Little Girl’s Christmas

It was Christmas Eve, and Little Girl had just hung up her stocking by the fireplace—right where it would be all ready for Santa when he slipped down the chimney. She knew he was coming, because—well, because it was Christmas Eve, and because he always had come to leave gifts for her on all the other Christmas Eves that she could remember, and because she had seen his pictures everywhere down town that afternoon when she was out with Mother.

Still, she wasn’t JUST satisfied. ‘Way down in her heart she was a little uncertain—you see, when you have never really and truly seen a person with your very own eyes, it’s hard to feel as if you exactly believed in him—even though that person always has left beautiful gifts for you every time he has come.

“Oh, he’ll come,” said Little Girl; “I just know he will be here before morning, but somehow I wish—”

“Well, what do you wish?” said a Tiny Voice close by her—so close that Little Girl fairly jumped when she heard it.

“Why, I wish I could SEE Santa myself. I’d just like to go and see his house and his workshop, and ride in his sleigh, and know Mrs. Santa—’twould be such fun, and then I’d KNOW for sure.”

“Why don’t you go, then?” said Tiny Voice. “It’s easy enough. Just try on these Shoes, and take this Light in your hand, and you’ll find your way all right.”

So Little Girl looked down on the hearth, and there were two cunning little Shoes side by side, and a little Spark of a Light close to them—just as if they were all made out of one of the glowing coals of the wood-fire. Such cunning Shoes as they were—Little Girl could hardly wait to pull off her slippers and try them on. They looked as if they were too small, but they weren’t—they fitted exactly right, and just as Little Girl had put them both on and had taken the Light in her hand, along came a little Breath of Wind, and away she went up the chimney, along with ever so many other little Sparks, past the Soot Fairies, and out into the Open Air, where Jack Frost and the Star Beams were all busy at work making the world look pretty for Christmas.

Away went Little Girl—Two Shoes, Bright Light, and all—higher and higher, until she looked like a wee bit of a star up in the sky. It was the funniest thing, but she seemed to know the way perfectly, and didn’t have to stop to make inquiries anywhere. You see it was a straight road all the way, and when one doesn’t have to think about turning to the right or the left, it makes things very much easier. Pretty soon Little Girl noticed that there was a bright light all around her—oh, a very bright light—and right away something down in her heart began to make her feel very happy indeed. She didn’t know that the Christmas spirits and little Christmas fairies were all around her and even right inside her, because she couldn’t see a single one of them, even though her eyes were very bright and could usually see a great deal.

But that was just it, and Little Girl felt as if she wanted to laugh and sing and be glad. It made her remember the Sick Boy who lived next door, and she said to herself that she would carry him one of her prettiest picture-books in the morning, so that he could have something to make him happy all day. By and by, when the bright light all around her had grown very, very much brighter, Little Girl saw a path right in front of her, all straight and trim, leading up a hill to a big, big house with ever and ever so many windows in it. When she had gone just a bit nearer, she saw candles in every window, red and green and yellow ones, and every one burning brightly, so Little Girl knew right away that these were Christmas candles to light her on her journey, and make the way dear for her, and something told her that this was Santa’s house, and that pretty soon she would perhaps see Santa himself.

Just as she neared the steps and before she could possibly have had time to ring the bell, the door opened—opened of itself as wide as could be—and there stood—not Santa himself—don’t think it—but a funny Little Man with slender little legs and a roly-poly stomach which shook every now and then when he laughed. You would have known right away, just as Little Girl knew, that he was a very happy little man, and you would have guessed right away, too, that the reason he was so roly-poly was because he laughed and chuckled and smiled all the time—for it’s only sour, cross folks who are thin and skimpy. Quick as a wink, he pulled off his little peaked red cap, smiled the broadest kind of a smile, and said, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Come in! Come in!”

So in went Little Girl, holding fast to Little Man’s hand, and when she was really inside there was the jolliest, reddest fire all glowing and snapping, and there were Little Man and all his brothers and sisters, who said their names were “Merry Christmas,” and “Good Cheer,” and ever so many other jolly-sounding things, and there were such a lot of them that Little Girl just knew she never could count them, no matter how long she tried.

