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A Little Book of Profitable Tales by Eugene Field

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[Transcriber's notes: _ before and after a word or phrase indicate
italics, + indicate bolded text]

THE WRITINGS IN PROSE AND VERSE OF EUGENE FIELD

A LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES

NEW YORK 1901

By EUGENE FIELD.

TO MY SEVEREST CRITIC, MY MOST LOYAL ADMIRER, AND MY ONLY DAUGHTER, MARY
FRENCH FIELD, THIS LITTLE BOOK OF PROFITABLE TALES IS AFFECTIONATELY
DEDICATED. E.F.

INTRODUCTION

I have never read a poem by Mr. Field without feeling personally drawn to
the author. Long after I had known him as a poet, I found that he had
written in prose little scraps or long essays, which had attracted me in
just the same way, when I had met with them in the newspapers, although I
had not known who the author was.

All that he writes indeed is quite free from the conventionalisms to which
authorship as a profession is sadly liable. Because he is free from them,
you read his poems or you read his prose, and are affected as if you met
him. If you were riding in a Pullman car with him, or if you were talking
with him at breakfast over your coffee, he would say just such things in
just this way. If he had any art, it was the art of concealing art. But I
do not think that he thought much of art. I do not think that he cared
much for what people say about criticism or style. He wrote as he felt, or
as he thought, without troubling himself much about method. It is this
simplicity, or what it is the fashion of the day to call frankness, which
gives a singular charm to his writing.

EDWARD E. HALE.

The Tales in this Little Book

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE

THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT

THE COMING OF THE PRINCE

THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM

THE DIVELL'S CHRYSTMASS

THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA

THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET

THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY

MARGARET: A PEARL

THE SPRINGTIME

RODOLPH AND HIS KING

THE HAMPSHIRE HILLS

EZRA'S THANKSGIVIN' OUT WEST

LUDWIG AND ELOISE

FIDO'S LITTLE FRIEND

THE OLD MAN

BILL, THE LOKIL EDITOR

THE LITTLE YALLER BABY

THE CYCLOPEEDY

DOCK STEBBINS

THE FAIRIES OF PESTH

+THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE+

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE

Once upon a time the forest was in a great commotion. Early in the evening
the wise old cedars had shaken their heads ominously and predicted strange
things. They had lived in the forest many, many years; but never had they
seen such marvellous sights as were to be seen now in the sky, and upon
the hills, and in the distant village.

"Pray tell us what you see," pleaded a little vine; "we who are not as
tall as you can behold none of these wonderful things. Describe them to
us, that we may enjoy them with you."

"I am filled with such amazement," said one of the cedars, "that I can
hardly speak. The whole sky seems to be aflame, and the stars appear to be
dancing among the clouds; angels walk down from heaven to the earth, and
enter the village or talk with the shepherds upon the hills."

The vine listened in mute astonishment. Such things never before had
happened. The vine trembled with excitement. Its nearest neighbor was a
tiny tree, so small it scarcely ever was noticed; yet it was a very
beautiful little tree, and the vines and ferns and mosses and other humble
residents of the forest loved it dearly.

"How I should like to see the angels!" sighed the little tree, "and how I
should like to see the stars dancing among the clouds! It must be very
beautiful."

As the vine and the little tree talked of these things, the cedars watched
with increasing interest the wonderful scenes over and beyond the confines
of the forest. Presently they thought they heard music, and they were not
mistaken, for soon the whole air was full of the sweetest harmonies ever
heard upon earth.

"What beautiful music!" cried the little tree. "I wonder whence it comes."

"The angels are singing," said a cedar; "for none but angels could make
such sweet music."

"But the stars are singing, too," said another cedar; "yes, and the
shepherds on the hills join in the song, and what a strangely glorious
song it is!"

The trees listened to the singing, but they did not understand its
meaning: it seemed to be an anthem, and it was of a Child that had been
born; but further than this they did not understand. The strange and
glorious song continued all the night; and all that night the angels
walked to and fro, and the shepherd-folk talked with the angels, and the
stars danced and carolled in high heaven. And it was nearly morning when
the cedars cried out, "They are coming to the forest! the angels are
coming to the forest!" And, surely enough, this was true. The vine and the
little tree were very terrified, and they begged their older and stronger
neighbors to protect them from harm. But the cedars were too busy with
their own fears to pay any heed to the faint pleadings of the humble vine
and the little tree. The angels came into the forest, singing the same
glorious anthem about the Child, and the stars sang in chorus with them,
until every part of the woods rang with echoes of that wondrous song.
There was nothing in the appearance of this angel host to inspire fear;
they were clad all in white, and there were crowns upon their fair heads,
and golden harps in their hands; love, hope, charity, compassion, and joy
beamed from their beautiful faces, and their presence seemed to fill the
forest with a divine peace. The angels came through the forest to where
the little tree stood, and gathering around it, they touched it with their
hands, and kissed its little branches, and sang even more sweetly than
before. And their song was about the Child, the Child, the Child that had
been born. Then the stars came down from the skies and danced and hung
upon the branches of the tree, and they, too, sang that song,--the song of
the Child. And all the other trees and the vines and the ferns and the
mosses beheld in wonder; nor could they understand why all these things
were being done, and why this exceeding honor should be shown the little
tree.

When the morning came the angels left the forest,--all but one angel, who
remained behind and lingered near the little tree. Then a cedar asked:
"Why do you tarry with us, holy angel?" And the angel answered: "I stay to
guard this little tree, for it is sacred, and no harm shall come to it."

The little tree felt quite relieved by this assurance, and it held up its
head more confidently than ever before. And how it thrived and grew, and
waxed in strength and beauty! The cedars said they never had seen the
like. The sun seemed to lavish its choicest rays upon the little tree,
heaven dropped its sweetest dew upon it, and the winds never came to the
forest that they did not forget their rude manners and linger to kiss the
little tree and sing it their prettiest songs. No danger ever menaced it,
no harm threatened; for the angel never slept,--through the day and
through the night the angel watched the little tree and protected it from
all evil. Oftentimes the trees talked with the angel; but of course they
understood little of what he said, for he spoke always of the Child who
was to become the Master; and always when thus he talked, he caressed the
little tree, and stroked its branches and leaves, and moistened them with
his tears. It all was so very strange that none in the forest could
understand.

So the years passed, the angel watching his blooming charge. Sometimes the
beasts strayed toward the little tree and threatened to devour its tender
foliage; sometimes the woodman came with his axe, intent upon hewing down
the straight and comely thing; sometimes the hot, consuming breath of
drought swept from the south, and sought to blight the forest and all its
verdure: the angel kept them from the little tree. Serene and beautiful it
grew, until now it was no longer a little tree, but the pride and glory of
the forest.

One day the tree heard some one coming through the forest. Hitherto the
angel had hastened to its side when men approached; but now the angel
strode away and stood under the cedars yonder.

"Dear angel," cried the tree, "can you not hear the footsteps of some one
approaching? Why do you leave me?"

"Have no fear," said the angel; "for He who comes is the Master."

The Master came to the tree and beheld it. He placed His hands upon its
smooth trunk and branches, and the tree was thrilled with a strange and
glorious delight. Then He stooped and kissed the tree, and then He turned
and went away.

Many times after that the Master came to the forest, and when He came it
always was to where the tree stood. Many times He rested beneath the tree
and enjoyed the shade of its foliage, and listened to the music of the
wind as it swept through the rustling leaves. Many times He slept there,
and the tree watched over Him, and the forest was still, and all its
voices were hushed. And the angel hovered near like a faithful sentinel.

Ever and anon men came with the Master to the forest, and sat with Him in
the shade of the tree, and talked with Him of matters which the tree never
could understand; only it heard that the talk was of love and charity and
gentleness, and it saw that the Master was beloved and venerated by the
others. It heard them tell of the Master's goodness and humility,--how He
had healed the sick and raised the dead and bestowed inestimable blessings
wherever He walked. And the tree loved the Master for His beauty and His
goodness; and when He came to the forest it was full of joy, but when He
came not it was sad. And the other trees of the forest joined in its
happiness and its sorrow, for they, too, loved the Master. And the angel
always hovered near.

The Master came one night alone into the forest, and His face was pale
with anguish and wet with tears, and He fell upon His knees and prayed.
The tree heard Him, and all the forest was still, as if it were standing
in the presence of death. And when the morning came, lo! the angel had
gone.

Then there was a great confusion in the forest. There was a sound of rude
voices, and a clashing of swords and staves. Strange men appeared,
uttering loud oaths and cruel threats, and the tree was filled with
terror. It called aloud for the angel, but the angel came not.

"Alas," cried the vine, "they have come to destroy the tree, the pride and
glory of the forest!"

The forest was sorely agitated, but it was in vain. The strange men plied
their axes with cruel vigor, and the tree was hewn to the ground. Its
beautiful branches were cut away and cast aside, and its soft, thick
foliage was strewn to the tenderer mercies of the winds.

"They are killing me!" cried the tree; "why is not the angel here to
protect me?"

But no one heard the piteous cry,--none but the other trees of the forest;
and they wept, and the little vine wept too.

Then the cruel men dragged the despoiled and hewn tree from the forest,
and the forest saw that beauteous thing no more.

But the night wind that swept down from the City of the Great King that
night to ruffle the bosom of distant Galilee, tarried in the forest awhile
to say that it had seen that day a cross upraised on Calvary,--the tree on
which was stretched the body of the dying Master.

1884.

+THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT+

THE SYMBOL AND THE SAINT

Once upon a time a young man made ready for a voyage. His name was Norss;
broad were his shoulders, his cheeks were ruddy, his hair was fair and
long, his body betokened strength, and good-nature shone from his blue
eyes and lurked about the corners of his mouth.

"Where are you going?" asked his neighbor Jans, the forge-master.

"I am going sailing for a wife," said Norss.

"For a wife, indeed!" cried Jans. "And why go you to seek her in foreign
lands? Are not our maidens good enough and fair enough, that you must need
search for a wife elsewhere? For shame, Norss! for shame!"

But Norss said, "A spirit came to me in my dreams last night and said,
'Launch the boat and set sail to-morrow. Have no fear; for I will guide
you to the bride that awaits you.' Then, standing there, all white and
beautiful, the spirit held forth a symbol--such as I had never before
seen--in the figure of a cross, and the spirit said: 'By this symbol shall
she be known to you.'"

"If this be so, you must need go," said Jans. "But are you well
victualled? Come to my cabin, and let me give you venison and bear's
meat."

