Part 6 out of 8
and who sighed with regret every time she gave
him a bowlful of soup.
The poor little boy was so sweet-tempered that
he loved the old woman in spite of her bad treatment,
but he could not look without trembling at
the wart, decorated with four gray hairs, which
grew on the end of her nose.
As Wolff's aunt was known to have a house of
her own and a woolen stocking full of gold, she did
not dare to send her nephew to the school for the
poor. But she wrangled so that the schoolmaster
of the rich boys' school was forced to lower his
price and admit little Wolff among his pupils.
The bad schoolmaster was vexed to have a boy
so meanly clad and who paid so little, and he
punished little Wolff severely without cause,
ridiculed him, and even incited against him his
comrades, who were the sons of rich citizens.
They made the orphan their drudge and mocked
at him so much that the little boy was as miserable
as the stones in the street, and hid himself
away in corners to cry--when the Christmas
On the Eve of the great Day the schoolmaster
was to take all his pupils to the midnight mass,
and then to conduct them home again to their
Now as the winter was very severe, and a
quantity of snow had fallen within the past few
days, the boys came to the place of meeting
warmly wrapped up, with fur-lined caps drawn
down over their ears, padded jackets, gloves and
knitted mittens, and good strong shoes with
thick soles. Only little Wolff presented himself
shivering in his thin everyday clothes, and wearing
on his feet socks and wooden shoes.
His naughty comrades tried to annoy him in
every possible way, but the orphan was so busy
warming his hands by blowing on them, and was
suffering so much from chilblains, that he paid no
heed to the taunts of the others. Then the band
of boys, marching two by two, started for the
It was comfortable inside the church, which
was brilliant with lighted tapers. And the pupils,
made lively by the gentle warmth, the sound of
the organ, and the singing of the choir, began to
chatter in low tones. They boasted of the midnight
treats awaiting them at home. The son of
the Mayor had seen, before leaving the house, a
monstrous goose larded with truffles so that it
looked like a black-spotted leopard. Another boy
told of the fir tree waiting for him, on the branches
of which hung oranges, sugar-plums, and punchinellos.
Then they talked about what the Christ
Child would bring them, or what he would leave
in their shoes which they would certainly be careful
to place before the fire when they went to bed.
And the eyes of the little rogues, lively as a crowd
of mice, sparkled with delight as they thought of
the many gifts they would find on waking,--the
pink bags of burnt almonds, the bonbons, lead
soldiers standing in rows, menageries, and magnificent
jumping-jacks, dressed in purple and gold.
Little Wolff, alas! knew well that his miserly
old aunt would send him to bed without any supper;
but as he had been good and industrious all
the year, he trusted that the Christ Child would
not forget him, so he meant that night to set his
wooden shoes on the hearth.
The midnight mass was ended. The worshipers
hurried away, anxious to enjoy the treats awaiting
them in their homes. The band of pupils, two by
two, following the schoolmaster, passed out of the
Now, under the porch, seated on a stone bench,
in the shadow of an arched niche, was a child
asleep,--a little child dressed in a white garment
and with bare feet exposed to the cold. He was
not a beggar, for his dress was clean and new, and
--beside him upon the ground, tied in a cloth, were
the tools of a carpenter's apprentice.
Under the light of the stars, his face, with its
closed eyes, shone with an expression of divine
sweetness, and his soft, curling blond hair seemed
to form an aureole of light about his forehead.
But his tender feet, blue with the cold on this
cruel night of December, were pitiful to see!
The pupils so warmly clad and shod, passed
with indifference before the unknown child.
Some, the sons of the greatest men in the city,
cast looks of scorn on the barefooted one. But
little Wolff, coming last out of the church, stopped
deeply moved before the beautiful, sleeping child.
``Alas!'' said the orphan to himself, ``how
dreadful! This poor little one goes without stockings
in weather so cold! And, what is worse, he
has no shoe to leave beside him while he sleeps, so
that the Christ Child may place something in it to
comfort him in all his misery.''
And carried away by his tender heart, little
Wolff drew off the wooden shoe from his right
foot, placed it before the sleeping child; and as
best as he was able, now hopping, now limping,
and wetting his sock in the snow, he returned to
``You good-for-nothing!'' cried the old woman,
full of rage as she saw that one of his shoes was
gone. ``What have you done with your shoe, little
Little Wolff did not know how to lie, and,
though shivering with terror as he saw the gray
hairs on the end of her nose stand upright, he
tried, stammering, to tell his adventure.
But the old miser burst into frightful laughter.
``Ah! the sweet young master takes off his shoe
for a beggar! Ah! master spoils a pair of shoes for
a barefoot! This is something new, indeed! Ah!
well, since things are so, I will place the shoe that
is left in the fireplace, and to-night the Christ
Child will put in a rod to whip you when you
wake. And to-morrow you shall have nothing to
eat but water and dry bread, and we shall see if
the next time you will give away your shoe to the
first vagabond that comes along.''
And saying this the wicked woman gave him
a box on each ear, and made him climb to his
wretched room in the loft. There the heartbroken
little one lay down in the darkness, and,
drenching his pillow with tears, fell asleep.
But in the morning, when the old woman,
awakened by the cold and shaken by her cough,
descended to the kitchen, oh! wonder of wonders!
she saw the great fireplace filled with bright toys,
magnificent boxes of sugar-plums, riches of all
sorts, and in front of all this treasure, the wooden
shoe which her nephew had given to the vagabond,
standing beside the other shoe which she
herself had placed there the night before, intending
to put in it a handful of switches.
And as little Wolff, who had come running at
the cries of his aunt, stood in speechless delight
before all the splendid Christmas gifts, there
came great shouts of laughter from the street.
The old woman and the little boy went out to
learn what it was all about, and saw the gossips
gathered around the public fountain. What could
have happened? Oh, a most amusing and extraordinary
thing! The children of all the rich men of
the city, whose parents wished to surprise them
with the most beautiful gifts, had found nothing
but switches in their shoes!
Then the old woman and little Wolff remembered
with alarm all the riches that were in their
own fireplace, but just then they saw the pastor
of the parish church arriving with his face full of
Above the bench near the church door, in the
very spot where the night before a child, dressed
in white, with bare feet exposed to the great cold,
had rested his sleeping head, the pastor had seen a
golden circle wrought into the old stones. Then
all the people knew that the beautiful, sleeping
child, beside whom had lain the carpenter's tools,
was the Christ Child himself, and that he had
rewarded the faith and charity of little Wolff.
THE PINE TREE
BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (TRANSLATED)
WHEN IT WAS LITTLE
Out in the woods stood such a nice little Pine
Tree: he had a good place; the sun could get at
him; there was fresh air enough; and round him
grew many big comrades, both pines and firs.
But the little Pine wanted so very much to be a
He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh
air, he did not care for the little cottage-children
who ran about and prattled when they were looking
for wild strawberries and raspberries. Often
they came with a whole jug full, or had their
strawberries strung on a straw, and sat down near the
little Tree and said, ``Oh, what a nice little fellow!''
This was what the Tree could not bear to hear.
The year after he had shot up a good deal, and
the next year after he was still bigger; for with
pine trees one can always tell by the shoots how
many years old they are.
``Oh, were I but such a big tree as the others
are,'' sighed the little Tree. ``Then I could
spread my branches so far, and with the tops look
out into the wide world! Birds would build nests
among my branches; and when there was a
breeze, I could nod as grandly as the others
He had no delight at all in the sunshine, or in
the birds, or the red clouds which morning and
evening sailed above him.
When now it was winter and the snow all
around lay glittering white, a hare would often
come leaping along, and jump right over the little
Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two
winters went by, and with the third the Tree was
so big that the hare had to go round it. ``Oh,
to grow, to grow, to become big and old, and be
tall,'' thought the Tree: ``that, after all, is the
most delightful thing in the world!''