All around her were bundles and boxes and piles of toys and games, and Little Girl knew that these were all ready and waiting to be loaded into Santa’s big sleigh for his reindeer to whirl them away over cloudtops and snowdrifts to the little people down below who had left their stockings all ready for him. Pretty soon all the little Good Cheer Brothers began to hurry and bustle and carry out the bundles as fast as they could to the steps where Little Girl could hear the jingling bells and the stamping of hoofs. So Little Girl picked up some bundles and skipped along too, for she wanted to help a bit herself—it’s no fun whatever at Christmas unless you can help, you know—and there in the yard stood the BIGGEST sleigh that Little Girl had ever seen, and the reindeer were all stamping and prancing and jingling the bells on their harnesses, because they were so eager to be on their way to the Earth once more.

She could hardly wait for Santa to come, and just as she had begun to wonder where he was, the door opened again and out came a whole forest of Christmas trees, at least it looked just as if a whole forest had started out for a walk somewhere, but a second glance showed Little Girl that there were thousands of Christmas sprites, and that each one carried a tree or a big Christmas wreath on his back. Behind them all, she could hear some one laughing loudly, and talking in a big, jovial voice that sounded as if he were good friends with the whole world.

And straightway she knew that Santa himself was coming. Little Girl’s heart went pit-a-pat for a minute while she wondered if Santa would notice her, but she didn’t have to wonder long, for he spied her at once and said:

“Bless my soul! who’s this? and where did you come from?”

Little Girl thought perhaps she might be afraid to answer him, but she wasn’t one bit afraid. You see he had such a kind little twinkle in his eyes that she felt happy right away as she replied, “Oh, I’m Little Girl, and I wanted so much to see Santa that I just came, and here I am!”

“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!” laughed Santa, “and here you are! Wanted to see Santa, did you, and so you came! Now that’s very nice, and it’s too bad I’m in such a hurry, for we should like nothing better than to show you about and give you a real good time. But you see it is quarter of twelve now, and I must be on my way at once, else I’ll never reach that first chimney-top by midnight. I’d call Mrs. Santa and ask her to get you some supper, but she is busy finishing dolls’ clothes which must be done before morning, and I guess we’d better not bother her. Is there anything that you would like, Little Girl?” and good old Santa put his big warm hand on Little Girl’s curls and she felt its warmth and kindness clear down to her very heart. You see, my dears, that even though Santa was in such a great hurry, he wasn’t too busy to stop and make some one happy for a minute, even if it was some one no bigger than Little Girl.

So she smiled back into Santa’s face and said: “Oh, Santa, if I could ONLY ride down to Earth with you behind those splendid reindeer! I’d love to go; won’t you PLEASE take me? I’m so small that I won’t take up much room on the seat, and I’ll keep very still and not bother one bit!”

Then Santa laughed, SUCH a laugh, big and loud and rollicking, and he said, “Wants a ride, does she? Well, well, shall we take her, Little Elves? Shall we take her, Little Fairies? Shall we take her, Good Reindeer?”

And all the Little Elves hopped and skipped and brought Little Girl a sprig of holly; and all the Little Fairies bowed and smiled and brought her a bit of mistletoe; and all the Good Reindeer jingled their bells loudly, which meant, “Oh, yes! let’s take her! She’s a good Little Girl! Let her ride!” And before Little Girl could even think, she found herself all tucked up in the big fur robes beside Santa, and away they went, right out into the air, over the clouds, through the Milky Way, and right under the very handle of the Big Dipper, on, on, toward the Earthland, whose lights Little Girl began to see twinkling away down below her. Presently she felt the runners scrape upon something, and she knew they must be on some one’s roof, and that Santa would slip down some one’s chimney in a minute.

