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A Free Story from Abela Publishing

From “This Way to Christmas” by Ruth Sawyer

 

Two months had passed since David had come to the Hill Country—two months in which he had thrown himself with all the stoutness of heart he could muster into the new life and the things Johanna had promised. He had spent long, crisp November days with Barney in the woods, watching him fell the trees marked for fire-wood and learning to use his end of a cross-cut saw. When the snow came and the lumber roads were packed hard for sledding he had shared in the driving of the team and the piling of the logs. He had learned to skee and to snow-shoe; already he had dulled his skates on the pond above the beaver dam. Yet in spite of all these things, in spite of Barney’s good-natured comradeship and Johanna’s faithful care and love, the ache in his heart had grown deeper until his loneliness seemed to shut him in like the snow-capped hills about him. And now it was seven days before Christmas—and not a word had been said concerning it.

a-country-christmas

Christmas in the Hill Country

David had begun to wonder if in all that country of bare hilltops and empty valleys, of snow and fir-tree and wild creature, there was anything out of which one could possibly make a Christmas. And slowly the conviction had been borne in upon him that there was not. The very thought of the toy-stores in the city, of the windows with their displays of Christmas knickknacks, of the street booths covered with greens, of what the boys on the block were doing and talking about, of the memories of all the other Christmases that had been, brought unspeakable pangs to his soul. He wondered how he was ever going to stand it—this Christmas that was no Christmas.

And this is how it happened that at dusk-hour, seven days before Christmas, a very low-spirited boy of eight—going-on-nine—sat curled up on the window-seat of the lodge, looking out through the diamond panes and wishing with all his heart that he was somebody else in some other place and that it was some other time of the year.

Barney was always bedding down the horses at this time and Johanna was getting supper; and as there was never anything in particular for David to do it had become a custom with him to watch for the lighting of the lamps in the cabins of the “heathen.” There were four cabins—only one was a cottage; and he could see them all from the lodge by a mere change of position or window. Somehow he liked them, or thought he should like them if he knew them, in spite of all the unalluring things Johanna had said about them. According to her the families who lived in them were outcasts, speaking strange tongues and worshiping strange gods, and quite unfit to cross the door-steps of honest Christian folk. David hardly knew whether Barney shared this opinion or not. Barney teased Johanna a good deal and laughed at her remarks every time she aired her grievance: that there should be no decent neighbors like themselves on all that barren hilltop. In his own heart David clung persistently to the feeling that he should like them all if he ever got near enough to make their acquaintance.

It was always the “lunger’s” lamp that shone out first in the dusk. David could usually tell to the minute when it would be lighted by watching the shadow on the foot-hill. Johanna was uncertain from what country these neighbors had come, but she thought it was Portugal. And Portuguese! Words always failed her when she tried to convey to David the exact place that Portuguese held among the heathen; but he was under the impression that it must be very near the top. One of these neighbors was sick with bad lungs, so his family had come to try the open-air cure of the hills; and they had been here since early spring. David never saw their tiny spark of a light spring out against the dark of the gathering gloom that he did not make a wish that the “lunger” might be a good deal better the next day.

Across the ridge from the foot-hill lay the lumber-camp, and here David always looked for the second light. The camp was temporarily deserted, the company having decided to wait a year or two before cutting down any more timber, and the loggers had been sent to another camp farther north. Only the cook, an old negro, had remained behind to guard the property from fire and poachers, and he it was that lighted in his shack the solitary lamp that sent its twinkling greeting up to David every night.

Straight down the hill shone the third light from the trapper’s cabin, and it was always close to dark before that was lighted. What the trapper’s nationality was Johanna had never happened to specify; but she had often declared that he was one of those bad-looking dark men from the East—Asia, perhaps; and she had not a doubt that he had come to the woods to escape the law. David’s mental picture of him was something quite dreadful; and yet when his light sprang out of the dark and twinkled at him up the white slope he always found himself desperately sorry for the trapper, alone by himself with the creatures he had trapped or shot—and his thoughts.

The fourth light came through another window, shining up from the opposite slope of the hill—the slope that led toward the station and the village beyond. This was the flagman’s light and it hung in the little hut by the junction where the main railroad crossed the circuit line. It was always lighted when David looked for it, and he always sat watching until he should see the colored signal-lights swing out on the track beyond, for then he knew the flagman’s work was over for the day—that is, if all was well on the road. It happened sometimes, however, that there was a snow-slide down the ravine above the crossing, or sometimes a storm uprooted a tree and hurled it across the track, and then the flagman was on guard all night. Now, the flagman was German; and Johanna’s voice always took on a particularly forbidding and contemptuous tone whenever she spoke of him. David had often marveled at this, for in the city his father had friends who were German and they were very good friends. Once David had spoken his mind:

“I don’t see why you call him a heathen, Johanna, just because he was born in the country that’s making the war. It wasn’t his fault—and I don’t see why that’s any reason for treating him as if he had made the trouble himself.”

“Well, how do ye think we’d be treated if we were over there now in that heathen’s country? Sure, ye wouldn’t find them loving us any to speak of.” Johanna’s lips had curled scornfully. “Ye can take my word for it, laddy, if we were there the same as he’s here we would be counting ourselves lucky to be alive at all, and not expecting to be asked in for any tea-drinking parties.”

It troubled David, none the less, this strange unfriendliness of Johanna’s; and this night the weight of it hung particularly heavy upon him. He turned back to his window-nook with a heart made heavier by this condition of alienage. No family, no neighbors, no Christmas—it was a dreary outlook; and he could not picture a single face or a single hearthside behind those four lights that blinked at him in such a friendly fashion.

A dozen yards from the Trappers cabin

They posted the sign a dozen yards from the Trappers cabin

He realized suddenly that he was very tired. Half the day he had spent clearing a space on the beaver pond big enough for skating; and clearing off a day’s fall of snow with a shovel and a broom is hard work. He leaned against the window niche and pillowed his head on his arm. He guessed he would go to bed right after supper. Wouldn’t it be fun now, if he could wish himself into one of those cabins, whichever one he chose, and see what was happening there this minute? If he had found the locked-out fairy Johanna had talked so much about he might have learned wishing magic from him. What had happened to the fairy, anyway? Of course it was half a tale and half a joke; nevertheless the locked-out fairy had continued to seem very real to him through these two months of isolation, and wherever he had gone his eye had been always alert for some sign of him. Unbelievable as it may seem, the failure to find him had brought keen disappointment. David had speculated many times as to where he might be living, where he would find his food, how he would keep himself warm. A fairy’s clothes were very light, according to Johanna. Undoubtedly he had come over in just his green jerkin and knee-breeches, with stockings and slippers to match; and these were not fit covering for winter weather like this.

David smiled through half-shut eyes. The fairy might steal a pelt from the trapper’s supply; that would certainly keep him warm; and if he were anything of a tailor he could make himself a cap and a coat in no time. Or, better yet, he might pick out one that just fitted him and creep into it without having to make it over; a mink’s skin would be about the right size, or a squirrel’s. His smile deepened at his own conceit. Then something in the dusk outside caught his eye. Some small creature was hopping across the snow toward the lodge.

David flattened his nose to the window to see better, and made out very distinctly the pointed ears, curved back, and long, bushy tail of a squirrel—a gray squirrel. At once he thought of some nuts in his jacket pocket, nuts left over from an after-dinner cracking. He dug for them successfully, and opening the window a little he dropped them out. Nearer came the squirrel, fearlessly eager, oblivious of the eyes that were watching him with growing interest. He reached the nuts and was nosing them about for the most appetizing when he sat up suddenly on his hind legs, clutching the nut of his choice between his forepaws, and cocking his head as he did so toward the window.

The effect on David was magical. He gave his eyes one insistent rub and then he opened the window wider.

“Come in,” he called, softly. “Please do come in!”

For he had seen under the alert little ears something quite different from the sharp nose and whiskers of the every-day squirrel. There were a pair of blue eyes that winked outrageously at him, while a round, smooth face wrinkled into smiles and a mouth knowingly grinned at him. It was the locked-out fairy at last!

He bobbed his head at David’s invitation, fastened his little white teeth firmly in the nut, and scrambled up the bush that grew just outside. A minute more and he was through the window and down beside David on the seat.

“Ah—ee, laddy, where have your eyes been this fortnight?” he asked. “I’ve whisked about ye and chattered down at ye from half a score o’ pine-trees—and ye never saw me!”

David colored shamefully.

“Never mind. ’Tis a compliment ye’ve been paying to my art,” and the fairy cocked his head and whisked his tail and hopped about in the most convincing fashion.

David held his sides and rocked back and forth with merriment. “It’s perfect,” he laughed; “simply perfect!”

“Aye, ’tis fair; but I’ve not mastered the knack o’ the tail yet. I can swing it grand, but I can’t curl it up stylish. I can fool the mortals easy enough, but ye should see the looks the squirrels give me sometimes when I’m after trying to show off before them.”

There was nothing but admiration in David’s look of response. “The coat fits you splendidly,” he said.

“Sure—’tis as snug as if it grew on me. But I miss my pockets, and I’m not liking the color as well as if it were green.”

David laughed again. “Why, I believe you are as Irish as Johanna.”

“And why shouldn’t I be? Faith, there are worse faults, I’m thinking. Now tell me, laddy, what’s ailing ye? Ye’ve been more than uncommon downhearted lately.”

“How did you know?”

“Could a wee fairy man be watching ye for a fortnight, coming and going, and not know?”

“Well, it’s lonesomeness; lonesomeness and Christmas.” David owned up to it bravely.

“’Tis easy guessing ye’re lonesome—that’s an ailment that’s growing chronic on this hillside. But what’s the matter with Christmas?”

“There isn’t any. There isn’t going to be any Christmas!” And having at last given utterance to his state of mind, David finished with a sorrowful wail.

“And why isn’t there, then? Tell me that.”

“You can’t make Christmas out of miles of snow and acres of fir-trees. What’s a boy going to do when there aren’t any stores or things to buy, or Christmas fixings, or people, and nobody goes about with secrets or surprises?”

The fairy pushed back the top of his head and the gray ears fell off like a fur hood, showing the fairy’s own tow head beneath. He reached for his thinking-lock and pulled it vigorously.

“I should say,” he said at last, “that a boy could do comfortably without them. Sure, weren’t there Christmases long before there were toy-shops? No, no, laddy. Christmas lies in the hearts and memories of good folk, and ye’ll find it wherever ye can find them!”

David shook his head doubtfully.

“I don’t see how that can be; but even suppose it’s true, there aren’t even good folk here.”

The fairy grinned derisively and wagged his furry paw in the direction of the lights shining on the hillside:

“What’s the meaning of that, and that, and that? Now I should be calling them good folk, the same as ye here.”

“Hush!” David looked furtively toward the door that led into the kitchen. “It wouldn’t do to let Johanna hear you. Why, she thinks—”

The fairy raised a silencing paw to his lips.

