WEEK 51 |
This story was told me in the mother-tongue of a German friend, at the kindly instance of a common friend of both; the narrator had heard it at home from the lips of a father of story-loving children for whom he often invented such little tales. The present adaptation has passed by hearsay through so many minds that it is perhaps little like the original, but I venture to hope it has a touch of the original fancy, at least.
I am going to tell you a story about something wonderful that happened to a Christmas Tree like this, ever and ever so long ago, when it was once upon a time.
It was before Christmas, and the tree was trimmed with bright spangled threads and many-coloured candles and (name the trimmings of the tree before you), and it stood safely out of sight in a room where the doors were locked, so that the children should not see it before the proper time. But ever so many other little house-people had seen it. The big black pussy saw it with her great green eyes; the little grey kitty saw it with her little blue eyes; the kind house-dog saw it with his steady brown eyes; the yellow canary saw it with his wise, bright eyes. Even the wee, wee mice that were so afraid of the cat had peeped one peep when no one was by.
But there was someone who hadn't seen the Christmas tree. It was the little grey spider!
You see, the spiders lived in the corners,—the warm corners of the sunny attic and the dark corners of the nice cellar. And they were expecting to see the Christmas Tree as much as anybody. But just before Christmas a great cleaning-up began in the house. The house-mother came sweeping and dusting and wiping and scrubbing, to make everything grand and clean for the Christ-child's birthday. Her broom went into all the corners, poke, poke,—and of course the spiders had to run. Dear, dear, how the spiders had to run! Not one could stay in the house while the Christmas cleanness lasted. So, you see, they couldn't see the Christmas Tree.
Spiders like to know all about everything, and see all there is to see, and these were very sad. So at last they went to the Christ-child and told him about it.
"All the others see the Christmas Tree, dear Christ-child," they said; "but we, who are so domestic and so fond of beautiful things, we are cleaned up! We cannot see it, at all."
The Christ-child was sorry for the little spiders when he heard this, and he said they should see the Christmas Tree.
The day before Christmas, when nobody was noticing, he let them all go in, to look as long as ever they liked.
They came creepy, creepy, down the attic stairs, creepy, creepy, up the cellar stairs, creepy, creepy, along the halls,—and into the beautiful room. The fat mother spiders and the old papa spiders were there, and all the little teeny, tiny, curly spiders, the baby ones. And then they looked! Round and round the tree they crawled, and looked and looked and looked. Oh, what a good time they had! They thought it was perfectly beautiful. And when they had looked at everything they could see from the floor, they started up the tree to see more. All over the tree they ran, creepy, crawly, looking at every single thing. Up and down, in and out, over every branch and twig, the little spiders ran, and saw every one of the pretty things right up close.
They stayed till they had seen all there was to see, you may be sure, and then they went away at last, quite happy.
Then, in the still, dark night before Christmas Day, the dear Christ-child came, to bless the tree for the children. But when he looked at it—what do you suppose?—it was covered with cobwebs! Everywhere the little spiders had been they had left a spider-web; and you know they had been everywhere. So the tree was covered from its trunk to its tip with spider-webs, all hanging from the branches and looped round the twigs; it was a strange sight.
What could the Christ-child do? He knew that house-mothers do not like cobwebs; it would never, never do to have a Christmas Tree covered with those. No, indeed.
So the dear Christ-child touched the spider's webs, and turned them all to gold! Wasn't that a lovely trimming? They shone and shone, all over the beautiful tree. And that is the way the Christmas Tree came to have golden cobwebs on it.
God bless the master of this house,
The mistress also,
And all the little children,
That round the table go.
And all your kin and kinsmen
That dwell both far and near,
I wish you a merry Christmas,
And a happy New Year!
WEEK 51 |
W HEN Bobby and Mother and Father came to live in the little brown house by the side of the Big Road, it was springtime. The birds were beginning to sing and the trees to bud and bloom; and now it was almost Christmas!
One day when the ox-wagon man went to town he had a wagon load of holly and mistletoe and little green Christmas trees.
