lördagen den 4:e januari 2014

On the eleventh day of Christmas

I recommend "King Winter", by Anonymous

 The sky is dull and grey,
Piercing and chill the blast,
Each step resounds on the frosty ground,
Winter is come at last.

Mamma sits by the fire
Her little ones round her knees.
"How cosy we are, Mamma," they cry,
"Tell us something, if you please."

 "Tell us about King Winter,
And about Jack Frost, his man;
We'll not be noisy or naughty at all,
But as good as ever we can."

"Well then;" says mamma, "you, Jenny,
May knit and listen, my dear;
And Johnny may split up wood, to make
The fire burn bright and clear."

fredagen den 3:e januari 2014

On the tenth day of Christmas

I recommend "Christmas Comes but Once A Year  Showing What Mr. Brown Did, Thought, and Intended to Do, during that Festive Season.  Author: Luke Limner  Illustrator: (Bros.) Dalziel
 VERY cold, very bleak; the thermometer and snow are falling fast; eggs and suet are rising faster; everything at this season is “prized,” and everybody apprizes everybody else of the good they wish them,—“A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” Even the shivering caroller, for “it is a poor heart that never rejoices,” is yelling forth the “tidings of comfort and joy.” The snow that descends, making park and common alike—topping palace and pigsty, now crowns the semi-detached villas, Victoria and Albert. They were erected from the 2designs of John Brown, Esq. and his architect (or builder), and are considered a fine specimen of compo-cockney-gothic, in which the constructor has made the most of his materials; for, to save digging, he sank the foundation in an evacuated pond, and, as an antidote to damp, used wood with the dry-rot—the little remaining moisture being pumped out daily by the domestics. The floors are3delightfully springy, having cracks to precipitate the dirt, and are sloped towards the doorways, so that the furniture is perpetually trying to walk out of the rooms; but those apertures are ingeniously planned to prevent the evil—the doors obstinately refusing to open at all, without force. That the whole may not appear too light, few windows are introduced. By casual observers the Victoria and Albert would be taken for one—so united are they; and had we not seen the parting division, we should have doubted also. Of the entrance lodges, we have noticed one of the chimneys smoking periodically; and, from the mollient white vapour issuing over the window at such times, presume Victoria is washing, whilst Albert is locked up and doing nothing.
  

