Part 4 out of 5
Bill got hurt in the summer, and he's been in bed ever since. So we are
giving him a Christmas--tree and all. He gets a bunch of things--an air
gun, and a train that goes around when you wind her up. They're great!"
"You boys are doing this?"
"Well, it's our club at the settlement, and of course Miss Gray thought
of it, and she's givin' Bill the train. Come along, mister."
But Mr. Carter declined.
"All right," said the boy. "I guess, what with Pete and all, Bill will
have Christmas enough."
"Who is Pete?"
"Bill's dog. He's had him three weeks now--best little pup you ever
A dog which Bill had had three weeks--and in a neighbourhood not a
quarter of a mile from the avenue. It was three weeks since Skiddles
had disappeared. That this dog was Skiddles was of course most
improbable, and yet the philanthropist was ready to grasp at any clue
which might lead to the lost terrier.
"How did Bill get this dog?" he demanded.
"I found him myself. Some kids had tin-canned him, and he came into our
entry. He licked my hand, and then sat up on his hind legs. Somebody'd
taught him that, you know. I thought right away, 'Here's a dog for
Bill!' And I took him over there and fed him, and they kept him in
Bill's room two or three days, so he shouldn't get scared again and run
off; and now he wouldn't leave Bill for anybody. Of course, he ain't
much of a dog, Pete ain't," he added "he's just a pup, but he's mighty
"Boy," said Mr. Carter, "I guess I'll just go round and"--he was about
to add," have a look at that dog," but fearful of raising suspicion, he
ended--"and see Bill."
The tenements to which the boy led him were of brick, and reasonably
clean. Nearly every window showed some sign of Christmas.
The tree-bearer led the way into a dark hall, up one flight--Mr. Carter
assisting with the tree--and down another dark hall, to a door, on
which he knocked. A woman opened it.
"Here's the tree!" said the boy, in a loud whisper. "Is Bill's door
Mr. Carter stepped forward out of the darkness. "I beg your pardon,
madam," he said. "I met this young man in the street, and he asked me
to come here and see a playmate of his who is, I understand, an
invalid. But if I am intruding--"
"Come in," said the woman, heartily, throwing the door open. "Bill will
be glad to see you, sir."
The philanthropist stepped inside.
The room was decently furnished and clean. There was a sewing machine
in the corner, and in both the windows hung wreaths of holly. Between
the windows was a cleared space, where evidently the tree, when
decorated, was to stand.
"Are all the things here?" eagerly demanded the tree-bearer.
"They're all here, Jimmy," answered Mrs. Bailey. "The candy just came."
"Say," cried the boy, pulling off his red flannel mittens to blow on
his fingers, "won't it be great? But now Bill's got to see Santa Claus.
I'll just go in and tell him, an' then, when I holler, mister, you come
on, and pretend you're Santa Claus." And with incredible celerity the
boy opened the door at the opposite end of the room and disappeared.
"Madam," said Mr. Carter, in considerable embarrassment, "I must say
one word. I am Mr. Carter, Mr. Allan Carter. You may have heard my
She shook her head. "No, sir."
"I live not far from here on the avenue. Three weeks ago I lost a
little dog that I valued very much I have had all the city searched
since then, in vain. To-day I met the boy who has just left us. He
informed me that three weeks ago he found a dog, which is at present in
the possession of your son. I wonder--is it not just possible that this
dog may be mine?"
Mrs. Bailey smiled. "I guess not, Mr. Carter. The dog Jimmy found
hadn't come off the avenue--not from the look of him. You know there's
hundreds and hundreds of dogs without homes, sir. But I will say for
this one, he has a kind of a way with him."
"Hark!" said Mr. Carter.
There was a rustling and a snuffing at the door at the far end of the
room, a quick scratching of feet. Then:
"Woof! woof! woof!" sharp and clear came happy impatient little barks.
The philanthropist's eyes brightened. "Yes," he said, "that is the dog."
"I doubt if it can be, sir," said Mrs. Bailey, deprecatingly.
"Open the door, please," commanded the philanthropist, "and let us
see." Mrs. Bailey complied. There was a quick jump, a tumbling rush,
and Skiddles, the lost Skiddles, was in the philanthropist's arms. Mrs.
Bailey shut the door with a troubled face.
"I see it's your dog, sir," she said, "but I hope you won't be thinking
that Jimmy or I--"
"Madam," interrupted Mr. Carter, "I could not be so foolish. On the
contrary, I owe you a thousand thanks."
Mrs. Bailey looked more cheerful. "Poor little Billy!" she said. "It'll
come hard on him, losing Pete just at Christmas time. But the boys are
so good to him, I dare say he'll forget it."
"Who are these boys?" inquired the philanthropist. "Isn't their
"It's Miss Gray's club at the settlement, sir," explained Mrs. Bailey.
"Every Christmas they do this for somebody. It's not charity; Billy and
I don't need charity, or take it. It's just friendliness. They're good
"I see," said the philanthropist. He was still wondering about it,
though, when the door opened again, and Jimmy thrust out a face shining
"All ready, mister!" he said. "Bill's waitin' for you!"
"Jimmy," began Mrs. Bailey, about to explain, "the gentleman--"
But the philanthropist held up his hand, interrupting her. "You'll let
me see your son, Mrs. Bailey?" he asked, gently.
"Why, certainly, sir."
Mr. Carter put Skiddles down and walked slowly into the inner room. The
bed stood with its side toward him. On it lay a small boy of seven,
rigid of body, but with his arms free and his face lighted with joy.
"Hello, Santa Claus!" he piped, in a voice shrill with excitement.
"Hello, Bill!" answered the philanthropist, sedately.
The boy turned his eyes on Jimmy.
"He knows my name," he said, with glee.
"He knows everybody's name," said Jimmy. "Now you tell him what you
want, Bill, and he'll bring it to-morrow.
"How would you like," said the philanthropist, reflectively, "an--an--"
he hesitated, it seemed so incongruous with that stiff figure on the
"I guess yes," said Bill, happily.
"And a train of cars," broke in the impatient Jimmy, "that goes like
sixty when you wind her?"
"Hi!" said Bill.
The philanthropist solemnly made notes of this.
"How about," he remarked, inquiringly, "a tree?"
"Honest? "said Bill.
"I think it can be managed," said Santa Claus. He advanced to the
"I'm glad to have seen you, Bill. You know how busy I am, but I hope--I
hope to see you again."
"Not till next year, of course, " warned Jimmy.
"Not till then, of course," assented Santa Claus. "And now, good-bye."
"You forgot to ask him if he'd been a good boy," suggested Jimmy.
"I have," said Bill. "I've been fine. You ask mother."
"She gives you--she gives you both a high character," said Santa Claus.
"Good-bye again," and so saying he withdrew. Skiddles followed him out.
The philanthropist closed the door of the bedroom, and then turned to
She was regarding him with awestruck eyes.
"Oh, sir," she said, "I know now who you are--the Mr. Carter that gives
so much away to people!"
The philanthropist nodded, deprecatingly.
"Just so, Mrs. Bailey," he said. "And there is one gift--or loan
rather--which I should like to make to you. I should like to leave the
little dog with you till after the holidays. I'm afraid I'll have to
claim him then; but if you'll keep him till after Christmas--and let me
find, perhaps, another dog for Billy--I shall be much obliged."
Again the door of the bedroom opened, and Jimmy emerged quietly.
"Bill wants the pup," he explained.
"Pete! Pete!" came the piping but happy voice from the inner room.
Skiddles hesitated. Mr. Carter made no sign.
"Pete! Pete!" shrilled the voice again.
Slowly, very slowly, Skiddles turned and went back into the bedroom.
"You see," said Mr. Carter, smiling, "he won't be too unhappy away from
me, Mrs. Bailey."
On his way home the philanthropist saw even more evidences of Christmas
gaiety along the streets than before. He stepped out briskly, in spite
of his sixty-eight years; he even hummed a little tune.
When he reached the house on the avenue he found his secretary still at
"Oh, by the way, Mr. Mathews," he said, "did you send that letter to
the woman, saying I never paid attention to personal appeals? No? Then
write her, please, enclosing my check for two hundred dollars, and wish
her a very Merry Christmas in my name, will you? And hereafter will you
always let me see such letters as that one--of course after careful
investigation? I fancy perhaps I may have been too rigid in the past."
"Certainly, sir," answered the bewildered secretary. He began fumbling
excitedly for his note-book.
"I found the little dog," continued the philanthropist. "You will be
glad to know that."
"You have found him?" cried the secretary. "Have you got him back, Mr.
Carter? Where was he?"
"He was--detained--on Oak Street, I believe," said the philanthropist.
"No, I have not got him back yet. I have left him with a young boy till
after the holidays."
He settled himself to his papers, for philanthropists must toil even on
the twenty-fourth of December, but the secretary shook his head in a
daze. "I wonder what's happened?" he said to himself.
XXV. THE FIRST CHRISTMAS-TREE
BY LUCY WHEELOCK
Two little children were sitting by the fire one cold winter's night.
All at once they heard a timid knock at the door and one ran to open it.
There, outside in the cold and darkness, stood a child with no shoes
upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments. He was shivering with
cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.
"Yes, come in," cried both the children. "You shall have our place by
the fire. Come in."
They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their
supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard
In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music, and looking
out, they saw a band of children in shining garments, approaching the
house. They were playing on golden harps and the air was full of melody.
