The Boy Who Discovered the Spring
HERE came once a
little Elf Boy to live on this earth, and he was so much
pleased with it that he stayed, never caring to go back to
his own world. I do not know where his own world was, or
just how he came to leave it. Some thought that he was
dropped by accident from some falling star, and some that he
had flown away, thinking that he could fly
 back again whenever he chose, because he did not know that
children always lose their wings when they come into this
world. But no one knew certainly, as he never told any one;
and, after all, it did not matter, since, as I have already
said, he liked the earth so much that he did not care to
There was a Hermit who lived in the valley where the
little Boy had first come, and, as he had a room in his
house for a visitor, he took him in, and they grew to like
each other so well that again the little Boy did not care to
go away, nor did the Hermit care to have him. The Hermit
had not always been a Hermit, but he had become a sorrowful
man, and did not care to live where other people lived, or
to share any of their pleasures. The reason he had become a
sorrowful man was that his only child had died, and it
seemed to him that there was nothing worth living for after
that. So he moved to the lonely valley, and I suppose
would have spent the rest of his life by himself, if it had
not been for the little Elf Boy.
It was a very lovely valley, with great, green meadows that
sloped down to a rippling brook, and in summer-time were
full of red and white and yellow blossoms. Over the brook
there hung green trees, whose roots made pleasant places to
rest when one
 was tired; and along the water's edge there grew blue
flowers, while many little frogs and other live creatures
played there. It was summer-time when the little Elf Boy
came, and the flowers and the trees and the brook and the
frogs made him very happy. I think that in the world from
which he came they did not have such things: it was made
chiefly of gold and silver and precious stones, instead of
things that grow and blossom and keep one company. So
the Elf Boy was very happy. He did not ask to go to play in
the village over the hill, but was quite content with the
meadows and the brook-side. The only thing that did not
please him was that the old Hermit still remained sorrowful,
thinking always of his child who had died; and this the Elf
Boy did not understand, for in the world from which he came
nothing ever died, and he thought it strange that if the
Hermit's child had died he did not patiently wait for him
to come back again.
So the summer went merrily on, and the Elf Boy learned to
know the names of all the flowers in the meadow, and to love
them dearly. He also became so well acquainted with the
birds that they would come to him for crumbs, and sit on the
branches close by to sing to him; the frogs would do the
 and although the Elf Boy did not think their voices as
sweet as those of the birds, he was too polite to let them
But when September came, there began to be a sad change. The
first thing the Elf Boy noticed was that the birds began to
disappear from the meadows. When he complained of this, the
Hermit told him they had gone to make their visit to the
Southland, and would come back again; and this he easily
believed. But as time went on, and the air became more and
more still as the last of them took their flight, he began
to lose heart.
What was worse, at the same time the flowers began to
disappear from the meadows. They were dead, the Hermit said,
and in this way the Elf Boy learned what that meant. At
first others came to take their places, and he tried to
learn to like the flowers of autumn as well as those which
he had known first. But as these faded and dropped off, none
came after them. The mornings grew colder, and the leaves on
the trees were changing in a strange way. When they grew
red and yellow, instead of green, the Elf Boy thought it
was a queer thing for them to put on different colors, and
wondered how long it would last. But when they began to
 was very sad indeed. At last there came a day when every
limb was bare, except for a few dried leaves at the top of
one of the tallest trees. The Elf Boy was almost
One morning he went out early, to see what new and dreadful
thing had happened in the night, for it seemed now that
every night took something beautiful out of the world. He
made his way toward the brook, but when he reached the place
where he usually heard it calling to him as it ran merrily
over the stones, he could not hear a sound. He stopped and
listened, but everything was wonderfully still. Then he ran
as fast as his feet would carry him to the border of the
brook. Sure enough, it had stopped running. It was
covered with a hard sheet of ice.
The Elf Boy turned and went to the Hermit's house. By the
time he had reached it, the tears were running down his
"Why, what is the matter?" asked the Hermit. "The brook is
dead," said the Elf Boy.
"I think not," said the Hermit. "It is frozen over, but
that will not hurt it. Be patient, and it will sing to you
"No," said the Elf Boy. "You told me that the birds would
come back, and they have not come.
 You told me that the trees were not dead, but their leaves
have every one gone, and I am sure they are. You told me
that the flowers had seeds that did not die, but would make
other flowers; but I can not find them, and the meadow is
bare and dark. Even the grass is not green any more. It is a
dead world. In the summer-time I did not see how you could
be sorrowful; but now I do not see how any one can be
The Hermit thought it would be of no use to try to explain
anything more to the Elf Boy; so he said again, "Be
patient," and tried to find some books in which he could
teach the Boy to read, and make him forget the outside
The next time they went for a walk to the village over the
hill, the Elf Boy was very curious to see whether the same
thing had happened there that had happened in their valley.
Of course it had: the trees there seemed dead, too, and the
flowers were all gone from the door-yards. The Boy expected
that every one in the village would now be as sorrowful as
the Hermit, and he was very much surprised when he saw them
looking as cheerful as ever. There were some boys playing on
the street-corner, who seemed to be as happy as boys could
be. One of them spoke to the Elf Boy, and he answered:
 "How can you play so happily, when such a dreadful thing has
happened to the world?"
