434 THE STORY OF THE YEAR
1 May there be joy in the room and under the green boughs/ said the Ruler of the Year. In a few weeks he had become a very old man, white as snow. ' My time for rest draws near, and the young pair of the year shall now receive my crown and sceptre.'
* But the might is still thine,' said the Angel of Christmas ; ' the might and not the rest. Let the snow lie warmly upon the young seed. Learn to bear it, that another receives homage while thou yet reignest. Learn to bear being forgotten while thou art yet alive. The hour of thy release will come when spring appears.'
c And when will spring come ? ' asked Winter.
' It will come when the stork returns.'
And with white locks and snowy beard, cold, bent, and hoary, but strong as the wintry storm and firm as ice, old Winter sat on the snowy drift on the hill, looking towards the south, as the Winter before had sat and gazed. The - ice cracked, the snow creaked, the skaters skimmed to and fro on the smooth lakes, ravens and crows stood out well against the white ground, and not a breath of wind stirred. And in the quiet air old Winter clenched his fists, and the ice was fathoms thick between land and land.
Then the Sparrows came again out of the town, and asked, * Who is that old man yonder ? '
And the Raven sat there again, or a son of his, which comes to quite the same thing, and answered them and said, ' It is Winter, the old man of last year. He is not dead, as the almanac says, but he is the guardian of Spring, who is coming/
1 When will spring come ? ' asked the Sparrows. ' Then we shall have good times and a better rule. The old one was worth nothing/
And Winter nodded in quiet thought at the leafless forest, where every tree showed the graceful form and bend of its twigs ; and during the winter sleep the icy mists of the clouds came down, and the ruler dreamed of his youthful days, and of the time of his manhood ; and towards the morning dawn the whole wood was clothed in glittering hoar frost. That was the summer dream of Winter, and the sun scattered the hoar frost from the boughs.
1 When will spring come ?' asked the Sparrows.