In autumn the wood-cutters always came and
felled some of the largest trees. This happened
every year, and the young Pine Tree, that was
now quite well grown, trembled at the sight; for
the great stately trees fell to the earth with noise
and cracking, the branches were lopped off, and
the trees looked quite bare, they were so long and
thin; you would hardly know them for trees, and
then they were laid on carts, and horses dragged
them out of the wood.
Where did they go to? What became of them?
In spring, when the Swallow and the Stork
came, the Tree asked them, ``Don't you know
where they have been taken? Have you not met
The Swallow did not know anything about it;
but the Stork looked doubtful, nodded his head,
and said, ``Yes; I have it; I met many new ships
as I was flying from Egypt; on the ships were
splendid masts, and I dare say it was they that
smelt so of pine. I wish you joy, for they lifted
themselves on high in fine style!''
``Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea!
How does the sea really look? and what is it like?''
``Aye, that takes a long time to tell,'' said the
Stork, and away he went.
``Rejoice in thy youth!'' said the Sunbeams,
``rejoice in thy hearty growth, and in the young
life that is in thee!''
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew
wept tears over him, but the Pine Tree understood it not.
CHRISTMAS IN THE WOODS
When Christmas came, quite young trees were
cut down; trees which were not even so large or of
the same age as this Pine Tree, who had no rest or
peace, but always wanted to be off. These young
trees, and they were always the finest looking,
always kept their branches; they were laid on
carts, and the horses drew them out of the wood.
``Where are they going to?'' asked the Pine
Tree. ``They are not taller than I; there was one,
indeed, that was much shorter;--and why do
they keep all their branches? Where are they
carrying them to?''
``We know! we know!'' chirped the Sparrows.
``We have peeped in at the windows down there in
the town. We know where they are carrying them
to. Oh, they are going to where it is as bright and
splendid as you can think! We peeped through
the windows, and saw them planted in the middle
of the warm room, and dressed with the most
splendid things,--with gilded apples, with
gingerbread, with toys and many hundred lights!''
``And then?'' asked the Pine Tree, and he
trembled in every bough. ``And then? What
``We did not see anything more: it beat everything!''
``I wonder if I am to sparkle like that!'' cried
the Tree, rejoicing. ``That is still better than to
go over the sea! How I do suffer for very longing!
Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and
stretch out like the others that were carried off
last year! Oh, if I were already on the cart! I
wish I were in the warm room with all the splendor
and brightness. And then? Yes; then will come
something better, something still grander, or why
should they dress me out so? There must come
something better, something still grander,--but
what? Oh, how I long, how I suffer! I do not
know myself what is the matter with me!''
``Rejoice in us!'' said the Air and the Sunlight;
``rejoice in thy fresh youth out here in the open
But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and
grew; and he stood there in all his greenery; rich
green was he winter and summer. People that
saw him said, ``That's a fine tree!'' and toward
Christmas he was the first that was cut down.
The axe struck deep into the very pith; the Tree
fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a pang--it
was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness,
for he was sad at being parted from his home,
from the place where he had sprung up. He well
knew that he should never see his dear old comrades,
the little bushes and flowers around him,
any more; perhaps not even the birds! The setting
off was not at all pleasant.
The Tree only came to himself when he was
unloaded in a courtyard with other trees, and
heard a man say, ``That one is splendid! we don't
want the others.'' Then two servants came in
rich livery and carried the Pine Tree into a large
and splendid room. Portraits were hanging on
the walls, and near the white porcelain stove
stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the
covers. There, too, were large easy-chairs, silken
sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and full of
toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars--
at least so the children said. And the Pine Tree
was stuck upright in a cask filled with sand: but
no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth
was hung all around it, and it stood on a gayly
colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree quivered!
What was to happen? The servants, as well as the
young ladies, dressed it. On one branch there
hung little nets cut out of colored paper; each net
was filled with sugar-plums; gilded apples and
walnuts hung as though they grew tightly there,
and more than a hundred little red, blue, and white
tapers were stuck fast into the branches. Dolls
that looked for all the world like men--the Tree
had never seen such things before--fluttered
among the leaves, and at the very top a large star
of gold tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid--
splendid beyond telling.
``This evening!'' said they all; ``how it will
shine this evening!''
``Oh,'' thought the Tree, ``if it were only
evening! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I
wonder what will happen! I wonder if the other
trees from the forest will come to look at me!
I wonder if the sparrows will beat against the
window-panes! I wonder if I shall take root here,
and stand dressed so winter and summer!''
Aye, aye, much he knew about the matter! but
he had a real back-ache for sheer longing, and a
back-ache with trees is the same thing as a head-
ache with us.
CHRISTMAS IN THE HOUSE
The candles were now lighted. What brightness!
What splendor! The Tree trembled so in
every bough that one of the tapers set fire to a
green branch. It blazed up splendidly.
Now the Tree did not even dare to tremble.
That was a fright! He was so afraid of losing
something of all his finery, that he was quite
confused amidst the glare and brightness; and now
both folding-doors opened, and a troop of children
rushed in as if they would tip the whole Tree over.
The older folks came quietly behind; the little
ones stood quite still, but only for a moment, then
they shouted so that the whole place echoed their
shouts, they danced round the Tree, and one
present after another was pulled off.
``What are they about?'' thought the Tree.
``What is to happen now?'' And the lights burned
down to the very branches, and as they burned
down they were put out one after the other, and
then the children had leave to plunder the Tree.
Oh, they rushed upon it so that it cracked in all its
limbs; if its tip-top with the gold star on it had
not been fastened to the ceiling, it would have
The children danced about with their pretty
toys; no one looked at the Tree except the old
nurse, who peeped in among the branches; but it
was only to see if there was a fig or an apple that
had been forgotten.
``A story! a story!'' cried the children, and they
dragged a little fat man toward the Tree. He sat
down under it, and said, ``Now we are in the
shade, and the Tree can hear very well too. But I
shall tell only one story. Now which will you
have: that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy-
Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to the
throne after all, and married the princess?''
``Ivedy-Avedy,'' cried some; ``Klumpy-
Dumpy,'' cried the others. There was such a
bawling and screaming!--the Pine Tree alone
was silent, and he thought to himself, ``Am I not
to bawl with the rest?--am I to do nothing
whatever?''--for he was one of them, and he had done
what he had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who
tumbled downstairs, and came to the throne after
all, and married the princess. And the children
clapped their hands, and cried out, ``Go on, go
on!'' They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy
too, but the little man only told them about
Klumpy-Dumpy. The Pine Tree stood quite still
and thoughtful: the birds in the wood had never
told anything like this. ``Klumpy-Dumpy fell
downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes,
yes, that's the way of the world!'' thought the
Pine Tree, and he believed it all, because it was
such a nice man who told the story.
``Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall
downstairs, too, and so get a princess!'' And he
looked forward with joy to the next day when he
should be decked out with lights and toys, fruits
``To-morrow I won't tremble!'' thought the
Pine Tree. ``I will enjoy to the full all my
splendor! To-morrow I shall hear again the story of
Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-
Avedy too.'' And the whole night the Tree stood
still in deep thought.
In the morning the servant and the maid came in.
IN THE ATTIC
``Now all the finery will begin again,'' thought
the Pine. But they dragged him out of the room,
and up the stairs into the attic; and here in a dark
corner, where no daylight could enter, they left
him. ``What's the meaning of this?'' thought the
Tree. ``What am I to do here? What shall I see
and hear now, I wonder?'' And he leaned against
the wall and stood and thought and thought.
And plenty of time he had, for days and nights
passed, and nobody came up; and when at last
somebody did come, it was only to put some great
trunks in the corner. There stood the Tree quite
hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely forgotten.