How she wanted to go, too! You see if you had never been down a chimney and seen Santa fill up the stockings, you would want to go quite as much as Little Girl did, now, wouldn’t you? So, just as Little Girl was wishing as hard as ever she could wish, she heard a Tiny Voice say, “Hold tight to his arm! Hold tight to his arm!” So she held Santa’s arm tight and close, and he shouldered his pack, never thinking that it was heavier than usual, and with a bound and a slide, there they were, Santa, Little Girl, pack and all, right in the middle of a room where there was a fireplace and stockings all hung up for Santa to fill.

Just then Santa noticed Little Girl. He had forgotten all about her for a minute, and he was very much surprised to find that she had come, too. “Bless my soul!” he said, “where did you come from, Little Girl? and how in the world can we both get back up that chimney again? It’s easy enough to slide down, but it’s quite another matter to climb up again!” and Santa looked real worried. But Little Girl was beginning to feel very tired by this time, for she had had a very exciting evening, so she said, “Oh, never mind me, Santa. I’ve had such a good time, and I’d just as soon stay here a while as not. I believe I’ll curl up on his hearth-rug a few minutes and have a little nap, for it looks as warm and cozy as our own hearth-rug at home, and—why, it is our own hearth and it’s my own nursery, for there is Teddy Bear in his chair where I leave him every night, and there’s Bunny Cat curled up on his cushion in the corner.”

And Little Girl turned to thank Santa and say goodbye to him, but either he had gone very quickly, or else she had fallen asleep very quickly—she never could tell which—for the next thing she knew, Daddy was holding her in his arms and was saying, “What is my Little Girl doing here? She must go to bed, for it’s Christmas Eve, and old Santa won’t come if he thinks there are any little folks about.”

But Little Girl knew better than that, and when she began to tell him all about it, and how the Christmas fairies had welcomed her, and how Santa had given her such a fine ride, Daddy laughed and laughed, and said, “You’ve been dreaming, Little Girl, you’ve been dreaming.”

But Little Girl knew better than that, too, for there on the hearth was the little Black Coal, which had given her Two Shoes and Bright Light, and tight in her hand she held a holly berry which one of the Christmas Sprites had placed there. More than all that, there she was on the hearth-rug herself, just as Santa had left her, and that was the best proof of all.

The trouble was, Daddy himself had never been a Little Girl, so he couldn’t tell anything about it, but we know she hadn’t been dreaming, now, don’t we, my dears?

Jimmy Scarecrow’s Christmas

Jimmy Scarecrow led a sad life in the winter. Jimmy’s greatest grief was his lack of occupation. He liked to be useful, and in winter he was absolutely of no use at all.

He wondered how many such miserable winters he would have to endure. He was a young Scarecrow, and this was his first one. He was strongly made, and although his wooden joints creaked a little when the wind blew he did not grow in the least rickety. Every morning, when the wintry sun peered like a hard yellow eye across the dry corn-stubble, Jimmy felt sad, but at Christmas time his heart nearly broke.

On Christmas Eve Santa Claus came in his sledge heaped high with presents, urging his team of reindeer across the field. He was on his way to the farmhouse where Betsey lived with her Aunt Hannah.

Betsey was a very good little girl with very smooth yellow curls, and she had a great many presents. Santa Claus had a large wax doll-baby for her on his arm, tucked up against the fur collar of his coat. He was afraid to trust it in the pack, lest it get broken.

When poor Jimmy Scarecrow saw Santa Claus his heart gave a great leap. “Santa Claus! Here I am!” he cried out, but Santa Claus did not hear him.

“Santa Claus, please give me a little present. I was good all summer and kept the crows out of the corn,” pleaded the poor Scarecrow in his choking voice, but Santa Claus passed by with a merry halloo and a great clamour of bells.

Then Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble and shook with sobs until his joints creaked. “I am of no use in the world, and everybody has forgotten me,” he moaned. But he was mistaken.

The next morning Betsey sat at the window holding her Christmas doll-baby, and she looked out at Jimmy Scarecrow standing alone in the field amidst the corn-stubble.

“Aunt Hannah?” said she. Aunt Hannah was making a crazy patchwork quilt, and she frowned hard at a triangular piece of red silk and circular piece of pink, wondering how to fit them together. “Well?” said she.