“Whist, there, laddy! If ye are after wanting to find Christmas ye’d best begin by passing on naught but kind sayings. Maybe ye are not knowing it, but they are the very cairn that mark the way to Christmas. Now I’ll drive a bargain with ye. If ye’ll start out and look for Christmas I’ll agree to help ye find the road to it.”

“Yes,” agreed David, eagerly.

“But there’s one thing ye must promise me. To put out of your mind for all time these notions that ye are bound to find Christmas hanging with the tinsel balls to the Christmas tree or tied to the end of a stocking. Ye must make up your mind to find it with your heart and not with your fingers and your eyes.”

“But,” objected David, “how can you have Christmas without Christmas things?”

“Ye can’t. But ye’ve got the wrong idea entirely about the things. Ye say now that it’s turkey and plum-cake and the presents ye give and the presents ye get; and I say ’tis thinkings and feelings and sayings and rememberings. I’m not meaning, mind ye, that there is anything the matter with the first lot, and there’s many a fine Christmas that has them in, but they’ll never make a Christmas of themselves, not in a thousand years. And what’s more, ye can do grand without them.”

David rubbed his forehead in abject bewilderment. It was all very hard to understand; and as far as he could see the fairy was pointing out a day that sounded like any ordinary day of the year and not at all like Christmas. But, thanks to Johanna, David had an absolute faith in the infallibility of fairies. If he said so it must be true; at least it was worth trying. So he held out his hand and the fairy laid a furry paw over the ball of his forefinger in solemn compact.

“It’s a bargain,” David said.

“It is that,” agreed the fairy. “And there’s nothing now to hinder my going.”

He pulled the gray ears over his tow head again until there was only a small part of fairy left.

“Don’t ye be forgetting,” he reminded David as he slipped through the window. “I’ll be on the watch out for ye the morrow.”

David watched him scramble down the bush, stopping a moment at the bottom to gather up the remainder of the nuts, which he stuffed away miraculously somewhere between his cheek and the fur. Then he raised a furry paw to his ear in a silent salute.

“Good-by,” said David, softly, “good-by. I’m so glad you came.”

And it seemed to him that he heard from over the snow the fairy’s good-by in Gaelic, just as Barney or Johanna might have said it: “Beanacht leat!

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TWtC_Front_Cover-w-border

THE LOCKED OUT FAIRY from the eBook THIS WAY TO CHRISTMAS by RUTH SAWYER.

ISBN: 9788835362913

URL/Download Link: https://bit.ly/2JTVpg4

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A Free excerpt from “The New Year’s Bargain”
by Susan Coolidge author of “What Katy Did Next” etc.

 

AND now the last evening of November was come; and Winter, stealing a march on the departing Autumn, let loose, as if in a hurry to begin, his first storm upon the world. Strong winds raged in the Forest, driving the leaves in clouds before them, and snapping and rending the patient, tortured trees. Ink-black clouds scared away the Moon, when she tried to shine; sharp sleet struck the windows of the Woodman’s hut, like a myriad of tiny fists; and the blast wailed and moaned about the chimney, like the voice of one in pain.

 

Max and Thekla heard the uproar, and trembled, as they sat by the fire. Often before had they listened to storms with a certain pleasurable sense that home was rendered snugger by the contrast. But now they shivered and clung together, and tears were in Thekla’s eyes as she nestled her head upon her brother’s shoulder. The kitchen did not wear its usual cheery look. And no wonder! There was sorrow in the cottage; for dear old Grandfather, who had loved them both so fondly, and been so loved in return, was gone away forever!

 

Only a week before he had died, quietly, painlessly, with a smile on his lips, and blessing them at the last. The far-away neighbors had assembled; and with pitying looks and kind words had taken the aged form, and laid it to rest beside other graves where slept the friends of his youth. But still, in spite of the lonely house and the vacant chair, Thekla could not feel that Grandfather was far away; and every hour she silently did this thing or that because it would once have pleased him to have them done, and the thought that he still knew and was pleased comforted her. And perhaps Thekla was right in her innocent faith, for the friends we can no longer see may be nearer to us than we think.

 

When an old tree is blown down, all the delicate grasses and sweet herbs which cluster at its foot are uprooted by the shock. So it was with these two little human flowers. The fall of their sheltering friend tore them from their accustomed place. Already the neighbors had talked over and settled what the children must do. Max was to be bound apprentice to a clockmaker in the distant town, and Thekla to live with a farmer’s dame who had offered to take and train her as a servant. The thought of parting was dreadful to them; and they had begged so hard and so tearfully to be allowed to stay together in the hut for a few weeks longer,—just till a new Ranger should take possession,—that at last, won by their distress, consent was given. There was wood and meal and vegetables enough in the cellar to keep them without expense to anybody. If the poor things liked to eat the stores themselves, instead of selling them, why it was a good plan, people said. So there the two sat on this stormy evening, alone in the lonely Forest, and expecting the arrival of December, last of that wonderful company who had made the year so strangely interesting.

 

They had not long to wait. There came a lull in the wind, and far off in the distance a voice was heard raised in a commanding tone, and gradually drawing nearer.

 

image“There! there!” were the first words they caught: “that will do. Leave the oaks alone, you rascals! Time enough for such pranks when I’m gone. As for that hemlock,—winds will be winds, I know, and what’s done can never be undone; but don’t let me catch you at another.” Here the voice ceased; then there was a rattling at the latch, and next moment the door opened, and in came a tall figure leaning on a staff, but moving so lightly and easily that it suggested anything rather than age or infirmity.

This was December, a fine, stately man, dressed in white and green, with a fur cloak flung about his shoulders and a hat decked with holly sprigs. Age and youth seemed funnily contrasted in his face; for, while hair and beard were white as hoar-frost, the cheeks were like ripe winter-apples, and the blue eyes sparkled with fun and fire. He entered with a sort of jolly rush; but, when he saw Thekla’s black frock and the traces of tears upon her cheeks, his mood changed at once. Closing the door gently, he sat down before the fire, and, holding out his hand with an expression of indescribable kindness, said in a tone full of sympathy, “My poor children!”

 

That was all: but in another moment Thekla’s arm was round his neck on one side, and Max’s on the other;—he had drawn them on to his knees, and they were sobbing out their griefs as if they had known him always. They told how sorry they were to part, how lonely the cottage seemed, how forlorn it was to be poor and at the mercy of others; and December listened, his eyes glistening with pity and his kind arms hugging them close. It was like having Grandfather back again, the children thought.

 

The new friend was wise. He did not interrupt or try to comfort till they had got quite through. It was wonderful what relief came just from telling all to somebody who cared to listen. By the time the story was over the boy and girl felt happier than for days; and not till then did December speak.

 

“Courage!” he said. “It’s always darkest just before day. Why, the Lord takes care of birds and cats and squirrels, of a whole world full of tiny winged creatures, and all the fishes of the sea. Do you suppose he will forget just you two, out of all the little ones whom he protects? Never! Why, I could tell you,—but I must not, it is not permitted,—only, even a Month may venture on a hint, and so I’ll just say, wait, and see what’s ahead!” And December ended this mysterious sentence with pursing up his lips very tight, winking hard with both eyes, and nodding his head in a singular and provoking manner.

 

“Oh, what?” cried the children.

 

“I shan’t say another word,” replied December. “No! you needn’t look at me with such big, imploring eyes: it’s no use. But just you keep up brave hearts, and trust in God,—and you’ll see! As for the Grandfather,” here his voice grew deep and solemn, like the sound of bells, “I know you miss him sorely; but don’t cry for him anymore. He has gone where he is young again; and, when your turn comes to go too, you will wonder that ever you shed a tear because he was made so very happy.”

 

December’s face became beautiful as he spoke these last words, and Thekla stole the other arm tenderly about his neck. A glittering chain hung there, with pendants shaped like icicles. Touching it, she started, it was so very cold.

 

“Is it made of ice?” she asked.

 

“Well, you can call it so, if you like,” responded December, smiling; “but I say ‘crystallized gases.’ It sounds better, I think.

 

“I hope it won’t put you out,” he went on, “if I should ask leave to read my story, instead of telling it. I am so very, very old, you see,”—here his eyes twinkled with fun,—“that my memory is almost gone; and, unless I write things down, I am always forgetting them.” Whereupon he pulled a roll of paper from his pocket, and perching a pair of spectacles with tortoise-shell rims on his nose, very high up, looked from under them at the children in a comical manner. Thekla and Max could not help laughing. In spite of his white hair, it seemed somehow a great joke that December should call himself so very, very old.

 

“It’s a cheerful kind of a story,” continued he. “I picked it out on purpose, for I guessed I should find you moping; and I thought something lively would be good for you.”

 

Thus speaking, December pushed the glasses up higher on his forehead, so as to be able to see well from beneath them, and began to read,—

 

“How the Cat kept Christmas.”

 

“What a queer name for a story!” said Thekla.

 

“Yes; and it was a queer Cat too,” replied December. “I knew her. Tortoise-shell, with long whiskers, and rather a ragged tail.”

 

Then he went on.

 

“The ringers were practising the Christmas chimes in low, muffled tones. High up, the steeple rocked in the wind, the clouds drifted rapidly over the moon, and clear and sharp the frost-film glittered on the roofs. The watchman on his round clapped and stamped to warm hands and feet, as he called the hour, ‘Eight o’clock, and all’s well!’ But, to the poor Cat crouched beneath the kitchen-window, all was not well.

 

“‘Oh dear!’ she sighed to herself, ‘what a thing it is to have a Step-mother! Once we were happy! The good Papa loved me, and I slept in Gretchen’s arms. The fire was bright in those days. Porringers of hot milk stood by it, and always a saucer full for me. Ah, dear days! The moment I saw that nose of hers, I knew they were over! Such a nose! so red, so long. Why did the Papa marry her? Men are so foolish. I hissed, I spit, I warned,—nobody listened, and here I am. The good Papa dares not protect me. Gretchen weeps: the Step-dame bars the door. Hew! what a wind! What a Christmas Eve! Poor Gretchen! Poor me!’ Overcome by her sorrows, the Cat gave a loud wail, which rang out into the chilly night. Then the door opened softly.

 

“‘Puss! puss!’ said a small voice, ‘where are you?’

 

“Pussy ran forward into view, and jumped and leaped at her mistress.

“‘Oh, my Katchen,’ went on the little one, ‘how cold it is! You will freeze! you will die. Oh, if I dared but let you in!’

 

“‘I’ll scratch her eyes out!’ muttered the Cat.

“‘Shall I throw my little red shawl to you from the window?’ continued Gretchen. ‘My poor one! my Kitty!’

 

“‘Gretchen!’ screamed a voice, ‘if you let that good-for-nothing Cat into the house, you taste the stick! Dost hear?’

 

“Gretchen turned pale. ‘O Kitty!’ was all she said. She gave a sob of despair. Then the door was shut.