Father bought a Christmas tree from him—such a tiny
tree that it could stand in a
Bobby and Mother made the trimmings for it: a big silver star for the very top, and a tiny star for the tip of each branch. They strung pop corn to wreathe in the green, and they put bright red cranberries here and there in their chains.
But the most important part of the tree were the candles that Father went to the city to buy. Some were green and some were white and some were as red as the cranberries.
The candles were lighted on Christmas Eve. Father lighted the green ones, and Mother the white, and Bobby lighted the red ones because he liked those best.
When every candle was burning, and the little tree stood all shining and bright in the window, Father said:
"Let us sing our Christmas song."
"Oh, yes, let's," said Bobby.
So Father and Mother and Bobby sang:
"Shine little candles,
Shine stars above,
Praising the Christ Child
God's gift of Love.
"Poor was the stable
Where He was born;
Cows watched His sleeping,
That wondrous morn.
"No pillow had He,
No bed but hay;
Yet heaven's glory
Shone where He lay.
"Shine, little candles!
Shine, stars above!
Praising the Christ Child,
God's gift of love."
The little candles sparkled and shone like tiny twinkling stars.
"Don't you suppose the people on the Big Road will see our tree as they go by?" asked Bobby.
He comes in the night! He comes in the night!
He softly, silently comes;
While the little brown heads on the pillows so white
Are dreaming of bugles and drums.
He cuts through the snow like a ship through the foam,
While the white flakes around him whirl;
Who tells him I know not, but he findeth the home
Of each good little boy and girl.
His sleigh it is long, and deep, and wide;
It will carry a host of things,
While dozens of drums hang over the side,
With the sticks sticking under the strings.
And yet not the sound of a drum is heard,
Not a bugle blast is blown,
As he mounts to the chimney-top like a bird,
And drops to the hearth like a stone.
The little red stockings he silently fills,
Till the stockings will hold no more;
The bright little sleds for the great snow hills
Are quickly set down on the floor.
Then Santa Claus mounts to the roof like a bird,
And glides to his seat in the sleigh;
Not the sound of a bugle or drum is heard
As he noiselessly gallops away.
He rides to the East, and he rides to the West,
Of his goodies he touches not one;
He eateth the crumbs of the Christmas feast
When the dear little folks are done.
Old Santa Claus doeth all that he can;
This beautiful mission is his;
Then, children, be good to the little old man,
When you find who the little man is.
WEEK 51 |
There was once a shoemaker who worked very hard and was honest. Still, he could not earn enough to live on. At last, all he had in the world was gone except just leather enough to make one pair of shoes. He cut these out at night, and meant to rise early the next morning to make them up.
His heart was light in spite of his troubles, for his conscience was clear. So he went quietly to bed, left all his cares to God, and fell asleep. In the morning he said his prayers, and sat down to work, when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes, already made, upon the table.
The good man knew not what to say or think. He looked at the work. There was not one false stitch in the whole job. All was neat and true.
That same day a customer came in, and the shoes pleased him so well that he readily paid a price higher than usual for them. The shoemaker took the money and bought leather enough to make two pairs more. He cut out the work in the evening, and went to bed early. He wished to be up with the sun and get to work.
He was saved all trouble, for when he got up in the morning, the work was done. Pretty soon buyers came in, who paid him well for his goods. So he bought leather enough for four pairs more.
He cut out the work again overnight, and found it finished in the morning as before. So it went on for some time. What was got ready at night was always done by daybreak, and the good man soon was well-to-do.
One evening, at Christmas-time, he and his wife sat over the fire, chatting, and he said: "I should like to sit up and watch to-night, that we may see who it is that comes and does my work for me." So they left the light burning, and hid themselves behind a curtain to see what would happen.
As soon as it was midnight, there came two little Elves. They sat upon the shoemaker's bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and began to ply their little fingers. They stitched and rapped and tapped at such a rate that the shoemaker was amazed, and could not take his eyes off them for a moment.
On they went till the job was done, and the shoes stood, ready for use, upon the table. This was long before daybreak. Then they ran away as quick as lightning.
The next day the wife said to the shoemaker: "These little Elves have made us rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them some good in return. I am vexed to see them run about as they do. They have nothing upon their backs to keep off the cold. I'll tell you what we must do. I will make each of them a shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a pair of pantaloons into the bargain. Do you make each of them a little pair of shoes."
