The Children and the Garland

“TOMORROW is May-day,” the children said; “the birds must call us very early, and we will go to the woods and make a garland.” And in the morning, long before the sun had looked over the tops of the houses into the village street, they were far away in the woods.

“I will give them some roses as they come back,” the gardener said. “They shall put them among the spring flowers, as a swallow among the thrushes, to show that summer is on its way.”

When the children had made their garland and a posy for each one of them, they went singing all down the village street, over the grey stone bridge, beyond the hayricks, and past the houses on the hill-side.

In one of the houses there was a pale little child with a sad, thin face. “Mother,” he said, “here are some children with a garland. Will it be summer when they have gone by?” He called after them as they went on, ” Come back, oh, come back again!”

“Yes, we will come back,” they answered, but they went on their way singing. All through the day he waited for them, but they did not come; and at last, when it was evening, the mother took him up into her arms to carry him to his bed. Suddenly he heard the children singing in the distance. “Oh, mother,” he exclaimed, “they are coming;” and he watched till they came up the hill again and stood before him. ” But where is your garland? “he asked.

” We gave it to lame Mary, the postman’s wife, for she is always longing to see the fields,” they answered ; ” but these roses are for you, dear little boy; they are all for you,” and putting them into his hands they went back to the village.

“You are very tired,” the child said to the roses; “all your leaves are drooping. Poor roses, perhaps you are lonely away from the garden; but you shall sleep near me, and there is a star rising up in the sky; it will watch us all through the night.” Then the child nestled down in his white bed he and his little warm heart, in which there was love for all things. While he slept the roses looked at his pale little face and sighed, and presently they stole softly on to his cheeks and rested there. The children saw them still there when the summer was over; when the garland was quite dead, and lame Mary longed for the fields no more.