, I would show thee the glories of my birthright.'
"Then all at once sweet music filled the air, and light, greater than the light of day, illumined the sky and fell upon all that hillside. The heavens opened, and angels, singing joyous songs, walked to the earth. More wondrous still, the stars, falling from their places in the sky, clustered upon the old olive-tree, and swung hither and thither like colored lanterns. The flowers of the hillside all awakened, and they, too, danced and sang. The angels, coming hither, hung gold and silver and jewels and precious stones upon the old olive, where swung the stars; so that the glory of that sight, though I might live forever, I shall never see again. When Dimas heard and saw these things he fell upon his knees, and catching the hem of the little Master's garment, he kissed it.
"'Greater joy than this shall be thine, Dimas,' said the little Master; 'but first must all things be fulfilled.'
"All through that Christmas night did the angels come and go with their sweet anthems; all through that Christmas night did the stars dance and sing; and when it came my time to steal away, the hillside was still beautiful with the glory and the music of heaven."
"Well, is that all?" asked the old clock.
"No," said the moonbeam; "but I am nearly done. The years went on. Sometimes I tossed upon the ocean's bosom, sometimes I scampered o'er a battle-field, sometimes I lay upon a dead child's face. I heard the voices of Darkness and mothers' lullabies and sick men's prayers,—and so the years went on.
"I fell one night upon a hard and furrowed face. It was of ghostly pallor. A thief was dying on the cross, and this was his wretched face. About the cross stood men with staves and swords and spears, but none paid heed unto the thief. Somewhat beyond this cross another was lifted up, and upon it was stretched a human body my light fell not upon. But I heard a voice that somewhere I had heard before,—though where I did not know,—and this voice blessed those that railed and jeered and shamefully entreated. And suddenly the voice called 'Dimas, Dimas!' and the thief upon whose hardened face I rested made answer.
"Then I saw that it was Dimas; yet to this wicked criminal there remained but little of the shepherd child whom I had seen in all his innocence upon the hillside. Long years of sinful life had seared their marks into his face; yet now, at the sound of that familiar voice, somewhat of the old-time boyish look came back, and in the yearning of the anguished eyes I seemed to see the shepherd's son again.
"'The Master!' cried Dimas, and he stretched forth his neck that he might see him that spake.
"'O Dimas, how art thou changed!' cried the Master, yet there was in his voice no tone of rebuke save that which cometh of love.
"Then Dimas wept, and in that hour he forgot his pain. And the Master's consoling voice and the Master's presence there wrought in the dying criminal such a new spirit, that when at last his head fell upon his bosom, and the men about the cross said that he was dead, it seemed as if I shined not upon a felon's face, but upon the face of the gentle shepherd lad, the son of Benoni.
"And shining on that dead and peaceful face, I bethought me of the little Master's words that he had spoken under the old olive-tree upon the hillside: 'Your eyes behold the promised glory now, O Dimas,' I whispered, 'for with the Master you walk in Paradise.'"
Ah, little Dear-my-Soul, you know—you know whereof the moonbeam spake. The shepherd's bones are dust, the flocks are scattered, the old olive-tree is gone, the flowers of the hillside are withered, and none knoweth where the grave of Dimas is made. But last night, again, there shined a star over Bethlehem, and the angels descended from the sky to earth, and the stars sang together in glory. And the bells,—hear them, little Dear-my-Soul, how sweetly they are ringing,—the bells bear us the good tidings of great joy this Christmas morning, that our Christ is born, and that with him he bringeth peace on earth and good-will toward men.
THE DIVELL'S CHRISTMASS
THE DIVELL'S CHRYSTMASS.
It befell that on a time ye Divell did walk to and fro upon ye earth, having in his mind full evill cogitations how that he might do despight; for of soche nature is ye Divell, and ever hath been, that continually doth he go about among men, being so dispositioned that it sufficeth him not that men sholde of their own frowardness, and by cause of the guile born in them, turn unto his wickedness, but rather that he sholde by his crewel artifices and diabolical machinations tempt them at all times and upon every hand to do his fiendly plaisaunce.