``'T is now winter out-of-doors!'' thought the
Tree. ``The earth is hard and covered with snow;
men cannot plant me now; therefore I have been
put up here under cover till spring! How thoughtful
that is! How good men are, after all! If it
were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not
even a hare. Out there it was so pleasant in the
woods, when the snow was on the ground, and the
hare leaped by; yes--even when he jumped over
me; but I did not like it then. It is terribly lonely
``Squeak! squeak!'' said a little Mouse at the
same moment, peeping out of his hole. And then
another little one came. They snuffed about the
Pine Tree, and rustled among the branches.
``It is dreadfully cold,'' said the little Mouse.
``But for that, it would be delightful here, old
Pine, wouldn't it!''
``I am by no means old,'' said the Pine Tree.
``There are many a good deal older than I am.''
``Where do you come from?'' asked the Mice;
``and what can you do?'' They were so very
curious. ``Tell us about the most beautiful spot
on earth. Have you been there? Were you ever in
the larder, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and
hams hang from above; where one dances about
on tallow candles; where one goes in lean and
comes out fat?''
``I don't know that place,'' said the Tree.
``But I know the wood where the sun shines, and
where the little birds sing.''
And then he told his story from his youth up;
and the little Mice had never heard the like
before; and they listened and said,
``Well, to be sure! How much you have seen!
How happy you must have been!''
``I!'' said the Pine Tree, and he thought over
what he had himself told. ``Yes, really those
were happy times.'' And then he told about
Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with
cakes and candles.
``Oh,'' said the little Mice, ``how lucky you have
been, old Pine Tree!''
``I am not at all old,'' said he. ``I came from
the wood this winter; I am in my prime, and am
only rather short of my age.''
``What delightful stories you know!'' said the
Mice: and the next night they came with four
other little Mice, who were to hear what the Tree
had to tell; and the more he told, the more plainly
he remembered all himself; and he thought:
``That was a merry time! But it can come! it can
come! Klumpy-Dumpy fell down stairs, and yet
he got a princess! Maybe I can get a princess
too!'' And all of a sudden he thought of a nice
little Birch Tree growing out in the woods: to the
Pine, that would be a really charming princess.
``Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?'' asked the little
So then the Pine Tree told the whole fairy tale,
for he could remember every single word of it; and
the little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top
of the Tree. Next night two more Mice came,
and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said the
stories were not amusing, which vexed the little
Mice, because they, too, now began to think
them not so very amusing either.
``Do you know only that one story?'' asked the
``Only that one!'' answered the Tree. ``I heard
it on my happiest evening; but I did not then
know how happy I was.''
``It is a very stupid story! Don't you know one
about bacon and tallow candles? Can't you tell
``No,'' said the Tree.
``Thank you, then,'' said the Rats; and they
At last the little Mice stayed away also; and
the Tree sighed: ``After all, it was very pleasant
when the sleek little Mice sat round me and heard
what I told them. Now that too is over. But I
will take good care to enjoy myself when I am
brought out again.''
But when was that to be? Why, it was one
morning when there came a number of people and
set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved,
the tree was pulled out and thrown down; they
knocked him upon the floor, but a man drew him
at once toward the stairs, where the daylight shone.
OUT OF DOORS AGAIN
``Now life begins again,'' thought the Tree. He
felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam,--and now
he was out in the courtyard. All passed so quickly
that the Tree quite forgot to look to himself, there
was so much going on around him. The court
adjoined a garden, and all was in flower; the roses
hung over the fence, so fresh and smelling so
sweetly; the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows
flew by, and said, ``Quirre-virre-vit! my husband
is come!'' But it was not the Pine Tree that they
``Now, I shall really live,'' said he with joy, and
spread out his branches; dear! dear! they were all
dry and yellow. It was in a corner among weeds
and nettles that he lay. The golden star of tinsel
was still on top of the Tree, and shone in the
In the courtyard a few of the merry children
were playing who had danced at Christmas
round the Tree, and were so glad at the sight of
him. One of the littlest ran and tore off the golden
``See what is still on the ugly old Christmas
Tree!'' said he, and he trampled on the branches,
so that they cracked under his feet.
And the Tree saw all the beauty of the flowers,
and the freshness in the garden; he saw himself,
and he wished he had stayed in his dark corner in
the attic: he thought of his fresh youth in the
wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the
little Mice who had heard so gladly the story of
``Gone! gone!'' said the poor Tree. ``Had I but
been happy when I could be. Gone! gone!''
And the gardener's boy came and chopped the
Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap
lying there. The wood flamed up finely under
the large brewing kettle, and it sighed so deeply!
Each sigh was like a little shot. So the children
ran to where it lay and sat down before the fire,
and peeped in at the blaze, and shouted ``Piff!
paff!'' But at every snap there was a deep sigh.
The Tree was thinking of summer days in the
wood, and of winter nights when the stars shone;
it was thinking of Christmas Eve and Klumpy-
Dumpy, the only fairy tale it had heard and knew
how to tell,--and so the Tree burned out.
The boys played about in the court, and the
youngest wore the gold star on his breast which
the Tree had worn on the happiest evening of his
life. Now, that was gone, the Tree was gone, and
gone too was the story. All, all was gone, and
that's the way with all stories.
THE CHRISTMAS CUCKOO
BY FRANCES BROWNE (ADAPTED)
Once upon a time there stood in the midst of a
bleak moor, in the North Country, a certain village.
All its inhabitants were poor, for their fields
were barren, and they had little trade; but the
poorest of them all were two brothers called Scrub
and Spare, who followed the cobbler's craft.
Their hut was built of clay and wattles. The door
was low and always open, for there was no
window. The roof did not entirely keep out the rain
and the only thing comfortable was a wide fireplace,
for which the brothers could never find
wood enough to make sufficient fire. There they
worked in most brotherly friendship, though with
On one unlucky day a new cobbler arrived in
the village. He had lived in the capital city of the
kingdom and, by his own account, cobbled for the
queen and the princesses. His awls were sharp,
his lasts were new; he set up his stall in a neat
cottage with two windows. The villagers soon
found out that one patch of his would outwear
two of the brothers'. In short, all the mending
left Scrub and Spare, and went to the new cobbler.
The season had been wet and cold, their barley
did not ripen well, and the cabbages never half-
closed in the garden. So the brothers were poor
that winter, and when Christmas came they had
nothing to feast on but a barley loaf and a piece of
rusty bacon. Worse than that, the snow was very
deep and they could get no firewood.
Their hut stood at the end of the village;
beyond it spread the bleak moor, now all white and
silent. But that moor had once been a forest;
great roots of old trees were still to be found in it,
loosened from the soil and laid bare by the winds
and rains. One of these, a rough, gnarled log, lay
hard by their door, the half of it above the snow,
and Spare said to his brother:--
``Shall we sit here cold on Christmas while the
great root lies yonder? Let us chop it up for
firewood, the work will make us warm.''
``No,'' said Scrub, ``it's not right to chop wood
on Christmas; besides, that root is too hard to be
broken with any hatchet.''
``Hard or not, we must have a fire,'' replied
Spare. ``Come, brother, help me in with it. Poor
as we are there is nobody in the village will have
such a yule log as ours.''
Scrub liked a little grandeur, and, in hopes of
having a fine yule log, both brothers strained and
strove with all their might till, between pulling
and pushing, the great old root was safe on the
hearth, and beginning to crackle and blaze with
the red embers.
In high glee the cobblers sat down to their
bread and bacon. The door was shut, for there
was nothing but cold moonlight and snow outside;
but the hut, strewn with fir boughs and ornamented
with holly, looked cheerful as the ruddy
blaze flared up and rejoiced their hearts.
