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Full text of "Who ate the pink sweetmeat?"

REFERENCE 








NY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE BRANCH LIBRARIES 



3 3333 08109 7608 



THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 

CIRCULATION DEPARTMENT 



PRESENTED BY 



Helen Robinette 




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Who Ate the Pink Sweetmeat? 



By SUSAN COOLIDGE 



AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

SUSAN COOLIDGE 
THE WHIZZER, 

MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD 
THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS, 

F. L. STEALEY 
CHERRY PIE, 

KATE UPSON CLARK 
BERTIE'S RIDE, 

LADY DUNBOYNE 
ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS, 

E. E. HALK 



Illustrations from Original Drawings by Smedley, Lungren, 

and other artists 



BOSTON 
D LOTHROP COMPANY 

FRANKLIN AND HAWLEY STREETS 



Copyright by 

D. LOTHROP AND COMPANY 

1884 






C 



PROPERTY OF 



CITY OF NEW YORK 



M 




WHO ATE THE PINK 
SWEETMEAT? 

ONLY three pairs of stockings were left in 
the shop. It was a very little shop indeed, 
scarcely larger than a stall. Job Tuke, to whom it 
belonged, was not rich enough to indulge in the 
buying of any superfluous wares. Every spring he 
laid in a dozen dozen of thin stockings, a bale of 
cheap handkerchiefs, a gross of black buttons, a 
gross of white, a little stationery, and a few other 
small commodities. In the autumn he added 
a dozen dozen of thick stockings, and a box full 
of mittens and knitted comforters. Beside these 
he sold penny papers, and home-made yeast made 
by Mrs. Tuke. If the stock of wearables grew 
scant toward midwinter, Job rejoiced in his heart, 
but by no means made haste to replenish it. He 
just laid aside the money needed for the spring 

7 



8 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT ? 

outfit, and lived on what remained. Thus it went 
year after year. Trade was sometimes a little 
better, sometimes a little worse, but whichever 
way it was, Job grew no richer. He and his old 
wife lived along somehow without coming on the 
parish for support, and with this very moderate 
amount of prosperity they were content. 

This year of which I write, the supply of winter 
stockings had given out earlier than usual. The 
weather had been uncommonly cold since October, 
which may have been the reason. Certain it is, 
that here at Michaelmas, with December not yet 
come in, only three pairs of stockings were left in 
the little shop. Job Tuke had told his wife 
only the week before that he almost thought 
he should be forced to lay in a few dozen 
more, folks seemed so eager to get 'em. But 
since he said that, no one had asked for stockings, 
as it happened, and Job thinking that trade was, 
after all, pretty well over for the season, had given 
up the idea of replenishing his stock. 

One of the three pairs of stockings was a big 
pair of dark mixed gray. One pair, a little 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? II 

smaller, was white, and the third, smaller still 
and dark blue in color, was about the size for 
a child of seven or eight years old. 

Job Tuke had put up the shutters for the night 
and had gone to bed. The stockings were talking 
together in the quiet darkness, as stockings will 
when left alone. One pair had been hung in the 
window. 

It had got down from its nail, and was 
now straddling carelessly with one leg on either 
side of the edge of the box in which the others 
lay, as a boy might on the top of a stile. This 
was the big gray pair. 

" Our chances seem to be getting slim," he said 
gloomily. 

" That is more than you seem," replied the 
White Stockings, in a tart voice. " Your ankles 
are as thick as ever, and your mesh looks to 
me coarser than usual to-night." 

" There are worse things in the world than 
thickness," retorted the Gray Stockings angrily. 
" I'm useful, at any rate, I am, while you have 
no wear in you. I should say that you would 



12 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 



come to darning about the second wash, if not 



sooner.' 1 



" Is that my fault ? " said the White Pair, begin- 
ning to cry. 

" No ; it's your misfortune. But people as unfor- 
tunate as you are should mind their P's and Q's, 
and not say disagreeable things to those who are 
better off." 

" Pray don't quarrel," put in the Little Blues, who 
were always peacemakers. " Think of our situa- 
tion, the last survivors of twelve dozen ! we ought 
to be friends. But, as you say, matters are getting 
serious with us. Of course we are all thinking 
about the same thing." 

" Yes ; about the Christmas, and the chimney 
corner," sighed the White Pair. " What a dreadful 
thing it would be if we went to the rag-bag never 
having held a Christmas gift. I could not get 
over such a disgrace. My father, my grandfather 
all my relations had their chance some of 
them were even hung a second time ! " 

" Yes ; Christmas is woven into our very sub- 
stance," said the Gray Stockings. " The old 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 13 

skeins and the ravellings tell the story to the new 
wool, the story of the Christmas time. The very 
sheep in the fields know it. For my part," he 
added proudly, " I should blush to lie in the same 
ash-heap even with an odd stocking who had died 
under the disgrace of never being L'ing up for 
Christmas, and I will never believe that my life- 
long dream is to be disappointed ! ' 

" Why will you use such inflated language ? " 
snapped the White Pair. " You were only woven 
last July. As late as May you were running 
round the meadow on a sheep's back." 

" Very well ; I don't dispute it. I may not be 
as old as Methuselah, but long or short, my life is 
my life, and my dream is my dream, and you have 
no call to criticize my expressions, Miss ! " thun- 
ders the Big Pair. 

" There you are again," said the Little Blues. 
" I do wish you wouldn't dispute. Now let us 
talk about our chances. What day of the month 
is it ? " 

"The twenty-seventh of November," said the 
Gray Stockings, who, because they hung over the 



14 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

penny papers in the window, always knew the 
exact date. 

" Little more than four weeks to the holidays," 
said the White Pair dolorously. " How I wish 
some one would come along and put us out of 
suspense." 

" Being bought mightn't do that," suggested the 
Little Blues. " You might be taken by a person 
who had two pairs of stockings, and the others 
might be chosen to be hung up. Such things do 
happen." 

" Oh, they wouldn't happen to me, I think," 
said the White Pair vain-gloriously. 

As it happened, the three pairs of stockings were 
all sold the very clay after this conversation, and 
all to one and the same person. This was Mrs. 
Wenclte, an Englishwoman married to a Dutch 
shipwright. She had lived in Holland for some 
years after her marriage, but now she and her 
husband lived in London. They had three chil- 
dren. 

The stockings were very much pleased to be 
bought. When Job Tuke rolled them up in paper 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 15 

and tied a stout packthread round them, they 
nestled close, and squeezed each other with satis- 
faction. Beside, the joy of being sold, was the 
joy of keeping together and knowing about each 
other's adventures. 

The first of these adventures was not very 
exciting. It consisted in being laid away in the 
back part of a bureau drawer, and carefully 
locked in. 

" Now what is this for ? " questioned the White 
Stockings. " Are we to stay here always ? ' 

" Yes; that is just what I should like to know," 
grumbled the Big Gray ones. 

" Why, of course not ! Who ever heard of 
stockings being put away for always?' said the 
very wise Little Blues. " Wait patiently and 
we shall see. I think it is some sort of a 
surprise." 

" But clay after day passed and nothing hap- 
pened, surprising or otherwise, till even the philo- 
sophical Little Blue Stockings began to lose heart 
and hope. At last, one evening they heard the 
key click in the lock of the drawer, a stream 



l6 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

of light flashed into their darkness, and they were 
seized and drawn forth. 

" Well, mother, let us see thy purchase. Truly 
fine hosen they are," said Jacob Wendte, whose 
English was rather foreign. 

'* Yes," replied his wife. " Good, handsome 
stockings they are, and the children will be glad, 
for their old ones are about worn out. The big 
pair is for Wilhelm, as thou knowest. Those 
must hang to the right of the stove." 

The Big Gray Pair cast a triumphant glance at 
his companions as he found himself suspended on 
a stout nail. This was something like life! 

" The white are for Greta, and these small ones 
for little Jan. Ah, they are nice gifts indeed ! ' 
said Mrs. Wendte, rubbing her hands. " A fine 
Christmas they will be for the children." 

The stockings glowed with pleasure. Not only 
\vere they hung up to contain presents, but they 
themselves were Christmas gifts ! This was pro- 
motion indeed. 

"Hast thou naught else ? " demanded Jacob 
Wendte of his wife. 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 17 

" No great things ; a kerchief for Greta, this 
comforter for Wilhelm, for the little one, mittens. 
That is all." 

But it was not quite all, for after her husband 
had gone to bed, Mrs. Wendte, a tender look on 
her motherly face, sought out a small, screwed-up 
paper, and with the air of one who is a little 
ashamed of what she is doing, dropped into each 
stocking a something made of sugar. They were 
not sugar almonds, they were not Salem Gibraltars 
which delightful confections are unfamiliar to 
London shops but irregular lumps of a nonde- 
script character, which were crumbly and sweet, 
and would be sure to please those who did not often 
get a taste of candy. It was of little Jan that his 
mother had thought when she bought the sweet- 
meats, and for his sake she had yielded to the 
temptation, though she looked upon it as an 
extravagance. There were three of the sweet- 
meats two white, one pink and the pink one 
went into Jan's stockings. Mrs. Wendte had not 
said anything about them to her husband. 

" Well, this is satisfactory," said the Gray 



l8 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

Pair, when Mrs. Wendte had left the room, and he 
was sure of not being overheard. " Here we are 
all hanging together on Christmas Eve. My 
dream is accomplished." 

" Mine isn't," said the White Pair plaintively. 
"I always hoped that I should hold something 
valuable, like a watch, or a pair of earrings. It 
is rather a come-down to have nothing but a bit 
of candy inside, and a pocket handkerchief pinned 
to my leg. I don't half like it. It gives me 
an uncomfortable pricking sensation, like a stitch 
in the side." 

" It's just as well for you to get used to it," put 
in the Gray. " It doesn't prick as much as a 
darning needle, I fancy, and you'll have to get 
accustomed to that before long, as I've remarked 
before." 

" I'm the only one who has a pink sweetmeat," 
said the Little Blues, who couldn't help being 
pleased. "And I'm for a real child. Wilhelm 
ai^d Greta are more than half grown up." 

" Real children are very hard on their stock- 
ings, I've always heard," retorted the White Pair, 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 19 

who never could resist the temptation to say a 
disagreeable thing. 

'* That may be, but it is all in the future. This 
one night is my own, and I mean to enjoy it," 
replied the contented Little Blue. 

So the night went, and now it was the dawn 
of Christinas. With the first ligbt the door 
opened softly and a little boy crept into the room. 
This was Jan. When he saw the three pairs 
of stockings hanging by the stove, he clapped his 
hands together, but softly, lest the noise should 
wake the others. Then he crossed the room 
on tiptoe and looked hard at the stockings. He 
soon made sure which pair was for himself, but he 
did not take them clown immediately ; only stood 
with his hands behind his back and gazed at them 
with two large, pleased eyes. 

At last he put his hand up and gently touched the 
three, felt the little blue pair, gave it a pat, and 
finally unhooked it from its nail. Then he sat 
down on the floor, and began to put them on. His 
toe encountering an obstacle, he pulled the stock- 
ing off again, put his hand in, and extracted the 



20 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

pink sweetmeat, with which he was so pleased that 
he laughed aloud. That woke up the others, who 
presently came in. 

" Ah, little rogue that thou art ! Always the 
first to waken," said his mother, pleased at his 
pleasure. 

"See, mother! see what I found !" he cried. "It 
is good --sweet! I have tasted a crumb already. 
Take some of it, mother." 

But Mrs. Wendte shook her head. 

" No," she said. " I do not care for sugar. 
That is for little folks like thee. Eat it thyself, 
Jan." 

It was her saying this, perhaps, which prevented 
Wilhelm and Greta from making the same offer 
at least, I hope so. Certain it is that neither of 
them made it. Greta ate hers up on the spot, with 
the frank greediness of a girl of twelve who does 
not often get candy. Wilhelm buttoned his up in 
his trousers pocket. All three made haste to put 
on the new stockings. The three pairs had only 
time to hastily whisper as they were separated : 

" To-night perhaps we may meet again." 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 23 

The pink sweetmeat went into the pocket of 
Jan's jacket, and he carried it about with him all 
the morning. He did not eat it, because once 
eaten it would be gone, and it was a greater pleas- 
ure to have it to look forward to, than to enjoy it 
at the moment. Jan was a thrifty little boy, as 
you perceive. 

Being Christmas, it was of course an idle day. 
Jacob Wendte never knew what to do with such. 
There was his pipe, and there was beer to be had, 
so in default of other occupation, he amused him- 
self with these. Mrs. Wendte had her hands full 
with the dinner, and was frying sausages and mix- 
ing Yorkshire pudding all the morning. Only 
Greta went to church. She belonged to a parish- 
school where they gave Christmas prizes, and by 
no means intended to lose her chance ; but, apart 
from that, she really loved church-going, for she 
spoke English and understood it better than either 
of the other children. Wiihelm went off on errands 
of his own. 

Little Jan spent the morning in admiring his 
stockings, and in wrapping and unwrapping his 



24 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

precious sweetmeat, and taking it out of his pocket 
and putting it in again. 

" Why dost thou not eat it, dear ? ' asked his 
mother, as she lifted the frying-pan from the stove. 

But he answered : " Oh ! not yet. When once it 
is eaten, it is over. I will wait." 

" How long wilt thou wait ? " she asked. 

Jan said bashfully : " I don't know," 

In truth, he had not made up his mind about the 
sweetmeat, only he felt instinctively that he did 
not want to hurry and shorten his pleasure. 

Dinner over, he went out for a walk. Every 
now and then, as he marched along, his hand 
would steal into his pocket to finger his precious 
candy and make sure that it was safe. 

