The Children's Book of Christmas Stories
Edited by Asa Don Dickinson and Ada M. Skinner
Part 2 out of 5
she ran. The mother was stirring porridge over the fire. Toinette went
close to her, but she did not move or turn her head.
"How late the children are," she said at last, lifting the boiling pot
on the hob. Then she went to the stair-foot and called, "Marc,
Jeanneton, Pierre, Marie. Breakfast is ready, my children.
Toinette--but where, then, is Toinette? She is used to be down long
"Toinette isn't upstairs," said Marie from above.
"Her door is wide open, and she isn't there."
"That is strange," said the mother. "I have been here an hour, and she
has not passed this way since." She went to the outer door and called,
"Toinette! Toinette!" passing close to Toinette as she did so. And
looking straight at her with unseeing eyes. Toinette, half frightened,
half pleased, giggled low to herself. She really was invisible, then.
How strange it seemed and what fun it was going to be.
The children sat down to breakfast, little Jeanneton, as the youngest,
saying grace. The mother distributed the porridge and gave each a spoon
but she looked anxious.
"Where can Toinette have gone?" she said to herself. Toinette was
conscious-pricked. She was half inclined to dispel the charm on the
spot. But just then she caught a whisper from Pierre to Marc which so
surprised her as to put the idea out of her head.
"Perhaps a wolf has eaten her up--a great big wolf like the 'Capuchon
Rouge,' you know." This was what Pierre said; and Marc answered
"If he has, I shall ask mother to let me have her room for my own."
Poor Toinette, her cheeks burned and her eyes filled with tears at
this. Didn't the boys love her a bit then? Next she grew angry, and
longed to box Marc's ears, only she recollected in time that she was
invisible. What a bad boy he was, she thought.
The smoking porridge reminded her that she was hungry; so brushing away
the tears she slipped a spoon off the table and whenever she found the
chance, dipped it into the bowl for a mouthful. The porridge
"I want some more," said Jeanneton.
"Bless me, how fast you have eaten," said the mother, turning to the
This made Toinette laugh, which shook her spoon, and a drop of the hot
mixture fell right on the tip of Marie's nose as she sat with upturned
face waiting her turn for a second helping. Marie gave a little scream.
"What is it?" said the mother.
"Hot water! Right in my face!" sputtered Marie.
"Water!" cried Marc. "It's porridge."
"You spattered with your spoon. Eat more carefully, my child," said the
mother, and Toinette laughed again as she heard her. After all, there
was some fun in being invisible.
The morning went by. Constantly the mother went to the door, and,
shading her eyes with her hand, looked out, in hopes of seeing a little
figure come down the wood-path, for she thought perhaps the child went
to the spring after water, and fell asleep there. The children played
happily, meanwhile. They were used to doing without Toinette and did
not seem to miss her, except that now and then baby Jeanneton said:
"Poor Toinette gone--not here--all gone."
"Well, what if she has?" said Marc at last looking up from the wooden
cup he was carving for Marie's doll. "We can play all the better."
Marc was a bold, outspoken boy, who always told his whole mind about
"If she were here," he went on," she'd only scold and interfere.
Toinette almost always scolds. I like to have her go away. It makes it
"It is rather pleasanter," admitted Marie, "only I'd like her to be
having a nice time somewhere else."
"Bother about Toinette," cried Pierre.
"Let's play 'My godmother has cabbage to sell.'"
I don't think Toinette had ever felt so unhappy in her life, as when
she stood by unseen, and heard the children say these words. She had
never meant to be unkind to them, but she was quick-tempered, dreamy,
wrapped up in herself. She did not like being interrupted by them, it
put her out, and she spoke sharply and was cross. She had taken it for
granted that the others must love her, by a sort of right, and the
knowledge that they did not grieved over very much. Creeping away, she
hid herself in the woods. It was a sparkling day, but the sun did not
look so bright as usual. Cuddled down under a rosebush, Toinette sat
sobbing as if her heart would break at the recollection of the speeches
she had overheard.
By and by a little voice within her woke up and began to make itself
audible. All of us know this little voice. We call it conscience.
"Jeanneton missed me," she thought. "And, oh, dear! I pushed her away
only last night and wouldn't tell her a story. And Marie hoped I was
having a pleasant time somewhere. I wish I hadn't slapped Marie last
Friday. And I wish I hadn't thrown Marc's ball into the fire that day I
was angry with him. How unkind he was to say that--but I wasn't always
kind to him. And once I said that I wished a bear would eat Pierre up.
That was because he broke my cup. Oh, dear, oh, dear. What a bad girl
I've been to them all."
"But you could be better and kinder if you tried, couldn't you?" said
the inward voice. "I think you could."
And Toinette clasped her hands tight and said out loud: "I could.
Yes--and I will."
The first thing to be done was to get rid of the fern-seed which she
now regarded as a hateful thing. She untied her shoes and shook it out
in the grass. It dropped and seemed to melt into the air, for it
instantly vanished. A mischievous laugh sounded close behind, and a
beetle-green coat-tail was visible whisking under a tuft of rushes. But
Toinette had had enough of the elves, and, tying her shoes, took the
road toward home, running with all her might.
"Where have you been all day, Toinette?" cried the children, as,
breathless and panting, she flew in at the gate. But Toinette could not
speak. She made slowly for her mother, who stood in the doorway, flung
herself into her arms and burst into a passion of tears.
"Ma cherie, what is it, whence hast thou come?" asked the good mother
alarmed. She lifted Toinette into her arms as she spoke, and hastened
indoors. The other children followed, whispering and peeping, but the
mother sent them away, and sitting down by the fire with Toinette in
her lap, she rocked and hushed and comforted, as though Toinette had
been again a little baby. Gradually the sobs ceased. For a while
Toinette lay quiet, with her head on her mother's breast. Then she
wiped her wet eyes, put her arms around her mother's neck, and told her
all from the very beginning, keeping not a single thing back. The dame
listened with alarm.
"Saints protect us," she muttered. Then feeling Toinette's hands and
head, "Thou hast a fever," she said. "I will make thee a tisane, my
darling, and thou must at once go to bed." Toinette vainly protested;
to bed she went and perhaps it was the wisest thing, for the warm drink
threw her into a long sound sleep and when she woke she was herself
again, bright and well, hungry for dinner, and ready to do her usual
Herself--but not quite the same Toinette that she had been before.
Nobody changes from bad to better in a minute. It takes time for that,
time and effort, and a long struggle with evil habits and tempers. But
there is sometimes a certain minute or day in which people begin to
change, and thus it was with Toinette. The fairy lesson was not lost
upon her. She began to fight with herself, to watch her faults and try
to conquer them. It was hard work; often she felt discouraged, but she
kept on. Week after week and month after month she grew less selfish,
kinder, more obliging than she used to be. When she failed and her old
fractious temper got the better of her, she was sorry and begged every
one's pardon so humbly that they could not but forgive. The mother
began to think that the elves really had bewitched her child. As for
the children they learned to love Toinette as never before, and came to
her with all their pains and pleasures, as children should to a kind
older sister. Each fresh proof of this, every kiss from Jeanneton,
every confidence from Marc, was a comfort to Toinette, for she never
forgot Christmas Day, and felt that no trouble was too much to wipe out
that unhappy recollection. "I think they like me better than they did
then," she would say; but then the thought came, "Perhaps if I were
invisible again, if they did not know I was there, I might hear
something to make me feel as badly as I did that morning." These sad
thoughts were part of the bitter fruit of the fairy fern-seed.
So with doubts and fears the year went by, and again it was Christmas
Eve. Toinette had been asleep some hours when she was roused by a sharp
tapping at the window pane. Startled, and only half awake, she sat up
in bed and saw by the moonlight a tiny figure outside which she
recognized. It was Thistle drumming with his knuckles on the glass.
"Let me in," cried the dry little voice. So Toinette opened the
casement, and Thistle flew in and perched as before on the coverlet.
"Merry Christmas, my girl." he said, "and a Happy New Year when it
comes. I've brought you a present;" and, dipping into a pouch tied
round his waist, he pulled out a handful of something brown. Toinette
knew what it was in a moment.
"Oh, no," she cried shrinking back. "Don't give me any fern-seeds. They
frighten me. I don't like them."
"Don't be silly," said Thistle, his voice sounding kind this time, and
earnest. "It wasn't pleasant being invisible last year, but perhaps
this year it will be. Take my advice, and try it. You'll not be sorry."
"Sha'n't I?" said Toinette, brightening. "Very well, then, I will." She
leaned out of bed, and watched Thistle strew the fine dustlike grains
in each shoe.
"I'll drop in to-morrow night, and just see how you like it," he said.
Then, with a nod, he was gone.
The old fear came back when she woke in the morning, and she tied on
her shoes with a tremble at her heart. Downstairs she stole. The first
thing she saw was a wooden ship standing on her plate. Marc had made
the ship, but Toinette had no idea it was for her.
The little ones sat round the table with their eyes on the door,
watching till Toinette should come in and be surprised.
"I wish she'd hurry," said Pierre, drumming on his bowl with a spoon.
"We all want Toinette, don't we?" said the mother, smiling as she
poured the hot porridge.
"It will be fun to see her stare," declared Marc.
"Toinette is jolly when she stares. Her eyes look big and her cheeks
grow pink. Andre Brugen thinks his sister Aline is prettiest, but I
don't. Our Toinette is ever so pretty."
"She is ever so nice, too," said Pierre. "She's as good to play with
as--as--a boy," finished triumphantly.
"Oh, I wish my Toinette would come," said Jeanneton.
Toinette waited no longer, but sped upstairs with glad tears in her
eyes. Two minutes, and down she came again visible this time. Her heart
was light as a feather.
"Merry Christmas!" clamoured the children. The ship was presented,
Toinette was duly surprised, and so the happy day began.
That night Toinette left the window open, and lay down in her clothes;
for she felt, as Thistle had been so kind, she ought to receive him
politely. He came at midnight, and with him all the other little men in
"Well, how was it?" asked Thistle.
"Oh, I liked it this time," declared Toinette, with shining eyes, "and
I thank you so much."
"I'm glad you did," said the elf. "And I'm glad you are thankful, for
we want you to do something for us."
