The first song that Little Pine heard as he stopped outside was the carol of the holly tree that grew on the bank of the lake. Its melody spilled across the gently rippling waters and rose from them, perfuming the air with its sound.
He stood still and drank in the clear, sweet notes. They filled his heart with tenderness, and once again he was entranced by the beauty of the world and felt its joy and peace.
He bowed to the holly, and she laughed in delight. He laughed, too, and ran off to see what other treasures the day would hold.
The rows of tall pines stood at attention while chickadees and red headed peckers played their fifes and drums. And accompanying them, he heard the merry tapping of fairy feet dancing on the decorated drums that the elves had prepared. The sound seemed to come from everywhere and filled the whole forest.
Before long, Little Pine came to the slope where the Queen of the Fields stood, more radiant than ever with her light dusting of snow. “Hello, Little Pine,” she sang to him. “Have a lovely Festival Day!” He stopped to chat with her a bit, telling her how lovely she looked. He asked if she might know how he could find the Snow Queen. He wanted to thank her, he explained, for her beautiful gift of snow.
The Queen of the Fields said the Snow Queen herself couldn’t take on an earthly form, but that she would happily pass along his thanks when she spoke with her later.
“Have you been to the ballet yet?” the Snow Queen asked. Little Pine told her that he was headed there right now.
As he turned toward Holly Trail, Little Pine came to the great oak that had given birth to his friend Red Leaf, and stopped to thank the mighty tree for that gift, which had so blessed him throughout the past year. From high in the oak’s branches, he heard the happy chatter of the squirrels, who were feasting today on their Festival meal.
Little Pine traveled on, and as he rounded the next bend, he caught his first glimpse of the delicate tree performing her graceful ballet. The dance itself seemed to create the wondrous music that surrounded her. Her leaves were snow-capped now and glistening as she leaped and twirled, the very picture of joy.
He took a seat by his elf friends who had come to see the show, and they erupted in applause and loud whistles when the little tree took her final bow.
Then, to Little Pine’s amazement, the elves themselves took to the stage and danced a jig so fast and intricate and lively that the whole audience broke into laughter and clapped until they could clap no more.
It was beginning to grow late now. But the elves asked Little Pine to join them as they delivered presents to the birds. Their mother had packed great bags full of nuts and seeds for all the jays and cardinals and other winter birds who kept the forest singing in the winter. And so they trooped off, the elves whistling their merry tunes.
A light snow was falling as Little Pine turned toward home. What an extraordinary day it had been! He could hardly wait to share its adventures with his mother.
As he neared the door, he smelled the fragrance of the special meal that Mother had prepared, and he heard the faint carol of the holly, still wafting from the lake. And his heart was filled with tenderness and joy.