The Wondrous Child Page 01
The Wondrous Child
By Bram Stoker
Far away on the edge of a great creek, that stretched inland from the endless sea, there lay a peaceful village.
Here the husbandmen led a happy, prosperous life. They rose early, so that in the cool grey morn they heard the lark, all invisible in the height of the dawn, singing the morning hymn that he never forgets.
As sunset came stealing on, they returned to their homes, glad of the rest that nightfall brought to them.
In the autumn, when the harvesting was to be done, they worked late, as they were able to do; for at that time the kind Sun and his wife the Moon have a compact that they will help those who work at the harvest. So the sun stays up a little longer, and the moon gets out of her bed in the horizon a little earlier, and thus there is always light to work by.
The red, broad, full-faced moon that looks down on the husbandmen at work is called the Harvest Moon.
The Lord of the Manor of this peaceful village was a very good, kind man, that helped the poor always. At meal-time the door of his mansion stood open; and all who were hungry could enter if they chose, and take seats at the table, and be welcome guests.
This Lord of the Manor had three children, Sibold and May, and one little Baby Boy just come home who had no name as yet.
Sibold had just reached his eighth birthday, and May was within two months of her sixth. They were very fond of each other - as brother and sister should be - and had all their plays together. May thought that Sibold was very big and strong, and whatever he wished to do she always agreed to.
Sibold loved finding things and exploring; and at different times the two children had been over all the domain of their father.
They had certain secret haunts that nobody knew of except themselves. Some of these were very queer, delightful places.
One was in the centre of a hollow Oak tree, where so many squirrels lived that the branches were quite like the streets of a town, with their going to and fro.
Another place was the top of a rock, which was only reached by a narrow path between high bushes of ivy. Here there was a sort of great chair made in the rock, which just held the two; and here they often brought their lunch, and sat half the day looking out over the tree tops to where, far away in the distance, the white edge of the horizon lay on the glittering sea.
Then they would tell each other what they thought about, and what they would like to do, and what they would try to do when they grew up.
There was also another place, which was their favourite of all.
It was under a great Weeping Willow. This was a mighty tree, many hundreds of years old, which towered aloft above the other trees which dotted the sward. The long branches fell downwards so thickly, that even in winter, when the leaves held fallen and the benches were bare, one could hardly see into the hollow that lay within.
When the new spring clothes came home, the whole tree, from its high top even to the mossy ground from which it rose, was a mass of solid green; and it was difficult to get within even if one knew the way.
In one place one of the trailing branches had, a long time ago, been broken in a great storm, winch had laid low many forest trees; but the branches which hung next to this sent forth new green shoots to fill the empty space, and so the opening was covered with thin twigs instead of strong branches.
In summer the leaves covered all with a mass of green; but those who knew the opening could push the twigs aside, and so enter into the bower.
It was a most beautiful bower. No matter how strong the sun glared without, it was within cool and pleasant. From the ground even up to the top, till the very roof where the dark branches meeting made a black mass, all was a delicate green, for the light without came through the leaves softly and gently.
Sibold and May thought that so the sea must look to the Mermaids, who sing and comb their long hair with golden combs down in the cool depths of the ocean.
In the sward around this great tree were many beds of beautiful flowers. Asters, with their wide faces of many colours, staring up straight at the sun without ever winking, and round and over which flitted the gorgeous butterflies, with their wings like rainbows or peacocks or sunsets, or aught that is most beautiful. Sweet Mignonette, where the bees hovered with grateful hum. Pansies, with their delicate big faces trembling on their slender stalks. Tulips, opening their mouths to the sun and the rain; for the Tulip is a greedy flower, that opens his mouth till at last he opens it so wide that his head falls all to pieces and he dies. Hyacinths, with their many bells clustered on one stalk - like a big family party. Great Sunflowers, whose drooping faces shone like children of the parent Sun himself.
There were also great Poppies, with spreading, careless leaves, thick juicy stalks, and grand scarlet flowers, which rise and droop just as they please, and look so free and careless and independent.