Suddenly the Strange Child stood before them: no longer cold and
ragged, but clad in silvery light.
His soft voice said: "I was cold and you took Me in. I was hungry and
you fed Me. I was tired and you gave Me your bed. I am the
Christ-Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness
to all good children. As you have given to Me, so may this tree every
year give rich fruit to you."
So saying, He broke a branch from the fir-tree that grew near the door,
and He planted it in the ground and disappeared. And the branch grew
into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful fruit for the kind
XXVI. THE FIRST NEW ENGLAND CHRISTMAS*
"From Stone and Fickett's "Every Day Life in the Colonies;" copyrighted
1905, by D. C. Heath & Co. Used by permission.
G. L. STONE AND M. G. FICKETT
It was a warm and pleasant Saturday--that twenty-third of December,
1620. The winter wind had blown itself away in the storm of the day
before, and the air was clear and balmy. The people on board the
Mayflower were glad of the pleasant day. It was three long months since
they had started from Plymouth, in England, to seek a home across the
ocean. Now they had come into a harbour that they named New Plymouth,
in the country of New England.
Other people called these voyagers Pilgrims, which means wanderers. A
long while before, the Pilgrims had lived in England; later they made
their home with the Dutch in Holland; finally they had said goodbye to
their friends in Holland and in England, and had sailed away to America.
There were only one hundred and two of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower,
but they were brave and strong and full of hope. Now the Mayflower was
the only home they had; yet if this weather lasted they might soon have
warm log-cabins to live in. This very afternoon the men had gone ashore
to cut down the large trees.
The women of the Mayflower were busy, too. Some were spinning, some
knitting, some sewing. It was so bright and pleasant that Mistress Rose
Standish had taken out her knitting and had gone to sit a little while
on deck. She was too weak to face rough weather, and she wanted to
enjoy the warm sunshine and the clear salt air. By her side was
Mistress Brewster, the minister's wife. Everybody loved Mistress
Standish and Mistress Brewster, for neither of them ever spoke unkindly.
The air on deck would have been warm even on a colder day, for in one
corner a bright fire was burning. It would seem strange now, would it
not, to see a fire on the deck of a vessel? But in those days, when the
weather was pleasant, people on shipboard did their cooking on deck.
The Pilgrims had no stoves, and Mistress Carver's maid had built this
fire on a large hearth covered with sand. She had hung a great kettle
on the crane over the fire, where the onion soup for supper was now
Near the fire sat a little girl, busily playing and singing to herself.
Little Remember Allerton was only six years old, but she liked to be
with Hannah, Mistress Carver's maid. This afternoon Remember had been
watching Hannah build the fire and make the soup. Now the little girl
was playing with the Indian arrowheads her father had brought her the
night before. She was singing the words of the old psalm:
"Shout to Jehovah, all the earth,
Serve ye Jehovah with gladness; before
Him bow with singing mirth."
"Ah, child, methinks the children of Old England are singing different
words from those to-day," spoke Hannah at length, with a faraway look
in her eyes.
"Why, Hannah? What songs are the little English children singing now?"
questioned Remember in surprise.
"It lacks but two days of Christmas, child, and in my old home
everybody is singing Merry Christmas songs."
"But thou hast not told me what is Christmas!' persisted the child.
"Ah, me! Thou dost not know, 'tis true. Christmas, Remember, is the
birthday of the Christ-Child, of Jesus, whom thou hast learned to
love," Hannah answered softly.
"But what makes the English children so happy then? And we are English,
thou hast told me, Hannah. Why don't we keep Christmas, too?"
"In sooth we are English, child. But the reason why we do not sing the
Christmas carols or play the Christmas games makes a long, long story,
Remember. Hannah cannot tell it so that little children will
understand. Thou must ask some other, child."
Hannah and the little girl were just then near the two women on the
deck, and Remember said:
"Mistress Brewster, Hannah sayeth she knoweth not how to tell why Love
and Wrestling and Constance and the others do not sing the Christmas
songs or play the Christmas games. But thou wilt tell me wilt thou
not?" she added coaxingly.
A sad look came into Mistress Brewster's eyes, and Mistress Standish
looked grave, too. No one spoke for a few seconds, until Hannah said
"Why could we not burn a Yule log Monday, and make some meal into
little cakes for the children?"
"Nay, Hannah," answered the gentle voice of Mistress Brewster. "Such
are but vain shows and not for those of us who believe in holier
things. But," she added, with a kind glance at little Remember,
"wouldst thou like to know why we have left Old England and do not keep
the Christmas Day? Thou canst not understand it all, child, and yet it
may do thee no harm to hear the story. It may help thee to be a brave
and happy little girl in the midst of our hard life."
"Surely it can do no harm, Mistress Brewster," spoke Rose Standish,
gently. "Remember is a little Pilgrim now, and she ought, methinks, to
know something of the reason for our wandering. Come here, child, and
sit by me, while good Mistress Brewster tells thee how cruel men have
made us suffer. Then will I sing thee one of the Christmas carols."
With these words she held out her hands to little Remember, who ran
quickly to the side of Mistress Standish, and eagerly waited for the
story to begin.
"We have not always lived in Holland, Remember. Most of us were born in
England, and England is the best country in the world. 'Tis a land to
be proud of, Remember, though some of its rulers have been wicked and
"Long before you were born, when your mother was a little girl, the
English king said that everybody in the land ought to think as he
thought, and go to a church like his. He said he would send us away
from England if we did not do as he ordered. Now, we could not think as
he did on holy matters, and it seemed wrong to us to obey him. So we
decided to go to a country where we might worship as we pleased."
"What became of that cruel king, Mistress Brewster?"
"He ruleth England now. But thou must not think too hardly of him. He
doth not understand, perhaps. Right will win some day, Remember, though
there may be bloody war before peace cometh. And I thank God that we,
at least, shall not be called on to live in the midst of the strife,"
she went on, speaking more to herself than to the little girl.
"We decided to go to Holland, out of the reach of the king. We were not
sure whether it was best to move or not, but our hearts were set on
God's ways. We trusted Him in whom we believed. Yes," she went on, "and
shall we not keep on trusting Him?"
And Rose Standish, remembering the little stock of food that was nearly
gone, the disease that had come upon many of their number, and the five
who had died that month, answered firmly: "Yes. He who has led us thus
far will not leave us now."
They were all silent a few seconds. Presently Remember said: "Then did
ye go to Holland, Mistress Brewster?"
"Yes," she said. "Our people all went over to Holland, where the Dutch
folk live and the little Dutch children clatter about with their wooden
shoes. There thou wast born, Remember, and my own children, and there
we lived in love and peace."
"And yet, we were not wholly happy. We could not talk well with the
Dutch, and so we could not set right what was wrong among them. 'Twas
so hard to earn money that many had to go back to England. And worst of
all, Remember, we were afraid that you and little Bartholomew and Mary
and Love and Wrestling and all the rest would not grow to be good girls
and boys. And so we have come to this new country to teach our children
to be pure and noble."
After another silence Remember spoke again: "I thank thee, Mistress
Brewster. And I will try to be a good girl. But thou didst not tell me
about Christmas after all."
"Nay, child, but now I will. There are long services on that day in
every church where the king's friends go. But there are parts of these
services which we cannot approve; and so we think it best not to follow
the other customs that the king's friends observe on Christmas.
"They trim their houses with mistletoe and holly so that everything
looks gay and cheerful. Their other name for the Christmas time is the
Yuletide, and the big log that is burned then is called the Yule log.
The children like to sit around the hearth in front of the great,
blazing Yule log, and listen to stories of long, long ago.
"At Christmas there are great feasts in England, too. No one is allowed
to go hungry, for the rich people on the day always send meat and cakes
to the poor folk round about.
"But we like to make all our days Christmas days, Remember. We try
never to forget God's gifts to us, and they remind us always to be good
to other people."
"And the Christmas carols, Mistress Standish? What are they?"
"On Christmas Eve and early on Christmas morning," Rose Standish
answered, "little children go about from house to house, singing
Christmas songs. 'Tis what I like best in all the Christmas cheer. And
I promised to sing thee one, did I not?"
Then Mistress Standish sang in her dear, sweet voice the quaint old
As Joseph was a-walking,
He heard an angel sing:
"This night shall be the birth-time
Of Christ, the heavenly King.
"He neither shall be born
In housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall.
"He neither shall be clothed
In purple nor in pall,
But in the fair white linen
That usen babies all.
"He neither shall be rocked
In silver nor in gold,
But in a wooden manger
That resteth in the mould."
As Joseph was a-walking
There did an angel sing,
And Mary's child at midnight
Was born to be our King.
Then be ye glad, good people,
This night of all the year,
And light ye up your candles,
For His star it shineth clear.
Before the song was over, Hannah had come on deck again, and was
listening eagerly. "I thank thee, Mistress Standish," she said, the
tears filling her blue eyes. "'Tis long, indeed, since I have heard
"Would it be wrong for me to learn to sing those words, Mistress
Standish?" gently questioned the little girl.
"Nay, Remember, I trow not. The song shall be thy Christmas gift."
Then Mistress Standish taught the little girl one verse after another
of the sweet old carol, and it was not long before Remember could say
The next day was dull and cold, and on Monday, the twenty-fifth, the
sky was still overcast. There was no bright Yule log in the Mayflower,
and no holly trimmed the little cabin.
The Pilgrims were true to the faith they loved. They held no special
service. They made no gifts.