torsdagen den 2:e januari 2014

On the ninth day of Christmas

I recommend "Christmas Eve at Swamp's Endby Norman Duncan

 It was Christmas weather in the big woods: a Christmas temperature like frozen steel—thirty below in the clearing of Swamp's End—and a rollicking wind, careering over the pines, and the swirling dust of snow in the metallic air. A cold, crisp crackling world! A Christmas land, too: a vast expanse of Christmas colour, from the Canadian line to the Big River—great, grave, green pines, white earth and a blood-red sunset! The low log-cabins of the lumber camps were smothered in snow; they were fringed with pendant ice at the eaves, and banked high with drifts, and all window-frosted. The trails were thigh deep and drifting. The pines—their great fall imminent, now—flaunted long, black arms in the gale; they creaked, they swished, they droned, they crackled with frost. It was coming on dusk. The deeper reaches of the forest were already dark. Horses and teamsters, sawyers, road-monkeys, axemen, swampers, punk-hunters and all, floundered from the bush, white with dry snow, icicled and frosted like a Christmas cake, to the roaring bunk-house fires, to a voracious employment at the cooks' long tables, and to an expanding festival jollity. Town? Sure! Swamp's End for Christmas—the lights and companionship of the bedraggled shanty lumber-town in the clearing of Swamp's End! Swamp's End for Gingerbread Jenkins! Swamp's End for Billy the Beast! Swamp's End—and the roaring hilarity thereof—for man and boy, straw-boss and cookee, of the lumber-jacks! Presently the dim trails from the Cant-hook cutting, from the Bottle River camps, from Snook's landing and the Yellow Tail works, poured the boys into town—a lusty, hilarious crew, like loosed school-boys on a lark, giving over, now, to the only distractions, it seemed—and John Fairmeadow maintained it—which the great world provided in the forests.
Pattie Batch might have been aware of this—the log shack was on the edge of town—had not the window-panes been coated thick with Christmas frost. She might have heard rough laughter passing by—the Bottle River trail ran right past the door—had not the big Christmas wind snored in the stove, and fearsomely rattled the door, and shaken the cabin, and swept howling on. But she never in the world would have attended. Not in that emergency! She would not, for anything, have peeped out of the windows, in perfectly proper curiosity, to watch the Bottle River jacks flounder into town. Not she! Pattie Batch was busy. Pattie Batch was so desperately employed that her swift little fingers demanded all the attention that the most alert, the brightest, the very most bewitching gray eyes in the whole wide world could bestow upon anything whatsoever. Christmas Eve, you see: Day done. Something of soft fawn-skin engaged her, it seemed, with white patches matched and arranged with marvellous exactitude: something made for warmth in the wind—something of small fashion, but long and indubitably capacious—something with a hood. A little cloak, possibly: I don't know. But I am sure that it could envelop, that it could boil or roast, that it could fairly smother—a baby! It was lined with golden-brown, crackling silk, which Pattie Batch's mother had left in her trunk, upon her last departure, poor woman! from the sordid world of Swamp's End to regions which were now become in Pattie Batch's loving vision Places of Light. And it was upon this treasured cloth that Pattie Batch's flashing needle was working like mad in the lamplight. A Christmas sacrifice: it was labour of love and the gift of treasure.
Pattie Batch was lovely. Everybody knew it; and there's no denying it. Grief had not left her wan and apathetic. She had been "a little man." She had been so much of a little man that she was now much more of a little woman than ever she had been before. In respect to her bewitching endearments, there's no mincing matters, at all. It would shame a man to 'hem and haw and qualify. She was adorable. Beauty of youth and heart of tenderness: a quaint little womanly child of seventeen—gowned, now, in a black dress, long-skirted, to be sure! of her mother's old-fashioned wearing. Gray eyes, wide, dark-lashed, sun-sparkling and shadowy, and willful dark hair, a sweetly tilted little nose, a boyish, masterful way, coquettish twinkles, dimples in most perilous places, rosy cheeks, a tender little figure, an aristocratic toss to her head: why, indeed—the catalogue of her charms has no end to it! Courage to boot, too—as though youth and loveliness were not sufficient endowment—and uncompromising honesty with herself and all the world. She took in washing from the camps: there was nothing else to do, with Gray Billy Batch lost in Rattle Water, and now decently stowed away by the Reverend John Fairmeadow. It was lonely in Gray Billy Batch's cabin, now, of course; it was sometimes almost intolerably so—and ghostly, too, with echoes of long-past footsteps and memories of soft motherly words. Pattie Batch, however, a practical little person, knew in her own mind, you must be informed, exactly how to still the haunting echoes and transform the memories into blessed companions of her busy, gentle solitude; but she had not as yet managed the solution.
Pattie Batch wanted a baby. Companionship, of course, would be a mere by-product of a baby's presence in the cabin; the real wealth and advantage would be a glowing satisfaction in the baby. At any rate, Pattie Batch wanted one: she always had—and she simply couldn't help it. Babies, however, were not numerous at Swamp's End; in point of fact, there was only one—a perfectly adorable infant, it must be understood, a suitable child, and worthy, in every respect, of being heartily desired by any woman—which unhappily belonged to the bartender who lived with Pale Peter of the Red Elephant saloon. No use asking for that baby! Not outright. It could be borrowed, however. Pattie Batch hadborrowed it; she had borrowed it frequently, of late, and had mysteriously measured it with a calculating eye, and had estimated, and scowled in doubt, and scratched her head, and pursed her sweet red lips, and had secretly spanned the baby, from chin to toe and across the back, with an industriously inquiring thumb and little finger. But a borrowed baby, it seems, is of no use whatsoever; the satisfaction is said to be temporary—nothing more—and to leave a sense of vacant arms and a stinging aggravation of envy. So what Pattie Batch wanted was a baby to keep—a baby she could call her own and cherish against meddling—a baby that should be so rosy and fat and curly, so neat and white, so scrubbed and highly polished from crown to toe-nails, that every mother in the land, beholding, would promptly expire on the spot of amazement, incredulity and sheer jealousy.


