Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona.
THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF CHRISTMAS STORIES
Edited by Asa Don Dickinson and Ada M. Skinner
THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF CHRISTMAS STORIES
Many librarians have felt the need and expressed the desire for a
select collection of children's Christmas stories in one volume. This
books claims to be just that and nothing more.
Each of the stories has already won the approval of thousands of
children, and each is fraught with the true Christmas spirit.
It is hoped that the collection will prove equally acceptable to
parents, teachers, and librarians.
Asa Don Dickinson.
(Note.--The stories marked with a star (*) will be most enjoyed by
younger children; those marked with a two stars (**) are better suited
to older children.)
Christmas at Fezziwig's Warehouse. By Charles Dickens
* The Fir-Tree. By Hans Christian Andersen
The Christmas Masquerade. By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
* The Shepherds and the Angels. Adapted from the Bills
** The Telltale Tile. By Olive Thorne Miller
* Little Girl's Christmas. By Winnifred E. Lincoln
** A Christmas Matinee. By M.A.L. Lane
* Toinette and the Elves. By Susan Coolidge
The Voyage of the Wee Red Cap. By Ruth Sawyer Durand
* A Story of the Christ-Child (a German Legend for Christmas Eve). As
* Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas. By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Why the Chimes Rang. By Raymond McAlden
The Birds'Christmas (founded on fact). By F.E. Mann
** The Little Sister's Vacation. By Winifred M. Kirkland
* Little Wolff's Wooden Shoes. By Francois Coppee, adapted and
Alma J. Foster
** Christmas in the Alley. By Olive Thorne Miller
* A Christmas Star. By Katherine Pyle
** The Queerest Christmas. By Grace Margaret Gallaher
Old Father Christmas. By J.H. Ewing
A Christmas Carol. By Charles Dickens
How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats. By Elia W. Peattie
The Legend of Babouscka. From the Russian Folk Tale
* Christmas in the Barn. By F. Arnstein
The Philanthropist's Christmas. By James Weber Linn
* The First Christmas-Tree. By Lucy Wheelock
The First New England Christmas. By G.L. Stone and M.G. Fickett
The Cratchits' Christmas Dinner. By Charles Dickens
Christmas in Seventeen Seventy-Six. By Anne Hollingsworth Wharton
* Christmas Under the Snow. By Olive Thorne Miller
Mr. Bluff's Experience of Holidays. By Oliver Bell Bunce
** Master Sandy's Snapdragon. By Elbridge S. Brooks
A Christmas Fairy. By John Strange Winter
The Greatest of These. By Joseph Mills Hanson
* Little Gretchen and the Wooden Shoe. By Elizabeth Harrison
** Big Rattle. By Theodore Goodridge Roberts
I. CHRISTMAS AT FEZZIWIG'S WAREHOUSE
"Yo Ho! my boys," said Fezziwig. "No more work to-night! Christmas Eve,
Dick! Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up!" cried old
Fezziwig with a sharp clap of his hands, "before a man can say Jack
Robinson. . . ."
"Hilli-ho!" cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk with
wonderful agility. "Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room
here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Cheer-up, Ebenezer!"
Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or
couldn't have cleared away with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in
a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from
public life forevermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps
were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as
snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ballroom as you would desire to
see on a winter's night.
In came a fiddler with a music book, and went up to the lofty desk and
made an orchestra of it and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came
Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Misses
Fezziwig, beaming and lovable. In came the six followers whose hearts
they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the
business. In came the housemaid with her cousin the baker. In came the
cook with her brother's particular friend the milkman. In came the boy
from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from
his master, trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but
one who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress; in they
all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at
once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle
and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate
grouping, old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top
couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples
at last, and not a bottom one to help them.
When this result was brought about the fiddler struck up "Sir Roger de
Coverley." Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs. Fezziwig. Top
couple, too, with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or
four and twenty pairs of partners; people who were not to be trifled
with; people who would dance and had no notion of walking.
But if they had been thrice as many--oh, four times as many--old
Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs. Fezziwig.
As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term.
If that's not high praise, tell me higher and I'll use it. A positive
light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every
part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted at any given
time what would become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs.
Fezziwig had gone all through the dance, advance and retire; both hands
to your partner, bow and courtesy, corkscrew, thread the needle, and
back again to your place; Fezziwig "cut"--cut so deftly that he
appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again with a
When the clock struck eleven the domestic ball broke up. Mr. and Mrs.
Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and
shaking hands with every person individually, as he or she went out,
wished him or her a Merry Christmas!
II. THE FIR-TREE*
*Reprinted by permission of the Houghton-Mifflin Company.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
Out in the woods stood a nice little Fir-tree. The place he had was a
very good one; the sun shone on him; as to fresh air, there was enough
of that, and round him grew many large-sized comrades, pines as well as
firs. But the little Fir wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree.
He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air; he did not care
for the little cottage children that ran about and prattled when they
were in the woods looking for wild strawberries. The children often
came with a whole pitcher full of berries, or a long row of them
threaded on a straw, and sat down near the young tree and said, "Oh,
how pretty he is! what a nice little fir!" But this was what the Tree
could not bear to hear.
At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and after another year
he was another long bit taller; for with fir-trees one can always tell
by the shoots how many years old they are.
"Oh, were I but such a high tree as the others are!" sighed he. "Then I
should be able to spread out my branches, and with the tops to look
into the wide world! Then would the birds build nests among my
branches; and when there was a breeze, I could bend with as much
stateliness as the others!"
Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the red clouds, which morning
and evening sailed above them, gave the little Tree any pleasure.
In winter, when the snow lay glittering on the ground, a hare would
often come leaping along, and jump right over the little Tree. Oh, that
made him so angry! But two winters were past, and in the third the tree
was so large that the hare was obliged to go round it. "To grow and
grow, to get older and be tall," thought the Tree--"that, after all, is
the most delightful thing in the world!"
In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest
trees. This happened every year; and the young Fir-tree, that had now
grown to a very comely size, trembled at the sight; for the magnificent
great trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the branches
were lopped off, and the trees looked long and bare; they were hardly
to be recognized; and then they were laid in carts, and the horses
dragged them out of the woods.
Where did they go to? What became of them?
In spring, when the Swallows and the Storks came, the Tree asked them,
"Don't you know where they have been taken? Have you not met them
The Swallows did not know anything about it; but the Stork looked
musing, nodded his head, and said: "Yes, I think I know; I met many
ships as I was flying hither from Egypt; on the ships were magnificent
masts, and I venture to assert that it was they that smelt so of fir. I
may congratulate you, for they lifted themselves on high most
"Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! But how does the sea
look in reality? What is it like?"
"That would take a long time to explain," said the Stork, and with
these words off he went.
"Rejoice in thy growth!" said the Sunbeams, "rejoice in thy vigorous
growth, and in the fresh life that moveth within thee!"
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him; but the
Fir understood it not.
When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down; trees which often
were not even as large or of the same age as this Fir-tree, who could
never rest, but always wanted to be off. These young trees, and they
were always the finest looking, retained their branches; they were laid
on carts, and the horses drew them out of the woods.
"Where are they going to?" asked the Fir. "They are not taller than I;
there was one indeed that was considerably shorter; and why do they
retain all their branches? Whither are they taken?"
"We know! we know!" chirped the Sparrows. "We have peeped in at the
windows in the town below! We know whither they are taken! The greatest
splendour and the greatest magnificence one can imagine await them. We
peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the middle of the
warm room, and ornamented with the most splendid things--with gilded
apples, with gingerbread, with toys, and many hundred lights!"
"And then?" asked the Fir-tree, trembling in every bough. "And then?
What happens then?"
"We did not see anything more: it was incomparably beautiful."
"I would fain know if I am destined for so glorious a career," cried
the Tree, rejoicing. "That is still better than to cross the sea! What
a longing do I suffer! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and my
branches spread like the others that were carried off last year! Oh,
were I but already on the cart. Were I in the warm room with all the
splendour and magnificence! Yes; then something better, something still
grander, will surely follow, or wherefore should they thus ornament me?
Something better, something still grander, MUST follow--but what? Oh,
how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter with
"Rejoice in our presence!" said the Air and the Sunlight; "rejoice in
thy own fresh youth!"
But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew, and was green
both winter and summer. People that saw him said, "What a fine tree!"
and toward Christmas he was one of the first that was cut down. The axe
struck deep into the very pith; the tree fell to the earth with a sigh:
he felt a pang--it was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness,
for he was sorrowful at being separated from his home, from the place
where he had sprung up. He knew well that he should never see his dear
old comrades, the little bushes and flowers around him, any more;
perhaps not even the birds! The departure was not at all agreeable.
The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a courtyard with
the other trees, and heard a man say, "That one is splendid! we don't
want the others." Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the
Fir-tree into a large and splendid drawing-room. Portraits were hanging
on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large
Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy
chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and full of
toys worth hundreds and hundreds of crowns--at least the children said
so. And the Fir-tree was stuck upright in a cask that was filled with
sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung
all around it, and it stood on a large gayly coloured carpet. Oh, how
the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the
young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there hung little nets cut
out of coloured paper, and each net was filled with sugar-plums; and
among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended,
looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white
tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all the
world like men--the Tree had never beheld such before--were seen among
the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed.
It was really splendid--beyond description splendid.
"This evening!" said they all; "how it will shine this evening!"
"Oh," thought the Tree, "if the evening were but come! If the tapers
were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! Perhaps the other
trees from the forest will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows
will beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall take root here,
and winter and summer stand covered with ornaments!"
He knew very much about the matter! but he was so impatient that for
sheer longing he got a pain in his back, and this with trees is the
same thing as a headache with us.
The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendour! The Tree
trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to the
foliage. It blazed up splendidly.
"Help! Help!" cried the young ladies, and they quickly put out the fire.
Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state he was in! He was
so uneasy lest he should lose something of his splendour, that he was
quite bewildered amidst the glare and brightness; when suddenly both
folding-doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in as if they
would upset the Tree. The older persons followed quietly; the little
ones stood quite still. But it was only for a moment; then they shouted
so that the whole place reechoed with their rejoicing; they danced
round the tree, and one present after the other was pulled off.
"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now?" And
the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down
they were put out, one after the other, and then the children had
permission to plunder the tree. So they fell upon it with such violence
that all its branches cracked; if it had not been fixed firmly in the
cask, it would certainly have tumbled down.
The children danced about with their beautiful playthings: no one
looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped between the
branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an apple left
that had been forgotten.
"A story! a story!" cried the children, drawing a little fat man toward
the tree. He seated himself under it, and said: "Now we are in the
shade, and the Tree can listen, too. But I shall tell only one story.
Now which will you have: that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy-Dumpy
who tumbled downstairs, and yet after all came to the throne and
married the princess?"
"Ivedy-Avedy!" cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy" cried the others. There was
such a bawling and screaming--the Fir-tree alone was silent, and he
thought to himself, "Am I not to bawl with the rest?--am I to do
nothing whatever?" for he was one of the company, and had done what he
had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy that tumbled down, who
notwithstanding came to the throne, and at last married the princess.
And the children clapped their hands, and cried out, "Oh, go on! Do go
on!" They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy, too, but the little man
only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Fir-tree stood quite still and
absorbed in thought; the birds in the woods had never related the like
of this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he married the
princess! Yes! Yes! that's the way of the world!" thought the Fir-tree,
and believed it all, because the man who told the story was so
good-looking. "Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs,
too, and get a princess as wife!" And he looked forward with joy to the
morrow, when he hoped to be decked out again with lights, playthings,
fruits, and tinsel.
"I won't tremble to-morrow," thought the Fir-tree. "I will enjoy to the
full all my splendour. To-morrow I shall hear again the story of
Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy, too." And the whole
night the Tree stood still and in deep thought.
In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.
"Now, then, the splendour will begin again," thought the Fir. But they
dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs into the loft; and here
in a dark corner, where no daylight could enter, they left him. "What's
the meaning of this?" thought the Tree. "What am I to do here? What
shall I hear now, I wonder?" And he leaned against the wall, lost in
reverie. Time enough had he, too, for his reflections; for days and
nights passed on, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did
come, it was only to put some great trunks in a corner out of the way.
There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely
"'Tis now winter out of doors!" thought the Tree. "The earth is hard
and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now, and therefore I have
been put up here under shelter till the springtime comes! How
thoughtful that is! How kind man is, after all! If it only were not so
dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a hare. And out in the
woods it was so pleasant, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare
leaped by; yes--even when he jumped over me; but I did not like it
then. It is really terribly lonely here!"
"Squeak! squeak!" said a little Mouse at the same moment, peeping out
of his hole. And then another little one came. They sniffed about the
Fir-tree, and rustled among the branches.
"It is dreadfully cold," said the Mouse. "But for that, it would be
delightful here, old Fir, wouldn't it?"
"I am by no means old," said the Fir-tree. "There's many a one
considerably older than I am."
"Where do you come from," asked the Mice; "and what can you do?" They
were so extremely curious. "Tell us about the most beautiful spot on
the earth. Have you never been there? Were you never in the larder,
where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one
dances about on tallow-candles; that place where one enters lean, and
comes out again fat and portly?"
"I know no such place," said the Tree, "but I know the woods, where the
sun shines, and where the little birds sing." And then he told all
about his youth; and the little Mice had never heard the like before;
and they listened and said:
"Well, to be sure! How much you have seen! How happy you must have
"I?" said the Fir-tree, thinking over what he had himself related.
"Yes, in reality those were happy times." And then he told about
Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with cakes and candles.
"Oh," said the little Mice, "how fortunate you have been, old Fir-tree!"
"I am by no means old," said he. "I came from the woods this winter; I
am in my prime, and am only rather short for my age."
"What delightful stories you know!" said the Mice: and the next night
they came with four other little Mice, who were to hear what the tree
recounted; and the more he related, the more plainly he remembered all
himself; and it appeared as if those times had really been happy times.
"But they may still come--they may still come. Klumpy-Dumpy fell
downstairs and yet he got a princess," and he thought at the moment of
a nice little Birch-tree growing out in the woods; to the Fir, that
would be a real charming princess.
"Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?" asked the Mice. So then the Fir-tree told the
whole fairy tale, for he could remember every single word of it; and
the little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next
night two more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said
the stories were not interesting, which vexed the little Mice; and
they, too, now began to think them not so very amusing either.
"Do you know only one story?" asked the Rats.
"Only that one," answered the Tree. "I heard it on my happiest evening;
but I did not then know how happy I was."
"It is a very stupid story. Don't you know one about bacon and tallow
candles? Can't you tell any larder stories?"
"No," said the Tree.
"Then good-bye," said the Rats; and they went home.
At last the little Mice stayed away also; and the Tree sighed: "After
all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat around me and
listened to what I told them. Now that too is over. But I will take
good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again."
But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a quantity of
people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the Tree was
pulled out and thrown--rather hard, it is true--down on the floor, but
a man drew him toward the stairs, where the daylight shone.
"Now a merry life will begin again," thought the Tree. He felt the
fresh air, the first sunbeam--and now he was out in the courtyard. All
passed so quickly, there was so much going on around him, that the Tree
quite forgot to look to himself. The court adjoined a garden, and all
was in flower; the roses hung so fresh and odorous over the balustrade,
the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said,
"Quirre-vit! my husband is come!" but it was not the Fir-tree that they
"Now, then, I shall really enjoy life," said he, exultingly, and spread
out his branches; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow. It was
in a corner that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of
tinsel was still on the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.
In the courtyard some of the merry children were playing who had danced
at Christmas round the Fir-tree, and were so glad at the sight of him.
One of the youngest ran and tore off the golden star.
"Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!" said he,
trampling on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath his feet.
And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in
the garden; he beheld himself, and wished he had remained in his dark
corner in the loft; he thought of his first youth in the woods, of the
merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so
much pleasure to the story of Klumpy-Dumpy.
"'Tis over--'tis past!" said the poor Tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I
had reason to do so! But now 'tis past, 'tis past!"
And the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a
whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large
brewing copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.
The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star
on his breast which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his
life. However, that was over now--the Tree gone, the story at an end.
All, all was over; every tale must end at last.
III. THE CHRISTMAS MASQUERADE*
* From "The Pot of Gold , copyright by Lothrop, Lee & Shepherd Co.
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
On Christmas Eve the Mayor's stately mansion presented a beautiful
appearance. There were rows of different coloured wax candles burning
in every window, and beyond them one could see the chandeliers of gold
and crystal blazing with light. The fiddles were squeaking merrily, and
lovely little forms flew past the windows in time to the music.
There were gorgeous carpets laid from the door to the street, and
carriages were constantly arriving and fresh guests tripping over them.
They were all children. The Mayor was giving a Christmas Masquerade
tonight to all the children in the city, the poor as well as the rich.
The preparation for this ball had been making an immense sensation for
the last three months. Placards had been up in the most conspicuous
points in the city, and all the daily newspapers had at least a column
devoted to it, headed with "THE MAYOR'S CHRISTMAS MASQUERADE," in very
The Mayor had promised to defray the expenses of all the poor children
whose parents were unable to do so, and the bills for their costumes
were directed to be sent in to him.
Of course there was great excitement among the regular costumers of the
city, and they all resolved to vie with one another in being the most
popular, and the best patronized on this gala occasion. But the
placards and the notices had not been out a week before a new Costumer
appeared who cast all the others into the shade directly. He set up his
shop on the corner of one of the principal streets, and hung up his
beautiful costumes in the windows. He was a little fellow, not much
bigger than a boy of ten. His cheeks were as red as roses, and he had
on a long curling wig as white as snow. He wore a suit of crimson
velvet knee-breeches, and a little swallow-tailed coat with beautiful
golden buttons. Deep lace ruffles fell over his slender white hands,
and he wore elegant knee buckles of glittering stones. He sat on a high
stool behind his counter and served his customers himself; he kept no
It did not take the children long to discover what beautiful things he
had, and how superior he was to the other costumers, and they begun to
flock to his shop immediately, from the Mayor's daughter to the poor
ragpicker's. The children were to select their own costumes; the Mayor
had stipulated that. It was to be a children's ball in every sense of
So they decided to be fairies and shepherdesses, and princesses
according to their own fancies; and this new Costumer had charming
costumes to suit them.
It was noticeable that, for the most part, the children of the rich,
who had always had everything they desired, would choose the parts of
goose-girls and peasants and such like; and the poor children jumped
eagerly at the chance of being princesses or fairies for a few hours in
their miserable lives.
When Christmas Eve came and the children flocked into the Mayor's
mansion, whether it was owing to the Costumer's art, or their own
adaptation to the characters they had chosen, it was wonderful how
lifelike their representations were. Those little fairies in their
short skirts of silken gauze, in which golden sparkles appeared as they
moved with their little funny gossamer wings, like butterflies, looked
like real fairies. It did not seem possible, when they floated around
to the music, half supported on the tips of their dainty toes, half by
their filmy purple wings, their delicate bodies swaying in time, that
they could be anything but fairies. It seemed absurd to imagine that
they were Johnny Mullens, the washerwoman's son, and Polly Flinders,
the charwoman's little girl, and so on.
The Mayor's daughter, who had chosen the character of a goose-girl,
looked so like a true one that one could hardly dream she ever was
anything else. She was, ordinarily, a slender, dainty little lady
rather tall for her age. She now looked very short and stubbed and
brown, just as if she had been accustomed to tend geese in all sorts of
weather. It was so with all the others--the Red Riding-hoods, the
princesses, the Bo-Peeps and with every one of the characters who came
to the Mayor's ball; Red Riding-hood looked round, with big, frightened
eyes, all ready to spy the wolf, and carried her little pat of butter
and pot of honey gingerly in her basket; Bo-Peep's eyes looked red with
weeping for the loss of her sheep; and the princesses swept about so
grandly in their splendid brocaded trains, and held their crowned heads
so high that people half-believed them to be true princesses.
