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Title: A Christmas Mystery - The Story of Three Wise Men
Author: Locke, William John, 1863-1930
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Christmas Mystery - The Story of Three Wise Men" ***

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"_I cannot tell how the truth may be:
I say the tale as 'twas said to me._"



BY THE SAME AUTHOR


IDOLS
SEPTIMUS
THE USURPER
THE WHITE DOVE
THE BELOVED VAGABOND
THE DEMAGOGUE AND LADY PHAYRE
THE MORALS OF MARCUS ORDEYNE
AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA
A STUDY IN SHADOWS
SIMON THE JESTER
WHERE LOVE IS
DERELICTS



[Illustration: "I HEARD IT. I FELT IT. It WAS LIKE THE BEATING OF
WINGS."]



A CHRISTMAS MYSTERY
THE STORY OF THREE WISE MEN

BY WILLIAM J. LOCKE

ILLUSTRATED BY BLENDON CAMPBELL


1910



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"I heard it. I felt it. It was like the beating of wings." Frontispiece

"I told you the place was uncanny."

Instinctively they all knelt down.

Carried with them an inalienable joy and possession into the great
world.



A CHRISTMAS MYSTERY



Three men who had gained great fame and honour throughout the world met
unexpectedly in front of the bookstall at Paddington Station. Like most
of the great ones of the earth they were personally acquainted, and they
exchanged surprised greetings.

Sir Angus McCurdie, the eminent physicist, scowled at the two others
beneath his heavy black eyebrows.

"I'm going to a God-forsaken place in Cornwall called Trehenna," said
he.

"That's odd; so am I," croaked Professor Biggleswade. He was a little,
untidy man with round spectacles, a fringe of greyish beard and a weak,
rasping voice, and he knew more of Assyriology than any man, living or
dead. A flippant pupil once remarked that the Professor's face was
furnished with a Babylonic cuneiform in lieu of features.

"People called Deverill, at Foulis Castle?" asked Sir Angus.

"Yes," replied Professor Biggleswade.

"How curious! I am going to the Deverills, too," said the third man.

This man was the Right Honourable Viscount Doyne, the renowned Empire
Builder and Administrator, around whose solitary and remote life popular
imagination had woven many legends. He looked at the world through tired
grey eyes, and the heavy, drooping, blonde moustache seemed tired, too,
and had dragged down the tired face into deep furrows. He was smoking a
long black cigar.

"I suppose we may as well travel down together," said Sir Angus, not
very cordially.

Lord Doyne said courteously: "I have a reserved carriage. The railway
company is always good enough to place one at my disposal. It would give
me great pleasure if you would share it."

The invitation was accepted, and the three men crossed the busy, crowded
platform to take their seats in the great express train. A porter, laden
with an incredible load of paraphernalia, trying to make his way through
the press, happened to jostle Sir Angus McCurdie. He rubbed his shoulder
fretfully.

"Why the whole land should be turned into a bear garden on account of
this exploded superstition of Christmas is one of the anomalies of
modern civilization. Look at this insensate welter of fools travelling
in wild herds to disgusting places merely because it's Christmas!"

"You seem to be travelling yourself, McCurdie," said Lord Doyne.

"Yes--and why the devil I'm doing it, I've not the faintest notion,"
replied Sir Angus.

"It's going to be a beast of a journey," he remarked some moments later,
as the train carried them slowly out of the station. "The whole country
is under snow--and as far as I can understand we have to change twice
and wind up with a twenty-mile motor drive."

He was an iron-faced, beetle-browed, stern man, and this morning he did
not seem to be in the best of tempers. Finding his companions inclined
to be sympathetic, he continued his lamentation.

"And merely because it's Christmas I've had to shut up my laboratory and
give my young fools a holiday--just when I was in the midst of a most
important series of experiments."

Professor Biggleswade, who had heard vaguely of and rather looked down
upon such new-fangled toys as radium and thorium and helium and
argon--for the latest astonishing developments in the theory of
radio-activity had brought Sir Angus McCurdie his world-wide fame--said
somewhat ironically:

"If the experiments were so important, why didn't you lock yourself up
with your test tubes and electric batteries and finish them alone?"

"Man!" said McCurdie, bending across the carriage, and speaking with a
curious intensity of voice, "d'ye know I'd give a hundred pounds to be
able to answer that question?"

"What do you mean?" asked the Professor, startled.

