“THE children stood under an archway. Behind them was the blue sky; in front of them the clear, still lake that wandered and wound about the garden; above their heads the leaves of a tree whispered and told strange stories to the breeze.
“Poor tree! It is sighing for the blossoms the wind has carried away,” they said to each other, and they looked back at the garden. “And, poor flowers, too,” they said, “all your bright colours are gone, and your petals lie scattered on the ground; to-morrow they will be dead.” “Ah, no,” the flowers sighed, “the rainbow-maker will gather them up, and once more they will see the sun.” Before the children could answer, a tall fair maiden came down the pathway. They could see her plainly in the twilight. Her eyes were dim with gathering tears, but on her lips there was a smile that came and went and flickered round her mouth. All down her back hung her pale golden hair; round her neck was a kerchief of many colours ; her dress was soft and white, and her snowy apron was gathered up in one hand. She looked neither to the right nor to the left. She did not utter a single word; and the children could hear no sound of her footstep, no rustling from her dress. She stooped, and picking up the fading petals, looked at them tenderly for a moment, while the tears fell slowly down her cheeks ; but the smile hovered round her mouth; for she knew that they would shine again in the sight of their beloved sun. When her apron was quite full, she turned round and left the garden. Hand-in-hand the children followed. She went slowly on by the side of the lake, far, far away across the meadows and up the farthest hill, until at last she found her home behind a cloud just opposite the sun. There she sat all through the summer days making rainbows. When the children had watched her for a long long time, they went softly back to their own home. The rainbowmaker had not even seen them.
“Mother,” they said one day, “we know now where the colours go from the flowers. See, they are there,” and as they spoke they thought of the maiden sitting silently at work in her cloud-home. They knew that she was weeping at sending forth her most beautiful one, and yet smiling as she watched the soft archway she had made. “See, they are all there, dear mother,” the children repeated, looking at the falling rain and the shining sun, and pointing to the rainbow that spanned the river.