But there never was anything like the fun at the Mayor's Christmas
ball. The fiddlers fiddled and fiddled, and the children danced and
danced on the beautiful waxed floors. The Mayor, with his family and a
few grand guests, sat on a dais covered with blue velvet at one end of
the dancing hall, and watched the sport. They were all delighted. The
Mayor's eldest daughter sat in front and clapped her little soft white
hands. She was a tall, beautiful young maiden, and wore a white dress,
and a little cap woven of blue violets on her yellow hair. Her name was
The supper was served at midnight--and such a supper! The mountains of
pink and white ices, and the cakes with sugar castles and flower
gardens on the tops of them, and the charming shapes of gold and
ruby-coloured jellies. There were wonderful bonbons which even the
Mayor's daughter did not have every day; and all sorts of fruits, fresh
and candied. They had cowslip wine in green glasses, and elderberry
wine in red, and they drank each other's health. The glasses held a
thimbleful each; the Mayor's wife thought that was all the wine they
ought to have. Under each child's plate there was a pretty present and
every one had a basket of bonbons and cake to carry home.
At four o'clock the fiddlers put up their fiddles and the children went
home; fairies and shepherdesses and pages and princesses all jabbering
gleefully about the splendid time they had had.
But in a short time what consternation there was throughout the city.
When the proud and fond parents attempted to unbutton their children's
dresses, in order to prepare them for bed, not a single costume would
come off. The buttons buttoned again as fast as they were unbuttoned;
even if they pulled out a pin, in it would slip again in a twinkling;
and when a string was untied it tied itself up again into a bowknot.
The parents were dreadfully frightened. But the children were so tired
out they finally let them go to bed in their fancy costumes and thought
perhaps they would come off better in the morning. So Red Riding-hood
went to bed in her little red cloak holding fast to her basket full of
dainties for her grandmother, and Bo-Peep slept with her crook in her
The children all went to bed readily enough, they were so very tired,
even though they had to go in this strange array. All but the
fairies--they danced and pirouetted and would not be still.
"We want to swing on the blades of grass," they kept saying, "and play
hide and seek in the lily cups, and take a nap between the leaves of
The poor charwomen and coal-heavers, whose children the fairies were
for the most part, stared at them in great distress. They did not know
what to do with these radiant, frisky little creatures into which their
Johnnys and their Pollys and Betseys were so suddenly transformed. But
the fairies went to bed quietly enough when daylight came, and were
soon fast asleep.
There was no further trouble till twelve o'clock, when all the children
woke up. Then a great wave of alarm spread over the city. Not one of
the costumes would come off then. The buttons buttoned as fast as they
were unbuttoned; the pins quilted themselves in as fast as they were
pulled out; and the strings flew round like lightning and twisted
themselves into bow-knots as fast as they were untied.
And that was not the worst of it; every one of the children seemed to
have become, in reality, the character which he or she had assumed.
The Mayor's daughter declared she was going to tend her geese out in
the pasture, and the shepherdesses sprang out of their little beds of
down, throwing aside their silken quilts, and cried that they must go
out and watch their sheep. The princesses jumped up from their straw
pallets, and wanted to go to court; and all the rest of them likewise.
Poor little Red Riding-hood sobbed and sobbed because she couldn't go
and carry her basket to her grandmother, and as she didn't have any
grandmother she couldn't go, of course, and her parents were very much
doubled. It was all so mysterious and dreadful. The news spread very
rapidly over the city, and soon a great crowd gathered around the new
Costumer's shop for every one thought he must be responsible for all
The shop door was locked; but they soon battered it down with stones.
When they rushed in the Costumer was not there; he had disappeared with
all his wares. Then they did not know what to do. But it was evident
that they must do something before long for the state of affairs was
growing worse and worse.
The Mayor's little daughter braced her back up against the tapestried
wall, and planted her two feet in their thick shoes firmly. "I will go
and tend my geese," she kept crying. "I won't eat my breakfast. I won't
go out in the park. I won't go to school. I'm going to tend my geese--I
will, I will, I will!"
And the princesses trailed their rich trains over the rough unpainted
floors in their parents' poor little huts, and held their crowned heads
very high and demanded to be taken to court. The princesses were mostly
geese-girls when they were their proper selves, and their geese were
suffering, and their poor parents did not know what they were going to
do and they wrung their hands and wept as they gazed on their
gorgeously apparelled children.
Finally the Mayor called a meeting of the Aldermen, and they all
assembled in the City Hall. Nearly every one of them had a son or a
daughter who was a chimney-sweep, or a little watch-girl, or a
shepherdess. They appointed a chairman and they took a great many votes
and contrary votes but they did not agree on anything, until every one
proposed that they consult the Wise Woman. Then they all held up their
hands, and voted to, unanimously.
So the whole board of Aldermen set out, walking by twos, with the Mayor
at their head, to consult the Wise Woman. The Aldermen were all very
fleshy, and carried gold-headed canes which they swung very high at
every step. They held their heads well back, and their chins stiff, and
whenever they met common people they sniffed gently. They were very
The Wise Woman lived in a little hut on the outskirts of the city. She
kept a Black Cat, except for her, she was all alone. She was very old,
and had brought up a great many children, and she was considered
But when the Aldermen reached her hut and found her seated by the fire,
holding her Black Cat, a new difficulty presented itself. She had
always been quite deaf and people had been obliged to scream as loud as
they could in order to make her hear; but lately she had grown much
deafer, and when the Aldermen attempted to lay the case before her she
could not hear a word. In fact, she was so very deaf that she could not
distinguish a tone below G-sharp. The Aldermen screamed till they were
quite red in the faces, but all to no purpose: none of them could get
up to G-sharp of course.
So the Aldermen all went back, swinging their gold-headed canes, and
they had another meeting in the City Hall. Then they decided to send
the highest Soprano Singer in the church choir to the Wise Woman; she
could sing up to G-sharp just as easy as not. So the high Soprano
Singer set out for the Wise Woman's in the Mayor's coach, and the
Aldermen marched behind, swinging their gold-headed canes.
The High Soprano Singer put her head down close to the Wise Woman's
ear, and sung all about the Christmas Masquerade and the dreadful
dilemma everybody was in, in G-sharp--she even went higher, sometimes,
and the Wise Woman heard every word.
She nodded three times, and every time she nodded she looked wiser.
"Go home, and give 'em a spoonful of castor-oil, all 'round," she piped
up; then she took a pinch of snuff, and wouldn't say any more.
So the Aldermen went home, and every one took a district and marched
through it, with a servant carrying an immense bowl and spoon, and
every child had to take a dose of castor-oil.
But it didn't do a bit of good. The children cried and struggled when
they were forced to take the castor-oil; but, two minutes afterward,
the chimney-sweeps were crying for their brooms, and the princesses
screaming because they couldn't go to court, and the Mayor's daughter,
who had been given a double dose, cried louder and more sturdily: "I
want to go and tend my geese. I will go and tend my geese."
So the Aldermen took the high Soprano Singer, and they consulted the
Wise Woman again. She was taking a nap this time, and the Singer had to
sing up to B-flat before she could wake her. Then she was very cross
and the Black Cat put up his back and spit at the Aldermen.
"Give 'em a spanking all 'round," she snapped out, "and if that don't
work put 'em to bed without their supper."
Then the Aldermen marched back to try that; and all the children in the
city were spanked, and when that didn't do any good they were put to
bed without any supper. But the next morning when they woke up they
were worse than ever.
The Mayor and Aldermen were very indignant, and considered that they
had been imposed upon and insulted. So they set out for the Wise Woman
again, with the high Soprano Singer.
She sang in G-sharp how the Aldermen and the Mayor considered her an
impostor, and did not think she was wise at all, and they wished her to
take her Black Cat and move beyond the limits of the city.
She sang it beautifully; it sounded like the very finest Italian opera
"Deary me," piped the Wise Woman, when she had finished, "how very
grand these gentlemen are." Her Black Cat put up his back and spit.
"Five times one Black Cat are five Black Cats," said the Wise Woman.
And directly there were five Black Cats spitting and miauling.
"Five times five Black Cats are twenty-five Black Cats." And then there
were twenty-five of the angry little beasts.
"Five times twenty-five Black Cats are one hundred and twenty-five
Black Cats," added the Wise Woman with a chuckle.
Then the Mayor and the Aldermen and the high Soprano Singer fled
precipitately out the door and back to the city. One hundred and
twenty-five Black Cats had seemed to fill the Wise Woman's hut full,
and when they all spit and miauled together it was dreadful. The
visitors could not wait for her to multiply Black Cats any longer.
As winter wore on and spring came, the condition of things grew more
intolerable. Physicians had been consulted, who advised that the
children should be allowed to follow their own bents, for fear of
injury to their constitutions. So the rich Aldermen's daughters were
actually out in the fields herding sheep, and their sons sweeping
chimneys or carrying newspapers; and while the poor charwomen's and
coal-heavers, children spent their time like princesses and fairies.
Such a topsy-turvy state of society was shocking. While the Mayor's
little daughter was tending geese out in the meadow like any common
goose-girl, her pretty elder sister, Violetta, felt very sad about it
and used often to cast about in her mind for some way of relief.
When cherries were ripe in spring, Violetta thought she would ask the
Cherry-man about it. She thought the Cherry-man quite wise. He was a
very pretty young fellow, and he brought cherries to sell in graceful
little straw baskets lined with moss. So she stood in the kitchen door
one morning and told him all about the great trouble that had come upon
the city. He listened in great astonishment; he had never heard of it
before. He lived several miles out in the country.
"How did the Costumer look?" he asked respectfully; he thought Violetta
the most beautiful lady on earth.
Then Violetta described the Costumer, and told him of the unavailing
attempts that had been made to find him. There were a great many
detectives out, constantly at work.