"I should like to know why I'm sitting in this damned train and going to
visit a couple of addle-headed society people whom I'm scarcely
acquainted with, when I might be at home in my own good company
furthering the progress of science."

"I myself," said the Professor, "am not acquainted with them at all."

It was Sir Angus McCurdie's turn to look surprised.

"Then why are you spending Christmas with them?"

"I reviewed a ridiculous blank-verse tragedy written by Deverill on the
Death of Sennacherib. Historically it was puerile. I said so in no
measured terms. He wrote a letter claiming to be a poet and not an
archæologist. I replied that the day had passed when poets could with
impunity commit the abominable crime of distorting history. He retorted
with some futile argument, and we went on exchanging letters, until his
invitation and my acceptance concluded the correspondence."

McCurdie, still bending his black brows on him, asked him why he had not
declined. The Professor screwed up his face till it looked more like a
cuneiform than ever. He, too, found the question difficult to answer,
but he showed a bold front.

"I felt it my duty," said he, "to teach that preposterous ignoramus
something worth knowing about Sennacherib. Besides I am a bachelor and
would sooner spend Christmas, as to whose irritating and meaningless
annoyance I cordially agree with you, among strangers than among my
married sisters' numerous and nerve-racking families."

Sir Angus McCurdie, the hard, metallic apostle of radio-activity,
glanced for a moment out of the window at the grey, frost-bitten fields.
Then he said:

"I'm a widower. My wife died many years ago and, thank God, we had no
children. I generally spend Christmas alone."

He looked out of the window again. Professor Biggleswade suddenly
remembered the popular story of the great scientist's antecedents, and
reflected that as McCurdie had once run, a barefoot urchin, through the
Glasgow mud, he was likely to have little kith or kin. He himself envied
McCurdie. He was always praying to be delivered from his sisters and
nephews and nieces, whose embarrassing demands no calculated coldness
could repress.

"Children are the root of all evil," said he. "Happy the man who has his
quiver empty."

Sir Angus McCurdie did not reply at once; when he spoke again it was
with reference to their prospective host.

"I met Deverill," said he, "at the Royal Society's Soirée this year. One
of my assistants was demonstrating a peculiar property of thorium and
Deverill seemed interested. I asked him to come to my laboratory the
next day, and found he didn't know a damned thing about anything. That's
all the acquaintance I have with him."

Lord Doyne, the great administrator, who had been wearily turning over
the pages of an illustrated weekly chiefly filled with flamboyant
photographs of obscure actresses, took his gold glasses from his nose
and the black cigar from his lips, and addressed his companions.

"I've been considerably interested in your conversation," said he, "and
as you've been frank, I'll be frank too. I knew Mrs. Deverill's mother,
Lady Carstairs, very well years ago, and of course Mrs. Deverill when
she was a child. Deverill I came across once in Egypt--he had been sent
on a diplomatic mission to Teheran. As for our being invited on such
slight acquaintance, little Mrs. Deverill has the reputation of being
the only really successful celebrity hunter in England. She inherited
the faculty from her mother, who entertained the whole world. We're sure
to find archbishops, and eminent actors, and illustrious divorcées asked
to meet us. That's one thing. But why I, who loathe country house
parties and children and Christmas as much as Biggleswade, am going down
there to-day, I can no more explain than you can. It's a devilish odd
coincidence."

The three men looked at one another. Suddenly McCurdie shivered and drew
his fur coat around him.

"I'll thank you," said he, "to shut that window."

"It is shut," said Doyne.

"It's just uncanny," said McCurdie, looking from one to the other.

"What?" asked Doyne.

"Nothing, if you didn't feel it."

"There did seem to be a sudden draught," said Professor Biggleswade.
"But as both window and door are shut, it could only be imaginary."

"It wasn't imaginary," muttered McCurdie.

Then he laughed harshly. "My father and mother came from Cromarty," he
said with apparent irrelevance.

"That's the Highlands," said the Professor.

"Ay," said McCurdie.

Lord Doyne said nothing, but tugged at his moustache and looked out of
the window as the frozen meadows and bits of river and willows raced
past. A dead silence fell on them. McCurdie broke it with another laugh
and took a whiskey flask from his hand-bag.

"Have a nip?"

"Thanks, no," said the Professor. "I have to keep to a strict dietary,
and I only drink hot milk and water--and of that sparingly. I have some
in a thermos bottle."