"What can it be?" inquired Toinette, wondering.
"You must know," went on Thistle, "that there is no dainty in the world
which we elves enjoy like a bowl of fern-seed broth. But it has to be
cooked over a real fire, and we dare not go near fire, you know, lest
our wings scorch. So we seldom get any fern-seed broth. Now, Toinette,
will you make us some?"
"Indeed, I will!" cried Toinette, "only you must tell me how."
"It is very simple," said Peascod; "only seed and honey dew, stirred
from left to right with a sprig of fennel. Here's the seed and the
fennel, and here's the dew. Be sure and stir from the left; if you
don't, it curdles, and the flavour will be spoiled."
Down into the kitchen they went, and Toinette, moving very softly,
quickened the fire, set on the smallest bowl she could find, and spread
the doll's table with the wooden saucers which Marc had made for
Jeanneton to play with. Then she mixed and stirred as the elves bade,
and when the soup was done, served it to them smoking hot. How they
feasted! No bumblebee, dipping into a flower-cup, ever sipped and
twinkled more rapturously than they.
When the last drop was eaten, they made ready to go. Each in turn
kissed Toinette's hand, and said a word of farewell. Thistle brushed
his feathered cap over the doorpost as he passed.
"Be lucky, house," he said, "for you have received and entertained the
luck-bringers. And be lucky, Toinette. Good temper is good luck, and
sweet words and kind looks and peace in the heart are the fairest of
fortunes. See that you never lose them again, my girl." With this, he,
too, kissed Toinette's hand, waved his feathered cap, and--whir! they
all were gone, while Toinette, covering the fire with ashes and putting
aside the little cups, stole up to her bed a happy child.
IX. THE VOYAGE OF THE WEE RED CAP
*Published originally in the Outlook. Reprinted here by arrangement
with the author.
RUTH SAWYER DURAND
It was the night of St. Stephen, and Teig sat alone by his fire with
naught in his cupboard but a pinch of tea and a bare mixing of meal,
and a heart inside of him as soft and warm as the ice on the
water-bucket outside the door. The tuft was near burnt on the hearth--a
handful of golden cinders left, just; and Teig took to counting them
greedily on his fingers.
"There's one, two, three, an' four an' five," he laughed. "Faith, there
be more bits o' real gold hid undther the loose clay in the corner."
It was the truth; and it was the scraping and scrooching for the last
piece that had left Teig's cupboard bare of a Christmas dinner.
"Gold is betther nor eatin' an' dthrinkin'. An' if ye have naught to
give, there'll be naught asked of ye;" and he laughed again.
He was thinking of the neighbours, and the doles of food and piggins of
milk that would pass over their thresholds that night to the vagabonds
and paupers who were sure to come begging. And on the heels of that
thought followed another: who would be giving old Barney his dinner?
Barney lived a stone's throw from Teig, alone, in a wee tumbled-in
cabin; and for a score of years past Teig had stood on the doorstep
every Christmas Eve, and, making a hollow of his two hands, had called
across the road:
"Hey, there, Barney, will ye come over for a sup?"
And Barney had reached for his crutches--there being but one leg to
him--and had come.
"Faith," said Teig, trying another laugh, "Barney can fast for the
once; 'twill be all the same in a month's time." And he fell to
thinking of the gold again. A knock came at the door. Teig pulled
himself down in his chair where the shadow would cover him, and held
"Teig, Teig!" It was the widow O'Donnelly's voice. "If ye are there,
open your door. I have not got the pay for the spriggin' this month,
an' the childher are needin' food."
But Teig put the leash on his tongue, and never stirred till he heard
the tramp of her feet going on to the next cabin. Then he saw to it
that the door was tight-barred. Another knock came, and it was a
stranger's voice this time:
"The other cabins are filled; not one but has its hearth crowded; will
ye take us in--the two of us? The wind bites mortal sharp, not a morsel
o' food have ne tasted this day. Masther, will ye take us in?"
But Teig sat on, a-holding his tongue; and the tramp of the strangers'
feet passed down the road. Others took their place--small feet,
running. It was the miller's wee Cassie, and she called out as she ran
"Old Barney's watchin' for ye. Ye'll not be forgettin' him, will ye,
And then the child broke into a song, sweet and clear, as she passed
down the road:
"Listen all ye, 'tis the Feast o' St. Stephen,
Mind that ye keep it, this holy even.
Open your door an' greet ye the stranger--
For ye mind that the wee Lord had naught but a manger.
Mhuire as truagh!
"Feed ye the hungry an' rest ye the weary,
This ye must do for the sake of Our Mary.
'Tis well that ye mind--ye who sit by the fire--
That the Lord he was born in a dark and cold byre.
Mhuire as truagh!"
Teig put his fingers deep in his ears. "A million murdthering curses on
them that won't let me be! Can't a man try to keep what is his without
bein' pesthered by them that has only idled an' wasted their days?"
And then the strange thing happened: hundreds and hundreds of wee
lights began dancing outside the window, making the room bright; the
hands of the clock began chasing each other round the dial, and the
bolt of the door drew itself out. Slowly, without a creak or a cringe,
the door opened, and in there trooped a crowd of the Good People. Their
wee green cloaks were folded close about them, and each carried a rush
Teig was filled with a great wonderment, entirely, when he saw the
fairies, but when they saw him they laughed.
"We are takin' the loan o' your cabin this night, Teig," said they. "Ye
are the only man hereabout with an empty hearth, an' we're needin' one."
Without saying more, they bustled about the room making ready. They
lengthened out the table and spread and set it; more of the Good People
trooped in, bringing stools and food and drink. The pipers came last,
and they sat themselves around the chimney-piece a-blowing their
chanters and trying the drones. The feasting began and the pipers
played and never had Teig seen such a sight in his life. Suddenly a wee
man sang out:
"Clip, clap, clip, clap, I wish I had my wee red cap!" And out of the
air there tumbled the neatest cap Teig ever laid his two eyes on. The
wee man clapped it on his head, crying:
"I wish I was in Spain!" and--whist--up the chimney he went, and away
out of sight.
It happened just as I am telling it. Another wee man called for his
cap, and away he went after the first. And then another and another
until the room was empty and Teig sat alone again.
"By my soul," said Teig, "I'd like to thravel that way myself! It's a
grand savin' of tickets an' baggage; an' ye get to a place before ye've
had time to change your mind. Faith there is no harm done if I thry it."
So he sang the fairies' rhyme and out of the air dropped a wee cap for
him. For a moment the wonder had him, but the next he was clapping the
cap on his head and crying:
Then--whist--up the chimney he went after the fairies, and before he
had time to let out his breath he was standing in the middle of Spain,
and strangeness all about him.
He was in a great city. The doorways of the houses were hung with
flowers and the air was warm and sweet with the smell of them. Torches
burned along the streets, sweetmeat-sellers went about crying their
wares, and on the steps of the cathedral crouched a crowd of beggars.
"What's the meanin' o' that?" asked Teig of one of the fairies. "They
are waiting for those that are hearing mass. When they come out, they
give half of what they have to those that have nothing, so on this
night of all the year there shall be no hunger and no cold."
And then far down the street came the sound of a child's voice, singing:
"Listen all ye, 'tis the Feast o' St. Stephen,
Mind that ye keep it, this holy even".
"Curse it!" said Teig; "can a song fly afther ye?"
And then he heard the fairies cry "Holland!" and cried "Holland!" too.
In one leap he was over France, and another over Belgium; and with the
third he was standing by long ditches of water frozen fast, and over
them glided hundreds upon hundreds of lads and maids. Outside each door
stood a wee wooden shoe empty. Teig saw scores of them as he looked
down the ditch of a street.
"What is the meanin' o' those shoes? " he asked the fairies.
"Ye poor lad!" answered the wee man next to him; "are ye not knowing
anything? This is the Gift Night of the year, when every man gives to
A child came to the window of one of the houses, and in her hand was a
lighted candle. She was singing as she put the light down close to the
glass, and Teig caught the words:
"Open your door an' greet ye the stranger--
For ye mind that the wee Lord had naught but a manger.
Mhuire as truagh!"
"'Tis the de'il's work!" cried Teig, and he set the red cap more firmly
on his head.
"I'm for another country."
I cannot be telling you a half of the adventures Teig had that night,
nor half the sights that he saw. But he passed by fields that held
sheaves of grain for the birds and doorsteps that held bowls of
porridge for the wee creatures. He saw lighted trees, sparkling and
heavy with gifts; and he stood outside the churches and watched the
crowds pass in, bearing gifts to the Holy Mother and Child.
At last the fairies straightened their caps and cried, "Now for the
great hall in the King of England's palace!"
Whist--and away they went, and Teig after them; and the first thing he
knew he was in London, not an arm's length from the King's throne. It
was a grander sight than he had seen in any other country. The hall was
filled entirely with lords and ladies; and the great doors were open
for the poor and the homeless to come in and warm themselves by the
King's fire and feast from the King's table. And many a hungry soul did
the King serve with his own hands.
Those that had anything to give gave it in return. It might be a bit of
music played on a harp or a pipe, or it might be a dance or a song; but
more often it was a wish, just, for good luck and safekeeping.
Teig was so taken up with the watching that he never heard the fairies
when they wished themselves on; moreover, he never saw the wee girl
that was fed, and went laughing away. But he heard a bit of her song as
she passed through the door:
"Feed ye the hungry an' rest ye the weary,
This ye must do for the sake of Our Mary."
Then the anger had Teig. "I'll stop your pestherin' tongue, once an'
for all time!" and, catching the cap from his head, he threw it after
her. No sooner was the cap gone than every soul in the hall saw him.
The next moment they were about him, catching at his coat and crying:
"Where is he from, what does he here? Bring him before the King!" And
Teig was dragged along by a hundred hands to the throne where the King
"He was stealing food," cried one.
"He was robbing the King's jewels," cried another.
"He looks evil," cried a third. "Kill him!"
And in a moment all the voices took it up and the hall rang with: "Aye,
kill him, kill him!"
Teig's legs took to trembling, and fear put the leash on his tongue;
but after a long silence he managed to whisper:
"I have done evil to no one--no one!"