Norss shook his head. "The spirit will provide," said he. "I have no fear,
and I shall take no care, trusting in the spirit."

So Norss pushed his boat down the beach into the sea, and leaped into the
boat, and unfurled the sail to the wind. Jan stood wondering on the beach,
and watched the boat speed out of sight.

On, on, many days on sailed Norss,--so many leagues that he thought he
must have compassed the earth. In all this time he knew no hunger nor
thirst; it was as the spirit had told him in his dream,--no cares nor
dangers beset him. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea
gambolled about his boat; by night a beauteous Star seemed to direct his
course; and when he slept and dreamed, he saw ever the spirit clad in
white, and holding forth to him the symbol in the similitude of a cross.

At last he came to a strange country,--a country so very different from
his own that he could scarcely trust his senses. Instead of the rugged
mountains of the North, he saw a gentle landscape of velvety green; the
trees were not pines and firs, but cypresses, cedars, and palms; instead
of the cold, crisp air of his native land, he scented the perfumed zephyrs
of the Orient; and the wind that filled the sail of his boat and smote his
tanned cheeks was heavy and hot with the odor of cinnamon and spices. The
waters were calm and blue,--very different from the white and angry waves
of Norss's native fiord.

As if guided by an unseen hand, the boat pointed straight for the beach of
this strangely beautiful land; and ere its prow cleaved the shallower
waters, Norss saw a maiden standing on the shore, shading her eyes with
her right hand, and gazing intently at him. She was the most beautiful
maiden he had ever looked upon. As Norss was fair, so was this maiden
dark; her black hair fell loosely about her shoulders in charming contrast
with the white raiment in which her slender, graceful form was clad.
Around her neck she wore a golden chain, and therefrom was suspended a
small symbol, which Norss did not immediately recognize.

"Hast thou come sailing out of the North into the East?" asked the maiden.

"Yes," said Norss.

"And thou art Norss?" she asked.

"I am Norss; and I come seeking my bride," he answered.

"I am she," said the maiden. "My name is Faia. An angel came to me in my
dreams last night, and the angel said: 'Stand upon the beach to-day, and
Norss shall come out of the North to bear thee home a bride.' So, coming
here, I found thee sailing to our shore."

Remembering then the spirit's words, Norss said: "What symbol have you,
Faia, that I may know how truly you have spoken?"

"No symbol have I but this," said Faia, holding out the symbol that was
attached to the golden chain about her neck. Norss looked upon it, and lo!
it was the symbol of his dreams,--a tiny wooden cross.

Then Norss clasped Faia in his arms and kissed her, and entering into the
boat they sailed away into the North. In all their voyage neither care nor
danger beset them; for as it had been told to them in their dreams, so it
came to pass. By day the dolphins and the other creatures of the sea
gambolled about them; by night the winds and the waves sang them to sleep;
and, strangely enough, the Star which before had led Norss into the East,
now shone bright and beautiful in the Northern sky!

When Norss and his bride reached their home, Jans, the forge-master, and
the other neighbors made great joy, and all said that Faia was more
beautiful than any other maiden in the land. So merry was Jans that he
built a huge fire in his forge, and the flames thereof filled the whole
Northern sky with rays of light that danced up, up, up to the Star,
singing glad songs the while. So Norss and Faia were wed, and they went to
live in the cabin in the fir-grove.

To these two was born in good time a son, whom they named Claus. On the
night that he was born wondrous things came to pass. To the cabin in the
fir-grove came all the quaint, weird spirits,--the fairies, the elves, the
trolls, the pixies, the fadas, the crions, the goblins, the kobolds, the
moss-people, the gnomes, the dwarfs, the water-sprites, the courils, the
bogles, the brownies, the nixies, the trows, the stille-volk,--all came to
the cabin in the fir-grove, and capered about and sang the strange,
beautiful songs of the Mist-Land. And the flames of old Jans's forge
leaped up higher than ever into the Northern sky, carrying the joyous
tidings to the Star, and full of music was that happy night.

Even in infancy Claus did marvellous things. With his baby hands he
wrought into pretty figures the willows that were given him to play with.
As he grew older, he fashioned, with the knife old Jans had made for him,
many curious toys,--carts, horses, dogs, lambs, houses, trees, cats, and
birds, all of wood and very like to nature. His mother taught him how to
make dolls too,--dolls of every kind, condition, temper, and color; proud
dolls, homely dolls, boy dolls, lady dolls, wax dolls, rubber dolls, paper
dolls, worsted dolls, rag dolls,--dolls of every description and without
end. So Claus became at once quite as popular with the little girls as
with the little boys of his native village; for he was so generous that he
gave away all these pretty things as fast as he made them.

Claus seemed to know by instinct every language. As he grew older he would
ramble off into the woods and talk with the trees, the rocks, and the
beasts of the greenwood; or he would sit on the cliffs overlooking the
fiord, and listen to the stories that the waves of the sea loved to tell
him; then, too, he knew the haunts of the elves and the stille-volk, and
many a pretty tale he learned from these little people. When night came,
old Jans told him the quaint legends of the North, and his mother sang to
him the lullabies she had heard when a little child herself in the
far-distant East. And every night his mother held out to him the symbol in
the similitude of the cross, and bade him kiss it ere he went to sleep.

So Claus grew to manhood, increasing each day in knowledge and in wisdom.
His works increased too; and his liberality dispensed everywhere the
beauteous things which his fancy conceived and his skill executed. Jans,
being now a very old man, and having no son of his own, gave to Claus his
forge and workshop, and taught him those secret arts which he in youth had
learned from cunning masters. Right joyous now was Claus; and many, many
times the Northern sky glowed with the flames that danced singing from the
forge while Claus moulded his pretty toys. Every color of the rainbow were
these flames; for they reflected the bright colors of the beauteous things
strewn round that wonderful workshop. Just as of old he had dispensed to
all children alike the homelier toys of his youth, so now he gave to all
children alike these more beautiful and more curious gifts. So little
children everywhere loved Claus, because he gave them pretty toys, and
their parents loved him because he made their little ones so happy.

But now Norss and Faia were come to old age. After long years of love and
happiness, they knew that death could not be far distant. And one day Faia
said to Norss: "Neither you nor I, dear love, fear death; but if we could
choose, would we not choose to live always in this our son Claus, who has
been so sweet a joy to us?"

"Ay, ay," said Norss; "but how is that possible?"

"We shall see," said Faia.

That night Norss dreamed that a spirit came to him, and that the spirit
said to him: "Norss, thou shalt surely live forever in thy son Claus, if
thou wilt but acknowledge the symbol."

Then when the morning was come Norss told his dream to Faia, his wife; and
Faia said,--

"The same dream had I,--an angel appearing to me and speaking these very
words."

"But what of the symbol?" cried Norss.

"I have it here, about my neck," said Faia.

So saying, Faia drew from her bosom the symbol of wood,--a tiny cross
suspended about her neck by the golden chain. And as she stood there
holding the symbol out to Norss, he--he thought of the time when first he
saw her on the far-distant Orient shore, standing beneath the Star in all
her maidenly glory, shading her beauteous eyes with one hand, and with the
other clasping the cross,--the holy talisman of her faith.

"Faia, Faia!" cried Norss, "it is the same,--the same you wore when I
fetched you a bride from the East!"

"It is the same." said Faia, "yet see how my kisses and my prayers have
worn it away; for many, many times in these years, dear Norss, have I
pressed it to my lips and breathed your name upon it. See now--see what a
beauteous light its shadow makes upon your aged face!"

The sunbeams, indeed, streaming through the window at that moment, cast
the shadow of the symbol on old Norss's brow. Norss felt a glorious warmth
suffuse him, his heart leaped with joy, and he stretched out his arms and
fell about Faia's neck, and kissed the symbol and acknowledged it. Then
likewise did Faia; and suddenly the place was filled with a wondrous
brightness and with strange music, and never thereafter were Norss and
Faia beholden of men.

Until late that night Claus toiled at his forge; for it was a busy season
with him, and he had many, many curious and beauteous things to make for
the little children in the country round about. The colored flames leaped
singing from his forge, so that the Northern sky seemed to be lighted by a
thousand rainbows; but above all this voiceful glory beamed the Star,
bright, beautiful, serene.

Coming late to the cabin in the fir-grove, Claus wondered that no sign of
his father or of his mother was to be seen. "Father--mother!" he cried,
but he received no answer. Just then the Star cast its golden gleam
through the latticed window, and this strange, holy light fell and rested
upon the symbol of the cross that lay upon the floor. Seeing it, Claus
stooped and picked it up, and kissing it reverently, he cried: "Dear
talisman, be thou my inspiration evermore; and wheresoever thy blessed
influence is felt, there also let my works be known henceforth forever!"

No sooner had he said these words than Claus felt the gift of immortality
bestowed upon him; and in that moment, too, there came to him a knowledge
that his parents' prayer had been answered, and that Norss and Faia would
live in him through all time.

And lo! to that place and in that hour came all the people of Mist-Land
and of Dream-Land to declare allegiance to him: yes, the elves, the
fairies, the pixies,--all came to Claus, prepared to do his bidding.
Joyously they capered about him, and merrily they sang.

"Now haste ye all," cried Claus,--"haste ye all to your homes and bring to
my workshop the best ye have. Search, little hill-people, deep in the
bowels of the earth for finest gold and choicest jewels; fetch me, O
mermaids, from the bottom of the sea the treasures hidden there,--the
shells of rainbow tints, the smooth, bright pebbles, and the strange ocean
flowers; go, pixies, and other water-sprites, to your secret lakes, and
bring me pearls! Speed! speed you all! for many pretty things have we to
make for the little ones of earth we love!"

But to the kobolds and the brownies Claus said: "Fly to every house on
earth where the cross is known; loiter unseen in the corners, and watch
and hear the children through the day. Keep a strict account of good and
bad, and every night bring back to me the names of good and bad, that I
may know them."

The kobolds and the brownies laughed gleefully, and sped away on noiseless
wings; and so, too, did the other fairies and elves.

There came also to Claus the beasts of the forest and the birds of the
air, and bade him be their master. And up danced the Four Winds, and they
said: "May we not serve you, too?"

The snow-king came stealing along in his feathery chariot. "Oho!" he
cried, "I shall speed over all the world and tell them you are coming. In
town and country, on the mountain-tops and in the valleys,--wheresoever
the cross is raised,--there will I herald your approach, and thither will
I strew you a pathway of feathery white. Oho! oho!" So, singing softly,
the snow-king stole upon his way.

