The Story of the Year
The evening sky shone with more brilliant gold than any church dome can boast; and between the evening and the morning there was moonlight. It was summer.
So the days and weeks went by. The flashing scythes of the reapers glittered in the cornfields, and the branches of the apple trees bent down, heavy with red and yellow fruit. The sweet-smelling hops hung in large clusters, and under the hazel bushes with their great bunches of nuts there rested a man and a woman - Summer and his quiet wife.
"What wealth!" she cried. "There is a blessing all around us; everything looks homelike and good. And yet - I don't know why - I find I am longing for peace and rest - I scarcely know how to express it. Already the people are plowing the fields again, always trying to gain more and more. Look there, the storks are flocking together and following a little behind the plow. They are the birds of Egypt that brought us through the air. Do you remember how we both came as children to this land of the North? We brought flowers with us, and pleasant sunshine, and new green to the woods. The wind has been rough with those trees; they're dark and brown now like the trees of the South, but they do not bear golden fruit like them."
"Do you wish to see the golden fruit?" said Summer. "Then look and rejoice!"
He stretched out his arms, and the leaves of the forest were splendid in red and gold, while beautiful tints spread over the woodland. The rosebush glowed scarlet; the elder branches hung down with great heavy bunches of black-brown berries; the wild chestnuts were ripe in their dark-green husks; and deep in the forest the violets bloomed again.
But the Queen was becoming more and more silent and pale.
"It is growing cold," she said, "and the nights bring damp mists. I am longing for the land of my childhood."
Then she watched the storks fly away, one after the other; and in longing she stretched forth her arms toward them. She looked up at the nests. They were empty. The long-stalked cornflower was growing in one of them; in another was a yellow mustard seed, looking as if the whole nest were there solely for its protection.