"Maybe," said the King; "but have ye done good? Come, tell us, have ye
given aught to any one this night? If ye have, we will pardon ye."
Not a word could Teig say--fear tightened the leash--for he was knowing
full well there was no good to him that night.
"Then ye must die," said the King. "Will ye try hanging or beheading?"
"Hanging, please, your Majesty," said Teig.
The guards came rushing up and carried him off.
But as he was crossing the threshold of the hall a thought sprang at
him and held him.
"Your Majesty," he called after him, "will ye grant me a last request?"
"I will," said the King.
"Thank ye. There's a wee red cap that I'm mortal fond of, and I lost it
a while ago; if I could be hung with it on, I would hang a deal more
The cap was found and brought to Teig.
"Clip, clap, clip, clap, for my wee red cap, I wish I was home," he
Up and over the heads of the dumfounded guard he flew, and--whist--and
away out of sight. When he opened his eyes again, he was sitting dose
by his own hearth, with the fire burnt low. The hands of the clock were
still, the bolt was fixed firm in the door. The fairies' lights were
gone, and the only bright thing was the candle burning in old Barney's
cabin across the road.
A running of feet sounded outside, and then the snatch of a song
"'Tis well that ye mind--ye who sit by the fire-
That the Lord he was born in a dark and cold byre.
Mhuire as traugh!"
"Wait ye, whoever ye are!" and Teig was away to the corner, digging
fast at the loose clay, as a terrier digs at a bone. He filled his
hands full of the shining gold, then hurried to the door, unbarring it.
The miller's wee Cassie stood there, peering at him out of the darkness.
"Take those to the widow O'Donnelly, do ye hear? And take the rest to
the store. Ye tell Jamie to bring up all that he has that is eatable
an' dhrinkable; and to the neighbours ye say, 'Teig's keepin' the feast
this night.' Hurry now!"
Teig stopped a moment on the threshold until the tramp of her feet had
died away; then he made a hollow of his two hands and called across the
"Hey there, Barney, will ye come over for a sup?"
X. A STORY OF THE CHRIST-CHILD*
*Reprinted by permission of the author from her collection,
"Christmastide," published by the Chicago Kindergarten College.
A German legend for Christmas Eve as told by
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas,
a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great
city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers,
sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired
grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with
bundles of presents for each other and for their little ones. Fine
carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were
pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with
expectation of the coming Christmas morning.
From some of the windows bright lights were already beginning to stream
until it was almost as bright as day. But the little child seemed to
have no home, and wandered about listlessly from street to street. No
one took any notice of him except perhaps Jack Frost, who bit his bare
toes and made the ends of his fingers tingle. The north wind, too,
seemed to notice the child, for it blew against him and pierced his
ragged garments through and through, causing him to shiver with cold.
Home after home he passed, looking with longing eyes through the
windows, in upon the glad, happy children, most of whom were helping to
trim the Christmas trees for the coming morrow.
"Surely," said the child to himself, "where there is so must gladness
and happiness, some of it may be for me." So with timid steps he
approached a large and handsome house. Through the windows, he could
see a tall and stately Christmas tree already lighted. Many presents
hung upon it. Its green boughs were trimmed with gold and silver
ornaments. Slowly he climbed up the broad steps and gently rapped at
the door. It was opened by a large man-servant. He had a kindly face,
although his voice was deep and gruff. He looked at the little child
for a moment, then sadly shook his head and said, "Go down off the
steps. There is no room here for such as you." He looked sorry as he
spoke; possibly he remembered his own little ones at home, and was glad
that they were not out in this cold and bitter night. Through the open
door a bright light shone, and the warm air, filled with fragrance of
the Christmas pine, rushed out from the inner room and greeted the
little wanderer with a kiss. As the child turned back into the cold and
darkness, he wondered why the footman had spoken thus, for surely,
thought he, those little children would love to have another companion
join them in their joyous Christmas festival. But the little children
inside did not even know that he had knocked at the door.
The street grew colder and darker as the child passed on. He went sadly
forward, saying to himself, "Is there no one in all this great city who
will share the Christmas with me?" Farther and farther down the street
he wandered, to where the homes were not so large and beautiful. There
seemed to be little children inside of nearly all the houses. They were
dancing and frolicking about. Christmas trees could be seen in nearly
every window, with beautiful dolls and trumpets and picture-books and
balls and tops and other dainty toys hung upon them. In one window the
child noticed a little lamb made of soft white wool. Around its neck
was tied a red ribbon. It had evidently been hung on the tree for one
of the children. The little stranger stopped before this window and
looked long and earnestly at the beautiful things inside, but most of
all was he drawn toward the white lamb. At last creeping up to the
window-pane, he gently tapped upon it. A little girl came to the window
and looked out into the dark street where the snow had now begun to
fall. She saw the child, but she only frowned and shook her head and
said, "Go away and come some other time. We are too busy to take care
of you now." Back into the dark, cold streets he turned again. The wind
was whirling past him and seemed to say, "Hurry on, hurry on, we have
no time to stop. 'Tis Christmas Eve and everybody is in a hurry
Again and again the little child rapped softly at door or window-pane.
At each place he was refused admission. One mother feared he might have
some ugly disease which her darlings would catch; another father said
he had only enough for his own children and none to spare for beggars.
Still another told him to go home where he belonged, and not to trouble
The hours passed; later grew the night, and colder grew the wind, and
darker seemed the street. Farther and farther the little one wandered.
There was scarcely any one left upon the street by this time, and the
few who remained did not seem to see the child, when suddenly ahead of
him there appeared a bright, single ray of light. It shone through the
darkness into the child's eyes. He looked up smilingly and said, "I
will go where the small light beckons, perhaps they will share their
Christmas with me."
Hurrying past all the other houses, he soon reached the end of the
street and went straight up to the window from which the light was
streaming. It was a poor, little, low house, but the child cared not
for that. The light seemed still to call him in. From what do you
suppose the light came? Nothing but a tallow candle which had been
placed in an old cup with a broken handle, in the window, as a glad
token of Christmas Eve. There was neither curtain nor shade to the
small, square window and as the little child looked in he saw standing
upon a neat wooden table a branch of a Christmas tree. The room was
plainly furnished but it was very clean. Near the fireplace sat a
lovely faced mother with a little two-year-old on her knee and an older
child beside her. The two children were looking into their mother's
face and listening to a story. She must have been telling them a
Christmas story, I think. A few bright coals were burning in the
fireplace, and all seemed light and warm within.
The little wanderer crept closer and closer to the window-pane. So
sweet was the mother's face, so loving seemed the little children, that
at last he took courage and tapped gently, very gently on the door. The
mother stopped talking, the little children looked up. "What was that,
mother?" asked the little girl at her side. "I think it was some one
tapping on the door," replied the mother. "Run as quickly as you can
and open it, dear, for it is a bitter cold night to keep any one
waiting in this storm." "Oh, mother, I think it was the bough of the
tree tapping against the window-pane," said the little girl. "Do please
go on with our story." Again the little wanderer tapped upon the door.
"My child, my child," exclaimed the mother, rising, "that certainly was
a rap on the door. Run quickly and open it. No one must be left out in
the cold on our beautiful Christmas Eve."
The child ran to the door and threw it wide open. The mother saw the
ragged stranger standing without, cold and shivering, with bare head
and almost bare feet. She held out both hands and drew him into the
warm, bright room. "You poor, dear child," was all she said, and
putting her arms around him, she drew him close to her breast. "He is
very cold, my children," she exclaimed. "We must warm him." "And,"
added the little girl, "we must love him and give him some of our
Christmas, too." "Yes," said the mother, "but first let us warm him--"
The mother sat down by the fire with the little child on her lap, and
her own little ones warmed his half-frozen hands in theirs. The mother
smoothed his tangled curls, and, bending low over his head, kissed the
child's face. She gathered the three little ones in her arms and the
candle and the fire light shone over them. For a moment the room was
very still. By and by the little girl said softly, to her mother, "May
we not light the Christmas tree, and let him see how beautiful it
looks?" "Yes," said the mother. With that she seated the child on a low
stool beside the fire, and went herself to fetch the few simple
ornaments which from year to year she had saved for her children's
Christmas tree. They were soon so busy that they did not notice the
room had filled with a strange and brilliant light. They turned and
looked at the spot where the little wanderer sat. His ragged clothes
had changed to garments white and beautiful; his tangled curls seemed
like a halo of golden light about his head; but most glorious of all
was his face, which shone with a light so dazzling that they could
scarcely look upon it.
In silent wonder they gazed at the child. Their little room seemed to
grow larger and larger, until it was as wide as the whole world, the
roof of their low house seemed to expand and rise, until it reached to
With a sweet and gentle smile the wonderful child looked upon them for
a moment, and then slowly rose and floated through the air, above the
treetops, beyond the church spire, higher even than the clouds
themselves, until he appeared to them to be a shining star in the sky
above. At last he disappeared from sight. The astonished children
turned in hushed awe to their mother, and said in a whisper, "Oh,
mother, it was the Christ-Child, was it not?" And the mother answered
in a low tone, "Yes."
And it is said, dear children, that each Christmas Eve the little
Christ-Child wanders through some town or village, and those who
receive him and take him into their homes and hearts have given to them
this marvellous vision which is denied to others.
XI. JIMMY SCARECROW'S CHRISTMAS
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
Jimmy Scarecrow led a sad life in the winter. Jimmy's greatest grief
was his lack of occupation. He liked to be useful, and in winter he was
absolutely of no use at all.
He wondered how many such miserable winters he would have to endure. He
was a young Scarecrow, and this was his first one. He was strongly
made, and although his wooden joints creaked a little when the wind
blew he did not grow in the least rickety. Every morning, when the
wintry sun peered like a hard yellow eye across the dry corn-stubble,
Jimmy felt sad, but at Christmas time his heart nearly broke.
On Christmas Eve Santa Claus came in his sledge heaped high with
presents, urging his team of reindeer across the field. He was on his
way to the farmhouse where Betsey lived with her Aunt Hannah.
Betsey was a very good little girl with very smooth yellow curls, and
she had a great many presents. Santa Claus had a large wax doll-baby
for her on his arm, tucked up against the fur collar of his coat. He
was afraid to trust it in the pack, lest it get broken.
