Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
by Edward E. Hale
THEY SAW A GREAT
STAND AND WAIT.
THE TWO PRINCES.
THE STORY OF
LOVE IS THE
CHRISTMAS IN OLD
ENGLAND AND NEW.
Ten Christmas Stories.
BY EDWARD E. HALE,
AUTHOR OF TEN TIMES ONE IS TEN, ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATION BY F. O. C. DARLEY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
EDWARD E. HALE,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
PRESS OF JOHN WILSON AND SON.
This is a collection of ten Christmas Stories, some of which have
been published before. I have added a little essay, written on the
occasion of the first Christmas celebrated by the King of Italy in
The first story has never before been published.
It is but fair to say that I have not drawn on imagination for
Laura's night duty, alone upon her island. This is simply the account
of what a brave New-England woman did, under like circumstances,
because it was the duty next her hand.
If any reader observes a resemblance between her position and that
of a boy in another story in this volume, I must disarm censure, by
saying, that she had never heard of him when she was called to this
duty, and that I had never heard of her when I wrote his story.
E. E. H.
THEY SAW A GREAT LIGHT.
Here he comes! here he comes!
He was the post-rider, an institution now almost of the past. He
rode by the house and threw off a copy of the Boston Gazette. Now the
Boston Gazette, of this particular issue, gave the results of the
drawing of the great Massachusetts State Lottery of the Eastern Lands
in the Waldo Patent.
Mr. Cutts, the elder, took the Gazette, and opened it with a smile
that pretended to be careless; but even he showed the eager anxiety
which they all felt, as he tore off the wrapper and unfolded the fatal
sheet. Letter from London, Letter from Philadelphia, Child with
two heads,thus he ran down the columns of the little
page,uneasily. Here it is! here it is!Drawing of the great State
Lottery. 'In the presence of the Honourable Treasurer of the
Commonwealth, and of their Honours the Commissioners of the Honourable
Council,was drawn yesterday, at the State House, the first
distribution of numbers'here are the numbers,'First combination,
375-1. Second, 421-7. Third, 591-6. Fourth, 594-1. Fifth,'and here
Mr. Cutts started off his feet,'Fifth, 219-7.' Sybil, my darling! it
is so! 219-7! See, dear child! 219-7! 219-7! O my God! to think it
should come so!
And he fairly sat down, and buried his head in his hands, and cried.
The others, for a full minute, did not dare break in on excitement
so intense, and were silent; but, in a minute more, of course, little
Simeon, the youngest of the tribes who were represented there, gained
courage to pick up the paper, and to spell out again the same words
which his father had read with so much emotion; and, with his sister
Sally, who came to help him, to add to the store of information, as to
what prize number 5219-7might bring.
For this was a lottery in which there were no blanks. The old
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, having terrible war debts to pay after
the Revolution, had nothing but lands in Maine to pay them with. Now
lands in Maine were not very salable, and, if the simple and ordinary
process of sale had been followed, the lands might not have been sold
till this day. So they were distributed by these Lotteries, which in
that time seemed gigantic. Every ticket-holder had some piece of land
awarded to him, I think,but to the most, I fear, the lands were
hardly worth the hunting up, to settle upon. But, to induce as many to
buy as might, there were prizes. No. 1, I think, even had a stately
mansion on the land,according to the advertisement. No. 2 had some
special water-power facilities. No. 5, which Mr. Cutts's ticket had
drawn, was two thousand acres on Tripp's Cove,described in the
programme as that well-known Harbor of Refuge, where Fifty Line of
Battle Ship could lie in safety. To this cove the two thousand acres
so adjoined that the programme represented them as the site of the
great Mercantile Metropolis of the Future.
Samuel Cutts was too old a man, and had already tested too
critically his own powers in what the world calls business, by a sad
satire, to give a great deal of faith to the promises of the
prospectus, as to the commercial prosperity of Tripp's Cove. He had
come out of the Revolution a Brigadier-General, with an honorable
record of service,with rheumatism which would never be cured,with a
good deal of paper money which would never be redeemed, which the
Continent and the Commonwealth had paid him for his seven years,and
without that place in the world of peace which he had had when these
years began. The very severest trial of the Revolution was to be found
in the condition in which the officers of the army were left after it
was over. They were men who had distinguished themselves in their
profession, and who had done their very best to make that profession
unnecessary in the future. To go back to their old callings was hard.
Other men were in their places, and there did not seem to be room for
two. Under the wretched political system of the old Confederation there
was no such rapid spring of the material prosperity of the country as
should find for them new fields in new enterprise. Peace did any thing
but lead in Plenty. Often indeed, in history, has Plenty been a little
coy before she could be tempted, with her pretty tender feet, to press
the stubble and the ashes left by the havoc of War. And thus it was
that General Cutts had returned to his old love whom he had married in
a leave of absence just before Bunker Hill, and had begun his new life
with her in Old Newbury in Massachusetts, at a time when there was
little opening for him,or for any man who had spent seven years in
learning how to do well what was never to be done again.
And in doing what there was to do he had not succeeded. He had just
squeezed pork and potatoes and Indian meal enough out of a worn-out
farm to keep Sybil, his wife, and their growing family of children
alive. He had, once or twice, gone up to Boston to find what chances
might be open for him there. But, alas, Boston was in a bad way too, as
well as Samuel Cutts. Once he had joined some old companions, who had
gone out to the Western Reserve in Northern Ohio, to see what opening
might be there. But the outlook seemed unfavorable for carrying so far,
overland, a delicate woman and six little children into a wilderness.
If he could have scraped together a little money, he said, he would buy
a share in one of the ships he saw rotting in Boston or Salem, and try
some foreign adventure. But, alas! the ships would not have been
rotting had it been easy for any man to scrape together a little money
to buy them. And so, year in and year out, Samuel Cutts and his wife
dressed the children more and more plainly, bought less sugar and more
molasses, brought down the family diet more strictly to pork and beans,
pea-soup, hasty-pudding, and rye-and-indian,and Samuel Cutts looked
more and more sadly on the prospect before these boys and girls, and
the life for which he was training them.
Do not think that he was a profligate, my dear cousin Eunice,
because he had bought a lottery ticket. Please to observe that to buy
lottery tickets was represented to be as much the duty of all good
citizens, as it was proved to be, eleven years ago, your duty to make
Havelocks and to knit stockings. Samuel Cutts, in the outset, had
bought his lottery ticket only to encourage the others, and to do his
honorable share in paying the war debt. Then, I must confess, he had
thought more of the ticket than he had supposed he would. The children
had made a romance about it,what they would do, and what they would
not do, if they drew the first prize. Samuel Cutts and Sybil Cutts
themselves had got drawn into the interest of the children, and many
was the night when they had sat up, without any light but that of a
pine-torch, planning out the details of the little colony they would
form at the East-ward,ifif only one of the ten great prizes should,
by any marvel, fall to him. And now Tripp's Covewhich, perhaps, he
had thought of as much as he had thought of any of the tenhad fallen
to him. This was the reason why he showed so much emotion, and why he
could hardly speak, when he read the numbers. It was because that had
come to him which represented so completely what he wanted, and yet
which he had not even dared to pray for. It was so much more than he
expected,it was the dream of years, indeed, made true.
For Samuel Cutts had proved to himself that he was a good leader of
men. He knew he was, and many men knew it who had followed him under
Carolina suns, and in the snows of Valley Forge. Samuel Cutts knew,
equally well, that he was not a good maker of money, nor creator of
pork and potatoes. Six years of farming in the valley of the Merrimac
had proved that to him, if he had never learned it before. Samuel
Cutts's dream had been, when he went away to explore the Western
Reserve, that he would like to bring together some of the best line
officers and some of the best privates of the old Fighting
Twenty-seventh, and take them, with his old provident skill, which had
served them so well upon so many camping-grounds, to some region where
they could stand by each other again, as they had stood by each other
before, and where sky and earth would yield them more than sky and
earth have yet yielded any man in Eastern Massachusetts. Well! as I
said, the Western Reserve did not seem to be the place. After all, the
Fighting Twenty-seventh were not skilled in the tilling of the land.
They furnished their quota when the boats were to be drawn through the
ice of the Delaware, to assist in Rahl's Christmas party at Trenton.
Many was the embarkation at the head of Elk, in which the Fighting
Twenty-seventh had provided half the seamen for the transport. It was
the Fighting Twenty-seventh who cut out the Princess Charlotte
cutter in Edisto Bay. But the Fighting Twenty-seventh had never, so
far as any one knew, beaten one sword into one plough-share, nor one
spear into one pruning-hook. But Tripp's Cove seemed to offer a
different prospect. Why not, with a dozen or two of the old set,
establish there, not the New Jerusalem, indeed, but something a little
more elastic, a little more helpful, a little more alive, than these
kiln-dried, sun-dried, and time-dried old towns of the seaboard of
Massachusetts? At any rate, they could live together in Tripp's Cove,
as they wintered together at Valley Forge, at Bennett's Hollow, by the
Green Licks, and in the Lykens Intervale. This was the question which
Samuel Cutts wanted to solve, and which the fatal figures 219-7 put him
in the way of solving.
Tripp's Cove is our Christmas present, said Sybil Cutts to her
husband, as they went to bed. But so far removed were the habits of New
England then from the observance of ecclesiastical anniversaries, that
no one else had remembered that day that it was Christmas which was
Call this a long preface, if you please, but it seems to me best to
tell this story so that I may explain what manner of people those were
and are who lived, live, and will live, at Tripp's Cove,and why they
have been, are, and will be linked together, with a sort of family tie
and relationship which one does not often see in the villages
self-formed or formed at hap-hazard on the seaside, on the hillside, or
in the prairies of America. Tripp's Cove never became the Great
Mercantile City of the Future, nor do I believe it ever will. But
there Samuel Cutts lived in a happy life for fifty years,and there he
died, honored, blessed, and loved. By and by there came the second war
with England,the Endymion came cruising along upon the coast, and
picking up the fishing-boats and the coasters, burning the ships on the
stocks, or compelling the owners to ransom them. Old General Cutts was
seventy years old then; but he was, as he had always been, the head of
the settlement at Tripp's,and there was no lack of men younger than
he, the sergeants or the high-privates of the Fighting
Twenty-seventh, who drilled the boys of the village for whatever
service might impend. When the boys went down to Runkin's and sent the
Endymion's boats back to her with half their crews dead or dying,
faster than they came, old General Cutts was with them, and took sight
on his rifle as quickly and as bravely as the best of them. And so
twenty years more passed on,and, when he was well nigh ninety, the
dear old man died full of years and full of blessings, all because he
had launched out for himself, left the life he was not fit for, and
undertaken life in which he was at home.
Yes! and because of this also, when 1861 came with its terrible
alarm to the whole country, and its call to duty, all Tripp's Cove was
all right. The girls were eager for service, and the boys were eager
for service. The girls stood by the boys, and the boys stood by the
girls. The husbands stood by the wives, and the wives stood by the
husbands. I do not mean that there was not many another community in
which everybody was steadfast and true. But I do mean that here was one
great family, although the census rated it as five-and-twenty
families,which had one heart and one soul in the contest, and which
went into it with one heart and one soul,every man and every woman of
them all bearing each other's burdens.
Little Sim Cutts, who broke the silence that night when the post-man
threw down the Boston Gazette, was an old man of eighty-five when
they all got the news of the shots at Fort Sumter. The old man was as
hale and hearty as are half the men of sixty in this land to-day. With
all his heart he encouraged the boys who volunteered in answer to the
first call for regiments from Maine. Then with full reliance on the
traditions of the Fighting Twenty-seventh, he explained to the
fishermen and the coasters that Uncle Abraham would need them for his
web-footed service, as well as for his legions on the land. And they
found out their ways to Portsmouth and to Charlestown, so that they
might enter the navy as their brothers entered the army. And so it was,
that, when Christmas came in 1861, there was at Tripp's Cove only one
of that noble set of young fellows, who but a year before was hauling
hemlock and spruce and fir and pine at Christmas at the girls' order,
and worked in the meeting-house for two days as the girls bade them
work, so that when Parson Spaulding came in to preach his Christmas
sermon, he thought the house was a bit of the woods themselves. Only
And who was he?
How did he dare stay among all those girls who were crying out their
eyes, and sewing their fingers to the bones,meeting every afternoon
in one sitting-room or another, and devouring every word that came from
the army? They read the worst-spelled letter that came home from Mike
Sawin, and prized it and blessed it and cried over it, as heartily as
the noblest description of battle that came from the pen of Carleton or
Who was he?
Ah! I have caught you, have I? That was Tom Cutts,the old
General's great-grandson,Sim Cutts's grandson,the very noblest and
bravest of them all. He got off first of all. He had the luck to be at
Bull Run,and to be cut off from his regiment. He had the luck to hide
under a corn crib, and to come into Washington whole, a week after the
regiment. He was the first man in Maine, they said, to enlist for the
three-years' service. Perhaps the same thing is said of many others. He
had come home and raised a new company,and he was making them fast
into good soldiers, out beyond Fairfax Court-House. So that the
Brigadier would do any thing Tom Cutts wanted. And when, on the first
of December, there came up to the Major-General in command a request
for leave of absence from Tom Cutts, respectfully referred to Colonel
This, who had respectfully referred it to General That, who had
respectfully referred it to Adjutant-General T'other,all these
dignitaries had respectfully recommended that the request be granted.
For even in the sacred purlieux of the top Major-General's
Head-quarters, it was understood that Cutts was going home for no less
a purpose than the being married to the prettiest and sweetest and best
girl in Eastern Maine.
Well! for my part I do not think that the aids and their informants
were in the wrong about this. Surely that Christmas Eve, as Laura
Marvel stood up with Tom Cutts in front of Parson Spaulding, in
presence of what there was left of the Tripp's Cove community, I would
have said that Laura was the loveliest bride I ever saw. She is tall;
she is graceful; she has rather a startled look when you speak to her,
suddenly or gently, but the startled look just bewitches you. Black
hair,she got that from the Italian blood in her grandmother's
family,exquisite blue eyes,that is a charming combination with
black hair,perfect teeth,and matchless color,and she had it all,
when she was married,she was a blushing bride and not a fainting one.
But then what stuff this is,nobody knew he cared a straw for Laura's
hair or her cheek,it was that she looked just lovely, and that she
was just lovely,so self-forgetful in all her ways, after that first
start,so eager to know just where she could help, and so determined
to help just there. Why! she led all the girls in the village, when she
was only fourteen, because they loved her so. She was the one who made
the rafts when there was a freshet,and took them all out together on
the mill-pond. And, when the war came, she was of course captain of the
girl's sewing,she packed the cans of pickles and fruit for the
Sanitary,she corresponded with the State Adjutant:heavens! from
morning to night, everybody in the village ran to Laura,not because
she was the prettiest creature you ever looked upon,but because she
was the kindest, truest, most loyal, and most helpful creature that
ever lived,be the same man or woman.
Now had you rather be named Laura Cutts or Laura Marvel? Marvel is a
good name,a weird, miraculous sort of name. Cutts is not much of a
name. But Laura had made up her mind to be Laura Cutts after Tom had
asked her about it,and here they are standing before dear old Parson
Spaulding, to receive his exhortation,and to be made one before God
Dear Laura! How she had laughed with the other girls, all in a
good-natured way, at the good Parson's exhortation to the young
couples. Laura had heard it twenty times,for she had stood up with
twenty of the girls, who had dared The Enterprise of Life before her!
Nay, Laura could repeat, with all the emphasis, the most pathetic
passage of the whole,And above all,my beloved young
friends,first of all and last of all,let me beseech you as you
climb the hill of life together, hand with hand, and step with
step,that you will look beyond the crests upon its summit to the
eternal lights which blaze in the infinite heaven of the Better Land
beyond. Twenty times had Laura heard this passage,nay, ten times, I
am afraid, had she, in an honest and friendly way, repeated it, under
strict vows of secrecy, to the edification of circles of screaming
girls. But now the dear child looked truly and loyally into the old
man's face, as he went on from word to word, and only thought of him,
and of how noble and true he was,and of the Great Master whom he
represented there,and it was just as real to her and to Tom Cutts
that they must look into the Heaven of heavens for life and strength,
as Parson Spaulding wanted it to be. When he prayed with all his heart,
she prayed; what he hoped, she hoped; what he promised for her, she
promised to her Father in heaven; and what he asked her to promise by
word aloud, she promised loyally and eternally.
And Tom Cutts? He looked so handsome in his uniform,and he looked
like the man he was. And in those days, the uniform, if it were only a
flannel fatigue-jacket on a private's back, was as beautiful as the
flag; nothing more beautiful than either for eyes to look upon. And
when Parson Spaulding had said the benediction, and the Amen,and when
he had kissed Laura, with her eyes full of tears,and when he had
given Tom Cutts joy,then all the people came up in a double
line,and they all kissed Laura,and they shook hands with Tom as if
they would shake his hands off,and in the half-reticent methods of
Tripp's Cove, every lord and lady bright that was in Moses Marvel's
parlor there, said, honored be the bravest knight, beloved the fairest
And there was a bunch of laurel hanging in the middle of the room,
as make-believe mistletoe. And the boys, who could not make believe
even that they were eighteen, so that they had been left at home, would
catch Phebe, and Sarah, and Mattie, and Helen, when by accident they
crossed underneath the laurel,and would kiss them, for all their
screaming. And soon Moses Marvel brought in a waiter with wedding-cake,
and Nathan Philbrick brought in a waiter with bride-cake, and pretty
Mattie Marvel brought in a waiter with currant wine. And Tom Cutts gave
every girl a piece of wedding-cake himself, and made her promise to
sleep on it. And before they were all gone, he and Laura had been made
to write names for the girls to dream upon, that they might draw their
fortunes the next morning. And before long Moses Cutts led Mrs.
Spaulding out into the great family-room, and there was the real
wedding supper. And after they had eaten the supper, Bengel's fiddle
sounded in the parlor, and they danced, and they waltzed, and they
polkaed to their hearts' content. And so they celebrated the Christmas
Too bad! was not it? Tom's leave was only twenty days. It took five
to come. It took five to go. After the wedding there were but seven
little days. And then he kissed dear Laura good-by,with tears running
from his eyes and hers,and she begged him to be sure she should be
all right, and he begged her to be certain nothing would happen to him.
And so, for near two years, they did not see each other's faces again.
* * * * *
CHRISTMAS EVE again!
Moses Marvel has driven out his own bays in his own double cutter to
meet the stage at Fordyce's. On the back seat is Mattie Marvel, with a
rosy little baby all wrapped up in furs, who has never seen his father.
Where is Laura?
Here she comes! here she comes! Sure enough! Here is the stage at
last. Job Stiles never swept round with a more knowing sweep, or better
satisfied with his precious freight at Fordyce's, than he did this
afternoon. And the curtains were up already. And there is Laura, and
there is Tom! He is pale, poor fellow. But how pleased he is! Laura is
out first, of course. And then she gives him her hand so gently, and
the others all help. And here is the hero at Marvel's side, and he is
bending over his baby, whom he does not try to lift with his one
arm,and Mattie is crying, and I believe old Moses Marvel is
crying,but everybody is as happy as a king, and everybody is talking
at one time,and all the combination has turned out well.
Tom Cutts had had a hole made through his left thigh, so that they
despaired of his life. And, as he lay on the ground, a bit of a shell
had struck his left forearm and knocked that to pieces. Tom Cutts had
been sent back to hospital at Washington, and reported by telegraph as
mortally wounded. But almost as soon as Tom Cutts got to the Lincoln
Hospital himself, Laura Cutts got there too, and then Tom did not mean
to die if he could help it, and Laura did not mean to have him. And the
honest fellow held to his purpose in that steadfast Cutts way. The
blood tells, I believe. And love tells. And will tells. How much love
has to do with will! I believe you are a witch, Mrs. Cutts, the
doctor used to say to her. Nothing but good happens to this good-man
of yours. Bits of bone came out just as they were wanted to.
Inflammation kept away just as it was told to do. And the two wounds
ran a race with each other in healing after their fashion. It will be
a beautiful stump after all, said the doctor, where poor Laura saw
little beauty. But every thing was beautiful to her, when at last he
told her that she might wrap her husband up as well as she knew how,
and take him home and nurse him there. So she had telegraphed that they
were coming, and that was the way in which it happened that her father
and her sister had brought out the baby to meet them both at Fordyce's.
Mattie's surprise had worked perfectly.
And now it was time for Laura's surprise! After she had her baby in
her own arms, and was on the back seat of the sleigh; after Tom was
well wrapped up by her side, with his well arm just supporting the
little fellow's head; after Mattie was all tucked in by her father, and
Mr. Marvel himself had looked round to say, All ready? then was it
that Jem Marvel first stepped out from the stage, and said, Haven't
you one word for me, Mattie? Then how they screamed again! For
everybody thought Jem was in the West Indies. He was cruising there, on
board the Greywing, looking after blockaders who took the Southern
route. Nobody dreamed of Jem's being at Christmas. And here he had
stumbled on Tom and Laura in the New Haven train as they came on! Jem
had been sent into New York with a prize. He had got leave, and was on
his way to see the rest of them. He had bidden Laura not say one word,
and so he had watched one greeting from the stage, before he broke in
to take his part for another.
Oh! what an uproarious Christmas that was when they all came home!
No! Tom Cutts would not let one of them be sad! He was the cheeriest of
them all. He monopolized the baby, and showed immense power in the way
of baby talk and of tending. Laura had only to sit on the side of the
room and be perfectly happy. It was very soon known what the arrivals
were. And Parson Spaulding came in, and his wife. Of course the Cuttses
had been there already. Then everybody came. That is the simplest way
of putting it. They all would have wanted to come, because in that
community there was not one person who did not love Laura and Tom and
Jem. But whether they would have come, on the very first night, I am
not sure. But this was Christmas Eve, and the girls were finishing off
the meeting-house just as the stage and the sleigh came in. And, in a
minute, the news was everywhere. And, of course, everybody felt he
might just go in to get news from the fleet or the army. Nor was there
one household in Tripp's Cove which was not more or less closely
represented in the fleet or the army. So there was really, as the
evening passed, a town-meeting in Moses Marvel's sitting-room and
parlor; and whether Moses Marvel were most pleased, or Mrs. Marvel, or
Laura,who sat and beamed,or old General Simeon Cutts, I am sure I
do not know.
That was indeed a merry Christmas!
But after that I must own it was hard sledding for Tom Cutts and for
pretty Laura. A hero with one blue sleeve pinned neatly together, who,
at the best, limps as he walks, quickens all your compassion and
gratitude;yes! But when you are selecting a director of your lumber
works, or when you are sending to New York to buy goods, or when you
are driving a line of railway through the wilderness, I am afraid you
do not choose that hero to do your work for you. Or if you do, you were
not standing by when Tom Cutts was looking right and looking left for
something to do, so that he might keep the wolf from the door. It was
sadly like the life that his great-grandfather, Samuel Cutts, led at
the old farm in old Newbury after the old war. Tom lost his place when
he went to the front, and he could not find it again.
Laura, sweet girl, never complained. No, nor Moses Marvel. He never
complained, nor would he complain if Tom and his wife and children had
lived with him till doomsday. Good luck for us, said Moses Marvel,
and those were many words for him to say in one sentence. But Tom was
proud, and it ground him to the dust to be eating Moses Marvel's bread
when he had not earned it, and to have nothing but his major's pension
to buy Laura and the babies their clothes with, and to keep the pot
Of course Jem joined the fleet again. Nor did Jem return again till
the war was over. Then he came, and came with prize-money. He and Tom
had many talks of going into business together, with Tom's brains and
Jem's money. But nothing came of this. The land was no place for Jem.
He was a regular Norse man, as are almost all of the Tripp's Cove boys
who have come from the loins of the Fighting Twenty-seventh. They
sniff the tempest from afar off; and when they hear of Puget Sound, or
of Alaska, or of Wilkes's Antarctic Continent, they fancy that they
hear a voice from some long-lost home, from which they have strayed
away. And so Laura knew, and Tom knew, that any plans which rested on
Jem's staying ashore were plans which had one false element in them.
The raven would be calling him, and it might be best, once for all, to
let him follow the raven till the raven called no more.
So Jem put his prize-money into a new bark, which he found building
at Bath; and they called the bark the Laura, and Tom and Laura Cutts
went to the launching, and Jem superintended the rigging of her
himself; and then he took Tom and Laura and the babies with him to New
York, and a high time they had together there. Tom saw many of the old
army boys, and Laura hunted up one or two old school friends; and they
saw Booth in Iago, and screamed themselves hoarse at Niblo's, and heard
Rudolphsen and Johannsen in the German opera; they rode in the Park,
and they walked in the Park; they browsed in the Astor and went
shopping at Stewart's, and saw the people paint porcelain at
Haighwout's; and, by Mr. Alden's kindness, went through the wonders of
Harper's. In short, for three weeks, all of which time they lived on
board ship, they saw the lions of New York as children of the public
do, for whom that great city decks itself and prepares its wonders,
albeit their existence is hardly known to its inhabitants.
Meanwhile Jem had chartered the Laura for a voyage to San
Francisco. And so, before long, her cargo began to come on board; and
she and Tom and the babies took a mournful farewell, and came back to
Tripp's Cove again, to Moses Marvel's house. And poor Tom thought it
looked smaller than ever, and that he should find it harder than ever
to settle down to being of no use to anybody, and to eat Moses Marvel's
bread,without house or barn, or bin or oven, or board or bed, even
the meanest, of his own. Poor Tom! and this was the reward of being the
first man in Maine to enter for three years!
And then things went worse and worse. Moses Marvel was as good and
as taciturn as ever. But Moses Marvel's affairs did not run as smoothly
as he liked. Moses held on, upon one year's cutting of lumber,
perfectly determined that lumber should rise, because it ought to; and
Moses paid very high usury on the money he borrowed, because he would
hold on. Moses was set in his way,like other persons whom you and I
know,and to this lumber he held and held, till finally the bank would
not renew his notes. No; and they would not discount a cent for him at
Bangor, and Moses came back from a long, taciturn journey he had
started on in search of money, without any money; and with only the
certainty that if he did not mean to have the sheriff sell his lumber,
he must sell it for himself. Nay! he must sell it before the fourth of
the next month, and for cash; and must sell at the very bottom of a
long falling market! Poor Moses Marvel! That operation served to show
that he joined all the Cutts want of luck with the Marvel obstinacy. It
was a wretched twelvemonth, the whole of it; and it made that
household, and made Tom Cutts, more miserable and more.
Then they became anxious about the Laura, and Jem. She made almost
a clipper voyage to California. She discharged her cargo in perfect
order. Jem made a capital charter for Australia and England, and knew
that from England it would be easy to get a voyage home. He sailed from
California, and then the letters stopped. No! Laura dear, no need in
reading every word of the ship-news in the Semi-weekly Advertiser;
the name of your namesake is not there. Eight, nine, ten months have
gone by, and there is no port in Christendom which has seen Jem's face,
or the Laura's private signal. Do not strain your eyes over the
No! dear Laura's eyes will be dimmed by other cares than the
ship-news. Tom's father, who had shared Tom's wretchedness, and would
gladly have had them at his home, but that Moses Marvel's was the
larger and the less peopled of the two,Tom's father was brought home
speechless one day, by the men who found him where he had fallen on the
road, his yoke of oxen not far away, waiting for the voice which they
were never to hear again. Whether he had fallen from the cart, in some
lurch it made, and broken his spine, or whether all this distress had
brought on of a sudden a stroke of paralysis, so that he lost his
consciousness before he fell, I do not know. Nor do I see that it
matters much, though the chimney-corners of Tripp's Cove discuss the
question quite eagerly to this hour. He lay there month after month,
really unconscious. He smiled gently when they brought him food. He
tried to say Thank you, they thought, but he did not speak to the
wife of his bosom, who had been the Laura Marvel of her day, in any
different way from that in which he tried to speak to any stranger of
them all. A living death he lay in as those tedious months went by.
Yet my dear Laura was as cheerful, and hopeful, and buoyant as ever.
Tom Cutts himself was ashamed to brood when he got a sight of her.
Mother Cutts herself would lie down and rest herself when Laura came
round, with the two children, as she did every afternoon. Moses Marvel
himself was less taciturn when Laura put the boys, one at one side, one
at the other, of his chair, at the tea-table. And in both of those
broken households, from one end to the other, they knew the magic of
dear Laura's spells. So that when this Christmas came, after poor Mr.
Cutts had been lying senseless so long,when dear Laura bade them all
take hold and fit up a Christmas-tree, with all the adornments, for the
little boys, and for the Spaulding children, and the Marvel cousins,
and the Hopkinses, and the Tredgolds, and the Newmarch children,they
all obeyed her loyally, and without wondering. They obeyed her, with
her own determination that they would have one merry Christmas more. It
seems a strange thing to people who grew up outside of New England. But
this was the first Christmas tree ever seen at Tripp's Cove, for all
such festivities are of recent importation in such regions. But there
was something for every child. They heaped on more wood, and they kept
a merry Christmas despite the storm without. This was Laura's will, and
Laura had her way.
And she had her reward. Job Stiles came round to the door, when he
had put up his horses, and called Tom out, and gave him a letter which
he had brought from Ellsworth. And Tom read the letter, and he called
Laura to read it. And Laura left the children, and sat at the kitchen
table with him and read it, and said, Thank God! this is a Christmas
present indeed. Could any thing in this world be better?
This is the letter:
JOHN WILDAIR TO TOM CUTTS.
DEAR TOM,I am just back from Washington. I have seen them all,
and have done my best, and have failed. They say and I believe
that the collectorship was promised to Waters before the old
man's death,that Waters had honest claims,he has but one
leg, you know,and that it must go to him. As for the
surveyorship, the gift of that is with Plumptre. And you know
that I might as well ask the Pope to give me any thing as he.
And if he hates anybody more than me, why it is your wife's
father. So I could do nothing there.
Let me say this, though it seems nothing. If, while we are
waiting to look round, you like to take the Bell and Hammer
Light-house, you may have the place to-morrow. Of course I know
it is exile in winter. But in summer it is lovely. You have
house, your stores, two men under you (they are double lights),
and a thousand dollars. I have made them promise to give it to
no one till they hear from me. Though I know you ought not take
any such place, I would not refuse it till I let you know. I
send this to Ellsworth for the stage-driver to take, and you
must send your answer by special messenger, that I may
to Washington at once.
I am very sorry, dear Tom, to have failed you so. But I did my
best, you know. Merry Christmas to Laura and the babies.
PORTLAND, Dec. 24, 1868.
That was Laura and Tom's Christmas present. An appointment as
light-house keeper, with a thousand a year!
* * * * *
BUT even if they had made Tom a turnpike keeper, they would not have
made Laura a misanthrope. He, poor fellow, gladly accepted the
appointment. She, sweet creature, as gladly accepted her part of it.
Early March saw them on the Bell and Hammer. April saw the early
flowers come,and May saw Laura with both her babies on the beach,
laughing at them as they wet their feet,digging holes in the sand for
them,and sending the bigger boy to run and put salt upon the tails of
the peeps as they ran along the shore. And Tom Cutts, when his glass
was clear to his mind, and the reflectors polished to meet even his
criticism, would come down and hunt up Laura and the children. And when
she had put the babies to sleep, old Mipples, who was another of the
descendants of the Fighting Twenty-seventh, would say, Just you go
out with the Major, mum, and if they wake up and I can't still them,
I'll blow the horn. Not that he ever did blow the horn. All the more
certain was Laura that she could tramp over the whole island with Tom
Cutts, or she could sit and knit or sew, and Tom could read to her, and
these days were the happiest days of her married life, and brought back
the old sunny days of the times before Fort Sumter again. Ah me! if
such days of summer and such days of autumn would last forever!
But they will not last forever. November came, and the little colony
went into winter quarters. December came. And we were all double-banked
with sea-weed. The stoves were set up in-doors. The double doors were
put on outside, and we were all ready for the Osprey. The Osprey
was the Government steamer which was to bring us our supplies for the
winter, chiefly of colza oil,and perhaps some coal. But the Osprey
does not appear. December is half gone, and no Osprey. We can put the
stoves on short allowance, but not our two lanterns. They will only run
to the 31st of January, the nights are so long, if the Osprey does
not come before then.
That is our condition, when old Mipples, bringing back the mail,
brings a letter from Boston to say that the Osprey has broken her
main-shaft, and may not be repaired before the 15th of January,that
Mr. Cutts, will therefore, if he needs oil, take an early opportunity
to supply himself from the light at Squire's,and that an order on the
keeper at Squire's is enclosed.
To bring a cask of oil from Squire's is no difficult task to a
Tripp's Cove man. It would be no easy one, dear reader, to you and me.
Squire's is on the mainland,our nearest neighbor at the Bell and
Hammer,it revolves once a minute, and we watch it every night in the
horizon. Tom waited day by day for a fine day,would not have gone for
his oil indeed till the New Year came in, but that Jotham Fields, the
other assistant, came down with a fever turn wholly beyond Laura's
management, and she begged Tom to take the first fine day to carry him
to a doctor. To bring a doctor to him was out of the question.
And what will you do? said Tom.
Do? I will wait till you come home. Start any fine day after you
have wound up the lights on the last beat,take poor Jotham to his
mother's house,and if you want you may bring back your oil. I shall
get along with the children very well,and I will have your dinner hot
when you come home.
Tom doubted. But the next day Jotham was worse. Mipples voted for
carrying him ashore, and Laura had her way. The easier did she have it,
because the south wind blew softly, and it was clear to all men that
the run could be made to Squire's in a short two hours. Tom finally
agreed to start early the next morning. He would not leave his sick man
at his mother's, but at Squire's, and the people there could put him
home. The weather was perfect, and an hour before daylight they were
gone. They were all gone,all three had to go. Mipples could not
handle the boat alone, nor could Tom; far less could one of them manage
the boat, take the oil, and see to poor Jotham also. Wise or not, this
was the plan.
