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The Golden Windows by  Laura E. Richards

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THE ROAD

[69]

O NCE upon a time a boy was going on a journey to the Great City; and his family gathered at the door to bid him good-bye.

"Be sure you take the right road," said his mother.

"No fear," said his sister. "He is sure to do that."

"There is but one good road," said the old grandfather, who sat in the corner; "that is the straight road that runs up the hill."

The boy laughed, and kissed the grandfather on the forehead.

"You are a dear old grandfather," he said, "but you forget more than you remember. The road that I shall take is the one that goes through the flowering fields and beside the cool river."

[70] He bade them all farewell, and went forth with a light heart, for it was morning, and the sun was shining clear. He took his way through the flowering fields, and it was beautiful there; the air was full of bird-songs, and the grass glittered with blossoms like a king's treasure-chamber; red and blue and purple they were, and the boy gathered one, and threw it away to gather another, and sang as he went.

After a while he felt the ground wet beneath him, and soft; the grass grew long, climbing about his knees and tangling his feet. At every step he sank deeper in mud and clinic, and black bog-water bubbled up around him. He perceived that he was in a morass, bottomless and treacherous; moreover, when he looked about him, the morass stretched far ahead and on every side, and there was no path through it.

"It is strange," said the boy, "that I did not see this morass before. I must go back, or I shall lose my way, and perchance my life."

With care and pain he dragged his feet out of the slough, and made his way back to firm land. When he turned his face in [71] the opposite direction, he saw the great hill rising before him, and over the hill a road ran straight among rocks and brambles.

"That looks like a hard road," said the boy, "but it must be a good one, for it is straight and dry. I will take that next time."

At nightfall the boy reached his home, weary and bedraggled.

"That was a wretched road I took this morning," he said. "To-morrow I shall start again, and take the straight road that runs over the hill, for that is the only good one."

"Is it, truly?" said the old grandfather, who sat in the corner. "That is good to know."

The boy laughed, and kissed him on the forehead.

"You are a dear old grandfather," he said, "but you forget more than you remember."


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