When poor Jimmy Scarecrow saw Santa Claus his heart gave a great leap.
"Santa Claus! Here I am!" he cried out, but Santa Claus did not hear
"Santa Claus, please give me a little present. I was good all summer
and kept the crows out of the corn," pleaded the poor Scarecrow in his
choking voice, but Santa Claus passed by with a merry halloo and a
great clamour of bells.
Then Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble and shook with sobs
until his joints creaked. "I am of no use in the world, and everybody
has forgotten me," he moaned. But he was mistaken.
The next morning Betsey sat at the window holding her Christmas
doll-baby, and she looked out at Jimmy Scarecrow standing alone in the
field amidst the corn-stubble.
"Aunt Hannah?" said she. Aunt Hannah was making a crazy patchwork
quilt, and she frowned hard at a triangular piece of red silk and
circular piece of pink, wondering how to fit them together. "Well?"
"Did Santa Claus bring the Scarecrow any Christmas present?"
"No, of course he didn't."
"Because he's a Scarecrow. Don't ask silly questions."
"I wouldn't like to be treated so, if I was a Scarecrow," said Betsey,
but her Aunt Hannah did not hear her. She was busy cutting a triangular
snip out of the round piece of pink silk so the piece of red silk could
be feather-stitched into it.
It was snowing hard out of doors, and the north wind blew. The
Scarecrow's poor old coat got whiter and whiter with snow. Sometimes he
almost vanished in the thick white storm. Aunt Hannah worked until the
middle of the afternoon on her crazy quilt. Then she got up and spread
it out over the sofa with an air of pride.
"There," said she, "that's done, and that makes the eighth. I've got
one for every bed in the house, and I've given four away. I'd give this
away if I knew of anybody that wanted it."
Aunt Hannah put on her hood and shawl, and drew some blue yarn
stockings on over her shoes, and set out through the snow to carry a
slice of plum-pudding to her sister Susan, who lived down the road.
Half an hour after Aunt Hannah had gone Betsey put her little red plaid
shawl over her head, and ran across the field to Jimmy Scarecrow. She
carried her new doll-baby smuggled up under her shawl.
"Wish you Merry Christmas!" she said to Jimmy Scarecrow.
"Wish you the same," said Jimmy, but his voice was choked with sobs,
and was also muffled, for his old hat had slipped down to his chin.
Betsey looked pitifully at the old hat fringed with icicles, like
frozen tears, and the old snow-laden coat. "I've brought you a
Christmas present," said she, and with that she tucked her doll-baby
inside Jimmy Scarecrow's coat, sticking its tiny feet into a pocket.
"Thank you," said Jimmy Scarecrow faintly.
"You're welcome," said she. "Keep her under your overcoat, so the snow
won't wet her, and she won't catch cold, she's delicate."
"Yes, I will," said Jimmy Scarecrow, and he tried hard to bring one of
his stiff, outstretched arms around to clasp the doll-baby.
"Don't you feel cold in that old summer coat?" asked Betsey.
"If I bad a little exercise, I should be warm," he replied. But he
shivered, and the wind whistled through his rags.
"You wait a minute," said Betsey, and was off across the field.
Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble, with the doll-baby under his
coat and waited, and soon Betsey was back again with Aunt Hannah's
crazy quilt trailing in the snow behind her.
"Here," said she, "here is something to keep you warm," and she folded
the crazy quilt around the Scarecrow and pinned it.
"Aunt Hannah wants to give it away if anybody wants it," she explained.
"She's got so many crazy quilts in the house now she doesn't know what
to do with them. Good-bye--be sure you keep the doll-baby covered up."
And with that she ran cross the field, and left Jimmy Scarecrow alone
with the crazy quilt and the doll-baby.
The bright flash of colours under Jimmy's hat-brim dazzled his eyes,
and he felt a little alarmed. "I hope this quilt is harmless if it IS
crazy," he said. But the quilt was warm, and he dismissed his fears.
Soon the doll-baby whimpered, but he creaked his joints a little, and
that amused it, and he heard it cooing inside his coat.
Jimmy Scarecrow had never felt so happy in his life as he did for an
hour or so. But after that the snow began to turn to rain, and the
crazy quilt was soaked through and through: and not only that, but his
coat and the poor doll-baby. It cried pitifully for a while, and then
it was still, and he was afraid it was dead.
It grew very dark, and the rain fell in sheets, the snow melted, and
Jimmy Scarecrow stood halfway up his old boots in water. He was saying
to himself that the saddest hour of his life had come, when suddenly he
again heard Santa Claus' sleigh-bells and his merry voice talking to
his reindeer. It was after midnight, Christmas was over, and Santa was
hastening home to the North Pole.
"Santa Claus! dear Santa Claus!" cried Jimmy Scarecrow with a great
sob, and that time Santa Claus heard him and drew rein.
"Who's there?" he shouted out of the darkness.
"It's only me," replied the Scarecrow.
"Who's me?" shouted Santa Claus.
Santa got out of his sledge and waded up. "Have you been standing here
ever since corn was ripe?" he asked pityingly, and Jimmy replied that
"What's that over your shoulders?" Santa Claus continued, holding up
"It's a crazy quilt."
"And what are you holding under your coat?"
"The doll-baby that Betsey gave me, and I'm afraid it's dead," poor
Jimmy Scarecrow sobbed.
"Nonsense!" cried Santa Claus. "Let me see it!" And with that he pulled
the doll-baby out from under the Scarecrow's coat, and patted its back,
and shook it a little, and it began to cry, and then to crow. "It's all
right," said Santa Claus. "This is the doll-baby I gave Betsey, and it
is not at all delicate. It went through the measles, and the
chicken-pox, and the mumps, and the whooping-cough, before it left the
North Pole. Now get into the sledge, Jimmy Scarecrow, and bring the
doll-baby and the crazy quilt. I have never had any quilts that weren't
in their right minds at the North Pole, but maybe I can cure this one.
Get in!" Santa chirruped to his reindeer, and they drew the sledge up
close in a beautiful curve.
"Get in, Jimmy Scarecrow, and come with me to the North Pole!" he cried.
"Please, how long shall I stay?" asked Jimmy Scarecrow.
"Why, you are going to live with me," replied Santa Claus. "I've been
looking for a person like you for a long time."
"Are there any crows to scare away at the North Pole? I want to be
useful," Jimmy Scarecrow said, anxiously.
"No," answered Santa Claus, "but I don't want you to scare away crows.
I want you to scare away Arctic Explorers. I can keep you in work for a
thousand years, and scaring away Arctic Explorers from the North Pole
is much more important than scaring away crows from corn. Why, if they
found the Pole, there wouldn't be a piece an inch long left in a week's
time, and the earth would cave in like an apple without a core! They
would whittle it all to pieces, and carry it away in their pockets for
souvenirs. Come along; I am in a hurry."
"I will go on two conditions," said Jimmy. "First, I want to make a
present to Aunt Hannah and Betsey, next Christmas."
"You shall make them any present you choose. What else?"
"I want some way provided to scare the crows out of the corn next
summer, while I am away," said Jimmy.
"That is easily managed," said Santa Claus. "Just wait a minute."
Santa took his stylographic pen out of his pocket, went with his
lantern close to one of the fence-posts, and wrote these words upon it:
NOTICE TO CROWS
Whichever crow shall hereafter hop, fly, or flop into this field during
the absence of Jimmy Scarecrow, and therefrom purloin, steal, or
abstract corn, shall be instantly, in a twinkling and a trice, turned
snow-white, and be ever after a disgrace, a byword and a reproach to
his whole race.
Per order of Santa Claus.
"The corn will be safe now," said Santa Claus, "get in." Jimmy got into
the sledge and they flew away over the fields, out of sight, with merry
halloos and a great clamour of bells.
The next morning there was much surprise at the farmhouse, when Aunt
Hannah and Betsey looked out of the window and the Scarecrow was not in
the field holding out his stiff arms over the corn stubble. Betsey had
told Aunt Hannah she had given away the crazy quilt and the doll-baby,
but had been scolded very little.
"You must not give away anything of yours again without asking
permission," said Aunt Hannah. "And you have no right to give anything
of mine, even if you know I don't want it. Now both my pretty quilt and
your beautiful doll-baby are spoiled."
That was all Aunt Hannah had said. She thought she would send John
after the quilt and the doll-baby next morning as soon as it was light.
But Jimmy Scarecrow was gone, and the crazy quilt and the doll-baby
with him. John, the servant-man, searched everywhere, but not a trace
of them could he find. "They must have all blown away, mum," he said to
"We shall have to have another scarecrow next summer," said she.
But the next summer there was no need of a scarecrow, for not a crow
came past the fence-post on which Santa Claus had written his notice to
crows. The cornfield was never so beautiful, and not a single grain was
stolen by a crow, and everybody wondered at it, for they could not read
the crow-language in which Santa had written.
"It is a great mystery to me why the crows don't come into our
cornfield, when there is no scarecrow," said Aunt Hannah.
But she had a still greater mystery to solve when Christmas came round
again. Then she and Betsey had each a strange present. They found them
in the sitting-room on Christmas morning. Aunt Hannah's present was her
old crazy quilt, remodelled, with every piece cut square and true, and
matched exactly to its neighbour.
"Why, it's my old crazy quilt, but it isn't crazy now!" cried Aunt
Hannah, and her very spectacles seemed to glisten with amazement.
Betsey's present was her doll-baby of the Christmas before; but the
doll was a year older. She had grown an inch, and could walk and say,
"mamma," and "how do?" She was changed a good deal, but Betsey knew her
at once. "It's my doll-baby!" she cried, and snatched her up and kissed
But neither Aunt Hannah nor Betsey ever knew that the quilt and the
doll were Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas presents to them.
XII. WHY THE CHIMES RANG*
* Copyright, 1906. Used by special permission of the publishers, the
RAYMOND MC ALDEN
There was once in a faraway country where few people have ever
travelled, a wonderful church. It stood on a high hill in the midst of
a great city; and every Sunday, as well as on sacred days like
Christmas, thousands of people climbed the hill to its great archways,
looking like lines of ants all moving in the same direction.
