398 THE STORY OF A MOTHER
close, that it might be well warmed. And the thorns pierced into her flesh, and her blood oozed out in great drops. But the thorn shot out fresh green leaves, and blossomed in the dark winter night : so warm is the heart of a sorrowing mother ! And the thorn bush told her the way that she should go.
Then she came to a great lake, on which there were neither ships nor boat. The lake was not frozen enough to carry her, nor sufficiently open to allow her to wade through, and yet she must cross it if she was to find her child. Then she laid herself down to drink the lake ; and that was impossible for any one to do. But the sorrowing mother thought that perhaps a miracle might be wrought.
1 No, that can never succeed,' said the lake. * Let us rather see how we can agree. I'm fond of collecting pearls, and your eyes are the two clearest I have ever seen : if you will weep them out into me I will carry you over into the great greenhouse, where Death lives and cultivates flowers and trees ; each of these is a human life.'
* Oh, what would I not give to get to my child !' said the afflicted mother; and she wept yet more, and her eyes fell into the depths of the lake, and became two costly pearls. But the lake lifted her up, as if she sat in a swing, and she was wafted to the opposite shore, where stood a wonderful house, miles in length. One could not tell if it was a mountain containing forests and caves, or a place that had been built. But the poor mother could not see it, for she had wept her eyes out.
' Where shall I find Death, who went away with my little child ? ' she asked.
1 He has not arrived here yet,' said the old grave-woman, who was going about and watching the hothouse of Death. ' How have you found your way here, and who helped you ?'
I The good God has helped me,' she replied. ' He is merciful, and you will be merciful too. Where shall I find my little child ? '
II do not know it/ said the old woman, ' and you cannot see. Many flowers and trees have faded this night, and death will soon come and transplant them. You know very well that every human being has his tree of life, or his flower of life, just as each is arranged. They look