NCE upon a time a boy played about the house, running by his mother's side; and as he was very little, his mother tied him to the string of her apron.
"Now," she said, "when you stumble, you can pull yourself up by the apron-string, and so you will not fall."
The boy did that, and all went well, and the mother sang at her work.
By and by the boy grew so tall that his head came above the window-sill; and looking through the window, he saw far away green trees waving, and a flowing river that flashed in the sun, and rising above all, blue peaks of mountains.
"Oh, mother," he said; "untie the apron-string and let me go!"
But the mother said, "Not yet, my child! only yesterday you stumbled, and would have fallen but for the apron-string. Wait yet a little, till you are stronger."
So the boy waited, and all went as before; and the mother sang at her work.
But one day the boy found the door of the house standing open, for it was spring weather; and he stood on the threshold and looked across the valley, and saw the green trees waving, and the swift-flowing river with the sun flashing on it, and the blue mountains rising beyond; and this time he heard the voice of the river calling, and it said "Come!"
Then the boy started forward, and as he started, the string of the apron broke.
"Oh! how weak my mother's apron-string is!" cried the boy; and he ran out into the world, with the broken string hanging beside him.
The mother gathered up the other end of the string and put it in her bosom, and went about her work again; but she sang no more.
The boy ran on and on, rejoicing in his freedom, and in the fresh air and the morning sun. He crossed the valley, and began to climb the foothills among which the river flowed swiftly, among rocks and cliffs. Now it was easy climbing, and again it was steep and craggy, but always he looked upward at the blue peaks beyond, and always the voice of the river was in his ear, saying "Come!"
By and by he came to the brink of a precipice, over which the river dashed in a cataract, foaming and flashing, and sending up clouds of silver spray. The spray filled his eyes, so that he did not see his footing clearly; he grew dizzy, stumbled, and fell. But as he fell, something about him caught on a point of rock at the precipice-edge, and held him, so that he hung dangling over the abyss; and when he put up his hand to see what held him, he found that it was the broken string of the apron, which still hung by his side.
"Oh! how strong my mother's apron-string is!" said the boy: and he drew himself up by it, and stood firm on his feet, and went on climbing toward the blue peaks of the mountains.