It was a gray afternoon, but not snowing or 
raining. Hyde Park was not too far away for a 
walk, and Jan went there. The Serpentine was 
skimmed over with ice just strong enough to bear 
boys, and quite a little crowd was sliding or skat- 
ing upon it. Jan could skate very well. He had 
learned in Holland, but he made no attempt to 
join the crowd. He was rather shy of English 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT ? 25 

boys, for they sometimes laughed at his Hollander 
clothes or his Dutch accent, and he did not like to 
be laughed at. 

So he strolled away, past the Serpentine and the 
skaters, and watched the riders in the Row for 
awhile. There were not a great many, for people 
who ride are apt to be out of London at the Christ- 
mas time ; but there were some pretty horses, and 
one fair little girl on a pony who took Jan's fancy 
very much. He stood for a long time watching 
her trot up and clown, and the idea occurred to 
him that he would like to give her his sweetmeat. 
He even put his hand into his pocket and half 
pulled it out, but the little girl did not look his 
way, and presently her father, with whom she was 
riding, spoke to her, and she turned her horse's 
head and trotted off through the marble arch. Jan 
dropped the sugar-plum again into his pocket, and 
felt as if his sudden fancy had been absurd ; and 
indeed I think the little girl would have been sur- 
prised and puzzled what to do had he carried out 
the intention. 

After the pony and his little mistress had de- 



26 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

parted, Jan lost his interest in the riders, and 
walked away across the park. Once he stopped 
to look at a dear little dog with a blue collar, who 
seemed to have lost his master, for he was wander- 
ing about by himself, and smelling everybody and 
everything he met, as if to recover a lost trail. 
Jan called him. He came up in a very friendly 
way and allowed himself to be patted, and once 
more the sweetmeat was in danger, for Jan had 
taken it out with the intention of dividing it with 
this new friend, when a \vhistle was heard which 
the little dog evidently recognized, and he darted 
off at once to join his master. So again the pink 
sweetmeat was put back into Jan's pocket, and he 
walked on. 

He had gone quite a distance when he saw a 
number of people collected round the foot of a 
tree. A ladder was set against one of the lower 
branches, and a man had climbed up nearly to the 
top of the tree. Jan, like a true boy, lost no time 
in joining the crowd, but at first he could not 
make out what was going on. The boughs were 
thick. All that he could see was the man's back 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 2\ 

high up overhead, and what he was doing he coulr 
not guess. 

A benevolent-looking old gentleman stood near 
and Jan heard him exclaim with great excitement . 

" There, he's got him ! No, he's not ; but it wa-' 
a close shave ! ' 

" Got what, sir? " he ventured to ask. 

" Why, the rook, to be sure." 

Then, seeing that Jan still looked puzzled, he 
took the trouble to explain. 

" You see that rook up there, my lad, don'l 
you ? ' Jan had not seen any rook at all ! " Well, 
it is caught in some way, how, I can't tell you, buf 
it can't get away from the tree. It has been there 
three days, they say, and all that time the othei 
rooks have brought food to it, and kept it from 
starving. Now some one has gone up to see what 
is the difficulty, and, if possible, to set the poor 
thing free." 

" Thank you, sir," said Jan. 

And the old gentleman looked at him kindly, and 
said to himself : 

" A very civil, tidy little lad ! I like his face." 



28 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT ? 

Jan had now become deeply interested in what 
was going on. He stood on tiptoe, and stretched 
his neck ; but all he could see was the man's back 
and one of his feet, and now and then the move- 
ment of a stick with which the man seemed to be 
trying to hit something. At last there was a great 
plunge and a rustling of branches, and people be- 
gan to hurrah. Jan hurrahed too, though he still 
saw nothing very clearly ; but it is easier to shout 
when other boys shout, if you happen to be a boy, 
than it is to keep still. 

Slowly the man in the tree began to come down. 
He had only one hand to help himself with now, 
for the other held the heavy rook. We in America 
do not know what rooks are like, but in England 
they are common enough. They are large black 
birds, something like our crows, but they look 
wiser, and are a good deal bigger. 

As the man neared the ground every one in the 
crowd could see what had been the matter with 
the rook. A kite-string caught among the tree 
branches, had tangled his legs and held him fast. 
He had pulled so hard in his efforts to escape that 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 29 

the string had cut into one of his legs and half 
broken it. It was stiff and bleeding, and the rook 
could neither fly nor hop. People searched in their 
pockets, and one little girl, who had a half biscuit, 
fed the rook, who, for all the kindly efforts of his 
friends, seemed to be half-famished. The poor thing 
was too weak to struggle or be frightened, and 
took the crumbs eagerly from the girl's hand. 

Jan thought of his sweetmeat, and took it out 
for the third time. Everybody was crowding round 
the man who held the rook, and he could not get 
near. A tall policeman stood in front of him. Jan 
pulled his arm, and when he turned, handed him the 
sweetmeat, and said in his soft, foreign English : 

"For the bird, sir." 

"Thank you my dear," said the policeman. 

He had not understood what Jan said, and in an 
abstracted way, with his eyes still fixed on the rook, 
he bit the pink sweetmeat in two, and swallowed 
half of it at a mouthful. Fortunately Jan did 
not see this, for the policeman's back was turned 
to him ; but observing that the man made no at- 
tempt to go forward, he pulled his sleeve for the 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 




second time, and 
again said : 

" For the bird, I 
said, sir." 

This time the 
policeman heard, 
and taking one 
step forward, he 
held the remain- 
ing half of the 
sweetmeat out to 
the rook, who, 
having by this 
time grown used 

to being fed, took the offered dainty greedily. 

Jan saw the last pink crumb vanish into the long 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 31 

beak, but he felt no regret. His heart had been 
touched by the suffering of the poor bird, and he 
was glad to give what he could to make it forget 
those painful days in the tree. 

So that was the end of the pink sweetmeat, or 
not quite the end. The kind old gentleman to 
whom Jan had spoken, had noticed the little trans- 
action with the policeman. He was shrewd as well 
as kind. 

He guessed by Jan's clothes that he was a 
working-man's son, to whom sweets were not an 
everyday affair, and the generous act pleased him. 
So he put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a 
half-crown, and watching his opportunity, dropped 
it into Jan's pocket, quite empty now that the 
sweetmeat was gone. Then, with a little chuckle, 
he walked away, and Jan had no suspicion of what 
had been done to him. 

Gradually the crowd dispersed, Jan among the 
rest walking briskly, for he wanted to get home 
and tell his mother the story. It was not till after 
supper that he discovered the half-crown, and then 
it seemed to him like a sort of dream, as if fairies 



32 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT ? 

had been at work, and turned the pink sweetmeat 
into a bit of silver. 

That night the three pairs of stockings had an- 
other chance for conversation. The blue ones and 
the green ones lay close together on the floor of 
the room where Jan slept with his brother, and the 
white ones which Greta had carelessly dropped as 
she jumped into bed, were near enough the half- 
opened door to talk across the sill. 

" It has been an exciting clay," said the White 
Pair. " My girl got a Keble's Christian Year at 
her school. It was the second-best prize. It is a 
good thing to belong to respectable people who 
take prizes. Only one thing was painful to me, she 
wriggled her toes so with pleasure that I feel as if 
I were coining to an end in one of my points." 

" You probably are," remarked the Big Gray. 
" Yes, now that I examine, I can see the place. 
One stitch has parted already, and there is quite a 
thin spot. You know I always predicted that you 
would be in the rag-bag before you knew it." 

" Oh, don't say such dreadful things," pleaded 
the Little Blues. Mrs. Wendte will mend her, I am 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 33 

sure, and make her last. What did your girl do 
with her sweetmeat? " 

" Ate it up directly, of course. What else should 
one do with a sweetmeat ? ' snapped the White 
Pair crossly. " Oh, dear ! my toe feels dreadfully 
ever since you said that; quite neuralgic ! ' 

" My boy was not so foolish as to eat his sweet- 
meat," said the Big Gray stockings. " Only girls 
act in that way, without regard to anything but their 
greedy appetites. He traded his with another boy, 
and he got a pocket-knife for it, three screws, and 
a harmonica. There ! ' : 

"Was the knife new? " asked the Blue. 

" Could the harmonica play any music ? '' de- 
manded the White. 

" No ; the harmonica is out of order inside 
somehow, but perhaps my boy can mend it. And 
the knife isn't new quite old, in fact and its 
blade is broken at the end ; still it's a knife, and 
Wilhelm thinks he can trade it off for something 
else. And now for your adventures. What did 
your boy do with his sweetmeat, Little Blues ? 
Did he eat it, or trade it ? " 



34 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 



tt 



It is eaten," replied the Blue Stockings cau- 
tiously. 

" Eaten ! Then of course he ate it. Why don't 
you speak out ? If he ate it, say so. If he didn't, 
who did ? ' 

" Well, nobody ate the whole of it, and my boy 
didn't eat any. It was divided between two per- 
sons or rather, between one person and and 
a thing that is not a person." 

" Bless me ! What are you talking about ? I 
never heard anything so absurd in my life. Per- 
sons, and things that are not persons," said the 
White Pair, " what do you mean ? ' 

" Yes ; what do you mean ? What is the use of 
beating about the bush in this way? " remonstrated 
the Big Gray Pair. " Who did eat the sweetmeat ? 
Say plainly." 

" Half of it was eaten by a policeman, and the 
other half b) a rook," replied the Little Blues, in a 
meek voice. 

" Ho, ho ! " roared the Gray Stockings, while 
the White Pair joined in with a shrill giggle. 
" That beats all ! Half by a policeman, and half 



WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 35 

by a rook ! A fine way to dispose of a Christmas 
sweetmeat ! Your boy must be a fool, Little 
Blues." 

"Not a fool at all," said the Blue Pair indig- 
nantly. " Now just listen to me. Your girl ate 
hers up at once, and forgot it. Your boy traded 
his away ; and what has he got ? A broken knife, 
and a harmonica that can't play music. I don't 
call those worth having. My boy enjoyed his 
sweetmeat all day. He had more pleasure in giv- 
ing it away than if he had eaten it ten times over ! 
Beside he got half a crown for it. An old gentle- 
man slipped it into his pocket because he was 
pleased with his kind heart. I saw him do it." 

" Half a crown ! ' ejaculated the White Pair, 
with amazement. 

"That/J something like," admitted the Big Gray 
Stockings. " Your boy did the best of the three, 
I admit." 

The Little Blues said no more. 

Presently the others fell asleep, but she lay and 
watched Jan as he rested peacefully beside his 
brother, with his wonderful treasure - - the silver 



36 WHO ATE THE PINK SWEETMEAT? 

coin clasped tight in his hand. He smiled in 
his sleep as though his dreams were pleasant. 

"Even if he had no half-crown, still he would 
have done the best," she whispered to herself at 
last. 

Then the clock struck twelve, and the day after 
Christmas was begun. 



T 



THE WHIZZER. 



HAT was a cold evening. The snow was 



just as dry as flour, and had been beat 
down till the road looked slick as a ribbon far 
up and far down, and squeaked every step. I 
pulled Mrar on our sled. All the boys went home 
by the crick to skate, but I was 'fraid Mrar would 
get cold, she's such a little thing. I like to play 
with the girls if the boys do laugh, for some of the 
big ones might push Mrar down and hurt her. She 
misses her mother so I babies her more than I 
used to. 

We's almost out of sight of the schoolhouse, 
and just where the road elbows by the Widow 
Briggs's place, when something passed us like 
whiz! I'd been pulling along with the sled rope 
over my arm, and my hands in my pockets, and 
didn't hear a team or anything, but it made me 

37 



THE WHIZZER. 

shy off the side of the road, and pretty near upset 
Mrar. School lets out at four o'clock, and dusk 
comes soon after that, but it was woolly gray yet, 
so you could see plain except in the fence corners, 
and the thing that passed us was a man riding on 
nothing but one big wheel. 

; 'O, see there !" says Mrar, scared as could be. 
I felt glad on her account we's close to Widow 
Briggs's place. It would be easy to hustle her 
over Briggs's fence ; but the thing run so still and 
fast it might take fences as well as a straight road. 

The man turned round after he passed us, and 
came rearing back, away up on that wheel, and I 
stood as close before the sled as I could. He sat 
high up in the air, and wiggled his feet on each 
side of the wheel, and I never saw a camel or ele- 
phant, or any kind of wild thing at a show that 
made me feel so funny. But just when I thought 
he's going to cut through us, he turned short, and 
stopped. He had on an overcoat to his ears, and 
a fur cap down to his nose, and hairy gloves on, 
and a little satchel strapped over his shoulder, and 
I saw there was a real small wheel behind the big 



THE WHIZZER. 39 

one that balanced him up. He wasn't sitting on 
the tire neither, but on a saddle place, and the big 
wheel had lots of silver spokes crossing back and 
forward. 

" Whose children are you ? " says the man. 

" Nobody's," says I. 

" But who owns and switches you ? " says he. 

" The schoolmaster switches me," says I ; "but 
we ain't owned since mother died." 

Mrar begun to cry. 

" We live at uncle Mozy's," says she. " They 
don't want to give us away." 

The man laughed, and says : " Are you right 
sure ? ' But I hated to have her scared, so I told 
her the wheel couldn't hurt her, nor him neither. 

" I've seen the cars many a time," I says, " and 
I've seen balloons, and read in the paper about 
things that went on three wheels, but this " 

"It's a bicycle," says he. " I'm a wheel-man." 

" That's what I thought," says I. 

Then he wanted to know our names. 

"Mine's Steele Pedicord," I says, "and this is 
inv little sister Mrar." 



40 THE WHIZZER. 

His eyes looked sharp at us and he says : 



" Your mother died about six weeks ago ? ' : 

" Yes, sir," says I. 

