Gateway to the Classics: Five Minute Stories by Laura Richards
 
Five Minute Stories by  Laura Richards

What Was Her Name?

"W AKE up!" said an old gentleman, dressed in brown and white, as he gently shook the shoulder of a young lady in green, who was lying sound asleep under the trees. "Wake up, ma'am! it is your watch now, and time for me to take myself off."

The young lady stirred a very little, and opened one of her eyes the least little bit. Who are you?" she said, drowsily. What is your name?"

"My name is Winter," replied the old man. What is yours?"

"I have not the faintest idea," said the lady, closing her eyes again.

"Humph!" growled the old man, "a pretty person you are to take my place! Well, good-day, Madam Sleepyhead, and good luck to you!"

And off he stumped over the dead leaves, which crackled and rustled beneath his feet.

As soon as he was gone, the young lady in green opened her eyes in good earnest and looked about her.

Madam Sleepyhead, indeed!" she re-echoed, indignantly. "I am sure that  is not my name, anyhow. The question is, What is  it?"

She looked about her again, but nothing was to be seen save the bare branches of the trees, and the dead, brown leaves and dry moss underfoot.

"Trees, do you happen to know what my name is?" she asked.

The trees shook their heads. "No, ma'am," they said, "we do not know: but perhaps when the Wind comes, he will be able to give you some information."

The girl shivered a little, and drew her green mantle about her and waited.

By and by the Wind came blustering along. He caught the trees by their branches, and shook them in rough, though friendly greeting.

"Well, boys!" he shouted, "Old Winter is gone, is he? I wish you joy of his departure! But where is the lady who was coming to take his place?"

"She is here," answered the trees, "sitting on the ground; but she does not know her own name, which seems to trouble her."

"Ho! ho!" roared the Wind. "Not know her own name? That is news, indeed! And here she has been sleeping, while all the world has been looking for her, and calling her, and wondering where upon earth she was. Come, young lady," he added, addressing the girl with rough courtesy, "I will show you the way to your dressing-room, which has been ready and waiting for you for a fortnight and more."

So he led the way through the forest, and the girl followed, rubbing her pretty, sleepy eyes, and dragging her mantle behind her.

Now it was a very singular thing that whatever the green mantle touched, instantly turned green itself. The brown moss put out little tufts of emerald velvet, fresh shoots came pushing up from the dead, dry glass, and even the shrubs and twigs against which the edges of the garment brushed broke out with tiny swelling buds, all ready to open into leaves.

By and by the Wind paused and pushed aside the branches, which made a close screen before him.

"Here is your dressing-room, young madam," he said. with a low bow; "be pleased to enter it, and you will find all things in readiness. But let me entreat you to make your toilet speedily, for all the world is waiting for you."

Greatly wondering, the young girl passed through the screen of branches, and found herself in a most marvellous place.

The ground was carpeted with pine-needles, soft and thick and brown. The pine-trees made a dense green wall around, and as the wind passed softly through the boughs, the air was sweet with their spicy fragrance. On the ground were piled great heaps of buds, all ready to blossom: violets, anemones, hepaticas, blood-root, while from under a huge pile of brown leaves peeped the pale pink buds of the Mayflower.

The young girl in the green mantle looked wonderingly at all these things. "How strange!" she said. They are all asleep, and waiting for some one to waken them. Perhaps if I do it, they will tell me in return what my name is."

She shook the buds lightly, and lo! every blossom opened its eyes and raised its head, and said, "Welcome, gracious lady! welcome! We have looked for you long, long!"

The young girl, in delight, took the lovely blossoms, rosy and purple, golden and white, and twined them in her fair locks, and hung them in garlands round her white neck; and still they were opening by thousands, till the pine-tree hollow was filled with them.

Presently the girl spied a beautiful carved casket, which had been hidden under a pile of spicy leaves, and from inside of it came a rustling sound, the softest sound that was ever heard.

She lifted the lid, and out flew a cloud of butterflies.

Rainbow-tinted, softly, glitteringly, gayly fluttering, out they flew by thousands and thousands, and hovered about the maiden's head; and the soft sound of their wings, which mortal ears are too dull to hear, seemed to say, "Welcome! welcome!"

At the same moment a great flock of beautiful birds came, flying, and lighted on the branches all around, and they, too, sang, "Welcome! welcome!"

The maiden clasped her hands and cried, "Why are you all so glad to see me? I feel—I know that you are all mine, and I am yours; but how is it? Who am I? What is my name?"

And birds and flowers and rainbow-hued butterflies and sombre pine-trees all answered in joyous chorus, "Spring! the beautiful, the long-expected! Hail to the maiden Spring!"


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