An hour before daylight they were gone. Half an hour after sunrise
they were at Squire's. But the sun had risen red, and had plumped into
a cloud. Before Jotham was carried up the cliff the wind was northwest,
and the air was white with snow. You could not see the house from the
boat, nor the boat from the house. You could not see the foremast of
the boat from your seat in the stern-sheets, the air was so white with
snow. They carried Jotham up. But they told John Wilkes, the keeper at
Squire's, that they would come for the oil another day. They hurried
down the path to the boat again, pushed her off, and headed her to the
northeast determined not to lose a moment in beating back to the Bell
and Hammer. Who would have thought the wind would haul back so without
a sign of warning?
Will it hold up, Simon? said Tom to Mipples, wishing he might say
And all Simon Mipples would say was,
God grant it may!
* * * * *
And Laura saw the sun rise red and burning. And Laura went up into
the tower next the house, and put out the light there. Then she left
the children in their cribs, and charged the little boy not to leave
till she came back, and ran down to the door to go and put out the
other light,and as she opened it the blinding snow dashed in her
face. She had not dreamed of snow before. But her water-proof was on,
she pulled on her boots, ran quickly along the path to the other light,
two hundred yards perhaps, climbed the stairway and extinguished that,
and was at home again before the babies missed her.
For an hour or two Laura occupied herself with her household cares,
and pretended to herself that she thought this was only a snow flurry
that would soon clear away. But by the time it was ten o'clock she knew
it was a stiff north-wester, and that her husband and Mipples were
caught on shore. Yes, and she was caught with her babies alone on the
island. Wind almost dead ahead to a boat from Squire's too, if that
made any difference. That crossed Laura's mind. Still she would not
brood. Nay, she did not brood, which was much better than saying she
would not brood. It crossed her mind that it was the day before
Christmas, and that the girls at Tripp's were dressing the
meeting-house for dear old Parson Spaulding. And then there crossed her
mind the dear old man's speech at all weddings, As you climb the hill
of life together, my dear young friends, and poor Laura, as she kissed
the baby once again, had courage to repeat it all aloud to her and her
brother, to the infinite amazement of them both. They opened their
great eyes to the widest as Laura did so. Nay, Laura had the heart to
take a hatchet, and work out to leeward of the house, into a little
hollow behind the hill, and cut up a savin bush from the thicket, and
bring that in, and work for an hour over the leaves so as to make an
evergreen frame to hang about General Cutts's picture. She did this
that Tom might see she was not frightened when he got home.
When he got home! Poor girl! at the very bottom of her heart
was the other and real anxiety,if he got home. Laura knew Tom,
of course, better than he knew himself, and she knew old Mipples too.
So she knew, as well as she knew that she was rubbing black lead on the
stove, while she thought these things over,she knew that they would
not stay at Squire's two minutes after they had landed Jotham Fields.
She knew they would do just what they did,put to sea, though it blew
guns, though now the surf was running its worst on the Seal's Back. She
knew, too, that if they had not missed the island, they would have been
here, at the latest, before eleven o'clock. And by the time it was one
she could no longer doubt that they had lost the island, and were
tacking about looking for it in the bay, if, indeed, in that gale they
dared to tack at all. No! Laura knew only too well, that where they
were was beyond her guessing; that the good God and they two only knew.
Come here, Tom, and let me tell you a story! Once there was a
little boy, and he had two kittens. And he named one kitten Muff, and
he named one kitten Buff!
What was that?
Tom, darling, take care of baby; do not let her get out of the
cradle, while mamma goes to the door. Downstairs to the door. The gale
has doubled its rage. How ever did it get in behind the storm-door
outside? That whang was the blow with which the door, wrenched
off its hinges, was flung against the side of the wood-house. Nothing
can be done but to bolt the storm-door to the other passage, and bolt
the outer window shutters, and then go back to the children.
Once there was a little boy, and he had two kittens, and he named
one Minna, and one Brenda
No, mamma, no! one Muff, and one
Oh, yes! my darling! once there was a little boy, and he had two
kittens, and he named one Buff, and one Muff. And one day he went to
Heavens! the lanterns! Who was to trim the lamps? Strange to say,
because this was wholly out of her daily routine, the men always caring
for it of course, Laura had not once thought of it till now. And now it
was after one o'clock. But now she did think of it with a will. Come,
Tommy, come and help mamma. And she bundled him up in his thickest
storm rig. Come up into the lantern. Here the boy had never come
before. He was never frightened when he was with her. Else he might
well have been frightened. And he was amazed there in the whiteness;
drifts of white snow on the lee-side and the weather-side; clouds of
white snow on the south-west sides and north-east sides; snow; snow
everywhere; nothing but whiteness wherever he looked round.
Laura made short shift of those wicks which had burned all through
the night before. But she had them ready. She wound up the carcels for
their night's work. Again and again she drew her oil and filled up her
reservoirs. And as she did so, an old text came on her, and she
wondered whether Father Spaulding knew how good a text it would be for
Christmas. And the fancy touched her, poor child, and as she led little
Tom down into the nursery again, she could not help opening into the
Bible Parson Spaulding gave her and reading:
'But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the
bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.' Dear Tommy, dear
Tommy, my own child, we will not sleep, will we? 'While the bridegroom
tarried,' O my dear Father in Heaven, let him come. 'And at midnight
there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet
him;' and she devoured little Tommy with kisses, and cried, We will
go, my darling, we will go, if he comes at the first hour,or the
second,or the third! But now Tommy must come with mamma, and make
ready for his coming. For there were the other lamps to trim in the
other tower, with that heavy reach of snow between. And she did not
dare leave the active boy alone in the house. Little Matty could be
caged in her crib, and, even if she woke, she would at best only cry.
But Tom was irrepressible.
So they unbolted the lee-door, and worked out into the snow. Then
poor Laura, with the child, crept round into the storm. Heavens! how it
raged and howled! Where was her poor bridegroom now? She seized up Tom,
and turned her back to the wind, and worked along, go,step sideway,
sideway, the only way she could by step,did it ever seem so far
before? Tommy was crying. One minute more, dear boy. Tommy shall see
the other lantern. And Tommy shall carry mamma's great scissors up the
stairs. Don't cry, my darling, don't cry.
Here is the door;just as she began to wonder if she were dreaming
or crazy. Not so badly drifted in as she feared. At least she is under
cover. Up-a-day, my darling, up-a-day. One, two, what a many steps for
Tommy! That's my brave boy. And they were on the lantern deck again,
fairly rocking in the gale,and Laura was chopping away on her stiff
wicks, and pumping up her oil again, and filling the receivers, as if
she had ever done it till this Christmas before. And she kept saying
over to herself,
Then those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
And I will light them, said she aloud. That will save another
walk at sundown. And I know these carcels run at least five hours. So
she struck a match, and with some little difficulty coaxed the fibres
to take fire. The yellow light flared luridly on the white snow-flakes,
and yet it dazzled her and Tommy as it flashed on them from the
reflectors. Will anybody see it, mamma? said the child. Will papa
see it? And just then the witching devil who manages the fibres of
memory, drew from the little crypt in Laura's brain, where they had
been stored unnoticed years upon years, four lines of Leigh Hunt's, and
the child saw that she was Hero:
Then at the flame a torch of fire she lit,
And, o'er her head anxiously holding it,
Ascended to the roof, and, leaning there,
Lifted its light into the darksome air.
If only the devil would have been satisfied with this. But of course
she could not remember that, without remembering Schiller:
In the gale her torch is blasted,
Beacon of the hoped-for strand:
Horror broods above the waters,
Horror broods above the land.
And she said aloud to the boy, Our torch shall not go out,
Tommy,come down, come down, darling, with mamma. But all through the
day horrid lines from the same poem came back to her. Why did she ever
learn it! Why, but because dear Tom gave her the book himself; and this
was his own version, as he sent it to her from the camp in the
Yes, 'tis he! although he perished,
Still his sacred troth he cherished.
Why did Tom write it for me?
And they trickle, lightly playing
O'er a corpse upon the sand.
What a fool I am! Come, Tommy. Come, Matty, my darling. Mamma will
tell you a story. Once there was a little boy, and he had two kittens.
And he named one Buff and one MuffBut this could not last for ever.
Sundown came. And then Laura and Tommy climbed their own tower,and
she lighted her own lantern, as she called it. Sickly and sad through
the storm, she could see the sister lantern burning bravely. And that
was all she could see in the sullen whiteness. Now, Tommy, my darling,
we will come and have some supper. And while the bridegroom tarried,
they all slumbered and slept. Yes, 'tis he; although he perished,
still his sacred troth he cherished. Come, Tommy,come Tommy,come,
Tommy, let me tell you a story.
But the children had their supper,asking terrible questions about
papa,questions which who should answer? But she could busy herself
about giving them their oatmeal, and treating them to ginger-snaps,
because it was Christmas Eve. Nay, she kept her courage, when Tommy
asked if Santa Claus would come in the boat with papa. She fairly
loitered over the undressing them. Little witches, how pretty they were
in their flannel nightgowns! And Tommy kissed her, and gave herah
me!one more kiss for papa. And in two minutes they were asleep. It
would have been better if they could have kept awake one minute longer.
Now she was really alone. And very soon seven o'clock has come. She
does not dare leave the clock-work at the outer lantern a minute
longer. Tom and Mipples wind the works every four hours, and now they
have run five. One more look at her darlings. Shall she ever see them
again in this world? Now to the duty next her hand!
Yes, the wind is as fierce as ever! A point more to the north, Laura
notices. She has no child to carry now. She tumbles once in the drift.
But Laura has rolled in snow before. The pile at the door is three feet
thick. But she works down to the latch,and even her poor numb hand
conquers it,and it gives way. How nice and warm the tower is! and how
well the lights burn! Can they be of any use this night to anybody? O
my God, grant that they be of use to him!
She has wound them now. She has floundered into the snow again. Two
or three falls on her way home,but no danger that she loses the line
of march. The light above her own house is before her. So she has only
to aim at that. Home again! And now to wait for five hours,and then
to wind that light againat midnight!
And at midnight there was a cry madeoh dear!if he would
come,I would not ask for any cry!
* * * * *
And Laura got down her choice inlaid box, that Jem brought her from
sea,and which held her treasures of treasures. And the dear girl did
the best thing she could have done. She took these treasures out.You
know what they were, do not you? They were every letter Tom Cutts ever
wrote herfrom the first boy note in print,Laura,these hedgehog
quills are for you. I killed him. TOM. And Laura opened them all,and
read them one by one, each twice,and put them back, in their order,
without folding, into the box. At ten she stopped,and worked her way
upstairs into her own lantern,and wound its works again. She tried to
persuade herself that there was less wind,did persuade herself so.
But the snow was as steady as ever. Down the tower-stairs again,and
then a few blessed minutes brooding over Matty's crib, and dear little
Tom who has kicked himself right athwart her own bed where she had laid
him. Darlings! they are so lovely, their father must come home to see
them! Back then to her kitchen fire. There are more of dear Tom's
letters yet. How manly they are,and how womanly. She will read them
all!will she ever dare to read them all again?
Yes,she reads them all,each one twice over,and his soldier
diary,which John Wildair saved and sent home, and, as she lays it
down, the clock strikes twelve. Christmas day is born!
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom
cometh. Laura fairly repeated this aloud. She knew that the other
carcel must be wound again. She dressed herself for the fight
thoroughly. She ran in and trusted herself to kiss the children. She
opened the lee-door again, and crept round again into the
storm,familiar now with such adventure. Did the surf beat as fiercely
on the rocks? Surely not. But then the tide is now so low! So she came
to her other tower, crept up and wound her clock-work up again, wiped
off, or tried to wipe off, what she thought was mist gathering on the
glasses, groped down the stairway, and looked up on the steady light
above her own home. And the Christmas text came back to her. The star
went before them, and stood above the place where the young child was.
A light to lighten the Gentiles,and the glory of my people
By the way of the sea,and this Laura almost shouted
aloud,Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness saw a
great light, and to them who sat in the region and shadow of death
light is sprung up. Grant it, merciful Father,grant it for these
poor children! And she almost ran through the heavy drifts, till she
found the shelter again of her friendly tower. Her darlings had not
turned in their bed, since she left them there.
And after this Laura was at rest. She took down her Bible, and read
the Christmas chapters. It was as if she had never known before what
darkness was,or what the Light was, when it came. She took her Hymn
Book and read all the Christmas Hymns. She took her Keble,and read
every poem for Advent and the hymn for Christmas morning. She knew this
by heart long ago. Then she took Bishop Ken's Christian Year,which
Tom had given for her last birthday present,and set herself bravely
to committing his Christmas Day to memory:
Celestial harps, prepare
To sound your loftiest air;
You choral angels at the throne,
Your customary hymns postpone;
and thus, dear girl, she kept herself from thinking even of the
wretched Hero and Leander lines, till her clock struck three. Upstairs
then to her own tower, and to look out upon the night. The sister flame
was steady. The wind was all hushed. But the snow was as steady, right
and left, behind and before. Down again, one more look at the darlings,
and then, as she walked up and down her little kitchen, she repeated
the verses she had learned, and then sat down to
You with your heavenly ray
Gild the expanse this day;
You with your heavenly ray
Gildthe expansethis day;
Dear Laura, bless God, she is asleep. He giveth his beloved sleep.
* * * * *
Her head is thrown back on the projecting wing of grandmamma's tall
easy-chair, her arms are resting relaxed on its comfortable arms, her
lips just open with a smile, as she dreams of something in the kingdom
of God's heaven, when, as the lazy day just begins to grow gray, Tom,
white with snow to his middle, holding the boat's lantern before him as
he steals into her kitchen, crosses the room, and looks down on
her,what a shame to wake her,bends down and kisses her!
Dear child! How she started,At midnight there is a cry made,
Behold, the bridegroom cometh,Why, Tom! Oh! my dearest, is it you?
* * * * *
Have I been asleep on duty? This was her first word when she came
fairly to herself.
Guess not, said old Mipples, both lanterns was burning when I
come in. 'Most time to put 'em out, Major! 'Keepers must be diligent to
save oil by all reasonable prevision.'
Is the north light burning? said poor Laura. And she looked
guiltily at her tell-tale clock.
Darling, said Tom, reverently, if it were not burning, we should
not be here.
And Laura took her husband to see the babies, not willing to let his
hand leave hers, nor he, indeed, to let hers leave his. Old Mipples
thought himself one too many, and went away, wiping his eyes, to the
other light. Time to extinguish it, he said.
But before Tom and Laura had known he was gone, say in half an hour,
that is, he was back again, hailing them from below.
Major! Major! Major! An English steamer is at anchor in the cove,
and is sending her boat ashore.
Tom and Laura rushed to the window; the snow was all over now, and
they could see the monster lying within half a mile. Where would they
be, Miss Cutts, if somebody had not wound up the lamps at midnight?
Guess they said 'Merry Christmas' when they see 'em. And Laura held
her breath when she thought what might have been. Tom and Mipples ran
down to the beach to hail them, and direct the landing. Tom and Mipples
shook the hand of each man as he came ashore, and then Laura could see
them hurrying to the house together. Steps on the landing; steps on the
stairway,the door is open, and,not Tom this time,but her dear
lost brother Jem, in the flesh, and in a heavy pea-coat.
Merry Christmas! Laura!
* * * * *
Laura, said Jem, as they sat at their Christmas dinner, what do
you think I thought of first, when I heard the cable run out so like
blazes; when I rushed up and saw your yellow lanterns there?
How should I know, Jem?
'They that dwell in the shadow of death, upon them the light hath
But I did not think it was you, Laura.
CHRISTMAS WAITS IN BOSTON.
I always give myself a Christmas present. And on this particular
year the present was a Carol party,which is about as good fun, all
things consenting kindly, as a man can have.
Many things must consent, as will appear. First of all there must be
good sleighing,and second, a fine night for Christmas eve. Ours are
not the carollings of your poor shivering little East Angles or South
Mercians, where they have to plod round afoot in countries where they
do not know what a sleigh-ride is.
I had asked Harry to have sixteen of the best voices in the chapel
school to be trained to eight or ten good Carols without knowing why.
We did not care to disappoint them if a February thaw setting in on the
24th of December should break up the spree before it began. Then I had
told Rowland that he must reserve for me a span of good horses, and a
sleigh that I could pack sixteen small children into, tight-stowed.
Howland is always good about such things, knew what the sleigh was for,
having done the same in other years, and doubled the span of horses of
his own accord, because the children would like it better, and it
would be no difference to him. Sunday night as the weather nymphs
ordered, the wind hauled round to the northwest and everything froze
hard. Monday night, things moderated and the snow began to fall
steadily,so steadily;and so Tuesday night the Metropolitan people
gave up their unequal contest, all good men and angels rejoicing at
their discomfiture, and only a few of the people in the very lowest
Bolgie, being ill-natured enough to grieve. And thus it was, that
by Thursday evening was one hard compact roadway from Copp's Hill to
the Bone-burner's Gehenna, fit for good men and angels to ride over,
without jar, without noise and without fatigue to horse or man. So it
was that when I came down with Lycidas to the chapel at seven o'clock,
I found Harry had gathered there his eight pretty girls and his eight
jolly boys, and had them practising for the last time,
Carol, carol, Christians,
Carol for the coming
Of Christ's nativity.
I think the children had got inkling of what was coming, or perhaps
Harry had hinted it to their mothers. Certainly they were warmly
dressed, and when, fifteen minutes afterwards, Howland came round
himself with the sleigh, he had put in as many rugs and bear-skins as
if he thought the children were to be taken new born from their
respective cradles. Great was the rejoicing as the bells of the horses
rang beneath the chapel windows, and Harry did not get his last da
capo for his last carol. Not much matter indeed, for they were
perfect enough in it before midnight.
Lycidas and I tumbled in on the back seat, each with a child in his
lap to keep us warm; I was flanked by Sam Perry, and he by John Rich,
both of the mercurial age, and therefore good to do errands. Harry was
in front somewhere flanked in likewise, and the twelve other children
lay in miscellaneously between, like sardines when you have first
opened the box. I had invited Lycidas, because, besides being my best
friend, he is the best fellow in the world, and so deserves the best
Christmas eve can give him. Under the full moon, on the snow still
white, with sixteen children at the happiest, and with the blessed
memories of the best the world has ever had, there can be nothing
better than two or three such hours.
First, driver, out on Commonwealth Avenue. That will tone down the
horses. Stop on the left after you have passed Fairfield Street. So we
dashed up to the front of Haliburton's palace, where he was keeping his
first Christmas tide. And the children, whom Harry had hushed down for
a square or two, broke forth with good full voice under his strong lead
Shepherd of tender sheep,
singing with all that unconscious pathos with which children do
sing, and starting the tears in your eyes in the midst of your
gladness. The instant the horses' bells stopped, their voices began. In
an instant more we saw Haliburton and Anna run to the window and pull
up the shades, and, in a minute more, faces at all the windows. And so
the children sung through Clement's old hymn. Little did Clement think
of bells and snow, as he taught it in his Sunday school there in
Alexandria. But perhaps to-day, as they pin up the laurels and the palm
in the chapel at Alexandria, they are humming the words, not thinking
of Clement more than he thought of us. As the children closed with
Swell the triumphant song
To Christ, our King,
Haliburton came running out, and begged me to bring them in. But I
told him, No, as soon as I could hush their shouts of Merry
Christmas; that we had a long journey before us, and must not alight
by the way. And the children broke out with
Hail to the night,
Hail to the day,
rather a favorite,quicker and more to the childish taste perhaps
than the other,and with another Merry Christmas we were off again.
Off, the length of Commonwealth Avenue, to where it crosses the
Brookline branch of the Mill-Dam,dashing along with the gayest of the
sleighing-parties as we came back into town, up Chestnut Street,
through Louisburg Square,we ran the sleigh into a bank on the slope
of Pinckney Street in front of Walter's house,and, before they
suspected there that any one had come, the children were singing
Carol, carol, Christians,
Kisses flung from the window; kisses flung back from the street.
Merry Christmas again with a good-will, and then one of the girls
When Anna took the baby,
And pressed his lips to hers
and all of them fell in so cheerily. O dear me! it is a scrap of old
Ephrem the Syrian, if they did but know it! And when, after this, Harry
would fain have driven on, because two carols at one house was the
rule, how the little witches begged that they might sing just one song
more there, because Mrs. Alexander had been so kind to them, when she
showed them about the German stitches. And then up the hill and over to
the North End, and as far as we could get the horses up into Moon
Court, that they might sing to the Italian image-man who gave Lucy the
boy and dog in plaster, when she was sick in the spring. For the
children had, you know, the choice of where they would go; and they
select their best friends, and will be more apt to remember the Italian
image-man than Chrysostom himself, though Chrysostom should have made
a few remarks to them seventeen times in the chapel. Then the Italian
image-man heard for the first time in his life
Now is the time of Christmas come,
Jesus in his babes abiding.
And then we came up Hanover Street and stopped under Mr. Gerry's
chapel, where they were dressing the walls with their evergreens, and
Hail to the night,
Hail to the day;
and so down State Street and stopped at the Advertiser office,
because, when the boys gave their Literary Entertainment, Mr. Hale
put in their advertisement for nothing, and up in the old attic there
the compositors were relieved to hear
Nor war nor battle sound,
The waiting world was still.
Even the leading editor relaxed from his gravity, and the In
General man from his more serious views, and the Daily the next
morning wished everybody a merry Christmas with even more unction, and
resolved that in coming years it would have a supplement, large enough
to contain all the good wishes. So away again to the houses of
confectioners who had given the children candy,to Miss Simonds's
house, because she had been so good to them in school,to the palaces
of millionnaires who had prayed for these children with tears if the
children only knew it,to Dr. Frothingham's in Summer Street, I
remember, where we stopped because the Boston Association of Ministers
met there,and out on Dover Street Bridge, that the poor chair-mender
might hear our carols sung once more before he heard them better sung
in another world where nothing needs mending.
King of glory, king of peace!
Hear the song, and see the Star!
Welcome be thou, heavenly King!
Was not Christ our Saviour?
and all the others, rung out with order or without order, breaking
the hush directly as the horses' bells were stilled, thrown into the
air with all the gladness of childhood, selected sometimes as Harry
happened to think best for the hearers, but more often as the jubilant
and uncontrolled enthusiasm of the children bade them break out in the
most joyous, least studied, and purely lyrical of all. O, we went to
twenty places that night, I suppose! We went to the grandest places in
Boston, and we went to the meanest. Everywhere they wished us a merry
Christmas, and we them. Everywhere a little crowd gathered round us,
and then we dashed away far enough to gather quite another crowd; and
then back, perhaps, not sorry to double on our steps if need were, and
leaving every crowd with a happy thought of
The star, the manger, and the Child!
At nine we brought up at my house, D Street, three doors from the
corner, and the children picked their very best for Polly and my six
little girls to hear, and then for the first time we let them jump out
and run in. Polly had some hot oysters for them, so that the frolic was
crowned with a treat. There was a Christmas cake cut into sixteen
pieces, which they took home to dream upon; and then hoods and muffs on
again, and by ten o'clock, or a little after, we had all the girls and
all the little ones at their homes. Four of the big boys, our two
flankers and Harry's right and left hand men, begged that they might
stay till the last moment. They could walk back from the stable, and
rather walk than not, indeed. To which we assented, having gained
parental permission, as we left younger sisters in their respective
Lycidas and I both thought, as we went into these modest houses, to
leave the children, to say they had been good and to wish a Merry
Christmas ourselves to fathers, mothers, and to guardian aunts, that
the welcome of those homes was perhaps the best part of it all. Here
was the great stout sailor-boy whom we had not seen since he came back
from sea. He was a mere child when he left our school years on years
ago, for the East, on board Perry's vessel, and had been round the
world. Here was brave Mrs. Masury. I had not seen her since her mother
died. Indeed, Mr. Ingham, I got so used to watching then, that I
cannot sleep well yet o' nights; I wish you knew some poor creature
that wanted me to-night, if it were only in memory of Bethlehem. You
take a deal of trouble for the children, said Campbell, as he crushed
my hand in his; but you know they love you, and you know I would do as
much for you and yours,which I knew was true. What can I send to
your children? said Dalton, who was finishing sword-blades. (Ill wind
was Fort Sumter, but it blew good to poor Dalton, whom it set up in the
world with his sword-factory.) Here's an old-fashioned tape-measure
for the girl, and a Sheffield wimble for the boy. What, there is no
boy? Let one of the girls have it then; it will count one more present
for her. And so he pressed his brown-paper parcel into my hand. From
every house, though it were the humblest, a word of love, as sweet, in
truth, as if we could have heard the voice of angels singing in the
I bade Harry good-night; took Lycidas to his lodgings, and gave his
wife my Christmas wishes and good-night; and, coming down to the sleigh
again, gave way to the feeling which I think you will all understand,
that this was not the time to stop, but just the time to begin. For the
streets were stiller now, and the moon brighter than ever, if possible,
and the blessings of these simple people and of the grand people, and
of the very angels in heaven, who are not bound to the misery of using
words when they have anything worth saying,all these wishes and
blessings were round me, all the purity of the still winter night, and
I didn't want to lose it all by going to bed to sleep. So I put the
boys all together, where they could chatter, took one more brisk turn
on the two avenues, and then, passing through Charles Street, I believe
I was even thinking of Cambridge, I noticed the lights in Woodhull's
house, and, seeing they were up, thought I would make Fanny a midnight
call. She came to the door herself. I asked if she were waiting for
Santa Claus, but saw in a moment that I must not joke with her. She
said she had hoped I was her husband. In a minute was one of these
contrasts which make life, life. God puts us into the world that we may
try them and be tried by them. Poor Fanny's mother had been blocked up
on the Springfield train as she was coming on to Christmas. The old
lady had been chilled through, and was here in bed now with pneumonia.
Both Fanny's children had been ailing when she came, and this morning
the doctor had pronounced it scarlet fever. Fanny had not undressed
herself since Monday, nor slept, I thought, in the same time. So while
we had been singing carols and wishing merry Christmas, the poor child
had been waiting, and hoping that her husband or Edward, both of whom
were on the tramp, would find for her and bring to her the model nurse,
who had not yet appeared. But at midnight this unknown sister had not
arrived, nor had either of the men returned. When I rang, Fanny had
hoped I was one of them. Professional paragons, dear reader, are shy of
scarlet fever. I told the poor child that it was better as it was. I
wrote a line for Sam Perry to take to his aunt, Mrs. Masury, in which I
simply said: Dear mamma, I have found the poor creature who wants you
to-night. Come back in this carriage. I bade him take a hack at
Barnard's, where they were all up waiting for the assembly to be done
at Papanti's. I sent him over to Albany Street; and really as I sat
there trying to soothe Fanny, it seemed to me less time than it has
taken me to dictate this little story about her, before Mrs. Masury
rang gently, and I left them, having made Fanny promise that she would
consecrate the day, which at that moment was born, by trusting God, by
going to bed and going to sleep, knowing that her children were in much
better hands than hers. As I passed out of the hall, the gas-light fell
on a print of Correggio's Adoration, where Woodhull had himself written
Ut appareat iis qui in tenebris et umbra mortis positi sunt.
Darkness and the shadow of death indeed, and what light like the
light and comfort such a woman as my Mary Masury brings!
And so, but for one of the accidents, as we call them, I should have
dropped the boys at the corner of Dover Street, and gone home with my
But it happened, as we irreverently say,it happened as we crossed
Park Square, so called from its being an irregular pentagon of which
one of the sides has been taken away, that I recognized a tall man,
plodding across in the snow, head down, round-shouldered, stooping
forward in walking, with his right shoulder higher than his left; and
by these tokens I knew Tom Coram, prince among Boston princes. Not
Thomas Coram that built the Foundling Hospital, though he was of Boston
too; but he was longer ago. You must look for him in Addison's
contribution to a supplement to the Spectator,the old Spectator, I
mean, not the Thursday Spectator, which is more recent. Not Thomas
Coram, I say, but Tom Coram, who would build a hospital to-morrow, if
you showed him the need, without waiting to die first, and always helps
forward, as a prince should, whatever is princely, be it a statue at
home, a school at Richmond, a newspaper in Florida, a church in Exeter,
a steam-line to Liverpool, or a widow who wants a hundred dollars. I
wished him a merry Christmas, and Mr. Howland, by a fine instinct, drew
up the horses as I spoke. Coram shook hands; and, as it seldom happens
that I have an empty carriage while he is on foot, I asked him if I
might not see him home. He was glad to get in. We wrapped him up with
spoils of the bear, the fox, and the bison, turned the horses' heads
again,five hours now since they started on this entangled errand of
theirs,and gave him his ride. I was thinking of you at the moment,
said Coram,thinking of old college times, of the mystery of language
as unfolded by the Abbé Faria to Edmond Dantes in the depths of the
Chateau d'If. I was wondering if you could teach me Japanese, if I
asked you to a Christmas dinner. I laughed. Japan was really a novelty
then, and I asked him since when he had been in correspondence with the
sealed country. It seemed that their house at Shanghae had just sent
across there their agents for establishing the first house in Edomo, in
Japan, under the new treaty. Everything looked promising, and the
beginnings were made for the branch which has since become Dot and
Trevilyan there. Of this he had the first tidings in his letters by the
mail of that afternoon. John Coram, his brother, had written to him,
and had said that he enclosed for his amusement the Japanese bill of
particulars, as it had been drawn out, on which they had founded their
orders for the first assorted cargo ever to be sent from America to
Edomo. Bill of particulars there was, stretching down the long
tissue-paper in exquisite chirography. But by some freak of the total
depravity of things, the translated order for the assorted cargo was
not there. John Coram, in his care to fold up the Japanese writing
nicely, had left on his own desk at Shanghae the more intelligible
English. And so I must wait, said Tom philosophically, till the next
East India mail for my orders, certain that seven English houses have
had less enthusiastic and philological correspondents than my brother.
I said I did not see that. That I could not teach him to speak the
Taghalian dialects so well, that he could read them with facility
before Saturday. But I could do a good deal better. Did he remember
writing a note to old Jack Percival for me five years ago? No, he
remembered no such thing; he knew Jack Percival, but never wrote a note
to him in his life. Did he remember giving me fifty dollars, because I
had taken a delicate boy, whom I was going to send to sea, and I was
not quite satisfied with the government outfit? No, he did not remember
that, which was not strange, for that was a thing he was doing every
day. Well, I don't care how much you remember, but the boy about whom
you wrote to Jack Percival, for whose mother's ease of mind you
provided the half-hundred, is back again,strong, straight, and well;
what is more to the point, he had the whole charge of Perry's
commissariat on shore at Yokohama, was honorably discharged out there,
reads Japanese better than you read English; and if it will help you at
all, he shall be here at your house at breakfast. For as I spoke we
stopped at Coram's door. Ingham, said Coram, if you were not a
parson, I should say you were romancing. My child, said I, I
sometimes write a parable for the Atlantic; but the words of my lips
are verity, as all those of the Sandemanians. Go to bed; do not even
dream of the Taghalian dialects; be sure that the Japanese interpreter
will breakfast with you, and the next time you are in a scrape send for
the nearest minister. George, tell your brother Ezra that Mr. Coram
wishes him to breakfast here to-morrow morning at eight o'clock; don't
forget the number, Pemberton Square, you know. Yes, sir, said
George; and Thomas Coram laughed, said Merry Christmas, and we
It was time we were all in bed, especially these boys. But glad
enough am I as I write these words that the meeting of Coram set us
back that dropped-stitch in our night's journey. There was one more
delay. We were sweeping by the Old State House, the boys singing again,
Carol, carol, Christians, as we dashed along the still streets, when
I caught sight of Adams Todd, and he recognized me. He had heard us
singing when we were at the Advertiser office. Todd is an old
fellow-apprentice of mine,and he is now, or rather was that night,
chief pressman in the Argus office. I like the Argus people,it was
there that I was South American Editor, now many years ago,and they
befriend me to this hour. Todd hailed me, and once more I stopped.
What sent you out from your warm steam-boiler? Steam-boiler,
indeed, said Todd. Two rivets loose,steam-room full of
steam,police frightened,neighborhood in a row,and we had to put
out the fire. She would have run a week without hurting a fly,only a
little puff in the street sometimes. But there we are, Ingham. We shall
lose the early mail as it stands. Seventy-eight tokens to be worked
now. They always talked largely of their edition at the Argus. Saw it
with many eyes, perhaps; but this time, I am sure, Todd spoke true. I
caught his idea at once. In younger and more muscular times, Todd and I
had worked the Adams press by that fly-wheel for full five minutes at a
time, as a test of strength; and in my mind's eye, I saw that he was
printing his paper at this moment with relays of grinding stevedores.
He said it was so. But think of it to-night, said he. It is
Christmas eve, and not an Irishman to be hired, though one paid him
ingots. Not a man can stand the grind ten minutes. I knew that very
well from old experience, and I thanked him inwardly for not saying
the demnition grind, with Mantilini. We cannot run the press half
the time, said he; and the men we have are giving out now. We shall
lose all our carrier delivery. Todd, said I, is this a night to be
talking of ingots, or hiring, or losing, or gaining? When will you
learn that Love rules the court, the camp, and the Argus office. And I
wrote on the back of a letter to Campbell: Come to the Argus office,
No. 2 Dassett's Alley, with seven men not afraid to work; and I gave
it to John and Sam, bade Howland take the boys to Campbell's
house,walked down with Todd to his office,challenged him to take
five minutes at the wheel, in memory of old times,made the tired
relays laugh as they saw us take hold; and then,when I had cooled
off, and put on my Cardigan,met Campbell, with his seven sons of
Anak, tumbling down the stairs, wondering what round of mercy the
parson had found for them this time. I started home, knowing I should
now have my Argus with my coffee.
And so I walked home. Better so, perhaps, after all, than in the
lively sleigh, with the tinkling bells.
It was a calm and silent night!
Seven hundred years and fifty-three
Had Rome been growing up to might,
And now was queen of land and sea!