"To-morrow won't be a very nice Christmas for 
you," says he. 

" Xo, sir," says I, digging my heel in the snow, 
for he had no business to talk that way, and make 
Mrar feel bad, when I had a little wagon all whit- 
tled out in my pocket to give her, and she cried 
most every night, anyhow, until aunt Ibby threat- 
ened to switch her if she waked the family any 
more. I slept with the boys, but when I heard 
Mrar sniffling in the big bed, a good many nights 
I slipped out and sat by her and whispered stories 
to take her attention as long as my jaws worked 
limber ; but when they chattered too much with 
the cold, I'd lay down on the cover, with my arm 
across her till she went to sleep. I like Mrar. 

" They said we might go up to cousin Andy 
Sanders's to stay over," says I. " We don't have 
to be at uncle Moze's a Christmas." 

" That's some consolation, is it? " says he. 

I was not groins: to let him know what the rela- 



THE VVHIZZER. 4 1 

tions did, but I never liked relations outside of 
our place. At aunt Ibby and uncle Moze's the 
children fight like cats. And they always act poor 
at Christmas, and make fun of hanging your stock- 
ing or setting your plate ; for you'd only get ashes 
or corn-cobs. Aunt Ibby keeps her sleeves rolled 
up so she can slap real handy, and uncle Moze has 
yellow streaks in his eyes, and he shivers over the 
stove, and keeps everybody else back. At cousin 
Andy Sanders' they have no children, and don't 
want them. You durse hardly come in out of the 
snow, and all the best things on the table will 
make you sick. If there is a piece in the paper 
that is hard to read, and ugly as it can be, they 
will make you sit still and read it; and if you get 
done too quick, they will say you skipped, and you 
have to read it out loud while they find fault. I 
knew cousin Andy Sanders never had any candy 
or taffy for Christmas, but Mrar and me could be 
peaceable there, for they don't push her around so 
bad. 

" Well, hand me your rope," says the man, 
" and I'll give you a ride." 



4-' 



THE WHIZZER. 



I liked that notion ; so I handed him the rope, 
and he waited till I got on the sled in front of 
Mrar. 

" That's Widow Briggs's homestead ; isn't it ? ' : 
he said, just before he started. 

I told him it was, and asked if he ever lived 
down our way. He laughed, and said he knew 
something about every place ; and then he set the 
wheel a-going. Mrar held tight to me, and I braced 
my heels against the front round of the sled. The 
fence corners went faster and faster, and the wind 
whistled through our ears, while you could not see 
one dry blade in the fodder shocks move. 

"Ain't he a Whizzer ? v says I to Mrar. 

We turned another jog, and the spokes in the 
wheel looked all smeared together. It did beat 
horse-racing. I got excited, and hollered for him 
to " Go it, old \Vhizzer ! ' and he went it till we's 
past cousin Andy Sanclers's before I knew the 
place was nigh. 

"Cast loose, now, Mister, we're much obliged," 
says I. 

But he kept right on like he never heard me. 



THE WHIZZER. 43 

So I yelled up louder and told him we's there, and 

he turned around his head a minute, and laughed. 

" Please let go, Mister," I says. " That's cousin 

Andy Sanders's away back there. We're obliged, 



but we'll have to go back." 

The Whizzer never let on. He whizzed ahead 
as fast as ever. I thought it was a mean trick for 
him to play on Mrar, and wished I could trip up 
his wheel. It would be dark long before I got her 
back to cousin Andy Sanders's ; and the Whizzer 
whizzed ahead like he was running off with us. 

I had a notion to cut the rope, but there was no 
telling when I'd get another, and it was new. I 
made up my mind to do it, though, when we come 
along by our old place ; but there the Whizzer 
turned round and jumped off in the road. 

I picked up the end of my rope, and shook my 
head, because I was mad. 

" Why didn't you let go ? " says I. 

" Haven't I brought you home ? " he says. 

I looked at the shut-up house, and felt a good 
deal worse than when I thought he was running off 
with us. 



44 THE WHIZZER. 

" O Steeley," says Mrar, " le's go in and stay. I 
want to come home so bad ! ' 

"Now you see what you done ! " says I to the 
Whizzer. He was man grown, and 1's only ten 
years old, but he ought to knowed better than to 
made Mrar cry till the tears run clown her chin. 

I'd been to look at the house myself, but never 
said a word to her about it. Once at noon I 
slipped up there by the cornfields roundabout, and 
sat on the fence and thought about mother till I 
could hardly stand it. The house looked lone- 
somer than an old cabin about to fall; because an 
old cabin about to fall has forgot its folks, but a!: 
our things were locked up here, except what aunt 
Ibby and cousin Andy Sanders had carried off. 
Our sale was to be in January. The snow was 
knee-deep in the yard, and drifted even on the 
porch, but tracks showed where aunt Ibby walked 
when she got out a load of provisions and bed- 
clothes. She had the front door key, and took 
even the blue-and-white coverlid with birds wove 
in, that I heard mother say was to be Mrar's, and 
the canned fruit for fear it would freeze, when cur 



THE WHIZZKR. 



45 



cellar is warmer than their stove. She said to 
uncle Moze, when I was by unbeknown, that Mrar 
and me would have ten times as much property as 
her children, anyhow, and she ought to be paid 
more for keeping us. She might had our money, 
for all I cared, but I did not know how to stand 
her robbing things out of mother's house, and 
wished the sale would come quick, and scatter them 
all. 

The Whizzer leant his chin on his breast and 
looked pitiful out of his eyes at Mrar, for seemed 
like the tears had a notion to freeze on her face, 
only she kept them running down too fast ; and he 
savs : 

j 

" Let's go into the house." 

" Oh, do, Steeley ! ' says Mrar, hugging my 
knee, for I was alongside the sled. " And I'll 
cook all your dinners. And we'll hang up our 
Christmas stockings every Sunday," says she, "and 
aunt Ibby's boys won't durse to take away my 
lead pencil mother give me, and if you see them 
coming here, you'll set Bounce on them." 

" Mrar," says I, " we will go in and make a fire 



46 THE WHIZZER. 

and act like mother's just gone out to a neigh- 
bor's." 

Then she begun to laugh, and one of her tears 
stuck to an in-spot that comes and goes in her face 
like it was dented with your finger. 

"But now you mind," I says, "if aunt Ibby or 

* 

uncle Moze goes to whip us for this, you tell them 
I put you up to it and made you go along with 



me.' 



Mrar looked scared. 

" And you tell them," says the Whizzer, lifting 
his wheel across the snow toward the sate, "that 

C7 

I put you both up to it and made you go along 
with me." 

I pulled Mrar over the drifts, and we went to 
the side door. 

"Aunt Ibby's got the big key," I says, "and Til 
have to. raise a window while you wait here." 

The windows were all locked down, but we went 
round and round till the one in the shed give way, 
and I crawled through and bursted the latch ofif 
the kitchen door. I breathed so fast it made my 
heart thump when I unlocked the side door and let 



THE WHIZZER. 47 

the Whizzer and Mrar into the sitting-room. I no- 
ticed then he'd hung his wheel on the limb of a 
tree, for it glittered. 

"Bounce ain't here to jump on us, is he, Mrar? " 
says I. 

" No ; and he hates to stay at cousin Andy 
Sanders's," says she. 

Bounce would come to the schoolhouse and kind 
of cry till I asked the master, " Please may I go 
out?' And then Bounce and me'd have a talk 
behind the schoolhouse, and I'd tell him I could 
not help it, and he'd own that he might live at aunt 
Ibby's with us if he could only keep from chawing 
up their miserable yellow dogs ; and we'd both 
feel better. 

But I did miss him that minute I opened the 
door, when here he come like a house a-fire, and 
lit down on the floor panting and pounding his 
tail and laughing ; and then he jumped up and 
pawed us in the dark till Mrar had to hold him 
round the neck to keep him still while I got 
a light. He must snuffed our tracks when we 
whizzed past cousin Andy Sanders's. 



48 THE WHIZZER. 

I felt to the pantry and put my hand in the can- 
dle box, but aunt Ibby never left one. I knew 
there's a piece in a candlestick in the shed cup- 
board, though. It burnt half out the night mother 
died. So I got it, and the Whizzer scraped a 
match, and lit the wick. The Whizzer and me set 
to, then, and brought in loads from the woodhouse. 
We built a fire clear up into the chimney, and 
Mrar took the broom, and swept all the dust into 
it. Bounce laid on the carpet and licked at us, 
and whacked his tail till we's in a broad laugh. 

The fire got me warmer than I'd been since 
mother died. The Whizzer took out a thick gold 
watch, and wound our clock and set it. Then he 
says : 

" Let's go over the house." 

And we did. I carried the candle, and Mrar 
and the dog went along. 

The Whizzer looked in all the up-stairs presses, 
and opened the bureau drawers. I staid outside 
of the parlor, and Mrar and Bounce did too. I did 
not want to think of the sheet stretched in the 
corner, for it was not like mother under the sheet. 



THE VVHIZZER. 49 

But her picture hung up in the.re, and so did my 
father's. 

The Whizzer staid in with the candle a good 
while. I heard him going from one thing to an- 
other, and wondered what he was about. I'd 
rather gone out to the graveyard, though, and set 
on the fence watching mother's and father's graves, 
and heard the dry sumac bushes scrape together, 
than to stepped into the parlor. Father died a 
year before mother, but I didn't like him the same 
as I did her. 

Then we looked down cellar ; and I thought I 
ought to tell the Whizzer about the provisions and 
bedclothes being taken out of the house, or he'd 
suppose mother never kept us nice. He smiled 
under his cap ; and I found one jar of cand'ed 
honey behind some bar'ls where aunt Ibby over- 
looked it. We carried that up to the sitting-room. 
Mrar likes cand'ed honey better than anything. 

Just as we come into the sitting-room, I neard 
somebody pound on the front door. 

" They're after us ! " says Mrar. 

" Let me see to it," says the Whizzer. 



50 THE VVHIZZER. 

So he stepped around the house, and came back 
with his wheel on his arm, and held the door open. 
The snow made out-doors light ; and we saw a lit- 
tle fellow lead a horse and buggy through the yard 
into the barn lot, and he came right in, carrying a 
couple of baskets. 

" All right, Sam," says the Whizzer. " Put your 
horse in the stable, and then build a fire in the 
kitchen stove." 

The man he called Sam stopped to warm him- 
self at our hearth, and I never saw such a looking 
creature before. He had a cap with a button on 
top of his head, and his hair was braided in a long 
tail behind. He laughed, and his eyes glittered ; 
and they sloped up like a ladder set against the 
house. He was just as yellow as brass, and wore 
a cloth circular with big sleeves, but the rest of 
him looked like other folks. Mrar went back into 
the corner, and I noticed the Whizzer set his 
wheel against the wall, and I wondered if he'd left 
it out for a sign so the little yellow man would 
know where to stop. 

The yellow man went out to his horse, and the 



THE WHIZZER. 51 

Whizzer took off his cap and gloves and coat, and 
hung them in the sitting-room closet. He looked 
nice. His eyes snapped, and his hair was cut off 
close, except a brush right along the middle of his 
head. We set our chairs up to the rire, and I 
watched him and watched him. 

" If you and that fellow travel together," I says, 
" what makes him go in a buggy, and you on a 
wheel ? " 

"Oh, I like the bicycle," says he. ''I've run 
thousands of miles on it. I sent Sam out from 
San Francisco by the railroad, but I came through 
on the wheel. It took me three months." 

I thought he was a funny man, but I liked him, 
too. 

When Sam came in from the stable, Mtar and I 
went to the kitchen and saw him cook supper. 
For one of the baskets was jam-full of vittles. He 
heated a roasted turkey, and made oyster soup and 
mashed potatoes and chopped cabbage. There 
were preserves the Whizzer called Scotch, and hot 
rolls, and jelly, and cold chicken, and little round 
cakes that melted in your mouth, and pickles, and 



J2 THE WHIZZER. 

nuts, and oranges ; and we put the cand'ed honey 
on the table. The coffee smelt like Thanksgiving. 
Sam waited on us, and I eat till I's ashamed. We 
never expected to have such a dinner in mother's 
house any more. 

When Mrar and I got down and begun to toss 
our oranges, the Whizzer told Sam to clear the 
things away and have his supper in the kitchen, 
and then to fix the beds as comfortable as he 
could. Td made up my mind even if the Whizzer 
did travel ahead that Mrar and m'd stay there all 
night. Aunt Ibby's would think we were at 
cousin Andy Sanders's, and cousin Andy Sanders's 
would think we were at aunt Ibby's. 

He sat in mother's big chair before the fire and 
I felt willing. If it had been uncle Moze in 
the chair I wouldn't felt willing. When a stick 
broke on the dog-irons we piled on more wood, and 
the clock ticked and struck nine, and I wished 
we's never going away from there again. Mrar 
and I played and jumped, and he was blind man, 
and we had solid fun till we's tired out. I showed 
him my books, for I never took one to uncle 



THE WHIZZER. 53 

Moze's. The boys there make you give up every- 
thing, and they lick their dirty thumbs to turn 
leaves. 

Mrar and I stood and looked into the glass 
doors of the bookcase like we used to when the 
tire made them like a looking-glass, and there 
were our faces, hers round and wide between the 
eyes, and curly-headed ; and mine long, and nar- 
row between the eyes, and my hair in a black 
roach. 

I told the Whizzer she better have a bed 
made down by the fire, considering the blankets 
and comforts were most all out a-visiting, and he 
guessed so, too ; and Sam helped me bring lots of 
quilts and a feather tick from my old room to fix 
up the lounge with. Sam went into the kitchen 
and slept by the stove. 

