I T was a winter night—still, bright, and cold. The wagon wheels and footsteps creaked loudly as they ground into the crisp snow, and even the great, solemn moon looked frosty and cold.
Katrina stood by the sitting-room window, looking out.
"It is going to be a dreadful night," said father, stirring the fire; "it is growing colder every minute."
"Is it?" said mother. "Then, Katrina, you must run upstairs and empty the china pitcher in the spare room."
"Yes," said Katrina, but she did not go, for she was looking out at the moonlight, and mother was rocking baby to sleep.
Fifteen minutes passed. Baby was going to "By-low Land" fast, and mother spoke again:
"Come, Katrina, go and see to the pitcher. It was grandma's Christmas present, and we shouldn't like to have it broken."
"Yes, mother," said Katrina. "I will go in a minute."
"Well, dear, be sure and remember," said mother, and she went off to put baby into her crib. At that moment in came Jamie with a pair of shining new skates, and Katrina forgot all about the pitcher as soon as she saw them. Just outside the window stood the Cold, listening and watching; and now he chuckled and snapped his icy fingers.
"That little girl will never empty the pitcher," he said to himself; "she's one of the careless kind. Oh, I know them. Let me see—the spare room—that's for company. I'll go and spend the night in it. Where is it, I wonder? I will hunt it up."
He knew better than to try to get into the cozy sitting-room, with its bright fire, so he slipped softly around the house and peeped in through the kitchen window. Inside was a large stove glowing with coal, and a tea-kettle sending out a cloud of steam.
He shook his head and muttered: "That is no place for me; the heat in there would kill me in a minute; I must look farther."
He went on, peeping in one window after another, until he saw a room with no fire. "Ah," he whispered, "this must be the place. Yes; that is the very pitcher I am going to break; and, if here isn't a fine crack to let me in!" So in he went.
"It is a pretty room," he said, "and it seems a pity to spoil such a handsome pitcher; but Katrina should not have left the water in it."
He stole noiselessly along, chilling everything he touched, until he reached the wash stand. Up the stand he went, near and nearer to the pitcher, until he could look into it. "Not much water," he whispered, "but I can make it do"; and he spread his icy fingers over it.
The water shivered and drew back, but the icy fingers pressed harder. "Oh," cried the water, "I am so cold!" And it shrank more and more.
Very soon it called out: "If you don't go away, Cold, I shall certainly freeze!"
"Good," laughed the Cold, "that is just what I want you to do."
All at once the air was filled with many little voices that seemed to come from the pitcher—sharp and clear like tinkling sleigh bells in Fairyland.
"Hurrah!" they cried; "the Cold is making us into beautiful crystals. Oh, won't it be jolly, jolly!"
At that, the Cold pushed his finger straight into the water and it began to freeze. Then such a wonderful thing happened. The drops began arranging themselves in rows and lines that everywhere crossed each other; but they pushed so hard that the pitcher cried out:
"Please stop pushing me so hard; I am afraid I shall break."
"We can't stop," said the drops. "We are freezing, and we must have more room"; and they kept on spreading and arranging themselves.
The poor pitcher groaned, and called again: "Don't, don't. I can't stand it." But it did no good. The drops kept on saying: "We must have more room." And they pushed steadily and so hard that, at last, with a loud cry, the poor pitcher cracked.
The Cold looked around to see if there was any more mischief he could do. When he found there was none, he stole softly away through the crack in the window.
Just outside was Jack Frost, looking for a good place to hang his pictures. The Cold told him about the pitcher, and away they went together, laughing as if it were a good joke.
Upstairs in her snug little bed Katrina lay, and dreamed that grandma's pitcher was dancing on the counterpane, in brother Jamie's new skates.
|— Mary Howliston, "Cat-Tails, and Other Tales"|