It was a small lake lost among mountains, but the color of it was like a sapphire, and the wooded slopes surrounding it were the perfect setting for such a jewel.
Strangers who found their way there or to the hamlet of Star Mountain supposed that the lake had come by its name because the mountains, rising gently from its waters, gave it the form of a perfect star. The people of the hamlet had a different theory, nor did they tell it to all and sundry: they loved the lake too well to make it or themselves the laughing-stock of those who would call them credulous. But to the few who came there summer after summer, finding in the beauty around them nourishment for their souls, and in the waters of the lake some magic clearing of their inner sight, the legend of its birth was told.
Long, long ago, when Star Mountain had been without a name and only two or three families, living miles apart, inhabited that rugged country, a strange thing happened. Legend said that a Star Maiden, looking down upon earth, was filled with compassion for the things she saw. It was a fair world, and at first she had smiled, thinking that those who lived there would be like the land and happy with the fruits it offered. Then she had seen that while some were indeed happy, too many others were discontented and satisfied only when they had added to their store of worldly goods by taking away from others less fortunate than themselves. There was pain and suffering, and though there were a few whose lives grew finer, like tempered steel, because they sought the reason in themselves, and set about to find the remedy, there were so many others who only wept and looked around for someone else to blame.
The more she saw, the sadder the Star Maiden became; mostly she was sad for the children. For the men and women of the world whose vision had grown dull she had pity, but also some impatience: they were old enough to know better. But they had been children once. Would those who were young now see no farther than their elders when they grew up? She looked towards earth again, and into the heart of a little child. It was like looking into the heart of a flower, and she wondered if the petals of that unfolding life would grow in strength and beauty, or perhaps be crushed and wither! Watching, brooding, a great love filled her heart — not only for this child, but for all children everywhere. Tears filled her eyes, and one like a star fell to earth.
* * *
A small boy twisted around in bed so that he could keep warm under the covers and still look through the window at the twinkling stars. There was one in particular that he loved, of a bluish color, and he called it his star. Night was cold in the mountains and the air very clear so that heaven and earth seemed to touch, and this night the star looked so close that the child involuntarily reached out his hand to it. Then he fell asleep and dreamed that he climbed to the top of a mountain trying to get nearer to the star, and a lovely lady looked down on him from its gleaming depths and smiled at him. He wondered why she should smile and seem sad at the same time, for there were tears in her eyes; and one fell all shining and bright, and dropped at the foot of the mountain. The child turned, then, to go home, but what he saw in the valley made him clap his hands with joy, for where the tear had fallen was a beautiful deep blue lake, and it was shaped just like a star.
The dream ended there and the child knew no more until his mother called him in the morning. Then he remembered, and told her all about it. She laughed and ruffled his hair affectionately; but they were chums, these two, and when he begged her to take a walk with him she smiled and said they would go when the work was done.
That afternoon they went to look for the lake. The child led the way, following the path he had taken in his dream, and when they came where they could see a small valley from the mountain-side, there it was like a deep blue sapphire! From where they stood they could see its perfect star-like shape, and it was more beautiful even than it had been in the dream.
The child grew to manhood and learned the ways of men in distant lands, but wherever the course of his life took him he carried in his heart the memory of his native mountains and the beauty of the lake. Through dark days and sunny, amid sorrow and joy, the image never left him, and he had but to close his eyes to see once more the falling star and feel the exquisite tenderness that had sent it earthward. It always brought him strength and an immeasurable peace; it passed from him to those with whom he worked or played — the many whose lives were happier because he had been among them.
A time came when he returned to the lake of his dream. The years had brought a whiteness to his hair, like winter snow upon Star Mountain; the spirit of him was as eager as when he led the way there with his mother, but now his footsteps were slow and his breathing labored. Evening closed around him, and the heavens looked down with eternal splendor. The old man gazed at his favorite star, its reflection a pencilled pathway on the lake.
"I shall not make this climb again," he murmured, "but I have tried to share with all whom I have met the blessing that came to me."
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