"I know where he is!" said the Cherry-man. "He's up in one of my
cherry-trees. He's been living there ever since cherries were ripe, and
he won't come down."
Then Violetta ran and told her father in great excitement, and he at
once called a meeting of the Aldermen, and in a few hours half the city
was on the road to the Cherry-man's.
He had a beautiful orchard of cherry-trees all laden with fruit. And,
sure enough in one of the largest, way up amongst the topmost branches,
sat the Costumer in his red velvet and short clothes and his diamond
knee-buckles. He looked down between the green boughs. "Good-morning,
friends!" he shouted.
The Aldermen shook their gold-headed canes at him, and the people
danced round the tree in a rage. Then they began to climb. But they
soon found that to be impossible. As fast as they touched a hand or
foot to a tree, back it flew with a jerk exactly as if the tree pushed
it. They tried a ladder, but the ladder fell back the moment it touched
the tree, and lay sprawling upon the ground. Finally, they brought axes
and thought they could chop the tree down, Costumer and all; but the
wood resisted the axes as if it were iron, and only dented them,
receiving no impression itself.
Meanwhile, the Costumer sat up in the tree, eating cherries and
throwing the stones down. Finally he stood up on a stout branch, and,
looking down, addressed the people.
"It's of no use, your trying to accomplish anything in this way," said
he; "you'd better parley. I'm willing to come to terms with you, and
make everything right on two conditions."
The people grew quiet then, and the Mayor stepped forward as spokesman,
"Name your two conditions," said he rather testily. "You own, tacitly,
that you are the cause of all this trouble."
"Well" said the Costumer, reaching out for a handful of cherries, "this
Christmas Masquerade of yours was a beautiful idea; but you wouldn't do
it every year, and your successors might not do it at all. I want those
poor children to have a Christmas every year. My first condition is
that every poor child in the city hangs its stocking for gifts in the
City Hall on every Christmas Eve, and gets it filled, too. I want the
resolution filed and put away in the city archives."
"We agree to the first condition!" cried the people with one voice,
without waiting for the Mayor and Aldermen.
"The second condition," said the Costumer, "is that this good young
Cherry-man here has the Mayor's daughter, Violetta, for his wife. He
has been kind to me, letting me live in his cherry-tree and eat his
cherries and I want to reward him."
"We consent," cried all the people; but the Mayor, though he was so
generous, was a proud man. "I will not consent to the second
condition," he cried angrily.
"Very well," replied the Costumer, picking some more cherries, "then
your youngest daughter tends geese the rest of her life, that's all."
The Mayor was in great distress; but the thought of his youngest
daughter being a goose-girl all her life was too much for him. He gave
in at last.
"Now go home and take the costumes off your children," said the
Costumer, "and leave me in peace to eat cherries."
Then the people hastened back to the city, and found, to their great
delight, that the costumes would come off. The pins stayed out, the
buttons stayed unbuttoned, and the strings stayed untied. The children
were dressed in their own proper clothes and were their own proper
selves once more. The shepherdesses and the chimney-sweeps came home,
and were washed and dressed in silks and velvets, and went to
embroidering and playing lawn-tennis. And the princesses and the
fairies put on their own suitable dresses, and went about their useful
employments. There was great rejoicing in every home. Violetta thought
she had never been so happy, now that her dear little sister was no
longer a goose-girl, but her own dainty little lady-self.
The resolution to provide every poor child in the city with a stocking
full of gifts on Christmas was solemnly filed, and deposited in the
city archives, and was never broken.
Violetta was married to the Cherry-man, and all the children came to
the wedding, and strewed flowers in her path till her feet were quite
hidden in them. The Costumer had mysteriously disappeared from the
cherry-tree the night before, but he left at the foot some beautiful
wedding presents for the bride--a silver service with a pattern of
cherries engraved on it, and a set of china with cherries on it, in
hand painting, and a white satin robe, embroidered with cherries down
IV. THE SHEPHERDS AND THE ANGELS
ADAPTED FROM THE BIBLE
And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and
keeping watch by night over their flock. And an angel of the Lord stood
by them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were
sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people:
for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, which
is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign unto you; ye shall find a babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. And suddenly there
was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Good will toward men.
And it came to pass, when the angels went away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem,
and see this thing that is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known
unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the
babe lying in the manger. And when they saw it, they made known
concerning the saying which was spoken to them about this child. And
all that heard it wondered at the things which were spoken unto them by
the shepherds. But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her
heart. And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all
the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken unto
And when eight days were fulfilled his name was called
V. THE TELLTALE TILE*
* From "Kristy's Queer Christmas," Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.
OLIVE THORNE MILLER
It begins with a bit of gossip of a neighbour who had come in to see
Miss Bennett, and was telling her about a family who had lately moved
into the place and were in serious trouble. "And they do say she'll
have to go to the poorhouse," she ended.
"To the poorhouse! how dreadful! And the children, too?" and Miss
"Yes; unless somebody'll adopt them, and that's not very likely. Well,
I must go," the visitor went on, rising. "I wish I could do something
for her, but, with my houseful of children, I've got use for every
penny I can rake and scrape."
"I'm sure I have, with only myself," said Miss Bennett, as she closed
the door. "I'm sure I have," she repeated to herself as she resumed her
knitting; "it's as much as I can do to make ends meet, scrimping as I
do, not to speak of laying up a cent for sickness and old age."
"But the poorhouse!" she said again. "I wish I could help her!" and the
needles flew in and out, in and out, faster than ever, as she turned
this over in her mind. "I might give up something," she said at last,
"though I don't know what, unless--unless," she said slowly, thinking
of her one luxury, "unless I give up my tea, and it don't seem as if I
COULD do that."
Some time the thought worked in her mind, and finally she resolved to
make the sacrifice of her only indulgence for six months, and send the
money to her suffering neighbour, Mrs. Stanley, though she had never
seen her, and she had only heard she was in want.
How much of a sacrifice that was you can hardly guess, you, Kristy, who
have so many luxuries.
That evening Mrs. Stanley was surprised by a small gift of money "from
a friend," as was said on the envelope containing it.
"Who sent it?" she asked, from the bed where she was lying.
"Miss Bennett told me not to tell," said the boy, unconscious that he
had already told.
The next day Miss Bennett sat at the window knitting, as usual--for her
constant contribution to the poor fund of the church was a certain
number of stockings and mittens--when she saw a young girl coming up to
the door of the cottage.
"Who can that be?" she said to herself. "I never saw her before. Come
in!" she called; in answer to a knock. The girl entered, and walked up
to Miss Bennett.
"Are you Miss Bennett?" she asked.
"Yes," said Miss Bennett with an amused smile,
"Well, I'm Hetty Stanley."
Miss Bennett started, and her colour grew a little brighter.
"I'm glad to see you, Hetty." she said, "won't you sit down?"
"Yes, if you please," said Hetty, taking a chair near her.
"I came to tell you how much we love you for--"
"Oh, don't! don't say any more!" interrupted Miss Bennett; "never mind
that! Tell me about your mother and your baby brother."
This was an interesting subject, and they talked earnestly about it.
The time passed so quickly that, before she knew it, she had been in
the house an hour. When she went away Miss Bennett asked her to come
again, a thing she had never been known to do before, for she was not
fond of young people in general.
"But, then, Hetty's different," she said to herself, when wondering at
her own interest.
"Did you thank kind Miss Bennett?" was her mother's question as Hetty
opened the door.
Hetty stopped as if struck, "Why, no! I don't think I did."
"And stayed so long, too? Whatever did you do? I've heard she isn't
fond of people generally."
"We talked; and--I think she's ever so nice. She asked me to come
again; may I?"
"Of course you may, if she cares to have you. I should be glad to do
something to please her."
That visit of Hetty's was the first of a long series. Almost every day
she found her way to the lonely cottage, where a visitor rarely came,
and a strange intimacy grew up between the old and the young. Hetty
learned of her friend to knit, and many an hour they spent knitting
while Miss Bennett ransacked her memory for stories to tell. And then,
one day, she brought down from a big chest in the garret two of the
books she used to have when she was young, and let Hetty look at them.
One was "Thaddeus of Warsaw," and the other "Scottish Chiefs." Poor
Hetty had not the dozens of books you have, and these were treasures
indeed. She read them to herself, and she read them aloud to Miss
Bennett, who, much to her own surprise, found her interest almost as
eager as Hetty's.
All this time Christmas was drawing near, and strange, unusual feelings
began to stir in Miss Bennett's heart, though generally she did not
think much about that happy time. She wanted to make Hetty a happy day.
Money she had none, so she went into the garret, where her youthful
treasures had long been hidden. From the chest from which she had taken
the books she now took a small box of light-coloured wood, with a
transferred engraving on the cover. With a sigh--for the sight of it
brought up old memories--Miss Bennett lifted the cover by its loop of
ribbon, took out a package of old letters, and went downstairs with the
box, taking also a few bits of bright silk from a bundle in the chest.
"I can fit it up for a workbox," she said, "and I'm sure Hetty will
For many days after this Miss Bennett had her secret work, which she
carefully hid when she saw Hetty coming. Slowly, in this way, she made
a pretty needle-book, a tiny pincushion, and an emery bag like a big
strawberry. Then from her own scanty stock she added needles, pins,
thread, and her only pair of small scissors, scoured to the last
extreme of brightness.
One thing only she had to buy--a thimble, and that she bought for a
penny, of brass so bright it was quite as handsome as gold.
Very pretty the little box looked when full; in the bottom lay a
quilted lining, which had always been there, and upon this the fittings
she had made. Besides this, Miss Bennett knit a pair of mittens for
each of Hetty's brothers and sisters.
The happiest girl in town on Christmas morning was Hetty Stanley. To
begin with, she had the delight of giving the mittens to the children,
and when she ran over to tell Miss Bennett how pleased they were, she
was surprised by the present of the odd little workbox and its pretty
Christmas was over all too soon, and New Year's, and it was about the
middle of January that the time came which, all her life, Miss Bennett
had dreaded--the time when she should be helpless. She had not money
enough to hire a girl, and so the only thing she could imagine when
that day should come was her special horror--the poorhouse.