Lord Doyne also declining the whiskey, McCurdie swallowed a dram and
declared himself to be better. The Professor took from his bag a foreign
review in which a German sciolist had dared to question his
interpretation of a Hittite inscription. Over the man's ineptitude he
fell asleep and snored loudly.

To escape from his immediate neighbourhood McCurdie went to the other
end of the seat and faced Lord Doyne, who had resumed his gold glasses
and his listless contemplation of obscure actresses. McCurdie lit a
pipe, Doyne another black cigar. The train thundered on.

Presently they all lunched together in the restaurant car. The windows
steamed, but here and there through a wiped patch of pane a white world
was revealed. The snow was falling. As they passed through Westbury,
McCurdie looked mechanically for the famous white horse carved into the
chalk of the down; but it was not visible beneath the thick covering of
snow.

"It'll be just like this all the way to Gehenna--Trehenna, I mean," said
McCurdie.

Doyne nodded. He had done his life's work amid all extreme fiercenesses
of heat and cold, in burning droughts, in simoons and in icy
wildernesses, and a ray or two more of the pale sun or a flake or two
more of the gentle snow of England mattered to him but little. But
Biggleswade rubbed the pane with his table-napkin and gazed
apprehensively at the prospect.

"If only this wretched train would stop," said he, "I would go back
again."

And he thought how comfortable it would be to sneak home again to his
books and thus elude not only the Deverills, but the Christmas jollities
of his sisters' families, who would think him miles away. But the train
was timed not to stop till Plymouth, two hundred and thirty-five miles
from London, and thither was he being relentlessly carried. Then he
quarrelled with his food, which brought a certain consolation.

       *       *       *       *       *

The train did stop, however, before Plymouth--indeed, before Exeter. An
accident on the line had dislocated the traffic. The express was held up
for an hour, and when it was permitted to proceed, instead of thundering
on, it went cautiously, subject to continual stoppings. It arrived at
Plymouth two hours late. The travellers learned that they had missed the
connection on which they had counted and that they could not reach
Trehenna till nearly ten o'clock. After weary waiting at Plymouth they
took their seats in the little, cold local train that was to carry them
another stage on their journey. Hot-water cans put in at Plymouth
mitigated to some extent the iciness of the compartment. But that only
lasted a comparatively short time, for soon they were set down at a
desolate, shelterless wayside junction, dumped in the midst of a hilly
snow-covered waste, where they went through another weary wait for
another dismal local train that was to carry them to Trehenna. And in
this train there were no hot-water cans, so that the compartment was as
cold as death. McCurdie fretted and shook his fist in the direction of
Trehenna.

"And when we get there we have still a twenty miles' motor drive to
Foullis Castle. It's a fool name and we're fools to be going there."

"I shall die of bronchitis," wailed Professor Biggleswade.

"A man dies when it is appointed for him to die," said Lord Doyne, in
his tired way; and he went on smoking long black cigars.

"It's not the dying that worries me," said McCurdie. "That's a mere
mechanical process which every organic being from a king to a
cauliflower has to pass through. It's the being forced against my will
and my reason to come on this accursed journey, which something tells me
will become more and more accursed as we go on, that is driving me to
distraction."

"What will be, will be," said Doyne.

"I can't see where the comfort of that reflection comes in," said
Biggleswade.

"And yet you've travelled in the East," said Doyne. "I suppose you know
the Valley of the Tigris as well as any man living."

"Yes," said the Professor. "I can say I dug my way from Tekrit to Bagdad
and left not a stone unexamined."

"Perhaps, after all," Doyne remarked, "that's not quite the way to know
the East."

"I never wanted to know the modern East," returned the Professor. "What
is there in it of interest compared with the mighty civilizations that
have gone before?"

McCurdie took a pull from his flask.

"I'm glad I thought of having a refill at Plymouth," said he.

At last, after many stops at little lonely stations they arrived at
Trehenna. The guard opened the door and they stepped out on to the
snow-covered platform. An oil lamp hung from the tiny pent-house roof
that, structurally, was Trehenna Station. They looked around at the
silent gloom of white undulating moorland, and it seemed a place where
no man lived and only ghosts could have a bleak and unsheltered being. A
porter came up and helped the guard with the luggage. Then they realized
that the station was built on a small embankment, for, looking over the
railing, they saw below the two great lamps of a motor car. A fur-clad
chauffeur met them at the bottom of the stairs. He clapped his hands
together and informed them cheerily that he had been waiting for four
hours. It was the bitterest winter in these parts within the memory of
man, said he, and he himself had not seen snow there for five years.
Then he settled the three travellers in the great roomy touring car
covered with a Cape-cart hood, wrapped them up in many rugs and started.