When you came to the building itself, you found stone columns and dark
passages, and a grand entrance leading to the main room of the church.
This room was so long that one standing at the doorway could scarcely
see to the other end, where the choir stood by the marble altar. In the
farthest corner was the organ; and this organ was so loud, that
sometimes when it played, the people for miles around would close their
shutters and prepare for a great thunderstorm. Altogether, no such
church as this was ever seen before, especially when it was lighted up
for some festival, and crowded with people, young and old. But the
strangest thing about the whole building was the wonderful chime of
At one corner of the church was a great gray tower, with ivy growing
over it as far up as one could see. I say as far as one could see,
because the tower was quite great enough to fit the great church, and
it rose so far into the sky that it was only in very fair weather that
any one claimed to be able to see the top. Even then one could not be
certain that it was in sight. Up, and up, and up climbed the stones and
the ivy; and as the men who built the church had been dead for hundreds
of years, every one had forgotten how high the tower was supposed to be.
Now all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of
Christmas bells. They had hung there ever since the church had been
built, and were the most beautiful bells in the world. Some thought it
was because a great musician had cast them and arranged them in their
place; others said it was because of the great height, which reached up
where the air was clearest and purest; however that might be no one who
had ever heard the chimes denied that they were the sweetest in the
world. Some described them as sounding like angels far up in the sky;
others as sounding like strange winds singing through the trees.
But the fact was that no one had heard them for years and years. There
was an old man living not far from the church who said that his mother
had spoken of hearing them when she was a little girl, and he was the
only one who was sure of as much as that. They were Christmas chimes,
you see, and were not meant to be played by men or on common days. It
was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the
church their offerings to the Christ-Child; and when the greatest and
best offering was laid on the altar there used to come sounding through
the music of the choir the Christmas chimes far up in the tower. Some
said that the wind rang them, and others, that they were so high that
the angels could set them swinging. But for many long years they had
never been heard. It was said that people had been growing less careful
of their gifts for the Christ-Child, and that no offering was brought
great enough to deserve the music of the chimes.
Every Christmas Eve the rich people still crowded to the altar, each
one trying to bring some better gift than any other, without giving
anything that he wanted for himself, and the church was crowded with
those who thought that perhaps the wonderful bells might be heard
again. But although the service was splendid, and the offerings plenty,
only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower.
Now, a number of miles from the city, in a little country village,
where nothing could be seen of the great church but glimpses of the
tower when the weather was fine, lived a boy named Pedro, and his
little brother. They knew very little about the Christmas chimes, but
they had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve, and had a
secret plan which they had often talked over when by themselves, to go
to see the beautiful celebration.
"Nobody can guess, Little Brother," Pedro would say; "all the fine
things there are to see and hear; and I have even heard it said that
the Christ-Child sometimes comes down to bless the service. What if we
could see Him?"
The day before Christmas was bitterly cold, with a few lonely
snowflakes flying in the air, and a hard white crust on the ground.
Sure enough Pedro and Little Brother were able to slip quietly away
early in the afternoon; and although the walking was hard in the frosty
air, before nightfall they had trudged so far, hand in hand, that they
saw the lights of the big city just ahead of them. Indeed they were
about to enter one of the great gates in the wall that surrounded it,
when they saw something dark on the snow near their path, and stepped
aside to look at it.
It was a poor woman, who had fallen just outside the city, too sick and
tired to get in where she might have found shelter. The soft snow made
of a drift a sort of pillow for her, and she would soon be so sound
asleep, in the wintry air, that no one could ever waken her again. All
this Pedro saw in a moment and he knelt down beside her and tried to
rouse her, even tugging at her arm a little, as though he would have
tried to carry her away. He turned her face toward him, so that he
could rub some of the snow on it, and when he had looked at her
silently a moment he stood up again, and said:
"It's no use, Little Brother. You will have to go on alone."
"Alone?" cried Little Brother. "And you not see the Christmas festival?"
"No," said Pedro, and he could not keep back a bit of a choking sound
in his throat. "See this poor woman. Her face looks like the Madonna in
the chapel window, and she will freeze to death if nobody cares for
her. Every one has gone to the church now, but when you come back you
can bring some one to help her. I will rub her to keep her from
freezing, and perhaps get her to eat the bun that is left in my pocket."
"But I cannot bear to leave you, and go on alone," said Little Brother.
"Both of us need not miss the service," said Pedro. "and it had better
be I than you. You can easily find your way to church; and you must see
and hear everything twice, Little Brother--once for you and once for
me. I am sure the Christ-Child must know how I should love to come with
you and worship Him; and oh! if you get a chance, Little Brother, to
slip up to the altar without getting in any one's way, take this little
silver piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering, when no one is
looking. Do not forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not
going with you."
In this way he hurried Little Brother off to the city and winked hard
to keep back the tears, as he heard the crunching footsteps sounding
farther and farther away in the twilight. It was pretty hard to lose
the music and splendour of the Christmas celebration that he had been
planning for so long, and spend the time instead in that lonely place
in the snow.
The great church was a wonderful place that night. Every one said that
it had never looked so bright and beautiful before. When the organ
played and the thousands of people sang, the walls shook with the
sound, and little Pedro, away outside the city wall, felt the earth
tremble around them.
At the close of the service came the procession with the offerings to
be laid on the altar. Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay
down their gifts to the Christ-Child. Some brought wonderful jewels,
some baskets of gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down
the aisle. A great writer laid down a book that he had been making for
years and years. And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping
with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells.
There went a great murmur through the church as the people saw the king
take from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and
lay it gleaming on the altar, as his offering to the Holy Child.
"Surely," every one said, "we shall hear the bells now, for nothing
like this has ever happened before."
But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower and the people
shook their heads; and some of them said, as they had before, that they
never really believed the story of the chimes, and doubted if they ever
rang at all.
The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn. Suddenly
the organist stopped playing; and every one looked at the old minister,
who was standing by the altar, holding up his hand for silence. Not a
sound could be heard from any one in the church, but as all the people
strained their ears to listen, there came softly, but distinctly,
swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower. So far
away, and yet so clear the music seemed--so much sweeter were the notes
than anything that had been heard before, rising and falling away up
there in the sky, that the people in the church sat for a moment as
still as though something held each of them by the shoulders. Then they
all stood up together and stared straight at the altar, to see what
great gift had awakened the long silent bells.
But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little
Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking,
and had laid Pedro's little piece of silver on the altar.
XIII. THE BIRDS' CHRISTMAS
"From "In the Child's World," by Emilie Poulssen, Milton Bradley Co.
Publishers. Used by permission.
F. E. MANN
Founded on fact.
"Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! Chickadee-dee-dee-dee! Chicka--" "Cheerup,
cheerup, chee-chee! Cheerup, cheerup, chee-chee!" "Ter-ra-lee,
"Rap-atap-atap-atap!" went the woodpecker; "Mrs. Chickadee may speak
"Friends," began Mrs. Chickadee, "why do you suppose I called you
"Because it's the day before Christmas," twittered Snow Bunting. "And
you're going to give a Christmas party," chirped the Robin. "And you
want us all to come!" said Downy Woodpecker. "Hurrah! Three cheers for
"Hush!" said Mrs. Chickadee, "and I'll tell you all about it. To-morrow
IS Christmas Day, but I don't want to give a party."
"Chee, chee, chee!" cried Robin Rusty-breast; "chee, chee, chee!"
"Just listen to my little plan," said Mrs. Chickadee, "for, indeed, I
want you all to help. How many remember Thistle Goldfinch--the happy
little fellow who floated over the meadows through the summer and fall?"
"Cheerup, chee-chee, cheerup, chee-chee, I do," sang the Robin; "how he
loved to sway on thistletops!"
"Yes," said Downy Woodpecker, "and didn't he sing? All about blue
skies, and sunshine and happy days, with his
"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said Snow Bunting. "We've all heard of
Thistle Goldfinch, but what can he have to do with your Christmas
party? He's away down South now, and wouldn't care if you gave a dozen
"Oh, but he isn't; he's right in these very woods!"
"Why, you don't mean--"
"Indeed I do mean it, every single word. Yesterday I was flitting about
among the trees, peeking at a dead branch here, and a bit of moss
there, and before I knew it I found myself away over at the other side
of the woods! 'Chickadee-dee-dee, chickadee-dee-dee!' I sang, as I
turned my bill toward home. Just then I heard the saddest little voice
pipe out: 'Dear-ie me! Dear-ie me!' and there on the sunny side of a
branch perched a lonesome bit of yellowish down. I went up to see what
it was, and found dear little Thistle Goldfinch! He was very glad to
see me, and soon told his short story. Through the summer Papa and
Mamma Goldfinch and all the brothers and sisters had a fine time,
singing together, fluttering over thistletops, or floating through the
balmy air. But when 'little Jack Frost walked through the trees,' Papa
Goldfinch said: 'It is high time we went South!' All were ready but
Thistle; he wanted to stay through the winter, and begged so hard that
Papa Goldfinch soberly said: 'Try it, my son, but do find a warm place
to stay in at night.' Then off they flew, and Thistle was alone. For a
while he was happy. The sun shone warm through the middle of the day,
and there were fields and meadows full of seeds. You all remember how
sweetly he sang for us then. But by and by the cold North Wind came
whistling through the trees, and chilly Thistle woke up one gray
morning to find the air full of whirling snowflakes He didn't mind the
light snows, golden-rod and some high grasses were too tall to be
easily covered, and he got seeds from them. But now that the heavy
snows have come, the poor little fellow is almost starved, and if he
doesn't have a warm place to sleep in these cold nights, he'll surely
Mrs. Chickadee paused a minute. The birds were so still one could hear
the pine trees whisper. Then she went on: "I comforted the poor little
fellow as best I could, and showed him where to find a few seeds; then
I flew home, for it was bedtime. I tucked my head under my wing to keep
it warm, and thought, and thought, and thought; and here's my plan:
"We Chickadees have a nice warm home here in the spruce trees, with
their thick, heavy boughs to shut out the snow and cold. There is
plenty of room, so Thistle could sleep here all winter. We would let
him perch on a branch, when we Chickadees would nestle around him until
he was as warm as in the lovely summer tine. These cones are so full of
seeds that we could spare him a good many; and I think that you Robins
might let him come over to your pines some day and share your seeds.
