But Ivra seized his hand, and they ran home together through the cold, starlit forest. Before they leapt the hedge into their own garden Eric saw the firelight blossoming in the windows. But he stood still outside the door, after Ivra had gone in, for a time, breathing the cold air and the clear silence right down into his toes.
“To-morrow is the shortest day in the year,” Ivra told Eric one night after they were in bed. He did not answer, for he was very sleepy. But after a minute she spoke again. “It’s my birthday too!”
Then he opened his eyes and sat up, for her voice sounded very queer and far away. He saw that she too was sitting up, her hands folded under her chin. “Mother always had a party for me,” she said. “Such fun!”
“Perhaps one will happen to-morrow even with her away,” Eric comforted. “Oh, goody! I do hope so!”
“Perhaps. Anyway I’m going to pretend there’s a party waiting for me to-morrow. You pretend too, Eric, and then even if it doesn’t come true we will have had the pretending at least.”
Eric agreed to pretend. It was one of his favorite games. And very soon the two children nestled down under their covers and drifted into sleep and dreams of a party.
They were roused early in the morning by something tapping lightly on the doors and windows. Eric was out of bed first, and saw the Wind Creatures, half a dozen or more of them, looking in and beckoning. Their purple wings gleamed gold in the early morning sun. Wild Star was standing in the open door.
“Happy birthday!” he cried and tossed a snow ball into Ivra’s bed. She popped to her knees, laughing and rosy with sleep. But then she was grave in a minute. “There’s to be no party, Wild Star,” she said. “Mother’s not back yet. Are you all here for that?”
“Yes, we’re here for that, and there is to be a party, an all day one too. Your Forest Friends have seen to that.”
The children were radiant with joy. And Ivra whispered to Eric, “We had our pretending, too!”
The Wind Creatures would not come in to breakfast, for of course they do not like in-doors at all, and besides, they need very little food. So they played in the garden while the children dressed and ate. Very soon the children were done, though, and came leaping out ready for a day’s joy.
The Wind Creatures led them then out through the forest. The Tree Girl was watching for them at her door. It was plain to be seen, when she joined them, that she carried something in her arms very secretly under her white cloak. But no one mentioned it. Ivra knew it must be a surprise for her birthday. Where the party was to be no one told her, and she did not ask. She liked surprises.
They came to the Forest Children’s little moss village. The youngest Forest Child of all was the only one up so early. He was busily breaking dead twigs from bushes to build his morning fire and making up a little rhymeless song about Ivra’s birthday as he worked.