After a few moments, the huddling together of their bodies--for, the
Professor being a spare man, there was room for them all on the back
seat--the pile of rugs, the serviceable and all but air-tight hood,
induced a pleasant warmth and a pleasant drowsiness. Where they were
being driven they knew not. The perfectly upholstered seat eased their
limbs, the easy swinging motion of the car soothed their spirits. They
felt that already they had reached the luxuriously appointed home which,
after all, they knew awaited them. McCurdie no longer railed, Professor
Biggleswade forgot the dangers of bronchitis, and Lord Doyne twisted the
stump of a black cigar between his lips without any desire to relight
it. A tiny electric lamp inside the hood made the darkness of the world
to right and left and in front of the talc windows still darker.
McCurdie and Biggleswade fell into a doze. Lord Doyne chewed the end of
his cigar. The car sped on through an unseen wilderness.

Suddenly there was a horrid jolt and a lurch and a leap and a rebound,
and then the car stood still, quivering like a ship that has been struck
by a heavy sea. The three men were pitched and tossed and thrown
sprawling over one another onto the bottom of the car. Biggleswade
screamed. McCurdie cursed. Doyne scrambled from the confusion of rugs
and limbs and, tearing open the side of the Cape-cart hood, jumped out.
The chauffeur had also just leaped from his seat. It was pitch dark save
for the great shaft of light down the snowy road cast by the acetylene
lamps. The snow had ceased falling.

"What's gone wrong?"

"It sounds like the axle," said the chauffeur ruefully.

He unshipped a lamp and examined the car, which had wedged itself
against a great drift of snow on the off side. Meanwhile McCurdie and
Biggleswade had alighted.

"Yes, it's the axle," said the chauffeur.

"Then we're done," remarked Doyne.

"I'm afraid so, my lord."

"What's the matter? Can't we get on?" asked Biggleswade in his querulous
voice.

McCurdie laughed. "How can we get on with a broken axle? The thing's as
useless as a man with a broken back. Gad, I was right. I said it was
going to be an infernal journey."

The little Professor wrung his hands. "But what's to be done?" he cried.

"Tramp it," said Lord Doyne, lighting a fresh cigar.

"It's ten miles," said the chauffeur.

"It would be the death of me," the Professor wailed.

"I utterly refuse to walk ten miles through a Polar waste with a gouty
foot," McCurdie declared wrathfully.

The chauffeur offered a solution of the difficulty. He would set out
alone for Foullis Castle--five miles farther on was an inn where he
could obtain a horse and trap--and would return for the three gentlemen
with another car. In the meanwhile they could take shelter in a little
house which they had just passed, some half mile up the road. This was
agreed to. The chauffeur went on cheerily enough with a lamp, and the
three travellers with another lamp started off in the opposite
direction. As far as they could see they were in a long, desolate
valley, a sort of No Man's Land, deathly silent. The eastern sky had
cleared somewhat, and they faced a loose rack through which one pale
star was dimly visible.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I'm a man of science," said McCurdie as they trudged through the snow,
"and I dismiss the supernatural as contrary to reason; but I have
Highland blood in my veins that plays me exasperating tricks. My reason
tells me that this place is only a commonplace moor, yet it seems like a
Valley of Bones haunted by malignant spirits who have lured us here to
our destruction. There's something guiding us now. It's just uncanny."

"Why on earth did we ever come?" croaked Biggleswade.

Lord Doyne answered: "The Koran says, 'Nothing can befall us but what
God hath destined for us.' So why worry?"

"Because I'm not a Mohammedan," retorted Biggleswade.

"You might be worse," said Doyne.

Presently the dim outline of the little house grew perceptible. A faint
light shone from the window. It stood unfenced by any kind of hedge or
railing a few feet away from the road in a little hollow beneath some
rising ground. As far as they could discern in the darkness when they
drew near, the house was a mean, dilapidated hovel. A guttering candle
stood on the inner sill of the small window and afforded a vague view
into a mean interior. Doyne held up the lamp so that its rays fell full
on the door. As he did so, an exclamation broke from his lips and he
hurried forward, followed by the others. A man's body lay huddled
together on the snow by the threshold. He was dressed like a peasant, in
old corduroy trousers and rough coat, and a handkerchief was knotted
round his neck. In his hand he grasped the neck of a broken bottle.
Doyne set the lamp on the ground and the three bent down together over
the man. Close by the neck lay the rest of the broken bottle, whose
contents had evidently run out into the snow.