Downy Woodpecker must keep his eyes open as he hammers the trees, and
if he spies a supply of seeds he will let us know at once. Snow Bunting
is only a visitor, so I don't expect him to help, but I wanted him to
hear my plan with the rest of you. Now you WILL try, won't you, EVERY
"Cheerup, cheerup, ter-ra-lee! Indeed we'll try; let's begin right
away! Don't wait until to-morrow; who'll go and find Thistle?"
"I will," chirped Robin Rusty-breast, and off he flew to the place
which Mrs. Chickadee had told of, at the other side of the wood. There,
sure enough, he found Thistle Goldfinch sighing: "Dear-ie me! dear-ie
me! The winter is so cold and I'm here all alone!" "Cheerup,
chee-chee!" piped the Robin:
"Cheerup, cheerup, I'm here!
I'm here and I mean to stay.
What if the winter is drear--
Cheerup, cheerup, anyway!"
"But the snow is so deep," said Thistle, and the Robin replied:
"Soon the snows'll be over and gone,
Run and rippled away;
What's the use of looking forlorn?
Cheerup, cheerup, I say!"
Then he told Thistle all their plans, and wasn't Thistle surprised?
Why, he just couldn't believe a word of it till they reached Mrs.
Chickadee's and she said it was all true. They fed him and warmed him,
then settled themselves for a good night's rest.
Christmas morning they were chirping gaily, and Thistle was trying to
remember the happy song he sang in the summer time, when there came a
whirr of wings as Snow Bunting flew down.
"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee," said he, "can you fly a little
"Oh, yes," replied Thistle. "I THINK I could fly a LONG way."
"Come on, then," said Snow Bunting. "Every one who wants a Christmas
dinner, follow me!" That was every word he would say, so what could
they do but follow?
Soon they came to the edge of the wood, and then to a farmhouse. Snow
Bunting flew straight up to the piazza, and there stood a dear little
girl in a warm hood and cloak, with a pail of bird-seed on her arm, and
a dish of bread crumbs in her hand. As they flew down, she said:
"And here are some more birdies who have come for a Christmas dinner.
Of course you shall have some, you dear little things!" and she laughed
merrily to see them dive for the crumbs.
After they had finished eating, Elsie (that was the little girl's name)
said: "Now, little birds, it is going to be a cold winter, you would
better come here every day to get your dinner. I'll always be glad to
"Cheerup chee-chee, cheerup chee-chee! thank you, thank you," cried the
"Ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee, ter-ra-lee! thank you, thank you!" twittered
chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee! how kind you are!" sang the Chickadees.
And Thistle Goldfinch? Yes, he remembered his summer song, for he sang
as they flew away:
notes.--l. The Robin's song is from "Bird Talks," by Mrs. A.D.T.
2. The fact upon which this story is based--that is of the other birds
adopting and warming the solitary Thistle Goldfinch--was observed near
Northampton, Mass., where robins and other migratory birds sometimes
spend the winter in the thick pine woods.
XIV. THE LITTLE SISTER'S VACATION*
* This story was first published in the Youth's Companion, vol. 77.
WINIFRED M. KIRKLAND
It was to be a glorious Christmas at Doctor Brower's. All "the
children"--little Peggy and her mother always spoke of the grown-up
ones as "the children"--were coming home. Mabel was coming from Ohio
with her big husband and her two babies, Minna and little Robin, the
year-old grandson whom the home family had never seen; Hazen was coming
all the way from the Johns Hopkins Medical School, and Arna was coming
home from her teaching in New York. It was a trial to Peggy that
vacation did not begin until the very day before Christmas, and then
continued only one niggardly week. After school hours she had helped
her mother in the Christmas preparations every day until she crept into
bed at night with aching arms and tired feet, to lie there tossing
about, whether from weariness or glad excitement she did not know.
"Not so hard, daughter," the doctor said to her once.
"Oh, papa," protested her mother, "when we're so busy, and Peggy is so
"Not so hard," he repeated, with his eyes on fifteen-year-old Peggy's
delicate face, as, wearing her braids pinned up on her head and a
pinafore down to her toes, she stoned raisins and blanched almonds,
rolled bread crumbs and beat eggs, dusted and polished and made ready
for the children.
Finally, after a day of flying about, helping with the many last thing,
Peggy let down her braids and put on her new crimson shirtwaist, and
stood with her mother in the front doorway, for it was Christmas Eve at
last, and the station 'bus was rattling up with the first homecomers,
Arna and Hazen.
Then there were voices ringing up and down the dark street, and there
were happy tears in the mother's eyes, and Arna had taken Peggy's face
in her two soft-gloved hands and lifted it up and kissed it, and Hazen
had swung his little sister up in the air just as of old. Peggy's tired
feet were dancing for joy. She was helping Arna take off her things,
was carrying her bag upstairs--would have carried Hazen's heavy grip,
too, only her father took it from her.
"Set the kettle to boil, Peggy," directed her mother; "then run
upstairs and see if Arna wants anything. We'll wait supper till the
The rest came on the nine o'clock train, such a load of them--the big,
bluff brother-in-law, Mabel, plump and laughing, as always, Minna,
elfin and bright-eyed, and sleepy Baby Robin. Such hugging, such a
hubbub of baby talk! How many things there seemed to be to do for those
precious babies right away!
Peggy was here and there and everywhere. Everything was in joyous
confusion. Supper was to be set on, too. While the rest ate, Peggy sat
by, holding Robin, her own little nephew, and managing at the same time
to pick up the things--napkin, knife, spoon, bread--that Minna,
hilarious with the late hour, flung from her high chair.
It seemed as if they would never be all stowed away for the night. Some
of them wanted pitchers of warm water, some of them pitchers of cold,
and the alcohol stove must be brought up for heating the baby's milk at
night. The house was crowded, too. Peggy had given up her room to
Hazen, and slept on a cot in the sewing room with Minna.
The cot had been enlarged by having three chairs piled with pillows,
set along the side. But Minna preferred to sleep in the middle of the
cot, or else across it, her restless little feet pounding at Peggy's
ribs; and Peggy was unused to any bedfellow.
She lay long awake thinking proudly of the children; of Hazen, the tall
brother, with his twinkling eyes, his drolleries, his teasing; of
graceful Arna who dressed so daintily, talked so cleverly, and had been
to college. Arna was going to send Peggy to college, too--it was so
good of Arna! But for all Peggy's admiration for Arna, it was Mabel,
the eldest sister, who was the more approachable. Mabel did not pretend
even to as much learning as Peggy had herself; she was happy-go-lucky
and sweet-tempered. Then her husband was a great jolly fellow, with
whom it was impossible to be shy, and the babies--there never were such
cunning babies, Peggy thought. Just here her niece gave her a
particularly vicious kick, and Peggy opposed to her train of admiring
thoughts, "But I'm so tired."
It did not seem to Peggy that she had been asleep at all when she was
waked with a vigorous pounding on her chest and a shrill little voice
in her ear:
"Ch'is'mus, Ch'is'mus, Ch'is'mus! It's mornin'! It's Ch'is'mus!"
"Oh, no, it isn't, Minna!" pleaded Peggy, struggling with sleepiness.
"It's all dark still."
"Ch'is'mus, Ch'is'mus, Ch'is'mus!" reiterated Minna continuing to pound.
"Hush, dear! You'll wake Aunt Arna, and she's feed after being all day
on the chou-chou cars."
"Merry Ch'is'mus, Aunty Arna!" shouted the irrepressible Minna.
"Oh, darling, be quiet! We'll play little pig goes to market. I'll tell
you a story, only be quiet a little while."
It took Peggy's utmost effort to keep the little wriggler still for the
hour from five to six. Then, however, her shrill, "Merry Ch'is'mus!"
roused the household. Protests were of no avail. Minna was the only
granddaughter. Dark as it was, people must get up.
Peggy must dress Minna and then hurry down to help get breakfast--not
so easy a task with Minna ever at one's heels. The quick-moving sprite
seemed to be everywhere--into the sugar-bowl, the cooky jar, the
steaming teakettle--before one could turn about. Urged on by the
impatient little girl, the grown-ups made short work of breakfast.
After the meal, according to time-honoured Brower custom, they formed
in procession, single file, Minna first, then Ben with Baby Robin. They
each held aloft a sprig of holly, and they all kept time as they sang,
"God rest you, merry gentlemen," in their march from the dining-room to
the office. And there they must form in circle about the tree, and
dance three times round, singing "The Christmas-tree is an evergreen,"
before they could touch a single present.
The presents are done up according to custom, packages of every shape
and size, but all in white paper and tied with red ribbon, and all
marked for somebody with somebody else's best love. They all fall to
opening, and the babies' shouts are not the only ones to be heard.
Passers-by smile indulgently at the racket, remembering that all the
Browers are home for Christmas, and the Browers were ever a jovial
Peggy gazes at her gifts quietly, but with shining eyes--little gold
cuff pins from Hazen, just like Arna's; a set of furs from Mabel and
Ben; but she likes Arna's gift best of all, a complete set of her
But much as they would like to linger about the Christmas tree, Peggy
and her mother, at least, must remember that the dishes must be washed
and the beds made, and that the family must get ready for church. Peggy
does not go to church, and nobody dreams how much she wants to go. She
loves the Christmas music. No hymn rings so with joy as:
Jerusalem triumphs, Messiah is king.
The choir sings it only once a year, on the Christmas morning. Besides,
her chum Esther will be at church, and Peggy has been too busy to go to
see her since she came home from boarding-school for the holidays. But
somebody must stay at home, and that somebody who but Peggy? Somebody
must baste the turkey and prepare the vegetables and take care of the
Peggy is surprised to find how difficult it is to combine
dinner-getting with baby-tending. When she opens the oven-door, there
is Minna's head thrust up under her arm, the inquisitive little nose in
great danger by reason of sputtering gravy.