“Did Santa Claus bring the Scarecrow any Christmas present?”

“No, of course he didn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s a Scarecrow. Don’t ask silly questions.”

“I wouldn’t like to be treated so, if I was a Scarecrow,” said Betsey, but her Aunt Hannah did not hear her. She was busy cutting a triangular snip out of the round piece of pink silk so the piece of red silk could be feather-stitched into it.

It was snowing hard out of doors, and the north wind blew. The Scarecrow’s poor old coat got whiter and whiter with snow. Sometimes he almost vanished in the thick white storm. Aunt Hannah worked until the middle of the afternoon on her crazy quilt. Then she got up and spread it out over the sofa with an air of pride.

“There,” said she, “that’s done, and that makes the eighth. I’ve got one for every bed in the house, and I’ve given four away. I’d give this away if I knew of anybody that wanted it.”

Aunt Hannah put on her hood and shawl, and drew some blue yarn stockings on over her shoes, and set out through the snow to carry a slice of plum-pudding to her sister Susan, who lived down the road. Half an hour after Aunt Hannah had gone Betsey put her little red plaid shawl over her head, and ran across the field to Jimmy Scarecrow. She carried her new doll-baby smuggled up under her shawl.

“Wish you Merry Christmas!” she said to Jimmy Scarecrow.

“Wish you the same,” said Jimmy, but his voice was choked with sobs, and was also muffled, for his old hat had slipped down to his chin. Betsey looked pitifully at the old hat fringed with icicles, like frozen tears, and the old snow-laden coat. “I’ve brought you a Christmas present,” said she, and with that she tucked her doll-baby inside Jimmy Scarecrow’s coat, sticking its tiny feet into a pocket.

“Thank you,” said Jimmy Scarecrow faintly.

“You’re welcome,” said she. “Keep her under your overcoat, so the snow won’t wet her, and she won’t catch cold, she’s delicate.”

“Yes, I will,” said Jimmy Scarecrow, and he tried hard to bring one of his stiff, outstretched arms around to clasp the doll-baby.

“Don’t you feel cold in that old summer coat?” asked Betsey.

“If I bad a little exercise, I should be warm,” he replied. But he shivered, and the wind whistled through his rags.

“You wait a minute,” said Betsey, and was off across the field.

Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble, with the doll-baby under his coat and waited, and soon Betsey was back again with Aunt Hannah’s crazy quilt trailing in the snow behind her.

“Here,” said she, “here is something to keep you warm,” and she folded the crazy quilt around the Scarecrow and pinned it.

“Aunt Hannah wants to give it away if anybody wants it,” she explained. “She’s got so many crazy quilts in the house now she doesn’t know what to do with them. Good-bye—be sure you keep the doll-baby covered up.” And with that she ran cross the field, and left Jimmy Scarecrow alone with the crazy quilt and the doll-baby.

The bright flash of colours under Jimmy’s hat-brim dazzled his eyes, and he felt a little alarmed. “I hope this quilt is harmless if it IS crazy,” he said. But the quilt was warm, and he dismissed his fears. Soon the doll-baby whimpered, but he creaked his joints a little, and that amused it, and he heard it cooing inside his coat.

Jimmy Scarecrow had never felt so happy in his life as he did for an hour or so. But after that the snow began to turn to rain, and the crazy quilt was soaked through and through: and not only that, but his coat and the poor doll-baby. It cried pitifully for a while, and then it was still, and he was afraid it was dead.

It grew very dark, and the rain fell in sheets, the snow melted, and Jimmy Scarecrow stood halfway up his old boots in water. He was saying to himself that the saddest hour of his life had come, when suddenly he again heard Santa Claus’ sleigh-bells and his merry voice talking to his reindeer. It was after midnight, Christmas was over, and Santa was hastening home to the North Pole.

“Santa Claus! dear Santa Claus!” cried Jimmy Scarecrow with a great sob, and that time Santa Claus heard him and drew rein.

“Who’s there?” he shouted out of the darkness.

