Page images

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 ;
To them 'twas a holiday pastime,

The rarest that could be !
They ran and they raced together

On the road and by paths they knew,
Through the meadows, across the valley,

To the beautiful hills in view.

But some as they ran, forgetting

The sharp stones that were in their way,
Fell, and the delicate vases

In an instant shivered lay!
And they sat by the wayside crying,

But the bitter tears were soon shed,
Then they laughed and mocked at the others :

“Play is better by far !" they said.

But the rest, with still eager footsteps,

Followed the long, long road,
Through the valley, and came to a river,

Broad and beautiful, that flowed
With waters so clear and sparkling

’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,
And tumbled with crash and shiver

Down, down, from the parapet.
“ Never mind !” cried the foolish children,

“ 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,
These walked, they began to wrangle

In their peevish jealousy ;
They clamoured and pushed and struggled-

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,
And they by the roadside are sitting

Scanning their vases smeared
With dirt-are they broken ?–a tiny

Crack in each one was plain,
And their hot little fingers are pressing

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.

[blocks in formation]

And why do they look so frightened,

Turning as if to run ?
Why surely it is—'tis the stranger

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
His voice again, “Is it not easy

To trust your friend with a word ?
To tell me your trouble, children ?

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
That gleamed through their flawless beauty,

Dazzlingly pure and bright.
The children looked ; and then answered

The first, Very pretty and fine,
But still the one I have carried

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.

[blocks in formation]

At last they have reached the hill-top,

Where the palace towers are seen,
A-nd beneath them stretches the ocean's

Glory of outspread sheen.
And now the two weary children

Climb to the palace gate,
Up the long Aight of steps, and knocking

Softly, timidly wait.
The sound of footsteps approaching,

And of gates unbarred they hear;
Fast are their hearts now beating

With wonder and hope and fear.
And now through the gate half opened

A wonderful glimpse they gain
Of the stately palace, and listen

To music of sweetest strain.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

But the gates are closed. Only silence
And darkness now reign without.


« PreviousContinue »