No sound was heard of clashing wars,
Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain;
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
Held undisturbed their ancient reign
In the solemn midnight,
What an eternity it seemed since I started with those children
singing carols. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, Rome, Roman senators,
Tiberius, Paul, Nero, Clement, Ephrem, Ambrose, and all the
singers,Vincent de Paul, and all the loving wonder-workers, Milton
and Herbert and all the carol-writers, Luther and Knox and all the
prophets,what a world of people had been keeping Christmas with Sam
Perry and Lycidas and Harry and me; and here were Yokohama and the
Japanese, the Daily Argus and its ten million tokens and their
readers,poor Fanny Woodhull and her sick mother there, keeping
Christmas too! For a finite world, these are a good many waits to be
singing in one poor fellow's ears on one Christmas tide.
'Twas in the calm and silent night!
The senator of haughty Rome,
Impatient urged his chariot's flight,
From lordly revel, rolling home.
Triumphal arches gleaming swell
His breast, with thoughts of boundless sway.
What recked the Roman what befell
A paltry province far away,
In the solemn midnight,
Within that province far away
Went plodding home a weary boor;
A streak of light before him lay,
Fallen through a half-shut stable door
Across his path. He passed,for naught
Told what was going on within;
How keen the stars, his only thought,
The air how calm and cold and thin,
In the solemn midnight,
Streak of lightIs there a light in Lycidas's room? They not in
bed! That is making a night of it! Well, there are few hours of the day
or night when I have not been in Lycidas's room, so I let myself in by
the night-key he gave me, ran up the stairs,it is a horrid
seven-storied, first-class lodging-house. For my part, I had as lief
live in a steeple. Two flights I ran up, two steps at a time,I was
younger then than I am now,pushed open the door which was ajar, and
saw such a scene of confusion as I never saw in Mary's over-nice parlor
before. Queer! I remember the first thing that I saw was wrong was a
great ball of white German worsted on the floor. Her basket was upset.
A great Christmas-tree lay across the rug, quite too high for the room;
a large sharp-pointed Spanish clasp-knife was by it, with which they
had been lopping it; there were two immense baskets of white papered
presents, both upset; but what frightened me most was the centre-table.
Three or four handkerchiefs on it,towels, napkins, I know not
what,all brown and red and almost black with blood! I turned,
heart-sick, to look into the bedroom,and I really had a sense of
relief when I saw somebody. Bad enough it was, however. Lycidas, but
just now so strong and well, lay pale and exhausted on the bloody bed,
with the clothing removed from his right thigh and leg, while over him
bent Mary and Morton. I learned afterwards that poor Lycidas, while
trimming the Christmas-tree, and talking merrily with Mary and
Morton,who, by good luck, had brought round his presents late, and
was staying to tie on glass balls and apples,had given himself a deep
and dangerous wound with the point of the unlucky knife, and had lost a
great deal of blood before the hemorrhage could be controlled. Just
before I entered, the stick tourniquet which Morton had improvised had
slipped in poor Mary's unpractised hand, at the moment he was about to
secure the bleeding artery, and the blood followed in such a gush as
compelled him to give his whole attention to stopping its flow. He only
knew my entrance by the Ah, Mr. Ingham, of the frightened Irish girl,
who stood useless behind the head of the bed.
O Fred, said Morton, without looking up, I am glad you are here.
And what can I do for you?
Some whiskey,first of all.
There are two bottles, said Mary, who was holding the candle,in
the cupboard, behind his dressing-glass.
I took Bridget with me, struck a light in the dressing-room (how she
blundered about the match), and found the cupboard door locked! Key
doubtless in Mary's pocket,probably in pocket of another dress. I
did not ask. Took my own bunch, willed tremendously that my
account-book drawer key should govern the lock, and it did. If it had
not, I should have put my fist through the panels. Bottle of bedbug
poison; bottle marked bay rum; another bottle with no mark; two
bottles of Saratoga water. Set them all on the floor, Bridget. A tall
bottle of Cologne. Bottle marked in MS. What in the world is it? Bring
that candle, Bridget. Eau destillée. Marron, Montreal. What in the
world did Lycidas bring distilled water from Montreal for? And then
Morton's clear voice in the other room, As quick as you can, Fred.
Yes! in one moment. Put all these on the floor, Bridget. Here they
are at last. Bourbon whiskey. Corkscrew, Bridget.
Indade, sir, and where is it? Where? I don't know. Run down as
quick as you can, and bring it. His wife cannot leave him. So Bridget
ran, and the first I heard was the rattle as she pitched down the last
six stairs of the first flight headlong. Let us hope she has not broken
her leg. I meanwhile am driving a silver pronged fork into the Bourbon
corks, and the blade of my own penknife on the other side.
Now, Fred, from George within. (We all call Morton George.)
Yes, in one moment, I replied. Penknife blade breaks off, fork pulls
right out, two crumbs of cork come with it. Will that girl never come?
I turned round; I found a goblet on the washstand; I took Lycidas's
heavy clothes-brush, and knocked off the neck of the bottle. Did you
ever do it, reader, with one of those pressed glass bottles they make
now? It smashed like a Prince Rupert's drop in my hand, crumbled into
seventy pieces,a nasty smell of whiskey on the floor,and I, holding
just the hard bottom of the thing with two large spikes running
worthless up into the air. But I seized the goblet, poured into it what
was left in the bottom, and carried it in to Morton as quietly as I
could. He bade me give Lycidas as much as he could swallow; then showed
me how to substitute my thumb for his, and compress the great artery.
When he was satisfied that he could trust me, he began his work again,
silently; just speaking what must be said to that brave Mary, who
seemed to have three hands because he needed them. When all was secure,
he glanced at the ghastly white face, with beads of perspiration on the
forehead and upper lip, laid his finger on the pulse, and said: We
will have a little more whiskey. No, Mary, you are overdone already;
let Fred bring it. The truth was that poor Mary was almost as white as
Lycidas. She would not faint,that was the only reason she did
not,and at the moment I wondered that she did not fall. I believe
George and I were both expecting it, now the excitement was over. He
called her Mary, and me Fred, because we were all together every day of
our lives. Bridget, you see, was still nowhere.
So I retired for my whiskey again,to attack that other bottle.
George whispered quickly as I went, Bring enough,bring the bottle.
Did he want the bottle corked? Would that Kelt ever come up stairs? I
passed the bell-rope as I went into the dressing-room, and rang as hard
as I could ring. I took the other bottle, and bit steadily with my
teeth at the cork, only, of course, to wrench the end of it off. George
called me, and I stepped back. No, said he, bring your whiskey.
Mary had just rolled gently back on the floor. I went again in
despair. But I heard Bridget's step this time. First flight, first
passage; second flight, second passage. She ran in in triumph at
length, with a screw-driver!
No! I whispered,no. The crooked thing you draw corks with, and
I showed her the bottle again. Find one somewhere and don't come back
without it. So she vanished for the second time.
Frederic! said Morton. I think he never called me so before.
Should I risk the clothes-brush again? I opened Lycidas's own
drawers,papers, boxes, everything in order,not a sign of a tool.
Frederic! Yes, I said. But why did I say Yes? Father of
Mercy, tell me what to do.
And my mazed eyes, dim with tears,did you ever shed tears from
excitement?fell on an old razor-strop of those days of shaving, made
by C. WHITTAKER, SHEFFIELD. The Sheffield stood in black letters out
from the rest like a vision. They make corkscrews in Sheffield too. If
this Whittaker had only made a corkscrew! And what is a Sheffield
Hand in my pocket,brown paper parcel.
Where are you, Frederic? Yes, said I, for the last time. Twine
off! brown paper off. And I learned that the Sheffield wimble was one
of those things whose name you never heard before, which people sell
you in Thames Tunnel, where a hoof-cleaner, a gimlet, a screw-driver,
and a corkscrew fold into one handle.
Yes, said I, again. Pop, said the cork. Bubble, bubble,
bubble, said the whiskey. Bottle in one hand, full tumbler in the
other, I walked in. George poured half a tumblerful down Lycidas's
throat that time. Nor do I dare say how much he poured down afterwards.
I found that there was need of it, from what he said of the pulse, when
it was all over. I guess Mary had some, too.
This was the turning-point. He was exceedingly weak, and we sat by
him in turn through the night, giving, at short intervals, stimulants
and such food as he could swallow easily; for I remember Morton was
very particular not to raise his head more than we could help. But
there was no real danger after this.
As we turned away from the house on Christmas morning,I to preach
and he to visit his patients,he said to me, Did you make that
No, said I, but poor Dod Dalton had to furnish the corkscrew.
And I went down to the chapel to preach. The sermon had been lying
ready at home on my desk,and Polly had brought it round to me,for
there had been no time for me to go from Lycidas's home to D Street and
to return. There was the text, all as it was the day before:
They helped every one his neighbor, and every one said to his
brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the
goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote
And there were the pat illustrations, as I had finished them
yesterday; of the comfort Mary Magdalen gave Joanna, the court lady;
and the comfort the court lady gave Mary Magdalen, after the mediator
of a new covenant had mediated between them; how Simon the Cyrenian,
and Joseph of Arimathea, and the beggar Bartimeus comforted each other,
gave each other strength, common force, com-fort, when the One
Life flowed in all their veins; how on board the ship the Tent-Maker
proved to be Captain, and the Centurion learned his duty from his
Prisoner, and how they All came safe to shore, because the New
Life was there. But as I preached, I caught Frye's eye. Frye is always
critical; and I said to myself, Frye would not take his illustrations
from eighteen hundred years ago. And I saw dear old Dod Dalton trying
to keep awake, and Campbell hard asleep after trying, and Jane Masury
looking round to see if her mother did not come in; and Ezra Sheppard,
looking, not so much at me, as at the window beside me, as if his
thoughts were the other side of the world. And I said to them all, O,
if I could tell you, my friends, what every twelve hours of my life
tells me,of the way in which woman helps woman, and man helps man,
when only the ice is broken,how we are all rich so soon as we find
out that we are all brothers, and how we are all in want, unless we can
call at any moment for a brother's hand,then I could make you
understand something, in the lives you lead every day, of what the New
Covenant, the New Commonwealth, the New Kingdom is to be.
But I did not dare tell Dod Dalton what Campbell had been doing for
Todd, nor did I dare tell Campbell by what unconscious arts old Dod had
been helping Lycidas. Perhaps the sermon would have been better had I
But, when we had our tree in the evening at home, I did tell all
this story to Polly and the bairns, and I gave Alice her
measuring-tape,precious with a spot of Lycidas's blood,and Bertha
her Sheffield wimble. Papa, said old Clara, who is the next child,
all the people gave presents, did not they, as they did in the picture
in your study?
Yes, said I, though they did not all know they were giving them.
Why do they not give such presents every day? said Clara.
O child, I said, it is only for thirty-six hours of the three
hundred and sixty-five days, that all people remember that they are all
brothers and sisters, and those are the hours that we call, therefore,
Christmas eve and Christmas day.
And when they always remember it, said Bertha, it will be
Christmas all the time! What fun!
What fun, to be sure; but, Clara, what is in the picture?
Why, an old woman has brought eggs to the baby in the manger, and
an old man has brought a sheep. I suppose they all brought what they
I suppose those who came from Sharon brought roses, said Bertha.
And Alice, who is eleven, and goes to the Lincoln School, and therefore
knows every thing, said,Yes, and the Damascus people brought
This is certain, said Polly, that nobody tried to give a straw,
but the straw, if he really gave it, carried a blessing.
Alice MacNeil had made the plan of this Christmas-tree, all by
herself and for herself. She had a due estimate of those manufactured
trees which hard-worked Sabbath Schools get up for rewards of merit
for the children who have been regular, and at the last moment have
saved attendance-tickets enough. Nor did Alice MacNeil sit in judgment
on these. She had a due estimate of them. But for her Christmas-tree
she had two plans not included in those more meritorious buddings and
bourgeonings of the winter. First, she meant to get it up without any
help from anybody. And, secondly, she meant that the boys and girls who
had anything from it should be regular laners and by-way farers,they
were to have no tickets of respectability,they were not in any way to
buy their way in; but, for this once, those were to come in to a
Christmas-tree who happened to be ragged and in the streets when the
Christmas-tree was ready.
So Alice asked Mr. Williams, the minister, if she could have one of
the rooms in the vestry when Christmas eve came; and he, good saint,
was only too glad to let her. He offered, gently, his assistance in
sifting out the dirty boys and girls, intimating to Alice that there
was dirt and dirt; and that, even in those lowest depths which she was
plunging into, there were yet lower deeps which she might find it wise
to shun. But here Alice told him frankly that she would rather try her
experiment fairly through. Perhaps she was wrong, but she would like to
see that she was wrong in her own way. Any way, on Christmas eve, she
wanted no distinctions.
That part of her plan went bravely forward.
Her main difficulty came on the other side,that she had too many
to help her. She was not able to carry out the first part of her plan,
and make or buy all her presents herself. For everybody was pleased
with this notion of a truly catholic or universal tree; and everybody
wanted to help. Well, if anybody would send her a box of dominos, or a
jack-knife, or an open-eye-shut-eye doll, who was Alice to say it
should not go on the tree? and when Mrs. Hesperides sent round a box of
Fayal oranges, who was Alice to say that the children should not have
oranges? And when Mr. Gorham Parsons sent in well-nigh a barrel full of
Hubbardston None-such apples, who was Alice to say they should not have
apples? So the tree grew and grew, and bore more and more fruit, till
it was clear that there would be more than eighty reliable presents on
it, besides apples and oranges, almonds and raisins galore.
Now you see this was a very great enlargement of Alice's plan; and
it brought her to grief, as you shall see. She had proposed a cosey
little tree for fifteen or twenty children. Well, if she had held to
that, she would have had no more than she and Lillie, and Mr. Williams,
and Mr. Gilmore, and John Flagg, and I, could have managed easily,
particularly if mamma was there too. There would have been room enough
in the chapel parlor; and it would have been, as I believe, just the
pretty and cheerful Christmas jollity that Alice meant it should be.
But when it came to eighty presents, and a company of eighty of the
unwashed and unticketed, it became quite a different thing.
For now Alice began to fear that there would not be children enough
in the highways and by-ways. So she started herself, as evening drew
on, with George, the old faithful black major-domo, and she walked
through the worst streets she knew anything of, of all those near the
chapel; and, whenever she saw a brat particularly dirty, or a group of
brats particularly forlorn, she sailed up gallantly, and, though she
was frightened to death, she invited them to the tree. She gave little
admittance cards, that said, 7 o'clock, Christmas Eve, 507 Livingstone
Avenue, for fear the children would not remember. And she told Mr.
Flagg that he and Mr. Gilmore might take some cards and walk out toward
Williamsburg, and do the same thing, only they were to be sure that
they asked the dirtiest and most forlorn children they saw. There was a
friendly policeman with whom Alice had been brought into communication
by the boys in her father's office, and he also was permitted to give
notice of the tree. But he was also to be at the street door, armed
with the strong arm of The People of New York, and when the full
quota of eighty had been admitted he was to admit no more.
Ah me! My poor Alice issued her cards only too freely. Better
indeed, it seemed, had she held to her original plan; at least she
thought so, and thinks so to this day. But I am not so certain. A hard
time she had of it, however. Quarter of seven found the little Arabs in
crowds around the door, with hundreds of others who thought they also
were to find out what a free lunch was. The faithful officer Purdy
was in attendance also; he passed in all who had the cards; he sent
away legions, let me say, who had reason to dread him; but still there
assembled a larger and larger throng about the door. Alice and Lillie,
and the young gentlemen, and Mrs. MacNeil, were all at work up stairs,
and the tree was a perfect beauty at last. They lighted up, and nothing
could have been more lovely.
Let them in! said John Flagg rushing to the door, where expectant
knocks had been heard already. Let them in,the smallest girls
Smallest girls, indeed! The door swung open, and a tide of boy and
girl, girl and boy, boy big to hobble-de-hoy-dom, and girl big to
young-woman-dom, came surging in, wildly screaming, scolding, pushing,
and pulling. Omitting the profanity, these are the Christmas carols
that fell on Alice's ear.
Out o' that! Take that, then! Who are you? Hold your jaw!
Can't you behave decent? You lie! Get out of my light! Oh, dear!
you killed me! Who's killed? Golly! see there! I say, ma'am, give
me that pair of skates! Shut up and so on, the howls being more
and more impertinent, as the shepherds who had come to adore became
more and more used to the position they were in.
Young Gilmore, who was willing to oblige Alice, but was not going to
stand any nonsense, and would have willingly knocked the heads together
of any five couples of this rebel rout, mounted on a corner of the
railing, which, by Mr. Williams's prescience had been built around the
tree, and addressed the riotous assembly.
They stopped to hear him, supposing he was to deliver the gifts, to
which they had been summoned.
He told them pretty roundly that if they did not keep the peace, and
stop crowding and yelling, they should all be turned out of doors; that
they were to pass the little girls and boys forward first, and that
nobody would have any thing to eat till this was done.
Some approach to obedience followed. A few little waifs were found,
who in decency could be called little girls and boys. But, alas!
as she looked down from her chair, Alice felt as if most of her guests
looked like shameless, hulking big boys and big girls, only too well
fitted to grapple with the world, and only too eager to accept its
gifts without grappling. She and Lillie tried to forget this. They
kissed a few little girls, and saw the faintest gleam of pleasure on
one or two little faces. But there, also, the pleasure was almost
extinct, in fear of the big boys and big girls howling around.
So the howling began again, as the distribution went forward. Give
me that jack-knife! I say, Mister, I'm as big as he is, He had one
before and hid it, Be down, Tom Mulligan,get off that fence or I'll
hide you, I don't want the book, give me them skates, You sha'n't
have the skates, I'll have 'em myself and so on. John Flagg finally
knocked down Tom Mulligan, who had squeezed round behind the tree, in
an effort to steal something, and had the satisfaction of sending him
bellowing from the room, with his face covered with blood from his
nose. Gilmore, meanwhile, was rapidly distributing an orange and an
apple to each, which, while the oranges were sucked, gave a moment's
quiet. Alice and the ladies, badly frightened, were stripping the tree
as fast as they could, and at last announced that it was all clear,
with almost as eager joy as half an hour before they had announced that
it was all full. There's a candy horn on top, give me that. Give me
that little apple. Give me the old sheep. Hoo! hurrah, for the old
sheep! This of a little lamb which had been placed as an appropriate
ornament in front. Then began a howl about oranges. I want another
orange. Bill's got some, and I've got none. I say, Mister, give me
To which Mister replied, by opening the window, and speaking into
the street,I say, Purdy, call four officers and come up and clear
The room did not wait for the officers: it cleared itself very soon
on this order, and was left a scene of wreck and dirt. Orange-peel
trampled down on the floor; cake thrown down and mashed to mud,
intermixed with that which had come in on boots, and the water which
had been slobbered over from hasty mugs; the sugar plums which had
fallen in scrambles, and little sprays of green too, trodden into the
mass,all made an aspect of filth like a market side-walk. And poor
Alice was half crying and half laughing; poor Lillie was wholly crying.
Gilmore and Flagg were explaining to each other how gladly they would
have thrashed the whole set.
The thought uppermost in Alice's mind was that she had been a clear,
out and out fool! And that, probably, is the impression of the greater
part of the readers of her story,or would have been the impression of
any one who only had her point of view.
Perhaps the reader is willing to take another point of view.
As the group stood there, talking over the riot as Mrs. MacNeil
called it,as John Flagg tried to make Alice laugh by bringing her a
half-piece of frosted pound-cake, and proving to her that it had not
been on the floor,as she said, her eyes streaming with tears, I tell
you, John! I am a fool, and I know I am, and nobody but a fool would
have started such a row,as all this happened, Patrick Crehore came
back for his little sister's orange which he had wrapped in her
handkerchief and left on one of the book-racks in the room. Patrick was
alone now, and was therefore sheepish enough, and got himself and his
orange out of the room as soon as he well could. But he was sharp
enough to note the whole position, and keen enough to catch Alice's
words as she spoke to Mr. Flagg. Indeed, the general look of
disappointment and chagrin in the room, and the contrast between this
filthy ruin and the pretty elegance of half an hour ago, were distinct
enough to be observed by a much more stupid boy than Patrick Crehore.
He went down stairs and found Bridget waiting, and walked home with the
little toddler, meditating rather more than was his wont on Alice's
phrase, I tell you, I am a fool. Meditating on it, he hauled Bridget
up five flights of stairs and broke in on the little room where a table
spread with a plentiful supply of tea, baker's bread, butter, cheese,
and cabbage, waited their return. Jerry Crehore, his father, sat
smoking, and his mother was tidying up the room.
And had ye a good time, me darling? And ye 've brought home your
orange, and a doll too, and mittens too. And what did you have, Pat?
So Pat explained, almost sulkily, that he had a checker-board, and a
set of checker-men, which he produced; but he put them by as if he
hated the sight of them, and for a minute dropped the subject, while he
helped little Biddy to cabbage. He ate something himself, drank some
tea, and then delivered his rage with much unction, a little profanity,
great incoherency,but to his own relief.
It's a mean thing it is, all of it, said he, I'll be hanged but
it is! I dunno who the lady is; but we've made her cry bad, I know
that; and the boys acted like Nick. They knew that as well as I do. The
man there had to knock one of the fellows down, bedad, and served him
right, too. I say, the fellows fought, and hollared, and stole, and
sure ye 'd thought ye was driving pigs down the Eighth Avenue, and I
was as bad as the worst of 'em. That's what the boys did when a lady
asked 'em to Christmas.
That was a mean thing to do, said Jerry, taking his pipe from his
mouth for a longer speech than he had ever been known to make while
Mrs. Crehore stopped in her dish-wiping, sat down, and gave her
opinion. She did not know what a Christmas-tree was, having never seed
one nor heared of one. But she did know that those who went to see a
lady should show manners and behave like jintlemen, or not go at all.
She expressed her conviction that Tom Mulligan was rightly served, and
her regret that he had not two black eyes instead of one. She would
have been glad, indeed, if certain Floyds, and Sullivans, and Flahertys
with whose names of baptism she was better acquainted than I am, had
shared a similar fate.
This oration, and the oracle of his father still more, appeased Pat
somewhat; and when his supper was finished, after long silence, he
said, We'll give her a Christmas present. We will. Tom Mulligan and
Bill Floyd and I will give it. The others sha'n't know. I know what
we'll give her. I'll tell Bill Floyd that we made her cry.
After supper, accordingly, Pat Crehore repaired to certain
rendezvous of the younger life of the neighborhood, known to him, in
search of Bill Floyd. Bill was not at the first, nor at the second,
there being indeed no rule or principle known to men or even to
archangels by which Bill's presence at any particular spot at any
particular time could be definitely stated. But Bill also, in his proud
free-will, obeyed certain general laws; and accordingly Pat found him
inspecting, as a volunteer officer of police, the hauling out and
oiling of certain hose at the house of a neighboring hose company.
Come here, Bill. I got something to show you.
Bill had already carried home and put in safe keeping a copy of
Routledge's Robinson Crusoe, which had been given to him.
He left the hose inspection willingly, and hurried along with Pat,
past many attractive groups, not even stopping where a brewer's horse
had fallen on the ground, till Pat brought him in triumph to the gaudy
window of a shoe-shop, lighted up gayly and full of the wares by which
even shoe-shops lure in customers for Christmas.
See there! said Pat, nearly breathless. And he pointed to the very
centre of the display, a pair of slippers made from bronze-gilt kid,
and displaying a hideous blue silk bow upon the gilding. For what class
of dancers or of maskers these slippers may have been made, or by what
canon of beauty, I know not. Only they were the centre of decoration in
the shoe-shop window. Pat looked at them with admiration, as he had
often done, and said again to Bill Floyd, See there, ain't them
Golly! said Bill, I guess so.
Bill, let's buy them little shoes, and give 'em to her.
Give 'em to who? said Bill, from whose mind the Christmas-tree had
for the moment faded, under the rivalry of the hose company, the
brewer's horse, and the shop window. Give 'em to who?
Why, her, I don't know who she is. The gal that made the
what-do-ye-call-it, the tree, you know, and give us the oranges, where
old Purdy was. I say, Bill, it was a mean dirty shame to make such a
row there, when we was bid to a party; and I want to make the gal a
present, for I see her crying, Bill. Crying cos it was such a row.
Again, I omit certain profane expressions which did not add any real
energy to the declaration.
They is handsome, said Bill, meditatingly. Ain't the blue ones
No, said Pat, who saw he had gained his lodgment, and that the
carrying his point was now only a matter of time. The gould ones is
the ones for me. We'll give 'em to the gal for a Christmas present, you
and I and Tom Mulligan.
Bill Floyd did not dissent, being indeed in the habit of going as he
was led, as were most of the rebel rout with whom he had an hour ago
been acting. He assented entirely to Pat's proposal. By Christmas
both parties understood that the present was to be made before Twelfth
Night, not necessarily on Christmas day. Neither of them had a penny;
but both of them knew, perfectly well, that whenever they chose to get
a little money they could do so.
They soon solved their first question, as to the cost of the coveted
slippers. True, they knew, of course, that they would be ejected from
the decent shop if they went in to inquire. But, by lying in wait, they
soon discovered Delia Sullivan, a decent-looking girl they knew,
passing by, and having made her their confidant, so far that she was
sure she was not fooled, they sent her in to inquire. The girl returned
to announce, to the astonishment of all parties, that the shoes cost
Hew! cried Pat, six dollars for them are! I bought my mother's
new over-shoes for one. But not the least did he 'bate of his
determination, and he and Bill Floyd went in search of Tom Mulligan.
Tom was found as easily as Bill. But it was not so easy to enlist
him. Tom was in a regular corner liquor store with men who were sitting
smoking, drinking, and telling dirty stories. Either of the other boys
would have been whipped at home if he had been known to be seen sitting
in this place, and the punishment would have been well bestowed. But
Tom Mulligan had had nobody thrash him for many a day till John Flagg
had struck out so smartly from the shoulder. Perhaps, had there been
some thrashing as discriminating as Jerry Flaherty's, it had been
better for Tom Mulligan. The boys found him easily enough, but, as I
said, had some difficulty in getting him away. With many assurances,
however, that they had something to tell him, and something to show
him, they lured him from the shadow of the comfortable stove into the
Pat Crehore, who had more of the tact of oratory than he knew, then
boldly told Tom Mulligan the story of the Christmas-tree, as it passed
after Tom's ejection. Tom was sour at first, but soon warmed to the
narrative, and even showed indignation at the behavior of boys who had
seemed to carry themselves less obnoxiously than he did. All the boys
agreed, that but for certain others who had never been asked to come,
and ought to be ashamed to be there with them as were, there would have
been no row. They all agreed that on some suitable occasion unknown to
me and to this story they would take vengeance on these Tidds and
Sullivans. When Pat Crehore wound up his statement, by telling how he
saw the ladies crying, and all the pretty room looking like a pig-sty,
Tom Mulligan was as loud as he was in saying that it was all wrong, and
that nobody but blackguards would have joined in it, in particular such
blackguards as the Tidds and Sullivans above alluded to.
Then to Tom's sympathizing ear was confided the project of the gold
shoes, as the slippers were always called, in this honorable company.
And Tom completely approved. He even approved the price. He explained
to the others that it would be mean to give to a lady any thing of less
price. This was exactly the sum which recommended itself to his better
judgment. And so the boys went home, agreeing to meet Christmas morning
as a Committee of Ways and Means.
To the discussions of this committee I need not admit you. Many
plans were proposed: one that they should serve through the holidays at
certain ten-pin alleys, known to them; one that they should buy off
Fogarty from his newspaper route for a few days. But the decision was,
that Pat, the most decent in appearance, should dress up in a certain
Sunday suit he had, and offer the services of himself, and two unknown
friends of his, as extra cork-boys at Birnebaum's brewery, where Tom
Mulligan reported they were working nights, that they might fill an
extra order. This device succeeded. Pat and his friends were put on
duty, for trial, on the night of the 26th; and, the foreman of the
corking-room being satisfied, they retained their engagements till New
Year's eve, when they were paid three dollars each, and resigned their
Let's buy her three shoes! said Bill, in enthusiasm at their
success. But this proposal was rejected. Each of the other boys had a
private plan for an extra present to her by this time. The sacred six
dollars was folded up in a bit of straw paper from the brewery, and the
young gentlemen went home to make their toilets, a process they had had
no chance to go through, on Christmas eve. After this, there was really
no difficulty about their going into the shoe-shop, and none about
consummating the purchase,to the utter astonishment of the dealer.
The gold shoes were bought, rolled up in paper, and ready for delivery.
Bill Floyd had meanwhile learned, by inquiry at the chapel, where
she lived, though there were doubts whether any of them knew her name.
The others rejected his proposals that they should take street cars,
and they boldly pushed afoot up to Clinton Avenue, and rang, not
without terror, at the door.
Terror did not diminish when black George appeared, whose
acquaintance they had made at the tree. But fortunately George did not
recognize them in their apparel of elegance. When they asked for the
lady that gave the tree, he bade them wait a minute, and in less than
a minute Alice came running out to meet them. To the boys' great
delight, she was not crying now.
If you please, ma'am, said Tom, who had been commissioned as
spokesman,if you please, them's our Christmas present to you, ma'am.
Them's gold shoes. And please, ma'am, we're very sorry there was such a
row at the Christmas, ma'am. It was mean, ma'am. Good-by, ma'am.
Alice's eyes were opening wider and wider, nor at this moment did
she understand. Gold shoes, and row at the Christmas, stuck by her,
however; and she understood there was a present. So, of course, she
said the right thing, by accident, and did the right thing, being a
lady through and through.
No, you must not go away. Come in, boys, come in. I did not know
you, you know. As how should she. Come in and sit down.
Can't ye take off your hat? said Tom, in an aside to Pat, who had
neglected this reverence as he entered. And Tom was thus a little
established in his own esteem.
And Alice opened the parcel, and had her presence of mind by this
time; and, amazed as she was at the gold shoes, showed no
amazement,nay, even slipped off her own slipper, and showed that the
gold shoe fitted, to the delight of Tom, who was trying to explain that
the man would change them if they were too small. She found an apple
for each boy, thanked and praised each one separately; and the
interview would have been perfect, had she not innocently asked Tom
what was the matter with his eye. Tom's eye! Why, it was the black eye
John Flagg gave him. I am sorry to say Bill Floyd sniggered; but Pat
came to the front this time, and said a man hurt him. Then Alice
produced some mittens, which had been left, and asked whose those were.
But the boys did not know.
I say, fellars, I'm going down to the writing-school, at the
Union, said Pat, when they got into the street, all of them being in
the mood that conceals emotion. I say, let's all go.
To this they agreed.
I say, I went there last week Monday, with Meg McManus. I say,
fellars, it's real good fun.
The other fellows, having on the unfamiliar best rig, were well
aware that they must not descend to their familiar haunts, and all
To the amazement of the teacher, these three hulking boys allied
themselves to the side of order, took their places as they were bidden,
turned the public opinion of the class, and made the Botany Bay of the
school to be its quietest class that night.
To his amazement the same result followed the next night. And to his
greater amazement, the next.
To Alice's amazement, she received on Twelfth Night a gilt valentine
envelope, within which, on heavily ruled paper, were announced these
MARM,The mitins wur Nora Killpatrick's. She lives inn Water
street place behind the Lager Brewery.
Yours to command,
The names which they could copy from signs were correctly spelled.
To Pat's amazement, Tom Mulligan held on at the writing-school all
winter. When it ended, he wrote the best hand of any of them.
To my amazement, one evening when I looked in at Longman's, two
years to a day after Alice's tree, a bright black-eyed young man, who
had tied up for me the copy of Masson's Milton, which I had given
myself for a Christmas present, said: You don't remember me. I owned
My name is MulliganThomas Mulligan. Would you thank Mr. John
Flagg, if you meet him, for a Christmas present he gave me two years
ago, at Miss Alice MacNeil's Christmas-tree. It was the best present I
ever had, and the only one I ever deserved.
And I said I would do so.
* * * * *
I told Alice afterward never to think she was going to catch all the
fish there were in any school. I told her to whiten the water with
ground-bait enough for all, and to thank God if her heavenly fishing
were skilful enough to save one.
A QUESTION OF NOURISHMENT.
And how is he? said Robert, as he came in from his day's work, in
every moment of which he had thought of his child. He spoke in a
whisper to his wife, who met him in the narrow entry at the head of the
stairs. And in a whisper she replied.
He is certainly no worse, said Mary: the doctor says, maybe a
shade better. At least, she said, sitting on the lower step, and
holding her husband's hand, and still whispering,at least he said
that the breathing seemed to him a shade easier, one lung seemed to him
a little more free, and that it is now a question of time and
Yes, nourishment,and I own my heart sunk as he said so. Poor
little thing, he loathes the slops, and I told the doctor so. I told
him the struggle and fight to get them down his poor little throat gave
him more flush and fever than any thing. And then he begged me not to
try that again, asked if there were really nothing that the child would
take, and suggested every thing so kindly. But the poor little thing,
weak as he is, seems to rise up with supernatural strength against them
all. I am not sure, though, but perhaps we may do something with the
old milk and water: that is really my only hope now, and that is the
reason I spoke to you so cheerfully.
Then poor Mary explained more at length that Emily had brought in
Dr. Cummings's Manual about the use of milk with children, and that
they had sent round to the Corlisses', who always had good milk, and
had set a pint according to the direction and formula,and that though
dear little Jamie had refused the groats and the barley, and I know not
what else, that at six he had gladly taken all the watered milk they
dared to give him, and that it now had rested on his stomach half an
hour, so that she could not but hope that the tide had turned, only she
hoped with trembling, because he had so steadily refused cow's milk
only the week before.
 Has the reader a delicate infant? Let him send for
Dr. Cummings's little book on Milk for Children.