"Minna," protests Peggy, "you mustn't eat another bit of candy!" and
Minna opens her mouth in a howl, prolonged, but without tears and
without change of colour. Robin joins in, he does not know why. Peggy
is a doting aunt, but an honest one. She is vexed by a growing
conviction that Mabel's babies are sadly spoiled. Peggy is ashamed of
herself; surely she ought to be perfectly happy playing with Minna and
Robin. Instead, she finds that the thing she would like best of all to
be doing at this moment, next to going to church, would be to be lying
on her father's couch in the office, all by herself, reading.
The dinner is a savoury triumph for Peggy and her mother. The gravy and
the mashed potato are entirely of Peggy's workmanship, and Peggy has
had a hand in most of the other dishes, too, as the mother proudly
tells. How that merry party can eat! Peggy is waitress, and it is long
before the passing is over, and she can sit down in her own place. She
is just as fond of the unusual Christmas good things as are the rest,
but somehow, before she is well started at her turkey, it is time for
changing plates for dessert, and before she has tasted her nuts and
raisins the babies have succumbed to sleepiness, and it is Peggy who
must carry them upstairs for their nap--just in the middle of one of
Hazen's funniest stories, too.
And all the time the little sister is so ready, so quickly serviceable,
that somehow nobody notices--nobody but the doctor. It is he who finds
Peggy, half as hour later, all alone in the kitchen. The mother and the
older daughters are gathered about the sitting-room hearth, engaged in
the dear, delicious talk about the little things that are always left
out of letters.
The doctor interrupts them.
"Peggy is all alone," he says.
"But we're having such a good talk," the mother pleads, "and Peggy will
be done in no time! Peggy is so handy!"
"Well, girls?" is all the doctor says, with quiet command in his eyes,
and Peggy is not left to wash the Christmas dishes all alone. Because
she is smiling and her cheeks are bright, her sisters do not notice
that her eyes are wet, for Peggy is hotly ashamed of certain thoughts
and feelings that she cannot down. She forgets them for a while,
however, sitting on the hearth-rug, snuggled against her father's knee
in the Christmas twilight.
Yet the troublesome thoughts came back in the evening, when Peggy sat
upstairs in the dark with Minna, vainly trying to induce the excited
little girl to go to sleep, while bursts of merriment from the family
below were always breaking in upon the two in their banishment.
There was another restless night of it with the little niece, and
another too early waking. Everybody but Minna was sleepy enough, and
breakfast was a protracted meal, to which the "children" came down
slowly one by one. Arna did not appear at all, and Peggy carried up to
her the daintiest of trays, all of her own preparing. Arna's kiss of
thanks was great reward. It was dinner-time before Peggy realized it,
and she had hoped to find a quiet hour for her Latin.
The dreadful regent's examination was to come the next week, and Peggy
wanted to study for it. She had once thought of asking Arna to help
her, but Arna seemed so tired.
In the afternoon Esther came to see her chum, and to take her home with
her to spend the night. The babies, fretful with
after-Christmas-crossness, were tumbling over their aunt, and sadly
interrupting confidences, while Peggy explained that she could not go
out that evening. All the family were going to the church sociable, and
she must put the babies to bed.
"I think it's mean," Esther broke in. "Isn't it your vacation as well
as theirs? Do make that child stop pulling your hair!"
If Esther's words had only not echoed through Peggy's head as they did
that night! "But it is so mean of me, so mean of me, to want my own
vacation!" sobbed Peggy in the darkness. "I ought just to be glad
they're all at home."
Her self-reproach made her readier than ever to wait on them all the
next morning. Nobody could make such buckwheat cakes as could Mrs.
Brower; nobody could turn them as could Peggy. They were worth coming
from New York and Baltimore and Ohio to eat. Peggy stood at the griddle
half an hour, an hour, two hours. Her head was aching. Hazen, the
latest riser, was joyously calling for more.
At eleven o'clock Peggy realized that she had had no breakfast herself,
and that her mother was hurrying her off to investigate the lateness of
the butcher. Her head ached more and more, and she seemed strangely
slow in her dinner-getting and dish-washing. Her father was away, and
there was no one to help in the clearing-up. It was three before she
Outside the sleigh-bells sounded enticing. It was the first sleighing
of the season. Mabel and Ben had been off for a ride, and Arna and
Hazen, too. How Peggy longed to be skimming over the snow instead of
polishing knives all alone in the kitchen. Sue Cummings came that
afternoon to invite Peggy to her party, given in Esther's honour. Sue
enumerated six other gatherings that were being given that week in
honour of Esther's visit home. Sue seemed to dwell much on the subject.
Presently Peggy, with hot cheeks, understood why. Everybody was giving
Esther a party, everybody but Peggy herself. Esther's own chum, and all
the other girls, were talking about it.
Peggy stood at the door to see Sue out, and watched the sleighs fly by.
Out in the sitting-room she heard her mother saying, "Yes, of course we
can have waffles for supper. Where's Peggy?" Then Peggy ran away.
In the wintry dusk the doctor came stamping in, shaking the snow from
his bearskins. As always, "Where's Peggy?" was his first question.
Peggy was not to be found, they told him. They had been all over the
house, calling her. They thought she must have gone out with Sue. The
doctor seemed to doubt this. He went through the upstairs rooms,
calling her softly. But Peggy was not in any of the bedrooms, or in any
of the closets, either. There was still the kitchen attic to be tried.
There came a husky little moan out of its depths, as he whispered,
He groped his way to her, and sitting down on a trunk, folded her into
his bearskin coat.
"Now tell father all about it," he said. And it all came out with many
sobs--the nights and dawns with Minna, the Latin, the sleighing,
Esther's party, breakfast, the weariness, the headache; and last the
waffles, which had moved the one unbearable thing.
"And it is so mean of me, so mean of me!" sobbed Peggy. "But, oh,
daddy, I do want a vacation!"
"And you shall have one," he answered.
He carried her straight into her own room, laid her down on her own
bed, and tumbled Hazen's things into the hall. Then he went downstairs
and talked to his family.
Presently the mother came stealing in. bearing a glass of medicine the
doctor-father had sent. Then she undressed Peggy and put her to bed as
if she had been a baby, and sat by, smoothing her hair, until she fell
It seemed to Peggy that she had slept a long, long time. The sun was
shining bright. Her door opened a crack and Arna peeped in, and seeing
her awake, came to the bed and kissed her good morning.
"I'm so sorry, little sister!" she said.
"Sorry for what?" asked the wondering Peggy.
"Because I didn't see," said Arna. "But now I'm going to bring up your
"Oh, no!" cried Peggy, sitting up.
"Oh, yes!" said Arna, with quiet authority. It was as dainty cooking as
Peggy's own, and Arna sat by to watch her eat.
"You're so good to me, Arna!" said Peggy.
"Not very," answered Arna, dryly. "When you've finished this you must
lie up here away from the children and read."
"But who will take care of Minna?" questioned Peggy.
"Minna's mamma," answered a voice from the next room, where Mabel was
pounding pillows. She came to the door to look in on Peggy in all her
luxury of orange marmalade to eat, Christmas books to read, and Arna to
wait upon her.
"I think mothers, not aunts, were meant to look after babies," said
Mabel. "I'm so sorry, dear!"
"Oh, I wish you two wouldn't talk like that!" cried Peggy. "I'm so
"All right, we'll stop talking," said Mabel quickly, "but we'll
They would not let Peggy lift her hand to any of the work that day.
Mabel managed the babies masterfully. Arna moved quietly about,
"But aren't you tired, Arna?" queried Peggy.
"Not a bit of it, and I'll have time to help you with your Caesar
"Before what?" asked Peggy, but got no answer. They had been
translating famously, when, in the late afternoon, there came a ring of
the doorbell. Peggy found Hazen bowing low, and craving "Mistress
Peggy's company." A sleigh and two prancing horses stood at the gate.
It was a glorious drive. Peggy's eyes danced and her laugh rang out at
Hazen's drolleries. The world stretched white all about them, and their
horses flew on and on like the wind. They rode till dark, then turned
back to the village, twinkling with lights.
The Brower house was alight in every window, and there was the sound of
many voices in the hall. The door flew open upon a laughing crowd of
boys and girls. Peggy, all glowing and rosy with the wind, stood
utterly bewildered until Esther rushed forward and hugged and shook her.
"It's a party!" she exclaimed. "One of your mother's waffle suppers!
We're all here! Isn't it splendid?"
"But, but, but--" stammered Peggy.
"'But, but, but,'" mimicked Esther. "But this is your vacation, don't
XV. LITTLE WOLFF'S WOODEN SHOES
A CHRISTMAS STORY BY FRANCOIS COPPEE; ADAPTED AND TRANSLATED BY ALMA J.
Once upon a time--so long ago that everybody has forgotten the date--in
a city in the north of Europe--with such a hard name that nobody can
ever remember it--there was a little seven-year-old boy named Wolff,
whose parents were dead, who lived with a cross and stingy old aunt,
who never thought of kissing him more than once a year and who sighed
deeply whenever she gave him a bowlful of soup.
But the poor little fellow had such a sweet nature that in spite of
everything, he loved the old woman, although he was terribly afraid of
her and could never look at her ugly old face without shivering.
As this aunt of little Wolff was known to have a house of her own and
an old woollen stocking full of gold, she had not dared to send the boy
to a charity school; but, in order to get a reduction in the price, she
had so wrangled with the master of the school, to which little Wolff
finally went, that this bad man, vexed at having a pupil so poorly
dressed and paying so little, often punished him unjustly, and even
prejudiced his companions against him, so that the three boys, all sons
of rich parents, made a drudge and laughing stock of the little fellow.
The poor little one was thus as wretched as a child could be and used
to hide himself in corners to weep whenever Christmas time came.
It was the schoolmaster's custom to take all his pupils to the midnight
mass on Christmas Eve, and to bring them home again afterward.
Now, as the winter this year was very bitter, and as heavy snow had
been falling for several days, all the boys came well bundled up in
warm clothes, with fur caps pulled over their ears, padded jackets,
gloves and knitted mittens, and strong, thick-soled boots. Only little
Wolff presented himself shivering in the poor clothes he used to wear
both weekdays and Sundays and having on his feet only thin socks in
heavy wooden shoes.
