Ivra laughed. And it was like spring coming into winter. “Yes, play with them all you like! I love them, too. I’ve often watched them. The littlest boy, the one with the funny curls, laughs at me and stares and stares. But the other two . . . they just give me a glance and then forget all about me. They don’t think I’m real. But they are awfully jolly. You play with them and when you tell me about it afterwards I’ll pretend I was there playing too.”
Then the two clasped hands and went skipping home.
One morning when Ivra woke up she knew spring had come before her eyes were open. But Eric had to go outdoors to make sure. He was sure enough when he smelled the ground, a good earth smell. Snow still clung to the garden in spots here and there, but the warm sun promised it would not be for long. Something in the sky, something in the air, a smell of earth, and a stirring in his own heart told him it was true. Spring had come!
Ivra had felt and known it before her eyes were open, and now that they were open, those eyes of hers looked like two blue spring flowers just awake. She hopped about in the garden poking and prodding the earth with a stick, looking for her violets, her anemones, her star flowers. Not a green leaf was pushing through yet, but oh, how soon there would be!
Suddenly she stopped and stood still looking away into the forest. Then she ran to Eric on the door stone. She cried, “Mother will come now. Don’t you feel it? She will come with the spring!”
Eric did feel it. For there was magic in the day. The magic came to him in the air, in the smell of the earth, in the new warm wind and said, “Everything is yours that you want. Joy is coming.” And Mother Helma was what he wanted. So he felt sure she was on the way.
“She must have found the key,—or do you suppose she climbed the gray wall?” wondered Ivra.
“Shall we go to meet her?” asked Eric.
“No, no. We must get the house clean and ready for her. We must hurry.”
And then such a house-cleaning was begun as you or I have never seen. The Forest Children had been up at dawn to greet the spring, and now they came running to tell Ivra and Eric about it. When they heard that Helma was at last coming back and the house was to be cleaned they wanted to help. First it was decided to wash the floor. Pail after pail of water from the fountain they splashed on it. Streamlets of water flowed into the fireplace and out over the door stone. Out and in ran the Forest Children trying to help, and with every step making foot prints on the wet floor, muddy little foot prints, dozens of them and finally hundreds of them.
Then the windows were washed. And because the Forest Children could not run on those they were made bright and clear. But soon the Forest Children pressed their faces against the panes to watch for Helma, and as the minutes passed breath-clouds formed there, spreading and deepening until the glass sparkled no more. But no one noticed. No one cared. For now they were shining up the dishes, polishing them with cloths, and setting them in neat rows in the cupboard.