But of all the beasts that begged to do him service, Claus liked the
reindeer best. "You shall go with me in my travels; for henceforth I shall
bear my treasures not only to the children of the North, but to the
children in every land whither the Star points me and where the cross is
lifted up!" So said Claus to the reindeer, and the reindeer neighed
joyously and stamped their hoofs impatiently, as though they longed to
start immediately.

Oh, many, many times has Claus whirled away from his far Northern home in
his sledge drawn by the reindeer, and thousands upon thousands of
beautiful gifts--all of his own making--has he borne to the children of
every land; for he loves them all alike, and they all alike love him, I
trow. So truly do they love him that they call him Santa Claus, and I am
sure that he must be a saint; for he has lived these many hundred years,
and we, who know that he was born of Faith and Love, believe that he will
live forever.

1886.

+THE COMING OF THE PRINCE+

THE COMING OF THE PRINCE

I

"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" said the wind, and it tore through the
streets of the city that Christmas eve, turning umbrellas inside out,
driving the snow in fitful gusts before it, creaking the rusty signs and
shutters, and playing every kind of rude prank it could think of.

"How cold your breath is to-night!" said Barbara, with a shiver, as she
drew her tattered little shawl the closer around her benumbed body.

"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" answered the wind; "but why are you out
in this storm? You should be at home by the warm fire."

"I have no home," said Barbara; and then she sighed bitterly, and
something like a tiny pearl came in the corner of one of her sad blue
eyes.

But the wind did not hear her answer, for it had hurried up the street to
throw a handful of snow in the face of an old man who was struggling along
with a huge basket of good things on each arm.

"Why are you not at the cathedral?" asked a snowflake, as it alighted on
Barbara's shoulder. "I heard grand music, and saw beautiful lights there
as I floated down from the sky a moment ago."

"What are they doing at the cathedral?" inquired Barbara.

"Why, haven't you heard?" exclaimed the snowflake. "I supposed everybody
knew that the prince was coming to-morrow."

"Surely enough; this is Christmas eve," said Barbara, "and the prince will
come tomorrow."

Barbara remembered that her mother had told her about the prince, how
beautiful and good and kind and gentle he was, and how he loved the little
children; but her mother was dead now, and there was none to tell Barbara
of the prince and his coming,--none but the little snowflake.

"I should like to see the prince," said Barbara, "for I have heard he was
very beautiful and good."

"That he is," said the snowflake. "I have never seen him, but I heard the
pines and the firs singing about him as I floated over the forest
to-night."

"Whirr-r-r! whirr-r-r!" cried the wind, returning boisterously to where
Barbara stood. "I've been looking for you everywhere, little snowflake! So
come with me."

And without any further ado, the wind seized upon the snowflake and
hurried it along the street and led it a merry dance through the icy air
of the winter night.

Barbara trudged on through the snow and looked in at the bright things in
the shop windows. The glitter of the lights and the sparkle of the vast
array of beautiful Christmas toys quite dazzled her. A strange mingling of
admiration, regret, and envy filled the poor little creature's heart.

"Much as I may yearn to have them, it cannot be," she said to herself,
"yet I may feast my eyes upon them."

"Go away from here!" said a harsh voice. "How can the rich people see all
my fine things if you stand before the window? Be off with you, you
miserable little beggar!"

It was the shopkeeper, and he gave Barbara a savage box on the ear that
sent her reeling into the deeper snowdrifts of the gutter.

Presently she came to a large house where there seemed to be much mirth
and festivity. The shutters were thrown open, and through the windows
Barbara could see a beautiful Christmas tree in the centre of a spacious
room,--a beautiful Christmas tree ablaze with red and green lights, and
heavy with toys and stars and glass balls, and other beautiful things that
children love. There was a merry throng around the tree, and the children
were smiling and gleeful, and all in that house seemed content and happy.
Barbara heard them singing, and their song was about the prince who was to
come on the morrow.

"This must be the house where the prince will stop," thought Barbara. "How
I would like to see his face and hear his voice!--yet what would he care
for _me_, a 'miserable little beggar'?"

So Barbara crept on through the storm, shivering and disconsolate, yet
thinking of the prince.

"Where are you going?" she asked of the wind as it overtook her.

"To the cathedral," laughed the wind. "The great people are flocking
there, and I will have a merry time amongst them, ha, ha, ha!"

And with laughter the wind whirled away and chased the snow toward the
cathedral.

"It is there, then, that the prince will come," thought Barbara. "It is a
beautiful place, and the people will pay him homage there. Perhaps I shall
see him if I go there."

So she went to the cathedral. Many folk were there in their richest
apparel, and the organ rolled out its grand music, and the people sang
wondrous songs, and the priests made eloquent prayers; and the music, and
the songs, and the prayers were all about the prince and his expected
coming. The throng that swept in and out of the great edifice talked
always of the prince, the prince, the prince, until Barbara really loved
him very much, for all the gentle words she heard the people say of him.

"Please, can I go and sit inside?" inquired Barbara of the sexton.

"No!" said the sexton, gruffly, for this was an important occasion with
the sexton, and he had no idea of wasting words on a beggar child.

"But I will be very good and quiet," pleaded Barbara. "Please, may I not
see the prince?"

"I have said no, and I mean it," retorted the sexton. "What have you for
the prince, or what cares the prince for you? Out with you, and don't be
blocking up the doorway!" So the sexton gave Barbara an angry push, and
the child fell half-way down the icy steps of the cathedral. She began to
cry. Some great people were entering the cathedral at the time, and they
laughed to see her falling.

"Have you seen the prince?" inquired a snowflake, alighting on Barbara's
cheek. It was the same little snowflake that had clung to her shawl an
hour ago, when the wind came galloping along on his boisterous search.

"Ah, no!" sighed Barbara, in tears; "but what cares the prince for _me_?"

"Do not speak so bitterly," said the little snowflake. "Go to the forest
and you shall see him, for the prince always comes through the forest to
the city."

Despite the cold, and her bruises, and her tears, Barbara smiled. In the
forest she could behold the prince coming on his way; and he would not see
her, for she would hide among the trees and vines.

"Whirr-r-r, whirr-r-r!" It was the mischievous, romping wind once more;
and it fluttered Barbara's tattered shawl, and set her hair to streaming
in every direction, and swept the snowflake from her cheek and sent it
spinning through the air.

Barbara trudged toward the forest. When she came to the city gate the
watchman stopped her, and held his big lantern in her face, and asked her
who she was and where she was going.

"I am Barbara, and I am going into the forest," said she, boldly.

"Into the forest?" cried the watchman, "and in this storm? No, child; you
will perish!"

"But I am going to see the prince," said Barbara. "They will not let me
watch for him in the church, nor in any of their pleasant homes, so I am
going into the forest."

The watchman smiled sadly. He was a kindly man; he thought of his own
little girl at home.

"No, you must not go to the forest," said he, "for you would perish with
the cold."

But Barbara would not stay. She avoided the watchman's grasp and ran as
fast as ever she could through the city gate.

"Come back, come back!" cried the watchman; "you will perish in the
forest!"

But Barbara would not heed his cry. The falling snow did not stay her, nor
did the cutting blast. She thought only of the prince, and she ran
straightway to the forest.

II

"What do you see up there, O pine-tree?" asked a little vine in the
forest.

"You lift your head among the clouds tonight, and you tremble strangely as
if you saw wondrous sights."

"I see only the distant hill-tops and the dark clouds," answered the
pine-tree. "And the wind sings of the snow-king to-night; to all my
questionings he says, 'Snow, snow, snow,' till I am weary with his
refrain."

"But the prince will surely come to-morrow?" inquired the tiny snowdrop
that nestled close to the vine.

"Oh, yes," said the vine. "I heard the country folks talking about it as
they went through the forest to-day, and they said that the prince would
surely come on the morrow."

"What are you little folks down there talking about?" asked the pine-tree.

"We are talking about the prince," said the vine.

"Yes, he is to come on the morrow," said the pine-tree, "but not until the
day dawns, and it is still all dark in the east."

"Yes," said the fir-tree, "the east is black, and only the wind and the
snow issue from it."

"Keep your head out of my way!" cried the pine-tree to the fir; "with your
constant bobbing around I can hardly see at all."

"Take _that_ for your bad manners," retorted the fir, slapping the
pine-tree savagely with one of her longest branches.

The pine-tree would put up with no such treatment, so he hurled his
largest cone at the fir; and for a moment or two it looked as if there
were going to be a serious commotion in the forest.

"Hush!" cried the vine in a startled tone; "there is some one coming
through the forest."

The pine-tree and the fir stopped quarrelling, and the snowdrop nestled
closer to the vine, while the vine hugged the pine-tree very tightly. All
were greatly alarmed.

"Nonsense!" said the pine-tree, in a tone of assumed bravery. "No one
would venture into the forest at such an hour."

"Indeed! and why not?" cried a child's voice. "Will you not let me watch
with you for the coming of the prince?"

"Will you not chop me down?" inquired the pine-tree, gruffly.

"Will you not tear me from my tree?" asked the vine.

"Will you not pluck my blossoms?" plaintively piped the snowdrop.

"No, of course not," said Barbara; "I have come only to watch with you for
the prince."

Then Barbara told them who she was, and how cruelly she had been treated
in the city, and how she longed to see the prince, who was to come on the
morrow. And as she talked, the forest and all therein felt a great
compassion for her.

"Lie at my feet," said the pine-tree, "and I will protect you."

"Nestle close to me, and I will chafe your temples and body and limbs till
they are warm," said the vine.

"Let me rest upon your cheek, and I will sing you my little songs," said
the snowdrop.

And Barbara felt very grateful for all these homely kindnesses. She rested
in the velvety snow at the foot of the pine-tree, and the vine chafed her
body and limbs, and the little flower sang sweet songs to her.

"Whirr-r-r, whirr-r-r!" There was that noisy wind again, but this time it
was gentler than it had been in the city.

"Here you are, my little Barbara," said the wind, in kindly tones. "I have
brought you the little snowflake. I am glad you came away from the city,
for the people are proud and haughty there; oh, but I will have my fun
with them!"

Then, having dropped the little snowflake on Barbara's cheek, the wind
whisked off to the city again. And we can imagine that it played rare
pranks with the proud, haughty folk on its return; for the wind, as you
know, is no respecter of persons.

"Dear Barbara," said the snowflake, "I will watch with thee for the coming
of the prince."

And Barbara was glad, for she loved the little snowflake, that was so pure
and innocent and gentle.