Instead, they went again to the work of cutting the trees, and no one
murmured at his hard lot.
"We went on shore," one man wrote in his diary, "some to fell timber,
some to saw, some to rive, and some to carry; so no man rested all that
As for little Remember, she spent the day on board the Mayflower. She
heard no one speak of England or sigh for the English home across the
sea. But she did not forget Mistress Brewster's story; and more than
once that day, as she was playing by herself, she fancied that she was
in front of some English home, helping the English children sing their
Christmas songs. And both Mistress Allerton and Mistress Standish, whom
God was soon to call away from their earthly home, felt happier and
stronger as they heard the little girl singing:
He neither shall be born
In housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall.
XXVI. THE CRATCHITS' CHRISTMAS DINNER
Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present stood in the city streets on
Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a
rough but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow
from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of
their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come
plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little
The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker,
contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and
with the dirtier snow upon the ground, which last deposit had been
ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and wagons;
furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where
the great streets branched off, and made intricate channels, hard to
trace, in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and
the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed,
halF frozen, whose heavier particles descended in a shower of sooty
atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent,
caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear heart's content. There
was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there
an air of cheerfulness abroad that the dearest summer air and brightest
summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
For the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial
and full of glee, calling out to one another from the parapets, and now
and then exchanging a facetious snowball--better-natured missile far
than many a wordy jest--laughing heartily if it went right, and not
less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half
open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were
great, round, potbellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the
waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling
out into the street in their apoplectic opulence.
There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in
the fatness of their growth like Spanish friars, and winking, from
their shelves, in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and
glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples,
clustering high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes,
made, in the shop-keeper's benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous
hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there
were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance,
ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep
through withered leaves; there were Norfolk biffins, squab and swarthy,
setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great
compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching
to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold
and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though
members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that
there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and
round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.
The grocers'! oh, the grocers'! nearly closed, with perhaps two
shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses! It was not
alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or
that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the
canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that
the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or
even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so
extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other
spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with
molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint, and
subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or
that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly
decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its
Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in
the hopeful promise of the day that they tumbled up against each other
at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their
purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and
committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible;
while the grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the
polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have
been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas
daws to peck at, if they chose.
But soon the steeples called good people all to church and chapel, and
away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and
with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores
of by-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people,
carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor
revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood, with
Scrooge beside him, in a baker's doorway, and, taking off the covers as
their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his
torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when
there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled
each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their
good-humour was restored directly. For they said it was a shame to
quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there
was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners, and the progress of
their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven,
where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.
"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?"
"There is. My own."
"Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?" asked Scrooge.
"To any kindly given. To a poor one most."
"Why to a poor one most?" asked Scrooge.
"Because it needs it most."
They went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of
the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had
observed at the baker's) that, notwithstanding his gigantic size, he
could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood
beneath a low roof quite as gracefully, and like a supernatural
creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.
And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this
power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and
his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge's
clerk's; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his
robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped
to bless Bob Cratchit's dwelling with the sprinklings of his torch.
Think of that! Bob had but fifteen "bob" a week himself; he pocketed on
Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost
of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house!
Then up rose Mrs. Cratchit, Cratchit's wife, dressed out but poorly in
a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a
goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda
Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master
Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and
getting the corners of his monstrous shirt-collar (Bob's private
property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into
his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned
to show his linen in the fashionable parks. And now two smaller
Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the
baker's they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own, and,
basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits
danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies,
while he (not proud, although his collar nearly choked him) blew the
fire, until the slow potatoes, bubbling up, knocked loudly at the
saucepan lid to be let out and peeled.
"What has ever got your precious father, then?" said Mrs. Cratchit.
"And your brother, Tiny Tim? And Martha warn't as late last Christmas
Day by half an hour!"
"Here's Martha, mother!" said a girl, appearing as she spoke.
"Here's Martha, mother!" cried the two young Cratchits. "Hurrah!
There's such a goose, Martha!"
"Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are!" said Mrs.
Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and
bonnet for her with officious zeal.
"We'd a deal of work to finish up last night," replied the girl, "and
had to clear away this morning, mother!"
"Well, never mind so long as you are come," said Mrs. Cratchit. "Sit ye
down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye!"
"No, no! There's father coming!" cried the two young Cratchits, who
were everywhere at once.
"Hide, Martha, hide!"
So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at
least three feet of comforter, exclusive of the fringe, hanging down
before him, and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look
seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore
a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!
"Why, where's our Martha?" cried Bob Cratchit, looking around.
"Not coming," said Mrs. Cratchit.
"Not coming?" said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits;
for he had been Tim's blood horse all the way from the church, and had
come home rampant. "Not coming upon Christmas Day?"
Martha didn't like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so
she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his
arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off
into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the
"And how did little Tim behave?" asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had
rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his
"As good as gold," said Bob, "and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful,
sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever
heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the
church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to
remember, upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men
Bob's voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more
when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.
His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny
Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister
to his stool beside the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs--as
if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more
shabby--compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and
stirred it round and round, and put it on the hob to simmer, Master
Peter and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose,
with which they soon returned in high procession.
Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of
all birds--a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter
of course--and in truth it was something very like it in that house.
Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan)
hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour;
Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot
plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the
two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting
themselves, and, mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into
their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came
to be helped. At last the dishes were set on. and grace was said. It
was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs. Cratchit, looking slowly
all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it into the breast; but
when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth,
one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim,
excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle
of his knife, and feebly cried, "Hurrah!"
There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was
such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness,
were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and
mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family;
indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small
atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet
every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were
steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being
changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone--too nervous
to bear witnesses--to take the pudding up, and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough? Suppose it should break in
turning out? Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the
backyard and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose--a
supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of
horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A
smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating
house and a pastry-cook's next door to each other, with a laundress's
next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit
entered--flushed, but smiling proudly--with the pudding, like a
speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of
half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly
stuck into the top.
Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that he
regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since
their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that, now the weight was off her
mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour.
Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody thought or said it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat
heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth
swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and
considered perfect, tipples and oranges were put upon the table, and a
shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew
round the hearth in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a
one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass--two
tumblers and a custard-cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden
goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks,
while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob
"A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"
Which all the family reechoed.
"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
XXVII. CHRISTMAS IN SEVENTEEN SEVENTY-SIX*
*From "A Last Century Maid and Other Stories for Children," by A.H.W.
ANNE HOLLINGSWORTH WHARTON
"On Christmas day in Seventy-six,
Our gallant troops with bayonets fixed,
To Trenton marched away."
Children, have any of you ever thought of what little people like you
were doing in this country more than a hundred years ago, when the
cruel tide of war swept over its bosom? From many homes the fathers
were absent, fighting bravely for the liberty which we now enjoy, while
the mothers no less valiantly struggled against hardships and
discomforts in order to keep a home for their children, whom you only
know as your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, dignified
gentlemen and beautiful ladies, whose painted portraits hang upon the
walls in some of your homes. Merry, romping children they were in those
far-off times, yet their bright faces must have looked grave sometimes,
when they heard the grown people talk of the great things that were
happening around them. Some of these little people never forgot the
wonderful events of which they heard, and afterward related them to
their children and grandchildren, which accounts for some of the
interesting stories which you may still hear, if you are good children.
The Christmas story that I have to tell you is about a boy and girl who
lived in Bordentown, New Jersey. The father of these children was a
soldier in General Washington's army, which was encamped a few miles
north of Trenton, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.
Bordentown, as you can see by looking on your map, if you have not
hidden them all away for the holidays, is about seven miles south of
Trenton, where fifteen hundred Hessians and a troop of British light
horse were holding the town. Thus you see that the British, in force,
were between Washington's army and Bordentown, besides which there were
some British and Hessian troops in the very town. All this seriously
interfered with Captain Tracy's going home to eat his Christmas dinner
with his wife and children. Kitty and Harry Tracy, who had not lived
long enough to see many wars, could not imagine such a thing as
Christmas without their father, and had busied themselves for weeks in
making everything ready to have a merry time with him. Kitty, who loved
to play quite as much as any frolicsome Kitty of to-day, had spent all
her spare time in knitting a pair of thick woollen stockings, which
seems a wonderful feat for a little girl only eight years old to
perform! Can you not see her sitting by the great chimney-place, filled
with its roaring, crackling logs, in her quaint, short-waisted dress,
knitting away steadily, and puckering up her rosy, dimpled face over
the strange twists and turns of that old stocking? I can see her, and I
can also hear her sweet voice as she chatters away to her mother about
"how 'sprised papa will be to find that his little girl can knit like a
grown-up woman," while Harry spreads out on the hearth a goodly store
of shellbarks that he has gathered and is keeping for his share of the
"What if he shouldn't come?" asks Harry, suddenly.
"Oh, he'll come! Papa never stays away on Christmas," says Kitty,
looking up into her mother's face for an echo to her words. Instead she
sees something very like tears in her mother's eyes.
"Oh, mamma, don't you think he'll come?"
"He will come if he possibly can," says Mrs. Tracy; "and if he cannot,
we will keep Christmas whenever dear papa does come home."
"It won't be half so nice," said Kitty, "nothing's so nice as REALLY
Christmas, and how's Kriss Kringle going to know about it if we change
"We'll let him come just the same, and if he brings anything for papa
we can put it away for him."
