fredag 31 december 2010
Drawn by C. Graham.
From the quaint old farm-house, nestling warmly
'Neath its overhanging thatch of snow,
Out into the moonlight troop the children,
Filling all the air with music as they go,
Down the hill,
Cold nor chill,
O'er the silvered
Swift as arrow
From the bow,
With a rush
Of mad delight
Through the crisp air
Of the night,
Speeding far out
O'er the plain,
To where the firelight's
Turns to gold
The silver snow.
Finer sport who can conceive
Than that of coasting New-Year's Eve?
Half the fun lies in the fire
That seems to brighter blaze and higher
Than any other of the year,
As though his dying hour to cheer,
And at the same time greeting give
To him who has a year to live.
'Tis built of logs of oak and pine,
Filled in with branches broken fine;
It roars and crackles merrily;
The children round it dance with glee;
They sing and shout and welcome in
The new year with a joyous din
That rings far out o'er hill and dale,
And warns the watchers in the vale
'Tis time the church bells to employ
To spread the universal joy.
Then the hill is left in silence
As the coasters homeward go,
And the crimson of the fire-light
Fades from off the trodden snow.
So the years glide by as swiftly
As the sleds rush down the hill,
And each new one as it cometh
Bringeth more of good than ill.
torsdag 30 december 2010
onsdag 29 december 2010
WHAT BECAME OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE.—Drawn by C. S. Reinhart.
. "What are those children doing?" asked the clergyman of his wife a few days after Christmas.
"I really can not tell you, James," was the reply, as his wife peered anxiously over his shoulder, and out of the window. "All that I know about it is this: I was busy in the pantry, when Rob put his head in, and asked if he could have the Christmas tree, as nearly everything had been taken off of it; so I said 'Yes,' and there he goes with it, sure enough. I do hope the wax from the candles has not spotted the parlor carpet."
"Don't be anxious, wife; 'Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes should bring good cheer.'"
"Yes," said the careful housewife, "I suppose I do worry. But there! it is snowing again, and Bertha perched up on that tree on Rob's sled, and she so subject to croup!"
"The more she is out in the pure air, the less likely she is to take cold; but where are they going?"
"I really do not know, James. Did you ever see a dog more devoted to any one than Jip is to Rob? There he goes, dancing beside him now; and I see Rob has tied on the scarf Bertha knit for him; that is done to please her. She did work so hard to get it finished in time before he came home for the holidays."
"She is very like her own dear little mother in kindness and care for others," was the reply.
The mother gave a bright smile and a kiss for the compliment, but a little wail from the nursery hurried her out of the room.
Christmas at the parsonage had been delightful, for, first of all, Rob's return from boarding-school was a pleasurable event; he always came home in such good spirits, was so full of his jokes and nonsense, and had so many funny things to tell about the boys. Then there was the dressing of the church with evergreens, and the decoration of the parlor with wreaths of holly or running pine, and the spicy smell of all the delicacies which were in course of preparation, for Sally was a famous cook, and would brook no interference when mince-pies and plum-pudding were to be concocted.
But the children thought the arrival of a certain box, which was always dispatched from town, the very best of all the Christmas delights. This box came from their rich aunts and uncles, who seemed to think that the little parsonage must be a dreary place in winter, and so, to make up to its inmates for losing all the brightness of a city winter, they sent everything they could think of in the way of beautiful pictures, gorgeous books, games, sugar-plums, and enough little glittering things for two or three trees. Of course the clergyman always laid aside some of these things for other occasions, lest the children should be surfeited.
And so Christmas had passed happily, as usual. The school-children had sung their carols and enjoyed their feast, the poor had been carefully looked after and made comfortable, and there had come the usual lull after a season of excitement. It was now the day before the first of the new year, and the parson was writing a sermon. He was telling people what a good time it was to try and turn over a new leaf; to be nobler, truer, braver, than they had ever been before; to let the old year carry away with it all selfishness, all anger, envy, and unloving thoughts;[Pg 78] and as he wrote, he looked out of the window at the falling snow, and wondered where Bob and Bertha could have gone.
Dinner-time came. Aunt Ellen, mamma, and the parson sat down alone. "Where are those children?" repeated mamma.
"I do not think you need be worried, Kate," said Aunt Ellen. "Rob is so thoughtful, he will take good care of Bertha. They have perhaps stopped in at a neighbor's, and been coaxed to stay."
"Very likely," said the parson. And then the baby came in, crowing and chuckling, and claiming his privileges, such as sitting in a high chair and feeding the cat, and mamma had enough to do to keep the merry fellow in order, or his fat little hands would have grasped all the silver, and pulled over the glasses.
After dinner, while the parson let the baby twist his whiskers or creep about his knees, mamma played some lovely German music, and Aunt Ellen crocheted. The short afternoon grew dusky. Baby went off to the nursery; the parson had lighted his cigar, and was going out for a walk, but mamma looked so anxious that he said,
"I will go look for the children, Kate."
"Really, I think you will have to give Rob a little scolding, my dear. He should have told us where he was going."
"Yes, I suppose so," said the parson; when just then there was a gleeful cry—a merry chorus made up of Rob's, Bertha's, and Jip's voices, and there they were, Bertha on the sled, and Rob was her horse.
"Where have you been, my son?" said the parson, trying to be severe. "You should not have gone off in this manner for the whole day without asking permission."
Rob's bright smile faded a little; but Bertha said, quickly, "Please, papa, don't scold Rob. If you only knew—"
"Hush, Bertha!" said Rob; and red as his cheeks were, they grew redder.
"I am sorry you are offended, sir. I did not mean to be so long. We were detained."
"What detained you?"
"And where did you get your dinner?" asked mamma.
"Oh, we had plenty to eat."
"But you don't intend us to know where you got it?"
"No, sir," said Rob, frankly.
"Now, papa, you shall not scold Rob," said Bertha, putting her hand in his. "Come into your study. Go away, Rob; go give Jip his supper. Come, mamma;" and Bertha dragged them both in to the fire, where, with sparkling eyes and cheeks like carnation, she began to talk: "Mamma, you remember that scrimmage Rob got into with the village boys last Fourth of July, and how hatefully they knocked him down, and how bruised his eye was for a long time?"
"Yes, I remember, and I always blamed Rob. He should never have had anything to do with those rowdies."
"I didn't blame him; I never blame Rob for anything, except when he won't do what I want him to do. Well, the worst one of all those horrid boys is Sim Jenkins—at least he was; I don't think he's quite so bad now. But he has been punished for all his badness, for he hurt his leg awfully, and has been laid up for months—so his mother says; and she is quite nice. She gave us our dinner to-day. Somehow or other, Rob heard that Sim was in bed, and had not had any Christmas things, and that his mother was poor; and she says all her money has gone for doctor's bills and medicine. And so it just came into his head that perhaps it would do Sim good to have a Christmas-tree on New-Year's Day; and he asked Mrs. Jenkins, and she was afraid it would make a muss, but Rob said he would be careful. And so he carried our tree over, and fixed it in a box, and covered the box with moss, and we have been as busy as bees trying to make it look pretty. And that is what has kept us so long, for Rob had to run down to the store and get things—nails and ribbons, and I don't know what all. And Sim is not to know anything about the tree until to-morrow. And please give us some of the pretty things which were in our box, for we could not get quite enough to fill all the branches. Rob spent so much of his pocket-money on a knife for Sim that he had none left for candy; for he said the tree would not give Sim so much pleasure unless there was something on it which he could always keep."
Here little Bertha stopped for want of breath, and looked into the faces of her listeners.
The parson put his arm around her as he said, "I hardly think we can scold Rob now, after special pleading so eloquent as this; what do you say, mamma?"
"I say that Rob is just like his father in doing this kindly deed, and I am glad to be the mother of a boy who can return good for evil."
The parson made a bow. "Now we are even, madam, in the matter of gracious speeches."
So Sim Jenkins woke up on New-Year's Day to see from his weary bed a vision of brightness—a little tree laden with its fruit of kindness, its flowers of a forgiving spirit; and as the parson preached his New-Year's sermon, and saw Rob's dark eyes looking up at him, he thought of the verse,
"In their young hearts, soft and tender,
Guide my hand good seed to sow,
That its blossoming may praise Thee
Wheresoe'er they go."
tisdag 28 december 2010
A Monthly Magazine
For Youngest Readers.
VOLUME XIV.—No. 6
JOHN L. SHOREY, No. 36, BROMFIELD STREET.
The dolls had a tea-party: wasn't it fun!