“It’s only me,” replied the Scarecrow.

“Who’s me?” shouted Santa Claus.

“Jimmy Scarecrow!”

Santa got out of his sledge and waded up. “Have you been standing here ever since corn was ripe?” he asked pityingly, and Jimmy replied that he had.

“What’s that over your shoulders?” Santa Claus continued, holding up his lantern.

“It’s a crazy quilt.”

“And what are you holding under your coat?”

“The doll-baby that Betsey gave me, and I’m afraid it’s dead,” poor Jimmy Scarecrow sobbed.

“Nonsense!” cried Santa Claus. “Let me see it!” And with that he pulled the doll-baby out from under the Scarecrow’s coat, and patted its back, and shook it a little, and it began to cry, and then to crow. “It’s all right,” said Santa Claus. “This is the doll-baby I gave Betsey, and it is not at all delicate. It went through the measles, and the chicken-pox, and the mumps, and the whooping-cough, before it left the North Pole. Now get into the sledge, Jimmy Scarecrow, and bring the doll-baby and the crazy quilt. I have never had any quilts that weren’t in their right minds at the North Pole, but maybe I can cure this one. Get in!” Santa chirruped to his reindeer, and they drew the sledge up close in a beautiful curve.

“Get in, Jimmy Scarecrow, and come with me to the North Pole!” he cried.

“Please, how long shall I stay?” asked Jimmy Scarecrow.

“Why, you are going to live with me,” replied Santa Claus. “I’ve been looking for a person like you for a long time.”

“Are there any crows to scare away at the North Pole? I want to be useful,” Jimmy Scarecrow said, anxiously.

“No,” answered Santa Claus, “but I don’t want you to scare away crows. I want you to scare away Arctic Explorers. I can keep you in work for a thousand years, and scaring away Arctic Explorers from the North Pole is much more important than scaring away crows from corn. Why, if they found the Pole, there wouldn’t be a piece an inch long left in a week’s time, and the earth would cave in like an apple without a core! They would whittle it all to pieces, and carry it away in their pockets for souvenirs. Come along; I am in a hurry.”

“I will go on two conditions,” said Jimmy. “First, I want to make a present to Aunt Hannah and Betsey, next Christmas.”

“You shall make them any present you choose. What else?”

“I want some way provided to scare the crows out of the corn next summer, while I am away,” said Jimmy.

“That is easily managed,” said Santa Claus. “Just wait a minute.”

Santa took his stylographic pen out of his pocket, went with his lantern close to one of the fence-posts, and wrote these words upon it:

Whichever crow shall hereafter hop, fly, or flop into this field during the absence of Jimmy Scarecrow, and therefrom purloin, steal, or abstract corn, shall be instantly, in a twinkling and a trice, turned snow-white, and be ever after a disgrace, a byword and a reproach to his whole race.

Per order of Santa Claus.
“The corn will be safe now,” said Santa Claus, “get in.” Jimmy got into the sledge and they flew away over the fields, out of sight, with merry halloos and a great clamour of bells.

The next morning there was much surprise at the farmhouse, when Aunt Hannah and Betsey looked out of the window and the Scarecrow was not in the field holding out his stiff arms over the corn stubble. Betsey had told Aunt Hannah she had given away the crazy quilt and the doll-baby, but had been scolded very little.

“You must not give away anything of yours again without asking permission,” said Aunt Hannah. “And you have no right to give anything of mine, even if you know I don’t want it. Now both my pretty quilt and your beautiful doll-baby are spoiled.”

That was all Aunt Hannah had said. She thought she would send John after the quilt and the doll-baby next morning as soon as it was light.

But Jimmy Scarecrow was gone, and the crazy quilt and the doll-baby with him. John, the servant-man, searched everywhere, but not a trace of them could he find. “They must have all blown away, mum,” he said to Aunt Hannah.

“We shall have to have another scarecrow next summer,” said she.

But the next summer there was no need of a scarecrow, for not a crow came past the fence-post on which Santa Claus had written his notice to crows. The cornfield was never so beautiful, and not a single grain was stolen by a crow, and everybody wondered at it, for they could not read the crow-language in which Santa had written.