This plan, still, seemed a poor one to Miss Kitty, who went to her bed
in a sober mood that night, and was heard telling her dear dollie,
Martha Washington. that "wars were mis'able, and that when she married
she should have a man who kept a candy-shop for a husband, and not a
soldier--no, Martha, not even if he's as nice as papa!" As Martha made
no objection to this little arrangement, being an obedient child, they
were both soon fast asleep. The days of that cold winter of 1776 wore
on; so cold it was that the sufferings of the soldiers were great,
their bleeding feet often leaving marks on the pure white snow over
which they marched. As Christmas drew near there was a feeling among
the patriots that some blow was about to be struck; but what it was,
and from whence they knew not; and, better than all, the British had no
idea that any strong blow could come from Washington's army, weak and
out of heart, as they thought, after being chased through Jersey by
Mrs. Tracy looked anxiously each day for news of the husband and father
only a few miles away, yet so separated by the river and the enemy's
troops that they seemed like a hundred. Christmas Eve came, but brought
with it few rejoicings. The hearts of the people were too sad to be
taken up with merrymaking, although the Hessian soldiers in the town,
good-natured Germans, who only fought the Americans because they were
paid for it, gave themselves up to the feasting and revelry.
"Shall we hang up our stockings?" asked Kitty, in rather a doleful
"Yes," said her mother, "Santa Claus won't forget you, I am sure,
although he has been kept pretty busy looking after the soldiers this
"Which side is he on?" asked Harry.
"The right side, of course," said Mrs. Tracy, which was the most
sensible answer she could possibly have given. So:
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there."
Two little rosy faces lay fast asleep upon the pillow when the good old
soul came dashing over the roof about one o'clock, and after filling
each stocking with red apples, and leaving a cornucopia of sugar-plums
for each child, he turned for a moment to look at the sleeping faces,
for St. Nicholas has a tender spot in his great big heart for a
soldier's children. Then, remembering many other small folks waiting
for him all over the land, he sprang up the chimney and was away in a
Santa Claus, in the form of Mrs. Tracy's farmer brother, brought her a
splendid turkey; but because the Hessians were uncommonly fond of
turkey, it came hidden under a load of wood. Harry was very fond of
turkey, too, as well as of all other good things; but when his mother
said, "It's such a fine bird, it seems too bad to eat it without
father," Harry cried out, "Yes, keep it for papa!" and Kitty, joining
in the chorus, the vote was unanimous, and the turkey was hung away to
await the return of the good soldier, although it seemed strange, as
Kitty told Martha Washington, "to have no papa and no turkey on
The day passed and night came, cold with a steady fall of rain and
sleet. Kitty prayed that her "dear papa might not be out in the storm,
and that he might come home and wear his beautiful blue stockings";
"And eat his turkey," said Harry's sleepy voice; after which they were
soon in the land of dreams. Toward morning the good people in
Bordentown were suddenly aroused by firing in the distance, which
became more and more distinct as the day wore on. There was great
excitement in the town; men and women gathered together in little
groups in the streets to wonder what it was all about, and neighbours
came dropping into Mrs. Tracy's parlour, all day long, one after the
other, to say what they thought of the firing. In the evening there
came a body of Hessians flying into the town, to say that General
Washington had surprised the British at Trenton, early that morning,
and completely routed them, which so frightened the Hessians in
Bordentown that they left without the slightest ceremony.
It was a joyful hour to the good town people when the red-jackets
turned their backs on them, thinking every moment that the patriot army
would be after them. Indeed, it seemed as if wonders would never cease
that day, for while rejoicings were still loud, over the departure of
the enemy, there came a knock at Mrs. Tracy's door, and while she was
wondering whether she dared open it, it was pushed ajar, and a tall
soldier entered. What a scream of delight greeted that soldier, and how
Kitty and Harry danced about him and clung to his knees, while Mrs.
Tracy drew him toward the warm blaze, and helped him off with his damp
Cold and tired Captain Tracy was, after a night's march in the streets
and a day's fighting; but he was not too weary to smile at the dear
faces around him, or to pat Kitty's head when she brought his warm
stockings and would put them on the tired feet, herself.
Suddenly there was a sharp, quick bark outside the door. "What's that?"
"Oh, I forgot. Open the door. Here, Fido, Fido!"
Into the room there sprang a beautiful little King Charles spaniel,
white, with tan spots, and ears of the longest, softest, and silkiest.
"What a little dear!" exclaimed Kitty; "where did it come from?"
"From the battle of Trenton," said her father. "His poor master was
shot. After the red-coats had turned their backs, and I was hurrying
along one of the streets where the fight had been the fiercest, I heard
a low groan, and, turning, saw a British officer lying among a number
of slain. I raised his head; he begged for some water, which I brought
him, and bending down my ear I heard him whisper, 'Dying--last
battle--say a prayer.' He tried to follow me in the words of a prayer,
and then, taking my hand, laid it on something soft and warm, nestling
close up to his breast--it was this little dog. The gentleman--for he
was a real gentleman--gasped out, 'Take care of my poor Fido;
good-night,' and was gone. It was as much as I could do to get the
little creature away from his dead master; he clung to him as if he
loved him better than life. You'll take care of him, won't you,
children? I brought him home to you, for a Christmas present."
"Pretty little Fido," said Kitty, taking the soft, curly creature in
her arms; "I think it's the best present in the world, and to-morrow is
to be real Christmas, because you are home, papa."
"And we'll eat the turkey," said Harry, "and shellbarks, lots of them,
that I saved for you. What a good time we'll have! And oh, papa, don't
go to war any more, but stay at home, with mother and Kitty and Fido
"What would become of our country if we should all do that, my little
man? It was a good day's work that we did this Christmas, getting the
army all across the river so quickly and quietly that we surprised the
enemy, and gained a victory, with the loss of few men."
Thus it was that some of the good people of 1776 spent their Christmas,
that their children and grandchildren might spend many of them as
citizens of a free nation.
XXVIII. CHRISTMAS UNDER THE SNOW*
*From "Kristy's Queer Christmas," Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.
OLIVE THORNE MILLER
It was just before Christmas, and Mr. Barnes was starting for the
nearest village. The family were out at the door to see him start, and
give him the last charges.
"Don't forget the Christmas dinner, papa," said Willie.
'"Specially the chickens for the pie!" put in Nora.
"An' the waisins," piped up little Tot, standing on tiptoe to give papa
a good-bye kiss.
"I hate to have you go, George," said Mrs. Barnes anxiously. "It looks
to me like a storm."
"Oh, I guess it won't be much," said Mr. Barnes lightly; "and the
youngsters must have their Christmas dinner, you know."
"Well," said Mrs. Barnes, "remember this, George: if there is a bad
storm don't try to come back. Stay in the village till it is over. We
can get along alone for a few days, can't we, Willie?" turning to the
boy who was giving the last touches to the harness of old Tim, the
"Oh, yes! Papa, I can take care of mamma," said Willie earnestly.
"And get up the Christmas dinner out of nothing?" asked papa, smiling.
"I don't know," said Willie, hesitating, as he remembered the proposed
dinner, in which he felt a deep interest.
"What could you do for the chicken pie?" went on papa with a roguish
look in his eye, "or the plum-pudding?"
"Or the waisins?" broke in Tot anxiously.
"Tot has set her heart on the raisins," said papa, tossing the small
maiden up higher than his head, and dropping her all laughing on the
door-step, "and Tot shall have them sure, if papa can find them in S--.
Now good-bye, all! Willie, remember to take care of mamma, and I depend
on you to get up a Christmas dinner if I don't get back. Now, wife,
don't worry!" were his last words as the faithful old horse started
down the road.
Mrs. Barnes turned one more glance to the west, where a low, heavy bank
of clouds was slowly rising, and went into the little house to attend
to her morning duties.
"Willie," she said, when they were all in the snug little log-cabin in
which they lived, "I'm sure there's going to be a storm, and it may be
snow. You had better prepare enough wood for two or three days; Nora
will help bring it in."
"Me, too!" said grave little Tot.
"Yes, Tot may help too," said mamma.
This simple little home was a busy place, and soon every one was hard
at work. It was late in the afternoon before the pile of wood, which
had been steadily growing all day, was high enough to satisfy Willie,
for now there was no doubt about the coming storm, and it would
probably bring snow; no one could guess how much, in that country of
"I wish the village was not so far off, so that papa could get back
to-night," said Willie, as he came in with his last load.
Mrs. Barnes glanced out of the window. Broad scattering snowflakes were
silently falling; the advance guard, she felt them to be, of a numerous
"So do I," she replied anxiously, "or that he did not have to come over
that dreadful prairie, where it is so easy to get lost."
"But old Tim knows the way, even in the dark," said Willie proudly. "I
believe Tim knows more'n some folks."
"No doubt he does, about the way home," said mamma, "and we won't worry
about papa, but have our supper and go to bed. That'll make the time
The meal was soon eaten and cleared away, the fire carefully covered up
on the hearth, and the whole little family quietly in bed. Then the
storm, which had been making ready all day, came down upon them in
The bleak wind howled around the corners, the white flakes by millions
and millions came with it, and hurled themselves upon that house. In
fact, that poor little cabin alone on the wide prairie seemed to be the
object of their sport. They sifted through the cracks in the walls,
around the windows, and under the door, and made pretty little drifts
on the floor. They piled up against it outside, covered the steps, and
then the door, and then the windows, and then the roof, and at last
buried it completely out of sight under the soft, white mass.