Then I undressed Mrar, and heard her prayers 
after I tucked her in. She's six years old, and 
dressed herself before mother died, all but hooking 
up. I hooked her up, and sometimes she'd swell 
out for mischief when she ought to swell in. But 
now I tended to her entirely because she missed 



54 THE WHIZZER. 

her mother. The Whizzer acted like he saw 
something in the fire, but when Mrar was asleep 
and I sat down by him, he pushed up my roach, 
and he says : 

" You're a very fatherly little fellow, Steele 
Pedicord." 

It put me in mind to ask him if he's Sam's 
father, but he laughed out loud at the notion. 

" Sam's smaller than you and he minds so 
well," says I. " And I never saw a man that was 
so handy at girl's work." 

" Sam is an excellent fellow," says the Whizzer, 
" but I don't deserve to have a Chinaman called 
my son." 

"Oh!" I says. "Is he a Chinaman? Well, 
I've read about them, but I never saw one be- 
fore." 

Then I concluded to ask the Whizzer what his 
own name was. But just then he got up from his 
chair and brought the other basket to the fire. 

" Do you know who Santa Claus is ? " he says, 
talking low. 

" I found that out two years ' ago," says I. 



THE WHIZZER. 55 

" Well, get her little stockings, then," he says. 

" I thought you'd like to do this yourself," says 
the Whizzer. He acted just like mother. 

We took the things out of the basket. There 
were toy sheep and dogs, and dolls and tubs and 
dishes, and underneath them all kinds of candies, 
enough to treat a school. I felt like the Whizzer 
was Santa Glaus. We stuffed her little stockings 
till they stood alone, like kegs, and tied bundles 
to them, and fastened them together and hung 
them on the mantel-piece. Bounce'd wake up 
and watch us, and then he'd doze off, for Bounce 
was fuller of turkey-bones than he ever expected 
to be again ; and Mrar slept away, looking like 
a doll in the fireshine. 

But all at once Bounce gave a jump and a 
bark. Back went the door like the wind had tore 
it open, and there stood uncle Moze, and aunt 
Ibby, and cousin Andy Sanders, and the Widow 
Briggs's grown son, and two or three men behind 
them. They all looked scared or mad, arid aunt 
Ibby's face was so white that her moles all 
bristled. 



56 THE WHIZZER. 

"This is a pretty how-to-do," says she, speaking 
up loud like she did on wash-days, or times she 
took a stick and drove the boys to the wood-pile. 
" What's going on in this house to-night ? fires, 
and candles burning, and travellers putting up, 
and children running away when they're let go 
some place else to stay all night ! You little 
sneak," says she, " you'll get one such a whipping 
as you ached for when your mother was alive." 

"Stop, stop," says the Whizzer peaceably. 

" What are you doing in this house ? ' says 
cousin Andy Sanders. " Are you the man I saw 
go past my place to-night on that wheel, pulling 
the children ? " 

" I am," says the Whizzer, " and I've been 
making notes of the personal property that has 
been carried out of the house." 

"Well," says uncle Moze, "I'm the constable 
and this is my posse." 

The Whizzer laughed, and he says, " This thorn- 
bush is my thornbush, and this dog my dog." 

I did not know what he meant and they acted 
as if they did not either. 



THE WHIZZER. 57 

" I arrest you," says uncle Moze, " for breaking 
into a house and disturbing the peace." 

" You can't do it," says the Whizzer. 

" Go in and take him," says uncle Moze to the 
other men. 

" Because this is my house," says the Whizzer. 

I swallowed my breath when he said that. 

" I wish you'd shut the door," he says ; " and 
since to-morrow is Christmas, and I don't want to 
harbor any ill-will, you can shut it behind instead 
of in front of you. I'm Steele Pedicord, this boy's 
father as you might all know by looking at me." 

Even cousin Andy Sanders didn't jump any 
more than I did, but I jumped for gladness, and 
seemed like he jumped for something else. 

" I'm appointed guerdeen to the children," he 
says, " and I don't want any impudent talk from a 
stranger." 

" You pretend you don't know me, Andy San- 
ders," says the Whizzer, " but I always knew you. 
You expected to settle on their land, while Moze 
and his wife pillaged their goods. I didn't grow 
up with you for nothing." 



58 THE VVHIZZER. 

" Steele Pedicord died when that boy was a 
year old/' says aunt Ibby, and she looked so 
awful and so big I could hardly bear to watch her. 
"He was killed by the Indians on his way from 
Californy, after he sent his money home." 

" He was only kept prisoner by the Indians," 
says my father, " and sick and ill-used. But 
he had no notion he was dead till he got away 
after a few years, and heard his widow was mar- 
ried again, and even mother to another child." 

" It's a likely story," says cousin Andy Sanders, 
"that a man wouldn't come forward and claim his 
own in such a case." 

"Your notion of a man and mine never did 
agree, Andy Sanders," says my father. " She 
w-asn't to blame, and her second husband was my 
best friend. The boy and girl are mine now." 

"It's some robbing scheme," says aunt Ibby, 
but she looked as if she knew him well enough. 

" I've more to give them than you could have 
taken from them," he says, "and you may begin to 
investigate to-night. Is that the Widow Briggs's 
boy?" he says. 



THE WHIZZER. 59 

The Briggs boy came up and shook hands with 
him, and the other men stepped in and shook 
hands, too. They all begun to talk. But uncle 
Moze, and aunt Ibby, and cousin Andy Sanders 
left the door, and I heard them slam the gate. 

Mrar slept right along, though the neighbors 
talked so loud and fast ; and I sat down on the 
lounge at her feet, wondering what she would say 
Christmas morning when she found out the Whiz- 
zer was my own father, that mother thought was 
dead since I's a year old ! 

I felt so queer and glad that something in 
me whizzed like the wheel, and while my father 
was not looking, and everybody sat up to the fire 
asking questions, I slipped over and tried to hug 
it around the cranks that he wiggled with his feet. 

You can read pieces about Santa Claus coming 
on a sledge, but that's nothing to having your 
own father that you think is dead and gone 
ride up like a regular Whizzer and open the 
house for Christmas ! 



THE PATRONCITO'S 
CHRISTMAS. 

DRIVEN downwards by the storm which had 
raged incessantly for two clays about the 
lofty red ramparts of the Sierra Roja, the black- 
tail deer, in broken bands, sought refuge in the 
lower foot hills. Here, also, a light " tracking 
snow ' had fallen, and their trails lay fresh for 
hunters' following. 

Cherokee Sam had been early abroad, long 
rifle on shoulder, and lank deer hound at heels. 
Not all for pleasure did the gaunt half-breed slip 
like a shadow in his hunting moccasons through 
the canons clad in pine. Meat was needed in the 
dirt-roofed cabin in the gulch. And for that mat- 
ter, bread also, and this, too, despite the fact that 
the stubble sticking up through the snow in the 

bottom, marked the site of a harvested corn patch. 

60 



THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 6l 

The swarthy hunter had indeed planted there ; 
but other hands had gathered the harvest. 

Mixed, like his blood, were the half-breed's 
occupations, and his sinewy hands as often swung 
the pick and shook the pan, as pointed the rifle. 
When his company of gold-hunters from the 
Nacoochee had struck the Sierra, they had scat- 
tered through it to prospect for placer, and he had 
then first come upon the gulch, and though it had 
never panned out even " a color," the charm of 
its virgin solitude had smitten the half-savage 
heart of this wanderer after the will-o'-wisp of 
fortune. Too tangled for trail lay the storm-felled 
trees, and no man's foot but his own ever trod 
the gramma grass or brushed the wild cypress 
bending by the stream. By this, just where the 
beavers had built their dam, Cherokee Sam had 
pitched his cabin. Standing by the margin of the 
silent pool, in close proximity to the uncouth 
beaver huts, at the first glance its mud-be-daubed 
exterior might have been taken for the mud palace 
of the king beaver himself, but for the thin smoke 
that slowly melting into air marked the abode of 



62 THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 

fire-making man. In the rich "bottom " near, the 
half-breed, with provident mind for "ash-cakes," 
and "fatty bread," had planted a corn patch, and 
at evening as he came over the hill above, return- 
ing from his clay's hunting, and saw the cabin, and 
the corn greenly waving, he hailed the spot as 
home. 

But one day as he sat idly before his open door, 
a little gray burro came ambling agilely through 
the fallen trees, his rider, a dwarfish man of 
haughty aspect, whose cheeks were wrinkled, and 
beard grizzled, but whose eyes were as piercing 
and elf-locks as black as the half-breed's own. 
Seated on his little long-eared palfrey, he accosted 
the half-breed and gravely inquired, in tolerable 
English, if he knew that he was trespassing on the 
lands of \hz patron , who lived at the plaza, on the 
plain below. 

" No ; I don't know nothing about no patron" 
said Cherokee Sam shortly, as he arose and stood 
towering in giant height above the dwarfish rjder 
of the burro. 

Bieu, then he was sorry to have to tell him, said 



THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 63 

the Spanish stranger in suave reply. He was the 
mayordomo, and this was theflatrvn's land, and the 
coyote (half-breed) that killed all the deer must 
seek some other spot. Far he must go, too, 
for the patron's land was far-reaching, and he 
pointed with his willow wand to the Sierra rising 
above, and the plain rolling far away below. 
On all sides far as the eye could see was the 

j 

patron's land. His it was by virtue of a Spanish 



grant. 



The coyote giant laughed in scorn. " I've 
heerd of them thar grants. What good are they? 
Squatters' rights and squatters' rifles rules in this 
here free country, I reckon. Go back, little Mr. 
Mexican, to your /<//;'<?;/, and tell him that here I've 
took up my homestead, and here I'll stay, and 
you uns may do your do ! ' : 

As he spoke he threw his rifle on his hollowed 
arm, and looked black thunder from his beetling 
brow upon the burro-rider. Perhaps had he been 
less haughty in his defiance, he would have fared 
better at the mayordomo's hands. For when the 
corn was yellow, and he returned from one of his 



6 A THE 1'ATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAx 

periodical prospects to gather it, he found only 
the bare stubble field awaiting him. 

Thus it was that Cherokee Sam, hunter, pro- 
spector and squatter, despite his triad of trades, 
was now at Christmas without a "corn-pone," and 
this state was likely to continue through the winter. 

Returning home at sunset with the legs of a doe 
tied across his breast, and her slender head, with 
its big ears trailing behind against the muzzle of 
the eager hound, the hunter strode from the tim- 
ber on the slope, and struck the snow from his 
frozen leggins and moccasons as he paused on the 
Shut-in. A lofty upheaved ledge of red sandstone 
was this, which arose from the slopes on either 
hand, and shut in the gulch fiom the plain below, 
leaving only a narrow portal for the passage of the 
stream. 

Above him, as he stood, were the foot-hills, and 
his wild home all snow-covered and cold in the 
shadow of the Sierra. But below the snow had 
not fallen, and the plain shone brown and warm in 
the lingering light of the setting sun. There, soft- 
ened by the distance, with a saffron shimmer 



THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 65 

about its dark outlines, lay the gray adobe plaza, 
sleeping by the silver stream. 

There were gathered corn and oil, the fat of the 
land ; and he would have nothing but the deer on 
his shoulders for Christmas cheer. A bad gleam 
came in the half-breed's eyes as he thought of his 
harried corn-patch, and gazed at the abode of his 
enemy. 

j 

As if in sympathy with his master, the hound put 
up his bristles, and growled savagely. Looking 
down, the hunter was astonished to see a small 
figure standing motionless at the foot of the Shut- 
in, and gazing up at him. 

The stranger was a young boy. He was very 
richly and somewhat fantastically dressed in a 
silken jacket, and silken pantalones, much be-but- 
toned about the outer seams, and confined at the 
waist by a silken sash. On his feet were 
buckskin zapatos, soled with raw-hide, and tied 
with drawstrings of ribbon, and over his long 
and flowing hair a white sombrero with gay silk 
tassels. 

This he reverentially removed as the hunter de- 



66 THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 

scencled, and resting on him his soft black eyes, 
said : 

" Good evening, Senor don San Nicolas. To- 
night is Noche Buena (Christmas eve), and Padre 
Luis told me you would pass through the Shut-in 
on your way to the plaza. So I've come to meet 
you." 

His manner was eager and full of trusiful confi- 
dence. The half-breed was taken aback. 

" I don't go by no such name as that," he re- 
plied gruffly. " I'm Cherokee Sam, and I live 
down thar ; ' and he pointed to the dirt-roofed 
cabin in the gulch. 

" I wanted badly to see the saint," said the 
stranger, as his face fell ; " and I never could 
when he comes to the plaza, because I'm then 
always asleep. I'm the patroncito, senor." 

He had replaced his sombrero, and his air as he 
declared himself was princely. 

Cherokee Sam's face darkened. The youno- 

J & 

patron the son of his enemy the despoiler of 
the corn-patch. Even now they must be seeking 
him, and here he was in his hands. And there 




THE BOY REVERENTIALLY REMOVED HIS SOMBRERO. 



THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 69 

was no snow below, and they could find no trail to 
follow. 

" What did you do that for?" asked l\\e patron- 
cito, in a tone of authority, as he laid his hand on 
the ragged bullet-hole behind the doe's shoulder. 

" I had to have meat for my Christmas dinner," 
said Sam. " Come with me, and I will show you 
that thar Spanish Santy Claus you're huntin' for," 
he added, and held out his hand. 

The patronrito placed his own in it promptly. 
For a moment the giant stayed his stride to the 
other's puny steps. Then the patroncito stopped 
and said commandingly : 

" The snow is deep ; take me up ! ' 

Never had the wild hunter known a master ; 
but now, without a word, he stooped and, like an- 
other giant St. Christopher, set the child upon his 
shoulder, and plunged through the drifts for the 
cabin. 