But that good deed of hers had already borne fruit, and was still
bearing. When Hetty came over one day, and found her dear friend lying
on the floor as if dead, she was dreadfully frightened, of course, but
she ran after the neighbours and the doctor, and bustled about the
house as if she belonged to it.
Miss Bennett was not dead--she had a slight stroke of paralysis; and
though she was soon better, and would be able to talk, and probably to
knit, and possibly to get about the house, she would never be able to
live alone and do everything for herself, as she had done.
So the doctor told the neighbours who came in to help, and so Hetty
heard, as she listened eagerly for news.
"Of course she can't live here any longer; she'll have to go to a
hospital," said one woman.
"Or to the poorhouse, more likely," said another.
"She'll hate that," said the first speaker. "I've heard her shudder
over the poorhouse."
"She shall never go there!" declared Hetty, with blazing eyes.
"Hoity-toity! who's to prevent?" asked the second speaker, turning a
look of disdain on Hetty.
"I am," was the fearless answer. "I know all Miss Bennett's ways, and I
can take care of her, and I will," went on Hetty indignantly; and
turning suddenly, she was surprised to find Miss Bennett's eyes fixed
on her with an eager, questioning look.
"There! she understands! she's better!" cried Hetty. "Mayn't I stay and
take care of you, dear Miss Bennett?" she asked, running up to the bed.
"Yes, you may," interrupted the doctor, seeing the look in his
patient's face; "but you mustn't agitate her now. And now, my good
women"--turning to the others--"I think she can get along with her
young friend here, whom I happen to know is a womanly young girl, and
will be attentive and careful."
They took the hint and went away, and the doctor gave directions to
Hetty what to do, telling her she must not leave Miss Bennett. So she
was now regularly installed as nurse and housekeeper.
Days and weeks rolled by. Miss Bennett was able to be up in her chair,
to talk and knit, and to walk about the house, but was not able to be
left alone. Indeed, she had a horror of being left alone; she could not
bear Hetty out of her sight, and Hetty's mother was very willing to
spare her, for she had many mouths to fill.
To provide food for two out of what had been scrimping for one was a
problem; but Miss Bennett ate very little, and she did not resume her
tea so they managed to get along and not really suffer.
One day Hetty sat by the fire with her precious box on her knee, which
she was putting to rights for the twentieth time. The box was empty,
and her sharp young eyes noticed a little dust on the silk lining.
"I think I'll take this out and dust it," she said to Miss Bennett, "if
you don't mind."
"Do as you like with it," answered Miss Bennett; "it is yours."
So she carefully lifted the silk, which stuck a little.
"Why, here's something under it," she said--"an old paper, and it has
"Bring it to me," said Miss Bennett; "perhaps it's a letter I have
Hetty brought it.
"Why, it's father's writing!" said Miss Bennett, looking closely at the
faded paper; "and what can it mean? I never saw it before. It says,
'Look, and ye shall find'--that's a Bible text. And what is this under
it? 'A word to the wise is sufficient.' I don't understand--he must
have put it there himself, for I never took that lining out--I thought
it was fastened. What can it mean?" and she pondered over it long, and
all day seemed absent-minded.
After tea, when they sat before the kitchen fire, as they always did,
with only the firelight flickering and dancing on the walls while they
knitted, or told stories, or talked, she told Hetty about her father:
that they had lived comfortably in this house, which he built, and that
everybody supposed that he had plenty of money, and would leave enough
to take care of his only child, but that when he died suddenly nothing
had been found, and nothing ever had been, from that day to this.
"Part of the place I let to John Thompson, Hetty, and that rent is all
I have to live on. I don't know what makes me think of old times so
"I know," said Hetty; "it's that paper, and I know what it reminds me
of," she suddenly shouted, in a way very unusual with her. "It's that
tile over there," and she jumped up and ran to the side of the
fireplace, and put her hand on the tile she meant.
On each side of the fireplace was a row of tiles. They were Bible
subjects, and Miss Bennett had often told Hetty the story of each one,
and also the stories she used to make up about them when she was young.
The one Hetty had her hand on now bore the picture of a woman standing
before a closed door, and below her the words of the yellow bit of
paper: "Look, and ye shall find."
"I always felt there was something different about that," said Hetty
eagerly, "and you know you told me your father talked to you about
it--about what to seek in the world when he was gone away, and other
"Yes, so he did," said Miss Bennett thoughtfully; "come to think of it,
he said a great deal about it, and in a meaning way. I don't understand
it," she said slowly, turning it over in her mind.
"I do!" cried Hetty, enthusiastically. "I believe you are to seek here!
I believe it's loose!" and she tried to shake it. "It IS loose!" she
cried excitedly. "Oh, Miss Bennett, may I take it out?"
Miss Bennett had turned deadly pale. "Yes," she gasped, hardly knowing
what she expected, or dared to hope.
A sudden push from Hetty's strong fingers, and the tile slipped out at
one side and fell to the floor. Behind it was an opening into the
brickwork. Hetty thrust in her hand.
"There's something in there!" she said in an awed tone.
"A light!" said Miss Bennett hoarsely.
There was not a candle in the house, but Hetty seized a brand from the
fire, and held it up and looked in.
"It looks like bags--tied up," she cried. "Oh, come here yourself!"
The old woman hobbled over and thrust her hand into the hole, bringing
out what was once a bag, but which crumpled to pieces in her hands, and
with it--oh, wonder!--a handful of gold pieces, which fell with a
jingle on the hearth, and rolled every way.
"My father's money! Oh, Hetty!" was all she could say, and she seized a
chair to keep from falling, while Hetty was nearly wild, and talked
like a crazy person.
"Oh, goody! goody! now you can have things to eat! and we can have a
candle! and you won't have to go to the poorhouse!"
"No, indeed, you dear child!" cried Miss Bennett who had found her
voice. "Thanks to you--you blessing!--I shall be comfortable now the
rest of my days. And you! oh! I shall never forget you! Through you has
everything good come to me."
"Oh, but you have been so good to me, dear Miss Bennett!"
"I should never have guessed it, you precious child! If it had not been
for your quickness I should have died and never found it."
"And if you hadn't given me the box, it might have rusted away in that
"Thank God for everything, child! Take money out of my purse and go buy
a candle. We need not save it for bread now. Oh, child!" she
interrupted herself, "do you know, we shall have everything we want
to-morrow. Go! Go! I want to see how much there is."
The candle bought, the gold was taken out and counted, and proved to be
more than enough to give Miss Bennett a comfortable income without
touching the principal. It was put back, and the tile replaced, as the
safest place to keep it till morning, when Miss Bennett intended to put
it into a bank.
But though they went to bed, there was not a wink of sleep for Miss
Bennett, for planning what she would do. There were a thousand things
she wanted to do first. To get clothes for Hetty, to brighten up the
old house, to hire a girl to relieve Hetty, so that the dear child
should go to school, to train her into a noble woman--all her old
ambitions and wishes for herself sprang into life for Hetty. For not a
thought of her future life was separate from Hetty.
In a very short time everything was changed in Miss Bennett's cottage.
She had publicly adopted Hetty, and announced her as her heir. A girl
had been installed in the kitchen, and Hetty, in pretty new clothes,
had begun school. Fresh paint inside and out, with many new comforts,
made the old house charming and bright. But nothing could change the
pleasant and happy relations between the two friends, and a more
contented and cheerful household could not be found anywhere.
Happiness is a wonderful doctor and Miss Bennett grew so much better,
that she could travel, and when Hetty had finished school days, they
saw a little of the world before they settled down to a quiet, useful
"Every comfort on earth I owe to you," said Hetty, one day, when Miss
Bennett had proposed some new thing to add to her enjoyment.
"Ah, dear Hetty! how much do I owe to you! But for you, I should, no
doubt, be at this moment a shivering pauper in that terrible poorhouse,
while some one else would be living in this dear old house. And it all
comes," she added softly, "of that one unselfish thought, of that one
self-denial for others."
VI. LITTLE GIRL'S CHRISTMAS WINNIFRED E. LINCOLN
WINNIFRED E. LINCOLN
It was Christmas Eve, and Little Girl had just hung up her stocking by
the fireplace--right where it would be all ready for Santa when he
slipped down the chimney. She knew he was coming, because--well,
because it was Christmas Eve, and because he always had come to leave
gifts for her on all the other Christmas Eves that she could remember,
and because she had seen his pictures everywhere down town that
afternoon when she was out with Mother.
Still, she wasn't JUST satisfied. 'Way down in her heart she was a
little uncertain--you see, when you have never really and truly seen a
person with your very own eyes, it's hard to feel as if you exactly
believed in him--even though that person always has left beautiful
gifts for you every time he has come.
"Oh, he'll come," said Little Girl; "I just know he will be here before
morning, but somehow I wish--"
"Well, what do you wish?" said a Tiny Voice close by her--so close that
Little Girl fairly jumped when she heard it.
"Why, I wish I could SEE Santa myself. I'd just like to go and see his
house and his workshop, and ride in his sleigh, and know Mrs.
Santa--'twould be such fun, and then I'd KNOW for sure."
"Why don't you go, then?" said Tiny Voice. "It's easy enough. Just try
on these Shoes, and take this Light in your hand, and you'll find your
way all right."
So Little Girl looked down on the hearth, and there were two cunning
little Shoes side by side, and a little Spark of a Light close to
them--just as if they were all made out of one of the glowing coals of
the wood-fire. Such cunning Shoes as they were--Little Girl could
hardly wait to pull off her slippers and try them on. They looked as if
they were too small, but they weren't--they fitted exactly right, and
just as Little Girl had put them both on and had taken the Light in her
hand, along came a little Breath of Wind, and away she went up the
chimney, along with ever so many other little Sparks, past the Soot
Fairies, and out into the Open Air, where Jack Frost and the Star Beams
were all busy at work making the world look pretty for Christmas.
