Once upon a time, long, long ago in a land not so far away, there lived a young man named Martin, whose job it was to tend the river flowing down from the mountain to the people living in the town below. His country was surrounded by salty water (on three sides) that no one could drink, while the mountain water was as fresh as the water you might find in the land where you live. It was up to Martin to strain the water with nets and wires and all sorts of contraptions and every sort of thing that would keep the water clean.

One day Martin wanted to give the people extra water for their drinks and recipes and such. Christmas was coming, and he thought he would give them extra water as a present. So he let a little bit more water run off into the town below. He was always excited by these moments: the water would gush and bounce and roll around in the riverbed and provide rollicking fun for the fish and the birds and all those who lived in the water.

Martin skipped a pebble across the river. Suddenly everything grew still, the surface of the river grew very quiet. You could see your reflection without any trouble at all.

Right in the middle of the river, where the pebble had landed, a giant bubble rose up and burst in the sky. You might expect a big ‘burp’ or something, maybe a little fountain, but the only sound was the tinkling of a bell. Not musical or anything, not a song or a hum or a whistle, just a bell.

“How pretty,” Martin thought. He couldn’t explain the sound of the bell, but he certainly enjoyed it. “A song of nature,” he decided.

The bubble disappeared and the water was still again. And then all of a sudden (as suddenly as the first time), two bubbles popped up in the middle of the river. Then Martin heard the sound of two bells, mixing together in the same melody. He was even more excited than the first time. He looked across the river and saw a girl watching him. She had thrown a pebble as well.

Then the same thing happened, only this time it was three bells, and then four and five and six bells, and finally there were just too many to count. All of the bells started to ring until it sounded like a real song. And every time a new bell came up through a bubble in the river, another person appeared on the shore.

With each new bell, the birds rose in the sky, the flowers waved their petals in the wind, the trees tickled their leaves. Martin saw all the people, and he realized they were from the town. They had climbed the mountain and were throwing pebbles and making bells. Soon enough there was talking going all around.

“The sound of Mother Earth,” said one group of voices.

“The sound of Angels.”

“The sound of Christmas” (it was Christmas Eve).

That was it. The sound of Christmas. The people decided that it really was Christmas music. They threw their pebbles and watched the bubbles dance on the river.

“It’s Christmas!” they said. “It really is!”

Everyone shared in the spirit of Christmas. They sang the songs and laughed and danced and shouted words of joy. The music grew louder and louder until it reached a pitch that floated way up to the sky (and beyond!). And when the music lifted far out of reach, the stars burst open like the buds of flowers, showering the night sky like a choir.

Human voices and stars and the melody of the bells rose up like a symphony. Snow began to fall, nothing big and dangerous that would cause people to slip and hurt themselves, but a snowflake here and a snowflake there, just to make it wonderful and romantic.

After a while the river slept and the snow stopped, and though it was still cold, it wasn’t a red nose, mittens kind of cold. People came down the mountain, holding hands and walking close together. And I guess then that Christmas was over.

The people still had their presents in their homes and their Christmas lights shining through their windows. Little children put on their pajamas and the old people held each other. And the parents? They stood at the window, and saw Martin’s little light at the top of the mountain.

And that was the story of the Mountain Bells.

Human voices and stars and the melody of the bells rose up like a symphony. Snow began to fall, nothing big and dangerous that would cause people to slip and hurt themselves, but a snowflake here and a snowflake there, just to make it wonderful and romantic.

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