 

“‘This is a nice business,’ thought the Cat. ‘Oh, the witch! I hope the mice will come down to-night, and steal the very teeth out of her head. But I’ll have vengeance yet. There’s that big gray rat in the cellar: I’ll strike a bargain with him,—life and liberty, provided he plagues her to death, eats the linen, claws the jam, gnaws bung-holes in the cask, and lets the beer out! We’ll see! Meantime, I shall freeze unless something is done. Let me explore.’

 

“High and low did the Cat search,—over the fence, under the vine,—but no shelter could be found. The vine was leafless, the fence gave no hiding-place. At last she bethought herself of the roof, which it was easy to mount by means of a long and sloping rain-trough. Perhaps there might be a warm chimney there,—no bad pillow on a wintry night.

 

“There proved to be a warmish one; and, curling into a ball, Puss laid herself to rest against it. Perhaps it was not warm enough, perhaps the remembrance of wrong was too bitter within her; certain it is she could not sleep. She wriggled, she twisted; she sent forth melancholy cries, which rang strangely across the icy roofs as if some ghost afflicted with toothache had gone there for an airing. Nine—ten—eleven—had sounded before she fell into her first doze,—the clock was on the stroke of twelve, when a scraping and scratching sound close by roused her. Was it some other cat? or the big rat from the cellar, scaling the wall? Raising herself cautiously, after the manner of cats, she listened.

 

“No: it was neither rat nor cat. Light hoofs as of goats were climbing the tiles, bells tinkled, a small sledge came in view. Swift as light it flew along, paused at the next chimney, and a little old man jumped out. His face shone in the moonlight like a jolly red apple, his fat body was wrapped in fur, on his back was a bag. Puss had never seen him before; but she knew him well. It was St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Christmas.

 

“Down the chimney he went, with a motion like a bird’s; up again as fast. Then advancing, he searched in his bag. His kind face looked puzzled. The Cat saw his hesitation, and sprang forward.

 

“‘Well, Puss,’ said the Saint, ‘what cheer?’

 

“‘Bad,’ said the Cat, no ways abashed at finding herself in such company. ‘But never mind me, if only you’ve something nice for Gretchen. Such a dear child, St. Nicholas, and such a step-mother! Do put your hand in the pouch, and fetch out something pretty for her,—oh do! there’s a kind Saint!’ And she rubbed her soft fur coaxingly against his legs.

 

“‘Ah! a dear child and a step-mother, eh?’ said St. Nicholas. ‘Let me look again. Certainly! here’s something for Gretchen.—Wo-ho, reindeer! quiet a moment!’ And down the chimney he whipped, a present in his hand,—what, the Cat couldn’t see.

 

“Coming back, ‘Now about yourself?’ he asked, gathering up the reins. ‘What keeps you on the cold roof all night? Something must be done, you know: matters can’t be left this way. Wish a wish, if you have one. I’m in a humor for pleasing everybody while I’m about it.’

 

“So the Cat told her story. ‘And for a wish,’ she said, ‘if your Saintship would only permit me to slip in under your furs, and go along, I should be proud and happy. They look very warm and comfortable. I should sleep; or, if not, it would be most interesting to watch your Worship at work. And I take very little room,’ she added piteously.

If your Saintship would only permit me to slip in under your furs, and go along

“So the Cat told her story. ‘
And for a wish,’ she said, ‘if your Saintship would only permit me
to slip in under your furs, and go along,’—‘
Why, jump in at once,’ said St. Nicholas.”

“‘Is that all? Why, jump in at once,’ said kind St. Nicholas: ‘there is room for forty cats like you. My sledge is never full. Ho! ho! it would be a pretty joke if it were!’ And he laughed a jolly laugh.

 

“So Pussy jumped in. ‘You must let me out in the morning early,’ said she, ‘because Gretchen will be anxious.’

 

“‘Oh, yes!’ replied the Saint, smiling queerly, ‘I’ll let you out in the morning. I’m like a bat, you know, and never fly except by night.’

 

“Off they went, the magic stillness of the flight broken only by the tinkling bells. First one chimney, then another; bag after bag full of toys and sweets; here a doll, there a diamond ring, here only a pair of warm stockings. Everybody had something, except in a few houses over whose roofs St. Nicholas paused a moment with a look half sad, half angry, and left nothing. People lived there who knew him little, and loved him less.

 

“Through the air,—more towns,—more villages. Now the sea was below them, the cold, moon-lit sea. Then again land came in sight,—towers and steeples, halls and hamlets; and the work began again. A wild longing to explore seized the Cat. She begged the Saint to take her down one specially wide chimney on his shoulder. He did so. The nursery within looked strange and foreign; but the little sleeping face in bed was like Gretchen’s, and Pussy felt at home. A whole bag full of presents was left here. And then, hey! presto! they were off again to countless homes,—to roofs so poor and low that only a Saint would have thought of visiting them, to stately palaces, to cellars and toll-gates and lonely attics; at last to a church, dim, and fragrant with ivy-leaves and twisted evergreen, where their errand was to feed a robin who had there found shelter, and was sleeping on the topmost bough. How his beads of eyes sparkled as the Saint awoke him! and how eagerly he pecked the store of good red berries which were his Christmas present, though he had hung up no stocking, and evidently expected nothing. To small, to great, to rich and poor alike, the good Saint had an errand. Little ones smiled in their sleep as he moved by, birds in hidden coverts twittered and chirped, bells faintly tinkled and chimed as in dream, the air sent up incense of aromatic smells, flying fairies made room for the sledge to pass; the world, unconscious what it did, breathed benediction, and in turn received a blessing as it slept,—a Christmas blessing.

 

“Off again. More sea, tumbling and tossed; then a great steamship, down whose funnel St. Nicholas dropped a parcel or two. Then another country, with atmosphere heavy with savory scents,—of doughnuts, of pumpkin pies, of apple turnovers, all of which had been cooked the day before. These dainties stay on earth, and are eaten; but their smell goes up into the clouds, and the ghosts dine upon it. The Cat licked her lips. Flying gives appetite. ‘When morning comes,’ she thought, ‘Gretchen will smuggle me a breakfast.’ But morning was long in coming, and there were many little ones to serve in that wonderful new land.

 

“And now, another continent passed, another ocean came in view. Island after island rose and sank; but the sledge did not stop. Then a shore was seen, with groves of trees, fan-shaped and curious; with rivers whose waters bore fleets of strange misshapen boats, in whose masts hung many-colored lanterns; and cities of odd build, whose spires and pinnacles were noisy with bells. But neither here did the sledge stop. Once only it dipped, and deposited a package in a modest dwelling. ‘A Missionary lives there,’ said the Saint. ‘This is China. Don’t you smell the tea?’

 

“On and on for hundred of leagues. No stay, no errand. St. Nicholas looked sad, for all his round face. ‘So many little children,’ he muttered, ‘and none of them mine!’ And then he cheered again, as, reining his deer upon a hut amid the frozen snows of Siberia, he left a rude toy for an exile’s child. ‘Dear little thing!’ he said, ‘she will smile in the morning when she wakes.’

 

“And now the air grew warm and soft. Great cities were below them, and groves of flowering trees. Some balmy fragrance wrapped the land. A vast building swept into sight, whose sides and roof and spires were traced in glittering lines of fire. It was a church hung with lamps. Odors sweet and heavy met their noses. St. Nicholas sneezed, and shook his head impatiently. ‘Confound that incense!’ he said. ‘It’s the loveliest country in the world, only a fellow can’t breathe in it!’ And then he forgot his discomfort in his work.

 

“Another country, and more smells,—of burning twigs, pungent and spicy; of candles just blown out. These set the Cat to coughing; but St. Nicholas minded them not at all. ‘I like them,’ he declared: ‘I like everything about a Christmas-tree,—singed evergreen, smoking tallow, and all. The sniff of it is like a bouquet of flowers to me. And the children,—bless them!—how they do enjoy it! They don’t object to the smell!’ He ended with a chuckle.

 

“And now the dawn began. The moon grew pale and wan; the stars hid themselves; dark things took form and shape, and were less dark; yellow gleams crept up the sky; the world looked more alive. And, among the roofs over which they were now driving, the Cat spied one which seemed familiar. It was! There stood the well-known chimney, with the thin, starved curl of smoke, telling of someone awake within. There was the little window which was Gretchen’s own. With a mew of delight, she leaped to the roof. The Saint laughed. ‘Good-by!’ he shouted, shook his reins, and was off. Whither the Cat knew not, nor could guess; for where St. Nicholas hides himself during the year is one of the secrets which no man knows.

 

“Down the long spout ran Puss, with an airy bound. There was the door; and close to it she stationed herself, impatient of the opening. She had not long to wait. In a moment the latch was raised, and a face peeped timidly out,—Gretchen’s face,—pale and swollen with crying. When she saw the Cat, she gave a loud scream, and caught her in her arms.

 

“‘O Katchen!’ she cried, hugging her close. ‘Where have you been all this time? I thought you were dead! I did, I did, my Katchen!’

 

“Pussy stared, as well she might.

 

“‘All day yesterday,’ went on the little one, ‘and all night long. I cried and cried,—how I cried, my Kitty! It wasn’t a bit a nice Christmas, though the Christ-child brought me such a doll! I could think of nothing but my Katchen, lost all day long.’

 

“Puss stood bewildered. Were her night’s adventures a dream? Had she ever studied geography, she might have guessed that chasing morning round the world is a sure way to lose your reckoning. As it was, she could only venture on a plaintive, inquiring ‘Mew?’ Hunger was more engrossing than curiosity. She devoured breakfast, dinner, supper, all at once. The Stepmother had more reason than ever when she grumbled at being ‘eaten out of house and home by a beast.’ But Gretchen’s tears the day before had so moved her Father, that he took courage to declare that Puss must be restored to her former privileges. Warm corner, dainty mess, and the protecting arms of her little mistress became hers again, and are hers to this day.

 

“And that was St. Nicholas’s Christmas present to the Cat.

 

“Well,” said December, rolling up the paper, “how do you like my story?”

 

“So much! oh, so much!” the children cried. “It was almost the nicest of all.”

 

“As for my present,” he went on, “I am not going to give you that just now. It shall come on the Christmas-tree. And mind you look bright, and greet the Christ-child with a smile, or he will be grieved, and go away sorrowful.”

 

“I don’t believe we shall have any tree this year,” said Thekla, sadly. “There isn’t anything to put on it. And beside”—but her voice faltered. Grandfather had always helped to dress the tree.

 

“Oh, but,” cried December, “this will never do. Why, you must have a tree! Never mind if there isn’t anything to put on it. The Christ-child and I will see to that. Now I’ll tell you,—you just cut a nice fir-bough, and set it here against the door, and I’ll pledge my word, as an honest Month, that something shall come from outside and fall upon it. Do you give me your promise that you will?”

 

They promised,—half doubtful, half believing. And then December asked for the can, and, turning it upside down, poured out the last particles of sand.