Then suddenly from out the blazing root they
heard: ``Cuckoo! cuckoo!'' as plain as ever the
spring-bird's voice came over the moor on a May
``What is that?'' said Scrub, terribly
frightened; ``it is something bad!''
``Maybe not,'' said Spare.
And out of the deep hole at the side of the root,
which the fire had not reached, flew a large, gray
cuckoo, and lit on the table before them. Much
as the cobblers had been surprised, they were still
more so when it said:--
``Good gentlemen, what season is this?''
``It's Christmas,'' said Spare.
``Then a merry Christmas to you!'' said the
cuckoo. ``I went to sleep in the hollow of that old
root one evening last summer, and never woke till
the heat of your fire made me think it was summer
again. But now since you have burned my
lodging, let me stay in your hut till the spring
comes round,--I only want a hole to sleep in,
and when I go on my travels next summer be
assured I will bring you some present for your
``Stay and welcome,'' said Spare, while Scrub
sat wondering if it were something bad or not.
``I'll make you a good warm hole in the
thatch,'' said Spare. ``But you must be hungry
after that long sleep,--here is a slice of barley
bread. Come help us to keep Christmas!''
The cuckoo ate up the slice, drank water from a
brown jug, and flew into a snug hole which Spare
scooped for it in the thatch of the hut.
Scrub said he was afraid it wouldn't be lucky;
but as it slept on and the days passed he forgot
So the snow melted, the heavy rains came,
the cold grew less, the days lengthened, and one
sunny morning the brothers were awakened by
the cuckoo shouting its own cry to let them know
the spring had come.
``Now I'm going on my travels,'' said the
bird, ``over the world to tell men of the spring.
There is no country where trees bud, or flowers
bloom, that I will not cry in before the year goes
round. Give me another slice of barley bread to
help me on my journey, and tell me what present
I shall bring you at the twelvemonth's end.''
Scrub would have been angry with his brother
for cutting so large a slice, their store of barley
being low, but his mind was occupied with what
present it would be most prudent to ask for.
``There are two trees hard by the well that lies
at the world's end,'' said the cuckoo; ``one of
them is called the golden tree, for its leaves are all
of beaten gold. Every winter they fall into the
well with a sound like scattered coin, and I know
not what becomes of them. As for the other, it is
always green like a laurel. Some call it the wise,
and some the merry, tree. Its leaves never fall,
but they that get one of them keep a blithe heart
in spite of all misfortunes, and can make themselves
as merry in a hut as in a palace.''
``Good master cuckoo, bring me a leaf off that
tree!'' cried Spare.
``Now, brother, don't be a fool!'' said Scrub;
``think of the leaves of beaten gold! Dear master
cuckoo, bring me one of them!''
Before another word could be spoken the
cuckoo had flown out of the open door, and was
shouting its spring cry over moor and meadow.
The brothers were poorer than ever that year.
Nobody would send them a single shoe to mend,
and Scrub and Spare would have left the village
but for their barley-field and their cabbage-
garden. They sowed their barley, planted their
cabbage, and, now that their trade was gone,
worked in the rich villagers' fields to make out a
So the seasons came and passed; spring,
summer, harvest, and winter followed each other as
they have done from the beginning. At the end of
the latter Scrub and Spare had grown so poor and
ragged that their old neighbors forgot to invite
them to wedding feasts or merrymakings, and the
brothers thought the cuckoo had forgotten them,
too, when at daybreak on the first of April they
heard a hard beak knocking at their door, and a
``Cuckoo! cuckoo! Let me in with my presents!''
Spare ran to open the door, and in came the
cuckoo, carrying on one side of its bill a golden
leaf larger than that of any tree in the North
Country; and in the other side of its bill, one like
that of the common laurel, only it had a fresher
``Here,'' it said, giving the gold to Scrub and
the green to Spare, ``it is a long carriage from the
world's end. Give me a slice of barley bread, for I
must tell the North Country that the spring has
Scrub did not grudge the thickness of that slice,
though it was cut from their last loaf. So much
gold had never been in the cobbler's hands before,
and he could not help exulting over his brother.
``See the wisdom of my choice,'' he said,
holding up the large leaf of gold. ``As for yours, as
good might be plucked from any hedge, I wonder
a sensible bird would carry the like so far.''
``Good master cobbler,'' cried the cuckoo,
finishing its slice, ``your conclusions are more
hasty than courteous. If your brother is
disappointed this time, I go on the same journey every
year, and for your hospitable entertainment will
think it no trouble to bring each of you whichever
leaf you desire.''
``Darling cuckoo,'' cried Scrub, ``bring me a
And Spare, looking up from the green leaf on
which he gazed as though it were a crown-jewel,
``Be sure to bring me one from the merry tree.''
And away flew the cuckoo.
``This is the feast of All Fools, and it ought to
be your birthday,'' said Scrub. ``Did ever man
fling away such an opportunity of getting rich?
Much good your merry leaves will do in the
midst of rags and poverty!''
But Spare laughed at him, and answered with
quaint old proverbs concerning the cares that
come with gold, till Scrub, at length getting
angry, vowed his brother was not fit to live with a
respectable man; and taking his lasts, his awls,
and his golden leaf, he left the wattle hut, and
went to tell the villagers.
They were astonished at the folly of Spare, and
charmed with Scrub's good sense, particularly
when he showed them the golden leaf, and told
that the cuckoo would bring him one every spring.
The new cobbler immediately took him into
partnership; the greatest people sent him their
shoes to mend. Fairfeather, a beautiful village
maiden, smiled graciously upon him; and in the
course of that summer they were married, with a
grand wedding feast, at which the whole village
danced except Spare, who was not invited, because
the bride could not bear his low-mindedness,
and his brother thought him a disgrace to the
As for Scrub he established himself with
Fairfeather in a cottage close by that of the new
cobbler, and quite as fine. There he mended shoes to
everybody's satisfaction, had a scarlet coat and a
fat goose for dinner on holidays. Fairfeather, too,
had a crimson gown, and fine blue ribbons; but
neither she nor Scrub was content, for to buy this
grandeur the golden leaf had to be broken and
parted With piece by piece, so the last morsel was
gone before the cuckoo came with another.
Spare lived on in the old hut, and worked in the
cabbage-garden. (Scrub had got the barley-field
because he was the elder.) Every day his coat
grew more ragged, and the hut more weather-
beaten; but people remarked that he never
looked sad or sour. And the wonder was that,
from the time any one began to keep his company,
he or she grew kinder, happier, and content.
Every first of April the cuckoo came tapping at
their doors with the golden leaf for Scrub, and the
green for Spare. Fairfeather would have entertained
it nobly with wheaten bread and honey,
for she had some notion of persuading it to bring
two golden leaves instead of one; but the cuckoo
flew away to eat barley bread with Spare, saying
it was not fit company for fine people, and liked
the old hut where it slept so snugly from Christmas
Scrub spent the golden leaves, and remained
always discontented; and Spare kept the merry
I do not know how many years passed in this
manner, when a certain great lord, who owned
that village, came to the neighborhood. His
castle stood on the moor. It was ancient and
strong, with high towers and a deep moat. All
the country as far as one could see from the highest
turret belonged to its lord; but he had not been
there for twenty years, and would not have come
then only he was melancholy. And there he lived
in a very bad temper. The servants said nothing
would please him, and the villagers put on their
worst clothes lest he should raise their rents.
But one day in the harvest-time His Lordship
chanced to meet Spare gathering water-cresses at
a meadow stream, and fell into talk with the
cobbler. How it was nobody could tell, but from that
hour the great lord cast away his melancholy. He
forgot all his woes, and went about with a noble
train, hunting, fishing, and making merry in his
hall, where all travelers were entertained, and all
the poor were welcome.
