She wanted to call her mother to see him; but he said: "Oh! no; we are having such a nice time together, and she's busy, you know." So the little girl did not call; and the mother, who was making a dress of fine lace for her darling, did not dream that a goblin was in the little white room.
The goblin did not make any noise, you know, for he tip-toed all the time, as if he were afraid; and if he heard a sound he would jump. But he was a merry goblin, and he amused the little girl so much that she did not notice the change in her dear room.
The curtains grew dingy, the floor dusty, and the ceiling looked as if it might have been made of a rain cloud; but the child played on, and got out all her treasures to show to her visitor.
The pansies drooped and faded, the white dove hid its head beneath its wing and moaned; and the last pearl on the precious string grew dark when the goblin touched it with his smutty fingers.
"Oh, dear me," said the little girl when she saw this, "I must call my mother; for these are the pearls that I must wear to the king's court, when he sends for me."
"Never mind," said the goblin, "we can wash it, and if it isn't just as white as before, what difference does it make about one pearl?"
"But mother says that they all must be as fair as the morning," insisted the little girl, eady to cry. "And what will she say when she sees this one?"
"You shut the door, then," said the goblin, pointing to the door that had never been closed, "and I'll wash the pearl." So the little girl ran to close the door, and the goblin began to rub the pearl; but it only seemed to grow darker. Now the door had been open so long that it was hard to move, and it creaked on its hinges as the little girl tried to close it. When the mother heard this she looked up to see what was the matter. She had been thinking about the dress which she was making; but when she saw the closing door, her heart stood still with fear; for she knew that if it once closed tight she might never be able to open it again.
She dropped her fine laces and ran towards the door, calling, "Little Daughter! Little Daughter! Where are you?" and she reached out her hands to stop the door. But as soon as the little girl heard that loving voice she answered:—
"Mother, oh! Mother! I need you so! my pearl is turning black and everything is wrong!" and, flinging the door wide open, she ran into her mother's arms.
When the two went together into the little room, the goblin had gone. The pansies now bloomed again, and the white dove cooed in peace; but there was much work for the mother and daughter, and they rubbed and scrubbed and washed and swept and dusted, till the room was so beautiful that you would not have known that a goblin had been there—except for the one pearl which was a little blue always, even when the king was ready for Little Daughter to come to his court, although that was not until she was a very old woman.
As for the door, it was never closed again; for Little Daughter and her mother put two golden hearts against it and nothing in this world could have shut it then.
THE MINSTREL'S SONG
MOTTO FOR THE MOTHER
The child must listen well if he would hear.
Once, long, long ago, there lived in a country over the sea a king called Rene, who married a lovely princess whose name was Imogen.
Imogen came across the seas to the king's beautiful country, and all his people welcomed her with great joy because the king loved her.
"What can I do to please thee to-day?" the king asked her every morning; and one day the queen answered that she would like to hear all the minstrels in the king's country, for they were said to be the finest in the world.
As soon as the king heard this, he called his heralds and sent them everywhere through his land to sound their trumpets and call aloud:—
"Hear, ye minstrels! King Rene, our gracious king, bids ye come to play at his court on May-day, for love of the Queen Imogen."
The minstrels were men who sang beautiful songs and played on harps; and long ago they went about from place to place, from castle to castle, from palace to cot, and were always sure of a welcome wherever they roamed.
They could sing of the brave deeds that the knights had done, and of wars and battles, and could tell of the mighty hunters who hunted in the great forests, and of fairies and goblins, better than a story book; and because there were no story books in those days, everybody, from little children to the king, was glad to see them come.
So when the minstrels heard the king's message, they made haste to the palace on May-day; and it so happened that some of them met on the way and decided to travel together.
One of these minstrels was a young man named Harmonius; and while the others talked of the songs that they would sing, he gathered the wild flowers that grew by the roadside.
"I can sing of the drums and battles," said the oldest minstrel, whose hair was white and whose step was slow.