"Tell us, O pine-tree," cried the vine, "what do you see in the east? Has
the prince yet entered the forest?"

"The east is full of black clouds," said the pine-tree, "and the winds
that hurry to the hill-tops sing of the snow."

"But the city is full of brightness," said the fir. "I can see the lights
in the cathedral, and I can hear wondrous music about the prince and his
coming."

"Yes, they are singing of the prince in the cathedral," said Barbara,
sadly.

"But we shall see him first," whispered the vine, reassuringly.

"Yes, the prince will come through the forest," said the little snowdrop,
gleefully.

"Fear not, dear Barbara, we shall behold the prince in all his glory,"
cried the snowflake.

Then all at once there was a strange hubbub in the forest; for it was
midnight, and the spirits came from their hiding-places to prowl about and
to disport themselves. Barbara beheld them all in great wonder and
trepidation, for she had never before seen the spirits of the forest,
although she had often heard of them. It was a marvellous sight.

"Fear nothing," whispered the vine to Barbara,--"fear nothing, for they
dare not touch you."

The antics of the wood-spirits continued but an hour; for then a cock
crowed, and immediately thereat, with a wondrous scurrying, the elves and
the gnomes and the other grotesque spirits sought their abiding-places in
the caves and in the hollow trunks and under the loose bark of the trees.
And then it was very quiet once more in the forest.

"It is very cold," said Barbara. "My hands and feet are like ice."

Then the pine-tree and the fir shook down the snow from their broad
boughs, and the snow fell upon Barbara and covered her like a white
mantle.

"You will be warm now," said the vine, kissing Barbara's forehead. And
Barbara smiled.

Then the snowdrop sang a lullaby about the moss that loved the violet. And
Barbara said, "I am going to sleep; will you wake me when the prince comes
through the forest?"

And they said they would. So Barbara fell asleep.

III

"The bells in the city are ringing merrily," said the fir, "and the music
in the cathedral is louder and more beautiful than before. Can it be that
the prince has already come into the city?"

"No," cried the pine-tree, "look to the east and see the Christmas day
a-dawning! The prince is coming, and his pathway is through the forest!"

The storm had ceased. Snow lay upon all the earth. The hills, the forest,
the city, and the meadows were white with the robe the storm-king had
thrown over them. Content with his wondrous work, the storm-king himself
had fled to his far Northern home before the dawn of the Christmas day.
Everything was bright and sparkling and beautiful. And most beautiful was
the great hymn of praise the forest sang that Christmas morning,--the
pine-trees and the firs and the vines and the snow-flowers that sang of
the prince and of his promised coming.

"Wake up, little one," cried the vine, "for the prince is coming!"

But Barbara slept; she did not hear the vine's soft calling, nor the lofty
music of the forest.

A little snow-bird flew down from the fir-tree's bough and perched upon
the vine, and carolled in Barbara's ear of the Christmas morning and of
the coming of the prince. But Barbara slept; she did not hear the carol of
the bird.

"Alas!" sighed the vine, "Barbara will not awaken, and the prince is
coming."

Then the vine and the snowdrop wept, and the pine-tree and the fir were
very sad.

The prince came through the forest clad in royal raiment and wearing a
golden crown. Angels came with him, and the forest sang a great hymn unto
the prince, such a hymn as had never before been heard on earth. The
prince came to the sleeping child and smiled upon her and called her by
name.

"Barbara, my little one," said the prince, "awaken, and come with me."

Then Barbara opened her eyes and beheld the prince. And it seemed as if a
new life had come to her, for there was warmth in her body, and a flush
upon her cheeks and a light in her eyes that were divine. And she was
clothed no longer in rags, but in white flowing raiment; and upon the soft
brown hair there was a crown like those which angels wear. And as Barbara
arose and went to the prince, the little snowflake fell from her cheek
upon her bosom, and forthwith became a pearl more precious than all other
jewels upon earth.

And the prince took Barbara in his arms and blessed her, and turning round
about, returned with the little child unto his home, while the forest and
the sky and the angels sang a wondrous song.

The city waited for the prince, but he did not come. None knew of the
glory of the forest that Christmas morning, nor of the new life that came
to little Barbara.

_Come thou, dear Prince, oh, come to us this holy Christmas time! Come
to the busy marts of earth, the quiet homes, the noisy streets, the humble
lanes; come to us all, and with thy love touch every human heart, that we
may know that love, and in its blessed peace bear charity to all
mankind_!

1886.

+THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM+

THE MOUSE AND THE MOONBEAM

Whilst you were sleeping, little Dear-my-Soul, strange things happened;
but that I saw and heard them, I should never have believed them. The
clock stood, of course, in the corner, a moonbeam floated idly on the
floor, and a little mauve mouse came from the hole in the chimney corner
and frisked and scampered in the light of the moonbeam upon the floor. The
little mauve mouse was particularly merry; sometimes she danced upon two
legs and sometimes upon four legs, but always very daintily and always
very merrily.

"Ah, me!" sighed the old clock, "how different mice are nowadays from the
mice we used to have in the good old times! Now there was your grandma,
Mistress Velvetpaw, and there was your grandpa, Master Sniffwhisker,--how
grave and dignified they were! Many a night have I seen them dancing upon
the carpet below me, but always the stately minuet and never that crazy
frisking which you are executing now, to my surprise--yes, and to my
horror, too."

"But why shouldn't I be merry?" asked the little mauve mouse. "To-morrow
is Christmas, and this is Christmas eve."

"So it is," said the old clock. "I had really forgotten all about it. But,
tell me, what is Christmas to you, little Miss Mauve Mouse?"

"A great deal to me!" cried the little mauve mouse. "I have been very good
a very long time: I have not used any bad words, nor have I gnawed any
holes, nor have I stolen any canary seed, nor have I worried my mother by
running behind the flour-barrel where that horrid trap is set. In fact, I
have been so good that I'm very sure Santa Claus will bring me something
very pretty."

This seemed to amuse the old clock mightily; in fact, the old clock fell
to laughing so heartily that in an unguarded moment she struck twelve
instead of ten, which was exceedingly careless and therefore to be
reprehended.

"Why, you silly little mauve mouse," said the old clock, "you don't
believe in Santa Claus, do you?"

"Of course I do," answered the little mauve mouse. "Believe in Santa
Claus? Why shouldn't I? Didn't Santa Claus bring me a beautiful
butter-cracker last Christmas, and a lovely gingersnap, and a delicious
rind of cheese, and--and--lots of things? I should be very ungrateful if I
did _not_ believe in Santa Claus, and I certainly shall not
disbelieve in him at the very moment when I am expecting him to arrive
with a bundle of goodies for me.

"I once had a little sister," continued the little mauve mouse, "who did
not believe in Santa Claus, and the very thought of the fate that befell
her makes my blood run cold and my whiskers stand on end. She died before
I was born, but my mother has told me all about her. Perhaps you never saw
her; her name was Squeaknibble, and she was in stature one of those long,
low, rangy mice that are seldom found in well-stocked pantries. Mother
says that Squeaknibble took after our ancestors who came from New England,
where the malignant ingenuity of the people and the ferocity of the cats
rendered life precarious indeed. Squeaknibble seemed to inherit many
ancestral traits, the most conspicuous of which was a disposition to sneer
at some of the most respected dogmas in mousedom. From her very infancy
she doubted, for example, the widely accepted theory that the moon was
composed of green cheese; and this heresy was the first intimation her
parents had of the sceptical turn of her mind. Of course, her parents were
vastly annoyed, for their maturer natures saw that this youthful
scepticism portended serious, if not fatal, consequences. Yet all in vain
did the sagacious couple reason and plead with their headstrong and
heretical child.

"For a long time Squeaknibble would not believe that there was any such
archfiend as a cat; but she came to be convinced to the contrary one
memorable night, on which occasion she lost two inches of her beautiful
tail, and received so terrible a fright that for fully an hour afterward
her little heart beat so violently as to lift her off her feet and bump
her head against the top of our domestic hole. The cat that deprived my
sister of so large a percentage of her vertebral colophon was the same
brindled ogress that nowadays steals ever and anon into this room,
crouches treacherously behind the sofa, and feigns to be asleep, hoping,
forsooth, that some of us, heedless of her hated presence, will venture
within reach of her diabolical claws. So enraged was this ferocious
monster at the escape of my sister that she ground her fangs viciously
together, and vowed to take no pleasure in life until she held in her
devouring jaws the innocent little mouse which belonged to the mangled bit
of tail she even then clutched in her remorseless claws."

"Yes," said the old clock, "now that you recall the incident, I recollect
it well. I was here then, in this very corner, and I remember that I
laughed at the cat and chided her for her awkwardness. My reproaches
irritated her; she told me that a clock's duty was to run itself down,
_not_ to be depreciating the merits of others! Yes, I recall the
time; that cat's tongue is fully as sharp as her claws."

"Be that as it may," said the little mauve mouse, "it is a matter of
history, and therefore beyond dispute, that from that very moment the cat
pined for Squeaknibble's life; it seemed as if that one little two-inch
taste of Squeaknibble's tail had filled the cat with a consuming passion,
or appetite, for the rest of Squeaknibble. So the cat waited and watched
and hunted and schemed and devised and did everything possible for a
cat--a cruel cat--to do in order to gain her murderous ends. One
night--one fatal Christmas eve--our mother had undressed the children for
bed, and was urging upon them to go to sleep earlier than usual, since she
fully expected that Santa Claus would bring each of them something very
palatable and nice before morning. Thereupon the little dears whisked
their cunning tails, pricked up their beautiful ears, and began telling
one another what they hoped Santa Claus would bring. One asked for a slice
of Roquefort, another for Neufchatel, another for Sap Sago, and a fourth
for Edam; one expressed a preference for de Brie, while another hoped to
get Parmesan; one clamored for imperial blue Stilton, and another craved
the fragrant boon of Caprera. There were fourteen little ones then, and
consequently there were diverse opinions as to the kind of gift which
Santa Claus should best bring; still, there was, as you can readily
understand, an enthusiastic unanimity upon this point, namely, that the
gift should be cheese of some brand or other.

"'My dears,' said our mother, 'what matters it whether the boon which
Santa Claus brings be royal English cheddar or fromage de Bricquebec,
Vermont sage, or Herkimer County skim-milk? We should be content with
whatsoever Santa Glaus bestows, so long as it be cheese, disjoined from
all traps whatsoever, unmixed with Paris green, and free from glass,
strychnine, and other harmful ingredients. As for myself, I shall be
satisfied with a cut of nice, fresh Western reserve; for truly I recognize
in no other viand or edible half the fragrance or half the gustfulness to
be met with in one of these pale but aromatic domestic products. So run
away to your dreams now, that Santa Claus may find you sleeping.'