In ribbons and laces they came, one by one.
We girls set the table, and poured out the tea;
And each of us held up a doll on our knee.
You never saw children behave half so well:
Why, nobody had any gossip to tell!
And (can you believe it?) for badness, that day,
No dolly was sent from the table away.
One dolly, however, the proudest one there,
Was driven almost to the verge of despair,
Because she had met with a simple mishap,
And upset the butter-plate into her lap.
The cups and the saucers they shone lily-white:
We helped all the dollies, they looked so polite.
We had cake and jam from our own pantry-shelves:
Of course, we did most of the eating ourselves.
But housewives don't know when their cares may begin.
The window was open, and pussy popped in:
He jumped on the table; and what do you think?
Down fell all the crockery there, in a wink.
We picked up the pieces, with many a sigh;
Our party broke up, and we all said good-by:
Do come to our next one; but then we'll invite
That very bad pussy to keep out of sight.
måndag 27 december 2010
VOLUME XIV.—No. 6
JOHN L. SHOREY, No. 36, BROMFIELD STREET.
LEAR the coast! clear the coast!" cried Albert and Frank, as they came down hill swiftly on Frank's new sled.
"Look out for that woman!" cried little Harry, who was standing at the top of the hill.
A poor German woman was crossing the road. She had a large basket full of bundles, which she carried on her head. In her right hand she had an umbrella and a tin pail, and on her arm another basket. Truly, seeing that the roads were slippery, she had more than her share of burdens.
She tried to get out of the way; but Frank's new sled was such a swift runner, that it came near striking her, and caused her to nearly lose her balance, putting her at the same time into a great fright.
"You bad boys, you almost threw me down!" she exclaimed, when she recovered from the start they had given her, and looked around to see if she had dropped any of her bundles.
But down the hill they rushed on their sled, Frank losing his hat in their descent, but little caring for that in his delight. The two boys, after reaching the foot of the hill, turned, and began to drag their sled up again.
"That woman," said Frank, "called us bad boys. Let us tell her that we are not bad boys. We did not mean to run her down."
"Here comes Harry, running. What has he got to say?" asked Albert.
"I tell you what, boys," said Harry, "you'll be taken up if you run people down in that way."
"Why didn't she clear the coast when I told her to?" said Albert.
"Why didn't you steer your sled out of the way?" returned Harry.
"I didn't hit her, did I?" said Albert.
"No; but you were trying to see how near you could come without hitting her," replied Harry. "It's too bad to treat a poor old woman so!"
"So it was," said Frank. "What shall we do about it?"
"That's for Albert to say," exclaimed Harry.
"Well," replied Albert, "the right thing will be to offer to drag her bundles for her on the sled."
"That's it!" said the other two boys.
By this time they had reached the place where the poor woman was moving slowly along under her heavy burdens. She seemed very tired, and sighed often as she picked her way timidly over the frozen snow.
"We are sorry we frightened you," said Albert. "We did not mean to do any harm. Put your baskets on this sled, and we will drag them for you as far as you want to go."
"Well, you are little gentlemen, after all," said the woman, "and I'm sorry I was so vexed with you."
"You had cause," said Frank: "we were to blame."
Then she put her two baskets and the tin pail on the sled; and the three boys escorted her to her home, where she thanked them heartily for the way in which they had made amends for Albert's bad steering.
söndag 26 december 2010
All gardeners tell you that plants never do so well in jardinières as in the red earthen pots. It is for the reason that the common pots are porous and allow evaporation, so that the water does not become stagnant and injure the plant, while the glazed jardinières effectually prevent it.
The great objection to the red pots is that they need a saucer under them, and when moved are difficult to handle without spilling the contents of the saucer.
Plants are not a bit greedy. They don't drink all the water that is given them at once; they love to let a little water run through and remain in the saucer until they need it. It is therefore necessary to the health of plants to let them stand in a vessel that will permit them to make their little reserve store if they wish to.
The new invention accomplishes all of these purposes.
It is a deep saucer, which gives room for an ample reservoir. Attached to it are two uprights with hinged handles at the top.
These handles are to clasp the flower pot and attach it firmly to the saucer.
The pot is placed in the saucer, and the uprights are bent toward the plant until they touch it. Then the spring handles are turned down and clasp the inside rim of the pot, making pot and saucer practically one piece, giving all the advantages of the jardinière, with the health qualities of the earthen pot.
Clothes-pin.—The old-fashioned clothes-pin is such a clumsy, unhandy thing, that this new invention should be hailed with delight by housekeepers.
Any one who has tried to hang out washing knows the trick that clothes-pins have of standing on their heads just when they seem most firmly gripping the rope—slipping off and letting the clothes fall to the ground.
The new pin will allow no such pranks. It is a double affair, and can grip the whole of a stocking or the shoulder of a garment, and hold it with absolute security.
It is made of galvanized wire, so that it is quite smooth, and there are none of the rough pieces and splinters which we sometimes find on clothes-pins. As the pin is of galvanized wire, it does not rust.
I have to admit that I can't picture either of these two inventions.
lördag 25 december 2010
Children Hanging their Stockings
by Felix Octavius Carr Darley
"Of course Santa Claus will come," said Jimmy Martin confidently. Jimmy was ten, and at ten it is easy to be confident. "Why, he's got to come because it is Christmas Eve, and he always has come. You know that, twins."
Yes, the twins knew it and, cheered by Jimmy's superior wisdom, their doubts passed away. There had been one terrible moment when Theodora had sighed and told them they mustn't be too much disappointed if Santa Claus did not come this year because the crops had been poor, and he mightn't have had enough presents to go around.
"That doesn't make any difference to Santa Claus," scoffed Jimmy. "You know as well as I do, Theodora Prentice, that Santa Claus is rich whether the crops fail or not. They failed three years ago, before Father died, but Santa Claus came all the same. Prob'bly you don't remember it, twins, 'cause you were too little, but I do. Of course he'll come, so don't you worry a mite. And he'll bring my skates and your dolls. He knows we're expecting them, Theodora, 'cause we wrote him a letter last week, and threw it up the chimney. And there'll be candy and nuts, of course, and Mother's gone to town to buy a turkey. I tell you we're going to have a ripping Christmas."
"Well, don't use such slangy words about it, Jimmy-boy," sighed Theodora. She couldn't bear to dampen their hopes any further, and perhaps Aunt Elizabeth might manage it if the colt sold well. But Theodora had her painful doubts, and she sighed again as she looked out of the window far down the trail that wound across the prairie, red-lighted by the declining sun of the short wintry afternoon.
"Do people always sigh like that when they get to be sixteen?" asked Jimmy curiously. "You didn't sigh like that when you were only fifteen, Theodora. I wish you wouldn't. It makes me feel funny—and it's not a nice kind of funniness either."
"It's a bad habit I've got into lately," said Theodora, trying to laugh. "Old folks are dull sometimes, you know, Jimmy-boy."
"Sixteen is awful old, isn't it?" said Jimmy reflectively. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do when I'm sixteen, Theodora. I'm going to pay off the mortgage, and buy mother a silk dress, and a piano for the twins. Won't that be elegant? I'll be able to do that 'cause I'm a man. Of course if I was only a girl I couldn't."
"I hope you'll be a good kind brave man and a real help to your mother," said Theodora softly, sitting down before the cosy fire and lifting the fat little twins into her lap.
"Oh, I'll be good to her, never you fear," assured Jimmy, squatting comfortably down on the little fur rug before the stove—the skin of the coyote his father had killed four years ago. "I believe in being good to your mother when you've only got the one. Now tell us a story, Theodora—a real jolly story, you know, with lots of fighting in it. Only please don't kill anybody. I like to hear about fighting, but I like to have all the people come out alive."
Theodora laughed, and began a story about the Riel Rebellion of '85—a story which had the double merit of being true and exciting at the same time. It was quite dark when she finished, and the twins were nodding, but Jimmy's eyes were wide open and sparkling.
"That was great," he said, drawing a long breath. "Tell us another."
"No, it's bedtime for you all," said Theodora firmly. "One story at a time is my rule, you know."
"But I want to sit up till Mother comes home," objected Jimmy.
"You can't. She may be very late, for she would have to wait to see Mr. Porter. Besides, you don't know what time Santa Claus might come—if he comes at all. If he were to drive along and see you children up instead of being sound asleep in bed, he might go right on and never call at all."
This argument was too much for Jimmy.
"All right, we'll go. But we have to hang up our stockings first. Twins, get yours."