"I can sing of ladies and their fair faces," said the youngest minstrel; but Harmonius whispered: "Listen! listen!"
"Oh! we hear nothing but the wind in the tree-tops," said the others. "We have no time to stop and listen."
Then they hurried on and left Harmonius; and he stood under the trees and listened, for he heard something very sweet. At last he knew that it was the wind singing of its travels through the wide world; telling how it raced over the blue sea, tossing the waves and rocking the white ships, and hurried on to the hills, where the trees made harps of their branches, and then how it blew down into the valleys, where all the flowers danced gayly in time to the tune.
Harmonius could understand every word:—
"Nobody follows me where I go, Over the mountains or valleys below; Nobody sees where the wild winds blow, Only the Father in Heaven can know."
That was the chorus of the wind's song. Harmonius listened until he knew the whole song from beginning to end; and then he ran on and soon reached his friends, who were still talking of the grand sights that they were to see.
"We shall see the king and speak to him," said the oldest minstrel.
"And his golden crown and the queen's jewels," added the youngest; and Harmonius had no chance to tell of the wind's song, although he thought about it time and again.
Now their path led them through the wood; and as they talked, Harmonius said:—
"Hush! listen!" But the others answered:—
"Oh! that is only the sound of the brook trickling over the stones. Let us make haste to the king's court."
But Harmonius stayed to hear the song that the brook was singing, of journeying through mosses and ferns and shady ways, and of tumbling over the rocks in shining waterfalls on its way to the sea.
"Rippling and bubbling through shade and sun, On to the beautiful sea I run; Singing forever, though none be near, For God in Heaven can always hear,"
sang the little brook. Harmonius listened until he knew every word of the song, and then he hurried on.
When he reached the others, he found them still talking of the king and queen, so he could not tell them of the brook. As they talked, he heard something again that was wonderfully sweet, and he cried: "Listen! listen!"
"Oh! that is only a bird!" the others replied. "Let us make haste to the king's court!"
But Harmonius would not go, for the bird sang so joyfully that Harmonius laughed aloud when he heard the song.
It was singing a song of green trees, and in every tree a nest, and in every nest eggs! Oh! the bird was so gay as it sang:—
"Merrily, merrily, listen to me, Flitting and flying from tree to tree. Nothing fear I, by land or sea, For God in Heaven is watching me"
"Thank you, little bird," said Harmonius; "you have taught me a song." And he made haste to join his comrades, for by this time they were near the palace.
When they had gone in, they received a hearty welcome, and were feasted in the great hall before they came before the king.
The king and queen sat on their throne together. The king thought of the queen and the minstrels; but the queen thought of her old home, and of the butterflies she had chased when she was a little child.
One by one the minstrels played before them.
The oldest minstrel sang of battles and drums, just as he had said he would; and the youngest minstrel sang of ladies and their fair faces, which pleased the court ladies very much.
Then came Harmonius. And when he touched his harp and sang, the song sounded like the wind blowing, the sea roaring, and the trees creaking; then it grew very soft, and sounded like a trickling brook dripping on stones and running over little pebbles; and while the king and queen and all the court listened in surprise, Harmonius' song grew sweeter, sweeter, sweeter. It was as if you heard all the birds in Spring. And then the song was ended.
The queen clapped her hands, and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the king came down from his throne to ask Harmonius if he came from fairyland with such a wonderful song. But Harmonius answered:—
"Three singers sang along our way, And I learned the song from them to-day."
Now, all the other minstrels looked up in surprise when Harmonius said this; and the oldest minstrel said to the king: "Harmonius is dreaming! We heard no music on our way to-day."
And the youngest minstrel said: "Harmonius is surely mad! We met nobody on our way to-day."
But the queen said: "That is an old, old song. I heard it when I was a little child; and I can name the singers three." And so she did. Can you?
DUST UNDER THE RUG
Motto for the Mother
Well for the child, well for the man, to whom throughout life the voice of conscience is the prophecy and pledge of an abiding union with God!
