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The Story of the Year

Her gaze was fixed on the rising blue-black, heavy clouds which, in wavy outlines, were piling themselves up like mountains, higher and higher. Growing like a petrified, reversed ocean, they came from three sides, swooping toward the forest, where all sounds had been silenced as if by magic. Every breath of air was stilled; every bird was mute. A grave suspense hung over all nature; and in the highways and lanes people, on foot or horseback or in carriages, hurried toward shelter.

Suddenly there was a flash of light, as if the sun itself had burst forth in a blinding, burning, all-devouring flame! Then darkness again, and a rolling crash of thunder! The rain poured down in sheets. Darkness and flaming light alternated; silence and deafening thunder followed one another. The young, feathery reeds on the moor whipped to and fro in long waves; the branches of the trees were hidden behind a wall of water; and still darkness and light, silence and thunder, alternated. The grass and corn were beaten down by the rain and lay as if they could never rise again.

And just as suddenly the rain died away to a few gentle drops, and the sun shone again. The droplets hung from the leaves like glittering pearls, and the birds sang; the fishes leaped from the surface of the lakes, and the gnats danced. And there on the rock in the warm sunshine, strengthened by the refreshing rain, sat Summer himself - a strong man with sturdy limbs and long, dripping hair. All nature seemed renewed; everything was luxuriant and beautiful. It was summer, warm, lovely summer.

A pleasant and sweet fragrance streamed up from the rich clover field, where the bees buzzed around the old ruined meeting place. The altar stone, newly washed by the rain, glittered in the sunshine, and the bramble wound its tendrils around it. Thither the queen bee led her swarm, and they busily made their wax and honey. Only Summer saw them; Summer and his lovely wife. For them the altar table was covered with the gifts of nature.

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