But it so fortuned that this time wherein ye Divell so walked upon ye earth was ye Chrystmass time; and wit ye well that how evill soever ye harte of man ben at other seasons, it is tofilled at ye Chrystmass time with charity and love, like as if it ben sanctified by ye exceeding holiness of that feast. Leastwise, this moche we know, that, whereas at other times envy and worldliness do prevail, for a verity our natures are toched at ye Chrystmass time as by ye hand of divinity, and conditioned for merciful deeds unto our fellow kind. Right wroth was ye Divell, therefore, when that he knew this ben ye Chrystmass time. And as rage doth often confirm in ye human harte an evill purpose, so was ye Divell now more diabolically minded to work his unclean will, and full hejeously fell he to roar and lash his ribald legs with his poyson taile. But ye Divell did presently conceive that naught might he accomplish by this means, since that men, affrighted by his roaring and astonied by ye fumes of brimstone and ye sulphur flames issuing from his mouth, wolde flee therefrom; whereas by subtile craft and by words of specious guile it more frequently befalls that ye Divell seduceth men and lureth them into his toils. So then ye Divell did in a little season feign to be in a full plaisaunt mind and of sweet purpose; and when that he had girt him about with an hermit's cloak, so that none might see his cloven feet and his poyson taile, right briskly did he fare him on his journey, and he did sing ye while a plaisaunt tune, like he had ben full of joyous contentation.
Now it befell that presently in his journey he did meet with a frere, Dan Dennyss, an holy man that fared him to a neighboring town for deeds of charity and godliness. Unto him spake ye Divell full courteysely, and required of him that he might bear him company; to which ye frere gave answer in seemly wise, that, if so be that he ben of friendly disposition, he wolde make him joy of his companionship and conversation. Then, whiles that they journeyed together, began ye Divell to discourse of theologies and hidden mysteries, and of conjurations, and of negromancy and of magick, and of Chaldee, and of astrology, and of chymistry, and of other occult and forbidden sciences, wherein ye Divell and all that ply his damnable arts are mightily learned and practised. Now wit ye well that this frere, being an holy man and a simple, and having an eye single to ye blessed works of his calling, was presently mightily troubled in his mind by ye artifices of ye Divell, and his harte began to waver and to be filled with miserable doubtings; for knowing nothing of ye things whereof ye Divell spake, he colde not make answer thereto, nor, being of godly cogitation and practice, had he ye confutations wherewith to meet ye abhominable argumentations of ye fiend.
Yet (and now shall I tell you of a special Providence) it did fortune, whiles yet ye Divell discoursed in this profane wise, there was vouchsafed unto ye frere a certain power to resist ye evill that environed him; for of a sodaine he did cast his doubtings and his misgivings to ye winds, and did fall upon ye Divell and did buffet him full sore, crying, "Thou art ye Divell! Get thee gone!" And ye frere plucked ye cloake from ye Divell and saw ye cloven feet and ye poyson taile, and straightway ye Divell ran roaring away. But ye frere fared upon his journey, for that he had had a successful issue from this grevious temptation, with thanksgiving and prayse.
Next came ye Divell into a town wherein were many people going to and fro upon works of charity, and doing righteous practices; and sorely did it repent ye Divell when that he saw ye people bent upon ye giving of alms and ye doing of charitable deeds. Therefore with mighty diligence did ye Divell apply himself to poyson ye minds of ye people, shewing unto them in artful wise how that by idleness or by righteous dispensation had ye poore become poore, and that, soche being ye will of God, it was an evill and rebellious thing against God to seeke to minister consolation unto these poore peoples. Soche like specious argumentations did ye Divell use to gain his diabolical ends; but by means of a grace whereof none then knew ye source, these men and these women unto whom ye Divell spake his hejeous heresies presently discovered force to withstand these fiendly temptations, and to continue in their Chrystianly practices, to ye glory of their faith and to ye benefite of ye needy, but to ye exceeding discomfiture of ye Divell; for ye which discomfiture I do give hearty thanks, and so also shall all of you, if so be that your hartes within you be of rightful disposition.