This strange story spread through the North
Country, and great company came to the cobbler's
hut,--rich men who had lost their money,
poor men who had lost their friends, beauties who
had grown old, wits who had gone out of fashion,
--all came to talk with Spare, and, whatever
their troubles had been, all went home merry.
The rich gave him presents, the poor gave him
thanks. Spare's coat ceased to be ragged, he had
bacon with his cabbage, and the villagers began
to think there was some sense in him.
By this time his fame had reached the capital
city, and even the court. There were a great
many discontented people there; and the king
had lately fallen into ill humor because a
neighboring princess, with seven islands for her dowry,
would not marry his eldest son.
So a royal messenger was sent to Spare, with a
velvet mantle, a diamond ring, and a command
that he should repair to court immediately.
``To-morrow is the first of April,'' said Spare,
``and I will go with you two hours after sunrise.''
The messenger lodged all night at the castle,
and the cuckoo came at sunrise with the merry
``Court is a fine place,'' it said, when the
cobbler told it he was going, ``but I cannot come
there; they would lay snares and catch me; so be
careful of the leaves I have brought you, and give
me a farewell slice of barley bread.''
Spare was sorry to part with the cuckoo, little
as he had of its company, but he gave it a slice
which would have broken Scrub's heart in former
times, it was so thick and large. And having
sewed up the leaves in the lining of his leather
doublet, he set out with the messenger on his way
His coming caused great surprise there.
Everybody wondered what the king could see in such
a common-looking man; but scarcely had His
Majesty conversed with him half an hour, when
the princess and her seven islands were forgotten
and orders given that a feast for all comers should
be spread in the banquet hall.
The princes of the blood, the great lords and
ladies, the ministers of state, after that discoursed
with Spare, and the more they talked the lighter
grew their hearts, so that such changes had never
been seen at court.
The lords forgot their spites and the ladies their
envies, the princes and ministers made friends
among themselves, and the judges showed no
As for Spare, he had a chamber assigned him in
the palace, and a seat at the king's table. One
sent him rich robes, and another costly jewels; but
in the midst of all his grandeur he still wore the
leathern doublet, and continued to live at the
king's court, happy and honored, and making all
others merry and content.
THE CHRISTMAS FAIRY OF STRASBURG
A GERMAN FOLK-TALE
BY J. STIRLING COYNE (ADAPTED)
Once, long ago, there lived near the ancient city
of Strasburg, on the river Rhine, a young and
handsome count, whose name was Otto. As the
years flew by he remained unwed, and never so
much as cast a glance at the fair maidens of the
country round; for this reason people began to
call him ``Stone-Heart.''
It chanced that Count Otto, on one Christmas
Eve, ordered that a great hunt should take place
in the forest surrounding his castle. He and his
guests and his many retainers rode forth, and
the chase became more and more exciting. It
led through thickets, and over pathless tracts of
forest, until at length Count Otto found himself
separated from his companions.
He rode on by himself until he came to a spring
of clear, bubbling water, known to the people
around as the ``Fairy Well.'' Here Count Otto
dismounted. He bent over the spring and began
to lave his hands in the sparkling tide, but to his
wonder he found that though the weather was
cold and frosty, the water was warm and delightfully
caressing. He felt a glow of joy pass through
his veins, and, as he plunged his hands deeper, he
fancied that his right hand was grasped by another,
soft and small, which gently slipped from
his finger the gold ring he always wore. And, lo!
when he drew out his hand, the gold ring was gone.
Full of wonder at this mysterious event, the
count mounted his horse and returned to his
castle, resolving in his mind that the very next
day he would have the Fairy Well emptied by his
He retired to his room, and, throwing himself
just as he was upon his couch, tried to sleep; but
the strangeness of the adventure kept him restless
Suddenly he heard the hoarse baying of the
watch-hounds in the courtyard, and then the
creaking of the drawbridge, as though it were
being lowered. Then came to his ear the patter of
many small feet on the stone staircase, and next
he heard indistinctly the sound of light footsteps
in the chamber adjoining his own.
Count Otto sprang from his couch, and as he
did so there sounded a strain of delicious music,
and the door of his chamber was flung open.
Hurrying into the next room, he found himself in
the midst of numberless Fairy beings, clad in gay
and sparkling robes. They paid no heed to him,
but began to dance, and laugh, and sing, to the
sound of mysterious music.
In the center of the apartment stood a splendid
Christmas Tree, the first ever seen in that country.
Instead of toys and candles there hung on
its lighted boughs diamond stars, pearl necklaces,
bracelets of gold ornamented with colored jewels,
aigrettes of rubies and sapphires, silken belts
embroidered with Oriental pearls, and daggers
mounted in gold and studded with the rarest
gems. The whole tree swayed, sparkled, and
glittered in the radiance of its many lights.
Count Otto stood speechless, gazing at all this
wonder, when suddenly the Fairies stopped dancing
and fell back, to make room for a lady of
dazzling beauty who came slowly toward him.
She wore on her raven-black tresses a golden
diadem set with jewels. Her hair flowed down
upon a robe of rosy satin and creamy velvet. She
stretched out two small, white hands to the count
and addressed him in sweet, alluring tones:--
``Dear Count Otto,'' said she, ``I come to
return your Christmas visit. I am Ernestine, the
Queen of the Fairies. I bring you something you
lost in the Fairy Well.''
And as she spoke she drew from her bosom a
golden casket, set with diamonds, and placed it in
his hands. He opened it eagerly and found within
his lost gold ring.
Carried away by the wonder of it all, and
overcome by an irresistible impulse, the count pressed
the Fairy Ernestine to his heart, while she, holding
him by the hand, drew him into the magic
mazes of the dance. The mysterious music floated
through the room, and the rest of that Fairy
company circled and whirled around the Fairy Queen
and Count Otto, and then gradually dissolved
into a mist of many colors, leaving the count and
his beautiful guest alone.
Then the young man, forgetting all his former
coldness toward the maidens of the country
round about, fell on his knees before the Fairy
and besought her to become his bride. At last
she consented on the condition that he should
never speak the word ``death'' in her presence.
The next day the wedding of Count Otto and
Ernestine, Queen of the Fairies, was celebrated
with great pomp and magnificence, and the two
continued to live happily for many years.
Now it happened on a time, that the count and
his Fairy wife were to hunt in the forest around
the castle. The horses were saddled and bridled,
and standing at the door, the company waited,
and the count paced the hall in great impatience;
but still the Fairy Ernestine tarried long in her
chamber. At length she appeared at the door of
the hall, and the count addressed her in anger.
``You have kept us waiting so long,'' he cried,
``that you would make a good messenger to send
Scarcely had he spoken the forbidden and fatal
word, when the Fairy, uttering a wild cry, vanished
from his sight. In vain Count Otto, overwhelmed
with grief and remorse, searched the
castle and the Fairy Well, no trace could he find
of his beautiful, lost wife but the imprint of her
delicate hand set in the stone arch above the
Years passed by, and the Fairy Ernestine did
not return. The count continued to grieve.
Every Christmas Eve he set up a lighted tree in
the room where he had first met the Fairy, hoping
in vain that she would return to him.
Time passed and the count died. The castle
fell into ruins. But to this day may be seen above
the massive gate, deeply sunken in the stone arch,
the impress of a small and delicate hand.
And such, say the good folk of Strasburg, was
the origin of the Christmas Tree.
THE THREE PURSES
BY WILLIAM S. WALSH (ADAPTED)
When Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, there
were among his people three beautiful maidens,
daughters of a nobleman. Their father was so
poor that he could not afford to give them dowries,
and as in that land no maid might marry
without a dowry, so these three maidens could
not wed the youths who loved them.