The twins toddled off in great excitement, and brought back their Sunday stockings, which Jimmy proceeded to hang along the edge of the mantel shelf. This done, they all trooped obediently off to bed. Theodora gave another sigh, and seated herself at the window, where she could watch the moonlit prairie for Mrs. Martin's homecoming and knit at the same time.
I am afraid that you will think from all the sighing Theodora was doing that she was a very melancholy and despondent young lady. You couldn't think anything more unlike the real Theodora. She was the jolliest, bravest girl of sixteen in all Saskatchewan, as her shining brown eyes and rosy, dimpled cheeks would have told you; and her sighs were not on her own account, but simply for fear the children were going to be disappointed. She knew that they would be almost heartbroken if Santa Claus did not come, and that this would hurt the patient hardworking little mother more than all else.
Five years before this, Theodora had come to live with Uncle George and Aunt Elizabeth in the little log house at Red Butte. Her own mother had just died, and Theodora had only her big brother Donald left, and Donald had Klondike fever. The Martins were poor, but they had gladly made room for their little niece, and Theodora had lived there ever since, her aunt's right-hand girl and the beloved playmate of the children. They had been very happy until Uncle George's death two years before this Christmas Eve; but since then there had been hard times in the little log house, and though Mrs. Martin and Theodora did their best, it was a woefully hard task to make both ends meet, especially this year when their crops had been poor. Theodora and her aunt had made every sacrifice possible for the children's sake, and at least Jimmy and the twins had not felt the pinch very severely yet.
At seven Mrs. Martins bells jingled at the door and Theodora flew out. "Go right in and get warm, Auntie," she said briskly. "I'll take Ned away and unharness him."
"It's a bitterly cold night," said Mrs. Martin wearily. There was a note of discouragement in her voice that struck dismay to Theodora's heart.
"I'm afraid it means no Christmas for the children tomorrow," she thought sadly, as she led Ned away to the stable. When she returned to the kitchen Mrs. Martin was sitting by the fire, her face in her chilled hand, sobbing convulsively.
"Auntie—oh, Auntie, don't!" exclaimed Theodora impulsively. It was such a rare thing to see her plucky, resolute little aunt in tears. "You're cold and tired—I'll have a nice cup of tea for you in a trice."
"No, it isn't that," said Mrs. Martin brokenly "It was seeing those stockings hanging there. Theodora, I couldn't get a thing for the children—not a single thing. Mr. Porter would only give forty dollars for the colt, and when all the bills were paid there was barely enough left for such necessaries as we must have. I suppose I ought to feel thankful I could get those. But the thought of the children's disappointment tomorrow is more than I can bear. It would have been better to have told them long ago, but I kept building on getting more for the colt. Well, it's weak and foolish to give way like this. We'd better both take a cup of tea and go to bed. It will save fuel."
When Theodora went up to her little room her face was very thoughtful. She took a small box from her table and carried it to the window. In it was a very pretty little gold locket hung on a narrow blue ribbon. Theodora held it tenderly in her fingers, and looked out over the moonlit prairie with a very sober face. Could she give up her dear locket—the locket Donald had given her just before he started for the Klondike? She had never thought she could do such a thing. It was almost the only thing she had to remind her of Donald—handsome, merry, impulsive, warmhearted Donald, who had gone away four years ago with a smile on his bonny face and splendid hope in his heart.
"Here's a locket for you, Gift o' God," he had said gaily—he had such a dear loving habit of calling her by the beautiful meaning of her name. A lump came into Theodora's throat as she remembered it. "I couldn't afford a chain too, but when I come back I'll bring you a rope of Klondike nuggets for it."
Then he had gone away. For two years letters had come from him regularly. Then he wrote that he had joined a prospecting party to a remote wilderness. After that was silence, deepening into anguish of suspense that finally ended in hopelessness. A rumour came that Donald Prentice was dead. None had returned from the expedition he had joined. Theodora had long ago given up all hope of ever seeing Donald again. Hence her locket was doubly dear to her.
But Aunt Elizabeth had always been so good and loving and kind to her. Could she not make the sacrifice for her sake? Yes, she could and would. Theodora flung up her head with a gesture that meant decision. She took out of the locket the bits of hair—her mother's and Donald's—which it contained (perhaps a tear or two fell as she did so) and then hastily donned her warmest cap and wraps. It was only three miles to Spencer; she could easily walk it in an hour and, as it was Christmas Eve, the shops would be open late. She muse walk, for Ned could not be taken out again, and the mare's foot was sore. Besides, Aunt Elizabeth must not know until it was done.
As stealthily as if she were bound on some nefarious errand, Theodora slipped downstairs and out of the house. The next minute she was hurrying along the trail in the moonlight. The great dazzling prairie was around her, the mystery and splendour of the northern night all about her. It was very calm and cold, but Theodora walked so briskly that she kept warm. The trail from Red Butte to Spencer was a lonely one. Mr. Lurgan's house, halfway to town, was the only dwelling on it.
When Theodora reached Spencer she made her way at once to the only jewellery store the little town contained. Mr. Benson, its owner, had been a friend of her uncle's, and Theodora felt sure that he would buy her locket. Nevertheless her heart beat quickly, and her breath came and went uncomfortably fast as she went in. Suppose he wouldn't buy it. Then there would be no Christmas for the children at Red Butte.
"Good evening, Miss Theodora," said Mr. Benson briskly. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm afraid I'm not a very welcome sort of customer, Mr. Benson," said Theodora, with an uncertain smile. "I want to sell, not buy. Could you—will you buy this locket?"
Mr. Benson pursed up his lips, took up the locket, and examined it. "Well, I don't often buy second-hand stuff," he said, after some reflection, "but I don't mind obliging you, Miss Theodora. I'll give you four dollars for this trinket."
Theodora knew the locket had cost a great deal more than that, but four dollars would get what she wanted, and she dared not ask for more. In a few minutes the locket was in Mr. Benson's possession, and Theodora, with four crisp new bills in her purse, was hurrying to the toy store. Half an hour later she was on her way back to Red Butte, with as many parcels as she could carry—Jimmy's skates, two lovely dolls for the twins, packages of nuts and candy, and a nice plump turkey. Theodora beguiled her lonely tramp by picturing the children's joy in the morning.
About a quarter of a mile past Mr. Lurgan's house the trail curved suddenly about a bluff of poplars. As Theodora rounded the turn she halted in amazement. Almost at her feet the body of a man was lying across the road. He was clad in a big fur coat, and had a fur cap pulled well down over his forehead and ears. Almost all of him that could be seen was a full bushy beard. Theodora had no idea who he was, or where he had come from. But she realized that he was unconscious, and that he would speedily freeze to death if help were not brought. The footprints of a horse galloping across the prairie suggested a fall and a runaway, but Theodora did not waste time in speculation. She ran back at full speed to Mr. Lurgan's, and roused the household. In a few minutes Mr. Lurgan and his son had hitched a horse to a wood-sleigh, and hurried down the trail to the unfortunate man.
Theodora, knowing that her assistance was not needed, and that she ought to get home as quickly as possible, went on her way as soon as she had seen the stranger in safe keeping. When she reached the little log house she crept in, cautiously put the children's gifts in their stockings, placed the turkey on the table where Aunt Elizabeth would see it the first thing in the morning, and then slipped off to bed, a very weary but very happy girl.
The joy that reigned in the little log house the next day more than repaid Theodora for her sacrifice.
"Whoopee, didn't I tell you that Santa Claus would come all right!" shouted the delighted Jimmy. "Oh, what splendid skates!"
The twins hugged their dolls in silent rapture, but Aunt Elizabeth's face was the best of all.
Then the dinner had to be prepared, and everybody had a hand in that. Just as Theodora, after a grave peep into the oven, had announced that the turkey was done, a sleigh dashed around the house. Theodora flew to answer the knock at the door, and there stood Mr. Lurgan and a big, bewhiskered, fur-coated fellow whom Theodora recognized as the stranger she had found on the trail. But—was he a stranger? There was something oddly familiar in those merry brown eyes. Theodora felt herself growing dizzy.
"Donald!" she gasped. "Oh, Donald!"
And then she was in the big fellow's arms, laughing and crying at the same time.
Donald it was indeed. And then followed half an hour during which everybody talked at once, and the turkey would have been burned to a crisp had it not been for the presence of mind of Mr. Lurgan who, being the least excited of them all, took it out of the oven, and set it on the back of the stove.