onsdagen den 1:e januari 2014

On the eighth day of Christmas

I recommend "The Angel Over the Right Shoulder" by Elizabeth Wooster Stuart Phelps


The Angel over the Right Shoulder


"There! a woman's work is never done," said Mrs. James; "I thought, for once, I was through; but just look at that lamp, now! it will not burn, and I must go and spend half an hour over it."
"Don't you wish you had never been married?" said Mr. James, with a good-natured laugh.
"Yes"—rose to her lips, but was checked by a glance at the group upon the floor, where her husband was stretched out, and two little urchins with sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks, were climbing and tumbling over him, as if they found in this play the very essence of fun.
She did say, "I should like the good, without the evil, if I could have it."
"You have no evils to endure," replied her husband.
"That is just all you gentlemen know about it. What would you think, if you could not get an uninterrupted half hour to yourself, from morning till night? I believe you would give up trying to do anything."
"There is no need of that; all you want, is system. If you arranged your work systematically, you would find that you could command your time."
"Well," was the reply, "all I wish is, that you could just follow me around for one day, and see what I have to do. If you could reduce it all to system, I think you would show yourself a genius."
When the lamp was trimmed, the conversation was resumed. Mr. James had employed the "half hour," in meditating on this subject.
"Wife," said he, as she came in, "I have a plan to propose to you, and I wish you to promise me beforehand, that you will accede to it. It is to be an experiment, I acknowledge, but I wish it to have a fair trial. Now to please me, will you promise?"
Mrs. James hesitated. She felt almost sure that his plan would be quite impracticable, for what does a man know of a woman's work? yet she promised.
"Now I wish you," said he, "to set apart two hours of every day for your own private use. Make a point of going to your room and locking yourself in; and also make up your mind to let the work which is not done, go undone, if it must. Spend this time on just those things which will be most profitable to yourself. I shall bind you to your promise for one month—then, if it has proved a total failure, we will devise something else."
"When shall I begin?"
"To-morrow."
The morrow came. Mrs. James had chosen the two hours before dinner as being, on the whole, the most convenient and the least liable to interruption. They dined at one o'clock. She wished to finish her morning work, get dressed for the day, and enter her room at eleven.
Hearty as were her efforts to accomplish this, the hour of eleven found her with her work but half done; yet, true to her promise, she left all, retired to her room and locked the door.
With some interest and hope, she immediately marked out a course of reading and study, for these two precious hours; then, arranging her table, her books, pen and paper, she commenced a schedule of her work with much enthusiasm. Scarcely had she dipped her pen in ink, when she heard the tramping of little feet along the hall, and then a pounding at her door.
"Mamma! mamma! I cannot find my mittens, and Hannah is going to slide without me."
"Go to Amy, my dear; mamma is busy."
"So Amy busy too; she say she can't leave baby."
The child began to cry, still standing close to the fastened door. Mrs. James knew the easiest, and indeed the only way of settling the trouble, was to go herself and hunt up the missing mittens. Then a parley must be held with Frank, to induce him to wait for his sister, and the child's tears must be dried, and little hearts must be all set right before the children went out to play; and so favorable an opportunity must not be suffered to slip, without impressing on young minds the importance of having a "place for everything and everything in its place;" this took time; and when Mrs. James returned to her study, her watch told her that half her portion had gone. Quietly resuming her work, she was endeavoring to mend her broken train of thought, when heavier steps were heard in the hall, and the fastened door was once more besieged. Now, Mr. James must be admitted.
"Mary," said he, "cannot you come and sew a string on for me? I do believe there is not a bosom in my drawer in order, and I am in a great hurry. I ought to have been down town an hour ago."
The schedule was thrown aside, the workbasket taken, and Mrs. James followed him. She soon sewed on the tape, but then a button needed fastening—and at last a rip in his glove, was to be mended. As Mrs. James stitched away on the glove, a smile lurked in the corners of her mouth, which her husband observed.
"What are you laughing at?" asked he.
"To think how famously your plan works."
"I declare!" said he, "is this your study hour? I am sorry, but what can a man do? He cannot go down town without a shirt bosom!"
"Certainly not," said his wife, quietly.
When her liege lord was fairly equipped and off, Mrs. James returned to her room. A half an hour yet remained to her, and of this she determined to make the most. But scarcely had she resumed her pen, when there was another disturbance in the entry. Amy had returned from walking out with the baby, and she entered the nursery with him, that she might get him to sleep. Now it happened that the only room in the house which Mrs. James could have to herself with a fire, was the one adjoining the nursery. She had become so accustomed to the ordinary noise of the children, that it did not disturb her; but the very extraordinary noise which master Charley sometimes felt called upon to make, when he was fairly on his back in the cradle, did disturb the unity of her thoughts. The words which she was reading rose and fell with the screams and lulls of the child, and she felt obliged to close her book, until the storm was over. When quiet was restored in the cradle, the children came in from sliding, crying with cold fingers—and just as she was going to them, the dinner-bell rang.