All that day long fared ye Divell to and fro among ye people of ye town, but none colde he bring into his hellish way of cogitation. Nor do I count this to be a marvellous thing; for, as I myself have herein shewn and as eche of us doth truly know, how can there be a place for ye Divell upon earth during this Chrystmass time when in ye very air that we breathe abideth a certain love and concord sent of heaven for the controul and edification of mankind, filling human hartes with peace and inclining human hands to ye delectable and blessed employments of charity? Nay, but you shall know that all this very season whereof I speak ye holy Chrystchilde himself did follow ye Divell upon earth, forefending the crewel evills which ye Divell fain wolde do and girding with confidence and love ye else frail natures of men. Soothly it is known of common report among you that when ye Chrystmass season comes upon ye earth there cometh with it also the spirit of our Chryst himself, that in ye similitude of a little childe descendeth from heaven and walketh among men. And if so be that by any chance ye Divell is minded to issue from his foul pit at soche a time, wit ye well that wheresoever ye fiend fareth to do his diabolical plaisaunce there also close at hand followeth ye gentle Chrystchilde; so that ye Divell, try how hard soever he may, hath no power at soche a time over the hartes of men.
Nay, but you shall know furthermore that of soche sweete quality and of so great efficacy is this heavenly spirit of charity at ye Chrystmass season, that oftentimes is ye Divell himself made to do a kindly deed. So at this time of ye which I you tell, ye Divell, walking upon ye earth with evill purpose, became finally overcome by ye gracious desire to give an alms; but nony alms had ye Divell to give, sith it is wisely ordained that ye Divell's offices shall be confined to his domain. Right grievously tormented therefore was ye Divell, in that he had nought of alms to bestow; but when presently he did meet with a beggar childe that besought him charity, ye Divell whipped out a knife and cut off his own taile, which taile ye Divell gave to ye beggar childe, for he had not else to give for a lyttle trinket toy to make merry with. Now wit ye well that this poyson instrument brought no evill to ye beggar childe, for by a sodaine miracle it ben changed into a flowre of gold, ye which gave great joy unto ye beggar childe and unto all them that saw this miracle how that it had ben wrought, but not by ye Divell. Then returned ye Divell unto his pit of fire; and since that day, whereupon befell this thing of which I speak, ye Divell hath had nony taile at all, as you that hath seene ye same shall truly testify.
But all that day long walked ye Chrystchilde upon ye earth, unseen to ye people but toching their hartes with his swete love and turning their hands to charity; and all felt that ye Chrystchilde was with them. So it was plaisaunt to do ye Chrystchilde's will, to succor ye needy, to comfort ye afflicted, and to lift up ye oppressed. Most plaisauntest of all was it to make merry with ye lyttle children, sithence of soche is ye kingdom whence ye Chrystchilde cometh.
Behold, ye season is again at hand; once more ye snows of winter lie upon all ye earth, and all Chrystantie is arrayed to the holy feast.
Presently shall ye star burn with exceeding brightness in ye east, ye sky shall be full of swete music, ye angels shall descend to earth with singing, and ye bells—ye joyous Chrystmass bells—shall tell us of ye babe that was born in Bethlehem.
Come to us now, O gentle Chrystchilde, and walke among us peoples of ye earth; enwheel us round about with thy protecting care; forefend all envious thoughts and evil deeds; toche thou our hearts with the glory of thy love, and quicken us to practices of peace, good-will, and charity meet for thy approval and acceptation.
THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA
THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA
Once upon a time the air, the mountain, and the sea lived undisturbed upon all the earth. The mountain alone was immovable; he stood always here upon his rocky foundation, and the sea rippled and foamed at his feet, while the air danced freely over his head and about his grim face. It came to pass that both the sea and the air loved the mountain, but the mountain loved the sea.
"Dance on forever, O air," said the mountain; "dance on and sing your merry songs. But I love the gentle sea, who in sweet humility crouches at my feet or playfully dashes her white spray against my brown bosom."
Now the sea was full of joy when she heard these words, and her thousand voices sang softly with delight. But the air was filled with rage and jealousy, and she swore a terrible revenge.
"The mountain shall not wed the sea," muttered the envious air. "Enjoy your triumph while you may, O slumberous sister; I will steal you from your haughty lover!"
And it came to pass that ever after that the air each day caught up huge parts of the sea and sent them floating forever through the air in the shape of clouds. So each day the sea receded from the feet of the mountain, and her tuneful waves played no more around his majestic base.
"Whither art thou going, my love?" cried the mountain in dismay.
"She is false to thee," laughed the air, mockingly. "She is going to another love far away."
But the mountain would not believe it. He towered his head aloft and cried more beseechingly than before: "Oh, whither art thou going, my beloved? I do not hear thy sweet voice, nor do thy soft white arms compass me about."