"To think that it was you last night, and that I never dreamed it," exclaimed Theodora. "Oh, Donald, if I hadn't gone to town!"
"I'd have frozen to death, I'm afraid," said Donald soberly. "I got into Spencer on the last train last night. I felt that I must come right out—I couldn't wait till morning. But there wasn't a team to be got for love or money—it was Christmas Eve and all the livery rigs were out. So I came on horseback. Just by that bluff something frightened my horse, and he shied violently. I was half asleep and thinking of my little sister, and I went off like a shot. I suppose I struck my head against a tree. Anyway, I knew nothing more until I came to in Mr. Lurgan's kitchen. I wasn't much hurt—feel none the worse of it except for a sore head and shoulder. But, oh, Gift o' God, how you have grown! I can't realize that you are the little sister I left four years ago. I suppose you have been thinking I was dead?"
"Yes, and, oh, Donald, where have you been?"
"Well, I went way up north with a prospecting party. We had a tough time the first year, I can tell you, and some of us never came back. We weren't in a country where post offices were lying round loose either, you see. Then at last, just as we were about giving up in despair, we struck it rich. I've brought a snug little pile home with me, and things are going to look up in this log house, Gift o' God. There'll be no more worrying for you dear people over mortgages."
"I'm so glad—for Auntie's sake," said Theodora, with shining eyes. "But, oh, Donald, it's best of all just to have you back. I'm so perfectly happy that I don't know what to do or say."
"Well, I think you might have dinner," said Jimmy in an injured tone. "The turkey's getting stone cold, and I'm most starving. I just can't stand it another minute."
So, with a laugh, they all sat down to the table and ate the merriest Christmas dinner the little log house had ever known.
fredag 24 december 2010
.. Of Nib, a little Mouse,
Who took delight, when none where near,
.. To skip about the house.
Her little nose could sniff and smell
.. Where all good things were kept,
And in the pantry well she knew
.. That mistress Pussy slept.
But, notwithstanding, in she crept,
.. And on the shelf she found
A Christmas cake, the top of which
.. Was by a castle crowned.
The subject of the present cake
.. Was Windsor’s mighty walls;
With turrets, windows, standard too,
.. And entrance to the halls.
.. Thought Mousey, I could dwell;
And should the Cat lay siege to them,
.. Defend myself right well.
So, with her little teeth, which served
.. For pickaxe and for spade,
She gnawed right through the gothic door,
.. And thus an entrance made.
Then climbed the turret, which she chose
.. Her residence to make;
And thought to leave it now and then,
.. And feast upon the cake.
All this occurred on Christmas eve,
.. And next came Christmas day;
And then some little folks arrived,
.. To eat, and drink, and play.
Right merry are the little folks,
.. And what a noise they make,
When Windsor castle they behold,
.. Displayed upon the cake.
The turrets and the walls they view,
.. The cannon, too, admire;
The soldiers ready to present,
.. And then—pop!—pop!—to fire.
On this, when they had long enough
.. All exercised their wit,
They scrutinised the cake, and wished
.. To taste a bit of it.
Each guest prepared,—the knife was raised
.. Some slices to begin,
When, lo! with wonder, all exclaimed,
.. “I hear a noise within!”
Poor Mousey, when she saw the knife,
.. At once expressed her fear,
By squeaking out with all her might,
.. Which every one could hear.
Then John, as he the turret viewed,
.. With consternation cried,
“There’s something, I am sure, alive,
.. And moving, too, inside.”
All now were hushed, and knew not what
.. All this could be about;
While Mouse, in fright, forgot her tail,
.. Which at the top popped out.
“Why, here’s some trick,” the lady cried,
.. “I’ll knock the turret down.”
Mousey, in terror, gave a leap,
.. And ran along her gown.
“Oh!” screamed the lady, “what is this?”
.. On each side was dismay,
Which Mousey took advantage of,
.. By scampering away.
Their fright all o’er, loud laughs ensued,
.. From all within the house,
To think that so much fear should be
.. Caused by a little Mouse.
The children hunted for this Mouse,
.. But she was not a dolt
To wait ’till she was caught, but made
.. Right through a hole—a bolt.
The party then began their dance,
.. And singing next ensued;
And then came supper, with its cakes,
.. And very best home-brewed.
torsdag 23 december 2010
The speaker was my chum, Frank Ward. We were home from our academy for the Christmas holidays and had been amusing ourselves on this sunshiny December afternoon by a tramp through the "back lands," as the barrens that swept away south behind the village were called. They were grown over with scrub maple and spruce, and were quite pathless save for meandering sheep tracks that crossed and recrossed, but led apparently nowhere.
Frank and I did not know exactly where we were, but the back lands were not so extensive but that we would come out somewhere if we kept on. It was getting late and we wished to go home.
"I have an idea that we ought to strike civilization somewhere up the Enderly Road pretty soon," I answered.
"Do you call that civilization?" said Frank, with a laugh.
No Blackburn Hill boy was ever known to miss an opportunity of flinging a slur at Enderly Road, even if no Enderly Roader were by to feel the sting.
Enderly Road was a miserable little settlement straggling back from Blackburn Hill. It was a forsaken looking place, and the people, as a rule, were poor and shiftless. Between Blackburn Hill and Enderly Road very little social intercourse existed and, as the Road people resented what they called the pride of Blackburn Hill, there was a good deal of bad feeling between the two districts.
Presently Frank and I came out on the Enderly Road. We sat on the fence a few minutes to rest and discuss our route home. "If we go by the road it's three miles," said Frank. "Isn't there a short cut?"
"There ought to be one by the wood-lane that comes out by Jacob Hart's," I answered, "but I don't know where to strike it."
"Here is someone coming now; we'll inquire," said Frank, looking up the curve of the hard-frozen road. The "someone" was a little girl of about ten years old, who was trotting along with a basketful of school books on her arm. She was a pale, pinched little thing, and her jacket and red hood seemed very old and thin.
"Hello, missy," I said, as she came up, and then I stopped, for I saw she had been crying.
"What is the matter?" asked Frank, who was much more at ease with children than I was, and had always a warm spot in his heart for their small troubles. "Has your teacher kept you in for being naughty?"
The mite dashed her little red knuckles across her eyes and answered indignantly, "No, indeed. I stayed after school with Minnie Lawler to sweep the floor."
"And did you and Minnie quarrel, and is that why you are crying?" asked Frank solemnly.
"Minnie and I never quarrel. I am crying because we can't have the school decorated on Monday for the examination, after all. The Dickeys have gone back on us ... after promising, too," and the tears began to swell up in the blue eyes again.
"Very bad behaviour on the part of the Dickeys," commented Frank. "But can't you decorate the school without them?"
"Why, of course not. They are the only big boys in the school. They said they would cut the boughs, and bring a ladder tomorrow and help us nail the wreaths up, and now they won't ... and everything is spoiled ... and Miss Davis will be so disappointed."
By dint of questioning Frank soon found out the whole story. The semi-annual public examination was to be held on Monday afternoon, the day before Christmas. Miss Davis had been drilling her little flock for the occasion; and a program of recitations, speeches, and dialogues had been prepared. Our small informant, whose name was Maggie Bates, together with Minnie Lawler and several other little girls, had conceived the idea that it would be a fine thing to decorate the schoolroom with greens. For this it was necessary to ask the help of the boys. Boys were scarce at Enderly school, but the Dickeys, three in number, had promised to see that the thing was done.
"And now they won't," sobbed Maggie. "Matt Dickey is mad at Miss Davis 'cause she stood him on the floor today for not learning his lesson, and he says he won't do a thing nor let any of the other boys help us. Matt just makes all the boys do as he says. I feel dreadful bad, and so does Minnie."
"Well, I wouldn't cry any more about it," said Frank consolingly. "Crying won't do any good, you know. Can you tell us where to find the wood-lane that cuts across to Blackburn Hill?" Maggie could, and gave us minute directions. So, having thanked her, we left her to pursue her disconsolate way and betook ourselves homeward.
"I would like to spoil Matt Dickey's little game," said Frank. "He is evidently trying to run things at Enderly Road school and revenge himself on the teacher. Let us put a spoke in his wheel and do Maggie a good turn as well."
"Agreed. But how?"
Frank had a plan ready to hand and, when we reached home, we took his sisters, Carrie and Mabel, into our confidence; and the four of us worked to such good purpose all the next day, which was Saturday, that by night everything was in readiness.