This rapid review in her entry, of the bulletins of a day, is really
the beginning of this Christmas story. No matter which day it was,it
was a little before Christmas, and one of the shortest days, but I have
forgotten which. Enough that the baby, for he was a baby still, just
entering his thirteenth month,enough that he did relish the milk, so
carefully measured and prepared, and hour by hour took his little dole
of it as if it had come from his mother's breast. Enough that three or
four days went by so, the little thing lying so still on his back in
his crib, his lips still so blue, and his skin of such deadly color
against the white of his pillow, and that, twice a day, as Dr. Morton
came in and felt his pulse, and listened to the panting, he smiled and
looked pleased, and said, We are getting on better than I dared
expect. Only every time he said, Does he still relish the milk? and
every time was so pleased to know that he took to it still, and every
day he added a teaspoonful or two to the hourly dole,and so poor
Mary's heart was lifted day by day.
This lasted till St. Victoria's day. Do you know which day that is?
It is the second day before Christmas; and here, properly speaking, the
ST. VICTORIA'S DAY.
St. Victoria's day the doctor was full two hours late. Mary was not
anxious about this. She was beginning to feel bravely about the boy,
and no longer counted the minutes till she could hear the door-bell
ring. When he came he loitered in the entry below,or she thought he
did. He was long coming up stairs. And when he came in she saw that he
was excited by something,was really even then panting for breath.
I am here at last, he said. Did you think I should fail you?
Why, no,poor innocent Mary had not thought any such thing. She had
known he would come,and baby was so well that she had not minded his
Morton looked up at the close drawn shades, which shut out the
light, and said, You did not think of the storm?
Storm? no! said poor Mary. She had noticed, when Robert went to
the door at seven and she closed it after him, that some snow was
falling. But she had not thought of it again. She had kissed him, told
him to keep up good heart, and had come back to her baby.
Then the doctor told her that the storm which had begun before
daybreak had been gathering more and more severely; that the drifts
were already heavier than he remembered them in all his Boston life;
that after half an hour's trial in his sleigh he had been glad to get
back to the stable with his horse; and that all he had done since he
had done on foot, with difficulty she could not conceive of. He had
been so long down stairs while he brushed the snow off, that he might
be fit to come near the child.
And really, Mrs. Walter, we are doing so well here, he said
cheerfully, that I will not try to come round this afternoon, unless
you see a change. If you do, your husband must come up for me, you
know. But you will not need me, I am sure.
Mary felt quite brave to think that they should not need him really
for twenty-four hours, and said so; and added, with the first smile he
had seen for a fortnight: I do not know anybody to whom it is of less
account than to me, whether the streets are blocked or open. Only I am
sorry for you.
Poor Mary, how often she thought of that speech, before Christmas
day went by! But she did not think of it all through St. Victoria's
day. Her husband did not come home to dinner. She did not expect him.
The children came from school at two, rejoicing in the long morning
session and the half holiday of the afternoon which had been earned by
it. They had some story of their frolic in the snow, and after dinner
went quietly away to their little play-room in the attic. And Mary sat
with her baby all the afternoon,nor wanted other company. She could
count his breathing now, and knew how to time it by the watch, and she
knew that it was steadier and slower than it was the day before. And
really he almost showed an appetite for the hourly dole. Her husband
was not late. He had taken care of that, and had left the shop an hour
early. And as he came in and looked at the child from the other side of
the crib, and smiled so cheerfully on her, Mary felt that she could not
enough thank God for his mercy.
ST. VICTORIA'S DAY IN THE COUNTRY.
Five and twenty miles away was another mother, with a baby born the
same day as Jamie. Mary had never heard of her and never has heard of
her, and, unless she reads this story, never will hear of her till they
meet together in the other home, look each other in the face, and know
as they are known. Yet their two lives, as you shall see, are twisted
together, as indeed are all lives, only they do not know itas how
A great day for Huldah Stevens was this St. Victoria's day. Not that
she knew its name more than Mary did. Indeed it was only of late years
that Huldah Stevens had cared much for keeping Christmas day. But of
late years they had all thought of it more; and this year, on
Thanksgiving day, at old Mr. Stevens's, after great joking about the
young people's housekeeping, it had been determined, with some banter,
that the same party should meet with John and Huldah on Christmas eve,
with all Huldah's side of the house besides, to a late dinner or early
supper, as the guests might please to call it. Little difference
between the meals, indeed, was there ever in the profusion of these
country homes. The men folks were seldom at home at the noon-day meal,
call it what you will. For they were all in the milk-business, as you
will see. And, what with collecting the milk from the hill-farms, on
the one hand, and then carrying it for delivery at the three o'clock
morning milk-train, on the other hand, any hours which you, dear
reader, might consider systematic, or of course in country life, were
certainly always set aside. But, after much conference, as I have said,
it had been determined at the Thanksgiving party that all hands in both
families should meet at John and Huldah's as near three o'clock as they
could the day before Christmas; and then and there Huldah was to show
her powers in entertaining at her first state family party.
So this St. Victoria's day was a great day of preparation for
Huldah, if she had only known its name, as she did not. For she was of
the kind which prepares in time, not of the kind that is caught out
when the company come with the work half done. And as John started on
his collection beat that morning at about the hour Robert, in town,
kissed Mary good-by, Huldah stood on the step with him, and looked with
satisfaction on the gathering snow, because it would make better
sleighing the next day for her father and mother to come over. She
charged him not to forget her box of raisins when he came back, and to
ask at the express if anything came up from town, bade him good-by, and
turned back into the house, not wholly dissatisfied to be almost alone.
She washed her baby, gave him his first lunch and put him to bed. Then,
with the coast fairly clear,what woman does not enjoy a clear coast,
if it only be early enough in the morning?she dipped boldly and
wisely into her flour-barrel, stripped her plump round arms to their
work, and began on the pie-crust which was to appear to-morrow in the
fivefold forms of apple, cranberry, Marlboro', mince, and
squash,careful and discriminating in the nice chemistry of her
mixtures and the nice manipulations of her handicraft, but in nowise
dreading the issue. A long, active, lively morning she had of it. Not
dissatisfied with the stages of her work, step by step she advanced,
stage by stage she attained of the elaborate plan which was well laid
out in her head, but, of course, had never been intrusted to words, far
less to tell-tale paper. From the oven at last came the pies,and she
was satisfied with the color; from the other oven came the turkey,
which she proposed to have cold,as a relay, or pièce de résistance, for any who might not be at hand at the right moment for dinner. Into
the empty oven went the clove-blossoming ham, which, as it boiled, had
given the least appetizing odor to the kitchen. In the pretty moulds in
the woodshed stood the translucent cranberry hardening to its fixed
consistency. In other moulds the obedient calf's foot already announced
its willingness and intention to gell as she directed. Huldah's decks
were cleared again, her kitchen table fit to cut out work upon,all
the pans and plates were put away, which accumulate so mysteriously
where cooking is going forward; on its nail hung the weary jigger, on
its hook the spicy grater, on the roller a fresh towel. Everything gave
sign of victory, the whole kitchen looking only a little nicer than
usual. Huldah herself was dressed for the afternoon, and so was the
baby; and nobody but as acute observers as you and I would have known
that she had been in action all along the line and had won the battle
at every point, when two o'clock came, the earliest moment at which her
husband ever returned.
Then for the first time it occurred to Huldah to look out doors and
see how fast the snow was gathering. She knew it was still falling. But
the storm was a quiet one, and she had had too much to do to be gaping
out of the windows. She went to the shed door, and to her amazement saw
that the north wood-pile was wholly drifted in! Nor could she, as she
stood, see the fences of the roadway!
Huldah ran back into the house, opened the parlor door and drew up
the curtain, to see that there were indeed no fences on the front of
the house to be seen. On the northwest, where the wind had full
sweep,between her and the barn, the ground was bare. But all that
snowand who should say how much more?was piled up in front of her;
so that unless Huldah had known every landmark, she would not have
suspected that any road was ever there. She looked uneasily out at the
northwest windows, but she could not see an inch to windward: dogged
snowsnowsnowas if it would never be done.
Huldah knew very well then that there was no husband for her in the
next hour, nor most like in the next or the next. She knew very well
too what she had to do; and, knowing it, she did it. She tied on her
hood, and buttoned tight around her her rough sack, passed through the
shed and crossed that bare strip to the barn, opened the door with some
difficulty, because snow was already drifting into the doorway, and
entered. She gave the cows and oxen their water and the two night
horses theirs,went up into the loft and pitched down hay enough for
all,went down stairs to the pigs and cared for them,took one of the
barn shovels and cleared a path where she had had to plunge into the
snow at the doorway, took the shovel back, and then crossed home again
to her baby. She thought she saw the Empsons' chimney smoking as she
went home, and that seemed companionable. She took off her over-shoes,
sack, and hood, said aloud, This will be a good stay-at-home day,
brought round her desk to the kitchen table, and began on a nice long
letter to her brother Cephas in Seattle.
That letter was finished, eight good quarto pages written, and a
long delayed letter to Emily Tabor, whom Huldah had not seen since she
was married; and a long pull at her milk accounts had brought them up
to date,and still no John. Huldah had the table all set, you may be
sure of that; but, for herself, she had had no heart to go through the
formalities of lunch or dinner. A cup of tea and something to eat with
it as she wrote did better, she thought, for her,and she could eat
when the men came. It is a way women have. Not till it became quite
dark, and she set her kerosene lamp in the window that he might have a
chance to see it when he turned the Locust Grove corner, did Huldah
once feel herself lonely, or permit herself to wish that she did not
live in a place where she could be cut off from all her race. If John
had gone into partnership with Joe Winter and we had lived in Boston.
This was the thought that crossed her mind. Dear Huldah,from the end
of one summer to the beginning of the next, Joe Winter does not go home
to his dinner; and what you experience to-day, so far as absence from
your husband goes, is what his wife experiences in Boston ten months,
save Sundays, in every year.
I do not mean that Huldah winced or whined. Not she. Only she did
think if. Then she sat in front of the stove and watched the coals,
and for a little while continued to think if. Not long. Very soon she
was engaged in planning how she would arrange the table
to-morrow,whether Mother Stevens should cut the chicken-pie, or
whether she would have that in front of her own mother. Then she fell
to planning what she would make for Cynthia's baby,and then to
wondering whether Cephas was in earnest in that half nonsense he wrote
about Sibyl Dyer,and then the clock struck six!
No bells yet,no husband,no anybody. Lantern out and lighted.
Rubber boots on, hood and sack. Shed-shovel in one hand, lantern in the
other. Roadway still bare, but a drift as high as Huldah's shoulders at
the barn door. Lantern on the ground; snow-shovel in both hands now.
One, two, three!one cubic foot out. One, two, three!another cubic
foot out. And so on, and so on, and so on, till the doorway is clear
again. Lantern in one hand, snow-shovel in the other, we enter the
barn, draw the water for cows and oxen,we shake down more hay, and
see to the pigs again. This time we make beds of straw for the horses
and the cattle. Nay, we linger a minute or two, for there is something
companionable there. Then we shut them in, in the dark, and cross the
well-cleared roadway to the shed, and so home again. Certainly Mrs.
Empson's kerosene lamp is in her window. That must be her light which
gives a little halo in that direction in the falling snow. That looks
And this time Huldah undresses the baby, puts on her yellow flannel
night-gown,makes the whole as long as it may be,and then, still
making believe be jolly, lights another lamp, eats her own supper,
clears it away, and cuts into the new Harper which John had brought up
to her the day before.
But the Harper is dull reading to her, though generally so
attractive. And when her Plymouth-Hollow clock consents to strike eight
at last, Huldah, who has stinted herself to read till eight, gladly
puts down the Travels in Arizona, which seem to her as much like the
Travels in Peru, of the month before, as those had seemed like the
Travels in Chinchilla. Rubber boots again,lantern again,sack and
hood again. The men will be in no case for milking when they come. So
Huldah brings together their pails,takes her shovel once more and her
lantern,digs out the barn drift again, and goes over to milk little
Carry and big Fanchon. For, though the milking of a hundred cows passes
under those roofs and out again every day, Huldah is far too
conservative to abandon the custom which she inherits from some
Thorfinn or some Elfrida, and her husband is well pleased to humor her
in keeping in that barn always, at least two of the choicest
three-quarter blood cows that he can choose, for the family supply.
Only, in general, he or Reuben milks them; as duties are divided there,
this is not Huldah's share. But on this eve of St. Spiridion the gentle
creatures were glad when she came in; and in two journeys back and
forth Huldah had carried her well-filled pails into her dairy. This
helped along the hour, and just after nine o'clock struck, she could
hear the cheers of the men at last. She ran out again with the ready
lighted lantern to the shed-door,in an instant had on her boots and
sack and hood, had crossed to the barn, and slid open the great barn
door,and stood there with her light,another Hero for another
Leander to buffet towards, through the snow. A sight to see were the
two men, to be sure! And a story, indeed, they had to tell! On their
different beats they had fought snow all day, had been breaking roads
with the help of the farmers where they could, had had to give up more
than half of the outlying farms, sending such messages as they might,
that the outlying farmers might bring down to-morrow's milk to such
stations as they could arrange, and, at last, by good luck, had both
met at the dépôt in the hollow, where each had gone to learn at what
hour the milk-train might be expected in the morning. Little reason was
there, indeed, to expect it at all. Nothing had passed the
station-master since the morning express, called lightning by satire,
had slowly pushed up with three or four engines five hours behind its
time, and just now had come down a messenger from them that he should
telegraph to Boston that they were all blocked up at Tyler's
Summit,the snow drifting beneath their wheels faster than they could
clear it. Above, the station-master said, nothing whatever had yet
passed Winchendon. Five engines had gone out from Fitchburg eastward,
but in the whole day they had not come as far as Leominster. It was
very clear that no milk-train nor any other train would be on time the
Such was, in brief, John's report to Huldah, when they had got to
that state of things in which a man can make a report; that is, after
they had rubbed dry the horses, had locked up the barn, after the men
had rubbed themselves dry, and had put on dry clothing, and after each
of them, sitting on the fire side of the table, had drunk his first cup
of tea, and eaten his first square cubit of dipped-toast. After the
dipped-toast, they were going to begin on Huldah's fried potatoes and
Huldah heard their stories with all their infinite little details;
knew every corner and turn by which they had husbanded strength and
life; was grateful to the Corbetts and Varnums and Prescotts and the
rest, who, with their oxen and their red right hands, had given such
loyal help for the common good; and she heaved a deep sigh when the
story ended with the verdict of the failure of the whole,No trains
on time to-morrow.
Bad for the Boston babies, said Reuben bluntly, giving words to
what the others were feeling. Poor little things! said Huldah, Alice
has been so pretty all day. And she gulped down just one more sigh,
disgusted with herself, as she remembered that if of the
afternoon,if John had only gone into partnership with Joe Winter.
HOW THEY BROKE THE BLOCKADE.
Three o'clock in the morning saw Huldah's fire burning in the stove,
her water boiling in the kettle, her slices of ham broiling on the
gridiron, and quarter-past three saw the men come across from the barn,
where they had been shaking down hay for the cows and horses, and
yoking the oxen for the terrible onset of the day. It was bright
star-light above,thank Heaven for that. This strip of three hundred
thousand square miles of snow cloud, which had been drifting steadily
cast over a continent, was, it seemed, only twenty hours wide,say two
hundred miles, more or less,and at about midnight its last flecks had
fallen, and all the heaven was washed black and clear. The men were
well rested by those five hours of hard sleep. They were fitly dressed
for their great encounter and started cheerily upon it, as men who
meant to do their duty, and to both of whom, indeed, the thought had
come, that life and death might be trembling in their hands. They did
not take out the pungs to-day, nor, of course, the horses. Such milk as
they had collected on St. Victoria's day they had stored already at the
station, and at Stacy's; and the best they could do to-day would be to
break open the road from the Four Corners to the station, that they
might place as many cans as possible there before the down-train came.
From the house, then, they had only to drive down their oxen that they
might work with the other teams from the Four Corners; and it was only
by begging him, that Huldah persuaded Reuben to take one lunch-can for
them both. Then, as Reuben left the door, leaving John to kiss her
good-by, and to tell her not to be alarmed if they did not come home
at night,she gave to John the full milk-can into which she had poured
every drop of Carry's milk, and said, It will be one more; and God
knows what child may be crying for it now.
So they parted for eight and twenty hours; and in place of Huldah's
first state party of both families, she and Alice reigned solitary that
day, and held their little court with never a suitor. And when her
lunch-time came, Huldah looked half-mournfully, half-merrily, on her
array of dainties prepared for the feast, and she would not touch one
of them. She toasted some bread before the fire, made a cup of tea,
boiled an egg, and would not so much as set the table. As has been
before stated, this is the way with women.
And of the men, who shall tell the story of the pluck and endurance,
of the unfailing good-will, of the resource in strange emergency, of
the mutual help and common courage with which all the men worked that
day on that well-nigh hopeless task of breaking open the highway from
the Corners to the station? Well-nigh hopeless, indeed; for although at
first, with fresh cattle and united effort, they made in the hours,
which passed so quickly up to ten o'clock, near two miles headway, and
had brought yesterday's milk thus far,more than half way to their
point of delivery,at ten o'clock it was quite evident that this sharp
northwest wind, which told so heavily on the oxen and even on the men,
was filling in the very roadway they had opened, and so was cutting
them off from their base, and, by its new drifts, was leaving the
roadway for to-day's milk even worse than it was when they began. In
one of those extemporized councils, then,such as fought the battle of
Bunker Hill, and threw the tea into Boston harbor,it was determined,
at ten o'clock, to divide the working parties. The larger body should
work back to the Four Corners, and by proper relays keep that trunk
line of road open, if they could; while six yoke, with their owners,
still pressing forward to the station, should make a new base at
Lovejoy's, where, when these oxen gave out, they could be put up at his
barn. It was quite clear, indeed, to the experts that that time was not
And so, indeed, it proved. By three in the afternoon, John and
Reuben and the other leaders of the advance partynamely, the whole of
it, for such is the custom of New Englandgathered around the fire at
Lovejoy's, conscious that after twelve hours of such battle as Pavia
never saw, nor Roncesvalles, they were defeated at every point but one.
Before them the mile of road which they had made in the steady work of
hours was drifted in again as smooth as the surrounding pastures, only
if possible a little more treacherous for the labor which they had
thrown away upon it. The oxen which had worked kindly and patiently,
well handled by good-tempered men, yet all confused and half dead with
exposure, could do no more. Well, indeed, if those that had been
stalled fast, and had had to stand in that biting wind after gigantic
effort, escaped with their lives from such exposure. All that the men
had gained was that they had advanced their first dépôt of milktwo
hundred and thirty-nine cansas far as Lovejoy's. What supply might
have worked down to the Four Corners behind them, they did not know and
hardly cared, their communications that way being well-nigh cut off
again. What they thought of, and planned for, was simply how these cans
at Lovejoy's could be put on any downward train. For by this time they
knew that all trains would have lost their grades and their names, and
that this milk would go into Boston by the first engine that went
there, though it rode on the velvet of a palace car.
What train this might be, they did not know. From the hill above
Lovejoy's they could see poor old Dix, the station-master, with his
wife and boys, doing his best to make an appearance of shovelling in
front of his little station. But Dix's best was but little, for he had
but one arm, having lost the other in a collision, and so as a sort of
pension the company had placed him at this little flag-station, where
was a roof over his head, a few tickets to sell, and generally very
little else to do. It was clear enough that no working parties on the
railroad had worked up to Dix, or had worked down; nor was it very
likely that any would before night, unless the railroad people had
better luck with their drifts than our friends had found. But, as to
this, who should say? Snow-drifts are mighty onsartain. The line of
that road is in general northwest, and to-day's wind might have cleaned
out its gorges as persistently as it had filled up our crosscuts. From
Lovejoy's barn they could see that the track was now perfectly clear
for the half mile where it crossed the Prescott meadows.
I am sorry to have been so long in describing thus the aspect of the
field after the first engagement. But it was on this condition of
affairs that, after full conference, the enterprises of the night were
determined. Whatever was to be done was to be done by men. And after
thorough regale on Mrs. Lovejoy's green tea, and continual return to
her constant relays of thin bacon gilded by unnumbered eggs; after
cutting and coming again upon unnumbered mince-pies, which, I am sorry
to say, did not in any point compare well with Huldah's,each man
thrust many doughnuts into his outside pockets, drew on the long boots
again, and his buckskin gloves and mittens, and, unencumbered now by
the care of animals, started on the work of the evening. The sun was
just taking his last look at them from the western hills, where Reuben
and John could see Huldah's chimney smoking. The plan was, by taking a
double hand-sled of Lovejoy's, and by knocking together two or three
more, jumper-fashion, to work their way across the meadow to the
railroad causeway, and establish a milk dépôt there, where the line was
not half a mile from Lovejoy's. By going and coming often, following
certain tracks well known to Lovejoy on the windward side of walls and
fences, these eight men felt quite sure that by midnight they could
place all their milk at the spot where the old farm crossing strikes
the railroad. Meanwhile, Silas Lovejoy, a boy of fourteen, was to put
on a pair of snow-shoes, go down to the station, state the case to old
Dix, and get from him a red lantern and permission to stop the first
train where it swept out from the Pitman cut upon the causeway. Old Dix
had no more right to give this permission than had the humblest
street-sweeper in Ispahan, and this they all knew. But the fact that
Silas had asked for it would show a willingness on their part to submit
to authority, if authority there had been. This satisfied the New
England love of law, on the one hand. On the other hand, the train
would be stopped, and this satisfied the New England determination to
get the thing done any way. To give additional force to Silas, John
provided him with a note to Dix, and it was generally agreed that if
Dix wasn't ugly, he would give the red lantern and the permission.
Silas was then to work up the road and station himself as far beyond
the curve as he could, and stop the first down-train. He was to tell
the conductor where the men were waiting with the milk, was to come
down to them on the train, and his duty would be done. Lest Dix should
be ugly, Silas was provided with Lovejoy's only lantern, but he was
directed not to show this at the station until his interview was
finished. Silas started cheerfully on his snow-shoes; John and Lovejoy,
at the same time, starting with the first hand-sled of the cans. First
of all into the sled, John put Huldah's well-known can, a little
shorter than the others, and with a different handle. Whatever else
went to Boston, he said, that can was bound to go through.
They established the basis of their pyramid, and met the three new
jumpers with their makers as they went back for more. This party
enlarged the base of the pyramid; and, as they worked, Silas passed
them cheerfully with his red lantern. Old Dix had not been ugly, had
given the lantern and all the permission he had to give, and had
communicated some intelligence also. The intelligence was, that an
accumulated force of seven engines, with a large working party, had
left Groton Junction downward at three. Nothing had arrived upward at
Groton Junction; and, from Boston, Dix learned that nothing more would
leave there till early morning. No trains had arrived in Boston from
any quarter for twenty-four hours. So long the blockade had lasted
On this intelligence, it was clear that, with good luck, the
down-train might reach them at any moment. Still the men resolved to
leave their milk, while they went back for more, relying on Silas and
the large working party to put it on the cars, if the train chanced
to pass before any of them returned. So back they fared to Lovejoy's
for their next relay, and met John and Reuben working in successfully
with their second. But no one need have hurried; for, as trip after
trip they built their pyramid of cans higher and higher, no welcome
whistle broke the stillness of the night, and by ten o'clock, when all
these cans were in place by the rail, the train had not yet come.
John and Reuben then proposed to go up into the cut, and to relieve
poor Silas, who had not been heard from since he swung along so
cheerfully like an Excelsior boy on his way up the Alps. But they had
hardly started, when a horn from the meadow recalled them, and,
retracing their way, they met a messenger who had come in to say that a
fresh team from the Four Corners had been reported at Lovejoy's, with a
dozen or more men, who had succeeded in bringing down nearly as far as
Lovejoy's mowing-lot near a hundred more cans; that it was quite
possible in two or three hours more to bring this over also,and,
although the first train was probably now close at hand, it was clearly
worth while to place this relief in readiness for a second. So poor
Silas was left for the moment to his loneliness, and Reuben and John
returned again upon their steps. They passed the house where they found
Mrs. Lovejoy and Mrs. Stacy at work in the shed, finishing off two more
jumpers, and claiming congratulation for their skill, and after a cup
of tea again,for no man touched spirit that day nor that night,they
reported at the new station by the mowing-lot.
And Silas Lovejoywho had turned the corner into the Pitman cut,
and so shut himself out from sight of the station light, or his
father's windows, or the lanterns of the party at the pyramid of
cansSilas Lovejoy held his watch there, hour by hour, with such
courage as the sense of the advance gives boy or man. He had not
neglected to take the indispensable shovel as he came. In going over
the causeway he had slipped off the snow-shoes and hung them on his
back. Then there was heavy wading as he turned into the Pitman cut,
knee deep, middle deep, and he laid his snow-shoes on the snow and set
the red lantern on them, as he reconnoitred. Middle deep, neck deep,
and he fell forward on his face into the yielding mass. This will not
do, I must not fall like that often, said Silas to himself, as he
gained his balance and threw himself backward against the mass. Slowly
he turned round, worked back to the lantern, worked out to the
causeway, and fastened on the shoes again. With their safer help he
easily skimmed up to Pitman's bridge, which he had determined on for
his station. He knew that thence his lantern could be seen for a mile,
and that yet there the train might safely be stopped, so near was the
open causeway which he had just traversed. He had no fear of an
up-train behind him.
So Silas walked back and forth, and sang, and spouted pieces, and
mused on the future of his life, and spouted pieces again, and sang
in the loneliness. How the time passed, he did not know. No sound of
clock, no baying of dog, no plash of waterfall, broke that utter
stillness. The wind, thank God, had at last died away; and Silas paced
his beat in a long oval he made for himself, under and beyond the
bridge, with no sound but his own voice when he chose to raise it. He
expected, as they all did, that every moment the whistle of the train,
as it swept into sight a mile or more away, would break the silence; so
he paced, and shouted, and sang.
This is a man's duty, he said to himself: they would not let me
go with the fifth regiment,not as a drummer boy; but this is duty
such as no drummer boy of them all is doing. Company, march! and he
stepped forward smartly with his left foot. Really I am placed on
guard here quite as much as if I were on picket in Virginia. Who goes
there? Advance, friend, and give the countersign. Not that any one
did go there, or could go there; but the boy's fancy was ready, and so
he amused himself during the first hours. Then he began to wonder
whether they were hours, as they seemed, or whether this was all a
wretched illusion,that the time passed slowly to him because he was
nothing but a boy, and did not know how to occupy his mind. So he
resolutely said the multiplication-table from the beginning to the end,
and from the end to the beginning,first to himself, and again aloud,
to make it slower. Then he tried the ten commandments. Thou shalt have
none other Gods before me: easy to say that beneath those stars; and
he said them again. No, it is no illusion. I must have been here hours
long! Then he began on Milton's hymn:
It was the winter wild,
While the heaven-born child,
All meanly wrapt, in the rude manger lies.
Winter wild, indeed, said Silas aloud; and, if he had only known
it, at that moment the sun beneath his feet was crossing the meridian,
midnight had passed already, and Christmas day was born!
Only with speeches fair
She wooes the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow.
Innocent, indeed, said poor Silas, still aloud, much did he know
of innocent snow! And vainly did he try to recall the other stanzas,
as he paced back and forth, round and round, and began now to wonder
where his father and the others were, and if they could have come to
any misfortune. Surely, they could not have forgotten that he was here.
Would that train never come?
If he were not afraid of its coming at once, he would have run back
to the causeway to look for their lights,and perhaps they had a fire.
Why had he not brought an axe for a fire? That rail fence above would
have served perfectly,nay, it is not five rods to a load of hickory
we left the day before Thanksgiving. Surely one of them might come up
to me with an axe. But maybe there is trouble below. They might have
come with an axewith an axewith an axewith anaxeI am going
to sleep, cried Silas,aloud again this time,as his head dropped
heavily on the handle of the shovel he was resting on there in the lee
of the stone wall. I am going to sleep,that will never do. Sentinel
asleep at his post. Order out the relief. Blind his eyes. Kneel, sir.
Make ready. Fire. That, sir, for sentinels asleep. And so Silas
laughed grimly, and began his march again. Then he took his shovel and
began a great pit where he supposed the track might be beneath him.
Anything to keep warm and to keep awake. But why did they not send up
to him? Why was he here? Why was he all alone? He who had never been
alone before. Was he alone? Was there companionship in the stars,or
in the good God who held the stars? Did the good God put me here? If he
put me here, will he keep me here? Or did he put me here to die! To die
in this cold? It is cold,it is very cold! Is there any good in my
dying? The train will run down, and they will see a dead body lying
under the bridge,black on the snow, with a red lantern by it. Then
they will stop. Shall II willjust go back to see if the lights are
at the bend. I will leave the lantern here on the edge of this wall!
And so Silas turned, half benumbed, worked his way nearly out of the
gorge, and started as he heard, or thought he heard, a baby's scream.
A thousand babies are starving, and I am afraid to stay here to give
them their life, he said. There is a boy fit for a soldier! Order out
the relief! Drum-head court-martial! Prisoner, hear your sentence!
Deserter, to be shot! Blindfold,kneel, sir! Fire! Good enough for
deserters! And so poor Silas worked back again to the lantern.
And now he saw and felt sure that Orion was bending downward, and he
knew that the night must be broken; and, with some new hope, throwing
down the shovel with which he had been working, he began his soldier
tramp once more,as far as soldier tramp was possible with those
trailing snow-shoes,tried again on No war nor battle sound, broke
down on Cynthia's seat and the music of the spheres; but at
last,working on beams, long beams, and that with long
beams,he caught the stanzas he was feeling for, and broke out
At last surrounds their sight,
A globe of circular light
That with long beams the shame-faced night arrayed;
The helmed cherubim
And sworded seraphim
Are seen in glittering ranks
Globe of circular lightam I dreaming, or have they come!
Come they had! The globe of circular light swept full over the
valley, and the scream of the engine was welcomed by the freezing boy
as if it had been an angel's whisper to him. Not unprepared did it find
him. The red lantern swung to and fro in a well-practised hand, and he
was in waiting on his firmest spot as the train slowed and the
engine passed him.
Do not stop for me, he cried, as he threw his weight heavily on
the tender side, and the workmen dragged him in. Only run slow till
you are out of the ledge: we have made a milk station at the
Good for you! said the wondering fireman, who in a moment
understood the exigency. The heavy plough threw out the snow steadily
still, in ten seconds they were clear of the ledge, and saw the
fire-light shimmering on the great pyramids of milk-cans. Slower and
slower ran the train, and by the blazing fire stopped, for once,
because its masters chose to stop. And the working party on the train
cheered lustily as they tumbled out of the cars, as they apprehended
the situation, and were cheered by the working party from the village.
Two or three cans of milk stood on the embers of the fire, that they
might be ready for the men on the train with something that was at
least warm. An empty passenger car was opened and the pyramids of
milk-cans were hurried into it,forty men now assisting.
You will find Joe Winter at the Boston station, said John Stevens
to the gentlemanly conductor of the express, whose lightning train
had thus become a milk convoy. Tell Winter to distribute this among
all the carts, that everybody may have some. Good luck to you.
Good-by! And the engines snorted again, and John Stevens turned back,
not so much as thinking that he had made his Christmas present to a
The children were around Robert Walter's knees, and each of the two
spelled out a verse of the second chapter of Luke, on Christmas
morning. And Robert and Mary kneeled with them, and they said together,
Our Father who art in heaven. Mary's voice broke a little when they
came to daily bread, but with the two, and her husband, she continued
to the end, and could say thine is the power, and believe it too.
Mamma, whispered little Fanny, as she kissed her mother after the
prayer, when I said my prayer up stairs last night, I said 'our daily
milk,' and so did Robert. This was more than poor Mary could bear. She
kissed the child, and she hurried away.
For last night at six o'clock it was clear that the milk was sour,
and little Jamie had detected it first of all. Then, with every one of
the old wiles, they had gone back over the old slops; but the child,
with that old weird strength, had pushed them all away. Christmas
morning broke, and poor Robert, as soon as light would serve, had gone
to the neighbors all,their nearest intimates they had tried the night
before,and from all had brought back the same reply; one friend had
sent a wretched sample, but the boy detected the taint and pushed it,
untasted, away. Dr. Morton had the alarm the day before. He was at the
house earlier than usual with some condensed milk, which his wife's
stores had furnished; but that would not answer. Poor Jamie pushed this
by. There was some smoke or something,who should say what?it would
not do. The doctor could see in an instant how his patient had fallen
back in the night. That weird, anxious, entreating look, as his head
lay back on the little pillow, had all come back again. Robert and
Robert's friends, Gaisford and Warren, had gone down to the Old Colony,
to the Worcester, and to the Hartford stations. Perhaps their trains
were doing better. The door-bell rang yet again. Mrs. Appleton's love
to Mrs. Walter, and perhaps her child will try some fresh beef-tea. As
if poor Jamie did not hate beef-tea; still Morton resolutely forced
three spoonfuls down. Half an hour more and Mrs. Dudley's compliments.
Mrs. Dudley heard that Mrs. Walter was out of milk, and took the
liberty to send round some very particularly nice Scotch groats, which
her brother had just brought from Edinburgh. Do your best with it,
Fanny, said poor Mary, but she knew that if Jamie took those Scotch
groats it was only because they were a Christmas present. Half an hour
more! Three more spoonfuls of beef-tea after a fight. Door-bell again.
Carriage at the door. Would Mrs. Walter come down and see Mrs. Fitch?
It was really very particular. Mary was half dazed, and went down, she
did not know why.
Dear Mrs. Walter, you do not remember me, said this eager girl,
crossing the room and taking her by both hands.
Why, noyesdo I? said Mary, crying and laughing together.
Yes, you will remember, it was at church, at the baptism. My Jennie
and your Jamie were christened the same day. And now I hear,we all
know how low he is,and perhaps he will share my Jennie's breakfast.
Dear Mrs. Walter, do let me try.