Then the sea cried out in an agony of helpless love. But the mountain heard her not, for the air refused to bring the words she said.
"She is false!" whispered the air. "I alone am true to thee."
But the mountain believed her not. Day after day he reared his massive head aloft and turned his honest face to the receding sea and begged her to return; day after day the sea threw up her snowy arms and uttered the wildest lamentations, but the mountain heard her not; and day by day the sea receded farther and farther from the mountain's base. Where she once had spread her fair surface appeared fertile plains and verdant groves all peopled with living things, whose voices the air brought to the mountain's ears in the hope that they might distract the mountain from his mourning.
But the mountain would not be comforted; he lifted his sturdy head aloft, and his sorrowing face was turned ever toward the fleeting object of his love. Hills, valleys, forests, plains, and other mountains separated them now, but over and beyond them all he could see was her fair face lifted pleadingly toward him, while her white arms tossed wildly to and fro. But he did not know what words she said, for the envious air would not bear her messages to him.
Then many ages came and went, until now the sea was far distant, so very distant that the mountain could not behold her,—nay, had he been ten thousand times as lofty he could not have seen her, she was so far away. But still, as of old, the mountain stood with his majestic head high in the sky, and his face turned whither he had seen her fading like a dream away.
"Comeback, comeback, O my beloved!" he cried and cried.
And the sea, a thousand miles or more away, still thought forever of the mountain. Vainly she peered over the western horizon for a glimpse of his proud head and honest face. The horizon was dark. Her lover was far beyond, forests, plains, hills, valleys, rivers, and other mountains intervened. Her watching was as hopeless as her love.
"She is false!" whispered the air to the mountain. "She is false, and she has gone to another lover. I alone am true!"
But the mountain believed her not. And one day clouds came floating through the sky and hovered around the mountain's crest.
"Who art thou," cried the mountain,—"who art thou that thou fill'st me with such a subtile consolation? Thy breath is like my beloved's, and thy kisses are like her kisses."
"We come from the sea," answered the clouds. "She loves thee, and she has sent us to bid thee be courageous, for she will come back to thee."
Then the clouds covered the mountain and bathed him with the glory of the sea's true love. The air raged furiously, but all in vain. Ever after that the clouds came each day with love-messages from the sea, and oftentimes the clouds bore back to the distant sea the tender words the mountain spoke.
And so the ages come and go, the mountain rearing his giant head aloft, and his brown, honest face turned whither the sea departed; the sea stretching forth her arms to the distant mountain and repeating his dear name with her thousand voices.
Stand on the beach and look upon the sea's majestic calm and hear her murmurings; or see her when, in the frenzy of her hopeless love, she surges wildly and tosses her white arms and shrieks,—then you shall know how the sea loves the distant mountain.
The mountain is old and sear; the storms have beaten upon his breast, and great scars and seams and wrinkles are on his sturdy head and honest face But he towers majestically aloft, and he looks always toward the distant sea and waits for her promised coming.
And so the ages come and go, but love is eternal.
THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET
THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET
Once upon a time a robin lived in the greenwood. Of all the birds his breast was the brightest, his music was the sweetest, and his life was the merriest. Every morning and evening he perched himself among the berries of the linden-tree, and carolled a song that made the whole forest joyous; and all day long he fluttered among the flowers and shrubbery of the wild-wood, and twittered gayly to the brooks, the ferns, and the lichens.
A violet grew among the mosses at the foot of the linden-tree where lived the robin. She was so very tiny and so very modest that few knew there was such a pretty little creature in the world. Withal she was so beautiful and so gentle that those who knew the violet loved her very dearly.
The south wind came wooing the violet. He danced through the shrubbery and ferns, and lingered on the velvet moss where the little flower grew. But when he kissed her pretty face and whispered to her, she hung her head and said, "No, no; it cannot be."
"Nay, little violet, do not be so cruel," pleaded the south wind; "let me bear you as my bride away to my splendid home in the south, where all is warmth and sunshine always."
But the violet kept repeating, "No, it cannot be; no, it cannot be," till at last the south wind stole away with a very heavy heart.
And the rose exclaimed, in an outburst of disgustful indignation: "What a foolish violet! How silly of her to refuse such a wooer as the south wind, who has a beautiful home and a patrimony of eternal warmth and sunshine!"