tisdagen den 31:e december 2013

On the seventh day of Christmas

I recommend "Short Stories, 1909 to 1922", by Lucy Maud Montgomery


Uncle Richard's New Year's Dinner

Prissy Baker was in Oscar Miller's store New Year's morning, buying matches—for New Year's was not kept as a business holiday in Quincy—when her uncle, Richard Baker, came in. He did not look at Prissy, nor did she wish him a happy New Year; she would not have dared. Uncle Richard had not been on speaking terms with her or her father, his only brother, for eight years.
He was a big, ruddy, prosperous-looking man—an uncle to be proud of, Prissy thought wistfully, if only he were like other people's uncles, or, indeed, like what he used to be himself. He was the only uncle Prissy had, and when she had been a little girl they had been great friends; but that was before the quarrel, in which Prissy had had no share, to be sure, although Uncle Richard seemed to include her in his rancour.
Richard Baker, so he informed Mr. Miller, was on his way to Navarre with a load of pork.
"I didn't intend going over until the afternoon," he said, "but Joe Hemming sent word yesterday he wouldn't be buying pork after twelve today. So I have to tote my hogs over at once. I don't care about doing business New Year's morning."
"Should think New Year's would be pretty much the same as any other day to you," said Mr. Miller, for Richard Baker was a bachelor, with only old Mrs. Janeway to keep house for him.
"Well, I always like a good dinner on New Year's," said Richard Baker. "It's about the only way I can celebrate. Mrs. Janeway wanted to spend the day with her son's family over at Oriental, so I was laying out to cook my own dinner. I got everything ready in the pantry last night, 'fore I got word about the pork. I won't get back from Navarre before one o'clock, so I reckon I'll have to put up with a cold bite."
After her Uncle Richard had driven away, Prissy walked thoughtfully home. She had planned to spend a nice, lazy holiday with the new book her father had given her at Christmas and a box of candy. She did not even mean to cook a dinner, for her father had had to go to town that morning to meet a friend and would be gone the whole day. There was nobody else to cook dinner for. Prissy's mother had died when Prissy was a baby. She was her father's housekeeper, and they had jolly times together.
But as she walked home, she could not help thinking about Uncle Richard. He would certainly have cold New Year cheer, enough to chill the whole coming year. She felt sorry for him, picturing him returning from Navarre, cold and hungry, to find a fireless house and an uncooked dinner in the pantry.
Suddenly an idea popped into Prissy's head. Dared she? Oh, she never could! But he would never know—there would be plenty of time—she would!
Prissy hurried home, put her matches away, took a regretful peep at her unopened book, then locked the door and started up the road to Uncle Richard's house half a mile away. She meant to go and cook Uncle Richard's dinner for him, get it all beautifully ready, then slip away before he came home. He would never suspect her of it. Prissy would not have him suspect for the world; she thought he would be more likely to throw a dinner of her cooking out of doors than to eat it.
Eight years before this, when Prissy had been nine years old, Richard and Irving Baker had quarrelled over the division of a piece of property. The fault had been mainly on Richard's side, and that very fact made him all the more unrelenting and stubborn. He had never spoken to his brother since, and he declared he never would. Prissy and her father felt very badly over it, but Uncle Richard did not seem to feel badly at all. To all appearance he had completely forgotten that there were such people in the world as his brother Irving and his niece Prissy.
Prissy had no trouble in breaking into Uncle Richard's house, for the woodshed door was unfastened. She tripped into the hostile kitchen with rosy cheeks and mischief sparkling in her eyes. This was an adventure—this was fun! She would tell her father all about it when he came home at night and what a laugh they would have!
There was still a good fire in the stove, and in the pantry Prissy found the dinner in its raw state—a fine roast of fresh pork, potatoes, cabbage, turnips and the ingredients of a raisin pudding, for Richard Baker was fond of raisin puddings, and could make them as well as Mrs. Janeway could, if that was anything to boast of.
In a short time the kitchen was full of bubbling and hissings and...