"The children obeyed,--all but Squeaknibble. 'Let the others think what
they please,' said she, 'but _I_ don't believe in Santa Claus. I'm
not going to bed, either. I'm going to creep out of this dark hole and
have a quiet romp, all by myself, in the moonlight.' Oh, what a vain,
foolish, wicked little mouse was Squeaknibble! But I will not reproach the
dead; her punishment came all too swiftly. Now listen: who do you suppose
overheard her talking so disrespectfully of Santa Claus?"

"Why, Santa Claus himself," said the old clock.

"Oh, no," answered the little mauve mouse. "It was that wicked, murderous
cat! Just as Satan lurks and lies in wait for bad children, so does the
cruel cat lurk and lie in wait for naughty little mice. And you can depend
upon it, that when that awful cat heard Squeaknibble speak so
disrespectfully of Santa Claus, her wicked eyes glowed with joy, her sharp
teeth watered, and her bristling fur emitted electric sparks as big as
marrowfat peas. Then what did that bloodthirsty monster do but scuttle as
fast as she could into Dear-my-Soul's room, leap up into Dear-my-Soul's
crib, and walk off with the pretty little white muff which Dear-my-Soul
used to wear when she went for a visit to the little girl in the next
block! What upon earth did the horrid old cat want with Dear-my-Soul's
pretty little white muff? Ah, the duplicity, the diabolical ingenuity of
that cat! Listen.

"In the first place," resumed the little mauve mouse, after a pause that
testified eloquently to the depth of her emotion,--"in the first place,
that wretched cat dressed herself up in that pretty little white muff, by
which you are to understand that she crawled through the muff just so far
as to leave her four cruel legs at liberty."

"Yes, I understand," said the old clock.

"Then she put on the boy doll's fur cap," said the little mauve mouse,
"and when she was arrayed in the boy doll's fur cap and Dear-my-Soul's
pretty little white muff, of course she didn't look like a cruel cat at
all. But whom did she look like?"

"Like the boy doll," suggested the old clock.

"No, no!" cried the little mauve mouse.

"Like Dear-my-Soul?" asked the old clock.

"How stupid you are!" exclaimed the little mauve mouse. "Why, she looked
like Santa Claus, of course!"

"Oh, yes; I see," said the old clock. "Now I begin to be interested; go
on."

"Alas!" sighed the little mauve mouse, "not much remains to be told; but
there is more of my story left than there was of Squeaknibble when that
horrid cat crawled out of that miserable disguise. You are to understand
that, contrary to her sagacious mother's injunction, and in notorious
derision of the mooted coming of Santa Claus, Squeaknibble issued from the
friendly hole in the chimney corner, and gambolled about over this very
carpet, and, I dare say, in this very moonlight."

"I do not know," said the moonbeam, faintly. "I am so very old, and I have
seen so many things--I do not know."

"Right merrily was Squeaknibble gambolling," continued the little mauve
mouse, "and she had just turned a double back somersault without the use
of what remained of her tail, when, all of a sudden, she beheld, looming
up like a monster ghost, a figure all in white fur! Oh, how frightened she
was, and how her little heart did beat! 'Purr, purr-r-r,' said the ghost
in white fur. 'Oh, please don't hurt me!' pleaded Squeaknibble. 'No; I'll
not hurt you,' said the ghost in white fur; 'I'm Santa Claus, and I've
brought you a beautiful piece of savory old cheese, you dear little
mousie, you.' Poor Squeaknibble was deceived; a sceptic all her life, she
was at last befooled by the most palpable and most fatal of frauds. 'How
good of you!' said Squeaknibble. 'I didn't believe there was a Santa
Claus, and--' but before she could say more she was seized by two sharp,
cruel claws that conveyed her crushed body to the murderous mouth of
mousedom's most malignant foe. I can dwell no longer upon this harrowing
scene. Suffice it to say that ere the morrow's sun rose like a big yellow
Herkimer County cheese upon the spot where that tragedy had been enacted,
poor Squeaknibble passed to that bourn whence two inches of her beautiful
tail had preceded her by the space of three weeks to a day. As for Santa
Claus, when he came that Christmas eve, bringing morceaux de Brie and of
Stilton for the other little mice, he heard with sorrow of Squeaknibble's
fate; and ere he departed he said that in all his experience he had never
known of a mouse or of a child that had prospered after once saying that
he didn't believe in Santa Claus."

"Well, that is a remarkable story," said the old clock. "But if you
believe in Santa Glaus, why aren't you in bed?"

"That's where I shall be presently," answered the little mauve mouse, "but
I must have my scamper, you know. It is very pleasant, I assure you, to
frolic in the light of the moon; only I cannot understand why you are
always so cold and so solemn and so still, you pale, pretty little
moonbeam."

"Indeed, I do not know that I am so," said the moonbeam. "But I am very
old, and I have travelled many, many leagues, and I have seen wondrous
things. Sometimes I toss upon the ocean, sometimes I fall upon a
slumbering flower, sometimes I rest upon a dead child's face. I see the
fairies at their play, and I hear mothers singing lullabies. Last night I
swept across the frozen bosom of a river. A woman's face looked up at me;
it was the picture of eternal rest. 'She is sleeping,' said the frozen
river. 'I rock her to and fro, and sing to her. Pass gently by, O
moonbeam; pass gently by, lest you awaken her.'"

"How strangely you talk," said the old clock. "Now, I'll warrant me that,
if you wanted to, you could tell many a pretty and wonderful story. You
must know many a Christmas tale; pray tell us one to wear away this night
of Christmas watching."

"I know but one," said the moonbeam. "I have told it over and over again,
in every land and in every home; yet I do not weary of it. It is very
simple. Should you like to hear it?"

"Indeed we should," said the old clock; "but before you begin, let me
strike twelve; for I shouldn't want to interrupt you."

When the old clock had performed this duty with somewhat more than usual
alacrity, the moonbeam began its story:--

"Upon a time--so long ago that I can't tell how long ago it was--I fell
upon a hillside. It was in a far distant country; this I know, because,
although it was the Christmas time, it was not in that country as it is
wont to be in countries to the north. Hither the snow-king never came;
flowers bloomed all the year, and at all times the lambs found pleasant
pasturage on the hillsides. The night wind was balmy, and there was a
fragrance of cedar in its breath. There were violets on the hillside, and
I fell amongst them and lay there. I kissed them, and they awakened. 'Ah,
is it you, little moonbeam?' they said, and they nestled in the grass
which the lambs had left uncropped.

"A shepherd lay upon a broad stone on the hillside; above him spread an
olive-tree, old, ragged, and gloomy; but now it swayed its rusty branches
majestically in the shifting air of night. The shepherd's name was Benoni.
Wearied with long watching, he had fallen asleep; his crook had slipped
from his hand. Upon the hillside, too, slept the shepherd's flock. I had
counted them again and again; I had stolen across their gentle faces and
brought them pleasant dreams of green pastures and of cool water-brooks. I
had kissed old Benoni, too, as he lay slumbering there; and in his dreams
he seemed to see Israel's King come upon earth, and in his dreams he
murmured the promised Messiah's name.

"'Ah, is it you, little moonbeam?' quoth the violets. 'You have come in
good time. Nestle here with us, and see wonderful things come to pass.'

"'What are these wonderful things of which you speak?' I asked.

"'We heard the old olive-tree telling of them to-night,' said the violets.
'"Do not go to sleep, little violets," said the old olive-tree, "for this
is Christmas night, and the Master shall walk upon the hillside in the
glory of the midnight hour." So we waited and watched; one by one the
lambs fell asleep; one by one the stars peeped out; the shepherd nodded
and crooned and crooned and nodded, and at last he, too, went fast asleep,
and his crook slipped from his keeping. Then we called to the old
olive-tree yonder, asking how soon the midnight hour would come; but all
the old olive-tree answered was "Presently, presently," and finally we,
too, fell asleep, wearied by our long watching, and lulled by the rocking
and swaying of the old olive-tree in the breezes of the night.'

"'But who is this Master?' I asked.

"'A child, a little child,' they answered. 'He is called the little Master
by the others. He comes here often, and plays among the flowers of the
hillside. Sometimes the lambs, gambolling too carelessly, have crushed and
bruised us so that we lie bleeding and are like to die; but the little
Master heals our wounds and refreshes us once again.'

"I marvelled much to hear these things. 'The midnight hour is at hand,'
said I, 'and I will abide with you to see this little Master of whom you
speak.' So we nestled among the verdure of the hillside, and sang songs
one to another.

"'Come away!' called the night wind; 'I know a beauteous sea not far
hence, upon whose bosom you shall float, float, float away out into the
mists and clouds, if you will come with me.'

"But I hid under the violets and amid the tall grass, that the night wind
might not woo me with its pleading. 'Ho, there, old olive-tree!' cried the
violets; 'do you see the little Master coming? Is not the midnight hour at
hand?'

"'I can see the town yonder,' said the old olive-tree. 'A star beams
bright over Bethlehem, the iron gates swing open, and the little Master
comes.'

"Two children came to the hillside. The one, older than his comrade, was
Dimas, the son of Benoni. He was rugged and sinewy, and over his brown
shoulders was flung a goat-skin; a leathern cap did not confine his long,
dark curly hair. The other child was he whom they called the little
Master; about his slender form clung raiment white as snow, and around his
face of heavenly innocence fell curls of golden yellow. So beautiful a
child I had not seen before, nor have I ever since seen such as he. And as
they came together to the hillside, there seemed to glow about the little
Master's head a soft white light, as if the moon had sent its tenderest,
fairest beams to kiss those golden curls.

"'What sound was that?' cried Dimas, for he was exceeding fearful.

"'Have no fear, Dimas,' said the little Master. 'Give me thy hand, and I
will lead thee.'

"Presently they came to the rock whereon Benoni, the shepherd, lay; and
they stood under the old olive-tree, and the old olive-tree swayed no
longer in the night wind, but bent its branches reverently in the presence
of the little Master. It seemed as if the wind, too, stayed in its
shifting course just then; for suddenly there was a solemn hush, and you
could hear no noise, except that in his dreams Benoni spoke the Messiah's
name.

"'Thy father sleeps,' said the little Master, 'and it is well that it is
so; for that I love thee, Dimas, and that thou shalt walk with me in my
Father's kingdom, I would show thee the glories of my birthright.'

