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It seemed only moments before she sprang up again.

A strong wind had blown the paper out of the cracks.  

Light again splashed the floor.  The scent of cinnamon and ginger rode in on the wind.

Throwing open the shutters, Befana saw a river of color.

What magnificence! 

White and black horses trotted by, draped in silk and sparkling with tiny mirrors; an elephant bore a bright tent on its back.  Next came shaggy camels with monkeys and peacocks in cages tied to the carved saddles. Golden tassels and brass bells shimmered and tinkled in the wind.

Befana thought, If this is a dream, I’ll soon wake up.  If not, may the nonsense end quickly, so as not to lose sleep over it!

A man dressed in royal purple reached the window and stopped. 

The entire caravan stopped.  

 

 

No longer running, Befana began to notice the windows of homes along the way.

Families were together, children in their beds, asleep.

But at one small house a mother watched her kneeling child pray beside his bed.

After the Amen, the mother scooped him up, laughed and said, “Time for bed!”

The child looked out over his mother’s shoulder. His eyes met the old woman’s.  He stopped laughing. 

He waved his hand and smiled shyly. Then his mama tucked him in.

Old Befana sat on the steps across the street, clutching her things to her.

She wasn’t sad.  But she began to cry.