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Then to the eldest he gave it,

And, opening his wallet wide, A vase just as perfect and lovely

He gave to each one beside.

Then, as rejoicing they took them,

To the eyes of their stranger friend There came a look of strange sadness

As he thought of their journey's end; And he said, "Oh, children, remember

That the way is long and steep, And not all who begin the journey,

To the end their prize can keep 1"

But little the children heeded

His words in their noisy glee;
To them 'twas a holiday pastime,

The rarest that could be 1
They ran and they raced together

On the road and by paths they knew,
Through the meadows, across the valley,

To the beautiful hills in view.

But some as they ran, forgetting

The sharp stones that were in their way,
Fell, and the delicate vases

In an instant shivered lay!
And they sat by the wayside crying,

But the bitter tears were soon shed,
Then they laughed and mocked at the others:

"Play is better by far!" they said.

But the rest, with still eager footsteps,

Followed the long, long road,
Through the valley, and came to a river,

Broad and beautiful, that flowed
With waters so clear and sparkling

'Neath a bridge, and there they stayed, On the parapet leaning and resting—

Their vases beside them laid.

Oh, the fun of watching the minnows

Darting hither and thither, Scurrying off through the shallows

When a stone splashed in the river;

c » 35 Or the trout, that beneath the shadow

Of the weeds so lazily lay, Till, disturbed by the stone's rude splashing,

They solemnly glided away!

But, alas! in the fun and scramble,

Many a vase was upset,
And tumbled with crash and shiver

Down, down, from the parapet.
"Never mind!" cried the foolish children,

"We've come far enough to-day; No more of that tiresome climbing,

It's pleasanter far to play!"

Very few were left for the journey,

And as wearily, carelessly,
These walked, they began to wrangle

In their peevish jealousy;
They clamoured and pushed and struggled—

Alas 1 for their vases bright, Dropped in the dust and trampled

By their feet in the angry fight.

And of all who at first had started

Only two still persevered,
And they by the roadside are sitting

Scanning their vases smeared
With dirt—are they broken ?—a tiny

Crack in each one was plain,
And their hot little fingers are pressing

The edges to join again.

"It's so little! And no one will notice

When we get there !"—the two are fain To believe, and so carefully holding

Their vases, set forth again. And now, far above the valley,

They have climbed the steep hillside 'Mong the trees, and about them are floating

The last rays of the sunset tide.

But, passing a turn in the highway,

Whom do they suddenly see, Coming to meet them, slowly Moving and painfully*

And why do they look so frightened,

Turning as if to run?
Why surely it is—'tis the stranger

First met 'neath the morning sun!

Then he lifted his eyes upon them,

"Ah, little ones, how do you fare I" One answered, "Bravely, O Master;

See how safely your gifts we bear 1" But the other, with eyes bent low,

And sorrowful heart, was still, Daring not look on the gentle,

Kind friend he had served so ill.

For a while the stranger waited,

Silent, and then they heard
His voice again, "Is it not easy

To trust your friend with a word?
To tell me your trouble, children?

Ah, I know it—see what I have brought 1" Then he drew from his wallet two vases

More lovely, more perfectly wrought

E'en than the last. "Will you take them?"

He held them up in the light
That gleamed through their flawless beauty,

Dazzlingly pure and bright.
The children looked; and then answered

The first, "Very pretty and fine,
But still the one I have carried

So long I'll not change for thine 1"

He went on his way. But the other

Burst into tears and said,
"Oh, sir, mine is broken—is worthless—

See! if only I might instead
Have the beautiful new one I" The stranger

Smiled at sight of the old one thrown Aside, as the boy with glad fingers

Clasped the new vase for his own.

'' Be faithful and true—remember!"
Said the stranger, then left the boy,

Who, facing the hill, went upwards,
With fresh courage and heart of joy.

Soon he overtook his comrade,
Spoke of the gift and gain—

Of the vase that e'en still was waiting
For the other. 'Twas all in vain.

At last they have reached the hill-top,

Where the palace towers are seen,
And beneath them stretches the ocean's

Glory of outspread sheen.
And now the two weary children

Climb to the palace gate,
Up the long flight of steps, and knocking

Softly, timidly wait.

The sound of footsteps approaching,

And of gates unbarred they hear;
Fast are their hearts now beating

With wonder and hope and fear.
And now through the gate half opened

A wonderful glimpse they gain
Of the stately palace, and listen

To music of sweetest strain.

But, see, at the gate is standing

The watchman with grave stern face, Who beckons them near, "Little children,

What seek ye in this place?"
No words can they speak, so frightened

Are they at the sudden speech,
But lifting their shining vases

They hold them within his readh.

As if to say, "This our errand,

These from our Friend we bring,
Who told us to carry them hither

To the palace of the king."
Oh, how their hearts are beating!

What in answer will he say—
"Come in to the beautiful palace,"

Or "I know you not—away V

Then he called the first unto him,
And took the vase in his hand,

Lifting it up in the sunlight
That still gleamed over sea and land.

But the grave and stern look deepened

On his face, as soon as he laid His finger upon the slender

Crack that the light betrayed.

The child with sudden anguish

And shame dared not lift his eyes,
As the vase fell shattered before him—

Lost—lost, the beautiful prize!
And he heard his sentence, "'Tis only

They who have stood the test
Can pass through the gates to the palace

And the glory of the blest."

Then the other, with tears fast falling,

Exclaimed, "I have nothing to bring Of my own—it is all the stranger's,

Who, so kind and pitying. When I had fallen and broken

My vase in the foolish race, Found me, and freely gave me

This—in the lost one's place 1"

Bright and beauteous it glistened

As he held the vase on high,
And the watchman's keen glance rested

On its flawless tracery.
Then with frank glad smile he beckoned

The child within the gates,
Saying, "Welcome! For thee the Master

In his palace chamber waits 1"

Oh, the glimpse of the glorious palace,

White columns and lofty towers 1 Oh, the garden's flashing beauty,

Its fountains, its fruits, its flowers 1 Oh, the music as he entered

That swelled with a joyous shout! • •••••

But the gates are closed. Only silence

And darkness now reign without.

J. J. BROWN.

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