The Story of the Year
" said Winter.
"It will come when the stork returns!"
With white locks and snowy beard, cold, bent, and old, but still strong as the winter storm and firm as the glittering ice, old Winter sat high up on the snowdrift on the hill, his gaze fixed toward the south, just as the Winter before him had. The ice and snow creaked with the cold; the skaters skimmed over the smooth lakes; the black ravens and crows looked fine against the white ground; no breath of wind stirred. In that quiet air old Winter clenched his fists, and the ice was fathoms thick between land and land. Then the sparrows flew out again from town, and demanded, "Who is that old man over there?"
And the raven sat on the fence rail again - perhaps a son of the other one, which amounts to the same thing - and answered them. "It is Winter, the old Ruler of last year. He isn't dead as the calendar says, but he's the guardian of spring, which is coming."
"When will spring come?" asked the sparrows. "Then we'll have good times and a better year. The old one was no good at all!"
Winter nodded in silent thought at the leafless black forest, where every tree showed the graceful form and bend of its branches; and during the winter night icy mists came down from the clouds, and the Ruler dreamed of his childhood and young manhood; and toward the morning dawn the whole wood was clothed in glittering hoarfrost. That was the summer dream of winter, and soon the sun scattered the frost from the branches.
"When will spring come?" asked the sparrows again.
"Spring!" Again that word echoed back from the snow-covered hills. Now the sun shone more warmly, and the snow melted, and the birds sang, "Spring is coming!"
And high through the air came the first stork, with the second close behind him. A lovely child rode on the back of each, and they alighted in an open field and kissed the earth. Then they embraced the silent old man, and, like Moses on the mount, he disappeared, wrapped in cloudy mists. And so the story of the year was ended.