There was once a mother, who had two little daughters; and, as her husband was dead and she was very poor, she worked diligently all the time that they might be well fed and clothed. She was a skilled worker, and found work to do away from home, but her two little girls were so good and so helpful that they kept her house as neat and as bright as a new pin.
One of the little girls was lame, and could not run about the house; so she sat still in her chair and sewed, while Minnie, the sister, washed the dishes, swept the floor, and made the home beautiful.
Their home was on the edge of a great forest; and after their tasks were finished the little girls would sit at the window and watch the tall trees as they bent in the wind, until it would seem as though the trees were real persons, nodding and bending and bowing to each other.
In the Spring there were the birds, in the Summer the wild flowers, in Autumn the bright leaves, and in Winter the great drifts of white snow; so that the whole year was a round of delight to the two happy children. But one day the dear mother came home sick; and then they were very sad. It was Winter, and there were many things to buy. Minnie and her little sister sat by the fire and talked it over, and at last Minnie said:—
"Dear sister, I must go out to find work, before the food gives out." So she kissed her mother, and, wrapping herself up, started from home. There was a narrow path leading through the forest, and she determined to follow it until she reached some place where she might find the work she wanted.
As she hurried on, the shadows grew deeper. The night was coming fast when she saw before her a very small house, which was a welcome sight. She made haste to reach it, and to knock at the door.
Nobody came in answer to her knock. When she had tried again and again, she thought that nobody lived there; and she opened the door and walked in, thinking that she would stay all night.
As soon as she stepped into the house, she started back in surprise; for there before her she saw twelve little beds with the bed-clothes all tumbled, twelve little dirty plates on a very dusty table, and the floor of the room so dusty that I am sure you could have drawn a picture on it.
"Dear me!" said the little girl, "this will never do!" And as soon as she had warmed her hands, she set to work to make the room tidy.
She washed the plates, she made up the beds, she swept the floor, she straightened the great rug in front of the fireplace, and set the twelve little chairs in a half circle around the fire; and, just as she finished, the door opened and in walked twelve of the queerest little people she had ever seen. They were just about as tall as a carpenter's rule, and all wore yellow clothes; and when Minnie saw this, she knew that they must be the dwarfs who kept the gold in the heart of the mountain.
"Well!" said the dwarfs all together, for they always spoke together and in rhyme,
"Now isn't this a sweet surprise? We really can't believe our eyes!"
Then they spied Minnie, and cried in great astonishment:—
"Who can this be, so fair and mild? Our helper is a stranger child."
Now when Minnie saw the dwarfs, she came to meet them. "If you please," she said, "I'm little Minnie Grey; and I'm looking for work because my dear mother is sick. I came in here when the night drew near, and—" here all the dwarfs laughed, and called out merrily:—
"You found our room a sorry sight, But you have made it clean and bright."
They were such dear funny little dwarfs! After they had thanked Minnie for her trouble, they took white bread and honey from the closet and asked her to sup with them.
While they sat at supper, they told her that their fairy housekeeper had taken a holiday, and their house was not well kept, because she was away.
They sighed when they said this; and after supper, when Minnie washed the dishes and set them carefully away, they looked at her often and talked among themselves. When the last plate was in its place they called Minnie to them and said:—
"Dear mortal maiden will you stay All through our fairy's holiday? And if you faithful prove, and good, We will reward you as we should."
Now Minnie was much pleased, for she liked the kind dwarfs, and wanted to help them, so she thanked them, and went to bed to dream happy dreams.
Next morning she was awake with the chickens, and cooked a nice breakfast; and after the dwarfs left, she cleaned up the room and mended the dwarfs' clothes. In the evening when the dwarfs came home, they found a bright fire and a warm supper waiting for them; and every day Minnie worked faithfully until the last day of the fairy housekeeper's holiday.
That morning, as Minnie looked out of the window to watch the dwarfs go to their work, she saw on one of the window panes the most beautiful picture she had ever seen.
A picture of fairy palaces with towers of silver and frosted pinnacles, so wonderful and beautiful that as she looked at it she forgot that there was work to be done, until the cuckoo clock on the mantel struck twelve.