In a moment he had the doe gambrelled to 
a pine in front of the cabin. Then he pushed 
open the slab door, and entering, blew up the cov- 
ered embers in the rough fireplace, and piled on 



jo THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 

the pitch pine. As it blazed up, he drew a couple 
of deerskins from his bed in the corner and Hung 
them down before the fire and bade the patronrito 
be seated. 

He obeyed ; and the half-breed looked at him 
with stern satisfaction. Many a long day should 
it be ere the patron saw again his son and heir. 
But these reflections were disturbed. His guest 
pointed to his gay zapatos. 

" Will you please take them off, Don Cherokee 
Sam ? " he said. " My feet are wet and my fingers 
are numb." 

The half-breed knelt and undid the ribbons, and 
drew them off, and also his long silk stockings. 

* 

" Muchas grarias, Don" said the patroncito, as he 
reclined at ease and toasted his bare toes before 
the fire. 

His fearlessness pleased his hunter host well. 
His manner, too, was patronizing, and the half- 
breed entered into the jest with savage humor. 

"If you'll 'scuse me, Mister Patronrito, I'll git 
supper." 

He spoke as if this were an operation requiring 



THE PATRONCITo's CHRISTMAS. 71 



great culinary skill and much previous prepara- 
tion. It consisted in cutting three steaks, with his 
sheath-knife, from the deer's ham, and placing 
them with a lump of fat in the frying-pan over the 
fire. These turned and browned, two tin cups 
filled with water, and the supper was ready. 

The guest took kindlv enough to the venison. 

O j O 

He tasted the water and paused. " I'll thank you 
for a cup of hot coffee, Don Cherokee Sam, with 
plenty of sugar in it, if you please." 

Don Cherokee Sam was embarrassed at this po- 
lite but luxurious request. 

" Coffee's bad," he said, shaking his head. " It 
spiles my nerve so 's I can't draw a stiddy bead. 
Water 's best, patroncito" 

The guest was truly polite. He emptied his cup 
with the best of grace. But presently he paused 
again in his consumption of venison. 

" Pardon me, but you have forgotten the 
bread." 

The host arose; What could he set before this 
youthful sybarite from the plaza ? 

Bread 's been mighty scarce with me this \vin- 



,. 



72 THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 

ter," he muttered. " And I planted a good plenty 
of corn out thar too." 

The recollection roused his rankling resentment, 
and he paused. 

" Why didn't you gather it, then, like the peones 
do ?" asked the patroncito placidly. 

" It was stole,'" muttered the host ; but he 
checked himself, and added in a softer tone, " by 
b'ars and other varmints, I reckon." 

And with this compromise between anger and 
truth, Cherokee Sam reached up and took down a 
small sack hanging to the great centre roof-log. It 
contained a few nubbins found on the harried field, 
his seed for next spring. 

" Patroncito" he remarked in a tone of concili- 
ating confidence, as he shelled an ear in the frying- 
pan, " thar's nothing like deer meat, and running 
water, and the free air of heaven, and maybe 
parched corn oncet in a while, to make a man a 



man.' 



Under this encomium the parched corn was par- 
taken of with gravity. And supper being over, the 
host cleaned up, a simple process, performed by 



THE PATRONCITO S CHRISTMAS. 73 

dashing cold water in the red-hot frying-pan, and 
hanging it on a nail. 

" San Nicolas, you said you'd show him to me," 
then politely hinted fas patroncito. 

"It's early yet for him," said Cherokee Sam. 
" He's jist about taking the trail in the Sierra, and 
the drifts is mighty deep, too. But he'll be here." 

" My stockings, Don they should be ready ; 
and they're wet. Will you oblige me by holding 
them to the fire ?" said the princely patrondto. 

Cherokee Sam held the damp stockings to the 
blaze. The patrondto watched him sleepily. 

" He's a long time coming, Don Cherokee Sam," 
he murmured, as he nodded nodded yet again, 
and slipped clown upon the deerskin, fast asleep. 

The half-breed lifted him like a feather, and laid 
him on his bed and drew the covering softly over 
him. Noiselessly he replenished the fire, and 
squatted before it, resuming the stocking-drying 
process. 

The resinous boughs burst into flame, and a 
pungent perfume and a red glow pervaded the 
smoke-blackened cabin. The light fell on 



74 THE PATRONCITC'S CHRISTMAS. 



troncito as he lay on the couch of skins, caressed 
the slender foot he had thrust from out the cover- 
ing, and danced on the silver buttons strung on 
his gay pantahmes. Over him, like an ogre, 
hovered the wavering shadow of the giant's head, 
rendered more grotesque by his towering cap of 
badger-skin, plumed with a flaunting tail. 

As he sat on his heels in the brilliant light, this 
savage head-covering lent additional fierceness to 
the half-breed's hatchet-face. Wild-eyed, too, was 
he as any denizen of his chosen haunts. But 
stolid in its composure as his saturnine counte- 
nance was, it was free from all trace of the petty 
passions that cramp the souls of his civilized half- 
brothers. And as he looked at the soft stockings, 
now dry in his hands, a smile parted his thin lips. 

Just then the firelight flared up and went sud- 
denly out, and the threatening shadow on the wall 
was lost. And though the door never opened, and 
even the hunter's vigilant ears caught no sound, 
he felt a presence in the cabin. Looking up, he 
dreamily beheld, shadowed forth dimly in the 
gloom, the form of San Nicolas, long belated by 



THE PATRONCITO S CHRISTMAS. 75 

the drifts. But how that Spanish Christinas saint 
looked, or what he said to remind the half-breed 
of that hallowed time when all should be peace on 
earth and good will towards men, must ever remain 
a secret between him and his lawless host. 

The patroncito awoke, and through the open 
doorway saw the snow sparkling in the sun of 
Christmas morning. Over the fire Cherokee Sam 
was frying venison, and on either side hung the 
long silk stockings, filled. 

" And I never saw him ! ' : said the patrondto 
reproachfully, as he looked at them. "Oh, why 
didn't you wake me, Don Cherokee Sam ? " 

" I didn't dar to do it, patroncito" explained 
Sam. " 'Twasn't safe when he told me not to." 

He watched the patroncito anxiously as he took 
the stockings down. But he need have had no 
fear. As their contents rolled out on the deerskin 
the patroncito uttered a cry of delight. 

A handful of garnets, bits of broken agate, a 
shivered topaz, shining cubes of iron pyrites, 
picked up on otherwise fruitless prospects by San 
Nicolas ; a tanned white weasel-skin purse, and 



76 THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 

ornaments of young bucks' prongs, patiently carved 
by that good saint on winter evenings. Certainly, 
never before, with all his silk and silver, had the 
petted patroncito received gifts so prized as these. 

"Never mind about breakfast," he said imperi- 
ously, as he gathered them up. " Take me to the 
plaza right away." 

The half-breed humbly complied. But scarcely 
had they emerged from the granite gateway of the 
Shut-in when they were met by a party from the 
plaza, headed by the patron himself, searching, in 
great trouble, for the wanderer. They had been 
abroad all night. Happily, Cherokee Sam remem- 
bered the admonitions of San Nicolas over night. 

"Patron" he said, haughtily, as he led the 
patroncito forward, " I bring you a Christmas gift." 

Then, as Cherokee Sam afterwards described 
it, "there was a jabbering and a waving of hands 
by them thar Mexicans." And he, turning, strode 
back to his cabin, and his unfinished breakfast. 
Still his resentment rankled. But it vanished 
later on that day. 

Once more the gray burro ambled up the gulch 



THE PATRONCITO'S CHRISTMAS. 77 

bearing the dwarfish mayordomo^ but this time on 
a mission of peace. After him came a burrada 
(pack-train) well laden, and drew up before the 
door of the astonished Cherokee Sam. With un- 
covered head and courtesy profound, the mayor- 
domo stood before him and asked would Don 
Cherokee Sam indicate where he would have the 
Christmas gifts, sent by \hepatroncito, stored. 

" In the cabin," replied Sam, glancing at the 
loaded burros in dismay, " if it will hold 'em. I 
ain't got nowhars else." 

The mayordomo waved his wand to the attend- 
ant packers, and in a moment the cabin was 
filled with box, bag, and bale, closely piled. As- 
suredly Don Cherokee Sam had luxuries of life to 
last until Christmas came again. 



CHERRY PIE. 

YET it isn't such a bad house," said little 
Elsie Perch to herself, as she looked up- 
ward at the tall tenement-house in which she lived ; 
"to be sure, there's a good many folks in it 
Grandpa 'n Grandma Perch, 'n Grandpa : n Grandma 
Finney, 'ri uncle John's folks, 'n us 'n her 
house hasn't got anybody in it but them but it's 
a good enough house. I ain't going to cry because 
that little girl that goes to Sunday-school with me 
has nicer clothes 'n lives in a nicer house. She 
hasn't got any cherry-tree, anyway!" 

Elsie spoke these last words with an air of great 
triumph, for, sure enough, right in the back yard 
of Elsie's home stood a great, generous cherry- 
tree; and though as she looked at it now, in the 
gray solemnity of a December twilight, she had to 
use considerable imagination to recall the luscious 

78 



CHERRY PIE. 79 

red fruit it had borne last summer, and the glossy 
richness, of the green leaves, under whose shade 
she had been cool and happy when many of her 
neighbors were sweltering in the August heats ; 
still Elsie was quite equal to it, especially as to- 
morrow was Christmas day. For there was to be 
a splendid Christmas dinner at Grandma Perch's, 
on the lower floor, and uncle John and his family, 
and Elsie's father and mother, and Grandma and 
Grandpa Finney were all to be at the dinner. The 
cherry-pie was always the crowning glory of Christ- 
mas dinner with the Perch family. To be sure, it 
was made of canned cherries ; but then, couldn't 
Grandma Perch can cherries so they tasted just as 
nice in winter as in summer? And nobody else 
knew so well just how much sugar to put in, nor 
how to make such flaky, delicious pie-crust. 

All these things occurred pleasantly to Elsie as 
she ran up and down the walk in her warm hood, 
and cloak, and mittens. There was a shade of 
repining, to be sure, as she th jught of the velvet 
clothes, and various other privileges belonging to 
the "girl who went to Sunday-school;'' but this 



80 CHKRKY PIE. 

grew less as she ran, and especially as she looked 
down to the square below and saw how much more 
squalid and miserable the houses looked down 
there, she felt a thankful glow that her home was 
better, and that her papa and uncle John never 
came home in a cruel, drunken fury like the fathers 
of the children down there. 

" Pretty good times come Christmas ! ' said 
Elsi^ aloud, in a burst of joy, hopping merrily up 
and down, and forgetting her discontent. " Why, 
there's Millie ! ' ' and she ran across the street to 
a little girl who had just come out of the tall 
house opposite. Millie looked very forlorn. 

"What's the matter?" asked Elsie. 

" Mamma says I can't have any Christmas pres- 
ent," said Millie, beginning to sob wretchedly; 
" she was expecting some work, but it didn't come, 
and the rent's overdue, and and I can't have a 
thing ! " 

"That's too bad," said Elsie; "I'm going to 
have lots and we are going to have cherry-pie 
for dinner." 

"Oh, my!"' cried Millie, drying her tears to 



CHERRY PIE. 8l 

contemplate Elsie's future ; "cherry-pie! It must 
be so good ! It sounds good." 

" Didn't you ever have any cherry-pie ?" 

Millie shook her head. 

"Oh, it's splendid !" 

Millie's eyes shone. 

Just then some of the blue, pinched, half- 
dressed little children, who lived below, came run- 
ning up the walk. There were two boys whom 
the children knew to be a certain Sammie and 
Luke, and two girls whose names were Lizy and 
Sally. They were shouting and racing, but they 
stopped to listen to the conversation. The word 
" Christmas ' loosened their tongues at once. 
" I'm going to our Sunday-school to a Christmas- 
tree," said Sammie. 

"I can't go to Sunday-school," said Lizy, ready 
to cry, " I hain't got no clo'es." 

Elsie's heart reproached her anew for her cove- 
tous, ungrateful thoughts of a few moments before. 
Her self-reproaches grew stronger still when 
Millie remarked to the little crowd of listeners, 
as though proud of the acquaintance of so distin- 



82 CHKRRY PIE. 

guished an individual, that Elsie Perch was going 
to have cherry-pie for her Christmas dinner. 

"Oh, my!" "Is she?" "Ain't that tine!" 
cried one and all, with enthusiasm. 

"Yes," rejoined Elsie, her heart swelling with 
pride, " my grandma always has a cherry-pie for 
Christmas." 

Silence fell on the little group, and in the midst 
of this silence, a light footfall was heard patter- 
ing along the side street, and there burst into view 
a little girl little Maude from the street above 
the very little girl of whom Elsie had been envious. 
She wore a broad gray hat, with a lovely Titian red 
feather, and a Titian red velvet Mother Hubbard 
cloak, and velvet leggings to match, and carried a 
lovely muff, while by a silken cord she led a dear 
little white dog, in a buff-and-silver blanket. 

"Oh, "cried this beautiful little creature, bound- 
ing toward Elsie, " there you are ! I saw you come 
around here after Sunday-school, and I've been 
hunting for you. See my little new clog ! It's a 
Christmas present, only it came yesterday. Is 
this where you live?'' She looked shrinkingly up 



CHERRY PIE. 83 



down the narrow street, and at the squalid 
buildings in the distance. " And are these your 
brothers and sisters? 11 

Elsie laughed, and said no. 

"What do you think?' began Lizy seriously, 
her large, wistful eyes, and chalk-white face, lend- 
ing a strange pathos to her funny little speech, 
" this girl here," and she pointed to Elsie, " is 
going to have cherry-pie." 