 

“Dear! dear!” he said reflectively, “what a blessing that these are not lost! How the babies would have cried at being forced to go to bed half an hour sooner on Christmas night! And the Anthem would have been cut short on the blessed morning too, and the bells been cheated of their chime. It’s a great mercy I have got them safely back.”

 

“Good-by! good-by!” cried the children, following him to the door.

He stooped, and kissed both the round faces.

 

“Good-by!” he said. “Remember Christmas Eve.”

‘O Katchen!’ she said, ‘where have you been

“‘O Katchen!’ she said, ‘where have you been?’”

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Chapter 12 from “The New Year’s Bargain” by Susan Coolidge author of “What Katy Did Next” etc.

ISBN: 9788835399308

CLICK the Download Link: https://bit.ly/2UE1Zhb

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TABS/KEYWORDS: The New Years Bargain, Max, Thekla, folklore, fairy tale, fairytale, myth, legend, fable, storyteller, narrator, Little one, child, children’s,  cried, old. Good, great, come ye away, voices, poor, Grandfather, woods, forest,  April, Dotty, cat, brown, hair, girls, boy, march September, red, August, fairy, squirrel, wild, friends, brother, snow, November, sun, turkey, sketch, laughter, flowers, December, Greedy, boat, Bargain, Months, Bear, Little Tot, Maria, May, Little Housekeepers, Last of the Fairies, Little Spark, Desert Island, Nippie Nutcracker, Chusey, Christmas, Conclusion, What was on the Tree

You will bring him back to me

In the rocks on the seashore, left bare by the tide, one often finds tiny pools of water fringed with seaweed and padded with curious moss. These are the cradles which the Mermaids have trimmed prettily for the sea-babies, and where they leave the little ones when they have to go away on other business, as Mermaids do. But one never spies the sea-children in their cradles, for they are taught to tumble out and slip away into the sea if a human step should approach. You see, the fishes have told the Mer-folk cruel tales of the Land-people with their nets and hooks and lines.

 

In the softest, prettiest little cradle of all a Sea-child lay one afternoon crying to himself. He cried because he was lonesome. His mother did not love him as a baby’s mother should; for she was the silliest and the vainest of all the Mermaids. Her best friend was her looking-glass of polished pearl, and her only care was to remain young and girlish. Indeed, she bore her thousand-odd years well, even for a Mermaid. She liked the Sea-baby well enough, but she was ashamed to have him follow her about as he loved to do, because she imagined it made her seem old to be called “Mer-mother” by his lisping lips. She never had time to caress or play with him; and finally she forbade him ever to speak to her unless she spoke first. Sometimes she seemed to forget him altogether, as she left him to take care of himself, while she sat on the rocks combing her long green hair, or playing with the giddy Mermen in the caves below the sea.

 

So while the other sea-people sported or slept and were happy, her poor little Sea-child lay and cried in the green pool where the sea-anemones tickled his cheek with their soft fingers, seeking to make him laugh, and the sea-fringe curled about the scaly little tail which, like a fish, he had in place of legs. On this particular afternoon he was particularly lonesome.

 

“Ahoo!” he sobbed. “I am so unhappy! Ahoo! I want someone to love me very much!”

 

Now a kind old Stork was sitting on a rock above the baby’s head, preening his feathers in a looking-glass pool. He heard the Sea-child’s words, and he spoke in his kind, gruff voice.

 

“What is the matter, little one?” he asked.

 

At first the Sea-child was surprised to be addressed by a land bird. But he soon saw that this creature was friendly, and told him all his trouble, as babies do. “Tut tut!” said the Stork, frowning. “Your Mer-mother needs a lesson sadly.”

 

“What is a lesson?” lisped the Sea-child.

 

But the Stork was busy thinking and did not reply at once. “How would you like a change?” he asked after a time.

 

“What is a change?” asked the baby, for he was very young and ignorant.

 

“You shall see,” answered the Stork, “if you will take my advice; for I am your friend. Now listen. When next you hear a step upon the rocks do not stir from your cradle, but wait and see what will happen.” Without another word the Stork flapped away, leaving the baby to stare up at the blue sky with the tears still wet upon his cheeks, wondering what the Stork could have meant.

 

“I will not stir,” he said to himself. “Whatever happens I will wait and see.”

 

It was the Stork’s business to bring babies to the homes where babies were needed; and sometimes it was very hard to find babies enough. Even now he knew of a house upon the hill where a boy was longing for a little brother to play with. Every night Gil mentioned the matter in his prayers; every night he begged the Stork to bring him a playmate. But though the Stork had hunted far and wide through all the land he could not find a human baby to spare for the cottage on the hill. Now he had a happy idea.

 

With his long legs dangling he flew swiftly up towards the hill; and halfway there he met the boy wandering about sulkily all alone. The Stork had never before spoken to this boy, because he well knew what Gil wanted, and he hated to be teased for what he could not give. So, though he had listened sadly to the boy’s prayers, by day he had kept carefully out of sight. But now he came close overhead, and settling down stood upon one leg directly in Gil’s path.

 

“Good-afternoon,” he said. “I think I have heard you say that you wanted a little brother.”

 

Gil was surprised to have a Stork address him like this, but he was still more pleased at the happy word. “I do! Oh, I do indeed!” he cried.

 

“Would you make a good brother to him?” asked the Stork.

 

“Oh yes!” answered the boy eagerly. “A very good brother I should be.”

 

“H’m,” said the Stork. “One never can tell about these boys. I think you are selfish and jealous. But a little brother may be a good thing for you. In any case, there is little for him to lose. Will you be so good as to come with me?”

 

Without another word the Stork flew up and away toward the beach, leaving Gil staring. This certainly was a most extraordinary bird! But Gil soon decided to follow him and see what would happen, for who could tell what the Stork’s mysterious words might mean?

 

Presently, lying in his little cradle, the Sea-child heard the sound of feet scrambling up the rocks,—the sound he had been taught to fear more than anything in the world. It was his first thought to flop out of the cradle, over into the sea below; and he half turned to do so. But in a moment he remembered the Stork’s last words, and although he was trembling with fear he remained where he was.

 

Soon over the top of the rock peered the face of the boy, Gil of the hill cottage, looking straight down into the pool where the Sea-baby lay snugly on the seaweed.

 

“Oh!” cried the boy, with round black eyes fixed upon the baby’s round blue ones. “Oh!” cried the Sea-child. And it would be hard to say which of the two was more astonished. For to a Sea-child the sight of a clothed, two-legged land-boy is quite as strange as a naked little fish-tailed infant is to a human. But after the first look neither felt afraid, in spite of the terrible tales which each had heard of the other’s kind. They stared wistfully at each other, not knowing what to do next, until the Stork came forward and spoke wise words.

 

“You, land-boy Gil,” he said, “you want a little brother, do you not?” Gil nodded. “And you, Sea-child, want someone to love you? I think I can manage to please you both. But first you must kiss each other.”

 

Gil hesitated. He was a big boy of five or six, too old for kissing. Moreover the Sea-child looked cold and wet and somewhat fishy. But already the red lips of the little fellow were pouted into a round O, and the sad blue eyes were looking up at him so pleadingly that Gil bent low over the watery cradle. Then two little soft arms went about his neck, and Gil felt the heart of the Sea-child thump happily against his own.

 

“Very good,” said the Stork approvingly.

 

The Sea-child could not stand, on account of having no feet, but he lay in his pool holding Gil’s hand.

 

“Now the change is coming,” went on the Stork, and as he spoke the baby began to fall asleep. “In twelve hours,” he said to Gil, “he will become a tiny human child, and I shall carry him to the house on the hill, where he will find a loving family awaiting him. Look! Already he is losing the uniform of the sea,” and he pointed at the Sea-child’s fishy tail. Sure enough, the scales were falling away one by one, and already the shape of two little chubby legs could be seen under the skin, which was shrinking as a tadpole’s does before he becomes a frog. “When this tail is wholly gone,” declared the Stork, “he will forget what we have said to-night. He will forget his sea-home and the caves of the Mer-people. He will forget that he was once a Sea-child; and no one will ever remind him. For only you, Gil, and I shall know the secret.”

 

“And I shall never tell,” declared Gil.

 

“No, surely you will never tell,” answered the Stork gravely, “for if you tell that will be the end of all. You will lose the little brother, and you will be sorry all the rest of your life. Do not forget, Gil. Do not forget.”

 

“I shall not forget,” said Gil.

 

Again they looked at the Sea-child, and he had fallen sound asleep, still holding Gil’s hand. Now there was scarcely anything of the fish left about his little pink body; he was growing younger and younger, smaller and smaller.

 

“You must go home now, Gil,” said the Stork. “Go home and go to bed. And to-morrow when you wake there will be a little brother in the house, and you ought to be a very good boy because you have your wish.”

 

Gil gently loosened the Sea-child’s hand and ran home as the Stork bade him, but said no word of all this to anyone.

 

Now early in the morning the Stork came to the house on the hill, bringing a rosy little new baby which he laid on the bed beside Gil’s mother, and then flew away. What a hullabaloo there was then, to be sure! What a welcome for the little stranger! Gil was not the only one who had longed for a new baby in the house, and this was the prettiest little fellow ever seen. Loudest of all cheered Gil when he saw the present which the Stork had brought. “Hurrah for my little new brother!” he cried. “Now I shall have someone to play with.” That was Gil’s chief thought: now he would have someone to play with.

 

They called the baby’s name Jan. And from the first little Jan was very happy in his new home. He was happy all day in his mother’s arms; happy when his foster-father came home at night and tossed him high to the ceiling; happiest of all when Gil held him close and begged him to hurry and grow up, so that they could play together.

 

Little Jan did hurry to grow up, as fast as health and strength and happiness could make a baby grow. He grew bigger and bigger, handsomer and handsomer, the finest baby in the village, and his family loved him dearly. Every day he became more of a playmate for Gil, whom he admired more than anyone in the world. Gil petted and teased the little fellow, who, as soon as he could walk, began to follow him about like a faithful dog. Grand times the brothers had together then. They dug in the sand on the seashore, and scrambled about the cliffs. They rowed out in the harbor boats with hooks and lines, and played at being fishermen like their father, who sailed away early and came home late. They grew bigger and sturdier and handsomer, and their parents were very proud of them both, the finest lads in all the country round.

 

The years went by, and during all this time Jan never dreamed the truth which only Gil and the Stork knew about the bargain made at the sea-pool cradle. To Jan, indeed, the sea was full of strange thoughts which were not memories but were like them. He loved to look and listen alone upon the water, or in the water, or by the water. Gil often caught him staring down into the blue waves, and when he raised his head there would be a puzzled look in the little fellow’s blue eyes, as though he were trying to solve a riddle. Then Gil would laugh; whereat the wrinkle would smooth itself from Jan’s forehead, and a smile would come about his mouth. He would throw his arm about his brother’s shoulder, saying,—

 

“What strange thing is it, brother, that the old sea does to me? I think sometimes that I am bewitched.” But Gil would only laugh again, thinking his own thoughts. It gave him a pleasant important feeling to know that he was the keeper of Jan’s secret.

