The boy with the quiet voice could hardly bear to see her. Back in the days before the birds learned to sing, he could hardly bear to see the girl with the daisies in her hair.
She would gather them in the mornings, or one of the louder boys would bring them to her, presenting them with a show of bravado. Then she would weave them into a little circle that would crown her head all the day long. The sunbeams were all the brighter for shining on her, and when she smiled the boy with the quiet voice would forget all the confusion she made him feel.
He couldn’t stand to see it when the other boys would bring her daisies. He gritted his teeth when the skilled hunters of the village would present her the best cuts from their kills. He wanted to die when he saw one of them win a smile, or a laugh, or a gentle touch from her.
Such paltry gifts they brought!
So obvious, so crude, so… material. And to think they thought they could win her heart that way!
And what if they could?
No. No, that would be an unbearable thought. Hers must be a refined and spiritual nature.
There had to be a way he could show her all the joy and pain she made him feel. A way to show her what he really was, what she was in his eyes, what he would like to be in her eyes, and maybe… maybe by some miracle to touch the mystery of what she was in herself.
To make her feel the sweet painful yearning he felt every time he saw her walking down the sunny streets with a pail of water in hand. To show her how he longed to become the kind of man she could look up to and respect. And maybe even to dare to let her see the doubts and uncertainties he always felt, but experienced twice as strongly when he looked at her.
But how could he ever do that? And why would she ever care, even if he did?
She already had all the other boys clamoring over her. The last thing she needed was for the boy with the quiet voice to start bothering her too.
But he had to try something. The yearning inside him was bigger than the doubt.
So the boy with the quiet voice went to the river near the village, whistling as he walked. With a couple of robins following in his wake, he tried to entice the Spirit of the River to come when he called it. But the Spirit of the River did not come when he called it.
So the boy walked to the forest, humming a pleasant tune as he went. He wanted to coax out the Faerie-Folk and have them dance for the girl with daisies in her hair. With a few doves watching idly from just beyond the clearing, he tried all morning, afternoon, and into the evening to draw the Faerie-Folk out. But the Faerie-Folk did not come when he called them.
So the quiet boy wandered to the heights of the mountain that overlooked the village, singing to keep his spirits up despite the darkness in his heart. A pair of cardinals flitted from tree to tree as he struggled up to the peak where the Warlock of the Mountain lived. And though he reached the home of the Warlock of the Mountain, and though he knocked and shouted at the door until dawn turned to sunset, the Warlock of the Mountain did not come when he called him.
Dejected, dispirited, the boy with the quiet voice set back down the mountain for the long journey home. What a fool he’d been! To think the Spirit of the River would suffer his company. To think the Faerie-Folk would ever dance for him. To think the Warlock of the Mountain would ever grant him a favor.
To think the girl with daisies in her hair would ever see him as anything other than a quiet boy with a quiet voice.
But singing through his despair, he at last found his way home. And when he reached the village, his ears were greeted with a sound the likes of which had never been heard on earth before.
“Can you hear it, the birds are singing!” the girl with daisies in her hair said as soon as he appeared.
And it was so. The warble of the robins, the coos of the doves, the twitterings of cardinals, and a thousand other songs of birds filled the landscape with sound. It was a music the world had never heard before, and a tune that has never fully stopped since.
All unawares, without meaning to, the boy with the quiet voice had taught the birds to sing. And as he looked into the deep eyes of the girl with daisies in her hair, he knew she somehow already knew they sang for her.