The good shoemaker liked the thought very well. One evening he and his wife had the clothes ready, and laid them on the table instead of the work they used to cut out. Then they went and hid behind the curtain to watch what the little Elves would do.
At midnight the Elves came in and were going to sit down at their work as usual. But when they saw the clothes lying there for them, they laughed and were in high glee. They dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about as merry as could be, till at last they danced out of the door, and over the green.
The shoemaker saw them no more, but everything went well with him as long as he lived.
|— Horace E. Scudder|
What can I give Him?
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.
WEEK 51 |
O NCE upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas, a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents for each other and for their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming Christmas morning.
From some of the windows bright lights were already beginning to stream until it was almost as bright as day. But the little child seemed to have no home, and wandered about listlessly from street to street. No one took any notice of him except perhaps Jack Frost, who bit his bare toes and made the ends of his fingers tingle. The north wind, too, seemed to notice the child, for it blew against him and pierced his ragged garments through and through, causing him to shiver with cold. Home after home he passed, looking with longing eyes through the windows, in upon the glad, happy children, most of whom were helping to trim the Christmas trees for the coming morrow.
"Surely," said the child to himself, "where there is so must gladness and happiness, some of it may be for me." So with timid steps he approached a large and handsome house. Through the windows, he could see a tall and stately Christmas tree already lighted. Many presents hung upon it. Its green boughs were trimmed with gold and silver ornaments. Slowly he climbed up the broad steps and gently rapped at the door. It was opened by a large man-servant. He had a kindly face, although his voice was deep and gruff. He looked at the little child for a moment, then sadly shook his head and said, "Go down off the steps. There is no room here for such as you." He looked sorry as he spoke; possibly he remembered his own little ones at home, and was glad that they were not out in this cold and bitter night. Through the open door a bright light shone, and the warm air, filled with fragrance of the Christmas pine, rushed out from the inner room and greeted the little wanderer with a kiss. As the child turned back into the cold and darkness, he wondered why the footman had spoken thus, for surely, thought he, those little children would love to have another companion join them in their joyous Christmas festival. But the little children inside did not even know that he had knocked at the door.
The street grew colder and darker as the child passed on. He went sadly
forward, saying to himself, "Is there no one in all this great city who
will share the Christmas with me?" Farther and farther down the street
he wandered, to where the homes were not so large and beautiful. There
seemed to be little children inside of nearly all the houses. They were
dancing and frolicking about. Christmas trees could be seen in nearly
every window, with beautiful dolls and trumpets and picture-books and
balls and tops and other dainty toys hung upon them. In one window the
child noticed a little lamb made of soft white wool. Around its neck was
tied a red ribbon. It had evidently been hung on the tree for one of the
children. The little stranger stopped before this window and looked long
and earnestly at the beautiful things inside, but most of all was he
drawn toward the white lamb. At last creeping up to the window-pane, he
gently tapped upon it. A little girl came to the window and looked out
into the dark street where the snow had now begun to fall. She saw the
child, but she only frowned and shook her head and said, "Go away and
come some other time. We are too busy to take care of you now." Back
into the dark, cold streets he turned again. The wind was whirling past
him and seemed to say, "Hurry on, hurry on, we have no time to stop.
'Tis Christmas Eve and everybody is in a hurry
Again and again the little child rapped softly at door or window-pane. At each place he was refused admission. One mother feared he might have some ugly disease which her darlings would catch; another father said he had only enough for his own children and none to spare for beggars. Still another told him to go home where he belonged, and not to trouble other folks.
The hours passed; later grew the night, and colder grew the wind, and darker seemed the street. Farther and farther the little one wandered. There was scarcely any one left upon the street by this time, and the few who remained did not seem to see the child, when suddenly ahead of him there appeared a bright, single ray of light. It shone through the darkness into the child's eyes. He looked up smilingly and said, "I will go where the small light beckons, perhaps they will share their Christmas with me."