 

Meantime what had become of the Sea-baby’s forgotten mother? What was the pretty Mermaid doing in her home under the waves? She was learning the lesson which the Stork had meant to teach.

 

At first she had not greatly missed the Sea-baby, having other things to interest her in the lovely world where she lived. But as the sea-days went by she began to find the grotto which had been their pretty home a very lonely place indeed. She missed the little fellow playing with the shells and starfish on the floor of shining sand. She longed to see him teasing the crabs in the crevices of the rocks, or tickling the sea-anemones to make them draw in their waving fingers. She missed the round blue eyes which used to look at her so admiringly, and the little hands which had once wearied her with their caresses. She even missed the mischievous tricks which the baby sometimes used to play upon his mother, and she would have been glad once more to see him running away with her pearly mirror, or with the golden comb with which she combed her long green hair.

 

As she watched the other sea-children playing merrily with the fishes the lonely Mermaid grew very sad, for she knew that her own baby had been the prettiest of them all, and she wondered how she could ever have been ashamed of him. The other mothers were proud of their darlings, and now they scorned her because she had no little one to hold her mirror when she made her toilet, or to run her errands when she was busy at play. But the poor Mermaid was too sad to play nowadays. She no longer took any pleasure in the gay life which the Mer-folk lived beneath the waves. She wandered instead here and there, up and down the sea, calling, calling for her lost baby. The sound of her sobbing came from the sea at morning, noon, and night.

 

She did not know her child’s fate, but she feared that he had been captured by the dreadful Men-folk, who, so her people said, were ever seeking to snare the sea-creatures in their wicked nets. Day after day the unhappy Mermaid swam along the shore trying to see the places where the Men-folk dwelt, hoping that she might catch a glimpse of her lost darling. But that good hap never befell her. Indeed, even if she had seen Jan, she would not have known her baby in the sturdy boy dressed all in blue, like the other fisher-lads. Nor would Jan have known his mother in this beautiful creature of the sea. For he had quite forgotten the Mermaid who had neglected him, and if he thought of the Mer-folk at all it was as humans do, with wonder and with longing, and yet with fear.

 

Now the good old Stork who had first meddled in these matters kept one eye upon the doings in that neighborhood, and he had seen the sorrowful Mermaid wandering lonely up and down the shore. He knew it must be the Sea-child’s mother, sorry at last for her long carelessness. As the years passed he began to pity the poor creature; but when he found himself growing too soft-hearted he would shake his head firmly and say to himself,—

 

“It will not do. She is not yet punished enough, for she was very cruel. If now she could have her baby again she would soon be as thoughtless as ever. Besides, there is my promise to Gil. So long as he keeps the secret so must I.”

 

But one day, several years later, when the Stork was flying over the harbor, he spied the Mermaid lying upon a rock over which the waves dashed merrily, and she was weeping bitterly, tearing her lovely green hair. She looked so pretty and so forlorn that the bird’s kind heart was touched, and he could not help stopping to comfort her a bit. Flying close to her head he said gently,—

 

“Poor Mermaid! What is the matter?”

 

“Oh, oh!” wailed the Mermaid. “Long, long ago I lost my pretty little Sea-child, and he is not to be found anywhere, anywhere in the whole sea, for I have looked. I have been from ocean to ocean, from pole to pole. Oh, what shall I do? He is on the land, I know he is, and the wicked humans are ill-treating him.”

 

The Stork spoke slowly and gravely. “Was he so happy, then, in his sea-home? Did you love him and care for him very dearly?”

 

“No, no!” sobbed the Mermaid. “I did not love him enough. I did not make him happy. I neglected him and found him in the way, till one day he disappeared, and I shall never see him again. Oh, my baby, my little Sea-child!”

 

The Stork wiped a tear from his eye. “It is very sad,” he said. “But perhaps it will comfort you to know that he is not far away.”

 

“Oh!” cried the Mermaid, clasping her hands. “You know where he is? You will bring him back to me? Dear, dear Stork! I will give you a necklace of pearls and a necklace of coral if you will bring my baby to me again.”

 

The Stork smiled grimly, looking down at his long neck. “A necklace of pearls and a necklace of coral!” he repeated. “How becoming they would be!” Then he grew grave once more and said: “I cannot return your child to you, but I can tell you something of him. He is indeed among the humans, but he is very happy there. They love him and he loves them, and all is well—so far.”

 

“Oh, show him to me that I may take him away!” cried the Mermaid.

 

But the Stork shook his head. “No, no, for you deserted him,” he said solemnly; “now he has another mother in yonder village who loves him better than you did. He has a brother, also, whom he loves best of all. You cannot claim him so long as he is happy there.”

 

“Then shall I never see him again, wise Bird?” asked the Mermaid sadly.

 

“Perhaps,” answered the Stork. “If he should become unhappy, or if the secret should be betrayed.”

 

“Ah, then I must be again a cruel mother and hope that he may become unhappy,” sobbed the Mermaid. “I shall look for him every day in the harbor near the village, and when his face is sad I shall claim him for my own.”

 

“You will not know him,” cried the Stork, rising on his wings and flapping away. “He wears a disguise. He is like a human,—like any other fisher-boy; and he bears a human name.”

 

“Oh, tell me that name!” begged the Mermaid.

 

But the Stork only cried, “I must not tell. I have told too much already,” and he was gone.

 

“Oh, then I will love all fisher-boys for his sake,” sobbed the Mermaid as she dived down into the sea. “And some day, some day I shall find him out; for my baby is sure to be the finest of them all.”

 

Now the years went by, and the parents of Gil and Jan were dead. The two brothers were tall and sturdy and stout, the finest lads in the whole country. But as their shadows grew taller and broader when they walked together across the sand, so another shadow which had begun to fall between them grew and grew. It was the shadow of Gil’s selfishness and jealousy. So long as Jan was smaller and weaker than he, Gil was quite content, and never ceased to be grateful for the little brother who had come to be his playmate. But suddenly, as it seemed, he found that Jan was almost as big as himself; for the boy had thriven wondrously, though there were still several years which Jan could never make up. Gil was still the leader, but Jan was not far behind; and Jan himself led all the other boys when his brother was not by. Everyone loved Jan, for he was kind and merry, while Gil was often gloomy and disagreeable. Gil wanted to be first in everything, but there began to be some things that Jan could do better than he. It made Gil angry to hear his brother praised; it made him sulky and malicious, and sometimes he spoke unkindly to Jan, which caused the blue eyes to fill with tears. For, big fellow though he was, Jan was five years younger, and he was a sensitive lad, loving Gil more than anything else in the world. Gil’s unkindness hurt Jan deeply, but could not make him love his brother less.

 

Both boys were famous swimmers. Gil was still the stronger of the two, and he could outswim any lad in town. As for Jan, the fishermen declared that he took to the water like a fish. No one in all the village could turn and twist, dive and glide and play such graceful pranks, flashing whitely through the waves, as did Jan. This was a great trouble to Gil, who wished to be foremost in this as in everything else. He was a selfish fellow; he had wanted a playmate to follow and admire him. He had not bargained for a comrade who might become a rival. And he seemed to love his brother less and less as the days went by.

 

One beautiful summer day Gil and Jan called together the other boys, the best swimmers in the village, and they all went down to the bay to swim. They played all sorts of water-games, in which the two brothers were leaders. They dived and floated and chased one another like fishes through the water. Jan, especially, won shouts of applause for his wonderful diving, for the other boys liked him, and were proud of him, glad to see him win. This again made Gil jealous and angry. Jan dived once more and remained under water so long that the boys began to fear that he would never come up; and in his wicked heart Gil half hoped that it was to be so. For it had come about that Gil began to wish he had no brother at all. So different was he from the boy who made the eager bargain with the good old Stork.

 

At last Jan’s head came out of the water, bubbling and blowing, and the boys set up a cheer. Never before had any one in the village performed such a feat as that. But Jan did not answer their cheers with his usual merry laugh. Something was troubling him which made him look strange to the others. As soon as he reached the shore he ran up to Gil and whispered in his brother’s ear a curious story.

 

“Oh, Gil!” he cried. “Such a strange feeling I have had! Down below there as I was swimming along I seemed to hear a strange sound like a cry, and then, surely, I felt something cling close to me, like soft arms. Gil, Gil, what could it have been? I have heard tell of the Mermaidens who are said to live in these waters. Some even say that they have seen them afar off on the rocks where the spray dashed highest. Gil, could it have been a Mermaid who touched me and seemed to pull me down as if to keep me under the water forever? I could hardly draw away, Gil. Tell me what you think it means?”

 

Gil was too angry at Jan’s success to answer kindly. He sneered, remembering the secret which only he and the Stork knew.

 

“There are slimy folk, half fish and half human, people say. The less one has to do with them the better. I think you are half fish yourself, Jan. It is no credit to you that you are able to swim!” So spoke Gil, breaking the promise which he had once given.

 

On the minute came a hoarse cry overhead, and a great Stork flapped down the sky, fixing his sharp eyes upon Gil, as if in warning.

 

“Why, how strangely the Stork acts!” cried Jan.

 

Gil bit his lip and said no more, but from that moment he hated his brother wickedly, knowing that the Stork was still watching over the child whom he had taken from the sea.

 

But Jan had no time to ask Gil what he meant by the strange words which he had just spoken, for at that moment several of the boys came running up to them. “Ho, Gil! Ho, Jan!” they cried. “Let us have a race! Come, let us swim out to the Round Rock and back. And the winner of this race shall be champion of the village. Come, boys, make ready for the race!”

 

Gil’s face brightened, for he had ever been the strongest swimmer on the bay, and now he could afford to be kind to poor Jan, whose blue eyes were clouded and unhappy, because of Gil’s former harsh words and manner.

 

“Ho! The race, the race!” cried Gil. “Come, Jan, you can dive like a fish. Now let us see how you can swim. One, two, three! We are off!”

 

The boys sprang, laughing, into the water. Jan needed but a kind word from his brother to make him happy again. Off they started for the Round Rock, where the spray was dashing high.

 

The black heads bobbed up and down in the waves, drawing nearer and nearer to the rock. Gradually they separated, and some fell behind. The lads could not all keep up the gay strokes with which they had begun the race. Four held the lead; Boise and Cadoc, the lighthouse-keeper’s sons, Gil, and Jan.

 

Almost abreast they rounded the rock, and began the long stretch back to the beach. Soon Boise began to fall behind. In a little while Cadoc’s strength failed also. They shouted, laughingly, that they were fairly beaten, and those who were on shore began to cry encouragement to the two brothers, who alone were left in the race.

 

“Gil! Jan! Oh, Gil! Oh, Jan! Hasten, lads, for one of you is the champion. Hurrah! Hurrah!”

 

Gil was in high spirits, for he was still in the lead. “Hurry, little brother,” he cried, “or I shall beat you badly. Oho! You can dive, but that is scarcely swimming, my fine lad. You had better hurry, or I win.”