Then she ran in haste to make up the beds, and wash the dishes; but because she was in a hurry she could not work quickly, and when she took the broom to sweep the floor it was almost time for the dwarfs to come home.
"I believe," said Minnie aloud, "that I will not sweep under the rug to-day. After all, it is nothing for dust to be where it can't be seen!" So she hurried to her supper and left the rug unturned.
Before long the dwarfs came home. As the rooms looked just as usual, nothing was said; and Minnie thought no more of the dust until she went to bed and the stars peeped through the window.
Then she thought of it, for it seemed to her that she could hear the stars saying:—
"There is the little girl who is so faithful and good"; and Minnie turned her face to the wall, for a little voice, right in her own heart, said:—
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!"
"There is the little girl," cried the stars, "who keeps home as bright as star-shine."
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart.
"We see her! we see her!" called all the stars joyfully.
"Dust under the rug! dust under the rug!" said the little voice in Minnie's heart, and she could bear it no longer. So she sprang out of bed, and, taking her broom in her hand, she swept the dust away; and lo! under the dust lay twelve shining gold pieces, as round and as bright as the moon.
"Oh! oh! oh!" cried Minnie, in great surprise; and all the little dwarfs came running to see what was the matter.
Minnie told them all about it; and when she had ended her story, the dwarfs gathered lovingly around her and said:—
"Dear child, the gold is all for you, For faithful you have proved and true; But had you left the rug unturned, A groat was all you would have earned. Our love goes with the gold we give, And oh! forget not while you live, That in the smallest duty done Lies wealth of joy for every one."
Minnie thanked the dwarfs for their kindness to her; and early next morning she hastened home with her golden treasure, which bought many good things for the dear mother and little sister.
She never saw the dwarfs again; but she never forgot their lesson, to do her work faithfully; and she always swept under the rug.
THE STORY OF GRETCHEN
MOTTO FOR THE MOTHER
Oh! like a wreath, let Christmas mirth To-day encircle all the earth, And bind the nations with the love That Jesus brought from heaven above.
It was almost Christmas time when one of the white ships that sail across the sea brought a little German girl named Gretchen, with her father and mother, to find a new home in our dear land.
Gretchen knew all about Christmas. She had heard the story of the loving Christ Child over and over, and in her home in Germany she had kept His birthday and enjoyed it ever since she could remember.
Every year, a little before Christmas, her shoes had been placed in the garden for Rupert, who is one of Santa Claus's German helpers, to fill, and every year she had found a Christmas tree lighted for her on Christmas Day. She wondered a little, as she came across the ocean, how she would keep Christmas in the new country; and she wondered still more, when they reached a great city, and had their "boxes" carried up so many stairs to a little room in a boarding-house.
Gretchen's mother did not like boarding-houses—no, indeed!—and their first thought was to find a place where they might feel at home; but the very next morning after their long journey the dear father was too ill to lift his head from the pillow, and Gretchen and her mother were very sad for many days. Up so high in a boarding-house is not pleasant (even if you do seem nearer the stars) when somebody you love is sick; and then, too, Gretchen began to think that Santa Claus and Rupert had forgotten her; for when she set her two little wooden shoes outside the door, they were never filled with goodies, and people stumbled over them and scolded.
The tears would roll down Gretchen's fat, rosy cheeks, and fall into the empty shoes, and she decided that the people in America did not keep Christmas, and wished she was in her own Germany again. One day, however, a good woman in the house felt sorry for the lonely little German girl, who could speak no English, and she asked Gretchen's mother if Gretchen might go with her to see the beautiful stores. She was only a poor woman, and had no presents to give away; but she knew how to be kind to Gretchen, and she took her hand and smiled at her very often as they hurried along the crowded street.