And all the time the mother and her three children lay snugly covered
up in their beds fast asleep, and knew nothing about it.
The night passed away and morning came, but no light broke through the
windows of the cabin. Mrs. Barnes woke at the usual time, but finding
it still dark and perfectly quiet outside, she concluded that the storm
was over, and with a sigh of relief turned over to sleep again. About
eight o'clock, however, she could sleep no more, and became wide awake
enough to think the darkness strange. At that moment the clock struck,
and the truth flashed over her.
Being buried under snow is no uncommon thing on the wide prairies, and
since they had wood and cornmeal in plenty, she would not have been
much alarmed if her husband had been home. But snow deep enough to bury
them must cover up all landmarks, and she knew her husband would not
rest till he had found them. To get lost on the trackless prairie was
fearfully easy, and to suffer and die almost in sight of home was no
unusual thing, and was her one dread in living there.
A few moments she lay quiet in bed, to calm herself and get control of
her own anxieties before she spoke to the children.
"Willie," she said at last, "are you awake?"
"Yes, mamma," said Willie; "I've been awake ever so long; isn't it most
"Willie," said the mother quietly, "we mustn't be frightened, but I
think--I'm afraid--we are snowed in."
Willie bounded to his feet and ran to the door. "Don't open it!" said
mamma hastily; "the snow may fall in. Light a candle and look out the
In a moment the flickering rays of the candle fell upon the window.
Willie drew back the curtain. Snow was tightly banked up against it to
"Why, mamma," he exclaimed, "so we are! and how can papa find us? and
what shall we do?"
"We must do the best we can," said mamma, in a voice which she tried to
make steady, "and trust that it isn't very deep, and that Tim and papa
will find us, and dig us out."
By this time the little girls were awake and inclined to be very much
frightened, but mamma was calm now, and Willie was brave and hopeful.
They all dressed, and Willie started the fire. The smoke refused to
rise, but puffed out into the room, and Mrs. Barnes knew that if the
chimney were closed they would probably suffocate, if they did not
starve or freeze.
The smoke in a few minutes choked them, and, seeing that something must
be done, she put the two girls, well wrapped in blankets, into the shed
outside the back door, closed the door to keep out the smoke, and then
went with Willie to the low attic, where a scuttle door opened onto the
"We must try," she said, "to get it open without letting in too much
snow, and see if we can manage to clear the chimney."
"I can reach the chimney from the scuttle with a shovel," said Willie.
"I often have with a stick."
After much labour, and several small avalanches of snow, the scuttle
was opened far enough for Willie to stand on the top round of the short
ladder, and beat a hole through to the light, which was only a foot
above. He then shovelled off the top of the chimney, which was
ornamented with a big round cushion of snow, and then by beating and
shovelling he was able to clear the door, which he opened wide, and
Mrs. Barnes came up on the ladder to look out. Dreary indeed was the
scene! Nothing but snow as far as the eye could reach, and flakes still
falling, though lightly.
The storm was evidently almost over, but the sky was gray and overcast.
They closed the door, went down, and soon had a fire, hoping that the
smoke would guide somebody to them.
Breakfast was taken by candle-light, dinner--in time--in the same way,
and supper passed with no sound from the outside world.
Many times Willie and mamma went to the scuttle door to see if any one
was in sight, but not a shadow broke the broad expanse of white over
which toward night the sun shone. Of course there were no signs of the
roads, for through so deep snow none could be broken, and until the sun
and frost should form a crust on top there was little hope of their
The second morning broke, and Willie hurried up to his post of lookout
the first thing. No person was in sight, but he found a light crust on
the snow, and the first thing he noticed was a few half-starved birds
trying in vain to pick up something to eat. They looked weak and almost
exhausted, and a thought struck Willie.
It was hard to keep up the courage of the little household. Nora had
openly lamented that to-night was Christmas Eve, and no Christmas
dinner to be had. Tot had grown very tearful about her "waisins," and
Mrs. Barnes, though she tried to keep up heart, had become very pale
Willie, though he felt unbounded faith in papa, and especially in Tim,
found it hard to suppress his own complaints when he remembered that
Christmas would probably be passed in the same dismal way, with fears
for papa added to their own misery.
The wood, too, was getting low, and mamma dared not let the fire go
out, as that was the only sign of their existence to anybody; and
though she did not speak of it, Willie knew, too, that they had not
many candles, and in two days at farthest they would be left in the
The thought that struck Willie pleased him greatly, and he was sure it
would cheer up the rest. He made his plans, and went to work to carry
them out without saying anything about it.
He brought out of a corner of the attic an old boxtrap he had used in
the summer to catch birds and small animals, set it carefully on the
snow, and scattered crumbs of corn-bread to attract the birds.
In half an hour he went up again, and found to his delight he had
caught bigger game--a poor rabbit which had come from no one knows
where over the crust to find food.
This gave Willie a new idea; they could save their Christmas dinner
after all; rabbits made very nice pies.
Poor Bunny was quietly laid to rest, and the trap set again. This time
another rabbit was caught, perhaps the mate of the first. This was the
last of the rabbits, but the next catch was a couple of snowbirds.
These Willie carefully placed in a corner of the attic, using the trap
for a cage, and giving them plenty of food and water.
When the girls were fast asleep, with tears on their cheeks for the
dreadful Christmas they were going to have, Willie told mamma about his
plans. Mamma was pale and weak with anxiety, and his news first made
her laugh and then cry. But after a few moments given to her long
pent-up tears, she felt much better and entered into his plans heartily.
The two captives up in the attic were to be Christmas presents to the
girls, and the rabbits were to make the long anticipated pie. As for
plum-pudding, of course that couldn't be thought of.
"But don't you think, mamma," said Willie eagerly, "that you could make
some sort of a cake out of meal, and wouldn't hickory nuts be good in
it? You know I have some left up in the attic, and I might crack them
softly up there, and don't you think they would be good?" he concluded
"Well, perhaps so," said mamma, anxious to please him and help him in
his generous plans. "I can try. If I only had some eggs--but seems to
me I have heard that snow beaten into cake would make it light--and
there's snow enough, I'm sure," she added with a faint smile, the first
Willie had seen for three days.
The smile alone he felt to be a great achievement, and he crept
carefully up the ladder, cracked the nuts to the last one, brought them
down, and mamma picked the meats out, while he dressed the two rabbits
which had come so opportunely to be their Christmas dinner. "Wish you
Merry Christmas!" he called out to Nora and Tot when they waked. "See
what Santa Claus has brought you!"
Before they had time to remember what a sorry Christmas it was to be,
they received their presents, a live bird, for each, a bird that was
never to be kept in a cage, but fly about the house till summer came,
and then to go away if it wished.
Pets were scarce on the prairie, and the girls were delighted. Nothing
papa could have brought them would have given them so much happiness.
They thought no more of the dinner, but hurried to dress themselves and
feed the birds, which were quite tame from hunger and weariness. But
after a while they saw preparations for dinner, too. Mamma made a crust
and lined a deep dish--the chicken pie dish--and then she brought a
mysterious something out of the cupboard, all cut up so that it looked
as if it might be chicken, and put it in the dish with other things,
and then she tucked them all under a thick crust, and set it down in a
tin oven before the fire to bake. And that was not all. She got out
some more cornmeal, and made a batter, and put in some sugar and
something else which she slipped in from a bowl, and which looked in
the batter something like raisins; and at the last moment Willie
brought her a cup of snow and she hastily beat it into the cake, or
pudding, whichever you might call it, while the children laughed at the
idea of making a cake out of snow. This went into the same oven and
pretty soon it rose up light and showed a beautiful brown crust, while
the pie was steaming through little fork holes on top, and sending out
most delicious odours.
At the last minute, when the table was set and everything ready to come
up, Willie ran up to look out of the scuttle, as he had every hour of
daylight since they were buried. In a moment came a wild shout down the
"They're coming! Hurrah for old Tim!"
Mamma rushed up and looked out, and saw--to be sure--old Tim slowly
coming along over the crust, drawing after him a wood sled on which
were two men.
"It's papa!" shouted Willie, waving his arms to attract their attention.
"Willie!" came back over the snow in tones of agony. "Is that you? Are
"All well!" shouted Willie, "and just going to have our Christmas
"Dinner?" echoed papa, who was now nearer.
"Where is the house, then?"
"Oh, down here!" said Willie, "under the snow; but we're all right,
only we mustn't let the plum-pudding spoil."
Looking into the attic, Willie found that mamma had fainted away, and
this news brought to her aid papa and the other man, who proved to be a
good friend who had come to help.
Tim was tied to the chimney, whose thread of smoke had guided them
home, and all went down into the dark room. Mrs. Barnes soon recovered,
and while Willie dished up the smoking dinner, stories were told on
Mr. Barnes had been trying to get through the snow and to find them all
the time, but until the last night had made a stiff crust he had been
unable to do so. Then Mrs. Barnes told her story, winding up with the
account of Willie's Christmas dinner. "And if it hadn't been for his
keeping up our hearts I don't know what would have become of us," she
said at last.
"Well, my son," said papa, "you did take care of mamma, and get up a
dinner out of nothing, sure enough; and now we'll eat the dinner, which
I am sure is delicious."
So it proved to be; even the cake, or pudding, which Tot christened
snow pudding, was voted very nice, and the hickory nuts as good as
raisins. When they had finished, Mr. Barnes brought in his packages,
gave Tot and the rest some "sure-enough waisins," and added his
Christmas presents to Willie's; but though all were overjoyed, nothing
was quite so nice in their eyes as the two live birds.
