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Title: Who ate the pink sweetmeat? - And Other Christmas Stories
Author: Various, Coolidge, Susan
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 "Who ate the pink sweetmeat? - And Other Christmas Stories" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Illustration: THE WHIZZER LOOKED PITIFUL OUT OF HIS EYES AT MRAR.



  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. Hale~



  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



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 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 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.

Illustration: MAN DREAMING OF A CHALLENGE.

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 come to darning about the
second wash, if not sooner."

"Is that my fault?" said the White Pair, beginning to cry.

"No; it's your misfortune. But people as unfortunate 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 situation, 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 substance," said the Gray
Stockings. "The old 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 hung up for Christmas, and I will never believe that my
lifelong 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!" thunders 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 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 day
after this conversation, and all to one and the same person. This was
Mrs. Wendte, 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 children.

The stockings were very much pleased to be bought. When Job Tuke rolled
them up in paper and tied a stout packthread round them, they nestled
close, and squeezed each other with satisfaction. Besides 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 day after day passed and nothing happened, surprising or otherwise,
till even the philosophical 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 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 were they hung up to
contain presents, but they themselves were Christmas gifts! This was
promotion indeed.

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

"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 nondescript 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
sweetmeats, and for his sake she had yielded to the temptation, though
she looked upon it as an extravagance. There were three of the
sweetmeats--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 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 and
Greta are more than half grown up."

"Real children are very hard on their stockings, I've always heard,"
retorted the White Pair, 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 Christmas. With the first
light 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 down 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 stocking off again, put his hand in, and
extracted the 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."

Illustration: GRETA

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 pleasure 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 himself with these. Mrs.
Wendte had her hands full with the dinner, and was frying sausages and
mixing 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. Wilhelm went off on errands of his own.

Little Jan spent the morning in admiring his stockings, and in wrapping
and unwrapping his 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 skating 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 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 Christmas 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 down, 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 surprised and puzzled
what to do had he carried out the intention.

After the pony and his little mistress had departed, 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 wandering 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
whistle 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 high up overhead, and what he was doing he
could 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 was 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't you?" Jan had not seen any
rook at all! "Well, it is caught in some way, how, I can't tell you, but
it can't get away from the tree. It has been there three days, they say,
and all that time the other 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."

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 movement 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 began 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 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 attempt to go forward, he pulled his sleeve for the second
time, and again said:

"For the bird, I said, sir."

Illustration: WILHELM

This time the policeman heard, and taking one step forward, he held the
remaining 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 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
transaction 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 had been at work, and turned
the pink sweetmeat into a bit of silver.

That night the three pairs of stockings had another 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 day," 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 coming 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 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 sweetmeat," 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?" demanded 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?"

"It is eaten," replied the Blue Stockings cautiously.

"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 persons--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. Persons, 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 by 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 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 indignantly. "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 giving it away than if he had
eaten it ten times over! Beside he got half a crown for it. An old
gentleman 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 _is_ 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 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.



THE WHIZZER.


That 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 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 elephant, 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 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 my little sister Mrar."

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.

"No, 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
whittled out in my pocket to give her, and she cried most every night,
anyhow, until aunt Ibby threatened 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 going to let him know what the relations 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 stocking 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."

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?" 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 Whizzer!" and he went it till we's past cousin Andy
Sanders'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. 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.

"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 I's only ten years old, but he ought to knowed better than to made
Mrar cry till the tears run down 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 lonesomer than an old cabin about to fall; because an
old cabin about to fall has forgot its folks, but all 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 bedclothes. 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 our 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 says:

"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 and act like mother's
just gone out to a neighbor'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 gate, "that 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 I'll 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
off the kitchen door. I breathed so fast it made my heart thump when I
unlocked the side door and let the Whizzer and Mrar into the
sitting-room. I noticed 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.

I felt to the pantry and put my hand in the candle box, but aunt Ibby
never left one. I knew there's a piece in a candlestick in the shed
cupboard, 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. But her picture hung up in there, and
so did my father's.

The Whizzer staid in with the candle a good while. I heard him going
from one thing to another, 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
overlooked 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 heard somebody pound on the
front door.

"They're after us!" says Mrar.