His naughty companions noticing his sad face and awkward appearance,
made many jokes at his expense; but the little fellow was so busy
blowing on his fingers, and was suffering so much with chilblains, that
he took no notice of them. So the band of youngsters, walking two and
two behind the master, started for the church.
It was pleasant in the church which was brilliant with lighted candles;
and the boys excited by the warmth took advantage of the music of the
choir and the organ to chatter among themselves in low tones. They
bragged about the fun that was awaiting them at home. The mayor's son
had seen, just before starting off, an immense goose ready stuffed and
dressed for cooking. At the alderman's home there was a little
pine-tree with branches laden down with oranges, sweets, and toys. And
the lawyer's cook had put on her cap with such care as she never
thought of taking unless she was expecting something very good!
Then they talked, too, of all that the Christ-Child was going to bring
them, of all he was going to put in their shoes which, you might be
sure, they would take good care to leave in the chimney place before
going to bed; and the eyes of these little urchins, as lively as a cage
of mice, were sparkling in advance over the joy they would have when
they awoke in the morning and saw the pink bag full of sugar-plums, the
little lead soldiers ranged in companies in their boxes, the menageries
smelling of varnished wood, and the magnificent jumping-jacks in purple
Alas! Little Wolff knew by experience that his old miser of an aunt
would send him to bed supperless, but, with childlike faith and certain
of having been, all the year, as good and industrious as possible, he
hoped that the Christ-Child would not forget him, and so he, too,
planned to place his wooden shoes in good time in the fireplace.
Midnight mass over, the worshippers departed, eager for their fun, and
the band of pupils always walking two and two, and following the
teacher, left the church.
Now, in the porch and seated on a stone bench set in the niche of a
painted arch, a child was sleeping--a child in a white woollen garment,
but with his little feet bare, in spite of the cold. He was not a
beggar, for his garment was white and new, and near him on the floor
was a bundle of carpenter's tools.
In the clear light of the stars, his face, with its closed eyes, shone
with an expression of divine sweetness, and his long, curling, blond
locks seemed to form a halo about his brow. But his little child's
feet, made blue by the cold of this bitter December night, were pitiful
The boys so well clothed for the winter weather passed by quite
indifferent to the unknown child; several of them, sons of the notables
of the town, however, cast on the vagabond looks in which could be read
all the scorn of the rich for the poor, of the well-fed for the hungry.
But little Wolff, coming last out of the church, stopped, deeply
touched, before the beautiful sleeping child.
"Oh, dear!" said the little fellow to himself, "this is frightful! This
poor little one has no shoes and stockings in this bad weather--and,
what is still worse, he has not even a wooden shoe to leave near him
to-night while he sleeps, into which the little Christ-Child can put
something good to soothe his misery."
And carried away by his loving heart, Wolff drew the wooden shoe from
his right foot, laid it down before the sleeping child, and, as best he
could, sometimes hopping, sometimes limping with his sock wet by the
snow, he went home to his aunt.
"Look at the good-for-nothing!" cried the old woman, full of wrath at
the sight of the shoeless boy. "What have you done with your shoe, you
Little Wolff did not know how to lie, so, although trembling with
terror when he saw the rage of the old shrew, he tried to relate his
But the miserly old creature only burst into a frightful fit of
"Aha! So my young gentleman strips himself for the beggars. Aha! My
young gentleman breaks his pair of shoes for a bare-foot! Here is
something new, forsooth. Very well, since it is this way, I shall put
the only shoe that is left into the chimney-place, and I'll answer for
it that the Christ-Child will put in something to-night to beat you
with in the morning! And you will have only a crust of bread and water
to-morrow. And we shall see if the next time, you will be giving your
shoes to the first vagabond that happens along."
And the wicked woman having boxed the ears of the poor little fellow,
made him climb up into the loft where he had his wretched cubbyhole.
Desolate, the child went to bed in the dark and soon fell asleep, but
his pillow was wet with tears.
But behold! the next morning when the old woman, awakened early by the
cold, went downstairs--oh, wonder of wonders--she saw the big chimney
filled with shining toys, bags of magnificent bonbons, and riches of
every sort, and standing out in front of all this treasure, was the
right wooden shoe which the boy had given to the little vagabond, yes,
and beside it, the one which she had placed in the chimney to hold the
bunch of switches.
As little Wolff, attracted by the cries of his aunt, stood in an
ecstasy of childish delight before the splendid Christmas gifts, shouts
of laughter were heard outside. The woman and child ran out to see what
all this meant, and behold! all the gossips of the town were standing
around the public fountain. What could have happened? Oh, a most
ridiculous and extraordinary thing! The children of the richest men in
the town, whom their parents had planned to surprise with the most
beautiful presents had found only switches in their shoes!
Then the old woman and the child thinking of all the riches in their
chimney were filled with fear. But suddenly they saw the priest appear,
his countenance full of astonishment. Just above the bench placed near
the door of the church, in the very spot where, the night before, a
child in a white garment and with bare feet, in spite of the cold, had
rested his lovely head, the priest had found a circlet of gold imbedded
in the old stones.
Then, they all crossed themselves devoutly, perceiving that this
beautiful sleeping child with the carpenter's tools had been Jesus of
Nazareth himself, who had come back for one hour just as he had been
when he used to work in the home of his parents; and reverently they
bowed before this miracle, which the good God had done to reward the
faith and the love of a little child.
XVI. CHRISTMAS IN THE ALLEY*
* From "Kristy's Queer Christmas," Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.
OLIVE THORNE MILLER
"I declare for 't, to-morrow is Christmas Day an' I clean forgot all
about it," said old Ann, the washerwoman, pausing in her work and
holding the flatiron suspended in the air.
"Much good it'll do us," growled a discontented voice from the coarse
bed in the corner.
"We haven't much extra, to be sure," answered Ann cheerfully, bringing
the iron down onto the shirt-bosom before her, "but at least we've
enough to eat, and a good fire, and that's more'n some have, not a
thousand miles from here either."
"We might have plenty more," said the fretful voice, "if you didn't
think so much more of strangers than you do of your own folk's comfort,
keeping a houseful of beggars, as if you was a lady!"
"Now, John," replied Ann, taking another iron from the fire, "you're
not half so bad as you pretend. You wouldn't have me turn them poor
creatures into the streets to freeze, now, would you?"
"It's none of our business to pay rent for them," grumbled John. "Every
one for himself, I say, these hard times. If they can't pay you'd ought
to send 'em off; there's plenty as can."
"They'd pay quick enough if they could get work," said Ann. "They're
good honest fellows, every one, and paid me regular as long as they had
a cent. But when hundreds are out o' work in the city, what can they
"That's none o' your business, you can turn 'em out!" growled John.
"And leave the poor children to freeze as well as starve?" said Ann.
"Who'd ever take 'em in without money, I'd like to know? No, John,"
bringing her iron down as though she meant it, "I'm glad I'm well
enough to wash and iron, and pay my rent, and so long as I can do that,
and keep the hunger away from you and the child, I'll never turn the
poor souls out, leastways, not in this freezing winter weather."
"An' here's Christmas," the old man went on whiningly, "an' not a penny
to spend, an' I needin' another blanket so bad, with my rhumatiz, an'
haven't had a drop of tea for I don't know how long!"
"I know it," said Ann, never mentioning that she too had been without
tea, and not only that, but with small allowance of food of any kind,
"and I'm desperate sorry I can't get a bit of something for Katey. The
child never missed a little something in her stocking before."
"Yes," John struck in, "much you care for your flesh an' blood. The
child ha'n't had a thing this winter."
"That's true enough," said Ann, with a sigh, "an' it's the hardest
thing of all that I've had to keep her out o' school when she was doing
"An' her feet all on the ground," growled John.
"I know her shoes is bad," said Ann, hanging the shirt up on a line
that stretched across the room, and was already nearly full of freshly
ironed clothes, "but they're better than the Parker children's."
"What's that to us?" almost shouted the weak old man, shaking his fist
at her in his rage.
"Well, keep your temper, old man," said Ann. "I'm sorry it goes so hard
with you, but as long as I can stand on my feet, I sha'n't turn anybody
out to freeze, that's certain."
"How much'll you get for them?" said the miserable old man, after a few
moments' silence, indicating by his hand the clean clothes on the line.
"Two dollars," said Ann, "and half of it must go to help make up next
month's rent. I've got a good bit to make up yet, and only a week to do
it in, and I sha'n't have another cent till day after to-morrow."
"Well, I wish you'd manage to buy me a little tea," whined the old man;
"seems as if that would go right to the spot, and warm up my old bones
"I'll try," said Ann, revolving in her mind how she could save a few
pennies from her indispensable purchases to get tea and sugar, for
without sugar he would not touch it.
Wearied with his unusual exertion, the old man now dropped off to
sleep, and Ann went softly about, folding and piling the clothes into a
big basket already half full. When they were all packed in, and nicely
covered with a piece of clean muslin, she took an old shawl and hood
from a nail in the corner, put them on, blew out the candle, for it
must not burn one moment unnecessarily, and, taking up her basket, went
out into the cold winter night, softly closing the door behind her.
The house was on an alley, but as soon as she turned the corner she was
in the bright streets, glittering with lamps and gay people. The shop
windows were brilliant with Christmas displays, and thousands of warmly
dressed buyers were lingering before them, laughing and chatting, and
selecting their purchases. Surely it seemed as if there could be no
As quickly as her burden would let her, the old washerwoman passed
through the crowd into a broad street and rang the basement bell of a
large, showy house.
"Oh, it's the washerwoman!" said a flashy-looking servant who answered
the bell; "set the basket right m here. Mrs. Keithe can't look them
over to-night. There's company in the parlour--Miss Carry's Christmas
"Ask her to please pay me--at least a part," said old Ann hastily. "I
don't see how I can do without the money. I counted on it."
"I'll ask her," said the pert young woman, turning to go upstairs; "but
it's no use."
Returning in a moment, she delivered the message. "She has no change
to-night; you're to come in the morning."
"Dear me!" thought Ann, as she plodded back through the streets, "it'll
be even worse than I expected, for there's not a morsel to eat in the
house, and not a penny to buy one with. Well--well--the Lord will
provide, the Good Book says, but it's mighty dark days, and it's hard
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