“It is a great mystery to me why the crows don’t come into our cornfield, when there is no scarecrow,” said Aunt Hannah.

But she had a still greater mystery to solve when Christmas came round again. Then she and Betsey had each a strange present. They found them in the sitting-room on Christmas morning. Aunt Hannah’s present was her old crazy quilt, remodelled, with every piece cut square and true, and matched exactly to its neighbour.

“Why, it’s my old crazy quilt, but it isn’t crazy now!” cried Aunt Hannah, and her very spectacles seemed to glisten with amazement.

Betsey’s present was her doll-baby of the Christmas before; but the doll was a year older. She had grown an inch, and could walk and say, “mamma,” and “how do?” She was changed a good deal, but Betsey knew her at once. “It’s my doll-baby!” she cried, and snatched her up and kissed her.

But neither Aunt Hannah nor Betsey ever knew that the quilt and the doll were Jimmy Scarecrow’s Christmas presents to them.

The Fir Tree

Out in the woods stood a nice little Fir-tree. The place he had was a very good one; the sun shone on him; as to fresh air, there was enough of that, and round him grew many large-sized comrades, pines as well as firs. But the little Fir wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree.

He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air; he did not care for the little cottage children that ran about and prattled when they were in the woods looking for wild strawberries. The children often came with a whole pitcher full of berries, or a long row of them threaded on a straw, and sat down near the young tree and said, “Oh, how pretty he is! what a nice little fir!” But this was what the Tree could not bear to hear.

At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and after another year he was another long bit taller; for with fir-trees one can always tell by the shoots how many years old they are.

“Oh, were I but such a high tree as the others are!” sighed he. “Then I should be able to spread out my branches, and with the tops to look into the wide world! Then would the birds build nests among my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could bend with as much stateliness as the others!”

Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the red clouds, which morning and evening sailed above them, gave the little Tree any pleasure.

In winter, when the snow lay glittering on the ground, a hare would often come leaping along, and jump right over the little Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two winters were past, and in the third the tree was so large that the hare was obliged to go round it. “To grow and grow, to get older and be tall,” thought the Tree–”that, after all, is the most delightful thing in the world!”

In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest trees. This happened every year; and the young Fir-tree, that had now grown to a very comely size, trembled at the sight; for the magnificent great trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the branches were lopped off, and the trees looked long and bare; they were hardly to be recognized; and then they were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of the woods.

Where did they go to? What became of them?

In spring, when the Swallows and the Storks came, the Tree asked them, “Don’t you know where they have been taken? Have you not met them anywhere?”

The Swallows did not know anything about it; but the Stork looked musing, nodded his head, and said: “Yes, I think I know; I met many ships as I was flying hither from Egypt; on the ships were magnificent masts, and I venture to assert that it was they that smelt so of fir. I may congratulate you, for they lifted themselves on high most majestically!”

“Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! But how does the sea look in reality? What is it like?”

“That would take a long time to explain,” said the Stork, and with these words off he went.

“Rejoice in thy growth!” said the Sunbeams, “rejoice in thy vigorous growth, and in the fresh life that moveth within thee!”

And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him; but the Fir understood it not.

When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down; trees which often were not even as large or of the same age as this Fir-tree, who could never rest, but always wanted to be off. These young trees, and they were always the finest looking, retained their branches; they were laid on carts, and the horses drew them out of the woods.

“Where are they going to?” asked the Fir. “They are not taller than I; there was one indeed that was considerably shorter; and why do they retain all their branches? Whither are they taken?”

“We know! we know!” chirped the Sparrows. “We have peeped in at the windows in the town below! We know whither they are taken! The greatest splendour and the greatest magnificence one can imagine await them. We peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the middle of the warm room, and ornamented with the most splendid things–with gilded apples, with gingerbread, with toys, and many hundred lights!”

“And then?” asked the Fir-tree, trembling in every bough. “And then? What happens then?”

“We did not see anything more: it was incomparably beautiful.”