"Is she?' said Maude; "that is nice. I like 
cherry-pie, but we don't have any in winter." 

" We do," said Elsie proudly. "My grandma 



puts up lots of cans of cherries, when our cherry- 
tree bears, and Christmas-time we have cherry-pie, 
and sometimes, when we have company, we have 
cherry-sauce for tea." 

" I'd like some cherry-pie," said Maude im- 
periously. " Little girl, give us some of your 
cherry-pie ? " 

The hungry group of ragged boys and girls 
gathered about with Maude. She was beginning 
some sort of an explanation, that the cherry-pie 
was her grandma's, and not hers, when a bell 



84 CHERRY PIE. 

rang in the distance, and Maude darted away. 

"That's for me," she cried, hastening away, and 
pulling the buff-and-silver-coated doggie after her. 
" Good-by, little girl ! I wish I could have some 
of that cherry-pie." 

She tripped daintily away down the side street, 
and the children watched her until she was out of 
sight. " I 'spose," said Luke, with a sigh, " I 
'spose she has dinner every day." 

"/have dinner every day," cried Elsie. 

" Do you ? ' said Lizy, devouring this favored 
child of fortune with her great, wistful eyes. " I 
don't. Oh ! I'd like some of that cherry-pie." 

Just then Elsie saw her father coming up the 
street and ran to meet him, while the other 
children started for their homes in the square 
below. 

The next morning there was so much excitement 
that Elsie never thought of the poor children on 
the next square, nor of Millie, nor of Maude, until 
the Christmas dinner was nearly over and the 
cherry-pie came on. 

"Oh!" she cried, "you don't know, grandma, 



CHERRY PIE. 85 

how nice everybody thinks it is that we can have 
cherry-pie." 

"Do they?" said grandma kindly. "Well, I 
do hope the pie's turned out well." 

Elsie noticed that some of the pie was left after 
all had been served. A bright idea darted into 
her head, and she was out of the room in a trice. 
On went cloak and hood, and she dashed around 
the corner to see if she could find Maude. Yes, 
there she was, playing with her blanketed doggie 
on the broad sidewalk. 

"Come!" cried Elsie, catching hold of Maude's 
hand. "Come quick! There's lots of cherry- 
pie ! Come and have some ! ' : 

As they neared Millie's house they met that lit- 
tle girl on the walk, and she was easily persuaded 
to join the party. 

" Now," said Elsie, running on in advance, 
" let's get Sammie and Lizy, and those other 



ones.' 



They flew down the street, and soon found the 
objects of their search. The watchword, "cherry- 
pie," was sufficient, and in the twinkling of an eye, 



86 CHERRY PIE. 

they were at Grandma Perch's door. Then, for 
the first time, Elsie felt a little misgiving. Per- 
haps there wasn't pie enough to go round. And 
what would grandma say? 

But she marched bravely in, her eager little 
crowd of companions at her heels. 

" See here, grandma,' 1 she said, "here are a lot 
of children who want some cherry-pie." 

"Dear heart!' exclaimed grandma, in dismay, 
looking down at the motley group with lifted 
hands. "Why, Elsie! there isn't pie enough for 
more'n three little pieces, but, bless 'em ! "' for the 
look on some of those pinched, hungry faces went 
to grandma's heart, in the abundance and mirth 
of her own Christmas day, " I'll have a cherry-pie 
made for 'em in less'n no time. There's pie-crust 
in my pan, and the oven is hot ; just go out and 
play, children, and I'll call you in presently." 

And " presently " they were called in to behold 
a mammoth cherry-pie, baked in a tin pan, and 
they had just as much as was good for them, even 
to Maude's doggie. Maude left first, for she 
wasn't hungry, and, besides, she knew that her 



CHERRY PIE. 87 

mamma would worry about her long absence ; but 
the little starved boys and girls from "the square 
below," didn't go for a long time. To tell the 
truth, grandma didn't stop at giving them cherry- 
pie. They had some turkey, and some mashed 
potato, and turnip, and some hot coffee, besides. 

" Tain't often I can give," said grandma after- 
ward. "But we've been prospered, and I can't 
bear to see anybody hungry on Christinas day." 

After they had all gone, Elsie sat with her heart 
full of quiet happiness, rocking in her little rock- 
ing-chair. She was meditating vaguely on the 
envy she had felt toward Maude, and her general 
feeling of discontent. At last she spoke to grand- 
ma, who happened to be sitting beside her. 

" Most everybody has things some other folks 
don't have," she remarked, rather vaguely. 

Grandma understood her. 

"Dear heart!" she cried again, for that was her 
pet name for Elsie. " That's right ! There's mer- 
cies for everybody, if they'd only reckon 'em 
up and Christmas day's a first-rate time to re- 
member it ! " 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 

T FARE'S a nice state of things ! We have 
"* * run short of candles for the Tree, and 
of course the shops will be shut to-morrow, and 
the day after. What is to be done ? Almost 
anything else might have been managed in some 
way, but a Christmas Tree in semi-darkness 
can anything more dismal be imagined ? ' And 
Alice Chetwynd's usually bright face looks nearly 
as gloomy as the picture she has called up. 

" What's the row ? ' : cries schoolboy Bertie, 
planting two good-natured, if somewhat grubby 
hands on his sister's shoulders. " Alice in the 
clumps ? That is something quite new. Can't you 
cut some big candles in two and stick them about ? 
Here's Cousin Mildred ask her. She'll be sure 
to hit upon something." 

" No, don't bother her," whispers Alice, giving 

88 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 89 

him a warning pat, as a pretty girl some years 
older than themselves, enters the room. " She is 
so disappointed at getting no letter again to-day 
I am so sorry, for it has quite spoiled her Christ- 
mas. Hush ! don't say I told you anything about 
it." 

" What mischief are you two children plotting ? ' : 
Cousin Mildred tries to speak cheerily, and to 
turn her face so that they may not see any traces 
of tears about her pretty blue eyes, but there is a 
little quiver in her voice which betrays her. 

In a moment Alice's arm is round her neck and 
Bertie is consoling her after his rough and ready 
fashion. 

" Cheer up, Cousin Milly ! I'll bet anything 
you'll get a letter to-morrow." 

" I can't do that, Bertie, I'm afraid, for the post- 
man doesn't come on Christmas Day." 

" Doesn't he ? What a beastly shame ! I 
declare I'll speak to Father " 

" No, no your father knows all about it it's 
quite right, and I'm so glad the poor old man has 
one day to spend comfortably with his wife and 



9 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

children. I don't quite know why Cecil has no' 
written but worrying about it won't do am 
good. Now let us talk about something else 
Alice, when you can be spared from the tree 
Mother wants all the help she can get for the 
Church-dressing." 

" Is she down at the Church now ? All right 
darling I'll come in two minutes. Isn't it a 
plague about these candles ? The shops are sure 
to be shut in Appleton the day after Christmas, 
and the poor children will be so disappointed if we 
have to put off the tree." 

" The poor, dear school-children ! Oh, that is a 
pity. But candles oh, clear ! 1 don't know ho\\ 
we can do without them. Is it quite impossible to 
send to Appleton to-day ? " 

" Why, to say the truth I asked Father this 
morning, and he said there was no one to go. 
You see Coachman is away for a holiday, and Sam 
is as busy as he can be and there is no one else 
who can be trusted with a horse and one cannot 
ask anybody to trudge five miles and back through 
the snow, though it is not at all deep." 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 91 

" And there is more snow coming, I fear,'' says 
Mildred looking out at the grey, thick wintry sky 
it is awfully cold. Ah ! there is a feeble little ray 
of sunshine struggling out ! Well, I must go back 
to my occupation of measuring flannel for the old 
women's petticoats it is nice and warm for one's 
fingers at any rate. And, Ally dear, tell Mother 
I'll join her at the church as soon as ever 1 can. 
The keepers have brought us such lovely holly out 
of the woods you never saw such wealth of ber- 
ries. The wreaths will be splendid this year." 

And Mildred goes away humming a little Christ- 
mas carol, and bravely trying to forget the sore 
anxiety that is pressing on her heart, for the far- 
away soldier lover whose Christmas greeting she 
had so hoped to receive to-day. 

"Isn't she a trump?' cries Bertie, who caif 
see and appreciate the effort his cousin is making. 
;< I know she has half cried her eyes out when she 
was by herself, but she didn't mean us to find it 
out. i say, Alice, I'll have another try for that 
letter of hers, and get your candles too. Grey 
Plover has been roughed, and he's as sure-footed 



92 BERTIE S RIDE. 

as a goat the snow is nothing to hurt now, and 
I'll trot over to Appleton and be back in no time 
at all." 

"Oh, Bertie, don't ! Cousin Mildred said there 
was a snow-storm coming, and you might get lost 
like the people in the Swiss mountains " 

" Or the babes in the wood, eh ? You little 
silly, don't you think I'm man enough to take care 
of myself ? " 

And Master Bertie who is fifteen, and a regular 
sturdy specimen of a blue-eyed, sunburnt curly- 
haired English lad, draws himself up with great 
dignity and looks down patronizingly at his little 
sister. 

Alice, of course, subsides, vanquished by this 
appeal, but she cannot help feeling some very un- 
comfortable qualms of conscience when it appears 
that she is to be the only person admitted into the 
young gentleman's confidence. 

" Don't go bothering poor Mother about it she 
always gets into such a funk, as if no one knew 
how to take care of themselves. And be sure not 
to say a word to Cousin Mildred I want to sur- 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 93 

prise her by bringing her letter by the second post 
And if Father asks where I am oh ! but that will 
be all p'ght. I shall get back before he comes 
home from shooting " and Bertie is gone before 
his sister has time to put into words the remon- 
s'/ance she has been struggling to frame. 

" He'll miss his dinner poor clear " she thinks 
compassionately, but is consoled by the remem- 
brance of an admirable pastry-cook's shop in 
Appleton where the ginger-bread is sure to be 
e. tra plentiful on Christmas Eve of all days in the 
year. 

"A real old-fashioned Christmas, Father calls 
it ! " thinks Alice as she goes to the window and 
looks out at the whitened landscape, amongst which 
the leafless branches of the trees stand out like the 
limbs of blackened giants. The snow which has 
been falling at intervals for some days is not deep, 
but there is a heavy lowering appearance about the 
sky betokening that the worst is yet to come. The 
little birds, which Alice has been befriending ever 
since the winter set in, come hopping familiarly 
round the window, and one saucy robin gives a 



94 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

V 

peck to the glass, as if to intimate that a fresh sup- 
ply of crumbs would be acceptable. 

Alice feels in her pocket for a bit of bread and 
finding some fragments hastily scatters them on 
the window-ledge, promising a better repast by- 
and-bye. Then she gives a last look at the half- 
dressed Christmas Tree, shakes her head over the 
insufficient candles, and murmuring that Bertie 
really is the dearest boy in. the world, runs off to 
aid her mother in decorating the old village Church. 

Meanwhile Grey Plover is swiftly and resolutely 
bearing his rider over the half frozen snow in a 

o 

manner worthy of his name. He is a handsome, 
strong-built pony, Squire Chetwynd's gift to his 
son on his last birthday, and a right goodly pair 
they make, at least in the fond father's eyes. 

Perhaps if either Mr. Chetwynd, or his steady 
old coachman had been at home, Master Bertie 
would not have found it quite so easy to get his 
steed saddled for that ten miles' ride, with the 
ground already covered with snow, and the heavi- 
est fall that has been known for many a year, visi- 
bly impending. 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 95 



There is a keen north-easter blowing, but Apple- 
ton lies to the west, so that for the present it only 
comes on the back of his neck, and Bertie turns up 
his collar to keep out the flakes which seem scat- 
tered about here and there in the air, and trots 
bravely along, whistling and talking by turns to his 
pony, and to a wiry little terrier, which is really 
Cousin Mildred's property, but in common with 
most other animals, is deeply devoted to Bertie. 

" Steady, lad, steady," and Bertie checks his steed 
as they descend a somewhat steep incline, bordered 
by high hedges, of which the one to the north is 
half concealed by a bank of snow. 

" I declare I never thought it could have grown 
so deep in the time," mutters Bertie to himself. 
"I hope it won't snow again before to-night, or I 
shall have some work to get home. What's the 
time ? Just two all right two hours more day- 
light at any rate more if a fog doesn't come on. 
Good-day, John, Merry Christmas to you," as the 
village carrier, his cart heavily laden with Christ- 
mas boxes and parcels, passes him leading his old 
horse carefully up the hill. 



96 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

" The same to you. Master Bertie, and many of 
them. How be the Squire and Mrs. Chetwynd, 
and" 

"All well, thank you, John, but I can't stop to go 
through the list now. I've to get to Appleton and 
back as soon as I can." 

"To Appleton ! Laws now, Master Bertie, don't 
'ee do nothing of the kind. As sure as I'm alive 
there's awful weather coming, and you and that 
little pony will never get back it you don't 
mind." 

" Little pony indeed, John ! Grey Plover is 
nearly fourteen hands and do you suppose I 
care for a snow-storm ? ' : 

Old John points to the wall of gray cloud ad- 
vancing steadily from the north-east. 

"You just look yonder, Master. If that don't 
mean the worst storm that we have known for 
many a long year, my name's not John Salter." 

" Well, then, I must make all the more haste. If 
I don't turn up by church-time to-morrow, you and 
old Moss will have to come and dig me out ! Come 
along, Nettle ! " and whistling to the terrier which 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 97 



has been exchanging salutations with the carrier's 
old half-bred-colly, Bertie canters on. 



