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Just as he was beginning to feel sad because, after all, she was only a snow child, he noticed with amazement that the eyelids were quivering, the lips were gently parting and a faint pink color was appearing in the cheeks. Almost imperceptibly, yet in just a few moments, the snow girl became a living child!
Ivan gripped his hands, blinked his eyes and looked around in a dazed way at Marie, as if to make sure that he was not dreaming. Then, "What does this mean? Who are you?" he cried, in a terrified voice.
"I am Snow White, your little girl," the child answered in tones so soft and appealing that all of Ivan's fear left him; and then she ran to her new mother and father and kissed them and cried for joy. Marie and Ivan were so happy that tears came to their eyes, too; and they welcomed the little girl into their home as the greatest blessing that had ever come to them.
The village people, of course, marvelled at the strange good fortune of Ivan and his wife, but they soon forgot their astonishment in trying to make little Snow White feel at home among them, for she was so gentle and lovable that no one could help wishing to be kind to her. Then, too, she was very pretty, for her eyes seemed to be of the clear blue of the sky, and her hair was as yellow and lustrous as the most golden sunbeams.
However, there was one surprising fact about Snow White that everybody in the village, young and old, was always trying to account for. She had been only a very small child when she came to her new home, yet each month she grew so much more than most children grow in a year, that by the time
early spring came she was as tall as a girl of twelve or thirteen years. Then, too, her mother noticed that although she had heen always very cheerful and fond of play during the winter, she began to be less light-hearted every day, and to shrink from joining her playmates now that spring was calling every one out of doors to see the crisp new blades of grass, and the tiny leaves uncurling in the sunshine.
On one especially fine day some of the children of the village came by the house and called, "Snow White, won't you go with us to the woods? It's the best time to get wild flowers, and there are ever so many of them in the sunny places."
Snow White hesitated, but her mother urged. "You have been indoors so much, dear child, that you will enjoy a day in the open air. Hadn't you better go?"
"If you think best, I will go," Snow White answered quietly; and then, a little reluctantly, took leave of her mother.
The children spent all the day in the woods, gathering flowers and making beautiful bouquets and wreaths and crowns; and when evening came they built a great fire to dance around.
When the fire had begun to crackle and flare in lively fashion, the children started circling round and round the flaming pile, singing as they danced. Snow White had stepped back into the shadow of the trees, but-soon she was discovered by the others, and they called to her: "Oh, this is ever so much fun. Wouldn't you like to play too? All you have to do is to follow the leader." Not wishing to be coaxed, she took the place that they made for her in the ring. Then they whirled again about the blaze, until suddenly, unclasping hands, one after another they jumped through the fire. All at once, in the midst of the laughter and singing, was heard a sigh more gentle than the murmur of the spring breeze among the leaves, yet as distinct as if there had been complete silence. The game stopped, and the startled children looked about to find where the sound had come from. Thus they discovered that Snow White was no longer in the circle.
"O, what has happened to Snow White?" some one cried. And then, one after another, they began to call the little girl's name, but no response came to their shouts. Thinking that perhaps she was in hiding, they prowled about where the trees grew close together, or where the underbrush was thick. Nowhere could she be found. Terrified, the children sent for Ivan and Marie; and a search was made throughout the woods and the village and all the surrounding country. But the search was vain; for in passing through the fire, Snow White had been changed into a little, unseen cloud of vapor that floated above the heads of the dancing children, far upward into the sky from which she had come in the form of a flake of snow.
Probably you will think this a good story to read to your little sister or brother. In case it seems a trifle sad, you will like to know that it is only a poetic way in which the Russian people used to tell of the arrival of the snow and of the winter weather that quickly becomes very cold and remains so for several months. Snow White, you see, represents the snow; and of course she grows very rapidly as the cold becomes more and more keen. She is last found in the deep forest, but even there she must disappear when spring warms the earth.
Perhaps you can explain this meaning very simply when you read the story to small children. And you can tell them, too, that Ivan, Marie, and the little playmates of Snow White could not have grieved long, for they must have been very glad to have the spring come, driving away the gloom of winter and rousing all the earth from its long sleep. Besides, they knew that in due time the snow must return, bringing again to earth the little Snow Maiden.
WYNKEN, BLYNKEN, AND NOD
By Eugene Field
WYNKEN, Blynken, and Nod one night
Into a sea of dew.
The old moon asked the three.