Then Mary saw that the little woman's cloak and hat were already
thrown off,which had not seemed strange to her before,and the two
passed quietly up stairs together; and Julia Fitch bent gently over
him, and cooed to him, and smiled to him, but could not make the poor
child smile. And they lifted him so gently on the pillow,but only to
hear him scream. And she brought his head gently to her heart, and drew
back the little curtain that was left, and offered to him her life; but
he was frightened, and did not know her, and had forgotten what it was
she gave him, and screamed again; and so they had to lay him back
gently upon the pillow. And then,as Julia was saying she would stay,
and how they could try again, and could do this and that,then the
door-bell rang again, and Mrs. Coleman had herself come round with a
little white pitcher, and herself ran up stairs with it, and herself
knocked at the door!
The blockade was broken, and
THE MILK HAD COME!
* * * * *
Mary never knew that it was from Huldah Stevens's milk-can that her
boy drank in the first drop of his new life. Nor did Huldah know it.
Nor did John know it, nor the paladins who fought that day at his side.
Nor did Silas Lovejoy know it.
But the good God and all good angels knew it. Why ask for more?
And you and I, dear reader, if we can forget that always our daily
bread comes to us, because a thousand brave men and a thousand brave
women are at work in the world, praying to God and trying to serve him,
we will not forget it as we meet at breakfast on this blessed Christmas
STAND AND WAIT.
They've come! they've come!
This was the cry of little Herbert as he ran in from the square
stone which made the large doorstep of the house. Here he had been
watching, a self-posted sentinel, for the moment when the carriage
should turn the corner at the bottom of the hill.
They've come! they've come! echoed joyfully through the house; and
the cry penetrated out into the extension, or ell, in which the grown
members of the family were, in the kitchen, getting tea by some
formulas more solemn than ordinary.
Have they come? cried Grace; and she set her skillet back to the
quarter-deck, or after-part of the stove, lest its white contents
should burn while she was away. She threw a waiting handkerchief over
her shoulders, and ran with the others to the front door, to wave
something white, and to be in at the first welcome.
Young and old were gathered there in that hospitable open space
where the side road swept up to the barn on its way from the main road.
The bigger boys of the home party had scattered half-way down the hill
by this time. Even grandmamma had stepped down from the stone, and
walked half-way to the roadway. Every one was waving something. Those
who had no handkerchiefs had hats or towels to wave; and the more
advanced boys began an undefined or irregular cheer.
But the carryall advanced slowly up the hill, with no answering
handkerchief, and no bonneted head stretched out from the side. And, as
it neared Sam and Andrew, their enthusiasm could be seen to droop, and
George and Herbert stopped their cheers as it came up to them; and
before it was near the house, on its grieved way up the hill, the bad
news had come up before it, as bad news will,She has not come, after
It was Huldah Root, Grace's older sister, who had not come. John
Root, their father, had himself driven down to the station to meet her;
and Abner, her oldest brother, had gone with him. It was two years
since she had been at home, and the whole family was on tiptoe to
welcome her. Hence the unusual tea preparation; hence the sentinel on
the doorstep; hence the general assembly in the yard; and, after all,
she had not come! It was a wretched disappointment. Her mother had that
heavy, silent look, which children take as the heaviest affliction of
all, when they see it in their mother's faces. John Root himself led
the horse into the barn, as if he did not care now for anything which
might happen in heaven above or in earth beneath. The boys were voluble
in their rage: It is too bad! and, Grandmamma, don't you think it is
too bad? and, It is the meanest thing I ever heard of in all my
life! and, Grace, why don't you say anything? did you ever know
anything so mean? As for poor Grace herself, she was quite beyond
saying anything. All the treasured words she had laid up to say to
Huldah; all the doubts and hopes and guesses, which were secret to all
but God, but which were to be poured out in Huldah's ear as soon as
they were alone, were coming up one by one, as if to choke her. She had
waited so long for this blessed fortnight of sympathy, and now she had
lost it. Grace could say nothing. And poor grandmamma, on whom fell the
stilling of the boys, was at heart as wretched as any of them.
Somehow, something got itself put on the supper-table; and, when
John Root and Abner came in from the barn, they all sat down to pretend
to eat something. What a miserable contrast to the Christmas eve party
which had been expected!
The observance of Christmas is quite a novelty in the heart of New
England among the lords of the manor. Winslow and Brewster, above
Plymouth Rock, celebrated their first Christmas by making all hands
work all day in the raising of their first house. It was in that way
that a Christian empire was begun. They builded better than they knew.
They and theirs, in that hard day's work, struck the key-note for New
England for two centuries and a half. And many and many a New
Englander, still in middle life, remembers that in childhood, though
nurtured in Christian homes, he could not have told, if he were asked,
on what day of the year Christmas fell. But as New England, in the
advance of the world, has come into the general life of the world, she
has shown no inaptitude for the greater enjoyments of life; and, with
the true catholicity of her great Congregational system, her people and
her churches seize, one after another, all the noble traditions of the
loftiest memories. And so in this matter we have in hand; it happened
that the Roots, in their hillside home, had determined that they would
celebrate Christmas, as never had Roots done before since Josiah Root
landed at Salem, from the Hercules, with other Kentish people, in
1635. Abner and Gershom had cut and trimmed a pretty fir-balsam from
the edge of the Hotchkiss clearing; and it was now in the best parlor.
Grace, with Mary Bickford, her firm ally and other self, had gilded
nuts, and rubbed lady apples, and strung popped corn; and the tree had
been dressed in secret, the youngsters all locked and warned out from
the room. The choicest turkeys of the drove, and the tenderest geese
from the herd, and the plumpest fowls from the barnyard, had been
sacrificed on consecrated altars. And all this was but as accompaniment
and side illustration of the great glory of the celebration, which was,
that Huldah, after her two years' absence,Huldah was to come home.
And now she had not come,nay, was not coming!
As they sat down at their Barmecide feast, how wretched the
assemblage of unrivalled dainties seemed! John Root handed to his wife
their daughter's letter; she read it, and gave it to Grace, who read
it, and gave it to her grandmother. No one read it aloud. To read aloud
in such trials is not the custom of New England.
Boston, Dec. 24, 1848.
DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER,It is dreadful to disappoint you all,
but I cannot come. I am all ready, and this goes by the
that was to take me to the cars. But our dear little Horace has
just been brought home, I am afraid, dying; but we cannot tell,
and I cannot leave him. You know there is really no one who can
do what I can. He was riding on his pony. First the pony came
home alone; and, in five minutes after, two policemen brought
the dear child in a carriage. His poor mother is very calm, but
cannot think yet, or do anything. We have sent for his father,
who is down town. I try to hope that he may come to himself;
he only lies and draws long breaths on his little bed. The
doctors are with him now; and I write this little scrawl to say
how dreadfully sorry I am. A merry Christmas to you all. Do not
be troubled about me.
Your own loving
P.S. I have got some little presents for the children; but they
are all in my trunk, and I cannot get them out now. I will make
a bundle Monday. Good-by. The man is waiting.
This was the letter that was passed from hand to hand, of which the
contents slowly trickled into the comprehension of all parties,
according as their several ages permitted them to comprehend. Sam, as
usual, broke the silence by saying,
It is a perfect shame! She might as well be a nigger slave! I
suppose they think they have bought her and sold her. I should like to
see 'em all, just for once, and tell 'em that her flesh and blood is as
good as theirs; and that, with all their airs and their money, they've
no business to
Sam, said poor Grace, you shall not say such things. Huldah has
stayed because she chose to stay; and that is the worst of it. She will
not think of herself, not for one minute; and soeverything happens.
And Grace was sobbing beyond speech again; and her intervention
amounted, therefore, to little or nothing. The boys, through the
evening, descanted among themselves on the outrage. Grandmamma, and at
last their mother, took successive turns in taming their indignation;
but, for all this, it was a miserable evening. As for John Root, he
took a lamp in one hand, and The Weekly Tribune in the other, and sat
before the fire, and pretended to read; but not once did John Root
change the fold of the paper that evening. It was a wretched Christmas
eve; and, at half-past eight, every light was out, and every member of
the household was lying stark awake, in bed.
* * * * *
Huldah Root, you see, was a servant with the Bartletts, in Boston.
When she was only sixteen, she was engaged at her trade, as a
vest-maker, in that town; and, by some chance, made an appointment to
sew as a seamstress at Mrs. Bartlett's for a fortnight. There were any
number of children to be clothed there; and the fortnight extended to a
month. Then the month became two months. She grew fond of Mrs.
Bartlett, because Mrs. Bartlett grew fond of her. The children adored
her; and she kept an eye to them; and it ended in her engaging to spend
the winter there, half-seamstress, half-nurse, half-nursery-governess,
and a little of everything. From such a beginning, it had happened that
she had lived there six years, in confidential service. She could cook
better than anybody in the house,better than Mrs. Bartlett herself;
but it was not often that she tried her talent there. On a birthday
perhaps, in August, she would make huckleberry cakes, by the old
homestead receipt, for the children. She had the run of all their
clothes as nobody else did; took the younger ones to be measured; and
saw that none of the older ones went out with a crack in a seam, or a
rough edge at the foot of a trowser. It was whispered that Minnie had
rather go into the sewing-room to get Huldah to show her about
alligation or square-root, than to wait for Miss Thurber's
explanations in the morning. In fifty such ways, it happened that
Huldahwho, on the roll-call of the census-man, probably rated as a
nursery-maid in the housewas the confidential friend of every member
of the family, from Mr. Bartlett, who wanted to know where The
Intelligencer was, down to the chore-boy who came in to black the
shoes. And so it was, that, when poor little Horace was brought in with
his skull knocked in by the pony, Huldah wasand modestly knew that
she wasthe most essential person in the stunned family circle.
While her brothers and sisters were putting out their lights at New
Durham, heart-sick and wounded, Huldah was sitting in that still room,
where only the rough broken breathing of poor Horace broke the sound.
She was changing, once in ten minutes, the ice-water cloths; was
feeling of his feet sometimes; wetting his tongue once or twice in an
hour; putting her finger to his pulse with a native sense, which needed
no second-hand to help it; and all the time, with the thought of him,
was remembering how grieved and hurt and heart-broken they were at
home. Every half-hour or less, a pale face appeared at the door; and
Huldah just slid across the room, and said, He is really doing nicely,
pray lie down; or, His pulse is surely better, I will certainly come
to you if it flags; or Pray trust me, I will not let you wait a
moment if he needs you; or, Pray get ready for to-morrow. An hour's
sleep now will be worth everything to you then. And the poor mother
would crawl back to her baby and her bed, and pretend to try to sleep;
and in half an hour would appear again at the door. One o'clock, two
o'clock, three o'clock. How companionable Dr. Lowell's clock seems when
one is sitting up so, with no one else to talk to! Four o'clock at
last; it is really growing to be quite intimate. Five o'clock. If I
were in dear Durham now, one of the roosters would be calling,Six
o'clock. Poor Horace stirs, turns, flings his arm over. MotherO
Huldah! is it you? How nice that is! And he is unconscious again; but
he had had sense enough to know her. What a blessed Christmas present
that is, to tell that to his poor mother when she slides in at
daybreak, and says, You shall go to bed now, dear child. You see I am
very fresh; and you must rest yourself, you know. Do you really say he
knew you? Are you sure he knew you? Why, Huldah, what an angel of peace
So opened Huldah's Christmas morning.
* * * * *
Days of doubt, nights of watching. Every now and then the boy knows
his mother, his father, or Huldah. Then will come this heavy stupor
which is so different from sleep. At last the surgeons have determined
that a piece of the bone must come away. There is the quiet gathering
of the most skilful at the determined hour; there is the firm table for
the little fellow to lie on; here is the ether and the sponge; and, of
course, here and there, and everywhere, is Huldah. She can hold the
sponge, or she can fetch and carry; she can answer at once if she is
spoken to; she can wait, if it is waiting; she can act, if it is
acting. At last the wretched little button, which has been pressing on
our poor boy's brain, is lifted safely out. It is in Morton's hand; he
smiles and nods at Huldah as she looks inquiry, and she knows he is
satisfied. And does not the poor child himself, even in his unconscious
sleep, draw his breath more lightly than he did before? All is well.
Who do you say that young woman is? says Dr. Morton to Mr.
Bartlett, as he draws on his coat in the doorway after all is over.
Could we not tempt her over to the General Hospital?
No, I think not. I do not think we can spare her.
The boy Horace is new-born that day; a New Year's gift to his
mother. So pass Huldah's holidays.
Fourteen years make of the boy whose pony has been too much for him
a man equal to any prank of any pony. Fourteen years will do this, even
to boys of ten. Horace Bartlett is the colonel of a cavalry regiment,
stationed just now in West Virginia; and, as it happens, this
twenty-four-year-old boy has an older commission than anybody in that
region, and is the Post Commander at Talbot C. H., and will be, most
likely, for the winter. The boy has a vein of foresight in him; a good
deal of system; and, what is worth while to have by the side of system,
some knack of order. So soon as he finds that he is responsible, he
begins to prepare for responsibility. His staff-officers are boys too;
but they are all friends, and all mean to do their best. His
Surgeon-in-Charge took his degree at Washington last spring; that is
encouraging. Perhaps, if he has not much experience, he has, at least,
the latest advices. His head is level too; he means to do his best,
such as it is; and, indeed, all hands in that knot of boy counsellors
will not fail for laziness or carelessness. Their very youth makes them
provident and grave.
So among a hundred other letters, as October opens, Horace writes
TALBOT COURT HOUSE, VA.,
Oct. 3, 1863.
DEAR HULDAH,Here we are still, as I have been explaining to
father; and, as you will see by my letter to him, here we are
like to stay. Thus far we are doing sufficiently well. As I
told him, if my plans had been adopted we should have been
pushed rapidly forward up the valley of the Yellow Creek;
Badger's corps would have been withdrawn from before
Wilcox and Steele together would have threatened Early; and
then, by a rapid flank movement, we should have pounced down on
Longstreet (not the great Longstreet, but little Longstreet),
and compelled him to uncover Lynchburg; we could have blown up
the dams and locks on the canal, made a freshet to sweep all
obstructions out of James River, and then, if they had shown
half as much spirit on the Potomac, all of us would be in
Richmond for our Christmas dinner. But my plans, as usual, were
not asked for, far less taken. So, as I said, here we are.
Well, I have been talking with Lawrence Worster, my
Surgeon-in-Charge, who is a very good fellow. His sick-list is
not bad now, and he does not mean to have it bad; but he says
that he is not pleased with the ways of his ward-masters; and
was his suggestion, not mine, mark you, that I should see if
or two of the Sanitary women would not come as far as this to
make things decent. So, of course, I write to you. Don't you
think mother could spare you to spend the winter here? It will
be rough, of course; but it is all in the good cause. Perhaps
you know some nice women,well, not like you, of course; but
still, disinterested and sensible, who would come too. Think of
this carefully, I beg you, and talk to father and mother.
Worster says we may have three hundred boys in hospital before
Christmas. If Jubal Early should come this way, I don't know
many more. Talk with mother and father.
P. S. I have shown Worster what I have written; he encloses a
sort of official letter which may be of use. He says, Show
to Dr. Hayward; get them to examine you and the others, and
the government, on his order, will pass you on. I enclose
because, if you come, it will save time.
Of course Huldah went. Grace Starr, her married sister, went with
her, and Mrs. Philbrick, and Anna Thwart. That was the way they
happened to be all together in the Methodist Church that had been, of
Talbot Court House, as Christmas holidays drew near, of the year of
She and her friends had been there quite long enough to be wonted to
the strangeness of December in the open air. On her little table in
front of the desk of the church were three or four buttercups in bloom,
which she had gathered in an afternoon walk, with three or four heads
of hawksweed. The beginning of one year, Huldah said, with the end
of the other. Nay, there was even a stray rose which Dr. Sprigg had
found in a farmer's garden. Huldah came out from the vestry, where her
own bed was, in the gray of the morning, changed the water for the poor
little flowers, sat a moment at the table to look at last night's
memoranda, and then beckoned to the ward-master, and asked him, in a
whisper, what was the movement she had heard in the night,Another
alarm from Early?
No, Miss; not an alarm. I saw the Colonel's orderly as he passed.
He stopped here for Dr. Fenno's case. There had come down an express
from General Mitchell, and the men were called without the bugle, each
man separately; not a horse was to neigh, if they could help it. And
really, Miss, they were off in twenty minutes.
Off, who are off?
The whole post, Miss, except the relief for to-day. There are not
fifty men in the village besides us here. The orderly thought they were
to go down to Braxton's; but he did not know.
Here was news indeed! news so exciting that Huldah went back at
once, and called the other women; and then all of them together began
on that wretched business of waiting. They had never yet known what it
was to wait for a real battle. They had had their beds filled with this
and that patient from one or another post, and had some gun-shot wounds
of old standing among the rest; but this was their first battle if it
were a battle. So the covers were taken off that long line of beds,
down on the west aisle, and from those under the singers' seat; and the
sheets and pillow-cases were brought out from the linen room, and
aired, and put on. Our biggest kettles are filled up with strong soup;
and we have our milk-punch, and our beef-tea all in readiness; and
everybody we can command is on hand to help lift patients and
distribute food. But there is only too much time. Will there never be
any news? Anna Thwart and Doctor Sprigg have walked down to the bend of
the hill, to see if any messenger is coming. As for the other women,
they sit at their table; they look at their watches; they walk down to
the door; they come back to the table. I notice they have all put on
fresh aprons, for the sake of doing something more in getting ready.
Here is Anna Thwart. They are coming! they are coming! somebody is
coming. A mounted man is crossing the flat, coming towards us; and the
doctor told me to come back and tell. Five minutes more, ten minutes
more, an eternity more, and then, rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat, the mounted
man is here. Wagons right behind. We bagged every man of them at
Wyatt's. Got there before daylight. Colonel White's men from the
Yellows came up just at the same time, and we pitched in before they
knew it,three or four regiments, thirteen hundred men, and all their
And with no fighting?
Oh, yes! fighting of course. The colonel has got a train of wagons
down here with the men that are hurt. That's why I am here. Here is his
note. Thus does the mounted man discharge his errand backward.
DEAR DOCTOR,We have had great success. We have surprised the
whole post. The company across the brook tried hard to get
and a good many of them, and of Sykes's men, are hit; but I
cannot find that we have lost more than seven men. I have
nineteen wagons here of wounded men,some hurt pretty badly.
Ever yours, H.
So there must be more waiting. But now we know what we are waiting
for; and the end will come in a finite world. Thank God, at half-past
three, here they are! Tenderly, gently. Hush, Sam! Hush, Cæsar! You
talk too much. Gently, tenderly. Twenty-seven of the poor fellows,
with everything the matter, from a burnt face to a heart stopping its
beats for want of more blood.
Huldah, come here. This is my old classmate, Barthow; sat next me
at prayers four years. He is a major in their army, you see. His horse
stumbled, and pitched him against a stone wall; and he has not spoken
since. Don't tell me he is dying; but do as well for him, Huldah,and
the handsome boy smiled,do as well for him as you did for me. So
they carried Barthow, senseless as he was, tenderly into the church;
and he became E, 27, on an iron bedstead. Not half our soup was wanted,
nor our beef-tea, nor our punch. So much the better.
Then came day and night, week in and out, of army system, and
womanly sensibility; that quiet, cheerful, homish, hospital
life, in the quaint surroundings of the white-washed church; the
pointed arches of the windows and the faded moreen of the pulpit
telling that it is a church, in a reminder not unpleasant. Two or three
weeks of hopes and fears, failures and success, bring us to Christmas
* * * * *
It is the surgeon-in-chief, who happens to give our particular
Christmas dinner,I mean the one that interests you and me. Huldah and
the other ladies had accepted his invitation. Horace Bartlett and his
staff, and some of the other officers, were guests; and the doctor had
given his own permit that Major Barthow might walk up to his quarters
with the ladies. Huldah and he were in advance, he leaning, with many
apologies, on her arm. Dr. Sprigg and Anna Thwart were far behind. The
two married ladies, as needing no escort, were in the middle. Major
Barthow enjoyed the emancipation, was delighted with his companion,
could not say enough to make her praise the glimpses of Virginia, even
if it were West Virginia.
What a party it is, to be sure! said he. The doctor might call on
us for our stories, as one of Dickens's chiefs would do at a Christmas
feast. Let's see, we should have
THE SURGEON'S TALE;
THE GENERAL'S TALE;
for we may at least make believe that Hod's stars have come from
Washington. Then we must call in that one-eyed servant of his; and we
THE ORDERLY'S TALE.
Your handsome friend from Wisconsin shall tell
THE GERMAN'S TALE.
I shall be encouraged to tell
THE PRISONER'S TALE.
And I? said Huldah laughing, because he paused.
You shall tell
THE SAINT'S TALE.
Barthow spoke with real feeling, which he did not care to disguise.
But Huldah was not there for sentiment; and without quivering in the
least, nor making other acknowledgment, she laughed as she knew she
ought to do, and said, Oh, no! that is quite too grand, the story must
THE SUPERINTENDENT OF SPECIAL RELIEF'S
It is a little unromantic to the sound; but that's what it is.
I don't see, persisted the major, if Superintendent of Special
Relief means Saint in Latin, why we should not say so.
Because we are not talking Latin, said Huldah. Listen to me; and,
before we come to dinner, I will tell you a story pretty enough for
Dickens, or any of them; and it is a story not fifteen minutes old.
Have you noticed that black-whiskered fellow, under the gallery, by
the north window?Yes, the same. He is French, enlisted, I think, in
New London. I came to him just now, managed to say étrennes and
Noël to him, and a few other French words, and asked if there were
nothing we could do to make him more at home. Oh, no! there was
nothing; madame was too good, and everybody was too good, and so on.
But I persisted. I wished I knew more about Christmas in France; and I
staid by. 'No, madame, nothing; there is nothing. But, since you say
it,if there were two drops of red wine,du vin de mon pays,
madame; but you could not here in Virginia.' Could not I? A
superintendent of special relief has long arms. There was a box of
claret, which was the first thing I saw in the store-room the day I
took my keys. The doctor was only too glad the man had thought of it;
and you should have seen the pleasure that red glass, as full as I
could pile it, gave him. The tears were running down his cheeks. Anna,
there, had another Frenchman; and she sent some to him: and my man is
now humming a little song about the vin rouge of Bourgogne.
Would not Mr. Dickens make a pretty story of that for you,'THE
Barthow longed to say that the great novelist would not make so
pretty a story as she did. But this time he did not dare.
You are not going to hear the eight stories. Mr. Dickens was not
there; nor, indeed, was I. But a jolly Christmas dinner they had;
though they had not those eight stories. Quiet they were, and very,
very happy. It was a strange thing,if one could have analyzed
it,that they should have felt so much at home, and so much at ease
with each other, in that queer Virginian kitchen, where the doctor and
his friends of his mess had arranged the feast. It was a happy thing,
that the recollections of so many other Christmas homes should come in,
not sadly, but pleasantly, and should cheer, rather than shade the
evening. They felt off soundings, all of them. There was, for the time,
no responsibility. The strain was gone. The gentlemen were glad to be
dining with ladies, I believe: the ladies, unconsciously, were probably
glad to be dining with gentlemen. The officers were glad they were not
on duty; and the prisoner, if glad of nothing else, was glad he was not
in bed. But he was glad for many things beside. You see it was but a
little post. They were far away; and they took things with the ease of
a detached command.
Shall we have any toasts? said the doctor, when his nuts and
raisins and apples at last appeared.
Oh, no! no toasts,nothing so stiff as that.
Oh, yes! oh, yes! said Grace. I should like to know what it is to
drink a toast. Something I have heard of all my life, and never saw.
One toast, at least, then, said the doctor. Colonel Bartlett,
will you name the toast?
Only one toast? said Horace; that is a hard selection: we must
vote on that.
No, no! said a dozen voices; and a dozen laughing assistants at
the feast offered their advice.
I might give 'The Country;' I might give 'The Cause;' I might give
'The President:' and everybody would drink, said Horace. I might give
'Absent friends,' or 'Home, sweet home;' but then we should cry.
Why do you not give 'The trepanned people'? said Worster,
laughing, or 'The silver-headed gentlemen'?
Why don't you give 'The Staff and the Line'? Why don't you give
'Here's Hoping'? Give 'Next Christmas.' Give 'The Medical
Department; and may they often ask us to dine!'
Give 'Saints and Sinners,' said Major Barthow, after the first
outcry was hushed.
I shall give no such thing, said Horace. We have had a lovely
dinner; and we know we have; and the host, who is a good fellow, knows
the first thanks are not to him. Those of us who ever had our heads
knocked open, like the Major and me, do know. Fill your glasses,
gentlemen; I give you 'the Special Diet Kitchen.'
He took them all by surprise. There was a general shout; and the
ladies all rose, and dropped mock courtesies.
By Jove! said Barthow to the Colonel, afterwards, It was the best
toast I ever drank in my life. Anyway, that little woman has saved my
life. Do you say she did the same to you?
So you think that when the war was over Major Barthow, then
Major-General, remembered Huldah all the same, and came on and
persuaded her to marry him, and that she is now sitting in her veranda,
looking down on the Pamunkey River. You think that, do not you?
Well! you were never so mistaken in your life. If you want that
story, you can go and buy yourself a dime novel. I would buy The
Rescued Rebel; or, The Noble Nurse, if I were you.
After the war was over, Huldah did make Colonel Barthow and his wife
a visit once, at their plantation in Pocataligo County; but I was not
there, and know nothing about it.
Here is a Christmas of hers, about which she wrote a letter; and, as
it happens, it was a letter to Mrs. Barthow.
HULDAH ROOT TO AGNES BARTHOW.
VILLERS-BOCAGE, Dec. 27, 1868.
... Here I was, then, after this series of hopeless blunders,
sole alone at the gare [French for station] of this
out-of-the-way town. My dear, there was never an American here
since Christopher Columbus slept here when he was a boy. And
here, you see, I was like to remain; for there was no
possibility of the others getting back to me till to-morrow,
no good in my trying to overtake them. All I could do was just
to bear it, and live on, and live through from Thursday to
Monday; and, really, what was worst of all was that Friday was
Well, I found a funny little carriage, with a funny old man who
did not understand my patois any better than I did his;
understood a franc-piece. I had my guide-book, and I said
auberge; and we came to the oddest, most outlandish, and
old-fashioned establishment that ever escaped from one of Julia
Nathalie woman's novels. And here I am.
And the reason, my dear Mrs. Barthow, that I take to-day to
write to you, you and the Colonel will now understand. You see
it was only ten o'clock when I got here; then I went to walk,
many enfans terribles following respectfully; then I
home, and ate the funny refection; then I got a nap; then I
to walk again, and made a little sketch in the churchyard: and
this time, one of the children brought up her mother, a funny
Norman woman, in a delicious costume,I have a sketch of
another just like her,and she dropped a courtesy, and in a
very mild patois said she hoped the children did not
madame. And I said, Oh, no! and found a sugar-plum for the
child and showed my sketch to the woman; and she said she
supposed madame was Anglaise.
I said I was not Anglaise,and here the story begins;
said I was Americaine. And, do you know, her face
as if I had said I was St. Gulda, or St. Hilda, or any of their
Americaine! est-il possible? Jeannette, Gertrude, faites vos
révérences. Madame est Americaine.
And, sure enough, they all dropped preternatural courtesies. And
then the most eager enthusiasm; how fond they all were of
Americaines, but how no Americaines had ever come
was madame at the Three Cygnets? And might she and her son and
her husband call to see madame at the Three Cygnets? And might
she bring a little étrenne to madame? And I know not
I was very glad the national reputation had gone so far. I
really wished I were Charles Sumner (pardon me, dear Agnes),
that I might properly receive the delegation. But I said, Oh,
certainly! and, as it grew dark, with my admiring cortége
whispering now to the street full of admirers that madame was
Americaine, I returned to the Three Cygnets.
And in the evening they all came. Really, you should see the
pretty basket they brought for an étrenne. I could not
then where they got such exquisite flowers; these lovely
stephanotis blossoms, a perfect wealth of roses, and all
arranged with charming taste in a quaint country basket, such
exists nowhere but in this particular section of this quaint
Normandy. In came the husband, dressed up, and frightened, but
thoroughly good in his look. In came my friend; and then two
sons and two wives, and three or four children: and, my dear
Agnes, one of the sons, I knew him in an instant, was a man we
had at Talbot Court House when your husband was there. I think
the Colonel will remember him,a black-whiskered man, who used
to sing a little song about le vin rouge of Bourgogne.
He did not remember me; that I saw in a moment. It was all so
different, you know. In the hospital, I had on my cap and
and here,well, it was another thing. My hostess knew that
were coming, and had me in her largest room, and I succeeded in
making them all sit down; and I received my formal welcome; and
I thanked in my most Parisian French; and then the conversation
hung fire. But I took my turn now, and turned round to poor
You served in America, did you not? said I.
Ah, yes, madame! I did not know my mother had told you.
No more did she, indeed; and she looked astonished. But I
You seem strong and well.
Ah, yes, madame!
How long since you returned?
As soon as there was peace, madame. We were mustered out in
And does your arm never trouble you?
Oh, never, madame! I did not know my mother had told you.
New astonishment on the part of the mother.
You never had another piece of bone come out?
Oh, no, madame! how did madame know? I did not know my mother
had told you!
And by this time I could not help saying, You Normans care
more for Christmas than we Americans; is it not so, my brave?
And this he would not stand; and he said stoutly, Ah, no,
madame! no, no, jamais! and began an eager defence of
religious enthusiasm of the Americans, and their goodness to
people who were good, if people would only be good. But still
had not the least dream who I was. And I said,
Do the Normans ever drink Burgundy? and to my old hostess,
Madame, could you bring us a flask du vin rouge de
Bourgogne? and then I hummed his little chanson, I am sure
Colonel Barthow will remember it,Deuxgouttesdu vin
My dear Mrs. Barthow, he sprang from his chair, and fell on his
knees, and kissed my hands, before I could stop him. And when
his mother and father, and all the rest, found that I was the
particular soeur de la charité who had had the care of
Louis when he was hurt, and that it was I he had told of that
very day,for the thousandth time, I believe,who gave him
that glass of claret, and cheered up his Christmas, I verily
believe they would have taken me to the church to worship me.
They were not satisfied,the women with kissing me, or the men
with shaking hands with each other,the whole auberge
be called in; and poor I was famous. I need not say I cried my
eyes out; and when, at ten o'clock, they let me go to bed, I
worn out with crying, and laughing, and talking, and listening;
and I believe they were as much upset as I.
Now that is just the beginning; and yet I see I must stop. But,
for forty-eight hours, I have been simply a queen. I can hardly
put my foot to the ground. Christmas morning, these dear
Thibault people came again; and then the curé came; and
some nice Madame Perrons came, and I went to mass with them;
and, after mass, their brother's carriage came; and they would
take no refusals; but with many apologies to my sweet old
hostess, at the Three Cygnets, I was fain to come up to M.
Firmin's lovely château here, and make myself at home
friends shall arrive. It seems the poor Thibaults had come here
to beg the flowers for the étrenne. It is really the
beautiful country residence I have seen in France; and they
on the most patriarchal footing with all the people round them.
I am sure I ought to speak kindly of them. It is the most
fascinating hospitality. So here am I, waiting, with my little
sac de nuit to make me aspettabile; and here I
Christmas dinner. Tell the Colonel that here is THE
TALE; and that is why the letter is so long.
Most truly yours,
ONE CHRISTMAS MORE.
This last Christmas party is Huldah's own. It is hers, at least, as
much as it is any one's. There are five of them, nay, six, with equal
right to precedence in the John o' Groat's house, where she has settled
down. It is one of those comfortable houses which are still left three
miles out from the old State House in Boston. It is not all on one
floor; that would be, perhaps, too much like the golden courts of
heaven. There are two stories; but they are connected by a central
flight of stairs of easy tread (designed by Charles Cummings); so easy,
and so stately withal, that, as you pass over them, you always bless
the builder, and hardly know that you go up or down. Five large rooms
on each floor give ample room for the five heads of the house, if,
indeed, there be not six, as I said before.
Into this Saints' Rest, there have drifted together, by the eternal
law of attraction,Huldah, and Ellen Philbrick (who was with her in
Virginia, and in France, and has been, indeed, but little separated
from her, except on duty, for twenty years), and with them three other
friends. These women,well, I cannot introduce them to you without
writing three stories of true romance, one for each. This quiet,
strong, meditative, helpful saint, who is coming into the parlor now,
is Helen Touro. She was left alone with her baby when The Empire
State went down; and her husband was never heard of more. The love of
that baby warmed her to the love of all others; and, when I first knew
her, she was ruling over a home of babies, whose own mothers or fathers
were not,always with a heart big enough to say there was room for one
more waif in that sanctuary. That older woman, who is writing at the
Davenport in the corner, lightened the cares and smoothed the daily
life of General Schuyler in all the last years of his life, when he was
in the Cabinet, in Brazil, and in Louisiana. His wife was long ill, and
then died. His children needed all a woman's care; and this woman
stepped to the front, cared for them, cared for all his household,
cared for him: and I dare not say how much is due to her of that which
you and I say daily we owe to him. Miss Peters, I see you know. She
served in another regiment; was at the head of the sweetest, noblest,
purest school that ever trained, in five and twenty years, five hundred
girls to be the queens in five hundred happy and strong families. All
of these five,our Huldah and Mrs. Philbrick too, you have seen
before,all of them have been in the service; all of them have known
that perfect service is perfect freedom. I think they know that perfect
service is the highest honor. They have together taken this house, as
they say, for the shelter and home of their old age. But Huldah, as she
plays with your Harry there, does not look to me as if she were
But you said there were six in all.
Did I? I suppose there are. Mrs. Philbrick, are there five captains
in your establishment, or six?
My dear Mr. Hale, why do you ask me? You know there are five
captains and one general. We have persuaded Seth Corbet to make his
home here,yes, the same who went round the world with Mrs. Cradock.