måndagen den 30:e december 2013

On the sixth day of Christmas

I recommend "Roads of Destiny, by O. Henry

WHISTLING DICK'S CHRISTMAS STOCKING
 

It was with much caution that Whistling Dick slid back the door of the box-car, for Article 5716, City Ordinances, authorized (perhaps unconstitutionally) arrest on suspicion, and he was familiar of old with this ordinance. So, before climbing out, he surveyed the field with all the care of a good general.
He saw no change since his last visit to this big, alms-giving, long-suffering city of the South, the cold weather paradise of the tramps. The levee where his freight-car stood was pimpled with dark bulks of merchandise. The breeze reeked with the well-remembered, sickening smell of the old tarpaulins that covered bales and barrels. The dun river slipped along among the shipping with an oily gurgle. Far down toward Chalmette he could see the great bend in the stream, outlined by the row of electric lights. Across the river Algiers lay, a long, irregular blot, made darker by the dawn which lightened the sky beyond. An industrious tug or two, coming for some early sailing ship, gave a few appalling toots, that seemed to be the signal for breaking day. The Italian luggers were creeping nearer their landing, laden with early vegetables and shellfish. A vague roar, subterranean in quality, from dray wheels and street cars, began to make itself heard and felt; and the ferryboats, the Mary Anns of water craft, stirred sullenly to their menial morning tasks.
Whistling Dick's red head popped suddenly back into the car. A sight too imposing and magnificent for his gaze had been added to the scene. A vast, incomparable policeman rounded a pile of rice sacks and stood within twenty yards of the car. The daily miracle of the dawn, now being performed above Algiers, received the flattering attention of this specimen of municipal official splendour. He gazed with unbiased dignity at the faintly glowing colours until, at last, he turned to them his broad back, as if convinced that legal interference was not needed, and the sunrise might proceed unchecked. So he turned his face to the rice bags, and, drawing a flat flask from an inside pocket, he placed it to his lips and regarded the firmament.
Whistling Dick, professional tramp, possessed a half-friendly acquaintance with this officer. They had met several times before on the levee at night, for the officer, himself a lover of music, had been attracted by the exquisite whistling of the shiftless vagabond. Still, he did not care, under the present circumstances, to renew the acquaintance. There is a difference between meeting a policeman on a lonely wharf and whistling a few operatic airs with him, and being caught by him crawling out of a freight-car. So Dick waited, as even a New Orleans policeman must move on some time—perhaps it is a retributive law of nature—and before long "Big Fritz" majestically disappeared between the trains of cars.
Whistling Dick waited as long as his judgment advised, and then slid swiftly to the ground. Assuming as far as possible the air of an honest labourer who seeks his daily toil, he moved across the network of railway lines, with the intention of making his way by quiet Girod Street to a certain bench in Lafayette Square, where, according to appointment, he hoped to rejoin a pal known as "Slick," this adventurous pilgrim having preceded him by one day in a cattle-car into which a loose slat had enticed him.
As Whistling Dick picked his way where night still lingered among the big, reeking, musty warehouses, he gave way to the habit that had won for him his title. Subdued, yet clear, with each note as true and liquid as a bobolink's, his whistle tinkled about the dim, cold mountains of brick like drops of rain falling into a hidden pool. He followed an air, but it swam mistily into a swirling current of improvisation. You could cull out the trill of mountain brooks, the staccato of green rushes shivering above chilly lagoons, the pipe of sleepy birds.
Rounding a corner, the whistler collided with a mountain of blue and brass.
"So," observed the mountain calmly, "You are already pack. Und dere vill not pe frost before two veeks yet! Und you haf forgotten how to vistle. Dere was a valse note in dot last bar."
"Watcher know about it?" said Whistling Dick, with tentative familiarity; "you wit yer little Gherman-band nixcumrous chunes. Watcher know about music? Pick yer ears, and listen agin. Here's de way I whistled it—see?"
He puckered his lips, but the big policeman held up his hand.
"Shtop," he said, "und learn der right way. Und learn also dot a rolling shtone can't vistle for a cent."
Big Fritz's heavy moustache rounded into a circle, and from its depths came a sound deep and mellow as that from a flute. He repeated a few bars of the air the tramp had been whistling. The rendition was cold, but correct, and he emphasized the note he had taken exception to.
"Dot p is p natural, und not p vlat. Py der vay, you petter pe glad I meet you. Von hour later, und I vould half to put you in a gage to vistle mit der chail pirds. Der orders are to bull all der pums after sunrise."
"To which?"
"To bull der pums—eferybody mitout fisible means. Dirty days is der price, or fifteen tollars."
"Is dat straight, or a game you givin' me?"