But the violet, as soon as the south wind had gone, looked up at the robin perched in the linden-tree and singing his clear song; and it seemed as if she blushed and as if she were thrilled with a great emotion as she beheld him. But the robin did not see the violet. His eyes were turned the other way, and he sang to the clouds in the sky.
The brook o'erleaped its banks one day, and straying toward the linden-tree, it was amazed at the loveliness of the violet. Never had it seen any flower half so beautiful.
"Oh, come and be my bride," cried the brook. "I am young and small now, but presently you shall see me grow to a mighty river whose course no human power can direct, and whose force nothing can resist. Cast thyself upon my bosom, sweet violet, and let us float together to that great destiny which awaits me."
But the violet shuddered and recoiled and said: "Nay, nay, impetuous brook, I will not be your bride." So, with many murmurs and complaints, the brook crept back to its jealous banks and resumed its devious and prattling way to the sea.
"Bless me!" cried the daisy, "only to think of that silly violet's refusing the brook! Was there ever another such piece of folly! Where else is there a flower that would not have been glad to go upon such a wonderful career? Oh, how short-sighted some folks are!"
But the violet paid no heed to these words; she looked steadfastly up into the foliage of the linden-tree where the robin was carolling. The robin did not see the violet; he was singing to the tops of the fir-trees over yonder.
The days came and went. The robin sang and fluttered in the greenwood, and the violet bided among the mosses at the foot of the linden; and although the violet's face was turned always upward to where the robin perched and sang, the robin never saw the tender little flower.
One day a huntsman came through the greenwood, and an arrow from his cruel bow struck the robin and pierced his heart. The robin was carolling in the linden, but his song was ended suddenly, and the innocent bird fell dying from the tree. "Oh, it is only a robin," said the huntsman, and with a careless laugh he went on his way.
The robin lay upon the mosses at the foot of the linden, close beside the violet. But he neither saw nor heard anything, for his life was nearly gone. The violet tried to bind his wound and stay the flow of his heart's blood, but her tender services were vain. The robin died without having seen her sweet face or heard her gentle voice.
Then the other birds of the greenwood came to mourn over their dead friend. The moles and the mice dug a little grave and laid the robin in it, after which the birds brought lichens and leaves, and covered the dead body, and heaped earth over all, and made a great lamentation. But when they went away, the violet remained; and after the sun had set, and the greenwood all was dark, the violet bent over the robin's grave and kissed it, and sang to the dead robin. And the violet watched by the robin's grave for weeks and months, her face pressed forward toward that tiny mound, and her gentle voice always singing softly and sweetly about the love she never had dared to tell.
Often after that the south wind and the brook came wooing her, but she never heard them, or, if she heard them, she did not answer. The vine that lived near the chestnut yonder said the violet was greatly changed; that from being a merry, happy thing, she had grown sad and reticent; she used to hold up her head as proudly as the others, but now she seemed broken and weary. The shrubs and flowers talked it all over many and many a time, but none of them could explain the violet's strange conduct.
It was autumn now, and the greenwood was not what it had been. The birds had flown elsewhere to be the guests of the storks during the winter months, the rose had run away to be the bride of the south wind, and the daisy had wedded the brook and was taking a bridal tour to the seaside watering-places. But the violet still lingered in the greenwood, and kept her vigil at the grave of the robin. She was pale and drooping, but still she watched and sang over the spot where her love lay buried. Each day she grew weaker and paler. The oak begged her to come and live among the warm lichens that protected him from the icy breath of the storm-king, but the violet chose to watch and sing over the robin's grave.
One morning, after a night of exceeding darkness and frost, the boisterous north wind came trampling through the greenwood.
"I have come for the violet," he cried; "she would not have my fair brother, but she must go with me, whether it pleases her or not!"
But when he came to the foot of the linden-tree his anger was changed to compassion. The violet was dead, and she lay upon the robin's grave. Her gentle face rested close to the little mound, as if, in her last moment, the faithful flower had stretched forth her lips to kiss the dust that covered her beloved.
THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY
THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY
In the greenwood stood a mighty oak. So majestic was he that all who came that way paused to admire his strength and beauty, and all the other trees of the greenwood acknowledged him to be their monarch.
Now it came to pass that the ivy loved the oak-tree, and inclining her graceful tendrils where he stood, she crept about his feet and twined herself around his sturdy and knotted trunk. And the oak-tree pitied the ivy.