Since her death, he has come home to Boston; and he reports to us, and
makes his head-quarters here. He sees that we are all right every
morning; and then he goes his rounds to see every grandchild of old Mr.
Cradock, and to make sure that every son and daughter of that house is
'all right.' Sometimes he is away over night. This is when somebody in
the whole circle of all their friends is more sick than usual, and
needs a man nurse. That old man was employed by old Mr. Cradock, in
1816, when he first went to housekeeping. He has had all the sons and
all the daughters of that house in his arms; and now that the youngest
of them is five and twenty, and the oldest fifty, I suppose he is not
satisfied any day until he has seen that they and theirs, in their
respective homes, are well. He thinks we here are babies; but he takes
care of us all the more courteously.
Will he dine with you to-day?
I am afraid not; but we shall see him at the Christmas-tree after
dinner. There is to be a tree.
You see, this house was dedicated to the Apotheosis of Noble
Ministry. Over the mantel-piece hung Raphael Morghen's large print of
The Lavatio, Caracci's picture of The Washing of the Feet,the
only copy I ever saw. We asked Huldah about it.
Oh, that was a present from Mr. Burchstadt, a rich manufacturer in
Würtemberg, to Ellen. She stumbled into one of those villages when
everybody was sick and dying of typhus, and tended and watched and
saved, one whole summer long, as Mrs. Ware did at Osmotherly. And this
Mr. Burchstadt wanted to do something, and he sent her this in
On the other side was Kaulbach's own study of Elizabeth of Hungary,
dropping her apron full of roses.
Oh! what a sight the apron discloses;
The viands are changed to real roses!
When I asked Huldah where that came from, she blushed, and said,
Oh, that was a present to me! and led us to Steinler's exquisite
Good Shepherd, in a larger and finer print than I had ever seen. Six
or eight gentlemen in New York, who, when they were dirty babies from
the gutter, had been in Helen Touro's hands, had sent her a portfolio
of beautiful prints, each with this same idea, of seeking what was
lost. This one she had chosen for the sitting-room.
And, on the fourth side, was that dashing group of Horace Vernet's,
Gideon crossing Jordan, with the motto wrought into the frame,
Faint, yet pursuing. These four pictures are all presents to the
girls, as I find I still call them; and, on the easel, Miss Peters
had put her copy of The Tribute Money. There were other pictures in
the room; but these five unconsciously told its story.
The five girls were always all together at Christmas; but, in
practice, each of them lived here only two-fifths of her time. We make
that a rule, said Ellen laughing. If anybody comes for anybody when
there are only two here, those two are engaged to each other; and we
stay. Not but what they can come and stay here if we cannot go to
them. In practice, if any of us in the immense circles which these
saints had befriended were in a scrape,as, if a mother was called
away from home, and there were some children left, or if scarlet fever
got into a house, or if the children had nobody to go to Mt. Desert
with them, or if the new house were to be set in order, and nobody knew
how,in any of the trials of well-ordered families, why, we rode over
to the Saints' Rest to see if we could not induce one of the five to
come and put things through. So that, in practice, there were seldom
more than two on the spot there.
But we do not get to the Christmas dinner. There were covers for
four and twenty; and all the children besides were in a room upstairs,
presided over by Maria Munro, who was in her element there. Then our
party of twenty-four included men and women of a thousand romances, who
had learned and had shown the nobility of service. One or two of us
were invited as novices, in the hope perhaps that we might learn.
Scarcely was the soup served when the door-bell rang. Nothing else
ever made Huldah look nervous. Bartlett, who was there, said in an
aside to me, that he had seen her more calm when there was volley
firing within hearing of her store-room. Then it rang again. Helen
Touro talked more vehemently; and Mrs. Bartlett at her end, started a
great laugh. But, when it rang the third time, something had to be
said; and Huldah asked one of the girls, who was waiting, if there were
no one attending at the door.
Yes 'm, Mr. Corbet.
But the bell rang a fourth time, and a fifth.
Isabel, you can go to the door. Mr. Corbet must have stepped out.
So Isabel went out, but returned with a face as broad as a
soup-plate. Mr. Corbet is there, ma'am.
Sixth door-bell peal,seventh, and eighth.
Mary, I think you had better see if Mr. Corbet has gone away.
Mary returns, face one broad grin.
No, ma'am, Mr. Corbet is there.
Heavy steps in the red parlor. Side door-bella little gong, begins
to ring. Front bell rings ninth time, tenth, and eleventh.
Saint John, as we call him, had seen that something was amiss, and
had kindly pitched in with a dissertation on the passage of the
Red-River Dam, in which the gravy-boats were steamships, and the
cranberry was General Banks, and the aids were spoons. But, when both
door-bells rang together, and there were more steps in the hall, Huldah
said, If you will excuse me, and rose from the table.
No, no, we will not excuse you, cried Clara Hastings. Nobody will
excuse you. This is the one day of the year when you are not to work.
Let me go. So Clara went out. And after Clara went out, the door-bells
rang no more. I think she cut the bell-wires. She soon came back, and
said a man was inquiring his way to the Smells; and they directed him
to Wait's Mills, which she hoped would do. And so Huldah's and
Grace's stupendous housekeeping went on in its solid order, reminding
one of those well-proportioned Worcester teas which are, perhaps, the
crown and glory of the New England science in this matter. I ventured
to ask Sam Root, who sat by me, if the Marlborough were not equal to
And we sat long; and we laughed loud. We talked war and poetry and
genealogy. We rallied Helen Touro about her housekeeping; and Dr.
Worster pretended to give a list of Surgeons and Majors and
Major-Generals who had made love to Huldah. By and by, when the grapes
and the bonbons came, the sixteen children were led in by Maria Munro,
who had, till now, kept them at games of string and hunt the slipper.
And, at last, Seth Corbet flung open the door into the red parlor to
announce The Tree.
Sure enough, there was the tree, as the five saints had prepared it
for the invited children,glorious in gold, and white with wreaths of
snow-flakes, and blazing with candles. Sam Root kissed Grace, and said,
O Grace! do you remember? But the tree itself did not surprise the
children as much as the five tables at the right and the left, behind
and before, amazed the Sainted Five, who were indeed the children now.
A box of the vin rouge de Bourgogne, from Louis, was the first
thing my eye lighted on, and above it a little banner read, Huldah's
table. And then I saw that there were these five tables, heaped with
the Christmas offerings to the five saints. It proved that everybody,
the world over, had heard that they had settled down. Everybody in the
four hemispheres,if there be four,who had remembered the unselfish
service of these five, had thought this a fit time for commemorating
such unselfish love, were it only by such a present as a lump of coal.
Almost everybody, I think, had made Seth Corbet a confidant; and so,
while the five saints were planning their pretty tree for the sixteen
children, the North and the South, and the East and the West, were
sending myrrh and frankincense and gold to them. The pictures were hung
with Southern moss from Barthow. Boys, who were now men, had sent coral
from India, pearl from Ceylon, and would have been glad to send ice
from Greenland, had Christmas come in midsummer; there were diamonds
from Brazil, and silver from Nevada, from those who lived there; there
were books, in the choicest binding, in memory of copies of the same
word, worn by travel, or dabbled in blood; there were pictures, either
by the hand of near friendship, or by the master hand of genius, which
brought back the memories, perhaps, of some old adventure in The
Service,perhaps, as the Kaulbach did, of one of those histories
which makes all service sacred. In five and twenty years of life, these
women had so surrounded themselves, without knowing it or thinking of
it, with loyal, yes, adoring friends, that the accident of their
finding a fixed home had called in all at once this wealth of
acknowledgment from those whom they might have forgotten, but who would
never forget them. And, by the accident of our coming together, we saw,
in these heaps on heaps of offerings of love, some faint record of the
lives they had enlivened, the wounds they had stanched, the tears they
had wiped away, and the homes they had cheered. For themselves, the
five saintsas I have called themwere laughing and crying together,
quite upset in the surprise. For ourselves, there was not one of us
who, in this little visible display of the range of years of service,
did not take in something more of the meaning of,
He who will be chief among you, let him be your servant.
The surprise, the excitement, the laughter, and the tears found vent
in the children's eagerness to be led to their tree; and, in three
minutes, Ellen was opening boxes, and Huldah pulling fire-crackers, as
if they had not been thrown off their balance. But, when each boy and
girl had two arms full, and the fir balsam sent down from New Durham
was nearly bare, Edgar Bartlett pointed to the top bough, where was a
brilliant not noticed before. No one had noticed it,not Seth
himself,who had most of the other secrets of that house in his
possession. I am sure that no man, woman, or child knew how the thing
came there: but Seth lifted the little discoverer high in air, and he
brought it down triumphant. It was a parcel made up in shining silvered
paper. Seth cut the strings.
It contained twelve Maltese crosses of gold, with as many jewels,
one in the heart of each,I think the blazing twelve of the
Revelations. They were displayed on ribbons of blue and white, six of
which bore Huldah's, Helen's, Ellen Philbrick's, Hannah's, Miss
Peters's, and Seth Corbet's names. The other six had no names; but on
the gold of these was marked,From Huldah, to From Helen, to
- and so on, as if these were decorations which they were to pass
along. The saints themselves were the last to understand the
decorations; but the rest of us caught the idea, and pinned them on
their breasts. As we did so, the ribbons unfolded, and displayed the
motto of the order:
Henceforth I call you not servants, I have called you friends.
It was at that Christmas that the ORDER OF LOVING SERVICE was
THE TWO PRINCES.
A STORY FOR CHILDREN.
There was a King of Hungary whose name was Adelbert.
When he lived at home, which was not often, it was in a castle of
many towers and many halls and many stairways, in the city of Buda, by
the side of the river Donau.
He had four daughters, and only one son, who was to be the King
after him, whose name was Ladislaus. But it was the custom of those
times, as boys and girls grew up, to send them for their training to
some distance from their home, even for many months at a time, to try a
little experiment on them, and see how they fared; and so, at the time
I tell you of, there was staying in the castle of Buda the Prince Bela,
who was the son of the King of Bohemia; and he and the boy Ladislaus
studied their lessons together, and flew their kites, and hunted for
otters, and rode with the falconers together.
One day as they were studying with the tutor, who was a priest named
Stephen, he gave to them a book of fables, and each read a fable.
Ladislaus read the fable of the
The sky-lark sat on the topmost bough of the savy-tree, and was
waked by the first ray of the sun. Then the sky-lark flew and flew up
and up to the topmost arch of the sky, and sang the hymn of the
But a frog, who was croaking in the cranberry marsh, said, Why do
you take such pains and fly so high? the sun shines here, and I can
And the bird said, God has made me to fly. God has made me to see.
I will fly as high as He will lift me, and sing so loud that all shall
* * * * *
And when the little Prince Ladislaus had read the fable, he cried
out, The sky-lark is the bird for me, and I will paint his picture on
my shield after school this morning.
Then the Prince Bela read the next fable,the fable of the
A good beaver found one day a little water-rat almost dead. His
father and mother had been swept away by a freshet, and the little rat
was almost starved. But the kind beaver gave him of her own milk, and
brought him up in her own lodge with her children, and he got well, and
could eat, and swim, and dive with the best of them.
But one day there was a great alarm, that the beavers' dam was
giving way before the water. Come one, come all, said the grandfather
of the beavers, come to the rescue. So they all started, carrying
sticks and bark with them, the water-rat and all. But as they swam
under an old oak-tree's root, the water-rat stopped in the darkness,
and then he quietly turned round and went back to the hut. It will be
hard work, said he and there are enough of them. There were enough
of them. They mended the dam by working all night and by working all
day. But, as they came back, a great wave of the freshet came pouring
over the dam and, though the dam stood firm, the beavers were swept
away,away and away, down the river into the sea, and they died there.
And the water-rat lived in their grand house by himself, and had all
their stores of black-birch bark and willow bark and sweet poplar bark
for his own.
* * * * *
That was a clever rat, said the Prince Bela. I will paint the rat
on my shield, when school is done. And the priest Stephen was very sad
when he said so; and the Prince Ladislaus was surprised.
So they went to the play-room and painted their shields. The shields
were made of the bark of hemlock-trees. Ladislaus chipped off the rough
bark till the shield was white, and made on the place the best sky-lark
he could paint there. And Bela watched him, and chipped off the rough
bark from his shield, and said, You paint so well, now paint my
water-rat for me. No, said Ladislaus, though he was very
good-natured, I cannot paint it well. You must paint it yourself. And
Bela did so.
So the boys both grew up, and one became King of Hungary, and one
was the King of the Bohemians. And King Ladislaus carried on his banner
the picture of a sky-lark; and the ladies of the land embroidered
sky-larks for the scarfs and for the pennons of the soldiers, and for
the motto of the banner were the Latin words Propior Deo, which mean
Nearer to God. And King Bela carried the water-rat for his
cognizance; and the ladies of his land embroidered water-rats for the
soldiers; and his motto was Enough.
And in these times a holy man from Palestine came through all the
world; and he told how the pilgrims to the tomb of Christ were beaten
and starved by the Saracens, and how many of them were dying in
dungeons. And he begged the princes and the lords and ladies, for the
love of God and the love of Christ, that they would come and rescue
these poor people, and secure the pilgrims in all coming time. And King
Ladislaus said to his people, We will do the best we can, and serve
God as He shows us how! And the people said, We will do the best we
can, and save the people of Christ from the infidel! And they all came
together to the place of arms; and the King chose a hundred of the
bravest and healthiest of the young men, all of whom told the truth,
and no one of whom was afraid to die, and they marched with him to the
land of Christ; and as they marched they sang, Propior Deo,Nearer
And Peter the Hermit went to Bohemia, and told the story of the
cruel Saracens and the sufferings of the pilgrims to King Bela and his
people. And the King said, Is it far away? And the Hermit said, Far,
far away. And the King said, Ah, well,they must get out as they got
in. We will take care of Bohemia. So the Hermit went on to Saxony, to
tell his story.
And King Ladislaus and his hundred true young men rode and rode day
by day, and came to the Mount of Olives just in time to be at the side
of the great King Godfrey, when he broke the Paynim's walls, and dashed
into the city of Jerusalem. And King Ladislaus and his men rode
together along the Way of Tears, where Christ bore the cross-beam upon
his shoulder, and he sat on the stone where the cross had been reared,
and he read the gospel through again; and there he prayed his God that
he might always bear his cross bravely, and that, like the Lord Jesus,
he might never be afraid to die.
And when they had all come home to Hungary, their time hung very
heavy on their hands. And the young men said to the King, Lead us to
war against the Finns, or lead us to war against the Russ.
But the King said, No! if they spare our people, we spare their
people. Let us have peace. And he called the young men who had fought
with him, and he said, The time hangs heavy with us; let us build a
temple here to the living God, and to the honor of his Son. We will
carve on its walls the story we have seen, and while we build we will
remember Zion and the Way of Tears.
And the young men said, We are not used to building.
Nor am I, said the King; but let us build, and build as best we
can, and give to God the best we have and the best we know.
So they dug the deep trenches for the foundations, and they sent
north and south, and east and west for the wisest builders who loved
the Lord Christ; and the builders came, and the carvers came, and the
young men learned to use the chisel and the hammer; and the great
Cathedral grew year by year, as a pine-tree in the forest grows above
the birches and the yew-trees on the ground.
And once King Bela came to visit his kinsman, and they rode out to
see the builders. And King Ladislaus dismounted from his horse, and
asked Bela to dismount, and gave to him a chisel and a hammer.
No, said the King Bela, it will hurt my hands. In my land we have
workmen whom we pay to do these things. But I like to see you work.
So he sat upon his horse till dinner-time, and he went home.
And year by year the Cathedral grew. And a thousand pinnacles were
built upon the towers and on the roof and along the walls; and on each
pinnacle there fluttered a golden sky-lark. And on the altar in the
Cathedral was a scroll of crimson, and on the crimson scroll were
letters of gold, and the letters were in the Latin language, and said
Propior Deo, and on a blue scroll underneath, in the language of the
people they were translated, and it said, Nearer to Thee.
And another Hermit came, and he told the King that the Black Death
was ravaging the cities of the East; that half the people of
Constantinople were dead; that the great fair at Adrianople was closed;
that the ships on the Black Sea had no sailors; and that there would be
no food for the people on the lower river.
And the King said, Is the Duke dead, whom we saw at Bucharest; is
the Emperor dead, who met me at Constantinople?
No, your Grace, said the Hermit, it pleases the Lord that in the
Black Death only those die who live in hovels and in towns. The Lord
has spared those who live in castles and in palaces.
Then, said King Ladislaus, I will live as my people live, and I
will die as my people die. The Lord Jesus had no pillow for his head,
and no house for his lodging; and as the least of his brethren fares so
will I fare, and as I fare so shall they.
So the King and the hundred braves pitched their tents on the high
land above the old town, around the new Cathedral, and the Queen and
the ladies of the court went with them. And day by day the King and the
Queen and the hundred braves and their hundred ladies went up and down
the filthy wynds and courts of the city, and they said to the poor
people there, Come, live as we live, and die as we die.
And the people left the holes of pestilence and came and lived in
the open air of God.
And when the people saw that the King fared as they fared, the
people said, We also will seek God as the King seeks Him, and will
serve Him as he serves Him.
And day by day they found others who had no homes fit for Christian
men, and brought them upon the high land and built all together their
tents and booths and tabernacles, open to the sun and light, and to the
smile and kiss and blessing of the fresh air of God. And there grew a
new and beautiful city there.
And so it was, that when the Black Death passed from the East to the
West, the Angel of Death left the city of Buda on one side, and the
people never saw the pestilence with their eyes. The Angel of Death
passed by them, and rested upon the cities of Bohemia.
And King Ladislaus grew old. His helmet seemed to him more heavy.
His sleep seemed to him more coy. But he had little care, for he had a
loving wife, and he had healthy, noble sons and daughters, who loved
God, and who told the truth, and who were not afraid to die.
But one day, in his happy prosperity, there came to him a messenger
running, who said in the Council, Your Grace, the Red Russians have
crossed the Red River of the north, and they are marching with their
wives and their children with their men of arms in front, and their
wagons behind, and they say they will find a land nearer the sun, and
to this land are they coming.
And the old King smiled; and he said to those that were left of the
hundred brave men who took the cross with him, Now we will see if our
boys could have fought at Godfrey's side. For us it matters little. One
way or another way we shall come nearer to God.
And the armorers mended the old armor, and the young men girded on
swords which had never been tried in fight, and the pennons that they
bore were embroidered by their sweethearts and sisters as in the old
days of the Crusades, and with the same device of a sky-lark in
mid-heaven, and the motto, Nearer, my God, to Thee.
And there came from the great Cathedral the wise men who had come
from all the lands. They found the King, and they said to him, Your
Grace, we know how to build the new defences for the land, and we will
guard the river ways, that the barbarians shall never enter them.
And when the people knew that the Red Russians were on the way, they
met in the square and marched to the palace, and Robert the Smith
mounted the steps of the palace and called the King. And he said, The
people are here to bid the King be of good heart. The people bid me say
that they will die for their King and for his land.
And the King took from his wife's neck the blue ribbon that she
wore, with a golden sky-lark on it, and bound it round the blacksmith's
arm, and he said, If I die, it is nothing; if I live, it is nothing;
that is in God's hand. But whether we live or die, let us draw as near
Him as we may.
And the Blacksmith Robert turned to the people, and with his loud
voice, told what the King had said.
And the people answered in the shout which the Hungarians shout to
this day, Let us die for our king! Let us die for our king!
And the King called the Queen hastily, and they and their children
led the host to the great Cathedral.
And the old priest Stephen, who was ninety years old, stood at the
altar, and he read the gospel where it says, Fear not, little flock,
it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
And he read the other gospel where the Lord says, And I, if I be
lifted up, will draw all men unto me. And he read the epistle where it
says, No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. And he
chanted the psalm, The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my
And fifty thousand men, with one heart and one voice, joined with
him. And the King joined, and the Queen to sing, The Lord is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer.
And they marched from the Cathedral, singing in the language of the
country, Propior Deo, which is to say in our tongue, Nearer, my God,
And the aged braves who had fought with Godfrey, and the younger men
who had learned of arms in the University, went among the people and
divided them into companies for the war. And Robert the Blacksmith, and
all the guild of the blacksmiths, and of the braziers, and of the
coppersmiths, and of the whitesmiths, even the goldsmiths, and the
silversmiths, made weapons for the war; and the masons and the
carpenters, and the ditchers and delvers marched out with the cathedral
builders to the narrow passes of the river, and built new the
And the Lady Constance and her daughters, and every lady in the
land, went to the churches and the convents, and threw them wide open.
And in the kitchens they baked bread for the soldiers; and in the
churches they spread couches for the sick or for the wounded.
And when the Red Russians came in their host, there was not a man,
or woman, or child in all Hungary but was in the place to which God had
called him, and was doing his best in his place for his God, for the
Church of Christ, and for his brothers and sisters of the land.
And the host of the Red Russians was turned aside, as at the street
corner you have seen the dirty water of a gutter turned aside by the
curbstone. They fought one battle against the Hungarian host, and were
driven as the blackbirds are driven by the falcons. And they gathered
themselves and swept westward; and came down upon the passes to
And there were no fortresses at the entrance to Bohemia; for King
Bela had no learned men who loved him. And there was no army in the
plains of Bohemia; for his people had been swept away in the
pestilence. And there were no brave men who had fought with Godfrey,
and knew the art of arms, for in those old days the King had said, It
is far away; and we have 'enough' in Bohemia.
So the Red Russians, who call themselves the Szechs, took his land
from him; and they live there till this day. And the King, without a
battle, fled from the back-door of his palace, in the disguise of a
charcoal-man; and he left his queen and his daughters to be
cinder-girls in the service of the Chief of the Red Russians.
And the false charcoal-man walked by day, and walked by night, till
he found refuge in the castle of the King Ladislaus; and he met him in
the old school-room where they read the fables together. And he
remembered how the water-rat came to the home of the beavers.
And he said to King Ladislaus,
Ah, me! do you remember when we were boys together? Do you remember
the fable of the Sky-lark, and the fable of the Water-rat?
I remember both, said the King. And he was silent.
God has been very kind to you, said the beggar; and He has been
very hard to me.
And the King said nothing.
But the old priest Stephen, said,
God is always kind. But God will not give us other fruit than we
sow seed for. The King here has tried to serve God as he knew how; with
one single eye he has looked on the world of God, and he has made the
best choice he knew. And God has given him what he thought not of:
brave men for his knights; wise men for his council; a free and loving
people for his army. And you have not looked with a single eye; your
eye was darkened. You saw only what served yourself. And you said,
'This is enough;' and you had no brave men for your knights; no wise
men for your council; no people for your army. You chose to look down,
and to take a selfish brute for your adviser. And he has led you so
far. We choose to look up; to draw nearer God; and where He leads we
Then King Ladislaus ordered that in the old school-room a bed should
be spread for Bela; and that every day his breakfast and his dinner and
his supper should be served to him; and he lived there till he died.
THE STORY OF OELLO.
Once upon a time there was a young girl, who had the pretty name of
Oello. I say, once upon a time, because I do not know when the time
was,nor do I know what the place was,though my story, in the main,
is a true story. I do not mean that I sat by and saw Oello when she
wove and when she spun. But I know she did weave and did spin. I do not
mean that I heard her speak the word I tell of; for it was many, many
hundred years ago. But I do know that she must have said some such
words; for I know many of the things which she did, and much of what
kind of girl she was.
She grew up like other girls in her country. She did not know how to
read. None of them knew how to read. But she knew how to braid straw,
and to make fish-nets and to catch fish. She did not know how to spell.
Indeed, in that country they had no letters. But she knew how to split
open the fish she had caught, how to clean them, how to broil them on
the coals, and how to eat them neatly. She had never studied the
analysis of her language. But she knew how to use it like a lady;
that is, prettily, simply, without pretence, and always truly. She
could sing her baby brother to sleep. She could tell stories to her
sisters all day long. And she and they were not afraid when evening
came, or when they were in any trouble, to say a prayer aloud to the
good God. So they got along, although they could not analyze their
language. She knew no geography. She could count her fingers, and the
stars in the Southern Cross. She had never seen Orion, or the stars in
the Great Bear, or the Pole-Star.
Oello was very young when she married a young kinsman, with whom she
had grown up since they were babies. Nobody knows much about him. But
he loved her and she loved him. And when morning came they were not
afraid to pray to God together,and when night came she asked her
husband to forgive her if she had troubled him, and he asked her to
forgive him,so that their worries and trials never lasted out the
day. And they lived a very happy life, till they were very old and
There is a bad gap in the beginning of their history. I do not know
how it happened. But the first I knew of them, they had left their old
home and were wandering alone on foot toward the South. Sometimes I
have thought a great earthquake had wrecked their old happy home.
Sometimes I have thought there was some horrid pestilence, or fire. No
matter what happened, something happened,so that Oello and her
husband, of a hot, very hot day, were alone under a forest of laurels
mixed with palms, with bright flowering orchids on them, looking like a
hundred butterflies; ferns, half as high as the church is, tossing over
them; nettles as large as trees, and tangled vines, threading through
the whole. They were tired, oh, how tired! hungry, oh, how hungry! and
hot and foot-sore.
I wish so we were out of this hole, said he to her, and yet I am
afraid of the people we shall find when we come down to the lake side.
I do not know, said Oello, why they should want to hurt us.
I do not know why they should want to, said he, but I am afraid
they will hurt us.
But we do not want to hurt them, said she. For my part, all I
want is a shelter to live under; and I will help them take care of
their children, and
'I will spin their flax,
And weave their thread,
And pound their corn,
And bake their bread.'
How will you tell them that you will do this? said he.
I will do it, said Oello, and that will be better than telling
But do not you just wish, said he, that you could speak five
little words of their language, to say to them that we come as friends,
and not as enemies?
Oello laughed very heartily. Enemies, said she, terrible enemies,
who have two sticks for their weapons, two old bags for their stores,
and cotton clothes for their armor. I do not believe more than half the
army will turn out against us. So Oello pulled out the potatoes from
the ashes, and found they were baked; she took a little salt from her
haversack or scrip, and told her husband that dinner would be ready, if
he would only bring some water. He pretended to groan, but went, and
came in a few minutes with two gourds full, and they made a very merry
* * * * *
The same evening they came cautiously down on the beautiful meadow
land which surrounded the lake they had seen. It is one of the most
beautiful countries in the world. It was an hour before sunset,the
hour, I suppose, when all countries are most beautiful. Oello and her
husband came joyfully down the hill, through a little track the llamas
had made toward the water, wondering at the growth of the wild grasses,
and, indeed, the freshness of all the green; when they were startled by
meeting a horde of the poor, naked, half-starved Indians, who were just
as much alarmed to meet with them.
I do not think that the most stupid of them could have supposed
Oello an enemy, nor her husband. For they stepped cheerfully down the
path, waving boughs of fresh cinchona as tokens of peace, and looking
kindly and pleasantly on the poor Indians, as I believe nobody had
looked on them before. There were fifty of the savages, but it was true
that they were as much afraid of the two young Northerners as if they
had been an army. They saw them coming down the hill, with the western
sun behind them, and one of the women cried out, They are children of
the sun, they are children of the sun! and Oello and her husband
looked so as if they had come from a better world that all the other
savages believed it.
But the two young people came down so kindly and quickly, that the
Indian women could not well run away. And when Oello caught one of the
little babies up, and tossed it in her arms, and fondled it, and made
it laugh, the little girl's mother laughed too. And when they had all
once laughed together, peace was made among them all, and Oello saw
where the Indian women had been lying, and what their poor little
shelters were, and she led the way there, and sat down on a log that
had fallen there, and called the children round her, and began teaching
them a funny game with a bit of crimson cord. Nothing pleases savage
people or tame people more than attention to their children, and in
less time than I have been telling this they were all good friends. The
Indian women produced supper. Pretty poor supper it was. Some
fresh-water clams from the lake, some snails which Oello really
shuddered at, but some bananas which were very nice, and some ulloco, a
root Oello had never seen before, and which she thought sickish. But
she acted on her motto. I will do the best I can, she had said all
along; so she ate and drank, as if she had always been used to raw
snails and to ulloco, and made the wild women laugh by trying to
imitate the names of the strange food. In a few minutes after supper
the sun set. There is no twilight in that country. When the sun goes
Like battle target red,
He rushes to his burning bed,
Dyes the whole wave with ruddy light,
Then sinks at once, and all is night.
The savage people showed the strangers a poor little booth to sleep
in, and went away to their own lairs, with many prostrations, for they
really thought them children of the sun.
Oello and her husband laughed very heartily when they knew they were
alone. Oello made him promise to go in the morning early for potatoes,
and oca, and mashua, which are two other tubers like potatoes which
grow there. And we will show them, said she, how to cook them. For
they had seen by the evening feast, that the poor savage people had no
knowledge of the use of fire. So, early in the morning, he went up a
little way on the lake shore, and returned with strings of all these
roots, and with another string of fish he had caught in a brook above.
And when the savage people waked and came to Oello's hut, they found
her and her husband just starting their fire,a feat these people had
never seen before.
He had cut with his copper knife a little groove in some soft
palm-wood, and he had fitted in it a round piece of iron-wood, and
round the iron-wood had bound a bow-string, and while Oello held the
palm-wood firm, he made the iron-wood fly round and round and round,
till the pith of the palm smoked, and smoked, and at last a flake of
the pith caught fire, and then another and another, and Oello dropped
other flakes upon these, and blew them gently, and fed them with dry
leaves, till they were all in a blaze.
The savage people looked on with wonder and terror. They cried out
when they saw the blaze, They are children of the sun,they are
children of the sun!and ran away. Oello and her husband did not know
what they said, and went on broiling the fish and baking the potatoes,
and the mashua, and the oca, and the ulloco.
And when they were ready, Oello coaxed some of the children to come
back, and next their mothers came and next the men. But still they
said, They are children of the sun. And when they ate of the food
that had been cooked for them, they said it was the food of the
Now, in Oello's home, this work of making the fire from wood had
been called menial work, and was left to servants only. But even the
princes of that land were taught never to order another to do what they
could not do themselves. And thus it happened that the two young
travellers could do it so well. And thus it was, that, because they did
what they could, the savage people honored them with such exceeding
honor, and because they did the work of servants they called them gods.
As it is written: He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
And this was much the story of that day and many days. While her
husband went off with the men, taught them how he caught the fish, and
how they could catch huanacos, Oello sat in the shade with the
children, who were never tired of pulling at the crimson cord around
her waist, and at the tassels of her head-dress. All savage children
are curious about the dress of their visitors. So it was easy for Oello
to persuade them to go with her and pick tufts of wild cotton, till
they had quite a store of it, and then to teach them to spin it on
distaffs she made for them from laurel-wood, and at last to braid it
and to knit it,till at last one night, when the men came home, Oello
led out thirty of the children in quite a grand procession, dressed all
of them in pretty cotton suits they had knit for themselves, instead of
the filthy, greasy skins they had always worn before. This was a great
triumph for Oello; but when the people would gladly have worshipped
her, she only said, I did what I could,I did what I could,say no
more, say no more.
And as the year passed by, she and her husband taught the poor
people how, if they would only plant the maize, they could have all
they wanted in the winter, and if they planted the roots of the ulloco,
and the oca, and the mashua, and the potato, they would have all they
needed of them; how they might make long fish-ways for the fish, and
pitfalls for the llama. And they learned the language of the poor
people, and taught them the language to which they themselves were
born. And year by year their homes grew neater and more cheerful. And
year by year the children were stronger and better. And year by year
the world in that part of it was more and more subdued to the will and
purpose of a good God. And whenever Manco, Oello's husband, was
discouraged, she always said, We will do the best we can, and always
it proved that that was all that a good God wanted them to do.
It was from the truth and steadiness of those two people, Manco and
Oello, that the great nation of Peru was raised up from a horde of
savages, starving in the mountains, to one of the most civilized and
happy nations of their times. Unfortunately for their descendants, they
did not learn the use of iron or gunpowder, so that the cruel Spaniards
swept them and theirs away. But for hundreds of years they lived
peacefully and happily,growing more and more civilized with every
year, because the young Oello and her husband Manco had done what they
could for them.
They did not know much. But what they knew they could do. They were
not, so far as we know, skilful in talking. But they were cheerful in
They did not hide their light under a bushel. They made it shine on
all that came around. Their duties were the humblest, only making a
fire in the morning, cleaning potatoes and cooking them, spinning,
braiding, twisting, and weaving. This was the best Oello could do. She
did that, and in doing it she reared an empire. We can contrast her
life with that of the savages around her. As we can see a drop of blood
when it falls into a cup of water, we can see how that one life swayed
theirs. If she had lived among her kindred, and done at home these
simple things, we should never have heard her name. But none the less
would she have done them. None the less, year in and year out, century
in and century out, would that sweet, loving, true, unselfish life have
told in God's service. And he would have known it, though you and
Iwho are we?had never heard her name!
Forgotten! do not ever think that anything is forgotten!
LOVE IS THE WHOLE.
A STORY FOR CHILDREN.
This is a story about some children who were living together in a
Western State, in a little house on the prairie, nearly two miles from
any other. There were three boys and three girls; the oldest girl was
seventeen, and her oldest brother a year younger. Their mother had died
two or three years before, and now their father grew sick,more sick
and more, and died also. The children were taking the best care they
could of him, wondering and watching. But no care could do much, and so
he told them. He told them all that he should not live long; but that
when he died he should not be far from them, and should be with their
dear mother. Remember, he said, to love each other. Be kind to each
other. Stick together, if you can. Or, if you separate, love one
another as if you were together. He did not say any more then. He lay
still awhile, with his eyes closed; but every now and then a sweet
smile swept over his face, so that they knew he was awake. Then he
roused up once more, and said, Love is the whole, George; love is the
whole,and so he died.