 

And Jan did hurry. He put forth all his strength as he had never done before. Soon the black heads bobbed side by side in the water, and Gil ceased to laugh and jest, for it was now a struggle in good earnest. He shut his teeth angrily, straining forward with all his might. But push as he would, Jan kept close beside. At last, when within a few yards of the beach, Jan gave a little laughing shout and shot through the water like a flash. He had been saving his strength for this,—and he had won!

 

The other boys dragged him up the beach with shouts and cheers of welcome to the new champion, while Gil, who had borne that title for so long, crawled ashore unaided.

 

“Hurrah for Jan!” they cried, tossing their caps and dancing happily, for Jan was a great favorite. “Hurrah for the little brother! Now Gil must take the second place. You are the big brother now!” And they laughed and jeered at Gil,—not maliciously, but because they were pleased with Jan.

 

Jan ran to Gil and held out his hand for his brother’s congratulations, but Gil thrust it aside. “It was not a fair race!” he sputtered. “Unfair, unfair, I vow!”

 

The others gathered around, surprised to see Gil so angry and with such wild eyes.

 

“Gil, oh, Gil! What do you mean?” cried Jan, turning very pale. “Why was it not a fair race, brother?”

 

“Brother! You are no brother of mine!” shouted Gil, beside himself with rage. “You are a changeling,—half fish, half sea-monster. You were helped in this race by the sea-people; you cannot deny it. I saw one push you to the shore. You could not have beaten me else. Everyone knows that I am the better swimmer, though I am no fish.”

 

“Nonsense!” cried Boise, clapping Gil on the shoulder with a laugh. “You talk foolishness, Gil. There are no sea-folk in these waters; those are old women’s tales. It was a fair race, I say, and Jan is our champion.”

 

But Jan heeded only the cruel words which his brother had spoken. “Gil, what do you mean?” he asked again, trembling with a new fear. “I was not helped by anyone.”

 

“Ha!” cried Gil, pointing at him fiercely, “see him tremble, see his guilty looks! He knows that I speak true. The Mermaid helped him. He is half fish. He came out of the sea and was no real brother of mine, but a Merbaby. A Mermaid was his mother!”

 

At these words a whirring sound was heard in the air overhead, and a second time the Stork appeared, flapping across the scene out to sea, where he alighted upon the Round Rock. But Gil was too angry even to notice him.

 

“Gil, Gil, tell me how this can be?” begged Jan, going up to his brother and laying a pleading hand upon his arm.

 

But Gil shook him off, crying, “It is true! He is half fish and the sea-folk helped him. It was not a fair race. Let us try it again.”

 

“Nonsense!” cried the other boys indignantly. “It was a fair race. Jan need not try again, for he is our champion. We will have it so.”

 

But Jan was looking at Gil strangely, and the light was gone out of his eyes. His face was very white. “I did not know that you cared so much to win,” he said to Gil in a low voice. Then he turned to the others. “If my brother thinks it was not a fair race let us two try again. Let us swim once more to the Round Rock and back; and the winner shall be declared the village champion.” For Jan meant this time to let his brother beat. What did he care about anything now, since Gil hated him so much that he could tell that story?

 

“Well, let them try the race again, since Jan will have it so,” cried the boys, grumbling and casting scornful looks at Gil, who had never been so unpopular with them as at this moment.

 

Once more the two sprang into the waves and started for the Round Rock, where the spray was dashing merrily over the plumage of the Stork as he stood there upon one leg, trying not to mind the wetness which he hated. For he was talking earnestly with a pretty Mermaid who sat on the rock in the surf, wringing her hands.

 

“It is he! It is he!” she cried. “I know him now. It is the lad whom they call Jan, the finest swimmer of them all. Oh, he dives like a fish! He swims like a true Sea-child. He is my own baby, my little one! I followed, I watched him. I could hardly keep my hands from him. Tell me, dear Stork, is he not indeed my own?”

 

The Stork looked at her gravely. “It is no longer a secret,” he said, “for Jan has been betrayed. He who is now Jan the unhappy mortal boy was once your unhappy Sea-baby.”

 

“Unhappy! Oh, is he unhappy?” cried the Mermaid. “Then at last I may claim him as you promised. I may take him home once more to our fair sea-home, to cherish him and make him happier than he ever was in all his little life. But tell me, dear Stork, will he not be my own little Sea-child again? I would not have him in his strange, ugly human guise, but as my own little fish-tailed baby.”

 

“When you kiss him,” said the Stork, “when you throw your arms about his neck and speak to him in the sea-language, he will become a Sea-child once more, as he was when I found him in his cradle on the rocks. But look! Yonder he comes. A second race has begun, and they swim this way. Wait until they have turned the rock, and then it will be your turn. Ah, Gil! You have ill kept your promise to me!”

 

Yes, the race between the brothers was two thirds over. Side by side as before the two black heads pushed through the waves. Both faces were white and drawn, and there was no joy in either. Gil’s was pale with anger, Jan’s only with sadness. He loved his brother still, but he knew that Gil loved him no more.

 

They were nearing the shore where the boys waited breathlessly for the end of this strange contest. Suddenly Jan turned his face towards Gil and gave him one look. “You will win, brother,” he breathed brokenly, “my strength is failing. You are the better swimmer, after all. Tell the lads that I confess it. Go on and come in as the champion.”

 

He thought that Gil might turn to see whether he needed aid. But Gil made no sign save to quicken his strokes, which had begun to lag, for in truth he was very weary. He pushed on with only a desire to win the shore and to triumph over his younger brother. With a sigh Jan saw him shoot ahead, then turning over on his back he began to float carelessly. He would not make another effort. It was then that he saw the Stork circling close over his head; and it did not seem so very strange when the Stork said to him,—

 

“Swim, Jan! You are the better swimmer; you can beat him yet.”

 

“I know; but I do not wish to beat,” said Jan wearily. “He would only hate me the more.”

 

“There is one who loves you more than ever he did,” said the Stork gently. “Will you go home to your sea-mother, the beautiful Mermaid?”

 

“The Mermaid!” cried Jan; “then it is true. My real home is not upon the shore?”

 

“Your real home is here, in the waves. Beneath them your mother waits.”

 

“Then I need not go back to that other home,” said Jan, “that home where I am hated?”

 

“Ah, you will be loved in this sea-home,” said the Stork. “You will be very happy there. Come, come, Mermaid! Kiss your child and take him home.”

 

Then Jan felt two soft arms come around his neck and two soft lips pressed upon his own. “Dear child!” whispered a soft voice, “come with me to your beautiful sea-home and be happy always.” A strange, drowsy feeling came over him, and he forgot how to be sad. He felt himself growing younger and younger. The world beyond the waves looked unreal and odd. He forgot why he was there; he forgot the race, the boys, Gil, and all his trouble. But instead he began to remember things of a wonderful dream. He closed his eyes; the sea rocked him gently, as in a cradle, and slowly, slowly, with the soft arms of the Mermaid about him, and her green hair twining through his fingers, he sank down through the water. As he sank the likeness of a human boy faded from him, and he became once more a fresh, fair little Sea-child, with a scaly tail and plump, merry face. The Mer-folk came to greet him. The fishes darted about him playfully. The sea-anemones beckoned him with enticing fingers. The Sea-child was at home again, and the sea was kind.

 

So Gil became the champion; but that was little pleasure to him, as you can fancy. For he remembered, he remembered, and he could not forget. He thought, like all the village, that Jan had been drowned through his brother’s selfishness and jealousy. He forgave himself less even than the whole village could forgive him for the loss of their favorite; for he knew better than they how much more he was to blame, because he had broken the promise which kept Jan by him. If he had known how happy the Sea-child now was in the home from which he had come to be Gil’s brother, perhaps Gil would not have lived thereafter so sad a life. The Stork might have told him the truth. But the wise old Stork would not. That was to be Gil’s punishment,—to remember and regret and to reproach himself always for the selfishness and jealousy which had cost him a loving brother.

===============

Let Him Prove it

Oh, give me for a little space
To see with childlike eyes
This curious world, our dwelling-place
Of wonder and surprise. . . .

 

The long, long road from Day to Night
Winds on through constant change,
Whereon one hazards with delight
Adventures new and strange;

 

The wonders of the earth and sky!
The magic of the sea!
The mysteries of beast and fly,
Of bird and flower and tree!

 

One feels the breath of holy things
Unseen along the road,
The whispering of angel wings,
The neighboring of Good.

 

And Beauty must be good and true,
One battles for her sake;
But Wickedness is foul to view,
So one cannot mistake. . . .

 

Ah, give me with the childlike sight
The simple tongue and clear
Wherewith to read the vision right
Unto a childish ear.

 

===============

From: THE FLOWER PRINCESS – Four Short Fantasy Stories for Children

ISBN: 9788835379119

DOWNLOAD LINK: https://bit.ly/2WQ6c2C

==============

KEYWORDS/TAGS: The Flower Princess, Little Friend, Mermaid’s Child, Ten Blowers, Folklore, fairy tale, myth, legend, fable, childrens story, storyteller, baby, beauty, blonde, Child, Christmas, dove, fair, family, Fleurette, flower, Fortemain, garden, Gil, heart, hill, Jan, Joyeuse, King, lost love, Mermaid, merry, morning mother, music, palace, Pierre, Prince, Princess, race, Sea-child, secret, snow, Stork, strange, throne, time, village, voice, words, Let Him Prove It, Princess Fleurette, Clap Her Hands, Joy, Help Comes, Blow For Our King,

a-victorian-christmas-cover

ISBN: 978-1-910882-83-2

Herein are 32 Victorian Christmas poems and stories for children. The 16 stories are drawn from that bountiful library of French, Spanish and English authors. You will find stories like:

 

THE CHRISTMAS CUCKOO,

THE LOUIS-D’OR,

THE PRINCESS AND THE RAGAMUFFIN and

THE YULE LOG.

 

There are even three relatively unknown Christmas stories from the pen of that master of storytelling – CHARLES DICKENS.

 

The 16 Christmas poems are an extract from THE BELLS OF CHRISTMAS by various poets collated by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith originally published in 1906 with poems like Let the Holly Be Hung by Frank Dempster Sherman, The Adoration of the Wise Men by Cecil Frances Alexander and The Christmas Silence by Margaret Deland.

 

So download and read this volume of festive goodwill which brings out the real meaning of Christmas.

 

eBook Link on Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Various_A_VICTORIAN_CHRISTMAS?id=3JikDQAAQBAJ

 

Below is a FREE excerpt:

CHRISTMAS IN THE FOREST.

From the French of André Theuriet.