It was the day before Christmas, and throngs of people were moving here and there, and Gretchen was soon bewildered, and she was jostled and pushed until she was tired; but at last they stepped into a store which made her blue eyes open wide, for it was a toy store, and the most beautiful place she had ever seen. There were toys in that store that had come across the sea like Gretchen; there were lovely dolls from France, who were spending their first Christmas away from home; there were woolly sheep, fine painted soldiers, and dainty furniture, and a whole host of wonderful toys marked very carefully, "Made in Germany"; and even the Japanese, from their island in the great ocean, had sent their funny slant-eyed dolls to help us keep Christmas.
Oh! it was splendid to be in the toyshop the day before Christmas! All the tin soldiers stood up so straight and tall, looking as if they were just ready to march when the big drums and the little drums, which hung over their heads, should call them.
The rocking horses, which are always saddled, were waiting to gallop away. The tops were anxious to spin, and the balls really rolled about sometimes, because it was so hard for them to keep still.
The fine lady dolls were dressed in their best. One of them was a princess, and wore a white satin dress, and had a crown on her head. She sat on a throne in one of the windows, with all the other dolls around her; and it was in this very window that Gretchen saw a baby doll, which made her forget all the rest. It was a real baby doll, not nearly so fine as most of the others, but with a look on its face as if it wanted to be loved; and Gretchen's warm German heart went out to it, for little mothers are the same all the world over.
Such a dear baby doll! She must have been made for a Christmas gift, Gretchen thought; and if the good giver came to this queer American land, he surely would find her. How could she let him know where she was? She thought about it all the way home, and all day long, till the gas was lighted down in the great city and the stars were lighted up above, and the time of his coming drew very near.
The father was better; but the mother had said with tears in her eyes, that there could be no Christmas tree for them that year. So Gretchen did not worry them, but she wrapped herself up in a blanket and shawl, and, taking her shoes in her hand, she crept down the stairs, through the door, out to the wooden stoop. There had been a light fall of snow that day, but it was a mild Christmas, and Gretchen set her shoes evenly together, and then sat down beside them; for she had made up her mind to watch them until Santa Claus came by.
All over the city the bells were ringing,—calling "Merry Christmas" to each other and to the world; and they sang so sweetly to little Gretchen that they sang her to sleep that Christmas Eve.
It was hundreds and hundreds of years since the Christ Child slept in the manger; but this same night in the great city a little American girl named Margaret had her heart so full of His love and joy that she wanted to make everybody happy for the dear Christ's sake.
She had waked up early the day before Christmas, and all day long she had been doing loving deeds; and when evening came, and the bells began to ring, she started with a basket of toys to a mission church, where she was to help Santa Claus by giving gifts to the children of the poor.
Her papa was with her, and they were so glad that they sang gay Christmas carols, and kept time to them with their feet as they hurried down the street, right by the wooden stoop, just as Gretchen fell asleep by her empty shoes. The moon had seen those empty shoes, and was filling them with moonbeams. The stars had seen them, and peeped into them with pity; and when Margaret and her father saw them they cried out to each other, for they had been in Germany, and they knew that the little owner was waiting for the good Saint Nicholas.
"What can we give her?" whispered Margaret's papa, as he looked down at his bundles; but Margaret knew, for she took from her basket a baby doll—one that looked as if it wanted to be loved—and laid it tenderly across the wooden shoes. Then Margaret lifted a corner of the blanket from Gretchen's rosy face and shouted "Merry Christmas!" with so much heartiness that the little girl woke with a start to find, not Margaret and her papa, for they had run away, but, oh! wonder of wonders! the dearest Christmas gift that ever came to a homesick little girl, and made her feel at home.
Oh! all the bells were singing and ringing, and Margaret and her papa answered them with their merry Christmas carol, as they sped on their way.
"Carol, brothers, carol! Carol merrily! Carol the glad tidings, Carol cheerily! And pray a gladsome Christmas To all our fellowmen, Carol, brothers, carol! Christmas Day again."
THE KING'S BIRTHDAY
MOTTO FOR THE MOTHER
Let the child feel Christ is near him; By your faith will grow his own; Death nor danger will affright him If he never feels alone.