söndagen den 29:e december 2013

On the fifth day of Christmas

I recommend "The Little Mixer, by Lillian Nicholson Shearon



THE LITTLE MIXER

There was no fault to be found with the present itself; the trouble lay in the method of transportation. This thought was definite enough in Hannah's mind, but she had to rely upon a seven-year-old vocabulary for expression, and grown-ups are notably dull of comprehension. Even mothers don't always understand without being told exactly in so many words.
"I didn't say the kimono wasn't nice, Mama," explained Hannah, "and 'course Cousin Carrie was awful good to send it to me, but—but Santy Claus is going to bring Virginia one to-morrow night, down the chimbley!"
Rose Joseph slipped the absurd little garment over her daughter's dainty lingerie frock, and stood her on a chair that she might view herself in the narrow mirror between the windows of the living-room. The child was as lovely as a flower, but vanity was still sound asleep in her soul, and she glanced indifferently at the reflection, her body sagging with disappointment. "It is just like those little Japanese girls wear," her mother cried in that over-enthusiastic adult tone which warns a child he is about to be the recipient of a gold brick. "I am sure Virginia's can't be any nicer than this one!"
"But, Mama, Santy Claus is going bring hers down the chimbley. Mine"—her voice dropped to a mournful key—"mine came through the door!"
"But, darling, what difference does that make just so you get it?"
Pity for her mother's barren childhood shone in Hannah's soft black eyes. "That's—that's no way for presents to come," she explained; "Mama, it's Chris'mus."
"It is Chanuca," Mrs. Joseph responded firmly. "Remember you are a Jewess, dear."
"I can't never forget it," said the child with a catch in her voice, "'specially at Chris'mus."
"But, darling, the Jewish children have Chanuca; it comes about the same time as Christmas, and amounts to the same thing."
Hannah shook her bronze curls. "Chanuca is because the children of Israel took Jerusalem and the temple away from the bad people," she recited glibly, "and—and you say prayers, and light candles—eight days, and—and all your uncles and aunts and cousins send you things, but Santy Claus, he don't pay any 'tention to Chanuca. Chris'mus is just one day, and Santy Claus comes down the chimbley and brings things to all good children—'cept little Jews—because it is the birthday of our Saviour."
Mrs. Joseph was silent so long that Hannah felt she had convinced her mother of the superiority of the Gentile Christmas over the Jewish Chanuca, and she continued more in detail. "And the children's kinfolks just give Santy Claus money, and tell him what to buy, and he brings the presents, and nobody has to bother about it 'cept him."
"Hannah," Mrs. Joseph interrupted coldly, "who told you about the birthday of—of the Saviour?"
"Nellie Halloran," answered Hannah, "and Virginia, too. They've—they've got the same one."
"The same what?"
"The same Saviour," Hannah explained.
"Darling, hasn't Mama told you many times, that you must never, never talk about religion to Nellie and Virginia?"
"Oh, we don't, Mama, never, never! But 'course we got to talk about Santy Claus, and things."
There seemed to be no reasonable objection to that, so Mrs. Joseph dropped the subject. She spent a great deal of time folding the despised and rejected kimono into its tissue-paper wrappings. Presently she brought a narrow parcel from another room.
