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Then to the eldest he gave it,
And, opening his wallet wide, A vase just as perfect and lovely
He gave to each one beside.
Then, as rejoicing they took them,
To the eyes of their stranger friend There came a look of strange sadness
As he thought of their journey's end; And he said, “Oh, children, remember
That the way is long and steep, And not all who begin the journey,
To the end their prize can keep !”
But little the children heeded
His words in their noisy glee ;
The rarest that could be !
On the road and by paths they knew,
To the beautiful hills in view.
But some as they ran, forgetting
The sharp stones that were in their way,
In an instant shivered lay!
But the bitter tears were soon shed,
“Play is better by far !" they said.
But the rest, with still eager footsteps,
Followed the long, long road,
Broad and beautiful, that flowed
’Neath a bridge, and there they stayed, On the parapet leaning and resting
Their vases beside them laid.
Oh, the fun of watching the minnows
Darting hither and thither, Scurrying off through the shallows
When a stone splashed in the river ;
Or the trout, that beneath the shadow
Of the weeds so lazily lay, Till, disturbed by the stone's rude splashing,
They solemnly glided away!
But, alas ! in the fun and scramble,
Many a vase was upset,
Down, down, from the parapet.
“ We've come far enough to-day ; No more of that tiresome climbing,
It's pleasanter far to play!”
Very few were left for the journey,
And as wearily, carelessly,
In their peevish jealousy ;
Alas! for their vases bright, Dropped in the dust and trampled
By their feet in the angry fight.
And of all who at first had started
Only two still persevered,
Scanning their vases smeared
Crack in each one was plain,
The edges to join again.
“It's so little! And no one will notice
When we get there !”- the two are fain To believe, and so carefully holding
Their vases, set forth again. And now, far above the valley,
They have climbed the steep hillside 'Mong the trees, and about them are floating
The last rays of the sunset tide.
And why do they look so frightened,
Turning as if to run ?
First met 'neath the morning sun !
Then he lifted his eyes upon them,
“Ah, little ones, how do you fare ?" One answered, “Bravely, O Master ;
See how safely your gifts we bear !" But the other, with eyes bent low,
And sorrowful heart, was still, Daring not look on the gentle,
Kind friend he had served so ill.
For a while the stranger waited,
Silent, and then they heard
To trust your friend with a word ?
Ah, I know it-see what I have brought !" Then he drew from his wallet two vases
More lovely, more perfectly wrought E'en than the last. “Will you take them ?".
He held them up in the light
Dazzlingly pure and bright.
The first, Very pretty and fine,
So long I'll not change for thine !"
He went on his way. But the other
Burst into tears and said, “Oh, sir, mine is broken-is worthless
See ! if only I might instead Have the beautiful new one !” The stranger
Smiled at sight of the old one thrown Aside, as the boy with glad fingers
Clasped the new vase for his own.
“ Be faithful and true-remember !"
Said the stranger, then left the boy, Who, facing the hill, went upwards,
With fresh courage and heart of joy.
At last they have reached the hill-top,
Where the palace towers are seen,
Glory of outspread sheen.
Climb to the palace gate,
Softly, timidly wait.
And of gates unbarred they hear;
With wonder and hope and fear.
A wonderful glimpse they gain
To music of sweetest strain.