At dusk Frank and I set out for the Enderly Road, carrying a basket, a small step-ladder, an unlit lantern, a hammer, and a box of tacks. It was dark when we reached the Enderly Road schoolhouse. Fortunately, it was quite out of sight of any inhabited spot, being surrounded by woods. Hence, mysterious lights in it at strange hours would not be likely to attract attention.
The door was locked, but we easily got in by a window, lighted our lantern, and went to work. The schoolroom was small, and the old-fashioned furniture bore marks of hard usage; but everything was very snug, and the carefully swept floor and dusted desks bore testimony to the neatness of our small friend Maggie and her chum Minnie.
Our basket was full of mottoes made from letters cut out of cardboard and covered with lissome sprays of fir. They were, moreover, adorned with gorgeous pink and red tissue roses, which Carrie and Mabel had contributed. We had considerable trouble in getting them tacked up properly, but when we had succeeded, and had furthermore surmounted doors, windows, and blackboard with wreaths of green, the little Enderly Road schoolroom was quite transformed.
"It looks nice," said Frank in a tone of satisfaction. "Hope Maggie will like it."
We swept up the litter we had made, and then scrambled out of the window.
"I'd like to see Matt Dickey's face when he comes Monday morning," I laughed, as we struck into the back lands.
"I'd like to see that midget of a Maggie's," said Frank. "See here, Phil, let's attend the examination Monday afternoon. I'd like to see our decorations in daylight."
We decided to do so, and also thought of something else. Snow fell all day Sunday, so that, on Monday morning, sleighs had to be brought out. Frank and I drove down to the store and invested a considerable share of our spare cash in a varied assortment of knick-knacks. After dinner we drove through to the Enderly Road schoolhouse, tied our horse in a quiet spot, and went in. Our arrival created quite a sensation for, as a rule, Blackburn Hillites did not patronize Enderly Road functions. Miss Davis, the pale, tired-looking little teacher, was evidently pleased, and we were given seats of honour next to the minister on the platform.
Our decorations really looked very well, and were further enhanced by two large red geraniums in full bloom which, it appeared, Maggie had brought from home to adorn the teacher's desk. The side benches were lined with Enderly Road parents, and all the pupils were in their best attire. Our friend Maggie was there, of course, and she smiled and nodded towards the wreaths when she caught our eyes.
The examination was a decided success, and the program which followed was very creditable indeed. Maggie and Minnie, in particular, covered themselves with glory, both in class and on the platform. At its close, while the minister was making his speech, Frank slipped out; when the minister sat down the door opened and Santa Claus himself, with big fur coat, ruddy mask, and long white beard, strode into the room with a huge basket on his arm, amid a chorus of surprised "Ohs" from old and young.
Wonderful things came out of that basket. There was some little present for every child there—tops, knives, and whistles for the boys, dolls and ribbons for the girls, and a "prize" box of candy for everybody, all of which Santa Claus presented with appropriate remarks. It was an exciting time, and it would have been hard to decide which were the most pleased, parents, pupils, or teacher.
In the confusion Santa Claus discreetly disappeared, and school was dismissed. Frank, having tucked his toggery away in the sleigh, was waiting for us outside, and we were promptly pounced upon by Maggie and Minnie, whose long braids were already adorned with the pink silk ribbons which had been their gifts.
"You decorated the school," cried Maggie excitedly. "I know you did. I told Minnie it was you the minute I saw it."
"You're dreaming, child," said Frank.
"Oh, no, I'm not," retorted Maggie shrewdly, "and wasn't Matt Dickey mad this morning! Oh, it was such fun. I think you are two real nice boys and so does Minnie—don't you Minnie?"
Minnie nodded gravely. Evidently Maggie did the talking in their partnership.
"This has been a splendid examination," said Maggie, drawing a long breath. "Real Christmassy, you know. We never had such a good time before."
"Well, it has paid, don't you think?" asked Frank, as we drove home.
"Rather," I answered.
It did "pay" in other ways than the mere pleasure of it. There was always a better feeling between the Roaders and the Hillites thereafter. The big brothers of the little girls, to whom our Christmas surprise had been such a treat, thought it worthwhile to bury the hatchet, and quarrels between the two villages became things of the past.
onsdag 22 december 2010
From "A Little Book for Christmas", 1917, by Cyrus Townsend Brady
Christmas is the birthday of our Lord, upon which we celebrate God's ineffable gift of Himself to His children. No human soul has ever been able to realize the full significance of that gift, no heart has ever been glad enough to contain the joy of it, and no mind has ever been wise enough to express it. Nevertheless we powerfully appreciate the blessing and would fain convey it fitly. Therefore to commemorate that great gift the custom of exchanging tokens of love and remembrance has grown until it has become well nigh universal. This is a day in which we ourselves crave, as never at any other time, happiness and peace for those we love and that ought to include everybody, for with the angelic message in our ears it should be impossible to hate any one on Christmas day however we may feel before or after.
But despite the best of wills almost inevitably Christmas in many instances has created a burdensome demand. Perhaps by the method of exclusion we shall find out what Christmas should be. It is not a time for extravagance, for ostentation, for vulgar display, it is possible to purchase pleasure for someone else at too high a price to ourselves. To paraphrase Polonius, "Costly thy gift as thy purse can buy, rich but not expressed in fancy, for the gift oft proclaims the man." In making presents observe three principal facts; the length of your purse, the character of your friend, and the universal rule of good taste. Do not plunge into extravagance from which you will scarcely recover except in months of nervous strain and desperate financial struggle. On the other hand do not be mean and niggardly in your gifts. Oh, not that; avoid selfishness at Christmas, if at no other time. Rather no gift at all than a grudging one. Let your offerings represent yourselves and your affections. Indeed if they do not represent you, they are not gifts at all. "The gift without the giver is bare."
And above all banish from your mind the principle of reciprocity. The lex talionis has no place in Christmas giving. Do not think or feel that you must give to someone because someone gave to you. There is no barter about it. You give because you love and without a thought of return. Credit others with the same feeling and be governed thereby. I know one upon whose Christmas list there are over one hundred and fifty people, rich and poor, high and low, able and not able. That man would be dismayed beyond measure if everyone of those people felt obliged to make a return for the Christmas remembrances he so gladly sends them.
In giving remember after all the cardinal principle of the day. Let your gift be an expression of your kindly remembrance, your gentle consideration, your joyful spirit, your spontaneous gratitude, your abiding desire for peace and goodwill toward men. Hunt up somebody who needs and who without you may lack and suffer heart hunger, loneliness, and disappointment.
Nor is Christmas a time for gluttonous eating and drinking. To gorge one's self with quantities of rich and indigestible food is not the noblest method of commemorating the day. The rules and laws of digestion are not abrogated upon the Holy day. These are material cautions, the day has a spiritual significance of which material manifestations are, or ought to be, outward and visible expressions only.
Christmas is one of the great days of obligation in the Church year, then as at Easter if at no other time, Christians should gather around the table of the Lord, kneeling before God's altar in the ministering of that Holy Communion which unites them with the past, the present, and the future—the communion of the saints of God's Holy Church with His Beloved Son. Then and thus in body, soul, and spirit we do truly participate in the privilege and blessing of the Incarnation, then and there we receive that strength which enables everyone of us to become factors in the great extension of that marvellous occurrence throughout the ages and throughout the world.
Let us therefore on this Holy Natal Day, from which the whole world dates its time, begin on our knees before that altar which is at once manger, cross, throne. Let us join thereafter in holy cheer of praise and prayer and exhortation and Christmas carol, and then let us go forth with a Christmas spirit in our hearts resolved to communicate it to the children of men, and not merely for the day but for the future. To make the right use of these our privileges, this it is to save the world.
In this spirit, therefore, so far as poor, fallible human nature permits him to realize it and exhibit it, the author wishes all his readers which at present comprise his only flock—
A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
tisdag 21 december 2010
We had gone to the forest for holly and pine,
.. And gathered our arms full of cedar,
And home we came skipping, our garlands to twine,
.. With Marcus, the bold, for our leader.
The dear Mother said we might fix up the place,
.. And ask all the friends to a party;
So joy, you may fancy, illumined each face
.. And our manners were cordial and hearty.
But whom should we have? There were Sally and Fred,
.. And Martha and Luke and Leander;
There was Jack, a small boy with a frowsy red head,
.. And the look of an old salamander.
There was Dickie, who went to a college up town,
.. And Archie, who worked for the neighbors;
There were Timothy Parsons and Anthony Brown,
.. Old fellows, of street-cleaning labors.