"See what Uncle Aaron has sent you, dear," she cried gaily. "A little man; you wind him up in the back with this key—so—and then he dances and plays the fiddle!"
Hannah forced a polite giggle at the little man's antics. He too rested under the ban of having come "through the door," and her attention soon wandered.
"Nellie got a jumping-jack in the very top of her stocking last Chris'mus; 'cause she's such a jumping-jack herself, her papa said. You know, Mama, Santy Claus puts nuts and candy, and little things in your stocking and puts your big things all around the room. Sometimes he brings a tree and hangs them all on a tree. Virginia and Nellie want a tree and a new doll. Virginia gets a new doll every Chris'mus, and she's got every doll Santy ever brought her—even her little, baby, rubber doll. She's eight years old and will have eight dolls! But Nellie ain't—hasn't saved a single one, and she's scared she won't get one this Chris'mus—awful scared."
"Why, dear?" asked Mrs. Joseph, when Hannah paused for breath.
"Because the doll Santy brought Nellie last Chris'mus, you know what? She was playing Indian with her brother one day, and chopped her head off! And Nellie's mama says she don't know whether old Santy's going to forget that or not! But Nellie, she says she prays hard to the Virgin Mary every night—if she don't go to sleep too quick. Mama, what's a virgin? Mama, what's——"
"A virgin is a lady who has never been married," answered Mrs. Joseph, putting the neglected musician back into his box.
Hannah wrestled alone for a moment with a mighty ecclesiastical problem, and then gave it up.
"The Virgin Mary is God's mother," Hannah continued. "That's her picture over our fireplace,"—pointing to a copy of a crude thirteenth century Madonna and Child in a carved Gothic frame, which Eli and Rose Joseph had bought in Italy while on their wedding trip. Flanked now by candles burning in silver candelabra in honor of Chanuca, it gave the mantel a passing resemblance to a Catholic shrine.
"I don't think God's mother is very pretty, do you, Mama? And I think Nellie's little brother is a heap prettier'n God was when He was a baby."
Mrs. Joseph showed signs of having reached the limit. "Hannah," she said firmly, "it is time you were in bed."
"But, Papa hasn't come home yet."
"Papa will be late to-night, dear."
"The Chris'mus rush," sighed Hannah. "Mama, you haven't looked down my throat to-day," she added, playing for time.
Mrs. Joseph went through the daily ritual. "It looks all right," she pronounced.
"It is all right," came the triumphant answer. "It is never going to be sore again. Virginia says——"
"Never mind what Virginia says. If your throat ever hurts you the least little bit, you are to come to me instantly and tell me. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mama, but it isn't going to hurt any more," Hannah insisted.
"Come on up-stairs to bed."
Still Hannah hung back. She had not played her trump card yet, and the time was short. She caught her mother's slim white hand in hers and fingered nervously at the rings. "Mama," she almost whispered, "Virginia says it's Jewish mamas' fault that Santy Claus don't come to see Jewish children. If the mamas would just go to Santy and tell him to come—You will, won't you, Mama? Please, Mama!"