Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Coming of The Prince, Part II

 Part I is here.

      "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 wearied with his refrain."

      "Oh, yes, said the vine. "I heard the country folks talking about it as they went through the forest today, 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 quarreling, 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 braver. "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 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 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 marvelous 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 caroled 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 prescious 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! by Eugene Fields.

The first half of our story.

No comments:

Post a Comment