At last the father became so very poor that he
no longer had money with which to buy food or
clothes for his daughters, and he was overcome by
shame and sorrow. As for the daughters they
wept continually, for they were both cold and
One day Saint Nicholas heard of the sad state
of this noble family. So at night, when the
maidens were asleep, and the father was watching,
sorrowful and lonely, the good saint took a handful
of gold, and, tying it in a purse, set off for the
nobleman's house. Creeping to the open window
he threw the purse into the chamber, so that it
fell on the bed of the sleeping maidens.
The father picked up the purse, and when he
opened it and saw the gold, he rejoiced greatly,
and awakened his daughters. He gave most of the
gold to his eldest child for a dowry, and thus she
was enabled to wed the young man whom she loved.
A few days later Saint Nicholas filled another
purse with gold, and, as before, went by night
to the nobleman's house, and tossed the purse
through the open window. Thus the second
daughter was enabled to marry the young man
whom she loved.
Now, the nobleman felt very grateful to the
unknown one who threw purses of gold into his
room and he longed to know who his benefactor
was and to thank him. So the next night he
watched beneath the open window. And when
all was dark, lo! good Saint Nicholas came for the
third time, carrying a silken purse filled with gold,
and as he was about to throw it on the youngest
maiden's bed, the nobleman caught him by his
``Ohs good Saint Nicholas! why do you hide
And he kissed the saint's hands and feet, but
Saint Nicholas, overcome with confusion at having
his good deed discovered, begged the nobleman
to tell no man what had happened.
Thus the nobleman's third daughter was enabled
to marry the young man whom she loved;
and she and her father and her two sisters lived
happily for the remainder of their lives.
THE THUNDER OAK
A SCANDINAVIAN LEGEND
WILLIAM S. WALSH AND OTHER SOURCES
When the heathen raged through the forests of
the ancient Northland there grew a giant tree
branching with huge limbs toward the clouds.
It was the Thunder Oak of the war-god Thor.
Thither, under cover of night, heathen priests
were wont to bring their victims--both men and
beasts--and slay them upon the altar of the
thunder-god. There in the darkness was wrought
many an evil deed, while human blood was poured
forth and watered the roots of that gloomy tree,
from whose branches depended the mistletoe, the
fateful plant that sprang from the blood-fed veins
of the oak. So gloomy and terror-ridden was the
spot on which grew the tree that no beasts of field or
forest would lodge beneath its dark branches, nor
would birds nest or perch among its gnarled limbs.
Long, long ago, on a white Christmas Eve,
Thor's priests held their winter rites beneath the
Thunder Oak. Through the deep snow of the
dense forest hastened throngs of heathen folk, all
intent on keeping the mystic feast of the mighty
Thor. In the hush of the night the folk gathered
in the glade where stood the tree. Closely they
pressed around the great altar-stone under the
overhanging boughs where stood the white-
robed priests. Clearly shone the moonlight on all.
Then from the altar flashed upward the
sacrificial flames, casting their lurid glow on the
straining faces of the human victims awaiting the blow
of the priest's knife.
But the knife never fell, for from the silent
avenues of the dark forest came the good Saint
Winfred and his people. Swiftly the saint drew
from his girdle a shining axe. Fiercely he smote
the Thunder Oak, hewing a deep gash in its
trunk. And while the heathen folk gazed in horror
and wonder, the bright blade of the axe
circled faster and faster around Saint Winfred's
head, and the flakes of wood flew far and wide
from the deepening cut in the body of the tree.
Suddenly there was heard overhead the sound
of a mighty, rushing wind. A whirling blast
struck the tree. It gripped the oak from its
foundations. Backward it fell like a tower,
groaning as it split into four pieces.
But just behind it, unharmed by the ruin,
stood a young fir tree, pointing its green spire to
Saint Winfred dropped his axe, and turned to
speak to the people. Joyously his voice rang out
through the crisp, winter air:--
``This little tree, a young child of the forest,
shall be your holy tree to-night. It is the tree of
peace, for your houses are built of fir. It is the
sign of endless life, for its leaves are forever green.
See how it points upward to heaven! Let this be
called the tree of the Christ Child. Gather about
it, not in the wildwood, but in your own homes.
There it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving
gifts and rites of kindness. So shall the peace of
the White Christ reign in your hearts!''
And with songs of joy the multitude of heathen
folk took up the little fir tree and bore it to the
house of their chief, and there with good will and
peace they kept the holy Christmastide.
THE CHRISTMAS THORN OF
A LEGEND OF ANCIENT BRITAIN
ADAPTED FROM WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY AND OTHER SOURCES
There is a golden Christmas legend and it
relates how Joseph of Arimathea--that good man
and just, who laid our Lord in his own sepulcher,
was persecuted by Pontius Pilate, and how he
fled from Jerusalem carrying with him the Holy
Grail hidden beneath a cloth of samite, mystical
For many moons he wandered, leaning on his
staff cut from a white-thorn bush. He passed
over raging seas and dreary wastes, he wandered
through trackless forests, climbed rugged mountains,
and forded many floods. At last he came to
Gaul where the Apostle Philip was preaching the
glad tidings to the heathen. And there Joseph
abode for a little space.
Now, upon a night while Joseph lay asleep in
his hut, he was wakened by a radiant light. And
as he gazed with wondering eyes he saw an
angel standing by his couch, wrapped in a cloud
``Joseph of Arimathea,'' said the angel, ``cross
thou over into Britain and preach the glad tidings
to King Arvigarus. And there, where a Christmas
miracle shall come to pass, do thou build the
first Christian church in that land.''
And while Joseph lay perplexed and wondering
in his heart what answer he should make, the
angel vanished from his sight.
Then Joseph left his hut and calling the Apostle
Philip, gave him the angel's message. And, when
morning dawned, Philip sent him on his way,
accompanied by eleven chosen followers. To the
water's side they went, and embarking in a little
ship, they came unto the coasts of Britain.
And they were met there by the heathen who
carried them before Arvigarus their king. To him
and to his people did Joseph of Arimathea preach
the glad tidings; but the king's heart, though
moved, was not convinced. Nevertheless he gave
to Joseph and his followers Avalon, the happy
isle, the isle of the blessed, and he bade them
depart straightway and build there an altar to their
And a wonderful gift was this same Avalon,
sometimes called the Island of Apples, and also
known to the people of the land as Ynis-witren,
the Isle of Glassy Waters. Beautiful and peaceful
was it. Deep it lay in the midst of a green valley,
and the balmy breezes fanned its apple orchards,
and scattered afar the sweet fragrance of rosy
blossoms or ripened fruit. Soft grew the green
grass beneath the feet. The smooth waves gently
lapped the shore, and water-lilies floated on the
surface of the tide; while in the blue sky above
sailed the fleecy clouds.
And it was on the holy Christmas Eve that
Joseph and his companions reached the Isle of
Avalon. With them they carried the Holy Grail
hidden beneath its cloth of snow-white samite.
Heavily they toiled up the steep ascent of the
hill called Weary-All. And when they reached
the top Joseph thrust his thorn-staff into the
And, lo! a miracle! the thorn-staff put forth
roots, sprouted and budded, and burst into a mass
of white and fragrant flowers! And on the spot
where the thorn had bloomed, there Joseph built
the first Christian church in Britain. And he
made it ``wattled all round'' of osiers gathered
from the water's edge. And in the chapel they
placed the Holy Grail.
And so, it is said, ever since at Glastonbury
Abbey--the name by which that Avalon is
known to-day--on Christmas Eve the white
thorn buds and blooms.
THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE
A LEGEND OF THE MIDDLE AGES
BY JOHN OF HILDESHEIM-MODERNIZED BY
H. S. MORRIS (ADAPTED)
Now, when the Children of Israel were gone
out of Egypt, and had won and made subject to
them Jerusalem and all the land lying about,
there was in the Kingdom of Ind a tall hill called
the Hill of Vaws, or the Hill of Victory. On this
hill were stationed sentinels of Ind, who watched
day and night against the Children of Israel, and
afterward against the Romans.