And then sister had friends like the lilies so fair,
.. Sweet girls with white hands and soft glances;
At a frolic of ours these girls must be there,
.. Dear Mildred and Gladys and Frances.
At Christmas, my darlings, leave nobody out,
.. 'Tis the feast of the dear Elder Brother,
Who came to this world to bring freedom about,
.. And whose motto is "Love one another."
When the angels proclaimed Him in Judea's sky
.. They sang out His wonderful story,
And peace and good will did they bring from on high,
.. And the keystone of all laid with glory.
A frolic at Christmas must needs know not change
.. Of fortune, or richer or poorer;
If any one comes who is lonesome and strange,
.. Why, just make his welcome the surer.
We invited our friends and we dressed up the room
.. Till it looked like a wonderful bower,
With starry bright tapers, and flowers in bloom,
.. And a tree with white popcorn a-shower.
And presents and presents, for every one there,
.. In stockings, and bags full of candy,
And old Santa Claus (Uncle William) was fair,
.. And—I tell you, our tree was a dandy.
Then, when nine o'clock struck, and the frolic and fun
.. Had risen almost to their highest,
And pleasure was beaming, and every one
.. Was happy, from bravest to shyest.
Our dear Mother went to the organ and played
.. A carol so sweet and so tender;
We prayed while we sang, and we sang as we prayed,
.. To Jesus, our Prince and Defender.
Oh! Jesus, who came as a Babe to the earth,
.. Who slept 'mid the kine, in a manger;
Oh! Jesus, our Lord, in whose heavenly birth
.. Is pledge of our ransom from danger.
Strong Son of the Father, divine from of old,
.. And Son of the race, child of woman;
Increasing in might as the ages unfold,
.. Redeemer, our God, and yet human.
We sang to His Name, and we stood in a band,
.. Each pledged for the Master wholly,
To work heart to heart, and to work hand to hand,
.. In behalf of the outcast and lowly.
Then we said "Merry Christmas" once more and we went
.. Away from the holly and cedar,
And home we all scattered, quite glad and content,
.. And henceforward our Lord is our Leader.
måndag 20 december 2010
The month before Christmas was always the most exciting and mysterious time in the Joseph household. Such scheming and planning, such putting of curly heads together in corners, such counting of small hoards, such hiding and smuggling of things out of sight, as went on among the little Josephs!
There were a good many of them, and very few of the pennies; hence the reason for so much contriving and consulting. From fourteen-year-old Mollie down to four-year-old Lennie there were eight small Josephs in all in the little log house on the prairie; so that when each little Joseph wanted to give a Christmas box to each of the other little Josephs, and something to Father and Mother Joseph besides, it is no wonder that they had to cudgel their small brains for ways and means thereof.
Father and Mother were always discreetly blind and silent through December. No questions were asked no matter what queer things were done. Many secret trips to the little store at the railway station two miles away were ignored, and no little Joseph was called to account because he or she looked terribly guilty when somebody suddenly came into the room. The air was simply charged with secrets.
Sister Mollie was the grand repository of these; all the little Josephs came to her for advice and assistance. It was Mollie who for troubled small brothers and sisters did such sums in division as this: How can I get a ten-cent present for Emmy and a fifteen-cent one for Jimmy out of eighteen cents? Or, how can seven sticks of candy be divided among eight people so that each shall have one? It was Mollie who advised regarding the purchase of ribbon and crepe paper. It was Mollie who put the finishing touches to most of the little gifts. In short, all through December Mollie was weighed down under an avalanche of responsibility. It speaks volumes for her sagacity and skill that she never got things mixed up or made any such terrible mistake as letting one little Joseph find out what another was going to give him. "Dead" secrecy was the keystone of all plans and confidences.
During this particular December the planning and contriving had been more difficult and the results less satisfactory than usual. The Josephs were poor at any time, but this winter they were poorer than ever. The crops had failed in the summer, and as a consequence the family were, as Jimmy said, "on short commons." But they made the brave best of their small resources, and on Christmas Eve every little Joseph went to bed with a clear conscience, for was there not on the corner table in the kitchen a small mountain of tiny—sometimes very tiny—gifts labelled with the names of recipients and givers, and worth their weight in gold if love and good wishes count for anything?
It was beginning to snow when the small small Josephs went to bed, and when the big small Josephs climbed the stairs it was snowing thickly. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph sat before the fire and listened to the wind howling about the house.
"I'm glad I'm not driving over the prairie tonight," said Mr. Joseph. "It's quite a storm. I hope it will be fine tomorrow, for the children's sake. They've set their hearts on having a sleigh ride, and it will be too bad if they can't have it when it's about all the Christmas they'll have this year. Mary, this is the first Christmas since we came west that we couldn't afford some little extras for them, even if 'twas only a box of nuts and candy."
Mrs. Joseph sighed over Jimmy's worn jacket which she was mending. Then she smiled.
"Never mind, John. Things will be better next Christmas, we'll hope. The children will not mind, bless their hearts. Look at all the little knick-knacks they've made for each other. Last week when I was over at Taunton, Mr. Fisher had his store all gayified up,' as Jim says, with Christmas presents. I did feel that I'd ask nothing better than to go in and buy all the lovely things I wanted, just for once, and give them to the children tomorrow morning. They've never had anything really nice for Christmas. But there! We've all got each other and good health and spirits, and a Christmas wouldn't be much without those if we had all the presents in the world."
Mr. Joseph nodded.
"That's so. I don't want to grumble; but I tell you I did want to get Maggie a 'real live doll,' as she calls it. She never has had anything but homemade dolls, and that small heart of hers is set on a real one. There was one at Fisher's store today—a big beauty with real hair, and eyes that opened and shut. Just fancy Maggie's face if she saw such a Christmas box as that tomorrow morning."
"Don't let's fancy it," laughed Mrs. Joseph, "it is only aggravating. Talking of candy reminds me that I made a big plateful of taffy for the children today. It's all the 'Christmassy' I could give them. I'll get it out and put it on the table along with the children's presents. That can't be someone at the door!"
"It is, though," said Mr. Joseph as he strode to the door and flung it open.
Two snowed-up figures were standing on the porch. As they stepped in, the Josephs recognized one of them as Mr. Ralston, a wealthy merchant in a small town fifteen miles away.
"Late hour for callers, isn't it?" said Mr. Ralston. "The fact is, our horse has about given out, and the storm is so bad that we can't proceed. This is my wife, and we are on our way to spend Christmas with my brother's family at Lindsay. Can you take us in for the night, Mr. Joseph?"
"Certainly, and welcome!" exclaimed Mr. Joseph heartily, "if you don't mind a shakedown by the kitchen fire for the night. My, Mrs. Ralston," as his wife helped her off with her things, "but you are snowed up! I'll see to putting your horse away, Mr. Ralston. This way, if you please."
When the two men came stamping into the house again Mrs. Ralston and Mrs. Joseph were sitting at the fire, the former with a steaming hot cup of tea in her hand. Mr. Ralston put the big basket he was carrying down on a bench in the corner.
"Thought I'd better bring our Christmas flummery in," he said. "You see, Mrs. Joseph, my brother has a big family, so we are taking them a lot of Santa Claus stuff. Mrs. Ralston packed this basket, and goodness knows what she put in it, but she half cleaned out my store. The eyes of the Lindsay youngsters will dance tomorrow—that is, if we ever get there."
Mrs. Joseph gave a little sigh in spite of herself, and looked wistfully at the heap of gifts on the corner table. How meagre and small they did look, to be sure, beside that bulgy basket with its cover suggestively tied down.
Mrs. Ralston looked too.
"Santa Claus seems to have visited you already," she said with a smile.
The Josephs laughed.
"Our Santa Claus is somewhat out of pocket this year," said Mr. Joseph frankly. "Those are the little things the small folks here have made for each other. They've been a month at it, and I'm always kind of relieved when Christmas is over and there are no more mysterious doings. We're in such cramped quarters here that you can't move without stepping on somebody's secret."
A shakedown was spread in the kitchen for the unexpected guests, and presently the Ralstons found themselves alone. Mrs. Ralston went over to the Christmas table and looked at the little gifts half tenderly and half pityingly.
"They're not much like the contents of our basket, are they?" she said, as she touched the calendar Jimmie had made for Mollie out of cardboard and autumn leaves and grasses.
"Just what I was thinking," returned her husband, "and I was thinking of something else, too. I've a notion that I'd like to see some of the things in our basket right here on this table."