Away went Little Girl--Two Shoes, Bright Light, and all--higher and
higher, until she looked like a wee bit of a star up in the sky. It was
the funniest thing, but she seemed to know the way perfectly, and
didn't have to stop to make inquiries anywhere. You see it was a
straight road all the way, and when one doesn't have to think about
turning to the right or the left, it makes things very much easier.
Pretty soon Little Girl noticed that there was a bright light all
around her--oh, a very bright light--and right away something down in
her heart began to make her feel very happy indeed. She didn't know
that the Christmas spirits and little Christmas fairies were all around
her and even right inside her, because she couldn't see a single one of
them, even though her eyes were very bright and could usually see a
But that was just it, and Little Girl felt as if she wanted to laugh
and sing and be glad. It made her remember the Sick Boy who lived next
door, and she said to herself that she would carry him one of her
prettiest picture-books in the morning, so that he could have something
to make him happy all day. By and by, when the bright light all around
her had grown very, very much brighter, Little Girl saw a path right in
front of her, all straight and trim, leading up a hill to a big, big
house with ever and ever so many windows in it. When she had gone just
a bit nearer, she saw candles in every window, red and green and yellow
ones, and every one burning brightly, so Little Girl knew right away
that these were Christmas candles to light her on her journey, and make
the way dear for her, and something told her that this was Santa's
house, and that pretty soon she would perhaps see Santa himself.
Just as she neared the steps and before she could possibly have had
time to ring the bell, the door opened--opened of itself as wide as
could be--and there stood--not Santa himself--don't think it--but a
funny Little Man with slender little legs and a roly-poly stomach which
shook every now and then when he laughed. You would have known right
away, just as Little Girl knew, that he was a very happy little man,
and you would have guessed right away, too, that the reason he was so
roly-poly was because he laughed and chuckled and smiled all the
time--for it's only sour, cross folks who are thin and skimpy. Quick as
a wink, he pulled off his little peaked red cap, smiled the broadest
kind of a smile, and said, "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Come in!
So in went Little Girl, holding fast to Little Man's hand, and when she
was really inside there was the jolliest, reddest fire all glowing and
snapping, and there were Little Man and all his brothers and sisters,
who said their names were "Merry Christmas," and "Good Cheer," and ever
so many other jolly-sounding things, and there were such a lot of them
that Little Girl just knew she never could count them, no matter how
long she tried.
All around her were bundles and boxes and piles of toys and games, and
Little Girl knew that these were all ready and waiting to be loaded
into Santa's big sleigh for his reindeer to whirl them away over
cloudtops and snowdrifts to the little people down below who had left
their stockings all ready for him. Pretty soon all the little Good
Cheer Brothers began to hurry and bustle and carry out the bundles as
fast as they could to the steps where Little Girl could hear the
jingling bells and the stamping of hoofs. So Little Girl picked up some
bundles and skipped along too, for she wanted to help a bit
herself--it's no fun whatever at Christmas unless you can help, you
know--and there in the yard stood the BIGGEST sleigh that Little Girl
had ever seen, and the reindeer were all stamping and prancing and
jingling the bells on their harnesses, because they were so eager to be
on their way to the Earth once more.
She could hardly wait for Santa to come, and just as she had begun to
wonder where he was, the door opened again and out came a whole forest
of Christmas trees, at least it looked just as if a whole forest had
started out for a walk somewhere, but a second glance showed Little
Girl that there were thousands of Christmas sprites, and that each one
carried a tree or a big Christmas wreath on his back. Behind them all,
she could hear some one laughing loudly, and talking in a big, jovial
voice that sounded as if he were good friends with the whole world.
And straightway she knew that Santa himself was coming. Little Girl's
heart went pit-a-pat for a minute while she wondered if Santa would
notice her, but she didn't have to wonder long, for he spied her at
once and said:
"Bless my soul! who's this? and where did you come from?"
Little Girl thought perhaps she might be afraid to answer him, but she
wasn't one bit afraid. You see he had such a kind little twinkle in his
eyes that she felt happy right away as she replied, "Oh, I'm Little
Girl, and I wanted so much to see Santa that I just came, and here I
"Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!" laughed Santa, "and here you are! Wanted to see
Santa, did you, and so you came! Now that's very nice, and it's too bad
I'm in such a hurry, for we should like nothing better than to show you
about and give you a real good time. But you see it is quarter of
twelve now, and I must be on my way at once, else I'll never reach that
first chimney-top by midnight. I'd call Mrs. Santa and ask her to get
you some supper, but she is busy finishing dolls' clothes which must be
done before morning, and I guess we'd better not bother her. Is there
anything that you would like, Little Girl?" and good old Santa put his
big warm hand on Little Girl's curls and she felt its warmth and
kindness clear down to her very heart. You see, my dears, that even
though Santa was in such a great hurry, he wasn't too busy to stop and
make some one happy for a minute, even if it was some one no bigger
than Little Girl.
So she smiled back into Santa's face and said: "Oh, Santa, if I could
ONLY ride down to Earth with you behind those splendid reindeer! I'd
love to go; won't you PLEASE take me? I'm so small that I won't take up
much room on the seat, and I'll keep very still and not bother one bit!"
Then Santa laughed, SUCH a laugh, big and loud and rollicking, and he
said, "Wants a ride, does she? Well, well, shall we take her, Little
Elves? Shall we take her, Little Fairies? Shall we take her, Good
And all the Little Elves hopped and skipped and brought Little Girl a
sprig of holly; and all the Little Fairies bowed and smiled and brought
her a bit of mistletoe; and all the Good Reindeer jingled their bells
loudly, which meant, "Oh, yes! let's take her! She's a good Little
Girl! Let her ride!" And before Little Girl could even think, she found
herself all tucked up in the big fur robes beside Santa, and away they
went, right out into the air, over the clouds, through the Milky Way,
and right under the very handle of the Big Dipper, on, on, toward the
Earthland, whose lights Little Girl began to see twinkling away down
below her. Presently she felt the runners scrape upon something, and
she knew they must be on some one's roof, and that Santa would slip
down some one's chimney in a minute.
How she wanted to go, too! You see if you had never been down a chimney
and seen Santa fill up the stockings, you would want to go quite as
much as Little Girl did, now, wouldn't you? So, just as Little Girl was
wishing as hard as ever she could wish, she heard a Tiny Voice say,
"Hold tight to his arm! Hold tight to his arm!" So she held Santa's arm
tight and close, and he shouldered his pack, never thinking that it was
heavier than usual, and with a bound and a slide, there they were,
Santa, Little Girl, pack and all, right in the middle of a room where
there was a fireplace and stockings all hung up for Santa to fill.
Just then Santa noticed Little Girl. He had forgotten all about her for
a minute, and he was very much surprised to find that she had come,
too. "Bless my soul!" he said, "where did you come from, Little Girl?
and how in the world can we both get back up that chimney again? It's
easy enough to slide down, but it's quite another matter to climb up
again!" and Santa looked real worried. But Little Girl was beginning to
feel very tired by this time, for she had had a very exciting evening,
so she said, "Oh, never mind me, Santa. I've had such a good time, and
I'd just as soon stay here a while as not. I believe I'll curl up on
his hearth-rug a few minutes and have a little nap, for it looks as
warm and cozy as our own hearth-rug at home, and--why, it is our own
hearth and it's my own nursery, for there is Teddy Bear in his chair
where I leave him every night, and there's Bunny Cat curled up on his
cushion in the corner."
And Little Girl turned to thank Santa and say goodbye to him, but
either he had gone very quickly, or else she had fallen asleep very
quickly--she never could tell which--for the next thing she knew, Daddy
was holding her in his arms and was saying, "What is my Little Girl
doing here? She must go to bed, for it's Christmas Eve, and old Santa
won't come if he thinks there are any little folks about."
But Little Girl knew better than that, and when she began to tell him
all about it, and how the Christmas fairies had welcomed her, and how
Santa had given her such a fine ride, Daddy laughed and laughed, and
said, "You've been dreaming, Little Girl, you've been dreaming."
But Little Girl knew better than that, too, for there on the hearth was
the little Black Coal, which had given her Two Shoes and Bright Light,
and tight in her hand she held a holly berry which one of the Christmas
Sprites had placed there. More than all that, there she was on the
hearth-rug herself, just as Santa had left her, and that was the best
proof of all.
The trouble was, Daddy himself had never been a Little Girl, so he
couldn't tell anything about it, but we know she hadn't been dreaming,
now, don't we, my dears?
VII. "A CHRISTMAS MATINEE"*
*This story was first published in the Youth's Companion, vol. 74.
MRS. M.A.L. LANE
It was the day before Christmas in the year 189-. Snow was falling
heavily in the streets of Boston, but the crowd of shoppers seemed
undiminished. As the storm increased, groups gathered at the corners
and in sheltering doorways to wait for belated cars; but the holiday
cheer was in the air, and there was no grumbling. Mothers dragging
tired children through the slush of the streets; pretty girls hurrying
home for the holidays; here and there a harassed-looking man with
perhaps a single package which he had taken a whole morning to
select--all had the same spirit of tolerant good-humor.
"School Street! School Street!" called the conductor of an electric
car. A group of young people at the farther end of the car started to
their feet. One of them, a young man wearing a heavy fur-trimmed coat,
addressed the conductor angrily.
"I said, 'Music Hall,' didn't I?" he demanded. "Now we've got to walk
back in the snow because of your stupidity!"
"Oh, never mind, Frank!" one of the girls interposed. "We ought to have
been looking out ourselves! Six of us, and we went by without a
thought! It is all Mrs. Tirrell's fault! She shouldn't have been so
The young matron dimpled and blushed. "That's charming of you, Maidie,"
she said, gathering up her silk skirts as she prepared to step down
into the pond before her. "The compliment makes up for the blame. But
how it snows!"