Hurrying past all the other houses, he soon reached the end of the street and went straight up to the window from which the light was streaming. It was a poor, little, low house, but the child cared not for that. The light seemed still to call him in. From what do you suppose the light came? Nothing but a tallow candle which had been placed in an old cup with a broken handle, in the window, as a glad token of Christmas Eve. There was neither curtain nor shade to the small, square window and as the little child looked in he saw standing upon a neat wooden table a branch of a Christmas tree. The room was plainly furnished, but it was very clean. Near the fireplace sat a lovely faced mother with a little two-year-old on her knee and an older child beside her. The two children were looking into their mother's face and listening to a story. She must have been telling them a Christmas story, I think. A few bright coals were burning in the fireplace, and all seemed light and warm within.
The little wanderer crept closer and closer to the window-pane. So sweet was the mother's face, so loving seemed the little children, that at last he took courage and tapped gently, very gently on the door. The mother stopped talking, the little children looked up. "What was that, mother?" asked the little girl at her side. "I think it was some one tapping on the door," replied the mother. "Run as quickly as you can and open it, dear, for it is a bitter cold night to keep any one waiting in this storm." "Oh, mother, I think it was the bough of the tree tapping against the window-pane," said the little girl. "Do please go on with our story." Again the little wanderer tapped upon the door. "My child, my child," exclaimed the mother, rising, "that certainly was a rap on the door. Run quickly and open it. No one must be left out in the cold on our beautiful Christmas Eve."
The child ran to the door and threw it wide open. The mother saw the ragged stranger standing without, cold and shivering, with bare head and almost bare feet. She held out both hands and drew him into the warm, bright room. "You poor, dear child," was all she said, and putting her arms around him, she drew him close to her breast. "He is very cold, my children," she exclaimed. "We must warm him." "And," added the little girl, "we must love him and give him some of our Christmas, too." "Yes," said the mother, "but first let us warm him."
The mother sat down by the fire with the little child on her lap, and her own little ones warmed his half-frozen hands in theirs. The mother smoothed his tangled curls, and, bending low over his head, kissed the child's face. She gathered the three little ones in her arms and the candle and the fire light shone over them. For a moment the room was very still. By and by the little girl said softly, to her mother, "May we not light the Christmas tree, and let him see how beautiful it looks?" "Yes," said the mother. With that she seated the child on a low stool beside the fire, and went herself to fetch the few simple ornaments which from year to year she had saved for her children's Christmas tree. They were soon so busy that they did not notice the room had filled with a strange and brilliant light. They turned and looked at the spot where the little wanderer sat. His ragged clothes had changed to garments white and beautiful; his tangled curls seemed like a halo of golden light about his head; but most glorious of all was his face, which shone with a light so dazzling that they could scarcely look upon it.
In silent wonder they gazed at the child. Their little room seemed to grow larger and larger, until it was as wide as the whole world, the roof of their low house seemed to expand and rise, until it reached to the sky.
With a sweet and gentle smile the wonderful child looked upon them for a moment, and then slowly rose and floated through the air, above the treetops, beyond the church spire, higher even than the clouds themselves, until he appeared to them to be a shining star in the sky above. At last he disappeared from sight. The astonished children turned in hushed awe to their mother, and said in a whisper, "Oh, mother, it was the Christ-Child, was it not?" And the mother answered in a low tone, "Yes."
And it is said, dear children, that each Christmas Eve the little Christ-Child wanders through some town or village, and those who receive him and take him into their homes and hearts have given to them this marvellous vision which is denied to others.
|— Elizabeth Harrison|
The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)
The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.
WEEK 51 |
IT was almost Christmas time when one of the white ships that sail across the sea brought a little German girl named Gretchen, with her father and mother, to find a new home in our dear land.
Gretchen knew all about Christmas. She had heard the story of the loving Christ Child over and over, and in her home in Germany she had kept His birthday and enjoyed it ever since she could remember.
Every year, a little before Christmas, her shoes had been placed in the garden for Rupert, who is one of Santa Claus's German helpers, to fill, and every year she had found a Christmas tree lighted for her on Christmas Day. She wondered a little, as she came across the ocean, how she would keep Christmas in the new country; and she wondered still more, when they reached a great city, and had their "boxes" carried up so many stairs to a little room in a boarding-house.