"Why, what has happened?"
"The flowers and trees are dead," said the Elf Boy, "and
the birds are gone, and the brook is frozen, and the meadow
is bare and gray. And it is so on this side of the hill
Then the boys in the street laughed merrily, and did not
answer the Elf Boy, for they remembered that he was a
stranger in the world, and supposed he would not understand
if they should try to talk to him. And he went on through
the village, not daring to speak to any others, but all the
time wondering that the people could still be so happy.
As the winter came on, the Hermit taught him many things
from the books in his house, and the Elf Boy grew interested
in them and was not always sad. When the snow came he found
ways to play in it, and even saw that the meadow was
beautiful again, though in a different way from what it had
been in summer. Yet still he could not think the world by
any means so pleasant a place as it had been in the time of
flowers and birds; and if it were not that he had become
very fond of the Hermit, who was now the only friend he
could remember, he would have wished
 to go back to the world from which he had come. It seemed to
him now that the Hermit must miss him very much if he should
go away, since they two were the only people who seemed
really to understand how sorrowful a place the earth is.
The hermit taught him many things
So the weeks went by. One day in March, as he and the
Hermit sat at their books, drops of water began to fall
from the eaves of the roof, and they saw that the snow was
melting in the sunshine.
"Do you want to take a little walk down toward the brook?"
asked the Hermit. "I should not wonder if I could prove to
you to-day that it has not forgotten how to talk to you."
"Yes," said the Elf Boy, though he did not think the Hermit
could be right. It was months since he had cared to visit
the brook, it made him so sad to find it still and cold.
When they reached the foot of the hillside the sheet of ice
was still there, as he had expected.
"Never mind," said the Hermit. "Come out on the ice with
me, and put down your ear and listen."
So the Elf Boy put
down his ear and listened; and he heard, as plainly as
though there were no ice between, the voice of the brook
gurgling in the bottom of its bed. He clapped his hands
 "It is waking up, you see," said the Hermit. "Other things
will waken too, if you will be patient."
The Elf Boy did not
know quite what to think, but he waited day after day with
his eyes and ears wide open to see if anything else might
happen; and wonderful things did happen all the time. The
brook sang more and more distinctly, and at last broke
through its cold coverlet and went dancing along in full
sight. One morning, while the snow was still around the
house, the Elf Boy heard a chirping sound, and, looking
from his window, saw a red robin outside asking for his
"Why," cried the Boy, "have you really come back again?"
"Certainly," said the robin, "don't you know it is almost
But the Elf Boy did not understand what he said.
There was a
pussy-willow growing by the brook, and the Boy's next
discovery was that hundreds of little gray buds were coming
out. He watched them grow bigger from day to day, and
while he was doing this the snow was melting away in great
patches where the sun shone warmest on the meadow, and the
blades of grass that came up into the daylight were greener
than anything the Elf Boy had ever seen.
 Then the pink buds came on the maple trees, and unfolded day
by day. And the fruit trees in the Hermit's orchard were as
white with blossoms as they had lately been with snow.
"Not a single tree is dead," said the Elf Boy.
Last of all
came the wild flowers—blue and white violets
near the brook,
dandelions around the house, and, a little later, yellow
buttercups all over the meadow. Slowly but steadily the
world was made over, until it glowed with white and green
The Elf Boy was wild with joy. One by one
his old friends came back, and he could not bear to stay in
the house for many minutes from morning to night. Now
he knew what the wise Hermit had meant by saying, "Be
patient;" and he began to wonder again that the Hermit
could be sorrowful in so beautiful a world.
One morning the church bells in the village—whose ringing
was the only sound that ever came from the village over the
hill—rang so much longer and more joyfully than usual, that
the Elf Boy asked the Hermit why they did so. The Hermit
looked in one of his books, and answered:
"It is Easter Day. The village people celebrate it on
one Sunday every spring."
"May we not go also?" asked the Elf Boy, and
 as it was the first time he had ever asked to go to the
village, the Hermit could not refuse to take him.
The village was glowing with flowers. There were many
fruit trees, and they, too, were in blossom. Every one who
passed along the street seemed either to wear flowers or to
carry them in his hand. The people were all entering the
churchyard; and here the graves, which had looked so gray
and cold when the Hermit and the Boy had last seen them,
were beautiful with flowers that the village people had
planted or had strewn over them for Easter.
The people all passed into the church. But the Hermit and
the Elf Boy, who never went where there was a crowd, stayed
outside where the humming-birds and bees were flying happily
among the flowers. Suddenly there came from the church a
burst of music. To the Elf Boy it seemed the most beautiful
sound he had ever heard. He put his finger on his lip to
show the Hermit that he wanted to listen. These were the
words they sang:
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
The Boy took hold of the Hermit's hand and led him to the
church door, that they might hear still better. He was very
 "Oh," he cried, "I do not believe that anything ever really
The Hermit looked down at him and smiled. "Perhaps not," he
When the music began again, a strange thing happened. The
Hermit sang the Easter song with the others. It was the
first time he had sung for many years.