After dinner the two men and Willie dug out passages from the doors,
through the snow, which had wasted a good deal, uncovered the windows,
and made a slanting way to his shed for old Tim. Then for two or three
days Willie made tunnels and little rooms under the snow, and for two
weeks, while the snow lasted, Nora and Tot had fine times in the little
XXIX. MR. BLUFF'S EXPERIENCES OF HOLIDAYS*
* Reprinted by permission of Moffat, Yird & Co., from Christmas. R.H.
OLIVER BELL BUNCE
"I hate holidays," said Bachelor Bluff to me, with some little
irritation, on a Christmas a few years ago. Then he paused an instant,
after which he resumed: "I don't mean to say that I hate to see people
enjoying themselves. But I hate holidays, nevertheless, because to me
they are always the saddest and dreariest days of the year. I shudder
at the name of holiday. I dread the approach of one, and thank heaven
when it is over. I pass through, on a holiday, the most horrible
sensations, the bitterest feelings, the most oppressive melancholy; in
fact, I am not myself at holiday-times."
"Very strange," I ventured to interpose.
"A plague on it!" said he, almost with violence. "I'm not inhuman. I
don't wish anybody harm. I'm glad people can enjoy themselves. But I
hate holidays all the same. You see, this is the reason: I am a
bachelor; I am without kin; I am in a place that did not know me at
birth. And so, when holidays come around, there is no place anywhere
for me. I have friends, of course; I don't think I've been a very
sulky, shut-in, reticent fellow; and there is many a board that has a
place for me--but not at Christmastime. At Christmas, the dinner is a
family gathering; and I've no family. There is such a gathering of
kindred on this occasion, such a reunion of family folk, that there is
no place for a friend, even if the friend be liked. Christmas, with all
its kindliness and charity and good-will, is, after all, deuced
selfish. Each little set gathers within its own circle; and people like
me, with no particular circle, are left in the lurch. So you see, on
the day of all the days in the year that my heart pines for good cheer,
I'm without an invitation.
"Oh, it's because I pine for good cheer," said the bachelor, sharply,
interrupting my attempt to speak, "that I hate holidays. If I were an
infernally selfish fellow, I wouldn't hate holidays. I'd go off and
have some fun all to myself, somewhere or somehow. But, you see, I hate
to be in the dark when all the rest of the world is in light. I hate
holidays because I ought to be merry and happy on holidays and can't.
"Don't tell me," he cried, stopping the word that was on my lips; "I
tell you, I hate holidays. The shops look merry, do they, with their
bright toys and their green branches? The pantomime is crowded with
merry hearts, is it? The circus and the show are brimful of fun and
laughter, are they? Well, they all make me miserable. I haven't any
pretty-faced girls or bright-eyed boys to take to the circus or the
show, and all the nice girls and fine boys of my acquaintance have
their uncles or their grand-dads or their cousins to take them to those
places; so, if I go, I must go alone. But I don't go. I can't bear the
chill of seeing everybody happy, and knowing myself so lonely and
desolate. Confound it, sir, I've too much heart to be happy under such
circumstances! I'm too humane, sir!
And the result is, I hate holidays. It's miserable to be out, and yet I
can't stay at home, for I get thinking of Christmases past. I can't
read--the shadow of my heart makes it impossible. I can't walk--for I
see nothing but pictures through the bright windows, and happy groups
of pleasure-seekers. The fact is, I've nothing to do but to hate
holidays. But will you not dine with me?"
Of course, I had to plead engagement with my own family circle, and I
couldn't quite invite Mr. Bluff home that day, when Cousin Charles and
his wife, and Sister Susan and her daughter, and three of my wife's kin
had come in from the country, all to make a merry Christmas with us. I
felt sorry, but it was quite impossible, so I wished Mr. Bluff a "Merry
Christmas," and hurried homeward through the cold and nipping air.
I did not meet Bachelor Bluff again until a week after Christmas of the
next year, when I learned some strange particulars of what occurred to
him after our parting on the occasion just described. I will let
Bachelor Bluff tell his adventure for himself.
"I went to church," said he, "and was as sad there as everywhere else.
Of course, the evergreens were pretty, and the music fine; but all
around me were happy groups of people, who could scarcely keep down
merry Christmas long enough to do reverence to sacred Christmas. And
nobody was alone but me. Every happy paterfamilias in his pew
tantalized me, and the whole atmosphere of the place seemed so much
better suited to every one else than me that I came away hating
holidays worse than ever. Then I went to the play, and sat down in a
box all alone by myself. Everybody seemed on the best of terms with
everybody else, and jokes and banter passed from one to another with
the most good-natured freedom. Everybody but me was in a little group
of friends. I was the only person in the whole theatre that was alone.
And then there was such clapping of hands, and roars of laughter, and
shouts of delight at all the fun going on upon the stage, all of which
was rendered doubly enjoyable by everybody having somebody with whom to
share and interchange the pleasure, that my loneliness got simply
unbearable, and I hated holidays infinitely worse than ever.
"By five o'clock the holiday became so intolerable that I said I'd go
and get a dinner. The best dinner the town could provide. A sumptuous
dinner for one. A dinner with many courses, with wines of the finest
brands, with bright lights, with a cheerful fire, with every condition
of comfort--and I'd see if I couldn't for once extract a little
pleasure out of a holiday!
"The handsome dining-room at the club looked bright, but it was empty.
Who dines at this club on Christmas but lonely bachelors? There was a
flutter of surprise when I ordered a dinner, and the few attendants
were, no doubt, glad of something to break the monotony of the hours.
"My dinner was well served. The spacious room looked lonely; but the
white, snowy cloths, the rich window hangings, the warm tints of the
walls, the sparkle of the fire in the steel grate, gave the room an air
of elegance and cheerfulness; and then the table at which I dined was
close to the window, and through the partly drawn curtains were visible
centres of lonely, cold streets, with bright lights from many a window,
it is true, but there was a storm, and snow began whirling through the
street. I let my imagination paint the streets as cold and dreary as it
would, just to extract a little pleasure by way of contrast from the
brilliant room of which I was apparently sole master.
"I dined well, and recalled in fancy old, youthful Christmases, and
pledged mentally many an old friend, and my melancholy was mellowing
into a low, sad undertone, when, just as I was raising a glass of wine
to my lips, I was startled by a picture at the windowpane. It was a
pale, wild, haggard face, in a great cloud of black hair, pressed
against the glass. As I looked it vanished. With a strange thrill at my
heart, which my lips mocked with a derisive sneer, I finished the wine
and set down the glass. It was, of course, only a beggar-girl that had
crept up to the window and stole a glance at the bright scene within;
but still the pale face troubled me a little, and threw a fresh shadow
on my heart. I filled my glass once more with wine, and was again about
to drink, when the face reappeared at the window. It was so white, so
thin, with eyes so large, wild, and hungry-looking, and the black,
unkempt hair, into which the snow had drifted, formed so strange and
weird a frame to the picture, that I was fairly startled. Replacing,
untasted, the liquor on the table, I rose and went close to the pane.
The face had vanished, and I could see no object within many feet of
the window. The storm had increased, and the snow was driving in wild
gusts through the streets, which were empty, save here and there a
hurrying wayfarer. The whole scene was cold, wild, and desolate, and I
could not repress a keen thrill of sympathy for the child, whoever it
was, whose only Christmas was to watch, in cold and storm, the rich
banquet ungratefully enjoyed by the lonely bachelor. I resumed my place
at the table; but the dinner was finished, and the wine had no further
relish. I was haunted by the vision at the window, and began, with an
unreasonable irritation at the interruption, to repeat with fresh
warmth my detestation of holidays. One couldn't even dine alone on a
holiday with any sort of comfort, I declared. On holidays one was
tormented by too much pleasure on one side, and too much misery on the
other. And then, I said, hunting for justification of my dislike of the
day, 'How many other people are, like me, made miserable by seeing the
fullness of enjoyment others possess!'
"Oh, yes, I know," sarcastically replied the bachelor to a comment of
mine; "of course, all magnanimous, generous, and noble-souled people
delight in seeing other people made happy, and are quite content to
accept this vicarious felicity. But I, you see, and this dear little
"Dear little girl?"
"Oh, I forgot," said Bachelor Bluff, blushing a little, in spite of a
desperate effort not to do so. "I didn't tell you. Well, it was so
absurd! I kept thinking, thinking of the pale, haggard, lonely little
girl on the cold and desolate side of the window-pane, and the
over-fed, discontented, lonely old bachelor on the splendid side of the
window-pane, and I didn't get much happier thinking about it, I can
assure you. I drank glass after glass of the wine--not that I enjoyed
its flavour any more, but mechanically, as it were, and with a sort of
hope thereby to drown unpleasant reminders. I tried to attribute my
annoyance in the matter to holidays, and so denounced them more
vehemently than ever. I rose once in a while and went to the window,
but could see no one to whom the pale face could have belonged.
"At last, in no very amiable mood, I got up, put on my wrappers, and
went out; and the first thing I did was to run against a small figure
crouching in the doorway. A face looked up quickly at the rough
encounter, and I saw the pale features of the window-pane. I was very
irritated and angry, and spoke harshly; and then, all at once, I am
sure I don't know how it happened, but it flashed upon me that I, of
all men, had no right to utter a harsh word to one oppressed with so
wretched a Christmas as this poor creature was. I couldn't say another
word, but began feeling in my pocket for some money, and then I asked a
question or two, and then I don't quite know how it came about--isn't
it very warm here?" exclaimed Bachelor Bluff, rising and walking about,
and wiping the perspiration from his brow.