I have no idea that the children, in the midst of their grief and
loneliness, took in his meaning. But afterwards they remembered it
again and again, and found out why he said it to them.
Any of you would have thought it a queer little house. It was not a
log cabin. They had not many logs there. But it was no larger than the
log cabin which General Grant is building in the picture. There was a
little entry-way at one end, and two rooms opening on the right as you
went. A flight of steps went up into the loft, and in the loft the boys
slept in two beds. This was all. But if they had no rooms for servants,
on the other hand they had no servants for rooms. If they had no
hot-water pipes, on the other hand a large kettle hung on the crane
above the kitchen fire, and there was but a very short period of any
day that one could not dip out hot water. They had no gas-pipes laid
through the house. But they went to bed the earlier, and were the more
sure to enjoy the luxury of the great morning illumination by the sun.
They lost but few steps in going from room to room. They were never
troubled for want of fresh air. They had no door-bell, so no guest was
ever left waiting in the cold. And though they had no speaking-tubes in
the house, still they found no difficulty in calling each other if
Ethan were up stairs and Alice wanted him to come down.
Their father was buried, and the children were left alone. The first
night after the funeral they stole to their beds as soon as they could,
after the mock supper was over. The next morning George and Fanny found
themselves the first to meet at the kitchen hearth. Each had tried to
anticipate the other in making the morning fire. Each confessed to the
other that there had been but little sleep, and that the night had
seemed hopelessly long.
But I have thought it all over, said the brave, stout boy. Father
told us to stick together as long as we can. And I know I can manage
it. The children will all do their best when they understand it. And I
know, though father could not believe it, I know that I can manage with
the team. We will never get in debt. I shall never drink. Drink and
debt, as he used to say, are the only two devils. Never you cry,
darling Fanny, I know we can get along.
George, said Fanny, I know we can get along if you say so. I know
it will be very hard upon you. There are so many things the other young
men do which you will not be able to do; and so many things which they
have which you might have. But none of them has a sister who loves them
as I love you. And, as he said, 'Love is the whole.'
I suppose those words over the hearth were almost the only words of
sentiment which ever passed between those two about their plans. But
from that moment those plans went forward more perfectly than if they
had been talked over at every turn, and amended every day. That is the
way with all true stories of hearth and home.
For instance, it was only that evening, when the day's work of all
the six was doneand for boys and girls, it was hard work, tooFanny
and George would have been glad enough, both of them, to take each a
book, and have the comfort of resting and reading. But George saw that
the younger girls looked down-cast and heavy, and that the boys were
whispering round the door-steps as if they wanted to go down to the
blacksmith's shop by way of getting away from the sadness of the house.
He hated to have them begin the habit of loafing there, with all the
lazy boys and men from three miles round. And so he laid down his book,
and said, as cheerily as if he had not laid his father's body in the
grave the day before,
What shall we do to-night that we can all do together? Let us have
something that we have never had before. Let us try what Mrs. Chisholm
told us about. Let us act a ballad.
Of course the children were delighted with acting. George knew that,
and Fanny looked across so gratefully to him, and laid her book away
also; and, in a minute, Ethan, the young carpenter of the family, was
putting up sconces for tallow candles to light the scenes, and Fanny
had Sarah and Alice out in the wood-house, with the shawls, and the old
ribbons, and strips of bright calico, which made up the dresses, and
George instructed Walter as to the way in which he should arrange his
armor and his horse, and so, after a period of preparation, which was
much longer than the period of performance, they got ready to act in
the kitchen the ballad of Lochinvar.
The children had a happy evening. They were frightened when they
went to bedthe little onesbecause they had been so merry. They came
together with George and Fanny, and read their Bible as they had been
used to do with their father, and the last text they read was, Love is
the fulfilling of the law. So the little ones went to bed, and left
George and Fanny again together.
Pretty hard, was it not? said she, smiling through her tears. But
it is so much best for them that home should be the happiest place of
all for them. After all, 'Love is the whole.'
And that night's sacrifice, which the two older children made to the
younger brothers and sisters as it were over their father's grave, was
the beginning of many such nights, and of many other joint amusements
which the children arranged together. They read Dickens aloud. They
cleared out the corn-room at the end of the wood-house for a place for
their dialogues and charades. The neighbors' children liked to come in,
and, under very strict rules of early hours and of good behavior, they
came. And George and Fanny found, not only that they were getting a
reputation for keeping their own little flock in order, but that the
nicest children all around were intrusted to their oversight, even by
the most careful fathers and mothers. All this pleasure to the children
came from the remembrance that Love is the whole.
Far from finding themselves a lonely and forsaken family, these boys
and girls soon found that they were surrounded with friends. George was
quite right in assuming that he could manage the team, and could keep
the little farm up, not to its full production under his father, but to
a crop large enough to make them comfortable. Every little while there
had to be a consultation. Mr. Snyder came down one day to offer him
forty dollars a month and his board, if he would go off on a surveying
party and carry chain for the engineers. It would be in a good line for
promotion. Forty dollars a month to send home to Fanny was a great
temptation. And George and Fanny put an extra pine-knot on the fire,
after the children had gone to bed, that they might talk it over. But
George declined the proposal, with many thanks to Mr. Snyder. He said
to him, that, if he went away, the whole household would be very much
weakened. The boys could not carry on the farm alone, and would have to
hire out. He thought they were too young for that. After all, Mr.
Snyder, 'Love is the whole.' And Mr. Snyder agreed with him.
Then, as a few years passed by, after another long council, in which
another pine-knot was sacrificed on the hearth, and in which Walter
assisted with George and Fanny, it was agreed that Walter should hire
out. He had a chance, as they said, to go over to the Stacy
Brothers, in the next county. Now the Stacy Brothers had the greatest
stock farm in all that part of Illinois. They had to hire a great deal
of help, and it was a great question to George and Fanny whether poor
Walter might not get more harm than good there. But they told Walter
perfectly frankly their doubts and their hopes. And he said boldly,
Never you fear me. Do you think I am such a fool as to forget? Do I
not know that 'Love is the whole'? Shall I ever forget who taught us
so? And so it was determined that he should go.
Yes, and he went. The Stacys' great establishment was different
indeed from the little cabin he had left. But the other boys there, and
the men he met, Norwegians, Welshmen, Germans, Yankees, all sorts of
people, all had hearts just like his heart. And a helpful boy, honest
as a clock and brave as St. Paul, who really tried to serve every one
as he found opportunity, made friends on the great stock farm just as
he had in the corn-room at the end of the wood-house. And once a month,
when their wages were paid, he was able to send home the lion's share
of his to Fanny, in letters which every month were written a little
better, and seemed a little more easy for him to write. And when
Thanksgiving came, Mr. George Stacy sent him home for a fortnight, with
a special message to his sister, that he could not do without him, and
he wished she would send him a dozen of such boys. He knew how to raise
oxen, he said; but would Miss Fanny tell him how she brought up boys
I could have told him, said Walter, but I did not choose to; I
could have told him that love was the whole.
And that story of Walter is only the story of the way in which Ethan
also kept up the home tie, and came back, when he got a chance, from
his voyages. His voyages were not on the sea. He hired out with a
canal-boatman. Sometimes they went to the lake, and once they set sail
there and came as far as Cleveland. Ethan made a great deal of fun in
pretending to tell great sea-stories, like Swiss Family Robinson and
Sinbad the Sailor. Fresh-water voyaging has its funny side, as has the
deep-sea sailing. But Ethan did not hold to it long. His experience
with grain brought him at last to Chicago, and he engaged there in the
work of an elevator. But he lived always the old home life. There were
three other boys he got acquainted with, one at Mr. Eggleston's church,
one at the Custom House, and one at the place where he got his dinner,
and they used to come up to his little room in the seventh story of the
McKenzie House, and sit on his bed and in his chairs, just as the boys
from the blacksmith's came into the corn-room. These four boys made a
literary club for reading Shakespeare and the British essayists.
Often did they laugh afterwards at its title. They called it the Club
of the Tetrarchy, because they thought it grand to have a Greek name.
Whatever its name was, it kept them out of mischief. These boys grew up
to be four ruling powers in Western life. And when, years after, some
one asked Ethan how it was that he had so stanch a friend in Torrey,
Ethan told the history of the seventh-story room at the McKenzie House,
and he said, Love is the whole.
Central in all his life was the little cabin of two rooms and a loft
over it. There is no day of his life, from that time to this, of which
Fanny cannot tell you the story from his weekly letters home. For
though she does not live in the cabin now, she keeps the old letters
filed and in order, and once a week steadily Ethan has written to her,
and the letters are all sealed now with his own seal-ring, and on the
seal-ring is carved the inscription, Love is the whole.
I must not try to tell you the story of Alice's fortunes, or
Sarah's. Every day of their lives was a romance, as is every day of
yours and mine. Every day was a love-story, as may be every day of
yours and mine, if we will make it so. As they all grew older their
homes were all somewhat parted. The boys became men and married. The
girls became women and married. George never pulled down the old
farm-house, not even when he and Mr. Vaux built the beautiful house
that stands next to it to-day. He put trellises on the sides of it. He
trained cotoneaster and Roxbury wax-work over it. He carved a cross
himself, and fastened it in the gable. Above the door, as you went in,
was a picture of Mary Mother and her Child, with this inscription:
Holy cell and holy shrine,
For the Maid and Child divine!
Remember, thou that seest her bending
O'er that babe upon her knee,
All heaven is ever thus extending
Its arms of love round thee.
Such love shall bless our archèd porch;
Crowned with his cross, our cot becomes a church.
And in that little church he gathered the boys and girls of the
neighborhood every Sunday afternoon, and told them stories and they
sang together. And on the week days he got up children's parties there,
which all the children thought rather the best experiences of the week,
and he and his wife and his own children grew to think the hours in the
cabin the best hours of all. There were pictures on the walls; they
painted the windows themselves with flower-pictures, and illuminated
them with colored leaves. But there were but two inscriptions. These
were over the inside of the two doors, and both inscriptions were the
same,Love is the whole.
They told all these stories, and a hundred more, at a great
Thanksgiving party after the war. Walter and his wife and his children
came from Sangamon County; and the General and all his family came down
from Winetka; and Fanny and the Governor and all their seven came all
the way from Minnesota; and Alice and her husband and all her little
ones came up the river, and so across from Quincy; and Sarah and
Gilbert, with the twins and the babies, came in their own carriage all
the way from Horace. So there was a Thanksgiving dinner set for all the
six, and the six husbands and wives, and the twenty-seven children. In
twenty years, since their father died, those brothers and sisters had
lived for each other. They had had separate houses, but they had spent
the money in them for each other. No one of them had said that anything
he had was his own. They had confided wholly each in each. They had
passed through much sorrow, and in that sorrow had strengthened each
other. They had passed through much joy, and the joy had been
multiplied tenfold because it was joy that was shared. At the
Thanksgiving they acted the ballad of Lochinvar again, or rather some
of the children did. And that set Fanny the oldest and Sarah the
youngest to telling to the oldest nephews and nieces some of the
stories of the cabin days. But Fanny said, when the children asked for
more, There is no need of any more,'Love is the whole.'
CHRISTMAS AND ROME.
The first Christmas this in which a Roman Senate has sat in Rome
since the old-fashioned Roman Senates went under,or since they went
up, if we take the expressive language of our Chicago friends.
And Pius IX. is celebrating Christmas with an uncomfortable look
backward, and an uncomfortable look forward, and an uncomfortable look
all around. It is a suggestive matter, this Italian Parliament sitting
in Rome. It suggests a good deal of history and a good deal of
They say (whoever they may be) that somewhere in Rome there is a
range of portraits of popes, running down from never so far back; that
only one niche was left in the architecture, which received the
portrait of Pius IX., and that then that place was full. Maybe it is
so. I did not see the row. But I have heard the story a thousand times.
Be it true, be it false, there are, doubtless, many other places where
portraits of coming popes could be hung. There is a little wall-room
left in the City Hall of New York. There are, also, other palaces in
which popes could live. Palaces are as plenty in America as are Pullman
cars. But it is possible that there are no such palaces in Rome.
So this particular Christmas sets one careering back a little, to
look at that mysterious connection of Rome with Christianity, which has
held on so steadily since the first Christmas got itself put on
historical record by a Roman census-maker. Humanly speaking, it was
nothing more nor less than a Roman census which makes the word
Bethlehem to be a sacred word over all the world to-day. To any person
who sees the humorous contrasts of history there is reason for a bit of
a smile when he thinks of the way this census came into being, and then
remembers what came of it. Here was a consummate movement of Augustus,
who would fain have the statistics of his empire. Such excellent things
are statistics! You can prove anything by statistics, says Mr.
Canning, exceptthe truth. So Augustus orders his census, and his
census is taken. This Quirinus, or Quirinius, pro-consul of Syria, was
the first man who took it there, says the Bible. Much appointing of
marshals and deputy-marshals,men good at counting, and good at
writing, and good at collecting fees! Doubtless it was a great staff
achievement of Quirinus, and made much talk in its time. And it is so
well condensed at last and put into tables with indexes and averages as
to be very creditable, I will not doubt, to the census bureau. But
alas! as time rolls on, things change, so that this very Quirinus, who
with all a pro-consul's power took such pains to record for us the
number of people there were in Bethlehem and in Judah, would have been
clean forgotten himself, and his census too, but that things turned
bottom upward. The meanest child born in Bethlehem when this census
business was going on happened to prove to be King of the World. It
happened that he overthrew the dynasty of Cæsar Augustus, and his
temples, and his empire. It happened that everything which was then
established tottered and fell, as the star of this child arose. And the
child's star did rise. And now this Publius Sulpicius Quirinus or
Quirinius,a great man in his day, for whom Augustus asked for a
triumph,is rescued from complete forgetfulness because that baby
happened to be born in Syria when his census was going on!
I always liked to think that some day when Augustus Cæsar was on a
state visit to the Temple of Fortune some attentive clerk handed him
down the roll which had just come in and said, From Syria, your
Highness! that he might have a chance to say something to the Emperor;
that the Emperor thanked him, and, in his courtly way, opened the roll
so as to seem interested; that his eye caught the words
Bethlehemvillage near Jerusalem, and the figures which showed the
number of the people and of the children and of all the infants there.
Perhaps. No matter if not. Sixty years after, Augustus' successor,
Nero, set fire to Rome in a drunken fit. The Temple of Fortune caught
the flames, and our roll, with Bethlehem and the count of Joseph's
possessions twisted and crackled like any common rag, turned to smoke
and ashes, and was gone. That is what such statistics come to!
Five hundred years after, the whole scene is changed. The Church of
Christ, which for hundreds of years worshipped under-ground in Rome,
has found air and sunlight now. It is almost five hundred years after
Paul enters Rome as a prisoner, after Nero burned Rome down, that a
monk of St. Andrew, one of the more prominent monasteries of the city
of Rome, walking through that great market-place of the citywhich to
this hour preserves most distinctly, perhaps, the memory of what Rome
wassaw a party of fair-haired slaves for sale among the rest. He
stops to ask where they come from, and of what nation they are; to be
told they are Angli. Rather Angeli, says Gregory,rather angels;
and with other sacred bon-mots he fixes the pretty boys and
pretty girls in his memory. Nor are these familiar plays upon words to
be spoken of as mere puns. Gregory was determined to attempt the
conversion of the land from which these angels came. He started on
the pilgrimage, which was then a dangerous one; but was recalled by the
pope of his day, at the instance of his friends, who could not do
A few years more and this monk is Bishop of Rome. True to the
promise of the market-place, he organizes the Christian mission which
fulfils his prophecy. He sends Austin with his companions to the island
of the fair-haired slave boys; and that new step in the civilization of
that land comes, to which we owe it that we are met in this church,
nay, that we live in this land this day.
So far has the star of the baby of Bethlehem risen in a little more
than five centuries. A Christian dominion has laid its foundations in
the Eternal City. And you and I, gentle reader, are what we are and are
where we are because that monk of St. Andrew saw those angel boys that
day in a Roman market-place.
THE SURVIVOR'S STORY.
Fortunately we were with our wives.
It is in general an excellent custom, as I will explain if
opportunity is given.
First, you are thus sure of good company.
For four mortal hours we had ground along, and stopped and waited
and started again, in the drifts between Westfield and Springfield. We
had shrieked out our woes by the voices of fire-engines. Brave men had
dug. Patient men had sate inside, and waited for the results of the
digging. At last, in triumph, at eleven and three-quarters, as they say
in Cinderella, we entered the Springfield station.
It was Christmas eve!
Leaving the train to its devices, Blatchford and his wife (her name
was Sarah), and I with mine (her name was Phebe), walked quickly with
our little sacks out of the station, ploughed and waded along the white
street, not to the Massasoit,no, but to the old Eagle and Star, which
was still standing, and was a favorite with us youngsters. Good
waffles, maple syrup ad lib., such fixings of other sorts as we
preferred, and some liberty. The amount of liberty in absolutely
first-class hotels is but small. A drowsy boy waked, and turned up the
gas. Blatchford entered our names on the register, and cried at once,
By George, Wolfgang is here, and Dick! What luck! for Dick and
Wolfgang also travel with their wives. The boy explained that they had
come up the river in the New-Haven train, were only nine hours behind
time, had arrived at ten, and had just finished supper and gone to bed.
We ordered rare beef-steak, waffles, dip-toast, omelettes with kidneys,
and omelettes without; we toasted our feet at the open fire in the
parlor; we ate the supper when it was ready; and we also went to bed;
rejoicing that we had home with us, having travelled with our wives;
and that we could keep our merry Christmas here. If only Wolfgang and
Dick and their wives would join us, all would be well. (Wolfgang's wife
was named Bertha, and Dick's was named Hosanna,a name I have never
met with elsewhere.)
Bed followed; and I am a graceless dog that I do not write a sonnet
here on the unbroken slumber that followed. Breakfast, by arrangement
of us four, at nine. At 9.30, to us enter Bertha, Dick, Hosanna, and
Wolfgang, to name them in alphabetical order. Four chairs had been
turned down for them. Four chops, four omelettes, and four small oval
dishes of fried potatoes had been ordered, and now appeared. Immense
shouting, immense kissing among those who had that privilege, general
wondering, and great congratulating that our wives were there. Solid
resolution that we would advance no farther. Here, and here only, in
Springfield itself, would we celebrate our Christmas day.
It may be remarked in parenthesis that we had learned already that
no train had entered the town since eleven and a quarter; and it was
known by telegraph that none was within thirty-four miles and a half of
the spot, at the moment the vow was made.
We waded and ploughed our way through the snow to church. I think
Mr. Rumfry, if that is the gentleman's name who preached an admirable
Christmas sermon, in a beautiful church there is, will remember the
platoon of four men and four women, who made perhaps a fifth of his
congregation in that storm,a storm which shut off most church-going.
Home again; a jolly fire in the parlor, dry stockings, and dry
slippers. Turkeys, and all things fitting for the dinner; and then a
general assembly, not in a caravanserai, not in a coffee-room, but in
the regular guests' parlor of a New-England second-class hotel, where,
as it was ordered, there were no transients but ourselves that day;
and whence all the boarders had gone either to their own rooms, or to
For people who have their wives with them, it is not difficult to
provide entertainment on such an occasion.
Bertha, said Wolfgang, could you not entertain us with one of
your native dances?
Ho! slave, said Dick to Hosanna, play upon the virginals. And
Hosanna played a lively Arab air on the tavern piano, while the fair
Bertha danced with a spirit unusual. Was it indeed in memory of the
Christmas of her own dear home in Circassia?
All that, from Bertha to Circassia, is not so. We did not do
this at all. That was all a slip of the pen. What we did was this. John
Blatchford pulled the bell-cord till it broke (they always break in
novels, and sometimes they do in taverns). This bell-cord broke. The
sleepy boy came; and John said, Caitiff, is there never a barber in
the house? The frightened boy said there was; and John bade him send
him. In a minute the barber appeared,black, as was expected,with a
shining face, and white teeth, and in shirt sleeves, and broad grins.
Do you tell me, Cæsar, said John, that in your country they do not
wear their coats on Christmas day?Sartin, they do, sir, when they
go out doors.
Do you tell me, Cæsar, said Dick, that they have doors in your
country?Sartin, they do, said poor Cæsar, flurried.
Boy, said I, the gentlemen are making fun of you. They want to
know if you ever keep Christmas in your country without a dance.
Never, sar, said poor Cæsar.
Do they dance without music?
No, sar; never.
Go, then, I said in my sternest accents,go fetch a zittern, or
a banjo, or a kit, or a hurdy-gurdy, or a fiddle.
The black boy went, and returned with his violin. And as the light
grew gray, and crept into the darkness, and as the darkness gathered
more thick and more, he played for us and he played for us, tune after
tune; and we danced,first with precision, then in sport, then in wild
holiday frenzy. We began with waltzes,so great is the convenience of
travelling with your wives,where should we have been, had we been all
sole alone, four men? Probably playing whist or euchre. And now we
began with waltzes, which passed into polkas, which subsided into round
dances; and then in very exhaustion we fell back in a grave quadrille.
I danced with Hosanna; Wolfgang and Sarah were our vis-à-vis. We
went through the same set that Noah and his three boys danced in the
ark with their four wives, and which has been danced ever since, in
every moment, on one or another spot of the dry earth, going round it
with the sun, like the drumbeat of England,right and left, first two
forward, right hand across, pastorale,the whole series of
them; we did them with as much spirit as if it had been on a flat on
the side of Ararat, ground yet too muddy for croquet. Then Blatchford
called for Virginia Reel, and we raced and chased through that. Poor
Cæsar began to get exhausted, but a little flip from down stairs helped
him amazingly. And, after the flip, Dick cried, Can you not dance
'Money-Musk'? And in one wild frenzy of delight we danced Money-Musk
and Hull's Victory and Dusty Miller and Youth's Companion, and
Irish Jigs on the closet-door lifted off for the occasion, till the
men lay on the floor screaming with the fun, and the women fell back on
the sofas, fairly faint with laughing.
* * * * *
All this last, since the sentence after Circassia, is a mistake.
There was not any bell, nor any barber, and we did not dance at all.
This was all a slip of my memory.
What we really did was this:
John Blatchford said,Let us all tell stories. It was growing
dark and he had put more logs on the fire.
Heap on more wood, the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our merry Christmas still.
She said that because it was in Bertha's Visit, a very stupid book
which she remembered.
Then Wolfgang told
THE PENNY-A-LINER'S STORY.
[Wolfgang is a reporter, or was then, on the staff of the Star.]
When I was on the Tribune (he never was on the Tribune an hour,
unless he calls selling the Tribune at Fort Plains being on the
Tribune"). But I tell the story as he told it. He said,
When I was on the Tribune, I was despatched to report Mr.
Webster's great reply to Hayne. This was in the days of stages. We had
to ride from Baltimore to Washington early in the morning to get there
in time. I found my boots were gone from my room when the stage-man
called me, and I reported that speech in worsted slippers my wife had
given me the week before. As we came into Bladensburg it grew light,
and I recognized my boots on the feet of my fellow-passenger,there
was but one other man in the stage. I turned to claim them, but stopped
in a moment, for it was Webster himself. How serene his face looked as
he slept there! He woke soon, passed the time of day, offered me a part
of a sandwich,for we were old friends,I was counsel against him in
the Ogden case. Said Webster to me,Steele, I am bothered about this
speech: I have a paragraph in it which I cannot word up to my mind.
And he repeated it to me. How would this do? said he. 'Let us hope
that the sense of unrestricted freedom may be so intertwined with the
desire to preserve a connection of the several parts of the body
politic, that some arrangement, more or less lasting, may prove in a
measure satisfactory.' How would that do?
I said I liked the idea, but the expression seemed involved.
And it is involved, said Webster; but I can't improve it.
How would this do? said I.
'LIBERTY AND UNION, NOW AND FOREVER, ONE AND INSEPARABLE!'
Capital! he said, capital! write that down for me. At that
moment we arrived at the Capitol steps. I wrote down the words for him,
and from my notes he read them, when that place in the speech came
All of us applauded the story.
Phebe then told
THE SCHOOLMISTRESS'S STORY.
You remind me of the impression that very speech made on me, as I
heard Henry Chapin deliver it at an exhibition at Leicester Academy. I
resolved then that I would free the slave, or perish in the attempt.
But how? I, a woman,disfranchised by the law? Ha! I saw!
I went to Arkansas. I opened a Normal College, or Academy for
Teachers. We had balls every second night, to make it popular. Immense
numbers came. Half the teachers of the Southern States were trained
there. I had admirable instructors in Oil Painting and Music,the most
essential studies. The Arithmetic I taught myself. I taught it well. I
achieved fame. I achieved wealth; invested in Arkansas Five per Cents.
Only one secret device I persevered in. To all,old and young,
innocent girls and sturdy men,I so taught the multiplication-table,
that one fatal error was hidden in its array of facts. The nine line is
the difficult one. I buried the error there. Nine times six, I taught
them, is fifty-six. The rhyme made it easy. The gilded falsehood
passed from lip to lip, from State to State,one little speck in a
chain of golden verity. I retired from teaching. Slowly I watched the
growth of the rebellion. At last the aloe blossom shot up,after its
hundred years of waiting. The Southern heart was fired. I brooded over
my revenge. I repaired to Richmond. I opened a first-class
boarding-house, where all the Cabinet, and most of the Senate, came for
their meals; and I had eight permanents. Soon their brows clouded. The
first flush of victory passed away. Night after night, they sat over
their calculations, which all came wrong. I smiled,and was a villain!
None of their sums would prove. None of their estimates matched the
performance! Never a muster-roll that fitted as it should do! And
I,the despised boarding-mistress,I alone knew why! Often and often,
when Memminger has said to me, with an oath, Why this discordancy in
our totals? have my lips burned to tell the secret! But no! I hid it
in my bosom. And when, at last, I saw a black regiment march into
Richmond, singing John Brown, I cried, for the first time in twenty
years, Nine times six is fifty-four; and gloated in my sweet revenge.
Then was hushed the harp of Phebe, and Dick told his story.
THE INSPECTOR OF GAS-METERS' STORY.
Mine is a tale of the ingratitude of republics. It is well-nigh
thirty years since I was walking by the Owego and Ithaca Railroad,a
crooked road, not then adapted to high speed. Of a sudden I saw that a
long cross timber, on a trestle, high above a swamp, had sprung up from
its ties. I looked for a spike with which to secure it. I found a stone
with which to hammer the spike. But, at this moment, a train
approached, down hill. I screamed. They heard! But the engine had no
power to stop the heavy train. With the presence of mind of a poet, and
the courage of a hero, I flung my own weight on the fatal timber. I
would hold it down, or perish. The engine came. The elasticity of the
pine timber whirled me in the air! But I held on. The tender crossed.
Again I was flung in wild gyrations. But I held on. It is no bed of
roses, I said; but what act of Parliament was there that I should be
happy. Three passenger cars, and ten freight cars, as was then the
vicious custom of that road, passed me. But I held on, repeating to
myself texts of Scripture to give me courage. As the last car passed, I
was whirled into the air by the rebound of the rafter. Heavens! I
said, if my orbit is a hyperbola, I shall never return to earth.
Hastily I estimated its ordinates, and calculated the curve. What
bliss! It was a parabola! After a flight of a hundred and seventeen
cubits, I landed, head down, in a soft mud-hole.
In that train was the young U. S. Grant, on his way to West Point
for examination. But for me the armies of the Republic would have had
I pressed my claim, when I asked to be appointed to England.
Although no one else wished to go, I alone was forgotten. Such is
gratitude with republics!
He ceased. Then Sarah Blatchford told
THE WHEELER AND WILSON'S OPERATIVE'S STORY.
My father had left the anchorage of Sorrento for a short voyage, if
voyage it may be called. Life was young, and this world seemed heaven.
The yacht bowled on under close-reefed stay-sails, and all was happy.
Suddenly the corsairs seized us: all were slain in my defence; but
I,this fatal gift of beauty bade them spare my life!
Why linger on my tale! In the Zenana of the Shah of Persia I found
my home. How escape his eye? I said; and, fortunately, I remembered
that in my reticule I carried one box of F. Kidder's indelible ink.
Instantly I applied the liquid in the large bottle to one cheek. Soon
as it was dry, I applied that in the small bottle, and sat in the sun
one hour. My head ached with the sunlight, but what of that? I was a
fright, and I knew all would be well.
I was consigned, so soon as my hideous deficiencies were known, to
the sewing-room. Then how I sighed for my machine! Alas! it was not
there; but I constructed an imitation from a cannon-wheel, a
coffee-mill, and two nut-crackers. And with this I made the
under-clothing for the palace and the Zenana.
I also vowed revenge. Nor did I doubt one instant how; for in my
youth I had read Lucretia Borgia's memoirs, and I had a certain rule
for slowly slaying a tyrant at a distance. I was in charge of the
shah's own linen. Every week, I set back the buttons on his shirt
collars by the width of one thread; or, by arts known to me, I shrunk
the binding of the collar by a like proportion. Tighter and tighter
with each week did the vice close around his larynx. Week by week, at
the high religious festivals, I could see his face was blacker and
blacker. At length the hated tyrant died. The leeches called it
apoplexy. I did not undeceive them. His guards sacked the palace. I
bagged the diamonds, fled with them to Trebizond, and sailed thence in
a caïque to South Boston. No more! such memories oppress me.
Her voice was hushed. I told my tale in turn.
THE CONDUCTOR'S STORY.
I was poor. Let this be my excuse, or rather my apology. I entered a
Third Avenue car at Thirty-sixth Street, and saw the conductor
sleeping. Satan tempted me, and I took from him his badge, 213. I see
the hated figures now. When he woke, he knew not he had lost it. The
car started, and he walked to the rear. With the badge on my coat, I
collected eight fares within, stepped forward, and sprang into the
street. Poverty is my only apology for the crime. I concealed myself in
a cellar where men were playing with props. Fear is my only excuse.
Lest they should suspect me, I joined their game, and my forty cents
were soon three dollars and seventy. With these ill-gotten gains, I
visited the gold exchange, then open evenings. My superior intelligence
enabled me to place well my modest means, and at midnight I had a
competence. Let me be a warning to all young men. Since that night, I
have never gambled more.
I threw the hated badge into the river. I bought a palace on Murray
Hill, and led an upright and honorable life. But since that night of
terror the sound of the horse-cars oppresses me. Always since, to go up
town or down, I order my own coupé, with George to drive me; and never
have I entered the cleanly, sweet, and airy carriage provided for the
public. I cannot; conscience is too much for me. You see in me a
monument of crime.
I said no more. A moment's pause, a few natural tears, and a single
sigh hushed the assembly; then Bertha, with her siren voice, told
THE WIFE OF BIDDEFORD'S STORY.
At the time you speak of, I was the private governess of two lovely
boys, Julius and Pompey,Pompey the senior of the two. The black-eyed
darling! I see him now. I also see, hanging to his neck, his blue-eyed
brother, who had given Pompey his black eye the day before. Pompey was
generous to a fault; Julius, parsimonious beyond virtue. I therefore
instructed them in two different rooms. To Pompey, I read the story of
Waste not, want not. To Julius, on the other hand, I spoke of the
All-love of his great Mother Nature, and her profuse gifts to her
children. Leaving him with grapes and oranges, I stepped back to
Pompey, and taught him how to untie parcels so as to save the string.
Leaving him winding the string neatly, I went back to Julius, and gave
to him ginger-cakes. The dear boys grew from year to year. They outgrew
their knickerbockers, and had trousers. They outgrew their jackets, and
became men; and I felt that I had not lived in vain. I had conquered
nature. Pompey, the little spendthrift, was the honored cashier of a
savings bank, till he ran away with the capital. Julius, the miser,
became the chief croupier at the New Crockford's. One of those boys is
now in Botany Bay, and the other is in Sierra Leone!
I thought you were going to say in a hotter place, said John
Blatchford; and he told his story:
THE STOKER'S STORY.
We were crossing the Atlantic in a Cunarder. I was second stoker on
the starboard watch. In that horrible gale we spoke of before dinner,
the coal was exhausted, and I, as the best-dressed man, was sent up to
the captain to ask what we should do. I found him himself at the wheel.
He almost cursed me and bade me say nothing of coal, at a moment when
he must keep her head to the wind with her full power, or we were lost.
He bade me slide my hand into his pocket, and take out the key of the
after freight-room, open that, and use the contents for fuel. I
returned hastily to the engine-room, and we did as we were bid. The
room contained nothing but old account books, which made a hot and
On the third day the captain came down himself into the engine-room,
where I had never seen him before, called me aside, and told me that by
mistake he had given me the wrong key; asking me if I had used it. I
pointed to him the empty room: not a leaf was left. He turned pale with
fright. As I saw his emotion he confided to me the truth. The books
were the evidences or accounts of the British national debt; of what is
familiarly known as the Consolidated Fund, or the Consols. They had
been secretly sent to New York for the examination of James Fiske, who
had been asked to advance a few millions on this security to the
English Exchequer, and now all evidence of indebtedness was gone!
The captain was about to leap into the sea. But I dissuaded him. I
told him to say nothing; I would keep his secret; no man else knew it.
The Government would never utter it. It was safe in our hands. He
reconsidered his purpose. We came safe to port and didnothing.
Only on the first quarter-day which followed, I obtained leave of
absence, and visited the Bank of England, to see what happened. At the
door was this placard,Applicants for dividends will file a written
application, with name and amount, at desk A, and proceed in turn to
the Paying Teller's Office. I saw their ingenuity. They were making
out new books, certain that none would apply but those who were
accustomed to. So skilfully do men of Government study human nature.
I stepped lightly to one of the public desks. I took one of the
blanks. I filled it out, John Blatchford, £1747 6_s. 8_d., and handed
it in at the open trap. I took my place in the queue in the teller's
room. After an agreeable hour, a pile, not thick, of Bank of England
notes was given to me; and since that day I have quarterly drawn that
amount from the maternal government of that country. As I left the
teller's room, I observed the captain in the queue. He was the seventh
man from the window, and I have never seen him more.