And if an enemy approached, the keepers of the
Hill of Vaws made a great fire to warn the
inhabitants of the land so that the men might make
ready to defend themselves.
Now in the time when Balaam prophesied of
the Star that should betoken the birth of Christ,
all the great lords and the people of Ind and in the
East desired greatly to see this Star of which he
spake; and they gave gifts to the keepers of the
Hill of Vaws, and bade them, if they saw by
night or by day any star in the air, that had not
been seen aforetime, that they, the keepers, should
send anon word to the people of Ind.
And thus was it that for so long a time the fame
of this Star was borne throughout the lands of the
East. And the more the Star was sought for, and
the more its fame increased, so much the more all
the people of the Land of Ind desired to see it.
So they ordained twelve of the wisest and greatest
of the clerks of astronomy, that were in all that
country about, and gave them great hire to keep
watch upon the Hill of Vaws for the Star that was
prophesied of Balaam.
Now, when Christ was born in Bethlehem of
Judea, His Star began to rise in the manner of a
sun, bright shining. It ascended above the Hill of
Vaws, and all that day in the highest air it abode
without moving, insomuch that when the sun
was hot and most high there was no difference in
shining betwixt them.
But when the day of the nativity was passed
the Star ascended up into the firmament, and it
had right many long streaks and beams, more
burning and brighter than a brand of fire; and,
as an eagle flying and beating the air with his
wings, right so the streaks and beams of the Star
Then all the people, both man and woman, of
all that country about when they saw this marvelous
Star, were full of wonder thereat; yet they
knew well that it was the Star that was prophesied
of Balaam, and long time was desired of all
the people in that country.
Now, when the three worshipful kings, who at
that time reigned in Ind, Chaldea, and Persia,
were informed by the astronomers of this Star,
they were right glad that they had grace to see the
Star in their days.
Wherefore these three worshipful kings,
Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper (in the same hour
the Star appeared to all three), though each of
them was far from the other, and none knew of
the others' purpose, decided to go and seek and
worship the Lord and King of the Jews, that was
new born, as the appearance of the Star announced.
So each king prepared great and rich gifts, and
trains of mules, camels, and horses charged with
treasure, and together with a great multitude of
people they set forth on their journeys.
Now, when these three worshipful kings were
passed forth out of their kingdoms, the Star went
before each king and his people. When they stood
still and rested, the Star stood still; and when they
went forward again, the Star always went before
them in virtue and strength and gave light all the
And, as it is written, in the time that Christ
was born, there was peace in all the world, wherefore
in all the cities and towns through which
they went there was no gate shut neither by night
nor by day; and all the people of those same cities
and towns marveled wonderfully as they saw
kings and vast multitudes go by in great haste;
but they knew not what they were, nor whence
they came, nor whither they should go.
Furthermore these three kings rode forth over
hills, waters, valleys, plains, and other divers and
perilous places without hindrance, for all the way
seemed to them plain and even. And they never
took shelter by night nor by day, nor ever rested,
nor did their horses and other beasts ever eat or
drink till they had come to Bethlehem. And all
this time it did seem to them as one day.
But when the three blessed kings had come
near to Jerusalem, then a great cloud of darkness
hid the Star from their sight. And when Melchior
and his people were come fast by the city, they
abode in fog and darkness. Then came Balthazar,
and he abode under the same cloud near unto
Melchior. Thereupon appeared Jasper with all
So these three glorious kings, each with his host
and burdens and beasts, met together in the
highway without the city of Jerusalem. And,
notwithstanding that none of them ever before had
seen the other, nor knew him, nor had heard of
his coming, yet at their meeting each one with
great reverence and joy kissed the other. So
afterward, when they had spoken together and each
had told his purpose and the cause of his journey,
they were much more glad and fervent. So they
rode forth, and at the uprising of the sun, they came
into Jerusalem. And yet the Star appeared not.
So then these three worshipful kings, when
they were come into the city, asked of the people
concerning the Child that was born; and when
Herod heard this he was troubled and all Jerusalem
with him, and he privately summoned to him
these three kings and learned of them the time
when the Star appeared. He then sent them
forth, bidding them find the young Child and
return to him.
Now when these three kings were passed out of
Jerusalem the Star appeared to them again as it
did erst, and went before them till they were come
Now, the nearer the kings came to the place
where Christ was born, the brighter shined the
Star, and they entered Bethlehem the sixth hour
of the day. And they rode through the streets
till they came before a little house. There the Star
stood still, and then descended and shone with so
great a light that the little house was full of
radiance; till anon the Star went upward again into
the air, and stood still always above the same
And the three kings went into the little house
and found the Child with his mother, and they
fell down and worshiped him, and offered him
And you shall understand that these three kings
had brought great gifts from their own lands, rich
ornaments and divers golden vessels, and many
jewels and precious stones, and both gold and
silver,--these they had brought to offer to the King
of the Jews. But when they found the Lord in a
little-house, in poor clothes, and when they saw
that the Star gave so great and holy a light in all
the place that it seemed as though they stood in a
furnace of fire, then were they so sore afraid, that
of all the rich jewels and ornaments they had
brought with them, they chose from their treasures
what came first to their hands. For Melchior
took a round apple of gold in his hand, and
thirty gilt pennies, and these he offered unto our
Lord; and Balthazar took out of his treasury incense;
and Jasper took out myrrh, and that he
offered with weeping and tears.
And now after these three kings had worshiped
the Lord, they abode in Bethlehem for a little
space, and as they abode, there came a command
to them, in their sleep, that they should not
return to Herod; and so by another way they went
home to their kingdoms. But the Star that had
gone before appeared no more.
So these three kings, who had suddenly met
together in the highway before Jerusalem, went
home together with great joy and honor. And
when, after many days' journey over perilous
places, they had come to the Hill of Vaws, they
made there a fair chapel in worship of the Child
they had sought. Also they agreed to meet
together at the same place once in the year, and they
ordained that the Hill of Vaws should be the place
of their burial.
So when the three worshipful kings had done
what they would, they took leave of each other,
and each one with his people rode to his own land
HOW THEY CAME TO COLOGNE
Now, after many years, a little before the feast
of Christmas, there appeared a wonderful Star
above the cities where these three kings dwelt,
and they knew thereby that their time was come
when they should pass from earth. Then with
one consent they built, at the Hill of Vaws, a fair
and large tomb, and there the three Holy Kings,
Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper died, and were
buried in the same tomb by their sorrowing
Now after much time had passed away, Queen
Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine,
began to think greatly of the bodies of these three
kings, and she arrayed herself, and, accompanied
by many attendants, went into the Land of Ind.
And you shall understand that after she had
found the bodies of Melchior, Balthazar, and
Jasper, Queen Helen put them into one chest and
ornamented it with great riches, and she brought
them into Constantinople, with joy and reverence,
and laid them in a church that is called
Saint Sophia; and this church the Emperor
Constantine did make,--he alone, with a little child,
set up all the marble pillars thereof.
Now, after the death of the Emperor Constantine
a persecution against the Christian faith
arose, and in this persecution the bodies of the
three worshipful kings were set at naught. Then
came the Emperor Mauricius of Rome, and,
through his counsel, the bodies of these three
kings were carried to Italy, and there they were
laid in a fair church in the city of Milan.
Then afterward, in the process of time, the city
of Milan rebelled against the Emperor Frederick
the First, and he, being sore beset, sent to Rainald,
Archbishop of Cologne, asking for help.
This Archbishop with his army did take the
city of Milan, and delivered it to the Emperor.
