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From The Book of Nature Myths by Florence Holbrook.
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Start of Story
An old man sat alone in his house. It Was full of shadows; it was dark
and gloomy. The old man cared nothing for the shadows or the darkness,
for he was thinking of all the mighty deeds that he had done. "There is
no one else in the world," he muttered, "who has done such deeds as I,"
and he counted them over aloud. A sound outside of the house interrupted
him. "What can it be?" he said to himself. "How dares anything interrupt
me? I have told all things to be still. It sounds like the rippling of
waters, and I have told the waters to be quiet in their beds. There it
is again. It is like the singing of birds, and I have sent the birds far
away to the south."
Some one opened the door and came in. It was a youth with sunny curls
and rosy face.
"Who said you might come in?" muttered the old man.
"Did not you?" asked the youth, with a merry little laugh. "I am really
afraid that I came without asking. You see, every one is glad to see me
"I am not," interrupted the old man.
"I have heard rumors of your great deeds," said the youth, "and I came
to see whether the tales are true."
"The deeds are more true than the tales," muttered the old man, "for the
tales are never great enough. No one can count the wonderful things I
"And what are they?" asked the young man gravely, but with a merry
little twinkle in his eyes that would have made one think of the waves
sparkling in the sunlight. "Let us see whether you or I can tell the
"I can breathe upon a river and turn it to ice," said the old man.
"I can breathe upon the ice and turn it to a river," said the youth.
"I can say to water, 'Stand still,' and it will not dare to stir."
"I can say, 'Stand no longer,' and it will go running and chattering
down the mountain side."
"I shake my white head," said the old man, "and snow covers the earth."
"I shake my curls," said the young man, "and the air sparkles with
sunshine. In a moment the snow is gone."
"I say to the birds, 'Sing no more. Leave me,' and they spread their
wings and fly far away."
"I say, 'Little birds, come back,' and in a moment they are back again
and singing their sweetest songs to me."
"No one can count the leaves," said the old man, "but whether I shake
the trees with my icy touch, or whether I turn my cold breath upon them,
they fall to the ground with fear and trembling. Are there any rumors of
my deeds as great as that?"
The young man answered gravely, but with a laugh in his voice, "I never
saw any leaves falling to the ground, for when I appear, they are all
fair and green and trembling with the gladness of my coming."
So the two talked all night long. As morning came near, the old man
appeared weary, but the youth grew merrier. The sunlight brightened, and
the youth turned to the open door. The trees were full of birds, and
when they saw him, they sang, "O beautiful spring! glad are we to look
again upon your face."
"My own dear birds!" cried spring. He turned to say good-by, but the old
man was gone, and where he had stood were only snowflakes. But were they
snowflakes? He looked again. They were little white snowdrops, the first
flowers of spring, the only flowers that can remember the winter.