"Then all at once sweet music filled the air, and light, greater than the
light of day, illumined the sky and fell upon all that hillside. The
heavens opened, and angels, singing joyous songs, walked to the earth.
More wondrous still, the stars, falling from their places in the sky,
clustered upon the old olive-tree, and swung hither and thither like
colored lanterns. The flowers of the hillside all awakened, and they, too,
danced and sang. The angels, coming hither, hung gold and silver and
jewels and precious stones upon the old olive, where swung the stars; so
that the glory of that sight, though I might live forever, I shall never
see again. When Dimas heard and saw these things he fell upon his knees,
and catching the hem of the little Master's garment, he kissed it.

"'Greater joy than this shall be thine, Dimas,' said the little Master;
'but first must all things be fulfilled.'

"All through that Christmas night did the angels come and go with their
sweet anthems; all through that Christmas night did the stars dance and
sing; and when it came my time to steal away, the hillside was still
beautiful with the glory and the music of heaven."

"Well, is that all?" asked the old clock.

"No," said the moonbeam; "but I am nearly done. The years went on.
Sometimes I tossed upon the ocean's bosom, sometimes I scampered o'er a
battle-field, sometimes I lay upon a dead child's face. I heard the voices
of Darkness and mothers' lullabies and sick men's prayers,--and so the
years went on.

"I fell one night upon a hard and furrowed face. It was of ghostly pallor.
A thief was dying on the cross, and this was his wretched face. About the
cross stood men with staves and swords and spears, but none paid heed unto
the thief. Somewhat beyond this cross another was lifted up, and upon it
was stretched a human body my light fell not upon. But I heard a voice
that somewhere I had heard before,--though where I did not know,--and this
voice blessed those that railed and jeered and shamefully entreated. And
suddenly the voice called 'Dimas, Dimas!' and the thief upon whose
hardened face I rested made answer.

"Then I saw that it was Dimas; yet to this wicked criminal there remained
but little of the shepherd child whom I had seen in all his innocence upon
the hillside. Long years of sinful life had seared their marks into his
face; yet now, at the sound of that familiar voice, somewhat of the
old-time boyish look came back, and in the yearning of the anguished eyes
I seemed to see the shepherd's son again.

"'The Master!' cried Dimas, and he stretched forth his neck that he might
see him that spake.

"'O Dimas, how art thou changed!' cried the Master, yet there was in his
voice no tone of rebuke save that which cometh of love.

"Then Dimas wept, and in that hour he forgot his pain. And the Master's
consoling voice and the Master's presence there wrought in the dying
criminal such a new spirit, that when at last his head fell upon his
bosom, and the men about the cross said that he was dead, it seemed as if
I shined not upon a felon's face, but upon the face of the gentle shepherd
lad, the son of Benoni.

"And shining on that dead and peaceful face, I bethought me of the little
Master's words that he had spoken under the old olive-tree upon the
hillside: 'Your eyes behold the promised glory now, O Dimas,' I whispered,
'for with the Master you walk in Paradise.'"

Ah, little Dear-my-Soul, you know--you know whereof the moonbeam spake.
The shepherd's bones are dust, the flocks are scattered, the old
olive-tree is gone, the flowers of the hillside are withered, and none
knoweth where the grave of Dimas is made. But last night, again, there
shined a star over Bethlehem, and the angels descended from the sky to
earth, and the stars sang together in glory. And the bells,--hear them,
little Dear-my-Soul, how sweetly they are ringing,--the bells bear us the
good tidings of great joy this Christmas morning, that our Christ is born,
and that with him he bringeth peace on earth and good-will toward men.

1888.

+THE DIVELL'S CHRISTMASS+

THE DIVELL'S CHRYSTMASS.

It befell that on a time ye Divell did walk to and fro upon ye earth,
having in his mind full evill cogitations how that he might do despight;
for of soche nature is ye Divell, and ever hath been, that continually
doth he go about among men, being so dispositioned that it sufficeth him
not that men sholde of their own frowardness, and by cause of the guile
born in them, turn unto his wickedness, but rather that he sholde by his
crewel artifices and diabolical machinations tempt them at all times and
upon every hand to do his fiendly plaisaunce.

But it so fortuned that this time wherein ye Divell so walked upon ye
earth was ye Chrystmass time; and wit ye well that how evill soever ye
harte of man ben at other seasons, it is tofilled at ye Chrystmass time
with charity and love, like as if it ben sanctified by ye exceeding
holiness of that feast. Leastwise, this moche we know, that, whereas at
other times envy and worldliness do prevail, for a verity our natures are
toched at ye Chrystmass time as by ye hand of divinity, and conditioned
for merciful deeds unto our fellow kind. Right wroth was ye Divell,
therefore, when that he knew this ben ye Chrystmass time. And as rage doth
often confirm in ye human harte an evill purpose, so was ye Divell now
more diabolically minded to work his unclean will, and full hejeously fell
he to roar and lash his ribald legs with his poyson taile. But ye Divell
did presently conceive that naught might he accomplish by this means,
since that men, affrighted by his roaring and astonied by ye fumes of
brimstone and ye sulphur flames issuing from his mouth, wolde flee
therefrom; whereas by subtile craft and by words of specious guile it more
frequently befalls that ye Divell seduceth men and lureth them into his
toils. So then ye Divell did in a little season feign to be in a full
plaisaunt mind and of sweet purpose; and when that he had girt him about
with an hermit's cloak, so that none might see his cloven feet and his
poyson taile, right briskly did he fare him on his journey, and he did
sing ye while a plaisaunt tune, like he had ben full of joyous
contentation.

Now it befell that presently in his journey he did meet with a frere, Dan
Dennyss, an holy man that fared him to a neighboring town for deeds of
charity and godliness. Unto him spake ye Divell full courteysely, and
required of him that he might bear him company; to which ye frere gave
answer in seemly wise, that, if so be that he ben of friendly disposition,
he wolde make him joy of his companionship and conversation. Then, whiles
that they journeyed together, began ye Divell to discourse of theologies
and hidden mysteries, and of conjurations, and of negromancy and of
magick, and of Chaldee, and of astrology, and of chymistry, and of other
occult and forbidden sciences, wherein ye Divell and all that ply his
damnable arts are mightily learned and practised. Now wit ye well that
this frere, being an holy man and a simple, and having an eye single to ye
blessed works of his calling, was presently mightily troubled in his mind
by ye artifices of ye Divell, and his harte began to waver and to be
filled with miserable doubtings; for knowing nothing of ye things whereof
ye Divell spake, he colde not make answer thereto, nor, being of godly
cogitation and practice, had he ye confutations wherewith to meet ye
abhominable argumentations of ye fiend.

Yet (and now shall I tell you of a special Providence) it did fortune,
whiles yet ye Divell discoursed in this profane wise, there was vouchsafed
unto ye frere a certain power to resist ye evill that environed him; for
of a sodaine he did cast his doubtings and his misgivings to ye winds, and
did fall upon ye Divell and did buffet him full sore, crying, "Thou art ye
Divell! Get thee gone!" And ye frere plucked ye cloake from ye Divell and
saw ye cloven feet and ye poyson taile, and straightway ye Divell ran
roaring away. But ye frere fared upon his journey, for that he had had a
successful issue from this grevious temptation, with thanksgiving and
prayse.

Next came ye Divell into a town wherein were many people going to and fro
upon works of charity, and doing righteous practices; and sorely did it
repent ye Divell when that he saw ye people bent upon ye giving of alms
and ye doing of charitable deeds. Therefore with mighty diligence did ye
Divell apply himself to poyson ye minds of ye people, shewing unto them in
artful wise how that by idleness or by righteous dispensation had ye poore
become poore, and that, soche being ye will of God, it was an evill and
rebellious thing against God to seeke to minister consolation unto these
poore peoples. Soche like specious argumentations did ye Divell use to
gain his diabolical ends; but by means of a grace whereof none then knew
ye source, these men and these women unto whom ye Divell spake his hejeous
heresies presently discovered force to withstand these fiendly
temptations, and to continue in their Chrystianly practices, to ye glory
of their faith and to ye benefite of ye needy, but to ye exceeding
discomfiture of ye Divell; for ye which discomfiture I do give hearty
thanks, and so also shall all of you, if so be that your hartes within you
be of rightful disposition.

All that day long fared ye Divell to and fro among ye people of ye town,
but none colde he bring into his hellish way of cogitation. Nor do I count
this to be a marvellous thing; for, as I myself have herein shewn and as
eche of us doth truly know, how can there be a place for ye Divell upon
earth during this Chrystmass time when in ye very air that we breathe
abideth a certain love and concord sent of heaven for the controul and
edification of mankind, filling human hartes with peace and inclining
human hands to ye delectable and blessed employments of charity? Nay, but
you shall know that all this very season whereof I speak ye holy
Chrystchilde himself did follow ye Divell upon earth, forefending the
crewel evills which ye Divell fain wolde do and girding with confidence
and love ye else frail natures of men. Soothly it is known of common
report among you that when ye Chrystmass season comes upon ye earth there
cometh with it also the spirit of our Chryst himself, that in ye
similitude of a little childe descendeth from heaven and walketh among
men. And if so be that by any chance ye Divell is minded to issue from his
foul pit at soche a time, wit ye well that wheresoever ye fiend fareth to
do his diabolical plaisaunce there also close at hand followeth ye gentle
Chrystchilde; so that ye Divell, try how hard soever he may, hath no power
at soche a time over the hartes of men.

Nay, but you shall know furthermore that of soche sweete quality and of so
great efficacy is this heavenly spirit of charity at ye Chrystmass season,
that oftentimes is ye Divell himself made to do a kindly deed. So at this
time of ye which I you tell, ye Divell, walking upon ye earth with evill
purpose, became finally overcome by ye gracious desire to give an alms;
but nony alms had ye Divell to give, sith it is wisely ordained that ye
Divell's offices shall be confined to his domain. Right grievously
tormented therefore was ye Divell, in that he had nought of alms to
bestow; but when presently he did meet with a beggar childe that besought
him charity, ye Divell whipped out a knife and cut off his own taile,
which taile ye Divell gave to ye beggar childe, for he had not else to
give for a lyttle trinket toy to make merry with. Now wit ye well that
this poyson instrument brought no evill to ye beggar childe, for by a
sodaine miracle it ben changed into a flowre of gold, ye which gave great
joy unto ye beggar childe and unto all them that saw this miracle how that
it had ben wrought, but not by ye Divell. Then returned ye Divell unto his
pit of fire; and since that day, whereupon befell this thing of which I
speak, ye Divell hath had nony taile at all, as you that hath seene ye
same shall truly testify.