 

Christmas Eve that year was bleak and cold, and the village seemed benumbed. The houses were closed hermetically, and so were the stables, from which came the muffled sound of animals chewing the cud. From time to time the clacking of wooden shoes on the hardened ground resounded through the deserted streets, then a door was hastily opened and closed, and all relapsed into silence. It was evident from the thick smoke rising through the chimneys into the gray air that every family was huddled around its hearth while the housewife prepared the Christmas supper. Stooping forward, with their legs stretched out to the fire, their countenances beaming with pleasure at the prospect of the morrow’s festival and the foretaste of the fat and juicy blood-sausages, the peasants laughed at the north wind that swept the roads, at the frost that powdered the trees of the forest, and the ice that seemed to vitrify the streams and the river. Following their example, my friend Tristan and I spent the livelong day in the old house of the Abbatiale at the corner of the hearth, smoking our pipes and reading poetry. At sundown we had grown tired of seclusion and determined to venture out.

 

“The forest must be a strange sight with this heavy frost,” said I to Tristan. “Suppose we take a turn through the wood after supper; besides, I must see the sabotiers from Courroy about a little matter.”

 

So we pulled on our gaiters, stuffed our pipes, wrapped ourselves in our cloaks and mufflers, and penetrated into the wood.

 

We walked along cheerfully over the rugged, hardened soil of the trenches furrowed with deep, frozen ruts. Through the copse on either side we saw mysterious white depths. After a damp night the north wind had transformed the mists and vapors that overhung the branches into a tangle of snowy lace. In the half light of the gloaming we could still distinguish the sparkling needles of the junipers, the frosted puffs of the clematis, the bluish crystallizations of the beech, and the silver filigree of the nut-trees. The silence was broken by the occasional creaking of the frozen limbs, and every now and then a breath of impalpable white dust dampened our cheeks as it melted there.

 

We walked along at a steady pace, and in less than an hour caught sight of the red and flickering glow of the sabotiers’ camp pitched on the edge of the forest above a stream that flowed down toward the valley of Santonge. The settlement consisted of a spacious, cone-shaped, dirt-coated hut and a cabin with board walls carefully sealed with moss. The hut answered the combined purposes of dormitory and kitchen; the cabin was used for the stowing away of tools and wooden shoes, and also for the two donkeys employed in the transportation of goods. The sabotiers, masters, apprentices, friends, and children were seated on beech logs around the fire in front of the hut, and their mobile silhouettes formed intensely black profiles against the red of the fire. Three short posts driven into the ground and drawn together at the top formed the crane, from which hung an iron pot that simmered over the coals. An appetizing odor of stewed hare escaped from the tin lid as it rose and fell under the puffs of vapor. The master, a lively, nervous, hairy little man, welcomed us with his usual cordiality.

 

“Sit down and warm yourselves,” said he. “You find us preparing the Christmas supper. I’m afraid we’ll not sleep over soundly to-night. My old woman is ill. I’ve fixed her a bed in the cabin where she’ll be more comfortable, and warmer on account of the animals. My boy has gone to Santonge to get the doctor. There’s no time to be lost. My little girl is kept busy running from the cabin to the hut.”

 

We had no sooner taken our seats around the fire than the snowflakes began to whirl about in the stillness above us. They fell so thick and fast that in less than a quarter of an hour we were compelled to protect the fire with a hurdle covered with sackcloth.

 

“By my faith! gentlemen,” said the sabotier, “you’ll not be able to start out again in this storm. You’ll have to stay and have your Christmas supper with us,—and taste of our stew.”

 

The weather was certainly not tempting, and we accepted the invitation. Besides, the adventure amused us, and we were delighted at the prospect of a Christmas supper in the heart of the forest. An hour later we were in the hut, and by the light of a miserable little candle-end we had our Christmas supper, devouring our hare-stew with a sharp appetite and washing it down with a draught of unfermented wine that scraped our throats. The snow fell thicker and thicker, wrapping the forest in a soft white wadding that deadened every sound. Now and then the sabotier rose and went into the cabin, then came back looking worried, listening anxiously for the good woman from Santonge. Suddenly a few metallic notes, muffled by the snow, rose softly from the depth of the valley. A similar sound from an opposite direction rang out in answer, then followed a third and a fourth, and soon a vague confusion of Christmas chimes floated over the forest.

 

Our hosts, without interrupting the process of mastication and while they passed around the wine-jug, tried to recognize the various chimes by the fulness of the sounds.

 

“Those—now—those are the bells from Vivey. They are hardly any louder than the sound of the donkey’s hoofs on the stones.”

 

“That is the bell of Auberive!”

 

“Yes; and that peal that sounds like the droning of a swarm of beetles, that’s the Grancey chimes.”

 

During this discussion Tristan and I began to succumb to the combined action of warmth and fully satisfied appetite. Our eyes blinked, and before we knew it we fell asleep on the moss of the hut, lulled by the music of the Christmas chimes. A piercing shriek followed by a sound of joyful voices woke us with a start.

 

It had ceased snowing. The night was growing pale, and through the little skylight we could see above the fleecy trees a faint light in the sky, where a belated star hung quivering.

 

“It is a boy!” shouted the master, bursting in upon us. “Gentlemen, if you think you would like to see him, why, I should be very glad; and it might bring him luck.”

 

We went crunching over the snow after him to the cabin, lighted by a smoky lamp. On her bed of laths and moss lay the young mother, weak and exhausted, her head thrown back, her pale face framed in by a mass of frowzy auburn hair. The “good woman,” assisted by the little girl, was bundling up the new-comer, who wailed feebly. The two donkeys, amazed at so much stir and confusion, turned their kindly gray faces toward the bed, shook their long ears, and gazed around them with wide, intelligent eyes, blowing through their nostrils puffs of warm vapor that hung like a thin mist on the air. At the foot of the bed stood a young shepherd, with a black and white she-goat and a new-born kid.

 

“I have brought you the she-goat, Ma’am Fleuriot,” said he, in his Langrois drawl. “You can have her for the boy as long as you wish.”

 

The goat was baaing, the new-born child wailed, and the donkeys breathed loudly. There was something primitive and biblical about the whole scene.

 

Without, in the violet light of the dawn, while a distant church-bell scattered its early notes through the air, one of the young apprentices, dancing in the snow to keep warm, sang out at the top of his lungs that old Christmas carol, which seemed then full of new meaning and poetry,—

 

“He is born, the little Child.

 

Ring out, hautbois! ring out, bagpipes!

 

He is born, the little Child;

 

Let us sing the happy news.”

NOTE: This is a FREE resource, so do be resourceful yourselves and feel free to update the gifts being sought. If you don’t have any daughters, feel free to swap the girls names for boys names
A dialogue for Two Little Girls, Ten or Twelve Years Old – by John d MacDonald (1919)
SceneSitting room

(For telephone use box ten by fifteen inches or larger. Fix it to an upright that can be moved out on the platform. Have one end fixed like trap door. Tie skates to muff about one foot apart. Shove muff in box first and then skates. Put electric or bicycle bell on box. Run heavy cord to the window for telephone wire. Have mouthpiece on box, and have box high enough so that the speaker must stand on a chair. Have a receiver or an imitation quite a way from the box—perhaps six or seven feet. Do not hurry.)

Esther (seated in small rocker). This is Christmas Eve, Mabel, and I suppose that Santa Claus has his pack all made up, and is off with his reindeer to visit all the good little boys and girls all over the world. I do hope he will be sure and come to (name your own town or city), because I want something very much this year. Just think, last Christmas I laid awake most all night to see him, but I didn’t see him at all. I don’t know when he got in the house or how he got out, but he just fooled me, that’s what he did.

Mabel. No doubt he’s started on his journey by this time. I think he must ride like the wind to get all over the world in a night. Why it took all night and a day for us to go to Aunt Ella’s last Thanksgiving time, and that’s not so far as around the world. But I would like to see Santa this year so I could tell him what I want. They say if Santa Claus knows what you want he will almost always bring it to you.

Esther. Yes, I know he will, because Maggie Brown wrote to him last year and told him that she wanted a pony and a cart and he brought it to her.

Mabel. And Tommy Carter wrote to him, too, and told him that he wanted a bicycle and he got it, too. I guess Santa is a nice old man.

Esther. And Mrs. Santa must be a nice old lady, too, or she wouldn’t dress all those nice dolls for Mr. Santa Claus.

Mabel. It’s too bad that we did not write to him last week, and then he surely would have gotten our letter.

Esther (rising up and putting doll in the chair). Mabel, why not telephone to him? Papa has a long distance telephone, and I talked away down to New York through it once, and I guess if cousin Mary could hear me in New York, Santa Claus ought to hear me in Santa Claus Land.

Mabel. Wasn’t Papa with you when you talked that time, Esther?

Esther. Yes, but I remember just how I did it. You just ring the bell, and talk in the box, and listen for the answer. Let’s try it, anyway.

Mabel. All right, we will, but he may not be at home. He must start early to travel so far.

Esther. I will ask Mrs. Santa Claus anyway. Now let’s do it quick, before any one comes in.

Mabel (getting a chair for Esther to stand on). Here Esther, you must stand upon this chair. Now be careful not to fall off.

Esther (gets upon chair). Now you take the receiver and stand over there (points) and listen to what she says (Esther rings.)

Mabel. Some one is there, Esther. Ask them to give you Santa Claus Land.

Esther. Hello, hello! Give me Santa Claus Land, please.

Mabel. She says that this is Santa Claus Land.

Esther. Hello! Is this Mrs. Santa Claus?

Mabel. She says “yes.” Ask her if Mr. Santa Claus is at home.

Esther. Mrs. Santa Claus, Mrs. Santa Claus, is Mr. Santa Claus at home?

Mabel. She says “no,” he isn’t. He has gone on a journey to visit all the good boys and girls.

Esther. Hello, hello, Mrs. Santa Claus. Does Mr. Santa Claus only make one trip on Christmas Eve?

Mabel. She says “yes,” that is all he makes. Ask her to send some one after him to catch him, because we want something very special.

Esther. Mrs. Santa Claus. (Both wait a moment.)

Mabel. She can’t be at the phone, Esther, ring her up again.

Esther (rings again). Hello, Mrs. Santa Claus, will you please send some one after Mr. Santa Claus, to tell him that we want something special?

Mabel (waits a moment). She’s not there yet, Esther. Ring her up again. (Esther rings quite hard.) Now she is there, and she wants to know why we bother her so on Christmas Eve.

Esther. Mrs. Santa, please send some one after Mr. Santa, and tell him that we are two good little girls, and we want a muff and a pair of skates, and some candy canes as long as your arm. Now don’t forget, Mrs. Santa—a muff, and skates, and candy canes as long as myself.

Mabel. She says that Santa is too far away, and nobody could catch him now. And she says that we must not bother her any more as she is busy making her Christmas pies.

Esther (to Mabel). But I want my candy cane (rings several times).

Mabel (frightened). Oh, Esther, Mrs. Santy will be awfully angry with us. Let’s go away.

Esther (getting impatient). Does she answer the ring?

Mabel. No. (Esther rings harder than before.) Now she is there and she wants to know if it is the same two little girls.

Esther (into the phone). Yes, it’s Mabel and me, and we want Santa Claus to bring us some skates, and a muff and candy canes as long as a fishing-pole.