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

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
little 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 himself 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 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 fire,
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, Mrar 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 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. I'd 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
Moze's. The boys there make you give up everything, 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 fire 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 narrow 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 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 before."

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.

"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 Claus. 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, and aunt Ibby's
face was so white that her moles all bristled.

"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 thornbush is my thornbush, and
this dog my dog."

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

"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 Sanders," 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."

"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 married 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 wasn'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 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 Whizzer 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 days
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 cañons clad in pine.
Meat was needed in the dirt-roofed cabin in the gulch. And for that
matter, 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.

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 scattered 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 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,
returning from his day'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 the _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 rider
of the _burro_.

_Bien_, then he was sorry to have to tell him, said the Spanish
stranger in suave reply. He was the _mayordomo_, and this was the
_patron'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 _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
_patron_, 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 periodical prospects to gather it, he found only the bare
stubble field awaiting him.

Thus it was that Cherokee Sam, hunter, prospector 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 timber 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 from
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, softened by the distance, with a
saffron shimmer 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.

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-buttoned 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 descended, and resting on
him his soft black eyes, said:

"Good evening, Señor 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 trustful confidence. The half-breed was
taken aback.

"I don't go by no such name as that," he replied 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_, señor."

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

Illustration: THE BOY REVERENTIALLY REMOVED HIS SOMBRERO.

Cherokee Sam's face darkened. The young _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 was no snow below, and
they could find no trail to follow.

"What did you do that for?" asked the _patroncito_, 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 _patroncito_ 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 another 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 covered
embers in the rough fireplace, and piled on the pitch pine. As it
blazed up, he drew a couple of deerskins from his bed in the corner and
flung them down before the fire and bade the _patroncito_ 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 gracias, 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 _Patroncito_, I'll git supper."

He spoke as if this were an operation requiring great culinary skill
and much previous preparation. 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 kindly enough to the venison. 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 polite 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 winter," 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 conciliating 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 partaken of with gravity. And
supper being over, the host cleaned up, a simple process, performed by
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 the
_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 _patroncito_.

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

"He's a long time coming, Don Cherokee Sam," he murmured, as he
nodded--nodded yet again, and slipped down 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 the
_patroncito_ as he lay on the couch of skins, caressed the slender foot
he had thrust from out the covering, and danced on the silver buttons
strung on his gay _pantalones_. 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 countenance 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 suddenly 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
drifts. But how that Spanish Christmas 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 _patroncito_ 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 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 imperiously, 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
remembered 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 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 uncovered head and courtesy profound, the
_mayordomo_ stood before him and asked would Don Cherokee Sam indicate
where he would have the Christmas gifts, sent by the _patroncito_,
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 attendant packers, and in a moment
the cabin was filled with box, bag, and bale, closely piled. Assuredly
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 upward 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, 'n 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 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 Christmas 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 thought of the velvet clothes, and various
other privileges belonging to the "girl who went to Sunday-school;" but
this 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 Elsie 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 present," 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 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 running 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 covetous, 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 distinguished an individual, that Elsie Perch was
going to have cherry-pie for her Christmas dinner.

"Oh, my!" "Is she?" "Ain't that fine!" 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 pattering 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, bounding 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 dog! It's a Christmas present,
only it came yesterday. Is this where you live?" She looked shrinkingly
up and down the narrow street, and at the squalid buildings in the
distance. "And are these your brothers and sisters?"

Elsie laughed, and said no.

"What do you think?" began Lizy seriously, her large, wistful eyes, and
chalk-white face, lending 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 imperiously. "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 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."

"_I_ 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, 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 little 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, they were at Grandma Perch's door. Then, for the first time, Elsie
felt a little misgiving. Perhaps 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," 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 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 afterward. "But we've been
prospered, and I can't bear to see anybody hungry on Christmas day."

After they had all gone, Elsie sat with her heart full of quiet
happiness, rocking in her little rocking-chair. She was meditating
vaguely on the envy she had felt toward Maude, and her general feeling
of discontent. At last she spoke to grandma, 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 mercies for everybody, if they'd only reckon 'em
up--and Christmas day's a first-rate time to remember it!"



BERTIE'S RIDE.


