Wild Star was left in the tip of the tallest tree in the forest. There he lay without covering, his face up to the cold sky, his arms flung back above his head, his wings folded tight. He half opened his slumbrous eyes on the Tree Mother as the boat floated away, but before the smile in them faded he was asleep.
There was straight, sure, even flying then to Helma’s little house, set in its snowy garden,—and down they sank to the door stone. The Tree Mother carried Ivra, who was fast asleep, in in her arms. The fire leapt when they entered, until the walls and floor danced with light. The Tree Mother undressed Ivra, who never once opened her eyes, and tucked her into bed. Then she helped Eric, who was fumbling and missing buttons in a sleepy way. But he was awake enough to kiss her good-night. And that was the end of everything until morning.
A WITCH AT THE WINDOW
When the children woke the next morning, there was no Helma. Her bed had not been slept in. They had been too sleepy the night before to wonder at her absence, but now they could hardly believe their eyes. The room was strange and lonely without her. The fire had died in the night. They sat up in their beds and talked about it.
“She always comes back before bedtime,” said Ivra. “She has never stayed away before.”
Eric said, “Perhaps that is why the Tree Mother brought you in and undressed you—perhaps she knew our mother had not come back. She looked wise, as though she knew everything.”
“She does know everything,—at least everything in the forest. But did she bring me in, right here in her arms, Eric!”
“And undressed you while you were sound asleep.”
Ivra laughed with delight, and clasped her hands. “Truly, truly? The dear Tree Mother undressed me? Are you sure? Did she kiss me good-night?—” But suddenly she grew solemn. “Yes, she knew that mother was not here. She only takes care of those who have no one else. Well, we will have to wait for mother, that is all. She will surely come this morning.”
But she did not come that morning, nor that day, nor for many days. You shall hear it all.
The children laid the fire, together,—shivering but hopeful. Ivra got the breakfast, teaching Eric, so that next time he could help. They chattered and played a good deal, and really had quite a merry time over it. It was only at first that Ivra was solemn over Helma’s disappearance. Soon her good sense told her that Helma loved them both, and nothing could keep her long from her children.
After breakfast they washed and put away the dishes. Then they tidied the room. They hurried over it a little, perhaps, for it was a bright winter day, and all the forest was waiting to be played in. Before they ran out, they put a log on the fire that it took both of them to lift. If Helma should come back while they were away, she must find a warm house. Ivra skipped back after they were outside to set out a bowl and spoon for her, and stand the cream jug beside them.