"Well, you see," he resumed nervously, "it was very absurd, but I did
believe the girl's story--the old story, you know, of privation and
suffering, and just thought I'd go home with the brat and see if what
she said was all true. And then I remembered that all the shops were
closed, and not a purchase could be made. I went back and persuaded the
steward to put up for me a hamper of provisions, which the half-wild
little youngster helped me carry through the snow, dancing with delight
all the way. And isn't this enough?"
"Not a bit, Mr. Bluff. I must have the whole story."
"I declare," said Bachelor Bluff, "there's no whole story to tell. A
widow with children in great need, that was what I found; and they had
a feast that night, and a little money to buy them a load of wood and a
garment or two the next day; and they were all so bright, and so merry,
and so thankful, and so good, that, when I got home that night, I was
mightily amazed that, instead of going to bed sour at holidays, I was
in a state of great contentment in regard to holidays. In fact, I was
really merry. I whistled. I sang. I do believe I cut a caper. The poor
wretches I had left had been so merry over their unlooked-for Christmas
banquet that their spirits infected mine.
"And then I got thinking again. Of course, holidays had been miserable
to me, I said. What right had a well-to-do, lonely old bachelor
hovering wistfully in the vicinity of happy circles, when all about
there were so many people as lonely as he, and yet oppressed with want?
'Good gracious!' I exclaimed, 'to think of a man complaining of
loneliness with thousands of wretches yearning for his help and
comfort, with endless opportunities for work and company, with hundreds
of pleasant and delightful things to do. Just to think of it! It put me
in a great fury at myself to think of it. I tried pretty hard to escape
from myself and began inventing excuses and all that sort of thing, but
I rigidly forced myself to look squarely at my own conduct. And then I
reconciled my confidence by declaring that, if ever after that day I
hated a holiday again, might my holidays end at once and forever!
"Did I go and see my proteges again? What a question! Why--well, no
matter. If the widow is comfortable now, it is because she has found a
way to earn without difficulty enough for her few wants. That's no
fault of mine. I would have done more for her, but she wouldn't let me.
But just let me tell you about New Year's--the New-Year's day that
followed the Christmas I've been describing. It was lucky for me there
was another holiday only a week off. Bless you! I had so much to do
that day I was completely bewildered, and the hours weren't half long
enough. I did make a few social calls, but then I hurried them over;
and then hastened to my little girl, whose face had already caught a
touch of colour; and she, looking quite handsome in her new frock and
her ribbons, took me to other poor folk, and,--well, that's about the
"Oh, as to the next Christmas. Well, I didn't dine alone, as you may
guess. It was up three stairs, that's true, and there was none of that
elegance that marked the dinner of the year before; but it was merry,
and happy, and bright; it was a generous, honest, hearty Christmas
dinner, that it was, although I do wish the widow hadn't talked so much
about the mysterious way a turkey had been left at her door the night
before. And Molly--that's the little girl--and I had a rousing
appetite. We went to church early; then we had been down to the Five
Points to carry the poor outcasts there something for their Christmas
dinner; in fact, we had done wonders of work, and Molly was in high
spirits, and so the Christmas dinner was a great success.
"Dear me, sir, no! Just as you say. Holidays are not in the least
wearisome any more. Plague on it! When a man tells me now that he hates
holidays, I find myself getting very wroth. I pin him by the buttonhole
at once, and tell him my experience. The fact is, if I were at dinner
on a holiday, and anybody should ask me for a sentiment, I should say,
'God bless all holidays!'"
MASTER SANDY'S SNAPDRAGON*
* This story was first published in Wide Awake, vol. 26.
ELDRIDGE S. BROOKS
There was just enough of December in the air and of May in the sky to
make the Yuletide of the year of grace 1611 a time of pleasure and
delight to every boy and girl in "Merrie England" from the princely
children in stately Whitehall to the humblest pot-boy and scullery-girl
in the hall of the country squire.
And in the palace at Whitehall even the cares of state gave place to
the sports of this happy season. For that "Most High and Mighty Prince
James, by the Grace of God King of Great Britain, France, and
Ireland"--as you will find him styled in your copy of the Old Version,
or what is known as "King James' Bible"--loved the Christmas
festivities, cranky, crabbed, and crusty though he was. And this year
he felt especially gracious. For now, first since the terror of the Guy
Fawkes plot which had come to naught full seven years before, did the
timid king feel secure on his throne; the translation of the Bible, on
which so many learned men had been for years engaged, had just been
issued from the press of Master Robert Baker; and, lastly, much profit
was coming into the royal treasury from the new lands in the Indies and
across the sea.
So it was to be a Merry Christmas in the palace at Whitehall. Great
were the preparations for its celebration, and the Lord Henry, the
handsome, wise and popular young Prince of Wales, whom men hoped some
day to hail as King Henry of England, was to take part in a jolly
Christmas mask, in which, too, even the little Prince Charles was to
perform for the edification of the court when the mask should be shown
in the new and gorgeous banqueting hall of the palace.
And to-night it was Christmas Eve. The Little Prince Charles and the
Princess Elizabeth could scarcely wait for the morrow, so impatient
were they to see all the grand devisings that were in store for them.
So good Master Sandy, under-tutor to the Prince, proposed to wise
Archie Armstrong, the King's jester, that they play at snapdragon for
the children in the royal nursery.
The Prince and Princess clamoured for the promised game at once, and
soon the flicker from the flaming bow lighted up the darkened nursery
as, around the witchlike caldron, they watched their opportunity to
snatch the lucky raisin. The room rang so loudly with fun and laughter
that even the King himself, big of head and rickety of legs, shambled
in good-humouredly to join in the sport that was giving so much
pleasure to the royal boy he so dearly loved, and whom he always called
But what was snapdragon, you ask? A simple enough game, but dear for
many and many a year to English children. A broad and shallow bowl or
dish half-filled with blazing brandy, at the bottom of which lay
numerous toothsome raisins--a rare tidbit in those days--and one of
these, pierced with a gold button, was known as the "lucky raisin."
Then, as the flaming brandy flickered and darted from the yawning bowl,
even as did the flaming poison tongues of the cruel dragon that St.
George of England conquered so valiantly, each one of the revellers
sought to snatch a raisin from the burning bowl without singe or scar.
And he who drew out the lucky raisin was winner and champion, and could
claim a boon or reward for his superior skill. Rather a dangerous game,
perhaps it seems, but folks were rough players in those old days and
laughed at a burn or a bruise, taking them as part of the fun.
So around Master Sandy's Snapdragon danced the royal children, and even
the King himself condescended to dip his royal hands in the flames,
while Archie Armstrong the jester cried out: "Now fair and softly,
brother Jamie, fair and softly, man. There's ne'er a plum in all that
plucking so worth the burning as there was in Signer Guy Fawkes'
snapdragon when ye proved not to be his lucky raisin." For King's
jesters were privileged characters in the old days, and jolly Archie
Armstrong could joke with the King on this Guy Fawkes scare as none
And still no one brought out the lucky raisin, though the Princess
Elizabeth's fair arm was scotched and good Master Sandy's peaked beard
was singed, and my Lord Montacute had dropped his signet ring in the
fiery dragon's mouth, and even His Gracious Majesty the King was
nursing one of his royal fingers.
But just as through the parted arras came young Henry, Prince of Wales,
little Prince Charles gave a boyish shout of triumph.
"Hey, huzzoy!" he cried, "'tis mine, 'tis mine! Look, Archie; see, dear
dad; I have the lucky raisin! A boon, good folk; a boon for me!" And
the excited lad held aloft the lucky raisin in which gleamed the golden
"Rarely caught, young York," cried Prince Henry, clapping his hands in
applause. "I came in right in good time, did I not, to give you luck,
little brother? And now, lad, what is the boon to be?"
And King James, greatly pleased at whatever his dear "Baby Charles"
said or did, echoed his eldest son's question. "Ay lad, 'twas a rare
good dip; so crave your boon. What does my bonny boy desire?"
But the boy hesitated. What was there that a royal prince, indulged as
was he, could wish for or desire? He really could think of nothing, and
crossing quickly to his elder brother, whom, boy-fashion, he adored, he
whispered, "Ud's fish, Hal, what DO I want?"
Prince Henry placed his hand upon his brother's shoulder and looked
smilingly into his questioning eyes, and all within the room glanced
for a moment at the two lads standing thus.
And they were well worth looking at. Prince Henry of Wales, tall,
comely, open-faced, and well-built, a noble lad of eighteen who called
to men's minds, so "rare Ben Jonson" says, the memory of the hero of
Agincourt, that other
thunderbolt of war,
Harry the Fifth, to whom in face you are
So like, as Fate would have you so in worth;
Prince Charles, royal Duke of York, Knight of the Garter and of the
Bath, fair in face and form, an active, manly, daring boy of
eleven--the princely brothers made so fair a sight that the King,
jealous and suspicious of Prince Henry's popularity though he was,
looked now upon them both with loving eyes. But how those loving eyes
would have grown dim with tears could this fickle, selfish, yet
indulgent father have foreseen the sad and bitter fates of both his
But, fortunately, such foreknowledge is not for fathers or mothers,
whatever their rank or station, and King James's only thought was one
of pride in the two brave lads now whispering together in secret
confidence. And into this he speedily broke.