We then asked Hosanna for her story.
THE N. E. HISTORICAL GENEALOGIST'S STORY.
My story, said she, will take us far back into the past. It will
be necessary for me to dwell on some incidents in the first settlement
of this country, and I propose that we first prepare and enjoy the
Christmas-tree. After this, if your courage holds, you shall hear an
over-true tale. Pretty creature, how little she knew what was before
As we had sat listening to the stories, we had been preparing for
the tree. Shopping being out of the question, we were fain from our own
stores to make up our presents, while the women were arranging nuts,
and blown egg-shells, and pop-corn strings from the stores of the
Eagle and Star. The popping of corn in two corn-poppers had gone on
through the whole of the story-telling. All being so nearly ready, I
called the drowsy boy again, and, showing him a very large stick in the
wood-box, asked him to bring me a hatchet. To my great joy he brought
the axe of the establishment, and I bade him farewell. How little did
he think what was before him! So soon as he had gone I went stealthily
down the stairs, and stepping out into the deep snow, in front of the
hotel, looked up into the lovely night. The storm had ceased, and I
could see far back into the heavens. In the still evening my strokes
might have been heard far and wide, as I cut down one of the two pretty
Norways that shaded Mr. Pynchon's front walk, next the hotel. I dragged
it over the snow. Blatchford and Steele lowered sheets to me from the
large parlor window, which I attached to the larger end of the tree.
With infinite difficulty they hauled it in. I joined them in the
parlor, and soon we had as stately a tree growing there as was in any
home of joy that night in the river counties.
With swift fingers did our wives adorn it. I should have said above,
that we travelled with our wives, and that I would recommend that
custom to others. It was impossible, under the circumstances, to
maintain much secrecy; but it had been agreed that all who wished to
turn their backs to the circle, in the preparation of presents, might
do so without offence to the others. As the presents were wrapped, one
by one, in paper of different colors, they were marked with the names
of giver and receiver, and placed in a large clothes-basket. At last
all was done. I had wrapped up my knife, my pencil-case, my
letter-case, for Steele, Blatchford, and Dick. To my wife I gave my
gold watch-key, which fortunately fits her watch; to Hosanna, a mere
trifle, a seal ring I wore; to Bertha, my gold chain; and to Sarah
Blatchford, the watch which generally hung from it. For a few moments,
we retired to our rooms while the pretty Hosanna arranged the
forty-nine presents on the tree. Then she clapped her hands, and we
rushed in. What a wondrous sight! What a shout of infantine laughter
and charming prattle! for in that happy moment were we not all children
I see my story hurries to its close. Dick, who is the tallest,
mounted a step-ladder, and called us by name to receive our presents. I
had a nice gold watch-key from Hosanna, a knife from Steele, a
letter-case from Phebe, and a pretty pencil-case from Bertha. Dick had
given me his watch-chain, which he knew I fancied; Sarah Blatchford, a
little toy of a Geneva watch she wore; and her husband, a handsome seal
ring, a present to him from the Czar, I believe; Phebe, that is my
wife,for we were travelling with our wives,had a pencil-case from
Steele, a pretty little letter-case from Dick, a watch-key from me, and
a French repeater from Blatchford; Sarah Blatchford gave her the knife
she carried, with some bright verses, saying that it was not to cut
love; Bertha, a watch-chain; and Hosanna a ring of turquoise and
amethysts. The other presents were similar articles, and were received,
as they were given, with much tender feeling. But at this moment, as
Dick was on the top of the flight of steps, handing down a red apple
from the tree, a slight catastrophe occurred.
The first I was conscious of was the angry hiss of steam. In a
moment I perceived that the steam-boiler, from which the tavern was
warmed, had exploded. The floor beneath us rose, and we were driven
with it through the ceiling and the rooms above,through an opening in
the roof into the still night. Around us in the air were flying all the
other contents and occupants of the Star and Eagle. How bitterly was I
reminded of Dick's flight from the railroad track of the Ithaca & Owego
Railroad! But I could not hope such an escape as his. Still my flight
was in a parabola; and, in a period not longer than it has taken to
describe it, I was thrown senseless, at last, into a deep snow-bank
near the United States Arsenal.
Tender hands lifted me and assuaged me. Tender teams carried me to
the City Hospital. Tender eyes brooded over me. Tender science cared
for me. It proved necessary, before I recovered, to amputate my two
legs at the hips. My right arm was wholly removed, by a delicate and
curious operation, from the socket. We saved the stump of my left arm,
which was amputated just below the shoulder. I am still in the hospital
to recruit my strength. The doctor does not like to have me occupy my
mind at all; but he says there is no harm in my compiling my memoirs,
or writing magazine stories. My faithful nurse has laid me on my breast
on a pillow, has put a camel's-hair pencil in my mouth, and, feeling
almost personally acquainted with John Carter, the artist, I have
written out for you, in his method, the story of my last Christmas.
I am sorry to say that the others have never been found.
THE SAME CHRISTMAS IN OLD ENGLAND
The first Christmas in New England was celebrated by some people who
tried as hard as they could not to celebrate it at all. But looking
back on that year 1620, the first year when Christmas was celebrated in
New England, I cannot find that anybody got up a better fête
than did these Lincolnshire weavers and ploughmen who had got a little
taste of Dutch firmness, and resolved on that particular day, that,
whatever else happened to them, they would not celebrate Christmas at
Here is the story as William Bradford tells it:
Ye 16. day ye winde came faire, and they arrived safe in
this harbor. And after wards tooke better view of ye place, and
resolved wher to pitch their dwelling; and ye 25. day begane to
erecte ye first house for comone use to receive them and their goods.
You see, dear reader, that when on any 21st or 22d of December you
give the children parched corn, and let them pull candy and swim
candles in nut-shells in honor of the landing of the Forefathersif
by good luck you be of Yankee blood, and do either of these
praiseworthy thingsyou are not celebrating the anniversary of the day
when the women and children landed, wrapped up in water-proofs, with
the dog and John Carver in headpiece, and morion, as you have seen in
many pictures. That all came afterward. Be cool and self-possessed, and
I will guide you through the whole chronology safelyOld Style and New
Style, first landing and second landing, Sabbaths and Sundays, Carver's
landing and Mary Chilton's landing, so that you shall know as much as
if you had fifteen ancestors, a cradle, a tankard, and an oak chest in
the Mayflower, and you shall come out safely and happily at the first
Know then, that when the poor Mayflower at last got across the
Atlantic, Massachusetts stretched out her right arm to welcome her, and
she came to anchor as early as the 11th of November in Provincetown
Harbor. This was the day when the compact of the cabin of the Mayflower
was signed, when the fiction of the social compact was first made
real. Here they fitted their shallop, and in this shallop, on the sixth
of December, ten of the Pilgrims and six of the ship's crew sailed on
their exploration. They came into Plymouth harbor on the tenth, rested
on Watson's island on the eleventh,which was Sunday,and on Monday,
the twelfth, landed on the mainland, stepping on Plymouth rock and
marching inland to explore the country. Add now nine days to this date
for the difference then existing between Old Style and New Style, and
you come upon the twenty-first of December, which is the day you ought
to celebrate as Forefathers' Day. On that day give the children parched
corn in token of the new provant, the English walnut in token of the
old, and send them to bed with Elder Brewster's name, Mary Chilton's,
Edward Winslow's, and John Billington's, to dream upon. Observe still
that only these ten men have landed. All the women and children and the
other men are over in Provincetown harbor. These ten, liking the
country well enough, go across the bay to Provincetown where they find
poor Bradford's wife drowned in their absence, and bring the ship
across into Plymouth harbor on the sixteenth. Now you will say of
course that they were so glad to get here that they began to build at
once; but you are entirely mistaken, for they did not do any such
thing. There was a little of the John Bull about them and a little of
the Dutchman. The seventeenth was Sunday. Of course they could not
build a city on Sunday. Monday they explored, and Tuesday they explored
After we had called on God for direction, we came to this
resolution, to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of
two places, which we thought most fitting for us; for we could not now
take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much
spent, especially our beer.
Observe, this is the Pilgrims' or Forefathers' beer, and not the
beer of the ship, of which there was still some store. Acting on this
resolution they went ashore again, and concluded by most voices to
build Plymouth where Plymouth now is. One recommendation seems to have
been that there was a good deal of land already clear. But this brought
with it the counter difficulty that they had to go half a quarter of a
mile for their wood. So there they left twenty people on shore,
resolving the next day to come and build their houses. But the next day
it stormed, and the people on shore had to come back to the ship, and
Richard Britteridge died. And Friday it stormed so that they could not
land, and the people on the shallop who had gone ashore the day before
could not get back to the ship. Saturday was the twenty-third, as they
counted, and some of them got ashore and cut timber and carried it to
be ready for building. But they reserved their forces still, and
Sunday, the twenty-fourth, no one worked of course. So that when
Christmas day came, the day which every man, woman and child of them
had been trained to regard as a holy dayas a day specially given to
festivity and specially exempted from work, all who could went on shore
and joined those who had landed already. So that William Bradford was
able to close the first book of his history by saying: Ye 25. day
begane to erect ye first house for comone use to receive them and their
Now, this all may have been accidental. I do not say it was not. But
when I come to the record of Christmas for next year and find that
Bradford writes: One ye day called Chrismas-day, ye Gov'r caled them
out to worke (as was used), I cannot help thinking that the leaders
had a grim feeling of satisfaction in secularizing the first
Christmas as thoroughly as they did. They wouldn't work on Sunday, and
they would work on Christmas.
They did their best to desecrate Christmas, and they did it by
laying one of the cornerstones of an empire.
Now, if the reader wants to imagine the scene,the Christmas
celebration or the Christmas desecration, he shall call it which he
will, according as he is Roman or Puritan himself,I cannot give him
much material to spin his thread from. Here is the little story in the
language of the time:
Munday the 25. day, we went on shore, some to fell tymber, some to
saw, some to riue, and some to carry, so no man rested all that day,
but towards night some as they were at worke, heard a noyse of some
Indians, which caused vs all to goe to our Muskets, but we heard no
further, so we came aboord againe, and left some twentie to keepe the
court of gard; that night we had a sore storme of winde and rayne.
Munday the 25. being Christmas day, we began to drinke water
aboord, but at night the Master caused vs to have some Beere, and so on
board we had diverse times now and then some Beere, but on shore none
There is the story as it is told by the only man who chose to write
it down. Let us not at this moment go into an excursus to inquire who
he was and who he was not. Only diligent investigation has shown beside
that this first house was about twenty feet square, and that it was for
their common use to receive them and their goods. The tradition says
that it was on the south side of what is now Leyden street, near the
declivity of the hill. What it was, I think no one pretends to say
absolutely. I am of the mind of a dear friend of mine, who used to say
that, in the hardships of those first struggles, these old forefathers
of ours, as they gathered round the fires (which they did haveno
Christian Registers for them to warm their cold hands by), used to
pledge themselves to each other in solemn vows that they would leave to
posterity no detail of the method of their lives. Posterity should not
make pictures out of them, or, if it did, should make wrong ones; which
accordingly, posterity has done. What was the nature, then, of this
twenty-foot-square store-house, in which, afterward, they used to sleep
pretty compactly, no man can say. Dr. Young suggests a log cabin, but I
do not believe that the log cabin was yet invented. I think it is more
likely that the Englishmen rigged their two-handled saws,after the
fashion known to readers of Sanford and Merton in an after age,and
made plank for themselves. The material for imagination, as far as
costume goes, may be got from the back of a fifty-dollar national
bank-note, which the well-endowed reader will please take from his
pocket, or from a roll of Lorillard's tobacco at his side, on which he
will find the good reduction of Weir's admirable picture of the
embarkation. Or, if the reader has been unsuccessful in his investment
in Lorillard, he will find upon the back of the one-dollar bank-note a
reduced copy of the fresco of the Landing in the Capitol, which will
answer his purpose equally well. Forty or fifty Englishmen, in hats and
doublets and hose of that fashion, with those odd English axes that you
may see in your Æsop's fable illustrations, and with their
double-handled saws, with a few beetles, and store of wedges, must make
up your tableau, dear reader. Make it vivant, if you can.
To help myself in the matter, I sometimes group them on the bank
there just above the brook,you can see the place to-day, if it will
do you any goodat some moment when the women have come ashore to see
how the work goes onand remembering that Mrs. Hemans says they
sangI throw the women all in a chorus of soprano and contralto
voices on the left, Mrs. Winslow and Mrs. Carver at their head, Mrs. W.
as prima assoluta soprano and Mrs. Carver as prima assoluta
contralto,I range on the right the men with W. Bradford and W.
Brewster as leadersand between, facing us, the audience,who are
lower down in the valley of the brook, I place Giovanni Carver (tenor)
and Odoardo Winslow (basso) and have them sing in the English dialect
of their day,
Suoni la tromba,
Carver waving the red-cross flag of England, and Winslow swinging a
broadaxe above his head in similar revolutions. The last time I saw any
Puritans doing this at the opera, one had a star-spangled banner and
the other an Italian tricolor,but I am sure my placing on the stage
is more accurate than that. But I find it very hard to satisfy myself
that this is the correct idealization. Yet Mrs. Hemans says the songs
were songs of lofty cheer, which precisely describes the duet in
It would be an immense satisfaction, if by palimpsest under some old
cash-book of that century, or by letters dug out from some family
collection in England, one could just discover that John Billington,
having become weary with cutting down a small fir-tree which had been
allotted to him, took his snaphance and shot with him, and calling a
dog he had, to whom in the Low Countries the name Crab had been given,
went after fowle. Crossing the brook and climbing up the bank to an
open place which was there, he found what had been left by the savages
of one of their gardens,and on the ground, picking at the stalkes of
the corne, a flocke of large blacke birds such as he had never seen
before. His dogge ran at them and frightened them, and they all took
wing heavily, but not so quick but that Billington let fly at them and
brought two of them down,one quite dead and one hurt so badly that he
could not fly. Billington killed them both and tyed them together, and
following after the flocke had another shot at them, and by a good
Providence hurte three more. He tyed two of these together and brought
the smallest back to us, not knowing what he brought, being but a poor
man and ignorant. Hee is but a lazy Fellowe, and was sore tired with
the weight of his burden, which was nigh fortie pounds. Soe soon as he
saw it, the Governour and the rest knew that it was a wild Turkie, and
albeit he chid Billington sharply, he sent four men with him, as it
were Calebs and Joshuas, to bring in these firstlings of the land. They
found the two first and brought them to us; but after a long search
they could not find the others, and soe gave them up, saying the wolves
must have eaten them. There were some that thought John Billington had
never seen them either, but had shot them with a long bowe. Be this as
it may, Mistress Winslow and the other women stripped them they had,
cleaned them, spytted them, basted them, and roasted them, and thus we
had fresh foule to our dinner.
I say it would have been very pleasant to have found this in some
palimpsest, but if it is in the palimpsest, it has not yet been found.
As the Arab proverb says, There is news, but it has not yet come.
I have failed, in just the same way, to find a letter from that
rosy-cheeked little child you see in Sargent's picture, looking out of
her great wondering eyes, under her warm hood, into the desert. I
overhauled a good many of the Cotton manuscripts in the British Museum
(Otho and Caligula, if anybody else wants to look), and Mr. Sainsbury
let me look through all the portfolios I wanted in the State Paper
Office, and I am sure the letter was not there then. If anybody has
found it, it has been found since I was there. If it ever is found, I
should like to have it contain the following statement:
We got tired of playing by the fire, and so some of us ran down to
the brook, and walked till we could find a place to cross it; and so
came up to a meadow as large as the common place in Leyden. There was a
good deal of ice upon it in some places, but in some places behind,
where there were bushes, we found good store of berries growing on the
ground. I filled my apron, and William took off his jerkin and made a
bag of it, and we all filled it to carry up to the fire. But they were
so sour, that they puckered our mouths sadly. But my mother said they
were cranberries, but not like your cranberries in Lincolnshire. And,
having some honey in one of the logs the men cut down, she boiled the
cranberries and the honey together, and after it was cold we had it
with our dinner. And besides, there were some great pompions which the
men had brought with them from the first place we landed at, which were
not like Cinderella's, but had long tails to them, and of these my
mother and Mrs. Brewster and Mrs. Warren, made pies for dinner. We
found afterwards that the Indians called these pompions, askuta
But this letter, I am sorry to say, has not yet been found.
Whether they had roast turkey for Christmas I do not know. I do
know, thanks to the recent discovery of the old Bradford manuscript,
that they did have roast turkey at their first Thanksgiving. The
veritable history, like so much more of it, alas! is the history of
what they had not, instead of the history of what they had. Not only
did they work on the day when all their countrymen played, but they had
only water to drink on the day when all their countrymen drank beer.
This deprivation of beer is a trial spoken of more than once; and, as
lately as 1824, Mr. Everett, in his Pilgrim oration, brought it in high
up in the climax of the catalogue of their hardships. How many of us in
our school declamations have stood on one leg, as bidden in Lovell's
Speaker, raised the hand of the other side to an angle of forty-five
degrees, as also bidden, and repeated, as also bidden, not to say
compelled, the words, I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing
their almost desperate undertaking, and landed at last, after a
five-months' passage, on the ice-clad rocks of Plymouth, weak and
exhausted from the voyage, poorly armed, scantily provisioned,
depending on the charity of their ship-master for a draught of beer on
board, drinking nothing but water on shore, without shelter, without
means, surrounded by hostile tribes.
Little did these men of 1620 think that the time would come when
ships would go round the world without a can of beer on board; that
armies would fight through years of war without a ration of beer or of
spirit, and that the builders of the Lawrences and Vinelands, the
pioneer towns of a new Christian civilization, would put the condition
into the title-deeds of their property that nothing should be sold
there which could intoxicate the buyer. Poor fellows! they missed the
beer, I am afraid, more than they did the play at Christmas; and as
they had not yet learned how good water is for a steady drink, the
carnal mind almost rejoices that when they got on board that Christmas
night, the curmudgeon ship-master, warmed up by his Christmas
jollifications, for he had no scruples, treated to beer all round, as
the reader has seen. With that tankard of beeras those who went on
board filled it, passed it, and refilled itends the history of the
first Christmas in New England.
* * * * *
It is a very short story, and yet it is the longest history of that
Christmas that I have been able to find. I wanted to compare this
celebration of Christmas, grimly intended for its desecration, with
some of the celebrations which were got up with painstaking intention.
But, alas, pageants leave little history, after the lights have smoked
out, and the hangings have been taken away. Leaving, for the moment,
King James's Christmas and Englishmen, I thought it would be a pleasant
thing to study the contrast of a Christmas in the countries where they
say Christmas has its most enthusiastic welcome. So I studied up the
war in the Palatinate,I went into the chronicles of Spain, where I
thought they would take pains about Christmas,I tried what the men of
la religion, the Huguenots, were doing at Rochelle, where a great
assembly was gathering. But Christmas day would not appear in memoirs
or annals. I tried Rome and the Pope, but he was dying, like the King
of Spain, and had not, I think, much heart for pageantry. I looked in
at Vienna, where they had all been terribly frightened by Bethlem
Gabor, who was a great Transylvanian prince of those days, a sort of
successful Kossuth, giving much hope to beleaguered Protestants farther
west, who, I believe, thought for a time that he was some sort of seal
or trumpet, which, however, he did not prove to be. At this moment of
time he was retreating I am afraid, and at all events did not set his
historiographer to work describing his Christmas festivities.
Passing by Bethlem Gabor then, and the rest, from mere failure of
their chronicles to make note of this Christmas as it passed, I
returned to France in my quest. Louis XIII. was at this time reigning
with the assistance of Luynes, the short-lived favorite who preceded
Richelieu. Or it would, perhaps, be more proper to say that Luynes was
reigning under the name of Louis XIII. Louis XIII. had been spending
the year in great activity, deceiving, thwarting, and undoing the
Protestants of France. He had made a rapid march into their country,
and had spread terror before him. He had had mass celebrated in
Navarreux, where it had not been seen or heard in fifty years. With
Bethlem Gabor in the ablative,with the Palatinate quite in the
vocative,these poor Huguenots here outwitted and outgeneralled, and
Brewster and Carver freezing out there in America, the Reformed
Religion seems in a bad way to one looking at that Christmas. From his
triumphal and almost bloodless campaign, King Louis returns to Paris,
and there, says Bassompierre, he celebrated the fêtes this
Christmas. So I thought I was going to find in the memoirs of some
gentleman at court, or unoccupied mistress of the robes, an account of
what the most Christian King was doing, while the blisters were forming
on John Carver's hands, and while John Billington was, or was not,
shooting wild turkeys on that eventful Christmas day.
But I reckoned without my king. For this is all a mistake, and
whatever else is certain, it seems to be certain that King Louis XIII.
did not keep either Christmas in Paris, either the Christmas of the Old
Style, or that of the New. Such, alas, is history, dear friend! When
you read in to-night's Evening Post that your friend Dalrymple is
appointed Minister to Russia, where he has been so anxious to go, do
not suppose he will make you his Secretary of Legation. Alas! no; for
you will read in to-morrow's Times that it was all a mistake of the
telegraph, and that the dispatch should have read O'Shaughnessy,
where the dispatch looked like Dalrymple. So here, as I whetted my
pencil, wetted my lips, and drove the attentive librarian at the Astor
almost frantic as I sent him up stairs for you five times more, it
proved that Louis XIII. did not spend Christmas in Paris, but that
Bassompierre, who said so, was a vile deceiver. Here is the truth in
the Mercure Française,flattering and obsequious Annual
Register of those days:
The King at the end of this year, visited the frontiers of Picardy.
In this whole journey, which lasted from the 14th of December to the
12th of January (New Style), the weather was bad, and those in his
Majesty's suite found the roads bad. Change the style back to the way
our Puritans counted it, and observe that on the same days, the 5th of
December to the 3d of January, Old Style, those in the suite of John
Carver found the weather bad and the roads worse. Let us devoutly hope
that his most Christian Majesty did not find the roads as bad as his
And the King, continues the Mercure, sent an extraordinary
Ambassador to the King of Great Britain, at London, the Marshal
Cadenet (brother of the favorite Luynes). He departed from Calais on
Friday, the first day of January, very well accompanied by noblesse. He arrived at Dover the same evening, and did not depart from Dover
until the Monday after.
Be pleased to note, dear reader, that this Monday, when this
Ambassador of a most Christian King departs from Dover, is on Monday
the 25th day of December, of Old Style, or Protestant Style, when John
Carver is learning wood-cutting, by way of encouraging the others. Let
us leave the King of France to his bad roads, and follow the fortunes
of the favorite's brother, for we must study an English Christmas after
all. We have seen the Christmas holidays of men who had hard times for
the reward of their faith in the Star of Bethlehem. Let us try the
fortunes of the most Christian King's people, as they keep their second
Christmas of the year among a Protestant people. Observe that a week
after their own Christmas of New Style, they land in Old Style England,
where Christmas has not yet begun. Here is the Mercure Français's
account of the Christmas holidays,flattering and obsequious, as I
Marshal Cadenet did not depart from Dover till the Monday after
(Christmas day, O. S.). The English Master of Ceremonies had sent
twenty carriages and three hundred horses for his suite. (If only we
could have ten of the worst of them at Plymouth! They would have drawn
our logs for us that half quarter of a mile. But we were not born in
the purple!) He slept at Canterbury, where the Grand Seneschal of
England, well accompanied by English noblemen, received him on the part
of the King of England. Wherever he passed, the officers of the cities
made addresses to him, and offers, even ordering their own archers to
march before him and guard his lodgings. When he came to Gravesend, the
Earl of Arundel visited him on the part of the King, and led him to the
Royal barge. His whole suite entered into twenty-five other barges,
painted, hung with tapestry, and well adorned (think of our poor,
rusty shallop there in Plymouth bay), in which, ascending the Thames,
they arrived in London Friday the 29th December (January 8th, N. S.).
On disembarking, the Ambassador was led by the Earl of Arundel to the
palace of the late Queen, which had been superbly and magnificently
arranged for him. The day was spent in visits on the part of his
Majesty the King of Great Britain, of the Prince of Wales, his son, and
of the ambassadors of kings and princes, residing in London. So
splendidly was he entertained, that they write that on the day of his
reception he had four tables, with fifty covers each, and that the Duke
of Lennox, Grand Master of England, served them with magnificent order.
The following Sunday (which we could not spend on shore), he was
conducted to an audience by the Marquis of Buckingham, (for shame,
Jamie! an audience on Sunday! what would John Knox have said to that!)
where the French and English nobility were dressed as for a great
feast day. The whole audience was conducted with great respect, honor,
and ceremony. The same evening, the King of Great Britain sent for the
Marshal by the Marquis of Buckingham and the Duke of Lennox; and his
Majesty and the Ambassador remained alone for more than two hours,
without any third person hearing what they said. The following days
were all receptions, banquets, visits, and hunting-parties, till the
That is the way history gets written by a flattering and obsequious
court editor or organ at the time. That is the way, then, that the
dread sovereign of John Carver and Edward Winslow spent his Christmas
holidays, while they were spending theirs in beginning for him an
empire. Dear old William Brewster used to be a servant of Davison's in
the days of good Queen Bess. As he blows his fingers there in the
twenty-foot storehouse before it is roofed, does he tell the rest
sometimes of the old wassail at court, and the Christmas when the Earl
of Southampton brought Will. Shakespeare in? Perhaps those things are
too gay,at all events, we have as much fuel here as they have at St.
Of this precious embassy, dear reader, there is not a word, I think,
in Hume, or Lingard, or the Pictorialstill less, if possible, in
the abridgments. Would you like, perhaps, after this truly elegant
account thus given by a court editor, to look behind the canvas and see
the rough ends of the worsted? I always like to. It helps me to
understand my morning Advertiser or my Evening Post, as I read the
editorial history of to-day. If you please, we will begin in the
Domestic State Papers of England, which the good sense of somebody, I
believe kind Sir Francis Palgrave, has had opened for you and me and
the rest of us.
Here is the first notice of the embassy:
Dec. 13. Letter from Sir Robert Naunton to Sir George Calvert....
The King of France is expected at Calais. The Marshal of Cadenet is to
be sent over to calumniate those of the religion (that is, the
Protestants), and to propose Madme. Henriette for the Prince.
So they knew, it seems, ten days before we started, what we were
Dec. 22. John Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton. In spite of
penury, there is to be a masque at Court this Christmas. The King is
coming in from Theobalds to receive the French Ambassador, Marshal
Cadenet, who comes with a suite of 400 or 500.
What was this masque? Could not Mr. Payne Collier find up the
libretto, perhaps? Was it Faith, Valor, Hope, and Love, founding a
kingdom, perhaps? Faith with a broadaxe, Valor and Hope with a
two-handled saw, while Love dug post-holes and set up timbers? Or was
it a less appropriate masque of King James' devising?
Dec. 25. This is our day. Francis Willisfourd, Governor of Dover
Castle to Lord Zouch, Warden of the Cinque Ports. A French Ambassador
has landed with a great train. I have not fired a salute, having no
instructions, and declined showing them the fortress. They are
entertained as well as the town can afford.
Observe, we are a little surly. We do not like the French King very
well, our own King's daughter being in such straits yonder in the
Palatinate. What do these Papists here?
That is the only letter written on Christmas day in the English
Domestic Archives for that year! Christmas is for frolic here, not
for letter-writing, nor house-building, if one's houses be only built
But on the 27th, Wednesday, Lord Arundel has gone to meet the
French Ambassador at Gravesend. And a very pretty time it seems they
had at Gravesend, when you look on the back of the embroidery. Arundel
called on Cadenet at his lodgings, and Cadenet did not meet him till he
came to the stairhead of his chamber-doornor did he accompany him
further when he left. But Arundel was even with him the next morning.
He appointed his meeting for the return call in the street; and
when the barges had come up to Somerset House, where the party was to
stay, Arundel left the Ambassador, telling him that there were
gentlemen who would show him his lodging. The King was so angry that he
made Cadenet apologize. Alas for the Court of Governor John Carver on
this side,four days old to-dayif Massasoit should send us an
ambassador! We shall have to receive him in the street, unless
he likes to come into a palace without a roof! But, fortunately, he
does not send till we are ready!
The Domestic Archives give another glimpse:
Dec. 30. Thomas Locke to Carleton: The French Ambassador has
arrived at Somerset House with a train so large that some of the seats
at Westminster Hall had to be pulled down to make room at their
audience. And in letters from the same to the same, of January 7, are
accounts of entertainments given to the Ambassador at his first
audience (on that Sunday), on the 4th at Parliament House, on the 6th
at a masque at Whitehall, where none were allowed below the rank of a
Baronand at Lord Doncaster's entertainmentwhere six thousand
ounces of gold are set out as a present, says the letter, but this I
do not believe. At the Hampton entertainment, and at the masque there
were some disputes about precedency, says John Chamberlain in another
letter. Dear John Chamberlain, where are there not such disputes? At
the masque at Whitehall he says, a Puritan was flouted and abused,
which was thought unseemly, considering the state of the French
Protestants. Let the Marshal come over to Gov. John Carver's court and
see one of our masques there, if he wants to know about Puritans. At
Lord Doncaster's house the feast cost three thousand pounds, beside
three hundred pounds worth of ambergris used in the cooking, nothing
about that six thousand ounces of gold. The Ambassador had a long
private interview with the king; it is thought he proposed Mad.
Henriette for the Prince. He left with a present of a rich jewel. He
requested liberation of all the imprisoned priests in the three
kingdoms, but the answer is not yet given.
By the eleventh of January the embassy had gone, and Thomas Locke
says Cadenet received a round answer about the Protestants. Let us
hope it was so, for it was nearly the last, as it was. Thomas Murray
writes that he proposed a match with France,a confederation against
Spanish power, and asked his Majesty to abandon the rebellious
princes,but he refused unless they might have toleration. The
Ambassador was followed to Rochester for the debts of some of his
train,but got well home to Paris and New Style.
And so he vanishes from English history.
His king made him Duke of Chaulnes and Peer of France, but his
brother, the favorite died soon after, either of a purple fever or of a
broken heart, and neither of them need trouble us more.
At the moment the whole embassy seemed a failure in England,and so
it is spoken of by all the English writers of the time whom I have
seen. There is a flaunting French Ambassador come over lately, says
Howel, and I believe his errand is naught else but compliment.... He
had an audience two days since, where he, with his train of ruffling
long-haired Monsieurs, carried himself in such a light garb, that after
the audience the king asked my Lord Keeper Bacon what he thought of the
French Ambassador. He answered, that he was a tall, proper man. 'Aye,'
his Majesty replied, 'but what think you of his head-piece? Is he a
proper man for the office of an ambassador?' 'Sir,' said Bacon, 'tall
men are like houses of four or five stories, wherein commonly the
uppermost room is worst furnished.'
Hard, this, on us poor six-footers. One need not turn to the
biography after this, to guess that the philosopher was five feet four.
I think there was a breeze, and a cold one, all the time, between
the embassy and the English courtiers. I could tell you a good many
stories to show this, but I would give them all for one anecdote of
what Edward Winslow said to Madam Carver on Christmas evening. They
thought it all naught because they did not know what would come of it.
We do know.
And I wish you to observe, all the time, beloved reader, whom I
press to my heart for your steadiness in perusing so far, and to whom I
would give a jewel had I one worthy to give, in token of my
consideration (how you would like a Royalston beryl or an Attleboro
topaz).[A] I wish you to observe, I say, that on the Christmas tide,
when the Forefathers began New England, Charles and Henrietta were
first proposed to each other for that fatal union. Charles, who was to
be Charles the First, and Henrietta, who was to be mother of Charles
the Second, and James the Second. So this was the time, when were first
proposed all the precious intrigues and devisings, which led to Charles
the Second, James the Second, James the Third, so called, and our poor
friend the Pretender. Civil WarRevolution17151745Preston-Pans,
Falkirk and Cullodenall are in the dispatches Cadenet carries ashore
at Dover, while we are hewing our timbers at the side of the brook at
Plymouth, and making our contribution to Protestant America.
[A] Mrs. Hemans says they did not seek bright jewels of the
mine, which was fortunate, as they would not have found
them. Attleboro is near Plymouth Rock, but its jewels are
not from mines. The beryls of Royalston are, but they are
far away. Other good mined jewels, I think, New England
has none. Her garnets are poor, and I have yet seen no
On the one side Christmas is celebrated by fifty outcasts chopping
wood for their firesand out of the celebration springs an empire. On
the other side it is celebrated by the noblesse of two nations
and the pomp of two courts. And out of the celebration spring two civil
wars, the execution of one king and the exile of another, the downfall
twice repeated of the royal house, which came to the English throne
under fairer auspices than ever. The whole as we look at it is the tale
of ruin. Those are the only two Christmas celebrations of that year
that I have found anywhere written down!
You will not misunderstand the moral, dear reader, if, indeed, you
exist; if at this point there be any reader beside him who corrects the
proof! Sublime thought of the solemn silence in which these words may
be spoken! You will not misunderstand the moral. It is not that it is
better to work on Christmas than to play. It is not that masques turn
out ill, and that those who will not celebrate the great anniversaries
turn out well. God forbid!
It is that these men builded better than they knew, because they did
with all their heart and all their soul the best thing that they knew.
They loved Christ and feared God, and on Christmas day did their best
to express the love and the fear. And King James and Cadenet,did they
love Christ and fear God? I do not know. But I do not believe, nor do
you, that the masque of the one, or the embassy of the other, expressed
the love, or the hope, or the faith of either!
So it was that John Carver and his men, trying to avoid the
celebration of the day, built better than they knew indeed, and, in
their faith, laid a corner-stone for an empire.
And James and Cadenet trying to serve themselvesforgetful of the
spirit of the day, as they pretended to honor itwere so successful
that they destroyed a dynasty.
There is moral enough for our truer Christmas holidays as 1867 leads
in the new-born sister.
Cambridge: Press of John Wilson and Son.