"Oho!" he cried, laughing boisterously, but good-naturedly,—"oho! so you love me, do you, little vine? Very well, then; play about my feet, and I will keep the storms from you and will tell you pretty stories about the clouds, the birds, and the stars."
The ivy marvelled greatly at the strange stories the oak-tree told; they were stories the oak-tree heard from the wind that loitered about his lofty head and whispered to the leaves of his topmost branches. Sometimes the story was about the great ocean in the East, sometimes of the broad prairies in the West, sometimes of the ice-king who lived in the North, and sometimes of the flower-queen who dwelt in the South. Then, too, the moon told a story to the oak-tree every night,—or at least every night that she came to the greenwood, which was very often, for the greenwood is a very charming spot, as we all know. And the oak-tree repeated to the ivy every story the moon told and every song the stars sang.
"Pray, what are the winds saying now?" or "What song is that I hear?" the ivy would ask; and then the oak-tree would repeat the story or the song, and the ivy would listen in great wonderment.
Whenever the storms came, the oak-tree cried to the little ivy: "Cling close to me, and no harm shall befall you! See how strong I am; the tempest does not so much as stir me—I mock its fury!"
Then, seeing how strong and brave he was, the ivy hugged him closely; his brown, rugged breast protected her from every harm, and she was secure.
The years went by; how quickly they flew,—spring, summer, winter, and then again spring, summer, winter,—ah, life is short in the greenwood as elsewhere! And now the ivy was no longer a weakly little vine to excite the pity of the passer-by. Her thousand beautiful arms had twined hither and thither about the oak-tree, covering his brown and knotted trunk, shooting forth a bright, delicious foliage and stretching far up among his lower branches. Then the oak-tree's pity grew into a love for the ivy, and the ivy was filled with a great joy. And the oak-tree and the ivy were wed one June night, and there was a wonderful celebration in the greenwood; and there was most beautiful music, in which the pine-trees, the crickets, the katydids, the frogs, and the nightingales joined with pleasing harmony.
The oak-tree was always good and gentle to the ivy. "There is a storm coming over the hills," he would say. "The east wind tells me so; the swallows fly low in the air, and the sky is dark. Cling close to me, my beloved, and no harm shall befall you."
Then, confidently and with an always-growing love, the ivy would cling more closely to the oak-tree, and no harm came to her.
"How good the oak-tree is to the ivy!" said the other trees of the greenwood. The ivy heard them, and she loved the oak-tree more and more. And, although the ivy was now the most umbrageous and luxuriant vine in all the greenwood, the oak-tree regarded her still as the tender little thing he had laughingly called to his feet that spring day, many years before,—the same little ivy he had told about the stars, the clouds, and the birds. And, just as patiently as in those days he had told her of these things, he now repeated other tales the winds whispered to his topmost boughs,—tales of the ocean in the East, the prairies in the West, the ice-king in the North, and the flower-queen in the South. Nestling upon his brave breast and in his stout arms, the ivy heard him tell these wondrous things, and she never wearied with the listening.
"How the oak-tree loves her!" said the ash. "The lazy vine has naught to do but to twine herself about the arrogant oak-tree and hear him tell his wondrous stories!"
The ivy heard these envious words, and they made her very sad; but she said nothing of them to the oak-tree, and that night the oak-tree rocked her to sleep as he repeated the lullaby a zephyr was singing to him.
"There is a storm coming over the hills," said the oak-tree one day. "The east wind tells me so; the swallows fly low in the air, and the sky is dark. Clasp me round about with thy dear arms, my beloved, and nestle close unto my bosom, and no harm shall befall thee."
"I have no fear," murmured the ivy; and she clasped her arms most closely about him and nestled unto his bosom.
The storm came over the hills and swept down upon the greenwood with deafening thunder and vivid lightning. The storm-king himself rode upon the blast; his horses breathed flames, and his chariot trailed through the air like a serpent of fire. The ash fell before the violence of the storm-king's fury, and the cedars groaning fell, and the hemlocks and the pines; but the oak-tree alone quailed not.
"Oho!" cried the storm-king, angrily, "the oak-tree does not bow to me, he does not tremble in my presence. Well, we shall see."
With that the storm-king hurled a mighty thunderbolt at the oak-tree, and the brave, strong monarch of the greenwood was riven. Then, with a shout of triumph, the storm-king rode away.