"It doesn't matter. We all have gaiters on," returned Maidie Williams,
"Fares, please!" said the conductor stolidly.
Frank Armstrong thrust his gloved hand deep into his pocket with angry
vehemence. "There's your money," he said, "and be quick about the
change, will you? We've lost time enough!"
The man counted out the change with stiff, red fingers, closed his lips
firmly as if to keep back an obvious rejoinder, rang up the six fares
with careful accuracy, and gave the signal to go ahead. The car went on
into the drifting storm.
Armstrong laughed shortly as he rapidly counted the bits of silver
lying in his open palm. He turned instinctively, but two or three cars
were already between him and the one he was looking for.
"The fellow must be an imbecile," he said, rejoining the group on the
crossing. "He's given me back a dollar and twenty cents, and I handed
him a dollar bill."
"Oh, can't you stop him?" cried Maidie Williams, with a backward step
into the wet street.
The Harvard junior, who was carrying her umbrella, protested: "What's
the use. Miss Williams? He'll make it up before he gets to Scollay
Square, you may be sure. Those chaps don't lose anything. Why, the
other day, I gave one a quarter and he went off as cool as you please.
'Where's my change?' said I. 'You gave me a nickel,' said he. And there
wasn't anybody to swear that I didn't except myself, and I didn't
"But that doesn't make any difference," insisted the girl warmly.
"Because one conductor was dishonest, we needn't be. I beg your pardon,
Frank, but it does seem to me just stealing."
"Oh, come along!" said her cousin, with an easy laugh. "I guess the
West End Corporation won't go without their dinners to-morrow. Here,
Maidie, here's the ill-gotten fifty cents. _I_ think you ought to treat
us all after the concert; still, I won't urge you. I wash my hands of
all responsibility. But I do wish you hadn't such an unpleasant
Maidie flushed under the sting of his cousinly rudeness, but she went
on quietly with the rest. It was evident that any attempt to overtake
the car was out of the question.
"Did you notice his number, Frank?" she asked, suddenly.
"No, I never thought of it" said Frank, stopping short. "However, I
probably shouldn't make any complaint if I had. I shall forget all
about it tomorrow. I find it's never safe to let the sun go down on my
wrath. It's very likely not to be there the next day."
"I wasn't thinking of making a complaint," said Maidie; but the two
young men were enjoying the small joke too much to notice what she said.
The great doorway of Music Hall was just ahead. In a moment the party
were within its friendly shelter, stamping off the snow. The girls were
adjusting veils and hats with adroit feminine touches; the pretty
chaperon was beaming approval upon them, and the young men were taking
off their wet overcoats, when Maidie turned again in sudden desperation.
"Mr. Harris," she said, rather faintly, for she did not like to make
herself disagreeable, "do you suppose that car comes right back from
"What car?" asked Walter Harris, blankly. "Oh, the one we came in? Yes,
I suppose it does. They're running all the time, anyway. Why, you are
not sick, are you, Miss Williams?"
There was genuine concern in his tone. This girl, with her sweet,
vibrant voice, her clear gray eyes, seemed very charming to him. She
wasn't beautiful, perhaps, but she was the kind of girl he liked. There
was a steady earnestness in the gray eyes that made him think of his
"No," said Maidie, slowly. "I'm all right, thank you. But I wish I
could find that man again. I know sometimes they have to make it up if
their accounts are wrong, and I couldn't--we couldn't feel very
Frank Armstrong interrupted her. "Maidie," he said, with the studied
calmness with which one speaks to an unreasonable child, "you are
perfectly absurd. Here it is within five minutes of the tune for the
concert to begin. It is impossible to tell when that car is coming
back. You are making us all very uncomfortable. Mrs. Tirrell, won't you
please tell her not to spoil our afternoon?"
"I think he's right, Maidie," said Mrs. Tirrell. "It's very nice of you
to feel so sorry for the poor man, but he really was very careless. It
was all his own fault. And just think how far he made us walk! My feet
are quite damp. We ought to go in directly or we shall all take cold,
and I'm sure you wouldn't like that, my dear."
She led the way as she spoke, the two girls and young Armstrong
following. Maidie hesitated. It was so easy to go in, to forget
everything in the light and warmth and excitement.
"No," said she, very firmly, and as much to herself as to the young man
who stood waiting for her. "I must go back and try to make it right.
I'm so sorry, Mr. Harris, but if you will tell them--"
"Why, I'm going with you, of course" said the young fellow,
impulsively. "If I'd only looked once at the man I'd go alone, but I
shouldn't know him from Adam."
Maidie laughed. "Oh, I don't want to lose the whole concert, Mr.
Harris, and Frank, has all the tickets. You must go after them and try
to make my peace. I'll come just as soon as I can. Don't wait for me,
please. If you'll come and look for me here the first number, and not
let them scold me too much--" She ended with an imploring little catch
in her breath that was almost a sob.
"They sha'n't say a word, Miss Williams!" cried Walter Harris, with
honest admiration in his eyes.
But she was gone already, and conscious that further delay was only
making matters worse, he went on into the hall.
Meanwhile, the car swung heavily along the wet rails on its way to the
turning-point. It was nearly empty now. An old gentleman and his nurse
were the only occupants. Jim Stevens, the conductor, had stepped inside
"Too bad I forgot those young people wanted to get off at Music Hall,"
he was thinking to himself. "I don't see how I came to do it. That chap
looked as if he wanted to complain of me, and I don't know as I blame
him. I'd have said I was sorry if he hadn't been so sharp with his
tongue. I hope he won't complain just now. 'Twould be a pretty bad time
for me to get into trouble, with Mary and the baby both sick. I'm too
sleepy to be good for much, that's a fact. Sitting up three nights
running takes hold of a fellow somehow when he's at work all day. The
rent's paid, that's one thing, if it hasn't left me but half a dollar
to my name. Hullo!" He was struck by a sudden distinct recollection of
the coins he had returned. "Why, I gave him fifty cents too much!"
He glanced up at the dial which indicated the fares and began to count
the change in his pocket. He knew exactly how much money he had had at
the beginning of the trip. He counted carefully. Then he plunged his
hand into the heavy canvas pocket of his coat. Perhaps he had half a
dollar there. No, it was empty!
He faced the fact reluctantly. Fifty cents short, ten fares! Gone into
the pocket of the young gentleman with the fur collar! The conductor's
hand shook as he put the money back in his pocket. It meant--what did
it mean? He drew a long breath.
Christmas Eve! A dark dreary little room upstairs in a noisy tenement
house. A pale, thin woman on a shabby lounge vainly trying to quiet a
fretful child. The child is thin and pale, too, with a hard, racking
cough. There is a small fire in the stove, a very small fire; coal is
so high. The medicine stands on the shelf. "Medicine won't do much
good," the doctor had said; "he needs beef and cream."
Jim's heart sank at the thought. He could almost hear the baby asking;
"Isn't papa coming soon? Isn't he, mamma?"
"Poor little kid!" Jim said, softly, under his breath. "And I shan't
have a thing to take home to him; nor Mary's violets, either. It'll be
the first Christmas that ever happened. I suppose that chap would think
it was ridiculous for me to be buying violets. He wouldn't understand
what the flowers mean to Mary. Perhaps he didn't notice I gave him too
much. That kind don't know how much they have. They just pull it out as
if it was newspaper."
The conductor went out into the snow to help the nurse, who was
assisting the old gentleman to the ground. Then the car swung on again.
Jim turned up the collar of his coat about his ears and stamped his
feet. There was the florist's shop where he had meant to buy the
violets, and the toy-shop was just around the corner.
A thought flashed across his tired brain. "Plenty of men would do it;
they do it every day. Nobody ever would be the poorer for it. This car
will be crowded going home. I needn't ring in every fare; nobody could
tell. But Mary! She wouldn't touch those violets if she knew. And she'd
know. I'd have to tell her. I couldn't keep it from her, she's that
He jumped off to adjust the trolley with a curious sense of unreality.
It couldn't be that he was really going home this Christmas Eve with
empty hands. Well, they must all suffer together for his carelessness.
It was his own fault, but it was hard. And he was so tired!
To his amazement he found his eyes were blurred as be watched the
people crowding into the car. What? Was he going to cry like a
baby--he, a great burly man of thirty years?
"It's no use," he thought. "I couldn't do it. The first time I gave
Mary violets was the night she said she'd marry me. I told her then I'd
do my best to make her proud of me. I guess she wouldn't be very proud
of a man who could cheat. She'd rather starve than have a ribbon she
couldn't pay for."
He rang up a dozen fares with a steady hand. The temptation was over.
Six more strokes--then nine without a falter. He even imagined the bell
rang more distinctly than usual, even encouragingly. The car stopped.
Jim flung the door open with a triumphant sweep of his arm. He felt
ready to face the world. But the baby--his arm dropped. It was hard.
He turned to help the young girl who was waiting at the step. Through
the whirling snow he saw her eager face, with a quick recognition
lighting the steady eyes, and wondered dimly, as he stood with his hand
on the signal-strap, where he could have seen her before.
He knew immediately.
"There was a mistake," she said, with a shy tremor in her voice. "You
gave us too much change and here it is." She held out to Jim the piece
of silver which had given him such an unhappy quarter of an hour.
He took it like one dazed. Would the young lady think he was crazy to
care so much about so small a coin? He must say something. "Thank you,
miss," he stammered as well as he could. "You see, I thought it was
gone--and there's the baby--and it's Christmas Eve--and my wife's
sick--and you can't understand--"
It certainly was not remarkable that she couldn't.
"But I do," she said, simply. "I was afraid of that. And I thought
perhaps there was a baby, so I brought my Christmas present for her,"
and something else dropped into Jim's cold hand.
"What you waiting for?" shouted the motorman from the front platform.
The girl had disappeared in the snow.
Jim rang the bell to go ahead, and gazed again at the two shining half
dollars in his hand.