"Drunk?" asked Biggleswade.

Doyne felt the man and laid his hand on his heart.

"No," said he, "dead."

McCurdie leaped to his full height. "I told you the place was uncanny!"
he cried. "It's fey." Then he hammered wildly at the door.

There was no response. He hammered again till it rattled. This time a
faint prolonged sound like the wailing of a strange sea-creature was
heard from within the house. McCurdie turned round, his teeth
chattering.

"Did ye hear that, Doyne?"


[Illustration: I TOLD YOU THE PLACE WAS UNCANNY.]


"Perhaps it's a dog," said the Professor.

Lord Doyne, the man of action, pushed them aside and tried the
door-handle. It yielded, the door stood open, and the gust of cold wind
entering the house extinguished the candle within. They entered and
found themselves in a miserable stone-paved kitchen, furnished with
poverty-stricken meagreness--a wooden chair or two, a dirty table, some
broken crockery, old cooking utensils, a fly-blown missionary society
almanac, and a fireless grate. Doyne set the lamp on the table.

"We must bring him in," said he.

They returned to the threshold, and as they were bending over to grip
the dead man the same sound filled the air, but this time louder, more
intense, a cry of great agony. The sweat dripped from McCurdie's
forehead. They lifted the dead man and brought him into the room, and
after laying him on a dirty strip of carpet they did their best to
straighten the stiff limbs. Biggleswade put on the table a bundle which
he had picked up outside. It contained some poor provisions--a loaf, a
piece of fat bacon, and a paper of tea. As far as they could guess (and
as they learned later they guessed rightly) the man was the master of
the house, who, coming home blind drunk from some distant inn, had
fallen at his own threshold and got frozen to death. As they could not
unclasp his fingers from the broken bottleneck they had to let him
clutch it as a dead warrior clutches the hilt of his broken sword.

Then suddenly the whole place was rent with another and yet another
long, soul-piercing moan of anguish.

"There's a second room," said Doyne, pointing to a door. "The sound
comes from there." He opened the door, peeped in, and then, returning
for the lamp, disappeared, leaving McCurdie and Biggleswade in the pitch
darkness, with the dead man on the floor.

"For heaven's sake, give me a drop of whiskey," said the Professor, "or
I shall faint."

Presently the door opened and Lord Doyne appeared in the shaft of light.
He beckoned to his companions.

"It is a woman in childbirth," he said in his even, tired voice. "We
must aid her. She appears unconscious. Does either of you know anything
about such things?"

They shook their heads, and the three looked at each other in dismay.
Masters of knowledge that had won them world-wide fame and honour, they
stood helpless, abashed before this, the commonest phenomenon of nature.

"My wife had no child," said McCurdie.

"I've avoided women all my life," said Biggleswade.

"And I've been too busy to think of them. God forgive me," said Doyne.

       *       *       *       *       *

The history of the next two hours was one that none of the three men
ever cared to touch upon. They did things blindly, instinctively, as men
do when they come face to face with the elemental. A fire was made, they
knew not how, water drawn they knew not whence, and a kettle boiled.
Doyne accustomed to command, directed. The others obeyed. At his
suggestion they hastened to the wreck of the car and came staggering
back beneath rugs and travelling bags which could supply clean linen and
needful things, for amid the poverty of the house they could find
nothing fit for human touch or use. Early they saw that the woman's
strength was failing, and that she could not live. And there, in that
nameless hovel, with death on the hearthstone and death and life
hovering over the pitiful bed, the three great men went through the pain
and the horror and squalor of birth, and they knew that they had never
yet stood before so great a mystery.

With the first wail of the newly born infant a last convulsive shudder
passed through the frame of the unconscious mother. Then three or four
short gasps for breath, and the spirit passed away. She was dead.
Professor Biggleswade threw a corner of the sheet over her face, for he
could not bear to see it.