“I would fain know if I am destined for so glorious a career,” cried the Tree, rejoicing. “That is still better than to cross the sea! What a longing do I suffer! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and my branches spread like the others that were carried off last year! Oh, were I but already on the cart. Were I in the warm room with all the splendour and magnificence! Yes; then something better, something still grander, will surely follow, or wherefore should they thus ornament me? Something better, something still grander, MUST follow–but what? Oh, how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter with me!”

“Rejoice in our presence!” said the Air and the Sunlight; “rejoice in thy own fresh youth!”

But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew, and was green both winter and summer. People that saw him said, “What a fine tree!” and toward Christmas he was one of the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep into the very pith; the tree fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a pang–it was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness, for he was sorrowful at being separated from his home, from the place where he had sprung up. He knew well that he should never see his dear old comrades, the little bushes and flowers around him, any more; perhaps not even the birds! The departure was not at all agreeable.

The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a courtyard with the other trees, and heard a man say, “That one is splendid! we don’t want the others.” Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the Fir-tree into a large and splendid drawing-room. Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and full of toys worth hundreds and hundreds of crowns–at least the children said so. And the Fir-tree was stuck upright in a cask that was filled with sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung all around it, and it stood on a large gayly coloured carpet. Oh, how the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there hung little nets cut out of coloured paper, and each net was filled with sugar-plums; and among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all the world like men–the Tree had never beheld such before–were seen among the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid–beyond description splendid.

“This evening!” said they all; “how it will shine this evening!”

“Oh,” thought the Tree, “if the evening were but come! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! Perhaps the other trees from the forest will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows will beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall take root here, and winter and summer stand covered with ornaments!”

He knew very much about the matter! but he was so impatient that for sheer longing he got a pain in his back, and this with trees is the same thing as a headache with us.

The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendour! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to the foliage. It blazed up splendidly.

“Help! Help!” cried the young ladies, and they quickly put out the fire.

Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state he was in! He was so uneasy lest he should lose something of his splendour, that he was quite bewildered amidst the glare and brightness; when suddenly both folding-doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in as if they would upset the Tree. The older persons followed quietly; the little ones stood quite still. But it was only for a moment; then they shouted so that the whole place reechoed with their rejoicing; they danced round the tree, and one present after the other was pulled off.

“What are they about?” thought the Tree. “What is to happen now?” And the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out, one after the other, and then the children had permission to plunder the tree. So they fell upon it with such violence that all its branches cracked; if it had not been fixed firmly in the cask, it would certainly have tumbled down.

The children danced about with their beautiful playthings: no one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped between the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an apple left that had been forgotten.

“A story! a story!” cried the children, drawing a little fat man toward the tree. He seated himself under it, and said: “Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can listen, too. But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have: that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and yet after all came to the throne and married the princess?”

“Ivedy-Avedy!” cried some; “Klumpy-Dumpy” cried the others. There was such a bawling and screaming–the Fir-tree alone was silent, and he thought to himself, “Am I not to bawl with the rest?–am I to do nothing whatever?” for he was one of the company, and had done what he had to do.

And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy that tumbled down, who notwithstanding came to the throne, and at last married the princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried out, “Oh, go on! Do go on!” They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy, too, but the little man only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Fir-tree stood quite still and absorbed in thought; the birds in the woods had never related the like of this. “Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes! Yes! that’s the way of the world!” thought the Fir-tree, and believed it all, because the man who told the story was so good-looking. “Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs, too, and get a princess as wife!” And he looked forward with joy to the morrow, when he hoped to be decked out again with lights, playthings, fruits, and tinsel.

“I won’t tremble to-morrow,” thought the Fir-tree. “I will enjoy to the full all my splendour. To-morrow I shall hear again the story of Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy, too.” And the whole night the Tree stood still and in deep thought.

In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.