Gretchen's mother did not like boarding-houses—no, indeed!—and their first thought was to find a place where they might feel at home; but the very next morning after their long journey the dear father was too ill to lift his head from the pillow, and Gretchen and her mother were very sad for many days. Up so high in a boarding-house is not pleasant (even if you do seem nearer the stars) when somebody you love is sick; and then, too, Gretchen began to think that Santa Claus and Rupert had forgotten her; for when she set her two little wooden shoes outside the door, they were never filled with goodies, and people stumbled over them and scolded.
The tears would roll down Gretchen's fat, rosy cheeks, and fall into the empty shoes, and she decided that the people in America did not keep Christmas, and wished she was in her own Germany again. One day, however, a good woman in the house felt sorry for the lonely little German girl, who could speak no English, and she asked Gretchen's mother if Gretchen might go with her to see the beautiful stores. She was only a poor woman, and had no presents to give away; but she knew how to be kind to Gretchen, and she took her hand and smiled at her very often as they hurried along the crowded street.
It was the day before Christmas, and throngs of people were moving here and there, and Gretchen was soon bewildered, and she was jostled and pushed until she was tired; but at last they stepped into a store which made her blue eyes open wide, for it was a toy store, and the most beautiful place she had ever seen. There were toys in that store that had come across the sea like Gretchen; there were lovely dolls from France, who were spending their first Christmas away from home; there were woolly sheep, fine painted soldiers, and dainty furniture, and a whole host of wonderful toys marked very carefully, "Made in Germany"; and even the Japanese, from their island in the great ocean, had sent their funny slant-eyed dolls to help us keep Christmas.
Oh! it was splendid to be in the toy shop the day before Christmas! All the tin soldiers stood up so straight and tall, looking as if they were just ready to march when the big drums and the little drums, which hung over their heads, should call them.
The rocking horses, which are always saddled, were waiting to gallop away. The tops were anxious to spin, and the balls really rolled about sometimes, because it was so hard for them to keep still.
The fine lady dolls were dressed in their best. One of them was a princess, and wore a white satin dress, and had a crown on her head. She sat on a throne in one of the windows, with all the other dolls around her; and it was in this very window that Gretchen saw a baby doll, which made her forget all the rest. It was a real baby doll, not nearly so fine as most of the others, but with a look on its face as if it wanted to be loved; and Gretchen's warm German heart went out to it, for little mothers are the same all the world over.
Such a dear baby doll! She must have been made for a Christmas gift, Gretchen thought; and if the good giver came to this queer American land, he surely would find her. How could she let him know where she was? She thought about it all the way home, and all day long, till the gas was lighted down in the great city and the stars were lighted up above, and the time of his coming drew very near.
The father was better; but the mother had said with tears in her eyes, that there could be no Christmas tree for them that year. So Gretchen did not worry them, but she wrapped herself up in a blanket and shawl, and, taking her shoes in her hand, she crept down the stairs, through the door, out to the wooden stoop. There had been a light fall of snow that day, but it was a mild Christmas, and Gretchen set her shoes evenly together, and then sat down beside them; for she had made up her mind to watch them until Santa Claus came by.
All over the city the bells were ringing,—calling "Merry Christmas" to each other and to the world; and they sang so sweetly to little Gretchen that they sang her to sleep that Christmas Eve.
It was hundreds and hundreds of years since the Christ Child slept in the manger; but this same night in the great city a little American girl named Margaret had her heart so full of His love and joy that she wanted to make everybody happy for the dear Christ's sake.
She had waked up early the day before Christmas, and all day long she had been doing loving deeds; and when evening came, and the bells began to ring, she started with a basket of toys to a mission church, where she was to help Santa Claus by giving gifts to the children of the poor.
Her papa was with her, and they were so glad that they sang gay Christmas carols, and kept time to them with their feet as they hurried down the street, right by the wooden stoop, just as Gretchen fell asleep by her empty shoes. The moon had seen those empty shoes, and was filling them with moonbeams. The stars had seen them, and peeped into them with pity; and when Margaret and her father saw them they cried out to each other, for they had been in Germany, and they knew that the little owner was waiting for the good Saint Nicholas.