"I don't think I can find time to go home to 
luncheon," says Mrs. Chetwynd casting an anxious 
eye round the half-decorated church, which pre- 
sents a one-sided appearance, two columns being 
beautifully wreathed with glossy dark leaves and 
coral berries, shining laurel and graceful ivy, and 
the third as yet untouched. 

" Mildred, when you come back, will you and 
Alice bring me some biscuits, and I can eat them 
in the vestry. The daylight now is so short, and I 
think to-day is even darker than usual. We shall 
have to work very hard to get finished in time." 

"I'll stay with you," replies her cousin, "and 
Alice shall bring provisions for us both," and by 
this means the secret of Bertie's absence from the 
early dinner remains unobserved. 

It is snowing heavily as Alice, in fur cloak and 
snow-boots, trips back to the church some quarter 
of a mile distant from her home. 

The girl is beginning to be very anxious about 



98 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

her brother, and sorely repents her extorted pro- 
mise of secrecy as to his intentions. 

"We are getting on," says Mrs. Chetwynd glanc- 
ing round, " I wonder if your father will look in on 
his way back from shooting. I suppose Bertie 
must have gone to join him, as we have seen noth- 
ing of the boy. I hope they won't be late; the 
snow is getting quite deep." 

A hasty knocking at the Church-door makes 
Alice start and turn so pale that her cousin laughs 
at her for setting up nerves. Before however they 
can open it the intruder makes his own way in, and 
proves to be the stable-helper, with a face so white 
and scared that the alarm is communicated to 
Mrs. Chetwynd. 

"Milly," she says faintly, " there has been some 
accident ask him quick Herbert's gun " 

" No, no," says her cousin bent only on re-assur- 
ing her, " speak out, James don't you see how 
you are frightening your mistress ? ' 

" If you please ma'am, Gray Plover has come 
home alone, and " 

" The pony ! Master Bertie wasn't riding ? " 



BERTIE S RIDE. 99 

" Yes, ma'am he started to ride to Appleton 
about half-past one o'clock " 
" To ride in such weather ! ' 

% 

" Yes, ma'am he would go and the Squire 
not being at home I could not hinder him and 
now the pony's just galloped into the yard, and" 

" Mary, dearest, don't look so frightened ! ' 
cries Mildred, fearing her cousin is going to faint. 
" I daresay he got off to walk and warm himself, 
and the pony broke away Bertie rides so well, 
he would not be likely to have a fall " 

" But the snow ! Isn't it quite deep in some 
places, James ? ' 

" Yes, ma'am six or seven feet they say in the 
drifts, though most part of the road was pretty 
clear this morning. But it's been snowing heavily 
these two hours and more, and nearly as dark as 
night and Grey Plover must have been down 
some time or other, for when he came in the saddle 
was all over snow / " 

Mrs. Chetwynd gives a gasp, and for a moment 
her cousin thinks her senses are going, but with a 
brave struggle she rallied her powers. 



ioo BERTIE'S RIDE. 

" James, you and the gardeners had better go 
off at once, two of you try each road to Appleton, 
to meet Master Bertie. Alice dear, run up to the 
house, and fill father's flask with a cordial and 
see that they take it, and and a blanket and 

* 

tell some one to go and meet your father he will 
know best what to do I must go myself to look 
for my boy God help me what shall I do if 
he has come to harm ? ' 

" You cannot walk, darling," and Mildred ten- 
derly leads her to one of the open seats, and 
strokes her hands in loving but vain efforts at en- 
couragement "don't imagine anything bad till 
it comes Bertie is sure to have taken some of 
the dogs with him, and they would have come 
home to tell us if anything were wrong! ' 

" There was only little Nettle at home," Mrs. 
Chetwynd answers with a sigh "Jerry and Nell 
are out shooting with Herbert, and the new dog is 
no use. Oh Milly, my bright bonny boy, where 
can he be ? See how dreadfully dark it has grown 
and the cold think if he should be lying helpless 
in the snow ! " 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 101 

About the same time on this December afternoon 
a young man is getting out of the one-horse omni- 
bus which the George Hotel (a small third rate inn, 
albeit the best in Appleton) usually sends down 
to meet the afternoon train from London.. He is a 
tall soldierly looking person, with bright dark eyes, 
and a brisk imperative manner which ensures a 
certain amount of attention even from the surly 
landlord. 

But when, instead of demanding luncheon, or 
any creature comforts for himself, the traveller 
orders a " dog-cart, or any sort of trap with a good 
horse," to take him to Mr. Chetwynd's house, five 
miles distant, the host demurs. 

" Impossible ! The omnibus horse is the only 
one roughed, and he has been out twice to-day 
already. Besides there is likely to be a heavy fall 
of snow before night : even if a horse and trap 
could get to Edenhurst there would be no possi- 
bility of getting back before night-fall mine host 
is very sorry to disoblige the gentleman, but it is 
quite out of the question." 

The young man, who is evidently not accustomed 



102 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

to stolid opposition, begins to chafe, and his dark 
eyes give an angry flash. However he forces him- 
self to speak quietly and persuasively, and even 
descends to bribery, in his anxiety to spend his 
Christmas at Edenhurst. 

Still the landlord remains obdurate, the fact that 
he has a big commercial dinner impending at five 
o'clock making him the less inclined to spare any 
of his men. 

" Well, hang it all ! " cries the young man impa- 
tiently, " then I declare I'll get there on my own 
legs. I can carry my bag," swinging it stoutly 
over his shoulder as he speaks, " and you must 
find some means of sending the other things over 
to-morrow morning at latest. It would be too 
tantalizing," he adds to himself, " after coming two 
thousand miles to see the little woman, if we could 
not spend our Christmas Eve together after all." 

And turning a deaf ear to the landlord's remon- 
strances and prophesies of evil, he sets forth briskly 
on the road, well-known to him although untrodden 
for two long years. " Dear little soul," he is saying 
to himself as he strides through the snow, " what a 



BERTIE S RIDE. 103 

surprise it'll be to her ! I am half sorry now I did 
not write perhaps she'll be startled but I 
don't believe in sudden joy hurting anyone. I 
wonder if she'll be altered I hope not the lit- 
tle face couldn't be sweeter than it was. And 
Herbert Chetwynd is a rare good fellow what a 
welcome I shall get from him and his kindhearted 
wife it's almost worth toiling and broiling for 
two years in India to come home for such a Christ- 
mas. I wonder if that jolly pickle Bertie is much 
grown ! Capital little companion he used to be 
I remember. How far have I come ? Oh ! just 
past the second milestone the snow is getting 
plaguy deep and I can hardly see ten yards ahead 
I can't say it is pleasant travelling howl 
shall appreciate the splendid fire in the big hall 
fire-place at Edenhurst. They will be burning the 
Yule-log for Christmas. How I shall enjoy taking 
up all the old home customs once more. I won- 
der if the Waits go round now ? What a brute I 
used to feel, lying snug in bed and listening to the 
poor little shivering mortals singing outside in the 
frosty morning air, almost before it was light 



104 BERTIE'S RIDE. 



but I believe Herbert's wife and Milly always took 
care that they had a warm breakfast and a toast 
at the kitchen fire afterwards but hulloa ! I say, 
what little dog are you, out alone in the snow in 
this lonely part of the road ? Lost your master, 
have you, poor little beggar? Never mind you 
had better follow me home to Edenhurst for to- 
night they wouldn't refuse a welcome even to a 
stray dog on Christmas Eve. I say, you are very 
pressing in your attentions my friend I'm afraid 
you are on a wrong tack, sniffing and prancing 
around me I'm not your master nor have I the 
honor of that gentleman's acquaintance, unless 
by Jove, if it isn't little Nettle the dog I gave 
Mildred when I went to India. What can she be 
doing out here alone ? And what does she want 
me to do I wonder?" as the terrier, delighted at 
the sudden recognition dances round him more 
energetically than ever, catches his hand and the 
skirts of his coat gently in her teeth, then runs on 
a little way ahead, looking back to see if he is fol- 
lowing. " Lead on I'll follow thee that seems 
to be what you want me to say, eh, little Net- 



BERTIES RIDE. 105 

tie ? All right there ! " and the traveller's two long 
legs contrive to make quite as rapid progress along 
the road as the terrier's four short ones especially 
as the poor little animal occasionally lights on a 
snowy heap softer and deeper than the rest and is 
nearly lost to sight altogether for some seconds. 

Presently however, in spite of all obstacles she 
scurries on ahead, and stops short with a joyful 
self-satisfied bark, in front of a dark object which 
is half sitting, half lying in a bed of partially 
melted snow under the hedge an object which 
upon closer inspection proves to be a slight curly- 
headed boy, clad in heather-colored jacket and 
knicker-bockers. His cap has fallen off, and his 
eyes are nearly closed, as he leans back on his 
cold couch, with an expression of half-conscious 
suffering on his young face. 

" Come, this won't do ! " exclaims the traveller 
in a tone of no small surprise and concern. " I 
say, young sir, have you forgotten that this is 
December, and not exactly the season for enjoying 
life in gypsy fashion ? " 

The boy's eyes open dreamily and scan the keen 



106 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

brown moustached face which is bending over him, 
but he neither moves nor makes any response. The 
traveller lays a hand on his shoulder and speaks 
again, somewhat more peremptorily. 

" I say, young one, get up do you hear? Do 
you want to get frozen to death ? " 

If there is some roughness in the tone, there is 
none in the manner and gesture with which drop- 
ping on one knee in the snow, the traveller pro- 
ceeds to chafe the cold nerveless hand, which, in 
answer to this appeal, the boy slowly tries to lift. 
He points to his left foot which is stretched out 
in an uncomfortable twisted attitude, and his new 
friend is not long in discovering that a sprained 
ankle is the cause of the mischief. 

A serviceable many-bladed knife is quickly pro- 
duced, and the boot dexterously slit open, to the 
instant relief of the injured limb, which is much 
swollen. 

The boy gives a gasp of satisfaction, and mur- 
murs " Thank you," as he makes a still unsuccess- 
ful effort to scramble to his feet. 

"Take care let me give you a hand. Poor 



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IT IS SNOWING HEAVILY AS ALICE TRIPS BACK TO THE CHURCH. 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 109 



little chap " as the patient collapses again, " here, 
have a pull at this," taking a restorative from a 
medicine case in an inner pocket; ''that's right 
you'll be able to tell me all about it presently. 
Nettle, little lass, it's a pity you can't speak, isn't 
it ? " 

" How do you know the dog's name ? " the boy 
inquires, now almost roused into curiosity. 

" How do I know it ? Why because she belonged 
to me for six months before I went to India, and 
then I gave her to the lady who I hope is to be my 
wife now I've come back." 

" What are you Cecil Gordon ? ;: 

" The same at your service ' Cousin Cis,' as 
your little sister used to call me, if, as I suppose, 
you are my old playfellow Bertie. Two years have 
made a difference in your size, my lad and this 
snow gave your face a blue sort of look which pre- 
vented my knowing you at first. And now tell 
me what pranks have you been playing to get into 
such a plight?'' 

" I rode Grey Plover to Appleton this afternoon 
to get some things the girls wanted and the 



no BERTIE'S RIDE. 



snow-storm came on heavily and it got horribly 
dark as you see and somehow we stumbled into 
a snow-drift I'd marked the bad places as I came 
and thought I could keep clear of them but the 
darkness misled me, and the snow got into my 
eyes. We rolled over together and my foot 
caught in the stirrup and came out with an awful 
wrench but it's ever so much better since you 
cut the boot open." 

"And then I suppose, the pony made off? ' : 

"Yes, I believe so. I felt awfully sick when I 
got up, but I managed to crawl out of the drift, for 
I'd just sense enough left to mind being smothered. 
I don't suppose I could have lain here very long 
when you came, or I should have been frozen." 

" Well the great thing will be to get you home 
as soon as may be but the snow is getting so 
deep that it won't be very pleasant travelling. Can 
you bear to put that foot to the ground? No? 
Then don't try my legs must do duty for two." 

" Oh ! I'm too heavy you'll never be able to 
carry me, especially through the snow." 

" Nonsense ! If you begin making difficulties I 



BERTIE'S RIDE. in 



shall have to treat you as one of our fellows (so the 
story goes) did the wounded sergeant in Zulu- 
land." 

"Oh what was that?" 

"Why the enemy were close upon them, and 

B (that was the officer) was bent upon rescuing 

the sergeant of his troops who was wounded and 
helpless, and whose own horse had been killed. 
So he told him to get up behind on his horse 

and the sergeant refused, and told B to save 

himself and leave him to perish, and B an- 
swered in peremptory fashion, ' If you don't obey 
orders at once, I shall punch your head ! ' 

11 Don't punch mine to-day," says Bertie with a 
rather feeble laugh. " It feels so queer and top- 
heavy. I'll give you leave to try as soon as I'm 
all right again." 

" All right. But now about this getting home ? 
Here ! you take the bag, and I'll carry you. Will 
you ride in ordinary pick-a-back fashion, or as I've 
seen soldiers do at what they call 'chummy races' 
lengthwise across their bearer's shoulders ? " 

Bertie prefers the former method, and with some 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 



little difficulty is hoisted into the required posi- 
tion. 

" How are they all at home ? " asks Captain 
Gordon, after they have advanced some little way 
in silence. 

" Very well and very jolly only to-day Cousin 
Milly was out of spirits, because " 

" Well what ? ' The tone is sharp and impa- 
tient. 

"Because you hadn't written, and she did so 
want a letter for Christmas. And I thought there 
might be one by the afternoon post they do 
come then sometimes." 

" And that was the reason for your taking that 
crazy ride through the snow ? My dear little fel- 
low," and the brisk voice is very kind and gentle 
now, " I am sorry to have been the cause of all 
this trouble." 