But all that day long walked ye Chrystchilde upon ye earth, unseen to ye
people but toching their hartes with his swete love and turning their
hands to charity; and all felt that ye Chrystchilde was with them. So it
was plaisaunt to do ye Chrystchilde's will, to succor ye needy, to comfort
ye afflicted, and to lift up ye oppressed. Most plaisauntest of all was it
to make merry with ye lyttle children, sithence of soche is ye kingdom
whence ye Chrystchilde cometh.

Behold, ye season is again at hand; once more ye snows of winter lie upon
all ye earth, and all Chrystantie is arrayed to the holy feast.

Presently shall ye star burn with exceeding brightness in ye east, ye sky
shall be full of swete music, ye angels shall descend to earth with
singing, and ye bells--ye joyous Chrystmass bells--shall tell us of ye
babe that was born in Bethlehem.

Come to us now, O gentle Chrystchilde, and walke among us peoples of ye
earth; enwheel us round about with thy protecting care; forefend all
envious thoughts and evil deeds; toche thou our hearts with the glory of
thy love, and quicken us to practices of peace, good-will, and charity
meet for thy approval and acceptation.

1888.

+THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA+

THE MOUNTAIN AND THE SEA

Once upon a time the air, the mountain, and the sea lived undisturbed upon
all the earth. The mountain alone was immovable; he stood always here upon
his rocky foundation, and the sea rippled and foamed at his feet, while
the air danced freely over his head and about his grim face. It came to
pass that both the sea and the air loved the mountain, but the mountain
loved the sea.

"Dance on forever, O air," said the mountain; "dance on and sing your
merry songs. But I love the gentle sea, who in sweet humility crouches at
my feet or playfully dashes her white spray against my brown bosom."

Now the sea was full of joy when she heard these words, and her thousand
voices sang softly with delight. But the air was filled with rage and
jealousy, and she swore a terrible revenge.

"The mountain shall not wed the sea," muttered the envious air. "Enjoy
your triumph while you may, O slumberous sister; I will steal you from
your haughty lover!"

And it came to pass that ever after that the air each day caught up huge
parts of the sea and sent them floating forever through the air in the
shape of clouds. So each day the sea receded from the feet of the
mountain, and her tuneful waves played no more around his majestic base.

"Whither art thou going, my love?" cried the mountain in dismay.

"She is false to thee," laughed the air, mockingly. "She is going to
another love far away."

But the mountain would not believe it. He towered his head aloft and cried
more beseechingly than before: "Oh, whither art thou going, my beloved? I
do not hear thy sweet voice, nor do thy soft white arms compass me about."

Then the sea cried out in an agony of helpless love. But the mountain
heard her not, for the air refused to bring the words she said.

"She is false!" whispered the air. "I alone am true to thee."

But the mountain believed her not. Day after day he reared his massive
head aloft and turned his honest face to the receding sea and begged her
to return; day after day the sea threw up her snowy arms and uttered the
wildest lamentations, but the mountain heard her not; and day by day the
sea receded farther and farther from the mountain's base. Where she once
had spread her fair surface appeared fertile plains and verdant groves all
peopled with living things, whose voices the air brought to the mountain's
ears in the hope that they might distract the mountain from his mourning.

But the mountain would not be comforted; he lifted his sturdy head aloft,
and his sorrowing face was turned ever toward the fleeting object of his
love. Hills, valleys, forests, plains, and other mountains separated them
now, but over and beyond them all he could see was her fair face lifted
pleadingly toward him, while her white arms tossed wildly to and fro. But
he did not know what words she said, for the envious air would not bear
her messages to him.

Then many ages came and went, until now the sea was far distant, so very
distant that the mountain could not behold her,--nay, had he been ten
thousand times as lofty he could not have seen her, she was so far away.
But still, as of old, the mountain stood with his majestic head high in
the sky, and his face turned whither he had seen her fading like a dream
away.

"Comeback, comeback, O my beloved!" he cried and cried.

And the sea, a thousand miles or more away, still thought forever of the
mountain. Vainly she peered over the western horizon for a glimpse of his
proud head and honest face. The horizon was dark. Her lover was far
beyond, forests, plains, hills, valleys, rivers, and other mountains
intervened. Her watching was as hopeless as her love.

"She is false!" whispered the air to the mountain. "She is false, and she
has gone to another lover. I alone am true!"

But the mountain believed her not. And one day clouds came floating
through the sky and hovered around the mountain's crest.

"Who art thou," cried the mountain,--"who art thou that thou fill'st me
with such a subtile consolation? Thy breath is like my beloved's, and thy
kisses are like her kisses."

"We come from the sea," answered the clouds. "She loves thee, and she has
sent us to bid thee be courageous, for she will come back to thee."

Then the clouds covered the mountain and bathed him with the glory of the
sea's true love. The air raged furiously, but all in vain. Ever after that
the clouds came each day with love-messages from the sea, and oftentimes
the clouds bore back to the distant sea the tender words the mountain
spoke.

And so the ages come and go, the mountain rearing his giant head aloft,
and his brown, honest face turned whither the sea departed; the sea
stretching forth her arms to the distant mountain and repeating his dear
name with her thousand voices.

Stand on the beach and look upon the sea's majestic calm and hear her
murmurings; or see her when, in the frenzy of her hopeless love, she
surges wildly and tosses her white arms and shrieks,--then you shall know
how the sea loves the distant mountain.

The mountain is old and sear; the storms have beaten upon his breast, and
great scars and seams and wrinkles are on his sturdy head and honest face
But he towers majestically aloft, and he looks always toward the distant
sea and waits for her promised coming.

And so the ages come and go, but love is eternal.

1886.

+THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET+

THE ROBIN AND THE VIOLET

Once upon a time a robin lived in the greenwood. Of all the birds his
breast was the brightest, his music was the sweetest, and his life was the
merriest. Every morning and evening he perched himself among the berries
of the linden-tree, and carolled a song that made the whole forest joyous;
and all day long he fluttered among the flowers and shrubbery of the
wild-wood, and twittered gayly to the brooks, the ferns, and the lichens.

A violet grew among the mosses at the foot of the linden-tree where lived
the robin. She was so very tiny and so very modest that few knew there was
such a pretty little creature in the world. Withal she was so beautiful
and so gentle that those who knew the violet loved her very dearly.

The south wind came wooing the violet. He danced through the shrubbery and
ferns, and lingered on the velvet moss where the little flower grew. But
when he kissed her pretty face and whispered to her, she hung her head and
said, "No, no; it cannot be."

"Nay, little violet, do not be so cruel," pleaded the south wind; "let me
bear you as my bride away to my splendid home in the south, where all is
warmth and sunshine always."

But the violet kept repeating, "No, it cannot be; no, it cannot be," till
at last the south wind stole away with a very heavy heart.

And the rose exclaimed, in an outburst of disgustful indignation: "What a
foolish violet! How silly of her to refuse such a wooer as the south wind,
who has a beautiful home and a patrimony of eternal warmth and sunshine!"

But the violet, as soon as the south wind had gone, looked up at the robin
perched in the linden-tree and singing his clear song; and it seemed as if
she blushed and as if she were thrilled with a great emotion as she beheld
him. But the robin did not see the violet. His eyes were turned the other
way, and he sang to the clouds in the sky.

The brook o'erleaped its banks one day, and straying toward the
linden-tree, it was amazed at the loveliness of the violet. Never had it
seen any flower half so beautiful.

"Oh, come and be my bride," cried the brook. "I am young and small now,
but presently you shall see me grow to a mighty river whose course no
human power can direct, and whose force nothing can resist. Cast thyself
upon my bosom, sweet violet, and let us float together to that great
destiny which awaits me."

But the violet shuddered and recoiled and said: "Nay, nay, impetuous
brook, I will not be your bride." So, with many murmurs and complaints,
the brook crept back to its jealous banks and resumed its devious and
prattling way to the sea.

"Bless me!" cried the daisy, "only to think of that silly violet's
refusing the brook! Was there ever another such piece of folly! Where else
is there a flower that would not have been glad to go upon such a
wonderful career? Oh, how short-sighted some folks are!"

But the violet paid no heed to these words; she looked steadfastly up into
the foliage of the linden-tree where the robin was carolling. The robin
did not see the violet; he was singing to the tops of the fir-trees over
yonder.

The days came and went. The robin sang and fluttered in the greenwood, and
the violet bided among the mosses at the foot of the linden; and although
the violet's face was turned always upward to where the robin perched and
sang, the robin never saw the tender little flower.

One day a huntsman came through the greenwood, and an arrow from his cruel
bow struck the robin and pierced his heart. The robin was carolling in the
linden, but his song was ended suddenly, and the innocent bird fell dying
from the tree. "Oh, it is only a robin," said the huntsman, and with a
careless laugh he went on his way.

The robin lay upon the mosses at the foot of the linden, close beside the
violet. But he neither saw nor heard anything, for his life was nearly
gone. The violet tried to bind his wound and stay the flow of his heart's
blood, but her tender services were vain. The robin died without having
seen her sweet face or heard her gentle voice.

Then the other birds of the greenwood came to mourn over their dead
friend. The moles and the mice dug a little grave and laid the robin in
it, after which the birds brought lichens and leaves, and covered the dead
body, and heaped earth over all, and made a great lamentation. But when
they went away, the violet remained; and after the sun had set, and the
greenwood all was dark, the violet bent over the robin's grave and kissed
it, and sang to the dead robin. And the violet watched by the robin's
grave for weeks and months, her face pressed forward toward that tiny
mound, and her gentle voice always singing softly and sweetly about the
love she never had dared to tell.

Often after that the south wind and the brook came wooing her, but she
never heard them, or, if she heard them, she did not answer. The vine that
lived near the chestnut yonder said the violet was greatly changed; that
from being a merry, happy thing, she had grown sad and reticent; she used
to hold up her head as proudly as the others, but now she seemed broken
and weary. The shrubs and flowers talked it all over many and many a time,
but none of them could explain the violet's strange conduct.

It was autumn now, and the greenwood was not what it had been. The birds
had flown elsewhere to be the guests of the storks during the winter
months, the rose had run away to be the bride of the south wind, and the
daisy had wedded the brook and was taking a bridal tour to the seaside
watering-places. But the violet still lingered in the greenwood, and kept
her vigil at the grave of the robin. She was pale and drooping, but still
she watched and sang over the spot where her love lay buried. Each day she
grew weaker and paler. The oak begged her to come and live among the warm
lichens that protected him from the icy breath of the storm-king, but the
violet chose to watch and sing over the robin's grave.