"What can we give her?" whispered Margaret's papa, as he looked down at his bundles; but Margaret knew, for she took from her basket a baby doll—one that looked as if it wanted to be loved—and laid it tenderly across the wooden shoes. Then Margaret lifted a corner of the blanket from Gretchen's rosy face and shouted "Merry Christmas!" with so much heartiness that the little girl woke with a start to find, not Margaret and her papa, for they had run away, but, oh! wonder of wonders! the dearest Christmas gift that ever came to a homesick little girl, and made her feel at home.
The dearest Christmas Gift that ever came to a homesick little girl.
Oh! all the bells were singing and ringing, and Margaret and her papa answered them with their merry Christmas carol, as they sped on their way.
"Carol, brothers, carol!
Carol the glad tidings,
And pray a gladsome Christmas
To all our fellowmen,
Carol, brothers, carol!
Christmas Day again."
Why do bells for Christmas ring?
Why do little children sing?
Once a lovely, shining star,
Seen by shepherds from afar,
Gently moved until its light
Made a manger's cradle bright.
There a darling baby lay,
Pillowed soft upon the hay;
And its mother sang and smiled,
"This is Christ, the holy Child."
Therefore bells for Christmas ring,
Therefore little children sing.
WEEK 51 |
L ONG before Christmas the MacMulligan children decided to buy the toy farm for their mother's Christmas present. The twins, Patsy and Timmy, were the ones who thought of it first.
Ever since they could remember, Mrs. MacMulligan had been wishing for a little house with trees beside it, and for ducks and hens and pigs and a cow and a horse; and the toy farm had all these things. The moment they saw it in the Toy Shop window they wanted to buy it. Even Cassie and Joseph, who were older than the twins, thought it would be a splendid present for their mother.
"It will look beautiful on the centre-table in the front room," said Cassie.
The toy farm cost fifty cents, and putting all their money together the MacMulligan children had no more than a quarter. But they all set to work to earn the rest of the money.
There were five of them: Joseph, Cassie, the twins, and little Annie who was only four, but if each one of them could make five cents they would have enough to buy the farm. Five fives are twenty-five; Cassie and Joseph had learned that at school.
The twins were the first to make their money, a bright silver dime, by finding Mickey, Mrs. O'Flanagan's big yellow cat, that had gone astray.
There is no telling how many alleys the twins went through nor how many corners they looked into nor how many times they called, "Mickey, Mickey," and "Kitty, Kitty" before they found him sitting on top of a high wall washing his face with his paw. And when they did find him he would not come down from the wall. No indeed! They began to be afraid that he was not Mickey after all, but when Timmy ran and told Mrs. O'Flanagan and she came to see, down jumped Mr. Mickey as if he had never thought of doing anything else.
Right then Mrs. O'Flanagan took the dime out of her pocket and gave it to the twins.
Mrs. O'Flanagan took the dime out of her pocket and gave it to the twins.
Joseph was the next one of the children to make money and the way that he made it was this; he was standing on the sidewalk wondering what he could do when a little bundle dropped out of a man's pocket right at his feet.
Joseph picked it up and hurried after the man as fast as he could, which was not very fast because there were so many other people hurrying along the street that day. If it had not been that the man wore a gray hat Joseph would have lost sight of him in the crowd.
The man went down a street, around a corner, across another street, and up another and Joseph followed him. Once he got so close to him that he thought he would catch up with him in a second; but the crowd pushed in between them, and once Joseph lost sight of the man entirely. You can imagine how he felt then with a bundle that did not belong to him.
He was just about to ask a policeman what he must do when he spied the man with the gray hat coming out of a store; and then the chase began again; up the street, across the street and—hurrah! Joseph caught up with the man in front of a big church where he had stopped.
"Here is your bundle," said Joseph and then the man was surprised. He did not know that he had dropped the bundle.
"It is a Christmas present for my baby," he said and he opened the package and showed Joseph a little white woolly sheep.