"Here'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 dumps?
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 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 Christmas. 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 postman 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 children. I don't quite know why Cecil has not written--but
worrying about it won't do any 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,
dear! I don't know how 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."

"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 I can. The keepers have
brought us such lovely holly out of the woods--you never saw such wealth
of berries. The wreaths will be splendid this year."

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

"Isn't she a trump?" cries Bertie, who can 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 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 uncomfortable 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 surprise her by bringing her
letter by the second post. And if Father asks where I am--oh! but that
will be all right. I shall get back before he comes home from
shooting"--and Bertie is gone before his sister has time to put into
words the remonstrance she has been struggling to frame.

"He'll miss his dinner--poor dear"--she thinks compassionately, but is
consoled by the remembrance of an admirable pastry-cook's shop in
Appleton where the ginger-bread is sure to be extra 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 peck to the
glass, as if to intimate that a fresh supply 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 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 heaviest fall that has been known for many a year,
visibly impending.

There is a keen north-easter blowing, but Appleton 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 scattered 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 daylight 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 Christmas boxes and parcels, passes him leading
his old horse carefully up the hill.

"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 if 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 advancing 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 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
presents 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 her brother, and sorely
repents her extorted promise of secrecy as to his intentions.

"We are getting on," says Mrs. Chetwynd glancing 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 nothing 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-assuring 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?"

"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.

"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 tenderly leads her to one of the
open seats, and strokes her hands in loving but vain efforts at
encouragement--"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!"

About the same time on this December afternoon a young man is getting
out of the one-horse omnibus 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 possibility 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 to stolid opposition,
begins to chafe, and his dark eyes give an angry flash. However he
forces himself 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 impatiently, "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 remonstrances 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 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 little 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 Christmas. 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--how I 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 wonder 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--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 following. "Lead on--I'll follow thee--that seems to be
what you want me to say, eh, little Nettle? 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 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 dropping on one knee in the snow, the traveller
proceeds 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 produced, 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 murmurs "Thank you," as he
makes a still unsuccessful effort to scramble to his feet.

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

"Take care--let me give you a hand. Poor 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 prevented 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 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 shall have to treat you
as one of our fellows (so the story goes) did the wounded sergeant in
Zululand."

"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---- answered in peremptory
fashion, 'If you don't obey orders at once, I shall punch your head!'"

"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 little difficulty is
hoisted into the required position.

"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 impatient.

"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 fellow," 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."

"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 Gordon'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 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 pheasants? 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 Christmas
Eve of all days in the year. Forgive and forget--peace and
goodwill--that's what the bells always seem to me to be saying. I say,
my friend, I'm sure your Mother would be willing 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 visage 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 presently 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-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 the confused report of Master Bertie's
disappearance 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. 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. Chetwynd wants to fly to meet her boy, but is
gently restrained by Mildred, who reminds her that his 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 hopping 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 CHRISTMAS.


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
breakfast, none was better pleased than Asaph as he opened his parcels.

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 allowance had gone for
this coffee-pot. She remembered how much she had been pleased with Mrs.
Henry's; 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."

"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 dog 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, '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.

Illustration: IN EAST CANTON STREET.

When the Christmas dances were half over; when they had acted
_Lochinvar_ and _Lord Ullin's Daughter_, but before they acted
_Villekens_ 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
miserable 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 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 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 wonders would be known
in that far-off America.

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 Philadelphia. 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 Frau 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 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 was, that, at nine on Christmas night, I saw the children in a
Christmas party, not quite as well 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.

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.



Transcriber's Note:

     Images of the original pages are available through the Internet
     Archive. See http://archive.org/details/whoatepinksweetm00cool.

     Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation within a story, such as
     _fireplace_ beside _fire-place_, have been retained.

     Where captions were not provided to describe illustrations in the
     original publication, they have been added for this ebook.

     In paragraph nine (original page 90) of BERTIE'S RIDE the right
     edge of the image is defective and some punctuation has been
     obscured. The text "Now let us talk about something else Alice,
     when you can be spared from the tree Mother wants all the help she
     can get...." has been emended to read "Now let us talk about
     something else. Alice, when you can be spared from the tree, Mother
     wants all the help she can get...."





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