Little Carl and his mother came from their home in the country one sweet summer day, because it was the king's birthday, and all the city was to be glad and gay, and the king would ride on his fine gray horse for the people to see.
Little Carl had gathered a very fine bunch of flowers to throw before the king. He had marigolds and pinks and pansies, and they had all grown in his mother's garden.
This was a great day for little boy Carl, and before he started from home he told everything goodbye,—the brindle calf and the mooley cow and the sheep and little white lambs.
"Good-bye!" he said; "I am going to see the king."
The way was long, but Carl did not complain. He trudged bravely on by his mother's side, holding the flowers tightly in his little hand, and looking out of his great blue eyes for the king, in case the king should ride out to meet them.
Every now and then Carl wished for his father, who was obliged to work in the fields all day, and who had been up and away before Carl was awake. Carl thought of the fine sights his father was missing, especially when they came to the city, where the flags were flying from every steeple and housetop and window.
There were as many people in the city as there were birds in the country; and when the drums beat, the crowd rushed forward and everybody called at once: "The king! the king! Long live the king!"
Carl's mother lifted him up in her arms that he might see, The king rode slowly along on his great gray horse, with all his fine ladies and gentlemen behind him; and little Carl threw his flowers with the rest and waved his cap in his hand.
He felt sorry for his flowers after he had thrown them, because they were trampled under the horses' feet and the king didn't care; and after that he felt very tired, and his little hot hand slipped from his mother's and he was carried away in the crowd.
He thought that his mother would surely come. But there were only strange faces about him, and he was such a little lad that nobody noticed him; and at last he was left behind, all alone.
He was very miserable, and the tears rolled down his cheeks; but he remembered that it was the king's birthday, and that everybody must be glad, so he wiped the tears away as he trudged along.
There were wonderful houses along the street, with great gardens in front; and Carl thought that they must belong to the king, but he did not want to go in. They were all too fine for him. But at last he reached one which stood off by itself and had a tall, tall steeple and great doors, through which hundreds of people were coming.
"Perhaps my mamma is there," thought little Carl. After he had watched all the people come out, and had not seen her, he went up the white marble steps and through the doors, and found himself all alone in a very beautiful place.
The roof of the house was held up by great strong pillars, and the floor had as many patterns on it as his mother's patchwork; and on every side he saw windows,—beautiful windows like picture books,—and when he had seen one, he wanted to see another, as you do when you are looking at picture books.
Some of the windows had jewels and crowns upon them; some had sheaves of lilies; and others had lovely faces and men with harps; and at last he came to one great window which was different from the rest and lovelier than any of them.
The other windows were like picture books, but this one was like home; for there were sheep in it and flowers, and a dear, gentle Man, with a loving face, and He had a lamb in His arms.
When little Carl looked at this window, he crept very close under it, and, laying his head on his arm, sobbed himself to sleep.
While he slept, the sunbeams came through the window and made bright circles round his head; and the white doves that lived in the church tower flew through an open window to look at him.
"It is good to live in the church tower," cooed the white doves to each other, "for the bells are up there; and then we can fly down here and see the dear Christ's face. See! here is one of his little ones!"
"Coo, coo," said the white doves softly; "we cannot speak so loudly as the bells, nor make ourselves heard so far; but we can fly where we please, and they must stay always up there."
All this cooing did not wake little boy Carl, for he was dreaming a beautiful dream about a king who had a face like the Good Man in the window, and who was carrying Carl in His arms instead of a lamb, and was taking him to his mother; and just as he dreamed that they had reached her, Carl woke up, for he heard somebody talking in the church.
He lay still and listened, for this seemed part of the dream. Somebody was talking about him, and the words were very plain to Carl:—
"Dear Father in Heaven, I have lost my little boy. I am like Mary seeking for the Christ Child. For His sake, give me my little child!"
Carl knew that voice, and in an instant he ran out crying:—
"Mother! mother! here am I!"
And in all the joy of the king's birth day, there was no joy so great as theirs.