“Now, then, the splendour will begin again,” thought the Fir. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs into the loft; and here in a dark corner, where no daylight could enter, they left him. “What’s the meaning of this?” thought the Tree. “What am I to do here? What shall I hear now, I wonder?” And he leaned against the wall, lost in reverie. Time enough had he, too, for his reflections; for days and nights passed on, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put some great trunks in a corner out of the way. There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely forgotten.

“‘Tis now winter out of doors!” thought the Tree. “The earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now, and therefore I have been put up here under shelter till the springtime comes! How thoughtful that is! How kind man is, after all! If it only were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a hare. And out in the
woods it was so pleasant, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare leaped by; yes–even when he jumped over me; but I did not like it then. It is really terribly lonely here!”

“Squeak! squeak!” said a little Mouse at the same moment, peeping out of his hole. And then another little one came. They sniffed about the Fir-tree, and rustled among the branches.

“It is dreadfully cold,” said the Mouse. “But for that, it would be delightful here, old Fir, wouldn’t it?”

“I am by no means old,” said the Fir-tree. “There’s many a one considerably older than I am.”

“Where do you come from,” asked the Mice; “and what can you do?” They were so extremely curious. “Tell us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you never been there? Were you never in the larder, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one dances about on tallow-candles; that place where one enters lean, and comes out again fat and portly?”

“I know no such place,” said the Tree, “but I know the woods, where the sun shines, and where the little birds sing.” And then he told all about his youth; and the little Mice had never heard the like before; and they listened and said:

“Well, to be sure! How much you have seen! How happy you must have been!”

“I?” said the Fir-tree, thinking over what he had himself related. “Yes, in reality those were happy times.” And then he told about Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with cakes and candles.

“Oh,” said the little Mice, “how fortunate you have been, old Fir-tree!”

“I am by no means old,” said he. “I came from the woods this winter; I am in my prime, and am only rather short for my age.”

“What delightful stories you know!” said the Mice: and the next night they came with four other little Mice, who were to hear what the tree recounted; and the more he related, the more plainly he remembered all himself; and it appeared as if those times had really been happy times. “But they may still come–they may still come. Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs and yet he got a princess,” and he thought at the moment of a nice little Birch-tree growing out in the woods; to the Fir, that would be a real charming princess.

“Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?” asked the Mice. So then the Fir-tree told the whole fairy tale, for he could remember every single word of it; and the little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next night two more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said the stories were not interesting, which vexed the little Mice; and they, too, now began to think them not so very amusing either.

“Do you know only one story?” asked the Rats.

“Only that one,” answered the Tree. “I heard it on my happiest evening; but I did not then know how happy I was.”

“It is a very stupid story. Don’t you know one about bacon and tallow candles? Can’t you tell any larder stories?”

“No,” said the Tree.

“Then good-bye,” said the Rats; and they went home.

At last the little Mice stayed away also; and the Tree sighed: “After all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat around me and listened to what I told them. Now that too is over. But I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again.”

But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a quantity of people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the Tree was pulled out and thrown–rather hard, it is true–down on the floor, but a man drew him toward the stairs, where the daylight shone.

“Now a merry life will begin again,” thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam–and now he was out in the courtyard. All passed so quickly, there was so much going on around him, that the Tree quite forgot to look to himself. The court adjoined a garden, and all was in flower; the roses hung so fresh and odorous over the balustrade, the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said, “Quirre-vit! my husband is come!” but it was not the Fir-tree that they meant.

“Now, then, I shall really enjoy life,” said he, exultingly, and spread out his branches; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow. It was in a corner that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still on the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.

In the courtyard some of the merry children were playing who had danced at Christmas round the Fir-tree, and were so glad at the sight of him. One of the youngest ran and tore off the golden star.

“Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!” said he, trampling on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath his feet. And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the garden; he beheld himself, and wished he had remained in his dark corner in the loft; he thought of his first youth in the woods, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure to the story of Klumpy-Dumpy.

“‘Tis over–’tis past!” said the poor Tree. “Had I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now ’tis past, ’tis past!”

And the gardener’s boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large brewing copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.

The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star on his breast which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. However, that was over now–the Tree gone, the story at an end. All, all was over; every tale must end at last.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”


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