"I'm glad I found it," said Joseph, and the man was glad, too. He took a dime out of his pocket and gave it to the little boy.
"Perhaps you will buy yourself a present with this," he said.
It was Joseph's turn to be surprised then, for he had been so busy trying to get the bundle to the man that he had not thought of being paid; but he was pleased.
On his way home he got the dime changed into nickels.
"One of these is for my part of the present," he told Cassie and the twins, "and the other one I'll give to little Annie if she'll learn to say a Christmas piece. Then she'll have a nickel for the present, too."
All the children thought that this was the nicest plan in the world; and Cassie found a Christmas verse for Annie before she went to sleep that night.
"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay."
Everybody in the house helped little Annie, even Mrs. MacMulligan, though she was not in the secret; and all together they were such good teachers that the little girl soon knew the verse. The first time she said it without forgetting a word, Joseph paid her the nickel.
Cassie made her money just two days before Christmas by taking care of Mrs. Ryan's baby. She was running to see the Christmas Tree in the park when Mrs. Ryan put her head out of the window and called:
"Oh, Cassie, dear, will you stay with the baby now while I go to speak a word to my husband's aunt who has just come from the old country, and I'll give you a nickel for the help that you are?"
"Why, I'm going somewhere myself," thought Cassie, but she did not say that to Mrs. Ryan, for, just as the words were on the tip end of her tongue, she remembered the toy farm.
"I'll stay," she said, and though she hated to be left behind while all the other children ran shouting and laughing to see the tree, she was glad when she went home with the last nickel that was needed for her mother's Christmas present.
All the MacMulligan children went to the Toy Shop to buy the present, and they were as happy as birds till, just before they got there, Cassie said:
"Suppose the farm is sold."
That was too dreadful to think about, but, sure enough, when they looked in the window where the toy farm had been when the twins first saw it, it was gone. A procession of tiny camels filled the window shelf.
You can imagine how the children felt then! But Joseph would not give up hope.
"Perhaps the Toy-Lady had another farm," he said. So they went down the little stair to the shop in a doleful group.
But as soon as the Toy-Lady heard what they wanted she began to smile.
"Here is the very farm that you saw," she said. "I took it out of the window this morning and put it in a box."
She wrapped the box in gay holly-paper and Joseph paid her with the money that all the children had helped to make. Then away they went, Cassie holding the package with great care, and every one of them as merry as a mocking-bird. But the happiest time of all was when they gave the farm to Mrs. MacMulligan and she set it out on the center-table in the front room; the little red house with a green tree on either side and the ducks and chickens and horse and cow.
"Never was there such a fine present," said Mrs. MacMulligan, who was half crying and half laughing, she was so pleased. Nothing would do but that she must call Mrs. O'Flanagan and Mrs. Ryan and all the other neighbors in to see.
"When I am a man I'm going to buy you a house like that to live in," said Joseph who was getting to be a big boy.
And the neighbors and Mrs. MacMulligan said they wouldn't be surprised if that was just what he did.
WEEK 51 |
W HEN I was five years old I had such a great sorrow! I hardly know if I have had a greater since then.
It was then that my grandmother died. Up to that time, she used to sit every day on the corner sofa in her room, and tell stories.
I remember grandmother told story after story from morning till night, and we children sat beside her, quite still, and listened. It was a glorious life! No other children had such happy times as we did.
It isn't much that I recollect about my grandmother. I remember that she had very beautiful snow-white hair, and stooped when she walked, and that she always sat and knitted a stocking.
And I even remember that when she had finished a story, she used to lay her hand on my head and say: "All this is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me."
I also remember that she could sing songs, but this she did not do every day. One of the songs was about a knight and a sea-troll, and had this refrain: "It blows cold, cold weather at sea."
Then I remember a little prayer she taught me, and a verse of a hymn.
Of all the stories she told me, I have but a dim and imperfect recollection. Only one of them do I remember so well that I should be able to repeat it. It is a little story about Jesus' birth.
Well, this is nearly all that I can recall about my grandmother, except the thing which I remember best; and that is, the great loneliness when she was gone.
I remember the morning when the corner sofa stood empty and when it was impossible to understand how the days would ever come to an end. That I remember. That I shall never forget!