And for this service did the Emperor grant, at
the Archbishop's great entreaty, that he should
carry forth to Cologne the bodies of the three
Then the Archbishop, with great solemnity and
in procession, did carry forth from the city of
Milan the bodies of the three kings, and brought
them unto Cologne and there placed them in the
fair church of Saint Peter. And all the people of
the country roundabout, with all the reverence
they might, received these relics, and there in the
city of Cologne they are kept and beholden of all
manner of nations unto this day.
Thus endeth the legend of these three blessed
kings,--Melchior, Balthazar, and Jasper.
THE LITTLE TREE THAT LONGED
FOR OTHER LEAVES
BY FRIEDRICH RUCHERT (TRANSLATED)
There was a little tree that stood in the woods
through both good and stormy weather, and it
was covered from top to bottom with needles
instead of leaves. The needles were sharp and
prickly, so the little tree said to itself:--
``All my tree comrades have beautiful green
leaves, and I have only sharp needles. No one
will touch me. If I could have a wish I would ask
for leaves of pure gold.''
When night came the little tree fell asleep, and,
lo! in the morning it woke early and found itself
covered with glistening, golden leaves.
``Ah, ah!'' said the little tree, ``how grand I
am! No other tree in the woods is dressed in
But at evening time there came a peddler with
a great sack and a long beard. He saw the glitter
of the golden leaves. He picked them all and
hurried away leaving the little tree cold and
``Alas! alas!'' cried the little tree in sorrow;
``all my golden leaves are gone! I am ashamed
to stand among the other trees that have such
beautiful foliage. If I only had another wish I
would ask for leaves of glass.''
Then the little tree fell asleep, and when it
woke early, it found itself covered with bright
and shining leaves of glass.
``Now,'' said the little tree, ``I am happy. No
tree in the woods glistens like me.''
But there came a fierce storm-wind driving
through the woods. It struck the glass, and in a
moment all the shining leaves lay shattered on
``My leaves, my glass leaves!'' moaned the
little tree; ``they lie broken in the dust, while all
the other trees are still dressed in their beautiful
foliage. Oh! if I had another wish I would ask for
Then the little tree slept again, and in the
morning it was covered with fresh, green foliage.
And it laughed merrily, and said: ``Now, I need
not be ashamed any more. I am like my comrades
of the woods.''
But along came a mother-goat, looking for
grass and herbs for herself and her young ones.
She saw the crisp, new leaves; and she nibbled,
and nibbled, and nibbled them all away, and she
ate up both stems and tender shoots, till the little
tree stood bare.
``Alas!'' cried the little tree in anguish, ``I
want no more leaves, neither gold ones nor glass
ones, nor green and red and yellow ones! If I
could only have my needles once more, I would
never complain again.''
And sorrowfully the little tree fell asleep, but
when it saw itself in the morning sunshine, it
laughed and laughed and laughed. And all the
other trees laughed, too, but the little tree did not
care. Why did they laugh? Because in the night
all its needles had come again! You may see this
for yourself. Just go into the woods and look, but
do not touch the little tree. Why not? BECAUSE IT
WHY THE EVERGREEN TREES
NEVER LOSE THEIR LEAVES
BY FLORENCE HOLBROOK
Winter was coming, and the birds had flown
far to the south, where the air was warm and they
could find berries to eat. One little bird had
broken its wing and could not fly with the others.
It was alone in the cold world of frost and snow.
The forest looked warm, and it made its way to
the trees as well as it could, to ask for help.
First it came to a birch tree. ``Beautiful birch
tree,'' it said, ``my wing is broken, and my friends
have flown away. May I live among your
branches till they come back to me?''
``No, indeed,'' answered the birch tree, drawing
her fair green leaves away. ``We of the great
forest have our own birds to help. I can do
nothing for you.''
``The birch is not very strong,'' said the little
bird to itself, ``and it might be that she could not
hold me easily. I will ask the oak.'' So the bird
said: ``Great oak tree, you are so strong, will you
not let me live on your boughs till my friends
come back in the springtime?''
``In the springtime!'' cried the oak. ``That is a
long way off. How do I know what you might do
in all that time? Birds are always looking for
something to eat, and you might even eat up some
of my acorns.''
``It may be that the willow will be kind to me,''
thought the bird, and it said: ``Gentle willow, my
wing is broken, and I could not fly to the south
with the other birds. May I live on your branches
till the springtime?''
The willow did not look gentle then, for she
drew herself up proudly and said: ``Indeed, I do
not know you, and we willows never talk to people
whom we do not know. Very likely there are
trees somewhere that will take in strange birds.
Leave me at once.''
The poor little bird did not know what to do.
Its wing was not yet strong, but it began to fly
away as well as it could. Before it had gone far a
voice was heard. ``Little bird,'' it said, ``where
are you going?''
``Indeed, I do not know,'' answered the bird
sadly. ``I am very cold.''
``Come right here, then,'' said the friendly
spruce tree, for it was her voice that had called.
``You shall live on my warmest branch all winter
if you choose.''
``Will you really let me?'' asked the little bird
``Indeed, I will,'' answered the kind-hearted
spruce tree. ``If your friends have flown away, it
is time for the trees to help you. Here is the
branch where my leaves are thickest and softest.''
``My branches are not very thick,'' said the
friendly pine tree, ``but I am big and strong, and
I can keep the North Wind from you and the
``I can help, too,'' said a little juniper tree. ``I
can give you berries all winter long, and every
bird knows that juniper berries are good.''
So the spruce gave the lonely little bird a home;
the pine kept the cold North Wind away from it;
and the juniper gave it berries to eat. The other
trees looked on and talked together wisely.
``I would not have strange birds on my
boughs,'' said the birch.
``I shall not give my acorns away for any one,''
said the oak.
``I never have anything to do with strangers,''
said the willow, and the three trees drew their
leaves closely about them.
In the morning all those shining, green leaves
lay on the ground, for a cold North Wind had
come in the night, and every leaf that it touched
fell from the tree.
``May I touch every leaf in the forest?'' asked
the wind in its frolic.
``No,'' said the Frost King. ``The trees that
have been kind to the little bird with the broken
wing may keep their leaves.''
This is why the leaves of the spruce, the pine,
and the juniper are always green.
WHY THE ASPEN QUIVERS
Long, long ago, so the legend says, when Joseph
and Mary and the Holy Babe fled out of
Bethlehem into Egypt, they passed through the
green wildwood. And flowers and trees and
plants bent their heads in reverence.
But the proud aspen held its head high and
refused even to look at the Holy Babe. In vain the
birds sang in the aspen's branches, entreating it
to gaze for one moment at the wonderful One;
the proud tree still held its head erect in scorn.
Then outspake Mary, his mother. ``O aspen
tree,'' she said, ``why do you not gaze on the Holy
Child? Why do you not bow your head? A star
arose at his birth, angels sang his first lullaby,
kings and shepherds came to the brightness of his
rising; why, then, O aspen, do you refuse to honor
your Lord and mine?''
But the aspen could not answer. A strange
shivering passed through its stem and along its
boughs, which set its leaves a-quivering. It
trembled before the Holy Babe.
And so from age to age, even unto this day, the
proud aspen shakes and shivers.
THE WONDER TREE
BY FRIEDRICH ADOLPH KRUMMACHER (ADAPTED)
One day in the springtime, Prince Solomon was
sitting under the palm trees in the royal gardens,
when he saw the Prophet Nathan walking near.
``Nathan,'' said the Prince, ``I would see a
The Prophet smiled. ``I had the same desire
in the days of my youth,'' he replied.
``And was it fulfilled?'' asked Solomon.
``A Man of God came to me,'' said Nathan,
``having a pomegranate seed in his hand.
`Behold,' he said, `what will become of this.' Then
he made a hole in the ground, and planted the
seed, and covered it over. When he withdrew his