Mabel. She says that we must be good or Santa won’t come to (name your town) tonight at all. We bother her a lot, she says.

Esther (into the phone). Mrs. Santa—Mrs. Santa—(no answer.)

Mabel. She has gone away again, Esther. Let’s not bother her any more or she may send some one after Santa to tell on us.

Esther. I want to know if Santa is coming to (your town) tonight, anyway (rings long and several times).

Mabel (frightened). I guess she is angry with us, Esther. Please do let’s stop now. Let’s not ring any more, because I don’t care for the skates, anyway.

Esther (to Mabel). Isn’t she there yet?

Mabel. No—I guess not. (Esther rings and rings.) Oh, Oh, Esther do stop!

Esther. Now—is—she—there?

Mabel. Yes, and she wants papa to take those naughty girls away from the “phone,” or Santa won’t come to (your town) tonight. Please do stop ringing, Esther. (Listens.) Oh, Esther, I think I hear papa coming, and he will be angry, too.

Esther. No, papa won’t be angry, he would like to have us get our muff and skates. (Ring, rings and rings.)

Mabel (during the ringing). Oh, Esther, oh, Esther! She says to stop that ringing!!

Esther (stamping her foot, keeps on ringing). I’m mad with her, Mabel (then into the phone). Mrs. Santa—Mrs. Santa—do you hear, Mrs. Santa? Do—you—hear—Mrs. Santa? We want our muff, and our skates, and the candy canes as big as a house. Do—you—hear, Mrs. Santa? Mrs. Santa! I want my muff[7] and skates. (Rings while talking.) I am mad with you, Mrs. Santa. I want my muff. (Here pull the trap and the skates drop out, pulling the muff also. Esther jumps down from the chair, Mabel drops the receiver. They seize the skates and muff and say, as they hold them up): We’ve got them. We’ve got them, the skates and muff, the skates and muff!

(Players Exit)

Now that its winter time for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere, here is a poignant story about a snowflake.
———–
SNOWFLAKE – A SLAVONIC STORY.

(Contes Populaires Slaves, traduits par Louis Leger.
Paris: Leroux, Editeur.)

Once upon a time there lived a peasant called Ivan, and he had a wife whose name was Marie. They would have been quite happy except for one thing: they had no children to play with, and as they were now old people they did not find that watching the children of their neighbours at all made up to them for having one of their own.
One winter, which nobody living will ever forget, the snow lay so deep that it came up to the knees of even the tallest man. When it had all fallen, and the sun was shining again, the children ran out into the street to play, and the old man and his wife sat at their window and gazed at them. The children first made a sort of little terrace, and stamped it hard and firm, and then they began to make a snow woman. Ivan and Marie watched them, the while thinking about many things.
Suddenly Ivan’s face brightened, and, looking at his wife, he said, ‘Wife, why shouldn’t we make a snow woman too?’
‘Why not?’ replied Marie, who happened to be in a very good temper; ‘it might amuse us a little. But there is no use making a woman. Let us make a little snow child, and pretend it is a living one.’
‘Yes, let us do that,’ said Ivan, and he took down his cap and went into the garden with his old wife.
Then the two set to work with all their might to make a doll out of the snow. They shaped a little body and two little hands and two little feet. On top of all they placed a ball of snow, out of which the head was to be.
‘What in the world are you doing?’ asked a passer-by.
‘Can’t you guess?’ returned Ivan.
‘Making a snow-child,’ replied Marie.
They had finished the nose and the chin. Two holes were left for the eyes, and Ivan carefully shaped out the mouth. No sooner had he done so than he felt a warm breath upon his cheek. He started back in surprise and looked—and behold! the eyes of the child met his, and its lips, which were as red as raspberries, smiled at him!
‘What is it?’ cried Ivan, crossing himself. ‘Am I mad, or is the thing bewitched?’
The snow-child bent its head as if it had been really alive. It moved its little arms and its little legs in the snow that lay about it just as the living children did theirs.
‘Ah! Ivan, Ivan,’ exclaimed Marie, trembling with joy, ‘heaven has sent us a child at last!’ And she threw herself upon Snowflake (for that was the snow-child’s name) and covered her with kisses. And the loose snow fell away from Snowflake as an egg shell does from an egg, and it was a little girl whom Marie held in her arms.
‘Oh! my darling Snowflake!’ cried the old woman, and led her into the cottage.
And Snowflake grew fast; each hour as well as each day made a difference, and every day she became more and more beautiful. The old couple hardly knew how to contain themselves for joy, and thought of nothing else. The cottage was always full of village children, for they amused Snowflake, and there was nothing in the world they would not have done to amuse her. She was their doll, and they were continually inventing new dresses for her, and teaching her songs or playing with her. Nobody knew how clever she was! She noticed everything, and could learn a lesson in a moment. Anyone would have taken her for thirteen at least! And, besides all that, she was so good and obedient; and so pretty, too! Her skin was as white as snow, her eyes as blue as forget-me-nots, and her hair was long and golden. Only her cheeks had no colour in them, but were as fair as her forehead.
So the winter went on, till at last the spring sun mounted higher in the heavens and began to warm the earth. The grass grew green in the fields, and high in the air the larks were heard singing. The village girls met and danced in a ring, singing, ‘Beautiful spring, how came you here? How came you here? Did you come on a plough, or was it a harrow?’ Only Snowflake sat quite still by the window of the cottage.
‘What is the matter, dear child?’ asked Marie. ‘Why are you so sad? Are you ill? or have they treated you unkindly?’
‘No,’ replied Snowflake, ‘it is nothing, mother; no one has hurt me; I am well.’
The spring sun had chased away the last snow from its hiding place under the hedges; the fields were full of flowers; nightingales sang in the trees, and all the world was gay. But the gayer grew the birds and the flowers the sadder became Snowflake. She hid herself from her playmates, and curled herself up where the shadows were deepest, like a lily amongst its leaves. Her only pleasure was to lie amid the green willows near some sparkling stream. At the dawn and at twilight only she seemed happy. When a great storm broke, and the earth was white with hail, she became bright and joyous as the Snowflake of old; but when the clouds passed, and the hail melted beneath the sun, Snowflake would burst into tears and weep as a sister would weep over her brother.
The spring passed, and it was the eve of St. John, or Midsummer Day. This was the greatest holiday of the year, when the young girls met in the woods to dance and play. They went to fetch Snowflake, and said to Marie: ‘Let her come and dance with us.’
But Marie was afraid; she could not tell why, only she could not bear the child to go. Snowflake did not wish to go either, but they had no excuse ready. So Marie kissed the girl and said: ‘Go, my Snowflake, and be happy with your friends, and you, dear children, be careful of her. You know she is the light of my eyes to me.’
‘Oh, we will take care of her,’ cried the girls gaily, and they ran off to the woods. There they wore wreaths, gathered nosegays, and sang songs some sad, some merry. And whatever they did Snowflake did too.
When the sun set they lit a fire of dry grass, and placed themselves in a row, Snowflake being the last of all. ‘Now, watch us,’ they said, ‘and run just as we do.’
And they all began to sing and to jump one after another across the fire.
Suddenly, close behind them, they heard a sigh, then a groan. ‘Ah!’ They turned hastily and looked at each other. There was nothing. They looked again. Where was Snowflake? She has hidden herself for fun, they thought, and searched for her everywhere. ‘Snowflake! Snowflake!’ But there was no answer. ‘Where can she be? Oh, she must have gone home.’ They returned to the village, but there was no Snowflake.
For days after that they sought her high and low. They examined every bush and every hedge, but there was no Snowflake. And long after everyone else had given up hope Ivan and Marie would wander through the woods crying ‘Snowflake, my dove, come back, come back!’ And sometimes they thought they heard a call, but it was never the voice of Snowflake.
And what had become of her? Had a fierce wild beast seized her and dragged her into his lair in the forest? Had some bird carried her off across the wide blue sea?
No, no beast had touched her, no bird had borne her away. With the first breath of flame that swept over her when she ran with her friends Snowflake had melted away, and a little soft haze floating upwards was all that remained of her.

From: Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book – now part of a 3 book set

ISBN:978-1-907256-75-2

URL: http://abelapublishing.com/andrew-langs-coloured-fairy-tales-3-book-set_p24618764.htm

Andrew Lang's Coloured Fairy Tales 3 Book Set

Most of us know the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas written by Clement Clarke Moore almost 190 years ago even if we are not American. But how would it fare if applied to another far older, culture – like the Vikings for instance? Just how would it translate? :-

– – –

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Hall
Not a creature was stirring, not a warrior nor thrall.
And I in my armour, my shield and my helm
Was drunker than anyone else in the Realm.

I staggered upstairs and fell into bed
While four quarts of mead were ablaze in my head.
Then up from below came the sounds of a brawl
So I grabbed up my axe and ran down to the Hall.

I missed the last step and crashed down in a heap
Thinking, “Why can’t those low-lifes downstairs go to sleep!”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But two brawny strangers, wielding mallet and spear.

I said to myself, “We’ll soon have them beat!”
Then I noticed ten warriors laid out at their feet.
I gave out a yell and leapt into the fray…
I’ll always regret my poor choice of that day.

For the one laid his hammer to the side of my nose
And up, up, up to the rafters I rose.
Then came a lone frightened voice from the floor,
“Those are no mortal warriors — that’s Odin and Thor!”

Then they looked at each other and they said, “Battle’s done.
Now they know who we are, it no longer is fun.”
Then Thor raised his hammer, and his elbow he bent,
And with a loud crash, through the ceiling they went.

I crawled through the Hall and flung open the door,
Not really sure that I’d seen them before.
The snow bathed in starlight, the moon like a glede,
I saw them ride off on an eight-legged steed.
And I heard them exclaim, ‘ere they flew out of sight,
“TO ‘HALLA WITH CHRISTMAS,
WE JUST LOVE A GOOD FIGHT!”

– – –

Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863) wrote the poem Twas the night before Christmas (also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”) in 1822. It is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve. The poem has redefined our image of Christmas and Santa Claus. It could also be argued that exports of sentimental Christmas movies from Hollywood have also done their bit to popularise this poem. It is important to note that prior to the creation of the story of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeers!

Clement Moore was a reticent man and it is believed that a family friend, Miss H. Butler, sent a copy of the poem to the New York Sentinel who published the poem. The condition of publication was that the author of Twas the night before Christmas was to remain anonymous. The first publication date was 23rd December 1823 and it was an immediate success.

It was not until 1844 that Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership when the work was included in a book of his poetry. Would Clement have approved of this “translation” of his classic poem? Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn’t?

Wishing all fans and members a very merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Twas the Night Before Christmas (Viking Style) can be found in Tiivistelmä (ISBN 978-0-956558-44-7) a book of Viking poetry and mythology for Viking Skalds and tellers of Viking tales

http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_tiv.html

Tiivistelma Cover

Tiivistelma Cover