They washed and dried the child as any crone of a midwife would have
done, and dipped a small sponge which had always remained unused in a
cut-glass bottle in Doyne's dressing-bag in the hot milk and water of
Biggleswade's thermos bottle, and put it to his lips; and then they
wrapped him up warm in some of their own woollen undergarments, and took
him into the kitchen and placed him on a bed made of their fur coats in
front of the fire. As the last piece of fuel was exhausted they took one
of the wooden chairs and broke it up and cast it into the blaze. And
then they raised the dead man from the strip of carpet and carried him
into the bedroom and laid him reverently by the side of his dead wife,
after which they left the dead in darkness and returned to the living.
And the three grave men stood over the wisp of flesh that had been born
a male into the world. Then, their task being accomplished, reaction
came, and even Doyne, who had seen death in many lands, turned faint.
But the others, losing control of their nerves, shook like men stricken
with palsy.

Suddenly McCurdie cried in a high pitched voice, "My God! Don't you feel
it?" and clutched Doyne by the arm. An expression of terror appeared on
his iron features.

"There! It's here with us."

Little Professor Biggleswade sat on a corner of the table and wiped his
forehead.

"I heard it. I felt it. It was like the beating of wings."

"It's the fourth time," said McCurdie. "The first time was just before I
accepted the Deverills' invitation. The second in the railway carriage
this afternoon. The third on the way here. This is the fourth."

Biggleswade plucked nervously at the fringe of whisker under his jaws
and said faintly, "It's the fourth time up to now. I thought it was
fancy."

"I have felt it, too," said Doyne. "It is the Angel of Death." And he
pointed to the room where the dead man and woman lay.

"For God's sake let us get away from this," cried Biggleswade.

"And leave the child to die, like the others?" said Doyne.

"We must see it through," said McCurdie.

       *       *       *       *       *

A silence fell upon them as they sat round in the blaze with the
new-born babe wrapped in its odd swaddling clothes asleep on the pile of
fur coats, and it lasted until Sir Angus McCurdie looked at his watch.

"Good Lord," said he, "it's twelve o'clock."

"Christmas morning," said Biggleswade.

"A strange Christmas," mused Doyne.

McCurdie put up his hand. "There it is again! The beating of wings." And
they listened like men spellbound. McCurdie kept his hand uplifted, and
gazed over their heads at the wall, and his gaze was that of a man in a
trance, and he spoke:

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given--"

Doyne sprang from his chair, which fell behind him with a crash.

"Man--what the devil are you saying?"

Then McCurdie rose and met Biggleswade's eyes staring at him through the
great round spectacles, and Biggleswade turned and met the eyes of
Doyne. A pulsation like the beating of wings stirred the air.

The three wise men shivered with a queer exaltation. Something strange,
mystical, dynamic had happened. It was as if scales had fallen from
their eyes and they saw with a new vision. They stood together humbly,
divested of all their greatness, touching one another in the instinctive
fashion of children, as if seeking mutual protection, and they looked,
with one accord, irresistibly compelled, at the child.

At last McCurdie unbent his black brows and said hoarsely:

"It was not the Angel of Death, Doyne, but another Messenger that drew
us here."

The tiredness seemed to pass away from the great administrator's face,
and he nodded his head with the calm of a man who has come to the quiet
heart of a perplexing mystery.

"It's true," he murmured. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is
given. Unto the three of us."

Biggleswade took off his great round spectacles and wiped them.

"Gaspar, Melchior, Balthazar. But where are the gold, frankincense and
myrrh?"

"In our hearts, man," said McCurdie.

The babe cried and stretched its tiny limbs.


[Illustration: INSTINCTIVELY THEY ALL KNELT DOWN.]


Instinctively they all knelt down together to discover, if possible, and
administer ignorantly to, its wants. The scene had the appearance of an
adoration.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then these three wise, lonely, childless men who, in furtherance of
their own greatness, had cut themselves adrift from the sweet and simple
things of life and from the kindly ways of their brethren, and had grown
old in unhappy and profitless wisdom, knew that an inscrutable
Providence had led them, as it had led three Wise Men of old, on a
Christmas morning long ago, to a nativity which should give them a new
wisdom, a new link with humanity, a new spiritual outlook, a new hope.

And, when their watch was ended, they wrapped up the babe with precious
care, and carried him with them, an inalienable joy and possession, into
the great world.


[Illustration: CARRIED WITH THEM AN INALIENABLE JOY AND POSSESSION INTO
THE GREAT WORLD.]





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