The Storyland Tree  by Maud Lindsay

The Christmas Letter

O NCE upon a time a little boy's grandma, who was an old, old lady, wrote a Christmas letter inviting his aunt and his uncle and all his cousins to eat Christmas dinner at her house; and that was the house where he lived, too.

"I hope they will come, don't you, Grandma?" he said when she told him what she had written, and she was very sure that they would if only they got the letter in time.

"It should be mailed right away," she said, though how this could be done she did not know. The little boy's mother was doing Christmas shopping that morning, his father was at work, the cook had gone to market, and he was not tall enough to put the letter in the mail-box; or at least Grandma was afraid that he wasn't.

"I'm tall when I stand tiptoe," he said, "and see how high I can reach!"

"My!" said Grandma, and when she had buttoned his coat and pulled his cap over his ears and told him to be careful, she let him start out with the letter.

"If you can't put it in the box, ask somebody to do it for you," she called, but the little boy wished with all his heart to mail the letter himself. And, anyway, when he looked out on the street, there was no one to be seen. Everything was so quiet and lonely that he was glad when Rover, the house dog, got up from the corner where he was lying and went with him.

"Oof! Oof!" barked Rover, all eager for play, but he soon found out that this was no time for romping. Then nobody could have been more solemn than he was as he followed his little master to the mail-box. He would not even bark at the neighbor's cat, though there was nothing he liked to do any better.

Dear me! How high the mail-box was! The little boy could not put the letter in it, though he stood so nearly on the tips of his toes that he almost tumbled over. He tried again and again and again till he was ready to cry. What if the letter were late and the cousins didn't come!

"Oof! Oof!" barked Rover, looking anxiously into his little master's face. He knew very well that something was wrong. "Oof Oof!"

The little boy would have been glad to ask some one to help him now if only there had been any one to ask, but there wasn't a soul. It seemed to him as if everybody must be at work or doing Christmas shopping or buying things at the market.

He might have taken the letter back to his grandma without waiting any longer if he had not thought just then of getting something to stand on so that he could reach the mail-box. Once he had put one brick on another and stood on top of them to pick a morning glory that grew, oh, ever so high on a vine. And sometimes he climbed on a stout wooden chair at home to put lettuce leaves in the canary's cage. He did not know where the bricks were, but the chair was on the kitchen porch where it always stayed. Yes, yes, and now he knew what he could do. He would get the chair and bring it here to stand on and mail the Christmas letter after all.

"Come on, Rover, come on," he shouted joyfully as he hurried away. And Rover ran as fast as he did.

The chair was on the porch, just where he expected to find it, and was the very thing he needed. Anybody could reach a mail-box if he stood on such a good high chair as this one. The little boy could not lift it, but he caught hold of it and pulled it along with all his might. Bump Bump! Now it was down the porch steps and he could stop to rest. Bump! Bump! Now it was on the sidewalk.

There were a number of people passing then, and one of them, a big teasing boy, called out:

"Oh, chair, where are you taking that little boy?" But the child was too busy trying to keep out of people's way to listen to him.

"Oof! Oof!" barked Rover, just as if he were trying to say: "Please give us a little room. Don't you see we are in a hurry?" He was excited and so was his master. Once both of them came very near to tumbling over the chair themselves.

It was fortunate that they had not far to go, and when the little boy put the letter in the mail-box at last, he was as happy as if Christmas were coming around the corner that very minute.

"Oof! Oof!" barked Rover, wagging his tail and frisking around. He knew as well as anybody that there was something to be glad about. And the big teasing boy, who had waited to find out the meaning of all the stir, threw his cap in the air and shouted, "Hip, hip, hurrah!"

He was a good-natured boy in spite of his teasing, and nothing would do but that he must carry the chair home for the little boy. He put it on his head and looked out through the rounds like a lion in a cage, which made the little boy and everybody else who saw him laugh.

And did the aunt and the uncle and the cousins eat Christmas dinner at the little boy's grandma's house? Indeed they did, and they had so much fun that nobody could tell it all in one story.