"I'd like to see them all," said Mrs. Ralston promptly. "Let's just leave them here, Edward. Roger's family will have plenty of presents without them, and for that matter we can send them ours when we go back home."
"Just as you say," agreed Mr. Ralston. "I like the idea of giving the small folk of this household a rousing good Christmas for once. They're poor I know, and I dare say pretty well pinched this year like most of the farmers hereabout after the crop failure."
Mrs. Ralston untied the cover of the big basket. Then the two of them, moving as stealthily as if engaged in a burglary, transferred the contents to the table. Mr. Ralston got out a small pencil and a note book, and by dint of comparing the names attached to the gifts on the table they managed to divide theirs up pretty evenly among the little Josephs.
When all was done Mrs. Ralston said, "Now, I'm going to spread that tablecloth carelessly over the table. We will be going before daylight, probably, and in the hurry of getting off I hope that Mr. and Mrs. Joseph will not notice the difference till we're gone."
It fell out as Mrs. Ralston had planned. The dawn broke fine and clear over a vast white world. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph were early astir; breakfast for the storm-stayed travellers was cooked and eaten by lamplight; then the horse and sleigh were brought to the door and Mr. Ralston carried out his empty basket.
"I expect the trail will be heavy," he said, "but I guess we'd get to Lindsay in time for dinner, anyway. Much obliged for your kindness, Mr. Joseph. When you and Mrs. Joseph come to town we shall hope to have a chance to return it. Good-bye and a merry Christmas to you all."
When Mrs. Joseph went back to the kitchen her eyes fell on the heaped-up table in the corner.
"Why-y!" she said, and snatched off the cover.
One look she gave, and then this funny little mother began to cry; but they were happy tears. Mr. Joseph came too, and looked and whistled.
There really seemed to be everything on that table that the hearts of children could desire—three pairs of skates, a fur cap and collar, a dainty workbasket, half a dozen gleaming new books, a writing desk, a roll of stuff that looked like a new dress, a pair of fur-topped kid gloves just Mollie's size, and a china cup and saucer. All these were to be seen at the first glance; and in one corner of the table was a big box filled with candies and nuts and raisins, and in the other a doll with curling golden hair and brown eyes, dressed in "real" clothes and with all her wardrobe in a trunk beside her. Pinned to her dress was a leaf from Mr. Ralston's notebook with Maggie's name written on it.
"Well, this is Christmas with a vengeance," said Mr. Joseph.
"The children will go wild with delight," said his wife happily.
They pretty nearly did when they all came scrambling down the stairs a little later. Such a Christmas had never been known in the Joseph household before. Maggie clasped her doll with shining eyes, Mollie looked at the workbasket that her housewifely little heart had always longed for, studious Jimmy beamed over the books, and Ted and Hal whooped with delight over the skates. And as for the big box of good things, why, everybody appreciated that. That Christmas was one to date from in that family.
I'm glad to be able to say, too, that even in the heyday of their delight and surprise over their wonderful presents, the little Josephs did not forget to appreciate the gifts they had prepared for each other. Mollie thought her calendar just too pretty for anything, and Jimmy was sure the new red mittens which Maggie had knitted for him with her own chubby wee fingers, were the very nicest, gayest mittens a boy had ever worn.
Mrs. Joseph's taffy was eaten too. Not a scrap of it was left. As Ted said loyally, "It was just as good as the candy in the box and had more 'chew' to it besides."
söndag 19 december 2010
One Christmas eve Joel Baker was in a most unhappy mood. He was lonesome and miserable; the chimes making merry Christmas music outside disturbed rather than soothed him, the jingle of the sleigh-bells fretted him, and the shrill whistling of the wind around the corners of the house and up and down the chimney seemed to grate harshly on his ears.
"Humph," said Joel, wearily, "Christmas is nothin' to me; there was a time when it meant a great deal, but that was long ago—fifty years is a long stretch to look back over. There is nothin' in Christmas now, nothin' for me at least; it is so long since Santa Claus remem-bered me that I venture to say he has forgotten that there ever was such a person as Joel Baker in all the world. It used to be different; Santa Claus used to think a great deal of me when I was a boy. Ah! Christmas nowadays ain't what it was in the good old time—no, not what it used to be."
As Joel was absorbed in his distressing thoughts he became aware very suddenly that somebody was entering or trying to enter the room. First came a draught of cold air, then a scraping, grating sound, then a strange shuffling, and then,—yes, then, all at once, Joel saw a pair of fat legs and a still fatter body dangle down the chimney, followed presently by a long white beard, above which appeared a jolly red nose and two bright twinkling eyes, while over the head and forehead was drawn a fur cap, white with snowflakes.
"Ha, ha," chuckled the fat, jolly stranger, emerging from the chimney and standing well to one side of the hearth-stone; "ha, ha, they don't have the big, wide chimneys they used to build, but they can't keep Santa Claus out—no, they can't keep Santa Claus out! Ha, ha, ha. Though the chimney were no bigger than a gas pipe, Santa Claus would slide down it!"
It didn't require a second glance to assure Joel that the new-comer was indeed Santa Claus. Joel knew the good old saint—oh, yes—and he had seen him once before, and, although that was when Joel was a little boy, he had never forgotten how Santa Claus looked.
"Thank you, old Santa Claus," replied Joel, "but I don't believe it's going to be a very merry Christmas. It's been so long since I've had a merry Christmas that I don't believe I'd know how to act if I had one."
"Let's see," said Santa Claus, "it must be going on fifty years since I saw you last—yes, you were eight years old the last time I slipped down the chimney of the old homestead and filled your stocking. Do you remember it?"
"I remember it well," answered Joel. "I had made up my mind to lie awake and see Santa Claus; I had heard tell of you, but I'd never seen you, and Brother Otis and I concluded we'd lie awake and watch for you to come."
Santa Claus shook his head reproachfully.
"That was very wrong," said he, "for I'm so scarey that if I'd known you boys were awake I'd never have come down the chimney at all, and then you'd have had no presents."
"But Otis couldn't keep awake," explained Joel. "We talked about everythin' we could think of, till father called out to us that if we didn't stop talking he'd have to send one of us up into the attic to sleep with the hired man. So in less than five minutes Otis was sound asleep and no pinching could wake him up. But I was bound to see Santa Claus and I don't believe anything would've put me to sleep. I heard the big clock in the sitting-room strike eleven, and I had begun wonderin' if you never were going to come, when all of a sudden I heard the tinkle of the bells around your reindeers' necks. Then I heard the reindeers prancin' on the roof and the sound of your sleigh-runners cuttin' through the crust and slippin' over the shingles. I was kind o' scared and I covered my head up with the sheet and quilts—only I left a little hole so I could peek out and see what was goin' on. As soon as I saw you I got over bein' scared—for you were jolly and smilin' like, and you chuckled as you went around to each stockin' and filled it up."
"Yes, I can remember the night," said Santa Claus. "I brought you a sled, didn't I?"
"Yes, and you brought Otis one, too," replied Joel. "Mine was red and had 'Yankee Doodle' painted in black letters on the side; Otis's was black and had 'Snow Queen' in gilt letters."
"I remember those sleds distinctly," said Santa Claus, "for I made them specially for you boys."
"You set the sleds up against the wall," continued Joel, "and then you filled the stockin's."
"There were six of 'em, as I recollect?" said Santa Claus.
"Let me see," queried Joel. "There was mine, and Otis's, and Elvira's, and Thankful's, and Susan Prickett's—Susan was our help, you know. No, there were only five, and, as I remember, they were the biggest we could beg or borrer of Aunt Dorcas, who weighed nigh unto two hundred pounds. Otis and I didn't like Susan Prickett, and we were hopin' you'd put a cold potato in her stockin'."
"But Susan was a good girl," remonstrated Santa Claus. "You know I put cold potatoes only in the stockin's of boys and girls who are bad and don't believe in Santa Claus."
"At any rate," said Joel, "you filled all the stockin's with candy and pop-corn and nuts and raisins, and I can remember you said you were afraid you'd run out of pop-corn balls before you got around. Then you left each of us a book. Elvira got the best one, which was 'The Garland of Frien'ship,' and had poems in it about the bleeding of hearts, and so forth. Father wasn't expectin' anything, but you left him a new pair of mittens, and mother got a new fur boa to wear to meetin'."
"Of course," said Santa Claus, "I never forgot father and mother."