And I recollect that we children were brought forward to kiss the hand of the dead and that we were afraid to do it. But then some one said to us that it would be the last time we could thank grandmother for all the pleasure she had given us.
And I remember how the stories and songs were driven from the homestead, shut up in a long black casket, and how they never came back again.
I remember that something was gone from our lives. It seemed as if the door to a whole beautiful, enchanted world—where before we had been free to go in and out—had been closed. And now there was no one who knew how to open that door.
And I remember that, little by little, we children learned to play with dolls and toys, and to live like other children. And then it seemed as though we no longer missed our grandmother, or remembered her.
But even to-day—after forty years—as I sit here and gather together the legends about Christ, which I heard out there in the Orient, there awakes within me the little legend of Jesus' birth that my grandmother used to tell, and I feel impelled to tell it once again, and to let it also be included in my collection.
It was a Christmas Day and all the folks had driven to church except grandmother and I. I believe we were all alone in the house. We had not been permitted to go along, because one of us was too old and the other was too young. And we were sad, both of us, because we had not been taken to early mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas candles.
But as we sat there in our loneliness, grandmother began to tell a story.
"There was a man," said she, "who went out in the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. 'Dear friends, help me!' said he. 'My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.'
"But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied.
"The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction, and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire, and an old shepherd sat and watched over the flock.
"When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd's feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark; but not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn't obey them, and the man didn't suffer the least harm.
Now the man wished to go farther, to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn't pass them. Then the man stepped upon their backs and walked over them and up to the fire. And not one of the animals awoke or moved."
Thus far, grandmother had been allowed to narrate without interruption. But at this point I couldn't help breaking in. "Why didn't they do it, grandma?" I asked.
"That you shall hear in a moment," said grandmother—and went on with her story.
"When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the strange man coming, he seized the long spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but, before it reached him, it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out in the meadow."
When grandmother had got this far, I interrupted her again. "Grandma, why wouldn't the stick hurt the man?" Grandmother did not bother about answering me, but continued her story.
"Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him; 'Good man, help me, and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.'
"The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn't hurt the man, and the sheep had not run from him, and that the staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid, and dared not deny the man that which he asked.
" 'Take as much as you need!' he said to the man.
"But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals; and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel, wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.
"When the shepherd saw this, he said again: 'Take as much as you need!' And he was glad that the man wouldn't be able to take away any coals.
"But the man stooped and picked coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn't burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples."
But here the story-teller was interrupted for the third time. "Grandma, why wouldn't the coals burn the man?"
"That you shall hear," said grandmother, and went on:
"And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hard-hearted man, saw all this, he began to wonder to himself: 'What kind of a night is this, when the dogs do not bite, the sheep are not scared, the staff does not kill, or the fire scorch?' He called the stranger back, and said to him: 'What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion? '
"Then said the man: 'I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.' And he wished to go his way, that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.
"But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he had found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.
"Then the shepherd saw that the man didn't have so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing except the cold and naked stone walls.
"But the shepherd thought that perhaps the poor innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought he would like to help it. And he loosened his knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft white sheep-skin, gave it to the strange man, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.
"But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened, and he saw what he had not been able to see before and heard what he could not have heard before.
"He saw that all around him stood a ring of little silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument, and all sang in loud tones that to-night the Saviour was born who should redeem the world from its sins.
"Then he understood how all things were so happy this night that they didn't want to do anything wrong.
"And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain, and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.
"There were such jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! And all this he saw in the dark night, whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God."
Here grandmother sighed and said: "What that shepherd saw we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them."
Then grandmother laid her hand on my head, and said: "You must remember this, for it is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is, that we have such eyes as can see God's glory."
Winds through the olive trees
Softly did blow,
Round little Bethlehem
Long, long ago.
Sheep on the hillside lay
Whiter than snow.
Shepherds were watching them
Long, long ago.
Then from the happy sky
Angels bent low,
Singing their songs of joy
Long, long ago.
For in a manger bed
Cradled we know.
Christ came to Bethlehem
Long, long ago.