Not that he is old now, for Jack is a snappy, bright fellow, and will never really grow old—that is, in anything but experience. And that is exactly what this story is about, the time when Jack Frost was young in experience and would not listen to his mother, old Madam North Wind.
One morning he awoke and hustled about with a will, and Madam North Wind, who had not yet begun to arise early in the morning, was aroused from her slumbers.
“Whatever are you doing, making such a noise at this time in the morning?” she asked her son.
“It is time I was on my round,” said Jack Frost, in a snappy, sharp tone. “I mean to begin early and not let all the farmers get ahead of me and get their corn and pumpkins and such things in the barn.
“They will have to look out for me, I tell you, mother. I am a sharp, snappy young fellow, and they must know it.”
“You go back to your bed,” said old Madam North Wind. “It is not time for frosts yet. You should not begin your rounds for another two weeks at least.”
“Oh, mother, you are so old-fashioned,” said Jack Frost. “I want to be up and doing. Those farmers think they know everything there is to know about the weather, and I want to show them I am too smart for them. I shall start off to-night.”
“You listen to me if you do not wish to spoil all your beautiful colored pictures, Jack,” said his mother. “I may be old-fashioned, but I know what the beauty of your work is worth, and if you do not wish to lose your reputation as an artist you go back to your bed and wait until I call you.”
But Jack Frost, like many a son, thought his mother was far too old-fashioned; but to keep her from fretting he crept into bed again and kept still until he was sure his mother was asleep.
All day he kept quiet, and when the darkness came he listened to make sure old Madam North Wind was still sleeping before he crept softly out of his bed.
Very quietly he got out his big white coat and cap and then he filled his big white bag with white shiny frost from his mother’s chest.
He filled the bag full and then shook it down and put in more. “I’ll give them a good one to-night,” he said, laughing at the thought of the surprise he would give the farmers.
Then he crept softly past his sleeping mother, and out he went; flying swiftly over hill and dale.
All around he spread the white frost, and when at last he finished his work the old Sun Man, looking over the crest of the hill, was horrified when he looked upon a white world.
“You rascal!” he shouted after Jack Frost’s flying shape. “You are far too early! You have spoiled all your pictures for this year!”
“Old silly, what does he know?” said Jack as he hurried along. “He is just like mother—old-fashioned.”
Jack got softly into bed, and not until his mother called him did he awake again.
“Come,” she said one day, “it is time now for you to be about your work, and your pictures should be gorgeous in their colorings this year. Be careful, my son; scatter your frost to-night lightly, and again to-morrow night. I will go out in the morning and see how things look.”
Jack Frost did not tell his mother he had been out before. He did not need to tell her, for the next morning before old Madam North Wind had gone far she knew what had happened. “They are all spoiled,” she said as she looked over the landscape; “all black and dead before they had a bit of color.”
“Come out and look at your work,” she said, going back for her son. “You thought you knew more about it than your old mother.”
Jack Frost had no idea what old Madam North Wind meant, but he felt sure something was wrong, so he followed his mother very meekly; but when they reached the forest he knew something was wrong indeed.
No bright and beautifully-colored leaves and bushes met his gaze. All were brown and black. “What is the matter with my pictures?” he asked. “I thought they would be very beautiful this year.”
“You stole out before it was time, and you not only surprised the farmers, but you spoiled all your gorgeous pictures and cheated all the people who look for them. There will be none this year because you thought you knew more than I. Go home. There is no work for you, and perhaps you will listen to me next year and not get up until I call you.”
Jack Frost went home a sadder but wiser fellow and the next year he slept and did not put his frosty nose out from under his blanket until old Madam North Wind called him.