"I didn't have a chance to tell her," he explained to his wife late in
the evening, as he sat in a tiny rocking-chair several sizes too small
for him, "that the baby wasn't a her at all, though if I thought he'd
grow up into such a lovely one as she is, I don't know but I almost
wish he was."
"Poor Jim!" said Mary, with a little laugh as she put up her hand to
stroke his rough cheek. "I guess you're tired."
"And I should say," he added, stretching out his long legs toward the
few red sparks in the bottom of the grate, "I should say she had tears
in her eyes, too, but I was that near crying myself I couldn't be sure."
The little room was sweet with the odour of English violets. Asleep in
the bed lay the boy, a toy horse clasped close to his breast.
"Bless her heart!" said Mary, softly.
"Well, Miss Williams," said Walter Harris, as he sprang to meet a
snow-covered figure coming swiftly along the sidewalk. "I can see that
you found him. You've lost the first number, but they won't scold
you--not this time."
The girl turned a radiant face upon him. "Thank you," she said, shaking
the snowy crystals from her skirt. "I don't care now if they do. I
should have lost more than that if I had stayed."
VIII. TOINETTE AND THE ELVES*
* Published by arrangement with Little, Brown & Co.
The winter's sun was nearing the horizon's edge. Each moment the tree
shadows grew longer in the forest; each moment the crimson light on the
upper boughs became more red and bright. It was Christmas Eve, or would
be in half an hour, when the sun should be fairly set; but it did not
feel like Christmas, for the afternoon was mild and sweet, and the wind
in the leafless boughs sang, as it moved about, as though to imitate
the vanished birds. Soft trills and whistles, odd little shakes and
twitters--it was astonishing what pretty noises the wind made, for it
was in good humor, as winds should be on the Blessed Night; all its
storm-tones and bass-notes were for the moment laid aside, and gently
as though hushing a baby to sleep, it cooed and rustled and brushed to
and fro in the leafless woods.
Toinette stood, pitcher in hand, beside the well. "Wishing Well," the
people called it, for they believed that if any one standing there
bowed to the East, repeated a certain rhyme and wished a wish, the wish
would certainly come true. Unluckily, nobody knew exactly what the
rhyme should be. Toinette did not; she was wishing that she did, as she
stood with her eyes fixed on the bubbling water. How nice it would be!
she thought. What beautiful things should be hers, if it were only to
wish and to have. She would be beautiful, rich, good--oh, so good. The
children should love her dearly, and never be disagreeable. Mother
should not work so hard--they should all go back to France--which
mother said was si belle. Oh, dear, how nice it would be. Meantime, the
sun sank lower, and mother at home was waiting for the water, but
Toinette forgot that.
Suddenly she started. A low sound of crying met her ear, and something
like a tiny moan. It seemed close by but she saw nothing.
Hastily she filled her pitcher and turned to go. But again the sound
came, an unmistakable sob, right under her feet. Toinette stopped short.
"What is the matter?" she called out bravely. "Is anybody there? and if
there is, why don't I see you?"
A third sob--and all at once, down on the ground beside her, a tiny
figure became visible, so small that Toinette had to kneel and stoop
her head to see it plainly. The figure was that of an odd little man.
He wore a garb of green bright and glancing as the scales of a beetle.
In his mite of a hand was a cap, out of which stuck a long pointed
feather. Two specks of tears stood on his cheeks and he fixed on
Toinette a glance so sharp and so sad that it made her feel sorry and
frightened and confused all at once.
"Why how funny this is!" she said, speaking to herself out loud.
"Not at all," replied the little man, in a voice as dry and crisp as
the chirr of a grasshopper. "Anything but funny. I wish you wouldn't
use such words. It hurts my feelings, Toinette."
"Do you know my name, then?" cried Toinette, astonished. "That's
strange. But what is the matter? Why are you crying so, little man?"
"I'm not a little man. I'm an elf," responded the dry voice; "and I
think you'd cry if you had an engagement out to tea, and found yourself
spiked on a great bayonet, so that you couldn't move an inch. Look!" He
turned a little as he spoke and Toinette saw a long rose-thorn sticking
through the back of the green robe. The little man could by no means
reach the thorn, and it held him fast prisoner to the place.
"Is that all? I'll take it out for you," she said.
"Be careful--oh, be careful," entreated the little man. "This is my new
dress, you know--my Christmas suit, and it's got to last a year. If
there is a hole in it, Peascod will tickle me and Bean Blossom tease,
till I shall wish myself dead." He stamped with vexation at the thought.
"Now, you mustn't do that," said Toinette, in a motherly tone, "else
you'll tear it yourself, you know." She broke off the thorn as she
spoke, and gently drew it out. The elf anxiously examined the stuff. A
tiny puncture only was visible and his face brightened.
"You're a good child," he said. "I'll do as much for you some day,
"I would have come before if I had seen you," remarked Toinette,
timidly. "But I didn't see you a bit."
"No, because I had my cap on," cried the elf. He placed it on his head
as he spoke, and hey, presto! nobody was there, only a voice which
laughed and said: "Well--don't stare so. Lay your finger on me now."
"Oh," said Toinette, with a gasp. "How wonderful. What fun it must be
to do that. The children wouldn't see me. I should steal in and
surprise them; they would go on talking, and never guess that I was
there. I should so like it. Do elves ever lend their caps to anybody? I
wish you'd lend me yours. It must be so nice to be invisible."
"Ho," cried the elf, appearing suddenly again. "Lend my cap, indeed!
Why it wouldn't stay on the very tip of your ear, it's so small. As for
nice, that depends. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. No, the
only way for mortal people to be invisible is to gather the fern-seed
and put it in their shoes."
"Gather it? Where? I never saw any seed to the ferns," said Toinette,
staring about her.
"Of course not--we elves take care of that," replied the little man.
"Nobody finds the fern-seed but ourselves. I'll tell you what, though.
You were such a nice child to take out the thorn so cleverly, that I'll
give you a little of the seed. Then you can try the fun of being
invisible, to your heart's content."
"Will you really? How delightful. May I have it now?"
"Bless me. Do you think I carry my pockets stuffed with it?" said the
elf. "Not at all. Go home, say not a word to any one, but leave your
bedroom window open to night, and you'll see what you'll see."
He laid his finger on his nose as he spoke, gave a jump like a
grasshopper, clapping on his cap as he went, and vanished. Toinette
lingered a moment, in hopes that he might come back, then took her
pitcher and hurried home. The woods were very dusky by this time; but
full of her strange adventures, she did not remember to feel afraid.
"How long you have been," said her mother. "It's late for a little maid
like you to be up. You must make better speed another time, my child."
Toinette pouted as she was apt to do when reproved. The children
clamoured to know what had kept her, and she spoke pettishly and
crossly; so that they too became cross, and presently went away into
the outer kitchen to play by themselves. The children were apt to creep
away when Toinette came. It made her angry and unhappy at times that
they should do so, but she did not realize that it was in great part
her own fault, and so did not set herself to mend it.
"Tell me a 'tory," said baby Jeanneton, creeping to her knee a little
later. But Toinette's head was full of the elf; she had no time to
spare for Jeanneton.
"Oh, not to-night," she replied. "Ask mother to tell you one."
"Mother's busy," said Jeanneton wistfully.
Toinette took no notice and the little one crept away disconsolately.
Bedtime at last. Toinette set the casement open, and lay a long time
waiting and watching; then she fell asleep. She waked with a sneeze and
jump and sat up in bed. Behold, on the coverlet stood her elfin friend,
with a long train of other elves beside him, all clad in the
beetle-wing green, and wearing little pointed caps. More were coming in
at the window; outside a few were drifting about in the moon rays,
which lit their sparkling robes till they glittered like so many
fireflies. The odd thing was, that though the caps were on, Toinette
could see the elves distinctly and this surprised her so much, that
again she thought out loud and said, "How funny."
"You mean about the caps," replied her special elf, who seemed to have
the power of reading thought.
"Yes, you can see us to-night, caps and all. Spells lose their value on
Christmas Eve, always. Peascod, where is the box? Do you still wish to
try the experiment of being invisible, Toinette?"
"Oh, yes--indeed I do."
"Very well; so let it be."
As he spoke he beckoned, and two elves puffing and panting like little
men with a heavy load, dragged forward a droll little box about the
size of a pumpkin-seed.
One of them lifted the cover.
"Pay the porter, please, ma'am," he said giving Toinette's ear a
mischievous tweak with his sharp fingers.
"Hands off, you bad Peascod!" cried Toinette's elf. "This is my girl.
She shan't be pinched!" He dealt Peascod a blow with his tiny hand as
he spoke and looked so brave and warlike that he seemed at least an
inch taller than he had before. Toinette admired him very much; and
Peascod slunk away with an abashed giggle muttering that Thistle
needn't be so ready with his fist.
Thistle--for thus, it seemed, Toinette's friend was named--dipped his
fingers in the box, which was full of fine brown seeds, and shook a
handful into each of Toinette's shoes, as they stood, toes together by
"Now you have your wish," he said, and can go about and do what you
like, no one seeing. The charm will end at sunset. Make the most of it
while you can; but if you want to end it sooner, shake the seeds from
the shoes and then you are just as usual."
"Oh, I shan't want to," protested Toinette; "I'm sure I shan't."
"Good-bye," said Thistle, with a mocking little laugh.
"Good-bye, and thank you ever so much," replied Toinette.
"Good-bye, good-bye," replied the other elves, in shrill chorus. They
clustered together, as if in consultation; then straight out of the
window they flew like a swarm of gauzy-winged bees, and melted into the
moonlight. Toinette jumped up and ran to watch them but the little men
were gone--not a trace of them was to be seen; so she shut the window,
went back to bed and presently in the midst of her amazed and excited
thoughts fell asleep.
She waked in the morning, with a queer, doubtful feeling. Had she
dreamed, or had it really happened? She put on her best petticoat and
laced her blue bodice; for she thought the mother would perhaps take
them across the wood to the little chapel for the Christmas service.
Her long hair smoothed and tied, her shoes trimly fastened, downstairs