A Fairy Tale

A maiden went for a walk in the forest. Soon she heard laughter and music; she came upon a clearing and saw happy people dancing and singing.

“Join us, fair maiden,” a bright-eyed youth implored.

“Ah, but I cannot,” she said, “for I am promised to another.” And she returned home.

The next day the scene was repeated. And the next week. And every month and every year thereafter.

And finally the maiden, now old and haggard, approached the circle of dancers once again.

Again, they begged her to join them.

But she said, “Alas, I cannot, for I am too old and sick to dance.”

“And what of he, to whom you were promised?” she was asked.

“Ah, promises, promises,” she answered sadly. And she turned around and went home, where she died the next day, alone.

***

The forest dancers wondered why the woman did not come that day. They spoke among themselves, questioning, worried…

They decided to seek her out to see if she was well.

They found her house and knocked, but no answer. From inside, weeping could be heard.

Slowly, gravely, they entered the house, for the door was unlocked.

And they saw the woman lying peacefully still on her bed, and a young man kneeling by her side, weeping pitifully.

“Why do you weep?” someone asked him.

“Who are you?” asked another.

He rose to his feet and said, “It is I to whom she was promised. And now she is no more.”

“But why? What has happened?” asked the sad dancers.

He said, “I could not give her what she wanted. Now she is gone.” And he wept again.

“What did she want?” they asked, as one.

“Happiness,” he said.

The dancers bowed their heads. Slowly they turned and left the house.

They returned to the forest but danced and sang no more.

The forest fell silent.

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