One morning, after a night of exceeding darkness and frost, the boisterous
north wind came trampling through the greenwood.

"I have come for the violet," he cried; "she would not have my fair
brother, but she must go with _me_, whether it pleases her or not!"

But when he came to the foot of the linden-tree his anger was changed to
compassion. The violet was dead, and she lay upon the robin's grave. Her
gentle face rested close to the little mound, as if, in her last moment,
the faithful flower had stretched forth her lips to kiss the dust that
covered her beloved.

1884.

+THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY+

THE OAK-TREE AND THE IVY

In the greenwood stood a mighty oak. So majestic was he that all who came
that way paused to admire his strength and beauty, and all the other trees
of the greenwood acknowledged him to be their monarch.

Now it came to pass that the ivy loved the oak-tree, and inclining her
graceful tendrils where he stood, she crept about his feet and twined
herself around his sturdy and knotted trunk. And the oak-tree pitied the
ivy.

"Oho!" he cried, laughing boisterously, but good-naturedly,--"oho! so you
love me, do you, little vine? Very well, then; play about my feet, and I
will keep the storms from you and will tell you pretty stories about the
clouds, the birds, and the stars."

The ivy marvelled greatly at the strange stories the oak-tree told; they
were stories the oak-tree heard from the wind that loitered about his
lofty head and whispered to the leaves of his topmost branches. Sometimes
the story was about the great ocean in the East, sometimes of the broad
prairies in the West, sometimes of the ice-king who lived in the North,
and sometimes of the flower-queen who dwelt in the South. Then, too, the
moon told a story to the oak-tree every night,--or at least every night
that she came to the greenwood, which was very often, for the greenwood is
a very charming spot, as we all know. And the oak-tree repeated to the ivy
every story the moon told and every song the stars sang.

"Pray, what are the winds saying now?" or "What song is that I hear?" the
ivy would ask; and then the oak-tree would repeat the story or the song,
and the ivy would listen in great wonderment.

Whenever the storms came, the oak-tree cried to the little ivy: "Cling
close to me, and no harm shall befall you! See how strong I am; the
tempest does not so much as stir me--I mock its fury!"

Then, seeing how strong and brave he was, the ivy hugged him closely; his
brown, rugged breast protected her from every harm, and she was secure.

The years went by; how quickly they flew,--spring, summer, winter, and
then again spring, summer, winter,--ah, life is short in the greenwood as
elsewhere! And now the ivy was no longer a weakly little vine to excite
the pity of the passer-by. Her thousand beautiful arms had twined hither
and thither about the oak-tree, covering his brown and knotted trunk,
shooting forth a bright, delicious foliage and stretching far up among his
lower branches. Then the oak-tree's pity grew into a love for the ivy, and
the ivy was filled with a great joy. And the oak-tree and the ivy were wed
one June night, and there was a wonderful celebration in the greenwood;
and there was most beautiful music, in which the pine-trees, the crickets,
the katydids, the frogs, and the nightingales joined with pleasing
harmony.

The oak-tree was always good and gentle to the ivy. "There is a storm
coming over the hills," he would say. "The east wind tells me so; the
swallows fly low in the air, and the sky is dark. Cling close to me, my
beloved, and no harm shall befall you."

Then, confidently and with an always-growing love, the ivy would cling
more closely to the oak-tree, and no harm came to her.

"How good the oak-tree is to the ivy!" said the other trees of the
greenwood. The ivy heard them, and she loved the oak-tree more and more.
And, although the ivy was now the most umbrageous and luxuriant vine in
all the greenwood, the oak-tree regarded her still as the tender little
thing he had laughingly called to his feet that spring day, many years
before,--the same little ivy he had told about the stars, the clouds, and
the birds. And, just as patiently as in those days he had told her of
these things, he now repeated other tales the winds whispered to his
topmost boughs,--tales of the ocean in the East, the prairies in the West,
the ice-king in the North, and the flower-queen in the South. Nestling
upon his brave breast and in his stout arms, the ivy heard him tell these
wondrous things, and she never wearied with the listening.

"How the oak-tree loves her!" said the ash. "The lazy vine has naught to
do but to twine herself about the arrogant oak-tree and hear him tell his
wondrous stories!"

The ivy heard these envious words, and they made her very sad; but she
said nothing of them to the oak-tree, and that night the oak-tree rocked
her to sleep as he repeated the lullaby a zephyr was singing to him.

"There is a storm coming over the hills," said the oak-tree one day. "The
east wind tells me so; the swallows fly low in the air, and the sky is
dark. Clasp me round about with thy dear arms, my beloved, and nestle
close unto my bosom, and no harm shall befall thee."

"I have no fear," murmured the ivy; and she clasped her arms most closely
about him and nestled unto his bosom.

The storm came over the hills and swept down upon the greenwood with
deafening thunder and vivid lightning. The storm-king himself rode upon
the blast; his horses breathed flames, and his chariot trailed through the
air like a serpent of fire. The ash fell before the violence of the
storm-king's fury, and the cedars groaning fell, and the hemlocks and the
pines; but the oak-tree alone quailed not.

"Oho!" cried the storm-king, angrily, "the oak-tree does not bow to me, he
does not tremble in my presence. Well, we shall see."

With that the storm-king hurled a mighty thunderbolt at the oak-tree, and
the brave, strong monarch of the greenwood was riven. Then, with a shout
of triumph, the storm-king rode away.

"Dear oak-tree, you are riven by the storm-king's thunderbolt!" cried the
ivy, in anguish.

"Ay," said the oak-tree, feebly, "my end has come; see, I am shattered and
helpless."

"But _I_ am unhurt," remonstrated the ivy, "and I will bind up your
wounds and nurse you back to health and vigor."

And so it was that, although the oak-tree was ever afterward a riven and
broken thing, the ivy concealed the scars upon his shattered form and
covered his wounds all over with her soft foliage.

"I had hoped, dear one," she said, "to grow up to thy height, to live with
thee among the clouds, and to hear the solemn voices thou didst hear. Thou
wouldst have loved me better then?"

But the old oak-tree said: "Nay, nay, my beloved; I love thee better as
thou art, for with thy beauty and thy love thou comfortest mine age."

Then would the ivy tell quaint stories to the old and broken
oak-tree,--stories she had learned from the crickets, the bees, the
butterflies, and the mice when she was an humble little vine and played at
the foot of the majestic oak-tree towering in the green-wood with no
thought of the tiny shoot that crept toward him with her love. And these
simple tales pleased the old and riven oak-tree; they were not as heroic
as the tales the winds, the clouds, and the stars told, but they were far
sweeter, for they were tales of contentment, of humility, of love.

So the old age of the oak-tree was grander than his youth.

And all who went through the greenwood paused to behold and admire the
beauty of the oak-tree then; for about his seared and broken trunk the
gentle vine had so entwined her graceful tendrils and spread her fair
foliage, that one saw not the havoc of the years nor the ruin of the
tempest, but only the glory of the oak-tree's age, which was the ivy's
love and ministering.

1886

+MARGARET: A PEARL+

MARGARET: A PEARL

In a certain part of the sea, very many leagues from here, there once
lived a large family of oysters noted for their beauty and size. But among
them was one so small, so feeble, and so ill-looking as to excite the
pity, if not the contempt, of all the others. The father, a venerable,
bearded oyster, of august appearance and solemn deportment, was much
mortified that one of his family should happen to be so sickly; and he
sent for all the doctors in the sea to come and treat her; from which
circumstance you are to note that doctors are an evil to be met with not
alone upon _terra firma_. The first to come was Dr. Porpoise, a
gentleman of the old school, who floundered around in a very important
manner and was full of imposing ceremonies.

"Let me look at your tongue," said Dr. Porpoise, stroking his beard with
one fin, impressively. "Ahem! somewhat coated, I see. And your pulse is
far from normal; no appetite, I presume? Yes, my dear, your system is
sadly out of order. You need medicine."

The little oyster hated medicine; so she cried,--yes, she actually shed
cold, briny tears at the very thought of taking old Dr. Porpoise's
prescriptions. But the father-oyster and the mother-oyster chided her
sternly; they said that the medicine would be nice and sweet, and that the
little oyster would like it. But the little oyster knew better than all
that; yes, she knew a thing or two, even though she _was_ only a
little oyster.

Now Dr. Porpoise put a plaster on the little oyster's chest and a blister
at her feet. He bade her eat nothing but a tiny bit of sea-foam on toast
twice a day. Every two hours she was to take a spoonful of cod-liver oil,
and before each meal a wineglassful of the essence of distilled
cuttlefish. The plaster she didn't mind, but the blister and the cod-liver
oil were terrible; and when it came to the essence of distilled cuttlefish
--well, she just couldn't stand it! In vain her mother reasoned with her,
and promised her a new doll and a skipping-rope and a lot of other nice
things: the little oyster would have none of the horrid drug; until at
last her father, abandoning his dignity in order to maintain his
authority, had to hold her down by main strength and pour the medicine
into her mouth. This was, as you will allow, quite dreadful.

But this treatment did the little oyster no good; and her parents made up
their minds that they would send for another doctor, and one of a
different school. Fortunately they were in a position to indulge in almost
any expense, since the father-oyster himself was president of one of the
largest banks of Newfoundland. So Dr. Sculpin came with his neat little
medicine-box under his arm. And when he had looked at the sick little
oyster's tongue, and had taken her temperature, and had felt her pulse, he
said he knew what ailed her; but he did not tell anybody what it was. He
threw away the plasters, the blisters, the cod-liver oil, and the essence
of distilled cuttlefish, and said it was a wonder that the poor child had
lived through it all!

"Will you please bring me two tumblerfuls of water?" he remarked to the
mother-oyster.

The mother-oyster scuttled away, and soon returned with two conch-shells
filled to the brim with pure, clear sea-water. Dr. Sculpin counted three
grains of white sand into one shell, and three grains of yellow sand into
the other shell, with great care.

"Now," said he to the mother-oyster, "I have numbered these 1 and 2.
First, you are to give the patient ten drops out of No. 2, and in an hour
after that, eight drops out of No. 1; the next hour, eight drops out of
No. 2; and the next, or fourth, hour, ten drops out of No. 1. And so you
are to continue hour by hour, until either the medicine or the child gives
out."

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