"Oh! never mind it was partly too to get 
Alice the candles she was bothering about for the 
Christmas Tree. By-the-bye, I hope they've not 
fallen out of my pocket no, here they are, all 
right." 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 



" I'm afraid you found no letter at the post-office 
after all. You see the orders for home came to us 
rather suddenly, and when I found I could be in 
England as soon as a letter could reach, I didn't 
write. I am so sorry it happened so! " 

" You had lots of real fighting among the 
Afghans, hadn't you ? " 

"Yes I'll tell you about it some day. Just 
now I want my breath for something more than 
talking. How deep the snow is between these 
high hedges ! " 

"Yes if only we could get over into the fields 
it would be better and there is a short cut too." 

"Can we find it?" 

" I'll try but my head is so stupid somehow 
don't I hear some one whistling behind us?" 

As Bertie speaks a young laboring man comes 
up to them, looks with some surprise at the pair, 
and answers with a surly grunt to Captain Gor- 
don's inquiry as to the nearest way to Edenhurst. 

" Why Jack, you can show us ! " cries Bertie 
impatiently. 

" There's a stile somewhere that leads right past 



- *4 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

your mother's cottage, and then we can get across 
Higgins' fields." 

" If there is a cottage I shall be glad of five 
minutes' rest by the fire-side," says Cecil who is 
beginning to get decidedly "blown." 

" I was just thinking what an awfully lonely road 
this was." 

" Jack Brown is a surly fellow," whispers 
Bertie in his ear, but not so low but that the man 
catches the last words. 

" Surly! And who wouldn't be, young master, 
I'd like to know, in my place ? Didn't the Squire 
have me up for poaching, and didn't I get three 
weeks in jail along of snaring a few worthless pheas- 
ants ? Much he or anyone would have cared if 
my old mother had starved the while ! ' 

" For shame ! " Bertie's wrath is making him quite 
energetic. "As if mother and Mildred didn't go 
to see the old woman nearly every day, and make 
sure she wanted for nothing." 

"Well, well," interrupts Cecil, "don't rake up 
bye-gones on Christinas Eve of all clays in the year. 
Forgive and forget - -peace and goodwill that's 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 115 



what the bells always seem to me to be saying. I 
say, my friend, I'm sure your Mother would be wil- 
ling to let the young master sit by her fire for five 
minutes, after he's nearly got himself killed and 
buried too riding to Appleton to do his sister 
and cousin a good turn." 

A shadow of a smile lurks on Jack's grim vis- 
age at this appeal, and he proceeds to lead the 
way across a difficult " hog-backed ' stile, over 
which he helps to lift Bertie with more gentleness 
than might be expected. Then striding before 
them through the snow, which is more even, and 
easy to wade through in the open field, he pres- 
ently stops at the door of a little thatched cottage 
which is opened by a tidy old woman. 

Bertie is soon established in her own high- 

o 

backed wooden chair by the fire, drinking hot if 
somewhat hay-scented tea, and obtaining great 
relief from the attentions his friend is now better 
able to bestow upon the injured foot. Meanwhile 
this is becoming a very sad Christmas Eve to the 
anxious watchers at Edenhurst. The Squire has 
returned home, puzzled and half incredulous at 



"6 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

the confused report of Master Bertie's disappear- 
ance which has reached him, but when the snow- 
soaked saddle and the riderless pony have been 
shown him, he too grows seriously alarmed, and 
without waiting to change his wet things sets off 
in the direction of Appleton. 

Other messengers have already been despatched 
but the hours pass by and no news is obtained, no 
one happening to think of the short cut and old 
Mrs. Brown's cottage. Even the bells are mute 
the villagers cannot bear to ring them when their 
dear lady is in such trouble. She is trying hard 
to force herself to believe that nothing can be so 
very wrong it is foolish to be so over-anxious. 

No one has any heart to carry on the joyous 
preparations for Christmas in which Bertie usually 
bears an active part, but Mrs. Chetwynd will not 
let the poor people suffer, and their gifts of warm 
clothing and tea and sugar are all looked over 
and carefully ticketed by Mildred and Alice. 

Poor girls ! they have little spirit for the work, 
but it is better for them than the dreary waiting 
which follows. At last Alice can bear it no longer, 



BERTIE'S RIDE. 117 



She throws a cloak round her and steals out into 
the avenue. The air is clearer now and the snow 
has ceased to fall. The earth is covered with a 
brilliant white sheet, and overhead the wintry 
stars are shining out one by one in the deep 
blue vault. The girl begins to feel more hopeful, 
as the still frosty air cools her hot cheek, and the 
stars look down upon her with their silent greeting 
of peace. 

"Glad tidings of great joy" the Christmas 
message of nearly nineteen centuries ago surely 
it cannot be that a heart-breaking grief is to come 
on them on this, of all nights in the year ! A 
prayer is in her heart on her lips and even in 
that moment, as if in answer, there burst forth the 
most joyous of all sounds to Alice's ear their 
own village bells ringing a Merry Christmas peal ! 
It had been understood that this was to be the 
signal of Bertie's being found and safe. Louder 
and louder it comes, and eager congratulations are 
exchanged by the anxious watchers. Mrs. Chet- 
wynd wants to fly to meet her boy, but is gently 
restrained by Mildred, who reminds her that his 



n8 BERTIE'S RIDE. 

father must be with him. Nor is it long before a 
happy group are seen approaching. 

There is Bertie (who has insisted on putting his 
injured foot to the ground lest his mother should 
be frightened by seeing him carried) bravely hop- 
ping along with the aid of his father's strong arm 
faithful little Nettle trotting close at his side and 
Jack Brown, with whom the Squire has shaken 
hands and exchanged a " Merry Christmas ' 
slouching behind but whose is the tall figure on 
Bertie's other side ? Ah ! cousin Mildred knows, 
and well is it perhaps that the growing darkness 
throws a friendly veil over the joyous blushes and 
the happy thankful tears that mark that meeting. 



ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRIST- 
MAS 

ASAPH had just the Christmas presents he 
wanted. "Wanted" is hardly the word : he 
had not supposed that a boy like him could have 
such things for his own. His father and mother 
gave him one present, it was a camera obscura, and 
thirty glass plates all ready to take photographic 
views. They were made to work by the new dry 
process, so that, without over-nice manipulation of 
chemicals, Asaph could go where he pleased and 
make his own photographs. 

What the children gave him I must not tell, we 
have so little room. But, of all the children in 
Boston who had their Christmas presents at break- 
fast, none was better pleased than Asaph as he 
opened his parcels. 



120 ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 



It was afterwards that his grief and sorrow came 
When his mother's turn came, and she opened the 
parcels on her table, for in the Sheafe house each 
of them had a separate present-table, after she 
had passed the little children's she came to Asaph's 
present to her. It was in quite a large box done up 
in a German newspaper. She opened it carefully, and 
lifted out a Bohemian coffee-pot, which Asaph had 
bought at the German woman's shop in Shawmut 
avenue. Mrs. Sheafe eagerly expressed her delight, 
and her wonder that Asaph knew she wanted it. 
But alas ! all her love could not hide the fact that 
the nose of the coffee-pot was broken at the end, 
and what was left was all in splinters. 

Poor Asaph saw it as soon as she. And the great 
big tears would come to his manly eyes. He bent 
his head down on his mother's shoulder, and the 
hot drops fell on her cheek. She kissed the poor 
boy, and told him she should never mind. It would 
pour quite as well, and she should use it every 
morning. She knew how many months of his allow- 
ance had gone for this coffee-pot. She remembered 
how much she had been pleased with Mrs. Henry's ; 



ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 121 

and she praised Asaph for remembering that so 
well. 

"This is the joy of the present," she said, "that 
my boy watches his mother's wishes, and that he 
thinks of her. A chip more or less off the nose of 
the coffee-pot is nothing." 

And Asaph would not cheat the others out of 
their " good time." And he pretended to be soothed. 
But, all the same, there was a great lump in his 
throat almost all that day. 

When the children were going to church he 
walked with Isabel, and he told her how it all 
happened. He would not tell his mother, and he 
made Isabel promise not to tell. He had spent 
every cent of his money in buying his presents. He 
had them all in that big basket which they bought 
at the Pier. He was coming home after dark, on 
foot, because he could not pay his fare in the horse- 
car. All of a sudden a little German boy with a 
tall woman by him, stopped him, and said with a very 
droll accent, which Asaph imitated, " East Canton 
street," and poked out a card on which was written, 
" Karl Shoninger, 723 East Canton street." 



122 ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 



" Belle, I was in despair. It was late; I was on 
Dwight street, and I led them to Shawmut avenue 
and tried to explain. Belle, they did not know one 
word of English except ' East Canton street.' They 
kept saying, ' East Canton street,' as a clog says 
' Bow-wow.' I looked for an officer and could not 
find one. It snowed harder and harder. I was 
coward enough to think of shirking. But then I said, 
' Lie and cheat on Christmas eve, that you may lug 
home your Christmas presents ; that is too mean.' 
And I said very loud, l Kom hier.' I guess that's 
good German any way. And I dragged them to 
their old 723 East Canton street. It is a mile if it is 
an inch. I climbed up the snowy steps to read the 
number. But I slipped as I came down, and knocked 
my own basket off the step where it stood. That is 
how mamma's coffee-pot came broken, I suppose ; but 
all looked so steady in the basket that I never 
thought of it then. That's how I came late to 
supper. But, Belle, don't you ever tell mamma as 
long as you live." 

And Belle never did. She told me. 







IN EAST CANTON STREET. 



ASAPH SHEAFE S CHRISTMAS. 125 

When the Christmas dances were half over ; when 
they had acted Lochinvar and Lord T7llin's Daughter, 
but before they acted ViUekens and Johnny the 
Miller, supper was served in Mrs. Sheafe's dining- 
room. All the best china was out. Grandmamma's 
"Spode" was out, and the silver pitcher the hands 
gave papa on his fiftieth birthday ; and Mrs. Sheafe's 
wedding breakfast-set all that was left of it ; and 
Asaph's coffee-pot held the place of honor. One 
wretched bit of broken ware had consented to be 
cemented in its place. But yet it was but a misera- 
ble nose, and the lump came into Asaph's throat 
again as he looked at it. And he almost wished his 
mother had put it away so that he need not hear her 
tell uncle Eliakim the hateful story. 

The lump was in his throat when he went to bed. 
But he fell asleep soon after. I must confess that 
there were a few wet spots on his pillow. His last 
thought was the memory that all his hoarded monthly 
allowances had gone for the purchase of a broken- 
nosed pitcher. 

The two angels who watch his bedside saw this, 
and one of them said to the other, " Would you not 



126 ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 



tell him ? " But the other said, ' ; Wait a little 



longer/' 



What the angels would not tell him I will tell 
you. For it happened that I was driving round in 
my sleigh that Christmas night, on the very snow which 
was falling, while Asaph was fumbling up the steps 
in East Canton street, and I stopped at a house not 
far from Boylston station as you turn into Lamartine 
street, and found myself in the midst of the drollest 
home festivity. 

The father was sitting with two babies on his 
knee. The other children were delving in a trunk to 

find something which would stay in the bottom. The 

i 
house-mother clearly did not know where anything 

was in the trunk or anywhere else. But a broad grin 
was on every face, and whatever was said was broken 
by ejaculations and occasional kisses. 

At last the lost parcel revealed itself, and opened 
out into some balls for a Christmas-tree, which 
these honest people had brought all the way from 
Linz on the Danube, quite sure that no such won- 
ders would be known in that far-off America. 



ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 127 

There are many other tales to be printed in this 
volume, so that I must not tell you, as I should be 
glad to do, all the adventures that that house-mother 
and her three boys and her two girls and the twin 
babies had encountered as they came from Linz to 
join Hans Bergmann, the father of the seven and the 
husband of their mother. 

He had come the year before. They had come 
now by the way of Antwerp, and had landed in Phil- 
adelphia. But the Schiller had made so short a run 
that, when they arrived, Hans Bergmann was not in 
Philadelphia to meet them. Of course -the Fran 
Bergmann should have waited in Philadelphia as 
Hans Bergmann had bidden her. But, on the hint 
of a voluble woman who spoke pure Bohemian, 
whom she met on the pier who knew just where he 
boarded in New York she took her charge to New 
York, to find that he had left that boarding-house 
three months before. Still, eager to spend Christmas 
with him, she had hurried to Boston to ask his 
uncle where he was. She had arrived in Boston, 
with the snow-storm, the day before Christmas itself, 
having made an accidental detour by Bridgeport and 



128 ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 

Westfield. Happily for her, the boy Asaph had led 
her to uncle Karl's lodgings just as uncle Karl was 
leaving them forever on his way to Chicago. 

Happily for Hans Bergmann, uncle Karl had the 
wit to pile them all into a carriage and to send them 
to a friend of his at the Boylston station, bidding 
him keep them under lock and key. 

Then to Hans Bergmann uncle Karl telegraphed : 
' ; Find your wife at Burr street, number 40, Boylston 
station." 

Then Hans Bergmann, who had been bullying 
every police station in New York to know where his 
family was, had taken the early train and had spent 
his Christmas in ploughing through snow-drifts to 
Boston. 

And so it \vas, that, at nine on Christmas night, I 
saw the children in a Christmas party, not quite as \vell 
arranged, but quite as happy, as any I saw that day. 

And all this came about because a kind Asaph 
Sheafe forgot himself on Christmas eve, and showed 
Frau Bergmann the way to East Canton street. 

As it happened, I saw the diamond necklace that 
John Gilder gave his bride that night. 



ASAPH SHEAFE'S CHRISTMAS. 120 

But it did not give so much pleasure as Asaph 
Sheafe's Christmas present to the Bergmanns did. 
And yet he never knew he gave it. 



V