"Come, come, Baby Charles," he cried, "stand no more parleying, but out
and over with the boon ye crave as guerdon for your lucky plum. Ud's
fish, lad, out with it; we'd get it for ye though it did rain jeddert
staves here in Whitehall."
"So please your Grace," said the little Prince, bowing low with true
courtier-like grace and suavity, "I will, with your permission, crave
my boon as a Christmas favor at wassail time in to-morrow's revels."
And then he passed from the chamber arm-in-arm with his elder brother,
while the King, chuckling greatly over the lad's show of courtliness
and ceremony, went into a learned discussion with my lord of Montacute
and Master Sandy as to the origin of the snapdragon, which he, with his
customary assumption of deep learning, declared was "but a modern
paraphrase, my lord, of the fable which telleth how Dan Hercules did
kill the flaming dragon of Hesperia and did then, with the apple of
that famous orchard, make a fiery dish of burning apple brandy which he
did name 'snapdragon.'"
For King James VI of Scotland and I of England was, you see, something
too much of what men call a pendant.
Christmas morning rose bright and glorious. A light hoarfrost whitened
the ground and the keen December air nipped the noses as it hurried the
song-notes of the score of little waifs who, gathered beneath the
windows of the big palace, sung for the happy awaking of the young
Prince Charles their Christmas carol and their Christmas noel:
A child this day is born,
A child of great renown;
Most worthy of a sceptre,
A sceptre and a crown.
Noel, noel, noel,
Noel sing we may
Because the King of all Kings
Was born this blessed day.
These tidings shepherds heard
In field watching their fold,
Were by an angel unto them
At night revealed and told.
Noel, noel, noel,
Noel sing we may
Because the King of all Kings
Was born this blessed day.
He brought unto them tidings
Of gladness and of mirth,
Which cometh to all people by
This holy infant's birth.
Noel, noel, noel,
Noel sing we may
Because the King of all Kings
Was born this blessed day.
The "blessed day" wore on. Gifts and sports filled the happy hours. In
the royal banqueting hall the Christmas dinner was royally set and
served, and King and Queen and Princes, with attendant nobles and
holiday guests, partook of the strong dishes of those old days of
"A shield of brawn with mustard, boyl'd capon, a chine of beef roasted,
a neat's tongue roasted, a pig roasted, chewets baked, goose, swan and
turkey roasted, a haunch of venison roasted, a pasty of venison, a kid
stuffed with pudding, an olive-pye, capons and dowsets, sallats and
fricases"--all these and much more, with strong beer and spiced ale to
wash the dinner down, crowned the royal board, while the great boar's
head and the Christmas pie, borne in with great parade, were placed on
the table joyously decked with holly and rosemary and bay. It was a
great ceremony--this bringing in of the boar's head. First came an
attendant, so the old record tells us,
"attyr'd in a horseman's coat with a Boares-speare in his hande; next
to him another huntsman in greene, with a bloody faulchion drawne; next
to him two pages in tafatye sarcenet, each of them with a messe of
mustard; next to whom came hee that carried the Boareshead, crosst with
a greene silk scarfe, by which hunge the empty scabbard of the
faulchion which was carried before him."
After the dinner--the boar's head having been wrestled for by some of
the royal yeomen--came the wassail or health-drinking. Then the King
"And now, Baby Charles, let us hear the boon ye were to crave of us at
wassail as the guerdon for the holder of the lucky raisin in Master
And the little eleven-year-old Prince stood up before the company in
all his brave attire, glanced at his brother Prince Henry, and then
facing the King said boldly:
"I pray you, my father and my Hege, grant me as the boon I ask--the
freeing of Walter Raleigh."
At this altogether startling and unlooked-for request, amazement and
consternation appeared on the faces around the royal banqueting board,
and the King put down his untasted tankard of spiced ale, while
surprise, doubt and anger quickly crossed the royal face. For Sir
Walter Raleigh, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, the lord-proprietor
and colonizer of the American colonies, and the sworn foe to Spain, had
been now close prisoner in the Tower for more than nine years, hated
and yet dreaded by this fickle King James, who dared not put him to
death for fear of the people to whom the name and valour of Raleigh
"Hoot, chiel!" cried the King at length, spluttering wrathfully in the
broadest of his native Scotch, as was his habit when angered or
surprised. "Ye reckless fou, wha hae put ye to sic a jackanape trick?
Dinna ye ken that sic a boon is nae for a laddie like you to meddle
wi'? Wha hae put ye to't, I say?"
But ere the young Prince could reply, the stately and solemn-faced
ambassador of Spain, the Count of Gondemar, arose in the place of
honour he filled as a guest of the King.
"My Lord King," he said, "I beg your majesty to bear in memory your
pledge to my gracious master King Philip of Spain, that naught save
grave cause should lead you to liberate from just durance that arch
enemy of Spain, the Lord Raleigh."
"But you did promise me, my lord," said Prince Charles, hastily, "and
you have told me that the royal pledge is not to be lightly broken."
"Ma certie, lad," said King James, "ye maunay learn that there is nae
rule wi'out its aicciptions." And then he added, "A pledge to a boy in
play, like to ours of yester-eve, Baby Charles, is not to be kept when
matters of state conflict." Then turning to the Spanish ambassador, he
said: "Rest content, my lord count. This recreant Raleigh shall not yet
"But, my liege," still persisted the boy prince, "my brother Hal did
The wrath of the King burst out afresh.
"Ay, said you so? Brother Hal, indeed!" he cried.
"I thought the wind blew from that quarter," and he angrily faced his
eldest son. "So, sirrah; 'twas you that did urge this foolish boy to
work your traitorous purpose in such coward guise!"
"My liege," said Prince Henry, rising in his place, "traitor and coward
are words I may not calmly hear even from my father and my king. You
wrong me foully when you use them thus. For though I do bethink me that
the Tower is but a sorry cage in which to keep so grandly plumed a bird
as my Lord of Raleigh, I did but seek--"
"Ay, you did but seek to curry favour with the craven crowd," burst out
the now thoroughly angry King, always jealous of the popularity of this
brave young Prince of Wales. "And am I, sirrah, to be badgered and
browbeaten in my own palace by such a thriftless ne'er-do-weel as you,
ungrateful boy, who seekest to gain preference with the people in this
realm before your liege lord the King? Quit my presence, sirrah, and
that instanter, ere that I do send you to spend your Christmas where
your great-grandfather, King Henry, bade his astrologer spend his--in
the Tower, there to keep company with your fitting comrade, Raleigh,
Without a word in reply to this outburst, with a son's submission, but
with a royal dignity, Prince Henry bent his head before his father's
decree and withdrew from the table, followed by the gentlemen of his
But ere he could reach the arrased doorway, Prince Charles sprang to
his side and cried, valiantly: "Nay then, if he goes so do I! 'Twas
surely but a Christmas joke and of my own devising. Spoil not our
revel, my gracious liege and father, on this of all the year's
red-letter days, by turning my thoughtless frolic into such bitter
threatening. I did but seek to test the worth of Master Sandy's lucky
raisin by asking for as wildly great a boon as might be thought upon.
Brother Hal too, did but give me his advising in joke even as I did
seek it. None here, my royal father, would brave your sovereign
displeasure by any unknightly or unloyal scheme."
The gentle and dignified words of the young prince--for Charles Stuart,
though despicable as a king, was ever loving and loyal as a
friend--were as oil upon the troubled waters. The ruffled temper of the
ambassador of Spain--who in after years really did work Raleigh's
downfall and death--gave place to courtly bows, and the King's quick
anger melted away before the dearly loved voice of his favourite son.
"Nay, resume your place, son Hal," he said, "and you, gentlemen all,
resume your seats, I pray. I too did but jest as did Baby Charles
here--a sad young wag, I fear me, is this same young Prince."
But as, after the wassail, came the Christmas mask, in which both
Princes bore their parts, Prince Charles said to Archie Armstrong, the
"Faith, good Archie; now is Master Sandy's snapdragon but a false beast
withal, and his lucky raisin is but an evil fruit that pays not for the
And wise old Archie only wagged his head and answered, "Odd zooks,
Cousin Charlie, Christmas raisins are not the only fruit that burns the
fingers in the plucking, and mayhap you too may live to know that a
mettlesome horse never stumbleth but when he is reined."
Poor "Cousin Charlie" did not then understand the full meaning of the
wise old jester's words, but he did live to learn their full intent.
For when, in after years, his people sought to curb his tyrannies with
a revolt that ended only with his death upon the scaffold, outside this
very banqueting house at Whitehall, Charles Stuart learned all too late
that a "mettlesome horse" needed sometimes to be "reined," and heard,
too late as well, the stern declaration of the Commons of England that
"no chief officer might presume for the future to contrive the
enslaving and destruction of the nation with impunity."
But though many a merry and many a happy day had the young Prince
Charles before the dark tragedy of his sad and sorry manhood, he lost
all faith in lucky raisins. Not for three years did Sir Walter
Raleigh--whom both the Princes secretly admired--obtain release from
the Tower, and ere three more years were past his head fell as a
forfeit to the stern demands of Spain. And Prince Charles often
declared that naught indeed could come from meddling with luck saving
burnt fingers, "even," he said, "as came to me that profitless night
when I sought a boon for snatching the lucky raisin from good Master