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The Golden Windows by  Laura E. Richards

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THE DESERT

[30]

O NCE a child was sent on a long journey, and midway in the journey he came to a desert. It was a dreadful place. The sand was like grains of fire about his feet; there was no shade, and the sun beat down upon his head; but the worst of all was that there was no water.

"There must be water," said the child, "or I and all that come after me must perish."

So he dug in the burning sand, down and down, with hands that bled and smarted, for he had no tools; and at length he found water. Bubbling up through the sand it came, and the child's heart rejoiced; but when he tasted the water, it was bitter as gall.

[31] "Bitter or sweet, it still is water!" said the child; and he drank, and went on his way.

Again and again, as he toiled across the desert, he was overcome by thirst, and stopped and dug in the sand with his bare hands, and found water, but every time it was bitter.

At last he came to the end of the desert, and lay down to rest, stretching himself at length in the cool grass, and looking back along the way he had come. And as he looked, he saw another child coming across the desert, not slowly and painfully, as he had come, but tripping joyously along, and singing as he came. The first child wondered much at this, and when the other was near enough he called to him, and said, "Have you too come across the desert?"

"Yes!" said the other.

"But how is it that you came so quickly?" asked the first.

"Oh," said the other, "it was not nearly so bad as people would make it out. Every little way there were springs of water bubbling up; moreover, between [32] the springs ran a narrow path of green grass, new-sprung, and soft and cool under the feet."

"But was not the water bitter?" asked the first child.

"Never in my life," answered the other, "have I tasted sweeter water."


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