"Well, it was as much as I could do to lay still," continued Joel, "for I'd been longin' for a sled, an' the sight of that red sled with 'Yankee Doodle' painted on it jest made me wild. But, somehow or other, I began to get powerful sleepy all at once, and I couldn't keep my eyes open. The next thing I knew Otis was nudgin' me in the ribs. 'Git up, Joel,' says he; 'it's Chris'mas an' Santa Claus has been here.' 'Merry Chris'mas! Merry Chris'mas!' we cried as we tumbled out o' bed. Then Elvira an' Thankful came in, not more 'n half dressed, and Susan came in, too, an' we just made Rome howl with 'Merry Chris'mas! Merry Chris'mas!' to each other. 'Ef you children don't make less noise in there,' cried father, 'I'll hev to send you all back to bed.' The idea of askin' boys an' girls to keep quiet on Chris'mas mornin' when they've got new sleds an' 'Garlands of Frien'ship'!"
Santa Claus chuckled; his rosy cheeks fairly beamed joy.
"Otis an' I didn't want any breakfast," said Joel. "We made up our minds that a stockin'ful of candy and pop-corn and raisins would stay us for a while. I do believe there wasn't buckwheat cakes enough in the township to keep us indoors that mornin'; buckwheat cakes don't size up much 'longside of a red sled with 'Yankee Doodle' painted onto it and a black sled named 'Snow Queen.' We didn't care how cold it was—so much the better for slidin' downhill! All the boys had new sleds—Lafe Dawson, Bill Holbrook, Gum Adams, Rube Playford, Leander Merrick, Ezra Purple—all on 'em had new sleds excep' Martin Peavey, and he said he calculated Santa Claus had skipped him this year 'cause his father had broke his leg haulin' logs from the Pelham woods and had been kep' indoors six weeks. But Martin had his ol' sled, and he didn't hev to ask any odds of any of us, neither."
"I brought Martin a sled the next Christmas," said Santa Claus.
"Like as not—but did you ever slide downhill, Santa Claus? I don't mean such hills as they hev out here in this new country, but one of them old-fashioned New England hills that was made 'specially for boys to slide down, full of bumpers an' thank-ye-marms, and about ten times longer comin' up than it is goin' down! The wind blew in our faces and almos' took our breath away. 'Merry Chris'mas to ye, little boys!' it seemed to say, and it untied our mufflers an' whirled the snow in our faces, jist as if it was a boy, too, an' wanted to play with us. An ol' crow came flappin' over us from the cornfield beyond the meadow. He said: 'Caw, caw,' when he saw my new sled—I s'pose he'd never seen a red one before. Otis had a hard time with his sled—the black one—an' he wondered why it wouldn't go as fast as mine would. 'Hev you scraped the paint off'n the runners?' asked Wralsey Goodnow. 'Course I hev,' said Otis; 'broke my own knife an' Lute Ingraham's a-doin' it, but it don't seem to make no dif'rence—the darned ol' thing won't go!' Then, what did Simon Buzzell say but that, like's not, it was because Otis's sled's name was 'Snow Queen.' 'Never did see a girl sled that was worth a cent, anyway,' sez Simon. Well, now, that jest about broke Otis up in business. 'It ain't a girl sled,' sez he, 'and its name ain't "Snow Queen"! I'm a-goin' to call it "Dan'l Webster," or "Ol'ver Optic," or "Sheriff Robbins," or after some other big man!' An' the boys plagued him so much about that pesky girl sled that he scratched off the name, an', as I remember, it did go better after that!
"About the only thing," continued Joel, "that marred the harmony of the occasion, as the editor of the Hampshire County Phoenix used to say, was the ashes that Deacon Morris Frisbie sprinkled out in front of his house. He said he wasn't going to have folks breakin' their necks jest on account of a lot of frivolous boys that was goin' to the gallows as fas' as they could! Oh, how we hated him! and we'd have snowballed him, too, if we hadn't been afraid of the constable that lived next door. But the ashes didn't bother us much, and every time we slid side-saddle we'd give the ashes a kick, and that sort of scattered 'em."
The bare thought of this made Santa Claus laugh.
"Goin' on about nine o'clock," said Joel, "the girls come along—Sister Elvira an' Thankful, Prudence Tucker, Belle Yocum, Sophrone Holbrook, Sis Hubbard, an' Marthy Sawyer. Marthy's brother Increase wanted her to ride on his sled, but Marthy allowed that a red sled was her choice every time. 'I don't see how I'm goin' to hold on,' said Marthy. 'Seems as if I would hev my hands full keepin' my things from blowin' away.' 'Don't worry about yourself, Marthy,' sez I, 'for if you'll look after your things, I kind o' calc'late I'll manage not to lose you on the way.' Dear Marthy—seems as if I could see you now, with your tangled hair a-blowin' in the wind, your eyes all bright and sparklin', an' your cheeks as red as apples. Seems, too, as if I could hear you laughin' and callin', jist as you did as I toiled up the old New England hill that Chris'mas mornin'—a-callin': 'Joel, Joel, Joel—ain't ye ever comin', Joel?' But the hill is long and steep, Marthy, an' Joel ain't the boy he used to be; he's old, an' gray, an' feeble, but there's love an' faith in his heart, an' they kind o' keep him totterin' tow'rd the voice he hears a-callin': 'Joel, Joel, Joel!'"
"I know—I see it all," murmured Santa Claus very softly.
"Oh, that was so long ago," sighed Joel; "so very long ago! And I've had no Chris'mas since—only once, when our little one—Marthy's an' mine—you remember him, Santa Claus?"
"Yes," said Santa Claus, "a toddling little boy with blue eyes—"
"Like his mother," interrupted Joel; "an' he was like her, too—so gentle an' lovin', only we called him Joel, for that was my father's name and it kind o' run in the fam'ly. He wa'n't more'n three years old when you came with your Chris'mas presents for him, Santa Claus. We had told him about you, and he used to go to the chimney every night and make a little prayer about what he wanted you to bring him. And you brought 'em, too—a stick-horse, an' a picture-book, an' some blocks, an' a drum—they're on the shelf in the closet there, and his little Chris'mas stockin' with 'em—I've saved 'em all, an' I've taken 'em down an' held 'em in my hands, oh, so many times!"
"But when I came again," said Santa Claus—
"His little bed was empty, an' I was alone. It killed his mother—Marthy was so tender-hearted; she kind o' drooped an' pined after that. So now they've been asleep side by side in the buryin'-ground these thirty years.
"That's why I'm so sad-like whenever Chris'mas comes," said Joel, after a pause. "The thinkin' of long ago makes me bitter almost. It's so different now from what it used to be."
"No, Joel, oh, no," said Santa Claus. "'Tis the same world, and human nature is the same and always will be. But Christmas is for the little folks, and you, who are old and grizzled now, must know it and love it only through the gladness it brings the little ones."
"True," groaned Joel; "but how may I know and feel this gladness when I have no little stocking hanging in my chimney corner—no child to please me with his prattle? See, I am alone."
"No, you're not alone, Joel," said Santa Claus. "There are children in this great city who would love and bless you for your goodness if you but touched their hearts. Make them happy, Joel; send by me this night some gift to the little boy in the old house yonder—he is poor and sick; a simple toy will fill his Christmas with gladness."
"His little sister, too—take her some presents," said Joel; "make them happy for me, Santa Claus—you are right—make them happy for me."
How sweetly Joel slept! When he awoke, the sunlight streamed in through the window and seemed to bid him a merry Christmas. How contented and happy Joel felt! It must have been the talk with Santa Claus that did it all; he had never known a sweeter sense of peace. A little girl came out of the house over the way. She had a new doll in her arms, and she sang a merry little song and she laughed with joy as she skipped along the street. Ay, and at the window sat the little sick boy, and the toy Santa Claus left him seemed to have brought him strength and health, for his eyes sparkled and his cheeks glowed, and it was plain to see his heart was full of happiness.
And, oh! how the chimes did ring out, and how joyfully they sang their Christmas carol that morning! They sang of Bethlehem and the manger and the Babe; they sang of love and charity, till all the Christmas air seemed full of angel voices.
Carol of the Christmas morn—
Carol of the Christ-child born—
Carol to the list'ning sky
Till it echoes back again
"Glory be to God on high,
Peace on earth, good will tow'rd men!"
So all this music—the carol of the chimes, the sound of children's voices, the smile of the poor little boy over the way—all this sweet music crept into Joel's heart that Christmas morning; yes, and with these sweet, holy influences came others so subtile and divine that in its silent communion with them, Joel's heart cried out amen and amen to the glory of the Christmas time.